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[casi] John Pilger, July 31

The War on Truth

Studies now put the death toll at as many as 10,000 civilians and 20,000
Iraqi troops. If this does not constitute a "bloodbath", what was the
massacre of 3,000 people at the twin towers

John Pilger

07/31/03:  In Baghdad, the rise and folly of rapacious imperial power is
commemorated in a forgotten cemetery called the North Gate. Dogs are its
visitors; the rusted gates are padlocked, and skeins of traffic fumes hang
over its parade of crumbling headstones and unchanging historical truth.

Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude is buried here, in a mausoleum
befitting his station, if not the cholera to which he succumbed. In 1917, he
declared: "Our armies do not conquerors or enemies, but as
liberators." Within three years, 10,000 had died in an uprising against the
British, who gassed and bombed those they called "miscreants". It was an
adventure from which British imperialism in the Middle East never recovered.

Every day now, in the United States, the all-pervasive media tell Americans
that their bloodletting in Iraq is well under way, although the true scale
of the attacks is almost certainly concealed. Soon, more soldiers will have
been killed since the "liberation" than during the invasion. Sustaining the
myth of "mission" is becoming difficult, as in Vietnam. This is not to doubt
the real achievement of the invaders' propaganda, which was the suppression
of the truth that most Iraqis opposed both the regime of Saddam Hussein and
the Anglo-American assault on their homeland. One reason the BBC's Andrew
Gilligan angered Downing Street was that he reported that, for many Iraqis,
the bloody invasion and occupation were at least as bad as the fallen

This is unmentionable here in America. The tens of thousands of Iraqi dead
and maimed do not exist. When I interviewed Douglas Feith, number three to
Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, he shook his head and lectured me on the
"precision" of American weapons. His message was that war had become a
bloodless science in the service of America's unique divinity. It was like
interviewing a priest. Only American "boys" and "girls" suffer, and at the
hands of "Ba'athist remnants", a self-deluding term in the spirit of General
Maude's "miscreants". The media echo this, barely gesturing at the truth of
a popular resistance and publishing galleries of GI amputees, who are
described with a maudlin, down-home chauvinism which celebrates the
victimhood of the invader while casting the vicious imperialism that they
served as benign. At the State Department, the under-secretary for
international security, John Bolton, suggested to me that, for questioning
the fundamentalism of American policy, I was surely a heretic, "a Communist
Party member", as he put it.

As for the great human catastrophe in Iraq, the bereft hospitals, the
children dying from thirst and gastroenteritis at a rate greater than before
the invasion, with almost 8 per cent of infants suffering extreme
malnutrition, says Unicef; as for a crisis in agriculture which, says the
Food and Agriculture Organisation, is on the verge of collapse: these do not
exist. Like the American-driven, medieval-type siege that destroyed hundreds
of thousands of Iraqi lives over 12 years, there is no knowledge of this in
America: therefore it did not happen. The Iraqis are, at best, unpeople; at
worst, tainted, to be hunted. "For every GI killed," said a letter given
prominence in the New York Daily News late last month, "20 Iraqis must be
executed." In the past week, Task Force 20, an "elite" American unit charged
with hunting evildoers, murdered at least five people as they drove down a
street in Baghdad, and that was typical.

The august New York Times and Washington Post are not, of course, as crude
as the News and Murdoch. However, on 23 July, both papers gave front-page
prominence to the government's carefully manipulated "homecoming" of
20-year-old Private Jessica Lynch, who was injured in a traffic accident
during the invasion and captured. She was cared for by Iraqi doctors, who
probably saved her life and who risked their own lives in trying to return
her to American forces. The official version, that she bravely fought off
Iraqi attackers, is a pack of lies, like her "rescue" (from an almost
deserted hospital), which was filmed with night-vision cameras by a
Hollywood director. All this is known in Washington, and much of it has been

This did not deter the best and worst of American journalism uniting to help
stage-manage her beatific return to Elizabeth, West Virginia, with the Times
reporting the Pentagon's denial of "embellishing" and that "few people
seemed to care about the controversy". According to the Post, the whole
affair had been "muddied by conflicting media accounts". George Orwell
described this as "words falling upon the facts like soft snow, blurring
their outlines and covering up all the details". Thanks to the freest press
on earth, most Americans, according to a national poll, believe Iraq was
behind the 11 September attacks. "We have been the victims of the biggest
cover-up manoeuvre of all time," says Jane Harman, a rare voice in Congress.
But that, too, is an illusion.

The verboten truth is that the unprovoked attack on Iraq and the looting of
its resources is America's 73rd colonial intervention. These, together with
hundreds of bloody covert operations, have been covered up by a system and a
veritable tradition of state-sponsored lies that reach back to the genocidal
campaigns against Native Americans and the attendant frontier myths; and the
Spanish-American war, which broke out after Spain was falsely accused of
sinking an American warship, the Maine, and war fever was whipped up by the
Hearst newspapers; and the non-existent "missile gap" between the US and the
Soviet Union, which was based on fake documents given to journalists in 1960
and served to accelerate the nuclear arms race; and four years later, the
non-existent Vietnamese attack on two American destroyers in the Gulf of
Tonkin for which the media demanded reprisals, giving President Johnson the
pretext he wanted to bomb North Vietnam.

In the late 1970s, a silent media allowed President Carter to arm Indonesia
as it slaughtered the East Timorese, and to begin secret support for the
mujahedin, from which came the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In the 1980s, the
manufacture of an absurdity, the "threat" to America from popular movements
in Central America, notably the Sandinistas in tiny Nicaragua, allowed
President Reagan to arm and support terrorist groups such as the Contras,
leaving an estimated 70,000 dead. That George W Bush's America gives refuge
to hundreds of Latin American torturers, favoured murderous dictators and
anti-Castro hijackers, terrorists by any definition, is almost never
reported. Neither is the work of a "training school" at Fort Benning,
Georgia, whose graduates would be the pride of Osama Bin Laden.

Americans, says Time magazine, live in "an eternal present". The point is,
they have no choice. The "mainstream" media are now dominated by Rupert
Murdoch's Fox television network, which had a good war. The Federal
Communications Commission, run by Colin Powell's son Michael, is finally to
deregulate television so that Fox and four other conglomerates control 90
per cent of the terrestrial and cable audience. Moreover, the leading 20
internet sites are now owned by the likes of Fox, Disney, AOL Time Warner
and a clutch of other giants. Just 14 companies attract 60 per cent of the
time all American web-users spend online.

The director of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramonet, summed this up well:
"To justify a preventive war that the United Nations and global public
opinion did not want, a machine for propaganda and mystification, organised
by the doctrinaire sect around George Bush, produced state-sponsored lies
with a determination characteristic of the worst regimes of the 20th

Most of the lies were channelled straight to Downing Street from the 24-hour
Office of Global Communications in the White House. Many were the invention
of a highly secret unit in the Pentagon, called the Office of Special Plans,
which "sexed up" raw intelligence, much of it uttered by Tony Blair. It was
here that many of the most famous lies about weapons of mass destruction
were "crafted". On 9 July, Donald Rumsfeld said, with a smile, that America
never had "dramatic new evidence" and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz earlier
revealed that the "issue of weapons of mass destruction" was "for
bureaucratic reasons" only, "because it was the one reason [for invading
Iraq] that everyone could agree on."

The Blair government's attacks on the BBC make sense as part of this. They
are not only a distraction from Blair's criminal association with the Bush
gang, though for a less than obvious reason. As the astute American media
commentator Danny Schechter points out, the BBC's revenues have grown to
$5.6bn; more Americans watch the BBC in America than watch BBC1 in Britain;
and what Murdoch and the other ascendant TV conglomerates have long wanted
is the BBC "checked, broken up, even privatised...All this money and power
will likely become the target for Blair government regulators and the merry
men of Ofcom, who want to contain public enterprises and serve those
avaricious private businesses who would love to slice off some of the BBC's
market share." As if on cue, Tessa Jowell, the British Culture Secretary,
questioned the renewal of the BBC's charter.

The irony of this, says Schechter, is that the BBC was always solidly
pro-war. He cites a comprehensive study by Media Tenor, the non-partisan
institute that he founded, which analysed the war coverage of some of the
world's leading broadcasters and found that the BBC allowed less dissent
than all of them, including the US networks. A study by Cardiff University
found much the same. More often than not, the BBC amplified the inventions
of the lie machine in Washington, such as Iraq's non-existent attack on
Kuwait with scuds. And there was Andrew Marr's memorable victory speech
outside 10 Downing Street: "[Tony Blair] said that they would be able to
take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be
celebrating. And on both those points he has been proved conclusively

Almost every word of that was misleading or nonsense. Studies now put the
death toll at as many as 10,000 civilians and 20,000 Iraqi troops. If this
does not constitute a "bloodbath", what was the massacre of 3,000 people at
the twin towers?

In contrast, I was moved and almost relieved by the description of the
heroic Dr David Kelly by his family. "David's professional life," they
wrote, "was characterised by his integrity, honour and dedication to finding
the truth, often in the most difficult circumstances. It is hard to
comprehend the enormity of this tragedy." There is little doubt that a
majority of the British people understand that David Kelly was the
antithesis of those who have shown themselves to be the agents of a
dangerous, rampant foreign power. Stopping this menace is now more urgent
than ever, for Iraqis and us.

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