On the May 14 edition of Newsnight, the BBC’s Mark Urban reported from Iraq that the US troop “surge” was an attempt to “turn the tide of violence” in Baghdad. Urban did not mean it was an attempt to turn the tide of violence in
Urban made his opinion clear, referring to “
“Clearly a lot of people are supporting the insurgents. And that’s really the essence of all this – whether the Americans, with all their concerns for their own safety when they go into such dangerous neighbourhoods, can actually communicate the message that they’re here to help, and that they +can+ turn the tide in one of these really violent districts of the city.” (Urban, ‘Embedded with
This depiction of the American army as a peacekeeping force was presented after Urban had been driven around
An Iraqi trader responded: “The security situation, we are relaxed about it. We come and open our shops, even though business is down. There is stability now.”
An American soldier asked another Iraqi: “So you’re happy we’re here?”
The response: “Oh, very, very, very happy.”
Surprisingly, then, the Iraqis were keen to appear favourably disposed towards the heavily-armed troops surrounding them and due to return later that night.
Unlike Urban, the locals are no doubt familiar with the reality expressed by senior British army commanders in Iraq when they decried the “tragic” and “awful” American habit of viewing Iraqis “as untermenschen”, such that “they are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life”. (Quoted, Sean Rayment, ‘US tactics condemned by British officers,’ Daily Telegraph, April 11, 2004)
As we noted earlier this month, a senior
The American soldiers interviewed by Urban seemed friendly, likeable, if somewhat embittered. One was shown playing guitar, singing a ballad – Urban described them as “extraordinarily welcoming”. In a BBC Online article, he was full of admiration:
“You can marvel at the Americans’ can-do spirit, as some British soldiers do. You can see it in terms of
Urban was disturbed by the qualities of the men he met:
“From the odd glimpse or overheard remark, I do not doubt that the second platoon contains the odd bad apple or loud-mouth, but as my time with them went on I became aware of an uncomfortable feeling.
“When eventually I was able to identify it, I realised my unease concerned British soldiers, and how they compared with these Americans.
No doubt warriors in the front line have often seemed this way to their own: “The senators are good men, but the senate is a beast,” as has long been observed. It is close to unforgivable for reporters to fail to make the distinction, as Urban so patently did. This failure being the predictable first casualty of embedded journalism, as the military well know.
In his online article, Urban pondered a conundrum:
“If they are that good, you might ask, why are they not getting better results in
As ever in mainstream journalism, our side merely makes “mistakes”, while the ‘bad guys’ mete out “ruthless intimidation”. The problem centres on the West’s favourite bogeymen, “al Qaeda”, not Iraqi resistance fighters waging war on a brutal occupation. Local people are being intimidated by these monsters, we are told, although a September 2006 World Public Opinion (WPO) poll found that 61 per cent of Shia and 92 per cent of Sunni approved of attacks on US forces, while 78 per cent of Iraqis (including 82% Shia and 97% Sunni) believed the US presence was “provoking more conflict than it is preventing”. (‘The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq,’ September 27, 2006;)
Compare Urban’s version with the Iraq Study Group Report published last December:
“Most attacks on Americans still come from the Sunni Arab insurgency. The insurgency comprises former elements of the Saddam Hussein regime, disaffected Sunni Arab Iraqis, and common criminals. It has significant support within the Sunni Arab community… Al Qaeda is responsible for a small portion of the violence in
Intimidation and irrational hatred of “unbelievers” aside, another possibility springs to mind – could it be that Iraqis have a problem with being illegally invaded by a superpower army sent by an American administration packed to the gills with former oil executives?
John Pilger puts Urban’s film in perspective:
Ulterior Aims – The Pickles And Lettuce Conspiracy
Most insidiously, journalists of the ‘liberal’ press are obscuring the truth even while bewailing the mendacity of others. Thus the Independent’s comment editor, Adrian Hamilton, recently wrote an article dramatically titled, ‘A desperate attempt to rewrite history’.
“The latest attempt to rewrite history comes from Geoff Hoon who was Defence Secretary at the time of the
The ugliest aspect of this blame shifting,
“We didn’t go to war for the sake of the Iraqi people. We went to war to change a regime. The Americans wanted it as the first move in reshaping the
The motivation “was to do with ulterior aims bought at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian lives”.
Amazingly, nowhere in his article did
“The party line we have to rigidly adhere to says you’re not allowed to talk about the reasons for invading
But this is not a fit subject for mainstream discussion, not even in an article focusing on “a desperate attempt to rewrite history”.
Curiously, an August-September, 2003
This fits well with a January 2006 WPO which found that 80 per cent of Iraqis believed that the
An April 2007 WPO poll of Islamic countries found that an overwhelming majority in Egypt (93%) said that maintaining “control over the oil resources of the Middle East” was a goal of the United States (84% definitely), as well as strong majorities in Morocco (82%), Indonesia (74%) and Pakistan (68%). On average 79 per cent had this perception. (Muslim Public Opinion on US Policy, Attacks on Civilians, and al Qaeda, April 24, 2007;)
None of this is allowed to exist for mainstream journalism – “mistakes” and “bad apples” are recognised, but not facts that challenge the fundamental benevolence of Western power.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you decide to write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Write to Mark Urban
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