FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rhetoric and Reality of War

by RAMZY BAROUD

One of the earliest philosophers to wrangle with the blurred relationship between language and reality was the Buddhist Nagarjuna. He contested that reality is constructed by language as opposed to language essentially imitating reality.

But he was only one of many. Not one school of philosophy, whether in its conventional Western definitions nor in the more broad-spectrum Eastern schools, failed to battle with the subject. Not that philosophers enjoy killing time, but the issue at hand was and remains most relevant.

Take as an example the bloody clashes in the southern Iraqi city of Basra between angry Iraqi protesters, police and British forces on September 19, where several Iraqis, including a police officer were killed. Two awesome, although entirely contradicting narratives emerged from the ashes of the Basra battle.

One narrative was visual, largely suppressed by the US media, and was aired repeatedly on Arabic television channels such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. The visual narrative was of violent clashes between mostly unarmed yet enraged Iraqi protesters and British forces, a British soldier fighting fire, bloodstained Iraqi police officers and so forth. There was also the total destruction of an Iraqi police station, almost completely razed after British armored vehicles moved in to ‘rescue’ two of its agents who were arrested by Iraqi police for what was described as ‘suspicious’ conduct.

By considering for a brief moment the unlawful war, occupation and the surrounding political context, only one plausible conclusion can be realized: Iraqis see the British forces in Basra as occupiers and the latter behaves as such. There can be no other way to fathom or articulate that relationship.

Such a conclusion however, can only be achieved under unreserved objectivity, a task of which most of us seem incapable. Thus the written and spoken element becomes indispensable and is deployed generously to help construct or deconstruct the events.

But piecing together and then relaying what may seem as too overwhelming or baffling a reality requires an unfaltering commitment to objectivity as well, a quality that has become the antithesis of today’s politics and journalism.

So how did the bloody images of Basra become deconstructed to create their own separate reality? First, consider the two sides involved: the ‘democratically’ elected Iraqi authorities in southern Iraq and the British military.

The governor of Basra denounced the British attack. He described it as “barbaric, savage, and irresponsible.” Local police authorities called the British aggression ‘terrorist’ Iraqi police acted according to what they perceived as proper under the following circumstances: two foreign looking men, dressed in traditional Arabic clothes refused to yield at a police checkpoint and opened fire at local police, killing and wounding several, while driving a vehicle that was allegedly laden with ‘explosives’.

But Iraqis are not and never were a match for British propaganda, injected by the state and parroted by both British and American media.

While there is no denial that both narratives have been inconsistent at times, and the official account, particularly in some British media, received due scrutiny, the overwhelming interpretation of the events by both sides was largely consistent.

However, the British government and military seemed to comment on an entirely different event. Despite initial confusion, both eventually streamlined their account: The two soldiers were on a ‘routine’ mission, we were told; they were unlawfully detained; they were transferred to a nearby house that is owned by members of Iraqi militias, which are backed by Iran; that the latter is irate at the British efforts to halt the Iranian nuclear program, thus the Iranian interest in destabilizing Iraq is the Mullahs’ way of evading international pressure, etc.

The official British story defies common sense. Why would the Iraqi authorities that derive their legitimacy from the British and American military presence pose any threat to the lives of the two British soldiers? Was that threat so imminent that it required such a fantastic show of force to further humiliate the already scorned Iraqi police and murder several people? Why were the British ‘special forces’ dressed in Arabic-style disguise?

The great majority of British and American newspapers, with a few exceptions, chose to avoid any critical inquiry into the British government and military account. Rather, they questioned the integrity of the local Iraqi authority and selectively chose to quote the forgiving statements of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari, who classified the entire episode as all too common in such times. More, Al-Jaafari, asked the British to stay a while longer to help Iraq win its fight against the ‘terrorists’.

Meanwhile, crafty media ‘experts’ in expensive suits assumed the role of recycling the latest British military invention infused by the Basra clash: the Iraqi police have been ‘infiltrated’ by Shia militia, particularly the extremists of Badr Brigade and followers of Moqtada Sadr. Now media pundits are diligently working to establish a direct link that will conveniently indict Iran.

Language has once again deconstructed what visuals originally portrayed. The desperate attempt of Iraqis to assert a level of sovereignty in their own country becomes a mega conspiracy, where the aggressor and the victim swap roles in a twisted sort of way.

Once language managed to skew reality in a favorable direction, British defense secretary John Reid returned to his style of positive diplomacy: “We will not cut and run and we will not leave the job half done. We stand by Iraq when times are tough and we will be a committed friend, not a fair-weather friend.”

The above is yet more proof that Reid and his boss are likely to carry on living in the shadow of their own reality, well equipped with ready-to-serve misleading language, which is in turn readily embraced by the media and its self-designated experts and decoders.

The Iraqi reality, however, is too grim to bear any resemblance to what the British and Americans are disseminating. The bloody images, the ever rising death toll, the mounting insurgency are all indicative of an occupied country revolting, where the line between occupied and occupier is most clearly manifest.

RAMZY BAROUD, a veteran Arab American journalist, teaches mass communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail