Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shooting the messenger: The effects of violence against journalists in Iraq

According to the media group Reporters without Borders 203 journalists have been killed in Iraq (cartoon of targeted journalists on left). More disturbing is the fact that reporters are being targeted by terrorists and armed factions in Iraq. This has made news gathering in the country nearly impossible for foreign journalists and just as dangerous for Iraqi journalists. As the ability to report becomes hindered, journalists must rely on the scripted teleconferences given by US generals or the rhetoric spewed over the internet by Islamic extremists. Reporters cannot gather raw information on their own to tell audiences exactly how they are observing the situation. I searched blogs to see how journalists are dealing with the violence in Iraq and what they feel about gathering news in Iraq. The first blog I commented on was MediaChannel.org- a media watchdog blog- which posted an article about journalists in Iraq being trained to protect themselves, and possibly carry firearms. The second blog I commented on was written by Richard Engel, the Middle East bureau chief for MSNBC, which he posted on the network’s Web site. The article was written just after the deaths of two members of network’s camera crew in Iraq. Engel is reflecting on why there is so much violence against journalists and if the media should continue to report in Iraq. Below are the comments I contributed.

"Survival Skills for Reporters"


The article brings up the complex issue of journalists carrying firearms. I can clearly understand the need for journalists to protect themselves in a war zone, especially one in which they are targeted. However there are more risks facing journalists if they do carry firearms.
I was a Marine infantryman serving in Iraq. Training and common sense told us to arrest anyone we found concealing a weapon bec
ause they could be a potential enemy. The insurgents are no different. Journalists in Iraq must cross check-points set up by soldiers fighting on all sides of the conflict. At many of these checkpoints journalists will be searched. Without weapons there is good a chance that the combatants will be convinced the journalist is who he or she says they are. But upon finding a weapon that journalist will no longer be trusted and it is more likely they’ll be arrested or executed. Carrying a weapon in a war zone destroys any question of journalistic neutrality, making an attack against journalists more certain than if they had not carried a gun (memorial for killed journalists at right).

Other members of the media are echoing the same concerns. Jean-Francois Julliard, from Reporters Without Borders, mentioned in an article for Radio Free Europe that security guards working with CNN exchanged fire with insurgents. Julliard said these types of incidents would “expose the press to more violence.”
Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute told The Guardian that the press is being targeted for violence because they have lost their status as neutral observers.
I agree. If journalists begin carrying firearms in Iraq they will cease to be journalists and become another armed camp running around Iraq fueling the violence to protect its own interests.

"Is Iraqi Reporting Still Possible"


You make a good point in connecting technology with the increased deaths of journalists. I believe you are correct in saying that the insurgents or terrorists no longer need journalists to get their message across for them. With a camera phone and a laptop literally anyone can be their own production studio. Journalists make better victims than communicators now that the insurgents can broadcast their own message. Reporters are easy “soft” targets for the insurgents to kidnap or execute as a way to gain political leverage. It is not surprising that more and more are captured and killed. (ABC journalists killed on left)
Keeping jo
urnalists from reporting in Iraq has grave consequences for people who care about the outcome of this war. It would be a tremendous loss because information would freeze. Not only that but it would raise the volume on the voices of extremism since they would be the ones controlling the airwaves. With journalists out of the picture in Iraq the controllers of information would either be the insurgents or the Pentagon, neither one an impartial participant in the outcome of the war. News would be skewed to fit a viewpoint even more so than what pundits are already accusing the media is doing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nuclear Iran: How a tougher US stance could be speeding up nuclear proliferation

Since the Iraq war began in 2003 it has dominated headlines. But looming at Iraq’s border is the country of Iran and the threat of another Middle Eastern war. At the heart of the issue is Iran’s attempt to obtain a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies building weapons but has also refused UN demands to halt uranium enrichment ( photo of Iranian nuclear facility on left) .

According an article in the British newspaper The Observer, the U.S. will present a plan to stifle Iran’s nuclear weapons program by appearing before the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. wants a resolution condemning Iran for continuing its weapons program as well as increased sanctions. However Washington appears to have problems mustering support for its plans from other nations with diplomatic ties to Iran (Russian, Britain, and Germany).

The inability to halt Iran’s nuclear program have shifted favor in Washington away from negotiation and toward confrontation. A more hawkish stance against Iran will likely send a message to the Persian nation that a war is inevitable, forcing Iran to speed up rather than halt its nuclear program.

France is also taking a tougher, more confrontational stance against Iran. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged the world to prepare for a war with Iran. Kouchner said a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the whole world and, like the United States, it is seeking stricter sanctions on Iran through the UN Security Council.

Another reason for a tougher stance on Iran is the hope of stemming its growing influence in Iraq. General David Petraeus reported before the Senate that Iran’s export of weapons and fighters is the primary source of instability in Iraq. President Bush cites Iran as one of the leading factors for a US military presence in Iraq. According to Bush, Iran “would benefit from the chaos and would be encouraged in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons and dominate the region.”

Although Bush announced the withdrawal of soldiers as soon as conditions in Iraq improved he stated no plans of withdrawing the 130,000 troops that make up bulk of US forces in the country. The Pentagon also wants to build a base on the Iran-Iraq border to capture supplies of weapons flowing into Iraq.

A nuclear Iran could catapult the Middle East into a nuclear arms race according to Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. Iran’s nuclear power would pressure other Middle Eastern nations who feel threatened by Iran, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to build their own weapons. Israel could also go public with its nuclear armament in a show of force.

Adding to the fear of Iran’s weapons program are statements made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (at right from photo on Middle East Online) that Iran would wipe Israel from the map. A nuclear deterrent in Iran could also embolden Hezbullah to increase attacks against Israel, said Daniel Brumberg, Iran and Middle East expert from Georgetown University.
Pentagon analysts say the US approach to so far have been to use psychological pressure and bluffing to control Iran. However President Bush approved Conplan 8022 in 2003. The plan calls for air strikes, including nuclear weapons, against strategic targets in states posing a nuclear threat such as North Korea and Iran.

For now a pre-emptive strike against Iran seems unlikely because US troops are tied down fighting an Iraqi insurgency and the war has become increasingly unpopular. But the Bush administration's pre-emptive strike policy has created a catch 22 situation. On one hand the US must take a tougher stance against Iran because its leaders continues to defy world demands for halting uranium enrichment. On other hand, Iran fears an imminent US invasion and feels compelled to build a weapon to act as a deterrent. The Bush administration could launch a strike if Iran continues to call its bluff.

By vowing to halt all Iranian nuclear develop, the Bush administration is making threats it cannot back up as was the case when North Korea detonated an atomic bomb against Washington’s wishes, according to Nathan Gonzalez an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus. Instead the administration should announce that it will be committed to the nuclear defense of its Middle Eastern allies of Israel and Saudi Arabia, both legitimately concerned over Iran’s growing power. The US commitment will act as a deterrent to an Iranian attack on US allies as well as allowing the US and Iran to engage in talks to bring about stability in Iraq. Security experts predict Iran will not have the capabilities of building a nuclear warhead until 2015, enough time for a diplomatic solution to take root. However, Iran could speed up its nuclear program if threats persist. By assuming a less confrontational posture, the US will be able to engage in constructive negotiations with Iran to stabilize Iraq as well as buy more time needed to negotiate and end to Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
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