The pain of “liberation”

The Iraqi town of Al-Qaim is currently being “liberated” by US and Iraqi forces. Virtually no media reports have surfaced from the onslaught, until now:

“…The Red Crescent [is] warning that the US offensive has turned the city into a “big disaster”, as local inhabitants complained about the stench of dead bodies laid on the streets or beneath the rubble of houses as a result of the fierce US offensive.”

“Um Mazin, [an] Iraqi woman fleeing the town, said she left the area with her family to escape the American bombings, according to the Associated Press (AP). “The Americans do not hit the gunmen; they hit the houses of civilians“, she said.

So why aren’t we getting the full picture in Iraq? It’s dangerous, to be sure, but it suits the American and Iraqi governments to restrict information to the outside world. The insurgency is raging, and a senior US official admitted this week that it would last for years. The reality is that the Americans, British and Australians are engaged in a battle they can never win. History proves this – citizens of an occupied nation do not want to be occupied and the Western powers, especially the US, have no intention of permanently leaving Iraqi soil. Ever. Catch 22 for the pro-war crowd.

This doesn’t excuse the media, however. Tough questions need to be asked, constantly. I just discovered this astounding quote from an American journalist in 2004. Elisabeth Bumiller is The New York Times White House correspondent. She was asked why the mainstream media were so easy on Bush and his intelligence claims before the war:

“‘I think we were very deferential because…it’s live, it’s very intense, it’s frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you’re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country’s about to go to war. There was a very serious, sombre tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.”

“I really don’t know what to add to that, except it would nice if Times editors would take a position on whether its reporters should refrain from questioning the president because ‘it’s scary.'”

Little else needs to be added. If a journalist doesn’t ask the brutal questions on the eve of war, and isn’t supported by her organisation, the role becomes little more than rewriting press releases, promoting official propaganda and receiving government approved leaks. Welcome to 2005.

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