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    Suppressing The Iraq Story Paul McLeary October 03, 2006 http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/10/03/suppressing_the_iraq_story.php Paul McLeary writes for CJR
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 6, 2006
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      Suppressing The Iraq Story
      Paul McLeary
      October 03, 2006

      Paul McLeary writes for CJR Daily and co-writes the weekly "Think
      Again" column with Eric Alterman for The Center for American Progress.
      This article is reprinted from CJR Daily.

      Three-and-a-half years into the war in Iraq, a cursory look at the
      nightly news shows, opinion magazines and the blogosphere shows that,
      at least in some respects, the national debate over the war has become
      more about the politics of the debate itself, rather than the grim
      realities of the occupation and how to successfully wage a protracted

      While the debate has come to revolve more around the political
      posturing of a small group of Washington politicos, there are some
      D.C. insiders, like Sen. Trent Lott, who apparently don't even want to
      debate the debate. To hear Lott tell it, there is no debate over Iraq,
      just obsessive, news-hungry reporters. After a meeting with President
      Bush and a group of GOP congressional leaders on Thursday, Lott lost
      his cool when a reporter asked him if they had talked about Iraq in
      the private conference. Lott shot back, "No, none of that ... You're
      the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in
      the real world don't for the most part."

      Got that? Nosy reporters "obsessed" with Iraq, rest of the world
      shrugging it off. And Lott wasn't done. "It's hard for Americans, all
      of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he
      said, referring to Iraqis. "Why do they kill people of other religions
      because of religion? ... Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell
      the difference? They all look the same to me."

      Lott's characteristically empty remarks typify what we've been hearing
      for three years about the press and Iraq from conservative
      politicians, think tanks and talk radio hosts.

      So, in the interest of reality, we decided to step outside of the
      "debate" and point out—to Lott and anyone else who may need a reality
      check—a few ground-level truths from Iraq that should explain the
      press's "obsession."

      In the first place, on Friday, Congress approved another $70 billion
      for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, according to
      Reuters, brings the total spent on the two wars to about $507 billion,
      "with the bulk of that spent in Iraq where costs are averaging $8
      billion per month, according to the Congressional Research Service."
      Add to that the fact that there are currently over 140,000 American
      servicemen and women serving in those two countries, and it seems like
      something that at least a few people outside the press might be
      obsessed with.

      If all that seems too abstract, let's be a little more specific. We've
      been following an alarming trend on the part of the Iraqi government,
      and the American forces occupying the country, of harassing
      journalists and stifling the very thing President Bush tells us we're
      supposed to be building there: free speech and a free press.

      Lott might be interested to learn about Al Arabiya, a Dubai-based
      satellite news channel whose Baghdad bureau was shut down by Iraqi
      police on September 7, for what the Iraqi government called
      "inflammatory reporting."

      What's more, back in April Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi who was working as
      a photographer for the Associated Press, was arrested by the U.S. Army
      because his photos of insurgents led the military to believe that he
      was somehow involved in the insurgency. He has yet to be charged with
      any crime, and has not been allowed to respond in court.

      Last Friday, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll told Mark Jurkowitz
      that the AP has investigated Hussein's photos, and "found absolutely
      nothing, absolutely nothing that would lead us to believe his
      relationships were anything other than those of a native son
      committing journalism in his hometown and then later in a town up the

      In a further show of solidarity, Tom Curley, the president and chief
      executive of the AP, took to the pages of the Washington Post last
      weekend with a call for the military to either charge Hussein with a
      crime or let him go.

      In the end, maybe journalists in the United States should be grateful
      that they're not being thrown in jail for asking questions—or taking
      pictures—as The New York Times reports is happening to some Iraqi
      journalists. According to Paul von Zielbauer, three Iraqi journalists
      are currently on trial for writing articles that violate Paragraph 226
      of the penal code, "which makes anyone who 'publicly insults' the
      government or public officials subject to up to seven years in prison."

      And this isn't an isolated case. "Under a broad new set of laws
      criminalizing speech that ridicules the government or its officials,"
      von Zielbauer writes, "some resurrected verbatim from Saddam Hussein's
      penal code, roughly a dozen Iraqi journalists have been charged with
      offending public officials in the past year."

      It sounds all too real to us, Sen. Lott.


      Katrina vanden Heuvel

      You remember the Lincoln Group? The guys the Pentagon paid tens of
      millions of dollars to pay-off Iraqi media and plant stories favorable
      to the U.S.?

      The same guys The New York Times revealed to have lied about
      "partnerships with major media and advertising companies, former
      government officials with extensive Middle East experience, and
      ex-military officers with background in intelligence and psychological
      warfare" in order to receive those hefty contracts?

      In short, just the kind of guys Bush, Cheney & Co. enjoys working with.

      So it's hardly surprising – though completely outrageous – to read
      Walter Pincus' story in yesterday's Washington Post that the Lincoln
      Group has been handed a new "two-year, $12.4 million contract to
      handle strategic communications management…." Lincoln competed against
      seven other groups and was the lowest bidder "to help military
      commanders in Baghdad get what they consider the positive side of
      their operations in the news…."

      At least one competitor might challenge the contract decision based on
      Lincoln's record. But when one considers Kellogg Brown and Root,
      Blackwater, Custer Battles, Bechtel and others… one can't be too
      terribly optimistic about the outcome of any appeal.

      Pincus also notes that one day after the State Department poll
      revealed that the Iraqi people want U.S. forces to withdraw
      immediately and would feel safer if they did, the military now aims
      "to hire a private firm to conduct polling and focus groups in Iraq
      `to assess the effectiveness of operations as they relate to gaining
      and maintaining popular support.'"

      Once again, the modus operandi of this administration is perfectly
      clear: if you don't like the news delivered (in this case, by the
      State Department), contract out to a hired gun (or Rummy). And if you
      don't like the news reported by Iraqis, hire the Lincoln Group.

      And if you don't like the twisted thinking of this sick bunch, vote
      Democrat in November. It's the only way we will achieve any oversight
      of this continuing debacle in Iraq.



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