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[casi] The new dictatorship .......

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Apologies for the length. but a very good pulling together of a lot of
double standards. I'm tempted to say 'no change there then' once again. From ... best, f.


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 A Media War?
The Rise of a New Dictatorship in Iraq
By Firas Al-Atraqchi
Freelance Columnist 
 26/11/2003 Rumsfeld charged that Arab media in Iraq was ³violently
The forcible shutting down of the Al-Arabiya news channel in Baghdad is the
first act of a new dictatorship shedding its teeth in the increasingly
undemocratic Iraq.
What is a dictatorship? A classic definition clarifies that it is ³a form of
government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a
constitution or laws or opposition etc.).²
Let us examine the situation in Iraq.
There is a US-appointed government called the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).
It is comprised of foreign-bred, foreign-educated, foreign-financed
autocrats. Most do not carry Iraqi citizenship, but US, British and
Australian passports. Most had never set foot in Iraq before April of this
All are protected by their local security guards and a heavy US security
detail. Some of the council members have their own private little armies.
Galal Talabani and Masoud Barazani, both rival Kurdish leaders, maintain
highly-equipped armies of peshmerga who at one point fought Saddamıs armies,
and at several junctions, one another. Ahmad Chalabi, who is wanted on
charges of fraud and embezzlement in neighboring Jordan (he was sentenced to
20 years in absentia), has his own army of Iraqi opposition who were trained
by the CIA and wear American-made uniforms and wield American-made weaponry.
They claim to represent the Iraqi people, but the average Iraqi had never
heard of them before they arrived on US transport planes from Kuwait in
They are such a squabbling lot that they share a rotating presidency. They
are not bound by laws or a constitution. Any opposition to the IGC is dealt
with swiftly. In the wake of Saddamıs demise, some 300 newspapers and
magazines sprouted in the ³new, free² Iraq. Some focused on social issues,
while others focused on the rights of Iraqi minorities, such as the
Assyrians or the Sabaeans.
Some, however, took the courageous step of cherishing their new-found
freedom and launched political newspapers. Almost immediately, they were
warned not to criticize the IGC nor take a position calling on Iraqis to
resist working with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
During the past summer, journalists coming out of Iraq spoke of harassed
Iraqi editors and writers, the trashing of print shops, and the arresting of
independent Iraqi writers. Threats of security were cited ­ sounds eerily
familiar to the classic version of Arab despotic regimes.
In September, an Iraqi editor who fiercely criticized the IGC, the US forces
and Saddamıs former regime was shot dead while standing on his roof. No
formal investigation was launched, no one detained. US forces simply blamed
³former regime terrorist elements² and shrugged their shoulders. Mosul
residents, however, painted a far more dire picture. They claimed that the
murdered editor was killed because he was on the verge of detailing
corruption charges against IGC members.
Since September, three newspapers in Mosul were shut down; other newspaper
editors feared for their lives and gave up their quest for a free press.
Eleven newspapers have been shut down in Baghdad.
During the same period, 16 journalists have been killed in Iraq. Fourteen of
those have been killed by direct US action.
The Al Jazeera all-news channel says its reporters and cameramen have been
arrested 18 times while on assignment in Iraq since the beginning of the war
in March. Imagine the outrage had Iran detained a CNN crew, or had Saudi
Arabia interrogated a FOX reporter. Every editorial in North America would
have screamed bloody murder and called for independent investigations and
sanctions against those nations, and called for freedom of access and
freedom of the press.
In Iraq, which is meant to be on its way to a pluralistic democracy, as
President Bush has envisioned, the rules are different. No freedom of the
press just yet, no dissent, no public outcry. Just behave like good little
ragheads and we wonıt hurt you.
On the 12th of November, The New Zealand Herald reported the following:
American soldiers handcuffed and firmly wrapped masking tape around an Iraqi
manıs mouth as they arrested him today for speaking out against occupation
Asked why the man had been arrested and put into the back of a Humvee
vehicle on Tahrir Square, the commanding officer told Reuters at the scene:
³This man has been detained for making anti-coalition statements.²
In April, when US invading forces were poised on the outskirts of Baghdad,
Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Ayyoub was gunned while standing outside the
Baghdad Al Jazeera office by US troops. The same day, Spaniard Jose Couso
for Spainıs Telecinco was killed when US tanks shelled the Palestine Hotel
in central Baghdad. Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian television cameraman for
Reuters, was killed in the same incident. 
US forces have not been held accountable, nor assumed responsibility, for
the killing and detention of journalists in Iraq. It is worth mentioning
that the US has signed no treaty that holds its military responsible for war
crimes. While an Austrian army colonel may be held for a war crime if he
tortures a Rwandan prisoner (letıs consider for the sake of argument), a US
colonel torturing an Iraqi will not be handed over to an international
US military investigations concluded in the above attacks on journalists
that ³US forces reacted appropriately in a hostile environment² in all of
the above cases. The findings have enraged human rights and international
journalistsı groups.
Many within journalism circles have accused US forces of trying to thwart
the unfettered access and broadcast of information pertaining to the
situation in Iraq. 
Also on November 12, Slobodan Lekic of the Associated Press news agency (AP)
With casualties mounting in Iraq (news - web sites), jumpy U.S. soldiers are
becoming more aggressive in their treatment of journalists covering the
Media people have been detained, news equipment has been confiscated and
some journalists have suffered verbal and physical abuse while trying to
report on eventsŠReuters television cameraman Mazen Dana was killed while
videotaping near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad following a
mortar attack. 
The military later said the troops had mistaken Danaıs camera for a
rocket-propelled grenade launcher. An investigation concluded the soldiers
³acted within the rules of engagement,² although the U.S. Army has never
publicly announced those rules, citing security reasons.
The latest attack on press freedoms came when the IGC ordered the Al-Arabiya
news station shut down, accusing it of promoting murder and chaos in Iraq.
According to the (AP) ³[the] State Department defended the U.S.-appointed
Iraqi Governing Councilıs banning of a major Arab television station, saying
Monday that the aim was to try Œto avoid a situation where these media are
used as a channel for incitement.ı² Al-Arabiya aired an audio-tape of Saddam
last week, which many feel is the real reason the move against the network
was taken.
Thatıs funny. Consider the hatred and vitriol against all things Arab and
Islamic on North American radio, talk-shows, the FOX network among others.
No, American journalism is beyond compare and cannot be scrutinized.
But there is method to this madness. In 1931, a young Adolf Hitler learned
the value of the media. A powerful media could control the people, move them
when needed, silence them when needed. This is called propaganda.
Last month, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld charged that Arab media
in Iraq was ³violently anti-coalition.² Apparently, showing images of girls
being frisked by US soldiers, an affront to Muslims and Arabs, is
anti-coalition. Apparently, giving voice to Iraqi civilians who complain
that they were beaten, or showing old men being pushed around and forced to
strip by anxious US soldiers is anti-coalition.[i]
Arab networks have been bringing audiences news that their North American
counterparts have sensitized and censored. The burning of Iraqi farms as a
measure of collective punishment, the razing of fields, the demolition of
family homes, the humiliation of Iraqis ­ are all stories North American
viewers do not get to see. Now, the IGC and the CPA want to ensure that Arab
audiences donıt see them either.
(Last month, the BBC criticized North American coverage of the war as being
A controlled media is the very first lesson in effective dictatorship. Have
we all forgotten our Orwellian and Machiavellian lessons?
So, whatıs Rumsfeldıs solution? According to AP, Rumsfeld ³said a satellite
channel controlled by the U.S. government would begin broadcasts next
Maybe Rumsfeld would do well to heed the Iraqi publicıs tastes: ³Two hundred
Iraqis vented their anger in Baghdad on Wednesday against what they called
Œimmodest imagesı on the coalition-run national television,² said the BBC on
November 19.[ii]
If outside control is acceptable to American conscience then I suggest the
US public be given a television station controlled by Mauritania. By stating
that Iraqis will have someone else determine their programming, Rumsfeld
takes a racist and ethnocentric approach to the issue.
The above article is sure to incite fury and anger because it presents a
side of the occupation most do not want to hear. Consequently, this writer
receives death threats and various forms of hate mail. To those who find the
above contrary to their inbred beliefs, consider an old Sioux adage which
says walk a mile in a manıs moccasin before you learn to judge him. Would
the average American citizen appreciate the silencing of a newspaper because
it publishes articles critical of Congress? Or would a British citizen
appreciate if Buckingham Palace ordered all stories of the royal family
entirely removed from the public eye?
Censorship of the media in the West is intolerable. Why is it then
acceptable for Iraqis who only seek to air their views and find alternate
forms of information?
To make things worse, The New York Times  reported on November 25th that the
IGC is trying to wedge its way out of its commitment to relinquishing
control to an elected Iraqi body.
But Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who is serving as president of the
council this month, said in an interview Monday that a majority of the
council members ³want to keep the Governing Council as it is now.² Some
council members who oppose this idea say they believe that the proposal is
being promoted by members who are afraid that they may not fare well in the
coming elections. Opponents of the idea also say they fear that staying on
will be a public relations disaster for the nascent rebuilt Iraqi state.
A new dictatorship is in the making in Iraq. History lessons are being
tossed aside. The Iraq policy is going sour for both the CPA and IGC. A
great crime is being committed against the Iraqi people. And they donıt want
you to know.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Iraqi heritage. Holding an MA
in Journalism and Mass Communication, he has eleven years of experience
covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry.
You can reach him at


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