Deep, way deep, inside Iraq
November 25, 2002 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Deep, way deep inside Iraq This aired very recently on PBS but I just caught it online -- the link is the second of four video clips following U.K. journalist Sam Kiley reporting on perception and reality in Jordan and Iraq and contains the most horrific footage of Saddam supporters you're likely to ever see. Be warned, it's not pretty.
posted by subpixel (28 comments total)
I saw part of this after I got home from work, and it was very well done. Frontline consistently has some of the best programming on TV, far surpassing anything I see on the networks.
posted by CoolHandPuke at 5:55 PM on November 25, 2002

By the way, where is the "most horrific footage of Saddam supporters you're likely to ever see"? Other than the thief displayed in the first clip with his hand-less arm bandaged (and the branding of his forehead), there isn't anything horrific about it. The story of beheadings is pretty sad I suppose, but there's no footage of it, thankfully.
posted by Witty at 6:00 PM on November 25, 2002

The link works for me.

There are more than enough good, moral reasons for the West to go to war with Iraq. And North Korea, and Zimbabwe, and a long list of other repulsive hellholes. They pose little physical threat to the West, but their existence, the rule of greedy and sadistic dictators over terrified peasantry, is an evil in itself that the West, having the power to stop, is morally obliged to stop or else be complicit in. If the world is a 'village of free nations', then it is time for the world's police to depose those rulers who are unfit to rule, who do not adhere to the principles of the Declaration of Human Rights, for the benefit of the people suffering under their rule.

This video is the sort of evidence that ought to be shown to the UN. Iraq poses no realistic military threat to the USA. Inspecting its weapons is a pointless exercise. No nation currently poses such a threat, and unless Europe or China or India gets its act really together really soon, no nation will in the foreseeable future. It's unnecessary and foolish and the only reason Bush harps on about it is to in respect of Iraq's national sovereignty. Which is, considering he is raising support for an invasion, rather irrational.

The USA and/or the UN have the power to pull the fangs of Iraq, oversee the trial and execution of Saddam and Co., install an interim government charged with building the country a decent judicial system, electricity and communications grids, and a few other necessities of civilized existence, and then go on to the next project. This is what they ought to do.

Why they are not doing this is because of the idea of national sovereignty, the idea that Iraq ought to take care of Iraq's own business, that the Iraqi government, whatever it might be, has a presumptive right to pass whatever laws it likes internally, and that any interference in the internal matters of a nation ought to go through that nation's government. This idea is crap, it is nothing more than the assumption of proprietorship of human beings over each other, in practice only ever serves as an excuse for evil, and I predict it will be looked back on as a remnant from the age of feudalism.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:07 PM on November 25, 2002

I'd be interested to hear how Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness would respond. Her organization is anti-sanctions against Iraq, and they go illegally to the country every year to provide food and medicines to the Iraqi people. I'll admit, a lot of the stuff this journalist reports makes me skeptical, but the pictures I've seen that Kathy brought back made me sick to my stomach--sewage in the streets and hospitals, no supplies in the hospitals...

And why didn't the journalist make any reference to this report about the effects of the sanctions?
posted by gramcracker at 6:13 PM on November 25, 2002

If the world is a 'village of free nations', then it is time for the world's police to depose those rulers who are unfit to rule

See, the thing is that police don't act unilaterally. You're thinking of vigilantes. Police represent the enforcement arm of some sort of governing body, which one hopes is ruled by some sort of thoughtful, principled head.
posted by rushmc at 6:48 PM on November 25, 2002

I thought it was an excellently produced and courageous documentary. It makes me ponder the morality of this coming war: do we risk killing civilians ('collaterall damage') in order to save them? Should we have done so, in hindsight, in pre-WWII Germany? In Rwanda? In present day China & Burma?
Maybe instead of a permanent war footing, which would be the logical result of that sort of analysis, we could start by disengageing commercially. Many western countries are doing business in China & Burma, and did so in Pinochet's Chile (o, I forgot: the west - primarily, in all frankness, the USA - acually sanctioned that one).

Bush's credibility as a liberator of oppressed peoples, like the Iraqis, Iranians and North Koreans, would be a lot more convincing if he would just formulate his principles - and the actions he will take to assert them without favour - for us all to hear them. After all, accountability is what this is all about, isn't it?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:48 PM on November 25, 2002

By the way, where is the "most horrific footage of Saddam supporters you're likely to ever see"?

Uhh, the dog they tear to pieces with their bare hands?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:55 PM on November 25, 2002

Oh yea :o) That too. ANIMALS... ANIMALS!

(Although I eye-witnessed a similar act in some kind of religious ceremony during a visit to Mexico back in the day. A group of young men were given a live chicken, which they took turns chasing each other around with, using the bird to whack each other on the head and back. After several minutes of that, they all started ripping the bird limb from limb... til it was no more. I was 13 at the time and can't remember what it was all about exactly.)
posted by Witty at 7:11 PM on November 25, 2002

The clips require realplayer to play. Since I don't have it, I followed the "download realplayer" link, where I was presented with the fabulous opportunity of downloading a multimedia monstrosity (aka RealOne[tm]) that is free for a whopping fourteen whole days! Wow!

I'll pass. Whatever happened to simple realplayer? I don't want all that overhead crap with their new product, and I certainly don't want to be hammered over the head with their incessant intrusive advertising and pitches to pay for the damn thing. Grumble grumble... why can't a public tv site pick a video format that isn't so nasty to deal with?
posted by beth at 7:42 PM on November 25, 2002

Beth: it's in a small font somewhere on the page--I think the top right hand corner area. (do a ctrl-f for "free").
posted by gramcracker at 8:05 PM on November 25, 2002

RushMc -I couldn't have put it better or more succinctly - except to say that in Iraq, as usual, the US will (officially) go in with the sweetest and purest of motives but, as we (US/ Americans) have designated ourselves the cops of the world,, we will succumb to the usual venal temptatations which corrupt cops everywhere. And a crooked cop of the world is, well..... a tyrant
posted by troutfishing at 8:09 PM on November 25, 2002

"Maybe instead of a permanent war footing, which would be the logical result of that sort of analysis, we could start by disengaging commercially. Many western countries are doing business in China & Burma..."

Dash_slot, I agree with most of your post about accountability. But I really do not see how China fits into your suggestion when, in the light of the recent People's Congress, China is trying hard to modernize its system with efforts like allowing businessmen into the Communist Party.

The question is: how does one deal with nations in the grey area of global development? Despite some negative news coming out of countries like China, free trade and investments are actually nudging these nations to modernize their government and laws to match those of the West. It's already been said that the sanctions in Iraq might be exacerbating the problems we face now. If the United States begin to "disengage" commercially from countries that are in the midsts of organizing themselves, things might actually become worst.
posted by phyrewerx at 8:44 PM on November 25, 2002

Jesus! A little better warning would be appreciated. "Be warned, it's not pretty" is better than nothing, but "warning: contains scenes of a dog being torn apart bare handed by a pack of wild men" would be more appropriate. That's really something I could have done without, thanks.
posted by jonson at 9:36 PM on November 25, 2002

Real has always been the experts of hiding the free version of their software. It's amazing people download it at all.

Anyway, intresting stuff. In the second vid, the wife, rashad or whatever is hot. Well, she has a nice face anyway, could stand to lose some weight.
posted by delmoi at 9:41 PM on November 25, 2002

For some reason, the journalist hear reminds me of the director of Charles Manson Superstar. Just something about him. The glazed stare and nodding, the sketchy statements of fact... "They were wearing black. The uniform of the *#&$#* is black." Not to mention that he's heard all about the horrible things that happen to people in Iraq, and he wants to go. He's really excited, like a complete masochist nutcase.

Was really impressed by the dog mutilation, too. I didn't think it would be possible to top the training sequence in Shiri, but those nutty Iraqis have done it.

jonson: "Be warned, it's not pretty" is better than nothing, but "warning: contains scenes of a dog being torn apart bare handed by a pack of wild men" would be more appropriate.

At least it wasn't gay porn!
posted by son_of_minya at 11:54 PM on November 25, 2002

You crack me up, s_o_m, I read the post on metatalk that you're referencing! Actually, gay porn would have been preferable, as I'm inured to porn of all kinds from the past few years of surfing the net. That dog evisceration, however, will likely give me nightmares, and as it is has caused me to pay an inordinate amount of attention to my dogs tonight. "It's okays, pups, no nasty paramilitary wackjobs are coming to rip you apart while I'm on duty!!"
posted by jonson at 12:05 AM on November 26, 2002

Chill brother jonson. The world is not a, uhh, pretty place.

This is though, a pretty good bit of propaganda I dare say.

Off the top of my head. . .

Did he go into a pharmacy in Basra? What are the conditions like there?

As skeptical as he was for every other acting-arrogant-for-the-western-viewers with the Iraqi know-nothings shots and narrative overlay why wasn't he skeptical about "the only real family he'd been allowed to interview in Iraq" being actually a real family?

The thing reeks of pro w(ar)estern propaganda.

The English accented reporter lends "authenticity" to the typical armchair liberal viewer's news-learning experience.

He's as brash as and looks the part of a goalie for Manchester United or some such. (Liberal Americans secretly admire futbolling countries). Fantastic match I must say.

The bit appears almost investigative. He has to keep reminding you that he's there to investigate certain beheadings. Yet the entire piece revolves around stating the obvious; namely, Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. Where was this documentary seven years ago? Surely, the all so important Hussein style *propaganda* inflicted on the people of Iraq and reporters seeking to "proclaim his vileness to the world" was equally as immoral as it is now. Why now the importance?

Why now the importance, near the end of the last segment, to throw in the token brutality inflicted on the children of the "governmentally cleared" family? And to buffer it with the only (anaemically) critical words said of America throughout the entire piece as the family pointed out the place where the American missle hit? That sealed it for me, that I suspect this was an orchestrated television event, as it was meant to ward off the PBS watching left with something that appeared fair, balanced, investigated and British ; ).

The reporters for the western media (to greater or lesser degrees) are just as much pawns in the games of their handlers as the snickeringly caught off guard Iraqi no-you-can't-go-theres were.

Propaganda is what porpaganda is.
posted by crasspastor at 12:10 AM on November 26, 2002


You were so busy insulting the intelligence of me, you, him, everybody, who might watch or did watch this video -- what exactly was your point?
posted by Dick Paris at 12:47 AM on November 26, 2002

merely pointing out porpaganda for us dumies. :-(
posted by shoos at 12:54 AM on November 26, 2002

crasspastor, I agree that the 'investigation' was superficial, and that the reporter was full of himself. And there isn't much new here: is anyone surprised that Saddam Hussein cuts off people's heads, or searches the hotel rooms of foreign journalists, forbids them to go where they please, and keeps a 'minder' on their tails at all times?

Even the reporter's final conclusion, that the prostitutes, and possibly a doctor, were decapitated because 'everybody knew of it', despite denials by officials, is questionable. 'Everybody' knows that alligators live in NYC sewers, too. I have no doubt Saddam is capable of such a thing (the prostitutes, not the alligators), but who knows whether it really happened, or how it has changed in the telling. The female eyewitness in Jordan was fairly convincing, though.

What was more interesting for me was the details: for example, the revelation that the infants dying of 'malnutrition' in Baghdad hospitals aren't really dying of malnutrition, but of diarrheal disease due to polluted water, which is a primary killer of infants throughout the Third World. Cleaner water supplies (and breastfeeding rather than formula feeding) would help, but cleaner water requires chlorine, and chorine can be made into poison gas. Should we let Saddam have it? What would be the result: fewer dead babies, or more dead Iranians, Kuwaitis, Jordanians, and Iraqi minorities?

And the fact that refugee Iraqis in Jordan are still in danger, despite their living in another country is truly chilling: that Saddam's grasp can reach into other countries and threaten expatriates there.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 12:59 AM on November 26, 2002

You ask excellent questions Slithy_Tove. I do not have the answers. I know I may write as though I do often here on MeFi. But my true tone does not translate, I surmise into the off-the-cuff written word. I don't have any idea. I am simply skeptical as to purpose of this bit.

If I were writing a novel or screenplay, in order for the audience to get the most bang for the buck, I would construct a believable way to subvert their sensibilites. This particular story was meant to do, I predict, exactly that. No new information. No substantive focus on the suffering of the Iraqi people. In fact, it appeared as though the piece was trying to intimate simultaneously, Iraqis' as relatively well off but cleverly destitute. Take for instance the "well stocked" pharmacy. Contrast that with the lack of safe water that diseases them. Also contrast that with the little known nor reported fact that the US intentionally targeted Iraqi water facilities.

Porpaganda's for dumies.
posted by crasspastor at 1:34 AM on November 26, 2002 [1 favorite]

Is the video available anywhere in non-streaming format?
posted by zerofoks at 2:17 AM on November 26, 2002

This Frontline segment was propaganda, huh? That makes it propaganda about Saddam's propaganda.

There are degrees of truth to propaganda, though -- and this report shows quite convincingly that the Western version is truer than the Iraqi version.

The physicist nervously saying, "Nuclear physics? I, I don't know what you mean by nuclear physics" -- that pretty much says it all, no? Do you believe him? If not, why do you think he's lying?

When the reporter was in Basra, why did the Iraqis take him to a (conveniently) English-speaking family that was victimized by an errant cruise missile, but did not take him to a place where an accurate cruise missile found its mark? I'm talking about Basra, not about the "not-a-nuclear-facility" where the Iraqis wouldn't let the reporter peer down corridors.

When people dismiss a report such as this by saying, "Well, it's all propaganda," they are suggesting some kind of equivalency among Saddam and Uday Hussein and George W. Bush and John Ashcroft. They are wrong.

As for this question -- is anyone surprised that Saddam Hussein cuts off people's heads, or searches the hotel rooms of foreign journalists, forbids them to go where they please, and keeps a 'minder' on their tails at all times? -- many Arabs and Westerners would deny these things. Now they are documented and very difficult to refute.
posted by Holden at 4:57 AM on November 26, 2002

crasspastor, does the fact that journalist Kiley quit the Times of London over Murdoch's support of Sharon give rise to any amendment of your indictment of him? Nor, in your link, do I see any evidence that the US "targeted" Iraqi water systems -- it shows a study found that sanctions would degrade them steadily and discussed this as an effect of the sanctions. It does not, in anything that the Progressive quotes, suggest that this was the "target" of the sanctions, only that the US supported the UN sanctions knowing that its effects would not be benign. (Remember, it is the United Nations who implement the sanctions regime, not the US, and Saddam Hussein who from 1998 to this month refused to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, preferring the sanctions. I suppose he "knows" a little about those water systems, too.)

In any event, if I'm looking for pro-war propaganda, I know the place to find it is PBS Frontline. Do you even realize how ridiculous that sounds?

Major funding for FRONTLINE/World is provided by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by ABB, Ltd., the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.

Ah, that explains it -- the neo-con cabal. The things you learn on Metafilter.
posted by dhartung at 5:43 AM on November 26, 2002

aeschenkarnos: Your post bothered me for not a few reasons. You seem to be espousing an Albright/Kosovo style of internationalist intervention, but I hope you realize just how rare it is that nations are moved to wage war in support of a human rights emergency; for one thing, the emergency must be dire, and nations are reluctant to intervene where parties are not amenable to keeping themselves apart one way or the other. This is the basic conundrum of peacekeeping.

As for military threats, there are two: First, the conventional military threat that Iraq poses to its neighbors; and second, the unconventional warfare threat posed should SH conspire, as he has in the past, with international terrorists. Certainly it doesn't pose a direct conventional threat to the US, but nobody's ever argued that.

I'm completely baffled by your linking of the weapons inspections to an alleged "support of Iraq's national sovereignty" by the Bush administration. While they've been inconsistent at times, to my knowledge they have repeatedly made the point that SH's human rights record, combined with the issue of WMDs, is tantamount to an abrogation of Iraq's sovereignty by the Hussein regime. Perhaps you could explicate how this differs from your position.

Finally, and most frustratingly, your attack on the idea of national sovereignty itself takes only the bad examples. Sovereignty, in modern terms, sprang from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which sought to end European states warring over what we now call (snark intended) "regime change", i.e. succession. This was long beyond the age of feudalism (except in a few places like Russia), and represented the growing power of national merchant classes vs. the old aristocracies: somewhat the opposite of your analysis. Between that point and the advent of the contermporary system under the UN charter some three centuries later, sovereignty provided a safe haven for the development of modern democratic republics. Today, it still safeguards the rights of citizens in responsible states. The benefits of sovereignty are so clear that ethnic minorities and other movements around the world seek nothing less (see: East Timor, XSSR, Taiwan). Do not throw out the baby when contemplating the dirty bath water.

Historically, we are in a new era, when the targets of a potential interventionist strategy are fewer than ever before. The march toward democracy, in most regions of the world, has been remarkable. In the end that may free us -- the world, collectively -- to handle despots and failed states with swift certainty. For now, considerations of national security bedevil the United States. Even when the GWOT winds down, though, Americans are probably much less likely to risk GI lives abroad on human-rights clean-up duty. Finally, one must beware that one's precedent does not undermine one's own position.

dash_slot: Echoing the above, this is a new era in which the bad regimes are, at last, outnumbered. It does make it more difficult to argue for ignoring human rights in favor of commercial interests, although this is an old argument in American foreign policy (see Walter Russel Mead's Special Providence: the mercantilists are labeld Hamiltonians in that work). It is always going to be a tough moral question if one has a legitimate and important commercial need (say, for oil) and a dangerous neighborhood in which to go buy it. We can disengage commercially, as you say, but that amounts to sanctions (and given we're discussing Iraq, their side effects can be severe); and without a global consensus, there's little chance our principled stand will have much effect ("next!"). If the disengagement hurts ourselves, and fails to change the morally objectionable situation, we have only a cheap moral victory with which to congratulate ourselves -- something like an old man who'll drive to the next town not to use the barber he's hated for twenty years.
posted by dhartung at 2:00 PM on November 26, 2002

dash_slot: Echoing the above, this is a new era in which the bad regimes are, at last, outnumbered.

LOLOL Sorry, that's too funny. I never figured you for a cock-eyed optimist.
posted by rushmc at 3:07 PM on November 26, 2002

China's human rights record, combined with the issue of WMDs [remember they certainly own A-Bombs, and probably, other WMD's too; additionally, their suppression of Tibetan self-determination continues, and they covet territory] is to me, strikingly similar to SH's.

So, what would happen, if the US didn't buy oil from regimes it disapproved of? Well, cheap fixes are notorious disincentives for technological innovation. Maybe we could reduce the size of those SUV engines.... That sounds flippant, it's not supposed to be. We do need more efficient engines, less carbon imported to be burnt, and more progressive engagement in foreign poloicy.

It is possible they could intersect here. After all, trading with the enemy enriches both sides. Whether it be todays enemy (SH), or tomorrow's (China).
posted by dash_slot- at 4:30 PM on November 26, 2002

i saw this programme when it was aired on british television. here is a link to the thread on channel 4's site, where you will find some british viewers reactions to the programme. here is a link to a page about a similar programme which deals with saudi 'justice'. the english firm hiatt sells leg manacles and torture chambers to the saudi regime, so i doubt that we'll be going to war with them. sorry phyrewerx, but i don't see any real positive social changes resulting from simple economic involvement.
those of you shocked (rightly in my opinion) at the sight of a live dog evisceration may like to think about whether this is entirely foreign to their culture. as pointed out by Witty, this type of thing is common in Mexico, and i know that wiping the blood of a fox that has been eviscerated by a pack of hunting dogs is a right of passage for hunt members in england. i would be suprised if similar practices were unheard of in north america.
to summarise, this programme, whilst presenting a rare view into iraq, showed me nothing outstanding that would define iraq as being unique, or even different from many other countries around the world. weak assed propaganda.
dhartung - 'In any event, if I'm looking for pro-war propaganda, I know the place to find it is PBS Frontline. Do you even realize how ridiculous that sounds?'
do realise how ridiculous you sound? i would have thought you would understand how propaganda (or PR as it is now known) works. it doesn't simply comprise of bombing thousands of leaflets into an area espousing bald faced hyperbole and slander.
posted by asok at 4:56 PM on November 26, 2002 [1 favorite]

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