The bias of the western media

by Ranil Mendis
The war on terrorism is quite different to any other war. It is not about invading another country or chasing an invader out, as was the case in world war two and in the gulf war. It is not a proxy war as it was in Vietnam fought between two superpowers divided on ideological grounds.

It is a war waged by the richest and militarily the most powerful nation in the world, America, against a poor third world country with a rag a tag guerrilla army. America is not alone either. She has one staunch ally in Britain and the lukewarm backing of NATO. Not a single Muslim country has wholeheartedly joined the American coalition. The coalition is exclusively composed of North American and Western European countries. Although it is projected not to be so, it increasingly appears to be a war between the West and the Muslim world.

Pakistan, considered a pariah state by America until the September 11, has been given a reprieve. Economic sanctions against her have been removed. Other inducements have been offered. Using the carrot and stick she has been coerced to allow her airspace and give some lip service. If President Musharraf of Pakistan attempts to do more, he may court revolt and endanger his own position. Saudi Arabia refused to allow American bases on her soil to be used against Afghanistan and declined to meet Tony Blair after the bombing commenced.

It is a war between high tech and ordinary weapons. The terrorists used common knives to bring down the twin towers. The damage caused was over one hundred billion dollars. It may take around five years to re-build the towers. The Americans are using arrays of high tech cruise missiles which cost around one million dollars apiece to bring down mostly mud huts and tents of insignificant value which can be quickly resurrected.

The war is not even against terrorism. It is against a particular terrorist, Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organisation, the Al Qaeda. The objective of the war is to bring back Osama bin Laden in the words of President Bush ‘dead or alive’. It is hoped that by doing so the terrorist attack on America will be avenged and that the terrorist threat to America will be eliminated.

Wars are won or lost depending upon whether the objective of the war is achieved. By that reckoning America is likely to lose this war. Strategic bombing with cruise missiles and smart bombs delivered by expensive planes will not achieve the purpose. It will merely inflame the fury of the Muslim world numbering around 1.2 billion people.

There is little or no chance that Osama bin Laden will be felled by a cruise missile. Searching for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan will be more difficult than searching for a needle in a haystack. In order to apprehend him ground troops will have to be inducted.

The induction of ground troops will provide the acid test. Perhaps, this is what Osama bin Laden wants. The American GI is well trained, well equipped and brave. However, he will be fighting on a terrain that the Afghans have mastered over the centuries. The climate will be totally inhospitable. While he will do his duty, he will dream of the day he can return home to greener pastures and a good life.

the GI will face a fierce Afghan warrior, fighting for his homeland and religion. He is living this life for the next. His sole ambition in life is to kill as many Americans as possible and die himself and enter the pearly gates of heaven. It will be a formidable undertaking for the American GI. General George S. Patton Jnr. said that "wars are fought with weapons but won by men". The truth of this dictum will be tested in Afghanistan.

It is said that the first casualty in war is the truth. The few Western networks with global reach that dominate news worldwide, with overpowering effect, are grossly misleading the public. The great traditions of western journalism, which reported facts and provided a wide range of opinion, seems to have diminished in the age of globalisation.

Presently, in an era where the goals of investment and profit induce larger and fewer organisations, the ownership of the media is concentrated in the hands of a few. It is an unhealthy situation. Diversity of opinion has been compromised. A letter to the editor of ‘Newsweek’ written by a Briton and published by the magazine, illustrates the point very succinctly. He wrote that Britain has ten national newspapers and Rupert Murdoch owns six of them. Therefore he concludes, with due consideration to the power of the media, that the British Prime Minister is appointed by an Australian.

The bias of the Western media is evident in the motive they ascribe to the anger displayed by the Muslims towards America. President George Bush echoed this distortion in his address to congress:

"Americans are asking why do they hate us?

"They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other".

Nothing can be further from the truth. American democratic institutions are admired throughout the world. The western media has failed to report the real reason shouted by thousands of demonstrators across the Muslim world. This has been endorsed by Osama bin Laden himself. He has clearly stated that he is waging war on America due to Israeli expansion, the murder of five hundred thousand infants by America and Britain, and for the removal of American bases from the Middle East, as it props up puppet Arab regimes.

An Arab TV station, Al Jazeera based in Qatar scooped the whole world by broadcasting video clips of Osama bin Laden saying his piece. The American Secretary of State Colin Powell ignored the great American ideal of freedom of speech by asking the Sultan of Qatar to restrain the TV station from showing this, which he called Anti-American propaganda.

The networks in the west were told not to relay this on security grounds. They were told that Osama bin Laden maybe sending coded messages through the clips. This of course is a preposterous suggestion. If coded messages are sent, it would be to the advantage of America. They can decipher the code and have access to all bin Laden’s plans which would be a tremendous asset in defeating him.

From the above it is quite apparent that the western media has abdicated its responsibility to report accurate facts and provide rational opinion. They have reduced themselves to a propaganda tool of the government. It is only the media that could have prevented America from getting embroiled in a quagmire from which it would be difficult to extricate herself.

If the war goes the way that Osama bin Laden hopes it will, there will be heavy American casualties. It will be then that the American people will start questioning the rationale for this war. Ultimately, the truth will dawn on them. American foreign policy in the Middle East has been in favour of Israel and against her own national interest. This war is being fought, and American lives are being sacrificed so that Israel may gain a few miles of real estate.