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Germany

Haditha: "The Horrible Pictures Are Missing"

German media analyst Horst Müller talked to DW-WORLD.DE about why the alleged massacre of Iraqis by US soldiers in Haditha -- unlike the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison -- has not caused worldwide public outrage.

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Not graphic enough? A video image of mourners in Haditha

Müller is the author of a book entitled "All Eyes on Torture -- Abu Ghraib and the Media." He is a media professor at the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida in eastern Germany.

DW-WORLD.DE: US soldiers allegedly murdered civilians at random in the Iraqi town of Haditha. But apart from the left-wing die tageszeitung newspaper the incident didn't make headlines anywhere in Germany. Why?

First of all, the pictures are missing. We have seen the same thing happen in other cases in the past. Coverage of Abu Ghraib started relatively late, for example -- and not because people didn't know about it, but simply because no pictures were available. The second reason is that the media and the public have become tired of Iraq to a certain extent. Coverage continues, but people are less and less interested. They know about the violence, they are literally overfed with violence. Thirdly, information about Haditha came out relatively late. The issue was not discussed by George W. Bush and Tony Blair during their recent meeting -- at least not publicly. They said that Abu Ghraib was the largest mistake that happened.

US papers covered Haditha quite extensively. Why did German media not follow suit?

We have the phenomenon of the so-called "culture of leading media" in Germany. As long as one of these leading media does not cover the issue, it is virtually nonexistent. Let me return to Abu Ghraib for a moment. Back then, CBS covered the scandal in the US and (German newsmagazine) Der Spiegel threw out a previous cover story and replaced it with Abu Ghraib. Only then did other German media follow suit -- with a significant delay.

Does that mean that Haditha could still receive the same coverage as Abu Ghraib?

Jahresrückblick 2004 Mai Irak Abu Ghraib

The picture of a hooded man with electric wires attached to his hands become an icon of the Abu Ghraib scandal

I believe that such things should be brought into the public domain in a prominent way, but I fear that it won't happen in this case. The pictures are missing. Abu Ghraib coverage only started when magazines were able to put pictures on their covers and TV was able to show them again and again. As far as I know, there are pictures from Haditha that were taken by an Iraqi reporter after the fact. But the horrible pictures are missing.

Die tagezeitung compared the massacre to the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, which led to a change in public opinion. Is it too early to make such a comparison?

Unlike during the Vietnam War, resistance to the Iraq war in the US is strong. Back then, My Lai had a crucial influence on public opinion. This incident now comes at a time when many Americans are already against the Iraqi mission. That's why the two cannot be compared. But the incident will naturally further cement opposition to the war in Iraq.

Apart from a protest by Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki, reactions from the Arab world have been lacking. Why?

It's the same phenomenon. Back then (during the Abu Ghraib scandal), the Arab public was instigated via pictures. Arab TV channels broadcast them almost around the clock. Without pictures, it's hard to imagine what exactly happened. Additionally, there's a widespread feeling in the Arab world that Americans constantly commit crimes in Iraq. Haditha, therefore, just gets added to the list.

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