Sunday, February 10, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

To show that Iraq was safe enough for the two million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan to return, the Iraqi government organised a bus convoy last November from Damascus to Baghdad carrying 800 Iraqis home for free.
As a propaganda exercise designed to show that the Iraqi government was restoring peace, it never quite worked. The majority of the returnees said they were returning to Baghdad, not because it was safer, but because they had run out of money in Syria or their visas had expired.
There has been no mass return of the two million Iraqis who fled to Syria and Jordan or a further 2.4 million refugees who left their homes within Iraq. The latest figures from the UN High Commission for Refugees show that, on the contrary, the number of people entering Syria from Iraq was 1,200 a day in late January "while an average of 700 are going back to Iraq from Syria".

The above, noted by Melinda, is from Patrick Cockburn's "Exiled Iraqis Too Scared to Return Home Despite Propaganda Push" (Independent of London via Common Dreams) who adds, "Thanks for calling it out, Patrick, in February. Where the hell were you when the myth was taking hold in November?" I don't remember him writing of it at the time. He may have. I think I'd remember it because there were very few calling it out even after the BBC inadverntly (while pimping the story) demonstrated how false it was. We called it out at the start of November. Even before the BBC report. A point we don't generally make but back then everyone played scared & stupid and refused to address it. We called it originally because in one day the numbers of 'returnees' drastically increased. That was the first indication that the whole story was a myth. Then friends with the UN confirmed they weren't seeing it. A friend who used to be with the Red Cross checked with them and they weren't seeing it. That was before either organization issued a statement on the matter. However, they did issue statements, before the BBC's bad reporting, and that got ignored as well. It was damaging, the silence on this myth was damaging. It was another wave of Operation Happy Talk and allowed the polls to shift slightly and allowed a number of people to think (because that's what they were being told) that the illegal war was now going 'better.' This was a huge, huge disappointment on the part of Little Media as they all found something else to write about. (I believe it was November, after Thanksgiving, when Robert Parry did write about it. He may have been the only one in Little Media to question the myth in the month of November. John Ross did call it out in December. I can't find a link for Parry or I'd link for that -- even with the huge disappointment over recent actions, that story would get a link. It did come before Ross' report. Here's a link to Consortium News proper since I can't find the actual story.) Cara Buckley and Damien Cave would disprove the myth in December and Little Media didn't pick up on it then either.

The figures Cockburn's noting were available last week (and are included in last week's snapshots). Whether anyone else will now attempt to cover it or not, who knows? But the silence on this myth, the refusal to question it, the refusal to step up, did a hell of a lot of damage -- a point we repeatedly made throughout the month of November as everyone played scared and stupid. Again, the clue was there from the first Monday it entered the cycle. Over the weekend, numbers had been released. By Monday, when the myth hit the regular news cycle, the numbers had zoomed up. From Saturday to Monday. That should have been the tip off to everyone -- when 'official' numbers mutate like that -- that a myth was being sold. In The Progressive, an interview with Amy Goodman wants to focus on the what was the worst -- was -- about the coverage. That interview took place at the time the myth of the great return was being sold. Not that Little Media cared to notice.

Late to the party? Drop back to the November 7th snapshot:

Have you heard the spin? Iraqi families are returning! Turning and returning! To some secret place inside! Why it's like Cherie Karo Schwartz' Circle Spinning -- except those were Jewish Folk Tales. These? Consider them US Government-Iraqi folk tales. CBS and AP, without even serving you some cookies, want to tuck you in with a tale of a vast returning to Iraq -- saying that those who had fled "abroad" are returning "with more than 46,000 people coming home last month, an Iraqi government spokesman said Wednesday." It, they tell you, is due to the 'improving security situation'. No, the nonsense is repeated because two new outlets lack basic sense. Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) notes, "The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which tracks the movement of displaced Iraqis, said Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration had registered the return of some 3,350 families, or 20,000 people, to Baghdad since January. Most had come from other areas within Iraq. Dana Graber, an Iraqi displacement expert at IOM in Jordan, said she had not seen the figures referred to by Moussawi and could not comment on the apparent discrepancies." Do you get it? IOM -- which actually tracks -- says 20,000 returned since January and the US' puppet government in Iraq declares 46,000 returning in the last month. Realizing that the lie was laughable (even though the press picked it up), the US military has attached a new qualifier to today's spin which is "border crossings." That's how the Iraqis are tracking this! Border crossings! For those who've forgotten, the earlier attempted lie presented returns to Baghdad, returning to their homes. Today's lie is still a lie. Some of those fleeing the country do return -- when the money runs out and there is no employment in the host country. This is well documented by relief agencies. But the new lie is that it's border crossings! So laughable, so insane, so pathetic. But some -- CBS and AP? -- enjoy having their intelligence insulted. Iraq's not counting at the borders -- all the borders are not secure and many borders that are depend upon the US military. But let's all play stupid and repeat the lie? Apparently that's how it's supposed to work. CBS and AP note, in passing, that the same flack for the US-Iraq military demands that the Iraqi Red Crescent "give reasons behind this hugh number" referring to the 2.3 million Iraqis who have left the country due to the violence. Instead of helping Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi smear an international relief agency, the two outlets should try to doing their own jobs. Reuters managed to do its job. 2.3 million is not a large number. The United Nations has been (PDF format warning) using the figure 2.2 million for about a month now. And, the lies pushed earlier in the week (CBS fell for those as well) came out of the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration and Sattar Nawroz spoke then providing laughter for anyone listening. Again, border crossing weren't brought up then, you just had Nawroz insisting only his ministry had the official figures! His official figures were laughable then as well. Especially amusing in the lies is that earlier in the week, November 4th, the puppet government -- via Nawroz -- was insisting approximately 15,500 individuals had returned to Baghdad and surrounding areas from outside of the country. Three days later, Qassim Moussawi (also a flack -- don't let the Brig. Gen. title fool you) announces 46,600 peoples have returned to Baghdad -- 46,000 people! Even those bad at math (CBS News?) should be able to see that's an increase of over 30,000 families in three days -- the borders must have been trampled! As we noted Monday, "You really have had to been sleeping throughout the Iraqi refugee crisis to pen something like the above. The return numbers are questionable just because Iraq is not officially tracking the numbers. It's equally true that report after report (whether mainstream press or relief agency) has noted returning to Iraq is based upon one thing and one thing only -- running out of money." What's really going on is that the refugee crisis is an embarrassment for the White House and the puppet government so they're attempting to Lancet the United Nations and the Red Crescent, attempting to muddy the waters by attacking the figures (which are accurate) and some outlets happily go along.

Again, we were calling it out early on (at least as early as November 5th). And the angry e-mails from visitors on this were intense. They said that even when it's "good news," it doesn't get acknowledged. The issue wasn't "good news." If I thought it was real and thought it was good news and didn't want to "acknowledge" it, I just would have found another topic. Go through the November archives, go through the December archives. It wasn't hard to call the nonsense out. It also wasn't hard to see what was behind it. Sell another wave of Operation Happy Talk, yes, but also the fact that September had ended. Did the US meet any goals on admitting Iraqi refugees? No. And that was becoming an issue in October. What better way to make it a non-issue then to create a myth about a great return of Iraqis to Iraq? What better way to take the pressure off the US government with a fanciful tale of how Iraq is 'safer' (it wasn't and in December the United Nations would issue a warning to refugees) and, as word trickled out, more would be returning!

That was noticeable then as well. The numbers had a startling increase from the weekend to Monday ('official' numbers), in October organizations were getting a little bit of traction on the issue of Iraqi refugees (which is a real crisis) and pointing out that the US wasn't meeting their stated goals on admission. Along comes a wave of Operation Happy Talk. The Great Return was always a myth, don't think it happened by accident. It was propaganda and US propagnada aimed at US citizens. Little Media is supposed to exist especially to call that out. And they didn't. The damage that lie did within the United States is visible via the polling as it was being sold. The damage it may have done to Iraqis is not measurable but anyone struggling in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria or Turkey or any other country, hearing that propogandad, might have been tempted to return. Innocents were put at risk with that propaganda and where the hell was Little Media?

While Little Media played scared and stupid, the New York Times -- of all papers -- was where reality came out for US audiences. First up was Cara Buckley, then Damien Cave. Both deserve real credit for doing that. They did what reporters are supposed to do. And they did -- check the dates on the end of November pieces -- just as the effects of the month long propaganda effort was being seen in the polling. By not being questioned when it should have been, by Little Media ignoring it, they prolonged the illegal war.

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 3945. Tonight? 3959 announced. On the tenth day of the month, 15 deaths of US service members have been announced thus far. But let's keep pretending that presidential elections are going to end the illegal war, that delusion will end the illegal war, right? No, just waste everyone's time. 41 away from the 4,000 marker for those focusing on something other than gas baggery. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,173,743 as the number of Iraqi deaths since the start of the illegal war. Last week (when they hadn't updated in several Sundays) it was 1,168,058.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Salahuddin Province car bombing that claimed 23 lives and left forty-five people wounded, a Baladrooz mortar attack on a police station that claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left seventeen more people (ten of which were police officers) wounded, a Kirkuk car bombing that wounded "The head of Abbasi Sahwa Majeed Ahmed Khalaf . . . [and] two of his followers," an Anbar Province car bombing that claimed the lives of 1 police officer and 2 "members of Sahwa" with seven people injured, a Mosul car bombing wounded four people and another Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers and 7 Iraqis.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a shooting attempt on employees of "the general inspector of defense" in Baghdad (Lt. Gen. Mohammed Basim Abdul Redha & Col. Farqad Salman Alwan), a person shot dead in Baghdad with two more wounded, 2 people shot dead in Salahuddin Province today and a Nineveh Province home invasion resulted in the shooting deaths of 2 parents and 4 children by unknown assailants and outside Mosul 1 person was shot dead and three more wounded. Reuters notes 5 people killed in armed clashes in Nineveh Province including a woman.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses found "north of Baghdad" and 5 discovered in Baghdad.

Meanwhile Reuters reports that the US military raided a psychiatric hospital today:

An Iraqi Health Ministry official said the acting director of the al-Rashad hospital, which cares for mentally ill patients in southeastern Baghdad, had been taken into custody.
Another senior health official in charge of hospitals in the area identified the same man and said U.S. and Iraqi forces spent three hours searching the building. "They arrested the acting director, accusing him of working with al Qaeda and recruiting mentally ill women and using them in suicide bombing operations," the hospital official said, adding that patient files and computers had been seized.
Neither U.S. nor Iraqi officials have produced definitive evidence that the market bombers suffered any mental impairment but both sides have said there was strong evidence to indicate the women suffered from Down syndrome.

Pru gets the last highlight, "Latest victims of US 'surge'" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A US helicopter gunship has killed 13 Iraqi civilians in the town of Iskandriyah. The US claims that some of its troops came under fire from "gunmen" in the area 30 miles south of Baghdad.
The helicopter opened fire on targets it said were "insurgents", but it has since been revealed they were its Iraqi allies in the Awakening Council militia.
The home was bombed in the same attack.
The raid, described as "a mistake" by the US military, comes after similar incidents last year. In July helicopters attacked homes in the Husseiniya neighbourhood of Baghdad, killing up to 18 people.
In November a US airstrike killed 45 members of the Awakening Council while they manned checkpoints in one of Baghdad’s neighbourhoods.
Meanwhile in the restive northern Diyala province, US troops set fire to eight buildings as part of a new "scorched earth policy".
The province has become the centre of resistance to the US troop "surge" on Iraq.
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