Radio Free Iraq … maybe not.
In a further sign that the United States is not serious about promoting a democractic Iraq, Clandestine Radio Watch reports that Radio Hurriah, the Iraqi National Congress’ station for broadcasting into Iraq has been de-funded by the U.S. Department of State. This follows the shuttering of Hurriah TV earlier this year.
The State Department apparently felt there were already enough stations broadcasting into Iraq, and it has a point — 27 stations beam opposition broadcasts into the country. But most of them operate out of Iraqi Kurdistan and reflect the political and ethnic divisions of that region, Clandestine Radio Watch reports. Also, al-Mustaqbal, Voice of the Brave Armed Forces, and Radio of the Two Rivers (Radio Mesopotamia) operate out of Kuwait using covert American-run transmitters.
This abandonment by the Bush administration is a continuation of the Clinton cold-shouldering of the INC, which has had an on-and-off relationship with Washington over the years. The London-based opposition movement was particularly hung out to dry in 1996 when the CIA worked with the group to topple Saddam in a coup attempt that went disasterously wrong thanks to a lack of funding. When Iraqi troops overran positions in northern Iraq, CIA operatives fled for their lives and many of the INC personnel in Iraq were captured and executed, including the entire local staff of the Iraqi Broadcasting Corp., which had been broadcasting pro-democracy messages from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The other radio stations broadcasting into Iraq tend to focus on the failings of Saddam and promote the one bullet/no war solution to Iraqi’s problems espoused by White House flak Ari Fleischer a few months back. (“The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less [than the cost of war]… There are many options that the President hopes the… people of Iraq will exercise themselves that gets rid of the threat.” — And Secretary of State Colin Powell says regime change isn’t the goal!) Considering the wink and nod to Iraqi democracy the United States has been giving over the last few months, this cut in Hurriah’s funding (which happened in May!) isn’t surprising. And it’s giving rise to suspicions among average Kuwaitis as to what America’s real motives are in the Middle East.
This cuts to the heart of my own ambivalence on the matter of Iraq. I don’t trust the Bush administration to act in any but the most venal, self-serving manner. I don’t believe in going to war and killing innocent people if there’s no greater goal than access to oil and some slippery geopolitical goal of “benign” hegemony that no one will admit to on the record. But if there were a real commitment to democracy and a free Iraq that was truly liberated not just from Saddam’s thuggery but from the United States’ ambitions as well, then I might just consider that something worth fighting for.