Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Palestine Hotel attack

Reporters Sans Frontières has released its report on the firing by the American military on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8, 2003 which caused the deaths of two journalists, Taras Protsyuk and José Couso. The report, which is very well presented and is worth reading, concludes:

  1. The initial American official response, which remained the official response for months, was that the firing was a return of fire from an enemy in the hotel. There are a number of versions of this, some seemingly made up on the spot (see p. 11 of the report). Gen. Vincent Brooks was the main spokesman. The official American position was a lie, as there was no firing from the hotel. The Pentagon lie became an American government lie when it was repeated by inveterate liar Colin Powell. A later version of the American position has it that the fire was to eliminate an Iraqi spotter in the hotel.

  2. The soldiers who fired were unaware that there were journalists in the hotel, and were clear that they would not have fired if they had known. They were firing at what they thought was an enemy spotter. They were not intending to hit journalists.

  3. The Pentagon was aware that there were journalists in the hotel, and, through either negligence or possibly with the intent of putting unembedded journalists at risk, failed to notify the soldiers in the field. The blame rests at the level of Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, and above.

  4. The deeper problem lies in the Pentagon's distinction between embedded journalists, i. e. Pentagon suck-ups, who it recognizes and tries to protect, and unembedded journalists, who are fair game.

  5. The report seeks to have the enquiry reopened to determine the real reasons for the deaths of the two journalists (it also, on p. 27 and following, seeks a proper investigation of the medical circumstances behind the death of journalist Patrick Bourrat who died on December 22, 2002 in Kuwait).

A proper investigation? I'm not holding my breath. I'm also not holding my breath waiting for this to become any kind of 'news' in the U. S.