December 12, 2002
What bodies?

I knew we were largely whitewashed about Gulf War I. I didn't realize it was this bad.

In manipulating the first and often most lasting perception of Desert Storm, the Bush administration produced not a single picture or video of anyone being killed. This sanitized, bloodless presentation by military briefers left the world presuming Desert Storm was a war without death.

That image was reinforced by limitations imposed on reporters on the battlefield. Under rules developed by Cheney and Powell, journalists were not allowed to move without military escorts. All interviews had to be monitored by military public affairs escorts. Every line of copy, every still photograph, every strip of film had to be approved -- censored -- before being filed. And these rules were ruthlessly enforced.

When a Scud missile eventually hit American troops during the ground war, reporters raced to the scene. The 1,000 pound warhead landed on a makeshift barracks for Pennsylvania National Guard troops near the Saudi seaport of Dahran. Scott Applewhite, a photographer for the Associated Press, was one of the first on the scene. There were more than 25 dead bodies and 70 badly wounded.

As Applewhite photographed the carnage, he was approached by U.S. military police who ordered him to leave. He produced credentials that entitled him to be there. But the soldiers punched Applewhite, handcuffed him and ripped the film from his cameras. More than 70 reporters were arrested, detained, threatened at gunpoint and literally chased from the frontlines when they attempted to defy Pentagon rules.

Army public affairs officers made nightly visits to hotels and restaurants in Hafir al Batin, a Saudi town on the Iraq border. Reporters and photographers usually bolted from the dinner table. Slower ones were arrested.

Journalists such as Applewhite, who played by the rules, fared no better. More than 150 reporters who participated in the Pentagon pool system failed to produce a single eyewitness account of the clash between 300,000 allied troops and an estimated 300,000 Iraqi troops. There was not one photograph, not a strip of film by pool members of a dead body -- American or Iraqi. Even if they had recorded the reality of the battlefield, it was unlikely it would have been filed by the military-controlled distribution system.

I'm sure none of that will happen in Gulf Wars Episode II.

Via Rob Humenik, who's gotten his mojo working again.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2002 to Iraq attack | TrackBack