The Mix

Baby Propaganda

Why the rescue of Baby Noor is a dangerous publicity stunt
Is anyone else getting sick of all the "Baby Noor" coverage? While I am glad to hear that a small child -- any child -- is getting the medical help s/he needs, I can't believe the media has so gladly and blindly run with this story.

"The rescue of Baby Noor" sounds as if it is being read directly off a press release from the U.S. military. And the ridiculous way it has been reported seems insulting to both viewers and the family of Baby Noor.

It has been repeatedly reported that the child was "discovered" by U.S. troops, who "noticed" that she had some medical problems. Actually, the child was in the care of her family, who was well aware of her illness. When the Georgia National Guard raided their home in the middle of the night, the child's grandmother had the bravery to show the armed soldiers that the baby was ill. The American soldiers decided to make the child their "project" and the media has followed their decision to swoop in like saviors and rush her to the U.S. for a rescue operation. She has now had a free operation to help correct her birth defect, spina bifida.

(To add an extra dose of cynicism, one blogger speculates that there is " the distinct possibility that Baby Noor's birth defect was caused by American use of depleted uranium in both the Gulf War and the current invasion of Iraq.")

CNN, CBS and USA Today are going crazy over this piece of pro-military propaganda. For the last few weeks, CNN has given its viewers endless updates about Baby Noor's medical condition, and posted 13 full articles on its website about the child's "rescue."

I don't mean to be heartless, but I am suspicious. I'm sorry, but don't we remember the very recent U.S. propaganda scandal? Just three weeks before Baby Noor made headlines, the military admitted that it was "placing" stories in the Iraqi press and passing them off as real news written by true journalists. Does that ring any bells, here?

Clearly, it's a good thing that this child's life has been saved. But did it need to have 13 headlines and a mention every 15 minutes on CNN? Why has the military made this so public? Why does it have to be turned into a public relations campaign, despite the fact that soldiers emphasized early on the need to keep it quiet for the family's safety:
"But for all of their help, the soldiers realize they're also possibly endangering the little girl and her family.
"We are always concerned that talking to anybody longer than a normal conversation will put them in danger," said Sgt. Archer Ford.
"We did a lot of things to protect the identity of these people," Morgan said.
"We visited them when we could, which was usually in the middle of the night, as covertly as possible," he added. "Because the insurgents in Iraq like to find people that we're trying to help sometimes and either terrorize them or sometimes worse."
But, apparently, they'll take that risk if it means good PR on the homefront.
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.
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