Brazen, Bald-Faced Liars
John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Tue Apr 1 22:55:32 MST 2003
'U.S. view of war is like U.S. coffee: filtered'
Two different wars unfold on Western and Arab networks
AMMAN - There are two wars in progress on Iraq. The one on Fox News bears no
resemblance to the one on al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based network and the Arab
world's equivalent of CNN.
The Arab version of the U.S.-led assault goes something like this: The
Iraqis are winning, or at least putting up stiff resistance. Coalition
troops are occupiers, not liberators. The war is illegal. The United States
is an arrogant power trying to grab Iraqi oil fields and change the balance
of power in the Middle East in favour of Israel.
Viewers tuning into CNN's broadcast of the daily briefing at U.S. Central
Command headquarters in Qatar hear a sharply different account of the
Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks talks about Iraqi civilians "welcoming the
departure of the Saddam Hussein regime" and says Basra residents are aiding
coalition soldiers fighting to secure the southern city. (Some U.S. field
commanders have acknowledged difficulties with the campaign, with one
telling The New York Times, "What we were really hoping was to just go
through and everyone would wave flags and stuff.")
Brig.-Gen. Brooks says the United States remains "on plan," with no mention
of supply shortages in the field or the resistance from Iraqi troops and
Baath Party irregulars. "No one is killing more civilians now than the
Iraqis," he said yesterday.
No one in the al-Sultan coffee shop in western Amman believes him. Patrons
sit puffing on narghile, water pipes, shaking their heads at al-Jazeera's
images of wailing women mourning the dead in Baghdad and injured children in
hospital in Mosul.
"The Western press is not broadcasting the truth about the war, about the
casualties or the real intentions of the U.S.," said Muhammed Masri, an
accountant who has Jordanian and U.S. citizenship.
"The Arab press such as al-Arabiya [another Gulf-based Arabic network] is
doing a better job showing the nasty side of the war. I'm against Saddam
Hussein, but it is for the Iraqis to decide."
Mr. Masri, 32, and other customers watch an al-Jazeera interview with a
masked fedayeen, an Iraqi militia fighter, who boasts he killed a U.S.
soldier. The announcer then repeats the motto of the network, which has 40
million subscribers and counting: Courage and Credibility. Opinion and
Mr. Masri, who grew up in New York and was in the U.S. Army for six years,
believes U.S. troops have been misled by the top brass who are sticking to a
scripted message the military campaign is going well.
"It could have been me fighting over there," he said. "I feel sorry for both
sides, the U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi civilians."
In the United States it is al-Jazeera that is seen as biased, with U.S.
officials complaining about the network's habit of intercutting interviews
with Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, with tendentious analysis from
anti-U.S. commentators, or photos of dead civilians. Al-Jazeera has also
been criticized for broadcasting images of U.S. prisoners of war and dead
Both the Iraqis and the coalition forces insist they have the moral high
ground in the propaganda war.
Jeffrey Tynes, editor of The Jordan Times, believes the Arab press's
coverage of the war's human dimension -- instead of focusing on Iraqi
defectors or U.S. military victories -- guarantees the United States will
lose its battle for hearts and minds in this part of the world.
"During the 1991 Gulf War, the footage was tightly controlled and everyone
relied on CNN. But the U.S. military cannot control the Arab press," said
Mr. Tynes, an American who studied in Washington. "The U.S. was so certain
it would be seen as a liberating force and maybe, when all is said and done,
it will be. But for now, all people see is outsiders killing Arabs."
A weekend demonstration by 300 Jordanian journalists calling for freedom of
the press quickly turned into an anti-war rally, with people chanting. "Bush
be patient, we will dig your grave."
Nabil Sharif, an academic and the editor of Al Dostour newspaper, believes
Western standards of journalism have crumbled during this war, in part
because of reliance on reports from journalists embedded with U.S. troops,
who are restricted in what they may say.
"The U.S. view of the war is just like U.S. coffee: filtered," he said.
"On Fox, the only thing lacking are military fatigues for the reporters to
complement their patriotic scripts."
Yesterday, NBC fired Peter Arnett, who covered the 1991 Gulf War for CNN,
after he told an Iraqi TV interviewer Washington's initial war plan had
Mr. Sharif acknowledged the Arab press is also biased, but said the decision
to focus on war casualties is a more morally justifiable position. "It is
more correct to be biased if you are against the war," he said. "Also, our
paper gives the other side of the story as well. Don't forget it was public
opinion that put an end to the Vietnam War, and the photo of the girl
torched by napalm was key in this."
mjimenez at nationalpost.com
© Copyright 2003 National Post
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