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Operation Think Freely About Iraq # 3

Comments about Operation Iraqi Freedom
and about the media

By TFF's Iraq Conflict-Mitigation team & Associates

"It is enough that a lie is believed for three days - it has then served its purpose."
Marie de Medici, 1573-1642, queen consort and queen regent of France 

# 3 April 28 till now. Start at bottom 

 # 1 March 27 - April 8
# 2 April 9 - April 27

54. Kill the looters, says Ambassador Bremer and echoes the colonial mantra: Exterminate all the brutes...


Day 57 - May 15, 2003 - Day 57 - May 15, 2003 - Contrary to all the propaganda, a rule can now be established: war criminals and other "bad guys" are not found and brought to justice for two reasons. First, they could tell embarrassing things about the US and other Western governments. Second, they are needed as symbols of the terrible threat against which we must permanently be on our guard.

Our guardian, of course, is the United States of America and its military-industrial complex.

So, nobody talks anymore about catching Osama bin Laden. And whatever happened to Saddam & Sons is no longer an issue. The Bush regime needs them as the beloved enemies, as the Evil, that will always help increase the budgets of Pentagon and CIA.

Kim Il-Sung and Mohamad Farah Aidid happened to die. But Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Moammar Khadaffi, Fidel Castro and now Saddam Hussein & Sons are all at large although having been, at one point, hate object # 1. They were the persons wanted "dead or alive," smoked out, on the run or whatever the words were that those used who would rather not be reminded of them today.

Slobodan Milosevic, locked up in the Hague as ICTY's biggest catch, is the exception to this rule. I guess late prime minister Zoran Djindjic handed him over behind the back of his lawyer President Vojeslav Kostunica because of some expected money and fame that never came. Instead the Belgrade Mafia came after him, and the West who pressed him into this dangerously impossible situation shred crocodile tears at his funeral.

So, why be surprised at a headline in Washington Post of May 15, Hussein Loyalists Blamed For Chaos U.S. Commander Vows to Step Up Baghdad Patrols.

Here staff writer Peter Slevin exposes the chaos, failure, cynicism and outright cruelty of the new US regime in Baghdad. Behind all the problems - water, electricity, looting, damaged-repaired-and-again-damaged infrastructure, attempts to ambush US soldiers, lack of security and order - indeed the list is long - behind it all lurk, you guessed the American deception: Saddam Hussein and his two sons and their loyalists reinforced by Baath diehards.

"Until these people are destroyed or captured, the security environment here in Iraq will remain problematic," said Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan.

"McKiernan declined to offer details or estimate numbers of the resistance he described. But Maj. Gen. Buford Blount III, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Baghdad, joined him in saying that some marauders are not simply criminals, but politically focused gunmen whose "intent is to attack anything that the coalition is trying to get stood up."

No wonder McKiernan declined. It's pure scapegoating. How come that the Saddam loyalists are emerging only now and a couple of days after Ambassador Bremer has arrived? And let's see who Major General Buford Blaunt III? Here is a flattering portrait of him by Wayne Madsen in Counterpunch:

"The man who ordered his tanks to open fire on the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV, and Reuters is Major General General Buford "Buff" Blount III. Like his three bosses, General Tommy Franks, General Richard Myers, and George W. Bush, Blount is a native of Texas. After the war is over, Blount will return amid ruffles and flourishes to accolades from Bush administration officials and a doting media. It must never be forgotten what crimes Blount perpetrated on April 8 in Baghdad.

Blount must have had a certain disdain for Al Jazeera, the independent Arab satellite news network that has been the bain of the Saudi Royal Family. Before assuming command of the Third Infantry Division, Blount was the Program Manager for the Saudi National Guard. Unlike the U.S. National Guard, the Saudi Guardsmen are the shock troops for the Saudi royals. They are every much as committed to the Saudi princes as Iraq's Republican Guards were committed to Saddam Hussein. Blount undoubtedly sympathized with his Saudi benefactors when they disparaged Al Jazeera and their Qatari financial backers. There have been a number of heated exchanges between Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani over the coverage of the Saudis by Al Jazeera.

Blount probably did not have to think twice about teaching Al Jazeera a lesson on behalf of his Saudi friends. For at the same time Blount lorded over the Saudi National Guard, he was also a top military adviser to Abdullah. Blount's connections to the Saudis and his disregard for the safety of Al Jazeera journalists may appear to be highly unprofessional. However, when considering that officers like Blount are merely modern-day mercenaries, acting on behalf of corrupt royal regimes, oil company interests, and neo-conservative political operatives, his actions in Baghdad are very understandable -- painfully so."


I read on. Peter Slevin mentions a remark by L. Paul Bremer III, the newly installed director of the U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which is managing post-war Iraq.

"According to someone present when Bremer addressed his staff in a closed meeting, he mused that U.S. forces might need to shoot looters to deter them."

Incidentally, I watched CNN and saw that Paul Bremer gave a press conference today in which he was asked to comment on whether he had actually said so and then was also asked other questions by the same journalist. In his answer he did not even mention whether he had said so or not; he concentrated on the reinforcement of soldiers to arrive in Iraq shortly. Thus, he did not deny that he had said so.

So, I take it, the highest American authority in today's Iraq muses that freedom, democracy and prosperity may require a little killing of people who have been made poor and destitute because of 12 years of sanctions that his country was second to none in maintaining at whatever humanitarian cost. And if they do not belong to that category, they are Saddam loyalists (as a rule, Americans offer no evidence) and deserve to be killed.

To "deter," he says. The concept of deterrence is one with which L. Paul Bremer III is well-acquainted as a long-time associate of alleged war criminal Henry A. Kissinger, and himself a security hawk and anti-terrorism expert.

Learn more about Mr. Bremer here - and expert killings of anyone who is a dissident in the eyes of the Bremer regime.

From the dissident's point of view, it doesn't make that much of a difference whether you are killed by Saddam or Bremer. You are targeted because you are a dissident and angry. Paradoxically, perhaps, Saddam was comparatively honest. He didn't pretend that he was creating freedom and democracy for the Iraqis.



53. The way Iraqis are portrayed and treated is racist, but do we see it anymore?


Day 48 - May 6, 2003 - Dr. Hoda Ammash was arrested yesterday in Bagdad. Reality is concrete. Let me use this event, this human drama to illustrate the racism of our politics and media, virtually all of them. Because, there can't be any excuse for the media treatment of anyone not proven guilty of any crime being portrayed in that manner. And she is not alone in being de-humanised by media who dare not stand up to US psycho-warfare, propaganda and conjecture.

Of the 55 on the - tasteless - deck of cards depicting leading Iraqis the Bush regime wants to catch, I've talked at length with three. They are Dr. Ameer Al-Saadi, the scientific adviser to Saddam, Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister and Dr. Hoda Ammash, the only woman in the top leadership of the Baath party and a microbiologist. They are all "in US custody" now, Hoda Ammash since yesterday on May 5. She was the highest-ranking woman in Iraq. You see my photo of her here

I was stunned by CNN presenting her first as "Dr. Germ" and later as "Mrs. Anthrax." The only footage, repeated over and over, showed her in green uniform walking upon an American and Israeli flag and greeting, fist raised, a huge crowd of Baath party youth. It was also stated that Saddam had her father killed. He was an old friend of Saddam and, at the end of his career, Iraqi ambassador to Finland. I haven't seen that killing confirmed anywhere. The other part of the story was that she got her PhD in the US and that she could be useful as a guide to the weapons of mass-destruction we have been told that Iraq's old leadership has been hiding.

It's the same story by almost all the international media and their websites. Sweden's largest liberal, Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) on-line doesn't bother to cover the story at all, but in an old article by the paper's Washington correspondent Lennart Pehrson, she is mentioned as "Mrs. Anthrax for her work with biological weapons." Being in Washington, he must know the truth of course. The Danish liberal daily, Politiken on-line, tells that Mrs Anthrax has been arrested and that she has worked with another scientist, Rihab Taha, who is called Dr. Germ.

Given this media coverage, I ask myself whether anyone can get a human impression, or image, of this women? Imagine what kind of feelings "Mrs Anthrax" will raise among the average Americans. Her movement over those flags in military garb? It doesn't matter to any decent journalist that her relationship, if any, to biological weapons is pure conjecture, allegation, or hypothesis and guilt by association. It's enough that the US has put her on a card like "Most Wanted", that her alleged crime is hinted and that she has been given her nickname by someone powerful we don't want to question. She has produced anthrax and she is a criminal. And wasn't she on this deck of cards for a reason? CNN does not bother to later announce that its use of "Dr. Germ" referred to another scientist, either. Who cares, after all, ALL Iraqis are kind of criminal and there is no risk this woman would will be allowed by the US to hire a lawyer and defend herself against this smear campaign?

I thought that anyone under the sky was innocent until proven otherwise by a legal procedure. I thought anyone being arrested for an alleged crime had a right to a lawyer. I thought smear campaigns belonged somewhere else but to free press reporting.

I am reminded of Colin Powell's statement weeks before the war that it wasn't enough to take out Saddam and a few individuals, the US needed to take out "all the infection." The people running a sovereign state, a member of the United Nations that his own country has been an ally of and supplied with technology for weapons of mass destruction? Infection? Iraqi leaders are germs, anthrax - one big infection, an Evil, in the world body that the US has a God-given mandate to kill and so clean the world to the benefit of all of us.

What the sanctions did to the innocent Iraqis, could not be done to someone who was considered human beings like yourself. They must be lower, wrong, less human, less civilised, less worthy of humane treatment. What was done to them during the media war - the Iraqi perspective on the conflict virtually absent from or media and debates, or ridiculed - can only be done to someone you don't respect. The way they were treated during the military war, can only be done to someone whose lives do not have the same inherent value as "our" lives, people who don't count as human beings. Remember, half the people of Iraq are children and youth under 16, and George W. Bush and Tony Blair accepted that the arsenals they brought to the region included nuclear weapons. Those you plan to nuke "if necessary" are not people you see as human beings unless you are mentally disturbed.

Or remember how Dan Rather of CBS could not understand how President Saddam Hussein could get the idea that he was qualified to have a satellite-televised conversation with George W. Bush. Why not? Because, in contrast to us, the Iraqis are simply not part of civilisation, they are filthy, undeserving, abject; in short, they are not at a level that entitles them to talk with us. They are Evil and we are Good and we don't talk to them.

The racist attitude, the contempt for weakness, is so integrated in the Western persona and social cosmology that it does not even strike people as an element of racism, of deep cultural violence.

Exterminate All the Brutes, is the title of a book about Europe's colonialism and missionary zeal by the Swedish author Sven Lindquist. Read it! Nothing has changed. A country of 7,000 years of history is being colonised by the US military. iraqis deserve no respect but to be bombed, be controlled, be humiliated and be killed - germs as they are. All the infection must be killed to achieve the perfect, pure world. Eterminate them with our own mass-destructive weapons, if necessary!

I wonder who are we healing in the process? How brutalising this whole paradigm is to ourselves? Time will show. I allow myself to be ashamed even if it turns out later that Doctor Hoda Ammash was involved in secret activities.



52. Lessons of war: Arms trade create leaders like Saddam


Day 45 - May 3, 2003 - Formally, the war is coming to a close. Many of us worked frantically to prevent it and argued in favour of alternative, civil and diplomatic means. But the war did take place and in this sense - and this sense only - we lost. Saddam Hussein and his regime is gone an, beyond dispute, that is a blessing. President Bush is expected to declare the war over, and there will be numerous attempts to justify the war through that achievement.

But I am reminded of Gandhi's marvellous formulation that "the means are goals-in-the-making."

It would be too typically Western to discuss only who has won and who has lost in the actual war in Iraq and in the debate about the war. The war is nothing but a phase of a conflict formation that stretches much further in time and space. The military war is, as I have argued in PressInfo 180, only one of three wars or struggles.

But the idea of military war as a means to achieve some - in this case, rather changing goals - deserves to be constantly challenged. It is never irrelevant to analyse the costs in a broad sense and discuss whether the same results could have been achieved in different, less violent ways. Indeed, if we say that that is a waste of time to discuss now the war is over, we accept the de facto primacy of violence in international affairs and, thus, abdicate the role of the intellectual. A true intellectual, to my mind, never celebrates an ounce of unnecessary violence, like the good doctor never spills more blood or causes the patient to suffer a longer period of recovery than absolutely necessary to combat the disease.

We need, in other words, to discuss what lessons to learn. Triumphalism has no place in situations like this: 12 years of sanctions (1/2 to 1 million dead Iraqis) and a devastating war, the direct results of which are thousands of dead civilians, thousands of dead soldiers and a country of 24 million people virtually devastated - physically, politically and culturally - and under foreign occupation. And it seems to me that that is the true price for the single achievement that Saddam Hussein and his dictatorial regime is gone.

Given the necessity of understanding better the causes and effects, the achievement and its price, the costs and the benefits, it is indeed striking that so few have related the problem of Iraq and Saddam to the problem of the global arms trade. Well, it is not that strange given that the Five Permanent members of the Security Council are all a) countries with weapons of mass-destruction (WMD) and b) together account for 85 per cent of the world's total arms trade.

This connection is as simple as it is obvious - and ignored. It is common knowledge that Saddam was obsessed with the idea of arming modern Iraq to a full-spectrum super regional power status and that he did this by means of buying what was needed. Since he wanted the most sophisticated technology and then planned to reduce foreign dependence by building a domestic military research and arms production capacity, he and he agents turned predominantly to the West. How this was done is described in details by many analysts, for instance by Said Aburish in Saddam Hussein. The Politics of Revenge (2000). Since Aburish was involved to a certain extent in Saddam's endeavour, his analysis is, I believe, particularly insightful and credible.

As yourself whether Saddam would have become the Saddam we know had it not been for French, British, German, American and Russian corporate and/or political interests in arming him. Did the ready availability of the weapons on the international, more or less murky, market combined with almost unlimited oil wealth stimulate Saddam's obsession with militarised grandeur? It is documented beyond dispute that the arms exporting governments and individual salesmen turned a blind eye to his human rights violations, wars, WMD ambitions and dictatorial ways when they were able to make profits or pursue their own foreign policy goals through him and his policies.

Here is a longer quotation from Aburish that says it all:

"It is my eprsonal belief that Western governments know most of what Saddam was doing. But since it represented a secret, there was nothing beyond American congressional insistence on inking Iraq with terrorism because of its backing for Yasser Arafat's former associate Abu Nidal and others. Certainly, the British knew of the activities of the Iraqi cultural centres and that Saddam was behind the assassination of former Iraqi intelligence chief Abdel Razaq Al Nayyef in front of London's Intercontinental Hotel in July 1978.(I am totally unable to determine why the people accused of this crime were released.) The Americans knew about the chemical warfare plant, approved the Karkar mobile telephone system sale and, thinking that Iraq was changing, considered selling Saddam target drones made by Teledyne Ryan Corporation of San Diego and General Electric engines for his torpedo boats. The French were as aware of Saddam's plans to develop atomic weapons as anyone. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina and other countries received inquiries from the representatives of the Iraqi government which betrayed their purposes. Even neutral Switzerland was contacted and agreed to sell the Iraqis Pilatus jet trainers,a deal which was actually concluded after the start of the war with Iran.

If it was so, why did they all look the other way and allow Saddam to continue his efforts - which, as we shall see, were to grow more ominous after the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980? Indeed, the situation begs the question of whether the West's accommodation of Saddam was part of an overall policy decision, a co-ordinated effort or a conspiracy…

What the suppliers had in common was negative: an obvious lack of moral standards. There is no evidence whatsoever that Saddam's treatment of the Kurds and Shias mattered to anyone, except for some leaders of the American Congress who spoke out in the middle of the 1970s, mostly to please Israel. No one ever exposed the methods of his dreaded security apparatus. Nor did Saddam's suppliers pay much attention to his reliance on the terrorists Abu Nidal and Abul Abbas in certain overseas elimination operations. This laissez-faire attitude continued until he invaded Kuwait and threatened the oil supplies of the West." (Aburish, 2000, p. 154-155).


Lesson 1
A much stricter, restricted and transparent arms export policy would have prevented the export to Saddam. But the one thing all the suppliers had in common was "an obvious lack of moral standards."

Lesson 2
We need to discuss how the self-righteous West is almost always historically a party to the conflicts and in the regions it invades and certainly not a impartial mediator with noble interests in helping the locals live in peace.

Lesson 3
Saddam, the warrior and militarist, was predominantly a product of Western profit-seeking and international strategic calculations, a puppet on many a player's string. He wasn't innocent and the Western arms supplying governments, including those of the US and UK, knew it. Indeed, together they are the most responsible for his armament program.

Lesson 4
The "coalition" and those who argued for a military strike to remove him have been deeply responsible in two ways for his regime, its cruelty and dictatorial style: a) by selling him the means to conduct wars and militarise his society (and probably torture technology, too) and b) by turning the blind eye to his inhuman policies to protect corporate interests.

Lesson 5
He only became a villain in the eyes of the West when he threatened its oil supplies by invading Kuwait.

Lesson 6
Whenever President Bush and others justify war and intervention with reference to moral arguments and "evil" we can be sure that there is mischief brewing. Most likely it is a ploy to cover up thoughtless and immoral policies in the past and get access to some new advantages.



51. How media could be as professional in peace as they are in war


Day 41 - April 29, 2003 - The media interest in Iraq is rapidly fading. SARS, North Korea and each country's local affairs are now taking over. We'll probably soon be back to where we were months ago: very few journalists in Iraq, almost no media interests in the sanctions or the point of views of the Iraqi citizens. With the drama of bombing, troop movement, killing, friendly fire, physical injuries and uniformed people giving press-PR-briefings, the interest is also vanishing.

Yesterday, for instance, the media were showing extremely uninventive footage from the meeting held by US retired general Jay Garner with selected Iraqi leaders in a boring conference centre in Baghdad. Much of it was filmed from a "dead" angle, from the back of the room so we could see all the backs of the participants. The viewers were told that important groups boycotted the meeting, but I found no investigation, no questions raised to the Americans running the meeting on any channel or news website: how did you select those in this room and why are some not here? And General Garner and his people do not give daily press conferences like the Central Command.

Such is the reporting of peace or, in this case, "peace." It is boring, indifferent and distanced. It lack nerve, intensity and drama. It is as if there is no need for investigating what is going on, because now there is peace, isn't it.

When physical bodies are at stake, the media are there, embedded. But when the psyche, the cultural and the political bodies are at stake?

But imagine that the media covered the post-war situation in roughly the same manner they covered the war.

Then I believe you would have journalists "embedded" with Garner's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, one with each department. Because that is now the occupation command centre. We would have sharp questions raised about its legitimacy, about what they aim to do; there would be a camera showing how they work, how they contact local people, negotiate and solve conflicts with them. We would get a sense of how they treat the Iraqis.

There would be a constant monitoring of the problems they encounter throughout the Iraqi society, of the demonstrations, the boycotts, and the resistance against the occupation. There would be in-depth coverage of the post-war traumas, the sick and the wounded, the cases of post-war suicide. We would learn about the long-term human consequences after war and destruction.

There would be in-depth interviews with all kinds of representatives of this fascinatingly complex country; we would finally get to know the situation of women, youth and children, of ordinary people with whom the media can talk freely now Saddam is gone.

While we have seen how cruel a few people have been to the rest, we would now get reports on how many and different Iraqi men and women helped each other, supported and sheltered each other, how much fundamental goodness there also is in an among people. We would see the courageous people, the peace heroes, the peace lords who refused intellectually and otherwise to participate in looting and in killing and intimidating other people in the time of crisis. We would see how people today help each other recovering without the help of the Americans. As it is now we are told that only the Americans are helping the Iraqis, not that Iraqis are helping other Iraqis &endash; as if they did not have neighbourhoods, families and interest associations.

We would see documentaries about the history, culture and religion of Iraq so that many more people in the rest of the world, not the least the arrogant West, would learn, simply become better educated.

We would see intensive discussion, panels and dialogues among American and other Western scholars, on the one hand, and Iraqi and other Arab scholars. If they don't take place by themselves, they would be brought together by the larger media. Why? Because, if the media - intentionally or unintentionally - contribute to war by conveying propaganda, psycho-warfare and disinformation, why should they not also contribute to peace? What would prevent BBC and CNN etc. in the present situation to bring people together, to help bring about mutual understanding and reconciliation?

The answer, I believe, is lack of an awareness of the potentials of peace for the media, lack of a trained eye. There is not a (male) journalist who cannot see the professional opportunities that war is, but I have done enough training seminars and lectures with journalists from around the world to know that editors and many journalists have absolutely no training in seeing the professional opportunities in peace. And if they do, their editors or those who own the media find that "political."

We would have media going to schools and hospitals (those aspects have disappeared completely now). Imagine a journalist would "adopt" one school somewhere in Iraq, talk with teachers, pupils and parents and then talk with the American administration about that particular school's recovery. Not the physical reconstruction but the healing of that school community as a whole. He or she would illustrate for us how this school's problems are related to Saddam's regime, to the sanctions, to the overall socio-economic situation, and to the destruction of the war. We would get an impression of the lovely children and their families, their potentials, their hopes and fears. The journalist would go and ask the Americans who are now responsible for Iraq's schools what they intend to DO for this particular school, how it figures in the overall plans somebody must have for the country.

This would give us an Iraq with a human face, an image of humanity. It would contrast the inhuman face of the old Saddam regime , the war and the occupation.

All this would give us an image, an implicit vision of peace and the potentials of people and of civil society, now the military society has made its - appalling - statement.

To monitor the civil problems as well as the potentials of peace in the Iraqi is now absolutely essential. To keep many and critical media eyes on what the US administration does (and does not do) with and to Iraq is no less important.

It can't be done if most leave and the rest do unimaginative reports of the backs of passive, or pacified, listeners.

Schools of journalism, media research institute and we, the readers, listeners and viewers, now have a tremendous opportunity to improve, to learn, to focus and ask better questions. In order to do better next. To be neutral the media must do peace reporting (at least) as well as they do war reporting. More and more inventive peace-oriented media work could even help us all see alternatives to war next time...




© TFF & the authors 2003  


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