Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The media circus leaves town or Iraq at any rate

Yesterday at least 3 people were killed in Iraq and over 20 injured, the bulk of the incidents taking place in Baghdad. Were it a US city would it dominate the news? (Turn on your TV if you have any doubts as to the answer.) Such is the 'normalization' of violence in Iraq and the cheapness of our US media (other than CNN, find a broadcaster who has even one reporter stationed in Iraq) that it doesn't even register on domestic radar. Iraq got a little bump in US media attention last week and that goes to the problems with the media system. The bump had to do with Moqtada al-Sadr's return and with a number of reporters making asses out of themselves. Some of the copy approached purple prose levels. But even worse is that the copy did not mean a renewed interest in Iraq -- as the walk-away this week has demonstrated. What last week testified to was the immaturity of the press in dealing with war and other nations. If they can pin it down to one person, if they can glom on one individual, they can 'cover' Iraq. If the topic becomes more complex than "X went here and crowds cheered," it's too much of a strain for them. That says a great deal about our media system, about the training in this country for journalists and about our country's future -- and none of it is good.

Iraq and Kuwait have a long history, to put it mildly. Kuwait is owed reparations which Iraq, under Nouri al-Maliki, has repeatedly attempted to ignore and has consistently appealed/whined to the United Nations' Security Council that the payment of those monies for war crimes against Kuwait places too much of a burden on the 'new Iraq.' While Iraq seems to have complicated relationships with all of the neighbors along its borders, a new conflict with Kuwait has flared up this week. From yesterday's snapshot:

Yesterday Iraq and Kuwait were once again at odds. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that the incidnet involved an Iraqi fishing boat and Kuwait's Coast Guard, that the two exchanged fire and 1 Kuwaiti Coast Guard was killed. BBC News notes that Iraq's government maintains that 3 of their fisherman were injured and four are missing. The Kuwait Times includes that "HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to the family of [Lance Corporal Abdelrahman] Al-Wadi. The Amir lauded the virtues of the martyr and the great sacrifice he made in defending his country. He also expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of the martyr and prayed to Allah Almighty to bliss the deceased with mercy. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent similar cables." John Leland and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) observe, "The Iraqi and Kuwaiti authorities offered different accounts of the clash." Arab Times offers this account: "The boat refused to stop when ordered by the guards, leaving no option but the use of force and the Iraqi sailors returned fire. Sources disclosed that after the Iraqis were chased down, a senior officer ordered the martyred officer unto the Iraqi boat to conduct a search of the Iraqis as a precautionary measure. He said the Iraqis who were eight in number got hold of the officer, beat him and injured his head, forcing the senior officer to call for reinforcements from the air and navel forces. The boat was sunk after heavy shooting that ensued." AFP quotes Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating the two countries need to work together to provide security and that Iraq is investigating the incident.

CNN reports that Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, is due to meet with Nouri and his officials today in Baghad and CNN reminds:

Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, which started as an air assault on Iraq and Kuwait by international forces. It was a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990.
The Persian Gulf War left behind heavy environmental damage in Kuwait. Days vanished into nights, black rain fell from the sky and lakes of oil as deep as six feet emerged.
Saddam also poured 10 million barrels of oil into the sea. Thousands of birds perished, and the people of the Persian Gulf started suffering from new diseases.

Hurriyet Daily News adds, "Iraq still pays five percent of revenues from its oil sales into a reparations fund for Kuwait, which is demanding that Baghdad pay another $22 billion. Kuwait has received about $13 billion in reparations. Kuwait also demands that Iraq return property stolen during the occupation and explain the fate of hundreds of missing Kuwaitis."

In other news of meet-ups, RTE News reports that the three-day conference in Copenhangan of religious leaders -- including Iraqi Muslims and Christians -- has kicked off today and, while the conference takes place behind closed doors, there's expected to be a press conference on Friday. AFP reminds, "The emergency summit at a heavily guarded Copenhagen hotel comes on the heels of a string of attacks on Christians in Iraq, as well as in neighbouring countries." While the participants working in Iraq are supposed to be anonymous to protect them, as usual Andrew White can't stop seeking publicity and has already issued a statement to AFP. White, for those late to the party, was most infamous for testifying that there were no Jews left in Iraq when, in fact, there were. And when an ISP reporter questioned him about the claims he made in his testimony, White flew into a rage and claimed that he was told his (public) testimony would be off the record. A rare instance where White did not seek publicity.

Jill Dougherty (CNN) reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her diplomatic tour in the Gulf and quotes her insisting, "There's a government in Iraq that's embraced by the Iraqi people. The attitude toward that government and Iraq among its Arab neighbors is changing. More and more people are seeking out relationships, seeking out trade agreements, opening embassies."

And in what may be the day's biggest news, War Hawk Tony Blair got a date. BBC News reports the Iraq Inquiry will again take testimony from him on January 21st.

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