NATO’s PR Firm: Washington Branch
By Stephen Gowans
The NATO bombing mission in Libya is so obviously about bringing another oil-rich country under Western domination that in attempting to cover up its true aim the mainstream media simply clarify the alliance’s objectives.
Consider Michael Birnbaum’s and Joby Warrick’s ham-handed attempt to sanitize the bombing campaign in the May 10 Washington Post. The reporters write: “NATO’s mission in Libya is to prevent civilian deaths.”
Except they preceded that sentence with this one: “Several alliance members…have been pushing NATO to be more aggressive in striking Gaddafi’s center of power, despite concerns about possible civilian casualties.”
So what appeared was: “Several alliance members…have been pushing NATO to be more aggressive in striking Gaddafi’s center of power, despite concerns about possible civilian casualties. NATO’s mission in Libya is to prevent civilian deaths.”
We could quibble with the duo failing to point out that NATO only says its mission is to prevent civilian deaths, contrary to the standard Western media practice of treating all Libyan government statements as possibly untrue.
For example, we might be told that a Libya government spokesman said NATO air strikes killed three civilians, rather than: NATO air strikes killed three civilians. The “said” part implies that maybe the civilians weren’t killed and that the Libyans are making it up. There’s nothing wrong with this. The Libyans could be making it up.
But the standard is applied unevenly. Apparently, Birnbaum and Warrick never considered that NATO could be making it up too. Or perhaps they did, but chose not to acknowledge it.
Whatever the mechanism that produces this double standard, the double standard exists, and that it exists helps to make the case for NATO’s bombing mission. NATO is protecting civilians. Civilians may have been killed, or not. We only know what the Libyans are telling us.
But there is a bigger problem than double standards. The obvious inconsistency in NATO’s claim that it is protecting civilians while killing them isn’t even remarked upon by the two journalists, even though they’ve made the inconsistency clear enough.
It’s as if the pair wrote: Several members of the medical team have been pushing for a more aggressive intervention, despite concerns it could possibly block blood flow to the patient’s left leg that would require its amputation. The team’s goal is to save the patient’s right leg.
And we can speculate that had the two journalists been around at the time they may have felt no unease at Japan’s justification for its East Asian wars of aggression during the first half of the 20th century. They may have written: Several top members of the government pushed for more invasions, followed by occupations to bring all of East Asia under Japanese control. Japan’s mission is to liberate the region from Western imperialism.
It’s strange that The Washington Post should promote the fiction that NATO’s mission in Libya is to prevent civilian deaths, considering the newspaper and other media have offered ample coverage of the unapologetic acknowledgements of NATO leaders that their mission is to drive Gaddafi from power.
Obama, March 29: “We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gadhafi leaves power.”
The New York Times, March 28: “The strategy for White House officials …is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Colonel Qaddafi, a result that Mr. Obama has openly encouraged.”
Hilary Clinton, April 11: “There needs to be a transition that reflects the will of the Libyan people and the departure of Qaddafi from power and from Libya.”
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, April 11: “The future of Libya should include the departure of Qaddafi.”
More could be added, including French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s and British prime minister David Cameron’s admissions that a NATO objective is to topple Gaddafi.
It’s clear then that the goal of NATO countries is to oust the Libyan leader. In fact, as Richard Lance Keeble pointed out in a Media Lens piece, they’ve been at it for some time. But with the desired goal still distant, some alliance members are prepared to step up the attacks, even if it means more civilian casualties. The lie that the bombing campaign is somehow divorced from the larger goal of regime change, and is limited to protecting civilians, is punctured.
By any measure, except that of sanitizing the naked pursuit of regime change in Libya on behalf of the investor interests The Washington Post represents, the newspaper follows a curious standard of logic and evidence in declaring as fact that NATO’s mission is humanitarian.
The standard is, however, one any employee of a top-flight PR firm understands implicitly.