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The Washington Post and George Orwell (5/23/03)

(The article referenced is below)
 
Should we think of the Washington Post as the Ministry of Information for the US Government? Their editorials often read as if what they regard as Truth is only what they are saying Today.

Consider a recent example which begins: “SO FAR, no sites of weapons of mass destruction [WMDs] have been found in Iraq, a nondevelopment that has puzzled the special disposal teams sent into the country and raised questions about the Bush administration's prewar intelligence (The Washington Post, May 16, 2003).” Note the use of the word “nondevelopment”. We’re being told that not finding the WMDs yet is no problem. Note also the “raised questions about…prewar intelligence” part. Just whom are they referring to? The implication that the Bush administration told the world that Iraq had WMDs that threatened the US only because of some unspecified intelligence failure is completely absurd.

The editorial then moves to the mass graves that US forces have found. Their existence was well known to both the Reagan and Bush administrations when Saddam Hussein was their guy in Iraq. Still, the editorial writer speaks of them solemnly, and treats them as a surprise; i.e., “there seems little doubt that a devastating, overwhelming record of murder by Saddam Hussein's regime will be compiled.” Needless to say, the Washington Post fails to comment on the fact that similar records of murder have been the norm for numerous US client states since WWII.

So what’s the relationship between the missing WMDs and the mass graves? The WMDs that so perilously threatened the US were the pretext for the recent invasion. The Bush administration’s failure to produce any is a potential source for criticism. Enter the Washington Post, consistent defender of power. The editorial flatly states, “With every discovery of a mass grave, arguing that the removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was wrong becomes less tenable.” Sure. The morality scale we’re now living under would shock less indoctrinated observers. The Washington Post thinks it is fine for US presidents to install and then foster a Stalinist dictator for decades, double-cross him when they’re tired of him and then use the crimes committed while he was in our employ as the justification for brutally invading his country in violation of international and domestic laws.

The Washington Post only seems to modestly differ with the White House on whether the WMDs should be found or not. That is the clear impression when the editorialist intones, “It still is likely that evidence of illegal weapons will be found”. One can reasonably interpret that message as telling the sleeping Bush regime to PLANT SOME, NOW.

What the editorialist is completely ignoring is the commentary which the Washington Post published a little more than two weeks prior. In it ex-CIA agent Walter Pincus describes (4/26/03, the Washington Post) the claims that Secretary of State Colin Powell made before the UN on February 5. Recall that on that day Powell was a big star in the corporate media, earning widespread praise for his testimony before the UN. During his speech he forcefully confirmed that Iraq had large stocks of chemical or biological weapons. Indeed, Iraq was so dangerous that Powell said they were using mobile laboratories to produce these WMDs on the go. In addition, Powell related the information that two dozen Al Qaeda agents were living in Iraq and enjoying the protection and support of the Iraqi government. (Note that this figure exceeds the number of hijackers—19—that the government told us caused 911.) To Pincus, the most dramatic part of Powell’s presentation was the claim that a “missile brigade outside Baghdad was dispersing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents…to various locations in western Iraq.” Powell went on to say that "most of the launchers and warheads had been hidden in large groves of palm trees and were to be moved every one to four weeks to escape detection." (Incoming!)

Still, Walter Pincus’s article, now inconvenient, has been sent down the Memory Hole. What every top official in the Bush administration was saying about the threat that Iraq’s WMDs posed to us is yesterday’s news. Instead, the missing WMDs are now a “nondevelopment” or failure of “prewar intelligence”. While it is “likely” they will be found, the necessity that they are produced is “less tenable” due to the mass graves that everyone always knew were there. In this fashion the Washington Post closes down almost every conceivable avenue for criticism of the Bush administration before they are realized or heard by their general audience.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration currently controls Iraq’s economy. In addition, Dick Cheney’s firm Haliburton controls Iraq’s oil. And, Depleted Uranium (DU) and cluster bombs are presently endangering many Iraqis. Even worse, the international human rights organization CARE claims that their failed water and sanitation systems threaten millions more. The inescapable conclusion to many observers is that the Bush administration has raped and is currently plundering Iraq with the assistance of the mainstream US media.

We’re running out of time. As in 1984, the clocks are striking thirteen. It is time for us all to be Winston Smiths and fight the government’s propaganda to prevent these colossal crimes from continuing.

Scott Loughrey

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Here is the editorial referenced by this article:

Disinterring the Truth
The Washington Post
May 16, 2003; Page A28

SO FAR, no sites of weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, a nondevelopment that has puzzled the special disposal teams sent into the country and raised questions about the Bush administration's prewar intelligence. But another kind of grisly site is turning up all over the country, faster than Western occupying forces can cope: mass graves. At least 10 have been publicly reported in the past month, from Kirkuk in the north to Basra in the south. The smallest are reported to have a few dozen bodies, while in the largest identified so far, near the town of Hilla, about 3,200 corpses had been found by Wednesday. Western journalists have described horrific and pitiful scenes from that southern town as Iraqis scrambled to dig up remains of lost relatives: tiny children found next to their mothers; pregnant women uncovered with their fetuses; and people still wearing blindfolds with holes in the backs of their skulls. Many in these mass graves are Shiites shot in groups after a 1991 uprising; the 1,500 in Kirkuk may be Kurds who also rose against Saddam Hussein. Some graves found near Samawah are thought to contain Kuwaiti prisoners of war captured in the first Gulf War, while a large graveyard at Abu Ghraib contains people from all over the country who disappeared over the past decade.

Human rights groups are furious at U.S. commanders for failing to secure the sites so that forensic evidence can be methodically collected. But Iraqis are insisting on locating and reburying their loved ones, and the paucity of U.S. troops means that, as in other critical areas, security is not available. That problem should be corrected. Yet even with the disorderly disinterment, there seems little doubt that a devastating, overwhelming record of murder by Saddam Hussein's regime will be compiled. The human rights groups say they know of other sites, potentially containing tens of thousands of bodies, that they will make known once secure and systematic exhumations are possible.

With every discovery of a mass grave, arguing that the removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was wrong becomes less tenable. But it nevertheless remains vital to answer questions surrounding the regime's weapons. Iraq defied the terms of repeated United Nations resolutions ordering disarmament, and the Security Council's unanimous finding of a "material breach" last December justified military action. But President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also made detailed public allegations about stockpiles of chemical and biological arms, warheads and missiles to deliver them, and an ongoing nuclear program. Evidence has surfaced to support only one specific allegation: that Iraq maintained mobile labs for biological weapons.

It still is likely that evidence of illegal weapons will be found. But the Bush administration should continue to make collection a priority and drop the irrational resistance to allowing international inspectors to verify the evidence. If U.S. intelligence was wrong, Congress should endeavor to discover how that happened. And if weapons were moved before or during the conflict, finding them is essential to U.S. security. For most of the world, this matter is crucial to U.S. credibility. If there are no mass weapons sites to go with the mass graves, the Bush administration must explain why.

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