The world press on the war

British cameraman who survived allied tank fire thinks slain Iraqi troops were trying to surrender.


Compiled by Laura McClure
March 25, 2003 12:22AM (UTC)

United Kingdom, Matt Wells in the Guardian

[Editor's note: On Saturday, veteran British TV journalist Terry Lloyd and two colleagues were killed near Basra when allied tanks opened fire on their jeep. Their surviving colleague, TV cameraman Daniel Demoustier, told the Guardian that the allies were firing at Iraqi troops who he believed were trying to surrender.]

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[...]Lloyd was approaching Basra on Saturday with his cameramen, Fred Nerac, and Daniel Demoustier, and a local translator, Hussein Othman. Demoustier, who escaped, said they had been approached by Iraqi soldiers who appeared to want to surrender. Then their vehicles came under fire.

He told Barbara Jones of the Mail on Sunday, who rescued him, that they had been fired on by tanks from coalition forces at Iman Anas, while they were trying to drive away from a group of Iraqi soldiers.

"Immediately the allied tanks started heavy firing directly at us. Rounds were coming straight at the Jeep, smashing the windows and puncturing holes in the bodywork," he was quoted as saying.

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"Then the whole car was on fire. We were enveloped in flames. It was terrifying. I'm so angry that we were fired on by the allies. The Iraqis must have been their real target but I'm sure they were surrendering and anyway they were all dead within minutes."

Israel, Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz

For months and even years, Iraqi opposition leaders have been priming the U.S. administration in Washington that the moment the war in Iraq began, large numbers of civilians would rise up in a revolt that would topple Saddam's regime from within.

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The belief held by the opposition was, among other things, that the conquering of Basra would be easy, since most of the citizens of the city are Shiites who were just waiting for the Americans to show up in order to join them. For now, it seems these promises have proven empty.

After the first Gulf War, the Shiites didn't even wait for the Americans to arrive, and trusted that when the revolt broke out, it would receive U.S. backing. The Americans let the Shiites down, and they learned their lesson ...

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Will the Iraqi civilian component be absent from the war? A Jordanian analyst believes that it cannot be taken for granted that the civilian population will assist in the U.S.-led war effort.

"The Iraqis are at the stage at which they are agonizing. On the one hand, some of them want Saddam to be removed, but on the other hand, they are still not convinced that the Iraqi leadership is on its way out. In Baghdad they see and hear the heavy bombardments, but in Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk -- which are also bombed -- one can also hear the Iraqi resistance. And there is another factor that is difficult to estimate: To what extent do the Iraqis view the war as one of liberation from Saddam and to what extent do they see it as a war of American occupation?"

The belief is that the longer the war goes on, and the more the U.S. soldiers remain little more than an image on the TV screens, the civil revolt, which is supposed to be a major factor assisting the U.S.-led forces, will not take off.

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India, Siddharth Varadarajan in the Times of India

For a televised war which began with triumphant and sometimes seemingly staged footage of Iraqi soldiers surrendering and being taken into custody, the images of American soldiers in Iraqi captivity were a shocking and unwelcome intrusion.

Less than eight hours after a U.S. marines spokesman in Qatar dismissed as "Iraqi lies" reports of American soldiers being captured, al-Jazeera incensed the Pentagon by broadcasting footage of five U.S. prisoners of war in Iraqi custody. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that Iraq was violating the Geneva Conventions by putting American POWs on show.

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Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention mandates that war prisoners be protected against "insult and public curiosity". "The showing of these pictures is absolutely unacceptable", declared US Lt Gen John Abizaid in Qatar, condemning al-Jazeera for its POW broadcast. As if on cue, U.S. television networks refrained from showing the images, and at least one major U.S. daily, the Los Angeles Times, immediately withdrew the images from its website.

This unofficial censorship extended into cyberspace as well. Yellowtimes.org, an anti-war 'guerrilla' webpage, posted photographs of the U.S. POWs only to find its hosting provider shutting down its site for displaying "inappropriate graphic material".

Ironically, most U.S. channels and newspapers had no compunctions running images of Iraqi soldiers and combatants surrendering or being held in captivity.

As for the Iraq war, more problematic than the POWs issue is the use of heavy firepower by the U.S. in civilian areas. The Fourth Geneva Convention mandates that civilians be protected in times of war but the U.S. has been dropping missiles and cluster bombs in urban areas. Already, some 200 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the US invasion began.

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Kenya, Peter Kimani in the Daily Nation

A clap of thunder and a flash of light are all you see on TV nowadays as U.S. warships bomb Iraq -- interspersed with speeches from a fire-breathing President George Bush. It is great entertainment to the uncritical media: a local FM station tells listeners to expect "fireworks" from the Gulf; a BBC broadcaster alerts his audience that the bulletin might be interrupted should there be something "dramatic" in the Gulf.

Yet, the outcome of the Iraq conflict will be influenced by the way it is reported ...

The journalists covering the conflict are presently getting lifts on fighter jets on bombing missions, what renowned British correspondent, Robert Fisk, says will only result in "the kind of coverage that every reporter and every general wants: a few facts, good pictures and nothing dirty to make the viewers throw up on the breakfast table."

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But the images that could provide a human face to the conflict are not forthcoming; modern warfare is fought in the media and the United States will be loath to lose this one. It is a bitter lesson they learnt in Vietnam ...

By presenting the raids on Iraq as specifically targeting Saddam Hussein and his coterie of advisers, the media is being hoodwinked into presenting the conflict as a hunt for phantom figures patrolling the Arabian desert, easy to pick from miles away.

And now, Bush has added another dimension: if civilians are killed by our bombs, it is because Saddam Hussein has placed them in harm's way. All this is part of the media manipulations.

The media has to relay images of sufferance and pain, for wars are about death and dying. Only then will citizens of the world have a chance to evaluate what the United States and the UK are doing -- in their name -- and judge them.

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Saudi Arabia, Barbara Ferguson in the Arab News

Since Thursday morning ... journalists and U.S. Marines in Kuwait have spent a good part of each day -- and night -- in bunkers, as Iraq launched Scud missiles at them.

Information about the military campaign has been scanty, at best. The "embeds" have been kept almost totally out of the loop when it comes to details, strategies, directions, movements or even the commanding general's general game plan.

As a result, Marines get a kick out of teasing embeds so desperate for news that they gather at the few televisions in this compound.

"Hey, embed, I thought you were supposed to be telling the news, not watching it," a Marine lobbed at one point.

In addition, there is resentment at the significant news leaks that some of the TV talking heads are making during newscasts.

One former Marine officer -- now a TV/radio star -- yesterday broadcast to the world a U.S. pilot's last name, which is strictly forbidden, and his squadron number, which is also top secret.

Nigeria, Bola A. Akinterinwa in This Day

Americans can win the battle but not the war ...

As President Hussein said, the battle fields will be shifted to wherever there is sky, land and water in the world. Iraq appears to have prepared for a total war. Thus, the Iraqi war front is at best limited and the soldiers and victims are not likely to be military personnel alone, if the whole world is to be the arena for the battle ...

The war on Iraq is a direct invitation to a new disorderliness in international affairs ... Why should the United States ignore international conscience and also expect compliance by others? Consider again the rebellion in Russia. Even though President Putin is against the American-led assault, any acquiescence of the war can only strengthen the Russian leader in the future to deal with the Chechnya opponents. The American war on Iraq is a bad precedent that has the potential of encouraging anarchy in inter-state relations ...

In any given society, there is always a leader. I personally do not have any qualms with the United States leading the world. However, I am deeply concerned about how the United States equates its own interests with the interests of all other countries. I am worried when a leader refuses to listen to the followers. In fact, I am disturbed when the philosophy of 'might is always right' is applied whenever Americans want to protect their interests. Americans have the inalienable right to protect American interests. But Iraq also the same right. The problem to address therefore, is how to balance the protection strategies of the United States and Iraq. The problem is how to reconcile the conflicting interests of all countries, in such a way that peace and security are not endangered.

United Kingdom, Robert Fisk in the Independent

Let's forget, for a moment, the cheap propaganda of the regime and the equally cheap moralizing of Messrs Rumsfeld and Bush, and take a trip around the Al-Mustansaniya College Hospital. For the reality of war is ultimately not about military victory and defeat, or the lies about "coalition forces" which our "embedded" journalists are now peddling about an invasion involving only the Americans, the British and a handful of Australians. War, even when it has international legitimacy which this war does not is primarily about suffering.

Take 50-year-old Amel Hassan, a peasant woman with tattoos on her arms and legs but who now lies on her hospital bed with massive purple bruises on her shoulders they are now twice their original size who was on her way to visit her daughter when the first American missile struck Baghdad. "I was just getting out of the taxi when there was a big explosion and I fell down and found my blood everywhere," she told me. "It was on my arms, my legs, my chest." Amel Hassan still has multiple shrapnel wounds in her chest. Her five-year-old daughter Wahed lies in the next bed, whimpering with pain. She had climbed out of the taxi first and was almost at her aunt's front door when the explosion cut her down. Her feet are still bleeding although the blood has clotted around her toes and is staunched by the bandages on her ankles and lower legs. Two little boys are in the next room. Sade Selim is 11; his brother Omar is 14. Both have shrapnel wounds to their legs and chest.

Isra Riad is in the third room with almost identical injuries, in her case shrapnel wounds to the legs as she ran in terror from her house into her garden as the blitz began. Imam Ali is 23 and has multiple shrapnel wounds in her abdomen and lower bowel. Najla Hussein Abbas still tries to cover her head with a black scarf but she cannot hide the purple wounds to her legs. Multiple shrapnel wounds. After a while, "multiple shrapnel wounds" sounds like a natural disease which, I suppose among a people who have suffered more than 20 years of war it is.

And all this, I asked myself yesterday, was all this for 11 September 2001? All this was to "strike back" at our attackers, albeit that Doha Suheil, Wahed Hassan and Imam Ali have nothing absolutely nothing to do with those crimes against humanity, any more than has the awful Saddam? Who decided, I wonder, that these children, these young women, should suffer for 9/11?

Wars repeat themselves. Always, when "we" come to visit those we have bombed, we have the same question. In Libya in 1986, I remember how American reporters would repeatedly cross-question the wounded: had they perhaps been hit by shrapnel from their own anti-aircraft fire? Again, in 1991, "we" asked the Iraqi wounded the same question. And yesterday, a doctor found himself asked by a British radio reporter -- yes, you've guessed it -- "Do you think, doctor, that some of these people could have been hit by Iraqi anti-aircraft fire?"

It is the same old story. If we make war -- however much we blather on about our care for civilians -- we are going to kill and maim the innocent.

Qatar, Afshin Molavi in Al-Jazeera

In a wide-ranging opinion survey of Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia conducted by a prestigious American polling firm, respondents rejected every premise the U.S. President has laid out as justification for war.

John Zogby, whose prestigious polling firm, Zogby International, conducted the poll on behalf of the University of Maryland, said: "The poll results are an indication of how American policy-makers have lost touch with the region. While frustration with US policies was broadly predictable, I was startled by the high numbers."

On the issue of whether war will reduce terrorism, an average of 83 per cent said that war will actually increase the prospect of terrorism, including 97 per cent of Saudis, 87 per cent of Moroccans, 81 per cent of Lebanese, 74 per cent of Egyptians, and 78 per cent of Jordanians.

More than 75 per cent of all those polled feel that war in Iraq will bring worse prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. Again, the Saudis topped the list at 97 per cent, followed by Moroccans (85 per cent ), Lebanese (82 per cent ), Jordanians (79 per cent ), and Egyptians (67 per cent ).On the prospect of a new Iraq catalyzing democracy throughout the region, 95 per cent of Saudis, 66 per cent of Moroccans, 60 per cent of Egyptians, 58 per cent of Jordanians, and 74 per cent of Lebanese feel that a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein will bring less regional democracy ...

Interestingly, Zogby notes, in two polls his firm conducted last year, Arabs expressed a more favorable attitude towards the United States in general. This time, in response to the question about how "generally speaking," they feel about the United States, the responses were overwhelmingly unfavorable: 95 per cent of Saudis, 91 per cent of Moroccans, 80 per cent of Jordanians, 79 per cent of Egyptians, and 59 per cent of Lebanese.

"We noted a significant deterioration from our previous polls," Zogby said, which included all of the above countries plus the UAE, Kuwait, and Arabs living within Israel.

Zogby has presented his findings at the State Department, where, according to some diplomats present, there was much head-nodding in the room. "The poll confirms what we already know," one American diplomat said. "The question is: what can we do about it?"

The trouble is, say both Zogby and a whole host of voices in the Arab world, the issue that frustrates Arabs is not American values, but American policies, and no amount of "branding" can change that.

Indonesia, Editorial in the Jakarta Post

This war is rightly seen as an attack against humanity, and therefore against the values of just about all religions that preach peace. You do not have to be a Muslim to feel horrified at the sight of Iraqis living under the terror of constant U.S. bombings, or of Iraqis fleeing the war in fear ...

This war, therefore, should be seen as not solely an attack on Muslims and therefore on Islam, but as an attack against all religions, and the values that they represent ...

Let's also not forget that there is a growing antiwar movement inside the United States with which we can cooperate. If there is still any force that can stop this war -- after the United Nations Security Council failed to do the job -- it is American public opinion.


Compiled by Laura McClure

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