Occupation once again

Notwithstanding the blind spots, my recent spell in America reminded me that the US media's reporting and analysis of the economy is positively copious and comprehensive compared to the myopia of its Iraq coverage. This is only partly explained by the fact that, at least at the time of writing, downtown Manhattan is a safer beat than downtown Baghdad.


the impression given is that Iraq is a basket case, and – to paraphrase the views at the increasingly populous margins of dissent – perhaps even the very best efforts of a selfless American military involvement will prove insufficient to sort it out. Incredibly but inevitably given the media amnesia about which this column always rants, the ethnic and sectarian violence in Iraq, its death tolls and the country's sinking into poverty and despair are discussed without the simple context of foreign invasion in 2003. Of course it might be argued that everyone knows about the invasion, but when even the Irish Times reports Oxfam's terrifying account of Iraq's humanitarian catastrophe without any mention of the foreign powers responsible, we are surely missing something.

There should be no doubt that the US is fundamentally responsible for the state of Iraq, but in the US mainstream media and political culture it is, at worst, a blundering Gulliver stunned by the savagery of the Lilliputians.

It takes Noam Chomsky to remind us, repeatedly, of the essential moral and legal truth, as summarised by the US chief prosecutor at Nuremburg, Robert Jackson: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.

Even beyond the legal abstraction, the US has increasing numbers of troops in Iraq, and as well as bombing and shooting liberally, they are attacked hundreds of times every week. There are no more basic facts on the ground in Iraq than these, and yet they are increasingly invisible.