Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How To Sell a War

Starting a war without saying you're starting a war takes a lot of finesse and sleight of hand. The first order of business is to carefully disseminate the propaganda in order to make escalation of state-sponsored violence and bloodshed palatable to the American public.

Step One: pretend to be caught flat-footed by a brand new jihadist group called ISIS, which all the trillion-dollar intelligence agencies collecting all the emails and phone calls in the world never even saw coming.

Second: dust off the corpses of all the discredited neocons and war criminals of the Bush era, put them on TV, and allow them to scream for blood while striking fear of another 9/11 into the war-weary hearts of Americans and nostalgia into the war-hungry hearts of hacks who lust for more embeds.

Third: present a Buddha-like President of Peace as backed into a corner and huddling  in emergency meetings with national security advisers. Ignore the fact that he is actually rested and fresh from yet another luxury golf weekend. Once they all coordinate their scripts and talking points, the narrative is "leaked" to the New York Times. The propaganda paper of record obligingly presents the public with two choices: Obama either goes the traditional neocon war route, or he goes the kinder, gentler "surgical" drone strike route, in which a more socially acceptable number of civilians get therapeutically killed. Under no circumstances is the notion of simply doing nothing ever allowed to pollute the discourse.

Doing its stenographic part, the Times grants anonymity to its White House sources, and dutifully floats the trial balloon with the weasel-worded headline "Obama Is Said To Consider Selective Airstrikes on Sunni Militants."

War in the age of the Obama brand always begins slowly and incrementally, with much soul-searching on the part of the Zen master. We, the people, are made privy to the tortured private thoughts of the Commander in Chief, who in his humanitarian angst, will only kill a select few "militants" -- if, indeed, he decides to kill them at all. Right off the bat, we're informed that the president will cause the least possible death with the most possible reluctance. He is not, like the neocons, clamoring for a widespread ham-handed bombardment or invasion.  He is duly humanized and pre-emptively forgiven for any unfortunate bloodshed.

The article, written by Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt, continues:
Such a campaign, most likely using drones, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days or longer, and would hinge on the United States’ gathering adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad.
Even if the president were to order strikes, they would be far more limited in scope than the air campaign conducted during the Iraq war, this official said, because of the relatively small number of militants involved, the degree to which they are dispersed throughout militant-controlled parts of Iraq and fears that using bigger bombs would kill Sunni civilians.
So, addicted as he is to drones, Obama will be a responsible drug-user. He will thoroughly research the properties of his pot brownie before taking his first teensy nibbles. No way in hell will he recklessly go straight to crack cocaine, like George Bush did. It's the Proportionality Principle at work again: moderation in all violent things.
At a meeting with his national security advisers at the White House on Monday evening, the official said, Mr. Obama was presented with a “sliding scale” of military options, which range from supplying the beleaguered Iraqi Army with additional advisers, intelligence and equipment to conducting strikes targeting members of the militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Much of the emphasis at the meeting, the official said, was on how to gather useful intelligence about the militants. They are not wearing uniforms or sleeping in barracks; and while there may be periodic convoys to strike, there are no columns of troops or vehicles.
O.K., that was the part that warns us that unfortunate collateral damage will definitely occur. If a Hellfire missile kills a wedding party, it will be their own fault for being in the vicinity of the bad guys. 

The article goes on to stress that Obama is still interested in a diplomatic solution, even willing to triangulate by working with Iran to defuse the situation. And, to show what a great bipartisan guy devoted to the Separation of Powers he is, he is inviting some carefully selected congress critters into his inner sanctum to provide the necessary fig leaf to his selective war-that-is-not-war.
American intelligence analysts and military planners sent by the Pentagon would work alongside their Iraqi counterparts to help identify vulnerabilities in the militants’ ranks, and disseminate that information to Iraqi ground troops. “Iraqi field reporting has never been very accurate,” said one former American general who fought in Iraq. “They pass information to each other by cellphone, but they really do not have a national structure where they can see everything that’s going on.”
American surveillance and reconnaissance would help provide that fuller picture, officials said. It would also lay the groundwork, should Mr. Obama order armed drones to attack specific militant targets, in much the same way the Central Intelligence Agency and the military have carried out drone strikes in Yemen.
This does not bode well, given the thousands of reported civilian deaths in Yemen (and Pakistan) from Predator drones that have "missed" their marks and rendered innocent people into unidentifiable bugsplat. Also, American officials claiming surprise at the ISIS invasion and bragging, in the same breath, that they can now monitor it better than the Iraquis smacks of either disingenuousness or something more sinister and orchestrated, with the usual subplots and players

 Oh, and since intelligence-gathering about the "militants" was allegedly so hard to come by before they began their invasion, now that they're blending in with the general population, American expertise suddenly trumps the locals? Restrained violence, even the mere possibility of violence, are just as effective as a full-scale military attack. Control of a population is the threat, the promise, and the endgame now matter the weaponry used.
Predator or Reaper drones have the advantage of being able to loiter for hours over an area and launch their Hellfire missiles when a target — such as a pickup truck armed with a .50-caliber gun and loaded fighters — emerges from a hiding place or a crowded urban area.
While the administration has not ruled out larger scale airstrikes from carrier-based aircraft in the Persian Gulf or land-based attack planes in the region, possibly from Turkey or Kuwait, those kinds of strikes, typically using much larger precision-guided bombs, increase the potential for civilian casualties, and agreeing on basing arrangements could be problematic.
Again, let the war-mongers reiterate that as horrific as drone deaths are, they're so much more humane and anonymous than airstrikes from carriers or human-piloted aircraft. Again, they set the stage for public acceptance of (and collaboration with) a drone war by comparing it with the greater evil.
Some current and former United States military officials said that without American troops on the ground — forward air controllers — to identify targets, airstrikes might have only a limited impact, especially as militant forces intersperse themselves in urban areas.
“Airstrikes will have only one good effect: to bolster morale of the Iraqi Army,” said the retired American general, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize business relations in the Middle East. “That’s not to be taken lightly. If the Iraqi Army feels we’re there to support them, they’re probably willing to stand their ground.”
How refreshingly honest. We finally get to the cold heart of the matter, the unvarnished truth. An unnamed retired general is granted anonymity by the Times so as not to interfere with his war profiteering and plundering of a region already destroyed by war profiteers and plunderers. An American bombing campaign can only serve to make the armies protecting global capitalists feel better. Obama will make the world safe for corporations and the predatory rich by using the least possible violence.

The Times may as well have shortened its propaganda piece to one short headline: Let the bombs rain down while we pretend that only the deserving get hurt and the profits flow as thickly as the blood.

Or, better and simpler yet: Follow the Money.


James F Traynor said...

Well, shiiiiit lady, at least he ain't killing genuine US citizens! Just a bunch of rag heads and rug sellers; heathens at best.

You're getting better all the time, but I've said that before.

Anne Lavoie said...


Denis Neville said...

In 2004, Chalmers Johnson predicted that four sorrows would "guarantee that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution."

The sorrows he predicted in his book "The Sorrows of Empire" were:

• "There will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans...and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut."

• "There will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an executive branch of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency.

• "An already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions.

• There will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and short-change the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.

History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme:

General Smedley Butler’s famous soliloquy on his Marine experiences:

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

As Butler said, “The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.”

Our nation failed to heed Eisenhower's warning:

“In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. - Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

Because wars have become very profitable courses of action, there will be lots more wars.

“The folly and hubris of the policy makers who heedlessly thrust the nation into an ill-defined and open-ended 'global war on terror' without the foggiest notion of what victory would look like, how it would be won, and what it might cost approached standards hitherto achieved only by slightly mad German warlords.” - Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

Cirze said...

You rock.

And this superlative essay is highlighted at my blog.

We must resist!



Typo correction?

"Control of a population is the threat, the promise, and the endgame no(w) matter the weaponry used"

annenigma said...

Well, when we can't get a country's leader such as al-Malaki to obey our orders and give capitalists free rein there, then we foment a coup and/or step in after a coup. You just can't trust those democratically elected Presidents!

I bet Team Obama already has their guy chosen - some local Iraqi with experience working as an undercover informant for the CIA no doubt. I wonder if Chalabi is still available.

The foot dragging and the Intelligence Community supposedly missing all the signs is making more sense. The USG may just be waiting for ISIS to do their dirty work for them in overthrowing the non-compliant al-Malaki government, saving American lives. Then the USG, as usual, will plant, endorse, and control a proper puppet government. Just the way they like it.

The war-profiteers must make their profits though, so bombs away! The military probably has some hideous new evil weapons they need to try out, plus we absolutely must show the world how powerful we still are.

Zee said...

'“Airstrikes will have only one good effect: to bolster morale of the Iraqi Army,” said the retired American general, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize business relations in the Middle East.' (My bold emphasis.)


Will said...

Every time I hear something about our new super-duper-scary enemy, all I can think of is my childhood crush on actress Joanna Cameron. Saturday morning TV in the 70s was the best!

James F Traynor said...

Have to give it to you Denis, that was a great comment. Always respected Butler; I have a secret admiration for 'mechanics', which he, self-admittedly, was. Which is probably why. My uncle was one.


Welcome back. Really have to read Johnson; been a long time on my list.

James F Traynor said...

Instead of 'secret' I should have said 'begrudging'.

annenigma said...

Well this is interesting. One day NYT calls ISIS a terrorist group, the next day they're insurgents, militants, and fighters. Any day now they'll be led by some respectable Harvard grad or maybe U Chicago/MIT ("Mr. Chalabi you have a call on Line 2 - it's Barry")

When you've seen one of these war movies, you've seen them all.