Uday’s Oil-for-News Program
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Eric Stakelbeck point out the financial links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Arab media, revealed earlier this year on US-sponsored Al Hurra television and almost completely ignored by Western media: Uday’s Oil-for-News program. (Hat tip: No Pasaran!)
On January 6, 2005, the U.S.-funded Arabic satellite network Al Hurra broadcast an explosive exposé detailing the financial links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Arab press. Al Hurra’s documentary—so far overlooked in the West—aired previously unseen video footage, recorded by Saddam Hussein’s regime during its murderous heyday, of Saddam’s son Uday meeting with several Arab media figures and referring to the bribes they had received.
Recipients of this Baathist largesse appeared to include a former managing director of the influential Qatar-based, government-subsidized satellite network Al Jazeera, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali. The videotaped meeting between Uday and al-Ali occurred on March 13, 2000, when al-Ali still worked as Al Jazeera’s managing director. Their conversation makes clear that this was not their first meeting, but that they had met on prior occasions—and that Al Jazeera had put into effect the directives that Uday had proffered in those previous meetings.
Referring to how his advice had affected changes in Al Jazeera’s personnel, Uday states, “During your last visit here along with your colleagues we talked about a number of issues, and it does appear that you indeed were listening to what I was saying since changes took place and new faces came on board such as that lad, Mansour.”
This “lad” is Ahmed Mansour, an Al Jazeera journalist who has been criticized for his pro-insurgency reporting. In particular, Mansour came under fire in early 2004 for his coverage of the U.S. attack on Falluja, which pointedly emphasized civilian casualties.
Uday goes on in his videotaped conversation with al-Ali to mention that some people have relayed to him al-Ali’s comment that Al Jazeera is the station of Iraq’s Baathist regime “both literally and figuratively.” Thus, Uday says, “It is important that I share with you my observations about the station.”
In response, al-Ali never denies saying that Al Jazeera was Saddam’s station. Instead, his cloying remarks provide Uday every reason to believe that this is so. Al-Ali gives Uday his “unequivocal thanks for the precious trust that you put in me so that I was able to play a role at Al Jazeera; indeed I can even say that without your kind cooperation with us and your support my mission would have failed.” Al-Ali also tells Uday that, in his mission at Al Jazeera to serve Iraq, “the lion’s share of the credit goes to you personally sir, yet we would be remiss not to mention our colleagues here who constantly strive to implement your directive.”