NY Times Gasses its Own People, re: Syria
"The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human."
- Aldous HuxleyWhen I first read about a dictator unleashing chemical warfare upon "his own people," I thought the media was finally discussing how President Obama appointed Michael Taylor (vice president for public policy at Monsanto) to the position of deputy commissioner for Foods at the FDA.
(insert rimshot here)
But seriously, folks…
One of the "spins" I detailed in my 2004 book, Seven Deadly Spins, was a little something I called "U.S. vs. Them." By portraying all official enemies as savages, gooks, chinks, butchers, terrorists, evildoers, godless communists, or a never-ending parade of thugs auditioning for a starring role as the "next Hitler," wartime propaganda plays into our worst fears: the bogeyman. Our enemies, we learn, are never mere flesh-and-blood.
To make this happen -- time and time again -- the U.S. government calls on the corporate media to keep the rabble ready to rumble.
Not All Victims are Created Equal
The newspaper of record went officially on record with a piece of blatant indoctrination called "Blasts in the Night, a Smell, and a Flood of Syrian Victims," on Aug. 26, 2013.
Reporters (sic) Ben Hubbard and Mark Marzetti waxed poetic over the victims of what is being called a "chemical attack" in Syria with lines like: "Thousands of sick and dying" and "overwhelmed doctors worked frantically" and details of doctors facing this problem: "where to put the dead."
Of course, every life matters and we should mourn all those humans and non-humans murdered throughout this needless conflict but have we ever heard the U.S. corporate media humanize the victims of Obama’s drones like this:
The attacks caused such chaos among residents that the death toll is still unknown, and many are still uncertain about the fate of their relatives. "Those are my cousins," said one person in a video shot in the city of Hamouriyeh, pointing to the ground where the bodies of a man and his two children lay. "I’m still looking for the rest," he said. "Five or six of them." … Bodies covered tile floors, stretched down hallways and were laid out on sidewalks and streets.
Are the ongoing drone strikes -- funded by heavily programmed U.S. taxpayers -- ever described as the "indiscriminate slaughter of civilians" or a "cowardly crime" or a "moral obscenity"? Those are the precise words used by Secretary of State John Kerry when publicly denouncing the purported chemical attacks in Syria.
The New York Times and its ilk never call it a "moral obscenity" when, for example, U.S.-enforced sanctions are responsible for a half million dead children.
According to the corporate media, it is never a "cowardly crime" when increasingly militarized law enforcement agents gun down unarmed people of color.
Do we ever hear about "overwhelmed doctors" working "frantically" to help the victims of corporate pollution or global poverty?
"Bodies covered tile floors, stretched down hallways"? Sounds like a typical day at the slaughterhouse or the fur farm or the trawling nets.
Our entire culture is drenched in blood and is thus facing this problem: "where to put the dead." However, thanks to the professional propagandists of the corporate media, we’re only allowed to focus on the victims in Syria -- all in the name of justifying yet another military intervention ordered by the Nobel Peace Prize winner currently occupying the White House.
This reluctant American president, as Hubbard and Marzetti tell us in the Times, has "tried desperately to keep the United States out of another war in the Middle East."
(insert rimshot here)
We’ve heard this story many, many times before. The seductive drumbeat of war has commenced and it won’t stop until we’re all gleefully sharing YouTube footage of Assad’s hanging. Ain’t democracy swell?
"The scale of what took place"
According to the NY Times, "Western nations say they have solid evidence" that the Syrian government used chemical weapons (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) but if the United States does "get involved," it will most likely be because of "the scale of what took place."
Again, if the reports are true or not, I’d never underestimate the horror of chemical weapons (a.k.a. WMD). Rather, I’ll shine a light on the "the scale" of the hypocrisy. The only nation ever to use nuclear weapons -- purposely targeting civilians, no less -- wants us to share their outrage that the Syrian government may or may not have used WMD.
News Flash: The only nation ever to use nuclear weapons is still using them, only now they employ the euphemism of "depleted uranium" or DU.
DU is the byproduct of uranium enrichment, a waste product of the nuclear industry. As the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons explains: "Depleted uranium itself is a chemically toxic and radioactive compound, which is used in armor piercing munitions because of its very high density. It is 1.7 times denser than lead. This allows it to easily penetrate the steel armor of tanks and other vehicles when fired at high velocity."
"When fired," explained James Ridgeway in the Village Voice, "the uranium bursts into flame and all but liquefies, searing through steel armor like a white hot phosphorescent flare. The heat of the shell causes any diesel fuel vapors in the enemy tank to explode, and the crew inside is burned alive."
"Depleted uranium burns on contact," says Helen Caldicott, "creating tiny aerosolized particles less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled." These minute particles can travel "long distances when airborne," she adds.
Some might even call this "moral obscenity."
"On the cold floor to die"
You may have noticed a smidgeon of skepticism on my part as to the veracity of the chemical weapons report. To help explain my suspicion, I’ll take you back to the build-up to Operation Desert Storm in 1990:
In the name of "rallying" public support for a U.S. military intervention in Iraq, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti "refugee" named Nayirah appeared before Congress and tearfully described witnessing Iraqi troops stealing incubators from a hospital, leaving 312 babies "on the cold floor to die."
Nayirah’s dramatic -- but ultimately false -- testimony may have tricked the American populace but it was, in reality, part of a $10 million Kuwait government propaganda campaign managed by the NYC-based public relations firm, Hill and Knowlton. Rather than working as a volunteer at a hospital, Nayirah was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington.
"We didn’t know it wasn’t true at the time," said Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser. But, he admitted: "It was useful in mobilizing public opinion."
As they say in South Florida: BINGO!
"His Own People"
To really drive home the misinformation, Hubbard, Marzetti, and their commissars at the Times shamelessly call upon a classic motif. The attacks in Syria, they declare, are "most likely the deadliest chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein’s troops killed thousands of Kurds with sarin gas during the waning days of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988."
When in doubt, drag out a Hall of Fame evildoer.
Needless to say, the Times reporters (sic) opt to eschew context like this: While it was commonly cited as a pretext for the relentless war against Iraq, the United States and Britain did not call for a military strike after Saddam's gassing of Kurds at Halabja in March 1988. In fact, both nations continued support for Hussein’s regime.
As reported in the Dec. 20, 2002 edition of the Berlin daily, Die Tageszeitung, 24 U.S. corporations supplied Iraq with nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile technology prior to 1991. The list includes Honeywell, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, and Bechtel.
Hey, who needs to worry about a few atrocities and war crimes when the shareholders are clamoring over this quarter’s profits?
It also remains amusing to still hear how Hussein gassed "his own people" back in 1988. The Kurds were Saddam’s people as much as the Seminoles were Andrew Jackson’s people.
"Experiments worthy of Dr. Mengele"
Before I close out here, please allow me to state for the record, that one precise, well-documented example of a nation using WMD on "its own people" does exist.
In late 1993, then-Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary released documents about secret nuclear experiments performed on American citizens. Immediately after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. nuclear researchers set about, at any cost, to discern the effects of plutonium on the human body.
"In experiments worthy of Dr. Mengele," wrote reporter Jack Bradigan Spula, "these researchers chose unwitting patients who were not expected to live long anyway."
"There were two kinds of experiments," says Peter Montague, director of the Environmental Research Foundation. "In one kind, specific small groups (African-American prisoners, mentally retarded children, and others) were induced, by money or by verbal subterfuge, to submit to irradiation of one kind or another. In all, some 800 individuals participated in these 'guinea pig' trials. In the second kind, large civilian populations were exposed to intentional releases of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere."
Far from a momentary lapse amidst post-"Good War" paranoia, these U.S. radiation experiments have left a trail of declassified documents that stretches three miles long.
Never forget, comrades: This is what we’re up against so let’s stop with the petty in-fighting and make some goddamned progress.
NYC event note: Come see Mickey Z. in person at Bluestockings Bookstore on August 31 for a screening of The Cove/Japan Dolphins Day.
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.