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The press toe the line on the Iraq war Print E-mail
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New research disputes the government's claim that media reports on the conflict in Iraq are unfairly biased against the coalition

So much for the government's whingeing about "biased" media coverage of the Iraq war. New research suggests Tony Blair et al might have got off lightly: academics who have analysed coverage of the war have found that many media reports filed during the conflict favoured coalition forces - with more than 80% of all stories taking the government line on the moral case for war. "Our findings fail to offer strong evidence of media coverage that was autonomous in its approach to the official narratives and justifications for the war in Iraq," the report says. The research, from the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, also finds that government accusations of BBC anti-war bias were unfounded: Channel 4 News was least likely to report coalition good news, with Sky News and ITV most likely. The BBC's coverage fell in the middle ground. Dr Piers Robinson, who led the study, expressed some surprise at the findings. "Given the controversy surrounding the war, there was probably an initial case to be made that the media would be more aggressive," he said. "But in the end most media outlets tended to fall into line once things got under way." "There is an unwritten norm in terms of what happens when you go to war. The idea that one should get behind the troops is probably the most significant factor. Prior to the conflict we found much higher levels of concern about the war - coverage of the anti-war movement was largely positive. But once the war began, it was increasingly marginalised; two to three weeks in, speakers like Robin Cook were heavily criticised in the media." Anti-war and humanitarian voices found themselves sidelined, but coalition officials were featured in at least 80% of television and newspaper reports during the conflict: the coalition was responsible for more than 50% of direct quotations across TV channels and 45% across newspapers. While the Iraqi regime was often featured, it was only quoted in 6% of stories. Most of the reporting during the conflict focused on battle, much to the government's advantage, the research shows. Coverage was event-driven, with reports generally supportive. Questions such as the rationale for war, civilian casualties, military casualties, and law and order - which were often tackled in more critical terms - were largely dropped. "In terms of a difference in the way that television and newspapers reported the conflict, television tended to focus on the day-to-day events of the conflict, rather than looking at the substantive issues," Dr Robertson said. "With newspapers there was a greater degree of concern, but a lot of this was run along party lines - with the Conservative press for example looking for problems to hurt Blair's government, rather than for reasons to do with the war." But, while the government's line on WMD was accepted in many reports (54% TV and 61% press), the idea of the "war on terror" being a rationale for war got a bumpier ride, with 40% of press reports and 15% of television reports challenging it, and many other reports being mixed.
Vicky Frost Monday November 13, 2006 Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329625727-103550,00.html

Steve Anderson, controller of ITV News, said: "I have seen some of the images on Al-Jazeera television. I would never put them on screen. I'm not criticising them for that. There seems to be an acceptance of images I don't think would be acceptable here." Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, told a BBC Radio 5 Live discussion that such images "were not suitable for a British audience." ('TV stations criticise the use of "images of war"', Ian Burrell, The Independent, 24 March 2003)
 
The beginning of chaos in Iraq after the invasion Print E-mail
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Eleven days after US forces occupied the city and four days after their engineers were supposed to have begun working around the clock at the power plants, the lack of amenities is fuelling the anti-American feeling in the streets. "They did the destroying, why can't they repair them?" is the most common question. Thirty-five Baghdad hospitals are closed because of looting and arson. The three still functioning are reporting water-borne diseases. And this is in a country where, Unicef reports show, the destruction of the previous war brought typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis, cholera and polio. The diseases had already reached endemic proportions and were the prime killer of children under five. Recently declassified documents of the American Defence Intelligence Agency show the Allies deliberately targeted Iraq's water supply during the previous conflict. Twelve years on, half the country's water treatment plants are still out of action. The US and Britain are blocking 14 deals valued at $22m (£14m) for water and sewage treatment under the UN oil-for food deal because the material involved is deemed to have military as well as civilian use. There is no evidence of such targeted destruction by the Americans and the British this time. But gas pipelines and diesel stocks were bombed, crippling the power stations.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=398518
 
NOW WE ARE THE IRAQ EXTREMISTS Print E-mail
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THE "liberation" of Iraq is a cruel joke on a stricken people. The Americans and British, partners in a great recognised crime, have brought down on the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world, the prospect of terrorism and suffering on a scale that al-Qaeda could only imagine. That is what this week's bloody bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad tells us. It is a "wake-up call", according to Mary Robinson, the former UN Humanitarian Commissioner. She is right, of course, but it is a call that millions of people sounded on the streets of London and all over the world more than seven months ago - before the killing began. And yet the Anglo-American spin machine, whose minor cogs are currently being exposed by the Hutton Inquiry, is still in production. According to the Bush and Blair governments, those responsible for the UN outrage are "extremists from outside": Al-Qaeda terrorists or Iranian militants, or both. Whether or not outsiders are involved, the aim of this propaganda is to distract from the truth that America and Britain are now immersed in a classic guerrilla war, a war of resistance and self-determination of the kind waged against foreign aggressors and colonial masters since history began. For America, it is another Vietnam. For Britain it is another Kenya, or indeed another Iraq. In 1921, Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude said in Baghdad: "Our armies do not come as conquerors, but as liberators." Within three years 10,000 had died in an uprising against the British, who gassed and bombed the "terrorists". Nothing has changed, only the names and the fine print of the lies. As for the "extremists from outside", simply turn the meaning around and you have a succinct description of the current occupiers who, unprovoked, attacked a defenceless sovereign country, defying the United Nations and the opposition of most of humanity. Using weapons designed to cause the maximum human suffering - cluster bombs, uranium-tipped shells and firebombs (napalm) - these extremists from outside caused the deaths of at least 8,000 civilians and as many as 30,000 troops, most conscripted teenagers. Consider the waves of grief in any society from that carnage. AT their moment of "victory", these extremists from outside - having already destroyed Iraq's infrastructure with a 12-year bombing campaign and embargo - murdered journalists, toppled statues and encouraged wholesale looting while refusing to make the most basic humanitarian repairs to the damage they had caused to the supply of power and clean water. This means that today sick children are dying from thirst and gastro-enteritis, that hospitals frequently run out of oxygen and that those who might be saved can not be saved. How many have died like this? "We count every screwdriver," said an American colonel during the first Gulf war, "but counting civilians who die along the way is just not our policy." The biggest military machine on earth, said to be spending up to $5billion-a-month on its occupation of Iraq, apparently can not find the resources and manpower to bring generators to a people enduring temperatures of well over the century - almost half of them children, of whom eight per cent, says UNICEF, are suffering extreme malnutrition. When Iraqis have protested about this, the extremists from outside have shot them dead. They have shot them in crowds, or individually, and they boast about it. The other day, Task Force 20, an "elite" American unit murdered at least five people as they drove down a street. The next day they murdered a woman and her three children as they drove down a street. They are no different from the death squads the Americans trained in Latin America. These extremists from outside have been allowed to get away with much of this - partly because of the web of deceptions in London and Washington, and partly because of those who voluntarily echo and amplify their lies. In the current brawl between the Blair government and the BBC a new myth has emerged: It is that the BBC was and is "anti-war". This is what George Orwell called an "official truth". Again, just turn it around and you have the real truth; that the BBC supported Blair's war, that day after day it broadcast and "debated" and legitimised the charade of weapons of mass destruction, as well as nonsense such as that which cast Blair as a "moderating influence" on Bush - when, as we now know, they are almost identical warmongers. Who can forget the BBC's exultant Chief Political Correspondent Andrew Marr, at the moment of "coalition" triumph. Tony Blair, he declared, "said that they would take Baghdad without a blood bath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both those points he has been conclusively proved right." If you replace "right" with "wrong", you have the truth. To the BBC's man in Downing Street, up to 40,000 deaths apparently does not constitute a "blood bath". According to the independent American survey organisation Media Tenor, the BBC allowed less dissent against the war than all the leading international broadcasters surveyed, including the American networks. Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter who revealed Dr David Kelly's concerns about the government's "dodgy dossier" on Iraq, is one of the very few mavericks, an inconvenient breed who challenge official truth. One of the most important lies was linking the regime of Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda. As we now know, both Bush and Blair ignored the advice of their intelligence agencies and made the connection public. It worked. When the attack on Iraq began, polls showed that most Americans believed Saddam Hussein was behind September 11. The opposite was true. Monstrous though it was, Saddam Hussein's regime was a veritable bastion against al-Qaeda and its Islamic fanaticism. Saddam was the West's man, who was armed to the teeth by America and Britain in the 1980s because he had oil and a lot of money and because he was an enemy of anti-Western mullahs in Iran and elsewhere in the region. Saddam and Osama bin Laden loathed each other. His grave mistake was invading Kuwait in 1990; Kuwait is an Anglo-American protectorate, part of the Western oil empire in the Middle East. The killings in the UN compound in Baghdad this week, like the killing of thousands of others in Iraq, form a trail of blood that leads to Bush and Blair and their courtiers. It was obvious to millions of people all over the world that if the Americans and British attacked Iraq, then the fictional link between Iraq and Islamic terrorism could well become fact. The brutality of the occupation of Iraq - in which children are shot or arrested by the Americans, and countless people have "disappeared" in concentration camps - is an open invitation to those who now see Iraq as part of a holy jihad. When I travelled the length of Iraq several years ago, I felt completely safe. I was received everywhere with generosity and grace, even though I was from a country whose government was bombing and besieging my hosts. Bush's and Blair's court suppressed the truth that most Iraqis both opposed Saddam Hussein and the invasion of their country. The thousands of exiles, from Jordan to Britain, said this repeatedly. But who listened to them? When did the BBC interrupt its anti-Christ drumbeat about Saddam Hussein and report this vital news? Nor are the United Nations merely the "peacemakers" and "nationbuilders" that this week's headlines say they are. There were dedicated humanitarians among the dead in Baghdad but for more than 12 years, the UN Security Council allowed itself to be manipulated so that Washington and London could impose on the people of Iraq, under a UN flag, an embargo that resembled a mediaeval siege. It was this that crippled Iraq and, ironically, concentrated all domestic power in the hands of the regime, thus ending all hope of a successful uprising. The other day I sat with Dennis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, and the UN in New York. Halliday was the senior UN official in Iraq in the mid-1990s, who resigned rather than administer the blockade. "These sanctions," he said, "represented ongoing warfare against the people of Iraq. They became, in my view, genocidal in their impact over the years, and the Security Council maintained them, despite its full knowledge of their impact, particularly on the children of Iraq. "We disregarded our own charter, international law, and we probably killed over a million people. "It's a tragedy that will not be forgotten... I'm confident that the Iraqis will throw out the occupying forces. I don't know how long it will take, but they'll throw them out based on a nationalistic drive. "They will not tolerate any foreign troops' presence in their country, dictating their lifestyle, their culture, their future, their politics. "This is a very proud people, very conscious of a great history. "It's grossly unacceptable. Every country that is now threatened by Mr Bush, which is his habit, presents an outrage to all of us. "Should we stand by and merely watch while a man so dangerous he is willing to sacrifice Americans lives and, worse, the lives of others." John Pilger's documentary on Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror will be shown on ITV on September 22.

John Pilger - http://www.mirror.co.uk/printable_version.cfm?objectid=13320863&siteid=50143
 
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This is Keith Richardson's alternative news site. The site aims to promote Truth, Justice, a green clean healthy environment and a wildlife friendly world. It is currently focused on Foreign News and particularly the Middle East.