Journalists Die, the Networks Lie, Iraqis Ask "Why?"

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. Today, an American tank shell was fired at Baghdad’s 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.

Sky’s David Chater said he saw the tank turn towards the hotel and spew out its deadly load. He wonders how independent reporters (as opposed to embeds) can continue to do their jobs when such danger emanates from their own side. Not from the Iraqi side but from ‘our boys’.

That’s the whole idea. Those people who are giving the orders to fire upon journalists want them to flee in terror. We must not see the criminal acts yet to be perpetrated against the civilians of Baghdad. We have seen too much already.

The Baghdad office of Al Jazeera, housed in a residential district, was hit too, reminiscent of Kabul. This time a journalist and a cameraman lost their lives. Al Jazeera’s 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, ITV’s Terry Lloyd was allegedly killed by a U.S. bullet while two of his colleagues went missing following the same incident. The Pentagon tells us that it is still investigating, yet, even while their own employees fall, the 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 conflict, and thanked the Americans travelling with them for their first aid capabilities. How polite! “Your chappie who is probably rattling with ‘go-pills’ (amphetamines) 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 repeat over and over again that ‘every effort is being made to protect civilians’, what shouldn’t 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 appraised that the Coalition’s 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). This was an appalling insult to that man’s dignity and his heritage, done without any respect to the traditions of the people Bush and Blair claim to befriend.

We should not have born witness to the way that prisoners were handcuffed and hooded by this “liberating army”. There is a photograph doing the rounds of one 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 towards 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 towards those armoured servants of the U.S. 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 ‘they are molesting our women’ with reference to body searches being undertaken at checkpoints, and called Bush, Hussein and all Arab leaders “Liars”. He then sobbed tears of frustration and humiliation. This emotive scene, which has caused outrage in the Moslem world, was courtesy of Al Jazeera, Pentagon bad boy number one.

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 coalition suffers 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 wouldn’t like to see such gory images coming into their living rooms. In other words, it’s fine for those sensitive souls to support their nation’s finest, but not to see the obscene results of their handiwork.

The Anglo-American media hasn’t 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.

If the media comes across some bottles of liquid, these are painted as possible chemical weapons. Boxes of white powder are turned into anthrax. A meat hook hangs from a ceiling and that room must have been a torture chamber. The finding of some 200 decomposed bodies in southern Iraq is touted as a sinister find.

Late on Saturday night, a Sky News anchor interviewed one of the inevitable “experts” about the discovery of the makeshift morgue. “How can we know who these people are?” she asked. The pathologist said that samples of DNA would have to be taken and dental records sought.

Did he imagine that these unfortunates were discovered near Harley Street instead of in the middle of a desert? Dental records indeed! We saw a British soldier flicking through a file on which was written “Iran” in Arabic and inside were photographs and names of the victims. Despite this evidence, Sky’s southern Iraq-based reporter hinted darkly that this discovery could only mean one thing.

What it did, in fact, mean was that Iran and Iraq had been in the process of exchanging corpses of soldiers who lost their lives during the Iran-Iraq war–now confirmed by state-run Tehran Radio. Murdoch’s Sky News once again proved that the unrelenting vilification of the Iraqi regime is part of its agenda with the facts not being allowed to get in the way of a good story.

Have you noticed that even when the truth does come to light, the media rarely issues a retraction, leaving its audience forever in the dark, its views tainted by false facts and incriminating innuendo?

Meanwhile, Britain’s Sun newspaper–a Murdoch-owned tabloid rag–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 as far as publishing his email and telephone number inciting its ignorant readership to tell the MP their thoughts. The result was a barrage of insults and death threats forcing the paper’s victim to surround himself with bodyguards.

Al Jazeera has been accused of following an agenda too and this is why it has been evicted from the New York stock exchange, the victim of professional hackers, and has 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 didn’t concoct those images of ashen-faced, lifeless babies, victims of carpet bombs in Al Hilla or those heartrending scenes of the victims of man’s inhumanity to man, filling the beds and covering the floors of Iraqi hospitals.

Iraqi television has an agenda too. It’s 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 won’t do as it’s told. After it showed footage of a burning American vehicle, the coalition promptly unleashed a warning bomb just 100 yards from the hotel. According to a coalition spokesman pressure is being put on those companies, which sell satellite time to Iraqi TV to desist.

As I write, the stubborn Baghdadi people have yet to welcome the liberating armies, with the exception of around 20 waving to U.S. tanks in front of a backdrop of scorched and half-demolished homes and shops on the outskirts of their city. Great photo-op!

Another gem of Pentagon propaganda was the so-called ‘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 Jessica’s hospital room before carrying her off to safety.

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 rumours 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 U.S. servicemen lounging around one of Saddam’s many palaces taken by embedded reporters who ensured we knew that the Iraqi leader had gold taps on his bidet while his people starved. Couldn’t 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. There’s a gold bracelet in the window of a jewellery store at the end of my street, which would look great on my wrist).

Iraq’s new interim rulers–led by Viceroy-Designate pro-Likud former U.S. General Jay Garner with links to SY Coleman, a company specialising in weapons guidance systems–are patiently awaiting their glorious destiny in a luxury Kuwaiti beach resort.

Fat-cat Iraqi exiles hope for some crumbs. 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. U.S. companies look forward to being recipients of bounty from Iraq’s reconstruction and the Israelis hope for a long-awaited oil pipeline from northern Iraq to Haifa.

Evangelical Messianic Christians circle like soul-scalping vulture in Jordan until they can make their vainglorious entry into Baghdad bearing bread and Bibles.

And the Iraqis? What do they get? Why! Liberation, of course. The Saddam regime is coming to an end. The pro-Israel American neo-cons are about to take its place, while the Arab world shakes its collective head with dismay, and the media buries its dead.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. The writer can be contacted at