Monday, June 27, 2005

Dhar Jamail's "Wake up Call" and the World Tribunal on Iraq

The jury of conscience has just released it’s recommendations after the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq came to its conclusion. I’ll post the news story I wrote on this later, which will provide more details.
I will add now, as a preface to a letter I received just now from an Iraqi who asked me to pass it on to the American people, that the jury made the following recommendations:
"The recommendations made by the jury included the demand for an immediate, unconditional withdraw of all occupation forces, the governments of the coalition to pay full compensation to Iraqis for any and all damages, and that all laws, contracts, treaties and institutions created under the occupation that Iraqi people deem harmful or un-useful to them be banished.
Other recommendations included immediate investigations of crimes against humanity for Mr. George Bush, Tony Blair, and every other president of countries belonging to the coalition. In addition, the jury called for a process of accountability to begin to bring justice to journalists and media outlets that lied and promoted the violence against Iraq, as well as including corporations who have profited from the war."

The above is an excerpt from Dahr Jamail's latest entitled "Wake up Calls." Click the link to continue reading.


In February 2003, weeks before war was declared on Iraq, millions of people protested in the streets of the world. That call went unheeded. No international institution had the courage or conscience to stand up to the aggression of the US and UK governments. No one could stop them. It is two years later now. Iraq has been invaded, occupied, and devastated. The attack on Iraq is an attack on justice, on liberty, on our safety, on our future, on us all. We the people of conscience decided to stand up. We formed the World Tribunal on Iraq, to demand justice and a peaceful future. The legitimacy of the World Tribunal on Iraq is located in the collective conscience of humanity. This, the Istanbul session, was the culmination of a series of 20 hearings held in different cities of the world focusing on the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. We the Jury of Conscience, from 10 different countries, met in Istanbul. We heard 54 testimonies from a panel of advocates and witnesses who came from across the world, including from Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The World Tribunal on Iraq met in Istanbul from 24-26th of June 2005. The principal objective of the WTI is to tell the truth about the Iraq war as clearly as possible, and to draw conclusions that underscore the accountability of those responsible and underline the significance of justice for the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein’s crimes against his people are not the focus of this Tribunal. We believe it is up to the Iraqi people to investigate these crimes in an independent and free trial.

Here's the opening from Danny Schechter's testimony to the Tribunal:

It is complicated and problematic for a journalist to offer testimony at an international tribunal in another country. Most us tend to stay away the appearance of advocacy or even activism. Testifying overseas even to a citizen's panel like this, could be construed by some as presumptuous or even unpatriotic.
Yet I have come because I believe that our media like other institutions have a responsibility to be accountable, audit their own practices and acknowledge their errors and omissions.We are living in an age of a profound global media crisis that goes beyond borders and boundaries.
Journalists who are closest to our media system-really 'embedded' in it are often in the best position to understand media practices and recount experiences. We know how the industry works and are most aware of the pressures journalists face from government interference and corporate control. It is time we woke up and spoke up. It is time we told the truth about our own institutions. We need higher standards and deeper values.
I have been in journalism since my High School years. I have been an investigative magazine reporter, a radio news director, and worked in television at the local and national levels with a long stint at ABC News and a shorter one at CNN. I have reported from 49 countries.I am a media critic with six books in print and a columnist/blogger with ( ), the world's largest online media issues network. As an independent filmmaker with my company Globalvision, I have made fifteen social issue documentaries. The latest, WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception) is about the media coverage of the Iraq War and is based in part on a book called EMBEDDED that I wrote on the subject.
I have come wearing all of these hats to discuss my findings in the belief that if we could agree on the existence of "Media crimes,' we would agree that many have been committed during the Iraq war. Some through insensitivity and indifference; others with a more conscious intent.
This is not a partisan issue. It raises deeper issues about the integrity of our democracies.
In point of fact, in earlier wars, media outlets and personalities have been indicted for their role in instigating conflict and contributing to it. The special International tribunal on Rwanda has pointed to the role of hate radio stations in inflaming a genocide. In the former Yugoslavia, TV stations in Serbia and Croatia became propaganda organs that incited ethnic cleansing and mass murder.The Post World War 2 Nuremberg Trial established a precedent in this regard. I quote one article on what happened there:
"The prosecution case, argued by Drexel Sprecher, an American, placed considerable stress on the role of media propaganda in enabling the Hitler regime to prepare and carry out aggressive wars.
"The use made by the Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known. Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack. They used the press, after their earlier conquests, as a means for further influencing foreign politics and in maneuvering for the following aggression."
"Thus, the presentation of an illegal invasion of a foreign country as a "preventative" or pre-emptive war did not originate with Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld."
The prosecution raised an issue that is of the greatest relevance today: the role of Nazi media propaganda in inuring the German population to the sufferings of other peoples and, indeed, urging Germans to commit war crimes.Historical parallels are never exact and I am not here to argue that because the Nazis distorted their media, the US or British media are Nazis. That is specious reasoning. But a broader point also argued at Nuremberg does have resonance today:
"The basic method of the Nazi propagandistic activity lay in the false presentation of facts. The dissemination of provocative lies and the systematic deception of public opinion were as necessary to the Hitlerites for the realization of their plans as were the production of armaments and the drafting of military plans. "
There were two wars going on in Iraq one was fought with armies of soldiers, bombs and a fearsome military force. The other was fought alongside it with cameras, satellites, armies of journalists and propaganda techniques. One war was rationalized as an effort to find and disarm WMDs Weapons of Mass Destruction; the other was carried out by even more powerful WMDs, Weapons of Mass Deception.
The TV networks in America considered their non-stop coverage their finest hour, pointing to the use of embedded journalists and new technologies that permitted viewers to see a war up close for the first time. But different countries saw different wars.
For those of us watching the coverage, the war was more of a spectacle, an around the clock global media marathon, pitting media outlets against each other in ways that distorted truth and raised as many questions about the methods of TV news, as the armed intervention it was covering-and it some cases-promoting.
This is not just traditional censorship.
Censorship, self-censorship and spinning seems common in every war as governments try to limit negative coverage and maximize reporting that will galvanize support on the home front. Every war inspires jingoism in sections of the media and deceptive coverage.

From the opening of Dahr Jamail's testimony to the Tribunal:

Background: a firefight
The armed forces of the United States of America laid siege to the Iraqi city of Fallujah in April and later in November of 2004.
In order to better understand the role of US news media relative to these assaults, we must begin with an undeniable if rarely repeated reality: US assaults on Fallujah did not begin in April 2004. Let us avoid the unpleasant reminder that during the first Gulf War, Fallujah was among the cities with the highest numbers of civilian casualties--a distinction indebted to precision laser-guided bombs that struck crowded markets in the city center.
We can then date assaults on Fallujah to Iraqi Freedom--which, for those who forget, began with the American invasion so named. A Human Rights Watch Report provides background.
Al-Falluja had generally benefited economically under the previous government. Local residents told Human Rights Watch that many of them had worked for the military, police or intelligence. However, Human Rights Watch did not find overwhelming sympathy for Saddam Hussein following the collapse of his government.
Many al-Falluja residents told Human Rights Watch that they considered themselves victims and opponents of his repressive rule.
Before US forces arrived on April 23, 2003, the report continues,tribal and religious leaders in al-Falluja had already selected a Civil Management Council, including a city manager and mayor. The quickly-formed local government was having success in minimizing the looting and other crimes rampant in other parts of Iraq. Different tribes took responsibility for the city's assets, such as banks and government offices.
In one noted case, the tribe responsible for al-Falluja's hospital quickly organized a gang of armed men to protect the grounds from an imminent attack. Local imams urged the public to respect law and order. The strategy worked, in part due to cohesive family ties among the population.
Al-Falluja showed no signs of the looting and destruction visible, for example, in Baghdad.
However, according to the same report, the community became somewhat "agitated and concerned" when US forces took positions in central Fallujah, including in an elementary school. "Worried local leaders met with US commanders on April 24, explaining that al-Falluja was a religious city and requesting sensitivity from US troops."
Aggressive street patrols continued, however, and on April, 28, the day before city schools were scheduled to open, a demonstration was held outside of the elementary school where US troops were stationed. In what was described by military accounts as a "firefight" with apparently continuous machine gun fire from soldiers for near ten minutes, seventeen Fallujan demonstrators were killed and more than seventy more were injured.
However, a Human Rights Watch ballistics report conducted thereafter could find "no compelling evidence" that any guns had been fired on US forces.Some safekeepingBut to return to the "aggressive street patrols" that began in Fallujah in April of 2003, one might ask why such safekeeping of a city would antagonize its citizens.
But this issue needs no return; in Iraq such patrols and their accompanying detentions and collective punishments are ongoing. To ask why they are bothersome to a city’s citizens is furthermore presumptive; these patrols, after all, strip men and women of their rights as citizens. For to the extent that Fallujah was safely kept by US authorities, equally so was the citizenship of Fallujans.
A January 2004 trip to Fallujah to speak with a law professor eight months after the arrival of occupation forces addressed these issues in an unexpected way.
The man we went to see in Falluja is Sheikh Haji Barakat, who is a law professor. The problem was that the Sheikh was detained by US soldiers three months ago, and remains in Abu Ghraib prison to this day. This, despite the fact that the US Commander of Falluja has already told his family that the Sheikh is innocent. Each time the family has asked for his release, they get the same promise: tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
"Sheikh Haji Baraket," explains his cousin Khamis, "is a great, honorable man. The Americans accused him of financing the resistance. But even the Sheikh told the Americans his seven sons are involved in the resistance. This doesn’t mean that their father is guilty. But they have detained him illegally anyway."
Omar is the 20 year old nephew of the Sheikh, who was detained as well. He tells us of being interrogated. The Americans asked him if he was Sunni, when he had last seen his mother, and other odd questions, then released him. He also tells us that when the Americans came to detain him, the door to the house was smashed, papers and passports were taken, the manifest for the family car, and all the money in the house.
Omar states that while in prison the Americans who questioned him wore civilian clothing, and threatened to release German Shepherd dogs on him.
The images are by now well known. Since April 2003, to Fallujans and other Iraqis Colonial India must seem an idyllic dream; Mohandas Gandhi’s once forceful rejoinder to arrest--on what charge?--would in today's Iraq elicit only the force of laughter from authorities and their torturers (if Haji Baraket becomes at some point enfeebled enough to blurt it out). For the sake of Iraqi Freedom, in Fallujah--as elsewhere in the country--it is first the law that has been put away for safekeeping.

There testimony, and the testimony of others, can be found by clicking here.

For more on the World Tribunal on Iraq click the link to visit the home page.

From Arundhati Roy's speech (via Information Clearing House):

O6/24/05 "WTI" - - This is the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq. It is of particular significance that it is being held here in Turkey where the United States used Turkish air bases to launch numerous bombing missions to degrade Iraq’s defenses before the March 2003 invasion and has sought and continues to seek political support from the Turkish government, which it regards as an ally. All this was done in the face of enormous popular opposition by the Turkish people.
As a spokesperson for the jury of conscience, it would make me uneasy if I did not mention that the government of India is also, like the government of Turkey, positioning itself as a "ally" of the United States in its economic policies and the so-called War on Terror.
The testimonies at the previous sessions of the World Tribunal on Iraq in Brussels and New York have demonstrated that even those of us who have tried to follow the war in Iraq closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq.
The Jury of Conscience at this tribunal is not here to deliver a simple verdict of guilty or not guilty against the United States and its allies.
We are here to examine a vast spectrum of evidence about the motivations and consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation, evidence that has been deliberately marginalized or suppressed. Every aspect of the war will be examined - its legality, the role of international institutions and major corporations in the occupation, the role of the media, the impact of weapons such as depleted uranium munitions, napalm, and cluster bombs, the use of and legitimation of torture, the ecological impacts of the war, the responsibility of Arab governments, the impact of Iraq's occupation on Palestine, and the history of U.S. and British military interventions in Iraq.
This tribunal is an attempt to correct the record. To document the history of the war not from the point of view of the victors but of the temporarily - and I repeat the word temporarily - vanquished.
Before the testimonies begin, I would like to briefly address as straightforwardly as I can a few questions that have been raised about this tribunal. The first is that this tribunal is a Kangaroo Court. That it represents only one point of view. That it is a prosecution without a defense. That the verdict is a foregone conclusion. Now this view seems to suggest a touching concern that in this harsh world, the views of the U.S. government and the so-called Coalition of the Willing headed by President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have somehow gone unrepresented. That the World Tribunal on Iraq isn't aware of the arguments in support of the war and is unwilling to consider the point of view of the invaders.
If in the era of the multinational corporate media and embedded journalism anybody can seriously hold this view, then we truly do live in the Age of Irony, in an age when satire has become meaningless because real life is more satirical than satire can ever be.

We'll do more on this tonight. The e-mail address for this site is