Sunday, July 07, 2013

Editorial: SIlence or stupidity (media coverage of Iraq)

When they had to sell the Iraq War -- both before it started and in the early years of the illegal war -- the press couldn't shut up about Iraq and it dominated newspapers and broadcasts.  Today, the country might as well have been swallowed up by the Bermuda Triangle for all the coverage it gets.


But sometimes, as Kelly McEvers bad NPR reporting recently proved, silence may be a blessing.

We were reminded of that again when we read Lincoln Archer's analysis of the state of Iraq for Australia's ABC.  What stood out most was this: 

Militant groups have infiltrated the demonstrations to stir sectarian tensions and foment civil war, Iraq's representative to the UN Hamid al-Bayati has said. Sectarian slogans have been shouted at rallies, language which "lays the foundation for a culture of hatred", he said.

That is a charge.  It is not a fact.  But it's not questioned.  Nor does Lincoln Archer appear aware of when slogans (words, not actions) might have fit that description. 

Let's address what Archer can't.  Nouri was calling the protesters terrorists,  a handful had been killed and that's when chants and posters that would fit Archer's description applied.  This was a response to the verbal attacks Nouri was launching. 

There is context and to fail to provide it is to exist in a vacuum.

Context also includes that Nouri's government has refused to meet the protesters demands but has instead continued to attack them verbally and, yes, physically.  So Nouri's hand picked ambassador to the United Nations isn't going to be telling much truth.

That was pretty obvious last week when the ambassador penned a column for the Wall Street Journal filled with multiple falsehoods. The biggest falsehood might have been that the Iraqi people want the US to be involved in Iraq.  No, not really.  A small portion does.  A large portion of the 'leaders' want the US involved because they fear being crushed by the people they have failed to represent.

Last week, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc called for the US to stop butting into Iraqi affairs and to abandon the US Embassy in Baghdad.  Last week, Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) reported:

In a statement distributed to the media, Sadr said, “We will nominate as a candidate a prime minister who loves Iraqis and whom they love. He will not be hated by non-believers, and will show modesty in dealing with believers. He will be one of them.” He continued, “The prime minister ... will not deal with the unrighteous occupier, in order to give Iraq prestige, independence, dignity and honor.”
"The Americans," he said, "will not be able to manipulate the fate, rights, wealth and souls in Iraq again.” Sadr then addressed the US ambassador, saying, “Your threat will not be useful. Deal with us however you wish ... We will deal with [the Americans] in ways that you have never seen before.”

But the Ambassador wants to pretend that all Iraqis want the US in Iraq and want the US presence in Iraq beefed up.  But stick a pin in that, we'll come back to it.

Hamid al-Bayati claims the Iraq's an emerging democracy as demonstrated by its respect for diversity.  There is no respect for diversity.  Iraqi Christians have been decimated, Iraq's LGBT community is repeatedly targeted, Sunnis are targeted non-stop.  Oh, yeah, al-Bayati is a Shi'ite.  A fact that Australia's ABC didn't feel was worth mentioning.  They also didn't feel it was worth mentioning that this 'proud' 'Iraqi' holds dual citizenship -- he's a citizen of Iraq and England.  You'd think someone committed to Iraq would have renounced citizenship elsewhere. 

In fact, you'd think dual citizenship would prevent him from being a representative in Iraq of any form.

You can learn a lot about Hamid al-Bayati from his book From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider's Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam.  al-Bayati opposed Hussein . . . from England.  He was a mascot for the Project for the New American Century and agitated for years to get the Iraq War started. 

You don't get any of those details from Australia's ABC News 'analysis.'

While al-Bayati's Wall St. Journal's column was mostly lies, it did serve a purpose.  It was aimed at American audiences -- an audience that's largely unaware of the column.   He is part of the roll out for the official return of US forces to Iraq (see last week's "Editorial: The important words").  That's obvious when al-Bayati writes:

While security coordination through military sales and financing programs continues, an expedited delivery of promised sales, better intelligence sharing, and stepped-up assistance in counterterrorism and training is essential for Iraq's fight against terrorism—a clear national security interest of the U.S. Implementing this agreement should not be linked to regional issues, such as the conflict in Syria.

From the April 30th Iraq snapshot:


December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

US forces never left Iraq.  Not all of them.  And last fall, Barack sent in another unit of Special Ops.  But under the December MoU (which calls for joint-patrols of Iraqi and US troops), this can now be done a little more openly.  Which is how you got the announcement from the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs two weeks ago. 

At the end of last week, Dale McFeatters (Chicago Sun Times) became the first columnist to write about those remarks:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has recommended that U.S. commanders find ways to improve Iraq’s military capabilities. This would involve additional weapons and training and, although neither government would say so publicly, some level of U.S. involvement in operations.

The language accompanying the proposal suggests that it is a done deal. We could hardly let the Iraqis say they were open to military cooperation with the U.S., an embarrassing admission in itself, and then humiliate them by slapping down the offer.

The Pentagon called it a "drawdown," not a withdrawal, throughout 2011.  And not all troops left in the drawdown.  Secretly more troops have been sent back in.  Now the White House gets ready to send them back in a little more publicly.

And where is the outcry?

With the exception of McFeatters, we've got silence or stupidity in the US press when it comes to Iraq.  We're not sure which of the two is worse.  Silence or stupidity -- both are needed ingredients in any box of Iraq War Helper and when both work in tandem, no one wins, least of all the news consumers or the Iraqi people.

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