The edge of war, our battle for truth

Feb 6, 2024
Aerial view of the US Department of Defence River entrance side.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell, 1984.

On the opening day of the bombing last week, I had to work hard to find out what the Iraqi government thought of the wave of attacks on Iraq by the USA. Think about that: a country undergoes dozens of airstrikes that receive massive international media coverage – our screens are filled with jets roaring off aircraft carriers, missiles bustling across the sky, flashes of explosions signalling death and destruction – and it takes a dogged bit of digging to find out what that country actually makes of the attack.

I feel we are living in Orwell’s dystopian world of constant war, not here, but somewhere off in the distance. Meanwhile, our ears, lungs and eyes are filled with the fog of perpetual propaganda. The battle for truth is being fought – and lost. Can we stir ourselves?

This past week, the mainstream media (MSM) – BBC, Guardian, New York Times, etc – were loaded with quotes from White House press secretaries, the President, generals and anglophone pundits … but was largely uninterested in the views of the nominally sovereign nation of Iraq – an ally of America, no less – which, along with Syria, was undergoing this latest round of bombing. The MSM largely conforms to the ideological orthodoxy of the American superstate – purging or diminishing to short quotes the voices that could powerfully critique the behaviour of our fading American hegemon. Orwell’s “Ignorance is Strength” comes to mind.

Our leading news sites endlessly quote people like Joe Biden and Admiral Kirby mouthing Orwellian Newspeak such as “The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.” … as they announce that the US has bombed hundreds of sites in the Middle East and intends to unleash lots more violence for the foreseeable future. This blizzard of missiles in response to 3 US troopers killed in a drone strike on a US base is described as “proportionate”. Anthony Blinken’s “fire-fighting” skills are being tested, and “one false move could set the region alight”, the BBC blethers. “War is Peace” – Orwell again.

The very first story I did find that quoted at length the Iraqi government was on the Turkish news site Anadolu Agency.

“US Attack breaches sovereignty” was the headline on 3 February. The story went on to say:

“US attacks in western Iraq violate the country’s sovereignty”, the Iraqi government said Saturday. “These attacks occurred at a time when Iraq is trying to establish stability in the region. This constitutes a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and undermines the efforts of the Iraqi government,” Prime Ministerial spokesman Gen Yahya said.

Little wonder the bulk of the Iraqi political class are trying to figure out how to rid themselves of the Americans. Iraq has been devastated for decades by wars unleashed by the UK and USA. Should their opinions be heeded?

Look into your heart: does this near-absence of the voice of the Iraqi government or Iraqi society surprise you? Does violently violating their territorial integrity offend your sense of international law? For most people in the West, I suspect not. It’s what powerful white nations have always done. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it,” an American major said in Vietnam.

New Zealand, mascot drummer boy of Western Imperialism, has sent some targeting specialists to help murder people in Yemen. So too have the ever-willing Australians. The Houthis – surely candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize – are disrupting shipping in the Middle East to pressure the Israelis and Americans to stop the genocide in Gaza. They must be found and killed, right? “We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.”

The US is killing people in at least four different countries in the Middle East today and threatening Armageddon on Iran. 100,000, mainly women and children have been slaughtered or maimed by the US and Israel in the past 100 days. It’s part of America’s Forever War. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.” Orwell.

When they aren’t murdering civilians in foreign lands, the Americans like to preach. They like to preach A LOT. Favourite topics include: “The International Rules-Based Order” and “Territorial integrity”. This is, of course, codswallop. America has invaded more countries, murdered more women, children, old people, poor people and especially non-white people in foreign lands than any other nation – many millions more, in my lifetime alone.

Now we stand on the edge of a greater war. Major wars have a nasty habit of starting when events spiral out of control. We should politely back away from the reckless adventures of the USA. We have no strategic interest here and are trashing our own good name. Countries may soon take criminal Western nations and politicians to both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for their participation in the genocide in Palestine/Gaza. New Zealand should stand with the oppressed not the oppressors.

Not so long ago, I read another of Orwell’s books, Homage to Catalonia. Fresh from reading it, I walked to his house in Canonbury Square, London, where he had started writing Nineteen Eighty-Four. I stood outside simply to pay homage to the writer who had warned us, pleaded with us, to wake up to what was going on overseas, to break out of the deep, deep sleep we had been lulled into – before it was too late.

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