Sunday, June 17, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

A visitor wants this report linked to. It quotes an October 2005 report: "Iraqis apprehended two Americans disguised as Arabs trying to detonate a car bomb in a residential neighborhood of western Baghdad." That report ran where? I'm not seeing a link. I don't doubt that it did run somewhere and I'm not questioning it. But the visitor says "This is ongoing and you're not covering it." There's a lot that's on going that this site doesn't have time for. But that's October 2005. The article itself puts forward an incident in Basra that was supposedly under-reported and that's not true. Even the New York Times covered it to some degree and we noted it repeatedly when it was ongoing. Briefly, a car was stopped by Iraqi police late at night in Basra. In the car were two British soldiers. They had disguises, bombs and weapons. They were taken in. In retaliation, the Basra prison was demolished by the British forces. The two British soldiers were not in the prison. That's the briefest recap. The New York Times, Democracy Now! and others covered this (including the arrest of the two British soldiers).

If you access the week ending September 24, 2005, you will see we noted this repeatedly in real time. You can also read Robert F. Worth's "Anger Grows in Basra After British Raid," Richard Oppel, Jr. and Sabrina Tavernise's "Attacks in Iraq Kill 9 Americans, Including State Dept. Aide" Sabrina Tavernise's "British Army Storms Basra Jail to Free 2 Soldiers From Arrest,"
Terri Judd and Colin Brown's "Under fire: British soldiers attacked in Basra:Army used tanks and helicopters to storm jail and free captured troops, say Iraqis," Abbas Fayadh, Lucy Bannerman, and Ian Bruce's "British soldiers freed after tanks 'smashed jail wall'" and Democracy Now!'s "UK Forces Attack Iraqi Jail To Free Two British Troops" and that's just some of the coverage.

A visitor e-mails June 17, 2007 to let it rip about how we aren't covering something . . . from 2005 when, reality, we noted it in real time. On the plus side, the fact that the visitor only knows of this now may indicate that the visitor wasn't paying attention to Iraq in 2005 so chalk him up as one who's turned against the war since 2005.

Turning to the present day, Lloyd notes Karen DeYoung's "Petraeus: Iraq 'Challenges' to Last for Years" (Washington Post):

Conditions in Iraq will not improve sufficiently by September to justify a drawdown of U.S. military forces, the top commander in Iraq said yesterday.
Asked whether he thought the job assigned to an additional 30,000 troops deployed as the centerpiece of President Bush's new war strategy would be completed by then, Gen. David H. Petraeus replied: "I do not, no. I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do."

No "drawdown" from the escalation. No one's coming home, Petraeus is saying, and they aren't even returning the ones added for the escalation.

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 Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3508. Tonight? 3525. Today, the US military announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near their vehicle while conducting operations in Baghdad Province, Saturday." And they announced: "One Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion while conducting operations in Kirkuk Province, Saturday." The monthly total thus far stands at 48.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on some of the violence in Iraq today noting a Baghdad bombing that wounded 3 Iraqi soldiers, a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded 7 Iraqis, 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad, two people shot dead in Kirkuk, a Kirkuk bombing that killed 2 (3 wounded), a Tikrit bombing that killed 2 police officers (7 more wounded), a person shot dead in Khalis, a Khalis bombing that killed 1 person (2 more wounded), a Baladrooz bombing that wounded 5 people, a Muqdadiyah shooting that injured a civilian and a police officer, "17 residents from Jizani Al Emam village had been killed and injured in the ongoing clashes that started Saturday between the residents of Jizari Al Emam village, one of the village of Khalis town and what is called the Islamic State of Iraq," a Falluja bombing that killed a woman who was pregnant and her husband as well as injured her mother and brother, a Falluja bombing that killed 4 (10 wounded). Reuters notes the discovery of Filaih Wadi Mijthab ("managing editor of the state-run al-Sabah daily newspaper") in Baghdad and that a US helicopter was used in an attack that killed 4 people who were "suspected insurgents". The dying continues and no 'plan' ever emerged -- just prolong the illegal war by doing the exact same thing in greater numbers.

Originally, the US government backed the Shi'ites and, after four years, finally realized that wasn't working out too well. Now they do the same thing, but with the other sides. Meanwhile, the decision by the US military to begin arming Sunnis/tribes has the puppet of the occupation in an uproar. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

A U.S. program to combat al-Qaida in Iraq by arming Sunni Muslims undercuts the Iraqi government and years of U.S. policy, and is a tacit acknowledgment that the country's violence is really a civil war, some U.S. military officials in Washington and foreign policy experts say.
The program, which Bush administration officials have hailed as a sign of progress in Iraq, has sparked heated debate among military and foreign policy analysts. It is opposed by the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Supporters see it as a welcomed change in the American approach in Iraq, one whose benefits have been obvious in the drop in violence in Iraq's Anbar province, where al-Qaida formerly held sway. They say it could give impetus to the Shiites and Kurds to make political concessions. But others contend the program has long-term repercussions that can only be guessed at now. By giving weapons and training to Sunnis in Anbar and Baghdad who've been previously associated with Sunni insurgent groups, the program endorses unofficial armed groups over official Iraqi forces as guarantors of Iraqi security, military officers who oppose the program say.

AFP notes the puppet saying "I believe that the coalition forces do not know the backgrounds of the tribes. It is a job of the Iraqi government." On the arming, Ali al-Fadhily's "U.S. Losing Ground Through Tribal Allies" (IPS) notes:

This year U.S. military authorities worked to firm up a tribal coalition that they said would oppose al-Qaeda terror groups fighting against U.S. forces. Unnamed officials in the Bush administration have made claims to reporters that the move has reduced violence in al-Anbar, but residents in the area think otherwise. "The American Army failed to control the situation in al-Anbar province through military attacks that killed thousands of civilians, so they decided to set up local militias," former Iraqi Army colonel Jabbar Ahmad from Ramadi told IPS. "It started with the so-called campaign 'Awakening of al-Anbar', then it developed into forming 'The Revolutionary Force for Anbar Salvation'," Hamid Alwani, a prominent tribal leader in Ramadi told IPS. "This was supposed to be a local fight between al-Qaeda and the local people of al-Anbar, but in fact we all realised the Americans meant us to fight our brothers of the Iraqi resistance." Alwani said "most tribal sheikhs opposed the idea" and made it clear to U.S. military commanders that they would never be part of the U.S. plan. "It seems that the Americans have started to realise their mistake now." Few tribal groups are backing U.S. forces any more.

And who would back an occupying force after four years and counting of seeing the constant destruction of their own country? Seeing no infrastructure being upgraded but huge concerns over who could profit from Iraqi oil? Iraq, despite right-wing spin, was never a 'backwards' country. Now their metropolitan areas are either under seige (like Baghdad) or rubble (Falluja).
The year long 'crackdown' has produced no safety and has done nothing to return to Baghdad to its former greatness. To the contrary, it has impeded those who try to rebuild and go on which is why, last August, scholars and writers were protesting in Baghdad over the fact that they couldn't even gather due to the curfews and restrictions imposed due to the 'crackdown.' The longer US forces remain in Iraq, the more the war torn country sees citizens flee and the more unlikely it is that when US forces do leave there will be much to rebuild.

Mia notes Missy Comley Beattie's "Calling Evil By Its Name" (CounterPunch):

I’m afraid. I’m very afraid. I fear for my children and future grandchildren. I fear for everybody’s children and future grandchildren. Because there truly are evil people in this world. George Bush has told us so. “We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name” Bush said in a speech at the United States Military Academy on June 1, 2002. And, no, this wasn’t the first time he’d spoken about good vs. evil and, certainly, it was not and will not be the last. It, perhaps, is the president’s most inspired message because as a recruitment tool, it has sent swarms of young men and women, and even older than young men and women, to join the military. By framing his vision to reshape the Middle East as a “conflict between good and evil,” Bush has exploited both goodness and evil with appeals to patriotism and sacrifice--declaring it our destiny as a moral nation to overcome the evil that exists in countries judged immoral by the “Decider.”
By saying “evil” over and over, Bush dehumanizes inhabitants of target lands. By emphasizing the goodness of the USA and our moral obligation to spread democracy, to bring freedom at gunpoint as our God-given right, Bush has convinced a large portion of our population that killing thousands of Iraqi civilians in the name of battling evil and spreading democracy is an acceptable fact of war. How many people here know or care that in the last 15 days, almost 700 Iraqi civilians have died? That over 40 U.S. troops have been killed? Or that Bush invaded Iraq, based on fabricated evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? And that no WMD were found? How many people care that George Bush said that the violence in Iraq would subside when Hussein was captured? Was killed? Or that Bush was warned that an invasion would result in sectarian war? How many care or really think about what we have done and continue to do to the people of Iraq? To military families here at home? And that Bush is poised to strike Iran because of the evil he perceives there?

The demonization allows Bully Boy to do whatever he wants. "They" are "bad." And since most Americans never learned a thing about Iraqis (that's blaming the education and media systems, not the people), the hype takes over and the fear with it.

Pru gets the last highlight. She notes "John Pilger -- In The Name Of Justice" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Alan Gibson savours a new DVD collection of John Pilger's classic television documentaries
The idea that the media, and television in particular, is just one giant propaganda machine is widespread.
Which is why anything by those journalists who do uncover the grotesque realities behind the lies and distortions is always welcome.
A chance to see 12 of John Pilger's classic television documentaries has been provided with the release of a set of four DVDs, John Pilger -- In The Name Of Justice. Although not as immediate as his more recent work, they each reveal ugly portraits that our rulers would prefer to remain hidden.
One in particular, The Truth Game, does have a terrible relevance today. Made in 1983, it uncovers the government lies surrounding the build up of nuclear weapons.
It follows the classic Pilger format. First present a lie -- that the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 was a military necessity, that the Russians have "massive nuclear capacity", that US cruise missiles are "an insurance policy for the West" -- and then demolish it.
Powerful mix
Gripping interviews, devastating facts, followed by shamefaced justifications from those supposedly in control, are all part of the powerful mix.
Two other classics in the set are about Vietnam, the country that Pilger covered for around 10 years. In one, made in 1978, he revisited the country three years after the US was finally booted out, to see how the Vietnamese were recovering from the devastation their country had suffered.
In Vietnam: The Last Battle, made on the 20th anniversary of the US defeat, Pilger presents a brief, bitter history of the war and the dreadful weapons the Americans deployed. He relentlessly attacks the claim -- then being broadcast by the US administration -- that the war had been a "noble cause".
Three documentaries uncover scandals, lies and corruption in Pilger's homeland, Australia, with one focusing on the history of successive governments "sending people off to fight other people’s wars", and another delving into its immigration policies.
Pilger's massive body of work shows that, despite their in-built bias towards the establishment, the mainstream media can sometimes be forced to broadcast programmes that challenge ruling class propaganda.
Opportunities to air alternative viewpoints have to be fought for, however.
This is an important point. Alternative media sources are important operations, but the mainstream media is still the place where most people get their news and information, and must therefore remain the arena within which media workers who want to follow in Pilger's footsteps must fight for space.
Of course, it's important to see how journalists like Pilger won their credentials during a brief period when independent television channels tried to make an impact and distinguish themselves from the BBC with hard-hitting programmes.
Pilger says, "Almost all of the more than 50 films I have made (mainly for the ITV, and some for Channel 4) have had to navigate a system that rarely declares its intention to create and shape public opinion.
"The BBC exemplifies this, with its specious neutrality, balancing contending extremes while turning out a flow of official assumptions and deceptions as 'news'. In its youth, British commercial television was different."
Since then, media workers have suffered massive attacks on their unions which have not only damaged their capacity to maintain conditions, but also their capacity to challenge editors and broadcasters.
The intervening period has also seen the rise of neoliberal policies which have themselves brought greater restrictions on the ability of journalists to buck the system -- the "embedding" of war reporters being one clear example.
It is more difficult for journalists to "navigate" the system today. Programme requirements for "balance", no hint of bias and watertight safeguards against legal action are greater than ever.
But that does not mean the doors are completely barred to hard-hitting programs. BBC2 was prepared to show one of the most hard-hitting documentaries about the build-up to the "war on terror", Adam Curtis's The Power Of Nightmares.
As radical writer Tariq Ali said at a recent Media Workers Against the War meeting, media workers who want to present programmes that uncover the truths that our rulers want desperately to cover up will have to fight for space.
That space can be won -- but only through a campaign that brings together media workers sickened by the increasing contempt that their employers have for the truth, and a viewing public that demands programming that questions authority and does not insult their intelligence.
John Pilger's debut feature film, The War On Democracy, opens at selected cinemas across Britain on Friday this week. He is interviewed about it in the latest Socialist Review. For more details go to
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