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[casi] Media Lens Alerts: The Killing - ITN Returns To Baghdad

1) Media Lens Alert: Stenographers To Power - "Saddam Loyalists" Or
"Anti-Occupation Forces"? Ask The BBC

2) Media Lens Alert: The Killing - ITN Returns To Baghdad


19th June 2003

Media Lens Alert: Stenographers To Power - "Saddam Loyalists" Or
"Anti-Occupation Forces"? Ask The BBC

Honourable Deception

When it came to power in 1997, Britain's Labour government claimed that it
would be a "force for good in the world" (quoted, Mark Curtis, Web of
Deceit, Vintage, 2003, p.1). What proportion of the British public would
find that credible now? In a recent YouGov poll, 63% of UK respondents said
they believed Tony Blair had misled them over whether Iraq had chemical and
biological weapons, with 27% saying he deliberately lied. Only 29% of people
believe Blair did not mislead the country over the weapons. ('Two-thirds say
Blair misled public over Iraqi weapons', David Brown, Sunday Times, June 01,

Former cabinet minister, Clare Short, insists that Tony Blair is guilty of
"honourable deception", that he actively deceived the cabinet and country.
Short describes how a small cabal around Blair lied their way to war on
Iraq, ignoring normal procedures of cabinet government and discussion, and
ignoring the advice of the intelligence and diplomatic community, which
privately opposed the war. The lies were conscious and carefully crafted to
ensure that Britain would participate in a war - secretly agreed with Bush
last September - by the spring of this year. Former foreign secretary, Robin
Cook, describes how "there was a selection of evidence to support a
conclusion... intelligence was not being used to inform and shape policy,
but to shape policy that was already settled." (Patrick Wintour, 'Blair's
secret war pact', The Guardian, June 18, 2003)

The implication of all this is very clear - Blair was quite simply lying
when he said, for example, on Newsnight in February:

"Well, George Bush has gone along with Resolution 1441 as well and it was
absolutely clear, last thing we both said last November -  the Iraqis obey
this Resolution and as I say, it's not a mystery what they have to do, all
they have to do is agree to do what the inspectors say. If they did that we
wouldn't even be sitting here having this discussion... And therefore, when
people say you're hell bent on this war, I've tried to avoid being in this
position and I honestly thought there was some prospect last November when
we passed the UN Resolution that he would realise we were serious about this
and that if he didn't cooperate he was going to be in trouble." ('Tony Blair
on Newsnight - part two', The Guardian, February 7, 2003)

To lie in order to fight an illegal war makes Watergate and the Monica
Lewinsky affair seem completely trivial by comparison. In a democratic
society Blair would stand no chance of surviving such a severe abuse of
power and people. Every single British and American soldier, and every
single Iraqi, who lost his or her life in the war died because Bush and
Blair lied. It is a cruel irony that they simultaneously betrayed us, our
troops and our democracy, while demanding that we rally to the "patriotic"

But this criminal farce represents only a tiny glimpse of a reality that is
generally hidden from public view. As Mark Curtis demonstrates so
convincingly in his book Web of Deceit, the gross immorality of British
foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and its support for
repressive governments in Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Turkey and Saudi
Arabia, means that: "Britain under New Labour is a systematic violator of
international law and ethical standards in its foreign policy - in effect,
an outlaw state. It is a key ally of some of the world's most repressive
regimes that is consistently condoning, and sometimes actively aiding, human
rights abuses."

Curtis highlights the unmentionable fact that Britain is "one of the world's
leading apologists for, and supporters of, state terrorism by allies
responsible for far more serious crimes than Al Qaida or other official
threats". (ibid., p.1)

In perhaps the book's most important section, "The Mass Production of
Ignorance", Curtis notes that "the media definition of 'objective' ... in
reality means working within the consensus among the elite". He adds,
expressing a view shared by the Media Lens editors:

"The liberal intelligentsia in Britain is in my view guilty of helping to
weave a collective web of deceit.. To read many mainstream commentators'
writings on Britain's role in the world is to enter a surreal, Kafkaesque
world where the reality is often the direct opposite of what is contended
and where the startling assumptions are frighteningly supportive of state
power." (ibid., p.4)

Straight news reporting, as opposed to comment pieces, might appear to
differ, constrained, as they are said to be, by the requirement that they be
'objective'. But the underlying assumptions of news reporting remain firmly
in line with the requirements of power. This may be as simple as echoing the
US-UK government view that escalating attacks on "coalition" troops in Iraq
are the work of "Saddam loyalists". The latter is not a neutral term, as is
clear when we substitute an alternative such as "anti-occupation forces".
The central facts: that our country has participated in an illegal war, now
in an illegal occupation, and is in breach of Geneva conventions designed to
safeguard the security and health of civilian populations, are passed over
in virtual silence.

Instead, the perspective of the occupying force is always dominant in the
framing of news reports. And so, just as the BBC and ITN casually echoed
fraudulent government claims of Iraqi "Scud missile attacks" during the war,
both are now busy describing how US forces are determined "to crush remnants
of the old regime" in Falluja (ITN Evening News, June 15, 2003).

Is it possible - in all the bloodshed, chaos, poverty and national
humiliation that is Iraq - that resistance might be rooted in some factor
other than blind devotion to the former dictator? As veteran Middle East
correspondent Robert Fisk argues, this perspective is literally unthinkable:

"If you were to suggest that it was a resistance movement, 'harakat
muqawama', 'resistance party' in Arabic, that would suggest the people
didn't believe they had been liberated, and of course, all  good-natured
peace loving people have to believe they were liberated by the Americans,
not occupied by them."

A recent online news headline stated the 'neutral' BBC view:

"US hunts down Saddam loyalists"
(13 June,

To the BBC's credit, after a challenge from Media Lens the headline was
changed (see below).

Fisk supplies some of the detail missing from the BBC's reports:

"But in fact, it is obviously an increase in the organized resistance and
not just people who were in Saddam's forces, who were in the Ba'ath Party or
the Saddam Fedayeen... There was also increasing anger among the Shiite
community, those who were of course most opposed to Saddam, and I think what
we're actually seeing, you can get clues in Iraq, is a cross fertilization.
Shiites who are disillusioned, who don't believe they have been liberated,
who spent so long in Iran, they don't like the Americans anyway. Sunni
Muslims who feel like they're threatened by the Shiites, former Saddam
acolytes who've lost their jobs and found that their money has stopped.
Kurds who are disaffected and are beginning to have contacts, and that of
course is the beginning of a real resistance movement and that's the great
danger for the Americans now." (Fisk, ibid)

The Mystery Of The Missing Quotation Marks

On the morning of 13 June we emailed Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of

Dear Richard,

The BBC news homepage currently (10.15am) has a breaking news item which
states: "US officials say their troops have killed 70 Iraqis in fierce
fighting against Saddam loyalists north of Baghdad."

Why has the BBC described the Iraqis here as "Saddam loyalists"?

I look forward to hearing from you within a few days, if possible, please.

Thank you.

Best wishes,

David Cromwell

Within minutes, Sambrook replied:

Dear David

The BBC has not described them as Saddam Loyalists -- US officials have as
we make clear.

"The senior US official running Iraq, Paul Bremer, has blamed continuing
attacks against US troops on organised resistance by Baath Party loyalists."

We are not there and are unable to offer independent verification so we
clearly attribute comments from those providing information.

Out of interest, if you disagree with that manner of reporting something
that we have not witnessed first hand, how would you do it?


We responded that same morning:

Dear Richard,

Many thanks for your swift response.

I realise that the description comes from US commanders: that's the point.
Why, then, does the home page headline not have the words "Saddam loyalists"
in quote marks? Why isn't there a note in the news story to the effect that
the BBC has not been able to verify what US commanders have stated. As you
said in your email to me: "We are not there and are unable to offer
independent verification".

The authoritative Independent correspondent Robert Fisk noted the following
in a radio interview with Amy Goodman on June 11:

"The Americans still officially call them the remnants of Saddam or
terrorists. But in fact, it is obviously an increase in the organized
resistance and not just people who were in Saddam's forces, who were in the
Ba'ath Party or the Saddam Fedayeen. "

( )

I hope that the BBC will reflect this in its reporting, otherwise members of
the public may conclude that BBC news reports are promoting the line taken
by US commanders and politicians.

Best wishes,


Again, Sambrook responded within minutes:


Three points

1.A good thought about inverted commas in the headline -- though frankly
anyone reading the item will be clear it is a US claim

2. There is I suppose a media literacy point. I think people understand that
when something is attributed we are simply reporting what someone else
says -- rather than endorsing it. You seem to disagree.

3. re the Robert Fisk quote, it's his judgement, which may well be right,
but not an established "fact". And aren't you assuming today's reported
fight reflects the Fisk view of resistance --  whereas in fact neither of us
yet know?


Sambrook thereby conceded the use of inverted commas around "Saddam
loyalists", reflecting that this description was indeed merely a US claim.
The BBC's home news page and webpage were swiftly updated. However, news
broadcasts throughout the day, including the main 10pm news bulletin on
BBC1, continued to present the phrase "forces loyal to Saddam Hussein" as
fact rather than as US-UK government opinion.

It is noteworthy that Sambrook claims: "I think people understand that when
something is attributed we are simply reporting what someone else says --
rather than endorsing it." This is disingenuous. Constant repetition of US
or UK government claims in news bulletins may not equate to explicit
endorsement, but it clearly constitutes a relentless barrage of one-sided
opinion that is bound to shape public perceptions. When a senior media
manager can say with complete sincerity, "we are simply reporting what
someone else says", it suggests that the media's versions of 'neutrality',
'objectivity' and 'balance' have been warped by an unconscious subordination
to power.

Unconscious Devotion To Propaganda

Thus, in the prelude to the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of
Iraq, a largely uncritical mass media has endlessly relayed US and UK
government rhetoric, distortions and lies, while consigning great chunks of
history and relevant context to Orwell's infamous 'memory hole'.

In his final reply above, Sambrook questions, quite reasonably, whether the
Fisk view - that continued Iraqi resistance extends beyond "Saddam
loyalists" - is an established "fact". However, Sambrook is responding to a
point that was not put to him. We challenged him to reflect a broad range of
views and interpretations of events in Iraq, rather than simply echoing the
official "coalition" view.

On 2 June, Sambrook responded to a Media Lens reader who had expressed his
deep concern about the lack of BBC news reports covering the continued chaos
in Iraq:

"The BBC is aware of the importance of continuing to report on conditions
facing the Iraqi people following the war.  For this reason, we have
recently carried on our main news programmes special film reports on the
breakdown in hospitals in Baghdad, fears of cholera in Basra, petrol
shortages and their consequences, the difficulties in re-forming the police
force, and the health hazards from open sewage in the streets of Baghdad.
The views of UNICEF on the plight of children in post-war Iraq were
discussed in the Ten O'Clock News  on 22 May.

We will continue to report on this situation across our programmes and on
our Interactive Services."

As we have noted in previous Media Alerts, Sambrook's willingness to engage
with points put to him by members of the public continues to put his
counterparts in other mainstream media outlets to shame - the latter having
responded with comments such as "cease sending me unsolicited emails" (ITN
news chief David Mannion, forwarded May 25, 2003), "That is pathetic"
(Guardian columnist David Aaronovitch, forwarded May 27, 2003) and "piss
off" and "get a life" (Observer foreign editor Peter Beaumont, Observer
online debate, June 12, 2003

Sambrook generally responds to challenges by citing a handful of news items
or current affairs programmes. However, the point is that these few examples
are drowned out by a deluge of news reports - the vast majority - that
reflect an elite US-UK representation of 'the news'. Repeated assertions
take the following form:

"We aim to be balanced, fair and honest with our viewers on all matters we
report on, both across our output and within individual reports."
(Forwarded, June 2, 2003)

Such a statement is contradicted by the heavy dominance of establishment
viewpoints, with the occasional dissenting position from within a narrow
spectrum, on BBC news bulletins and news programmes such as Panorama and
Newsnight, as we have documented time after time.

No wonder there is considerable public scepticism of 'news values' and a
turning away from mainstream political analysis. Ironically, Sambrook
himself noted in 2001:

"There is a new political divide: no longer 'left' and 'right'; it's now 'us
and them', with 'them' being politicians, the establishment and the
broadcasters and media."

Sambrook noted his concern at the prospect of losing large chunks of his

"Some 40 per cent of the audience feel they are outside looking in, offered
few real choices." ('As attitudes change, so must news programmes', Richard
Sambrook, speech to the Royal Television Society in London, The Independent,
December 5, 2001)

As we have written before, many people are so disappointed with, and
bewildered and disgusted by, mainstream media performance - in particular,
by its elite framework of news reporting, no matter how deceptive it is
shown to be - that they are now seeking out 'alternative' honest sources of
news and comment.


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for
others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to
maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to the BBC's director of news, Richard Sambrook.

Ask Richard Sambrook why the BBC gives so much prominence to the views of
US-UK officials, politicians and armed forces in its reporting of the
occupation of Iraq. Why is there so little independent analysis in major BBC
news bulletins and programmes of the claims, statements and fundamental
assumptions made by US-UK power? Where are the persistent, serious
challenges to US-UK establishment viewpoints? To what extent can Sambrook
defend his stated aim that the BBC is "balanced, fair and honest with our
viewers on all matters we report on, both across our output and within
individual reports"?

Feel free to respond to Media Lens alerts:


17th June 2003

Media Lens Alert: The Killing - ITN Returns To Baghdad

Moral Tourism And The Killing

It is an elementary truism that suffering caused by our own government
should be of far greater concern to us than suffering caused by other
governments. While we can do comparatively little to influence the actions
of foreign regimes, we have the power to elect our own government, to
protest its actions, and to hold it to account. The world is full of bad
people doing bad things but the one place where we can really make a
difference is here, at home, beginning with our own government's involvement
in the subordination of people to profit.

You would not know of the existence, much less the compelling logic, of this
moral truism from the performance of our mainstream media. They are only too
happy to ignore 'our' crimes while heaping invective on 'rogue states'
targeted by Bush and Blair.

So why, we sometimes ask journalists, does the media focus so intensively on
the crimes of 'rogue states' like Iraq and Iran? Because, they reply,
elected politicians have made them 'news'. Fair enough, but while it might
be news that our government is demonising some foreign power, to allow this
demonisation to go unchallenged - much less to vigorously participate in
it - is not news; it is propaganda.

A genuinely free and independent media would be fiercely sceptical of our
government's 'humanitarian concerns' abroad. It would challenge the claimed
motives, expose the breathtaking hypocrisy of our own record, and suggest
likely hidden agendas behind the rhetoric. It would frame all of this in a
realpolitik analysis of the political and economic forces that shape foreign
policy based on current knowledge and past experience (backed up by a wealth
of released government documents). As it is, while our media dismiss all
talk of morality in economics as 'naïve', they dismiss all talk of
realpolitik in foreign policy as 'conspiracy theorising'.

Our media should also, of course, be fiercely critical of the resort to mass
violence by our government. It should judge government by the highest
possible standards, demanding that it be able to justify, not just the use
of mass violence, but the level of violence used. The media should expect
our leaders to demonstrate that they have done everything in their power to
avoid violence, and to limit the suffering involved in its use, and through
management of the aftermath.

Why should the media be so harshly critical? Again, because this is the one
part of the world where a real difference can be made - everything else is a
kind of moral tourism, by comparison. To be harshly critical of other
governments but soft on our own is absurd and often deeply cynical.

On the BBC's 6 O'Clock News, despite everything that has recently happened,
Matt Frei said:

"There may be a case for regime change in Iran, too. But for now the Bush
administration is relying on change from within." (Frei, BBC1, June 16,

Astonishing words just days after the utter fraudulence of the case for
regime change in Iraq had finally been revealed. For the media nothing
changes, no lessons are learned, because the structure and influences that
shape media performance remain fundamentally the same. These are, quite
simply, "necessary illusions". If we allow the media to stay the same, if we
allow journalists like Frei to go unchallenged, people will continue to die
in countries like Iran in the same way. To stop the killing, we have to stop
media distortions from generating public support for the killing.

A Very Different Story

Consider, in the light of the moral truism discussed above, a recent report
by ITN's John Irvine reviewing the situation in post-war Iraq two months
after the end of the war. To the task of describing the results of a major
attack on a Third World country by a vast air armada and armoured ground
force two months on, ITN devoted 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Of these 270
seconds, 2 minutes were spent reviewing old footage of air strikes on
Baghdad, and of ITN reporters caught up in firefights. Irvine was then shown
laughing uproariously on his return to the burned out Ministry of
Information where ITN had been based during the war.

In the two and a half minutes remaining, no attempt was made to place the
devastation in Iraq in the emerging, ever more scandalous political
context - that the war was opposed by the vast majority of people and
nations around the world, that it was illegal, and that it was (as we now
know for certain) based on a collection of audacious lies. All war is
terrible, but a war that is completely unnecessary, that need never have
been fought at all, is an obscenity.

In an interview on ITN's Lunchtime News, Irvine discussed the report:

"I was worried about going back last week and what I would see. But in ways
I was pleasantly surprised - there are more and more shops opening up, there
are more and more markets. People in Baghdad are getting back to what they
know best - doing business. Lawlessness is of course a big problem; it's a
curse. But it's not the all consuming scourge it was a month or six weeks
ago - I think that's not the entire story." (Irvine, ITN, June 11, 2003)

Irvine's upbeat report was shown in full on ITN's Evening News. Anchor Mark
Austin explained that Irvine and his cameraman had returned to a city
normally associated with "chaos, confusion and anarchy; a city on it's
knees - that's what the outside world believes about Baghdad. But tonight
we've got a very different story to tell."

The implication that ITN has portrayed Baghdad in these terms is simply
false - many of the worst horrors have been mentioned in passing or not at
all. The focus has been on individual children transported to safety, and of
"coalition" officials getting to work to restore a blighted but "liberated"

Austin continued, saying of Irvine and his team:

"They found a city already recovering from decades under Saddam - a city
rising from the ashes of the 'shock and awe' campaign." (Austin, Evening
News, June 11, 2003)

While the reference to "decades under Saddam" conveniently absolved the West
of all responsibility for suffering caused by war and sanctions, talk of a
city "rising from the ashes" and of "a very different story", promised
much - viewers were being prepared for news of dramatic humanitarian and
democratic progress in Baghdad.

As it turned out, in the two and a half minutes spent reviewing progress in
Baghdad (no mention was made of the rest of Iraq) the "very different story"
involved Irvine describing how:

"This is indeed a city changing by the day - Baghdadis are getting back to
what they know best. Always resilient and resourceful they are doing
business again. Just three weeks ago this street was deserted apart from
looters... just look at it now."

Irvine noted that all kinds of curious items were for sale in the bustling
street indicated - photos of Saddam's sons, old bank notes. He interviewed
an ex-government media minder - presumably forgiven for his earlier sins,
but doubtless eager to please with his views on "the liberation". Irvine

"Do you think things are getting better in Baghdad?"

The man, Sadoun Abdul Wahab, replied:

"Yes, today is better than yesterday. And tomorrow we hope better than

Irvine continued:

"Many Iraqis are resentful about what Saddam put them through."

Again, no mention that Iraqis - in places like Falluja, for example - might
also harbour some small resentment towards the people who have twice smashed
their country to bits - exploding, on the first occasion, the equivalent of
seven Hiroshima-sized bombs - as well as killing more than one million
civilians through sanctions. As ever, the possibility that the West might be
responsible for vast crimes against the Iraqi people is unimaginable.

In a tea shop, Irvine then interviewed an old friend, Amir, "always a good
touchstone". Amir said:
"My freedom is so much mixed with bitterness. We are happy but not entirely
happy - we are bitterly happy."

No explanation was offered. Irvine's report moved to a clip in which his
team filmed nervous American soldiers taking aim at "a confused young man".
Irvine commented:

"But until the Iraqis can police themselves, these troops are the only ones
taking on the lawless who remain a scourge."

This scourge was presumably not the "all consuming scourge" that Irvine had
said no longer plagued Baghdad on the Lunchtime News. Irvine added:

"The old order is gone and, in the absence of a new one, there's an odd
sense of both chaos and of hope. The Iraqi people could be forgiven for
taking time adjusting to their new found freedom. After all, they are like
prisoners released after a 25-year incarceration. And while they don't
exactly miss their jailor, Saddam Hussein, they are finding it difficult
learning how to live without him."

Imagine the same words being said about a country under the occupation of
any other superpower in history. Beyond the media's filtered version of
reality, the US-led coalition plans to privatise the first of Iraq's 100 or
so state-owned firms within a year as it begins overhauling the centralised
economy without waiting for a new government. On June 12, Tim Carney, senior
adviser to the Iraqi ministry of industry and minerals, was reported as

"Privatisation is the right direction for 21st century Iraq."

Carney recognised the change could raise suspicions among Iraqis that their
national wealth was about to be sold off for the benefit of foreigners. Also
on June 12, UPI reported that American banks are competing for a lucrative
role in rebuilding Iraq's financial system. The Wall Street Journal reported
(June 12) that J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America
Corp. - three of the United States' top five banks - and several others had
recently conferred with Treasury Department officials on the issue. They
were said to be interested in helping the Iraqis build a modern retail
banking system as well as trade finance, payments and foreign-currency
exchange systems. No need to wait for elections when American big business
has decided that this is obviously best for Iraq.

Ambassador Paul Bremer, American administrator in Iraq, said of the Iraqi

"If they choose socialism, that will be their business. My guess is that's
not going to happen."

Meanwhile, Bremer has announced that all protests voicing opposition to the
American occupation are now forbidden. The idea that Iraq has won its
freedom is also made risible by the reality that four permanent US military
bases are being established to defend the US "liberation". ('US to keep
bases in Iraq', David Teather and Ian Traynor, The Guardian, April 21, 2003)

As though all of this were incidental, Irvine concluded:

"But despite all they have been through, the Iraqis are still a cheerful and
positive people - at long last the future is in their hands. And if they get
things right, it will be a golden one."

The report concluded with footage of Iraqis dancing happily in the street
and, finally, with a view of a golden sunset over Baghdad.

That, quite literally, describes the full extent of "the very different
story" allegedly emerging out of Baghdad. News anchor Katie Derham commented
on Irvine's report:

"Some better news there from Baghdad."

The sense of unreality was soon swamped by the stories that followed, but
not the propaganda impact. Talk of "very different" stories, of a city
"already recovering" and "rising from the ashes", and of "better news", all
gave the same highly upbeat, highly distorted message to viewers. And yet
the report itself presented almost nothing of substance to support these
claims - the two and a half minutes focusing on the state of Baghdad was
almost completely fact-free, with no attempt made to communicate the
authoritative opinions of independent aid agencies and UN officials who have
described post-war Iraq as "a catastrophe". Instead, an ex-government minder
and a man in a teashop were invited to give positive responses.

This was the level of the performance of one of our two main TV news
broadcasters in a rare review of the state of a country attacked by our
government in a highly unpopular, corrupt, and in fact criminal, action. We
might respond that however lamentable the performance, we are free not to
consume this product as we are with any other - ITN is offering a service,
and we can go elsewhere. But we cannot. In reality, the two main
broadcasters present news that is almost identically superficial, trivial
and servile to power - TV viewers have nowhere to go to find the truth about
the chaos that has overtaken post-war Iraq.

The effect of this propaganda should not be in doubt. Research by the US
Program on International Policy Attitudes Knowledge Networks (PIPA) reveals
that 41% of Americans polled said they believed that the US has found
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Steven Kull, director of PIPA,

"To some extent this misperception can be attributed to repeated headlines
that there has been a promising lead in the effort to find evidence of such
weapons' headlines that are not counterbalanced by prominent reporting that
these leads have not been fruitful. But there is also reason to believe that
this misperception may be unconsciously motivated, as the mistaken belief is
substantially greater among those who favored the war." ('Many Americans
Unaware WMD Have Not Been Found', June 9, 2003,

Earlier this year it was reported that fully 50 per cent of the US
population believed that Iraq had been responsible for the attack on the
World Trade Centre, despite the complete lack of evidence of a connection.
Immediately after the September 11 attack, the figure stood at about 3 per
cent. Government and media propaganda efforts had a remarkable impact,
mostly achieved through insinuation and unsubstantiated allegation.
Similarly, given the performance of ITN and the BBC, it would be no surprise
at all to find that a large percentage of the British public believe that
many of the worst problems in Iraq have now been solved.

We wrote to John Irvine (June 12) questioning his report and indicating a
few of the key facts omitted from it:

Dear John Irvine

On yesterday's ITN Lunchtime News, you said:

"I was worried about going back last week and what I would see. But in ways
I was pleasantly surprised."

I was really surprised that in your lunchtime interview, and in your Evening
News report, you made no mention of the fact that, in important ways, life
is actually much +worse+ now in post-war Iraq even than under Saddam
Hussein. For example, according to UNICEF, acute malnutrition among children
under five has doubled since February - 300,000 children are reported to be
facing death as a result. Why did you not mention these extraordinary
statistics? According to MSF recently, hospitals in Baghdad were functioning
at 20% of their capacity.

On the same day that your report was aired, IFRC published a report: 'Greasy
hands and hungry stomachs in Baghdad'. They related the plight of a father,
Ammar, and his young children:

"Ammar's son Salah enters the workshop and grasps the large, greasy hand of
his father. This hollow-cheeked six-year-old clearly knows what it means to
fall asleep on an empty stomach. 'The worst thing for a father,' says Ammar
in barely a whisper 'is to see your own children starving.'"

Why did you not reflect this reality of children going hungry in your

On June 8, UNICEF reported that in the past few weeks, doctors at hospitals
around Baghdad have said they are seeing an increase in cases of dysentery.
Typhoid is also being seen within the capital as well. The current worry
about typhoid is that prior to the war and the collapse of the health
system, there was rigorous surveillance of typhoid and other diseases that
affect children. Once a week reports would be sent to the Directorates of
Health around the country, and these would be compiled into reports for the
Ministry of Health. But now there is no surveillance, so confusion reigns.

On June 7, Fondation Suisse de Déminage reported: "Anti-personnel mines,
remains from 'cluster bombs' and other non-exploded ordnance and ammunition
kill and mutilate daily dozens of civilian Iraqis."

On June 5, Anne Morris, CARE emergency response director in Iraq reported
that 50 percent of the water in Iraq is not safe to drink:

"If proper monitoring, testing and prevention mechanisms are not quickly put
back in place, the breeding ground will spill over the brim of the cup. The
entire Iraqi population is at risk of a public health crisis. What is
happening in Iraq is an unusual crisis. There is no famine or acute outbreak
of disease. However, the significant layers of government are now gone. If
ministries are not soon reinstated, basic infrastructure will continue to
crumble and the Iraq people will suffer the consequences."

Children are at the highest risk. More than 126,000 babies have been born
since the war commenced - not one of them has received a tuberculosis
vaccination. All children under 5 are missing out on regular vaccinations.
Water and food borne diseases that were endemic to Iraq are growing to
epidemic proportions, CARE report. Hospitals around the country are
reporting cases of diarrhoea that are two, three and four times higher than
the seasonal average.

"Iraq was not a failed country before," said Morris. "Sick people could go
to hospital and be treated, and diseases endemic to Iraq were monitored
closely by the Ministry of Health. Now there's no monitoring or prevention
activities, and hospitals and clinics are running out of medical supplies."

On June 5, CARE quoted Dr. Hassan Faisal Lazim of Baghdad's Criminal
Medicine Department, who estimates that some 800 people have died violently
in Baghdad since the war ended and that 90 per cent of them have been
brought to his Department. Since weapons are easy to find, and since there
has been no judicial system since Saddam's regime collapsed, there are no
legal consequences. Lazim receives 15-25 bodies every day: "It is the duty
of the international forces to create security," Dr. Lazim says. "There is
no regime, no order. I am afraid to argue with any person on the street."

Although you mentioned that lawlessness was still "a scourge", your
reference to a bustling street free of looters surely failed to communicate
the ongoing horror of this situation.

Why did you not mention any of these readily available facts? It seems to me
that your report was unjustifiably positive and did not represent the
appalling failure of the occupying forces to secure the welfare of the Iraqi
people. I would be interested in any response.

Best wishes

David Edwards

Irvine has not replied.


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him why he failed to interview expert officials from the UN and aid
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Saddam regime and a man in a tea shop.

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