Four aid workers, including two Canadians, have been kidnapped in Iraq, a Canadian official said tonight, while Iraqi police have arrested eight Sunni Arabs for allegedly plotting to assassinate the investigating judge in the case against Saddam Hussein.
Dan McTeague, parliamentary secretary for Canadians abroad, said the incident happened yesterday, but refused to name the organisation the two Canadians worked for or the location where they were kidnapped.
McTeague said the group "has not requested any assistance at this time."
The above is from "Aid workers kidnapped in Iraq" (The Irish Examiner) and was highlighted by Dominick. It's Sunday and we're focusing on news on Iraq from outside the US mainstream media.
Polly also notes the continued violence in Iraq, "Bomb kills 30 near Iraqi hospital" (BBC):
At least 30 people were killed and 27 wounded when a car bomb exploded outside a hospital in a town south of Baghdad, officials say.
The bomb was detonated as two Iraqi police cars drew up near the general hospital in Mahmudiya, about 20km (12 miles) outside Baghdad.
A US military convoy passing by was also hit by the blast.
Lynda e-mails to note "Allawi: Abuse as bad as in Saddam era" (Aljazeera):
In an interview published in London on Sunday, former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi told The Observer newspaper that human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein.
"People are doing the same as (in) Saddam's time and worse," he was quoted as saying. "It is an appropriate comparison." Allawi accused fellow Shia in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centres.
"These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same thing," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
For months, Sunni Arabs have been accusing the Interior Ministry of wholesale arrests and abuse of Sunnis in an attempt to find a handful of armed fighters.
The discovery by US troops this month of up to 173 detainees - malnourished and some showing signs of torture - hidden in an Interior Ministry building in central Baghdad gave credence to those charges.
A few e-mails came in questioning the spelling of "Aljazeera" in light of recent press coverage. At their website, the English version, "Aljazeera" is the spelling. Press accounts in England and the United States have offered "Al Jazeera" and "al-Jazeera." Hypen? I have no preference. As along as we're consistent. So weigh in if you have a preference and we'll go with whatever that is.
Kyle notes Samir Haddad's "US, Iraqi Forces Still Target Sunnis: AMS" (IslamOnline.net):
Residents of Haditha, western Iraq, are being massacred by the Iraqi national forces and US occupation troops, according to the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), Iraqi's highest Sunni authority.
"US troops and Iraqi national guards are stationed at roofs and gardens of the city's houses and are shooting anyone who dares get out," Sheikh Abdul Salam Al-Qubaissi, AMS PR official, told a press conference Wednesday, November 23.
Qubaissi cited a call from an Iraqi woman who cried out for help from the ongoing crackdowns in the city.
"The woman said she is unable to leave home to bring food for her young kids lest being shot by the troops," he said.
The woman further detailed what she described as a "massacre" perpetrated by the Iraqi forces against four Iraqi families in the city.
"Some 24 people of the four Iraqi families were killed by the Iraqi forces, which also opened fire at members of another Iraqi family in the city," the woman said on the recorded conversation, parts of which were played at the press conference.
Residents tried to convince the Iraqi soldiers to end their crackdown operation in the city, the woman said.
"But the soldiers answered that they were under orders from the Iraqi defense minister."
Lynda also notes "US Congressmen in Iraq road accident" (Aljazeera):
A military vehicle carrying US Congressmen overturned on the way to the Baghdad airport, injuring two of them, a fellow congressman travelling with them said.
Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican, was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany for an MRI on his neck, and Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat, was sent to a Baghdad hospital, said Rep. Jim Marshall.
Marshall, a Georgia Democrat, was in the vehicle but was not hurt.
The politicians were riding on Sunday in a box-like vehicle in a convoy. The convoy was taking up the middle of the road, a common practice used by the military to deter oncoming motorists. Shortly after dark, an oncoming truck refused to yield, Marshall said.
Kyle also notes "Anti-Iraq War Monument Unveiled at Bush's Hometown" (IslamOnline.net):
[. . .] George W. Bush's hopes for a brief reprieve from the bitter occupation of Iraq debate were dashed on Friday, November 25, when scores of protesters led by anti-war icon Cindy Sheehan called anew for troops pullout and unveiled an anti-war monument in the US leader's adoptive Texas hometown.
"We're here to say that the killing has to stop," Sheehan, whose son was killed in the Iraq war, told reporters, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Crawford prepared for the influx by erecting a large warning sign for motorists a mile or so outside town that flashed the words: "Expect heavy traffic Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
"We're not going away. We don't hate anybody, we just want people to be held accountable," Sheehan said. "And just because someone's president of the United States doesn't guarantee them immunity from accountability."
Bush was out of sight, spending the Thanksgiving holiday on his Prairie Chapel estate outside this tiny town of 705 people, but was expected to make a renewed push next week to revive ailing support for the war.
Sheehan, who plans to lead an anti-war rally on Saturday, November 26, and participate in an interfaith service on Sunday, became an icon for the peace movement during a 26-day vigil outside Bush's ranch in the summer.
[. . .]
Sheehan took part in dedicating a small garden with Yucca plants and cacti and a low stone monument marked "Sheehan's Stand" on the front and inscribed with the names of US soldiers killed in Iraq, including her son Casey.
The modest ceremony was briefly interrupted by the whistles of a passing train and heckling from Texans driving past in their dusty pick-up trucks, including one who honked and shouted "Go home, you freaking losers!"
Protesters say they will come to Crawford every time Bush visits his ranch.
We'll close with Pru's highlight:
"Why the mainstream media fails us on Iraq"
As reports finally surface about the use of white phosphorous in Iraq, David Miller explains how the mainstream media has failed.
Reports have recently come out in the mainstream press about the use of white phosphorus by troops in Iraq. These reports aren't new -- just over a year ago they were coming out from human rights organisations and medics and journalists that white phosphorus, napalm and other agents were being used.
But it was not reported in the mainstream because the mainstream, to put it politely, are beholden to our rulers.
The mainstream press will not report what credible sources say is happening in Iraq. It used to be in times of conflict that sources such as human rights organisations were regarded cautiously -- if your own government was involved in perpetrating violence.
But now it seems that you simply ignore these sources.
The BBC has simply refused to report any of these stories.
For nearly a year Media lens (www.medialens.org) has been campaigning on this issue, asking why the BBC has refused to report the allegations of chemical weapons being used in Fallujah.
The BBC's response is that it did not know if it had happened -- but it should have reported the claims from sources in Iraq.
It used to be the case that accusing the senior editorial staff at the BBC of being government stooges was a crude exaggeration, but is that so any more?
The head of news, Helen Boaden, has spent much of this year defending the BBCs failure to report white phosphorous. In a genuine public service broadcaster such toadying to the government would not be tolerated.
There are two major problems facing the mainstream media. The first is underlying commercialisation. It didn't just happen, it was put into place by conscious political activity, not least the1990 Broadcasting Act.
The second problem is the constant and relentless pressure on the BBC and other broadcasters not to report what the government does not want reported.
The historical period in which we are now living -- the neo-liberal period -- means that the content of democracy has narrowed.
It is clear that whatever there was in social democracy has been eroded. The authority of parliament has declined.
We have a presidential government which decides the candidates for popular election, and that has meant that the basis of rule is increasingly called into question.
When the NHS and comprehensive education were introduced these were policies that had a level of popular mandate. The policies Blair is introducing do not have a popular mandate.
This is not because the Blair government is uniquely evil. It's because it is a neo-liberal government which is interested in imposing the interests of the corporations.
So in order to minimise dissent and opposition they lie. To quote the South African activist, Patrick Bond, they have to "talk left and walk right".
But there is a more important factor. The consensus notion is that the democratic system works to ensure that a variety of views are expressed in government and therefore a democratic media should reflect the variety of views in government and parliament.
Now this was never done very well and they tended to marginalise some views -- especially the left. But at least there was a range of opinion.
We have a political system that is more and more divorced from the popular will. Yet the broadcasters are still working on the assumption that democracy works, and it doesn’t.
The response from the mainstream to that point of view is that it is just that -- a political point of view.
But they will not report that point of view because it falls outside their way of knowing the world.
If you look at what happened when the Lancet report came out about the number of Iraqi civilians killed, the media response was not, "that's an appalling scandal". Instead they said, "oh well the methodology looks a bit dodgy". Stories from the margins are almost totally ignored in the mainstream.
We have found this repeatedly on Spinwatch, the website I co-edit. The truth is that it’s the people in the movement, those who pay attention, who know what's going on.
Media in this country are heading for a real crisis and that's why there is so much independent media now. But we do not have enough independent media to keep people informed.
We need a much wider range of news so that people can make informed political judgements.
We need not just papers like Socialist Worker, or websites like IndyMedia, but independent radio and television stations.
David Miller is a Professor of Sociology at Strathclyde University. His website is www.spinwatch.org
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