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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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After the arrival of American troops in Baghdad in April 2003, followed by the symbolic leveling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square, most reporters who had been accredited to cover the Iraq War in the embedding program packed their bags, some to return to their regular assignments, others to escape from the constraints of the military apparatus. The triumphant arrival in Baghdad had been characterized by revealing elements of the media war such as the presence of embedded reporters in Baghdad alongside the invading troops, the difficulty of the majority of embedded reporters to free themselves from units in the rear, and a public relations operation orchestrated to create a guise of popular jubilation when Saddam’s statue came tumbling down.

Since the fall of the Iraqi regime, many people—both military personnel and journalists—have praised the embedding program. Under the direction of Victoria Clarke, who initiated the embedding program, the Pentagon’s office of public affairs celebrated the success of this wartime media coverage apparatus. For Bryan Whitman, Clarke’s assistant, the success of embedding could be measured by several factors such as journalistic access, counterdisinformation, preservation of operational security, and news received by the American public.1 According to Rick Thomas, head of public affairs at Centcom, the success of the embedding program was due to the fact that it simultaneously lived up←125 | 126→ to the expectations of the media, the armed forces, and the Department of Defense.2 In addition to Pentagon and administration officials,...

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