Iraq has been perhaps the least covered country in the Middle East throughout the Arab Spring. Popular protests and demonstrations there have been discreet, but only relative to Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, etc. This comparative quiet is no excuse for the near white-wash in coverage.
We can speculate as to why massive popular protests in Iraq have not been sustained. The risk assessment facing Iraqis wanting to protest for freedom and democracy is decidedly more threatening given the fact that the tyranny they are living under is not merely a client state of the U.S., being bolstered with loads of aid. It is a country still under occupation from the world’s most dominant and militaristic superpower, with some 50,000 troops and tens of thousands more contractors. The consequences protestors have faced elsewhere could be vastly more calamitous in Iraq.
Hence the very reason Iraq should be constantly in the headlines. The media are having a tough enough time keeping U.S. support for Arab dictatorships on the down low. With the suppression of Iraqi democracy on the front pages, it’d be too difficult to avoid making U.S. imperialism a primary inquiry in the news on the Arab Spring. But suppressing Iraqi democracy is precisely what Operation Iraqi Freedom has brought. Here’s Ted Galen Carpenter at The National Interest:
The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is increasingly corrupt and autocratic. Aside from periodic elections with competing parties, the new Iraq is beginning to resemble the old Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Maliki’s bureaucrats routinely harass both foreign and domestic media outlets that dare to expose his administration’s abuses.
Disturbing evidence of such repression has been building for at least the past two years, but matters escalated dramatically in February with the regime’s shocking brutality. As with many other countries in the Middle East, demonstrations broke out in Iraq demanding, among other things, an end to the Maliki government’s rampant corruption. Those demonstrations culminated with a “Day of Rage.” Although the demonstrations even on that day were mostly peaceful, security forces killed at least twenty-nine participants.
They also rounded up dozens of journalists, writers, photographers, and intellectuals who had been involved in organizing the rallies. The Aldiyar Television station, which had telecast footage of the demonstrations, reported that security forces arrested seven employees, including a director and an anchorman, and closed the studio.
This is what the war, cripplingly expensive in both blood and treasure, has resulted in for the people of Iraq. Indoctrinated talking heads still speak of it bringing democracy. The more honest, albeit nauseatingly obedient, simply say nothing. And so we have a blind spot in reporting on Iraq, where U.S. tyranny is clearest.