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[casi] Guardian: Al-Jazeera tells the truth about war

Al-Jazeera tells the truth about war


My station is a threat to American media control - and they know it

Faisal Bodi Friday March 28, 2003 The Guardian

Last month, when it became clear that the US-led drive to war was
irreversible, I - like many other British journalists - relocated to
Qatar for a ringside seat. But I am an Islamist journalist, so while the
others bedded down at the 1m media centre at US central command in
As-Sayliyah, I found a more humble berth in the capital Doha, working
for the internet arm of al-Jazeera.

And yet, only a week into the war, I find myself working for the most
sought-after news resource in the world. On March 23, the night the
channel screened the first footage of captured US PoW's, al-Jazeera was
the most searched item on the internet portal, Lycos, registering three
times as many hits as the next item.

I do not mean to brag - people are turning to us simply because the
western media coverage has been so poor. For although Doha is just a
15-minute drive from central command, the view of events from here could
not be more different. Of all the major global networks, al-Jazeera has
been alone in proceeding from the premise that this war should be viewed
as an illegal enterprise. It has broadcast the horror of the bombing
campaign, the blown-out brains, the blood-spattered pavements, the
screaming infants and the corpses. Its team of on-the-ground, unembedded
correspondents has provided a corrective to the official line that the
campaign is, barring occasional resistance, going to plan.

Last Tuesday, while western channels were celebrating a Basra "uprising"
which none of them could have witnessed since they don't have reporters
in the city, our correspondent in the Sheraton there returned a rather
flat verdict of "uneventful" - a view confirmed shortly afterwards by a
spokesman for the opposition Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution
in Iraq. By reporting propaganda as fact, the mainstream media had
simply mirrored the Blair/Bush fantasy that the people who have been
starved by UN sanctions and deformed by depleted uranium since 1991 will
greet them as saviours.

Only hours before the Basra non-event, one of Iraq's most esteemed Shia
authorities, Ayatollah Sistani, had dented coalition hopes of a southern
uprising by reiterating a fatwa calling on all Muslims to resist the
US-led forces. This real, and highly significant, event went unreported
in the west.

Earlier in the week Arab viewers had seen the gruesome aftermath of the
coalition bombing of "Ansar al-Islam" positions in the north-east of the
country. All but two of the 35 killed were civilians in an area
controlled by a neutral Islamist group, a fact passed over with undue
haste in western reports. And before that, on the second day of the war,
most of the western media reported verbatim central command statements
that Umm Qasr was under "coalition" control - it was not until Wednesday
that al-Jazeera could confirm all resistance there had been pacified.

Throughout the past week, armed peoples in the west and south have been
attacking the exposed rearguard of coalition positions, while all the
time - despite debilitating sandstorms - western TV audiences have seen
litte except their steady advance towards Baghdad. This is not truthful

There is also a marked difference when reporting the anger the invasion
has unleashed on the Muslim street. The view from here is that any
vestige of goodwill towards the US has evaporated with this latest
aggression, and that Britain has now joined the US and Israel as a
target of this rage.

The British media has condemned al-Jazeera's decision to screen a
30-second video clip of two dead British soldiers. This is simple
hypocrisy. From the outset of the war, the British media has not balked
at showing images of Iraqi soliders either dead or captured and

Amid the battle for hearts and minds in the most information-controlled
war in history, one measure of the importance of those American PoW
pictures and the images of the dead British soldiers is surely the
sustained "shock and awe" hacking campaign directed at
since the start of the war. As I write, the al-Jazeera website has been
down for three days and few here doubt that the provenance of the attack
is the Pentagon. Meanwhile, our hosting company, the US-based DataPipe,
has terminated our contract after lobbying by other clients whose
websites have been brought down by the hacking.

It's too early for me to say when, or indeed if, I will return to my
homeland. So far this war has progressed according to a near worst-case
scenario. Iraqis have not turned against their tormentor. The southern
Shia regard the invasion force as the greater Satan. Opposition in
surrounding countries is shaking their regimes. I fear there remains
much work to be done.

 Faisal Bodi is a senior editor for

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