By Eric Zuesse
In the US-and-allied nations, the standard way of interpreting wars and international relations is archetypally exemplified by the internationally respected award-winning American war-journalist Marie Colvin, of the London Sunday Times. Her career was stellar, if not absolutely unmatched: she won the “Journalist of the Year” award from the Foreign Press Association, plus five other international journalism prizes, for herself and her publisher. This “consummate war reporter” had started out from a military family, and then Yale, and then UPI, and then interviewed Muammar Gaddafi in 1985 and subsequently, and was clearly on her way up to the top of her profession. But the first really big event in her career was the event that caused her to live the rest of her life with a black eyepatch over her blinded left eye.
It all started in that same year of 1985, but not in Libya. She was also covering in that year the separatist war by the Tamil Tigers, to break off, from Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the far-northern and far-eastern sections of that country, so as to create an independent nation, which would be controlled by Tamils, and no longer be merely a region within the nation of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is not Tamil-majority, but is instead overwhelmingly Sinhalese population. Marie Colvin was embedded there, along with the anti-Government fighting forces, Tamil separatists, anti-Sinhalese fighters who were at war against Sri Lanka’s Government. This was a Tamil-versus-Sinhal war, and she was reporting it, from the standpoint of the separatist-Tamil rebels.
Her much-celebrated career ended 27 year later, with her own death, on 22 February 2012, in Homs Syria, while she was embedded with anti-Government forces there, who were trying to overthrow Syria’s Government, instead of to overthrow Sri Lanka’s or Libya’s Government.
In all three of those instances — from the very start, to the very the end, of her illustrious career — she was embedded along with, and her articles were in support of, anti-Government forces that the UK-US aristocracy supported, in order to break up countries that this aristocracy were hoping to ‘free’, so as to take control over them, away from the existing independent Governments there. This was her constantly recurring pattern, from her start, to her widely lionized end, as being a promoter of US-UK international empire: journalism that embraces and unquestioningly accepts and endorses imperialism, while never indicating to its audience that it has any connection whatsoever to imperialism.
In between her Sri Lankan start and her Syrian end, she prominently reported several times from Libya, likewise from the standpoint of opponents of that independent nation’s Government. Libya had previously been a vassal state of Turkey (Ottoman Empire), then of Italy (Italian Empire), then was an ‘independent’ nation within the UK-US Empire. And, then, finally — as a result of Libya’s Revolution, which was led by Gaddafi in 1969 — Libya actually did win its independence. Gaddafi became killed in 2011, from forces that had been unleashed by the US-UK Empire and France. That successful assassination happened on 20 October 2011, and America’s Secretary of State promptly and publicly exulted about it, by bragging “We came, we saw, he died — ha ha ha!.”(The Democratic National Committee and its duped voters rewarded her with their Presidential nomination five years later in 2016 because she was ‘the most experienced candidate’, having had lots of such disastrous ‘experiences’, which the duped voters were misled to think to have been an asset, instead of a liability.) Thus, ‘democracy’ was finally being brought to Libyans, by that country’s former foreign imperial masters, plus their agents, Al Qaeda and other local proxy-forces against Gaddafi.
What all of Colvin’s reporting exemplified was ‘journalism’ by a ‘reporter’ who is embedded along with the fighting forces that were being propagandized for by her own nation’s aristocracy — and, though she was American, she was in the employ of American vassals, UK aristocrats. This US-UK aristocracy wanted those countries to become either broken up, or else taken over by themselves entirely; and she was a ‘journalistic’ agent for that, though she was unaware of the fact, and was actually proud of her work, because of her obliviousness to the broader and deeper reality around her.
Here are some crucial details of her career-highlights, in this regard:
The Tamil Tigers constituted the fighting force of Sri Lanka’s 18% minority of the Sri Lankan population who were 74%-majority Sinhals. Ceylon’s (Sri Lanka’s) Sinhal population had been ruled by the British Empire through that 18% minority of Tamils as UK’s local agents, until Sri Lanka (Ceylon) was finally released from British bondage, and won independence in 1946, when the British Empire was breaking up.
A key Sri Lankan law that passed in 1956, the Sinhala Only Act, made Sinhalese language replace the British-imposed English language as Sri Lanka’s official language. Though the Tamil language had never been Sri Lanka’s official language, many Tamils, who had been accustomed to ruling the land for their British masters, were infuriated that the ‘inferior’ Sinhal people now ruled the land. One of those Sinhals was their own leading aristocrat, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the progressive who became elected Prime Minister in 1956 and won passage of the Sinhala Only Act and of other laws to actually end British control, but he was assassinated in 1959 by a Buddhist monk because Bandaranaike had just then signed an agreement with the leader of the main Tamil party to bring some degree of local autonomy to the Tamil minority, who were concentrated in the far north and far east. Bandaranaike’s wife, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was then elected as Prime Minister in 1960, and she not only tried to increase political participation by Buddhists, but she firmly established democratic socialism (or progressivism) as the Government’s policy. But then, the Marxist (dictatorial socialist) Lanka Sama Samaja Party eroded popular support for her government, which became resoundingly defeated in the general election of 1965. Sirimovo became re-elected back into power in 1970. However, her Government’s support of Buddhism and of the Sinhalese language alienated the country’s large Tamil minority, 80% of whom are Hindu (the others: 13% Muslim, 2% Christian, 2% Sikh, and only .8% Buddhist). By contrast, 93% of Sinhals are Buddhist. According to the US Library of Congress in 1988, “93 percent of the Sinhala speakers were Buddhists, and 99.5 percent of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka spoke Sinhala.” (By contrast, the entirety of Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist, 13% Hindu, 10% Muslim, and 7% Christian — very different from the Tamils.) So: Sri Lanka’s political split was along religious lines — mainly Tamil Hindus versus Sinhal Buddhists — in addition to being along tribal lines; and the Tamils represented, in both respects, supporters of the Hindu caste-system, and of the former British aristocracy, which are America’s vassals, against the Sri Lankan public.
In 1976, the militant separatist Tamil Tigers were born, basically as a reaction against the 1946 freeing of that country from its former colonial British masters.
Starting in 1985, the Tamil Tigers “forcibly occupied more than 35,000 acres of Muslim residential, agricultural and cattle farming land. The government did nothing to help Muslims regain their properties based on title deeds, government permits or the paddy cultivation register. During the ethnic conflict in 1983, 1985, and 1990, more than 12,700 Muslim families were chased out by” the Tiger forces. Wikipedia’s article “Expulsion of Muslims from the Northern province by LTTE” calls the October 1990 portion of that sequence an “ethnic cleansing,” of Muslims, from the north Sri Lankan, Tiger-controlled, city of Chavakachcheri.
Colvin’s ‘news’-‘reports’ were strongly pro-Tamil, anti-Sinhal, but she seems to have known nothing about the country from which she was reporting (at war), and to have cared even less about it. (She even said [12:00-] “The history, and the ability to put into context anything in a war … It didn’t mean anything,” because “it never happens the way you think it’s going to.” She exhibited no interest whatsoever in understanding the background of a war. To her, for example, the war in Chechnya was simply bombings by Russia, “an indiscriminate bombing of Chechen villages,” and she had no curiosity as to why whatever was occurring was actually happening.) Instead, she was obsessed by, and focused only on, the immense suffering that civilians on the US-UK-backed side experienced. Of course, the owner of her newspaper, Rupert Murdoch, probably knew the historical background in this former British colony of Sri Lanka, but her employers never told her about that, and she apparently never asked them about it. They simply couldn’t find any other journalist who was stupid enough to do their bidding in their bosses’ former Empire and who was willing, indeed eager, to accept the pay that they offered to do it. This well-intentioned, but willingly ignorant, employee lost an eye — and was nearly killed — because of her being embedded there, with what were actually (though she never knew it) UK proxy-forces. She thought that she was helping ‘the good guys’ (Tamils) in a war against ‘the bad guys’ (the Government). She was the archetypal star-‘journalist’, having faith in ‘our’ side. She is beloved, by her ‘journalistic’ colleagues, as if she hadn’t been merely the empire’s most effective war-propagandist.
In 2011, in Libya, she was accepted again into Gaddafi’s tent for an interview, even though she despised him as one of the ‘bad’ guys. (This doesn’t mean “bad” as Hillary Clinton was bad, but instead ‘bad’ as one of the Clinton-Biden-Obama regime’s many victims who all were ‘bad’, in her view. And, of course, the US-UK aristocracy are all ‘good’, in that view: the imperialists’ view.)
In 2012, in Syria, at the conflict in Homs, she was telecasting to CNN, and other TV networks, regarding how evil Bashar al-Assad was for bombing the enclaves there that, in fact, were cooperating with Al Qaeda (though Colvin didn’t report that they were such). It was on 22 February 2012, and Britain’s Telegraph bannered “Marie Colvin: Britain summons Syria ambassador over killing.” This newspaper reported: “In her broadcasts on Tuesday night, Colvin had accused the Syrian Army of perpetrating the ‘complete and utter lie that they are only targeting terrorists.’ Describing what was happening as ‘absolutely sickening’, Colvin said: ‘The Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.’” When the US and UK had done more-widespread, entire-city, bombings in World War II, it was fine, in this view; but, now, when Syria’s Government were doing more-targeted versions of that, in order to prevent a takeover of Syria by the US, and a subsequent hand-over of Syria to the Sauds, it wasn’t okay. And, of course, the Western ‘press’-corps, of US-UK invasion-propagandists, place Colvin upon a pedestal, as having constituted the ‘ideal’ ‘ war journalist’.
That’s one way of interpreting wars and international relations — the way that Colvin memorialized.
An excellent docudrama movie about Marie Colvin’s reporting from Sri Lanka in 1985, and Libya in 2011, and Syria in 2012, is the November 2018 “A Private War”. It provides an honest portrayal of her. (Some incompetent critics downgraded the movie because of what actually were deficiencies — basically Colvin’s stupidity and shallowness — in the real person herself. Other incompetent critics, such as at the neoconservative Washington Post, praised it largely because they shared Colvin’s neoconservatism. It’s just an honest, and very skillfully done, biopic.) On the basis of its strictly cinematic values, I consider it a superb film.
The opposite way — the anti-imperialist viewpoint — of reporting about war and international relations, has been embodied, to cite two prime authentic journalists — NOT propagandists (such as Colvin was) — by Vanessa Beeley, and also by Eva Bartlett. Both of these authentically great reporters have also covered the war in Syria. Here, from them, is this opposite way of interpreting war and international relations:
VIDEO, 19 mins., Eva Bartlett, 10 December 2016, U.N.
Eva Bartlett, on 21 March 2018
VIDEO, 27 mins., 7 October 2016, rt.com
Vanessa Beeley, 23 October 2015
Vanessa Beeley, 28 October 2015
Vanessa Beeley, 21 June 2016
Vanessa Beeley, 23 September 2016
Vanessa Beeley, 1 August 2019
Those journalists DON’T win awards from the Foreign Press Association, etc., and AREN’T hired by mainstream ‘news’ media, but they are vastly superior to the ones who do.