Doha, Qatar – Interesting to be writing this while attending the 2ndAl-Jazeera Forum, which is focusing on “Defending Freedom, Defining Responsibility” in the media. Al-Jazeera, which has been banned 100% from working in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria due to their holding said governments accountable to the people they supposedly represent.
While conducting a short interview with Samir Khader, the program editor for Al-Jazeera channel made famous in the excellent documentary “Control Room,” I learn that he too was in Fallujah during the April, 2004 siege on that city. After his witnessing of his colleagues being killed, maimed and/or detained by the U.S. military in Iraq both during the Anglo-American invasion and subsequent failed occupation, he takes seriously the rights and protections of all journalists.
This is why it is not so coincidental to be writing about this from the city where Al-Jazeera is headquartered. And yes, the city in which Bush attempted to persuade Blair to bomb Al-Jazeera due to their fantastic reporting of the U.S. siege of Fallujah in April, 2004.
So it is with a heavy heart to learn that yesterday in Iraq, according to Al-Sharqiyah:
“…police sources in western Baghdad said that the sister of anchorman Anwar al-Hamdani, who works at the Al-Nahrayn Television, was also martyred today, Tuesday, when multinational forces opened fire in the Abu-Ghurayb area.”
“Multinational forces” is the term preferred by the Pentagon now-sounds better than the more truthful “occupation forces” or “members of the invading army.” Yet their use of the term “multinational” is quite liberal when Japan has recently announced it will pull all of its troops from Iraq by this May, Italy announced it will withdraw 1,000 of its 2,600 troops by June and the Australian government is under increasing pressure to withdraw it’s massive contingent of 1,320 troops as well.
In sum, when the Pentagon says “multinational forces” in Iraq, it usually tends to be a safe assumption that they mean U.S. soldiers, as the U.S. still maintains by far and away the largest number of troops with at least 160,000. On that note-the second largest member of the “coalition of the willing” are the mercenaries-who tally anywhere between 20,000-70,000 in their private militias.
Meanwhile, pressure on the embattled Prime Minister Tony Blair has skyrocketed in Britain as the 100th British soldier being killed in Iraq sparked a wave of protests across England and fresh demands for a British withdrawal.
And the way things are shaping up in southern Iraq, that 100 number could be outdated if the heavy-handed tactics of the British soldiers don’t change.
The following is quoted from Al Manarah newspaper:
Basra council issue statement directed against British forces
According to the newspaper Al Manarah on January 29: “Basra Governorate Council members have held an emergency session during which a sharply worded statement has been issued. This statement has been directed to the British forces in Basra. It described acts by these forces as provocative. These acts are carried out and the local government is not informed. The statement said that the council has frequently called on Britons to stop random arrests and inhuman acts by their forces. It has also called for the release of prisoners and it has given ‘occupation’ forces a 24-hour period to release them without any conditions. It has also called on the central government to intervene immediately in solving this issue…”
“The statement added that British forces launched a raid during the night of 23 January 2006 on the house of the deputy director of the Criminal Intelligence Agency, Maj Jasim Qasim Hasan, and arrested him, one of his sons, his nephew, and four of his bodyguards, according to the media director of Criminal Intelligence in Basra. The arrest took place after the doors of the house were broken, the furniture was scattered, items belonging to the mentioned officer were seized, including his laptop and its belongings, and his personal bag, which contains personal documents, money, cameras and personal guns. The raid was launched without an arrest warrant, the newspaper noted.”
But as Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address yesterday, “We are in this fight to win, and we are winning.” Despite his confidence of certain victory in Iraq, Bush opted not to offer a timetable for withdrawal.