[Reader-list] Wartime Lies: A Consumer's Guide to the Bombing

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at mnet.fr
Tue Oct 9 15:39:48 IST 2001

New Haven Advocate
October 8, 2001

Wartime Lies: A Consumer's Guide to the Bombing

Paul Bass

"George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions, and, you know, 
as just  one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where."

  - CBS News anchor Dan Rather, after the Sept. 11 attacks on the 
Pentagon  and the World Trade Center

  Here come "surgical strikes"! Check out that "laser-guided" 
"pinpoint  precision."

  "Collateral damage"? Hardly any.

  It's a glorious war, a noble cause, the only solution to a world crisisŠ.

  So we heard in the Gulf War.

  So we hear at the onset of the Afghan war. Many of the same 
characters who ran  and propagandized the last war - Colin Powell and 
Dan Rather, for instance -  have returned to our living rooms.

  Last time, it turned out there was more to the story. In the first 
days of  CNN-fueled war hysteria, we couldn't know the truth about 
whom we bombed,  or to what end. It's the same this week as our bombs 
began raining on  Afghanistan. It's hard to know the truth about 
what's happening - and therefore  impossible to judge whether the 
action is justified.

  We can assume only this: Right or wrong, the government is lying to 
us. And  the media is repeating and magnifying those lies in order to 
convince us to put  our brains on hold and yell for blood behind a 
waving pennant of the stars and  stripes.

  They did it last time.

  Last Time's Lies

  Consider ABC News' Sam Donaldson. He helped convince the nation that 
Star  Wars works, through his live coverage of the Persian Gulf War.

  On Jan. 22, 1991, ABC showed a bright object flashing through the 
sky.  Another bright object raced toward it. Donaldson told viewers 
that one of  Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles was heading toward Saudi 
Arabia. But here  came a good old U.S.-made Patriot missile to the 

  "Bull's-eye!" Donaldson proclaimed. "No more Scud!"

  Such media accounts - and parroting of government claims that 
Patriot missiles  hit almost every Scud they aimed at - led to a 
public celebration of the Patriot  missile. We weren't powerless. 
America was strong! We could stop enemy  weapons. That November, 
Congress boosted the budget for the "Star Wars"  anti-missile shield 
from $3.1 billion to $4.15 billion.

  The following year, as Columbia Journalism Review would report 
("Patriot  Games," July/August 1992), that film clip showed up at a 
Congressional hearing  concerning inflated military claims. Pointing 
to the same clip Donaldson had  narrated, a former nuclear weapons 
analyst pointed out that the Scud passed  through whatever explosion 
appeared on the screen - and that Patriots were a  "total failure" in 
the Gulf War.

  Some other examples of Gulf War lies (courtesy of Fairness & 
Accuracy in  Reporting):

-After the war, The New York Times retracted a story, repeated by 
other major  news outlets, that Iraqi soldiers had killed 300 
premature babies by removing  them from incubators.

-60 Minutes featured an interview with "Captain Karim," a supposed 
former  Saddam bodyguard, spinning fearful tales about the Iraqi 
dictator. Karim turned  out to be a fraud.

-The Times, CNN, Time and others supported then-President Bush's 
attacks on  Iraqi radio by reporting that a broadcaster named 
"Baghdad Betty" had told U.S.  troops to return home because "Robert 
Redford is dating your girlfiendŠ Bart  Simpson is making love to 
your wife." In fact, the media was repeating a  Johnny Carson Tonight 
Show gag. (Or misquoting. Johnny said Homer, not  Bart.)

  What to Watch Out For

  While we rely on government and CNN, CBS, et al for our first 
torrent of war  news, history gives us some advice in filtering the 

-Don't assume any fact to be true. Especially about the success and 
human toll  of our military actions.

-Watch the videotape. Just because they say something blew something 
else up,  judge for yourself.

-Read next-day or on-line full transcripts of speeches. For instance, 
some  national media characterized Osama bin Laden's first statement 
as in effect  acknowledging he authorized the Sept. 11 attack. It 
didn't. Also, some accounts  played up bin Laden's threat that peace 
must "reign in Palestine" before  Americans have peace - but left out 
his next statement that "the army of infidels  [must] depart the land 
of Muhammad," historically his primary gripe.

-Don't take depictions of "allies" at face value. Remember that we 
helped put  the Taliban in power (to destabilize the old Soviet 
Union), along with Saddam  Hussein. Remember that Pakistan's 
government and Afghanistan's Northern  Alliance have horrid human 
rights records.

-Pay attention to questions on which the media or officials remain 
silent. So  counsels Normon Solomon, a media watchdog and syndicated 
columnist:  "Newsday after the Gulf War quoted somebody in the 
Pentagon saying, 'We lie  by not telling you things.' The starvation 
issue, for instance: Bush was talking  about [our airlifting] 37,000 
kits of food and medicine. This is in contrast to  several million 
people who are on the verge of going into starvation [because of 
U.S. military action]. This fact that serves as a lie is window 
dressing. A crime  against humanity is dressed up as humanitarian 

-Read and listen to the alternative press! But don't necessarily just 
believe us,  either. 

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