Rene — Truth, Death and Media In Iraq

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Truth, Death and Media In Iraq
Commentary | Syndicated Content | The Iraq Front
Part Two in an Unfortunately Continuing Series
by Michael I. Niman
Earlier this year the media reported on “The Salvador Option,”
referring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s stated intent to
train and employ Salvadoran-style death squads to hunt down and kill
or “disappear” suspected Iraqi resistance fighters and their alleged
supporters. Such wholesale execution of political opponents resulted
in approximately 70,000 deaths in El Salvador during Ronald Reagan’s
reign in the White House.
Knight Ridder correspondent Yasser Salihee also covered this
story. Unlike stateside journalists doing research online, Salihee
was on the ground in Iraq, compiling primary data–including damning
evidence about extra-judicial killings. Knight Ridder, on June 27,
published Salihee’s preliminary findings. Working less than a week,
Salihee and another Knight Ridder journalist turned up over 30 cases of
suspected extra-judicial executions by U.S.-backed Iraqi death squads.
In the article, Salihee and his co-author document how victims show
up at the morgue blindfolded, with their hands tied or cuffed behind
their backs. Most showed signs of Abu Ghraib-style torture. Many were
last seen in police custody. They were usually killed with a singe
shot to the head.
On June 24, while Salihee’s article was in-press, a U.S. military
sniper killed him, also with a single shot to the head. According
to Knight Ridder, it was his day off. He was on his way to his
neighborhood gas station to fuel up before a family trip to a swimming
pool when he encountered a makeshift U.S. checkpoint unexpectedly set
up blocks from his home. Witnesses say he was shot without warning and
for no apparent reason. For the record, Knight Ridder says: “There’s no
reason to think that the shooting had anything to do with his reporting
work.” Such disclaimers seem to be a de facto mandate these days. When
an investigative reporter is shot dead by a member of an organization
he or she is investigating, there’s clear reason for suspicion.
Also earlier this year, CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan made
his now famous retracted comment about U.S. forces in Iraq targeting
journalists. Eason’s comment cost him his job–and no genuflecting to
the god of disclaimers and apologies could save it. He resigned. The
problem was that he was right. This was the conclusion of a Reporters
Without Borders investigation into the deaths of two journalists
killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad. U.S. military documentation of the
killings of journalists by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Serbia
indicate that many were in fact deliberately targeted.
Journalists are the outside world’s pipeline for documentation of
atrocities in war zones. When military forces remove journalists from
war zones–usually through terror and intimidation, if not outright
murder–they’ve successfully removed the most credible witnesses
working to document their crimes. Salihee certainly appears to be one
of these witnesses–uncovering the smoking gun behind a series of what
appear to be Rumsfeld-ordered war crimes. It’s the brave reporting
by the few remaining unembedded journalists on the ground in Iraq
that allow armchair columnists like myself to write about Iraq,
citing sources such as Salihee, Robert Fisk and Dahr Jamal.
Salihee’s killing at the hands of a U.S. military sniper is not an
isolated incident. Since his death, two more Iraqi journalists were
also shot dead by U.S. forces. Maha Ibrahim, a TV news editor who
publicly opposed the U.S. occupation, was shot to death by U.S. troops
who opened fire on her car as she drove to work on June 26. On June
28 , al-Sharqiya TV program director Ahmad Wail Bakri was also shot
to death by U.S. troops as he drove near an American military convoy
in Baghdad. The International Federation of Journalists has called
for investigations into all three murders. The Committee to Protect
Journalists has also expresses alarm over the killings and is launching
its own investigation.
If these journalists in fact were not targeted by U.S. forces, and were
instead just killed as unintended victims of jittery soldiers shooting
up Baghdad, these killings are evidence of a depraved indifference
to human life–resulting from the stress of fighting a prolonged war
against a civilian population, with no clear goals or exit strategy.
If any of these journalists were killed because of their work–and
Yasser Salihee’s damning investigative work certainly raises that
question–then what we are witnessing is not only a war against Iraq,
but against the world’s right to know what is going on in Iraq as
well. With Salihee dead, it will now be more difficult to document
death squad activity in Iraq. When you kill the messenger you kill
the truth.
Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous columns are archived at
Reporters Without Borders investigation of the US Army’s
firing at the Palestine Hotel, April 2003, at TruthOut:
See also:
“TRUTH DEATH AND MEDIA IN IRAQ: We Kill Journalists, Don’t We?” by
Michael I. Niman, WW4 REPORT #107 http://www.ww4report.com/node/283
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Aug. 1, 2005 Reprinting permissible
with attribution