The awesome maratelethon has invaded the nation’s households as Manifest Destiny on the march, a political spectacle in which the military are props and the civilian announcers are inspired by the most grotesque delusions of racial triumphalism.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the embedded multi–media experience, is neither news nor military propaganda. Rather, it is an imperial work in progress, an attempted re–orchestration of the (white) American anthem and saga. Like the musical national anthem, it is an ugly song, and one that a rapidly diminishing number of people want to sing.
Although it may appear that the U.S. military has permanently occupied telecommunications, this is an illusion. In reality, the American military and the corporate media have been totally subordinated to the political project and vision of the Pirates who took control of the U.S. government January 20, 2000. As the announcer on the old Sci–fi TV series “The Outer Limits” used to informed the audience: “Do not attempt to adjust your television set. We are in complete control…!”
“We” are the political representatives of a Pirate class that profits directly from war and “reconstruction” in the wake of war. (See “Rule of the Pirates: the $200 billion payday,” December 5.) The Bush men seek nothing less than free rein to pillage the globe in a “marketplace” of brute force, a distinctly American hegemonic heaven.
The military is their servant, junior partners even at the Pentagon, which is the toy of corporate think tanks, weapons systems marketers and for–profit war scenario–conjurors like Defense Group Inc., the people who sold “Shock and Awe” to the Defense Department. The “brass” are routinely overridden at every strategic and tactical stage of military decision–making, most dramatically in the current Iraq invasion. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the Pirate cabal arbitrarily rewrite the military battle plan and the official script to enhance the political images. They cut and paste a virtual reality that bears little relationship to the material exigencies on the ground, or to the political sensibilities of the globe. In a sense, this is a private showing of a national infomercial for the Bush–branded New American Century.
A civilian imposition
The military was drafted into the virtual aspects of this production. Working soldiers want nothing to do with media flakes and flacks flitting around the field of battle. (Nor would managers at nuclear power plants or munitions factories.) The “embeds” of the virtual “Operation Iraqi Freedom” were imposed on the military by Bush’s corporate public relations experts. Militaries seek victory, then parades. Political spin masters are predators of the mind. Media manipulators keep the audience in thrall for the longest possible period of time — no duration is beyond their ambitions.
The TV show and the coterminous military assault are equally the actual beginnings of Permanent War. The war is real, willed into existence and sustained by the delusions of a racist American public. The virtual rendition is deemed a success to the extent that (white) America believes it. Or, more accurately, believes in it.
“The Pirates know their fellow Americans well,” wrote in our commentary, Racism and War: Perfect Together,” March 13. “White America sees the world through the eyes of the mass murderer and slaveholder. Were it not so, there would not exist the grotesque disconnect between white American public opinion and the opinions of mankind, shared generally by Black America. Bush would not be possible.”
The Bush men were confident that a public deluded enough to believe, in the absence of any evidence, that Saddam Hussein “had something to do with” the events of September 11 is a population eager to commit any outrage against a non–white people. Corporate Republicans rule because they have divined the mass white psyche. The Bush men also know that the corporate media are no different than their next–door neighbors.
Thus, a war–hungry corporate media were thrust upon an unwilling officer corps. The embedded press have performed beyond the Pirate’s wildest expectations, embellishing the administration’s lies for the pleasure of a (white) public that has “lived in a warped and artificial bubble of their own self–serving creation since they killed their first ‘red savage’ and whipped their first ‘nigger brute.'”
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting assigned itself the near impossible task of tracking a Niagara of media untruths. On March 25, the beleaguered FAIR watchdogs reported on broadcast lies by network household names about Iraqi use of Scud missiles — disinformation that the media made up all by themselves:
ABC’s Ted Koppel, “embedded” with an infantry division, reported matter–of–factly that “there were two Scud missiles that came in. One was intercepted by a patriot missile.” ABC anchor Derek McGinty had earlier explained that “there was a Scud attack, one Scud fired from Basra into Kuwait. It was intercepted by an American patriot battery, and apparently knocked out of the sky. There is still no word exactly what was on that Scud, whether or not there might have been any sort of unconventional weaponry onboard.”
Fox News Channel’s William La Jeunesse was not only asserting that a Scud had been launched, but was drawing conclusions about its significance: “Now, Iraq is not supposed to have Scuds because they have a range of 175 up to 400 miles. The limit by the U.N., of course, is like 95 miles. So, we already know they have something they’re not supposed to have.”
The military later announced “that U.S. forces searching airfields in the far western desert of Iraq have uncovered no missiles or launchers.” In fact, the Iraqis had not launched any Scuds since the beginning of the invasion.
Unsatisfied with General Tommy Franks’ assurances that the U.S. will “certainly” find evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, the embeds hyped every desert stopover by WMD searchers, “breathless” to confirm the existence of a “smoking gun” that would justify all the smoke, fire and death of Shock and Awe. FAIR reported:
ABC’s John McWethy promoted the story with this report: “Amidst all the fighting, one important new discovery: U.S. officials say, up the road from Nasarijah, in a town called Najaf, they believe that they have captured a chemical weapons plant and perhaps more important, the commanding general of that facility. One U.S. official said he is a potential ‘gold mine’ about the weapons Saddam Hussein says he doesn’t have.”
NBC’s Tom Brokaw described the story thusly: “Word tonight that U.S. forces may have found what U.N. inspectors spent months searching for, a facility suspected to be a chemical weapons plant, uncovered by ground troops on the way north to Baghdad.” NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski added what seemed to be corroborating details: “This huge chemical complex… was constructed of sand–casted walls, in other words, meant to camouflage its appearance to blend in with the desert. Once inside, the soldiers found huge amounts of chemicals, stored chemicals.
Yet no chemical weapons were found. The Pentagon said it could not “determine exactly what these chemicals are or how they could have been used in weapons.”
When the WDMs are finally “discovered” the event will be anti–climatic as well as probably staged, due to the impatience of the triumphalist media to justify America’s crimes.
We urge readers to check in regularly with FAIR: http://www.fair.org/
Once embedded, American reporters utterly self–destructed as professionals with the full blessing of their government and corporate superiors. “We at no time want to provide any information that can be of aid to the enemy,” said the vampirish Paula Zahn — a signal to any sane viewer that everything issuing from her mouth for the duration of the war is as false as her face. “Very good point, Paula,” Wolf Blitzer replied, knowing well that his professional career rests on the enthusiasm of his contribution to the war effort. Blitzer and his colleagues have no ethical problems with the arrangement, however, since they are as delusional as their (white) American audience. Their country and cause are just. “Facts” are those things — real or invented — that conform to this assumption. Betrayal of the assumption is a betrayal of the nation: aid to the enemy.
Present and unaccountable
Embedded corporate media hinder public understanding of unfolding events in an occupied or contested Iraq. Their presence is more destructive of truth than if they had been barred from the scene, entirely, because they are infinitely capable of retailing and manufacturing lies — which they themselves believe.
At around 2 a.m. Eastern Time, Sunday morning, a CNN reporter gained access to newly captured Iraqi prisoners who were squatting or lying on the ground outside a command tent, handcuffed. The embed shined his camera light in the faces of the unhappy young men — clearly soldiers — moving among the group looking for all the world like a plantation owner shopping for slaves. “Here’s another one,” the embed told his crew, directing the camera’s glare to an Iraqi who covered his face, feigning sleep.
This is what is known under the Geneva Conventions as subjecting prisoners to humiliation as “public curiosities.” The abuse was casual, totally gratuitous, achieving nothing in the way of “news,” but revealing the identity of young men who might have good reason to fear the consequences of having surrendered to the “enemy,” unscathed. Embedded crews throughout the advancing U.S. columns thought themselves lucky to showcase human prizes for the curiosity and scorn of the American audience.
Later Sunday morning, Tim Russert and his panel of high ranking, objectively embedded stateside corporate media friends were found in full roar over Iraqi “executions” of American POWs — speculation that they treated as fact for an entire network half–hour. Had “sand nigger” hating Americans been fully tuned to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” they would have doubtless demanded the immediate nuking of Baghdad.
By noon, the Pentagon and the White House had distanced themselves from the execution allegation. In the end, the official complaint was that U.S. POWs had been subjected to “public curiosity” by Iraqi and Al Jazeera television crews — a horrible violation of international law, said the President and the U.S. press, revealing the savagery of the Iraqi regime.
Every one of the thousands of media workers involved in virtual “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was aware of the American embeds’ many close up displays of Iraqi prisoners. (All of the networks can and do monitor each others’ feeds.) Yet FOX and CNN — both guilty — continued for days to rant incessantly about Baghdad’s and Al Jazeera’s crimes, while pretending they had not done the same. Americans cannot be guilty of anything, except “mistakes” of worldly innocence or misplaced kindness.
Doubly–delusional Black embeds
The “colored” embedded contingent is doubly delusional, twice afflicted, and thoroughly insane. CNN’s ridiculous Leon Harris is the worst. No matter the weightiness of the subject, Harris appears like a weatherman, bouncing, smiling, flirting, flippant. He is one happily embedded Atlanta–based Negro. No script — no problem. Harris just spouts the Bush men’s line as if that is his job: “The mission of the U.S. troops is a bi–fold mission, not just freeing the Iraqi people, but bringing democracy to the Iraqi people,” said Harris the weatherman, making career points with his skills at unqualified propaganda. Turning his attention to an American officer in a remote location, Harris asks, “This town has been liberated, right? Can I use that term?” Yes, you can, says the military guy.CNN’s military analyst doesn’t look as much like a weatherman as Harris, but he points a mean wand at an electronic map showing arrows pointing to Baghdad. It is impossible to not conclude that, at some point in his career, he was a weatherman — and gave more reliable reports.
CNN corporate parent Time Magazine’s Tim Lacey was unlucky enough to be working the nightshift when a 101st Airborne Division sergeant reportedly fragged three officers’ tents. Negativity threatened to spoil the show. The pudgy–faced, forty–something Lacy, who sounds exactly like a New York City beat cop and is limited to the same vocabulary, immediately attempted to clean up the image of his troops, his embedded buddies. “I can’t say this enough,” said Lacey, for the third time. “This is about one disgruntled soldier, but everyone else here on this camp is doing just what everyone expects of an American soldier.” Absolutely.
Tim Mintier justified the impending bombardment of Basra with words that can only sound logical to the most impaired denizens of a pathological society. “Basra is a key humanitarian distribution point,” said the CNN embed. “This is why it has been made a strategic target.”
Iraq’s army has “infiltrated” into Iraq’s second largest city, Mintier explained, his face idiotic but, nevertheless, straight.
Racism renders most white Americans incompetent to deal with people and facts that appear to threaten the edifice of white supremacy, which they have internalized as a core worldview. Since white supremacy exists only in their minds — and can be confirmed only through brute coercion — white violence seems arbitrary to sane human beings. We understand racist behavior largely through the repetitive patterns of the pathology — how “white folks act.” To venture into the emotional depths of the delusion, we imagine, must be like a visit to hell. It is safer to watch from a distance as the racist reacts to invisible threats, lashes out at inoffensive people, or celebrates victories against imagined adversaries — in a way, like trying to figure out what a very aggressive mime “sees.”
Alas, Shock and Awe serves notice that no people on the globe are out of reach of the raging Pirates. But that does not mean the Bush men are skilled at global piracy. After all, it’s never been attempted under 21st Century conditions.
America is bringing the whole civilian media gang along for the rampage, embedded for the benefit of several hundred million homebound delusionals. Once summoned to the Coliseum, the mob must be entertained. The mood of the continental crowd swings from trembling fear to mean–as–a–snake, and must be accommodated — rationality be damned!
However, delusional behavior is also incompetent behavior, and collective delusion can wreck an adventure. The real “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the military action, began days and perhaps weeks too soon for the military planners, jump started for the sake of the dynamic of the conversation within the Bush crowd and their dialogue with white America. Bush delivered his 48–hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and the world on Monday, March 17. Premature ultimatum. Suddenly, on Wednesday the 19th, Saddam was spotted (maybe) within reach. Swoosh. Premature projectile ejaculation. The armored columns then had to move forward across the Kuwaiti border, so that the internal momentum, willed by Bush–Cheney–Rumsfeld, could be maintained, and the expectations of the public and the embedded press — Where’s our Shock and Awe!? — satisfied. Delay would be… unimperial, a letdown — dead air on the television.
Shock and Awe deferred
As reported by UPI on Tuesday, March 18, the northern U.S. invasion force, barred from using Turkish territory, would require weeks to pass through the Suez Canal, round the Arabian Peninsula, and steam up the Persian Gulf to Kuwait. As of Ultimatum Day, Monday the 17th, the crucial 101st Airborne Division’s helicopters were still being unloaded from ships. The unpacking was not yet finished on Wednesday, March 19, when Bush tried to swat Saddam Hussein. Instead of the meticulously calibrated, rolling advance under and through the smoke and hellfire of Shock and Awe, the Americans and Brits lurched into war, like a driver who can’t handle a stick shift.
The Pirate’s allowed the logic of their own imperial pronouncements to hobble the war plan. An invincible America and its strong willed Leader must triumph over Third Worlders with ease and under any circumstances, they assumed, believing that they personify the manifestation of American Destiny. So it is written, somewhere, and preached in vast, air–conditioned suburban sunbelt churches. The Bush men acted on their own hype, waving off the advice of commanders who have long sworn by a doctrine, associated with Colin Powell, of decisive, swift, overwhelming, minutely coordinated force. Instead, the Bush men listened to their political and public relations voices, calibrating military movements to the perceived appetite of the crowd. Strategic necessity was subordinated to the emotional demands of the Bush men’s racist constituency, people who, like the Pirates themselves, do not live in synch with the rest of the planet, and who believe actual facts on the ground are subject to proclamation and ultimatum. Bush thought Americans craved quick blood. We know he did.
The analytical ranks among the embedded press were certainly aware that the much advertised Plan had been mangled by impetuous, snap decisions from the very top. But, what’s an embed to do? Now part soldier, more than ever a propagandist, and collectively infused to the marrow of their Indian–killer bones with the prospect of white glory, the corporate media failed to call effective attention to the incomplete U.S. force array.Instead, they dutifully delivered the improvised Pentagon–White House cover stories.
The initial bombardment and assault had been comparatively desultory when measured against The Plan because… Saddam’s generals were negotiating mass surrender. (Yeah, that’s the ticket.) No, the Americans were waiting to see if Saddam were dead or alive. If dead, why, this whole Shock and Awe thing might just be called off. (Sure, and forego putting the world in terror of The Superpower. Wasn’t that the point?) In the interest of sparing the common foot soldiers of the Iraqi army, the U.S. would deign to pause. (Even the embeds rolled their eyes at that one.)
In fact, if we thought they were capable of comprehending us, we would shut up. We want them to halt their aggression against the world, not fine–tune it.
Rather, we are warning that the behavior of the Bush men and their constituency — a majority of white Americans — is bizarre and inherently unstable, based as it is on shared illusions of white supremacy. (Black CNN “weatherman” Leon Harris’ idea of himself is also somehow reified by these delusions.) White America is not rational. Its behavior must be anticipated through a disciplined mental practice that was painfully learned by the slave and her children. At these perilous times for the planet, and for those who are thought of as domestic enemies, we must never forget that the adversary is not only powerful, he is crazy.
In this regard, the embedded media are useful indicators of the way the racist wind is blowing. They are acting out collective white fantasies, unconstrained by any pretense of professional ethics, purposely placing no distance between themselves and the “national interest” as defined by their Leader. They have been deputized, and are grinning like Barney Fife of Mayberry. The Pirates play them like a piano, but it’s a song they enjoy as much as the Bush men do — for now.
Grenada coverage revisited
Almost 20 years ago during the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the corporate media demonstrated that their heart’s true wish is to prove their fealty to the state — that they have The White Stuff. An internal split in the ruling New Jewel Movement followed by a military coup and the assassination of the island nation’s popular leader, Maurice Bishop, providing the pretext for Ronald Reagan’s air and sea assault. The well–rehearsed armada arrived in Grenadan waters in October, 1983, on what was billed as a mission to “rescue” American students at the island’s medical school. Soon it was announced that the action was necessary to “liberate” the 70,000 or so inhabitants from the tyranny of a few hundred Cuban construction workers and embassy–assigned soldiers.
The U.S. military preferred that the media not get in the way of the mission. The outraged press were placed on shipboard lockdown for the first 48 hours of the invasion, forced to watch impotently from the railings as Navy Seals and Army paratroopers landed without benefit of corporate media benediction. The shipboard scribblers howled, while their stateside editors produced negative ink on the wisdom of the invasion.
THE BLACK COMMENTATOR’s co–publisher Glen Ford wrote a small book on the subject for the International Organization of Journalists, titled, “The Big Lie: Analysis of U.S. Press Coverage of the Grenada Invasion” (1985, IOJ, now out of print). As soon as the military saw fit to allow the corporate media on Grenada, Ford wrote, American newspapers and broadcast networks morphed into cheerleaders for the invasion.
The Washington Post had no real complaints about the invasion anymore, except for wounded feelings over the initial news blackout:
“It was troublesome and a bad precedent for Mr. Reagan to yield so much authority over the actual operation to the uniformed military, which created an unnecessary crisis of political confidence by barring the press and by too often seeming blind to the operation’s diplomatic context.”
The Washington Post appears to be saying, as boldly as its mumbling style permits, that not only did the paper approve of the invasion but that, if the press had been allowed its usual privileges the operation would have been smoother, diplomatically and domestically. The Washington Post and its counterparts would have helped explain the invasion and avert “an unnecessary crisis.”
The corporate media are full partners in the invasion of Iraq, and may be effectively embedded in one form or another for the remainder of Permanent War. They have become trustees of the state, pampered passengers on the road to Baghdad, Tehran….
Much of the global press are invited to join the posse. Foreign media will selectively avail themselves of the option, while in general recoiling from what poet Dr. Rodney Coates calls “Operation Putrid Stench” and its successors.
Any alternative is better
In the meantime, Brian Whitaker of The Guardian (UK) prefers official Iraqi briefings to presentations by the American military, who offer little more than assurances that the invasion is “moving forward” as planned.
Iraqi spokesmen, on the other hand, have been remarkably forthcoming and, if we disregard the usual rhetoric, the factual content of their statements has often been more accurate than that of the invasion forces. Their figures for Iraqi casualties have also been low enough to sound plausible.
The most comprehensive and best analysis is posted daily at a Russian site:
Lots of Russian military men have been underemployed since the demise of the Soviet Union. The Baku–based site provides valuable cross references to the sparse and often–worthless accounts of American embeds. It’s not a Russian war — although the crazies in the American War Party may soon be claiming otherwise.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the New York Stock Exchange has declared Al–Jazeera staff persona non grata on the premises.
Exchange spokesman Ray Pellechia denied the station’s war coverage was the cause. Citing “security reasons,” he said the exchange had chosen to limit the number of broadcasters working at the lower Manhattan exchange since the war began, giving access only to networks that focus “on responsible business coverage.”
The truth? They can’t handle the truth!
THE BLACK COMMENTATOR is one of our favorite websites. We urge you to bookmark the site.
Watch Their Lips
Shock But Not Awe
Winning Hearts and Minds Bush–Style
The Beautiful Face of America
Buckets of Blood
POWs, Torture and Hypocrisy
The Coup That Didn’t Happen
April Hurley, MD
A Doctor’s Outrage in Baghdad
Reema Abu Hamdieh
The Smell of Death Surrounds Me
Website of the War
Iraq Body Count
Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax–Deductible Donation Today Online!