Language of War
That is Used to Justify the Unjustifiable
By Robert Fisk
Why do we aid and abet the
lies and propaganda of this filthy war? How come, for example, it's
now BBC "style" to describe the Anglo-American invaders as
the "coalition". This is a lie. The "coalition"
that we're obviously supposed to remember is the one forged to drive
Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait in 1991, an alliance involving dozens
of countries almost all of whom now condemn President Bush Junior's
adventure in Iraq. There are a few Australian special forces swanning
about in the desert, courtesy of the country's eccentric Prime Minister,
John Howard, but that's it.
So, who at the BBC decreed
this dishonest word "coalition"? True, there's a "coalition
of the willing", to use Mr Bush's weird phrase, but this is a reference
to those nations that have given overflying rights to the United States
or have given political but not military support. So the phrase "coalition
forces" remains a lie.
Then there's the historical
slippage to justify the unjustifiable. When Jonathan Charles, an "embedded"
journalist, reported in the early days of the invasion that the British
army outside Basra was keeping a watchful eye on the Iranian border
because the Iranians had "stirred up" an insurrection in the
city in 1991, his dispatch was based on a falsehood. The Iranians never
stirred up an insurrection in Basra. President Bush Senior did that
by calling for just such a rebellion and then betraying the Shia
Muslims who followed his appeal. The Iranians did everything they could
to avoid involvement in the uprising.
Then there's the disinformation
about the "securing" of Basra. This was followed by an admission
that though the British had "secured" Basra they hadn't actually
captured it and, indeed, have still not captured it. The same
goes for the US Marines who were said to have "secured" Nasiriyah,
but didn't capture it until last week when, given the anarchy that broke
out in the city, they appear to have captured it without making it secure.
The US forces bravely rescued a captured American female soldier; what
didn't make it into the same story was that they also "rescued"
12 Americans, all of whom were already dead.
The Iraqis try to imitate
the US Central Command (CentCom) propaganda operations, though with
less subtlety. An attempt to present an American cruise missile attack
on a secret police office in the Mansour district last week as the attempted
destruction of a maternity hospital it was just across the street
but only sustained broken windows was straight out of the "Huns
crucify nuns" routine. Iraqi military communiqués inevitably
claim a number of American and British tanks and personnel carriers
destroyed that is way beyond credibility. At Najaf, the Iraqi Armed
Forces General Command (communiqué number 16) stated on Friday
that Iraqi forces had destroyed 17 tanks, 13 armoured personnel carriers
and a Black Hawk helicopter. Whoops.
Yesterday, according to the
Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi troops destroyed
four US personnel carriers and an American warplane.
Sometimes the communiqués
are verifiable. An Apache actually was shot down by a farmer and CentCom
admitted an F-18 bomber was shot down over Iraq last week. However,
the sheer military detail put out by the Iraqi authorities, grotesquely
exaggerated though it often is, far outstrips the old bones chucked
by the Americans at the correspondents in their air-conditioned high-security
headquarters in Qatar.
Another enjoyable lie was
the American assertion that the anti-chemical weapons suits issued to
Iraqi soldiers "proved" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass
destruction. The Iraqis neatly replied that the equipment was standard
issue but that since US and British forces carried the same equipment,
they too must be in possession of forbidden weapons. The Iraqi lie
that the country remains united under a beloved leader is hardly
questioned in press conferences held by Taha Yassin Ramadan, the Iraqi
Vice-President. Unity may be the one element Iraq will never possess
under US occupiers. But its existence under Saddam Hussein has been
imposed through terror.
Then there's the famous "war
in Iraq" slogan which the British and American media like to promote.
But this is an invasion, not a mere war.
And isn't it turning into
an occupation rather than a "liberation"? Shouldn't we be
remembering in our reports that this whole invasion lacks legitimacy?
Sure, the Americans claim they needed no more than the original UN resolution
1441 to go to war. But if that's the case, why did Britain and the US
vainly seek a second resolution? I can't help thinking readers and viewers
realise the mendacity of all this sleight of hand, and that we journalists
go on insulting these same readers and viewers by thinking we can con
Thus, we go on talking about
an "air campaign" as if the Luftwaffe was taking off from
Cap Gris Nez to bomb London, when not a single Iraqi aircraft has left
the ground. So, it's "coalition forces", a war not an invasion,
liberation rather than occupation, and the taking of cities that are
"secured" rather than "captured", and when captured,
And all this for the dead
of 11 September.
This article originally appeared
in The Independent