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[casi] =?Windows-1252?Q?=22Don=92t_mess_with_my_soldiers=22_DEMOCRACY_NOW!_?=

U.S. military warns foreign journalists in Iraq:
“Don’t mess with my soldiers. Don’t mess with them because they are trained
like dogs to kill. And they will kill you...”

U.S. military detains, beats and threatens to kill four foreign journalists
in Iraq. A Democracy Now! interview with Israeli reporter Dan Scemama


Amy Goodman: The international press watch group Reporters Without Borders
has accused the US and British coalition forces in Iraq of displaying
contempt for journalists covering the conflict who are not embedded with
troops. The criticism comes after a group of four “unilateral or roving
reporters revealed how they were arrested by US military police as they
slept near a US unit a hundred miles south of Baghdad and were held
overnight. They described their ordeal as the worst 48 hours of their
lives. The four journalists—Israeli journalist Dan Scemama, Boaz Bismuth,
and Portuguese Luis Castro and Victor Silva, entered Iraq in a jeep and
followed a US convoy though they were not officially attached to the
troops. US military police seized the journalists outside their base,
detained them even though they were carrying international press cards. The
group claimed they were mistreated and denied contact with their families.
We’re joined now by Dan Scemama in Israel. Welcome to Democracy Now!

Dan Scemama, Israel Channel One correspondent: Hi, good afternoon.

Amy Goodman: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe exactly what

Dan Scemama: Yes, we went into Iraq to report about the war. We went on a
jeep that we had that we rented. We went with four guys. We all had
credentials that we got from the American army. On the credential it was
written “unilateral” and it was not written “embedded”. We just went in and
we saw the British crews fighting, we saw the American crews—soldiers

We spent our nights with the American and the British soldiers, each time
in another camp, in another place where they were parked. We were with
them. We got to a place which was 120 kilometers south—kilometers which I
think is seventy, maybe, miles south of Baghdad and there we met a group
of, of the army of soldiers, and there was there also Ted Koppel was there
with uniforms, with a big helmet on his head. And Ted Koppel looked at me
and said to me, “You’re crazy, you don’t have a gas mask. Are you crazy?
Because they’re going to use chemical weapons.” And I did not recognize Ted
Koppel of course. Then I found out that it was him. Then we are asked by
the army there to try and get gas masks, because if not, it’s very
dangerous for our lives.

So we went south a little bit. We met another American troop, a chemical
officer we met. We asked him for a gas mask and he gave it to us as a gift,
which, what I’m trying to tell you is, we met a lot of American soldiers,
and a lot of beautiful people that helped us. That understood what we were
doing there, that a lot of times were trying to help us as much as they
could. Until we got to this one group of soldiers in which the head of them
was a guy that called himself—he did not call himself—we succeeded to find
out his name because he did not want to identify himself. And his name was
First Lieutenant Scholl which I will never forget his name. And him, with
his soldiers have decided that we are very dangerous spies for Iraq. They
decided that the CD player that we had is an electronic device that we used
to tell the Iraqis where the American soldiers are. They took away our
cameras. They took away our ID cards. They took away our money. They took
our phones. They put their guns towards us. They forced us to lie down on
the floor. To take our shirts up to make sure we didn’t have any explosives
on our bodies. They checked us—our bodies—they checked our cars—I’m afraid
I’m too long so maybe you have another question and then I will continue.

Amy Goodman: Was one of the Portuguese reporters beaten up?

Dan Scemama: Yes. After we were arrested at six o’ clock in the morning by
these guys, and at about 11:30 I think it was, some five and a half hours
after we were arrested, he kind of lost his patience, the Portuguese guy,
and they put us in our jeep, they closed us inside the jeep and they said
we are not allowed to get out of the jeep and we are supposed to stay
there. And uh, so the Portuguese guy got out of the jeep, approached the
army—the camp and said “Please, please, I am begging you, I have a wife and
children. Let me just make a call, a telephone call to tell them that we
are safe, that we are with you, the Americans and not with the Iraqis. They
might think at home that we are killed by Iraqis. Please just let us tell
them that.” And they said to him, “Go immediately to your car.” And he
said, “Please I am begging you.” Five soldiers went out of the camp, jumped
on him and started to beat him and to kick him. We ran to his direction.
They all put bullets inside the cannons of their guns, and they said if we
move forward they shoot at us. We were standing like stupid guys. We saw
our friend lying on the ground crying, hurting. They tied his hand behind
his back. They took him into the camp. And after half-an-hour, they let him
go, and came back to us all crying. And then came this Lieutenant Scholl.
And he told us, “Don’t mess with my soldiers. Don’t mess with them because
they are trained like dogs to kill. And they will kill you if you try

Amy Goodman: Well, Dan Scemama, how long were you held by the US forces?

Dan Scemama: We were there in our jeep for thirty-six hours outside the
camp. They asked us if we need anything. They came politely, very nice,
Lieutenant Scholl, he came again. “Do you need anything?” And we said “Yes,
if you can give us a little food.” And he said, “I don’t have enough food
for my soldiers. I will not give you food.” After about an hour, we saw a
soldier going with water—a bottle of water—in our direction. And we said
“Look! Something human is happening here. Somebody is coming to us with
water!” And then we saw that he gave the water to a dog that was there, not
to us!

Amy Goodman: Well—

Dan Scemama: And they kept us thirty-six hours and after thirty-six hours
they put us on a helicopter and sent us to Kuwait. And we thought, okay,
now we are safe. And in the military camp—American military camp in Kuwait,
they hold us in a tent, standing up for six hours. An officer was standing
next to us, I don’t remember his name. One of the sergeants who was there
said, “Do you want a cup of coffee?” And the officer who was there shouted
at them “Don’t give them anything! Don’t tell them anything. Don’t talk to
them, don’t be nice to them!” and he said to us, “Don’t move and don’t talk
to each other. “ This was already after 40-something hours that we were
there. And suddenly at six o’ clock in the morning, that was exactly 48
hours from the moment we were caught, or everything started, they said
“Guys, everything is finished, everything is finished, what hotel are you
staying in Kuwait City, we’ll take you to your hotel.” Listen what we did,
we asked “Can we use our mobile phones? Our satellite phones?” And they
said “Yes.” And we all took the satellite phones that we had and we called

We all four of us started to cry and the Sergeant that six hours before
wanted to give us a cup of coffee, came to us, a Sergeant Major of the
American army and he started to hug us, he was crying. And he said,
“Believe me, it’s not all the American army, excuse me I love you, I am
with you, excuse us, please and please and please. This all was finished.
They took me to my hotel. And when I arrived in my hotel, five minutes
later, I had time to take a shower, I wanted to eat something, because I
did not eat for a long time. And five minutes after I finished my shower,
people knocked on my door in my hotel. And it was Kuwaiti secret police.
And they told me for your own safety, we have to show you out of Kuwait
immediately. And they took me to the airport and threw me out of Kuwait. I’
m sure the Americans did that.

Amy Goodman: Well, Dan Scemama, I want to thank you for recounting what
happened to you and your colleagues, another Israeli journalist and two
Portuguese journalists.

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