Journalist: Media picture of the war inaccurate

Journalist: Media picture of the war inaccurate

URBANA – A U.S. bombing attack against Iran in coming months is almost a certainty, according to an independent journalist who went to Iraq four years ago because he believed the American media was not accurately reporting the realities of the war.

Dahr Jamail works for the Inter Press Service and the Asia Times and has been published in The Nation, the Sunday Herald and The Guardian. He spoke Sunday afternoon to an audience of about 100 people at Gregory Hall on the University of Illinois campus. Jamail is the author of the book, "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From An Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq."

His visit was sponsored by Haymarket Books, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort and other local groups.

Jamail said he sees the same kind of propaganda campaign for attacking Iran under way that occurred five years ago prior to the Iraq invasion, with unsupported statements that Iran is getting close to developing a nuclear bomb and that it is sending fighters into Iraq.

Once again, the corporate-controlled U.S. media is not asking for proof or evidence from the Bush administration, he charged.

"That proof doesn't exist," he said.

A bombing attack on Iran is probably now inevitable, he said.

"I think it's when, not if," Jamail said. "All the ex-CIA guys I'm talking to are saying basically the decision has been made. As (journalist) Seymour Hersh said last spring, it's a ground invasion before it's an air strike. Three thousand Marines will have to be sent in to take out surface-to-air missiles."

Jamail said he was working as a tour guide and rescue ranger on Mount McKinley in Alaska in 2003 when he decided that the U.S. media wasn't telling the truth about the war in Iraq. Using his savings, he headed to Iraq, despite a limited background of having written just a few freelance articles.

"My anger was why I decided to go to Iraq," he said. "I felt I needed to do something more to try and get accurate information out about what was being done."

His first stay began in November 2003 and lasted nine weeks. He said one of his first stories took place in Samarra, about 100 miles north of Bagdad, when he heard reports that remnants of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary organization had attacked a U.S. patrol and that, in the ensuing fight, 48 Fedayeen had been killed.

Suspicious because the Fedayeen had not been active, Jamail said he interviewed hospital doctors and a hospital mortician and found that eight people had been killed, including six civilians and two Iranian religious pilgrims.

Jamail said was present during the two sieges of Fallujah in April and November 2004. He said the first siege was ordered by the White House in retaliation for the killing of four Blackwater military contractors, whom he referred to as "mercenaries."

"It's very, very clear this was a vendetta," he said. "The revenge said, including to the military, that taking care of Blackwater is more important."

During the second siege, which he said killed 5,000 Fallujah residents, U.S. troops set up checkpoints around the city and wouldn't let men between the ages of 15 and 48 leave, while others were allowed to flee the city before it was attacked. Jamail helped break the story that the military used white phosphorus weapons and cluster bombs there.

He described the war as causing widespread misery, citing studies that estimate that between 655,000 and 1 million Iraqi civilians have been killed during the war, that 2 million are internal refugees and another 2.5 million are refugees who have fled the country.

Another 4 million Iraqi residents are said to be in dire need of emergency care, needing water, food or medical care. Those numbers don't include all the Iraqis who have been wounded, which he estimated at 3 million.

All this in a country that had 27 million residents prior to the invasion, he said.

"The Iraqi people, if you take out the foreign military forces, are more than capable of taking care of themselves," he said.

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