Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
November 26, 2006

Launching The Resistance

Saddam-Slingshot

(click for full size)



Back when newspapers still distinguished between news and opinion, the role of the news section was to note events and present every salient fact related to those events.  If, in the process, the story opened new and larger cans of worms, muddied the political waters or stepped on somebody’s toes, well, that’s what the form was all about.

So, how did things get so perverted?

These days, its hard to imagine a a current-event story presented outside its political context.  In fact, the basic news value of an event today is its relation to politics.  After the basic who, what, where, and when, it is common practice for news stories to choose and even solicit information detailing how an event modifies or alters the underlying political dynamic, or somehow verifies or contests a particular ideological scenario.

Given the authority of the newspaper and the traditional nature of the form, even people who appreciate this mutation have trouble seeing through it.  As a result, what many people tend to perceive as objective is actually the conceptualization of an agenda, the framing of hypothesis as fact, the amplification of propaganda, and even the re-fashioning of hysterical thinking so it sounds like logic.

Take this NYT article and accompanying image as an example.

On Friday, The Times reported the discovery of a Saddam Hussein video, potentially developed for television, said to be made about six months or less before the U.S. invasion.  In the presentation,  Hussein stands around with his advisors testing out crude weapons, such as this crossbow.  In the dialogue, he talks about the merit of weapons like slingshots, also stating how these kinds of things “can be made at home” and possibly mass produced.

From there, the article leaps to the theory — mostly through its choice of quotations — that this villain is already masterminding what has turned into an unstoppable civil war.

First, an Iraqi historian is quoted as speculating “whether this [video] was preparation for the resistance.”  The  an Iraqi scholar notes Hussein’s specific use of  the Arabic word “muqawama,” which means “resistance.”  With perfect 20-20 hindsight, he frames the discussion on the video (quoting the article) as “enlisting civilians in a future insurgency against an occupying army.”

Never mind the fact, cited in the article out of due diligence, that military analysis (and interviews with Hussein himself) now indicate Saddam never expected to be attacked.  Forget the fact, also mentioned, that Saddam was constantly worried about an armed uprising by the Shiites. 

Having served as an Administration mouthpiece in the build up to war, and seduced by to the political narrative of the U.S. as invincible and Hussein as viable foe, The Times is intent on suggesting that this tape, its imagery, and the still frame above all demonstrate that Saddam, practically at that moment, is firing the first shot of the resistance.



(image: CBS News.  published November 24, 2006.  nytimes.com)

  • smiley

    With all the talk of WMDs prior to the war, is it at all possible that the video was a big joke? You know, “They think we have WMDs, let’s make a video showing them our “WMDs”. HaHaHa.”

  • lytom

    Digging out for anything to occupy readers mind so they have conversation going on what actually S.Hussein meant, said and intended with these weapons…
    That, the present situation in Iraq is unbearable, that thousands of Iraqi are dead each week, seems too repetitive for news.
    Borat had it right! May George Bush drink the blood of every single man, woman and child of Iraq! May you destroy their country so that of the next 1000 years not even a single lizard will survive in their deserts!” The crowd cheers wildly….yes in is in Virginia, but then everywhere in the world the life and business go on as usual!…

  • jt from BC

    smiley >
    Its Saddam in a lighter moment doing his David and Goliath skit. There’s speculation that Tariq Aziz (who is a Christan) is to be freed to negotiate on behalf of the occupying forces with the Sunni. He held the position as Deputy Prime Minister, when he offered his resignation in the past it was always refused. He has never been put on trial nor the infamous “Dr Germ” (Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azawi)
    Get ready for additional (MSM) and US skits ahead. HoHoHo

  • floopmeister

    Actually, there are some rather interesting historical resonances here…
    During the first siege of Baghdad in 812 (in a civil war between two brothers for the Caliphate), the regular citizens of the city fought ferociously to defend it:
    Al-Amin’s resort to force ended in disaster. Al-Ma’mun’s forces, led by Tahir b. al-Husayn and Harthamah b. A’yan, quickly closed in on Baghdad. In a siege lasting over a year, Baghdad suffered extensive damage from the fighting and from bombardment by siege engines. Gangs of vagrants and paupers, organized by al-Amin into irregular units, fought a kind of urban guerrilla war. But, with Tahir and Harthamah enforcing the siege and with most of al-Amin’s associates having switched their loyalties to the winning side, the caliph was forced to sue for terms. These were worked out among representatives of al-Amin, Tahir, and Harthamah. However, when the caliph boarded the boat that was to take him into Harthamah’s custody, troops loyal to Tahir assaulted and capsized the boat. Al-Amin fell into the Tigris, was apprehended, and was executed that night on orders from Tahir. Thus ended this phase of the civil war. Al-Ma’mun was now caliph.
    Baghdad became a mediaeval Stalingrad, with the residents of various suburbs fighting street to street using whatever makeshift weapons they could get their hands on. Barricades and trenches in the city; ballista and catapult bombardments throughout; residential areas demolished; and the residents’ militias were the last to surrender.
    I wonder if those stubborn defenders of Baghdad used a similar weapon to this slingshot during the siege? I wonder if this history was not in anyone’s minds in the lead up to the US invasion?
    I’m quite willing to entertain the thought that this outcome was both expected somewhat, and prepared for, by the Iraqi government in the lead up to the war. Juan Cole’s been mentioning the rumours of a planned direct assault on the Green Zone by former military officers – is their an element of ‘Rope-a-Dope’ in the lack of resistance to the US in the final entry into Baghdad?
    This is the third siege of Baghdad, after all.

  • Paul

    Is that “Junior” Soprano standing to the left of Saddam? I knew it!!! That’s why the Bush Cabel moved in on Iraq…it was a mob move all along!

  • GeorgeF

    Quite interesting: the Los Angeles Times has thought about the possibility to re-install Saddam, reasoning that at least even a gruesome dictatorship is not as horrible as a civil war….
    Has anyone started to compare the figures of the daily victims of Saddam with the actual killing-rates?

  • http://molly.douthett.net momly

    Re-install Saddam?
    WOW!
    Watch the neo-con’s heads’ explode!!!!

  • GeorgeF

    Yeah! Its certainly cheaper to provide Saddam with a few satellite-infos about the Iranians plus some high-tech weaponry while he is making the Mullahs busy with another 8-years war instead of keeping a 140.000 man-army over there. Saves of course also the life of many a GI.

  • http://www.keirneuringer.blogspot.com Keir

    GeorgeF and momly: If Qadafi can be rehabilitated, why not Saddam?
    On talk of “resistance” in The Times article, my question is why is this a bad thing? Most countries train and keep their militaries for defence and public safety. Of course there should be a resistance, and the invaders should be expelled. Maybe The Times has it right, with the wrong frame.

  • ummabdulla

    I have no idea what Saddam was doing, but when I read about the slingshots, I immediately thought of Palestinian youths using them against Israeli tanks. There are similarities between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the American occupation of Iraq, so someone might have considered that Iraqi youths would resort to slingshots, too. The Iraqi resistance has access to other weapons, though.
    The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told Muslims to teach their children horseback riding, swimming, and archery, so the bow and arrow isn’t really surprising, either.
    Off topic a little, I’m curious about what happened to those doubles that Saddam supposedly had? They haven’t turned up, have they?

  • ummabdulla

    My husband was going through the hundreds of satellite channels and came across one from the “Jaysh al-Rashedeen” (al-Rashedeen Army). It’s the voice of insurgents in Iraq. It just shows them doing attacks, with subtitles (in English!) saying what the target was, etc. I just saw it for the first time, and all of the narration I’ve heard is in English – and addressed to George Bush. The guy is telling Mr. Bush that they’ve decided to change their methods, and that they’re going to target senior officers and officials in military bases, well-known hotels, etc. They show them preparing and carrying out attacks, saying that that whole thing took four minutes, etc.
    Oh, now they’re showing Bush in his flight suit with that “Mission Accomplished” sign behind him. Cutting back and forth between him and Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” piloting his jet fighter, and then to them setting and hiding explosives… these guys are much more sophisticated than people might think. Then footage of the American helicopters leaving Saigon, saying that this is what will happen soon. All with commentary full of digs at Bush and his policy in Iraq. At the end, it says that there wil be no negotiations and that the U.S. will have to leave, and that they’ll fight the Americans while they’re fighting and while they’re retreating, and until the last soldier is evacuated, and only then will they say “Mission Accomplished”…
    I’m just amazed that this little group of “dead-enders” has their own production company, satellite station, etc.

  • spooked

    As to the original post, I’m not sure it needs to be an “either-or” situation. It is possible Saddam both was not expecting to be attacked but also was planning for an insurgency in case he was attacked. In fact, it would be foolish for Saddam not to have some back-up plan in case Iraq was attacked, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Saddam had planned for some level of insurgency– in fact there are some articles from 2003 that basically said as much.

  • http://molly.douthett.net momly

    Digby at Hullaballo cites Jonathan Chait (I think?) saying that Saddam should be re-instated.
    What the hell?
    Isn’t this what the neo-cons accused the liberal peaceniks of wanting in the first place?
    BTW, where is Annoying Old Guy these days?

  • John R

    Ummaabdula – Wow! Thanks for sharing that – I wish I had satellite tv.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes