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]
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.