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(Part two in a series. Part one is here.)
Although holding the biggest story of her career, Mapes (in her book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power) confesses to some level of concern about the impact of that story on events in Iraq
Tuesday morning, the phone rang at Dan's house and the ground began to shift again. On the line was Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told Dan that he was calling personally to ask that the story be postponed once more. Myers said there were "deep, deep national security reasons to hold this piece." He implied that the American military's actions in Fallujah would somehow be compromised if we ran the story...But Bill Lawson, whose threats had failed to stop the Army's prosecution of his nephew, was not in a mood to wait:
Now the U.S. Marines were in the city, suffering and dying in the brutal almost hand-to-hand combat that marked the battle for control in Fallujah. The thought that we could hurt those American soldiers was devastating.
Roger spoke with Bill Lawson, Chip Fredericks uncle, who told him that he had prepared one hundred stamped and addressed envelopes with details of his nephew's case for other news organizations and editorial boards. He planed on sending them out after our story aired. Now he said he was prepared to send them that night, whether our story ran or not.With assurances that nothing would stop them from ultimately broadcasting the report, CBS thought they had negotiated a delay. But...
Out of the blue, Jeff Fager got a call from Lawrence DeRita, a public information person at the Pentagon, who angrily accused us of giving the photos to Sy Hersh. I ran to Jeff's office and stood listening outside the door. Jeff was yelling into the phone. This was rapidly spinning out of control. Roger Charles told me sagely, "Sy Hersh is getting us all in trouble."Hersh was perhaps most famous for his revelation and coverage of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. In an amazing coincidence, one of the members of the military defense team at the My Lai trial was Cpt. Gary Myers, who was now serving as Ivan Fredericks civilian attorney.
A final word from Mary Mapes:
We ran the story on April 28th.Hersh's lengthy story on the scandal, published online two days after the CBS broadcast, was based on interviews with Frederick and Myers.
Earlier on the 28th in Baghdad, reporters suddenly began asking questions (if not fully paying attention to the answers) about a topic they had ignored in previous months
Finally, as you remember, in January it was announced that a criminal investigation was initiated to examine allegations of detainee abuse at the Baghdad confinement facility at Abu Ghraib. The Criminal Investigation Division investigation began when an American soldier reported and turned over evidence of criminal activity to include photographs of detainee abuse. CBS television has acquired these images and may show some of the evidence tonight on "60 Minutes II."Military officials were in an awkward position on Abu Ghraib. Any information they released could be seen as prejudicial to the defense, and result in collapse of the legal proceedings. Senior officials risked charges of "undue command influence" if they made any statements at all. As should be obvious from the above, the press is well aware of this limitation. As should be obvious from subsequent events, they are more than willing to take full advantage of it. Thus that version of events would be lost in the noise surrounding the release of the photos.
Q Chicago Tribune. Can we find out a little bit more about these six military personnel -- have been detained/charged? When did this happen and what are they charged with? And men/women? And can you give us some of the circumstances? It sounds as if you're only offering this information because it's going to go out on TV tonight.
GEN. KIMMITT: That is not true, Christine. While you were gone, we had a full press conference talking about the six personnel who were detained -- who were arrested and charged with criminal charges. I can tell you that all those cases are going forward. Some the Article 32 investigation has been completed. Some the Article 32 investigation is continuing. We had a backgrounder while you were gone to explain the entire process that we would be going through, and that is a matter of the record. I'd be glad to share you the notes from that backgrounder after this press conference.
Q I would like some more information right now about the personnel. And what are they charged with? And when did this happen? And are they men or women?
GEN. KIMMITT: And again, as I said, we have spoken to the entire press corps in Baghdad for an entire presser, as well as a background brief. Be glad to share this with you afterwards.
Q Al-Zamani newspaper. I have a question regarding the six who have been detained and they have been under interrogation and investigation. What are the reasons that pushed you -- what are the reasons that you are not revealing to the people?
GEN. KIMMITT: ...With regards to the six personnel that were charged with criminal counts against them back in January, we can go over that, along with Christine, after this press conference so I can get all that information for you. We typically do not reveal their names. As we've said in the press conference when this was announced, we would wait until the Article 32 investigations were complete before a decision was made whether their names would in fact be revealed.
Q Is it true that we have reports that some of them have just used pictures in torturing the detainees? What is your role in order to take care of those detainees? And where is the security, your security, especially giving them chances to have all these pictures and also to show it to the public? So can't you just tell us why this happened?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. And that's exactly why we had the investigation.
Let's start from the beginning. In early January, a soldier came forward at Abu Ghraib Prison. That soldier said, "There are some things going on here that I can't live with. I am aware of some activities that are being conducted by the guards and some of the interrogators that are inconsistent with my job and inconsistent with my values as a soldier." That soldier came forward. He presented evidence to his chain of command. The chain of command brought it forward. General Sanchez, upon hearing it, immediately started a criminal investigation.
I don't remember the exact date I stood in front of this podium and talked about the outcome of that investigation. So that outcome is now -- has resulted in criminal charges being levied against six soldiers.
To answer your other question, this does not reflect the vast majority of coalition soldiers, vast majority of American soldiers that are operating out of Abu Ghraib Prison. We have had thousands, tens of thousands of detainees in Abu Ghraib. We have understood that a very, very small number were involved in this incident, and of the hundreds and hundreds of guards they have out there, a small number were involved in the guards.
I'm not going to stand up here and make excuses for those soldiers. I'm not going to stand up here and apologize for those soldiers. If what they did is proven in a court of law, that is incompatible with the values we stand for as a professional military force, and it's values that we don't stand for as human beings. They will be tried before a court, and then those decisions will be made.
Meanwhile, William Lawson made good his promise to release hundreds of copies of documents to the press. In addition to the photographs were Frederick's journals, begun after his questioning in January, that would immediately become the foundation for the "torture narrative" favored by the press (and others) to this day. The AP:
The writings were supplied by Frederick's uncle, William Lawson, who said Frederick wanted to document what was happening to him.
While the full impact of the Abu Ghraib scandal would not be known for years, little time would elapse before the first effects of the growing storm surrounding the story would be felt. In Baghdad and Washington, a debate was raging as to the fate of Fallujah. One faction wanted the Marines to finish the mission - the other favored handover of responsibilities to the "Fallujah Brigade" - a group of locals who could perhaps deal with the terrorists in the midst of the city.
From Bing West's book No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah
The entire American military effort in Iraq stood on trial for the injustices and criminal acts of a few. The president said the matter deserved the most immediate and thorough attention of the Pentagon. Congress demanded an examination of the policy directives by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Gen Abizaid received queries about the orders he gave his subordinates, while LtGen Sanchez became the object of several high-level investigations. The political hurricane swept through Washington on April 29, blowing away any senior review of the precipitate decision to turn Fallujah over to the former Iraqi generals.On May 1, 2004, the United States withdrew from Fallujah, announcing that they were turning over any remaining operations to the Fallujah Brigade.
Days later, yet another graphic video would make headlines. From No True Glory:
Twenty-three-year-old Nicholas Berg, a friendly Californian - part entrepreneur, part youthful wanderer - was traveling by himself in Baghdad when he disappeared in mid-April. In mid-May, the terrorist Zarqawi posted a video on his web site, Al Ansar. The grainy pictures showed a bearded and gaunt Berg, clad in an orange prisoner jumpsuit, sitting in a white plastic chair in front of a beige wall. Five men clad in black, with facemasks and green chest vests holding AK clips, stood behind Berg as Zarqawi proclaimed retaliation for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Then shouting "God is great!" Zarqawi drew a long knife and leaped upon Berg. There was a scream, and a few seconds later Berg's severed head was placed on his bloody torso. The gory videotape made the prime-time news on Al Jazeera.The Fallujah Brigade would fail, and the city would experience months of chaos and bloodshed under the virtual control of al Qaeda fighters who made it their headquarters in Iraq. But as West makes clear, Fallujah wasn't the only campaign abandoned by the Americans in the wake of Abu Ghraib
At the beginning of May, the spotlight of national publicity had swung completely away from Fallujah and onto the Abu Ghraib scandal. The prison abuse story also pushed Sadr's rebellion to the back pages. MajGen Dempsey had backed Sadr and his bruised militia into a corner in Najaf. Instead of arresting him, the Iraqi politicians agreed to let him go free. The reason they gave was that the Coalition could ill afford to make him a martyr at a time when the Arab press was showing the Abu Ghraib pictures as proof that Americans were the oppressors in Iraq. Sadr was allowed to leave Najaf and resume his plotting, with the warrant for his arrest abated.To this day Sadr is seen by many as the greatest obstacle to peace in Iraq.
February, 2004, saw 21 US deaths in Iraq. Twelve were due to enemy action, nine were accidental. But in the background, events were already transpiring that would ensure that such a low number would never be seen again.
In a December, 2005 interview, Army 1st Lt. Parker Hahn, a nurse at Landstuhl Medical Center who arrived at Abu Ghraib after the abuse but before the CBS broadcast of the story, described the impact of the release of the photos on operations there:
- You’ve also spent some time downrange. Where were you from January 2004 to January 2005?Excluding casualty figures for major combat operations, prior to the 60 Minutes broadcast of the Abu Ghraib photos US forces averaged 45 deaths per month in Iraq. Since then, only three months have seen numbers that low.
Primarily, I was at the Abu Ghraib prison. I was part of the 53-person team — 53 give or take — that set up the first hospital there to treat the detainees. I was there until end of September. Then, I was involved with the travel nursing program of Iraq. I went to Camp Victory. I spent time at Baghdad in the international zone. I spent time at Balad at the Air Force hospital and then spent time at Mosul.
- What was it like to be at Abu Ghraib amongst all the controversy, the photos, etc., with so much attention focused on the detainees and their treatment there?
In February, we started setting up at Abu Ghraib, and the stories broke in April, I believe. At that point of course, the frequency of attacks increased. It got bad. We had [mass casualties] of 120 and 109 patients. Mortars landed in the detainee camps. Our primary mission was to treat detainees. It was very frustrating because every news reporter that came through, every VIP that came through from all over these countries, the only thing they wanted to know was what we did with the abused prisoners. We’re like, “We haven’t even seen any abused prisoners since we’ve been here. There are none.” I never saw one the whole nine months I was there … It was very frustrating for my soldiers to have to witness all this, and the good didn’t get out about what we were doing.
By June, 2004, the Fallujah Brigades would be an obvious failure.
It was not supposed to be like this. Under an agreement made last month with U.S. Marine commanders, a new force called the Fallujah Brigade, led by former officers from Saddam Hussein's demobilized army, was to safeguard the city. The unruly gunmen -- many of them insurgents who battled the Marines through most of April -- were supposed to give way to Iraqi police and civil defense units.That Washington Post story includes an account of the reporters' experience attempting to leave Fallujah:
Instead, the brigade stays outside of town in tents, the police cower in their patrol cars and the civil defense force nominally occupies checkpoints on the city's fringes but exerts no influence over the masked insurgents who operate only a few yards away.
The Marines gave the brigade the task of apprehending the killers of four American contractors whose bodies were burned, mutilated and hung from a bridge in March, capturing foreign fighters and disarming the insurgents. None of that has happened.
Moreover, continuing mayhem on Fallujah's outskirts raises the question of whether the Americans have simply created a safe haven for anti-occupation fighters. On Saturday, a Fallujah-based group calling itself the Mujaheddin Battalions announced it was transferring its fight to Baghdad -- but was still committed to the truce in its home city.
A similar dynamic has slowed the U.S. pursuit of Shiite Muslim rebels in southern Iraq, where fear of igniting a broader revolt has stayed the hand of U.S. forces. So far, two cease-fires have been called in the south.
At the brigade headquarters, a group of recruits stood idly among new U.S.-installed tents in a small military complex. Brigade members said that they had not entered Fallujah for several days but insisted that the masked men had no authority to stop anyone. "We are all cooperating, so it does not make any difference if we are there or not," said one guard....with an ironic "happy" ending:
The brigade has been billed as a trained unit of former Iraqi soldiers, with some additions of Fallujah fighters. At their base, a group of brigade members appeared to be unimpressed by their chain of command. They repeatedly interrupted a portly man, who said he was the commander on duty, when he advised us to move north, away from the city. The men insisted instead on escorting us back into Fallujah, and from there, would lead us to the highway. They said there was no way to get on the road to Baghdad by heading north. "Come with us. We will protect you, no problem," a bearded man said.
The suggestion appeared odd, since the Fallujah police had said there was a gravel on-ramp to the highway just a few miles north of the brigade camp. We turned down the offer.
Instead, we decided to follow a U.S. military convoy just a few hundred yards away. The convoy had stopped because someone had spotted a roadside bomb, and the troops were waiting for engineers to arrive and blow it up. The Fallujah Brigade members then tried to block the Post vehicle from proceeding when the U.S. troop convoy moved out. They allowed us to pass only when a U.S. military Humvee topped by a menacing machine gun rolled back to the brigade headquarters to see what was going on.
On the highway, the military convoy peeled off to travel to its home base just east of Fallujah. The Washington Post vehicle continued toward Baghdad. Ten miles down the road, the orange-and-white taxi carrying the gunmen appeared and began firing.
Despite damage to the vehicle, it eventually limped to Abu Ghraib prison, about 20 miles west of Baghdad, where U.S. military police gave us refuge. Few residents of the notorious facility probably ever entered the compound as happily as we did.
Shortly after the 2004 US Presidential elections, the "second battle for Fallujah" would begin.
During the battle, Corporal Michael Hibbert, USMC, led his squad through what appeared to be a warehouse. From No True Glory:
The third door he kicked in led to a film studio with the green and black flag of Zarqawi's terrorist gang, Al Ansar, on the wall and black blood on the floor where Nicholas Berg had been decapitated in May.
Staff Sgt Ivan Frederick entered a guilty plea at the start of his court martial in August, 2004, ensuring that no evidence or testimony from a potentially lengthy trial would appear in the media. Gary Myers, his lawyer, was at his side as he called for all those other guilty parties to follow his example. He didn't clarify who he meant. After he was sentenced to eight years Myers called the sentence "excessive" and said he intended to appeal.
Although only one of the released photos included Frederick, sensational publicity generated over the case for which he literally "made headlines" (with considerable help) had transformed him from an unnamed "subject of whispers" to a figure of world wide revulsion.
Roger Charles, whose "spare time - not that he had any" work for Soldiers for the Truth brought the Abu Ghraib photos to CBS, became leader of SFTT upon the death of co-founder David Hackworth. The CBS military consultant described his group's mission to the Washington Post:
"Our mission is simple," the soft-spoken Charles said. "We want the best available training, leadership and equipment for our kids. That's all our agenda is, the well-being of the grunts who are on the bloody end of the spear -- the ones kicking in doors in Fallujah, driving convoys from Baghdad to Basra and freezing on the plains in Afghanistan. The kids that do the heavy lifting, the fighting, the bleeding, the dying."
Mapes' and Rather's careers would effectively end following their involvement in the broadcast of crudely forged documents relating to President Bush's National Guard career. But in May, 2005, Rather and Mapes received the Peabody Award for their work on the Abu Ghraib story one year prior.
With thanks to two former colleagues who left CBS in the wake of a scandal, CBS News' Dan Rather accepted broadcast journalism's most prestigious honor on Monday for the "60 Minutes Wednesday" story that exposed the shocking conditions inside Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.60 Minutes II was cancelled by CBS, failing in ratings against ABC's drama Lost.
In one of his first public appearances since leaving the network's anchor chair in March, Rather and Mary Mapes received the Peabody Award at a luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown Manhattan.
Rather took pains to acknowledge Mapes and former CBS News senior vp Betsy West (who also attended the ceremony), among others. Mapes was fired by CBS News, and West was forced to resign in the wake of another "60 Minutes Wednesday" report, which aired in September and used questionable documents as part of the sourcing for a highly critical report on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.
"They did most of the work, bore the heaviest burdens and took most of the criticism," Rather said of Mapes and the other producers who did the front-line reporting on the Abu Ghraib story. "It took guts, and they had them."
Rather received extended applause after telling the crowd, "Never give up, never back up, never give in while pursuing the dream of integrity filled journalism that matters."
Moqtada al Sadr is still at large.
Next: Porn Squad Commandos
I don't think anybody would call the journalists and parents involved in that story evil... But that's what they are. In a total focus on "the big story" and drunk on their own self-regard they have caused unbelievable damage.
I wonder what would've happened if all involved had either covered the story responsibly from the beginning or been convinced to hold off on the pictures until after Fallujah was subdued...Posted by FbL at November 15, 2006 01:20 AM
Just as the distorted coverage of the "Highway of Death" in 1991 started a chain of events that led to Saddam's retention of power, at the expense of of tens of thousands of Shiites ... and made it necessary to return in 2003 to finish the job ...
... the distorted coverage of Abu Grahib, at the hands of those with an axe to grind, has led to not only multiple errors being made in the prosecution of this war, but also the nuturing of our enemy's resolve to fight on ... and harder ...
... leading to the present situation in Iraq.
Speaker-to-be Pelosi, if you ever read this ... this is what the people who facilitated your "triumph" have wrought. This gives me even more reason to question their judgment ... including their judgment in backing you and your ilk under the guise of "journalism".
Do Dan and Mary ever feel remorse for their part in the hate and the hype which made the deaths of over 2000 American soldiers more likely? Do they ever feel responsible for inciting the insurgency against the wishes and plans of the US military? Do they ever feel guilty for making the jobs of American servicemen harder than ever just because they wanted to get out a story, which they KNEW would damage the war effort and would probably result in enhanced hatred of the US (which they had previously fomented anyway), however little they believed they were actually responsible for it.
Damn them straight to Hell.
Can I question their patriotism now? Probably not. But I damn sure can question their intelligence.
Journalists! Morons! Disgusting Worms!
Posted by Subsunk at November 15, 2006 03:01 AM
Journalists! Morons! Disgusting Worms! Count on Subsunk to come up with the words I was looking for...Posted by FbL at November 15, 2006 03:24 AM
The Abu Ghraib story was turned into a brilliant psychological operation that very effectively undermined the American people's support for the war and adversely affected kinetic operations, and ultimately led to Congressional defeat last week, i.e., partial regime change.
al Qaeda's victory was only possible because of the enthusiastic support of the Main Stream Media.
Without domestic counter-psyops, we are doomed to repeat this scenario.
Posted by Cannoneer No. 4 at November 15, 2006 08:00 AM
Aw, c'mon guys. They're just trying to make the world a better place... It's what Dems do!
Mudville Gazette has more journalistic integrity in its little finger than the entire mainstream media has in their collective dim-witted, bleeding heart...Posted by D. Ox at November 15, 2006 04:12 PM
GH, you need to write the book on this one. Get a publisher. I'm serious, you have a knack for the long view, great research skills, and of course you can write like a son of a gun.Posted by dadmanly at November 16, 2006 08:17 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(7) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)