SPIN DOCTORS AND DERVISHES by Yves Barbero It was a British general who pointed out just b

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SPIN DOCTORS AND DERVISHES by Yves Barbero It was a British general who pointed out just before the ground war got under way that SADDAM HUSSEIN was willing to use "the currency of human life" to advance his policies and therefore "there would be a ground war". The statement was remarkable for its candor. Finally, a military officer who told the absolute truth. Washington, however, wasn't sure how the American people would take the news and for a couple of days, its public relations troops (spin doctors) were explaining that a ground war was not necessarily in the works (a lie). Events proved the might of modern war technology and the forces of righteousness took almost no casualties while the Iraqi forces (with a less advanced technology) may have suffered, according to one estimate, as many as 150,000 killed. Under the guise of protecting troops, the press was stage-managed. Even the establishment press complained loudly and publicly. One commentator couldn't help wondering what possible security purpose was served by not allowing the photographing of bodies being brought home. I can answer that question. The administration wasn't sure the ground war wouldn't be bloody and was afraid that the sight of so many coffins would make it suffer at the polls. Censorship, in this country, has been more often used to manage public opinion than to protect state secrets. I doubt seriously that journalists would object to not publishing shipping schedules in time of war. The administration was nervous for public relation reasons. Whatever side one takes on the issue of the Gulf War, there was plenty to be nervous about. The resurgence of jingoistic patriotism is certainly one issue. Led by PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH, we have now overcome the "Vietnam Syndrome". If that means we've lost the reluctance to enter into armed conflict, it is a sad loss. The Gulf War may have been justified (and I personally believe it was although I think the timing had more to do with the American electoral schedule than any other reason) but I'd prefer it if our leaders spent more time examining issues than possible public reaction. Would Bush not have started the war if he thought it would be unpopular? Could, for instance, have sanctions worked if given more time? Why do we think that an almost flawless technical execution of the war is synonymous with virtue? We won because we had better technology, more money, great generalship, better diplomatic skills and numbers. In addition, Iraq could not re-supply, build its own weapons and had almost no internal self-sufficiency. Oil needs to be exported and that was cut off. A one-resource economy is doomed to eventual extinction. "Goodness had nothing to do with it!" As May West might have pointed out. Our greatest ally was Saddam Hussein, himself. He showed great ineptness in his public relations campaign. Even the most twisted intellectual apologist in the Western World would have difficulty justifying the policies of a man who gassed thousands of his own people. However diplomatically skilled nations in that part of the world are reputed to be, nothing can make up for the public relations stupidity of the Scuds and the terrorizing of the Kuwaiti population. And, most important, he actually invaded Kuwait. That made all the rulers in the area extremely nervous and malleable to our designs. Just as we infer virtue from technical skill, we seem to assume a hundred percent moral certitude when the balance sheet is barely in the black for us. It is a fact that Kuwait stole oil from Iraq. As are most of our Arab allies, Kuwait is a reactionary dictatorship. They all exploit their people. In the case of Kuwait, only a privileged few citizens do well. Imported workers, who make up the majority of the population, have absolutely no rights. The prospect, in the region, of democracy sprouting roots is almost nil. It's also a fact that the U.S. sees an opportunity to re-establish itself as a world power, with all its attendant commercial advantages, and was looking for an opportunity to show its prowess. PHILIP AGEE, the former CIA agent, (barred from re-entering this country) thinks the war was engineered by the Bush Administration just for that purpose. It was not diplomatic stupidity on our part, he claims, but cynical design when a State Department official told the Iraqis we had no interest in protecting Kuwait.(1) I'm not sure I'd go that far but Grenada and Panama were too local and too small to send out the proper message. The Iraq War is just the right size and, to boot, in the right location. There may be justifiable wars and I suspect, reluctantly, that this was one. But war should be a last resort and not the first. The "Vietnam Syndrome" served us well and I hope it isn't dead. Patriotism is fine and dandy as long as it implies good feelings for the land and its people and not an lockstep following of any administration's line. Flags should identify public buildings and ships at sea and not be the subject of idolatry. My greatest fear is that we'll start selling our military forces to the highest bidder and our young people's lives will become our chief export. The best way to avoid war is to promote popular government. Economic ideologies, totalitarian states and religious fervor have been responsible for all this century's wars but I can't think of a single instance when one democracy has declared war on another. Ever! Not any time in history! As to the "New World Order," I'm not ready, just yet, to put on an arm band. 1. AGEE, PHILIP "Producing the Proper Crisis," Z Magazine, Oct '90. (An electronic form of this article may be downloaded from the SKEPTICS BBS as GULF-WAR 415-648-8944. (c) Copyright 1991 Yves Barbero. Reprinted from BASIS, April 1991.


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