Iraq Moving Towards Dictatorship & It Was Avoidable

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The U.S. couldn’t stay much longer in Iraq, but another Killing Fields should have been avoided at all costs. We needed to keep 25,000 military there to help them build up their infrastructure and their military defenses. That would have been possible if President Obama had established some type of working relationship with the Malaki government – he called Malaki once a year.

We left bases behind in every case of post-war success. Iraq was as important as post-war Germany and Japan.

Now, Iraq is collapsing under regular bombings, torture, and a decimated press.

Journalists say they are routinely imprisoned, beaten or simply killed by the forces of the state. GWB put more than $500 million into developing new TV and radio stations and training new Iraqi journalists, knowing the vital importance of a free press.

Shah Hahdi Mehdi, one of Iraq's best known journalists is on the left.

Unfortunately, the press is under siege, which will be the beginning of the end for Iraq. The Atlantic reported that Hadi Mehdi, one of Iraq’s best-known journalists, knew he was a marked man. He had been arrested and beaten by Iraqi security forces after covering a large public protest earlier this year, and he feared the worst was yet to come.

“Enough–I have lived three days of terror,” he wrote on his Facebook page three weeks ago. That evening, he was shot dead at home by an unknown intruder, the latest of dozens of journalists killed here in recent years.

The government says it’s investigating his murder, but Mehdi’s friends think they already know who did it: henchmen loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose government is in the middle of an enormous crackdown on the press.

Journalists say they are just as afraid as they were during Saddam’s time.

TV stations and newspapers unfavorable to al-Malaki have been shut down, over 160 journalists accused of covering protests were arrested in one day.

One journalist has fared better. Firebrand Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr operates a satellite-TV station and a newspaper that regularly lambaste Maliki, but the government hasn’t moved against them because of Sadr’s political power and widespread support.

Ghada al-Amely, the general manager of al-Mada newspaper, had her office raided in July; days later, an official from the Interior Ministry told her to be “more careful” about what the paper published. Now she is facing a $7 million libel suit, brought by Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, the spokesman for the Maliki-controlled Baghdad Operations Command. Ali Haisen, one of four defendants, calls the suit a “clear attempt to bankrupt our newspaper and shut it down.”

RT.com:… Joe Stork, a Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, says journalists are an“endangered species” in today’s Iraq.

“There seems to be a high level of intolerance for dissent, or for public criticism of either government policies, or of particular leaders,” he said.

Yousif Al-Timimi, a freelance journalist, showed RT some shocking YouTube footage from the protests this February that explicitly shows Iraqi security forces targeting him because he is a journalist. He shouts “Sahafa” which is Arabic for journalist over and over again, but it only makes the police more violent.

“Three or four or five riot police were around me. One of them slapped me in the head. Another one kicked me in the butt, and they kinda grabbed me fast,” Al-Timimi told RT.

Yousif managed to escape arrest thanks to two foreign journalists who intervened, but since the arrest of one of his colleagues, he has stopped covering the protests altogether.

“It became hard for journalists to go to Tahrir Square. I myself, I don’t go there. I stopped going there a long time ago, not because… I’m scared. I’m worried to be arrested. I’m worried to be mistreated,” he says.

RT tried to speak to some of the journalists who had been arrested in Baghdad, but they were all too afraid to appear on camera. So the crew headed to the more peaceful Kurdish region to see if the situation was any better.

RT’s Sebastian Meyer met Ahmen, a young photographer who was arrested while covering similar protests in the Kurdish region. But after the interview he called Sebastian to tell him he was scared of reprisals from the government and asked to blur his face and change his name. After his arrest in April, Ahmed was imprisoned for four days and tortured.

“Then six men came to the room and started to shout at me and beat me with cables. Then they electrocuted me. They wanted me to admit that I hadn’t been at the protests,” Ahmed told RT.

When he was finally released after four days, a friend took pictures of his wounds and published them in a local magazine. Immediately, Ahmed was re-arrested as a punishment for publicizing his arrest…

More than 90 Iraqi journalists have been killed in the past eight years, (five in 2011), according to the JFO. So far, Iraqi security forces have yet to make an arrest in even one of the cases.

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