April 14, 2003
Now let me see if I've got this right ...
On April 8, the Pentagon declared open season on all independent reporters in Baghdad, directly targeting, as the Guardian noted, "all the main western and Arab media headquarters in the space of just one day." A tank round was fired quite deliberately into the Palestine Hotel, home to all the non-embedded reporters remaining in Iraq's capital, and missile strikes were launched against both the Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi television stations. Three journalists were killed, several more were injured, and all the rest were cowed into silence.
(http://www.dailytelegraph.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,6258986%5E25778,00.html, http://truthout.org/docs_03/041003B.shtml, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/apr2003/jaz-a09.shtml, http://www.alertnet.org/printable.htm?URL=/thenews/newsdesk/L08602975.htm, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=5975, http://media.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4643786,00.html, http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=17455)
On that very same day, the only independent international aid organization working in Baghdad was forced to suspend operations after a convoy of clearly marked vehicles came under heavy fire (http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO304B.html). Also on that same day, the only Internet source that had been providing a version of the war that was significantly at odds with the version being promoted by Washington and the western media, abruptly ceased operations. (http://www.aeronautics.ru/news/news002/iraqwar_ru_028.htm)
Two days before that fateful day, scattered media reports held that convicted felon and CIA asset Ahmad Chalabi and his rag-tag army of some 700 'freedom fighters' were airlifted into southern Iraq. Their mission? To assist the 'coalition' through various unspecified, covert means.
And then - and this is the really amazing part - the very next day, the only thing that could be found, all across the television dial, were endlessly replayed images of Iraqis allegedly celebrating the sudden and inexplicable 'fall' of Baghdad. Literally overnight, the entire country had laid down their arms and rolled out the red carpet for George Bush and Company.
There is now no question that the 'coalition' has won the war -- the information war, that is. The Bush team now has something of much greater strategic significance than air superiority, smart bombs and cruise missiles: total information control. Now we have only the Pentagon and its media whores to supply our reality. Now we have only the people who have shamelessly lied to us.
The information war has been won, but the battle for control of Iraq will continue, claiming countless Iraqi, American and British lives. Washington's mouthpieces are being careful to quietly remind everyone that this war is far from being over*, even while actively encouraging the media to downplay such messages and present to the world the image of a victorious America and a grateful Iraq.
(*http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=2521911, http://www.latimes.com/la-war-mili9apr09003425,0,4690536.story, http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=5084, http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=F058FB52-C43F-48E3-B2A849EFBD8BE4FA, http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=79&art_id=vn20030411101359221C889111&set_id=1)
How many times will we be treated to the same footage of the obviously staged toppling of the Saddam statue, and how many times will we be told that this was some sort of major historical event? How many newspaper, magazine, and book covers will those hollow symbols grace?
How desperately must we want to be lied to if we allow ourselves to accept that a band of perhaps 100 Iraqi 'exiles' bussed in for a photo-op and backed up by a column of U.S. tanks, represent a city of 5,000,000 people? Do we fail to notice, or do we just not want to notice, that a good portion of the small crowd is composed of photographers and uniformed U.S. troops? Why do we not ask why there are only men, and no women or children, joining in this staged celebration? Why do we not question that fact that, through the hours-long faux reality, the "jubilant" crowd never swelled beyond its minuscule numbers?
Where were the rest of the millions of 'liberated' Iraqis? They certainly aren't visible in this Reuters shot that, unlike the widely circulated images of the statue-toppling incident, reveals the true context in which the contrived event took place:
Notice the complete lack of jubilant Iraqi crowds. Notice the U.S. tanks and armored vehicles guarding all the entrances to the traffic circle surrounding the public square. Notice the U.S. troops milling about the entrance to the square. Notice that the only 'crowd' visible is the small group assembled between the statue and the enormous tank recovery vehicle. Notice that there really isn't anyone else inside or outside of the square.
Here are a couple of other interesting photographs. The first is of Chalabi and some of his henchmen arriving in Nasiriyah on April 6. The second is of a "jubilant Iraqi" greeting U.S. troops in Baghdad three days later, just before the statue was felled. Some people seem to think that the guy standing behind Chalabi and the lone Iraqi Bush-booster are one and the same.
We all too readily accept the lies that we are fed because we not only want to believe them, we need to believe them. We need to believe in the myth of America as the great liberator. We need to believe that our goals in this war are noble and just. We need to believe that our leaders are not the monsters that so much of the world perceives them to be.
We need to believe that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. We need to believe that the Iraqi people have somehow greatly benefited from the bombardment and occupation of their country. We need to believe that our actions are somehow justified by the events of September 11, 2001 -- that an attack on America allegedly executed by foreign agents gives us license to slaughter tens of thousands in a country far removed from blame for the attacks on New York and Washington, even if the official conspiracy theory is accepted.
A reactionary celebration was held at - where else? - 'Ground Zero' to cheer the alleged fall of a capital city that - despite suffering a decade of sanctions and bombings - offered humanitarian assistance in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Swept up in the exuberance of the psychological warfare victory, someone got carried away and announced that the American flag draped over the bronze likeness of Saddam Hussein was the very same one that was flying over the Pentagon on the day that it was attacked.
If that is true - and it seems very unlikely that it is, although it will no doubt become a part of the official mythology that passes for history - then it provides yet further indication that the entire event was nothing more than a staged photo-op -- unless, that is, U.S. troops routinely carry such highly symbolic props in their tanks.
Washington needed a stirring symbol of its 'victory' in Iraq, and a symbolic end to a war that isn't even close to being over. And the American people needed to be fed the lies that they hunger for -- the lies that keep their world from being turned upside down. On a 'historic' day in April of 2003, everyone got what they needed.
We now have an enduring symbol of the war ... a symbol that stands in stark contrast to virtually all of the images that preceded it ... a symbol created through deceit and fraud ... a symbol that allows us to sleep well tonight knowing that America has once again made great sacrifices to help an oppressed people.
I couldn't help noticing that American war correspondents, just like American soldiers, never die from hostile fire. Sometimes they drown. And sometimes they just drop dead from pulmonary embolisms. And sometimes they do that in rapid succession when they are working in the same area of operations.
A funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago. On Thursday night, a reporter 'embedded' with the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division near Baghdad's international airport, Michael Kelly, reportedly drowned when the Humvee he was riding in took a detour into a river. Two nights later, another reporter 'embedded' with the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division near Baghdad's international airport, David Bloom, reportedly died suddenly from a blood clot.
Now that's a really good story and all, but I'm not necessarily buying it.
Strangely enough, just two days after Bloom's death, two 'embedded' European journalists, working in roughly the same area of operations, were killed when an Iraqi missile slammed into a command center. Unlike with Bloom and Kelly, the deaths of the two were acknowledged to have been attributable to hostile fire. However, since they weren't 'our' journalists, and no one here noticed their absence, the incident was all but ignored by the U.S. media.
Doesn't anyone in the American media establishment find it unusual that four 'embedded' western reporters were killed in a four-day-period while traveling with 'coalition' forces "on the outskirts of Baghdad'? Why has no one questioned Kelly's drowning, or Bloom's bizarrely timed embolism?
At the time that the four journalists died, the U.S. was claiming that the airport and surrounding areas were firmly in coalition hands. Iraq's Minister of Information, however, amidst guffaws of laughter, was claiming that Iraqi forces were engaged in heated battle with U.S. forces. Some independent reporters agreed.
It occurs to me that, while it is relatively easy to cover up U.S. military casualties, at least in the short term, it isn't so easy to cover up the death of someone who suddenly stops delivering reports from the field. Such deaths have to be acknowledged, though the causes can be misrepresented.
There are reportedly about 600 journalists 'embedded' with 'coalition' troops in Iraq, and approximately 120,000 troops deployed in the country, producing a ratio of approximately 200 soldiers to each journalist. Therefore, if four journalists in the same general theater of operations were killed in action within a four day period, it would tend to indicate that the 'coalition' troops fighting in that area were taking heavy casualties.
In order to cover up that fact, it would be necessary to misrepresent the nature of deaths that cannot be denied.
Even before April 8, when the Pentagon decided to expand the 'War on Terrorism' into the 'War on Terrorism and Journalism,' Iraq was a decidedly hostile environment for independent reporters to work in. According to a BBC correspondent, before the war even started, the Pentagon threatened to kill independent reporters.
After the war began, stories surfaced of independent reporters being illegally detained, beaten and starved (http://globalresearch.ca/articles/GHA304A.html and http://www.arabnews.com/Article.asp?ID=24844). As for the non-independent, 'embedded' reporters, they are firmly under the Pentagon's control. (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/mar2003/cens-m26.shtml, http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0225-08.htm and http://www.prweek.com/news/news_story.cfm?ID=175623)
As an interesting side-note, a Florida appeals court ruled, just a few weeks before the war began, that there was nothing illegal about major news organizations flagrantly lying. The cable news channels seem to have taken that ruling to heart. (http://www.sierratimes.com/03/02/28/arpubmg022803.htm)
At least 11 journalists were killed in the first three weeks of this war. That tally does not, as near as I can tell, include Bloom, since his death is claimed to have been due to natural causes. It also does not include two journalists who have been missing since their vehicles came under fire by 'coalition' forces near Basra in the first week of the war. There were then as many as 14 journalists killed in just three weeks.
Some commentators have tried to explain this away by noting that journalists have always died covering wars. A CNN analyst, for example, attempted to equate this war with Vietnam, where he claimed that 65 journalists lost their lives. Unfortunately, his commentary failed to explain how 65 deaths in a war that spanned a decade is comparable to 11-14 deaths in just 21 days.
I have decided to kowtow to pressure from the right-wing demagogues and lend my support to our troops. Here then are a few the ways in which I will support them:
I could probably think of other ways that I support the troops if I had the time, but that will have to do for now.
- I support the right of our troops to not be sent off to faraway lands to kill and die so that another country's human and material resources can be ruthlessly exploited. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,936203,00.html)
- I support the right of our troops to not have their commanding officers in the field relieved of their command for being "too cautious." (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-war-dowdy5apr05005422,1,7412579.story)
- I support the right of our troops to not be sent, without their knowledge, onto battlefields littered with fresh deposits of highly toxic Depleted Uranium.
- I support the right of our troops to live long and healthy lives after their military service, and to not be cut down in the prime of life by mysterious, cancer-related illnesses.
- I support the right of our troops to reproduce without the fear of creating exhibits for a human freak show.
- I support the right of our troops to not have their veteran's benefits cut by the very same people who are showering cynical praise on them for putting their lives on the line.
Bill O’Liery continues to serve as Fox News’ official statistician, as near as I can tell. On Monday, April 7, Bill provided some up-to-date casualty figures for Fox viewers. In case you've forgotten, O’Liery’s tally as of March 28 was: US – 9, Iraq – 25,000-35,000. The new figures are:
U.S.: 54 troops killed
Iraq: 50,000-100,000 troops killed
As you can see, we are continuing to kick some serious ass. And continuing to gloat over it too, I might add. And there is, it should be noted, something seriously wrong in the psychological make-up of a man who openly celebrates the slaughter of tens of thousands, regardless of whether the alleged slaughter actually occurred.
Does anyone really believe, by the way, that the Iraqi army - or any army, for that matter - is so inept that it can only inflict a handful of casualties while sacrificing its own troops by the tens of thousands?
Speaking of Fox News, the network continues to indulge its fascination with U.S. military excrement. A considerable amount of the Fox gang's boisterous coverage of a raid on one of Saddam's palaces consisted of snickering references to U.S. troops planting their asses on the palace's gold-plated toilets. I’m thinking that if we are serious about succeeding in our goal of becoming the most hated nation on the planet, broadcasting Fox News’ unique brand of war coverage to the world should pretty much clinch the deal.
I’m not a fan of the comics pages, so I haven't got a clue what the strip “The Boondocks” is about. I’ve never read it and don’t know what, if any, political commentary the strip's creator throws in the mix. But I do know that after catching his appearance on Bill Maher’s new HBO show, I have considerable respect for Aaron McGruder.
For those who haven't seen Maher's show, it is essentially “Politically Incorrect” with a new name, a new set, and one less guest on the panel. Joining McGruder on the panel were born-again ‘progressive’ Arianna Huffington, pretending not to be a rabid right-winger, and Redneck Nation author Michael Graham, who is proud to be a rabid right-winger. Moderating was, of course, Maher, who continues to promote a decidedly fascistic agenda, while occasionally taking a position that is progressive enough, by media standards, to be ‘controversial.’
Suffice it to say that, facing this trio, McGruder was deep in hostile territory, without supply or support, and he was greatly outnumbered. He was, therefore, fairly cautious in the initial phases of the engagement, sending out quick probes to gauge the enemy's defenses and then quickly withdrawing.
As his confidence grew, McGruder directly engaged the enemy, openly calling for "regime change" here at home. At first, Huffington feigned support for this idea, while carefully explaining that the use of the term ‘regime change’ in conjunction with the Bush team was certainly not intended to equate the Bush administration with the Hussein regime.
Maher immediately began spraying small-arms fire at the two, insisting that the use of the term "regime change" did indeed equate the two regimes and was therefore entirely unacceptable. McGruder, however, held his position and returned fire, pointing out that neither Bush nor Hussein was popularly elected, and that therefore the two administrations could in fact be equated.
This triggered a furious counterattack, with both Maher and Huffington (who had quickly switched sides) lobbing heavy artillery and spraying machine-gun fire while the Redneck guy provided 'close cover' air support. Still, in the face of this massive show of force, McGruder continued to hold his position and inflict casualties on the enemy.
When Maher began one of his patronizing speeches about the absurdity of comparing George Bush’s America to Hussein's “totalitarian police state,” McGruder quickly fired back that he had read the draft of Patriot Act II and that it looked to him like America was “well on its way” to becoming a police state.
Maher continued to protest, though he was clearly dazed and appeared to be confused by the fact that someone snuck on his show who isn't afraid to tell the truth. With the enemy reeling, McGruder delivered a final, devastating attack by calmly explaining to the panel how it is “absolutely necessary” to keep the people in a state of constant fear if you want to strip away their civil rights.
Maher's studio audience, by the way, registered its support for McGruder throughout the exchange.
Let's pause now for just a moment to celebrate a couple of great moments in U.S. hypocrisy:
1. The Pentagon acknowledges, and defends, the wearing of civilian clothes by U.S. Special Forces operatives in Iraq, but still labels Iraqi soldiers out of uniform as 'war criminals.' (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apmideast_story.asp?category=1107&slug=War%20Civilian%20Clothes)
2. In northern Iraq, U.S. forces set up bases in schools, while the Pentagon continues to ... well, you know the rest. (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/03/1048962881242.html)
Here’s some good news for all the Iraqi people who manage to survive this war: the aftermath doesn’t have to be as bad as you think it’s going to be, if you follow the model provided by the Serbian people:That familiar feeling was back, the same choking mix of helplessness, depression and uncertainty. It had hit her when NATO bombed this city in 1999, and it came barreling back last week when Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated by sharpshooters.Henry Chu “When Life Is a Downer, Serbs Turn to … Downers,” Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2003
But this time, Emina Cano-Tomic has an extra bit of support at hand: the sedatives she has been taking for the last year.
“They're a great help," Cano-Tomic said candidly as she sat smoking in her cozy Belgrade living room.
And not just to her. The people of this war-torn country are among the most heavily tranquilized in the world … Countless Serbs both young and old have turned to anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants and even marijuana to help cope with the misery of their recent history.
The liberators, in their own words:
"They stand, they fight, sometimes they run when we engage them. But often they run into our machine guns and we shoot them down like the morons they are ... They appear willing to die. We are trying our best to help them out in that endeavor."
Brigadier General John Kelly
"I did what I had to do. I don't have a big problem with it but anyone who shoots a little kid has to feel something ... I think they thought we wouldn't shoot kids. But we showed them we don't care."
U.S. Army Private Nick Boggs
"We had a great day. We killed a lot of people. We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do? I'm sorry ... but the chick was in the way."
U.S. Marine Sgt. Eric Schrumpf
Like the toppling of the Saddam statue, the Jessica Lynch story carries with it that distinctive smell of a psy-op. Washington was in need of a feel-good story, and appears to have essentially fabricated one.
Although numerous reports held that Lynch was shot several times, and went down shooting, the family later revealed that she hadn't been shot at all. The family also revealed that they had never been informed that she was being held as a POW. In fact, the Iraqis had never claimed her as a POW either, and she certainly did not appear on the videotape with her captured teammates (although Fox News actually tried to claim that the petite, blond-haired Lynch was the heavy-set black woman who had appeared on the tape).
According to at least one report, Lynch's family was also told that Jessica had "walked into an Iraqi hospital" (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/02/1048962802420.html). Another report (which I seem to have misplaced the link to) held that she was unguarded during her stay in that hospital. The question that I have then is this: if Private Lynch walked into the hospital on her own, and if she was unguarded during her stay, and if neither side in the conflict listed her as a POW, was she in fact a prisoner, or was she the unlikely recipient of the Iraqi people's hospitality?
As for the 'rescue,' the real story of the attempted rescue of those held prisoner was completely ignored by the national and international media, although it was reported by the local press. For the record, the rescue attempt was a total failure that cost at least 9, and possibly as many as 17, American lives. (http://www.borderlandnews.com/war/stories/20030331-94562.shtml)
Here are, in no particular order, some additional random news items from the war front:
And, finally, here are a few miscellaneous news items that have come my way recently:
- Casualty reports are said to be inaccurate: http://www.interfax.ru/one_news_en.html?lang=EN&tz=0&tz_format=MSK&id_news=5630578
- Casualty reports from Afghanistan, not surprisingly, are also reportedly falsified: http://www.rense.com/general36/DEAD.htm
- The liberators are planning to build a prison camp for 24,000 of the liberated: http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/04/09/iraqpows_030409
- The Arab world isn't exactly celebrating recent developments in Iraq: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0410war-arabreax10.html
- A Boulder surgeon, back from treating casualties in Iraq, says the war is being sanitized: http://www2.dailycamera.com/bdc/county_news/article/0,1713,BDC_2423_1866804,00.html
- Protesting the war can be hazardous to your health: http://www.counterpunch.org/chretien04072003.html and http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0407-06.htm
- ... and could get you swept up in an illegal mass arrest: http://www.aclu.org/PolicePractices/PolicePractices.cfm?ID=12207&c=25
- ...and may soon earn you a life sentence: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/104859720379330.xml and http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=2498528
- The Church of the Nativity, failing to recognize that Bush is on a mission from God, has banned Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld and Straw for life: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/NAT304A.html
- Remember when U.S. troops shot up a van full of women and children at a checkpoint and then claimed that procedures were followed/it couldn't be avoided/it was all Saddam's fault/etc? Well ... that's not exactly the way it really happened: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/dailybriefing/story/0,12965,927233,00.html
- The Pentagon was so desperate to report successes by the 'coalition' that it aired videotape of supposed Iraqi armor being destroyed when what was actually depicted was obvious decoys being destroyed -- begging the question of where all the Iraqi heavy equipment really disappeared to: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=focusIraqNews&storyID=2479056
- .... and where, for that matter, did the Iraqi Air Force go?: http://thescotsman.co.uk/international.cfm?id=359932003
- .... and where, while we're on the subject, were the most rudimentary of Iraqi defenses? Where were the anti-tank trenches and berms? Where were the mine fields to slow the U.S. advance? Where were the blown and sabotaged bridges? Why were the roads into Baghdad left wide open? These postings attempt to answer those questions: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=4/10/03&Cat=2&Num=017 and http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=SM4GO3JWCXYQYCRBAELCFFA?type=focusIraqNews&storyID=2550671
- Remember the good old days, just a couple of weeks ago, when even the BBC was complaining about the Pentagon's serious lack of credibility? Now, as we all know, the Pentagon is the only voice that matters: http://wsws.org/articles/2003/mar2003/bbc-m29.shtml
- Texas is floating a bill to automatically register men for a draft: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/metropolitan/1816354
- The Pentagon wants the ban on 'mini nukes' lifted ... just in case: http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,909205,00.html
- A group of Gulf War I veterans has accused the U.S. of setting the oil well fires the last time around: http://www.stratiawire.com/article.asp?id=936
- The brutality of the tactics employed by U.S. troops is said to have shocked their British counterparts: http://www.news.com.au/common/printpage/0,6093,6230427,00.html
- ... which is saying quite a lot, considering the brutality of the Brits: http://www.islam-online.net/english/news/2003-04/08/article20.shtml
- Here a writer laments that, relative to what we have today, the Richard Nixon era is looking pretty good: http://hartfordadvocate.com/gbase/News/content?oid=oid:9010
- ... and indeed it is: http://www.buzzflash.com/farrell/03/04/08.html
- Here's an interesting take on 9-11 and the "roots of conspiracy denial": http://www.911-strike.com/conspiracy-denial.htm
- Speaking of 9-11, some of the victims' families are still pushing for answers, and still not getting anywhere: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/apr2003/hear-a09.shtml and http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/witness_kleinberg.htm
- Surprise! Surprise! The U.S. played a role in a 1998 Colombia bombing that slaughtered civilians: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/134654319_colombia16.html
- The FBI has some nifty domestic spy planes: http://www.timesherald.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=7381014&BRD=1672&PAG=461&dept_id=33380&rfi=6
- For Easter this year, the bunny is out, and GI Joe is in: http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1035778766326&call_pageid=968332188854&col=968350060724
- Be forewarned: State Farm's new policies will not cover you in the event of a nuclear attack: http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/03/Columns/State_Farm_s_no_nukes.shtml
- And, lastly, for those who might be concerned that having U.S. troops permanently deployed in the Middle East will leave us vulnerable here at home ... have no fear; we have a very well armed domestic military force here at home. You might know them as the police: http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/02/State/Fort_Florida.shtml