Friday, June 10, 2005

Into The Guardian's looking glass

The Guardian’s Rory Carroll has a report that apparently no one else has.

US in talks with Iraqi Insurgents.

American diplomats and army commanders have held indirect talks with insurgents in Iraq, the first officially sanctioned contact between the two sides in two years of violence.

A US embassy official in Baghdad said efforts were under way to "engage" elements of the resistance in an apparent softening of the Bush administration's opposition to negotiations.

Most other media outlets, including the BBC and The Washington Post, have reported on the fact that the Iraqi government is in talks with two insurgent groups which are, apparently, ready to lay down their guns and join the political process. It seems likely, although it is not entirely clear, that Carroll’s report is simply a new spin on the same story, designed to give the impression that US resolve in Iraq is weakening.

Both the BBC and the Washington Post frame the story almost entirely as a negotiation between the Iraqi government and the insurgents, with Ayham al-Samarie, an Arab-Sunni politician, the focal point and the US, if in the picture at all, on the periphery. The Guardian, on the other hand makes the US the central focus of the story, and portrays the discussions as a significant change in US policy, clearly giving the impression that it represents a climb-down for the US.

The US has made public overtures to Iraq's Sunni Arabs, a disaffected minority driving the insurgency, but until now drew the line at contacts with the "terrorists" denounced by President Bush.

The administration has come under increasing pressure to show progress in a war which claims approximately two American lives daily and is blamed for shortfalls in army recruitment.

It seems unlikely to me that Carroll is giving an accurate portrayal of the situation. At no point does he say how this past policy of non-negotiation has been articulated by the US, nor does he reveal in what respect the contacts now have become “negotiations”. Indeed, he later goes on to reveal that “It is no secret that some US commanders on the ground have informal and indirect contacts with their opponents, mostly via Sunni mosques and tribal elders,” and that now those channels have simply become “more formalised”. How it represents a significant change in policy to formalize a process which, it is “no secret”, has already existed is quite beyond me.

It seems pretty clear that The Guardian is simply spinning what is in fact very positive news – the fact that some Iraqi insurgents are looking to lay down their weapons and stop killing people – into a story about the US getting a black eye.


Blogger Kathryn Judson said...

I've done a short post pointing your direction. Best of luck and welcome.

8:48 PM  

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