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imperialism & war

Basra Is A Military Target - So is Portland

An analysis of the war from the UK Guardian.
Rod Liddle
Wednesday March 26, 2003
The Guardian

Our military people haven't been telling us the truth, have they? Every day they tell us stuff - either directly, through press conferences and statements, or through private briefings with our more credulous television journalists - and 12 hours later the reverse of what they've told us turns out to have happened.
Here are a few examples.

Day one of the war will begin with the unrestrained bombing of Baghdad, a massive "shock and awe" assault that will make the world quiver in its boots with respect.

In fact, Baghdad suffered comparatively light bombing on night one. It was not, everybody agreed the next morning, quite what we had all expected.

Coalition forces have taken the "strategically important" town of Umm Qasr, we were told on day two.

No, actually, they hadn't, as they were decent enough to admit two days later. They still haven't taken it as I write this. Ditto those oilfields they kept on about and then, very suddenly, stopped going on about.

The third night of the bombing of Baghdad would be remembered, after the war, as the most significant and punitive so far, with a magnificent flattening of the city. (This was an off-the-record briefing repeated ad nauseam by BBC News 24 throughout the previous evening).

In fact, the third night saw by far the lightest bombing of the war so far.

The coalition forces have no intention of taking Basra because it would involve street fighting and therefore a potential danger to civilians.

So, to clarify, then: Basra is indeed, now, a target. Because, er, otherwise there would be a danger to civilians, a veritable humanitarian catastrophe.

Saddam Hussein was killed or seriously injured in the initial two bombing raids on Baghdad. An ambulance was seen taking him to hospital.

Well, I'm no doctor, but Saddo seems still to be in pretty good health to me. Quite chipper, in fact. Maybe he just had bad gout, or something.

What's more, Tariq Aziz is dead. Or he has fled. One of the two. We're not absolutely certain, but we think so.

Nope, good old Tariq's happy and well and still addressing the nation. Yesterday morning, mind, the allies did succeed in killing some Ba'ath party bigwig in Basra. So, at least they've managed to knock off the equivalent of the deputy mayor of Birmingham.

And Saddam Hussein's entire government is disintegrating. It's falling apart!

Is it? It has never looked more integrated, to me. Just about every government minister has, in the past five days, held press conferences for the foreign media. We've even had the Iraqi equivalent of Alan Milburn appear, which is a bonus none of us could have expected. And for which we're very grateful.

Those are just a few of the porkies or examples of deluded wishful thinking. And the question that occurs is this: are they deliberately lying to us in order, one would assume, to mislead the enemy - or do they really not have a clue what's going on? My guess is that it's a mixture of the two. They're lying from time to time and they often don't have a clue what's going on. Which is a bit of a worry.

Not because we shouldn't be lied to per se, but because no matter what happens on the ground, militarily, we're beginning to lose the propaganda war across the world, if it were not already lost to begin with.

I'm quite prepared to believe that the war is being prosecuted with military excellence; the relatively low number of civilians - and coalition servicemen - killed would seem to provide some evidence of this. But the impression created through either deliberately misleading statements or wildly optimistic pronouncements is one of either deviousness or ineptitude or both.

And by contrast, the Iraqis are holding short and apparently candid briefings enlivened, on occasion, by the picturesque shaking of a wall as another coalition bomb hits some part of Baghdad where nobody important is.