Propaganda watch: American soldiers treat Iraqi civilians

Horrible things happening to Iraqi civilians are too commonplace to be news in the proper sense. However, their suffering is not in vain (they’ll be happy to hear) because it provides first class propaganda fodder, as demonstrated by this knuckle-gnawingly arrogant piece of copy about American soldiers in Baghdad.

“Medics who have trained for combat have attended to a seizure victim, an infant brought in by an anxious father and a boy wounded by gunfire,” reporter Michael R Gordon writes, wide-eyed with admiration. How noble, we’re invited to think. How heroic. Those lovely soldiers, top-loaded with testosterone and fully primed for the heat of battle, deigning to show mercy to scraps of Iraqi flesh.

In case anyone isn’t paying attention at the back Gordon makes his paternalistic case explicitly in the next paragraphs, recounting how soldiers organised a medical clinic staffed by Iraqi doctors (“to build the confidence of… residents in the Iraqi government”) but how – overwhelmed by hundreds of attendees – the doctors only offered “two-minute consultations” and “by midafternoon the clinic was over, the Iraqi doctors were gone and the American medics were once again the only health providers in the neighbourhood.” Jesus, you can almost see Gordon slump beneath the crushing weight of his vicarious moral superiority as he writes.

No need to ask, ‘why is there no health care in the formerly prosperous city of Baghdad? Why are there children with gunshot wounds and burn victims?’ To point out the motherfucking obvious: that if it weren’t for America’s illegal war and brutal continuing occupation Iraq wouldn’t be in such dire straits; that the American soldiers are the cause of, not solution to, its problems would… well. It just wouldn’t be very positive, would it? I mean geez, the folks back home don’t want to hear any unpleasantness like ‘this shit is your fault.’ That wouldn’t be productive. Much easier to pretend what’s going on in Baghdad is the result of the natives’ fecklessness (“by midafternoon… the Iraqi doctors were gone”) not the evil, imperialist ambitions of America.

Gordon, not a fan of subtlety, hammers this point home with a final anecdote. A cluster of Iraqis rush to an American compound. The soldiers are “torn by a desire to help and fear that a suicide bomber might have set a nefarious trap” (note the use of the emotionally-freighted ‘nefarious’ when ‘trap’ would have been more than adequate. Are there non-nefarious suicide bombers?) But no, it’s merely some woman with half her skin burned off from a “propane tank” explosion. (“This one wasn’t our fault sir, cooking accidents can happen anywhere. The home is a dangerous place, etc.”)

As our god-fearing, all-American cavalry rides to the rescue they face a final obstacle: “As the medics rushed to treat the woman, trying to pull back the blankets that covered her, she struggled to cover up. The soldiers explained through an interpreter that this was no time for modesty.”

Oh ho ho. Those quant, stupid, provincial, backwards Iraqis, with their foolish religion and anachronistic notions. Gordon drives home the point with vivid description: the women wear “black abayas”, the American soldiers “head-mounted flashlights. The latter to better pierce the oriental murk of the formers’ culture, I imagine.

Can’t justify ruthless aggression by legal or moral means? Do as the Nazis did and tell the world you’re dealing with children/idiots/inferiors/sub-humans who ought to be grateful the master race is taking an interest in them.

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One thought on “Propaganda watch: American soldiers treat Iraqi civilians

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