Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bad news from Baghdad: CentCom Iraq will NOT embed Progressive reporters -- not even me!

After watching "The War Tapes" at the local cinema, I decided to become an embedded reporter in Iraq. I wrote to the U.S. military's CentCom (Central Command) in Baghdad, saying that I was a reporter for OpEd News, had realized how unpopular the "War on Iraq" was in America -- two out of three Americans are now against it -- and was offering to embed so that I could bring the American people positive stories about the war so that we taxpayers might be reassured that our tax dollars were being spent wisely over there.

CentCom e-mailed me back. "We'd be happy to have you, Jane. All you need to embed is to fill out the enclosed application, get some Kevlar body armor and buy a plane ticket to Iraq." I was in! I was going to Iraq! I was embedding!

Or not.

CentCom apparently checked OpEd News out and discovered it was a PROGRESSIVE news service. "You can't come over here after all," they wrote me. "We do NOT embed bloggers." Oh. So if you are against the "war" then you are not considered to be an official news service? You are only a blogger? "You need to represent a newspaper, news service or legitimate media outlet."

No problem.

First, the editor of OpEd News explained carefully to CentCom that yes, OpEd News was a genuine news service. Second, Becky O'Malley, the editor of the heroic Berkeley Daily Planet, wrote a letter saying that I would be representing the Berkeley Daily Planet, a genuine NEWSPAPER. So. What more did I need (besides air fare and Kevlar)? Baghdad here I come!

Not so fast. CentCom e-mailed me back. "You are NOT going to be embedded." End of discussion.

Okay. Here are the facts. I applied. I was judged a liberal. I was turned down. No positive stories from Iraq coming from me. No freedom of speech for me. No democracy in Iraq for me. And no "Operation Iraqi Freedom" for me either. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is only for the American journalists who support the "war". "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is only for "good" Americans.

Helen Thomas need not apply.

So much for freedom of speech for the two-thirds of America that does not support the "war". So much for finding out what is really going on over there. Is there NOTHING in Iraq left that is positive enough for me to report about? Over there, has everything become like the days just before they evacuated Saigon? Are the helicopters standing at ready on the rooftop of the American embassy? I want to know. America wants to know. America has the RIGHT to know.

Help me out here.

If you are a news service, please let CentCom Iraq --
mnfi.mediaembed@iraq.centcom.mil -- know that you want me to embed on your behalf as well as for OpEd News and the Berkeley Daily Planet. And PLEASE send me a plane ticket and some Kevlar!

And if you are a blogger, guess what? What you say doesn't count.

PS: I wrote CentCom that they may know what is going on over there but I know what is going on over here. "Ignore bloggers at your own peril," I said. "If you don't make major concerted efforts ASAP to win over the hearts and minds of American bloggers, you aren't going to have much time left to play your war games over there." You don't believe me? Just ask Joe Lieberman!