Tuesday, June 02, 2015

why did they invade iraq?

medialens |  It is certainly a harder question to answer honestly:
'Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it's hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.'
Here Krugman was trying very really hard to focus on any obscure corner of the living room to avoid noticing the elephant. In his book, 'Fuel on the Fire', based on declassified British Foreign Office files, Greg Muttitt explains:
'The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world's largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies.'
Ironically, having himself failed to write frankly about this key issue, Krugman then speculated on the causes behind the political and media silence:
'Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn't say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.'
Again, this was a deeply irrational analysis from Krugman. Politicians and journalists were foolish, duped, intimidated, fearful of losing their careers, of course. But this hardly explains a pattern of political and corporate media subservience to corporate power over decades, with the same mendacity on virtually every issue impacting power and profit.

A rational analysis would at least glance at the structure and corporate funding of political parties; at the profit-orientation, elite ownership and advertiser-dependence of the corporate media. Why focus on poor 'judgement' and a 'climate of fear' when political and economic structures endlessly producing the same pattern of media 'failure' are staring us in the face? Why was rational analysis of this kind suddenly impossible for someone as astute as Krugman? Had he suddenly become a fool? 

Of course not, he was exactly repeating the self-censoring behaviour he lamented in other journalists - honest analysis of the corporate media is taboo in the corporate press.
Krugman also seriously misled his readers when he wrote:
'On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn't get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.'
In fact, corporate media are the corporate arm of the propaganda system they are supposed to be monitoring. Far from having 'a hard time coping with policy dishonesty', they have a hard time coping with the occasional journalists who attempt to expose the dishonesty. Immensely powerful economic and political forces select, shape, mould, reward and punish editors, journalists and whole organisations to ensure that they do not deliver the kind of 'frank discussion' Krugman promised but failed to supply.

Apart from the motives for war and the structural conditions behind media performance, there was one other crucial consideration missed by Krugman. What reasonable analysis would discuss a spectacular contemporary example of political mass deception without placing it in some kind of historical context? Was the great Iraq deception a one-off? Was it an outlier event? Was it a standard example, a carbon copy of similar events over years and decades? Have we seen similar events since 2003? Are they happening now? Again, one of US journalism's finest – at the extreme left of the 'mainstream' spectrum – had nothing at all to say about these key questions.

And in fact, as we and others have documented, the Iraq deception was not at all an outlier. It was a standard example of corporate political-media deception that just happened to go so catastrophically wrong that the reality could not be entirely ignored - although the propaganda system was far more effective in burying the truth than we might imagine. According to a 2013 ComRes poll, 44% of UK respondents estimated that fewer than 5,000 Iraqis had died since 2003. 59% thought fewer than 10,000 had died. Just 2% put the toll in excess of one million – the likely real toll.

Krugman did not even mention that Iraqis had died, let alone discuss the almost unimaginable scale of the bloodbath. He concluded:
'But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it.'
Crucially, Krugman was unable to recognise that history had already repeated itself, not least in the repetition of his own self-censoring analysis. The West's overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011 was based on exactly the same kind of lies and media complicity, the same enthusiasm for war waged by Western powers who somehow, miraculously, were said to retain moral credibility as humanitarian agents.

In fact, this was an even more extreme example of propaganda deception than Iraq, precisely because it happened in the aftermath of that earlier deception. And, unlike Iraq, the media have not yet summoned the courage to expose even a portion of the US-UK governments' lies, or the media's complicity in them. All of this falls beyond Krugman's idea of a 'frank discussion'.