Saturday, March 29, 2003
TOP STORY IN ISRAEL
The top story in Israel at the moment is the mistreatment of leading TV reporter Dan Scemama by the American forces in Iraq (report). The radio reports on this story are ending with a statement from Scemama that the US forces are trying to control the media reports emerging from Iraq, and are co-ordinating a widespread campaign on disinformation.
What is interesting is that when this report was posted on the war-blog site The Command Post, by Israeli blogger Gil Shterzer, it was treated with nothing short of derision by the war-supporters, who automatically assumed that any critique of the US forces was enemy propaganda, and must be false. Shterzer has rightly defended the integrity of both Scemama and the news services carrying the story.
It will be interesting to see what the effect of this is on Israeli perceptions on the war. Scemama is a familiar face on Israeli television, and I assume is widely regarded as a reliable figure. He certain does not come over as an extremist or propagandist, and is sufficiently well known not to need to resort to gimicks to raise his profile.
Like most Israelis, he probably served in the armed forces and has experience of both combat and of the Middle East. He knows what it's like to be a soldier, and knows what unpleasant things happen when soldiers come into contact with civilians, even journalists. So his accusations of American brutality and media manipulation are bound to be taken seriously here, and will join an increasing number of voices who are beginning to express doubts about how well-thought-out the American policy has been. Certainly, the over-reliance upon heavy fire power with insufficient intelligence backup has been questioned.
I hope to post more on the Israeli reactions to the crisis in the coming days. To recent newcomers to the Frog, I welcome you and hope you find the site interesting. To veteran readers, I thank you for your interest and support over the months. Ribbity.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
BASHAR AL-ASSAD ON IRAQ: ONE SPEECH, TWO VERSIONS
The Arabic web portal Albawaba contains a summary of an interview with Bashar al-Assad that appeared in this morning's As-Safir, a newspaper published in Lebanon. The summary appears in two versions, one in English, the other in Arabic. The two versions have both different headlines and different quotations from the original interview. The English version emphasises the Arab world's right to independence and self-determination. The Arabic version contains threats to America and expresses explicitly the desire to destroy Israel. Each version is aimed at its own market. Owing to problems with the Blogger program, which refused to allow me to post the full translation here, it appears on the Iraqi War Blog site The Command Post.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
The war in Iraq may well be the most important historical event in recent years, given the scale of the military operation and the geo-political significance of its build-up and its outcome. But after several days of intense channel-hopping, close scrutiny of the journalists' reports from several continents in several languages, the constant bombardment of information and images, the excitement, the pain, the doubts, I'm tired. Tomorrow I have a long day's work ahead of me and though it's only 10.10 pm I'm turning in for the night with a good book. OK, I admit, before heading off to work tomorrow I'll probably check out Al-Jazeera and print off something to read on the journey. But world events can (un)happily unfold without my constant observation. It's time to find some peace in my own little four cubit-hole.
THE FUNNIEST JOKE OF THE WAR
Wars are bloody and horrible, so it's kind of Kofi Anan to provide some light entertainment, as reported in this piece, UN in charge of inspections, Annan insists. I'm glad to see that Annan is keeping up with the latest developments in world realpolitik.
Monday, March 24, 2003
MORE FROM AL-JAZEERA
Al-Jazeera's lead story at the moment is the downing of an Apache helicopter. According to this report, it was shot down by an agricultural worker (pictured, along with his brothers, next to the interviewer) using a primitive rifle. The Iraqi TV report also showed two helmets (presumably belonging to the crew), and Al-Jazeera notes that the Apache helicopters normally have a two-man crew. The report states that Washington has so far only admitted to losing one helicopter.
Meanwhile, Saddam has called upon the Iraqi people to exploit the opportunity of the invasion to inflict the maximum amount of losses, charging that the allies have avoided direct conflict by depending upon aircraft and missiles. [He's only jealous because the allies have destroyed his airforce.] He called upon the people to be patient and bearing.
At the same time, the aerial attacks against Iraqi cities continue. Bombardments have shaken the two large Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Mosul, and several other smaller cities. The attack on Baghdad was the fiercest in two days. The report claims that sirens were not heard, except for those of ambulances collecting up the wounded from the streets. The huge explosions came as Saddam was presenting his televised address.
[A thought: perhaps the US is deliberately using loud bombing during Saddam's speeches in an attempt to establish if they are live; no bombing can be heard through these speeches.]
The attacks once again targeted Saddam's palaces.
At the time of the Al-Jazeera report, Basra was once again under heavy attack, with the attacks focused around the western sector of the city, particularly the Shaher Bridge. Mosul was also bombarded this morning. Missiles apparently attacked western Mosul, but there was no confirmation as to whether they hit civilian or military targets. The Iraqis claim that they managed to push back the allied forces around Kerkuk.
VICTIMS OF WAR
The Iraqis are boasting that they have killed 25 American servicemen and woman. Several more soldiers have been killed in military accidents and "friendly fire" incidents.
While of course every loss is a matter of tremendous grief, and will chance the lives of the victims families forever, we must keep these figures in some kind of perspective.
On September 11th a year and a half ago, some 3000 US civilians were murdered in a single day. Israel, a frequent victim of terror that deliberately targets civilians, has known several attacks in which more than 20 people have been killed. Many of these are often children.
It is estimated that during the first few days of the Normany (D-Day) Landings, some 16,000 servicemen were killed.
Saddam Hussein's regime is thought to have caused the deaths of a million people, and four million Iraqis have been driven into exile.
The best answer to the Iraqi propaganda would be to invite the victims of Saddam's regime to have their say.
NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE FILTH
The decision by Al-Jazeera to post pictures of dead and captured American servicemen on its website seems to have had the desired effect. The site's ratings have shot up so much, that in trying to enter I received the "too many users" prompt.
THREAT TO ISRAEL?
Guy Bachor, a Middle East expert, just appeared on Israeli television and described his concern at the latest Iraqi statements regarding Israel's involvement in the war. Bachor felt that Iraq was inventing reasons to attack Israel.
Al-Jazeera Net is still happily displaying pictures of the American servicement who were killed and captured around An-Nasariya. The headline reads simply "Pictures of the dead and captives from the American army in Iraq". The "story" reads:
Al-Jazeera presented photographs of bodies of American soldiers who met their deaths during the battles that broke out between the American and Iraqi forces in the city of An-Nasira in South-West Iraq. Also, it presented pictures of captives from the American army that fell into the hands of the Iraqis during the same battles. The American Minister of Defense had denied earlier in the day that American forces had been killed or injured, for it was retracted and announced that less than 10 soliders went missing in Southern Iraq.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
IRAQ LASHES OUT AT ANNAN
In one of its "cleaner" articles (see previous blog entry), Al-Jazeera reports the searing comments made by Taha Yasir Ramadan, Iraqi deputy PM (who was reported dead by the Americans a few days ago), against Kofi Anan and the Arab leadership. Reading this blazing attack, you might thing that Iraq was the most law-abiding member of the UN and had fulfilled its commitments through the last twelve years.
Although its hard to have sympathy for Anan - in Israel, particularly, we have no great love of the man who refused to act against the mass-murder of Jewish civilians by Palestinians yet happily collaborated with Saeb Erekat in perpetuating the myth of the Jenin massacre - there is a juicy irony that Anan, of all appeasers, should be so attacked.
The attack is not restricted to Anan. The Arab leaders, both those who openly supported the Americans (who were named in the speech) and those who suppressed anti-war demonstrations (whose names were not mentioned) came under Ramadan's fire. Meanwhile, the article reports that Mubarak is worried that the Iraqi conflict may take a long time, even though the Americans promised him that it would be quick. We're only in the fourth day, the American troops are some 100km from Baghdad, and already Mubarak is worried about the lengthy duration of the war. Perhaps he could have sped it up by committing Egyptian troops to the campaign.
Al-Jazeera continues to display diskusting colour pictures of viktims of the allies' air-attacks on Iraq. I don't recall their posting similar pictures of the victims of Saddam's murderous regime, or of women publicly behedded by the Saudi regime, or of Jewish viktims of Muslim terror or the like.
[Please note that previous experience with similarly minded sickos seeking such pictures through search engines has lead to me deliberately misspell some of the words on this posting. I hope that the readers will understand.]
Israeli television is reporting that information is now coming in from Romania that a supposedly innocent cement factory in Rashidiyya (25 kilometres North-East of Mosul) was in reality a factory for the production of chemical weapons. Presumably, the American army will go after this kind of thing.
CONVERSATIONS WITH IRAQIS
Frog has finally returned home after a long day's work in the pond. Travelling home this evening across the country, the roads were remarkably empty, as was the public transport. People seem to be avoiding unnecessary journeys, preferring to stay at home where possible. Most people can be seen carrying out their gas masks in their cardboard boxes.
At work, I had the chance to speak to people who had grown up in Iraq. Although they are certain that it was indeed Saddam who appeared, they are very sceptical about everything that the Iraqis say. Moreover, they are totally convinced that there is no chance of democracy in Iraq.
I also learned from them that the Iraqis refer to the airstrips H1 and H2 by their English names (i.e. aich-one, aich-two, not aich-wahed, aich thnen), because they were established under the British rule in Iraq and retained their original names.
WERE YOU WONDERING WHETHER IRAQ IS THE NEW BABYLON?
The Ribbitzen has just received a very useful e-mail offer to join the "Left Behind Prophecy Club," which will provide updates on such important issues as whether this war in Iraq is leading to Armageddon, whether the Antichrist is alive now (and if so how to spot him), and are ATMs predictive of the Mark of the Beast. If you respond fast you even get a free "Left Behind Illumina," worth $20--whatever that is (the word doesn't appear in the OED, but those in the know must be familiar with the term). This offer comes to you from the authors of the Left Behind Series, and will give you an insider's perspective on interpreting the signs. The accompanying photograph shows that you will be so wowed by what the authors have to reveal that your hair will stand on end (or has their model used too much hair mousse?). So the Frog now offers this illuminating informational source to all of his readers, write to him for the contact info, since he would not want it to remain limited to those such as the Ribbitzen, whose e-mail address has been widely and generously distributed to world-wide spam listings.
WHO HELD UP THE TROOPS?
According to this report, the Iraqis are claiming that they have managed to stop the progress of the allied forces.
OFF TO WORK
Today (Sunday) is a work day in Israel, and this Frog has to go off and work on the other side of the country. This means a two and a half hour drive (it's really not a very big country) in each direction.
The Home Front Command are insisting that we take our gas masks with us (try fitting a gas mask over those wide froggy-lips and bulging eyes), which of course makes it very hard to look professional in front of clients. Imagine meetings in which everyone has a large clumsy cardboard box with them.
Still, a job is a job, and it beats working for a living.
THE COMMAND POST
Frog has been asked to contribute to this important link site.
THE HORRORS OF WAR II
Last night I reported that I didn't want to share the details of the awful images that appeared on Al-Jazeera's TV reports of yesterday. Well, it appears that Al-Jazeera's website didn't agree with me, because they chose the harshest of these images to accompany today's lead story. [The caption under the picture reads "One of the Victims of the British and American aerial bombardment of the City of Basra]
The report notes that the allied forces have begun air strikes in the area of Khurmal in Northern Iraq close to the Iranian border, attacking members of two Islamic organsations. (The details have already appeared in the Western press).
The article stresses the Iraqi resistance on the ground, and the frontal engagement in the desert around Najaf. Naturally, the US's confidence regarding this engagement (cited in the Western Press) is not reported. The Iraqis also claim to have hit down some 21 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which they claim were aimed at residential areas and government buildings in several Iraqi cities, though they do not provide any details.
According to the Al-Jazeera report, the attack came as Saddam Hussein appeared on Iraqi TV in his military uniform. The Iraqis said that he had held three meetings with top advisers, and was satisfied with the military's performance.
Meanwhile in Washington, General Stanley McChrystal reported on American arms uses, and confirmed that the US forces had not found any hidden weapons of mass destruction.
The bombing in Basra left some 50 people dead, including four members of one family and one Russian citizen. These numbers were provided by the Basra central hospital.
The report mentions the massive convoys of American armoured vehicles and supply trucks bringing bridge-making equipment to the northern desert passes leading from Basra to Baghdad. It also notes that the Americans have taken many POWS, but also sustained some losses. The fall of Nasariya to the Americans is noted. The article reports a British military spokesman as saying that the allies would like to conduct talks for the surrender of Basra. The British also claim that Iraqi 51st division in Basra surrendered, but this is denied by the Iraqi officials.
Meanwhile the allies have secured the port of Umm Qasr against any potential attacks they might face. The allies took more than 400 POWs in the surrounding area.
In general, this lengthy report on Al-Jazeera's website provides accurate information, though it tends to report Iraqi statements at face value, only challenging them by presenting the alternative view of the allies rather than through journalistic comment.