“Control Room” is a documentary that goes inside Al Jazeera and presents Arab journalists struggling to be objective and cover the Iraq war. I think the journalists did an admirable job, although there were points where their pride and identity got in the way of reporting. The most egregious was covering the ground invasion, where they wanted to report valiant Arab resistance, but it simply wasn’t the case. Iraq had been too battered and too bombed to offer much resistance as Al Jazeera itself found out when its station in Baghdad was a target of a U.S. attack costing the life of an Al Jazeera employee.
I found it infuriating to watch Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly lie. The most galling was about Al Jazeera bringing women and children along to complain about a building that had just been bombed claiming it was their home. How insensitive could he be? How could he possibly know if it was their home or not? Then he called Al Jazeera the liars, and they would lose credibility. Given what took place in the opening shots of the war, I think it is easy to tell who the liars are. Yet, the western press just lapped it up.
The most concerning aspect of the film is the Arab attitude that Palestine and Iraq are related, not generally but specifically. I understand the similarities, but I wish I understood the U.S. strategic interest in Israel a little bit more. Is it because it is a beach front off of the Mediterranean that leads into the Middle East? Although, Iraq for its strategic location and proven reserves is a tad more obvious.
There were three major take-aways from the film for me. The first was the way American propaganda was presented by the leaders and willingly transmitted through the press together with the ability for leaders to get the western press to attack any critics of the war like Al Jazeera. The second was that the U.S. openly attacked Al Jazeera using the U.S. military to silence criticism. Third, the toppling of Saddam statue was staged. The U.S. was never greeted as the liberators of the country and there exists tremendous resentment over the human cost to the Iraqi people for this unjust war, although there was no particular love for Saddam either.