Sunday, March 19, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

"We are losing each day an average of 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," Allawi told BBC television on Sunday, on the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Allawi also warned that if fighting continues as it has, the country could fragment with aftershocks being felt in Europe and the United States.
"It will not only fall apart but sectarianism will spread throughout the region, and even Europe and the U.S. will not be spared the violence that results," he said.

The above, noted by Vince, is from "Iraq embroiled in 'civil war,' says former PM Allawi" (Canada's CBC). Allawi says things aren't good and Tony Blair knows they aren't. James in Brighton notes Andrew Grice's "Blair unrepentant, but still tormented by legacy of war" (The Independent of London):

Tony Blair told British troops during a visit to Basra in May 2003: "I would like to think that, in maybe a year or two years time, it's going to be possible for some of you to come back here and see the changes in this country that have arisen from what you've done today."
Some of the servicemen in his audience have indeed been back since, but not to do what that the Prime Minister envisaged.
For three years, the shadow of Iraq has fallen over Mr Blair, defying his hopes that the country would come right and that the invasion would fade to a distant memory.
At first, Mr Blair and his ministers hoped that the post-war instability would be over by December 2003. A year later, they were making the same predictions about December 2004.
Three years ago, Mr Blair hoped Iraq would not be an issue at the general election pencilled in for 2005. It was. His decision to go to war on a false prospectus about non-existent weapons of mass destruction came to symbolise the public's lack of trust in him personally and politicians generally.

And in the Denial of Columbia? Bully Boy "upbeat" reports the BBC ("Bush upbeat on Iraq anniversary," noted by Polly) and, like a good war pornographer, ready to talk "strategy" -- ready to talk about anything but the "further dip in Mr Bush's approval ratings to below 30%."
Farm from the Bully Boy's residence in the Denial of Columbia, Marcia notes that reality is addressed by Riverbend "Three Years...." (Baghdad Burning):

It has been three years since the beginning of the war that marked the end of Iraq's independence. Three years of occupation and bloodshed.
Spring should be about renewal and rebirth. For Iraqis, spring has been about reliving painful memories and preparing for future disasters. In many ways, this year is like 2003 prior to the war when we were stocking up on fuel, water, food and first aid supplies and medications. We're doing it again this year but now we don't discuss what we're stocking up for. Bombs and B-52's are so much easier to face than other possibilities.
I don't think anyone imagined three years ago that things could be quite this bad today. The last few weeks have been ridden with tension. I'm so tired of it all -- we're all tired.
Three years and the electricity is worse than ever. The security situation has gone from bad to worse. The country feels like it's on the brink of chaos once more -- but a pre-planned, pre-fabricated chaos being led by religious militias and zealots.
School, college and work have been on again, off again affairs. It seems for every two days of work/school, there are five days of sitting at home waiting for the situation to improve. Right now college and school are on hold because the "arba3eeniya" or the "40th Day" is coming up -- more black and green flags, mobs of men in black and latmiyas. We were told the children should try going back to school next Wednesday. I say "try" because prior to the much-awaited parliamentary meeting a couple of days ago, schools were out. After the Samarra mosque bombing, schools were out. The children have been at home this year more than they've been in school.

But Bully Boy's "upbeat." Doesn't that inspire confidence? No? Nor should it.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

It's Sunday, we're focusing on reporting from outside the US mainstream media and focusing specifically on Iraq. As the war drags on, the American military fatality count went from 2307 last Sunday to 2318 as of right now.

And we move to the mainstream, United States media for Lloyd's highlight, Kristy Eckert's
"CHILDREN OF WAR: Three-year Iraq conflict leaves emotional casualties close to home" (The Columbus Dispatch):

They are the youngest victims of the Iraq war.
Some crawl around in diapers. Some play ball. Some are learning to drive.
The younger ones wonder when Dad is coming home. The older ones know better.
They are the 65 children of Ohio troops killed since the United States began Operation Iraqi Freedom three years ago today.
The war has claimed the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen, including 105 from Ohio, the Defense Department says.

To which we'll "They are among the youngest victims of the Iraq war" because children of troops from other countries are victims as are the children of Iraqis.

Other victims? The BBC is reporting that six men have been arrested in the killings of journalist
"Atwar Bahjat, her cameraman and soundman" -- however, China's Xinhuanet reports "Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulami denied on Saturday an earlier report which said Iraqi forces had arrested six people suspected of killing a female journalist of the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel."

Among things that are known? Violence continues in the "cake walk." Jason highlights
"Car bombw injure and kill 20 Iraqis in Baghdad" (Kuna):

Twenty Iraqis were killed or injured in a car bomb blast Saturday in a Baghdad suburb.
[. . .]
In northern Baghdad, police officials said two electricity protection patrol men were killed and two more injured when an explosive device was detonated as their patrol car passed by in Attaji's main street.
An explosive device planted on a road side in Baghdad's Al-Yarmouk area blew up injuring six pedestrians as they passed over it on their way to Karbala. This is the second attack of its kind in 24 hours.

But no need to be concerned, remember, the Bully Boy is "upbeat." Brandon steers us to Jim Lobe's "Forum Over Substance" (IPS):

If the medium is the message, then U.S. Pres. George W. Bush's choice of forum to launch a new public campaign to defend his beleaguered Iraq policy should be troubling to those, particularly in Europe, who had hoped that his administration was moving toward a more even-handed stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The staunchly neo-conservative Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), one of the most hawkish groups on the "war on terror" since it was created two days after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon, has often taken strident positions against Arab and European allies whose cooperation has been sought by the administration itself.
Part of an interlocking network of neo-conservative-dominated groups that include the American Enterprise Institute, the Centre for Security Policy, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Committee on the Present Danger which it founded, FDD has also tried to build support here for "regime change" in Syria and Iran.
Bush's speech, which broke little new ground, is the first of a series scheduled this week aimed at bolstering badly sagging public support for the U.S. occupation and reassuring voters that Iraq is not descending into civil war despite the widespread sectarian violence that followed the bombing of Samarra's Golden Mosque late last month.

While Bully Boy pretends there's no need for concern, more reality comes via Gareth's highlight -- Julian Borger's "Rumsfeld singled out as crisis deepens in Iraq" (The Guardian of London):

A former US army general yesterday called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign on grounds of incompetence in Iraq, hours after Ayad Allawi, the former US-backed Iraqi prime minister, declared the country to be in the thick of a civil war that could soon "reach the point of no return".
Three years after Iraq was invaded, statistics published yesterday show that the frequency of insurgent bombings and group killings is growing, but both Mr Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and George Bush have vowed to fight on.
"Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis," the defence secretary wrote in a Washington Post commentary, as the administration tried to quell growing concern that the conflict was unravelling beyond Washington's control.
President Bush made a brief appearance on the White House lawn to say he was "encouraged" by progress on forming a unity government in Iraq. But he had no other good news to mark three years of a war in which more than 2,300 Americans have died, and which has so far cost $500bn (nearly £290bn).
The US commander in Iraq, General George Casey, said that the troop withdrawals he had forecast for this spring or summer might have to wait until the end of the year or even 2007. And Paul Eaton, a former American army general in charge of training Iraqi forces until 2004, marked the anniversary with a furious attack on Mr Rumsfeld, saying he was "not competent to lead our armed forces".

But in the US mainstream media, Iraq wasn't that big of news. The protests (in the US or worldwide) weren't "big news," and Iraq really wasn't. The front page of the New York Times this morning had the story we noted earlier on the torture of Iraqis by American forces. It also had a story about the pension bill, a vote in Misk, a story on "The Bronx Fears a Downside," Muslims in China, and the ground breaking "Unwed Fathers Fight for Babies Placed for Adoption by Mothers." The third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and you wouldn't even know it to look at the front page of Sunday's New York Times.

Cindy notes a criticque of the US mainstream media -- Robert Fisk's "The Farcical End of the American Dream: The US press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war" (The Independent via Common Dreams):

It is a bright winter morning and I am sipping my first coffee of the day in Los Angeles. My eye moves like a radar beam over the front page of the Los Angeles Times for the word that dominates the minds of all Middle East correspondents: Iraq. In post-invasion, post-Judith Miller mode, the American press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war. So the story beneath the headline "In a Battle of Wits, Iraq's Insurgency Mastermind Stays a Step Ahead of US" deserves to be read. Or does it?
Datelined Washington -- an odd city in which to learn about Iraq, you might think - its opening paragraph reads: "Despite the recent arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded capture, US authorities say, because his network has a much better intelligence-gathering operation than they do."
Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis -- along, I have to admit, with myself - have grave doubts about whether Zarqawi exists, and that al-Qai'da's Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of "insurgency mastermind", the words that caught my eye were "US authorities say". And as I read through the report, I note how the Los Angeles Times sources this extraordinary tale. I thought American reporters no longer trusted the US administration, not after the mythical weapons of mass destruction and the equally mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. Of course, I was wrong.
Here are the sources -- on pages one and 10 for the yarn spun by reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: "US officials said", "said one US Justice Department counter-terrorism official", "Officials ... said", "those officials said", "the officials confirmed", "American officials complained", "the US officials stressed", "US authorities believe", "said one senior US intelligence official", "US officials said", "Jordanian officials ... said" -- here, at least is some light relief -- "several US officials said", "the US officials said", "American officials said", "officials say", "say US officials", "US officials said", "one US counter-terrorism official said".
I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times -- along with the big east coast dailies -- should all be called US OFFICIALS SAY. But it's not just this fawning on political power that makes me despair. Let's move to a more recent example of what I can only call institutionalised racism in American reporting of Iraq. I have to thank reader Andrew Gorman for this gem, a January Associated Press report about the killing of an Iraqi prisoner under interrogation by US Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jnr.

Mr Welshofer, it transpired in court, had stuffed the Iraqi General Abed Hamed Mowhoush head-first into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest, an action which -- not surprisingly -- caused the general to expire. The military jury ordered -- reader, hold your breath -- a reprimand for Mr Welshofer, the forfeiting of $6,000 of his salary and confinement to barracks for 60 days. But what caught my eye was the sympathetic detail. Welshofer's wife's Barbara, the AP told us, "testified that she was worried about providing for their three children if her husband was sentenced to prison. 'I love him more for fighting this,' she said, tears welling up in her eyes. 'He's always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do'".
Yes, I guess torture is tough on the torturer. But try this from the same report: "Earlier in the day ... Mr Welshofer fought back tears. 'I deeply apologise if my actions tarnish the soldiers serving in Iraq,' he said."

Well remember, it's not a war, it's a "policy decision" according to war pornographer and New York Times "reporter" Michael Gordon.

Let's do TC's highlight. From CounterPunch, Kevin Zeese's "Divide and Rule Goes Awry in Iraq:"

Inherent in the policy of Iraqization is the traditional strategy of an occupier--divide and rule--as it means some Iraqi collaborators will be put in the employ of the occupier in an effort to control other Iraqis. Thus, Iraqization naturally means turning Iraqis against each other. And, having Iraqis fighting between themselves--rather than uniting in opposition to the occupation of Iraq--benefits the United States.
'Divide and rule' seems to be central to the U.S. strategy to controlling Iraq. The U.S. has used this strategy in other conflicts, and the closest ally of the United States perfected 'divide and rule' during its history as a colonial power. The British typically played one tribe or ethnic group against another to maintain control of their colonies with a minimal number of British troops. For example, the British used 'divide and rule' strategies to gain control over India, keeping its people divided along lines of religion, language, and caste. The divisions created or enhanced by Great Britain still cause problems in some of its former colonies.
Indeed, in the 1920 Mandate of Iraq, the British worked to check the Shia majority's power by keeping Sunni Arabs in senior positions in government and the armed forces. And, created a country that had divisions, Sunni, Shia and Kurd--divisions that still exist today.
It is hard to believe that the Bush Administration did not realize the likely sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shia. Not only die Saddam Hussein check the Shia majority during his rule of Iraq, but the
dispute between these two sects dates back to the death of the prophet Mohamed in 632. Sunnis are the majority sect in the Muslim world, but Shias form as much as 60% of Iraq's population, whereas Sunnis make up 35%, divided between ethnic Arabs and Kurds. This demographic dominance of the Shia has not resulted in economic and political power, until the U.S. occupation.

Kevin Zeese's writings can also be found at Democracy Rising. He is also a candidate that TC supports for the US Senate race in Maryland. TC feels that Zeese has a good grasp on Iraq and wondered what I thought (I think he does as well). He also wondered why Zeese couldn't be highlighted? (This was gone over in lost e-mailed entry mid-week, by the way.)

Two weeks ago, TC had e-mailed writing of Zeese that had been reposted. The original had been at CounterPunch. We were pressed for time (indymedia rondup) and Zeese fell by the wayside. That happens with every entry due to the fact that members send in a lot of highlights.

TC was worried that Zeese wasn't noted because he was a candidate for office. That's not the case. And had TC noted that he was supporting Zeese, that would have gotten the two-weeks ago highlight included. TC and I have exchanged e-mails on this but it needed to be addressed here because other members may have questions.

I'm not endorsing. If you're endorsing, you need to write it. You can just write, "I'm supporting Zeese" or whomever and when we note the highlight, it will read something like, "TC steers us to a candidate he's supporting . . ."

We're a site for the left. Membership is made up of people who support various parties, various candidates. I'm not endorsing. And members know (or should) their own state's candidates better than anyone else. Any member can write something to endorse a candidate and it will go up. (Endorse the candidate, don't slam the opponent unless you provide resources that can be checked.) If you're a member who's not supporting the Democratic Party (or the designated/appointed Democratic candidate since we're in the primaries), you should especially make your voice heard.

Again, if you're uncomfortable writing an endorsement, you can just note that you're supporting the candidate and we'll note it here. (And if you'd rather keep it more private, Gina and Krista are willing to run any endorsement a member wants to make in the gina & krista round-robin. Since Billie has now been trashed three times at other sites for comments she's had posted here -- none of which were controversial by any means -- it is understood if you don't want to make a comment here.) We have noted the statements of elected officials, we have noted the statements of candidates.

There's no attempt to shut down the choices. So if there's something you come across by a candidate you support, e-mail to get it highlighted but to make sure it's highlighted note that it's by a candidate you support.

My apologies to TC for the delay. We've gone over this in e-mails and an e-mailed entry addressed this on Thursday (I believe it was Thursday). Due to indymedia and the demonstrations going on, there was no way to get to this point earlier. Thank you to TC for his patience and understanding. And if you're interested in finding out more about Zeese, check out Democracy Rising.

Lynda notes "US military eyes coal as fuel source" (Al Jazeera):

The Pentagon is trying to persuade investors and the energy industry to embrace an 80-year-old technology to turn coal into liquid fuel to power planes, tanks and other battlefield vehicles.
Officials have been crisscrossing the country, meeting energy companies and state government officials to sell them the idea.

At the same time, military researchers have been testing fuel produced by the process to make sure it is suitable for military vehicles, especially older ones.
The military is worried that political pressure or terrorist acts could cut the flow of oil from the Middle East or hurricanes or terrorists could destroy US refineries.

The Pentagon and not someone from the Department of Energy? It should be noted that Iran has a large reserve of coal.

We'll close with Pru's highlight, "The first casualty of war" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Philip Knightley, author of the acclaimed history of war reporting, The First Casualty, spoke to Socialist Worker about war and the media
In the My Lai massacre in Vietnam you saw the mundane racism of the US troops. On 16 March 1968, they killed between 90 and 130 men, women and children. What is important and notable is that it wasn’t until November 1969 that the story came out.
The massacre was not revealed by a war correspondent on the spot, but by a reporter back in the US who was capable of being shocked by it. He wrote the story at a moment when, for a number of reasons, the US public was prepared to read, believe and accept it.
The White House had led the US people to believe that victory in the war was just around the corner. Then, in January 1968, the Vietnamese launched the Tet offensive. The fact that the US was losing the war was important in the story coming out.
It's not that war correspondents didn’t know what was going on, but that they didn’t see it as abhorrent behaviour. I have spoken to lots of journalists who were in Vietnam about this issue. They all recount how they did not see atrocities like those of My Lai as unusual as worth reporting.
If they did, they were absolutely convinced that their news organisations would not be interested in the slightest in a massacre in small village in Vietnam. After the media turned against the war, every journalist suddenly recalled that they did have atrocity stories to tell.
Unfortunately, My Lai had an unexpected and negative repercussion. From this moment the media decided the war was all but over. The amount of space given to coverage of the war actually declined.
Perhaps it is also worth recalling that Newsweek magazine called the story An American Tragedy -- it was that angle that made it an acceptable story. News agency after news agency argued over whether they could run an "out of date story" or whether they should buy "massacre pictures".
There were atrocities before My Lai and massacres occurred on a larger scale afterwards. But My Lai removed the inhibitions about talking about the war.
There is one major difference between the time of My Lai and now. In a sense, Vietnam was an aberration. It was a war in which, initially at least, the media was welcome. The US wanted the media there to show them fighting Communism.
They did everything to facilitate coverage of the war. The military provided transportation and transmission facilities. It was a key point in the war when the media woke up and turned against it. They turned because of what was happening on the ground in Vietnam and opposition at home.
The US military in particular came to think that the attitude of the media was why they lost the war. So ever since, they have been at pains not to repeat the levels of access for the media. In Iraq, from the beginning, the media has been unable to cover the war effectively.
Journalists have had to be embedded in the military, which makes their reports practically useless. "Unilaterals" as they call them are actively discouraged. They are discouraged to the point that being a non-embedded journalist means risking being killed by the US military.
Nearly all of the reporting of the war comes from the Green Zone in Baghdad. This is like the old stereotypes of the correspondents who never left the hotel bars in Saigon to report on the war in Vietnam. If I see another BBC reporter dressed in a flak jacket telling me what is happening in Iraq while trapped in the Green Zone, I will blow up my television.
It is partially a consequence of the occupation, but far more of the structure of media in Iraq, that the physical and financial costs of covering the war are extremely prohibitive. For instance, one third of any media budget in Iraq is now spent on insurance. That makes it impossible for freelance journalists or film crews to operate.
Something else has happened. Many other people in Iraq now consider themselves journalists and provide footage to the media. While this is better than nothing, it is in no way a method for covering a war effectively. A squaddie with a mobile phone and a blogger in Baghdad don't take the place of someone like Robert Fisk reporting on the war.
Attitudes to atrocities in war have not changed much at all. Ordinary squaddies in Iraq see atrocities all the time. In fact, they are proud of them. If they weren't they wouldn't take pictures of them.
What happened then, and what happens now, is that people who don't take these things for granted and think there is something wrong with how the war is conducted come across the the story and blow the whistle. The arguments about it being old news or people not wanting to see the horror of war are still used today.
Today the Bush regime has no compunction over the suppression of news over the war. The US is supposed to have a set of checks and balances, which may or may not work in this case. But I feel things like the Bush plan to bomb the Al Jazeera news station will keep coming back to haunt the regime.
The same pattern is emerging over the war in Iraq as over the war in Vietnam. Sections of the media are beginning to see that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the occupation. The US and Britain are getting deeper and deeper into a quagmire.
The difference is that millions of people knew all this in advance, and the media is being forced to catch up.

The First Casualty: the War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, £15, is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Go to or call 020 7637 1848
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Tim Lezard: 'Journalists must not be silenced'
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