Centre for Research on Globalisation
Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation


"The Liberation of Baghdad":

Carefully planned Media Scam

by Michel Chossudovsky

www.globalresearch.ca      April 2003

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO304C.html

On April 9th, Sardus Square in Baghdad, in a carefully staged media event, the US Marines had draped an American flag over Saddam's statue and forcefully pulled it down with a tug from a tank recovery vehicle:

 "Within hours of their arrival [US troops], crowds of celebrating Iraqis rushed to [Al Fardus] Paradise Square to tear down a massive statue of the man who had brutally ruled them for the past 25 years." (Christian Science Monitor, 14 April 2003).

 The event, symbolizing the "Liberation of Iraq" by American GIs, was immediately heralded as a "historic event", reminiscent of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.The "liberation footage" was replayed obsessively by network TV. "Iconic images" of the toppled statue were plastered on the front page of major newspapers. In chorus, the Western media had portrayed the event as a spontaneous mass movement of "thousands" of "jubilant Iraqis", celebrating the "Liberation of Iraq".

The bringing down of the statue of Saddam played a crucial role in the Pentagon's propaganda campaign. Relayed by Fox News and CNN,  it was immediately heralded by TV channels and news media around the World as marking an end to the war. Meanwhile the atrocities committed by the invading army,  the killings and maiming of thousands of civilians, the crisis in the hospitals, not to mention the impending humanitarian crisis, were barely mentioned. Civilian deaths were viewed as "a necessary the price to pay" on the ill-fated path towards Western democracy.

What happened on Sardus Square on the 9th of April is far from a mass movement.

The square, which had been sealed off,  was guarded by US tanks (NYC Indymedia). A couple hundred or so people, at most,  were inside the designated area occupied by the US Marines. Outside this "protected area", there were very few people in the streets. (See      ).

Not more than 100 people were shown on TV screens, rejoicing around Sardus square. When Reuters first released the story on the 9th, following the Live TV newscast, the report pointed to "dozens" of people. Hours later, this story had already been changed.

The AFP confirms that "dozens" of people were rejoicing:

"Tanks had rumbled by late afternoon into the central Al-Fardus (Paradise) Square, where dozens of Iraqis quickly set about the massive bronze statue of the Iraqi president, a symbol of his 24-year iron-fisted rule.... Dozens of Iraqis jumped on the fallen figure shouting with joy and venting their anger by breaking it into pieces." (AFP, 9 April 2003)

Prime Minister Tony Blair's mouthpiece, the London Daily Express, casually inflated the "dozens" to "thousands".  The role of the US marines in bringing down the statue is barely mentioned:

"In historic scenes reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall, thousands of civilians cheered as young men mounted the statue and tied a makeshift noose around Saddam's neck." (Daily Express, 10 April 2003)

The US press points to crowds of people rushing to the square in a spontaneous movement.

Within hours of their arrival [US troops], crowds of celebrating Iraqis rushed to [Al Fardus] Paradise Square to tear down a massive statue of the man who had brutally ruled them for the past 25 years.(Christian Science Monitor, 14 April 2003)

One eye witness report suggests that the crowd had been brought into the square by the organizers of the event: 

"it happened at only about 300m from where I was and it was a very small crowd. The rest of the square was almost empty, and when we inquired as to where the crowd came from, it was from Saddam City. In other words, it was a rent-a-crowd." (SBS Australia TV Interview with Neville Watson, 17 April 2003)

This above report is consistent with that published by NYC-Indymedia, which suggests that members of Iraqi Natibnal Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi's militia had been brought in for the staged event:

April 6th: Iraqi National Congress founder, Ahmed Chalabi is flown into the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah by the Pentagon. Chalabi, along with 700 fighters of his "Free Iraqi Forces" are airlifted aboard four massive C17 military transport planes. Chalabi and the INC are Washington favorites to head the new Iraqi government. A photograph is taken of Chalabi and members of his Free Iraqi Forces militia as they arrive in Nasiriyah.

April 9th: One of the "most memorable images of the war" is created when U.S. troops pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Fardus Square. Oddly enough... a photograph is taken of a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of Chalabi's militia members... he is near Fardus Square to greet the Marines. How many members of the pro-American Free Iraqi Forces were in and around Fardus Square as the statue of Saddam came tumbling down?

The up close action video of the statue being destroyed is broadcast around the world as proof of a massive uprising. Still photos grabbed off of Reuters show a long-shot view of Fardus Square... it's empty save for the U.S. Marines, the International Press, and a small handful of Iraqis. There are no more than 200 people in the square at best. The Marines have the square sealed off and guarded by tanks. A U.S. mechanized vehicle is used to pull the statue of Saddam from it's base. The entire event is being hailed as an equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling... but even a quick glance of the long-shot photo shows something more akin to a carefully constructed media event tailored for the television cameras. (For further details see: NYC Indymedia)

Mystery surrounding "the Pentagon 9/11 Flag"

According to media quoting US military sources:

 "the Stars and Stripes used by US Marine Corporal Ed Chin to cover the statue... was pulled from the remains of the Pentagon following the September 11 attacks... the US flag which liberated Iraq... had been pulled from the rubble of the devastating attack on America's own sense of freedom "

The 911 flag, which symbolised "the Attack on America"  had, the story goes, been brought all the way from Washington to Baghdad at the initiative of Lieutenant Tim McLaughlin, who was a  tank commander at Fardus Square on the 9th of April. According to these same press reports, Commander Tim McLaughlin happened to have been on duty at the Pentagon on September 11:

[A] man who had waited for 576 days... Marine First Lieutenant Tim McLaughlin leant from the turret of his Abrams tank -nickamed "Satan's Right Hand" -and screamed back: "I was at the Pentagon September 11. My co-workers died. I don't give a f***."

Lieutenant McLaughlin had with him a Stars and Stripes that he had been given at the Pentagon that fateful day. In Baghdad's Paradise Square, he handed the flag to Corporal Edward Chin, who climbed a giant statue of Saddam and draped it over the deposed dictator's head.

It was there only briefly; the gesture raised hardly a cheer from the gathering crowd and a black, white and red Iraqi flag quickly replaced it as a scarf around the statue's neck. That, too, was removed to make way for the winch that would bring down the hated figure.

Lieutenant McLaughlin's battalion was in the vanguard yesterday when the US 1st Marine Division rolled up to the east bank of the Tigris in central Baghdad, marking the moment when Saddam's regime effectively came to an end.

It was a momentous day, reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall and with it the communist empire in 1989. And no image of it will be more enduring than the toppling of that 20ft Saddam statue by a US tank egged on by a cheering, excited mob which then stamped with undisguised glee on the fallen idol (The Times, 10 April 2003

The whole process from the rubble of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 to Baghdad on April 9th, 2003  when "the crowds rushed to Sardus square"  was described as totally spontaneous. Nothing had been planned in advance.

The Propaganda Ploy

The ploy of the statue was an integral part of the Pentagon's disinformation campaign. It was part of whole series of manipulated media events. Realties are turned upside down. Atrocities committed by American and British forces are said to be "positive" because they eventually lead to the country's "liberation".

The Pentagon 9/11 flag (if indeed this was the same flag), however, did not reach Baghdad without some prior military planning. For what purpose was the alleged 911 flag given to Tim McLaughlin and by whom? Who ordered the square to be cordoned off?  Who, within the military, commissioned the heavy equipment which was used to topple the statue. Who called in the journalists? Who were the so-called "thousands" of Iraqis, who gathered on the square? (See Photo below). 

In all likelihood, the ploy had been carefully planned in advance by a public relations firm on contract to the Pentagon.

In the wake of September 11, the Pentagon established a propaganda outfit called the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which had a mandate of planting disinformation in the news chain.

The OSI was slated to collaborate with the CIA's psych-ops as well as with a unit in the State Department entrusted with propaganda.

The Rendon Group, a Boston based public relations firm was hired by the OSI, with a view to mobilizing support for the Bush administration's "war on terrorism". When the OSI was officially disbanded, a few months later, following pressures from the US Congress, the activities of the defunct OSI, according to Secretary of Defense Domnald Rumsfeld,  remained functionally intact, with specific propaganda operations outsourced to the private sector. In this regard, the Rendon Group was the main private sector actor in carrying out the Pentagon's war propaganda campaign.

The Rendon Group's PR essentially created the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its leader Ahmed Chalabi from scratch, in other words from a virtually nonexistant entity into a US sponsored proxy organisation. Chalabi would not not exist without the Rendon Group.

The Pentagon gave


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Baghdad was not rejoicing. Since the outset of the war, several thousand civilians had been murdered and maimed by US and British troops. US occupation forces invoking the pretext of self-defense continue to shoot indiscriminately at civilians, as evidenced by several press reports. (See for instance ABC TV broadcast, 10 April 2003). Baghdad has a population of 5.6 million and most people, fearing for the lives, decided to stay home. With the entry of US troops, a reign of terror prevails in Baghdad.










 Copyright   2003.  For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .