PROPAGANDA: LESSON 1
"The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted." ~ Georg C. Lichtenberg, German physicist.
I have noticed something today that annoys me. Really annoys me. Check out the titles on these articles:
A. Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia
B. Kurds plotting to break away
C. Kurds plan to invade South
These are all the same articles, except Article B is missing the last few paragraphs. Otherwise, they are the same. Same author, same news service, same story. What's the problem?
First of all the titles. Title A is somewhat neutral. Title B and C, on the other hand, are virtual spin machines, set into motion by the keywords, "plotting" and "invade," which are not neutral by any stretch of the imagination.
Let's look at the first couple of paragraphs:
Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq.
They are laying the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.
Let's consider some keywords here. In the first line, we have "inserted." What does that mean? What does it sound like it means? It sounds like the treacherous Kurdish leadership is up to no good, slipping all those well-trained and experienced Kurdish fighters into the Iraqi army. Let's forget about the fact that the US has depended on Kurdish military help since before Day 1 of their excellent adventures in Iraq, to include the build-up of a reliable Iraqi army.
Let's also forget about the fact that one of the first US commanders in Mûsil, General Petraeus, arrogantly disregarded the advice of Babekir Zebarî and other leading veteran pêşmerge about the need to completely cleanse the area of the Ba'ath. Let's forget about the fact that this arrogant disregard led to the establishment of the Ba'athi/foreign fighter network that began relentlessly to murder Kurds, Christians and anyone else who got in their way. Of course, this eventually led to bigger problems after Fallujah was cleansed last November, and the Ba'athi/foreign fighters ran to Mûsil.
I certainly don't believe that Petraeus was acting on his own. He had to engage in arrogant disregard for experienced Kurdish advice on the orders of whomever it is that creates foreign policy based on US interests. The only question is one of whether the creator of this policy was the Pentagon or the State Department. My money is on the State Department because there isn't a bigger pack of Kurd-hating paranoiacs outside of Ankara. Okay, what does my use of the word "pack" mean? Trust me, it isn't neutral.
My point is that the use of the word "insert," is not correct and it leads one to believe that Kurds "infiltrated" the Iraqi army for nefarious purposes. This simply isn't true. The Kurds have cooperated with US forces from before the beginning and my use of Mûsil is just one example of this cooperation.
Second keyword is "swarm!" What swarms? Killer bees, locusts, day-after-Christmas shoppers. . . none of which are positive things. I doubt that pêşmerge are going to "swarm" into Kerkuk. Most likely, they will move in some sort of military manner, especially if they have to go in shooting.
Propaganda is very simple. All that you have to do is set the spin in the title and in the first couple of paragraphs. Then it will continue through the entire article because the spin, the feel, the tone of the article is set. In our present case, we now have something sounding like this in our reader's mind:
After treacherously inserting themselves as a fifth column within the Iraqi army, Kurds are continuing with their nefarious plans to swarm like locusts to the south and invade Kerkuk!
Are you kidding me?! Whose payroll is the author on? Ankara's? The Arab League's? Al-Qaedas? The US State Department's? Or what about the editors who wrote the creative and inflammatory titles?
Something else that gets a spin is the term "militia." Not all militias are created equal and, according to the new Iraqi constitution, not all militias are illegal or in any way negative, but are sanctioned by Iraqi law.
This article, under various titles, is being carried by hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs today. Not everyone is commenting on it, but they are carrying it, so it is somehow meaningful to them. The negative spin, from a Kurdish viewpoint, makes me wonder what kind of meaning it holds for so many people.
Do people realize that Kurds of South Kurdistan have been fighting against various Baghdad regimes since 1961? What do all these people think Kurds were fighting for? US interests? A unified Iraq? Does the US seriously expect that Kurds should simply lay down and become victims again, this time when Iraq finally, fatally cracks, and "swarms" of Arabs move north once again? Is this is the same type of mindset that opposes Kurdish use of armed resistance for any reason, usually with an argument designed to appeal to reason and level-headedness? Tell it to Helebce.
Independence is the dream. We all know there are still problems to be worked out in South Kurdistan--corruption in government, lack of infrastructure, violations of the right to free expression, as examples--but Kurds are already voicing their opinions on these topics and these things will change. Problems don't mean the dream is dead. On the contrary, the recognition of these things as problems proves that the dream is very much alive. Democracy isn't going to be easy but at least this democracy will be Kurdish.
To paraphrase a friend of mine: "Let the shit be our shit for a change, and not someone else's."