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Friday, July 01, 2005

Guilty of the crime of journalism

No charges, no trial--just a bullet to the head. From the WSWS:
On June 24, Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for the news agency Knight Ridder, was killed by a single bullet to the head as he approached a checkpoint that had been thrown up near his home in western Baghdad by US and Iraqi troops. It is believed that the shot was fired by an American sniper. According to eyewitnesses, no warning shots were fired.

The US military has announced it is conducting an investigation into Salihee’s killing. Knight Ridder has already declared, however, that “there’s no reason to think that the shooting had anything to do with his reporting work”. In fact, his last assignment gives reason to suspect that it was.

Over the past month, Salihee had been gathering evidence that US-backed Iraqi forces have been carrying out extra-judicial killings of alleged members and supporters of the anti-occupation resistance. His investigation followed a feature in the New York Times magazine in May, detailing how the US military had modeled the Iraqi interior ministry police commandos, known as the Wolf Brigade, on the death squads unleashed in the 1980s to crush the left-wing insurgency in El Salvador.

The Wolf Brigade was recruited by US operatives and the US-installed interim government headed by Iyad Allawi during 2004. A majority of its officers and personnel served in Saddam Hussein’s special forces and Republican Guard—veterans of killings, torture and repression. The unit has been used against the resistance in rebellious cities such as Mosul and Samarra, and, over the past six weeks, has played a prominent role in the massive crackdown ordered by the Iraqi government in Baghdad codenamed “Operation Lightning”.

On June 27, Knight Ridder published the results of its inquiry in an article jointly written by Salihee and correspondent Tom Lasseter. The journalists “found more than 30 examples in less than a week” of corpses turning up in Baghdad morgues of people who were last seen being detained by the police commandos.
There was discussion early this year about the US government considering a "Salvadoran option" for dealing with the insurgency in Iraq; Max Fuller suggests that the Salvadoran option has become the Salvadoran reality.