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Journalists Die and Networks Lie
Apr 10, 2003

Iraq is being liberated while truth is incarcerated. Former BBC reporter Kate Adie warned that non-embedded journalists in Iraq could be Pentagon targets before the war began. She was right. On Tuesday, an American tank shell was fired at Baghdads Palestine Hotel  temporary home of international reporters and film crews  causing casualties among those who bravely stayed in a war zone so that we could know. A Spanish cameraman has already succumbed to the coalition version of freedom during that attack as has a Reuters employee. Skys David Chater said he saw the tank barrel turn toward the hotel and heard it spew out its deadly load. He said that the tank operators knew that there were journalists on the roof of the hotel.

We almost had eye-to-eye contact, he said. He wonders how independent reporters (as opposed to embeds) can continue to do their job when such danger emanates from their own side. Not from the Iraqi side but from their boys. Thats the whole idea. Those people who are giving the orders to fire upon journalists want them to flee in terror.

Joe Public must not see the future lot of Baghdads long-suffering civilians. We have seen too much already. The Baghdad office of Al- Jazeera, housed in a residential district, was hit too  very reminiscent of Kabul. This time a journalist and a cameraman lost their lives. Al-Jazeeras mistake was to have given the Pentagon its coordinates.

A further accident on the same day resulted in a Reuters vehicle being attacked, and another stray bomb or missile coincidentally destroyed the office of Abu Dhabi Television causing severe injuries. Early on in this war, ITVs Terry Lloyd was allegedly the victim of a US bullet while two of his colleagues went missing after the same incident.

The Pentagon tells us that it is still investigating, yet even while their own employees fall, Western television networks refuse to condemn this assault on the truth, making excuse after excuse about the fog of war. In a blue on blue incident, a 25-year-old BBC translator was killed in northern Iraq and a cameraman wounded in the head when a convoy of Kurdish fighters and American special forces was bombed. But veteran BBC reporter John Simpson, who was slightly injured during the attack, calmly commented that such things happen during conflicts and thanked the Americans traveling with them for their first aid capabilities. How polite!

Your chappie has just killed my friend but, hey, such things happen. Thanks for the bandages, by the way.

From the point of view of the coalition of two and a bit who repeats over and over again that every effort is being made to protect civilians while casually throwing out the line civilian casualties are regretted, what shouldnt we know? We should not have learned about soldiers who shoot first and ask questions later, as seven Iraqi women and children found to their cost as well as the drivers and passengers of numerous vehicles, erroneously mistaken for suicide bombers. We should not be told that the coalition boys and girls are dropping cluster bombs and firing depleted uranium tank shells, without any thought to how much misery these weapons of mass destruction will certainly cause in the future. We should not have seen the British marines, who when arresting a middle-aged suspect, forced him to the ground and repeatedly yanked off his kuffiyeh (Arab headdress)  an appalling insult to that mans dignity and his traditions. We should not have been witness to the way that prisoners were handcuffed and hooded by this liberating army.

There is a photograph doing the rounds of a hooded man cuddling his terrified infant behind coils of barbed wire. One can only wonder what that boy will think of his liberators when he grows up. In Najaf, American soldiers headed toward the golden-domed Imam Ali Mosque, one of the most sacred Shiite sites, and were kept back by sheer people power. Hundreds of unarmed men steadfastly marched toward those armored servants of the US military machine, shaking their fists in a rare display of courage. The confused soldiers were ordered to step back and smile. We were not told by our media of the bravery of those men defending an icon of their religion, only of the diplomacy of the American troops in retreating. In Nassiriyah, an enraged middle-aged resident shouted his objection to women being subjected to body searches at checkpoints, and called Bush, Hussein and others liars.

He then sobbed tears of frustration and humiliation. This emotive scene, which has caused outrage in the Muslim world, was courtesy of Al-Jazeera, Pentagon bad boy No. 1 CNN, Fox News, NBC, the BBC and Sky News are trying to sell us an antiseptic war, one in which there are no torn and bleeding victims.

In their war, the enemy is destroyed in its thousands while the US/UK forces suffer only those losses inescapably witnessed by the cameras of independent journalists. A BBC spokesman, when asked why the British network was portraying such a sterile conflict, said that people with children wouldnt like gory images coming into their living rooms.

In other words, its fine for those sensitive souls to support their nations finest, but not to see the obscene results of their handiwork. The Anglo-American media hasnt shrunk from distorting the truth and putting out disinformation in its scrambling to prove which one of its outlets can serve as the most effective propaganda arm. Meanwhile, Britains Sun newspaper  a Murdoch-owned tabloid  puts the photograph of a dissenting British Member of Parliament on its front cover with the word Traitor emblazoned on the page. It even went so far as to publish his e-mail address and telephone number, inciting its ignorant readers to tell the MP their thoughts.

The result was a barrage of insults and death threats forcing the papers victim to surround himself with bodyguards.

Al- Jazeera has been accused of following an agenda too and thus has been evicted from the New York Stock Exchange, the victim of professional hackers. It has consequently had to look for a new server for its website. While it is true that Al-Jazeera is certainly playing to the bias of its Arab audience, it does show graphic videos, worth more than a million words. It didnt concoct those images of ashen-faced, lifeless babies, victims of carpet bombs in Al-Hilla or those heartrending scenes of the victims of mans inhumanity to man filling the beds and covering the floors of Iraqi hospitals.

Iraqi television has an agenda too. Its called showing your side of the story against all odds. It made the mistake of screening a downed Apache helicopter and was bombed. It later ran images of captured American service personnel and dead British pilots and the Ministry of Information was promptly targeted. Broadcasting out of the Palestine Hotel  temporary home of foreign journalists  Iraqi television still wont do as its told. After it showed footage of a burning American vehicle, the US/UK forces promptly unleashed a warning bomb just 100 yards from the hotel. According to their spokesman, pressure is being put on those companies which sell satellite time to Iraqi TV to desist.

The Pentagon, however, feels free to manipulate the truth to its hearts content, such as the rescue of one of its female soldiers, the now famous Jessica. They made it look like a re-run of Entebbe. The helicopter landed, the troops rushed out and after creating a diversion, rushed into Jessicas hospital room before carrying her off to safety.

Heroes all! During their press briefings they made no mention of the Iraqi doctor who had told them where she was. They did not say that the hospital had not been guarded and that Jessica had been well treated and they did not dampen the rumors that she had been shot several times. It took her father to do that.

It would probably have suited the US administration better had she been tortured and raped. And how the British press lapped up those photographs of US servicemen lounging around one of Saddams many palaces, taken by embedded reporters who ensured we knew that the Iraqi leader had gold taps on his bidet while his people starved. Couldnt we say the same about Buckingham Palace while children sleep in the doorways of nearby Regent Street or the White House while bag ladies doss out in cardboard boxes?

In Basra, the people have already been liberated and are celebrating their freedom by looting and stealing while British commanders look on saying that there is nothing they can do about such lawlessness. (I do hope Athens will be freed soon. Theres a gold bracelet in the window of a jewelry store at the end of my street, which would look great on my wrist). Iraqs new interim rulers  led by Viceroy-Designate pro-Likud former US Gen. Jay Garner  are patiently awaiting their glorious destiny. Iraqi exiles beg for jobs in the new Iraq power base. Like Hamid Karzai before him, the normally well turned-out Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, has donned a uniform and headed off to northern Iraq to make his victorious entry into Baghdad like Hannibal without the elephant.

American oil companies wait for this war to receive a stamp of legality from the United Nations before they can draw up lucrative contracts. US companies look forward to being recipients of bounty from Iraqs reconstruction and the Israelis hope for a long-awaited oil pipeline from northern Iraq to Haifa. Evangelical Messianic Christians circle like soul-scalping vultures in Jordan until they can make their vainglorious entry into Baghdad bearing bread and Bibles. In the meantime, the Iraqis cry rivers of tears, comfort their children and bury their dead while the gagged and compliant media bury theirs.