Thursday, April 08, 2010

Publicity whores





Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were two journalists for Reuters killed by US troops July 12, 2007. Monday WikiLeaks released US military video of the assault. Today on Talk Of The Nation (NPR), Neal Conan spoke with Columbia Journalism Review's Clint Hendler. We'll note some background on WikiLeaks first.

Neal Conan: And how new is this organization [WikiLeaks] and what does it consist of

Clint Hendler: A couple of years old. Founded, I think, in 2006, 2007. What it consists of is a good question because it's a little -- they kind of run on the edge financially and personnel wise. There are two primary spokespeople. A man named Julian Assange, an Australian national, another man Daniel Schmitt, who's German. Assange has said that the prime group of people who really make WikiLeaks run are about five people or so and then there's an additional quadron of volunteers that they can bring in project to project to help them out with analysis and decription and what have you.

Neal Conan: Well we'll get to all of those in a minute. Who funds it?

Clint Hendler: That's a good question too. They take donations from online readers They also apparently have a group of more deep-poketed donors.

They took calls to get listeners reactions to the video.

Neal Conan: Reed, what did you learn from it?

Reed: What did I learn from the video?

Neal Conan: Yeah.

Reed: Well I guess I-I what I think mostly is how far we removed we are [from Iraq,] how far off our radar and basically how we've buried our heads in the sand and when something like this comes out, it's very clear that things are going on that we're not made aware of.

A caller from San Antonio took offense to Conan referring to the video as "disturbing" and Conan responded, "It is disturbing -- It is disturbing to see a group of men standing around -- and I believe that some of them were armed and I believe that some of them were journalist and, clearly, some of them were unarmed. I understand what the Rules of Engagement were at that time and they were operating within those Rules of Engagement and that it's difficult for us sitting here in Washington, DC or San Antonio, Texas to put ourselves in the postion of those men in the helicopter or know what the situation was with those US troops who were under fire not far away. Nevertheless, the loss of life is disturbing." At Lens Blog (New York Times), Michael Kamber remembers Namir:

Namir made his name with harrowing photos of the insurgency in the northern city of Mosul in 2006, when it was among the most dangerous places in Iraq. His photo of a masked insurgent carrying a looted bulletproof vest marked "Police" in large letters, was one of the seminal images of the war -- a single photo that captured Iraq's descent into chaos and the inability of the Iraqi and American governments to protect resources, or pretty much anything else at that point. Namir repeatedly got to the scene of attacks while vehicles and buildings still billowed flames and bodies lay in the street. The danger in such coverage is hard to express in words: firefights broke out spontaneously, unseen snipers fired on civilians at will, insurgents killed journalists who they accused of working for the "Western invaders." And the American forces -- sometimes invisible a mile or more away -- fired through thermal sights at individuals they believed to be insurgents as they gathered around damaged coalition vehicles in the midst of a combat zone. Namir was 21 years old when he did his groundbreaking work in Mosul. By the age of 22, he had seen as much death as many hardened combat veterans. As threats against his life mounted -- from Iraqi insurgents unhappy with the truths his photos revealed -- Reuters moved him to Baghdad for his own security. There, he quickly became one of the most beloved members of the Reuters staff, a cheerful, funny, smart young man who loved motorcycles, staff members recall. On July 12, 2007, Namir set out with Saeed, his driver, to do a story on weightlifting. Hearing of nearby violence, he changed routes and went to the neighborhood of New Baghdad, where fighting was taking place.

Amnesty International issued the following today: The 39-minute video released on Monday by WikiLeaks, appears to show a helicopter gunsight video with an audio track of conversation among the crew opening fire on a group of men, two of whom appear to be armed, moving about a square in eastern Baghdad. It also shows further firing on a van which arrives, apparently to evacuate the wounded and the dead. Two children were wounded in the incident. Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:"This highly disturbing video appears to show that after the initial attack, US troops opened fire on people seeking to assist a wounded man, injuring two children, and killing several more people. "These troubling images can not be viewed or judged in isolation and must be put into the context of what else was happening in the vicinity. The US authorities must disclose any further information or footage that will shed light on this and they must conduct a proper investigation to determine whether US forces adhered to the rules of international humanitarian law and took necessary precautions to spare civilians." Amnesty is calling for the incidents depicted in the video to be independently investigated and for reparation, including compensation, to be made available to victims of violations of international humanitarian law. A US military investigation into the attack concluded that correct rules of engagement were followed, although those killed and injured included civilians.WikiLeaks said the men in the square included Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, who were both killed in the incident. The only thing that will provide clarity to the confusion between what is shown on the video and the military's initial report is a new investigation. BBC News quotes Reuters' David Schlesinger stating, "I would welcome a thorough new investigation. Reuters from the start has called for transparency and an objective inquiry so that all can learn lessons from this tragedy." Last night, Adam Entous (Reuters) reported that CentCom was stating there were no "plans to reopen an investigation into" the assault. Michael Sheridan (New York Daily News) quotes CentCom spokersperson Jack Hanzlik stating on television yesterday, "The video only tells you a portion of the activity that was happening that day." Deutsche Welle offers a roundup of some press reactions including Berliner Zeitung ("The leaked WikiLeaks material shows bloodthirsty soldiers coldly pursuing their business.") and Sueddeutsche Zeitung ("There is only one word to describe what happened that day: murder."). Lauren Crothers (Toronto Star) notes, "War has become nothing more than a video game." At World Can't Wait, Elaine Brower wonders: "Why are these occurences such a 'shock' to those who are paying attention? Does anyone really think that these are unusual circumstances?" Benedict Carey (New York Times) notes some of the intercom comments made by US service members during the assault and reactions to it, including former military psychologist Bret A. Moore who states, "You don't want combat soldiers to be foolish or to jump the gun, but their job is to destroy the enemy, and one way they're able to do that is to see it as a game, so that the people don't seem real." Laura Essig (True/Slant) terms Carey's article an "apologia" and states that she "must weigh in on the utter and complete lack of journalistic integrity at the Times." Among the radio programs covering the story is The Takeaway (we'll note another radio program tomorrow that we don't have room for today) which today offered responses from their listeners.

Caller: This is Tim, in New Beford, Mass. The United States media has a responsibility to show military confrontations in their entirety. and you can't make decisions about United States' policy in other countries unless you have the entire truth. The media has to show these kinds of videos.

In addition to listeners reactions, Takeaway producer Noel King spoke with Centcom which provided multiple photos they said showed weapons at the scene but in only one image could King make out an image. Request for further supporting evidence was met with the assertion that they couldn't release anything else, that photos which would offer stronger proof had been redacted, etc. For those whom streaming doesn't beneift, King has written up her interaction with CentCom here. Dahr Jamail will cover tomorrow, in terms of radio. But click here for his (text) report regarding the US military video. I meant to include Dahr's upcoming speaking events last week and there wasn't space. So we'll put his radio discussion of the military video on hold and note them here. The first event on the list is tomorrow evening, so I really can't push it back another day and into another snapshot:

Santa Fe, NMApril 9, 2010 -- 6:30 pm WELCOME TO HELL Life Under Siege in Gaza MOHAMMED OMER Award-winning independent journalist from the Gaza Strip, and author of the Rafah Today blog Followed by a conversation withDAHR JAMAIL Journalist,author and co-recipient with Mohammed of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism Unitarian Congregation 107 West Barcelona Rd Santa Fe, NM Suggested Donation $5 Sponsored by Another Jewish Voice Santa Fe and the Middle East Peace and Justice Alliance Endorsed by Veterans for Peace Santa Fe Chapter, Santa Fe Women in Black----Portland, Oregon April 10, 2010– 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Annual Awards Dinner 2010 with Keynote Speaker, Dahr Jamail Independent Journalist, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan Honoring the High School Student Winners of the Greenfield Peace Writing Contest Music by Retta and the Smart Fellas The Oregon Zoo 4001 SW Canyon Road Portland, Oregon Please RSVP by March 26th To purchase by check, or for more information including how to place a congratulatory message or ad in the keepsake book, become a table captain or sponsor of the event, contact Kelly Campbell at 503-274-2720. ----Moscow, Idaho April 29, 2010 -- 7:00 pm to9:00 pm Kenworthy Performing Arts Center 508 S. Main St., Moscow, Idaho Empire, Occupation, Resistance, and Independent Media:A Fund Raiser for Radio Free Moscow with Dahr JamailSnacks and drinks served.** Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches **** Visit Dahr Jamail's website **Dahr Jamail's new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.Order the book here one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from "supporting our troops," politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no. Order Beyond the Green Zone "International journalism at its best." --Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah's MenWinner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

If you attend any of the events, you can be sure Dahr will be discussing the WikiLeaks story at some point in the exchange.

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