Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Shoot First, Find Out If They're Press Later

In today's local paper a pro-war yahoo made the case that no one should complain about secret wiretaps, since if you're innocent, who cares if the government listened to your calls?

The problem, of course, is who's doing the defining of innocent.

It hasn't got that bad in the U.S., yet, although I'm sure Cheney would go into near palpitations if he could have that power. But it is that bad in Iraq, at least based on a story like this one from the Guardian:

American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.

That surely sounds like democracy on the march, doesn't it? Innocent man, sleeping, with his family, in his home. Bullets. Hood. Questioning. Guess he forgot to keep the little tag that reads "press" slipped into the band of his fedora.

Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

Purely a coincidence. There had to be some reason they burst into his home beyond he was working on some real journalism that wouldn't make the U.S. look good.

The troops told Dr Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent...

I guess random firing into an apartment is the best way to bring down an Iraqi insurgent--sort of like tapping 100s of phones hoping to nail one suspicious call.

and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned.

I sure bet those tapes are coming back. Or maybe they will, for NPR's Morning Edition ran an interview with Ali Fadhil today that included the revelations that:

1) he was released outside the Green Zone close to the very dangerous airport (not sure why they couldn't take him back home directly--guess they have mileage limitations);
2) three other neighbors were arrested, if that's the term for being shanghaied, and they remained in jail;
3) he was given $1000 for his house damages and $500 for his detention time;
4) his neighbors, whose homes were more badly damaged, got zip.

So, is $1500 the going rate to keep quiet in Baghdad? Fadhil is quoted as saying he did believe it was a case of mistaken identity. But what would you say? You might not like bullets blasting over your sleeping children's heads and figure it was time to make nice.


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