Five in Iraq: Newspapers around the world can’t agree

The United States has been in Iraq for five years. Many areas of the world hold regional biases of the United States and its foreign policy, made evident by word use in regional newspaper articles. An introspective look at newspapers from around the globe reveals opposing views to America’s war on terror. Below is an attempt to see how multiple, international sources report the same event and disseminate any inherent bias.

The source of this story came from the White House Web site. The site covered President George W. Bush’s speech on the accomplishments of the coalition forces in Iraq. Bush states,

“Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision — and this is a fight America can and must win.”

In this press release, Bush covers the high points of Operation Freedom: the liberation of Iraq and the capture of Hussein. Interestingly, Bush then tried to tie 9/11 and Afghanistan into the reason the United States armed forces entered the Middle East. This propaganda tactic, known as contextualization, tries to get the American people to associate the terrorist attack of 9/11 and Bin Laden with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Bush then switches to an emotional appeal by using examples of heroic injured service men getting back into action. Bush’s Web site did not focus on the negative aspects of the Iraqi quagmire; instead the site reiterated the accomplishments of the coalition soldiers in the Middle East. These omissions could be considered a type of media propaganda. Bush does not want to look bad, so he avoids talking about the problems in Iraq.

DeYoung’s Washington Post story states that the troop surge of last year helped stabilize the region, but the Iraqi people need more help. The article juxtaposes the anticipated results to today’s reality. DeYoung points out that the 2003 Bush administration expected the Iraqi people to embrace their liberators and the transition to a new Iraqi democracy would only take a short time. Five trillion dollars later, the 2008 Bush administration admits it hasn’t been easy in Iraq. The article reports Bush still claims the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. The money, troop death toll, and lack of tangible progress were all key points of the article; all of these are items of great concern to U.S. citizens. None of the other articles reported on these facts.

The Al Jazeera article on five years of U.S. involvement in Iraq did not portray the American presence as positively as the Washington Post. The article focuses on the postponement of troop withdrawal and America’s relationship with Iran. One of the more interesting lines from the articles says, “General Petraeus, due to testify before Congress in April on the so-called surge and possible troop cuts….” This article clearly shows a bias against United States’ by using language like “so-called” in several instances. Al Jazeera clearly stands against the actions of the United States.

The U.K.-based Guardian also reported U.S. troops would be delayed in returning home. This article stated the troop recall would be postponed to ensure regional stability. The Guardian seemed to support the decision, likely due to the fact that the United Kingdom plays an active role in the coalition of troops in Iraq and has been an ally of the United States for a very long time.

Lebanon’s Daily Star gave an extremely negative report on the United States’ occupation of Iraq. Like Al-Jazeera, the Daily Star clearly holds the United States in contempt. The opening sentence of the Daily Star article says, “It is depressing but not surprising that almost exactly five years after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the dissolution of the Baathist-led regime and state, we now witness just about every conceivable possible party fighting one another in Basra, Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.” Calling the U.S. and U.K. troops in Iraq an “Anglo-American invasion” leads me to believe this paper did not like Hussein being deposed as the president of Iraq. This article then discusses the threat the United States poses to countries it does not like, going as far as to say that Lebanon should be concerned.

I find it interesting that Middle Eastern news agencies are such harsh critics of the United States. I question the journalistic integrity of these papers for writing such biased material. I understand unbiased reporting is not possible, but these newspapers almost incite their readers into an armed revolution. Would the situation in Iraq be different if the United States had the approval of these foreign news agencies?

Studies on the influence of news show that newspapers reports on anticipated riots actually increase the chance a riot will occur. Could Middle-Eastern news reports of negative American actions cause a similar situation in Iraq? If the Daily Star stopped reporting America’s presence in Iraq as an invasion and started reporting on the positive aspects of the troop garrisons, would the behavior and attitude of the Lebanese people toward America change? Would Americans think differently of Islamic countries if our papers did not portray all Muslims as terrorists?

The varied coverage of the same story shows just how difficult it is to report news without bias. I think that everyone should look to several international sources of news to get a better idea of what is happening in the world. It is clear that one regional source does not have the ability to cover international news in the context of the region’s inhabitants. The next time you read an article about an Islamic nation, take note of the language used by the reporter. Whether words reporters choose are done so subconsciously or maliciously, you’ll be surprised by what you read.

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