US is Planting Stories but Freedom’s 50 Meters Away

The U.S. military command in Baghdad acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it has paid Iraqi newspapers to carry positive news about U.S. efforts in Iraq, but officials characterized the payments as part of a legitimate campaign to counter insurgents’ misinformation.

In a statement, the command said the program included efforts, “customary in Iraq,” to purchase advertising and place clearly labeled opinion pieces in Iraqi newspapers. But the statement suggested that the “information operations” program may have veered into a gray area where government contractors paid to have articles placed in Iraqi newspapers without explaining that the material came from the U.S. military and that Iraqi journalists were paid to write positive accounts.

“Serious allegations have been raised that suggest the process may be functioning in a manner different than is intended or appropriate,” the statement said. Commanders are “reviewing these allegations and will investigate any improprieties,” it said.

The statement from Baghdad was the first official effort to explain the media initiative after three days of news reports describing efforts by the U.S. military to plant stories in Iraqi media under the guise of independent journalism. [more]

Ah, what a way to spread democracy…by telling people you’re spreading democracy!

In related news there is a documentary I saw last night on the CBC called Targets by an Iranian Canadian filmmaker about Journalists in Iraq. Did you know more journalists have died in Iraq thus far than in the whole Vietnam war? It’s a rather good documentary, you may not agree with all of it as I did not but it does put a human face on Iraqi suffering, something you never hear about in the American press (strangly enough). In one scene American soldiers shoot a slow moving car that approaches a checkpoint in the dark. The car careens to the side and as the doors open a few children topple out. Miraculously they are unhardmed from the gunfire, so to speak, but the brains of their parents are smeared across the dashboard.

Incidents like this have happened many times in Iraq and the rationale is that all cars approaching these checkpoints are potential car bombers. So as a safe gaurd the troops put signs that say: “Please, A Very Serious Warning – We are authorized to fire on any vehicle that approaches the convoy less than 50 meters

I’m guessing they were moving slowly because they had trouble reading a sign that was 50 meters away in the dark.

By the way, the signs have been updated to 100 meters now. Can you read a sign that far away?


  • In a combat zone where both civilians and combatants exist, whos safety takes priority? That of the combatants fighting each other, or the civilians of both sides who are not fighting anyone? And even if both sides in combat are using civilian disguise tactics to attack each other, does it still justify either of them choosing to “risk the life of a civilian over risking their own”?

    You see even if you as a soldier in combat know that the enemy is using civilian vehicles sometimes to attack you, when you see a civilian vehicle approaching, I believe you cannot put your own safety ahead of the safety of the civilians that could be in the vehicle. I believe you have to be certain that what’s in front of you is the enemy before you shoot them. Because you are the soldier in a war zone, if someone between you and a guy in a civilian vehicle is gonna die, you take priority, you die first, unless you can prove that the guy in the civilian vehicle is an enemy combatant who was going to attack you!

    Also, who takes priority on the road? I believe civilians do. You see, it’s not that civilians are the ones who carry a 50 or 100 meter range of danger around them, it is the army that does. So I believe putting that 50 or 100 range of danger on a road used by civilians is wrong. It should not be the job of civilians to stay away as much as they can from combatants, it should be the job of combatants to stay away from civilians, and their roads.

    As a last note, unfortunately it is not only the US army that this message needs to be delivered to. Resistance fighters in both Iraq and in Palestine many times risk the lives of their own people by failing to stay away from them when they engage in fights. They bear a share of the responsibility for the deaths too even if they are usualy not the ones pulling the trigger on a civilian.

  • Hamzeh, I read your reply with some interest until I remembered the old saying of who came first the chicken or the egg. While what you said screams logic this war is anything but. Because to begin with there shouldnt any Iraqi who has to die 50 meters away from anything on his homeland. To begin with the Americans should not even be there. So to sit here and debate the logistics of warfare is a little out of context.

  • Originally, the first sentence in my reply was going to read “This is a generic question: In a combat zone …” :p

    I know that the Americans should not even be there, any war should not really be there. If you think about it, wars only errupt due to failure in applying the same logic on both sides, at least one of the two sides has the wrong logic if not both, but once it [war] starts, do we no longer speak about what’s logical?

  • 100 metres? That makes no difference. It a car is traveling at speed then 100 metres is covered in a second. It will make zero difference because at 100 metres the US troops have already made up their minds to shoot or not to shoot. The real issue is that the US military shows no value on local life. If you are 20 years old, and your mates are dying, and your government places no value on local life, wouldnt you shoot?

  • “If you are 20 years old, and your mates are dying, and your government places no value on local life, wouldnt you shoot?”

    Abu Sinan, I would hope I could exercise a little bit of conscience and humanity in the matter. Not all fundemental human traits are lost upon joining the U.S. army.

Your Two Piasters: