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Saturday
Dec032005

America Slowly Confronts the Truth about Iraq

Saturday December 3
Paris via Baghdad

This just in from Annalou Larsen (finger on the pulse, as usual)

America slowly confronts the Truth about Iraq

Robert Fisk writing in today's Independent


"Watching the pathetic, old, lie-on-its-back frightened labrador of the American
media changing overnight into a vicious rottweiler is one of the enduring pleasures
of society in the United States. I have been experiencing this phenomenon over the
past two weeks, as both victim and beneficiary.

In New York and Los Angeles, my condemnation of the American presidency and Israel's
continued settlement-building in the West Bank was originally treated with the
disdain all great papers reserve for those who dare to question proud and democratic
projects of state. In The New York Times, that ancient luminary Ethan Bonner managed
to chide me for attacking American journalists who - he furiously quoted my own
words - "report in so craven a fashion from the Middle East - so fearful of Israeli
criticism that they turn Israeli murder into 'targeted attacks' and illegal
settlements into 'Jewish neighbourhoods'."

It was remarkable that Bonner should be so out of touch with his readers that he did
not know that "craven" is the very word so many Americans apply to their grovelling
newspapers (and quite probably one reason why newspaper circulations are falling so
disastrously).

But the moment that a respected Democratic congressman and Vietnam war veteran in
Washington dared to suggest that the war in Iraq was lost
, that US troops should be
brought home now - and when the Republican response was so brutal it had to be
disowned - the old media dog sniffed the air, realised that power was moving away
from the White House, and began to drool.

On live television in San Francisco, I could continue my critique of America's folly
in Iraq
uninterrupted. Ex-Mayor Willie Brown - who allowed me to have my picture
taken in his brand new pale blue Stetson - exuded warmth towards this pesky Brit
(though he claimed on air that I was an American) who tore into his country's
policies in the Middle East. It was enough to make you feel the teeniest bit sorry -
though only for a millisecond, mark you - for the guy in the White House.

All this wasn't caused by that familiar transition from Newark to Los Angeles
International, where the terror of al-Qa'ida attacks is replaced by fear of the
ozone layer. On the east coast, too, the editorials thundered away at the Bush
administration. Seymour Hersh, that blessing to American journalism who broke the
Abu Ghraib torture story, produced another black rabbit out of his Iraqi hat with
revelations that US commanders in Iraq believe the insurgency is now out of control."

HELLO AMERICA!!!!!! Are you reading this?

"When those same Iraqi gunmen this week again took control of the entire city of
Ramadi (already "liberated" four times by US troops since 2003), the story shared
equal billing on prime time television with Bush's latest and infinitely wearying
insistence that Iraqi forces - who in reality are so infiltrated by insurgents that
they are a knife in America's back - will soon be able to take over security duties
from the occupation forces.

Even in Hollywood - and here production schedules prove that the rot must have set
in more than a year ago - hitherto taboo subjects are being dredged to the surface
of the political mire. Jarhead, produced by Universal Pictures, depicts a brutal,
traumatised Marine unit during the 1991 Gulf War.

George Clooney's production of Good Night, and Good Luck, a devastating black-and-
white account of Second World War correspondent Ed Murrow's heroic battle with
Senator McCarthy in the 1950s - its theme is the management and crushing of all
dissent - has already paid for its production costs twice over. Murrow is played by
an actor but McCarthy appears only in real archive footage. Incredibly, a test
audience in New York complained that the man "playing" McCarthy was "overacting".

Will we say this about Messrs Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld in years to come? I
suspect so.

And then there's Syriana, Clooney's epic of the oil trade which combines suicide
bombers, maverick CIA agents (one of them played by Clooney himself), feuding Middle
East Arab potentates - one of whom wants real democracy and wealth for his people
and control of his own country's resources - along with a slew of disreputable
businessmen and east coast lawyers. The CIA eventually assassinates the Arab prince
who wants to take control of his own country's oil (so much for democracy) - this is
accomplished with a pilotless aerial bomb guided by men in a room in Virginia -
while a Pakistani fired from his job in the oil fields because an American
conglomerate has downsized for its shareholders' profits destroys one of the
company's tankers in a suicide attack.

"People seem less afraid now," Clooney told an interviewer in Entertainment
magazine. "Lots of people are starting to ask questions. It's becoming hard to avoid
the questions." Of course, these questions are being asked because of America's more
than 2,000 fatalities in Iraq rather than out of compassion for Iraq's tens of
thousands of fatalities. They are being pondered because the whole illegal invasion
of Iraq is ending in calamity rather than success."

HEY CAMPERS! I'm not the only one calling it an ILLEGAL INVASION.

"Yet still they avoid the "Israel" question. The Arab princes in Syriana - who in
real life would be obsessed with the occupation of the West Bank - do not murmur a
word about Israel. The Arab al-Qa'ida operative who persuades the young Pakistani to
attack an oil tanker makes no reference to Israel - as every one of bin Laden's
acolytes assuredly would. It was instructive that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11
did not mention Israel once.

So one key issue of the Middle East remains to be confronted. Amy Goodman, whom I
used to enrage by claiming that her leftist Democracy Now programme - broadcast from
a former Brooklyn fire station - had only three listeners (one of whom was Amy
Goodman), is bravely raising this unmentionable subject. Partly as a result, her
"alternative" radio and television station - how I hate that prissy word
"alternative" - is slowly moving into the mainstream.

Americans are ready to discuss the United States' relationship with Israel. And
America's injustices towards the Arabs. As usual, ordinary Americans are way out in
front of their largely tamed press and television reporters. Now we have to wait and
see if the media boys and girls will catch up with their own people."

I really hope you guys read this far.

This next extract is from mid-October pressgazette.co.uk Fisk: "This country is now hell — a disaster. You cannot imagine how bad it is. Nothing of the reporting I see generally, except The Guardian and Patrick Cockburn in The Independent, really conveys the absolute agony and distress of Iraq."

"The Ministry of Health, which is partly run by Americans, will not give out any figures for civilian casualties; staff are just not allowed to give us these figures.

"When I went to the city morgue in Baghdad one day nearly four weeks ago, I arrived at 9am and there were nine violent death corpses there.

"By midday there were 26 corpses. When I managed to get access to the computer system of the mortuary, I discovered that in July 1100 Iraqis had been killed in Baghdad alone.

"Multiply that across Iraq and you are talking about 3,000 a month or more, which means 36,000 a year.

"So these figures claiming 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties are not necessarily conservative at all. But no-one wants to report on this."

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