The Committee to Protect Journalists recently released its 2006 report on threats to journalists. Iraq is by far the deadliest place for the fourth year in a row, with 32 journalists killed this year. Sad to say, the violence follows a trend that started with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
When you step off the elevator at the Reuters news offices in Washington, D.C., you see a large book sitting on a wooden stand. Each entry describes a Reuters journalist killed in the line of duty. Such as Taras Protsyuk. The veteran Ukrainian cameraman was killed on April 8, 2003, the day before the U.S. seized Baghdad. Protsyuk was on the balcony of the Palestine Hotel when a U.S. tank positioned itself on the al-Jumhuriyah bridge and, as people watched in horror, unleashed a round into the side of the building. The hotel was known for housing hundreds of unembedded reporters. Protsyuk was killed instantly. Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, was filming from the balcony below. He was also killed.
The difference between the responses by the mainstream media in the United States versus Europe was stunning. While in this country there was hardly a peep of protest, Spanish journalists engaged in a one-day strike. From the elite journalists down to the technicians, they laid down their cables, cameras and pens. They refused to record the words of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush in supporting the war. When Aznar came into parliament, they piled their equipment at the front of the room and turned their backs on him. Photographers refused to take his picture and instead held up a photo of their slain colleague. At a news conference in Madrid with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Spanish reporters walked out in protest. Later, hundreds of journalists, camera people and technicians marched on the U.S. embassy in Madrid, chanting "Murderer, murderer."
About four hours before the U.S. military opened fire on the Palestine Hotel, a U.S. warplane strafed Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office. Reporter Tareq Ayyoub was on the roof. He died almost instantly.
When interviewed after his death, Ayyoub's wife, Dima, said: "Hate breeds hate. The United States said they were doing this to rout out terrorism. Who is engaged in terrorism now?" This summer, she sued the U.S. government.
The family of Jose Couso has also taken action. They know the names of the three U.S. servicemen who fired on the Palestine Hotel. On Dec. 5, 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court said the men could be tried in Spanish courts, opening the possibility for indictments against the U.S. soldiers.
The above, noted by Lonnie, is from Amy Goodman's "Shooting the Messenger is a War Crime" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). For those wanting more on the subject, you can read Amy Goodman and her brother David Goodman's Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, And The People Who Fight Back and you can also check out the documentaries The Control Room and Danny Schechter's WMD. All sides suffering in the illegal war includes the unembedded journalists trying to get the truth out -- too often prevented by the US military (putting it mildly) while some outlets choose to embed their reporters with the military. And the outcry? Muted, tapped down, clamped down. Always, don't speak the truth too loudly.
And certainly don't note the changing reasons for going into an illegal war or the changing reasons for staying in one. On that topic, Susan notes Gareth Porter's "Bush Iraq Policy Murky on the Real Enemy" (IPS):
This year saw the emergence of a sectarian civil war in Iraq and much more open Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East. Sunni regimes in the region expressed acute anxiety both about the possibility of the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq spreading to their own countries and about the growth of Iranian influence.
In that setting, the most striking thing about the George W. Bush administration's policy in 2006 has been its inability to identify the primary enemy in Iraq.
Is it al Qaeda in Iraq? Bush often implies that they are the real enemy, suggesting that the U.S. must fight the enemy in Iraq so it doesn't have to fight them at home. Is it the armed Sunni resistance groups, who were the original target of a U.S. counterinsurgency war that is now an all but officially admitted failure?
Or is it the Mahdi army of Moqtada al Sadr, which has been implicated in large-scale killings of Sunnis in the Baghdad area and which is aligned with Iran in the conflict between Washington and Tehran?
And what about the Badr organisation, which is known to be responsible for mass kidnapping, torture and what many now call ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods in Baghdad?
Is Iraq really about the global war on terror, the alleged threat from Iran, the danger emanating from sectarian war, or simply the administration's desire to claim success against the resistance to the occupation itself? The Bush administration has not been able to issue a clear policy statement on that question.
The original source of the administration's confusion over its primary enemy in Iraq was the decision to sell the counterinsurgency war in Iraq to the U.S. public in 2004-2005 as a struggle between a nascent democratic state and anti-democratic forces in the country.
There's never been a plan (other than dominance -- didn't work out too well, now did it) and the realities are there for anyone who wants to notice.
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)
Last Thursday, the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 2959. Tonight? 2991. Thirty-two. We should repeat that for the New York Times which hasn't given a damn about reporting the deaths this week (or last), thirty-two deaths since last Thursday. Nine away from the 3,000 mark. And for the month of December (still winding down)? 102. The second deadliest month of the year for US troops in Iraq, not that the New York Times bothers to report that. Four more deaths would tie it with the deadliest and leave the Times in a difficult position of explaining to observant readers, after the fact, how that ended up happening with practically no attention from the paper of record.
When you want to sell the war, you hide the deaths. Bully Boy did that, barred photographs of the coffins returning. Now the Times does something similar by erasing their coverage of the deaths. Can't sell escalation of troops as an 'answer' if you note the reality of the deaths. So the Times . . . just doesn't note reality.
You can find reality in Nolanda's highlight, Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily's "More Troops but Less Control in Iraq" (IPS):
More U.S. troops are expected to be deployed in Iraq in the New Year. Despite obvious rethinking, there is no decision on withdrawal of occupation forces.
The presence of troops may be raised just for their own protection. According to a Pentagon report, U.S. and Iraqi forces are facing close to 1,000 attacks a week now. U.S. forces comprise more than 90 percent of the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.
According to the White House, 49 countries joined that coalition at the time of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. That number has shrunk to 32, after countries like Italy and Canada withdrew troops this year.
Britain is expected to withdraw its 7,500 troops next year, after pulling out 1,300 earlier this year.
Whatever the numbers, the vital question is whether U.S. troops will continue to do next year what they have been doing this year.
Under the increasing number of attacks and the escalating chaos, it has apparently become U.S. military policy to bulldoze or bomb houses whenever attacks are launched on their patrols. This is particularly the case in places like Fallujah, Samarra, Siniya, Ramadi and other Sunni dominated areas. Sectarian conflict has roared between Shias and Sunnis, who follow different beliefs within Islam.
This year has shown how the U.S. military is dealing with sectarian violence. While it carried out collective punishment in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi, it has ignored Shia death squads. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki leads a Shia-dominated government.
And we'll close with Billie's highlight. In case anyone missed it (see the snapshot), Cindy Sheehan continues to call and be active for peace and was arrested for doing just that in Crawford, Texas today. A nation of, even just a state of, Cindy Sheehan's and the illegal war would be over. Here's Sheehan's "Banana Republics" (BuzzFlash):
One of the talking heads on one of the cable news shows (does it matter which?) said that it was a "great thing for America" that Gerald Ford pardoned the crooked war criminal, Richard Nixon. He said that we don't make public spectacles out of trying our presidents in criminal courts. After all, we are not a "banana republic."
No, the United States of America is not a "banana republic" Mr. Talking Head, but since Nixon got away with his blatant crimes and every President since Nixon has skated away from office after having committed overt and covert crimes, we have on our hands, here, a situation that I am forced now to call: "Bloody George."
Bloody George struts around in a cloud of denial with his fake cowboy swagger, breaking our nation's laws and international laws as if he were immune from life's woes and above any law. What Mr. Talking Head was pointing out to us in his ridiculous commentary was that presidents are above the law that they swear to uphold. Presidents of other countries who are found guilty of murdering 148 people are not apparently above the law -- Bloody George plays banana republic justice in other countries while countenancing none of the same here in the U.S. of A.
Bloody George definitely has a valid reason for believing that he is above the law, because no president in our history has had to pay for any crimes that they have committed. Wars keep occurring because the ones who entangle our citizens in these bloodbaths for profit leave their office and go on to lead comfortably splendid lives surrounded by people who love them.
Tens of thousands of young people who had plans for their futures and loving families who wanted them around until they were 93 (at least) were sentenced to early graves by politicians who receive no sentences for their earthy transgressions. We who have had to bury our children, instead of them burying us in the natural way, will be doing penance for the rest of our lives in a purgatory of pain and regret for the sins of others. How can we prevent such profound grief in the future?
The 110th Congress which will be sworn in shortly has a unique opportunity to reverse this cycle of un-repented and un-punished violence. Bloody George and Dastardly Dick not only deserve to be impeached, removed from office and tried for their malevolent crimes against humanity, but these steps in the sane direction of justice and peace are essential to true justice and true peace.
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and the war drags on
nora barrows friedman