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The Embedding Apparatus

Media Surveillance during the Iraq War


Aimé-Jules Bizimana

When the war in Iraq began in 2003, the issue of the special status accorded to journalists covering the military operations arose quite naturally. Promising innovation, the Pentagon’s announcement that they would integrate hundreds of journalists into combat units—what has been known as embedding—attracted the attention of the international media and other observers. How would this be different from previous interactions between the military and the media?

The Embedding Apparatus explains the functioning of the informational control apparatus at work during the Iraq War and the relationships between embedded journalists and the military in the American army’s area of operations. The concept of the apparatus guides this case study, one that brings together the experiences of almost forty participants, journalists and military personnel. The study borrows Michel Foucault’s modern surveillance mechanisms of the disciplinary apparatus and the panoptic apparatus, bringing embedded journalism into close contact with the ubiquitous and flexible surveillance that characterizes the "control society." The author exposes a new embedding apparatus where the power relations between journalists and the military are at play, an apparatus operating within a circumscribed space where all of a journalist’s movements, reporting, behavior and communications are surveilled.

This book offers a fresh insight into this important issue and will certainly be of interest worldwide to scholars and students as well as media and military practitioners interested in this topic. Embedded journalism is studied from a new angle, one related to the broader context of surveillance in contemporary society.

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This book examines military-media relations through the lens of media coverage of the 2003 Iraq War and within the American context. During the war, the international media were heavily mobilized to report on the gradual progress and sudden jolts of the war from various political and military sites. Of course, the media are always interested in having a chance to follow troops in action and for the US military; inviting the media was part of basic war planning this time around.

In autumn 2002, the Pentagon summarily convened the American media to consultations concerning eventual media coverage in the case of war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, then accused of supporting terrorism and possessing weapons of mass destruction. During these consultations, the media asked for greater access to military operations than they had had before. At the same time, a media communication plan was being developed within the Pentagon’s public affairs office in collaboration with numerous military commands. As of the end of October 2002, the Pentagon made it known that training sessions for journalists would be organized to familiarize them with the organization of the US military, its rules of engagement and its weapons, and to teach reporters how to protect themselves in the case of a chemical or bacterial weapons attack. The first of these media boot camps took place in←xi | xii→ November 2002 at the same time that the communication plan was internally approved at the Pentagon.

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