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Lies the Government Told Us, Part 4

RW ONLINE: Deceit During War and Occupation

Lies the Government Told Us, Part 4

Deceit During War and Occupation

Revolutionary Worker #1205, June 29, 2003, posted at rwor.org

Starting in September 2002, the U.S. and British governments told people that their own safety required the conquest of Iraq. Over and over, the world was told that Iraq's government had chemical, biological and nuclear weapons--and was working closely with groups who would use such weapons against the U.S.

Two months after the conquest, the U.S. government still cannot produce evidence for any of this. This series shows that the U.S. government was lying, and knew it. The real goals that soldiers were killing and dying for were hidden and denied.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government promoted a related set of lies about what would happen during and after the invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. government insisted their troops would enter Iraq as "liberators," not conquerors. They would "overthrow a tyrant," destroy his WMDs, rapidly improve the life of the people and then put Iraq (and its oil) back into Iraqi hands.

The government said this war would be, essentially, "cost-free"--in casualties and money. Their high-tech weapons would destroy Iraq's government and military without killing civilians. Their soldiers would be welcomed and then leave quickly.

These lies too are falling apart. The U.S. and British forces are being drawn deep into a brutal occupation. And Iraq's people are making their resistance clear.

Conqueror as "Liberator"

What the government claimed:

George Bush, televised speech, Oct. 7, 2002: "America is a friend to the people of Iraq."

Paul Wolfowitz, Feb. 23, said the first "principle" for the coming war was "The United States seeks to liberate Iraq, not to occupy Iraq."

George Bush, April 28: "The Iraqi people are fully capable of self- government."

U.S. overseer L. Paul Bremer III, as he arrived to rule Iraq: "We are not here as a colonial power. We are here to turn over to the Iraqi people...as quickly as possible."(Lehrer News Hour, May 12)

What the facts show:

Lt. General David McKiernan, commander of the occupying forces in Iraq, announced direct military rule: "The coalition and the coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq."(NYT, April 25)

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was asked if Iraq's rapidly organizing Muslim political forces would be allowed to hold power. He said: "That isn't going to happen."(AP, April 24)

May 8, U.S. and Britain formally demanded that the UN accept them as "occupying powers." The UN resolution acknowledged complete U.S. and British power over Iraq's people and oil--without time limit or oversight.

Senior State Department official: "The bottom line is we control the purse strings, the appointments, and anything else of political value. Not just anyone is going to get access to this." (New Republic, May 12)

May 16, U.S. and British authorities cancelled plans for national Iraqi elections. (NYT, May 17)

UPI, May 29: "One of Bremer's first actions was to overrule every promise Garner [the first U.S. overseer in Iraq] had made about early elections and interim governments. He now refuses to use the word `government' to describe any setup in which Iraqis participate."

Bremer says: "Occupation is an ugly word, not one Americans feels comfortable with, but it is a fact."(Washington Post, May 26)

Kassem al-Sa'adi, a merchant, said, "I thought the Americans said they wanted a democracy in Iraq. If it is a democracy, why are they allowed to make the rules?" (Independent, April 26)

What the government claimed about improving life:

George Bush just before invasion of Iraq, March 17: "We will help you build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms."

What the facts show:

Guardian, June 19: " The country's first Burger King may have opened at Baghdad airport and the Queen's birthday may once again be celebrated on the banks of the Tigris, but the impact of war and regime collapse on essential services and infrastructure, on top of the havoc wreaked by the first Gulf war and 13 years of grinding sanctions, has been devastating. Add to that the rampant lawlessness, insecurity, looting of all public institutions, destruction of national treasures, epidemic of murder and robbery, and it is little wonder that most Iraqis appear to find it hard to see themselves as having been liberated."

Evening Standard (UK), June 19: "American soldiers in Iraq today make the astonishing admission that they regularly kill civilians.... They say they are frequently confronted by fighters dressed as civilians, including women. Their response is often to shoot first and ask questions later, even when it means killing genuine civilians.

Guardian, May 20: "On several occasions, U.S. troops appear to have opened fire on unarmed civilians. In Nasiriya, they shot at any vehicle that approached their positions. In one night alone they killed 12 civilians. On a bridge on the outskirts of Baghdad they shot 15 in two days. Last month, U.S. troops fired on peaceful demonstrators in Mosul, killing seven, and in Fallujah, killing 13 and injuring 75. "

Gulf News, May 20: "Since Iraq's `liberation' more than 220 civilians in Baghdad have died from gunshot wounds, many killed by teenage trigger-happy U.S. soldiers, untrained in policing techniques. Bush promised there would be `no more torture chambers' but Amnesty International reports coming out of Baghdad indicate that many Iraqi prisoners of war were beaten. A Saudi claims he was tortured with electrodes."

Thousand of Iraqi families were made homeless by bombing and sought shelter in public buildings. On May 27, the U.S. occupation authorities started to drive them back out into the streets by force. (IslamOnline News Agencies, May 27)

UNICEF, May 14: "Two months after the start of the Iraq war... the UNICEF rapid nutrition assessment... shows that 7.7 percent of children under age five are suffering from acute malnutrition, compared with last year's figure of 4 percent. Acute malnutrition signifies that a child is actually wasting away. UNICEF says that unsafe water from disrupted water services may be playing a significant role in the findings. Poor water quality is largely to blame for a rapid increase in cases of diarrhea among children in recent weeks."

War on a People

What the government claimed:

Donald Rumsfeld said: "If force becomes necessary, it is clear that coalition forces would take great care to avoid civilian casualties." (American Forces Press Service, March 5)

Top war general Tommy Franks: "When you begin to do that weapon/target pairing, then you'll begin to look at all of the places where we know we do not want to strike because we're Americans, because we're part of a coalition that treats citizenry like that in Iraq as victims, not as enemies, as the president has said." He said that if his forces killed civilians, the world should blame Iraq's government. (NewsMax Wires, March 6 )

Knight Ridder Tribune, March 20: "President Bush and his top military commanders have vowed to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties in a war with Iraq. Major technological advances give U.S. forces an unparalleled ability to achieve that goal."

What the facts show:

NY Times reporter Steven Lee Myers, April 13: "Throughout the march north across the desert, the human toll of war was evident, at the border outposts, in the streets of the village of Kifl, along the banks of the Euphrates, in bunkers along canals, and finally at the airport west of Baghdad. The corpses of scores of Iraqis lay in the sun, twisted, starting to rot. Some were in uniform; some were not."

Christian Science Monitor, May 22: "U.S. and British military officials insisted throughout the war that their forces did all they could to avoid civilian casualties. But it has become clear since the fighting ended that bombs did go astray, that targets were chosen in error, and that as U.S. troops pushed rapidly north toward the capital they killed thousands of civilians from the air and from the ground."

Ayad Jassim Ibrahim, a 32-year-old Basra fireman whose brother Alaa was killed in his living room by U.S. shrapnel: `'If they didn't want to kill civilians, why did they fire into civilian areas?'' (AP, June 11)

What the government said about casualty estimates:

The U.S. military refuses to estimate how many people they killed. General Tommy Franks: "We don't do body counts." (SF Chronicle, March 23, 2002)

What the facts show:

Guardian, May 28: "All over Baghdad on walls of mosques or outside private homes, pieces of black cloth inscribed with yellow lettering bear witness to the thousands of Iraqis killed in the American-led war."

A major Associated Press report, June 11, documents: "At least 3,240 civilians died throughout the country, including 1,896 in Baghdad."This AP estimate only includes civilian deaths with written hospital records from less than half of the hospitals in the country.

AP writes: "The count is still fragmentary, and the complete number, if it is ever tallied, is sure to be much higher.... Many of the dead were never taken to hospitals; they were either buried quickly by their families in accordance with Islamic custom or lost under rubble.... There were certainly more civilians dead; a few hospitals lost count as the fighting intensified."

The Guardian, May 28, estimates that between 13,500 to 45,000 Iraqi soldiers died during the war. The Guardian makes the important observation that this war had a markedly higher ratio of civilian-to-military dead than the first Gulf War.

Christian Science Monitor, May 22: "Evidence is mounting to suggest that between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi civilians may have died during the recent war... Such a range would make the Iraq war the deadliest campaign for noncombatants that U.S. forces have fought since Vietnam.... preliminary reports from hospitals, morgues, mosques, and homes point to a level of civilian casualties far exceeding the Gulf War ... [In] the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama, 13 Panamanian civilians died for every U.S. military fatality. If 5,000 Iraqi civilians died in the latest war, that proportion would be 33 to 1."

A Body Count of One from Cluster Bombs

A cluster bomb saturates a football-field-sized area with a dense spray of flesh- shredding fragments.

What the government claimed:

General Richard Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: "An initial review of all cluster munitions used and the targets they were used on indicate that only 26 of those approximately 1,500 hit targets within 1,500 feet of civilian neighborhoods. T here's been only one recorded case of collateral damage from cluster munitions noted so far." (AFP, April 25)

What the facts show:

Gen. Myers left out the widespread use of cluster artillery shells by advancing U.S. and British troops. The Guardian, May 20, reports that British artillery alone fired 2,100 cluster shells.

The Guardian, May 20: "Cluster bombs have been used by coalition forces right through the war. Basra, Nasiriya, Hilla, Najaf, Manaria, Baghdad: all these towns have lost scores of civilian lives in cluster bombing raids. The reports make sickening reading."

Ali Iziz Ali, the chief surgeon at Karbala's al-Hussein hospital, reports that 35 bodies were brought in, many of them dismembered by cluster blasts, and added that another 50 people had been treated for the deep puncture wounds typical for cluster shrapnel. (Time, April 27)

Reporter Robert Fisk wrote: "Terrifying film of women and children later emerged.... Their pictures...showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs. Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies' Baghdad editors felt able to send only a few minutes... that included a father holding out pieces of his baby and screaming "cowards, cowards" into the camera."(Independent, April 03)

Fake Heroism and a Staged Welcome

What the media broadcast from Fardus Square:

On April 9, the world was shown footage of an Iraqi crowd and a few U.S. soldiers pulling down a giant statue of Saddam Hussein, as fighting raged for Baghdad. Breathless anchors explained that this scene proved Iraq's people welcomed the U.S. invaders as "liberators."

What the facts show:

The incident was a hoax staged by U.S. forces and dishonestly presented by the media. Reuters photographs show that Fardus Square was almost empty--except for reporters, U.S. Marines, and no more than 200 Iraqis. A prominent participant closely resembles a person in CIA agent Ahmed Chalabi's entourage, which was flown into Iraq three days earlier.

Guardian, June 19: "It was the crudest self-delusion on the part of the invading states to imagine that because most Iraqis wanted an end to the Saddam regime they would accept the imposition of a foreign occupation to replace it."

What the government claimed about Jessica Lynch:

Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old military clerk, was captured on March 23 when her convoy took a wrong turn.

On April 2, Pentagon spokesman Gen. Vincent Brooks announced Lynch had been rescued by commandos. The media story mushroomed. Pentagon sources said an Iraqi lawyer risked his life to tell Americans where Lynch was held and had seen her beaten in captivity. There were reports that Lynch may have been stabbed or shot after capture.

Military sources told the press that Lynch "fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition." (Washington Post, April 3)

The New York Daily News described the recovery of Lynch: "Commandos stormed the hospital, facing gunfire from guards outside. The resistance was quickly snuffed... Once more, as the commandos slipped out of the building, came the enemy gun blasts."

The Nation, July 7 issue, summed up: "For the U.S. military, the story of Private Lynch arrived just in time. For days, all reporters covering the war had been able to give their editors was a slew of bad news... Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was facing harsh criticism for not having deployed sufficient ground troops to overcome the Iraqi resistance. U.S. troops had just killed a van full of Iraqi women and children."

What the facts show:

The Pentagon was crudely lying to put a heroic face on this U.S. invasion--a brave young woman in the hands of a vicious enemy rescued by the courageous commando. The hoax was soon exposed in the BBC documentary "War Spin."

The Washington Times eventually reported: "All evidence suggests that Pfc. Lynch's truck crashed in the chaos of the ambush in the central Iraqi town of Nasiriya. She suffered several bone fractures and was in no position to put up a fight."She had not been shot or stabbed.

The Iraqi doctors had treated Lynch with great care and even attempted to return Lynch to the U.S. lines. They were forced to turn around when U.S. forces opened fire on the ambulance.

There was no "dramatic rescue." Hassam Hamoud, a waiter at a nearby restaurant, explained that he told a U.S. advance team the Iraqi soldiers were long gone. (Washington Post, April 15)

Despite this information, the "commando snatch team" shot up the whole place, endangering everyone. Both doctors and patients were handcuffed to beds.

Jessica Lynch was unconscious through much of these events, and has no recollection of her capture.

BBC correspondent John Kampfner writes that this is "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived."

The Promise to Leave

What the government claimed:

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Feb. 26 : "The U.S. intends to stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer."

In February, Army head Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops." He was repudiated by his superiors. Wolfowitz called Shinseki "wildly off the mark." (USA Today, June 3)

What the facts show:

U.S. and British ground troops are digging in for a protracted colonial occupation. The existing forces, about 160,000 troops, have not pacified the country and are facing a mounting armed resistance. Plans for withdrawal of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division have been canceled. More U.S. troops are arriving.

Former Army secretary Thomas White said, "This is not what they were selling (before the war). It's almost a question of people not wanting to `fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term."(USA Today, June 3)

Pro-war Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.: "When is the president going to tell the American people that we're likely to be in the country of Iraq for three, four, five, six, eight, 10 years, with thousands of forces and spending billions of dollars?" (Chicago Tribune, June 6)

The U.S. military presence is now being justified by the need to "stabilize" Iraq. In fact, U.S. officials intended to stay in Iraq all along--to increase their ability to "project power" in this strategic region.

"Rebuilding America's Defenses," a September 2000 policy paper: "In the Persian Gulf region, the presence of American forces, along with British and French units, has become a semi-permanent fact of life.... the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."The signatories of this document included current Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Its endorsing organization, "Project for the New American Century," includes Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

On May 9, Paul Wolfowitz confirmed that an unstated war goal was allowing the U.S. military to shift forces from Saudi Arabia to a conquered Iraq.

Wolfowitz said:"There are a lot of things that are different now [because of the war], and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. ... The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue [to justify the war] that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason...." (Department of Defense transcript)

Scratching the Surface

We would like to close this series with three thoughts:

  • We have not nearly run out of outrageous government lies to expose. The scandal over the deceptions of war is deepening within the arena of official politics. Various players are leaking secrets to the press. Congress is holding "closed door" investigatons into the lies. And shameless new lies are being invented and promoted with each passing day. We promise to further dissect the deceptions and coverups in future issues of this newspaper.

  • There is an underlying reason why this the government wraps its strategic and military offensives in dense packs of lies: They simply cannot tell the world and the U.S. population the real reasons for their international moves. The rulers of the U.S. have launched a global grab for power and supremacy, and if they acknowledged that too publicly, the mass opposition would grow even more rapidly--within U.S. borders, around the world, and even within the rank-and-file of their own military. Their class interests are fundamentally opposed to the class interests of people of the world--including both in the targeted countries and in the U.S. itself, and even among their own soldiers. So they shamelessly disguise imperialist aggression as "defense of our homeland."

The new U.S. doctrine of "preventive and preemptive war" means that the U.S. government plans to launch more unprovoked attacks based on so-called "intelligence"- -making claims about what other governments supposedly intend to do or might one day do. We can expect that this tidal wave of lies surrounding the Iraq war will be a model for justifying future wars and threats. And we can already see them using this same ragged script to demonize and threaten Iran and North Korea.

All this is being done "in our name."

We have a responsibility to the people of the world to keep our eyes wide open, to see through such lies, and help others see. The very future of this world and its people depends on it.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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