Echoes of Iraq as Media Searches for “Casus Belli”
by Nina Westbury for Crimson Satellite
Confronted by a reporter about the deaths of more than half a million Iraqi children killed by US/UN starvation sanctions, then Secretary of State Madeline Albright cooly replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
And that was just the beginning. The war against Iraq would eventually claim the lives of roughly 1.5 million people (“Iraq Death Toll Rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian Killing Fields,” alternet.org, September 2007), among them hundreds of thousands of children who died because the Pentagon okayed bombing of water and sewage treatment facilities. Iraq, once a prosperous and developed country with a high standard of living, had been bombed into the Stone Age. The number of deaths indirectly resulting from decimated infrastructure and nonexistent healthcare is unknown. With reckless disregard for civilians, occupation forces destroyed hospitals and schools.
Through it all, Western media was complicit. There was a consensus across a wide ideological spectrum — they insisted that the only criminal was the Ba’athist President Saddam Hussein. Once allied with imperialism, Hussein was now painted as a modern-day Caligula who, because of his brown skin, must have been harboring al Qaeda militants. His mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction posed a threat to the whole world. It was essential that the US and its allies intervene, to save the Iraqi people from this monster and the American people from a menace that shared the same religion as Osama bin Laden. That was the pretext for the evil invasion of Iraq.
Bourgeois Democratic Party politicians, most of whom had endorsed the starvation sanctions, selfishly used mass opposition to the war against Iraq to defeat Republicans in 2006 and 2008. They promised to end “cowboy diplomacy” and the ugliest excesses of the corporate-fascist Bush regime. Like they always do, they lied.
One can imagine Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps responding to a question about the lynching of blacks in the hellhole of “free” Libya, delivering Albright’s response: “we think it is worth it.” All of the unimaginable humanitarian disasters created by US imperialism are “worth it” for the capitalist class, which needs to plunder weaker countries to keep a floundering economy afloat.
Instead of ending the pursuit of global hegemony, the Obama Administration (filled to the brim with corporate hacks plucked from the Bush Administration) set out to create a “leaner, meaner” imperialism less likely to cause social unrest at home. The result was the “Arab Spring,” in which quislings with terrorist credentials and years of training in the US destabilized an array of governments, posing as spontaneous protesters asking for democratic reforms. The “protesters” were quick to welcome shock-and-awe bombing campaigns and carving up of their homelands to foreign corporations.
This process caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and whole countries have been destroyed. Further, a rollback in rights for women and ethnic and religious minorities has occurred with the rise of “Islamist” parties like the Muslim Brotherhood (which has endorsed intervention in Syria), tapped to fill the political vacuum.
Children are particularly vulnerable, with many who have lost parents or are suffering from injuries without access to even basic care. With new regimes unable to consolidate power or maintain any legitimate claim of authority, schools are left shuttered and children lose access to education indefinitely — leaving them with no future.
It is in this context that the Obama Administration, its NATO and GCC allies, and a warmongering mainstream media shed crocodile tears for victims of the Houla Massacre, particularly the young children who were killed.
“Houla Killings Could Be Syrian Tipping Point” The Atlantic declared. “Will Syria’s Houla Massacre Force Action on the Crisis?” TIME wondered. Meanwhile, an emergency session was called by the UN Security Council, the same body that just over a year ago rubber stamped the NATO invasion of Libya.
But just like with the pack of lies that justified the war against Iraq, holes began to emerge in the corporate media’s narrative. What purpose did the massacre serve for the Syrian government? It was in no way beneficial to Syrian forces, there was nothing to be gained strategically by killing Syrian children. Then came the announcement by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister that the victims were not killed by artillery fire (“shelling”), and instead had been killed by bladed weapons in close range — not weapons carried by the Syrian army, and more likely items carried by armed groups. Later, unquestioningly publishing “activist” accounts of the situation got the BBC into hot water when they published an image said to be from Houla which had in fact been a photograph from post-Saddam Iraq.
So once again we are left with two versions of events.
One is the dominant narrative pushed by those seeking intervention in Syria: that the Syrian government, so far unable to be toppled because of widespread popular support and a lauded reform process, is so depraved that it would order the Syrian Arab Army to murder nearly one hundred innocent people, including dozens of Syrian children, for no reason — and that the Army would go along with it.
The other is based on imperialism’s long history of unspeakable atrocities and an objective understanding of the crisis in Syria: that terrorists admittedly linked to al-Qaeda and bankrolled by the Gulf monarchies and NATO members — people who are on record saying that the deaths of many children are “worth it” to pursue their foreign policy aims — are so desperate to reverse their defeat at the hands of the Syrian people, that they committed a massacre to serve as a pretext for intervention.
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