View Full Version : Eliminating witnesses

Ian McColgin
12-05-2004, 10:55 AM
This C&P is really serious and speaks for itself.

Published on Saturday, December 4, 2004 by the Guardian/UK
You Asked for my Evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here It Is
In Iraq, the US Does Eliminate Those Who Dare to Count the Dead

by Naomi Klein

David T Johnson,
Acting ambassador,
US Embassy, London

Dear Mr Johnson,

On November 26, your press counselor sent a letter to the Guardian taking strong exception to a sentence in my column of the same day. The sentence read: "In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone - doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies." Of particular concern was the word "eliminating".

The letter suggested that my charge was "baseless" and asked the Guardian either to withdraw it, or provide "evidence of this extremely grave accusation". It is quite rare for US embassy officials to openly involve themselves in the free press of a foreign country, so I took the letter extremely seriously. But while I agree that the accusation is grave, I have no intention of withdrawing it. Here, instead, is the evidence you requested.

In April, US forces laid siege to Falluja in retaliation for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater employees. The operation was a failure, with US troops eventually handing the city back to resistance forces. The reason for the withdrawal was that the siege had sparked uprisings across the country, triggered by reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed. This information came from three main sources: 1) Doctors. USA Today reported on April 11 that "Statistics and names of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Falluja general hospital". 2) Arab TV journalists. While doctors reported the numbers of dead, it was al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya that put a human face on those statistics. With unembedded camera crews in Falluja, both networks beamed footage of mutilated women and children throughout Iraq and the Arab-speaking world. 3) Clerics. The reports of high civilian casualties coming from journalists and doctors were seized upon by prominent clerics in Iraq. Many delivered fiery sermons condemning the attack, turning their congregants against US forces and igniting the uprising that forced US troops to withdraw.

US authorities have denied that hundreds of civilians were killed during last April's siege, and have lashed out at the sources of these reports. For instance, an unnamed "senior American officer", speaking to the New York Times last month, labeled Falluja general hospital "a center of propaganda". But the strongest words were reserved for Arab TV networks. When asked about al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya's reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed in Falluja, Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defense, replied that "what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable ... " Last month, US troops once again laid siege to Falluja - but this time the attack included a new tactic: eliminating the doctors, journalists and clerics who focused public attention on civilian casualties last time around.

Eliminating doctors The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control. The New York Times reported that "the hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casual ties", noting that "this time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons". The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers "stole the mobile phones" at the hospital - preventing doctors from communicating with the outside world.

But this was not the worst of the attacks on health workers. Two days earlier, a crucial emergency health clinic was bombed to rubble, as well as a medical supplies dispensary next door. Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who was working in the clinic, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and 35 patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of Falluja general hospital "had told a US general the location of the downtown makeshift medical center" before it was hit.

Whether the clinic was targeted or destroyed accidentally, the effect was the same: to eliminate many of Falluja's doctors from the war zone. As Dr Jumaili told the Independent on November 14: "There is not a single surgeon in Falluja." When fighting moved to Mosul, a similar tactic was used: on entering the city, US and Iraqi forces immediately seized control of the al-Zaharawi hospital.

Eliminating journalists:

The images from last month's siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who had covered April's siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi's detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated.

It's not the first time journalists in Iraq have faced this kind of intimidation. When US forces invaded Baghdad in April 2003, US Central Command urged all unembedded journalists to leave the city. Some insisted on staying and at least three paid with their lives. On April 8, a US aircraft bombed al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub. Al-Jazeera has documentation proving it gave the coordinates of its location to US forces.

On the same day, a US tank fired on the Palestine hotel, killing Josť Couso, of the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsiuk, of Reuters. Three US soldiers are facing a criminal lawsuit from Couso's family, which alleges that US forces were well aware that journalists were in the Palestine hotel and that they committed a war crime.

Eliminating clerics:

Just as doctors and journalists have been targeted, so too have many of the clerics who have spoken out forcefully against the killings in Falluja. On November 11, Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaei, the head of the Supreme Association for Guidance and Daawa, was arrested. According to Associated Press, "Al-Sumaidaei has called on the country's Sunni minority to launch a civil disobedience campaign if the Iraqi government does not halt the attack on Falluja". On November 19, AP reported that US and Iraqi forces stormed a prominent Sunni mosque, the Abu Hanifa, in Aadhamiya, killing three people and arresting 40, including the chief cleric - another opponent of the Falluja siege. On the same day, Fox News reported that "US troops also raided a Sunni mosque in Qaim, near the Syrian border". The report described the arrests as "retaliation for opposing the Falluja offensive". Two Shia clerics associated with Moqtada al-Sadr have also been arrested in recent weeks; according to AP, "both had spoken out against the Falluja attack".

"We don't do body counts," said General Tommy Franks of US Central Command. The question is: what happens to the people who insist on counting the bodies - the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them? In Iraq, evidence is mounting that these voices are being systematically silenced through a variety of means, from mass arrests, to raids on hospitals, media bans, and overt and unexplained physical attacks.

Mr Ambassador, I believe that your government and its Iraqi surrogates are waging two wars in Iraq. One war is against the Iraqi people, and it has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The other is a war on witnesses.

Additional research by Aaron Matť

Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (Picador) and, most recently, Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (Picador).

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

12-05-2004, 10:57 AM
I wondered why gaining control of the hospital was such a big deal. Anywho rumor has it that the Director of the Faluja General Hospital was shot recently. It was mentioned in a blog but I haven't found network verification.

12-05-2004, 11:03 AM
Tough titty! There's two sides to every story. I think I'll believe the American one.
Al-Jazeera? Ya Right.

12-05-2004, 11:10 AM
there can be two sides if your model for reality has right and wrong sides. But even in a two part world there's the unity that holds them both.
Jwaldin,,you do understand that Al Jazeera is not welcomed by most gov'ts in the middle east?

Here's your chance,,pull up FIRST PERSON accounts from Falluja that refute the articles premise.

Phillip Allen
12-05-2004, 11:15 AM
"Reporters Without Borders"? A bit redundant don'tchathink? Unless one considers it is a ploy to hijack legitimacy from Doctors Without Borders...hijacking language (with the purpose of leading the thoughts of the auditor of an article in the direction of the hijackerís agenda) and such is the stock in trade of journalists, isn't it?

Phillip Allen
12-05-2004, 11:19 AM
[ 12-05-2004, 12:46 PM: Message edited by: Phillip Allen ]

12-05-2004, 11:19 AM
Al Jazeera's broadcast facilities were hit during Shock and Awe, remember? And CBS was told before it began that all broadcasting facilities were on the target list, even American ones.

In another time you'd be a blackshirt j.

High C
12-05-2004, 11:25 AM
:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

12-05-2004, 11:26 AM
Originally posted by Phillip Allen:
"Reporters Without Borders"? A bit redundant don'tchathink? Unless one considers it is a ploy to hijack legitimacy from Doctors Without Borders...hijacking language (with the purpose of leading the thoughts of the auditor of an article in the direction of the hijackerís agenda) and such is the stock in trade of journalists, isn't it?huh?

language high jackers?

WMD= ?

Links to Al Qeda=?

War on Terror=?


12-05-2004, 11:35 AM
You are welcome to your opinion and so am I. When I don't agree with something someone here posts I rarely attack them personally and when I do I always regret doing so. (Unless it's someone who actually is an idiot and there's only a couple of members here who fit that bill and we all know who they are.) Some here do it all the time and it always lessens everyones respect for them.

[ 12-05-2004, 11:39 AM: Message edited by: jwaldin ]

12-05-2004, 11:53 AM

[ 12-05-2004, 12:59 PM: Message edited by: Hwyl ]

Phillip Allen
12-05-2004, 12:45 PM
Then I will delete mine...(sometimes I get ahead of my better judgment too... smile.gif

12-05-2004, 11:02 PM
Originally posted by jwaldin:
Tough titty! There's two sides to every story. I think I'll believe the American one.
Al-Jazeera? Ya Right.Al Jazeera pisses everyone off..


Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-05-2004, 11:17 PM
Anyone that doesn't think the US military and government is controlling the media in Iraq, I have stock in a flying pig farm that might interest them. To what extent it is being controlled, and for what purpose is not precisely clear, but certainly for the sake of minimizing civilian deaths in reports is one of those purposes.

12-05-2004, 11:59 PM

Well that explains why we get nothing but good news reports from Iraq, and never anything negative. smile.gif

Mike Field
12-06-2004, 08:11 AM
Originally posted by jwaldin:
Tough titty! Jeeze Ian, they're only ay-rabs. What's all the fuss about? :rolleyes:

12-06-2004, 08:20 AM
It's a lot easier to eliminate witnesses than to eliminate civilian casualties.

Especially when you can't afford to have too many US casualties (can't hide those - yet), and thus resort to bombing and strafing from the air in what is essentially an urban police action. Better to kill a hundred raghead bystanders a day than risk casualties among the troops on the ground.

Eliminate doctors in a battle zone, from which you also prevent civilians from fleeing... what would that be called, if someone else were doing it?

12-06-2004, 08:56 AM
spooky processes being talked about for the return of Fallujans. Think about it,,90%of city leaves,,there must be a few insurgents in that mix,,the city has been without power,water, electricity for weeks, sewage/garbage is backed up.
One particular plan is retinal scans/id tags for each Falujan and organizing paid work parties for reconstruction.
When Powell said, you broke you bought it I bet he didn't envision US soldiers standing guard over occupied work gangs.
This is where embedded reporting won't help massage the story by raising the signal to noise ratio. When the signal is predominatley embeds it pushes down competing news.
Which is I suspect why govt's like the US and Iran aren't happy with Al Jazeera. They're 'off-message'.

http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/12/05/returning_fallujans_will_face_clampdown/?rss_id=Boston%20Globe%20-- %20World%20News

[ 12-06-2004, 09:01 AM: Message edited by: LeeG ]

George Roberts
12-06-2004, 11:17 AM
Ian McColgin ---

Perhaps publishing high (even false high) civilain death counts would shorten the war, but ...

That is not my call.

As my wife says: "You should not believe all you hear, regardless of who says it."

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-06-2004, 01:43 PM
One idea that has stirred debate among Marine officers would require all men to work, for pay, in military-style battalions. Depending on their skills, they would be assigned jobs in construction, waterworks, or rubble-clearing platoons.

"You have to say, 'Here are the rules,' and you are firm and fair. That radiates stability," said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Bellon, intelligence officer for the First Regimental Combat Team, the Marine regiment that took the western half of Fallujah during the US assault and expects to be based downtown for some time.

Bellon asserted that previous attempts to win trust from Iraqis suspicious of US intentions had telegraphed weakness by asking, " 'What are your needs? What are your emotional needs?' All this Oprah [stuff]," he said. "They want to figure out who the dominant tribe is and say, 'I'm with you.' We need to be the benevolent, dominant tribe.

I though Oprah was American...? :confused:

I think this guy has the right idea though.
It must be thoroughly understood that the lost land will never be won back by solemn appeals to God, nor by hopes in any League of Nations, but only by the force of arms.

12-06-2004, 01:51 PM
Control of the hospital in Falujah served to severe Al-Jazeera from its main source of "on site, live" broadcasting arena. During other assualts throughout Iraq, Al-Jazeera had been known to stage broadcasting from hospitals that proved to incite the insurgance attacks.

Good military action on part of the US military.

One has to "sidestep" the American media in order to learn the truth. Now since the Election is over the anti-Bush pundits are churning out anti-Americans and anti-American military storys. See ya in H*** Dan Rather.

[ 12-06-2004, 01:55 PM: Message edited by: Elco's ]

12-06-2004, 01:54 PM
reporting of civilian injuries was inciting insurgents??? isn't that putting the effect before the cause?
I could see that having women/children show up injured could be bad news,,especially with precision guided 500lbs bombs or precision sniper fire but thems the facts,,they were showing up and it's bad news.

[ 12-06-2004, 01:58 PM: Message edited by: LeeG ]

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-06-2004, 01:55 PM
The American people are not a warlike nation. It is a soldierly one, which means it does not want a war, but does not fear it. It loves peace but also loves its honor and freedom. ;)

12-06-2004, 01:56 PM
No Lee, ignore your GWB hatred for 5 minuetes and disect this as a military operation.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-06-2004, 02:00 PM
It's always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge ;)

12-06-2004, 02:07 PM
Originally posted by Elco's:
No Lee, ignore your GWB hatred for 5 minuetes and disect this as a military operation.Elco,,what the hell are you saying? I haven't mentioned GW once in this thread. As a military operation it makes sense to control a lot of things.
Given that "American media" gets most of it's info from the military are you saying we should listen to BBC,Al Jazeera and other non-network sources?

12-06-2004, 02:09 PM
Peter Malcolm Jardine, your last 2 posts show a decided change. Did that visit by President Bush to Canada impress you?

12-06-2004, 02:13 PM
Originally posted by Elco's:
One has to "sidestep" the American media in order to learn the truth. Now since the Election is over the anti-Bush pundits are churning out anti-Americans and anti-American military storys. See ya in H*** Dan Rather.tsk, tsk, tsk. All's fair in war.


12-06-2004, 02:14 PM
Control of the hospital was a military decision. You had posted about the hospital above. In the past year your bias (if not down right hatred) towards the President and his political party, has been so severe that I think you cannot disect this as a military operation devoid of politics.

Member # 5178

posted 12-05-2004 10:57 AM
I wondered why gaining control of the hospital was such a big deal. Anywho rumor has it that the Director of the Faluja General Hospital was shot recently. It was mentioned in a blog but I haven't found network verification.
Posts: 8643 | From: MD | IP: Logged

[ 12-06-2004, 02:17 PM: Message edited by: Elco's ]

12-06-2004, 02:30 PM
You have disturbed my bias Elco. I have no animosity towards GW,,ridicule sometimes but no real personal hate. "his" party or as i like to call it the Republican Party holds important positions necessary to our country just as the Democratic party does. The two together occasionally swap positions. That I criticize the president doesn't mean I want to nuke it to oblivion,,come on, that's silly.
The main theme in this thread is the managment of information.
GW and his handlers (yes,,handlers) have been experts in presenting symbol for fact to where the term WMD can mean anything or the word "terrorist" can mean anybody.
So where do you side step American Media to get the rest of the story?

here's a neat story

12-06-2004, 02:38 PM
The thing I love about Rumsfeld is his sincerity,,really, since he's such a sharp guy whenever he gives the impression that an answer is outside his field of responsibility or he doesn't know the press goes all quiet when he says "the person responsible for..." or "gosh, I don't know"


Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-06-2004, 02:40 PM
Here's a quote to remember... I have it right I think. :confused:

President Bush gave us back our faith. He showed us the true meaning of religion. He came to take us from the faith of our fathers? No, he has come to renew for us the faith of our fathers and to make us new and better people.

[ 12-06-2004, 02:42 PM: Message edited by: Peter Malcolm Jardine ]

12-06-2004, 02:52 PM
hey,,church is a great place for AA meetings.

speaking of the prez...just what church is he affiliated with?

12-06-2004, 02:54 PM
"Hi George!"

Ian McColgin
12-06-2004, 05:58 PM
I am not sure why George Roberts thinks I might favor any form of untruthful reporting.

Nor am I sure of the relevance to this topic of my understanding of civilian casualties but, to remind those who may have forgotten, my own remarks on other threads regarding civilian casualties have used either the epidemiological study or the more conservative count, not purely and partisanly Arab sourses.

The charge that our military actions eliminate potential witnesses to our military excesses is very grave, very controversial, and very well defended in the C&P'd colum. It's a British publication and, if our administration dared, they might take advantage of Britian's stricter lible laws in an attempt to muzzel the author. That strategy runs the risk that truth is a defence.

High C
12-06-2004, 06:11 PM
Originally posted by Ian McColgin:
I am not sure why George Roberts thinks I might favor any form of untruthful reporting.
You are often quick to defend the press against charges of bias. And you're quite the spinmeister yourself! tongue.gif :D

I say you had it coming! ;)

John of Phoenix
12-06-2004, 06:18 PM
... a military operation devoid of politics.
If there were such an animal, you wouldn't find it near Falluja.

All those tactics, eliminating centers of influence, are very effective psy-ops techniques - an attempt to control their hearts and minds. Rumsfeld finally seems to realize it really is about hearts and minds, though his "execution" leaves a bit to be desired.

Is this the plan for winning the peace we've been waiting for?

[ 12-06-2004, 06:31 PM: Message edited by: John Teetsel ]

Mike Field
12-06-2004, 08:25 PM
No John, this is the plan for ridding the world of Osama Bin Laden. :rolleyes:

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-06-2004, 08:29 PM
I'm glad Elco liked my previous posts. They have a famous author. tongue.gif

Ian McColgin
12-07-2004, 08:59 AM
So long as there are folk who cannot distinguish between argueing from the facts and finding, excluding and making up facts to fit the arguement, High C will be right that I deserve it.

Spin is useful in baseball, billiards and propaganda. But even in the latter, spin is one thing, factual misrepresentation is another.

I don't, by the way, have a problem with governmental, military or even business legerdemain. For deception to be effective however, one must in general and in every important aspect be truthful. For example, it's good tactics to cause the enemy to think an attack will occur in one place and actually attack another. It's wrong to lie about the reason for going to war in the first place. It's also very poor leadership to lie about bad things that will be found out, such as lieing that we can attack with surgical precision, suppressing colateral deaths, and then having to deal with messily keeping a lid on all that.

As the Depression worsened, Hoover vainly tried to cheer up America and sought exonomic salvation through bromide incantation but Hoover did not lie about the facts. Hoover did not issue rosey employment numbers subject to monthly revision. Not only is there a difference between telling the truth and not, but Hoover gives an example of a man who was wrong about what to do but still managed to tell the truth.

Just so in arguing from the facts. We are bound to differ in what the facts mean. Even where you put severe boundries on the relevant facts, such as the scientific theories about gravitation do not depend on the fact that John loves Mary, there may well be alternative accounts that cover the known facts.

It's an odd thing that emerging third world news sourses are just learning to prize the persuasive value of truth, are just learning that a modern articulated and democratic society can handle bad news truthfully told better than it can handle being shielded from problems, at a time when the grossest commercialization of our mass media are making them less factually reliable.

Political hacks who move to journalism may have interesting things to say but always seem blinkered. Highly politicised editors are often so blinkered that, as in the WSJ, their own reporters find them embarrassing. At least WSJ, unlike Fox, does not have its editorial policy massivly tamper with its reporting.

And yes, I defend working reporters. Good reporters know their own biases well enough to look out from behind their own blinkers. Good reporters are more in love with the story, wherever it goes, than with some preconception. Good reporters love to find out stuff. It's fun.

Anyone running anything wants to control the news and put the best face forward. Some will lie to do that, some just spin. Good reporters, like I. F. Stone was, are the most basic protection of political and economic democracy. good reporters should be finding the stuff that enrages the leaders of commerce and government.

If society is like a good stew simmering, then reporters are the hand with the spoon that keeps the stew stirred and prevents its scourching at the bottom.