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A chronicle which provides a rare window into the international perception of the Iraq War, courtesy of Al Jazeera, the Arab world's most popular news outlet. Roundly criticized by Cabinet members and Pentagon officials for reporting with a pro-Iraqi bias, and strongly condemned for frequently airing civilian causalities as well as footage of American POWs, the station has revealed (and continues to show the world) everything about the Iraq War that the Bush administration did not want it to see. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Between us, if I'm offered a job at Fox News, I'll take it. Instantly. I will send my children to go to America after highschool, I will pay for them to go, to exchange the Arab nightmare for the American dream.
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"Control Room" shows the preparations prior to the Iraq conflict, as the world news media was positioning itself for the war that everybody knew was coming. The Cent-Com, or center of communications, was something the United States arranged in order to disseminate news about the Coalition's invasion of Iraq. This way, the different representatives of the global media would get the news from one source, without having to follow the fighting troops on the ground.
In a way, this was the U.S. attempt to put its own input in what it wanted to the world to know. In doing so, little did the powers that be considered what a small Arab news network would do to tell viewers in that part of the world about what they perceived was going on. In doing so, Al Jazeera became one of the most hated news group by the people trying to liberate Iraq. From Donald Rumsfeld and his colleagues, one couldn't expect any differently.
In a democracy, all voices have a right to be heard. Unfortunately, for Al Jazeera, they stepped on too many toes by telling a different story from the official one Washington wanted everyone to know. That was only the beginning.
Up to that point, Al Jazeera was considered an enemy by most Arab states in the region because in their way of thinking. This news agency was pro-coalition, therefore, pro-American and anti-Arab. Al Jazeera became a symbol of opposition to the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Al Jazeera had the advantage of being from the region and understanding the mentality of the people, something the American planners didn't take into consideration.
At the Cent-Com commanding post we meet Josh Rushing, the American in charge of coordinating the news. He is a decent man. At times, he is seen torn between reality, as the Al Jazeera correspondents tell him and his own loyalties to his country and the war cause. We doubt that after this documentary was shown, he is still at his post!
There are disturbing moments when we watch people hurt in the conflict. War is ugly and lots of innocents die. There is a segment in which one of the Baghdad's reporters sits at the roof of the building that housed the Al Jazeera's studios visually frightened as the bombing increases. Later on we get to know that Tarek Ayoub was killed in the bombing of that building. Was it a coincidence or a deliberate attempt to silence those irritating little men?
Al Jazeera was the antidote to the Fox News machinery. In watching the documentary, the viewer gets to see the story told from a different perspective. In a way, our view is balanced because we see the other side in a way we didn't know existed.
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