By Chris Floyd
March 18, 2005
U.S. President George W. Bush often complains about the "media filter" that distorts the true picture of his administration's accomplishments in Iraq. And he's right. For regardless of where you stand on Bush's policies in the region, it's undeniable that the political and commercial biases of the American press have consistently misrepresented the reality of the situation.
Here's an excellent example. Earlier this month, the American media completely ignored an important announcement from an official of the Iraqi government concerning the oft-maligned U.S. operation to clear insurgents from the city of Fallujah last November. Although the press conference of Health Ministry investigator Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli was attended by representatives from The Washington Post, Knight-Ridder and more than 20 other international news outlets, nary a word of his team's thorough investigation into the truth about the battle made it through the filter's dense mesh. Once again, the American public was denied the full story of one of President Bush's remarkable triumphs.
Dr. ash-Shaykhli's findings provided confirmation of earlier reports by many other Iraqis -- reports that were also ignored by the arrogant filterers, who seem more interested in hearing from terrorists or anti-occupation extremists than ordinary Iraqis and those like Dr. ash-Shaykhli, who serve in the U.S.-backed interim government vetted and approved by President Bush. But while the media elite turn up their noses at such riffraff, the testimony of these common folk and diligent public servants gives ample evidence of Bush's innovative method of liberating innocent Iraqis from tyranny: He burns them to death with chemical weapons.
Dr. ash-Shaykhli was sent by the pro-American Baghdad government to assess health conditions in Fallujah, a city of 300,000 that was razed to the ground by a U.S. assault on a few hundred insurgents, most of whom slipped away long before the attack. The ruin of the city was complete: Every single house was either destroyed (from 75 to 80 percent of the total) or heavily damaged.
The city's entire infrastructure -- water, electricity, food, transport, medicine -- was obliterated. Indeed, the city's hospitals were among the first targets, in order to prevent medical workers from spreading "propaganda" about civilian casualties, U.S. officials said at the time.
Eyewitness accounts from the few survivors of the onslaught, which killed an estimated 1,200 noncombatants, have consistently reported the use of "burning chemicals" by American forces: horrible concoctions that roasted people alive with an unquenchable
jellied fire, InterPress reported. They also tell of whole quadrants of the city in which nothing was left alive, not even dogs or goats -- quadrants that were sealed off by the victorious Americans for mysterious scouring operations after the battle. Others told of widespread use of cluster bombs in civilian areas -- a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions, but a standard practice throughout the war.
The few fragments of this information that made it through the ever-vigilant filter were instantly dismissed as anti-American propaganda, although they often came from civilians who had opposed the heavy-handed insurgent presence in the town. Rejected as well were the innumerable horror stories of those who had seen their whole families -- including women, children, the sick and the elderly -- slaughtered in the "liberal rules of engagement" established by Bush's top brass. Most of the city was declared "weapons-free": military jargon meaning that soldiers could shoot "whatever they see -- it's all considered hostile," The New York Times reported, in a story buried deep inside the paper.
Yet the ash-Shaykhli team -- again, appointed by the Bush-backed government -- confirmed the use of "mustard gas, nerve gas and other burning chemicals" by U.S. forces during the battle. Dr. ash-Shaykhli said that survivors -- still living in refugee camps, along with some 200,000 former Fallujah residents who fled before the assault -- are now showing the medical effects of attack by chemical agents and the use of depleted uranium shells. (American officials have admitted raining more than 250,000 pounds of toxin-tipped DU ammunition on Iraqis since the war began.)
The Pentagon has acknowledged using white phosphorus in Fallujah, but only for "illumination purposes." It denied using napalm in the attack -- but, in the course of that denial, it admitted that its earlier denials of using napalm elsewhere in Iraq were in fact false. And individual Marines filing "After Action Reports" on the Internet for military enthusiasts back home have detailed the routine use of white phosphorus shells, propane bombs and "jellied gasoline" (also known as napalm) during direct tactical assaults in Fallujah.
Dr. ash-Shaykhli's findings -- coming from a pro-American government, buttressed by reams of eyewitness testimony from ordinary Iraqi civilians -- appear to be substantial, credible and worthy of further investigation by the U.S. press. Certainly, the findings are more credible than the pre-war lies and fantasies about Saddam's phantom WMD, which the "media filter" lapped up from the Bush regime and amplified across the nation, rousing support for an unnecessary, illegal and immoral war. Yet these serious new atrocity charges have not even been mentioned, much less examined.
Behind the filter -- with its basic story template of "always moral U.S. policies occasionally marred by a few bad apples" -- a relentless degeneration of American society is taking place. Brutality and atrocity are becoming normalized, systemized and rewarded. The noble American ideal of transcendence -- overcoming the beast within, seeking to embrace an ever-broader, ever-deeper, ever-richer vision of universal communion and individual worth -- is dying at the hands of the resurgent barbarity championed and cultivated by the Bush regime. Old-fashioned citizens are being replaced by "Bush Americans": wilfully ignorant, bellicose zealots, cringingly servile toward the powerful, violently hostile to all "outsiders." Despite Bush's artful complaints, the media filter has served his degenerate purposes very well.
Annotations [see original for active links]
Napalm, Chemical Weapons Used at Fallujah: Iraqi Official
ILCA Online, March 7, 2005
Stories From Fallujah
Iraq Dispatch, Feb. 8, 2005
Fallujah, Tent City, Awaits Compensation
Informed Comment, March 13, 2005
Another Sad Day for Our Country
The American Independent, March 7, 2005
Iraqi Health Ministry Confirms Use of Prohibited Weapons in Attacks on al-Fallujah
Mafkarat al-Islam (Iraq), March 2, 2005
U.S. General From Abu Ghraib Scandal Promoted
Stars and Stripes, March 15, 2005
Odd Happenings in Fallujah
Electronic Iraq, Jan. 18, 2005
U.S. Denies Use of Napalm in Fallujah
U.S, International Information Programs Jan. 27, 2005
The Eyewitnesses Must Be Crazy
Antiwar.com, March 15, 2005
Life Under the Bombs in Iraq
TomDispatch, Feb. 2, 2005
TV News Turns Myopic: Profits Come First
Houston Chronicle, March 16, 2005
The Media Lobby
CorpWatch, March 11, 2005
Journalism, Infotainment and the Bottom-Line Business of Broadcasting
Buzzflash, March 17, 2005
Handmaiden of the State: The Role of Media in an Age of Empire
Antiwar.com, March 16, 2005
Extreme Cinema Verite: Soldiers Make Music Videos of Death and Destruction
Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2005
A War Crime in Real Time: Obliterating Fallujah
CounterPunch, Nov. 15, 2004
Inside Fallujah: One Family's Diary of Terror
Scotland Sunday Herald, Nov. 14, 2004
The Marine's Tale: 'I Felt We Were Committing Genocide
The Independent, May 23, 2004
Smoke and Corpses
BBC, Nov. 11, 2004
20 Doctors Killed in Strike on Clinic: Red Crescent
UN Integrated Regional Information Network, Nov. 10, 2004
US Strikes Raze Fallujah Hospital
BBC, Nov. 6, 2004
Ghost City Calls for Help
BBC, Nov. 13, 2004
Let Them Drink Sand: War Crimes in Fallujah
CounterPunch, Nov. 13, 2004
Baghdad Burning, Nov. 16, 2004
Beyond Embattled City, Rebels Roam Free
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 12, 2004
Administration Rejects Ruling on PR Videos
Washington Post, March 14, 2005
$226 Million in Government Ads Helped Pave the Way to War
Antiwar.com, May 28, 2004