excerpts from the book
What the News Media Didn't
by Norman Solomon and Reese
Context Books, 2003, paper
a reporter during the Gulf War in 1991 asked General Colin Powell
if he knew how many Iraqis died in that war he replied:
"It's really not a number I'm terribly
Every government is run by liars, and nothing they say should
Solomon: Iraq at the Precipice
Senator Wayne Morse, 1964, as he voted against the Gulf of Tonkin
"I don't know why we think, just
because we're mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute
might for right."
Erlich: Media Coverage
The U.S. is supposed to have the best and freest media in the
world, but in my experience, having reported from dozens of countries,
the higher up you go in the journalistic feeding chain, the less
free the reporting.
The typical would-be foreign correspondent
graduates from college and gets a job with a local newspaper or
broadcast station. The pay is low and the hours long. (Small town
newspaper reporters can still start out at less than $18,000 a
year.) But after perhaps two years, they advance up the ladder
to bigger media outlets. After five years or so, some of the more
dedicated and talented reporters get jobs at big city dailies
or in major market TV/radio stations. A few start out freelancing
from abroad and then join a major media outlet, but they are in
That first few years of reporting are
like boot camp. Even the best college journalism programs give
you only the sketchiest ideas about real reporting. I know. I
taught college journalism for ten years. The university never
teaches you to find sources on fifteen-minutes notice, how to
file a story from the field when cell phones don't work, or how
to write an 800-word story in thirty minutes. The journalist's
best education is on the job.
In addition to journalistic skills, young
reporters also learn about acceptable parameters of reporting.
There's little formal censorship in the U.S. media. But you learn
who are acceptable or unacceptable sources. Most corporate officials
and politicians are acceptable, the higher up the better.
Every experienced reporter knows editors can set a standard of
proof very low or impossibly high. If a reporter misquotes someone
or gets some information wrong while writing an article critical
of Saddam Hussein, editors back home
are not likely to raise significant objections,
but if an article critical of U.S. policy contains the same errors,
all hell breaks loose. At a minimum, someone from the State Department
or Pentagon calls to complain. Conservative media groups and radio
talk show hosts may bring additional pressure. Raymond Bonner,
a New York Times reporter who wrote accurate articles critical
of U.S. policy in El Salvador, was reassigned from that country
in the 1980s during just that sort of conservative campaign.
By the time reporters are ready to become
foreign correspondents-a process that can take ten years or more-they
understand how the game is played. Becoming a foreign correspondent
is a plum job. It's interesting and challenging. You travel frequently
and meet international leaders. You may see your byline on the
front page. The job has gravitas.
And then there's the money. I've conducted
an informal survey of foreign correspondent salaries in countries
I've visited. (Remember, reporters say things to each other they
wouldn't tell the public.) Salaries of full-time radio and print
reporters at the major media that I've met range from $90-$125,000
per year. That doesn't count TV correspondents, who can make twice
that much or more.
One New York Times reporter based in Africa
told me over a beer one night that being a foreign correspondent
is a great step in the career ladder at the Times. After a few
years in Africa, he planned to move onto a more prestigious foreign
assignment before working his way up the various editors' desks
in New York. Times reporters are acutely aware of international
trends, and if they are to win a Pulitzer Prize, they must report
from a place of major importance. Right now Iraq and the Middle
East fill the bill.
Money, prestige, career options, ideological
predilections-combined with the down sides of filing stories unpopular
with the government-all cast their influence on foreign correspondents.
You don't win a Pulitzer for challenging the basic assumptions
If a U.S. president doesn't like certain coverage, the administration
can make it impossible for the offending reporters to get insider
interviews or it can refuse to return phone calls. Foreign reporters
may be forced to leave the country. Reporters quickly learn to
self-censor, or they're taken off the beat.
Solomon: Media's War
"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip,"
George Orwell remarked more than half a century ago, "but
the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault
when there is no whip." No whips are visible in America's
modern newsrooms and broadcast studios. There are no leashes on
editors, reporters, producers, or news correspondents. But in
mainstream media, few journalists wander far.
"In truth, the strength of the control
process rests in its apparent absence," media critic Herbert
Schiller observed. "The desired systemic result is achieved
ordinarily by a loose though effective institutional process."
Schiller went on to cite "the education of journalists and
other media professionals, built-in penalties and rewards for
doing what is expected, norms presented as objective rules, and
the occasional but telling direct intrusion from above. The main
lever is the internalization of values." Conformity becomes
habitual. Among the results is a dynamic that Orwell described
as the conditioned reflex of "stopping short, as though by
instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought . . . and
of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable
of leading in a heretical direction."
In contrast to state censorship, which
is usually easy to recognize, self-censorship among journalists
is rarely out in the open. Journalists tend to avoid talking publicly
about constraints that limit their work; they essentially engage
in self-censorship about self-censorship. In the highly competitive
media environment, you don't need to be a rocket scientist, or
even a social scientist, to know that dissent does not boost careers.
This is especially true during times of war. The rewards of going
along to get along are clear; so are the hazards of failing to
toe the line.
Occasional candor from big-name journalists
can be illuminating. Eight months after 9/11, in an interview
with BBC television, Dan Rather said that American journalists
were intimidated in the wake of the attacks. Making what he called
"an obscene comparison," the CBS news anchor ruminated:
"There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming
tires around people's necks if they dissented. And in some ways
the fear is that you will be 'necklaced' here, you will have a
flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it
is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of
the tough questions." Rather added that "I do not except
myself from this criticism," and he went on: "What we
are talking about here-whether one wants to recognize it or not,
or call it by its proper name or not-is a form of self-censorship.
I worry that patriotism run amok will trample the very values
that the country seeks to defend."
"The TV newsman comforts us as John Wayne comforted our grandparents,
by seeming to have the whole affair in hand.... Since no one seems
to live on television, no one seems to die there. And the medium's
temporal facility deprives all terminal moments of their weight."
Major media outlets do provide some quality
journalism. But the scattered islands of independent-minded reporting
are lost in oceans of the stenographic reliance on official sources.
As any advertising executive knows, the
essence of propaganda is repetition. Unless they're reverberating
in the national media echo chamber, particular stories and perspectives
usually have little effect.
In theory, everyone in the United States
has freedom to speak his or her mind. Freedom to be heard is another
matter. Sources of information and genuine diversity of viewpoints
should reach the public on an ongoing basis, but they don't. Meanwhile,
all kinds of pronouncements from official Washington take hold
in news media while rarely undergoing direct challenge. The enormous
distances between freedom of speech and freedom to be heard are
partial explanations for why fervent belief in Uncle Sam's global
benevolence remains so widespread among Americans. Laid on thick
by the dominant voices of mass communication, the latest conventional
wisdom flowing from the font of Pentagon Correctness swiftly hardens
and calcifies. The mainstream news outlets are saturated with
corporate sensibilities. The effects are such a matter of routine
that we usually don't give them a second thought. While we might
assume that coverage reflects the considered judgment of journalistic
pros, those journalists are enmeshed in a media industry dominated
by corporations with enough financial sway to redefine the meaning
of functional professionalism.
We should never forget that war is big-very
William Hartung, a senior research fellow
at the World Policy Institute based in Manhattan, pointed out
in late 2002 that "the Bush administration's strategy of
'preemptive war' in Iraq is the brainchild of a small circle of
conservative think tanks and weapons lobbying groups like the
Project for a New American Century (PNAC), whose members have
been pressing this approach for over a decade." Hartung added:
In the run-up to the 2000 presidential
election, PNAC published a report on "Rebuilding America's
Defenses" which has served as a blueprint for the Bush/Rumsfeld
Pentagon's military strategy, up to and including the coining
of terms such as "regime change." PNAC's founding document-a
unilateralist call for a return to the "peace through strength"
policies of the early Reagan years-was signed by Paul Wolfowitz,
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and numerous others who have gone
on to become major players in the Bush national security team.
Like the Coalition for the Liberation of Iraq, a newly formed
group of current and former Washington insiders designed to promote
the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, PNAC draws its support
from a tightly knit network of conservative ideologues, rightwing
foundations, and major defense contractors. Bruce P. Jackson,
a former vice president at Lockheed Martin who is a board member
and a founding signatory of the Project for a New American Century's
mission statement, serves as the chairman of the Coalition to
Liberate Iraq. In adopting the strategy promoted by this conservative
network, the Bush administration has successfully pressed for
more than $150 billion in new military spending and arms export
subsidies since September 11, 2001, much of which is going to
major weapons makers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop
Such vested interests in the military
business are powerful forces in a media industry propelled by
the corporate drive to maximize profits. The main problem with
the U.S. media is profoundly structural. The airwaves supposedly
belong to the public, but huge companies control them. Most of
mass communication media-such as broadcasting, cable, newspapers,
magazines, books, movies, the music industry, and, increasingly,
the Web-are dominated by huge corporate entities. More and more,
"public broadcasting" is also in the sway of big money.
Along with the politically appointed board of the nonprofit Corporation
for Public Broadcasting, corporate donors exert hefty influence
on programs by "underwriting" specific shows.
And when war is on the agenda in Washington,
news coverage gets skewed to an extreme.
Erlich: Depleted Uranium: America's Dirty
During the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. military wreaked havoc on
Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles. The Iraqis didn't stand a chance
because the U.S. tanks were protected with metal called depleted
uranium. Depleted uranium (DU) armor and ammunition gave the U.S.
a decided advantage. U.S. tanks fired DU shells, and helicopter
Gattling guns sprayed .30 mm DU ammunition in a deadly rain that
may well be killing U.S. veterans and Iraqi civilians years after
the war ended.
Depleted uranium is the material left
over from the processing of nuclear fuel. The U.S. military uses
DU as a substitute for lead to fill the core of special ammunition.
Depleted uranium is 1.7 times denser than lead, so it slices through
enemy armor and fortifications with relative ease when compared
to its lead counterpart. The same material is layered into tank
armor to prevent penetration by enemy shells.
When DU ammunition hits a hard target,
the impact causes intense heat, and the pulverized DU enters the
air. Soldiers nearby breath it in. Winds can blow it miles away
from the area of initial impact, so unlucky civilians also inhale
it. DU remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years. It can contaminate
soil and seep into the water table. Critics worry that DU is creating
long-term environmental disaster areas in both Iraq and former
Yugoslavia, where the U.S. also used DU. Doctors in both areas
report huge increases in cancer rates, and Iraqis have seen a
big jump in birth defects as well. Gulf War veterans report some
of the same symptoms.
Any U.S. and Britain invasion of Iraq
will almost certainly see the extensive use of depleted uranium
ammunition once again. In addition to the many civilian deaths
caused by direct hits, the ammunition may well cause great suffering
and death long after the conflict.
Something is very, very wrong in southern
Iraq. At Basra's Children's and Maternity Hospital, doctors display
a large photo album of hundreds of children born with horrible
birth defects. One study conducted by Iraqi doctors indicated
that 0.776 percent of Basra-area children were born with birth
defects in 1998, compared to just 0.304 percent in 1990, before
the Gulf War. Another study showed a rise in childhood cancers
and other malignancies of 384.2 percent from 1990--2000.
According to Dr. Jinan Hassan, a pediatrician
and assistant professor at the Basra University Medical College,
"Iraqi women from the south are afraid to get pregnant because
they are afraid of malformation.... At the time of birth, mothers
used to ask if their child was a boy or girl. Now they ask 'Is
it normal or abnormal?"'
Iraqi doctors, and an increasing number
of western scientists, attribute the rise in diseases and birth
defects to the U.S. and British use of depleted uranium. Iraqi
doctors said they have found highly elevated rates of cancers
in those parts of Basra where depleted uranium ammunition was
used. The, Pentagon confirms firing 320 tons of DU ammunition
during the Gulf War.
U.S. and British army veterans also suspect
DU as a cause of Gulf War illnesses. Dr. Doug Rokke, now a major
in the U.S. Army Reserves, was in charge of cleaning up twenty-four
U.S. tanks hit by American DU shells during the Gulf War, casualties
of friendly fire. He and his crew worked for three months shipping
the armor back to the U.S. for special decontamination.
The exposure to DU contamination was so
intense, Rokke told me, "We all got sick within seventy-two
hours." Three years later, Rokke said, a urine test showed
that he had 5,000 times the permissible level of uranium in his
body. A number of Gulf War veterans who worked in DU-contaminated
zones have been diagnosed with the same kind of cancers as found
in Basra civilians, and they also fathered children with birth
Rokke, a physicist with a Ph.D. and the
U.S. Army's former DU Project Director, studied the military's
internal documents and prepared materials on how to clean up DU
contaminated areas. Based on his experience, he says, "The
United States military leaders knew that using DU would cause
health and environmental problems."
The Pentagon argues, however, that DU
ammunition poses no danger to civilians. Department of Defense
literature notes that depleted uranium is less radioactive than
uranium found naturally in the environment, and argues that even
uranium miners regularly exposed to large doses of natural uranium
suffer no ill health as a result.
The Department of Defense concedes that
small amounts of depleted uranium are absorbed into the body when
breathed or eaten. But "no radiological health effects are
expected because the radioactivity of uranium and depleted uranium
are so low." (www.gulflink.osd.mil)
Health trends in Iraq and former Yugoslavia
indicate the Pentagon may be horribly wrong. Austrian oncologist
Dr. Eva-Maria Hobiger has studied the link between depleted uranium,
cancer, and birth defects. She won't draw any conclusions unless
an extensive epidemiological study can be done in Basra. The Iraqi
studies of birth defects and cancer rates have not been verified
by outside scientists.
Hobiger notes, however, that if DU lodges
in sensitive parts of the body such as lymph nodes or bones, it
produces a low but steady stream of radiation. Over time, this
could cause cancer, she says.
Dr. Hobiger and many others note that
southern Iraq has been an environmental disaster area for years.
During the Iran-Iraq War, some residents were hit with poison
gas. After the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi troops set oil wells on
fire and polluted the entire region for months. There is also
an air pollution problem-largely from industrial plants and brick
factories-in southern Iraq. Some scientists contend that these
other environmental factors could be causing the health problems
Dr. Hobiger argues that these other environmental
factors, while dangerous, don't explain all the problems. Air
pollution, for example, isn't known to cause birth defects. While
some poison gases can cause birth defects among parents who breathe
the gas, they are not known to cause malformations long after
She theorizes that DU in combination with
the air pollution may cause the cancer problems. DU's chemical
toxicity may also play a role. As a heavy metal, the DU can get
into the ground water and soil. Once in the food chain, it can
cause kidney cancer and a host of other ailments.
Until recently, however, scientists didn't
know whether DU actually appeared in the bodies of people living
in Iraq and the Balkans. That's because scientists must conduct
a very sophisticated urine analysis of each patient to find the
DU, and those tests were not available in Iraq.
The Pentagon and various other NATO armies
did conduct such tests on their soldiers who fought in the Balkan
wars and reported they found no traces of DU.
Then in 2001, BBC-TV in Scotland commissioned
Professor Nick Priest to study the issue. He's a professor at
the School of Health, Biological and Environmental Sciences at
London's Middlesex University and a recognized expert in radiation
issues. He took urine samples from twelve people from Bosnia and
Kosovo who lived in areas hit with DU ammunition.
Some were cancer patients, and one was
a child born after the Bosnian war. All showed some traces of
DU in their systems. The test "most likely indicates that
the metal [DU] is now present in the food chain and/or drinking
water," Professor Priest wrote in a report for a scientific
journal. In an interview in London, Priest said that the older
the people were, the more DU they had in their systems, indicating
that the contamination comes from DU particles in the environment
that are slowly absorbed over time.
In October 2002, Professor Priest and
scientists from Germany conducted a study with a larger number
of Serbs and Bosnians to determine whether his original findings
can be replicated. The results were expected to be released in
Professor Priest doesn't think that the
amount of radiation emitted from depleted uranium poses a serious
health hazard for civilians. The amount of DU he found, even in
the cancer patients, was below what could be expected to cause
such health problems. He noted that DU contains less radiation
than natural uranium.
The controversy continues because no one
can explain the sharp increase in Iraqi birth defects and cancers
since the Gulf War. It's extremely difficult to link an individual's
disease to a specific environmental factor. Scientists need to
conduct a study to correlate the types of health problems and
where they occur geographically. With a large enough sample, they
could determine if the health problem was caused by exposure to
DU, other environmental factors, family history, or something
At one time the World Health Organization
was planning just such a study in Iraq, but couldn't find the
funding. It was blocked by the U.S. and British, according to
Doctors are also troubled by reports of
health problems in Bosnia similar to those found in Basra. U.S.
planes fired approximately 3.3 tons of DU shells during the 1994-1995
Bosnian war and 10.2 tons during the 1999 Kosovo war, according
to the U.S. Department of Defense.
In interviews with doctors from Serbia
and Bosnia who have examined patients living in areas where DU
ammunition was extensively fired, they've seen a sharp increase
in cancer cases, although so far, there has been no increase in
Dr. Nada Cicmil-Saric is a medical oncologist
who treated families from the town of Foca-Srbinje, Bosnia. The
town's bridge was destroyed by U.S. attacks in 1994. She found
numerous cases where two or more family members living near the
bridge suffered from malignancies. While some cases might be attributed
to genetic factors, in other cases husbands and wives both developed
malignancies after 1994, a highly unusual occurrence, according
to Dr. Cicmil-Saric.
At her hospital, which treats many people
exposed to DU, she reports a five-fold increase in lung cancer
and three-fold increase in lymph node cancers since 1994 both
of which could be triggered by DU exposure. She has also seen
a five-to- six-fold increase in breast cancer, which is generally
not associated with DU, indicating other factors may be at work.
In the Bosnian war, as well as the 1998
NATO bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war, the U.S. hit factories
and power stations, causing the release of carcinogenic smoke.
As a result-much like the situation in Iraq-doctors say it's hard
to isolate the impact of DU without a thorough epidemiological
Officials in the Yugoslav republics of
Montenegro and Serbia aren't waiting for a final scientific assessment
of DU dangers. They have already started to clean up DU contaminated
Cape Arza is a spectacularly beautiful
spot about 30 miles south of Dubrovnik, in Montenegro along the
Adriatic coast. According to local myth, God was carrying treasure
from the Middle East to Europe and dropped some of it on this
land. In summertime, locals swim and fish in the azure sea.
On May 29 and 30, 1999-the closing days
of the Kosovo war-two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog) planes fired
DU rounds into Cape Arza. The Yugoslav Army built bunkers there
in 1968, which had been used during the war with Croatia in the
early 1990s. But there were no troops or weapons there in 1999,
according to Tomislav Andelic, a physicist with the Center for
Toxicological Research of Montenegro. "The U.S. just made
a mistake," Andelic said, "they had bad intelligence."
The U.S. planes shot some 300 DU .30 mm
bullets into Cape Arza, scattering them over 20,000 square meters
of deserted land.
Over the past three years, the DU bullets
have begun to oxidize and crumble. Montenegrin authorities worry
that the DU dust could be blown by the wind or seep into the ground.
Campers pitching a tent or children playing with the bullets could
become contaminated. In addition, the existence of contaminated
land will ruin any chance of tourism along this scenic stretch
The Yugoslav Army sealed off the area.
The Montenegrin government kicked in $300,000 and the federal
Yugoslav government another $100,000 to clean up Cape Arza. Soldiers
holding gamma monitors on long wooden dowels painstakingly covered
every inch of ground looking for DU bullets. They carefully pulled
them out by hand like archeologists working an ancient dig. The
contaminated bullets and radioactive dirt were shipped to Belgrade
for storage with other low-level radioactive waste.
The federal Yugoslav government plans
to clean up five similar sites in Serbia. But neither Serbia nor
Montenegro can find a foreign government, international agency,
or NGO willing to contribute money for the cleanups.
"If any country recognizes the need
of cleaning up depleted uranium," said Andelic, "it
would automatically mean they recognized the danger coming from
DU. If this happened, we could have damage claims and nobody is
ready to accept this."
If even some of the claims by Iraqi and
Balkan doctors about DU prove correct, then the U.S. and Britain
would come under tremendous pressure to stop using DU ammunition
and could potentially be forced to pay billions of dollars in
compensation to victims.
Somehow, this doesn't fit into U.S. plans
to remain the world's only superpower.
In dosing, it is worth noting that both
the U.S. and British armies have taken extensive precautions when
test firing DU shells in their own countries. Soldiers are enshrouded
in protective suits and use respirators when firing tank shells.
The test areas are sealed off and soldiers isolate the destroyed
armor and tank rounds after the tests.
Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times
"The Bush team discovered that the
best way to legitimize its overwhelming might-in a war of choice-was
not by simply imposing it, but by channeling it through the U.N."
Secretary of State [Colin Powell] on CNN
"If he [Saddam Hussein] doesn't comply
this time, we'll ask the U.N. to give authorization for all necessary
means, and if the U.N. is not willing to do that, the United States,
with like-minded nations, will go and disarm him forcefully."
Pentagon's Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, speaking
to some members of Parliament in Britain
"George Bush's top security adviser
last night admitted the U.S. would attack Iraq even if U.N. inspectors
fail to find weapons," the Mirror reported on November 20.
"Perle stunned MPs by insisting a 'clean bill of health'
from U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix would not halt America's
war machine Evidence from ONE witness on Saddam Hussein's weapons
program will be enough to trigger a fresh military onslaught,
he [Perle] told an all-party meeting on global security."
British defense minister Peter Kilfoyle
"America is duping the world into
believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends
to go to war even if inspectors find nothing. This makes a mockery
of the whole process and exposes America's real determination
to bomb Iraq."
Center for Constitutional Rights' president Michael Ratner
"What is going on here is completely
outrageous. The Security Council, a body that was supposed to
make war at the behest of one country illegal and impossible,
is paving the way to a war of aggression. And worst of all, the
U.S. will be able to argue that somehow it has its blessing."
Stephen Zunes, an associate professor of politics at the University
of San Francisco, November 2002:
"There are more than 100 U.N. Security
Council resolutions being violated by member states. Iraq is in
violation of at most sixteen of them. Ironically, Washington has
effectively blocked the enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions
against many other nations, since they include such countries
as Morocco, Indonesia, Israel and Turkey that are allied with
the United States."
[Eric Leaver, a researcher with the Foreign
Policy Focus Institute] was thinking outside the media box when
he asked this vital question: "If the U.S. takes military
action using the cover of the United Nations, what is to prevent
other countries from launching their own military attacks in the
name of enforcement of U.N. resolutions-against Turkey in Cyprus,
or Morocco in Western Sahara, or Israel in Palestine? This is
precisely the reason why the doctrine of preemptive force is a
dangerous policy for the United States to pursue."
The media legend of Colin Powell celebrates his high jumps over
low standards. Powell's record does not belong to a man of conscience.
Avid participation in the deplorable has been integral to his
career. A few examples:
* Serving as a top deputy to Secretary
of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Powell supervised the army's transfer
of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA in January 1986. Nearly half
of those missiles became part of the Reagan administration's arms
for-hostages swap with Iran. Powell helped to hide that transaction
from Congress and the public.
* As President Reagan's national security
adviser, Powell became a key operator in U.S. efforts to overthrow
the elected government of Nicaragua. When he traveled to Central
America in January 1988, Powell threatened a cutoff of U.S. aid
to any country in the region that refused to go along with continued
warfare by the contra guerrillas, who were then engaged in killing
thousands of Nicaraguan civilians. Powell worked to prevent the
success of a peace process initiated by Costa Rica's president,
* When U.S. troops invaded Panama on December
20,1989, Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He
had "emerged as the crucial figure in the decision to invade,"
according to British newspaper reporter Martin Walker. Hundreds
of civilians died in the first hours of the invasion. Powell declared
on that day: "We have to put a shingle outside our door saying,
'Superpower lives here."'
* In late 2000, while Bush operatives
were going all-out during the Florida recount to grab the electoral
votes of a state where many thousands of legally qualified African
Americans had been prevented from voting due to Republican efforts,
Powell went to George W. Bush's ranch in Texas to pose for a photo-op
and show support for his presidential quest.
But the Gulf War in 1991, more than any
other event, catapulted Powell to the top ranks of American political
Ron Kovic, a veteran of the Vietnam War and author of the autobiography
'Born on the Fourth of July', did not stop talking that afternoon.
From his wheelchair, he struggled to be heard. "I want the
American people to know what the general hid from the American
public during the Gulf War," Kovic said. "They hid the
casualties. They hid the horror. They hid the violence. We don't
need any more violence in our country. We need leaders who represent
cooperation. We need leadership that represents peace. We need
leaders who; understand the tragedy of using violence in solving
How many Iraqi people actually died during the Gulf War in 1991?
Powell and other American luminaries of the war have been notably
uninterested in discussing that question. But scholar Stephen
Zunes wrote in his 2002 book Tinderbox. Most estimates put the
Iraqi death toll in the Gulf War in the range of 100,000. Due
to the increased accuracy of aerial warfare, the proportion of
Iraqi civilians killed was much less than it had been in previous
air campaigns.... The absolute numbers were quite high. Most estimates
of the civilian death toll are approximately 15,000."
During the last several months of 2002,
journalists reported that the latest manifestation of Colin Powell's
"moderate" resolve was his stance on Iraq within the
administration of George W. Bush. But the secretary of state's
determination to line up allies and U.N. Security Council backing
could be understood as part of a solid commitment to make methodical
preparations for the coming war. Powell was thinking very pragmatically
in a global context. And so, during a lengthy and pivotal dinnertime
presentation to Bush on August 5, he made a strong appeal for
building coalitions. Later paraphrased by Washington Post reporter
Bob Woodward, the Powell pitch to the president emphasized the
practicalities of waging war against Iraq: "A successful
military plan would require access to bases and facilities in
the region, overflight rights. They would need allies."
In early September, four weeks after Powell
made his case to Bush, the Wall Street Journal noted that "access
to Qatar's al Udeid Air Base will be essential to an Iraq invasion."
Away from the glare of major publicity, big deals were being cut.
"Qatari officials have told U.S. officials that they want
a guarantee that the U.S. military presence in Qatar would be
permanent," the newspaper reported. "They also want
the U.S. to assume a greater portion of the $400 million cost
of upgrading al Udeid air base for the U.S. Air Force." As
for reluctant members of the U.N. Security Council, some bloody
quid pro quos were on the horizon. In the Journal's words, Moscow
"is expected to seek an understanding with the U.S. that
it will have a freer hand in putting down its rebellion in Chechnya
and that it will get a portion of the postwar contracts for rebuilding
Iraq." A new spree of atrocities by the Russian army in Chechnya
was soon to follow.
As for diplomatic issues, Powell's approach
was similar to the outlook of Fareed Zakaria, former managing
editor of the elite periodical Foreign Affairs, who shared Powell's
early interest in urging the return of U.N. weapons inspectors
to Iraq, a good public-relations step in the quest for a confrontation
leading to war. "Even if the inspections do not produce the
perfect crisis," Zakaria wrote in a September 2 Newsweek
column, "Washington will still be better off for having tried
because it would be seen to have made every effort to avoid war."
Along similar lines, CNN reported Powell "is working to convince
the president of the need to build a strong coalition, similar
to the one that existed during the 1991 Gulf War, and win the
support of the U.N. Security Council through a new resolution."
Deadly hawks come in many styles; some
have polished talons.
At the end of the Gulf War, the United States could have removed
Saddam Hussein from power, but feared his immediate ouster would
fracture the country. Pro-Iranian Shia Muslims would have taken
over southern Iraq. Kurds would have seized power in the north,
possibly leading to a Kurdish revolt in Turkey.
The U.S.-imposed sanctions have been brutally effective in bleeding
Iraqi civilians. For five years, the domestic economy was in a
state of near collapse. The medical system was ruined due to lack
of equipment and medicines. Public water and sewage systems deteriorated
to the point where children regularly suffered gastrointestinal
diseases. Malnutrition became a serious national problem.
In 1990, Iraq was rated 50th out of 130
nations on the U.N. Human Development Index, which measures a
country's overall development. By 2000 Iraq had plunged to 126th
out of 174. UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children have died as
a direct result of sanctions.
While the U.S. always stresses that sanctions are mandated by
the United Nations, in fact, sanctions would have been lifted
long ago were it not for U.S. and British pressure to keep them
in place. Sanctions were promoted by Republican and Democratic
administrations alike, who blamed Saddam Hussein for the suffering
of ordinary Iraqis.
"Who controls the past controls the future, who controls
the present controls the past."
Solomon: March to War
Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw, December 2002
"Based on past performance, both
by the current Bush administration and by its immediate Republican
predecessors, there's every reason to think that if we go to war
against Iraq, Washington will exert more control over the media
than ever before, using every tactic from manipulation to deception
Patrick Sloyan, Pulitzer Prize winning gulf War correspondent
"In manipulating the first and often
most lasting perception of Desert Storm," wrote Sloyan, "the
Bush administration produced not a single picture or video of
anyone being killed. This sanitized, bloodless presentation by
military briefers left the world presuming Desert Storm was a
war without death."
Erlich" The Oil Issue
The U.S. government-under Republican and Democratic administrations-
clearly promotes control of foreign oil resources as an integral
part of U.S. "national interests."
We should be skeptical of Bush's stated
concern for the Iraqi people. His real interests in this war are
not the Iraq people, or defending Americans from attack, but expanding
U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
Denis Halliday, a former U.N. Assistant Secretary General - headed
the U.N.'s food-for-oil program in Iraq:
Have we really bought the fiction, the
Washington propaganda, that Iraq is a threat? We all know-the
issue is oil, oil, and more oil. And U.S. control thereof.