Media puts spotlight on abuses, no light on occupation itself
Jenny Brown
May/June 2004

Why the sudden squeamishness on the part of the Bush Administration? They had not responded, except to deny, reports of unarmed demonstrators in Iraq being shot and killed by U.S. troops, reports of Iraqis being grabbed and disappeared for as many as 12 months, of Iraqi women being raped by U.S. troops and others in the lawlessness of the U.S. occupation, of U.S. bullets shot into ambulances, of whole families shot and incinerated at checkpoints by trigger-happy troops, of families including small children hancuffed and left overnight in house-wrecking raids that saw random neighbors hauled off into the night, of Iraqi towns locked down and surrounded by barbed wire and armed patrols, of farmers' orchards plowed under by U.S. troops blasting music as they destroy the life's work of many generations. And what about the hundreds, perhaps a thousand, estimated to have perished in the collective punishment attack and bombing of Fallujah?

Weren't the details sufficiently lurid for the CBS and Fox news when Tony Blair's human rights envoy confirmed reports that "U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey"? (Sue Leeman, AP, May 6, 2004)

There has been extensive documentation--yes, even photographs--of many of these war crimes, or their aftermath, circulated by the press abroad, and mostly ignored by the corporate-corralled press here.

And then there have been several rounds of allegations and reports of torture in the U.S.-run prisons, long denied, ignored, and covered up.

What about the demonstrations outside the prisons by families seeking their loved ones, also ignored by the U.S. mainstream press but reported elsewhere and in the U.S. independent media?

So why is the abuse in the prisons suddenly something Bush is apologizing for, senators are calling for Rumsfeld's resignation and NPR reporters are scampering along behind trying to determine whether 'abuse' or 'torture' is the appropriate term for what is seen in the few photographs?

For people in the U.S. on a steady diet of big business news, and for their gaggle of reporters and pundits who should have been paying better attention, the evidence of torture has come like a lightening bolt from a clear sky. How could this happen? they ask blankly. What a terrible abberation!

There is a danger that after a few mea culpas, resignations and courts martial the corporate media will promote the idea that the U.S.'s sins in Iraq have been expiated and they will go back to covering the occupation as usual--that is, telling us very little about it. Meanwhile, the war itself, which as an unprovoked attack rates as a crime against humanity; and the illegal and hated occupation following it, will be judged 'cleaned up.' We can't let the media get away with this.

We have many tools at our disposal. The first is the wide availability of journalism from other countries via the internet. The second is the independent media in the U.S., which is also now much of it available via the web. (See editor's note at right.)

And we can leverage that knowledge into pressure. The facade of the U.S. occupation is badly cracked, now it's time to pull down the whole house of lies. To do so we have to reach out to our fellow Americans who are getting such a distorted picture they can't imagine why the Iraqis want us out. Perhaps the best way to do this is by directly talking to friends, neighbors, co-workers and family about the war.

Another way is to bring pressure on the corporate media, to use the fact that the independent media is out there to expose and shame the "mainstream" news, which is doing more covering up than covering, more bedding down than embedding.

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