Viewpoint: Here comes ‘feel good’ news about Iraq

With an eye on the upcoming fall congressional elections, George W. Bush is trying frantically to put the best face on things that he can. That lies behind the continuing neocon whine that the media aren’t telling all the good news about Iraq.

He urged the media recently in Cleveland to look for those stories that support his being “so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq.” He implied that the images the American public sees on television may interfere with his “plan for victory in Iraq.” Bush further hinted that the media is to blame for the fact that “some Americans have had their confidence shaken.” He said: “There is a constant sort of perception, if you will, that’s created because what’s newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad.”

The right-wing echo chamber picked up the cue and repeated the same lines about Bush “haters” and the “liberal media” (some of their favorite buzz words) all are out to get the president and only report the negative stories about Iraq to scuttle the “successes” being made there.

No doubt there are many instances of kindnesses done by our troops for unfortunate Iraqi civilians, but focusing exclusively on those would be a distortion and falsification of reality.

To speak of success in the Iraq debacle when U.S. troops hardly dare to venture out of the Green Zone in Baghdad is to live in fantasy land. The war seen on American television contrasts sharply with the grim and gory scenes presented on Arab television. Visitors here from other countries are astounded at how much the U.S. public is not told.

Even though the war in Iraq was launched from a platform of lies, Bush and Rove still try to use fear to try to keep the public in line. It was the corporate media that eagerly jumped in line and “sold” the malarkey about weapons of mass destruction, uranium from Niger and all the other inventions that were offered as reasons for invading Iraq.

When those moldy cookies began to crumble, the Roveian White House began peddling the mythology that we were there to “liberate” Iraq and then to “spread democracy” in the Mideast. While those claims are very stale, Bush tried again in Cleveland to peddle the lie that Saddam was linked to al-Qaeda and 9/11.

The major news organizations, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, major television networks and their affiliates, cable news and leading news magazines, all perpetuated the myth to the delight of the neocons.

The idea of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden is a joke. Saddam ruled one of the most secular countries in the Mideast, while bin Laden is a religious fanatic and an old business partner of the Bush family.

The deluge of “good news” stories has begun, and there will be many more. We’ll hear about how some of our troops put up a school or got a bicycle for some young Iraqi boy, or building a new road, while ignoring any stories about possible violations of the Genvea Convention.

These kinds of “reports” are as necessary to perpetuating Bush’s phony case for war as were the more recent bogus stories in The New York Times by former star reporter Judith Miller—direct from Ahmad Chalabi to you or the fact that The Times sat on the wiretap story for a year until reporter James Risen was about to disclose it in a book about the topic.

The administration now faces a new embarrassment—a growing number of Iraq War veterans who are against Bush’s misadventure and who regret what they had to do in that country. They have formed a group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and are spreading their experiences across the nation, much to the white-hot hate of the military bureaucracy.

Michael Blake is one of those who served and now decries that service. He said most U.S. soldiers were told little about Iraq, Iraqis or Islam. “The message was always ‘Islam is evil’ and ‘They hate us.’ Most of the guys I was with believed it,” Blake said.

Jody Casey backs the military, but he is speaking out in hopes of correcting many of the mistakes he witnessed. He said from the highest level of command on down, there is little regard for the Iraqis. They were routinely called “hajjis,” the Iraqi equivalent of “gook.”

“They basically jam into your head: ‘This is hajji! This is hajji!,’” Casey said. “You totally take the human being out of it and make them into a video game.” Asked if that was a technique for dehumanizing the Iraqis, he said: “Yeah, if you start looking at them as humans, and stuff like that, then how are you going to kill them?”

Casey added: “You could basically kill whoever you wanted—it was that easy. You did not even have to get off (the vehicle) and dig a hole or anything. All you had to do was have some kind of picture. You’re driving down the road at 3 in the morning. There’s a guy on the side of the road. You shoot him…you throw a shovel off.” That was to give the impression the victim had been planting an explosive device beside the roadway.

It wasn’t so long ago that Vice President Dick Cheney declared that the resistance in Iraq was “in its last throes.” Too bad he didn’t learn from history. The British could have told him. Between 1920 and 1932, the forces of the Crown battled resistance fighters who never weakened and never let up. The British bombed Iraqi villages but ended by pulling out their troops after they were assured their oil interests would be protected.

Remember what the pundits were saying just a short while after the invasion of Iraq? “Congress returns to Washington this week to a world very different from the one members left two weeks ago. The war in Iraq is essentially over, and domestic issues are regaining attention.” (Bob Edwards, NPR, April 28, 2003)

“Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics’ complaints.” (Tony Snow, Fox News, April 27, 2003)

Here’s another: “The only people who think this wasn’t a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington.” (Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, April 19, 2003)

“We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back.” (Howard Fineman, Newsweek, on MSNBC, May 7, 2003.) And: “Now that the combat phase of the war in Iraq is officially over, what begins is a debate throughout the entire U.S. government over America’s unrivaled power and how best to use it.” (Joie Chen, CBS News, May 4, 2003)

Despite all that, and all the lies that preceded and followed it, we are supposed to believe Bush’s claims of “progress in Iraq.” No way. The corporate media will trumpet that hogwash to curry favor with the administration and to try to look like patriots for their viewers and readers. The war will go on, and so will the lies.

From the April 5-11, 2006, issue

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