Amidst the brouhaha over Juan Williams getting fired from his job at National Public Radio, and subsequent calls by conservatives to defund NPR, the broader issue of how government-funded media influences the American discourse needs to come into sharper focus. As a glaring example of how the taxpayers are forced to subsidize political propaganda, there is none better than Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
A relic of the cold war, when it looked like the Soviet Union was about to swallow up all of Europe (or so we were told), RFE/RL was conceived as a counter-propaganda effort to help prevent a Soviet takeover. It’s highly debatable just how much good it did, but, in any case, the alleged threat it was founded to counteract has long since passed into oblivion: the Soviet empire is no more. Yet, unsurprisingly, RFE/RL has continued to function, at taxpayers’ expense, to this day, because …. Well, because that’s what government programs do — they persist, long after the ostensible reason for their existence is gone from the scene.
Bereft of an enemy, at least within range of its radio transmitters, RFE/RL is apparently now taking on those closer to the home front, namely Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. A recent article by RFE/RL “reporter” Jamie Kirchick — who possibly got sick of his job as Marty Peretz’s water-boy over at The New Republic — not only attacks Assange for failing to practice “dispassionate journalism,” but also plumbs for war with Iran. Kirchick avers:
“WikiLeaks will indeed ‘change’ opinions. But they should not alter them in the pacifistic way Assange desires. Far from demonstrating that it is America and its allies which are responsible for most of the violence that has engulfed Iraq in the seven years since the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the latest WikiLeaks reveal, in the words of the Washington Post, that ‘the vast majority of Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by other Iraqis, not by coalition forces.'”
The assertion that the “vast majority” of Iraqi deaths was caused by their own countrymen is quite obviously wrong: it wasn’t the Iraqis, after all, who bombed their own country in air strikes that killed many tens of thousands. Nor did the Iraqis impose draconian economic sanctions, which killed thousands of the old and infirm, on themselves.
Furthermore, the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence was perpetrated by military forces trained, equipped, and directed by the US, with the full knowledge of the commanders in the field. The Iraq war logs show that the Iraqi police and the army tortured, raped, and murdered while their training and salaries were being paid by US taxpayers. WikiLeaks revealed that the top US leadership had explicitly ordered US military personnel not to investigate incidents reported in the field. According to the conventions of international law, the US, as an occupying power, is directly responsible for the crimes of its paid sock-puppets, a description that surely fits the Iraqi police and security forces.
Undeterred by either logic or common sense, Kirchick ploughs ever onward:
“Many of those deaths were perpetrated by Iraqis who received training in neighboring Iran. The New York Times last week said that the documents reveal the ‘shadow war between the United States and Iraqi militias backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.’ According to a 2006 report, for instance, Azhar al-Dulaimi, a Shi’ite militia commander who had kidnapped officials from Iraq’s Ministry of Higher Education, was trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon. This is but one of the connections to Iran that the WikiLeaks reveal; the documents offer a trove of information spelling out in specific detail how various instruments of the Iranian regime funded, equipped, and trained Shi’ite militants to kill not only their fellow Iraqis, but coalition troops as well.”
This is nonsense, pure and simple: the “training” received by Iraqi Shi’ite militias, associated with the various Shi’ite political parties such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Da’wa party, occurred long before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the secular Ba’athist regime.
Now known as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), the group was founded in 1982 by Shi’ite refugees from Iraq, and set up its headquarters in Tehran. During the run-up to the American invasion, SCIRI/ISCI was courted by the US, and asked to join in a coalition with the Iraqi National Congress and the Iraqi National Accord. Far from being an alien factor in Iraqi politics, the party has seats in parliament and commands the loyalties of the majority of Shi’ites in the Shi’ite-dominated southern regions of the country. ISCI”s military wing, the Badr Organization, has been integrated to a large degree into the Iraqi military and security force structure. If the Iranians were training and equipping them prior to the establishment of the new US-supported government, then it is the US that is doing the training and equipping today.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.