The first Gulf War was recently descibed by Robert Fisk as a turning point, where Western society seemed indifferent to war and civilian casualties, he discerned that part of the problem was due to journalism saying “our television lads and lasses played it [the war] for all it was worth – it was the first war that had ‘theme’ music to go with the pictures”.
Militainment is a documentary on this phenomena where journalism blends with entertainment and the military establishment.
Friend of Pulse, independent journalist Dahr Jamail is in Iraq to report on the elections. Here he explains the differences in Iraq since his last trip and describes the mood as having changed from one of hope to one like a capped volcano of suffering:
Baghdad today [Thursday 29 January], on the eve of provincial elections, feels like it has emerged from several years of horrendous violence, but do not be misled. Every Iraqi I’ve spoken with feels it is tenuous, the still-fragile lull too young to trust.
There is no single journalist who is more knowledgeable and incisive when it comes to the consequences of the so-called ‘war on terror’ on Pakistan than Rahimullah Yusufzai. Since so much nonsense has been proliferating about Pakistan courtesy of both ill-informed Western journalists, and the native informers (*), PULSE will strive to provide fuller coverage of developments in the region. Here is Rahimullah Yusufzai on the continuing US bombing of the Pakistani tribal belt.
The issue of missile strikes by US drones in Pakistan’s territory has dominated politics and the media in recent days and weeks. The new Obama administration has made it clear the attacks will continue despite statements of disapproval on an almost daily basis by Pakistani leaders, who argue that this policy was undermining Islamabad’s efforts to counter the militancy.
Robert Gates, who has been retained as defence secretary by President Barack Obama to ensure continuity to Washington’s policy in its ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, became the first American official last week to publicly comment on the issue of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Normally, US officials avoid commenting on the topic in public and instead unnamed sources in the Pentagon or the intelligence agencies leak information to the American media about such attacks, along with the claim that someone important in Al Qaeda had been killed. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr Gates said the US would continue to carry out missile attacks against Al Qaeda militants in Pakistan. The US, he warned, will “go after Al Qaeda wherever Al Qaeda is.” He also said the decision had been conveyed to the government of Pakistan.
The times they are a-changing. Even Alexander Cockburn appears to be tempering his cynicism with cautious optimism.
A betting man, the morning after Obama’s inauguration, would surely have found odds-on stakes that the new president’s first daring cavalry charge would be an assault on the economic crisis, worsening day by day. Our Wednesday-morning gambler would have found much longer odds being offered on any surprising moves in that graveyard of presidential initiatives sign-posted “Israel-Palestine”.
But there’s been no exciting surprise or originality in Obama’s opening engagements with the reeling economy. His team is flush with economists and bankers who helped blaze the path to ruin. He’s been selling his $819 billion stimulus program on the Hill, with all the actors playing their allotted roles and many a cheering Democrat not entirely confident that the House Republicans may not have had a point when, unanimously, they voted No on the package
As only 100-120 aid trucks are allowed into Gaza per day by the Israeli and Egyptian authorities (compared to 500-600 before June 2007), the humanitarian situation remains critical. A brief report from UN OCHA:
Israel says 453 trucks entered Gaza 18-23 January, but only about half of them carried humanitarian aid – not nearly enough for 1.5 million Gazans, say UN agencies and international aid groups.
“The donors and the general public have mobilised from all over the world but the aid is stuck outside Gaza,” said John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.
A terrifying personal account of wanton Israeli destruction of the homes of ordinary Gazans and the resulting psychological terror that is being inflicted upon them, by Eva Bartlett.
There are many stories. Each account — each murdered individual, each wounded person, each burned-out and broken house, each shattered window, trashed kitchen, strewn item of clothing, bedroom turned upside down, bullet and shelling hole in walls, offensive Israeli army graffiti — is important.
I start to tell the stories of Ezbet Abbed Rabu, eastern Jabaliya, where homes off the main north south road, Salah al-Din, were penetrated by bullets, bombs and/or soldiers. If they weren’t destroyed, they were occupied or shot up. Or occupied and then destroyed. The army was creative in their destruction, in their defacing of property, in their insults. Creative in the ways they could shit in rooms and save their shit for cupboards and unexpected places. Actually, their creativity wasn’t so broad. The rest was routine: ransack the house from top to bottom. Turn over or break every clothing cupboard, kitchen shelf, television, computer, window pane and water tank.
‘The mere monitoring of bloody conflict assumes precedence over human suffering’ writes Robert Fisk in his swipe at the BBC.
I wonder if we are “normalising” war. It’s not just that Israel has yet again got away with the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza. And after its own foreign minister said that Israel’s army had been allowed to “go wild” there, it seems to bear out my own contention that the Israeli “Defence Force” is as much a rabble as all the other armies in the region. But we seem to have lost the sense of immorality that should accompany conflict and violence. The BBC’s refusal to handle an advertisement for Palestinian aid was highly instructive. It was the BBC’s “impartiality” that might be called into question. In other words, the protection of an institution was more important than the lives of children. War was a spectator sport whose careful monitoring – rather like a football match, even though the Middle East is a bloody tragedy – assumed precedence over human suffering.
In the slow evolution of US relations with Israel since 1948, as the latter mutated from a strategic liability to a strategic asset, Israel and its Jewish allies in the United States have always occupied the driver’s seat.
President Truman had shepherded the creation of Israel in 1947 not because the American establishment saw it as a strategic asset; this much is clear. “No one,” writes Cheryl Rubenberg, “not even the Israelis themselves, argues that the United States supported the creation of the Jewish state for reasons of security or national interest.”(1) Domestic politics, in an election year, was the primary force behind President Truman’s decision to support the creation of Israel. In addition, the damage to US interests due to the creation of Israel – although massive – was not immediate. This was expected to unfold slowly: and its first blows would be borne by the British who were still the paramount power in the region.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has revealed that roughly 75 per cent of construction of Israeli settlements has been carried out in contravention of Israeli law. The statistics are taken from a secret database compiled by the Ministry of Defence in order to fight legal challenges against the settlement programmes brought by the Palestinians. Scandalous indeed. You’d think that an illegal occupation would at least respect its own bogus laws.
More to the point, neither Haaretz nor the BBC, which picks up the story on its website, mention that 100 per cent of the Israeli settlements have been declared illegal by the World Court.
Ha’aretz reports on the sudden growth of an American movement to boycott the Israeli academy, in protest at the Zionist ‘scholasticide’ aimed at Palestinian schools, universities, and students. Palestinians have long had the reputation of being the best educated population in the Arab world, but this is now under threat. For years, students in the occupied West Bank and Gaza have had only intermittent access to education as a result of curfews, closures and checkpoints. The Red Cross has found that children in Gaza are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies – which affect brain development – as a result of the Israeli siege of the territory. Studies have shown that more than half of children in Gaza suffered post-traumatic stress disorder before the latest massacre, a condition which results in insomnia, panic attacks, and an inability to concentrate. And during the massacre, Israel targetted schools and the Islamic university (which, despite its name, teaches secular subjects). In this context, anti-boycott lobbyists’ evocation of ‘academic freedom’ seems (to be polite about it) to miss the point. Palestinian civil society organisations, and anti-Zionist Israeli academics such as Ilan Pappe, have called for the boycott.