The administration lies that formed the propaganda background for the attack on Iraq are not fading away. They are now getting mainstream media attention – not just in the alternative media and internet circles. The Bush folks never expected it and they are in disarray. Their response has been clumsy and amateurish.
Let’s understand what happened here. Sometime after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center by Al Qaeda terrorists the administration capitalized on the anger of the American public which had supported the punitive invasion of Afghanistan to follow up with a plan to attack Iraq long favored by pro-Israel, so-called neoconservative elements within the administration. The real aim of these plans was to project imperial US power in the Middle East in support of our “ally” Israel and to exert US influence if not control over Iraqi oil resources and ultimately those of the neighboring countries. The nasty Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was an attractive target having been the enemy in the first Gulf War and victim of punishing UN sanctions for years, and a leading enemy of Israel which guaranteed media support for any action against them. The attack on Iraq was expected to be popular and successful. The decision was “go” on Iraq. But how to explain it to the American people? Certainly the true policy objectives could not be used. Americans didn’t much like Saddam, but there had to be more to stir up support for an attack opposed by even the Pope as “unjustified”. Presto, “9/11” opened the door! The War on Terrorism was the answer! Saddam was presented as a principal enemy in that war. The propaganda machine readily ground out the needed stories. The administration proceeded to claim that Saddam was a threat to the United States and indeed the world. It was loudly proclaimed that we had solid intelligence that he had “weapons of mass destruction”, a term seldom defined precisely but which came to include charges of possession of or plans to secure nuclear weapons, large rocketry, poison gas and chemical agents, and who knows what else. The term “weapons of mass destruction” was repeated endlessly in administration rhetoric and dutifully repeated in the US media with scarcely a question. It took on aspects of a religious mantra. It projected an image of powerful weapons in the hands of a madman, a new Hitler, ready to use them. The President also repeatedly suggested that Iraq had ties to Al Qaeda and had some part in the 9/11 attack although the lack of evidence for this was weakly noted. Nobody cared. It might be true, right? War drums beat “to protect our nation” in defiance of international opposition and Americans would take the word of our President when it came to “national defense”.
The culmination of the US propaganda campaign for war came when Secretary of State Powell solemnly and with an impressive audiovisual show presented his case to the United Nations claiming to present the definitive details of the charges. To the anger of the administration the Powell show was was widely distrusted in the international community because of the obvious flimsiness of the evidence and UN support for the attack was not forthcoming. The US media however didn’t see the flaws or ignored them and got behind the war and that was all that counted. We also proceeded to ridicule and demonize the UN weapons inspectors engaged in the long term and fruitless search for the weapons of mass destruction as incompetents or worse – and slandered foreign nations, the French in particular for some reason, for questioning the need to rush to war. The American people lapped it up and the attack went forward without UN sanction and the opposition of most nations. Who cared? We would “go it alone”. Jingoism was rampant and the Bush folks strutted. Their strategy seemed to have worked. And after all we had our allies; Tony Blair and … well, never mind who else. As I said, who cared. The term “allies” in headlines conjured up the heady, patriotic days of World War II. Things were going well.
In the aftermath of the “successful” attack and the at least partial departure of Saddam things started to unravel. First of all it was clear that while most Iraqis were glad to get Saddam off their necks they did not want an American occupation of their country either. Opposition to the occupation of their country was widespread and growing. Worse, people around the world started to notice that the Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” which had been loudly proclaimed as the reason for the attack were not to be found. As the days and weeks went by it grew more apparent. Saddam may have been an unpleasant dictator but he didn’t have the fearsome weapons the Americans (and British) had claimed he had. Certainly they couldn’t find them. At first the Bush and Blair team called for patience as, now in complete control of Iraq, they combed Iraq for the missing massive weapons, claiming that for sure they would turn up. They even trumpeted some “findings” which turned out to be wrong or not significant. Or that the arms were destroyed, somehow without our previously brilliant intelligence knowing. Or that they had been secreted abroad. Or something… Recently the claims of Iraqi nuclear schemes in particular were exposed as outright false by various credible experts and finally admitted by the Bush people as a little error (the British as we write still stick to the story, quite an embarrassment) and the administration put the blame on George Tenant the head of the CIA who had been sitting stolidly behind Secretary Powell during his unfortunate “show” at the United Nations but who now nobly stepped up to take the blame for the gaffe on the nuclear weapons story. The Bush people suggested that this took care of everything and we could now forget all about this talk of “lies” etc. “It’s all overblown” as Condoleezza Rice put it – and besides the British told us. It doesn’t seem to be working.
Henry Kissinger even emerged to drone that yes, the “weapons of mass destruction” stories were used because they could be “more easily understood” or some other elitist sophistry which comes down to meaning, yes the “weapons of mass destruction” stories were “lies” necessary for the masses but that it didn’t matter because the war was justified for “regime change purposes”. The mask is off. Henry also is outraged at comparisons with Watergate and Israel’s part in all this of course is not mentioned. Do you want to stir up “anti-semitism” after all?
It isn’t working.
There were too many lies.
The question is whether the American people care. Bill Clinton’s lies didn’t faze them but they “were about sex” and Bill never asserted patriotic motives. Is there a difference?
Albert Doyle, a free-lance writer, is a retired Attorney with US Treasury Dept., and General Tax Attorney Texaco Inc. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Florida, USA.