"If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all." ~ Virginia Woolf
Truth and Lies on the War in Iraq
How did an obscure Russian aviation web site's Alexa ranking shoot from 95,865 over the last 3 months to 7,831 on March 23rd and 3,623 on March 24th? Perhaps because it is one of the few places on the net, or in any media, to find informed, timely, objective information on the situation in Iraq. The name of the site is Venik's Aviation - Aerospace News and Technical Information, which is an English language version of http://www.iraqwar.ru/. They describe themselves as an:
"'analytical center was created recently by a group of journalists and military experts from Russia to provide accurate and up-to-date news and analysis of the war against Iraq'based on the Russian military intelligence reports."
Most people assume Iraq's media to be biased and unreliable regarding reporting of the war. For this reason, even if truthful, reports from Iraqi media will not be taken seriously. Western media, particularly United States media has become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Pentagon. Their errors have been so huge to be laughable if this wasn't such a serious business, or if there wasn't a chance they were doing it on purpose:
"You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month." ~ CIA operative discussing with Philip Graham, editor Washington Post, on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories. Katherine The Great, by Deborah Davis (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991)
Embedded reporters are increasingly censored. Battles raged, but initially we saw little more than tanks speeding through empty desert. It seems there is a three-step process for seeing bad news on CNN, etc. First, evidence of a POW or fatality must be seen on Iraqi TV. Second, there must be a grudging admission by the Pentagon. Finally, we see the story on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. This all leads us to wonder how much is not being reported just because it did not show up first on Iraqi TV! There is little or no effort to independently verify the Pentagon's claims. Reports invariably begin with references to their sources in military or government positions. This is all given an air of legitimacy by some retired "expert" Colonel du jour who may very well be on the Defense Intelligence Agency's payroll. This is the plan, of course, and it allows the military to make blatant use of CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. as propaganda mouthpieces.
The two most egregious examples of disinformation disseminated by the major news media are the battle for Umm-Qasr and the surrender of the Iraqi 51st Infantry Division. Demonstrating its first victory in battle and demonstrating mass surrenders on the part of the Iraqi Army was extremely important to the Pentagon. This would increase support for the war on the home front, increase coalition morale, and demoralize the Iraqi Army. It was so important to the Pentagon, in fact, that they chose to completely make it up. We're not talking about shading the truth here; we are talking lie ' bold, plain and simple.
All major media outlets dutifully reported that Umm-Qasr had fallen to coalition forces on 20 March. They have repeated the same lie every day since then, never demanding independent verification, just mouthing the same Pentagon lines. The truth is the battle there continues as of March 24th. So far, coalition forces have not taken a single town. CNN, MSNBC, Fox and others also reported that coalition forces took the city of Basra, a charade that was extremely simple to refute. Nonetheless, when the Pentagon told CNN Basra had fallen, CNN reported it as fact.
On March 21st all major media reported the surrender of the entire Iraqi 51st Infantry Division. Where were the supposed 8,000 POWs? Don't ask General McChrystal who was asked this question during a Pentagon news briefing. "They must have run off," was his reply. Nobody laughed at him. In fact, nobody even asked a follow up question. Imagine his surprise (none I'm sure) to see the commander that "surrendered" on Al Jazeera March 23rd describing how well his division was fighting.
Fortunately, humans have some latent desire to know the truth and at least a rudimentary ability to know BS when they hear it. In the past, this led to frustration because alternative sources for news were not readily available. Ironically, the DoD created the internet, and it has undone a great deal of their efforts to keep the people in ignorance and fear. Knowledge empowers people and facilitates another latent desire - the desire for justice. All over the world people who know better are demonstrating against the war in Iraq. Only in the United States and Israel, the homes of the world's most sophisticated disinformation apparatus, is there not an overwhelming majority in opposition to the war. This will change as the truth emerges.
All this brings me back to that Russian website. The Russians have the intelligence capability to eavesdrop on coalition conversations, so they get the real uncensored scoop from the battlefield. They are not in NATO or closely allied to the United States, so they feel no need to shade the truth for the benefit of the United States. One might contend that the Russians are reporting mistruths in favor of the Iraq, but this should be tempered by the economic ties they have with the United States as well as the knowledge that the United States will almost certainly emerge victorious. A look at the site will reinforce its credibility. The reports are factual and detailed. They give a distinct air of credibility. They are also concerning and eyebrow raising. Here are some tidbits:
- Coalition pilots are finding it very difficult to identify and destroy radar and aircraft due to the extensive use of mock-ups. "We engaged everything that looked like a radar. But there is no way in hell we can know what it really was!" ' reported one of the coalition pilots back to ground control after releasing missiles against a suspected Iraqi radar site. "
- At least two of the eight supposedly Iraqi missiles that hit Kuwait turned out to be US sea- launched cruise missiles that strayed off course.
- A radio intercept made last night at approximately 4:40 am [March 22nd] indicated that two British helicopters were shot down by a "Strela" SAM system after flying into a SAM trap. The official explanation for the loss was that the two helicopters crashed into each other while taking-off from a ship.
- Chairman Gen. Richard Mayers expressed strong criticism of the actions by the coalition commander Gen. Franks and proposed to strengthen his headquarters with several other senior military commanders.
- A CIA referent in the combat area Col. Davis (likely to be a pseudonym) and the US DoD Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) regional director were demoted due to their inadequate performance in estimating the strength of Iraq's forces and their combat readiness.
-According to the intercepted radio traffic, the US forces have sustained up to 40 killed, up to 10 captured and up to 200 wounded during the fighting near An-Nasiriya. The US forces have also lost up to 40 armored vehicles, including no less than 10 tanks.
- The overall coalition losses at Umm Qasr during the past four days amounted to up to 40 killed and up to 200 wounded. The overall British losses on the Fao peninsula during the past four days of fighting include up to 15 killed and up to 100 wounded.
Work is paralyzed at the coalition press-center in Kuwait. Journalists are not able to get any information except for the hourly press communiqu' from the command. A variety of reasons are cited by the military to reduce the number of trips into the combat zone for the journalists. All reports coming from the journalists attached to the coalition units are now being strictly censored by the military. All live broadcasts, as those seen during the first day of the war, are now strictly prohibited by a special order from the coalition command. The required time delay between the time news video footage was shot and the time it can be broadcast has been increased to a minimum of four hours.