A war so one-sided it was hardly a war was reported like a Formula One race, as the teams sped to the chequered flag in Baghdad.
by John Pilger
On 8 April, newspapers around the world carried a despatch from a Reuters correspondent, "embedded" with the US army, about the murder of a ten-year-old Iraqi boy. An American private had "unloaded machine-gun fire and the boy . . . fell dead on a garbage-strewn stretch of wasteland". The tone of the report was highly sympathetic to the soldier, "a softly spoken 21-year-old" who, "although he has no regrets about opening fire, it is clear he would rather it was not a child he killed".
According to Reuters, children were "apparently" being used as "fighters or more often as scouts and weapons collectors. US officers and soldiers say that turns them into legitimate targets." The child-killing soldier was allowed uncritically to describe those like his victim as "cowards". There was no suggestion that the Americans were invading the victim's homeland. Reuters then allowed the soldier's platoon leader to defend the killer: "Does it haunt him? Absolutely. It haunts me and I didn't even pull the trigger. It blows my mind that they can put their children in that kind of situation." Perhaps guessing that readers might be feeling just a touch uncomfortable at this stage, the Reuters correspondent added his own reassuring words: "Before - like many young soldiers - he [the soldier] says he was anxious to get his first 'kill' in a war. Now, he seems more mature."
I read in the Observer last Sunday that "Iraq was worth ?20m to Reuters". This was the profit the company would make from the war. Reuters was described on the business pages as "a model company, its illustrious brand and reputation second to none. As a newsgathering organisation, it is lauded for its accuracy and objectivity." The Observer article lamented that the "world's hotspots" generated only about 7 per cent of the model company's ?3.6bn revenue last year. The other 93 per cent comes from "more than 400,000 computer terminals in financial institutions around the world", churning out "financial information" for a voracious, profiteering "market" that has nothing to do with true journalism: indeed, it is the antithesis of true journalism, because it has nothing to do with true humanity. It is the system that underwrote the illegal and unprovoked attack on a stricken and mostly defenceless country whose population is 42 per cent children, like the boy who was killed by a soldier who, says the Reuters story, "now seems more mature".
There is something deeply corrupt consuming this craft of mine. It is not a recent phenomenon; look back on the "coverage" of the First World War by journalists who were subsequently knighted for their services to the concealment of the truth of that great slaughter.
What makes the difference today is the technology that produces an avalanche of repetitive information, which in the United States has been the source of arguably the most vociferous brainwashing in that country's history.