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“Five Dead” in “Military Error”: A Barely Noticeable Example of War Crime Journalism


Imagine that a Canadian Air Force jet on a military exercise accidentally crossed into US airspace and mistakenly dropped a bomb that killed, say, 14 US residents. On what page of your local U.S. newspaper do you think THAT story would appear? How much print space would be dedicated to the coverage of that remarkable incident?

Now take a look at the following story off the AP wire, pasted in from the front section of last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune:

MILITARY ERROR
U.S. hits wrong house; 5 dead
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq—The United States military said it dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong house outside the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, killing five people.

The man who owned the house said the bomb killed 14 people, and an Associated Press photographer said seven of them were children.

Late Saturday, a U.S. F-16 jet dropped a 500-pound GPS-guided bomb on a house in the town of Aitha, 30 miles south of Mosul, a military statement said.

“The house was not the intended target for the airstrike. The intended target was another location nearby,” the military said in a statement.

The homeowner, Ali Yousef, told Associated Press Television News that the airstrike happened at about 2:30 a.m., and U.S. troops then surrounded the area, blocking access for four hours. The brick house was reduced to rubble, according to an AP photographer.

The photographer said from the scene that 14 family members, including seven children, were killed.
Coalition forces that went to the area reported that five people were killed in the bombing, said the military, which is investigating the incident.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Sunday, January 9, 2005, section 1, page 6

How about those “smart bombs?” Isn’t it funny how the Tribune headline (it’s the individual paper that writes the headline, not the AP) goes with the body count of “5 dead” when the actual wire story cites an AP PHOTOGRAPHER ON THE SCENE WHO SAYS THAT the Iraqi homeowner owner is correct and 14 FAMILY MEMBERS WERE KILLED? At the end you see that so-called “coalition” forces “reported five people were killed.” Could the loathesome war-crime journalism of the Tribune be any more clear? The actual primary and (by the way) western news source (the AP) and the home owner both report 14 deaths but the occupation forces say 5 dead, so the running dog media lackeys of US imperialism simply say… surprise…5 dead.

Maybe they figured nobody would actually read this story. This remarkable (one would think/in a decent society) story got exactly six column inches. It was buried at the bottom of page 6, where it was dwarfed by an 85 column inches adverisement for Verizon wireless camera cell phones. It’s rat-a-tat-tat: open and shut: “five” dead in an accident…oh well, and now for something compeltely different. There’s no elaboration or update or other story enrichment, of course, on how many civilians the US has killed in Iraq to date, on how common and throroughly predictable (as is well understood in the Pentagon) these “accidents” really are. Nothing on the names or occupations or hopes and dreams of the dead Iraqi “collateral damage.” No photos or family stories about the victims of the imperialists’ little 500-pound mistake. No photo of the bomb site and the rubble of the brick house, interestingly enough, as there was an AP PHOTOGRAPHER there. I wonder if the photographer was even allowed to use his camera by the US perpetrators who “surrounded the area” and “blocked access [to their own crime scene] for 4 hours.”

By comparison, the same Tribune issue gives 38 column inches and front-page above-the-fold status to an embarassing family feud (something about a landfill) between the governor of Illinois (an obnoxious twit named Rod Blagojevich) and his powerful father-in-law and Chicago alderman Dick Mell.

On page 8, at the top, the Tribune gives 28 column inches to a big headline story on how Catholic schools are split on the issue of what to do with the children of gay couples.

The top of page 9 gives 23 column inches to an enlightening story about Elvis Presley’s 70th birthday and the large number of people who still treck to “the King’s” Graceland mansion in Memphis. The top of page 11 gives 48 column inches to a truly terrible story about an Appalachian 3-year old who was killed when a rock was dislodged by a strip mining bulldozer and rolled into his bedroom.

And at the top of page 4, the Tribune dedicates 26 column inches to a sensitive story telling the all-too-short life stories and giving photographs of three US occupation soliders who recently died in Iraq. We learn about the death of a “baby-faced” Army National Guardsman and about his whirlwind romance with a fellow student at the University of Southern Maine. We learn about a different killed Guardsman who “drove a Chevy” and “wore baggy clothes” and was “an avid hunter and an artist who drew fantasy and sci-fi sketches.” We learn about a different Guardsman killed in Iraq who (by his mother’s account) “was kind of a long-haired, pot-smoking, didn’t give a rat’s [ass], devil may care kind of guy…he was a good person, but he lacked direction. But once he went into the Army, he did a complete turn-around. He quit drinking, quit smoking, and he ran 10 to 15 miles a day.”

The Army provided him direction alright: right into an early grave, under the bumbling direction of another ex-”devil may care” kind of heavy-drinking guy who also had a turn-around and became a jogger but who managed to keep himself out of the line of military fire: George W. “Bring-Em On” Bush.

American troops should think seriously about refusing to follow orders in the racist and imperialist occupation of Iraq.

Meanwhile we at home need to deal with these sickening imperial lapdogs and dominant media thought-controllers who manage and shape opinion through selective story sizing and placement and deceptive head-line-writing, to mention just a few of their manipulative, power-worshipping techniques.

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