Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Hate The War

The Committee to Protect Journalism notes the disappearance of Iraqi journalist Saad al-Aossi who is "editor-in-chief of the critical weekly Al-Shahid." They note:

Armed men entered al-Aossi’s home in central Baghdad on the morning of April 14, seized his computer and took him to an unknown location, according to local and regional news reports. The identity of the armed men remains unclear; various news sources have described them as being a “mixed force“ consisting of police and military elements, belonging to the Baghdad Operations Command, or to a special security force attached to the prime minister’s office.

Colonel Qassem Atta, spokesperson for the Baghdad Operations Command, issued a statement today denying government involvement in al-Aossi’s kidnapping and stating that he is not in government custody.

Al-Aossi’s abduction from his home took place on the same day that military and police personnel conducted wide-ranging sweeps in multiple Iraqi cities of upward of 100 Iraqis under the pretext of a preventive anti-terror sweep, according to a report in the Qatar-based newspaper Al-Arab that quotes an unnamed Iraqi police official. The same unnamed source stated that many of the detained individuals are vocal supporters of Ayad Alawi, a political opponent of the prime minister. Al-Aossi has regularly criticized the prime minister’s performance in his columns.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of Saad al-Aoosi,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must clarify the circumstances of his seizure by men reportedly belonging to the security forces, and account immediately for his whereabouts.”

They are calling for answers. And, if pattern holds, they'll be among the only ones doing so. That's really the biggest problem and why Saad is missing.

Today, Iraq gets even less attention than it did in 2009 -- which wasn't much. Each year of the illegal war, it receives less and less press attention.

Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister in April of 2006. Shortly after the Green Zone was nearly breached in a Friday attack, Nouri announced a number of programs. Many of the programs were already in place and he hadn't created them. I know, it's very difficult to imagine Nouri ever grand standing, right?

But one of his rules was an attack on journalists. And, except for the BBC, no news outlet covered what he was proposing. Other outlets, including the New York Times, covered every plank of Nouri's proposals . . . except the one to do with journalism.

Nouri should have understood there would be a loud and public international rebuke. Instead, the message was sent to him that even the press didn't care if he went after the press.

Which is how you get his forces aiming a gun at a New York Times reporter and pulling the trigger -- for a joke, you understand. He set the tone. Things weren't perfect before him. I'm not trying to imply they were. (And the KRG is its own region with its own issues.) But Nouri repeatedly attacked journalists and repeatedly got away with it.

Journalists were harassed. Rules and regulations were repeatedly issued.

He tried to do that with regards to the January 2009 elections and got a push back from the UN and many in the press (including the New York Times) which caused him to drop that list of demands.

But even now, when he's claiming journalists need to be registered for their own safety, there has been very little pushback against him. There should have been a huge push back. Americans should be aware of that. McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi journalists have won many awards.

In October of 2007, they were awarded the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award and McClatchy noted:

In introducing the six McClatchy reporters — Shatha al Awsy, Zaineb Obeid, Huda Ahmed, Ban Adil Sarhan, Alaa Majeed and Sahar Issa — ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff said: "These six Iraqi women have reported the war in Baghdad from inside their hearts. They have watched as the war touched the lives of their neighbors and friends, and then they bore witness as it reached into the lives of each and every one of them.

All 88 journalist murders over the last 10 years are unsolved, putting Iraq at the top of the index for the third year in a row. All but seven cases involve local journalists, the vast majority of whom were targeted by insurgents. The victims include Al-Arabiya television correspondent Atwar Bahjat and crew members Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah, who were shot on assignment outside the Golden Mosque in Samarra in 2006. There is a positive trend: For the first time since the U.S.-led invasion, CPJ documented no work-related murders in Iraq in 2009. (Four journalists were killed in crossfire in 2009.) Nevertheless, with an impunity ranking nearly three times as high as any other country, Iraq has posed unparalleled dangers to the press.

Impunity Index Rating: 2.794 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.983

This climate is encouraged when the message is sent to Nouri that attacks on the press are no big deal.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war

Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh

-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday
, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4390. Tonight? 4392.

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