Free Iraqi

I was not living before the 9th of April and now I am, so let me speak!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Iraqi media scandal.

I've been following the news about the Iraqi media scandal in the American media and some blogs and I feel I have a few things I can comment on.
First of all, anyone following the Iraqi newspapers closely won't find it hard to notice that most of the real information and interesting newsy stories come from American sources. It's hard to miss that with most of those stories because the translation is usually close to a literal one which preserves the original western style of reporting that was unknown in our media. Also the kind of information that you get is usually ones that cannot be obtained unless the reporter is working in the front with the American and Iraqi forces or has real access to the original sources which is impossible till now.

Also, whoever said that those stories were meant to improve the image of America and the coalition forces in Iraq is exaggerating, the least to say. I'm an avid reader of Iraqi newspaper and I haven't read any newsy story that gives credit to the American forces or government. In fact, apart from 3 or 4 who very occasionally publish materials that are slightly in favor of the American troops, all Iraqi newspapers are either totally against it no matter how much they're offered, or they're very scared of publishing such materials. What we get usually is positive stories about the Iraqi forces and the reconstruction process.

Another thing that I find silly is that the Americans are very concerned about the newsy stories and neglect the fact that there are dozens of obvious propaganda messages in Iraqi press that come from American sources directly. Such messages are placed similarly as advertisements that are supposed to be from the Iraqi interior ministry and list phone numbers and ask people to report suspicious activities to help "The heroes in the Iraqi security forces" (Like this one above from Al Mu'tamar newspaper)

I called one of those numbers a few weeks ago to report something I saw as suspicious. I was worried because I know the IP is infiltrated by the Ba'athists and that my phone number could be easily tracked but I also thought that the Americans must have figured a way to deal with that, and I was right.The voice that answered on the other side had an unmistakable Jordanian accent. Now what would a Jordanian do in the Iraqi ministry of interior! The only logical conclusion for me was that the guy was a Jordanian American and that I was not calling the Iraqi interior ministry as I thought but some place in the American military, which honestly made me feel safer. Still, it gives a sad yet realistic picture of the readiness of the Iraqi security forces to handle security all alone.Anyway, back to the media scandal, my point is that most Iraqis who read newspapers and certainly most journalists know the source of such stories contrary to the claim of some of them as reported by the LATIMES. Now it may have taken an American military general a few months to find out that his command was pouring information through Iraqi media for money but trust me, it took a lot less than that for so many Iraqis to find out the same. If there's something wrong then it's in the way this campaign has been handled and not the concept itself.The amount of anti-American and anti-Iraqi propaganda is so huge in Iraq that I think there's a serious need to confront it one way or another. Moreover most of this propaganda is based on pure lies that are so ridiculous at times yet can affect many people. I think because it uses the conspiracy theory kind of approach which still appeals to many Iraqis. Why it does appeal to them? I think it's common in oppressed societies that had had no hand in deciding the way things are run in their own countries. They feel the evil but they can't see it or they're misled by their government to search for it somewhere else than where it is.I think the need for PsyOps in Iraq is huge and the American government was even late and lacking in its efforts in this area. There are several governments that are pouring millions and millions of Dollars not just to support the insurgency but also to spread disinformation and anti-American, anti-Iraqi government propaganda.When the two British soldiers were arrested, Sadirists and other radical religious newspapers said that those soldiers were found planting IEDs on the road! Imagine the destructive results of such disinformation spread by none other than the local government. Sadly many people believed that and other Iraqi newspapers picked it up to report it as the truth.It seems however that the information campaign was facing some problems that should have been taken care of and I think an investigation is necessary in that it will provoke those in charge to search for more effective measures in handling the media war which is, as I see it, a very essential part of the war on terror that cannot be ignored or underestimated.