Mainsteam media Portrayal Attacks On IRAQ

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The American mission in Iraq, launched in 2003 as the cornerstone of President Bush’s War on Terror and the beginning of America’s exercise in ‘nation building,’ has captivated and polarized national attention for the entirety of its thus far 2820 day existence. In 2003, much of the Western world unquestioningly accepted Saddam Hussein to be a tyrant in possession of nuclear weapons—and the Iraqi people one of the few in the world still forced to live in fear of a ubiquitous secret police.1 As days of American rule have grown to years, however, this narrative has largely unraveled and found itself reshaped as a web of power structures. As Iraq has emerged from a bona fide civil war, violence between sectarian tribes and the U.S.-Iraqi Government has continued. In the same timeframe in America, we have witnessed two Presidential elections and an increasing tendency of major media outlets to offer commentary and analysis—from a partisan viewpoint. The effect has been toxic: today the mainstream media has fractionated itself into insular cliques which often sacrifice big-picture reporting for attention grabbing headlines.

Prior to the Wikileaks release this month, which placed the death toll among Iraqi civilians in the past six years at 66,000, the number killed was unclear and largely outside of American public knowledge. A detailed series of Internet searches for news articles mentioning “Iraqi civilian deaths,” “Iraq civilian blast,” and other permutations of the above published in the last four years show no shortage of reporting from many news outlets.2,3 Each invariably includes a quote from an American official lamenting the deaths and remarking that dead civilians undermine American credibility and goodwill. Many give death toll estimates, some comment on the trend of falling casualties. Until mid-November of this year, however, very few reported attacks as individual accounts and stories. In the last month, sectarian violence has spread to the Christian minority living within Iraq. A flurry of articles from Fox News and CNN released within two weeks of one another touch on this violence in depth. Said one article from Fox News:

“Brothers Saad and Raad Hannah were working in their auto mechanic shop in Mosul when gunmen burst in and shot them dead before fleeing, police said. A local hospital worker confirmed the deaths. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.”

A more recent USA Today headline reads, “Iraq attack kills elderly Christian couple at home.” This is largely insignificant in itself but when taken as a trend, it is troublesome. By distinguishing between Iraqi Christians vs. Shiite’s or Kurds, the media plays into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality and contributes to Islamophobia.

By no means are these events unworthy of reporting—they may even deserve the spotlight and international focus. What they lack is context.

Both al-Qaeda and the Ba’ath party formerly headed by Saddam Hussein are Sunni umbrella organizations. Other major players in the insurgency, including the Mahdi Army and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq are Shiite factions and are understood to share a transnational identity with majority-Shiite Iran. These groups advance their own sectarian interests by attacking both Coalition forces as well as Sunni insurgent groups.4 Caught between these interests lie Kurds, an ethnic minority, Christians—who make up three percent of the Iraqi population, and most other civilians.

In this still simplistic light, it is clear to see the folly of focusing on only one side of the story.An observation ios made that there are no interviews mad eon minstream media on ordinary Iraqi citizens.Mainstream media have massive reach out capabilities and spread news all over the world, this is no problem. The issue is when they use their resources to spread lopsided and biased news that are not a representation of how things are on the ground. How logical is it that on the websites of all the mainstream media, there are exact statistics of American soldiers who have lost their lives since the invasion on Iraq started whereas the same lack for Iraqi citizens who have lost their lives as a result of this war. Clearly this is a case where media feigns ignorance about some bits of information. If a soldier loses his life, that’s headline news. News of how many people die in a day in Iraq will not be found in mainstream media sources.

Mainstream media has the qualities of being extremely commercial and therefore has no problem taking sides in a story depending on who bids highest. The beginning of the Iraqi war was on spotlight by all the media in the world but it is interesting how vvast differences exist in their reporting. Taking sides is a critical point and knowing too well how deep the  pockets of the US economy are, it is not too hard to guess where the funding comes from. Political parties have a direct interest on how they are perceived and the issue of Iraq has been turned into a battle between the main political battlefield where they exercise their financial and persuasive abilities.

Though I may not have the statistics to make a statement n whether the war has helped or not; there is enough evidence to support that it has succeeded in denting the image of anyone who has Islamic affiliations. Mention the name Mohammed and immediately people start thinking of terrorism. The tendentious reporting has neglected the human side in the Iraqi war. Mainstream media never shows video coverage of the women and children suffering and always focus on the bigger picture of democracy and the elimination of insurgent groups in Iraq. According to the World Bank development indicators, the population of Iraq is 31.5 million. It is surprising that the news only seen is about how the militant groups are organizing themselves against the US troops. If the existence of the US troops in Iraq was truly an effort to return it to democracy, then why should the media take such extreme measures to depict the citizens as social misfits? Evidently there is more than meets the eye. The particular terminologies used to describe the Muslims have always been bent on putting Christians and Muslims on a colliding path. The media has enormous capacities in shaping the opinions, perspectives and preferences of the world’s population. With no limiting bodies, mainstream media operate within the prescriptions o f the sponsors. There is no telling to what limits that the media can go in shaping opinions when the sponsor is the government. Fox news can be taken as an example of a mainstream media that has always gone to extreme lengths to defend the Iraqi war. It takes little time to realize that some interviews that are held on some media channels are premeditated and the result and proceedings are predicted.

George Galloway a vocal anti-war activist “I gave my political life’s-blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqi’s by the sanctions in Iraq which killed a million Iraqis. Most of whom were children. Most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis…. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster which you did committee in Iraq I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies… Senator, in everything I said, about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And a hundred thousand people have paid with their lives, sixteen hundred of them American soldiers, sent to their deaths, on a pack of lies.” His statements on Iraq did not even make headlines and he is not known. Actually he has been denied entry into Canada.

This kind of selective reporting and has served to extend the divide between Muslims and Christians. The levels of suspicion between Arab countries and the US have increased. The fact that there were conflicting reports by the different media on site has brought out the varying interests by media in the war.

The fact that a special pentagon team met with news analysts to give them “special information” and convinced them to speak favorably on the war against Iraqi leave without doubt that after all the reporting that had been done, there was a side of the story that we did not learn about. The security situation worsened and it became quite difficult for journalists to operate independently. This could have opened a window of exploitation where journalists would be given protection and in return were expected to report favorably on the US. There were firings and hirings in the mainstream media. This was to conform to standards set by the government.

Observations made between the beginning of the war till now are sufficient evidence that opinions made about Iraq and its citizenry have been a result of media manipulation. Therefore it is important that the basis of one’s judgment of Iraq be on a foundation of critical thinking as the mainstream media has proved itself unreliable fairness in reporting.

WE ACCEPT