Posts about Mideast

The cartoon about the cartoons

Telegraph staff blogger Anton La Guardia reports on the pathetic concern of the Danish Union of Journalists in the matter of those cartoons:

One would assume that Danish journalists would be eagerly seeking international support for cartoonists facing death threats because of their drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, or perhaps pledging solidarity with Muslim journalists in trouble with their authorities for reproducing them.

But no, the Danish union’s central worry, as set out in a statement translated into English on its website, concentrates on the question of money and the infringement of the cartoonists’ copyright.

Magnanimously, the union declares that it has “decided not to take legal action against the many media which have reproduced the cartoons without permission”.

They’re requiring payment of 250 euros per cartoon, not to go to the cartoonists but to a prize for cartoonists facing social issues. Like rioting and killing over cartoons?

: La Guardia also reports on what is happening to journalists in the Muslim world who have dared run the cartoons:

One of the first was Jihad al-Momani, who published three of the caricatures with a commentary which said: “World’s Muslims, be logical. Which one do you think damages Islam more? These cartoons or the scene of a suicide bomber who blows himself up outside a wedding ceremony in Amman, or the kidnappers that slaughters their victims before the cameras?”

The irrationality of the affair has, if anything, got worse. Momani was first sacked as editor of Jordan’s Shihan magazine, and then arrested. He is now on bail pending charges of “harming religious feelings”.

Similar news has come out in snippets, for instance in this story from al-Jazeera. At the last count at least nine journalists in Muslim countries – Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and Malaysia – have felt the heavy hand of officialdom.

Hoder’s op-ed

Hossein Derakhshan, now blogging from Israel, wrote an op-ed for The Times blaming the Bush Administration for bringing in radical Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by supporting a boycott of the election: “But the real problem here is that boycotting semi-democratic elections ultimately will not make such a system more democratic.”

: ALSO: Lisa Goldman blogs about Hoder’s visit in Tel Aviv, with links to other blogs writing about it.

The Saddam show

The New York Times this morning has a picture of Saddam Hussein shouting at the court in his trial (the picture’s not online; the story is here). I wonder how this is playing on television in Iraq.

Here’s a hint. Salam Pax is writing an election diary for The Guardian and in a post the other day he reviewed the Saddam trial:

All the news about elections got upstaged yet again by a huge TV event – the second session of Saddam’s trial. If there is one thing that gets Iraqis glued to their televisions, it’s the sight of Saddam behind bars.

It still makes me speechless. Well, until he says something, and then everybody starts shouting at their TV sets. It’s strange how, after three years, seeing him on TV still brings up an odd mixture of fear and disgust. He still does the arched brow look when he doesn’t like what he hears and, unlike the rest of the accused sitting with him in that court, he doesn’t look broken.

For many of us, the proceedings at the Iraqi Special Tribunal are just not going fast enough, and the appearance of Ramsey Clark, a former US attorney general, seated along Saddam’s defence team was slightly baffling.

Many Iraqis have already made up their minds about what Saddam’s fate should be, and it seems the current government has made up its mind as well.

The state-owned TV station broadcasting the trial showed a little operetta, sung by kids, during the court’s recess. It is set at the trial, and the singing lawyer demands that the sentence be “a thousand deaths, a thousand deaths, for he is a war criminal”, calling Saddam’s lawyers men without honour.

The judge, after some musical deliberations, sings: “We sentence you to death, to death to death”. Case closed. And the official newspaper used the lower part of the front page on the day of the trial for a montage of pictures including a sign saying “death to Saddam”. There is no question what the people want.

And before you write long dissertations on human rights to me, try to consider, for a moment, how absurd the talk about human rights is to those who had had to suffer under Saddam’s total disregard for those rights – those who had their tongues cut off for talking badly of him, ears cut off for refusing to fight his futile wars, and the thousands who spent years in his prisons. It’s a tough one, but this trial was never going to be easy.

My fellow Americans

In the Wall Street Journal, Historian John Q. Wilson writes the speech he thinks George Bush should deliver on Iraq:

We are winning, and winning decisively, in Iraq and the Middle East. We defeated Saddam Hussein’s army in just a few weeks. None of the disasters that many feared would follow our invasion occurred. Our troops did not have to fight door to door to take Baghdad. The Iraqi oil fields were not set on fire. There was no civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. There was no grave humanitarian crisis.

Saddam Hussein was captured and is awaiting trial. His two murderous sons are dead. Most of the leading members of Saddam’s regime have been captured or killed. After our easy military victory, we found ourselves inadequately prepared to defeat the terrorist insurgents, but now we are prevailing.

Iraq has held free elections in which millions of people voted. A new, democratic constitution has been adopted that contains an extensive bill of rights. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, or politics is banned. Soon the Iraqis will be electing their first parliament.

An independent judiciary exists, almost all public schools are open, every hospital is functioning, and oil sales have increased sharply. In most parts of the country, people move about freely and safely….

The progress of democracy and reconstruction has occurred faster in Iraq than it did in Germany 60 years ago, even though we have far fewer troops in the Middle East than we had in Germany after Hitler was defeated.

We grieve deeply over every lost American and coalition soldier, but we also recognize what those deaths have accomplished. A nation the size of California, with 25 million inhabitants, has been freed from tyranny, equipped with a new democratic constitution, and provided with a growing new infrastructure that will help every Iraqi and not just the privileged members of a brutal regime….

We made no mistake ending Saddam’s rule. We have brought not only freedom to Iraq, but progress to most of the Middle East. America should be proud of what it has accomplished. America will not cut and run until the Iraqis can manage their own security, and that will happen soon.

I got into lots of blog hot water once when I said that much of Bush’s problem is a PR problem. Yes, that was too glib. But I am still amazed that for all the spinning he does, he’s still bad at it. He should hire Wilson as his speechwriter.

: Meanwhile, Dave Winer points to a speech his father, Leon Winer, says Bush should deliver (both blogging and bluntness are hereditary, one way or the other). It is matter to Wilson’s antimatter:

1. I have put my expected gain ahead of the well-being of the people of the United States. In seeking to maximize my wealth and the wealth of my family and close friends, I have ordered our military to invade Iraq. My objective was to grab half the Iraqi oil – worth $50 billion per year, and rising.

2. In implementing my attempt to grab Iraq’s oil, I have caused the deaths of more than 2000 Americans and uncounted tens of thousands of Iraqis. I have also caused the maiming of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. I have also wasted hundreds of billions of dollars of US Treasury funds in fighting the war in Iraq.

This is why wikitorial was doomed to fail. This is how far apart we are on our interpretations of what is happening in Iraq.

When they attack the reporters

Wonder whether the flavor of coverage from Iraq will change now that the insurgents/terrorists/murderers are attacking journalists.