Coalition Of Deception
by Edward Herman
March 07, 2003
The media regularly speak of the "United States" or "Bulgaria," as in "United States not affected by protests" (Philadelphia Inquirer) or "United States says protesters strengthen Saddam" (Financial Times), or "Bulgaria joins U.S.coalition in support of Iraq war." By United States or Bulgaria they mean U.S. and Bulgarian government officials, not the people of the country. This usage is an economizing device, but it is highly misleading, especially where the governments are out of touch with their people and may be doing things contrary to popular desires and interests.
Where governments are serving special interests, or are bribed or bullied by other countries to take actions opposed by their people, using "United States" or "Bulgaria" as short-hand for their unresponsive government is deceptive and serves as government propaganda. The media should say "government," or "government officials," or "ruling junta" or "ruling minority government." They should also provide some relevant context, by pointing out that, having engaged in a huge propaganda blitz using taxpayer money to engineer consent to a war,and failed to win over the public, the junta remains unwilling to bend in response to public demands. But this assumes a media that is independent and not an arm of the war party.
The same word corruption applies to the treatment of "coalitions of the willing" that the United States and Britain have built in support of their drive to war and massacre.
These coalitions have had two major characteristics of interest: first, they have been formed largely with vulnerable governments fearful of displeasing the Bush administration and being denied entry into NATO or suffering a funds cutoff; and second, a majority of their people is opposed to the planned war on Iraq. Instead of "coalitions of the willing" we have essentially "coalitions of the fearful, bribed, or coerced" but the latter wording is found only on the Internet and in dissident and foreign media. Similarly, the media don't use words like "bribery" and "blackmail" or "coercion" to refer to U.S. efforts to bribe, blackmail and coerce support--no, we "lobby" and make "deals" for that support.
The patriotic (i.e., mainstream) media also do not feature and reflect on the fact that the coalitions of the willing are made up of governments acting contrary to the desires of their people, whose feelings are strong enough to cause large numbers to protest in the streets. Occasionally the media mention the junta's "struggle" to overcome public sentiment, but they never suggest that this is deeply antidemocratic. The patriotic media are rooting for the home team, and if the citizenry here or abroad stand in the way we rooters can hardly look at it from their viewpoint--or from any principled standpoint.
In fact, the media and politicians are hostile to local protests and get very pugnacious about foreigners who fail to support "our team" as it strides about the world assaulting its targets on distant continents. Cartoons and jokes about the Germans, French and Belgians proliferate as the pundits rant and rave about this traitorous, selfish and cowardly behavior.
The pundits and cartoonists throw their verbal tantrums like a pack of badly spoiled children who can't bear being crossed. The one thing they never do is consider the possibility that the policies the traitors won't support are bad and should be rejected. The spoiled brats can never admit this because they are "Good Americans"--remember the sardonic references to "Good Germans"?--who never challenge their leaders, and especially a Republican who so loyally serves the corporate community and military-industrial complex.
I love the denigration of the French for "cowardice." It is cowardly to be unwilling to join a coalition of the Godfather and assorted poodles who are preparing to assault yet another small country that has been crushed by war, sanctions and enforced disarmament and is essentially defenceless. This is the age of pitying the poor super-Goliath as he mobilizes his coalitions of the brave to help him deal with a sick David whose hands are tied behind his back.
In fact, the word "war" is a gross misnomer for the forthcoming assault--we are dealing instead with a prospective "massacre" by unilateral aggression. A war implies a fight between forces that,if not equal, are at least in the same league, with the outcome not completely certain and with most of the casualties of the attacker not likely to be inflicted by "friendly fire" (as was the case during the Persian Gulf war of 1991). In this case the aggressor has it all worked out that he will bombard the defenseless target for several days before invading in a "shock and awe" strategy, and then take over the victim country, install a military government, and eventually divide up the spoils. This is all known in advance, which makes it not "war" but plain aggression and massacre.
Some of the most Kafkaesque language developed in the massacre-planning has involved the UN. It is by now a longstanding U.S. official tradition to treat the UN as a propaganda cover when available, and to ignore it when not serviceable. The last thing in the world that U.S. officials would contemplate would be to meekly accept a position taken by a UN majority that ran counter to official plans. The Godfather gives orders, he does not take them from others.
In the Iraq massacre case, the Bush administration was apparently persuaded by its "dove," the Mylai massacre coverup man,Colin Powell, to try to seek a UN cover rather than go it alone (with Britain) on an openly unilateral basis. This has involved some delightful linguistic maneuvers and intellectual somersaults.
The Bush-Blair view of the role of the UN has been best put by Blair's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in his classic: "We are completely committed to the United Nations route, if that is successful." The Bushies themselves have been pretty frank about the fact that going to the UN is pro forma, and that they intend to commit aggression with or without UN approval.
They have repeatedly said that the UN had better approve if it is to retain its "relevance." Relevance here means serviceability to the Godfather, with the clear implication that doing his bidding is the criterion of UN usefulness. There is also the possible implication that a failure here would mean that the UN will not be able to function in the future because of Godfather opposition and/or defunding and sabotage. Others have argued that if the UN DOES approve the massacre that THAT will end its relevance, as it will have demonstrated not only a lack of independence and inability to stop a war (massacre) of aggression, but will have sanctioned that aggression.
The Bushie push for war has run into the problem that going through the UN has required a revised format in which the Bushies allegedly aim at "disarming" the bad man rather than ending his rule and inserting a U.S. puppet. So there has been a jockeying in which the pretense is maintained that disarmament is the aim, whereas in fact the aim has long and clearly been "regime change."
Given the Bushie aim, there was no way disarmament would have satisfied them, so the entire inspections enterprise has been a charade--now exploded by the Bushie assertion once again (March 1)that only a new regime would suffice. Nevertheless, the patriotic media have kept up the pretense that all Bush wanted was disarmament and that his claims that the inspections program wasn't "working" were not just a cover for a quasi-hidden massacre-cum- occupation agenda.
Another delightful gambit has been the notion that avoiding war required everybody going along with Bush, thereby "keeping the pressure on" Saddam. If everybody agreed with the Bushies, and they were given carte blanche for war, this wouldn't mean the start of the war Bush has been eagerly seeking, it would help avoid war! A variant of this Kafkaism is that poor Colin Powell was isolated by the failure of the French and Germans to give Bush carte blanche.
This was beautifully stated in a New York Times piece by Steven R. Weisman: After stating that Powell was "abruptly on the defensive" within the administration when France and Germany refused to "clear the way for a military attack," Weisman says that in consequence Powell "has less leverage to stop military action...and less inclination to try" ("Refusal by French and Germans to Back U.S. on Iraq Has Undercut Powell's Position," Jan. 24, 2003).
In other words, if Powell had succeeded in getting everybody on board the war bandwagon--"clearing the ground for military attack"--this would have given him leverage to stop a war whose ground he had just successfully cleared!
Another gambit has been the fright factor and growing menace of Saddam, that Powell called the "seething threat to the world" that the demon poses, which seems to enlarge as the inspectors find little or nothing and the Godfather positions more and more weapons and troops for the massacre. This is a fresh variant of Hoover's Law (i.e. longtime FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover's Law), which was that the Red Threat increases as the number of Reds shrink, approaching infinity as the number of Reds nears zero. In symmetry, Powell's Law is that Saddam's threat grows and seethes toward Armaggedon as his weaponry and military capacity approaches full disarmament.
We are living in a Golden Age of Kafkaisms--preemptive self-defense; Bush the moralist about to engage in mass killing justified by serial lies that would have made Baron Munchausen envious; Bush deeply upset at Saddam's failure to abide by Security Council Resolutions, a crime that George Bush, his comrade in arms Ariel Sharon, the Democrats, and mainstream media can't abide. And there is more--much more!
First published in Z Magazine / Znet
Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
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