Monday, February 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, Nouri apologizes publicly to one of the many journalists targeted by Iraqi forces, Noam Chomsky gets asked about US withdrawal, Ayad Allawi tapes a video supporting the protesters, and more.
Over the weekend, protesting continued in Iraq as it did on Friday's Day Of Rage. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported that protests continued Saturday with Samarra protesters defying a "curfew to attend the funerals of two people killed during protests" on Friday and that Iraqi forces opened fire on the protesters/mourners leaving eight injured while Basra also saw a funeral for a protester killed on Friday. On Sunday, BNO News reports, protests continued in Iraq with 27 protesters left wounded in Amara City by Iraqi forces. Today, at Baghdad's Tahrir Square, Alsumaria TV reports Iraqis turned out to demonstrate again. Saturday, Wael Grace and Adam Youssef (Al Mada) reported the disturbing news that after Friday's Baghdad demonstration, four journalists who had been reporting on the protests were eating lunch when Iraqi security forces rushed into the restaurant and arrested them with eye witnesses noting that they brutal attacked the journalists inside the restaurant, cursing the journalists as they beat them with their rifle handles. One of the journalists was Hossam Serail who says that they left Tahrir Square with colleagues including journalists, writers intellectuals, filmmakers. They went into the restaurant where the Iraqi military barged in, beat and kicked them, hit them in the face and head with the handles of their rifles, cursed the press and journalists, put him the trunk of a Hummer. This is Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq -- the Iraq the US forces prop up at the command of the Barack Obama. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) added that the journalists stated "they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit" and quotes Hossam Serail (spelled Hussam al-Ssairi) stating, "It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists. Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."
Security forces prohibited cameras from entering Baghdad's Tahrir Square, where there were thousands of people protesting, according to news reports and local journalists. Police confiscated tapes that reporters managed to shoot in the square, according to Al-Jazeera.
[. . .]
Anti-riot forces also raided the offices of Al-Diyar satellite TV station in Baghdad and detained 10 of its staff members for three hours, according to Al-Diyar's website. In the afternoon, anti-riot police stormed the office for a second time, prohibited the staff from entering the building, and detained at least three more employees.
Niyaz Abdulla, a correspondent for Radio Nawa and a volunteer for Metro Center, a local press freedom group, was assaulted today while covering demonstrations in Erbil. "I was on the air when a plainclothes security officer came and started threatening me," she told CPJ. The officer threatened to call over men to attack her, alluding to a potential sexual assault. "I stayed calm but it was very disturbing," Abdulla said. She added that two of her colleagues had their cameras confiscated while they were covering the demonstration.
In Karbala, anti-riot forces attacked Afaq and Al-Salam satellite channels crews, according to news reports. "They were beaten and cursed at while they were covering the march in Karbala," Jihad Jaafar, a correspondent for Afaq channel told Noun news website. He added that the tapes of the crews were confiscated.
In addition, CPJ's Deputy Director Robert Mahoney is quoted stating, "We are particularly disturbed that a democratically elected government such as that of Iraq would attempt to quash coverage of political protests. We call on Baghdad to honor its commitments to respect media freedom."
Over the weekend, a number of journalists were detained during and after their coverage of the mass demonstrations that took place in central Baghdad's al-Tahrir Square. Simone Vecchiator (International Press Institute) notes:
During a news conference held on Sunday, four journalists -- Hussam Saraie of Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper, Ali Abdul Sada of the Al-Mada daily, Ali al-Mussawi of Sabah newspaper and Hadi al-Mehdi of Demozee radio -- reported being handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened by security forces. They also claimed they were held in custody for nine hours and forced to sign a document, the contents of which were not revealed to them.
Aswat al Iraq news agency reported that the journalists will file a court case against the executive authority in response to the alleged violations of their civil rights.
This episode is the latest in a series of repressive measures adopted by security forces in order to stifle media reports about the current political and social unrest.
Meanwhile Nasiriyah reports that Maj Gen Qassim Atta, the spokesperson for Baghdad Operations Command is insisting he has no idea about targeting of the media, specifically four journalists being arrested on Friday, and insists there will be an investigation. He's calling on witnesses to come forward . . . so they can be disappeared? This morning Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition) reported on the attacks on journalists and focused on Hadi Al Mahdi whose "leg is really swollen" and who was one of the four noted above stopped Friday afternoon while "eating lunch with other journalists when soldiers pulled up, blindfolded them, and whisked them away. Mahdi was beaten in the leg, eyes, and head. A solider tried to get him to admit he was being paid to topple the regime."
Hadi Al Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.
At a press conference in Baghdad today, AFP reports, Nouri was confronted by Wissam Ojji (Turkman Eli TV) over the fact that Iraqi soldiers beat him and broke his video camera while he was attempting to report on the Baghdad protests. Nouri is quoted tating, "We will compensate you for your camera and for the poor treatment that you received. We are sorry for what happened and if you can indentify to us who carried it out, we will punish the guilty, provided that you had not acted provocatively."
Dear President Barzani,
In a report released on 3 November, Reporters Without Borders said there was more press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan than in surrounding regions and that the situation had improved considerably in the past 10 years. However we would now like to share with you our deep concern about the deterioration in the situation of journalists in your autonomous region since 17 February.
During the past 10 days, our organization has registered many physical attacks by the security forces on journalists covering the current demonstrations. Many journalists have also told us that they have received explicit death threats. Please find enclosed a list of these incidents, which is not exhaustive.
As president of the autonomous regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, Reporters Without Borders urges you to do everything in your power to end these media freedom violations and to ensure that the safety of all journalists is guaranteed. We would also like these incidents to be investigated, especially the arson attack on the privately-owned TV station NRT on 20 February.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to our request.
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general
Friday on Free Speech Radio, George Lavender reported, "Protests gained momentum late last week when militia forces for the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party fired on demonstrators who were calling for increased freedom, jobs and an end to political corruption. Three people died. Protests have since spread across Kurdistan, and authorities have responded with increased military force and by arresting large numbers of people. [. . .] Today thousands gathered in Sulaymaniyah's Freedom Square. Those present said demonstrations will continue until their demands are met. George Lavender, FSRN."
The protests have been witnessed and, many would argue, felt. Al Rafidayn reports that Salman Nasser Hamidi, Governor of Babylon Province (more commonly called Babil Province by most outlets), became the third governor to resign in the last three days as a result of the protests. Like the other two who have resigned, Hamidi was a member of the State Of Law slate. State Of Law is Nouri's political slate and Alsumaria TV notes that demonstrators on Friday in Baghdad, when confronted by security forces, began calling for the resignation of Nouri.
In an attempt to circumvent the rage, Al Rafidayn reports Nouri held an emergency meeting with his Cabinet Sunday insisting that they had 100 days to produce results on the corruption issue or, Nouri swears, he's firing. Really? It's nearly ninety days since November 25th when Nouri officially became prime minister-designate. He was supposed to have 30 days to announce a Cabinet. All this time later, he's still not named a full cabinet. And you really think he's going to fire many people? Honestly? New Sabbah reports on Nouri's announcement and notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for provinicial elections to be held early to address concerns. Dar Addustour adds that al-Nujaifi pledged to investigate the efforts to suppress the demonstrations, to torture protesters and to prevent journalists from covering the events and he pledged to investigate the violence in Mosul. He also declared the ban on live satellite coverage would be lifted. He decried those who fired guns at the protesters and who used excessive force on them and on journalists and he condemned the arrest of journalists. Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) reminds that "al-Nujaifi is a member of the opposition, and it would also be two years early to replace provincial councils. Anger from anti-government protesters is being mainly directed at local officials, for primarily corruption, lack of services and high unemployment." Alice Fordham (Foreign Policy) observes:
At this point, as with last-minute concessions made by other Arab leaders, it may be too little too late. It's true that the past few years have brought a measure of stability and democracy to Iraq that was sorely lacking before. Last year, more than 60 percent of the electorate risked terrorist attacks to participate in parliamentary elections, which were declared free and fair by international monitors.
But what came next made their bravery seem futile. Iraq's politicians took more than eight months to build a ruling coalition. During this undignified ethnosectarian tussle, the country's shoddy services and security improved not one bit. Maliki was eventually renominated as prime minister despite the fact that his bloc did not win the most seats in the election.
The main purpose of the demonstrations that took place in many Iraqi cities in Feb 25 was to give the Iraqi officials an idea about the bad reality that we live eight years after what was called liberation. After the collapse of the former regime in 2003, Iraqis were so optimistic about future. We thought that collapsing Saddam's regime was the end of suffering, deprivation but it looks that Iraq moved from the dictatorship of one party to the dictatorship of a group of parties. Both Baath Party and the current Iraqi parties care only about their interests neglecting Iraqis completely. During Saddam's regime, high positions were only for the regime's supporters and now the same thing happen. If you are not a member of the ruling parties or a friend of one of the officials, you can forget about having a decent job even if you have the highest level of education. Professionalism is not the basic criterion in Iraq. It had been ignored more than three decades ago. The basic criterion now days is (which party are you from? )or sometimes (how much money you can pay to get the position?)
The Economist sounds a similar note, "When demonstrations began in Tunisia, ministers said Iraq was immune to such unrest because it was already a democracy. They may have underestimated Iraqi anger about their government. As one old man in Tahrir Square said, 'we did vote for them, but they're gangsters'." Sunshine (Live Strong) shares:
The greatest thing is , people's intension is not to make coias or destroy , we're not like the politicians, the people are caring roses and green branches, and shouting "peace" … as well as other great sentences that made me realize we still have heroes..
Now I am listening to people's demands in freedom and jobs, and also hearing their stories that made my heart ache, a woman said 7 years ago the police took her 18 years old son, and she didn't see them since that time, and she's hoping this revolution will settle the justice and innocent people will get out of jail .. and another women said she didn't get her retired salary for 4 years, she worked for 22 years , and now she deserve a good life ..
Another pleasing thing is, people prayed "Freday's prayer" together in Al Tahreer in baghdad , Sunnis and Shiites together and they shouted " we're brothers Sunnis and Shiites and we're not going to sell this country ", the same thing happened in Sulaymania when Kurds and Arabs prayed together ..
Abbas Hawazin (Catharsis) adds, "There is no hope of supporting this dictatorship-cum-democracy in the hope that there is a spirit of reform inherent to itself and which shall manifest itself any day soon. The course of conduct it has employed in approaching these demonstrations was EXACTLY like the one all the surrounding tyrannies employed: anxiety borne out of a deep-seated uncertainty in its own legitimacy, the too-late scramble to make promises, the questioning of the protests' background and intentions using old bogey-men, and turning on electricity for an entire day (a classic Saddam move) not to mention the concrete blocks, raids and arrests by 'unknown' governmental forces, and the fatwas made by that most decadent and disgusting of institutions which opposes true determination of individuals of their own destiny. I am SOLIDLY against this government now." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera -- link is video) reported on the Friday demonstrations and one Iraqi women, Yanar Mohammad, explained, "If we can cross the bridge, if we can reach the Green Zone and tell them it's not their's anymore, it's for the people -- This was the dream. And we are still hoping to make it through."
Ben van Heuvelen (The Atlantic) details some of what the protesters were up against, "Over the past few days, plainclothed special ops units bearing the characteristics of the so-called "dirty brigades" -- secret security forces reporting to the prime minister -- have ransacked the offices of protest organizers and NGOs. (Prime Minister Maliki, on the other hand, has cautioned that agents provocateurs might pose as police.) On Thursday afternoon, Maliki gave a televised speech warning that Friday's protests would be infiltrated by Baathists and al-Qaida. That night, the Baghdad Operation Command, which coordinates security in the province, announced it had evidence of terrorist threats. On Friday, the police imposed a vehicle curfew banning all cars, motorcycles, and even bicycles from the roads. If you wanted to go to Tahrir, not only did you have to brave the threat of terrorism, you also had to walk."
Saturday, Ayad Allawi posted this video expressing his support for the protesters, noting they have the legal right to protest, calling for the demands of the protesters to be respected and decrying the lack of a feeling/belief that a democratic body represents Iraqis. He is not calling the government undemocratic in the video, he is saying it does not feel democratic. He is very careful in his wording and one reason may be because the government might 'feel' more democratic to him if Nouri al-Maliki followed up on the promise that he would be appointed president of the National Council for the Strategic Policies. Today AK News reports, "A spokesman for the al-Iraqiya List led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said on Monday that it is seeking to apply time limits to the implementation of the agreements signed by the political blocs in Erbil prior to the formation of the current government." Though he attempted to stop Friday's protests on Wednesday (after praising them on Sunday, Feb. 20th), Al Rafidayn reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared Saturday that "serious steps" need to be taken to address the demands of the protesters. Khaled Frahan (Reuters) added al-Sistani called for reform to be fast-tracked. Also attempting to derail the protests was Moqtada al-Sadr who returned to Iraq last week. Now Moqtada can speak apparently. Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Sadr urged Al Maliki not to disregard his responsibilities and to put forth immediate solutions. In a statement read out by Sadr Front senior official Hazem al Aaraji, cleric Sayyed Moqtada al Sadr affirmed that the present situation in Iraq is the responsibility of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki since he is at the top of the government."
There are many groups organizing protests (and there are calls for a major protest this Friday). At the Iraqi Revolution Facebook page, the following demands are listed:
The Iraqi Revolution
For this we revolve...
The following are some of our demands:
FIRST: We demand to take our homeland back
We had been occupied by a great power without an international permission, this power had adopted excuses that its leaders' them selves confessed that they had been deceived by them, so why are their forces still on our land then..?
It has been eight years since our country became under occupation, during that time we have lost all that our ancestors had built, and we have become living in our homeland with no homeland!.. so what are we waiting for?
Many had died from our generation in order to free this country; hundreds of thousands of our generation had been detained aggressively and unjustly, we will continue with our protests until our brothers in prisons are freed by the will of God and until we take back our homeland.
SECOND: We demand to overthrow the system
This system was imposed on us, we did not choose this system, and it was found on the basis of sectarianism and racism that serves an agenda of foreign powers and does not serve us, we do not want those basis, for it brought us scourges and because of it, parties that do not represent us had appeared on the field, parties that had never thought of our suffering not even for one day, but, they were only seeking gains that boosts their own existence and seeking what makes their members wealthier, to secure their future in isolation from our interests, us the children of the homeland, so under which right a system like this is imposed up on us? This system that we dislike and it have no place among our perception.
We want a system that is Just, which would be found on the basis of citizenship which ensures equality, justice and equal opportunity between the children of the one homeland without religious, racial and/ or sectarian discrimination.
THIRD: We demand services to be provided
We live in a wealthy country, but, we are poor! People of the land of the two rivers can not find drinkable water! The people of the land of oil complain from the lack of gas and kerosene! And the rise of the prices for both!! The numbers of our patients is by the hundreds of thousands because of the war and its woes, and we have no valid hospitals to receive them! Many of our doctors had been murdered; many of them had been displaced. Electricity is almost non-existent despite the announcement of spending 17 billion dollars in order to upgrade the power plants. The buildings in the heart of Baghdad are ruins, the public roads are rugged and in the provinces the situation is much worse and bitterer, as for the residents of the counties and districts, their living conditions became closer to the living conditions of the unknowns of Africa!.
FOURTH: We demand Job opportunities
We are lost between the clutches of leadership of the poles of the political process!! All are after achieving their own goals at the expense of the youth, which had been puzzled over the previous period, not knowing what to do!! We have the ability to develop the country, and we have academic degrees, we have competencies, but, we have no job opportunities, we are living a bitter unemployment situation, some of our youth had started to hang them selves, others burn them selves due to despair and frustration. The highest positions are monopolized by the parties leaderships' and their relatives even if they had no academic degrees that qualifies them for the position, other job opportunities are reserved for the members and loyalists of the parties even if they were unqualified, as for the Iraqi people they have no hope in getting any jobs, if the parties petty the Iraqi people they give them what is left of the crumbs, which would only happen after bribing them or giving up a salary of a whole year and putting it between their hands as a form of gift!!
Any citizen that lives under a government has the right to have a roof over his head, and doesn't have to live with their families due to poverty – as the situation is now – people live in the open fields with no homes or in tin houses or in cemeteries! The right to have an appropriate income in order to live comfortably without the need to extend their hand for anyone begging for food or clothing for their children, The right to live in a sense of security that protects them, their property and honor of their family, so the night visitors and the organized crime gangs can not assault them. The right to have a secured future for their children so they won't be lost in the streets or get conscripted by the various shapes of gangs, The right to have a health system that protects them and their families, so their child won't die between their hands because of the lack of medicine or their wife dies giving birth to a child because of the non-existence of medical care. The right to have the freedom that ensures the right of safe movement, travel, trade, freedom of speech, gathering with groups and other activities under a Just law. The right of education that meets the needs, capabilities and job opportunities that stands on the basis of the concept (the right man in the right position), so that a citizen will not be prevented from an opportunity because of their religion, doctrine, race, political views, or because they can not afford a bribery in order to get a job!!.
All our demands were not present under those corrupt governments, despite the fact that our country floats on a sea of petroleum, and God has given it wealth that no other country has.
We demand job opportunities and who ever is incapable of meeting our demands shall leave.
FIFTH: We demand to end the corruption and trial the corrupt individuals
Corruption has reached a limit that makes the noses sneeze, under the consecutive governments since the beginning of the occupation to our land, approximately 400 billion dollars were spent on Iraq, it is an amount of funds that is enough to rebuild Iraq twice to make it the best model and bring wealth to all its citizens young and old without exception, but, where did all this money go?? It went to the pockets of the corrupt. And who are the corrupt?? They are the main staff of the government, from ministers and parties' leaderships, gang members and militias that the prime minister refuses to open their corruption files to look in to them or to investigate.
In all countries, corruption is practiced secretly, but, in Iraq it is practiced in public! And the latest corruption deal was the disappearance of 45 billion dollars from the development funds, the answer that is heard from officials regarding the question (Where did the money go?) Is with all simplicity: We do not know!!
The corruption files must be revealed, the corrupt individuals must be trialed, and the people must get their stolen funds back, and we will not stop our protests until we see corruption seized from existence in our facilities and corrupt sitting in the depths of prisons.
WE WILL NOT ACCEPT PROMISES AFTER TODAY
- We are fed up with political bids, we are fed up with honeyed promises, we are fed up with prosthetic decisions that some officials use to throw dust in the eyes of the people.
- Empty promises will not satisfy the hungry, and the cheap bids will not put clothes on the naked, and the shinny slogans will not quench the thirst of liver behooves.
- Silence is no longer a choice for any of us, so we will no be silenced after today…
-So how long will the Iraqis be divided into two classes, one that eats the beef, and the other eats the leaf!!
- And how long will a group of people receive multiple salaries, each salary covers a whole tribe, and the other people can't get a single penny from the wealth of their homeland!!
- And how long will a group will receive warmth from the fire caused by the process of burning the public funds while others are dying because of the cold at the night of winter!!
- And how long will some enjoy the iced water in the heat of summer time while the others quench their thirst with the sewage water!!
AS GOD IS OUR WITNESS.. WE WILL NEVER BE SILENCED
We saw it with Yemen, and now we're seeing it again with Iraq: The Obama administration is conspicuously quiet when friendly Middle East regimes use ugly tactics -- including violence and imprisoning peaceful demonstrators -- to quell growing protest movements in their countries.
That's in marked contrast to the administration's tough stand when similar tactics are employed by unfriendly governments like the one in Iran. In a statement yesterday, the White House "strongly condemn[ed] the Iranian government's organized intimidation campaign and arrests of political figures, human rights defenders, political activists, student leaders, journalists and bloggers."
But in one of the least-noticed stories of the week, the U.S.-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq has resorted to imprisoning 300 journalists, intellectuals and lawyers in order to stop ongoing protests, according to a well-reported Washington Post dispatch from Baghdad.
Bombs weren't silent in Iraq today. Nasiriyah reports that a bombing targeted a convoy of US forces in Nasiriyah. Alsumaria TV adds that a Baghdad bombing targeted a liquor store and another one "targeted the house of Imam Abu Ghraib mosque Salah Al Ubaidi in Al Zaytoun Street in Abu Ghraib District killing his son, a police source told Alsumaria news." Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded one person, another Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people and a Baghdad sticky bombing injured too.
Saturday Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported that Iraq's largest refinery, in the city of Baiji, was attacked by unknown assailants leaving 1 engineer and 4 security guards dead. Alana Semuels (Los Angeles Times) added that it is one of three refineries in Iraq and that assailants utilized a bomb. Jack Healy (New York Times) notesdthat they set off bombs after storming the refinery and that, "Oil Ministry officials were just beginning to investigate the extent of the damage on Saturday, and the acting manager of the refinery said he feared it would take months to repair the pipelines, cables, furnaces and other equipment damaged by the explosions and fires." AP explained, "The refinery processes about 150,000 barrels of oil per day." Dar Addustour reported the assailants used guns with silencers and that an official says 4 engineers were killed and three guards were wounded. Today Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report that Ministry of Oil spokesperson Asim Jihad declared today that the refinery will be back in production by next week and that, in the meantime, they will increase the production at the refinery in Ash Shaabiya. Also today, Liam Denning (Wall St. Journal) offers some analysis, "First, it seems just two gunmen temporarily shut down the refinery. Baiji should be better prepared: It was Iraq's No. 1 target for insurgent attacks in the first five years after the U.S. invasion, according to Peter Zeihan at Stratfor, a global intelligence firm. This feeds into the second reason: Iraq's latent production. Right now, Iraq produces about 2.7 million barrels a day, or just 3% of global supply. but its growth potential is enormous. The International Energy Agency puts Iraq second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of increased oil output by 2035, with Iraq producing another 4.3 million barrels a day by then."
NA: In our previous interview, by email, you made a great comment: that the Americans "did not invade Iraq in order to withdraw." Do you now think they are going to completely withdraw from Iraq and leave the country like this?
CHOMSKY: Well, we don't know. There is a commitment to withdraw, but there is a long distance between commitments and actions. So for example, take the status of the military bases that the US has been building throughout Iraq. Well, there is very little information about them, but, as far as anyone can determine, they are still being built. What is called the "embassy" in Baghdad is a city, basically, within a city. There is no embassy like it in the world, and it has not been built in order to be abandoned. It's actually increasing in size under Obama. So I think the Americans are just feeling their way to see how much control they can maintain -- how much of a position they can maintain within Iraq. It is worth remembering that the Iraqi invasion was a serious defeat for the United States. The United States had pretty definite war aims. They weren't stated clearly in the beginning -- because, you know, it's not nice to state them – but, as the US had to back down step by step and abandon its aims, they were finally stated quite clearly. So by 2007 and 2008, the Bush administration came out with official pronouncements about what it intended and what its minimum objectives were. They included, stated in January 2008, an agreement which would allow the US to have a major military base in Iraq to be able to carry out combative operations in Iraq, and to have arrangements with the Iraqi government that would privilege US corporations in oil exploration. That was January 2008. Within a few months, Washington had to abandon those aims in the face of Iraqi nationalist resistance. In fact, if anyone was the victor of the Iraq war, it was probably Iran.
At the start of last week, British Iraq War veteran Danny Fitzsimons was supposed to learn the verdict in his case. Instead he remained imprisoned awaiting the news. It came today and he's been found guilty. Danny served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq in the fall of 2009 as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9, 2009 Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. The Manchester Evening News reported last week, "Danny Fitzsimons could be hanged if found guilty of double murder at an Iraqi hearing tomorrow. His father, Eric, of Whitworth, and younger brother Michael are to visit him in prison in Baghdad before the verdict is delivered." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that Danny's been sentenced to life in prison -- in Iraq. His father and step-mother had hoped that, if convicted, Danny could serve in a British prison. Terri Judd (Independent) did a profile on Danny and his family before they learned the verdict:
What is not open for debate is that the case is an inflammatory one – the first westerner to go on trial since the start of the war in Iraq. It happened just months after security firms -- who had poured into the country in the post-conflict confusion -- lost immunity. For the Iraqis, it was an opportunity to clamp down on the guards, despised by many particularly since a group of American contractors from Blackwater opened fire on civilians in 2007, killing 14 and wounding 20.
G4S, a company with a £7bn turnover in 2009 and competing for multi-million dollar contracts in Iraq, swiftly sacked Fitzsimons but insisted it was observing its duty of care by providing him with meals and contributing towards his legal costs.
The Fitzsimons family, who are from Manchester, did not even know Danny had flown out to Baghdad, and the matter has been a desperate fight to try to get him brought back to face justice in Britain. They remain adamant that he had such severe mental health problems that he should never have been employed by ArmorGroup.
Tafeeq notes, "Salam Abdulkarim, who represents the families of the victims, said Fitzsimons had committed an ugly crime and according to Iraqi law, he should get the most extreme punishment." The Manchester Evening News quotes Danny's Iraq attorney Tariq Harb stating, "This is a very good sentence. I saved him from the gallows." And the paper adds, "Fitzsimons now has 30 days to appeal, which Mr Harb said he would do. Last week, Fitzsimons' British lawyer John Tripple said the family and British authorities were trying to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to have Fitzsimons transferred to a British prison if he was not given the death penalty." Terri Judd (Indpendent) reports Danny's family is afraid he will take his own life as a result of the sentence, noting that he had been saying repeatedly he could not "end up in Rusafa jail."
Dropping back to the US War Criminals who sold the illegal war (as opposed to the ones who continue it today), Colin The Blot Powell is the subject of Daniel R. Cobb's Digital Journal column about Powell's claim to have been fooled, "Now, for Powell to be outraged that he was lied to, that he was hoodwinked, and that world's most well-funded and most capable intelligence agencies, the CIA and DIA, were somehow taken in by one man and a pile of fabrications, is truly pathetic. If this story represents the best the CIA and DIA can offer, then we are in deep trouble. In my humble opinion, Colin Powell, you are either unbelievably naïve, or you're a liar." He's a liar. And the Guardian worked overtime recently trying to salvage and excuse Powell (and to justify even more wars for the UK). As noted February 16th:
If you had any confusion yesterday about how the Guardian was whoring to rewrite history, maybe the above will clue you in. It's from Michael White's "Curveball's confession: another dent in the Iraq conspiracy theory" (Guardian) in which the shrieking White wants you to know that his beloved Tones is innocenct and so must George W. Bush be. In this country, there was outrage that the media wouldn't pick up on the Downing Street Memos. And, possibly because there's a lot of whoring on our left in this country, never in that outrage did your 'brave' 'leaders' point out that the Guardian was refusing to report on the Downing Street Memos. They whored for Tony. They ignored the story consistently. The Guardian is New Labour. As is Tony. It was the Murdoch owned Times of London that broke the story on the Downing Street Memos (which revealed that war was the goal and going to happen long before the public had an inkling). It broke repeated stories on it.
[. . .]
The revisionary history that White's promoting -- and the Guardian's encouraging, they've never even considered firing the lying asshole despite his long history of lies in print -- is that Curveball tricked everyone! See! And it's a conspiracy to claim otherwise! That's what we were calling out in yesterday's snapshot because it was the 'reporting' that laid the groundwork for the b.s. spewing out of White's mouth today. For example, White whines that England left Iraq too soon and pins the blame for that everywhere, including: "I suppose I could interpolate the thought too that the anti-war movement's pressure for withdrawal and for delegitimising the invasion also contributed to the desire to scuttle, and emboldened the suicide bombers and sectarians."
It was just a mistake. A liar gave them info that sounded so good. It fit their preconceived notions and they were foolishly swept away.
But Curveball was known to be a liar and the Los Angeles Times was able to refute Collie Powell's testimony in real time. Michael White's revisionary lies depend upon people forgetting or not knowing a great deal. It wasn't a rush to believe that led the US government to steal from a student's paper and pass it off as 'intel,' after all.
So how did the Guardian, a bastion of liberal journalism, present its exclusive on the most controversial episode in recent American foreign policy?
Here is its headline: "How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam".
Did the headline-writer misunderstand the story as written by the paper's reporters? No, the headline neatly encapsulated its message. In the text, we are told Powell's presentation to the UN "revealed that the Bush administration's hawkish decisionmakers had swallowed" Curveball's account. At another point, we are told Janabi "pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence". And that: "His critics -- who are many and powerful -- say the cost of his deception is too difficult to estimate."
In other words, the Guardian assumed, despite all the evidence uncovered in its own research, that Curveball misled the Bush administration into making a disastrous miscalculation. On this view, the White House was the real victim of Curveball's lies, not the Iraqi people -- more than a million of whom are dead as a result of the invasion, according to the best available figures, and four million of whom have been forced into exile.
There is nothing exceptional about this example. I chose it because it relates to an event of continuing and momentous significance.
Unfortunately, there is something depressingly familiar about this kind of reporting, even in the West's main liberal publications. Contrary to its avowed aim, mainstream journalism invariably diminishes the impact of new events when they threaten powerful elites.
At Foreign Policy Journal, Kevin Ryan wonders when the lying began and notes:
An obvious question that many people ask is: Why is this war and occupation still going on when the world knows that it was based entirely on lies? The unspoken answer is that it is good for business. During the Obama Administration, 211 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and Obama has no intention of stopping the war. Obama has ramped up the war in Afghanistan and was rewarded for it with the Nobel Peace Prize. Casualties in Afghanistan are growing, with 500 dead Americans in that war just last year. And there are substantial business reasons for continuing the bloodshed.
The less obvious but perhaps more important question that should occur to people is: When did the lying begin? That is, if our political leaders were willing to tell and repeat unabashed lies despite the knowledge that those lies would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, what would they not do? What similar lies have they told in the past to achieve their goals and would our own understanding change dramatically if we knew the truth?
Before someone e-mails, "Don't you know who Kevin Ryan is!!!" Yes, I do. He's someone pursuing truth. Not a crime. His website is here. I'm not involved in his movement but I have no quarrel with it and wish them all the best. Some who do have quarrels with it are noted in the latest post of Louis Proyect (The Unrepentant Marxist): "I have found the term 'anti-anti' useful over the years. I first heard it in Lillian Hellman's memoir 'Scoundrel Time' when she referred to the anti-anti-fascist left. It also pretty much describes people like Marc Cooper, David Corn and Michael Bérubé who wrote article after article red-baiting the anti-war movement while including pro forma statements from time to time about how wicked the invasion of Iraq was. As anti-anti-war activists, there was not much to distinguish them from all-out supporters of the war like Christopher Hitchens." The listed do a lot of scorning but do they do a damn thing about the Iraq War? When did any of them last call out the ongoing illegal war? And while we're talking about those who helped the illegal war along and Colin Powell, let's note this from Eric Ruder (US Socialist Worker) at the end of 2008:
Carl Davidson, a leading figure within UFPJ, has written a document attacking the left for, in his view, getting the 2008 election "dead wrong." He accuses socialists of adding "fuel to the fascists' fires" by pointing out that Obama's election would not be sufficient to end the war, and by refusing to take Davidson's advice to abandon their independence and fold into the Obama campaign.
This approach is nothing new for Davidson. In 2001, Davidson advocated a "tactical alliance" with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell versus the neo-conservative hawks in the Bush administration--because, Davidson claimed, Powell advocated a "'narrow-the-target' focus on al-Qaeda and has worked to build a broad coalition of support."
But, of course, Powell didn't disagree with the Bush administration's overall war strategy, simply the timing and methods. It's precisely this strategy of looking to hostile political figures as allies that has put the antiwar and other progressive movements in their current position of weakness.
The conclusion of Davidson's current document is that UFPJ should pursue the marginalization, defeat and expulsion of those left forces he attacks for failing to see things his way. "It's not that we are demanding a split," writes Davidson. "The split has already taken place over the past two years, in real life and in actual politics."
But not once does Davidson acknowledge the elephant in the room--Obama's new responsibility for the war in Iraq, his embrace of the war in Afghanistan, and the political questions that flow from this. Nor does he seem at all concerned about the poisonous atmosphere that will be created by attempting to exclude antiwar forces that disagree with him.