(By Ray D.)
It sounds like a compelling and troubling story. According to the ARD (major state-funded, "First Channel" network) news program "Panorama", American soldiers continue to torture and murder virtually without consequence while the US media turns a blind eye to it all. In a program entitled, "Torture and Killing without Punishment - Exonerations for US Soldiers" Panorama reports on several cases. The first involves one Rogelio Maynulet.
The report has an emotionally powerful, highly charged opening. It begins with chilling music and shows us the family of the man shot by Maynulet squatting around the dead man's portrait in a dark, dimly-lit room. A small Iraqi girl is shown with tragic eyes peering at out from behind the television screen. The moderator's deep, solemn voice can be heard in the background:
"Mourning for the father. A targeted killing, virtually an execution. From the process they know: The father's car was shot at by US soldiers. He was still alive, badly wounded. Then came an American and shot him in the head - two times."
The next thing shown is a corpse wrapped in white sheets being carried away. The dead man's brother is shown appealing to all Americans for justice.
German viewers are told the story of an Iraqi father whose automobile is shot at by American soldiers. Almost no context is provided on the initial shooting. Somehow it all seems tragic, random and violent. Random that is until the American "killer" Maynulet shot the Iraqi father to death in cold blood. A senseless act of violence.
The next thing German viewers see is Maynulet, labeled "the killer" by Panorama, leaving a military courtroom in Germany a free man. His only punishment a discharge from the Army. Viewers are shown Maynulet's family praising his release, calling their son an "American hero" of whom they are proud and lauding the "American justice system" while the family of the man shot to death is coldly brushed aside despite their impassioned pleas.
This story, as presented to millions of Germans, would make almost anyone angry. It appears to be an enormous and unbelievable miscarriage of justice. Yet almost no one in America seems to care. How could that be? Are Americans really such callous, violent brutes? (Our translation of Panorama's Maynulet segment/Full PDF text file of report in German)
Panorama's Omissions: Germany's Ugly New Propaganda
This Panorama report is a particularly sinister case of media gone bad. It is the case of gross omission and bias. It is a case of journalists as propagandists inspiring hate against entire nations. As proof that Americans continue to "briskly" torture in Iraq and elsewhere, we are first offered the Maynulet case as outlined above. But, as is so often the case, a number of critical facts are left-out or intentionally ignored:
First of all, the man shot and killed in the incident, identified as Karim Hassan Abed Ali al-Haleji, was a driver for an aide of Muqtada Al-Sadr's Shiite movement and a paramilitary member of that militia. This is the same Al-Sadr movement responsible for the killing of numerous US soldiers and major combat throughout Iraq. At the time of the incident, Hassan was at the wheel of a black sedan which led Maynulet's company on a chase in the midst of a hotbed of insurgent activity. Maynulet's men fired on the vehicle, wounding both passengers inside.
And that brings us to the second critical point omitted by Panorama: According to the report of an on-scene medic, the Iraqi driver had already suffered traumatic fatal wounds in the initial exchange before Maynulet ever approached and shot him. According to a CBS news report:
"During Maynulet's Article 32 hearing -- the equivalent of a civilian grand jury investigation -- witnesses testified that the driver had been shot in the head when Maynulet saw him. A fellow officer said Maynulet told him he then shot the man out of compassion. (...)
When a medic pulled the driver out of the car, it was clear he had suffered critical injuries, with part of his skull blown away, according to testimony during the Article 32 hearing held June 25-Oct. 14 in Baghdad and Hanau, Germany.
Maynulet's fellow officer, 1st Lt. Colin Cremin, testified that Maynulet told him he then shot the Iraqi in the base of the neck or the back of the head.
"It was something he didn't want to do, but it was the compassionate response," Cremin testified. "It was definitely the humane response."
A U.S. drone surveillance aircraft caught the killing was on video."
So why does Panorama fail to report the testimony that part of the driver's skull was blown away and that he was covered in his own brain mass before Maynulet ever approached and shot him? A BBC report tells of testimony in the case stating that the Iraqi driver "had half his brain hanging out" when Maynulet shot him. And thirdly, why does Panorama never mention the "mercy killing" aspect of the testimony and simply label the incident a virtual "execution"?
Why? Because had Panorama mentioned those mitigating circumstances in its report, it wouldn't have achieved the same emotional outrage from its viewers. Such inconvenient details wouldn't have meshed well with images of Iraqi children and their murdered father. The report wouldn't have provoked the same angry, emotional response against the US military establishment and President Bush. And that is what Panorama was really after.
Let's be very clear: Maynulet's actions were absolutely indefensible and we are not trying to excuse them in any way. But when all of the facts of this particular case are presented to observers in a fair and sober light, the punishment meted out to Maynulet no longer seems "incomprehensible," though one could certainly still argue that the punishment was too light.
The point is that this Panorama report is yet another example of grossly insincere, unprofessional journalism that is essentially thinly-veiled propaganda. The truth is abandoned for ideology and emotionalism. Millions of Germans are told the Maynulet story through the distorted lens of profoundly biased media and many of them will believe they are getting the full story and the entire truth...but they aren't.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this all is that programs like Panorama on large public networks like ARD are funded by the German state through billions of Euros in mandatory taxes levied on everyone owning a television and/or radio in Germany with few exceptions. And anti-American campaign journalism has become a regular fixture of German public broadcasting. One has to wonder why the US Embassy is not speaking out more about outrageous programs such as this.
Click the link below to read further comments from one of our readers on this program:
(By David J.)
The Wiesbaden court’s decision: guilty of assault with intent to commit
voluntary manslaughter [the German expression used is vorsätzlicher
Totschlag]. The sentence is hardly understandable: not one day in prison,
only discharge from the army.”
The sentence is indeed hardly understandable if you only know what Panorama
told you about the incident. Yes, Maynulet has shot Karim Hassan Abed Ali
al-Haleji. And he shot him at very close range with the intent to kill.
Maynulet never denied that.
According to the Washington Post article “U.S. Soldier Convicted in Iraqi
Shooting Death” by Melissa Eddy, Associated Press, Friday April 1, 2005,
“On May 21 last year, Maynulet’s 1st Armored Division tank company chased
and fired on a car that carried men loyal to Moqtada Sadr, the radical
Shiite Muslim cleric. Two men in the car, a passenger and driver, were
Maynulet approached the car and maintained in testimony that he shot and
killed the severly wounded man to ‘put him out of his misery’.”
Instead of providing this important information Panorama decides to waste
valuable seconds on these statements:
Rogelio Maynulet: “Of course I’m very happy about the result – I can now
live my life. Even if it’s very hard for me to leave my second family, the
Rogelio Maynulet (his father): “We are very happy and very proud of our son.
He is an American hero. America enjoys the rule of law and that’s good.”
This is an excellent example how to smear people without outright lying.
First, you present some carefully chosen facts. Then you let this narrow
selection of facts speak for itself and only add some quotes. Voilá, the
unrepentant, brutish killer and his idiot father who is obviously unable to
tell right from wrong.
Readers may have noticed slight differences in the translations of the German to the English. This is because we did our own translation and David J. did his own. In fact, Panorama's translations of English to German are not always accurate. For example, Maynulet's father never said, "America is a state of justice and we think that is great!" as Panorama describes it in German. He said, "we abide by the law", not "we think that is great!"