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War Whores Supply the Lies

War whore" is the name. They're the ladies and gentlemen of the media who whoop, holler and thigh-slap the United States into war. Day in and day out, hour after hour, on the TV news channels in particular, they tingle with happy excitement as they strain to infect their viewers (and somewhat less often, their readers) with their enthusiasm for the looming death and disfigurement of others.
Going Off to War Supplied With Lies

by Nicholas von Hoffman

"War whore" is the name. They're the ladies and gentlemen of the media who whoop, holler and thigh-slap the United States into war. Day in and day out, hour after hour, on the TV news channels in particular, they tingle with happy excitement as they strain to infect their viewers (and somewhat less often, their readers) with their enthusiasm for the looming death and disfigurement of others.

However much war may depress advertising and ruin the news budgets of the big media corporations, it gooses the ratings and makes stars of the on-air performers. And heroes, too: In December, HBO showed Live from Baghdad, a docudrama glorifying war whoredom. The same show is available around the clock on television as these journalistic war profiteers promote themselves and their careers. You can see the giddy emotional state of these men and women, clutching their microphones as their adrenaline-hyped voices report from Washington, Baghdad, London, Amman or—better yet—the deck of an aircraft carrier. British war correspondent Anthony Loyd wrote in his book, My War Gone By, I Miss It So: "I was delighted with most of what the war offered me: chicks, kicks, cash and chaos ... . " Regard the glistening eyes of the reporters, their happily agitated voices, their perturbed, gulping deliveries, the stagy bathos concealing their erotic delight in destruction and horror. When the histories of how this new war came to be are written, much of the blame—as in 1898, 1917 and 1964—will fall on the role the mass media have played.

The American mass media have been laying down prefatory propaganda barrages for warmonger politicians for the last 100 years, though a corporal's guard of journalists and publications has refused to put propaganda before truth. As times and technologies change, new forms of presentation are invented to whip the yokels up into a patriotic pother. The war logos and the theme music on the news programs are already accepted as a fitting background for what, on some occasions, is little more than murder. On the 24/7 news channels, which have less news than time to fill, it has become a practice to pepper news programs with retired military officers whose actual or potential connections with the Pentagon are not discussed. Another type of media magpie commonly seen on the screen is the moldy scrapings from the bottoms of the think tanks, those soi disant experts whose real expertise is patriotic buncombe, self-promotion and red, white and blue humbug.

As we trot along toward our latest war, the government has come up with a new wrinkle for reporters gullible enough to buy into it. The reporters are being taken to "boot camps" where they are whipped into combat shape, after which they are "embedded" into different combat units to bond with the soldiers and become, more or less, soldiers themselves. These co-opted gulls are the detached observers who will be broadcasting and writing the dispatches that will pass for news back here at home.

Thus the one thing you may be sure of when the conflict breaks out is that you will have no way of knowing what's going on. Information will be withheld or twisted or invented, all interwoven with pieces of accurate news so that it's impossible to sort out the true stuff from the lies and misrepresentations, be they artful or crude. The people at home will not be told what's happening when it's happening. Nor for years after the event, when they may read the real story in history books.

Doubt everything. Trust nothing. Believe nothing. Governments and the media messengers are lying now and were lying then, as witness this small sampling of the lies by omission and commission told by the American government through the press over the last 65 years. These examples are drawn from The First Casualty by Phillip Knightley. Mr. Knightley's book, the work of a quarter of a century, is regarded as the history of the manipulation of news by governments and their reporter friends, from the dawn of war correspondence in the Crimean War up through the mendacities of the Gulf War. For example:

• Although the Japanese knew the extent of American losses at Pearl Harbor, knowledge of it was concealed from the American public. Over half the battleships in the Pacific fleet—five out of nine—had been sunk. Politicians don't like to get bad news and they don't like to deliver it to their people. If something bad—really bad—happens to our people in this war, we won't know about it.

• After the war had ended, reporters were barred from Hiroshima while, at home, Major General Leslie R. Groves, who ran the Manhattan Project, informed the public, "This talk about radioactivity is so much nonsense."

• The accepted narrative of the famous Battle of the Bulge omits that, "while some American soldiers were fighting for their lives," writes Mr. Knightley, "another 19,000 or so were absent without leave, wandering about in bands stealing petrol, hijacking food trucks and trains on the way to the front, and making fortunes on the black market." At the time, no stories about this aspect of the battle found their way into the American mass media.

• Vietnam from start to finish was a carnival of official mendacity. The Congressional resolution which gave President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to wage war there was obtained by fraud. The government claimed the American fleet had been attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin. It simply never happened, but it was an appropriate way to begin the official part of a war during which the United States government lied about everything: casualties, enemy losses, corruption and atrocities.

• In December 1989, an American army invaded Panama in order to lay hands on the country's dictator, General Manuel Noriega, who was also some kind of C.I.A. operative as well as a reputed drug smuggler. What George Bush I's motives were for kidnapping this man are not known—and as for Mr. Noriega, he's been kept incommunicado in a Florida prison for 14 years now. The government claimed the invasion was one of those surgical strikes during which nobody is injured; however, since reporters were not allowed to move around freely in Panama City, there are no American third-party accounts of what actually happened. Latin-American sources say that up to 2,000 civilians were killed and up to 70,000 were wounded. Less easy to cover up were the smoking ruins of the section of the city torched, accidentally or on purpose, by the Americans. The authors of those articles suggest that if people wonder why America is becoming a universal object of hatred, they might inquire among the Panamanians.

• Gulf War I: The conflict was precipitated by the invasion of Kuwait, a corrupt autocratic monarchy, by Iraq. For reasons having more to do with oil than justice, the United States sided with the monarchy. The number of Americans willing to die for Exxon being limited, the government needed something to get our blood boiling. Atrocities were needed. Hill & Knowlton, a public-relations outfit with a long history of painting corpses, was brought in. In short order, the war whores were filling air and print with stories of Iraqi soldiers dumping babies out of incubators onto Kuwaiti hospital floors. Cynics immediately recognized this one as an updated version of the World War I fables about German soldiers bayoneting Belgian babies. The whole business was a complete fiction, but then Gulf War I was rich in untruth. Even a public notorious for its short memory may recall the Patriot-missile hoax. The Patriot, it was claimed, shot down Scud missiles aimed at Israel and Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Patriots shot down very little, but they're back in the newspapers again, updated and ready for Gulf War II.

• Kosovo: Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian dictator, was depicted, of course, as another Hitler, as is Saddam Hussein. Here a Hitler, there a Hitler, everywhere a Hitler—don't leave home for war without this chestnut. Again, atrocities were needed. Mr. Milosevic had committed his fair share of them (along with his enemies) previously in Bosnia and Croatia, but not in Kosovo, where he was accused of using the Serbian Army for ethnic cleansing of the province. Thousands were reported murdered and dumped into mass graves whose existence was authenticated by aerial photography. As if that weren't bad enough, the Serbs had set up "rape camps" where unspeakable things were being done. A nonstop bombing campaign was begun by President Clinton to bring an end to these atrocities. After the war, it developed there were no mass graves and no rape camps, but there was the heavy bombing of civilian targets, ranging from attacking a passenger train full of people at Grdulice, to destroying the public utilities, electricity, water, etc., which the civilian population of Serbia depends on.

• Gulf War II: This conflict has posed an unusual set of propaganda problems. The usual Hitler stuff has been trotted out and made to fit Saddam as best it can, but the war crimes are old—very old. The most frequently made accusation of a Hitlerian type is: "He even used poison gas on his own people." But that crime was committed almost 20 years ago and done with the tacit approval of the United States, since the victims were Kurds, who were allied with the Iranians. Since then, the Kurds have become good guys, but it's hard to get some people to go to war in 2003 to right a wrong committed in 1981.

The government has been stymied in coming up with something bad that Saddam is doing now. They tried "linking" him to Al Qaeda, but—and this represents a rare example of propaganda backfiring—somehow or other, millions have found out that it's a fairy tale.

Hence, Bush II is in a predicament. He has to persuade people that we must attack Iraq for crimes it has not yet committed but which Bush II knows it will. The chosen method has been to fill the air with dozens of accusations, clouds of midge-like lies too numerous and too short-lived to be refuted. By producing volcanic eruptions of fiction, supposition, half-truths and no truths, the world will come to imagine Saddam, mustache and all, is climbing in the bedroom window, oriental dagger in hand. Far-fetched? The war whores are on the streets, strutting. If anybody can make believers out of the market segments and the focus groups, it is they.

Mr. Knightley begins his book with a 1917 quote from Senator Hiram Johnson, the long-forgotten, Progressive-era California Republican giant: "The first casualty when war comes, is truth."

You may reach Nicholas von Hoffman via email at:  nvonhoffman@observer.com.

This column ran on page 4 in the 3/10/2003 edition of The New York Observer.

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'Bush would be guilty at Nuremburg' 07.Mar.2003 19:42


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman: 'Bush would be guilty at Nuremburg'
Posted on Monday, March 03 @ 09:38:18 EST
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

If he launches an attack on Iraq without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, George W. Bush will be guilty of crimes on par with those committed by the infamous Nazi leaders who were tried at Nuremburg in 1948, after World War II.

The law is clear. At Nuremburg, American, British, French and Soviet jurists used international conventions, legal precedent and a global moral consensus to establish a code of conduct deemed the standard for all nations.

Key was the "crimes against humanity" prohibition stemming from the conscious slaughter of six million Jews, leftists, gypsies and others by the Nazi fanatics.

But also crucial was the ban on unprovoked attack by one nation against another. The explosive fuse that set off World War II was the September 1,1939 Nazi attack on Poland, which was unprovoked by any stretch of the military imagination. By all accounts it was an act of aggression and conquest, which led ultimately to as many as 50 million deaths over the next six years.

Article VI of the Nuremburg Charter defines "Crimes Against Peace" as "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties . . . or participation in a common plan or conspiracy . . . to wage an aggressive war.

A week before the unprovoked Nazi assault on Poland, Hitler promised his generals he would provide "a propagandistic reason for starting the war. He then justified a "preemptive" strike based on lies about a non-existent Polish Army attack against Germany.

The Nazi attack date had been set for more than a year. "The victor will not be asked afterwards whether he told the truth or not," Hitler told his generals. "In starting and waging a war it is not right that matters, but victory."

After Hitler's deceptions were revealed at Nuremburg, the surviving Nazis based their defense on the claim of "preventative war," claiming a need to protect Germany from a pending Polish attack. They were the last, until Bush, to use that rationale.

It didn't work. For this attack, ranking Nazi commandants, starting with Hermann Goering, Hitler's Number Two, were convicted and sentenced to death. That charge and that alone was deemed sufficient to warrant hanging.

Unless Saddam Hussein launches an attack on the United States very soon, any American attack on Iraq without UN approval would be on a legal par with the Nazi attack on Poland.

A key US argument, that Iraq was somehow linked to the September 11 terror attacks, has been definitively dismissed. In the eighteen months since, all credible evidence points to intense hostility rather than cooperation between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. Colin Powell, arguing in front of the UN, failed to prove any cooperative connection.

Iraq has been ordered to disarm by the United Nations, whose legal legitimacy was essential to the 1991 campaign that drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Thus far, there is no United Nations consensus that the Iraqis have definitively failed to comply with the terms of that defeat to an extent that would justify a renewed military attack, one that would inevitably involve civilian casualties.

With no claim to having been attacked, George W. Bush has instead argued that his war on Iraq would be "preemptive," meant to prevent Saddam from launching a future war. But Iraq has not attacked anyone in more than 12 years and two-thirds of the country is under a no-fly zone. Thus Bush is merely resurrecting the preventative war doctrine invoked by the Nazis before their Nuremburg hanging.

In 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower, the former Supreme Allied Commander, dismissed the idea of a preventative war against the Soviet Union. "All of us have heard this term 'preventive war' since the earliest days of Hitler," he said. "I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing."

George W. Bush has now added to the list of pre-war demands a "regime change" by which Saddam Hussein would give up power. Bush then proposes rebuilding Iraq along democratic lines.

But Nazi functionaries at Nuremburg also received stiff sentences for approving essentially the same totalitarian statutes that now appear in the Homeland Security, Patriot I and Patriot II Acts authorizing secret arrest, detention and "disappearances" of American citizens without legal recourse or public notification. At Nuremburg, such laws were recognized as a form of state terror.

The embrace of such laws in America casts serious doubt on the Bush Administration's real willingness to install democracy anywhere else.

When the Nazis attacked Poland in 1939, no one envisioned that just eight years later Germany would be leveled and its all-powerful reichmarshalls would be tried and sentenced under international law.

Such a vision seems less far fetched today. America's current military might has prompted the Bush Administration to frame its proposed war in terms of a "crusade" against "evil." But military action against Iraq is guaranteed to inflame the passions of 1.2 billion Muslims. The proposed war is explicitly opposed by the Pope. International support is extremely limited. The US itself is deeply divided, with its economy in serious trouble.

The diplomatic campaign for this attack has been handled with all the wisdom and foresight of madmen lighting matches in a room full of gasoline. There is no reason to expect a military campaign would be handled any better.

It is clear from the precedents at Nuremburg that any American attack on Iraq without United Nations approval would be illegal under international law. It is also clear that the inevitable civilian casualties resulting from such an attack would qualify as crimes against humanity.

And sooner or later, the American perpetrators of such an attack and related crimes might well find themselves standing trial before some sort of Nuremburg-style international tribunal.

Given such circumstances, the guilt of George W. Bush will not be in doubt. But the guilt of subordinates giving supporting orders, and of soldiers and functionaries carrying them out, will also be a given.

The Nuremburg court, including its American judges, repeatedly ruled that those who "only followed orders" in committing atrocities were guilty of crimes against humanity.

Those willing Americans executioners who "only follow orders" in perpetrating this illegal attack on Iraq should understand that they stand to be found just as guilty as the ones giving those orders.

And that one way or another, sooner or later, that guilt will demand payment.

Bob Fitrakis is publisher of www.freepress.org and author of THE FITRAKIS FILES: SPOOKS, NUKES & NAZIS. Read his columns here.

Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of www.freepress.org and author of THE LAST ENERGY WAR (Seven Stories Press). Read his columns here.



the bush junta WILL BE found guilty of war crimes, and the world will celebrate their conviction. they whip the entire planet into a frenzy with their "inevitable" war, while we KNOW that real justice will be served in due time. be the water that carved the grand canyon. we are unstoppable.

Yes Patriot! 08.Mar.2003 12:21


That is the truth Patriot. However, I seriously believe that Bush needs to be admitted into a psych facility.