Category Archives: Iraq

BBC correspondent in Afghanistan admits pro-army bias ‘Embedded in Iraq: ‘a tool in the military tool box, willingly or not’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/blogcollegeofjournalism/posts/Embedded-in-Iraq-a-tool-in-the-military-tool-box-willingly-or-not?postId=116764291#comment_116764291

Caroline Wyatt has covered the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq for the BBC. In the first instalment of a two-part blog to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, she describes the nature of the relationship between the media and the military in 2003 and what that meant for embedded journalists:

Caroline Wyatt reporting from Iraq
It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we stood nervously by our vehicles on the Iraq border with Kuwait, scarves over our faces to protect us from the vicious sandstorm that whipped up in the region that long March day, waiting for our war to start.

For the dozens of journalists ‘embedded’ with British forces as they drove into Iraq that day, the war was threatening a rather belated beginning.

A Kuwaiti border guard was insisting that, even if we were part of a higgledy-piggledy column of British military and civilian vehicles, driving through long after the initial US tanks and Humvees, we didn’t have the right stamps in our passports to invade Iraq.

Thankfully, after much shouting and gesticulating through mouthfuls of sand, someone in British uniform persuaded the border guard that he really should let us through. We had a war to cover and it wasn’t going to wait for us.

It was almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh’s comic yet brilliantly accurate novel of war corresponding, Scoop. For a journalist, conflict provides some of the most vivid and powerful stories of humanity; of individual or collective acts of great courage; of good versus evil. But just as often we end up covering stories in shades less identifiable – where it can be hard to tell friend from foe, victory from stalemate, or when tragedy and comedy sit perilously close, and information is hard to come by – as it was in the early days of Iraq, a war that was, and remains, deeply controversial in the UK and elsewhere.

We often talk about the media and the military. But really there are no such things. I prefer to think of us first as individuals, and then as tribes, rather than homogenous blocks: the broadcasting tribe and the newspaper tribe within the media and the Army tribe and all its sub-units, and the RAF and Royal Navy and Royal Marine tribes that make up the military.

Just as any of those tribes can work together, and are part of a collective, each can also come into conflict with the other or within its own sub-tribes at any moment, and loyalties can be stretched in unexpected ways.

In 2003, we had to sign up to embed as official ‘war correspondents’, sign the Green Book with the MoD/military, and agree that all our copy and images would be screened by our military media minders.

We had to train to protect ourselves from chemical/biological/nuclear warfare with the NBC respirators and rubber suits that the MoD would provide us with that February. And agree to embed for up to a year if necessary – if the war lasted that long.

We agreed, and were issued with our smart blue ‘war correspondent’ armbands. I learned that I would be one of the BBC team embedding with British forces attached to the media ‘hub’, which began in a desert somewhere in Kuwait before we crossed into Iraq.

On day one in the desert, in the heat and the sand, we quickly realised where the power lay – and it wasn’t with us. We knew that as embedded journalists our lives were in the forces’ hands. British forces cooked our meals, dug our shelters, gave us information, and controlled where we could go – and that was an uncomfortable position for any journalist to be in.

That first day we were told to put our tents up while wearing our unwieldy and hot NBC kit. It wasn’t necessary, but it did show us that we were not in charge and didn’t make the rules here. We did have our own vehicle but we were told not to use it. So we were also relying on the British forces we were with for access to people and places, as well as information.

It also meant that we had chosen a side to report from, albeit as part of a wider BBC team that also had journalists and crews inside Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad, giving a different perspective and the other side to the war.

And all those embedding, wherever they were, knew that they had become a tool in the military toolbox, willingly or not, which the military and governments on both sides would seek to use to send messages to each other and to the wider watching public around the globe. It was hard not to feel an instinctive sympathy and indeed empathy with the troops looking after us. A benign form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’, if you like.

But at the same time embedding did not mean that we gave up the right to be analytical or indeed critical in the best sense when reporting on what we saw.

People often talk about the fog of war. In and around Basra in spring 2003, the fog and dust of war kept getting in the way. One day we were briefed that 80 Iraqi tanks were seen coming out of Basra. Two hours later it was down to just one or two tanks.

All the media that day – whether us, Sky, ITN or Channel 4 – in the ‘Press Information Unit’ had to go back on air to say, rather sheepishly, that the 80 tanks we’d been briefed about didn’t exist. Had never existed. Well, at least 79 of them hadn’t. And as for the other one – who knows?

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How the BBC is still spinning lies and myths about the Iraq war

How the BBC is still spinning lies and myths about the Iraq war.

As a participant in BBC Newsnight special, “Iraq – 10 Years On“, I found myself feeling slightly miffed at the lack of real debate on the crucial issues.

On the one hand, Newsnight presented a number of narratives of the war and its aftermath as ‘fact’, which are deeply questionable. On the other, there were no serious, factually-grounded criticisms of the war, despite a diverse panel which included people who did not support it.

MYTH 1. Sectarian violence has increased in postwar Iraq because sectarianism has always existed in Iraq, and the removal of Saddam allowed it to erupt

One of the first Newsnight bloopers started with a short introductory clip from John Simpson, the BBC’s World Affairs Editor.

Amongst other things, Simpson talked about the rise of sectarian Sunni-Shi’a violence in postwar Iraq, and argued that while Saddam’s regime had clamped down on sectarian divisions, regime change effectively unleashed those previously suppressed divisions and allowed them to worsen.

This was the first of many oversimplifications about the escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq. The reality, as pointed out on the show by my colleague in the audience, anthropologist Professor Nadje al-Ali, is that prior to the war, genericsectarian antagonism was unheard of in Iraqi society. Although Saddam’s regime was unequivocally sectarian in its own violence against Shi’as and Kurds, as a mechanism of shoring up the Ba’athist regime, Iraqis did not largely identify in sectarian terms. As one Iraqi blogger living in Baghdad noted:

The Worst Mistake in U.S. History — America Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great Foreign Policy Disaster

The Worst Mistake in U.S. History — America Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great Foreign Policy Disaster

The Madness of King George

 

It’s easy to forget just how normal the madness looked back then. By 2009, when I arrived in Iraq, we were already at the last-gasp moment when it came to salvaging something from what may yet be seen as the single worst foreign policy decision in American history. It was then that, as a State Department officer assigned to lead two provincial reconstruction teams in eastern Iraq, I first walked into the  chicken processing plant in the middle of nowhere.

 

By then, the U.S. “reconstruction” plan for that country was drowning in rivers of money foolishly spent. As the centerpiece for those American efforts — at least after  Plan A, that our invading troops would be greeted with flowers and sweets as  liberators, crashed and burned — we had managed to reconstruct nothing of significance. First conceived as a  Marshall Plan for the New American Century, six long years later it had devolved into farce.

 

In my act of the play, the U.S. spent some $2.2 million dollars to build a  huge facility in the boondocks. Ignoring the stark reality that Iraqis had raised and sold chickens locally for some 2,000 years, the U.S. decided to finance the construction of a central processing facility, have the Iraqis running the plant purchase local chickens, pluck them and slice them up with complex machinery brought in from Chicago, package the breasts and wings in plastic wrap, and then truck it all to local grocery stores. Perhaps it was the desert heat, but this made sense at the time, and the plan was supported by the Army, the State Department, and the White House.

 

Lets Not Forget: Bush Planned Iraq ‘Regime Change’ Before Becoming President

15 September 2002: A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure ‘regime change’ even before he took power in January 2001.

The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a ‘global Pax Americana’ was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice- president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W Bush’s younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: ‘The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.’

The PNAC document supports a ‘blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests’.

This ‘American grand strategy’ must be advanced for ‘as far into the future as possible’, the report says. It also calls for the US to ‘fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars’ as a ‘core mission’.

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1221.htm

Style of Killings in Houla very unlike Syrian Islam says former UK intelligence officer

Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer talks about the killings in the Houla area on Friday, 25 May, 2012. He says that it is very unlikely that soldiers would have committed such atrocities. It bears more the signature of some anti-Shia Iraqi killings squads.

 

‘Americans don’t share global domination policies of their leaders’

http://rt.com/s/swf/player5.4.swf?file=http://rt.com/files/news/america-corporate-conglomerate-scott-751/i71b8223f1fc79ea83bf3e1f0f8b465ba_scott.dv.flv&image=http://rt.com/files/news/america-corporate-conglomerate-scott-751/afp-images-photogetty.n.jpg&skin=http://rt.com/s/css/player_skin.zip&provider=http&abouttext=Russia%20Today&aboutlink=http://rt.com&autostart=false

Not reported by the BBC : US troops accused of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan in war crimes trial

http://www.examiner.com/article/us-troops-accused-of-torture-iraq-and-afghanistan-war-crimes-trial

KUALA LUMPUR – Former Iraqi detainee Abbas Abid told a War Crimes Tribunal in sworn testimony that he was “tortured” in Baghdad during questioning by “American troops”, who had demanded names of “terrorists” in his neighborhood during the invasion to oust strongman Saddam Hussein in August 2005.

BEATEN, ELECTROCUTED AND MOCK EXECUTIONS

Abbas Abid, who is the tribunal’s first witness, said he was brought to the Al-Muthanna Brigade headquarters, where he was “beaten, electrocuted and threatened of being shot after the soldiers failed to obtain any names”.

 

Video of Syrian ‘Rebels’ murdering an innocent civilian.

The Syrian ‘opposition’ / ‘rebels’ in action. VERY disturbing scenes of civilian murder, taken from mobile phone of an ‘opposition’ / ‘rebel’ ‘fighter’.

Incidentally, why do the western media call these people ‘opposition’ / ‘rebels’ when their equivalents in Iraq or Afghanistan are invariably ‘insurgents’, ‘extremists’ or ‘terrorists’.

Chomsky: Are We About to Get Embroiled in a Nightmare War With Iran?

http://www.alternet.org/story/154540/chomsky:_are_we_about_to_get_embroiled_in_a_nightmare_war_with_iran_?page=1

As tensions escalate, there are eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option,” by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression – thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law

US / UK foreign policy flow chart

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