Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fight for minds uses a TV show as battleground

I copied this article from a site in the internet, it contained more details about the confessions of the prisoners I already mentioned in my previous posts.
The title of the article is:

Confessions rivet Iraqis

Fight for minds uses a TV show as battleground

By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff | March 18, 2005

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's wildly popular new television hit features a nightly parade of men, most with bruised faces, confessing to all kinds of terrorist and criminal acts.

''Terrorism in the Hands of Justice" is the Iraqi government's slick new propaganda tool; its televised confessions, police say, aim to discredit the armed resistance and advertise the government's success at cracking down on gangs.

If it is meant to showcase a brave new Iraq, the television show is starkly reminiscent of the bad, old Iraq. Part ''Oprah Winfrey Show" and part ''Cops" -- with a strong flavor of Saddam Hussein-era strong-arming -- the show airs six nights a week on the state-run Iraqiya network.

Since its debut a month ago, ''Terrorism" has become a fixture in Iraq's cafes and living rooms. Iraqi government officials brag that the show has ruined the image of jihad, or holy war, in the country, exposing the resistance as a racket of street criminals and thugs who attack Americans and Iraqi security forces for pay.
It also raises a host of questions about Iraq's treatment of the suspects and the reliability of their confessions.

The bruised, swollen faces and hunched shoulders of many of the suspects suggest they have been beaten or tortured. The neat confessions of terrorist attacks at times fit together so seamlessly as to seem implausible. And the suspects are presented to the public without any legal process to protect them, presumed guilty, with no word about rule of law as a weapon in the arsenal against terrorism. US officials have sidestepped questions about the program airing on Iraqiya, a network still run by an American contractor hired by US occupation officials nearly a year ago.

There is no question, however, about the program's popularity and wide reach. Men at cafes debate the details of certain gang members from ''Terrorism." Others interrupt soliloquies about recently murdered relatives to declare: ''I expect to see his killers on TV." The show aims to change the minds of Iraqis who see insurgents as noble, patriotic Muslims.

Powerful politicians have blasted the show: Mohsen Abdul Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party that gets support from Arab nationalists, tribes, and the insurgency, called a press conference recently to accuse the show of airing lies, outraged not that a party member was presented as a terrorist, but that the man confessed that he drinks alcohol and does not pray.

Footage is provided by the Interior Ministry and edited by state-owned Iraqiya. After the US invasion, the Coalition Provisional Authority restarted the state-owned Iraqi television network as the Iraqi Media Network and renamed the main state channel ''Iraqiya."

Colonel Adnan Abdurahman, the Iraqi police official in charge of producing taped confessions for the show, dispatches a camera crew wherever police commandos make a lot of arrests. In the last week, his staff has filmed confessions in Mosul, Baqubah, and Baghdad

''Previously Iraqi people saw the resistance as fighting the occupation," Abdurahman said. ''But when people saw how they talk, and the details of their actions, they became despicable in the eyes of Iraqi society. They're not resistance. None of them say they are fighting Americans. They are killing Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi police, only Iraqis."

In the show's opening montage, the theme song from ''1492: Conquest of Paradise" by Vangelis plays over images of hooded members of Tawhid and Jihad about to execute an American hostage in an orange jumpsuit, a bloodied corpse, and finally two smiling Iraqi children holding paper signs that say ''No to Terrorism."
Then a police special forces trooper in camouflage uniform and a red beret extols the work of ''our brave, noble Iraqi law enforcement brothers."

Who are the perpetrators of the daily bombings and ambushes that have killed hundreds of civilians, Iraqi police, and soldiers?
According to the taped confessions, the answer is, essentially: lowlifes.

The fighters almost never describe themselves as patriots or holy warriors; they say they fight for pay. Many of the men admit to homosexual acts, considered particularly shameful in Iraqi culture. They frequently admit to rape and pedophilia, and clips often end with the unseen interrogator excoriating the detainee for having no honor.

On a recent episode, alleged members of an insurgent cell from Mahmoudiya -- a town south of Baghdad in the dangerous ''Triangle of Death" --admitted to murdering and raping several Iraqis.

A man who identified himself as Azawi Hassan Azawi said the leader of a criminal cell induced him to kidnap and kill a young boy by offering Azawi his sister in marriage.

Another man, identified as Hassan Mahdi Hassan al-Kafaji, said he used to fight in the Saddam Fedayeen militia. After the war he joined Tawhid and Jihad, the jihad group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as a killer for hire; he said he pops pills before each mission. ''They pay me $100 or $150 for each person I slay," Kafaji said

Talal Ra'ad Ismail al-Abassi came next; he said he led an insurgent cell in Mosul.
According to the interrogator, Abassi had been imam of a mosque but was fired by religious authorities under Hussein for having sex with men inside his mosque.
Abassi said his group had killed a dozen Iraqi ''collaborators" -- once a leader can claim 10 kills, he becomes an ''emir," or prince -- to earn $1,500 a month from Saudi financiers of the insurgency. ''I do not believe in jihad in Iraq," Abassi told the camera. ''It was important for my group to kill enough people that I could become an emir and get the $1,500 salary."

On another episode, a group of men from Samarra took responsibility for a series of strikes that killed Iraqi police and interpreters for US forces. In quick succession, the men detailed how they were paid less than $200 to kill and mutilate five Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

Qahtan Khalid, the last man to appear before the camera, was skinny and hunched over, his face more bruised and sunken than the rest. He said he was a policeman who had collaborated with insurgents in 10 killings. ''I joined them so they would not slaughter me," he said.
Yesterday Khalid's father told the Agence France-Presse wire service that Interior Ministry police commandos delivered his son's corpse to him.
The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry has opened an investigation.

US and Iraqi officials said that airing confessions on television is completely legal.

The 2004 State Department's Human Rights report, which was released two weeks ago, noted that hundreds of cases of alleged torture are pending against the Iraqi government. ''Reportedly, coerced confessions and interrogation continued to be the favored method of investigation by police," the report said.

Mishan Jabouri, a Sunni tribal politician elected to the new national assembly on Jan. 31, said he had evidence that the confessions are bogus.
A constituent from Mosul wrote Jabouri last week to say that his brother appeared on the show on Feb. 22, and confessed to killing four men. But the names of the victims he listed were all relatives who are still living.
''All these deceased are alive and not dead. They are ready to stand in front of your excellency," Muthana Abdullah Khalil wrote. ''I don't know the reason that led my brother to these untrue confessions, but we are ready to bring the living dead in front of you to prove our allegations."

Abdurahman, the police colonel who provides the confession footage, dismisses such accusations. The judicial system will punish any police who torture suspects or elicit false confessions, he said, impatiently brushing aside questions about the treatment of detainees.
''Our work is being appreciated. That's the biggest objective," he said. ''People are demanding that the cruelest punishment be inflicted on those shown on TV."


Hitech Luddite said...

What the Govt is doing must be seen with reference to the reality that created the need for the govt's action. The govt is trying to control a small sector of a minority group that kidnaps and beheads people for no better reason than the want of power on their own terms rather than follow the legitimate means they have been offered which would grant them power in proportion to the size of their group. I would be concerned if these practices continue after the insurgency is defeated and the govt. stabilized.

Brian H said...

Part of the problem may be the production requirements of the show itself. If there is or might be at any time a "shortage" of accurate confessions to fill the time slot with suitable detail, the temptation to force prisoners to recite scripted junk would be overwhelming. And it's so much easier than cross-checking information! So it's hard to see how they will get off this slippery slope.

Moron99 said...

good luck and best wishes.

I think you are doing a good thing for your country when you speak out. Silence is tacit approval. There must be dissent so that the government will not abuse its powers.

waldschrat said...

I wonder what is certain, what is true. The confessions could be false or true or partially false and partially true. It could be that the bruises people see on the mens faces are TV makeup and not real brises. It could be that the people confessing and the people they confess to are all actors an everything is a lie. Or everything could be real and true on the TV.

It is also not certain that the confessions are the only evidence against the terrorists. If you capture a man carrying a bag full of human heads, it may be reasonable to assume he is not a nice person.

What I think is certain are these things. Many police have been murdered by terrorists - the exact numbers are not certain, but the number is large. I believe the police do not wish to be murdered. I believe the police do not wish the public to consider the murderers of policemen as heros. It is therefore reasonable that the police would want to display the worst and least heroic terrorists and their confessions. I believe the police would also want other terrorists to fear them. For that reason, they might want it to appear that people were treated roughly and tortured, whether this was in fact true or not. I believe these things explain why the police would cooperate in producing such a television show.

Now there is a question I can not answer: are people who now say they believe the killers of policemen are not heros telling the truth about what they believe, or are they lying from fear of the police?

When you judge the Iraqi police, bear in mind that in America there is a special term used for people who kill a policeman: "Cop Killer". Police in America have a reputation for treating cop killers unkindly indeed! It is reported tht Iraqi police under Saddam often used torture. If police in America ever used torture (and I believe that is extremely rare) it is more likely that it would be used against a cop killer.

I hope this makes sense. I believe it is important that Iraqi police be fair and honest and not torture people. I believe it is MORE important that they stay alive and encourage people to not commit crimes and not believe they can escape punishment. When Iraq is safe for decent people it will probably be easier for police to be decent people.

Moron99 said...

Very well said waldschrat. I could not agree more. The effect of the show is a tremendous asset for Iraq. But ... somebody somewhere has to be a dissenter. Somebody has to be a social conscience.

To frame it in American terms. I support the death penalty. But I also support the people who stand outside and protest while the criminals are executed. It takes both sides to achieve balance.

The show certainly presents a dilemma to Iraqis who have a high regard for human rights. A dillemma that our westernized upbringing does not prepare us to understand. Sometimes a person has to fight with the intention of losing. I think, maybe, possibly, probably, that is where I might stand if I were an Iraqi. I would serve my country by fighting a battle that I wanted to lose ... ever careful not to empower the criminals but ever careful not to approve abuse either.

It's a tough spot to be in Truth. But you have always struck me as a man of wisdom. Good luck and best wishes.

Moron99 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
waldschrat said...

Sometimes the comment faclity is very slow to display coment and it appears the comment has not been posted. THis can trick a person into posting the same comment twice. I did tht once. It appears I am not the only one. I wonder how a dupicate comment posted in error can be deleted.

waldschrat said...

Aha! I think I know how to delete a comment psted in error. I notice there is a little trash-can icon below my comments but not below the comments of other people. This is valuable information and I will use it in the future when necessary to avoid looking like an idiot.

Heiko said...

Strangely, everybody here seems to agree, and so do I, pretty much.

In a democracy, political conflicts are settled peacefully and non-violently. And this creates a climate, where abuses by police officers can effectively be pursued.

There is no excuse for using political violence against the government in my opinion, because it is so counterproductive and non-violent means so much more effective.

Beheadings of innocent policemen, who are in the police force because they want to fight ordinary crime, of course, lead to more crime, because it degrades the ability of the police to fight crime.

I accept that under the present circumstances the showing of confessions in the manner it is happening may be acceptable. And the way for this show to stop is for a large majority of people to accept the ballot and non-violent means as the only legitimate means of political expression.

I care about your family, you have a very talented daughter in Najma, one of the very best bloggers on the net.

But I also think that you should modify your opinions regarding the "insurgents" or jihadis, as you like to classify them.

If their aim is to make Iraq a peaceful and prosperous country, and they have a disagreement with the present government, they should use peaceful, non-violent means to do so, and Iraqis, including you, should reject violence as the best means of "resistance", even if the motives may be good and the means targeted.

Also, the groups aren't as neatly distinguished, as one might think from your description. There is a lot of gray in between the well intentioned jihadi, who will attack only American forces, in order to drive them out of the country, and who'll do so in a way that doesn't bring suffering to Iraqis,
and criminals paid to kill innocent civilians, who in betweenst the killing engage in some rape, drugs, alcohol etc..

Even the most well intentioned attacks are likely to lead to an atmosphere of less law and order, and thereby to encourage the second type, or crime entirely for its own sake. And even the most well intentioned jihadis are confronted with a military situation that is desperately poor for them, if they use "clean" methods. The temptation is there to attack, when civilians are around, even when one could, when they are not, because it hobbles the response of American forces. When in a crowd, it's so much easier to get close to a checkpoint and to cause damage, but it also increases the risk to civilians accordingly.

Furthermore, the American forces can stand the attacks indefinitely. What they might retreat from is a country in chaos, which, it seems, is what many in the "insurgency" appear to be trying to achieve, with the aim of subsequently taking power not through elections, but through force.

Joey said...

I think we are all missing one fact. The fact is that democracy in iraq is in it's infantcy.As a matter of fact right now it is just an idea or a dream for the majority of iraqi citizens. We americans have had over 200 years to get to a place where we can enjoy freedom. And in those years the blood of our brothers spilled and the prospects of money and power drove brother against brother. But the key for the Iraqi people is the same as it was for us, the people must be diligent in the persuit for freedom. they now have it in their grasp and must not let go.Every morning they awake they must push forward toward the kind of society that they wish to have.They must empower leaders that work for the people and as time goes on they to will enjoy the freedom they now dream of. The cost of freedom will always be high,but in the end it is the people of Iraq that will decide the cost they are willing to pay to be a free people where they are allowed to persue their dreams without persicution.

Anonymous said...

I have lesss knowledge than the Iraqi people as the truth or falsehood of statements being presented by capture resistence or inurancy fighters or criminals (paid or otherwise) per say. However, I do know that had the individuals been capatured Iraqi police or military personal, the only thing that the Iraqi people would see is dead-bodies (there is a difference!) and for that the Iraqi people should extremely be proud that these men are alive and talking (hopefully repenting!).

I wounder how, many of the Iraqi citizens would deal with these individuals, if their families had been victimized by said individuals? I doubt they would be living and/or allowed to even speak! It is a difficult task fighting criminals in any society, being fair is not always the best method until the power of the people is established in an elected government and a define rule of law in placed.

I feel the pain and confusion of the Iraqi people, all wanting peace and truth, which under the current conditions is easily obtainable. But never the less, that must be the driving force for all Iraqi citizens actions. Best of luck, it is a hard road to find, but it is there!

Mark Bahner said...

Hi "Truth,"

I agree with those who have congratulated you on speaking out, and urged you to continue.

This show is flat out wrong. It's wrong to air "confessions" of people who have NOT been convicted of crimes. (It's especially wrong if they have been beaten to obtain those "confessions.")

If anyone wants to air the trials of **accused** terrorists, that's legitimate.

But a country that doesn't base it's law on the principle that people are innocent until convicted of crimes is not a good place to be.

It's tremendously wrong if the U.S. government is providing money to support this TV station.

dancewater said...

"In a democracy, political conflicts are settled peacefully and non-violently."

And sometimes that happens in countries that are not democracies... like in India and South Africa (mostly non-violent).

An amazing example of non-violence happened last week in Atlanta, Georgia. A criminal on trial takes a gun from a cop in a courtroom, kills four people in the courtroom and during the escape.... and takes a hostage.

The hostage cooks for him, talks to him, reads to him, and sees the humanity in the man who was a killer, and talks him into surrendering peacefully.

One women without a weapon was able to do what a courthouse full of judges and cops could not do!


elendil said...

Truth teller - I don't understand something. If these men are admitting to things you would never admit to like being Queer, and it is obvious that these men have been beaten (bruises on the faces), how could this show be good PR and wildly popular? Something is missing from this picture.

GPV said...

I read all this and it reminds me of another occupation,history is something that repeats itself.
The people that invaded my country
referred to god and they had some kind of eagle to go with it,Napoleon troops had god and eagle together too,so had the romans.Propaganda and guns.

慢慢來 said...