Posted: 03 Aug 2010

It takes the Guardian’s investigation’s head, David Leigh, to unpack the significance of the Wikileaks revelations and explain why the story matters. The job of good journalism is to expose flawed wars, not to protect the figures backing an immoral and illegal occupation:

The Afghan war logs story has proved to be a global journalistic phenomenon. The Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel last week made history by simultaneously releasing stories about this huge classified US military archive.

The logs hold 92,000 field reports, many of them ugly and grim. The three papers mined revelations about the cruel toll on civilians in the nine-year conflict, and about futile firefights which have cost the lives of so many western soldiers.

The media trio did this work while WikiLeaks, a hitherto little-known organisation, simultaneously posted virtually the entire raw archive online, holding back only a small number of files which it thought might endanger local informants.

The project appeared to take the Pentagon by surprise. As the revelations swamped the world’s headlines, calls grew for investigations into the civilian killings. There were diplomatic storms over allegations of Pakistan backing for the Taliban. Damage control efforts by the White House did not improve until the weekend. We then saw the spectacle of generals, with gallons of innocent civilian blood on their hands, orating that WikiLeaks had potentially failed to do enough to protect local Afghans.

Some media organisations, who had not got the story themselves, then joined in. One disappointed paper deliberately provided the Taliban with a to-do list: it drew their attention to specific Wikileaks documents they might inspect in order to take reprisals. The low point was perhaps reached by Channel 4 News, which respectfully quoted a “spokesman” for the bearded murderers, as he uttered promises of revenge on alleged informants. It felt like PR for the Taliban.

Posted: 03 Aug 2010

Lesson number one for journalists: talking about Israeli “massacres” will always be “biased” even if Israel commits “massacres”:

Ofcom has ruled that a current affairs TV show discussing the ill-fated Gaza flotilla, which was presented by Cherie Blair’s sister Lauren Booth, has broken broadcasting code rules on impartiality.

Booth presents a regular programme on Press TV, the news network controlled by the Iranian government that has a bureau in west London, called Remember Palestine.

On 5 June Booth presented an edition that discussed the events during and following the interception by Israeli military forces of a pro-Palestinian aid convoy in the Mediterranean on 31 May, which resulted in nine deaths.

The show, which started with a pro-Palestinian song and anti-Israeli imagery, featured a range of pre-recorded and live interviews that included comments such as “massacre” and “barbarous attack”, according to Ofcom.

Ofcom said that the content “could be interpreted as being highly critical of the actions of the Israeli government and its military forces in this case”.

The media regulator received a complaint that the show failed to air alternative views.

Press TV maintained that it had complied with the due impartiality requirements of the broadcasting code. The broadcaster said that the “intensity of the descriptions in the programme merely reflected the general atmosphere around the world”.

The media regulator said that while the programme included a number of viewpoints all of them were portrayed as critical of the Israeli state’s policies.

“In summary the programme accused the Israeli government of a massacre and of breaking international law and human rights,” said Ofcom. “We considered the broadcaster did not provide sufficient evidence of alternative views within the programme. Overall the programme gave a one-sided view on this matter of political controversy.”

Posted: 03 Aug 2010

Helping the “enemy”, one fruitless war at a time:

Australian weapons and equipment have repeatedly been discovered among Taliban stockpiles, raising fears that Afghan troops trained by Diggers have been pilfering military supplies.

Documents released by the WikiLeaks website show that in the past six years International Security Assistance Force troops have uncovered Australian mortar shells, a hand-grenade and other equipment when defusing roadside bombs and capturing Taliban weapons stores.

Australian soldiers have trained hundreds of Afghan army soldiers, and work alongside Afghan police.

Posted: 03 Aug 2010

It isn’t just Australia treating asylum seekers as criminals to be exploited for political gain:

A video showing French police dragging immigrant women and children away from a protest squat has sharpened accusations that President Nicolas Sarkozy has made a cynical turn towards the authoritarian right.

Although police insist that the disturbing footage is misleading, the film of the apparently brutal arrests north of Paris last month coincides with a noisy campaign by the floundering Mr Sarkozy to revive his image as a politician tough on crime and immigration.

In the video, posted on YouTube, DailyMotion and other sites, a pregnant African woman is seen screaming as she is dragged away by police. Another woman, a baby strapped to her back, is seen being dragged along the ground by police officers.

The film was shot on 21 July at La Courneuve when police broke up a demonstration by 150 people, mostly African immigrant women, protesting against their eviction from illegal squats in a council tower block.

Although the incident passed off without much reaction at the time, homeless and immigrant support groups have used the footage to draw attention to what they say is a more violent approach – and a sense of Sarkozy-inspired immunity – among some French police officers.

Posted: 03 Aug 2010

The level of depravity surrounding the Wikileaks saga continues, causing arguably sane people to call for extreme, if not criminal, action:

Did my [Washington Post] colleague, Marc Thiessen, just call for a drone strike in Iceland? Thiessen is obviously incensed by WikiLeaks‘s dissemination of tens of thousands of pages of government documents relating to the Afghan war. And he wants WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to pay. Here’s how Thiessen put it:

“Assange is a non-U.S. person operating outside the territory of the United States. This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement, but also intelligence and military assets, to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.”

“Military assests”? Does Thiessen think we’re going to send in Special Ops to pluck Assange from Iceland, Belgium or Sweden, where he’s known to hang out? Or is he thinking that a drone strike might be more effective or efficient?

Thiessen asserts that the United States does not need “permission to apprehend Assange or his co-conspirators anywhere in the world” and that the U.S. should act alone if allies won’t cooperate. I’m not sure this is legally accurate, but let’s assume it is. Is Thiessen suggesting it would be a good idea to disregard an ally’s sovereignty, perhaps do irreparable damage to our relationship with it and the international community just to get our hands on Assange?

Thiessen’s concerns about leaks may be justified, but at least some of his proposed plans of action are more than a little scary and, as it concerns the Wiki founder, more than a little wacky.

Posted: 02 Aug 2010

Extreme religious behaviour isn’t just Islamic:

At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.

Since then, the habit has spread to five other Israeli towns causing alarm among ultra-orthodox religious leaders who once saw it as a relatively harmless eccentricity – even though the number of Jewish burka wearers is not thought to be more than a few hundred.

A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.

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