War Corrupts

by Councillor Salma Yaqoob, leader of the Respect Party

One aspect of the war in Afghanistan that really gets under my skin is its reportage. With a few notable exceptions it is rare to read real critical journalism in the mainstream media about our commitment to a war that is nearly a decade old yet much further from being won now than when it first started. Instead, what often passes for journalism is thinly disguised bias from embedded journalists.

Don’t get me wrong, there are human stories to be told about the lives and experiences of the occupying troops. Not only can such work be very dangerous, sometimes such close contact provides stories of real public value.

Just think of the revelations from the Rolling Stone journalist who got access to General McCrystal’s inner circle and their real thoughts about the war. But the Rolling Stone example is very much the exception to the rule. And interestingly, the journalist responsible for the coup, Michael Hastings, found himself subject to attack from fellow journalists for beaching so-called ‘ground rules’ of journalism.

Instead, much of the coverage from journalists in Afghanistan could as well come from NATO’s propaganda wing. You think that comment is a bit too strong? Just read this scorching critique from Seema Jilani. She paints a picture of adrenaline and booze fuelled journalists, embedded with diplomats in ex-pat bars, and detached from the lives of the Afghans who surround them. War corrupts. But not always in the most obvious ways.

3 comments on “War Corrupts

  1. David Ellis on said:

    Well said Salma. Of course as always the first casualty of war is truth and that is personified by those embedded, drunken, detached, corrupt `journalists’.

  2. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    The US establishment, esp. the military, appeared to believe they lost in Vietnam because they didn’t control the media enough (a myth). They and their allies in the UK and elsewhere have put a lot of effort into neutralising media if they can’t co-opt them as propaganda instruments.

    For example, in the South Atlantic War in 1982, there was a 3-week delay in TV images from the conflict zone reaching Britain. Supposedly this was because of the distance, but it was in fact to delay distressing images going out and to have more opportunity to control output.

    Then there was the Gulf War, which was presented as much as possible like a video game, with aircraft filming targets on the ground while attacking them. Then in the invasion of Iraq, carefully selected “embedded” journalists were cosseted, while “non-embedded” were not only not given co-operation but were at some risk of being killed by US troops.