A dismal and dangerous occupation: an investigation into the discourses in the television news and documentary coverage of the British military in Iraq from 2004-2009, examining how the coverage plays out in specific genres

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Harris, Janet
  • Subject: PN1990

This study looks at the dominant discourses in the news and documentary coverage\ud of the British military in the occupation of Iraq. It is in these discourses that the\ud justification for the war and occupation rests and in this justification lies the\ud interpretation of the function, efficacy and cost of the military. To do this I have\ud examined the genres of news, news and current affairs documentaries and traditional\ud documentaries to see how these genres favour certain discourses and circumstances\ud which allow certain questions to be asked, but resist others. Evidence from the\ud Chilcot Inquiry is used to illustrate what themes and questions have been silenced in\ud the television coverage. The dominant discourse of coverage is that of the suffering, heroic soldier, taking\ud part in a ‘humanitarian’ war, although what this actually entails is not examined in\ud depth. In this study it is the news and NCA documentaries and not traditional\ud documentaries which provide a deeper context, a wider range of voices, and a more\ud critical view of the military’s role and strategy in Iraq. The nature of the occupation\ud is confused, the junior nature of the British military’s relationship with the\ud Americans is not explained, the financial cost of the occupation is ignored in the\ud elision with the moral cost of death, and the political and governing role of a military\ud occupation is not considered. Although all genres describe the soldiers’ role as\ud humanitarian, there is little visual evidence to illustrate it, and the paradox of\ud soldiers who fight, but can have no enemy as they are there to ‘help’ the Iraqis\ud becomes apparent. The footage of fighting soldiers therefore becomes a representation of soldiers, and where the footage is specific, individual soldiers talk\ud about their betrayal or suffering where the enemy is the British government. The\ud emotional discourse of the suffering soldier inhabits this space between the\ud represented and the reproduced and represses any questions about the military’s\ud responsibility for their actions in Iraq, and hence curtails the civic function of\ud documentary and news to inform.
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