By now, comparing Iraq to Vietnam has become a favorite parlor game among armchair generals. Because history rarely repeats itself, such analogies are an altogether useless exercise. The unpredictable outcomes of our Iraqi misadventure are proof enough that there are simply too many variables that factor into weaving the threads that make up the canvass of human events – especially in times of war.
In many ways, Iraq is a unique conflict. For some odd reason, this dirty little war has inspired very few anti-war songs. Even Vietnam era peace movement anthems have been banished from the airwaves. Which is surprising when you consider that before the first shot was fired, huge antiwar demonstrations were staged around the world. Once the hostilities began, the antiwar movement went home and sulked after getting seriously bruised by a hand full of war mongering news anchors who turned off the cameras and mocked them into silent oblivion.
In wartime Saigon, American soldiers and civilian advisers freely mingled with the native population. The only place in Iraq where Americans can safely roam is the Green Zone –” a fantasy land where State Department bureaucrats, journalists and military officers spin delusional tales about what goes on beyond the heavily fortified walls. Twenty-eight months after occupying Baghdad, they dare not venture beyond their lush oasis to take a closer look at the carnage and chaos that flourishes outside their isolated and insular enclave.
If there is one glaring difference between the two conflicts –” it is the role of the media in promoting the invasion of Iraq and coordinating coverage with the Bush administration. As a consequence of Pentagon censorship, we now see entirely too little of what transpires in Iraq on a daily basis. Embedded journalists have gone along for the ride and accepted the view that over exposure to the realities of the conflict in Vietnam contributed to America’s defeat.
The media barons have not only spared us the gruesome visuals –” they have also taken it upon themselves to shield us from the political consequences of the invasion. For all the blood and treasure wasted on this misadventure, how many Americans realize that the final results will be a theocratic Islamic republic allied to Tehran? Why does Saddam’s trial continue to be shrouded in secrecy? Is there concern that he might expose his willing collaborators in Washington who gave him the green light to attack Iran and refused to make a fuss when he used chemical weapons against the Kurds?
Meanwhile, American military coffins arrive in the middle of the night for quick burial in ceremonies away from the prying eyes of the public. We rarely see pictures of the 14,000 wounded young marines and soldiers –” neither do we get any meaningful information about the severity of their injuries and the quality of their care. The number of Iraqi casualties –” both military and civilian –” remains a state secret. How many innocent lives have been wasted? How many bodies shredded by cluster bombs have been tagged and buried as ‘collateral damage’? Did the Anglo-American invasion kill more innocent civilians than the insurgents? With no pictures and no accurate statistics, we are left with a distant war that rarely intrudes into our daily lives.
In Vietnam, the media was not always in bed with the Pentagon and more than a few journalists maintained an appropriate professional distance from the administration. As a result, the public had a fairly realistic picture of what the conflict really looked like up close and personal. Even with the relatively primitive technology of the time, the real story eventually got told. First hand accounts by the men who actually fought and bled in the jungles of South East Asia confirmed the accounts of independent journalists and exposed a systematic campaign of misinformation by the government.
The role of the media in Iraq is an entirely different story from Vietnam. We’ve gone from Walter Cronkite giving a straight account of “the way it is” to Field Marshal Judith Miller insisting “I was fucking right.” We might have avoided this quagmire had it not been for Miller’s active participation in this well-orchestrated campaign of mass deception. But Miller is hardly entitled to take full credit for beating the war drums. At CNN, Wolf Blitzer converted his whole program into a ‘War Room’ and gave the red carpet treatment to an endless parade of neo-conservative chicken hawks. Having spent a decade working for the Jerusalem Post, it’s highly doubtful that Blitzer was unaware that his guests had long resumes of promoting Israeli agendas.
If the average American had blinders on about Iraq, there is no mistaking the hands that pulled down the shades on the WMD hoax and the subsequent ‘intelligence failure’ scam. Blitzer, Miller, Krauthammer, Friedman and Safire certainly knew the ideological origins of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. It is common knowledge that operatives with well-established Israeli connections are very prominent in neo-con think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. Blitzer and his fellow travelers routinely promoted these war lobbyists as ‘WMD scholars’, ‘experts on terrorism’ and ‘resident military strategists’ who had an exclusive inside track on the history, politics and culture of the Middle East. These oracles also claimed a unique ability to forecast future events in Iraq. Which begged the question: if the invasion of Iraq was going to be nothing more than a ‘cake walk’ –” why was Saddam considered such an immediate threat?
As the war went sour, the media barons took it off the front pages. Unlike Vietnam, Iraq is mostly a faint background noise. The streets are empty of anti-war demonstrators and no one is humming anti-war tunes. Except for the grunts and their families, the carnage in Mesopotamia is out of sight and out of mind.
With the exception of the Spanish American war, it is hard to think of another military campaign that was virtually launched by the mass media. The Fourth Estate was a full partner in this bloody venture. Judith Miller and Wolf Blitzer’s hands are soaked in the blood of the tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans who have perished in this war of choice. The New York Times, as an institution, was actively and systematically cooking the books to coerce the public into backing the invasion of Iraq.
Of course Sulzberger was not the only publisher who enthusiastically contributed his paper’s resources to market this conflict. Donald Graham at the Post and Rupert Murdoch of FOX are equally guilty. It follows that these mass media moguls are hardly inclined to investigate the role of Sulzberger or Judith Miller in engineering this quagmire. Notice how Judith Miller and Karl Rove have miraculously vanished from the headlines. No one wants to dig deeper into this pit –” because the snake’s head can only end up devouring the snake’s tail.
After David Kay came up empty handed in his WMD search, a former United Nations nuclear inspector leveled a serious charge at Washington. David Albright asserted that the big boys knew since May of 2003 that WMDs would never be found. Albright claimed that “the only people who didn’t know that fact was the public”.
So, the question of the hour is what does everyone in Washington know as of today? They know the administration lied about WMDs with the help of media operatives like Judith Miller. They know that there was no “intelligence failure” and that Joseph Wilson was punished for exposing the post-war cover-up. They also know that the administration and its media partners in crime continue to twist the facts about the situation in Iraq. Add to the mix the recent indictments of AIPAC officials in the Pentagon spy case, which might expose the culprits as the very same senior administration officials who outed Valerie Plame.
In Washington, they all know Judith Miller’s dirty little secret. Miller is a senior neo-con propagandist. If she goes down, she won’t go down alone. She will take the paper of record and Sulzberger with her. Her intimate relationships with Ahmed Chalabi, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, AIPAC, and the American Enterprise Institute are all part of the public record. Miller coordinated her work with the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, an outfit set up by Wolfowitz and Feith and tasked with fixing intelligence to make a case for war. Judith Miller is pleading the fifth to avoid confessing to the prominent role she played in launching weapons of mass deception at the American people.
The neo-con cabal and the Israeli lobby are an instrumental force in framing the foreign policy of the United States towards the Middle East. Other political forces had considerable influence in charting the path to war –” including the equally formidable Saudi lobby and the usual suspects in the military industrial complex. But only the neo-cons had access to the media muscle necessary for implementing a massive propaganda campaign to sell the war. Judith Miller was by far the most lethal weapon in the war party’s media arsenal –” if only because she wrote for The New York Times.
When it comes to determining the destiny of the nation –” the fourth estate is a power to reckon with. It is difficult to exaggerate the damage caused by Miller’s war propaganda. Although the media moguls can’t be voted out of their corporate headquarters, they do have an Achilles heel. The value of their enterprise is entirely dependent on the public’s perception of their credibility and integrity. A crippling consumer boycott against war mongering media giants like New York Times will go a long way to convince Sulzberger and others to think twice before beating the drums of war. We can pay tribute to the tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis who perished in Miller’s war by actively participating in a consumer strike against the paper of record. So, do your patriotic duty and send Sulzberger on a one way ticket to bankruptcy court.