Sunday, May 08, 2005

Outside the US, Iraq (and the Iraq effect on Tony Blair)

We'll start with Reporters Without Borders and the article "US army asked to explain why it is still holding CBS News cameraman after one monthConcern about arrests of other journalists:"

Reporters Without Borders wrote to General John Abizaid, head of US Central Command today calling for the release of Iraqi cameraman Abdel Amir Hussein in the absence of evidence against him. Hussein works for CBS News in Mosul. The letter also voiced alarm about all the other journalists currently detained in Iraq.
"Hussein has now been held for a month without the US army producing any concrete proof of its allegations," the press freedom organization said in its letter said, noting that it had already voiced concern about his detention on 9 April.
"We would like to express our concern to you again today, and to reiterate our request for a more detailed explanation," the letter continued. "The result of an explosives test in a country at war does not seem to us to be either sufficient or substantial as justification for his detention. In the name of international law, we call on you yet again to release this journalist if you are unable to produce tangible evidence against him."
Noting that, according to recent information from US military sources, a total of nine Iraqi journalists "suspected of helping insurgent groups" are currently held in US and Iraqi detention centres without being charged, the letter called on the US army and the Iraqi authorities to display more transparency and discernment in the arrests of journalists.
"The competent authorities must also provide the identity of each detained journalist as soon as possible together with the reason for their detention," Reporters Without Borders said.
"As the number of arrests rises, so does our concern about the scale of the problem," the letter added. "

At a time when the United States is committed to the development of democracy in Iraq, the US army should set an example by respecting press freedom. Journalists are news professionals. They are not party to the conflict and should not be treated as belligerents or as potential terrorists."

From Aljazeera, we'll note Christian Henderson's "Weapons of Mass Deception" (a profile on Danny Schechter):

In the prelude to the war, the Bush administration hinted at the existence of a link between Iraq and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
However, intelligence investigations commissioned by the White House and Congress have since determined the suggested links were false.
According to Danny Schechter, a media veteran of almost 40 years who nicknamed himself the News Dissector, the 70% figure suggests US media failed their public and led them to believe a baseless claim.
As the invasion played out on television screens around the world, Schechter "self-embedded" in his living room and examined US media coverage of the war.
He turned his conclusions into Weapons of Mass Deception, a documentary film that examines how the media covered the war.
In the post-September 11 nationalistic ardour, the film concludes the US mainstream media failed to challenge Washington over its reasons for going to war, shut out anti-war voices and blurred the lines between commentary and journalism.

Click the link above or here to read the interview with Danny Schechter.

From IPS, Lori e-mails Sanjay Suri's "Iraq Clouds Blair VictoryAnalysis:"

The invasion of Iraq rebounded a little on the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to dent his majority as he returned to a third term as prime minister. But it was not serious damage. Iraq did not prevent Blair from returning with a comfortable enough majority and this is the first time in its history that a Labour government has been re-elected for a third successive term.
Nonetheless Iraq was still an issue and it came home to Blair in his own constituency Sedgefield. The incumbent prime minister was challenged by an independent candidate Reg Keys, whose son was killed during the Iraq war.

From The Independent, Ben e-mails Andrew Grice and Colin Brown's "Blair set 18-month deadline to quit as cabinet ministers round on him:"

Tony Blair's most senior Cabinet colleagues plan to urge him to stand down within 18 months because he lost seats for Labour at last week's election.
Even normally loyal ministers want him to resign by the time the party holds its conference in September 2006 - two years earlier than Mr Blair wishes.
Left-wing MPs will demand this week that Mr Blair drops controversial plans for identity cards and are threatening to mount a leadership challenge against him this autumn.
But insiders believe a much bigger threat to Mr Blair is posed by his own Cabinet, saying it will turn against him if he tries to hang on for longer than 18 months.
Yesterday, ministers publicly rallied round Mr Blair, condemning as "self-indulgent" calls by Labour backbenchers for him to quit sooner rather than later.
But Cabinet sources said privately that the Prime Minister will not be able to complete anything like the "full term" he intends to serve before leaving Downing Street ahead of the next general election.

From Scotland's The Herald, Zach e-mails Catherine MacLeod and Douglas Fraser's "Scots Labour MPs line up to give Blair an early push:"

THERE were growing calls last night within Labour ranks for Tony Blair to stand down to make way for Gordon Brown by the end of year, with many of his Scots MPs joining the clamour.
Senior cabinet colleagues, however, urged back benchers to rally behind him as the prime minister aimed to reassert his authority today when he completes his reshuffle.
Despite these pleas, and a historic third victory, according to a BBC survey in Scotland, nearly half of Labour's 33 MPs want the prime minister to resign within two years, and four of them want him to go immediately.
Ian Davidson, the most outspoken critic of Mr Blair and the New Labour project, said it was time for "regime change".
He said he had found in his Glasgow South West campaign that people were unhappy with Labour's direction, with the Iraq war, and with Mr Blair.
Mr Davidson also judged that it was across a range of devolved responsibilities that Labour had failed to make progress about his constituents' problems.
"Inequalities have got to be tackled by a drastic process of social change. We've got to put more money into housing, into health, into jobs, into training . . . I don't think we've been doing that as we should."

From Scotland's Sunday Herald, we'll note James Cusick's "Rebel Hell:"

Tony Blair's majority was slashed by almost 100 seats last Thursday and with it went the New Labour style of government which had consistently bypassed parliamentary authority in favour, it claimed, of a direct dialogue with the people. Now the long-ignored backbench ranks of Labour MPs, many of whom were never hypnotised by the Blair-Brown project and were branded rebels if they failed to kowtow to the official Downing Street line, believe it's their turn to be listened to.
Alan Simpson, member for Nottingham South and one of the leading members of the Socialist Campaign Group of leftist MPs, told the Sunday Herald: "There's been a warning shot over everyone's bow. Labour was lucky on May 5. Had there been a credible opposition on offer, I believe the electorate would have taken up that option. Instead there was a slap in the face [for Blair] and it marks the end of the presidential politics that Blair and Peter Mandelson tried to install in Westminster. What we have seen is the public striking back."
In common with many of his like-minded parliamentary colleagues, Simpson believes the 2005 poll result was a call for a return to consensus politics. And if he doesn't get it, he, the rest of the campaign group, and many other "rebels" are intent on making life as difficult as they can for Tony Blair. For how long? "Until he gets the message," said Simpson.

Bernardo e-mails "Bomb attacks claim 7 US soldiers" from Australia's ABC:

A total of seven US soldiers were killed and another wounded in a series of three bomb explosions over the weekend in Iraq, the US military says.

From Aljazeera, Cindy e-mails "Iraq cabinet approved, minister quits:"

The Iraqi parliament has approved appointments for six cabinet vacancies, handing four more positions to the Sunni Arab minority.
But the Sunni selected as human rights minister turned down the job, saying he cannot accept a position awarded on sectarian criteria.
Less than half of the National Assembly, 112 of the 155 legislators present, approved Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's six nominations on Sunday, including Shia Arab Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum as oil minister and Sunni military man Saadoun al-Duleimi as defence minister.

Also from Aljazeera, we'll note Scott Taylor's "Iraq instability threatens Turkey:"

Over the past few weeks, the media reports coming out of Iraq have focussed extensively on the insurgents' escalating attacks against US military and Iraqi police forces.
Overshadowed by the coverage of this series of suicide bomb attacks has been the dramatic and ominous development of unrest along the Iraq-Turkey border.
For the first time since US President George Bush launched his military intervention to topple Saddam Hussein in March 2003, the violent anarchy which ensued throughout Iraq is now spilling over into neighbouring countries.
On 20 April, following 10 days of sporadic combat, the Turkish government announced its defence forces had killed 33 Kurdish rebels after they had crossed the Iraqi border.
Although the military did not release its own casualty figures, Namik Tan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, estimated that Turkish security forces "suffered between 15 and 17 fatalities in the clashes with the Kurds".
These losses are significant. However, Turkish intelligence estimates that since the beginning of April some 1500 Kurdish guerrillas have crossed into eastern Turkey via the mountain paths along the Iraq border.
These fighters belong to the hardline Kurdish separatist group known as the PKK (the Kurdish acronym for the Kurdistan Workers Party) which has been linked to terrorist activities.

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