Sunday, April 18, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country's Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.
The men were detained by the Iraqi army in October in sweeps targeting Sunni groups in Nineveh province, a stronghold of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and other militants in the north. The provincial governor alleged at the time that ordinary citizens had been detained as well, often without a warrant.
Worried that courts would order the detainees' release, security forces obtained a court order and transferred them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation. Human rights officials learned of the facility in March from family members searching for missing relatives.

The above is the opening to Ned Parker's "Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" (Los Angeles Times). It's amazing, when you think about how many people are ignoring Iraq. That happened under Nouri's oversight, on his orders. He is vying to continue as Iraq's prime minister. Getting the idea that the potential prime ministers warrant news coverage?

It will effect the MidEast and it will impact the rest of the world. Right now, the State Dept believes Ibrahim al-Jaafari has the momentum to become prime minister. He is the presumed choice of Moqtada al-Sadr. He was also prime minister before Ayad Allawi and he was the choice in 2006 but the US told Iraq no and Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister. There's a lot of activity and meeting surrounding al-Jaafari in the last days that make it appear he is still in the lead. For now.

Cotten Timberlake and Gopal Ratnam (Bloomberg News) report on Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, appearing on Fox News today where he stated that the building of a coalition-sharing government will take time. There's more in the Bloomberg article but not in quotes so we're not running with it. I did attempt to find a transcript at Fox for Fox News Sunday and we would have linked if we'd quoted from it; however, they apparently don't do transcripts. At some point, DoD may provide a transcript of the appearance. If so, we'll link to it.

But notice that even with Odierno speaking of the process that's taking place right now, the media's got very little interest as evidenced by their refusal to file articles on the topic (other than what Odierno said on Fox today). I wonder about all those people who took part in the marches and protests. I know what I was protesting, I know what I was marching against. I know what I've been speaking out against for seven years and counting. It wasn't George W. Bush though I make no secret of the fact that I loathed the man. It was against an illegal war. The war didn't become legal when Barack Obama was sworn in as president. It's still an illegal war but apparently a lot of people out there -- including a lot of people on the stage -- were talking Iraq but really just speaking out against Bush. I'm thinking especially of a January 2006 protest in DC and I'm thinking of all the people -- including women -- on that stage and how they grandstanded and self-congratulated and they were going to be here, they said, until the Iraq War ended. Susan Ssrandon's always been a liar -- her 'poor me' tales of the filming of Witches of Eastwick get more and more fanciful with each passing years ("Meany stole my role!" No, dear, no one wanted to see your bug eyed and tired ass in that role, that's reality) -- however, it surprise to grasp that Sue was one of the many who could be curbed. But, Sue, George Clooney began bossing you around how many years ago now? (Before anyone misconstrues that, George and Susan aren't having an affair -- that would actually be hilarious -- he just crowned himself Democratic King among the acting set in 2003 and Sue was one of the many happy to march behind the man even though she's not a Democrat. She confused her 2000 support for Narder as opposed to the sad state of decay that was her body -- which was loudly objected to in the preview cards for Alfie -- as being responsible for the end of her leading lady film career and so she was eager to follow George.)

Yeah, Sarandon was one of the grand standers at that rally. Had to be on stage. Not because she made news. She wasn't a newsmaker even in her brief time of media interest. But she had to be on the stage because this mattered so much, so, so much, to her. She was far from alone. But she was out there and speaking and talking about how ending the war mattered. You see Sue anywhere since Barack got sworn in? Has she called for the end of any wars since then?

Hell no.

Hey, remember how Susan attacked Hillary Clinton repeatedly when Hillary was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination? That Iraq War vote. The Iraq War, to hear Susan tell it before the day after the 2008 general election, was the most important thing in the world. These days? Susan's protests against the war are as dead as her leading lady film career. Well, at least we won't have to suffer through any more of those bad, bad films.

But Iraqis continue to suffer from the Iraq War. And US troops continue to be wounded and killed in the Iraq War. It hasn't stopped. Nor has the US government stopped sending troops to the illegal war.

Today WQQW reports on the send-off for 600 Wisconsin National Guard members who are deploying to Iraq. But a Democrat's in the White House and apparently that's all that ever mattered.

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 4390. Tonight? 4391. Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – One U.S. Soldier was killed and three injured when their helicopter crashed in northern Iraq late Saturday evening. The accident was not attributed to enemy fire and is currently under investigation. The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official Web site at The announcements are made on that Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member’s primary next of kin." Press TV adds, "An Iraqi military official said the crash had taken place near the US military base of Camp Speicher, located outside the town of Tikrit."

In other violence, Reuters notes a Mosul bombing which injured seven people and a Mosul shooting which left two officers injured.

New content at Third:

Kat's "Kat's Korner: The return of Natalie Merchant " went up early this morning and her second review goes up in a bit. Isaiah has the week off. He's more than earned it and I've been telling him to do so for three weeks now but he agreed today since Kat wrote two reviews on Saturday that could go up today. Pru notes "Why is the media always on the bosses' side?" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Almost every demonstrator has found that the press is against them, but what lies behind this in-built bias?

The media spreads the same old lies every time workers go on strike.

During strikes, like the recent ones at BA, the media constantly tell us that workers are powerless—yet at the same time that they are holding the country to ransom.

They act like unions are undemocratic, even though workers have voted to act collectively. The causes of a dispute are rarely explained.

Yet when bosses say we need cuts, they are rarely questioned. And when the police attack demonstrations, the media always reports their version of events.

This is because TV and newspaper reporting reflect the existing power set-up in society.

The mass media reproduces the ruling class’s view of what matters in the world. And quite often it deliberately sets out to paint a picture favourable to government and big business.

The revolutionaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in the 19th century that “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”.

Under capitalism a handful of rich and powerful people own the mass media. They form part of a ruling class—the tiny number of people at the top of society who own the factories, offices and other workplaces (see page 10).

Rupert Murdoch, for instance, owns over 175 print publications across the world, including the Sun, the Times and the News of the World in Britain. It is therefore not surprising they constantly reinforce the interests of the bosses.

The vast majority of the media is run for profit, so it’s not surprising it backs up a system based on profit.


They reflect the bias of normal capitalist life. So, they report it as “good news” if profits are up.

And, the media focus on what seems to matter in “official” politics in parliament, on the actions of celebrities, on crime and scandal.

Economics is reported separately from politics. Everything is put in different compartments. A picture of society as something that can be understood—and changed—as a whole is never presented.

Ordinary people’s lives—except as victims of crime or as things to be ridiculed—rarely appear. During a war much of the media often becomes a simple extension of the government propaganda machine.

According to Philip Knightley, the author of a book on war and the media, The First Casualty, “Every government wants to control the media in wartime to ensure public support for its war aims. If necessary it will lie in order to achieve this control. The media will usually go along with these lies because it considers it is in its best commercial interests in wartime to support the government of the day.”

This is at its most extreme during wars, but the coincidence of interests applies during peace time too.

People are rightly angry when a big demonstration gets little or no news coverage. But more than that, the recent anti-fascist demonstration in Bolton was repeatedly reported throughout the media as violent anti-fascist protesters attacking the police.

This was the exact opposite of what happened. The truth was readily available in video, photographs and accounts of police violence.

Does it matter? TV and newspapers are among the most important sources people have for gaining information about what’s going on in the world.

The media shapes our views of the world. But it does not control them.

As we are surrounded by messages that favour the bosses, we are still making judgments. For two decades the Sun newspaper told its readers to vote Tory.

Most carried on voting Labour. It now tells people to vote Tory again—but it won’t be the Sun that wins it. And the media is not a monolith.

The ruling class is not a homogenous group. There are divisions within it—and the media reflects these. This is partly because of their competing commercial interests. In order to sell advertising they need viewers and readers.

That forces the media to at least be relevant to what people think. That can produce critical coverage which goes against the establishment.

For example, the Mirror opposed the Iraq war in the run up to it.

It reflected the fact that the ruling class was divided—but it also knew that there was an audience for an anti-war newspaper. The majority of people that the mass media is sold and marketed to are working class.

There is a huge gulf between the reality of their lives and the dominant ideology of capitalism. That gap can open up a space for that ideology to be questioned or even rejected.

If left wing ideas become stronger, then the media will have to respond to them. After all, if the number of people backing a transport strike with solidarity is large enough then there is no point interviewing the grumbling business class passenger.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

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