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U.S. Military Upholds TV Cover Ban on Iraq Coffins

by America Firster Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2003 at 9:12 AM

U.S. Military Upholds TV Cover Ban on Iraq Coffins

Of course the JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs)/PNAC (Project for the New American Century) Neocons at the Pentagon don't want the coffins (of dead US soldiers returning from Iraq) shown so that they can go forward with their "protect Israel at all cost" agenda:


U.S. Military Upholds TV Cover Ban on Iraq Coffins

18 minutes ago - Reuters

Nov. 3, 2003

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. military said Monday it was sticking to a policy forbidding television camera crews and photographers from filming coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq at a U.S. air base in southwestern Germany.

Officials at Ramstein, a major U.S. air base which serves as a transfer point, had allowed media access in the past to honor guard ceremonies and transfers of American-flag covered coffins onto U.S.-bound military transport planes. But rules banning coverage were strictly enforced just before the Iraq war began.

While U.S. officials say the policy was created out of respect for relatives, others criticize the lack of media access, arguing its aim is to prevent the public from seeing large numbers of coffins that could turn public opinion against the war.

"You can argue both sides," said one U.S. official who asked not to be identified. "Some say Americans need to see this, this is factual and the public needs to see (the coffins). Yet you also think of the mom of a killed soldier and the trauma of seeing television pictures of her son being repatriated."

Journalists seeking access to Ramstein to film coffins of 15 Americans killed Sunday in Iraq when their helicopter was shot down were told that Department of Defense policy was still "No." Only coverage of injured soldiers was permitted.

"The D.O.D. policy is that there is no media coverage of deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein Air Force base or Dover Air Force base," said Maj. Bill Bigelow, U.S. European command spokesman in Stuttgart.

A Defense Department official denied there was any censorship and said the purpose of the policy was to protect the privacy of families "during their times of greatest loss and grief." The rule has been in effect since 1991 and was reaffirmed in March, he said.

However in recent years the rule was relaxed and television journalists in Germany were able to cover honor guard ceremonies, including the transfer of coffins of sailors killed in an attack on the U.S.S. Cole and the war in Afghanistan.

"During 'Enduring Freedom' the D.O.D. did make some exceptions in the policy," said Major Mike Young, public affairs chief for the 86th airlift wing in Ramstein.

"Since 'Iraqi Freedom' started the D.O.D. said we are going to enforce the policy. For the past year we haven't done any (media coverage) on remains."

The corpses of most of the 250 American servicemen killed in Iraq have passed through Ramstein since the war began. In some cases after the seven-hour flight from Iraq they are transferred to another plane for an eight-hour flight to Dover.

"We were a bit surprised by the sudden ban (on covering coffins)," said Andy Eckardt, a producer based in Mainz for NBC who covered about five such transfers there in recent years. "But we follow the regulations. What can I do? It's the military. They own the base.

Ramadan Revenge - A Message Sent and a Lesson Learned

by Robert Fisk

Understanding the brain. That's what you have to do in a guerrilla war. Find out how it works, what it's trying to do.

Ramadan? An attack on US headquarters in Baghdad and six suicide bombings, all at the start of Ramadan? Thirty-four dead and 200 wounded? Where have I heard those statistics before?

And how could they be so well co-ordinated - not sophisticated, perhaps, but well-timed, down to the last second? And why the Red Cross?

I knew that building, admired the way in which the International Red Cross staff refused to associate themselves with the American occupation - even at the cost of their lives, because the guards outside their Baghdad headquarters carried no guns.

So here's the answer to question one. Algeria. After the Algerian Government in 1991 banned democratic elections that would have brought the Islamic Salvation Front to power, a growing Muslim revolt turned into a blood-curdling battle between the Islamic Armed Group - many of its adherents cut their battle teeth in Afghanistan - and a brutal Government army and police force. Within three years, the Islamists - aided, it seems, by army intelligence officers - were perpetrating massacres against the villagers of what was called the "Blida triangle", a three-cornered territory around the Islamist city of Blida outside Algiers.

And the worst atrocities - the beheading of children, the raping and throat-cutting of women, the slaughter of policemen - were committed at the start of Ramadan.

At Ramadan - newspapers like to call it the "holy fasting month", which is accurate up to a point - Muslim emotions are heightened.

In these most blessed of days, a Muslim feels that he or she must do something important so that God will listen to him or her.

There is nothing in the Koran about violence in Ramadan or, for that matter, suicide bombers - any more than there is anything in the New Testament urging Christians to carry out the genocide or ethnic cleansing at which they have become experts in the past 200 years - but Sunni Wahabi believers have often combined holy war with the "message", the "dawa", during Ramadan.

So what was the message? In Baghdad, the political message of the weekend was simple.

It told Iraqis that the Americans cannot control Iraq; more importantly, it told Americans that they cannot control Iraq.

Even more important, it told Iraqis they shouldn't work for the Americans. Who wants to be an Iraqi policeman this morning?

It also acknowledged America's new rules of combat: kill the enemy leaders.

The United States killed Saddam's two sons (and grandson).

It has boasted of killing al Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Yemen, just as Israel kills Palestinians in Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

So was it by chance that the Black Hawk helicopter shot down in Iraq was hit over Tikrit just after Paul Wolfowitz had passed through town?

And the assault on the al-Rashid Hotel - a far more efficient version of the rocket attack more than six weeks ago - almost killed Wolfowitz. He was "a room away" from one of the missile explosions.

The architect of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was almost assassinated by America's enemies. Did they know where he was sleeping in the hotel? Given the number of Iraqi staff in the al-Rashid, probably.

And then there is the Red Cross, the last neutral humanitarian organisation - after the double suicide attack on the UN - which might have provided some communication between the US and its antagonists.

Now it, too, has been smashed.

Some of America's enemies may come from other Arab countries, but most of the military opposition to America's presence comes from Iraqi Sunnis - not from Saddam "remnants", "diehards" or "deadenders" (the Paul Bremer cover-up titles for a real and growing Iraqi resistance), but from men who in many cases hated Saddam.

They don't work "for" al Qaeda. They don't work for Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden.

But they have learned their own unique version of history. Attack your enemies in the holy month of Ramadan. Learn from the war in Algeria. And the war in Afghanistan.

Learn the lessons of America's "war on terror". Go for the jugular. "Bring'em on." Kill the leadership. You're with us or against us, collaborator or patriot. That was the message of yesterday's bloodbath in Baghdad.


Sunday, November 2, 2003 (SF Chronicle)

A reporter who thinks objective journalism is a synonym for government


Jonathan Curiel, Chronicle Staff Writer

Robert Fisk is used to readers' derisive letters. Usually he ignores


like the one last month from Atlanta that said his article about dead

Iraqis was as "appalling" and "subversive" as a speech by Osama bin


For the piece in question, Fisk -- a foreign correspondent with the


paper the Independent -- interviewed families of Iraqi civilians who've

been killed (by thieves, robbers, revenge-seekers and unknown


since American and British forces deposed Saddam Hussein. In typical


fashion, the article is well reported, nicely written -- and full of

polemics, aimed in this case at U.S. and British authorities for


"the daily slaughter of Iraq's innocents" (his article estimates 10, 000

civilian deaths in five months) and creating an environment that's as


for Iraqis as it was under Hussein.

"The occupation powers, the 'Provisional Coalition Authority,' love

statistics when they are useful," Fisk wrote. "They can tell you the

number of newly re-opened schools, newly appointed doctors and the

previous day's oil production in seconds. The daily slaughter of Iraq's

innocents, needless to say, is not among their figures."

Objective journalism? Not a bit.

Fisk doesn't believe in the concept, calling it a specious idea that,


practiced by American reporters, produces dull and predictable writing

weighed down by obfuscating comments from official government sources.

In the world of Robert Fisk, there's a holy template for how to


from the Middle East, Afghanistan and other hot spots: Give readers a

"human" look at unfolding events, put yourself in the story (Fisk pieces

inevitably use "I" a lot, as in "I came to the conclusion . . ."), don't

bog it down with background that readers should know and pepper every

piece with a critical eye on the "why" of things. Why are so many


residents dying under U.S. occupation? Why are American officials

underplaying the sabotage of Iraq's oil pipelines? Why are average


willing to commit suicide-bombings against American soldiers?

Fisk, a brilliant man who has a Ph.D. in political science from


College in Ireland, thinks he knows all the answers and so he never

hesitates to finger-point in stories. Fisk's editors at the Independent

approve of this approach -- as do Fisk's legions of fans, many of whom

live in the Bay Area, where his dispatches from Baghdad, Beirut and

elsewhere are devoured like sacred writs for their insight, edge and

rhetorical tone.

Fisk is based in Lebanon. He regularly flies to the Bay Area to gives

speeches for causes he believes in (such as the Middle East Children's

Alliance). In person, Fisk is a surprising mixture of funny and absolute

-- as if God had cloned Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky into a single,

voluminous figure.

"It's our job (as journalists) to challenge the centers of power, and


describe with our own vividness the tragedies and injustice and

viciousness of the world, and to try and name the bad guys," Fisk says


an interview in San Francisco. "American journalists won't say what I


say. I think the New York Times should be called, 'American officials

say.' At least, you'd know what you were reading. If journalism is about

writing (stories) that look like government reports, then I'll go and do

gardening or something."

Fisk's critics believe he's a journalistic provocateur who's


anti-United States and anti-Israel. But Fisk is perhaps Britain's most

acclaimed foreign correspondent. He has won the British Press Awards'

International Journalist of the Year honor (the equivalent of the


Prize for foreign reporting) seven times. Amnesty International and the

United Nations have given awards to Fisk, who speaks often at Harvard,

Princeton, MIT and other prestigious American universities. He is

routinely praised by colleagues, including the New York Times' Chris

Hedges, who has said he admires Fisk's ability to perceive important

stories ahead of other journalists. And, yet, an op-ed column in the


Street Journal will vilify him (after Fisk was severely beaten by


Afghans two years ago). The subtitle to the piece was, "A self-loathing

multiculturalist gets his due." And an actor like John Malkovich -- in a

speech last year to students at Cambridge University in Britain -- will

say he'd like to "shoot" Fisk to death. (Fisk wasn't alone on


death list; topping it was British Parliamentarian George Galloway, an

anti-war voice who has called President Bush an "imbecile.")

Fisk is an easy target for conservatives because -- like Palestinian

scholar Edward Said, a friend who died last month, Chomsky and other

liberal intellectuals who've been pegged as rabid ideologues -- Fisk

writes sympathetically about Palestinians. It's clear Fisk identifies


the suffering of Palestinians, as well as the suffering of Iraqis -- but

he also identifies with the suffering of Israeli civilians and anyone


he writes about.

"I was giving a talk last December to a very large group of British

Jews .

. . and I said, 'I'm on your side -- let's fight anti-Semitism


but don't start libeling me,' " Fisk says. "If you stand up to people,

they'll respect you for it. I had an e-mail from a Cambridge University

American law student, and he said, 'You are an evil f -- man, ' so I

called him up -- he put his telephone number on it. And I said, 'I'm


to call the police if I have any more messages like this from you. This


an abusive, threatening letter.' And he invited me to give a lecture. I

couldn't do it," Fisk continues, starting to laugh, "but I would have


it if I'd had the time."

Even Fisk's detractors have to respect his ability to report from


torn areas. He has covered the Middle East for more than 20 years and

speaks fluent Arabic (and French). He has interviewed bin Laden three

times, the second time seven years ago in Afghanistan after the Saudi

personally requested a meeting with him there. True to Fisk's


nature, he didn't rush to meet bin Laden; instead, Fisk told bin Laden's

associate that he'd fly there when he could.

"In 1996," Fisk says, "after the Sudanese chucked him out, there were

rumors bin Laden had gone to Yemen or Afghanistan; I got a call one day

from Switzerland, from a man who said, '(bin Laden) wants to meet you.'


said, 'I'd be happy to see him. What do I do?' He said, 'You fly to

Jallalabad (Afghanistan) and you wait at the Spinghar Hotel. When will


leave?' I said,

'I'll let you know. Call me back in a week.' I thought, 'I'm not

going to

let him snap his fingers and then I come. I have work to do also.' "

The last time Fisk interviewed bin Laden, in 1997 in Afghanistan, bin

Laden told him, "From this mountain, Mr. Robert, upon which you are

sitting, we beat the Russian army and helped break the Soviet Union. And


pray to God that he allows us to turn America into a shadow of itself."

When Fisk first heard about the Sept. 11 attacks -- as he was on an

airplane flying from Europe to the United States -- he knew bin Laden


behind them. Fisk used a phone on the jet to dictate a piece to the

Independent that condemned the carnage, linked it to bin Laden -- and


said that Arabs would compare the tragedy to the sanctions-related


of Iraqi children and Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and

that Britain's and America's historic policies contributed to a climate


resentment in the Arab world.

If Fisk were working for a daily U.S. paper, his dispatches would


be pushed to the opinion pages, where they'd be treated as interpretive

journalism. The fact that Fisk's stories usually appear in the main news

section of the Independent is galling to readers who disagree with his


The Internet has given Fisk a more international audience, though The

Independent recognized the popularity of Fisk's articles and now charges

readers to access them. Some articles are available for free at a Web


devoted to Fisk's work (, where readers deluge Fisk

with requests and plaudits. "I have been an admirer of your work for


years," a public defender from West Virginia recently wrote on the site.

"You are an inspiration to many of us; please keep up the good fight."

That's a good description of what Fisk is doing: fighting. The type


journalism he practices is pugilistic and he holds nothing back. Fisk


his style is the most principled kind of writing he can do -- and that

he'll never alter it. At a time when the Middle East is a cauldron of

violence, Fisk's voice of authority is an important one to hear, whether

you agree with him or not.

E-mail Jonathan Curiel at

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