Myths About Iraq Must Be Dispelled For War To End
Myths About Iraq Must Be Dispelled For War To End
By Ramzy Baroud
In the weeks and months preceding the Iraq war in March 2003, various US officials informed the already baffled public that the war would be marred with tactical misinformation for the sole purpose of derailing Iraq’s war stratagems and ultimately protecting the lives of American soldiers.
This ushered in the return of infamous embedded journalism, which unsurprisingly derailed whatever little integrity both the government and the corporate media still possessed.
Upon their arrival and subsequent takeover of the Baghdad airport, shortly after the onset of military operations, US forces set up a radio station targeting the greater Baghdad era, with the sole purpose of disseminating half-truths, even outright lies to contribute to the psychological warfare already underway in various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the regions dominated with a Kurdish majority in northern Iraq as well as parts of Iran were also hubs for propaganda, spreading the party line of myriad groups, each with its own ideological references, affiliations and self-seeking financiers.
While many are familiar with the deadly ‘incidents’ that led to the death and wounding of scores of journalists in Iraq, few are aware of the take-over and meticulous restructuring of Iraqi television by US experts with the help of friendly Arab media. In a very short time, Iraqi television ceased exalting ousted Saddam Hussein, and commenced exalting the US occupation and their faithful partners.
This impressive propaganda network was relatively but temporarily hampered by a few obstinate media outlets, which were swiftly silenced, either through intimidation or by being completely thrown out of the country, ironically accused by American and Iraqi officials as being purveyors of propaganda.
Considering all this, getting unfiltered truth and unblemished facts out of Iraq is a most arduous task.
By interviewing people who departed Iraq at various stages following the invasion, I am always left with a feeling of bewilderment, yet conversely, with a stronger conviction that the hundreds of media outlets operating from Iraq or disseminating information about Iraq are, sometimes unwittingly, propagating either exaggerated or completely fabricated narratives.
Even those wishing to present an objective assessment of the situation in Iraq are taken in by the official narrative. On one hand, most of the information available as the basis for one’s story is produced by or cleared by the US military. The inevitable element of propaganda makes such information questionable at best.
On the other hand, due to the lack of alternative information (except for facts provided by independent journalists), one is left with the imminent alternative of merely scrutinizing the official and prevailing narrative in an attempt to extract facts out of contradictions and inconsistencies.
The real peril in all of this is that public opinion is, to a great extent, shaped and manipulated by the official account, semi-official interpretations (those of ex-military men-turned experts and corporate funded think-tanks) and mainstream media oversimplification.
Such trickery is regrettably prevalent and has established a solid narrative of what Iraq is and why, thus stipulating all sorts of answers to its problems. Interestingly, those answers almost always foresee a sustained American military presence in the country, which also happens to be the ultimate objective of the Bush administration.
For example, it is now regarded as an uncontested fact that the disgruntled Sunni population in areas that form an imaginary geographic triangle in the center of Iraq fuels the so-called insurgency. A parallel triangle takes on a different form, uniting the remnants of the Baath Party loyalists, Islamic terrorists fleeing Afghanistan and foreign fighters.
We are also told that the reason behind the Sunni fury was their loss of power and status following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, since the latter is a Sunni, who supposedly favored the Sunni Arab minority over the country’s Shia majority, who are merely fighting for what is rightfully theirs, according to the edicts of democracy.
Thus the US military occupation (often referenced as American presence) in Iraq becomes an imperative to protect the country’s fresh democratic experience that restored order in favor of the country’s Shia majority, whose democratically elected representatives are in fact the ones appealing for a military withdrawal deferral. The Bush administration, keen on nurturing democratic experiences everywhere, duly complies, since the national interests of the democratically elected governments of Iraq and the US conveniently converge.
It’s such a shame that so few in the US media (excluding online media and some alternative radio) manage to break away from the above construct, which bears little or no resemblance to the truth; that those even wishing to disapprove of the administration’s policy in Iraq, often do so while accepting the above assertions as the parameters of their critique.
To argue that Saddam’s brutality applied to any group or individual that dared challenge his reign, whether Sunni or Shia; that the resistance in Iraq is for the most part a determined response to an illegitimate war and occupation; to challenge the authenticity of the claim specifying one group as majority and another as minority; to question the entire edifice of claims that classify the current political establishment in Iraq as democratic in the first place, or to argue that the relationship between the US military administration and the Iraqi government is not that of equals; to do any of that is to risk being dismissed as a nuisance. To be taken seriously, one must adhere to conformity, however flawed, and renounce common sense, however evident.
It is still mind-boggling how the complex Iraq narrative can be oversimplified as ‘bad guys vs. good guys’. It’s even more perplexing how the discourse is often modified to make yesterday’s villains today’s welcomed friends and allies.
The falsification campaign to help fashion a fitting and self-serving narrative of Iraq, its past and present continues unabated. It will carry on as long as people continue to unknowingly seek misinformation and half-truths from the corporate media and government. Only by challenging this narrative, can a wider and more realistic understanding of the war, its complexities and its true objectives be attained. Only then, can the public reclaim its rightful role in challenging the US administration’s discourse, wasteful wars and iniquitous propaganda.
-Ramzy Baroud, a veteran Arab American
journalist, teaches mass communication at Australia's Curtin
University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. His forthcoming
book, "Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising," is
being published by Pluto Press, London. Baroud is also the