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…