By Dilek Karal
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.
The last American combat troops withdraw from Iraq three weeks ago on December 17, 2011 after eight years of war. Even for the supporters of the war,the reasons as to why the U.S. went into Iraq became vague over the years. The long years of war with a missing victor reminds of Jean Baudrillard’s long debated article titled “The Gulf War Will Not Take Place” which was published just before the attack by American and British forces on Baghdad in the 1991 Gulf War. Although the expectation of war was clear and the direct statements of leaders were alarming, at time Baudrillard highlighted that modern war does not mean a heroic combat as one thinks, but that it is certainly created by a thirst for power in the world fed by the means of hyperreal images intentionally produced by the media. Now, I believe, it is time to ask“Did the Iraq War Take Place?” To what extent was it the very same war that the U.S. presented to world?
Many would agree that the Iraq War had been supported by a flux of media images which had been continuously telling us about how legitimate and unavoidable this war was. Former U.S. President George W. Bush made a long debated speech in the American Congress just after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Defined as the “Bush Doctrine,” the basic points of the speech became major milestones of U.S. foreign policy at the time. In his speech, Bush was stressing that it was time for the international community to take sides:“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” At a press conference two years later on March 6, 2003, Bush made it clear that declaring war against Iraq was inevitable. For Douglas Kellner, Bush tried to justify “his crusade against bin Laden and al Qaeda” by applying the rhetoric of “good and evil”repeatedly during that period.
Since Bush was defending “the good,” double meanings of the concepts did not matter. As Kellner argues, the war against Iraq became for peace, occupation substituted liberation, and destruction became humanitarian action.This rhetoric was transferred to millions worldwide by all means of a giant media kingdom which is supported by Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation.Unfortunately,the flip side of the scene was dark and foggy.
As a part of this wide image war, the story of “Saving Private Lynch”is considerably spectacular. Private Jessica Lynch was one of the American PFCs (Private First Class) serving in Iraq. Stories revealed were announcing that she was shot and tortured by Iraqi forces after being caught. Eight days after her capture, the U.S. media covered her rescue planned by American forces who acted bravely. However, investigations and interviews with the doctors of the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya where she was taken by American forces told a different story. Doctors told the Guardian that although the U.S. Army knew there were no Iraqi soldiers in the hospital at time of “rescue,” they stormed into the hospital shouting and firing around. They also added that to distort the image they behaved like they were screening a “Rambo movie” even threatening the lives of other patients in the hospital as well as that of Lynch at the time of operation.
One year after that heroic story, images of torture at Abu Ghraib were revealed on April 28, 2004. Picturing the U.S. atrocities during the invasion, these scenes are carved into the minds of millions, and diminished the United States’ credit in the international arena and questioned the legitimacy of the war once more. In the same year on September 16, 2004 U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan declared the Iraq war illegal and totally contradicting the U.N.Charter.
Similarly, on October 7, 2004 a CIA report put an end to discussions of whether Saddam Hussein possessed any weapons of mass destruction (WMD)or not. CNN unearthed that “Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion in March 2003 and had not begun any program to produce them,” referring to a recent CIA report.
The instances of media propaganda and the intense application of hyperreality endured for years. What is inherited by the Iraq people is the devastating thousands of deaths, millions displaced and civil war at the door. The present situation in Iraq illustrates that war is one of the diverse masks of violence which is staged, once more, in the name of power and authority. The scene which waits ahead tells us “Welcome to the desert of reality.” Now, can you tell me if the Iraq war took place?
Dilek Karal is an analyst at the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, Center for Social Studies. [email protected]