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>From the Finnish Daily Helsingin Sanomat http://www.helsinki-hs.net/news.asp?id=20030805IE2 Soundbites of mass distraction PERSPECTIVE By Sami Sillanpää Last October I stood in the courtyard of the al-Furat nuclear research facility in Iraq. The previous day, President George W. Bush had accused the Iraqi regime of pursuing the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. He offered evidence, for example the fact that there was a new building at the al-Furat facility. I wandered round the area and kept my eyes open. Only old and run-down buildings. No new construction was apparent. At al-Furat that day there was also a reporter from the American Fox News channel. I listened as he recorded his stand-up for the cameras. The gist of the text was that here, too, the Iraqi authorities had failed to present evidence that the country had abandoned its efforts to threaten the West with WMDs. Fox News is the most-watched nationwide channel in the United States. Opinion poll surveys carried out in the U.S. this summer reveal that before the Iraq War, half of the respondents believed that there were Iraqis among the hijackers of the four planes involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. After the war, one in three believed that the United States had discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. One in five knew that Iraq had used such weapons in the conflict. If anyone has not been paying attention: there were no Iraqis among the hijackers. Iraq did not use WMDs in defending itself against the U.S.-led invasion. The United States teams have to date found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I suppose one should not be so astonished at the result of the survey. If month after month one hears people on the news bulletins saying something about weapons of mass destruction, it makes it easy to create an image that they exist. The power of the White House to shape the world's discussion agenda is quite frightening. Put Secretary of State Colin Powell on the screen today, put Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld up there tomorrow, and give President Bush airtime the day after. Make sure each one of them delivers a juicy soundbite, and - presto! - the views of the United States government wind up as the main news item around the world, three days running. Of course there were counterclaims presented in the media, in the United States, too. But the news landslide was more powerful. The mass message became a weapon of its own Small things grew to colossal proportions. Eleven empty chemical warheads discovered at an ammunition storage depot! While the words of mass distraction were revolving around relatively small matters - whether a high-specification aluminium tube was suited for use as a centriguge for enriching uranium or not - there was less rigorous inspection of the central U.S. and British claim: that Iraq poses a global threat, because it is working in partnership with the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The main piece of documetary evidence for this claim was that Abu Zarqawi, possibly a member of al-Qaeda, had paid a visit to Baghdad. Let's assume for the purposes of argumment that he did pay a visit. But if the visit of some terrorist suspect in a given country is used as grounds, then we can presume that countries such as Norway, Holland, Germany - and both Britiain and the United States - are planning a terror strike with al-Qaeda. The last few weeks have indicated that neither Washington nor London has much compunction about lying, or being economical with the truth. This is worth bearing in mind now when the United States and Britain have a new slogan: the Iraq War was a success. Success in this context would mean that the conflict improved the security of the United States and Europe. The conquest and liberation of Iraq has not increased Britain's security or reduced the threat of international terrorism, declared the cross-bench Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, in a report published last Thursday on the foreign policy aspects of the war on terrorism *. Indeed, the report charged that the war in Iraq may in fact "have impeded the war against al-Qaeda". At roughly the same time, an American general in Iraq admitted that foreign fighters had come into Iraq, probably with al-Qaeda members among their number, to oppose what they saw as the U.S. occupation. Al-Qaeda was not operational in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but is now getting itself involved against the U.S.-led administration. This probably won't get across the Fox News threshold. Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 2.8.2003 ---------------------------------------- * House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism (published 31.7.2003, .pdf file) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmfaff/405/405.pdf __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free, easy-to-use web site design software http://sitebuilder.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk