The Command Post
April 10, 2003
Revelations Of Iraqi Torture, Intimidation Of CNN

This is a very hard story to summarize. It's a piece by CNN chief news exec Eason Jordan on the Op-Ed pages of Friday's New York Times that recounts various episodes of intimidation, threats of murder, a foiled bombing and outright torture of a CNN cameraman. Jordan appeared on Aaron Brown's CNN program tonight to discuss it. A sample:

For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk....
Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection. The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting. Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways. Obviously, other news organizations were in the same bind we were when it came to reporting on their own workers.

We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails).

Still, I felt I had a moral obligation to warn Jordan's monarch, and I did so the next day. King Hussein dismissed the threat as a madman's rant. A few months later Uday lured the brothers-in-law back to Baghdad; they were soon killed. ...

Posted By Christopher Rake at April 10, 2003 11:37 PM | TrackBack
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i gotta say, though, a little self-aggrandizing of Aaron Brown -- "is it because we are perceived as the world's news channel..." yadda yadda yadda...

Posted by: SamAntix at April 10, 2003 11:42 PM

Hmm. I wonder who the Iraqis threatened to kill at the BBC.

Then again, I'm not sure that would have been necessary.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at April 10, 2003 11:44 PM

yeah, Brown was turning an incredible story into a CNN commercial. Appalling.

Posted by: Christopher Rake at April 10, 2003 11:46 PM

Good thing they never got hold of anyone at Fox News. The Saddamites must hate Fox as much as Janeene GodAwfulHo.

Posted by: Cowboy Bob at April 10, 2003 11:46 PM

Here's the registration-required link to the article.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at April 10, 2003 11:46 PM

Chris--thanks much--somehow I forgot the link, which I'll now insert.

Posted by: Christopher Rake at April 10, 2003 11:49 PM

In case you're not disgusted enough at the Saddam regime:

Then there were the events that were not unreported but that nonetheless still haunt me. A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes," one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home.
Posted by: Chris Lawrence at April 10, 2003 11:51 PM

Yes, but you see, it was the Americans who were deliberately targeting the journos.

Not the Saddamites.



They would never threaten journalists looking to cover stories that might not look good for the Iraqi government.

Because as we all know, Bush is worse than Saddam. And also, Bush is Hitler. And a baby-killer. And only interested in oil. The baby oil he gets from the baby killing.

Also, he's religious.

Posted by: Steve at April 10, 2003 11:52 PM

maybe chirac{u know the head frog} will make his revalation of being threatened with torture to sell saddam weapons...not that i would believe him.

Posted by: aby normal at April 10, 2003 11:53 PM

No Reg required Link

Damn... Its not that hard to by-pass!

Posted by: Original Mark at April 10, 2003 11:56 PM

Could it be that CNN shoveled this under the rug to (a) protect their access to high government officials in Iraq and sympathetic countries, or (b) avoid releasing news that undermined CNN's political agenda?

CNN appears to be claiming it was silent to protect its staff. What was it trying to avoid - "various episodes of intimidation, threats of murder, a foiled bombing and outright torture"?

I admit I don't know enough, but something smells here.

Posted by: Ragtime at April 10, 2003 11:58 PM

Did he aask if this stuff was in confidence or if the people recounting it wanted it to be known? A series of tough decisions, and he may have done the right thing, but I wish recordings had been kept in vaults in the US to be brought forth at a time like now.

Posted by: John Anderson at April 10, 2003 11:59 PM

Brent Sadler on CNN is reporting thousands of Iraqi soldiers have abandoned their posts, discarded their boots and weapons and are walking to the Kurdish territory. "They look pretty pleased with themselves. One HUGE line stretching to the horizon, 3 abreast taking up half the carriageway. No panic, no disorganization, just a drift of a shattered army heading away from their positions.".

This has just occurred in the past half hour.

Posted by: CERDIP at April 11, 2003 12:02 AM

This is disturbing on several different levels.

First there's the torture.

Second, there's CNN's to keep quiet about specific acts of torture it knew about in the name of getting more access. Is that justified? Maybe, I don't know.

Third, there's CNN's decision to hire local Iraqis knowing the danger they put them in. Is that justified? No.

Fourth, there's the impact this torture may have had on its coverage of the regime.

Fifth, there's CNN's decision to detail these events AFTER the war had started and portray itself as some sort of hero.

The corruption is pretty deep.

Posted by: Don'tknow at April 11, 2003 12:05 AM

What smells is a collaborationist organization. They aided and abetted Saddam in his reign of terror when they were in a better position to do something about it than anyone else. Every single person at CNN who was aware of this and did nothing should recognize that they have blood on their hands as much as any of Saddam's henchmen.

Their idea of protecting their employees was to cooperate with Saddam. And how many other lives did they help to destroy with that cooperation. And how many dictators are they propping up today by not telling the truth about what goes on in their feifdoms. These guys give pimps a good name.

Posted by: Richard A. Heddleson at April 11, 2003 12:09 AM

CNN made a deal with the devil in exchange for "access." They have lied to us and regurgitated Saddam's propoganda. They have turned their eyes away from abuses--even atrocities against their own employees.

It's nice to see they have had to pay a price. Too bad it was a cameraman and not Mr. Brown himself.

Posted by: Anon at April 11, 2003 12:14 AM

This pretty much gives the lie to the "brave journalists in Baghdad to bring the world the truth" claim. In fact, CNN now admits that A) they have routinely suppressed the hideous truth about the Baghdad regime precisely because there were CNN people in Iraq, and B) their presence routinely got Iraqis tortured and killed.

One wonders why they were willing to risk Iraqi lives and prostitute themselves to Saddam's regime just to be able to say, "We have people in Baghdad."

I wish I could believe they would engage in some soul-searching about this, but their arrogance and self-righteousness is such that I cannot imagine it happening.

American journalism is a cesspool.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 12:15 AM

Did you guys see the piece. According to the News director, Saddam was convinced that CNN was a CIA front organization.

Posted by: CERDIP at April 11, 2003 12:15 AM

This whole time, CNN has had its coverage of Middle East issues so badly compromised. And only admits it after the cowboy it loves to hate makes it safe for them to say it. Ungracious, to say the least. Mr. Jordon, the least you could do is acknowledge who brought about the change that is letting you speak what you couldn't say before.

No, Aaron Brown, your jurnos weren't viewed as working for the world's news leader. The Ba'athist saw your reporters and camaramen as Americans, as much as you try to hide the fact you are to the rest of the world.

Rather than make the leap of judgment of affirming your status as an American, Aaron, it seems you and your fellow CNN jurnos will go further to distance yourself from the country that gives, and defends, the freedoms you enjoy just so you can chase that almighty story unhindered by the shackles your American-ness.

Posted by: Eric Anondson at April 11, 2003 12:16 AM

hey u guys cnn really could have been helping us target places in iraq...but i tend to go with the cnn prostituted itself for media coverage and rateings....myself but what do i know im aby

Posted by: aby normal at April 11, 2003 12:21 AM

Why wait until now to report this? CNN's reporters were kicked out of Iraq three weeks ago.

Posted by: Joe Maller at April 11, 2003 12:22 AM

I dunno, because maybe 3 weeks ago, the Saddamites were still in control and could engage in the assassinations they'd been plotting?

Posted by: Steve at April 11, 2003 12:28 AM

Three weeks ago, Saddam and the fedayeen were still in firm control of Iraq and therefore in a position to imprison, torture and murder any Iraqi with a connection to CNN.

Posted by: Christopher Rake at April 11, 2003 12:29 AM

Maybe I'm just being uncharitable but, this does seem self serving.

Posted by: Fred Boness at April 11, 2003 12:30 AM

A new low for the Communist News Network. "Don't Know"'s post above nails it. We should all wonder about the accuracy of reports from other repressive regimes - Syria, Iran, North Korea, Gaza...

Posted by: damascusdan at April 11, 2003 12:31 AM

CNN likes to ask those "important questions." Let's see them answer some.

Posted by: Redrider at April 11, 2003 12:33 AM

Let a hundred bloggers bloom.

Posted by: Mikesmechanic at April 11, 2003 12:36 AM

This is unbelievable!

If CNN was only allowed to report on things that Saddam wanted them to, how are they not complicit with him, as a propaganda arm?

This is inexcusable behavior!

Posted by: Jeremy at April 11, 2003 12:39 AM

Somehow, I am finally realizing the appropriateness of the claim that Al Jazeera is the Middle East's equivalent of CNN. Who knew the similarities would be this strong!

Posted by: Eric Anondson at April 11, 2003 12:48 AM

My question is, were all news organizations with a presence in Iraq compromised like this? Even Fox had staff in Baghdad, before the Iraqis threw them out.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 12:50 AM

I think most of you are being too hard on the Clinton News Network. Journalist are normal (leftist) people. They get sent to a place like Iraq, meet locals (and they have no choice but to employ locals, you can't import that many people) get to know them, and then worry about them. This gives a regime like the one in Iraq leverage.

Now, this puts them in a position to have to make choices. They can either compromise and get what story they can, or just leave. Just leaving isn't an option. You can't not report on a nation like Iraq. Why are we in Iraq and not North Korea? One major reason is that the media shows us Iraq, but is banned from the Hermit Kingdom. We don't care about NK because it isn't on television. Compromised or not, it is better to have the reporting than not to.

Aaron Brown is a male bimbo who loves his own voice, but he wasn't guy on the ground. He doesn't have the guts to make decisions like this. The trench reporters like Jordan have to make these kinds of decisions. They are difficult, but what would all you Monday morning quarterbacks do? I'm sure you'd be "uncompromising", of course that would either get innocent people murdered, or your news organization kicked out of the country. Then we'd get Al Jazeera, which is a hell of a lot more bias than CNN...yes I know what you are going to say, but seriously, CNN is an order of magnitude more objective.

This was an ugly situation. The people who were there made the decisions. Perhaps they were wrong, perhaps not, but they are coming clean about it now, they are telling the story. The world is imperfect, but this reporter is trying to be honest. I think a number of the people here ought to cut the man some slack. We may not like CNN, but to nitpick like this is just silly.

Posted by: Phil Hornsey at April 11, 2003 01:09 AM

I suppose CNN couldn't protect Iraqi nationals that were working for CNN in Iraq. Yeah, that makes sense.

But why in the h*ll didn't CNN try to get political refugee status for their Iraqi employees and get them out of the country?

How in the world can this boob justify knowing since the mid-90s what Saddam was doing over there, AND DOING LITTLE OR NOTHING?!

This is simply appalling.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Sir Edmund Burke.

Though I'd add, if they're doing nothing in the face of this, they're not good men.

Posted by: Kathleen at April 11, 2003 01:13 AM

Just a quick thought here, folks.

Aaron Brown wasn't with CNN in any real capacity til after 9/11, I think.

He's just the anchor, he doesn't make these sorts of decisions. Eason does, Eason is management.

Oh, and as per why they don't attach themselves to their Americanness: CNN broadcasts worldwide. They CAN'T play their Americanness, it would get thrown in their face.

I swear, some of you hate CNN just cuz it ain't Fox.

Posted by: Penta at April 11, 2003 01:17 AM

Phil, I disagree. Not only is leaving an option, they should have pulled out of Iraq the moment it became clear that their presence there was preventing them from reporting the truth. If they couldn't report the truth about Iraq, then what journalistic benefit came from being in Iraq? Just "getting it on TV" without regard to the truth of the information reported isn't enough. Better to report truthfully from elsewhere.

I also disagree with your characterization about Jordan's article as "coming clean." He never admits to doing anything wrong. He seems to want absolution for deeds which he refuses to admit were sins.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 01:26 AM

You people are truly full of it.

CNN had Iraqi employees. If CNN reported that their Iraqi employees were being tortured, the families of those employees would have been imprisoned or killed. Would you like that?

Oh, I suppose you just learned yesterday that Iraq's regime engaged in torture. Whoa, CNN should have alerted us of this a long time ago. Wake up. They did. It has been well-known around the world that Iraq tortured its own people.

The Iraqi foreign minister, the highly popular "Baghdad Bob," threatened to murder CNN employees who reported from northern Iraq. So, what did CNN do? They sent them in anyway. Then they almost got killed, except some Kurdish forces arrested the Iraqi terrorists.

It wasn't just CNN that was threatened. If CNN used any footage from any other Western news media organization, that organization's employees would be imprisoned. Your favorite guy, Baghdad Bob, threatened to imprison these people. Organizations like the Associated Press were pleading with CNN not to use their stuff for fear that their employees would come to harm.

CNN wasn't trading anything for access. They were risking their own lives just to report the news.

How dare you accuse CNN of being compromised. You have just shit on the memory of CNN's Iraqi employees who were tortured and had their families threatened.

The bottom line is that Iraq practiced torture against journalists. That is the real crime here.

If you don't like CNN, that's fine. Just say it. There's no need to go around smearing their good name, or denigrating what was in fact heroism.

See my web log entry:

Posted by: Andrew Hagen at April 11, 2003 01:36 AM

If they had given a disclaimer before each Iraq piece, that might make them look a little better now.

Maybe we should look again at the reporter who fell off the roof.

Posted by: Lonewacko at April 11, 2003 01:37 AM

Needs a headline...

- Regime fall reveals weapons of mass duplicity
- "Tough Decision" protects business
- Were new hires told?
- Tip of the iceberg
- Why tell the Times?
- We had to risk them to save them

Posted by: Boatman at April 11, 2003 01:48 AM

But why in the h*ll didn't CNN try to get political refugee status for their Iraqi employees and get them out of the country?

I can't believe this anymore.

Did you just watch a hated regime fall?

Iraq was not going to let these people out of the country.

Oh, yeah, I suppose they were willing to grant full unlimited visas to any Iraqi and his entire family just for the asking. Just walk up to your local Baath Party block captain and fill out a little form. And in addition, receive a complementary basket of flowers and a plush Saddam doll. Yeah, that will do it.

How in the world can this boob justify knowing since the mid-90s what Saddam was doing over there, AND DOING LITTLE OR NOTHING?!

Well, I'm glad you started paying attention to Iraq sometime in the last 15 days. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Meanwhile, Iraq's atrocities have been public knowledge for DECADES. The fact that CNN knows the name of 1 person out of 24 million people that were getting the living shit kicked out of them every day, that means exactly what? CNN has been reporting the atrocities of Iraq for fricking years.

Wake up, people. Wake up.

Posted by: Andrew Hagen at April 11, 2003 01:48 AM

"You people are truly full of it."

You know, Andy, if you want people to read what you write, you should probably learn to behave like a civilized adult.

Life is too short to bother with the opinions of a four-year-old.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 02:15 AM


Yeah, he doesn't admit to doing anything wrong, because he didn't. YOU think he did something wrong because he didn't do what you think you would have, except you've never been in that position.

As to leaving being an option, please. One of the things that disgusts me is how we conservatives can get SO petty at times like this. Jordan was in an impossible situation. He resolved it by trusting that if he took what chances he could, and reported what he could, the public would be smart enough to read between the lines.

How many goddamn times did CNN have to tell us about the minders? I recall it on nearly every broadcast. They said it 50 million times in the lead up to Desert Storm. People aren't stupid. I for one, am glad to have had the reports, compromised though they were. I would much rather have some information than be "protected from myself" by some tightass journalist who is so obsessed with total objectivity he refuses to report from the countries where all the news is.

People are not deceived. The public was for this war when it counted, and supports it now by astounding majorities. CNN did nothing inherently unethical, and reported these issues LESS THAN ONE DAY after it became possible to do so. So did everyone else. Sky News did yesterday. Christopher Jumpeldt did as well. Most news outlets did. Even the BBC indicated intimidation and their correspondent set about questioning if the Iraqis killed those reporters (amazing for the Beeb).

Only Robert Fisk didn't change his tune, but then his name is a verb meaning to carefully examine for egregious errors.

Posted by: Phil Hornsey at April 11, 2003 02:15 AM


With all due respect, I think you and I aren't on quite the same page.

I'm not talking about CNN reporting the atrocities (which I've been aware of for years, yes), and then hoping somebody like the U.S. Marines would get rid of Saddam or stop him, thereby ultimately protecting their employees along with everyone else in Iraq.

I'm talking about CNN doing something for their own, personal Iraqi employees, on the order of Ross Perot getting the EDS hostages back home.

You can't always save the world, but sometimes you can save a small piece of it. Sorry, this situation reminds me of people watching unarmed muggers rob gray-haired ladies, and doing NOTHING but calling 911, while the crime continues. CNN's attitude seems too self-serving and callous, to me.

There. Perhaps I've explained it better. Now rip away ;-).

Posted by: Kathleen at April 11, 2003 02:16 AM

PS: Baghdad Bob's history needs to get out more. He's picking up a following on the 'net because it's easy to see this guy as a minor official telling obvious lies so as not to get killed. He comes across as small time and amusingly harmless. His history is very different. I didn't realize this until recently and am chagrined that I didn't look more of this up. He's still funny, but he's also a monster and belongs in the ground.

Posted by: Phil Hornsey at April 11, 2003 02:21 AM

Call the inspectors, the gun is smoking!

Posted by: JohnJohn at April 11, 2003 02:26 AM


Re political refugee status, you wrote:

"Oh, yeah, I suppose they were willing to grant full unlimited visas to any Iraqi and his entire family just for the asking. Just walk up to your local Baath Party block captain and fill out a little form."

I thought people applied for PR status to the country that they'd escaped to, not the one they were trying to leave.

Posted by: Kathleen at April 11, 2003 02:27 AM

Eason Jordon's apologia for CNN is in the New York Times now:

Posted by: darkcoffee at April 11, 2003 02:32 AM


"YOU think he did something wrong because he didn't do what you think you would have, except you've never been in that position."

I think he did something wrong because I think what he did was wrong. The fact that I have never been in that position does not disqualify me from making a moral judgement about whather an action was right or wrong. Might I have made the same decision he did? Of course. I also might desert under fire, but that doesn't mean I can't say it's wrong.

You clearly think he did nothing wrong by permitting a tyrannical government to dictate what would be covered by CNN; you therefore probably shouldn't have used the phrase "coming clean" to describe his op-ed.

"I would much rather have some information than be 'protected from myself' by some tightass journalist who is so obsessed with total objectivity he refuses to report from the countries where all the news is."

I'd rather have better information reported from Jordan or Kuwait than worse information reported from Iraq.

As for your point about other agencies being in the same situation, I brought it up myself earlier. That very fact is why I doubt this will get any play in the major media.

Anyway, we're clearly not going to agree on this, and I've pretty much made my point, so I will leave you with this final thought for the night:

Apart from strict national security issues (which would be legitimately off limits in any country, including Iraq), would CNN ever permit itself to be dictated to this way by the US government?

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 02:33 AM

Oh, I see it's already been linked...

Posted by: darkcoffe at April 11, 2003 02:33 AM

why isn't leaving iraq an option? CNN knew a) it couldn't (or wasn't going to) tell the truth; and b) got themselves (and their iraqi employees)into very dicey situations.
"Why are we in Iraq and not North Korea? One major reason is that the media shows us Iraq, but is banned from the Hermit Kingdom. We don't care about NK because it isn't on television."
first - speak for yourself. i care.
second - get real, the media is NOT a major reason we're in iraq. as if GWB was influenced by the media! you talking about the media that was mostly against this war? heck the media was saying "why iraq and not north korea?"

Posted by: damascusdan at April 11, 2003 02:34 AM

OK, a few more thoughts on something I just found posted on

From WNYC's On the Media, Oct 25, 2002: Eason Jordan responds to a question about an article in The New Republic acusing journalists in Iraq of appeasing the regime.

"The writer clearly doesn't have a clear understanding of the realities on the ground because CNN has demonstrated again and again that it has a spine; that it's prepared to be forthright; is forthright in its reporting."

To judge by Mr Jordan's own words in the NYT op-ed, his words in the interview were a quite deliberate lie. CNN was far from "forthright," as Jordan now admits: "Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff." (Emphasis added.)

So, CNN covers up for Saddam in their own reports, and then Jordan covers up the cover up in interviews. He couldn't even maintain a discreet silence, but actually went out there and lied through his face.

And did CNN want to be there for the war? Let Mr. Jordan tell you himself:

"We'd very much like to be there if there's a second war; but-- we are not going to make journalistic compromises in an effort to make that happen, being mindful that in wartime there is censorship on all sides, and we're prepared to deal with a certain amount of censorship as long as it's not-- extreme, ridiculous censorship where -- which we've actually seen a number of cases in previous conflicts -- not just with Iraq. But-- sure! We want to be there, but it's --we don't want to be there come hell or high water. We want to be there if we can be there and operate as a responsible news organization." (Emphasis added)

By reporting mildly bad stuff like suppressing demonstrations, and avoiding reporting the "awful things" like torture and rape rooms and murder, journalists in Baghdad (I'm focusing on CNN because that's who the current story is about, but it's undoubtedly true of any number of organizations) actually make the regime look better than it is.

If you still want to defend Jordan and CNN, go ahead, but I think their conduct is indefensible. Even Jordan himself seems to suggest that your defense of his "journalistic compromises" is not well-founded.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 02:55 AM

I'm talking about CNN doing something for their own, personal Iraqi employees, on the order of Ross Perot getting the EDS hostages back home.

This is just more of the same conservative denial of other people's oppression that we see every day.

Read the whole NY Times article. How was CNN supposed to spirit away all of their Iraqi employees and all of their family members? If even one second cousin or uncle-in-law were left behind, you know they'd be a target.

Ross Perot did a heroic thing in getting his mostly Western people out of Iran in a time of revolution and chaos. The fact that CNN couldn't get every victimized Iraqi out of Iraq during a time of totalitarianism is not shameful. Their inability to do so was a reflection of Saddam's level of control. Doing so took a certain group of heroes known as the US military and friends.

Go read the stories about Iraqi refugees. A lot of times they will end up like this, "and the person who got them out was later killed." Was CNN supposed to get a whole bunch of people killed so they could tell the individual stories of a couple of Iraqis out of millions in total who were tortured?

This is real life, and those are real people whose corpses are rotting with knives still stuck in their backs. You are asking too much of CNN and not enough of the people who were the real criminals: the minions of the regime.

Yeah, I get angry when people denigrate the authenticity of other people's experiences. So shoot me. The only reason I posted the link to my web log was because it has an account of the on-air CNN report, which I haven't seen online. The NY Times op-ed doesn't cover all of it.

A full account will probably appear on eventually. CNN probably is giving the NYT exclusive online and print coverage of this for the time being.

Posted by: Andrew Hagen at April 11, 2003 03:01 AM

Andrew, a look at the anti-war movement would suggest there's a lot of denial of other people's oppression on the left too.

That being said, I think CNN got themselves in an ugly situation in 1991, particularly in hiring locals that they could have done without (and thus subsequently felt responsible for), and it's not at all clear that they could have reasonably anticipated the depth of the evilness of Saddam's regime. Then again, the giant Stalinist statues should have at least been a clue.

But, it's hard to pretend that this doesn't hurt CNN's credibility somewhat (see Caerdroia's trackbacked post). The big question is which other organizations will fess up, and which ones will have to be outed.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at April 11, 2003 03:13 AM

After the incident with the Iraqi cameraman, CNN should not have hired any more locals to do ANYTHING.

Did they continue hiring locals?

This story is disturbing, I don't know what to think of it exactly.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 03:28 AM

Hello, Andrew, you wrote:

"How was CNN supposed to spirit away all of their Iraqi employees and all of their family members?"

I don't know, Andrew. I honestly don't know.

How did there come to be around half a million or so Iraqi refugees around the world, if it was so difficult to leave?

"The fact that CNN couldn't get every victimized Iraqi out of Iraq during a time of totalitarianism is not shameful."

If they got every victimized Iraqi out, we wouldn't be there now, because the country would be nearly empty, huh? This is kinda silly, hon.

"Was CNN supposed to get a whole bunch of people killed so they could tell the individual stories of a couple of Iraqis out of millions in total who were tortured?"

I'd strongly suspect that most, if not all, of the Iraqi CNN employees who stayed in Iraq were tortured anyway, if not killed outright.

"Yeah, I get angry when people denigrate the authenticity of other people's experiences."

I can't speak for anyone else here, but that's not what *I'm* doing. I think CNN had a very authentic experience in Iraq in the mid-90s, etc.

But it was hardly unique. There was a wealth of prior experience for them to draw on, perhaps even in their own company, reporting the news in other places with lunatic, despotic rulers, just before The Fall. And sadly, very often, the local employees were tainted by their contact with the foreigners, and were murdered by the New Boss. Or re-educated to death. Vietnam comes to mind; I'm sure there've been other such situations in the last 40 years, hmmm?

Again, speaking strictly for myself, I think CNN showed some bad judgment. Maybe that bad judgment is only evident with hindsight - and people like me are picking at it, wondering if it can be prevented from happening again, Next Time. Because, sadly, there will probably be a Next Time.

Yes, there's a very fine line between what I'm describing, and blaming the victim. Sorry about that.

*IF* there were mistakes made here, I wouldn't want them to be repeated.

Posted by: Kathleen at April 11, 2003 03:32 AM

If memory serves me correctly, CNN took the usual editorial positions so common to most of the media, deploring the war, the lack of UN approval etc.

But hang on a minute. How can they justify that today, when they knew full well what was truly going on in Iraq, and knew firsthand the character and depravity of the monster in charge?

Either CNN is getting in front of the story and spinning it for all it's worth - and one could see why - or their editorial position and subsequent spin on their Iraqi-related stories were being effectively dictated by the Baathists. Or both.

If CNN in Iraq can be so easily blackmailed (or corrupted, depending on your opinion in this matter), then where else? And for that matter, is it still happening, at CNN and elsewhere?

Posted by: rick at April 11, 2003 04:23 AM

This is appalling!

CNN covering up torture and murder to protect its access to Iraq.

These reporters are MONSTERS!

Posted by: jim at April 11, 2003 09:11 AM


You can word-chop all you like, but CNN's record on Iraq seems pretty smelly now. They did deals with what they knew to be the devil, just to keep their access.

Stinks to high heaven.

Posted by: JohninLondon at April 11, 2003 10:15 AM

I wonder what else CNN isn't saying now for the same amoral reasons.

Posted by: Allen Glosson at April 11, 2003 10:57 AM

ric, this is my feeling to: How DARE cnn act like the US gov and coalition are misguided or evil when they KNEW what Iraq was like.

I can understand that they were controlled in Iraq, and that for years I realized that they could only cover what the regime would let them. If they had played neutral, I wouldn't feel so bad. But then to act with the spin they did when they knew otherwise is what makes me sick.

How much are all the seemlngly anti US government news departments like ABC equally as guilty of having knowledge and still chosing a spin that is saying something like: "I don't care if our comfort level is bought on the blood of suffering people" or "We choose our spin by what gets us ratings" or "Since I came of age during Vietnam, I will declare the US still wrong on foreign policy no matter what." or maybe all three together.

I am just totally disgusted at the whole news industry doing this sort of amoral action.

It's not that they were controlled. It's that they spun a view that could only be morally held if they DID NOT KNOW what was really happening.

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 11:27 AM


Agreed. For CNN to knuckle under to Saddam within Iraq, whether their reasons be either noble or ugly, is one thing.

But what made them provide succor & comfort to him outside his purview, supporting positions that they knew would only perpetuate his horrors? Greed? Concern? Fear?

Regardless of the motivation, CNN appears to have knowingly misled all who would listen. They were far from alone in this, of course, but nonetheless there it is.

Don't get angry, get even. If slavery to this day is worthy of lawsuits demanding reparations, then can Iraqis - esp 1st and 2nd generation Iraqi-Americans - sue for damages? AOL-TW owns CNN, correct? And many lawyers love deep pockets.

If CNN knowingly held back such information as they did, and if that withholding of info contributed to the suffering, are they liable? Any lawyers out there know the answer? At the very least, a lawsuit might well bring more facts to light, in addition to being a wake-up call.

The whole thing reminds me of the NY Times and Walter Duranty's (very) influential reporting from the Soviet Union in the 30s, helping Stalin to starve millions.

(But, as Duranty himself put it, "They're only Russians". Malcolm Muggeridge then individually and courageously exposed Duranty's lies and was sacked for his troubles. But I digress....)

Does freedom of the press include immunity for base and deliberate lies that help kill millions? Does the NYT owe compensation on behalf of the Russians and Ukrainians they helped to kill? Does CNN owe the same on behalf of the Iraqis?

Anyone know?

Posted by: rick at April 11, 2003 01:00 PM

Lest we forget, CNN is the only U.S. news organization with a bureau in Havana.

Just think of the compromises they are making with Fidel....

Posted by: Brant at April 11, 2003 01:57 PM

Suppose CNN had (a) pulled out of Baghdad, (b) told the world why, and (c) run a special on the true nature of the regime in Iraq (which could have been done without compromising any individual). Would this have made a difference? As Andrew has pointed out, those who follow world events knew what was going on anyhow...

I think it would have. There are millions of individuals who think events are real only when they see them on television. They may have heard the words "dictator" and "torture," but it would have become a lot more tangible to them had they heard the story of the Kuwaiti woman who was chopped into pieces. If CNN had followed this course, I suspect it would have been very difficult for people like Chirac to play their spoiler role--and Saddam might have been deposed with a lot less bloodshed.

Even with maximum concern for protecting individuals, however, there would still have been a serious risk of gruesome retaliation against remaining CNN Iraqi employees.

So what we have here is a conflict of loyalties--loyalty to employees, to the corporation, to the people of American and Iraq, and to the profession of journalism. What bothers me is that in these conflicts, it's always the "profession of journalism" that seems to win -- and that outcome is usually conveniently aligned with the interests of the decision-maker.

Posted by: David Foster at April 11, 2003 11:21 PM

you people are all crazy, get a life!
by the way i like boys.

Posted by: corey kapeluck at April 14, 2003 09:39 AM
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