March 30, 2006

Losing Reception

If GDub thinks he’s having trouble with Iraqi images on U.S. TV, he seems to overlook the bigger issue of what the Iraqi’s are watching.

With our military superiority largely mitigated by political turmoil, we have become enveloped in a massive perceptual battle — on radically unfamiliar and increasingly adversarial turf.  Only magnifying the problem is the fact that the Gulf, in the past two years (and especially in post-Saddam Iraq), has experienced an explosion of autonomous TV news.

The LAT (which I believe has been far superior to the NYT in its Iraqi coverage lately) had a good summary piece (Unfair, Unbalanced Channels) on Tuesday on the Iraqi news networks.  Just as the country is partitioning along factional lines, so, too, are the increasingly popular TV organizations.  Although the U.S. was catching no break from the Sunni-oriented Baghdad TV, the Shiite-run Al Furat and the government sponsored Al Iraqiya (recently turned over by the U.S.) are now taking a progressively fundamental Shia line — and whipping the U.S. with it.

On Sunday, two days before the LAT piece appeared, an incident took place in Baghdad that was one of the most confusing I’ve read about.  According to religious officials, U.S. and Iraqi army forces stormed the Mustafa mosque in Northern Baghdad and killed 16 Shiites alleged to be worshipping.

According to U.S. military spokespeople, however, the Mustafa mosque was actually six blocks away.  Rather, the U.S. claims it attacked an insurgent compound inside a community center which was being used as a base for weapons storage and the staging of terror strikes.  The location had allegedly been under surveillance for a month.  The military claims that hostilities only broke out when they were aggressively attacked, and that all but one of the insurgents were killed by Iraqi forces.  The military insists that the televised scene of the so-called massacre, depicting unarmed bodies and scattered Korans, had to have been staged.

At this point, the military can claim and clarify all they want.  However, about the only thing the Iraqis are going to see are dead worshipers (placed or not); used bullet shells from the scene (of a type only used by Americans); more scenes of American soldiers kicking in people’s front doors; and maybe a shot or two of a U.S. general preaching to the choir when the U.S. Senators come to town.

(image 1: Reuters.  March 26, 2006.  Sadr City, Baghdad. Via;  image 2: AP,  March 26, 2006.  Associated Press Television News. Via YahooNews; image 3: AFP/David Furst.  Ramadi, Iraq.  March 26, 2005.  Via YahooNews; image 4: Mohammed Hato/AFP/POOL/File.  Baghdad. March 4, 2004. Via YahooNews.)

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Michael Shaw
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