Media
23/2/05

Accomplices in War Crimes By Ghali Hassan 

  

informationclearinghouse.info/article8132.htm

02/21/05 “Information Clearing House” – – Worldwide polls conducted before and during the US war on Iraq, revealed clear majority of world public opinion opposed the US war without UN approval. However, polls conducted during and after the war found that only a minority of US citizens were aware of this. A significant  majority of Americans believed that Iraq had links to al-Qaeda and Iraq involved in the 9/11 attacks. Further, before the war overwhelming majorities believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) [1]. 

Despite numerous reports clearing Iraq from any link to al-Qaeda and involvement in 9/11 attacks, or in procession of WMD, the numbers of Americans supporting the war remain almost the same. Even President Bush has publicly admitted ‘there are no WMD in Iraq’. Yet recent US poll conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and the Ohio University reveals that 47 percent of US citizens approved of the war against the Iraqi people compared with 44 percent. 

How these misperceptions developed and persisted when all the allegations against Iraq proved to be fabricated lies? This distortion of the truth is due to the fantastic performance of Western mainstream media. The best description of it is that it is the ‘art of deceiving the public’ [2]. Together with the governments, mainstream media, led by Britain, the US and Australia, managed a campaign of deception and lies in order to soften the public to support an illegal act of aggression against the defenceless people of Iraq.  

Despite the horrific crimes and wanton destruction caused by an illegal act of aggression and Occupation, mainstream media continues to promote the Occupation of Iraq as a “humanitarian” act. And ignoring international law experts who have substantiated that the war was an “illegal” act of aggression against the Iraqi people. Major mainstream media particularly in Britain and the US have deliberately failed to inform their citizens that the war on Iraq is not sanctioned by the UN, and therefore was illegal and in violations of UN Charter. 

In Britain, the BBC, the mother of all acts of deception, led and is still leading the chorus of mainstream media deception in its war against the people of Iraq. A study by the Cardiff School of Journalism found that the BBC followed a more pro-government line than its commercial rivals. It stated that the BBC was more likely to unquestioningly relay false stories such as the non-existent scud missiles supposedly fired into Kuwait in the early stages of the war as well as the mythical Basra ‘uprising’. The study also made reference to Tony Blair claim that captured British soldiers had been executed by the Iraqi authorities; a claim the British Government retracted the next day, but not the BBC. Professor Justin Lewis, the study leader concluded that the BBC is leading the way in its support for the British Government pro-war propaganda [3], and failing its responsibility to the people. By contrast, in Germany, the public broadcasters’ ARD and ZDF provide more balanced coverage of the event than the commercial RTL”, writes, David Ward of the Centre for Media Policy and Development [4]. 

A second study of the media was carried out by the Media Tenor group (cited in David Ward), which looked at the performance of different broadcasters in five countries, found that the BBC gave least airtime to anti-war views with just 2% of airtime given over to opponents of the war. By contrast the American ABC gave 7% of airtime over to anti-war views [4]. This is frightening because many people around the world, including the British people, followed world events (i.e. wars) on the BBC.  

In the US, the cheerleaders of the war on Iraq are America’s biggest: Fox, CBS, ABC, CNN and NBC, followed by the print media and National Public Radio (NPR). “American had these misperceptions not simply because of internal biases but because of the important role being played by variations of the stimuli they received from their mainstream media”, writes Steven Kull, of the University of Maryland.  

A study conducted by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that the pro-war views on the major networks were overwhelmingly more frequent than the anti-war views. The role of the major media network is to promote the government policy rather than serve the community and provide balance reporting. Like the selling of the war, and the destruction of the vibrant city of Fallujah, the continue Occupation of Iraq by US and British forces is sold by mainstream media and journalists as democracy under occupation. It is a lie that brings only more suffering and misery to the Iraqi people. 

Journalists have failed in their moral responsibility and principles to protect the truth. With the exception of honourable few, Western journalists and correspondents are relegated to ‘embedded’ propaganda agents serving the interests of imperial power. “Journalists are supposed to perform a watchdog function, not a lapdog function”, said Danny Schechter, editor of Mediachannel.org, and a former journalist with CNN and ABC.  Those who wouldn’t toe the line were swiftly dismissed, if not deliberately killed to eliminate any witnesses to US-Britain crimes in Iraq. “At least 12 journalists” were killed by US military in Iraq, reported Dominic Timms of the Guardian on 18 February 2005. 

Here in Australia, the media plays its most vital role in keeping the Australian people well entertained and poorly informed. The Government of Mr. John Howard (the most insignificant of the “coalition of the willing”) managed to cover-up Australia’s role in the war, and Australia’s involvement in the imprisonment, torture and murder of innocent Iraqi prisoners and detainees. It is reported recently that Australian interrogators were involved in the murder of a well-known Iraqi scientist during interrogation. This is natural. Australia has the most controlled and the most deceptive media in the Western world. The Australian John Pilger described the media here accurately as a ‘small fishpond’ with only very few large white sharks swimming freely at the expense of the Australian people’s interests. With no independent media and a foreign policy subservient to US interests, Australia is virtually a propaganda outpost for US imperialism. 

The purpose of this imperialist propaganda is to deny the Iraqi people their rights to rule their country by themselves. Omitted by the mainstream media is how Iraqis are arrested abused and murdered at ease by soldiers of coalition forces and mercenaries. The Iraqi National Resistance against the Occupation is portrayed as a band of “suicide bombers”. Like in Israel, “suicide bombing” is promoted and amplified in mainstream media in order to discredit the name and image of people’s struggle, including the Iraqi Resistance struggle, against the injustice of foreign occupations. As John Pilger writes, “Those who kill people with car bombs are ‘terrorists’; those who kill far more people with cluster bombs are the noble occupants of a ‘quagmire’”. Reports from Iraq have contradicted this distorted image of a legitimate popular Resistance movement fighting against illegal and tyrannical occupation [5]. Furthermore, Article 51 of the UN Charter guarantees resistance against foreign occupation. 

Despite the chaotic situation wrought by the tyrannical nature of the Occupation, the mainstream media alleged that Iraq is now on its way to “freedom” and “democracy”. The new front is Syria and Iran. The drumbeats of war against Syria and Iran have already begun. After the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister, Western mainstream media immediately pointed the finger at Syria, not Israel that stands to benefit from any crisis in Lebanon, and is probably responsible for Mr. Al-Hariri’s assassination. Israel’s crimes and terror are taboos in Western mainstream media. The al-Hariri’s death is part of the US-Israel plan to divide the region and weaken the unity of its peoples. The pretexts for war are the same. Nothing has changed. It is as if war is replacing peace and death is replacing life for those living outside the empire and its peripheries. 

Last October, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet published a study by a team of Johns Hopkins University, Al-Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad and Columbia University researchers showing that over 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed since the war began in March 2003. The study, which was a conservative estimates, had very short life and generally dismissed and ignored by Western mainstream media. Dr. Les Roberts, the researcher at John Hopkins University and the lead author of the study expected the public response to his study to be “moral outrage”; instead he was shocked by the muted or dismissive reception. Can you imagine what the response will be to 100,000 civilians dead in New York or in London? 

“For years, the neocons’ [new euphemism for Americano fascists] push for war against Iraq was largely uncovered by the US media. For even longer, the neocons’ close connections to Israel have gone largely unmentioned in mainstream American news reports. As a result, very few Americans know to what degree many of those responsible for the tragic US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been motivated by Israeli concerns. The omission in coverage of Iraq has been profoundly disastrous, both for the Middle East and for Americans”, writes Alison Weir of If Americans Knew. The true function of the media is to tell the truth and to hold accountable those in power. 

The fact that mainstream media has had some roles in promoting illegal war of aggression, particularly the US-Britain war against Iraq, is enough to suggest that the media failed its true function and is complicit in war crimes, and ‘crimes against humanity’. 

According to the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), an international peoples initiative investigating the truth about the US war against and occupation of Iraq, found that mainstream media reporting on Iraq violated the principles of Article (6) of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Article (6) of the Nuremberg Tribunal set to investigate crimes committed by the Nazis stated that: “Leaders, organisers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes (crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity) are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such a plan”. Dr. Tony Alessandrini, a human rights activist and one of the organiser of the WTI told the meeting in Rome, Italy, that ‘evidence of active complicity of the mainstream media in wrongs committed against the people of Iraq, and the wrongs of deception and incitement, was now overwhelming’, reported IPS news on 14 February 2004. 

No matter what, the responsibility of aggression and violence reverts on the leaders and their accomplices who waged an illegal war, which was rejected by the majority of the world community. Mainstream media shares responsibility and should be held accountable for the lies they promoted and for failing in their duty to honestly inform the public. 

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia. He can be reached at e-mail: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au  

Notes: 

[1]. Steven Kull et al. (2003-2004). Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War. Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 118 (4).  www.psqonline.org

[2].  Mark Curtis. (2004). ‘Unpeople’. London: Vintage.

[3]. Justin Lewis. (2004). Television, Public Opinion and the War in Iraq: The Case of Britain Int. J. Pub. Opinion Res. Vol. 16 (3), 295-310. ijpor.oupjournals.org/cgi/reprint/16/3/295

[4]. David Ward. (2004). Public Service Broadcasting in Europe and the Coverage of the Iraq War. 14th JAMCO International Symposium. www.jamco.or.jp/2004_symposium2/en/02/

[5]. Molly Bingham, Boston Globe, 15 December 2004.

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