Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 17, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the US miltiary shoots a 12-year-old girl dead, Kristoffer Walker makes a decision, we grade All Things Media Big and Small (hint, it's a big-fat F for nearly everyone!) and more..
March 17, 2003, Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House and announced that Saddam Hussein and his sons had 48 hours to leave Iraq.  In other words, get out of town by sundown after next.  And the media ate it up as much as they ate up the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction.  It was wall to wall but not much time for anyone to point out that Bush sounded like the bully of the global village.  That would have required 'reporters' and 'journalists' to use observational skills and that was a no-no.  Why, back then, they couldn't even correct the false linkage by the White House of Iraq to 9-11.  But they could bore the hell out of us.  Ever wonder what it would be like to be an embed?   
Look, there's NBC's Richard Engel bent over at the waist with a tooth brush in his mouth showing us what 'life' will be like in these bad, non-news, farmed out to all the NBC affiliates footage.  Nightline spent the night yacking about Bully Boy's 'bravado,' but everyone had time to get giddy over the oncoming slaughter.
Now it's six years later and where is the media?  Apparently ABC's Nightline didn't disgrace itself enough with last night's freak story on the "memory like a hard drive" man.  No, tonight they will answer the following (heavily promoted) question: "What happens when Jake Tapper and actor Pull Rudd 'accidentally touched hands?'"  Yes, it should be "touch hands" but the steno pool that's taken over ABC News is just so giddy that their news-muffin Jake and Paul Rudd got a little hand contact.  See, there are two names and that's a who!  And their hands touch so that's a what!  Who and What!!!! If they can just find a "when," they're pretty sure they've got a news story!!!!  

It's the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war this week. The war the media sold. With their breathless and unsupported conjecture. They couldn't stop their heavy panting back then. Six years later and the illegal war drags on but their interest has gone limp.  It was a case of premature declaration, you see.  They just can't manage to muster the energy for Iraq these days. 
Case in point, the evening news.  ABC World News Tonight is 'reporting' on Iraq this week via a correspondent, Terry McCarthy, who is already out of Iraq.  So it's really not a report so much as a recollection, apparently.  Yesterday Charlie Gibson offered that upbeat coffee talk he served for years as the host of Good Morning America declaring "conditions there really are looking up." "There" would be Iraq.  Last week Baghdad saw two of the worst bombings in months but, don't worry, baby, Charlie Gibson has a Beach Boys summer tune to sing.  To watch the webcast, click here. Terry cites that ridiculous poll (we dealt with it yesterday). Whether the rest of the week will bring actual reporting or more propaganda passed off as 'reporting' -- when it doesn't even pass for editorial comment -- we'll see. It's a real shame that in this era of satellite phones, Terry McCarthy and ABC want to do commentaries as opposed to on-the-spot reporting. But probably on-the-spot reporting doesn't allow Terry the luxury of grabbing a shiny ribbon and tying a pretty bow around everything -- reality rarely does.  Be sure to tune in tonight as Terry shows more slides from MidEast vacation.

On The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric yesterday, Lara Logan interviewed (link has text and video) Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen who opened with, "Billions of dollars were wasted in the Iraqi reconstruction enterprise" and that "$32 billion later, we don't know a whole lot about what's happened to that money." Bowen's been asked to offer input on Afghanistan reconstruction. That was it for Iraq reporting on CBS.  NBC Nightly News was far too busy promoting The Tonight Show (and it's 'big' guest) to be bothered with doing too much else. Commercials are hard, aren't they Bri-Bri Williams? 
Gee, if the networks had shown so little interest in the Iraq War this time in 2003, maybe it wouldn't have started?  If they hadn't wasted your time and their own with baseless claims treated as fact, if they hadn't willingly marched to the drumbeat of war . . .  That's "what if" and the press doesn't like to play that game -- except when it comes to their benefits.  They deal in realities and the reality is they should pretty much all be out on the street because they're not doing much of anything.  As the American people has grasped more and more that they were lied into an illegal war, you might think broadcasters would use the week of the sixth anniversary to review that.  They wouldn't have to own up to their own mistakes, they could just present the claims by the White House in 2003 and fact check them now.  They could do, something, anything to indicate that they gave a damn that the illegal war they sold continues.  Nothing they did last night indicated they had any regrets or, for that matter, awareness.

Over at public television,  Jim Lehrer did what the commercial networks couldn't bother with. Headlines on PBS' NewsHour included Lerher noting, "Also today an American soldier was fatally injured during combat operations in Baghdad." 
Six years is a long time.  Children who were seven-years-old when the Iraq War started are now thirteen.  Unless they're Iraqi children then they may be thirteen-years-old or, just as likely, they may be dead after their country being torn apart by six years of war and occupation.  But, hey, Terry McCarthy was able to dine out and he only required three bodyguards for it -- that's three bodyguards which, for the record, ABC News failed to reveal to viewers.  But Charlie couldn't shoot in his shorts while coozing that things were better in Iraq if viewers got to know that even in 'safe' Iraq, ABC News' fly-in correspondent traveled with multiple bodyguards.
That's Big Media.  What about Panhandle Media?  The Progressive is on spring break apparently.  Who knows what Matty Rothschild will get tattooed on his fat ass before the week's over?  But Iraq?  Nothing.  Pope and AIDS?  Check.  Ruth Conniff bubbling on about things she'll never understand?  Absolutely!  Anyone doing a damn thing that matters?  Hell no, it's pathetic Matthew Rothschild.  The man who thinks it's 'cute' when a woman's called the c-word, so cute that he has to link to it, even if it means The "Progressive" links to The Weekly Standard. 
The Nation?  Matty can take comfort that they're actually worse than The Progressive.  While the former mag does nothing period, The Nation offers non-stop content that never says a damn thing.  That tends to happen when  LIE FACE Melissa Harris Lacewell (the latest chins on that woman are frightening -- she's truly getting the face she deserves) is brought in.  Let's all be honest, Melissa Harris Lacewell is not a journalist, not an academic.  She is a LIE FACE.  Only a LIE FACE goes on TV to offer 'observations' about the candidates in the Democratic Party primary and 'forgets' to tell the audience that she's campaigning for one candidate (Barack Obama) and that she's been doing it since 2007Only a LIE FACE tells Charlie Rose that people are ticked off at Tavis Smiley and 'forgets' to inform that this is the latest astro-turf campaign she's kicked off and she kicked it off with her "Who Died and Made Tavis King?"  Melissa's a LIE FACE.  Which makes The Nation a perfect fit for her.  She can't write and that is always a plus at The Nation as well.  She has no original thoughts or, for that matter, what might be seen as deep thoughts.  It's as if she's finally been welcomed home to her mother ship. There's no time for Iraq at The Nation.  They have a financial crisis!  The kind that they've long wanted.  Sadly, even in the midst of their wet dreaming, they can't muster anything worth reading.
In These Times is aware the Iraq War hasn't ended and they offer David Enders' "A Nation  Divided: If the war in Iraq is winding down, what does peace look like?" which includes:
On one street corner, I asked the half-dozen men standing there how many of them had lost an immediate relative -- all claimed they had. Some raised shirts to show shrapnel wounds.
The United Nations recently estimated that as many as 500,000 of the approximately 2 million Iraqi refugees who fled the country might return this year. But they won't necessarily be returning to the houses, neighborhoods or cities from which they fled. Many are simply returning because they can no longer afford to stay in neighboring countries, especially Syria, where Iraqis refugees struggle to obtain official work permits.
"The Americans provided no security, they did nothing for us," says Hussein Fadhil, a Shiite and one of the estimated 2,000 people who remained throughout the fighting, despite the death of his father to a mortar. "They told us they didn't know where the mortars were being fired from."
In These Times is the exception to the rule.  The almost folded up and doors closed LeftTurn has nothing to offer but that's been the case for, what, two years now?  Three?  Meanwhile at intentional distraction Yes! Magazine . . . nothing.  They're paid to do nothing and to offer nothing and they live up to the purpose very well.  WalkOn, WalkOn.org.  The New Republic?  Not a damn thing.  They could have had a link but not a damn thing.  Harper's magazine?  Not a damn thing.  Now Scott Horton can bore us -- and insult his own education -- by writing today about Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, he just can't tackle the Iraq War.   Pravda on the Hudson's Amy Goodman serves up War Hawk Juan Cole to talk about "Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Beyond" -- no link to garbage.  Juan Cole flutters and flaps in the wind.  In the segment Iraq gets a little more time than Saudi Arabia.  "But Saudi Arabia isn't even in the title of the segment!" No, it's not.  But if you need to hear Juan Cole declare, "Well, you know, for me, the issue is not so much the rate at which the United States withdraws from Iraq" -- well, if you need to hear that, you're one sick f**k -- in which case Juan Cole  probably is a perfect match for you.  Let us know where you're registered, we'll get you a nice gift.
KPFA's The Morning Show is the audio exception as In These Times is the print one.  Today Philip Maldari interviewed Thomas E. Ricks, author of the new bestseller The Gamble.  In the excerpt below they're discussing the "Awakeing" Councils. 
Philip Maldari:  Well we've got a situation that's very dicey though.  We've got 100,000 young men with guns on the payroll -- the Sunni militias, we've got a Shia dominat central government in Baghdad that is not particularly interested in integrating this 100,000 force into the largely Shia government army and consequently the government in Baghdad is very nervous about the possibility of the US funding a force that ultimately could become their rival in a civil war.
Thomas E. Ricks: As one Shi'ite politician says in the book, "Baby crocodiles are cute but you can't keep adult crocidiles in the house." And the feeling of a lot of a lot of the Shi'ite leadership is the Americans have been feeding baby crocodiles and then we're going to bug out at them and leave them to deal with these adult crocodiles snapping at them.   This is one reason that I say in the book while I have a lot of admiration for what the American military did in Iraq over the last couple of years, especially the people who were against the war but thought that they should try to help the Americans minimize the damage, despite all of that, my conclusion is that the surge failed.  There's a conventional wisdom in this country that the surge succeeded and that the war is over -- and I think both those conclusions are badly wrong and dangerous because they repeat the over optimism of the Bush administration id dealing with Iraq.
Phillip Maldarai: So, um, if it failed -- it doesn't -- deaths are down right now, uh, there are these massacres, these suicide bombings but there are fewer of them, uh, and we're seeing fewer US military personnel being ambushed and killed but are you saying this is just the lull before the storm?
Thomas E. Ricks: I'm saying that the surge kicked the can down the road.  That it probably is a lull before the storm because the purpose of the surge was to improve security but not just to improve security for itself -- to improve security to create a breathing space in which a political breakthrough would occur.  Well here the surge is over and none of the questions that faced Iraq before the surge have been solved.  All the big questions are still hanging fire out there.  For example, how do you share oil revenue?  Another is will Iraq have a strong central government in Baghdad or be a loose confederation?  A third is what is the basic relationship between Sunni, Shia, Kurd?  A fourth is who holds power within the Shia community?   A fifth is what is the role of Iran which, by the way, is the big winner in the war so far?  All these questions are still out there, all these questions have led to violence in the past, all of them may well lead to violence again.
Phillip Maldari:  My guest is Thomas Ricks, his current book The Gamble: General David Petreaus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq 2006 - 2008.  We've sort of left out of the picture Muqtada al-Sadr -- the rebel cleric leading a huge Shia militia in the slums of Baghdad.  He and his militia have agreed to stand down for the time being but these men are fully armed, they, uh, are militant.  They are, at times, quite critical of the centeral government even though the central government is also Shia and they at any time can decide to go back to combat, right?
Thomas E. Ricks: They can.  And Ambassador Crocker, who is one of America's most experienced diplomats in the Middle East, talks about Lebanon as the future of Iraq.  People don't seem to want to hear him when he says that.  Here's a guy who has lived in Lebanon, actually was in the US embassy when it was blown up and about three doz - or four dozen of his colleagues were killed.  When he talks about Iraq as Lebanon, what he means is exactly you'll have outfits like Sadr who has a role in the government but also has an independent militia outside the government.  And that's very much the model that Hizbollah has pursued in Lebanon.  It's not a model for civility, nor is it a model for a country at peace with its neighbors.
Phillip Maldari: Well and we're going to see the Sunni minority in Iraq with -- with their militia, 100,000 well armed young men, and we're spending what?  30 million dollars a month to pay them?
Thomas E. Ricks: We were.  We're trying to make the Baghdad government pay it now and they're kind of cranky about that as you might expect
Phillip Malderi: But is that going to go on indefinitely? I mean if we ever cut off the flow of money, what would happen?

Thomas E. Ricks: Well they're supposed to become part of the Iraqi army, we'll see. This is one of the big questions: Will that work out? This is -- I mean, you're pointing to all the reasons that I think Iraq is a far more troubled place than Americans seem to think it is. This is why I'm very concerned when President Obama talks about getting out of Iraq quickly that he's not departing from President Bush but that he's repeating the mistakes of President Bush.  Bush didn't invade Iraq and say, "Listen I have a great idea, let's invade Iraq and get stuck there for ten years." He said, "Let's go into Iraq and get out quickly." The original American war plan was to be down to 30,000 troops by September 2003.  When Obama talks about getting down to 30,000 to 50,000 troops by August or September of next year that sounds a lot to me like Bush.
We found two exceptions in an allegedly 'diverse' and 'alternative' media.  Reality tells on them.  Another example would be Kristoffer Walker.  The 28-year-old Iraq War veteran's name was mentioned by the bulk of Panhandle Media.  Search the archives of Democracy Now! and you'll never find his name mentioned, not even in a headline.  Amy Goodman never had time for the soldier who told the military "no."  Last month he went public with his decision not to return to Iraq.  If he was hoping for the kind of support he needed, he really didn't get it.  Associated Press covered him, his state's media (Wisconsin) covered him and that was pretty much it.  Some websites covered him.  At his website, he links to Courage to Resist but Courage to Resist never covered him, never did a blurb on him.  A US soldier -- in the US -- announces he's not returning and Courage to Resist can't cover it?  Sarah can bore us all with her hopes and dreams of Bambi Obama but Courage to Resist can't make time to cover Kristoffer?  That's f**king bulls**t.  And before they ask for money again, they need to explain how the hell that happened.  I'm not joking and I'm not in the mood to be nice.  Kristoffer needed support.  He needed his story to be told.  And who the hell bothered to help?  Wisconsin?  Hmmm.  Madison Wisconsin.  Home of Matthew Rothschild!  But of course The Progressive didn't have time for Kristoffer.
He went public about needing an attorney.  He made it clear that he was struggling and he needed support.  Not money; support.  He didn't get it.  He never got it.  Not what he needed.  Not what he deserved.  Not what his brave stand warranted.  The sixth anniversary of the illegal war will be 'celebrated' by Kristoffer returning to Iraq.  To a war he's called not only illegal but immoral. He explains to WFRV that, "the Army has a gun to my head. They have the authority to level an incredible amount of force against me and can thereby ruin my life. I have been placed in a very dangerous situation. It is not my intention to allow the Army to use their gun and ruin my life."  It's too bad so few cared about Kristoffer or his stand.  It's too bad that when we have someone stand up and say "no," no support group emerges.  No one's there to provide the system of support needed.  It's too bad.  And it sends a message.  But don't worry, everyone, Mitch Jesserich is in love with Barack and thinks his laughable audio "letters" fawning over Barack, using the a Beatles love song, a love song John wrote for Yoko, to 'illustrate' what America feels for a president?  How f**king pathetic and how offensive to the actual love that John and Yoko had.  Is there one damn grown up left in Panhandle Media?  If so, can they please send Mitch to a lengthy time out?  Mitch, while you were juking on tape and smirking at your smutty wet dreams, a real world was out there and people were struggling. They weren't the egg heads from Harvard, but their lives did matter even if you do everything you can to render them invisible.  Ehren Watada.  Still no decision.  Still in the US military.  All this time later.  It happens because of people like Mitch.  It happens because it's more improtant to people like Mitch that a fan club for Barack exists -- that they build a fan club -- than that a war be ended or that those who speak out against it get the recognition they deserve.  Kristoffer Walker was betrayed by the alleged 'anti-war' movement in the US.  They had no time for him.  They were too busy fingering themselves and moaning "Barack."
The illegal war hits the six year mark this Thursday and World Can't Wait offers a list of other cities holding demonstrations. The Grannies Peace Brigade is kicking things off early in NYC on Wednesday with a demonstration at noon, 44th St and Broadway, outside the Time Square recruiting station.  Saturday, those wanting to call out the illegal war can join with groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st      
As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)  
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.      
For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit:       www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org. 
Please note CounterPunch and Dissident Voice regularly cover Iraq -- they weren't included in the above for that reason.  US Socialist Worker usually covers Iraq as well.  In terms of Kristoffer Walker, he was ignored by all three outlets.  AP reports on Kristoffer's decision here. Tony Walter reports on it for the Green Bay Press-Gazette here.
Meanwhile Missy Ryan, Mohammed Abbas, Ahmed Rasheed and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) offer the sort of overview the MSM should be providing on the sixth anniversary:
People like analyst Ghassan al-Attiyyah blame the United States for stoking sectarian and ethnic killing as they sought in the early days to empower majority Shi'ites sidelined under Saddam's Sunni-led regime and to forge a government that represented the majority.  
"They failed to understand Iraq. They made great mistakes, basically enhancing divisions among Iraqis," said Attiyyah, who heads the Iraq Foundation for Democracy and Development. 
Today, the U.S. military approach is seen as more adroit, based more on community outreach and tutoring increasingly competent, though far from independent, local forces rather than using sheer force. But some say it's far too late. 
"The genie was let out of the bottle, and society is now polarised between sectarian and ethnic forces," Attiyyah said.
It's not as 'fun' as Jake Tapper and Paul Rudd cock-knocking around possibly but it would qualify as news. 
The illegal war continued today and so did the violence . . .
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the US military shot (wrongly) at a civilian car, missed the car and killed a 12-year-old gril who was "passing by," 1 person was shot dead in Mosul, 1 college student was shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect was shot dead by police in Mosul, unknown assailants shot dead 1 Iraqi soldier in Mosul and 1 person was shot dead in Diyala Province today.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 corpse (Iraqi soldier) was discovered in Qayara adn 2 corpses were discovered in Aluthaim.