The New York Times’ Michael Kamber and Tim Arango give the main offering of the day, with a straightforward and effective story about the US military’s increased control over images of dead American servicemen in the war in Iraq. The issue has again come to the forefront in the wake of a freelance photographer named Zoriah Miller being “disembedded” and then forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. He has since left Iraq, and he cries "censorship", along with many others. Miller was embedded with a battalion of Marines in Anbar province on July 26, the day that a suicide bomber detonated his vest inside a council meeting in the town of Garma. It killed 20 people, including three marines. Miller was escorted from the scene after taking photographs for ten minutes. Embed rules forbid showing identifiable soldiers killed in action before their families have been notified. Three days after the notification, and after he reportedly showed edited versions of the photos to marines, and was told that the soldiers pictured were in fact not recognizable, he posted the images on his blog. The next morning, high-ranking Marine public affairs officers demanded that Mr. Miller remove the photos. When he refused, his embed was terminated. On July 3, Mr. Miller was given a letter barring him from Marine installations, stating that he had violated publication of any photos that reveal “any tactics, techniques and procedures witnessed during operations,” or that “provides information on the effectiveness of enemy techniques.” The images are close shots of bodies lying on the ground, and make the military’s argument that the shots betrayed security or operational secrets questionable. The current tactics employed by the US military are contrasted with the more open policies in past wars like Vietnam, and the ongoing controversy of the barring of photography from military funerals and of returning coffins are covered. A few other photographers' ordeals are included as well. Kanber and Arango report that only half a dozen Western photographers are covering a war in which 150,000 American troops are engaged, and though more than 4,000 American combat deaths have occurred, searches and interviews turned up fewer than six graphic photographs of dead American soldiers.
Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times, reports on the growing oil exports from Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction said in a report for release on Saturday that there had been no insurgent attacks on the pipeline, which exports crude oil from northern Iraq to Turkey, since an American infrastructure project began last July. The report put the revenue of the increased exports at $8 billion. That’s about it for the story, without much analysis. In other news, a member of Parliament, Sheik Jalaladeen al-Sagheer, spoke out against the recent decision to not allow the use of religious symbols or canvass in mosques for Iraq’s upcoming provincial elections. Also, the US military acknowledged that it fired upon a taxi, killing the 14 year old son of an American-financed newspaper in Kirkuk on Thursday, saying the soldiers were returning fire after being shot at from the taxi.
Tom Shanker of the Times writes about Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking Congress for the authority to shift $1.2 billion in Pentagon spending to increase the ability and speed of battlefield surveillance to US troops. It would also pay for what one official called the “technical architecture” that allows surveillance aircraft to send information to ground terminals where it can be stored, sorted and analyzed. “I’ve been wrestling for months to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the theater,” says Gates. “Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth.”
There are three reports on John McCain’s comments that seem to somewhat support the concept of the 16 month timetable, or “horizon” endorsed by Barack Obama, and recently reinforced by Prime Minister al-Maliki. Anyone who mentions this topic lately seems to get themselves in trouble, and McCain is no exception. Of course, any specifics are always tempered with a “We’ll wait to see what happens on the ground” qualification. Michael Cooper of the New York Times gives a straight account with all the quotes, but (in its only Iraq reportage of the day) the Washington Post’s Robert Barnes gives more of a McCain update, making it a joint story about both his Iraq statements and his meeting on the same day with the Dalai Lama. Elisabeth Bumiller in the Times also touches on the comments about Iraq being a departure from the policies of the Bush administration. For clarity, here’s McCain’s actual quote. “I think it’s a pretty good timetable, as we should — or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground. This success is very fragile. It’s incredibly impressive, but very fragile. So we know, those of us who have been involved in it for many years, know that if we reverse this, by setting a date for withdrawal, all of the hard-won victory can be reversed.”
Wall Street Journal, no Iraq coverage.
Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, no Saturday Editions.