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Simply... Manufacturing Consent.


new internationalist
issue 236 - October 1992

simply Manufacturing consent
Our opinions depend upon the information we get. Western leaders still believe that a 'free press' undermined public support and lost the Vietnam War for America - they call it the 'Vietnam Syndrome'. The US invasions of Grenada and Panama were dummy runs for a different kind of war - a media war to control information and enlist public support. Desert Storm was the real thing - and it worked. Opinion polls showed 'approval ratings' for the War as high as 90 per cent in North America and Europe. Here are some of the ways it was done.

Military briefings gave the impression that high-tech weapons 'took out' Iraqi hardware in a 'clean, dehumanized War fought between military machines rather than people. Meanwhile on the ground Iraqi soldiers were being massacred.

The Western media demonized Saddam Hussein and likened him to 'a modern Hitler. But for years, despite the evidence of its human-rights abuses, the Iraqi Government had been sponsored by the West and its Gulf State allies like Saudi Arabia in the war against Iran.

When the Iraqis opened the valves on Kuwaiti oil wells and created an oil slick in the Gulf, pictures of oil-covered birds immediately appeared in the media. But this pollution resulted from earlier incidents - including the bombing of Iraqi tankers by US planes. Both sides were oblivious to environmental concerns.

Western leaders played up the size arid strength of the Iraqi army, claiming that it contained one million men equipped with sophisticated weaponry arid battle-hardened by the war with Iran. What actually confronted Desert Storm was a rag-tag army made up of ill-equipped conscripts who were virtually defenceless against Coalition bombardment.

Military commanders organized a tightly - controlled pool system for selected reporters whose material was censored and then made available to other journalists - who often reported the war from hotels in Saudi Arabia. Very few pictures of the actual fighting ever appeared.

'Precision' bombing and guided 'smart' weapons were said to be able to distinguish between military arid civilian targets arid avoid non-combatant casualties. But only seven per cent of the bombs dropped were 'smart'. Civilian targets were hit regularly and thousands of civilians were killed.

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