Eason Jordan going off the deep end.
Here's what happened: at a Davos conference this week, CNN producer Eason Jordan discussed media coverage in Iraq and made the claim that the US military had deliberately targeted journalists covering the war in Iraq and had killed some of his CNN colleagues.
The Washington Times debunks the myth in the editorial linked above.
Here is the description of Jordan's claims from Rony Abovitz, who maintained a Davos World Economic Forum blog called "ForumBlog":
During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.
Due to the nature of the forum, I was able to directly challenge Eason, asking if he had any objective and clear evidence to backup these claims, because if what he said was true, it would make Abu Ghraib look like a walk in the park. David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S. He had always seen the U.S. military as the providers of safety and rescue for all reporters.
Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group). The ensuing debate was (for lack of better words) a real "sh--storm". What intensified the problem was the fact that the session was a public forum being taped on camera, in front of an international crowd.
There is a great interview with Rony Abovitz, the ForumBlog blogger who broke the Jordan story here. Abovitz noted:
Some members of the audience were shocked and in disbelief. Others supported Mr. Jordan's statements and seemed visibly impressed that Mr. Jordan had the courage to say such things to a world audience. One thing I will never forget: Arab journalists coming up to Mr. Jordan at the end of the session and praising his sheer bravery for standing up to the U.S. military in such a public way. I will also never forget the absolute look of horror on Professor Gergen's face, the disbelief that the U.S. military would ever do such things. Gergen went on to describe that in his own experience, the U.S. military were always the "good guys", rescuing journalists, never deliberately targeting them for death. Gergen also felt obligated to basically halt the debate at some point because the Pentagon and U.S. military were not represented at the session, and therefore no balanced discussion could be had (Congressman Frank is probably not a good proxy for the Pentagon). Another observation: those of us from the U.S. in the crowd were by and large disturbed, but it seemed that those from Europe or the Middle East were in large agreement with Mr. Jordan, as if he was confirming what they already knew and believed. The divide between the U.S. and the rest of the world seemed large. I do want to note that the topic seemed to be an emotional one for Mr. Jordan, and I believe that he has had friends and co-workers who were journalists killed in Iraq. He seemed so moved and passionate about the subject that it only compounded the level of uncertainty and severity about what was being discussed. A number of people in the audience, including Senator Dodd, came up to me and thanked me for directly challenging what was a serious charge against the U.S. military. I wonder why Senator Dodd didn't take Mr. Jordan on himself right then and there. A lot of us were disturbed by the possibility of Mr. Jordan's statements being true, and at the same time equally disturbed by the lack of hard data, or any data, to back up what he said.
Jordan quickly backpedaled and then did the Athlete Special(TM) by denying he said what he actually said:
To be clear, I do not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. I said so during the forum panel discussion. But, nonetheless, the U.S. military has killed several journalists in Iraq in cases of mistaken identity. [Jordan draws distinction between "collateral damage" and "mistaken identity" and claims he was only responding to Rep. Barney Frank's suggestion of only "collateral damage" -- the interview with Abovitz (see above) indicates that Frank raised that point AFTER Jordan's accusation]
Right. If that's true, why did Jordan say this at a Guardian Xchange conference in Portugal:
"Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the US military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by US forces," Mr Jordan told an audience of news executives at the News Xchange conference in Portugal. [HT: Cap'n Ed]
No, accusing the US of torturing journalists is not the same as accusing the troops of deliberately targeting them. But neither accusation has the faintest relation to the truth, both presuppose evil deeds by US forces, and both were uttered in forums that are rife with anti-American sentiment (Davos especially).
Jordan and CNN have long been accused of moral myopia in their journalistic approach. Remember, CNN's main reporter in Baghdad both in 1991 and 2003 was Peter Arnett -- the closest thing to Baghdad Bob in the American press corps. Arnett was sacked for his misleading reporting in the Iraq War.
And Jordan himself confessed (link is to abstract of his 2003 op-ed column) that CNN had deliberately failed to report negative stories about Saddamite Iraq to retain access to the regime.
In Davos, Jordan represented the US media in an anti-US climate. By peddling false accusations against US forces, he defamed them and the war effort. Is honest journalism too much to ask from CNN?