Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More assaults on the Iraqi press

Nouri al-Malik's been prime minister long enough (too long) that, if you pay attention, you know all of his limited tricks. One of his favorites is blaming Ba'athists. Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki warned that the present situation in Iraq might reach an irremediable point. Al Maliki cautioned explicitly of those cashing in on people’s suffering to disrupt the political process in upcoming protests." Al Rafidayn also reports on his pronouncement that the Ba'athists are responsible and he's even blaming the deaths of protesters on them. If he didn't have Ba'athists and al Qaeda to blame, what would he do? For five long years we've heard that excuse from him over and over. Instead of worrying about Ba'athists and former Ba'athists -- Nouri sees them everywhere! -- he might try worrying about the push on the Minister of Interior position Dar Addustour's reporting today on the push for Ahmed Chalabi. You'd think someone wanted in Jordan for embezzlement is the last person you'd want in charge of a ministry -- especially at a time when $40 billion dollars has disappeared from the Development Fund for Iraq, especially when the Iraqi people are protesting corruption.

It's really amazing by the way that the push for Chalabi has now been news for two days in the Iraqi press but still hasn't been seen as news in the US. Gee, when Gen Ray Odierno was warning about Chalabi last year, all the US outlets were all over it. Now they're all busy biting their tongue.

And think about those who dismiss the protests that are taking place across Iraq, those two little twerps at the New York Times who don't even go out to the Baghdad protests. They sneer at the protests, compare them to Egypt and find them lacking.

Excuse me? Seriously? Did any outlet not to go to Egypt? How many foreign outlets remain in Iraq today? Egypt had this huge influx of foreign press, meaning the world was watching (and watching and watching . . .). I would assume it would be much easier to protest in such situations. But in Iraq, where the US press long ago 'withdrew'? Iraq? The country betrayed by the US how many times? Are we forgetting the first Gulf War and the lesson taught by 'Rise up, we've got your backs -- uh, actually, we don't. Later!'

Iraq where the governmental war on the press never ends. Maybe someday news of that war will reach smug little boys in the NYT villa? Until it does, at least Dar Addustor reports on the Iraqi military raid of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Baghdad after midnight this morning with the military seizing things including computers and personal items. Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh held a press conference where he declared that Baghdad will ban vehicles on Friday that can broadcast live. There may also be a curfew imposed. In Egypt, the world was watching. In Iraq, the few western reporters that are present include some smug frat boys who think that mocking the Iraqi people is doing their job.

As Nouri continues his attack on journalism, let's note Human Rights Watch issued [PDF format warning] "At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion" -- and let's excerpt from the section on journalism:

Murders, assaults, and threats continue against writers for doing their
jobs. Government officials, political party figures, and militias may all be responsible for the violence, intended to silence some and intimidate the rest. New obstacles to the free exchange of information have emerged in the period since 2007: the rising number of libel suits lodged by government officials against journalists, and increasingly restrictive regulations that constrain their professional activity. Legislation intended to create additional protections for journalists has been stalled for more than a year and is unlikely to move forward any time soon.
Iraq is obligated to respect the right to freedom of expression of all persons under
international law and Iraq’s constitution. However, its national laws and regulations are inconsistent with these obligations. As Human Rights Watch has documented in this report, the Iraqi government can use these laws to revoke or suspend broadcasting licenses and bring charges against individuals.
Two pieces of legislation designed to facilitate the work of journalists are stalled in Iraq’s parliament, the Council of Representatives: the Access to Information Law, which ensures the right of journalists to obtain public information, and the Journalists’ Protection Law, which aims to protect media workers and compensate them for injuries sustained while working. Local press freedom advocates and journalists expressed concerns that the Journalists’ Protection Law should apply broadly and protect all journalists including those
working in new media. The law currently defines “journalist” narrowly as someone who works for an established news outlet and is affiliated with the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate.
[. . .]
Journalists who uncover corruption or criticize senior government officials are at particular risk of abuse.
Two television presenters, famous in Iraq for provocative shows that criticize the government, said they had been beaten by security officials on different occasions over the past two years.151 Human Rights Watch viewed one video filmed by his cameraman in which Iraqi security officials punched one of the presenters and attempted to drag him into a van during a taping on a busy Baghdad street in 2009.
Since the two presenters are well known, security forces on the streets of Baghdad can easily recognize them. In the fall of 2009, they said police detained the pair for allegedly not properly stopping at a Baghdad checkpoint. One officer slapped the passenger on the head and shouted, “You Ba’athist!” Six or seven police dragged them out of the car, kicking and beating them. The police arrested and took them to a police station. Although the police officially charged them with running a checkpoint, the line of questioning during their interrogation was political. An officer spat on one of the journalists and asked them, “Why do you incite uprisings against the government?” and “Why do you glorify Saddam?” The
police dropped the charges and released the pair after their television station intervened.152

In other news, Vatican Radio reports, "The European Union Council on Monday issued a statement denouncing intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief, which specifically condemned acts of violence against Christians and their places of worship." Religious minorities have been targeted throughout the Iraq War. The latest wave of targeting Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "War Machine Rolls On Under Obama" (OpEdNews):

Under President Barack Obama's new budget for fiscal year 2012, the Great American War Machine just rolls on and on. “As it is, we're into sustaining a fighting force that's orders of magnitude larger than anything retained by any other country,” observes Ezra Klein of The Washington Post February 14th. So when Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that major cuts in military spending would be “catastrophic,” Obama settled for chopping $78 billion in cosmetic cuts Gates recommended over the next five years, Klein wrote, adding, “I bet there are more than a few Cabinet secretaries who wish they had that kind of power over the president's recommendations.” Some observers, by the way, think the Pentagon is, in fact, already running the show. Chalmers Johnson wrote in “Blowback”(Metropolitan/Owl) that the Pentagon is “close to being beyond civilian control; that it “more or less sets its own agenda” and that it “monopolizes the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy.”

So in FY 2012 the Pentagon will just have to struggle along with $719 billion while the president calls for a five-year freeze on “non-security” discretionary spending such as---in the words of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich---”programs the poor and working class depend on---assistance with home heating, community services, college loans, and the like.” Mr. Obama will get a lot of help from the GOP, which, of course, will not rein in spending for unjust wars but in a fit of what AFL-CIO's Manny Herrmann calls “budget insanity” plans to chop up Head Start, Pell Grants, food and job safety inspections, eliminate “hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs,” cut investment in infrastructure, and even cut the money needed “to send out Social Security checks.” Herrmann might have added Obama also seeks to slash nearly half the Federal funds to help low-income families heat their homes.

Don't take my word for the fact the warfare budget is bloated. The New York Times editorialized February 15th, “If anything, Mr. Obama could safely have proposed cutting (the military budget) deeper, as suggested by his own bipartisan deficit panel.” It added, “The bill for the military is way too high, above cold-war peak levels, when this country had a superpower adversary. There's a point where the next military spending dollar does not make our society more secure, and it's a point we long ago passed.” As the War Resisters League pointed out two years ago, U.S. military spending, plus funds for our nuclear bombs, “is equal to the military spending of the next 15 countries combined.”

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