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[Nettime-nl] Fisk over Al Jazeera
kees/ventana on Wed, 10 Oct 2001 00:27:02 +0200 (CEST)


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[Nettime-nl] Fisk over Al Jazeera



Hieronder de bijdrage van Robert Fisk uit the Independent van vandaag,
over pogingen om de tv-zender Al Jazeera te beknotten in naam van de
strijd voor de vrijheid. Even citeren:

" (...) And after insisting
that bin Laden is a "mindless terrorist'' - that there is no
connection between US policy in the Middle East and the crimes
against humanity in New York and Washington - the Americans need
to close down Al-Jazeera's coverage. Needless to say, this tomfoolery
by Colin Powell has not been given much coverage in the Western
media, who know that they do not have a single correspondent in
the Taliban area of Afghanistan."

Dat zegt dus niet een 'anti-media-activist' (whateverthatmaybe) maar de
gerenommeerde journalist Robert Fisk. Hij vertelt ook wat over andere
regimes die de tv-zender ook dolgraag de mond willen snoeren (wat in een
eerdere mail op nettime die ik alweer had gewist opgevoerd werd als
argument dat het wel goed zat, als ik het goed begrepen heb).

Kees
***********************

Subject: Robert Fisk: Lost in the rhetorical fog of war

2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

09 October 2001 11:14 GMT+1

'The Taliban have kept reporters out; does that mean we have to
balance this distorted picture with our own half-truths?'

A few months ago, my old friend Tom Friedman set off for the small
Gulf emirate of Qatar, from where, in one of his messianic columns
for The New York Times, he informed us that the tiny state's
Al-Jazeera satellite channel was a welcome sign that democracy
might be coming to the Middle East. Al-Jazeera had been upsetting
some of the local Arab dictators - President Mubarak of Egypt for
one - and Tom thought this a good idea. So do I. But hold everything.
The story is being rewritten. Last week, US Secretary of State
Colin Powell rapped the Emir of Qatar over the knuckles because -
so he claimed - Al-Jazeera was "inciting anti-Americanism''. So,
goodbye democracy. The Americans want the emir to close down the
channel's office in Kabul, which is scooping the world with tape
of the US bombardments and - more to the point - with televised
statements by Osama bin Laden. The most wanted man in the whole
world has been suggesting that he's angry about the deaths of Iraqi
children under sanctions, about the corruption of pro-western Arab
regimes, about Israel's attacks on the Palestinian territory, about
the need for US forces to leave the Middle East. And after insisting
that bin Laden is a "mindless terrorist'' - that there is no
connection between US policy in the Middle East and the crimes
against humanity in New York and Washington - the Americans need
to close down Al-Jazeera's coverage. Needless to say, this tomfoolery
by Colin Powell has not been given much coverage in the Western
media, who know that they do not have a single correspondent in
the Taliban area of Afghanistan.

Al-Jazeera does. But why are we journalists falling back on the
same sheep-like conformity that we adopted in the 1991 Gulf War
and the 1999 Kosovo war? For here we go again. The BBC was yesterday
broadcasting an American officer talking about the dangers of
"collateral damage'' - without the slightest hint of the immorality
of this phrase. Tony Blair boasts of Britain's involvement in the
US bombardment by talking about our "assets'', and by yesterday
morning the BBC were using the same soldier-speak. Is there some
kind of rhetorical fog that envelops us every time we bomb someone?
As usual, the first reports of the US missile attacks were covered
without the slightest suggestion that innocents were about to die
in the country we plan to "save''. Whether the Taliban are lying
or telling the truth about 30 dead in Kabul, do we reporters really
think that all our bombs fall on the guilty and not the innocent?
Do we think that all the food we are reported to be dropping is
going to fall around the innocent and not the Taliban? I am beginning
to wonder whether we have not convinced ourselves that wars - our
wars - are movies. The only Hollywood film ever made about Afghanistan
was a Rambo epic in which Sylvester Stallone taught the Afghan
mujahedin how to fight the Russian occupation, help to defeat Soviet
troops and won the admiration of an Afghan boy. Are the Americans,
I wonder, somehow trying to actualise the movie? But look at the
questions we're not asking. Back in 1991 we dumped the cost of the
Gulf War - billions of dollars of it - on Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
But the Saudis and Kuwaitis are not going to fund our bombing this
time round. So who's going to pay? When? How much will it cost us
- and I mean us? The first night of bombing cost, so we are told,
at least $2m, I suspect much more. Let us not ask how many Afghans
that would have fed - but do let's ask how much of our money is
going towards the war and how much towards humanitarian aid. Bin
Laden's propaganda is pretty basic. He films his own statements
and sends one of his henchmen off to the Al-Jazeera office in Kabul.
No vigorous questioning of course, just a sermon. So far we've not
seen any video clips of destroyed Taliban equipment, the ancient
Migs and even older Warsaw Pact tanks that have been rusting across
Afghanistan for years. Only a sequence of pictures - apparently
real - of bomb damage in a civilian area of Kabul. The Taliban have
kept reporters out. But does that mean we have to balance this
distorted picture with our own half-truths? So hard did a colleague
of mine try, in a radio interview the other day, to unlink the bin
Laden phenomenon from the West's baleful history in the Middle East
that he seriously suggested that the attacks were timed to fall on
the anniversary of the defeat of Muslim forces at the gates of
Vienna in 1683. Unfortunately, the Poles won their battle against
the Turks on 12, not 11, September. But when the terrifying details
of the hijacker Mohamed Atta's will were published last week, dated
April 1996, no one could think of any event that month that might
have propelled Atta to his murderous behaviour. Not the Israeli
bombardment of southern Lebanon, nor the Qana massacre by Israeli
artillery of 106 Lebanese civilians in a UN base, more than half
of them children. For that's what happened in April, 1996. No, of
course that slaughter is not excuse for the crimes against humanity
in the United States last month. But isn't it worth just a little
mention, just a tiny observation, that an Egyptian mass-murderer-to-be
wrote a will of chilling suicidal finality in the month when the
massacre in Lebanon enraged Arabs across the Middle East?

Instead of that, we're getting Second World War commentaries about
western military morale. On the BBC we had to listen to how it was
"a perfect moonless night for the air armada'' to bomb Afghanistan.
Pardon me? Are the Germans back at Cap Gris Nez? Are our fighter
squadrons back in the skies of Kent, fighting off the Dorniers and
Heinkels? Yesterday, we were told on one satellite channel of the
"air combat'' over Afghanistan. A lie, of course.

The Taliban had none of their ageing Migs aloft. There was no
combat. Of course, I know the moral question. After the atrocities
in New York, we can't "play fair" between the ruthless bin Laden
and the West; we can't make an equivalence between the mass-murderer's
innocence and the American and British forces who are trying to
destroy the Taliban. But that's not the point. It's our viewers
and readers we've got to "play fair" with. Must we, because of our
rage at the massacre of the innocents in America, because of our
desire to cowtow to the elderly "terrorism experts", must we lose
all our critical faculties? Why at least not tell us how these
"terrorism experts" came to be so expert? And what are their
connections with dubious intelligence services? In some cases, in
America, the men giving us their advice on screen are the very same
operatives who steered the CIA and the FBI into the greatest
intelligence failure in modern history: the inability to uncover
the plot, four years in the making, to destroy the lives of almost
6,000 people. President Bush says this is a war between good and
evil. You are either with us or against us. But that's exactly what
bin Laden says. Isn't it worth pointing this out and asking where
it leads?


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