Beyond the fog of war

Around the web: www.electroniciraq.net

Mark Steel, writing in The Guardian (April 3) lampoons the labelling of coalition propaganda fed into the capitalist media as "news"�. In particular he attacks the disingenuous squirming of military spin-doctors over the killing of 55 civilians at a Baghdad market as a particularly disgusting example of the "24 hour rolling cack"� currently assaulting our senses. It is therefore imperative that anti-war activists seek out alternate news sources to the barrage of lies and half-truths passing for "facts"� about the current imperialist adventure. Other than the UK Indymedia site (Weekly Worker March 27), www.electroniciraq.net is a frequently updated antidote to the mainstream news. This site gives itself over to opening the cracks in the capitalist media by collating a series of critical reports and editorials culled from the bourgeois press. To give an idea of how wide ranging the sources are, on April 7 the site was carrying pieces from The Independent, Christian Science Monitor, and Ha'aretz for example. Other reports courtesy of the United Nations and assorted non-governmental organisations (focusing primarily on aid/humanitarian issues) are mixed in with pieces written especially for the site. Elsewhere the website provides mission statements on the e-iraq project, press mentions, announcements on global anti-war actions and plans, and a mainstream news feed from different sources. Media Workers Against the War site (www.mwaw.org) is of a fairly similar character. The advantage it has over e-iraq is its wider purview, looking at other "fronts"� of the so-called "war on terror"�. For instance, North Korea and Palestine. Billed on site as "the best global source on the web for anti-war news, views and updates on the international peace movement"�, MWAW deserves book marking by all progressives. Perhaps one of the most unlikely sources of information has been Venik's Aviation (www.aeronautics.ru), an English language Russian site dealing with aerospace related information. But what has catapulted it into the premier league of alternative news sites has been a series of translated Russian military intelligence reports. These translated reports have their source in the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Having the full array of Russia's military surveillance equipment at its disposal, from agents in the field to radio intercepts and spy satellites, and with the near complete absence of military information from the west's media output, this site is probably the only place in the world where one can form an idea of the real military situation on the ground. To use an example regarding the recent battle for Saddam/Baghdad International Airport, the two reports for April 6 talk about the serious problems US forces encountered and provide definite figures of killed, wounded, and missing for both sides. Compare this to the vague references littering an April 4 BBC online report "� the actual battle itself warrants no mention, preferring instead to discuss the strategic value of the installation. Of course these intelligence reports should not be viewed uncritically, but without having to put either an Iraqi or coalition spin on things, chances are that their accuracy is greater than the bilge constituting mainstream war coverage. As an alternative news source, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera station (www.english.aljazeera.net) certainly made a name for itself in the preceding Afghanistan conflict that's not to everyone's liking. Placing the name in a search engine will turn up a dozen or so reports on the attempts by US based hackers to shut the site down. Indeed when visiting the site it is plain to see that it is a temporary hosting, but this has not appeared to affect the breadth of content or regularity of updates. What was refreshing about scanning some of the featured pieces was an absence of the monotone "impartiality"� characteristic of western coverage. Overall there is a bias toward the Arab public, giving over considerable space to the civilians on the receiving end of the US-UK onslaught. Particularly harrowing are the articles dealing with the crisis situation in medicine-starved hospitals "� the photographs of the mutilated victims of "our boys"� pull no punches. It is not hard to see why Al Jazeera is both a thorn in the side of coalition media managers and becoming an increasingly valuable source of information for the Arab masses. In the absence of an explicitly pro-working class and communist global media outlet, critical use of these sources can help build up an idea of what is really going on behind the coalition-abetted fog of war. Phil Hamilton