Monday, May 23, 2005
A Deconstruction Of The 'Newsweek' Riots
The alleged desecration of Korans by US Military prison guards wasn't a new story when Newsweek reported it a few weeks ago. Since 2002, many similiar accounts have appeared in the press (most published outside the country) and within human rights organization reports.
But they've been mostly ignored.
Just like the facts behind the riots.
This past Friday, Laura Bush said "In the United States if there's a terrible report, people don't riot and kill other people."
Susan Hu - who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite voices on the left - responded to Laura Bush's statement in a post at The Booman Tribune:
"I'm racking my brain, index finger sturdily resting on my chin, head tilting to the right. Can you recall any riots and killings throughout U.S. history that we might share with our First Lady?"
"KENT STATE just for starters...The Civil War? The labor riots? The Haymarket Riots? The civil rights movement?"
But getting back to the 'Newsweek' riots, what people did the protesters kill?
While the arson and destruction of many government buildings (and, also, the Pakistani Consulate and the United Nations offices) did - indeed - occur, there doesn't seem to be one report of any injuries to government officials, security guards, UN workers or Afghani police forces. It's only the protesters who were injured or killed by government forces (according to all of the reports that I have read).
Most of the mainstream media has also ignored countless observations by Afghani government officials, human rights workers, protesters, and bystanders which blamed outside agitators for turning peaceful protests into full-scale rioting.
This account is from Afghan Warrior, a blog written in English by a blogger in Afghanistan:
"The demonstrations which originally started in the eastern province of Ningarhar, spread throughout the country. In Kabuk, Kapisa and Takhar, the protests were calm and ended peacefully. But in Ningarhar, Wardak and Logar, the protests turned violent."
"In my point of view the enemy's hand was behind the destruction and casualties. The people came to protest against the Holy Koran desecration, but there were some enemy among the people, who destroyed government and civilian property. I condemn the desecration of the Holy Koran, but I also condemn the destruction. People have a right to demonstrate, but not to destroy and cause problems for civilians and government."
"I hope the government investigates to identify the "enemies of peace and stability" who are allegedly behind the violence, including the attack on the Pakistani consulate. Also, people in Ningarhar, Badakhshan and Gazni provinces have not ruled out the interference of mercenaries and said armed men from inside the protestors opened fire on police and law enforcement agencies. The enemies of Afghanistan should not take the recent demonstrations as a big acheivment for themselves. These violent protests do not reflect their popularity among Afghan people because none of the Afghan participants in the demonstration took part for their own sake."
"I think the demonstrations in some parts of Afghanistan were conducted by the Taliban, who turned it into violence because they still hide in some provinces. The worst violence happened in Ghazni and Ningarhar, and Taliban insurgents are hidden in these provinces. But they dont have influence in Kabul. In the northern provinces therefore, the demonstrations were more calm, and patriotic Afghans peacefuly participated in the rallies and expressed their dislike of those culprits who insulted their religion by desecrating the Holy Koran. They didn't come to murder and damage their own property."
Kashar News reported on May 14th:
"In Khogyani district, 33 km east of Jalalabad, and Chak district (Maidan Wardak), police opened fire at demonstrators, causing the casualties. Malik Tahir Khan, a tribal elder of Khogyani, said two people were killed and one injured in police firing."
"But Nangarhar Governor Haji Din Mohammad, who denied any killing in the firing incident, said: "Two protestors were injured when police fired into air to disperse the mob. Employing peaceful means, we are trying to cope with the situation," he added.""
"Speaking to Pajhwok, Governor Din Mohammad blamed the violence on saboteurs who played upon people's religious sentiments. "Nangarhar's people just wanted to hold a peaceful protest but some anti-Afghanistan elements provoked them into violence, causing a trail of destruction.""
"In the Chak district, eyewitnesses claimed, one student was killed while nine others were hurt in police firing. Syed Azam, a student at Hazrat Farooq High School, identified the victim as Hamidullah. Nine of his colleagues were injured."
"But Interior Ministry spokesman Dad Mohammad Rasa was unaware of the killing. "We have sent a delegation to the area for investigations. At the moment, I have no information in this regard," he said."
"The protesters slammed police for resorting to firing and causing bloodshed. "We were staging a peaceful demonstration but police started firing at us without any provocation," Mohammad Mohsin charged."
From the LA Times article, "Karzai Blames Outsiders for Afghan Strife" written by Halima Kazem:
"After five days of anti-American protests that left 14 people dead, Afghan officials charged Saturday that outside forces had hijacked many of the demonstrations in a bid to destabilize the government."
"The officials said anti-government factions used the protests, which erupted over a report that Americans at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba had desecrated the Koran, to incite people already leery of U.S. policies in Afghanistan."
"Haji Asadullah Khalid, the governor of Ghazni province, where one police officer and three protesters were killed during riots Friday, blamed the unrest on the forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a renegade warlord who is wanted by the U.S. government for planning attacks on American troops and the Afghan government."
"Hekmatyar is believed to be hiding in northern Pakistan, and his loyalists are active in several southern provinces, including Lowgar, Wardak and Nangarhar — all of which experienced violent demonstrations last week. "Hekmatyar's forces are active in some of the key provinces that have had violent protests," the Ghazni governor said."
""After we heard the news on local radio stations, we gathered students at the nearby mosque and elected 26 people to plan a peaceful protest for the next day," said Fazil Mileallah, a fourth-year medical student and an organizer of the Jalalabad protest."
Another thing that's been ignored by the MSM is the role that American Forces played in controlling the riots (which caused the deaths).
From the People's Daily Online:
"In their bid to disperse the demonstrators, according to Afghan sources, the US-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and local police opened fire injuring over 50 persons including a lady on the spot, and of these four have succumbed to their injuries at hospital."
On May 12th, Carlotta Garl reported for The New York Times in an article entitled "Afghan Protest Against the US Becomes Violent" that "Afghan policemen and troops, together with some American forces, eventually quelled the riots, but not before opening fire on protesters, who numbered in the thousands, residents said."
Reporting for Radio Free Europe (a station controlled by the United States Government) on May 11th, Jeffrey Donovan's "Afghan Protests Turn Violent" also mentioned the involvement of American forces:
"Several protesters were reportedly killed and some 50 wounded in Jalalabad when Afghan police, backed by U.S. troops, opened fire to control rioting students angered at the alleged abuse of Islam's holy book at a U.S. terrorist suspect facility in Cuba."
"From Jalalabad, RFE/RL's Afghan Service correspondent Dawood Wafa said the protests started around 8 a.m. local time at the medical faculty of the city's university. Wafa said police opened fire after demonstrators started throwing stones at homes, cars, and offices."
"Fazel Mohammad Ibrahimi, head of the provincial health department, said four protesters were killed and 50 wounded after Afghan police, backed by U.S. troops, opened fire in a bid to control rioting. But other sources are quoted as saying as two or three protesters were killed."
But, worst of all, the MSM has completely ignored an incident that occurred just two weeks before the Newsweek story appeared: a major protest in Nagnarhar involving thousands of Afghanis who were upset with the United States Military (not the Media).
On April 27th, The Pak Tribune reported:
"Thousands of the Afghans protested against US-led coalition forces house to house search operation here at Nangarhar and demanded government to stop the operation, VoA reports."
"Report said that large number of people of Khuziana district marched towards the provincial capital and protested against the coalition forces operation. They demanded of the coalition forces to halt their ongoing house to house to search in the district. Locals told VoA that border security commander Zinullah Amin, former Nangarhar security commander and eight local residents had been arrested in the operation."
"Meanwhile, Nangarhar Governor Haji Din Muhammad said his provincial administration discussed the issue with the central government and the coalition forces officials. He said he informed higher authorities about the problems of the masses in this regard. Governor said it would create a lot of problems if the coalition forces continued their search operation without consulting the government."
On May 12th, Radio Free Liberty also mentioned the door-to-door searches:
"Wahid Mojhdeh, a political analyst in Kabul, said tensions already existed in eastern Afghanistan between the local population and U.S.-led coalition forces. He said the allegations over the Koran simply inflamed those forces."
"A few weeks ago in several districts in the east of Afghanistan, coalition forces had entered people's houses without permission," Mojhdeh said. "Such [tensions] existed there, and after the news about the desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo was published by [the press], the [discontent] that existed was transformed into action and led to the violent demonstration. That was one reason [for the trouble], and also the inexperience of police and security forces in eastern Afghanistan should be mentioned.""
So - to sum up - a magazine is being blamed for acts of arson and destruction which led to the deaths of 15 or more people.
The Taliban isn't being blamed. Anger about house-to-house searches isn't being mentioned. Previous accounts of Koran defamation that may have been committed by US Military prison guards are hardly mentioned.
Protesters are referred to as murderers.
The agenda of the Bush Administration isn't to mollify the protesters (or rioters) in Afghanistan, it's to de-certify the press.
(Speaking of "de-certifying the press", NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen, the man behind the more-than-a-theory, posted an update to his controversial take on the Newsweek fallout last week. In "Trust-Me Journalism and the Newsweek Retraction", Professor Rosen's "[i]ncluding why I disagree with almost everyone about it." It's probably going to piss off more people on the right and the left, but you have to respect a man who stands on principles rather than party ideology. I'm still not seeing completely eye-to-eye with Professor Rosen on this story, but I don't think he's completely off the reservation.)
(Honestly, I could hardly care less about Newseek's integrity or the decidedly unliberal Michael Isikoff's reputation. What I care about is the truths that are being ignored and the rush to demonize the Press. Although I often knock the MSM - especially The New York Times - I have nothing but respect for the art of journalism. I just want them to do a better job. I want them to be more critical when they have to be critical not just for the sake of "balance." I'm not defending Newsweek, I'm defending the Third Estate. The other side wants to destroy the Press. Our side just wants to give it a hard kick in the ass.)