Hang Times: A Whitewash of White House Complicity


People often write to Empire Burlesque in search of an answer to one of the great conundrums of these modern times, namely: "Why are the American people such suckers? How could they — or, to be more exact, how could a significant number of them — ever have fallen for the transparent bullshit of such third-rate goobers as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and all the rest? How could the American people be so ignorant and misinformed about what goes on in the world? How can they be so ignorant and misinformed of their own history, of the dirty deals done in their names for years on end? How can this be?"

Good folk, look no further, for we do indeed have the answer here. If you want to know precisely how the American people are kept deliberately ignorant, simply click on the link to this story in the nation’s "newspaper of record," the journal which sets the standard for and largely determines the news agenda of the American press: The Defiant Despot Oppressed Iraq for More than 30 Years. There, in the stately pages of the New York Times, you will find some 5,200 words written by Neil MacFarquhar detailing the rise, reign and fall of the Iraqi dictator. You will thrill to the usual gory details of torture, murder and savagery; you will tut at the violent barbarism of the rural riff-raff who got so far above his raising; you will snarl with condemnation at the mad aggressor who launched "continual wars" in the region, as the diligent scribe informs us.

[The actual total number of wars launched by Saddam Hussein was, er, two: the same number launched by George W. Bush — if, that is, you don’t count the never-ending, ever-expanding, great googily-moogily "Global War on Terror and Extremists and Radicals," in which case, Bush’s "continual wars" far exceed the two conflicts instigated by Saddam — one of which was overtly approved by Reagan Administration, the other tacitly approved by the Bush I administration.]

But what you will not find is any detail or examination whatsoever of the prominent, direct and continuing role the United States government played in bringing Saddam to power, maintaining him in office, underwriting his tyranny, and rewarding his aggression. This decades-long history — beginning with the CIA’s assistance in not one but two coups that first brought the Baath Party to power then cemented the hold of Saddam’s internal faction on the country through the journey to Baghdad by the obsequious Donald Rumsfeld who came bearing words of support, bags of cash and military high-tech for Saddam’s chemical weapons attacks on Iran down to the delivery of money, WMD technology and other goods of war by George Herbert Walker Bush up to the very day before Saddam’s long-threatened invasion of Kuwait, which Bush’s personal representative had told the dictator was of no concern to the United States — does not appear in McFarquhar’s mountain of prose.

You’ll find damning reference to Saddam’s gas attack on Iraqi Kurds during the Reagan-Bush-supported war with Iran; but you will find not a single word of how the Bush I administration, which included Powell and Cheney, fought hard to kill off Congressional condemnation of the gassing. Nor does McFarquhar see fit to inform the public how Bush I signed a presidential directive mandating that U.S. government agencies forge ever-stronger ties with Iraq, despite the caveats of his own intelligence apparatus. And although McFarquhar finds space to quote from Saddam’s ludicrous novels, he cannot quite squeeze in any reference to the Congressional investigations and other probes that revealed how Bush I secretly financed Saddam and, with British help, secretly supplied him with advanced weaponry through a series of corporate cut-outs and funneling cash through the bowels of what the U.S. Senate described as "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history" (until Junior Bush’s gang came along), the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

But do let’s be fair. The New York Times is not Pravda; it does not simply engage in the wholesale whitewashing of history in order to comfort the comfortable and keep the rabble from knowing what their betters really get up to behind the glowing video screen. No, its whitewashing is often incomplete; little flecks of partial truth will occasionally show through. [And to be genuinely fair, the paper does employ some journalists of genuine courage and merit on its staff, such as the estimable Carlotta Gall, whose reports from Afghanistan have done much to reveal the ugly realities behind that "good" and forgotten war.]

And so it is with McFarquhar’s piece. For it is not entirely accurate to say that he does not mention U.S. support for Saddam anywhere in the story. In a bold act of speaking truth to power, the fearless McFarquhar devotes one whole sentence of 47 words to what he calls the American "tipping" toward Saddam in his war with Iran. Of course, the phrase comes some 2,278 words into the piece, by which time it’s likely that very few people would still be plowing through his — prose might be too strong a word; let’s just call it his cud-like assemblage of well-chewed conventional wisdom. Here is the buried phrase entire:

The fear that an Islamic revolution would spread to an oil producer with estimated reserves second only to Saudi Arabia tipped the United States and its allies toward Baghdad and they provided weapons, technology and, most important, secret satellite images of Iran’s military positions and intercepted communications.

[Because lord knows, we wouldn’t want Iraq and its oil reserves given over to Islamic sectarians tied to Iran, now would we? Perish the thought!]

That’s all McFarquhar has to say on this embarrassing subject. But credit where it’s due: he did say something. Pravda never would have done that.

There is simply no way to understand the reign of Saddam Hussein, nor the past few decades of Iraq’s history, without including the very real and important role that the United States has played in shaping these realities. The reason that tens of thousands of American soldiers have been killed and maimed — and that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been slaughtered, and millions more plunged into hellish suffering — is because this history has been buried, perverted, ignored or forgotten. And one of the main engines of this deliberately induced national amnesia is the New York Times and its fellow media mandarins.