Thursday, January 06, 2005


Nothing says democracy like martial law

Whoops, I mean "emergency laws" (but hey, what's the difference, right?). In a step hailed by many as a bold step toward American-style democracy, Iyad `Allawi has extended emergency rule by 30 days to cover the January 30th election date.
"Since terrorist gangs continue their activities to prevent the creation of a broad representative government and try to impede peaceful political participation of all Iraqis, we have decided to extend the state of emergency in all areas of Iraq except the region of Kurdistan for 30 days," Allawi said.
Whoo boy, I love me some democracy!


Alberto Gonzales

In light of Alberto Gonzales's big day today, here is an article that might be worth reading. Here is the gist of it:
Sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners continued at least three months after the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed, according to accounts by alleged victims in the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

Iraqi inmates were sexually assaulted, beaten, administered electric shocks and kept in cages or crates, the magazine said, based on 60 hours of interviews with 10 former inmates, including a 15-year-old boy.

Writer Donovan Webster quotes an inmate saying he was hung naked from handcuffs in a frigid room while soldiers threw buckets of ice water on him.

Webster added that several of the people he interviewed said their mistreatment took place in July, three months after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in late April.
Yep, that's three months after the Abu Ghraib story broke (not after it actually happened).
The article said the former detainees interviewed are suing two American companies that provided translators and interrogators to forces in Iraq and that their firsthand accounts comprised "hundreds, if not thousands, of separate Geneva Conventions violations".
They must mean hundres, if not thousands of separate violations of those oh so quaint and obsolete Geneva Conventions.

(via the Front Line)


Tony Blair on the Palestinians

"I think the Palestinians have had enough sympathy"

Actually, I've taken that quote completely out of context. What Blair was trying to say was that sympathy is not enough to help the Palestinians, who have plenty of sympathy but little real support from nations around the world. Unfortunately, Blair hardly stands in any position to hold himself or Britain up as examples of those taking action on the Palestinian issue. Indeed, at the moment Blair is merely parroting the Bush line that reform and democratization within the Palestinian government is the stumbling block for peace. Of course, the Israelis bear absolutely no responsibility at all. So essentially the Palestinians get no real support, no action, and now not even sympathy. Thanks a lot, Tony.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Abu Mazin and the "Zionist Enemy"

As I was reading the Washington Post Express this morning (the free paper they give to Metro riders here in DC, the Express is a cobbling together of wire stories from the previous day) and saw this AP story about Abu Mazin having referred to Israel as the "Zionist enemy." And I realized that this is more of a story than the 7 people who were killed, prompting Abu Mazin's statements. Seven people (three 17-year-olds, two 16-year-olds, a 12-year-old, and a 10-year-old) dying was not news; some old man with a moustache's choice of words in reacting to it was. This is what is wrong with the news (to piggy-back on Aunt Deb's comments about the news in the comments of my previous post). The news is not about the news. It's about the statements of the elite and powerful in reaction to the news. At least the Washington Post decided to lead with the story of seven youths being killed. But without Abu Mazin's reaction to cause the stir, I doubt the Post would have run a story at all. I read about Palestinians being killed every day, but rarely do I read it in the Washington Post. (Perhaps this is the fruits of the democratic system, since if it were not election season in Palestine you might not get any coverage at all. See, Palestine, democracy means an A12 story in the Washington Post. Isn't it all worth it?) The New York Times led with the "Zionist enemy" reaction. NPR discussed Abu Mazin's "Zionist enemy" reaction without even mentioning the seven dead youths. Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah reacted with a letter to NPR that stated:
NPR's Morning Edition today featured a report by Peter Kenyon about the upcoming election for Palestinian Authority president in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Kenyon's report was informative but did little to challenge the dull conventional wisdom that Palestinian reform rather than an end to Israel's military tyranny is the key to peace, and failed to address in any detail the substantial obstacles Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international peace process industry have placed in the way of genuinely free and fair elections...

Most disturbing, however, was Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep's lead-in to Kenyon's report. Inskeep introduced the report thus:

"Sunday's election for Palestinian president could provide clues to the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The frontrunner is Mahmoud Abbas. He's seen in the west as a potential partner for peace talks. He's calling for demilitarizing the struggle against Israeli occupation and he criticized some violence just today, but also today Abbas described Israel as the "Zionist enemy." He has to appeal to Palestinian voters, many of whom recently supported the Islamist Hamas in municipal elections."

This intro highlighted the phrase "Zionist enemy," and suggested that it was a deliberate appeal to Palestinian extremism. But Inskeep did not mention the shocking context in which Abbas used this, for him, uncharacteristic language. What Abbas actually said, at a campaign appearance was, "We came to you today, while we are praying for the souls of the martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy in Beit Lahiya."

The "martyrs" he was referring to were seven Palestinian children, the youngest of them aged 10, murdered by Israeli occupation forces in the northern Gaza Strip...

NPR often uses lead-ins to reports which have been filed earlier to provide updated information. But Inskeep made absolutely no mention of this atrocity, and NPR apparently decided that Abbas' comment rather than the killing of seven children was the "news."
Ahh, the beauties of a free press, where two words are more important than seven lives.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


New Year, Same Shit, More Democracy

2005 is going to be the year of elections, right? We're going to have elections in Iraq on the 30th! Everybody is pumped, right? Everyone will be extra super duper liberated! I've started to notice that even quite large acts of violence in Iraq (car bombs, etc.) are starting to move off the front pages and away from the top of the hour on cable news unless there are large numbers of Americans killed. Maybe the assassination of the governor of Baghdad will make it, too. Well, I'm sure when there's an elected governor of Baghdad it's going to be a whole different story.

Also elections coming up in Palestine on the 9th. Interesting, the Palestinians (whose undemocratic nature is the greatest obstacle to peace according to our George W. Bush) have tried to register voters and have meaningful campaigns. You can read an open letter from the Palestinian Peace Coalition signed by PA officials (such as Yasser Abd Rabbo), prominent Palestinians such as Hanan Ashrawi and Mahmoud Darwish, Salim Tamari and Nabil Kassis (the president of Bir Zeit University), leading Palestinian businessmen, and on and on (559 signatures in all). The open letter calls for such crazy undemocratic ideas as international law, internal rule of law and reform, enhancing the role and status of women in public life, separating the PA and state institutions from the leading faction (Fatah), economic development, and educational reform.

Meanwhile, the Israeli administration is getting a little bit worried that this whole democracy thing isn't working out like they were hoping. First, Islamists were doing a bit better than they should be in municipal elections. The solution? Arrest the candidates! The justifications:
"We arrested those people as part of our war on terror. These are not political arrests," Israeli army spokesman Eitan Arusi said.

He told the detainees were involved in "harmful political activities" and that the "interests of the Israeli defence forces necessitated their arrests."
No no no, you see, they aren't political arrests. The detainees were simply involved in "harmful political activities." Glad we got that straightened out. Also, it turns out that Abu Mazin isn't quite running his campaign as planned by the US and Israeli administrations. On the front page of Ha'aretz today, quite a hubbub over the fact that Abu Mazin recently referred to Israel as "the Zionist enemy." Whoopsie daisy! B-b-b-b-but Abu Mazin was supposed to be the savior, the anti-Arafat descending from Amman in a peanut butter and jelly helicopter with gumdrops for all the Palestinian children and a mighty smiting sword to bring down on Hamas.

Looks like these people just don't get democracy at all, do they. I thought it was all supposed to be about capitulation and snuggling up to the people with the big guns. Hmmm.....

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