Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Occupation Watch: "No Staff on the Ground in Iraq"

The International Occupation Watch Center, launched in July 2003 with the staff of "two Iraqi women and two international peace workers" ("U.S. Peace Groups Open International Occupation Watch Center in Iraq," 18 Jul. 2003), was quietly restructured:
Occupation Watch was originally founded in June 2003 and then restructured on April 1, 2005. In its earlier incarnation, it had an on-the-ground presence in Iraq and a slightly different focus. The original founding organizations were the following:
Bridges to Baghdad
CodePink: Women for Peace
Global Exchange
Focus on the Global South
United for Peace and Justice
Those organizations and former employees are no longer affiliated with the Center. (Occupation Watch Information Center, "About Us," 18 Mar. 2005)
Now the center has "no staff on the ground in Iraq" (18 Mar. 2005). Lack of funding? If so, that's a shame. As the power elite implant fake news and manufacture consent through the corporate media, the anti-war movement in the United States needs its own foreign correspondents, photographers, and documentary film makers, updating the work done by media activists of Liberation News Service and Newsreel during the sixties. It's not the case that there is no money on the left. "Democrats’ under-$200 contributions rose from $11 million [in 2000] to $127 million [in 2004], or from 17% [in 2000] to 36% [in 2004] of all of their contributions from individuals" (Campaign Finance Institute, "Funds Doubled, Small Donations Quadrupled -- But Mostly After Nominations Decided," 4 Oct. 2004). Activists' mites would make a bigger political difference if they were spent to build their own institutions, including their own media, than to join the fund-raising arms race between Republicans and Democrats.

The Occupation Watch Center's loss of Iraqi presence, however, may be due to physical danger. According to the Editor & Publisher, "[t]he war in Iraq claimed 25 lives of journalists in 2004, bringing the two-year toll there to 45. Sixty-nine journalists died in World War II, and 63 died during two decades of conflict in Vietnam and Cambodia" ("78 Names to Be Added to Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial," 13 Apr. 2005). If the figures for World War 2 and the Vietnam War are accurate, the Iraq War is deadlier for journalists than World War 2 and the Vietnam War.

Whether funding or physical danger was the cause of the Occupation Watch Center's restructuring, regrettably, very useful articles from both corporate and independent media that the former Occupation Watch website archived appear to be gone, even though the center retains the same URL for its home page. To look up old articles, you'd have to turn to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine or Google's caches. Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes says that, with "a high-powered creative team," he has "taken over operation of the Occupation Watch website" ("Occupation Watch Launch," 6 Apr. 2005). I hope that he is planning on restoring the archived articles, preferably at their former URLs.

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