Wednesday, 9 April 2003

The War for Truth

by John Pilger

WE HAD a great day," said Sgt Eric Schrumpf of the US Marines last Saturday. "We killed a lot of people."

He added: "We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?" He said there were women standing near an Iraqi soldier, and one of them fell when he and other Marines opened fire. "I'm sorry," said Sgt Schrumpf, "but the chick was in the way".

For me, what is remarkable about this story is that I heard almost the same words 36 years ago when a US Marine sergeant told me he had killed a pregnant woman and a child because they had "got in the way".

That was in Vietnam, another country invaded by the US military machine, which left up to two million people dead and many more maimed and otherwise ruined. President Reagan called this "a noble cause". The other day, President Bush called the invasion of Iraq, another unprovoked and piratical act, "a noble cause".

In the years since Vietnam, the Americans have invaded and caused, directly and through stooges, great suffering in many other countries, but none tells us more about the current war than their enduring atrocity in Vietnam, known as the first "media war".

Like their attack on Iraq, their invasion of Vietnam was accompanied by a racist contempt for the people. The Vietnamese were "gooks" and "slits" who would never fight, who would be crushed within weeks. As in Iraq today, the uncensored evidence of America's killing was not shown on TV but covered up.

General Colin Powell, Bush's "liberal" Secretary of State, was promoted swiftly because he was given the job of covering up the infamous My Lai massacre. In the end, the Vietnamese defied the Hollywood script and expelled their invader, but at great cost.

The Iraqis, up against two western air forces and a Disneyworld of weapons of mass destruction, are unlikely to share the same honour. And yet they, too, are not keeping to the script; and their extraordinary resistance against such overwhelming odds has required intensified propaganda in Washington and London: aimed not at them, but at us.

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