"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Saturday, June 10, 2006

In the Shadow of 'Success'

While in clinical terms the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is indeed a success for US and UK occupiers, in that it provides a excellent PR opportunity and at the same time puts an obviously sadistic killer ‘out of the picture’, it will also no doubt prove to be blow to war supporters confidence. Given that al-Zarqawi is neither a military or ideological leader to the large majority of the Iraqi resistance, the violence will no doubt continue unabated. This will obviously despair many of the coalition faithful who would have come to regard the killing of such a prominent terrorist figure as a key moment in ending the resistance. This could be more harm than good for messers Bush and Blair.

The mainstream media often comments on the inhumanity of Islamic extremists when they extol the virtues of killing the enemy. Journalists reel in horror as the enemy rejoices in the killing of coalition forces, despite the common occurrence of innocent people dying in the process. This infrequent morality makes the near unanimous celebration by US and UK officials in the aftermath of the killing of al-Zarqawi, and seven others, all the more amazing. The media has made no comment on this reaction. The US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said al-Zarqawi's death marked a 'great success' and Mr Bush said special forces had 'delivered justice' in killing al-Zarqawi.

Despite the mainstream media's best attempts to assimilate Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the more obvious and more popular indigenous resistance, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's targeted killing will more than likely have little or no effect on the counter insurgency violence directed towards coalition troops. There have been few noticeable reasoned accounts of Thursday's 500lb bombing, which also managed to kill several other people including a woman and a child. In most cases reports focused heavily on President Bush's reaction, with little or no consideration of the methods employed to assassinate what was a much exaggerated threat.

This threat has been carefully manipulated by the military and then faithfully echoed by the media. The purpose of which was and is still to make a firm association in consumers minds of the connection between a) Al Qeada and the Iraqi resistance b) Al Qeada and Iraqi suffering and c) Al Qeada as the main/principle obstacle to Iraqi independence (Where Al Qeada represents global terrorism and Islamic extremism). At the same time taking the focus away from coalition malfeasance and occupation.

There have been a few exceptions, Michael Jansen in the Irish Times is one, who resits the temptation of lumping foreign fighters and Iraqi resistance into the same basket:

"Although al-Qaeda in Iraq has been considered public enemy number one by the US, it has never been a mainstream Iraqi resistance organisation and, with no more than 10 per cent of the total resistance fighters, it remains one of the smaller factions opposing the US occupation."

He concludes that; "While the removal of Zarqawi is undoubtedly a politico-military and propaganda coup, it deprives the Bush administration of its main foreign terrorist enemy in Iraq. Since Zarqawi was a Jordanian who was initially followed by Arab jihadists rather than Iraqi resistance fighters, the US was able to create the illusion that armed opposition to the occupation was non-Iraqi. Consequently, Zarqawi's removal will deprive the Bush administration of a convenient explanation for continuing anti-US violence in Iraq."

Although reprisals for the killing will more than likely fulfil the 'explanation quota' for the time being. Until that is, a new evil incarnate is created.

There has been almost no discussion of the morality of killing seven other, potentially innocent, people in order to kill one person. Given that these targeted attacks are not always as accurate as they are claimed to be. Collateral damage is acceptable when 'we' are doing the killing, it is rarely (nor should it be) considered so when it is the enemy doing the 'damage'.

Tom Clonan gives examples of precision targeting gone wrong in the Irish Times: "Task Force 145, relying on this fast-moving combination of intelligence and timing, would have been very conscious of previous attempts by US forces to eliminate prominent high-profile targets by air strike.

In the early hours of March 20th, 2003, the invasion of Iraq began with an intelligence-driven attempt to "decapitate" the Iraqi regime by means of a combined cruise missile and 2,000lb bomb attack on one of Saddam's safe houses. The attack - which was too late - failed to kill Saddam but flattened a large area of down-town Baghdad.

A further attempt to kill Saddam by air strike in July 2003 employed four massive "bunker-buster" bombs which destroyed a number of houses in the Mansour district of Baghdad. The crater left by these munitions measured 40m (130ft) wide by 20m (65ft) deep and US forces - had they successfully "neutralised" the Iraqi leader - would have been faced with the prospect of conducting an intensive forensic search for minute particles of DNA to confirm Saddam's death." Tom failed to tell if anyone died in these failed assassinations.

While in Afghanistan:“On the first night of bombing US fighter jets swooped low over the hill post overlooking Kabul airport. The raid was short and accurate. "Three times they hit the hill on the first night and they destroyed the radar. The targeting was exact," said Qiamuddin, 50, a former Afghan army officer and a village elder.”

“Then around 10 days later they saw American jets in the broad, blue sky above their village once again.…Ten civilians died.”

“Evidence of destruction on the ground and accounts from dozens of witnesses point to a devastating pattern of inaccuracy by US bombers, in sharp contrast to Pentagon assertions of precision bombing.”

President Bush praised the "courage and professionalism" of the US forces who killed Zarqawi and seven others, Denis Staunton reinforced this welcoming of the killers death using the comments of those personally effected by Zarqawi's brand of terrorism. "The brother of Ken Bigley, who was taken hostage and beheaded by forces under Zarqawi's command in 2004, said yesterday he was glad the "monster" was dead but he would rather have seen him rot in jail."

However there are others he could of quoted, although their scepticism does not have the same effect:

Nick Berg's (apparently personally killed by Zarqawi) father speaking about the killing:

"Today is a day of revenge....George bush's and congresses way hasn't worked.......Killing him is a bad day for everybody..........George Bush sits there glassy eyed in his office....and condemns people to death.....that to me is a real terrorist...George Bush terrorises with air strikes.. air strikes indiscriminately killing people. To me that is a big terrorist."

His father wrote in the Guardian in may 2004: “George Bush never looked into my son's eyes. George Bush doesn't know my son, and he is the worse for it. George Bush, though a father himself, cannot feel my pain, or that of my family, or of the world that grieves for Nick, because he is a policymaker, and he doesn't have to bear the consequences of his acts. George Bush can see neither the heart of Nick nor that of the American people, let alone that of the Iraqi people his policies are killing daily.”

While the celebrations continue there is of course another important story which has been conveniently overshadowed by this latest coalition 'success'.

Dahr Jamail and Jeff Pflueger on making the Haditha Massacre public:

“Propaganda is when the Western corporate media tries to influence public opinion in favor of the Iraq War by consistently tampering with truth and distorting reality. It is to be expected. And it is to be recognized for what it is. On occasions when the media does its job responsibly and reports events like the November 19, 2005, Haditha Massacre, it must also be willing and able to anticipate and counter propaganda campaigns that will inevitably follow. It is to be expected that the responsible members of the media fraternity will stick to their guns and not join the propagandists.

This piece is a summary of five most commonly deployed crisis management propaganda tactics which the State and Media combine that we can expect to see in relation to the Haditha Massacre. Listed in a loose chronological order of their deployment, the tactics are: Delay, Distract, Discredit, Spotlight and Scapegoat. Each of the five public relations campaigns will here be discussed in the context of the Haditha Massacre.”

[cross posted on Indymedia: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76565]