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July 17, 2007

A Free Press or a
Ministry of Truth?


by Paul Craig Roberts

In his novel 1984, George Orwell portrayed a future time in which the explanations of recent events and earlier history are continually changed to meet Big Brother's latest purpose. Previous explanations disappear down "the memory hole."

Sound familiar? Any American who pays attention can observe the identical phenomenon occurring in the U.S. today.

Think about the Bush regime's changing explanations for the failed U.S. occupation of Iraq. Shortly after Bush's May 2003 announcement of "mission accomplished," the mission revealed itself to be very much unaccomplished. Americans were told that the cause of the snafu was a small Sunni insurgency of two or three thousand at the most inspired by "die-hard Ba'ath Party remnants." Remember the propagandistic deck of cards identifying the most wanted down to the less wanted? Americans were assured that once Saddam Hussein and his relatives and henchmen were rounded up, our troops would be pelted with the promised flowers instead of roadside bombs.

When the roundups, trials, and executions failed to fix the problem, the "die-hard" explanation disappeared. A new explanation, with no continuity to the old, took its place.

The new explanation was that Syria was allowing foreigners to cross its border into Iraq to commit jihad against the American troops. This explanation lasted until it became all too clear, despite the propaganda, that the "foreign fighters" were remarkably well accepted by, and concealed within, the Iraqi communities that were suffering all the collateral damage of the conflict.

When it came time for the U.S. to create an Iraqi government, it was evident that it would be one dominated by Shi'ites. Then, for a limited time, it was permissible to recognize that the insurgency was popularly based in the Sunnis.

As the insurgency evolved into what the Iraq Study Group [.pdf] described as a Sunni-Shi'ite civil war with U.S. troops unclear on which side they stood, the Bush Regime and the captive media began blaming al-Qaeda for the escalating violence. Americans were assured by the Ministry of Truth that there wasn't a civil war, just outsiders stirring up conflict. This enabled Big Brother to deny that there was a civil war and to revive fear of terrorist attacks in the U.S. and UK, the new Oceania.

The al-Qaeda explanation was soon discarded into the memory hole. The explanation implied that Oceania's invasion of Iraq had greatly expanded the ranks and strength of al-Qaeda, thus contradicting big Brother's claim that his war in Iraq was making Oceanians safe by stamping out terrorism. The al-Qaeda explanation had to depart for another reason as well. Cheney, Israel, and the neocons, the rulers of the new Oceania, plan to attack Iran, and so the insurgency in Iraq is now being blamed on Iran.

The Ministry of Truth has accommodated the latest explanation, just as it did all others before, without remarking on the funeral of the previous explanation. All of a sudden, a new explanation appears and is repeated until it, too, goes down the memory hole.

The American and British media work the same way as the Ministry of Truth in Oceania. A day arrives when the "truth" no longer serves the empire or hegemonic power or center of moral purpose in the world, or for short, the regime. When that day arrives, a new explanation appears and is repeated until it, too, is discarded down the memory hole.

In recent weeks Americans have been fed a series of reports from official sources that Iran is arming both Iraqi insurgents and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Experts, both within the government and without, who have been made more attentive by the Bush Regime's false charges of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, have disputed the news reports.

But the reports keep on coming. As I write, the latest story is that the U.S. military "discovered a field of rocket launchers near a U.S. Army base south of Baghdad armed with 34 Iranian-made missiles." Can you imagine? The insurgents went to the trouble of lugging powerful missiles within striking distance of a U.S. base and just left them there unfired to be discovered by the Americans. To further serve Cheney's plan to attack Iran, the media report states: "Earlier this month, U.S. commanders stepped up the charges [against Iran], claiming that senior leaders of Iran's special forces and of the Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah militia have trained Iraqi fighters and provided other support."

Notice that none of the explanations fed to Americans over the years have ever mentioned, even as a faint possibility, that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq might be the cause of the violence in Iraq.

Allegedly, the U.S. is a free and open country with a free press and a government accountable to the people. Yet the information fed to the American people is as thoroughly false as that fed to the citizens of Oceania by Big Brother through the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's famous novel.

In Orwell's novel, despite the totalitarian power of the government, nothing happens to people as long as they accept the government's intrusive monitoring of their lives and do not become interested in truth or facts. In such a world, truth and individuality pass out of human consciousness and become unimportant. Citizens survive by accepting Big Brother's ever changing reality.

This is what the mainstream media in the U.S. and UK are enabling the new Oceania to accomplish. It is pointless to complain about a few Judith Millers here and there at the New York Times, or the obvious warmongers at the Weekly Standard, Fox "News," and Wall Street Journal editorial page. The entire corporate media is behaving as a Ministry of Truth.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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