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Selling War…

The allegations of an Iraq-Iran link occurring right now in the American press do not represent fact, nor do they represent any new strategy or loss of credibility on the media’s part: in the run-up to the war on Iraq the major papers, television stations, radio etc, all parroted the (intentionally) faulty intelligence and bald assertions coming from Washington. This is only a recent example, and one that follows in a long tradition that is well documented, should one care to look. In fact the major media outlets have long served the interest of the elite, and it should come as no surprise to anyone with a bit of sense that they continue to do so. It is elementary, really, and anyone who can doubt this may as well doubt that 2 and 2 make 4.

But all the same, we must pay attention to the strategies that are employed to sell the lie, to convince those who consume it that it is convincing, compelling. We must work to understand how its propaganda structure works, dissecting the particular and moving to general rules. And then we must ruin these techniques, sabotage the machinery that fashions from confusion and fear the impetus for war.

A case in point, a recent article from the journal of record:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — One of the questions posed by skeptics about the Bush administration assertions about Iran’s meddling in Iraq is why the charges are coming to light only now, when American officials say the shipment of lethal weapons from Iran to Shiite militias was first detected several years ago.

Among possible explanations for the timetable, some critics have suggested, is that the White House is making its assertions now in an effort to blame Iran for the deteriorating situation in Iraq, or that President Bush is trying to lay a legal and political groundwork for a military strike against the government in Tehran, which he singled out in 2002 as a member of the “axis of evil.”

In recent interviews and in a military briefing on Wednesday in Baghdad, American officials have offered a more direct explanation for the timetable: attacks with the device have increased sharply in recent months, prompting the United States to react, and then to justify its actions.

According to one military official, reports of the “explosively formed penetrator,” as the weapon is known, first surfaced in late 2003. But attacks with the device have steadily increased since then. The last quarter of 2006 was a particularly dangerous period in terms of attacks with the device, with a new high reached in December.

As the attacks have gone up, so have the American casualties. Since 2004, at least 170 Americans have been killed and 620 wounded in attacks with the device. But a significant number of those casualties occurred in the last part of 2006.

Faced with stepped-up attacks, military officials said they began to carry out raids to try to disrupt efforts to train and equip Shiite militants with the weapon. That led to the detention of Iranian officials — and questions from the Iraqi government, the public and the press about why the American military was capturing and detaining Iranians, including some officials who said they were diplomats.

American officials assert that the raids produced additional evidence implicating a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, known as the Quds Force, in supplying the devices, a charge Iran has denied.

Even so, the decision by American military officials to put forward the evidence in a full-scale briefing was not an easy call, according to Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman in Iraq. One concern was that discussing the weapon would let adversaries know how effective it is.

After concluding that efforts to warn the Iranians through diplomatic channels not to send the weapons components were not producing results, Bush administration officials and military commanders in Baghdad decided to organize a briefing and present some of the evidence in a session last Sunday.

“The intent of the press conference was to talk about a force protection issue, not politics,” General Caldwell said on Wednesday.

It is impossible to offer a total account of the forces at play in this article, but one of the major actors is the complete lack of concrete description of the supposed threat. I have set all references to the “weapon” or “device” in bold face. We are not to understand what the weapon is, how it functions, or in fact how great a threat it is to American forces (which is presumably an operative concern in the allegations); we are not given any information or data at all, so that even if we wanted to fact-check the government’s claims, we could not. The weapon’s clouded identity is compounded with the subtle implication that it is technically advanced and requires specialized training to operate. This makes “the device” even more insidious, since shows that a great deal of time and effort is going into killing our young men and women. Finally, we are cautioned against questioning further, since even discussing this issue — “the weapon” — lets the Enemy know that his device works, extremely well, which will lead only to its extended and expanded use.
But what is this weapon? Is it a mine? Is it a sort of RPG? Is it a missile? Does it in actuality exist? And, if it does, is there in actuality evidence of a link to Iran? These questions only draw attention away from the matter at hand: “a weapon” that is “effective” is being used by “adversaries” to kill our soldiers — who are fighting in an illegal war (yes, there is such a thing) sold on false pretenses — so we’ve just got to stop it being used with whatever means are expedient and necessary. Even discussing the weapon helps the enemy: so take government intelligence (which has such a solid history) as Truth and then forget anything even occurred. You’ll be saving American lives if you do so.

[The absurd title of this article “Why Accuse Iran of Meddling Now? U.S. Officials Explain” leaves little doubt to the bias of the piece: the explanation is final, the discussion over. Journalism at its finest.]

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6 Responses

  1. To begin, I think that we must address the fact that ANYONE who claims to posses “the truth” in this matter is to be treated as suspect, and is most likely suffering from severe delusions of grandeur. Certainly the press is suspect as they are OWNED by the elite elements of American society – possibly the only group to profit from the Iraq venture. Even more certain is the unreliability of Western intelligence and the declarations of the current American administration.

    However, those who are familiar with the region are similarly CERTAIN of Iranian “interference” in Iraq and understand that the US action in Iraq has created a power vacuum in the region which the Iranian regime has cleverly attempted fill. It may even be contended that their efforts have been vastly more successful than our own.

    Hence, we arrive at the current situation. As far as I can tell, the recent media frenzy occurred over the utterance of a single word by a relatively low ranking military official in Baghdad – “highest.” That is that these “new weapons” have been provided to the Iraqi insurgency by Iranian government officials of the “highest” level. In this word only were any of the accusations new in any way, and the Administration was quick to confess the absence of any tangible proof.

    The reason this story became so important is primarily due to the current state of American politics. The left, feeling that this was an effort to bolster support for a third war in the Middle East, greeted the claim with understandable hostility and scepticism. In all probability, the Neo Cons., Halliberton, and other warmongers, greeted this announcement with nationalistic indignation and dreams of dollars.

    Finally, why did this occur? Certainly the Administration is threatening Iran and with good reason. In hindsight, it would have been far more reasonable to invade Iran than Iraq. Saddam would probably have even helped! Nonetheless, the Iranian machinations are significantly contributing to American failures in Iraq and will cause a massive loss of American prestige and stature throughout the world if they are successful. So the question must be asked, will Iran be intimidated? The answer would seem to be a resounding NO! Regardless, a THIRD Carrier Battle Group is en route to the Persian Gulf as we speak.

  2. the Iranian machinations are significantly contributing to American failures in Iraq and will cause a massive loss of American prestige and stature throughout the world if they are successful. So the question must be asked, will Iran be intimidated? The answer would seem to be a resounding NO! Regardless, a THIRD Carrier Battle Group is en route to the Persian Gulf as we speak.

    I doubt that the Iranians are machinating in any way more significant than the US to prevent stability from coming to Iraq. “American prestige” is something that exists only within the borders of America: the rest of the world fears America because the American military is unmatched — it can effectively destroy the infrastructure of pretty much any nation; but it does not for one instance give a damn about American prestige, because that prestige is simply a cover for the exercise of power and securing interests (resources, bases, etc).

    Is there any non-governmental evidence — or any hard governmental evidence — that Iran is working against stability in Iraq?

    The “left” in America, if you mean the Democratic party, has done nothing be give tacit approval to the Iraq war and voiced slight anxiety about an attack on Iran. The Democrats are as foul and beholden to the same powers as the Republicans.

    I printed out the reporter’s original story on the “devices” and am going to comment on it in a bit.

  3. What the Iranians are doing in Iraq is very similar to what the Americans did to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. US forces claim that they have captured several Quds Force operatives in Iraq. The Quds Force is the special forces unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and they are supposed to be some of the finest special forces in the world.

    According to the NY Times: “American intelligence analysts have concluded that the Quds Force is supplying Shiite groups in Iraq with Iranian-designed weapons, called explosively formed penetrators, which spray molten metal and are believed responsible for the deaths of scores of American soldiers.” Now that is the Times, but the more general complaint I have heard is that these new roadside bombs have the ability to pierce the heaviest US armor.

    You speak as if the “world” were one entity, and the “US” another – each united against the other. There are many interests in the world and in this instance, Iran is attempting to further their interests at the expense of US interests. There is nothing remarkable or surprising about this. Furthermore, your description of American coercive power is exactly the reason that “terrorist” elements have resorted to their current tactics. Now we cannot even find the people we want to bomb! Well, we can find Tehran.

    When people say things like “American prestige” it means having the ability to accomplish that which it sets out to do. Not to be defeated by minor powers like Iran. Whether American hegemony is something good will no doubt be debated by historians for centuries, but we should expect the American government to act for its own good – meaning maintenance of the balance of power.

    I don’t know about any evidence other than that which has been publicly declared.

    In terms of the Iraq debate, the “left” are the “bring the troops home now guys”, and the “right” are the “lets give Bush his 21,500 extra guys and eight to twelve more months ‘cause if we don’t Bin Laden’s gonna be showing in theaters near you.”

    And I agree about the Dems.

  4. I wouldn’t its us vs. the world, or even the US vs. the world. I recognize the fact that the world and the US are not made of a unified collection of interests. I get the impression though that “prestige” exists in America’s eyes only, and the rest of the world finds the actions of our administrations only thinly veiled to cover their interests. The idea that America acts as the benefactor to the world is far more important for Americans to believe for it to be effective than the rest of the world: by and large America acts on the nations of the world, rather than with them.

    Now prestige — a positive connotation — is much different from the ability to do stuff effectively — a more or less neutral connotation: it depends on the stuff being done, eh? — and I recall having read articles about how America is a “paper tiger” coming out of France. But that’s not really the point: it is fairly clear that both Iraq and Afghanistan have been leveled by American military efforts. If you consider it to have been a real goal of these efforts to rebuild a democracy throughout the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan, then they have been partial failures: the military can level a nation and ruin its infrastructure, but not impose a new order on top the rubble. But if you step back and consider that nation-building may never have been a goal in the first place (or, to make that more precise: nation-building may have been as real a goal as the aluminum tubing shown at the UN by Powell was really capable of producing weapons grade nuclear material), then they have not been as great of failures: the nation’s infrastructure has been destroyed, but not the spirit of the people: oh well, let’s set up some oil contracts to benefit our corporations and then get the fuck outta Dodge.

    There was a BBC article a while back about a British military commander whose base was on the Iran/Iraq border. His job was patrolling looking for military supplies coming over from Iran. To make this easier he ended up making the entire camp mobile. The gist of the article was that he wasn’t finding much in the way of hard evidence. I will see if I can find it for you; at the moment my head hurts so I don’t fill like looking.

  5. Being thought of as too powerful to resist is a positive thing. Still, I can see that you are caught upon my use of this word which is why I have taken to putting those words that are not of my own choosing in “quotes” as you may have noticed. Second, there is no doubt that the current American force is a quintessential vision of the war machine popularized by Hitler. This was clearly demonstrated by the recent “march to Baghdad.” As the world changes, it has been the trend that one means of conflict will be outdated by another. This is what is occurring before our eyes. Thus, either the legions must be restructured or Rome will be overrun.

    What is to be feared in all of this is that rather than delivering to our opponents a shattering defeat, our own weaknesses have been highlighted. As a result, our opponents may be understandably emboldened and their efforts increased. So, the world may become an increasingly dangerous place for people like us who constitute an ever dwindling portion of the world’s population. I do not like this trend because I hope to one day see the great pyramids of Egypt and the land between the two rivers. Moreover, and this seems to escape Bush, I do not see this problem/trend being resolved by purely military means, but I do think a “defeat” makes the chances of continued violent conflict more rather than less likely.

  6. I am on my way to write a bit of poetry, so I won’t respond in full at the moment. Regarding ‘defeat’ causing more violence, have you seen the chart for instances of terrorism worldwide since the start of the latest spree of American intervention?

    You should read Lenin’s Tomb. It’s not, of course, the final word; but it is far closer to being final than Fox, the NYTimes, or any of the other corporate media in the States.

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