Sunday, August 13, 2006

Editorial: Forgetting Iraq when it can't afford to be forgotten

Yesterday morning brought the news from AP that the fatality count for US troops serving in Iraq had reached 2600. 2600 dead. Do you remember when 500 felt like too many? 1,000? 2000? By the time 2500 rolled around in June, it didn't even rate a headline on the front page of The New York Times. On June 15th, the Pentagon announced the American troops fatality count had hit 2500. On August 12th, the fatality number had jumped another hundred. Who's going to pay attention? (Not the morning's New York Times.)

The coverage of Iraq has dropped off so much you'd be forgiven for thinking nothing had happened there recently. The coverage is so bad that some wakeup calls seem necessary.
Jimmy Breslin offer one last week with "In Case We All Forgot, Americans Are Still Dying in Iraq." A powerful piece but one whose message wasn't received to judge by the coverage.

Iraq, in case you forgot, is the war the US administration started via lies. It's the war that still has American troops on the ground. It's the war that's claiming an estimated (by the United Nations) 100 lives a day. A war in which, we were infamously told, there would be no body count taken of Iraq civilians. Of course Nancy A. Youssef blew that lie out of the water in June -- right around the time big media and indymedia lost interest in Iraq. The US has been keeping a body count, for a little over a year now. How many Iraqis have died according to that count? They government doesn't want to tell you and, thanks to the failure of media big and small, they're not feeling any heat for their silence.

They're not feeling any heat for anything.

Bully Boy should be on the run, as Isaiah's comic suggests. But for that to happen, people would have to be paying attention.

There's no indication that the media is paying attention. The non-coverage from some and bad coverage from others on Abeer (press alias appears to be "a fourteen-year-old girl") demonstrated how uninterested the press was in covering this story -- or at least in covering this story while Israel decides to Bully-Up.

And it wasn't just Abeer. There were many other examples of stories left by the wayside.
On Friday, Ricky Clousing turned himself in. Clousing went AWOL shortly after returning from Iraq. When he held his news conference, that did garner a bit of attention. But as this story was covered, it only drove home the point that Ehren Watada and his Article 32 hearing (which begins Thursday) have been ignored -- ignored at a time when Watada can't afford silence. War reister Carl Webb attended the same Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle last week that Cousing did. Webb appears to have gotten some good news -- the military, according to a recent letter, is going to release him from the service. Webb credits the publicity from magazines, programs and other indymedia for keeping his case alive and nudging the military towards the decision they reached. We'd agree with that 100%

And we need to turn to someone else at the Seattle peace conference to see that reality. Cindy Sheehan who has been on a Troops Home Fast, had traveled to Jordan to meet with Iraqi parmiament members to discuss peace, and reopened Camp Casey III got coverage -- from the mainstream media. There was no time for Cindy Sheehan. Attention was elsewhere even as the Bully Boy cut short his own vacation in what many see as an attempt to avoid encountering Cindy Sheehan. Cindy has the Bully Boy on the run, and there was no time to spare for coverage.

The focus wasn't on Iraqis. Not on Abeer nor on any of the 1,855 corpses Baghad's central morgue handled for July alone. A poll from CNN last week found that "[s]ixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, the highest number since polling on the subject began with the commencement of the war in March 2003."

The inroads that could be made with prolonged to cover the peace movement vanished as indymedia decided you could only follow one incident at a time. Everything that wasn't an armed attack by Israel or the victims of an armed attack by Israel got crowded off the page, crowded off the screen.

That's no way to end a war.

Cindy Sheehan got mainstream media attention, just no indy support. That hurts everyone. That hurts the news consumer and the activst. It's also a lousy way to say, "Thanks for restarting the peace movement last year, Cindy!" Sheehan's done as much as one person can, so much so that she's ended up in the hospital (in Seattle on Thursday, in Waco on Friday). From the AP:

Peace mom Cindy Sheehan spent the night in a hospital for a gynecological procedure and treatment of dehydration but said Saturday that wouldn't stop her protest against the Iraq war on land she bought near President Bush's Crawford ranch.

And Sheehan's response to these hospital stays, it's not going to stop her. She's not stopping. Are you?

Sheehan was part of the coalition that met with Iraqis in Jordan this month. Tom Hayden's "Iraq Is Dying" writes about the meeting (which was reduced to an indy headline if it was covered at all) and offers these conclusions:

Despite all its complexity, the Iraq debate now heating up in American politics should favor opponents of the war. The White House's insistence on "staying the course" sounds bankrupt given the daily news from Iraq. Antiwar candidates, alongside the peace movement, can offer a defensible alternative, as the interviews in Amman show, including:
1. A declaration by the United States of its intention to withdraw troops within a fixed timetable, including no permanent bases.
2. A parallel commitment to fix as many mistakes as possible in the same timetable.
3. An amnesty for Iraqi nationals who have fought against the occupation. If a US withdrawal timetable is agreed, the foreign jihadists will lose the margin of support they currently have.
4. An end to Paul Bremer's de-Baathification policy and restoring former military and other professionals to security and civic roles.
5. Termination of US support, training, financing or advising of sectarian militias.
6. A paradigm shift away from neoconservative extremism toward diplomatic and political solutions to the region's problems.
7. International efforts to rebuild Iraq after fifteen years of sanctions, bombardment, invasion, war and civil war.
The most contentious of these points concerns amnesty for Iraqis who have fought the occupation. But it should be remembered that the American Civil War ended with an amnesty for Jefferson Davis. Amnesties always are included in negotiated settlements, and this endgame looks to be no different. If we don't achieve this, we will face a future of faith-based militarism until, as they say, the end of days.

Did you agree with them? Did you disagree with them? Did you even know of them? This historic meeting got very little coverage.

Again, no way to end a war. For approximately two months now, C.I.'s been posing a question at The Common Ills repeatedly: Do the War Hawks want this war to continue more than we want to end it? With all the non-coverage of Iraq in the last few weeks, it's a question to think about.

With the polls demonstrating the continued opposition to the war and with all there's been to cover in Iraq, from Iraq and Iraq related, this could have been a summer like that of last year.
Instead, mainstream media has cut back on staff reporting from Iraq and independent media has demonstrated no interest in covering Iraq.
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