Independent Journalist, War Reporter : b. 1968
In early 2003, Dahr Jamail was working as a mountain guide at Denali mountain, writing about climbing for an independent Alaskan newspaper, and saving up his money. Then the drumbeat for war in Iraq destroyed his peace. As he read foreign and independent news and “did the usual stuff to express dissent,” he was infuriated by what he saw as the corporate media´s cooperation with the Bush administration.
When the Iraq invasion began, Jamail, a fourth-generation Lebanese American who grew up in Houston, decided he could sit at home, depressed and angry, or he could take action. He bought a laptop computer, a digital camera, and a plane ticket.
Between November 2003 and February 2005, Jamail spent eight months in Iraq, reporting on the war´s “collateral damage” in much greater detail than what the journalists embedded with the military acknowledged. He wrote of soldiers shooting people at prayer at a Baghdad mosque. He relayed accounts of civilians in Fallujah with extraordinary, unexplained burns (later revealed to be caused by white phosphorus), and of men and women who were shot as they tried to swim to safety across the Euphrates River while carrying white “surrender” flags. Jamail also documented who was profiting from the war, reporting the blurring of the lines between the military and corporations operating in Iraq. One such example was the major corporation, Bechtel’s failure to restore potable water to Iraqis after being paid hundreds of millions to do so.
Acknowledging his reliance on Iraqui interpreters, Jamail said, “I trust them. They put their lives on the line to even be seen with me, in an effort to get the truth out.”
After starting with a homemade press pass and no outlet but email, Jamail created a web site, dahrjamailiraq.com, and began writing for the Inter Press Service, The Asia Times, and The Nation, among others. He also has reported for “Democracy Now!” and the BBC. At the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq in June 2005, he documented U.S. violations of Fourth Geneva Convention provisions for health care in occupied countries.
By the fall of 2005, Jamail’s interpreters said it was too dangerous for them to help him inside Iraq. His articles and email dispatches continued, as he gathered information from phone calls and email contact with sources and from hours spent reading Arab and other foreign media. Jamail toured the US as a speaker, sharing details of the occupation’s immorality. “It’s not about defense,” Jamail said. “It’s about money, and that, to me, is the greatest travesty of all.”
Jamail´s book about what he learned in Iraq, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, was published in 2007. He wrote a follow-up on active dissent within the military, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Says Jamail, “Since an informed citizenry is the basis for a healthy democracy, independent, non-corporate media are more crucial today than ever before.”