Monday, July 17, 2006

Jake Kovco, Gaza, Danny Schechter

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
The US tries to firm up a commerce deal in Iraq, Jake Kovco's family learns more details and despite all the happy talk, chaos and violence continue with one single event that is being called the "bloodiest" by many.
A US soldier was "fatally wounded" in Baghdad today, the
AP notes pointing out that since Saturday four US soldiers have died "in the Baghdad area." Baghdad, location of the month-plus security 'crackdown.' Sunday, in Basra, a British soldier died and the BBC reports that he was John Johnston Cosby. Also on Sunday, Reuters reports that Laith al-Rawi ("local leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party") was killed in Haditha.
Today, the
AFP notes that six died in Baquba. The biggest attack (AFP calls it the "deadliest since the July 9 bloodbath") took place in southern Iraq. Reuters notes that, in Mahmudiya, "[g]unmen stormed a crowded market" and at least 56 are dead with at least 67 wounded according to "a local hospital" (Ministry of Defence says 42 dead). James Hider (Times of London) reports that along with attempting to downgrade the number of those killed "a Defence Ministry spokesman tried to convince reporters that the deaths had been the result of two car bombs, insisting that no gunmen had been involved. That statement was flatly contradicted by the testimony of survivors."
Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) explores the events and notes Muayyad Fadhil, mayor of Mahmudiya, stating: "There was a mortar attack. Then gunmen came from . . . the eastern side of town. They came into the market and opened fire at raondom on the people shopping." The AFP notes the attack was "a coordinated assualt of car bombs, mortar attacks and rampaging masked gunmen". One victim, Muzzaffar Jassem, tells AFP: "About six cars with at least 20 masked gunmen blocked the market road from two sides, got out of the car and opened fire randomly on women, children and elderly people in the market".
As the violence heats up, the so-called coalition gets smaller.
Reuters reports that Japan has pulled "[t]he last contingent" of their troops out of Iraq today.
In Australia, some feel answers are arriving as to the death of Jake Kovco; however, his family wants more answers. As
Bruce Scates (Sydney Morning Herald) notes: "It has been almost three months since Private Jake Kovco's body was finally returned to Australia." Australia's ABC reports that Dr. Johan Duflou, who performed the autoposy on Kovco, told an inquiry board that "his opinion was the death was the result of an accidental discharge of a weapon." Kovco's parents are requesting that "several soldiers" in Iraq give testimony to the board about the events of April 21st when Kovco became "the first Australian soldier" to die in the current Iraq war. Members will remember the Judy and Martin Kovco as well as the parents of Jake Kovco's widow Shelley (David and Lorraine Small) were bothered, not only by the fact that Kovco's body was lost when it should have been returning to Australia, but also angered by what they saw as an attempt to smear Kovco with baseless rumors.
Kovco died on April 21st but, due to mix ups on the part of the military, wasn't buried until May 2nd.)
Yesterday on
KPFA's Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky, Bensky and Aaron Glantz discussed Iraq and Glantz noted, "The Iraqi paliament is on the verge of putting together a referendum demanding a timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq and when they put forward that proposal, I think it will become a little bit more difficult for the Bush adminstration to say that we are there to help the Iraqi people when the Iraqi people say very clearly that they want the US military out within a specific amount of time."
Despite Dexy Filkins' 'reporting' for the New York Times, the issue Glantz outlined was one of "the Bush administration [. . .] rounding up these supporters of this idea including some people who are very high ranking in many of the political parties and this is the latest thing that we've been covering, the political crackdown by the US military of the people who want a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. "
Saturday, we linked to a recent Glantz article on this topic.]
In other parliament news, as noted by Brian Edwards-Tiekert on
KPFA's The Morning Show today, Shi'ites stormed out today in protest over the Mahmudiya killings.
In commerce news, Australia and Iraq have reached an agreement over the June 21st death of Abdul Falah al-Sudany's bodyguard by Australian soldiers.
Reuters reports that compensation will be paid to al-Sudany (trade minister) and that al-Sudany has stated: "We don't have any vetoes on importing Australian wheat and we hope to go back to a normal relationship with Australia."
Also in commerce news from Iraq,
CBS and AP report that: "U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez arrived in the Iraqi capital for meetings aimed at jump-starting the economy." Though the US press is seeing this as some sort of 'big win,' the AFP reports Abdel Falah-al Sudany (the same trade minister noted in the pervious item) is much more cautious and declared that privatization would not happen "for at least five to 10 years."
Possibly the excitement stems not from a lack of caution but a desire to turn the topic away from
William Lash III -- the topic Gutierrez was addressing this weekend: "Bill was a passionate, committed and hard working individual . . ." following the news that former assistant commerce secretary Lash had apparently killed himself after killing his 12-year-old autistic son.
In peace news,
Eric Seitz, attorney for Ehren Watada, states that there is a date scheduled "tentatively" for "Watada's Article 32 hearing . . . Aug. 17 or 18." Seits tells Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) that this hearing would "determine whether sufficient grounds exist to warrant a court-martial" and that the maximum punishment for Watada's refusal to serve in the illegal war could be 7 and one-half years in prison.
Tommy Witherspoon (Waco Tribune-Herald) reports that the county of McLennan (where Bully Boy's ranch-ette is) is attempting to move Cindy Sheehan's lawsuit against the county into the federal court. The issue is whether or not Camp Casey can return to the activities and protests that first took place last summer or whether the county can now "ban parking and camping along roads leading to" Bully Boy's ranch-ette.
The Legal Defense Network reports that Rhonda Davis participation in a June 3rd rally in support of sam-sex marriage has resulted in the US Navy bringing "discharge proceedings against a 10-year veteran." Davis states: "I am a proud, patriotic American who happens to be gay. My sexual orientation has never stood in the way of getting my job done, and I was looking forward to continuing my Navy career. Unfortunately, federal law places discrimination ahead of national security and gay service members are caught in the crossfire. It is past time for our leaders in Washington to repeal this senseless law and allow gay Americans who want to serve, like me, the opportunity to do just that."

That is a lot of information. I know the spotlight's off Iraq right now for most of the media (mainstream and independent) so I really appreciated the snapshot today. Sunny was thrilled that there was news of Jake Kovco. She's really taken the issues his family has had to face to heart. She asked me to note that of all the sites she goes to that are US sites (blogs, newspapers, etc.), none have given much attention to this news story. She thinks this is a story about the war that "needs to be told."

The thing that stood out to me the most, two things, were the market attack and the desire to shift the subject away from William Lash. Someone who serves in the administration stands accused of killing his twelve-year-old son (who had autism) and himself and the media's not on this? This isn't about being "respectful," this is about ignoring a news story.

If you don't believe that, think back to the way the media played the Andrea Yates story. Or is it only news when mothers are accused of killing their children? He was a professor, he served in the Bully Boy administration. He's dead and so is his child. Apparently, he is responsible for both deaths. So why isn't this a major story?

It's really not even a story. It's already been buried. I'm not calling for a media circus, but I am saying that it deserves much more coverage than it's received. The next time some woman is put through the wringer when she stands accused of killing her child, we should all remember how the media took a pass on this story.

A man stands accused of killing his child and it's just that he must have reached the end of his rope. A woman does it and somehow it's not an 'end of the rope' story or a crime, it's cause for a media circus. In both cases, a child is dead.

To the south, Israeli forces continue their offensive in the Gaza Strip. 92 Palestinians have been killed and 326 injured, in the last ten days of Israeli attacks on Gaza. Saed Bannoura reports.Early this morning, a missile dropped on the home of the Abu Salem family hit just a few feet from a three-day-old baby and his 23-year old mother. The missile did not detonate immediately and the family was able to escape from their home, in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, before the missile exploded. The town of Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, has been under continuous attack by Israeli forces all weekend. Air strikes and artillery fire from tanks killed 1 person early this morning and 5 yesterday. Yesterday, the Israeli air force dropped missiles onto the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building for the second time in a week, leveling what remained of the building and injuring several neighborhood residents. Palestinian legislator, Mustapha Barghouthi: [Barghouthi]. The Palestinian fighters holding the Israeli soldier had conditioned his release on the release of 1,000 Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, a demand which was rejected by Israel. For Free Speech Radio News from, this is Saed Bannoura in Beit Sahour, Palestine.

Just as Iraq has been pushed off the media map, so has the issue of Gaza. But the deaths continue even if the media wants to take their standard pass on covering it. Mike and I are both noting the above headline. I really don't know what to say on this other than I don't know what's more outrageous, the deaths or the lack of coverage. Please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's thoughts. An example of the way the media refuses to cover it in any meaningful way follows.

"'Beat The Press' And Search For Truth" (Danny Schechter, News Dissector):
You are the producer of NBC's Meet The Press. The big story of the week is the escalating war in the Middle East. You want to have a smart discussion of the issues and perhaps inform the public in more depth than they get in the daily news. What do you do?
As former TV talk show producer at CNN and ABC, I know there are many different ways to handle a subject like this and to frame a discussion? You have to decide what guests to book and what angle to take.
And when you are Meet the Press. You can get anyone. There are so many options.
Option 1: You could do something ahead of the pack and discuss how this conflict could be resolved as in what is the basis for ending a war that your own NBC correspondent says can easily get out of control and spread. There are specialists on the region available from the UN and former US envoys like General Zinni who you can book...
Option 2: There are thoughtful INDEPENDENT Lebanese and Palestinians and Israelis. You can book anti-war voices from all sides of the conflict. There are plenty of articulate ones. If that is too adventurous, you can easily call in the respective Ambassadors. This issue is being debated worldwide. Why not on Meet The Press?
Option 3: Reach out to the parties themselves--Hezbollah, Hamas, Israel, US decisionmakers? Shouldn't the audience hear from the newsmakers on the scene or, better yet, the people most directly affected on all sides? I am sure that Lebanese civilians whose homes have been bombed would be happy to tell their stories. Ditto for Israelis. I am sure a fiery people-to-people debate could be organized.
Option 4: Seek out informed third party experts like Juan Cole or other analysts who know alot about the issues to tell viewers what they HAVE NOT heard before. Is this conflict really a case of Israel responding to attacks. as most media outlets and politicians of both parties suggest, in the US suggest? Is there more to the story?
Option 5: Opt to stage a one-sided pro-Israel discussion with Americans who support Tel Aviv's policies, and have no concern for the mounting civilian casualties. Find a has-been politician and self-professed "expert" who wants to expand the war and then use the most watched Sunday news talk show for more saber rattling and calls for a wider war.
Those are all programming options. What would you do? What did NBC do?
Host Tim Russert makes the final call before flying in from his summer house on Nantucket. What does Tim decide? What is your guess--or did you watch the program? (Is he mindful that Boeing, which makes many of the warplanes bombing Lebanon, runs ads on "his" show? Probably not.)
Forget newsmakers from the region. Forget the conflict resolution experts. Forget the warring parties. Forget the US decisionmakers.
Even forget your own NBC correspondents including the veteran and highly respected Israel-based journalist Martin Fletcher who, in a live report from Haifa, breaks a bombshell that is not followed up.
Fletcher reports matter of factly that this war is part of an "Israeli Agenda," five years in the making.
"I think they will never say that publicly," he added. What was HE saying? He was revealing that the IDF and Tel Aviv are pursuing a war plan that was not made by this current Israeli government but earlier by Sharon & his generals. Fletcher says they call it a "work plan." He says its is being implemented "step by step."
He adds, "it will go on until someone steps in and stops them"
Wow, isn't that interesting? Here's something new. A US based (though British born) journalist who lives in Israel and has top sources there, reporting on a pre-meditated Israeli war plan just waiting for a pretext to implement. That is something you or I would want to discuss.
But that is not to be.
His revelation is promptly buried in a cloud of rhetoric and bluster when Meet The Press reveals its guest line-up.
NBC goes Option 5 all the way. They phone it in, producing the predictable by booking their Rolodex regulars always on standby for more face time on TV. Beep them and they are there. The Beltway takes care of its own! Never mind that these two "talking heads" are not at all directly involved.
Welcome Newt Gingrich and Joe Biden.

I have one big criticism about the above (and I'll come off like Jim carping about one of C.I.'s entries), this is a column. If you don't know News Dissector, it's a blog where journalist (radio, TV -- possibly print -- author, documentary filmmaker, you name it) Danny Schechter offers critiques and commentary on the events of the world. Jim will say this to C.I. all the time and, if my opinion is asked, I'll say I disagree. That's partly due to what C.I.'s attempting at The Common Ills. But my point here is that this, as it exists in his blog entries today, is already a column. I think he should have pulled it out of the blog and front paged it on Media Channel. Which just may be my way of justifying my generous helping above grabbed from his blog (I believe it's less than a third and a third is my "fair use" rule -- a third of his blog entry today) but I really do think he's written a stand alone column. (There's at least one more paragraph to this, by the way -- to what I'm calling "the column." There are many other items and commentaries as well.)

It is really worth reading and, had it been a column, I'm willing to bet it would receive a great deal of attention. Okay, Betty and I both agreed that we'd attempt Trina's "Rosemary Roasted Potatoes in the Kitchen" tonight. So I'll post this and head to the kitchen.