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Through vivid writing, dramatic pictures and informative maps and graphics, Under Fire offers new insights into how the Iraq campaign unfolded and recounts riveting and moving moments ranging from Baghdad to the desert battlefield. Highlighting the human side of war, the book charts the seesaw of Marines' emotions -- from raw fear to heady elation -- as they stormed to Baghdad. Detailed accounts tell what it was like to hear the crackle of threatening gunfire, to struggle into a chemical protection suit or to choke in a sandstorm. The narrative offers a rare glimpse into how ordinary Iraqis reacted to life after Saddam and the mixed emotions they felt about U.S. and British forces -- were they liberators or occupiers? Seen through the eyes of the Arab world, a different war emerged. Under Fire examines how countries in the Middle East reacted to and perceived the U.S. military victory. The Pentagon's strategy also included the PR war. Under Fire poses ethical questions about the concept of embedding journalists with the military and examines the challenge of extracting fruth from the fog of war.
|Iraq War Chronology|
|Routes the Writers Took During the Iraq War|
|Ch. 1||Heavy Metal Warriors||1|
|Ch. 2||Collateral Damage||19|
|Ch. 3||Too Close for Comfort?||37|
|Ch. 4||Brenda Goes to Baghdad||49|
|Ch. 5||Are We Nearly There?||61|
|Ch. 6||Eye of the Storm||81|
|Ch. 7||Through Arab Eyes||91|
|Ch. 8||Doha: A Platform for Truth||105|
|Ch. 9||This Wasn't in the Script||123|
|Ch. 10||Operation Run the Gauntlet||137|
|Ch. 11||Kurdish Revenge in Northern Iraq||153|
|Ch. 12||Pilgrims's Progress||169|
|Ch. 13||Southern Discomfort||189|
|Ch. 14||From Cambridge Cappuccinos to Resolve for Revenge||201|
|Ch. 15||Inmates Take Over the Asylum||213|
|Iraq's Troubled Modern History||225|
Propaganda, spin and half truths. Throughout the history of warfare, generals and political leaders have sought to influence and win over public opinion, trying to control the flow of information and ensure that their version of events is written into history.
It is equally the role of the war correspondent to cut through the propaganda, spot the spin and uncover the truth.
There is one tried and tested means of doing this--eyewitness reporting, covering a war as it unfolds from the front line and not being afraid to ask the awkward question.
And that is what this book is about: reporting the war in Iraq at first hand, not just from the U.S. and British perspectives on the battlefield, but also from the hospitals and the streets of Baghdad and throughout the rest of the country. In short, from as many angles as possible.
During the war, Reuters had more than 70 reporters, photographers and television news staff inside Iraq, some 30 of them "embedded" with U.S. and British forces; around 20 in Baghdad, subject to "minders," courtesy of the Iraqi Information Ministry; and others dubbed "unilaterals," working independently.
In this fashion, Reuters was able to piece together the complex mosaic of the 21 days it took to topple Saddam Hussein. The goal was to cover the war from all sides, in as balanced, factual and objective fashion as was possible. In the following pages, 15 Reuters correspondents tell their stories of the campaign.
Luke Baker, Adrian Croft, Andrew Gray, Matthew Green and Sean Maguire all rode with the U.S. forces and recount uneasy tales of the race to Baghdad as the troops' emotions seesawed between headyelation and raw fear; John Chalmers tells the story of U.S. Central Command headquarters in Doha, widely criticized by the media for its attempts to control the flow of information.
Nadim Ladki and Samia Nakhoul describe life under bombardment in Baghdad, slipping their minders whenever possible to check on the damage caused by air strikes and capturing the mood on the street. Their accounts include the death of Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk when a U.S tank shelled the Palestine Hotel. Samia Nakhoul, seriously injured in the same attack, tells of the operation by Baghdad neurosurgeons that saved her life while the battle for the city was still being waged. Tragically, a second Reuters cameraman, Mazen Dana, was to die on the outskirts of Baghdad in August. The death toll of journalists in this conflict has been unacceptably high.
By the time Reuters correspondent Rosalind Russell arrived in Baghdad a little after the attack on the Palestine Hotel, the statue of Saddam had been pulled down and looting was in full swing. Tigers in the city's zoo were crazed after weeks without food, and a patient at the al-Rashad psychiatric hospital appeared to be the sanest person in town.
Mike Collett-White, David Fox, Michael Georgy, Christine Hauser and Saul Hudson all spent the war and its immediate aftermath among the people of Iraq. They tell how ordinary Iraqis reacted to life after Saddam and after the demise of the all-powerful, all-seeing Baath Party. The mixed emotions felt by Iraqis toward the U.S. and British troops--liberators or occupiers?--run throughout their accounts.
Their reports include how thousands of Shi'ites from all over Iraq converged on Kerbala to mark one of the holiest events in their calendar, a gathering banned under Saddam since 1977; how an incongruous group of Iranian rebels in northeastern Iraq reached an uneasy peace with the Americans; and of life in the north with Kurdish fighters, the enclave wrested from Saddam's control after the 1991 Gulf War.
From Cairo, Caroline Drees captures the mood of the Arab world, united in anger and frustration at the United States and Britain.
Day by day during the war, each of these journalists and their colleagues provided a snapshot or tiny sliver of what was going on. The 15 authors in this book were part of a much bigger team effort. By pulling together all the strands of our news-gathering on editing desks in Dubai, London, Washington and Singapore, Reuters was able to cut through some of the fog of war.
But fog, of course, there was. This was arguably the most reported war in history--nearly 1,000 journalists were embedded with U.S. and British forces--and yet at times it seemed as though confusion reigned. Rumors quickly became fact. It is now a cliche, but as U.S. Sen. Hiram Johnson said, "The first casualty when war comes, is truth."
The port of Umm Qasr fell, by one count, 11 times before Iraqi resistance actually petered out; a popular uprising said to have broken out in Basra turned out to be wishful thinking on the part of the Americans and British; barrels of chemicals were found in the desert and hailed as weapons of mass destruction. But they turned out not to be.
In fact, the war marked a watershed for modern journalism in more ways than one.
The concept of embedding was historically far from new. Indeed, William Howard Russell was probably the first embedded journalist when he reported in 1854 on the Crimean War for The Times of London. Winston Churchill was also embedded as a 25-year-old correspondent in the Boer War (1899-1902) and famously mixed the roles of objective journalist and combatant by directing military action against the Boers when a British armored train was ambushed.
But all this was in stark contrast to the 1991 Gulf War, when the closest many journalists came to battlefield action was the video game-style film shown in the daily briefings by Central Command. For a generation of reporters covering the Iraq war 12 years later, embedding was new.
But did embedded mean being "in bed" with the troops?
Reuters decided it was essential to have this front-line perspective but only if it could be balanced with views from outside. In his account of the war, Andrew Gray--embedded with the U.S. 2nd Battalion 70th Armored Regiment--tells of daily frustrations. There was no hopping out of the Humvee to check out more closely what was going on. Where the soldiers went, you went too. They dictated the timetable.
Then there was the insidious danger of living, traveling and eating, day in, day out, with soldiers you were supposed to be reporting on. Many of the journalists who flocked to the conflict from around the world dressed and looked like soldiers. Some of the more gung-ho journalists even acted like them. One newspaper reporter began a story with the words, "We rode at dawn, the men of the 1st Royal Irish."
In truth, even the most hard-bitten reporter is likely to form some kind of bond with the soldiers he or she is covering.
This, then, was unique for the vast majority of journalists in Iraq, and the media had little by way of recent experience to guide them. How did you report objectively about men on whom you depended for your transport, food and for your very life? What did you do when those men made tragic mistakes and, as indeed happened, killed families driving toward a checkpoint?
Sean Maguire witnessed one Iraqi family torn apart in crossfire, a young girl suffering gunshot wounds and hideous eye injuries. Maguire was embedded with U.S. Marines, his unit moved on and he was frustrated. He couldn't carry through on the journalist's instinct to follow up on the story. It was six weeks later that he learned the name of the girl, Tghreed, and that she had survived but lost her right eye.
And so media guidelines for "embeds" evolved as the war advanced toward Baghdad, and valuable lessons were learned for covering future conflicts.
Embedded journalists actually signed up to military rules, the most important one being, understandably, that the exact location of a unit should not be revealed. But few of the reporters suffered from overt censorship by the Americans or British. In what seems to be a rare incident, one journalist, not working for Reuters, told of how her description of British soldiers "running for cover" was changed to "dashing for cover" because "running" sounded cowardly.
Embedding, coupled with the instant communications technology available to the press, clearly offered a new insight into the war. It delivered compelling television images in a way never seen before. But it is essential that the danger and temptation of self-censorship are recognized and countered.
Did Western news organizations then sanitize the war themselves? Certainly there were few images of dead Iraqis shown on U.S. television and only a few more in Europe, and those very late at night.
The Al Jazeera television network and other Arabic broadcasters rewrote the rules of the game and went to the other extreme, showing harrowing images of dead Iraqis and infuriating Washington and London by broadcasting images of dead U.S. and British prisoners and servicemen. Was this Iraqi propaganda or war in all its graphic horror? Was it factual reporting that simply breached the bounds of Western taste? Or was it gratuitous depiction of violence? Whichever of the above, Al Jazeera's cover prompted some Western media organizations to suggest it is time to re-evaluate their own policies.
Samia Nakhoul's brave reporting in Baghdad led her to the hospital bed of 12-year-old Ali Abbas Ismaeel, his arms torn off and reduced to stumps by a bomb blast, his body blackened and charred. The story and pictures taken by Reuters photographer Faleh Kheiber, also wounded at the Palestine Hotel a few days later, resonated around the world. Ali became the symbol of the suffering of Iraqi children, and campaigns were launched to raise money for him and others. Those were incredibly difficult pictures to look at, but they told the story so powerfully.
Of course, the spin-doctors, on all sides, raised their art to new levels.
Doha briefings, hailed by war commander Tommy Franks as a "platform for truth," were delivered from a Hollywood-style film set and caused an uproar among journalists--there was very little hard news offered, and what there was often came out first from the embedded reporters or from those back in Washington or London. But journalists who publicly criticized the Doha set-up were sometimes accused of being unpatriotic.
In London, the BBC became embroiled in a bitter dispute with the government, and Prime Minister Tony Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, over whether the case for war had been "sexed up." It ended up with the apparent suicide of weapons expert David Kelly and a full blown independent judicial inquiry that dominated the British press throughout the summer.
From Baghdad, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf's confident pronouncements about Iraqi successes first enthralled Western television audiences, but he quickly turned into "Comical Ali" as his assertions provoked disbelief and then ridicule. But for Iraqis, he was anything but that. He was a figure who inspired fear, and many Iraqis appeared to have believed his confident daily accounts of impending American defeat.
And how much did journalists themselves provide the spin? The now famous toppling of Saddam's statute, so neatly symbolizing his downfall and echoing the fall of the Berlin Wall, appears to have been spontaneous enough. But it was hardly a mass popular uprising on the streets of Baghdad. When the cameras panned out, it quickly became evident that there were very few Iraqis around, and the statue was actually toppled with help from an American armored vehicle.
Although many journalists had actually pulled out of Baghdad before the war started, this was one of the most deadly wars on record for journalists--18 journalists or their colleagues had died in Iraq by mid-September--12 up to the time Saddam's government fell on April 9.
Then there were the casualties suffered by the U.S., British and Iraqi militaries and amongst the Iraqi civilian population. The overall Iraqi death toll will probably never be known, but academics and peace activists have estimated that up to 9,650 civilians died during the conflict and its aftermath.
The loss of life among journalists is nonetheless unacceptable and all the more disturbing, since it comes at a time when the media are better trained and better equipped to work in war zones than ever before.
An investigation by U.S. Central Command into the shelling of the Palestine Hotel concluded that U.S. forces acted appropriately and in self-defense. By mid-September, only a summary of the investigation had been released but on the face of it there are several unanswered questions. The hotel was home to the international media community in Baghdad and it had seemed to be the safest place in town, the scene of countless live television broadcasts. The highest levels of the U.S. military command were aware of this, but why were soldiers fighting on the streets of Baghdad not informed?
The media needs to know why Taras Protsyuk and Telecinco's Spanish cameraman, Jose Couso, were killed at the Palestine Hotel. We need to know why Mazen Dana, also killed by U.S. fire when he was filming outside a Baghdad jail, and other journalists died. We need to know for their colleagues and families and to learn lessons for the future.
Journalists have a right to report, without fear of attack or intimidation, whether embedded or working independently as free agents.
For only by covering all sides of a conflict do journalists have a hope of being able to distinguish truth from propaganda.
Reuters Global Head of News
May 2000-October 2003