Wednesday, April 10, 2013

FDR rolls over in his grave





Jane Arraf files a highly disappointing and misleading report for Al Jazeera today.  It opens.

Jane Arraf:  Ten years after Baghdad fell to US forces, the anniversary is just another work day where there would have been portraits for only Saddam Hussein, there are posters for upcoming elections.  The fall of Saddam's statue in central Baghdad signaled that his regime was finished.  Iraqis joined US Marines in bringing the statue down. 

Let's stop here there before she embarrasses herself further and let's deal first with the statue.  If you hear that crap about the statue on a US network, you tell yourself, "Media Whore."  And know that they're not going to tell the truth even all this time later.  But apparently Al Jazeera is as cowed as everyone else.  Shame on them, shame on Jane.

The truth is now well known.  A friend who was with CBS News has always credited Jan Ackerman (Post-Gazette) with accidentally "approaching" the story when covering US Army Reserve Cpl Michael Rega Jr. April 11, 2003 -- two days after the staged take-down of the statue:

Now Rega is in Baghdad, with the 303rd Psychological Operations Company (Tactical) waging the information war and trying to convince the Iraqis that the American presence in their country is a good thing.
Yesterday, an Associated Press photo of Rega being kissed on the cheek by an Iraqi man appeared on television Web sites and in newspapers across the country, indicating he's on track with his mission.

And that propaganda photo that AP distributed? Taken by Jerome Delay who's now working for AP and the US government in Africa (currently trying to stir war on Mali). Don't mistake him for a reporter, he's not.  Jerome Delay also took the 'news' photos of the Saddam statue for AP.  His propaganda is everywhere.

July 3, 2004, the Los Angeles Times ran David Zucchino's "Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue:"

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel -- not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images -- who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.
After the colonel -- who was not named in the report -- selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

The same day Jon Elmer (New Standard) noted that "Marines brought in cheering Iraqi children in order to make the scene appear authentic, the study said.  Allegations that the event was staged were made in April of last year, mostly by opponents of the war, but were ignored or ridiculed by the US government and most visible media outlets."  Click here for peace activist Nevill Watson (April 17, 2003) telling Australia's SBS TV it was a rent-a-crowd.  August 4, 2003, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber would offer "How To Sell A War" (In These Times):

The problem is that the images of toppling statues and exulting Iraqis, to which American audiences were repeatedly exposed, obscured a larger reality. A Reuters long-shot photo of Firdos Square showed that it was nearly empty, ringed by U.S. tanks and marines who had moved in to seal off the square before admitting the Iraqis. A BBC photo sequence of the statue’s toppling also showed a sparse crowd of approximately 200 people–much smaller than the demonstrations only nine days later, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad calling for U.S.-led forces to leave the city. Los Angeles Times reporter John Daniszewski, who was on the scene to witness the statue’s fall, caught an aspect of the day’s events that the other reporters missed. Most Iraqis were indeed glad to see Saddam go, he wrote, but he spoke near the scene with Iraqi businessman Jarrir Abdel-Kerim, who warned that Americans should not be deceived by the images they were seeing.

Please note, Sheldon and John wrote that before the Psy-Ops report was issued.  That's the report the Los Angeles Times broke the news on and SourceWatch quotes from the report:


On Point, a US army report on lessons learned from the war, notes that it was a Marine colonel, not Iraqi civilians, who decided to topple the statue. "We moved our [tactical PSYOP team] TPT vehicle forward and started to run around seeing what they needed us to do to facilitate their mission," states a U.S. military officer involved in the operation. "There was a large media circus at this location (I guess the Palestine Hotel was a media center at the time), almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis, as the hotel was right adjacent to the Al-Firdos Square. The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down." The pyschological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, packed the scene with Iraqi children, and stepped in to readjust the props when one of the soldiers draped an American flag over the statue. "God bless them, but we were thinking from PSYOP school that this was just bad news," the officer reported. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' So I said 'No problem, somebody get me an Iraqi flag.' " [1]

After the military report was released in 2004 and David Zucchino reported on it, Janine Jackson (FAIR) noted an interesting press move:

Today, the elite media strategy appears to be to pretend they always knew the event was a U.S. military exercise. The July 3 New York Times, for example, refers to the square where "American marines toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein." But it's worth looking back to recall just how much was made of this purportedly spontaneous event, likened by some to the fall of the Berlin Wall. AP's April 10, 2003 headline: "Iraqis topple statue of Saddam and celebrate the fall of Baghdad." The L.A. Times, in the editorial "New Day in Ancient Land," explained it as the work of "Iraqi mobs." The Chicago Tribune likewise described "a crowd of hundreds of Iraqis assisted by U.S. marines" and opined, "This was the day the fog of war lifted. And the whole world could see the truth." Well, as it turns out, not exactly.

On the topic of the statue?  For those who whine that Ava and I were too hard on poor little Peter Maas when we wrote about James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq  in our "TV: The War Crimes Documentary," Maas has a little history with the fall of the statue as well.  Got a real problem with the truth as Peter Hart pointed out for FAIR in 2011.  Know reality and know what happened.  Peter Maas' dishonesty was actually planned as a parenthetical but let's talk about what really happened that day.  Jane Arraf remembers, right? She just never tells you what happened that day. 

Two friends of mine were at the Palestine Hotel that day.  That's where most US and foreign journalists were.  Jane could probably give you a list of who was there.  The Pys-Ops operation worked so well because the US press was so overyjoyed to see the US military.

The part of this 'statue' story they don't tell you is that everyone had left Baghdad -- security wise -- before US troops came in.  They like to play big and brave but I had two friends in the Palestine Hotel and they were scared.  Most of the journalists there were.  See Big Bad Saddam Hussein was protecting them.  And then everyone of his forces were fleeing -- all gone by April 8th.  There was no real concern about the safety of the Iraqis in Baghdad -- not among journalists at the Palestine Hotel.  No, the concern there was who would protect them.  And they shouted support for US Marines who pulled up April 9th at the Palestine Hotel.  The manufactured joy in that day's photos of Saddam's statue being pulled down is said to have been nothing compared to the outpouring of slavish devotion by the journalists when the Marines pulled up.  The same unit that pulled up would move quickly to the square where the statue would be pulled down by the US military shortly after.

That's what the press doesn't tell you and it's key to understanding how that moment was sold.  Not by accident, not by the press misunderstanding what was going on.  But by their doing exactly what they were told to by the US Marines and doing it out of gratitude that someone was present to protect them.  Some were especially timid rabbits that day because the US military had fired on the hotel the day before.  (See CPJ's report here.)  Was that all part of softening up the press? 

Who knows but someone should Jane Arraf why she continues to lie about that moment?  Someone should ask why, after a Psy-Ops operation is exposed, people continue to treat as real?  And especially why at Al Jazeera.  Now we should note Jane made her name at CNN.  December 3, 2004, FAIR issued a press advisory entitled "The Return of PSYOPS: Military's media manipulation demans more investigation" -- CNN had again 'fallen' for propaganda (this time on Falluja) and 'reported' it leading FAIR to remind:

CNN 's history of voluntary cooperation with PSYOPS troops is also worth considering. In March 2000, FAIR and international news organizations revealed that CNN had allowed military propaganda specialists from an Army PSYOPS unit to work as interns in the news division of its Atlanta headquarters.
As FAIR reported at the time (3/27/00), some PSYOPS officers were eager to find ways to use media power to their advantage. One officer explained at a PSYOPS conference that the military needed to find ways to "gain control" over commercial news satellites to help bring down an "informational cone of silence" over regions where special operations were taking place.
And a 1996 unofficial strategy paper written by an Army officer and published by the U.S. Naval War College ("Military Operations in the CNN World: Using the Media as a Force Multiplier") urged military commanders to find ways to "leverage the vast resources of the fourth estate" for the purposes of "communicating the [mission's] objective and endstate, boosting friendly morale, executing more effective psychological operations, playing a major role in deception of the enemy, and enhancing intelligence collection."

So is Al Jazeera refusing to allow reports to note that the pulling down of Saddam Hussein's statue was a PSY-OPS operation or is Jane's CNN training?  Ten years later, when you can't tell the damn truth, people have a right to ask that question and, more than that, they have a right to have the question answered.

It matters and it matters because of so much that Jane Arraf's not telling.  That PSY-OPS operation?  It was used as an 'end marker.'  Battles were going -- in Baghdad -- and the news media ignored it to report on the statue.  From History Commons:

While the iconic Firdos Square photo op dominates US news broadcasts (see April 9, 2003), the fighting throughout Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq goes almost unreported. CNN’s Paula Zahn makes a passing reference to “total anarchy” in Baghdad; CNN reporter Martin Savidge and CBS reporter Byron Pitts give brief oral reports on the fighting, but no film is shown to American viewers. The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media will later note: “Despite the fact that fighting continued literally blocks from Firdos Square, apparently no camera crews were dispatched to capture those images. According to CNN and FNC [Fox News Channel], in other words, the war ended with the collapse of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square.” After that, the Journal will conclude, “the battlefield itself disappeared”; author and media critic Frank Rich will note that war coverage dropped “precipitously on every network, broadcast and cable alike.” War footage will drop 76 percent on Fox and 73 percent on CNN.

That PSY-OPS operation was really more about tricking US eyes than Iraqi eyes.

It is not a minor point and when, ten years after it happened, nine years after a US military report exposed it as a PSY-OPS operation, a journalist wants to talk about that moment, that damn well better be honest.

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