“How blatantly can an administration lie to promote a war and get away with it?” was a very good question asked by Robert Jensen (in an April 27 Philadelphia Inquirer article). Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. To whip up fear and pro-war fervor in the American people, Jensen wrote, “U.S. officials lied and distorted the truth for months.” A few examples:
•After U.S. officials claimed that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, later explained that the documents on which the U.S. claim was based were “faked.”
•In Colin Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003, UN exhortation to war, he claimed that a “poison and explosive training center camp” existed in northeastern Iraq. A few days later, when journalists visited the site, they found a “dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings” and no evidence to support Powell’s claims.
•The 19-page British intelligence report praised in Powell’s Feb. 5 performance was revealed a few days later (by England’s Channel Four News) to have been plagiarized from three different previously published articles. Powell lauded the 19-page report for its “exquisite detail” about “Iraqi deception activities.”
One irony, of course, is that plagiarism itself is a deceptive activity. Plagiarism is but one piece of an entire quilt of U.S. fabrications, desperately stitched together by the imperialists to shield their naked greed and amorality from the eyes of U.S. residents. After all, if they stood boldly before us with the declaration that they were going to use working-class sons and daughters to massacre innocent humans and steal those people’s resources and right to self-determination, most working-class people in the U.S. would demur.
The U.S. corporate media, in spite of a few articles here and there, is also a great danger to the American people’s ability to think logically. For instance, CNN, mistakenly trusted by some, is no guardian of the public’s right to know the facts. The 2002 book Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, edited by Kristina Borjesson, revealed the “propagandistic nature” of CNN’s war coverage in Afghanistan, in a chapter by journalist Robert McChesney. Fearing the “outrage” of the U.S. ruling class if CNN presented critical coverage to the U.S. population, CNN president Walter Isaacson ordered CNN to, as McChesney says, “provide two different versions of the war: a more critical one for the global audience and a sugarcoated one for Americans.” One element of the American version, per Isaacson’s order, is that U.S. viewers must always see a clear relationship between Sept. 11, the “war on terrorism” and news coverage of U.S. aggression in the Middle East, even when there is no “clear relationship.” Is it any wonder that some Americans think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in Sept. 11?
It should anger us that the capitalists have such raw contempt for the American working class whom they urge on to war with appeals to “patriotism.” Then again, that’s the same contempt with which we are viewed and fought against when we need to organize unions, when we need healthcare, or our children need well-funded public education. It is that same basic contempt for humanity that allows corporate CEOs to cheat workers out of their pensions. It is that same contempt that allows imperialist aims to be more important to the ruling class than the very lives they end for profit.
The blatant lies are also evidence of ruling-class fear of resistance. They fear us even as they have contempt for our lives and intelligence, much as the owners of chattel slaves in America denied the right to read to most enslaved Africans. The price of being caught learning to read was death. Now we are allowed to read, but the ruling class fights ruthlessly to control what we read and see. For that reason, Communist Party USA members were imprisoned during the vicious McCarthy witch-hunt in the 1950s. Those who would be our masters understand the importance of keeping exploited workers ignorant of the root cause of their misery, capitalism. So they lie. But their patchwork quilt of lies (“evidence” of weapons of mass destruction, using “democracy” to cover other motives, manufacturing intelligence reports, tying Hussein to 9/11, and on and on) is insufficient to cover the tremendous crime they have committed against the innocent people of Iraq.
Barbara Jean Hope is a reader in Philadelphia. She can be reached at Bjhope2000@cs.com