Sunday, January 01, 2006


“People may expect too much of journalism. Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true.” ~ Lewis H. Lapham.

There is already bad news for Kurdistan in the new year:

Child tested for bird flu dies in Turkey
Sun Jan 1, 2006 9:33 PM GMT

By Gareth Jones

ANKARA (Reuters) - A child being tested for possible avian influenza died in a Turkish hospital on Sunday, but doctors said there was no evidence he had fallen victim to the deadly disease which has killed more than 70 people in Asia.

Five other people from the same region of eastern Turkey, four of them children, are undergoing tests in Van hospital near the Iranian border after exhibiting flu symptoms and failing to react to antibiotics.

"Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, 14, died despite all our efforts to save him," the head doctor at the Van hospital, Huseyin Avni Sahin, told NTV commercial television, adding that the cause of his death was not yet known.

The rest of this report can be read at Reuters UK. Thanks to Juanita at Neshumah for passing me the information.

While we wait for test results to confirm whether or not this unfortunate death is the result of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, it is interesting to note that only one Turkish media source has reported this death so far, and that source is located in the US. NTV and TDN are reporting an outbreak of the H5N1 strain in the bird population of North Kurdistan, but they have reported nothing yet about the human death.

A report from a Russian news source, dated 28 December, mentions that the Turkish Agricultural Ministry complained that infected birds were arriving via Armenia, although this Russian report states that there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in Armenia. I don't see the point of the Agricultural Ministry's complaint. How is any country supposed to control bird migration patterns, or whether or not infected birds are included in the migrating populations? If infected birds had been found by the Armenian authorities,it would have been reported through the World Health Organization.

Another question relates to how the Turkish authorities are going to handle this outbreak in the Kurdish region, which comes to mind after reading this report. Will the Turkish authorities act with the same aggressiveness in their approach to eradicating infected bird populations in the east as they did when they found infected birds in northwestern Turkey in October? Or will Turkish authorities waste energy complaining about infected birds flying over Armenia while people in the Kurdish region are left to fend for themselves in a possible battle against bird flu?

Everything is political.

Speaking of which, I did a little more research on Tom Lasseter, who recently characterized Kurds as fifth columnists planning to swarm south and invade Kerkuk. Apparently, this guy is a regular spin master for Sunni Arabs, and he has written similar characterizations of Shi'a troops in the Iraqi army:

The men of the 1st Brigade of the Iraqi army's 6th Division work in the shadow of death.

Most of the soldiers are Shiite Muslims, from Iraq's majority religious sect. Saddam Hussein's military intelligence unit - mainly Sunni Muslims - once used the base they live on, in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Kadhemiya, to interrogate and torture Shiites. They sleep in rooms where Saddamist thugs slept before them. They work in offices that were once torture chambers.

The 1st Brigade is considered one of the best Iraqi outfits in the country. It was the first to get its own area of operations - the rough and tumble area west of the Tigris River in Baghdad - and it's capable of designing and carrying out complex missions.

Yet many of the Shiite soldiers harbor deep anger toward Iraq's Sunni minority, and it's unclear where their loyalties lie: to Iraq or to their Shiite religious leaders.

Big surprise that many Shi'a "harbor deep anger toward Iraq's Sunni minority?" Not really. But notice the juxtaposition of Shi'a soldiers living and working in an old Ba'athi base in Kadhemiya, as if they were absorbing the spirit of the place and, in the process, turning into "Saddamist thugs" themselves. I guess nobody told Lasseter that the Shi'a have also engaged in discussions about the possibility of a Shi'a state, nor has he considered that it might be a better thing for Kurds, Shi'a and Sunni if this political entity known as Iraq, which was created by and for the Western powers, were to peacefully separate like the Czech Republic and Slovakia did. It sounds to me like this journalist prefers to see another Yugoslavia instead.

Tom Lasseter wrote another piece of anti-Kurdish propaganda on 30 December, with the title Analysts: Polarization in Iraqi military could lead to civil war. But don't go looking for any references to analysts in the article. There aren't any. Again, it is more heart-bleeding for Sunnis, with a passing mention of the fact that "insurgents" threaten the Sunnis to prevent them from joining the Iraqi army. Don't go looking for any criticism of the "insurgents," though. Again, there isn't any. Another interesting spin is the emphasis on the domination of Shi'a and Kurds in the army. If Shi'a are 60% of the population and Kurds are 20% of the population, a normal person would reasonably expect that Shi'a and Kurds together would dominate the Iraqi army, but not so in Tom Lasseter's twisted thinking. It's all a Shi'a/Kurd conspiracy.

Here's a part of the article that is really spinning out of control:

During a Knight Ridder interview with the Iraqi general who commands the army's 4th Division in the northern city of Mosul, U.S. Col. Mike Cloy sat on a sofa and, lighting a Romeo and Juliet cigar, listened to the conversation. Cloy was visiting the general as part of his duties with the American military assistance team assigned to the 4th Division.

Looking over at Cloy, Maj. Gen. Jamal Khalid, a Kurd, chose his words carefully. The general said exactly what Cloy wanted to hear.

"We do not keep militias inside the Iraqi army," Khalid said. "We as the army take nobody's side. We take the government's side."

Asked if he had any worries about the presence of Kurdish militiamen in the Iraqi army, Cloy said, "I have no concerns in that regard."

"You don't ever hear any of that discussion amongst the ranks," said Cloy, who's from Columbia, S.C. "I am impressed with the focus the leadership and the soldiers have ... they are not, from what I can tell, concerned with the larger politics."

How did Lasseter know that the Kurd's words were exactly the words that the American wanted to hear? Did he ask the American this question specifically? If so, why didn't he include that question and response as part of the interview? The truth is that Tom Lasseter is engaging in speculation and passing it off as fact. Since that is the case, he's better off writing fiction.

Time to put Tom Lasseter and Knight Ridder on a Take-With-A-Grain-Of-Salt list.

In the meantime, Babekir Zebarî has denied the accuracy of this spinmaster's reports:

Yesterday, the office of the army's chief of staff, Gen. Babaker al-Zebari, released a statement saying the quotes in the story weren't representative of the defense ministry and charging that they "are false and created by followers of the ex-regime to frustrate the Iraqi brave army's will."

But since this report carries Tom Lasseter's name, it may well be another huge pile of BS as well.


Anonymous said...

:If Shi'a are 60% of the population and Kurds are 20% of the population, a normal person would reasonably expect that Shi'a and Kurds together would dominate the Iraqi army, but not so in Tom Lasseter's twisted thinking. It's all a Shi'a/Kurd conspiracy.

Mizgin, it reminds me of a great old political cartoon: "We have met the enemy...and he is US!"

Mizgîn said...

Seriously, Philip, in addition to the fact that the Sunnis are apparently threatened not to participate. But is there criticism for those who threaten?

It smells to me like this Lasseter guy is working hard as apologist for Ba'athi.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg said...


Mizgîn said...

Thanks for the update, Vladimir.