Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Democracy Now!: "Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories: How The U.S. Press Has Sanitized The War in Iraq"

Had Blogger not gone haywire last night, we would have noted a story from Democracy Now! yesterday in it's own entry. The segment is entitled "Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories: How The U.S. Press Has Sanitized The War in Iraq" and Amy Goodman is interviewing the L.A. Times' James Rainey, The Village Voice's Sydney H. Schanberg ("Not a Pretty Picture: Looking this war in the face proves difficult when the press itself won't even put in an appearance") , and Pacifica Radio's Aaron Glantz (author of How America Lost Iraq).

The entire segment is worth watching, listening to or reading (and all options are available). I'm going to focus on this section of the interview which deals with Falluja because, as members know, this is a big issue to me (and to many members -- it's only some visitors who stumble across this site that seem to have a problem):

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to move to an example of terrible pain and agony, Fallujah, and how little we saw. Recently, I was listening to Richard Clarke, author of Against All Enemies, who was the counterterrorism czar saying, “Fallujah, Fallujah, if we saw those pictures.” And it's not just about pictures, it's word pictures, too. Reporters can describe. Aaron Glantz. You went to Fallujah. You reported for us and for Pacifica Radio about the people on the ground, and not just talking U.S. soldiers, Iraqis as well. We rarely see their pain. Can you talk about that? I'd like to even play a clip of one of your reports.
AARON GLANTZ: I was in Iraq in April and May of 2004 when the United States military was bombarding Fallujah. This is very typical, actually, under the occupation that there will be some, you know -- I mean, smaller crime against U.S. people like this killing of these four Blackwater Security figures and their hanging on the old Fallujah bridge. And it will bring a tremendous response by the U.S. military and the killing of hundreds of people is what happened in Fallujah. I was in Baghdad at that time and, at first, I thought it was unsafe to go to Fallujah, so I would interview refugees fleeing the city. I interviewed a 12-year-old boy who talked about how a U.S. military sniper shot his 11-year-old best friend, as he stood in front of his school. I interviewed a man who talked about how his father was in his own house and that that house was bombed by the U.S. military. I spoke with so many people. I spoke with a man who had a bullet in his -- right below his collar bone because U.S. military snipers in Fallujah were aiming for the neck, and they had just barely missed as he went to go get food aid from a neighborhood mosque.
And I think at some level I thought that these stories that I were hearing were exaggerations, that the situation couldn't possibly – in fact, even sitting in Baghdad, I thought the situation in Fallujah could not possibly be as bad as these refugees were telling me, even as Al Jazeera was broadcasting from the hospital, showing us images of the women and children in the hospital. But when I went to Fallujah, after the bombing had stopped, I saw that the city had just been devastated. Whole streets had been destroyed. I saw shopping centers that had collapsed, mosques that had been bombed, and the story that sticks out the most for me, is of this woman, and I think this is the clip that we're going to hear, who was buried in the front lawn of a neighbor's house because as she was trying to flee the city in her car, the Americans bombed it.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to that after break. We're talking to Aaron Glantz, a Pacifica reporter, spent a good deal of time in Iraq and now has a new book, How America Lost Iraq. Sidney Schanberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, did a piece in The Village Voice about the pictures that we are not seeing. James Rainey, on the line with us from The Los Angeles Times on that issue, as well, "Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories."
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are James Rainey of The Los Angeles Times; Sidney Schanberg, now writing for The Village Voice, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, covered Vietnam, Cambodia and other war zones; Aaron Glantz, author of How America Lost Iraq. Let's turn for a moment to that piece that Aaron did from Fallujah.
AARON GLANTZ: A team of local volunteers in surgical masks lift the rotting corpse of a middle aged woman from a shallow grave in the front yard of a single family home. The owner of the house explains the woman has been lying dead in his front yard for three weeks. He says an American warplane bombed her car as she fled the city with her husband, who is buried in the garden of the house next door. The destroyed remains of the car still smolder a few meters away from his front door. “We couldn't give her a proper burial,” he says, “because every time we would go outside, American snipers would shoot at us. They even shot at us when we retrieved her carcass from the car after the Americans bombed it.”
The head of the medical team asks to speak anonymously, because his clinic's ambulance was shot by U.S. Marine snipers twice during the siege. One of the clinic's volunteers was killed. “The Americans are dogs. They try to kill anybody who works humanitarian aid. They attack humanitarian aid worker, doctor or ambulance to kill them.”
In the meantime, the aid worker says many corpses continue to rot under buildings, which collapse on top of them, amid a hail of American firepower. The volunteers place the woman onto a gurney and take her away in a small pickup truck. In a half an hour, she is buried in the municipal football stadium, alongside 600 others killed in the last month by the U.S. military.
AMY GOODMAN: Aaron Glantz in Fallujah. Your thoughts as you hear the report now back here at home and with the kind of images that we're getting in the United States.

There's more on Falluja there (and Goodman's covered this topic on Democracy Now! many times before) and there's also a very serious discussion that I think you'll be glad you took a look at, gave an ear to or watched.

Below are some resources.

Excerpt from James Rainey's "Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories:"

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.
Journalists attribute the relatively bloodless portrayal of the war to a variety of causes -- some in their control, others in the hands of the U.S. military, and the most important related to the far-flung nature of the conflict and the way American news outlets perceive their role.
"We in the news business are not doing a very good job of showing our readers what has really happened over there," said Pim Van Hemmen, assistant managing editor for photography at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

[Please note, this is an article that appeared in the L.A. Times but to allow as many people to access it as possible, I've linked to the Yahoo version of it. Translation, no registration required to read Rainey's article.]

Excerpt from Sydney H. Schanberg's "Not a Pretty Picture:"

If we believe that the present war in Iraq is just and necessary, why do we shrink from looking at the damage it wreaks? Why does the government that ordered the war and hails it as an instrument of good then ask us to respect those who died in the cause by not describing and depicting how they died? And why, in response, have newspapers gone along with Washington and grown timid about showing photos of the killing and maiming? What kind of honor does this bestow on those who are sent to fight in the nation's name?
The Iraq war inspires these questions.

The government has blocked the press from soldiers' funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. The government has prevented the press from taking pictures of the caskets that arrive day after day at the Dover Air Force Base military mortuary in Delaware, the world's largest funeral home. And the government, by inferring that citizens who question its justifications for this war are disloyal Americans, has intimidated a compliant press from making full use of pictures of the dead and wounded. Also worth noting: President Bush's latest rationale for the war is that he is trying to "spread democracy" through the world. He says these new democracies must have a "free press." Yet he says all this while continuing to restrict and limit the American press. There's a huge disconnect here.

Publisher's book description of Aaron Glantz How America Lost Iraq:

A reporter in Iraq shows how the U.S. squandered its early victories and goodwill among the Iraqi people, and allowed the newly freed society to slip into violence and chaos.
As a reporter for the staunchly antiwar Pacifica Radio, twenty-seven-year-old Aaron Glantz had spent much of early 2003 warning of catastrophe if the U.S. invaded Iraq. But, as he watched the statue of Saddam topple, he wondered whether he had been mistaken: In interviews with regular Iraqis, he found wide support for the Americans.
Then, public opinion changed.
In early 2004, the U.S. military initiated a completely unprovoked bombing campaign against the population of Fallujah, increasing support for an armed resistance. The attack confounded many anti-Saddam Iraqis, and plunged the nation into chaos. In How America Lost Iraq, Glantz tells his story of working on the front lines, while revealing truths that most media outlets have missed or failed to report. For instance, 50 percent of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army has either mutinied or refused to fight; the Iraqi public has sustained appalling civilian casualties; corporate contractors including Halliburton and Bechtel have failed to supply Iraqis with the basic necessities of daily life, such as clean water and electricity; and a respected poll shows that 82 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. to leave.
Here is the brutally honest account of a reporter who discovered how popular the U.S. presence was in Iraq-and who then watched this popularity disappear as the Bush administration mishandled the war, leaving us with the intractable conflict we face today.

I'm not finding an excerpt online of Glantz's book; however, you can listen online to Glanz reporting on Dennis Bernstein's Flashpoints! from May 4, 2005.

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