A flurry of signals: disengagement, or disinformation?

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at attbi.com
Sun Jan 12 04:36:54 MST 2003

A few days ago, in the post entitled "Death of Satire Part 2: Lies, Damned
Lies, and Bush/Blair press statements", I quoted the following from a news
story (this time I have thrown in some editorial remarks):

"The address was as critical of America as Blair has ever been. It came as
his government announced the activation of 1,500 military reservists and the
dispatch of an amphibious task force for potential duty against Iraq.

"Rosemary Hollis, head of the Middle East program at the Royal Institute of
International Affairs in London, said the contradictions between Blair's
words and actions [that is to say, the LIES AND DECEPTIONS - LP] could be
intentional [in fact, must be, unless you think he accidentally signed the
activation order in error believing it was some kind of public welfare
measure - LP].

'"There have to be different messages for different audiences, and they
to be sent simultaneously,'" she said.  [That is: it is necessary for
imperialist warmongers to talk out of both sides of their mouth - LP].

"The buildup of forces was likely aimed at rattling [or CONQUERING - LP]
Saddam, while the cool talk could be meant to reassure [that is, BAMBOOZLE -
LP] the British public and dissenters within the Labor Party, Hollis said."
(end excerpt)

"In war, the truth is so important, it must always be accompanied by a
bodyguard of lies."
Winston Churchill said this.  It is still true, which is why Rumsfeld quoted
it at a press conference last year, adding "don't quote me."  But, in the
imperialist conquests of the present day, the role of the bodyguard of lies
is to deceive, not primarily the country which is to be conquered (and the
government of Iraq is in fact NOT deceived, as its statements make clear),
but above all the people of the imperialist "democracy" itself.

Now, if Blair and Bush are pursuing a common strategy, then you might see
the exact same thing on this side of the Atlantic, and in fact you DO.  Here
you have an article from the Chicago Tribune of Friday, January 16 (I don't
know if this is still on line anywhere), by Robin Wright, entitled "Signals
grow that attack on Iraq is not imminent":

"The drumbeat of war may be slowing.

"After weeks of mounting expectations that an invasion is imminent, the
United States and many of the key players in the showdown with Iraq
indicated Thursday that UN weapons inspections will run on well beyond the
Jan. 27 due date for the first formal report to the world body on Saddam
Hussein's cooperation. [...]

"'Ir's wrong to assume anything has to happen in January or February.  We're
not in this to call a quick war, so don't assume any timetable,' a senior
State Department official said Thursday.  'We have to exhaust the UN process
to get people to come through with military and other support.' [...]

"The flurry of signals from the Bush administration is in part to 'puncture
the bubble' of speculation about U.S. intentions amid a rapidly accelerating
deployment of American troops near Iraq, the State Department official

On the 'accelerating deployment', see this Associated Press story:

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ordered about 62,000 more U.S.
troops to head for the Persian Gulf region in coming days, doubling the size
of the force now arrayed on the periphery of Iraq, two senior U.S. officials
said Saturday. The movements make clear that the Pentagon intends to have
sufficient force in place for an Iraq war as early as the first weeks of
February, although the White House says President Bush has not yet decided
to attack. "


Not only are the "flurries of signals" the same, but the news stories are
practically the same; compare "reassuring the British public" with
"puncturing the bubble of speculation", and "as his government announced the
activation" with "amid the deployment".

So, what are you going to believe: the evidence of the troop movements, or
the evidence of words from Blair and an unnamed State Department official?
Or Richard Perle (see Feldman's post)?

Let's go a step further and look at the timing of these "flurries of
signals".  What is going on right now that Blair and Bush might be thinking
about particularly, around January 9?  What is going on in Chicago is that
we are encouraging people to buy their bus tickets to Washington for January
18.  This attempt to "puncture bubbles" and "reassure the public" comes in
the crucial days before the international day of anti-war protest, with
important actions here in the US and in Britain.

Is there possibly a connection between these things?  Well, do you think
Alex Cockburn was right, in the article posted here by Ralph Johansen last
night, when he wrote, "U.S. ambassadors and CIA heads of station may
deprecate and downplay the world protests in their reports, but they cannot
dismiss them, any more than can the White House."?

If you believe this, what is the logical corollary?  IF the imperialist
governments are not "dismissing" the anti-war protests, THEN they are paying
attention to us.  And IF they are paying attention to us, THEN they will
attempt to weaken our movement somehow - possibly by repression, or possibly
by issuing a "flurry of signals" which cost them nothing and might get
people to believe that war is not imminent and it's not necessary to go to
the demonstrations!  I wish I could remember where I wrote or said this,
because I could get pundit points for it, but a few weeks back I warned
someone somewhere that, as January 18 approached, we might hear public
pronouncements intended to defuse the sense of urgency (or, if you prefer,
puncture the bubble of speculation) and reduce participation in the
demonstrations.  And here they are on schedule!

A Chicago organizer, speaking at yesterday's demonstration of 2000 people
here (far short of LA's numbers, but it was COLD here), in fact cited
stories like these as evidence that the imperialist war coalition was
falling apart and that Blair is seriously urging Bush to put off the
invasion until autumn - though he correctly said that, if true, this is all
the more reason to go to DC and keep the pressure on, and firmly encouraged
people to go over to our bus ticket table.  The people we are trying to sell
bus tickets to may not draw that conclusion, however.

Therefore, while it MIGHT be that these 'signals' and 'statements' really
mean that Bush and Blair have really backed off from the idea of a quick
war, I believe that it would be very dangerous to put any reliance in this
interpretation.  It is at least as likely, or more likely, that these
signals and statements and planted stories are PURE DISINFORMATION, and will
be "operative" only until January 19.  I think we should encourage an
attitude of complete skepticism toward all such 'signals', particularly
considering that Perle, who has infinitely more authority in this
administration than Powell, is issuing his own signals the other way.

Some of us might have been feeling pretty good on reading these possibly
premature obituaries on the February war plans, and I don't want to
completely throw cold water on those feelings.  I think we should feel good.
Mao wrote that "it is a good thing to be attacked by the enemy", and
certainly there is a good side to it: if they feel the need to disinform us,
then it means that we are having an effect.  If today they feel the need to
falsely signal that they are slowing their war plans, then tomorrow - IF we
do not relent, but accelerate and broaden our own efforts - they may
actually do it.  The 'signal' to relax will be when Blair de-activates the
reserves and recalls the amphibious task force, and the Bush administration
brings 62,000 troops back to the U.S.

Lou Paulsen
bus organizer, Chicago

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