Sunday, June 24, 2007

Editorial: Iraq silences

The young combat veteran stared at the letter in disbelief when it arrived in his mailbox a few months ago.
The Marine Corps was recommending him for "other than honorable discharge." The letter alleged he had violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by wearing part of his uniform during an anti-war rally. Furthermore, the letter accused him of being "disloyal," a word hard to swallow for a man who had risked his life to serve his nation.
"All this because I have publicly opposed the war in Iraq since I came back from it," said former Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, 22.
Madden is not alone.

So begins Kirsten Scharnberg's "Veterans: Military curbing free speech" (Chicago Tribune).
Liam Madden is not alone, Scharnberg is quite correct. Already Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh have also been targeted. Scharnberg tells you Richards has been certified 80% disabled as a result of wounds received in Iraq. But that didn't stop the military brass from strong arming him. It's a strange kind of "thank you" which sounds more like an F-you.

And it really hasn't been a focus in All Things Media Big and Small. Among the outlets that have consistently refused to address it are The New York Times and The Nation magazine. Strange when you consider how both love to work themselves up into a free speech frenzy on even the most trivial of minors (see Plamegate on the first and Howard Stern on the second). But, when you think about it, for most media, big or small, Iraq really is nothing but trivia.

The low flying Moonbat is at it again calling for an end to air travel. While anything that keeps the Moonbat on his side of the pond is supported in theory, has anyone stopped to ask him when he intends to write about the air war in Iraq? Surely those flights are far more damaging as are the chemicals that have been used in Iraq. Moonbat is aware, right, that the Poodle is stepping down and England's about to 'crown' Gordon Brown? He is aware that England remains the chief supporter of the illegal war. (John Howard talks big but, when it's time to send troops, he knows Australians have severely tied his hands there.) With Brown coming in, perhaps Moonbat could try focusing on Iraq for just two weeks? One if two is taxing for the fair weather fellow.

"A chill winding is blowing in this nation," warned Tim Robbins in a speech to the Washington Press Club on April 15, 2003. If anything's changed in that time, it's largely that many now censor themselves -- not out of fear but out of . . . boredom?

While the US military brass tries to silence Iraq Veterans Against the War (Kokesh, at the kangaroo hearing this month, was asked if he was a "card carrying member" of IVAW), we learn that our public schools also censor. From last week's Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy, how often do you get to talk about war at school?
JIMMY PRESSON: We very rarely to never talk about the war through the curriculum. In classes in which we discuss current events, we are required to not bring in current events that relate to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, what do you mean? What about social studies or history?
JIMMY PRESSON: In history classes, the current events that we bring in are -- we've been instructed to have the articles be unrelated to the war.
AMY GOODMAN: You're not allowed to talk about war in your history class?
JIMMY PRESSON: We're not allowed to talk about the war.
JIMMY PRESSON: Because it's too controversial, I guess. Because they don't want kids arguing in class.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any class that you can talk about it?
JIMMY PRESSON: We can talk about it a little bit in Middle Eastern studies, a little bit, but it's not even that much in that class.
BONNIE DICKINSON: That class is not offered.
JIMMY PRESSON: Every year. It's only offered every other year.
AMY GOODMAN: So this past year, it wasn't offered?
JIMMY PRESSON: It was not offered this past year.
AMY GOODMAN: So the only class to discuss this was in drama?

High school students who can enlist (if they are 18, on their own; younger, with their parents permission or via the delayed entry program) are attending a public school while their country is engaged in (an illegal) war and the topic is forbidden? Exactly what does Wilton High School believe it is preparing its students for?

The chill wind Tim Robbins spoke of has become a gust of apathy for too many. We're not speaking of the public whose opposition to the illegal war only continues to grow. We're speaking of our institutions like schools and the press. We're speaking of our vacationing press that largely takes a pass on Iraq unless some event really forces them to address for a few minutes every now and then.

Writing at OpEdNews (which does address Iraq daily), Timothy V. Gatto rightly calls out Congressional cowardice. But what about press cowardice? Especially within independent media? The illegal war has certainly added to the disgust with the Bully Boy and helped drive up circulation and listenership, but where's the focus on Iraq?

Charlie Gibson recently demonstrated on ABC's so-called World News Tonight that Iraq 'coverage' could be reduced to two minutes of airtime in a week's worth of broadcasts and where's the outcry?

The House of Representatives, last week, voted to recommission the James Baker Circle Jerk. For those who have forgotten, the James Baker Circle Jerk was the right-leaning group tasked to study Iraq and report back with proposals. Few in independent media called it out -- in fact several names endorsed it, including one who had a snit fit when Laura Flanders rightly criticized it -- but the privatization of oil? That's in the Circle Jerk's report.

Now Congress, elected with a mandate on Iraq in 2006, Democrats reclaiming both houses, wants to outsource their own job so that they can hide behind a right leaning group. Americans didn't vote them back in power to cower and hide. As for right leaning, supposed bi-partisanship, the 2006 elections didn't result in a split down the middle in the House so why the House feels that they need to now bend to the right to end the illegal war is a mystery.

It's also a mystery how 'benchmarks' get portrayed as so benevolent by the press and there's no outcry. The administration can dispatch one person after another to Iraq to strong arm the puppet Nouri al-Maliki about the theft of Iraqi oil but mention women's rights and they go silent. They don't even send out Laura Bush on another charm offensive on that topic. Women are suffering in Iraq and, when the illegal war is over, will continue to suffer because of the Constitution the US pushed through. But no one from the administration is rushing to the heavily fortified Green Zone to address that topic.

And last week, [PDF format warning] the "Independent Report on Iraq" was released and who bothered to cover it? On last week's CounterSpin, Janine Jackson interviewed Celine Nahory, who co-authored the report, about it. Jackson noted that the only mainstream coverage she'd seen was a write up by AFP. Jackson wondered if the fact that it's been greeted with so much silence has to do with the revelations in the report that the US military is responsible for so many Iraqi deaths?

Oh, you say, what about all that good reconstruction work going on? From chapter eight of the report:

Iraq faces a growing humanitarian emergency, with unprecedented death and displacement. As of April 2007, the United Nations estimated that up to 8 million people were vulnerable and in need of immediate assistance. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been forced to flee from their homes and hundreds of thousands more are casualties of the violence through death and injury. Education has broken down. Unemployment has reached about 60% and the annual inflation rate peaked at about 70% in July 2006. An estimated 54% of the Iraqi population lives on less than a dollar day, among capacity. Electricity is in short supply. Only 32% of Iraqis have access to clean drinking water. The Public Distribution System food ration has stopped functioning in certain areas of the country, leaving 4 million Iraqis acutely vulnerable due to food insecurity. Severe malnutrition doubled between 2003 and 2005. Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level that compares with some of the world's most urgent calamities.

Links to the report (all PDF format) are:

Executive Summary [Read] [French]

Map of Major Coalition Attacks, Bases and Prisons [See map]

Political Map of Iraq [See map]

1. Introduction [Read]

2. Destruction of Cultural Heritage [Read]

3. Indiscriminate and Especially Injurious Weapons [Read]

4. Unlawful Detention [Read]

5. Abuse and Torture of Prisoners [Read]

6. Attacks on Cities [Read]

7. Killing Civilians, Murder and Atrocities [Read]

8. Displacement and Mortality [Read]

9. Corruption, Fraud and Gross Malfeasance [Read]

10. Long-Term Bases and the New Embassy Compound [Read]

11. Other Issues [Read]- Iraqi Public Opinion and the Occupation- Cost of the War and Occupation

12. Conclusion and Recommendations [Read]

There's enough in the report for several broadcast of Nightline or a full issue of The Nation but we won't count on encountering either.

Citizens have fought back against the "chill wind" in the last four years. It's only our media that's fallen silent.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }