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Beyond Doublespeak: Iraq & Israel
B ush, Sharon, and the media are steadily breaking new ground in the use of language to put aggression, pacification, ethnic clean- sing, and the disregard for law and elementary decency in a good light. There is, of course, continuity with word management in the past, but overwhelming military superiority, greater official and elite arrogance, the influence of religious fundamentalism in both the United States and Israel, and the growing power of the hardline right in the media, have helped push language beyond doublespeak.
There was continuity, however, in L. Paul Bremer’s April threats of a military showdown with rebels in Fallujah and Najaf, based on the rebels’ failure to submit to U.S. demands, which Bremer indicated would require decisive action against those who “want to shoot their way to power” ( NYT , April 19). This is very similar to James Reston’s remark in 1965 that the United States was in Vietnam to establish the principle “that no state shall use military force or the threat of military force to achieve its political objectives.” The premise in both is that when the United States uses or threatens force to achieve its political ends, this is not “shooting its way to power” because the United States is above the battle and seeks not power, but—apart from “self defense”—higher values, including service to the people it is shooting. But whatever the fluid and hypocritical rationales, there is this longstanding ability to swallow a double standard that is comical in its disconnect from reality.
The United States invaded and occupied Iraq to control its oil and to reshape Middle Eastern politics through a dominant presence in that country. But with the rest of the world highly critical of this outburst of imperialist aggression, there has been an exceptional need to establish an “Arab façade” (an old British imperialist expression) that can be sold as a “transfer of power” to the Iraqis. The nominal Bush objective in Iraq—following the setting aside of the prevention of a mushroom cloud over New York from Saddam’s non-existent arsenal of weapons of mass destruction—is to bring “freedom” and “democracy” to Iraq (as Bush steadily removes them from his own country). The preferred word now is “freedom” rather than “democracy” as the former encompasses free enterprise; that is, the selling off of Iraqi state assets and opening the door to foreign sales and investment. By contrast, “democracy” has a nasty connotation of populism and ordinary people, not just the elite, shaping govern- ment decision-making and controlling the state.
But in the establishment view, even more than in the case of the home populace, ordinary people in U.S.-targeted countries are not to be trusted to run their own affairs, because they are ignorant, don’t understand and appreciate neoliberal economics, may not believe in U.S. good intentions, and, as Henry Kissinger said of the Chileans in justification of the overthrow of democracy there, they may be “irresponsible.” When they don’t see the light they must be straightened out by truth-tellers like U.S. officials, CNN, Fox, MS- NBC, and the rest—definitely not Al-Jazeera and other “biased” institutions. In addition to truth, they may have to be made to realize who is boss by adequate firepower that will make it clear to them that they cannot shoot their way to power.
The attempt to maintain control while establishing the plausible Arab façade has produced its own Orwellian lexicography. First there was the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), appointed by U.S. officials, that did not govern and was not intended to govern, but rather to rubber stamp decisions of the overlord running things through the “Coalition Provisional Authority” (CPA). The IGC has not worked out well; some of its members have complained of their powerlessness, the Iraqi people see it as a façade and reject it, and even the overlord is not satisfied with its performance. Second, we have the overlord’s plan to transfer “sovereignty,” and even “full sovereignty,” to Iraqis on June 30, 2004, although this is threatened by the outbreak of “terrorism” and “insurgency” by locals trying to shoot their way into power. But the sovereignty grant was to be of a special Orwellian sort, as the new Iraqi rulers in place after June 30 would not have been elected by the Iraqi people, but would be selected in “a process of deliberations and consultations” carried out by the CPA and IGC.
This new body would work under an “Interim Constitution,” which has a noble statement of “fundamental rights” (as does every constitution), but legitimates the continued presence of foreign troops, which, along with Iraqi forces, will be under the overlord’s “unified command” who is in possession of 14 or more bases in Iraq. The Interim Constitution also declares that all CPA laws and regulations will be recognized as valid, which makes the CPA the true legislative authority and allows it to reshape the economy and polity without even nominal input from Iraqis. Stalling on genuine demo- cracy will allow continued full overlord control of the “sovereign” Iraq into the indefinite future.
If the Iraqis rebel against this version of their sovereignty, as they are already doing, this will create “insecurity” and require more brutal and durable pacification by the aggressor-occupier. “Security” in the Iraqi context means acceptance of U.S. rule, direct or by proxy. This puts the occupying power in a win-win situation: if the Iraqis will only accept real democracy, as opposed to the U.S.-planned client regime, this will cause “insecurity,” requiring crushing violence by the overlord. On the other hand, if the Iraqis give up and accept aggressor hegemony, there will be security and a limited further need to destroy and kill. We may be sure that the U.S. media will rationalize either process—justifying mass killing in the need for security in the face of “terrorism” and “insurgency” or congratulating their leaders for having brought “democracy and freedom” to one more benighted country.
Things have become a bit complicated by the brazenness of the effort to maintain control and congressional concerns that the aggressor would lose control, which have led to admissions and assurances that, in Wolfowitz’s words, Iraq would have only “limited sovereignty” (“Pentagon assures military will have free hand after Iraq sovereignty,” AFP , April 20, 2004—a report on the Senate Armed Forces Committee hearings). Wolfowitz even made this seem a regrettable imposition on the United States by the UN in Security Council Resolution 1511, which authorizes a multinational force “under unified command” to provide “security” to Iraq until a constitutional government is established—“to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq…”
Of course, 1511 also calls for a return of governing authority to the Iraqis “as soon as practicable” and calls on the aggressor-occupier to report to the Security Council at least every six months. But Wolfowitz is right that with 1511, the UN Security Council legitimized the aggression-occupation, recognized the nominal authority of the U.S.-appointed Arab façade (the IGC), and gave the aggressor rights to bring “security and stability” to Iraq. If the Iraqi people rebel against the invader, and he produces still more insecurity by his usual resort to more violence, Kofi Annan and the UN will once again have sold out basic principles, including international law and the right of a people to self-defense and self-determination. After tacitly approving aggression, they are tacitly approving the aggressor’s pacification by extreme violence, which will probably have escalated markedly in Fallujah and Najaf by the time this is published, as the Bush administration struggles to crush organized opposition to its plans well before the November 2004 election.
T he other recent beyond doublespeak gem is the Bush acceptance of Israel’s major settlements on the West Bank based on the “realities on the ground.”
The settlements had been made in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prevents an occupying power from seizing territory for its own use and it has been done by the most brazen use of force, by pushing “untermenschen” out. Power comes out of the mouth of guns supplied by the U.S. taxpayer, which has helped establish these facts on the ground. Both the supply of guns and the capacity to accept massive and ruthless ethnic cleansing comes out of the economic and military power of the evil duo, the racism and expansionism of Israel, the power of the Jewish lobby, and the political economy of the United States.
If only Saddam had had a Godfather to support him when he invaded and occupied Kuwait back in August 1990. The Godfather might then have said: Well, what is past is past and we must respect those “realities on the ground.” In fact, that Godfather betrayed him, with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq telling Saddam one week before his invasion that his dispute with Kuwait was strictly Arab business and then deciding that it was the Godfather’s business after all. There will be no such betrayal of “man of peace” Ariel Sharon by George Bush, worried about his election chances; only a betrayal of elementary human decency, international law, and moral principle, which is par for the course.
Edward S. Herman is a writer, economist, and media analyst.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.