FROM IRAQ TO THE G8: THE POLITE CRUSHING OF DISSENT AND TRUTH
Over the past two weeks, the contrast between two related "global" events has been salutary. The first was the World Tribunal on Iraq held in Istanbul; the second the G8 meeting in Scotland and the Make Poverty History campaign. Reading the papers and watching television in Britain, you would know nothing about the Istanbul meetings, which produced the most searing evidence to date of the greatest political scandal of modern times: the attack on a defenceless Iraq by America and Britain.
The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the invasion and occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. "We are here," said the author Arundathi Roy in Istanbul, "to examine a vast spectrum of evidence (about the war) that has been deliberately marginalised and suppressed, its legality, the role of international institutions and major corporations in the occupation, the role of the media, the impact of weapons such as depleted uranium munitions, napalm, and cluster bombs, the use and legitimising of torture . . . This tribunal is an attempt to correct the record: to document the history of the war not from the point of view of the victors but of the temporarily anguished."
"Temporarily anguished" implies that, even faced with such rampant power, the Iraqi people will recover. You certainly need this sense of hope when reading the eyewitness testimonies which demonstrate, as Roy pointed out, "that even those of us who have tried to follow the war closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq."
The most shocking testimony was given by Dahr Jamail. Unless you read the internet, you will not know who Dhar Jamail is. He is not an amusing Baghdad blogger. For me, he is the finest reporter working in Iraq. With the exception of Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and several others, mostly freelancers, he shames the flak-jacketed, cliché crunching camp followers known as "embeds". A Lebanese with American citizenship, Jamail has been almost everywhere the camp followers have not. He has reported from the besieged city of Fallujah, whose destruction and atrocities have been suppressed by western broadcasters, notably by the BBC. (See www.medialens. org/ alerts).
In Istanbul, Jamail bore his independent reporter's witness to the thousands of Iraqis tortured in Abu Ghraib and other American prisons. His account of what happened to a civil servant in Baghdad was typical. This man, Ali Abbas, had gone to a US base to inquire about his missing neighbours. On his third visit, he was arrested without charge, stripped naked, hooded and forced to simulate sex with other prisoners . This was standard procedure. He was beaten on his genitals, electrocuted in the anus, denied water and forced to watch as his food was thrown away. A loaded gun was held to his head to prevent him from screaming in pain as his wrists were bound so tightly that the blood drained from his hands. He was doused in cold water while a fan was held to his body.( Read more...Collapse )