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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 6. Conduct and Counterconduct



Suspicion of the Media

The interviews collected for this book demonstrate a latent suspicion of the media by military personnel. This is nothing new in military-media relations and its roots lie as far back as the Civil War (1861–1865) when generals complained about the indiscretions of the press. The stigmatization of the role of the media during the Vietnam War (1954–1975) had a significant effect on military-media relations in the United States to the point that references to the “Vietnam syndrome” can be observed throughout the final two decades of the twentieth century. A survey conducted by the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center between fall 1994 and winter 1995 showed that sixty-four percent of the 925 military participants believed that media coverage of the Vietnam War harmed the war effort.1 This baggage from the past continues to manifest itself somewhat today. Michael Phillips of the Wall Street Journal recounts his experience in Iraq: “You run into commanders who think that the press lost the Vietnam War for them and there’s nothing you can say to convince them otherwise.”2 The goal here is evidently not to measure the exact repercussions of “Vietnam syndrome” as each subsequent conflict has←81 | 82→ had an additional effect of its own and presents a unique confluence of factors and it is these that I will examine in relation to the Iraq War.

The perception of a disloyal and imprecise news media is...

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