Thursday, October 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, WikiLeaks continues to be in the news, the call for an investigation into abuse and torture grows, the political stalemate continues and more.
Late Friday, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to. Calls are coming in from officials in many countries for an investigation -- including from the UK, Norway and Israel -- and from the United Nations High Commissoner for Human Rights and the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture. Russia's RIA Novsoti reports, "Moscow has called on Washington to hold an investigation into mass human rights violations committed by U.S. servicemen during the military campaign in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said on Thursday."
Robert Fisk: First of all, the individual items like, you know, there are witnesses, American witnesses to torture, they didn't do anything, that the Iraqis -- security authorities were torturing Iraqis, that American air strikes were killing many civilians. We knew about this, but it was always denied by the Americans. I was doing stories years ago about Iraqis torturing Iraqis and the stories were coming from American officers who were leaking them to me. But of course every time I wrote them in the paper, the Americans denied that it was true. I went to the scenes of US air strikes. They were obviously limbs, hands, arms of children, babies, women, civilians, as well sometimes as armed men, and we wrote about this. What the WikiLeaks does is it proves beyond any doubt that what we reported was correct and that what we were told by the American authorities was mendacious, it was a lie. Just remember, the Americans now are saying, "Shame upon WikiLeaks. It's endangering lives in Iraq." I mean, invading Iraq endangered an awful lot of lives, didn't it? But, you know, if these leaks, if these 400,000 documents had confirmed that the Americans did stop torture, that they didn't kill civilians and air strikes, you know, US generals' be hadning this stuff out free of charge to journalists on the front steps of the Pentagon. It's the fact that it proves how shameful our invasion and occupation of Iraq was that this has come as such a blow to the United States -- and only, I might add, to the West. You know, the reaction in the Arab world, when they looked through all stuff in the Arabic language press, particularly in Baghdad, was, "Well, so what's new? We knew all this. We were the people being tortured. We were the people being bombed by the Americans." It's in the West that we're saying, "My goodness! Is that the case? So the generals lied." That's the big signifance at this particular point of this. One bigger significance, I think -- and it was Al Jazeera who actually picked this up -- was that this famous 242 message, which tells US troops from higher headquarters, presumably Ricardo Sanchez when he was a general in Baghdad, which syas, "If you see abuse taking place, not by Americans, report it, but basically, just do nothing."
In the US, media coverage has tended to fall into two camps "no big deal" and non-existant. For so-called 'independent' media, it has pretty much been non-existant. Danny Schechter -- at ZNet, Canadian media -- examines US MSM coverage and finds it lacking. But readers may find it lacking that, in Danny's criticism, no one appears to do anything. We never get the names of the ones called out. CNN does a crappy interview and we're not told who with CNN did the interview. We noted her Sunday: TV personality Atika Shubert disgraced herself but don't look for CNN to discipline her, she did what government officials wanted, attacked Julian Assange and turned a supposed interview about WikiLeaks into a smear against his person with unfounded rumors. There's no whore like a corporate whore. Danny Shea (Huffington Post) has video of the character attack here. Katherina-Marie Yancy (AP) notes the WikiLeaks documents demonstrate that the body count was far higher than the US government admitted to -- the documents, remember, are US military documents. That would mean, to say what the AP won't, the US government lied. [. . .] Atika Shubert could have addressed that, instead she wanted to go smutty, she wanted to go whory. It won't be forgotten. News Whore Atika was too damn lazy to do the work required for a real character assassination. Not only is she a whore, she's a damn lazy whore. If someone's denied charges (that were dropped), you either get the records or you get the witnesses. That's how you do a character assassination. But apparently whores are very limited in the number of tricks they can be taught. Atika Shubert just destroyed her image today. There will be no rebuilding of it. She will not be trusted by large numbers of the public. CNN will have to use her 'sparingly'. Not because they doubt she'll whore for them, she so obviously will. But she's now a known whore. We've all seen her whoring. She can't play journalist now and be believed by many. Danny's far too kind to call her a media whore but he still could name her. Danny calls out a story in the New York Times which . . . apparently wrote itself? The bylines Danny fails to provide: John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya. A CJR piece he calls out is easier to understand (the lack of billing) because it has multiple authors; however, the section Danny's calling out was written by Lauren Kirchner and a lot more from that article needs to be called out. Is CJR receiving government funds or taking in government embeds? That's especially a required question when we're dealing with someone (Joel Meares) whoring for I-Hate-Iran Michael Gordon. The report cannot accurately assert, as Gordo and Andrew W. Lehren claim, where kidnapped victims were kidnapped unless they witnessed the kidnapping. That's a basic of journalism and CJR should have caught that. Instead they joined Gordo in his War On Iran by presenting a claim as fact -- and they can't back it up.
And if we're going to criticize CJR (I know three with CJR, I've never shied from criticizing it and they've never shied from hurling zingers back this way) and specifically that piece, let's criticize for their MASSIVE FAILURE. That piece ends how? The last section is a British news channel being evaluated. Justin Peters writes that section and ends it -- and the piece -- with this statement: "We'll be watching for the station's full program on Monday." Well, --
Did Channel 4 air it?
Or -- did they go off the air?
Because Monday came and went and where was CJR? In fact on Thursday, we still don't have a press coverage package as promised. Where is it? Go through Campaign Desk (yes, they're using that whorish name again after retiring it in 2004) and you'll never find it. Now their inattention to the Iraq War is appalling. However, in this case, it's appalling that they can't even deliver what they promise at their own site. No one forced them to write that they would catch Channel 4. They said they would. Why are they unable to keep their word and why should we believe them if they can't keep it? (They will argue this Joel Meares blog post -- in praise of that hideous article written by Burnsie & Snowball attacking Julian Assange -- and this Clint Hendler piece calling out the Washington Post editorial board cover it. No, that's not what was promised. On Monday, we were led to believe that they would address the coverage. Instead, they napped all week basically but managed to toss out two tiny blog posts.)
Danny's article is at ZNet where you can also find this listing:
Look in vain at US 'independent media' because our publications can't be bothered. Not The Progressive, not In These Times, not The Nation. Elaine wrote Tuesday:
Matthew Rothschild wants to maintain -- in his minute long radio spot -- that the WikiLeaks revelations reveal "just how immoral the Iraq War has been." First, I don't use "moral" or "immoral." I'll use "ethical" and "criminal" as terms but I'm not part of the morality police. Second, if Rothschild thinks it's "immoral," here's what twice as "immoral" the refusal of him and everyone at his magazine to write a damn thing on the WikiLeaks. He's the one tossing around "immoral." So why can't he write about it? Why can't he have everyone write about it, everyone at the magazine? That would tear away from The Progressive's efforts to turn out the vote for the Democratic Party in next Tuesday's elections. I'm sick of The Whoring of America and sick of The Progressive and The Nation dropping the ball over and over because they're too damn busy whoring for the Democratic Party.
Elaine's absolutely right. I don't use the "immoral" term either. For the same reasons as Elaine. But if you're going to use it, if you're going to judge in that way and deem something or someone "immoral," you really need to explore the topic for more than fifty seconds or you are the one who will appear "immoral" for refusing to address a subject you pretend to take so damn seriously. Matthew's added another audio commentary. If you put them both together, you almost have two minutes -- minus bumper music -- of coverage of WikiLeaks. That's supposed to cut it? Although, to his credit, Matthew's not wearing garish make up including lipstick that's about 15 years (I'm being kind) too young for him. For that, you have to check out The Nation's website -- or as most refer to it, "Katrina's Bulletin Board." Katrina, marrying your professor may make you feel like the eternal student but you are not, however, still 21. When it comes to appearances, she's quickly becoming the Ayn Rand of the left. At The Nation, you will find a piece by Laura Flanders that has "WikiLeaks" in the title and tosses out the term a few times in the article and led a friend at the magazine to call yesterday evening wanting a quote in the snapshot. But, as it was read to me -- one potential pull-quote after another -- it became obvious the piece is not, in fact, about WikiLeaks. We addressed that this morning and we'll again note: You can't read her today without grasping how consumed with disappointment and envy she is. And maybe that's what whoring brings? She's still whoring. Laura our supposedly pro-choice Socialist is praising anti-choice Tim Kaine as "savvy" in her so-called WikiLeaks column. There's no ass she won't kiss. Meanwhile In These Times is apparently gunning for an "outstanding civilians" award from the Pentagon. How else to explain that WikiLeaks' revelations have never been written about at the site? James Weinstein is groaning from the grave but, hey, they might win a Publications Improvements award from DoD!
Apparently the bulk of Panhandle Media doesn't read anything heavier than (Democratic Party) campaign pamphlets. If that is indeed the problem, please adopt-an-independent-media 'reporter' long enough to read them the following from IPA:
The British Telegraph reports: "An American military legal adviser told helicopter crew that Iraqi men were valid targets as they could not surrender to aircraft, the documents show.
"The Apache helicopter killed the two insurgents after being told that they were still legitimate targets even though they were offering to lay down their arms.
"It is thought that the aircraft, Crazyhorse 18, was the same helicopter involved in the killing of two Reuters journalists later in the war."
Stieber said today: "We've been trying even before the initial WikiLeaks video came out to say that this kind of behavior is not out of the ordinary. The fact that the helicopter unit got the go-ahead to kill Iraqis attempting to surrender shows that it's policy."
RAED JARRAR The Guardian reports: "U.S. and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities."
Jarrar, recently back from Iraq, is an Iraqi-American blogger, political analyst and architect. He was in Iraq during the 2003 invasion where he established and directed the first door-to-door civilian casualties survey in Iraq. He said today: "These documents provide us with candid snapshots of what foreign military occupations look like where Iraqis are killed, injured and tortured. Contrary to the spin many are attempting to put on the disclosure, the take-away point is not that the U.S. just stood there while Iraqis harmed other Iraqis, but that this military occupation has been brutal and destructive, and that it must end now."
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Brian Lehrer: Is the most important new thing the numbes of dead from the war which seems to be higher than previously reported.
Simon Rogers: I think it's the fact that we suddenly have all this incredible detail on the huge numbers of people who died and how they died and what happened? within the limitations of this enormous data base because big as it is it's not complete.
IT is not a leak but a deluge. This is how the release of 391,832 classified intelligence documents on the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, last week, on America's war in Iraq looked like. The information dump is the biggest of its kind in history. It will take many months for researchers and investigative journalists to sift through this and successive releases in order to piece together missing clues on what exactly happened in Iraq since the US-Anglo invasion of 2003. But the revelations have been stunning concerning the actual civilian death toll, cover-ups of torture in Iraqi prisons, Iran's sinister role in arming Shiite militias, the transgressions of private contractors, the implication of incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki in running death squads and inflaming sectarian violence, among others. The implications will be far-fetched and will last for many years to come. It is no wonder that the Pentagon and the State Department have denounced the release of this information as they did in previous cases. Their allegation that making such information public will endanger American lives and help the insurgents is preposterous. If anything the WikiLeaks war diaries will become the foundation for future investigations into one of the most controversial, unjustified and unethical wars in modern times. The revelations do only deal with what was actually taking place in Iraq at the height of the war, but bring to light distortions and lies concerning American motives, military conduct, political cover-ups, flawed administration policies, corruption and others. The wealth of information of day-to-day observations and actions in the field by US military officers will make the Iraq War along with the ongoing one in Afghanistan one of the most documented military adventures in history. The wars are not seen through the eyes of embedded reporters, investigative journalists and future historians, but through hundreds of thousands of written communications produced by combatants in the battlefield. Never before has the big picture been so available through the reconstruction of minute details. The saying that truth is the first casualty of war aptly applies to Iraq. Public opinion and world governments have been led astray by US politicians who lied, fabricated facts and amplified fears about Iraq's alleged WMD capabilities.
Iraq's media continues to probe two key themes from the WikiLeaks disclosures. Newspapers and television networks have focused heavily on the claim that prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, directed a counter-terrorism unit answerable only to him, which targeted predominantly Sunni areas. They have also examined disclosures that the numbers of civilian deaths throughout the eight-year war are 15,000 higher than previously stated.
The Iraqi News Network was typical of the tone: "The WikiLeaks documents revealed very important secrets," it said. "But the most painful among them are not those that focus on the occupier, but those that reveal what the Iraqi forces, Iraqi government and politicians did against their citizens. Those leaders who returned to remove Iraq from oppression toppled the dictator but then carried out acts that were worse than Saddam himself.
"If these documents make the US apologise to Iraqis, they should compel Mr Maliki to leave the political arena altogether and apologise to everyone."
The revelations have led to an uncomfortable week for Maliki, who has been battling to cobble together a coalition government that would allow him to lead the country for a second term. Members of Maliki's coalition have taken to the airwaves in an attempt to defuse fears that the leaked documents would make it harder for him to win cross-sectarian support.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty-one days and still counting.
Sunday Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reported that Nouri insisted the release of the documents was politically motivated in an attempt to undercut him -- it's been a while since Nouri's trotted his vast paranoia across the world stage but longterm observers will remember it. Spencer noted that "part of the success he has claimed in bringing down the level of violence since he came to power has rested on his projection of a 'strongman' image. He has fought militias, including the Sadrists to whom he is now allied, and formed special security units to target suspected insurgents." Iraqiya points to the documents of proof that Nouri is a despot and Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun al-Damluji is quoted stating, "Maliki wants to have all powers in his hands. Putting all the security powers in the hands of one person who is the general commander of the armed forces has led to these abuses and torture practices in Iraqi prisons." Iraqiya is calling for an investigation. On Sunday's Weekend Edition (NPR, link has text and audio), Kelly McEvers reported, "The documents also detail wrongdoing by units that claimed they were directly connected to current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. During the sectarian fighting the gripped Iraq from 2006 to 2008, it was widely believed that death squads sponsored by Maliki's Shiite-dominated government carried out killings against Sunnis. In a statement Maliki's office said there's nothing wrong with maintaining special counterterrorism forces, and the documents don't prove anything."
Maher Chmayteli and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) reported that Allawi is calling out the "oil and natural gas development contracts" Nouri has handed out on the grounds that Nouri's cabinet is outgoing and that, therefore, the contracts are illegal. Nouri's term expired some time ago. He's not supposed to be running anything. The US refused to allow the UN to set up a caretaker government while the election issues were resolved which is why Nouri's remained in his post. Not only is his term up, so is his cabinet. He doesn't even have a full cabinet at present and, in fact, the posts of Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Electricity -- two posts -- are being filled by one person -- without the approval of Parliament which also isn't supposed to take place. All cabinet posts are supposed to be approved by Parliament. Iraqiys presents numerous reasons for the contracts being illegal including Nouri signing off on them "with no reference to current laws such as Law 97 of 1967, which requires the consent of the Iraqi Parliament in the absence of a Federal Oil and Gas Law."Reuters adds, "Some lawmakers say the contracts all need to be approved by parliament, a view opposed by the oil ministry." But it forgets to weigh in on who's right? According to the Constitution, Parliament's approval is needed.
First, the article's author Jack Healy says that Aziz was "sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on Tuesday, convicted of crimes against members of rival Shiite political parties." Now to me this sounds like Healy is indicating that Aziz is himself Shia. He's not. He's Chaldean Christian. Alternately, Healy could be saying that Aziz was sentenced for crimes against various Shiite groups who are now at odds with each other. However, this too is false. Aziz was sentenced to death for crimes against members of only one Shiite group, Maliki's Dawa party.
And therein lies the story that the Times does not tell. Maliki himself along with most of the Dawa leadership fled to Iran in 1979. The following year about six months before the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war, Dawa party members tried to assassinate Aziz. 1980 was also the year in which Maliki was sentenced in absentia to death by the Saddam regime. Maliki has scores to settle and he is settling them.
Unrelated except it's also Corrente, Libbyliberal has a piece on Ethan McCord sharing what he experienced in Iraq. Today Iraq continued to experience violence with Reuters reporting a Basra sticky bombing injuring one person, a Baghdad sticky bombing claiming the life of a police officer, a second Baghdad sticky bombing injuring a police brigadier general, a third Baghad sticky bombing which injured an employee of the Ministry of Housing and Construction, a Mosul suicide car bomber who took his own life as well as that of 1 police officer and left eight more people injured and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad bombing which claimed 1 life and left two more people injured.
To be sure, the parallels should not be overstated. Anderson's documents totaled just a fraction of the tens of thousands of records posted on the Internet by WikiLeaks, whose Web site instantly makes its files available to anyone on the globe with the click of a mouse. In addition, Anderson was a seasoned reporter who took more care to disguise the identities of informants and to gather valuable corroborating information from interviews in the field.
Still, pioneers like Anderson and Assange are rarely respected in their own time by their establishment competitors. Just as the founder of WikiLeaks has been dismissed as a hacker/activist, so Anderson was "not a journalist," another columnist declared back in the day, but "a sewer pipe" whose reporting "goes beyond disloyalty; it sails close to the windward edge of treason." Such contempt was reciprocated by Anderson and Assange, who disparaged the press as mere stenographers for those in power.