Media creates double standard in Iraq
November 17, 2006
A bloodied man is being dragged from the rubble that used to be his house by a group of relatives. There is a news camera crew there, which captures every moment. The cameras zoom in on the man, catching more than a glimpse of the carnage that is now his right leg. If he survives, the leg will most likely have to be amputated.
This man is from Iraq, and scenes like the one described often make it onto the most prominent Arab TV news network -- Aljazeera. Whenever there are civilian causalities in Iraq, they show the after-effects in a stunning, gruesome detail that would likely shock most American viewers.
We live in a country where there is freedom of the press. This means that American viewers should expect to receive as close to balanced coverage as possible.
This has not been the case with the news coverage in Iraq -- most of the time we are only hearing about when American troops get killed or maimed. This is a tragedy that definitely should not be ignored.
Yet on the other side of the spectrum, we hear little about the deaths of Iraqi civilians. A recent report from Aljazeera’s Web site, aljazeera.net, detailed how many Iraqi lives have been lost as a result of the civil war that broke out after the initial American invasion.
“Some observers believe that more than 100,000 people have died in the Iraqi civil war that began after the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein’s mainly Sunni government in 2003,” the reports said.
Statistics like this usually don’t make it onto the American evening news, or if they do they are often mentioned in passing. Most Americans acknowledge that there are non-American lives being lost in Iraq, but many people are not aware that hundreds of thousands have been killed.
The aforementioned 100,000 killed in the Iraqi civil war undoubtedly includes Sunni and Shiite insurgents who have been fighting each other, and thus, they should not be included in the civilian casualty data. The estimated number of innocent Iraqi bystanders who have been killed since the start of the war is sim- ply astounding though.
A article from The New York Times entitled, “U.N. Says Iraq Seals Data on the Civilian Toll” gives an estimate of just how many Iraqi civilians have been killed.
“A new report from a team of Iraqi and American researchers shows that more than 600,000 civilians have died in violence across Iraq since the 2003 American invasion," the article said.
This is a devastating number, and the figure is not the result of Arab propaganda, but rather from an accredited American news source -- The New York Times. Ask just about any average Joe walking down the street how many civilians have been killed in Iraq, and they most likely would grossly underestimate this number. On the other hand, ask them how man American troops have been killed in Iraq and they would probably guess around 3,000. These are assertions, but many people would agree that they are not unfair ones.
Some people might say that by presenting the figures of civilians killed in Iraq and showing the grotesque aftereffects of bombings, Aljazeera is just trying to incite anti-American sentiment in the region. The Bush administration labeled the news organization as “The mouthpiece of Osama Bin Laden.”
It is true that Aljazeera is usually the first news station to release any new video pertaining to Osama Bin Laden, but it is unfair to say that it is his mouthpiece. Aljazeera is an accredited news organization, and releases material that is believed to be important to the Arab people, as well as the world in general.
If our current administration is accusing Aljazeera of being a mouthpiece for Bin Laden, it wouldn’t be unfair to accuse our national media of being a mouthpiece for George W. Bush.
Derrick Knutson is a student at UW-River Falls.