What a Real Propaganda Campaign Looks Like

Unfortunately, I have the sense that I'll be writing quite a bit about Benghazi in the coming months, since Republicans are cranking up their scandal calliope and the news media will eventually turn its bored gaze to the noise and fireworks. As we should keep in mind, the alleged misdeed at the heart of this matter has been downgraded from "the administration allowed four Americans to be killed" to "the administration tried to spin the story to make sure they didn't look bad." That is, quite literally, the terrible crime Republicans now believe the Obama administration committed, and the thing about which we're all supposed to be outraged. That's it. They spun. And how can we get to the bottom of this spinning without a select committee, and hour upon hour of hearings, complete with a blizzard of feigned outrage, to pile on top of the hour upon hour of hearings we've already had?

Last night, the Daily Show gave us a little reminder of what a real propaganda campaign looks like:   

 

I watched this with a heavy heart. Because though the Iraq war started only 11 years ago, I fear that few remember the details of the campaign of deception, fear-mongering, and outright lies that made it possible. Most Americans have forgotten about the aluminum tubes. Condoleezza Rice said: "We do know that [Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into...into Iraq, for instance, of...high-quality aluminum tubes that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." That was a lie.

Most have forgotten about Colin Powell's U.N. speech, that pile of baloney crammed into a bullshit sandwich, which the media received so rapturously, about a mysterious substance called yellowcake. They've forgotten about Dick Cheney peddling the bogus tale of a meeting in Prague between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials, and about Cheney telling the country: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

And don't forget the purpose of it all, which was to convince Americans to go along with an absolutely purposeless war, a war that cost the country well over $2 trillion, yes that's trillion with a T, and 4,500 American lives, and tens of thousands more physically and mentally scarred for life, and produced Iraqi deaths that could number as high as half a million. That was the purpose of their mendacious campaign—not to make themselves look good for a news cycle or two, but to enrage and terrify the American people to a sufficient degree that they would assent to what may be the single dumbest idea in the history of American foreign policy.

But as far as most Americans are concerned, that's just a fading memory. Oh, sure, you'll be able to read about it in books, or ask someone who remembers it, who might tell you what a fetid pile of lies the American people had dumped on their heads to create such an encompassing disaster. But as long as there's a Republican who breathes air, that history will be contested, and the media hacks who so enthusiastically boosted the Bush administration's deception will intone with all appropriate somberness from the perches they still occupy that it was a noble cause and nobody willfully deceived anyone and there's nothing at all to learn from it other than that America must stand tall and be firm and show strength.

To be clear, I say all this not to claim that the pre-Iraq propaganda campaign has any particular bearing on what the Obama administration did or didn't do after the Benghazi attacks. The "evidence" Republicans can muster on that score will stand or fall, and almost certainly fall, on its own. But this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the insanity the previous administration foisted on the country, with such horrific results. We shouldn't forget. 

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