Friday, February 18, 2005


Journalists and Terrorists

Most violence in present day Iraq is generally attributed to ‘insurgents’. It seems that in most people’s minds in America, the word ‘insurgents’ means only one thing: ‘terrorists’.

I have often wondered how this conviction took hold of these people’s minds. I can only find one answer: the mass media. But this is only a partial answer!

I don’t know exactly how many daily acts of violence are taking place these days. But we were told that before the elections the figure was around 100. (My personal belief is that the actual figure is higher.) We are further told that around 80 of these acts are directed at the US army. But which ones do you get on your news? Mainly acts of terrorism. It’s the media.

Many wrong things have been done in Iraq by a multitude of parties. Many Iraqis knew of these things. But it is the mass media that can make the international public aware of them. Examples are many. The few that caught the attention of people worldwide, such as Fallujah, the devastation of Najaf and Abu Ghraib… have been exposed by the media.

It only stands to reason that any patriotic force operating in Iraq in opposition to what they see as an occupation should desire maximum media exposure of what is happening on the ground. This would serve their purpose of exposing wrongdoing and making people aware of the resistance to the occupation to rally support for their cause. It is in the interest of any such national resistance to have maximum media coverage.

The result of the lack of such coverage was that the resistance was associated in the minds of many people (even inside Iraq) with acts of terrorism… those acts that get media coverage. That certainly does not serve the purpose of such a resistance movement.

All this leads one to think that it would be a central objective of the resistance not to attack the media and the journalists working inside Iraq. But the media and those journalists have been viciously attacked for the past two years. Some of those attacked were people who were dedicated to giving the world a better picture of what was going on in Iraq, at considerable personal risks.

I have mentioned in a previous post that the nature and magnitude of attacks on Iraqis going to polling stations on Election Day had clearly separated the terrorists form the national resistance. I now contend that attacking the media and journalists is another parameter.

Who has been abducting the journalists? I hope that the answer to this question is evident by now. Some people may still argue that there is no such thing as a nationalistic resistance in Iraq and that all those people are terrorists and fanatical suicide bombers. They are entitled to their opinion of course. But the consequences of such a view to both Iraq and America can be disastrous.

Another, equally important question that is more difficult to address, naturally follows: Who has been attacking the media in Iraq and making its work of covering events on the ground more difficult? … and why?


Look at their actions, not their words. The fact that these groups negotiate the exchange of the journalists for cash shows they are criminals, nothing more, nothing less.

Are you whining that the insurgents (a noble, patriotic anti-imperialist resistance) are not getting good press? I do not accept the premise that a Machiavellian opponent is masquerading as the resistance and deliberately targeting journalists to tilt press coverage against the nationalistic resistance.

The terrorists are Sunni Jihadist. A great many of the nationalistic resistance reflect the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. They were criminal thugs yesterday; they are criminal thugs today. The true patriots of Iraq took to the polls on January 30th.

Strategy PageIraqi and coalition forces are getting hit with 50-60 attacks a day. Most of these are ambush type attacks that result in no casualties. Dozens, sometimes over a hundred, of the attackers, or suspects, are arrested every day. Interrogations of these men, and examination of documents seized, indicates that there is no one anti-government organization behind the attacks. But the attackers are not broad-based either.

The "resistance" is spontaneous in the sense that many Sunni Arab Iraqis will, because they have guns and an opportunity, take a shot at Iraqi security forces or American troops. If the Iraqi cops in the neighborhood are Kurdish or Shia Arab, a bunch of local guys will agree to just up and kill one of "them."
Is there any truth to this?

Hello Abu Khaleel,
One reason for the crime wave is the +50% unemployment rate. Of course, if Iraq was a nation of choirboys we could roll our eyes and act appalled, but $1000 to shoot or kidnap somebody is serious money. Trickle down thru US military is humiliating. Withdraw US troops from the cities and turn on the reconstruction money machine on your way out.

Dear Abu Khaleel,
A most timely post, given the aftermath of the elections and what keeps happening, as for instance the increasing sectarian bombings and attacks against Shiite civilians, in the West purported to be the work of ‘Sunni Salafis’ (!!!), and the kidnapping (while she was going to interview the Fallujah refugees) and video of Italian anti-war journalist Giuliana Sgrena (who will, I’m very afraid, end up like Margaret Hassan).
You – and most reliable Iraqi & foreign witnesses, and common sense besides – maintain that there is an Iraqi nationalistic resistance to the occupation, made up of course of former Baathists of different factions, but in greater numbers by other Iraqi nationalists, by traditionalist Salafis, by leftist anti-imperialist factions, plus many, many apolitical Iraqis who resent the foreign occupation of their land, or had some relatives killed or maimed by the US military, and who want the US out. The members of this national resistance are undoubtedly those who downed most of the nearly 1,500 US troops killed up to the present.
The picture given by Western media (on US tips) is completely different: there is no resistance but only terrorists, a crazy gang of Wahabi al-Qaidists suicide bombers (supported by a few cynical Saddamist spooks from the former regime) killing mainly Iraqi civilians and beheading hostages in order to impose their tyranny on the common Iraqis, who are – through the IP & ING, and now through their vote - supporting the continuing occupation (LOL!), or in order to cause civil war (why? out of sheer despite at the onward march of ‘democracy’, is the answer given by the ‘Charleses’ of Western media).
Leaving aside for a second the identity of the perpetrators of these latter actions, there is indeed a problem of information on the part of the Iraqi national resistance. They seem to be completely unable to inform the international media properly, or to disown radically and with clarity some actions not made at all, I suspect, by the Iraqi resistance. As I wrote to you months ago, for instance the ‘Resistance Reports’ published by Islammemo are little more than triumphalist propaganda (contrary to what our friend Alvaro Frota says, in the few cases I was able to check their content about a specific incident against what some other anti-occupation witness reported about the same incident, I found them to be altogether untrustworthy – see, for instance, some weeks ago, how the bomb at the Australian Embassy was reported by Islammemo and how it was reported instead by Dahr Jamail, who was on the very spot). I imagine it has to do with the nature of the Iraqi resistance, that is mainly spontaneous, composed by a great number of local small groups just doing their actions locally, without a national network or a common political expression. By now they should create that national network, and a political front: either to lead the resistance on in the struggle, or, if it is possible, to negotiate in view of a national reconciliation with the new elected Government. You see, when something like the Hassan or the Sgrena kidnapping happens, the condemnation of the deed by the Assembly of the Sunni Ulemas is not enough to give the lie to US-friendly media outlets: being the resistance so very fragmented, who can tell that they are talking on behalf of all groups, or exclude that some unknown local group has done that action? As you write, “It is in the interest of any such national resistance to have maximum media coverage. The result of the lack of such coverage was that the resistance was associated in the minds of many people (even inside Iraq) with acts of terrorism…”.

As for those who are actually “abducting the journalists” and trying to provoke civil war by sectarian bombings, as you write “the answer to this question is evident by now”. Actually it should have been evident since the beheading of the American Berg, some anti-war young man whose abduction and murder in April 2004 did most timely put in second place, in the eyes of the American public, the shock of the Abu Ghraib torture and rape scandal. False flag operations, covert death squads, ‘psy-ops’ of a very dirty nature have been a trait of US strategy all through the world, like in the Vietnam of the Fifties (read ‘The Quiet American’, the excellent novel by which Graham Greene – and British MI6 – spilled the beans), in Central America (where Negroponte was active), or in the Italy of the years 1968-80. One has to keep in mind that apart from the US military & secret services there are in Iraq a veritable army of between 30 and 50 thousand foreign mercenaries (some of them Israelis), not to mention Allawi’s ‘Baathists who turned’… In the beginning this sort of operations was, I suppose, useful to discredit the Iraqi resistance, branding it as ‘terrorism’. Now I’m afraid the agenda might be worse: to engineer some sort of Shiite-Sunni civil war, what is needed to maintain the military occupation of Iraq. Indeed the present spin is that the US occupation has to continue ‘in order to avert civil war’.
Again, the real Iraqi resistance should now put its own house in order, finding a common and loud voice; and do it fast.

I seem to recall a report from an Australian journalist who was kidnapped last year. His captors, a small and evidently opportunist group, became convinced of his neutrality, but before releasing him they referred to higher up. The first visitor was also convinced, but the next scary hardline guy wasn’t, and wanted the journalist handed over to him. However the original captors decided to let him go anyway, apparently without much fear of repercussions from above.
Reinforces the impression, which some recent US Army reports seem to support, of a largely "headless" insurgency. Is this easier or harder to deal with than one with a conventional chain of command?
Reminded also of the AP report on the wedding massacre at Makr Al Deeb, when a tribal relative of those killed swore that "for each one of ours, ten of theirs will die." Wonder what his score is up to now? Abu can maybe comment, to the Arab culture how important is payback or revenge for a wrong - does the impulse fade with time or get stronger? This would relate to the increasing pointlessness of the insurgency: if it is mainly diehard Baathists, on a strategic level they must know that they can’t "win" in the sense of defeating both the US troops and the Government troops once the latter gain greater legitimacy following the election. But if you’ve been offended enough, fighting to the bitter end may be the only aim? And presumably you don’t give a damn about world opinion and media reports.
Also depends of course on what is meant by "win." There seems to be a tendency now to measure the insurgency in terms of "attacks per day," currently running in the 80 to 100 range.
For US forces to begin significant withdrawals, if that’s what they want to do, what is an acceptable figure - 50, 20, zero?
Perhaps the combined forces can do it, but could it be that in terms of innocent casualties in the Sunni areas, the bloodletting has only just begun?
Abu can’t answer this, and I shouldn’t ask him, but what would he do if a wounded tribal relative showed up on his doorstep, seeking refuge? Turn him away? Turn him in? Or help him?

Feb 18 By Ken Dilanian, Knight Ridder Newspapers, BAGHDAD, Iraq
American soldiers barged into the house at midnight. A bomb had exploded on the highway out front earlier that day, killing an Iraqi national guardsman.
"I want some answers," Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Aldrich demanded through an interpreter as he shoved the homeowner out his front door. The man's wife and children watched, sobbing, from a side room.
Hadn't this guy seen something? The Iraqi swore to God he hadn't.
As two soldiers with rifles stood by, Aldrich yelled into the man's face and whacked the ground with a metal baton that the Americans called a "haji-be-good stick."
"If I'm out here, and I get shot at, I'm shooting every house near me!" Aldrich, 35, yelled in his booming former drill sergeant's voice. "Because you aren't helping me catch the bad guys, and if you're not helping me, you are the bad guy."
The man stared back blankly, and Aldrich let him walk back into his house. The Americans stormed into four other homes on the block, with similar results.
After nearly 11 months in Iraq, the soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, still couldn't tell friend from foe. Frustrated by a culture they didn't understand, and tired of having friends blown up, they often felt compelled to play bad cop, even though they knew that harsh measures risked creating more enemies.
"Every time we kill one of them, we breed more that want to fight us," Aldrich said. "We end up turning neutral people against us. It's not really our fault, though, because I have to defend myself."
His men weren't always rough. Sometimes Charlie Company soldiers were pictures of restraint, and when the need arose, they improvised, taking up the role of negotiator, social worker or neighborhood fixer.
Even Aldrich, who often played the "big mean guy," as he put it, would take time to play basketball with a resident or laugh with some children.
"What's really hard is the fine line between the bad guys and the good guys," said Staff Sgt. Riley Flaherty, a lanky, fast-talking character from Ohio. "Because if you piss off the wrong good guys, you're really in trouble. So you've really got to watch what you do and how you treat the people."
On another day, however, Flaherty saw it differently. "These people don't understand nice," he said. "You've got to be a hard-ass."
Such contradictions are understandable.
The troopers of Charlie 1-8 Cav arrived in Iraq with almost no training in Arab culture or guerrilla war. In January they had just two interpreters, one of whom barely spoke English. Patrols without interpreters were disasters waiting to happen. One such patrol began randomly searching houses on a whim after midnight one night. The residents turned out to be Christians- more likely to be the targets of terrorist attacks than the perpetrators.
"Why, mister, why?" one woman in a nightgown asked. The soldiers could only shrug and leave.
Aldrich recounted how a group of soldiers used fists and an electric stun gun to punish an Iraqi teenager who'd flashed his middle finger.
"I've got 200,000 Iraqis I've got to control with 18 people," Aldrich said, referring to his platoon's patrol sector. "So I've got to command respect. And unfortunately, all that hearts and minds stuff, I can't even think about that."
At another point he added: "There are things I have to do out here that I can't explain to my chain of command, and that the American people would never understand."
The hundred or so troops of Charlie 1-8 Cav spent their days patrolling their sector in groups of two or three armored Humvees. Occasionally a tank or two would come along.
All day long, the soldiers pointed their guns at Iraqi civilians, whom they called "hajis," the Iraq war's version of "gooks" in Vietnam and "skinnies" in Somalia.
Wary of ambushes, they rammed cars that got in the way of their Humvees. Always on the lookout for car bombs, they stopped, screamed at, shoved to the ground and searched people driving down the road after curfew - or during the day if they looked suspicious.
Iraqis who didn't stop at warning shots when they approached a Humvee in the middle of the night were met with a hail of gunfire. Sometimes the dead were clearly civilians, and sometimes they were clearly insurgents. Often there was no way to tell.
The soldiers had concluded that most Iraqis lacked the courage to stand up to the insurgents, and it angered them.
"I mean, everybody in this country has a weapon. Somebody is setting up a mortar tube in your front lawn - do something! Call somebody! Shoot `em!" said Charlie Company's commander, Capt. Rodney Schmucker, 30, a West Point graduate from Latrobe, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
Early in their tour, someone from Charlie Company thought he saw gunshots from a roof while he was manning a defensive position along one of the base walls. The troopers poured heavy weapons fire into the house.
The next morning, soldiers arrived to find several female members of a family dead - and one little girl alive, clinging to her dead mother. Some of the men broke down in tears, the soldiers said.
"I will never forget that girl raising her head up," said Staff Sgt. Victor Gutierrez of Los Angeles. [And the silly Capt. thinks after that action people are going to tell him about the resistance? They are the resistance. And rightly so. And you, Capt., are a Redcoat officer. Simple as that.]
The girl was flown to a hospital, where doctors saved her life.
Aldrich recounted the story matter-of-factly. Asked if the unintentional killing of innocent civilians bothered him, he replied:
"The one thing you learn over here is that there are no innocent civilians, except the kids. And even them - the ones that are all, `Hey mister, mister, chocolate?' - I'll be killing them someday."

Says it all, really.

Yup, somebody doesn't like those journo's hanging about. With their camera's everywhere, poking and prying.

That was clear right from the start really. When the Palestine Hotel was targeted.

On another note, just reading the commentary here; if one were astute one might offer some of ones commenters the Brooklyn Bridge for sale. Some of them might buy it. On the other hand, some of them might already have sold it.

Dear Abu Khaleel:

Two comments about your post:

The kidnapping of Giuliana Sgrena: Defaming the Iraqi Resistance is the name of the game

Italian hostage pleads for troop pullout from Iraq (Read this and aid to save a life)

Thank you for writing for the world.

I'm still optimistic that the election may result in an independent Iraq, but I sure hope this is not true:

"Ahmed Chalabi believes he has votes to become Iraqi premier."

It does not seem plausible to me, but as I keep saying, we'll see who sits, what the people who sit say and what the Iraqi people say about them.

If it is true, we certainly have our answer to the question of whether or not the elections were legitimate.

I have a question-

have the insurgents ever posted on the Internet?

and also, I was wondering like Charles if Abu Khaleel knows anything about them?

Ideally, it would be a crazy idea but interesting if people could chat with some insurgents in the safety of the anonymity of the internet.

O.K. I just read on online Al-Jazeera that two American military officers are negotiating with several nationalist groups through an Iraqi. Maybe our two worlds are about to make headway. May God make this a positive trend!!

Hello Abu Khaleel,
First I would definitely recommend your 'glimpseofiraq' series to those here who may have missed it (or are just tired of politics).
Anon 4:33, there are plenty of resistance sites mostly in Arabic, of course like arabrenewal, iraqipatrol, iraqforever, the great iraq, etc. The main thing I get out of them is they don't like the occupiers( or 'stooges') and some like old pictures of Saddam. I can't imagine an intellectual dialog with them.
I saw Chalabi today on an ABC TV interview. I think he is getting pushed out in front of Shias because of his harsh anti-baathist line. For all the supposed horsetrading, I see a lot of very hard positions from the Kurds and the Shia. I wrongly had expected some big deals to have been made by now. Is this going to get(even more)ugly?

If the outcome of these tortured elections is to put an unscrupulous corrupt conniving sleaze such as Chalabi into a position of power, you have to ask was it really worth it.

Mind you he can talk the talk and walk the walk, when he isn't putting the boot into the Sunnis.
Excerpts from Sunday night's ABC interview:

When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked why Prime Minister Allawi’s government failed to stop the insurgency and how the new government will deal with the same issues, Dr. Chalabi responded: "…The Iraqi government failed to stop those killers because the security plan that the United States and the coalition put together for Iraq for the period after sovereignty did not work. The government did not take the issue of the sovereignty of Iraq seriously. Iraqis must take control of the Iraqi armed forces from the recruitment, to the training, to the deployment."

When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked how the status of US forces will changes under the new government, Dr. Chalabi responded: "I believe that the agreement will deal with the issues of how the Iraqi armed forces work, how the command structure of the forces in Iraq to be organized, where the U.S. forces will be deployed, how they will deal with emergencies in Iraq, and where will they be. All these issues need to be clarified."

Dr. Chalabi on the issue of detainees: "The agreement will deal with the right or how those U.S. forces detainees Iraqis. There are thousands of Iraqis now detained by U.S. forces. We don't know why. We don't know how. And we don't know under what legal structure they are being detained. I believe that this process should be an Iraqi process."

Dr. Chalabi on the newly formed government: "We want to change the way Iraq is governed. It's no longer -- it will no longer be the government of a leader with everybody else not counting very much. We want to have a cabinet form of executive authority in Iraq, and I am perfectly willing to cooperate, as indeed are my other friends and colleagues who are competing the job of prime minister."

The Iraqi people will assert themselves as an independent people. They have elected an assembly which ran on this platform, independence, sovereignty. And I believe that the Iraqi people will not accept to be part of Iran. And the Shia of Iraq will not accept to be under the influence of Iran. But that does not mean we have to be enemies of Iran. Iran has a long border with Iraq, and we intend to have the best possible relations with Iran based on non-interference in each other's affairs, and also good neighborly relations, and no terrorism from either side against the other."

If you take him as always meaning the opposite of what he says, where does that get you?

To Anon 8:28 thanks very much for the information.
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