Bill Roggio over at Winds of Change has a post that calls readily to mind Eason Jordan’s comments about the US military targeting journalists intentionally. Bill's post follows up on excellent work by This isn’t writing, it’s typing and BLACKFIVE. Linda Foley, the national president of the Newspaper Guild, which is part of the Communications Worker of America union, has made a recent similar charge to Mr. Jordan's. This piece from Editor & Publisher quotes Ms. Foley from May 13, before the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis, as saying:
"Journalists are not just being targeted verbally or politically. They are also being targeted for real in places like Iraq. And what outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there's not more outrage about the number and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it's just a scandal."
Like Mr. Jordan, her comments are recorded, though Mr. Jordan's never became available from Davos. Her charges are a disservice to the men and woman of the United States military risking their lives for a democratic Iraq and Afghanistan. Her comments are a disgrace to the journalists she represents. Her comments also lack concrete claims.
Her statements led me to do some research into her prior public comments on the US military. What I found was quite interesting. This is not the first time Ms. Foley has made these types of accusations. However, what is most telling is Ms. Foley's lack of concern for the truth in retelling a story. Capturing tone and meaning when quoting an individual is extremely important. Taking words and phrases out of context from another individual to attack that individual is disgraceful journalism. Ms. Foley has apparently done just that in the past, which further calls into question her credibility on this issue.
Linda Foley wrote "Looking ahead: DoD news flash: war is dangerous" on April 18, 2003 as president of her union to the Newspaper Guild faithful. Let us start with what she factually gets right in her article:
"At least a dozen journalists have died in Iraq since the conflict began on March 20, including two Americans: Washington Post columnist and former Guild member Michael Kelly, who died in a Humvee accident, and David Bloom of NBC News, who succumbed to a pulmonary embolism. Both were embedded with U.S. troops at the time of their deaths. Both, tragically, left behind families with young children and many admiring friends and colleagues.
Several other journalists were killed in the midst of combat or as victims of suicide bombings and other violence. Even after the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops, seven journalists were beaten, robbed and narrowly escaped lynching at the hands of Iraqi militia in the central city. Before the Iraqi government crumbled, Iraqi officials expelled several journalists from Baghdad, including the CNN crew; armed militia kidnapped two Newsday reporters and a freelance U.S. photographer, who eventually escaped to Syria; and Iraqi troops attacked an entourage of Polish journalists."
Then she begins her list of acts committed by the US military against journalists covering the war:
"But the deaths caused by U.S. air strikes on the Baghdad offices of the Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi television networks and by a U.S. tank’s shelling of the Palestine Hotel, unofficial headquarters of journalists stationed in Baghdad, raised heightened worldwide alarm over the safety of journalists covering the war.
Taraq Ayyoub of Al-Jazeera was killed on April 8 as U.S. bombs severely damaged the Baghdad office of his Qatar-based network. Cameraman Zouhair al-Iraqi was critically injured in the blast. That same morning, another U.S. air strike damaged the nearby offices of Abu Dhabi TV, trapping 30 journalists for nearly a day. The U.S. military denied that its 'smart bombs' had been aimed at the networks’ offices.
Also killed on April 8 in the Palestine Hotel were Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and Jose Couso of Spain’s Telecinco. Several other journalists also were wounded in that attack. U.S. officials said a tank was responding to what appeared to be sniper fire coming from the hotel, although journalists on the scene disputed the claim.
These weren’t the only questionable journalistic casualties involving U.S. troops in Iraq. During the first week of the war, ITN British journalist and NBC News contributor Terry Lloyd and members of his crew were reportedly killed by 'friendly fire.' And, following the ferocious late March sandstorm, two Israeli journalists and a Portuguese television reporter were allegedly beaten by U.S. troops and detained for 48 hours before they were shipped to Kuwait and let go."
The United States military and the Bush administration allowed reporters to choose to embed with coalition forces, rather than shutting them out of the war, like during the 1991 Gulf War. Over 500 journalists chose to embed with US forces. Journalists who chose to enter the war zone without knowledge of the US military had every right to make that choice. However, blaming the US military for journalists dying in Iraq in the middle of a combat zone during the height of fighting is clearly unfair.
Ms. Foley, along with Amnesty International and 6 other journalist unions, called on the US to launch an independent investigation. In closing she states:
"So far, the only word from the Pentagon in response has been an admonition from spokeswoman Victoria Clarke that journalists should remember 'war is dangerous business.'
I have a good deal of respect for Ms. Clarke and thought she handled her tenure as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs with class and competence. I found it hard to believe she would be so callous about journalists dying in a war zone, even if they were not a part of the DoD's embed program.
Here is what Ms. Clarke did say on April 14, 2003 during a press briefing:
"War is also hazardous for journalists, as we know. At great personal risk, many of them have reported the conflict first-hand. We salute these professionals and offer our condolences to their families.
(Pause while list of names of journalist casualties is shown.)" The list of the 10 names of journalists, both the 2 embedded and 8 non-embedded can be found here.
Ms. Clarke did not say "war is dangerous business", she said "War is also hazardous for journalists, as we know" and then saluted the "professionals" offering sympathy to their families. In fact, Google has only one result that reports quotes "war is dangerous business". Who do you think said it, Ms. Clarke? No, it is Linda Foley's article, misquoting Ms. Clarke to make a political point against the men and women of the US armed forces.
Knowing that Ms. Foley is willing to take a statement of condolence and turn it 180 degrees 2 years ago makes me take her recent claims with a great deal of skepticism and wonder how she came to head a union of journalists that are supposed to seek out truth and accuracy by their profession.