"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Democratic Iraq

"Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has claimed that violence is decreasing, saying that the country would never slide into a civil war.

Mr Maliki has refused to be drawn on a timetable for the withdrawal of the 130,000 US and 7,000 British troops who form the bulk of the foreign force in Iraq." [RTE]

"91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country, up from 74.4% in 2004. 84.5% are "strongly opposed". Among Sunnis, opposition to the US presence went from 94.5% to 97.9% (97.2% "strongly opposed"). Among Shia, opposition to the US presence went from 81.2% to 94.6%, with "strongly opposed" going from 63.5% to 89.7%. Even among the Kurds, opposition went from 19.6% to 63.3%. In other words, it isn't just that Iraqis oppose the American presence - it's that their feelings are intense: only 7.2% "somewhat oppose" and 4.7% "somewhat support."" [Lenin's Tomb] [Poll conducted by the University of Michigan]

And on Iran:

In the Times today Charles Krauthammer foams at the mouth:

"The point of this multilateral exercise cannot be to stop Iran's nuclear programme by diplomacy. That has always been a fantasy. It will take military means. There will be terrible consequences from such an attack. These must be weighed against the terrible consequences of allowing an openly apocalyptic Iranian leadership to acquire weapons of genocide. The point of the current elaborate exercise in multilateral diplomacy is to slightly alter that future calculation.

By demonstrating extraordinary forbearance and accommodation, perhaps we will have purchased the acquiescence of our closest allies - Britain, Germany and, yes, France - to a military strike on that fateful day when diplomacy has run its course." [The Irish Times]


Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Old Lie

Harold Evans pens some drivel for the Irish Times and the Guardian. Read it here.

Dear Alan and Geraldine,

Harold Evans repeats the 'old lie' in his celebration of Joe Rosenthal's iconic picture of February 23rd 1945 in Saturday's Irish Times (via the Guardian Service). He reiterates the nonsensical rhetoric of those in power in order to glorify the sacrifice of those forced, through economic necessity and blind faith in their government, to put their bodies in the firing line.

He divides Iraq's conflict, quite conveniently, into two distinct parts. On the side of good he finds 'the coalition of the willing', on the side of evil he imagines 'the enemies of freedom'. Yet the war's 'great evil' was captured long ago, what now exists is a country suffocating under foreign occupation. And as with any occupation, the occupied tend to steadily lose faith in their right to 'choose their own destiny' the longer they are occupied.

If we are to accept, as Mr. Evans wills us to, that the coalition in Iraq epitomise 'freedom' then a recent BBC report detailing the findings of the Multi-national Force - Iraq backs up that assertion. The 'enemy', Iraq's Insurgency, primarily targets coalition forces. The victims of these attacks are also victims of the of the act of aggression that brought about that insurgency, these dead soldiers are victims of their own governments foreign policies.

Yet there is no credible reason to believe his assertion, Iraq has been ravaged by foreign forces since 2003. In complete contradiction to Mr. Evans' contention, many of the coalition's crimes against Iraq's people have not and will never face public scrutiny. And if we really have the "free press and an independent judiciary, vigilant for any breach of the constitution and reputation" to which Mr. Evans attests why is it that the blatant crime, the supreme international crime, the 'search for WMDs' itself will never face judgement in the courts of justice?

Only weeks ago, quietly whispered revelations emanating from the corridors of freedom in Washington now cast doubt on what sort of destiny the occupiers intend leaving in Iraq; "Senior administration officials have acknowledged .. that they are considering alternatives other than democracy." History resonates so predictably.

The gallantry of the soldier has not been besmirched by 'the few who dishonour their service and their country' though this of course has tarred many with the same brush. It has been the cynical deception of the gallant by their leaders that has sullied he names of those who go to war.

Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

"Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country."

Yours sincerely,

[alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk, gkennedy@irish-times.ie]


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Killing with kindness

[Email to the BBC news editor, Helen Boaden]

A BBC TV news segment earlier today reported that Israeli forces had arrested the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser al-Shaer. The BBC website now states that he is presently being detained by Israeli forces.

Under what authority do Israeli forces act within Palestinian territories? The term 'arrest' implies that this action is in some way legal. Nasser as-Shaer is not simply being 'detained' he is being illegally detained.

I noticed a similar pacification of language with regard to the capture of the Israeli soldiers by Palestinian and Lebanese militants on RTE. I wrote to the RTE News Editor with respect to this issue:

"Israeli detention assures prisoners no more rights than Palestinian captivity. Why does Israel 'detain' and Palestine 'kidnap '?"

He responded:

"Fair point. We have put a message in our general mail to this effect."

The BBC has continually referred to the capture of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian and Lebanese militants as 'kidnappings', yet Israel's captures are referred to as 'seizures' and 'arrests'. Could you please explain this disparity?

Yours etc...

The BBC has given a classic lesson in subtle propaganda in its reporting of this latest 'arrest'. The use of the terms arrest, seize and detain impart a level of legality on to Israel's actions and to top it off the beeb use a little bit of 'human perspective' to clarify Israel's intentions:

"According to the detained man's wife, "several" military vehicles circled the house before dawn after which troops came to the door.

An officer told her after checking their identity documents: "Sorry madame, but your husband has to come with us".

"He let him first say goodbye to our four children," she told Reuters news agency."

The picture painted is of a friendly neighbourhood cop. Yet other stories don't paint the same caring picture:

"We were asked to stay at a home of a Palestinian family in Balata overnight as they expected the soldiers to come for their son. Their son as usual, has done nothing wrong but it is one of the tactics that the soldiers use to take people from the Camp. They arrested the father 3 times and told him that if his son did not give himself up they would either shoot the father or arrest and jail him.

As Internationals we slept in the house overnight with them. At first when we went to bed the five of us, 2 Palestinian girls as well described it as a 'PYJAMA PARTY'. Lots of laughter, again being force fed and watered, lots of story telling.

Approx 3 hours later we were woken up to hear the soldiers outside the house. We all sat in the living room watching t.v., drinking tea. Listening to the jeeps outside just wondering when they were going to come in the house.

I looked at this young man and realised for the first time, I AM HORRIFIED TO ADMIT THIS that this is real reality here. Sitting here across from this young man who was just waiting on them coming to get him. He had washed and dressed and knew for the protection of his family he had to let them take him away.

Could anyone imagine in Britain what this must be like. Knowing you will be taken to jail for years and years, beaten up, leaving your family behind. All the time only doing this FOR THE PROTECTION OF YOUR FAMILY. I know from experience here if the Israeli Army do not get the person they want, yes they do shoot or arrest another member of their family."

Margaret Pacetta (GPHRC)

via Derek at MLMB

Compare to RTE reporting here.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

RTE report Iraq's dead

Months in the making - RTE report on Iraq's dead

a whole FOUR minutes:

RTE 9 O'Clock News 15/08/06

Previous posts on the issue the media ignores:

toirtap Archive - RTE facts and figures

and then (from May):

Dear Mr. Good,

In reference to an email you sent me in response to some questions I had regarding RTE's reporting of Iraqi mortality I have a follow up question:

It is now over a month and a half since you wrote:

"We are hoping to broadcast a report around the time of the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein which explores the issue of why it is so difficult to get accurate and meaningful figures on the number of civilians killed in Iraq."

and I have yet to see any report discussing the number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the coalition's invasion. I have yet to see any interviews with Les Roberts of the Lancet study. I have yet to see any critical analysis of any of the reports or surveys of Iraqi mortality.

What I have seen, almost every day, are reports of tens of Iraqis killed in suicide bombing, gun fights, etc. The problem being, theses deaths give no indication of the bigger picture. How many Iraqis are dead? How many of those deaths could have been avoided if Ireland had not allowed the coalition to utilize Shannon airport? When can I, and the rest of the license payers, expect to see a report on this important issue?

While I commend your recent report on last years earthquake in Kashmir, there was much back patting for the work that has been accomplished as a result of Irish aid. While I support all efforts to help those whose lives were ruined by the earthquake, I can't help but think, while on the one hand we are helping people who were affected by a natural disaster, we are on the other hand contributing to a man made disaster in Iraq.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Dear [Me],

The report about the difficulty of getting accurate figures on the number of civilians killed in Iraq has not been completed. But it is in train. We have had some difficulty in tracking down interviewees – Les Roberts is in Baltimore – but we do hope to broadcast the report before too long, though it's unlikely to be in the next two weeks.


Michael Good

Dear Mr. Good,

Thank you for responding and I look forward to the report on the anniversary of the fall of Saddam.

However, as you seemed to evade the principal question I asked, I'll leave it with you again.

Is there an intrinsic quality to the Iraq war that invalidates a survey of the dead, which conducted in many other wars and countries has been perfectly acceptable?


For more information on this issue please read the links below, you may find something left unanswered by Les Roberts. Be sure to quiz him on the Congo figures too.

Media Lens 1
Media Lens 2
Media Lens 3
Media Lens 4


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Some Perspective

Printed here: The Irish Times

[Update: Letter to the Irish Times]

Dear Madam,

It was reported yesterday, and daily over the last month, in the Irish Times that Hizbullah has struck Israel with thousands of rockets in the last month. A barrage of deadly weapons striking fear no doubt into the civilian population. Reportedly, the number of rockets fired now exceeds 3,000.

While this is obviously a shocking statistic, I have yet to hear in over a month of intense coverage how many bombs Israel has dropped on Lebanon. According to some reports Israel dropped, last Saturday alone, 4,000 bombs within seven hours. Destroying the border village of Aytarun with 2,000 bombs.

The total death toll from the Israeli invasion is approaching 1,000, with many more injured. One third of those deaths are from children under 12. Can we have a little perspective?

Yours sincerely,

The Irish Times reports:

"According to the army's plan, Israeli forces will push to the Litani river, and beyond at some points, with the aim of forcing the Katyusha rockets out of the range of towns and cities in northern Israel which have been struck by over 3,000 rockets in the last month. Officials estimated it would take a week for troops to reach the Litani, with the army then spending a few weeks trying to clear the area of Hizbullah fighters and of rockets.

But how many bombs have Israel dropped:

"On Saturday, an Israeli offense consisting of more than 250 air attacks dropped 4,000 bombs within seven hours.

The border village of Aytarun was hit by 2,000 bombs and almost completely destroyed.

The total death toll from the attacks is approaching 1,000. One third of those deaths are from children under 12."


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rhetoric and Action

Juan Cole explains the difference:

"The difference between Ahmadinejad and Olmert is that the Iranian president is a blowhard. The one who had practical plans to wipe a country off the map was Olmert."

Picture: Beirut before and after

via...Ron F at MLMB

Picture via...here


Friday, August 04, 2006

Dis Information

Dear Madam, (Email to the Irish Times)

Why does the Irish Times repeatedly entertain dis-information from those that wish to demonise Iran? On Thursday Sean Gannon, Chairman, Irish Friends of Israel, wrote; "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly demanded that Israel be "wiped off the map."" Mary Fitzgerald wrote the same over a week ago. Rob Weatherill the same a week before.
The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, gives the following as the correct translation of the remark in question: "Imam [ Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [ Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.' This sentence is very wise. The issue of Palestine is not an issue on which we can compromise."

Neither the quote, nor the speech it was contained in endorse military action, indeed it does not support killing anyone at all. The phrase you refer to is in actuality "almost metaphysical." Professer Juan Cole explained "It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem. It is not about tanks."

While these writers may disapprove of the present Iranian regime they must at least be obliged base their disapproval on something real, not the misinterpreted rhetoric of a hardliner. The purpose of using this inaccurate translation is to portray the Iranian President as a blood thirsty war monger, and therefore justify Israel's aggression towards the Lebanese population.
Hizbullah alleged use of human shields is also offered as further justification of Israeli aggression, yet Hizbullah primarily target Israeli military targets. And despite constant reports of barrages of missiles falling near Israeli towns they inflicted only a fraction of the number of deaths Israel has managed.

Many of the incidents that have elicited this explanation from Israel and it's allies, on further inspection, have shown that Hizbullah activity has been almost non-existent in cases of alleged human shields.

Even the Israeli Minister for Justice has rebutted the idea that the Hizbullah force non-combatants to act as human shields:

"Asked whether entire villages should be flattened, he [Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon]said:"These places are not villages. They are military bases in which Hezbollah people are hiding and from which they are operating."

"All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,"he said."

Yours sincerely,


Human Rights Watch reported, "Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon," and, "Hezbollah's attacks in Israel on Sunday and Monday were at best indiscriminate at worst the deliberate targeting of civilians."

Notice the use of language, 'failed to distinguish' versus 'deliberate targeting'.

As Chomsky noted, Israel 'must do better', terrorists 'evil'.

Via...Klas at boards.