Hard News by Russell Brown

Our war and theirs

More than ever, the West and the rest of the world seem to be seeing very different wars in Iraq.

While the western media fusses over the operational details of the war and a creepy - and possibly premature - note of triumphalism comes through America reports, the Islamic world is seeing, hearing and reading about dead and dismembered children.

This story, quoting an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman, seems to have had remarkably little play in the western media:

"Our four-member team went to Hilla hospital south of Baghdad, and what it saw there was a horror. There were dozens of smashed corpses," said Roland Huguenin-Benjamin.

This story, from the Independent in South Africa, quotes more ICRC workers:

The International Committee of the Red Cross described as "horrific" on Thursday the scene at a hospital south of Baghdad, describing hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children "practically dismembered by explosions".

Red Cross spokesperson Floran Westphal, speaking from Geneva, said Red Cross workers reported seeing the local 280-bed hospital completely full of suspected casualties of coalition bomb attacks.

A Red Cross doctor at the town of Hilla, 10 kilometres south of Baghdad, told CNN about 280 Iraqis had been wounded from bombing and fierce fighting the previous 48 hours.

He said the hospital was "overwhelmed" by hundreds of casualties, adding he was "shocked" by what he saw.

The Arabic News is quoting news reports that "the American jets bombarded a gynecology hospital that belongs to the Iraqi Red Crescent and this resulted in the killing of more than 30 Iraqi children and wounding other 215, including one doctor at the hospital whose leg was chopped."

The Asian Times has this commentary on "the Hilla massacre":

Initially, Murtada Abbas, the director of Hilla hospital, was questioned about the bombing only by Iraqi journalists - and only Arab cameramen working for Reuters and Associated Press were allowed on site. What they filmed is horror itself - the first images shot by Western news agencies of what is also happening on the Iraqi frontlines: babies cut in half, amputated limbs, kids with their faces a web of deep cuts caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs. Nobody in the West will ever see these images because they were censored by editors in Baghdad: only a "soft" version made it to worldwide TV distribution.

This one from the Jordan Times yesterday:

Television pictures of bleeding children and weeping mothers in Iraq, beamed into millions of homes, have raised the level of anger on the Arab street over the US-led war launched two weeks ago.

“It hurts the hearts, it stirs up hatred of Americans and it's better that way,” said an Egyptian economics student, Sherif, commenting on footage aired daily on Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite television.

A terrible picture of a coffin containing the bodies of a woman and her baby, a pacifier still stuck in his mouth, was displayed on the front page of a major newspaper here, Al Akhbar.

And this one from the same source.

Five-year-old Nader should not have been out playing last night. He now sits on a hospital bed with a bandage covering one eye after stepping on an explosive south of Baghdad.

The boy rests his head on his elbow on the bed's metallic bar while looking out from the window with his left eye.

The tone and content of reporting is, of course, also greatly influenced by the Iraqi leadership's habit of banishing reporters on a whim. CNN and Fox News have been turfed out and now al-Jazeera has withdrawn its correspondents from Iraq after one reporter was banished by the Iraqis. With CBS having voluntarily withdrawn, and Peter Arnett fired by NBC, US media simply doesn't have many journalists in a position to bear witness to civilian casualties. (Although there are still plenty of embedded TV plonkers wittering on about how "we" captured this position or "we" fired on that. This seems stupendously unprofessional behaviour to me, and it's strictly verboten on the BBC.)

The ICRC has established its own Iraq news page, which is worth checking for that increasingly rare commodity, unmediated information.

Jemima Khan, the English-born wife of Pakistani cricket legand Imran Khan, has filed a seriously disturbing report on the state of public opinion in Pakistan. Musharaf will be worried.

Even the moderates here in Pakistan are outraged. Across the board, young and old, poor and rich, fundamentalist and secularist are united in their hatred of the US and their contempt for Britain. Such unprecedented unanimity in a country renowned for its ethnic and sectarian divides is a huge achievement.

Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the leader of the combined religious party Majlis Muttahida Amal (MMA), announced triumphantly: "The pro-West liberals have lost conviction. Islamic movements have come alive."

Cryptome has an interesting post about depleted uranium and sandstorms. No, I don't know quite what to think about the many claims made about depleted uranium versus the official word, but they keep being made ...

The English translation of iraqwar.ru is now on the main IraqWar site.

And while everyone's distracted by Iraq, what on earth are the Israelis doing over Lebanon?.

Oh, and my other, less opinionated, blog Wide Area News at the Mediawatch site, is freshly updated.