The Mix

News room, war room, war zone, what's the difference?

Rumsfeld declares “some of the most critical battles may no be in the streets of Iraq, but in newsrooms.”
The media is, increasingly, an instrument of war. The Pentagon thinks so too. In fact they have started to work on a policy to determine whether or not media institutions and journalists in a warzone constitute legitimate targets. Parameters one of the top government strategic journals ran a long essay about this last spring. Former BBC producer Kenneth Payne wrote it, and it's very revealing. Here's a quote from the Department of Defense’s Office of General Counsel:
Civilian media generally are not considered to be lawful military targets, but circumstances may make them so. In both Rwanda and Somalia, for example, civilian radio broadcasts urged the civilian population to commit acts of violence against members of other tribes, in the case of Rwanda, or against UN-authorized forces providing humanitarian assistance, in the case of Somalia. When it is determined that civilian media broadcasts are directly interfering with the accomplishment of a military force’s mission, there is no law of war objection to using the minimum necessary force to shut them down. The extent to which force can be used for purely psychological operations purposes, such as shutting down a civilian radio station for the sole purpose of undermining the morale of the civilian population, is an issue that has yet to be addressed authoritatively by the international community.
Let's fast forward to today. In a new Columbia Journalism Review article by Daniel Schulman we learn that: Rumsfeld is going two or three bounds past the GOP's grumblings that the media is to blame for our failures in Iraq: “Some of the most critical battles may not be in the streets of Iraq, but in newsrooms."

Read that article
Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.
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