The Day of Bahr Moussa

UK’s retreat from Basra is ‘A historic day for Iraq – but not in the way the British want to believe,’ writes Robert Fisk.

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don’t know. And we don’t care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That’s why we don’t know the figure. That’s why we left Basra yesterday.

I remember going to the famous Basra air base to ask how a poor Iraqi boy, a hotel receptionist called Bahr Moussa, had died. He was kicked to death in British military custody. His father was an Iraqi policeman. I talked to him in the company of a young Muslim woman. The British public relations man at the airport was laughing. “I don’t believe this,” my Muslim companion said. “He doesn’t care.” She did. So did I. I had reported from Northern Ireland. I had heard this laughter before. Which is why yesterday’s departure should have been called the Day of Bahr Moussa. Yesterday, his country was set free from his murderer. At last.

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Eric Margolis on Pakistan and Afghanistan

Eric Margolis is one of the world’s leading experts on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is particularly insightful in this interview with Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio.

Eric Margolis, author of American Raj: Liberation or Domination, discusses the causes of instability in Pakistan, the unrealistic expectations the U.S. places on its puppet governments, the Taliban’s inability to fill the Pakistan power vacuum and why the U.S. can’t resist the lure of imperialism.

MP3 here. (23:59)

Eric Margolis is a regular columnist with the Quebecor Media Company and a contributor to The Huffington Post. He is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet.

Sheikhs, lives and videotape

‘A member of the UAE royal family is accused of torture – but is there any chance of justice when the country’s rulers are the law?’ asks Brian Whitaker.

The atrocities of Abu Ghraib caused much rightful indignation – and nowhere more so than in Arab countries where the sadistic torture of prisoners at the hands of their American jailers was viewed as symbolising the rape of Iraq by a foreign power.

I remember discussing this at the time with Hisham Kassem, a newspaper editor in Cairo who – contrary to the prevailing Arab view – described the coverage of Abu Ghraib by the Egyptian press as “shameless”.

“They talk about American monstrosities as if their own governments have never practised anything similar,” he said. “It’s nothing in comparison to what’s happening in Arab prisons.”

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Dr. Mads Gilbert: A Physician in Gaza

Dr. Mads Gilbert has worked and practiced medicine in Gaza for more than thirty years. One of the few western observers on the ground during Israel’s January bombardment, Gilbert’s testimony during the offensive was a critical source of information. On January 3, after an Israeli strike on a Gaza vegetable market, Gilbert sent a text message to his Norwegian and International contacts:

‘From doctor Mads Gilbert in Gaza: Thanks for your support. They bombed the central vegetable market in Gaza city two hours ago. 80 injured, 20 killed. All came here to Shifa. Hades! We wade in death, blood and amputees. Many children. Pregnant woman. I have never experienced anything this horrible. Now we hear tanks. Tell it, pass it on, shout it. Anything. DO SOMETHING! DO MORE! We’re living in the history books now, all of us!’

Laura Flanders spoke with Gilbert recently as he embarked on a speaking tour in the United States.

Farewell, the American Century

Andrew J. Bacevich Rewriting the Past by Adding In What’s Been Left Out. (via TomDispatch)

In a recent column, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wrote, “What Henry Luce called ‘the American Century’ is over.” Cohen is right. All that remains is to drive a stake through the heart of Luce’s pernicious creation, lest it come back to life. This promises to take some doing.

When the Time-Life publisher coined his famous phrase, his intent was to prod his fellow citizens into action. Appearing in the February 7, 1941 issue of Life, his essay, “The American Century,” hit the newsstands at a moment when the world was in the throes of a vast crisis. A war in Europe had gone disastrously awry. A second almost equally dangerous conflict was unfolding in the Far East. Aggressors were on the march.

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Financial Barbarians at the Gate

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The Financial Barbarians at the Gate is a Guns and Butter interview with economist / historian Michael Hudson.  In it he discusses the historical takeover of the economy by the finance sector.

Financial Barbarians at the Gate (59:53): MP3

One point of note is that the illegal war of aggression in Iraq is not a war related to economics but to the strategic interests of Israel.  Hudson, explaining American Imperialism, states that “unlike England the United States didn’t have to invade countries, at least before the oil grab in Iraq” and instead drained countries through the US monetary system.  It’s revealing that he suggests Iraq as a change in economic policy, it was not about economics, the oil lobby in Washington didn’t want a war, they wanted an end to brutal sanctions to gain conventional access to the oil.

Obama falls short on Armenian pledge

Robert Fisk reminds us of President Obama’s pre-election pledge to recognise the Armenian Genocide as thus. Since his inauguration and during his recent visit to Turkey Obama backtracked and downgraded his description to “great atrocities” like his predecessors George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

It was clever, crafty – artful, even – but it was not the truth. For in the end, Barack Obama dishonoured his promise to his American-Armenian voters to call the deliberate mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide. How grateful today’s Turkish generals must be.

Genocide is what it was, of course. Mr Obama agreed in January 2008 that “the Armenian genocide is not an allegation… but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide… I intend to be that President.” But he was not that President on the anniversary of the start of the genocide at the weekend. Like Presidents Clinton and George Bush, he called the mass killings “great atrocities” and even tried to hedge his bets by using the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern” which means the same thing – it’s a phrase that elderly Armenians once used about the Nazi-like slaughter – but the Armenian for genocide is “chart”. And even that was missing.

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What is Education?

Thanks to Adrian Barnes of the Rossland Telegraph for sending me this transcription of David Foster Wallace’s address to US college graduates in 2005.

If anybody feels like perspiring, I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. Greetings and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

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Israel honours its victims of “terror attacks”

Despite completely obliterating a defenceless population in the Gaza strip earlier this year, Israel today honoured fallen IDF soldiers and “victims of terror attacks”. Speaking to mark Memorial Day, President Shimon Peres said: “This year as well, we lost the best of our boys and girls, some of whom during Operation Cast Lead.”

The Haaretz article goes to explain how the widow of the last Israeli soldier to die in combat lit a memorial flame at the ceremony. However Capt. Yehonatan Netanel did not fall at the hands of Palestinians, it is explained, but was in fact killed when Israeli forces mistakenly opened fire on his unit.

It is comforting to discover that at least someone’s death is attributed to the morally reprehensible IDF, who whitewashed their own wave of terror in the recent inquiry into soldiers’ conduct during the invasion of Gaza. Reflective of Noam Chomsky’s ‘Worthy and Unworthy Victims’, we see that Israel only recognizes one type of victim, its own; and one type of perpetrator, the Palestinian, so this admission comes as something of a milestone.

The fog of media misinformation

The superb Nick Davies questions why the British press swallowed whole the police line that Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack while their courageous officers attempted to revive him in the face of violent attacks by G20 protesters, only for citizen journalism to expose this falsehood a week later. In turn Davies examines the damning evidence that officers and the Metropolitan Police’s PR machine attempted to mislead the press and cover their own backs. One of the best voices around on the current state of the UK media.

The family of Ian Tomlinson, who died at the G20 protest this month, are planning to file a new complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This will deal not with the events that led to his death but with the fog of media misinformation that followed it. It is a complaint that will go to the heart of the way in which the news media operate – to the frequently undeclared relationship between reporters and the press officers on whom they rely and, in turn, the officials on whom these spokesmen rely on for much of their raw material. And it will pose a question that both sides often prefer to ignore: can they trust each other?

The superb Nick Davies questions why the British press swallowed whole the police line that Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack while their courageous officers attempted to revive him in the face of violent attacks by G20 protesters, only for citizen journalism to expose this falsehood a week later. In turn Davies examines the damning evidence that officers and the Metropolitan Police’s PR machine attempted to mislead the press and cover their own backs. One of the best voices around on the current state of the UK media.

The family of Ian Tomlinson, who died at the G20 protest this month, are planning to file a new complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This will deal not with the events that led to his death but with the fog of media misinformation that followed it. It is a complaint that will go to the heart of the way in which the news media operate – to the frequently undeclared relationship between reporters and the press officers on whom they rely and, in turn, the officials on whom these spokesmen rely on for much of their raw material. And it will pose a question that both sides often prefer to ignore: can they trust each other?

There were six days of substantially false coverage about a man who apparently died of a heart attack as he walked home while a screaming mob of anarchists hurled missiles at the police officers who tried to help him. Any inquiry into this media misinformation will want to find out whether that was simply the hyperbole of ignorant reporters or the product of bad practice at the Metropolitan police, the City of London police or the IPCC.

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