Thursday, April 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq tries to firm up a deal with Total oil, the LGBT community remains targeted, New York Times runs state propaganda passed off as 'reporting,' Deborah Haynes exposes state propaganda (demonstrating what actual reporting is), and much more.
Today a bombing attack on a US and Iraqi military base in Al Anbar Province took place and the results are in disputes. BBC maintains that there were no deaths but twenty-six people were wounded. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) explains Iraqi Maj Gen Mrdhi Mishhen Al Mahalawi and others are insisting that no one died. Aseel Kami (Reuters) states 16 are dead with at least fifty injured, that a suicide bomber in Iraqi military garb took his own life and the lives of others by detonating "at the base's cafeteria". At the New York Times website, Steven Lee Myers reports the confusion, offers reports of "at least 15 Iraqi soldiers" dead and identifies the location as Tamouz Air Base while noting that all journalists have been banned from the base and from the hospital where the wounded and/or dead were taken. As stated several times already this month, Nouri al-Maliki has no respect for the press, has no interest in a free press and the idea that 'democracy' will ever come to Iraq while US puppet Nouri sits in the catbird seat is laughable. AP spoke to two Iraqi officers and allowed them to remain nameless, one confirmed deaths but would not give a number, the other told AP 16 Iraqi soldiers had died. Iran's Press TV also states 16 killed and says fifty were wounded.
While the puppet government attempts to control the reporting on today's bombing, Kim Sengupta (Indpendent of London) reports on a new study by Iraqi Body Count which finds that "[a]ir strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead." The report, entitled "The Weapons That Kill Civilians -- Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003-2008," is co-authored by Iraqi Body Count and King's College London and Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK and it is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. IBC notes:
For Iraqi females, and children, events involving air attacks and mortar fire were the most dangerous. In air attacks causing civilian deaths, 46% of victims of known gender were female, and 39% of victims of known age were children. Mortar attacks claimed similarly high proportions of victims in these two demographic groups (44% and 42%). By comparison, 11% of victims across all weapons types were Iraqi females, and 9% were children. The authors argue that their findings showing that air attacks (whether involving bombs or missiles) and mortars killed relatively high proportions of females and children is further evidence that these weapons should not be directed at civilian areas by parties to conflict because of their indiscriminate nature. As co-author Professor John Sloboda of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also a co-founder of IBC, notes, "Our weapon-specific findings have implications for a wide range of conflicts, because the patterns found in this study are likely to be replicated for these weapons whenever they are used."
Alsumaria notes the report finds that for all Iraqis, "abudctions of people who are later executed" results in the bulk of deaths. "Relatives of the dead, most of them women and some quietly wiping away tears, sit in a room trying to spot the missing among the photos of men and boys, many mutilated or severely decayed, cycled on a bank of screens," reports Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) on the unclaimed and unidentied corpses that continue, year after year, at Baghdad's central morgue.
Meanwhile Martin Chulov (Guardian of Manchester) plays 'ignore the violence there, look over here!' Chulov is all giddy about a reconstructed shrine in Samarra which will allegedly soon re-open. It's more garbage from a piece of trash outlet and if you're wondering where little Chulov got his 'idea,' Dallas Morning News religious reporter Bruce Tomaso noted Monday an article in the Smithosian (by Joshua Hammer with photos by Max Becherer) which explores the rebuilding of the shrine. Chulov buries the lede which is that Sunnis and Shi'ites were working on the rebuilding together -- the only point of interest to the story that took beyond the Smithsonian for most people. Chulov 'forgets' to mention the brief by Tomaso or the article in the Smithsonian and wants you to believe he's reporting on something he witnessed (he's reporting from Baghdad, he didn't go to Samarra) -- that actually is funny. But the Guardian's nothing but a laugh these days anyway as it attempts to battle Google and whine about profits -- for those not in the know, the Guardian is set up in the non-profit mode. In reality, it's nothing but a party organ (and therefore apologist) for the neo-liberal New Labour Party. Any article not pushing/pimping/excusing neo-liberal policies exists in the hope that it will attract readers it might otherwise miss and hopefully bring them over to neo-liberalism during their stop-over. Joshua Hammer opens his article with:
I'm standing on a street corner in the center of Samarra--a strife-scarred Sunni city of 120,000 people on the Tigris River in Iraq--surrounded by a squad of American troops. The crackle of two-way radios and boots crunching shards of glass are the only sounds in this deserted neighborhood, once the center of public life, now a rubble-filled wasteland. I pass the ruins of police headquarters, blown up by an Al Qaeda in Iraq suicide truck bomber in May 2007, and enter a corridor lined by eight-foot-high slabs of concrete--"Texas barriers" or "T-walls," in U.S. military parlance. A heavily guarded checkpoint controls access to the most sensitive edifice in the country: the Askariya Shrine, or Mosque of the Golden Dome, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.
Here, in February 2006, Al Qaeda militants blew up the delicate gold-tile dome atop the thousand-year-old Shiite shrine, igniting a spasm of sectarian killing that brought the country to the edge of civil war. For the past year and a half, a committee led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been working with United Nations consultants to clear debris from the site and to begin rebuilding the Golden Dome--a $16 million project that aims to restore the shrine sufficiently to receive Shiite pilgrims by this summer.
I've been trying for three days to get close to the shrine, stymied by an order from al-Maliki's office barring journalists from the site--an indication of how sensitive the bombing remains in this country. U.S. military officers in Samarra have pulled strings on my behalf with the mayor, Iraqi police officials and the Ministry of Planning in Baghdad. This time, after I reach the checkpoint, a friendly commander of the Askariya Brigade, a predominantly Shiite police force dispatched from Baghdad last year to guard the site, makes a call to his superiors in the Iraqi capital, then escorts me through.
Joshua Hammer wrote a very good article, we don't, however, buy into the belief that it was the moment that changed everything. The bombing provided photos and the press ran with those. The bombing was only one of a long series of incidents that cemented the sectarian conflict.
On the political front, Iraq remains in disarray. Yesterday Corinne Reilly and Ali Abbas offer "Kurdish-Arab tensions continue to grow in northern Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) and Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed's "Establishment of Iraq provincial councils drags" (Los Angeles Times) documented many of the problems and today Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports:
Two and a half months after the elections, the 14 provinces that voted have only now begun forming provincial councils, the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States. Five provinces, including Babil, Najaf and Basra, still have no functioning governments, despite a deadline that passed last week, as party leaders squabble over the selection of governors, council chairmen and their deputies.
Elections that were supposed to strengthen Iraq's democracy, unite its ethnic and sectarian factions, and begin to improve sorely needed basic services -- water, electricity, roads -- have instead exposed the fault lines that still threaten the country's stability.
In an update, Alsumaria reports a president and a vice president for Najaf's provincial council has been elected today. Myers refers to the economic 'problems' of Iraq -- other countries have economic problems, the puppet government in Baghdad is rolling in the cash. Provincial governments should not be effected by the decrease in price per barrel of oil unless there has been major theft within a province. The reason for that is none of them spent all their previous yearly budgets. They stockpiled that money. So were their budgets slashed, they'd still have the excess from previous years which they didn't spend. If they don't have that money, it's because someone or somones stole it. We'll return to the issue of the money 'troubles' shortly.
This morning the Daily Coverup (aka New York Times), found Alissa J. Rubin joining with Rod Nordland for more please-love-us-and-don't-kick-us-out-of-the-country efforts. This follows yesterday's garbage (Rubin's "Iraq Tries to Prove Autonomy, and Makes Inroads") made it into print for anyone who didn't grasp what was what yesterday. Today's article never goes deeper than the headline ("U.S. Military Expresses Concern About Perception of an Iraqi Crackdown on Sunnis"). It's not an article, it's a damn press release and your first clue is the fact that the headline expresses a point of view which Rubin and Nordland carry through in their article. Reporters do not do that. If one person has a point of view and they present that point of view in their article, they also present other points of view. So X is saying there is no problem. A reporter then goes to Z, goes to Y, etc. to find out whether or not the claim is true. Various points of view are presented -- especially when a claim cannot be independently verified.
Rubin and Nordland don't do that. They're not interested in evaluating the claim, they're only interested in making sure they were good little stenographers who dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" in what the US military told them to write down. It's shameful and it's embarrassing. The New York Times is never supposed to be part of the US military's counter-insurgency operations but that's what they do this morning and it's shameful and it needs to be called out. There is no excuse for it at all.
For the record, the press didn't create the tensions between Sahwa and Nouri. Those tensions were always present and you can go back to 2007 reports and find that. In terms of the Baghdad armed conflict which took place last month, BBC and Reuters were the only ones filing early reports (when the conflict had just started) and those were innocuous reports nothing like what would come out by the end of the day about US forces joining with Iraqi forces to battle Sahwa in the Fadhil section of Baghdad. The press didn't create that armed struggle, didn't encourage it and, honestly, was caught by surprise when those tensions flared up so dramatically. Yesterday Rubin served up propaganda that rivaled the garbage Eason Jordan attoned for in a Times' column (he admitted CNN regularly covered up stories of abuse in Iraq to curry favor with Saddam Hussein). Today, Rubin and Nordland enlist in the US military in order to pull a fast one on the public in the US and in Iraq. Today they set journalism aside because they've been told they need to serve a 'higher purpose.' Any journalist who has so little pride in their field that they'd do this sort of stenography needs to take a good hard look at themselves and whether they belong in journalism.
What Rubin and Nordland have written is an embarrassment and it's an embarrassment for their paper which indicates just how awful their article is. Check "Rudith Miller" for how the paper works. It always cowtows to what the US government wants. But even Judith, even Judith Miller, knew you just bury the contrary opinions when presenting government assertions as fact. Rubin and Nordland present US government assertions as fact but they're worse than Judith Miller. Take a moment to grasp that. While Miller would wait until paragraph 13 to briefly note a voice that called into question a government claim, Rubin and Nordland just eliminate those voices, they refuse to cover them, they refuse to include them. The US military is doing cartwheels this morning because they dictated an article to the Times and the Times ran it without any efforts to verify it and without any efforts to include any other opinions. This is propaganda pure and simple and, no, that is not how an allegedly free press works. And for those who wish to play as dumb as Rubin and Nordland, among the people real reporters could have interviewed to round out and evaluate a claim were: Iraqi police officers, Sahwa, academics who follow the situation (especially academics in Baghdad and Dubai) and NGOs. By refusing to do so, by printing 18 paragraphs that's nothing but an attempt at perception management on the part of the US military, the reporters disgrace themselves and their profession.
And we return to the money issue by noting one of the most laughable US military assertions that made it into print this morning, that Sahwa's not being paid due to money shortages. Nouri's got money problems because of falling oil prices, the US military insists and Rubin and Nordland spit back at American readers without question. From yesterday's snapshot, "AFP reports reality, 'Iraq has signed a contract with British engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler to build the country's largest-ever oil refinery, an Iraqi official said on Wednesday'." The cost of the plant? $128,000,000. That deal was announced yesterday. And Rubin and Nordland want to repeat (without question) US military tales of Nouri having to count and watch his pennies. Remember Nouri always says "only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day." Alsumaria reports Iraq's Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy today and delcared that oil conglomerate Total was very likely to win a contract in Iraq -- that would mean, pay attention, more money forked over to Iraq. Meanwhile Simon Webb and Amena Bakr (Reuters) interview Iraqi MP Jabir Khalifa who states that the Parliament is seeking to revoke the contract Royal Dutch Shell made with the country's Oil Ministry because it is "unconstitutional and detrimental to Iraq's economic interests".
While Rubin and Nordland serve up propaganda, independent journalist Dahr Jamail offers some reality at ZNet:
While the US military maintains 138,000 soldiers in Iraq, and there are over 200,000 private contractors enabling the occupation, and the president intends on keeping at least 50,000 US troops in Iraq indefinitely, Obama managed to keep a straight face whilst pressuring the Iraqi government to "take responsibility for their country" and adding that the United States has "no claim on Iraqi territory and resources."
All of this nice talk from President Obama, which he articulated just hours after a spate of bombings across Baghdad killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 27, was complimented by his and Bush's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who claimed that al-Qaeda in Iraq appeared to be making a "last gasp" attempt to foment sectarian violence in Baghdad. Those who have been following the news about the US occupation of Iraq closely over the last six years know all too well how many "last gasps" and "turning the corners" there have been - of which there are too many to count. This one is no different, and the fallacy of the statement was punctuated on April 10 in Mosul, when a suicide car bomb attack killed five US soldiers, along with two Iraqi troops.
Taking another page out of the Bush playbook for the occupation of Iraq, while speaking at Baghdad's airport, Obama also said the next 18 months are "going to be a critical period." Again, there have been more "critical periods" in Iraq throughout the occupation than I care to remember.
Two days after Obama's visit to Baghdad's airport, Gen. Ray Odierno told The Times that US combat troops may remain in Iraq's cities beyond the June 30 deadline mandated by the Status of Forces Agreement.
Of course, throughout all of this rhetoric, the glaring omission is any discussion about the massive "enduring" US military bases in Iraq and the US "embassy" that is the size of the Vatican City.
Meanwhile, the bloodletting and destruction of Iraq continues.
Surprisingly, Dahr Jamail isn't the only one taking on propaganda. Peter Baker (New York Times) observes, "For all the perception of a major course correction, Mr. Obama so far appears to be presiding over a foreign policy that may seem more different than it really is. As Mr. Obama heads to Mexico on Thursday for his second foreign trip of the month, he is bringing with him many of the same American interests as his predecessor, even if they are wrapped in a different package." On Iraq, Baker explains, "Mr. Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq is not as sharp a change as it once seemed during the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama deferred to military commanders in agreeing to leave the vast bulk of American forces in place until next year, when a phased pullout would begin, leaving 50,000 troops in place after August 2010." The third term of George W. Bush is more than underway as is obvious by this headline at CBS News "CIA Off The Hook For Past Waterboarding"-- no punishment for those crimes against humanity. Barack prefers to instead just walk on by, don't stop, just walk on by. How very Bully Boy Bush of him. The policies of the previous administration also continue when it comes to the silence on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community as Doug Ireland reports at GayCityNews noting State Dept staffer Felming (who spent a year in Iraq under Bully Boy Bush) dismissing concerns for LGBT Iraqis recently. Ireland reports:
Hili told this reporter, "There is an intensive media campaign against homosexuals in Iraq at this time which we believe is inspired by the Ministry of the Interior, both in the daily newspapers and on nearly all the television stations. Their reports brand all gays as 'perverts' and try to portray us as terrorists who are undermining the moral fiber of Iraqi youth." Hili said the current homo-hating media campaign appears to have been sparked as an unfortunate reaction to an April 4 Reuters dispatch that reported: "Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a local official said, and police said they had found the bodies of four more after clerics urged a crackdown on a perceived spread of homosexuality... The police source said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City on March 25, each bearing a sign reading 'pervert' in Arabic on their chests."
Amnesty International has called out the targeting -- publicly called out the targeting which puts them way ahead of the United Nations, the US White House and the US State Department. We'll note this section of Ireland's report:
Dalia Hashad of Amnesty International told Gay City News, "Amnesty has been unable to get from the Iraqi government any confirmation that the men are in custody or that they are facing execution, but from what we have heard from individuals in Iraq, they were sentenced to die for belonging to a 'banned group.' We are protesting to the Iraqi government and are continuing to try to investigate, but it is very difficult to get any information about such prisoners in Iraq."
Dalia Hashad is an attorney and, along with Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith, she co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder. Rex Wockner (PrideSource) adds that there is a lack of clarity over whether or not Iraq re-instated (in 2003) a law making same-sex relations illegal. He quotes Iraqi LGBT's Ali Hili explaining, "That's what they have been told by a judge in a brief court hearing. I don't think this is in the Iraqi constitution as a death penalty (crime). The court is ... kangaroo-style. It was brief and people weren't able to present legal representation or defend themselves in that kind of court. Our information is that these five members have been convicted to death for running activities of a forbidden organization on Iraqi soil."
In the most shocking refusal to report propaganda, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) takes a train ride in Baghdad and quickly grasps that it is proganada and -- pay attention Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland -- reports examples of that. An alleged commuter train, supposedly to transport workers, "leaves at 8am -- rather late in the morning for Baghdad's only commuter service" and that's far from the only puzzling moment. She asks a 'commuter' where he is going and he gets the destination wrong. And then there is this:
The picture-perfect scene looks too good to be true. There is also the mystery of why commuters are so eagerly commuting in reverse, from the centre of the city to the outskirts. Further fuelling our suspicion, a local television crew is conveniently on hand to film the hustle and bustle.
A press officer at the station tells us upon arrival that the train has been laid on especially for the media. He then changes his story, after seeing our crestfallen expressions, to explain it is a later service that sometimes follows the earlier train at 6.30am.
This is really an amazing report and praise for Deborah Haynes for reporting it.
Meanwhile Alsumaria reports, "Iraq Army units supported by US air forces launched a wide scale operation in southern Kirkuk after a suicide bombing killed 10 policemen and wounded around 20 others. Second Brigade Commander Abdul Amir Al Zaidi affirmed that two senior officials of Ansar Al Sunna were killed and two others were wounded in the operation after Iraq Army received intelligence about their involvement in yesterday's bombing." They report it and only they report it, why is that? A major operation, an assault, and where is the press coverage from US outlets?
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul grenade attack which left three injured, a Mosul car bombing which injured three prison guards and a Baquba sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 Sahwa leader.
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and another injured. KUNA reports a border clash between the Turkish military and the PKK resulted in 1 Turkish soldier being killed.
Yesteday's snapshot noted the conviction of US Master Sgt John E. Hatley in Germany. In today's New York Times, Paul von Zielbauer quotes James D. Culp ("former Army trial defense lawyer"), "When the first sergeant of a company snaps, taking a sergeant first class and a senior medic with him, it's a sign that they've just had too much." AP reminds, "Military cases go through an automatic appeal process, and his sentence also could be reduced in a clemency proceeding."
alissa j. rubin
the los angeles times