The War on Terror – 9/11 Ten Years On

“Did the war on terror open the door for the Arab Spring?” a very interesting question that was raised this evening during the BBC’s Question Time Program.

I’ve never really been a big supporter of the idea that war opens any form of doors, other than the door of misery, pain and destruction. However, it is an unfortunate truth that there are cases where the use of force is necessary and acceptable in order to achieve a balance that is more favourable to the greater good of mankind.

I think the primary concern of this question is to establish exactly what the words “War on Terror” exactly mean. It is essential to establish the key target of the war on terror and trace any link between that target and the basis of the Arab Spring itself. I also believe it is important to ask if the efforts and gains, if any, of the War on Terror could have strengthened the cause of the Arab uprising.

The words “War on Terror” I think are an unfortunate choice of rhetoric used by an administration that was lead by a man who saw himself as a crusader for the good of his nation. The words have been used far too loosely by far too many people in power to explain or justify military actions that under any other guise of explanation would be questionable. I would also suggest that the largest players in the coalition in this war have been very selective in their choice of targets, primarily focusing in on one or two groups that challenge the safety and security of these key players. It is for this very reason that I suggest it is paramount to establish exactly who the legitimate target of this war is in order to understand its impact globally.

In a layman’s eyes the “War on Terror”, would generically indicate that Terrorism of any kind in any theatre would become a credible target of such an effort. In a global world you would imagine that such a war would be co-ordinated by a universal governing body such as the United Nations, NATO or some such similar organisation. I feel it would also be fair to assume that any direct action taken against any terror organisation would be unilateral and while secrecy and operational safety should be of paramount concern, it would be naive to assume that collateral damage to civilian targets would not be a consequence of this war. For this very reason alone, it is necessary for the governments and powers in leadership within the various theatres of operation to be in agreement with any action undertaken in order that accountability falls squarely at the feet of the people who can and should be held accountable for the results of such actions.

However the grim reality is far from this idealistic assumption. The War on Terror in reality is a coalition of like minded governments with a very specific target in mind. Ultimately, I do not believe that the war on terror is aimed at any particular human target, but more specifically, using a disguise and subtle subterfuge, was more aimed at the control of a commodity. I highly doubt that there would ever be any evidence of this, however I don’t for one moment believe that as the wider public, we were fooled by the reasons given for going to war in the regions that were selected to raid under the guise of  the war on terror.

If you consider the two main theatres of operation in the War on Terror, admittedly pre 9/11, Al Qaeda clearly had a strong and powerful presence inAfghanistan. Targeting their training camps, going after arms dumps and strongholds in the Tora Bora region seemed sensible. Weakening the Al Qaeda threat was the apparent goal of this operation, and the desire to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice was something we all bought into. Perhaps however we didn’t really bother to look beyond the headlines in the press, or the stories being spoon fed to us as the general public by the media.

I am not implying that the press were implicit in the greater deception that was going on through the War on Terror. I firmly believe that seasoned politicians skilled in the world of “Spin”, are masters of hiding the truth and manipulating the media to their own advantage. Do not believe that people in the know within media circles were blind to what was going on in powerful places, but I honestly believe that the world of international politics and press coverage work hand in hand on the basis of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. In this way the public are fed the story that powerful individuals, organisations and governments want the public to see.

Had we been shown pictures of homes burning, innocent Afghan people being killed and routinely displaced from their homes and lifestyles, children without clothing, water, schooling, shelter and very often wounded or killed by our forces actions, would we have been so keen to allow the War continue in our name? War is a cruel and dangerous game. Civilian casualties are inevitable and when you start to fight a guerrilla war against an enemy which does not recognise the conventions of war, innocent lives are unavoidably caught in the middle, frequently used as a human shield. Is this the type of warfare we would so readily have supported had its reality been blitzed across our screens.

In the ten years since 9/11 I am often struck by the frequency that those powerfully emotive pictures have been splashed across the front pages of our newspapers, or shown on the television news. Vast sums of money have been spent on telling the story of 9/11, discussing what went wrong, how to prevent another 9/11, listening to the heart wrenching personal tragedies that unfolded after 9/11. In stark contrast to this, how many times have we seen any footage of the disaster that has befallen the Afghan people? How many stories of personal suffering and great loss have we heard from the Afghan point of view? I mean let’s be honest for a moment; do we imagine that the Afghan people chose to allow Al Qaeda to set up in their back garden? Do we imagine that people, who have lived with conflict for over 40 years, chose to allow a dangerous and evil element of mankind to establish training bases in their nation?

Let us understand that for years the Afghan people had lived under the tyranny of the Taliban. Since their rise to power in Afghan politics in 1994 the Taliban inflicted an oppressive and violent version of Islamic Sharia Law, under which the people ofAfghanistan, especially the women were left with few if any rights, power to vote, or the basic freedoms that we take for granted in our society. Amputation, flogging and even death were common punishments for things as trivial as a word spoken out of place, right through the genre of crimes.

The fear imposed on the Afghan population was total and complete in that no one would dare consider an uprising against such an oppressive and violent ruling party. I think that in the first instance this is an indicator that anyone that accepts that the War on Terror opened the door for an Arab Spring fails to consider. Domination is not only a physical exertion of power over others; it is the mental state of mind of the people that fall under this domination.

We must consider whether the people affected by the dictatorship of these wicked people are capable of rising up. Is it in their blood to fight against their own people? Let us not forget that civil war is costly, ugly and means that families are often fighting against one another. In a community as tightly knitted as the Muslim community of the Arab Middle East, it is uncommon if not almost unheard of for civil war to erupt. Granted there are violent power struggles within the ruling elite of the area, however it is infrequent that the people feel capable of taking power into their own hands, so is it indeed possible that through the process of the elimination of tyrannical leaders through the Middle East that the people felt an empowerment?

I come back to my original point of the mobilisation of the popular press by political propaganda that convinced the population of the West that we had no alternative but to strike first in a pre-emptive measure in order to protect ourselves against the potential of another catastrophic civilian terror attack on our soil. I cannot help but feel that through the eyes of the media we were hoodwinked into believing that there was a clear and present threat against our nations.

Please understand that I do not for one moment want to suggest that the attacks of 9/11 were not a cowardly and despicable act against the innocent civilians of a sovereign nation. I do not wish to lend credence to the belief that attacks like 7/7 inLondonor the Madrid Train bombs, or theBalinight club atrocity are in any way legitimate or explainable. Terror is a wicked, cruel and cowardly attack by a weak and small minded few against a powerful nation through its innocent civilian population. There is no place for such evil in our world, and I support the idea that action is necessary to battle against the people that would choose terrorism as a weapon of war.

However, there is a right way and a wrong way to target such people. Taking the battle to the back yard of a population that on the whole is generally opposed to the actions and doctrine of such individuals only serves to radicalised another whole generation of young people. Watching their own families and friends killed in a battle to protect our people, a people the Afghan people have never seen, have never met nor care to think about only serves to create a new and vivid hatred of our society within a generation that have looked at Russia, Pakistan, the Taliban and now the West as wicked, violent and oppressive occupiers and dictators.

Is this serving the eradicate Terrorism or breeding a new and even more dangerous breed of terrorist? Al Qaeda are not stupid when they specifically target young vulnerable men that are easy to manipulate and radicalise with images and visual media of an occupying force that are seen to be causing massive casualties on their home soil. They are not stupid when they preach their message of hate among the youth and vulnerable within our own societies. They know that so called “Home Grown Terrorists” are the ultimate weapon in their arsenal.

It was common knowledge among leaders prior to 9/11 that there was an uncomfortable acknowledgement among Arab Nations that the Taliban regime was radical and far too oppressive in their leadership withinAfghanistan. So we are left to wonder whether diplomatic discussions between our Arab allies and our nations would not have lead to the Arab world turning on the Taliban and in effect using Arab power to remove an evil and ominous threat. It is questionable whether the Arab world would infact have gone to war to oppose the Taliban, but surely it would have been better to use an Arab lead coalition if this had infact not been possible?

It is also difficult to understand why when the Taliban offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden on the delivery of proof of his involvement in 9/11, that theUSAdeclined the offer saying that they would not negotiate with Terrorists? Does this mean that theUShad identified the Taliban as a part of the terrorist threat? That is something that has never been explained. In addition, I cannot help but wonder when you hear the US Political mechanism say that it has a mountain of evidence against Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, why it was never used to bring the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful resolution and allow a lawful and criminal procedure to take place. Was it infact the case that theUSAfelt it was necessary to stamp its authority within the international community as a world leader and military super power that would not allow anyone to attack its people without suffering retaliation and humiliation of an occupation and regime change at the insistence of the American people?

Al Qaeda and the Taliban were very early on identified as potential targets of the War on Terror. Very quickly after the battle started in the Afghan theatre of conflict,Iraqwas identified as a clear and present danger under the assumption that its weapons of mass destruction could be used against a Western Nation. As Al Qaeda was fragmented and split up as their strongholds inAfghanistanwere obliterated, we begin to see the emergence of Al Qaeda in other areas of the world, more notably,Kenya, the Philippians,North Africa,Pakistan,Iranand various other hotspots around the world. However, Al Qaeda in these other locations have not been pursued as aggressively or fervently with military aggression as is the case with Afghanistan and Iraq.

War on Terror? The question mark begins to grow as the ten years since the world embarked on this war seeking to eradicate terrorist organisations spirals endlessly into the dust of our future. It is now widely acknowledged that the war on terror can never be won, nor should ever have been embarked on. Granted significant progress has been made through the elimination of powerful and evil targets, but at what cost? Personally I do not believe that the price paid for the removal of Sadam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden was the dawn of the Arab Spring. For that matter I do not agree that the cost in human lives both those of innocent Arab nationals, nor the lives of our precious and brave service personal should ever have been sacrificed on such a whim.

So am I calling the War on Terror a whim? After 9/11, the emotive pictures of human beings falling to their deaths from a burning hell of steel, and the knowledge that thousands of people were pulverised to nothing more than dust and bits of flesh and bones as the twin towers crumbled to the streets of Manhattan became a huge asset in the propaganda arsenal of a mighty nation. There were people within the American and Western political infrastructure that were itching for a war. It didn’t take much for the images of a London Red Bus or the knowledge that 52 people perished in the attacks on British soil to be used to emote the British public into outrage.

Cast your mind back if you would to June 1996 when the IRA detonated the biggest bomb on the British mainland since the war injuring 212 people. Over a wide passage of time, the IRA was and still is responsible for many of the worst atrocities of terrorism in theUK, however many of the leading perpetrators of violence on British soil in the name of the IRA are now serving time. In December 1988 the then dominant international terror group the PLO brought down a PanAm flight over Lockerbie inScotlandkilling 270 people. We discovered that the reality was that the terrorists had originated fromLibyaand in 2001 a Libyan national was imprisoned for the attacks. These are just two instances of terrorism inflicted on our nation, where no war on terror was perpetrated in response to the attacks, and while long and detailed investigation was necessary, people have been brought to justice. IRA bombers are still currently serving time in British Jails, and while political leadership saw fit to release al-Megrahi the Libyan locked up for the PanAm atrocity, it is proof that a diplomatic and legal channel is possible for justice to prevail.

So let us consider these points then. Firstly, what is the real target of the War on Terror? Personally, while Al Qaeda is defiantly a target of our military efforts, I cannot help but believe that the real target of the war on terror was the control of oil within theMiddle East.

Secondly, Al Qaeda were based in Afghanistan, and while there was a lot of rhetoric and sabre clashing from Sadam Hussein at the time, was Iraq ever really a threat to our national safety? I think that we can all agree that after it became evident that weapons of mass destruction never existed, that the war inIraqwas anything but a war on terror. Personally I do not for one moment feel safer as a result of the war inIraq. Truth be told I worry more about the future as terrorism becomes more technically advanced and tricky to detect. Had politicians been more cautious about entering into war, and taken the time to work out a logical and internationally agreeable response to the attacks by Al Qaeda, we would not be faced with the mess of an Iraq in tatters, insurgency activities launched against innocent Muslims, international soldiers and anyone who would oppose the terrorists, who see themselves as working, sleeping and living in very real danger.

Thirdly, I can honestly say that I firmly believe that had we the public been shown the reality of the war on terror, its effects on other innocent people and the overall reality of its success that we’d instantly have withdrawn our support and approval of these actions. The American, British and other nationalities involved in the coalition are on the whole, beautiful, generous and kind people. We are proud and have a strong sense of morality. I do not believe that had the people in power been honest with us that the war would ever have taken place.

So does this make the war on terror a whim? Yes. It is clear that in haste the authorities of the day mislead us, the governments of the time were eager to show their muscle on an international stage, and in the wider game of intimidation and domination we have gained nothing, if not ultimately put ourselves in even greater risk.

Now if I am able to sit down and come to this conclusion, it is not worthy of even asking if as a result of this fiasco of the war on terror that the Arab people looked at what was happening and thought, hang on, we want a part of this. Do you honestly imagine that the Egyptian people looked at Iraq and thought, “Hmmmmm, Iraqi people are democratically free, but live under constant threat of political persecution if suspected of being an insurgent, live day to day wondering whether the next insurgents suicide bomb is going to take them into the blackness of death, or lets be honest, where they are going to find work, survive, get a home or build a life” and thought, “Hell yeah, we want some of that!”

Are we expected to believe that the Libyan people thought, “Right let’s oust Gaddafi and descend into a tribal feud that will tie up our nation for generations to come”? Are we meant to believe that the Syrian people relished the idea of rising up against one of the most brutal dictatorships in the Middle East with the idea that the sacrifice they would have to endure in order to gain their freedom? Is a noble and diligent quest for freedom and the destruction of evil worthy of giving credit to the war on terror? No, the Arab people are a sophisticated, knowledgeable and dynamic people. It would be foolish to imagine that through the actions of the western world, the Arab people felt emboldened to stand up for their rights. This is a process of revolution, and revolution takes time, effort, long term hardship and oppression.

Africawitnessed a revolt against the oppression of the colonialist invaders through the 20th centaury. Did that mean that the rest of the world watched and thought what a wonderful idea, lets rise up against our oppressors? It did not. Liberation struggles began within each nation at a time that the people reached a point where they couldn’t stand the torture of a second class lifestyle under a powerful minority any more. The birth of the guerrilla struggle is nothing new. Throughout the ages of mankind’s history, there are catalogues of examples of the underclass rising up against an oppressive ruling class. Human beings by nature are tolerant beings, but pressed hard enough we are liable to break under the pressure and seek to find a way to freedom.

I think that the true reality of the Arab Spring is born in the roots of human history. Education and the modern capabilities of social media offered a unique opportunity for like minded individuals to call out for a change. The call echoed through the massed population and the seeds of a revolution were sown, the fight for freedom was born. No one specific conflict can be pointed to as the initiation of the Arab Spring. Personally I believe that the Arab people are far more capable and resourceful to have to wait for the West to show them the way. It is not impossible for a people of any race, capability, situation to come together in opposition to their treatment at the hands of a brutal regime. I do strongly believe that for this to be facilitated, there must be a channel of provision, a facilitation of capability for the uprising to take force, and I also have an inclination to believe that in many ways the West has chosen to allow the Arab Spring to gather pace in yet another attempt to gain power and influence in a theatre where they are desperate to gain control of the oil resources.

My reason for this conclusion lies in the African theatre, where we find ruthless, cruel and violently oppressive dictatorships that have been allowed to remain in power unchecked for decades.TunisiaandEgyptwere left to struggle through their revolution unassisted while the British were quick to rush to the aid of the Libyan rebels in order to protect their investments in Libyan energy reserves. Terrorism inSpaingoes unchecked. The Chinese treatment ofTibetis tantamount to extermination, and the genocide that continues inDarfurwith a complete unwillingness on the part of the powerful nations that called for the war on terror to fight in the side of the righteous is scandalous.

This two faced hypocrisy is something that so many Arab people have pointed too, and it is this very factor that totally discredits our actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and any other theatre that we enter into. Till we gain an understanding that we must win the hearts and minds first and foremost through due diligence and leadership by example we will never win this battle to gain understanding. In our daily effort to bridge the gaps of culture and religion, we struggle to be tolerant and accepting of different attitudes and points of view, yet on an international front we destroy the complete perception of being a multicultural and tolerant society.

As we reach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I look back and my heart screams for those who were stolen from our hearts and lives inNew York. As I sit and ponder the results of the war on terror my heart aches for the lost lives of the Arab sons and daughters that died for no fault of their own other than to be alive in a war torn country. Most of all my tears run for the lives of service men and woman that have been sacrificed for a futile cause. To learn that educated men today acknowledge that we can never win the war on terror, despite the fact that we have significantly weakened Al Qaeda and disrupted their capabilities makes me wonder how much it was all worth. Does this admission of incapability infact now mean that now that we have begun this struggle that we will always have to be vigilant and in a war ready state or actually at war in order to protect our way of life? Are we really safer today than we were on that fateful September morning? When does the tit for tat vengeful sting go out of the situation and two sides bitterly opposed through our actions lay down their arms and discuss their differences to seek for a realistic and logical solution? When do we stop loosing our loved ones and stop the bloodshed? These are the real questions we need to be asking our politicians. These are the answers we want from our leaders. But I guess more than anything, I would really love a frank, honest and truthful admission of guilt from the people that stormed into conflict without giving long and realistic thought to the consequences of their actions.

As a rule of thumb I believe there is one question that a politician should always ask himself or herself before making a decision to commit their nation to conflict. The question is very simple and is only two words long. This is the lesson we all need to learn, and the question that outweighs all other considerations: …..”What If?”


Blood on the hands of our Media

I have watched the latest press coverage of the Haitian earthquake with some irritation at the sheer lack of responsibility with which our modern press portray national emergencies. In writing this post I do not in any way want to take anything away from the pain and suffering of the Haitian people, nor the impact of what they have had to endure and go through since the disaster struck their homeland just a few short days ago. To them my condolences and respect I give gladly. I do however want to put a bit of perspective into our minds of this world that we live in and the irresponsibility of the international media in focusing our attention at things they feel or deem important enough to make the new, and corrupt our minds into forgetting what we cannot or no longer see.

My feeling of discontent at the direction of the British press core in Haiti had been felt from the start, when almost immediately they began to look for blame at the lack of support from the international community at reacting to this disaster. With all the good will in the world, there are logistical and monetary issues that face the entire world at this moment in time that would mean any response would have been met by this problem. I am struck at this time at the audacity of the British press in demanding that the USA do more and look to blame them for security issues on the ground that make distribution of AID a headache for everyone, not least the US.

What disturbs me the most is that while we appreciate that the US and Europe, and much of the world have been gripped in the worst economic disaster for the last twenty four months, that it is once more to the Western world, namely the US and Europe that the victims of this disaster look too for their salvation. Why I ask myself are the British media not asking why more has not been done by the Asian community, whom have we are told, completely avoided the economic crisis that has befallen most of the modern world. Surely in a time such as this it is into their pockets that they should be dipping, and surely in a time like this their military might could have been swung into action and flown in just as easily as US troops.

Ok, fair enough, distance might prose its own practical issues to this argument, however I am sorry but I am sick and tired of hearing people blame the US and the West for its lack of support and delay at getting help in. Since as far back as the great earthquake that levelled the centre of Mexico City, I have heard disaster appeal after disaster appeal go out to the giving and generous people of Great Britain, and every time they have risen up and met the call. Billions of pounds of money has been risen over time for all manner of disaster appeals. In the same way I have never seen America fail to step up to the plate and deliver, even when it cannot really afford to itself, it has never let the greater world down.

Whenever it is a disaster around the world, it is always the same people and countries that time after time reach out and touch the lives of those who have been dealt a devastating blow. Be it the earth quakes in Pakistan, China, India, Indonesia, Iran and many others around the world, or the Boxing day Tsunami, or the famines of Africa, Hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico, to almost any kind of human suffering, the press make a good job of showing us the vivid impacts of these disasters, emoting us into action, and demanding reaction and support from the same corner every single time. Never before have I heard the press condemn the Chinese or the Russians for the lack of support or assistance.

I have to ask myself as the seats of power swing in other directions as things change in our world today, if things shouldn’t be slightly different. I cannot help but feel that if AID workers had been rushed into the field in Haiti and violence had broken out resulting in the deaths of AID workers, that the press would have been the first to ask why security had not been organised, and press long and hard for heads to roll to satisfy their ill placed passion with pointing a figure and finding blame.

The main reason that I write this evening is that in my own opinion, I feel that the press themselves are the root cause of much of the blame for inciting and creating a news that they feel is sensational and worthy of hitting our screens. I firmly believe that the press go out specifically looking for stories that they are able to twist and manipulate into witch hunts of blame and fault and hatred. Imagine a reporter stood before you, well clothed, well educated, healthy and well fed, at a time when you have lost family and loved ones, at a time when hunger is a pressing issue on your mind as your stomach gnaws within you. Imagine if you can a man who seems to be in charge at a time you feel the world around you is falling at your feet, presenting you with a question like, “Do you feel that the USA should do more to help you?” What do you really think your answer would be?

This evening as I sat watching the ITV evening news, the straw on the camel’s back finally broke for me. I sat and watched as the news teams jumped on a story of the thousands of children caught up in the confusion of Haiti, rushing to sensationalise how it was children now who were starving and suffering the worst as AID failed to reach Haiti. I was angered and sickened at this gross display of pure irresponsibility on the part of the reporters. I was saddened to think that for one moment in time, the suffering of every child anywhere else in the world meant nothing as these reporters could manipulate and emote its watchers to the plight of the children of Haiti.

It is not that I do not feel for those children, but I was sickened to my stomach as I thought to myself, that in a day, week or month, when they have totally thrashed and exhausted everything that they can out of the Haitian disaster that those children that today were so credible as a news story will be forgotten about, and left to fend for themselves just as much then as they are now, while the spot light falls on them in the aftermath of this disaster. Yes I was angered at the way that our so called perfect press would stoop so low as to use children’s suffering to make its news worthy for our screens tonight, when in a year or two’s time, when the AID given now dries up and the world is focused on the next big news story, those very children that the press were so willing to sensationalise tonight will be forgotten about and left to a life of misery and pain.

Could it be so true in this day and age that our press could be so corrupt and work with such scant regard for human life and suffering? Please, wake up. This is 2010. Think if you will of the orphans of Eastern Europe where children have systematically been abused, abandoned and brought up in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. Children who were gagged to stop them from crying, children who were left without clothing for months. Children who were starved and abandoned because they had birth defects, or were slow or stupid as the institutions of the Soviet state believed. Orphanages in the Ukraine where if you had enough money you could go and buy time with any child you liked. In their time, they were an adequate news story to shock and sensationalise the news we were watching, but today, the British press couldn’t give a damn about the conditions which according to any number of agencies that are working with organisations based in Eastern Europe are just as bad if not worse in some places.

Then there are those who’ve been orphaned by war. Huge blocks of children brought up by the state in places in Europe where the press dare not tread for fear of being beaten like the thugs they are. Chechnya and the Balkans, Rwanda and Brunei, Congo and Uganda. In these places millions of children have been completely left to their own devices. In many of the African conflicts children fell into war lords clutches and we fashioned into armies of little value, put on the front line to be slaughtered till the enemy ran out of ammunition and the elite forces of the war lord could then sweep in an annihilate their enemy. Are we as a society so dull as to imagine that the moment that the press stopped telling us these stories that the problems went away? Visit Africa today. Take a walk around in Darfur right now and look at how many of the rebel soldiers carrying AK47’s are kids of 13 and 14 years of age, high on marijuana to keep them controllable, and ever ready to die for their precious leader who cares not for anything but his position in power and maintaining it behind his army of children for as long as he can.

Could we believe that those children that were shown to us just last year as the Burmese cyclone wiped out half a nation as unprecedented flooding brought the country to its knees? I recall then how loudly the press shouted about the lack of AID given, despite the military junta’s refusal to allow the AID in. But in the press’s eyes, it was far more sensational to blame the international world for the failure, and show the suffering of the people, children, men and woman alike, while they painted a vivid picture about how inept the leaders of the world were at putting pressure on the government of Burma to allow the AID in. Do any of us pretend now that since our esteemed press core choose no longer to tell us of their suffering that the people of Burma have it any easier? The truth is that the military Junta kept the aid that was allowed into the country for itself, and the people continue to suffer as they struggle to rebuild a life shattered in the waters of that cyclone. But that wouldn’t be a very exciting story, and report it as they might, it would not change the status quo, nor make any difference to the people on the ground, so they are left to suffer, as sensationalising that story and emoting us would be futile and worthless, and so the story is now not news worthy.

For far too long the media have reported with scant regard to the effect of such sensationalism in the press. Let us take for example a few years ago right here in Wales. An area close to where I live became known as Lynch Rope Central or Suicide Alley, as a growing number of teenagers fought to get their name on the headline news through acts of suicide. For a bunch of teenagers it became cool and hip to get your name and story on the news, and have everyone talking about how wonderful you were and for a moment in time your name was a celebrity as the media pounced on the news of “WOW, yet ANOTHER suicide victim in Bridgend and the number of teenage suicides goes up in the town! Police are baffled as they fail to find any link!”
The link was you, you idiots! The very press who didn’t even consider for one moment that your actions were the root cause and reason for such an sudden growth in teenage deaths. Right up to the end the press fought a vicious and costly campaign to maintain that they were whiter than white and had a right to report the news. It eventually took a direct order and “agreement” from the press to stop reporting on teenage suicides in the town, before the war was won, and what happened? The moment that kids realised that their stupidity wasn’t going to get them on the national news, none of their mates were going to get interviewed, no one would talk about how wonderful they were, it stopped. And so it was that the mighty body of the press right here in deepest darkest Wales were taught a lesson. That their lack of foresight and sensationalism of one simple act of stupidity on behalf of one teenager who now lies in a box, six feet under, and whose name is probably forgotten by the very reporter that sensationalised his death, started a trend that took over twenty lives before it was forcibly stopped. This is the wreckless disregard for their reporting standards that I talk about when I say that the press don’t care. Today’s suffering doesn’t simply disappear because you stop talking about it, and reporting in this way is callous and wrong.

I am Zimbabwean, and a passionate one as anyone who knows me would agree, and so as I watched the television last night, and saw them walking among the orphans of Haiti, I was angered. Perhaps in reality my anger towards the failure of the press core has a lot to do with the situation in Zimbabwe. You see, Zimbabwe has to daily deal with over 2.1 million orphans, who have little in the way of assistance to survive. Those agencies on the ground in Zimbabwe are given little in assistance by the world to feed, cloth, educate, provide health and safety to these children. Many live on the streets, fending for themselves. Many are cared for by people who have other uses and ideas in mind for them. Many are abused and mistreated. Most of them have little future if any. Today 1 million Haitian children need our help. So does that mean that 2.1 million Zimbabwean children today are no good to care about? Does that mean that those trying desperately to make a difference for these kids in Zimbabwe, don ‘t need anything today, because your attention is now focused somewhere else where you can sensationalise your story and make the world watch your news coverage? No the reality is that you’ll make your millions out of covering this disaster and forget about the plight of those children just as quickly as you forgot about those in Zimbabwe. You see Mr. Reporter, power lies in your hands. Responsible reporting would be to continually apply pressure, to constantly remind the world and keep those vulnerable and in precious need of help daily in the front line of your reporting. Not just when you need numbers to watch your program or buy your rag.

And it is for this reason that I am sickened when I hear our reporters on a front line trying to make out that nowhere else in the world are their people suffering, because now their story is no longer applicable or exciting to you as a reporter. Such irresponsibility would be subjected to a government being removed from power, or department heads being changed were it a different organisation, and they acted in such a manner. News is news, but exploiting those who befall the news, and making their suffering and hardship the centre of attention of your news for the simple demand of ratings or sales is both disgusting and scandalous. It is high time that reporting became more about the story and less about the visual impact and sensationalism of preying on those unable to protect themselves. I hope in time that our generation become more in tune with people’s feelings and less interested in such diabolical reporting.

Zimbabwean Prime Minister jeered off stage in London.

As the world watches in amazement as the Iranian people take to the streets in force to protest, at risk of life and limb, to air their belief that democracy has been stolen from them in the General Election a few weeks ago, I find myself comforted at the fact that people can still champion their cause peacefully. Like in Tiananmen Square all those years ago, it is the collective voice of its people that gets an oppressive dictatorship quaking in its boots. In the face of military persecution and a direct challenge to the fundamental human right of choice, the Iranian government have used violence against the masses of peaceful demontrators and now have blood on their hands in much the same way as many ruthless dictatorships. And its their own peoples blood that is spilt, dripping from their hands to spread in the dust below.

It makes me wonder if other people living under oppression have begun to see what is happening in Iran, and thus begin to wonder whether a collective effort on their part could put them in a better place. I know for one I never expected to see the Iranian people rise up against their leaders. It just goes to show how much government propaganda can create a false impression of peace and stability in a world that in reality is far from content. Never would I have expected such large numbers of people to retaliate against a man whom appeared at one time to so effectively speak as the supreme leader of his people. Maybe as the world has stood by and watched the west assist in the removal of Saddam Hussein, they have begun to realise that there is no need to live a life of abject fear under a dictatorship if your country has something that the west are interested in. Maybe the Iranian people realise that there is enough interest from the west that if a popular uprising to remove their oppressors takes firm shape that they could probably seek and receive assistance from the west to make it happen. Or maybe like the people in Zimbabwe they have just woken up to the realisation that no matter what the world loves to shout and scream from their podiums of relative safety, no one is comming to help! They have to do it themselves.

Yes this is the firm realisation of the Zimbabwean people. You see we don’t have substances that would attract large scale interest from the west. If anything it is the East that pays close attention to our assets. As a nation our people have lived under a cloud of dictatorship for almost 3 decades. Three whole generations that have suffered at the hands of an evil megalomaniac. I know and have spoken with many people who admire Mugabe, and I am ashamed by their admiration of a despot. He may well have been the leader of the resistance,but the war ended 30 years ago. Mugabe certainly does not have the people of Zimbabwe in his heart, nor do any of his policies seek to build up a Nation of Proud people under him. How can you admire a man who has lead one of the finest countries in Africa to its knees? How do you admire a man who has brought about the bankruptcy of his nation? How I ask can you admire a man who has committed murder in the name of greed? I have listened to people who call him a proud leader of the African people. Yet have you seen how you are treated if you oppose his dictatorship? One cannot use the excuse that it is the people around him that carry out the acts of aggression without his knowledge. Do you honestly believe that he does not know? Please, it is insulting to believe for one moment that you would believe such a thing.

I can honestly say, there was a time I admired Mugabe. When I was a school going man I even got to shake his hand at an awards ceremony. I like so many others believed that he was good for Zimbabwe. I ashamedly have to stand today and admit I was wrong. I was fooled by an incredibly well educated man who has been corrupted by greed and guilt. Ultimate power unchecked is damaging. It can only lead to corruption and evil. History has proved this time and time again. And the evil deeds committed under the guise of leadership are the nightmares that these people now chase. The fear that if they are deposed the skeletons will come parading out of the woodwork to expose their wicked ways. And yet they cling to power in earnest, desperate to hide their crimes against humanity.

Zimbabweans have learnt that they stand alone in this world. There is no nation that rally’s in support of their plight. There is no government willing to put its soldiers in the line of fire to rid the country of a man the whole world can clearly see is destructive and willing to use violence against his own people to ensure nothing threatens his grip on power. But maybe as a nation seeing what is happening in Iran is giving us strength and resolve to voice our objection. It only took a couple of hundred to force the Prime Minister to leave the stage today. As I watched his speech I did wonder what the future of Zimbabwe holds. Can its people really rise up peacefully in the same way as the Iranians to depose the government? Morgan Tsvangiri has lost a lot along the way. There is no doubt that the accident that killed his wife was staged by those loyal to the current regime. It’s a well known fact that opposition leaders or those who cross Mugabe will discover how easily road traffic accidents happen. We have seen it time after time after time. How long will it be before he is “bumped off” in yet another accident? I read an article by Jonathan Moyo recently calling Morgan a slave to Robert Mugabe. It would seem that today proved to him the depth of the anger that common Zimbabweans feel. For a man who was once quite well respected to suddenly feel so humiliated must have been a shock to the system. However when he makes statements calling Mugabe nothing but an old fashioned gentleman, and saying that there is unity and stability in Zimbabwe when we know otherwise, it is only by his own words that he has brought shame to his feet. I can’t help but feel that the MDC party have lost their way along the way slightly. A true leader can only inspire people to follow him if he is in touch with his people. And statements like “You’d better listen to me!” really do not go far in making you appear to be a leader of the people. A leader leads by example and talks with people. The Zimbabwean people have for the last 30 years being told what they should and shouldn’t listen too. Isn’t it about time you politicians started to wake up and realise its time to listen to what your people have to say?