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Media's view of the war « Previous | |Next »
March 25, 2003

The melancholy cultural critic over at a heap of junk for code has a go at the media reporting of the war in the post, 'On the road to Adelaide'. It appears that he has retreated to the BBC in disgust with the US networks.

Well, this post Anglo-American Lies Exposed is a critique of the language used by the embedded BBC journalists to represent the Anglo-American war on the ground.

How do we interpret this text? What is bought to bear on the public thinking in the media networks by Fisk is a historical perspective that rightly challenges the ahistorical, technocratic language of the US military. Consider this statement from a US marine, a Sgt Sprague, from White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia:

"The problem with these people is that you can't believe anything they say... If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time...I've been all the way through this desert from Basra to here and I ain't seen one shopping mall or fast food restaurant," he said. "These people got nothing. Even in a little town like ours of twenty five hundred people you got a McDonald's at one end and a Hardee's at the other."

A great start. This raises a broader issue.

What is missing in all this war commentary is a deep historical sense---the media's stops at 1991. Yet Australia was fighting with the British in Iraq in the 1941-1918 war; the British & Australians marched on Baghdad in 1915-1916 to knock of the Ottoman Empire; and both the UK and US have a long history of regime change in the region that marked the edge of the Classical Roman world. It is a region saturated in layers and layers of history; a history in which Arab people have suffered.

It is this history which explains why Arabs read contemporary events differently to the US media. Our history in Australia stops at Gallipoli which has become a sacred site we honour the dead, celebrate the forging of the Australain nation in blood and affirm our national identity. We forget that Australia also has a history of fighting other people's wars in the region. There is historical blank between 1981 and 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Arab peopel do not have that kind of blank.

So I think that Fisk is quite right to challenge the gungho technocratic thinking of the Militarised Enlightenment and remind us of the politics involved in Great Powers bringing liberal civilization to the Arab people. We need a little less hubris and triumphalism about being liberators here. In the long run it is the Iraqi people who will have to establish a democratic Iraq and run the state as citizens for their own well-being. The best that the western powers can do is lend a hand.

But history indicates that the track record of western powers lending a hand to the Arab people in their fight for democracy is not a good one.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:02 PM | | Comments (1)
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there was no maccas in 1918