Thursday, March 10, 2005

Calling Eason Jordan!

After I posted the previous entry, I had a Homer Simpson moment. Doh! I had completely left out the fact that Eason Jordan had been fired from CNN after stating that the US did indeed seem to be targeting journalists.

I barely scratched the surface in my earlier post. Jason Kernahan, in this excellent article, provides many more examples and damning articles that describe in detail the media death toll attributable to Americans. It's really appalling, when you look at all these instances together.

Here are some nuggets found in the leads presented by Kernahan:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote the Pentagon in April, 2003, questioning the attack that day on Al Jazeera as well as the earlier attack on the Palestine Hotel:
This morning, Baghdad time, U.S. air strikes severely damaged the Baghdad office of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite network, killing journalist Taraq Ayyoub. Al-Jazeera cameraman Zouhair al-Iraqi was injured in the blast, according to the station. Moments later, another explosion damaged the nearby office of Abu Dhabi TV. Some 30 journalists are trapped in the station’s offices, said Abu Dhabi TV officials.

While we recognize that both stations, which are located near the Presidential Palace and the Information Ministry, were operating in an area where combat was occurring, the missile strike on the Al-Jazeera facility raises questions about whether the building was deliberately targeted.

The strike against these facilities is particularly troubling because both Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV have been openly operating from these locations in Baghdad for weeks, providing images of the war to the rest of the world.

In addition, prior to the commencement of hostilities in Iraq, both stations told CPJ that they provided the specific coordinates of their Baghdad offices to the Pentagon. CPJ has seen a copy of Al-Jazeera’s February letter to Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke outlining these coordinates.

The attack against Al-Jazeera is of particular concern since the stations’ offices were also hit in Kabul, Afghanistan in November 2001. The Pentagon asserted, without providing additional detail, that the office was a “known Al-Qaeda facility,” and that the U.S. military did not know the space was being used by Al-Jazeera.

In a separate incident today, a U.S. tank opened fired on the Palestine Hotel—the main base for dozens of international journalists covering the conflict from Baghdad—killing two journalists and wounding at least three others. Reuters reported that its cameraman Taras Protsyuk died in the blast, while reporter Samia Nakhoul and photographer Faleh Kheiber suffered facial and head wounds. Cameraman José Couso of Spain’s Telecinco television was also killed in the attack. U.S. officials have stated that they were responding to sniper fire from the roof of the hotel. Eyewitnesses said they heard no gunfire coming from the hotel.
Unmentioned by CPJ was the report by BBC reporter Kate Adie made just a month before CPJ's letter, in which Kate said the following:
what actually appalls me is the difference between twelve years ago and now. I've seen a complete erosion of any kind of acknowledgment that reporters should be able to report as they witness.

The Americans... and I've been talking to the Pentagon ...take the attitude which is entirely hostile to the free spread of information." I was told by a senior officer in the Pentagon, that if uplinks --that is the television signals out of... Bhagdad, for example-- were detected by any planes ...electronic media... mediums, of the military above Bhagdad... they'd be fired down on. Even if they were journalists ...
MSNBC reported, "One of the chief U.S. weapons in the battle to win Iraqi hearts and minds is Al-Iraqiya — a Pentagon-funded TV station with an optimistic, pro-American slant." Al-Iraqiya is run by the Iraqi Media Network. "After Baghdad fell, the Pentagon sent equipment and media experts from Science Applications International Corp., a U.S. defense contractor whose staff is packed with ex-U.S. military and intelligence officials. SAIC hired 350 Iraqis for the network, which went live May 13." The November MSNBC report explained:
The Pentagon is seeking bids for a $100 million upgrade to the IMN network, adding an all-news channel that would eventually be broadcast via satellite - in direct challenge to the Arab satellite channels.

The winner of that contract will play a large role in shaping Iraq’s media. The British Broadcasting Corp. is one of those in the running.

IMN and Al-Iraqiya were conceived during the State Department’s war preparations and are funded by the Defense Department.
So clearly, the Iraqi media was directly targeted as a strategic asset that America needed to control. Dissenting voices were not to be allowed. Now I have no fantasies of seeing a memo signed by Rumsfeld authorizing the killing of journalists. But I believe the sentiment is strongly implied by these activities.

Journalists have even been tortured. According to this report,
Those who forego the safety of being embedded to gain independence and breadth of reporting are known as "unilaterals" who find themselves vulnerable and are denied information from the U.S. military - sometimes even harassed. There have been many confirmed instances of journalists being detained, their equipment confiscated and even assaulted by U.S. soldiers. According to The Guardian, two Reuters journalists were detained by U.S. forces for 72 hours, bags were put over their heads and they were intimidated and brutalized. At one point, a soldier allegedly shoved a shoe into the mouth of one of the journalists.
I've long been aware of how subdued the press has been because of my investigations into the assassinations of the country's most effective leaders on the left in the sixties - John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. I've seen from those cases how controlled the American media is. I have read and written about the CIA's deep embedded relationship with the media. Why would it stop at home? If the goal is to rule the world, and surely no one can pretend that is not our goal (although I hope readers here agree that should NOT be our goal), then controlling the worldwide media must be a necessary step.

We live, more in more, in a matrix of information that is neither accurate nor, to a large degree, important. We get sports shows and sitcoms, but we don't get news about important new scientific discoveries that could save hundreds of thousands of lives. We see car chases and local news stories, but when have we seen the horror of the war being waged in Iraq on the nightly news?

But the measure of how censored we are is this: Boston Legal, a FICTIONAL TV show, was forced to remove references to Fox News in their next (March 13) episode. Here is some of what you are missing:
Stuart: "It’s called a Fox Blocker. Sold off the internet. You attach it to the coaxial cable on your television and it basically blocks out all Fox News transmissions… My high school principal attached these liberal, left-wing devices to all the televisions in the building. Meanwhile, the kids are free to watch CBS, CNN, NBC, even ABC, But not Fox. It’s censorship."
The network insisted that be changed to,
Stuart: "It’s called a news blocker. Sold off the internet. You attach it to the coaxial cable on your television and it basically blocks out news transmission…. My high school principal attached these devices to all the televisions in the building. The problem is… turns out it only blocks out one network, the most fair and balanced one. All the others, kids can watch."
What will they censor next?

To me, the most important issues facing our democracy right now are 1) protecting our vote and 2) reclaiming the media. We can't effect any other changes until we take care of those items. Without those, we are voices in a moral wilderness, crying in the dark with no option to effect change.

Re our vote, you can join up with any of the numerous voting rights groups that have sprung to life in the past year. Join a few as they aren't all yet talking to each other so you'll want to get info from as many places as possible on that.

As for the media, start by asking for a return of the Fairness Doctrine. Had this not been gutted by President Reagan in 1987, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly would have to share airtime with Big Eddy and Al Franken. As the saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword. That's why the US is so concerned about the media in Iraq. That's why we all need to be a lot more concerned about it at home.

In reading about coup attempts in other countries, I've been struck by the fact that the first action is nearly always the taking over of the country's airwaves. So in the decade past, when people like Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, and other right-wing criminals started taking over the talk radio airwaves, I felt I was witnessing a slow-motion coup here at home. I have never been so disappointed to be right.


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