Legacy of hatred - Patrick Cockburn - Thursday, April 28, 2011

Publication of pictures showing Iraqi prisoners being abused and humiliated by American soldiers was one of the crucial turning points in the war in Iraq. It showed that the US takeover of the country was as brutal and self-interested as most imperial occupations. For Iraqis and foreigners alike the photographs discredited the idea that the Americans were interested in bringing freedom and democracy.

It is worth looking at the grim aftermath of foreign intervention in Iraq as British, French and American involvement in Libya grows by the day. Both actions could be justified on humanitarian grounds. In Libya foreign powers are at the start of a process aimed at overthrowing an indigenous government, while in Iraq the shattering consequences of foreign intervention on the daily lives of people remain all too evident long after the foreign media has largely departed.

This is the weakness of journalism. It reports, and its consumers expect it to report, what is new. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which once seemed so shocking, has become old news and no longer relevant. A useful antidote to the preoccupations and narrow news agendas of the foreign media is the excellent Institute of War and Peace Reporting, which publishes stories from local journalists.

Iraq slipped off the international media map in 2008 just as Afghanistan had done in 2002, in both cases on the mistaken premise that the enemy was defeated and the war was over. From about 2009 news editors began to notice that the Taliban was back in business and the Afghan war was on again. Now it is once again disappearing from the headlines as there is a surge of journalists into Libya to cover a new war.

War has always been the meat and drink of international journalism. The same is true of home-grown violence. “If it bleeds it leads,” is the well-tried editors’ rule. But how well is war reporting being done as the Arab world is convulsed by uprisings against the police states that have ruled it for so long? Will it do better than it did during the conflict in Iraq?

A problem is that the causes, course and consequence of wars are vastly complicated, but the reporting of them is crudely simple minded. Saddam was once condemned as the source of all evil in Iraq just as Qaddafi is today demonised as an unrelenting tyrant. This picture fosters the lethally misleading belief that once the Satanic leader is removed everything will fall into place, and, whatever the failings of new leadership, it is bound to be better than what went before.

The reasons why so much of the media have headed for Libya rather than covering uprisings in Bahrain, Yemen or Syria are simple enough. There is a real war there and the US, Britain and France are involved in it. It is also easy to get access to Libya without being stopped at the border at a time when it is becoming difficult or impossible to get new visas to enter the other three Arab countries where there have been serious uprisings.

The exaggeration of the military strength of the rebels has led to a misunderstanding of the consequences of Nato involvement. President Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy started by claiming they were launching air strikes to defend civilians. This has since escalated into saying that the aim of the war is to get rid of Qaddafi.

When all this is over what will Libya look like? The country is gripped by civil war whatever the rebels may say and its legacy of hatred will take decades to disappear.

Courtesy: www.counterpunch.org

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=43932&Cat=9

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