Propaganda is a Tool of War

Oh, the stories we are told

Share on Nextdoor
click to enlarge TRUE PATRIOTS: Demonstrators last week demand - an end to the war. - Kristin Sabena
Kristin Sabena
TRUE PATRIOTS: Demonstrators last week demand an end to the war.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain.

—Mark Twain, The War Prayer, suppressed until 1923

Police know the slang: "throwaway gun." A bad cop will keep an untraceable gun stashed in the cruiser in case an arrest goes bad, and the suspected perp who lies dead in the street did not have a weapon. The officer will take the gun and drop it next to the suspected but now deceased bad guy. And that's what is going to go down in Baghdad.

The Bush junta cannot afford not to find some chemical or gas weapons. I don't think Saddam Hussein had cleansed himself of the weapons. That was his crime, of course, and not the crime of Iraqi civilians dying in our firestorm bombing. But on the chance, however slim, that Saddam was clean, our spooks will make sure evidence is found. Throwaway chemicals and bugs, so to speak.

And, like almost every other step as we tramp across Bush's Rubicon, it's likely the fraud will be discovered and thoroughly documented, probably by the foreign press but largely ignored by the American media. After all, the Bushies know that lies work — if you don't have to worry about the press calling you on the facts.

Just look at the success of propaganda. The Christian Science Monitor reported that before the media's war trumpets sounded, only about 3 percent of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had anything to do with Osama bin Laden's Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Now, thanks to uncritical and repeated broadcasts of the never-even-remotely-proven accusation, some 40 percent to 45 percent of our citizens swallow the tale.

It should gall Americans that they have been so snookered by charlatans, who have long hidden their real agenda of initiating a long series of conflicts. But the tactic of putting blinders on the public is an old one. Hitler dressed S.S. soldiers in Polish uniforms, sent them into Poland and had them fire on a German radio station. Then declaring that "the Polish state has refused the peaceful settlement," Hitler launched his version of "shock and awe," the blitzkrieg.

How many times will we be told of the "growing coalition" (including, thank God, major powers such as Micronesia), and not be told of the bribery and intimidation used to marshal compliance? How many times will we not be told that among our "allies" (none of whom, other than Britain, actually back words with soldiers), it is only the governments that support our war? Polls show that in virtually every country in the world, other than in Israel, the vast majority opposes this war. How many times will the press harp on the alleged perfidy of France and Germany — while failing to recognize that Bush has destroyed the Western Alliance, has alienated allies by the score and has rendered America hated, despised and disbelieved by most of the world?

Newsweek, towering over its competition, last week had the guts to run a cover story on "Why America Scares the World," which concluded, "What worries people around the world above all else is living in a world shaped and dominated by one country — the United States. And they have become suspicious and fearful of us."

How many times will we not be told of the vast unease among true patriots such as retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who recently told Strategies to end Saddam's rule "didn't have to necessarily be military and they didn't have to be now. It's the administration that chose to do this set of actions at this time. And the reason they've had problems persuading people of the necessity for doing it has been because they couldn't address the urgency."

The rest of the press is largely mute, just the way Bush wants them. What Americans don't know can't offend them. And as long as the media morons such as CNN's Aaron Brown treat the war as a whiz-bang video game and the print media remains neutered (I mean what I say — reporters have had their balls snipped by bosses seeking to curry favor with the administration), the War Party has no fear of being outed.

The war's real goals — it's the first of many conflicts to ensure our global dominance over resources, especially oil; it keeps the threat of terrorism high enabling further administration attacks on Americans' liberties; it is a profiteering goldmine for Bush's corporate backers as we head for a $500-billion a year war budget; it deflects attention from a devastated economy and any number of domestic blunders; it provides the rationale for undermining the United Nations and for obliterating international accords on the environment, disarmament and labor rights; it will bully nations and dissenters into quiescence; the Middle East is left to the mercy (or lack thereof) of Bush's Likud partners in Israel and of his own foreign policy team; etc. — will never be explained to the public.

If you want the game plan, read 1984, not, as Bush would have you believe, The Bible.

Of all the calumnies lathered by the Bush boys on the public, the one that is most loathsome is that being antiwar is unpatriotic and undermines our troops in the field. The neocons decry Tom Daschle or, even more so, Sen. Robert Byrd, who in a speech to the Senate last week said, "Today I weep for my country" — and was promptly denounced as unpatriotic.

From the warlords in Washington to the cheerleaders such as the awful Clear Channel hate mongers who organized the "Rally for America" (interpreted: antiwar equates with against America), the screech is to close ranks with Bush, support his war without question — all for the sake of our soldiers in the field. (Of course, the same faux patriots who author such rubbish poured oceans of vitriol on Bill Clinton — because of his sex life — when he was forced to commit troops in Kosovo and elsewhere.)

I've encountered this before. For years, I was intrigued by the tales of soldiers being spat upon as they returned from Vietnam. I had volunteered to wear a uniform during that conflict, and I later became an antiwar firebrand. I'm well aware that the popular tide turned against the war when, first, veterans and, then, active duty GIs began marching in the demonstrations. These were the heroes of the antiwar movement. I never saw a demonstrator spit on a soldier. We supported them in the best way possible — we wanted them home and alive.

And now, Jerry Lempcke, a professor at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts, has scoured the records from the 1960s and 1970s. "It simply never happened," he told me last week, adding that other researchers have found the same. No news reports, no evidence that antiwar demonstrators abused our troops.

"The spitting story evolved as a way to discredit the antiwar movement," says Lempcke, a Vietnam vet. "It was particularly used in 1990 and '91 to persuade people against opposing the first Gulf war. The grounding of the story was as an alibi to explain why we lost the Vietnam War, that it was lost on the homefront from a lack of patriotism. And the clear record shows that the spitting didn't happen and that the war was lost long before public opinion had turned against it."

But, what the hell, why bother with truth?

Creative LoafingSenior Editor John Sugg — who says, "I go to church, adopted five kids when I saw the need, help run a Boy Scout troop and wore a uniform when the guys who plotted this war were avoiding the military, so to hell with you scum who falsely claim a monopoly on patriotism" — can be reached at 404-614-1241 or at [email protected].

For more anti-war information, visit, or, or attack/index.html

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.