Lies, True Lies 

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Iraq War > Lies, True Lies
13 April 2003

A response to Carmen Lawrence.
As we see all the jubilation in the streets of Baghdad we could almost be forgiven for thinking perhaps it was worth it all in the end.  War is terrible, but people are free at last. I don't have an answer. I cannot claim to know if it was worth it or not, but I do know this: The United States administration wanted a war, and the TV has lied to us as we have been subjected to the most powerful propaganda campaign in history.

I recall one little event I saw on TV.  A car approached a checkpoint, we were told, and troops opened fire because it would not slow down, killing three innocent civilians.  We were told that the following footage would possibly be upsetting.  What followed was total confusion in the dark... gunfire and much use of the word "fuck" by the American soldiers.  This must have been the upsetting bit, as we never saw the dead civilians.  The reporters were very clear that the soldiers were unclear who they were shooting at.  Perhaps they were shooting at another group of marines, wondered one?  The marine being interviewed said this was not so as the incoming tracers were the wrong colour.  Oddly the reporters did not see the enemy coloured tracer.  

This report, more honest than many, still lied to us about the whole event.  We were not shown the terror and confusion of a driver who was afraid or confused and didn't slow down and was then shot dead.  We did not see the bodies.  We could hear the fear of the marines, we will never see the lives of some of them who can never function fully again because of what this war has done to them, and what they have done to others.

What is it like to have a family member killed in a war? A thought experiment may help:   I recall the funerals I have conducted.  Anywhere from 30 to 1000 people present at each one.  Always a small nucleus of people devastated, and never quite to recover from even a somewhat timely death, but to live with memories and gaping holes in their lives.  In Iraq up to 2000 civilian families will be suffering this grief... and there has been nothing timely about any of it.  In many cases there will have been no warning, simply an explosion from the sky, and an awakening from sleep to find their family dead around them.  And then there are the families of several thousands of soldiers... families who will often never know what happened to their father or son... and perhaps still do not know what happened to their father or other son in the previous US invasion.

This is the first truth of the Iraqi war which the TV has deliberately avoided telling us.  The "necessary, "unavoidable" sacrifice necessary to overthrow the Iraqi regime. As [Kerry] O'Brien put it, "killing innocent people so you can liberate their surviving relatives". (
Carmen Lawrence in the Sydney Morning Herald link live April 13 2003

The Al Jezeera network has shown us some of this truth with its coverage. And has been greeted with howls of protest from the US and UK who talk about conventions and civilised behaviour. Our leaders do not want us to see the real truth of war, for then we would rebel. 

Next to nothing is being said about the results of the war. The Red Cross reports that hospitals in Iraq have stopped counting the injured, and are simply overwhelmed.  We report instead that Private First Class Jessica Lynch was to have her legs amputated.  And already a movie is being rushed to the screen.  Was this Iraqi barbarism, or was she to receive the same desperate triage treatment as everyone else in an overwhelmed system.

Our papers are mostly quiet about the cluster bombs that will maim and kill for years to come.  Little or nothing is said about the second plague of cancers that will come on this country from the depleted uranium used in the warheads and bullets.  Nothing is being said of the people who will die from lack of resources due to the war.  (I remember Almira from Bosnia, and her haunted eyes.  A haunting much influenced, I think, by watching her mother die from a treatable illness simply for lack of medicine.) 

And then their is the hatred.  Will reconciliation in Iraq, and some kind of overcoming all the pain and payback caused by Hussein's regime, be any easier with the huge fuelling it has received from the US, UK and Australia?  How many unfortunates who eked out a living in some job connected to the regime, simply because there was no other, will be killed or maimed in what is allegedly revenge at Saddam, but in reality, mis-projected anger about the killing and destruction by the United States.

Carmen Lawrence said "If we have a niggling feeling that all is not well, we comfort ourselves with the thought that our leaders wouldn't take us into war without reason, that John Howard must know something that we don't."  Well, we have seen no great revelations yet, although I am sure some breathless report will come, probably overstated in its importance, to justify the invasion.  Instead we have seen a conscripted and brutalised military force which melted away for the most part.... except for those who were massacred by the coalition, or forced out on suicide missions by the Iraqi regime.  One of my acquaintances has been repeating this litany that John Howard must know something we don't.  He doesn't.  He and the others have tried to hide the horror of what they are doing from us for their simple political gain.  If he feels it is justified for Australian security, then he has been contradicted by a litany of experts,  and I want to say, "Not in my name, John."

I heard Howard telling us on radio that we should be proud.  And proud of our forces.  I am not proud.  Yes, the SAS has gone and done its job.  Whether the job is ever something to be proud of is an open question.  I remember reading the Phantom Major (by Virginia Cowles) the story of the Stirlings who founded the SAS in the desert war in Africa.  Far behind the lines they burst at night into a room of German soldiers.  "Nein, Nein!!" cried as soldier as the British burst in.  "Ja, Ja!" cried the Britain, and rolled a grenade down the table and stepped outside.  No true fight, no opportunity to surrender, no mercy, almost murder.  It will have been this kind of operation our SAS has been involved in, except there will have also been the calling up of smart bombs, and no one will tell.  And no one should have to do this.

As I began: I  do not know if this has all been worth it.  What I  do know is this.  The TV has lied in what it showed us. Many of us have not wanted to see the truth anyway, depressed and disgusted.  Others of us have wanted to watch the excitement on TV, barracking for the good guys and ignorant of, or forgetting, what was really happening on the ground.  This need to lie with the TV says to me that our leaders have lied more fundamentally.  They have not made a case for invading Iraq that would stand the scrutiny of reality . They have taken a short cut, embedded journalists who must inevitably become military tools with units of marines, and kept the gruesome truth off the air with the help of the media.  

If an invasion was truly the only way to go, 
and there was truly a need for invasion, 
then I think the public would stand for the truth 
and support a government honest about it.  

Did our governments not trust us, or was there no need?

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics