Propaganda Publicity And Media Iraq War Media Essay

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1st Jan 1970 Media Reference this

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March, 2003. The world remains transfixed to the media. The atmosphere is tense especially amongst western world and the Muslim. The two worlds are about to collide once again. United States of America, under the administration of President George Walker Bush, is ready to invade Iraq. The Iraq War, which is also known as the Occupation of Iraq, the Second Gulf War as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom was supported and assisted by his collaborators such as United Kingdom and Australia. Considered as one of the most controversial decisions ever made, the occupation was described as unnecessary, illegal, dangerous as well as immoral by the mass. This is most probably true as the invasion lacked sanctions from the United Nations (UN). There is not enough evidence to prove allegations made by Bush and his associates. Furthermore, as an esteemed member of UN, America with her accomplices failed to revere the first and second article of the organization which strives to maintain international peace and security as well as to resolve international disputes by peaceful means.

Underlying Allegations: Oil

In order to justify the invasion, Bush administration gave several explanations. To begin, they accused Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For this reason, they further stressed that Iraq was a threat to America and the world. Accordingly, there was a vital need to disarm Iraq. In addition to that, they described the war as an honourable effort to preserve peace by creating a free and prosperous Iraq, liberated from the tyranny of “lawless man”. However, despite all that, numerous accusations were directed toward Bush administration which suggested that the primary motive of the occupation was to gain control over Iraqi oil industry.

It is possible for the claim to be true. After all, oil is Iraq’s largest industry. Estimated to own a whopping 115 billion barrels, the country holds second largest reserves of conventional petroleum on earth. Iraq is believed to be conveniently placed atop large reservoirs of unexplored oil. To make it better, the oil in Iraq is of superior quality. The oil production cost in Iraq is one of the cheapest in the world because it can be tapped by shallow wells. As such, oil companies do not have to dig deeper to find the black gold. In addition to all that, by occupying Iraq, America will gain a geopolitical advantage of maintaining control over entire Persian Gulf region which owns three fifths of world’s oil supply.

The best support for such claim would be none other than reasoning and contemplation. Even before the war, USA already established the guidelines for the privatization of Iraqi oil industry once Saddam was removed. Additionally, the Pentagon created a special military task force whose primary mission was to seize control of Iraqi oil field at the very beginning of the raid. Even the very first military action of the invasion was actually an armed foray on oil facilities. Ironically, regardless of the crystal clear facts and reasoning, Bush administration were adamant in insisting that oil played no role in the Iraq military assault. (Klare, 2008)

Propaganda, Publicity and Media:

According to Samer Khader, a senior producer of Al Jazeera: “You cannot wage wars without rumours, without media, without propaganda”. Propaganda can be defined as information, especially false information, that a government or organization spreads in order to influence people’s opinions and beliefs (Macmillan English Dictionary). It is actually the key strategy to shape people’s faith as well as their perspectives. Paradoxically, propaganda works best in convincing people that they are not being manipulated. As media appear to have the same persuasion power, it comes to be used as a perfect tool for propaganda. Started during the First World War, propaganda sparked debate and raised questions about the role of media.

This tactic was greatly used by Bush, along with his conspirator before, during as well as after Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were willing to use all possible means, predominantly media to persuade and influence the mass. As a matter of fact, what contributed to the success of Bush’s propaganda was that it used the news network, which is considered as one of the most trusted media to promote his agenda. Statements and claims were made through speeches, interviews and press conferences. Deception, disinformation, misinformation was applied massively in the media during this time. The oft-repeated ‘facts’ and statements produced by both the White House and Pentagon are actually not factual. It was proven that most of them are opinion, lies, created data, exaggerated as well as omitted information.

Propaganda in Practice

Propaganda served as one of the greatest tools used by Bush and his counterpart to gain supports for the war. Even before the invasion of Iraq, USA always had the tendency to make the country appear under threat. This method was used by the aggressors to make others’ believe that they acted in self defense. Such propaganda was rooted in the tragedy of September 11 and is still exploited until this very day. Iraq was falsely implicated to Al-Qaeda terrorism whereas Saddam was said to plan on giving the WMD to Osama Bin Laden. By linking together the September 11 attacks and Iraq using fear as the adhesive, it is easy for the government to gain supports from the people. American administration was also responsible for the self- appointed role as the preserver of peace and the security guard of the world. As Iraq was considered as a menace, the military invasion should be viewed as the honourable and heroic acts, worthy of support and encouragement. (Falk & Lifton, 2006)

In the beginning, the Press Secretary of White House Ari Fleischer was reported to say that the main objective of the invasion is the elimination of WMD in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was accused of having several terrifying weapons mainly nuclear bomb as well as biological weapons such as anthrax, botulinum toxin and VX nerve agent. Bush’s administration further continued their accusation by stating that Iraq has both the scientists and facilities to create the WMD. However, successions of U.S commissioned reports have failed to confirm the claim. The allegation was termed as big lie after several reports made by CIA (central intelligence agency) and International atomic energy agency (IAEA) concluded to say otherwise.

However, when no WMD was found in Iraq, they changed the objective as to eliminate Saddam himself. In the media, the Iraqi president was described using terms such as ‘lawless man’ and even ‘tyrant’. The American claims that they strive for the establishment of democratic, free and prosperous Iraq. Subsequently, when the promised democracy failed, it was said that the intervention was crucial to entail stabilization of Iraq and defeating islamo-fascism amongst the Arabs. After several twist and change, American themselves said that the war appeared as though as invented and produced by Disney- it was monumental, full of slogans and images. (Rutherford, 2004)

Media:

Media, especially mass media is all about communicating news and information to large numbers of audiences and consumers. The usage of mass media such as television and radio was proven to have important effects. Being the consumers of media, the public have certain rights related to the medium. Fink (1995) and Day (2003) had helpfully listed and further elaborate about the primary principles of moral and societal values which should be adhered by the media in every way possible.

Firstly, the most fundamental principle is libertarianism and credibility. The mass relies on media for truthful and accurate information. Hence, in order to be believable and worthy of trust, it is the responsibility of the media to make intelligent and rational decision to find the truth Any types of poor ethical discretion such as sorting to lie, fabrication and covering the truth is a major crime in media which can undermine respect. Media is obligated to be accurate; it must clearly able to distinguish between facts and opinion as well as capable of providing truthful, comprehensive and intelligent information. Credible media should also realize that facts alone are not sufficient. They must evaluate the credibility of the source and extend research to include data beyond the facts given. This brings about a closely related concept of freedom whereas principled media will remain free from any association as it causes restriction in reporting. Being independent allows the media to cover the news without any conflict of interest.

Another crucial concept would be objectivity and justice. It means that in reporting, media should provide balanced, impartial and fair viewpoints. Under no circumstances should they choose a side and inject partisan’s view in their presentations. Therefore, integrity is of paramount value amongst the people of the media. They must be willing to act on the result of their intellectual and critical investigation. As media is an effective platform to express both opinions, it is important for them not to focus only on certain side while ignoring the other. Regardless of their personal values and stand, equal treatment should be given to both sides they are reporting about.

Media should never be taken lightly as it serves the noble function of stewardship. It can be considered as their responsibility to conduct, supervise and manage certain elements. Acting as a watchdog, they have the power to monitor the powerful people such as the government as well as to uncover and stop criminality and malfeasance occurred. Moreover, the duty to serve the public while respecting and guarding the need of others is commonly associated to the media. Therefore, it is greatly expected of the media to surrogate the public and assist the needy, comfort the afflicted, attack social injustice and change things for the betterment. The powerful medium ought to be aware about people’s right to know. Thus, they will strive to report any issue as it is with truthfulness, sincerity and accuracy. However, while falsehood is so easy, truth is generally so difficult. Reporting truthfully controversial information will probably cause in personal cost as well as pressure by the affected party.

Other than that, ethical media practices civility. Hence, they respect and treat consumer as valued receiving ends rather than someone to be manipulated. The coming discussions will extensively cover the issue of audience manipulation by Bush’s administration as well as Pentagon.

Military and the Media

Media played an extremely important role during war. It was believed that images and information shown in the medium may impact war decisions. Such idea was originated during Vietnam War whereas media was blamed for the lost suffered by America. Media’s coverage of disorder and failure in Vietnam was said to be the main factors which turned American public against their own military. (Hooper, 1988). Realizing the importance of public relations strategy as well as the ability of the media, Pentagon and the White House sees media as potential allies in a joint effort to promote the practice of war. Bush’s administration is one of the most savvy media manipulators. In their perspective, media was viewed not as a watchdog of the government or the representative of the public. Rather, the media is a useful tool or conduit to reach the public. They attempted to favorably shape the worldwide perception of the Iraqi conflict using every technique available. Their party carefully controls the flow of information regarding the invasion so that they will be able to manage the media while avoiding any harmful coverage.

There are several strategies used by Bush and his military to ensure that everything will go smoothly according to their plan. Their first strategy would be the usage of vocabularies in which, positive terms such as ‘war of liberation’ and ‘freedom mission’ were used to describe their side. On the other hand, negative terms such as ‘thugs’ and ‘apparatus of terror’ was used to describe Saddam and Iraq. These covertly affected the perception of the mass. Secondly, in order to ensure continuous control over the information, the military will conduct numerous press conferences. Such meeting will help the military to determine what can be said and conveyed by the media. In other words, it is also an effective way to deliver message directly to the mass.

Other than that, the armed forces placed most media offices such as BBC, FOX, NBC and CNN in Central Command (CentCom), located in Doha, Qatar. Important to note, the location is roughly 700 miles away from Baghdad. The underlying reason for the placement would be none other than to restrict the reporting and movement of the media. As all the news-gathering organizations were unable to gain the information first hand, they have no choice but to rely on the data and statement released by the military. This situation made it easier for the soldier to modify, omit or manipulate the information before giving it to the press. Meanwhile, there are several reporters who are allowed to join military units. Although the forces explained that it was done to get the real picture of war, the real reason of the combinations was made so that they become attached to the soldiers. As the sense of camaraderie develop, the media lost their sense of objectivity and become valuable apparatus of propaganda

Next strategy employed by the Pentagon involve both manipulation as well as avoidance altogether. In a documentary titled Control Room (2004), it can be observed how the press officer of the coalition forces tried to move everyone’s attention away from the cost and damages done by the war in Iraq. Instead of addressing the issue, Lieutenant Rushing suddenly mentioned about Saddam Hussein as a bad guy and should be considered as the biggest threat to Arabs world. He further explained that Saddam had killed more Muslim than anyone in the planet. Additionally, the armed forces tried to manipulate facts as well and these can be observed via several illustrations. During the early stage of war, public started to question about the death of the innocent Iraqi civilians who have nothing to do with the war. For the sake of saving themselves from the criticism, coalition forces started to blame Saddam’s regime by accusing them of using the civilians as human shield. Despite their claim, there is not a single prove to confirm the allegation. The same manipulation tactic was used during the footage where the forces enter Baghdad. From the news, audience can see Arab people, presumably Iraqi, celebrates the fall of Saddam’s empire. They celebrate and express their gratitude towards coalition forces who ‘free’ from the clutch of an evil man. Later, it was revealed that the Arabs are actually impostors and not the real Iraqi.

Generally, it can be said that the two most contradicting type of medias ever existed are Muslim and western media. The discrepancies between the two become apparent especially during Iraqi war. The term western media was used to signify the mainstream media which exist in the west, represented by FOX, CNN etc. On the contrary, Muslim media may be used to refer to major media in Muslim countries. Suitable representative for it would be none other than Al Jazeera.

West Media

In order to understand the evolution and change which has taken place in the western media, it is best to take a step into history. Media previously had been considered as fourth estate which serves the higher function of check and balance. They investigated claims made by the government and make sure that officials are responsible for their actions. Media during that time, held fast to the golden tradition of ethical media. Some of their characteristics are loyal to the public, believe that the public has the rights to know, impartial, accurate and credible. Mr. Reginald Maudling, Governor of BBC in 1971 was reported to say “we see it as our over-riding responsibility to report the scene as it is, in all its tragedy”. As the media report the war as it is- bloody, cruel and messy, soldiers will be showed in bad light. Consequently, media and military generally have a turbulence relationship. Sadly, the different approach taken by contemporary western media caused a blow to traditional practices of the media. (Hooper, 1988)

Nowadays, the media has become so servile that they have lost their ability to respond in a principled and independent manner. Their role was reduced from being a fourth estate to mere tools of the government. Typically, they blindly reported the limited info received from the military. Critical mainstream media which attempts to balance and examine the authenticity of statements no longer exists. Some may argued that this is caused by the pressures received. Best media should never be affected by pressures. Still, when faced with dilemma, media staffs decided to choose safer, least resistant path and merely reported the administration’s statement.

The relationship between Muslim and the west was readily bad even before the invasion. Hatred, fear and prejudice were fueled by the 9/11 tragedy. The concept of Islamophobia was everywhere. It may be assumed that the media themselves already developed negative mindsets towards Muslims. This will most possibly lead to biasness in the media whereas the press continued to tilt discussions of Iraq in favour of Bush’s perspective. As a matter of fact, the hoodwinking of America was successful because he had powerful assistance from this media. After all, CNN has long served as an echo of America. Disoriented, selective and bias, the role is now shared by BBC, FOX and other western media. They turn out to be superficial with little a lot of conjectures instead of news reporting. Every time they report about the war, supportive tone will be used towards Bush and his cohorts. American soldiers will be shown as agents of liberation and humanitarian who strove to help Iraqi in trouble.

Similarly, instead of reporting facts and supported information, the western media contains prejudiced opinion and deception. Despite the fact that successions of U.S commissioned reports have failed to confirm the Bush’s claim, the media still supported him. This was done by softening the conclusion and playing around the notion that even if nothing can be found, it never proves that the weapon never existed before. They went as far as suggesting, and making their own hypothesis that the WMD might be trucked over to Syria. No matter what, media is in no position to do this. (Falk & Lifton, (2006).

Besides, it is true to say the patriotism and American value may become a subtle pressure in determining the direction of the media. Any media who decided to go against war will be considered as anti-patriotic and biased. Since most media are worried about being seen as not patriotic, they adopted a safer and popular pro-war path. American value is apparent in the reporting of war. In America war isn’t hell. It is clean without blood and suffering. All the American see was patriotism and the urge to support the troops. What they are waiting for is the celebration of victory. (Dadge, 2006).

Deeper observation of western media will reveal how they covered the crime committed by America. To illustrate, despite the solid proves found, media seemed to steer away from focusing on the oil element of the war. Furthermore, the media carefully selected the source and conveniently avoided excessive focus on human consequence caused by American firepower. In addition to that, they rarely discuss how the occupation served as catalyst for carnage (Beck & Downing, 2003). Based on all the points given, it may be assumed that western media had taken a turn from being a respected source into nothing but unethical media who violates nearly everything an ideal media should be.

Muslim Media

One of the prime differences between the western media and Muslim press is that the latter is governed by Islamic convention. Islam is not merely a religion; it is a system of life, covering every aspect possible including the media. Muslims are expected to adhere to the concept of amanah (integrity), honesty, and justice. For that matter, these concepts are mentioned several times in the holy Quran. For example: “And cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when ye know (what it is)” (Al-Baqarah, Verse 42). This may be the contributor which shapes the approach of the media itself.

When someone mentioned “Muslim Media”, the public may generally think of Al Jazeera. This particular Arab satellite news channel can be assumed to be one of the popular and controversial Muslim media in the world. According to Samer Khader, the senior producer of Aljazeera: The message of Al Jazeera is all about educating the Arab masses something called democracy, respect other opinion , free debate… no taboo. Everything should be dealt with integrity, with openness. It’s about trying to wake the Arab society and increase their awareness about what is happening around them”. In other words, the press tries their best to fulfill the societal role both as the provider of news as well as fighter for peoples’ right to know.

Ever since their establishment in 1996, Al Jazeera claimed to be politically independent television station in the Middle East. Striving to maintain independent editorial policy, the press makes every effort to remain free from the clutches of any political party. Their independence allows them to introduce a level of freedom of speech on TV that was previously unheard of in many of Arab countries. This revolution of the press gain respects even from the west. Parallel with their ideology of freedom and independent, the reporters searched information regarding the war on their own without much reliance on western military.

Al Jazeera tried their best to present news from all sides in a part of the world. Accordingly, viewers who found the reporting in western media to be biased may perhaps switch to Al Jazeera to gain a balanced view regarding the war in Iraq. During the warfare, the press welcomed experts and officials from both sides to participate in their life broadcast and provide views and opinion. An interview between Samer Khader and Jeffrey Steinberg, political analyst from America, was recorded on tape. Later, it was revealed that the analyst happens to be an activist who went against his own country. Consequently, the interview is deemed as failure because Al Jazeera cares greatly about pure analysis and do not want any biased view. What they seek is a balanced guest who can provide both sides of the event. This shows that the Muslim press tries to be balanced and not bias. Justice is an obligation in Islam as mentioned in Surah An-Nisa, verse 30:” If any do that in rancour and injustice,- soon shall We cast them into the Fire”

At the time of war, the western media was occupied with the propaganda of Bush. Thus, most of the real news about the war comes from alternative as well as Muslim media. According to its’ viewer, Al Jazeera is the most believable media. This makes the station a clear victor in the Arabs world. Using reality and truth as the baseline, the press reported the ugly truth of war as it is. Al Jazeera went on to air very graphic footages from inside Iraq. Some of the examples include injured children, overflowing hospitals, dead bodies and devastation. What they really want to do was showing that war has human cost.

The path of truth is always a lonely and difficult one. The same is applicable to Al Jazeera which faces grave difficulties for challenging the west. During the violence, the west and its cronies recognized the power of Al Jazeera. As such, they tried to control them and went as far as to infiltrate and sabotage the organization. Pentagon’s determination to watch over the media takes on a more sinister side. Numerous journalists including Al Jazeera’s Tarek Ayoub died under suspicious circumstances. According to the spokesperson of the military, the death was caused by ‘friendly fire’. The west claimed to receive fires from a nearby building. They have no choice but to retaliate in return. The claim was proven to be false as the recording and eye witnesses revealed that there is no gunshot from the building at all. It becomes more dubious as Al Jazeera had mailed coordinates for their offices in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra to the U.S. State Department six weeks prior. These should have clearly identified their location. For the coalition forces that uses super accurate missile, accidents is nearly impossible. Based on all that, there is only one explanation. The killing was planned and inevitable. It was said to be the military’s extreme warning to those who are not siding with them to change their stand and never dare to go against coalition forces.

What’s more, the attacks come from more than the physical assault. The west tried to lower the reputation and credibility of Al Jazeera by accusing them for inciting violence, promoting Anti-American sentiment, not being objective, exaggerating information, bias and supports Saddam as well as terrorism. Despite constantly being under pressure, the media remain strong, brave and never let themselves to be influenced or stopped.

Similar with media from the west, Muslim press faced the problem of dilemma as well. Most Al Jazeera staffs shares the same background as the Iraqis- Muslim and Arabs. This caused them to feel the solidarity and sense of brotherhood amongst them, making it hard for them not to be emotional and influenced. Personally, one can observe which sides they belong to. For example, in one of the documentary (Control Room, 2004), viewers may observe how the employees of Arab media make faces, gestures and sarcastic comments towards the west. However, personal feeling and professionalism do not mix together. Being a media organization, they tried to be objective and professional while conveying the messages to the world. This are possible as the organization has firm and strong producers and editors such as Samer Khader himself who firmly state that we should report the war as it is, complemented by both views. Abdullah Scheleifer gave a powerful advice to Muslim journalists on how to face their dilemma: “your heart and soul can be with your people but as a journalist, your prime duty is to get the information.” In other words, he reminded the reporters to keep their emotion on check use professional approach.

Discussion

The elaboration depicted above shows how contradicting the western media and Muslim press can be. The differences include the main role both media play during the war. The west acted as a tool of propaganda for war while the east fulfills their societal responsibilities and detests hostilities. As the first was controlled and had to rely on Bush administration, it contains elements of deception while the latter strive for truth and confirmed information. Besides, the west tried their best to cover the truth while the Muslim media played a contradictory role of uncovering the reality. Naturally, western media showed undeniable inclination and bias towards supporting Bush’s ideology. In contrast, the Muslim press tried to provide a balanced viewpoint regarding war. Despite all the contradictions, there is a similarity as well. Both sides received immense pressure from various sources such as the society and authority. However, what separates the both is the way they reacted to the force. Muslim press was determined to remain firm and fight what they believe in. On the other hand, the western media selected a safer path to confirm with the unfair demands and violate media ethics that they held for generations.

Finale

In year 2010, current president of United States of America, Barrack Obama finally declared long awaited ending of the armed interventions. Iraq war has ended but public trust on media is still yet to heal. The war exposed how manipulative media can be. Till this very day, people still question the real role of media before, during and after the war. As the damage had been done, there is only one way to restore the lost reputation. Media of all types need to join forces and embrace healthy skepticism towards the deed and words of the government. Reporters need to be willing to question commonly accepted believes, confront others with alternative views, ask questions and investigate to provide the most reliable information. It is hoped that one day, they will be able to once again, play their role and responsibility to serve the public.

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