Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Azzaman stands tall

Reuters reported on Monday that the Iraqi parliament had asked the government of president Talabani to close down the newspaper Azzaman and the TV station Al-Sharqeya as punishment for their coverage of the federalism vote last Wednesday. Then a few hours later Reuters said the administrative office of Parliament issued a clarification that said the request wasn't specifically to close down those institutions, but merely to "call them to account", and the statement stressed Parliament didn't define what this "calling to account" should involve, leaving that up to Talabani. But Azzaman had already published its Tuesday edition, reporting this as a threat of closure (which a reading of the original announcement would certainly lead one to believe was the intent), and taking the opportunity to review its honorable history in Iraq, and to note that Reuters saw fit to testify both to Azzaman's success as one of the very few independent papers in the crowded Iraqi newspaper field, and also to note that the sister TV station had risen to a top position in the local TV field in the three short years of its existence. Azzaman also took the opportunity to repeat its point about the key role of the four Iraqi List (Allawi group) members in the disputed vote. The parliamentary announcement fulminated against Azzaman and Al-Sharqeya in very general terms as unprofessional, biased, and having posed a theat to the national security, without spelling out any actual errors of fact. It was a statement echoing the "liberal media bias=encouragement of our enemies" media strategy of the Rove White House.

In its Tuesday piece, Azzaman stressed the independent nature of its coverage, and in particular its independence from any political parties or groupings. The newspaper and the TV station both were deluged with messages of solidarity from Iraqis who recognized (as the paper put it) that these are independent media outlets that represent, not party views, but the point of view of Iraq and Iraqis generally. This may sound like a cliche, but in this case it isn't. In fact, the whole point of this struggle over the bill (according to Azzaman, and I agree), is that there is such a thing as legitimate Iraqi nationalism, with the aim of holding the country together and preserving the millenium-long tradition of different sects living side-by-side under the same political umbrella. (NOTE: It would have been better to put this in a less grand way. See the comments).

Iraqi nationalism has disappeared from the political vocabulary of the Western experts and the Western media, and I regret to say the latest example of this is Juan Cole's description of Azzaman and Al-Sharqeya as having a "mild secular, Arab nationalist tone". See what I mean? The newspaper spills its guts to keep alive a point of view that represents Iraq and all Iraqis, including Kurds who are not Arab, and any racially Persian Shiites who are also not Arab, with the idea of holding the country together, and our friendly expert tells us this newspaper is of an"Arab nationalist" tone. It was only a slip, but it illustrates how far our experts are from helping us understand what is happening.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juan calls the Sadrists who are anti-Federalism "nationalist" but insists that all the Sunnis want is oil. They are therefore not as "nationalist" as the Sadrists because they're only after the money.

1:56 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I see.
I guess there isn't there anything they could do to earn his approval?

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"there is such a thing as legitimate Iraqi nationalism, with the aim of holding the country together and preserving the millenium-long tradition of different sects living side-by-side under the same political umbrella."
What "umbrella" is that? The Ottoman Empire?

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your "umbrella" comment is very witty. However, I repectfully submit, it contributes nothing to the discussion about an Iraq nation-state.

4:26 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Thank you, anonymous.

For the benefit of anyone perusing these comments, my point has been:
(1) A lot of the support for "federalism" at this juncture has been based on the idea that it is a kind of apartheit, and separation is necessary for any peaceful political organization of these groups.
(2) But in history there have been other, non-apartheit, ways of solving this. Or is that wrong?

5:29 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Hurria. You and I are in complete agreement, and a thank you for spelling it out.

I think there were compound misunderstandings here, partly owing to the fact there is more than one commenter called "anonymous", and the second anonymous thought you were attacking me, which you weren't. Anyway, I thank you for your comments and I look forward to more.

10:04 AM  

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