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CNN: an ally in the war

CNN: an ally in the war

Author: Arvind Singh
Publication: South Asia Analysis Group
Date: November 6, 2001
URL: http://www.saag.org/papers4/paper356.html

Sometimes we get requests from scholars to get their paper published in our web site.  While we take no responsibility for the contents, we would publish selectively papers of interest. We thank Mr. Arvind Singh for sending his paper. The views expressed are his own. - Director.

There is much to learn about media in a war situation.  Media plays an important role in disseminating information and thereby shapes public opinion.  In a war situation where psychological blow to enemy count a lot, warring parties use media to achieve this end. Truth, as learned men say is the first casualty in a war, media is the chief player in creating this adage.  Among other things, media without any scruples can turn a lie to truth and vice versa with little accountability.

US media for instance did not wait the US Congress to declare the war to avenge the killings.  Their resolve to fight the war especially the electronic media was so intense that they enthusiastically renamed their 24-hour news programme as "the war against terror". If one says the US and Britain are bombing Afghanistan, he should subtly observe the US media.  The US media is fighting against terror coalesced with the US army.

What is interesting of the US media coverage is it has exposed its prejudices and lack of historical perspective and human sentiments.  For them there exist two sets of human values-one for Americans and second for non-Americans.

Particularly CNN's coverage of the war is galling.  Along with the Bush administration, it is on the forefront to resurrect Musharraf as a liberal and pro-West leader.  Its Pakistani correspondent Christiane Amanpour is leading the rally.  She either does not understand what she is saying or assumes her audience bereft of any intellect.  While covering the numerous-anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan, she wanted us to believe that the vocal minority (according to her estimate not more than 10-15 per cent) holding the nation ransom.

She led credence to the Musharraf's theory by reiterating that the protestors were mere Afghan refugees.  To bring home the point, she explained that the cities like Peshawar and Quetta where trouble erupted have Afghan refugees in considerable numbers.  She exhorted us to believe that a common Pakistani is not participating in the anti-US rally.  In that case, she did not care to tell why Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other Pakistani cities also witnessed incendiary situations.

In her bid to present a moderate Pakistan and a liberal Musharraf, she did not find anyone who would support Musharraf's assistance to the US.  However, she merely got some Pakistani officials to toe her line.

Meanwhile, a Gallup Poll published in Newsweek suggested that around 83 per cent Pakistanis oppose the US strike and refused to support Musharraf's stance.  The poll effectively demolished the CNN stand.  We yet to hear anything on this from CNN.

Absent was also any effort to trace out in CNN's coverage of the Pakistani complacency in the Sep. 11 attacks.  It was left to the Indian intelligence to disclose to the world how ISI, Pakistani intelligence agency helped financially Mohammad Atta, the principal malefactor, to carry out the task.  Not a single US media grilled Musharraf on this account.  Not even renowned Larry King on CNN asked a single uncomfortable or difficult question to Musharraf.  When Musharraf purged the so-called hardliners from the army and the intelligence agency, it made good copy for the US media.  No one asked him how suddenly after the Sept.11 attacks he became aware of the hardliners in his army.  Or were they turned hardliners after the Sep.11?

To some extent, the New York Times made considerable efforts to unravel the Taliban-Pakistan mystery.  Amongst several scoops, it was this newspaper on Oct 11 reported Musharraf's association with Rabita Trust, which was banned by the US for aiding terror. The US wanted to include this organization in its first list released on 24 Sept.  But the US faced a small problem: "The president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, was on Rabita's board."  The US gave Musharraf 36 hours to quit from the trust. But he did not relent and the Rabita Trust was quietly dropped from the list. Interestingly, the Rabita Trust secretary-general was a founder of bin Laden's al-Qaida.

However, situation changed dramatically after the first list was notified.  The US condemned the Oct 1 attack in Srinagar where more than 40 civilians were killed. Jaish-I-Mohammad took responsibility for the explosion only to declaim it after four hours under Musharraf's pressure.  Jaswant Singh who was in the US then, pressed the Bush administration to fight terrorism in all its manners and on all fronts.

The US hinted India that it was taking very close look at Jaish-I-Mohammad, and dropped a broad hint to reconsider banning the Rabita Trust.  Musharraf realized the danger and quit from the trust.  On Oct 10, the US Justice Department notified another list putting 17 more individuals and organizations considered for aiding terrorism including the Rabita Trust.

Despite so glaring the proofs indicating his involvement in abetting terrorism, Musharraf got a clean chit.  Being a front line state against the Taliban, Pakistan was spared of any insinuations.

Surrealistically, Iraq and not Pakistan was found helping al-Qaida.  The mere suspicion was: Mohammad Atta visited Prague at the same time when one senior Iraqi intelligence officer was also incidentally in Prague.  There is still no substantial proof that the duo discussed the impending attack.  The US media, which reported the story gleefully, declined to blame Musharraf working for several years with the founder of al-Qaida.

The whole western media has decried al-Jazeera for broadcasting speeches of bin Laden and its cohorts.  Since it's only news channel which has its office in Kabul, al-Jazeera is denounced primarily because it has stolen the march over the western media.  Its reporting about the attack was therefore dubbed as biased and pro-bin Laden.  Infuriated they were losing out to a "pro-Laden media" the US media started openly taking boastfully chauvinistic line.  CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan on Oct. 12 confessed the same in an interview: "How we are supposed to be neutral when 6,000 American citizens were killed." Media ethics is therefore determined by nationality of the killed.

The US media at one hand applauded and even encouraged its government to bomb Afghanistan, to smoke out bin Laden and to kill him, while criticizing India for not restraining its activities in Kashmir.  In last 20 years, more than 50, 000 Indians were killed in Pakistan abetted terrorist violence.  But the US media deny India the same avenge-logic that they bestowed on the US.

On Oct 14, the Indian troops destroyed 12 bunkers of Pakistani army across the border and killed 30 terrorists.  India said that its army opened fire to stop infiltration from Pakistan. Christiane Amanpour put the blame on India.  When CNN was asked to verify the claim, Reena Golden, Executive Vice President of CNN International said wryly, "Amanpour had said she was on a media tour organized by Pakistan officials and she could not clarify herself as to the veracity of Pakistani claims."  So much care CNN takes for the objectivity.

Finally, tell me who said this to whom.  "We are deeply moved and impressed when your Government offered us your assistance after the tragic events of September 11. We are strongly supportive of a full engagement between India and American counter-terrorism experts, we cannot allow this momentum to stall.(and India's) anti-terrorism capabilities as among the best in the world. the U.S. needed its expertise and friendship more than ever."

No clue? 50 US Congressmen to the Indian Prime Minister.  You wouldn't read it on CNN.

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