IRAQ: U.S. Financed TV Encourages 'Lynch-Mob Justice'

It is the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund a TV show that encourages violent, extra-judicial revenge on people who have not been tried or convicted of any crime that stands in sharp contradiction of the Bush administration's claims to have successful
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Tonght's evening news broadcast on French public television carried an account of "Terror in the Hands of Justice," a series that is running twice a day on Al Iraqiya, the state-controlled television financed by the U.S., and operated under a contract to a major Republican party contributor. This is one of the most appalling TV shows one could possibly imagine, for it blatantly encourages lynch-mob justice and individual acts of revenge against alleged "terrorists"--who are presented as such without benefit of any trial or judicial proceeding. The alleged "terrorists" are shown on this Iraqi TV show  in videotapes mouthing "confessions"--but the provenance of those tapes is never specified. One does not know whether torture has been used to extract the "confessions" or not -- certainly some of those making the alleged admissions bore clearly visible traces of physical violence on their faces in the extracts broadcast by France2.

One of the most hate-inducing aspects of this TV series: the confrontations between alleged victims of the "terrorists" or their families, and those who are supposed to have committed the crimes against them. The alleged victims cry for vengeance--"Do with him what you will, kill him, crush him," cries one hysterical woman into the camera. This highly manipulative (and manipulated)TV series is intended to whip up a lynch-mob mentality among viewers--and it does so to great effect.

(The segment on this horrible series appeared on "Le Journal de 20 Heures," France 2 , March 27--carried in the States by satellite on the international francophone network TV5. Since it is Sunday, the segment has not yet been posted in either video or text versions on the France 2 site --but I imagine it will be tomorrow.)

The Financial Times three days ago carried an article on this show--but the show is, in fact--when one can actually see excerpts from it--much, much worse than the F.T. report suggests. The F.T. article relates that the word mujahid -- meaning "holy warrior"--has become street slang for homosexuals "after men claiming to be captured Islamist guerrillas confessed that they were holding gay orgies in the popular Iraqi TV programme."

Says the F.T. ,"The insurgents' confessions have become increasingly at odds with the movement's reputation for stringent Islamic austerity. Many Iraqis believe that the stern-faced officers of the 'Wolf Brigade', the Iraqi security unit that arrested most of the alleged terrorists, may have pushed the suspects - some of whom appear on the programme sporting bruises - to embellish their 'confessions'...One long-bearded preacher known as Abu Tabarek recently confessed that guerrillas had usually held orgies in his mosques, secure in the knowledge that their status as holy warriors would win them forgiveness of their sins. Another guerrilla commander had a somewhat unusual nomme de guerre for an Islamic insurgent - 'Abu Lahab', an enemy of the Prophet Mohammed singled out in the Koran for special opprobrium....more mainstream Sunni leaders want the programme taken off the air, claiming it polarises an already divided country. Some human rights activists, meanwhile, say that the programme encourages police to abuse insurgent and ordinary criminal suspects by implying that it is desirable to extract as outrageous a confession as possible."

However, it is the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund a TV  show that encourages violent, extra-judicial revenge on people who have not been tried or convicted of any crime that stands in sharp contradiction of the Bush administration's claims to have successfully exported "democracy" to Iraq. CorpWatch detailed in December how Al Iraqiya TV is financed by the U.S. as part of a $96 million grant to the Harris Corporation-- a high-tech defense contractor that has been a huge contributor to the Republicans:

"According to campaign contribution records, Harris is a big Republican supporter. During the 2004 election cycle, for example, Harris donated $263,570 to GOP political action committees and candidates, versus a mere $8,200 to Democratic candidates or causes. In 2000 -- President Clinton's last year -- Harris had won $265 million in prime contracts. By the end of 2003, prime contracting had nearly doubled, reaching $517 million at Harris. In fact, for fiscal 2003, Harris received $1.47 billion in total U.S. prime contract and subcontract government work -- fully 70 percent of the company's annual revenue."

The display on television of prisoners without their consent violates their rights under the Geneva Convention--all the more so when individual and mob violence against those prisoners is incited by the TV show on which they appear. But a defense contractor who got its contracts from pay-to-play contributions to the Republicans is hardly likely to be susceptible to such civilized niceties. "Terror in the Hands of Justice" constitutes another dark chapter in the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

P.S. My transatlantic correspondent Richard Seymour pointed out, after reading this, that homophobic overtones increasingly color the discourse and propaganda shoveled out by supporters of the government and the occcupation in Iraq, and so have become a recurrent theme in the British media. For another example--this time from the BBC--together with Richard's always-literate commentary, click here.

P.P.S. March 29 -- Crooks and Liars, after reading the above, was able to get a video capture of the France2 broadcast mentioned -- he's just e-mailed me to say that you can see it by clicking here.

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