In 2002 US historian and foreign policy critic William Blum published a book titled Rogue State – A guide to the world’s only superpower. He opened his introduction with this paragraph;
This book could be entitled Serial Chain-Saw Baby Killers and the Women Who Love Them.
The women don’t really believe that their beloved would do such a thing, even if they’re shown a severed limb or a headless torso. Or if they believe it, they know down to their bone marrow that lover-boy really had the best of intentions; it must have been some kind of very unfortunate accident, a well-meaning blunder; in fact, even more likely, it was a humanitarian act.
I have written many times about the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, how people when faced with unpleasant facts that conflict with deeply held beliefs have to dismiss or discount those facts(and those who write/report them) in order to maintain their piece of mind.
When it comes to the foreign and defence policy of the United States and Israel this is exactly what most citizens of these two countries do. To maintain their belief in the mythology of their nation’s founding and the righteousness of its subsequent actions, they reject all evidence that conflicts with it, particularly when that evidence suggests a degree of barbarity and mendacity bordering on evil.
Mitigating this is their exposure to unrelenting propaganda machine rivaling anything in totalitarian governments. But people living under dictatorial rule generally know they are being lied to but go along because they are scared of the security apparatus. In a democracy the lies are disseminated through the “free press” with a slickness borrowed from the advertising industry, repeated over and over until they insinuate themselves into the subconscious.
You have to actively seek out alternative narratives to provide any semblance of balance. Most do not. They may have doubts but they are quickly discarded if they are too uncomfortable. In their definitive treatise on the subject of propaganda in a democracy, Manufacturing Consent, Herman and Chomsky note how it is done. This is the context in how people should assess and filter official statements in the MSM, not just in Israel and the US, but in smaller and more benign democracies like New Zealand.
“The power of the (US) propaganda system lies in its ability to mobilize an elite consensus, to give the appearance of democratic consent, and to create enough confusion, misunderstanding and apathy in the general population to allow elite programmes to go forward”
The Israeli attack on the UN school in Gaza was a pivotal point in the latest invasion. The Israeli response was entirely predictable, first blaming Hamas missiles for falling short, then Hamas for being in the near vicinity and using civilians as cover or shields.
Like wise an even more extreme atrocity committed by the US during the 1991 Gulf War. The US put two specially designed bombs through the roof of the Amiriyah air raid shelter in Bagdad incinerating over 400 hundred civilians, mostly women and children. The blast temperatures were so hot many bodies fused with the concrete walls!
The breast high ‘scum’ on the walls, was the flesh of those who perished. On the upper floor is the seared ‘shadow’ of a mother, holding her baby. Hiroshima revisited. I could bear the screams no longer and fled out and in to the sunlight. Noticing a small, blackened, brass plaque on the wall, I asked a Jordanian friend what it read. He struggled with the translation for a moment, the: ‘It is like when there is a crisis and civilian people try to help ..’ ‘Civil Defence?’ I asked : ‘Yes, yes, it says Civil Defence Shelter No:24.’
The US of course, and this will be familiar to those listening to Israeli statements in the last couple of days, claimed that the air raid shelter was a military communications center and being used by Iraqi elite and the civilians were being used as a human shield. Eventually it was dismissed as an accident but one of Iraqi making. Saddam was at fault and to blame not the US military. There was little questioning of this in the US media – shades of 2003 and the next Iraq war.
It is questionable, given an honest account of Amiriyah, whether sufficient US citizens would have demanded account from their government. People conditioned by years of American exceptionalism don’t want to consider their leaders or military as psychopaths.
Israel does have a more active anti establishment movement, many of them ex servicemen and their families disillusioned by their experience as conscripts in Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza. But they are denied oxygen in the MSM. In the last couple of days for instance, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority denied a group who wanted to list the names of Palestinian children killed in Gaza as part of an advertisement on radio, the right to do so. Too “politically controversial” aka shameful.
B’Tselem went on: “IBA says broadcasting the children’s names is politically controversial. But refusing to do so is in itself a far-reaching statement – it says the huge price being paid by civilians in Gaza, many of them children, must be censored.”
It is also worth remembering the kidnapping/murder and revenge killing that precipitated the whole conflict. It turns out the Israeli government knew the Hamas leadership were not involved and that the 3 boys were dead almost from the beginning but withheld this to whip up support for the latest confrontation. This is modus operandi for both the US and Israel. In this they are no different than the authoritarian/totalitarian regimes they criticise.
If you need depressing confirmation of this, William Blum’s book Killing Hope – US military and CIA interventions since World War 2 provides 56 chapters of evidence. Not convinced? How about late historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States or for a more Middle Eastern perspective, Robert Fisk’s opus The Great War for Civilisation – The conquest of the Middle East. Critics may say these authors are one sided but generally they slam everyone and they provide a necessary antidote to the white washed versions from the governments they take to task.
Next time you hear the US or Israel trying to justify their actions, the collateral damage of the old, women and children consider this from David Edwards and David Cromwell in Guardians of Power.
“Normalising the unthinkable is achieved by passing lightly over even the most horrendous crimes of state-corporate power, by casting doubt on the true severity of those crimes – suggesting that, anyway, the ends justify the means, that alternative courses of actions would have had even worse consequences – and by focusing laser-like on the crimes of official enemies”
As I said in my essay, when confronted with official propaganda
we desperately need journalists like Fisk to inform us, to expose the duplicity, mendacity and Machiavellian nature of international affairs. We need their outrage to explain to us the human cost of the acts committed in the name of freedom and democracy. What we choose to do with their writing is up to us but never claim you did not know, that no one told you. Maybe you just didn’t want to hear.