Sunday, April 11, 2010

Editorial: Who moved, who stayed?

Monday WikiLeaks released US military video of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad assault which resulted in multiple deaths including the deaths of Reuters employees Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. It quickly became the Iraq story of the week. Monday, Al Jazeera interviewed Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks, about the leaked video.

Julian Assange: This is a video of an Apache helicopter on the 12th of July, 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. It shows a number of things. It shows an attack on a group of people. Two of which are Reuters journalists from Baghdad. Those men are killed by 30 milimeter cannon fire. There seems to be some initial confusion as to whether those people are carrying weapons and that the Reuters' photographer's camera was a weapon. But it proceeds from what might have been an excuse for not concentrating too much, to something far more serious. When one of the Reuters photographers is crawling away, wounded, clearly he doesn't have a weapon, clearly of no threat and a van tries to rescue him which passes by and two children inside. That van is then attacked and the Reuters staff member, Saeed, is killed along with all the people in that van except for the two children who survived but were seriously wounded. [. . .] Just 20 minutes after that serious and disturbing event, a Hellfire missile attack is conducted on a nearby house. That from -- The roof appears to be under construction. And that attacks kills another -- by the military record -- six people. But maybe potentially more, anotehr six. The military say that insurgents went in that hour or lived in the house or went into the building. But our people have shown that in fact there were three families in that house and we have the records of some of their deaths -- including two women. And so on. It is possible that some armed men walked into that house but the majority of the people in that house seemed -- at least the majority of the people that lived there seemed to be regular families and we have evidence from the person who owned the house and photographic evidence of the Hellfire missile and so on.

If Iraq was touched on by a program at all last week, they gave a 'shout out' to the video. Some did more, some did less, but the story was noted on NPR's Talk of the Nation, The Diane Rehm Show, Morning Edition and All Things Considered; PRI's The Takeaway and The World; and Pacifica's Democracy Now! and Flashpoints.


Agani, it was often the only Iraq story the programs touched on (PRI programming was a noteable exception). Appearing on
The World (PRI) Wednesday, today, Harvard professor Matthew Baum explored the subject with host Marco Werman and the professor noted:

Matthew Baum: It's not the time delay per se, it's that this is coming out at a period where basically American opinion, American attention, world attention has pretty much moved on from Iraq. Iraq is no longer the story that it once was in terms of salience. It may still be very much in flux in terms of how the situation in Iraq is ultimately going to play out but it is clearly not the center of international attention that it was, say, at the time that the Abu Ghraib images came out. So you just have a less receptive audience than you would have had at that time by virtue of the fact that people aren't paying that much attention to Iraq anymore.

If you doubted that at least the American media had moved on, you only had to take inventory of what got covered and what didn't. Sunday, three embassies in Baghdad were targeted and, Tuesday, Baghdad apartments were targeted. Multiple deaths and hundreds wounded resulted but did you see much coverage of that?

No, you didn't.

Political tensions continued in the post-election period but you didn't see a great deal of coverage on that topic either.

There were exceptions. For example, last week
Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) interviewed Dahr Jamail and they were able to talk about the WikiLeaks video as well as the post-election period. It was possible to do so.

Few tried (PBS' The NewsHour tried and achieved -- alone among the broadcast networks) and we have to wonder how many even noticed that?

We take Matthew Baum's remarks and apply it to the news media but he was referring to the American people. People can't know about things that don't get coverage. But that said, is the silence on Iraq not only a reflection of the media's desire to move on but also a reflection of the public's desire?

Frankie Hughes. A twelve-year-old arrested in Iowa last week. For protesting the wars at Senator Tom Harkin's office.

Is she a coming wave or one of the last hold outs?

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