Saturday, April 10, 2010

Presidential Punk Ass




These days puppets pull the strings




On the most recent Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, Peace Mom Cindy spoke with her friends Elaine Brower, Jon Gold and Matthis Chiroux about how the four of them were arrested in DC March 20th protesting the illegal wars.
Elaine Brower: One of the problems we're up against with this movement is that they're co-opted by the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party does not want their base to mobilize. So what we saw with the election to Obama and prior to that was the complete demobilization --if there was any anti-war movement before that -- it just continued to disappear. And now I'm not sure who's left out there that really wants to make this change but whoever it is, that's what they're going to have to do and it's not an easy step. It's a very difficult step to take -- difficult for me, difficult for you. We have families, we have lives. But we don't want to see this empire terrorize any more people around the globe.
Senator Tom Harkin voted for the Iraq War by voting, in 2002, to authorize force. Tom Alex (Des Moinses Register -- link has text and video) reports that a 12-year-old was arrested as Harkin's office in Des Moines, Frankie Hughes. Her 'crime'? The 12-year-old refused to leave the office. The 12-year-old girl was a 'threat' to Senator Tom Harkin and his staff. The full grown senator and his full grown staff were a-scared of a 12-year-old girl. Frankie Hughes was there "sitting in a chair and refusing to leave" to protest the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The 12-year-old girl sitting in a chair, during business hours, was a 'threat' -- apparently a clear and present danger. On top of that, Alex reports, the day after the arrest, police showed up to serve Frankie's mother Renee Espeland with a misdemeanor charge of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor."
Cindy Sheehan: Well one of my friends last night made an interesting observation. He said that the anti-war movement killed itself by supporting Barack Obama.
Elaine Brower: Yeah, that's-that's true. But I always think that from the beginning the anti-war movement was factionalized in a way that they were somehow supporting the Democrats. Like in 2006 we saw a lot of supposed anti-war groups going out heavily to tell people to vote for the Democrats. So I think it started long before Obama. And then with [George W.] Bush sort of as our -- the-the person that we really love to hate, he was still in power, so that gave the anti-war groups someone to challenge. But they would never challenge the Democrats in office like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and all the rest of them who really are, also, on the side of the US empire. And they have, you know, their hands in the pocket of the capitalist system. They never went against that and they allowed them to just keep funding the war and getting away with it. And then here comes Obama and further demobalizes the anti-war movement because most of them are Democrats. What we have to do is get away from the mentality that the Democrats are the saviors of us. We are the saviors.
Today, from an undisclosed location in DC, Tom Harkin, hiding out from 12-year-old girls whom he pictures seizing the motherland and imposing Twilight viewing mandates on all citizens, had the nerve to say of retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: "As one of our country's longest serving Justices, he has demonstrated an unabiding commitment to the rule of law and critical rights and liberties." What about Frankie's liberties, Harkin? What about her right to peacefully protest? Drake law professor Sally Frank told Tom Alex, "I think they are trying to put a scare into the peace movement." A 12-year-old, peacefully protesting, is arrested in Harkin's office (and her mother later charged) and he has the nerve, the same week, to speechify about "unabiding commitment to the rule of law and critical rights and liberties"?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, you know, I hate to use infantile terminology, but we're the boss of them, they're not the boss of us.
In December 2005, elections were held and it was approximately 4 months later before a prime minister was selected: Nouri al-Maliki. However, it wouldn't have taken that long if the US government had not rejected the first choice -- the choice of Iraq's elected representatives: Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Currently, four months is the standard because that's the only time the process has been implemented. Whether it will take four months this go round or less or more is unknown.

As noted last night, Ibrahim al-Jaafari is the choice of al-Sadr supporters. Last Friday and Saturday, Moqtada al-Sadr held a vote, open to all, to determine whom al-Sadr's bloc should support and the results were announced this week: al-Jaafari swept past everyone. (There were five candidates listed on the ballot -- included Allawi and al-Maliki -- and a sixth space for write-ins.) As pointed out last night, the announced decision to support al-Jaafari sends a message:

It may be a gambit on the part of al-Sadr, it may be for real. But it does send the message to Iraqis. That message is not, "Look at me." That message is: "The occupiers denied us al-Jafaari in 2006. We're still fighting for him, we're still fighting the occupation and we're still standing."

Khaled Farhan, Waleed Ibrahim, Ian Simpson and Elizabeth Fullerton (Reuters) reported this morning, that Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement to his followers which was read today, the seventh anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to foreign forces, and warned that "the occupation and its advocates will stay in Iraq without fear [. . .] You, the Sunnis of Iraq, joined hands with the Shi'ites to lierate our country. Do not let the (U.S.) occupation or any unjust law made by it deter you from doing that." The statement was read at a demonstration of supporters (it was not read by Moqtada al-Sadr who was not present) and, AFP reports, was followed by a march where "Iraqi national flags [were held] aloft" and supporters shouted, "Yes, yes, Iraq, no, no occupation." Alsumaria TV notes "tens of thousands" marched in Najaf.
Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) interviewed Dahr Jamail this week. They covered a number of topics and we'll note this section regarding the elections and the election aftermath:
Scott Horton: But as far as the narrative of: "Look an election! Isn't that great! The democratic process! Better than Saddam Hussein! He used to re-elect himself with 99%!" And, you know, here in this case, it looks like the current prime minister didn't even try or wasn't able to rig the election for himself effectively and all that. But at the same time, it seems like, the neocons are counting on the ignorance of the American people and because Chris Matthews only talks about what Republicans and Democrats say on Capitol Hill to each other, all day, for about two and a half hours, twice a day, or whatever, the American people don't really know anything about Iraq -- who's in power there, which different factions are doing this, that or the other thing. There might be a little bit of a mention of something but never any real context and so I remember back in 2005 when they did the election, that really -- with the El Salvador option -- helped precipitate the civil war by turning the whole country over to the Supreme Islamic Council and Moqtada al-Sadr basically and the Iraqi National Alliance. Even Jon Stewart was going, "Wow! Maybe George W. Bush was right. Look at this woman with purple ink on her finger. Maybe Iraq is a democracy now." Well, then another few 100,000 people got killed after that. Now we have another one of these. And it turns out Moqtada al-Sadr is the kingmaker and he's sitting in Tehran right now trying to figure out whether he wants to throw his weigh towards CIA agent-murderer [Ayad] Allawi or Revolutionary Guard Agent-murderer [Nouri al-] Maliki. And this is what the neocons and Newsweek are telling the American people, "Look! They've got ink on their fingers!" You don't have a narrative, you don't know who's who, you don't know who's winning or if one group takes power over this group what's that like, what consequences that's likely to have. None of this context is provided. "But, look, a woman with purple ink. We're actually, we're doing okay here, folks." That's why it works. Because the rest of the time they won't tell us about Iraq at all. Then when they say anything, they go, "Hey, look, a still shot. Make up your own 10,000 words.
Dahr Jamail: Well that's exactly right, Scott. And I think that's a really good description and analysis of how this has been perpetuated from the beginning where we have a corporate media that relies on the ignorance and-and a US government that relies on the ignorance of the American public. And, of course, the corporate media has been instrumental in ensuring that ignorance. I mean, we can go back to before the invasion took place and basically what people got on TV was a graphic of Saddam Hussein's head with a bulls eye on it. Or cross hairs. This kind of thing. You know: "This is all you need to know. You don't need to know that the CIA backed him in a coup that put him in a position of power in 1968. You don't need to know the US government supported him through his worst atrocities. You don't need to know that the US supported both Iraq and Iran during that brutal eight-year war that killed over a million people. You don't need to know these things. You don't need to know that we supported the twelve-and-a-half years of genocidal sanctions, that, oh yeah, according to Madeline Albright and the UN, killed over half-a-million Iraqi children. You don't need to know these things. You just need to know this is the bad guy and we're going to kill him and you're going to be safe and you can go shopping in that safety and rest assured that everything is just fine." And it's the same with these elections. You don't need to know that Maliki, even before the election results were released, when it became clear to him that he was not going to get the plurality, that he basically went to the Supreme Court in Iraq -- this is going to sound a little familiar to folks -- so he goes to the Supreme Court and basically has them change the rules of the game so that instead of whoever gets the plurality during the election can start forming their own government, instead he now has until June when the Parliament reconvenes to basically take out as many of Allawi's elected ministers of Parliament as possible. Because, basically, the last man standing in June when Parliament reconvenes, whoever has the most MPs, that is who is going to get to form the new cabinet. So conveniently Maliki's basically given himself two months to go out and hit as many of Allawi's people as possible. And that's exactly what he's done. So far, he's taken two of them into custody, charging them with terrorism. You know, everything's terrorism now, so he's charging them with terrorism. And one person is where abouts unknown. And then another MP in Allawi's list is in hiding. So already, he's at least made it even Steven and probably already taken the lead. And, of course, we have the Sadr wildcard which is a bit of another story but you described it well and all that I just described is-is against the backdrop of the context that both of these guys are US stooges and perhaps this is why Newsweek declares it a resounding success -- aside from just the propaganda value. But, "Hey, it's a resounding success because we have Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum as the two leading candidates in this election and, oh, guess what? The US created both these guys, put both these guys in the positions of power that they're in and they wouldn't exist without the US occupation in that country. And guess what? One of them's going to win, so the US is going to win either way." And maybe that's why Newsweek was so triumphant about their "Mission Accomplished" cover? And, oh yeah, it took a little longer because we didn't have that kind of a rigged deck in the last election but in this one, by golly, we do." But then, of course, things are a bit more complicated now because, as you said, we have Sadr who has had this -- I think it was a quite astute political move. He had a referendum vote, sort of an informal, unofficial vote among his followers and actually the vast majority of the people didn't choose Allawi or Malilki. They chose Ibrahim al-Jaafari who is the guy who was actually chosen as the first prime minister in Iraq in the wake of the 2005 elections --
Scott Horton: Now he's also a Dawa Party guy -- like Maliki -- but a different faction of Dawa they say, right?
Dahr Jamail: That's true and he is much less affiliated with the Americans and he's anti-occuption and that's exactly why the US decided to give him the boot and replace him with Maliki back in April of 2006. And so this is an interesting thing to see how this is going to play out. And, at the end of the day, shelve everything I just said for a moment, and think about the fact that, as usual as we've gone through this occupation, it's the Iraqi people paying the price for all of this nonsense, all of this US meddling, all of this US orchestrating, all of this propaganda. What is consistently lost in the mix is that even today, another day of 50 more Iraqis killed in a series of massive bombings across the capital city and that's just Baghdad. What I'm talking about? The rest of the country. We are back up to levels of violence and death on a daily basis starting about a week ago in Iraq that are comprable to the blood letting of 2006, 2007.
Scott Horton: Yeah and maybe now that we're in Democratic times, Darh, conservatives can maybe understand. It's no different than fighting over the school board. Is it going to be controlled by conservative Christians or is it going to be controled by secular humanists? And they fight like mad over who's going to control the school board. Well when you create a monopoly on power and then you have, you know, create a contest over who's going to hold that power -- well what do you think's going to happen? Especially after you decapitate the government, abolish the army and the party in power and set up a free for all here.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Publicity whores





Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were two journalists for Reuters killed by US troops July 12, 2007. Monday WikiLeaks released US military video of the assault. Today on Talk Of The Nation (NPR), Neal Conan spoke with Columbia Journalism Review's Clint Hendler. We'll note some background on WikiLeaks first.

Neal Conan: And how new is this organization [WikiLeaks] and what does it consist of

Clint Hendler: A couple of years old. Founded, I think, in 2006, 2007. What it consists of is a good question because it's a little -- they kind of run on the edge financially and personnel wise. There are two primary spokespeople. A man named Julian Assange, an Australian national, another man Daniel Schmitt, who's German. Assange has said that the prime group of people who really make WikiLeaks run are about five people or so and then there's an additional quadron of volunteers that they can bring in project to project to help them out with analysis and decription and what have you.

Neal Conan: Well we'll get to all of those in a minute. Who funds it?

Clint Hendler: That's a good question too. They take donations from online readers They also apparently have a group of more deep-poketed donors.

They took calls to get listeners reactions to the video.

Neal Conan: Reed, what did you learn from it?

Reed: What did I learn from the video?

Neal Conan: Yeah.

Reed: Well I guess I-I what I think mostly is how far we removed we are [from Iraq,] how far off our radar and basically how we've buried our heads in the sand and when something like this comes out, it's very clear that things are going on that we're not made aware of.

A caller from San Antonio took offense to Conan referring to the video as "disturbing" and Conan responded, "It is disturbing -- It is disturbing to see a group of men standing around -- and I believe that some of them were armed and I believe that some of them were journalist and, clearly, some of them were unarmed. I understand what the Rules of Engagement were at that time and they were operating within those Rules of Engagement and that it's difficult for us sitting here in Washington, DC or San Antonio, Texas to put ourselves in the postion of those men in the helicopter or know what the situation was with those US troops who were under fire not far away. Nevertheless, the loss of life is disturbing." At Lens Blog (New York Times), Michael Kamber remembers Namir:

Namir made his name with harrowing photos of the insurgency in the northern city of Mosul in 2006, when it was among the most dangerous places in Iraq. His photo of a masked insurgent carrying a looted bulletproof vest marked "Police" in large letters, was one of the seminal images of the war -- a single photo that captured Iraq's descent into chaos and the inability of the Iraqi and American governments to protect resources, or pretty much anything else at that point. Namir repeatedly got to the scene of attacks while vehicles and buildings still billowed flames and bodies lay in the street. The danger in such coverage is hard to express in words: firefights broke out spontaneously, unseen snipers fired on civilians at will, insurgents killed journalists who they accused of working for the "Western invaders." And the American forces -- sometimes invisible a mile or more away -- fired through thermal sights at individuals they believed to be insurgents as they gathered around damaged coalition vehicles in the midst of a combat zone. Namir was 21 years old when he did his groundbreaking work in Mosul. By the age of 22, he had seen as much death as many hardened combat veterans. As threats against his life mounted -- from Iraqi insurgents unhappy with the truths his photos revealed -- Reuters moved him to Baghdad for his own security. There, he quickly became one of the most beloved members of the Reuters staff, a cheerful, funny, smart young man who loved motorcycles, staff members recall. On July 12, 2007, Namir set out with Saeed, his driver, to do a story on weightlifting. Hearing of nearby violence, he changed routes and went to the neighborhood of New Baghdad, where fighting was taking place.

Amnesty International issued the following today: The 39-minute video released on Monday by WikiLeaks, appears to show a helicopter gunsight video with an audio track of conversation among the crew opening fire on a group of men, two of whom appear to be armed, moving about a square in eastern Baghdad. It also shows further firing on a van which arrives, apparently to evacuate the wounded and the dead. Two children were wounded in the incident. Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:"This highly disturbing video appears to show that after the initial attack, US troops opened fire on people seeking to assist a wounded man, injuring two children, and killing several more people. "These troubling images can not be viewed or judged in isolation and must be put into the context of what else was happening in the vicinity. The US authorities must disclose any further information or footage that will shed light on this and they must conduct a proper investigation to determine whether US forces adhered to the rules of international humanitarian law and took necessary precautions to spare civilians." Amnesty is calling for the incidents depicted in the video to be independently investigated and for reparation, including compensation, to be made available to victims of violations of international humanitarian law. A US military investigation into the attack concluded that correct rules of engagement were followed, although those killed and injured included civilians.WikiLeaks said the men in the square included Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, who were both killed in the incident. The only thing that will provide clarity to the confusion between what is shown on the video and the military's initial report is a new investigation. BBC News quotes Reuters' David Schlesinger stating, "I would welcome a thorough new investigation. Reuters from the start has called for transparency and an objective inquiry so that all can learn lessons from this tragedy." Last night, Adam Entous (Reuters) reported that CentCom was stating there were no "plans to reopen an investigation into" the assault. Michael Sheridan (New York Daily News) quotes CentCom spokersperson Jack Hanzlik stating on television yesterday, "The video only tells you a portion of the activity that was happening that day." Deutsche Welle offers a roundup of some press reactions including Berliner Zeitung ("The leaked WikiLeaks material shows bloodthirsty soldiers coldly pursuing their business.") and Sueddeutsche Zeitung ("There is only one word to describe what happened that day: murder."). Lauren Crothers (Toronto Star) notes, "War has become nothing more than a video game." At World Can't Wait, Elaine Brower wonders: "Why are these occurences such a 'shock' to those who are paying attention? Does anyone really think that these are unusual circumstances?" Benedict Carey (New York Times) notes some of the intercom comments made by US service members during the assault and reactions to it, including former military psychologist Bret A. Moore who states, "You don't want combat soldiers to be foolish or to jump the gun, but their job is to destroy the enemy, and one way they're able to do that is to see it as a game, so that the people don't seem real." Laura Essig (True/Slant) terms Carey's article an "apologia" and states that she "must weigh in on the utter and complete lack of journalistic integrity at the Times." Among the radio programs covering the story is The Takeaway (we'll note another radio program tomorrow that we don't have room for today) which today offered responses from their listeners.

Caller: This is Tim, in New Beford, Mass. The United States media has a responsibility to show military confrontations in their entirety. and you can't make decisions about United States' policy in other countries unless you have the entire truth. The media has to show these kinds of videos.

In addition to listeners reactions, Takeaway producer Noel King spoke with Centcom which provided multiple photos they said showed weapons at the scene but in only one image could King make out an image. Request for further supporting evidence was met with the assertion that they couldn't release anything else, that photos which would offer stronger proof had been redacted, etc. For those whom streaming doesn't beneift, King has written up her interaction with CentCom here. Dahr Jamail will cover tomorrow, in terms of radio. But click here for his (text) report regarding the US military video. I meant to include Dahr's upcoming speaking events last week and there wasn't space. So we'll put his radio discussion of the military video on hold and note them here. The first event on the list is tomorrow evening, so I really can't push it back another day and into another snapshot:

Santa Fe, NMApril 9, 2010 -- 6:30 pm WELCOME TO HELL Life Under Siege in Gaza MOHAMMED OMER Award-winning independent journalist from the Gaza Strip, and author of the Rafah Today blog Followed by a conversation withDAHR JAMAIL Journalist,author and co-recipient with Mohammed of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism Unitarian Congregation 107 West Barcelona Rd Santa Fe, NM Suggested Donation $5 Sponsored by Another Jewish Voice Santa Fe and the Middle East Peace and Justice Alliance Endorsed by Veterans for Peace Santa Fe Chapter, Santa Fe Women in Black----Portland, Oregon April 10, 2010– 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Annual Awards Dinner 2010 with Keynote Speaker, Dahr Jamail Independent Journalist, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan Honoring the High School Student Winners of the Greenfield Peace Writing Contest Music by Retta and the Smart Fellas The Oregon Zoo 4001 SW Canyon Road Portland, Oregon Please RSVP by March 26th To purchase by check, or for more information including how to place a congratulatory message or ad in the keepsake book, become a table captain or sponsor of the event, contact Kelly Campbell at 503-274-2720. ----Moscow, Idaho April 29, 2010 -- 7:00 pm to9:00 pm Kenworthy Performing Arts Center 508 S. Main St., Moscow, Idaho Empire, Occupation, Resistance, and Independent Media:A Fund Raiser for Radio Free Moscow with Dahr JamailSnacks and drinks served.** Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches **** Visit Dahr Jamail's website **Dahr Jamail's new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.Order the book here one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from "supporting our troops," politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no. Order Beyond the Green Zone "International journalism at its best." --Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah's MenWinner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

If you attend any of the events, you can be sure Dahr will be discussing the WikiLeaks story at some point in the exchange.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Celeb meow!






Amnesty International has condemned the killings of over 100 Iraqi civilians in suicide bomb and other attacks mounted by armed groups in and around Baghdad in the last week.
Hundreds were injured in the attacks, some of which appear to have targeted civilians and to have been intended to cause maximum loss of life.
"Most of these attacks targeted civilians directly and therefore constitute war crimes," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"If the attacks are part of a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population in Iraq in furtherance of a particular organization or armed group's policy, they also constitute crimes against humanity."
"War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes under international law. These attacks must be stopped immediately and those responsible must be brought to justice."
Coordinated bomb attacks in several Baghdad districts on Tuesday destroyed seven apartment buildings and left at least 35 people, possibly all civilians, dead and more than 140 other people injured.
On Monday, a Shi'a couple and four of their children were assassinated in their house outside Baghdad.
Three suicide car bomb attacks on Sunday targeted the Iranian, German and Egyptian embassies in Baghdad and resulted in the killing of at least 41 people. More than 200 others were injured.
On Friday, armed men attacked a pre-dominantly Sunni village, south of Baghdad killing 24 people.
No armed group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but Iraqi politicians have attributed at least some of them to al-Qa'ida in Iraq and its allies.
This latest upsurge in violence appears to be exploiting the political vacuum that now exists in Iraq as leaders of the major political groups have so far failed to garner enough support to form a government following the 7 March elections which did not produce a clear winner.
"Deliberate attacks on civilians can never be justified," said Malcolm Smart."Those perpetrating such attacks must desist from such crimes. They must be brought to justice but without resort to the death penalty; use of the death penalty serves only to further brutalize Iraqi society."
So much violence and yet so little TV coverage. Yesterday, three commercial, broadcast networks served up their evening news casts. Two reduced the violence to a brief headline, the third offered even less. ABC World News with Diane Sawyer went with headline.

Diane Sawyer: And in Iraq, a day of devastating violence across Baghdad. A series of seven bombs tore through apartment buildings in the city, another blew up a market, killing at least 50 people, injuring more than 180. US and Iraqi officials blamed today's bombing spree on al Qaeda insurgents, saying the attacks were carefully coordinated and took time to plan with terrorists renting apartments to plant the bombs.

As did NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams :

Brian Williams: We turn to other news overseas tonight, this has been an another violent day in Iraq and this time there was a new tactic: Bombs planted in apartments. At least seven bombs exploded at apartment buildings across Baghdad, another one exploded at a market. In all, at least 50 people were killed, nearly 200 wounded. This was the latest in what many worry was a new wave of violence in the capital city.

On the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez filled in for Katie and Iraq didn't interest them so they skipped the story but did make time for a wordy, touchy-feely, free-association 'essay' from Smith which began, "Spring is a time of renewal." It never got any better or deeper than that. On The News Hour (PBS -- link has video, audio and transcript), Gwen Ifill spoke with the New York Times' Rod Nordland about yesterday's violence for nearly six minutes, including raising the issue of the March 7th elections:
GWEN IFILL: Is there any way to know whether there's any connection between these attacks, this latest spurt of attacks, and the -- the political upheaval we have seen with the outcome of the most recent elections?
ROD NORDLAND: Well, we can only assume that -- that, with the government and the politicians in -- in the middle of intense negotiations now at putting together a coalition that can rule the country after the elections, that these attacks are timed to coincide with that, and to have some sort of effect on that process, or at least to attempt to do so. What's -- what's very striking, though, is that, despite the attacks and despite the way they have practically paralyzed the city, because they have been -- they were so widespread, despite that, high-level meetings have continued to go on at a very rapid pace.
On Morning Edition (NPR) today, host Steve Inskeep spoke with correspondent Quil Lawrence who expressed the believe that the violence might be an attempt of "pushing Iraqis back toward the sectarian violence that we saw that nearly took the country apart in 2006, 07 and 08."
Steve Inskeep: [. . .] But we mentioned that there is no -- They have no political bosses. There is no formal government that has been formed. Is the violence affecting the effort to actually form a coalition that can rule Baghdad and rule Iraq?
Quil Lawrence: I have to say, talking to political leaders, they don't seem concerned by it. Many of these people were resistance fighters for so many years. They seeem to take this violence in stridge. I think the violence seems to be more of a filling in this gap, this lame duck caretaker government for the next bunch of weeks and months. The place it might come to a crunch is if this level of violence we saw this week continues and the government has to take some sort of decisive action, something verging on martial law. Well -- the question would be, "What legitimacy does this government have?" Several hundred of the Parliamentarians were voted out in this last election. Only 62 remain of the incumbents. It's possible that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won't return to office. And if he starts having to take very strong and decisive measures again, there might be serious questions about legitmacy and that could really stoke some of these underlying tensions.
Today on All Things Considered (NPR), Quil Lawrence spoke with, among others, Cameron Munter who serves in the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Quil Lawrence: And while the negotiations are fierce over building a governing coaltion, Munter says the violence is not intimidating Iraq's politicians either.
Cameron Munter: We don't see that they're having an impact on the leadership of the country to move ahead on government formation and indeed we don't think it's had an impact on the people of the country moving ahead towards their commitment towards a better future.
Lawrence reported that while no coalition-sharing arrangement had been reached yet, "The two leading candidates [for prime minister] -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minsiter Ayad Allawi -- condemned the bombings and in some ways they both remain in campaign mode. Maliki announced what he said would be a doubling of security in Baghdad and Allawi announced a blood drive and gave a press statement while donating." Nouri's 'increased' security may include closures. AFP reports that no one is talking as to why Baghdad International Airport was shut down today. Tom King (text) and Christiane Amanpour (video -- CNN) report on Allawi's statements that Iran is interfering with the process with Allawi stating that the Iranian government has now extended an invitation to his political slate to visit. And while all eyes are on the Sadr bloc, Scott Peterson and Alice Fordham (Chrisian Science Monitor) remind there's another group which has been dubbed "kingmakers:"
Kurdish parties, which won more than 50 seats, likewise have issues with Maliki's forays against Kurdish peshmerga, or militia, and are worried about both men's strong Iraqi nationalism.
Maliki's "overt threat of violence if he doesn't get his own way has alienated even more the people who would need to back him" in a coalition government, says Mr. Dodge. But Dodge is also unsure that Allawi has matured as a leader since getting bumped out in 2005. "I'm yet to be convinced that he has the modesty and diplomatic skills to form a working coalition."
Staying with ambassadors, Laura Rozen (Politico) highlights an interview her outlet's Zeeshan Aleem did with the Iraqi Ambassador to the US, Sami Sumaida'ie:
POLITICO: Muqtada al-Sadr -- the vehemently anti-occupation Shiite cleric -- held an informal intraparty referendum during the weekend. Having won 39 seats in parliament, his party represents a valuable voting bloc. Both outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi are competing to head the next government that an alliance with Sadr is so critical that the cleric is now seen as a kingmaker.
Sumaida'ie: Al-Sadr's party is now completely within the political process -- that represents a huge step forward. We don't mind them holding any views, provided they fight for them inside parliament and not in the streets using guns.
POLITICO: Given al-Sadr's aggressive stance against the occupation, might he impact the future of Iraqi relations with the U.S.?
Sumaida'ie: The Sadrists are resigned to the fact that the Americans are there according to an agreement signed with the Iraqi government. . . . The Sadrists know the realities of the situation; their stance is more populist than real.
That interview took place Monday and while there is no coalition-sharing government/arrangement as yet from the March 7th elections, Friday and Saturday, another round of elections were held -- this to determine whom the Sadr bloc should back. Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10$ of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left). Following the invasion, Ayad Allawi became Iraq's first prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari became the second and Nouri al-Maliki became the third. It's a little more complicated.

Nouri wasn't wanted, Nouri wasn't chosen. Following the December 2005 elections, coalition building took place and the choice for prime minister was al-Jaafari. But the US government refused to allow him to continue as prime minister. The Bush administration was adamant that he would not continue and faulted him for, among other things, delays in the privatization of Iraq's oil. Though the US had no Parliamentary vote, they got their way and Nouri became the prime minister. al-Jaafari had won the vote with the backing of al-Sadr's bloc, just as he won the vote that took place this weekend. The vote can be seen as (a) a show of support for al-Jaafari whom Sadarists have long supported and (b) a message to the US government.

Unemployment is one of the sources of terror in Iraq. Militias and insurgents' groups depend basically on unemployed people using them to achieve their aims. May be the young man I saw was lucky to survive from both insurgents groups and death but other are not. in spite of the promises made by all the government to improve Iraqis lives and provide work opportunities, nothing really big had been achieved on ground until now. That means more easy tools for insurgents groups and militias will be provided which means more violence and more bloody days.
This as Jim Loney and Paul Taylor (Reuters) report Iraqi "forces arrested 13 suspects" in the Friday night/Saturday morning assualt on Sahwa and as Reuters reports a teenage boy with a vest full of explosives was arrested in Amiriya Monday. Turning to some of today's violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing "inside a funeral tent" which wounded four people and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 taxi driver was shot dead in Mosul and 1 corpse (also shot dead) was discovered in Mosul.

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Baghdad has again been slammed by bombings. BBC News counted "at least 28 people" dead and another seventy-five injured following multiple bombings in the Iraqi capital this morning. The link has video as well as text and the video shows rubble and people attempting to clear it. AFP explains, "Ambulance sirens were heard across the city as emergency service workers rushed to the scenes of the blasts, and a large plume of smoke rose from near a destroyed building in the neighbourhood of Allawi, central Baghdad." Xiong Tong (Xinhua) adds that the death toll increased to 35 and the number injured to 140 and cites a source in the Ministry of the Interior for those numbers and for the assertion that there were seven bombings today. DPA observes, "Tuesday's deadly attacks came only two days after three, apparently coordinated, car bombs killed dozens of people and injured hundreds in the capital, amid tense negotiations on forming a new government after March 7 parliamentary polls." On NPR's hourly news break at 9:00 a.m. EST, Quil Lawrence went with 35 dead and 140 injured as well and noted seven bombings, some of which were strong enough to "bring down buildings." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "Security sources said the attacks were implemented by bombs planted near the gates of the buildings in the neighborhoods of Chkook, Shaula, Alawi Al Hilla, Shurta the 4th, Amil and Elam. The attacks came two days after explosions that targeted diplomatic missions in the Iraqi capital, in which more than 40 Iraqis were killed and 224 were wounded." Hammoudi and Hannah Allam also reported that it appears vacant apartments were used as the staging platform for the bombings and they note that, "The story was the same in at least three of the bombed residential complexes: Residents said that unknown renters had leased space in the two-story buildings and never moved in." Echoing that Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) state, "In some of the cases, unknown men had rented rooms in buildings around the city, wired them with explosives and detonated their devices on Tuesday morning." Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) remind, "A similar tactic was used on Election Day, when more than 30 people were killed." Timothy Williams and Yasmine Mousa (New York Times) add, "At least five of the bombs were homemade devices placed inside apartment buildings, an unusual tactic. A parker car packed with explosives was also detonated in a Shiite neighborhood in south Baghdad." On today's The World (PRI), the BBC News' Jim Muir.

Marco Werman: Jim, it's kind of rare for these attacks to target apartments, randomly killing these civilians so what do these targets have in common?

Jim Muir: Well they had in common, as you say, that they hit residential buildings. What I would say is this, that since last year we've seen that these coordinated waves of attacks have what I'm calling "themes" to them. Last year, they were hitting government buildings and ministries and so on. In January, we saw a series of attacks, coordinated suicide attacks, nearly simultaneous, on some of the big hotels in Baghdad. This Sunday, it was the turn of foreign embassies in various parts of Baghdad. And now we have the ordinary residential buildings with no particular special people or special facilities there -- just ordinary buildings housing ordinary people. You may ask why? I think they're partly out to show that they can hit all over town at a selected kind of target. They may also be trying once again to provoke the Shi'ite population because most in fact all of these buildings were in areas mainly populated by the Shia Muslims. Now when you had those kind of provocative attacks four years ago it did trigger off a very vicious two years of sectarian warfare which everybody hopes has run its course but the insurgents may be trying to -- or hoping -- to trigger it off once again.

Marco Werman: So if these apartment buildings were targeted in part because they're in Shi'ite neighborhoods -- I mean, does this mean that somebody's trying or some group is trying to stoke sectarian hatreds again?

Jim Muir: That definitely seems to be part of the sub-theme. I mean, I think the overall message is, as I say, they're trying to show that Iraq is deeply unstable, that the political progress and the security progress of the last three years are for nothing and that the insurgents can still strike at random. [. . .]

"Actually, the security situation has improved." Who said that? Here's your hint: Biggest Idiot in US Government. Usually forgets to comb what's left of his hair. Chris Hill. Ambassador to Iraq. Imran Garda (Al Jazeera) spoke with Hill following Sunday's bombings (link has video) and Hill was trying to Happy Talk his way through the interview. They ought to take that one sentence and just show it over and over at the top of each hour. "There's clear improvement in the security situation," insisted Hill. Hill's US stupid. There's a lot of stupid to go around. But let's move to the White House where the laughable White House press corps asked one of those oh-so-rare questions about Iraq leading Robert Gibbs, White House spokesperson and Spanx spokesperson, to respond, "Well I think many expected that insurgents would use this time to roll back the progress, both militarily and politically, that we've seen in Iraq. The leadership and team here have spoken with our ambassador and with General [Ray] Odierno. He believes that this does not threaten our ability to draw down our roces later in the year. And obviously we are very focused on, and Vice President [Joe] Biden is very focused on, the steps that need to be taken to ensure political advancement in Iraq after these elections." Whole lot of stupid to go around, remember?

None of the reports noting the obvious, maybe in an effort to make-nice with Nouri? But the bombings took place today, yes. Baghdad was slammed with bombings today. And what was the world told yesterday? That's kind of a key detail.

On Monday, Nouri put security forces on high alert. Doubt it? AFP: "Iraq's security forces were on high alert Monday after three suicide car bombs targeting regional and European embassies rocked Baghdad, killing 30 people. [. . .] Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose coalition finished second in the March 7 general election, held a meeting with Iraq's national security council over Sunday's blasts, a statement from his office said." Wait, it gets better. Sundays bombings? AP reported Monday that one suicide bomber was taken alive, "The official said Iraqi forces were tipped off about a possible attack against diplomatic targets and had begun beefing up security precautions Saturday -- measures he credited with keeping the embassies themselves from serious damage." Beefing up security in Baghdad on Saturday but unable to stop the bombings you've been tipped off regarding. High alert starting Monday and Baghdad's again slammed today by bombings.

Conventional wisdom continues to be that Iraq's elections resulted in 'confusion' and a 'power vacuum' now exists leading to violence. Sounds like too many reporters talking to themselves. It's not as if Nouri doesn't remain sitting prime minister today with the same security forces and militia at his command. He may be ineffective but, even so, that's not a new development. Violence has increased? Following the election? Like the 2005 election? Well the key there, according to poli sci analysts, was not a power vacuum but the stoking of sectarian tensions as campaign strategy. That may or may not be what's happening currently. However, the conventional wisdom doesn't hold up to scrutiny though it does increase in popularity (Allawi is now repeating it).

In other reported violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left three preople wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing injured a child, 1 car mechanic was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to Monday, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left five people wounded.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Wikileaks released video Monday of the deaths of Reuters reporters Nami Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, killed by the US military. For a critique of Tom Bowman's Morning Edition nonsense, click here. Today, Neal Conan spoke to the Washington Post's David Finkel (who's written about the incident in The Good Soldiers and link has an exerpt of the book) on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

David Finkel: These guys, the Reuters guys, walked into the hottest spot of a very hot morning. There had been running gun battles, there had been a lot of RPG grenade fire and so on. And they were doing what journalists do. They heard about something. They came to it. And they just wanted, from everything I've learned since, they were just there to get that side of the story.
Neal Conan: Can you understand the pain of their families at seeing these videos at last because they'd been pressing for them, Reuters had been pressing for their release, and saying, "How could those helicopter pilots not see that my son was carrying a camera?"

David Finkel: Sure, sure. I can't imagine what it would be like to be them, to be those families and suddenly this video pops up and it would be unimaginable. It's -- I wasn't up in the helicopters, I think that's fair to say. They were a good distance. I'm not quite sure how clear their monitors are. I was told they're only a few inches wide. We're hearing basically intercom chatter [on the video]. It's not like clear radio chatter. Nonetheless, uhm, here comes a group of guys and one of the things they cited on that led to the first burst of fire was an RPG launcher that turned out to be a telephoto lens hanging around a guy's neck.

Finkel did not weigh in on responsibility and noted specifically that he was not villifying anyone or justifying anyone. He repeated this point more than once. We emphasized the above to note the reporters. Jenny Booth (Times of London) profiles the two reporters and quotes the then-chief photographer for Reuters Bob Strong stating, "Namir was an editor's dream . . . on top of every story. His nose had been broken more than once, he'd been shot in the leg, detained, harassed and threatened, but his quick smile and energy never faded." Of Saeed, Chris Helgren states, "Saeed had a reputation of being fiercely loyal and appeared fearless to me. If you ever needed to get quickly to a dangerous area, passing chicanes of barbed wire and boobytraps, Saeed was your man. But he also had a very quiet, loving side and spoke often of his kids." Mujahid Yousef (New York Times) reports:The family of a Reuters photographer killed in an American military airstrike watched the video of it late Monday and burst into tears as they saw what appeared to be the crews of two American Apache attack helicopters kill their son and 11 other people, gloating at what the crewmen seemed to think was a successful strike on insurgents. "At last the truth has been revealed, and I'm satisfied God revealed the truth," said Noor Eldeen, the father of the photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, who was 22 when he was killed in July 2007. "If such an incident took place in America, even if an animal were killed like this, what would they do?"

Kim Sengupta (Indpedent of London) adds:

Reuters had consistently pointed out that its staff were simply carrying out their job. David Schlesinger, the editor-in-chief of Reuters news, said the footage was "graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result".
In Baghdad, the Iraqi Journalists' Union called on the government to carry out an investigation into the killings. The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, supported the demand for an inquiry.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

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Starting with elections, on the latest Inside Iraq (which Al Jazeera began airing Friday), Jasim al-Azawi spoke with the Ministry of National Dialogue's Saad al-Mutallibi and King's College's Mundher al-Adhami.

Jasim al-Azawi: Saad al-Mutallibi, back in the 2005 election the ruling was that the biggest winner of the election would be called upon to form the government. Now the rulings have changed, the game has changed and, instead, the biggest bloc in Parliament will be called upon to form the government. Isn't that a manipulation?

Saad al-Mutallibi: Uh, I don't know. I wouldn't call it a manipulation. I call it a necessity of circumstances. In 2005, there was a clear majority to one political bloc, 132 to one political bloc. That naturally, that inherited the formation of the government which looked normal in the circumstances. Today we don't have such a clear cut. Nobody achieved majority. Everybody achieved minority, really. Unfortunately, we do not have a Constitutional Court. That was another failing of the last Parliament. They could not reach an agreement on forming the Constitutional Court so we have to rely on the federal court. The federal court ruled that if a group, by election, forms a majority then that group will be called upon to form the government. If no such group exists, then a coalition of political parties should form together to reach the 163 margin, then they will be able to form the government.

Jasim al-Azawi: Perhaps we should clarify, Mundher al-Adhami, that federal court is a left over from the previous government and this Constitutional Court Saad al-Mutallibi referred to has never been established, was never formed, although Articl 92 in the Constitution calls upon the formation of a Constitutional Court in order to have the jurisidiction over Constitutional problems like the election. The federal court is simply a one-man person. This is Madhat Al Mahmood and his ruling is not even binding so why is is that the government as well as all of the political rivals are taking heat from him?

Mundher al-Adhami: You know, Jasim, I am sickened by the whole process in Iraq. That's from the beginning of the occupation. These elites -- the new elites, the new political class created by the American invasion has been playing these games from the beginning. And while Iraqis are dying or they are [. . .] by an education, they are deprived of basic services. These politicians are after the one thing for themselves and they're not -- they can't even agree among themselves to share the spoils of this destruction of the country between themselves. It is a sickening process. This so-called court has been changing their mind every now and then according to the pressures applied by this quarter or the others.

Jasim al-Azawi: Since you mentioned changing of minds and subcoming to pressures and Saad al-Mutallibi is in the camp of the State of Law bloc headed by the prime minister, Saad al-Mutallibi, how conveinent for the prime minister when he was edging and he was leading in the poll he said, "The biggest winner should be called on to form the government." Now that he is lagging behind not only he is using scare tactics, the policy of fear, that unless there is a recount the country will deginerate into civil war. What kind of scare tactics is this?

Saad al-Mutallibi: Well, it's not exactly like this. What happened is that three months ago Madhat Al Mahmood ruled that the biggest bloc in the Parliament should form the government and Mr. Maliki was upset with that ruling because naturally he thought he would form a majority or gain a majority of the Parliament. But he didn't do anything about it. He just leaves it to express his feelings that he wasn't happy about it. Now the ruling has turned to his advantage, he has expressed his feelings again. And there wasn't any idea that people would right in the streets and going to start violence. Far, far from that. Actually the political, the security environment is not bad at all in Baghdad. It's quite comfortable. People are moving about daily life.

We'll stop there. The problem with waves of Operation Happy Talk is you're not always able to ride one to the shore. Reality often has a way of slamming into you before you make it that far. Such is the case with al-Mutallabi's ridiculous claims that Baghdad's "security environment is not bad at all". Yesterday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Focusing only on the three aimed at foreign embassies, at least 41 people were killed and over 200 were left injured. Laith Hammoudi's McClatchy Newspapers observed, "The blasts will color the intense political negotiations that are under way after the March 7 parliamentary election, raising questions about which candidates have the security credentials and the ability to cut across sectarian lines to lead a still-unstable Iraq". Alice Fordham (Times of London) quoted survivor Ali Sanz Ali stating, "I heard the sound of the explosion and ran out into the street to see a big cloud of dust and smoke. On the other side of the street, many cars had been destroyed and burnt. You could see the dead." Fordham also notes that the Iranian and Egyptian embassies were clearly targeted but the other bombing may have been meant for the Syrian Embassy, the Spanish Embassy or the German Embassy. Or it might have been a way to strike all three ("the third struck an intersection near the Germany, Spanish and Syrian missions"). Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) notes that they were suicide bombers who "detonated car bombs wihtin minutes of each other" at the three embassies with the Iranian Embassy being the third one attacked. Cab driver Abu Ahmed tells Prashant Rao (Australia's The Age), "The explosion was really strong. They never kill ministers, officials or heads of state. They kill tax drivers, public employees and shopkeepers. How much longer will this last?" Adam Schreck (Daily Record) adds, "TV news footage showed civilians loading casualties into police vehicles and ambulances as bloodied survivors tried to flee." Jim Muir (BBC News) explains of the near bi-montly Baghdad bombings targeting government buildings since August of 2009, "Each of the multiple bombings which have hit Baghdad over the past year has been 'themed' - clearly with the aim of conveying the message not only that the insurgents can strike several targets simultaneously, but that they can focus on a particular type of target each time." Martin Chulov (Guardian) gets reactions from Iraqi men and women such as Abeer Ahmed who states, "Security won't be sorted out here any time soon. Look at the situation. All our leaders are busy fighting with each other for good positions for themselves and leaving the country to drown in blood. My child refuses to go to school and how can I blame her. There are many parties to blame for this carnage, firstly the current government, which can't stop it, and secondly the regional countries who are not happy with democracy in Iraq." Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports (video link embedded in page) in the aftermath and shows much of the damage from the bombings.

That was Sunday. Saturday brought news of an early morning attack. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms stormed three houses overnight Saturday in a Sunni Muslim village south of Baghdad and killed 24 people, including five women, Iraqi authorities said. Most of the slain villagers belonged to 'Awakening' groups, the bands of U.S.-backed Sunni fighters who helped in the fight against al Qaida in Iraq. The attack occurred in Al Bu Saifi village south of Baghdad." Muhammed al-Obaidi and Timothy Williams (New York Times) added that the nineteen males were predominately Sahwa members and quote Luyai Khadum stating of his four brothers and father, "They were all killed. I lost five family members. We are a Dulaimi family, so why would they do this to us." David Batty (Guardian) revealed, "The victims were bound with handcuffs and sprayed with machine-gun fire. Some of the bodies were 'beyond recognition', according to a senior Iraqi army official who wished to remain anonymous." BBC News quoted Muhammad Mubarak stating, "A group wearing National Guard uniforms and carrying night vision equipment stormed the homes of the victims and took them to their front gardens. Then they handcuffed them with plastic tape and shot them in the head with guns fitted with silencers." Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) reported the assailants arrived with a list, gathered all the possible Sahwa members, "looked through a list of names and then used guns with silencers attached, shooting people one at a time" and that the murders "were reminiscent of those carried out against Sunni Arabs by Shiite death squads from Iraq's interior ministry." Sara Hashash (Times of London) observes, "The massacre intensified fears of renewed violence as Iraq's two main political coalitions (led by Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, and Nuri Al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister) battle to form a government following elections that left neither with enough seats to rule alone." Meanwhile Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr wonders if this "could be the Iraqi style of negotiating." Today violence continued and Saad Abdul-Kadir and Elizabeth A. Kennedy (AP) reports that a family was shot dead outside their Baghdad home -- both parents and four children ages six to eleven. Two daughters, who were upstairs when the assailants came to the the home, survived. Reuters notes a Basra roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured and, dropping back to yesterday, that 1 man was shot dead outside his Mosul home.

Violence is in the news today as WikiLeaks has released "classified US military video" from 2007 "depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff" Nami Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Reuters has repeatedly been denied the video despite multiple FOIA requests. Al Jazeera interviews Julian Assange about the leaked video.

Imran Garda: Now a video has been released on the internet purporting to show US military personnel firing at civilians in a Baghdad square in 2007. Two journalists -- one journalist, Reuters journalist and his driver were killed in that attack. This video has just been released by the online whistler blower WikiLeaks. We can now speak to a member of WikiLeaks. Joining us from Washington is the editor of Julian Assange. Thank you very much for joining us. So, first of all, take us through what exactly, in a nutshell, this video shows.

Julian Assange: This is a video of an Apache helicopter on the 12th of July, 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. It shows a number of things. It shows an attack on a group of people. Two of which are Reuters journalists from Baghdad. Those men are killed by 30 milimeter cannon fire. There seems to be some initial confusion as to whether those people are carrying weapons and that the Reuters' photographer's camera was a weapon. But it proceeds from what might have been an excuse for not concentrating too much, to something far more serious. When one of the Reuters photographers is crawling away, wounded, clearly he doesn't have a weapon, clearly of no threat and a van tries to rescue him which passes by and two children inside. That van is then attacked and the Reuters staff member, Saeed, is killed along with all the people in that van except for the two children who survived but were seriously wounded.

Imran Garda: Yes, I was --

Julian Assange: After that -- I'm sorry, go on.

Imran Garda: No, no. Please continue. Please continue.

Julian Assange: Just 20 minutes after that serious and disturbing event, a Hellfire missile attack is conducted on a nearby house. That from -- The roof appears to be under construction. And that attacks kills another -- by the military record -- six people. But maybe potentially more, anotehr six. The military say that insurgents went in that hour or lived in the house or went into the building. But our people have shown that in fact there were three families in that house and we have the records of some of their deaths -- including two women. And so on. It is possible that some armed men walked into that house but the majority of the people in that house seemed -- at least the majority of the people that lived there seemed to be regular families and we have evidence from the person who owned the house and photographic evidence of the Hellfire missile and so on.

Imran Garda: How sure can we be of the authenticy of this video? Not only the picture itself but also the voice over -- the voices we hear which I'm assuming are the pilots in the cockpit of the helicopter.

Julian Assange: Yes, yes.
Imran Garda: Because those are quite revealing in many ways.

Julian Assange: Yes.

Imran Garda: How sure can we be that this is the real deal?

Julian Assange: As sure as one can be of anything in life. The material is internally totally consistent but also there was a Washington Post reporter [David Finkel] who was with that unit, the US military unit, on the ground, on the day. And he wrote a chapter in a book which was published last year, a book called The Good Soldiers which correlates directly to the material in that video, including to the radio transcript for the first half.

Imran Garda: Right.

Julian Assange: That's a strong correlation. Also Reuters conducted a number of investigations, interviewed two ground witnesses at the time.

Imran Garda: Right.

Julian Assange: That report really wasn't taken seriously by [. . .] 'It's just another few reporters dying in Baghdad.' And nothing to back up the witnesses. But now we have the video that shows the witnesses were correct. Also there was an Iraqi police report that Reuters says agrees with with their witnesses and all of them agree with the video.

Imran Garda: Sorry to interrupt you. Not long afterwards, Lt Col Scott Blackwell from the US military told the New York Times that, "There's no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force." You even mention that quote on your website and on the video itself. And, of course, when Reuters requested the video from the Pentagon under the Freedom of Information Act, they didn't get it. With all of that in mind, do you firmly believe that there was a cover up at play here?

Julian Assange: They were certainly spinning the message and it does seem like there has been a cover up. The Rules of Engagement that were used for that circumstances, if the internal assessment was -- those rules were correctly applied -- and that is the statement the US military applied, that is the statement the US military made to Reuters, then those rules are a serious, serious problem if they permit such events. But-but there were clear lies made at the time and shortly after about the military not knowing, for example, not knowing how the children were injured and trying to suggest they didn't know how the jounalists were killed. And very early on they listed all the people killed -- other than the children -- as insurgents.

Imran Garda: Julian Assange, pleasure hearing your thoughts. Thank you fvery much for agreenin to talk to us here on Al Jazeera

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