Unwitting Ally with Jihad
NBC’s reporting of the Marine’s shooting of an insurgent in a Fallujah mosque is perhaps the most irresponsible piece of “journalism” we have seen since this war began. In a rush to break a story, the video of the incident was played on national television without considering the impact of this video on the current battle to secure Fallujah and the wider conflict in Iraq and beyond. There was not even an attempt to place the events into proper context, just a snip of video showing the shooting. What were the conditions in the mosque? What was the state of mind of the Marines conducting this operation? Have they encountered situations where insurgents were booby-trapping bodies or practicing deception with the wounded? When the New York Times, Human Rights Watch and the International Committee for the Red Cross are cautioning patience when judging this Marine, it is safe to say that NBC has acted in a manner that is highly irregular.
"Obviously, the shooting of an incapacitated detainee is a fundamental violation of the Law of Armed Conflict," said James D. Ross, senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch. "But if someone feigns being incapacitated or killed, and then uses that to trick someone and shoot them, that's a war crime, and might justify the shooting."
Florian Westphal, a spokesman for the International Committee for the Red Cross, said it was not clear what had happened in the mosque, based solely on the videotape. "We cannot, on the basis of TV images, no matter how disturbing and disconcerting they are, arrive at a judgment about an incident," Mr. Westphal told The A.P. "We were not on the spot, so we cannot be aware of all the circumstances."
Reader What?, in the post Into the Sunni Triangle, has perfectly encapsulated my views on the responsibly of the media and what should have been the proper course of action in this situation.
Reporters, editors, and producers all have to exercise judgment in dispensing of their job. I call this use of judgment the "editorial function." A part of the editorial function is and has to be a concern for the ethics of impact and the ethical prioritizing of seeing justice served before serving ratings or the rush to get the story out and first. I recognize the press is a business, but is also part public service and has to act responsibly and ethically.
Rushing the tape to air in this case was something I regard as a lapse of judgment and ethics. NBC could hold the tape and give a copy to the proper authorities with the understanding that if a suitable review and investigation is not started immediately than the tape will be released immediately. If a fair and proper investigation is done to the satisfaction of the media and the soldier is exonerated then NBC would have no business showing the tape. If found guilty then and only then would it be ethical for them to go with it, caveat the original condition that a thorough and impartial investigation be convened immediately.
Clearly NBC News has given our enemies in Iraq a cheap and easy victory, without properly weighing the impact of their actions. Al Jazeera, always quick to portray American and Iraqi government actions as criminal, has not hesitated to air the footage in its entirety [from the New York Times article linked to above].
As Marine commanders in Iraq rushed to learn details of the shooting incident, Al Jazeera broadcast the unedited version of the footage, complete with a name visible on one marine's backpack and the faces of the marines, which were not shown on American networks. Several commanders voiced concern that no matter what the inquiry determined, the incident had handed the Iraqi insurgency a huge propaganda victory.
I will not state that NBC News or other American media outlets have allied themselves with the insurgents and terrorists. But their actions in this situation, as well as CBS’s reporting of Abu Ghraib, have allowed the media to become unwitting pawns of the Islamofascists. Nothing good can come from releasing the footage in this manner, unless you consider a bump in ratings a public good. The identity of the soldier in question has been exposed and potentially his family is in danger. The soldier has been judged before a proper review of the events can be conducted. And American soldiers and Marines are generically labeled as murderers by our enemies, with raw footage to “prove” it.