About a month ago, I was asked to speak at an anti-war event in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn. I immediately put together some notes but the event was subsequently re-scheduled and I was no longer able to attend. In the hope of provoking more thought, I decided to transcribe the anti-war talk I didn’t make:
We are meeting here today at a time of historic importance. As someone familiar explained: “Two worlds are in conflictStwo philosophies of lifeSone of these two worlds must break asunder.” These are not the words of our un-elected president but rather Adolph Hitler, in the 1930s. I do not compare these two time periods lightly.
The decisions made about the current situation in Iraq will, one day, have many answering the question: Where were you during the build-up? What did you do? These questions will be asked of politicians, the UN, and others. But the same questions will be asked of us.
You are all part of something unique. The New York Times recently explained, “A small, scattered movement is beginning to stir.” But the New York Times, as usual, got it wrong. A US invasion is still in the planning phase and millions are already in the streets across the globe-not disturbing the peace, but disturbing the war. At this point of the Vietnam War-say, 1962 or 63-the media would’ve been flattering the antiwar movement with the terms “small and scattered.” Antiwar meetings usually consisted of 4 or 5 people in a living room afraid to go public. I can see that no one here is afraid to go public or to question the corporate/government position.
You are part of a long and proud tradition. Contrary to our history books, there have always been those who oppose war. As far back as the Mexican-American War, there were American soldiers who went as far as deserting and fighting for the other side.
Opposition to the US intervention in Vietnam, in fact, began as early as 1945 when merchant marines refused to transport French soldiers back into Southeast Asia to resume their colonial repression. It took 20 years and millions of deaths before that movement grew large enough and confident enough to hold a meeting as large as this one today. But I warn you, being “anti-war” requires facts. If I stood up in front of people and declared “Iraq has used weapons of mass destruction against its own people,” I’d need no proof to back it up. But if I tell you the US has used WMD against its own people, I’d be asked for footnotes.
Hermann Goering, Hitler’s deputy, said at his 1946 Nuremberg War Crimes trial: “Why of course the people don’t want warS NaturallyS That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
I’m not here to tell any of you what you should think about the impending US escalation of hostilities against Iraq. However, I would like to supply you with the type of information you will not get from the corporate media, so when you make a decision on where you stand, you’ll be making an informed decision…a decision you can defend and share with others.
To accomplish this in the little bit of time I have here, I will briefly address seven examples of corporate media disinformation.
1. Fundamentals: The US and UK are about to start a war against Iraq. Firstly, it’s not a war; it’s a slaughter. Second, no matter what you call it, this “war” began when the Security Council imposed comprehensive sanctions against Iraq on August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq invaded Kuwait…and has continued unabated since then. The US and Britain bombed Iraq 62 times in 2002 and 13 times in January 2003. The ostensible reason for this bombing is Iraqi “violations” of the “no-fly zone.” However, no UN resolution mentions the creation of no-fly zones, let alone military enforcement of any such zone.
The war has also continued unabated since August 6, 1990 because sanctions kill 5000 Iraqi children per month. That’s 166 per day…about 1 every 10 minutes. Former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright, when asked to comment on the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of the US sanctions, answered: “We think the price is worth it.”
2. This non-stop war is, in part, possible through dehumanization. Aldous Huxley said, “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.” The dehumanization of Iraq began with a report that Iraqi soldiers had ripped Kuwaiti babies out of incubators when they invaded Kuwait in August 1990. In October 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti “refugee” named Nayirah tearfully described witnessing Iraqi troops stealing incubators from a hospital, leaving 312 babies “on the cold floor to die.” When the Senate voted to give support Daddy Bush’s war-by a margin of only five votes-seven senators recounted Nayirah’s story in justifying their “yes” vote.
Of course, it wasn’t true. Nayirah’s false testimony was part of a $10 million Kuwait government propaganda campaign managed by the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. Rather than working as a volunteer at a hospital, Nayirah was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington.
“We didn’t know it wasn’t true at the time,” claims Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s national security adviser. But, he added, “It was useful in mobilizing public opinion.”
3. Another example of demonization are the endless stories about the Iraqi government deliberately withholding and stockpiling food and medicine…and using money intended for humanitarian purposes to build palaces and enrich themselves.
While it is hardly beyond any State to cheat its populace in the name of self-interest, this is a easy case to investigate since funds from Iraqi oil sales are not at the discretion of Saddam Hussein, but are kept in a UN escrow account with the Bank of Paris in New York. In addition, the UN conducts frequent inventories and heavily monitors food and medicine stored in Iraq
Tun Myat, humanitarian coordinator and head of the UN’s “oil-for-food” program in Baghdad from 2000-2002, told the New York Times: “I think the Iraqi food-distribution system is probably second to none anywhere in the world. It gets to everybody whom it’s supposed to get to in the country.”
4. Iraq is hiding WMD and kicked out inspectors in December 1998 UNSCOM director Richard Butler, prior to the December 1998 US/UK bombardment of Iraq, removed inspectors. Furthermore, the US government admitted that it had been using UNSCOM to spy on Iraq. Since Iraq pays for the entire UN operation through oil revenues, Iraq was (and probably still is) financing UN workers to spy under US cover.
As for WMD, who has them, and who might use them, it’s instructive to recall that the US used WMD on Iraq: 940,000 small depleted uranium (DU) armor-piercing shells from planes and 14,000 larger shells from tanks in 1991.
For those unfamiliar with DU, consider this: When fired, the uranium bursts into flame and sears through steel armor. The heat of the shell causes any diesel fuel vapors in the enemy tank to explode, and the crew inside is burned alive. DU burns on contact, creating tiny aerosolized particles of radiation less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled. These minute particles can travel long distances when airborne.
The widespread use of DU in the Gulf War has be linked to the Gulf War Syndrome: A 1994 study found that 67 percent of the children conceived by Gulf War veterans in Mississippi since the end of the war were born with severe illnesses or birth defects. DU was also used by the US in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.
In other words, the US has conducted 4 nuclear wars: Japan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan but is trying to convince the world that Saddam Hussein is a danger to the world.
5. US and UK plans to attack Iraq have nothing to do with oil interests. Four quick points to ponder: ?Iraq possesses the world’s second largest proven oil reserves, currently estimated at 112.5 billion barrels, about 11 percent of the world total. ?Iraq may have additional undiscovered oil reserves, which might equal that of Saudi Arabia. ?President-Select Bush, VP Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and others all have strong ties to oil companies. ?Chevron once named a tanker after Rice as a gesture of thanks.
6. Hussein has used chemical weapons and even gassed “his own people.” The current debate ignores some relevant points: ?On March 5, 1984, State Department spokesperson John Hughes addressed Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran: “The United States strongly condemns the prohibited use of chemical weapons wherever it occurs.” ?By year’s end, the US had established full diplomatic relations with Iraq for the first time since 1967. ?Six months after that, the Reagan administration authorized the sale to Iraq of 45 dual-use, US-made Bell helicopters. ?Former Iraqi officer, General al-Shamari, told Newsweek that he was in charge of firing chemical weapons from howitzers against Iranian troops, and that US satellite information provided the targeting information. A former CIA official confirmed to Newsweek that the US provided military intelligence to Iraq, including on chemical warfare. General al-Shamari now lives safely in the U.S., running a restaurant outside of Washington DC ?The US and UK continued support for Hussein after the gassing of the Kurds at Halabja in 1988 ?One possible reason for this support: 24 US corporations supplied Iraq with nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile technology, prior to 1991. The list includes Honeywell, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, and Bechtel. ?If the Kurds are Hussein’s people, the Tibetans are Hu Jintao’s people; the Zapatistas are Vicente Fox’s people; the Chechens are Putin’s people; the Palestinians are Sharon’s people; the Seminoles were Andrew Jackson’s people; and the Puerto Ricans being bombed and radiated with DU in Vieques are Bush’s people.
There is documented proof that one nation has used WMD on its own people. In late 1993, then-Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary released documents about secret nuclear experiments by the US government on US citizens. Immediately after the “success” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear researchers wanted to study the effects of plutonium on the human body. They performed two kinds of experiments: ?The first targeted some 800 African-American prisoners, mentally retarded children, and others who were induced, by money or by verbal subterfuge, to submit to irradiation. ?The second test exposed large civilian populations to intentional releases of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere. These experiments were not a momentary lapse in judgment: The declassified documents on US radiation experiments stretch three miles long.
If you were to add up the current war budget, nuclear weapons budget of the Energy Department, the military portion of NASA, foreign military aid, veteran’s benefits, and interest payments incurred by past military spending, you’d discover that the US spends close to $700 billion a year on war…more than one million dollars per minute and they have to justify that spending. Iraq today. North Korea next. Colombia soon afterwards.
The US probably has one bomb for each person in the country so if you’re not careful, you may get yours soon.
More than one million dollars per minute spent on weapons…one Iraqi children dies every 10 minutes: Go ahead, do the math, how much of our tax dollars were spent and how many children died while I stood up here talking?
How is all this possible? The answer, of course, is propaganda. That may not be a word we often use in polite discourse-we usually use “public relations”-but it’s still propaganda. I.F. Stone said, “Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed,” so let me offer an illustration of life in a propaganda state.
I hold in my hand today’s corrections box from the New York Times. It contains a handful of items, so don’t let it ever be said that the corporate media does not admit its mistakes. But there’s a tacit message here: Besides these few minor typos, everything else in yesterday’s Times was correct, accurate, true, and “fit to print.” It has now passed on to become part of the official record. That is how propaganda works.
The Australian scholar, Alex Carey, once listed what he felt were the three most significant developments of the twentieth century. ?the growth and spread of democracy ?the growth and spread of corporate power ?the development of corporate propaganda to protect corporate power against democracy
Well, this new century may have just begun, but its not too early to have a say in what the three most significant developments of the twenty-first century might be. What can we do?
The great Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, suggests: “We can hone our memory, we can learn from our history. We can continue to build public opinion until it becomes a deafening roar.”
Antonio Gramsci suggested one maintain “Pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.” This means we must recognize reality but not be overwhelmed by it.
This also means standing up to and exposing corporate power and that can get you in trouble. Take it from me…you will have people question your sanity. Some of the nicer names you’ll be called are paranoid and psychotic.
At moments like that, I find solace in the words of William S. Burroughs who defined paranoia as “getting the facts straight,” and said, “A psychotic is someone who has just find out what’s going on”
Once you’ve gotten your facts straight and found out what’s going on, you must come out again and again. Not one meeting or one rally, but over and over…bringing more people. Let’s find out the answer to Abbie Hoffman’s rhetorical question: “What if when they called a war, no one went?”
One last warning: after a few of those protests or events, you may also find yourself called a “radical”-as if it were an insult. But I suggest you wear that label with pride. The Latin origin of the word radical is the same as the word “root.” In other words, a radical is one who gets to the root of things. As Martin Luther King declared, “When you’re right, you can never be too radical.”
MICKEY Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (www.murderingofmyyears.com) and an editor at Wide Angle (www.wideangleny.com). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.