Information, the ultimate weapon
“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
News are spread very quickly these days, all the better for it. But can you trust them blindly? Do you have to believe everything? I do not think so, and that’s a good thing.
Iraq: The media in the service of war
John Pilger, an Australian journalist who has witnessed many conflicts as a war correspondent (among others in Cambodia, Vietnam), has already been twice awarded the famous English prize “Journalist of the Year”. In 2010, his documentary “The War You Don’t See” appeared, which focuses on the media representation of the Second Gulf War appeared.
In this film, John Pilger presents several questions, such as: What role do the media play during the war? How, in the case of the Iraq, was a link drawn between Saddam Hussein and September 11, 2001? How could Americans be convinced of such a fact afterwards, a fact which turned out to be a lie?
We all recall the successful show Colin Powell gave to the great powers of this world to convince them of joining an attack on Iraq. The main argument: The necessary seizure of weapons of mass destruction. Impressive words for a population that was used to mass media, cinema and the power of images. This time however it was not about making housewives and mothers purchase a new microwave or a TV (marketing strategy the baby boom), but rather to convince a majority of the population of an act of reprisal for September 11. Under what circumstances? A population still shocked by such a tragic event, which is not left the time to question itself and to decide what to do next and what not to, like a child who has just learned to walk.
“If we, journalists, including myself had, right from the get go, […] started asking the kind of tough, digging, aggressive questions we should have been asking, and doing our reporting, rather than just being kind of stenographers (go to a briefing, have an official to say something, print it in the newspaper the next day), if we had done our job, I do think a stronger argument can be made that perhaps we wouldn’t have gone to war.” This is the answer the well-known journalist and CBS news anchor Dan Rather gives to John Pilger in the movie.
What do we have today? The promised freedom, democracy? A nation that lives happily ever after? A functioning education system? Nothing of the sort!
The reality is quite different: 110,000 civilian victims between 2003 and 2011 (according to Foreign Policy), 4,500 deaths alone in 2012. Suicide bombings, murders, interconfessional conflicts, a weakened Iraqi army, powerless against the Islamic State (IS) [author uses the acronym DAESH, editor’s note]. An army smashed by American forces during the invasion, leaving a security vacuum which remains until today. The only group able to counter DAESH are the armed Kurdish forces, who are supported by the “axis of good” and who favour a break-up of the country. The separation is inevitable due to the pointless tensions between Shiites and Sunnis. Here are the Iraqis in an impossible situation they never called for. And us, as uninvolved observers – we fell for it.
Libya: The media in the service of “freedom fighters”
Ever since invading Libya in 2011, NATO claims that it did so because of “humanitarian concerns” and “compassion” for the Lybian protesters and their “own good”. That is at least what the “famous philosopher” (who ever gave him that title) Bernard-Henri Lévy affirms. A philosopher who has the power to influence the entire foreign policy of a country like France.
On March 17, 2011, resolution no. 1973 is adopted by the UN Security Council, with abstentions of five member states: Germany, Brazil, China, India and Russia.
“The Security Council […], decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians”, “authorizes Member States […] to take all necessary measures […] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory […] .”
How wise a resolution, how beautiful its words! Unfortunately, as history has the annoying tendency to repeat itself, practice did not follow theory yet again. According to Thierry Meyssan, a French journalist present at the scene before and after the events, a considerable number of mercenaries was trained and prepared for the upcoming events with the help of Western intelligence services. He has released a documentary that gives an impression of the situation in Libya before it escalated (french only). France and its war-loving ‘omnipresident’ Nicolas Sarkozy consequently carried out several intensive air raids, as did NATO forces shortly afterwards.
It is our right to ask ourselves some questions and to look back at the events with a little distance. Has the war against Libya come to fruition? Was it a logical consequence of the events of the Arab Spring, perhaps even an inevitable consequence? Was it the will of the people to rise up against its sovereign that was Gaddafi? That is at least what the Western media claimed as the conflict began, and even earlier. Only a few journalists dared to contradict “mainstream media”. Michel Collon for example, a Belgian journalist, who was also in Libya and who filmed the rubble of a school bombed by NATO planes [video in French only, caution: graphical, editor’s note]. This school was located in Sorman in the northwestern part of the country, which has been officially designated as “the center of power of Gaddafi”.
The result: A country as much in chaos as the Iraq, warring militias. No armed authority to control the entirety of country. The two main conflict parties (Tobruk and Tripoli) were invited to a peace dialogue in Berlin on June 10, 2015. The main objective: To halt the IS, which has already brought the Libyan coastal town of Sirte under its control. The major powers were invited to the meeting as well, which shows how serious the situation actually is.
Not forgetting the regional imbalance the fall of the Gaddafi regime caused: Mali, Niger, Tunisia, Cameroon and Nigeria face political instabilities. In the end, the entire Sahara, vast and already very difficult to control, has become even less controllable by a rise in the smuggling of drugs, tobacco and weapons. The Sahel has become a true powder keg and an open black market of terrorism. Whom do we owe it? Thank you, NATO.
And again, right into the trap we walked.
Syria: The media at the service of international terrorism
It is impossible to discuss the role of information without talking about Syria. This country, the cradle of culture, history and science currently experiences its darkest hour. From their very beginning the tragic events in Syria were presented by some as the “logical consequence of the Arab Spring”. Shortly thereafter a finger was pointed at Bashar al-Assad, the oh so mean wolf who devours his people. Politicians and the media supported the Syrian “uprising”. The uprising has however brought a monster of a hiding. A monster that, as it emerged, was referred to as “moderate rebel group” in order to make it disappear again.
The journalist Gilles Munier who specializes in Syria reported in his blog that the conservative civil rights organization “Judicial Watch” published a selection of declassified documents on May 18, documents it had obtained by could order in a lawsuit against the US Department of Defense and the US State Department. These documents contain evidence that Washington was deliberately lenient with the terrorist groups spreading in Iraq and Syria. Even worse, they prove that the United States supported these groups. One of the documents of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) from 2012 states that the IS was welcome to influence Western policies in East Syria. Excerpt: “The West, Golf countries and Turkey support the opposition […], there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian Regime.” Such can be found in one of the documents.
Another DIA document, originally classified as “Secret / NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012 was known by American secret services such as CENTCOM (United States Central Command), the CIA, the FBI, the State Department and others. It proves with ease that the American secret services foresaw the rise of IS, but apart from presenting them as the murderous militants that they are rather pictured them as a strategic asset for the US. In other words, the Americans knew about IS but left them be.
“For many years, numerous analysts and journalists have laid out in detail the role of Western secret services in forming and supporting the armed “opposition” in Syria. But it is only now that we have the theory, that Western governments regard IS as the right tool to initiate a regime change in Syria, confirmed by the highest level of US agencies”, writes Gilles Munier.
Facts, Videos, and the recent confession of persons involved such as Robert Ford, the former Syrian ambassador, prove as well that CIA and State Department support of the terrorist militia IS on the battlefields goes back to at least 2012/2013.
And again we are taken in by the media. How long will we keep falling for it?
For several years now we can notice a certain homogenisation of information, especially among the “mainstream media” (large TV stations, newspapers and magazines), which influences greatly the common view on daily politics. This “concordance” over the interpretation of available information leads to closed-mindedness and self-indulgence of the thinking elite of tomorrow. One-sided reporting leads to a one-sided way of thinking and to a lack of curiosity with regard to other interpretations therefore to the total absence of a constructive discussion.
It should be kept in mind that financial aspects play a significant role for the so-called “mass media”. The former CEO of TF1, Patrick Le Lay [most popular domestic network in France, editor’s note] explained this in the book “Les dirigeants français et le changement” [“French Leaders and Change”, editor’s note], for which he was interview along with other managers: “There are many ways to speak about TV, but in a business perspective, let’s be realistic: at the basis, TF1’s job is helping Coca-Cola, for example, to sell its product. […] For a sales message to get through, the viewer’s brain must be available. Our programs aims to make it avaible: We entertain it and relax in it in order to prepare it for the next sales message. What we sell to Coca-Cola is available human brain time.”
Apart from for passing the sales message that Le Lay mentions, human brain time can also be used to justify political actions, prepare the public for upcoming changes and deviate the public eye from a major current event. All of this forms an incomplete picture of the audience, to the extent of sheer disinformation. By these means it is possible to diabolise a person like Vladimir Putin as easily as to humanise a person like Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It is possible to make war crimes committed by an American president be forgotten, but also to make the populace embrace the assassination of the Libyan head of state.
All of this happens, it happens right now and continues to happen. Years ago, it was called “propaganda”, especially when coming from a regime considered fascist. Today, its name is “media” in a regime considered democratic.
The only solution: Diversifying the sources of information, comparing them, analysing them and taking whatever is closest to reality. The hardest part is to overcome the conditioning every one of us has gone through. This is a truly difficult task, because it requires a personal decision: The decision to constantly challenge given information.
Looked at closely, information is not only a weapon. It is far more than that: Power.
Translated from French by Rüdiger Morbach. The original version can be found here: Boukhari Meraghni – L’information, cette arme ultime. This article reflects the personel opinion of the author. Rüdiger Morbach wrote an answer to this article, particularly on the sources provided, which can be found here: The power of the source: A short answer to the article of Boukhari Meraghni.