War, Lies and Videotape

The western media are falling for Washington’s version of the truth in Iraq. Mis-emphasis, misinformation and trumped-up story-telling are discernible in all mainstream reportage

Just as the Vietnam war crimes were never acknowledged, the world is currently being defrauded by the western mainstream media. They are creating a belief in the legitimacy of sending every American soldier from Europe and Japan into Iraq to supplement the existing forces and to enable a post-Saddam democratic government to take over. But evidently, the motive of the US leadership is to install a puppet government in Iraq. In its attempt to ‘defend’ democracy, Washington is, in fact, derailing democracy by following the same pattern it had during the Vietnam war: claiming to defend South Vietnam, it had gone headlong into the invasion of South Vietnam.

The government’s actions according to their motives, causes and often hidden intentions are never examined, largely because the mainstream media belong to the corporate-State nexus that does not allow the press to exercise freedom. Information that would discredit the government is suppressed, for instance, in the ‘liberal’ New York Times. The Bay of Pigs disaster, the murder of Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers or any visual reportage of American soldiers killed in the Iraq war have been blatantly suppressed. So have Yasser Arafat’s repeated overtures for mutual recognition — always rejected by Jerusalem and never reported by NYT.

Mis-emphasis, misinformation and trumped-up story-telling are discernible in all mainstream reportage. Evidently, correspondents like Thomas Friedman or James LeMoyne are mere intellectual commissars who serve the same function in a democracy that the propaganda machine does in a despotic State.

The world must not be taken in by the role of the media in projecting the ‘democratic’ designs of the US in Iraq. It is evident that any move towards a democratic rule would initiate the rise of Shia dominance, leading to closer ties with Iran, a development Washington is allergic to. Besides, in a democratic Iraq, the Kurds would demand autonomy that would drive Turkey up the wall — and in turn, the US.

Even Friedman had predicted an ‘iron-fisted military junta’ in Iraq that would be at the beck and call of the White House. But more recently, he has changed his tune to suit the Bush administration’s desire to prolong the occupation. As in the case of Vietnam, the hunt is on for a client establishment. In the meantime, Baghdad stands recolonised in the hands of local jackals and their western masters.

Mainstream journalists may be having good intentions and usually try to sincerely report. But not for a moment do they doubt the moral uprightness of their government in sending troops to Nicaragua, Vietnam or Iraq. The propaganda machinery, according to Noam Chomsky, “trains the minds of the people to a virtuous attachment to their government and to the arrangements of the social, economic and political order more generally”.

Misrepresenting evidence is hardly new in the annals of war. But how long can one deceive the world? Rationalising a war on the grounds of a worldwide threat from Saddam Hussein, or sending in more troops is a misleading notion. The Iraq enterprise is nothing but a scramble for the command of the second largest oil reserves in the world. Iraq has been deemed to be one of the three countries termed as the ‘axis of evil’. Chomsky rightly argues that if “you want to scare people, you talk about evil”.

Historically and logically, Iraq and Iran cannot form an ‘axis’ for the simple reason that they fought the longest war against each other, while North Korea is the odd one out having nothing to do whatsoever with the other two countries. Bush probably added North Korea to the axis to perpetuate a deception in which the West does not appear to be gunning only for the Muslims.

The reasons for going to war, therefore, were misplaced. The triumph of the first Gulf war had cured the ‘Vietnam syndrome’ making America delude itself into thinking that an easy victory would send a formidable message to the rest of the region: of the fatal risks involved in opposing Washington. A handful of American soldiers are killed daily.

The Iraqis desperately want the occupation to end and the ‘Iraqification’ of the police and the armed forces to begin in right earnest together with a legitimate government in control of the State machinery. For this, Iraq will need its politically qualified intellectuals to write the Constitution that will finally bring the curtain down on the dysfunctional Governing Council.

The writer is Professor, Department of English, Punjab University, and the author of Edward Said and the Writing of History