US Troops Killing and Torturing Journos in Iraq
November 19, 2004 11:34 AM   Subscribe

US Military 'still failing to protect journalists in Iraq' (Guardian link, reg. req use
This isn't the first time allegations of mistreatment of journalists have been levelled at the US troops. Nor is it the second and the military has even admitted to killing an Arab journalist and some are questioning if the US military wants to kill journalists? The list of dead journalists and another list from, continues to grow.

And, because I'd not seen if before and don't recall seeing it here before, the Iraq Body Count database (the civilian death toll) and here it is, all on one big page.
posted by fenriq (20 comments total)
If I can link whore for a good cause, I maintain a page taking information from Iraq Body Count and Iraq Coalition Casualty Count and putting it in a form even numerical illiterates can comprehend: Iraq Body Count Visual Aid.
posted by Reverend Mykeru at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2004

Whore away, Reverend (Man, I have always wanted to say that!). Very good stuff and damned if your casualty page doesn't bring it home alot better than just seeing a number on the page.

posted by fenriq at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2004

Wow, that's a lot of skulls.

Someone near where I live has been collecting shoes to keep up with their project - putting a pair of shoes on their lawn for every American soldier who has died over there. That's a lot of shoes.
posted by majcher at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2004

Last I checked, the US military is not in Iraq to protect journalists.

They should know the risks, and accept them. That aside, the death rate of jounalists probably has more to do with them trying to outscoop each other and putting themselves into increasingly dangerous situations.
posted by a3matrix at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2004

Last I checked, the US military is not in Iraq to protect journalists.

On one level, they should be. They should be defending our right to know what's happening in our name. Instead of seeing the press as (at best) an obstruction or (at worst) an enemy or (at most cynical) a tool for propaganda here at home, they should be protecting them as much as possible.
posted by jpoulos at 12:36 PM on November 19, 2004

I could comment for days on this but it would be a rather incoherent rant on the oxymoron of "Free Speech" in the modern military apparatus.
posted by daq at 12:38 PM on November 19, 2004

[On preview: what a3matrix said].

Also, for what it's worth (probably not much), I don't see how anyone would be able to quickly distinguish between sunlight glinting off a camera lens and sunlight glinting off of a rifle scope, especially at the kinds of distances that tanks and aircraft fight from. The same goes for a benign object on a tripod or someone's shoulder (tv camera) and a non-benign object (RPG).
posted by psp200 at 12:42 PM on November 19, 2004

a3matrix, they may not be there to protect journalists but I'm absolutely certain they aren't there to illegally detain, torture and murder journalists. And that's what's happening.

psp200, you are right, at a given distance a camera lens would look like a rifle scope but the murders I've read about were up close, within a hundred feet and its pretty easy to tell the difference at that range.
posted by fenriq at 12:50 PM on November 19, 2004

Does anyone know how this compares to past treatment of journalists in war zones?

Not that I'm trying to define it down, I'm just generally curious.
posted by shawnj at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2004

First time commenting but I must say, Rev. Mykeru, that is an amazing graphic on your site. It certainly puts abstract numbers into perspective. Also, I must say you did a damn fine job holding your own against those who not-so-politely disagreed with your assessment
posted by lyam at 1:01 PM on November 19, 2004

Mykeru's page reminded me of another excellent approach at describing very large quantities, like 87 Billion U$D
posted by elpapacito at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2004

elpapacito, that is a great page! It goes a much further way to showing just how insane an amount of money $87 billion is and the furthers are crazier!

odinsdream, also a nice take on the massive death toll. Scary too because that is one hell of a lot of bb's. It would be interesting to use a different colored BB for Coalition forces and Iraqi's. Like copper and the silver. Still, nicely done!
posted by fenriq at 2:08 PM on November 19, 2004

I think the "admitted to killing" line in the post is pretty weak. I doubt you'd be pleased if the situation were described to you (one car tries to ram through checkpoint, soldiers open fire, journalists) and the military said "our bullets had nothing to do with it!" In fact, that particular point really doesn't fit in with your post at all, since the reporters were some 100-150m down the road. The soldiers had no way of knowing that the journalists were, in fact, journalists.

It also seems eminently plausible to me that the soldiers simply didn't believe the reporters when they said that's what they were. And again, when they opened fire, they had no idea who was in the vehicle.

In those two articles, at the least, I don't see any sort of especialy prejudice against reporters. I mean, nearly 1,300 American military personnel have bought it. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, both combatants and bystanders, have met their end. Reporters are hanging out in combat zones, making themselves good targets for the kidnappers, so on and so forth, and you expect them to somehow have a higher rate of survival than your average Iraqi? How is this evidence of a special emnity for reporters? Isn't it more likely that pretty much everyone outside the direct control of the military is getting mostly the same treatment?
posted by kavasa at 3:27 PM on November 19, 2004

God, I'm tired, I should clarify that horribly written comment.

In the first paragraph, in parentheses, it should be "journalists die".

In the second paragraph, I'm talking about the reporters in Fallujah.

A number of the other incidents described - one reporter was shot because a soldier mistook his camera for a rocket launcher, of which there are plenty in Iraq - also sound lik honest mistakes. The reality is that people in combat zones die, and even get "captured" and mistreated.
posted by kavasa at 3:37 PM on November 19, 2004

If this war has any "heroes,” in my mind, it’s the journalists-- the real ones who know they’re not going to have their content filtered back at FOXnews or CNN. The writers, videographers, and photojournalists from all over the world who come to Iraq and risk life and limb to provide you with the truth (no matter whom it favors) when some people would rather have you not see the reality of life on the ground there are courageous people I know. They choose to go into a war zone for our benefit. I love them and I hope they make it out alive.

I remember seeing a picture on the cover of the NYT the other day; soldiers were crouched in a position that indicated they were bracing for some sort of impact. I bet the photographer didn’t get to hide his head between his legs when he made that picture. I doubt I’d have the cajones to make that shot. I’d probably be over in the corner in a fetal position crying because I hate loud noises.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 4:32 PM on November 19, 2004

Kavasa, I see your point on the "admitted to killing an Arab journalist" link. I included it because I thought it helped paint the full picture. Yes, some journos die because of accidentally being in the line of fire, so do some soldiers.

My main problem with this news is that it seems to say to me that its okay to detain, torture and murder journalists as if they were terrorists. And that is a very bad situation to be facing.

TheGoldenOne, actually, some of my best photos have come when I've not been looking at what I was taking a picture of. Its definitely possible to snap good pics without knowing it. I don't think happens quite so much with the pro's but I wouldn't doubt that some of the pics were shot by "prayer".
posted by fenriq at 4:57 PM on November 19, 2004


the thought crossed my mind that it might have been a "wingandaprayer" shot where he was holding it up over his ducked head, but I think it's more likely that he was looking the whole time. I attribute that to my perception that war photographers are total badasses.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 5:07 PM on November 19, 2004

$87 billion and loads of BBs. I see I have some new linkage to add to the page. I like the idea of offering to those who support "liberation" the option of having the BB casualties poured over their head.

Of course, my favorite visualization for sheer WTF value is the L-Curve

That and Powers of Ten, but the L-Curve is snarkier.
posted by Reverend Mykeru at 7:06 PM on November 19, 2004

Anyone, in addition to A3matrix, who quixotically wishes to believe in the U.S. army's lack of culpability in killing journalists and in their good faith ought to watch a documentary on Al-Jazeera called Control Room which recounts the suspicious manner in which the Al-Jazeera anchor in Baghdad was killed by U.S. forces. Moreover, A3matrix relies on complete speculation, asserting that non-imbedded journalists are likely trying to outscoop each other and putting themselves in dangerous situations. Some evidence on that count would be welcome. And finally, the U.S. and British forces are an occupying force and do have certain legal obligations to protect civilians in Iraq under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Last I checked, journalists are considered civilians. For info on the obligations of an occupying force, see
posted by Azaadistani at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2004

"My main problem with this news is that it seems to say to me that its okay to detain, torture and murder journalists as if they were terrorists. And that is a very bad situation to be facing."

Again: I am perfectly willing to believe that those soldiers did not believe the Reuters employees. They were Iraqis, in Iraq, driving a vehicle around a combat zone. Sure they're going to have a lot of cameras and identification information on them, but a number of reporters have already been kidnapped (and beheaded), and the insurgency in Iraq presumably have some connections to the global underworld. Pretty much every soldier in Iraq has had someone they knew killed in one way or another by insurgent actions. I'm not going to try to excuse it in general, because it's not excuseable, but I don't think it necessarily has a thing to do with the reporters being reporters.

Azaadistani - very few people are arguing that Iraq is a safe place to be right now, for anyone. Coalition forces may have legal (and moral) obligations to protect civillians, but they either can not or will not meet all of those obligations right now. I haven't seen any evidence that your average reporter has it worse off than your average Iraqi.
posted by kavasa at 5:37 PM on November 20, 2004

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