One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we’ve been so credulous.
-- Carl Sagan
US President George Bush sought to pin the blame on faulty intelligence. The absurdity of this suggestion is the implication that the entire intelligence network within the Coalition of the Willing [sic] must have been in error. There were warnings from the various domestic intelligence agencies but Bush and his imperial lapdogs, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, chose to ignore warnings from their intelligence agencies. (1)
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, although belatedly, has declared the invasion to be “illegal.” He bemoaned the disregard for the rule of law. “Again and again,” said Annan, “we see laws shamelessly disregarded.” Can a timid Annan then explain what the rationale is for having a war criminal such as Bush pontificate before UN members shortly thereafter? German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was unwilling to criticize Bush’s speech. He evasively said, “I think it’s very important what Kofi Annan said about the rule of law in the 21st century so I don’t want to go more into the details because this would be very unpolite.” It is one thing that the UN long ago saw its raison d’être undermined by the US, but it is another when it sits, unabashedly, with hardly a murmur of protest against the US government’s defiance of international norms. In doing so it adduced the lament of French philosopher Albert Camus: “The absurd is born of the confrontation between the human call and the unreasonable silence of the world.”
It is superfluous to state that from the beginning, the invaders of Iraq have sought to limit access to information and spin what comes out of it. This is especially true, when it comes to the number of fatalities on all sides. The corporate media and the US government circumvented any valid discussion of this topic and its immense implication.
The scene that follows this situation is daunting -- while the house is burning all around them, Bush keeps telling Americans that everything in Iraq is hunky-dory. Iraq’s quisling interim “prime minister,” Ayad Allawi, even mouthed reassuring words about the situation on the Iraqi front allegedly written by Dan Senor, a spokesperson for former occupation overseer Paul Bremer and now working in the same capacity for the behind-the-scenes occupation head John Negroponte. (2)
Great numbers of people are dying in Iraq according to reliable statistics. A group of academics at Iraq Body Count is tracking civilian fatalities. They list confirmed Iraqi civilian fatalities as just over 14,000. An Iraqi political movement The People’s Kifah confidently stated in July: “We are 100% sure that 37,000 civilian deaths is a correct estimate.” The monopoly media and progressive media both tend to stay with the conservative estimates. (3)
At the close of October, the prestigious, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published cluster-sampling data that pointed to Iraqi civilian casualty figures being far underestimated. The paper’s researchers considered that passive methodologies like at Iraq Body Count tend to have a “low sensitivity” and are more useful as trend indicators rather than as accurate count estimators. The Lancet article estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died subsequent to the US-led aggression. (4) But for US authorities this falls very much within the “price is worth it” range.
While the slain Iraqi defenders and resistance fighters are almost entirely ignored (5), counts are kept for US military fatalities. As of 22 October Paul de Rooij had tabulated 1018 US military fatalities since 1 May, but indicated that some hostile-death figures are “simply not credible.” The figures are approximations because “the Pentagon and their media surrogates are attempting to hide the true extent of the carnage among its soldiers.” (6)
Given the mendacity of US authorities, it is necessary for people who wish to avoid being propagandized to seek more diverse and credible media sources. It also behooves readers to balance their information with Iraqi accounts untainted by the occupiers. Reports from the Iraqi resistance, as might be expected, are at variance with western media reports of US fatalities and combat outcomes. The Iraqi Resistance Report is a voice that provides a far more ominous portrayal of the carnage suffered by US forces in Iraq. The Iraqi Resistance Report seeks to break the “US stranglehold on the international and Arab mainstream media.” (7)
In so doing the intrepid reporters are risking their lives to give an accurate account of the military confrontation. Since the start of 2004, 30 journalists and media workers have been killed -- 24 of them Iraqis. Reporters sans frontières condemns what it sees as an intimidatory program of targeted killings. (8)
These resistance reporters paint a picture vastly at odds with that of the occupiers and its quislings -- one of a growing and successful resistance. The Iraqi Resistance Report declared that the resistance “has spread to virtually every part of occupied Iraq and has taken on and destroyed virtually every type of equipment used by the US ground forces and their satellites and stooges.”
In the Friday, 29 October Iraqi Resistance Report, the tally of the US military fatalities came to 72, with 17 soldiers captured, 9 US intelligence operatives killed, and three captured. The report noted a plethora of resistance activity from resistance bombings, rocket launches against US bases, US vehicles destroyed, and US crimes against Iraqi civilians. (9)
As might be expected, the report tends to marginalize resistance fatalities while exalting resistance martyrs. This, however, in no way diminishes the report’s relevance, especially in comparison to western media reporting.
There is a logical disconnect within the progressive media whereby the government agenda is criticized and its pronouncements are found to be fraudulent but the government data on fatalities are accepted and used for reporting purposes with hardly an asterisk.
Aldous Huxley once wrote, “The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”
The accounts of war are not about truth but rather about exaggeration and propaganda. To ascertain what most closely approximates truth, however, the reader should have access to all information from which he or she can draw conclusions.
It is in the interest of the US government that Iraqi civilian deaths are underreported and that its own military deaths are minimized. The concentration on US military deaths is understandable and the rationale is sound, but only as it relates to US domestic politics. The defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam has been at least partially attributed to the high casualties suffered by US forces there. This helped trigger the US exodus from Vietnam. The morality, however, is dubious as much as callous. Two to four million Vietnamese perished in comparison to a reported 58,000 US soldiers.
The US constitution established that all men are created equal. The revered “founding” fathers, besides excluding men without property, indentured servants, and women from constitutional provisions, further repudiated their own legal handiwork by keeping slaves and waging a genocidal campaign against the First Nations of the continent. When a state’s existence is birthed in such inauspicious and paradoxical circumstances, it is hardly surprising then that with the passing of the years that the development of a delinquent state would be the result.
It is a state that deems acceptable the sacrifice of hundreds-of-thousands of civilians, including women and children, to overthrow the government of another country that is considered contemptible. The regime of Saddam Hussein, as it turned, was no threat to the US.
The US does not stand alone in this perfidy. The extant remnants of the former British empire have stood staunchly behind the supreme breach of international crime: an unprovoked aggression, and against a much smaller and disarmed country.
Australia openly supports the imperial aggression while hypocritical countries like Canada feign opposition but collude in the aggression. Canadian naval vessels patrol the Persian Gulf, have military officers serving at occupation headquarters in Qatar, and make sure that there are sufficient bullets produced for weapons to be used in killing sprees by US military. It is an undeniable involvement in war profiteering and murder. (10)
One Danish commentator revealed the hypocrisy of a universal and equal regard for human life by transposing the nationality of the fatalities. Just as American racism was exposed by the insouciance to Vietnamese fatalities vis-à-vis American fatalities, so it is with Danes and the value attached to a Danish live versus an Iraqi life. (11)
Consequently, there is a need to assess information streaming in from resistance sources in Iraq just as equally as U.S. sources. Hard data are available but the incompleteness of such data can skew timely interpretation. Of course, skepticism of information, whether corroborated or not, is prudent. The marginalization of divergent views, however, is rather contradictory for progressive media. To the extent that people entertain reports emanating from a US administration reveling in a stew of prevarication it seems only fair and balanced to consider news from opposing sources.
The occupation has seen Iraq turn into a Mad Max world where the streets are no-go zones replete with shootings, car bombings, and kidnappings of foreigners. Fear of the streets even caused at least one US military unit to refuse an assignment. (12) Most military units prefer to remain ensconced behind the relative safety of the Green Zone. But even the heavily fortified Green Zone is no longer safe. The Washington Post reports, “In Baghdad’s Green Zone, mortar shells come flying in so regularly that the Americans working there run office betting pools on when the next will arrive.” (13) Indeed Americans are dying in the Green Zone now. (14)
Academic Immanuel Wallerstein has evoked a surreal future image -- à la the US evacuation of the Saigon Embassy -- of frantic Americans trying to escape from the Green Zone. (15)
To consume information from only one viewpoint is to court bias. Those who neglect or refuse to read Iraqi accounts are playing hit and miss with the truth. For example, who is in better position to learn and tell the truth about the situation on the ground in Iraq? The people who are only taking in information from the corporate media are likeliest getting a warped perspective.
Why are some analysts calling for the pullout of US forces from Iraq now if there aren’t substantial American casualties?
Would longtime Senator Ted Kennedy have criticized US policy on Iraq as “disaster after disaster” if the US fighters were unscathed? There exists a high plausibility that the Abu Ghuraib scandal was a function of the doomed occupation.
The 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians shouldn’t unduly ruffle too many feathers in the chickenhawk coop. But when the news of increasing numbers of dying Americans reaches US shores, the situation becomes untenable. Insofar as reports focused on the loss of American lives accelerate the defeat of aggression and imperialism in Iraq, it may well be an acceptable short-term strategy.
The racist ideology whereby some lives are considered worthier than other lives is the utmost form of aberration that humanity could ever invent. While the abrogation of such racist mentality is mandatory, there is limited moral courage anywhere to take the first step. The absence of courage is not only morally reprehensible but it lowers the threshold for the indiscriminate taking of human lives. It is time for revolutions to extirpate dangerous ideologies such as supremacist, militarist capitalism and racist, colonialist Zionism that spawn violence and hatred around the globe.
Although the following may sound moralizing, it is past time that world nations seize wealth and redistribute it equitably for a planet suffering from unmitigated greed and aggressions. This could be one possible path to genuine freedom for a world without war and poverty.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) James Bamford, A Pretext For War (Doubleday, 2004); Oonagh Blackman, “Blair: Intelligence was wrong but war was right,” Mirror, 12 October 2004; Andrew Wilkie, “A lack of intelligence,” smh.com.au, 31 May 2003
(2) AFP, “White House allegedly wrote Allawi speech,” Indymedia, 2 October 2004
(3) Ahmed Janabi, “Iraqi group: Civilian toll now 37,000,” Aljazeera, 31 July 2004
(4) Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham, “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey, The Lancet, 29 October 2004
(5) Kim Petersen, “Rubber Numbers and the Sanctity of Human Life: The Expendability of Them to Attain Our Political Ends,” Dissident Voice, 8 March 2004
(6) Paul de Rooij, “The
Military Death Toll While Enforcing the Occupation of Iraq:
(7) Muhammad Abu Nasr, “Note to readers,” Iraqi Resistance Reports
(8) “Iraqi woman journalist shot dead in Baghdad,” Reporters sans frontières, 28 October 2004
(9) Muhammad Abu Nasr, Events of Tuesday, 26 October 2004 through Friday, 29 October 2004,” Iraqi Resistance Reports
(10) Chris Spannos, “Canadian Bullets, Dead Iraqis,” ZNet Blogs, 8 September 2004
(11) Jan Øberg, “11 danskere dræbt i Irak,” TFF, 19 October 2004
(12) AFP, “US troops refuse to go on Iraq ‘suicide run’,” Manila Times, 17 October 2004
(13) Peter Carlson, “Inside the Green Zone, Iraq Is More Midwest Than Mideast,” Washington Post, 12 October 2004
(14) Nancy A. Youssef and Patrick Kerkstra, “Deadly blasts rattle Iraq’s Green Zone,” Seattle Times, 15 October 2004
(15) Immanuel Wallerstein, “MidEast Cauldron,” ZNet, 30 October 2004
Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen
* A Pretext
* The Progressive Paradox: Defining Viability
* The Shame
* The Wrong Direction
* The Pornography of War