Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The media: Still selling war on Iraq all these years later

For CBS News, Charlie D'Agata offers a report entitled "Hard times for Christians in ISIS-controlled Iraq" and the only thing of value to be found is that the Saint Hormizd monastery was "carved out of the mountainside" in the Alqosh village and is "one of the oldest symbols of Christianity in the region" ("origins date back to the 7th century").

Why is that factoid the only thing of value?

Because of the way D'Agata approaches the story.

Are Christians in Iraq suffering?

Yes, they are.

And a honest reporter would let you know that suffering didn't begin this year or when the Islamic State took Mosul in 2014.

A large number of Christians were in Mosul -- many of which had moved to Mosul and surrounding areas in the four or five years prior.

Why was that?

Here's a hint: It wasn't the Islamic State.

Forever thug and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's second term (2010 through 2014) was especially hard for the Iraqi people including Christians who were attacked non-stop.

In March of 2013, when few were even aware of the Islamic State, The Economist noted, "The lot of Iraq’s Christian population is particularly glum. Though a steady trickle had been leaving for decades, the exodus became a flood after the American invasion in 2003, when radical Islamists unleashed a sectarian onslaught against Shia Muslims, Christians and others. The ferocity of attacks such as the one against the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad in 2010, which left at least 58 Christians dead, speeded the departure of many more. In the past decade as many as two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5m Christians are thought to have emigrated."

The attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was brutal.  From the November 1, 2010 snapshot:

Yesterday in Baghdad, Iraqi forces swarmed Our Lady of Salvation Church where people were being held hostage by assailants.  Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report, "The bulk of the bloodletting happened shortly after 9 p.m. when Iraqi Special Operations troops stormed Our Lady of Salvation church in the upscale Karradah neighborhood to try and free worshipers who had been taken hostage. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy's Miami Herald) reports, "Insurgents seized control of a church in central Baghdad on Sunday, taking hostages during evening mass after attacking a checkpoint at the Baghdad Stock Exchange." Graham Fitzgerald (Sky News) observes, "Apparently no attempt was made to negotiate with them and bring the siege to a peaceful conclusion." John Leland (New York Times) quotes police officer Hussain Nahidh stating, "It's a horrible scene. More than 50 people were killed. The suicide vests were filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. You can see human flesh everywhere. Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to hospitals without legs and hands."  Lara Jakes (AP) reportsNed Parker and Jaber Zeki (Los Angeles Times via Sacremento Bee) add, "The Iraqi police immediately sealed off the surrounding area in the busy Karada commercial district. The American military was called in to help. As U.S. Army helicopters buzzed overheads, American officers accompanied Iraqi commanders and shared satellite imagery, according to Iraqi police and the U.S. military. A caller to the Baghdad satellite channel Baghdadiya, who insisted he was one of the attackers, said the group was demanding the release of al-Qaida prisoners in Egypt and threatened to execute the hostages if the authorities failed to meet their demands." there were 120 hostages in the church. 

Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) reports, "The siege began when militants wearing suicide vests and armed with grenades took an entire congregation hostage. Some 120 people were held in the church for at least four hours." Today the Telegraph of London explains (link has text and video) the death toll has risen to 52. BBC News offers a photo essay of the siege.  Lewis Smith (Independent of London) quotes hostage Marzina Matti Yalda, "As we went outside the hall to see what was happening, gunmen stormed the main gates and they started to shoot at us. Many people fell down, including a priest, while some of us ran inside and took shelter in a locked room as we waited for the security forces to arrive." The Telegraph of London quotes a young male hostage (unnamed) stating of the hostage takers, "They entered the church with their weapons, wearing military uniforms. They came into the prayer hall, and immediately killed the priest." Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds, "The priest they call Father Rafael is believed to have survived, but his colleague, Father Wissam, is believed to have been killed." Jim Muir (BBC News) offers a video report and an Iraqi female hostage states, "Gunmen entered the church and started to beat people. Some of the people were released but others were wounded and some died and one of the priests was killed." Muir points out that churches in Iraq have been attacked before "but there's never been anything like this."
Jonathan Adams (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The incident, which began Sunday afternoon, highlights the continued threat to Christians in Iraq, whose number has shrunk from 800,000 to 550,000 since 2003 as members have fled abroad or been killed. Radical groups continue to launch attacks on religious and non-religious sites as political leaders struggle to form a new government some eight months after controversial elections."   Alsumaria TV quotes France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stating, "France firmly condemns this terrorist action, the latest in a deadly campaign of targeted violence which has already led to more than 40 deaths among the Christians of Iraq. France repeats its attachment to the respect of fundamental liberties such as religious freedom and supports the Iraqi authorities in their struggle against terrorism." Vatican Radio quotes Pope Benedict XVI stating, "Last night, in a very serious attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, dozens of people were killed and wounded, including two priests and a group of faithful gathered for Sunday Mass. I pray for the victims of this senseless violence, all the more ferocious as it affected defenceless civilians." Vatican Radio also reports:

"No-where is safe anymore, not even the House of God", says auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, Shlemon Warduni, the day after an unprecedented attack on the Christian community of the Iraqi capital. Together with Patriarch Delly he visited survivors and wounded of the Sunday massacre, in which over 50 hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics held hostage by al Qaeda-linked gunmen. Between 70 and 80 people were seriously wounded, many of them women and children.

Ammon News reports that Jordan's King Abdullah II cabled Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, and "expressed his sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the Iraqi President over the victims of the attack and wished the injured a speedy recovery." The Daily Star notes, "Lebanese Muslim and Christian figures condemned Monday the killing of hostage parishoners at the Karda church in Iraq the previous day. Clerics and political parties slammed the deadly violence during a hostage rescue mission in Karada in Baghad Sundy, when at least 52 people were killed as US and Iraqi forces stormed a Catholic church to free dozens of hostages."

Iraqi Christians had been fleeing before the attack and by that point they already made up a significant number of Iraq's refugees who've left the country.  In addition, many of those who have stayed have left their homes and moved to northern Iraq (the Kurdistan Regional Government) in an attempt to find safety.

That's a reality that D'Agata and CBS News do not reference or acknowledge in their report.

Iraqi Christians have suffered because of the illegal war.  They've yet to be decimated to the degrees that Iraq's Jewish population has but that comparison would be as false a comparison as the ones the media used throughout Nouri's second term to ignore the mounting violence (western 'reporters' would insist  "It's not as bad as in 2006 and 2007 . . .")  In March of 2013, Anugrah Kumar (Christian Post) reports:

Iraq had 300 churches and 1.4 million Christians in 2003, but now only 57 churches and about half a million Christians remain with members of the minority fleeing Islamist attacks, according to local reports.



Again, this happened before anyone was noting the Islamic State.

None of this is to suggest that the Islamic State is not anti-Christians or that it is not persecuting Christians.

It is to point out that CBS News and most other western outlets showed little to no concern when the prime minister of Iraq was encouraging Shi'ite militias to attack minorities (and, in cases like the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community, Nouri was actually using his own forces to attack the Iraqi people).

They were fine with that, wallowing in their self-satisfied silence.

But these days they are outraged by the treatment of Iraqi Christians.

Just like they're outraged, now, when Iraqi women are raped by the Islamic State.

Under Nouri, Sunni women and girls in jails and prisons were beaten and raped in what can only be described -- because it was so widespread and so well known (even before Parliament investigated it and found the rumors accurate) -- as governmental policy.

CBS News and other western outlets were not interested in that.

In fact, AFP's most 'serious' coverage of that story was when Nouri did a for-show 'release' of a handful of women prisoners -- none of whom, as the Arabic press reported (but AFP ignored) ever made back to their family homes.  They were paraded out before cameras for a few hours and then they disappeared -- either killed or thrown back in jail and prison.

But that photo op was what passed for coverage.

Again, none of this is to justify the actions of the Islamic State.

But it is to note that you should be asking yourself why the same crimes -- and these are crimes -- are now outrageous to the US press when these same crimes, carried out by Nouri's government, resulted in no significant coverage let alone objection or outrage?

Why does that happen?

Couldn't have anything to do with efforts to sell a war, could it?

Efforts to justify greater war on Iraq?

That would just be crazy talk, right?

Certainly, the media has never taken part in an effort to sell the Iraq War, right?

Look at 2002 when all they offered was one strong voice after another demanding peace and, in early 2003, when they all rushed to slam Colin Powell for lying to the United Nations and --

What's that?

They silenced voices of peace in 2002?

They applauded Colin's lies?

Yes, they did.

And they used lies and fear to sell war.

And Charlie D'Agata and CBS News are still doing it.

Sadly, they are far from alone.

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