Monday, May 22, 2006

Other Items

The Lazim family lost all four of its men early Wednesday morning.
A man walked up to them as they got out of their pickup truck at a house they were building and sprayed them with gunfire. The youngest, 12, was asleep in the back. Two bullets tore through his chest.
In the patterns of violence in this city, sectarian killings like this one -- the Lazims are Shiites and blame Sunni insurgents -- have become routine, barely registering as blips on the screens of the authorities, and sometimes vanishing without ever being counted.

The above is from Sabrina Tavernise's "A Now-Common Attack, and a Family Loses Its Men" in this morning's New York Times. Apparently so routine have the attacks become that when Tavernise has a story, one the paper needs to tell, it's run as an extended brief as opposed to an article? Twelve paragraphs may seem a great deal until you notice that the story never really is told and that has to do with the fact that seven of the twelve paragraphs are single sentence paragraphs. The others? They aren't extended paragraphs. The story, an important one, isn't given the play it deserves.

The Times actually has a report on Iraqis, on life under occupation (and, since it's not penned by John F. Burns, Iraqi women are in the article) and what do they do? Turn it into an extended brief.

Contrast it with the space given to war pornographer Michael R. Gordon's "U.S. Is Proposing European Shield for Iran Missiles" which gets 32 paragraphs. It goes to many issues, including what Ashleigh Banfield noted (for which, according to the Times in real time was "taken to the woodshed" for and, of course, she's no longer at NBC or MSNBC) in her speech on April 24, 2003:

That said, what didn't you see? You didn't see where those bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage-? There is a grand difference between journalism and coverage, and getting access does not mean you're getting the story, it just means you're getting one more arm or leg of the story. And that's what we got, and it was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news. But it wasn't journalism, because I'm not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful terrific endeavor, and we got rid oaf horrible leader: We got rid of a dictator, we got rid of a monster, but we didn't see what it took to do that.
I can't tell you how bad the civilian casualties were. I saw a couple of pictures. I saw French television pictures, I saw a few things here and there, but to truly understand what war is all about you've got to be on both sides. You've got to be a unilateral, someone who's able to cover from outside of both front lines, which, by the way, is the most dangerous way to cover a war, which is the way most of us covered Afghanistan. There were no front lines, they were all over the place. They were caves, they were mountains, they were cobbled, they were everything. But we really don't know from this latest adventure from the American military what this thing looked like and why perhaps we should never do it again. The other thing is that so many voices were silent in this war. We all know what happened to Susan Sarandon for speaking out, and her husband, and we all know that this is not the way Americans truly want to be. Free speech is a wonderful thing, it's what we fight for, but the minute it's unpalatable we fight against it for some reason.

What's really changed? Tavernise has a story, a real one, about the costs of the occupation. It's turned into an extended brief. Gordon wants to juke for 32 paragraphs, citing Ronald Reagan, citing this, citing that, when the information he does have to convey isn't worth twelve paragraphs. But little boys love their high tech. They're not concerned with humanity, they're not concerned with human costs. It's the military equivalent of a snuff film and no one at the Times in an upper position has enough sense or taste to grasp that it's offensive. Gordon's got his war on and it's dripping with excitement over the prospect of the next war. Instead of handing him a towel, the paper of record allows it to drip onto the front page and for half a page on A6.

Keesha notes an e-mail sent out to people who sign up for alerts at Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches:

Jessie Macbeth, a Former Army Ranger and Iraq War Veteran Tells All
This 20 minute interview will change how you view the U.S. occupation of
Iraq forever. I cannot possibly recommend this more highly. An Iraq war
veteran tells of atrocities he and other fellow-soldiers committed
reguarly while in Iraq. I have never seen this level of honesty from a
U.S. soldier who directly participated in the slaughtering of Iraqis.
"When we were doing the night raids in the houses, we would pull people
out and have them all on their knees and zip-tied. We would ask the man
of the house questions. If he didn't answer the way we liked, we would
shoot his youngest kid in the head. We would keep going, this was our
interrogation. He could be innocent. He could be just an average Joe
trying to support his family. If he didn't give us a satisfactory
answer, we'd start killing off his family until he told us something. If
he didn't know anything, I guess he was SOL."
"For not speaking out, I feel like I'm betraying my battle-buddies that
Watch the video
Produced by
Pepperspray Productions.

FYI, Pepperspray Productions is where you can get the video Goldie and Marlene showed at their house party, Eyewitness in Iraq (read Rebecca's "goldie's (and marlene's) house party last weekend to end the war"). Now, WARNING, read before you click. Dahr Jamail has posted some new Abu Ghraib photos, if you are at work and there are guidelines in place, don't click in a second. If you are on a home computer or a public one click here to be taken to the photo page.

On the issue of Abu Ghraib, Martha notes R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White's "Abuse Trial Revives Old Questions: Involvement of Superior Officers at Abu Ghraib to Be Raised" (Washington Post):

The involvement of senior Pentagon officials in policymaking associated with the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib later in 2003 will once again be debated in a military court at Fort McNair beginning today, during one of the last two trials involving Army personnel accused of the abuse recorded in photos circulated around the world.
Ten military courts-martial have essentially concluded that the acts -- including forced nakedness, the use of leashes and sexual humiliation -- were perpetrated by rogue personnel, working under poor supervision and in violation of their military orders. But the trial this week of a sergeant who threatened Abu Ghraib detainees with a military dog will for the first time include the testimony of a key military officer who carried out policy instructions issued by senior officials in Washington.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, an artilleryman who commanded the U.S. military's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and also helped set interrogation policy at Abu Ghraib, has agreed to testify in the court-martial of Sgt. Santos A. Cardona at the request of the dog handler's defense team. It will be Miller's first public account of events since he testified briefly at a Senate hearing in April 2004.
In sworn statements to Army investigators, Miller has denied recommending or approving the use of dogs for interrogations at Abu Ghraib and said he was unaware of such use during his tenure at Guantanamo Bay. But the senior intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the prison's chief warden have said in court and also told Army investigators that Miller urged military dogs be used in association with Abu Ghraib interrogations.
In addition, an Army report last year said dogs were indeed used in interrogations before and during Miller's tenure at Guantanamo Bay. "Unless the dogs are on patrol, they would always be in an interrogation room," a senior military officer told Defense Department investigators in an interview last year. The statement has not been released by the Pentagon.

Martha also notes Ellen Kinckmeyer's "An Iraqi Mother's Most Dreaded Mission: Search for Missing Son in Baghdad Only Adds to Loss and Uncertainty" (Washington Post):

Six p.m., and 27-year-old Riyah Obeid hadn't come home. Fahdriya Obeid kept watching, waiting for the dark silhouette of her eldest son to loom in the doorway of the simple home he and his brother had built with her out of bricks.
Daylight came, spilling into the single room where she slept alongside her youngest son, Saffah. There was still no sight or word of Riyah, and Baghdad under curfew, under control of armed militiamen rolling through the streets at dark, wasn't a place where young men -- especially poor ones -- stayed out all night. There were anxious consultations with 23-year-old Saffah, then with Fahdriya's brothers. Calls went out over the telephone of a helpful neighbor to family members across Baghdad.

Riyah had set out the day before, May 11, on an unavoidable errand: replacing his lost ID card. The law required Riyah to do it where he was born, in Sadr City, a busy but impoverished quarter of Baghdad where 2 million Shiites and a relative handful of Sunnis live. Now, in her neighbor's house, clutching the telephone, 50-year-old Fahdriya made arrangements to go to Sadr City with Saffah and meet relatives at the home of one of the boys' cousins to start looking for Riyah.
Searching for missing loved ones has become a common mission -- especially for Sunni families -- in Baghdad in recent months as sectarian violence has surged. Fahdriya and family members agreed to let a reporter accompany them for parts of their search. Other events were recounted in interviews.

This is the sort of story the Times could have had and should have. Martha says "Read it!" Remember to listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today.

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