You want to know why we need independent journalism, and why those of you who are reading this article need to support the publication in which it is appearing and the article in which it originally appeared? Because if you rely for your news on the US corporate media, whether ad-supported or underwriter-supported, you won’t learn that Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old American citizen slain by Israeli commandos in the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla May 31, was shot in the back and in the back of the head, as well as multiple times in the face.
This is the conclusion of the autopsy conducted by the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine, which also did autopsies on the eight other Turkish citizens killed in the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara ferry and five other smaller boats in the so-called Freedom Flotilla. Of the other eight dead, the medical examiners found that five had been shot in the back, or in the back of the head.
This critically important information has not appeared in US news reports. Some American news organizations have left out the autopsy information entirely from their reports as of Saturday. CNN, in its report on Friday, did note that five of the nine were shot in the head, and at close range, but the all-important fact that most of the victims were shot from behind was left out. ABC had the same information on Thursday, again without mentioning the shots from behind. In its article on Friday, the NY Times had yet to even name Dogan, the American victim, much less mention the bullets that hit him or how he was shot.
And yet, if you’re trying to establish what happened on that ship, the direction of the firing, not just the number of bullets, or the distance from which they were fired, is crucial.
I had some experience with this as a reporter in Los Angeles, back in the 1970s. There was a story that ran in all the local papers, including the LA Times, and my paper, the LA Daily News, about a 14-year-old kid killed by police while he was burglarizing an empty house in the San Fernando Valley. All the papers reported the police story that he had been shot and killed when police entered the house on a call of a burglary, and he “turned and appeared to be carrying a gun” (it turned out to be some camera equipment he was trying to cart off).
On a hunch, I decided to look more into the story, and as my beat was county government, I went to visit the coroner’s office. There I was shown, at my request, the drawings and report on the boy’s autopsy. What I discovered was that all the police bullets entered the boy’s back. He was shot while fleeing the police, not while turning to face them.
If you’re a real reporter, not a stenographer to power, you’ve got to ask. A reporter from the Guardian did ask. US reporters did not ask. Or if they did ask, they didn’t put the answer in their reports. Or if they did put the answer in their reports, editors removed the answer. And so far, no reporter has come forward to protest this news blackout, even anonymously.
In this current case of the Israeli commando assault on the Gaza aid flotilla, if victims were shot in the back or in the back of the head, then one is left really with only two possible conclusions: either the shooters, who were the Israeli commandos (according to Israel, no Israeli soldiers were themselves shot, plus all the recovered bullets were 9 mm, the type of shells in the Israeli weapons, making it clear who had the guns), fired at people who were fleeing from them, or alternatively they shot people from the front, and later executed them with shots to the back of the head, which is maybe even worse (certainly a war crime).
There aren’t many other possible explanations, and either way we’re talking about criminal behavior on the high seas in what many are calling an act of piracy, or else an act of war against a NATO nation.
I suppose if only one of the nine victims had exhibited a rear head wound, one might at least theorize a scenario in which he might have spun around upon being shot in the face, and the commando, firing rapidly, might have gotten off one unneeded extra round that caught the victim from the rear. But for that to happen five times requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief.
So much for the Israeli government propaganda about its poor and unprepared commandos being surprised and set upon by vicious “terrorists” on the boat, armed with kitchen knives, sticks and metal rods, when they were anticipating nothing but peaceful resistance. (This absurd story line was contradicted by Israel’s other story line, that it considered the organizer of the flotilla, the Turkish IHH charity, to be linked to Hamas and Hezbollah, and that it “knew” that Palestinian terrorists had insinuated themselves among the boat’s activists–a claim which, if true, means the commandos would have been, and surely were, well-armed and prepared for a truly violent reception.)
In any event, what the autopsies reveal is a massacre, with commandos deliberately murdering activists on the boats–either directly, or after initially wounding them.
What they also reveal is the shameless pro-Israel bias of the US media, which has simply decided that facts uncomfortable to Israel and its US government backer are not news that’s “fit to print.”
You can read about the autopsies in the U.K. Guardian newspaper, or in Switzerland (SwissInfo) or in Australia (the Melbourne Age), and you can even read it in a Reuters report (which is a news service that most American news organizations subscribe to, but which they actually show their readers only selectively), but you cannot read it or hear about it in the mainstream US media, where most Americans unfortunately still turn for their information.
That is unacceptable.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org