January 13, 2004

More Sloppy Tabloid-Style Reporting at the Guardian

U.S. troops are engaged in the "brutalisation" of Reuters journalists in Iraq reports the Guardian. (Press freedoms are imperiled. Bring back Saddam!).

"Although Reuters has not commented publicly, it is understood that the journalists were "brutalised and intimidated" by US soldiers, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay, and whispered: "Let's have sex."

At one point during the interrogation, according to the family of one of the staff members, a US soldier shoved a shoe into the mouth one of the Iraqis.

The US troops, from the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Falluja, also made the blindfolded journalists stand for hours with their arms raised and their palms pressed against the cell wall.

"They were brutalised, terrified and humiliated for three days," one source said. "It was pretty grim stuff. There was mental and physical abuse."

He added: "It makes you wonder what happens to ordinary Iraqis."

The US military has so far refused to apologise and has bluntly told Reuters to "drop" its complaint. Major General Charles Swannack, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, claimed that two US soldiers had provided sworn evidence that they had come under fire. He admitted, however, that soldiers sometimes had to make "snap judgments". [emphasis added]

Really now?

Here's a more, er, sober treatment of this story:

"Asked about the complaint at a news conference on Monday, the U.S. army in Baghdad said it was still investigating the incident and would announce no conclusions until that inquiry was complete.

The three Iraqis were detained on January 2 and released around 72 hours later.

A Reuters spokesman said the global news and information firm had called on the U.S. military swiftly to complete its investigation and provide a detailed response to the complaint.

He declined to give further details pending a response from U.S. authorities.

"The investigation is ongoing," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the U.S. Army in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad.

"We are going to hold a full and thorough investigation on the basis of information provided not only by our troops on the ground but also the information provided by the Reuters journalists. It would be premature to make any conclusions before that investigation is complete," Kimmitt said." [emphasis added]

Oh, so there will be an investigation--contra the Guardian's reporting that the U.S. military has "bluntly told Reuters to drop" the complaint.

But that wouldn't fit the 'aren't-those-brutish-Yanks-just-awful' theme would it?

Here's another media outlet that has the U.S. actually investigating the allegations, again, contra the Guardian's reporting.

Meanwhile, Chinese press outlets have joyously piggy-backed on the Guardian story.

The story can now be passed around, say, the Chinese Foreign Ministry for little pep talks ("Next time your American counterpart lectures you about human rights--remind them of their treatment of the press in Iraq" etc etc).

But, of course, the Guardian has a distinguished pedigree in this type of knee-jerk anti-American muckracking raportage.

Hey, at least they are consistent...

UPDATE: A reader writes in with this part of the Guardian's story to defend their treatment of the story:

"The top US military spokesman in Iraq, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, later admitted that they had received a formal complaint and that there was an on-going investigation into the incident." [emphasis added]

O.K. But it's, you know, tucked away, at the bottom of the article, and must be read in conjunction with such choice phrases liberally sprinkled about the article:

"A spokeswoman for the US military's coalition press and information centre in Baghdad hung up when the Guardian asked her to comment"and/or "(t)he US military has so far refused to apologise and has bluntly told Reuters to "drop" its complaint."

Will you forgive me if, after reading the article, I'm left with the impression that the U.S. military told Reuters to bugger off and no investigation, of any seriousness, is forthcoming?

Posted by Gregory at January 13, 2004 10:46 AM
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