Today it has been four days since I last wrote, which is a long time for me. I fully intended to, but I was much too busy. Guess what I was too busy doing that I couldn’t write anything? I was spending my time learning more about Photoshop, of course! One day, I will stop changing my template every few weeks and settle into one like an old pair of blue jeans, but until then I will be furiously learning basic html and Photoshop for no obvious purpose whatsoever except to make this site look pretty. It’s a sickness.
On Friday, the Fiery One sent me a link to a news story that fascinates me. The story is in regard to the war in Iraq, and when I began reading it, I had some preconceived notions about what the article would entail. I started reading it with that ho-hum attitude of one who feels she already has a grasp on the pablum that the media can dish out to her. I assumed that this would be another piece about how torture is not usual or how poor farmers are really “insurgents” or some such bunk. This was definitely not the case. Please read this story from Counterpunch, if it is still available on that site. If not, as it appears that it has been removed, try finding it here, because the only online place I could still find it was cached on Google. If all else fails, read the article below, which I have taken the liberty of quoting in its entirety lest it truly disappear:
Counterpunch: Weekend Edition
May 22 / 23, 2004
Turnaround: Senor Shows Human Side, Is Whisked Away by Security Contractors
by Ron Jacobs
(Baghdad Green Zone, May 20, 2004)
In a surprising turnaround, Coalition spokesman Dan "the man" Senor admitted to media gathered inside the Green Zone Thursday that American helicopters had knowingly attacked a wedding party 15 miles from the Syrian border and southwest of the town of Qusaiba. Earlier, the Coalition had denied the charges, claiming that the attack was against "enemy fighters."
"There were no enemy fighters in the area," said Senor. "Our soldiers knew that the only people in the village were Iraqi civilians. They went ahead and attacked anyhow. It's a form of terror we use often."
This acknowledgement by Senor confirmed what local Iraqis had been telling Arab and European media since they were notified of the attack. Television outlets broadcast film taken at the scene, showing a truck heaped with bloody bodies, many of them wrapped in blankets. Several of the bodies shown were those of children. Until Senor's statement, US officials were insisting that the dead were all "foreign fighters." To prove their point, these officials produced weapons and passports they claimed they recovered from the scene.
"We bombed a safe house," said General Abizaid. "There were nothing but foreign fighters in the area. They deserved what they got." He went on to describe the village as one known to be friendly to the resistance against the US occupation.
This version of events was challenged by doctors and nurses at nearby Ramadi hospital, who told media that forty-five people had been killed, including ten women and fifteen children. Doctors said most of the children were between 2 and 5 years old. Independent media reporters were able to obtain photocopies of the passports the Coalition claims they found in the rubble of the houses destroyed in the attack. None of the descriptions or photos matched any of the dead or wounded. When confronted with this, Senor admitted that there were no foreign fighters in the village.
"There were no foreign fighters in the village," said Senor. "In fact, there are no foreign fighters in Iraq except for those fighting with the Coalition. Just like the WMD, the whole foreign fighters helping out the insurgency thing is a lie."
This admission was followed by a quarter-hour of rapid-fire questioning by the assembled media. Most of these questions centered on the acknowledgement by Senor that the administration invaded Iraq knowing that Iraq possessed no WMD. Senor fielded the questions, occasionally wiping away a tear.
"You know," he said. "I was willing to go along with this whole invasion and occupation because I truly believed that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy who really was a threat to the United States. I told my bosses that I would tell you guys in the media anything that they wanted me to tell them. WMD, Al-Queda, anthrax, no prison abuse or only isolated prisoner abuse, whatever. But when I saw those dead kids killed for no reason in their sleep, I don't know, something just cracked inside of me. I couldn't justify it. I mean, there's no way those kids were foreign fighters and, if they were, then we really shouldn't be here if babies are picking up weapons to fight us."
Reporters wrote Senor's remarks down, incredulous at what they were hearing. Never in the collective memory of all the media gathered had any government spokesman been so candid. Senor continued, switching to the topic of Israel.
"As for Israel," he began. "They have no intention of stopping their assault on the Palestinians. They want to dominate the Middle East with the United States. It's all part of a big plan to…" At this point, two unidentified security contractors dressed entirely in black jumpsuits similar to those worn by SWAT teams in the US grabbed Senor. He was led away at gunpoint. Chaos ensued among the press corps as they raced to file the story. While attempting to send their reports via the internet, all connections were mysteriously shut down. This reporter was able to relay his report via a separate wireless connection maintained by independent supporters.
Senor's current whereabouts are unknown, although unnamed sources at Abu Gharaib prison in Baghdad have told this reporter and other media that he is being held there and will be shipped to Camp X-Ray at Gauntanamo Bay soon.
The White House and Pentagon have denied Senor's statements in separate press releases. The White House went further, suggesting that Senor had either lost his mind or forgotten who was signing his paychecks.
– Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is being republished by Verso.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you have already found the follow-up article, don’t worry. I am now aware of the parody that was intended, although I will admit that I believed the story when I first read it. Apparently, Dan Senor is still his old parroting self. I am sorry if the above sucked you in as it did me. I found myself confronted with what seemed to be the truth, and I was sickened. I wasn’t sickened because the information was anything new to me; I was sickened because what I believe to be true was there before me in print. It was as though, when all I was reading was misinformation, I could rail against that, use the media to focus my sense of moral outrage on. I used to think that the media spin on this war was to convince us, or at least to convince us of the possibility, of the correctness of the occupation in Iraq, but now I see another side. Even though I buy almost none of what the media is shilling these days, it has hooked me nonetheless.
I spend my anger ranting about the lies we are told and the people who believe them. I focus on media corruption and political inhumanity born of what appears to be a moral bankruptcy. I worry over the socio-politico-psycho-economic issues that drive the information we are fed, forgetting that this, at the base, is not about those issues. I do not mean to toss aside the importance of information manipulation, but it should not be confused with having much at all to do with what is physically going on every day in the air and on the ground in Iraq.
I have allowed the media to put me in this position as much as my father has allowed the media to colour his vision of anyone from the Middle East. And what position is that? The position is one that is easily overlooked. The news media has been busy waving its arms and jumping up and down to get my attention, and I have been standing on the sidelines rubbernecking along with everyone else. My attention has been turned from the reality of war quite successfully. It is easy to grab people’s attention by getting them all talking about how they have been done wrong in their own countries when the war at hand and the people enduring it seem so far away. I realize now that I have been angrier at the misinformation being handed out than the injustices of the war, and that I have allowed myself to be as misguided as those who believe the war is just. The news piece I actually bought has been claimed as a parody, and the reason I bought it was because it told me something I wanted to hear. We are all caught up alike in the great drama being presented to us in newspapers, on television, in magazines, and on the internet.
I see now that it doesn’t matter what I am being told as long as I am looking at the information I am being given and not at what is actually being talked about. My attention has been diverted away from the cause and toward reports of the cause. I fell into the trap of believing that the media was as big or bigger than the war itself, that its injustices were somehow causal, when in reality, it is nothing. It is nothing compared to the women, children, and men being maimed and killed for no other reason than that they live in Iraq. If I turned off all the news media feeding me stories about the conflict, if I could just neatly slice away the stories including politics and economics and overt racism and glory that have been heaped upon me for the last many weeks, what would be left for me to think about regarding this situation? Soldiers abused of what are inalienable rights for their fellow citizens that are pressed into duties they would not have agreed to had they known, families whose entire lives have been destroyed not because they were “insurgents” but simply because they were there, modern cities reduced to the dusty look of desertion. If the attention-getting noise of news died down just enough, I think I might for once notice the whos more than the whats, wheres, and whys.
It is not that I don’t think of all the destruction happening to an innocent civilian population. It is that I am barely touched by it as I wade through all the stories. I am so busy deciphering, peering through cracks, and trying to understand the meanings behind the new catch phrases that I rarely see with any clarity what really lies behind what I am reading. So much of my focus has been on the medium that the actuality of the war got lost in the shuffle. We are being lulled into a kind of forgetting during the fact, and our ignorance has made us willing participants in this numbing of our consciences.
I recognize the rub of having gained this realization from a news media parody, but I think that having this realization is much more important than how it came to me. I have been duped. I already knew it, but now I know it. I have been lured away from acknowledging the real, down-to-earth, individual people living in a war-torn country and have been steered toward thinking about the evils of media spin, which is something that existed well before this war and will continue to after. The fact that our media lies is an issue quite aside from the issue at hand, which is this – a retaliation against and subjugation of a culture for material gain is wrong, and all the rooting out of lies and other misinformation peddled by North American media doesn’t change the basic truth that gross inhumanities are being committed while they direct our gazes slightly to the right. We know the truth, but seemingly peripherally. Ron Jacobs’ article in Counterpunch pushed me to look at it more directly, and the sight of it made me ache. I have been as much a pawn as anyone. I have been fooled into putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. To know the truth but be comfortably distanced from it is one thing, but to know the truth and then see it as a reality for thousands of individuals is quite another.* Thank you, Ron Jacobs. Parody or not, you have helped to correct my blunder. I dedicate all my upcoming nightmares over the next few weeks due to my deepened sense of humanity to you.
* By the way, I am well aware that my realizing the reality of the war in Iraq bears no impact whatsoever. “A Nice Person Just Got Nicer”, news at eleven. Ha! Knowing stuff, though, is always better than not knowing stuff, even if you don’t know how to use the stuff you know yet. Get it?