Sunday, December 21, 2008

An indictment of the 'New' Iraq goes unnoticed

Is the Bully Boy of the United States a Kansas fan?

Bully Boy and Puppet

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.

Last Sunday Bully Boy made a trip to Baghdad and the immediate spin (once he landed) was, "Look at the progress in the New Iraq! He can visit during daylight!" No one was supposed to point out the obvious, "Yeah, if his trip is unannounced!"

He and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki signed the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement and held a press conference as Nouri's palatial palace.

It was then that the feel-good photo op became mere dust in the wind as Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi enters the picture.

Muntader has risked much to report realities in Iraq including being twice imprisoned by US forces and being kidnapped. On Sunday, as Bully Boy prattled on ("The war is not yet over -- but with the conclusion of these agreements and the courage of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi troops and American troops and civilian personnel, it is decisively on its way to being won."), Muntader threw first one and then another shoe at Bully Boy.

With the first shoe, he declared, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog." And with the second, "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

The incident became a cause for joy around much of the world including in the United States, became an online game, a never-ending joke and one of last week's most talked about incidents. And in all that water cooling gas baggery you saw the failure of the media and the failure of the American people.

The moment was treated as if it were a clip on America's Funniest Home Videos.

A number of people should be deeply ashamed.

Because while they were yucking it up, Muntader was injured and imprisoned. On the former, you didn't need to wait until last Friday for that news.

Last Sunday, press accounts noted that Bully Boy was hailing the event as proof that Iraq was a "free society." So it wasn't that difficult to note: "One-shoe, two-shoe. Neither a weapon. But the cries of the journalist could be heard even after he was drug away? Free society?" Monday's "Iraq snapshot" included:

Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) report, "Mr. Maliki's security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until 'he was crying like a woman,' said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party". Reuters notes: "The journalist was leapt on by Iraqi security officials and U.S. secret service agents and dragged from the room screaming and struggling."

But there was little time for that in all the funnin', in all the treating it like video of a shot to the groin, so damn funny, ha-ha. And all last week Muntadar's family was denied visitation. A court appearance was scheduled for Wednesday and Wednesday his family learned, uh, that took place Tuesday but the court will tell you what happened . . . kind-of.

A man threw two shoes -- not bullets, not knives, not bombs -- at someone. And he was beaten for that. And he was imprisoned and disappeared for that.

Somewhere among all the s**t eating grins and self-satisifed laughing, the non-stop yokel 'goodness' that Comedy Centeral seems to have infected the nation with, there should have been outrage and their damn sure should have been discussions about what the treatment of Muntadar really said about the so-called 'New' Iraq.

Not only was it appalling that so many Americans were living it up over Muntadar's actions with no apparent grasp of the fact that he had been beaten or that he was disappeared into some pseudo-legal hole, it was appalling that the press refused this moment to explore Iraq. The United Nations had already issued an alert about Iraqi 'justice' this month as had Human Rights Watch. And here, before the world's eyes, you had a perfect example of the warnings that had been made and, in fact, you had an indictment of the so-called 'New' Iraq.

But all last week those realities were avoided. On Friday, an Iraqi judge spoke so journalists apparently finally felt they had permission to tackle the abuse Muntadar suffered. From Friday's "Iraq snapshot:"

Meanwhile in Iraq, Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports, "Muslim preachers from both sides of Iraq's once-bloody Sunni-Shi'ite divide appealed to the government on Friday to release the journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. Preisdent George W. Bush." The latest voices calling for Muntadar al-Zeidi's release sound out as his injuries become less of a whispered aside and more of a central issue. Nico Hines (Times of London) reported early this morning that Judge Dhia al-Kinani has declared "he would find out who beat" Muntadhar and that al-Kinani "said that Mr al-Zeidi 'was beaten in the news conference and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him'." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes "bruises on his face and around his eyes" and, as for the alleged letter, adds: "A spokesman for al-Maliki said Thursday that the letter contained a specific pardon request. But al-Zeidi's brother Dhargham told The AP that he suspected the letter was a forgery." Timothy Williams and Atheer Kakan (New York Times) report, "The government did not release the letter, and a lawyer for the reporter said that during a conversation with him on Wednesday the reporter did not tell her about it. But the lawyer, Ahlam Allami, also said the reporter, Muntader al-Zaidi, had told her he had never meant to insult the Iraqi government or Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki when he hurled his shoes at the president during a news conference with the two leaders on Sunday." CBS and AP note, "CBS News Baghdad producer Randall Joyce says al-Zeidi has been kept completely out of the reach of his legal representation and his family since the show-throwing incident late on Sunday - a fact which typifies a deeply flawed Iraqi justice system."

A judge acknowledges the bruises and only then can the issue be raised at any length. That's how it works? Well that's a failure of journalism. All the more appalling when you grasp that this silence took place as the Committee to Protect Journalists released their end-of-year analysis which, yet again, found Iraq to be "the deadliest country in the world for the press". A 'win' for the sixth year in a row! What an 'honor.'

And what an embarrassment for so much of the press and so much of the public that it was tee-hee time and they couldn't be bothered with interrupting their giggle-fest long enough to be outraged by the treatment of Muntader.

Starting Monday, protests spread throughout Iraq. And Campbell Robertson and Timothy Williams (The New York Times) report that Friday launched "an overnight-sit at a Baghdad park" with at least 400 participants who continued their sit-in even as Nouri al-Maliki launched a military response on Saturday: "Heavily armed soldiers surrounded the small park, and Iraqi Army helicopters circled overhead as the demonstrators were told to leave." Again, this is the so-called 'New' Iraq. A protest is greeted with military helicopters and armed soldiers.

Everything that followed the shoe-toss said a great deal about the installed regime in Iraq. It's a damn shame that so few bothered to even pretend they were interested. At least they had the heavily watched video to amuse themselves with -- to amuse themselves to death.

[Those new to the story can refer to "And the war drags on . . .," "Fly in me face (De George Bush mix)," "Iraq snapshot," "Shoe madness continues!," "Iraq snapshot," "The continued journey of the traveling shoes," "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Muntader's 'letter' & Mary Chapin Carpenter's NPR concert" and "Iraq snapshot" for more on the topic.]
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