Dahr Jamail was born in 1968 in Houston, Texas. He is a BBC correspondent and a regular contributor to publications such as The Nation, Islam Online and The Socialist Worker. He identifies himself as “one of the only independent, unembedded journalists in the country [U.S.],” to distinguish himself from the “U.S. corporate media.” Be that as it may, Jamail is not remotely nonpartisan, impartial, objective, or even credible.
On April 12, 2005, San Francisco State University (SFSU) invited Jamail to give a talk entitled, “The War Is Far From Over.” Flyers advertising the event promised that Jamail would reveal the “real truth” of the damage and destruction caused by U.S. forces in Iraq.
Jamail had recently returned from Iraq, where he spent several months. Following his return, he toured Belgium, Canada, Turkey and the U.S., advising people about mayhem and misery that the American military was allegedly inflicting on Iraqis. Jamail presents his pessimistic and distorted picture of Iraq to various church, university and civic organizations. Between February and April 2005, he made 14 appearances in the San Francisco Bay Area, including speeches at all of the area’s major universities. His speaking tour was sponsored by Speak Out! – an organization that professes to promote “progressive voices on campuses and communities,” and to encourage “critical and imaginative thinking about domestic and international issues.”
Anti-war protests are a prominent and frequent ritual on the SFSU campus. The university honored Jamail with special guest status by scheduling his April 12 presentation in Jack Adams Hall, a 350-seat auditorium that is normally booked a year in advance and is almost impossible for student groups to reserve. Self-described “revolutionary socialists” were present, handing out literature. At SF State, fees for campus speakers are paid for by mandatory student activity fees, yet the university’s choice of speakers invariably caters to the ultra-left fringe of the student population. Ultimately, the university has discretion for accepting and financing the speakers who come to speaking engagements.
Jamail delivered a 45-minute rant that was extreme in its tone and content. There was not even a pretense of objectivity, moderation or balance of viewpoint. His narrative made it sound as though the American military was engaging in a nonstop series of massacres and slaughters. Jamail’s talk was accompanied by a slide show of gruesome and horrifying images. His stories, however, were not supported by any evidence – nor even by his own photographs. He showed dozens of photos of corpses that he identified as victims of “Marine snipers,” “napalm,” and “chemical weapons,” though there was no way to verify any of this. He claimed that most of the Iraqis killed by U.S. soldiers were women and children, whose “dead and rotten bodies” had been left rotting in the streets to be eaten by dogs.
Jamail characterized every action by U.S. forces as unjustified. He denounced U.S. soldiers for bombing civilian households (without mentioning that they were safe-houses for terrorists), for attacking ambulances (without explaining that they were filled with weapons and explosives), and for seizing Fallujah General Hospital (without mentioning that at the time it was occupied by opposition forces).
Yet he had nothing at all to say about the atrocities and oppression inflicted on Iraqis, first by Saddam Hussein and later by out by Ba’athist and foreign terrorists. Nor did he make any reference to the many hidden prison cells, execution chambers, and weapons caches that have been discovered by U.S. military personnel. He then went on to thoroughly demonize American employees of private companies, whom he referred to as “mercenaries,” accusing them of “raping and pillaging” – sometimes “alongside the U.S. military.” By contrast, he referred to the terrorists as simply “the resistance.”
Jamail’s website contains the transcript of an interview with Newtopia Magazine, wherein he describes his background — born and raised in Texas, B.A. in speech communications, some graduate work in English Literature. He explains that he was first inspired to pursue a career in activist journalism during the “stealing of the presidency in 2000 by the Bush regime,” followed by the “corporate media sell job” of the “illegal invasion and occupation” of Iraq. Most of the interview is a savage indictment of the U.S. military. Characterizing the Iraq War as a “colossal failure,” Jamail asserts that U.S. soldiers are guilty of “countless war crimes,” which include killing, detaining, torturing and humiliating innocent civilians. He insists that this is all done deliberately and even claims that soldiers have told him they actually enjoyed the killing. His narrative is full of the same lurid imagery he uses onstage: “[B]ullet-ridden mosques with blood-stained carpets inside” where unarmed worshippers have been “slaughtered by soldiers”; entire neighborhoods in Fallujah that have been “bombed into rubble”; and houses where “entire families have been incinerated and blown to pieces.”
Jamail’s website also includes a photo gallery displaying such features as: “The Casualties of Polling,” which shows a few photos of men in hospital beds who represent the “hundreds of Iraqis” wounded during the election of January 30; “The Face of War” and “The Tsunami of Iraq,” which show dead bodies in varying stages of decay at the Baghdad morgue; “Collective Punishment in Al-Dora,” which shows pictures of trees and walls damaged by U.S. forces; and “Living in Garbage,” which shows pictures of families who reportedly have been forced to take up residence in Baghdad’s garbage dump.
This profile is adapted from the article “Dahr Jamail’s Anti-War Road Show,” written by Robert Journey and Derek Wray, and published by FrontPageMagazine on April 20, 2005.