Thursday, November 12, 2009

See how they run like pigs from a gun

As a report this week from English Pen and Index on Censorship pointed out, Iraq is not the only country where the courts have been used to stifle press freedom. British libel laws, too, it says, are increasingly being used to "bully people who try to hold them to account". But the case against the Guardian in Iraq is notably alarming. Despite repeated hearings over several months, the paper was not asked to present written evidence or provide statements from the editor or the reporter involved. Compensation was apparently awarded for damage to the Iraqi prime minister, even though he was not a party to the legal action. The Iraqi people were promised freedom after the fall of Saddam. They deserve a free press and fair courts, robust enough to stand up to government.

Above is the concluding paragraph of the Guardian's editorial "Reporting from Iraq: Freedom at risk" and, as a friend at CNN noted of the silence from other outlets (including CNN) on the phone, "It really is 'see how they run like pigs from gun'."

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.

As the Beatles noted ("I Am The Walrus"), I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. It would be good if the press would grasp that. On some level they do and a NYT friend rushed to assure me on the phone that the paper is doing all it can on the issue behind the scenes. To which I responded, "Behind the scenes? What the __ do you think this is? Vietnam and a journalist is facing [US] military pressure? This was a court verdict that needs to be called out." But never fail to be amazed by the insular nature of NYT which always convinces itself of both (a) its own inherent power and (b) its huge (self) importance.

I am he as you are he as your are me and we are all together.

And for those who can't wrap around the depth of John Lennon, we can offer another quote, Benjamin Franklin: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." For the press, it means the same thing.

The Guardian is out there pretty much all alone. No outlet has stepped forward to stand with them. That's disgraceful. And when Nouri's other cases (both pending ones and ones yet to be filed) against news outlets come forward, some of these same outlets are going to want others to stand up for them and stand with them. Why should anyone bother?

When none of them can stand up for the press right now, why should anyone later stand up for the cowards?

It's shameful. I never cease to be amazed by how craven the press has become and I was raised with no illusions about the press. But one thing they did use to know how to do was stand together.

A friend at a paper I won't name notes that they have correspondents in Iraq and making any "waves" would make it more difficult for their correspondents. And making no "waves" makes it easier?

No, it doesn't. Don't kid yourself.

You're emboldening Nouri to continue his attacks on the press and, point of fact, these attacks are now over three years old and part of a long standing pattern. They should have been loudly called out some time ago. When, for example, Nouri's disdain for the press and his attacks on it are so widely known that an Iraqi soldier knows he can get away with pointing a gun at a NYT reporter in an attempt to intimidate, can fake shooting him, and the paper's only response is to pull that reporter out of Iraq, there's a huge problem that goes to cowardice and a desperation for access -- the same sort desperation, please note, that led to some pretty craven behavior by CNN over the years, the sort that led to Eason's now infamous NYT column where he whined for forgiveness for CNN's efforts at covering for Saddam in order to have continued access to Iraq.

And let's note that the bulk of US daily papers do not have correspondents in Iraq and will not. What's their excuse for the silence? What's their excuse for not offering a fire breathing editorial in defense of press freedoms?

There is no excuse.

There is only cowardice.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen (New York Times) interviewed four former Blackwater execs who stated that, in December 2007, approximately one-million dollars was used to bribe officials in Iraq in order to get them to look the other way in the face of Blackwater's continued assaults. Iraq's Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bolani spoke to CNN (link has video as well as text) and stated that his ministry had launched an investigation into the assertion that Iraqi officials took bribes. James Risen (apparently due to the Times' fear of a Nouri-related lawsuit) rushes to print this morning to proclaim, "The Times article reported that former Blackwater executives who learned of the plans said they did not know whether the money was, in fact, delivered to Iraqi officials."

James Glanz and Walter Gibbs (New York Times) contribute a bad article this morning. Peter Galbraith (long called out at this website -- search the archives) finally gets the write up for his help or 'help' which was accompanied by efforts to enrich himself. We've noted the most recent issues already. We're providing a link to the article but there are multiple errors and I'm not going through bit by bit -- (a) I don't have the time and (b) I'm not sure how much is public. I'm pretty sure anyone reading the article will spot at least one big error quickly.

Meanwhile the violence never ends in Iraq. Reuters reports a prison break in Basra with three escaping last night, a Baghdad roadside bombing today injuring three people, a Baghdad car bombing injuring four people, a Balad shooting yesterday which claimed the life of 1 police officer (three more injured) and a Kirkuk shooting yesterday which injured a police officer. Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) reports 2 Sahwa members were shot dead today in Jurf al-Sakhr. Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" (there is also a "Daughters Of Iraq"). The US government paid them to stop attacking the US military and its equipment. Richard Sale (Washington Times) reports today:

A congressional staffer who spoke on condition that he not be named because he was discussing sensitive intelligence said that after the U.S. stopped paying Sunni forces directly in June, it wasn't long before payments to the tribes "simply stopped. You got paid if you were a power in the government, and the tribal leaders were last on [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki's list," the staffer said.
The Iraqi Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Mia notes Ralph Nader's column (Information Clearing House) on ObamasBigBusinessGiveAway:

The House of Representatives debate on the health insurance "reform" is over with the Democrats failing the people and the Republicans disgracing themselves as having left their minds back in the third grade (with apologies to third graders).
House Democrats were determined to pass any bill with a nice sounding name, such as "The Affordable Health Care for America Act". Single payer, full Medicare for all was never on the table even though a majority of citizens, physicians and nurses support that far more efficient, free choice of health care professionals, system.
There are no effective cost containment or prevention measures in the bill. The public option is so weak it will be a receptacle for the sickest of patients among the meager number of people who qualify for its coverage. There are no provisions to reduce the number of people (100,000) who die annually from medical malpractice in hospitals.
Nor is there a major program to reduce the tens of billions of dollars that is stolen yearly out of Medicare from criminals inside and outside the medical profession.

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