A good propaganda system aims at controlling the public dialogue, and in the marketing of war one technique that has proven very successful in recent years has been to encourage public debate about a proposed war, but to do so within a framework that already assumes the basic dogmas that you are trying to sell.
So, for instance, in preparation for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, healthy debate was encouraged over the question of whether the 'liberation of Iraq' would cost the US too much and whether it would solve all the problems for Iraq and for the world that it aimed to solve. Assumed within this framework, of course, was the highly debatable contention that the US had the moral and legal right to invade Iraq, whatever the invasion's purported aims!
We face a similar situation now with Syria. Healthy debate has been encouraged over whether Bashar Al-Assad should be 'punished' for his use of chemical weapons. We are encouraged to think about what will happen if he is not punished, and what will be the consequences if he is. Within the framework of this debate though there are lots of highly debatable contentions that are being assumed!
One is that Assad is guilty. Another is that the US has the right to act as the world's moral policeman. And within this second maxim lies an even more basic assumption – namely, that the US is trying to act morally. Personally I don't believe Mr Obama gives a tinker's cuss about the morality of his latest war, any more than he does about Assad's guilt or any apparent use of chemical weapons!
That chemical weapons are not the real issue should be obvious to a decently educated teenager. A glance at history reveals quite clearly that the worst offenders when it comes to the use of chemical weapons have been the US and its allies.
The scourge of Agent Orange comes immediately to mind.
Agent Orangeis a toxic herbicide that was used extensively by the US during the Vietnam War to destroy trees and crops with the supposed aim of flushing out the enemy. Between 1962 and 1971, the United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 US gallons (76,000,000 litres) of this deadly chemical over a full twelve per cent of the total landscape of South Vietnam, at an average concentration of thirteen times the recommended rate for domestic use!
The result, according to Vietnamese figures, was that 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and half a million children were born with birth defects. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to one million people are disabled or have health problems due to Agent Orange.[i]
More recent US use of chemical weapons would have to include Depleted Uranium (DU), used extensively by the US and NATO in the 1991 Gulf War, the Bosnia war, the bombing of Serbia, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
DU weapons produce clouds of poison gas on impact. These clouds of aerosolized DU are laden with billions of toxic sub-micron sized particles that can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested. DU exposure has been linked to a various cancers and birth defects, as well as to chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson's disease, Hodgkin's disease and other immune system disorders.[ii]
Arguably the most terrible use of chemical weapons in living history took place during the waning years of the Iran-Iraq war, where Saddam Hussein used both mustard gas and sarin against Iranian troops. Recently declassified CIA documents make clear that this happened with full knowledge of the Reagan administration[iii] which backed Hussein to the hilt!
Similar US complicity can be seen more recently in the use of white phosphorous by America's closest Middle Eastern ally, Israel. White phosphorous is a toxic chemical that burns through both human tissue and bone, and, according to Amnesty International[iv], was used extensively by the IDF against the civilian populations of Gaza and Southern Lebanon.
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