2007

ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, UNWINNABLE - A BRITISH ARMY OFFICER REPLIES TO MARK URBAN

Yesterday, in response to our latest Media Alert, ‘Newsnight Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban Responds,’ we received a further reply from Mark Urban.

Urban argued that our analysis “is put together by you sitting at home, sifting current events through a dense filter of ideology”. In particular, he lampooned our view of the US motivation in Iraq:

“I do however think that your desire to force all of the elements in a woefully complex situation into a simple proposition such as, ‘America's real objective is to smother all opposition so they can pinch the oil‘, to be a sorry form of fundamentalism.” (Email to Media Lens, May 31, 2007)

We hope to discuss Urban’s reply in more detail later (readers can see his email here: http://www.Media Lens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=8615#8615).

Meanwhile, we have also received a copy of an important and courageous email sent to Urban by a serving British Army officer. The officer has given us permission to publish his message, which reveals much that is normally hidden about the true military view of the Iraq war. He has asked to remain anonymous.

We have invited Mark Urban to respond to the email that follows:

Dear Mr Urban,

I am a serving British Army officer with operational experience in a number of theatres. I am concerned regarding the effect of your recent reports from Baghdad. I have been forwarded the correspondence between yourself and David Edwards of Media Lens.org, and would like to highlight that it is not merely Media Lens users, who are concerned about embedded coverage with the US Army. The intentions and continuing effects of the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have been questioned by too few people in the mainstream media and political parties, primarily only the Guardian and Independent, and the Liberal Democrats, respectively.

There is a widespread, and well-sourced, belief based on both experience and evidence, in both the British military and academia, that the US is not "just in Iraq to keep the peace, regardless of what the troops on the ground believe. It is in Iraq to establish a client state amenable to the requirements of US realpolitik in a key, oil-rich region. To doubt this is to be ignorant of the motives that have guided US foreign policy in the post-war period* and a mountain of evidence since 2003." (quote from Media Lens)

That the invasion was 'illegal, immoral and unwinnable', and the 'greatest foreign policy blunder since Suez' - to paraphrase the Liberal Democrats - is the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers, and they speak of loathsome six-month tours, during which they led patrols with dread and fear, reluctantly providing target practice for insurgents, senselessly haemorrhaging casualties, and squandering soldiers' lives, as part of Bush's vain attempt to delay the inevitable Anglo-US rout until after the next US election. Given a free choice most of us would never have invaded Iraq, and certainly would have withdrawn long ago. Hopefully, Tony Blairs's handover to Gordon Brown will herald a change of policy, and rapid withdrawal, but skewed pro-US coverage inhibits proper public debate, and is deeply unhealthy; lethally-so to many of us deployed to Iraq.

The [inadvertent] dangers of bias of embedded journalism are well known and there is a risk that the 'official line' can be conflated with evidence and facts. Jon Snow graphically demonstrated the effect of this during the initial invasion of Iraq in his programme The True Face of War**. I am conscious that reporting independently, outside of the 'green zone' in Iraq is nigh on impossible, but I would merely request that the 'official line/White House propaganda' be handled with an appropriate degree of scepticism, and be caveated accordingly.

Thank you for your time,

<name omitted>

* Pragmatic self-interest is not unusual in US foreign policy, see
http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Hope-Military-Interventions-Since/dp/1567510523

** http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/774944: " ...the hidden face of the Iraq War, which includes killing of civilians by US troops, the beating up of journalists and through never-before-seen footage, the grim treatment of POWs. Jon Snow also reports on how the war was presented to British and American viewers and investigates the way in which the media was managed by the allies."


SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you decide to write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Mark Urban
Email: mark.urban@bbc.co.uk

Write to Peter Barron, editor of Newsnight
Email: peter.barron@bbc.co.uk