Peter Cole on The Press: Papers lead the politicos in beating the Iraq retreat

Journalism has come good as the invasion has turned terminally sour

There are times when our national newspapers are reassuringly predictable. But with the war in Iraq it is different. Can you identify the four newspapers to which the following quotes from leading articles belong?

"Withdrawal from Iraq is now the best option."

"The difficulty here is sorting out what is in the best interests of Iraq."

"It is too easy to join calls for immediate withdrawal of the UK and the US."

"There can be no question now of cutting and running."

In order, they were The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer and The Sun. The paper closest to the armed forces in terms of readership, coverage and obituaries, and which gives the most space to military analysis, the Telegraph, is the one calling most unequivocally for the withdrawal of British and American troops from Iraq. "

It insisted that the position taken on troop withdrawal should not be based on attitude towards the original invasion, which the paper supported. It believes now that "using our forces to create a stable democracy in Iraq is no longer a tenable goal; removing them expeditiously is the best option for us and for the people of Iraq".

The issue of withdrawal has come to a head in recent days and weeks through the observations of General Sir Richard Dannatt in a Daily Mail interview; the work of James Baker, former US secretary of state, for President Bush on what might happen next for America in Iraq - detail to follow mid-term elections - and, most importantly, the prospects for the Republicans in those elections. The worsening situation in Iraq has not helped either.

While the volume of coverage and opinion may be surprising, what we have seen in the British press has been rather impressive. It has reflected concern about the dreadful situation for forces and Iraqis alike in that country, gloomily considered the mess Tony Blair and George Bush have produced and, in most cases, accepted that there are no easy answers. And papers seem to have taken the Telegraph's advice to not exploit the attitude taken to the original invasion. No mood of "told you so".

So The Independent the most consistently anti-war daily paper, did not ignore its own poll showing 72 per cent believe immediate troop withdrawal would make matters worse. A leader tacitly took account of the fact that wide sections of the public might not agree with its line.

It followed one in The Independent on Sunday which reminded its readers that it had argued against the invasion three years ago "partly on the grounds that it was disastrous to go in without a credible plan for getting out again". British forces, the IoS said, "should pull out within 12 months".

The Observer throughout has adopted a more pro-war stance. After the invasion it was saying: "Failure in Iraq is unthinkable ... We owe a duty to the Iraq people. Having liberated them, we cannot now abandon them." And a year ago: "It is too easy to join calls for immediate withdrawal of the UK and the US ... To cut and run at the moment of Iraq's greatest need would not only be cowardly but deeply immoral."

And this earlier this month, after the comments from the general: "He [Dannatt] rightly does not call for withdrawal irrespective of the situation on the ground. The UK has responsibilities to the elected democratic government of Iraq, under a UN mandate."

The Sun continues to take its straightforward "support our boys" line. Fair enough: our boys read The Sun. "No one in their right mind wants us to be in Iraq longer than necessary. But our troops, who are doing a phenomenal job, need to know that winning the peace is just as important as winning the war. They need clarity from our leaders and support from the people back home."

The newspapers are addressing the changing situation with considerably less cynicism than the political leaders.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Life and Style
life
News
‘The Graduate’, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was directed by Nichols in his purple period
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncappd Comm: SThree: Do you have recruitment expe...

Sauce Recruitment: Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Recruitment Genius: Management Accountant - CIMA / ACCA

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A new and exciting opportunity ...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager

£35 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join a gl...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager