What’s happening on the ground in Iraq?

July 10, 2006 | By | Reply More

In November 2003 a major from the judge advocate general’s office working on establishing an Iraqi judicial process told me that there were at least 7,000 Iraqis detained by American forces. . . .  A lieutenant colonel familiar with the process told me that there is no judicial process for the thousands of detainees. If the military were to try them, there would be a court-martial, which would imply that the U.S. was occupying Iraq, and lawyers working for the administration are still debating whether it is an occupation or liberation. Two years later, 50,000 Iraqis had been imprisoned by the Americans and only 2% had ever been found guilty of anything.

The above was reported by Nir Rosen.   On his website, Rosen describes himself as follows:

Born in New York City in 1977, Nir Rosen is a freelance writer, photographer and film-maker who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and other popular tourist destinations. 

Rosen, who speaks Arabic and who passes as Middle Eastern, recently wrote “The Occupation of Iraqi Hearts and Minds,” a piece that was published on Truthdig.com.  In this disturbing piece, he sized up the American occupation of Iraq:

In reality both Abu Ghraib and Haditha were merely more extreme versions of the day-to-day workings of the American occupation in Iraq, and what makes them unique is not so much how bad they were, or how embarrassing, but the fact that they made their way to the media and were publicized despite attempts to cover them up. Focusing on Abu Ghraib and Haditha distracts us from the daily, little Abu Ghraibs and small-scale Hadithas that have made up the occupation. The occupation has been one vast extended crime against the Iraqi people, and most of it has occurred unnoticed by the American people and the media.

I found this piece (and the many thoughtful comments published by Truthdig.com) to be extraordinary reading. 

I don’t personally know that Rosen’s highly detailed report is 100% accurate.  I’m not suggesting that his account is representative of what most of our troops are doing in Iraq.  I’m not suggesting that there aren’t many other U.S. troops whose honest accounts would make much more pleasant reading.  I’m not suggesting that the troops that have been put into the position of doing CQB (Close Quarters Battle) work aren’t trying to do the best work they can under the wretched conditions which the Bush Administration has forced on them.

Here is my question:  Why are accounts like this not reported in the mainstream media?  Accounts like this would seem to constitute a valid perspective on what is really happening on the ground.  Shouldn’t it be up to the media consumers (U.S. citizens who vote) to decide whether this type of account has the ring of authenticity?  Shouldn’t U.S. media consumers have a reasonable dose of accounts like this to compare with the sugar-coated official versions promulgated by the military?  Is it really a reason to filter out disturbing reports like this simply because they don’t put us in the mood to buy cars, perfumes and other things advertised by the media owners who also provide the “news”?  Are these sorts of stories being canned because they embarrass the many politicians and media owners who sat on their hands while the U.S. convinced itself to go to war.  With regard to my accusations regarding the media, my characterization is probably much too lenient, based upon this report by Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow!:

FAIR did a study. In the week leading up to General Colin Powell going to the security council to make his case for the invasion and the week afterwards, this was the period where more than half of the people in this country were opposed to an invasion. They did a study of CBS evening news, NBC nightly news, ABC evening news and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. The four major newscasts. Two weeks. 393 interviews on war. 3 were anti-war voices. 3 of almost 400 and that included PBS. This has to be changed. It has to be challenged.

Aren’t U.S. citizens mature enough or responsible enough to read various versions of our military’s techniques to decide for themselves whether they want to continue U.S. military involvement in Iraq?  After all, what is being done over there is being done in our names.  Apparently, we are responsible enough to vote but not responsible enough to be exposed to information that might bear on the way we would vote.

In his classic work, On Liberty, John Stewart Mill wrote that censorship is not a valid way of dealing with false speak. The only way to get to truth is more speech, not less:

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation — those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.

In short, good ideas and good information survive only because they prove themselves in Darwinian fashion against weaker and false ideas.  Those who wish to be informed, then, must “throw themselves into the mental position of those who think differently from them.”

Whether it is well-intentioned or nefarious, the three-year old corporate filtering of what’s really going on in Iraq is denying Americans the chance to be informed and competent voters.  The censorship on the details of our mission in Iraq is especially troubling because the accounts we are getting simply don’t have the ring of substantial truth.  I’m not trying to sound naïve.  Perhaps we shouldn’t expect full truth in present circumstances—not as long as A) the corporations that run our government are also in charge of the mainstream media B) many Americans don’t want to hear bad news about Iraq, and C) the troops returning from Iraq (those who could best provide detailed accounts of what is happening) were likely a little “too close” to the action and are subject to be called back to Iraq. 

The corporate media gives us extensive coverage of professional sporting events that constitute pure amusement. This amounts to huge tracts of coverage dedicated to our true national pastime: distracting us.  How can our priorities be so screwed up that the corporate media refuses to publish even 1% of the information it dedicates to sports amusement to report the unvarnished details of exactly how it is that we are keeping those “terrorists” from “threatening democracy.”  This is a corporate media that worships and promotes platitudes like “cut and run” without bothering to present the demeaning and sometimes horrifying details of what it means to “stay.”

I’ve personally heard enough about troops handing out candy to Iraqi children and helping to paint school houses.  It’s way past time for the corporate media to connect the dots—to force the president to state what the mission is and then to report how the events actually taking place on the ground are helping to move us closer to completing the president’s alleged mission. 

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Category: American Culture, Iraq, Media

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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