On Monday a top official of Hamas, Saeed Syam, called for the release of American journalist, Jill Carroll. “Hamas joins those who ask to release American citizen Jill Carroll. Hamas is against the kidnapping of innocent people, of foreigners who are guests in the Arab countries, and those who introduce humanitarians services and help for the Arab people - and for any people in general - especially when they are not interfering in internal Arab affairs. We have declared many times we are totally against kidnapping civilians.”
Mr. Syam is the latest in a lengthening line of militant and anti-occupation leaders to oppose the kidnapping of Jill Carroll. Many of these groups have also condemned the kidnapping of Christian Peacemaker Team members in November of last year.
Despite the recurring and increasing calls by Sunni clerics and others, the mainstream press still has not bothered to question whether we can be certain that Sunni resistance groups are responsible for these kidnappings. Kidnappings have been a constant threat in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, and they seem to be directed mainly by criminal elements, not resistance or insurgent forces.
Over the last three years we have repeatedly seen instances where those in leadership roles in Iraq have abused their power. It appears to be a running theme across Iraq’s entire history. Recently however, corruption in Iraq’s governing agencies has been exceptionally bad.
In November it was finally released in the international press that agents of Iraq’s Interior Ministry were engaging in torture of mainly Sunni Iraqis.
In October it was revealed that Rory Carrol, a correspondent for the Guardian, was abducted by Shiite militia forces in Sadr city.It is unfortunate that both Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have failed to make clear the role of Iraqi Police or men posing as Iraqi Police, in the kidnapping of Mr. Carroll, who is not related to the Christian Science Monitor’s reporter, Jill Carroll.
In September, it was revealed that one billion dollars appears to be have gone missing from the budget of Iraq’s Ministry of Defense. The Indepedent reported Ali Allawi, Iraq’s Finance Minister suggesting “It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history.”
The continuing failure of the mainstream press to properly grasp the risks for journalists in Iraq contributes to their risk. Furthermore, the failure of the mainstream press to treat the kidnapping, killing, and detention of Iraqi journalists with the same outrage as that reserved for Westerners such as Jill Carroll increases the division between Westerners and Iraqis and serves to inflame the anger and frustration of Iraqis with not only the direct representatives of the occupation, but all foreigners working in their country.
The release this month of three detained Iraqi journalists by the United States military cannot make major news, because the mainstream press would first have to explain how Coalition forces have repeatedly detained Iraqi journalists and media workers without charge. However, the continued treatment of Iraqi journalists as second class citizens, both by the United States military-many of whom seem to treat all Iraqis with a guilty until proven innocent mentality-and the mainstream press, continues to be one of the major difficulties in “winning hearts and minds.”
As detailed above, there have been many actions on the part of various Iraqis that do not appear to help “Iraqis stand up” or push forward Iraq’s reconstruction. Iraqis from across the spectrum, whether Arab or Kurd, Sunni or Shiite, have been involved in corruption, theft, kidnapping, and resisting the occupation.
Reading the mainstream press, it is almost impossible to get this impression on a daily basis. The mainstream press examines the situation in Iraq from the time-honored position of a clash of civilizations, where the West is pitted against Islam. In this analysis, transgression by Kurdish, Shiite, and secular Arab leaders in Iraq are seen as abberations from the norm of loyal thankful Iraqis happy to have been liberated. Transgressions by Sunnis are the norm, and the result of an embittered minority, angry at losing its power.
This viewpoint makes it easy to assume that inexplicable events are the results of Sunni anger and sectarianism. It is unfortunate how much damage is being done by ignorance on the part of the mainstream press. What is fortunate is that this particular issue has a concrete solution. By educating ourselves better about the experiences of Iraqis, whether Arab, or Kurd, Shiite Sunni, or Secular, we can make tangible steps toward understanding the situation. By understanding the situation in Iraq, we may finally hope to build a movement toward reconciliation and ending the occupation.