Journalistic Freedom
April 11, 2003 11:26 AM   Subscribe

We all know that a number of journalists have quit the embedded roles they were playing. And while Saddam's regime may have been quite brutal to the press and others, some claim the recent loss of a few journalists was no accident.
posted by woil (17 comments total)
Please explain why the US military would wait until the eve of the fall of Baghdad to target journalists? If the US military was so devious as to target the journalists, why would they have not taken them out on the first night of the war? Why let Al Jazeera spread slanted 'news' for more than two weeks and then take them off the air? Why would the US military target journalists, when they allowed journalists to be embedded with the troops, including Al Jazeera reporters?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:41 AM on April 11, 2003

Al Jazeera is was is claiming its dead reporter was deliberately targeted — or at least there is an empty item with a headline to that effect.
As to Steve's argument from verisimilitude — "woulda and wouldna," never very convincing, as a rule — we could just as well be talking about some combat-happy, gung-ho, stressed freelance PFC with a 20mm cannon "getting some back for the WTC, fuckin' A, I'm from the Bronx, motherfucker," or any number of other kinds of insanity. War is insanity, did you know that?
posted by hairyeyeball at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2003

The April 8 missile attack on the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV, as well as the tankfire directed at the Palestine Hotel, residence of the non-embedded press corps, is the culmination of the criminal efforts of the US army to silence all independent reporting of its bloody massacre of Iraqi civilians and militia

Well I'm glad that someone is finally telling the truth. This thread has little or no value for sparking debate, seeing as the first sentence of the World Socialist Web Site has effectively ended it. What S@L is the argument is unfettered access is a bad thing? No waited, the fact what the media was reporting did not reconfirm the WSWS's highly bias is the bad thing. I'm against the war, but I'm against garbage like what linked to on the WSWS.
posted by Bag Man at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2003

hairyeyeball: Even if your fantasy about the trigger happy, PFC (which I, as a member of the military, find insulting) was true... then the case for the military 'targeting journalists' is still false. 'Targeting journalists' implies a conscious effort on the part of military commanders to kill journalists, not a gung-ho PFC firing at will.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2003

If we were really targetting Al-Jazeera, does anyone honestly think that the building would still be there? Same goes with the hotel. It'd be trivial for us to "accidentally" flatten the places, instead of half-assed measures of barely hitting the places.
posted by piper28 at 12:08 PM on April 11, 2003

So you hadn't heard of the wsws before? Here's an old wired article on Fairly good site, nothing too outlandish, and the arts reviews are excellent.
posted by bobo123 at 12:16 PM on April 11, 2003

* disclaimer * The opinions expressed in the links are not necessarily the views of this station or its affiliates. ;)
posted by woil at 12:17 PM on April 11, 2003

I suppose now that just about all the other sky is falling predictions of the war have proven to be false it is inevitable that some die hards will continue to grasp at whatever they can to keep the panic in the air.

Expect this particular conspiracy theory to be a big hit with the socialist organizations who backed most of the peace protests.

Pass the tinfoil....
posted by soulhuntre at 12:23 PM on April 11, 2003

Why shoot them, thus preventing them from shooting themselves? Far more effective to let them publish whatever they like and make themselves an international laughing-stock (as the BBC, for instance, did.)
posted by jfuller at 12:24 PM on April 11, 2003

" the culmination of the criminal efforts of the US army to silence all independent reporting of its bloody massacre of Iraqi civilians and militia."

What part of the word "war" does this writer not understand? I fully expect the next bit to read something like, "Things extremely dangerous in Baghdad. It's almost like two huge armies are going at each other with everything they've got. When will this evil stop? How can the US military justify shooting and bombing? Don't they understand that I am in the city? How can they justify putting me in harms way like this?"

I can understand some people being sucked in by the spin on events in Iraq. But this guy is being sucked in by his own spin and then building on it. He has his own little world going here.

Tin foil indeed.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:48 PM on April 11, 2003

One must consider the source: The World Socialist Web Site is probably even less impartial than our friends as Fox News.

Still, the percentage of journalists killed in this short war is far greater than the percentage of journalists killed in the entire Vietnam conflict. Given that our current weapons are far more accurate than those from the Vietnam era, you'd expect those numbers to be very different.

There is some truth, therefore, to the notion that more reporters are being killed in this conflict. While it's possible this is a result of a U.S. policy taking out particularly undesirable journalists, that's quite a leap of logic. I'll need a lot more evidece before I can accept that - even from the likes of our current administration.
posted by aladfar at 1:43 PM on April 11, 2003

Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.

This is the big scandal, folks -- not the fact that several journalists were killed in a war. CNN supressed news of Iraqi atrocities for years in order to keep its Baghdad bureau open. To me, the choice seemed simple.....leave the country and tell the truth. I wonder what compromises CNN has made to keep its Havana office open?

There is some truth, therefore, to the notion that more reporters are being killed in this conflict.

I thought that many more journalists were killed in the Yugoslavia civil war. Does anyone know? What about WWII or Vietnam?
posted by Durwood at 1:54 PM on April 11, 2003

So, Steve@Linnwood--if you're wrong, you admit it, right?

Was it morally right for you to dig up the real life name of a MetaFilter member who chose to have an anonymous user profile and then taunt him with it in MetaTalk?

Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by y2karl at 2:53 PM on April 11, 2003

Journalists Killed Since 1993, from the Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists Killed in 2003, from Reporters Sans Frontières

Both distinguish between cross-fire deaths and deliberate murders. The number of journalists murdered in the Balkans was 20, 8 in Bosnia, out of 277 press murders worldwide in the same ten-year period. Although this is high, it pales in comparison to the most dangerous country for journalists, which is Algeria: the civil war there with largely Islamist rebels has claimed 60 reporters in what are believed to be deliberate reprisals or disappearances.

RSF press release asking an international commission to investigate the deaths on April 6 for possible war crimes.

This war appears more dangerous than any other. In the 21 years between 1954, when the French were defeated in Indo-China, and 1975, when the combat stopped in Vietnam, 63 journalists were killed. During the fighting in the Balkans from the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 to the pacification of Kosovo in 1999, 61 were killed. Since the U.S. began bombarding Iraq three weeks ago, 12 journalists have been killed or died covering the fighting.

Partly this is a function of more deadly weapons, but it's also a function of the trend toward greater precision in weapons, which encourages journalists to believe that their particular building can escape crossfire; and it's a function of greater immediacy in media technology, which brings television cameras and their crews into the heart of a war zone. I don't know that anyone would have considered broadcasting from the heart of Hué, or Berlin, for example.

In a very real sense, there was a clash of stupidities. The journalists were stupid to think they were invulnerable. If there really had been fire coming from the Palestine (and I don't believe that there was: I saw some of that live on webcam), it would have been one fustercluck to get everyone out of the building and safely away. But they did have an obligation to witness history, and I find it incredible that I can click over to RealPlayer and watch an urban war zone live. (By the way, as you might expect, it's 99% waiting for something to happen.) So I admire, and thank, their courage.

But the US troops were dumb, too. I don't doubt that they operated under their rules of engagement, which are vetted by military lawyers; I'd like to know what those rules were, though. If anything, training is even more restrictive, as units have to observe the limitations of an exercise (for instance, armor may not maneuver across an imaginary barrier simulating a natural or political one). SROE (Standing Rules of Engagement) cite an omnipresent right and duty of unit self-defense, which was cited by CENTCOM the next day. But SROE also invoke proportionality and force as a last resort. The commanders of the units in Baghdad that day should have had information that there were targets that were off-limits unless absolutely necessary, and their operation ROE should have reflected that.

What I saw was something more akin to cover fire with deadly consequences, and with drastic political consequences: we need Reuters and al-Jazeera, both of which have taken notably less sympathetic positions to the Coalition, to be on oour side, and this practically guarantees that they won't be for years to come. No matter how defensible under the UCMJ, those actions looked disproportionate and trigger-happy. I don't know what the al-Jazeera guys thought with their building so close to obvious targets, but the points we could have won with historic restraint and precision -- bombing everything but that one building, for example -- would have been invaluable. (Consider the public relations value had the Iraqi forces resorted to hiding in the al Jazeera building on camera.) The shot at the Palestine Hotel was less explicable still, with no apparent fire from that direction and certainly no heavy weapons that could threaten a tank at that distance (a TOW could, but one is generally fired over level terrain, not from a height). I find it inexplicable, especially given the largely professional relationship that soldiers have presented with embedded reporters.
posted by dhartung at 3:16 PM on April 11, 2003

The Gruniad has reported that there is reasonable cause for doubt about whether American fire actually hit the hotel.

Just sayin', is all.
posted by jammer at 4:38 PM on April 11, 2003

dhartung - thanks for the cool info.
posted by woil at 5:14 PM on April 11, 2003

Things evolve. Technology evolves. Thus when we had earlier wars we often hit people with killer weapons we should not have hit. And as weapons became more accurate they also became more deadly and thus death totlas became higher and higher. So too: reporters were few and far between in earlier wars....later on, as in Gulf 1, they were alongside the troops. Two days ago I saw a fire fight, a very deadly one, filmed as it was happening by an embedded reporter. Never before had we that sort of coverage and hence never before had we had reporters in large numbers in hot spots, making them very vulnerable.

To suggest as that silly anti-war gang does that we killed on purpose is nonsensical. Why take the most reocgnized people, with connections to media that none of us will ever have, and whack them on purpose?
posted by Postroad at 5:24 PM on April 11, 2003

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