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Monday, May 08, 2006

Dahr Jamail, award-winning independent journalist back from Iraq

Dahr Jamail is one of the most courageous journalists working today. Since his return from Iraq about a year ago, he's been working from his home computer, relying on sources deep inside Iraq to put out top-quality journalism that directly exposes the lies and manipulations of the US Military Media Complex. I spoke with him last night and recorded this hour-long interview, covering subjects from depleted uranium to torture to Negroponte's implementation of the "Salvador Option".


Dahr, welcome to Underground Notes. You were a climber and a volunteer for the US Parks Service in Alaska, until the coup in 2000 and the invasion of Iraq compelled you to take action, and you chose to go to Iraq to provide a different perspective than what we were getting via the mainstream Western media. Once in Iraq, you covered nearly every subject the corporate media wouldn't touch: white phosphorus, US snipers targeting civilians, the specific targeting of unembedded journalists, to name a few. You were honored by Project Censored in October of 2005 for your work in Fallujah ("Fallujah refugees tell of life and death in the kill zone" and "Unusual weapons used in Fallujah") as well as on the subject of journalists being targeted by US troops (“Media Repression in ‘Liberated’ Land”). You've recently returned from Iraq. How long were you there?

DJ: Well, I spent a total of 8 months there on four different trips, which averaged out to roughly two months per trip, and I actually haven't been there for about a year now. The last time was there was in February of last year.

Okay, so, I guess because I was getting your Iraq War Dispatches in my inbox, I thought you were still there.

DJ: Right, no, I still of course am writing stories on it, and then covering it via my sources in Baghdad and other cities there, still writing stories in that way, co-bylining it with people in Iraq and writing those for InterPress Service and doing a weekly column for truthout.

That's right, that's a great column. So you have journalists you've been working with who are still inside Iraq.

Yeah, well the same Iraqi fixers and translators that I worked with when I was in there, of course I stay in touch with them and we're still able to do stories, except instead of them having to tote a Westerner around with them and raise the risk factor about a thousand percent. They just basically go around and get the information and then I basically write it up and then we co-author the piece.

That sounds like a good working model for journalism, given the situation at this point.

Well, it's great because, you know, if the security situation has been reduced to the point where Iraqis are really obviously the best people to get the information, and, it's good also as far an independent media type of project because, it's, you know, I've been encouraging anyone I know in there to really just start doing this, to start reporting it themselves, because the Western press just can't get the job done anymore in there right now.

TA: Yeah, it seems like with the ability of the Internet and phone calls and satellites to do journalism that's centralized locally but also transmitted internationally, it seems like that would be an effective way to work in this situation.

DJ: Yeah, it really is, thanks to technology it makes all that possible.

TA: But the mainstream media's got better ideas, I guess?

DJ: Well no, ironically, for example, the New York Times covers it the way that I am right now, which, basically is that I'm in the States and they're hunkered down in their house in the middle of Baghdad. They don't leave, instead they send out Iraqi stringers to go get the information for them, and they bring it back to the house, their journalists write it up and send it back to the US with their name attached to the story. If you look at the bottom of those New York Times pieces, there's usually one to three different Iraqi names listed as contributors. Well I'm basically covering it the same way except I'm over here, relying on Iraqis for the information and basically being the writer for the story, for the information, when actually it's the Iraqis who are doing all the work.

TA: Well it's good of you to give folks the credit they deserve. You provided some of the only independent coverage I can find of the US siege of Fallujah. Can you take us back there and describe for our readers what you saw?

DJ: The first siege?

TA: Yeah.

DJ: Yeah I think it's important, whenever I'm asked about Fallujah, I think it's important to contextualize it, because that's something that our media never does. I think we have to start with the fact that, Fallujah, really there was no fighting there during the invasion. Most people welcomed the occu-, not the occupation but they welcomed the US in because they were happy to have Saddam gone. Most people there were opposed to his regime, despite what you might read in the corporate media. The problems began less than a month after Baghdad fell, when US troops were occupying a secondary school there. People demonstrated to have the troops leave, so they would have the school available for the kids. They didn't disperse when soldiers ordered them to disperse, and so troops ended up killing seventeen people who were demonstrating. Hence the resistance was born in Fallujah.

There's numerous things that led to the siege of Fallujah. The most obvious thing that we can cite is that four Blackwater USA mercenaries were killed there on March 31st, O4, and then essentially the siege was a revenge attack, but we have to look also at the entire region, the fact that March 22nd, just nine days before those mercenaries were killed, Sheikh Yassin was assassinated by the Israeli military in Gaza, and the blowback from that in Iraq was immediate. All of the Shia and Sunni clerics staunchly denounced it. At the time, Sadr's uprising was about to begin as well in Iraq, and all of this started kicking off at the same time, so those four Blackwater USA guys that were murdered in Fallujah, they were murdered because they were carrying out atrocities inside the city, the mercenaries were, but also it was revenge for what the Israelis did to Sheikh Yassin, so that essentially then set the stage for the April siege.

I went into Fallujah about six days into that siege to cover it. I went in on a bus that was carrying in humanitarian supplies. That's how I was able to get through the checkpoints, the mujahadeen checkpoints. Anyway, it was supposed to be a ceasefire, if you read the corporate media on April 9th, people were saying "yes, it's a ceasefire, we're trying to have negotiations", but when I went in what I saw was US warplanes dropping bombs in the city, and there was sporadic fighting all over the place. I went into a small clinic, and I was watching women and children, mostly women and children, being brought into this clinic from different parts of the city at different times, and they were all saying the same thing. They were all saying, the families I should say, were saying that these people were being shot by US snipers. This was a very disturbing thing that we would see repeated over and over and over, and it's going on to this day right now even, when it's become Standard Operating Procedure when the US military doesn't have total control over a city, they'll just set up snipers and start shooting people, and that's what they were doing in Fallujah.

At the end of the April siege, where cluster bombs were used for sure, and depleted uranium was used for sure the general manager of Fallujah General Hospital said that 736 people were killed, and, by his most conservative estimate, 50 percent of those were women, children and elderly.

I went back in May on three different occasions to document what happened and the sniping was so bad that people buried bodies of their relatives in their gardens, because they couldn't go any farther outside of their homes than that, and then when the siege ended, they they unburied, they dug them up, and then theybrought them to a soccer stadium which had been turned into a mass graveyard right in the middle of the city. So that gives you an idea of what happened in the April siege. That was really the warmup for what was to come later - the November siege, which was exponentially worse on basically every level.

TA: Had you ever been to Iraq before the war started?

DJ: Not before the invasion. I wish I had. The first time I went in there was November 03, so it was a good wait, about seven months after Baghdad fell on April 9th.

TA: While I was researching today and I was looking at reports, sort of side by side, your reports as well as the AP and other wire services, and I was struck by the simple humanity in your work. You seem to bring a level of human understanding into the war that other reporters don't. Is it simply a function of your independence or is there something else at work here?

DL: Well, I think that, really, it's, it's, it's just that I basically went in there, it was kind of grasssroots journalism at it's, in it's rawest form because I really just decided I would go in there and cover specifically how this was affecting the people, the Iraqi people and then soldiers whenever I ran into them. But specifically Iraqi people. That's how I went into it. I don't have a professional background in journalism or any formal journalism training, I just went in to right about what I saw. And then I learned as I went along, you know ethics, you know the things, the dos and donts of journalism, which is pretty basic as far as "tell the truth" and "be honest" and "be fair" and that's what I try to do, and I think learned by working with other people, other independent journalists that I respect a lot, what I was doing, um, it was just, that's I think what journalism is. It's basically, it's very simple, it's not rocket science, and it's basically that I want to report on people who are being hit. I want to report on the people that are on the other side of those bombs, not the people that are dropping the bombs. And that is what I really still focus on today, and that's what I did in Iraq, is I wanted to go into Fallujah and report on how are people, how are civilians in the city surviving through this? How are doctors dealing with this? Not the people who were pulling the trigger, because the corporate media certainly have that covered.

TA: Most Americans see this war through a very heavy filter. Corporate media tends to gloss over the daily struggle of the Iraqi people and focuses nearly exclusively on official pronouncements and gory video clips. Your reports, by contrast, have touched on other subjects that most Americans have no understanding about, or at least they didn't before they read your work. Some examples I found: the US military's use of chemical weapons on civilians, the effects of depleted uranium, we talked about the siege of Fallujah, there's Shia death squads, and recently even, if possible, more disturbing, operations by Coalition forces that seem to suggest complicity in certain attacks against high-value targets. These type of operations are referred to in some circles as "false-flag" operations, and while some fans of news programs like Democracy Now! or other programs you might find on Link TV, might be more familiar with these stories, their ability to pierce the veil of the mainstream consciousness just hasn't happened yet. Is the media just hopelessly corrupt, or do you think there's a shift taking place?

DJ: I think corporate media is hopelessly corrupt. I think it's akin to our entire political system, where I think placing any hope in the corporate media would be similar to placing hope in the DC Democrats at this point. It's just a total waste of time. That's barking up the wrong tree, and you know, there is no opposition, you know, there is no reform there. There's no one there because they're all being bought and sold by the same interests. I think that what we have to focus on now is independent media, and supporting independent media. And when I supporting it, I don't mean reading it or donating to it, but I mean creating it. Basically, if you don't like the coverage in your town go do something about it. Go cover that city council meeting yourself. Start writing about it. Post it on independent media websites. More people are reading them today than ever, and it's because the need is greater than ever. Corporate media will only consistently get worse, and that's all I've seen it do, just regarding Iraq, and everything else for that matter, but just focusing on Iraq, I went to Iraq to cover it because the media coverage was so bad. And I've seen it not just stay the same, but dramatically worsen. I mean, if you look at the coverage today, there's people who still talk about it as if it's some, "oh it's this little technical blunder, there were some miscalculations made", no one is holding this administration to the fire for the lies that were told, for the atrocities that are being carried out, all the violations of international law that are happening every single day. The coverage is horrendous, it's despicable. And I think it's, the need, this just really highlights the need for independent media, it's glaring today more than ever before.

TA: I think the corporate media is sort of a theme for our talk today. (Dahr laughs) It's, you know, I mean I don't want to beat up on anybody, but it seems like people we would look to for trust and authority, to deliver the message, they've got other things in mind.

DJ: Well I think they deserve to be beat up on. I don't think we should waste too much on it, I think we should of course spend energy on, you know, creating a new media, which I think there is media reform happening, in that independent media is getting stronger and more the attention that it deserves. But I think, without a doubt, the corporate media, they're aiding and abetting in war crimes by not reporting the truth about any of this, and I think if it's a just world they'll be held to account.

I mean after the fall of Hitler, during the Nuremburg trials, they realized that the main problem, one of the things that enabled Hitler to get away with what he did in his regime was the media, the propaganda. And so, during the Nuremburg trials, they set up a Nuremburg Charter for journalism, and the primary facet of that Charter said that the main responsibility for media during a time of war is to not incite the public to violence. And that is exactly what the corporate media in the US did, prior to, during, and after the invasion of Iraq, is they incited the public to violence. I mean, can journalism, quote-unquote journalism, that people like Judith Miller did, and Thomas Friedman, if you read what they were writing where they were specifically inciting the public to violence, of specifically drumming up support for this illegal invasion, which we now see was based on nothing but lies and misrepresentation, and I think they should be held to account just like people during the Nuremburg Trials were held to account. Hitler's propagandists who were still alive were brought to account, and I think something like that, if it were a just world, would happen to some of these leading media figures here in the US.

They were laying the ground work for all of this to happen. If we had an honest media, I like to believe that none of this would have happened.

TA: And yet, the President and his allies in the corporate media are flogging this meme that says "the media aren't showing all the good things in Iraq". Can you help us out? Can you tell us about some good things that are happening there?

DJ: You know, I really, I don't really see - there's just nothing good to report. What good can you report where, you know, over a hundred thousand people are dead, probably ten times that number wounded, the average house has about three hours of electricity a day and potable water, if you're really, really lucky, but most people are suffering through cholera and dysentery and nausea and kidney stones. The World Health Organization declared that it would be a health emergency in Iraq if things didn't change drastically and this was over a year ago and things have changed drastically.

They've gotten worse. Child malnutrition is now twice what it was during the sanctions when over half a million kids died from malnutrition and disease. You tell me where the good news is. The fact that Bush is going around telling, you know, harping on the media to report this, well, you know, they need to get a "Wag the Dog" thing going and go start, you know, they need a couple of more Fox outlets that can go generate this so-called "good news" for them. Because the reality on the ground is that this doesn't exist, and that includes in the Northern regions of Kurdistan.

TA: Every journalist claims to be working the right angle, and seems to blame other folks when they get it wrong. I've surprised whenever I get a report on Iraq from one of the mainstream outlets it seems that they're covering a totally different war than the one I've read about on the Internet. Where's the carnage? Where are the children with the missing skin and missing limbs? Do you think that public opinion would be swayed if the media was obligated to paint a fuller picture of the effects of the war?

DJ: Without a doubt, I mean, that's what we saw in Vietnam, and that's the same reason why networks that do show that stuff, like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya catch so much hell from people like Rumsfeld and Bush, and other cronies of the administration, because they show what war looks like, and I think that's the duty of a journalist, to show, if you want to do truthful reporting, if you want to be an honest journalist, you show "what's the meat of this story?" Well, in war, you need to show war. What it looks like, what it smells like, what it tastes like, what happens when bombs hit human beings, what happens when people are exposed to deadly chemicals and heavy metals, depleted uranium and what that does to babies that are gonna be born down the road. If people really saw that on a daily basis here - this is what it looks like in Iraq when a car bomb goes off and kills a hundred people, splattered brains everywhere. I mean, if you compare some of the journalism that you would see on Al-Jazeera's Arabic channel, for example, can you imagine if any of that were ever shown, and I'm assuming that you've seen some of that, can you imagine if any of that was ever show on NBC, it's just unimaginable. You just know that they would'nt touch it.

TA: The first video I ever saw, in fact, on the Internet, just after the Occupation got ugly, was a destroyed car and the person explains that this tank over here blew it up, and it turns out it was three guys about my age driving a car exactly like the one I drive, you know that's the kind of thing that drives public consciousness because they feel something.

DJ: Yep.

TA: And yet, Brian Williams or whoever delivers the pablum and people don't experience that connection with another people.

DJ: Right, which I think is the goal, I mean, there's no way that the corporate media is gonna show what the reality is. They're bought and paid for, you look at who owns them. You look at GE owning NBC, you know, it's the classic example, right? GE, one of the biggest weapons manufacturers on the plant, it doesn't behoove them to have a nationally broadcast television network showing images of what happens when their bombs hit people, it's just bad for business.

TA: Yeah, that's real money.

DJ: Right.

TA: Well, are there any stories from Iraq that affected you, that are particularly heart-wrenching, in terms of the impact on the civilian population?

DJ: Oh man, that's every day there. I think Fallujah's of course a biggie, where an entire city's been destroyed. 150,000 people, minimum, have been totally displaced to this day, and yet they're still fighting, and people dying every single day. I think, God, there's so many. I know that there was one point, it was in January of 04, I went to Al Tuesa, which is where Iraq was building a nuclear reactor before the Israeli military bombed in the early 80's. There was a village nearby there, and the people went in after, when the looting was rampant, because it's right on the outskirts of Baghdad, and when the looting happened in Baghdad and there was no law and no security, the people went in and took these drums and rinsed them out in the stream that runs right by the river so they could use them for water containers and food containers. They didn't know, they were totally ignorant of what was in those drums, they just thought it was dirt or something, you know, and it was actually low-grade radioactive waste. They basically nuked their own village by doing that.

I remember I went there with some friends and interviewed this guy, this beekeeper. He showed us, there were no other jobs, it was all he had, he couldn't afford to move. He was still tending his bees, and like, 70 percent of them had died since that happened, because of the radiation. He had cancer, and he knew it, and he was dying, and there was nothing he could do about it. It was just almost surreal to go talk to this person, he knew what was happening, he was watching it, his bees were kind of like his litmus test, kind of his canary if you will, and he was dying, you know, and the bees were all dying off. And he's like, but well, this is our life, this is all we can do, we don't have any choice, we're not getting any help, we're not getting any of the promises that were made to us, and this is what we're left with. In a lot of ways, that kind of symbolized the Occupation to me, because so many people, particularly Shia people, really had their hopes up. They really, you know, they knew that this wasn't just about liberating them, or you know, the benevolence of the US was going to be showered on them, they knew what it was about, they knew it was about oil, and it was about the US coming there to stay, but they still expected at least a little bit of positive fallout, you know, they expected a third of those promises to come true, and across the board they haven't come true. That's why latest polls show 87 percent of Iraqis want an immediate timetable for withdrawal. That's why, because this Occupation has done nothing but bring death and suffering across the whole country.

TA: 87 percent?

DJ: Yes.

TA: Wow. Sort of makes you wonder about those thirteen percent, huh?

DJ: Yeah, they're probably the exiles who are in the Green Zone that came back in on the heels of the occupiers. (laughter)

TA: Well, and when you talk about people looting drums and emptying them out because they need something to hold water, I mean, you know, that's what a government is for, right? I mean, a government steps in and makes sure people don't do things that are dangerous. Why seize a country if you're not gonna give them a government?

DJ: Well, you know, that's an important question. I'd like to answer that in this way. Look at Afghanistan. Afghanistan happened a couple of years before Iraq, and look at Afghanistan today. You've got Hamid Karzai, he used to be been on the board of Chevron. He was the, basically appointed, Prime Minister. So you've got this pro-US puppet government in there, the whole country, well it was destroyed, now it's even more destroyed. There's four giant US bases there, right along the route of the pipeline. The rest of the country, the hell with it, you know, the puppet government, they don't even have country over Kabul, the capital city.

Now look at Iraq, it's basically the same thing and it's getting worse. It's starting to look more and more like Afghanistan, where bits and pieces of the country are divided up and they're in control of warlords and militias, whatever you want to call it. It's got a puppet, quasi pro-US regime, I wouldn't say they're pro-US but the US basically still has enough control over them where they're not letting ask for a withdrawal, which is what everyone in the country wants. They've got their bases there, they've got at least six permanent bases there, they're constructing an embassy two-thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with twenty-one buildings. It's gonna be the largest embassy built by any country anywhere on the globe ever, and they're there to stay, and to hell with the rest of the country. I think that it's about being in there, having control of the oil, and having a military presence, and, so in that way, it is "Mission Accomplished".

TA: Recently I heard, well I had an opportunity to speak to a soldier returned from Iraq, and I was shocked to hear him say that it had become common practice to assassinate women and children to try to extract intelligence from men in the villages they came to. From your vantage point, given what you've seen, do you think that could have been an isolated aberration or is that standard military practice?

DJ: No, that's standard military practice. I, well let me correct myself, I don't know about the assassinating part, but without a doubt the US military has been detaining the women of children of suspected resistance fighters from almost the very beginning. I've actually got a piece coming out tomorrow on truthout about the massacres that have been ongoing in Iraq. There's been some attention lately about some Marines here being investigated, some there being investigated for going in there and massacring families, there's been two incidents that have been in the news lately, and I wrote a piece basically showing, no this has pretty much been happening from the very beginning of the Occupation.

TA: - just like in Vietnam -

DJ: Just like in Vietnam, and that's exactly the parallel that I draw in this piece, because, you know, people, it's one of my points that I try to make is why do people in this country think that if you take the US military where there's a low-grade but very effective guerilla war being waged against them in a population that is by the day becoming increasingly more sympathetic to the resistance. As I said, at least 87 percent of the population wants them the Hell out of their country, and atrocities are occuring. But why do people understand now that, of course that happened in Vietnam, but that couldn't happen in Iraq today? I just don't understand that disconnect, because all the other variables are the same. Only this time it's happening in a desert and not in a jungle.

TA: I know it's different, because I work at the Post Office with a lot of guys who were in Vietnam. And these are people who served their country honorably and went through Hell, but if they are conservatives, if they listen to right-wing talk radio, they firmly believe that a) the Phoenix Program was totally hyped and overblown, and b) they had a reason to be in that country, other than, I don't know, imperialism, greed, oil, whatever. You know, so I really thing media has a lot to do with what shapes peoples' opinions of things that should be totally obvious.

DJ: Well without a doubt, and I think the same could be said for the fact that there's a decent percentage of US soldiers in Iraq that would say the same thing, "we're here for national security, we're here because Saddam Hussein attacked the World Trade Center" (my laughter) No, I'm not making this up, there is a significant percentage of troops in Iraq today that believe they're there because of 9/11. That's what they were told, that's what they were instructed with, that's what they were told going over there. I know for a fact that the US military, when they were flying troop transport planes off the East Coast over to Iraq, that there were several of them, one route that they would regularly take a troop transport plane full of soldiers and do semi-circles around, do circles around Ground Zero at the World Trade Center, so these guys could see it before they ship em off over to Iraq. I don't know how much more blatant it could be than that.

TA: In a story you wrote recently, "Who Benefits?" you outlined the controversy surrounding the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. In that piece, you quote Shia cleric, Moqtada Al-Sadr, who had this to say about the attack. "It was not the Sunnis who attacked the shrine of Imam Al-Hadi, God's peace be upon him, but rather the Occupation forces and Baathists, God damn them, we should not attack Sunni mosques. I ordered Al Mehdi army to protect the Shia and Sunni shrines." Do you think this statement reflects the general attitude of people in Iraq, and if so, what does this mean for the possibility of peace in that country?

DJ: It does reflect most peoples' opinion. Most people are very clear there that it wasn't some resistance fighter that blew up that mosque, or anything like that. Most people are claiming the Occupation forces, even though they may believe that someone other than Occupation forces carried out that operation, they still blame, as they have from almost the beginning of the Occupation whenever Iraqis are killed, they blame the Occupation forces because they understand the Geneva Conventions. They understand that the primary responsibility of Occupation forces is to protect the civilians of that country. Any time there's violence they know, and they're correct to blame the Occupation for not doing their job. But that is certainly the sentiment in the country, that most people there do blame Occupation forces for virtually everything that's going wrong there, but for as far as peace, I really have my doubts, unfortunately, I have to say, because without a doubt we have a sort of undeclared civil war going on right now. Primarily due to the death squads that were set up while Negroponte was the ambassador there.

TA: Your piece about that was truly shocking. Where you mention Negroponte - his work in Honduras...

DJ: Yeah, I mean, it's, Bush has basically just restocked his cabinet with all these old cold warriors. People like Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Negroponte come in and basically start recycling these old agendas that they carried out back then, and what Negroponte did in Honduras by setting up the death squads that were responsible for killing tens of thousands of civilians, they brought him in, put him in Baghdad, he took over for Bremer during the so-called "transfer of sovereignty" on June 28th, 04, and then did his stint in there, and he just so happened to be the ambassador there in Baghdad in January 05 when Rumsfeld made the public slip and mentioned using the "Salvador Option", while that was already in place for at least a couple of months, cause I was in Baghdad at that time, and I was in Baghdad before that for a couple of months, and we already knew that the death squads were operating, and then fast-forward about fifteen months later to today, and this is the end result of that. You've got death squads running around rampant, forty people turning up dead.

TA: According to Al Franken, under the aegis of the Interior Ministry.

DJ: That's right.

TA: I mean I'm sure he didn't report it, but that's where I heard it.

DJ: Who of course we're funding. So there you have it. I mean, it's pretty simple. So, there's total chaos in Iraq. If these trends all continue, which I see no reason for them to not continue, I think overt civil war is coming.

TA: Yeah, I mean it's, when all your political cartoonists are acting like it's right around the corner, maybe it is, if it's not already here.

DJ: I think it is already here, for sure. I think the question is when does it spread, you know, when does it become, when does it really broaden and deepen. It is hard to predict though, I don't want to make it sound inevitable, because, you know, everything's so tied together in the Middle East, and when the bombs start falling in Iran, I think all bets are off what happens in Iraq then. I think then you're gonna see it go into an era that's gonna make this one look good. For as far as the Iraqi people are concerned, but also for U.S. troops. Because it's gonna be open season there, because the Shia right now, who are primarily the people that are in the Iraqi security forces, that are doing all the dirty work for the Americans there, well, the Americans are gonna be fighting those people once they decide to attack Iran.

TA: As far as I can tell, even commentators on the so-called "Left" aren't really reading the same news I am. It seems like even our more liberals becoming more prominent today are getting most of their knowledge by "Meet the Press" and Media Matters instead of actually finding out what's really going on there.

DJ: That's a huge problem. The same can be said in the government. For whatever reason, I naively believed that just because people were in Congress or the Senate, that they had access to all this great, high-quality information and they were gonna use it, they were just making bad decisions. The reality is that these people are still victims of the same propaganda that most U.S. citizens are. You know, these people, people like Dick Cheney, their sole source of information is, aside from cherry-picking what they want from the intel, is Fox News. I think that can be said for a lot of politicians -

TA: Wait, you think Fox is educating Dick, and not the other way around?

DJ: I think it's a two-way street. I know for sure that one of his requirements when he goes and stays in a hotel, he wants every TV turned to Fox.

TA: See, I thought that it was just that he was so egotistical that he wanted to see his own talking points parroted back at him.

DJ: Well, this probably, it's a two-way street. (laughs)

TA: Well, I referenced Al Franken a minute ago, and it bothers me that people with that kind of caliber, in just terms of their national credibility, they have an opportunity to really say something and, because they don't, some of the most heinous crimes against humanity are going under the radar.

DJ: We have to be real clear that things like Air America, at least on the national level, I think it's different when we get down to local level, because I've seen very, very good local-level programs on Air America stations, but nationally, at least in regards to THAT program, from what I understand, it's essentially a tool of the mainstream Democratic party, except Air America's a place where they can get a little bit more radical than what they can do on the hill, and I think it's important that people understand that. This is not a really good, legitimate source of information. It's good for entertainment, but for good hard news information that's accurate, no way. Same with NPR, I like to call NPR National Pentagon Radio. The Bush administration, and this is all well documented, they replaced, now the overwhelming majority of the board of NPR, they're allegiance is to Bush. And listening to the programming on NPR is horrendous.

TA: Oh I stopped. I mean I went to Air America and then whenever I 'm at my computer it's something else, so I can make sure what I'm getting is credible. That's why it pisses me off that I'm wanting them to be credible, and then I know they're dropping things. The same thing with Fahrenheit 9/11, you know, I'm watching the film and I'm going "Yes, yes, yes!" but yet, "why'd you leave all this stuff on the cutting room floor?"

DJ: Exactly.

TA: And there's something in an article I referenced earlier, you mention the strange case of two British men, who were arrested by Iraqi officials in suspicion of committing or planning acts of terrorism.

DJ: Mm-hmm.

TA: Later that day, the two men were freed from their jail cells by a full-scale military assault, which led to several prisoners escaping and the deaths of five Iraqi civilians, as far as I can tell. And the British government claims that these two guys were captured by a Shia militia and they were being held against their will due to infiltration of police forces by insurgents, but the fact of the story that I gathered painted a much weirder picture. Both were members of the SAS, Britain's answer to the Green Berets, and they were dressed up as ARABS. The Iraqi police forces claimed that when they were stopped they shot and killed a policeman before being detained, but we can't corroborate that story. Why on Earth are two British special forces soldiers driving around in a normal car in Iraq in Arab costume anyway?

DJ: Yeah, and why was it full of explosives with remote detonators? I mean, the facts speak for themselves. Just two weeks ago in Tikrit, there was a Western mercenary caught and again, trying to dress local in an unmarked car full of explosives, and he too was caught by Iraqi security forces, but none of this is getting reported. And again if we look back...

TA: Tikrit, that's Saddam's hometown?

DJ: (inaudible) and false-flag operations happening there, look at the atrocities being carried out there. People think that's not happening now? They think there aren't black operations happening every single day in Iraq? And assassinations and rapes and pillages and massacres? Well it is. It's the same thing, it's a no-win situation. It's a horrible guerilla war, and uh, the only...

TA: That goes beyond guerilla war though, I mean, that's, that's inflaming racial tensions. That's playing right into what al-Sadr's trying to tell his people that we're doing.

DJ: That's right, because what Sadr's saying about that is correct. It is deliberately trying to implement the strategy of divide and conquer.

TA: That's sick.

DJ: It is, and they're having some success.

TA: What does this mean for our nation's claim to some sort of higher moral authority?

DJ: Well most people that read this or listen to this will, I'm sure they are aware of the fact that this country hasn't had a legitimate Presidential election since '96. It's been ten years, you know? It's not a democracy, we're not a democracy, we haven't been a democracy for a long time. It's wordplay here almost as bad as trying to call Iraq a democracy.

TA: Some members of the independent press have posited that everything the Bush administration does is based on lies, that in fact this war in Iraq and even the war in Afghanistan, they weren't really designed to root out the evils of Radical Fundamentalist Islam, but rather were designed to fuel the geopolitical aims of a hard right-wing cabal known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an organization that included such luminaries as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and even George W's younger brother Jeb, the current governor of Florida. Is it possible that the ENTIRE so-called "War on Terror" was manufactured simply to give these men greater power over our military and political machine and in fact, not concerned with ending terrorism whatsoever?

DJ: The short answer is yes. I do, I believe that, regarding 9/11, at the very least, this administration did not do everything in their power to stop an attack that they knew was coming. At the very least, that's what happened, so certainly they may have, as they described in the PNAC that they would need something like "a new Pearl Harbor" to implement this policy at a much more rabid pace than what it was gonna take without that new Pearl Harbor. And that's essentially what we've seen. You know there's no way they could have gotten away with Afghanistan and Iraq without something, you know, some sort of attack happening here in the US to drum up, to fly the flag and make the eagle scream, and march us off to war. Because if you look at Afghanistan and Iraq, it's all about controlling natural resources and having the US military in Asia. We have now both Iran and China surrounded by military bases on just about every front. And I think that's been the policy, and that's why Iran has said it's not about trying to bring democracy there or help the Iranian people, it's about where those pipelines go, the Caspian Sea reserves, and you know, geostrategic positioning around China.

TA: It's the modern version of the Great Game, you might say?

DJ: I think so. Yeah, I think you could say that.

TA: Do you think the 9/11 Commission did an effective job at uncovering what happened on that day?

DJ: (laughs)

TA: Any questions stick out in your mind?

DJ: (laughs again) Well, I think that's, you know, one of the bigger farces to come down the pike in a while.

TA: It's quoted a lot by a lot of you know, fairly mainstream people.

DJ: No, I think that was a very well financed smokescreen that, at the end of the day, was very effective.

TA: So you were in Iraq for, I think you said, four years, two months at a time?

DJ: Eight months.

TA: Eight months, I'm sorry. So you probably made some friends over there? Could you give us any insight into how they feel about the war, or its effects on their daily lives?

DJ: Well of course, you know, everyone I know over there is vehemently opposed to the occupation, and it's affected their lives, in ways I've just described. Everyone. There's no electricity, there's no water, there's no jobs. There's absolutely no security. You know, Iraq's being turned into a fundamentalist state where, you know, religion is everything and there's no room for anyone who's secular. Their lives are being made horrible. It's difficult to describe what it's like over there, where imagine living where, if you leave your house, you know you may well not come back that night. That you might, at any time, someone might break into your house and loot you and just take everything you've got, or kill you, or take someone in your family and hold them for twenty thousand dollars ransom and, maybe if you pay, you still won't get them back alive. That's everyday life now in Iraq, I mean, there's really nowhere in that country now where anyone can have anything resembling a normal life.

TA: It's like a gang war, kind of. I mean, one really big gang and a lot of little -

DJ: Pretty much, that's right. You know, I described it too as, it's like the Lebanese War, only that it's in a country that's enormously larger than Lebanon, and at the height of the Lebanese War there were about twenty-three different warring parties and in this one, there's upwards of a hundred different, even just resistance groups. Not even going into the militias or how many different foreign countries have troops there, or covert ops, or any of that. It's like the Lebanese War times three hundred, I mean it's just off the charts.

TA: This is why I think it's stupid when comedians trash Bush and try to make Cheney seem stupid, because if a national figure like a President is gonna commit war crimes, he's gonna want to do it in a sophisticated way, it's gonna be smarter than it's ever been done before, right? To get away with it.

DJ: Well I think, one thing that I've thought all along is that these people's arrogance will be their own undoing. They're not even trying to hide what they're doing anymore, they're just doing it, and why bother? They own the media, they own all the politicians, they, they can do that. And they are getting away with it, and I think that's why. You know, they put a nice little puppet up like Bush to have everyone hate, when the reality is that this guy can't even tie his shoes on his own, I mean let's not even waste our time talking about him. The people running it are the people you described earlier: Perle, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, all these individuals are very smart, very cunning, very calculating. They've been very successful in what they're trying to do.

TA: Not too long ago, a group of Iraqi oil workers were traveling the United States trying to raise awareness of their efforts to secure better working conditions. I have seen almost nothing about this in either the mainstream or independent media. What's the situation for workers in Iraq? Are workers there able to organize in any concerted way?

DJ: No, I mean for starters, there's well over fifty percent unemployment. So, there's not enough jobs. One of the things, there's a couple of things that they wanted to maintain. The US has rewritten so many of Iraq's laws, and they heavily influenced it's constitution. But a couple of the things they decided that Saddam did were good enough to keep, and one of those was making unions illegal.

TA: Wow.

DJ: So, they're not legal there. Anytime that there's a union protest, these people are putting their lives on the line, because they might be detained, they might be killed, and they are. Several of those have gone that way, so yeah, it's a huge plight that anyone in a union there is up against.

TA: Are there any specific obstacles that workers organizing might face?

DJ: Well, the primary obstacle is that there's just no state. Let me give you an example of what that looked like on the ground, I remember there was a guy, a hotel clerk at one of the hotels I was staying at in Baghdad, I got to know him pretty well, and he said "If I don't come to work tomorrow, my boss doesn't pay me for four days, not just the one that I don't come to work."

TA: Oh my god.

DJ: And I said, "really?" Naively I said "how do they do that?" and he just told us, he said "well look, you know, we know there's no jobs, and that's how it's gonna be here, if you don't like it you can leave."

TA: So his mom gets sick, tough titty, he's out on his ass.

DJ: Tough luck.

TA: Wow...well is there anything else our readers should be concerned about?

DJ: I think, just the fact that there's permanent bases there, and this administration or any of the mainstream Democrats have no intention of leaving. I think the only way this country that this country is gonna pull out of Iraq is if the people force em to.

TA: How are we gonna do that?

DJ: (laughs) Well, my short answer to that is, realistic or not, I think the only thing that really we have left at this point is a national campaign of massive, ongoing civil disobedience, just start shutting stuff down. Just start making this country dysfunctional, like what happened in Vietnam, where trains can't run, where ships going over there can't go, or they're slowed down. Until dissent hits that level, I really don't see how anything could change.

TA: People would have to defy the common meme that says "Protest isn't Patriotic".

DJ: Right.

TA: Well, it's been really great talking to you, Dahr.

DJ: Oh, my pleasure man.

TA: Thank you very much. Have a good evening.

DJ: You too.


It was really cool having the chance to speak with one of my heroes. Do yourself a favor and read any recent work by Dahr. The guy really does have a commitment to the truth, no matter how unpleasant it might be to hear it.

Categories: Underground Notes, War & Peace, Alternative Media

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