28 April 2003
A couple days in the life of the corporate press
For months we’ve been bombarded with a never-ending stream of state propaganda utilising a vast array of techniques: satellite images, computer simulations, faked documents, ‘revelations’,‘pulpit pounding’ and pleading verging on the evangelical, dossiers, ‘expert analysis’ of one kind or another, exhultations to one’s patriotism, and threats of dire events if we, the people, don’t go along with what is probably the most sustained campaign of disinformation ever mounted by governments in modern times.
Yet in spite of this, the world remains unconvinced about the reasons for the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, as time passes, the rationale seems less and less convincing. But of course, the invasion went ahead anyway and now we are faced with the reality of a new colonialism, masquerading as a ‘defence of democracy’ and ‘our way of life’. So one could argue, it matters little what we do and we might as well get on with our lives and forget about the unfortunate recipients at the sharp end of ‘democracy’. After all, we live comfortable lives, why rock the boat any more? We did what we could and nothing changed.
Do we continue to sit idly by and watch the next round of rationalisations build for Phase 3 of the‘New American Century’? And what about the role of the media in this process? Largely it seems it’s either lies or damn lies coming out of the corporate press.
The Big Lie Gets Even Bigger
Not surprisingly, the British state has been rather quiet of late, content to let the US take the lead in the propaganda war. But interestingly, at just the ‘right’ time, we get the George Galloway ‘revelations’ in the Daily Telegraph (now in their fourth day) of taking money from Saddam Hussein for the sale of oil. Am I being cynical? Well let’s look at the facts such as they are.
Here we have a bombed out, multi-story building, full of tens of thousands of files burnt to a crisp and in which the Telegraph journalist, goes to just one room out of dozens and goes through a box of files which by some miracle escaped being carbonised and asks his interpretor to look for a dossier with ‘Britain’ on the cover and lo and behold, there it is in perfect condition, just waiting to be ‘discovered’.
Now forgive me if I’m sceptical but what are the odds of anyone going into a building that from the look of it, has been well and truly fried from top to bottom and finding files that conveniently incriminate an outspoken critic of the war? And why look for a file marked ‘Britain’?
The Telegraph journalist when asked how come out of all this mess he managed to find these files, instead of answering the question he responded by asking his own, namely what are the odds of these files being planted just where he happened to look? Well of course, we have to ask the question, what prompted him to look in just this room out of all the rooms in the building and then in just this one box? Of course the question was never asked. And on BBC Newsnight on April 22, the state propaganda machine went into high gear and dug up an array of ‘evidence’ which impugned Galloway’s past record, without actually ever accusing him of anything but nevertheless planting the seeds that Galloway is not to be trusted.
Page two of the Independent kicks off with:
“Did maverick MP profit from oil-for-food cash?”
Maverick is an odd choice of word but of course, we should be used to this marginalising of anybody, especially in the public view who holds views different from that of the dominant culture. This is followed by an entire page of questions and ‘background’ material on ‘Gorgeous George’ and his ‘associations’ with a ‘Jordanian activist’ and the Mariam Appeal which ‘was never granted charitable status, so there was no need for its accounts to be made public’. Now is this because they had something to hide or, because it didn’t need to? We are not told by Paul Peachey, whose byline the piece carries but the implication is there nevertheless, that Galloway has something to hide.
And on page three the Independent really goes to town on Galloway, bringing up his Palestinian wife and two ‘glamorous young Palestinian researchers’ and even his alleged sexual appetite for women!
And in an obvious ‘guilt’ by association ploy, used his relationship with a ‘Middle Eastern’ businessman, who as we all know are not to be trusted. The racist stereotype of this deliberate smear are so obvious given the historical associations created in the western media between‘Middle Eastern’ and untrustworthiness. One half expects to see an image of an ‘oily-skinned, hook-nosed Arab’ materialise before our eyes. All we need is Biggles to complete the picture.
And even his taste for ‘designer clothes’ and ‘expensive Cuban cigars’ becomes part of the process of creating an image that somehow contradicts his left-wing credentials, the implication being that he’s just in it‘for the money’. The headline tells it all,
“Sackcloth and ashes? For George there was Boss and Bollinger”
Not for ‘Gorgeous George’, oh no. No hair shirt and a bottle of warm brown ale, its Bollinger champagne, Kenzo suits and Hugo Boss ties as well as his ‘dalliances in Cuba and Greece’ whatever they are, as we’re not actually told, it’s merely implied.
A sidebar by a former employee paints him as a ‘shambolic’ boss of a now defunct newspaper, East that he set up with, wait for it, Pakistani money. But in those days he was into Amani suits though he was already smoking Cuban cigars.
Now although these portraits of Galloway may well be interesting, in the over half a page of copy on page 3 (30 paragraphs), only five paragraphs actually had anything at all to do with the accusations raised by the Daily Telegraph and these were basically recapitulations of the lead story on the front page and the followup on page 2.
All in all, if we add up all the stories, there are close to three pages devoted to Galloway, with only a fraction dealing with the alleged incriminating documents, the rest deal with Galloway, the ‘man’, his tastes in clothes, booze, women, cars and where he goes for vacations.
But of course, the damage is done. A totally subjective picture has been created of a ‘left-wing’ (dangerous), Cuban cigar-loving (he smokes Cuban cigars!) man, who can’t keep his dick in his pants (a lefty who likes sex!).
Then of course, there’s the Independent’s editorial where they really get to work on him starting in the usual patronising and unctuous manner”
“Indeed, in the ultra-conformist era of New Labour, there was something refreshing and almost admirable about his shameless refusal to conform.”
But that was before the allegations, ‘cast Mr. Galloway in a more malign light.’ Or indeed his ‘penchant for high living [which] sits ill with his political credo.’
‘Malign’? Well that takes care of George doesn’t it ‘admirable’ and nonconformist though George is, he’s still ‘malign’. Well what can you expect from a ‘high living’ member of Labour’s ‘awkward squad’ who wears Kenzo and Amani suits and drives a Mercedes?
But not to worry, the Independent assures us that, “not only [is he] a free man, but must be considered innocent as well, with the right to defend himself before the law.” Well that’s comforting to know that he still has the right to defend himself. But is he only allegedly malign or does he have to prove he isn’t malign in a court of law too?
It then goes on to say, most outrageously that Galloway’s “suggestion…that the Telegraph forged the documents…is patently absurd.” Oh really? Why is it patently absurd? Because newspapers never tell lies but left-wing politicians do?
And just as I thought the Independent’s attack on Galloway was over, there’s an (op-ed) piece by Johann Hari who tells us that,
“I’d rather it was money than belief that made George Galloway support Saddam”
Why? Well Hari would ‘think better of Galloway if he is a crook…. If he was just doing this for the old, foul motive of an extra £375,000 a year, he is a bit less immoral than if he backs Saddam’s atrocities sincerely.’ Odd thinking for a writer so wound up over Galloway’s alleged support for a ‘fascistic dictator.’ So if it’s only for filthy old lucre, it’s almost okay.
But when we get into the piece we find that the real reason is Galloway’s ‘world-view’ that puts all the ‘blame [on] the woes in Iraq on the UN sanctions regime, thereby letting Saddam off the hook.’ Hari goes on to pillory not only Galloway but also ‘his friend and ally John Pilger’ for blaming the awful effect on Iraq’s people of the sanctions, not on the sanctions themselves but on Iraq’s ‘implementation’. The piece goes on to compare Galloway’s ‘defence’ of Saddam with a defence of Stalin and a quote from Galloway on the demise of the Soviet Union as ‘the worst day of his life’ thereby equating by inference that the day the Soviet Union ‘demised’ is the same as defending Stalin.
So at the end of day, Hari is trotting out the same old hoary right-wing arguments that the supporters of the destruction of Iraq have used for the past twelve years, even though Hari, is ‘drawn to the left; it is [his] political home.’ Hari maybe ‘drawn to the left’ but his instincts clearly pull him back to the right.
When is a military base permanent?
And as the USUK propaganda war over why it invaded Iraq goes pear-shaped, the corporate media’s complete disassociation from reality gets ever more obvious.
‘US wants permanent access to to military bases in post-war Iraq’
Headline in the Independent, Monday, April 21 2003
This matter-of-fact headline on the front page of the Independent draws no howls of outrage from the ‘anti-war’ newspaper, nor is there any questioning in the article about how this squares with the list of reasons supplied by USUK over why they invaded Iraq. That they didn’t seek any permanent presence in Iraq. That all they wanted to do was bring ‘’democracy’ to the people of Iraq. That all they wanted to do was find the WMDs. The ‘ever inquisitive’ mind of the journalist goes somnabulistic when presented with the realities of the invasion.
Mindful of of its pre-war assertions that it didn’t seek a permanent occupation of Iraq, the US is careful to say that it seeks only ‘access’ to these bases. Yet the four bases have been built up over the past weeks and are now the main bases for the US occupation of Iraq. And who is going to give the US ‘access’ to these bases? The Independent’s piece does not question this overt piece of dissembling by the US, indeed it continues to maintain the fiction of ‘objective’ journalism in the body of article by simply quoting the US military sources. I looked in vain anywhere else in the edition for commentary on this astounding piece of news, or why it differs from The Times of London’s coverage of the same story (see below).
And in a similar vein the Guardian on the same day tells us:
“A senior administration official told the New York Times: “There will be some kind of a long term defence relationship with Iraq, similar to Afghanistan. The scope of that has yet to be defined – whether it will be full-up operational bases, smaller forward operating bases or just plain access.””
The closest the Guardian comes to informing us of just how different this is from its previous coverage is to say that:
“The plans could leave the White House open to the charges of empire-building that it has been so desperate to avoid.”
Open to charges? Not by the Guardian or the Independent that’s for sure.
The Times of London is by contrast less coy about the real reasons:
“US plans Iraq bases to keep region in its grip
THE Bush Administration is planning to maintain a long-term military presence in at least four key bases in Iraq after the transfer of power to a new government in Baghdad.
“The US intends to negotiate a ‘military basing relationship’ with the Iraqi government, a move that will increase Arab suspicions that the war was launched to increase American military and economic influence in the region.'”
“Keep its grip”? But what Iraqi government? Buried in the copy is the total acceptance of the real power in Iraq when the Times echoes the US ‘after the transfer of power to a new government’. But what if the new government doesn’t want to have permanent US bases on its soil? Of course the real reason for permanent bases is ‘…ending the terrorist links and nuclear ambitions of Syria and Iran.’
So the rationale for the recolonisation of Iraq and the surrounding oil-soaked countries is peddled in the print media ad nauseum with the rationale of ‘nuclear ambitions’ or ‘terrorist links’, yet where is the proof of Syria’s ‘nuclear ambitions’? We search in vain.
The case of the vanishing WMDS
Amazingly, the complexity and difficulties of finding these weapons, seems to grow with each passing day. This in spite of the fact that before the invasion, Iraq was supposed to have ‘thousands of tons’ of them, though now they claim that there are between ‘100-500 tons’. Not something you can hide away at the end of your garden or in a chicken shed. Yet now USUK propagandists claim that they have over ‘3000 sites to investigate’. Yet, if they have no idea where they are in the first place, how do they know they have ‘3000 sites’ to look at? Yet they insist that they ‘know they exist’ and that it’s ‘just a question of time’ before they are found. (Source: BBC Radio 4, interview on the the Today programme with a representative of the MOD.) This ‘it’s only a question of time’, comes up continuously these days and now, as the WMDs fade into the distance, we see a new rationale emerging that we don’t actually need to find the real thing, ‘paper proof’ will suffice or some Iraqi scientist willing to say they do/did.
And this morning (April 4) on BBC Radio 4, Defence Minister Hoon, when questioned over the much touted ’45 minute’ readiness of Saddam’s WMDs, twisted and turned this way and that over the issue that if they had been dismantled so as to hide them, they could at the same time be ready for use in ’45 minutes’? To which he replied that ‘they had plenty of time to dismantle and hide them’.
It’s a cunning Iraqi ‘Shell Game’
In a report in the Washington Post we learn that:
‘[that they, the US]…are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for….’
This is because under the ‘cover’ of looting, all the evidence is being stolen by former Ba’ath Party members as ‘some of the looting is actually strategic’ at least according to Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy. ‘Strategic looting’ is a new one on me, though how Feith actually knows the difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘strategic’ looting is beyond me. As ever, more and more bizarre excuses are being trundled out for public consumption in a desperate attempt to justify the unjustifiable.
As an example of the kind of twisting and turning that’s going on, in the same Washington Post article we read that an Iraqi scientist, led them to a site where ‘Iraq had destroyed some weapons only days before the war began…. But military officials would not identify the scientist, the lethal agents or the ingredients that were found. They did not permit a New York Times reporter, who was accompanying the search team and was the first to report the discovery, to interview the scientist…. Experts said nearly any ingredient for a chemical weapon can also be used for civilian purposes.’
Ad hoc sites?
So having exhausted their list of approximately 100 top sites, they are now turning to what they euphemistically call ‘ad hoc sites’. In other words, as they stumble around the ruins of Iraq, they hope they’ll trip over WMDs.
In fact the article goes on to say that effectively without searching the entire country, virtually inch by inch, they don’t have much chance of finding anything at all.
Moreover, as with all the other assertions of the ‘discoveries’ which have received front page coverage over the past weeks and months, of which not a single one has proved to have any foundation in reality, why should we believe anything the USUK propagandists tell us in future? The upshot of this cynical manipulation of the facts, is to put the public off any involvement in the political process and let these lying bastards get on with taking over the world!
For a supposedly ‘moral’ crusade being conducted against a tyrant, it seems that to justify it, an inordinate amount of lying has to take place which makes one wonder why, if the justification is so obvious, so many lies have to be told.”