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It's hard to say sorry
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-01-19 08:36:24
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The Romans used to say that is not enough for the Caesar to be honest, but the wife of the Caesar must also be honest. I remembered that while reading the news that Spain has issued an international warrant for three US soldiers accused of causing the death of a TV cameraman during the Iraq war.

The whole incident happened in Baghdad when a US tank fired at the hotel the foreign journalist was using. From their side, the American army has admitted that a crew had fired at the Palestine hotel, but has cleared Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Cpt. Philip Wolford and Lt-Col. Philip De Camp of blame saying that the soldiers thought that they were being shot at from that certain part of the hotel.

Ovi magazineDuring the same shooting a Reuter's cameraman was killed, plus a number of others were injured. Naturally, in a hotel full of journalists and TV crews there are plenty of videos to show exactly what happened, yet according to the US army the action was justified. Despite the political force they tried to exercise with their ally and supporter at the time, the conservative government, the family of the dead cameraman decided to ask the help of justice.

I think here we have to stop and think about the whole thing all over again. First of all in an event like that, the invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Baghdad you would expect all the journalists to be there. That's their job and armies, including the American army, have often used the media to promote their aims or to show their willingness to protect peace and democracy. Furthermore, they have often manipulated the media to succeed in their long-term targets and they have done that in the worst way in this current war against terror.

For months before the invasion, the American and the British administrations often fed the media with information that even showed Saddam's camps and factories with WMD, even feeds and calculations on how many countries would be affected if Saddam decided to throw his chemical weapons around. I still remember the headlines in the Cypriot media weeks before the invasion when US and UK intelligence leaked information that Iraqi missiles with chemicals could reach Nicosia.

In that sense the media proved allies to the army. Another thing is the role of the media and their choice to be there as things happen, where the events unravel. I have often written that the bad thing with journalism in the last few years is that a lot of it has become Internet journalism or better second-hand journalism.

When the Red Cross and other organizations are on the battlefield they always have to notify the armies of their positions and wear obvious markings that show their identity and position. The journalists based in Baghdad have done so for a long time before the invasion; actually, the reporters, the journalists and the TV crews have been based in the Hotel Palestine since the first Iraqi war. Be sure that however adventurous the journalists are and however much they are ready to risk their safety, they are very aware of their life and definitely wouldn't want to lose it by hosting individuals that would start shooting from windows; neither would any NGO or the Red Cross. As I said before, in a hotel full of journalists it is obvious that there are a lot of witnesses to verify it, plus the video footage.

The excuse the US soldiers used was that they saw something, or they thought that they saw something. Of course, the tension at that moment was high and it was not only the public who had fallen into the trap of all these lies, but also the army itself. They were expecting to face an army armed with mighty weapons of mass destruction and they were expecting to meet masses of suicidal fighters and fanatics.

All of this was enough to give them a case of nervous trigger finger and suspicious of any movement. Perhaps that was what happened and it makes you feel more sorry for all of them; for the innocent victim and the three men who have seen the photos of the wife and the children of the dead cameraman, plus they have to deal and live with it for the rest of their lives.

Yet the American government has the obligation to send these men to Spain in order to appear in court and talk about their side of the story. They are probably sorrier than anybody else, but the American government doesn't let them speak for themselves making them looking intentionally guilty. Spain is an example of a democracy, just like any other European country, and the American administration should trust the justice system of an ally instead of giving a bad example.

America refusing to participate in attributing justice is proving that the American administration is pretty hypocritical when teaching the values of democracy, equality and justice. Justice doesn't necessarily mean imprisoning or killing – justice for the family might mean a simple apology and the men saying sorry.

The very same American administration demanded the arrest and the punishment of Milosevic; the same administration saluted the disputable execution of Saddam and his close associates; the very same American administration discards Serbia because they cannot catch a wanted war criminal and obstructs their right to participate in international organizations; and it is the very same administration that disregards all the same values and institutions when it comes to her obligations for justice.

If you add to that the Guantanamos, the torturing, the humiliations and the events in the Iraqi prisons, you find out that the wife of the Caesar is definitely not honest - you find out that the king is actually naked!

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