Before we begin to swallow what the Shrub Administration is feeding us about Iraq, it might be good for us to get a little History lesson. One of the justifications that Bush Sr. used to justify the first Gulf War was an incident in which Iraqi soldiers raided a maternity ward in a Kuwait City hospital. They stole equipment and tore newborn babies out of incubators. It was a heinous crime that received endless airplay as Bush I and his minions took advantage of every opportunity to display their outrage to the world.
There was only one problem, though...IT NEVER HAPPENED. The nurse that was trotted out to tell her story to the world's press corps? In reality, she was the daughter of a Kuwaiti diplomat. If you believe the theorem that truth is the first casualty of war, this incident is Proof #1.
Then there is the incident of the baby milk factory- "You say baby milk factory, I say biological weapons plant". So whose version of the truth becomes the first casualty?
Seeking evidence of biological weapons production, United Nations arms inspectors swooped into the closed industrial facility at Abu Ghreib, outside Baghdad – the same plant that U.S. forces bombed on Jan. 23, 1991.
The Iraqis claimed in '91 that the site was a baby milk factory and nothing more, a charge reported by Peter Arnett on CNN and then denied by the U.S. government. "Numerous sources have indicated that [the factory] is associated with biological warfare production," an Air Force spokesman said at the time, a few hours after the bombing. "It was a biological weapons facility, of that we are sure," repeated Colin Powell later that same day.
"That factory is, in fact, a production facility for biological weapons," repeated White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. "The Iraqis have hidden this facility behind a façade of baby-milk production as a form of disinformation."
....Arnett stood firm. He had toured the factory in August (for a story on Iraq's response to the international sanctions), and again just after it was bombed. "Whatever else it did, it did produce infant formula," Arnett said at the time. Although the Pentagon had cast the factory as a veritable fortress, with "military guards around it, [a] barbed wire fence, a military garrison outside," Arnett saw only one guard at the gate and a lot of powdered baby milk. "That's as much as I could tell you about it," he added carefully. "It looked innocent enough from what we could see."
For his account, the journalist was accused of treason by the White House.
"Everything that Peter Arnett reports is approved by, censored by and reviewed – on the spot – by the Iraqi government," Fitzwater exploded the next day. "This is not a case of taking on the media. It's a case of correcting a public disclosure [sic] that is erroneous, that is false, that hurts our government, and that plays into the hands of Saddam Hussein."
It was interesting that the Bushies first response was to demonize the messenger. Rather than seek to get to the truth of the matter, they followed the time-tested model that American governments have made into an art form. In a campaign that owes it origins to Josef Goebbels "Big Lie" theory, Marlin Fitzwater repeated at every opportunity that Arnett was an Iraqi tool. Before long, it became the Truth, as mass media outlets swallowed the Administration's version of the "truth" without so much as a second question.
Shrub is fond of presenting our country to the world as a shining light, as a bastion of freedom and openness. The reality, sadly, is something much less attractive. Our government is as willing to twist and mold the truth to their own purpose as any other government. Devotion to truth is what should separate the US government from Iraq. Sadly, lack of devotion to that same truth may be the only thing the two governments have in common.
Whether or not we will go to war against Iraq is still an open question. Whether you support war or not, we would all benefit by remembering a simple truth. Swallowing the government line is a dangerous way to insulate yourself from the truth. We live in a democracy; war propaganda has no place here.