From November 2002 to May 2003, Steve Tatham worked alongside American military planners in the Gulf, coordinating the huge media campaign that foreshadowed and accompanied the eventual invasion of Iraq. From first hand experience he witnessed how, in advance of the outbreak of hostilities, the US planned to win over sceptical Arab hearts and minds. Yet as the campaign unfolded, Tatham, the Royal Navy's public spokesman in Iraq, saw how differently the British and Americans regarded the media and how badly journalists from the Arab world, in particular from Al-Jazeera satellite television, were treated in comparison to those from coalition nations. His book is highly critical of how the United States handled its information war. Notwithstanding the best efforts of well meaning senior US officials, the mounting death toll, both military and civilian, saw the Americans all but ignore the Arab media , focusing instead on a largely acquiescent domestic press, one still obsessed with Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on the homeland and only too happy to fly the Stars and Stripes.
Images of dead and captured coalition servicemen led to Arab channels being accused of bias against western forces, and such was the demonisation of some channels that many observers began to wonder if President Bush's declaration that 'you are either with us or against us' applied not just to nation states but also to the world's media.
Steve Tatham is a serving officer in the Royal Navy. He has participated in military operations in Sierra Leone, the Northern Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq-the latter as the Royal Navy's public spokesman.