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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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Chapter 3. The Apparatus of Visibility



Disciplinary technology relies on a form of surveillance that is hierarchical and administrative. In Discipline and punish, disciplinary institutions (army, school, factory, hospital) function according to a hierarchical model. Foucault (1995) writes about the levels that each occupies in the disciplinary apparatus1 and a network of relationships that are distributed according to hierarchical surveillance.2 What makes this most relevant to the current discussion is the organization of the embedding apparatus through its command structure and authority figures. What relationships do the journalists involved maintain with other actors in the apparatus?

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

The embedding apparatus was put in place by the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs in coordination with high-level public affairs officials in the US military. According to the 2003 public affairs directive, the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs or OASDPA) is “the central agency for managing and vetting media embeds including allocating embed slots to←35 | 36→ media organizations.”3 The directive further states that the authority of the OASDPA may be delegated to subordinate individuals or bodies.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs,4 Victoria Clarke, initially presented the case for embedding to the secretary of defense and commanding officers in the US military. Clarke managed to convince Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers, and commander in chief of US Central Command Tommy...

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