Reader Kevin “Hognose” O’Brien comments on our post “Eyeless at the Associated Press”:
FWIW, there is no question among the troops that the AP’s participation in the murders of the Iraqi election officials was anything but witting and consensual.
Bear in mind that there is significant prior experience with specific journalists participating in terrorist crimes, as this man did:
— Paris Match spent a week riding with a Ba’athist SAM crew, trying to get a shot at a military or DHL jet. They finally did. Then they protested that they had NO IDEA it was a civilian a/c, when that can be seen clearly in their own photographs (and presumably through the viewfinder. I daresay they were using an SLR).
— AFP, AP and AP TV had advance notice of the murders of contractors in Fallujah last spring, so that they could position themselves on scene.
The Fallujah case is particularly interesting, because it involves one of the same organisations (AP). Apparently the reporters were tipped to go to a specific location. They were not told exactly what would take place, but they knew it was going to be a terrorist action of some type. For security reasons, the terrorists give the reporters very little notice — just enough to get there, if everything goes right.
They were told exactly what street corner to be on, where they would be expected by and under the protection of the terrorists. (“If you’re anywhere else, we can’t guarantee your safety.”) The AFP writer and photographer got to the scene “in time” to get photos of the tag end of the fight. The AP van, held up by the TV crew, was late to the scene and had trouble finding it at first. When AP arrived, the fighting was over, the Americans were dead and their vehicles were being set afire.
After the contractors were dead and their bodies looted, the reporters stayed and encouraged the mob that had gathered to mutilate the bodies. I am told by our Arabic speakers that they can be heard egging the youths on during the video of the mutilations. “Go ahead, cut him up. What are you afraid of?” I don’t believe that they are motivated by anti-American animus — after all, there were plenty of Americans like Kos that took delight in those murders — but by professional considerations. They need shocking video to win the daily news cycle. If they can’t get it, they’ll manufacture it.
The AP and other news agencies are in a difficult position. They would like to get information from both sides (as much to display their “neutrality” as anything). They do not desire to be seen by either side as partisans of the other — especially in the case of the terrorists, who, unlike the US military, would be likely to take violent action on such a perception. And they can’t resist the idea of getting a scoop or prize-winning, career-building photograph. And news from inside the insurgency is rare and desirable. The insurgents sensibly (from their point of view) try to keep the circle of witting participants as small
as possible, as late as possible. That they admit certain ostensibly “Western” journalists into their orbit is clear, and considering the risks this entails, it is telling.
The AP has another interest in the instance before us. Note that they are concealing the name of their photographer, which they imply is to protect him from reprisals from the US Military (which I’m sure you understand, would likely be no more than persona-non-grata status or revocation of credentials, if any, to cover the Coalition forces).
Their actual reason for so doing is more probably, as y’all so elegantly put it, “about the Benjamins.” Local stringers are not paid well by world standards. This photographer, having demonstrated his access to the insurgency, is now a desirable commodity for the other press and stock agencies operating in country. By protecting him from the improbable hazard of being whacked by Rumsfeld, he winds up protected from the more probable hazard of being poached by AFP, Star, Sygma, or whomever.
Like O’Brien, our friend Roger L. Simon is also impressed by Wretchard’s analysis: “Levels of propaganda.”
UPDATE: At Little Green Footballs Charles Johnson speculates that the execution photogographs were “shot by an accomplice of the murderers who supplied the photo to the Associated Press”: “Incident on Haifa Street.” Roger L. Simon has more in “Living in the post-Rather universe.”