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Reporting From Baghdad- by Scott Ritter

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                          VIEWPOINT
"Exploring The Powerful Issues & Emotions of The Middle East" 
  Reaching out to 51,228 Viewpoint readers around the globe
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Editor's Note:

Today is a critique of Iraq reporting by Scott Ritter, 
who is in Baghdad as he wrote this. It is spot on. 

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                Video Clip Of The Week

              British Pull Out Of Basra

The British held on to one stronghold in the city of Basra 
and over the weekend decided to pull out from the city 
entirely over the objections of the US. Is the surge 
working? You decide. 

View: British Pull Out Of Basra 
   
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Reporting From Baghdad- by Scott Ritter

It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration's
newest military-man-of-substance-turned- political lapdog, 
General Petraeus, maintains that the situation in Iraq is 
not only salvageable, but actually improving, due to the 
"surge" of U.S. combat troops into Iraq over the past year. 
All the president and his collection of GI Joe hand-puppets 
ask for is more time, more money and more troops. 

There is no reason to believe that the compliant war 
facilitators who comprise the "anti-war" Democratic 
majority in Congress will do anything other than give the 
president what he is asking for. No one seems to want to 
debate, in any meaningful fashion, what is really going 
on in Iraq. 

Why would they? The Democrats, like their Republican 
counterparts, have invested too much political capital 
into fictionalizing the problem with slogans like "support 
the troops," "we're fighting the enemy there so we don't 
have to fight them here," and my all-time favorite, 
"leaving Iraq would hand victory to al-Qaida." 

There simply is no incentive to put fact on the table 
and formulate policy that actually seeks a solution to 
a properly defined problem. Like the Republicans before 
them, the Democrats today seek not to govern with the best 
interests of the people in mind, but rather to game the 
system in order to consolidate political power. 

Political sloganeering has so trumped reality that any 
political backlash that is generated from the so-called 
"Petraeus Report" will be limited to how the Democrats 
could better sustain a conflict that kills American 
troops, since no main-stream Democratic leader has 
expressed a true "get out of Iraq now" policy. 

Nearly 4 1/2 years following President Bush's ill-fated 
(and illegal) decision to invade and occupy Iraq, few 
people in a position to influence policy formulation and 
implementation in America have actually grasped the 
horrible truth about what has transpired, and what is 
transpiring, in Mesopotamia today. As the United States 
places the finishing touches on Fortress America, the new 
half-billion-dollar Embassy complex in the heart of the 
Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, and more troops pour into 
mega-bases throughout Iraq, the reality (and futility) of 
permanent occupation has yet to sink in. 

What could be going through the minds of those members of 
Congress who keep signing blank checks for the president? 
Is there no oversight of how and why this money is spent? 
How can someone fund permanent infrastructure one day, 
then speak of the need to get out of Iraq the next? 

The compliant mainstream media, of course, is no help. The 
war in Iraq has become a major generator of advertising 
revenue for these corporations, so there is no incentive 
to actually report the truth, but rather manipulate the 
fiction. Iraq has become a prestige destination for every 
aspiring journalist or struggling anchor, determined to 
get "the big story." 

The most recent manifestation of this syndrome is CBS News 
anchor Katie Couric, who earlier this week travelled to 
Iraq because she was (in her own words), "Curious about 
very basic questions regarding living conditions, about 
how much fear there is in the street, about how the 
soldiers really are doing." That the situation in Iraq 
has been boiled down to these three big, burning issues 
(living conditions, fear in the streets, and how the 
troops are really doing), and that CBS is sending their 
multi-million-dollar investment to investigate, speaks 
volumes about the truly degenerate state of American 
journalism today. 

The real big three she should be addressing are "Why do 
Americans keep dying?" "Who is killing them?" and "Why?" 
Of course, answering these questions would undermine the 
very fantasy world Couric is being sent to cover, one 
where Americans are doing good deeds in the name of peace 
and justice for downtrodden Iraqis. Couric's jaunt is 
fraud on a massive scale. Ironically, she herself 
acknowledged this when she admitted that her up-beat 
reports from Iraq were reflective of what the US military 
wanted her to see, and not honest 'reporting' on her part. 

If Couric and her ilk won't answer these questions, I will. 
"Why do Americans keep dying?" Simple: Because we are in 
Iraq. We don't belong there. Our presence is derived from 
our own violation of law, not someone else's, and as such 
any effort to sustain our presence is tainted by this same 
foundation of illegitimacy. 

In short, Americans will keep dying in Iraq as long as we 
remain in Iraq. If Katie wanted to really get to the bottom 
of this story, she could venture out on her own to any one 
of the villages and towns where Americans have been killed 
recently. Of course, she would probably end up dead 
herself, which would defeat the purpose of trying to report 
the story. 

"Who is killing them?" Another easy answer: Iraqis. We 
are occupying their homeland. We are violating their 
sovereignty. We are butchering, abusing and torturing their 
citizens. Our continued presence is an affront to the socio-
economic-political fabric that is (or was) Iraqi society. 
If someone occupied my hometown in the same manner 
Americans occupy Iraq, I'd be killing them any way I 
could. 

And I would be called a hero by my own people, and not a 
terrorist. The Bush administration, in an effort to deflect 
public attention away from this reality, has created the 
fiction of a massive al-Qaida presence in Iraq, working in 
parallel with a similarly large Iranian Revolutionary Guard 
Command presence, which apparently is responsible for the 
majority of anti-American violence and dead U.S. troops. 

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Rhetoric aside, however, American officials who make these 
claims have been unable to back them up with hard facts and 
figures. There is an al-Qaida presence in Iraq. However, 
the majority of what is known as "al-Qaida in Iraq" is 
composed of Iraqis, not foreigners. The whole phenomenon 
is a direct result of the American occupation of Iraq, and 
would dissipate the moment America left the country. 

Likewise, the accusation of direct Iranian involvement in 
anti-American violence is questionable. Iranian political 
support of Iraqi Shiite groups who violently oppose the 
American occupation of Iraq is real, but then again we 
know this: We invited the Supreme Council for the Islamic 
Revolution in Iraq to join us in toppling Saddam. Based 
out of Iran, functioning as a de-facto arm of the Iranian 
Revolutionary Guard Command, SCIRI did as we asked. 

Why, then, are we shocked when SCIRI maintains ties with 
the very entity that created and nurtured it? It is Iraqi 
Shiites who are killing Americans, not Iranians. And they 
would kill us with or without the support of Iran. 

Now we come to the third and perhaps most difficult 
question: "Why?" In some odd way, Katie Couric's jaunt 
to Iraq answers that question: Because Americans truly 
don't care. Oh, we care about vague softball issues, such 
as "conditions in the street," "fear," and of course, 
"how the American troops are really doing," especially 
when they are fed to us in 30-second sound bites or three-
minute "in-depth" stories.

Little feel good segments planted in between commercials, 
designed not to infringe on our intellectual curiosity for 
more than 30 minutes so we don't loose our focus watching 
the latest "reality" show or made-for-television drama. 

The fact is, Couric's made-for-television news is to what 
is really happening in Iraq as "CSI: Las Vegas" is to what 
is really happening on the streets of Sin City. CBS knows 
that, which is why they are packaging Katie in this 
fashion. The shame is that for most Americans watching, 
they think they're getting the real deal. 

They are not, but will continue to wallow in their ignorant 
indifference. Katie will struggle to tell us that our kids 
keep dying in Iraq to "improve the quality of life" and 
"reduce the level of fear" on the streets of Baghdad. She 
solemnly informs us that "our boys and girls" are suffer-
ing, but they know it is in support of a just and noble 
cause. Katie will continue to report the story in Iraq 
from the perspective of an American political dynamic, not 
Iraqi reality. 

She won't go visit one of the American mercenary units in 
Iraq, the private military contractors who challenge the 
American military for numerical supremacy. She won't burrow 
into the never-never land of legal ambiguity that allows 
these mercenaries to commit murder at will, to treat Iraq 
(and Iraqis) as second-class citizens in their own nation, 
and whose continued abuse of Iraq results in a deep and 
undying hatred for all things American. 

Katie may catch a movie in a hardened underground theater 
on one of the Pentagon's mega-bases, or go shopping in a 
PX inside the "Green Zone" to get a "feel" of life for our 
troops, but she won't venture up north, into Kurdistan, 
where other secure outposts of foreign occupation sit, 
out of sight and mind. 

If Couric would visit the Iraqi Oil Ministry, she might be 
shocked to witness the legal maneuvering and exploitation 
carried out by foreign oil companies (including, directly 
or indirectly, American oil companies). 

Working with local Kurdish officials, small oil exploration 
and drilling camps are sprouting up all over northern Iraq, 
where they siphon off the wealth of the Iraqi people. 
Shipped out of Iraq via Turkey and (surprisingly) Iran, 
using long-established smuggling routes, these illegal 
ventures are generating billions of dollars in income for 
oil companies, and because these ventures aren't supposed 
to exist, this income goes unreported. You can't miss 
these sites. Any review of Google-Earth imagery would show 
these facilities springing up like mushrooms over the last 
few years. 

The U.S. military knows about them, and yet does nothing. 
Note to Richard Kaplan (Katie Couric's producer): If you 
want to investigate this story, I'll provide you with the 
geographic coordinates. Drive up and try to talk your way 
into the security perimeter. Position Katie well for the 
camera shot and demand answers. Just look out for the 
Canadian, South African or American mercenaries who are 
charged by "Big Oil" to keep this dirty little secret 
"secret." 

Instead of going to Iraq to report on why Americans keep 
dying, Katie could just stay here, in America. There are 
any number of corporations whose board rooms she could 
visit. Or she could smooth talk her way into a number of 
country clubs, to interview the human face of the "military 
industrial complex" that President Eisenhower warned us 
about a half-century ago. 

She might take a look at congressional campaign financing, 
where the profits from these corporations fund the 
campaigns of the politicians who continue to do nothing 
about Iraq. Then, and just then, would Katie come close 
to answering the question of "Why?" 

In a way, Iraq is a manifestation of all that ails America 
today. A complete breakdown of fundamental societal checks 
and balances brought on by greed and hubris. From General 
Petraeus who will give it, to the mindless corporate-owned 
minions who populate much of Congress who will receive it, 
to the entertainment-as-news media which will report on it, 
and to the American people who will consume it with no 
foundation upon which to evaluate it, the "Petraeus Report" 
will have little relevance to what is really going on in 
Iraq. Once again, Americans will be searching for a 
solution to a problem they have yet to properly define. 

Just ask Katie Couric. Or better yet, watch her. 

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