Published on Tuesday, March 8, 2005 by the Toronto Star
Colleagues Under Fire But U.S. Media Mute
My complaint about the compliant
by Antonia Zerbisias
You have to wonder what Eason Jordan thinks about last Friday's attack on the car that took Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from her kidnapping ordeal to her close call at the Baghdad airport.
Jordan is the CNN news chief who in January made controversial remarks about U.S. troops targeting journalists, comments which led to his resigning "to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq."
Alarming indeed: at least 73 and counting.
Never mind that, according to David Gergen, the Harvard professor and former presidential adviser, who moderated the Davos panel on which Jordan made his statements, Jordan was merely refuting the idea that the dead journalists were actually "collateral damage."
In the rush to hang Jordan, the right — and their willing news twinkies in the media — seem totally unperturbed that the only place reporters feel halfway safe in Iraq is either embedded in the belly of the U.S. military beast or on a Baghdad hotel roof, shielded by satellite dishes.
And who can blame the reporters in Iraq for feeling that way?
Consider that Sgrena's car, reportedly 700 metres from the airport, had already cleared other U.S. military checkpoints. Still, it was drilled by bullets.
Although exactly how many bullets remains a mystery since, at last report, when the Associated Press asked to see the car — in which Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed and another official injured — the U.S. military said it didn't know where the thing was.
Which doesn't inspire confidence in the investigation into this murky affair that the U.S. has promised to conduct.
Recall the last couple of so-called investigations into the deaths of journalists by U.S. fire.
After the April 2003 attack on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, a place where hundreds of journalists were known to be holed up, the U.S. Army refused to release the details of its investigation. Of course, its finding cleared the U.S. of killing two cameramen: Jose Couso of Spain's Telecinco and Ukraine's Taras Protsyuk, who was working for Reuters.
A few months later, Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana — a Palestinian who had survived beatings by West Bank settlers and the Israeli army — filmed his own death by U.S. tank. That happened just moments after he had checked in with the troops, providing his coordinates.
Again, a U.S. military investigation cleared the shooters, saying they had mistaken his video camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
And so it goes.
Now I am not suggesting for a second that the U.S. was out to hit Sgrena and the officials who saved her from her kidnappers. But who knows? Sgrena, who was there, says one thing and the U.S. says another.
Meanwhile, the right-wing media and bloggers are making a big deal out of the fact that she works for Il Manifesto, a "communist paper."
Yesterday, the Moonie-owned Washington Times was floating the story that Italian authorities had not properly notified the U.S. military about the Sgrena vehicle movements.
So, yes, it could have all been an honest mistake or, as faithful reader Carlos Coimbra cynically put it to me in an email, just another "Baghdad speeding ticket."
I can't say for sure one way or the other — unlike, say, both CTV and Citytv who seemed to have concluded their own investigations Friday night when they said the U.S. "mistakenly'' shot Sgrena's car and rescuers.
What I find really disturbing is how few American journalists are protesting what appears to be the Pentagon's callous disregard for getting out the truth, either by making it safer for journalists to do their jobs or by its own full disclosure of the facts of these killings.
Forget shooting the messenger. Now the U.S. media are shooting themselves in the foot.
© 2005 Toronto Star