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Inspired by the Colin Powell Show

Visions of war propaganda past



As I listened to our illustrious, honorable Secretary of State Colin Powell stand before the UN and outline the devious tricks and treachery of the arch-fiend Saddam Hussein, which most assuredly require the immediate destruction of the Iraqi people by fire, bomb, and bullet, I couldn't help recounting to myself the successful propaganda of past wars.

One manufactured image from World War I that remains vivid, to the historically minded, after nine decades is that of the dastardly Germans — the "Huns" — passing their time bayoneting Belgian babies and raping nuns. A somewhat less well known propaganda coup from World War II, but deserving of the same notoriety, is the little show put on by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, during the run-up to Pearl Harbor, when the Maximum Leader for Life aroused a war-averse public by unveiling his "secret map" showing a future Nazi-controlled Latin America. His prop was a priceless gift confected by British intelligence. Being a cartographic fantasy, it quickly vanished from the historical evidence room, so to speak — only to rematerialize in 1999 on the History Channel, which shamelessly represented it as genuine. The Home Front of the '40s was also educated about a secret plan of the Hitlerites to replace Christianity around the world with Nazi worship.

In the 1960s, Americans swallowed Lyndon Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin fable, about which (I trust) little more needs to be said. In 1990, coming at us on a big spoon — open wide! — was the tale about the Iraqi army's slaughtering the incubator babies in Kuwait. That one did wonders to generate support for the Gulf War. (And as we were later told, while that particular episode happened to be fictitious, if the barbaric Iraqis really had come across such helpless babies they certainly would have killed them.) Then, to justify the NATO war of aggression on the South Slav lands, our educators told us all about the 100,000 Albanian Kosovars who were murdered in cold blood by the vicious Serbs under the command of the then-greatest villain in the world, Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic is now on trial for being involved in the deaths of 1,000 Kosovars — but what are a couple of digits among warmongers?

After all that (and much more I haven't mentioned) we may be forgiven for wishing to explore the basis of the very honorable Secretary Powell's evidence. Some of it, we have learned, came from the British government and was copied, in some cases plagiarized word for word, from three old published articles, including one written by a graduate student. And the grad student relied on information that predated the first Gulf War! ("Downing St dossier plagiarized," Channel Four News, February 6, 2003) On the other hand, the very highly honorable Secretary Powell did manage to impart his own sinister twist to this vintage information, so that should protect him against any charge of plagiarism.

The most honorable Secretary Powell also presented a good artist's rendition of what an Iraqi chemical/biological-weapons-spraying UAV (for you folks not up on sophisticated military lingo, that's a pilotless plane) "would look like." The drawing was not much inferior to the pictures of flying saucers from Planet X that one can see on magazine racks at supermarket counters. Sobering indeed!

When the exquisitely honorable Secretary Powell started referring to the mobile vans that serve as biological weapons factories, scurrying around the Iraqi countryside so as never to be detected by ground inspectors, I envisaged the legendary Nazi homicidal gas vans that roamed the countryside of Eastern Europe exterminating hundreds of thousands of helpless Jews with their diesel engines and leaving not a trace of evidence behind. Since we know that story is ABSOLUTELY TRUE, who could possibly doubt the existence of mobile bio-weapons labs?

Some of the satellite photos were very impressive. One was of a truck parked next to some bunkers. As the superlatively honorable Secretary Powell carefully explained, the truck was a decontamination vehicle and the bunkers (at least some of them) were filled with chemical weapons. Then there was the photo of a bulldozer near a patch of cleared earth. The astoundingly honorable Secretary Powell deciphered this one for us, too, saying that it demonstrated the Iraqi effort to eliminate evidence of chemical weapons activity.

Now, the astronomically honorable Secretary Powell did acknowledge that the "average person" might not be able to come up with such marvelous interpretations by simply looking at the photos. As he pointed out: "The painstaking work of photo analysis takes experts with years and years of experience, poring for hours and hours over light tables." But that admonition really wasn't necessary, for who could possibly dispute the analysis by American intelligence experts? I mean, if there really were no good evidence of Saddam's malignant weapons programs, the experts and their bosses would just come out and say so.

It's true that war skeptics have asked why, if U.S. intelligence boffins had all that information on the whereabouts of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), they did not simply provide it to the UN inspectors so that they could confirm it. Oh ye of little faith in thy rulers! The skeptics just don't seem to get it. As the so-honorable-I'm-falling-out-of-my-chair-now Secretary Powell explained, the crafty Iraqis had designed their illicit weapons production facilities so that no one could possibly discover them. Looking for physical evidence of Iraqi WMDs would be tantamount to looking for physical evidence for the killing of millions of Jews at Auschwitz or Treblinka. As we know, the diabolical Nazis destroyed all the physical evidence. There's simply no reason for scientific investigators to look for anything. (Besides, das ist VERBOTEN!)

Once Iraq is liberated, the imperial procurators — all honorable men — should be able to reveal the treachery of the Saddam regime even more clearly. In the middle of the crater that once was Baghdad they could even establish a museum of Saddam's criminality, housing models of bio-weapons vans, drawings of gas-spraying aircraft, and other similar evidence of the mad dictator's malevolence — you know, along the same lines as the reconstructed gas chamber for tourists at Auschwitz. It would all serve the purpose of re-educating the Iraqi people to make them docile sheeple of America's New World Order. Just like the rest of us.

February 13, 2003

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