Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The violence and the forgotten and/or overlooked

Last week, I had lunch with seven Iraqi journalists, who teach journalism at universities in Iraq, at a table in the Gerlinger Lounge at Eugene's University of Oregon.
Some of those at the table had risked their lives for a public service we in the United States, both journalists and their audiences, take largely for granted.
The professors had traveled from Iraq to Oregon as part of a project by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and journalism scholars, including Peter Laufer and James Wallace, chairman of the UO School of Journalism and Communication, to develop a model curriculum for journalism schools at postsecondary institutions in Iraq. The visitors met with journalism professors at UO during the week and took tours of The Oregonian in Portland and The Register-Guard in Eugene to learn about U.S. journalism practices.
Hundreds of Iraqi journalists have died on the front lines of reporting on the news in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003, yet they don't get the same press in the Western media as when a Western journalist is killed.
Sihaam Al-Shegeri, media consultant for the Journalism Freedom Observatory in Baghdad and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said through a translator that more than 300 Iraqi journalists had died on the front lines of reporting the news in Iraq. Twenty-six of those were women, said Al-Shegeri, the only woman in the group of seven Iraqi journalists.

The above is from Paris Ache's "Journalists in Iraq put their lives on the line" (Mail Tribune). You know what might even be sadder than the deaths -- and the deaths are tragic? Failure to note the dying. Wejdan Assad died January 20th. And I thought this morning we could note her again because the snapshot on the 20th included only basic details. But surely, I wrongly thought, that would be different today. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, she hasn't died. According to them, only two journalists have died this year -- one in Tunisia and one Pakistan:

2 Journalists Killed in 2011/Motive Confirmed

Terminology explained

Lucas Mebrouk Dolega, European Pressphoto Agency

January 17, 2011, in Tunis, Tunisia

Wali Khan Babar, Geo TV

January 13, 2011, in Karachi, Pakistan

Just two? Because the 20th snapshot included:

Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports that 2 of the dead were police officers and the third was female Iraqi journalist "Wejdan Assad al-Juburi, [who] had been a reporter for the Iraq al-Mustaqal (Independent Iraq) newspaper.)" AFP adds, "A total of 255 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to the Baghdad-based Journalism Freedoms Observatory."

I'm sorry, did Wejdan Assad al-Juburi come back to life? Reporters Without Borders also hasn't made time to note her death or include her in their count.

Last night Hari Sreenivsan (PBS' NewsHour, link has text, audio and video) noted, "At least 26 people died in Iraq today when twin car bombs targeted Shiite pilgrims south of Baghdad. The blasts occurred just outside Karbala, where annual religious rituals were being held. Some 75 people were wounded. A recent surge in violence has claimed the lives of more than 170 people in Iraq in just the last week." In this morning's New York Times, John Leland adds, "American and Iraqi security forces have regularly reported discovering collaborations between former Baathists and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni extremist group, though the two groups are radically different in their orientations and goals. Recently Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, second in command of American forces in Iraq, said he had seen little evidence of such collaboration, though some Baathists might work for Al Qaeda for money."

Last last Friday Tony Blair testified to the Iraq Inquiry. Patrick Cockburn (at Belfast Telegraph) shares these thoughts on Blair:

But, in truth, the war that he started has yet to finish. The wounds inflicted on Iraqis since the invasion of 2003, coming on top of the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war and sanctions, will take decades to heal.
The main impression I got from both Mr Blair's evidence to the inquiry last year and his autobiography was his extraordinary ignorance of Iraq.
Even more damning than what he did before the war was Mr Blair's failure to learn much about the country after the invasion.

DD Guttenplan (Middle East Online) offers:

It has often been said, and with considerable justice, that the Iraq Inquiry panel is far too deferential in the way it treats its witnesses. Of the four members of the panel, only Sir Roderic Lyne, a veteran career diplomat, ever comes close to asking a probing question -- and even he seems hampered by an overwhelming fear of appearing impolite. (Though for connoisseurs of the inquiry his remark today that "what is not clear is at what point you were actually asking the cabinet to take decisions" is a masterpiece of understated disdain.)

However it was Sir Martin Gilbert, a distinguished historian but no one's idea of a grand inquisitor, who asked the $64,000 question: "Can you tell us at what point you took the decision to join the United States is using force?" He could, but he wouldn't. However, if the tone of the questions is any indication, the Inquiry may have already arrived at an answer -- and the indications are that history is not going to be very kind to Tony Blair.

And though it rarely seems to register, Tony Blair is of 'the left.' His wife, in fact, and this is well after the start of the Iraq War, was treated as a trusted voice on humanitarian rights by Amy Goodman in an interview which can only be described as "fawning." From Chris Hedges' "Where Liberals Go to Feel Good" (Information Clearing House):

We are now in Act IV, the one where the liberal class postures like the cowardly policemen in "The Pirates of Penzance." Liberals promise battle. They talk of glory and honor. They vow not to abandon their core liberal values. They rouse themselves, like the terrified policemen who have no intention of fighting the pirates, with the bugle call of "Tarantara!" This scene is the most painful to watch. It is a window into how hollow, vacuous and powerless liberals and liberal institutions including labor, the liberal church, the press, the arts, universities and the Democratic Party have become. They fight for nothing. They stand for nothing. And at a moment when we desperately need citizens and institutions willing to stand up against corporate forces for the core liberal values, values that make a democracy possible, we get the ridiculous chatter and noise of the liberal class.

The moral outrage of the liberal class, a specialty of MSNBC, groups such as Progressives for Obama and MoveOn.org, is built around the absurd language of personal narrative-as if Barack Obama ever wanted to or could defy the interests of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase or General Electric. The liberal class refuses to directly confront the dead hand of corporate power that is rapidly transforming America into a brutal feudal state. To name this power, to admit that it has a death grip on our political process, our systems of information, our artistic and religious expression, our education, and has successfully emasculated popular movements, including labor, is to admit that the only weapons we have left are acts of civil disobedience. And civil disobedience is difficult, uncomfortable and lonely. It requires us to step outside the formal systems of power and trust in acts that are marginal, often unrecognized and have no hope of immediate success.

The liberal class' solution to the bleak political landscape is the conference. This, along with letters and cries of outrage circulated on the Internet, is its preferred form of expression. Conferences, whether organized by Left Forum, Rabbi Michael Lerner's Tikkun or figures such as Ted Glick-who is touting a plan to lure progressives, including members of the Democratic Party, into something he calls a "third force"-are where liberals go to feel good about themselves again. These conferences are not fundamentally about change. They are designed to elevate self-appointed liberal apologists who seek to become advisers and courtiers within the Democratic Party. The conferences produce resolutions no one reads. They build networks no one uses. But with each conference liberals get to do what they do best-applaud their own moral probity. They make passionate appeals to work within systems, such as electoral politics, that have been gamed by the corporate state. And the result is to spur well-meaning people toward useless and ultimately self-defeating activity.

Chris Hedges most recent book is Death of the Liberal Class. We'll close with this from World Can't Wait's "Bush, Now Obama: 'Anti-War Protests are a Form of Terrorism':"

In September 2008, activists in Minneapolis/St. Paul preparing peaceful protests against the GOP’s National Convention are pre-emptively arrested by the FBI and charged as terrorists.

In June 2009, the DoD is caught red-handed instructing all of its personnel that any legal, non-violent protests are “low-level terrorism.”
In April 2010 the NY Times and Washington Post report that Obama has ordered the assassination of US citizens he considers terrorists. In addition, despite his pre-election declarations that he would restore habeas corpus, since taking office Obama has said that even if someone is found not guilty of any charges, he will hold them without end if he deems it necessary.

On September 24, 2010 the FBI raids several homes and two offices of anti-war activists in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and N. Carolina, looking for evidence that these individuals have “lent material support to terrorists.”

On December 19, 2010
Vice-President Joe Biden on Meet the Press calls Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a “high tech terrorist” for releasing government documents that show that our government has been systematically lying to us, committing war crimes, and consistently violating the law.

If this were happening in any other country, US officials would be besides themselves about the violation of human rights and civil liberties. Yet they are silent as this criminalization of protest proceeds more and more pervasively, aggressively, and outrageously here at home.

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