February 2nd, 2003


So, the moral is... don't trust anyone?!

A story came out in the press today that -- on first sight -- pissed me off. However, after taking a closer look, it pissed me off even more.

"Iraqis Call Shuttle Disaster God's Vengeance"

...it proclaimed. It was linked to prominently from news sites all around the Internet.

What did the article actually say, though? It was from Reuters in Baghdad and it contained just two interviews -- one with an Iraqi government worker of no consequence, and one with a car mechanic. Did the article list any public statements from the Iraqi government? No. Did it document people celebrating in the streets? No. It didn't even list the name of the reporter who did the story. What it *did* do, however, was appear on all sorts of popular sites within hours of the space shuttle disaster. Someone had an incentive to do this story, and they made sure they did it as quickly as possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the build-up to war, where you don't know who your friends are anymore.

What we don't know, obviously, are the motives behind whoever wrote this story. Did they write it because they knew that it would get picked up by hundreds of newspapers worldwide under the current situation? Did they write it because although they had only a fraction of a story, they wanted to rush it to press before someone else did the same kind of story? Did they write it because they worked as an agent for US, British, or Israeli intelligence? We don't know.

For obvious reasons, the ultimate cover for an intelligence agent is a reporter. If a reporter is caught snooping around, that's just a reporter being a reporter, after all. Unlike some governments, the US is supposed to have a policy of not using journalistic cover for its agents, as it exposes ordinary reporters to greater risk and scrutiny. There is strong evidence, however, suggesting that they have made "exceptions" to the 1976 policy.

What the CIA didn't announce at the time was a 1977 waiver to the policy that they created under public pressure just the year before. Namely, that the director of the CIA could authorize exceptions to the previous policy. The prohibitions have never applied to foreign journalists, whom the CIA still looks to recruit, according to sources familiar with the matter.

There is strong evidence to suggest that this CIA policy has gotten reporters killed. In fact, you might remember one of them. Remember Daniel Pearl, the reporter who was abducted in Pakistan and executed on a video released by his captors just last year? Prior to Pearl's execution, ransom demands were sent by the captors, accusing Pearl of being a spy, and a similar accusation was made on the videotape of his execution. A CNN article mentions this, and also states that "the tape came into American hands when two men approached an undercover FBI operative they believed to be a journalist." Hm. Why would they know he was an undercover FBI operative? Why would they think he was a journalist? These are questions that remain unanswered.

In an article in December 2001, a high-ranking defector from Afghanistan's Taleban movement told The Washington Post that he was visited "two or three times" by U.S. intelligence agents posing as journalists.

Under the circumstances, it seems reasonable to assume that there are CIA agents that are currently posing as reporters in the war on terrorism. This puts all legitimate reporters at greater risk, yes, but it also benefits the US military and the government, who have been trying to reign in unfettered reporting on the war on terror -- they would, for obvious reasons, rather have all news based on their press releases.

In fact, the executive VP and general manager of CNN International admited in a 2002 interview to censoring coverage on the war in Afghanistan. This censorship, she explained, "wasn't a matter of government pressure, but a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people."

Huh?! What about journalistic integrity and the truth? Reporters are supposed to lay it all out in front of the public, unfiltered by our government, and let *us* decide on what is and isn't true.

This censorship of the press is particularly worrisome right now, because the Bush administration has declared a "full-court press" to gain support for war with Iraq. What they never mentioned, however, were the methods they'd use to do this.

Would they withhold evidence? Obviously the US miltary does from reporters on a routine basis, but the government also withholds information from those who we have voted to represent us. The Senate Intelligence Committee was repeatedly stonewalled in their attempt to determine the true threat of Iraq to the US -- it was only after repeated prodding by Senator Bob Graham that a report from the CIA was delivered to Sen. Graham that indicating that the odds of an Iraqi attack with weapons of mass destruction will actually increase if he is attacked. (No brainer there.) Graham has also sought documents regarding what the US knew before 9/11, but the one thing curiously absent from those documents are the names of who knew it. Since when did political embarrassment become a reason to censor such intelligence?

Would they prevent us from seeing for ourselves? Yes. Remember the helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed four US soldiers that happened just a few days ago? Although the crash happened just a few miles outside of Bagram AFB in Afghanistan, reporters were prevented from travelling to the crash site to photograph the wreckage. This is hardly a new phenomena, however. On December 6, 2001 when American troops were hit by a stray bomb north of Kandahar, photojournalists were locked in a warehouse by Marines to make sure they didn't take pictures of wounded soldiers.

Would they lie to us? I don't know anything else that would explain Bush's repeated rants about Iraq having dangerous "aluminum tubes" that could be used for enriching uranium. Bush knows that this is a lie and that those tubes cannot be used to enrich uranium, because the International Atomic Energy Agency told him so.

Would they create the news for us? Recently, papers all around the country received letters to the editor, praising Bush's stance on Iraq and his proposed tax cuts. The problem, however, was that these letters were all identical, even if they were signed by different people. Apparently, someone in the Republican Party hired a company to run an "astroturf" (i.e. phony grassroots) campaign supporting the president prior to an Iraq war. The media didn't notice this, however -- suspicious webloggers did. As a result, the press is now working on a system to compare notes, making sure this doesn't happen again.

So, in short, and without resorting to conspiracy theories but simply sticking to the facts, it is obvious that there is very little that the government isn't willing to do in order to promote their agenda and control the story. As a result, people need to really go out of the way to get access to information from non-media sources. As much as media credibility would be a nice thing to believe in, it doesn't fit the facts. Fortunately, there are more sources of information out there than ever before.

If you really want to know what the man on the street in Iraq is thinking, read his weblog. He'll complain about Iraq's firewall. He'll laugh at his leaders and the obvious propaganda show they're putting on. He'll also tell us what he thinks about the idea of being "liberated"...

"You just make it sound so easy, you know it's not. But what the hell, after watching the victorious American army march thru the streets of Baghdad you'll just turn CNN off and look for another show. "

"We simply don't trust the motives of your government. And if that government is going to war with Iraq we are not naive to think that they are doing it because they want to spread love and freedom. I am not even sure peace and freedom are going to be among the side effects of that war."

"If your government is going to go to war it is not because they are 'helping others to be free', it�s because a hundred other reasons and this one just happens to be a nice one to throw to the public. And no, I will not say it's the oil, because it is not only oil, although it is a nice little extra thrown in."

"a car ride to al-mansour to get sandwiches, late at night.
Ten new sandbag protected trenches seen on the way. appetite totally ruined by thoughts of who will use them and what will happen along these roads.
maybe exploration journey tomorrow to see what else is being done to baghdad.
I am either angry or scared i can't make up my mind."

Keep in mind that Raed is probably a lot more progressive than most, but still... that is what the Iraqis think of the United States and its war.

What's a few heroes more or less..?!

First off, I wanted to give a brief apology for all of you who read my journal. My posts are "content rich". They aren't generally hidden behind an "lj-cut".. . I'm surprised at times that some people read them, but they do, and it's appreciated. The world is not a simple place, and defies all efforts to reduce it to a soundbyte.

Well, I found what I consider to be a *BIG* story the other day that has been overlooked. You know how I've been going on a rant about that helicopter crash? Well, there is a reason.

When the crash occurred, I scoured the net to see just how many people have died so far in Operation Enduring Freedom. I was surprised just how many it was. Well, I read another story on the crash that listed what the military said the official number is (47 dead), and, lo and behold...

It don't add up!

After a bit of poking around, I figured out why, however. As Operation Enduring Freedom drags on, there appears to be an intentional attempt on the part of the military to provide the press with numbers that are intentionally subdivided.

Here's an example. They initially started listing casualties in straight figures (i.e. "So far, x members of the US military have died in operation Enduring Freedom.") However, they changed that method of announcing casualties after a considerable number of troops died in the Philippines as part of Enduring Freedom. The official numbers that the military are quoting are for Afghanistan, which, by my count, are at least 11 short of the amount that have died so far in Enduring Freedom. The military is now also providing seperate numbers specific to how the soldiers died, presumably to either "inform" or additionally confuse matters.

"Including the latest casualties, the U.S. military has had 25 soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan since the war on terror began. Twenty-two deaths were due to non-battlefield incidents."

Sounds better, right?! Basically, they they are taking a pie, slicing off progressively smaller pieces of it, and serving it to up to us -- mincemeat in bite-sized chunks. Presumably, they'll do the same thing with Iraq, too. Hey, we can start the body count from scratch!

Now, you might say that this is to be expected and isn't a big story. After all, the press are doing their jobs and know how to add -- this isn't some kind of Orwellian historical rewrite... right?!

Wrong. Take a look at ABC's running tally, prominently labeled "Casualties of Enduring Freedom". They list 41 dead, not including the latest four, whose identities were only recently announced. Someone forgot a few heroes. They aren't the only ones, however. There are several news stories I have seen so far which give an inaccurate tally of those who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom, quoting a "sub-divided" number as the authoritative tally.

Because of this confusion, there isn't a single site on the web that I am aware of -- even a military one -- where you can see all the names and faces of those who have died so far in operation Enduring Freedom.

So, are the press being sloppy? Is the military intentionally trying to blur the issue? Or are the press reporting "subdivided" numbers because it's what they feel people would like to see? I don't know. One thing seems sure, however -- the military doesn't seem to be going out of their way to correct any misconceptions. They also seem to have an agenda to keep the press from putting a human face on our soldiers, dead and wounded. Iraq will be a huge invasion, but one thing you probably won't see a lot of are dead marines -- even if a lot of marines die.

If only the US could keep its streets as clean as its wars. Sanitized for your protection!