The War on TV

Gulf War II might be the end of the Falklands Doctrine on the covering of armed conflicts
As per the latest reports, the US Defense Department studies plans to allow journalists to be along with the troops at the battlefront in case of an invasion to Iraq. This could be the end of more than twenty years in which NATO Governments blocked the access of the press to the line of fire.

The images of the attacks on civil targets and decadency of the American troops during the Vietnam War activated the opposition of millions in the rear. Eventually, the cruel reality showed by the media took out Americans from the former French colony.

The lessons of the Vietnam War were taken very seriously by the British Government when counterattacked the Argentine invasion to the Falklands in the Malvinas War. In 1982, the British press could not land in the islands. They were located in a ship where received the information from British officials. Therefore, no live information could be seen in England and the BBC almost decided to ask Argentine media for images of the conflict.

Since then, NATO adopted this procedure as the rule to avoid the curious look of the press on what was really going on with their operations on the battlefield.

On year later, during the formidable US invasion of the tiny (but very tiny) Caribbean island of Grenada, nobody saw any single image of the landing. The Pentagon said it was a "very risky war" for correspondents as "Cuban troops in the island were giving a fierce resistance". When reporters arrived, everything was ready to be seen: no unpleasant scenes, everything under control. Of course, US TV networks prosecuted the Government.

In 1989, Washington decided to invade, this time, Panama. The Pentagon launched the attack when all the public opinion was shocked by the images of pilled dead bodies in Timisoara, Rumania. This last proved to be false some time later. There are little records on what happened in Panama, where more than 4000 people were shot by the US troops. Many of them were civilians and no one cared about them.

However, the most paradigmatic case of all was the coverage of the events in Baghdad in 1991. Not a single shot from the front. Not a single American soldier dead could be seen on TV. CNN's full day broadcasting only showed fireworks without visible consequences. The audience, of course, became disappointed, as could not have a true picture on the combats.

Apparently, things will be different this time. The Pentagon is training war correspondents to take part on battlefield actions. Some restrictions would remain up, those that threat the success of the military operations, but it is an advance.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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