Monday, November 28, 2005

Other Items

In the New York Times this morning, David Johnston tells you that Viveca Novak's testimony is sought by Patrick Fitzgerald in the Plamegate investigation. Novak works for Time. Fitzgerald's interested in conversations she had with Karl Rove's attorney (Luskin).

Brenda notes that David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker report (in "As Calls for an Iraq Pullout Rise, 2 Political Calendars Loom Large"):

But in private conversations, American officials are beginning to acknowledge that a judgment about when withdrawals can begin is driven by two political calendars - one in Iraq and one here - as much as by those military assessments. The final decision, they said, could well hinge on whether the new Iraqi government, scheduled to be elected in less than three weeks, issues its own call for an American withdrawal. Last week, for the first time, Iraq's political factions, represented by about 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal.

Outside the Times, Micah steers us to Raymond Whitaker and Marie Woolf's "So What Have They To Hide? Official Secrets, Lies, and the Truth About the Assault on Fallujah" (The Independent via Common Dreams):

In other words: what do they have to hide? The answer to that appears to reflect the degree to which Tony Blair is still haunted by the Iraq war. The attack on Fallujah, which was at its height when he met George Bush, epitomizes many of the most serious concerns about that war.
In response to the lynching of four American security contractors, US forces were ordered to "clean out" Fallujah, over the protests of the Marine commander on the ground, who argued that months of painstaking efforts to win hearts and minds would be destroyed.
"The decision was political, not military," said Toby Dodge of Queen Mary College, London University, who went to Downing Street with other Iraq experts before the war to warn Mr Blair of the perils of an invasion. "It was taken in the Oval Office."
But after three weeks of heavy fighting, and correspondingly high casualties, the White House lost its nerve. The Marines, who lost 600 men, believed they were on the point of seizing the town when they were ordered to hand over to an "Iraqi brigade" commanded by a general from the Saddam era, which promptly yielded control back to the insurgents.
In the midst of this disaster, the Prime Minister was at the White House. That Britain was concerned about the conduct of the fighting was revealed in a leaked Foreign Office memo the following month. This said: "Heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf, some weeks ago, have fueled both Sunni and Shia opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq."
Possible options for the deployment of British troops were also discussed in the memo, including the possibility that they might take over the troubled areas of Najaf and Qadisiyah, where Spanish troops had been pulled out by the new Socialist government. That did not materialize, but at this time last year, the Black Watch was sent north to back up US forces being readied for a fresh assault on Fallujah. In 30 days, the 850-strong British force lost five men.
US forces surrounded Fallujah, and the civilian population was ordered out amid warnings that anyone remaining would be treated as an insurgent. Much of the town was flattened, and many of its former inhabitants have never returned. To this day, we have little idea how many people, whether "foreign fighters" or unfortunate civilians, were killed in Fallujah. But disturbing details continue to trickle out.
Only this month, we learned that US troops used white phosphorus, intended to provide smokescreens, as an illegal chemical weapon against fighters in buildings or foxholes. On contact with skin or clothing, it can burn down to the bone. And many of the same tactics are being employed during Operation Steel Curtain, which for the past few weeks has sought to drive insurgents out of towns and villages near Iraq's borders with Syria and Jordan.

White phosphorus isn't mentioned in the New York Times today. Nor is Falluja (mustn't remind anyone of Dexter Filkins' "award winning" "reporting"). What's surprising is that Afghanistan doesn't rate a mention.

Remember the burning of bodies? The psy-ops? (If not click here.) Yesterday Polly noted a BBC report in her e-mail. I told her I'd wait until Monday and we could compare & contrast with the Times' reporting. But it's Monday and the Times has no story.

Maybe the whole "investigation" reeked to the paper as a "whitewash"? (Like that's ever been a problem for the Times.)

Noted by Polly, "No US charges over Afghan bodies" (BBC):

US troops who burned the corpses of two suspected Taleban fighters killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan committed no crime, military investigators say.
[. . .]
However, two junior officers who had ordered the bodies to be burnt would be officially reprimanded for "poor judgement and lack of knowledge and respect of Afghan culture and customs".
Turning to the broadcasts, which had been directed at presumed survivors of the same gun battle thought to be sheltering in a village, Gen Kamiya said they had violated military policy.
Two non-commissioned officers would be reprimanded as a result.

Don't forget to check Democracy Now! today (listen, watch or read).

For those looking for Isaiah's latest comic, there isn't one. I asked him and Ruth to both take last week off. That's why Ruth saved a Saturday Ruth's Morning Edition Report for last Thursday.

We'll close by noting Danny Schechter's "WAR ON THE MEDIA: 'Don't Bomb Us'" (BuzzFlash):

For some time, and other outlets have been reporting on the Bush Administration's contempt for the media and its attempts to manage and spin coverage.
Writing in this week's Nation, John Nichols and Robert McChesney catalogue the various strategies that have been deployed, charging, "with its unprecedented campaign to undermine and, where possible, eliminate independent journalism, the Bush Administration has demonstrated astonishing contempt for the Constitution and considerable fear of an informed public."
But would it actually attempt to "take-out" media institutions and kill or otherwise silence journalists? Would it bomb a TV station? How far will this government go?
We know that other governments have shown little restraint. An Indonesian and a Russian journalist were poisoned on airplanes in high profile cases. Others have been "disappeared," killed, jailed and tortured. Groups like Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of reporters compile the cases and regularly call for justice.
In our country, the Committee to Protect Journalists has played that role well with important documentation and action alerts. Each year, usually at a fancy hotel in New York, they also have a pricey fundraising dinner hosted by network anchors in tuxedos who give prestigious awards to gutsy journalists and freedom of the press advocates. All the big media companies buy tables and pat themselves on the back for upholding the first amendment. They make videos honoring the courage of media messengers. Unfortunately, those videos and their stories rarely get on the air on their networks. In my book The More You Watch The Less You Know, I derided the annual feel-good affair as "human rights for a night."
Why aren't these companies speaking out when other media organizations like Al Jazeera are threatened and attacked? What are they doing to demand independent inquiries into the killings of journalists and media staff? The toll in Iraq now stands at 93, and the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad says the US military poses a bigger threat to newsgathering than the insurgents. (Reuters has bravely challenged the Pentagon to tell the truth!)

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