American media on the abuse of Iraq prisoners

BY ninan| IN Media Practice | 09/05/2004
Different takes from the fourth estate in the US: has the media been in denial over the abuse in Iraq?


A sampler from the U S Media




American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?

Issue of 2004-05-10
Posted 2004-05-01


In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.

In the looting that followed the regime’s collapse, last April, the huge prison complex, by then deserted, was stripped of everything that could be removed, including doors, windows, and bricks. The coalition authorities had the floors tiled, cells cleaned and repaired, and toilets, showers, and a new medical center added. Abu Ghraib was now a U.S. military prison. Most of the prisoners, however—by the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agers—were civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of "crimes against the coalition"; and a small number of suspected "high-value" leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.


Digital photos change Iraq war perception

Ellen Simon 

May 7, 2004  |  NEW YORK (AP) -- The explosive photos of abuse in an Iraqi prison drive home a defining fact of 21st century life -- that the pervasiveness of digital photography and the speed of the Internet make it easier to see into dark corners previously out of reach for the mass media.  

Some of the most shocking or memorable photos from the Iraq war were almost certainly taken by soldiers or government contractors _ and zipped around the world with an ease that never existed in the days of film.  

"With the technology now, the amateur photographer is as capable as a professional journalist and is operating with the same tools: Digital camera, laptop and an Internet connection,`` said Keith W. Jenkins, photo editor of the Washington Post Magazine.  

"The embedded process was supposed to give government a better handle on what journalists were doing, but now you have this whole rogue operation of civilians with digital cameras who have access to things the media don`t,`` he said.  

Photos from Abu Ghraib prison of hooded, naked Iraqi men piled in a pyramid near a grinning American captor and a hooded man standing with wires running from his outstretched arms have caused an international uproar since they first appeared on CBS last week.  

The New Yorker magazine published similar photos. While CBS did not return calls, The New Yorker confirmed the photos were shot with a digital camera, though it did not disclose the source.



Limbaugh: prisoner abuse "brilliant"

On his May 6 radio show, Rush Limbaugh continued to defend U.S. military personnel accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners, comparing the abuse photos to "good old American pornography":

LIMBAUGH: All right, so we`re at war with these people. And they`re in a prison where they`re being softened up for interrogation. And we hear that the most humiliating thing you can do is make one Arab male disrobe in front of another. Sounds to me like it`s pretty thoughtful. Sounds to me in the context of war this is pretty good intimidation -- and especially if you put a woman in front of them and then spread those pictures around the Arab world. And we`re sitting here, "Oh my God, they`re gonna hate us! Oh no! What are they gonna think of us?" I think maybe the other perspective needs to be at least considered. Maybe they`re gonna think we are serious. Maybe they`re gonna think we mean it this time. Maybe they`re gonna think we`re not gonna kowtow to them. Maybe the people who ordered this are pretty smart. Maybe the people who executed this pulled off a brilliant maneuver. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got physically injured. But boy there was a lot of humiliation of people who are trying to kill us -- in ways they hold dear. Sounds pretty effective to me if you look at us in the right context.

Still, Limbaugh says it`s no different from a pop concert or homoerotic pornography:

LIMBAUGH: The thing though that continually amazes -- here we have these pictures of homoeroticism that look like standard good old American pornography, the Britney Spears or Madonna concerts or whatever, and yet the Libs upset about the mistreatment of these prisoners thought nothing of sitting back while mass graves were being filled with three to 500,000 Iraqis during the Saddam Hussein regime.

On his May 5 show, Limbaugh attributed the American public`s outrage over the allegations to "feminization":

LIMBAUGH: I think a lot of the American culture is being feminized. I think the reaction to the stupid torture is an example of the feminization of this country.





Solomon: This war and racism--media denial in overdrive

By Norman Solomon, AlterNet
May 6, 2004

Among the millions of words that have appeared in the U.S. press since late April about abuse and torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, one has been notably missing:


Overall, when it comes to racial aspects, the news coverage is quite PC - as in Pentagon Correct. The outlook is "apple pie" egalitarian, with the media picture including high-profile officers who are African-American and Latino. Meanwhile, inside the policy arena, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are frequently in front of cameras to personify Uncle Sam in blackface.

The U.S. government doesn`t drop bombs on people because of their race. Washington`s geopolitical agendas lead to military actions. But racial biases make the war process easier when the people being killed and maimed aren`t white people. An oversize elephant in the American media`s living room is a reality that few journalists talk about in public: The USA keeps waging war on countries where the victims resemble people who often experience personal and institutional racism in the United States.

In the American media coverage of the uproar after release of the Abu Ghraib photos, one of the only references to race was fleeting and dismissive, midway through a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on May 3: "So far the alleged grotesqueries are more analogous to the nightmares that occur occasionally at American prisons, when rogue and jaded guards freelance to intimidate and humiliate inmates. The crime, then, first appears not so much a product of endemic ethnic, racial, or religious hatred, as the unfortunate cargo of penal institutions, albeit exacerbated by the conditions of war, the world over."

That essay, by the Hoover Institution`s Victor Davis Hanson, typifies media denial about what`s happening in the hellish American cells populated so disproportionately by low-income blacks and Latinos. In the world of the Journal editorial page`s convenient fantasy, guards "occasionally" choose to "freelance to intimidate and humiliate inmates." In the world of prisoners` inconvenient reality, guards frequently intimidate, humiliate - and brutalize.

Media denial lets the U.S. military - and the U.S. incarceration industry - off the hook.

 Norman Solomon is co-author, with foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, of "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn`t Tell You."



Why Media Missed Iraq Prison Abuse Scandal
Embedded editor says more reporting on the role of reservists and contractors is needed.

By Dennis Anderson

(May 05, 2004) -- Journalists are always on the hunt for "the big story" and the "next story" and sometimes we just get there too late.

Any journalist must applaud Seymour M. Hersh for his thorough and dreadful examination in The New Yorker of lives ruined behind the walls at Abu Ghraib prison near
Baghdad. The journalist who brought the My Lai massacre before the American public has not faltered this time either. Americans need to know when their fellow countrymen are behaving in a way that brings shame on the very ideals that we say define us as Americans.

What do I mean by saying that sometimes we just get there too late for the big story? In the aftermath of the invasion and guerrilla war that continues to make
Iraq our first and worst news story -- which I`ve covered on two occasions as an embedded reporter -- serious questions about the role of the National Guard and the so-called private "contractor" war have eluded large-scale media scrutiny. These stories were near at hand, but war is hectic and it`s easy to miss one. 


More at
















Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More