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Cablegate: Nigerian Media Reaction to Bush Unga Speech,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002793

SIPDIS


FOR AF/PD and EUR/ERA KATHY ALLEGRONE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PTER NI UNGA
SUBJECT: NIGERIAN MEDIA REACTION TO BUSH UNGA SPEECH,
USG POLICY TOWARD IRAQ

REFTEL: A) State 184783 B) State 177841
C) State 169974


1. Summary. Nigerian press coverage surrounding
President Bush's September 12 speech to the UN General
Assembly and ongoing debate over U.S. policy towards
Iraq has been largely overshadowed by domestic
political news and the ongoing impeachment battle
between President Obasanjo and the legislature.
Northern media outlets whose audiences are
predominantly Muslim have been more sharply critical of
potential U.S. action against Iraq than those based in
the South, with strong skepticism expressed at USG
arguments on the need to remove the Iraqi President.
However, even Southern media generally voiced
criticism. End Summary.


Nigerian Media Reaction to Bush UNGA Speech, Iraq
--------------------------------------------- ----


2. Nigerian press coverage of President Bush's
September 12 address to the UN General Assembly was
spotty and largely confined to the international news
sections rather than the front page. Radio and
television coverage of the international debate over
Iraq has been light. Nigeria news outlets are far more
focused on domestic issues such as the ongoing
political battle between President Obasanjo and the
legislative branch over possible impeachment, upcoming
elections and the aftermath of voter registration, and
economic stories of interest to the average Nigerian.


3. Reporting on the Bush speech, subsequent remarks,
and USG policy towards Iraq in the southern newspapers
has been straightforward, relying on wire service
material and direct quotes from world leaders but no
editorial or analytical pieces. Coverage has focused
on European and international resistance to any USG
unilateral action against Iraq. Coverage in the
Northern papers, while still confined to the
international news sections, has given greater play to
USG policy towards Iraq and has been more critical.
Northern papers such as the "New Nigerian," the "Weekly
Trust," and "The Triumph" have also provided strongly
worded editorials denouncing USG policy towards Iraq.
Post notes that some of the material published in these
news organs is coming from web sites (e.g.,
IslamOnline.net) geared towards Muslim audiences.


4. Criticisms and observations of USG policy have
centered on the following themes:


-- USG policy on Iraq represents anti-Islamic bias of
USG since 1970s when U.S. hostages taken in Iran; in
post-Cold War period, U.S. sees Islam as greatest
threat to U.S. domination of world political and
economic life and USG Middle East policy geared towards
containment/weakening of Muslim states. " . . . with
the collapse of socialism in the former Soviet Union,
the U.S. finds Islam and Muslim nations as her greatest
enemy, looking for a slight opportunity to unleash
terror on them . . . ' "The Triumph," September 15-16,
2002; an article entitled, "Before America's Second
Crusade."


-- U.S. "set up" (i.e., encouraged) Saddam Hussein to
invade Kuwait so that they could destroy Iraqi ability
to develop a strong, independent Iraq that would not
bend to USG policies in the Middle East. " It was
decided, therefore, that the USA, backed up by Israel,
should attack and destroy the military capabilities of
Iraq, thereby forcing the capitulation of Islamic
radicalism; . . . the female American Ambassador to
Baghdad at the time misled Saddam Hussein into
believing that American would not raise a finger,
should the Iraqi Army invade the disputed territories
in Kuwait," "New Nigerian," September 13, 2002; an
article entitled, "Bush's Obsession."


-- WMD argument lacks substance, adequate proof and
relies more on suspected intentions of Iraq rather than
hard evidence; is also a double standard in that USG is
not applying same policy of regime change to other
states holding WMD (e.g., North Korea, Israel, etc.);
USG is also a possessor of WMD. " . . . America is
looking the other way over Israel's nuclear weapons."
"The Comet," September 23, 2002; an article entitled
"Iraq and the Future of the UN."


-- U.S. military used depleted uranium in bombs
dropped during Gulf War; depleted uranium did far more
damage to Iraqi people and U.S. soldiers than Iraqi use
of bio/chem. weapons. " . . . these shells, besides
being extremely destructive, were found in many cases
to cause cancer and other severe illnesses, not among
Iraqi troops but also among U.S. soldiers who were
around the areas where they were dumped or used . . .
Iraqi rates of cancer in the aftermath of the Gulf War
have gone up over 50 percent is some regions. This,
combined with US-led efforts to keep medicine out of
Iraq has exacerbated the situation and overwhelmed
doctors in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra," "Weekly Trust,"
September 13-19, 2002; an article entitled, "US vs.
Iraq: Whose war is it anyway?"


-- Argument that Iraq has ignored UN resolutions also
represents a double standard in that Israel has ignored
UN resolutions but the USG has not made similar demands
of Tel Aviv. " . . . why should the US continue to
turn its searchlight on Muslim nations as those
harboring terrorists while the biggest terror of the
world, Israel, who defies every bit of UN resolution in
the Middle East peace process carries on with its
ruthless, bloodsucking campaign against the harpless
(sic) Palestinians?" "The Triumph," September 13,
2002; an article entitled, "September 11, US and
Muslims."


-- President Bush is carrying on family vendetta
against Saddam Hussein and the USG policy towards Iraq
has not evolved since 1991. " . . . the Bush family
would never be contented unless the Iraqi President is
disgraced out of office through defeat in a war with
America." "Sunday Vanguard," September 15, 2002; an
article entitled, "The Wars of the Bushmen."


-- Iraq's neighbors (other than Israel) have not
voiced concern over any danger posed by Iraq; USG
showing its pro-Israel bias vis-`-vis rest of Middle
East. "Many Arab nations have flocked to Baghdad to
show solidarity with Saddam Hussein." "Weekend
Triumph," September 28, 2002; an article entitled,
"Opening the Gates of Hell."


5. USG public diplomacy strategy on Iraq could
usefully address the foregoing criticisms by focusing
on themes such as USG support and assistance levels for
Middle Eastern countries, USG past practice/willingness
to work multilaterally on Mideast problems, Iraq's use
of WMD on its own people, neighbors, how use of WMD has
affected the environment/health of Iraqi people/what
their use by Iraq today could mean, rationale for
following differing policy on Iraq as opposed to other
WMD holders, balance between Israeli and Palestinian
interests, differences in the USG approach to Iraq
between 1991 and today, and more specific information
linking the Iraq leadership with terrorist
organizations.


JETER

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