Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Counter-Terror TV Show Draws Praise From Iraqis

Scenes of carnage are common in Iraq these days. You can catch them in the back alleys, on the highway from the airport, and now in your own living room. A new state TV show targeting terror opens with an Islamist group preparing to execute an American hostage in an orange jumpsuit. It stops short of showing the severed head. Cut to two Iraqi children holding up a sign - ‘No to Terrorism’ - and you have the lead in to an effective, US-funded anti terrorism campaign. Al Iraqiya television is running a wildly popular series highlighting what it claims are the true confessions of the terrorists wreaking havoc across the nation. The show is the new Iraqi state’s answer to the growing number of al-Qaeda and Islamist websites that show summary executions and slaughter. Most Iraqis have greeted the show with applause. They see it as evidence that their new security forces are capturing the bad guys and turning up the heat on them. Most viewers are not disturbed by the apparent human rights violations that almost certainly accompany the production of the show. But the police show, whose ‘perps’ appear bruised and battered, is also reminiscent of an era of kangaroo courts which characterised Iraq’s legal system during the reign of former president Saddam Hussein. It reflects Iraq’s new justice in its rawest form. Though the Ministry of Interior, which produces the show, insists the confessions are not physically coerced, it seems unlikely followers of Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi would volunteer to explain their deeds to a nationwide audience in Iraq. The US government has clarified that the station is actually run by an American contractor, not Washington. One US official said he had tried to suggest programming changes but had been ignored. Nevertheless, the show, Terrorists in the Arms of Justice, is clearly an effective tool in the hands of the police. Interrogators hear from terrorist suspects that they work for money, sometimes only $150 or £80 a hit, and that they engage in homosexual acts. Many admit to being alcohol drinkers - a clear contradiction of their alleged Islamist aims. An Iraqi journalist, who is a fan of the show, says that any human rights violations that take place to produce it do not disturb him in the least. "We have a dire situation here," said Alaa Al-Safar, a reporter for Al Da’awa newspaper in Baghdad. "The US does more to its own prisoners without giving them human rights than we do. Why would this be allowed for the US and not for us? "When we restore peace and order, yes, human rights will be a good idea. But right now this is a good thing. "People had the impression before this show appeared that nothing was being done to fight terrorism." One recent suspect, who confessed his crimes on the TV show, was later delivered to his father’s home as a corpse.
Confess, Or Your Going To Get It