Alberta Arab News
August 19, 2004
Eventually, al-Jazeera will be as commonplace on Canadian television as BBC or CNN. For this evolution to occur, the Jewish Lobby’s libel of “offensive content” against the Qatari satellite station must be exploded. In my last column, I showed how easy this is to do. Nevertheless, the Lobby and the spineless CRTC have for the moment chosen to deny Canadians access to honest coverage of the Middle East.
The issue is disinformation versus reporting. The Lobby cannot afford to have al-Jazeera report on Israel’s murder of Palestinians or the U.S.’s indiscriminate slaughter of Iraqis. Let’s not forget that the U.S. went after Saddam Hussein because Israel wanted to be rid of a staunch Palestinian ally—just ask Gen. Tommy Franks or Dick Cheney.
Now, the U.S. again finds itself massacring civilians in an endless imperial war it cannot win. In this perverse scenario, disinformation officer Brig.-Gen Mark Kimmitt must make murder and collective punishment appear justifiable, and if necessary lie outright to defend the occupation. (Hmm. That’s sound awfully familiar.)
Without this smokescreen the occupation would collapse, but al-Jazeera debunks this disinformation most effectively. Let’s examine its coverage of U.S. attacks on two Iraqi cities.
“Scenes of devastation dotted the town after fierce US attacks in which senior police and hospital officials said at least eight civilians were killed and dozens wounded. American troops [read: Kimmitt] said on Monday that 54 resistance fighters had been killed in clashes on Sunday. But our correspondent and other news agencies quoted hospital sources and Samarra residents as saying that the US fire killed eight people, all civilians.
“Samarra hospital accident and emergency department anaesthetist Bassam Ibrahim said ‘we received the bodies of eight civilians, including a woman and a child.’ Hospital director Abd Tawfiq said ‘more than 60 people wounded by gunfire and shrapnel from US rounds are being treated at the hospital.’
“The attacks on US troops were ‘coordinated’, and targeted two convoys transporting new Iraqi currency as part of an exchange scheme to replace old notes, said [Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Colonel Fredrick] Rudesheim. AFP correspondents saw a civilian bus completely burned out, 30 metres from the main entrance to the town’s hospital.”*
These are just the opening paragraphs, but you can see the professionalism and objective detachment in the story. Al-Jazeera, and produces credible evidence to debunk the official U.S. version and support its case that those killed were civilians. Toward the end of the article, we also read about some of those injured when a rocket hit the al-Shafi mosque: “Ali Abd Allah Amin, 12, who was being treated at the hospital with his five-year-old brother for wounds sustained in the mosque, said their father had been killed in the firing.”
Detailed corroboration of the al-Jazeera account comes from the BBC and reporter Phil Reeves of The Independent:
“Accounts of last week's battle differ, sometimes alarmingly. But on one issue, they have remained adamant: only eight people were killed in Samarra, although 55 were injured as the US army sprayed the place with gunfire…Evidence suggests that the victims were mostly civilians, not guerrillas, and that their numbers were far fewer than US officials have said. The US army is increasingly sensitive on the subject. Lt-Col. George Krivo angrily accosted The Independent on Wednesday. ‘I can tell you one thing—we trust our soldiers!’ he said, half-shouting.”†
Krivo’s outburst attests to the danger al-Jazeera poses to the U.S. It exposed the U.S.’s lie and all Krivo could do was bluster inanely.
For the record, CNN’s Dec. 2 coverage—and I use the term loosely—merely regurgitated the spoon-fed “world according to Kimmitt,” and didn’t mention the name of a single Iraqi casualty. It even said: “No reliable estimate of Iraqi deaths during the course of the conflict is available.”§
Given a choice between CNN and al-Jazeera, I’ll take al-Jazeera. I resent being lied to.
By April 12, more than 600 Iraqis and been killed and 1,000 injured in Fallujah during eight days of deadly bombardment—collective punishment for a March 31 ambush of a U.S. convoy. Lt.-Col. Brennan Byrne told USA Today that 95 percent of the dead were “military age males”—as if that made it all right—and that the fact that only 600 were killed attests to the marines’ precision in targeting insurgents. He did not mention that what the U.S. did was a war crime.**
For its part, al-Jazeera reported that U.S. helicopters and snipers fired on ambulances and civilian vehicles carrying the wounded to overcrowded clinics or the hospital. It also reported that trucks carrying aid, including medicine, food and water were barred from the city. It should know, since it has the only television crew in the city—cameramen Layf Muftaq and Hasan Walid, sound engineer Sayf al-Din and correspondent Hamid Hadid.††
Their reporting unnerved the U.S. so much that U.S. forces said they had to leave Fallujah before any steps were taken to end the siege. Of course, this reeks of cowardice, and attests to the power of al-Jazeera as an honest news source. Nothing proves this point better than this excerpt from islamonline.net.
“As Brig.-Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of U.S. military operations in Iraq, was speaking by phone on al-Jazeera and insisting that American forces declared a unilateral ceasefire in Fallujah, the channel was airing live images of continued air raids by F16 fighter jets on residential neighborhoods of the town.
“Kimmitt later dismissed the coverage of the channel for the crisis as a ‘series of lies.’ However, asked by al-Jazeera anchor about the live images, the U.S. commander said he was not accusing al-Jazeera of faking the images, but rather ‘looked at things differently.’
“He said the attacks by F16 fighter jets and helicopters were meant to take out ‘armed insurgents firing at our troops’. The anchor reminded Kimmitt, however, that ‘live coverage showed children and women killed by the missiles, not armed insurgents’.”§
Now the focus has turned to the city of Najaf, and the U.S. can’t afford to have the world watch as it commits another atrocity. Therefore, on Aug. 7, the U.S.-installed puppet government in Baghdad shut down al-Jazeera for one month claiming that it was “inciting violence,” and exploiting “freedom of the media.” The Lobby couldn’t have said it better.
* Nurah Tape, “US soldier dies as doubts grow over Samarra,” Aljazeera.net, Dec. 2, 2003.
† Phil Reeves, “A bloody victory or dangerous fantasy? The true story of the battle of Samarra,” The Independent, Dec. 6, 2003.
§ “No. 2 most-wanted Iraqi still at large, U.S. says,” CNN, Dec. 2, 2003.** “Fallujah death toll for week more than 600,” USA Today, April 11, 2004.
†† “Plea to Lift Siege as toll mounts,” Aljazeera.net, April 8, 2004. The pictures of dead children utterly debunk the U.S. claims.
§§ Mustafa Abdel-Halim, “U.S. Forces Want Al-Jazeera Out Of Fallujah,” islamonline.net, April 9, 2004.