6 November 2008 Edition
Media View BY FRANK FARRELL
Manicured war mongering
YOUR grouchy columnist gets grouchier each time he opens the Irish Times British/US war news section, that section of the newspaper which masquerades as foreign news or columns glorifying war against violent and unreasonable natives in the Middle East.
There are various excuses for invading somebody else’s country, stealing its wealth and killing its citizens. It used to be called the white man’s burden, then anti-communism, anti-terrorism or peace-keeping and more recently it has morphed into a crusade to bring western democracy to uncivilised nations.
A variant on this latter theme is that men in the third world, blinded by religious fanaticism, do not treat women equally and so the feminists of Sandhurst and West Point, along with ‘new men’ from the back streets of Manchester, Glasgow and London’s East end, now carry Emmeline Pankhurst’s message to the uncivilised, sexist natives at the point of a gun.
Irish Times columnist, Anne-Marie Hourihane, wrote a heart-rending article recently about the death of a serving policewoman, actually the highest ranking woman officer in Afghanistan, Lieut. Colonel Malalai Kakar. Apparently, the Taliban killed her because she fought for equality, against brutal, wife-beating husbands and for the right of women to work outside the home.
Anne-Marie read about Kakar in that radical magazine, Marie Claire – the mag’s latest edition boasts articles on Lily Allen t-shirts; coral nail polishes; ‘Buy of the Day: Estee Lauder Shimmer Jewel Powder’ and a riveting read on ‘Ethical Living: Super-chic charity notepads’.
Unfortunately, the article was spoiled by a small, throw-away detail that Hourihane, quite unnecessarily and almost as an after thought, added near the end of her homily. Apparently, the feminist Kakar had “killed three Taliban in a shoot-out”. Unfortunately, Hourihane had no details of this heroic act of feminist agitprop and one can only presume that this was not a shoot-to-kill operation.
Hourihane bemoaned the media emphasis on Christian aid worker, Gayle Williams’s killing in Kabul to the exclusion of Kakar’s shooting. But Anne-Marie is herself guilty of erasing the memory of another female ‘activist’, British Army corporal Sarah Bryant, who along with three other British soldiers was killed by the Taliban last June. Bryant was initially described by British MOD propaganda sheet, Defence News, as an intelligence officer but it quickly emerged that she was in the SAS. And that doesn’t stand for Save Our Sisters.
The end of the IRA campaign has led to a frightening level of belligerent, war mongering propaganda from the Irish media. We have had British Army recruitment campaigns by several newspapers and recently there has been much hand wringing at the crisis faced by the US and British forces in Afghanistan who, by their own admission, cannot defeat the Taliban.
A reflection of this support for political violence – as long as it’s British, US or other Western political violence in other people’s countries and not the other way round – was the reaction to the RIR parade in Belfast last Sunday. The Irish Times reported on the potential for violence and division caused by guess what? The militarist parade of soldiers who have occupied countries abroad and who have been involved in murder at home? Not at all. It was the opposition from Republicans to precisely these militarist activities that moved the Times to criticism and a disgracefully dishonest heading to its report last Monday read, “Sectarian tensions rise as republicans oppose event”.
Dan Keenan – former press officer for the SDLP – while critical of the ugly behaviour of a minority section of loyalists, wrote lyrically of the “many more thousands” who with “little union flags in hand and welcoming yellow ribbons pinned to their coats .... were defiant, but quietly so. This was a show not of strength but of resolve – to stand by the British Army”. Keenan should either apply for his job back with the SDLP or a new post with Defence News.
At least the Irish Independent heading reported, “Tensions flare as army march opens old wounds” and the paper reported that the MoD had agreed, after the announcement of Sinn Féin’s protest, that the soldiers would not carry arms and had also called off its triumphalist RAF “over the top fly-past”. The Star did not attempt to define the division as anything other than “Protests over British parade”, quoting Sinn Féin spokespersons comments about the inappropriate celebration of a British Army regiment involved in the Troubles.