“They shoot journalists, don’t they?”

April 6, 2010

So, the American military has what it calls “rules of engagement” when active in a combat zone.

Normally these “rules” are to protect the lives of non-combatants, but in the urban battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq there is sometimes very little difference.

At least according to the US military. But how far does the American war machine go to distinguish between friendlies and civilians and the so-called “enemy” – the Taleban in Afghanistan or “insurgents” in Iraq?

Really, it doesn’t go very far at all. In a recent Vanity Fair article about snipers in Afghanistan, one US soldier is quoted as calling the Afghan interpreter in his unit a “stinky”.

A Special Forces sergeant came up and said, “Hey, dude, I got some bad news. I gotta put a Stinky in your truck.” Afghans are Stinkies because they don’t wash.

We’ve all heard the term “raghead” used in relation to Iraqis. When this level of embedded racism is in play, the rules of engagement are not worth wiping your stinky on.

Whenever civilians are killed by “mistake” there are major efforts to cover it up. Details are only released when the families of the dead – you should always make sure there are no survivors – make a fuss, or the media starts nosing around.

But what happens when reporters and news workers are killed? Then the cover up goes into overdrive!

The Wikileaks site has just released some very disturbing video footage of two Reuters correspondents being gunned down in Baghdad. According to the army’s statement, the action that led to their murder was within the rules of engagement.

The attack took place on the morning of 12 July 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded.

Reuters had been seeking access to the video – shot from one of the Apache helicopters that also gunned down the men – for more than two years.

The murdered newsworkers  were local Reuters staff; Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Chmagh was a 40-year-old Reuters driver and assistant; Noor-Eldeen was a 22-year-old war photographer.

Rule #1: It’s OK to shoot journalists.

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Waihopai jury – I’m on your side.

March 20, 2010

The next tinpot “security expert”, armchair jurist or newspaper columnist who farts on about how the jury in the Waihopai sickle-slash case “got it wrong” is in for a big surprise.

I am [note to dribblejaws],” metaphorically”, not literally, going to ride my bike over to their place and slash them a new wingnut with my scythe.

The jury made a decision based on the evidence and the arguments presented. A not guilty verdict is still a verdict.

Leave it at that, but no…this is political, so the jury’s fucked and the law’s an ass. At least that’s true if you think the war in Iraq and the presence of Kiwi SAS troops in Afghanistan is a good thing.

Well I don’t. I think the jury got it right and I think that the verdict shows that ordinary New Zealanders are sick and fucking tired of the lies about “freedom” and “defending” our way of life while we [the major western powers] casually murder women and children “over there”. al Qaeda is not coming to the rugby world cup, so we should leave the Afghan people alone too.

Waihopai jury: congratulations on a sane and honourable verdict.

[Sunday morning update: I know I’m right, Michael Laws takes a reasonable stand:

12 completely mad Wellingtonians staged their own protest and found three guilty “peace” activists not guilty. Lord knows why. A protest at the food, or the rate of pay? A sick St Patrick’s Day joke? Whatever the spite, it was a perverse finding. (Deluded jury lets greenies plant seeds of terrorism)

Blame the jury Michael, that’s the ticket]

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Newspeak in the 21st century – Media Lens and angry analysis

November 19, 2009

I’m currently reading a great book on the British media by the two guys behind Media Lens, David Edwards and David Cromwell.

Newspeak in the 21st Century is an angry, but analytical, and very damning report about the state of the British media and the soft-left, liberal veneer that coats the ugly conservative heart of the mainstream press and, it has to be said, the BBC.

The take-away message and one that I’m going to come back to in some detail when I’ve finished the book and have the time to write a good review is a simple one that’s going to offend some people, perhaps even some of my friends, but it has to be said.

Journalists like to invoke the mantra and the ideal belief that their job is to serve the public interest and that they best do this by holding the powerful to account. However, despite the best intentions of the best and the brightest, this rarely, if ever, really happens.

It is a powerful myth that liberal news outlets like The Guardian and the BBC are fighting the establishment. They’re not. Rather, the establishment media is all about propping up the establishment and propogating the lies that keep the system going. Like the lie that Israel is under attack and only acts in self-defence; or like the lie that Iraq had WMDs.

Newspeak in the 21st Century makes this very clear through a thorough content analysis of many of the key stories of the past 10 years or so; from the NATO bombing of Serbia in retaliation for alleged human rights abuses in Kosovo; through the whole lying and deceitful charade of the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to Israel’s continuing aggression in Gaza to the beat up of Iranian nuclear weapons programmes.

The unfortunate truth is that the news media is complicit in keeping the truth from us, rather than exposing the lies at the heart of the system.

Two brief quotes for now:

Journalists have been demonising other countries for so long, it seems they cannot stop. Always it is the 1930s; always Hitler is plotting our destruction always we need to recoil in fear, disgust and horror. Is this the real world? Or is it journalism as pathology? (p.160)

This is the perfect link between Newspeak in the 21st Century and Orwell’s 1984.

For the mainstream media, an opinion barely exists if it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter if it is not voiced by people who matter. The full range of opinion, then, represents the full range of power. In that sense the mainstream media is balanced. (p.161)

Finally, Edwards and Cromwell talk about “state capitalism” and they don’t mean Russia and the USSR pre-1989. They’re talking about the system we inhabit today as a global economy. I will return to this as well, because I think they’re right about that too.


Muntazer el Zaydi jailed – crime against journalism

March 13, 2009

The jailing of Iraqi journalist Muntazer al Zaidi for throwing his shoes at former US President George W Bush is a crime against journalism.

el-zaydi-main

A hero of Iraq

A poll released today, commissioned by ABC News and the BBC, suggests 62% of Iraqis regard the shoe-thrower as a hero. Twenty-four percent of respondents saw him as a criminal who had assaulted a visiting head of state.

Outside the court, Mohammed Ali, a childhood friend of Zaidi, said: “His act was not a crime but one of defiance. When he is eventually released I expect Muntazer could change his career and become a politician.” The Guardian’s story today.

There’s also a longer profile piece about the reporter, who has become a hero to many Iraqis.

There is an online petition at the Petition Site which is aiming for 1000 signatures. When I signed there were 57 so get on over there and do your bit.

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the three year sentece as “disproportional”:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has protested over the disproportionate decision of an Iraqi court which sentenced television journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi to three years in jail for throwing his shoes at former American president George W. Bush in December last year.

“This sentence is hugely out of proportion,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The journalist made a serious mistake, but it was something that should have been properly dealt with internally and not brought before the courts at all. The Iraqi response is regrettable and we urge that there is clemency and his sentence is reduced on appeal.” [IFEX Update 12 March]

However, I disagree that Muntazer made a “serious mistake”. He was doing something that millions of us have fantasized about – expressing our hatred of the despotic Bush regime and its war criminal leadership.

Reporters Without Borders has also issued a statement condemning the sentence as harsh:

“We obviously regret that Zaidi chose this way to protest against the President Bush’s policies but there is no justification for this prison sentence,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The sentence is cynical in a country where so many of the people who kill journalists are never brought to justice. We call for his release.”  [Reporters Without Borders]

Sorry, but I don’t share this regret. My regret is that Muntazer is in jail.

There’s a nice post on this at Woolly Days.


Muntadher Al-Zaidi defiant as trial adjourned

February 20, 2009

Thanks to Europe Turkmen Friendships and AFP

BAGHDAD (AFP) — 19 Feb 09 – The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush defiantly defended his actions in court on Thursday, saying he had become emotionally overwhelmed when confronted by the ex-US president.
Muntazer al-Zaidi won global fame when his footwear whizzed past Bush’s head on December 14 as the then president was making a farewell visit to Iraq before leaving the White House.

His lawyers used the trial’s opening arguments to assert that the remarkable protest was lawful, but the judge brought proceedings to a halt 90 minutes later, saying more information was needed about Bush’s trip.

The 30-year-old journalist had told the court that he had become outraged and been unable to control his emotions when Bush, who ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, started speaking.

“I saw only Bush and it was like something black in my eyes,” he said from the dock, with an Iraqi flag draped across his shoulders.

“So I took the first shoe and threw it but it did not hit him. Then spontaneously I took the second shoe but it did not hit him either. I was not trying to kill the commander of the occupation forces of Iraq.”


Munthadar al Zeidi still in jail

February 6, 2009

The shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist recently celebrated his 30th birthday in jail. According to a recent Huffington Post piece, guards threw a party for him and gave him a cake. I’m sorry to say that apart from this, there’s very little ongoing coverage.

The HP story says Munthadar al Zeidi is waiting the outcome of an appeal to have the serious charges against him downgraded to “insulting”  George Bush.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard there’s a Kiwi connection to Mr al Zeidi and I’m hoping to learn and report more about this soon.

Over at Zimbio there’s a great collection of animated gifs and other material that’s been generated over the Internet in the weeks since the December 2008 incident in Baghdad. [In case you don’t know, al Zeidi an Iraqi TV reporter took off his shoes and hurled them at outgoing president George Dubya Bush during a media conference. In the Arab world throwing shoes is a very heavy insult.]

It’s a pity that the American soldiers involved in this incident, didn’t throw shoes instead of opening fire:

Reporters Without Borders calls on the US military high command to discipline the US soldiers who shot and seriously wounded TV journalist Hadeel Emad yesterday [2nd January 2009] in Baghdad. Emad works as a producer for Beladi TV, owned by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari.

“The US military said Emad ignored the orders to stop given by its soldiers but how could she have complied when her hearing is impaired?” Reporters Without Borders said. “An unarmed person’s failure to immediately respond to a warning is anyway not grounds for opening fire on them. We hope Emad recovers quickly from her injuries and we offer her colleagues our sympathy. Above all, we call on the US military to shed light on this disgraceful incident and to adopt the necessary disciplinary measures.”

The incident occurred at a checkpoint jointly manned by US soldiers and Iraqi police in the central Baghdad district of Karada.

According to Beladi TV, the US soldiers initially fired in the air but Emad, 25, did not hear the shots because her hearing is impaired. When she did not heed their warning shots, the soldiers then fired two shots in her directing, hitting her in the chest. She was rushed to a Baghdad hospital where her condition was said to be critical.

Agence France-Presse today quoted a US military spokesman as saying soldiers opened fire on Emad because she was “behaving erratically.” The management of Beladi TV said it wanted to “know the reasons for this criminal act.”


Shoe-throwing should be an Olympic sport

January 7, 2009

I am loving the way that throwing shoes at things you don’t like has taken off like a cool piece of countercultural viral marketing.

In Ashland, Oregon, on the crazy northwest fringe of the USA, a city councillor and local shit-stirrer has set up an installation in an art gallery with an 8ft caricature of Dubya and has been hurling shoes at it. Members of the public were encouraged to have a go. It looks like fun.

I’m all in favour of modern art with a purpose. It seems Eric Navickas is a bit of a maverick, even in these maverick parts of the US.

Meanwhile, the trial of Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who started the shoe-throwing craze by actually throwing his shoes at George W Bush in Baghdad a few weeks ago, has been postponed.


I agree with Rosemary

December 28, 2008

Well, the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist has certainly sparked a lot of interest worldwide. Opinion is divided about whether or not his actions are legitimate, or beyond the journalist’s ethical pale.
In this weekend’s Sunday Star Times, columnist Rosemary McLeod says that 29 year-old reporter, Muntadar al-Zeidi, is her “man of the year”.

That might be a step too far for some, but Rosemary’s column lays out some interesting 21st century ethical principles and acknowledges that reporters do have opinions and also a right to express them.

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A kiss goodbye from an Iraqi journalist

December 16, 2008

Shuddering back to life.

An Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi [Muntazer Zaidi] , 28, was arrested after throwing his shoes at Mr Bush during a press conference with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. Mr Bush ducked twice as the shoes narrowly missed his head and hit the wall behind him. [Read story in The Telegraph]

I just saw the footage on the BBC news, it was a narrow miss, just over the top of Bush’s head. Now Muntadar is in jail and is to be prosecuted under Iraqi law. This is not good news I fear.

There are calls for Muntadar to be released, his individual protest – throwing shoes is an effective insult – was against the background of other protests against Bush’s visit to Baghdad.

The local network, Al-Baghdadia, where Muntadar worked,  issued a statement demanding Zaidi’s release “in line with the democracy and freedom of expression that the American authorities promised the Iraqi people.”

“Any measures against Muntazer will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime,” it added.

According to AFP, Saddam Hussein’s former lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said he was forming a team to defend Zaidi and that around 200 lawyers, including Americans, had offered their services for free.

“It was the least thing for an Iraqi to do to Bush, the tyrant criminal who has killed two million people in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dulaimi.

“Our defence of Zaidi will be based on the fact that the United States is occupying Iraq, and resistance is legitimate by all means, including shoes.”

Zaidi’s colleagues in Baghdad, where he had worked for three years, said he had long been planning to throw shoes at Bush if ever he got the chance.

The Iraqi authorities are not likely to see the funny side of this incident. Muntadar faces a charge of insulting a visiting head of state, which carries two-year jail term.

The whole idea of such an offence is ridiculous and shows clearly how bankrupt the claims of the US and UK and Iraqi regimes that there’s any semblence of democracy on the ground in Iraq.

Bush brushed off the insult, but it’s interesting that al-Zeidi got so close and was able to hurl both shoes with some accuracy and flair before being taken down.

I guess there’s a fairly standard argument that a journalist should not get so emotionally involved in a story that they let their anger get in the way. According to some news accounts, Muntadar had planned the “attack” for some time. He clearly bears a grudge and felt a need to express it.

It goes beyond the bounds of acceptable ethical behaviour that you’d expect from journalists, though there are memorable incidents, even if a little milder, of journalists getting too emotionally involved at news conferences and hurling abuse.

Press conferences are usually expected to be civilised affairs, Al-Zeidi reportedly works for a small independent TV station in Baghdad, I wonder if he’s done any units in ethics during whatever training he might have had.

It also points to the emotional tensions the can sometimes bubble to the surface when reporters are working under stressful conditions like Baghdad and Iraq today.


Burma and the shock doctrine

May 15, 2008

When the devastating cyclone hit Burma couple of weeks ago I pondered a blog post on the Shock Doctrine. I read Naomi Klein’s great book a few months ago and as soon as it was clear how devastated parts of Burma were, I thought: “this is a time for a shock doctrine intervention”. Well f*c( me with a spade, so it’s come to pass.

I first heard talk of a western military intervention this morning (15 May), so it’s time to join the blog chat on this topic. I found this interesting case for intervention on Slate, dated 12 May. Read the rest of this entry »