Propaganda is an extremely difficult item to analyze, considering there has to be a variance of truth and fabrication. It is the duty of all people intaking it, to disseminate it in entirety, then fuse truth with reality to synthesize their own interpretation of that certain piece of propaganda. In theory, this may sound rather easy, as a majority of people are surly convinced of their own opinions, never truly realizing where their sources originated from, readily willing to convey “knowledge” that may not even be valid. Perhaps Plato put it in greatest perspective in stating: “Absolute knowledge is being able to admit that one does not know.”
However, this statement in itself creates controversy. It condones a certain degree of apathy or passivity to the lazy “intellectual” in relation to the exposure of information, possibly due to dissent of acknowledged fabrication- ‘I don’t know what is the truth, therefore I will not even bother absorbing anything.’ This is an unfortunate consequence of propaganda, especially propaganda that plagues the “trustworthy” news media covering events such as the recent Gulf War.
This aforementioned consequence is what we are witnessing to date, throughout the tribulations of a regime fundamentally established on a grand scheme of propaganda and fabrication. From a personal account, the comments I have received through out the duration of this Imperial war (propaganda right there) have varied; all conducive to ‘discovery’ of truth and personal ‘deciphering’ of state and individual propaganda. Initially, the majority of individuals I had spoken with were absolutely convinced Iraq had nuclear weapons capabilities, armed and ready to launch in the direction of Israel, Britain or the United States. Then valid statistics were released on a more public level, that Iraq did not have weapons systems and equipment capable of launching a stockpile of 110 obsolete scud missiles further than 125 km (Cairo Campaign). These are obvious indications of Iraq’s archaic weapon systems.
To add to the evidence, reports of ancient WW2 weaponry being used by Iraqi soldiers during the conflict confirmed their military insignificance. With that new information, the Bush and Blair regime decided to pursue a public relations fiasco in covert operations. “They must be hiding their advanced weapons technology from us”; a far more effective time lapsing devise. “Iraq is a large country. It will take time for us to adequately search all possible facets”, Donald Rumsfeldt in a news conference on CNN. In fact, it was estimated that the Allied forces had demolished an astonishing 85% of Iraq’s (Baath regime) military capacity after the first Gulf conflict. There were 1,400 individual inspections of suspicious compounds and areas in Iraq after the first Gulf War; four minor infractions were noted- nothing to the caliber of verifying WMD capabilities or intentions.
It has been, without doubt, confirmed that the allegations of possession of WMD were over-inflated by a bureaucratically linked Office of Special Plans, consisting of hard-liner hawks and the American funded Iraqi National Congress. Some of whom, produced “paper work” incriminating the Baath party of WMD manufacturing/intentions, through administratively fabricated documentation (BBC). Instances like these confuse me, as they provide hard evidence of manipulation in truth, in the meantime catalyzing no formidable opposition-although the solidarity in movement it created against administration unjustly killing people and running ‘amok’ may build in the future. It is a vulgar display of power, one such power that nobody wishes to antagonize with dissent, in fear of consequences for just defiance.
A majority were convinced that Saddam Hussein was in complete cooperation with the Al Queda leader, Osama Bin Laden. Then it was later conveyed that Osama Bin Laden, on several occasions, had condemned the ‘infidel’ Saddam Hussein for his leadership tactics and disobedience of Islam. Was this in itself propaganda to divert attention from collaboration between the two, state and organization? I have spun myself, and I digress from the immediate issue. But wait, I haven’t! This is exactly the mentality of all “absorbing” the vast array of messages being shot out at incomprehensible speeds. What the hell is going on? Then we revert back to the apathetic mentality of ‘nothing is the truth, therefore I will not bother with any of it!’ Unfortunate.
Instead we easily attribute the conflict to a mythological insanity in martyrdom. Therefore, it is “easy” for a secular nation to have a profound hatred towards a group of terrorists, organizations and societies who kill people in the name of their own personal beliefs. Al Queda’s attack on September 11th 2001 was guerilla warfare against an international oppressor that held a power vacuum for a very long time, preventing any sort of retaliation against them for economic domination and oppressive slaughter. To outsiders this may sound extreme; however, subjectivity is another perspective. A perspective that was demonstrated in the 4,000 dead in New York.
A subjectivity that suggested 500,000 Iraqi children died due to economic strangulation through sanctions, not just direct negligence by their own government. One which saw an alarming amount of Iraqi refugees displaced in unsanitary conditions, in non-sustenance regions, 700,000 to be exact. Depleted uranium in Southern Iraq after the first Gulf War left a cancer rate increased by 700% and a birth defect ratio per capita third to Vietnam and Japan-can you see the link? Aside from these statistics, which I understand may all easily accommodate an argument in any direction, rest other repercussions of US foreign policy.
There appears to be war of values taking place. In one corner, we have capitalism, democracy and liberty, which are confusing in themselves as they are practically all diametrically opposed in their current contexts; however, the parameters of this paper will not do this argument justice, just a brief mention. In the other corner we have “import substitution, fascism and oppression.” Although the other corner is guilty in committing half of these crimes, they are quick to assert another of debauchery in action- thus providing a premise for a mass campaign of propaganda, with a little justification of death on the side. I do have to ask just one, quick, “easily” answered question- how direct and transparent is a media/propaganda war of these values, when a majority of the people that require convincing of just intention by the parties involved, do not understand most of this terminology?
Patriotism will lead the way towards the greater truth. The nationalistic association that people take claim to will be the only justification during this era of ignorance. There isn’t enough motivation for a plethora of individuals to object to these ideological, cultural and economic values, because there really is not premise for their argument, and it becomes a struggle of whether they are going to allow something to “bog down” their everyday lives that they know nothing about.
Well, sadly, with the exponential growth of globalization, and continued warfare in economics and ideology, I believe these apathetic people will have no choice but to understand, or personally fight in a campaign they are completely unaware of. Do not mistake me, I believe there was a greater movement, unprecedented, created in opposition to the war on an international level. However, there appeared to be something with prevented immediate action in opposition. Something that prevented those hostilities from igniting action against an international tyrant. That obstacle is a lovely term called ‘business as usual’. Indirectly, we are all fighting the campaign now:
Apathy: The Road to Auschwitz- “First they came for the Jews. But I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communists. But I didn’t speak up because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. But I didn’t speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics. But I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me. And by that time no one was left to speak up.” (Pastor Martin Niemoller)
The majority of US and Canadian citizens are so completely apathetic towards political process and systematic governance, yet for some reason believe they hold a valid opinion on the implementation of these political and social definitions on other societies. We are ‘a part’ of a democratic process that preaches autarky in contribution, yet is authoritatively ordained by corporate agenda and interest. Liberty is a term that is easily transient in definition and context and misconstrued by the people who exist under the ‘world model’. Given this, it’s rather safe to throw around, therefore people are complacent with any sort of policy that associates itself with that word. “I talk of freedom, you talk of oppression; the ‘take sides’ argument is always effective in this manner, neglecting analyzation in light of confused comparison. The scales of justice always favor those first words, as it rightfully should. However, who rightfully takes claim to these characteristics?
One could assume the United States, who constantly rhapsodizes about freedom, justice, liberty and the law are the truthful practitioners; and those opposing what they have created in ‘our great nation’ are the obstructers of these farcified terms. Unfortunately, this is exemplary of our common-place ignorance and complete lack of awareness as to how we established, and continue to maintain our ‘free market’, ‘liberal’ nation. Our abundance of prosperity is obviously not shared by a majority of the world, yet we are confused as to how this came about. We are unaware, even with exposure of American defiance of “international law”- which they have promoted and exercised in malignant methods throughout the existence of an international legislator- of their veto and abuse of the power vacuum they possess in the international spectrum.
History, which has demonstrated this, in fact, is another term so loosely and conveniently used, tossed aside by realists whose misconstrued sense of modernity and progression blind them from a sinuously radiant truth. “Yes, we have done that in the past, however, that was the past, we are engaged in a different day, with a different degree of variables giving precedence a back seat, out-dated importance”. What individuals and societies do not realize are transcendent motives, beyond the superficial context they are conveyed to the public through news agencies like CNN, NBC, ABC. Administration having the ‘free will’ to relay messages, while cooperative profiteering media giants, display a sadistic soap opera to an awaiting audience, neglecting to convey the real truths of a cyclical history of economic domination, resource co-modification and racism.
I do not think it is required to mention the great amount of former oil executives, with active links to the industry, who are currently part of the upper levels of the Bush administration. Nor do I have to mention how in the “post war” state-which was a ridiculous comment for Bush to make “The war in Iraq is now over”, there appears to be heavier fighting, somewhere near 15 attacks/day on soldiers and heavier casualties than during the invasion-their objectives were not met; “Stability is our primary concern. Establishing a legitimate government for the Iraqi peoples our first objective.” Actually, I believe sustaining operations of the oil refineries was the first thing done, with a massive injection of US multi-national oil firms, and contract negotiations by Texaco, Exxon and Shell in accessing the large, untapped oil reserves in the northern regions. These interests were stated before the conflict even arose.
“Although these corporations, Texaco, Exxon/Mobile, Royal Dutch Shell, have poured many billions of dollars into discovering new fields outside the Middle East, their proven reserves stood at just 44 billion barrels in 2001, 4% of the worlds total and sufficient to keep producing oil for only another 12 years at current rates. The situation is similar for other oil companies. Thus, the oil-rich Middle East, and particularly Iraq, remains key to the future of the oil industry.
If a new regime in Baghdad rolls out the red carpet for the oil multinationals to return, it is possible that a broader wave of denationalization could sweep through the oil industry, reversing the historic changes of the early 1970s. Squeezed by a decade of sanctions, the current regime has already signaled that it is prepared to provide more favorable terms to foreign companies. Such an invitation by Baghdad would be in tune with larger changes that are afoot, as a growing number of oil producing countries are opening their industries to foreign direct investment” (Renner).
Motives that have not changed as drastically as one may think, existing under an endless pursuit of ulterior motives, than the propagated humanitarian ‘struggle’ they claim to fight. The story is an old one, in a chronological series of lies to justify war that benefits the business investments by the corporate, multi-national, oligopolies already in the war-torn region, or who have the potential to operate there; most-likely prohibited by the existing ‘rouge’ government.
Havana in 1898 saw the American press and white-collar society fabricate a propaganda war to justify warships going into the Cuban region. The Americans claimed that the Spaniards mined the hull of a battleship in the region, killing 240 service men. With the assistance of media barons, Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst, an anti-Spanish campaign was supported by US businessmen who had major investments in Cuba and were keen on ousting the Spaniards. But the public was not interested, and neither were journalists. In 1898 the Journal war artist Frederick Remington wrote to Hearst from Havana: “There is no war here. I demand to be recalled.”
Hearst cabled: “Stay. You provide the drawings, I’ll supply the war.” Then came the explosion on the Maine, which allowed Hearst to campaign for war, devoting pages of his newspapers everyday for months to the subject, calling for vengeance: “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain.” Other papers copied. Sales of the Journal soared from 30,000 to 400,000, and then regularly topped a million. Public opinion was inflamed and the atmosphere became hallucinatory. Pressed on all sides, President William McKinley declared war on Spain on 25 April 1898. But 13 years later a commission of inquiry decided that the explosion had been an accident in the Maine’s engine room (Cushing).
In 1965, the forbearer of the modern war issue of embedded journalism made its debut in the Vietnam War. Without divulging into consequences of these “investigative” methods now, as I will mention these in subsequent paragraphs, let us continue the chronological, spacious, sequence of some propagandist events to justify war that the Realists disregard as ‘past history’. Vietnam held a series of ideological reasons for war, such as the feared ‘domino effect’ of communism throughout the world. In the Gulf of Tonkin, it was claimed that two US warships were attacked by North Vietnamese torpedoes.
The media then used this to catalyze an issue, demanding retribution and dictating that the American people should find humiliation on this event. Lyndon Johnson then used this propagated event to pass legislation in congress, allowing for the retaliatory bombing of the North Vietnamese, and placement of troops in the region, igniting the “acknowledged” Vietnam War- although there had been Imperial conflict there during and after the Second World War. This allowed a well-known war to persist under false context for almost a decade, where they did more than just bomb the North Vietnamese. Later, the crews of the destroyers would claim that the allegations against the North Vietnamese were fabricated, but all ‘little to late’ much like the current fiasco in Iraq.
Fast-forward to 1985 and we have the Nicaraguan crisis, which Regan’s administration effectively fabricated as ‘dangerous’ to American safety because of relevant distance. “Nicaragua is only a two days drive from Harlingen, Texas. We are in danger! Nicaragua is a cancer eating into our country, it applies the doctrines of Mein Kampf and threatens to take control over the whole hemisphere” (Chomsky). The cancer was a fear instilling term to justify the support-financially, as well as politically- of the contraband, anti-Sandinistas rebels searching for power in Nicaragua. This state of emergency was over a democratically elected government, with respect of free speech and individual liberty (Chomsky). Unfortunately for them, they were not completely submissive to US interests and suffered the consequences of the Empire. Bully tactics are what sustain the type of diplomacy that we’ve seen for the past century plus; be it atomic, economic, cultural or militaristic.
The issue of pre-emptive action, and or strikes, is misleading as well, and touches upon all of these conflicts. What advantage were the ‘allies’ acquiring that they already didn’t have? The entire fiasco surrounding opposition and pre-emption was a complete farce and formality. After the conclusion of the first Gulf “War”, the United States along with other ‘allied’ forces, dropped 20 million pounds of explosives on Iraqi ‘installations’ in times of undeclared war, mostly in ’98-99 (Cairo Campaign). How did this suddenly become pre-emptive at the time of ‘declared’ war, when public awareness forced other countries to either ally or dissent? Nonetheless, people bought this concept, easily allowing governments and states to create a defining position for themselves, even though they may have been involved in campaigns 3-4 years previous to 2002.
Embedded journalism is the last, but certainly not least, propaganda item I wish to discuss. Although it was revolutionary in communicative methods, it appears to have opened a venue for regression of truth. One may use statistics and words to accommodate propaganda, but there now exists a greater ability to associate visuals, “exact” visuals for that matter, with it. This poses a greater potential danger to truth in society, as we see greater dependency upon visuals and “flash” stimulation to convey messages and info, in an exponentially increasing manner. Of course, the usage of visuals has been a product of wartime propaganda for an extremely long time, however. This recent “real time” footage is unprecedented.
This condition of non-analyzation of information, and simple acceptance of “flash” footage, may be considered, in a leftist perspective, to be another repercussion of pre-occupation provided through greater exploitation of the state. The diversion of attention is what propaganda is all about and this is a grassroots example: the working class ignorance that is a result of decreased wages, combined with under-employment scares and long work weeks for basic subsistence- does not leave people with the ability to conceive of other things, especially international politics and war, that seemingly holds no bearing on their individual lives. The convenience of flash stimuli in the news media accommodates these “industrial” lifestyles that dominate the American continent. The clichï¿½ “seeing is believing” is certainly a misconstrued concept in this context. Despite the video relays being “real time”, they are at the discretion of departmental peoples, with a dictated propaganda outline they must follow.
To the credit of the reporters, it would be difficult to disassociate themselves with the crew they are following. To acquire such a subjective knowledge of their actions would be an automatic bias. Not to mention their lack of military expertise and experience would render them incapable of deciphering atrocities or malpractice with basic military operations, not to the degree of reports from Vietnam detailing rapings, child killings, torching of villages, decapitation of casualties, the keeping of teeth and other body parts as souvenirs, etc. But there appears to be a lack of morale and responsibility in career and position- aside from endangering themselves. With some of the outrageous events which took place, one would think there would have to be a plethora of stories released stating the truth of US intentions.
One such example is the feel-good American Story of the ravaged Pt. Jessica Lynch, rescued from an Iraqi hospital where she was surrounded by an array of brutal Iraqi soldiers, possibly sexually assaulted-which accommodated the oppression of women in an Islamic state, being left open-ended by Bush administration spokespeople- “scooped up” by heroic comrades in a dangerous firefight; at least, this is what the Bush administration led up to believe, working off of a sensationalized article by a New York Times reporter (Trulock). Journalists then later, went to Nasiriyah to discover the truth, as skepticism was paramount, especially after an Iraqi doctor conveyed the true story to journalists. According to their interviews with Iraqi doctors who had looked after Lynch (and confirmed by US doctors who had later examined her), her wounds, a fractured arm and leg and a dislocated ankle, were not due to bullets but to an accident in the lorry in which she had traveled. She had not been maltreated.
On the contrary, the Iraqi doctors had done everything possible to look after her (Trulock). Taking considerable risks, the doctors then called to the US army to pick her up, reinforcing that the “Republican Guard” had retreated and they could take her home. Dr Anmar Uday told the BBC’s John Kampfner: “It was like in a Hollywood film. There were no Iraqi soldiers, but the American Special Forces were using their weapons. They fired at random and we heard explosions. They were shouting Go! Go! Go! The attack on the hospital was a kind of show, or an action film with Sylvester Stallone”. Surprisingly enough, the footage was filmed by an assistant director of the film Blackhawk Down, Ridley Scott, which were taken back to US central command to be edited and distributed world-wide (Trulock).
Although a subtle example amongst a greater, more influential propaganda in “Showdown Iraq”, “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, “Target Saddam”, or any other sensationalized title for the conflict there, it provides an excellent example to how easily facts and footage are manipulated for fabricated propaganda. It reminds me of the Bush Sr. administration claims of a Kuwaiti “nurse” claiming she had seen Iraqi soldiers pillaging a hospital, stealing babies from incubators and slaughtering them- an idea devised by the media consultancy, Rendon Group. These lies were exposed after congressmen were convinced and voted in favor of the war, but unfortunately it was to late.
On a personal note, I remember watching CNN’s footage of the attack on Nasiriyah and thinking the footage of a ‘new’, ‘fierce’ firefight looked awfully familiar to some footage I had seen the previous day. Time lapse I guess, but it was that night vision footage of the single soldier propped over a bank, firing on a building that some soldiers were running out of.
America’s “leaders” have always seen their country as the exceptional, elevated answer to the burdensome, creaking past – the permanently modern City on a Hill (John Winthrop) that “stands taller and sees farther” (Madeline Albright) than the rest of the hopelessly “old” world. “History,” according to the iconic pioneer of the mass-produced automobile – the very product whose voracious need for petroleum does so much to drive the West’s toxic presence in the Arab world – “is bunk.” What they are willing to do to spread their hegemony and capital is yet to be determined, but with a mentality like this, they seemed to have learnt well from their condescending, influential mentors of Empire, the UK. Perhaps were are witnessing the greatest overt Imperialist agenda the world has ever seen, with reality in our faces, yet reluctant to do one thing because of a daunting past of escalated conflict between major industrial nations.
Maybe the Ghanan philosopher, Kwambe Nhikambra, was correct in his imperialist scapegoat theory, detailing the world on the periphery of Western culture to be the 3rd party scapegoat of Industrial tension. It was certainly proven true during the “Cold” War. There were a polarization of values and alliances presented by Bush when he declared, and successfully classified European countries- primarily France, Germany and Russia- as ‘old’ Europe, incapable of modern political interpretation and action.
Those “nations” whom sided with the Bush Administration on their imperial discourse were deemed the ‘new’ Europe, exceptional models of desired international homogeneity and peace, who understood liberty, justice and democracy, ironically supporting a racist war. They are now the ‘lucky’ recipients of preferential trade with the economic giant, where as those who opposed, face reprimands for dissent and objection. France is facing major tariffs and quotas on once traded goods to the dominant consumerism of the United States, and Germany’s Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder is facing US pressure to step down because of his “anti-Americanism”. The dismantling of an extremely competitive European Union could be an easily identifiable objective.
It will be very interesting to see where the US military “Blitzkrieg” heads next. It is speculated that Western African Oil reserves may account for 25% of US oil Imports within the next ten years (Renner). The civil war in Liberia looks to be an ample entrance point, as Bush has just embarked upon an African diplomatic trip to Angola, Nigeria and Senegal to discuss “genetically engineered foods” with agricultural ministers and presidents there; along side him, his bureaucratic advisors whose expertise happens to be in agriculture and bio-technology.
Cairo Campaign. International Campaign Against US Aggression on Iraq. http://www.cairocampaign.com/html/iraq_statistics.html. Accessed July 2003
Chomsky, Noam. Democracy Now. May 22, 2002. On the Long and Bloody History of U.S.-Sponsored Terrorism. http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/04/07/0259213&mode=thread&tid5
Cushing, Lincoln. ZPub. Centennial of the Spanish American War. http://www.zpub.com/cpp/saw.html
Golden Gate University. University Library. January 2, 2003. Who Was Martin Niemï¿½ller And Why Should You Care? http://internet.ggu.edu/university_library/if/Niemoller.html.
Kampfner, John. BBC News. May 15, 2003. Saving Private Lynch Story ‘Flawed’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/correspondent/3028585.stm.
Renner, Michael. CorpWatch. Febuary 13, 2003. The New Oil Order: Washington’s War on Iraq is the Lynchpin to Controlling Persian Gulf Oil. http://www.corpwatch.org/issues/PID.jsp?articleid=5529
Schifferes, Steve. BBC News. June 3, 2003. Bush Shrugs off Weapons of Mass Destruction Worries. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2957086.stm
Trulock, Notra. NewsMax. June 20, 2003. Correcting the First Draft of History on the Jessica Lynch Story. http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/6/20/23212.shtml.