:: Thursday, March 27, 2003 ::

The 'Net and the Fog of War

I have begun to think there is little point turning to the mainstream media for accurate or timely news regarding the war against Iraq. Unsurprisingly the 'coalition' forces are trying to use the media as a propaganda arm. They are bitterly critical of journalists who don't tow the line, and doubtless threaten to remove their credentials. Just this morning some old-Etonian officer was cursing al-Jazeera for showing dead coalition forces. Well, they are just reporting the facts. But not necessarily the facts the coalition want to be reported.

The tactic of using plain lies will backfire on the coalition, as people cease to believe what they are told. We have been told Saddam is dead, a whole Iraqi division has surrendered, Tariq Aziz has been shot, various towns have been captured, Basra is in revolt etc.

Within a few days most of these have been proved false or exaggerated or distorted. The control of the 'embedded' journalists by the armed forces seems total. Days go by with no reports from some zones. Journalists reports say 'there was a loud bang in the distance and we think this means blah blah'.

We are being lied to repeatedly. I am not surprised the army do this, after all their job is just to win the war. I am surprised at the journalists who go along with it.

Take Basra for example and lets just try to establish the facts, leaving opinions of Saddam and the coalition to one side. The UK newspapers loved the 'uprising' story and splashed headlines like 'liberators' all over the front pages. The TV pretty much went along with it despite having no word but that of the military.

A day later and al-Jazeera and Iranian sources were saying it was untrue. There had been some food riots caused by the siege. The Iranian sources were supporters of the opposition to Saddam in Basra itself. Even Blair and the Ministry of Defence started to backtrack.

Turn to this supposedly Russian intelligence site http://www.aeronautics.ru/ and you are told:

"Near Basra the British forces in essence are laying a Middle Ages-style siege of a city with the population of two million. Artillery fire has destroyed most of the city's life-supporting infrastructure and artillery is used continuously against the positions of the defending units. The main goal of the British is two maintain a strict blockade of Basra. Their command is confident that the situation in the city can be destabilized and lack of food, electricity and water will prompt the local population to cause the surrender of the defending forces. Analysts point out that capture of Basra is viewed by the coalition command as being exceptionally important and as a model for the future "bloodless" takeover of Baghdad.

So far, however, this approach does not work and the city's garrison is actively defending its territory. Just during the past night at least three British soldiers were killed and eight more were wounded in the exchange of fire [near Basra]."

Now, the GRU having a web site and sharing their intel with the world makes little sense to me. The site may be an ex-GRU guy and a couple of smart journalists who are guessing as much as anybody else. It could even be a trick from Western intelligence agencies, who knows? But the info coming from sites like this actually seem more trustworthy than the BBC, or at least more up to date.

A culture of samizdat information websites is emerging on the web. This site http://www.agonist.org/ just collates info from different news sources including Arab satellite TV etc. It is now getting two million hits a day as people look for reliable information instead of the obvious propoganda that we are being fed.

Bizzarely I find the news services of China and Iran more reliable than the 'free' press.

Al-Jazeera launched an English language website on Monday - http://english.aljazeera.net/. It was so popular the servers couldn't cope and it has been down for the past couple of days. They deny that hackers were responsible. Al-Jazeera TV says subscriptions have increased by 10%, and it's all in Arabic. There is another site cashing in on the Al Jazeerah name at http://www.aljazeerah.info/ but it has no connection with the TV station, although it's quite a useful site.

The web has once again proved the old maxim 'information wants to be free'.

:: Alister | 11:48 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


Post a Comment

This is an archived story. See current posts here!