We must speak up against this unjust war


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 30 Mar 2003

By WONG CHUN WAI

THE attack on Iraq has entered the second week and the swift war that the world had been misled into believing seems to be dragging a little longer despite the massive American firepower. 

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who is probably hiding in an underground bunker, must be pleased with himself. He is still alive and his troops have fought back hard. 

His nemesis, President George W. Bush, is probably shocked and awed that all the pounding of Baghdad isn't working as well as expected. He has ordered a reinforcement force of 30,000 to complete the job. 

The world has yet to see Iraqis holding little American flags and welcoming their “liberators.” Instead, the US-led troops have found a more hostile reception. In the meantime, more coalition troops have been killed by “friendly fire” than by Iraqis in the desert. 

Bush, who has been expecting an uprising against Saddam, has found strong resistance from Iraqis while the sandstorms have slowed down the march into Baghdad. It has frustrated the Americans but there should be no doubt that the US will eventually win the war. 

No one should kid themselves into assuming that the Iraqis will be able to defeat the Americans when they enter Baghdad. It's a one-sided war but the coalition is finding the human cost much higher than expected. 

NATURE'S FURY: Bush, who has been expecting an uprising against Saddam, has found strong resistance from Iraqis while the sandstorms have slowed down the march into Baghdad.--APpic.

Blatantly using the American media to justify the invasion, CNN, CNBC and Fox TV are giving ordinary Americans the impression that everything has gone according to plan despite the little hitches. 

The American people have been given a different picture through the so-called embedded reporters, who are informing the world how the attack is being waged through the eyes of coalition troops. 

Malaysians are luckier than Americans, in a sense. Through Astro, we are able to follow the developments in Iraq through various options such as CNN, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, BBC and occasionally the German station.  

Last week, Malaysians even got to see how Beijing-based CCTV covered the war through Chinese reporters. 

So far, there has been little objectivity in the coverage by the major media. The American TV stations repeat that the attack is to liberate the Iraqi people – it is not an invasion or an attack. 

These terms would never be used by the embedded reporters. The joke is because these reporters are already “in bed” with the American forces. 

CNBC has even used the the official codename Operation Iraqi Freedom as its tagline. We are seeing more soldiers moving into Iraq rather than coverage of injured Iraqi citizens. 

The Qatar-based al-Jazeera is no better. It may have given the world the Arab voice, particularly from Iraq, but it has been emotional in its coverage. 

It reaches over 35 million Arabs, including 150,000 in the US. The station, which has broadcast tapes from Osama bin Laden, has long incurred the wrath of the White House. 

By showing footage of captured American prisoners, the station was kicked out of the New York Stock Exchange. Crying foul and citing the Geneva Convention, the US was suddenly talking about international law. 

Never mind the fact that it snubbed the United Nations and international laws. Worse, White House officials have forgotten that the American stations were the ones who had showed video footage of captured Iraqi soldiers first. 

In comparison, the European media has been more sceptical in its coverage of the war. The European reporters have provided a better perspective, asking different questions at press conferences about the invasion. 

While the US media is concerned over whether how many Iraqi cities have been captured or whether Saddam is alive or dead, the Europeans have persistently asked whether the US managed to turn up any weapons of mass destruction. 

One reason for the difference in reportage could be because Europe, except for Britain, is not involved in the invasion. Unlike the US, most European cities have a high number of Muslims. 

For example, Marseille, France, has a 30% Muslim population. It is similar in German cities. 

The call to boycott American products is unlikely to be effective. In fact, it can even be self-defeating. As developing countries, these markets are hardly significant to the US. 

But should the Americans retaliate against these small countries, it would be disastrous to these producers of commodities. All the US needs to do is to impose difficult conditions or to increase tariffs. 

Politicians who called for the boycott of American goods probably have little understanding of global trade. They won't be doing the farmers and planters at their constituencies a favour. That aside, fund managers feel jittery over any harsh anti-American rhetoric. 

Still, the world must speak up against a war that is clearly unjust and unwarranted. With so many lives already lost, it is difficult not to be emotional. 

  • Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my  

     


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