[OPE-L:6846] Iraq

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Mar 30 2002 - 19:10:26 EST

I am very happy that Cyrus Bina is now on this list. Welcome, Cyrus.

Cyrus, I must say that it must be in a technical sense that you speak 
of the loss of US hegemony?

All the best, Rakesh

A compliant press is preparing the ground for an all-out attack on Iraq.
It never mentions the victims: the young, the old and the vulnerable :
John Pilger : 21 Mar 2002


The promised attack on Iraq will test free journalism as never before.
The prevailing media orthodoxy is that the attack is only a matter of
time. "The arguments may already be over," says the Observer, "Bush and
Blair have made it clear . . ." The beating of war drums is so familiar
that the echo of the last round of media tom-toms is still heard,
together with its self-serving "vindication" for having done the dirty
work of great power, yet again.
I have been a reporter in too many places where public lies have
disguised the culpability for great suffering, from Indochina to
southern Africa, East Timor to Iraq, merely to turn the page or switch
off the news-as-sermon, and accept that journalism has to be like this -
"waiting outside closed doors to be lied to", as Russell Baker of the
New York Times once put it. The honourable exceptions lift the spirits.
One piece by Robert Fisk will do that, regardless of his subject. An
eyewitness report from Palestine by Peter Beaumont in the Observer
remains in the memory, as singular truth, along with Suzanne
Goldenberg's brave work for the Guardian.
The pretenders, the voices of Murdochism and especially the liberal
ciphers of rampant western power can rightly say that Pravda never
published a Fisk. "How do you do it?" asked a Pravda editor, touring the
US with other Soviet journalists at the height of the cold war. Having
read all the papers and watched the TV, they were astonished to find
that all the foreign news and opinions were more or less the same. "In
our country, we put people in prison, we tear out their fingernails to
achieve this result? What's your secret?"
The secret is the acceptance, often unconscious, of an imperial legacy:
the unspoken rule of reporting whole societies in terms of their
usefulness to western "interests" and of minimising and obfuscating the
culpability of "our" crimes. "What are 'we' to do?" is the unerring
media cry when it is rarely asked who "we" are and what "our" true
agenda is, based on a history of conquest and violence. Liberal
sensibilities may be offended, even shocked by modern imperial double
standards, embodied in Blair; but the invisible boundaries of how they
are reported are not in dispute. The trail of blood is seldom followed;
the connections are not made; "our" criminals, who kill and collude in
killing large numbers of human beings at a safe distance, are not named,
apart from an occasional token, like Kissinger.
A long series of criminal operations by the American secret state,
identified and documented, such as the conspiracy that oversaw the
"forgotten" slaughter of up to a million people in Indonesia in 1965-66,
amount to more deaths of innocent people than died in the Holocaust. But
this is irrelevant to present-day reporting. The tutelage of hundreds of
tyrants, murderers and torturers by "our" closest ally, including the
training of Islamic jihad fanatics in CIA camps in Virginia and
Pakistan, is of no consequence. The harbouring in the United States of
more terrorists than probably anywhere on earth, including hijackers of
aircraft and boats from Cuba, controllers of El Salvadorean death squads
and politicians named by the United Nations as complicit in genocide, is
clearly of no interest to those standing in front of the White House and
reporting, with a straight face, "America's war on terrorism".
That George Bush Sr, former head of the CIA and president, is by any
measure of international law one of the modern era's greatest prima
facie war criminals, and his son's illegitimate administration a product
of this dynastic mafia, is unmentionable.
The rest of the answer to the incredulous question raised by the Pravda
editors in America is censorship by omission. Once vital information
illuminates the true aims of the "national security state", the
euphemism for the mafia state, it loses media "credibility" and is
consigned to the margins, or oblivion. Thus, fake debates can be carried
on in the British Sunday newspapers about whether "we" should attack
Iraq. The debaters, often proud liberals with an equally proud record of
supporting Washington's other invasions, guard the limits.
These "debates" are framed in such a way that Iraq is neither a country
nor a community of 22 million human beings, but one man, Saddam Hussein.
A picture of the fiendish tyrant almost always dominates the page.
("Should we go to war against this man?" asked last Sunday's Observer).
To appreciate the power of this, replace the picture with a photograph
of stricken Iraqi infants, and the headline with: "Should we go to war
against these children?" Propaganda then becomes truth. Any attack on
Iraq will be executed, we can rest assured, in the American way, with
saturation cluster bombing and depleted uranium, and the victims will be
the young, the old, the vulnerable, like the 5,000 civilians who are now
reliably estimated to have been bombed to death in Afghanistan. As for
the murderous Saddam Hussein, former friend of Bush Sr and Thatcher, his
escape route is almost certainly assured.
The column inches now devoted to Iraq, often featuring unnamed
manipulators and liars of the intelligence services, almost always omit
one truth. This is the truth of the American- and British-driven embargo
on Iraq, now in its 13th year. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly
children, have died as a consequence of this medieval siege. The worst,
most tendentious journalism has sought to denigrate the scale of this
crime, even calling the death of Iraqi infants a mere "statistical
construct". The facts are documented in international study after study,
from the United Nations to Harvard University. (For a digest of the
facts, see Dr Eric Herring's Bristol University paper "Power, Propaganda
and Indifference: an explanation of the continued imposition of economic
sanctions on Iraq despite their human cost", available from
Among those now debating whether the Iraqi people should be
cluster-bombed or not, incinerated or not, you are unlikely to find the
names of Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who have done the most to
break through the propaganda. No one knows the potential human cost
better than they. As assistant secretary general of the UN, Halliday
started the oil-for-food programme in Iraq. Von Sponeck was his
successor. Eminent in their field of caring for other human beings, they
resigned their long UN careers, calling the embargo "genocide".
Their last appearance in the press was in the Guardian last November,
when they wrote: "The most recent report ofthe UN secretary general, in
October 2001, says that the US and UK governments' blocking of $4bn of
humanitarian supplies is by far the greatest constraint on the
implementation of the oil-for-food programme. The report says that, in
contrast, the Iraqi government's distribution of humanitarian supplies
is fully satisfactory...The death of some 5-6,000 children a month is
mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition.
The US and UK governments' delayed clearance of equipment and materials
is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad."
They are in no doubt that if Saddam Hussein saw advantage in
deliberately denying his people humanitarian supplies, he would do so;
but the UN, from the secretary general himself down, says that, while
the regime could do more, it has not withheld supplies. Indeed, without
Iraq's own rationing and distribution system, says the UN Food and
Agriculture Organisation, there would have been famine. Halliday and von
Sponeck point out that the US and Britain are able to fend off criticism
of sanctions with unsubstantiated stories that the regime is "punishing"
its own people. If these stories are true, they say, why does America
and Britain further punish them by deliberately withholding humanitarian
supplies, such as vaccines, painkillers and cancer diagnostic equipment?
This wanton blocking of UN-approved shipments is rarely reported in the
British press. The figure is now almost $5bn in humanitarian-related
supplies. Once again, the UN executive director of the oil-! for-food
programme has broken diplomatic silence to express "grave concern at the
unprecedented surge in volume of holds placed on contracts [by the US]".
By ignoring or suppressing these facts, together with the scale of a
four-year bombing campaign by American and British aircraft (in
1999/2000, according to the Pentagon, the US flew 24,000 "combat
missions" over Iraq), journalists have prepared the ground for an
all-out attack on Iraq. The official premise for this - that Iraq still
has weapons of mass destruction - has not been questioned. In fact, in
1998, the UN reported that Iraq had complied with 90 per cent of its
inspectors' demands. That the UN inspectors were not "expelled", but
pulled out after American spies were found among them in preparation for
an attack on Iraq, is almost never reported. Since then, the world's
most sophisticated surveillance equipment has produced no real evidence
that the regime has renewed its capacity to build weapons of mass
destruction. "The real goal of attacking Iraq now," says Eric Herring,
"is to replace Saddam Hussein with another compliant th! ug."
The attempts by journalists in the US and Britain, acting as channels
for American intelligence, to connect Iraq to 11 September have also
failed. The "Iraq connection" with anthrax has been shown to be rubbish;
the culprit is almost certainly American. The rumour that an Iraqi
intelligence official met Mohammed Atta, the 11 September hijacker, in
Prague was exposed by Czech police as false. Yet press "investigations"
that hint, beckon, erect a straw man or two, then draw back, while
giving the reader the overall impression that Iraq requires a pasting,
have become a kind of currency. One reporter added his "personal view"
that "the use of force is both right and sensible". Will he be there
when the clusters spray their bomblets?
Those who dare speak against this propaganda are abused as apologists
for the tyrant. Two years ago, on a now infamous Newsnight, the
precocious apostate Peter Hain was allowed to smear Denis Halliday, a
man whose integrity is internationally renowned. Although dissent has
broken through recently, especially in the Guardian, to its credit, that
low point in British broadcasting set the tone. If the media pages did
their job, they would set aside promoting the careers of media managers
and challenge the orthodoxy of reporting a fraudulent "war on
terrorism"; they owe that, at least, to aspiring young journalists. I
recommend a new website edited by the writer David Edwards, whose
factual, inquiring analysis of the reporting of Iraq, Afghanistan and
other issues has already drawn the kind of defensive spleen that shows
how unused to challenge and accountability much of journalism,
especially that calling itself liberal, has become. The address is
www.medialens.org <It is time that three urgent issues became 
front-page news. The first is
restraining Bush and his collaborator Blair from killing large numbers
of people in Iraq. The second is an arms and military technology embargo
applied throughout the Gulf and the Middle East; an embargo on both Iraq
and Israel. The third is the ending of "our" siege of a people held
hostage to cynical events over which they have no control.
from: www.johnpilger.com

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