The Media Silence on massacre of civilians in Iraq

When a U.S. taxpayer-funded massacre takes place in Iraq and results in the deaths of at least 10 Iraqi civilians, it barely makes a blip on the news media radar – yet, when a gunman walks into an American movie theater or an American school and mows down around the same number of people, the big news networks are filled with coverage and speculation fills the airwaves for days.

There should be little doubt that a random shooting in a movie theater is tragic, but at least U.S. taxpayers aren’t training the shooter and providing him with weapons to carry out the crime. The same can’t be said when a U.S. taxpayer-funded bomb is dropped on a wedding in Afghanistan, or when a U.S. taxpayer-funded drone wipes out a group of children in Pakistan, or when a whole city suffers from birth defects thanks to U.S. taxpayer-funded radioactive waste in Iraq. These types of atrocities should be reported on in detail by the media primarily because every act of violence is funded by, and carried out in the name of the taxpayer, and yet, the opposite is true: the random act of violence is given far more attention than the act of violence actually funded by most of the network’s audience.

This kind of lopsided behavior from American cable news shouldn’t be all too surprising to anyone who has been paying attention over the last decade. It was CNN, FOX, and MSNBC who ultimately helped sell the Iraq War to the U.S. public – a war with a death toll far surpassing the 100,000 mark for civilian casualties. It was CNN, FOX, and MSNBC who helped sell the U.S.-backed bombing of oil-rich Libya in 2011. And today, it is CNN, FOX, and MSNBC currently helping the U.S. government set the stage for gradual intervention in Syria, and soon, in Iran.

Most people understand by now that U.S. government officials spend more time lying over the course of a single day than they spend actually representing the taxpayer, yet those in the American news media nonetheless continue to regurgitate government talking points. If these networks actually gave a damn about their viewers, they would devote more energy to fact-checking and questioning claims made by the untrustworthy goons in government through the utilization of a now largely-retired practice once known as “journalism”. Instead, networks act against the public interest by spreading government distortions and emphasizing tragedies against Americans while largely neglecting atrocities perpetuated by them.

But imagine for a moment if the headlines looked a bit different. For instance, what if, “Iraqi children in U.S. raid shot in head, U.N. says”, as reported by McClatchy on 8/31/2011, instead read: “American children in Iraqi raid shot in head, U.N. says”? Or what if, “U.S. Drone Strikes Have Killed 176 Children in Pakistan”, as reported by PolicyMic in late 2012, instead read: “Pakistani Drone Strikes Have Killed 176 Children in the U.S.”? Or instead of “U.S. bomb kills 30 at Afghan wedding”, as reported back in 2002, the headline instead read, “Afghan bomb kills 30 at U.S. wedding”? Would the networks spend more time reporting on these crimes if they were carried out against their audience instead of by their audience?

It should make little difference what nation innocent people originate from when they are needlessly murdered in horrible ways – yet to some Americans, and to nearly all of the big names in the fetid landscape of corporate news, it’s unfortunately the only thing that really matters.”

“The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers. They and their surviving family members are virtually never heard from on television. The Bush and Obama DOJs have collaborated with federal judges to ensure that even those who everyone admits are completely innocent have no access to American courts and thus no means of having their stories heard or their rights vindicated. Radical secrecy theories and escalating attacks on whistleblowers push these victims further into the dark.

It is the ultimate tactic of Othering: concealing their humanity, enabling their dehumanization, by simply relegating them to nonexistence. As Ashleigh Banfield put it her 2003 speech denouncing US media coverage of the Iraq war just months before she was demoted and then fired by MSNBC: US media reports systematically exclude both the perspectives of “the other side” and the victims of American violence. Media outlets in predominantly Muslim countries certainly report on their plight, but US media outlets simply do not, which is one major reason for the disparity in worldviews between the two populations. They know what the US does in their part of the world, but Americans are kept deliberately ignorant of it.”

“The son of the slain Afghan police commander (who is the husband of one of the killed pregnant woman and brother of the other) says that villagers refer to US Special Forces as the “American Taliban” and that he refrained from putting on a suicide belt and attacking US soldiers with it only because of the pleas of his grieving siblings. An influential Southern Yemeni cleric explains that he never heard of al-Qaida sympathizers in his country until that 2009 cruise missile attack and subsequent drone killings, including the one that ended the life of Abdulrahman (a claim supported by all sorts of data). The brutal Somali warlord explains that the Americans are the “masters of war” who taught him everything he knows and who fuel ongoing conflict. Anwar Awlaki’s transformation from moderate and peace-preaching American cleric to angry critic of the US is shown to have begun with the US attack on Iraq and then rapidly intensifying with Obama’s drone attacks and kill lists. Meanwhile, US military officials and officers interviewed by Scahill exhibit a sociopathic indifference to their victims, while Awlaki’s increasingly angry sermons in defense of jihad are juxtaposed with the very similar-sounding justifications of endless war from Obama.

The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US have emphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence.

The only way this clear truth is concealed is by preventing Americans from knowing about, let alone hearing from, the victims of US aggression. That concealment is what caused huge numbers of Americans to wander around in a daze after 9/11 innocently and bewilderingly wondering “why do they hate us”? – despite decades of continuous US interference, aggression, and violence-enabling in that part of the world. And it’s this concealment of these victims that causes Americans now to react to endless stories of the killing of innocent Muslims with the excuse that “we have to do something about the Terrorists” or “it’s better than a ground invasion” – without realizing that they’re affirming what Chris Hayes aptly describes as a false choice, and worse, without realizing that the very policies they’re cheering are not stopping the Terrorists at all but doing the opposite: helping the existing Terrorists and creating new ones.

To be fair, it’s not difficult to induce a population to avert its eyes from the victims of the violence they support: we all like to believe that we’re Good and peaceful people, and we particularly like to believe this about the leaders we elect, cheer and admire. Moreover, what the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole recently described as “the empathy gap” – the failure to imagine how others will react to situations that would cause us (and have caused us) to be driven by rage and violence – means that the US government need not work all that hard to silence its victims: there is a pervasive desire to keep them out of sight.

Nonetheless, if Americans are going to support or even tolerate endless militarism, as they have been doing, then they should at least have to be confronted with their victims – if not on moral grounds then on pragmatic ones, to understand the effects of these policies. Based on the out-of-sight-out-of-mind reality, the US government and media have been incredibly successful in rendering those victims silent and invisible.”

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