Beware of the New Pro-Sanctions Propaganda

Some political analysts insist that the U.S. war against Iraq began long before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In fact, many claim that the war began several months earlier. They assert that the American government and Western media, warning of immanent danger proposed by Iraq's thirst for weapons of mass destruction, first launched a propaganda war.

If verbal wars often precede U.S. military deployment and ultimately military assault, then what should one make of the most recent expressions of anti-Iraq hostility and rumors perpetuated by the media?

As anti-sanctions protests and sanctions anniversary commemorators gathered with signs and passionately chanted "End the Sanctions Now" in many major cities in the US and around the world, American officials also rushed to the scene, telling us why they cannot end the sanctions.

However, it seems that classic explanations such as that recently proclaimed by State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker that "Iraq has failed to ...destroy, remove or render harmless its weapons of mass destruction," are no longer convincing, and fail to justify the imposition of the sanctions.

The United States, joined by the exiled Iraqi opposition, is vigorously campaigning to arrange a new fright, as if Iraq is on the offense again, by plotting for unthinkably devious schemes.

For instance, in what seemed to be a totally baseless allegation, U.S. officials pointed to Iraq as the main suspect in 1998, for breaking into at least 200 defense websites operated by the Pentagon and military. The allegations then presumed that Iraq employed computer hackers to do the work. "The timing of the intrusion and the fact that some activities appeared to come from an [Iraqi] ISP, led many US military officials to suspect that this might be an instance of Iraqi information warfare," explained Edgar A. Adamson, Chief of US National Central Bureau of Interpol.

The bewildering logic used to suspect Iraq's involvement was neither ridiculed nor challenged by U.S. media. Instead, it provided another premise to the already set conclusion that Iraq remains a danger to U.S. national security.

Once the story was exploited as much as possible, the truth was finally revealed and was just as quickly and quietly dismissed. The hackers were not Iraqi spies, but Israelis.

After it was discovered that Israelis were responsible for breaking into military-sensitve websites, the Americans downplayed the incident, calling the offenders "irresponsible juveniles." Adamson told the House Subcommittee on Government Measures on July 31, that the hacked sites included seven Air Force Installations, Department of Energy laboratories, NASA sites and many others. He spoke at length of how and why Iraq was suspected of the computer systems attack, and hardly acknowledged the Israeli hackers. This is not only surprising, but also appalling, considering Israel's history of spying on the United States by conventional methods and through the infiltration of computer systems. In fact, Adamson promised that both his government and Israel would collaborate in cyber-crime investigations.

Another incident, which coincidentally took place days before the 10th anniversary of Iraq's sanctions, originated in Europe, and was promoted by the US's main Iraqi opposition ally, the Iraqi National Accord (INA). The INA's claim, which quickly found its way to media outlets around the world, alleged that teams of female agents (some disguised as belly dancers and actresses according to the Daily Telegraph) were spread across major European cities to infiltrate, kill and maim leading Iraqi oppostion figures.

The INA ridiculously claimed that the Iraqi schemes were called "Operation Falcon" and "Honey Trap," the former of which is said to have put security forces on the alert in London, Brussels, Paris and Vienna.

But the British Foreign Ministry spokesman had little to say about the highly dramatized scare. "We are not aware of any activity in the area," he was quoted by the Telegraph.

Constant reminders of the supposed Iraqi threat, whether through trumped up theories that the Iraqis have and continue to build weapons of mass destruction, or through the promotion of stories with little credibility, are aimed at prolonging of sanctions. This propaganda campaign attempts to convince us that Saddam Hussein is the main target, while it is quite clear that the Iraqi people are the ones paying the heaviest price.

Such an important conclusion emphasizes two important facts that need to be kept in mind, especially by those who are actively pursuing the end of the sanctions.

First, the US's ceaseless efforts to sway public opinion in support of it's policies proves that public opinion in the US does indeed matter. The anti-sanctions movement must therefore strengthen its efforts to spread the message and to educate the public by pointing out the fallacy of America's deadly policy in Iraq.

Second, the US's (and its allies) propaganda in support of the sanctions knows no time frame. It's as focused and intense at the 10-year anniversary as it has always been. It's important to realize therefore, the importance of constantly accelerating the anti-sanctions campaign while motivated, not by certain dates, but by the truth that hundreds of innocent Iraqis die everyday in a quiet, yet devastating war.

Are the United States and its allies running out of ideas, for having to resort to such preposterous tactics so as to continue feeding the weakened sanctions argument? Or is this only the introduction of a new large-scale military aggression somewhere in Iraq? It is indeed difficult to confirm. For the time being however, the persisting challenge is to remain alert to recognize new tactics shrewdly designed to breathe life into a deadly policy.

(Ramzy Baroud is a freelance journalist living in Seattle, Washington. He is a regular contributor to

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