Censorship in the Empire
by Michael Gaddy
"All the news that's new and approved by the US Army, the sweetest-smelling army in the world."
~ Robin Williams as Adrian Croneaur, Good Morning Vietnam
The Neocon American State-Corporatocracy learned its lessons well from Vietnam. Their "lessons learned" acknowledged truth from the war zone could be hazardous for those who desire continuous wars for peace. They also realized the blind dedication of military personnel is essential to creating an empire. Therefore, "perfumed princes" are much more desirable in uniform than warriors. Thus the reason for the dismissal of General Eric Shinseki as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the rise to power of General Richard Meyers at the onset of the Dubya administration in 2001.
Knowing full well that the constant video and unfettered news reports from the war zone and pictures of coffins returning to America bearing the fruits of war were detrimental to their efforts, the Bush administration moved to ensure such reporting did not occur in "their" war. As a result, the War Department created and carried out the idea of embedded reporters. Embedding reporters with military units made it wonderfully easy to control media and therefore the news, subjecting them to censorship at the base level of operation.
The Department of Continual War for Peace would have everyone believe the "embedding" was done to facilitate the dissemination of truth to the masses. The exact opposite was their desired goal.
The Secretary of Defense contended in his directive, "that media will have long-term minimally restrictive access to air, ground and naval forces through embedding." The DOD document also states, "We need to tell the factual story – good or bad – before others seed the media with disinformation and distortions…" The DOD and the military are providing disinformation and distortion from the war in Iraq to the citizens of the US as standard operating procedure. (See the DOD directive on embedded reporters.)
A prime example of suppressing the truth and ignoring the DOD directive is exemplified in the actions of a particular military unit and its commander in the Iraq Theater of Operations. While these actions may or may not be typical, they are revealing.
A Stryker Squadron of the 25th Infantry Division, commanded by a Lt. Colonel, provides great insight into how the media has actually been handled, how they are controlled, and what happens to them when they do not toe-the-line. From the very beginning of this unit’s deployment to Iraq in October of 2004, the SCO (squadron commander) had a standing policy with embedded reporters that any story for publication must be submitted to him and his staff for approval before it was transmitted to the reporter’s employers.
In January of 2005, a traffic control patrol of this unit, accompanied by embedded reporter Chris Hondros, encountered a car coming toward them on the streets of Tal-Afar. For some reason, the driver of the car did not stop as directed and was met with a hail of gunfire. When the car came to rest it was found to contain Iraqi parents and their children. The parents were killed in the gunfire, but the children miraculously survived with only minor injuries. Pictures from that tragic event can be found here.
Returning to the Forward Operating Base (FOB Sykes) in Tal-Afar, Hondros filed his report and pictures without approval from the Colonel or his staff. When the Colonel learned of this he called Brigade (25th Infantry Division) in Mosul and told them Hondros was not playing ball and had him sent back to Brigade – so much for telling the factual story – good or bad. Sources tell me Hondros asked for permission to return and do a follow-up on the story but was told he would have to do it on his own without any military escort to accompany him in Iraq. Hondros recently received an award for his reporting of the incident.
Later in the spring of 2005, a bus loaded with Iraqi Army personnel was hit by an IED between Sinjar and Tal-Afar, resulting in a large number of casualties. Another reporter embedded with the above-mentioned unit asked for permission to be taken to the scene and file a report but permission from the Colonel was denied. The reporter proceeded to the scene anyway. The Colonel had him arrested and sought to have him placed in the detention center in Tal-Afar, but the officer in charge of the facility refused to place the reporter in the same center with suspected terrorists. The Colonel had the reporter placed under guard at all times until he had him removed from his area of operations and returned to Brigade headquarters in Mosul. Obviously, Brigade was beginning to see a pattern and "embeds" assigned to this unit became extremely rare.
One of the greatest examples of hypocrisy in this war involved this unit and their commander. The Colonel was conducting a sweep of an area in Tal-Afar. One of the tactics employed in this sweep was the placing of pro-American propaganda posters on the walls of Iraqi businesses. The Colonel noticed a poster written in Arabic on the door of a market and asked his interpreter what the poster said. The interpreter replied that it was anti-American in nature. The Colonel had the owner of the market brought to him and asked about the poster. When the owner replied that he did not put up the poster, the Colonel asked why he had not removed it and he replied he did not want to have his head chopped off. The commander had the storeowner placed under arrest and put in the unit’s detention facility as a suspected insurgent. The Colonel ordered the market left unsecured. Looters immediately entered the store and it was emptied in a matter of minutes. When the storeowner was being interrogated at the FOB, he asked if the United States was conducting a war in Iraq to bring the people freedom and democracy, why was he denied the right to freedom of speech and expression? Game, set, match, Iraqi businessman.
Many were the soldiers, both officer and enlisted, who questioned the conduct of this commander in the theater of operations during his unit’s tour of duty in Iraq. One officer actually gave the Colonel a copy of the Geneva Convention when he was ordered to do something he felt was illegal. The Colonel fired the officer and had him reassigned to Brigade. Command and DOD obviously found nothing wrong with the Colonel’s battlefield conduct; he was promoted to full Colonel (O-6) shortly after returning to the US.
This Colonel was not the only commander seeking to keep the truth of his conduct from being reported; his Brigade had three Majors, three Captains and approximately one dozen enlisted personnel whose entire job was to spin the truth into palatable form for dissemination to the American public plus managing the information that was published by our lackeys in the Iraqi media. They were known as the IO, or information operation. Many of these military personnel were trained and specialized in psychological warfare.
Our government actually trains military personnel to obscure the truth from the citizens it claims to defend. This makes a mockery of the DOD’s professed goals as stated in their own directives. Surely these soldiers’ talents could be better used in a combat zone. Creating "all the news that is new and approved" for their enemies and their fellow countrymen should be a subject of concern for all Americans who claim an allegiance to the First Amendment.
June 30, 2006
Michael Gaddy [send him mail], an Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Beirut, lives in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.