Strangulation in the dark: Palestine, Somalia, and the American corporate media
By Abukar Arman
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Mar 3, 2008, 00:37
Whenever the media fail to press and keep the powerful at
check the inevitable consequence is prolonged oppression, lethal destruction,
and radicalized insurgency. Aside from Baghdad, nowhere is such consequence
more evident than in Gaza and Mogadishu.
While in all three cases predatory foreign intervention is
exacerbating the situation, this article focuses on the latter two because of
the magnitude of their man-made humanitarian crisis. In each case the crisis
has rapidly evolved into a catastrophe.
And as if the damage resulting from the inhumane blockade
that cut off fuel, electricity and other material and services essential to the
survival of the civilian populations in Gaza was not enough, the Israeli
military is getting ready to wage �a major military offensive.� Already, heavy
air and ground attacks are underway. But, the worst might be yet to come. The BBC
reports that Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said � . . . they (the
Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use
all our might to defend ourselves," on Israeli army radio.
In a similar oppressive approach, the Ethiopian forces
continue their routine indiscriminate shelling of densely populated Mogadishu
neighborhoods. According to Elman Human Rights group, �seven thousand
civilians, mostly women and children� have been killed in 2007 -- the first
year of the occupation.
Since the occupation, life in Mogadishu has become so
unbearable that approximately
1 million civilians, mostly women and children, have fled
for safety and became what is known as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). They
now inhabit makeshift refugee camps and are deprived of goods and services
essential for their survival. According to the U.N., the total number of people
in Somalia at-risk of starvation is now 1.5 million, thus making the situation
there �the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.�
Meanwhile, the belligerent oppression continues with
B�Tselem -- Israeli human rights group -- documented a case
of a heart patient, Fawziyeh a-Dark (a 66-year-old woman), who died of heart
attack after the Red Crescent ambulance coming to transport her to the hospital
was denied permission to go through the checkpoint. According to the report,
the driver called the patient�s husband and urged him to bring the wife to the
checkpoint so he could receive her there.
Later when the patient was brought to the checkpoint, she
was denied crossing over to the other side. In a helpless frenzy, the husband
kept begging the Israeli soldiers to let his wife get the medical attention
that she desperately needed to no avail.
�Let her die, let her die, it doesn�t interest me, it is
forbidden to cross,� heartlessly said one of the soldiers manning the
checkpoint, and die she did.
Similarly under the Ethiopian occupation, as documented by
many local and international human rights groups, civilians are routinely denied
their most basic rights, including the right to have a medical attention. Both
the occupation and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces are
reported to practice random killings of civilians to psychologically intimidate
The recent broad daylight brutal killing of the unarmed
brother of the TFG�s Minister of Information, while speaking on his cell phone
outside his home, only highlights the horrors anecdotically reported by
helpless civilians whose loved ones have fallen victim before their eyes.
According to Human Right Watch, both Israel and Ethiopia are
in direct violation of Articles 33 and 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as
they have been collectively punishing entire populations for the sins of the
few. Both have been violating their respective obligation (as the occupying
forces) to ensure the flow and distribution of food, medical and all other
humanitarian relief goods and services to civilians.
So why is it that we do not see these kinds of reports in
our nightly news or the front pages of our newspapers?
In order to provide a contextual answer, let us follow the
bloody tacks of history back to the Rwandan genocide. Shamefully prominent in
these pages is the indictment of the American corporate media -- its failure to
adequately scrutinize the Clinton administration�s callous approach to the
genocide in that country, and how that failure contributed to one of the most
brutal atrocities known to mankind.
So, once again, history seems to be repeating itself. And,
needless to say, this time Washington�s fingerprints are found both in
Palestine and Somalia.
For years Washington has been allotting billions of dollars
of U.S. tax revenues to the state of Israel and shielding it against any UN
resolution (however symbolic) that might be critical of it. And, since 9/11,
Washington has been providing diplomatic, economic, and military support to
Ethiopia. Furthermore, U.S. warplanes in pursuit of three suspected
international terrorists have bombed Somali villages while Ethiopian tanks
roared into Mogadishu in late 2006. Still, the corporate media remain
Evidently, the American corporate media are different
animals than the press admired by Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic book
Democracy in America almost two centuries ago.
Since 9/11, the corporate media, the very entities that were
once upon a time valuable counterweights to power, have become the very
instruments used by the powerful to justify their transgressions. Corporate
media have become so profoundly mesmerized by the ways and the means of the
powerful. As a result, they routinely offer a free pass for those who are
elected to craft policies, those in command of their implementation, and those
special interest groups who build the first two�s towers of power and
The corporate media have willingly forfeited their role as
credible watchdogs that guarded democracy and the rule of law and exposed the
abuses of the power-lords against the weak. And the consequence of this
squandered role at a time when the world is incrementally becoming more like a
global town cannot be overstated.
In recent years, corporate media have grown more comfortable
in redefining the nature of their business as being �entertainment,� and their
objective as being �bottom line� or profits. Of course, that same media became
effective advocates for Darfur and as such may have prevented a Rwanda-like
Why this moral selectivity?
Because, along with other human rights and humanitarian
advocate, the Darfur cause brought together three powerhouses, those in the
entertainment business, those in the profit making business, and the so-called
It is within this backdrop that strangulation of the people
of Gaza and Mogadishu continues. The entertainment-oriented media have
hypnotized the world so effectively that they made the sirens being sounded by
human rights and humanitarian advocacy groups so inaudible.
Arman is a freelance writer who lives in Ohio.
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