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[casi] Linking the Occupation of Iraq With the 'War on Terrorism'

Linking the Occupation of Iraq With the 'War on Terrorism'
by Norman Solomon
November 21, 2003

      Reuters is one of the more independent wire services. So, a recent
news story from Reuters - flatly describing American military activities in
Iraq as part of "the broader U.S. war on terrorism" - is a barometer of how
powerfully the pressure systems of rhetoric from top U.S. officials have
swayed mainstream news coverage.

      Such reporting, with the matter-of-fact message that the Pentagon is
fighting a "war on terrorism" in Iraq, amounts to a big journalistic gift
for the Bush administration, which is determined to spin its way past the
obvious downsides of the occupation.

      Here are the concluding words from Bush's point man in Iraq, Paul
Bremer, during a Nov. 17 interview on NPR's "Morning Edition" program: "The
president was absolutely firm both in private and in public that he is not
going to let any other issues distract us from achieving our goals here in
Iraq, that we will stay here until the job is done and that the force levels
will be determined by the conditions on the ground and the war on

      Within hours, many of Bremer's supervisors were singing from the same
political hymnal:

      * On a visit to Europe, Colin Powell told a French newspaper that
"Afghanistan and Iraq are two theaters in the global war on terrorism."

      * In Washington, President Bush said: "We fully recognize that Iraq
has become a new front on the war on terror."

      * Speaking to campaign contributors in Buffalo, the vice president
pushed the envelope of deception. "Iraq is now the central front in the war
on terror," Dick Cheney declared.

      Whether you're selling food from McDonald's or cars from General
Motors or a war from the U.S. government, repetition is crucial for making
propaganda stick. Bush's promoters will never tire of depicting the war on
Iraq as a war on terrorism. And they certainly appreciate the ongoing
assists from news media.

      For the U.S. public, the mythological link between the occupation of
Iraq and the "war on terrorism" is in play. This fall, repeated polling has
found a consistent breakout of opinion. In mid-November, according to a CBS
News poll, 46 percent of respondents said that the war in Iraq is a major
part of the "war on terrorism," while 14 percent called it a minor part and
35 percent saw them as two separate matters.

      A shift in such perceptions, one way or another, could be crucial for
Bush's election hopes. In large measure - particularly at psychological
levels - Bush sold the invasion of Iraq as a move against "terrorism." If he
succeeds at framing the occupation as such, he'll get a big boost toward a
second term.

      Despite the Bush administration's countless efforts to imply or
directly assert otherwise, no credible evidence has ever emerged to link
9/11 or Al Qaeda with the regime of Saddam Hussein.

      Now, if "terrorism" is going to be used as an umbrella term so large
that it covers attacks on military troops occupying a country, then the word
becomes nothing more than an instrument of propaganda.

      Often the coverage in U.S. news media sanitizes the human
consequences - and yes, the terror - of routine actions by the occupiers. On
Nov. 19, the U.S. military announced that it had dropped a pair of
2,000-pound bombs 30 miles northeast of Baghdad. Meanwhile, to the north,
near the city of Kirkuk, the U.S. Air Force used 1,000-pound bombs - against
"terrorist targets," an American officer told reporters.

      Clearly, the vast majority of the people dying in these attacks are
Iraqis who are no more "terrorists" than many Americans would be if foreign
troops were occupying the United States. But U.S. news outlets sometimes go
into raptures of praise as they describe the high-tech arsenal of the

      On Nov. 17, at the top of the front page of the New York Times, a
color photo showed a gunner aiming his formidable weapon downward from a
Black Hawk helicopter, airborne over Baghdad. Underneath the picture was an
article lamenting the recent setbacks in Iraq for such U.S. military
aircraft. "In two weeks," the article said, "the Black Hawks and Chinooks
and Apaches that once zoomed overhead with such grace and panache have
suddenly become vulnerable."

      "Grace" and "panache." Attributed to no one, the words appeared in a
prominent mash note about machinery of death from the New York Times, a
newspaper that's supposed to epitomize the highest journalistic standards.
But don't hold your breath for a correction to appear in the nation's paper
of record.

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