Thursday, January 22, 2009 

The Palestinians of Gaza - not human enough, obviously.

This is shocking:

The BBC has refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities, launched its appealtoday saying the devastation in Gaza was “so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act”.

But the BBC made a rare breach of an agreement dating back to 1963 when it announced it would not give free airtime to the appeal. Other broadcasters then followed suit. Previously, broadcasters have agreed on the video and script to be used with the DEC, with each station choosing a presenter to front the appeal, shown after primetime news bulletins.

The BBC said it was not the first time broadcasters had refused to show a DEC appeal.

The corporation said it had been concerned about the difficulties of getting aid through to victims in a volatile situation. The BBC, which has faced criticism in the past over alleged bias in its coverage of the Middle East, said it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality.

The DEC’s chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said the decision could have a big impact on its appeal. “We are used to our appeal getting into every household and offering a safe and necessary way for people to respond. This time we will have to work a lot harder because we won’t have the free airtime or the powerful impact of appearing on every TV and radio station.”


A BBC spokesperson said: “Along with other broadcasters, the BBC has decided not to broadcast the DEC’s public appeal to raise funds for Gaza. The BBC decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story. However, the BBC will of course continue to report the humanitarian story in Gaza.”

In other words, the BBC have given in to those just waiting to grasp at the slightest hint of bias before they'd even had a chance to. It wasn't as if this was just going to be on the BBC; the other channels would have carried it as well. They've in effect decided that the Palestinians of Gaza are not as human or as equal as those who have been victims of natural disasters; it seems it would take something far worse than the man-made carnage Israel visited upon Gaza for the impoverished and hungry citizens of a tiny, cut off piece of land to be treated the same as everyone else.

I didn't think that the BBC's coverage of the assault on Gaza was that bad, or certainly not as terrible as some of those on the fringes of the left thought, judging by there being another protest outside the BBC this Saturday before the march heads to Downing Street. You get the feeling that if the BBC doesn't change its minds about this tomorrow that they'll be a hell of a lot more there than there otherwise would have been.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007 

The other war.

Lenin has an excellent overview of a similarly brilliant piece of research and reporting on the experiences of 50 US Iraq war veterans, almost uniformly depressing. A taster:

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photo­graphs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

It's not that men are bad people, or that they don't feel guilt, which usually kicks in once they eventually finish their extended tours of duty. Rather, it's that the situation is both so bad, and that the punishments for ill-treatment or "accidental" killing are either non-existent or so unlikely that the incidents aren't worth writing up, as well that the Iraqis themselves have been dehumanised by the officers in charge, routinely referred to as either "hajis" or by other pejoratives, that so many innocents have died as a result. It's both the colonial mindset, along with the absolute power that these almost uniquely young men have over those they're meant to be protecting that corrupts them, at least while they're there and trying to stay alive that does the most damage, and there seems to be very little that can be done to stop it from continuing, without a complete step-change in policy which we all know isn't going to happen.

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Friday, November 17, 2006 

One day, two different faces of American justice.

You may well have heard yesterday that Specialist James Barker, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and killing her and her family, the so-called Mahmudiyah incident (different to the on-going investigation of the alleged revenge attack at Haditha) was sentenced to life in prison, and has the heartening news that he won't have to serve longer than 90 years. He was spared the death penalty for agreeing to testify against the other soldiers involved.

What you probably won't have heard about was the sentencing of a US marine, which also happened yesterday. John Jodka III, who admitted to killing an unarmed, crippled Iraqi man, justified his actions by saying that it was "dark", then by mentioning that all those Iraqis look the same to me, guv. All right, I made that last bit up. You might question whether Jodka was telling the truth however, when you learn the full details of what actually happened. According to the account given by Iraqis from the village of Hamdania, and later confirmed by congressman John P. Murtha, Hashim Ibrahim Awad was abducted from his house, taken to where an IED had formerly been planted, shot at least once and then left there with a shovel and the spent cartridges.

What was Jodka's punishment, then? Well, like Barker, Jodka had also made a plea-bargaining deal and had agreed to testify against his former comrades. Unlike Barker, he was sentenced to just 18 months' in prison.

It's difficult to see the worthiness of either punishment. While Barker's crime was a vile and cold-blooded pre-planned rape and murder, sentencing someone to spend the rest of their life in prison for what is a first offence and in a war zone, with all the stresses associated with being inside one, is just as morally dubious. 10-15 years would surely be more appropriate. Jodka's punishment on the other hand is a complete insult to the Iraqi's memory and his family. The above sentence would again be justice served far better.

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