> $10,000

We broke $10,000 yesterday, and that means it’s time to go.

By the way, everyone. We broke $10,000 yesterday… Many, _many_ thanks to all of you. There’s no way this would have happened without those members of the _real_ “Coalition of the Willing” (formerly “Angel Investors”) to the right. Everyone on that list deserves every reader’s thanks. And they definitely have mine.
Also, George over at Warblogging deserves a big thanks for helping host this site, and helping get tons of bandwidth
My brother, Michael, will also deserve a big hand, since he’s going to be the one actually pushing the button to publish this blog while I’m in-country. The sat-phone is pretty narrow bandwidth, so I’ll email out the the dispatches on the donors’ listserv I’ve set up and later in the day, Michael will copy and paste the day’s email(s) into blog entries. (I’d link to his site, but he’s serving it on an iMac out of his home. I don’t think his ISP would appreciate the attention.)
Friends, family and others too many to mention here: You have my gratitude. This could never have happened without their support and encouragement.
And now, the fear sets in. Tomorrow will be a busy day. I’ll likely not blog until Friday when I get to Ankara and give an update, but I’ll do what I can.

Wheels up! Well, tomorrow evening, anyway

Ready to go, and if you need more reasons to want an independent journalism, read on, McDuff.

Tickets are purchased, gear is tested (mostly), packing is commencing and everything is coming together. I’ve not posted much these past few days because of the overwhelming number of loose ends to tie up. Plus, at the moment, I don’t really know any more than what’s on CNN et al. What’s the point of regurgitating? Starting this week however, the real purpose of Back to Iraq comes into view, as this becomes a much more heavily reported site instead of one based on analysis and commentary. (That will still be there, but in much smaller portions.)
I’ve been doing a fair number of interviews, too, as various media members want to know my story. Often they ask me why I’m doing this, what do I expect or hope to get out of this, am I crazy, etc. Well, I’m probably crazy, yes, but what I’m hoping to get out of this is some respect for the Web (and blogs) as a serious medium for independents. To all the journalism professors who say blogs aren’t “real” journalism, I say, “I don’t see you getting out of your tenured chair and putting your butt in the middle of Kurdistan to report on what’s happening.” To those who say, “You’ve got no editor,” I reply, “My readers are my editors.” To those who complain, “You’re biased, you offer nothing but op-eds,” I reply, “I am biased, but at least you know where I’m coming from. And just wait until next week when my butt is in Kurdistan.”
There have been a couple of stories of journalism being pulled away from its mission by corporate masters. While these are no means the rule, they are troubling.

  • Kevin Sites was shut down. While I wasn’t always impressed with his work, he did take some good photographs. CNN’s decision to shut him down is puzzling, considering he was saying nothing that would annoy his employers.
  • The BBC’s War Diaries, while interesting, seem a bit like an afterthought. And no doubt they are. The BBC reporters work hard.
  • And finally, Paul Krugman has reported in his column that Clear Channel, operator of approximately 1,225 radio stations, 39 television stations and which has equity interest in more than 240 radio stations, has been organizing pro-war rallies around the country.

As Krugman says,

the company’s top management has a history with George W. Bush. The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel’s chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university’s endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.

It should also be noted that Clear Channel is a major donor to the Republican party. Since 1997, the chairman and CEO, Lowry Mays, according to FEC records, has personally given $11,250, almost all to Republican candidates. (The exception is Rep. Charles Gonzales of the 20th District.)
Krugman’s point is partially that Clear Channel is doing a favor for George W. Bush, but his main point is that major corporations — including media companies — are merging with the government “into one big ‘us.'” The danger of this should be obvious.
Anyway, there’s so much going on now. It’s impossible to know the whole story of this war. But that’s OK, I’ve come to realize. It’s more important to tell a few stories of the war rather than the story of the war. That will have to be written later. And when the narrative is told, the media will have major role — mainstream, freelance and independent alike. And perhaps someone will look back and say, “The blogosphere stepped up to the plate. With commentary and analysis, its members provided a tonic for much of the mainstream media’s excesses. Others provided a meta-analysis, providing their readers with as much of a bird’s eye view of the coverage as possible. And for the first time, they sent one of their own to war.”

Salam’s alive

Thanks to Allison who pointed out that Salam Pax of Where is Raed?, the Blogger of Baghdad, has posted and seems to be doing well. I have contacted him and requested and interview for B2I. That’s assuming I can make it down to Baghdad, that is.

Thanks to Allison who pointed out that Salam Pax of Where is Raed?, the Blogger of Baghdad, has posted and seems to be doing well. I have contacted him and requested an interview for B2I. That’s assuming I can make it down to Baghdad, that is.

POWs and another letter from Erbil

Pows, Geneva Conventions and another email from Arbil

The big story today is the capture of U.S. soldiers by Iraqi troops around an Nasiriya. Al Jazeera and Iraqi TV showed footage of the soldiers — as well as bodies said to be soldiers. Two of the troops iD’ed their unit at the 507th Maintenance. A woman was among those captured.
In a separate incident, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged that some soldiers were missing, but said the number was “fewer than 10.” (Stratfor reports that the number is actually 12, and that the soldiers took a wrong turn and are now lost.)
Regarding the American captives, on Meet the Press today, Rumsfeld said the Iraqis had an obligation, under the Geneva Conventions, to respect the rights of any POWs. “”It’s illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners,” he said.
Under Article 3 of the Conventions, each warring party “shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

  1. Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
  2. Taking of hostages;
  3. Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
  4. The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

“The United States of course avoids showing prisoners of war,” Rumsfeld said. “We have thousands of Iraqi prisoners that are in POW camps … but we avoid showing photographs of them.”
Hm. While I agree that Iraq should follow the letter and spirit of the Conventions, the U.S. has been less than thorough in keeping true to these protocols itself, weakening its case. The prisoners at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay have been held in a legal limbo for months now. Some have been shipped to other countries that employ horrific interrogation methods. Human Rights Watch has urged the Bush Administration to determine the detainees’ status and then launch criminal prosecution “where credible evidence exists.” Indefinite detention is not legal under the Conventions, despite President Bush’s claim to be upholding the “principles” of the Third Convention. As the report from HRW said:

This shortsighted transgression sets a dangerous precedent that could come back to haunt U.S. and allied service-members who are captured by enemy forces in this or future wars. Washington’s refusal to treat the detainees as POWs is perplexing because it would in no way inhibit legitimate U.S. efforts to interrogate or prosecute people who have participated in terrorist acts.

In other news, Iraqi resistance is stiffening, as the battle for Basra rages on. Col. Khaled al-Hashemi, Iraqi commander of the 51st Mechanized Division near that city, said March 23 that his division, reported earlier to have surrendered, would continue to fight against U.S. and British forces. “I am with my men in Basra; we continue to defend the people and riches” of the town, Al-Hashemi said. [Stratfor]
Also: “Combat in An Nasiriyah in southeastern Iraq has extended to the cities of Samava, Bataha and Sot al-Sheikh and Hour in the southern province of An Najaf. According to reports released by military sources inside Iraq listening to allied radio, U.S. and British forces have called for reinforcements, more armament, artillery and helicopter gun-ships.”
U.S. Special Forces are flying into Iraqi Kurdistan to be deployed around the town of Halabja, according to senior PUK officials. (Likely a backup for actions against Ansar al-Islam. KDP peshmergas have allegedly fought off a small Iraqi attack near Tepe Garus, about 15 kilometers from Arbil. [ibid.]
Also, I heard from Djoy, the Kurdish man in Arbil, who wrote to me last week:

Hello Christopher,
Thanks for writing and thanks for your safety wishes. I got back to Erbil city this morning because it was no longer bearable or logical to stay in that village especially after we noticed the very slow pace of the war! anyhow we are still taking precautions.
I hope you will make it to Iraq soon but please take care of yourself as its a real dangerous situation here and completely unpredictable! maybe I will see you in Iraq and hope I can be of help.
You too keep safe,

More supplies to buy today (Gotta restock the first aid kit.) Then tomorrow and Tuesday I’ll be tying up loose ends. Still looking at a Wednesday departure. I’m only waiting on PayPal funds to clear and the laptop to arrive.