Over the past few days, my colleagues here at Firedoglake have been inviting you to become FDL members – and already many of you have. There are certainly lots of reasons to join – whether it’s support of the amazing journalism of Emptywheel or the passionate advocacy and smarts of Jane or the oh-so-many great stories this team delivers day in and day out. And alongside the news and politics, FDL continues to be a strong and effective organizing hub for a genuinely independent view. Our stance is always to advocate for what is right, not what might be expedient – for a party or for FDL itself. And now with a membership structure, we’ll be able to work more closely together to organize for those un-bought, uncensored positions.
For me, there’s another reason why I joined – and why I’m asking you to join up tonight if you haven’t already. Firedoglake with Jane at the lead has always seen the very real human beings in the midst of the news. There are many places where you can read foreign policy punditry or analysis or ideology, but oh so few where the human voices caught in the midst of our chaotic and transforming world can speak and have their voices heard. And creating a space where we listen to those voices is one of the things I value most about FDL and the space Jane has offered me – and all of you here. When we report on Iraq, Afghanistan or Gaza, and now Egypt and Libya and Bahrain, we look for the local sources, the local voices and viewpoints and do our best to showcase them.Too frequently our progressive platforms focus inward, to domestic issues and domestic squabbles – too rarely do we look at what America policy and militarism means for the people it’s imposed upon. And too many blogs have been afraid to take on some of these impacts – whether it’s the horror of civilian casualties in Sadr City or the US money and arms behind Operation Cast Lead.
So tonight, I’m asking you to join me in being a Firedoglake member so we can make our voices stronger – and continue to speak on behalf of all those other voices unheard in the halls of power.
And now to some of those voices.As markfromireland noted earlier today things look very bad for the rebels in Libya. While international bodies continue to debate whether to impose a no-fly zone – and whether one would do any good at this stage, Gadaffi’s forces continue to move towards Benghazi. Today, the rebels there paused to honor the Al Jazeera cameraman, Ali Hassan Al Jabr, who was killed in an ambush, presumably by government forces. Seven other journalists have disappeared in Libya, including Iraqi reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad who was on assignment for the Guardian.
Intensive efforts are continuing to persuade the Libyan government to release Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who was detained 11 days ago while reporting from the country.
Libya’s foreign ministry confirmed last week that it was holding Abdul-Ahad, but there has been no word on his whereabouts and no explanation of why he is still being detained after a Brazilian journalist he was travelling with was freed last Thursday.
As Al Jazeera’s correspondent Tony Birtley in Benghazi notes:
There are a lot of brave words going around but on the ground different things are happening. ”We have to remember that this is not an organised army, this is a group of teachers, engineers, street cleaners, people who have had no association with weapons, whatsoever.
“And now they are coming up against very strong, well-equipped forces. And we are seeing a lot of casualties, basically if it is not sorted out soon then those casualty figures are going to go up and up and up. ”It’s not a very good situation at the moment, it is not looking very positive, quite the reverse.”
In Iraq, journalists and organizers are also being attacked. Along with the 160 incidents in the last two weeks reported by the Iraqi Journalist Freedoms Observatory in which reporters have been beaten and broadcast facilities have been raided and trashed by government “security.” CPJ describes the attack:
Nearly a dozen gunmen stormed an independent radio station in Sulaimaniya’s Kalar district on Sunday, vandalizing the office, breaking most of the equipment, and confiscating the rest. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the assault on Radio Dang and calls on the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan to thoroughly investigate the attack. It is the second armed assault on an independent radio station in Sulaimaniya in a less than a month, according to news reports.
While the protesters are beaten, arrested and harassed, we also read this week in Aswat Al Iraq:
A U.S. force conducted an air drop operation on a village in al-Huweija district and raided some houses, killed a physician and arrested his brother, according to an Iraqi legislator on Tuesday.
“U.S. special forces, in association with forces from Salah al-Din province, conducted an air drop operation on a village in Huweija, where they killed a physician and detained his brother on Sunday (March 6) night,” Omar al-Juburi, a member of parliament from al-Wasat (Centrist) Coalition, said during a parliamentary session Tuesday…
Osama al-Nujeifi, the parliament speaker, asked the security & defense committee to investigate this incident, adding it represented a “clear violation of the status of forces agreement signed between Iraq and the United States.”
Neither the demonstrations nor this killing have gotten any notice in the American press. As Fatih Abdulsalam writes in Azzaman:
…The negligence with which U.S. media have been treating events in Iraq raises suspicion and shows that they pay lip service to notions of democratic values.
Otherwise, how could one explain the almost total blackout of the anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities during the so-called Friday of Wrath in which tens of thousands of Iraqis went to streets demanding better living conditions and recognition of their rights as human beings.
…U.S. media speak at length about protests in several Arab states and expect them to hit the hitherto quiet states, but they ignore what is happening in Iraq because they believe Iraq “to be the hanging fruit of Golden democracy … the outcome of the American model in Arab land.”
This is stark duplicity which no liberty-loving institution can be proud of. Iraqis need to settle their scores with the real masters in the country. And the real masters are the Americans, the custodians of the American project in Iraq which they try to defend by the presence of 50,000 U.S. occupation troops and a security agreement which the Iraqi people know nothing about.
U.S. media imposed almost a total blackout on demonstrations in Iraq. The only report I am aware of was the one issued in L.A. Times in which the newspaper belittled the uprising in Iraq, saying the organizers could hardly assemble 5,000 people in Baghdad’s Liberty Square.
The paper said nothing about the bloody methods government troops used to suppress the demonstrators in every street, square, village, district and city. Iraqi troops, heeding instructions from their commander-in-chief, the prime minister, resorted to massive force, firing live ammunition and showing disrespect to Iraqi blood.