November 15th 2008
London School of Economics
With Peter Oborne, Inayat Bunglawala, Nick Davies and others
Hosted by Media Workers Against the War (www.mwaw.net)
We are living in dramatic times. The first black president of the United States has raised expectations of genuine change.
Yet the “war on terror”, now in its eighth year, continues to be waged in the name of the same free-market ideas that lie behind the current economic crisis.
In Iraq, bloodshed, fear and a shocking standard of living remain the norm for most civilians, but too often the situation is spun as a “good news story” for Western audiences.
In Afghanistan the commander of British troops, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, has said: “We’re not going to win this war”. In the last 6 months Carleton-Smith has lost 32 soldiers and had 170 more injured.
The US and European governments are seeking to create a “coalition of the willing” that would bypass the United Nations and impose sanctions on Iran – while a military attack remains on the agenda.
Meanwhile a proxy war is currently going on, largely unreported, in Somalia.
The war continues to have a damaging effect on the mainstream British media:
• Journalists struggle to access and convey genuine information from Afghanistan and Iraq owing to strict military control and censorship;
• At home, the war has led to vilification of Islam and scapegoating of Muslims. Journalists who investigate extremism have been targeted by the courts, while the police have used “terror” laws to harass photographers;
• Without critical media we can stumble blindly into new wars, such as that in the Caucasus in August;
• Iran is routinely demonised, while war is already spreading – almost unmentioned – into nuclear-armed Pakistan.
This conference comes at a crucial time – never has the need to keep an open mind and an open media been greater.