Monday, July 16, 2007
Well, then, if we stop paying attention to leaks and rhetorical-strategic manipulation, what is definitely ascertainable? Iraq is being bombed at five times the rate it was last year. The number of troops in Iraq is at a record level, as is the number of private mercenaries. The Bush administration has repeatedly lengthened the troops' tours of duty. They claim each massacre as a 'success', and - despite Maliki's recent embarrassing remarks - expect that the comprador elite will require American military assistance for some time. Even though rival sections of the American ruling class advertise antiwar positions (even the New York Times has bitten that bullet), their recommendations are not to withdraw from Iraq, but to scale down the war and remain in Iraq with fewer troops concentrated in bases, as an essential lever over the Iraqi government. There is no reason to believe that the troops are on their way out unless they are simply hammered. Only if and when the Green Zone falls to insurgents will that happen.
Meanwhile, the cassus belli against Iran has been assiduously constructed, with almost daily briefings about Iranian support for and arming of insurgent groups (usually via Hezbollah) in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 'illegal entry' of Iranians into Iraq. There are the claims about nuclear weapons in development, and the economic boycott already applied as a result. And there is growing coverage of a crackdown in Iran on various groups (Israel is again trying to bribe Iran's Jews to flee en masse to its own tender care, but no can do). That completes the ardent imperialists' tryptich: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Human Rights Abuses. Any truth to America's charges against Iran is, of course, entirely coincidental. For example, we don't have any evidence that Iran is supporting insurgents anywhere (and this would be counterintuitive since the insurgents are opposed to Iranian influence in both Afghanistan and Iraq), or that it is constructing nuclear weapons: but then that is the reason why the claims have to be repeated in the same fashion so that people get a picture of consistency and recall the axiom that there is no smoke without fire (and no smokescreen either).
On the matter of conflagrations and the ensuing issue of smoggy pestilence, we need only recall the belliful of lies recited by credulous and agitated commentators before the current calamity befell Iraq. Much has been made of the PIPA poll that showed CNN viewers and print media consumers were less likely to hold delusions about what was happening in Iraq than Fox News, and indeed this does tell us something about the power of the media to generate irrationality. However, the scapegoating of Fox lets other news organisations off the hook rather too easily. 47% of those who relied on print media still had one of three basic misperceptions about Iraq (either that WMD had been found, or that Saddam had been connected to Al Qaeda, or that the world supported America's war). 55% of CNN viewers did, 61% of ABC viewers did, and 71% of CBS viewers did. 41% of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was "directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001", and most people can't identify the geographical origin of the hijackers. This illustrates a few things, then. The first is that public irrationality is deliberately maintained and cultivated by the state and the capitalist media. The second is that part of the way in which this is done is to encourage passivity and disengagement from politics. Think about it this way: Americans supposedly care more than any other group on the planet about the crime scene in New York and Washington. It is the source of endless moralising in the media and among politicians. It supposedly animates Americans to heights of fierce and bold outrage. Yet not only are most people poorly informed about the basics, but a substantial portion still believes a line that they are probably unaware originates from Dick Cheney and has been completely discredited: there is more evidence of American complicity in 9/11 than there is evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement in it (and that is to say that I don't think there is much evidence of American government complicity). Talk about 'conspiracy nuts' or 'conspiraloons' is therefore an excellent way to displace blame for what is in fact officially manufactured irrationality onto small groups of internet-based activists. And of course the more obscure the topic, the more likely people are to know little and believe outright falsehoods. On nuclear weapons, a 2005 Pew Research poll found that more Americans (55%) believe that Iran already has them than are aware that Britain has them (52%). Most Americans drastically underestimate the scale of the nuclear arsenal possessed by their state. More than half think the US has 200 warheads or less, while it in fact has 6000 with 2000 on high alert. High alert means that they are primed and ready to be fired within minutes. Polls also report that most Americans think the Bush administration supports Kyoto.
It may seem like I'm picking on Americans here, and I am: you guys should read Lenin's Tomb more. But the broader point is that we misunderestimate them (the ruling classes) at our peril. The clearly discernible programme, beyond the befuddling array of mixed signals, is to continue aggressively pursuing the current wave of expansionism, and to continue to threaten the world's population centres with violence and possibly - if the rewards are sufficient - thermonuclear extinction. Iran is already under attack by a Washington-backed gangsterish Wahabbi outfit, and I bet that hardly anyone outside Iran, American or otherwise, is aware of this. Any more, that is, than people are aware that close to a million have died as a result of the occupation of Iraq: a million more than would have died from the already murderous sanctions regime. Any more than people are aware of millions approaching starvation in Afghanistan, and the rolling wave of Nato massacres there. Any more than they are aware that Haitians have been put through a nightmare and would like to see their elected President returned. The current wave of mass sanity about Iraq and Afghanistan is extremely threatening to this programme, which is why there is such a strenuous effort underway to persuade people that the war may be nearly over anyway or that we can't leave quite yet because of some moral imperative (in the same way, they try and persuade us that we're all Green now, or are moving in that direction, and that all will be well). Bar outright repression, they've got to absorbe, redirect and misdirect popular anger, contain it, frustrate it, disorient it, demoralise it, bemuse it with inanity, defuse it with triviality, and divert it into dead ends like the Democratic Party (the US far right calls them 'Dhimmicrats', ho ho ho). I swear that we will enter Armageddon with people still wondering why the Democratic Party won't do something about it, while others beg Ralph Nader not to do anything about it. Meanwhile, in Britain, the liberals will still be clucking about whether Islam can be properly integrated, and whether we should really apologise for our Western Way of Life, and why should we allow the burqa when it's clearly a symbol of oppression, and isn't that Galloway a terrible man, so on. Oh, there will be some demented whispering when it's finally time for the lights to go out.