Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PBS uses the scissors to censor Minority Rights Group International

Jonathan Rugman: The plains beneath the Kurdish mountains are becoming Iraq's most dangerous region. Two truck bombs exploding east of the city of Mosul today, destroying scores of homes. 30 dead and over 150 wounded. This crater destroying an entire Shi'ite village. All this after a similar attack on local Shi'ites killed 37 only last Friday. The pattern emerging here is one of minorities being deliberately targeted in the north of Iraq. A foretaste perhaps of a long feared Kurdish-Arab civil war.
Mark Kattuner (Minority Rights Group International): Well I think through most of Iraq, including from Baghdad, the Americans have withdrawn from patrolling the cities. But in Mosul they're still patrolling in cooperation with the Iraqi army because they realize just how dangerous the situation is. The city is still contested. In particular, the land all around it in the Nineveh Plain is contested between Kurds and Arabs. And therefore everything that's happened in the last month hasn't happened just because the Americans have left. It's happened while they are still there. And it shows that they are incapable of protecting the minority communities on the ground.

That was noted in yesterday's snapshot, from UK's Channel 4 News (link has text and video). PBS' NewsHour elected to use Rugland's report on yesterday's broadcast; however, as many e-mails this morning point out, Mark Kattuner was edited right out of the report. That's more than an 'editorial' decision. Listen to Jim Lehren's wrap around and grasp that NewsHour viewers are not told that Mosul is still patrolled by US troops and they are not toldl that the leader of a human rights organization states US troops "are incapable of protecting the minority communities on the ground."

Since US public television elected to silence Kattuner, we'll move to the release issued by his organization yesterday, "Bombings against Iraqi minorities 'an attempt to grab territory':"

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the recent string of targeted bombings against minority communities in Iraq, including most recently a devastating attack on a Shabak village near Mosul on Monday that killed at least 23 people.

This attack follows earlier truck bombings in Shia Turkmen communities on Friday 7 August in northern Mosul, killing at least 37, and on 20 June in Taza Kurmatu, south of Kirkuk, killing over 70. The death toll in the latest bombing in the Shabak village of Khaznah is expected to rise further.

A series of car bombs also targeted five Shia mosques in Baghdad last week, killing at least 27. They were condemned by the UN Secretary-General as an attempt to provoke further sectarian violence.

‘The bombings of minority communities near Mosul and Kirkuk are more than just an expression of religious hatred,' said Mark Lattimer, MRG's Executive Director. ‘They are a deliberate attempt to grab control over contested territory in northern Iraq by pushing out the minorities who live there.'

Both Sunni Arab and Kurdish forces seek to control the Nineveh plain around Mosul. In recent provincial elections, political control of Nineveh Governorate passed from Kurdish to Arab parties. However, minorities living there seek greater autonomy over their own affairs. Kirkuk is also contested between Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities.

‘Minorities including the Shabak, Turkmen, Yezidis and Assyrian Christians in Iraq cannot organize their own security protection, yet time and again the Iraqi security forces have proved incapable of protecting them,' added Mr Lattimer.

The Shabak are a small, mostly Shia minority in northern Iraq who, along with other minorities, were repressed under Saddam Hussein but have suffered intimidation and deadly attacks since. See MRG's report: 'Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003'.

Iraq was listed as the second most dangerous place in the world for minorities in MRG's annual global listing of Peoples Under Threat released in June.

For interview opportunities with MRG's Executive Director, Mark Lattimer, contact MRG's Media Officer Emma Eastwood T: +44 207 422 4205 E: emma.eastwood@mrgmail.org

Focusing on the twin truck bombings just outside Mosul, Sam Dagher (New York Times) opens with:

The entire village was gone. Local television broadcast scenes of homes reduced to heaps of rubble mixed with bed frames, mattresses, furniture and bloodstained pillows. A villager cried into the camera, "Look, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Interior Minister, where is the security that you speak about?"

If you're able to watch Rugland's report, you'll see the huge crater he's describing. Ernesto Londono and Dlovan Brwari (Washington Post) address the charges and counter-charges, "The bombings also stoked a long-running political dispute between the Kurdish regional government and the central government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Each side argues that its security force is best equipped to secure villages in northern areas, and attacks are frequently followed by accusations over which side is to blame." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports:

The bloodiest attack Monday came before dawn about 13 miles east of Mosul in a village that is home to members of Iraq's tiny Shabak religious minority. Two massive truck bombs detonated on either end of the main street in Khazna about 4:30 a.m., killing at least 35 people, wounding 180 and leveling more than 30 houses.
Many people had been sleeping in the open on their roofs because of the intense summer heat, and at the Jamhouriya hospital in Mosul, survivors described how their homes collapsed beneath them as they were startled awake by the massive explosions.
"There were 12 people living in my sister's house and not one is left alive," cried Mahasin Haider, 45. "They uncovered some of the bodies and the rest are still buried in the rubble."


ADDED: A friend with BBC e-mailed me and I didn't see it. He called a few moments ago to praise (as he had in the e-mail) Natalia Antelava's analysis for BBC. We'll note it in the snapshot later today -- and it's a rebuke to the nonsense heard on KPFA yesterday about attacks and violence being down -- but I am adding a link in this entry a few minutes after it's been posted.

Meanwhile Iran's Press TV reports today that protestors gathered in Diyalah Province in a 'brave and dangerous' demonstration (that's sarcasm) to support the decision of Nouri al-Maliki to expell the residents of Camp Ashraf. In any country, the most pathetic thing is the lackeys who feel the need to pimp the government line. (As true in Iraq as it is in the US -- whether it comes from Barry O's astroturf friends or Bully Boy Bush's 'freedom rallies'.) Gordon Lubold (Christian Science Monitor) notes the human rights lawyers calling on the US government to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents sent "Documents Show Iraq, U.S. in Breach of Obligations to Protect Camp Ashraf Residents" to the public e-mail account (Betty noted it last night):

In a news briefing today at the National Press Club, international and U.S. lawyers of residents of Camp Ashraf presented documents of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Iraqi government during the July 28 attack on Camp Ashraf. They also made public the agreements signed between the U.S. government and every resident of the Camp Ashraf for their protection.
Camp Ashraf is home to members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Its residents had signed an agreement with the Multi-National Force-Iraq in 2004, according to which the US agreed to protect them until their final disposition.
"The official U.S. government response to the events at Ashraf is that all issues concerning the Camp are now matters for the Iraqis to determine, as an exercise of their sovereignty. But that is a red herring: no one contests the sovereignty of the State of Iraq over Ashraf. Sovereignty does not provide an excuse for violating the human rights of the residents. Nor does it justify inaction on the part of the United States," said Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Ashraf residents.
He stressed: "The U.S. was the recipient of binding commitments by the Government of Iraq to treat the Ashraf residents humanely, and we know that has not happened. Moreover, it was the United States with whom each person at Ashraf reached agreement that protection would be provided until final decisions about their disposition have been made. And the United States remains bound also by principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law that make standing by during an armed attack on defenseless civilians unacceptable, and that impose an obligation to intervene to save innocent lives."
Francois Serres, Executive Director of the International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf, which represents 8,500 lawyers and jurists in Europe and North America, added, "This [assault] is a manifest of crime against humanity by the Iraqi forces, attacking, with US-supplied weapons and armored vehicles, unarmed residents of Ashraf. The Iraqi government cannot be trusted in protecting the residents of Ashraf. The U.S. must undertake efforts to protect them until international protection is afforded to the residents."
"We will pursue this matter before the International Criminal Court and courts in France and Belgium. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is fully responsible for these atrocities and he will be held to account," he added.
Zahra Amanpour, a human rights activist with the U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents also spoke at the news briefing. Ms. Amanpour, whose aunt is in Ashraf, said: "Why are the Department of State and the White House stone-walling us, the families of Camp Ashraf residents? Thirty-five people have been on a hunger strike outside the White House for 13 days, and we still don't have any reply by the administration."

Claude Salhani (Washington Times) reports on the press conference and notes, "French lawyer Francois Serres said at a news conference in Washington that he would be taking legal action against Mr. al-Maliki in European courts as well as in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Other lawsuits would be filed in U.S. courts against the U.S."

As promised in yesterday's snapshot, here's a longer excerpt from Chris Hedges' "Nader Was Right: Liberals are Going Nowhere With Obama" (Dandelion Salad):

The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or "extraordinary rendition," restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.
The sad reality is that all the well-meaning groups and individuals who challenge our permanent war economy and the doctrine of pre-emptive war, who care about sustainable energy, fight for civil liberties and want corporate malfeasance to end, were once again suckered by the Democratic Party. They were had. It is not a new story. The Democrats have been doing this to us since Bill Clinton. It is the same old merry-go-round, only with Obama branding. And if we have not learned by now that the system is broken, that as citizens we do not matter to our political elite, that we live in a corporate state where our welfare and our interests are irrelevant, we are in serious trouble. Our last hope is to step outside of the two-party system and build movements that defy the Democrats and the Republicans. If we fail to do this we will continue to undergo a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion that will end in feudalism.
We owe Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party an apology. They were right. If a few million of us had had the temerity to stand behind our ideals rather than our illusions and the empty slogans peddled by the Obama campaign we would have a platform. We forgot that social reform never comes from accommodating the power structure but from frightening it. The Liberty Party, which fought slavery, the suffragists who battled for women’s rights, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement knew that the question was not how do we get good people to rule -- those attracted to power tend to be venal mediocrities -- but how do we limit the damage the powerful do to us. These mass movements were the engines for social reform, the correctives to our democracy and the true protectors of the rights of citizens. We have surrendered this power. It is vital to reclaim it. Where is the foreclosure movement? Where is the robust universal health care or anti-war movement? Where is the militant movement for sustainable energy?

And we'll close with the opening of Sherwood Ross' "Madoff Trustee Creates 'Class War' That Could Harm Victimized Investors" (New Zealand's Scoop):

Even if court-appointed trustee Irving Picard should recover the $13.7 billion for which he is suing associates of jailed fraudster Bernard Madoff, the money may never get into the pockets of victimized small investors, a law school dean points out.
Because "the small fry victims had to take out money to live and to pay taxes, and thereby reduced their net equity as Picard and SIPC calculate it, to zero or a negative number…(they) will receive no benefit whatever from any recoveries Picard obtains in his lawsuits," writes Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Velvel, who lost money invested with Madoff, has followed the scandal closely and has made a number of positive recommendations for relief of the bilked investors.
"Picard has created a sort of class war," Velvel writes, in that "the very rich, who didn’t have to take anything out of Madoff to live or to pay taxes, will get the full $500,000 from SIPC(Securities Investor Protection Corp.) plus possibly large sums from Picard's recoveries in lawsuits or elsewhere, since they will have huge amounts of net equity."

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liz sly