Sunday, August 07, 2005

Politically expedient hypocrisy

Behold the colossal hypocrisy of pro-war politicians accusing others of inciting “terror”, and demanding that others denounce the use of violence. Recall the words used by Bush, Howard and Blair et al to argue the case for war, words contrived to incite violence.
We’re talking about a regime that will gouge out the eyes of a child to force a confession from its parents. This is a regime that will burn a person’s limbs in order to force a confession ... a cruel and despotic regime ...
On Saddam Hussein’s orders, opponents have been decapitated, wives and mothers of opponents have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured.
Saddam Hussein is a threat that has to be dealt with. Saddam is unrivalled as the world’s worst regime: brutal, dictatorial, with a wretched human rights record.
There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.
There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons ... he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction.

The language used by the war party and its supporters to vilify Saddam Hussein and his regime was designed to rally support for war. The denunciations and fabrications used to justify the attack on Iraq were intended to arouse hatred toward Iraq and induce indifference to the impact that armed aggression would have upon the citizens of Iraq. And clearly, the mainstream media participated in the promulgation of this pro-war propaganda.

It is hypocritical in the extreme for our political leaders to promote and justify the enormous violence of war and occupation, while at the same time demand that others denounce violent resistance to aggression.

Our leaders claim the right to use violent force against a perceived threat, preemptively and unilaterally, without regard to established international law, in a manner completely disproportionate to the actual threat and utterly devoid of concern for human life or the environment, but they wish to deny those they attack, the right to respond with force.

It is as if they are saying, we have the right to attack others without just cause, but they have no right to defend themselves. This absurd proposition is a contradiction of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which states in part ...
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
The mainstream media routinely ignores this apparent double standard. The prevailing assumption seems to be that Anglo-American military action is inherently benign, presumably because it represents the supposedly legitimate and well-intentioned aspirations of “western civilization” or “liberal democracy”. This commonly accepted premise receives very little media attention or analysis.

It is not sufficient to loudly condemn atrocities committed by others, while remaining silent about atrocities committed by our own. Yet that is how our media and government behave. While politicians and pro-war pundits readily denounce what they call “acts of terror”, very few of them ever condemn the use of violent force by our governments, even when that use of force is reckless, unlawful and results in the death of innocent civilians or the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Opposition to violence requires more than politically expedient rhetoric. High flown sentiment alone cannot enhance international security or reduce conflict. It is necessary to recognize that Anglo-American violence and aggression is perceived as a threat by others, and that others have a right to defend themselves.

The United States and its allies have flouted international law and jeered at the Geneva Conventions, they have lied to the United Nations and their own people, they have ignored all opposition to their war plans and completely trashed the notions of universal human rights, due process and the rule of law. Their actions have betrayed the values they claim to uphold and severely undermined their moral legitimacy and credibility.

The corporate media has generally failed to challenge or even recognise the deceit, hypocrisy and corruption that permeates and flourishes throughout the highest levels of government. Consequently, the mainstream conception of the real world is fragmented, confused and ill-equipped to deal with the rapidly deteriorating circumstances currently facing humanity as a whole — the scourge of war, resource depletion, climate change, starvation and species extinction to name just a few.

The media as a whole, and journalists individually, share a responsibility to serve the public by scrutinizing the use and abuse of political and corporate power, by exposing corruption and wrong doing, by providing an accurate, objective account of the truth for the benefit of society at large.

When the media adopt the role of mere mouth-piece for the powerful and act as apologists and supporters for the government, irrespective of the merit or behaviour of its leaders, hesitant to question or confront conceit and deception, reluctant to grapple with the complexity of political intrigue, incapable of formulating comprehensive models for understanding and analyzing contemporary affairs .. when the media act as a conduit for government propaganda, promoting conformity of opinion and reducing complex issues into unchallenged, meaningless catchcries (eg “we won’t cut and run, until the job is done”), the media is facilitating governmental misconduct, failing society and betraying the heritage and principles of a free press.

Given the reek of violent death and destruction that haunts the administrations of Bush, Howard and Blair, and given the tendency of the corporate media to appease these governments, to give them the benefit of every doubt, to ignore stories that contradict the official version and refrain from drawing unfavorable conclusions, the idea that their collective declarations bare any relationship to real world events, or that their pronouncements should be given any credence at all, is simply risible.

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