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Jan 16, 2004 6:47 pm


"Embedded"



The international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders -- Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) -- has completed its investigation of the US Army's attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8, '03 in which two reporters staying there died. RSF concluded that the deaths"were not a deliberate attack [by the US] on the media. However, it [RSF] said US soldiers should have been told by their commanders that many journalists were based in the hotel....It was an act of criminal negligence for which responsibility should clearly be established." In short, the accusation is not murder but manslaughter.

But blame is laid at the feet of the Pentagon and military commanders, not soldiers in-the-field who fired upon the hotel. According to story in the UK Independent,"Despite information being available to the Pentagon, the report said `the soldiers in the field were never told that a large number of journalists were in the Palestine Hotel. If they had known they would not have fired. When they did know, they gave and received instructions and took precautions to ensure the hotel was not fired on again'." RSF accuses US authorities of concocting lies to hide what happened and calls their subsequent official `investigation'"nothing more than a whitewash." RSF is calling for the US to launch a formal investigation into the deaths of Ukrainian cameramen Taras Protsyuk (Reuters) and Spaniard José Couso (Telecinco). The report can be downloaded in full [.pdf] from the RWB site.

The Bush adminstration's love affair with the media is starting to crack and be revealed as a heartless flirtation that lasts only as long as the object of"love" comes across. Domestically, prominent sources like the Washington Times are reporting daily on touchy matters, like the unusually high and quickly rising suicide rate for U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Or the fact that about 2,500 soldiers who have returned from the war have to wait for medical care at bases in the US. And, in Iraq, now that embedded journalists from major American news sources -"embedded" was the term used to refer to journalists allowed to accompany American troops on the march toward Baghdad, otherwise known as"in bed" journalists -- now that they have been largely replaced by foreign ones who have not been bought off in some manner or intimidated, there are increasing cries of the US military brutalizing the press. Last week, for example, Reuters filed "a formal complaint to the Pentagon following the 'wrongful' arrest and apparent `brutalisation' of three of its staff this month by US troops in Iraq."

I am sorry to say that the left is in the forefront of protest against Bush's systematic, transparent and sometimes savage quashing of truth. Tim Robbins' play"Embedded," opens February 24th at the Public Theater in New York. (It premiered on Nov. 15, 2003, at The Actors' Gang in Los Angeles; the promotional art for that performance captures the essence of the play}}.)"Embedded" has been described as"a ripped-from-the-headlines satire about the madness surrounding the brave women and men on the front lines in a Middle East conflict. [It] skewers cynical embedded journalists, scheming government officials, a show-tune singing colonel, and the media's insatiable desire for heroes." Robbins has come under a great deal of criticism for his opposition to the war, the most famous incident being the cancellation of a scheduled screening of the Robbins baseball comedy"Bull Durham" explicitly because of the actor's views.

Best to all, Wendy McElroy


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