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American press contradictory in covering gulf war


In the aftermath of the two recent acts of aggression in the Persian Gulf -- the Iraqi attack on Kuwait and the American attack on Iraq -- it is important to recognize the parameters of President George Bush's vaunted "new world order," a perversely appropriate phrase used 60 years ago by another imperialist aggressor.

A press led by the "seig heils" of such columnists as A. M. Rosenthal, Mona Charen and William Safire has given praise to the integrity and intelligence of men like Bush and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The latter praise is particularly ludicrous. The American military could hardly have lost this war if they had tried. One would have been equally justified in lauding the strategic brilliance of Benito Mussolini for his attack on Ethiopia.

If the applause for the intellect of the superpower leaders is laughable, the applause for their morals is downright sinister. Not every war must have a hero; many wars simply have two (or more) villains.

This is not to say there is no such thing as a just war. But a war over control of a portion of the energy resources of the Middle East between a bloodthirsty nationalist and a bloodthirsty colonialist hardly qualifies as just.

In fact, both Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein recognize this fact, which is why both disavow their goals, claiming more high-minded reasons. The falsity of such claims is so blatant that even the Safires, Rosenthals and Charens do not try to defend them.

The US record on support for human rights -- in the Middle East, in Central America, in Africa, in Asia -- is well-known and sordid. In fact, the "liberation" of Kuwait has amounted to the restoration of the feudal monarchy, along with martial law and the suppression of a free press.

The only thing Bush ever accurately claimed about Kuwait was that it is "tiny." It would appear that war supporters vacillate between deeming an overwhelmingly successful attack on a defenseless country to be intrinsically right and intrinsically wrong.

This contradiction goes hand in hand with the theory that the United States had to overrun Iraq in a two-day land war to alleviate the threat of Iraq conquering the world. Similarly, US leaders were so fearful for the safety of Israelis that they did the one thing certain to result in an Iraqi attack on Israel -- go to war.

It is notable that the Israeli government would rather see Iraq attack its civilians, possibly with chemical weapons, than see self-determination in its 20-year-old conquests, a rejected prewar negotiating point.

The jubilant jingoism of the past week is paradoxical. The American people were overwhelmingly against each action the United States took before it took it. It would appear that, as in 1984, whatever the state declares becomes the truth.

The period in which there was distaste for killing people in other countries -- known as the vile Vietnam syndrome -- is over. The American people have finally been taught that war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and 2 + 2 = 5.

Greg Marks '92->