FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Spinning the Past; Threatening the Future

Political aphorisms don’t get any more cogent: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

George Orwell’s famous observation goes a long way toward explaining why — a full year after the invasion of Iraq — the media battles over prewar lies are so ferocious in the United States. Top administration officials are going all out to airbrush yesterday’s deceptions on behalf of today’s. And tomorrow’s.

The future they want most to control starts on Election Day. And with scarcely seven months to go in the presidential campaign, the past that Bush officials are most eager to obscure is their own record. In late 2002 and early last year, whenever the drive to war hit a bump, they maneuvered carefully to keep the war caravan moving steadily forward.

There was no doubt, they were a hard-driving bunch. The most powerful squad of the Bush foreign-policy team ran on the fuel of certitude at such a prodigious rate that even their momentum had momentum — maybe, in part, because their lives’ trajectories seemed to demand it. War had been declared first within themselves.

Perhaps such steeliness has been almost boilerplate in history; excuses for aggressive war have never been hard to come by. In this case, no amount of geopolitical analysis — from media pundits, academics and other commentators — could really do more to shed light than the lightbulb comprehension that these people in charge had from the outset made the determination that war it would be.

So, every attempt at civic engagement and demonstrations against the war scenario was, in effect, trying to impede “leaders” who had already gone around the bend. A very big bend. One of the American mass media taboos was to seriously suggest the possibility that the lot of them — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and, yes, Powell — were, in their pursuit of war on Iraq, significantly deranged.

Working back from their conclusion of war’s necessity, top Bush administration officials — with assistance from many reporters and pundits — were reading the calendar backwards, hellbent on getting the invasion underway well before the extreme heat of summer.

There was also political weather to be navigated. Though much more susceptible to manipulation than the four seasons, the electoral storms would be starting for the 2004 presidential contest, and a secured victory over Iraq well in advance seemed advisable.

The peace-seeking pretense was dripping with charade in the months before the invasion. Journalists kept writing and talking about the chances of war as though President Bush hadn’t already made up his mind to order it. Yet what Bush said in public was exactly opposite to reality — a “one-eighty.” When he talked about preferring to find an acceptable alternative to war, he was determined to bypass and destroy every alternative to war.

Rational arguments would not work to forestall the presidential order to unleash the Pentagon. Despite the obstacles, which included vital activism and protests for peace, the chief executive easily got to have his war — the best kind, to be fought and endured only by others.

Eighteen months ago, looking out at Baghdad from an upper story of a hotel, I thought of something Albert Camus once wrote. “And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.” Later, any and all words were to be vastly outmatched by the big guns trained on Iraq.

One afternoon, 14 months ago, inside a little shop in Baghdad’s crowded souk, a young boy sat behind an old desk, brown eyes wide, quietly watching his father unfurl carpets for potential customers, and I wondered: “Will my country’s missiles kill you?”

Key questions of the past are also crucial for the future. For instance, can the United States credibly wage a “war on terrorism” by engaging in warfare that terrorizes civilians?

Close to 10,000 Iraqi civilians have died because of the war during the past year.

Does the mix of mendacity and deadly violence from the Oval Office really strike against terrorism, or does it fuel terrorist cycles?

And, in the realm of news media, how many journalists are willing and able to go beyond reliance on official sources enough to bring us truth about lies that result in death?

NORMAN SOLOMON is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in San Francisco. He is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You. (Context Books, 2003).

 

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail