En guerre

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En guerre

27 septembre 2002 — Parallèlement aux péripéties de la préparation de la “guerre” contre l'Irak, se poursuit et s'accentue la guerre de l'information. Elle prend des tournures finalement plutôt inattendues, notamment pour sa diversité. On peut mettre deux faits généraux en évidence :

• La prédominance de l'information d'un seul parti, en général celui du gouvernement (du pouvoir), et celui de la guerre depuis le début des années 1990, est une règle qui s'effrite rapidement. La situation évolue plutôt vers le désordre, avec des poussées en sens contraire, que ce soit de manipulation, de prises de position, d'injonctions, etc.

• Les manipulations, prises de position ne prennent plus de gants. Elles se font à ciel ouvert, sans vraiment se préoccuper de dissimulation. Cela contribue d'une part à alourdir le climat et à affaiblir l'équilibre de la pratique des libertés, cela permet d'autre part et a contrario de mieux identifier les tromperies et les manipulations et de se déterminer à meilleur escient.

Comment un directeur de journal déclare la guerre à un Premier ministre

Un fait remarquable récent dans ce climat est la prise de position du Daily Mirror contre Tony Blair, c'est-à-dire l'instauration d'une ligne générale hostile au PM sur la question irakienne. La chose a été annoncée d'une façon très mondaine lors d'une rencontre entre le directeur du quotidien et Blair, le directeur ayant été convié à Downing Street. L'entretien a été rapporté dans un article du Financial Times du 26 septembre.

« Tony Blair has been warned he can no longer count on the 70-year-old support

of The Mirror if he backs US-led unilateral action against Iraq. Piers Morgan, editor of the leftwing newspaper, met the prime minister for an hour on Tuesday amid Downing Street concerns about the tone of The Mirror's coverage of the international situation.

» Mr Morgan, who has dubbed Mr Blair America's “poodle”, said: “The big

question is if they go to war with Iraq unilaterally, against the UN mandate, we are going to have serious problems with that. Our support can no longer be taken completely for granted.” The Mirror has been a staunch supporter of Labour since the second world war, and a change in its political allegiance would be a severe blow for Mr

Blair. »

Un classique de manipulation de l'information par la presse US

Les exemples sont nombreux, de manipulations de faits, particulièrement dans la “grande” presse américaine dont l'alignement général sur la position officielle est une caractéristique surprenante de continuité depuis la fin de la Guerre froide. Souvent, cette attitude se fait d'elle-même, sans la moindre consigne ni pression remarquables, par conséquent par pur esprit de conformisme et d'alignement. Ce processus est apparu durant la guerre du Golfe, il est devenu évident durant la guerre du Kosovo. Il tendrait à se confirmer aujourd'hui, comme le montre l'enquête de FAIR ci-dessous, dans certains domaines spécifiques qui restent à déterminer ; mais il y a désormais des nuances sérieuses renvoyant aux constats énoncés au début (par exemple, c'est la première fois depuis la fin de la Guerre froide qu'un des “grands” journaux US, le New York Times, prend une position plutôt défavorable à la thèse gouvernementale, sur l'Irak).

Un bon exemple du phénomène classique d'alignement par manipulation est donné le 24 septembre par le groupe américain FAIR-L (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, — Media analysis, critiques and activism), qui développe le cas de l'espionnage réalisé par les équipes de l'ONU (UNSCOM).

Voici le texte de FAIR-L, en date du 24 septembre 2002

Spying in Iraq: From Fact to Allegation

Nothing makes a newspaper prouder than a juicy foreign-policy scoop. Except, it seems, when the scoop ends up raising awkward questions about a

U.S. administration's drive for war.

Back in 1999, major papers ran front-page investigative stories revealing that the CIA had covertly used U.N. weapons inspectors to spy on Iraq for

the U.S.'s own intelligence purposes. “United States officials said today

that American spies had worked undercover on teams of United Nations arms

inspectors,” the New York Times reported (1/7/99). According to the

Washington Post (3/2/99), the U.S. “infiltrated agents and espionage

equipment for three years into United Nations arms control teams in Iraq

to eavesdrop on the Iraqi military without the knowledge of the U.N.

agency.” Undercover U.S. agents “carried out an ambitious spying

operation designed to penetrate Iraq's intelligence apparatus and track

the movement of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to U.S. and U.N.

sources,” wrote the Boston Globe (1/6/99).

Each of the three news stories ran on the papers' front pages. At first,

U.S. officials tried to deny them, but as more details emerged, “spokesmen

for the CIA, Pentagon, White House and State Department declined to repeat

any categorical denials” (Washington Post, 3/2/99). By the spring of 1999,

the UNSCOM spying reported by the papers was accepted as fact by other

outlets, and even defended; “Experts say it is naive to believe that the

United States and other governments would not have used the opportunity

presented by the U.N. commission to spy on a country that provoked the

Persian Gulf War in 1991 and that has continued to tangle with U.S. and

British forces,” USA Today reported (3/3/99).

But now that the Bush administration has placed the inspectors at the

center of its rationale for going to war, these same papers have become

noticeably queasy about recalling UNSCOM's past spying. The spy scandal

badly damaged the credibility of the inspections process, especially after

reports that data collected through UNSCOM were later used to pick targets

in the December 1998 bombing of Iraq: “National security insiders, blessed

with their unprecedented intelligence bonanza from UNSCOM, convinced

themselves that bombing Saddam Hussein's internal apparatus would drive

the Iraqi leader around the bend,” wrote Washington Post analyst William

Arkin (1/17/99).

Suddenly, facts that their own correspondents confirmed three years ago in

interviews with top U.S. officials are being recycled as mere allegations

coming from Saddam Hussein's regime.

The UNSCOM team, explained the New York Times' Barbara Crossette in an

August 3 story, was replaced “after Mr. Hussein accused the old commission

of being an American spy operation and refused to deal with it.” She gave

no hint that Saddam's “accusation” was reported as fact by her Times

colleague, Tim Weiner, in a front-page story three years earlier.

“As recently as Sunday, Iraqi officials called the inspectors spies and

accused them of deliberately prolonging their work,” the Washington Post's

Baghdad correspondent wrote recently in a story casting doubt on the Iraqi

regime's intentions of cooperating (9/8/02). Readers would have no way of

knowing that the Post's Barton Gellman exhaustively detailed the facts of

the spying in a series of 1999 articles.

“Iraq accused some of the inspectors of being spies, because they remained

on their host countries' payrolls while reviewing Iraq's weapons,” the

Boston Globe's Elizabeth Neuffer wrote recently, in an oddly garbled

rendition of the charges (9/14/02). She could have boasted that her

paper's own Colum Lynch (now with the Washington Post) was widely credited

with first breaking the story of UNSCOM's spying in a January 6, 1999

front-page expose. But she chose not to.

It's hard to avoid the impression that certain media outlets would rather

that UNSCOM's covert espionage had never been exposed in the first place.

The day after Barton Gellman of the Washington Post first reported the

spying charges, in a story sourced to Kofi Annan's office, his own paper

ran a thundering editorial denouncing Annan's “gutless ploy”

(“Back-Stabbing at the U.N.,” 1/7/99) and instructing the U.N. leader that

instead of providing the information to a Washington Post reporter, he and

his aides should have “raised their concerns in private.”


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