FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Re-Interpreting Iraq

To their credit, top US Pentagon officials cautioned journalists and the public, since the Iraq war’s early days, that the dissemination of misinformation would be a vital weapon in their war strategy. Needless to say, they have certainly held true to their word.

But what the mainstream media ­ seemingly little alarmed by the administration’s clear intent to supply journalists with false information ­ is neglecting to convey is the fact that misinformation is still the name of the game for the US government, its well-paid experts and media allies. The fact is that the administration’s propaganda machine was hardly turned off following the historic, albeit staged toppling of Saddam’s statue near the Palestine Hotel in March 2003. A renowned journalist and a trusted colleague of mine was, among others, a witness to the intricate pre-toppling show. “It was all an act,” he declared as we both dined in a Seattle restaurant days upon his return from Iraq, nearly three years ago. His reports however, failed to make mention of that seemingly valuable note. “The End of a Tyrant”, was more or less the flashing headline everywhere.

To achieve its objectives, the advancing US military started a makeshift Arabic radio station near Baghdad’s airport, made possible with the cooperation of Arab broadcasters seeking a quick buck. Meanwhile, millions of fliers descended upon weary Iraqis throughout the country, urging them to give up the fight if they wanted a better future for their children: that of freedom, democracy and an end to their suffering.

Though access to electricity and clean water are still major challenges facing ordinary Iraqis to this day, over three years later, US media specialists in hushed, yet official cooperation with a Lebanese television station took on the task of converting Iraq’s television station from Baath Party propaganda to American propaganda in a matter of weeks. Saddam himself would be shocked to realize that his well-knitted, decades-old media apparatus still had awesome room for improvement.

A military strategist would defend state-sponsored half-truths and misinformation in times of war as a justifiable war tactic; not only did it bring a quick end to the war ­ or so it seems ­ but it has also minimized American causalities.

But things have hardly changed since those early days, though the situation on the ground has been fundamentally altered, in favor of no one. The Pentagon’s latest figures have put America’s dead at 2500, while the number of wounded has passed the 18,000 mark. The post Vietnam war experience can tell us a great deal of the physiological scars that wars inflict, and nothing can heal. Moreover, the negative, even debilitating harms caused by the US army’s use of Depleted Uranium in its war and daily combat against Iraqi fighters requires another article, if not its own volume. Their long-lasting impairments however, are no longer mere speculation.

Considering the devastating outcome of Bush’s military adventurism in Iraq, one would imagine that sincerity and transparency are required now more than ever before; after all, there seems to be no particular enemy to baffle: Saddam Hussein is in prison, the so-called insurgency has no central command, thus no central strategy ­ a fact that renders state propaganda ineffective, if at all necessary. Moreover, the campaign of lies and deceit cannot possibly be targeting the Iraqi people for they were never even taken into consideration since the systematic campaign of sanctions started in 1991, which killed ­ according to the most modest estimates, nearly one million persons, mostly children. The daily and wholesale murder, organized torture and Haditha-like executions since then are further illustrations.

It’s clear that the US state propaganda ­ which has been achieved with the willing cooperation of the mainstream ‘liberal’ media ­ has one prime target: the American public, for without their full acknowledgment and support, military adventurism can be a huge political burden; coupled with a dwindling economy and mounting debt, it could sway the political pendulum to unfavorable directions.

Indeed, the recent announcement of the killing of al-Qaeda’s supposed strong-man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has unleashed a major PR campaign by the Republican president to reclaim some of his lost credibility among Americans. To save a possible major setback to the Republican Party in the November elections ­ and considering that his faltering ratings stand at an all time low- President Bush’s camp is turning the inconsequential death of al-Zarqawi into a major turning point in Iraq. Though the President insists that al-Zarqawi’s death doesn’t mean an end to violence in Iraq ­ a clever attempt to avoid another ‘mission accomplished’ fallout ­ the PR campaign led by his administration immediately after the Jordanian militant’s death, suggests a desperate, yet determined attempt at political recovery. Otherwise, how else can one explain the timing of the following events: Bush’s ‘surprise’ visit to Iraq, the announcement of a major military ‘sweep’ meant to parade and present US-trained Iraqi military and police as a strong ‘partner’ in quelling the insurgency, the Iraqi government’s announcement that ‘this is the beginning of the end’ for al-Qaeda in Iraq, the call for ‘national reconciliation’ and release of a few hundred Iraqi prisoners, President Bush’s two-day retreat in Camp David to consult with his advisors ­ sold by CNN as the president’s way of sharing the war responsibility with the people – and so on and so forth.

The reality on the ground points to the fact that if al-Zarqawi’s death was of any value, it freed the Iraqi resistance from its burdensome affiliation with a foreign leadership. Aside from that, nothing has changed: bombs continue to blast throughout the country; tortured and mutilated bodies continue to mysteriously appear in ditches and alleyways, daily gun battles persist, new militant groups with confusing names spring unabashed. Post invasion Iraq has not changed and it is unlikely that it will change any time soon, even if the new Iraqi Prime Minister has finalized his cabinet and has made an impressive speech or two.

What began as a focused campaign of misinformation aimed at defeating Saddam’s forces, has turned into a much more intense campaign of deceit and trickery aimed at salvaging Bush’s political reputation and that of his Republican Party. Thus, what has really changed in Iraq is that the administration and the media have suddenly decided to re-interpret the ongoing conflict for political ends. It has little to do with Baghdad and its Green Zone and much to do with Capitol Hill and its discontented politicians. Simply put: it’s politics as usual.

RAMZY BAROUD teaches mass communication at Curtin University of Technology and is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle. He is also the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com. He can be contacted at: editor@palestinechronicle.com

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail