The Grateful Iraqi Millions ?

Wednesday 9th April 2003, was the day the media dubbed V-Day, or Vindication Day.

According to the official narrative, the "Allies" (ie. US Marines) rolled into Baghdad after vanquishing the minimal opposition (not that this had prevented them from plastering the city with multi-ton warheads, cluster bombs and depleted uranium for three weeks), and a "grateful" population rose up to greet the "liberators". We were treated to a so-called Berlin Wall moment on live TV, as the cheering crowds pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdous Square, and apparently expressed their gratitude to their American "rescuers".

That evening, Londoners were confronted by the sight of a full page photo of the jubiliant Firdous Square crowds on the front page of the Evening Standard, headlined "FREEDOM".

With this propaganda blitz, the media considers the war over, yet another glorious victory having been won. Blair is hailed as a heroic wartime leader in the Churchillian mould who stuck to his guns against all the odds, while his cronies inside and outside the government lambast the anti-war movement, claiming that victory brings with it the retrospective justification which the pre-war debate had conspicuously failed to provide.

Maybe we need to revisit what really did happen, on April 9th

Is it not odd, that this little (sic) drama just happened to have been played out on Firdous Square, right under the gaze of the Palestine Hotel, where western journalists had been holed up for weeks ?
Suspicions of a carefully stage-managed scene which may well have been months in the planning, should have been fully aroused by the fact that the US flag which was so spontaneously produced, just so happened to have been at the Pentagon, on 11th September 2001. Nor was it ever entirely clear what a tank recovery vehicle (which is normally used to winch tanks out of ditches and swamps) was doing in the middle of Baghdad.

In fact, far from being a "Berlin Wall moment" where hundreds of thousands of people spontaneously swarmed over the hated symbols of their oppression, Firdous Square was ringed with US tanks, and contained little over a hundred Iraqis, surrounded by a far greater number of US troops and journalists.
This photo makes that much clear.
While its timing is not certain (beyond the fact that it was taken before nightfall on April 9th), it does show a relatively deserted scene. The statue was finally toppled at 5:50 pm Baghdad time and it would have been dark there by 7 pm, so where did these massive celebratory crowds vanish to ? Unless of course, they had never existed.

In fact, even while hailing the size of the crowds, the BBC's on-the-spot reporter had actually referred to them as consisting of "dozens" of Iraqis. The pictures on our TV screens presented a deceitful context, as they did not pan across the square, but continually gave us tight shots of the crowd, and of men beating the fallen statue with their shoe (which, as the experienced Arabists of Sky News solemnly informed us, is considered a great insult in Arab culture).
Furthermore, the BBC interspersed this with footage of people cheering in the streets ... except those streets belonged to a Kurdish town in Northern Iraq !

This Reuters photo actually shows a slightly wider shot at the moment the statue falls, and we can see a restrained-looking crowd standing back (on only one side of the statue) while a few onlookers across the road look distinctly underwhelmed.

We should also note a brazen sleight of hand, whereby even while the live western TV cameras actually showed us American troops elbowing the Iraqis aside and pulling the statue down with a tank recovery vehicle (but not before briefly covering it in a Stars and Stripes banner), the babble of world-wide war commentators eagerly informed us that we were watching the Iraqi people taking their revenge on the hated Saddam.

Incidentally, here is an interview in Le Monde, with a photographer who had accompanied the Marines of Firdous Square all the way up through Iraq. He didn't seem to notice any cheering crowds either.

But what of that Evening Standard "FREEDOM" cover photo, showing dense crowds filling the square ?
Well if the TV cameras merely deceived us by omission, then this disgusting rag really went for broke, with a whopping great lie.

Many people have noticed recurring features (annotated in the partial section above) in the photo, separated by fuzzy seams. It turns out that their photo apparently came from a BBC-24 still, and originally had a large logo in the upper corner. The Standard's picture desk has admitted removing the BBC logo, and filling it in with cut-n-paste clips !!

This Indymedia report from two days later lays bare the doctoring of their photo.
On July 24th, the Evening Standard finally admitted this in print

On that same Indymedia page, you will also notice a very unconvincing photo of two Iraqis holding up a banner branding the western human shields as "wankers". This vernacular might well be alien to most Baghdadis, but is no doubt familiar to the Sky TV crew who managed to "scoop" this shot.

Funny, how this small crowd of Iraqis is used to vindicate the illegal invasion of Iraq, yet when over 20,000 Iraqis marched through Baghdad a week later to reject American domination, the US/UK spokesmodels dismissed them as a "vocal minority". Not to mention the 2 million marchers in London on February 15th, who were dismissed as unrepresentative.
For this is how our rulers manufacture our consent.

Time was, ironically, when many people (Evening Standard included) took a much dimmer view of those who vandalised the effigies of deposed rulers.
In fact, the perpetrator got three months, for this hatchet job on Thatcher's statue last year !

However, the anti-war case was certainly not built on support for Saddam, nor was it ever predicated on a belief that the Iraqis would be anything but delighted to see him go, or that an American victory was ever in doubt.
It was based on the simple conviction that bombing Iraq to smithereens, and murdering even more of its people was not the way to liberate them from Saddam, that democracy is not dropped from the bomb bays of a B-52, and that subjugation by the American invaders would not bring freedom to Iraq.
The point of concentrating on the misrepresentation of the scenes in Baghdad on April 9th is not to deny that Iraqis were eager to attack Saddam's symbols, but to nail the dangerous lie that they welcome the foreign invaders who have slaughtered so many of them in the past 12 years (over 1.5 million, compared to the 250,000 Iraqis that Saddam has killed during the Baath's 35-year reign), and brought Iraq to its knees.
The crowning indignity is that Western media editors should then seek to put words of gratitude in the Iraqis' mouths, even while US troops pull down Saddam's statues for them by proxy (a metaphor for Iraq's future ?).

The terrible scenes of vandalism at hospitals, museums and public buildings, as well as the reports of inter-communal killings (not to mention the frequent shootings of people in the street, by the American troops) bear this out. So far, it looks more like Year Zero, than liberation.
Even as the initial phase of the invasion is arbitrarily declared over, a bloody occupation looks set to follow, and US coporations look set to pursue a policy of hyper-extraction (or good old-fashioned imperial plunder, as it used to be known).

That is why opposition to the war continues unabated, and will translate into opposition to the American occupation of Iraq - a continuing war.
And that is why 200,000 marchers still turned out for a Stop-the-War demo in Central London three days later, on April 12th 2003 - the second national demo within three weeks.

More April 12 pics: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7