By David Edwards
March 24, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – YOU have to marvel at the audacity of corporate journalists as they switch between damning “official enemies” to hell while finding it within their hearts to forgive members of the 1-per-cent club literally anything.
George W Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, bears responsibility for the destruction of an entire country, the killing of one million Iraqis, the wounding and displacement of countless millions more.
Before “Dubya,” there had never been a suicide bomb attack in Iraq — the car bombs, the mass executions, the disappearances, the endless tortures, the bombs in London and Madrid, the rise of Islamic State, all began with him.
About this war criminal, Britain’s leading “left-liberal” newspaper wrote last month: “The Guardian view on George W Bush: a welcome return.”
The fact that the paper was using Bush to attack the execrable Donald Trump did not justify the assertion, however tongue-in-cheek, that “Bush can be seen now as a paragon of virtue. He sounds a lot better out of office than in it.”
And so “the 43rd US president should be applauded.” The Guardian had not one word to say about his millions of victims.
The New Statesman commented: “It sounds flippant to say that compared to Trump, Bush is starting to look good, and this sentiment has become a popular online joke within itself. Nonetheless, the claim is grounded in some reality.”
In similar vein, the Guardian last month also gave space for hard-right, former Spectator editor Matthew d’Ancona to explain that Tony Blair is speaking out on Brexit because he “profoundly believes in the power of human agency,” which inspires “a sense of responsibility.”
The rehabilitation of Bush and Blair follows the deeper rehabilitation of the US brand under Barack Obama.
After the Iraq disaster — too drenched in blood and lies for even the propaganda system to deny — Obama’s task was to reassert the myth of US benevolence. Corporate media adulation duly followed.
Two Guardian titles from 2016 give an idea: “Listening to Obama makes me want to be American for a day.”
And: “Barack Obama: He has such power… yet such humility.”
This moral whitewashing played a vital role in reassuring the public that, with Obama at the helm, the US was under new, compassionate management.
Presented as the pacifist president who refused to “act” on Syria, the truth of Obama was very different.
Arms sales analyst William Hartung commented: “Many Americans would be surprised to learn that his administration has brokered more arms deals than any administration of the past 70 years, Republican or Democratic.”
Having already destroyed Libya, known in Washington as “Hillary’s War,” Obama generously spent $1 billion on Syria-related operations — about $1 of every $15 in the CIA’s overall budget.
The US media watch website, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, supplied some detail: “In addition to this, the Obama administration has engaged in crippling sanctions against the [Bashar] al-Assad government, provided air support for those looking to depose him, incidentally funnelled arms to Isis, and not incidentally aligned the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army with al-Qaida.”
It ought to have been impossible for the same powers that lied their way to catastrophic regime change in Iraq to lie their way to catastrophic regime change in Libya, and to attempt the same yet again in Syria.
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Exactly the same strategies were employed: manufactured or hyped crisis and the manipulation of the United Nations in an effort to achieve the real goal — collapse of the enemy government at whatever human cost.
Obama’s carefully protected image allowed propagandists to sell the West’s “responsibility to protect” — it’s not that the United States and Britain wanted anything from Libya or Syria; they just wanted to protect civilian life.
The affectation of compassionate concern is crucial to the war machine: “we” make “mistakes” but “we” care; “we” mean well and “have to do something.”
This is why members of the executive, 1-per-cent club are so readily forgiven — they have to be presented as fundamentally benign.
Unless of course they harm the wrong interests.
By tragicomic contrast, enemies of the 1 per cent can never be forgiven, even when there is precious little to forgive.
In the Guardian, Catherine Bennett responded to news that George Galloway is planning the first in a series of children’s books, Red Molucca the Good Pirate.
Dripping with vitriol, Bennett wondered “which of his talents, along with the revelation of his goodness,” “the Saddam [Hussein] supporter” would “foreground” in the opening adventure of his book: “Will the focus be on Molucca the champion cat imitator, or Molucca the rascally rape apologist, or Molucca, loyal friend to silly Saddam and barmy Bashir?”
Galloway has never waged war and has not destroyed millions of lives.
But like Julian Assange, Hugo Chavez, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn and others, Galloway is loathed by a liberal press so receptive to the loveable, endearing sides of Bush the artist and Blair the principled defender of “centrism.”
In the Observer in 2002, columnist Nick Cohen poured scorn on Chomsky and Pilger for opposing the Iraq war, and then mocked the EU for refusing to back the Libya war.
Heroically undeterred, Cohen then penned an article titled: “The West has a duty to intervene in Syria.”
Not only is Cohen forgiven his role in facilitating these disasters, he is allowed space to damn Corbyn for “excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state, the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement.”
Ultimately, the corporate media is so keen to excuse their political masters because the media is itself deeply complicit in the same atrocities.
In recklessly agitating for intensified war on Serbia, Andrew Marr wrote in the Observer in 1999: “I want to put the Macbeth option: which is that we’re so steeped in blood we should go further.
“If we really believe Milosevic is this bad, dangerous and destabilising figure we must ratchet this up much further. We should now be saying that we intend to put in ground troops.”
As Harold Pinter said so well: “Who is this ‘we’ exactly that you’re talking about? First of all: Who is the ‘we’?”
Marr claimed Western nations had been “feminised” by the Cold War, with “the war-hardened people of Serbia, far more callous, seemingly readier to die,” and in fact “like an alien race.”
If this was awful, his comments on the main BBC evening news on April 9, 2003 were even worse.
As Baghdad “fell” to US tanks, Marr noted of Blair that “tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.”
This open vindication of a war of aggression, the supreme war crime, was considered completely uncontroversial, and Marr has since, of course, established himself as a “national treasure.”
David Edwards is co-editor of Media Lens. For more on Media Lens visit medialens.org.
This article was first published at the Morning Star