On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

We must speak up against this unjust war

The world has yet to see Iraqis holding little American
flags and welcoming their ''liberators.'' Instead, the US-led troops have found
a more hostile reception. In the meantime, more coalition troops have been
killed by ''friendly fire'' than by Iraqis in the desert.

Bush, who has been expecting an uprising against Saddam, has found strong
resistance from Iraqis while the sandstorms have slowed down the march into
Baghdad. It has frustrated the Americans but there should be no doubt that the
US will eventually win the war.

No one should kid themselves into assuming that the Iraqis will be able to
defeat the Americans when they enter Baghdad. It's a one-sided war but the
coalition is finding the human cost much higher than expected.

Blatantly using the American media to justify the invasion, CNN, CNBC and Fox
TV are giving ordinary Americans the impression that everything has gone according
to plan despite the little hitches.

The American people have been given a different picture through the so-called
embedded reporters, who are informing the world how the attack is being waged
through the eyes of coalition troops.

Malaysians are luckier than Americans, in a sense. Through Astro, we are able
to follow the developments in Iraq through various options such as CNN, CNBC,
Al-Jazeera, BBC and occasionally the German station.

Last week, Malaysians even got to see how Beijing-based CCTV covered the war
through Chinese reporters.

So far, there has been little objectivity in the coverage by the major media.
The American TV stations repeat that the attack is to liberate the Iraqi people
– it is not an invasion or an attack.

These terms would never be used by the embedded reporters. The joke is because
these reporters are already ''in bed'' with the American forces.

CNBC has even used the the official codename Operation Iraqi Freedom as its
tagline. We are seeing more soldiers moving into Iraq rather than coverage of
injured Iraqi citizens.

The Qatar-based al-Jazeera is no better. It may have given the world the Arab
voice, particularly from Iraq, but it has been emotional in its coverage.

It reaches over 35 million Arabs, including 150,000 in the US. The station,
which has broadcast tapes from Osama bin Laden, has long incurred the wrath of
the White House.

By showing footage of captured American prisoners, the station was kicked out
of the New York Stock Exchange. Crying foul and citing the Geneva Convention,
the US was suddenly talking about international law.

Never mind the fact that it snubbed the United Nations and international laws.
Worse, White House officials have forgotten that the American stations were the
ones who had showed video footage of captured Iraqi soldiers first.

In comparison, the European media has been more sceptical in its coverage of
the war. The European reporters have provided a better perspective, asking
different questions at press conferences about the invasion.

While the US media is concerned over whether how many Iraqi cities have been
captured or whether Saddam is alive or dead, the Europeans have persistently
asked whether the US managed to turn up any weapons of mass destruction.

One reason for the difference in reportage could be because Europe, except for
Britain, is not involved in the invasion. Unlike the US, most European cities
have a high number of Muslims.

For example, Marseille, France, has a 30% Muslim population. It is similar in
German cities.

The call to boycott American products is unlikely to be effective. In fact, it
can even be self-defeating. As developing countries, these markets are hardly
significant to the US.

But should the Americans retaliate against these small countries, it would be
disastrous to these producers of commodities. All the US needs to do is to
impose difficult conditions or to increase tariffs.

Politicians who called for the boycott of American goods probably have little
understanding of global trade. They won't be doing the farmers and planters at
their constituencies a favour. That aside, fund managers feel jittery over any
harsh anti-American rhetoric.

Still, the world must speak up against a war that is clearly unjust and
unwarranted. With so many lives already lost, it is difficult not to be