On Mar. 22, a ship from a U.S. naval port in North Carolina docked at Ashdod, Israel and unloaded a cargo of over 300 20-foot containers laden with munitions, bunker busting bombs, white phosphorus and other goodies. Never mind that the Bush administration approved the shipment one week before Israel began its Gaza offensive, or that Israel has used white phosphorus, an incendiary, in civilian areas.

Quite frankly, things like human rights abuses or the unwavering American support for Israel are nothing new or even surprising. What bothers me about this incident is the total lack of media coverage it received.

This news did not turn up on CNN, NBC, BBC or any of the other usual sources. Rather, Reuters made a note of the incident, which I found on the second page of a Google search.

When the United States claimed to have discovered suspected Iranian weapons in Iraq, it was all over the news. The allegations were never proven, and even though the “evidence” amounted to little more than a few beaten-up weapons on a table, the story was everywhere. Even local news broadcasts had their dumb, overly made-up anchors circulating news that Iranian weapons had been found in Iraq, complete with the usual mispronunciations.

But if a few broken guns can cause a stir and penetrate a large percentage of the national audience, how is it that 14,000 tons of heavy weaponry can go unnoticed?

I am not hinting at any specific bias in favor of any particular country — my issue is with the system as a whole. In the last few months, unmanned U.S. aircrafts have killed Pakistani citizens in over 19 unauthorized violations of Pakistani airspace. This does not make the evening news, but we do hear that an obscure Pakistani group threatened to attack the White House.

A few months ago, American helicopters crossed into Syria, resulting in more civilian deaths. Again, it was not given much attention in American news. And yet somehow we always heard about alleged Syrian support for Iraqi insurgents (which was never proven).

My intention is not to criticize the actions, but rather the reporting. How can voters make an informed decision based on such intentionally partial knowledge?

A few days ago, someone randomly asked me, “So when was the last time the Palestinians messed around with Israel? Is Yasser Arafat dead?” He suggested the Al-Jazeera English website, and he told me he was “afraid to go on those websites.” Al-Jazeera is a news station partially owned by the Qatari government, the same government that hosts elements of the U.S. Central Command, responsible for coordinating military operations in the Middle East. Therefore, by association, Al-Jazeera is not very shady.

This person that I spoke with is applying to (and has been offered) positions in governmental agencies. The scary part is that this person already had a bias despite a clear lack of background knowledge. It’s also the bias that this person will bring when walking into that government office on the first day of work. But where did this bias come from?

If our future government workers are afraid to see another perspective, then I can only wonder what thought goes into crafting foreign policy. Remember that in this lovely democracy of ours, you only elect the decision makers. Their advisors, the people who write the reports on which their decisions are based, are hired.

And if those who vote feel that they are constantly under attack, who do they elect?

I heard a University bus driver comment to a student that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinajad reminded him “of a certain German painter in the ‘30’s” — an obvious Hitler reference. When asked by the student to support his statement, he could not.

If the driver had been able to support his statement, even though I disagree, it would have represented an opinion reached based on his own assessment of facts. But it turned out to be nothing more than overly dramatic dribble, likely based on a conclusion already reached for him by some newscaster.

A quick Google search of recent news headlines containing the word “Iran” is fraught with negative references from American media outlets. Only a couple articles from UK-based Reuters and an Arab media company discuss neutral economic issues and do not point fingers at the country.

If, after probing just a little bit into both sides of an issue, someone still wants to bomb Iran, support Israel or fly drones into Pakistan, that’s fine. But they should at least have the opportunity to formulate that opinion on their own, after hearing from both sides.

But in a place where 14,000-ton arms shipments do not merit coverage, many are not given that opportunity.

Ibrahim Kakwan can be reached at ijameel@umich.edu.

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