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    War and Terror: 'Embedded Journalists': There's A Name for People Like Them
    Posted on Tuesday, April 08 @ 23:33:30 UTC
    Topic: Brains Missing
    Brains Missingby Ben Roberts

    The Bush Administration sides must be hurting from laughter at the joke they have played on mainstream American and Western media. There was a big run up to the use of 'embedded journalists' in this war. Everywhere you turned it was discussed. On TV. On radio talk shows. The Bush cabal had front men Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and military 'analysts' of every rank gushing over the concept. A fresh faced Peter Jennings, waiting for the fireworks to begin, took great pains to explain to his audience that the journalists would be 'embedded' with the US military, and not 'in bed with.' What a laugh. One was unsure whether his attempt at clarification was a weak joke that bombed, or a serious explanation. The 'embedded journalists' were described as novel, unheard of in the history of armed conflict, revolutionary, unprecedented access to information, and having real-time access to what was unfolding on the battlefield.

    What a great sell job. What cunning by the Bush Administration. In the last Gulf War, there was almost complete censorship of what was transpiring on the battlefield, resulting in a lot of recrimination. In conducting its preemptive strike on Iraq, the Bush Administration also cleverly pulled off a preemptive strike on the media by offering them what was touted as unfettered access to everything that was taking place on the battlefield. Of course the media would jump at this offer. They are in the business of selling papers and showing coverage of late breaking, as it happens news. That is how they maintain ratings and haul in profits. What is more late breaking than riding shotgun with a tank commander as he engages the enemy, fires off a round, or takes incoming fire? Sounds good. We shouldn't miss a thing right? Wrong. Despite what we have seen, things have not unfolded as advertised. Here's what I think of 'embedded journalists':

    On first hearing about the concept of 'embedded journalists,' the image that immediately came to mind was that of 'fossil.' You know like a fossil embedded in a rockface, in hardened amber, buried in the earth, or suspended in a fixative of some kind. In all instances the fossil is immobilized, restricted, and kept out of sight. In addition a fossil for the most part tells what happened earlier, not what is happening now. It is my humble opinion that the so called 'embedded journalists' were baited into the promise of being front and center of this military operation. Taking the bait was the equivalent of them being immobilized in straightjackets, and their reporting exactly what the military wanted them to report. Interestingly, the dictionary describes 'embedded' as 'grounded.' We ground our children as a way of modifying their behavior to suit our wishes. Well done Team Bush.

    In discussing the war and events on the battlefield US military leaders, including Donald Rumsfeld, have repeated on many occasions that 'embedded reporters' only get a sliver of what is going on in the field. This is especially true whenever there has been a report which shows US forces in a bad light, uncovering something we would much rather keep hidden. For example, during the US missile strike on the marketplace in Baghdad that resulted in such sickening carnage of women and children, a military spokesman trotted out and griped at how the 'embedded reporters' only got this one sided sliver, while not covering how British and US forces were 'providing Iraqis with food and water in Basra.' These military 'talking heads' are absolutely right in their assessment that the 'embedded reporters' only get a sliver of what is going on in the war. Think of these reporters as looking through a pair of binoculars and seeing only what is in that field, while oblivious to the myriad activities going on just outside that field of view. In other words, they miss so much because they are focused on a single thing. But don't be fooled. The military likes it this way. Under no circumstances do they want 'embedded reporters' to get a birdseye view of what is going on.

    Take this scenario. An artillery battalion has an 'embedded reporter' attached to its operations. The battalion has unleashed a barrage on a town twenty miles away that military intelligence had identified as a Republican Guard stronghold, softening it up for an advancing infantry division. The infantry arrives in the town to find a massacre of civilians due to the artillery barrage. It turns out the town was not a stronghold as thought. The infantry commander calls the artillery commander and instructs him to cease the attack immediately because the town is no threat. It is a mistake and numerous innocent citizens have been killed. In such a situation does anyone for a moment think that the artillery commander will inform, or see to it that his 'embedded reporter' guest gets to that town as promptly as possible to cover such late breaking news that the world should know about? Never in a million years. The poor reporter will either be kept in the dark or duped in some fashion. By extension the American public and the world will be also kept in the dark and duped. Later on when the story is stumbled upon by an independent reporter, or divulged by an aggrieved victim it will be regarded by viewers as lies and fabrications since they had their real-time 'embedded reporter' riding shotgun with the battalion and with access to everything that was happening. In other words, if said reporter did not see it then it did not happen. Such a conclusion would be the desired outcome for the military. Case closed.

    It seems as if the news networks that readily jumped at the 'embedded' offer by the military did not give much thought to the rules of their profession and what they were giving up. In an 'embedded reporter' situation the individual is in the company of fellow Americans, is afforded protection by them, is fed by them, is promised the career boosting scoop by them, shares the daily misery of the campaign with the forces, experiences the shared danger of attack by the enemy, and bears the shared burden of losses and fatalities inflicted on his fellow citizens on the battlefield. How can a reporter be expected to be even remotely objective and unbiased in his or her reporting in such a situation? In the event that the 'embedded reporter' decides to become rebellious and not follow the desired program by reporting what American forces would rather not have divulged, our military has some options that can get the wayward individual back in line. Questioning their patriotism, accusing them of endangering the force by providing the Iraqis with information, or threatening to suspend privileges, are all ways to maintain censorship. What reporter will not fall back into line when faced with threat of suspension of free transportation to the site of late breaking news, free food, safety from a vile enemy, and getting the exclusive scoop. There was one instance where an 'embedded reporter' was relieved of his satellite phone while filing a report, because it was deemed dangerous and could give away troop position to the Iraqis. This is baffling since US forces claimed at the outset that their targeting had rendered the Iraqi leadership blind and deaf. One has to wonder what happened to that 'embedded reporter' who initially disagreed with the officer in charge who claimed that a warning shot was fired before the minivan at the US checkpoint was blasted, killing its load of women and children. Apparently that reporter has been silent since then. See what I mean?

    Just yesterday an 'embedded reporter' for Knight Ridder filed a report with his Washington office that the unit he was attached to had discovered weapons of mass destruction sixty miles south of Baghdad. He reported that soldiers in the unit had been evacuated from the area after showing signs of gas poisoning such as dizziness, vertigo, and skin blisters. He reported the offending agent as Seirin, and the exposure was described as low level. Yeah, and I saw Elvis at Walmart yesterday. Is anyone surprised that it would be an 'embedded reporter' who would divulge the 'finding' of weapons of mass destruction? They are ideal for this venture. If they can be duped by suppression of information, they surely can be duped into being disseminators of false information.

    Strangely, this morning General Vincent Brooks in his daily briefings from Doha in Qatar, said nothing about a chemical weapons find. When asked about it he responded that there was no evidence of such. Later today, in their Pentagon briefing, Donald Rumsfeld and General Myers reported having no evidence of such a find. When pressed Rumsfeld claimed that there was no conclusive evidence, that testing was being done, and 'it usually took days to get back results of such testing.' What? This does not make sense. For all its technology, the US military should have sensors that could identify chemical and biological weapons promptly. Otherwise they are doing their soldiers a grave disservice. Curiously, since this report, the US military has told its troops to stand down in having their chemical weapons clothing close at hand. The exact opposite of what should occur if weapons were truly found. Is Team Bush floating a trial balloon to see how to sell this difficult story of a 'find' of weapons of mass destruction that United Nations inspectors did not find, and to date US troops cannot find? Well, when all else fails bring in the 'fossils'. They will 'find' them for you. 'Embedded' all over Iraq.

    Ben Roberts is a newsletter editor, freelance writer and published author. His book, Jackals of Samarra, was published in January 2001. Ben can be contacted by email at: grandt730@aol.com

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