Friday, December 17, 2004

Corroboration aka Checkpoint Shootings & Pre-Election Iraq Stuff

One thing that upsets me to no end in all the mainstream Western media's Iraq reporting (because the above exposes mild racism even more widespread than I thought: almost universal) is how claims from Westerners usually get passed on without any critical evaluation, and are converted to facts in later quoting - while information from the hapless people at the receiving end of Western governments' policies always remains an 'uncorroborated claim', even if a number of non-Westerners are reported of independently 'claiming' it - evidence the media won't bother to piece together even if they report all of them. A slight variation on this is when Westerners are among the corroborating witnesses, but the issue at hand is a Western wrongdoing against non-Westerners.

Take the issue of checkpoint shootings, for example. The first widely publicised Westerner witness telling of such careless shootings in large numbers was former Marine Jimmy Massey:

"Massey . . . said his 7th Marines weapons company killed more than 30 civilians during a 48-hour period in April while stationed at a checkpoint in the southern Baghdad district of Rashid. The victims included unarmed demonstrators and a man who drove up in a car and raised his hands above his head in the universal symbol of surrender. "I know in my heart that these vehicles that came up, that they were civilians,'' he said. ''But I had to act on my orders. It's a struggle within my heart.'' The orders, he said, were to shoot at anyone who drove into what is known as the ''red zone'' surrounding the checkpoint because they could be suicide bombers. . . . I saw plenty of Marines become psychopaths. They enjoyed the killing.''

A Westerner to corroborate him is Evan Wright, a former embedded reporter who wrote a book recently, here is a quote from a review:

"the anecdotal evidence, including the obliteration of villages where there was no serious resistance, along with isolated incidents where the unit had to stop and tend the children and civilians they wounded or killed, mounts by the end of the book to present a withering indictment of the needless brutality of the invasion. He writes toward the conclusion of his narrative:

' In the past six weeks, I have been on hand while this comparatively small unit of Marines has killed quite a few people. I personally saw three civilians shot, one of them fatally with a bullet in the eye. These were just the tip of the iceberg. The Marines killed dozens, if not hundreds, in combat through direct fire and through repeated, at times almost indiscriminate, artillery strikes. And no one will probably ever know how many died from the approximately 30,000 pounds of bombs First Recon ordered dropped from aircraft.' "

(This and previous quote via Juan Cole.)

Here is a third corroboration - from an article on homeless veterans:

"We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop," Brown said. "We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that."

"That was the hardest part," Brown said. "Not only were there men, but there were women and children -- really little children. There would be babies with arms blown off. It was something hard to live with."

Juan Cole, who ahead of the sham Iraqi elections is ever more devolving into a Shi'a partisan living in a dangerous fantasy land, elsewhere accuses AMS leader Hareth al-Dhari of the same, for speaking clear words like this:

“The independent election commission in Iraq considered Iraq a single constituency, despite its huge space (438,000km). Also, the UN has pledged to send 25 observers, only seven of whom have arrived, to monitor the ballots.” Al-Dari drew comparison with the UN-supervised 2001 elections in Eastern Timor, where the UN divided the tiny country into 12 constituencies and sent around 300-400 observers to monitor the ballots. “This, in a nutshell, means the United Nations could not be monitoring the elections in Iraq.”

As for al-Sadr, who, after Sistani tried to minimise the Sadrist part on the all-Shiite list while Americans continued to arrest Sadrists, at present takes the position of staying away from the election show: in another Juan Cole post, you can read of a sermon of him that maintains the nationalist, anti-sectarian, but pro-theocratic rhetoric he increasingly adopted since April 2004. (This is what I keep read Juan Cole for: all this translated Arabic material which he brings even if it contradicts his own severe myopia, say his almost total silence about the potential for civil war in Sistani's sectarian grab for power, which reminds me of US Republicans with their token shopwindow blacks.)


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