Daily Archives: March 5, 2005

Truth and Consequences

First let’s get into the Wayback Machine for a brief jaunt into the very recent past. February 8, 2005 to be precise, when Howie Kurtz ( Capo di Tutti Capi of Beltway hacks) penned for Pravda Eason Jordan, Quote, Unquote CNN News Chief Clarifies His Comments on Iraq

What CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan said, or didn’t say, in Davos, Switzerland, last month has become a burgeoning controversy among bloggers and media critics.

All the “burgeoning” was, needless to say, done on the right. The left simply held its collective breath in something close to amazement. And here’s why:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who attended the World Economic Forum panel at which Jordan spoke, recalled yesterday that Jordan said he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq. At first, said Frank, “it sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists.” But Jordan later “modified” his remarks to say some U.S. soldiers did this “maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger. . . . He did say he was talking about cases of deliberate killing,” Frank said.

And thus in a life devoted to mediating spin, a tiny sliver of truth leaks out.

Naturally, damning up said leak becomes the next important bit of business.

Jordan denied that last night, saying he had been responding to Frank’s comment that the 63 journalists who have been killed in Iraq were “collateral damage” in the war. “I was trying to make a distinction between ‘collateral damage’ and people who got killed in other ways,” Jordan said last night. “I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn’t as clear as I should have been on that panel.”

Or as Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion said in The Wizard of Oz “I do believe in spooks. I do believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, I DO!

In some of the cases, “with the benefit of hindsight, had more care been taken, maybe this could have been avoided,” Jordan said, referring to shootings that involved mistaken identity. But, he said, “it’s a war zone. Terrible things happen.”

Or more to the point “I could have taken more care with my words and maybe this could have been avoided.”

Two other panelists backed Jordan’s account. David Gergen, editor at large at U.S. News & World Report, said he “sort of gasped” when Jordan spoke of journalists being “deliberately killed,” but that Jordan “realized, as soon as he said it, he’d gone too far” and “walked it back.” Jordan then expressed “a very deep concern about whether our soldiers on the ground level are using as much care as they should” when journalists are involved, said Gergen, who moderated the discussion.

Gergen’s nothing if not fastidious about his hackery.

BBC World Services Director Richard Sambrook, in a note to New York University journalism professor and blogger Jay Rosen, said Jordan was objecting to the phrase “collateral damage.”
“He clarified this comment to say he did not believe they were targeted because they were journalists, although there are others in the media community who do hold that view (personally, I don’t),” Sambrook wrote. “They had been deliberately killed as individuals — perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents, we don’t know. However the distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for example, accidentally killed by an explosion.”

or something.

No transcript exists of the Jan. 27 session, which was supposed to be off the record, and a videotape of the event has not been made public. The dispute erupted when Rony Abovitz, co-founder of the technology company Z-Kat, posted an account on the forum’s Web site of what Jordan said, while also noting that he had backpedaled when challenged.

And this at the time was the heart of the matter. A precise transcript of what Jordan said could potentially “clairify” the matter (ie. get him of the hot seat) once and for all. But none was forthcoming, therefore leading to the inevitable —

This triggered widespread denunciations of Jordan by conservative bloggers, who have also criticized the mainstream media for not reporting the remarks.
“Why would Arab members of the audience come up and congratulate him for having the courage to speak the truth?” asked Jim Geraghty of National Review Online. “One of the most senior news execs in the world tells a crowd of dignitaries from around the globe that the U.S. military targeted a dozen journalists for death, and there is no [mainstream media] coverage of that?” wrote radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Edward Morrissey of the Captain’s Quarters blog urged his senators in Minnesota to hold public hearings “to establish once and for all whether the U.S. military has a policy of assassinating and torturing journalists, in Iraq or anywhere else, and correct the terrible damage Mr. Jordan may have inflicted on our image abroad.”

You see, it’s all a matter of images, folks. Not reality –which of course would only serve to back up what Jordan said before backtracking.

In the interview last night, Jordan said he and a group of other news executives have discussed with a top Pentagon official allegations by Iraqi employees of NBC, Reuters and al-Jazeera “who claimed to have been detained and tortured by the U.S. military. They all came out with horrific statements about what had been done to them.”
At the World Economic Forum, participants say, the only specific case cited by Jordan was the April 2003 incident in which U.S. forces fired a tank round at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, killing a cameraman employed by Reuters and another for the Spanish network Telecinco. Military spokesmen said the troops were responding to sniper fire from the hotel, which was known to house about 100 foreign journalists, and defended the shelling as “a proportionate and justifiably measured response.”

“We wuz wit you, boss –at Rigoletto’s!”

But Jordan supplied a list of the other incidents, such as a tank firing on and killing Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana as he was filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. U.S. officials said the troops mistook Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Surely a common . . . .uh. . . .mistake.

Frank said he found Jordan’s remarks “troubling” and in a later phone conversation asked him for specifics about the journalistic casualties so he could make inquiries at the Pentagon. Jordan said Frank was responding to a note from him and that there had been a “misunderstanding” if the congressman expected a further response.

No guts, no glory, no nothing.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who was in the audience, “was outraged by the comments,” said his spokesman, Marvin Fast. “Senator Dodd is tremendously proud of the sacrifice and service of our American military personnel.”
Jordan’s comments have sparked controversy before. He drew widespread criticism in 2003 for saying in a New York Times op-ed piece that CNN had withheld information about some of Saddam Hussein’s abuses out of concern for the network’s Iraqi employees in Baghdad. “Withholding information that would get innocent people killed was the right thing to do, not a journalistic sin,” Jordan told his staff in a memo.

See Chris? He’s kissed assed big-time before, why not forgive him now? It as just a slip-up, wasn’t it?

Or maybe Jordan suffers from a soupcon of moral conscience.

Three CNN staffers have been killed in Iraq, two of them in January 2004 when the cars they were traveling in came under fire by insurgents.
Gergen said Jordan had just returned from Baghdad and was still “deeply distraught” over the journalists who have died in Iraq. “This was a guy caught up in the tension of the moment,” Gergen said. “He deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

But that’s not what he got, as we learned shortly thereafter.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan resigned Friday, saying the controversy over his remarks about the deaths of journalists in Iraq threatened to tarnish the network he helped build.
Jordan conceded that his remarks at the January 27 World Economic Forum were “not as clear as they should have been.” Several participants at the event said Jordan told the audience U.S. forces had deliberately targeted journalists — a charge he denied.

For speaking the truth is no longer allowed in the “mainstream.”

“After 23 years at CNN, I have decided to resign in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq,” Jordan said in a letter to colleagues.

Precisely who made this decision and what governmental authority was involved in has not been made clear — a situation unlikely to change in the forseable future.

“I have devoted my professional life to helping make CNN the most trusted and respected news outlet in the world, and I would never do anything to compromise my work or that of the thousands of talented people it is my honor to work alongside.
“While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the U.S. military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that U.S. military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been.”

and so forth.

The resignation sent shock waves through CNN — with Jordan long admired by his peers, from executives to the rank-and-file. Jordan joined CNN as an assistant assignment editor in 1982 and rose through the ranks to become CNN’s chief news executive.
CNN News Group President Jim Walton said that under Jordan’s leadership, the news group “literally circled the globe with bureaus, from Baghdad to Johannesburg to Havana to Sydney to Hong Kong.”
“The regard in which he is held by people from every walk of life in virtually every corner of the world has added incalculably to our ability to cover such historic events as the Gulf War and the war in Iraq, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the crackdown in Tiananmen Square and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” Walton said in a written statement to colleagues.
The controversy over Jordan’s remarks gained steam last week, with bloggers posting their accounts of what transpired at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an event attended by political, economic, academic and media figures from around the world.

Well as we were all warned by Ari Fleischer some time ago, “Watch what you say.”

The Davos organizers have said the session, like most at the forum, was off-the-record, and they have refused to release a transcript to preserve their commitment.

And thus deep-six the whole matter.

At the heart of the dispute is what Jordan said about the deaths of journalists in Iraq. Several participants said he told the audience that U.S. forces had deliberately targeted some journalists.
But Jordan strongly denied that he had made such a suggestion and said he did not believe journalists had been deliberately targeted.
In his letter to staff on Friday, he said he had “great admiration and respect for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces,” noting that he was embedded with them in Baghdad, Tikrit and Mosul. He said he has also spent time with U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Persian Gulf.
“I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise,” Jordan said.
He added, “As for my colleagues at CNN, I am enormously proud to have worked with you, risking my life in the trenches with you, and making CNN great with you.
“For that experience, and for your friendship and support these many years, I thank you.”

“God Bless Captain Vere!”

And I’ll bet you thought this story was over, right? Well think again !

05/03/2005 17:02 – (SA) Rome – The companion of freed Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena on Saturday levelled serious accusations at US troops who fired at her convoy as it was nearing Baghdad airport, saying the shooting had been deliberate.
“The Americans and Italians knew about (her) car coming,” Pier Scolari said on leaving Rome’s Celio military hospital where Sgrena is to undergo surgery following her return home.
“They were 700m from the airport, which means that they had passed all checkpoints.”
The shooting late on Friday was overheard by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s office, which was on the phone with one of the secret service agents, said Scolari. “Then the US military silenced the cellphones,” he charged.
“Giuliana had information, and the US military did not want her to survive,” he added.
When Sgrena was kidnapped on February 4 she was writing an article on refugees from Fallujah seeking shelter at a Baghdad mosque after US forces bombed the former Sunni rebel stronghold.
Sgrena told RaiNews24 television Saturday a “hail of bullets” rained down on the car taking her to safety at Baghdad airport, along with three secret service agents, killing one of them.
“I was speaking to (agent) Nicola Calipari (…) when he leant on me, probably to protect me, and then collapsed and I realised he was dead,” said Sgrena, who was being questioned on Saturday by two Italian magistrates.
“They continued shooting and the driver couldn’t even explain that we were Italians. It was really horrible,” she added.
Sgrena, who was taken to hospital with serious wounds to her left shoulder and lung after arriving back in Rome on Saturday before noon, said she was “exhausted because of what happened above all in the last 24 hours”.
“After all the risks I have been running I can say that I’m fine,” she said.
“I thought that after I was handed over to the Italians danger was over, but then this shooting broke out and we were hit by a hail of bullets.”
The chief editor of Sgrena’s left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto Gabriele Polo meanwhile branded Calipari’s death a “murder”.
“He was hit in the head,” he said.
Calipari will be given a state funeral on Monday.

Hey — does this mean that Eason Jordan can get his job back?