Beyond Doublespeak: Iraq & Israel


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. 

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” (


, 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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

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


, 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…” 

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. 


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.” 

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. 

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.