Friday, April 11, 2003

IRAQ: Images - Capitulating to Decapitation


"America leads the world in shock. Unfortunately America does not lead the world in deciphering the cause of shock."

It was to be the world's first 'humane war'. Yet, the 'shock and awe' campaign promised by Rumsfeld started with an opportunistic 'decapitation strike' by the US aimed directly at the person/head of Saddam Hussein. The strike had to be ostensibly 'rushed' because 'credible and reliable ground intelligence' suggested that the Iraqi dictator, his sons and some members of his ruling Ba'ath party were 'sleeping' in the compound. Had they hit the target - as the US would have us believe 'the war' would have been over well before it even started, without a 'war' per se!

Yet the irony of it all is, consequent to the failure in 'execution' of this grandiose 'super plan', nobody has questioned that had the missile 'succeeded', it would have also amounted to the first known case of a ?high tech assassination? of a world leader in peace time in this new millennium by the world's 'only superpower'.

All of this with quixotic disregard for the fact that the US$ 1.5 million Cruise missile which hit Baghdad takes upwards of 10 hours to be prepared for a 'precise mission', and more than an hour to fly in and hit its target ? some 40 odd minutes before the 48 hour 'deadline' set by Bush for Saddam to leave his country and go into exile was due to expire. In other words, giving 'time' enough for the wily Iraqi 'dictator' to have indulged in the luxury of a hearty sleep, if at all he was in the compound, wake up fit as a fiddle and move elsewhere, are 'ground realities' that the US administration or its allies had not bargained for as the first 'salvo' of its 'shock and awe' propaganda campaign was 'fired' not at Iraq, but at the sensibilities of the 'rest of us' in the unsuspecting 'civilised' world.

There has been no turning back, and America continues to lead the world in 'shocks'.

Americans were 'shocked' out of their wits at this 'missed opportunity', while we in the bombastically termed 'subcontinent' shifted our gaze from another explicit yet peaceful 'non-event' the World Cup Cricket '03 games stupor to the possibility of a 'World War III hoopla' breaking in on our TV screens LIVE.

Nothing prepared us for the 'awe' of in our newfound sense of dumbfounded-ness and neither were we less disappointed! After all, we had been coerced into believing that 'taking out' the Iraqi leader would be a 'piece of cake' and we had all but stopped short of speculating on any winner more worthy than our cricketing heroes.

By that time, the word 'decapitation' seems to have entered 'easy-speak' with acceptable relish worldwide, as much as the 'war' enters its second week thanks to the BBC and CNN. It matters very little that over the days the word has also acquired an element of 'necessary notoriety and brutality' when Saddam Hussein graphically exhorted his countrymen in his second speech since hostilities broke out to 'cut the throat and lob off the heads of the aggressors'!

Saddam may not have acquired any missile worthy of combating George Bush, but he certainly has an impressive dictionary that he can use with a beguiling sense of impunity that he couldn't otherwise with his now junked Samoods, and so who is 'winning' the propaganda 'shock' campaign is therefore anybody's guess! We sit back with 'shock and awe' as the word 'decapitation' becomes 'benign' when used by a 'superpower' yet 'hostile' when used by those under unprovoked attack and who have every right to defend their country.

With merciless bombing and shameless 'air supremacy' over Iraq, and the 'airwaves' worldwide in total 'capitulation' to the 'Coalition of the Willing' as it executes its yet unknown 'plan', and the semblance of an Iraqi Army and Republican Guard in 'coherent military offensive' not evident thus far, the quick and justifiable move to guerrilla tactics is the only option for fighting a 'superpower' adversary when your hands are tied unevenly behind the backs, are 'ground realities'.

Whether this surgically 'precise' campaign has the makings of carnage of civilians, we have yet to find out, but then will the 'coalition of the willing' be willing to admit it?

"The military and the monetary, Get together whenever they think its necessary, They have turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, They are turning our planet into a cemetery, They use the media as intermediaries, They are determined to keep the citizens secondary, They make so many decisions that seem arbitrary."


The 'precision bombings' are apparently 'accurate to within a few feet', as compared to 1991 when they hit sometimes yards or miles away, and have a 'success rating' of some 92 per cent. 'Gun port camera evidence' even suggests that while the bombs blow up military compounds and kill those inside, they are 'smart' enough not to damage the perimeters walls! Virtual 'civilian proof precision' if we may!

The 'capitulated' media in the meantime would have us believe via Rumsfeld that this is a 'benign and humane campaign' and that if you are a citizen of Baghdad, you could theoretically 'rest in peace' as long as you are not sleeping in a military compound! Nobody has, however, tried to find out what the terrifying sound, or shattering glass, splinters or debris can do to innocent civilians 'men, women, children, the sick and the elderly' whom the 'superpower' is set on 'liberating'. 'Psychological damage' has not even been discussed at this stage.

The memories of similar destruction on 9/11/01, of which Iraq was no part, have somehow been erased from the collective 'free world' psyche. The 'wounded' Iraqis that are shown in the images provided by the BBC or CNN are usually 'what is described by the Iraqis as civilians' or are 'apparently civilian'. One is therefore left to speculate whether the voices following the images in the background of the two cornerstones of the 'world media' are also 'embedded', and whether or not they have eyes and mind of their own is also in doubt.

It was only 'proper' for Iraqis to die in 1991, yet in 2003 its impropriety' seems all too obvious for having a will to stand up in defiance of US arrogance. The planet is a cemetery - for those that dare the US? Do we have a 'benign' replacement for the word 'dare'?

While 'images' of Iraqi POW's lying face down on the sand with shivering and bruised hands 'flexi-cuffed' behind their backs, or made to kneel at gunpoint at 'frisk and arrest' operations, are passe, images of captured US servicemen, on the other hand, sitting comfortably in sofas and interviewed by the Iraqis, become a 'breach of the Geneva Convention' and the media that relay those images are the 'new enemy' in a war that has chillingly no legality in the first place.

The 'decapitation' and butchering of our minds into ?willing submission? seems to have been carefully planned, orchestrated and is now being 'executed' by the 'coalition of the willing'.

Though woefully inadequate, it yet seems to be working, so for the moment rest your mind easy on the US-held 'prisoners' in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, whose 'caged' images, out in the elements, unable to walk due to inhuman torture meted to them, and in shackles and chains and stretchers, is only an aberration. There is no such place on God's earth called Geneva, and 'conventions' are not meant for 'unconventional wars', are they?

"War in the desert sometimes sure could seem scary, But they beamed out the war to all of their subsidiaries, Tried making 'so damn insane' (Saddam Hussein) a worthy adversary, Keeping all its citizens secondary, Scaring old folks into coronaries. Making all of us wonder if this was really, truly necessary."


While 'embedded' journalist are part of the propaganda machine who are only more than 'willing' to improve the 'ratings' of their channels by providing 'video loops' of 'desert advances', we have no way of saying if these are LIVE as 'reported'. When challenged by the Iraqis, Rodger Walters and the camera person from CNN could have at least waved their hands in front of the so-called 'images' of the 'heroic advance of US forces' to prove their point? The lies continue in wild abandon.

For all practical purpose those 'loops' could have well been made for use at an 'opportune time' (much as Saddam has reportedly made many videos in advance), and they could have easily been done in military exercises in the desert, or anywhere. Deserts are deserts and are 'deserted', whether the locale is Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or the Mojave in the US?. There is absolutely no 'heroism' in a 'freeway' ride in a desert, with refuelling breaks from mobile fuel tankers!

All this is fair game, but can anybody out there let me know if the US or its 'coalition' formally declared WAR on Iraq or, on the flip side, has even a minuscule section of the Iraqi population declared a 'war of liberation' that the US now seems hell bent to 'support'?

"Nostalgia - That's what America wants. The good old days. When we gave em hell!? When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it! To a time when movies were black and white and so was everything else."


'Images' that we were prepared for are images that have not been forthcoming 'of the Iraqi army's surrendering without a fight, of the Iraqi population up in 'popular revolt', of 'coalition' soldiers receiving a 'heroes welcome' - indeed we have been 'dumfounded' into seeing 'images' of half-filled hour glasses thus far.

We hear of Iraqis 'melting away' without a fight to wear civilian clothing and 'going home' only to reappear and attack our 'heroes' rear flank! As the coalition 'presses on' to Baghdad we are also hearing rumblings from Rumsfeld of how 'unfair' the Iraqis have been by conducting themselves in such a fashion! It simply isn't black and white - I mean an 'enemy' that does not wear uniforms.

Umm Qasr on the other hand has seen the use of the much-abused term 'captured' to be replaced with 'secure' which is not necessarily 'safe', and as I write this the image of whether or not it has been 'liberated' is one as vague as a desert mirage.

We have for instance not yet seen the 'liberated' people of the city in the promised rapturous celebration, and while Basra was 'bypassed' and initially not considered a 'military objective', by Day 4 the momentum slowed down, and by Day 5 there were 'reports' of an 'ongoing popular uprising' among its civilians and that the Brits have lobbed 'precise civilian-proof artillery fire' in support of the so-called uprising!

Other than 'driving a wedge' (read dividing and ruling) between the Republican Guards, the Fedayeens and the civilian population, the Brits have set an opportune objective of dividing the Shiite and Sunni population, made all the more hazardous by its admitted betrayal of 1991 which neither the Basraite nor the US will ever forget.

However the move on Basra has a 'money side' to it after all.

In the US$ 75 billion asked by Bush from his Cabinet, there was a sizeable allocation for 'humanitarian assistance' (the goody goody factor), and while ships were loaded and ready to move out, the port of Umm Qasr was not 'safe' but 'secure'! Then somebody realised that reports of a true 'humanitarian crisis' lay in Basra, and not Umm Qasr. While there was no shortage of food, there was however no electricity or drinking water in the city, and who cut them off is yet unknown. 'Reality' therefore dawned through the thick of the propaganda fog - 'Heck, even if we reach the port with all that water, where is it going out to, Basra'?

The latest command was, 'Enter Basra one way or the other.'

Morning of Day 6: Abu Dhabi TV shows us 'images' of civilians in Basra lining up peacefully and in disciplined fashion to collect 'water' from tankers. Since there were no 'images' of a 'popular uprising', Iraq had scored yet another 'propaganda victory'.

If the 'coalition' want to enter the city they have to fight it out, mile for mile, inch for inch, but whether they like getting 'sucked into' urban warfare is quite another matter. The resilience of the Iraqi people has been grossly underestimated, and it is time for the US administration to recalculate its 'actual' war budget.

For now, the report of 'popular uprising' in Basra has 'de-escalated' to 'civilians may have revolted'. Lies breed lies.

"They took the honour from the honorary, they took the dignity from the dignitaries, they took the secrets from the secretaries, but they left the 'bitch' in 'obituary'."

Millions of anti-war demonstrators do not represent 'popular sentiment', and the 'loyalties' of 'such elements' have been always in question, as it most certainly is now - therefore neither Bush nor Blair seemed pushed! Yet when the erudite Tariq Aziz promised that the 'war is going to be no picnic', the seriousness of it all seemed not to have overwhelmed either the US's or UK's 'popular sentiments', until of course ?images? of dead US soldiers appeared, and the agonising thought that of the 20 dead Brits, 18 died through what is reported as 'accidents and friendly fire'.

With more than 60 per cent of the Iraqis being Shiite and ruled for so many years by Sunnis, with the Al-Qaeda at loggerheads with Iraq's 'secular status' yet openly in support of war with the US, and with Arab volunteers pouring in from the region to form suicide squads, the real danger would be the involvement of the Iranians (targeted for the next disarmament by the US) as the conflict spirals out of control, if only against the atrocities on the Shiite majority at the outset by either the Iraqis or the Coalition. It would not be out of line to suggest that the Arabian peninsula is on the brink of a major human crisis. Let us also not forget that in one of the most bizarre episodes in the 1991 conflict, the entire Iraqi Air force survived intact 'by escaping to Iran or Syria'.

To sum it up, the Arabs could not have bargained for more in an 'opportunity' to engage a quarter of a million enemies in the 'home ground', and the 'Coalition' could not have been more wrong in thinking that the 'outcome' would be decided by relying on technological innovations or 'propaganda', not by the 'ground realities' of hand-to-hand combat in the doomed days ahead.

Yes, Baghdad will fall, Saddam will be gone, yet we are not entirely sure if the US can make a Karzai out of whoever they have lined up in the list of 'willing coalition of buffoons' to hold the reins of power in the 'post-Saddam' days ahead. Nor can one be sure that Iraq will not turn out to be another Vietnam. The US may have bitten off more than it can chew.

HOLIDAY 11th April 2003

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