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Major relieved on 1st amendment concerns

2003-05-20 18:15:27.132211+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

U.S. Army Major releived of duty after refusing to take over TV station in Northwest Iraq. Apparently citing concerns over freedom of the press, Major Charmaine Means, head of the Army public-affairs office in Mosul, refused to take part in seizing the TV station.

As word of the decision filtered through the main American base in downtown Mosul, several officers condemned it. The officers said they were particularly incensed that the military had allowed the Iraqi militia leader, Meshaam Jabori, to broadcast political messages for weeks without interference, only to seize it Wednesday after it occasionally showed al-Jazeera programming. The station also airs programming from other Arabic news channels, as well as from NBC. Mr. Jabori couldn't be reached for comment.

I'd be interested in a little follow-up to this, and also wonder about the applicability of "... do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States..." as it is applied to those who aren't U.S. citizens.

[ related topics: Politics Law Current Events Television Civil Liberties War ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-05-20 20:21:35.122084+00 by: ebradway

Great article and my exact feelings - I'd like to see what happens from here. It would be great to see the ACLU (is there an ICLU yet?) take up her case. The impression I got during the war and hearing Dr. Fuoad Mougrabhi talk about the press during the war (Dr. Mougrabhi is a PoliSci teacher here at UTC and is an expert in Middle East politics), al-Jareeza was alot more truthful about what was going on than the US press.

The reasoning for seazing the station also seems very sketchy. Al-Jareeza is broadcast out of Qatar and is a regional news source. It's not like it was the Iraqi press...

#Comment made: 2003-05-20 21:04:12.008638+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]

While I can respect and agree with the ColonelMajor's position, and I believe she was correct to state her objections, when it comes down to it it wasn't her call.

As far as credibility of news sources, I am skeptical of all of them equally these days. The NYTimes and CNN have both done and said things lately to lay their credibility out for questioning but I've also got to questiona all news reports accuracy because of this, both US-based and International.

#Comment made: 2003-05-20 21:28:32.178536+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, as I said I want more information as to what the real circumstances are, but according to this Power Point presentation on the Army's web site titled "Military Justice Initial Entry Training", there is no obligation for a soldier to obey an illegal order. Illegal orders are those that do not (quoting from section 9):

And the proper response is to (quoting from section 10):

Sounds like she's at least covered her butt.

#Comment made: 2003-05-21 01:03:38.81368+00 by: Larry Burton

I've been wrong before but I would say that the taking of the television station would be classified as a military mission.

#Comment made: 2003-05-21 05:10:17.263018+00 by: topspin

This is simple. Two stars beats a cluster every time. Period.

Look, y'all, Iraq's a war zone. People can be stopped, searched, and prevented from travelling in Iraq. Homes can be searched without warrant in Iraq. People can be disarmed in Iraq. And, of course, buildings can be seized in Iraq.

Sure, taking over the TV station is a big ol' P.R. disaster, but it's hardly illegal in a war zone.

#Comment made: 2003-05-21 15:25:29.922109+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think the military courts will probably come up with a pretty good dissection of the real issues, but I'd like to think I would have supported anyone who'd called bullshit on Ernest Medina on March 14th, 1968.

#Comment made: 2003-05-22 19:37:45.110535+00 by: ebradway

I vas only followink orders...

Is there ever a place for military personnel to question their orders? I think it has been demonstrated in international court that at some point the individual person is responsible for their actions even when facing significant reprisals if they disobey.

#Comment made: 2003-05-22 23:20:14.682608+00 by: topspin

Oddly, a coupla guys recently got recognized for calling bullshit on Capt. Medina/Lt. Calley.

Perhaps Major Means will get a medal in 25 years..... but I wouldn't bet on it.

#Comment made: 2003-05-26 13:42:32.517303+00 by: tombaxter

Why has there been so little coverage of Major Means actions in the liberal media? The second article in the WSJ talks about censoring the TV station, must be part of of introducing "American Style" democracy to Iraq.

#Comment made: 2003-05-26 15:41:16.241888+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]

In follow up articles, it appears that there is still much discussion among the ranks of officers in Iraq about what is and isn't proper methods of controlling inflammatory speech that could incite violence against the troops. It also appears that Maj. Means was never ordered to "seize the station":

The Journal reported Thursday that Maj. Means, who headed a public-affairs team, had refused an order to seize the station.

But Gen. Petraeus said a colonel working for him had actually ordered Maj. Means to produce a public-service announcement reassuring Mosul residents that rumors about 10,000-dinar bills becoming valueless were false and to deliver it to the station. She refused, telling colleagues she thought the presence of armed soldiers could make the station's employees feel pressured to run the announcement.

"When a major refuses a direct order from a full-bird colonel," said Gen. Petraeus, "that's not the kind of person you keep around."

This isn't exactly the same thing as refusing an order like one given at My Lai.

#Comment made: 2003-05-26 18:29:12.968175+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, but. Further in up that same article we have gems like:

Gen. Petraeus argued that having two soldiers to control the station's broadcasts didn't constitute a military seizure...

If you've got two guys with guns standing behind the announcers, what would you call it?

#Comment made: 2003-05-26 18:33:18.453914+00 by: Dan Lyke

And now I'm just getting silly, but there was also this:

Staff officers from Gen. Petraeus's division command recently circulated a PowerPoint presentation exploring three options for addressing the station's "predominantly non-factual/unbalanced news coverage."

After Gen. Petraeus is done over there, do ya think we could get a little help with our news outlets here?

#Comment made: 2003-05-26 20:51:28.802581+00 by: Larry Burton

I understand that any censorship of the airwaves is less than ideal but do you honestly believe that even under marshall law being administered by the US military that the broadcasters in Iraq are being censored in their programming more than they were three months ago?