180 days of Empire By William Bowles

10 October 2003

“There’s one person who should have stayed away today [Blair]. Someone who was only concerned with leaving his mark on history. Instead, a fine young man died, my son, protecting America’s oil interests.”

The father of a dead British soldier at today’s service at St Paul’s Cathedral to those who died in the invasion of Iraq

This is not an exact transcript as I transcribed it off the radio, but it grabs the essence of what one man feels about Britain’s sordid involvement in resurrecting the Empire. A father who has not been taken in by the patriotic BS being peddled by our petit imperialists.

And so, six months later, we have a destabilised Middle East, an imperialist Israel on the rampage with armies on full alert, troops massing on the borders of both Lebanon and Syria whilst Blah and Bush the smaller continue to crow about what a ‘success’ the entire disgusting and shameful episode has been!

And just as I started to complain in my last essay about how the Independent was getting too banal even to bother with, we have these gems from today’s front page (10/10/03) as it too, sums up the first six months of the new imperium. Under the heading “Casualties”, we read the following:

“The total of Allied soldiers killed since Saddam Hussein was deposed on 9 April is 230. The death toll includes 207 American servicemen and 20 Britons.”

Apparently, the thousands of Iraqis who died in the onslaught don’t count, as they’re not mentioned. Instead, the Independent gives us the body count on those who’ve died from “gun violence” in Baghdad during August and September – 1390, though how they died and who killed them isn’t mentioned, but I assume we’re meant to draw the conclusion that to paraphrase, it’s ‘Iraqi on Iraqi’ violence that is the cause.

Moroever, the figures for the occupying forces only include those who died in ‘combat’ which conveniently omits all those who’ve perished from suicide or who were murdered by their compatriots, or who died by ‘accident’, or those who’ve died because their deaths are not considered to be have been caused by ‘combat.’ The fact that had they had not been in Iraq in the first place, it’s unlikely they would have died doesn’t enter into the Independent’s arithmetic of death.

Under the heading “Media” we read that:

“The number of newspapers and magazines being published since Saddam’s fall is 189. This compares with 39 under Saddam, all of which were tightly controlled and censored.”

Though the Independent fails to mention the threats and actual censorship of the media Robert Fisk reported on in yesterday’s Independent! Well you can’t win them all can you.

Under the heading “Opinion” we read:

“Most Iraqis approve of the removal of Saddam Hussein. Last month, Gallup polled residents in Baghdad and found that 62% thought the suffering they have endured during the military assault and after was worth it to live in a post-Saddam era. 67% thought that their lives will better five years from now.”

This is an extremely suspect poll of Iraqi ‘opinion’. Firstly, I find it difficult to believe that in a city where there is little or no safety for anyone, especially on the streets, how exactly, did Gallup conduct a representative poll? With no telephone network, did it send its intrepid pollsters out into the city to stand on street corners armed with wraparound, bulletproof clipboards?

Secondly, it’s pretty obvious that things can’t get any worse than they are right now, so asking anyone under such conditions whether they thought they’d be better off in five years time, seems a pretty stupid kind of question to ask.

Thirdly, the critical question, whether or not they are happy with being occupied by an arrogant bunch of imperialist thugs who don’t hesitate to blow away the populace and not even record the events, has not been asked. A question whose answer might have told Gallop more than they wanted to know.

And the really important information, namely, who commissioned the poll is also missing. That the Independent even thinks it’s worth reproducing this so-called opinion poll is entirely indicative of the thinking of the corporate press and the fact that it fails to tell us who commissioned it, is just plain irresponsible. And as with all opinion polls, the exact nature of the questions and how they are asked, is absolutely central to the kinds of answers one gets. What the Independent gave us is no more than vox pop word bites that means nothing and tells us nothing.

As to the reality of the occupation and critically, its impact on the Middle East, especially the Palestinian tragedy and the attacks on Syria by Israel, I’ll have to look elsewhere than the Independent for the real impact of the first 180 days.

Where for example, are the statistics on the total number of attacks on occupation forces, the number of Iraqi deaths at the hands of USUK forces since the occupation, the demonstrations against the occupation and the various and sundry quislings appointed by the occupation forces? And what about the sell-off of state assets and the de facto control of the country by the US that hides behind the puppet Iraqi Governing Council, that at least the Independent quaintly tells us has been “sidelined”? Is this supposed to tell us that life under USUK is some kind of improvement over life under Saddam?

Presenting us with some kind of ‘checklist’ of a calamity that somehow is meant to inform us, is disingenuous reporting at its worst with its mixture of fact, fiction, supposition and just plain omission of critical information about the reality of six months of imperialist occupation. And this is the ‘responsible’ press? The only thing that distinguishes the Independent’s coverage from the so-called ‘red-tops’ is the ‘educated’ language for its supposedly middle class readership, who want their ‘news’ nicely sanitised and as a result, assumed to be what the English love to think of as ‘objective’ journalism, another fiction invented by the dominant culture.

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