Flying in the face of professional courtesy and solidarity, it is once again time to flaunt an opinion criticizing the media.
In case you missed it, the past two issues of Time Magazine online have been dominated by coverage of the Fallujah incident.
To sum up the two articles, to be released in the April 12 issue, detailing the event, four civilian members of Blackwater USA, one of 20 private companies who, according to the Pentagon, are hired to provide security for nonmilitary personnel in Iraq, were killed on Highway 10 in Fallujah.
All four, who had served in “elite fighting units in the U.S. military,” were in an SUV that was struck by two grenades on a road where it was reported insurgents had set up ambush points.
Three reportedly died instantly while one was beaten to death with bricks by a mob. The SUVs were then burned with the bodies inside while the viewing public held signs reading “Fallujah, Cemetery of the Americans” and chanted “We are Fallujah. We are brave. Who asked you to mess with us?”
Why is the media to blame in this scenario? A recent editorial by Tony Karon, also of Time Magazine, hit the nail on the head, if you will pardon the cliche.
“Part of the Fallujah incident’s impact came from the fact that most of the media chose to describe the four civilian victims as ‘contractors,’ a word that conjured an image of engineers helping to rebuild the shattered country,” Karon wrote. “In reality they were hired guns, former U.S. special forces guys subcontracted by the military to provide security … testimony, perhaps, to a military personnel shortage in Iraq being addressed through outsourcing.”
Once again, by employing any methods necessary, the media is striving to rally public support for Bush’s continued advocacy of a violent presence in a country whose population is noticably less than thrilled with the American presence.
Karon conveys that the nature of occupation requires U.S. retaliation to avoid an image of weakness likely to inspire future attacks.
By conjuring an image of the murder of ‘innocent civilians’ by the Iraqi insurgents, the media ensures that the current administration’s promise “to ‘stay the course in Iraq,'” a promise that may “involve years of committing U.S. lives” with no tangible return, will not be instantly rejected by the already wavering American population.
According to one Time article by Michael Duffy, the facts of the matter are that “the work of the four American civilians slaughtered in Fallujah last week was so shadowy” that neither their families nor a Blackwater spokesman could pin down exactly what they were doing.
In the same article the Pentagon admits that “with U.S. troops still having to battle insurgents and defend themselves, the job of protecting everyone else in Iraq – from journalists to government contractors to the U.S. administrator in Iraq – is largely being done by private security companies stocked with former soldiers looking for good money and a taste of danger.”
The media and the government would have us believe that civilians willingly placing themselves in harm’s way, living in hotels and making up to $15,000 a month for their troubles (more than most U.S. military personnel make), are “innocent” casualties of war.
We must recognize the dangerous direction in which we are allowing ourselves to be led.
These security agents are pampered by their Pentagon-supported employers and willingly sign on to work on the front lines while the American public is led to believe that their deaths are more tragic and worthy of a greater distress than the consistent loss of military personnel.
According to Duffy, a Pentagon offical claims, ” … they are not on the U.S. payroll. And so they are not our responsibility.” And yet the government is using their deaths as an excuse to launch a full-scale retaliatory strike.
U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy head of operation in Iraq, said, “We have to win this war in Fallujah one neighborhood at a time. We’re going to do it on our terms, on our time, and it will be overwhelming.”
And, with the media’s continued support, Bush will be able to perpetuate his bloody campaign without a Vietnam-era inspired rejection of our questionable and unwelcome presence in Iraq and his consistently lacking foreign policies.
~ Kristen Anastos,
Editor in chief