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March 03, 2005

Eason Jordan was right

On January 27th Eason Jordan said something very tentative about the US military targeting journalists in Iraq. According to Jay Rosen, blogger Rony Abovitz broke the story on January 28th. The rumors festered in the right wing blogosphere until Jordan's abrupt resignation.

No one comes off well in this episode. Much has already been written about the disgraceful conduct of the right wing blogosphere. (Here's my reaction).

Eason Jordan deserves his share of scorn for meekly backing down from his own true and important statements. How much respect can we have for a man who ends his 22-year career to avoid the wrath of Hindrocket? How much respect did he show to the memories of his colleagues who have been killed by the malfeasance or carelessness of US troops?

The mainstream media let us down, too. Brian Leiter points to an important article about the disgracefully lazy and timorous coverage that "Easongate" received in the mainstream press, Myths about 'Easongate' by Eoin O'Carroll.

Even Jordan's defenders went out of their way to attack his statements. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who voiced concerns that a "cyber-mob" mentality might chill journalistic free speech, made it a point to call Jordan's comments "manna to Islamist recruiters" and "stupid, even indefensible."

But what's truly indefensible is the American media's failure to examine the substance of Jordan's claims, however clumsily articulated. If they did, they might be surprised.

Reporters seemed more interested in analyzing Blog Wrath than in investigating the factual basis of Eason Jordan's comments.

In fact, the US military's policy of targeting journalists is a matter of public record--unless "journalists" is just short for "white journalists."

General Richard Myers defended the targeting of journalists on CNN!

Sunday, March 30, 2003 Posted: 9:56 PM EST (0256 GMT)

BLITZER: Why is Iraqi television still on the air? A lot of people wonder whether or not you can, if you wanted to, take it off the air?

MYERS: Well, let me just say we're working on that. We understand some of the TV is up, some is down. Radio broadcasts are more sporadic. It's a fairly robust infrastructure inside Iraq. And it will take, it'll take some time.

Clearly they use that television for propaganda. They use it for command and control, and it's one of our targets. You know very well from knowing some of the target sets that have been struck up in Baghdad that, indeed, that is one of our objectives.

BLITZER: So is it fair to say it's a legitimate target, Iraqi television, and that you are still trying to knock it off the air?

MYERS: Oh, absolutely, it's a legitimate target. The regime uses it for command and control. That's how the leadership gets the message out. It's absolutely a legitimate target. But let me just remind all the viewers that one of the things that a great power does, and great powers in this case the coalition, does is try to minimize civilian casualties. And so whatever we do to try to take out various components of the regime, leadership, command and control and so forth, we're going to try to minimize civilian casualties. That's just going to be part of the equation. And I think we've done a good job up until now to do that.

It is a breech of the Geneva Convention to target enemy journalists.

Members of the US military have also been accused of targeting the press in attacks on the Palestine Hotel (home to many reporters) and Al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices. Both attacks took place on April 8, 2003.

Eason Jordan's comments to the World Economic Forum were completely unobjectionable and well-supported by publicly available evidence. He also happens to be something of an expert on covering wars. If CNN's chief news executive believes that elements in the US military are targeting journalists, it would behoove us to take him seriously. The right wing blogosphere destroyed Jordan as a warning to the rest of the media: it is no longer acceptable to criticize the US military.

Links to supporting documents follow.

[Cross-posted at Pandagon]

Reporters Without Borders accuses US military of deliberately firing at journalists [04/08/2003]

Amnesty International expresses concern about journalists under threat [04/19/2004]

The International Federation of Journalists criticizes the US military's investigation into the attacks on the Palestine Hotel and Al-Jazeera Baghdad [18/01/2005]

In a wide-ranging report that covers media deaths in 34 countries, the IFJ has attacked the impunity and injustice in the way governments respond to media deaths.

“There tends to be a few meaningless words of regret, a cursory inquiry and a shrug of indifference,” said White. “It is inexcusable in an age when the world relies more than ever on media to tell the story that many governments fail to bring the killers of journalists to justice or excuse themselves when their own people are involved.”

The IFJ says that the investigation by the US government into the killing of two journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8 2003, which was issued last November, was a tragic example. “Here was an incident where soldiers fired on media in broad daylight, yet the military exonerate themselves and fail to take responsibility. It is denial of justice on a shocking scale.”

The IFJ says that the unexplained killing of media staff and journalists in Iraq, involving 12 of the 69 violent deaths since the war began, shows why new international rules are needed to force independent investigations of media killings. The Federation plans a worldwide protest over the failure of the US to carry out such inquiries on April 8th – the second anniversary of the Palestine Hotel attack.

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On January 27th Eason Jordan said something very tentative about the US military targeting journalists in Iraq. According to Jay Rosen, blogger Rony Abovitz broke the story on January 28th. The rumors festered in the right wing blogosphere until Jordan... [Read More]

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Comments

Well, in America today certain beliefs are despicable, even if they are true, and other beliefs are praiseworthy, even if they are false. Patriotism consists of believing what one should believe in spite of the facts.

An additional resource would be Jeanne's chronology at Body and Soul.

It's an article of faith with the current crop of US military leaders that a substantial reason for the loss in Vietnam was the failure to control the press & shape the perception of the war. Hence, the killing of reporters is part of the overall battle plan.

Is is wrong for me to giggle every time I see the name "Hindrocket"?

I love this: "It's a fairly robust infrastructure inside Iraq. And it will take, it'll take some time." Ah, no.

Distrust of the press: of the many unappetizing aspects of our national consciousness that's been exposed by Americans' cheerleading for GWB, this one reinforces all the others. Unthinking patriotism means journalists are fair game.

Reading Blitzer's softballs to the general about Iraqi TV, above, I tried to think seriously -- were there parallels to Rwandan hate radio, for example? -- but what he was doing was too clear, and too much the opposite of what actual journalists do. It bites that a hack like Vulf, who first made his name riding the back of the first gulfwar for the 24-hour infotainment that subs for journalism, gets to set the cultural context for this targeting.

And you're right, of course, about the "except white journalists" part. I keep thinking of Seymour Hersh's observation http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/20309/ =blank> cf Abu Ghraib: "Look, America is a very racist country, and war brings out the worst in people."

Good point. My guess is Jordan decided the game wasn't worth the candle. Watch to see where he lights. J-school faculty, maybe?

Yeah, blog wrath is a good story for the lazy gits at the nets and in the papers. Homebodies talking to homebodies! Beats lobbying editors for the resources to cover a story no one wants to hear. Who wants to read stories about reporters, anyway? Their Q-rating is lower than Michael Jackson's.

Sometimes I wish I could get even a glimpse of the news environment in the years to come, so I could calculate with greater efficiency the percentage in blowing my brains out.

Good point. My guess is Jordan decided the game wasn't worth the candle. Watch to see where he lights. J-school faculty, maybe?

Yeah, blog wrath is a good story for the lazy gits at the nets and in the papers. Homebodies talking to homebodies! Beats lobbying editors for the resources to cover a story no one wants to hear. Who wants to read stories about reporters, anyway? Their Q-rating is lower than Michael Jackson's.

Sometimes I wish I could get even a glimpse of the news environment in the years to come, so I could calculate with greater efficiency the percentage in blowing my brains out.

Two points:

1) In regard to Mr. Jordan's hasty resignation: My cynical suspicion is that whenever someone bigshot is forced to resign after making impolitic comments, the impolitic comments are at best a secondary reason for the resignation. Most likely, the comments serve merely as an excuse (or if you prefer, a catalyst) for all the bureaucratic enemies of that bigshot to get rid of him or her. I find it incredibly unlikely that the wrath of the Right-wing Blogosphere and the Right-wing media by itself claimed Mr. Jordan's job.

2) In regard to the charge that the US military has killed journalists either out of criminal negligence or out premeditated malice: My cynical suspicion is that lots of mistakes are made in any human endeavor. Indeed, lots of mistakes are made even when the people involved aren't under any specific stress. In medicine, for example, this means well-trained, well-meaning doctors will have patients die on them that they in fact could have saved. In war, this means well-trained, well-meaning soldiers will kill people---perhaps lots of people---for no good reason. Ergo, I feel the fact that numerous journalists have died by US fire in situations that are far, far calmer than the middle of a major battle cannot serve as prima facie evidence of premeditated malice, and cannot even serve as fully conclusive evidence of criminal negligence. Therefore, anyone making the inflammatory charge that criminal negligence is probable, and worse, premeditated malice is possible, would be wise to have corroborating evidence beyond the fact that numerous bystanders hold that no enemy activity was noticeable.

This isn't to say I'm sure Mr. Jordan's claims are false. He indeed has lots of experience in war situations, and little ol' me has none. However, I think he would have done well to emulate the caution that, for example, Seymour Hersh showed in his first stories revealing torture at Abu Ghraib. For months and months there were tons of rumours that US troops engaged in torture in essentially every theatre of the Global War on Terror. But if you carry the imprimateur of a respected news organization and you're going to make a charge in any remotely public setting, you better have some evidence beyond rumours even if you've heard so many damn rumours from too many damn different people that you know in your gut that the rumours are mostly true.

Wow, first of all, this is an excellent, thought-provoking post.

I do have a question: how would you classify state-run media, under a totalitarian government, in terms of the type of journalist? I think we can agree that Iraqi news of a political nature was less than completely objective, and could even be fairly labeled as propaganda. Since the propaganda wing of the United States, PSYOPs under US SOCOM, consists of military personnel, is there any weight to the argument that state-run media doesn't share the same priviledges as a journalist of the free press?

Lindsay, everyone knows he got shafted, but the thing that pisses alot of folks off is he didn't have balls. Bullies are bad, but cowards are worse, IMHO.
The right has got a virtual stranglehold on the media and the left doesn't do a damn thing.
Look at the Dems- it takes Bush going after SS for them to get a spine- where were they before the war?
Embedding was the worst thing the MSM could do and we're paying for it now.
Jordan had a good career and blew it for what?
Then, if you report it you're hammered in.
Keep telling the truth, girl.
BTW- I got forwarded this email about this anti-war article that's really terrific. You should read it because the guy says much of the disgust many feel but cannot say. Here's the link-

http://cosmoetica.com/B194-DES136.htm

B194-DES136
Iraq, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, And The Couch Potato’s Burden:
A Muscular Centrist Attack On The Pro-War Position

Ciao!

"1) In regard to Mr. Jordan's hasty resignation: My cynical suspicion is that whenever someone bigshot is forced to resign after making impolitic comments, the impolitic comments are at best a secondary reason for the resignation. Most likely, the comments serve merely as an excuse (or if you prefer, a catalyst) for all the bureaucratic enemies of that bigshot to get rid of him or her. I find it incredibly unlikely that the wrath of the Right-wing Blogosphere and the Right-wing media by itself claimed Mr. Jordan's job."

Your suspicion is correct - Eason Jordan was damaged goods for the last year and a half, for even worse reasons. Namely, the publicity surrounding his carrying on with Marianne Pearl (widow of Daniel), which led to the end of his own marriage. They've been looking for a reason to get rid of him ever since, and this was good enough. Plus, it gives CNN conservocred, which they love these days.

Also, and update on the U.S. military attacking journalists: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=553697
I won't make any judgement on whether the military would/could ever do something like targeting a loudly left-wing, anti-war foreign journalist from one of the few European countries where U.S. foreign policy actually enjoys some support (Italy)

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