Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Linda Foley: Accusations By Reference

Trey Jackson sent me an e-mail asking about Linda Foley's introductory remark of her 11 May speech at UI-UC which I had transcribed, the part where she said, "And then, finally, this notion, and we heard a little about this last night of targeting journalists ..." I hadn't followed up on that at the time because I was concentrating specifically on remarks Ms. Foley might have made at one time or another on the subject of the targeting of journalists. I went on to look for the remarks from the day before that she might have been referring to.

On the first day of the conference, 10 May, Robert McChesney hosted a session in which Congressman Bernie Sanders, Naomi Klein, and Amy Goodman spoke. Again, the subject of this conference was "Can Press Freedom Survive Media Consolidation." In reviewing an audio file of that session, available here, I found both Naomi Klein and Amy Goodman had spoken out on the subject of the US Military targeting journalists in Iraq.

Naomi Klein made her comments immediately after speaking about how Bush, et al, may have liked to bring democracy to Iraq in the beginning and had deluded themselves into thinking US interests were compatible with democracy in Iraq but quickly learned Iraqi freedom was antithetical to the US goals behind the war -- military bases, control of their oil, support for Israel. She wrapped that up with the allegation that, in 2003, Paul Wolfowitz had advocated a military coup in Turkey shortly after the Turkish Parliament voted down plans for staging through their country in support of any action the Coalition might take against Saddam.

Anyway, that was the lead in to these remarks on targeting of journalists though not of killing them. She saves that accusation to use in a different vein. (49:42 to 55:15 of the mp3 file):

"You see the hypocrisy of the claim more clearly, ah, than anywhere else in the treatment of journalists in Iraq, particularly, Iraqi and Arab journalists in general. Because what has started to happen is that after this original explosion ... You can wave me down and just tell me to shut up whenever you want [speaking to the moderator regarding her time limit] ...

After this original explosion of, of, of, of a free press, 150 new newspapers, people started publishing articles that the Coalition Provisional Authority did not like very much. They started publishing articles comparing Paul Bremer to Saddam Hussein.

It didn't go over very well and, in addition to the attack on Al Jeezera that we heard a lot about, Iraqi journalists started facing more and more attacks. Ah, and ... When I was in Baghdad, there was a real turning point which was when Bremer ordered Muqtada Al Sadr's newspaper to be closed, Al-Housa [?]. And it was closed, they said, because he was inciting violence against the occupation. And they cited 3 examples. None of them were an incitement to violence.

All of them were simply criticisms of the occupation, including comparing Bremer to Saddam Hussein, saying that they thought there was a strategy to keep Iraqi's hungry and desperate, so that they wouldn't gain control over the economy, which, frankly, is what I wrote in Harper's and nobody tried to get me. Um, and, and there was one other thing they said that they didn't like. Um. None of it was an incitement.

When, when this happened, it was seen as, really, the, the, this over powering evidence of the lie that the invasion was actually about delivering democracy. And that is where you started to see another whole second front open up. And the other aspect of it was that peaceful demonstrations started to be fired on. So, this is not a part of the narrative that we hear about Iraq, that many tried nonviolent resistance, ah, against the occupation before they took up arms, and they were met with extreme force and extreme violence.

Um, the, the there were, the, um, okay, there were hearings, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held hearings about waste, fraud and abuse, ah, by contractors in Iraq which can go on forever and ever and ever. Most of it is about Halliburton, obviously, um, but there was interesting testimony by, by, Don North, who was hired to work for, ah, for, for, Al-Iraqia, this American run television station. And he became a whistle blower. And, this is how he described media training in Baghdad. He said, "Obviously, journalism training was urgently needed. A brutal form of training was delivered by the U.S. Army and CPA officials, when they found stories offensive. They visited the offices, the offices of offending newspapers and often let them padlocked and in ruins. No mediation, no appeal."

So that was almost a year and a half ago, the period he's describing. And since then it's gotten immeasurably worse. Um, we heard, we, we, we hear a little bit about the targeting of Western journalists, ah, the attacks on Western journalists. But, there's been a wave of stories that just came out, actually this past week, came out, most of them five days ago, where, because Western reporters are now basically prisoners in their hotels, they can't go out, they are becoming, they have become almost completely reliant on what are called "fixers." Which is a nice of, of, not giving Iraqi journalists credit for their work. Fixers are Iraqi who work for Western news organizations. The original idea of a fixer, is that they have local contacts set up interviews for you, um so it really was a kind of glorified secretarial role. Now Iraqi fixers are the journalists on the ground. They're the ones with any mobility, they're the ones getting photographs, shooting video, they're the ones doing interviews, and they bring that back to the Sheraton, or the Al Humbra [?], or the Green Zone and it is then put under the names of the Western journalists, and then there is sometimes a little thing at the end, "with files from ..." and you'll see some Iraqi names, or they'll say, "We're not using/telling you the names of the Iraqi's who worked on this article to protect their safety."

Um, actually, ah, what's clearly happened, is that the US, ah, administration in Iraq has realized that these fixers and translators really are the only independent journalists left in Iraq and there's been a wave of arrests of these fixers. Um, we just heard this week, ah, ah, ah, that US and Iraqi forces are holding nine Iraqi journalists who are working for these international news organizations, claiming that they're aiding insurgents. And their proof is that they take pictures of things that they don't want. Pictures being taken of, like, long gas lines, or an explosion that shows Americans getting hit. Things like this. So there's many, many of these cases and it's just getting worse."

Shortly after that (it is on the same audio file), Amy Goodman made her views known (though I likely wouldn't be off base if I used the phrase "reiterated her views, again") on our troops targeting of journalists/reporters and expliciting characterizing these as intentional (1:08:24 to 1:10:14 of the same file):

[...] The Florida Army National Guardsman, Camila Mejia, at Fort Bragg in NY. Javier Couso, was also standing in Central Park with thousands of others. He lost his brother, Jose Couso. He worked for Telecinco Television. He was at the Palestine Hotel on April 8th, remember the day before, the US Marines pulled down the Saddam Hussein statue in Ferdo [?] Square. And Jose Couso was filming on the balcony and the US Military had burst, open fire around the Al Jeezera offices killing Tariq Aiub [?], a young reporter for Al Jeezera, who had gone on the roof with the cameraman to fix the camera. And he was first killed. And then the military, US Military, moved on Abu Dabi and then over to the Palestine Hotel. And they opened fire.

And now everyone in the world knew who was in the Palestine Hotel, hundreds of unembedded reporters. Sites were set on the 14th floor and they opened fire and Jose died and Javier has come to this country to ask for and independent investigation into the killing of journalists in Iraq.

Yes, for his brother Jose, but also for all reporters, and that protects us all. This idea of, or the question of, with the numbers that we're seeing, I mean, Al Jeezera saying they gave the coordinates of the Al Jeezera offices, repeatedly to the Military. Maybe that was their first mistake. But the whole question of shooting the messenger and how important it is that we all stand together in a journalistic gathering, that we ask the very serious questions about what is happening here. [....]

Are these the remarks Linda Foley referred to approvingly when she said, "And then, finally, this notion, and we heard a little about this last night of targeting journalists, um, both physically, in places like Iraq, where a record number of journalists have been killed, um, 63, I think, was the last count ...."?

If so, then Linda Foley's charges, by reference, against the military on May 11th are much more damning of her judgment, professionalism and journalistic abilities than the temper tantrum she displayed on May 13th. We're past the eve of Memorial Day and it is time for Ms Foley to respond with specific answers.

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