Genocide and Everyday Life in the USA

in:

by James Petras

The Pentagon announced that it had tested the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history., 9.5 tons in weight, in preparation for its use in Iraq. Two weeks earlier, General Richard Meyers, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that US policy was to "shock" Iraq into surrendering by unleashing 3,000 guided bombs and missiles over Baghdad in the first 48 hours of the campaign. U.S. military officials calculate that 300,000 Iraqi military and civilians will be killed. The United Nations estimates that at least 10 million Iraqis will be killed, wounded, displaced and traumatized.

Unlike the German genocidal politics against Slavs, Roma, Jews, and homosexuals , the US genocide is public knowledge, openly discussed and dutifully presented by the usual mass media in the same normal voices and images with which one comes to expect the weather forecasts. The major respectable news media, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times publish front page excerpts and sometimes entire transcripts of speeches by the Generals, Cabinet Ministers and the President describing the tactics and strategies of mass destruction. Their editorial pages are not spaces for dissent.

As these weapons of mass destruction accumulate in the Middle East, and US troops prepare to launch a massive invasion, the mass media embellish the readers with "human interest" stories, of tearful couples embracing, of patriotic mothers waving the flag, or generous employers offering to maintain the health plan of their employees while they engage in…a genocidal war.

The publicly announced, premeditated genocidal war preparations are presented by the media alongside the latest basketball scores, the up to the minute Hollywood scandals, the weather and of course the commercials advertising deodorants, cars and the stock market reports. The mass media have attempted to integrate genocide into the everyday life of ordinary people. Killing, maiming, displacing millions of people has become merely a "safety measure" - like the advice of provincial newspapers warning citizens to lock their doors at night. Psychologically the mass media attempt to inculcate the idea that the executioners of genocide are the victims of a world-wide plot to destroy the US, and that the Iraqi victims of genocide are the aggressors. Media-induced mass political paranoia serves to launch a genocidal war. Everyday the mass media invent terrorists, publicize unfounded allegations, inflate minor incidents, report fabricated allegations by Colin Powell in the Security Council - and then omit their systematic careful refutation by UN inspectors. Major scandals involving spying on the phones, faxes and e-mails of United Nations members are reported all over the world - but are totally absent from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Isolated public officials ( Congressman Moran ) who dare to mention the influential role of right-wing Jewish policymakers ( Wolfowitz, Perle, Cohen, Kagan, Abrams etc.) linked to Israel are denounced as anti-Semites and forced to publicly recant and engage in humiliating self-denunciation, in the same manner as Stalin's critics in the 1930's. Refusal to recant has destroyed the careers of experienced public servants.

Washington's march to genocide has been propelled by several fanatical ideological strands. Bush is a Christian fundamentalist who, to the dismay of the scientific community, proclaims the literal Biblical story of creation while denouncing the conventional body of scientific knowledge on evolution as taught in our secondary schools and colleges. Like many former alcoholics he has embraced Christian fundamentalism with a fervor that extends to daily Bible readings in the halls of the federal government. He claims that God ordained him to be president ( with the divine intervention of faulty ballots in Florida and the Republican appointed higher court) and to lead the nation in a crusade against evil justifying genocide of Iraqi people ( Babylon to the 'Bible Belters"). The second powerful ideological strand is the fanatical commitment and blind loyalty to the state of Israel, its expansion and domination of the Middle East, found in rightwing militarist Jewish policy makers who are the ideological architects of the permanent war doctrine. The third powerful strand is the ultra-militarist civilian ideologues, like Rumsfeld and Condeleeza Rice who boast of the US military power to fight two, three or more wars of destruction at the same time and who crave world domination. Fourth are the opportunists like Colin Powell, who promote genocide as a means of strengthening their political position for a future presidential bid.

The confluence of these extremist religious, ethnic and militarist views in the Bush Administration is the driving force toward pre-meditated genocide. The belief in "people chosen by god", "special people" cleans the conscience of any misgiving over the fate of millions of Iraqis victims and prepares the political road to future mass killings in Syria, Iran, North Korea, Libya - and perhaps even in "anti-Semitic Europe" to quote Richard Perle, Rumsfeld's key military adviser.

The respectable mass media, their highly credentialed journalists and their cheerful editors provide the reportage that amplifies the extremist policies of these ideological fanatical rulers. They publish photos of key officials announcing future mass killings with jovial or thoughtful faces, looking like your own uncle.

The worst offense of the US mass media is the way it 'normalizes' preparations for a brutal invasion. Just like it has normalized Israel's perpetual assassination of Palestinian opponents.

By making plans for genocide a mundane 'event', something to be discussed in technical details via favorable interviews with the US warlords, the mass media empties the crime of its moral, human and political dimension.

"Imagine a 9.5 ton bomb - bigger than the 'Daisy Cutter' which was only 7.5 tons", the cheerful military spokeswoman announces. "Bigger is better", say the militarists. "A faster, less costly way to re-order the Middle East and purge it of evil", sing a chorus of Christian fundamentalists and Likud zealots.

None of the media evoke the image of Cruise missiles incinerating over 400 Iraqi civilians in the Amiriya bomb shelter in a single attack one clear February night in 1991.

Diverse earnest voices, working in harmony to bring about a more violent and ruthless imperial system - or as the respectable, cowardly news media suggest…"hopefully a more peaceful world" for the Iraqis who survive to enjoy "Pax Americana". Pentagon officials announced in recent headlines generous plans to 'employ' surrendered Iraqi soldiers to clean up the debris (or dig the mass graves).

But for all of its unremitting propaganda often crudely linking Iraq with 9/11 and Al Queda, the mass media has not been successful in convincing millions of US citizens. Over forty percent oppose the war, a lesser percentage oppose war regardless of any UN resolution. Why has the combined power of the mass media and the State failed to convince tens of millions of North Americans? The reasons include moral repugnance of an offensive war based on false allegations; fear of retaliation from terrorists; concerns for the deepening domestic economic crisis; a sense of political isolation or solidarity with the billions outside the US who oppose the war; and perhaps at a deeper level, a sense of concern that the extremist fanatics who run the war machine are out of control, that their mystical religious and militarist beliefs and foreign entanglements will bring about unforeseen catastrophic results to this country.

Many US citizens continue to go about their daily life, watch television for too many hours, consume mountains of cheap 'junk food', agonize over job insecurity and look inward to family and community. Before their eyes, daily, there is the trivialization of an impending war, the unilateral preparations for mass destruction without outside support for the aftermath, without a credible argument - stark naked aggression which now shocks increasing numbers of North Americans from all age groups and sectors. Out in the streets in thousands of cities, towns and villages there are anti- war protestors. There are websites linking them with alternative news and with the more critical foreign press. The multitude of celebrities and writers who oppose the war - "Not in Our Name" are being heard. There are the friends and neighbors who discuss the war and decide to oppose it. There is a vast net of uncertainty that covers the US from Wall Street investors to auto mechanics. Oil prices soar, unsustainable deficits provoke talk of future inflation and anti-war demonstrations are growing. The mass media have failed to mobilize the public, despite massive efforts to legitimize the war. There is hope for the future.

James Petras writes on Latin American and international political affairs. His books include Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century (Zed Books, 2001)