Book review
Media crap: the corporate spin on Iraq

"Target Iraq: what the news media didn't tell you"
by Norman Solomon & Reese Erlich (Context Books, 2003)

- Dennis Small

"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip" - George Orwell

As the revelations mount of American/British/Australian duplicity over their war on Iraq in 2003, we are getting further insights into the pervasive corruption and perversion of the "Anglo-Saxon" mainstream media. Whatever the angst now of these revelations, the same purveyors of "news" and "current affairs" will certainly help orchestrate future wars on Third World countries as they already have done against Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. Consequently, we need to increase and organise our knowledge of the workings of this media and its political dominance in ways that will enable us to be both more pre-emptive and effective in contesting its influence in the years to come.

One important way of doing this is to regularly check out the research and publications of those vital groups overseas which closely monitor the mainstream media and disseminate their findings. Note, however, that there is also a very powerfully funded and influential far Right network of ginger groups in the US in particular, engaged in making the mainstream media even more biased. In Aotearoa/NZ, one such hard Right group is the fundamentalist Christian-based Maxim Institute, which regularly gets its views circulated to a wider audience courtesy of Christchurch's Press. In the US, a really good "media watch" group is the American Institute for Public Accuracy, a consortium of policy researchers and analysts. Its founder and executive director, Norman Solomon, is one of the authors of "Target Iraq: What The News Media Didn't Tell You" ("TI"), a book written before the actual war was launched in March 2003. Solomon is also an associate of the media watch group FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). The other author, Reese Erlich, is a long-Time investigative journalist who has also taught journalism in academia for ten years. Their book is a brilliantly excoriating exposure of the media's role in the West's latest imperial resource war against the Muslim world (and, by extension, the rest of the Third World).

Exposing Corporate Crap

When the two major news magazines, Time and Newsweek, celebrated the outcome of the first Gulf War in 1991, they both "printed special editions hailing the victory in the war", extolling "the small number of American casualties", but saying "not a word about the tens of thousands of Iraqis - soldiers and civilians - themselves victims first of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, and then of George Bush's war" ("TI", p. xi: from the Introduction by Howard Zinn). Time and Newsweek are, of course, the most prominent print vehicles of American Establishment propaganda, and much the same pattern has been repeated with the newly proclaimed "victory" of George Bush, jnr. But there has still been enough press freedom left in Britain for some searching scrutiny to be turned on Prime Minister Blair and his rationale for war. Even in the US, too, increasing attention has been given to the role of the Bush Administration and its use of "intelligence".

Such attention is in no small part due to the work of organisations like the Institute for Public Accuracy and FAIR. Furthermore, with the continuing violence in Iraq and the official US acknowledgement that they are now confronting a classic guerrilla war situation, even the Establishment media are raising questions and evidence that they buried in the past. Indeed, the current debate stems in part from deep concerns felt among a number within the Western Intelligence community. They are worried about the gross politicisation of intelligence under the Bush/Blair regime and how it could derail the formulation and conduct of "sound" foreign policy. What "Target Iraq" does is to record various forms of media manipulation leading up to the war; as well as to provide background and context to the current process of unfolding revelations and debate.

Some other similar publications like former United Nations' (UN) weapons inspector Scott Ritter's "War On Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You To Know" and Milan Dai's "War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War On Iraq" have also contributed greatly to this vital documentation. Books are already available on the media's role in the actual war - see, for example, Danny Schechter's "Embedded: Weapons Of Mass Deception: How The Media Failed To Cover The War On Iraq" (see also his Website:

"Target Iraq" clearly shows how the Pentagon's psychological warfare strategy targets not just the US' publicly identified enemies but also the American and allied public. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) cultivation and exploitation of the media has been routine for many years but the US Administration these days can call on a broader range of propaganda sources than ever before. The Pentagon first realised its media potential on a grand new scale with the 1991 Gulf War. "The Bush and Blair administrations are fighting a two-front war: one against Iraq, another for public opinion at home. The major media are as much a battleground as the fortifications in Baghdad. And, for the most part, Bush and Blair have stalwart media soldiers manning the barricades at home" ("TI", p13). In fact, the indoctrination process has been insidious ever since the 1980s with a coalition of the Pentagon and the advertising industry giving rise "to media cross-promotion that increasingly sanitizes the mass destruction known as warfare" (ibid., p32).

Operation names like "Enduring Freedom" are carefully chosen to resonate with the media and publics, providing a suitable cover for all sorts of crimes. "And it's no accident that the new-style names like ‘Just Cause’ [for the December 1989 invasion of Panama] were introduced at around the same time the cable news shows started to label their coverage of major stories with catchy names and logos" (ibid.). This has been mirrored in the print media. For instance, Christchurch's Press, a long-time asset of American foreign policy, has run regular items since September 11, 2001, highlighted with a coloured picture of the latest US-targeted villain - a Muslim terrorist, especially Osama bin Laden, and then later Saddam Hussein, along with the repetition of titles like the "War on Terror", and the "Iraq Agenda".

Marketing American repression and selling the latest war is centrally integral to the Bush Administration and its overseas public relations agents. The ongoing military campaign of "Enduring Freedom", in which NZ is deeply implicated, means the freedom for the US to bomb, kill and maim whoever they choose, and have this justified, not of course as "terror", but as "war", a term much more compatible with Western perceptions and self-image. George Orwell's work obviously provides some of the inspiration for the authors of "Target Iraq" and never before have Orwell's warnings been so timely and accurate.

Capitalist Growth, Militarisation And The Media

As "Target Iraq" reminds us again and again, "war is big - very big - business" (ibid., p27). The Bush Administration's doctrine of "pre-emptive war" and the targeting of Iraq were planned well before the invasion in early 2003. The plot to take over Iraq by armed force was hatched by "a small circle of conservative think tanks and weapons lobbying groups like the Project for a New American Century (PNAC)", whose members have pressed for this policy for over a decade (ibid.; quote from William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute, New York, writing in late 2002). The PNAC's founding document was signed by Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and numerous others who are now key players in the Bush Administration. "Regime change" has been a critical goal of this cabal for Iraq (a Panorama special report on Iraq, "The Case Against War" presented such insights on TV1, 16/2/03).

"Like the Coalition for the Liberation of Iraq, a newly formed group of current and former Washington insiders designed to promote the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq, PNAC draws its support from a tightly knit network of conservative ideologues, Rightwing foundations, and major defense contractors. Bruce P Jackson, a former vice president at Lockheed Martin who is a board member and a founding signatory of the PNAC's mission statement, serves as the chairman of the Coalition to Liberate Iraq" (ibid., p28, quoting Hartung). At the heart then of the Bush Administration is the combination of oil interests and arms manufacture so graphically exemplified by the Bush family dynasty itself. This is the dark core of the military-industrial complex in action, and essential to its operation and continuance is the corporate public relations/media industry.

From their own experience and research over many years, both Solomon and Erlich in "Target Iraq" record how the mainstream media industry exacts conformity on its journalists. For instance, in one chapter Erlich drily observes that: "Money, prestige, career options, ideological predilections - combined with the down sides of filing stories unpopular with the government - all cast their influence on foreign correspondents. You don't win a Pulitzer [American literary prize] for challenging the basic assumptions of empire" (ibid., p18). As he notes elsewhere in the same chapter, the conformity syndrome goes beyond editorial control: "Most journalists who get plum foreign assignments already accept the assumptions of empire. I didn't meet a single foreign reporter in Iraq who disagreed with the notion that the US and Britain have the right to overthrow the Iraqi government by force. They disagreed only about timing, whether the action should be unilateral, and whether a long-term occupation is practical" (ibid., p12).

Solomon quotes reporter Helen Thomas, who covered the White House for several decades for United Press International. After becoming a syndicated columnist at the start of the 21st Century, she commented in a speech that: "It's bombs away for Iraq and on our civil liberties if Bush and his cronies get their way" (ibid., p21). She has also declared that: "I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter" (ibid.). As media critic Herber Schiller has remarked, the main means of control exercised in the mainstream media is "the internalization of values", achieved through "a loose though effective institutional process" (ibid., p22). This is the kind of thing that Noam Chomsky and others have analysed so well in relation to the principle of democracy in general (e.g. see Chomsky's "Necessary Illusions"). Even someone at the centre of the media empire can occasionally worry about the post-September 11 climate, e.g. CBS news anchor Dan Rather has publicly voiced concern about "self-censorship" (ibid., p23).

Obscene Obfuscation

It is yet greatly heartening that the real "Iraq Agenda" of both the media and those orchestrating it have been exposed so well in terms of analysis both before and after the 2003 US/British/Australian invasion. Oil is the main reason for the invasion (see Murray Horton's article in the previous Watchdog, no. 102, May 2003. This can be read online at "But that view is subject to mockery in Washington and much of the major US media" ("TI", p108). For the most part, this ideological line is faithfully echoed here in Aotearoa/NZ by the mainly foreign-controlled media. The irony is that there is so much evidence to the contrary, often in "the business sections of US and European newspapers" where capitalists talk seriously to one another (ibid.).

Oil considerations, according to the standard US media contention, motivate the governments of certain other big countries with influence in the Middle East like those of France and Russia but not that of the US itself. "This is all the more curious when we bear in mind that George W Bush ran an oil company, Vice President Dick Cheney was the chief executive officer (CEO) of the oil equipment corporation Halliburton, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice served as a member of Chevron's board of directors" (ibid., p109). In turn, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is closely linked to the head of British Petroleum (BP). One of the leading lights of the newly installed puppet government in Iraq, the notorious Ahmed Chalabi, met in October 2002 with the executives of three major US oil corporations "to negotiate the carve-up of Iraq's massive oil reserves post-Saddam (ibid., p112). Companies like Halliburton are poised ready to get a share of the estimated $1.5 billion in contracts to rebuild the Iraqi oil industry (ibid. p113).

The cover headline on a recent Fortune magazine has put the real agenda out in front openly enough - "Making Iraq Safe for Capitalism" (no. 13, 14 July 2003). Predatory exploitation is certainly an intoxicating drug. Above all, it demands good PR but while the corporate media does its best the real agenda is still very easy to see for those who want to actually look. The problem that the Right always has in such situations is that its motivation is too transparent - material self-interest obviously determines its every rationale. Imperial reach as promoted by the Bush/Blair duo is done with a democratic gloss that is so gross only the stupid or cynically ideological can parrot its phrases. The inconsistencies and contradictions are glaringly obvious. Consequently, in reaction, critics get accused of peddling conspiracy theories. "No secret cabal need exist, however. The US government - under Republican and Democratic Administrations - clearly promotes control of foreign oil resources as an integral part of US 'national interests'" ("TI", p113). As the authors of "Target Iraq" advise, we must monitor and expose those companies who get to share in the spoils of war.

Iraq was supposedly invaded for its defiance of international law. It is aptly pointed out that since Bush Junior became US President, "the US Government has torn up more international treaties and disregarded more UN conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years. It has scuppered the Biological Weapons Convention [BWC] while experimenting, illegally, with biological weapons of its own. It has refused to grant chemical weapons inspectors full access to its laboratories, and has destroyed attempts to launch chemical inspections in Iraq" (ibid., p51; quoting Professor George Monbiot, writing in August 2002).

Other flagrant US unilateral actions undermining international law include: ripping up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; preparations to violate the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; carrying out open assassination attacks and CIA covert murder operations across the world; sabotage of the Small Arms Treaty; contempt for the new International Criminal Court; opposition to the UN Convention Against Torture; regular abuse of human rights in its conduct of martial law against captured "terrorists"; refusal to sign the Climate Change Protocol and disregard for other international environmental treaties, as well as its own environmental law whenever corporate interests are at stake; etc. For the most part the mainstream media either ignore these derelictions or put a propaganda spin on them to play down their immensely grim implications.

The Hype Of Hypocrisy

"No double standard has been employed more flagrantly in the Middle East than the US policy regarding 'weapons of mass destruction'" [WMD] (ibid.). The US itself is keenly developing a whole range of new WMD to add to its current arsenal - an arsenal already overwhelmingly the largest of any country. It is deliberately creating a new generation of weapons that deeply threaten the precariously weak international restrictions that are in place today. Research and development (R&D) are proceeding on biological cluster bombs, anthrax and other such horrors. Today, "the Energy Department, Defense Department, and even the CIA conduct classified biodefense programs" (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 59, no. 1, Jan/Feb. 2003, p. 44). Since it did not declare a number of these programmes the US has been in violation of the existing vital but weak BWC ibid.). American activities seem to be based on the belief that the proliferation of bioweapons is inevitable. Not only is this a self-fulfilling prophecy but US policy contortions over Iraq have been extraordinary to say the least. In the past, it helped arm Iraq with some of the very weapons capacity, including anthrax, that it later claimed made Iraq dangerous and deserving of invasion. The general treatment of this issue by the mass media has been abominable to say the least.

"Target Iraq" contains three appendices: firstly, on the media and the issue of spying by members of the UN weapons inspection team; secondly, a detailed analysis of President Bush's crucial Cincinnati speech on Iraq, delivered on 7th October, 2002; and, thirdly, an analysis of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441 as adopted on 8th November, 2002. These Appendices as well as an Afterword by anti-war activist and actor/director Sean Penn take up a large part of the book. The Appendices provide important material. The book's analysis of Bush's speech is devastating. Given that "Target Iraq" was written before the 2003 war on Iraq, the reader may well feel outraged that the media widely promulgated Bush's speech, full of such obvious crap even then, as justification for an illegal war in March of the next year. In mid-2003, the ongoing farcical parade of revelations of intelligence manipulations can be set in a context that was already crystal clear in terms of the crassest propaganda being mounted in the last quarter of 2002. If the "free press" had lived up to its name the drive for war would have quickly run out of steam.

Compiled by the Institute for Public Accuracy on 8th October, 2002, Appendix Two includes Bush's speech as taken apart by the contributions of 13 analysts:

* Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report;

* Rahul Mahajan, author of "The New Crusade: America's War on Terrorism";

* As'ad Abu Khalil, author of "Bin Laden, Islam and America's New 'War on Terrorism'", and Professor of Political Science at California State University;

* James Jennings, President of Conscience International, a humanitarian aid organisation that has worked in Iraq since 1991;

* Susan Wright, co-author of "Biological Warfare and Disarmament: New Problems/New Perspectives";

* Stephen Zunes, author of "Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism", and Associate Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco;

* Michael Ratner, President of the Center of Constitutional Rights;

* Robert Jensen, author of "Writing Dissent" and an Associate Professor at the University of Texas;

* Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation;

* Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of "The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence";

* Anthony Arnove, editor of "Iraq Under Siege";

* John Berg, director of graduate studies of the government department at Suffolk University;

* Phyllis Bennis, author of "Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis", and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (US).

Many issues are covered in this long and close analysis of Bush's lies and distortions. It is eminently worth reading. Here are some of the lies and their exposure so ably treated in this Appendix. Bush's speech painted a ludicrously imminent threat from Iraq. As Toensing observed: there was "no evidence whatsoever" that Iraq represented such a threat, or even potential threat to the immediate region, let alone the rest of the world ("TI", p126). He went on to say: "Other Powers are actively disrupting the peace in the region: Israel is trying to crush Palestinian resistance to occupation with brute force, and the US and Britain have bombed Iraq 46 times in 2002 when their aircraft are 'targeted' by Iraqi air defense systems in the bilaterally enforced no-fly zones. Most of our 'friends' in the region - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan - have strongly urged us not to go to war, and to tone down the war rhetoric. Aren't they better positioned than we are to judge what threatens their safety?" (ibid.). It is obviously the US which constitutes the greatest danger - both to the region and to the world as a whole.

Sexing Up Terrorism

One of the greatest contradictions of the Bush/Blair policy on WMD, especially for the Muslim Middle East, is that Israel is exempt from scrutiny. Yet Israel has some 200-plus nuclear weapons and is founded on the usurpation of Palestinian land. Furthermore, irony or ironies, Bush failed in his Cincinnati speech, as Abu Khalil pointed out, to duly "credit Reagan's and his father's Administrations - prominent members of which included Rumsfeld and Cheney - for their help in the construction of Saddam's arsenal, especially in the area of germ warfare" (ibid., p127). In turn, Toensing drily comments that: "After being presented with evidence that Iraq had used chemical weapons to attack the Kurds in 1987-88, the Reagan Administration blocked a Senate resolution imposing sanctions on Iraq, and continued to pursue good relations with the regime" (ibid.). As Zunes later observes, the US actually saw fit to "supply Iraq with the seed stock of anthrax spores back in the 1980s" (ibid., p131). One of Bush’s main arguments against Iraq was that Saddam had used WMD against his own people. This issue is even murkier and more complicated in that a secret American investigation has even attributed the Kurdish deaths to Iranian attacks.

Mahajan has this to say with regard to Bush's charges against Hussein and the alleged use of WMD against his own people: "All of this was done with the full support, approval, and connivance of the US Government" (ibid., pp131/2). He goes on to say: "US-supplied 'agricultural credits' helped fund the sustained counter-insurgency campaign in northern Iraq (against the very Kurds that the US said it was helping in 2003!); the US supplied military intelligence to Iraq for use against Iran even when it knew Iraq was using chemical weapons in the war; and the US ran diplomatic interference* for Iraq at the UN" (ibid., p132). Zunes also observes that "UN Security Council Resolution 687 calls for Iraqi disarmament as part of a region-wide disarmament effort which the US has refused to enforce or even support" (ibid., p133). * To run interference – an American football (gridiron) term meaning to get several players in position to stop the opposition tackling the ball carrier. Ed.

We have seen certain propaganda claims bomb out in recent times, e.g. the absurdly outlandish claim that Iraq could deploy in 45 minutes WMD that could endanger Britain and the US; and that Iraq had been seeking uranium from Niger. Incidentally, Mahajan notes that such unenriched uranium would not have been useful to Saddam's regime anyway "since enrichment facilities are large, require huge investment, and cannot easily be hidden" (ibid., p128). Among the Bush/Blair claims, there have even been allegations about things as specific as mobile chemical/biological weapons vehicles, allegations that have proved to be as fraudulent as everything else to date. While the US develops a new high-tech unmanned bomber that can strike anywhere on earth at very short notice, Bush peddled in his Cincinnati speech the bizarrely outrageous claim that Iraq was "exploring ways of using UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for missions targeting the US" (ibid., p134). Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, whom the Bush/Blair duo did their best to discredit (propaganda echoed in the Christchurch Press), has revealed his personal frustration at the very poor quality of the so called "intelligence" he was given about Iraqi WMD.

Analysis of statement after statement in President Bush's speech in "Target Iraq" demonstrates lie after lie, distortion after distortion. Cabasso summed it up in these words: "The hypocrisy in this speech - and in the Bush Administration's overall national security strategy - is monumental. If having WMD and a history of using them are criteria, then surely the US must pose the greatest threat to humanity that has ever existed . . . while the US is massively expanding its biological weapons research capabilities - for example by upgrading its bioresearch facilities at the Livermore and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs to aerosolize live anthrax and genetically modify bio-organisms - it is blocking a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that would allow international inspectors into US facilities. The Bush Administration's unilateral, headlong rush to war threatens to unleash unprecedented regional instability and potentially catastrophic loss of life. It's hard to imagine a more self-destructive course of action" (ibid., pp141/2).

Lies And Damned/Damning Lies

At the time of writing, US forces in Iraq had killed Saddam's sons but the guerrilla war goes on. While the Western media checks off the number of American soldiers dispatched by Iraqi resistance fighters, there is, of course, no such monitoring of all the young children dying because of the war's disruption to basic infrastructure and health care, and its compounding of the already desperate situation before the launching of the full-scale onslaught in March 2003. Over the preceding decade, the cost inflicted by Bush and Blair on the Iraqi people had been horrendous. Damage to water treatment plants, sanction-caused "difficulties importing purification chemicals like chlorine (which can be used for weapons) and shortages of medicines" had already taken an enormous toll of lives and suffering, especially in the deaths and misery of children (ibid., p150). In the words of Arnove, Bush's "real interests in this war are not the Iraqi people, or defending Americans from attack, but expanding US hegemony in the Middle East" (ibid., p151). As Bennis says, Bush's speech "was designed to divert attention from the real reasons" for the war: "oil and empire. It is a war designed to rewrite the political map of the Middle East . . ." (ibid., p154).

Critical to media operations to cover up the real Bush/Blair agenda has been the systematic misleading of the public with regard to UN resolutions. Zunes aptly states that: "There are well over 90 UN Security Council Resolutions that are currently being violated by countries other than Iraq [at the time of his writing]. The vast majority of these resolutions are being violated by allies of the US that receive US military, economic and diplomatic support. Indeed, the US has effectively blocked the UN Security Council from enforcing these resolutions against its allies" (ibid., pp 146/7).

One of the most blatant exercises in propaganda has been the media's calculated perversion of the issue of spying by members of the UN's weapon inspection team. Seth Ackerman of FAIR deals with this matter in the short but telling Appendix One. "Back in 1999, major papers ran front-page investigative stories revealing that the CIA had covertly used UN weapons inspectors, known as UNSCOM, to spy on Iraq for the US's own intelligence purposes" (ibid., p123). Later, these revelations, although well confirmed, disappeared down the memory-hole. Even the very papers like the Boston Globe and the Washington Post which had told the original truth now ran the political line that the charges were simply Saddam's allegations. A similar dissimulation took place with the ending of the weapons inspection in Iraq. The story was put about that Saddam had kicked the inspectors out of Iraq. In fact, they were withdrawn so that Bush and Blair could do more bombing. Another important piece of propaganda concerned the no-fly zones in both northern and southern Iraq. The media pretended that these zones were mandated by the UN when in fact they were simply enforced by the US and Britain.

Appendix Three analyses UN Security Council Resolution 1441, 8th November, 2002. This resolution paved the way for the US to employ force. One of the analysts in this section of the book is Denis Halliday, a former UN Assistant Secretary General who headed the UN's food-for-oil programme in Iraq. He resigned in disgust from this programme because of the deaths and suffering it was causing. Halliday expressed his heart-felt concern: "Have we really bought the fiction, the Washington propaganda, that Iraq is a threat? We all know - the issue is oil, oil, and more oil. And US control thereof. The new resolution [1441] of the UN Security Council is a charade, a device to obscure" (ibid., p155). UN Security Council compliance in this resolution, passed under blatant American bullying and manipulation, was just a figleaf and pretext for the Bush Administration to further freely abuse international law. A unilateral attack by the US and Britain, as subsequently took place, was still illegal in terms of resolution 1441, as is emphasised by Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law (ibid., p157).

The worst aspect of the international situation and the 2003 war on Iraq is that it has flung open the door to the erosion of international law in general. Michael McKinley of the Australian National University has pointed out that this process started with previous US abuses and the American fiction of extra-juridical rights for invasion as in Grenada in 1983; and in Panama in 1989 where the invasion with all its accompanying loss of life and suffering was justified by the Administration to get one man, President Noriega (Radio NZ, Nine To Noon, 3/12/02). The 2003 war on Iraq has struck at the very foundation of the UN Charter. For this Charter explicitly says that war is to be prevented as far as is humanly possible, and only ever resorted to as the very last measure. The whole basis of the UN is predicated on the premise of preventing war. Any pre-emptive war could only be justified if there were clear evidence of imminent danger.

Media Fallout

In "Target Iraq", Mahajan drew attention to the fact that CIA Director, George Tenet, had even, in a letter to the Senate, refuted his President's allegations about the imminent threat posed by Iraq (ibid., p158). Tenet "said clearly the threat of an Iraqi WMD attack was virtually nonexistent, except possibly in the eventuality of a US war for 'regime change' (ibid.).There was no evidence of nuclear weapons capability, none of "weaponizing biological agents", and it was quite clear that Iraq could "have no more than a nominal chemical weapons capability" (ibid.). Ironically enough, of course, following the political fallout after the invasion of Iraq and exposure of the lies spread about its WMD capacity by the Coalition of the Killing, Tenet has had to apologise for supposedly feeding President Bush wrong information. They certainly all deserve one another!

Reports of attacks on Coalition forces in Iraq, despite the regular bias towards the Bush/Blair viewpoint, are yet giving some revelatory insights into Iraqi attitudes and opinion. One Reuters report described the gleeful mood shown by local Iraqis after an attack in mid-July 2003 near Abu Ghraib, 25 km west of Baghdad. A teenager said: We are happy because this is an occupation" (Press, 17/7/03). He continued: "The Americans lied to us when they said they would save us from Saddam. They just want to occupy our country" (ibid.). There are plenty of other reports testifying much the same view (e.g. Press, 14-15/6/03 & 18/6/03). Meantime, the Press editorial writers soldier on, ever loyal to the imperial imperative. In its considered judgement of the intelligence fiasco, the Press dismissed any charges that "the intelligence was exaggerated by Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair, and Mr. Howard, to justify an otherwise indefensible war" (10/7/03). No way! Indeed, for the Press: "A far more plausible explanation for the failure to find any such weapons is that this is simply another example of the inadequacy of Western intelligence about the Middle East" (ibid.). Oh, my gosh, all those poor people killed, injured and otherwise hurt as a result of this "inadequacy" . . . but, hey, never mind, now that the Coalition is in control at least we have all that good oil . . .

Yet even the Press, however, has had to print some of the revelations of intelligence bungling or manipulation. For instance, earlier in June it reported that the Pentagon's intelligence officials "said last September [2002] there was 'no reliable information' that Iraq had chemical weapons or even the ability to make them" (9/6/03). It was noted, too, that a "classified report on Iraq's weapon capabilities, produced by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency and seen by the Times, was read by senior Bush Administration officials at the time that the US and Britain began making the case in earnest for disarming Saddam" (ibid.). Moreover, this US Intelligence report "coincided with the publication of the British Government's controversial dossier warning of the dangers of Saddam's WMD" (ibid.).

The Press news item, sourced from the Times, actually refers to President Bush's Cincinnati speech analysed in Appendix Two of "Target Iraq". It comments that: "The following month, in a primetime televised speech, President George W. Bush delivered his first major set-piece argument for the disarming of Saddam, saying that Iraq 'possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons" (ibid.). WMD in this regard obviously means Weapons of Mass Deception.

On 12 April 2003, TVNZ’s One News featured an item which showed John Minto and other Auckland peace activists protesting against TV1's coverage of the war on Iraq. TV1 claimed that it was being objective. With the honourable exception of the BBC Panorama documentary cited earlier and a small amount of other content, TV1 has certainly operated like a branch of the US Information Service. There has been a relentless stream of Coalition propaganda, often sourced from the major operators like CNN. At one point, newsreader Richard Long, in his news commentary on the fall of Baghdad, was so moved as to refer to President Bush's "fight for freedom"!

Looking Ahead

It must surely be one of the greatest travesties in the history of international relations that a country which had suffered devastation in an earlier recent war from the same attackers, and had been crippled and ruined by sanctions since, as well as regularly bombed, to say nothing of being subjected to close intelligence scrutiny and subversion, should then be the subject of a hugely cynical propaganda campaign resulting in illegal invasion and occupation. And all this in the name of liberty and peace.

Another major terrorist attack on a US target will again revive the media strategy of warmongering propaganda. The US could even manufacture some pretext to go to war with Iran, Syria, North Korea, or some other country. American strategy is bound to generate more crises. So most assuredly we need to both learn and disseminate the lessons from the tragically tortured history of the media and Iraq in order to be as pre-emptive as possible in the years to come.

Another excellent analysis of media coverage of the Iraq War is "The Invasion Of Iraq – And How The Media War Was Won And Lost: Half Truths And Media Spin. Whom Do You Believe?" by David Robie. This is published in Peace Researcher 27, August 2003. Peace Researcher is the journal of the Anti-Bases Campaign and can be read online at Ed.

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Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. August 2003.


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