Centre for Research on GlobalisationCentre de recherche sur la mondialisation
AS PRESIDENT George W. Bush and his hawkish advisers continue to argue their case for a war with Iraq, they appear to have found many willing allies in the North American media.
Journalistic values, such as printing only provable facts, have been all too frequently replaced with dangerously irresponsible jingoism. The intent of this inflammatory rhetoric appears designed to whip up an anti-Iraq war fever among an increasingly sceptical public.
Referring to Saddam Hussein as the Butcher of Baghdad and revisiting his notorious resume, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the use of poison gas against Kurdish rebels, can be viewed as fair comment in such pro-war editorials.
However, the only real issues that President Bush can use to justify launching a military strike to "change the regime" in Iraq are the linking of Saddam to a terrorist plot and allegations that Iraq continues to possess weapons of mass destruction. Until now, the U.S. has had great difficulty in producing proof of such activities.
Bush's longstanding European and Arab allies have publicly denounced the idea of war against Iraq while in Britain, the only country openly supporting military action, Prime Minister Tony Blair runs the risk of splitting his Labour party vote and bringing down the government should hostilities escalate.
It was therefore very surprising to read Finance Minister John Manley's recent proclamations that Saddam has a "chemical arsenal" and that he poses a real threat to Western civilization.
There was no ambivalence in Manley's quote; it was simply stated as a fact.
By contrast, that same day, Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. security adviser, was addressing British parliamentarians and trying her best to bring them on board the American war wagon. Rice's statements differed significantly from Mr. Manley's in that she couched her comments with such words as "if Saddam possesses chemical weapons" and "should Iraq acquire weapons of mass destruction, then all of us will be in danger."
Given that Canada does not operate an extensive intelligence network in the Middle East, that we do not have the benefit of independent spy satellite observations, that there has been no Canadian diplomatic mission in Baghdad for 12 years, and that Canada definitely has no unilateral weapon inspection teams operating in Iraq, how could John Manley possibly have acquired the damning categorical "proof" that the U.S. is so desperately seeking?
Mr. Manley obviously had his reasons for making such a statement; however, journalists must ask for their own proof before simply parroting a politician's comments to the public. If Manley cannot or will not reveal the source of such significant findings, then his allegations are merely hearsay and as such do not merit publication.
Likewise, any official statements from the Pentagon or U.S. State Department must be taken with a liberal grain of salt. During the 1999 NATO air strikes against Kosovo, the media gleefully reported the mounting tally of destroyed Yugoslavian military hardware. Pentagon officials and their NATO counterparts released hundreds of video clips that showed laser-guided bombs striking Serbian tanks and artillery pieces.
But when the horde of NATO-accredited journalists rolled into the embattled province, they were shocked to find only 13 hulks of shattered Yugoslav armoured vehicle littering the battlefields. Of this meagre tally, five had been disabled by Albanian KLA guerrillas, not destroyed by NATO airstrikes. For 78 days, the NATO press pool had been duped into reporting fictitious success claims substantiated by phony video clips.
Likewise, during the Kosovo campaign, the U.S. State Department had sent up cries of Serbian "genocide," with allegations that up to 100,000 Albanians had been systematically slaughtered. Despite an exhaustive search to unearth the evidence to substantiate the claims, fewer than 2,000 bodies have been located. This includes 700 Serbs, as well as other combatants from both sides.
Based on these statistics, it was recently concluded by none other than the Albanian Kosovar Supreme Court that Serbian authorities had not perpetrated acts of genocide against their people.
Another recent example of media manipulation was the speculation on Osama bin Laden's cave complexes in Afghanistan. A widely reproduced artist's impression of the Tora Bora secret hideout resembled something out of a James Bond movie: The entire inside of a mountain was hollowed out and equipped with all manner of modern conveniences, including generators, elevators and even hot tubs!
But when the coalition forces, including the Canadian contingent, probed the Tora Bora complex they found nothing even remotely resembling this imaginative sci-fi headquarters. Instead? Abandoned primitive natural caves with only the most rudimentary remnants of basic creature comforts.
Now we are being told by these same U.S. war hawks that during the eight years Iraq was subjected to weapons inspections, Saddam was cleverly able to move his factories and avoid detection.
Former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter doesn't believe that the Iraqis fooled his team. He remains convinced that the UN couldn't find a chemical arsenal because, like Bin Laden's infamous hideout, it simply doesn't exist. Of course, John Manley knows better.
Copyright © 2002 The Halifax Herald Limited 2002, For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .
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