Media Crimes Sanitize War Crimes in Iraq
By Danny Schechter
06/01/06 "MediaChannel" -
- -- New York, June 1, 2006 — As events
in Iraq continue to slip from bad to worse, the good news
brigade is scrambling for new stories— - ‘anything, give me
anything’ - to shore up what’s left of public support for a
bloody war without end.
As some feared and many predicted, the war hovers over our
politics and the president who “brought it on.” He is, as the
journalist Sid Blumenthal puts it, stuck in a “paradigm” of his
own making. The operative word is the title and refrain of an
early Springsteen song: “TRAPPED.”
Another tipping point seems to have tipped.
Fear and exhaustion are evident in our TV newsrooms, along with
a continuing failure to recognize what is going on. The lack of
insight is stunning; the quality of most of the news, pathetic.
Even CBS’s brave Kimberly Dozier—may she fully recover—was not
only embedded in practice with the U.S. military when she was
wounded and her crew killed, but she seemed embedded mentally,
seeking out a ‘feel good’ story to cheer the home front that the
Bush Administration wants so badly to stay the course of his
In an e-mail sent to CBS, and only discovered after she went
from being an embed to being in a bed—at a military hospital in
Germany no less—she described the story she was going to be
doing before another IED did its awful damage.
‘The LA Times’ reported:
“When producers of the "CBS Evening News" arrived in the
newsroom Monday morning, there was an e-mail waiting from
correspondent Kimberly Dozier.
“In a note written Sunday night, she detailed a Memorial Day
story she planned to do about a U.S. soldier wounded in Iraq who
insisted on going back to the battlefield, a piece about
"fighting on in memory of those who have fallen."
What a tragic loss---TV journalists dying not in search of
deeper truths but to send back another picture-rich but
patriotically correct story along the same ‘good news’ lines as
one filed for ‘60 Minutes’ by CBS’s now chief foreign
correspondent Lara Logan. She glamorized the tactics of a brainy
American colonel heroically stopping terrorists in the town of
A ‘Washington Post’ journalist, filing a report from the same
town, debunked CBS’s storyline. He found no terrorists killed in
what was a sectarian and internal political fight.
Early Thursday morning, the CNN website carried a story by one
of its Iraq reporters who realized after the fact that she knew
about the marines at Haditha but did not report on them at the
"It actually took me a while to put all the pieces together --
that I know these guys, the U.S. Marines at the heart of the
alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians in Haditha,” admits reporter
When I went back to quote her more extensively a half-hour
later, the story was off the website and its URL did not work,
but I found it anyway through CNN’s website archive.
It’s a rare piece of media introspection.
“I don't know why it didn't register with me until now. It was
only after scrolling through the tapes that we shot in Haditha
last fall, and I found footage of some of the officers that had
been relieved of their command, that it hit me.
“I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar,
from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless
operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was
pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming
fire, and I've seen them not fire a shot back because they did
not have positive identification on a target.
(Note: the anguish of the U.S. military still tends to get more
airtime than the anguish of Iraqi civilians.)
“I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had
identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a
wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to
help the wounded--remarkably no one was killed…
“And so began the e-mails and phone calls between myself and my
two other CNN crew members, Jennifer Eccleston and Gabe Ramirez:
Do you remember when we were talking with the battalion
commander and his intel guy right outside the school and then
half an hour later they found an IED in that spot? Do you
remember when we were sitting chatting with them at the school?
And all the other "do you remember whens."
“There was also -- can you believe it? -- the allegations of the
“Can you believe it?” Yes, I can believe it. Haditha is coming
to light because conscientious marines spoke out and then
ex-marine Congressman John Murtha spoke out and then ‘TIME’
picked it up.
Our fearless TV journalists did not break the story.
CNN had it, but, according to Damon, didn’t realize it.
Journalists like Dahr Jamail have been calling attention to many
massacres that have gone mostly unreported—even when U.S.
journalists were there, like at Fallujah, which was played up
for its drama and gun battles, but never fully contextualized or
focused on the vast civilian casualties.
When atrocities occur, they are invariably described as
“mistakes,” rarely crimes. What this means is that many media
organizations are acting as accessories. War crimes often lead
to media crimes and vice versa.
England’s Media Lens discusses this same phenomenon in the
“U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld told US news channels
that the allegations are being investigated thoroughly and would
be handled "in the normal order of things.”
‘The Times’ (London) notes that "the damage limitation has
already begun." The paper explains: "Lawyers who have talked to
the Marines emphasize the extreme pressure that they were facing
that day. The insurgents had mounted a wave of attacks, and the
town was one of the most dangerous in Iraq for US troops." (Ali
Hamdani, Ned Parker, Nick Meo and Tom Baldwin, ‘The Marines and
a "massacre" in Iraq,' The Times, May 27, 2006)
“Damage limitation includes shifting blame back on to the
Iraqis: ‘Marine officers have long been worried that Iraq's
deadly insurgency could prompt such a reaction by combat teams.’
(Perry and Barnes, op. cit.)
Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "It's
clear that what happened in Haditha is a war crime. It would be
idle to think this is the first war crime that has been
committed in the last three years. It must be assumed that more
of this is going on." (Raymond Whitaker, 'The massacre and the
Marines,' Independent on Sunday, May 28, 2006)
So there you have the kind of discussion ignored in most of the
U.S. Press. While Press organizations stand by their
colleagues—as we should—they rarely call them and their news
organizations to account for what they do—and do not do.
The Bush Administration fears that the reaction to the gore of
the Haditha massacre will mark a turning point, not just a
tipping point, in support for the war. Let’s hope that they are
News Dissector Danny Schechter is "blogger in chief" of
His new books and film are listed at at
www.newsdissector.org/store.htm Comments to
Click on "comments" below to read or post comments -
Click Here For Comment Policy