Photo © Guardian News and Media
On Tuesday, coalition forces entered the center of Baghdad to find a jubilant crowd of Iraqi citizens trying in vain to pull down a metal statue of Saddam that had been commissioned to commemorate his 65th birthday.
Unveiled less than a year ago, the statue was eventually pulled down with the help of a US tank. The cheering crowd pulled the disembodied metal head around the streets of the capital, spitting on it, and, what I remember to be an ultimate insult in Arabic countries, hitting it with the soles of their shoes. The liberating US soldiers were cheered, given flowers, hugged, and praised by the Iraqi people.
I’m hoping that the local reaction was real and heartfelt, not for the benefit of the incoming, conquering troops or the press. It seemed genuine, and I was very happy to hear reports of Iraqi-Americans both discount non-liberation reasons for the invasion and provide full support for the troops.
On the other hand, I listened to an American citizen on the radio today that had served as a volunteer human shield in front of a water treatment plant in Baghdad. She droned on about how the Bush administration had wrongly presented the Iraqi people as the enemy, and how well she has gotten to know them as a wonderful people. I, too, have no quarrel with the people of Iraq. What angered me in this case was the false premise for her argument; the administration has always focused on the removal of the regime — in support of and in the name of the people — other more pronounced reasons aside. Iraqis were never posed as the enemy.
War is not always the best answer, but good will hopefully and eventually come of this once the war is completely over. Then will come the daunting task of rebuilding and stabilizing the region, a task I believe the United States working alone will fail.
A recent visitor from the UK cited a BBC study that showed that the four main networks in the United States (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) covered only two or three non-American news stories each month. Even those had an American interest. The reader then posed the question as whether the study seemed correct. While I personally felt that that was certainly the case, I thought I’d do a bit of unofficial, unscientific surveying of my own, not just on the four networks. And I came to similar abysmal conclusions.
Now, perhaps my timing could be better, as international news is currently dominated and eclipsed by the War in Iraq — conflict, invasion, exercise, liberation, action, whatever you want to call it — and seconded by the recent manifestation of SARS, but there is very little to glean on other worldly events.
The major networks covered only Iraq and SARS. CNN’s coverage of the world in my Palm Pilot includes only the brief news of 950 civilians killed in a massacre by unknown perpetrators in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nothing more. The CNN International Edition included news of a Russian school fire that resulted in the deaths of 21 students and one teacher, as well as reporting financial difficulties of EasyJet, Europe’s biggest budget airline, and report of an Indian MiG-21 fighter plane crashing into a milk processing plant.
The BBC News, also on my Palm Pilot, did surprisingly worse, covering nothing but the War in Iraq. The London Times covered the same events as CNN and CNN International, but also included the jailing of two Cuban dissidents and the arrest of a spokesman for Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change. The Sydney Morning Herald also focused on the Iraqi War, mentioning in additional only that gorillas and chimpanzees in west Africa were dwindling due to outbreaks of the Ebola virus.
Perhaps print news had better world coverage. I checked the San Jose Mercury News for any signs of international news. A story on a missing dolphin was quite interesting, but even that was related to the Iraqi War as the Atlantic bluenose dolphin in question worked for the US Navy as a minesweeper. On I went. War. War. Turn the page. War. War. War. Turn the page. War. SARS. War. The last piece of international news was the unfortunate tale of three Kenyans who died trying to rescue a woman’s cell phone. Not rescue the woman, just her phone. The bodies turned up four hours later; the cell phone never did.
Apparently, the only international news that’s fit to print nowadays is calamity and tragedy, and the only viable alternative to traditional news outlets is Public Radio International on National Public Radio, the most-frequently tuned station in my car that often gives a more personal perspective to the world.