ChemWar in The Australian

Jay Bulworth jay.bulworth at
Sun Dec 15 06:22:11 MST 2002

You will have noticed that, among the print media today, The Australian is the loudest and most persistent in calling for an oil war.
It talks endlessly about Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons.
Let’s take a brief look at how The Australian covered the subject in March and April 1984, when chemical weapons were used against Iran.  You can find more examples at the various State Libraries.
1.	It published stories that ridiculed the gas attacks as ‘fakes’.

See for example “Gas attack victims ‘fakes’”, The Australian, Monday 26 March 1984, page 5.  The villain was identified not as Iraq (Friend-of-the-Month at the time) but as Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran (Enemy-of-the-Month at the time).

The story claimed that “Iranians said to have been victims of mustard gas attacks in the Gulf war may only have been victims of a factory blast”.

These imposters were “allegedly dressed in soldiers’ uniforms and sent to the West by Ayatollah Khomeini in order to whip up anti-Iraqi sentiment and, possibly, provide justification for a chemical attack by Iran”.

The Australian quoted an unnamed “Iranian refugee, living in Paris”, who “saw as many as 50 burned workers, still wearing overalls from the national petrol company, arriving at a military hospital in Teheran”.

The Australian’s prize source, the unnamed “Iranian refugee, living in Paris”, claimed that “the Ayatollah ordered the men be dressed in army uniforms and sent abroad for treatment”.

2.	It published speculations that the evidence of chemical warfare was really “massive defecation flights” of honey-bees.  Seriously.

See for example “It’s honey-bees – not yellow rain”, The Australian, 30 March 1984, page 7, in which The Australian quotes “a Harvard University biologist”, Professor Matthew Meselson, who “discovered that wild colonies of South-East Asian honey-bees perform massive defecation flights which can cover a swath thousands of square metres in area, with 100 or more spots of yellowish faeces per square metre.”

A load of shit, in other words.

3.	It extolled Saddam Hussein’s virtues.

See for example “The Gulf War”, The Weekend Australian, 31 March 1984, page 8.

The article claims that Saddam Hussein is “a brilliant orator – one diplomat in Baghdad says he speaks Arabic the way de Gaulle spoke French.  He also has the politician’s touch: Iraqi television endlessly depicts him cuddling babies and making jokes.”

The Australian spoke of Saddam’s “conspicuous concern for the Shi’ite community by ordering the renovation of shrines in the holy Shi’ite cities of Karbala and Najaf, at a cost of more than $200 million”.

In a long hymn of praise to the Ba’ath Party, The Australian noted that it “courted popularity since it came to power in 1968 by enforcing land-reform laws and using Iraq’s huge oil wealth (before the war it was the second biggest Arab oil producer) to improve living standards.

“Villages have been electrified, schools built, an adult literacy campaign launched and a free health service established.  Unemployment has been abolished by official decree and by creating unproductive jobs.  There is little visible poverty.

“Iraqi women are better treated than in many other Arab countries.  In the towns, women wander around freely in revealing Western clothes.  More women are going to university and getting responsible jobs.

“As in Europe and the United States during World War II, the departure of men for the battlefront has opened up jobs for women.

“For the first two years of the war, the Government continued to pour money into development projects and subsidies on consumer goods”.

Other positives that The Australian saw in Saddam Hussein were that “[c]onsumer goods remain[ed] a priority: the Government does not want an uncomfortable, discontented population.  It imports large amounts of luxury foods – frozen chickens from Brazil, for instance.  The United States has provided $400 million worth of grain which is not yet paid for (my emphasis).

“Food distribution within Iraq is being liberalised: peasants are now allowed to sell their produce privately, rather than through the state distribution system.  Last year cucumbers were the only vegetable regularly available in Baghdad.  This year, almost all locally grown foods are available.

“The Government makes sure the army is kept happy.  Soldiers are getting fat on generous rations.  They are well paid, and their families get cheap housing.  Military heroes get material rewards like free cars and houses.  War widows are given handsome pensions.

4.	When The Australian discussed chemical weapons, it did not single out Iraq.

See for example “Bans and ‘revulsion’ have not stopped use of chemical weapons”, The Australian, 18 April 1984.  The article reported that Egypt reportedly “used a Soviet-supplied nerve agent in Yemen between 1963 and 1967.  There are continuing reports, which the Soviets have denied and some Western scientists questioned, that the Soviets are using mycotoxins in South-East and South-West Asia”.

The article did not even mention Iraq’s use of chemical weapons.

The article did not even mention the word “Iraq” in the story.

5.	It editorialised in the most general terms about the need for an “investigatory body consisting of scientists from the more genuinely non-aligned and neutral nations”.  Nowadays, of course, it wants nothing to do with “scientists from the more genuinely non-aligned and neutral nations”.

See for example, “World must act on chemical warfare” The Australian, Monday 12 March 1984.  An excerpt:  “But if there were an international tribunal or investigatory body consisting of scientists from the more genuinely non-aligned and neutral nations, there would be the possibility of confirming or refuting any allegations concerning the use of poisonous gas and other obnoxious methods of warfare.  This in itself may not stop the most callous and reckless of governments but it would act as some restraint against a proliferation of chemical warfare.”

6.	The Australian saved its wrath for the real enemy – Australian unions.

For example, in its editorial of Monday 23 April 1984, it discussed chemical warfare – by claiming that “Vietnamese forces are using chemical weapons against Kampucheans who are resisting Hanoi’s occupation of their country” (“Banning chemical war”, Monday 23 April 1984).

But it reserved its editorial outrage that day for union pickets on the construction of the new Parliament House.  In “Time to crack down on wildcat strikes”, Monday 23 April 1984, The Australian said: “It is disgraceful this sort of thing can go on without any penalties against the unions concerned...”

It urged the government to “get tough with militant unions who unnecessarily disrupt work sites and cause losses to the economy”.
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