Transparency and Accountability

Baghdad, Iraq

At a time of financial crisis and in a new day where “Transparency and Accountability” are the new buzz words, a good place to start is Iraq where the United States has expended nearly one trillion dollars since liberating 28 million from the Terror of Saddam Hussein.

Shortly after the Liberation of Iraq, a TV Station and network was begun. It is called “Al Hurrah” or “The Free One”

The only other TV Network broadcasting in Iraq and available without Satellite amazingly was a 24 hour Iranian Arabic Channel slandering the US nonstop.
Paid for by US Taxpayers to the tune of over $70 Million Dollars a year, one would think that it would be a beacon of hope and positive news in Iraq and the Middle East.

A recent check of an average Middle East Satellite selection shows 522 Channels with 56 or just over 10% broadcasting what the locals call “Islamic” programming.
A far cry from any kind of religious fare one similarly copied “commercial” is nonstop on most of them – the picture of US Troops kicking down doors, roughing up prisoners interspersed with bizarre footage of bleeding children, wailing parents and more.

The ones suffering the most as a result in addition to the average public are the Assyrian Christians, the indigenous people of Iraq from the time when Iraq was the first Christian Nation in history – now down to about 10% of the population.
Speaking with the director of Al Hurrah for Iraq – we will all him Ali Mohammed – we asked a few questions about the Channel he has been in charge of in Iraq since 2003.

“How often do you have programs on all the good the Americans are doing in Iraq – rebuilding schools, getting the electricity going, helping train the police, army and more.”
A fairly reasonable question, seeing that it is a 100% US Taxpayer financed network.

The reaction was stunning and I checked again to make sure I had the words correct.
“I hate to report on anything the Americans are doing” he said

“It is not my type. It is not my job to promote American propaganda.” He continued.
His assistant chipped in “what have the Americans done for Iraq”

We pressed on “When was the last time you did a program on what the Americans are doing in Iraq?”

He paused and said “Oh, maybe once six months ago”
Previously having worked at networks in Dubai and Kuwait he was hired immediately following the Liberation of Iraq and has been on the US Payroll since.

Watching “Al Hurrah” with some Iraqi friends they became instantly upset as an “Inman” or moslem Priest was featured on the program.
“Why do the Americans do this” they replied! Why are they always promoting islam?

Another young man put it even more clearly.

“The Americans are hated because of a very simple reason” he said.

“For those of us who see what the Americans do every day with our own eyes, we love them for it and are so grateful.

For most of the Iraqis, and for most people in the Middle East all they see are the terrible images and reports on all the Arab channels that tell crazy stories of the Americans purposely stopping the electricity to hurt the Iraqis, hurting the women and children and all kinds of other lies.”
“While there are dozens of Arab channels lying about the Americans every day, even on their own channel – Al Hurrah they don’t tell their own story.

This is the reason! The Iraqis have never seen or heard all the wonderful things the Americans have been and are doing.”
 “There are two wars” he continued. One was the military one and that the Americans won completely.

The other is the war of communications and for this the Americans have failed completely.

For some very strange reason they do not tell their own story.”

With the director of their operations in Iraq saying and repeating that he “hates” to do any stories on all the good that the

Americans are doing and an Assistant who chips in “what have they done?”

It is no wonder that in spite of massive assistance and help in all levels of Iraqi society, very few know about it.

What country in the world would pay 70 Million Dollars a year and hire people who say they “hate” to do what should be their primary mission – giving the American message to the Iraq and the Middle East – just one voice against 56 others broadcasting a 24 hours a day message of hate.

In a normal situation a “fair and balanced” view might be possible, but when you are countering dozens of the most bizarre and hateful media systems in the world, the “fair and balanced” view is not enough.

“Go back to the drawing board”, would be the view of those Iraqis in the know.

“Tell your story” the young man continued

“Tell your story because it is a beautiful story of all the good you have done for Iraq and above all don’t pay to slander yourself.”
A big dose of common sense from one young man in Baghdad who loves America and the freedom it has brought to his country.

A big reality check?
Most Iraqis and in particular Government Officials act as if they had singlehandedly overthrown Saddam Hussein.

It is definitely time for a bit of Transparency and Accountability!

Amir George