So far, the Anglo-American armies are handing their propaganda to the
Iraqis on a plate.
First, on Sunday, we were told - courtesy of the BBC - that Umm Qasr,
the tiny Iraqi seaport on the Gulf, had "fallen". Why cities have to
"fall" on the BBC is a mystery to me; the phrase comes from the Middle
Ages when city walls literally collapsed under siege.
Then we were told - again on the BBC - that Nasiriyah had been captured.
Then its "embedded" correspondent informed us - and here my old
journalistic suspicions were alerted - that it had been "secured".
Why the BBC should use the military expression "secured" is also a
mystery to me. "Secured" is meant to sound like "captured" but almost
invariably means that a city has been bypassed or half-surrounded or, at
the most, that an invading Army has merely entered its suburbs.
And sure enough, within 24 hours, the Shia Muslim city west of the
junction of the Euphrates and Tigress Rivers proved to be very much
unsecured, indeed had not been entered in any form - because at least
500 Iraqi troops, supported by tanks, were still fighting there.
With what joy did Taha Yassin Ramadan, the Iraqi Vice-President, inform
us all that "they claimed they had captured Umm Qasr but now you know
this is a lie". With what happiness did Mohamed Said al-Sahaff, the
Iraqi Information Minister, boast that Basra was still "in Iraqi hands",
that "our forces" in Nasiriyah were still fighting.
And well could they boast because, despite all the claptrap put out by
the Americans and British in Qatar, what the Iraqis said on this score
The usual Iraqi claims of downed US and British aircraft - four
supposedly "shot down" around Baghdad and another near Mosul - were
given credibility by the Iraqi ability to prove the collapse of their
forces in the south was untrue - quite apart from the film of prisoners.
We know that the Americans are again using depleted uranium munitions in
Iraq, just as they did in 1991. But yesterday, the BBC told us that US
Marines had called up an A-10 strike aircraft to deal with "pockets of
resistance" - a bit more military-speak from the BBC - but failed to
mention that the A-10 uses depleted uranium rounds.
So for the first time since 1991, we - the West - are spraying these
uranium aerosols in battlefield explosions in southern Iraq, and we're
not being told. Why not?
And where, for God's sake, does that wretched, utterly dishonest phrase
"coalition forces" come from? There is no "coalition" in this Iraq war.
There are the Americans and the British and a few Australians. That's
The "coalition" of the 1991 Gulf War does not exist. The "coalition" of
nations willing to "help" with this illegitimate conflict includes, by a
vast stretch of the imagination, even Costa Rica and Micronesia and, I
suppose, poor old neutral Ireland, with its transit rights for US
military aircraft at Shannon. But they are not "coalition forces". Why
does the BBC use this phrase? Even in World War II, which so many
journalists think they are now reporting, we didn't use this lie. When
we landed on the coast of North Africa in Operation Torch, we called it
an "Anglo-American landing".
And this is an Anglo-American war, whether we - and I include the
"embedded ones" - like it or not.
The Iraqis are sharp enough to remember all this. At first, they
announced that captured US or British troops would be treated as
mercenaries, a decision that Saddam himself wisely corrected yesterday
when he stated that all prisoners would be treated "according to the
All in all, then, it has not been a great couple of days for Bush and
Blair. Nor, of course, for Saddam although he's been playing at wars for
almost half the lifetime of Blair.
So here's a question from one who believed, only a week ago, that
Baghdad might just collapse and that we might wake up one morning to
find the Baathist militia and the Iraqi Army gone. If the Iraqis can
still hold out against such overwhelming force in Umm Qasr for four
days, if they can keep fighting in Basra and Nasiriyah, why should
Saddam's forces not keep fighting in Baghdad?
Of course, this might all be a miscalculation. The pack of cards may be
more flimsy that we think. But suddenly, the quick and easy war, the
conflict of "shock and awe", doesn't seem so realistic. Things are going
wrong. We are not telling the truth. And the Iraqis are riding high on
© NZ Herald