A report was issued this week from the White House’s new Office of Global Communications called, “Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda, 1990 to 2003.” We’ll get to the contents of that “report,” in a minute, but first a word of clarification about the OGC itself, a new information service created by executive order to better convey “America’s message to the world.”
I would hate for readers to confuse this “white hat” outfit with Donald Rumsfeld’s “black hat” information service of a similar name, the Office of Strategic Influence, whose stated mission was to plant false stories in foreign media, including, potentially, those of friendly nations. Of course we all know that the Pentagon later closed that office — nudge, nudge, wink, wink — because it didn’t really seem democratic. I just didn’t want anyone to possibly confuse these two, very different, information services.
So what does the “Apparatus of Lies,” have to say? It attempts to show mostly how Saddam is a really bad guy who lies and deceives a lot. (I wonder, perhaps, if the Iraqi counterpart to the OGC might not be able to come up with a similar document about American presidents? “I did not have sexé” Oh, never mind.) “Apparatus of Lies,” starts off by accusing Saddam of “crafting tragedy” during the Gulf War through “co-location of military and civilians.” (But neglects to tell us how this compares to the US “crafting tragedy” by indiscriminately carpet-bombing a city of several million.) Saddam will likely attempt to craft some more tragedy this time around, the report continues, because he “apparently believes that dead Iraqi civilians are his most powerful weapon in trying to create revulsion against any military action that might occur against Iraq.” Well now, we sure wouldn’t want anybody to suffer revulsion against military action, now would we? Why that would spoil all the fun, wouldn’t it?
The report highlights in big bold type an excerpt from the Geneva Conventions that bans the use of civilians to shield military targets, but conveniently leaves out the part of the conventions that prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure like water and sewer systems, and electrical power plants and grids, all of which — and more — the US systematically destroyed not only in its bombardment of Baghdad in 1991, but in its 1999 bombing of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The report then moves on to a section titled “Exploiting Suffering,” and includes a case study called “Baby Funerals,” which attempts to enlighten us on who is really to blame for all those babies dying from lack of proper food and medicine. It’s not the sanctions that make it impossible to import many kinds of essential medicines; it’s that Saddam is deliberately letting those babies die, to win world sympathy. Here also we find a section called “The Depleted Uranium Scare,” which assures us that this radioactive substance is perfectly harmless. “Uranium is a name that has frightening associations in the mind of the average person, which makes the lie relatively easy to sell,” explains the report. Well, I’m glad we cleared that up.
The report also deals with Saddam’s alleged exploitation of Islam (apparently the Iraqi government requires pilgrims making use of various religious sites in the country to pay certain fees — unlike the US apparently, where everything at any government-maintained parks, monuments or sites is always free.). Another example of “religious oppression” is that Shia Mosque libraries allegedly aren’t allowed to loan books. (Do you need any more justification to start invading Iraq right now?) Further reading of this ridiculous document makes abundantly clear just how desperately the writers are grasping at straws in order to fill out their straw man. There is the Saddam lie, for example, that during the Gulf War the pop singer Madonna went to Saudi Arabia to entertain US troops. Not true, says the report. Madonna never went to Saudi Arabia — and it’ a good thing that that monstrous lie has now been exposed.
More hard-hitting revelations follow: a dastardly ploy whereby Iraq allegedly removed the dome of a mosque in order to claim it was bombed by US planes; falsely staged man-in-the-street interviews (gasp!); and (surprise, surprise) planting false stories with foreign reporters. It works like this, claims the report: “An Iraqi government intelligence officer, diplomat, or operative provides a journalist or publication in another country with a false story. The story contains specific details that appear to bolster the story’s main theme but cannot be verified.” Unlike the American government source — always unnamed of course — who feeds The New York Times or Washington Post reporter “specific details that appear to bolster the story’s main theme but cannot be verified.” Come to think of it, this is the perfect definition for 90 percent of the political reporting in those newspapers.
So there you have Saddam’s “Apparatus of Lies.” It is indeed quite laughably unsophisticated and puny, compared to Bush’s Apparatus of Lies. And if you’re wondering where those writers from Rumsfeld’s allegedly defunct OSI went, it’s obvious most have now found gainful employment in the West Wing — at the Apparatusé er, Office of Global Communications.
Mr. Gordon Arnaut is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker in Canada. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).