What We’re Fighting For

Posted on December 17, 2007

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Of the many points of interest on today’s front page of the New York Times–a photo of Bill Clinton lasciviously juxtaposed at his wife’s powerful, if blandly shoed feet; a magazine style expose about US Laotian pawns hiding out in the jungles of Southeast Asia; a hard hitting look at Facebook–nowhere could you find a story about Bilal Hussen. No, the story about the Iraqi AP photo-journalist held by US forces for nearly two years without charges, has had a limited view in our nation’s paper of record. It languishes in the business section today and a quick search reveals only a short pair of articles when the Pentagon finally handed Hussein over to Iraqi authorities a few weeks ago for trial and an editorial and one article a year ago when the Pentagon stated that it had “convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to stability and security in Iraq as a link to insurgent activity.”

The US never presented any of this “irrefutable” evidence and for the most part, the media forgot about the US’s attempt to install democracy in Iraq by jailing journalists. But the fact remains that under US tutelage, the Iraqi government bans any journalism that “publically insults’ members of the government; a similar if unspoken and unenforced ban seems to exist in our nation’s paper of record, which has remained non plussed by our government’s habeas corpus hat trick, and prefers documenting the many daily utterances of the various celebrity presidential candidates.

The Bilal story, were it salvaged from the media and advertising sub-section, would add some sorely needed context to the current debate about torture. How is it possible, for example, that the US is so often convinced about the “irrefutablility” of its evidence, yet so often wrong? Forgotten in the current dust up about the CIA’s purged videotapes, is that Abu Zubayda, one of the tortured informants at the heart of the controversy, accused American citizen Jose Padilla of planning to set off a “dirty bomb” in the US. Padilla was held without trial for nearly five years on the basis of those allegations– baseless to be sure, for the US prosecutors never even mentioned dirty bombs when they finally indicted Padilla on other charges. There has been virtually no reporting on the “dirty bomb”-Zubayda connection in the New York Times or other mainstream media.

The news that the US is promoting an exclusive and frightening form democracy at home, and importing it abroad, is obviously of not much value to the executive office-foot fetishist readership of the New York Times.