Will the War Begin With a Big Lie?
Iraq will be invaded or occupied regardless of
"ultimatum," report says
- March 18 - George W. Bush's March 17 speech has been boiled
down to one blunt statement: "Saddam Hussein and his sons must
leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result
in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing."
next morning focused on this message: "President Tells Hussein
to Leave Iraq Within 48 Hours or Face Invasion" (Washington Post);
"Bush Gives Ultimatum to Hussein: Leave in 48 Hours or Face War"
(Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel); "President Gives the Iraqi Dictator
One Last Deadline" (San Antonio Express-News).
however, at the bottom of an inside page in the New York Times,
had a different message: "Allies Will Move In, Even if Saddam
Hussein Moves Out" was the headline over a page A16 story by Times
military correspondent Michael Gordon. "Even if Saddam Hussein
leaves Iraq within 48 hours, as President Bush demanded, allied
forces plan to move north into Iraqi territory, American officials
said today," the article began.
to a little-noted line in Bush's speech: "It is not too late for
the Iraqi military to act with honor and protect your country
by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate
weapons of mass destruction." While in the context of the speech,
this seemed to refer to what Bush hoped Iraqi commanders would
do in the event that his ultimatum was rejected, Gordon reports
that this was actually a signal that regardless of what Hussein
chooses, the U.S. would still, in Gordon's words, "enter Iraq
to search for hidden weapons of mass destruction and help stabilize
the nation so that a new and more democratic regime could take
Even if the
Iraqi military were to overthrow Hussein, Gordon wrote, "a military
intervention seems very likely." He quoted Colin Powell's statement
on March 17 to the effect that "the only way for Iraq to avoid
an attack is for Mr. Hussein to leave the country and 'allow this
matter to be resolved through the peaceful entry of force.'"
In other words,
there is nothing that Iraq can do to avoid invasion and occupation;
its only choice is whether or not to surrender. Why dress up this
straightforward policy with a claim that Saddam Hussein's refusal
to step down within a 48-hour deadline "will result in military
conflict"? Presumably because the White House knew that the media
would find the drama of the ultimatum irresistible, and would
therefore frame the upcoming war not as a choice that Washington
was making, but as a final test for Saddam Hussein.
by and large failed to challenge this spin campaign, and continue
to frame the story as a "defiant" Saddam Hussein spurning the
last chance for peace. "Saddam Sneers Back: Hell No, I Won't Go"
was the New York Daily News' front-page headline on March 19.
The cable news channel MSNBC actually had a "DEADLINE" clock in
the lower-right hand corner of its screen at all times, ticking
away the seconds until the meaningless deadline passes.
Even the Times
itself did not seem to have grasped its own correspondent's report:
"War Imminent as Hussein Rejects Ultimatum" was the paper's lead
headline (3/19/03), with an accompanying story beginning, "The
White House said today that Saddam Hussein was making his 'final
mistake' by rejecting an ultimatum ordering him to leave Iraq
or face war."
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