Media coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom (sic) has been about as pathetic as expected. Distortion, spin, and outright lies rule the day. However, outside the reports being generated by journalists in bed, I mean, embedded with the military, the corporate media continues to churn out its steady dose of pro-intervention propaganda.
Two New York Times articles on March 29, 2003 struck me as useful examples.
Edward Rothstein penned a piece called “Churchill, Heroic Relic or Relevant Now?” that began with a reference to Winston Churchill “regularly warning a complacent British Parliament about the imminent threat of German rearmament.”
The media just can’t enough of the “appeasement” myth.
Rothstein goes on to explain, “Now that the United States is again engaged in battle, Churchill is again an inescapable presence.” Churchill’s grandson, it seems, wrote in support of a war against Iraq in The Wall Street Journal, noting, “it was my grandfather, Winston Churchill, who invented Iraq and laid the foundation for much of the modern Middle East.” Rothstein describes our hero “futilely argued for establishing an autonomous state for the Kurds.”
What Rothstein and his editors deemed unfit to print is another chapter in Kurdish history. In 1919, the Royal Air Force asked Churchill for permission to use chemical weapons “against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment.” Churchill, secretary of state at the war office at the time, promptly consented: “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes,” he explained. Churchill espoused a similar policy in July 1944 when he asked his chiefs of staff to consider using poison gas on the Germans “or any other method of warfare we have hitherto refrained from using.” Unlike in 1919, his proposal was denied so instead he enlisted the aid of British scientists to cook up “a new kind of weather” for Dresden.
Anyone familiar with Churchill’s record would not have been surprised by his predisposition towards attacking those he deemed inferior. In 1910, in the capacity of Home Secretary, he proposed the sterilization of 100,000 “mental degenerates,” while suggesting tens of thousands of others be sent to state-run labor camps. These actions were to take place in the name of saving the British race from inevitable decline as its inferior members bred.
Speaking of inevitable declines, the Times’ opinion page, on the same day, featured an editorial called “Supplying the Enemy.” Rumors of Russia’s supplying of weapons to Iraq raised the moral hackles of the Times agenda-setters who chose to omit any mention of U.S. arming of Iraq prior to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Ever fair and balanced, the Times acknowledged Russian grievances but warned that no such grievance “justifies providing Iraqis with means of killing Americans.”
The editorial concludes: “Mr. Putin must understand that if Russian arms are reaching Iraq by any route, and are putting American men and women in harm’s way, it is simply not enough to declare that he is not responsible, or to pretend it is not happening…but no Americans will tolerate or forgive having an American tank blown up by a Russian missile.”
Take that same paragraph and change a few words and you have Pravda, circa 1980: “Mr. Carter (or Reagan) must understand that if U.S. arms are reaching Afghanistan by any route, and are putting Soviet men and women in harm’s way, it is simply not enough to declare that he is not responsible, or to pretend it is not happening…no Russians will tolerate or forgive having an Soviet tank blown up by a U.S. missile.”
Pravda, New York Times, or Churchill’s orations…propaganda is still propaganda and the highest cost is always hidden behind euphemisms like collateral damage and friendly fire.
Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (www.murderingofmyyears.com ) and an editor at Wide Angle (www.wideangleny.com ). He can be reached at: [email protected]