Act Two: Victim enters stage right By William Bowles

25 May 2003

As per usual, the corporate press are up to their old tricks of divorcing ‘facts’ from causes. So now, failing ‘smoking guns’, bland dismissals that the ‘it’s all about oil’ arguments as ‘nonsense’, imperialist strategies, possibly, et al, we arrive at the final ‘destination’ of the corporate media whereby, through some process known only to the corporate press, Iraqis are transformed into ‘Victims’ (London Independent, 24/05/03). Once they’ve been transformed into mere ‘bit parts’ with minor, walk-on roles (mostly on crutches), they can be added to the catalogue of the ‘victims’ of the various and sundry wars currently taking place but without anyone actually taking responsibility for it, except, as we shall see, the poor bloody ‘victim’.

Having successfully dehumanised them through turning them into victims, the media no longer has the problem of looking to causes, the ‘victims’ are the cause all by themselves. And particularly tear-jerking ones at that. Photographs of suitably sullen-looking, bandaged and resentful Iraqi ‘victims’ populate the pages of the Independent.

Anxious to identify how this process of transformation is accomplished, I looked in vain throughout the Independent’s long article for some identification of who exactly, they were victims of, aside of course from the predictable, ‘rout[ing] [of] one of the most repressive and corrupt regimes of the modern age’ by the Americans. I wonder how far back the ‘modern age’ extends? Rwanda, Cambodia, Haiti, East Timor, South Africa, the Third Reich?

Later in the article, we begin to see that the central thrust of the piece is to place the blame on the Iraqis themselves. In other words, they’ve turned themselves into victims or worse, what ‘we’ in the West long suspected, animals. Iraqis are now:

‘looters…who have swarmed across the city like locusts’ or have, ‘…evolved into gangs that shoot at each other; others are shot by Iraqis trying to defend property. To this should be added some violent internal tribal feuds, racketeers and some post-Saddam score-settling.’

Note the terminology, ‘swarm[ing]…locusts’ and ‘feud[ing] trib[es]’. This is the predictable racist speech that I have come to expect. One American soldier speaks of the ‘200 hardcore bad men…who have ‘taken it into their tawdry little minds to hinder reconstruction”. Not a mention of the fact that the benign neglect that is the USUK occupation may itself be the obstacle to reconstruction.

But at one point in the text the writer comes grudgingly close to revealing the truth when he says:

‘But the daily shooting at the American troops is less about crime than an attempt at politically-inspired resistance.’

Politically-inspired? What does he mean? Inspired by whom? We are not told but the implication is there nevertheless that they must be supporters of Saddam. Doesn’t it occur to Phil Reeves that they might be ‘inspired’ by the idea of tossing the Yankees out of their country?

But not to worry too much about this journalistic slip of the tongue because the article ends by clearing up this ill-advised admission by saying, ‘But these matters are never about the will of the majority. They are about an armed and determined minority, fueled by the fury felt by the throng who buried Mohammed Taheb.’ Taheb by the way, is one of the ‘victims’ with a ‘tawdry little mind’ shot by the Americans.

Ill-prepared for occupation?
The Independent’s editorial is even more outrageous in its twisting of the truth when it says that, ‘The Americans took some care over the planning of post-war Iraq.’ Oh really? On page two of the same edition we read that the ‘[Americans were] Undermanned and unprepared’ for the occupation. What’s it to be? The editorial goes on to say that, ‘The Pentagon assumed that the apparatus of Iraqi government would remain intact.’ Don’t the editors of the Independent read their own copy? Even more outrageous is the observation that, ‘It did not expect the entire Iraqi military infrastructure to melt away.’ But on page eleven in another story we are told, ‘US army chief says Iraqi troops took bribes to surrender’. And you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that they’re not going to hang around to say hello to the conquerors, let alone their fellow Iraqis who they’ve betrayed for filthy lucre.

Not only that, there is no mention of the fact that the US not only destroyed the critical physical infrastructure needed to administer a city of several million people (except for the ministry of oil of course) but that it stood by and watched what remained, go up in flames! Ill-prepared? Yet in the same contradictory breath, the editorial informs us that by bribing Saddam’s generals to surrender, the US would be able ‘to take over a working bureaucracy.’ A cynic might argue that the entire operation of destroying the country’s civil infrastructure was actually planned, but you won’t find that suggestion in the Independent’s editorial.

This tawdry piece of double-speak ends up by bleating at us that, ‘It is not inevitable that the American-led occupation of Iraq will slide into disaster…. But it requires a little humility from the world’s hyper power for such an outcome to be avoided.’

So all it takes according to the Independent, is a little humility from the world’s hyper power and Iraq’s troubles will be over.

The Democratic Republic of Bechtel Iraq?
And in another story in the same edition and without breaking stride, the Independent manages to document the flagrant conflicts of interest that surround the Bush presidency and the vast contract handed on a plate to Bechtel without actually coming to any kind of conclusion as to the clear linkage between Republican politics, war and the money! This in spite of the fact that the article names all the usual suspects, vice-president Cheney (Halliburton), Rumsfeld (Bechtel), Casper Weinberger (former secretary of defence and on the Bechtel payroll), Andrew Natsios (USAID and Bechtel), Jack Sheehan (Bechtel’s senior vice-president and member of the Defence Policy Board), George Schultz (Bechtel board member and Reagan’s secretary of state).

The piece amazingly reports the following:

‘When…Rumsfeld…went on his now-notorious trips to Baghdad in the early 1980s to cosy up to Saddam Hussein, one of his tasks was to promote a Bechtel project to build a pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba on the Red Sea. As revealed by recently declassified documents, Saddam eventually said no – but the Rumsfeld-Bechtel relationship was firmly established and has now, clearly been revived.’

So it was only Rumsfeld’s trip to Iraq that established the Bechtel relationship? So what was Rumsfeld doing before he went to Iraq I wonder. The other (unspoken) assumption is that somehow between the 1980s and the present, Rumsfeld had no connection to Bechtel. Had the writer, Andrew Gumbel, had any balls at all, he would have made the obvious connection between US foreign policy, war, money and the gang of corporate/government crooks that are driving it. Are we meant to read between the lines and come to our own conclusions concerning US global desires and the giant corporations who are behind it?

After identifying all the usual suspects, this is how the Independent ends up rationalising the entire sordid process:

‘The choice of Bechtel to lead construction efforts also points to the Bush administration’s preference [sic] for private enterprise in public works projects, with taxpayers picking up the tab.’

Preference? Is that all it is, a preference for private enterprise. That a country gets invaded and destroyed and tens of thousands die and its all down to a preference for private enterprise. And what does the writer mean by ‘also’? What other reason is there that we’re not being told about? And what of the US taxpayer who because of the insane policies of the Bush administration have 50 virtually bankrupt states to live in. So what was I worrying about?


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