From the Guardian, originally published on February the 2nd;
Remote-controlled explosives were strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome and detonated in coordinated attacks on two Friday morning markets in central Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 73 people and wounding nearly 150.
The chief Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, Brigadier General Qassim al-Moussawi, claimed the female bombers had Down’s syndrome and that the explosives were detonated by remote control, indicating they may not have been willing attackers in what could be a new method by suspected Sunni insurgents to subvert stepped-up security measures.
The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said the bombings showed that al-Qaida has “found a different, deadly way” to try to destabilise Iraq.
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said the bombings in Iraq proved al-Qaida is “the most brutal and bankrupt of movements” and would strengthen Iraqi resolve to reject terrorism.
From the Guardian, originally published on February the 20th;
The U.S. military said Wednesday that two women used as suicide bombers in attacks earlier this month had undergone psychiatric treatment but there is no indication they had Down syndrome as Iraqi and U.S. officials initially had claimed.
Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, the chief Iraqi military commander in Baghdad, said soon after the attacks that photos of the women’s heads showed they had Down syndrome, but he did not offer any other proof.
A U.S. military spokesman for the Baghdad area, Lt. Col. Steve Stover, also said at the time that medical experts with his division had examined the photos and agreed the women probably suffered from the genetic disorder. “They were both females and they both looked like they had Down syndrome,” Stover said on Feb. 2.
A cell phone image of one of the heads viewed by The Associated Press was inconclusive.
There was speculation that the heads could have been distorted by the blast, leading police initially to believe they had Down syndrome.
On Wednesday, Smith backed away from the claim about Down syndrome while responding to a question concerning the psychiatric histories of the two bombers.
“Both had recently received psychiatric treatment for depression and/or schizophrenia. From what we know now there’s no indication that they had Down syndrome,” Smith said, citing records obtained by the military.
Smith also said one of the women was married but that neither had criminal backgrounds. He said it was not clear how they were linked to al-Qaida in Iraq, which the military has said was behind the bombing.
On the 2nd of February the Guardian published unsubstantiated claims as fact.
As a work of cultural criticism, The Terror Dream is comprehensively shocking. But didn’t the extreme disconnection between reporting and reality that it exposed present the author with a problem? If the country’s cultural narrative was driven more by fiction than fact, and failed to reflect the truth of post-9/11 America, why base a whole book upon such spurious material?
“Because we live in a culture that’s so . . . you can’t . . .” She casts a hand around the hotel bar helplessly. “I mean, this is sort of miraculous, to be sitting in a room where there’s not some massive flat-screen TV yelling at us. It’s almost a sci-fi feeling, this kind of constant bombardment of programmed thought.” Its effect is not as simple, she stresses, as “monkey see, monkey do”. “But it certainly has a warping effect on how we think about the world, and how we think about ourselves.” Journalism became not descriptive but prescriptive – “and that had an enormous effect on our political life, our policy, our nightmarish policy, our misbegotten military strategy”.
This echoes my (not very original) view of modern mass (largely American) media as prescriptive and ideologically committed; the news has evolved to be less the recounting (mirror) of events couched in narrative form, and more a tableau where the details are exaggerated at the behest of some dark aesthetic. Still a mirror, but now reflecting the prejudices of it’s creator rather than that which it claims to represent.
In one respect, she concedes, cultural criticism today is less relevant than it used to be. “The culture used to move relatively slowly, so you could take aim. Now it moves so fast, and is so fluffy and meaningless, you feel like an idiot even complaining about it.” But on the other hand, “I think a reason that a lot of people feel politically paralysed is that it used to be clear how power was organised. But those who have their hands on the levers of popular culture today have great power – and it isn’t even clear who they are.” They may be commercially accountable, in other words, but not democratically.
In my youth I would often contemplate the highly accelerated nature of mass media, and it’s effects on culture. It was it’s instantaneous nature that occupied me the most. A good analogy for me was how, in bygone days of yore, the passage of time was a function of the sunrise and sunset. These days we measure the same phenomenon (illumination) through the flick of a switch.
Analogous to this, the instantaneous nature of media and popular culture lends authenticity to the mediated as immediate, and as a consequence we are prone to mistake the mediated for the truth.
For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it. The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news…
So, who exactly is producing fiction for the media? Who wrote the Zarqawi letters? Who created the fantasy story about Osama bin Laden using a network of subterranean bases in Afghanistan, complete with offices, dormitories, arms depots, electricity and ventilation systems? Who fed the media with tales of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, suffering brain seizures and sitting in stationery cars turning the wheel and making a noise like an engine? Who came up with the idea that Iranian ayatollahs have been encouraging sex with animals and girls of only nine?
An American occupation force joined by the Iraqi forth regiment raided Al-Siha district at the right side of Mosul city.
They attacked a house of a pregnant woman, started beating her harshly and she was screaming and crying from the pain, one of the Iraqi government forces his name is Caesar Saadi Al-Jibouri from Al-Qiara district asked them to stop beating the woman, the answer came through the interpreter was “we do what we want”.
The Iraqi soldier went to one of the armed vehicles and opened fire killing three Americans among them a captain and injured the interpreter.
Whatever weakness occurred to the nation, there comes a time when they will revolt against the occupation just like Caesar’ [one man] revolution, this incident must be a good breakthrough for Iraqis who have been involved in the service of the occupier.
While the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns these criminal acts of the occupation forces, AMSI shows its jubilation with the heroic act from the Iraqi soldier and asks employees of the police and army to consider his act as role model.
God bless America.
Q: What is Obama’s potential Achilles heel?
NOVAK: I think the only potential Achilles heel is in a general election, if there is some racist prejudice. I’m not sure there is. He’s, as poor Joe Biden said, he’s clean. He isn’t a stereotype African-American. And I think he’s a very strong candidate.
It seems Mr. Novak would have no problem allowing Obama into his (or even the White) house. I wonder if this is the sort of change that Obama’s victory at Iowa was supposed to represent, or maybe Mr. Novak merely regards him as a house African-American…
My good friend Leo asked me recently for a few political blog / blogger recommendations, and I did duly tender him with a list, but I neglected to mention one of the most important of them all; The News Blog / Steve Gilliard.
Sadly Steve passed away last June, but his legacy survives. For anyone unfamiliar but interested in the writing of a “a combative and influential blogger on the left“, a recent post on The Group News Blog (The Writings of Steve Gilliard — 101) simplifies the task of locating his work considerably.
The first comment from the above post;
Looks like I’ll be busy cruising the “Intertubes”. A PDF of all his writings would be quite a project, anybody thought of that?
That gives me an idea…
Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience – just one – whom I call the “raver”. Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions – often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist – and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the “raver” is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a “raver”.
His – or her – question goes like this. Why, if you believe you’re a free journalist, don’t you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don’t you tell the truth – that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers? Why don’t you reveal the secrets behind 9/11? The assumption in each case is that Fisk knows – that Fisk has an absolute concrete, copper-bottomed fact-filled desk containing final proof of what “all the world knows” (that usually is the phrase) – who destroyed the twin towers. Sometimes the “raver” is clearly distressed. One man in Cork screamed his question at me, and then – the moment I suggested that his version of the plot was a bit odd – left the hall, shouting abuse and kicking over chairs.
Usually, I have tried to tell the “truth”; that while there are unanswered questions about 9/11, I am the Middle East correspondent of The Independent, not the conspiracy correspondent; that I have quite enough real plots on my hands in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, the Gulf, etc, to worry about imaginary ones in Manhattan. My final argument – a clincher, in my view – is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything – militarily, politically diplomatically – it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?
Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim – as the Americans did two days ago – that al-Qa’ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. “We disrupted al-Qa’ida, causing them to run,” Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named “Operation Lightning Hammer” in Iraq’s Diyala province. “Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them.” And more of the same, all of it untrue.
Within hours, al-Qa’ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas – which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush’s more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.
But – here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It’s not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93’s debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I’m not talking about the crazed “research” of David Icke’s Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.
I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the “raver” bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be “fraudulent or deceptive”.
Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard “explosions” in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let’s claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA’s list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.
But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose “Islamic” advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the “Fajr” prayer to be included in Atta’s letter.
Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious “war on terror” which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush’s happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that “we’re an empire now – we create our own reality”. True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.
When Fisk, the venerable curmudgeon, states in no uncertain terms that he “would like to know the full story of 9/11”, that he is looking for answers, you must start to believe that the tide is turning. Truly we are living in interesting times.
You can download, and read the transcript of, Olbermann’s preemptive strike against the Bush administration’s “new Iraq Strategy” here. And while you’re at it, why not check out this article which he references in the course of his comment. This, my friends, is the real deal. It is made all the more potent when you consider the standard of journalism in American mainstream media today. As a taster;
…This senseless, endless war. But it has not been senseless in two ways. It has succeeded, Mr. Bush, in enabling you to deaden the collective mind of this country to the pointlessness of endless war, against the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It has gotten many of us, used to the idea — the virtual “white noise” — of conflict far away, of the deaths of young Americans, of vague “sacrifice” for some fluid cause, too complicated to be interpreted except in terms of the very important sounding, but ultimately meaningless phrase, “the war on terror.”
And the war’s second accomplishment — your second accomplishment, sir – is to have taken money out of the pockets of every American, even out of the pockets of the dead soldiers on the battlefield, and their families, and to have given that money to the war profiteers. Because if you sell the Army a thousand Humvees, you can’t sell them any more, until the first thousand have been destroyed…
Absolutely brilliant stuff. But you have to wonder, though, why it has taken till now, more than 6 years into Bush’s Reign of Terror, for public opinion to turn. Or, as Olbermann suggests, is it down to one of the few successes of the Bush Administration; that the collective mind had been so deadened…
For a limited time (till the 26th of September to be precise) the Guardian digital edition is available to all for free. It boasts a pretty neat interface, and I found it very easy to navigate.
Also if there is a particular article you want to print, so as to read it later at your leisure, you can access a pdf version of the page.