If Americans understood our last war on Iraq, would we more strongly oppose another one? Do we know what our military does in the real world, where the Pentagon won’t even take our lapdog of a press corps out for a walk?
The Gulf War’s ‘video game accuracy’ was a lie told by the Pentagon and re-told by the media. We dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq, nearly seven times the force of Hiroshima. 93% were old-fashioned dumb bombs, mostly dropped from high altitudes. 60,000 of these were anti-personnel cluster bombs. The civil infrastructure of central and southern Iraq was devastated, resulting in years of polluted water supplies, no electricity, and criminal levels of child mortality.
We use depleted uranium (DU) to pierce armor “like butter.” We left 300 tons of DU in Iraq, mostly as easily-inhaled radioactive dust. Now Iraq has skyrocketing rates of monstrous birth defects and aggressive cancers and leukemias. Though a few members of Congress tried to highlight this scandal, it remains resolutely ignored by American media. Consequently, our commitment to DU has deepened, despite its nuclear pollution of Iraq and (via NATO) the Balkans. We now proliferate these radioactive weapons around the world.
When Hussein pledged to withdraw from Kuwait, President Bush I called it a “cruel hoax.” When the withdrawal began as promised, we waited until midnight, then launched a frantic, all-out air blitz to exterminate the departing Iraqi soldiers. That night we incinerated tens of thousands of Iraqis for the crime of trying to go home.
How much do we need to know to oppose more war on Iraq? We learn some very troubling things just sitting in front of the TV. We’ve seen news of the devastation caused by the US-sponsored sanctions. We’ve heard experts disagree whether the sanctions have killed hundreds of thousands, or more than a million Iraqi mothers and children. Why do these deaths, continuing today, mean so little to our hearts?
Can we maintain a sense of moral responsibility for our always-benevolent foreign policy, if we’re told time and again that its fatal effects are the result of exploitation by our enemies? It’s this point, where US policy connects with the real world, that is always attacked by core sources in government and media who aim to pander and propagandize. They absolve us of responsibility for a generation of dead Iraqi children by trotting out presidential palaces and rusting Scud missiles, prattling that “the sanctions wouldn’t kill so many children if Saddam weren’t such a monster!”
As surely as Pavlov’s dogs, we take this idiotic bell as a cue to blame another US-inflicted disaster on a prescribed and suitably evil enemy. Many well-intentioned Americans have simply been unable to resist years of televised orders to hate Saddam Hussein like the Devil himself. Thus, outrageous lies about US policy are digested by a ‘free people’, and we hear them dutifully repeated by our neighbors, at the rare times they are required.
Our support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine also requires unrelenting propaganda, but, like Iraq, key facts have leaked through. We dimly understand that Israel occupies land that is supposed to be Palestinian, maybe in the future, if it’s OK with Israel. We’ve seen Israeli bulldozers mow down Palestinian homes, and we know the rest of the world says the occupation is illegal. We even know that our pro-Israel policy incites more terror against us.
But we don’t protest, or lift a finger to protect the Palestinians, even to save our own skins. Because we know who to blame: Obstinate and angry Arabs like Arafat, who reject our offers of peace. Stunning evidence that even the most simple-minded lies, repeated often enough on the right lips, can fatally corrupt our national discourse.
What did we know, and when did we know it? Future historians will probably decide that we knew a lot, and we knew it a long time ago. They will mark the failure of the US media as a critical blow to freedom and democracy. But unless we are exonerated as non compos mentis victims of the world’s first successful mass brainwashing, history will also fault us as a people, for our chronic failure to demand respect for human rights and international law from our government.
James Brooks of Worcester, Vermont is former marketing director of Vita-Flex Nutrition and was founding vice-president of the National Association of Equine Supplement Manufacturers. Currently Mr. Brooks serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org) and publishes News Links, a daily e-mail digest of Middle East news and commentary. Brooks is also a member of the national Al-Awda coordinating Committee.