The U.S. government doesn’t like what the media is reporting in Iraq, but don’t worry, they have a solution: shoot them, then arrest them.
At the beginning of last month, a cameraman with CBS press credentials was shot and arrested on suspicion of “insurgent activity.” As usual, the military’s story went through a few different versions: at first, they said the cameraman an Iraqi national was shot because his equipment was “mistaken” for a weapon. But a few days later they were claiming that he was “an imperative threat to coalition forces” and was being detained.
How did they determine this? By examining the film in his camera and jumping to all kinds of conclusions:
“The military became suspicious when they examined the contents of the camera and found pictures of what appears to be the aftermath of four separate attacks by insurgents using IEDs, improvised explosive devices. The footage, taken so soon after the attacks, suggests the cameraman had to have foreknowledge that the attacks would take place, officials told [CBS News correspondent Jim] Stewart. The scenes and timing of the taping are very disturbing, said one official.”
Yes, very disturbing not the film, but the mindset of our puffed-up officials, who outshine even the legendary Sherlock Holmes in their ability to deduce everything from practically nothing and can even read the minds of potential “insurgents.” How else could they have deduced “foreknowledge” from frozen images captured on film?
With such near-supernatural powers, it’s a wonder the insurgency has managed to survive a single day, let alone two years, intact and even “undiminished,” as one top U.S. general recently put it. Up against such an enemy, one can only wonder how it is that the ragtag insurgents with no foreign base of support, no cover (as in the jungles of Vietnam), and no real hope of defeating the American military in a pitched battle are nevertheless managing to run rings around the mightiest military machine on God’s green earth. Two years, 300 billion bucks, and the apparent ability to read minds none of these advantages has granted us victory. The insurgents have fought us to a standstill, and this, for the hubris–afflicted, is a humiliation they would rather took place in the dark.
That’s why they’re harassing journalists, with the Iraqis following the American example. Covering the police beat in America is usually kind of dull, but not in Iraq: “Tell me to cover anything except the police,” says Muth’hir al Zuhairy, a reporter for Sabah newspaper whose life was threatened at a police academy. A Knight-Ridder report details the problem:
“A photographer for a Baghdad newspaper says Iraqi police beat and detained him for snapping pictures of long lines at gas stations. A reporter for another local paper received an invitation from Iraqi police to cover their graduation ceremony and ended up receiving death threats from the recruits. A local TV reporter says she’s lost count of how many times Iraqi authorities have confiscated her cameras and smashed her tapes.”
Aha! So that‘s why 1,586 Americans have been killed and as many as 38,000 wounded so that U.S.-trained cops could beat the crap out of Iraqi journalists, smash their cameras, and threaten them with death. The joys of “liberation” are sweet.
Wael Issam, a Palestinian cameraman on assignment in Iraq for al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based satellite channel, was detained for two weeks by Iraqi authorities as they examined his tapes and other material gathered during the course of his work. The act of recording the puppet regime’s ongoing defeat is itself a crime. If there are no witnesses to our folly, after all, then it can hardly be said to be happening. Crazy? Maybe so, but that’s the epistemology of our Washington warlords, as one of them described as a “senior adviser to President Bush” explained to former Wall Street Journal reporter and author Ron Suskind:
“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality judiciously, as you will we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”
Yes, we’ll be studying the exploits of our rulers, but only years after they’ve built their empire on a pile of bones at least if they have anything to say about it. The news media is clearly seen as the enemy, and the assault has started not only in the aggressive stance taken by the U.S. military against “insurgents” armed with cameras, but also by the U.S. government’s amen corner in the media (or do I repeat myself?).
Dorrance Smith, former ABC News reporter who went to work for Viceroy Paul Bremer as media adviser to the Iraqi Occupation Authority, has penned an angry op-ed for the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Enemy on our Airwaves,” in which he takes al-Jazeera and “the networks” to task for showing videos made by hostage-takers, and asks:
“Isn’t it time to scrutinize the relationship among al-Jazeera, American networks, and the terrorists? What role should the U.S. government be playing?”
We know what role the U.S. government is already playing: they are arresting journalists, treating them as if they were “insurgents.” Dorrance whines that we are losing “badly” the “war for hearts and minds” because Iraqis are watching all this. But so what if they’re watching? One might think the wide dissemination of evidence of the insurgents’ savagery would likely dispel support for their cause. It seems passing strange that Bremer’s main media adviser doesn’t get this, but then again the Americans don’t seem to get a lot of what’s going down in Iraq. No wonder we’re losing the battle for hearts and minds.
That a former newsman is now openly calling for censorship not only of al-Jazeera but also of U.S. news-gathering operations is the sort of outrage that passes unnoticed these days, along with so much other dangerous nonsense. Dorrance goes on to denounce “the collaboration between the terrorists and al-Jazeera,” which is supposedly “stronger than ever.” What isn’t so strong, however, is the evidence of that collaboration:
“While the precise terms of that relationship are virtually unknown, we do know this: Al-Jazeera and the terrorists have a working arrangement that extends beyond a modus vivendi. When the terrorists want to broadcast something that helps their cause, they have immediate and reliable access to al-Jazeera.” [Emphasis added.]
Because al-Jazeera doesn’t practice the sort of self-censorship imposed by all too many in the Western broadcast media, the “terrorists” have “access” what more evidence do we need? On this basis, the TV news helicopters that followed O.J.’s white van down that highway were complicit in the crime, and were in fact engaging in “collaboration.” If you cover a story, you create the reality of it just as much as any of the actual participants: it’s a new theory of criminal justice and journalism rolled into one, based on the loony epistemology of our non-reality-based rulers.
Dorrance asks a number of what he no doubt considers penetrating questions, which are supposed to make us think that he may have a point. Instead, they reveal only that he has thoroughly assimilated the view of journalism as an arm of the government:
“What does al-Jazeera promise the terrorist organizations in order to get consistent access to their video?”
It’s that old mind-reading trick, again: how does Dorrance know that any promises have been made? He doesn’t know, and can’t know: he just assumes his own premise. This method, as we know from the saga of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” is a popular one with government officials. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work in this case.
“Does it pay for material?”
If every news organization that paid for material, in some manner or other, was barred from reporting from Iraq, I doubt that even the Voice of America would make the grade. Furthermore, one wonders if Dorrance has any evidence al-Jazeera makes direct payments to the insurgents: if so, he should reveal it. Or shut up.
“Is it promised safety and protection if it continues to air unedited tapes? (No al-Jazeera employee has been killed or taken hostage by the terrorists. When I ran the Iraqi Television Network, seven employees were killed by terrorists.)”
So if al-Jazeera reporters aren’t being killed, that constitutes prima facie evidence that they’re in cahoots with the insurgents? Detective Dorrance is overreaching here, just a bit, but that’s only by the standards of reality-based law enforcement: in the reality-creating universe of the War Party, the traditional rules of logic and evidence just don’t apply anymore. Dorrance complains that employees of the U.S.-government-run Iraqi Television Network were killed, but the Americans are no strangers to offing government “news” operations run by the enemy. During the Kosovo war, the bombing of Serbian state television was rationalized as taking out an important communications nexus. As Le Monde Diplomatique reported:
“In the early morning of 23 April 1999 Nato aircraft bombed the headquarters and studios of Serbian state television and radio (Radio Televisija Srbije RTS) in central Belgrade. There was no doubt that NATO had hit its intended target. There were estimated to be at least 120 civilians working in the building at the time of the attack (1). At least 16 civilians were killed and a further 16 were wounded. A news broadcast was blacked out as a result. RTS broadcasting resumed about three hours after the bombing.”
“If the media is the nerve system that keeps a warmonger in power and thus perpetuates the war effort, it may fall within the definition of a legitimate military objective.”
I see: it all depends on who qualifies as a “warmonger.” Surely the warmongering Western powers, and the “judges” they paid and empowered, didn’t consider themselves to be in that category. But perhaps the Iraqi insurgents might be forgiven if it occurs to them that an agency of the government that has invaded and occupied their land the Iraqi Television Network does fall into this category, and is therefore a legitimate military target.
Oh, but it doesn’t work that way. What’s good for the U.S. is rarely, if ever, good for the Enemy. They are “terrorists” if they do violence to our government-controlled media, but we are merely being good soldiers when we bomb theirs.
Dorrance and the platoons of laptop bombardiers who inhabit the pro-war media are eager for a U.S. government crackdown on hard news coverage of the continuing disaster in Iraq, and if the Americans can’t get away with it completely then they are willing to farm out the job to the Iraqi “interim” government. Desperate to divert attention away from the rapid deterioration of our glorious “victory,” the War Party has tried a number of ways to go around and otherwise prevent the “reality-based” media from doing its job. As things get worse, the cries for censorship grow louder although none, as yet, dare to use the “c-word.” Calling things by their right names is yet another aspect of “reality-based” reporting that displeases the warlords of Washington.
Now more than ever, the American people need access to the real story of what’s unfolding in Iraq which is why our rulers are so intent on denying it. Now, as never before, Antiwar.com is absolutely essential.
Would you rather be left to the tender mercies of arrogant toadies like Dorrance, who don’t see the difference between real reporting and taking dictation?
The concept of news-gathering embraced by the War Street Journal editorial page is little different from the old Soviet style of “journalism” that hailed the “victories” of “socialist construction” and gave the peoples of the captive nations no information except what their governments wanted them to have. It is an abiding irony of our times that the same people who supposedly want to spread “freedom” and “democracy” throughout the Middle East and the world see American journalism in Iraq as essentially an extension of the U.S. government and its armed forces. We already have our court intellectuals who praise the president and his exploits, and think up elaborate and ever more abstruse rationalizations for mass murder in the name of “liberty.” Now they want to generate a cadre of court “journalists” whose job it is to record the bombastic effusions of our leaders and omit the bloody consequences of their policies.
It is getting harder to see through the “fog of war,” and that’s no accident. As the situation worsens for the occupiers in Iraq, and the entire Middle East “democratization” project begins to implode, our government is running plenty of interference between the American people and the truth. The great value of Antiwar.com is that we don’t let them get away with it: armed with that essentially important weapon, information otherwise known, to those of us in the reality-based community, as the facts you can blast through the phony imagery and other public-relations gimmicks and get to the underlying reality.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the site, and the latest is a major overhaul of our Sources page. It’s a thing to behold: almost 500 English-language sites from around the world and across the political spectrum. And we don’t ignore the pro-war voices, either we even have a special new section on the neoconservative organizations where so much of our current foreign policy is concocted. It’s a great tool for anyone trying to keep up with news and opinion that matters and a handy reminder of the daunting task our researchers face every day.