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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq's Media Leads Its Nation's Call to Arms

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Judging from its media, Iraq is a nation at war.

Images of Iraqis killed or injured in the 1991 Persian Gulf War or in U.S. strikes on the country flash on screens. Quotes from President Saddam Hussein about previous wars, "martyrs" and victory are read again and again.

Now, with speculation that the United States might target Iraq, the largely state-controlled media's usual programming -- which in relatively calm times includes a reminder of the two wars Iraq has fought -- also is being used to mobilize the people for a possible new onslaught.

"We now live in a critical time, expecting a new aggression. How can the media distance itself from the people and their main interest?" said Liqa'a M. Al-Azzawy, head of Baghdad University's mass communication department.

U.S. President George W. Bush has described Iraq as part of an "axis of evil" and accused it of seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Baghdad has rejected a U.S. warning to let in UN weapons inspectors, who left in 1998, or face unspecified consequences. Iraq maintains it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction.

Last month, Saddam and his senior aides discussed mobilizing Iraqis to face the prospect of a U.S. strike. They did not say how.

"Just like our enemy has his ways, we also have our strategies and tactics. We mobilize people in our own special way," said Sami Mahdi, editor of the official al-Thawra newspaper.

"We are in a state of war. We expect an attack any minute, not only today but since 1990 and until an unknown time," said Mahdi.

Iraq's television stations even show children praising the country's air defenses and singing a song called "America doesn't scare us."

In recent weeks, Al-Shabab Television, owned by Saddam's son, Odai, is showing a serial on the 1991 uprising of Shiites in the south, which the government crushed. In "The Conspiracy," images of torched cars and ships are alternated with footage of eyewitnesses, officials and families of some of those killed speaking of "foreign elements" vandalizing and murdering.

Most Iraqi media is state-owned. Some weekly newspapers are supervised by the Journalists' Union -- not directly by the government -- and these are believed to have more leeway than the government-run press. But they usually toe the official line.

After more than a decade of crippling sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the country's media has the right to reflect the feeling Iraq is in "a continuous battle with its enemy," said Shakir Hamid, a former director for Iraqi television and now a correspondent for an Arab satellite station.

Iraqis do not have much of a choice. Satellite dishes are banned, and Internet use is limited. About the only alternative sources of news are radio broadcasts from nearby countries.