America and war: Two sides of the same coin


TO get an appreciation of American politics, one has to understand the country’s political culture and the best way to do that is through the film industry.
The use of film and television to influence public opinion is a tool that the establishment has mastered.
Not only is the voting populace educated, but it is more often than not sublimely manipulated.
Trending shows have tackled questions to do with prayer in schools, gay rights, racism, police brutality and more often than not, what comes out of all this is that the system works, therefore there is no need to change it.
This is despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
The use of film and television to turn public opinion and thought can be exemplified by the 1997 movie, Wag the Dog.
In the movie, the President of the United States is caught making advances on an underage ‘Firefly Girl’ less than two weeks before Election Day.
Conrad Brean, a top-notch spin doctor, is brought in to take the public’s attention away from the scandal.
He decides to construct a diversionary war with Albania, hoping the media will concentrate on this instead.
Brean contacts Hollywood producer Stanley Moss to create the war, complete with a theme song and fake film footage of a photogenic orphan in Albania.
When the CIA learns of the plot, they send Agent Young to confront Brean, who convinces him that revealing the deception is against his best interests.
The CIA announces that the war has ended, but otherwise maintains the deception and the media begins to turn back to the President’s abuse scandal.
Moss decides to invent a hero who was left behind enemy lines, and inspired by the idea that he was ‘discarded like an old shoe’, has the Pentagon provide him with a soldier named Schumann around whom he constructs a further narrative including T-shirts, additional patriotic songs and faux-grassroots demonstrations of patriotism.
At each stage of the plan, Moss continually dismisses setbacks as ‘nothing’ and compares them to past movie-making catastrophes he averted.
When the team goes to retrieve Schumann, they discover he is in fact a criminally insane army prison convict before their plane crashes en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
The team survives and is rescued by a farmer, but Schumann attempts to rape the farmer’s daughter and the farmer kills him.
Moss then stages an elaborate military funeral, claiming that Schumann died from wounds sustained during his rescue.
While watching a political talk show, Moss gets frustrated that the media are crediting the president’s win to a tired campaign slogan of ‘Don’t change horses in mid-stream’ rather than Moss’s hard work. Despite previously claiming he was inspired by the challenge, Moss announces that he wants credit and will reveal his involvement, despite Brean’s warning that he is ‘playing with his life’.
Moss refuses to back down, so Brean reluctantly has him killed and makes it look as if he had a heart attack.
The President is successfully re-elected and a news report about a violent incident in Albania is shown, but it is ambiguous whether this is a true event or simply a continuation of the fictional war.
While this Hollywood script made for entertaining TV, the truth is that the use of false information by the US and Washington power players is a regular thing.
In the run up to the Iraq-Kuwait war, the Kuwait Government funded as many as 20 public relations, law and lobby firms in its campaign to mobilise US opinion and force against Saddam Hussein.
Participating firms included the Rendon Group, which received a retainer of US$100 000 per month for media work and Neill & Co, which received US$50 000 per month for lobbying Congress.
Sam Zakhem, a former US Ambassador to the oil-rich gulf state of Bahrain, funnelled US$7,7 million in advertising and lobbying dollars through two front groups, the ‘Coalition for Americans at Risk’ and the ‘Freedom Task Force’.
The Coalition, which began in the 1980s as a front for the Contras in Nicaragua, prepared as well as placed TV and newspaper ads. He kept a stable of 50 speakers available for pro-war rallies and publicity events.
Hill & Knowlton, then the world’s largest PR firm, served as the mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign.
Its activities alone would have constituted the largest foreign-funded campaign ever aimed at manipulating American public opinion.
By law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act should have exposed this propaganda campaign to the American people, but the Justice Department chose not to enforce it.
Over the next six months, the Kuwaiti Government channelled US$11,9 million dollars to ‘Citizens for a Free Kuwait’, whose only other funding totalled US$17 861 from 78 individuals.
Virtually all of CFK’s budget US$10,8 million went to Hill & Knowlton in the form of fees.
The man running Hill & Knowlton’s Washington office was Craig Fuller, one of George Bush’s closest friends and inside political advisors.
Anyway, this all builds up to one of the worst deceptions ever carried out in American politics.
Known as the ‘Nayirah testimony’, on October 10 1990, a 15-year-old girl, who was only identified as Nayirah appeared before the Congressional Human Rights caucus, where she testified on the alleged atrocities by Saddam’s forces in Kuwait.
In her testimony, Nayirah claimed she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, take the incubators and leave the babies to die.
Her story was initially corroborated by Amnesty International and testimony from evacuees.
The testimony was widely publicised, and was cited numerous times by US senators and President George H.W. Bush in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War.
In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah’s last name was Al-Ṣabaḥ and that she was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US.
Furthermore, it was revealed that her testimony was organised as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by American Hill & Knowlton.
Amnesty International reacted by issuing a correction, with executive director John Healey subsequently accusing the Bush administration of ‘opportunistic manipulation of the international human rights movement’.
I write all this in the face of the threats the Trump Administration has been directing at North Korea.
Two weeks ago, President Trump said that he had deployed an ‘amarda’ to the Sea of Japan as a ‘show of force’ in response to North Korea’s missile tests.
Turns out this was not true, the ‘amarda’ in question went in the opposite direction, and was taking part in exercises with the Australian Navy.
This past week, Vice-President Mike Pence glorified the US military prowess and Trump’s ‘strength and resolve’ after the US bombed Syria and Afghanistan.
When a super power shows strength and resolve by attacking a rag-tag country which has been at war for close to two decades, then that strength and resolve is going to waste.
Given the propensity of US power to use ‘smoke and mirrors’ in turning public opinion, one is forced to question, what truths and lies is the Trump Administration feeding us now?


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