Bombing in Iraq: What's going on?

According to what I heard on a news spot on ABC-TV last night, and a headline in the Los Angeles Times this morning, George What’s-His-Name Bush ordered bombing of sites in the “no-fly-zone” in Iraq. There were British planes doing the same thing, which makes it seem unlikely that Dubya is doing a Pearl Harbor on Saddam Hussein.
I’d like to get the Straight Dope on this matter, but unfortunately the TV news and the Times’ text is so full of fluff that it’s hard to get the essence of the matter without having to wade through superfluous verbiage. In any case I prefer to think that the news media are not trying to incite a panic!

Naw, just chill, dude. The no-fly zone has been in existence for almost a decade now. It’s designed to prevent Iraq from bombing their own people, notably the Kurds in the north and the… is it the Shiites in the south?

Anyway, aside from the fact that it is impolite to kill your own people, there is a small hope that these oppressed peoples will one day rise against their oppressor, or something like that. The zones, north and south, are patrolled by aircraft of Britain, the United States, and possibly others, like Saudi Arabia. It’s good training, and only somewhat dangerous.

The Iraqis play along quite nicely by occasionally illuminating allied aircraft with their AA radars, firing missles, and shooting. Most of these incidents go unreported, but this particular time, according to London_Calling in the GD thread, the Iraqis have been making a particular nuisance of themselves by stepping up their AA efforts and incorporating some new tricks, like launching the missiles before “painting” the target with radar. So Shrub decided it was time to rip out some of the command and control structure outside of Baghdad.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t like my new President, but this is really just business as usual. Nothing to see here, folks. Just another President getting his licks in on the Country You Love To Hate.

Sofa King outlined it pretty well. The only thing I’d add is that Iraq upped the ante just after Bush’s inauguration. It is fairly typical of nations to “sound out” new leaders of other nations. Of course, Saddam’s options for “testing” Bush were either to float a new, improved peace initiative or to see whether Bush had the “resolve” to keep his daddy’s original no-fly zone rules in place now that the “interim” president Clinton is gone. (It really should not have required much intelligence to guess the response, but tinhorn dictators don’t spend a lot of time thinking, apparently.)

I know this is the Pit, but I’d like to thank our American colleagues for restraining themselves so reasonably in the face of this kind of provocation. Cheers lads and lassies!

Ahh, crap. I really should’ve posted that in the thread I intended to, instead of surfing with too many windows open.

Humphrey’s not going to like this, I know. Political is not nice - I know that. But this is really about the personal anyway - my personal. I need help with this: How do I reconcile the article below with Jackson Browne records, Utne Reader, Rolling Stone magazine, Wayne and Garth, Esalen, hippies, Gloria Steinem, Gore Vidal, relativism and MTV? It’s the saddest thing in the world to me that America is represented by the stuff above and the stuff below. This is not a troll thing although I’ll understand if it gets a heap of troll-repellent dumped on it.
Long before the Soviet Union broke up, a group of Russian writers touring the United States were astonished to find, after reading the newspapers and watching television, that almost all the opinions on all the vital issues were the same. “In our country,” said one of them, “to get that result we have a dictatorship. We imprison people. We tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. How do you do it? What’s the secret?”

The secret is a form of censorship more insidious than a totalitarian state could ever hope to achieve. The myth is the opposite. Constitutional freedoms unmatched anywhere else guard against censorship; the press is a “fourth estate”, a watchdog on democracy. The journalism schools boast this reputation, the influential East Coast press is especially proud of it, epitomised by the liberal paper of record, the New York Times, with its masthead slogan: “All the news that’s fit to print.”

It takes only a day or two back in the US to be reminded of how deep state censorship runs. It is censorship by omission, and voluntary. The source of most Americans’ information, mainstream television, has been reduced to a set of marketing images shot and edited to the rhythms of a Coca-Cola commercial that flow seamlessly into the actual commercials. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network is the model, with its peep-shows of human tragedy. Non-American human beings are generally ignored, or treated with an anthropological curiosity reserved for wildlife documentaries.

Not long ago, Kenneth Jarecke was talking about this censorship. Jarecke is the American photographer who took the breath-catching picture of an Iraqi burnt to a blackened cinder, petrified at the wheel of his vehicle on the Basra Road where he, and hundreds of others, were massacred by American pilots on their infamous “turkey shoot” at the end of the Gulf war. In the United States, Jarecke’s picture was suppressed for months after what was more a slaughter than a war. “The whole US press collaborated in keeping silent about the consequences of that war,” he said.

The famous CBS anchorman Dan Rather told his prime-time audience: “There’s one thing we can all agree on. It’s the heroism of the 148 Americans who gave their lives so that freedom could live.” What he omitted to say was that a quarter of them had been killed, like their British comrades, by other Americans. He made no mention of the Iraqi dead, put at 200,000 by the Medical Educational Trust. That American forces had deliberately bombed civilian infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, was not reported at the time. Six months later, one newspaper, Newsday, published in Long Island, New York, disclosed that three US brigades “used snow plows mounted on tanks to bury thousands of Iraqi soldiers - some still alive - in more than 70 miles of trenches”.

The other day, both the Washington Post and the New York Times referred to Iraq without mentioning the million people now estimated to have died as a direct result of sanctions imposed, via the UN, by the United States and Britain. That, writes Brian Michael Goss of the University of Illinois, is standard practice. Goss examined 630 articles on sanctions published in the New York Times from 1996 to 1998. In those three years, just 20 articles - 3 per cent of the coverage - were critical of the policy or dwelt upon its civilian impact. The rest reflected the US official line, identifying 21 million people with Saddam Hussein. The scale of the censorship is placed in perspective by Professors John and Karl Mueller, of the University of Rochester. “Even if the UN estimates of the human damage to Iraq are roughly correct,” they write, sanctions have caused “the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

A third of the people of East Timor were put to death by the Suharto dictatorship during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation. Yet the American media skirted this epic crime until shortly before the 1999 referendum. Their silence was in striking contrast to the saturation coverage of the “genocide” in Kosovo, used to justify the Nato bombing campaign, and was in line with suppression of the post-bombing disclosure that there was no genocide. In East Timor, the United States helped Suharto execute his invasion, secretly and illegally, with weapons and aircraft. For most of the 24 years of bloody occupation, the US media maintained a virtual blackout on East Timor.

In the freest press on earth, humanity is reported in terms of its usefulness to American power. Kosovo was a major story; it demonstrated the “credibility” of Nato and America’s control over the Balkans. East Timor was a non-story, “a road bump on the way to Indonesia”, according to a State Department official. In a study of the New York Times and Washington Post cited by Goss, 75 per cent of the sources were government officials - a record not that far behind the old Pravda. Truly independent reporters such as Seymour Hersh are described, revealingly, as “dissidents” and “advocates”. What is most telling is the media’s presumption of innocence of the rapacious American imperial role, rather like Hollywood’s post-Vietnam celebration of America as a noble victim. In a lead editorial recently, the New York Times identified the problems of the world, ranging from poverty to terrorism to disease, as “challenges to American safety and well-being”. That the United States consumes a quarter of the world’s resources, controls the channels of world trade and the institutions of inequality, and squeezes whole nations, such as Iraq, to death, is simply not news.

I really do mean the saddest, quite literally.

Dammit, G.Nome ! Not only was that coherent but, for the most part, I agree with you. I’d certainly not question the degree to which the American media is controlled, or perhaps more politely, ‘channelled’ to emphasise particular stories and angles. And there really doesn’t seem to be the independence in mainstream journalism that other western countries enjoy – an independence that would present the story in more rounded, questioning terms.

As well as the stuff mentioned and discussed in the GQ thread, one can now also start to see the deal the US and UK struck over the recent raids as London began today re-positioning itself on the issue of sanctions.

London is pretty unhappy that the current no fly zone policy is drifting without clearly obtainable objectives (and the increased dangers to pilots as a result of the activities of Iraqi defence systems through January). It was also aware that the latest UN Report highlights the implications of the sanctions policy on the people of Iraq. The UK’s unhappiness matters to the US as the UK is the only meaningful ally to actively support these policies and the US really can’t be seen to be acting alone. It might also be argued that US policy itself may have shifted had it not been for the inertia of Washington in the period leading up to 20th January.

So having now created a little more breathing space for the pilots, the UK will continue to support and fly missions over the no fly zone (close-level surveillance being the primary goal rather than protection of an, as yet, unorganised opposition to Saddam) which will keep Washington happy while, in return, the US will accede to a shift in the sanctions policy.

This shift will then be seen as a response to the UN Report and general international pressure, thus painting the US and UK as being responsive to the international community. It also allows us to argue that the shift is in the light of ‘new’ information from the UN and thus in accordance with the ‘humanitarian’ nature of the mission. Hey, just like the good guys we are :wink:

So, Bush gets to make his important first statement to Iraq and others (don’t mess with us), the UK gets a change in sanction policy, the pilots get more breathing space, the US gets continued support for the no fly zone (surveillance continues), the US and UK remain ‘on message’ together and the international community and the UN is appeased. All a question of timing. IMHO.