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10 December 2004

Media blamed 'for Iraq attacks'

Is this the start of the end of war reporting?

The UK's Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Michael Walker has said about attacks on UK troops in Iraq, "The contribution towards the initial attacks against the Black Watch was certainly enhanced by a media picture that was being laid across a number of channels in all sorts of places."

So, let me see if I've got this straight - Iraqis have been sitting around positively enjoying the invasion and occupation of their country, loving the continued bombing since March 2003, and finding that the increased risk of dying every day just adds to the joys of living until they started watching television and realised things weren't quite as bright and rosy as they first thought? Maybe I'm missing the point, but surely any Iraqi attacks on British troops are related to the fact that these are the very troops that invaded and continue to occupy their country on entirely false premises?

However, let's pretend that this has nothing to do with the attacks and deal with the statement quoted above. By entirely ignoring the invasion and occupation of Iraq as the only possible reason for any attacks on British troops, not only is the issue of the invasion and occupation removed from the equation, the implication of this statement is that the reporting of events in Iraq and by logical extension any other event anywhere else in the world deemed to be of a sensitive nature, is a direct threat to certain specific interested parties. And, on occasions where these parties deem their interests to be greater than those of the requirement of the public to know what is going on, then the former should emerge victorious from the propaganda battle.

As if intimating that the already limited information that reaches us is already too much information by far wasn't sufficient cause for concern, Gen Walker went on to reject estimates, published in The Lancet (that well known bastion of outrageousness), that around 98,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war and occupation saying, "I don't think we can put any credibility on that study in straight terms." If anyone can find any meaning for that statement in any context, please let me know. He goes on to say, "The difficulty with casualties, particularly when they are not your own casualties and are members of the civilian population or the anti-coalition forces is that we don't control the casualty evacuation, so one will never quite know what the figures are." All of which is a terribly convenient way of avoiding the issue again.

There is always going to be some margin for error in estimating the number of victims of the Iraq invasion. But, when the governments that should be accountable to their citizens decide that any data regarding this subject constitutes classified information, we are left with no other option than to rely on any available sources of data that can reasonably stand public scrutiny.

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