January 22, 2001
Two weeks ago we reported about Depleted Uranium: The Balkans Syndrome. European governments whose militaries had taken part in the war against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999 and are presently posted in Kosovo under the umbrella of KFOR were beginning to ask questions about the possible radioactive effects of Depleted Uranium (DU) on their soldiery. Even the British government, its back against the wall because of an uproar in public opinion, has decided to screen its military while continuing all the same to deny any causality between the Gulf War/Balkans syndrome and DU. New studies are called for, say the European politicians, so new studies have been launched.
Certainly our European siblings would just as well see the controversy deflated and the issue buried back in the Iraqi sands or drowned in the polluted waters of the river Danube. But they have yet to master the techniques of public opinion control like their American counterparts.
Perhaps we could send them a political consultant, such as the democrat James Carville who's out of a job (not to worry, his wife Mary Matalin, a republican political consultant, has landed a job with our new bureaucratic monarch, George II) to explain and teach our techniques for controlling public opinion.
And what would Mr. Carville say to our European Allies who, as always, are in dire need of our generous and compassionate help (with fair compensation, of course)?
First, he would say that Europe should secure a potent right for its public, the right to freedom of speech. Everybody, of any race or creed, needs to believe that he or she can express his or her opinion at any one time, within the defined limits of an imposing body of laws.
Second, Europeans should consolidate their media under a very maximum of eight to ten conglomerates, preferably controlled by business corporations that have extended links to the Pentagon and the stock market (or whatever they are respectively called in Europe). When you concentrate on your bottom line the news department becomes quite secondary to your purpose. The fewer players the easier it becomes to disseminate the opinion you want to pass on to your public.
Third, you want to focus on your message. For instance, there are times when the best message is no message at all. You just don't talk about it. If the public does not know about an issue it cannot form an opinion. Since no opinion is an opinion in itself, you have accomplished your objective. The issue never surfaced. It's as if it had never existed.
Fourth, if the issue does surface anyway because of the obstinate perseverance of some interest group you can first create doubts in the public opinion through the clever use of opposing experts arguing on very arcane parts and sub-parts of the issue so as to confuse the public opinion. Alternatively, or in coordination and addition, you can make the issue so technically obtuse that the public will simply pass on it. In this case, the issue disappears on its own volition.
Fifth, if the issue is more resilient than you thought you may want to start attacking the credibility of the messenger and raising more doubts by planting some deflecting story in your main media.
Finally, if the messenger is more determined than you thought and brushes away the mud thrown at her or him (or "it," if it is an interest group), you try to silence the messenger, so that out of frustration, he/she/it will be driven to run astray by the law. You then apply the full force of the law against them; you can financially ruin them through the court system, you can send the IRS after them, and you can jail them. There are even more extreme and ultimate actions.
James Carville would continue: Let us take the example of the embarrassing news about depleted uranium. In America, we have been quite successful at keeping the lid on the pot for an entire decade until you guys magisterially screwed up. We have written tens of reports, thousands of pages of conflicting expertise, all published, all available to read - and we know full well that only a fraction of one percentage of the public would ever read them, allowing us to keep DU ordnances in our killing, sorry defense arsenal until further studies can reconcile the irreconcilable.
We took care of the messengers when they became too pushy. For instance, take Philip Berrigan and his acolytes, Susan Crane, Liz Walz, and Steve Kelly, the Catholic pacifists of Plowshares vs. Depleted Uranium. We pushed them hard enough by simply ignoring their plea and they broke the law. Remember, on December 19, 1999, they went to the Warfield Air National Guard Base in Essex, Maryland and disarmed two A-10 Thunderbolt planes, nicknamed Warthogs, the same planes that had fired 95 percent of the depleted uranium deployed by the U.S. during the Gulf War. By trespassing and destroying property these poor fools cornered themselves. As the prosecutor said at the time of their trial in March 2000, " The defendants might believe there is a moral justification, but this is a court of law. There wasn't a legal justification." The law served our purpose. The judge did not even allow them to have expert witnesses on DU speak on their behalf. They now sit in jail and nobody cares. The issue was rendered moot and the public opinion remained focused on the good economic times.
Of course, since the public outcry in Europe, we've had to go back to our well-refined techniques. Let me show you with the help of The New York Times.
First, on January 7, 2000, The Times did not deny the European story, they simply co-opted it through an article by Marlise Simons that essentially said nothing except that the Pentagon and NATO saw no reason for alarm, that the Europeans - you guys - were taking samples and would proceed with studies. And we all know by now that the result of the studies will be as inconclusive as they've always been.
Just in case, Marlise Simons filed another report from Paris, published on January 10, acknowledging again the new scientific studies to take place, the denial of the Pentagon and NATO that "any links could exist between the American-made antitank weapons and the unexplained diseases among veterans," and the worrying clamors in Europe.
But those clamors are indeed worrying as they could eventually reach the public on our shores. A diversion was in order so as to raise some doubt in the public, would the public suddenly get too curious.
On January 11, the AFP filed a short story from Budapest. According to it, Laszlo Botz, the head of Hungary's military intelligence office, told the state radio: "To link radioactive radiation with DU weapons has been part of Milosevic's anti-NATO propaganda." He added that "The first information about radiation and weapons that contain uranium came to our knowledge from Yugoslav sources in 1999. This clearly proves that it was a hysteria provoked by the Milosevic regime." He also said that the Hungarian army intelligence was also "sure that leaking the information was part of Milosevic's policy. It was an endeavor to paint a bad picture about NATO." And the AFP report concludes: "Botz did not rule out the possibility that Milosevic did more than that. 'It is also possible that the Milosevic-controlled (Yugoslav) army delivered radioactive material to the critical areas,' he said. Hungarian intelligence agents 'are continuing to probe and analyze who could have been interested in so badly distorting the effect of the depleted uranium weapons', he added."
The next day, on January 12, the New York Times published a piece by Steven Erlanger who was in Llozice, Kosovo. Erlanger writes 1,000 words or so to essentially explain that the Albanian Kosovars did not really believe in the European reports and that they trusted NATO. They worry a little of course as "who can really know?" and then "They [NATO] know everything that there is in Kosovo. I trust 100 percent in NATO," says Fehmi Gashin. Erlanger again: "Anyway", he said, rubbing his bristle, "what danger compares to what we went through already?"
You see, Carville would tell his European friends, you deflect the story, raise the doubt that it is mere propaganda planted by the evil man and you remind the public of the poor Albanians. In other words, you let the public sense that the story may not be true in the first place and if it turned out to be true, DU was still worth using to save the Albanian community in Kosovo. Just remember, people in the U.S. remain under the impression that the Serbs killed tens of thousands Albanians. They have yet to hear and believe that the final count was closer to 2,800 dead among all communities (Albanian, Roma, Serbian, etc.) and they have no idea that since KFOR has taken over Kosovo, maybe more Serbs, Romas and other non-Albanian minorities have been killed than during the entire Kosovo war. What is important is not what the public knows. It is what the public believes it knows. And it believes that the Serbs created a genocide and are evil. In this light, DU becomes an ordnance of redemption, whether radioactive or not, like the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then the public can stop listening (assuming it ever started) and go back to the news du jour, our new president, the looming economic crisis, the coming Superbowl, the latest crime in their neighborhood, etc.
To finally bury the story until you guys make more waves and force us to act again using the same techniques, The New York Times published the following day a piece by Gina Kolata that is a perfect example of the point made earlier; that is, craft the issue in such terms that it is so technically obtuse that the public will simply pass on it. Kolata reports about Uranium 235 and 238 (she of course leaves Uranium 236 out of her story) and cites a series of obliging experts, finishing her piece citing a scientist, Dr. Thun, thus: "In most cases, one of the major reasons for doing a systematic evaluation is to determine what is actually going on and to provide some real information, rather than rumors."
Do you see, would conclude James Carville, how it works? Pretty simple, no? From then on, The New York Times can report again on the European furor and on the traces of uranium here and there. It will be dismissed.
Of course, it would help if your Pentagon (or whatever you call it in Europe) is the biggest, largest, and strongest corporation in the world upon which so many Americans depend for their paycheck. Now, if you, Europeans, think as president Dwight Eisenhower said on January 17, 1961 that there is a danger in the links between a "strong military establishment and a huge arms industry," and if you think with him that it "may threaten the freedoms and democratic rights in the United States," then I would submit to you that it would definitely help also if your public believes in the media and in the actuality that a man elected with fewer popular votes than his opponent, elected by less than 25 percent of the voters, elected by a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court, is the legitimate president of our great democracy (or whatever our system has become). We are, after all, a country of believers. Just ask my wife.
As said, what's important is what the people believe and your job is to fashion the public opinion accordingly with the tools and techniques I have described.
Here's my bill. Believe me, I'm worth it.
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Related External Links
Iraq: Extreme Birth Deformities from D.U. Ammunition Extremely disturbing pictures. A must see to understand the consequences of our waring actions. Just know these pictures are very graphic. Not for the faint of heart or for children.
Are the governments of Nato guilty of committing a heinous war crime? by Robert Fisk, January 17, 2001 (The Independent)
In another Bosnian town two small boys lie in their hospital beds. Is this collateral damage? by By Robert Fisk in Duboj, Bosnia. January 19, 2001 (The Independent)
Proposition One A grassroots voter initiative movement for disarmament of nuclear weapons and the conversion of the arms industries to human and environmental needs
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation An International Education and Advocacy Group on Issues of International Peace and Security
UK Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU)
Assessment of the Environmental Impact of Military Activities During the Yugoslavia Conflict Preliminary Findings, June 1999 - Prepared by the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC)
Depleted Uranium Haunts Kosovo and Iraq (Middle East Report 215, Summer 2000)
Depleted Uranium: A Post-War Disaster for Environment and Health (Laka Foundation, May 1999)
The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium (Extensive investigative research by The Chugoku Shimbun, a newspaper based in Hiroshima, Japan)
Related Internal Links
Apocalypse Now by Aleksandra Priestfield
Depleted Uranium: The Balkans Syndrome by Gilles d'Aymery
Compressing the Gap Between Nuclear and Conventional Weapons by Philip Berrigan
Millennial Message by David Krieger
Excerpt of the prologue to Bloody Hell by Simon Weston
Short Excerpts of "I Had Seen Castles" by Cynthia Rylant
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath