Sabrina Tavernise and Qais Mizher more or less just take up space with "Oil, Politics and Bloodshed Corrupt an Iraqi City" in this morning's New York Times. They're writing of Basra. Or supposed to be. Let's forget that Basra is "Basra" for a moment. Let's picture it as Anytown, USA or Anytown, England (or Germany or wherever). Maybe you live there, maybe you live nearby. If a military (foreign or otherwise) attacks the police station, do you not talk about it? Do you not remember it?
Somehow Tavernise and Mizher don't. They're writing about the city and doing everything they can to act as though that didn't happen. They hint a little, in one sentence:
Some of those forces captured and held two British officers last fall, and the British military has begun to purge them.
Anyone who does remember it (and if happened in your city or town or one nearby, you would remember it) will read it and think, "What the hell?"
From Michael Keefer's "Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra?" (Global Research):
It appears that when on September 19 suspicious Iraqi police stopped the Toyota Cressida the undercover British soldiers were driving, the two men opened fire, killing one policeman and wounding another. But the soldiers, identified by the BBC as "members of the SAS elite special forces" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4264614.stm), were subdued by the police and arrested. A report published by The Guardian on September 24 adds the further detail that the SAS men "are thought to have been on a surveillance mission outside a police station in Basra when they were challenged by an Iraqi police patrol" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/iraq/Story/0,2763,1577575,00.html).
As Justin Raimondo has observed in an article published on September 23 at Antiwar.com, nearly every other aspect of this episode is disputed.
The Washington Post dismissively remarked, in the eighteenth paragraph of its report on these events, that "Iraqi security officials variously accused the two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant explosives" (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/09/20/MNGSSEQNGN1.DTL). Iraqi officials in fact accused them not of one or the other act, but of both.
Fattah al-Shaykh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, told Al-Jazeera TV on September 19 that the soldiers opened fire when the police sought to arrest them, and that their car was booby-trapped "and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market" (quoted by Chossudovsky). A deliberately inflammatory press release sent out on the same day by the office of Moqtada al-Sadr (and posted in English translation at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment blog on September 20) states that the soldiers’ arrest was prompted by their having "opened fire on passers-by" near a Basra mosque, and that they were found to have "in their possession explosives and remote-control devices, as well as light and medium weapons and other accessories" (http://www.juancole.com). What credence can be given to the claim about explosives? Justin Raimondo writes that while initial BBC Radio reports acknowledged that the two men indeed had explosives in their car, subsequent reports from the same source indicated that the Iraqi police found nothing beyond "assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear, and medical kit. This is thought to be standard kit for the SAS operating in such a theater of operations" (http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=7366).
One might well wonder, with Raimondo, whether an anti-tank weapon is "standard operating equipment"--or what use SAS men on "a surveillance mission outside a police station" intended to make of it. But more importantly, a photograph published by the Iraqi police and distributed by Reuters shows that--unless the equipment is a plant--the SAS men were carrying a good deal more than just the items acknowledged by the BBC.
The incident was reported on in real time. To act as though it never happened (and writing about Basra without noting the attack is acting like it didn't happen) makes everything else you write seem suspect or uninformed.
Did someone say "uninformed"? Yes, John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins are back for a reach- around and it's called "A Jihadist Web Site Says Zarqawi's Group in Iraq Has a New Leader in Place." If it reads like the two were scanning their laptop late at night until they could find some war porn, well, there's a reason for that. You get the usual nonsense you've grown to expect from the Go-Go Boys of the Green Zone. (Translation, yes, guys and gals, they swallow.) Best example may be when they repeat, with no questions, the claim that Zarqawi (or "Zarqawi") has been confirmed through DNA tests. I can remember a few reporters, mainstream ones even, asking when that nonsense was put foward about Saddam Hussein's two sons, "And where would you have gotten the DNA?" That doesn't occur to Burnsie and Dexy. Someone said it, so they swallow. The whole thing reads like snowballing (and, no, that doesn't have to be a winter or outside sport). That covers two-thirds of the article. The first third? They're playing Al Qaeda Idol. As though an upset has thrown the contest from Taylor Hicks to Katharine McPhee! Now there's nothing known about the new 'winner' and, in fact, the name may be a fake (the whole idea of a 'replacement' being 'crowned' may be a fake) but they've got space to fill and they're not about to tell you that Ramadi has been surrounded last week and we're probably about to see another slaughter as we did with Falluja (twice, actually).
While Dexy fluffed Falluja, Dahr Jamail didn't. So once again, as always?, we have to go elsewhere for reality. From Dahr Jamail's "Ramadi: Fallujah Redux" (Truthout):
Fearful residents are now pouring out of Ramadi after the US military has been assaulting the city for months with tactics like cutting water, electricity and medical aid, imposing curfews, and attacking by means of snipers and random air strikes. This time, Iraqis there are right to fear the worst -- an all out attack on the city, similar to what was done to nearby Fallujah.
It has always been just a matter of time before the US military would finally get around to destroying Ramadi, the capital city of al-Anbar province. After all, Ramadi is not far from Fallujah, and so similar to Fallujah both tribally and in their disdain towards the idea of being occupied, that many people in Ramadi even refer to Fallujah as "Ramadi." I know many people from Ramadi who lost relatives and friends during both US assaults on Fallujah, and the level of anti-American sentiment has always been high there.
By now, we all know the scene when the US military in Iraq decides to attack an entire city ... we've seen this standard operating procedure repeated, to one degree or another, in Haditha, Al-Qa'im, Samarra, parts of Baghdad, Balad, Najaf and Fallujah twice ... so far. The city is sealed for weeks if not months, water and electricity are cut, medical aid is cut, curfews imposed, mobility impaired, air strikes utilized, then the real attack begins. Now in Ramadi, the real attack has begun.
Warplanes are streaking the sky as bombings increase, loudspeakers aimed into the city warn civilians of a "fierce impending attack," (even though it has already begun), and thousands of families remain trapped in their homes, just like in Fallujah during both attacks on that city. Again, many who remain in the city cannot afford to leave because they are so poor, or they lack transportation, or they want to guard their home because it is all they have left.
Sheikh Fassal Guood, a former governor of al-Anbar said of the situation, "The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water." He also said, "We know for sure now that Americans and Iraqi commanders have decided to launch a broad offensive any time now, but they should have consulted with us."
For more reality, Sara notes Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith "Lieutenant Watada's War Against the War" (The Nation) on Ehren Watada:
First, he concluded that the war violates the Constitution and War Powers Act, which, he said, "limits the President in his role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit." Watada also concluded that "my moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders."
Second, he claims the war is illegal under international law. He discovered that "the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg principles all bar wars of aggression." The Constitution makes such treaties part of American law as well.
These are not wild legal claims. Watada's conclusions are supported by mountains of evidence and experts, including the judgment of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who in 2004 declared that the US invasion was "not in conformity with the UN Charter, and from our point of view...was illegal."
Watada said he came to recognize that the military conduct of the occupation is also illegal: "If you look at the Army Field Manual, 27-10, which governs the laws of land warfare, it states certain responsibilities for the occupying power. As the occupying power, we have failed to follow a lot of those regulations." He told ABC News that the "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is "a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare."
While ongoing media coverage of the protest debates whether Watada's action is one of cowardice or conscience, so far the seriousness of his legal claims have been largely ignored. Watada's position is different from that of conscientious objectors, who oppose all wars. "I'm not just against bearing arms or fighting people. I am against an unjustified war," he said.
Can such a claim be heard in a military court? In 2004, Petty Officer Pablo Paredes refused to board his Iraq-bound ship in San Diego Harbor, claiming to be a conscientious objector. At his court-martial, Paredes testified that he was convinced that the Iraq War was illegal. National Lawyers Guild president-elect Marjorie Cohn presented evidence to support his claim. The military judge, Lieut. Cmdr. Robert Klant, accepted Paredes's war-crimes defense and refused to send him to jail. The government prosecutor's case was so weak that Cohn, in a report published on Truthout.org, noted that Klant declared ironically, "I believe the government has just successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
One of Germany's highest courts heard a case last year regarding a German soldier who refused to participate in military activities as part of the US-led coalition in Iraq. The Federal Administrative Court issued a long and detailed decision in his favor, saying, "There were and still are serious legal objections to the war against Iraq...relating to the UN Charter's prohibition of the use of violence and other provisions of international law."
Watada's case comes amid a growing questioning of the Iraq War in all levels of the military. A February Zogby poll found that 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq think the United States should leave the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the United States should leave immediately. While the "generals' revolt" against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld didn't challenge the legality of the war per se, many retired military leaders have strongly condemned the use of torture and other violations of international and military law.
For more news (as opposed to the New Fluff Times), Martha notes Omar Fekeiki's "Series of Explosions Kills 20 in Northern Iraq" (Washington Post):
Two high-level Iraqi police officials narrowly escaped death this morning in a series of suicide attacks that left 20 people slain and scores more wounded.
The explosions targeted police commanders, police stations and patrols, as well as a busy food market in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police officials said.
Rod passes on today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now!:
We go to Gaza to speak with a Palestinian physician who was at the hospital that received many of the victims from Friday's attack on a beach that left eight Palestinian civilians dead.
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