Welcome to the Hall of (Daily) Mirrors By William Bowles

17 May 2004

Now you see it – now you don’t

For decades the ruling class has pretty well had things ‘under control’. It could rely on an electorate dosed to the eyeballs on anti-communism with liberal lacings of racism, a side dish of xenophobia followed by a dessert of crumbs from the well-stocked larder of the capitalist way of life. Live now, pay later.

The media and the ‘education’ system have been the delivery boys of this potpourri but something has gone seriously wrong. Perhaps the ‘masses’ are fed up with the menu, the same old stuff delivered up day after day, with each ‘new’ dish promising something that somehow never seems to taste the same as the adverts tell it. Or perhaps the ruling elite have just got too complacent and taken things for granted following their ‘victory’ in the Cold War.

It’s estimated that in the UK, around 4 million people are addicted to prescription drugs, drugs that cost all of us billions of pounds to purchase through the NHS in an operation that puts the Medellin cocaine cartel to shame.

Whatever the reasons and they are many and complex, the ‘experts’ ponder why, after decades of being fed this pap, people still seem to be deeply unhappy with their lot in this ‘property-owning democracy’ of ours. But then addictions work that way, that’s the entire point isn’t it. Of course, the one basic flaw with an addictive way of life is that you have to keep upping the dose as people’s tolerance increases. Eventually, you reach a ‘plateau’ and you have to change the drug or, god forbid, break the habit. But in all likelihood, the habit will be broken for us, by a planet used up, a long time before its official sell-by date.

And by the same token, the national credit debt is some £10 trillion pounds, an operation that in turn, puts the NHS drug peddling scheme to shame.

It would seem then, that in spite of a heady brew of empirism (vampirism by another name) delivered by Blair’s infuriating teeth and his odious goon squad (the obese and just plain nasty Prescott, the intellectually challenged Straw, the quasi-fascist Blunkett, the obnoxious Reed and the rest of Blair’s Cabinet of Dr Caligari), it just ain’t working anymore.

This in spite of the most sophisticated propaganda system the world has ever seen, with the talents of thousands of university grads seduced by the promise of fortune (if not fame) and a (reliable) pension scheme, to do the bidding of their masters. It’s all falling apart in the most hideous way and putting the frighteners on the ‘powers that be’, who now know that nobody believes a word they say in spite of all the ‘spin’, spin that has left the masses dizzy and largely indifferent and most definitely cynical about the political process.

In the meantime, the resistance to the occupation of Iraq gathers in intensity with the corporate press doing little in the way of real reporting on events just as it has done little to cover or contextualize the slaughter taking place in the occupied territories of Palestine (at least 38 dead this past week alone) or the ongoing and hidden mayhem in Afghanistan.

This then is the setting for the sophisticated disinformation campaign that the British government has waged against the Daily Mirror and those timorous intellectuals at the BBC, tasked with setting the mirrors at the right angles to reality. A campaign that has done nothing to alter the awful reality of a ruling class in disarray.

And as predicted here, the Daily Mirror photos of alleged abuses by British troops have turned out to be ‘hoaxes’ (plants would be a more accurate description) and have forced the editor Piers Morgan to ‘resign’ but there’s a lot more to this story than meets the (digital) eye. And as slight aside, why did the media choose the word “hoax” as opposed to plant (and still continues to use the word)? Ponder on that awhile you media mavens.

In the endless pages of ‘analysis’ in the media, I have yet to find a single reference as to why these images appeared at that crucial period nor, if they are hoaxes/plants, who perpetrated them (although we are promised, by a duly chastised Daily Mirror, that had the temerity, virtually alone amongst the media to oppose the war), that the names of the perpetrators will be revealed to us. But will those who put them up to it be revealed as well? We wait with not so baited breath.

The Independent (15/05/04) carried reams of words on the ‘implications’, the ‘damage’ done to the media and so on but not a single reference as to who could have produced these sophisticated mockups nor raised the question why and why at that critical time when the proverbial shit was hitting the imperialist fan. And in the Independent (16/05/04), yet more acres of tedious drivel about – well nothing of any consequence, except that it was a bad time for Blair to go as he has a job to finish in Iraq would you believe. Robin Cooke, went one stage further and even suggested that Blair had an obligation to stay on in Iraq until democracy was established, or was it until hell freezes over or whichever comes first?

What we do know is that the images are alleged to have been staged in the car park of a Territorial Army barracks near Manchester (Independent p.1 16/05/04) that raises the burning question of the army’s (or its intelligence arm) involvement in their creation. However, this is not a question the Independent asks in its several pages of so-called coverage over two days.

Predictably, the government is crowing about its ‘success’ in diverting attention away from its failed policy in Iraq but for how long? For as with the other diversion, the Gilligan/Kelly set-up, no amount of media manipulation can avoid the reality of the military/political disaster that is Iraq. All it can do at best, is put off the day of reckoning that judging by the (anonymous) quotes from a variety of Labour politicos, can’t be far off for Blair.

But getting rid of Blair does nothing to address the central issue of policy, of a British state that has been and remains the ‘hand-maiden’ of the US in their grand Anglo-American ‘alliance’. For there is no doubt that the Blair government is no mere poodle of the US but a fully committed partner-in-crime as the events of the past 7-plus years show.

And the latest exposé by Seymour Hersh, published in the New Yorker magazine would seem to be the final nail in Rumsfeld’s coffin, not that the use of torture by the US or its proxies is anything new, but its bursting out into the mainstream media (at least finally in the US) most surely is.

But not so surprisingly, the British press has played down the Hersh story, realising that by inquiring too deeply into the ramifications of the use of torture going right up to the White House will inevitably impact badly on Blair.

Going back through the Independent’s coverage from last Friday 14 May, there has been no reference to the Hersh story until today 17/05/04. One piece on 14/05/94 refers to the use of torture that was a “systematic process learned from the Cold War” that (incorrectly) referred to the two torture manuals produced by the US School for the Americas (without naming the school) being exposed in 1997 (they actually came to light in 1984 during the US-backed contra war in Nicaragua when their existence was leaked to a Congressional Committee investigating the illegal funding of the contras by the Reagan government) and the methods described in the manuals were more than likely in use as far back as the 1960s during the war in Vietnam.1

“When the Contra Manual was publicly released in October 1984, there was a general outcry over the contents of the document. The House Intelligence Committee held hearings on its disclosure, and high level officials spoke out strongly against the document, and called for the resignation of William Casey, then-Director of the CIA. The ultimate outcome, however, was nothing dramatic or decisive. A few American officials got a slap on the wrist.”2

It is only today (17/05/04) that the Independent has covered the Hersh bombshell, but even here, the newspaper has been highly selective in what it has taken from Hersh’s (long and detailed) story. So for example, it mentions the role of Stephen Cambone as Rumsfeld’s undersecretary for defence intelligence as “expand[ing] a secretive Pentagon programme” but fails to mention that Rumsfeld created Cambone’s position in the Defence Dept or that the programme, called SAP or Special Access Program was used in Guatanamo and that the description of SAP follows very closely to that of the earlier ‘torture manuals’ of 1982-83.

The Independent’s article also misrepresents the CIA’s objections, objections that were largely legal rather than ethical by selectively quoting what the CIA said. The Independent used the following extract:

“They [the CIA] said, ‘No way. We signed up for the core program in Afghanistan—pre-approved for operations against high-value terrorist targets—and now you want to use it for cabdrivers, brothers-in-law, and people pulled off the streets…’”

But Hersh continued:

”—the sort of prisoners who populate the Iraqi jails. “The C.I.A.’s legal people objected,” and the agency ended its sap involvement in Abu Ghraib, the former official said.

“The C.I.A.’s complaints were echoed throughout the intelligence community. There was fear that the situation at Abu Ghraib would lead to the exposure of the secret sap, and thereby bring an end to what had been, before Iraq, a valuable cover operation. “This was stupidity,” a government consultant told me. “You’re taking a program that was operating in the chaos of Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, a stateless terror group, and bringing it into a structured, traditional war zone. Sooner or later, the commandos would bump into the legal and moral procedures of a conventional war with an Army of a hundred and thirty-five thousand soldiers. [my emph. WB]”

In other words, it was fear of exposure and the potential loss of a “valuable cover operation” that motivated the CIA’s objections, a far cry from the impression the Independent’s article creates.

Given the implications of the Hersh story, the fact that there has been so little coverage of the official use of torture is nothing short of scandalous. The BBC, aside from a single interview with Hersh last Friday (14/05/04) on Radio 4’s AM News has also completely ignored the story. Channel 4 News on 14/05/04 did a piece on the Hersh story and then it vanished from view. The men with the mirrors are working overtime. Hersh’s piece in part tells us:

“According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.”

Hersh’s piece goes on to say:

“The White House subcontracted this to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon subcontracted it to Cambone,” he said. “This is Cambone’s deal, but Rumsfeld and Myers approved the program.” When it came to the interrogation operation at Abu Ghraib, he said, Rumsfeld left the details to Cambone. Rumsfeld may not be personally culpable, the consultant added, “but he’s responsible for the checks and balances. The issue is that, since 9/11, we’ve changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism, and created conditions where the ends justify the means.”

And it’s obvious why the story is being sidelined given the degree to which Blair has committed the government totally to the Bush view of the world and why the ‘planted’ story in the Daily Mirror was so crucial to the British government’s efforts to separate the disaster-in-waiting that was Abu Ghraib from that of Blair’s so-called softly-softly approach to the occupation. This is in line with the ‘good guy-bad guy’ approach of the Anglo-US alliance, where Blair and his goons go where Bush fears to tread.

Notes
1. School of the Americas Report, March 6 1997, an extensively referenced report on the US’ training school for torturers and terrorists.
2. See The National Security Archives extensive documentation on the use of torture by the US and its proxies.
Document 2: CIA Training Manual, “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation,” July 1963 (excerpt).
Document 3: CIA Training Manual, “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual,” 1983 (excerpt).

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