Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Media restraint surrounding Haditha

Over the years, I've set up four different Google standing news searches. The first one was ["good news" and "Iraq".] When my son was serving as a prison guard at Camp Bucca in Iraq in 2004, it was an attempt to find balance in the media. Two other searches have been "Camp Bucca" and "Steven Vincent" - the latter being a search for coverage of an online friend and journalist who was killed near Basrah in 2005. When "Haditha" started bubbling up in the media, I started a search. This led to temporary posting at this blog.

Six months later, I still receive news of Haditha in my email box every day. Usually, there's just a few stories. When the charges against the marines were formally brought this month, Haditha coverage spiked a bit, but it was nothing like the frenzy of coverage surrounding "Abu Ghraib!" in the Spring and Summer of 2004 or even the coverage about Haditha in June 2006.

This bothers Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher as he writes in: "When the Press Dropped the Ball on Haditha."

"(December 21, 2006) -- Haditha is back on the front pages, with the announcement on Thursday that four marines were being charge with murder in the alleged 2005 massacre of 24 villagers in Iraq, with four officers hit with serious dereliction of duty charges. Since this case has been simmering for many months now, with repeated press references (as other possible atrocities surfaced), it may seem as if the media has bird-dogged this episode from the start.In fact, the media dropped the ball at the start - helped by a military cover-up -- and it stayed off the radar for quite some time.

Following the killings in Haditha on November 19, 2005, it took months for an official investigation to begin.

An Associated Press story from Baghdad in June quoted Hassan Bazaz, a Baghdad University political scientist, complaining that strong interest belatedly being shown by Western news media in the alleged U.S. misconduct is only now catching up with common views in Iraq. 'There is nothing new or surprising for Iraqis,' said Bazaz. 'The problem is that the outside world has been isolated from what happens on the ground in Iraq. What the media says now is only a fraction of what happens every day.'"

The coverage of "Abu Ghraib!" and Haditha in their respective news cycles provided plenty of political ammunition for those who wanted to unseat the Commander-in-Chief in 2004 and then his "war party" in 2006.

Now that the elections are over, I have a feeling that Haditha will be covered as it should...a tragedy, among many, in the war in Iraq. What I hope happens is that justice is served. If our marines are guilty, as determined by a military investigation, then punishment will follow. The three rings of the media circus in the summer 2006 was not the appropriate place to judge the events of Haditha in 2005.

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