National Post a national disgrace
August 19, 2002

Imagine you’re a juror at a criminal trial and the time comes to decide the fate of the defendant. During the trial, however, only the prosecution was allowed to present evidence, and defence council was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses. Moreover, the judge embellished the prosecution’s case in his charge to the jury. How do you render an informed verdict?

You might object that this scenario is absurd, because no courtroom in a just society would conduct itself in this manner. What I described is more applicable to a lynching or the “show trials” that took place in Stalinist Russia, or still take place today in authoritarian regimes like Burma. Yet in Canada, in the court of public opinion, specifically the pages of Israel Asper’s National Post, such disregard for the rights of an accused, even an unsavoury one, is common. Take the case of U.S. vs. Iraq.

President George W. Bush is desperate to manufacture consent, domestically and abroad, to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Post’s coverage of this overtly illegal act amounts to warmongering boosterism, uncritical acceptance of the U.S. arguments, disregard of evidence favourable to Iraq, and character assassination of Hussein.

You, the reader, are in the same position as the hypothetical juror, and as the following examples show, the Post’s coverage has as much in common with ethical journalism as the opening scenario has with criminal justice.

The need for an attack is based on the assertion that Hussein is gearing up for a war of aggression and will use chemical and biological weapons, but against whom is not clear. All that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice can say to this (Aug. 16) is that he plans to wreak havoc on his own people, his neighbours and “all of us,” whatever that means. At no time does Rice or anyone else ask why Iraq would risk more suffering after suffering through the devastation of the Iran/Iraq War, the Gulf War and crippling economic sanctions.

Hussein harbours legitimate hatred for the U.S. and Israel, but so do many other countries. That does not mean he plans to attack, and it does not give the U.S. the right to launch unprovoked war at the expected cost of thousands of Iraqi lives.

In fact, the U.S., not Iraq, is the one spoiling for bloodshed. On April 15, the Washington Post reported that Paul Wolfowitz, deputy Secretary of Defence asked the CIA to investigate Hans Blix, the 73-year-old chief UN weapons inspector. Wolfowitz was concerned that Blix’s report would not be sufficiently negative to sanction an attack on Iraq, so he sought to discredit Blix as being soft on Iraq.

Six days later, the U.S. forced the removal of José Bustani as director-general for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for not being anti-Iraq. As The Guardian reported: “By encouraging Saddam Hussein to sign the chemical weapons convention, José Bustani appears to have become an obstacle to the American intention to engage in military action in Iraq.”

The Bush government also justifies deposing Hussein because he’s “evil,” but that’s inane. The U.S. props up many “evil” leaders—Augusto Pinochet, Ariel Sharon, the Shah of Iran—so why make such a big deal of Hussein? It can’t be over his use of chemical weapons, because the U.S. helped him deploy them during the Iran/Iraq war. As the New York Times reported, the U.S. helped Hussein draw up battle plans knowing full well that he intended to use poison gas. against the Iranians. Does this mean that Ronald Reagan and Bush’s father are also evil?

Finally, the Post makes no mention of what the U.S. would gain by attacking Iraq. The U.S.’s staunchest allies, to say nothing of the Arab world, all oppose aggression. It’s a no-win proposition. There is no up-side.

Even if the U.S. did defeat Iraq, what would it do? There’s no government-in-waiting, and restoring the Hashemite monarchy is a non-starter. Furthermore, if Hussein does have chemical weapons, an attack will only make their use more likely. Who could possibly benefit?

Significantly, the Post prominently features Israeli spokesmen, the most vigorous proponents of war. Israel is also the only country that stands to benefit from the destruction of an Arab military force. Thus, one wonders, who is making U.S. policy, and whose interests is Asper serving?

The Post willfully ignores such questions, and instead regurgitates fatuous White House pronouncements, and manufactures danger out of thin air. It speaks of “a suspected biological weapons facility” and says the U.S. “is convinced” that Hussein is trying to acquire chemical weapons.

This is not reporting; this is guilt by innuendo. The Canadian public deserves to know the whole story and understand why a Canadian “newspaper” is egging the U.S. on to commit mass murder.