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 Control Room

My mother is American—from Indiana. My grandfather fought in World War II and my Uncle fought in Vietnam. My father is Egyptian. I was raised between Cairo and the United States. I have spent most of my life traveling between both cultures and have always had a dual understanding of world events depending on whether I was living in Cairo or New York.

When war was about to break out in Iraq, I could not sit back and watch it on television. I had to get on a plane to Qatar to make this film because, like many people around the world, I was consumed by questions about the war and the way it would be reported. I believed by going to Qatar, I could gain access to both the Arab and American media, and if I could step into both worlds simultaneously, I would better understand how the two cultures that I am proudly a part of—the Arab one and the American one—could view the war so differently.

Thomas Jefferson said that if you live in a democracy the most important principle is to have an educated electorate.

I went to Qatar to immerse myself into the reality of people who were struggling to find the truth and to express it. I was joined by Hani Salama, a talented filmmaker of Egyptian/Bosnian origin who had just experienced the war in Bosnia first hand. We soon met three individuals who became our friends and ultimately gave us an incredible glimpse into some of the complexities of reporting the war. They gave us the greatest gift in the world by allowing us, and all the people that see the film, into their lives. They shared their opinions during a crucial time in their lives while working in the emotionally charged environment of war. I asked these central figures in the film to write a few words to shed some light on their feelings towards the politics surrounding Iraq before, during and after the War. Captain Josh Rushing (the U.S. military press officer), Hassan Ibrahim (an Al-Jazeera Journalist) and Samir Khader (an Al-Jazeera Producer) sent us a few of their thoughts.

Hassan Ibrahim

“It was the 15th of September 1982…when we received that fateful phone call: ‘go to the Rachidia camp. The Israelis have broken through the defenses.’ We went with a bunch of reporters who were just like us—young, enthusiastic and willing to cross that thin line between professionalism and activism. What ensued changed my life forever. [My wife] Lena was raped and killed by somebody. I do not know who and why! But it made me abhor wars and refuse to justify violence under any circumstances….

I have seen many wars firsthand, from the Iran-Iraq war to Latin America to Lebanon and Southern Sudan. The only conclusion I have come up with is that war is never the answer. Violence produces more violence. And believe me—this is not a cliché.”

Capt. Josh Rushing

"Before the war started I was assigned at CENTCOM to engage in discussion online. My purpose was not to sell the war, but to clear up the glut of misinformation that can take on a life of its own on the Internet…Over a year has passed. I'm disappointed that I seemed so pro-invasion….

I still dream for ‘an Iraq that is democratic, unified, multi-ethnic, which has no weapons of mass destruction, no links to terrorists, and is at peace with its neighbors.’"

Samir Khader

"The streets of Baghdad were the same. They were the same as I used to know them some thirty years ago as a child here. The same landscape, with a single addition: sometimes you could see an American humvee or a tank passing by unnoticed by a population who has gotten used to such things….

Most of the Iraqis are today angry. Not against the Americans, the British or any other occupying soldier. They seem angry against the odds…angry against themselves. Yet, the seed has been planted. It will one day flourish and carry them to something else. Something that will certainly be better. As, what could be worse than what they have known and what they have lived."

 

Is America radicalizing or stabilizing the Arab world? Award-winning filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (Startup.com) provides a balanced view of Al-Jazeera's presentation of the second Iraq war, and in so doing calls into question many of the prevailing images and positions offered up by the U.S. news media. The film's view inside Al-Jazeera—a network branded "Osama bin Laden's mouthpiece" and subject of intense criticism from U.S. administration officials—suggests that its views on news reportage might actually be more in tune with democratic ideals than those of its Western counterparts.