The conflict in Iraq has become a holy war. In
On the surface, the most prominent headline on the New York Times front
page Nov. 10 was simply matter-of-fact: "In Taking Fallujah Mosque, Victory
by the Inch." Yet it's not mere happenstance that American forces have
bombed many of Fallujah's mosques.
For public consumption, U.S. military officers like their civilian
bosses and American journalists usually discuss this war in secular,
even antiseptic terms. When the Times quoted Marine battalion commander
Gary Brandl in another front-page story, on Nov. 6, the lieutenant colonel sounded
straightforward: "We are going to rid the city of insurgents. If they do
fight, we will kill them."
However, on the same day, the Associated Press reported that the
same Lt. Col. Brandl said: "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan.
He's in Fallujah, and we're going to destroy him."
That statement by Brandl an officer with 800 soldiers under his
command caused a bit of stir in some Internet circles. But mainstream
U.S. media outlets scarcely noted his holy-warrior declaration. Most news
outlets ignored it entirely.
Providing a fuller, more revealing quote from Lt. Col. Brandl, the Sunday
Times of London included a lead-in sentence: "The Marines that I have
had wounded over the past five months have been attacked by a faceless enemy.
But the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan...." In other words, Satan
started this conflict. And we the anti-Satan forces fully intend
to finish it by destroying him.
Sounds very fundamentalist.
Sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden.
In public-relations terms, the colonel was a tad off-message. Except
for occasional lapses, the rhetoric from Washington stops short of
proclaiming a crusade against Islamic devils. And the U.S. news coverage
rarely fails to detour around the American side of the jihad equation.
During a real holy war, of course, the fire and brimstone is not just figurative.
Dominating the top half of the New York Times front page on Nov. 10 was
picture with stunning hues and brilliant composition, over this caption:
"Marines tried to take cover after a phosphorous round, set off to help
provide cover for tanks, rained down on the unit. No one was seriously hurt."
An article inside mentioned that the phosphorous broke "into a hundred
flaming pieces ... burning backpacks and gear but seriously hurting no one."
Meanwhile, a Washington Post article provided more graphic though
sketchy information about phosphorous. "Some artillery guns fired
white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished
with water," the Post explained more than 20 paragraphs into the
story. "Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted
their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns."
The Post quoted hospital physician Kamal Hadeethi: "The corpses
of the mujahedin which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."
But such melting of human flesh is an abstraction in U.S. media, as it is
apt to be for holy warriors. On NBC's Today show Nov. 9, a network correspondent
in Baghdad mentioned phosphorous shells just long enough to say that they are
"meant to burn through metal bunkers." Presumably a description of
effects on human beings would not have gone well with viewers' breakfasts.
A live report from a CNN correspondent in Fallujah, on Nov. 8, was
similarly circumspect: "Tanks have been blasting away inside the city,
and shells filled with phosphorous shells to hide the movement of the
Marines inside the city have been exploding overhead."
The CNN reporter added that, along with gunfire from the city, "We
have also heard, even from our distance about two kilometers away, chants
of 'Allah Akbar' going up from the insurgents, the chants of 'God is
great' going up from the insurgents."
Lt. Col. Brandl, like his commander in chief, would doubtless scorn
such prayerful chants as satanic. The holy warriors from America are
blessed with superior military strength, which includes the capacity to
melt human flesh ... and to drop large quantities of cluster bombs one
of the most inhuman weapons on the planet from sleek A-10 jets flying
over Fallujah. Children often pick up not-yet-exploded cluster bombs
because they look like toys.
At the outset of the new assault, U.S. forces captured Fallujah's general
hospital. "In terms of the information war, the hospital was indeed the
most strategic of targets," international correspondent Pepe Escobar writes.
"During the first siege of Fallujah in April, doctors told independent
media the real story about the suffering of civilian victims. So this time the
Pentagon took no chances: no gory, disturbing photos of the elderly, women,
and children ... the civilian victims of the relentless bombing."
From Fallujah, on Nov. 9, journalist Fadhil Badrani a resident of
the city who reports for the BBC World Service said that "a medical
dispensary in the city center was bombed." He added: "I don't know
has happened to the doctors and patients who were there. It was last
place you could get medical attention because the big hospital on the
outskirts of Fallujah was captured by the Americans on Monday. A lot of
the mosques have also been bombed. For the first time in Fallujah, a city
of 1,200 mosques, I did not hear a single call to prayer this morning."
While the U.S. media are downplaying the available information about Iraqi
people suffering in Fallujah, many Arabic-language outlets have a different
news agenda. Escobar reports in the Nov. 11 edition of Asia Times Online:
"The main story playing in the Arab world in the past 24 hours is that
of Mohammed Abboud who saw his 9-year-old son bleed to death of shrapnel
wounds when his house in Fallujah was hit because he could not venture out to
go to a hospital. Abboud had to bury his son in his own garden."
As the United States government terrorizes and murders in the name of fighting
terrorism and murder, the message from Washington is that its holy war of might
is unquestionably right. On the Nov. 10 front page of the New York Times,
a dispatch from Fallujah reported: "Nothing here makes sense, but the Americans'
superior training and firepower eventually seem to prevail." Americans
are encouraged to assume that Allah may be great but the red-white-and-blue
God is surely greater.