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Haifa Zangana

Licence to kill journalists

150 journalists were killed in Iraq during the US occupation, here remembered in 2009 (AFP)

Date of publication: 20 January, 2015

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Terrorist attacks are used by western governments and Israel to cover up, rather than let anyone think or try to understand the context. The response is the same: Send more troops, order more airstrikes and sign more lucrative arms contracts.

In a speech on board the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier last Wednesday, the French President Francois Hollande announced that the Charlie Hebdo massacre carried out by extremists "justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier" and "we may also conduct operations in Iraq, if necessary, with even more intensity and more efficiency."

The justification seems rather bizarre. France was one of the first 70 countries to join the US-led global alliance in air strikes on Iraq against Islamic State (IS) fighters, months before the attack on the Parisian magazine. The justification

     Stripping the occupied of their humanity makes killing easy. It was easy in Gaza last year.

is then post-hoc. Moreover, since the Paris attack seems to have originated with an al-Qaeda offshoot in Yemen, down by the Indian Ocean, how is that justification for France to send its aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean, aimed at al-Qaeda rivals in Iraq?

The justification rather invoked déjà vu of 11 September 2001, apparently planned by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, yet causing the invasion of al-Qaeda foe, Baath-led Iraq. What about the rest of the countries that rushed to join the alliance against the IS, including some Arab and Muslim countries, that have not suffered a similar Charlie Hebdo massacre?

Terrorist attacks are now used by western governments and Israel to cover up, rather than let anyone think or try to understand the context that cases such incidents. Did I say "incidents" rather than "brutal crimes"? “Incidents” of course, is the term that has been used so often to describe the US-led occupation “crimes” in Iraq since 2003. It must have seeped into my subconscious.

Leading the 11 January Paris mass demonstration to protest the Charlie Hebdo crime were the very leaders and officials responsible either directly or as silent witnesses for a long list of war crimes, particularly in Iraq and Palestine.

In Iraq, we have had many similar crimes, if not more brutal, to that of Charlie Hebdo: the killing of journalists and media workers who risked their lives reporting what Iraqis went through at a time when most western journalists were embedded with the military. That is why there are only glimpses of the Anglo-American massacres: Haditha (which has been compared to the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war); the destruction and use of depleted uranium in Falluja; the rape and killing of Abeer al-Janaby and her family; and the British Camp Breadbasket scandal.

Killing made easy

One hundred and fifty journalists and 54 media workers were killed in Iraq from its occupation in 2003 until 2011.

Namir Noor-Eldeen, a Reuters photographer, was one of them. He was killed in a senseless attack by helicopter along with 11 civilians. This is documented in footage recorded on 12 July 2007 and made public by Wikileaks. 

Namir was 22 and not married. His driver Saeed Chamagh, who is also seen being killed, was 40 and married. He left behind a widow and four children. The two were on their way to cover a story in a Baghdad suburb. The harrowing slaughter, excited voices from the sky, enjoying the chase and killing, were met with silence by those who led the Charlie Abdo demonstration. Neither the perpetrators nor their commanders were held responsible. Iraq's impunity rate, is the worst in the world.

"Light 'em all up!" one shooter in the Apache helicopter says.

"Ah, yeah, look at those dead bastards. Nice," says another.

"Well, it's their fault bringing their kids into the battle," one says when ground troops discover two children among the wounded.

Does this sound familiar? It should. These are the usual Israeli justifications for killing children with nowhere to flee to. "Palestinians don't really love their children" or "unlike us, they don't really value human life," they say. Stripping the occupied of their humanity makes killing easy.

It was easy in Gaza last year. Within a few days of Israel’s military assault on Gaza in July-August last year, 13 journalists were killed in the bombardment.

Remembering the journalists killed in Gaza

Here a few of what would eventually total 17 media casualties:

Izzar Dheir, who worked for the Freedom Media Network, was killed along with six members of his family when a bomb hit his house on 29 July 29.

On 1 August, Adballah Fahjan, a sports photojournalist for al-Aqsa website and MBC TV channel sports programme Sada Almalaeb, was killed while taking photos of displaced civilians in the Jneineh area of Rafah city.

Mohammed Aldeiri, a photojournalist for the Palestinian Media Network, was killed while reporting on the Israeli shelling of Shujaiyah market on 30 July. His body was not pulled from the rubble until 2 August.

Freelance journalist Shadi Ayyad was killed in an Israeli bombing that hit his house in the Zaytoon area on 2 August. His father was also killed in the attack.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo has been used to justify only this: Send more troops, order more airstrikes, more drones, sign more lucrative arms contracts and continue to support brutal corrupt proxy regimes. Let us also not forget, at the same time, to run workshops to regurgitate empty tropes about democracy and, above all, freedom of expression.

This is the US-led world alliance.




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