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Publicity Stunts as Public Policy


About 2500 US known dead, give or take a corpse or two Untold tens of thousands of Iraqis. A new and more repressive crackdown in Iraq’s capital city titled, rather lamely, Operation Forward Together. No Iron Fist this time. No Desert Storm. Just Forward Together into the fog or perhaps the abyss.

No one really seems to know any longer yet the commander-in-chief in Washington and his sycophantic henchmen both in and out of uniform continue to insist that their soldiers and the people whose country they are destroying will stay “until victory.” Like most wars, such victory is vaguely defined. However, even the US adventure in Korea looked more purposeful to US residents than this one in Iraq.

The recent murder of Zarqawi and the current crackdown in Baghdad serve well as metaphors for the entire nature of this war. An overkill of US military power with results that mean virtually nothing in the longer term.

So what–they killed Zarqawi? Does that bring an end to the war any closer?

So what–the newest Prime Minister of the Green Zone, a man whose reliance on Washington’s firepower already seems to rival that of Ayad Allawi (DC’s first handpicked man), announces a giant security sweep of Baghdad. Under Washington’s direction, he tells the city’s residents (and the compliant US press) that there will be over 70,000 US and Iraqi more troops in their city setting up checkpoints to harass them, take their guns (always a popular move in Iraq), breaking into their homes at night, arresting men on minimal suspicions, and just irritating and disrupting their already wartorn lives.

Will it end the war? Of course not. Like other such operations before it, Forward Together is another public relations exercise whose primary audience is the US public and whose primary targets are any Iraqi that gets in the way of the troops swaggering through their streets and homes. It won’t amount to a hill of beans.

Talking about hills of beans, how about Congress? Now that there are 2500 dead US soldiers and many thousands more permanently wounded, those fine men and women are debating whether or not they should hold a debate about the war in Iraq.

As of this writing, the decision to hold such a debate has yet to be made. They had to get their pay raise passed first, not to mention the ever-important vote on same-sex marriage. Oh yeah, one can’t forget the pressing national question of drug use by professional baseball players! Even without holding that debate about the war, both houses passed with nary a whimper a $94 billion supplementary appropriations bill–$66 billion of it going to continued murder and mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan. Speaking of Afghanistan, does one needed to be reminded that the war there is heating up again, with two more coalition soldiers killed on June 14, 2006 and another Afghani child killed by a US soldiers driving a truck? I can’t help but be reminded of the Creedence Clearwater song “Fortunate Son.” For those that don’t know the song, here are the relevant lines:

Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yeah

More blood, more money, and more time. In Iraq, in Afghanistan and in every other country that the US empire’s machine wishes to extend its reach. Whether it’s prisons or airports that enable secret kidnappings known as renditions in Europe or the US version of Great Britain’s H-Block in Guantanamo Bay where hundreds are held without charges. Guantanamo Bay, where dozens of these prisoners are on a hunger strike and two recently hung themselves in what a US official callously described as a publicity stunt.

Let’s get something clear here, George Bush’s visit to Baghdad on June 13, 2006 was a publicity stunt. George Bush’s strolling onto that aircraft carrier in a flight suit so many moons ago was a publicity stunt. Threatening war on Iran because it wants to go its own legal way on nuclear development is a publicity stunt (hopefully).

Two men hanging themselves out of despair in a prison is not. Unless, of course, the deaths of 2500 US soldiers in a war for power and profit are publicity stunts, too.



Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at:

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