“Operation Iraqi Freedom” is underway. And as our troops move across Iraq, we at home will know almost everything they are doing, practically in real time. That’s because journalists are “embedded” into just about every unit that will cross the border. They’ll go where the troops go, eat what the troops eat, face what the troops face.
Those correspondents carry the latest technology. Laptop computers and satellite phones have replaced the notebooks and telegraphs reporters relied on in earlier wars. Cameras are so small they can easily be carried in a backpack. Pictures shot in the field can be uploaded via phone line or satellite to network headquarters in Atlanta or New York within seconds.
And it’s not just the old “big three” TV networks who will be represented. Such unlikely outlets as MTV and Hustler magazine have correspondents embedded with our forces. Viewers, listeners and readers in the U.S. will be swamped with war coverage.
But we won’t be depending completely on the hundreds of correspondents in the field. Administration officials will be holding round-the-clock briefings in Washington. We can expect most, if not all, of those to be carried live.
It all means Gulf War II (or whatever we decide to call it) will be the best-covered war of all time.
That’s the American way. Even when we go to war, we bend over backwards to make sure voters at home are aware of what’s being done in their name by forces overseas.
Compare that to life in Iraq. There will be reporters in Baghdad during the war, but they won’t be keeping an eye on Iraqi military units. It’s the Iraqis who will be keeping an eye on them.
Foreign journalists in Baghdad are required to work from the Ministry of Information building, which also houses Iraqi State TV. At least one “minder” is assigned to each correspondent, to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere he’s not supposed to, or speak to anyone who’s not authorized to speak.
Iraq only increased its censorship during the run-up to war. As CNN’s Nic Robertson reported on the air March 17, “In the last couple of days, we've been given an additional 'guide,' if you will, who sits in our office. Somebody from another section of the government here to watch over us, if you will. Whenever we go out to file anything, we have to go out with these officials.”
It’s safe to suspect we won’t be seeing any real investigative reporting from Baghdad until after Allied troops arrive.