`Iraq invasion hurt Arab pride'

DUBAI - The US led invasion of Iraq hurt Arab pride by overrunning the strongest Arab army with very little fight, but the question now is when does pride give way to practicality, when does the daily barrage of attacks against US troops end to allow for a smooth pull out and transfer of power to the Iraqi government, according to Jim Clancy, CNN correspondent and anchorman, who spoke to members of the local Press at a round table discussion on Monday.

By Hani M Bathish

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Tue 15 Jun 2004, 9:54 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:56 PM

The meeting, held at the Emirates Towers Hotel, was essentially meant to gauge local journalists' views on the Iraq issue and the handover of power to the Iraqi government. The meeting was held ahead of a panel discussion on the handover planned for today at Dubai Media City. The programme will be recorded and televised on CNN on June 21. The panel discussion will include prominent Iraqi governing council members, Arab journalists and thinkers.

Responding to the observation made by Khaleej Times reporter that the reason many Arabs stopped watching CNN was because of the unfair and biased reporting during the invasion and the imbedded reporters with US forces, who gave the Arab population an invader's perspective of the fighting, Mr Clancy said, "We have had imbedded reporters in conflicts around the world, including with liberation groups. In Beirut CNN was roundly criticised for being pro-Palestinian and pro-PLO as we were reporting from the western half of the city. The point is that the invasion of Iraq hurt Arab pride, the fact that the Iraqis did not fight more was a cause of embarrassment.

"The reason Fallujah struck such a cord and became a danger to the US mission was not because the US troops could not take the city, they could take it, but in winning that battle they would have lost the war. The Iraqi people look at Fallujah and say these are the people who confronted the Americans, they are the true Iraqis, this is the kind of fight we can put up if we wanted to.

"Former military men in Iraq insist that the US military did not win the war, they did, because they told their troops not to fight and to go home. The question is when does pride give way to practicality, when do we say lets end the fighting against these forces and get them home by a specific date," Mr Clancy said.

Asked why CNN and other Western media insisted in the immediate aftermath of the war that the Iraqi opposition fighters were supporters of the former regime, when after the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of his two sons the fighting continued unabated and in some cases even intensified, Mr Clancy's response was,

"Not the US nor anyone else could give specific figures or show how many of the fighters were former regime supporters and how many were nationalists who just wanted Iraq free from US troops.

"We do believe that a lot of the military that was summarily dismissed by Ambassador Paul Bremer, were frustrated, even insulted, all of their lives reduced to nothing through Bremer's sweeping action, a lot of people were really striped of their dignity and (these attacks) may be a reaction to that. While such people may not necessarily be supporters of Saddam Hussein they are mostly elements of the former regime."

Speaking of the daily dose of bombings and attacks targeting the new Iraqi Government, Mr Clancy added, "These attacks show military sophistication. For example, using an artillery shell and rigging it up to a garage door opener to use as a roadside bomb shows military sophistication that you would not expect from just anyone off the street. This indicates a military background.

"I am at a loss to define how many fighters are foreign fighters, how many are young people who did not like the way the US just opened fire on anyone and everyone, maybe their family members were killed and this is a reaction to that, and how many of these fighters are members of the former military."

He said that talking to Iraqis, he found their number one concern is security, "Students tell me what good is all of this freedom if I am not free to leave my home in the evening, what good is all this democracy if I'm afraid to speak out because someone might not find my views popular and attack me."

Mr Clancy said that the question is whether the daily barrage of attacks is going to make things better. Will an opposition that is Iraqi based and nationalistic, ease up in its attacks or are they going to reject this interim government as an extension of the US handpicked governing council and continue to attack them.

He added that while the attacks do not have much impact on US policy making in Washington they do have a great impact on how much aid is delivered to Iraq. He said that what the Iraqis want to know is when the occupation is ending, when is security going to come back and what's the US strategy. He said the Bush administration was pressed hard on this issue and in his view responded with a change in policy.

"The Iraqi generals (are telling the US) you're not going to do any more Fallujahs without our permission, we know these poor guys that got killed. We don't want to see a city of some 200,000 people held hostage, its water shut off, electricity cut off and besieged by the US Marines with superior fire power, because you are after the killers of four hired gunmen," Mr Clancy said.

He said that what Iraqis need now more than anything else are jobs and that he would rather see his tax dollars going towards creating employment opportunities for Iraqis as part of the reconstruction.

Rena Golden, CNN's Senior Vice-President, News, made sure to point out that CNN is an independent news network that does not get its marching orders from the US government, but rather tries to convey all sides of any issue in as fair a manner as possible. She said however that getting the news sometimes proves too dangerous or difficult in which case CNN depends on its network of some 900 affiliate television stations around the world.

"We have affiliates in almost every major news organisation in the world. We were on the outskirts of the Fallujah conflict; we got a lot of our reporting from affiliates like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. CNN International made a real effort to get (the Arab) perspective to viewers.

"We take our mission very seriously through balance and perspective and I ask you to judge CNN based on what you see rather than what you hear about the network. We are two weeks away from the handover, its time to take a look at various perspectives. Everyone is looking to June 30 to gauge opinion on this issue from all around the world," she said.

She said the reason the programme, dubbed "Countdown to Handover, The Arab Pulse", is being recorded in Dubai is that the city happens to be a very central location with the infrastructure and studios required to undertake such a massive project.

More news from