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Abukar Arman: Strangulation in the Dark

Strangulation in the Dark:

Palestine, Somalia, and the American Mainstream Media

By Abukar Arman

Whenever the media fails 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 impunity.

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 to cross 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 masses.

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 anecdotally 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 mainstream 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 the 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, media remains shamefully silent.

Evidently, the American media is a different animal than the one admired by Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic book Democracy in America almost two centuries ago.

Since 9/11, the mainstream media, the very entity that was once upon a time a valuable counterweight to power, has become the very instrument used by the powerful to justify their transgressions. Mainstream media has become so profoundly mesmerized by the ways and the means of the powerful. As a result, they routinely offers 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 influence.

The mainstream media has willingly forfeited its role as a credible watchdog 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, mainstream media has grown more comfortable in redefining the nature of its business as being "entertainment," and its objective as being "bottom line" or profits. Of course, that same media became an effective advocate for Darfur and as such may have prevented a Rwanda-like genocide.

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 religious right.

It is within this backdrop that strangulation of the people of Gaza and Mogadishu continues. The entertainment-oriented media has hypnotized the world so effectively that it made the sirens being sounded by human rights and humanitarian advocacy groups so inaudible.


Abukar Arman is a freelance writer who lives in Ohio.

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