How do you sell a war to Americans? War journalism does it; peace journalism describes it.
Six ‘screens’ that need to be passed before the public will condone the US
use of force:
- rogue leaders
- evidence tying them to heinous crimes
- non-military means exhausted
- military allies (to share the risk and cost)
- a visionary objective (e.g. turn an enemy into an ally or bring
long-term peace to a region)
- early non-military intervention (Lynch & McGoldrick, 2005, p. 97).
In our recollection of how the US got into Iraq, we can recall all these screens being shot out and we were left with a straight drain toward bloody war. Saddam was rogue and his crimes were well known and real. We led a decade of sanctions and frustrating attempts to inspect all weapons sites. While George Bush had no interest in a tough UN battle to to produce a coalition, he did have NATO and thus allies. And his vision of democracy was a solid sell. Finally, we can even go back to his Dad's administration for early non-military intervention, when sanctions were attempted in the fall of 1990. Presto--war permission granted.
Our work, if we hope to stop these campaigns, is to get investigative and loud but with heavily bolstered arguments. We cannot begin with hyperbole and hope to prove it later, and I say this as someone who has done that, in error. We do need to support those who get on the case immediately and who can get their findings in front of the public in a timely manner, so the discussion is affected before the invasion, not merely noted well afterward with the usual empty vows that we won't get fooled again. From the apocryphal but functionally accurate William Randolph Hearst request and guarantee to Fredrick Remington, the photographer in Cuba in 1898, "You furnish the pictures; I'll furnish the war," to Ellsberg-documented Vietnam lies to the Colin Powell pack of lies and distortions to the UN justifying the invasion of Iraq, we are duped too quickly and easily.
When they get it wrong and we go to war, we need to learn that we are dealing with government, and it's corporate-driven, war system government that makes obscene profits from their lies, so they will do it again. And again. It's literally pathological and we need to wake up to that and steel ourselves to firmly reject it. The track record of the war system is worse than the most congenital liar and in fact it was more than a minute ago that Aeschylus noted that the first casualty in war is truth.
The Who really did hit a timeless nerve with these lyrics, taken from Won't get fooled again:
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war
Lynch, Jake & McGoldrick, Annabel (2005). Peace journalism. Gloucestershire UK: Hawthorn House.