Book Excerpt—Global Media Go to War: The Role of News & Entertainment Media During the 2003 Iraq War

Global Media Go to War is a collection of essays devoted to coverage of the Iraq War, to be published by Marquette Books in August 2004. TBS has selected the chapters for their relevance to transnational broadcasting to and from the Arab World and the editor, Ralph D. Berenger, provides the following original introduction.

By Ralph D. Berenger, TBS contributing editor

 

In every war journalists risk their lives to bring us unofficial
perspectives on news events. In Afghanistan, for example, casualties among journalists outnumbered those of coalition forces in the first month of fighting. In Iraq, where the frontline was often uncertain, and the dangers often disguised, journalists continued the tradition of going where the action was.
But this war was different. Often the action came looking for journalists.

The following list of news reporters, cameramen, and freelance writers who died in the line of duty was compiled by Abdullah Al-Kindi and Ralph Berenger:

Journalists killed in the 2003 Iraq war

Terry Lloyd, British ITV News, disappeared near Al-Zubayr then declared dead March 22, 2003.
Paul Moran, freelance Australian, killed March 22, 2003at a checkpoint when car bomb went off near Gerdigo in northern Iraq.
Gaby Rado, correspondent for Britain's Channel 4 TV, fell to his death March 30, 2003 from the roof of his hotel in Sulaymania in northern Iraq.
Kaveh Golestan, embedded freelance cameraman for BBC, killed April 2, 2003, after stepping on land mine near Kifri in northern Iraq.
Michael Kelly, Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post, killed April 3, 2003, while travelling with infantry division outside of Baghdad
David Bloom, NBC correspondent, died April 6, 2003, due to illness.
Kamaran Abd al-Razaq Muhammad, translator working for BBC, killed in missile attack April 6, 2003, in northern Iraq by "friendly fire."
Christian Liebig, reporter for German magazine Focus, killed in missile attack April 7, 2003, outside Baghdad while travelling with U.S. military.
Julio Anguita Parrado, El Mundo correspondent, killed April 7, 2003, outside Baghdad while travelling with U.S. military.
Tareq Ayoub, Al-Jazeera correspondent, killed April 8, 2003, during attack on Al-Jazeera's office in Baghdad.
José Couso, cameraman for Spain's Telecinco, killed April 8, 2003, when U.S. shelled Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.
Taras Protsyuk, Reuters cameraman, killed April 8, 2003 when U.S. shelled Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.
Mario Podesta, , correspondent for Argentina's America TV, died April 15, 2003, in a car crash while travelling to Baghdad from the Jordanian border.
Veronica Cabrera, freelance camerawoman for Argentina's America TV, died April 15, 2003, in a car crash while travelling to Baghdad from the Jordanian border.
Elizabeth Neuffer, foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe; died May 9, 2003, in a car accident in Iraq.
Walid Khalifa Hassan Al-Dulami, translator accompanying foreign correspondent for Boston Globe; died May 9, 2003, in a car accident in Iraq.
Richard Wild, British freelance cameraman, killed July 5, 2003, in central Baghdad.
Jeremy Little, Austrian journalist with NBC News, died of post-operative complications July 6, 2003, days after grenade attack in Fallujah
Mazen Dana, Palestinian cameraman with Reuters, killed August 18, 2003, while filming outside Baghdad's Abu Gharaib prison.
Mark Fineman, Los Angeles Times correspondent in Baghdad; died September 23, 2003, of an apparent heart attack while waiting for an interview in the office of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).
Ahmed Shawkat,editor of weekly Bila Ittijah (Without Direction), killed by gunmen October 28, 2003, in Mosul
Duraid Isa Muhammad, producer and translator for CNN, killed January 27, 2004, in an ambush outside of Baghdad.
Ali Abdul Aziz, cameraman for Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel; killed by U.S. troops March 18, 2004, in central Baghdad.
Ali al-Khatib, journalist for Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel; killed by U.S. troops March 18, 2004, in central Baghdad.

No other war has been as extensively reported as was the 2003 Iraq War.

Through mixtures of new and old media professional and amateur journalists told the story of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime's fall after nearly a generation of iron-fisted rule. Thanks to the Internet, more "reporters" and "commentators" than ever examined, analyzed, praised, lambasted, speculated about or criticized every byte of information, every pixel of image, and every thread of uploaded commentary about global media behavior.

The short Iraq war was an artifact of its time. Communication satellites. The 24-hour news cycle. A polarized world still trying to make some sense of the events of September 11, 2001 (and America's rage about it). The near Delphic predictions of a "Clash of Civilizations." And, most importantly, transnational media parity for Western and Middle Eastern audiences during an event that affected them both. All was fertile ground for media researchers who looked not only at the messages and messengers but the effect they had on audiences.

Global Media Go to War was conceived before the first shots echoed across the wind-swept Iraqi desert in March 2003. From the start, only one title summed up what was happening: global news media were at war—not only by reporting an international conflict with global significance but with themselves in a battle for audience acceptance, with their newsroom cultures that often mediated news from the frontlines to fit editorial pre-conceptions, with general and academic critics on all sides, and with the very people they were trying to cover, at times with lethal consequences.

Covering a war, even a high-tech one, is dangerous duty. Elevated media risks in this war involved a variety of bifurcated side issues such as religious misunderstandings; diverse, disputed, and dysfunctional political ideologies; social, economic, and ethnic inequities; differing cultural norms and values; and a rock-ribbed, regional cynicism that nothing halal (1) could possibly come out of the West thus dooming before they could start in post-war Iraq any liberal democratic changes, including a free press and elections. The battle for Arab hearts and minds was over before the first shot was fired.

From its inception, what the war was called was problematical. Was it, as Arab broadcasters said, "The War on Iraq," "The Aggression on Iraq," "The Anglo-American War on Iraq," "The US Attack on Iraq," or was it "Gulf War III?" For Americans the latter designation, though accurate, was confusing. While Western media were apt to report the conflict as "Gulf War II," that name reflected a particular ethnocentrism for Arabs. They still remember the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980's as "Gulf War I," perhaps choosing to forget that both the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel were also Gulf wars in that Persian Gulf nations lined up against Israel with the others in the region.

At any rate, since no Arab country openly supported the 2003 war (as they had, however unenthusiastically, that of 1991), use of the Gulf War designation here seemed inaccurate since it was not a regional conflict, and the "US/UK-Iraq War" appeared unwieldy. A more neutral "2003 Iraq War" emerged as the top contender since it clearly differentiates the previous conflict by year.
Players in this war were more-grizzled replicates of the 1991 Iraq War: another George Bush was in office (he had advised his father in 1991). Back were Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and a host of Gulf War policy veterans whose names may never be made public. After a dozen inter-war years, junior officers on both sides during the first Iraq war were now senior officers in this one.
Of course, Saddam Hussein was back and so was the eloquent Iraqi spokesman, Tariq Aziz, but in a less visible capacity. Early in the war names and faces of the Baathist regime leaders would become more familiar to the public than in the past war, thanks to a Pentagon gimmick: decks of playing cards that entrepreneurs quickly marketed over the Internet as war memorabilia. The press, too, had stars reprising roles, some with different networks: Christiane Amanpour was still with CNN doing field reports as an embedded reporter; Robert Fisk for the Independent and John Simpson for BCC covered the war in-country; John Burns was still with the New York Times, reporting from Baghdad; Peter Arnette, the slightly tarnished yet venerable media hero of the 1991 Iraq War, proved to be as controversial with NBC, who fired him, as he was with CNN, who had also fired him; and all the major American news anchors still around after the 1991 war -ABC's Peter Jennings, CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Tom Brokaw-made pilgrimages to Iraq at one time or another. But there were new media players as well, many of them from the Middle East.

Even before the first invading/liberating US or UK soldier set foot in region, the Arabic press in most of the region's 22 countries was brutal and vocal in its assessment of the coming war, as several of the following chapters will attest.

The openly hostile Arab media variously framed the seemingly inevitable conflict between the US/UK coalition and Iraq as a war to avenge the Bush family honor; a ploy by "oil-rich" Bush to control Iraqi petroleum output; an "ignorant" and out-of-control "cowboy" Bush lashing out at terrorist shadows and hurting innocents in the process; and an "evil" if not "satanic" Bush doing the bidding of the Zionists. The Middle East media was unrelenting in its pre-war, wartime, and post-war criticism of the United States, and, in the Iraqi context, the Blair government in the UK. In fact regular viewers of Arab media are hard-pressed to recall any favorable stories about the US over the past decade, including perfunctory, carefully parsed, and brief sentiments following 9/11. The general consensus then—and sometimes now—was that Arabs were incapable of the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks, and some continue to suggest that Israel was behind it all. That same level of denial was expressed about Iraq's threat to the region, its WMD capabilities, and, surprisingly, about how dangerous Saddam Hussein really was to his neighbors. Arabs generally seemed disappointed about the ease by which this war was prosecuted. Many wistfully predicted a protracted war with thousands of American and British deaths. Arab press readers-admittedly less than half the region's 307 million population are well attuned to charges that Israel is the source of all malevolence in the Middle East. (2) The US, since the late 1980's is supplanting the Jewish state as the most evil entity because of its wealth, its assumed cultural decadence, its military power and, above all, its perceived blind support of Israel. Those sentiments bubble to the surface in several chapters of the book.

The West, too, conducted a rigorous propaganda campaign to gin up support for war against Iraq among wobbly kneed allies. The propaganda machine ground out stories, real and speculative, of Saddam Hussein's intentions in the region, his financial support of suicide bombers' families in Palestine, his continued threats against Iraqi Kurds and Shiaas, his regime's alleged links to Al-Qaeda cells and training centers in Iraq, his family's personal extravagance while the average Iraqi suffered through painful international sanctions, and, most importantly, his acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and his willingness to use them against enemies foreign and domestic.

About Global Media Go to War

From conception, this book had several operational themes that fashioned themselves into goals:

Cross-disciplinary. Experts in fields other than journalism and mass communication offer perspectives not normally found in chapter collections. Contributions from different areas of study would enliven the book, it was hoped.
Cross-cultural. Viewpoints of writers from nearly all continents are represented in this volume, with emphasis on Middle Eastern scholars and journalists, who not only examine the war's impact on their region but on the "Other" as well. Readers will be able to discern the various schemata each writer brings to our understanding of what happened to global media during the conflict.
Cross-generational. This project, assembled in less than a year, involved studies by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as some of the best-established scholars in the international communication field. Young scholars were selected for their energy and fresh perspectives on media; senior scholars were chosen for their wisdom and experience.
Cross-media behavior. The over-riding theme of this work is how media behaved before, during and after the war. Behavior is critical because war puts lives at risk, potentially hundreds of thousands of them if Saddam Hussein indeed had a viable weapons of mass destruction program. To get stories inside Iraq many journalists and TV crews gambled their lives-and some of them lost. At least once person outside of the war zone, Dr. David Kelley, Britain's WMD expert, might have been a direct casualty of the media war behavior. Dr. Kelley allegedly committed suicide when his personal and professional ethics rubbed against BBC newsroom practices of the British Broadcasting Corporation, who used him as a source for its stories. At least the Hutton Report strongly suggested that early in 2004. (3)
General and student reader appeal. All of the authors were asked to eschew academese and write their chapters for general audiences. With that in mind, this work could be acceptable as a classroom reader for courses in international relations, political science, sociology, and, of course, Middle East and mass communications studies. This edition should also appeal to mass audiences interested in how news media-one of their information connections to the war as it unfolded-behaved during a major international event, and possibly, how they can become media monitors themselves by using new media.

Overview of the book

The book contains 34 essays, which includes the Preface, Foreword, Introduction, Afterword and 30 chapters. The Preface and Foreword, written by two world-renown media scholars, involve a dialogue about media, government and war.

More specifically, Cees J. Hamelink of the University of Amsterdam, argues that during the 2003 Iraq War mainstream mass media from coalition countries became tools of "propaganda" for the U.S. and British governments and that there is little hope that will change in future global conflicts. If mainly despair is left, why preface this book?" he writes. A major reason is that without such critical analyses as published in this book, the situation might be a lot worse. In times of political insanity, it is necessary and encouraging to find signals of intellectual sanity!"
John C. Merrill, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, agrees with . Hamelink that scholars and citizens need to publish "critical analyses," but one of the problems is "getting average citizens to know about, even care about, the skewed world the media are foisting upon them. They are so busy being entertained by media that they know little or nothing about their governments and their covert and overt activities. Such a situation, of course, does not bode well for democracy."

In his Afterword, Kaarle Nordenstreng of the University of Tampere in Finalnd renews a call for international media monitoring, and proposes an international congress of media scholars to collect the burgeoning number of academic studies on media behavior to be issued in an annual report. He urges content analysis as the favored methodology to explain what is being communicated to whom in what channel.

The book is divided into six major sections: The Prelude to War, The International War of Words, The War in the Coalition Press, The War in Other Places; The War in Cyberspace, and The War for Hearts and Minds.

Part I: The Prelude to War

The first six chapters survey the global mediascape before the war, and how news and entertainment media in different parts of the world cultivated their audiences and national policymakers to either support or oppose the war.

James Napoli studied media in two countries opposed to the war, France and Egypt. Jinbong Choi used the diagnostic and heuristic tool of framing to study the meanings of Bush's "axis of evil" pronouncement. Because world audiences receive nearly all their foreign news from international news agencies, Beverly Horvit examined five of them and how they covered the coming war, with some surprising results.

George Gladney deconstructs Marshall McLuhan's "global village" concept and finds it fragmenting into competing ideologies, religious beliefs and cultures, each currently or potentially supported by media. In a similar vein, Emmanuel C. Alozie's study of print media in different Sub-Saharan countries finds a mixture of distrust and disagreement with coalition goals, while Stephen Quinn and Tim Walters relay how Al-Jazeera's impact in the Middle East, even before the latest Gulf war, might be more enduring than Western critics would like.

Part II: The World War of Words

Stuart Hall once wrote that "words have meanings" and the book's second part tries to ascertain the meaning of words used to prepare populations for war.

Yahya R. Kamalipour suggests how words-often reported uncritically by journalists-create meaning for audiences. Jack Lule extends the concept further when he follows the metaphors used in the 2003 Iraq War. Words played a role in how Turkey's media debated what kind of cooperation, if any, that country should give the United States, one of its most important allies. As the U.S. reaction to Turkey's decision process grew critical, so did the Turkish press of any help to the coalition at all, Dilruba Çatalbas discovered.

Ibrahim Al-Marashi, a young Iraqi-American doctoral student at Oxford, explains how his academic paper purloined by the British government on Iraq's alleged WMD capacity led to a brief (and at times frustrating) career as international media pundit, while Andrew Paul Williams et al., find late-night-TV comedy is serious business when it comes to shaping public opinion.

Part III: The Coalition Press

This part examines how global media from Allied countries behaved. The Washington Post's Howard Schneider reviews some of the war's biggest press blunders and how the media dealt with them. Martin Hirst and Robert Schutze investigate Rupert Murdoch's flagship paper The Australian's support of the war; Kris Kodrich and Sweety Law tackle the issue of how "newspapers of record" in England and the US chose to report the WMD story. Steve Cooper and Jim A. Kuypers compare reporting practices of embedded and non-embedded journalists-with unexpected conclusions-and Maggy Zanger reports behind the lines in Iraq on how "journos" scratched for a story that never materialized.

Part IV: The War in Other Places

This section examines how television and print media in countries other than the United States, Great Britain and Australia covered the war.

While the major media in combatant countries covered the war story, Christine Burchinger, Herman Wasserman, and Arnold de Beer investigated how South African media struggled to make sense of the war and gain a global perspective. Similarly, across the planet, Yoichi Clark Shimatsu, followed how the "far-off war" was reported in Hong Kong and in Mainland China.

S. Abdallah Schleifer assessed the job of Middle East broadcasters, and despite some errors of commission and omission, figures the fledgling satellite news operations are on their way to professional, credible news operations in a region unaccustomed to them. Catherine Cassera and Laura Lengel see Al Jazeera's effect on public diplomacy as similar to CNN's.

Janet Fine looks at media coverage of the war in India, the world's largest democracy, which should have been a huge supporter of the coalition-but wasn't. She offers some suggestions why.

Part V: The War in Cyberspace

Few people used the Internet during the 1991 Gulf War much less as a network for sharing huge volumes of information. What a change a dozen years makes.

Naila Hamdy and Radwa Mobarak set the tone for the sixth part by giving an overview of the Web during the war, while Daniela Dimitrova, Lynda Kaid and Andrew Paul Williams find varied news coverage on the Internet during the war's first hours. Lisa Brooten explores the phenomenon of Indymedia.com, and wonders if we are witnessing the future of news-interactive, sensational, instantaneous and opinionated. David Weinstock and Timothy Boudreau offer free advice to news organizations on how to capture and retain young viewers.

Cyberspace is a big, uncharted place, several authors found. Barbara K. Kaye and Thomas J. Johnson, for example, look at do-it-yourself publishing of Weblogs, including the widely followed Baghdad adventures of an Iraqi blogger, "Salam Pax," during the war.

Part VI: The War for Hearts and Minds

Considerable effort by the U.S. and U.K. governments to win over a skeptical population in the Middle East, reversing years of official Western neglect and indifference which allowed political Islam to take root without critical assessment; which often enacted policies blindly supportive Israel; which bolstered increasingly repressive regimes that encouraged their media to scapegoat the West and camouflage their own shortcomings; and which influenced some intellectuals whose positions at governmental institutions depend on toeing the party line. This section examines public opinion in the region.

Makram Khoury-Machool shows why the U.K./U.S. coalition met with disbelief and resistance in the Arab media. How did young people view the war? Two chapters concentrated on the effects of media in the US and in the United Arab Emirates. Glenn Sparks and Will Miller investigated the emotional effects of US children during time of war, while Muhammad Ayish researched attitudes of students at Sharjah University about the 2003 Iraq War.
Finally, Abdullah Al-Kindi looks at the war against media and the possible effect on journalists' behavior because of it, with the ultimate goal of controlling not only what reporters said about the war but what their viewers, readers and surfers thought about the conflict.

About the cover

The cover's background photo, like the Arab region itself, is enigmatic. It is either a sunset over the desert, signaling the end of day and a journey into darkness; or it is a sunrise, presaging a new day with fresh opportunities. Like the merits of the 2003 Iraq War, the reader is left to decide.
No other photographed incident during the 2003 Iraq War reverberated around the Arab world more than the picture of Marine Corporal Edward Chin draping the American flag over the statue head of Saddam Hussein April 9, 2003. To Arabs on television and over the Internet, the act was a symbol of American arrogance, disrespect, Arab humiliation, and abusive use of military might. Most Americans, on the other hand, swelled with patriotic pride and thought the picture illustrated a perfectly fitting end to the Baathists' and Saddam Hussein's viselike grip on tyrannical power. One picture, two diametrically opposed audience effects. Such is the reality-if not the surreality-of reporting war in the Middle East, and the raison d'être of this collection of essays and studies.TBS

End Notes

(1) Halal means in Arabic "accepted by Islam." The opposite is haram, which means religiously forbidden.

(2) Arab Human Development Report 2002: Creating Opportunities for Future Generations. New York: UNDP, pp. 143, 151.

(3) Lord Hutton was commissioned by the British government to look into the July 18, 2003, death of Dr. Kelley. The report, issued in February 2004, took the BBC and its reporter Andrew Gilligan to task while clearing the Blair administration of any wrongdoing. It was widely known that Dr. Kelley was the source of anti-administration leaks doubting Iraq's WMD program (See Report of the Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Dr David Kelly C.M.G. by Lord Hutton. Available at http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/report/)

Copyright 2004 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the
Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo
E-mail: TBS@aucegypt.edu