More on censoring and bombing

Lots of interesting email and links over the weekend regarding Thursday's post about targeting journalists in Iraq. Based on everything I've received, my opinion is that the US isn't specifically targeting journalists (writes a former member of the US Armed Forces, "By the Rules of Engagement, the U.S. could never legally fire upon journalists of any nation, if they knew they were journalists,") they are warning journalists that if they aren't embedded with US troops, they risk being fired upon because it's difficult to distinguish between a "friendly" satellite transmissions and one from the enemy. From the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Spoon-feeding the press article:

[T]he Pentagon recently issued a set of rules for war coverage in the looming campaign against Iraq that call for the "embedding" of approximately 500 reporters with U.S. troops. Immediately, the new regulations were hailed as a victory by mainstream media. But when you look at what the rules really say, the picture isn't so pretty.

"On paper it looks like a considerable improvement," Schanberg said. "For example, there's no auto review of copy by the military." On closer inspection, however, Schanberg found reasons for concern. All reporters "embedded" with U.S. troops must sign a contract agreeing to the Pentagon's rules governing coverage. Included in the document is a clause dictating what kinds of information reporters can and cannot detail. Journalists can be precluded from reporting certain "sensitive" information according to the military commander's discretion.

Via email from a US journalist in Kuwait:

I was at a briefing yesterday at which the U.S. military briefers made it very clear that any "unilaterals" (i.e. journalists who aren't embedded) who get ahead of the U.S. Army or mixed among it risk being shot or bombed or vaporized in one of the infinite fashions available to the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marines. Not because we are journalists, but because we would be unidentified operators in a warzone. Sounds like a joke, but the practice in a warzone is shoot-first-ask-questions-later.

So, reporters who will be embedded with the troops will be "safer" than those that venture off on their own. What they can report may also be restricted, and their credentials can be revoked by the Pentagon at any time, for any reason. Those who chose not to be embedded risk being "targeted down" simply because of the difficulty in distinguishing who they are, not because the US is trying to kill independent journalists. Kate Adie says she is, "enormously pessimistic of the chance of decent on-the-spot reporting, as the war occurs," and I agree. It sounds like the government wants to keep very tight control on the information coming out of Iraq. Sadly, with the Bush government, it's standard procedure.

Other links:

Thanks to everyone who wrote in, I appreciate the follow-up information.