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Tuesday, March 21, 2006 2:47 PM
  
21/3/06
On “Operation Swarmer” - an exchange (of sorts) between The Cats Dream and the BBC

 

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2006

[Some comment on this 'exchange' is in order most notably because Jim Muir, the BBC's correspondent in Baghdad forbade Zamparini from quoting his reply in part or in whole, something I find incredible. Muir is employed by a publicly funded corporation, the BBC, which is bound by its Charter to serve the public interest, so by what right does Muir deny us the right to read his correspondence with a member of the public that pays his damn wages? And if forbidden by some 'higher authority' (the Coalition of the Willing' comes to mind because Muir is an 'embedded' journalist, in other words, censored from the getgo, thus not truly an independent and thus objective journalist.

If not the Occupation Forces then perhaps someone higher up in the BBC. Whoever, this is an outrageous state of affairs revealing the utterly compromised state of BBC so-called coverage of the illegal occupation of Iraq. WB]

http://www.thecatsdream.com/blog/2006/03/operation-swarmer.htm

On 19 March 2006 I wrote to the BBC about their coverage of US military “Operation Swarmer”:

Dear Jim Muir, BBC News, Baghdad
Dear Adam Brookes, BBC News, Washington
Dear Steve Herrmann, Editor, News Online

“How US assault grabbed global attention” (By Jim Muir, BBC News Website, Friday, 17 March 2006), reads:

By the middle of Day Two in the ongoing operation, it was clear from both US and Iraqi military sources that the advance had met no resistance.

There were no clashes with insurgents. No casualties were reported. (…)

The use of the phrase “the largest air assault operation” was clearly crucial, raising visions of a massive bombing campaign.

In fact, all the phrase meant is that more helicopters were deployed to airlift the troops into the area than in previous such operations. (…)

The reasons for it being given such high-profile publicity are clearly open to speculation.

“Iraqi troop control ‘to spread’” (By Adam Brookes, BBC News website, Friday, 17 March 2006), reads:

The general spoke as Operation Swarmer entered its third day.

This is a large-scale operation conducted by airborne troops.

It is aimed at rooting out suspected insurgent networks near the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

On the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) website, which is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the article “IRAQ: Hundreds of families displaced due to major offensive” reads:

BAGHDAD, 19 Mar 2006 (IRIN) – Hundreds of families have fled the city of Samarra, some 120 km northwest of the capital, Baghdad, after US coalition and Iraqi forces launched the biggest air offensive in the country since 2003. (…)

“We have informed the IRCS’s office in the capital about the critical situation and they are going to send a convoy to the area. The main requirements are blankets, tents, food supplies, potable water and medicine,” explained Ahmed Tikrit, a volunteer for the IRCS and resident of Samarra. (…)

“When they started to hit our city I didn’t take anything. I just took my family and ran like hell. We don’t have anything to eat or wear,” urged Barakat Muhammad, a resident and father of five in Samarra. (…)

According to a senior official in the Iraq Ministry of Defence, Ra’ad Shalal, more than 75 insurgents have been captured so far. He added that there had been no civilian deaths reported since the operation began.

But local doctors say that at least 35 civilians including women and children have been treated at the local hospital with injuries caused by the air-strikes. In addition, 18 bodies had been taken to the hospital since 17 March.

QUESTION: Could you please explain why in your articles and in others (for example in “Iraq in civil war, says former PM”, BBC News website, Sunday, 19 March 2006) there is no mention at all about the results of this military operation on the people of Iraq? Will you update these articles or will you write another one on the real effects of this operation on human lives? Or do you think that those Iraqi people don’t deserve your time and are too insignificant for the BBC to cover their story?

Thank you for your time and I look forward for your comments.

Kind regards.

Gabriele Zamparini

BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad replied the same day. Unfortunately I can’t post his email because he expressly requested me not to quote from it. But in his email, Mr Muir says that what the IRIN reports is false. What the IRIN reports never happened. Of course, Mr Muir couldn’t check the story personally. He has only second hand information. But he is sure. “Operation Swarmer” is nothing but a show for the media. Nothing serious really happened.

The same day I wrote back to BBC’s Jim Muir:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your email.

I am well aware of the situation in Iraq and of the many risks journalists can have if they were going outside. For this reason I don’t understand why most of the journalists keep just repeating what the US military is telling them. Maybe some more skepticism would help.

About this concrete case. You write that what IRIN is reporting is false.

IRIN is a serious organization. Even if you have doubts about what they are reporting – and since you can’t check it out for yourself – why didn’t you write what IRIN reported? You could simply saying IRIN claims that but none else is reporting that.

Don’t you think that in that way you would have done a much better job as a journalist?

You and your colleagues usually report what the Pentagon, the White House, 10 Downing Street, etc claim. Couldn’t you do the same with IRIN?

Finally, why do you write “XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX” ? We got to the point that there is an official version of the facts for the public and another version (the truth?) for the “professionals”?

Thank you for your time and I look forward for your comments.

Best wishes,
Gabriele Zamparini

Again, on the same day BBC’s Jim Muir writes back. Again I can’t post his e-mail. He writes again that what the IRIN reports has never happened. That he had checked it out, but nothing. Even the CNN agrees. Nothing happened.

Again, on the same day I write again to BBC’s Jim Muir:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your email.

I don’t know if Samarra was bombed, but the IRIN report is very detailed and says that:

Hundreds of families have fled the city of Samarra, some 120 km northwest of the capital, Baghdad, after US coalition and Iraqi forces launched the biggest air offensive in the country since 2003. (…)

“We have informed the IRCS’s office in the capital about the critical situation and they are going to send a convoy to the area. The main requirements are blankets, tents, food supplies, potable water and medicine,” explained Ahmed Tikrit, a volunteer for the IRCS and resident of Samarra. (…)

“When they started to hit our city I didn’t take anything. I just took my family and ran like hell. We don’t have anything to eat or wear,” urged Barakat Muhammad, a resident and father of five in Samarra. (…)

According to a senior official in the Iraq Ministry of Defence, Ra’ad Shalal, more than 75 insurgents have been captured so far. He added that there had been no civilian deaths reported since the operation began.

But local doctors say that at least 35 civilians including women and children have been treated at the local hospital with injuries caused by the air-strikes. In addition, 18 bodies had been taken to the hospital since 17 March.

You didn’t report anything that IRIN writes because you are 100% sure that everything IRIN writes in this article is false.

I hope you are right.

What if you are wrong? What if indeed “Hundreds of families have fled the city of Samarra…” ?

In these circumstances, where you can’t have first hand information, how can you dismiss a report from IRIN?

Best wishes,
Gabriele

At this point, I din’t get any more reply from BBC’s Jim Muir.

The same day I wrote to IRIN:

Dear editor,

RE: “IRAQ: Hundreds of families displaced due to major offensive”

I have contacted a journalist with one of the major European news network in Iraq. This journalist wrote me that what IRIN writes is false.

URGENT QUESTION: Please, could you confirm your story?

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Gabriele Zamparini

Today, 21 March 2006, I got the following reply from IRIN:

Dear Gabriele Zamparini

You have inquired about the IRIN story on Iraq and the displacement after the offensive. We have double-checked this and, to the best of our knowledge, the information is correct.

Could you let us know for what purpose you would like to use the information in this story?

We thank you warmly for your interest in IRIN – Middle-East’s news service.

Kind regards

XXXXXXXXXXXXX
UNOCHA IRIN

Now, should I keep the information above or should I make this story available to the public? Of course I will publish this story. Will the BBC and Jim Muir sue me? Will anyone in the so-called mainstream media pick up this story? Will anyone in the so-called alternative media do it?

To be fair, on the same day I wrote to the BBC I also sent the following e-mail to the Independent:

Dear Raymond Whitaker,

In “Iraq occupation: Three years on and still they’re lying to us” (Raymond Whitaker, The Independent, 19 March 2006), you write:

Three days into the offensive against suspected insurgents, there had been no clashes and no casualties among American or Iraqi troops. (…) But far from being a major counter-insurgency campaign of the kind which demolished Fallujah in November 2004 at the cost of thousands of lives, Operation Swarmer was a “sweep” exercise in a sparsely populated desert area.

On the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) website, which is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the article “IRAQ: Hundreds of families displaced due to major offensive” reads:

BAGHDAD, 19 Mar 2006 (IRIN) – Hundreds of families have fled the city of Samarra, some 120 km northwest of the capital, Baghdad, after US coalition and Iraqi forces launched the biggest air offensive in the country since 2003. (…)

“We have informed the IRCS’s office in the capital about the critical situation and they are going to send a convoy to the area. The main requirements are blankets, tents, food supplies, potable water and medicine,” explained Ahmed Tikrit, a volunteer for the IRCS and resident of Samarra. (…)

“When they started to hit our city I didn’t take anything. I just took my family and ran like hell. We don’t have anything to eat or wear,” urged Barakat Muhammad, a resident and father of five in Samarra. (…)

According to a senior official in the Iraq Ministry of Defence, Ra’ad Shalal, more than 75 insurgents have been captured so far. He added that there had been no civilian deaths reported since the operation began.

But local doctors say that at least 35 civilians including women and children have been treated at the local hospital with injuries caused by the air-strikes. In addition, 18 bodies had been taken to the hospital since 17 March.

QUESTION: Could you please explain why in your article there is no mention at all about the results of this military operation on the people of Iraq? Will you write another article on the real effects of this operation on human lives? Or do you think that those Iraqi people don’t deserve your time and are too insignificant for the Independent to cover their story? “Iraq occupation: Three years on and still they’re lying to us”. Indeed!

Thank you for your time and I look forward for your comments.

Kind regards,
Gabriele Zamparini

I have not received any reply yet.

     
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