Sunday, August 28, 2005

Reporting from outside the US mainstream media focused on Iraq

Iraq's Shia-dominated parliament has completed work on a constitution that was at once rejected by minority Sunnis, who said it would be thrown out in an October referendum.
The text read to parliament on Sunday failed to overcome objections by Sunnis, who lost their political dominance with the fall of president Saddam Hussein, despite intense US efforts to broker a compromise between Iraq's divided ethnic and religious groups.
The United States, which sees approval of a constitution as key to defusing an insurgency, welcomed the draft, hailing it as a victory for democracy.
Rejection in the three of Iraq's 18 provinces dominated by Sunni Arabs would be enough to torpedo the constitution under current referendum rules.

The above, e-mailed by Brent, is from Aljazeera's "Iraqi lawmakers finish charter draft." It's Sunday and time for our "What's being reported outside the mainstream United States media" features. As usual, one will focus solely on Iraq (that would be this one) and the other will focus on a variety of topics.

Gareth e-mails the following (note it's Monday the 29th in England now) that's also on the charter, David Usborne's "Bush suffers ratings tumble as Sunnis reject Iraq charter" (The Independent):

President George Bush's exit strategy from Iraq suffered a severe setback yesterday when Sunni negotiators rejected a new constitution, increasing the chances of outright civil war.
After a series of delays and missed deadlines, the negotiating committee delivered the completed draft constitution to the Iraqi parliament, but the assembly failed to vote on the text after the 15 Sunni members - a minority of the committee - rejected the draft because of continuing disagreement on federalism.
Mr Bush and Tony Blair, in separate statements, urged Iraqis to unite behind the project despite the disagreements. But the prospect of more violence will only make it more difficult for the Americans to withdraw from Iraq.
Mr Bush's approval ratings have sunk to 36 per cent - the lowest level of his presidency. As the number of US troops killed there has risen to 1,900, domestic opposition to the war is on the rise. Mr Bush acknowledged the strength of the opposition from Iraq's Sunni community, which is spearheading the insurgency, when he spoke to reporters at his Texas ranch.

Gareth also notes Steve Negus and Patti Waldmeir's "Sunnis at odds as parliament backs Iraq constitution" (England's Financial Times):

The final draft was read to parliament, but the assembly did not vote on the constitution, and it is in dispute whether the Transitional Administrative Law, the interim constitution governing the process, requires it to do so.
The 15 Sunni Arabs on the drafting committee said they rejected the document, despite several last-minute changes aimed at winning their support.
The Sunnis mainly object to provisions allowing the creation of a semi-autonomous regional zones in the Shia south, which they say will splinter Iraq and allow Iran to establish a foothold.

Dominick e-mails to note "Iraq's Sunni Arabs seek UN intervention" (Ireland's

Sunni Arab negotiators in a joint statement today rejected the Iraqi draft constitution and asked the United Nations and Arab League to intervene.
The declaration was the first joint statement by the 15-member Sunni panel following the announcement by the Shiite-led government that the charter was complete and ready to go to the voters in a referendum October 15.
Several individual members of the Sunni panel had said earlier that they rejected the document over issues including federalism, Iraq's identity and references to Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated Baath party.
"We declare that we don't agree and we reject the articles that were mentioned in the draft and we did not reach consensus on them in what makes the draft illegitimate," according the statement read by Abdul-Nasser al-Janabi.

Zach e-mails to note, via Watching America, Jacques Amalric's "Bush's Words of Optimism and What They Tell Us" (France's Liberation):

Experience has taught us that George Bush's statements are an excellent barometer for getting an idea of the Iraq situation: the more optimistic the president of the United States says he is, the more we can expect the worst. We still remember his victory cry "Mission accomplished!" that following the entry of American troops into Baghdad.
He was, in fact, only declaring the beginning of a series of setbacks that have already cost the lives of nearly 2,000 GIs and several tens of thousands of Iraqis. It is for this reason that one must worry about the energetic statements made last Tuesday by the head of the White House; evoking the laborious compromise that was reached, after much pressure applied by America’s Ambassador to Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad, to Shiites and Kurds on the draft of the Iraqi Constitution, George Bush celebrated the achievement of a "period of hope" thanks to an "unbelievable event."
Undoubtedly for good measure, he had his spokesperson stress the "impressive progress made on most of the Constitution’s provisions, via debate, dialogue and seeking compromise."
Reality, of course, is totally different: the draft of the Constitution, the text of which is still being kept secret, would make Islam the "main source" of legislation and would leave the fate of Kirkuk, which is in Sunni territory but is claimed by the Kurds, up in the air. Little chance thus that it guarantees, as George W. Bush claimed, "the rights of minorities and of women."

Bronwen e-mails to note Gary Kamiya's "The Photos Washington Doesn't Want You To See" (Germany's Der Spiegel -- see note below pull quoted):

This is a war the Bush administration does not want Americans to see. From the beginning, the U.S. government has attempted to censor information about the Iraq war, prohibiting photographs of the coffins of U.S. troops returning home and refusing as a matter of policy to keep track of the number of Iraqis who have been killed. President Bush has yet to attend a single funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq.
[Click here to view the accompanying photo gallery on But first a few words of warning: these pictures are extremely graphic and disturbing.]
To be sure, this see-no-evil approach is neither surprising nor new. With the qualified exception of the Vietnam War, when images of body bags appeared frequently on the nightly news, American governments have always tightly controlled images of war. There is good reason for this. In war, a picture really is worth a thousand words. No story about a battle, no matter how eloquent, possesses the raw power of a photograph. And when it comes to war's ultimate consequences -- death and suffering -- there is simply no comparison: a photo of a dead man or woman has the capacity to unsettle those who see it, sometimes forever. The bloated corpses photographed by Mathew Brady after Antietam remain in the mind, their puffy, shocked faces haunting us like an obscene truth almost 150 years after the soldiers were cut down.
"War is hell," said Gen. Sherman, and everyone dutifully agrees. Yet the hell in Iraq is almost never shown. The few exceptions -- the charred bodies of American contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah, the blood-spattered little girl wailing after her parents were killed next to her -- only prove the rule. Governments keep war hidden because it is hideous. To allow citizens to see its reality -- the shattered bodies, the wounded children, the incomprehensible mayhem -- is to risk eroding popular support for it. This is particularly true with wars that have less than overwhelming popular support to begin with. In the case of Vietnam, battlefield images played an important role in turning the tide of public opinion. And in Iraq, a war whose official justification has turned out to be false, and which a majority of the American people now believe to have been a mistake, the administration would prefer that these grim images never be seen.

[Note: This article originally appeared at Salon. We missed noting it then so we'll note it here.]

Skip e-mails to note "Improvised explosive devices kill 3 U.S. soldiers in Iraq, 1 in Afghanistan" (The Australian Herald):

Three U.S. soldiers were killed on Thursday in Husaybah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their position.
[. . .]
Killed in the Iraq bombing were Sgt. 1st Class Trevor J. Diesing, 30, of Plum City, Wis. Diesing was assigned the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., Master Sgt. Ivica Jerak, 42, of Houston, Texas. Jerak was assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., and Cpl. Timothy M. Shea, 22, of Sonoma, Calif. Shea was assigned to the Army's 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.

Bryan notes that federalism was discussed in the latest "Third Estate Sunday Review News Review" and suggests that those new to the topic read Sami Zubaida's "Iraq’s constitution on the edge" (open Democracy):

For Sunni Arabs, Kurdish federalism was already a bitter pill to swallow, but a Shi’a state in the south would leave them destitute: Kurds and Shi’a in control of the oil resources and Sunni Arabs in the poor, landlocked central provinces. Such a formula would appear to guarantee continued insurgency and civil war. It should be noted that other Shi’a parties, notably that of the prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as well as the radical followers of Muqtada al-Sadr have not supported Sciri’s demand for a federal entity in the south.
Behind the demand for a Shi’a federal region is the realisation that the Shi’a parties cannot hope to control a central government on which to impose their ideologies and interests. To have their own considerable chunk of resource-rich Iraq is the next best thing.
Kirkuk is one of the most contentious and potentially explosive issues (see Omar A Omar, “Kirkuk: microcosm of Iraq”,
March 2005). All reliable accounts suggest that the numerical majority of its population at present time are Kurds. This is translated into Kurdish majorities on elected bodies and Kurdish personnel in the key positions of municipality and police.
Kurdish dominance is strongly resented and challenged by the
Turcoman population who claim the city as their own, and have an inflated idea of their numbers. Historically, Kirkuk has been closely associated with the Turcoman minority, and remains the main Turcoman centre in Iraq. Turkey has always asserted its right to protect this population, sharing the inflated idea of their numbers. It has used its concern for the Turcoman as a pretext for intervening in Kurdish affairs, and this could constitute a reason for war in future.
In addition, Kirkuk has a large Arab population, many of them settled as part of the Saddam regime’s effort to
Arabise the city after expelling Kurds. Now these Kurds have moved back to the city, many housed in shanties, waiting to repossess their old homes; the city’s Arab inhabitants naturally resent and resist this.
Thus, the Kurdish claim of Kirkuk as part of their federal region has been a major obstacle in the constitutional negotiations. If granted, the claim will constitute a recipe for perpetual strife within the city and the rest of Iraq. It would be wise of the Kurds to reach agreement on some kind of joint control and sharing of resources, which may set an example for the rest of the country.

While we're noting perspective, let's note, again, Dahr Jamails' "Two 'Green Zones'" (Iraq Dispatches):

And the pirates behind the US policy-making in Iraq have chosen, perhaps to their chagrin at this point, to disregard some of the latest history from a past occupation of Iraq.
During the previous British occupation of Iraq, the resistance began in Fallujah. As a response the British shelled half of that city to the ground, much like the US military did recently as part of their failed policy. (US soldiers are now dying in and near Fallujah again.)
It was said that if the British left Iraq civil war would ignite. Just as we are hearing today, even though state-sponsored civil war is in full swing, thanks to the occupiers.
The rule of the British Empire over Iraq went on for three decades before the Brits withdrew. Every year of that time found an uprising against the occupiers...and now less than three years into the failed US occupation, lesser uprisings occur daily.

Via Watching America, Brenda e-mails to note "Eyewitness account of U.S. Operation Quick Strike on Haditha" (Iraq's Azzaman):

It was Friday, August 5, when the bombs started falling on our city. They came in like heavy rain and their thunder broke the silence and early morning calls to prayer from the mosque's minarets.
The Pentagon called this new military offensive Operation Quick Strike. There were warplanes, tanks explosions and shrapnel. Many of us began reciting verses from the holy Koran pleading with the Almighty to save us from U.S. fire as we had nowhere to hide and nothing to defend ourselves with.
We were subject to a terror attack by the U.S. The operation could be nothing but terror.
The same day the U.N. Security Council had passed a resolution condemning terrorist attacks in Iraq and the government's U.N. representative in New York, Samir al-Sumaidi, himself born in Haditha, was quoted over the radio as thanking the council for adopting the resolution.
When the shelling subsided, U.S. commanders ordered their marines to storm the city. They searched Haditha quarter by quarter, house by houses and arrested scores of young men and even women and prevented us from holding the afternoon Friday prayers.
In one bloody incident I saw the marines killing two unarmed inhabitants. One of them was in his bed in the Sheikh Hadid district, where Sumaidi was born. The second was killed as he strolled in his garden.
More residents began falling. In our area only the marines killed five people, all of them unarmed and had nothing to do with the insurgents.

Skip e-mails to note a report from Australia's ABC. Skip asks, "The claim is still that the US doesn't shoot journalists, isn't that so?" From "Reuters soundman killed in Baghdad:"

A Reuters television soundman has been shot dead in Baghdad and a cameraman who has been wounded is being questioned by US troops.
Iraqi police said the two, both Iraqis, were shot by US forces.
A US military spokesman said the incident was being investigated.
The cameraman was being held and questioned because of "inconsistencies in his initial testimony", the spokesman said.
Waleed Khaled, 35, was hit by a shot to the face and at least four to the chest as he drove to check a report, called into the Reuters bureau by a police source, of an incident involving police and gunmen in the western Hay al-Adil district.
"A team from Reuters news agency was on assignment to cover the killing of two policemen in Hay al-Adil, US forces opened fire on the team from Reuters and killed Waleed Khaled, who was shot in the head, and wounded Haider Kadhem," an Interior Ministry official quoted the police incident report as saying.

Pru e-mails to note this from the U.K.'s The Socialist Worker:

"The US mood swings against Iraq war"
Anti-war campaigner John Parker from Los Angeles spoke to Kelly Hilditch about the movement in the US and the growing pressures on George Bush
You can really see that the tide of opinion in the US has been turning against the Iraq war over the last few months.
It's been hard for the anti-war movement in the US. We had great demonstrations against the war before it started.
They had an effect. Before the war started US vice-president Dick Cheney said they would unleash the "mother of all bombs" on Iraq -- but they couldn't use it and I believe that was down to the anti-war movement.
When the war started it was demoralising for people, and it became difficult to organise.
Now things are beginning to pick up again. You have Cindy Sheehan who was camped outside George Bush's ranch in Texas waiting to get an answer about why her soldier son was killed in this war.
Her campaign has been a spark to get people into action.
There have been over 1,700 vigils across the US in support of Cindy during the two weeks that she has been camped out.
Bush came to give a speech in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday of this week. Over 2,000 people protested against him. That's significant because Utah is a very pro-Bush place. The mayor of the city helped organise the protest.
The biggest focus for the anti-war movement is the anti-recruitment campaign. We are currently fighting to get US military recruitment officers out of the campuses.
They lay in wait for our children in the high schools, especially in the poorer areas. They promise to put recruits through college, to provide homes. These are empty lies to get people into the army.
The recruiters just can't make their numbers at the moment. The Bush administration has not got enough troops to deal with the situation in Iraq. One possibility it has is to reintroduce the draft, but that would be a gift to the anti-war movement.
According to the latest polls 56 percent of people want the troops to be pulled out of Iraq.
The majority of people believe that the war was wrong and we should leave Iraq. But there are big differences in approach, about whether you go down the route of the Democrats or if you follow a more independent route.
A lot of people argue within the movement that the troops need to stay but the United Nations needs to get involved. They believe that if we left completely there would be chaos.
There is also very little support for the Iraqi resistance -- many people feel the way they are resisting is not civilised.
I feel that we need to separate the anti-war movement from the Democrats. You only need to look at last year's presidential election to see that there was really very little difference between Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry. Kerry wanted to send another 40,000 troops to Iraq.
I think the troops should leave now. Every day they are there they cause more chaos. They kill more people. The reason the troops are still there is to secure the oil for the US.
They are currently putting together the Iraqi constitution and the proposals show what the US wants from this war.
The last Iraqi constitution was drafted in 1970 -- it stated that there would be no discrimination on religious or race lines.
Most galling for the US is that it said that the basic means of production should be owned by the people.
The new constitution doesn't include any of these demands -- it makes sure that the US can keep a presence in Iraq, and keep hold of the Iraqi oil.
One thing that has also begun to swing public opinion here is the news coming out about the numbers of US soldiers who are being killed.
The most shocking thing is the way that Bush's government has been lying about the numbers killed in Iraq. They have only been counting the soldiers who die in Iraq as being killed in the war.
But many more are injured and then taken elsewhere. Many of those soldiers die.
It was historic when earlier this month the AFL-CIO trade union federation passed a motion calling for the troops to be pulled out of Iraq.
It shows that the members are able to force the leadership to take a stand on an issue. The composition of the unions is changing. There are now far more women and people of colour involved.
When the Gate Gourmet workers at Heathrow were fired the 6,000 Gate Gourmet workers here who are represented by the Teamsters union issued a call demanding their reinstatement. That shows a real unity, and that is what we need to replicate in the anti-war movement.
People are now really pushing for the big anti-war demonstrations on 24 September. We need to come together as an international campaign to say that this war is wrong and it’s time for the troops to leave Iraq.
Police taser protester
Over 100 people took part in a demonstration outside a US military recruitment office in Pittsburgh last Saturday.
As the protesters stood outside the recruitment office listening to speeches police attacked the crowd.
A woman was grabbed, hit, pepper sprayed in the face while on the ground, and then hit with an electric shock taser gun, as three large police officers stood around her.
A 68 year old grandmother was bitten by a police dog as she was walking away. She tried to make a complaint and was arrested. She was then placed in an unventilated police van where she remained for 45 minutes before she was taken to hospital.
When a 17 year old girl questioned the legality of what was happening she was grabbed and slammed to the ground.
Pepper spray also hit a group of children and the police knocked over a man in a wheelchair.
The protest marked the first time in the city’s history that police have used tasers on demonstrators.
John Parker is the West Coast co-ordinator for the International Action Centre. Go to
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