The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The end of photographic evidence

I read a really interesting article about a year ago (I had it linked but I can't find it now because I have such a crappy filing system for links) about how the last 150 years or so have been a really aberrant time in the history of humanity. Prior to the Civil War, there was never any photographic proof of anything. So, if someone told you they saw something, you would have to judge that claim based on what you knew of the person. No one could produce undeniable evidence in the form of a photograph, or a sound recording, for what they had seen or heard. All that changed with photography and videography. For a time, evidence of things seen could be encapsulated, stored, retrieved when necessary, produced for a jury, examined, etc. And that subtly changed the way we dealt with "the truth" between us. Because if a normally untrustworthy person could produce a picture to back up his account, well then we had to believe him, didn't we?

Just as technological progress produced this state of affairs, so does it take it away. Photo and video manipulation technology has become so good that there is now no way to distinguish well-made fakes and forgeries from real photographs and videos. And so, the concept of objective visual "proof" has passed away again, and we are left again to rely on what we know about ourselves as guides to the truth.

I mention all of this because I read that the Bush administration is now ready to produce the evidence against Iraq that they claim they have had for all of this time. On the radio this morning, it was announced they had satellite photos and intercepts which would show that Iraq has been cheating or continuing their weapons programs or something. Clearly, this is another step towards justifying their war inevitable.

But, it also raises some questions. Why produce this evidence now? Why authorize the UN inspectors, only to end run around them with this evidence, which we apparently didn't furnish to them in the first place? Why was this evidence not present in the packet which Tony Blair presented a month ago? If it was not ok to present it then, why present it now? What has changed? And finally, can we trust this evidence?

The movie "Wag the Dog" was about Gulf War I. Most people of course think it had something to do with Clinton, because of the beret-wearing presidential dalliance in the film, and because the conservative media did such a good job of parroting "Wag the Dog (Squawk!)" in talking about Clinton going after Bin Laden (remember him?). But the movie was devised as satire about how the US population was rushed into war against Iraq the first time. There were two crucial pieces of misinformation spread before the start of that war. The first was some _satellite pictures_ showing Iraq's army amassing at the Kuwait border, ready to invade. The second was a heart-wrenching tale about Iraqi soldiers removing premature Kuwaiti infants from their incubators, stealing the incubators, and leaving the infants to die. These data were used to push the Congress and the American people to support the fight against Iraq. And both of them were false, as cynically produced as the war against Albania was in "Wag the Dog". The satellite photos turned out to be completely false forgeries. The Iraqi army was simply not there. The incubator story was completely made up. The woman who told the story to Congress turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, and had never even been in Kuwait when the baby story was supposed to have happened. The story was never verified by any other "eyewitness", and has been proven to be false. (I have links to articles discussing this deception, but I'm having trouble finding them. I'll keep looking).

To give Poppy Bush credit, he and his war machine did take the time to build up an international coalition against Saddam before we took him on, and these two lies may not have had to been used. Iraq was on the verge of invading another sovereign country, after all (even though Kuwait was slant-drilling Iraq's oil across their border - much like that Simpson's episode! And even though our Ambassador to Iraq at the time, April Glaspie, gave Saddam tacit permission to invade Kuwait along with assurance that we wouldn't do anything to stop him). But still, the rest of the world weighed the evidence and decided that Saddam needed to be stopped.

The current situation is totally different, because the people on this planet do not want this war. Even the American people do not want this war. Even Chris Matthews and Robert Novak (Robert Novak!), who usually are up to their cheeks in this administration's posterior, are opposed to this war. Even Norman Swartzkopf has expressed reservations, speaking for many Pentagon personnel who cannot give their views professionally. (See also these links for more veterans who are against this war, "3 Retired Generals Warn of Peril in Attacking Iraq Without Backing of U.N.", and former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark's letter to the UN).

So now the Bush administration, caught lying and obfuscating and hiding in secrecy so many times before, so obviously wanting to invade Iraq for the oil (they are, of course, trying to buy away France's UN security council veto by offering oil to French oil companies in the "liberated Iraq"), made up of the same people who doctored satellite photos and ginned up false human rights stories 12 years ago, are going to produce satellite photos as their smoking gun against Saddam.

All I'm saying is, we might need a grain of salt for this new "evidence". That's all I'm saying.

Iraq Watch

Digby has some excellent commentary on a NYT article about why our European allies think Bush sucks.

Humor Watch

Political Strikes has some funny cartoons made from actual photos. Usually good for a laugh.

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