The Gulf War started in 1990 after Iraqi troops led by the dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and declared it the 19th province of Iraq. Given that Iraq was more powerful than Kuwait, this invasion caused damage to the Kuwaitis and the national security of Kuwait. Provided that Saddam had succeeded in seizing a vast portion of Kuwait, it was upon the Kuwaitis to either retaliate or ask for international help. The former was not an option for Iraq was a neighboring villain with a record of iron-fist leadership. The president of the USA, George Bush, then thought that Saddam had gone too far in invading Kuwait and offered to assist in pushing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. The international community followed the USA’s example and formed the coalition that was supposed to take Iraqi soldiers on an offensive mission to root them out of Kuwait (Allard & Kenneth, 1995).
The events that were unveiling had drawn too much media attention, and many reporters were in the forefront trying to capture a moment of the war to narrate something. On the side of the USA and coalition partners’ military, which allowed media to report on the issues as they happened, was a risk to both, the security of the USA and coalition military personnel, as it was to the image of USA. In order not to cut back the probability of such risks, the military personnel did not allow media reporters on the battlefront. Most of the reported events were according to the reports that the military briefers gave to the media. The fact about these reports was that they reported about one side of the story and aimed to prove a point to the public. The point was to make the public want to support that war by giving negative coverage about Saddam and Iraqi troops, while, on the other hand, portraying the USA military as considerate and fostering peace. The Gulf War, like any other war, had casualties, deaths, and instilled fear to the people who were caught in the crossfire; however, it was one of the most censored in terms of reporting with reporters and newsrooms’ reportage on what was thought to be legitimate by the US government.
Literature review. Saddam Hussein was the leader who assumed office without the approval of the people he was leading or claimed to lead. The way he assumed office was followed by a series of executions and forceful assumption of office under the help of the USA. Following the same trend of assuming office without the consent from the citizens of Iraq, Saddam Hussein felt like he could extend that form of leadership to the neighboring Kuwait. However, the move was not welcomed by most of the international powers and they moved in to oppose it (Builder, 1996). This ushered in the war to evict Iraq from Kuwait with the USA leading amongst partners.
Before the alleged start of the war, President Bush (the senior) gave a briefing that an offensive led by the USA troops was going to take place to drive out Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. While he was giving this briefing, the bombardment of several military bases in Kuwait as believed to have been occupied by the Iraqi troops started. This shows that the public briefing that Bush was giving was not aimed to alert the public of some already going on war but to rather inform them on a war that was going to start. The reason for this was that a number of information channels that had sent reporters to cover the story live. If the information had been given to the press before the operation took place, it would have been possible for the Iraqi troops to get prepared before they were attacked. The government and the military were playing the same game of tossing the public on whichever side they wanted in terms of the information they were willing to give and the time they intended to release it (Janos, 1990).
Shielding of Media Personnel. The media war was the scramble for news, but there was also the problem, with which they were competing with the military. Usually, the commander assumes full responsibility of the undertakings of his crew and any other personnel that may be onboard. In order to protect the operations of the military, the commanders ensure that there is a protocol to follow in terms of engaging the enemy and informing the press. For this reason, information to the press has to follow a certain channel and has to cover certain events. Soldiers are advised to take caution when they are faced with the press, and only designated personnel should disseminate information. In order to achieve the goals of the military and protect the well being of the military personnel, it is important to have the press well shielded from the decision-making chambers and warfronts.
For shielding the press from uncovering information and events that might be of bad taste, the military decided to pool reporters so that they could report only on what concerned the interests of the public. Every group of troops would have a number of reporters, who were to cover events undertaken by that particular group. That selection and categorizing was referred to pooling and was under the control and protection of the military sergeants. The problem with the pooling system was that the only events that would qualify for reporting were those with certain elevation to the advantage of the military (Gordon, Michael, and General Bernard, 1995). Reporters were left behind in camps as the military personnel went to the battlefront; this showed that there was technically nothing to report on.
With nothing first hand to report, the military briefers had to give the public back at home something to rely on. Following this underpinning, the military briefers had to rehearse on the content they intended to disclose to the reporters. Questions were answered selectively and at times, briefing allowed no questions. This practice shielded the press from reporting or informing the public on anything that the military thought to be damaging. Given that most of the American citizens were following the developments of the war on television, the military also had to control what types of images and video footages were appropriate for transmission. In order to achieve this, the images that showed military helping war victims, Iraqi soldiers committing atrocities, and displaced Kuwaitis were authorized for airing. The reason for this was to convince the public that there was a clear reason why the war was underway and somewhat win their support.
Speculation of War Advances. The Gulf War reporting faced a big problem of censorship from top authorities at the battlefields and at the government level. For this reason, reporters failed to get the point as to why they were in the battlefields in the first place. Considering the American citizens back at home and their rights to information, the reporters at the battlefield embarked on strategies that were aimed to provide the public with information. Speculating on events as they happened was a common thing, but it was met with heavy protests from the military commanders. Factors that led to positive speculation on the events that took place in the warfronts included missing and wounded military personnel, damaged tanks, and ammunition being unaccounted .
At the reporting desk, military briefers inspite of their rehearsed version of the stories could not deal with the questions that reflected on the missing or wounded military personnel. The twist that took center stage in speculating information concerning the Gulf War was the question strategy that there was more reporting in nature than seeking answers. For example, in an operation there were seen 2 soldiers from the USA military personnel wounded and their marine vehicle destroyed; following the strategy to inform through asking questions one reporter asked the crew commander if he could account for such a dramatic outcome. This question, according to the commander and the protocol to follow, was not one that he would answer. However, the reporters were not seeking the answer to the question – they were reporting about wounded soldiers and damaged vehicle. Was that a slip from the military personnel or a loophole they left in their control of the press? It was true that the military were more concerned about the video footage and the information that they allowed the press to access. However, they did not formulate the criterion for which questions were to be asked.
These events of speculation left the public back in the USA guessing rather than being informed. The television was everybody’s source of information regarding the Gulf War. However, the information aired was contrary of that was happening. USA troops under the commander of armed forces, the president back then, were in a mission to repel Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait and prevent humanitarian crimes. The American citizens drew that understanding from the numerous government and military briefings on the War. Contrary to that, Iraqi soldiers under the command of Saddam Hussein undertook an offensive to massacre citizens of their own, who were rebelling against Saddam’s leadership (Head, Earl & Tilford, 1996). With prior knowledge, the USA opted out of the issue by claiming no involvement in Iraq’s internal affairs. The meaning of the USA focusing on Kuwaiti public was to prevent crimes against humanity by Iraqi soldiers, but to analysts it was a double standards role to acquire trade union for oil.
Filtering of Information. Filtering of information is the act of scrapping some details of information or foregoing the whole set of information. This act is especially practiced when a certain proportion of the audience may decode a certain type of information negatively. The reason for filtering information depends on the setting of the informer and the audience addressed relative to the effects the information may have on other sectors of intelligence. The Gulf War was one of such settings and the audience was the American public, while the sectors being affected included the military, the political scene, and the image of America on the whole. In order to protect the image of America the information being allowed to the press had to undergo professional scrutiny for clarification that it would not influence the American public and the world in general negatively (Hart, 1994).
As images and video footages aired on TV covering the Gulf War, the only information that got to the public was manned closely and meant to catch the attention of the public and draw them towards the support of the war. With images, showing a positive side of the USA marines every time when one switched on the TV, it was convincing enough to make such a person support the war. However, the public did not have an idea as for the amount of information it was missing regarding the actual happenings of the war. Manipulation of press to accumulate support from the public was a trajectory of impunity of the highest rank (Fuller, 1994).
Considering the issue from the standpoint of an American citizen in New York, it was nearly convincing that the USA troops usually went to Kuwait to aid the Kuwaitis with rebelling Iraqi invasion. However, too much of positive press towards one side raised eyebrows and it was likely to attract criticism both, locally and internationally. With the pooling system, the people in charge of informing the press would give the same information and, therefore, cover the possibility of attracting criticism by contradicting themselves (Finlan, 2008). For this reason, the American citizens were locked in a state of misinformation with the possibility of not being informed at all. Recycling the same images and video footages was undertaking that almost indicated the same kind and type of operations and results or a state of temporary ceasefire. The reality of the issues was that the war was not put to a rest at any point from the start to the time that Saddam Hussein withdrew his forces from Kuwait.
Personal Experience at the War Front. Christiane Amanpour was a reporter during the 1991 American intervention on the issues of Kuwait and Iraq. On her detailed account on the undertakings of military operations and the part played by press, she accounted the minimal chances which were allowed her and colleagues to the combat zones. As usual, the initial routine of pooling reporters was done with and in the pool where she was placed in; she reported on how censorship of information took place.
The reporters, as reported by Amanpour, were made to adhere to strict code of conduct, within which lack of compliance was non-negotiable. Amongst the expectation of the commanders were all members of the press to be left behind when certain courses of action were to be taken. This allowed the military personnel to take control of the situation that they were going to cover with the risk of damaging the USA reputation. While this was happening, the reporters were left at the military camps with nothing to report on. On other occasions, they were taken to the combat zones for brief coverage of the events. The coverage of such events did not allow recording of every undertaking but only selected material.
On the grounds of delivering the information as allowed by the commanders, the responsible press briefers did drills to perfect the information they were to give to the press. “When the time for questions came, only selected troops were allowed for the interviews with press officers guarding the interview operation” (Ferrari, 2003). Punishment of officers seemed eminent for it was unlikely for press officer to be hovering around interview sessions. The military itself was not confident about the confidentiality levels of its troops, hence there was the reason for spying on the type of information they were giving the press. In certain occasions, reporters were taken out of the interview rooms if they asked inappropriate question. On the side of the military personnel, some of them were withdrawn from interview sessions if they said more than necessary.
As reporter, Amanpour believed that the percentage of information that the American citizens had access to through the media was less than 3% of the actual happenings that took place on the ground. The Gulf War, as reported, was not making any point to be partial information, but rather misinformation to the public. The public might not have had any choice but to believe that they were seeing in television, but the commanders had the choice to give the press its space to report on the war freely and independently (Ferrari, 2003).
Conclusion. The Gulf War of 1991 was one among others where free press was highly restricted. For this reason, most of the information that the military allowed to the press was too minimal to make any impact on the public in terms of informative journalism. Following the censorship of the media, the public were tempted to believe that the US military had all the reasons to intervene with in the Iraq-Kuwait conflict. With most of the information aimed at damaging the reputation of the Middle East leadership, a number of American citizens believe that the Middle East leaders are a threat to international peace. This ideology has made every president coming to office get involved with issues of the Middle East to control the out-of-control leaders.