Sunday, December 04, 2005

Reporting from outside the US mainstream media focus on Iraq

The electricity schedule in what appears to be most areas in Baghdad is currently FIVE hours of no electricity for every one hour of electricity. It's very frustrating considering the fact that it's not really cool enough yet for excess electrical heater use- where is it all going? If the electrical situation is this bad now, what happens later when the populace starts needing more electricity?I intend to spend the rest of the night reading about Bush's 'strategy' for Iraq. I haven't seen it yet, but I expect it'll be a repetition of the nonsense he's been spewing for two and a half years now.
Don't Americans get tired of hearing the same thing?
It's unbelievable that he's refused to set a timetable for withdrawal (is he having another "Bring it on..." moment?). It's almost as if someone is paying him to intentionally sabotage American foreign policy. With every speech he seems to sink himself deeper into the mire. A timetable for complete withdrawal of American forces would be a positive step- it would give Iraqis hope that, eventually, sovereignty will return to Iraq.
As it is, people fear the Americans will be here for the next twenty years- unless they are bombed and attacked out of the country. Although many Iraqis support armed resistance in theory, I think that the average Iraqi simply wants to see them go back home in one piece- we feel sorry for them and especially sorry for their families at times. There are moments when you forget the personal affronts- the raids, the checkpoints, the fear of bombing, the detentions, etc. and you can see through it all to the actual person behind the weapons and body armor... On the other hand, you never forget that it's a foreign occupation and will meet with resistance like all foreign occupations.

The above, noted by Mia, is from Riverbend's "No Voice..." (Baghdad Burning). It's Sunday, we look at reporting coming from outside the US mainstream media and we focus, in this entry, on Iraq. Riverbend's pointing out basic truths about life in Iraq under the occupation. Truths the administration prefers to ignore and instead of addressing, resort to propaganda.

More reality can be found in Charlie's highlight, Brian Conley's "Baghdad: Life During Wartime"(Toward Freedom):

Two and a half years into the occupation, war still rages on in Baghdad, Iraq. Two of the deadliest attacks in the last month occurred at the Palestine Hotel and the Hamra Hotel. Although Westerners frequent these hotels, the casualties were almost exclusively Iraqis living and working in the area. Yet just a few hours after the attacks, citizens were back on the streets, as if nothing had happened.
On Baghdad’s streets there is an almost a constant stream of traffic, interrupted regularly by military checkpoints. The traffic jams are due to a three-fold increase in the number of vehicles on Baghdad’s streets since the occupation began. The checkpoints and barricades are minimal attempts to create security out of the chaos of the Iraq War. Because of the constant fear of suicide attacks, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and car bombs, Baghdad is inundated with concrete barriers similar to those seen during highway construction in the US. In areas of high security or importance, there are larger versions which are ten feet tall and two feet thick.
Many Iraqis I spoke with stressed the lack of security as the biggest impact of the occupation. Ghazi Farhan, an Iraqi from Ramadi echoed this common sentiment, "On a typical Iraqi day, before the war, there was stability, and security. A person could go out of his home any time. But now, the Iraqi people can't leave their homes. They are afraid of Americans, kidnappers, murderers, attacks. So it is a very bad situation, it is an unstable, insecure situation."

It's reality that the Bully Boy's never been able to deal with. And one voice of reality is Dahr Jamail. Billy e-mails requesting that we again note Dahr Jamail's "'Pacified' Fallujah" (Iraq Dispatches) :

We've recently had a nice example of a bright and shining lie with regards to manufacturing fake news in Iraq. A secret military campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media has been uncovered. Exposed is Washington-based Lincoln Group, which has contracts with the military to "provide media and public relations services."
Meanwhile, failed US propaganda campaigns are not hiding the fact that military planners in Iraq estimate that there are as many as 100 resistance groups now fighting against the Anglo-American occupiers of their country.
Nor have the propagandists managed to hide the fact that two more members of the so-called Coalition of the Willing, Bulgaria and Ukraine, have announced they will begin withdrawing their combined 1,250 troops by the middle of this month.
Most likely, Bulgaria and Ukraine want to get their folks out of Iraq before more of the country becomes "pacified" like Fallujah.

Rummy's not trumpeting that. (Nor is the mainstream media in the United States.) What happens when puppets are cut loose? James in Brighton notes Patrick Cockburn's "Former Iraqi prime minister says mob tried to kill him" (The Independent):

The former Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, says a mob tried to assassinate him as he prayed at the main Shia shrine in Najaf.
Mr Allawi had gone to the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali as part of his campaign for the 15 December election. "As I was praying, a group of 60 or 70 people, wearing black uniforms and carrying swords and pistols moved towards us as they chanted slogans against us," he said yesterday. "It became clear it was an assassination attempt."
Accounts of what happened are contradictory. Television pictures show Mr Allawi running from the shrine as shoes and stones were thrown at him. Police said that a dozen people, some of them carrying clubs, had tried to stop Mr Allawi entering the shrine.
The incident illustrates the growing tensions in Iraq. Mr Allawi is a Shia, but is standing as a secular nationalist to appeal to Sunni as well as Shia voters. In August 2004, when he was prime minister, he let US marines assault the Mehdi army militia of populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

In other Allawi news, Gareth notes 's "Shia in war of words as elections draw near" (The Financial Times):

As December 15's parliamentary elections draw close, a bitter war of words is being waged between Mr Allawi, a secular Shia who was once a member of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba'ath party, and the Shia Islamist United Iraqi Alliance which currently controls over half the seats in parliament.
The rivalrypits two wings of the pre-war anti-Saddam Hussein opposition against each other in an increasingly vicious contest.
Mr Allawi's Iraqi National List stands little chance of beating the Alliance outright. In Iraq's last elections, in January, with the support of the venerated Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the UIA list won nearly half the total votes cast, while the then-incumbent prime minister took only 14 per cent.

We'll break for a moment to answer Sam's question. Do I really listen to The Laura Flanders Show? Yes, I really do. Sunday's I'm able to listen more closely. (Saturday nights, we're all listening as we contribute to The Third Estate Sunday Review.) Tomorrow is Laura Flanders' birthday. Robert McChesney and John Nichols were great guests and addressed the systematic problems in the US mainstream media. I belive it was McChesney who wondered if the mainstream media had gotten to the point where they can't even cover reality accurately (due to systematic problems within the institutions). Nichols made a point about the New York Times' problems but I'm honestly blanking on that. And right now a discussion with independent book sellers is taking place. Flanders has pointed to a study that shows that independent stores (of all types) keep more monies within a community than chains. (And I've worded that very poorly so if you missed the show tonight, remember Air America Place archives the broadcasts.) So I hope that answers Sam's question.

Kyle found two things worthy of note and we'll start with this and pick the other up in a bit,
"Israel Ex-commandos Training Kurds in North Iraq: Report" (

Dozens of former Israeli commandos have been training Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq, supplying them with equipment worth millions of dollars, Yedioth Aharonot newspaper reported Thursday, December 1.
Over the past 18 months, these ex-commandos, who were sent to Iraq by several Israeli corporations, have been training special security units as part of a program organized by the Kurdish authorities, said Israel's top-selling daily.
Operating from a secret desert stronghold dubbed Code Z, the ex-Israeli soldiers, all with elite-unit experience, have been training the Kurds in weapons, self-defense and anti-terror techniques.
The newspaper showed photographs of men it said were Israelis, their faces concealed, training Kurds in the use of weapons at an unknown location and preparing vehicles at an airport.
The New Yorker veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said
Israeli intelligence and military operatives were quietly at work in northern Iraq, providing training for Kurdish commando units and running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria.

CPT workers were kidnapped last week in Iraq and Lynda e-mails to note "Wife appeals for hostage release" (Al Jazeera):

The wife of British hostage Norman Kember has appealed for his release through Aljazeera.
Speaking from London, Pat Kember appealed to her husband's captors to free him and his friends.
"Norman keenly takes care of others," she said.
"He believes that all people should live peacefully. He courageously resists all forms of aggression. He went to Iraq to help Iraqis, stop the widespread violations, identify with the circumstances in which they live and make Iraq a more peaceful place.
"I beg you to release Norman and his colleagues so they could continue their work for peace in Iraq. They are friends and allies of Iraqis who want to help you overcome evil by performing good deeds".

Propaganda revealed (the Pentagon & the Lincoln Group in collaboration) doesn't appear to result in any shame or embarrassment for the Bully Boy and his administration. Lynda notes "US defends propaganda payments" (Al Jazeera):

US military officials have, for the first time, detailed and broadly defended a Pentagon programme that pays to carry positive news about US efforts in Iraq.
The Pentagon defends the move as part of an effort aimed at "getting the truth out" there.
But facing critics in the United States - including lawmakers from both parties - the military raised the possibility of making changes in the programme.

Propangada also allows the Bully Boy to insist, wrongly, that the resistance in Iraq is nothing but a bunch of people from outside of Iraq. Kyle's second highlight is on this topic, "US Admits Iraqis Outnumber Foreign Fighters: Report" (

US commanders have revealed that Iraqis, rather than foreign fighters, form the vast majority of the resistance against the US-led occupation forces, a British daily reported on Sunday, December 4.
"Their (Iraqis') family and tribal honor has been impugned if we're on their ground. They're almost duty bound to fight," Lt Col Michael Herbert, a brigade intelligence officer, told the Sunday Telegraph as part of interviews over 10 days in battle-torn Anbar province.
Of 1,300 suspected insurgents -- the US term for Iraqi resistance fighters -- arrested over the past five months in and around Ramadi, none has been a foreigner.
[. . .]
The American commanders' conclusion contradicts the White House argument that outsiders are the principal enemy in Iraq, said the British daily.

Also mentioned on Laura Flanders' show tonight was Robert Fisk's new book (number eleven on the best selling list at one of the independent bookstores providing the two guests for the last hour tonight). Polly's found an interview with him done by the BBC (the BBC does not credit the reporter doing the interview), "Viewpoint: UK war reporter Robert Fisk:"

You've been critical of what you describe as "hotel reporting" from Iraq. What should news organisations be doing that they are not?
The first thing they should do is say to their readers or viewers that they are confined to their hotels and don't leave and don't do any street reporting.
By using a Baghdad dateline they give the impression they can check stories that they can't.
So for example, when the Americans claim they killed 142 "terrorists" in Tal Afar, the impression is given they can check the story out, but they can't because they can't go there.
The reality is they are merely being an echo chamber for various spokesmen, officials and generals - there is nothing wrong with that, but just tell the people at the other end of the story the circumstances of your own reporting.
Do you think that the passing of the constitution in Iraq in a referendum will have an impact on the level of violence there?
Not really. Most Iraqis are just trying to survive. They have no electricity and very little money to pay for fuel. They are desperate to protect their families, womenfolk and children from being kidnapped for money.
They are frightened of the suicide bombers that sometimes seem to attack at the rate of five or six times a day.
Iraq is in a state of total anarchy from Mosul all the way down to Basra.
There are armed insurgents on the streets within half a mile of the Green Zone in Baghdad, where the US and UK embassies are. The whole American project in Iraq is effectively dead.
When you are there you realise it but when you emerge from this bubble of anarchy and watch television in Britain or America you can be persuaded it's going fine.
It's not going fine - it's a disaster.

We'll close with Pru's highlight (as we usually do) from the UK's Socialist Worker. (And as noted in the previous entry, we have two more highlights that we'll note tomorrow and Tuesday.) Here is "Trouble on both sides of Atlantic:"

When George Galloway was interviewed on BBC Radio Four's Today programme a few weeks ago, John Humphreys taunted him with the suggestion that Respect was a single issue party whose issue -- the war in Iraq -- would have disappeared by the time of the next general election.
Humphreys was wrong on two counts. Respect is a lot more than a single issue party. And Iraq is very far from vanishing over the political horizon.
In the latest Ipsos-Mori poll, reported in last Sunday's Observer, "Iraq and terrorism lead the list of public concerns, with 41 percent putting these among the most important issues facing the country, up ten points over the last month".
The lead story in the Observer was an interview with Iyad Allawi, the first US puppet prime minister of Iraq after the US-British invasion.
He said human rights abuse in Iraq is now worse than it was under Saddam Hussein. Allawi said, "People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse. It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things."
Allawi should know about human rights abuses. He was a Baathist secret agent before he broke with Saddam and became an "asset" of the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
His remarks reflect his own political agenda -- he's campaigning in December’s elections as a defender of secularism against the Shia clerical establishment that dominates the client regime in Baghdad.
But nevertheless they are a body blow to all those New Labour ministers who constantly claim the occupation of Iraq is about democracy and human rights.
No wonder Tony Blair is trying to gag the press and prevent yet more revelations about his disastrous Iraq policy. But his troubles here are as nothing compared to what's happening on the other side of the Atlantic.
Philip Stephens, a Financial Times columnist close to 10 Downing Street, reported on Friday of last week from Washington. He said, "Everywhere you go the conversation is about authority draining from the White House. On Capitol Hill [in congress] the Republicans' legendary discipline has fractured. Mr Bush's public approval rating is marooned below 40 percent. Everyone is talking about bringing the troops home from Iraq.
"We are not there yet. But the shift in the political mood has been extraordinary. Until a few weeks ago the arguments about Iraq, albeit growing in intensity and venom, were mostly partisan and backward-looking. Mr Bush is confronted with a rising chorus of demands, heard increasingly within his own party, to offer some sort of timescale for the return of US troops."
An indication of this change in the political weather is a press conference three weeks ago held by John Murtha, a pro-war Democratic congressman. "Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency" he said. "It's time to bring them home."
Senator John McCain, another Vietnam vet and possible Republican presidential contender, has confronted chickenhawk-in-chief Dick Cheney over the latter’s demand that the CIA be exempted from McCain’s draft law banning US forces from practising torture.
One shouldn't have any illusions about Bush’s congressional opponents. As Gilbert Achcar and Steve Shalom point out in an analysis of Murtha’s position on ZNet, he wants US troops to "redeploy to Kuwait or to the surrounding area", rather than pull out from the Middle East altogether.
Murtha complains that the Iraq adventure threatens to undermine US "military dominance". He speaks for the section of the US ruling class that criticise the Bush gang not for being imperialists, but for being incompetent imperialists.
But this doesn't alter the fact that something potentially decisive is happening.
The Iraqi catastrophe is beginning to fragment the US establishment, just as Vietnam did a generation ago. Next weekend's International Peace Conference is even more important now.
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