Bush’s War on Perception
The bombing of the Golden Mosque
By Mike Whitney
01/20/07 "ICHBlog" -- - We’ve heard a lot about the bombing of Samarra’s Golden Mosque lately. Bush has brought it up twice in the last week alone. It’s a critical part of the administration’s rationale for the occupation of Iraq, so we can expect to be reminded of it nearly as often as 9-11.
The destruction of the Golden-dome Mosque took place in February 2005 and has been identified as the “catalyzing event” that plunged the country into sectarian violence. That, at least, is just the official version. No one knows really what happened because the administration refused to conduct an independent investigation and the media excluded any account that didn’t square with the Pentagon’s spin on events.
What we’re left with is mere speculation.
Here's what we know: Less than 4 hours after the explosion, the Bush public relations team cobbled together a statement that the bombing was the work of Sunni extremists or al Qaida terrorists. But, how did they know? They didn’t have witnesses on the ground in Samarra and they’ve never produced a scintilla of evidence to support their claims. It may be that the administration simply saw the bombing as an opportunity to twist the facts to suit their own purposes?
After all, the incident has been a propaganda-bonanza for the Bush team. They’ve used it to support their theory that Iraq is “the central battle in the war on terror” and that “we must fight them there if we don’t want to fight them over here”. It’s become one of the main justifications for the occupation; implying that the US military is needed as a referee to keep the warring factions from killing each other. It’s all just nonsense that’s designed to advance the administration’s political agenda.
If there had been an investigation, it would have shown whether the perpetrators were experts or not by the placement of the explosives. There’s a good chance they would’ve found bomb-residue which could have determined the composition of the material used. Forensics experts could have easily ascertained whether the explosives came from Iraqi munitions-dumps (as suggested) or from outside the country (like the USA, perhaps?)
The incident may well have been a “false flag” operation carried out by US intelligence agencies to provoke sectarian violence and, thus, reduce the number of attacks on American troops.
In any event, as soon as the mosque was destroyed the media swung into action focusing all of its attention on sectarian violence and the prospect of civil war. The media’s incessant “cheerleading” for civil war was suspicious, to say the least.
In the first 30 hours after the blast, more than 1,500 articles appeared on Google News providing the government version of events without deviation and without any corroborating evidence; just fluff that reiterated the Pentagon’s account verbatim and without challenge.
1500! Now that’s a well-oiled propaganda system!
Most of the articles were “cookie cutter-type” stories which used the same buzzwords and talking points as all the others; no interviews, no facts, no second opinions; simple, straightforward stenography---nothing more.
The story was repeated for weeks on end never veering from the same speculative theory. Clearly, a great amount of effort was being exerted to convince the American people that this was a significant event that would reshape the whole context of the war in Iraq. In fact, the media blitz that followed was grander than anything since 9-11; a spectacular display of the media’s power to manipulate public opinion.
There were a few articles that didn’t follow the party-line, but they quickly disappeared into a cyber-“black hole” or were dismissed as conspiracy theories. One report in AFP said that the bombing “was the work of specialists” and the “placing of explosives must have taken at least 12 hours”. The article continued:
“Construction Minister Mohammed Jaafar said, ‘Holes were dug into the mausoleum’s four main pillars and packed with explosives. Then charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance.”
Of course, what does that prove? Perhaps, al Qaida has skilled explosives experts? But why not investigate? After all, if this was the “catalyzing event” which was thrusting the country towards civil war; why not have the FBI come in and have a look-around?
A professional team of investigators could have quickly determined whether highly-trained saboteurs were operating in the area. (which meant that American troops would be at greater risk) Isn’t that worth checking out?
Nope. The Pentagon did nothing. There was no effort at all to find out who might have been involved. It was an open and shut case; wrapped up before the dust had even settled in Samarra.
Apparently, there was at least one witness who was interviewed shortly after the bombing. He said that he heard cars running outside the mosque “the whole night until morning” but, he was warned “to stay in your shop and don’t leave until morning”.
At 6:30 AM the next morning, the vehicles outside the mosque left. 10 minutes later the bombs exploded.
None of the people living in the vicinity of the mosque were ever questioned. Likewise, the Construction Minister Mohammed Jaafar has never resurfaced in the news again. I expect that his comments in the newspaper may have had something to do with his sudden disappearance, but then maybe not.
The Golden Mosque; truth or psy-ops?
The Bush administration is very serious about controlling information. That’s why they launched the Pentagon’s Dept of Strategic Information. The military is now deeply engaged in “full spectrum dominance” of all information technologies. Consequently, “controlling the narrative” is more important than one might think. Propaganda is the cheapest and most effective way to control public behavior. The growth in public relations illustrates the importance that political leaders put on managing perception in a way that compels the masses to conform to an elite agenda. That’s why the administration has spent zillions on PR campaigns and inserted themselves into every area of human communication. They are forever looking for the right combination of patriotic and religious imagery that will get the public to march along in harmony.
The Bush administration has made some notable contributions to the traditional propaganda-paradigm. In fact, former Counselor at the State Dept, Philip Zelikow, (who was also executive director of the 9-11 Commission and author of the National Security Strategy NSS) is an expert in “the creation and maintenance of ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’, which he defines as beliefs thought to be true although not necessarily known to be true with certainty, shared in common with the relevant political community (sounds like Rumsfeld)….He has taken a special interest in ‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events that take on ‘transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain there power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene”. (“Thinking about Political History” Miller Center report; winter 1999)
“Searing’ or ‘molding’ events that take on ‘transcendent’ importance”?!? Like 9-11, for example?
“In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he co-authored an article called ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’ in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade center had succeeded ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. ‘It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet bomb test in 1949. The US might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force. More violence could follow, either future terrorist attacks or US counterattacks. Belatedly, Americans would judge their leaders negligent for not addressing terrorism more urgently”. (Wikipedia)
The previous paragraph is certainly worth rereading 2 or 3 times KEEPING IN MIND THAT ZELIKOW'S ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN 1998!?! 3 YEARS BEFORE 9-11!
Where, one might ask, did Zelikow get his crystal ball?
Zelikow correctly assumed that if a “catastrophic” event were to take place in America, it would trigger a massive revaluation of all our ideological commitments; “civil liberties, surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force”.
History would be divided into "pre 9-11 and post 9-11." And, all the restrictions on presidential power, inalienable rights, and aggressive war could be swept away in an instant.
Isn’t this the exact blueprint for what is taking place right now? What part of Zelikow’s dark-vision has not been actualized?
This theory is the intellectual foundation for the creeping fascism that has infected our country. Its evil-brilliance is that it goes beyond propaganda’s limited ability to shape public opinion and actually creates history by fabricating events that have a “searing” or “molding” effect on the collective psyche.
Zelikow has figured out that the real essence of controlling behavior is not simply “propagating” ideas but understanding how humans process information and, then, corrupting that process so it meets the objectives of the ruling elite.
Both 9-11 and the blowing up of the Golden dome Mosque are examples of how this theory works. 9-11 has been used to erase 200 years of legal precedent and establish a “unitary president” who has absolute power. The destruction of the mosque transforms a brutal colonial occupation into a "humanitarian intervention" which requires the US military to stay on indefinitely to prevent Iraqis from killing each other. In both cases, the “catastrophic” event creates the internal logic for the subsequent response.
Doesn’t this explain why the administration has devoted so much energy to controlling the narrative?
The Salvador Option and the Bush Caliphate
The Defense Department developed its strategy for counterinsurgency in Iraq with the assumption that they were “fighting a new kind of war”. The days of large land-based armies and conventional weapons-systems are over. The coming century will require new skills for overpowering loosely-configured “indigenous” resistance organizations who can undermine the goal of seizing dwindling resources.
The war on terror conceals the fact that the US is presently engaged in a global resource war.
An article by Michael Hirsh in Newsweek magazine, “The Salvador Option” (Jan 2005), summarized the details of the strategy saying:
“Newsweek has learned the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against a leftist guerilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the US government funded or supported ‘nationalist’ forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.”
The same pattern of terrorizing the public through “the application of extreme violence” has reemerged in Iraq with many of the same US leaders supervising the covert operations. The plan was clearly designed to eliminate the need for more US troops to provide security and, instead, aimed at “pacifying” the resistance through a well-coordinated and fully-funded campaign of terror.
The (predominantly) Shiite militias operating out of the Interior Ministry were armed and trained by the CIA and were used to secretly to carry out assassinations and torture of suspected “Sunni insurgents.” In his recent article “The Battle of Baghdad”, Chris Sanders expands on this point:
“Even more important is the fact that it has been the Americans in the form of one Colonel James Steel, who, reporting to then ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, oversaw the training of the Shia death squads a.k.a. “security forces” that have been turned loose on the Sunni population, a project called the “Salvador Option”. This is not a civil war…so much as deliberate mayhem incited, aided and abetted by the occupying power with the objective of forcing the disintegration of the country.”
There’s nothing new in Sander’s observations although they are scrupulously omitted in the mainstream press. The Bush administration set out to apply its neoconservative theories in Iraq by deliberately destroying the social fabric of Iraqi society so they could rebuild the country according to their “free market” neoliberal ideology. The neocon principle of “creative destruction” was used with lethal precision and with devastating effects; the country is now in a state of total ruin.
The Pentagon’s counterinsurgency strategy was developed long before the mutilated bodies of Sunni men began showing up daily bobbing along the Euphrates River. It’s part of a broader plan to dominate the entire region through military force. The purpose is to extend the Bush Caliphate--the “new world order”-- throughout the entire Middle East.
Somewhere along the line, things went horribly wrong and the Pentagon warlords lost control of their “brainchild” in the Interior Ministry. Now the Shiite death squads operate independent of their American overlords purging Baghdad of its Sunni population and laying the foundation for a future Islamic state. Events are simply beyond Bush’s control. As author William Lind said recently, “The forces our invasion and destruction of the Iraqi state unleashed, far overpower any army we can deploy to Iraq, surge or no surge.”
The neocon plan to decimate Iraqi society by inciting sectarian violence (divide and conquer) was concocted long before the destruction of the Golden dome Mosque. In fact, the blowing up of the mosque was probably an attempt to disguise US involvement in the random bombings (markets, mosques, busy streets etc.) and death squad activity which soon spread throughout the Sunni heartland.
Consider Bush’s comments in his speech to the nation last week:
“The violence in Iraq has overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq’s election posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis…They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam—the Golden Mosque of Samarra—in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq’s Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked Radical Shia elements; some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.”
Is that what happened or is this just a clever way of shifting the blame from the real perpetrators of the bloodshed to the victims of Washington’s dirty war?
Zelikow’s theories have provided a master-plan for shaping public opinion around “searing” events. He is right to assume that people will accept all manner of absurdities if they are assembled in the context of a larger catastrophe. Clearly, the Bush administration is venturing into uncharted waters, proactively fabricating “historical events” to create their own reality and, thus, support the narrow objectives of an elite agenda.
The destruction of the Golden dome Mosque bears the same bloody fingerprints as do the victims of the occupation’s unrelenting violence. The guilty parties may have escaped accountability so far, but when the smoke clears, we’ll know whose bombs they really were.