Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher
The secret verdict in the friendly-fire death of Mazen Dana deserves the scorn it's getting abroad, and more outrage here
The whole world was watching when the U.S. military said it would get to the bottom of the Aug. 17 shooting death by American soldiers of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana as he filmed outside Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Now, international organizations are unanimously condemning the shoddy and secretive way the Pentagon has absolved the soldiers -- and itself -- of any blame in this latest incident of friendly fire against journalists covering Iraq.
Just as it did with its investigation into the April 8 tank attack that killed two of the many foreign journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, the military simply announced its own exoneration without bothering to give more than the barest of explanations. A U.S. Army spokesman on Sept. 23 murmured that Dana's killing was "regrettable" but that the soldiers "acted within the rules of engagement." What are those rules? The Army won't say -- just as it won't make the internal report public.
The Army offers only this: Soldiers from a distance of less than 30 yards -- in broad daylight and with no fighting going on in the area -- mistook Dana's TV camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. There's no rebuttal of eyewitness accounts that soldiers knew who the Reuters crew were and what they were doing. Dana himself was an unlikely victim. More than a decade of filming under fire in his West Bank hometown of Hebron had made him an expert in surviving the tensest situations. …