FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Solidarity Among the Scribes

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

There was a moment that spoke volumes last week about the spinelessness of American journalism and its foot soldiers.

It happened as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was beginning a press conference in Baghdad during his brief visit to Iraq.

As he started to speak, all of the Iraqi and other Arab journalists in the hall got up and walked out, along with many reporters and camera crews from European and other countries.

About the only journalists remaining in their seats when the protest ended were the Americans, who on television could be seen shuffling in embarrassment in their seats.

The cause of the protest was the killing, only a few hours before, of two Dubai journalists from Al Arabiya by U.S. troops, who “took out” their car as they were driving past a military checkpoint.

As always, the U.S. military command has pronounced the killings to be unfortunate but justified, given occupation soldiers’ concerns about attacks by insurgents. Powell, for his part, expressed regret about the incident.

Regrettable, but the truth is that some 36 journalists have been killed in the course of covering this war, including a number who were directly and deliberately targeted by U.S. guns and bombs. That’s nearly one journalist for every 10 U.S soldiers killed by hostile fire. If you consider that there are over 100,000 American soldiers in Iraq, and at most only a few hundred journalists, it’s clearly a hell of a lot safer being a grunt and a target of Iraqi insurgents than being journalist and a target of American forces. (It’s also a hell of a lot more dangerous being a journalist in Iraq than it was to be a journalist in World War II, judging by the statistics.)

You’d think that American journalists would be as outraged as anyone at the killing of one of their own, but it seems not to work that way. For one thing, it’s not that many American journalists who’ve been killed by hostile action on the part of American troops. Mostly it’s been foreign reporters.

So in bed are most of the American press corps in Iraq that many of them seem to perceive themselves as part of the team (in many cases, as with The New York Times’ Judith Miller and the American bomb squad, or Fox TV during the rush to Baghdad, they have been part of the team).

Still, it’s appalling to see the lack of professional solidarity that was exhibited at that Powell press conference.

This walkout was, after all, not a political statement. It was not about whether the war was justified, or whether the occupation is good or bad. It was a simple act of professional solidarity in protest against rules of engagement that allow American troops to slaughter accredited journalists at will and escape the consequences of their actions. Surely no one-including their editors and publishers, or their readers or viewers–could fault reporters for protesting such rules and the deaths of colleagues that have resulted from them.

But the American reporters stayed glued to their seats, politely letting our veracity-challenged Secretary of State drone on.

It was a shameful display.

Not surprisingly, a few days later, the U.S. Army issued a report exonerating a U.S. Army tank gunner in the killing of a Palestinian cameraman for Reuters, who was shot as he was filming the tank last August 17. The Army, which has never revealed its so-called “rules of engagement,” claimed the shooter had thought the man, Mazen Dana, had been aiming a rocket propelled grenade at the tank. (Forget that RPGs have posed little or no threat to U.S. M-1 tanks, and thus the tank gunner need not have acted in haste, or that Dana was in an area known to be crawling with journalists.)

No doubt, Dana and the two Al Arabiya journalists will not be the last of their profession to die in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Haiti, or elsewhere at the hands of American soldiers.

The least one could hope is that at some point, American journalists would stand with their foreign colleagues and insist on better protection.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He is now in Taiwan on a Fulbright scholarship.

A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail