Off the Front Page: Haditha, Azizi, and more to come

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(June 1, 2006) First of all, an item that had been “off the front page” is now being seen ON the front page. That item is the killing of innocent civilians—a.k.a. “murder”—by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In truth, most of the killings of innocent civilians remain off the front pages. But, still, many readers of the newspapers may now have heard of the Iraqi town of Haditha, where U.S. Marines allegedly went on a rampage last November 19 and murdered perhaps two dozen innocent people.

There are a number of interesting things about this story. One interesting thing is the difference in coverage in the U.S. media versus that in the foreign media. Contrast, for instance, the May 29th headline on the story in the newspaper The Australian: “U.S. Killing Field Captured on Film.” Here’s the headline—same day, same story—from the Chicago Sun Times: “Sometimes with the Heroism Comes the Horror.”

There’s another interesting thing to note about the coverage that has been seen since Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha—a former Marine—stated on May 18 that the Marines in Haditha had “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” If you go back and look at U.S. newspapers from the time (late November) you will find exactly one article on the event, in the New York Times. That article was relegated to page 15 and, typically, quoted only official sources, who reported the official story, which was that “15 Iraqi civilians and a marine were killed Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded in Haditha.”

The London Independent reported on March 26 that “Although the mayor of Haditha led a protest delegation to the local Marines camp soon afterwards [in November], the official story did not begin to unravel until an Iraqi human rights group obtained a video, shot by a local journalism student…” See what journalism CAN do?

Continuing the pattern wherein there is no “story” except for the official story, all of the current coverage of the Haditha massacre (in the past two weeks, that is) has been based on leaks from, or anonymous quotes about, an official Pentagon report, supposedly soon to be released. A different official story! At least we’re hearing something about this massacre. Now.

Meanwhile, the news that “at least 16 civilians were killed in air strikes by American-led forces” in the Afghan town of Azizi on May 22 made the front page only in the Belfast (Ireland) Telegraph. Nowhere in the U.S. were the deaths considered front-page news, which is why the name “Azizi” probably doesn’t sound familiar to you. And Azizi is hardly unique.

Perhaps even more important than reporting the murders of innocents after they occur is reporting the deaths that can be expected to occur in the future if certain policies are pursued. These deaths, after all, could still be prevented. That’s why it was such a huge crime that the U.S. media failed to report—on the front pages, or anywhere—on the mid-February release of a scholarly study written by Professor Paul Rogers and published by the Oxford Research Group in England, called “Iran: Consequences of a War.” The Associated Press story that went out—and was completely ignored by the U.S. media—reported that “A U.S. air assault on Iranian nuclear and military facilities would likely kill thousands of people, spark a long-lasting war and push Iran to accelerate its atomic program…” If any Nygaard Notes reader can find a news article talking about the innocent Iranian lives that would be lost were the U.S. to attack that country, please tell me about it. I can’t find any.

Read the Iran report for yourself (since you won’t find it in the media) “here”:http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefings/IranConsequences.htm. Then contact your elected officials and tell them what you think.