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The Silence In Covering Iraq

By Layla Anwar

14 May, 2010
Arab Woman Blues

I was watching a documentary on/with Robert Fisk on Al-Jazeera, Iran's mouthpiece (most of the time).

I suppose Robert Fisk needs no introduction and I can assure you, I am not trying to promote him nor his books nor his generally lousy (most of the time) columns in the Independent. But compared to the frankly lousier P.Cockburn, who is more of the hotel journalism type ( hotel journalism are journalists who sit in their hotel rooms and concoct stories and Cockburn is a great knitter for the deadly vile militias of Iran in Iraq), Robert Fisk fares much better...

Fisk has been covering the Middle East, and has lived in Ze Lebanon for decades, with a few trips to Baghdad...

I will not transliterate the program, by no means...what I will do though is use it a basis for this post...I am not sure where am heading with it, I will soon find out...

When describing some of the "wars" in the Arab world, in particular in Lebanon and the several Israeli incursions, the Sabra and Chatila massacres, Fisk says that one night he was lying in bed and he literally felt that he was being elevated on a mass of dead corpses, piled one on top of another...and this is when he said that after number 100 dead, he stopped counting...

He added -- each dead one, assuming he/she has a soul, would like their story to be told...since they did not live long enough to tell it themselves...

I feel the exact same way when writing about Iraq...even more so because none of these fascinated "journalists" with the Orient, really managed to give a full picture, an intimate one of the ongoing Death brought on by the Anglo American Iranian invasion and occupation of this innocent country and its innocent people...

I, too have stopped counting....not really...

I keep counting..secretly so...I do not send the articles to my publishing house, I do not get paid for each column and I don't live in an flat overlooking the Mediterranean sea, nor do I keep track in notebooks, I just mentally record it all, in photographic details, in colors....

And maybe the reason I am mentioning Robert Fisk is because he said something that is very pertinent, even though am not sure he applies it to himself....at least not when it comes to Iraq. He said - before being a journalist, reporter, and even though I try to stay objective(English objectivity-please don't make me laugh)
I am at the end of the day a human being and in covering "wars" one cannot not be affected...I can't send a report as if I am a covering a football game...

Sadly, this is what happened and is happening...reports on Iraq be it from the Fisk type or others do come as Football reports...in comparison to coverage of the Palestinian issue, Iraq fares much worse..

I told you we are not sexy enough...the oriental fascination has not gripped enough to give it one's 100%, the empathy/feelings lack...the gruesomeness is quickly dismissed as "well you know after 30 years of dictatorship"...and I will defy anyone to produce one article in which the current Iraqi carnage is mentioned and there is no mention of Saddam Hussein....even though he's been dead and over 180'000 Baathists have been murdered....but you will always see a line or two, mentioning them....

Do you know why ? Because that is the way they can keep the lid on, that is the way they can keepyou silent...not that you really need it...you are deaf and mute when it come to Iraq.

By constantly referring to Saddam Hussein, they inscribe the violence in a historic continuum thereby diluting, watering down the real turning point in contemporary Iraq - that of the Anglo American Iranian invasion in 2003.

For me, this in itself is being an accomplice in one the worst crimes of modern history.
This abstraction, negation, the cover up of Iraq never ceases to baffle me...it literally feels as if we don't exist...

And journalists, reporters are part of this silence, they are the holders of the veil of silence.

And when I see so-called educated wannabee writers, thinkers who deal with Arab politics repeat the same crass bullshit, and sadly Palestinians are not exempt from this category of crass - I am left to believe that this is indeed a jungle with each man for himself...and consequently I have deliberately lifted my hands off the Palestinian issue and do not mention it in my posts...

When I see even Palestinian and other Arab "thinkers" (more like idiots) deliberate in the same manner as some Western reporter -- then am left to conclude that indeed, Iraq has no one and that She is totally alone.

I cannot divorce myself from the Iraqi reality...however hard I try, and trust me I try very hard to "detach" and cut the umbilical cord --it is not possible, it is simply impossible...

Even if I were not an Iraqi myself, I would be unable to do so...because the extent of the crime is too glaring, too hideous, too shameful, too...and for me to abdicate in any form would be to forget my being a human being...

You see the story is no longer about Iraqis -- the Arabs, Muslims, Christians... etc Iraqis...the story is about my own humanness, the story is about notlosing it...trying hard not to lose it in a world where everything conspires for you to let go of it....to forget, to move on....

I am unable to do so...not when the blood of the innocent still covers the streets of this deeply wounded ravaged country, this city of death and grief and a million untold stories...