Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.
William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.
U.S. Foreign Policy Blog
E-Mail: dormanw at csus.edu
War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths
By TIM GOLDEN
New York Times
May 20, 2005
Blog editor's note: It is instructive to compare the coverage (or lack of it) of the report discussed below with coverage received by Newsweek's handling of the Koran allegations. As an aside, it seems reasonable to assume that if interrogaters will go as far as the ones described in this account they probably wouldn't stop at defacing the Koran.
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
To read the full text, see New York Times
A Commencement Address to Heed:
By Howard Zinn
May 15, 2005
Blog editor's note: Prof. Zinn is a voice that I've always listened to with great care. This recent commencement address is a historical perspective worth considering, one that I've tried always to keep in mind ever since encountering Zinn's thinking many years ago.
[In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.]
I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years. I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me, and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.
But this is your day -- the students graduating today. It's a happy day for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for my grandchildren.
My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.
But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you must not be discouraged.
To read the full text, see TomDispatch.com
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The Tillman Scandal: 'Newsweek' Error Bad, Pentagon Lying OK?
By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher
In the week after the magazine's retraction, where is the comparable outrage over the military's cover-up of the "friendly fire" death of Pat Tillman? His family is angry, but why is there so little attention on the press and public also being misled? And where is a Scott McClellan lecture on ethics and credibility?
(May 24, 2005) -- Where, in the week after the Great Newsweek Error, is the comparable outrage in the press, in the blogosphere, and at the White House over the military's outright lying in the coverup of the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman? Where are the calls for apologies to the public and the firing of those responsible? Who is demanding that the Pentagon's word should never be trusted unless backed up by numerous named and credible sources?
Where is a Scott McClellan lecture on ethics and credibility?
To read the full text, see Editor & Publisher
Monday, May 23, 2005
Prewar Findings Worried Analysts
By Walter Pincus
May 22, 2005; A26
Blog editor's note: What is most interesting--and most frustrating--about Pincus' report is that it took the Post so long (some two-plus years) to come to the conclusion that a good many observers had reached well before the war began. It is not as if this perspective has only recently emerged. Better late than never, I suppose.
On Jan. 24, 2003, four days before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address presenting the case for war against Iraq, the National Security Council staff put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs.
The person receiving the request, Robert Walpole, then the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, would later tell investigators that "the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak," according to a 500-page report released last year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
It has been clear since the September report of the Iraq Survey Group -- a CIA-sponsored weapons search in Iraq -- that the United States would not find the weapons of mass destruction cited by Bush as the rationale for going to war against Iraq. But as the Walpole episode suggests, it appears that even before the war many senior intelligence officials in the government had doubts about the case being trumpeted in public by the president and his senior advisers.
To read the full text, see Washington Post
PORTRAITS OF WAR
Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories
U.S. newspapers and magazines print few photos of American dead and wounded, a Times review finds. The reasons are many -- access, logistics, ethics -- but the result is an obscured view of the cost of war
By James Rainey
Los Angeles Times
May 21, 2005
The young soldier died like so many others, ambushed while on patrol in Baghdad. Medics rushed him to a field hospital, but couldn't get his heart beating again.
What set Army Spc. Travis Babbitt's last moments in Iraq apart was that he confronted them in front of a journalist's camera.
An Associated Press photograph of the mortally wounded Babbitt remains a rarity — one of a handful of pictures of dead or dying American service members to be published in this country since the start of the Iraq war more than two years ago.
A review of six prominent U.S. newspapers and the nation's two most popular newsmagazines during a recent six-month period found almost no pictures from the war zone of Americans killed in action. During that time, 559 Americans and Western allies died. The same publications ran 44 photos from Iraq to represent the thousands of Westerners wounded during that same time.
Many photographers and editors believe they are delivering Americans an incomplete portrait of the violence that has killed 1,797 U.S. service members and their Western allies and wounded 12,516 Americans.
To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times
An Ally From Hell
CIA's close relationship with Sudan's government enables genocide there to continue
May 20th, 2005
In Um Seifa, a dusty village in Sudan's western region of Darfur, a crowd of white-robed children stood outside their newly reopened school. . . . 'The government never gave us education, development, health [services or] equality,' said the headmaster. . . . So the people of Um Seifa built their own school. A week after your correspondent visited it, it was burned to the ground, and eight children murdered [by Sudanese army forces and the Arab Janjaweed] —The Economist, April 2, 2005
During George W. Bush's campaign to spread the spirit—and eventually the letter—of freedom and democracy to other lands, he has made some nightmarish allies. Torture of prisoners, homegrown or supplied by the CIA, has been endemic in Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Uzbekistan. In the latter's prisons, the specialty of the house is boiling prisoners, including political prisoners, to death.
But now—thanks to a carefully documented report by Ken Silverstein in the April 29 Los Angeles Times, which has had far too little follow-up by the media—it is clear that the CIA, with the blessings of the Bush administration, is closely connected to the horrifying government of Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, the head perpetrator of the ongoing genocide in Darfur: over 400,000 black Africans dead, with some 500 more dying every day, and more than two million, many in peril of starvation, turned into refugees as their homes and villages are destroyed.
The lead to the L.A. Times story by Ken Silverstein, datelined Khartoum: "The Bush administration has forged a close intelligence partnership with the Islamic regime that once welcomed Osama bin Laden. . . . The Sudanese government . . . has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States."
To read the full text, see Village Voice