Saturday, August 26, 2006

What happened to CNN?

I was just watching the movie Live from Bagdhad with Michael Keaton. It's the story of the first Gulf War and the CNN crew that stayed in the hotel to broadcast the war live. It's impressive, these correspondents who didn't want to leave,were the only network with broadcasting capabilities, who wanted to get the story and tell the American people what was going on, with no commentary, just facts.

They showed clips of Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw, all quoting from CNN because they were the only journalists who could broadcast. One of them said, "CNN, sometimes called the little network that could, well they're not little anymore."

What happened to CNN? I remember the Gulf War and coming home from work glued to the news watching Peter Arnett showing America what was really happening. I remember when Bush said they didn't target civilian areas, while Arnett was reporting from the middle of Bagdhad showing the intense bombing, his mere presence contradicting the president.

I also remember Arnett getting fired from CNN when he gave an interview to Iraqi TV in which he criticised the American government's execution of the war and proffered the opinion that they had underestimated the will of the Iraqis. After being soundly discredited and made to appear unpatiotic, he was uncerimoniously handed his pink slip. He was hired by The Guardian less than 24 hours later.

While searching for information on Arnett to refresh my memory, I stumbled on a book by Dr. Douglas Kellner, the Philosophy of Education Chair, Department of Social Sciences and Comparative Education at UCLA. He wrote a book entitled The Persian Gulf TV War.

In it, he picks apart, not only the war, but also the propaganda that surrounded it. I only read Chapter 7 which described the coverage of the bombing of a civilian bomb shelter and ,with the assistance of the media, showed its transformation into a military bunker used by high ranking Iraqi officials and their families, afterthe public outcryturned deafening. The excuses for bombing the civilian target, or was it, could have been taken right out of the Lebanon War. Here's an example.

The noon CNN telecast was headlined: "Conflicting reports out of the war zone." CNN announced that so far there were only eight survivors, and that the bombed building was just one of many targets during a twelve hour bombing raid. (Another of the bombed buildings was right across the street from the Al Rashid Hotel where the foreign journalists and Soviet diplomats were staying). CNN then ran an ITN report by a shaken Brent Sadler who described the target as "obviously a civilian shelter" that was filled with "civilians escaping from the nightly bombing." The report contained the most graphic and horrific images so far of incinerated people, agonized families, dazed crowds, and upset journalists, powerful visual evidence that the shelter was undeniably used by civilians. One saw twisted steel and concrete with bunkers, obviously for sleeping. Iraqi civilian defense teams fought through the blazing fire trying to save people; one victim after another was pulled out, a blanket wrapped around their charred remains as the crowd broke into collective grief each time a new victim was brought out of the inferno.

Despite the visual evidence, CNN's military apologist, James Blackwell, came on again, determined to win points for the Pentagon, and did an "analysis" of the video clips of the building bombed to "prove" that it was a military bunker. Notice, he said, the steel doors that prevent people from coming in; look at the shelter sign in English, which looks like a Civilian Defense sign in the United States; look at the barbed wire around the building; look at the reinforced concrete--all signs, Blackwell reassured us, that it was a military bunker. He admitted that, "of course," the allies can't provide any counterevidence in the "public relations" campaign unless they release the evidence of the intelligence that established that this was a military facility, again reducing the images of Iraqi civilian casualties to propaganda. When asked why so many civilians were sleeping in the building, Blackwell repeated Perry Smith's speculation that perhaps the families of the military people who worked there slept in the bunker at night. He insisted that the bunker was like the one used by Saddam Hussein, stocked for the families of the military. But, he concluded, the more "macabre" reason for the civilian occupants might be that Saddam Hussein has pursued a new policy of moving civilians into these areas as human shields. At this point, Reid Collins cut off Blackwell's "analysis of what happened last night," while Bobby Battista looked down and away from the camera as she cut to a commercial break.

Brent Sadler, mentioned above as an ITN reporter, is now CNN's Beirut Bureau chief.

So that's the news, and how we get it. If you want to read the book, which is free online, you can read it at click here. I plan to read the whole book, it's free online.

So how did CNN go from the little network that could to the full scale propaganda machine it turned into for the Lebanon War? I have no idea, but it is obvious from the one chapter I did read, that the news, is not only not fit to print, is most definitely not fit to broadcast.
If you are not yet convinced that we are the viewers of a hijacked media, I will leave you with another website. If this one doesn't convince you that our media is bought and/or intimidated, there is no hope for you, go turn on a sitcom. click here

Next we'll talk about taking it back.

CNN misrepresents major Middle East story

This is a story CNN did on their This week at war series. Here is what CNN said.

Finally, if you, like most of us, wonder how a cease-fire could ever take hold in the war torn Middle East, here's an instructive story. When the Israeli Army took the city of Mazyun (ph) last week, they captured a Lebanese military base. This videotape, shot and edited by an Israeli, shows the commanding general greeting the Israelis and offering them tea.

The Israelis spend the day with the Lebanese and then release them. It may well only be a story, one that can easily be used for political advantage on both sides. Lebanon and Israel are not friends. In fact, they are officially enemies. Lebanon has never signed a peace deal with Israel. But on this day, whatever the political and military motives may have been here, they talked over tea, a brief interlude of camaraderie in a war that has brought nothing but grief.

Here is the actual story reported by numerous sources.

BEIRUT: Internal Security Forces General Adnan Daoud was placed under house arrest on Thursday after two local television stations broadcast videotape of him having tea with Israeli Army officers when they occupied the South. New TV and Hizbullah's Al-Manar played the tape, which originally aired on Israeli television and showed Daoud having tea with smiling Israeli soldiers and taking them for a stroll in the courtyard of the Marjayoun barracks.

"The general is to remain under house arrest until the investigation is complete," acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat told The Daily Star.

Fatfat ordered Daoud to be summoned and held for questioning.

Lebanese law forbids any dealings with Israel because a state of war exists between the two countries despite the Armistice Agreement of 1949. Lebanese citizens who have dealings with Israelis are subject to arrest and prosecution.

Daoud is commanding officer of the 1,000-strong joint police-army force that was lightly armed and which held various positions in Southern Lebanon and was based in Marjayoun. Israeli troops seized the barracks last Wednesday, holding Daoud and 350 soldiers for a day before allowing them to leave the occupied zone. The force was evacuated along with hundreds of civilians and under the protection of UN peacekeepers. The convoy nonetheless came under Israeli air attack, and seven people were killed.

Reports have indicated that four Israeli tanks rolled up to the entrance of the barracks, blowing holes in a steel gate and shattering glass.

The lightly armed Lebanese garrison did not resist the Israeli force, which then moved armor into the base.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Daoud as having said of his first encounter with an Israeli colonel: "He was very polite with me."

"They said: 'We are an occupying army and now you are occupied,'" Daoud said of a conversation with another Israeli officer after was taken prisoner and separated from lower-ranking soldiers. "I tried to refuse because they were Israelis and I am Lebanese and they are supposed to be the enemy."

Does this strike you as being a friendly cup of tea? A French/Lebanese teacher, who lives in the area, blogged the story click hereand included other details.

Attack against the humanitarian convoy from Marjeyun – End of story

Today, both L’Orient-Le Jour [Lebanese newspaper in French] and As-Safir [Lebanese newspaper in Arabic] reported that the Israeli TV showed yesterday a video which was shot inside the barracks of the Lebanese army in Marjeyun, the barracks which no more than 20 Israeli soldiers took over on the 10th of August [see previous message “Attack against the evacuation convoy from Marjeyun”].

In a previous version of that Israeli takeover of the Lebanese barracks, something like 20 Israeli soldiers are said to have entered the barracks, and to have threatened the Lebanese hierarchy by saying “If you shoot one single bullet, our planes will just demolish the barracks on your heads”. The cohabitation between the two armies then lasted till the next day, when the Lebanese army was given the order by the Minister of Interior to evacuate the barracks, even if it meant leaving them in the hands of the Israelis.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Day XXX – Attack against an evacuation convoy from Marjeyun

Today, in Marjeyun [South Lebanon], several hundreds of private cars, together with dozens of vehicles of the Lebanese army, organised a huge convoy in order to evacuate the maximum of civilians from Marjeyun and its neighbourhoods, that have been under the fire of the Israeli war machines for days now.

Two days before, some twenty Israeli soldiers, led by an officer, entered the barracks of the Lebanese army in Marjeyun, and the Israeli officer then arrogantly declared to the commanding officer of the Lebanese troops: “Just shoot one bullet, and our planes will immediately demolish the barracks on your heads”.

The Minister of Interior, Mr. Ahmad Fatfat, categorically refused that the Lebanese army stay in the barracks occupied by the Israeli army, who hence took de facto 350 Lebanese soldiers as hostages. “In the barracks, it’s us or them!”, declared the Minister.

Though it immediately rejected the Lebanese accusation of “taking hostages”, Tsahal has nonetheless strictly refused the Lebanese soldiers or officers to leave the barracks since the very moment it was in.

Exasperated, Mr. Fatfat gave the order this morning to the Lebanese military hierarchy to evacuate the barracks, even if that meant that they would stay in the hands of the occupying force.

Immediately, arguments rose between the Lebanese army and the Israeli one inside the barracks, since the Israeli army refused to let its « prisoners » go.

After diplomatic contacts between Lebanon and France first, and then between France and Israel, the Israeli army eventually accepted to release its prisoners, obviously thanks to a personal call from Jacques Chirac to the Israeli government. But Tshal refused to let the Lebanese soldiers leave with their weapons. Then, the Lebanese commanding officer definitely refused to leave his troops’ weapons to the occupier.

A compromise has eventually been found, where the weapons of the Lebanese soldiers were all given to the UN forces. The Lebanese soldiers and their hierarchy were then allowed to gather with their vehicles on the main boulevard downtown.

When people in Marjeyun and its neighbouring villages heard about the evacuation of the army, they completely panicked, and thousands of people insisted on leaving with the army… which the Israeli army categorically refused.

Again, the Lebanese commanding officer refused to leave without the civilians who wanted to join his troops. The Israeli army then took the “adequate” measure: at around 4:00 p.m., its warplanes bombarded the road linking Marjeyun to Hasbaya, their rockets digging a crater of 5 meters deep and 20 meters large in the middle of it, whereas this road is the only suitable one which allows to go north from Marjeyun.

After some extra phone calls between the Lebanese spheres, the UN and the Israeli ones, the Lebanese commanding officer was allowed to leave with the civilians, under the UN soldiers’ protection. The convoy got organised: 350 disarmed soldiers and 3500 terrorised civilians gathered in something like 50 military vehicles and 515 civilian cars.

The convoy then headed north, passing through extremely difficult tracks [the army stopped several times to move away with their bare hands all the rocks and trunks that were blocking the tracks]. After two hours to drive only the first 13 kilometres, it eventually managed to reach one of the roads which link Saïda to the north, and decided to stop one time in Zahleh [in the Beqaa, at 35 kms from Baalbeck], and then to finish its journey in Beirut.

The problem is that the Israeli MKs had been following the convoy all the time since it left Marjeyun, and it’s in Kefraya, at a few kilometres before Zahleh, in the evening, that the Israeli war machines suddenly started to bombard the convoy: four cars immediately exploded. Eight people were killed, and forty were wounded.

After an Israeli refusal to let the Lebanese go, negotiations started between the Lebanese diplomacy and the French one, then between the French diplomacy and the Israeli one, Jacques Chirac having given personal calls to the Israeli government, and the Israelis were eventually forced to authorise the Lebanese soldiers and gendarmes to leave the barracks, but without their weapons.

A convoy was then formed, composed of 50 military vehicles of the 350 Lebanese soldiers and gendarmes, and thanks to an official commitment from the UN forces who accepted to escort the convoy till its final destination (Beirut), 515 civilian vehicles gathering more than 3500 people afraid from staying in a town under control of foreign occupying forces, were allowed to join the convoy.

The convoy then left. At a few kilometres from Zahleh (Beqaa), which was supposed to be its first stop, the Israeli warplanes suddenly opened the fire on the convoy without any notice, burnt four cars, amongst which one of the gendarmerie, killed eight people and wounded forty of them.

A new version of the start of this story was presented yesterday by the Israeli TV, which showed « Adnan Daoud, the leading commander of the Lebanese army in the barracks of Marjeyun [as a matter of fact, he is the commander of the gendarmerie, not the army…], having some tea with the Israelis in his office, in a cordial atmosphere”.

The Israeli TV then explained that before the twenty soldiers entered the barracks, they were being violently attacked by the Hezbollah forces, which managed to wound some of them and which were going to soon defeat them all, when the Lebanese army suddenly “invited” the Israelis to “shelter” in the barracks “where they were proposed to be healed”, which means Adnan Daoud and his men saved those twenty Israeli soldiers from a certain death.

After that Israeli video was played, showing Adnan Daoud in undeniable situations of “cordiality” with the Israelis [one can see him having tea in all complicity with them in his office, then one can see him in the garage, laughing with them], the Lebanese Minister of Interior, Mr. Ahmad Fatfat, immediately ordered the arrest and imprisonment of Daoud.

Since, many comments have been made, the Israelis trying hard thanks to this video to reject the part of the first version of the events, where they were described by the Lebanese as an occupying force in the barracks.

As a matter of fact, what should really be kept in mind, in this whole affair, is something else. Because whatever the version of the events which took place before the convoy left Marjeyun, the end of the story is just the same: the Israeli army has opened the fire on a convoy composed of more than 3500 civilians and 350 Lebanese soldiers and gendarmes, a convoy placed under the official protection of the UN.

The new version of the events is even more embarrassing for the Israeli army than the previous one. In the previous version, the Israeli warplanes bombarded a convoy of civilians under the UN escort, and an army and a gendarmerie presented as resisting forces which refused to cohabitate with the Israeli forces in the same barracks.

In the new version, the pilots of the Israeli warplanes have attacked civilians placed under the UN escort, but also collaborators who, the day before, sheltered twenty Israeli soldiers, healed them, and saved them from a terrible death by pulling them out from the Hezbollah’s claws.

A big problem with broadcast news, is not what they report, but what they leave out of their reporting. It is this lying by omission that has the greatest effect on story spin. The lies can be seen, the omissions cannot.