New York, New York: So writes Patrick Cockburn, the veteran Middle East correspondent for the Independent in London. A fierce critic of the US-British War on Iraq he is now urging the US and Iran to collaborate in stopping the ISIS or ISIL forces that are sweeping through Iraq, a country he loves more than any of the despotic politicians who have run it now or then.
The American media has taken up the cry–not for cooperation with Iran that has heartily denounced the latest round of US intervention in the country it warred with for seven years—but with lurid coverage of the force at first labeled “terrorists,” and now “insurgents or just “militants.” The difference is that ISIS/ISIL seizes and holds territory operating like an army, not hit and run faction.
It is said to be connected to Al Qaeda but we don’t know how or if Qaeda still exists. Separating truth from propaganda has never been more difficult.
Even as ISIS portrays itself more as a corporation than a gang of brigands, all we see or hear about in our media are bloody killings and beheadings as if savagery is uniquely to be found in the Islamic world.
Never mind the reporting of the McClatchey newspapers explaining that “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sprang from a largely self-funded, corporation-style prototype”The militant group Baghdadi inherited had in place a sophisticated bureaucracy that was almost obsessive about record-keeping. Its middle-managers detailed, for example, the number of wives and children each fighter had, to gauge compensation rates upon death or capture, and listed expenditures in neat Excel spreadsheets that noted payments to an “assassination platoon” and “Al Mustafa Explosives Company.”
Too bad, our corporations don’t disclose, much less quantify, the metrics of the negative social impacts they cause, and what that costs society or the world.
The more lurid the reporting on the butchery now underway, the more we forget the one million plus dead as a result of the 2003 US invasion and occupation or how state violence inevitably inspires a violence of resistance. It is a violence that anti-colonial theorists like Franz Fanon approved of in his “The Wretched of the Earth,” because of he believed it has a positive psychological impact on the oppressed.
Selective reporting on the atrocities of the other side always emboldens a sense of righteousness, even as our counter-violence assumes the form of less visible and far more deadly ‘shock and aweful’ airpower, or the use of weapons with nuclear materials like depleted uranium.
Throughout this war, there have been few reports on U.S. war crimes in our controlled media with its history of loyal embeds and patriotic correctness.
No one in the mainstream media here has reminded us of the US torturers of Abu Ghraib prison or the counter terror campaigns we waged against towns like Fallujah and the people we demonized as “bad guys.”
It may also be time revisit our own baggage, by going deeper into our own history, the history before the imperial era and the U.S. invasions of The Philippines, Haiti and Vietnam.
Pick up a copy of the latest edition of the NY Review of Books to read about the unspeakable crimes that Americans imposed on each other during the civil war, supposedly the war for freedom against slavery.
Civil war expert James M. McPherson tells us about professional historian Michael C.C. Adam’s new book, Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War (Johns Hopkins University Press.) It is an American story of gore, not glory in which black solders who surrender are slaughtered and POWs on both sides perish in unspeakably horrific prison camps on both sides.
“The guerilla warfare that wracked parts of the South and the border states,” notes McPherson, “was especially vicious, sometimes featuring ‘the burning alive of enemy civilians thrown into flaming buildings as well as random torturing and killing accompanied by grisly trophies including ears, genitals, scalps.” Rape and plunder was pervasive, justified as the “spoils” of war. (Adams wrote an earlier book with similar evidence in a dissection of the myth of World War 11. See his,The Best War Ever: America and World War 11, 2004.)