A few days ago I remarked that downtown Baghdad was probably going to look different soon. I didn’t suspect that DigitalGlobe would go on publishing free images of the changing face of Baghdad, but they have done just that with this Baghdad Region Image Gallery. It’s really pretty remarkable the kinds of things you can see. For example, here’s something you couldn’t easily do in any other war before this one: independent verification of bombing accuracy. We say our bombs are accurate. Are they?
This close-up view of the region across the river from the al Sijud palace shows at least one impressive example of accurate targeting. Click on the small picture to the left to see a bigger view. You’ll see two rows of buildings, eight of which have been reduced to rubble-strewn craters, punched out of existence as though with a paper hole-punch. We are entering an era when bombing inaccuracy will refer almost entirely to faulty designation rather than faulty delivery. No matter how good a surgeon you are, you can still take out the wrong kidney from time to time. Oops!
As Matthew noted in a follow-up comment to my last post, Space Imaging hosts similar pictures at their site. Here is a shot of Baghdad on April 1st with oil trenches smoking away. Elsewhere on their site you can see pictures of the (former) Saddam International Airport. Just think, all the Iraqi Information Office would need is a web browser and a high-bandwidth connection to verify that the troops on the ground are not actually theirs.
Read what Peter Arnett has to say for himself in the Mirror: This War Is Not Working
Charles Paul Freund writes about War Flutters on the Reason website. War flutters are the predictable anxieties that appear when a conflict becomes scary, real, and unpredicatably dangerous. Freund makes the point that scandalizing comments like those made by Peter Arnett are part of a larger process that serves us very well, whereas Al-Jazeera is not serving its own constituents well. As Freund puts it,
The debates that emerge from negative press stories are not a distraction, they are a necessity. If you want to see a medium that is, by contrast, largely failing to do its journalistic work, then you should find a way to catch Al-Jazeera’s coverage. Anyone in the Arab world depending on Al-Jazeera for an understanding of the conflict is not being well served.
Tantalizingly, he goes on to quote Michael Young of Beirut Calling that Al-Jazeera is the beginning of a brand new phenomenon in the Arab world that will itself mature. I’m quoting Young directly here:
It’s important to understand that while Al-Jazeera does indeed often act like a propaganda outlet, it has been a liberating experience for the Arab publics, providing them with higher expectations from their own media. Already, Al-Jazeera has to look over its shoulder at Al-Arabiyya, a Dubai-based station, and at Al-Hayat-LBCI, a venture between Lebanese LBCI and the Saudi daily Al-Hayat. This could explain the station’s penchant for sensationalistic atrocity reporting. In time, however, Arab stations will understand that accuracy is a better magnet, and the standards by which Al-Jazeera (and others) are judged inside the Middle East will be raised.