Dominant Media Taboos: Why I’ve Been Skipping to the Sports

Dominant (“mainstream”) U.S. media coverage and commentary on Iraq continues to be hopelessly crippled by doctrinal observance of taboos against discussing five basic and intimately interrelated aspects of so-called “Operation Iraqi Freedom”:

1. The monumentally criminal nature of the invasion, which involved (in the words of the 2005 Istanbul Declaration) “planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.”

2. The brazenly imperialist and colonial nature of the occupation, which is richly continuous with earlier U.S. behavior within the beyond the Middle East and provides critical context for understanding why U.S. soldiers die on a regular basis in Iraq (where Americans are understandably seen as unlawful invaders).

3. The racist nature of the occupation, expressed in the false conflation between al Qaeda and a small group of predominantly Saudi hijackers on one hand and the broad Arab and Muslim worlds on the other hand. This racism has found expression also in U.S. ground forces’ recurrent description of Iraqi civilians and resistance fighters as “hajis” and “towel heads”(among other terrible designations) and in many Americans’ insistence on describing the entire Middle East as a den of primitive, barbarian and enemies of modern “civilization.”

4. The full and overwhelming extent of Iraqi civilian casualties, including more than 700,000 dead by now. The Iraqi body count dwarfs the U.S. death toll in Iraq , but dominant U.S. media remains primarily and narcissistically obsessed with U.S. fatalities in Mesopotamia . The mostly civilian Arab victims of U.S. imperial violence (a lovely expression of America ’s noble commitment to “civilization”) are unworthy victims of the Iraq War as far as dominant U.S. media is concerned.

5. The critical role of the American Empire Project’s longstanding core concern with the control of Middle Eastern oil in shaping the decision to invade Iraq and in ensuring that the U.S. will not completely or truly withdraw from that illegally occupied nation or indeed the region anytime soon, whichever corporate-imperial party happens to hold power in Washington.

These basic and unpleasant realities are essentially unmentionable in “mainstream” coverage and commentary of the Iraq War. At the “left” margin of dominant U.S. media’s narrow parameters of acceptable discourse (defined by the likes of the New York Times and militant centrists Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), the war is at worst a terrible “mistake” – a “strategic blunder” driven by a sincere but naïve drive to advance noble and democratic ideals and institutions.

It’s simply beyond the pale to note that the occupation is a racist and petro-imperialist crime against the Iraqi people, civilized norms and international law and that this crime is consistent with a long and bipartisan record of U.S. imperial violence.

As a result, dominant coverage and commentary on the war is childish, chaotic and nonsensical. Reading the leading papers and watching the corporate talking heads speak about “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is like listening to a deranged psychotic talking gibberish. The assumption of benevolent intention, the denial of criminal and imperial intent, the inability to grasp the role of petroleum, and the denial of racist and mass-murderous realities makes taking in “mainstream” war/occupation coverage and commentary like hearing a baseball game being called by a blind man. read more

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