Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Iraq: The Media is Misleading the World

Iraq: The Media is Misleading the World
By Rick Sackett

Many times in the last year my wife and I have sat with friends in Iraq who told us that the hooded terrorists whom CNN, the BBC, and Al Jazeera were interviewing and passing off to the world as representing the sentiments of the Iraqi people, were not from Iraq at all, but from Yemen, Egypt, Saudi, or somewhere else outside the country, but were definitely not from Iraq. How do they know? The same way we know if someone is from Boston or Texas. Accents. Yet CNN and the BBC make these international terrorists appear to represent the will of the Iraqi people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nevertheless because CNN and Co. have told this lie loud enough and long enough, people around the world now believe them and have a negative view of the Coalition led invasion of Iraq. The media has skillfully misled the world into thinking Iraqis are against America and people the world over have become discouraged and disheartened by believing their lie. Was this a calculated ploy by the media? Why has the media done this? This is a good question because the truth as we know it from having lived in Iraq over the past year is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are very grateful to the United States for liberating them.

Consequently, since arriving back in the United States my wife and I have been standing up in restaurants, cafeterias, and airport waiting rooms to let people know that things in Iraq are not the way they are being portrayed by the international media. And what we are finding is that the American people are eager to know the truth about what has happened in Iraq and sense they are not getting the true story through the media. Invariably as my wife and I stand up to speak in Denny’s, or Applebee’s, or McDonalds, the restaurant grows quiet when they hear we have been working in Iraq. Then a minute later the restaurant breaks into applause as they hear us tell them the truth that the Iraqi people are grateful to the United States for coming and delivering them from Saddam Hussein. We then share how we have worked closely with the U.S. Military in the last year and have watched the U.S. Army conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion, exhibiting patience, kindness and sensitivity to the Iraqi people. The truth is we can all be proud of the U.S. forces. Once again the restaurant breaks into applause.

After living for a year in Iraq, directing a non-government organization rebuilding schools, drilling water wells, providing computers to schools, and writing articles in Iraqi newspapers, it has been a privilege to travel across the U.S. sharing the story that the media does not tell. What story is this? An example would be that we have not found one person here in the U.S. who has heard about the town meetings that have taken place all across Iraq preparing the Iraqi people to take over their own country. These town hall meetings have been carried out by the efforts of the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, under Paul Bremer. I have watched this group of dedicated American civilians work tirelessly teaching the Iraqi’s about democracy, how to select a candidate, what to look for in a candidate, how to have an election, etc. As a result there have now been elections in every major city in Iraq! This did not just happen by itself but from the hard work done by these superb people from the U.S. State Department. WHY HAS AMERICA NOT HEARD ABOUT ALL OF THIS WORK? These town hall meetings are the backbone of a democracy and what the transfer of power over to the Iraqis is all about, and yet the world has heard nothing about them. A tremendous amount of training from these U.S. civilians has taken place with mayors and citizens all over Iraq, and yet as we have traveled around the United States, we have found absolutely no one here in the United States who has heard of these meetings and the preparation that has taken place through them. This non reporting of the many good things that have been happening on a daily basis is a distortion of the real situation in Iraq for which the media is undeniably responsible. There are 25 million people in Iraq and yet the media has continually focused on the 25 thousand who were part of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, or his Fedeyeen, or the ex Bath party members who are obviously against the United States and the success of a new Iraq. Why has the media primarily given these people, many of them terrorists, a platform to address the world as if they represented the Iraqi people? This has been a gross misrepresentation of the truth by the international media.

This war in Iraq might have been over 10 months ago if those trying to bring freedom to Iraq had not had to overcome the efforts of the media as well as the terrorists. As it is, the media has encouraged the insurgents and has undermined the Coalition at every turn. They have done nothing to encourage the Iraqi people to take ownership and responsibility for their country, but have done everything they could to prolong the war. As a result thousands of Iraqi and American troops and civilians have died who did not have to die. Obviously the United States has been doing everything it could to bring the violence in Iraq to an end, but the media has done everything it could to keep it going. Here lies a tragedy the world does not know.

A year ago a British scientist who was at the center of the controversy about Iraq being able to deliver WMD in 45 minutes committed suicide, causing a huge investigation into his death known as the Lord Hutton Inquiry. For the three weeks leading up to the verdict, CNN and the BBC built the story up on air and on their websites that this would be the most difficult week in the life of Tony Blair, indicating they were going to make the follow up reporting to the verdict extremely hard for Mr. Blair to overcome. But when Lord Hutton and his committee gave their report it went just the opposite as to what the media was expecting as Lord Hutton totally exonerated the British government of any wrong doing and found the BBC guilty of having misled the nation. Remarkable, yet as could be expected, instead of follow up reporting, this new development was deemed no longer newsworthy, and just six hours after CNN and the BBC’s having to report the verdict, the story was no longer on their websites. Again the media has used this kind of distorted misrepresentation of events to mislead the world. For three weeks they completely filled Europe, Asia, Africa, and as much of America as they could with the notion that the British government was covering up the truth when it was actually the media themselves who were guilty. But CNN and the BBC are very aware of the psychological damage they were able to impose on the world during this time with the resulting negative attitude towards Tony Blair and George Bush, even though the media themselves were the ones in the wrong.

So what is the truth? Am I telling you the truth when I say the vast majority of Iraqi people are thankful to the United States? Recently I met with a reporter at Applebee’s restaurant. As we started the interview I decided rather than tell her what I was doing, that I would just show her, and so I stood up as I had done many other times in the last month and asked for the diner’s attention. When the people heard that I had been in Iraq the restaurant grew quiet, but forty-five seconds later broke into applause at the brief message I had brought them. As you can imagine the ensuing interview was quite animated and for the next hour diners dropped by with words of appreciation for what I had said. In the course of our conversation something happened that should give us all hope and a little more insight into what is the truth about the situation in Iraq. I told the reporter, “The most interesting thing that I have found is that everywhere I go and speak, people come up and tell me that their cousin in Iraq (or whoever they might know in Iraq) is telling them the very same thing that I am saying.” Two minutes later a woman came over to our table and said, “You know my cousin in Iraq…” The interview appeared on the front page of the paper the next day. Take heart America. The truth will set you free.

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