The world press on the war

The International Federation of Journalists has accused U.S. military commanders of targeting non-embedded journalists -- particularly al-Jazeera.


Compiled by Laura McClure
April 8, 2003 9:08PM (UTC)

United Kingdom, Chris Tryhorn in the Guardian

The International Federation of Journalists has accused U.S. military commanders of targeting non-embedded journalists and called for an international inquiry into the deaths of three journalists today in American attacks in Baghdad...

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Earlier today American troops launched an attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters, and Jose Couso, a Spanish cameraman.

The U.S. said it had opened fire on the hotel, a de facto press centre for western journalists, after coming under attack from snipers.

This claim was dismissed as "absurd" by journalists working in the hotel.

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U.S. troops also bombed the offices of al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi Television, killing Tareq Ayyoub, a Palestinian Jordanian journalist working for al-Jazeera...

The U.S. said the bombing of the al-Jazeera office was "a grave mistake" and the Arabic satellite news channel accused the U.S. of deliberately launching the attack to "cover up" its activities in Iraq...

The IFJ compared this attack with the bombing of the Kabul offices of al-Jazeera by American forces during the war in Afghanistan in 2001. "It is impossible not to detect a sinister pattern," said [IFJ spokesman Aidan] White...

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The IFJ said there was an eyewitness testimony accusing the U.S. of deliberately firing upon clearly marked television vehicles...

The IFJ said there should be a review of international rules after the war to improve protection for journalists.

"This war has been the most televised conflict in history," said White, "but the protection afforded to journalists and media staff is prehistoric by comparison"...

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An al-Jazeera journalist who left Baghdad a few days ago confirmed to RSF that the U.S. military had been informed of the station's whereabouts.

"It couldn't have been a mistake. We've told the Pentagon where all our offices are in Iraq and hung giant banners outside them saying 'TV'," the al-Jazeera employee said.

Lebanon, Article in Al-Hayat

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From palace ashtrays and pillows to jeeps and a grand piano, the spoils of war are flying fast in Iraq. Civilians have plundered with little fear of retribution and some U.S. soldiers have helped themselves to battlefield souvenirs...

After a tank battle in the town of Az Zubayr, Iraqis leisurely picked through government offices, stealing radios, metal bed frames and an air conditioner. Others made off with a military jeep.

In the nearby city of Basra, some residents raided the offices of the Central Bank, streaming out with chairs, tables and carpets. Looters at the Sheraton Hotel loaded sofas into horse-drawn carts, and even wheeled the hotel's grand piano down a street.

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But Iraqis aren't alone in seizing the moment. During the march on Baghdad, U.S. troops have nicked items of their own, despite military rules forbidding it.

On Monday, troops from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division stormed one of Iraq's presidential palaces. They used Saddam's toilets, but also rifled through documents and helped themselves to ashtrays, pillows, gold-painted Arab glassware and other souvenirs.

A U.S. Central Command spokesman, Navy Ensign David Luckett, said the command hadn't heard such reports through military channels but condemned the behavior.

"We are making great efforts to preserve the natural resources of Iraq and any of the belongings of the Iraqi people for the Iraqi people," Luckett said.

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Marine Capt. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Qatar, said troops suspected of looting would be first reprimanded by field officers and ordered to return the items. Penalties under military law could include a reduction in pay or even prison time.

"We expect our officers, our military, our coalition forces to conduct themselves in an honorable manner," Upton said.

Coalition troops most often find themselves trying to prevent looting by Iraqis...

The temptation to loot is strong among people who have been repressed and impoverished for more than two decades by Saddam's dictatorial rule, said Flight Lt. Peter Darling, a spokesman for British forces at Central Command. Some start stealing as an act of revenge.

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"They felt they ought to be taking back what was really theirs," Darling said. "They began to realize that the people who had been ruling them, the Baath Party officials, had been living in phenomenal opulence. And it was natural for them to want to do some sort of readjustment."

United Kingdom, U.S. Gulf war veteran Anthony Swofford in the Guardian

During my years of training before going to war, I rarely considered the possibility of dying by "friendly fire". I had heard of it, and it was nominally considered in training manuals and warfare exercises. As a member of an infantry battalion, the most likely way I might have been killed by my own men would have been upon re-entry to friendly lines -- having forgotten the password and coming upon a few crazy-tired or trigger-happy grunts.

But a few weeks into the 1991 air campaign against Iraqi forces in Kuwait, I realised that I would also need to look into the sky for fear of being hit by my own guys...

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Thirty-five of 148 American combat deaths and nine of 47 British combat deaths during Gulf War I were a result of friendly fire. Before the beginning of the current war much was made of the improved command and control and communication capabilities that would greatly decrease these numbers. Over the first few days of watching the war on television I noticed reflective triangles on the tops of the soldiers' helmets. Ostensibly, this was an aspect of the new command and control guidelines that would help coalition air power notice the good guys from the air. (In 1991 we were issued with elastic bands to put on our helmets, and the back of the bands had a reflective portion, intended to both save us from "friendly fire" and help the guy behind follow in the dark. But what if the guy behind was the enemy, we asked. These bands didn't last long.)...

In the first 18 days of Gulf War II we see no reversal of the "friendly fire" trend, and British troops have suffered the highest number of "friendly fire" deaths thus far. In fact, British deaths due to coalition fire outnumber regular combat deaths. And most of these dead British soldiers are on the heads of the Americans. Trust that these senseless deaths are also weighing on the hearts of the Americans, but this doesn't bring the dead back to life...

Something must be done on the battlefield right now in order to reverse this shocking trend.

Canada, Arthur Kent in Macleans

Despite having misread the volatile sympathies and allegiances of a predominantly Arab society trapped by war, the Bush administration (to the increasing dismay of its British ally) still plans to impose a U.S. military administration on the conquered land and its people. This "Iraqi Interim Authority," under the ultimate command of Gen. Tommy Franks, is to be led by a retired American lieutenant-general, Jay Garner, who is a lightning rod for anti-American sentiment among Muslims. Garner has visited Jerusalem under the sponsorship of right-wing groups who believe the U.S. can project its power into the region by way of the Israeli state and military. Three years ago, he lent his name to a statement by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs admonishing Palestinian leaders for supporting rather than discouraging an outbreak of violence in Gaza and the West Bank...

"The whole idea -- people find it really hard to swallow," says Mustapha Karkouti, an elected council member of Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs. "I don't see how Garner can be accepted as a respected governor as far as the Arab people are concerned, particularly the Palestinians but also the Iraqis...

Fadhil Chalabi, director of the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London, served as deputy head of OPEC for 11 years -- after a long term as Saddam Hussein's acting oil minister. He quit Saddam's regime in 1991 and moved to Britain, and now says some elements of the American reconstruction plan for Iraq hold merit... But not under Garner's supervision. "Iraqis are very sensitive when it comes to being ruled by foreigners," says Chalabi. "Even those who are very much against Saddam would feel alienated under the command of an American general"...

Chalabi, a widely respected energy analyst, is a distant cousin of the controversial opposition leader, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. Ahmed Chalabi is not only resented by many of his countrymen for lobbying to become the first post-Saddam prime minister, but also because Donald Rumsfeld's neo-conservative hawks at the Pentagon want a key role for him on Garner's team. Even the U.S. State Department is resisting Chalabi's nomination -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, once again at odds with Rumsfeld, is eager to create an administration more acceptable to the region and the wider world...

Defence analyst [Paul] Rogers foresees a cycle of civil unrest in the Middle East, and an upsurge in terrorism. "You can imagine that the al-Qaida-type paramilitaries must be overjoyed," Rogers says. "They no longer need to be going to America, because the Americans have come to them."

Hong Kong, Paul Belden in Asia Times

As U.S. forces embark on the urban warfare that some are already calling the Battle of Baghdad, they have so far been largely following the playbook written by the IDF in Operation Defensive Shield. Martin van Creveld, a military expert with close ties to the Israeli army who teaches at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, recently told The Guardian newspaper of London that he had met with U.S. officials at a briefing in North Carolina last September.

"There were three key things," he was quoted as saying. "How to clear streets house by house, particularly using bulldozers. They're very useful in this kind of war to break houses. How and when to use helicopters to take out snipers. And when not to -- and I'd say Baghdad is one of those situations. And how to avoid civilian casualties"...

Jenin is not, of course, Baghdad. There are important differences, both strategic and tactical, between how these battle are being fought, with the most important of these being strategic... In Iraq, as has been stated non-stop, the goal is liberation rather than occupation, which means that the U.S. may not have the option of risking a humanitarian disaster by starving out a millions-strong urban population...

In the matter of the battle for hearts and minds, the story of a diabetic Palestinian named Jamal al-Sibagh may be instructive. Al-Sibagh's story was recounted to U.N. investigators on June 20 last year by witnesses who had ended up at al-Urdun hospital in Amman.

"When the Israeli army asked the men and young men to leave the houses in order to be searched and arrested," the witnesses said, "Jamal was carrying a bag with his medication. When he began to undress on the orders of the soldiers, the zipper in his trousers jammed. He tried to unjam it, but the soldiers thought that he was going to act against them and fired at him. He was killed, and his blood spattered a young child of five years who was by his side."

There were several other similar statements. These were not intentional killings, and the IDF has been justly praised for waging battle with so few losses on both sides.

But again -- Israel was not in Jenin camp trying to win over Palestinian hearts and minds. In Baghdad, America is doing just that, while it simultaneously wages war. The image of a blood-spattered child is not the image of the war that the U.S. would want to see endure.

Israel, Nathan Guttman in Haaretz

An unusual visitor was invited to address the annual conference held last week in Washington by AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States: the head of the Washington office of the Iraqi National Congress, Intifad Qanbar. The INC is one of the main opposition groups outside Iraq, and its leaders consider themselves natural candidates for leadership positions in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Qanbar's invitation to the conference reflects a first attempt to disclose the links between the American Jewish community and the Iraqi opposition, after years in which the two sides have taken pains to conceal them.

The considerations against openly disclosing the extent of cooperation are obvious -- revelation of overly close links with Jews will not serve the interests of the organizations aspiring to lead the Iraqi people. Currently, at the height of rivalry over future leadership of the country among opposition groups abroad, the domestic opposition and Iraqi citizens, it is most certainly undesirable for the Jewish lobby to forge -- or flaunt -- especially close links with any one of the groups, in a way that would cause its alienation from the others...

In the end, Intifad Qanbar did not attend the AIPAC conference...

The Jewish groups maintain quiet contacts with nearly every Iraqi opposition group, and in the past have even met with the most prominent opposition leader, Ahmed Chalabi. The main objective was an exchange of information, but there was also an attempt to persuade the Iraqis of the need for good relations with Israel and with world Jewry.

"You have to be realistic about your aims," says one Jewish activist. "You have to understand that Iraq will be an Arab state, and that it won't want to adopt a controversial foreign policy."

Nevertheless, the Jewish activists make it clear they do expect the future Iraqi regime to obligate itself not to be aggressive toward Israel and adopt the mainstream view of the Arab world, "perhaps something like the position taken by Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states," says the activist.

Sources in the Jewish community noted last week that while Chalabi's people expressed positive opinions vis-a-vis Israel in conversations with Jews, Adnan Pachachi, another opposition leader who recently founded an opposition movement that competes with the Iraqi National Congress, said last week in London that he does not expect good relations between the new Iraq and Israel, as this would be antithetical to Iraqi interests.

United Kingdom, Catherine Philp in the Times

American warplanes mistakenly bombed a frontline position of both their own Special Forces and allied Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq yesterday, in the midst of a fierce battle with Iraqi troops.

Seventeen Kurdish peshmerga and a BBC translator were killed and 45 people were wounded, Kurdish leaders said. The wounded included two Americans and Wajeeh Barzani, a senior Kurdish commander, and the younger brother of Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party...

Among the injured were members of a BBC television crew, led by the veteran correspondent John Simpson, who were filming at the time of the blast. Mr Simpson's translator, Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, was among those killed...

Moments after the attack, John Simpson broadcast live by satellite telephone on the BBC news channel, News 24.

John Simpson: "Well it's a bit of a disaster ... I was in a convoy of eight or ten cars in northern Iraq coming up to a place that has just recently been captured. American Special Forces in a truck -- two trucks I think -- beside them, plus a very senior figure..."

Simpson to U.S. soldier: "Shut up. I'm broadcasting! Oh yes, I'm fine -- am I bleeding?"

U.S. soldier: "Yes, you've got a cut."

Simpson: "I thought you were going to stop me. I think I've just got a bit of shrapnel in the leg, that's all. OK, I will -- thanks a lot.

"That was one of the American Special Forces medics -- I thought he was going to try to stop me reporting.

"I've counted ten or 12 bodies around us. So there are Americans dead. It was an American plane that dropped the bomb right beside us -- I saw it land about 10ft, 12ft away, I think. We were so close to the damage and -- it didn't damage us badly at any rate.

"This is just a scene from hell here. All the vehicles on fire. There are bodies burning around me, there are bodies lying around, there are bits of bodies on the ground. This is a really bad own goal by the Americans. We don't really know how many Americans are dead. There is ammunition exploding in fact from some of these cars. A very senior member of the Kurdish Republic's government who also may have been injured..."

Qatar, Cilina Nasser in Al-Jazeera

As U.S.-led troops fight the battle for Baghdad, memories of the last time an Arab capital came under siege throw up some interesting parallels.

"Almost the same thing that happened 21 years ago here in Beirut is happening now in Baghdad," said Elias Atallah, who was in charge of the resistance groups defending that city against the Israeli invasion.

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to eradicate the Palestine Liberation Organisation, staging ferocious air strikes that were followed by a ground offensive with tanks and bombardment from the sea.

Iraqi paramilitary groups currently fighting the U.S.-led forces are using similar light arms against the highly sophisticated U.S. machinery in southern cities. But Al Jazeera correspondent in Basra, Mohammed Abdallah, said the Iraqi fighters from the irregular militias do not loook well-trained.

Abdallah reported that residents in Basra were guiding British troops to members of the ruling Baath party and other loyalist of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

But Atallah said that such a situation will change, recalling how many people in south Lebanon threw rice as a sign of joy on the invading Israeli forces.

Palestinian militiamen had used the southern villages to launch attacks on northern Israel, exposing the residents of the south to continuous retaliatory Israeli bombardment. Therefore, they were happy to see the Palestinians leave.

"But those same people turned against the Israelis who stayed in Lebanon and became occupiers," Atallah said, expecting a similar turn of events in Iraq.

"Now, the Shia are welcoming the invading forces because they are happy to see Saddam Hussein go," he said. "They might throw on the Americans and British troops rice for one or two months, and later things will change when the troops start behaving as occupiers."

Just as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat negotiated his way out from Beirut, the Iraqi president might face the same option. "Saddam Hussein cares more about ruling Iraq than about the interests of Iraq and therefore when he will see that he can't repel the invaders, he would leave."

Such a scenario could happen by laying a tough siege on Baghdad as the Israelis did in West Beirut where they cut off water and electricity supplies and banned vegetables and meat from entering the city. The tired people then pressured Arafat and the PLO to just leave.

South Africa, Article in News24

The war on Iraq without United Nations approval should fill African countries with unease, President Thabo Mbeki contended on Monday.

"The prospect facing the people of Iraq should serve as sufficient warning that in future we too might have others descend on us, guns in hand to force-feed us [with democracy]," he said in Pretoria.

"If the U.N. does not matter ... why should we, the little countries of Africa that make up the African Union, think that we matter and will not be punished if we get out of line?..."

Mbeki said those making war on Iraq contended that they had taken up arms to transform that country into a democracy. The proposition was that democracy could be imposed -- "in much the same way that one can force-feed a person on a hunger strike."

"Presumably the argument is that whether a person ingests jollof rice voluntarily or does so because he or she is force-fed, the fact remains that they have eaten jollof rice."

Mbeki added: "I am not certain that the institution of a democratic system can be approached in the same way that we approach the consumption of jollof rice."

He said the central question that needed to be answered was how the rule book of democracy should be applied in Africa.

India, Gurcharan Das in the Times of India

Whether it is the continuing ugly massacres in Kashmir or this dreadful war in Iraq, the truth is that far too many of the trouble spots in the world are the consequence of the frontiers created ad hoc by Britain's wicked old imperialism and the legacy of its divide and quit policy.

Christopher Hitchens, the author of "Why Orwell Matters," points this out in an elegant essay in the Atlantic Monthly. In 1916, it was one Sir Mark Sykes who divided the Middle East into Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan. Six years later, Sir Percy Cox carved Kuwait out of Iraq. The year before the Irish were told they could either have an independent or a united state but not both. And as we know, it was Sir Cyril Radcliffe's pen that carved a Pakistani state in 1947 out of what had formerly been India. More recently, Lords Carrington and Owen of the British Foreign Office advanced the ethnic division of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and before Nelson Mandela came out of jail, the same Carrington wanted to split South Africa three-ways into a white Afrikaner area, a Zulu reservation, and a free for all among the others.

Marya Mannes captured this historic legacy with wonderful irony in a poem that no one reads any more. She wrote: "Borders are scratched across the hearts of men/ By strangers with a calm judicial pen,/ And when the borders bleed we watch with dread/ The lines of ink across the map turn red"...

But for us in India it was Auden's poem, 'Partition', that truly brought out our sweet sourness over Mountbatten's disengaging mission: "Unbiased at least he was when/ he arrived on his mission,/ Having never set eyes on this/ land he was called to partition/ Between two peoples fanatically at odds,/ With their different diets and/ incompatible gods./ Time, they had briefed him in/ London, is short. It's too late/ For mutual reconciliation or/ rational debate:/The only solution now lies in separation."

There certainly were Muslim losers in Palestine and elsewhere, but the big losers were the many people of the other creeds and those who believed in modernity and transcended tribalism. It is the same in today's India where amidst the fanaticism of the Hindu nationalists and the Muslim terrorists, the losers are the ordinary people who want to get on with their lives. This unhappy British colonial legacy not only holds lessons for imperial America in Iraq -- when its time comes to quit it ought not to botch things -- but it is a reminder to all of us on the sub-continent that our borders emerged from scornful bureaucratic pens, and deserve to be treated with similar contempt.


Compiled by Laura McClure

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