Guest Alert: A Letter By Grant Wakefield To Journalists

Introduction – Wholesale Soul Sale

We are witnessing a dramatic and important collision between public opinion and unaccountable political decision-making. A Channel 4 poll (January 16, 2003) shows that fully 81% of the UK population feel that no good case has been made for going to war with Iraq, and yet UK politicians are clearly determined to take their people to war.

An ITN poll (January 13, 2003) reports that just 3% of the population believe that the goal of an assault on Iraq would be to reduce the risk of terrorism, but the US/UK are insisting that the threat of terror is the motivation.

Some 30% of the population believe oil is the true objective, but Bush (previously senior executive, Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, and senior executive, Harken oil company), Dick Cheney (previously chief executive, Halliburton oil company), Condoleezza Rice (previously senior executive, Chevron oil company) all dismiss this as nonsense. The rest of the 32 major Bush administration appointees with significant financial ties to the arms industry, and the 21 appointees with ties to the energy industry, also insist that human rights and anti-terrorism are self-evidently the real motives.

Current levels of public dissent are all the more remarkable when we consider the extent to which the public has been remorselessly bombarded by government and media propaganda suggesting that terrorism is threatening us on every side, with implicit and explicit links being made to these ‘threats’ and Iraq. The clash between political/corporate media propaganda on the one hand, and public common sense on the other, was revealed again in the latest ITN report in which anchor Nicholas Owen declared:

“The drumbeats of war do seem to be getting louder and louder. So what might be the countdown to conflict?” (Nicholas Owen, ITV Lunchtime News, January 17, 2003)

True enough, the drumbeats +are+ getting louder, but the drummers include corporate media employees like Owen and his colleagues, who saw fit to declare war inevitable one month ago:

“It seems the question is no longer +if+ we’ll attack Iraq, but +when+ and +how+. So what happens next? What’s the timetable to war?” (Owen, ITN Evening News, Evening News, December 19, 2002)

In surely the most surreal ITN moment since it ignored the plight of 7 million starving Afghan people, focusing instead on Marjan “the one-eyed lion” in Kabul zoo in 2002, Owen interviewed Air Vice Marshall Tony Mason. Did the 11 empty shells found in an Iraqi bunker constitute a “smoking gun”, Owen asked. The Air Vice Marshall replied that we had first to be sure about what the shells actually contained, adding:

“The real smoking gun of course would be if one of those shells was still found to contain a chemical mixture.”

In other words, a massive attack by 200,000 troops against a country of 26 million impoverished people sitting on 200 billion barrels of oil would be justified by the discovery of one 122mm artillery shell with a range of 4 miles – this one shell, presumably, constituting a weapon of mass destruction and therefore a breach of UN Resolution 1441. Air Vice Marshall Mason then proceeded to clarify what this one shell might mean for the people of Iraq:

“I would expect the air campaign to be very intense, but this time not concentrated so much on Baghdad but on deployed forces all over the country. Previously of course, as you know, we were concentrating in the southern area around Kuwait; now we’ve got to go after troops across the entire country.”

The sexy phrasal verb ‘go after’ (other favourites include ‘take out’ and ‘take down’) refers of course to the blasting, lacerating, puncturing, dismembering and incinerating to death of “troops across the entire country” – troops who are often conscripts, but who are anyway compelled to fight by a dictatorial regime. These are troops without air cover who are therefore completely defenceless against air attack. Other terms for Mason’s “air campaign” are ‘massacre’ and ‘turkey shoot’. In the last Gulf War, Apache helicopter pilots of the US 6th Cavalry found that they had to revise their own ideas of what an “air campaign” actually means:

“I just didn’t quite envision going up there and blowing the hell out of everything in the dark and have them not know what the hell hit them… A truck blows up to the right, the ground blows up to the left. They had no idea where we were or what was hitting them… [Afterwards] a guy came up to me and we were slapping each other on the back and all that stuff, and he said, ‘By God, I thought we had shot into a damn farm. It looked like somebody opened the sheep pen.'” (Quoted, Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time – US War Crimes In The Gulf, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992, p.49)

Another US trooper recalls:

“… hundreds, possibly thousands of Iraqi soldiers began walking toward the US position unarmed, with their arms raised in an attempt at surrender. However, the orders for this unit were not to take any prisoners… The commander of the unit began the firing by shooting an anti-tank missile through one of the Iraqi soldiers. This is a missile designed to destroy tanks, but it was used against one man. At that point, everybody in the unit began shooting. Quite simply, it was a slaughter.” (ibid, p.47)

In discussions with friends, with Media Lens correspondents, and in watching occasional interviews with members of the public in the media, we are constantly struck by the difference between media reporting and the views of the public. Whereas politicians’ and journalists’ version of sane and rational leaves us feeling they have descended from another planet, the public talk in a straight forward, clear and rational way about obvious hypocrisies, lies and absurdity. As the comedian Billy Connolly once observed of politicians, “They’re not +like+ us!” And as the BBC’s John Simpson has said of journalists:

“There’s something slightly wrong with most of us, don’t you feel? We’re damaged goods, usually with slightly rumpled private lives and unconventional backgrounds. Outsiders, looking in at others from outside.” (‘Travels with Auntie’, Lynn Barber interviewing John Simpson, The Observer, February 24, 2002)

Journalists are made outsiders by the fact that they collude with ‘insiders’ in Downing Street and the White House to deceive the public. They are paid to subordinate their human moral and rational concerns, and to replace them with tangled, obfuscating verbiage and establishment-friendly nonsense approved by the vested interests that reward them so well. Referring to this wholesale selling of the soul, novelist Norman Mailer once remarked:

“There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakeable… the unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.” (Norman Mailer, The Time of Our Time, Little Brown, 1998, p.457)

We have received copies of so many wonderfully inspiring and powerful letters from readers that have been sent to the media. We read them all and sometimes particular letters catch our eye. The letter below was sent by Grant Wakefield to a number of journalists over the last week. We think it makes a tremendous contrast to much mainstream reporting. Wakefield is writer/director of a highly-rated CD on the last Gulf War, The Fire This Time, which we have mentioned at the bottom of this Alert.

David Edwards and David Cromwell
The Editors – Media Lens

Dear Sir,

The editors at Media Lens always recommend that letters to media outlets retain a calm and polite tone, but I must confess that I’m finding it increasingly difficult to retain my composure whilst watching the continuing and utterly shameful coverage of Iraq that is currently passing for ‘news’.

To coin one particular phrase about Saddam “…..surveying his troops, cigar in hand, son in a suit, smile on his face. Waiting….” I would like to offer my advice as to what the British media might like to do while they smoke a cigar and wait for the deaths of 10,000 innocent Iraqis in what the CIA has termed a ‘medium case scenario’:

1) You are human beings who are responsible for your own actions. Just ‘doing your job’ does not exonerate you from the responsibility of the predictable outcomes of your actions, as the Nuremberg trials so forcefully brought to the world’s attention. Think about that.
2) Your actions have far reaching and completely lethal consequences for innocent people. Think about that.
3) The actions of those you describe as the leaders of the ‘free world’ have consequences that may be unimaginable, i.e. the first strike use of nuclear weapons. Think about that.
4) An attack on Iraq will almost certainly guarantee terrorist retribution with consequences that may be unimaginable, putting innocent British and American lives at risk. Think about that.
5) You may be one of the victims. Think about that.

Just a few years ago, though it seems like a lifetime, British coverage of world events was perhaps the finest in the world. I still vividly recall excellent dramas and documentaries such as THREADS and QED’s GUIDE TO ARMAGEDDON, as well as enormously hard hitting investigations by PANORAMA into such subjects as the US use of Nazi scientists in their space program, and the Contra wars against Nicaragua sponsored by the US.

So, may I, politely as possible, for old times sake if nothing else, highlight the following verified facts and ask that your coverage at the very least include the following:

1) The most senior members of the United States and British governments have repeatedly stated that sanctions will NEVER be lifted whilst Saddam Hussein is in power. This obvious fact makes the full Iraqi compliance with weapons inspections extraordinary, as they have absolutely no incentive to co-operate with anybody about anything, other than the fact they will be murdered if they don’t. This point was made by the former UNSCOM chairman Rolf Ekeus in 1994, though he was diplomatic enough to leave out the bit about murder. Former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher even unilaterally removed the sanctions-lifting clause from Security Council Resolution 687 making Iraqi compliance pointless, though they complied nonetheless, and continue to do so. Here are a few choice quotes:

“All possible sanctions will be maintained until Saddam Hussein is gone.”
– Marlin Fitzwater, former White House Press Spokesman, May 1991

“Iraqis will be made to pay the price while Saddam Hussein is in power. Any easing of sanctions will be considered only when there is a new government.”
– Robert Gates, former US National Security Advisor, Los Angeles Times, 9th May 1991
(Note that Gates said ‘Iraqis’, not the Iraqi regime.)

“[There will be no end to the embargo] …as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.”
– George Bush, former US President, 20th May 1991

“[Britain will veto any UN attempt to weaken sanctions] …for so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.”
– John Major, former British Prime Minister, 10th May 1991

“We do not agree with those nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its ‘obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction’, sanctions should be lifted.”
– Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, addressing a symposium on Iraq at Georgetown University, USA, 26th March 1997

“Sanctions will be there until the end of time, or as long as he [Hussein] lasts.”
– Former US President Bill Clinton, quoted in The New York Times, 23rd November 1997

“Our policy is to get rid of Saddam, not his regime.”
– Richard Haas, former Director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council, as quoted in ‘Out of The Ashes : The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein’ by Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, 1999. Haas originally made the statement in 1991, and it was quoted in Cockburn’s documentary ‘The War We Left behind’ made for the ‘Frontline’ series and shown in the US in November 1991.

2) The United States and British governments were the principal arms suppliers of Iraq, with responsibility falling on heads of State at the highest levels, and did so in breach of dozens international arms bans and international laws, providing all the high technology required for Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear programmes. Britain was a co-sponsor of the Baghdad Arms Fair in 1989. MPs and Senators galore all visited Iraq in the 1980’s and shook hands with ‘The Butcher of Baghdad’ whilst the tax payers of the US and UK picked up the bill to arm him through the Export Credit Guarantee Department (UK – £670 million) and secretly through the Department Of Agriculture and others (US – estimates exceed $1 Billion). They did this in full knowledge of Iraq’s brutal attacks on the Kurds and their use of chemical weapons against them and the Iranians. How do we know this? Because US embassy staffers interviewed Kurdish survivors in Ankara and passed them on to the CIA who transmitted a report to Secretary of State George Schultz who conceded they knew about the chemical warfare. Because Kurdish leaders wrote a direct letter to Margaret Thatcher pleading with her to stop her support for Saddam Hussein, and went on hunger strike outside the UN building in New York to draw attention to the atrocities. Nobody paid the slightest bit of attention, and support continued.

3) The US and UK are the biggest arms dealers in the world, and the US has the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction of any country in the world, and is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons. The US sold $50 – 150 billion’s worth of arms to the Gulf states between 1991 and 1993, effectively breaching UN Security Council Resolution 687 that called for Middle East disarmament as a ‘goal’ whilst simultaneously empowering UNSCOM to disarm Iraq. Britain’s crucial supply of arms to Indonesia has enabled that brutal regime to continue its’ slaughter of the East Timorese people. Within eight weeks of coming to power Blair massively increased the level of sales to Indonesia.

4) Iraq is the most comprehensively disarmed country in the world in relative terms, and as a measure of international arms control UNSCOM was an extraordinary success story. UNMOVIC is currently shaping up to continue this success, thus the US administration has already begun to slander various members of its team. For 12 years the entire sanctions rationale was that Iraq was not co-operating with weapons inspectors. As soon as they indicated their willingness to admit a new team (not staffed by agents of the CIA and others gathering target information as was widely reported at the time) the US administration immediately declared that they would not accept weapons inspections. This was patently insane. It was best summed up by Whitehouse spokesman Ari Fleisher, he of the ‘invisible smoke of a gun you have hidden’ statement. “Our policy is regime change, with or without inspections.”

5) Scott Ritter, former UNSCOM chief inspector, has estimated that as many as 2000 Iraqis are murdered every year by the brutal regime in extreme political repression. Almost every aid agency in the world confirms that between 4000 and 7000 Iraqis die EVERY MONTH as a result of sanctions, which are apparently justified by the Iraqi regime’s human rights record. This is also patently insane, and the clearest indicator that Iraqis are better off under Hussein’s repression than they are under our sanctions, though, of course, they have to contend with both.

6) The history of US and UK intervention in other countries, and the resultant bloodbaths of their attacks and support for brutal puppet leaders, makes Saddam Hussein’s record look rather amateur. The Shah’s rule in Iran was particularly brutal, with their secret police trained by none other than Norman Schwartzkopf Sr. After the Shah was overthrown, the Iranians found films produced by the CIA that detailed the best methods of torturing women.

7) The US and UK are allies of brutal, fundamentalist Islamic states who have openly declared their support for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia is an obvious candidate, with its private financial support for Al-Q’aida, and from where 15 of the 9-11 hijackers originated. Hamas is openly supported by Syria, whose president recently took tea with the Queen, following a chummy visit to No. 10.

8) I’ve saved the best til last. Iraq was a favoured friend and ally of the US (and UK), and had been since 1963 – the year that the CIA aided Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party into power, describing the coup which took the lives of 3000 people as “…a great victory; it was an operation where all the ‘T’s were really crossed…”

On April 12th 1990, whilst still very much in the US’ good books, Saddam Hussein offered to destroy his arsenal of chemical and non-conventional weapons if Israel agreed to destroy its nuclear and non-conventional weapons. US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher transmitted the response of a group of US senators, which told the Iraqis that they welcomed the offer but opposed the link “….to other issues or weapons systems….” Boucher could not even mention the word ‘Israel’ in the response, as this would call into question why all US aid to Israel was not illegal under their Foreign Aid Act that bars aid to countries engaged in clandestine nuclear weapons development. And thus Saddam’s offer was politely rejected and the matter was dropped.

Let’s go over that again, as it seems a little hard to believe: Saddam Hussein was an ally, he offered to destroy his weapons of mass destruction in 1990, and the US turned him down.

If it isn’t abundantly clear that ‘we’ would not be in the position that our ‘leaders’ assure us ‘we’ are, if ‘they’ had not so vociferously supported this lunatic in the first place, then it should be. AND IT SHOULD BE REPORTED. As one BBC reporter so beautifully put it back in January 1991: “Has the West once again armed a monster it can’t control?” Note particularly that he said ‘once again’…

You will find all of this information, and much more, with detailed sources, at my web site I particularly recommend that you read in full the CLASSIC QUOTES page. In the meantime, please find attached a picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein’s hand in 1984, whilst acting as an envoy for Ronald Reagan to re-open US-Iraq diplomatic relations at the height of their chemical warfare use.

Yours in amazement that you can continue to propagandise so blatantly, and in even more amazement that the majority of the British people see through it. Good for them. Shame on you.

Grant Wakefield

P.S. “I’m delighted that I’ve been invited out here today to salute you, who, in my view, are doing the Lord’s work.”
– former US President George Bush Sr., addressing US air crews of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group stationed at Ahmad al-Jaber air base in Kuwait who conduct over flights and bombing missions on Iraq, as reported by Agence France Press, 19th January 2000

Grant Wakefield’s CD, The Fire This Time, is an analysis of the Gulf War, revealing media propaganda and the effects of sanctions. You can find out more at Noam Chomsky has described the CD as “greatly to be welcomed”; Edward Herman has called it a “brilliant album”.