20.07.2014 Author: Caleb Maupin

The Evolution of US War Propaganda

2343242In the 1984, millions of people in movie audiences in the US were subjected to a right-wing action movie entitled “Red Dawn.” The film depicted a Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan invasion of the United States. It starred Patrick Swayze as a leader of a band of high school aged guerrillas called “Wolverines” who fought against the invaders in the mountains of Colorado.

The film was a vulgar piece of Anti-Communist propaganda, and was widely criticized for its lack of plot structure, and its highly graphic depictions of violence. The film has been listed by many mass murders, such as Timothy Mcveigh and Dylan Klebold, as a favorite.

The film’s plot was beyond unrealistic. The idea of a Soviet, Cuban, and Nicaraguan invasion of the United States was absurd. However, the Hollywood film, still routinely shown on US cable television, fit right into the foreign policy rhetoric of then president Ronald Reagan. Much like many earlier Hollywood films from the 1950s, it screamed “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!”, hoping to build a justification for US militarism around the world. Such rhetoric had been used during the Vietnam and Korean wars as well.

At the time the film was made, Ronald Reagan was sending weapons and guns to a group of armed terrorists in Nicaragua. These thugs known as the “contras” bombed hospitals, schools, and churches. They engaged in barbaric crimes against humanity, with Washington D.C. paying the bill.

Reagan justified his arming of the terrorists by spinning nightmares similar to the plot of “Red Dawn.” The supporters of Reagan’s policy argued that if the revolutionary leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua were able to establish a stable government, this would lead to the US being encircled by Communists, and eventually invaded.

Such a scenario was highly unlikely in reality, but as has often been said “anything is possible in Hollywood.” It should be noted that the film was remade in 2013 to depict, not a Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan invasion, but an invasion of the US from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Like the original, the remake portrays an equally unlikely scenario.

No More “Red Menace”

In current times, Marxism-Leninism is no longer the dominant ideology among groups striving for national liberation and economic independence. War propaganda, used to insight public support for military aggression from the United States, has been forced to adapt to the changing world.

The enemy is not “Communism” as it once was. The US gives weapons to Israel, allegedly to help it fight a Palestinian resistance movement guided by Islam. The US gives weapons and financial support to the Kiev Junta as it fights pro-Russian separatists in the Eastern and Southern regions. The US gives weapons to Islamic radicals in Syria, who are trying to overthrow the secular government. At the same time the US puts illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran, which has a deeply religious, Islamic leadership.

In current times, the victims of US aggression all vary in their ideological outlook, religion, history, and circumstances. As has always been the case, regimes are targeted not for ideological reasons, but because they stand for independence from economic domination by Wall Street and London.

There is no ideological clarity in the current US foreign policy.

Even during the Cold War, there were many inconsistencies in the “Anti-Communism.” A number of leaders targeted by the US during the Cold War, were not Communists. The democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala was not a Communist at all, but he was removed in violent US backed coup for getting the way of profits for the United Fruit Corporation. Mossadeq, the elected leader of Iran, was not also not a Communist by any means, but he got in the way of Wall Street and London’s control of the oil markets. He was also removed by a CIA coup, and replaced by the Shah, a brutal US backed dictator.

The “Anti-Communism” of the cold war was certainly dishonest, but it was also convincing. It was easy to demonize “wealth redistribution” to many people in the US during the economic prosperity of the 50s and 60s, and the global anti-imperialist movement was clearly dominated by Marxist-Leninists.

“Humanitarian Intervention”

There was always an element of “rescue mission” rhetoric involved in US militarist propaganda, but after the collapse of the USSR, it became a much more dominant feature. With the USSR gone, intervention could no longer be pitched as simply an effort to prevent Soviet Tanks from pouring down Main Street in Topeka, Kansas.

Suddenly, US leaders began spinning wars by claiming they were filled with compassion, and felt a moral obligation to rescue people. When George H.W. Bush attacked Iraq in the Gulf War, false stories about Iraqi troops “pulling babies from incubators” in Kuwait were projected all over the media. Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler, and said the bombs would fall in order to rescue “innocent children.”

The horror stories that had justified the war to the US public were eventually proven to be largely fabricated. However, they had been very effective. They convinced millions of people throughout the country to join a patriotic war frenzy, wave flags, and scream “support our troops.” The anti-war protest movement was far smaller than had been expected, and the war was a huge public relations victory for the pentagon.

Clinton’s bombing of Serbia was done under similar pretenses. The media worked overtime, telling of alleged atrocities committed by the Serbian government. The bombs fell, and thousand died. Afterwards, many of the horror stories about “concentration camps” and “ethnic cleansing” were completely disproved.

George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 began with talk of “weapons of mass destruction”, but soon fell back on “giving the Iraqi’s a chance at freedom.” The message was “Saddam is a bad guy” and the US was doing an act of compassionate kindness by invading the country, destroying its infrastructure, and killing hundreds of thousands of its people.

Obama’s “Revolutionaries”

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 did not did not change much in the United States in terms of economics or politics. Power remained where it has always been, with the billionaires who own the major banks and corporations.

However, for millions of people in the US, it was a highly emotional moment. For an African-American named Barack Hussein Obama to be elected as US President, caused a great deal of excitement. It was the culmination of a long dramatic shift in US society regarding racial issues.

Many young people, especially young African-Americans and Latinos, enthusiastically campaigned for Obama and loudly cheered his victory. The financial collapse of 2008 ushered in a new wave of economic populism, with Michael Moore’s film “Capitalism: A Love Story”, and the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.

In this atmosphere, millions of people in the United States were talking about radical sounding words like “class struggle”, “socialism”, and “revolution.” The strategy of war-makers was to turn these anti-establishment sentiments within the US, into imperialist bloodlust internationally.

Samantha Power, who has a record with the left, having appeared on “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman, and reviewed the writings of Noam Chomsky, found herself in the White House. She is considered to be a chief player in promoting the US/NATO intervention in Libya.

US rhetoric talked of the armed insurgents in Libya, funded by the US, as romantic revolutionaries. These “revolutionaries” lynched dark skinned African guest workers. They kidnapped, beheaded, and tortured innocent people. But this was largely ignored in US media. Gaddafi was demonized for being wealthy, and the “Obama generation” was told that their government was “supporting the revolution.”

At the same time that young people were Occupying Zuccotti Park in lower manhattan near Wall Street, the US was sending cruise missiles to Libya. Many liberals and democratic activists were convinced these event were “uprisings” of the same character. Despite the actual intentions of the Libyan and eventually Syrian insurgents, a slick public relations campaign made them appealing to liberals who hated “the one percent.”

As the war drags on, US efforts to continue such rhetoric against the Syrian Arab Republic are failing. Efforts to portray the insurgents in Syria as romantic revolutionaries are especially difficult now that ISIS has spread to Iraq.

Samantha Power has moved from the White House to the United Nations, representing the US as its ambassador. Power has worked with “Invisible Children Inc.”, and claims to be on a mission to oppose the recruitment child soldiers. Yet, at the UN, she is happy to champion the insurgent terrorists in Syria, who actively recruit children as young as eleven and twelve years old into their ranks.

What’s Next?

When Obama threatened to send cruise missiles to Syria in 2013, within the United States he was met with almost nothing but opposition. Though the US media screamed about “chemical weapons”, the US public did not budge. Obama simply could not convince the people to support bombing Syria, no matter how much he tried to present it as a “rescue mission.”

The economic crisis in the United States is continuing to intensify, despite talk of a recovery. Campaigns demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage are gaining popularity, and labor unrest is on the near horizon.

Distrust of US elected officials is higher than ever, especially after so many were disappointed with Obama. The US public is completely un-supportive of military intervention around the world, whether in Ukraine, Syria, or anywhere else. Polls continue to show this.

Around the world, the result of US intervention, whether done with the cover of “stopping the spread of Communism”, to “rescue innocent people”, or to support “revolutionaries”, has always been the same. The people of Libya are no better off since their country was destroyed by US/NATO bombs, and various violent factions battle for power. The Syrian people are no better off as their country is engulfed in an ugly civil war, and US funded terrorists continue killing. Iraqis are no better off after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Afghanistan is also in ruin.

Every US military intervention has obviously resulted in greater misery for the people. Wall street has gotten richer, but the US public has just become deeper in debt. The character of the propaganda is desperately changing, twisting, and evolving, as the public becomes more and more aware of this reality. With Anti-War sentiments growing larger amid the economic crisis, it is getting much harder for Wall Street and Washington to sell war to the US public.

Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was  inspired and  involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.