It has been said that the first casualty in war is truth. This program documents that sad fact.
Recorded as NATO intensified its bombardment of Yugoslavia, the broadcast begins with former CNN producer April Oliver’s account of her dismissal and official discrediting as a result of her work on “Operation Tailwind.” The latter was a code-name for an alleged use of nerve gas by American commandos during the Vietnam War.
Allegedly using sarin nerve gas to kill “defectors” and to escape an encircling enemy, the commandos were serving with the elite Special Operations Group (a group deeply involved with covert operations in Southeast Asia during the war.) Despite the fact that personnel allegedly involved in the mission testified in detail on camera, CNN’s management disowned the broadcast after the program aired. Management had been aware of the program and approved it. Ms. Oliver and her co-producer had received emphatic approval for the program’s content from, among others, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Ms. Oliver opines that CNN management disowned the program and fired her and co-producer Jack Smith because the company needed Pentagon cooperation in order to cover future wars.
In addition to “Tailwind,” the program tackles an editorial discrepancy between two editions of the San Francisco Examiner of 4/15/99. Identical in length and page position, the two stories about Gulf War Syndrome differ fundamentally.
The one-star edition focused on the work of Drs. Garth and Nancy Nicolson on the role played in GWS by an apparently genetically engineered micro-organism known as mycoplasma. The mycoplasma studied by the Drs. Nicolson appears to have had a gene from HIV (the AIDS virus) added to it.
The four-star edition of the Examiner carried a GWS story from the same wire-service that omitted all mention of the mycoplasma and Dr. Garth Nicolson.
The program concludes with a look at the media’s power to both deceive and concretely effect policy. In the war in Bosnia, a televised image of what was thought to be a Serb-run concentration camp for Bosnian Muslims triggered international outrage and, ultimately military, political and economic intervention against the Serbs.
In fact, the picture had been taken from inside the barbed wire (erected around industrial machinery for security purposes). The Muslim “inmates” were looking in at the camera — there was no concentration camp! Nonetheless, stations around the world (particularly in the United States) ran the pictures as proof of Serb “atrocities” and the need for international intervention. (Recorded on 4/18/99.)