Over the past two weeks, world news has been dominated by events in the Middle East, and in particular, what has been happening in Iraq. While the Iraqi government and Iraqi people have played some role in this, the story has mainly been about the governments of America and Iran.
The question that any honest person should ask – or at least any honest person with a modicum of intelligence – is “What is the truth?” In other words: “What actually happened? What are the relevant facts? How true are the claims being made?”
I am not sure that many people are seriously asking this question. Most people simply ask “Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?”, and then take it from there. But honest people need to start by asking “What is the truth?”, because the claims are flying.
In times of international crisis, it is the habit of many people to accept what their own governments are saying. This is a bad habit. It is better to look for the facts – and also to look at the records of the governments involved. However, looking at the record of governments requires a bit of effort, since most media outlets tend to reflect that positions of the governments of their own countries.
Let’s take a look at the record of western governments and the western media in the Middle East in recent years.
With regard to Syria, here is what Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, said back in 2016:
The Christian community in Syria is already suffering as a result of the unrest there and this will surely only intensify in the event of Western-backed military intervention. Christians in the West should not stand by and allow their governments to destroy Syria – and the Syrian Church – in pursuit of their own political interests in the region. I urge Christians not to accept blindly all the mainstream media reports about this conflict but to read for themselves the carefully considered arguments of dissenting voices.
Basically, America and Britain supported Islamic militants in Syria, while claiming that they were supporting “moderate rebels.” And most of the western media went along with it.
Then there is the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The American government based its invasion in 2003 on the fact that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction – and also that the Iraqi government had been involved in the 9/11 attacks. Both these claims turned out to be completely false. They were, however believed by the vast majority of Americans back in 2003, partly because American media coverage encouraged such a belief.
Patrick Cockburn, of the Independent, an award-winning journalist, wrote:
The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.
Then there is Libya. In 2011, America, Britain and France intervened on behalf of rebels in Libya – leading to the toppling of the government there, and ongoing civil war and chaos ever since.
In 2016, the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee published its report “Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options.” The report showed that many of the claims of western governments about the situation in Libya were simply untrue, and that much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events.
I pointed out at the time that it was worth noticing that Western media are biased in exactly the same direction as their governments.
And then there is Afghanistan. Just a month ago,
An extensive investigation by The Washington Post into a trove of confidential documents has found that the government has been deliberately misleading the public about the war in Afghanistan with dishonest claims of progress senior officials knew to be untrue:
Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.
And on and on it goes.
Col. Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell when America and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, and who has been very critical of the lies told by the Bush administration in the lead up to the invasion, was scathing about the claims coming from the Trump administration. In a recent interview, he commented that at least the lies had some credibility; the lies coming out of the White House in 2020, by comparison, were so utterly bizarre and silly as to be laughable:
These lies are not nearly as good as Dick Cheney’s lies or Donald Rumsfeld’s lies. Go back and look at some of those press conferences that those guys conducted. I mean their lies were pretty well-rounded and pretty well shaped. These lies are risible. They’re laughable – especially Pence’s.
And yet – they are being reported by the western media with a straight face, and are being widely believed.
The ruling Establishment has learnt a profound lesson from the debacle over Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The lesson they have learnt is not that it is wrong to attack and destroy an entire country on the basis of lies. . . .
No, the lesson they have learnt is never to admit they lied, never to admit they were wrong. They see the ghost-like waxen visage of Tony Blair wandering around, stinking rich but less popular than an Epstein birthday party, and realise that being widely recognised as a lying mass murderer is not a good career choice. They have learnt that the mistake is for the Establishment ever to admit the lies.
The Establishment had to do a certain amount of collective self-flagellation over the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, over which they precipitated the death and maiming of millions of people. . . . These situations are now avoided by the realisation of the security services that in future they just have to brazen it out. The simple truth of the matter – and it is a truth – is this. If the Iraq WMD situation occurred today, and the security services decided to brazen it out and claim that WMD had indeed been found, there is not a mainstream media outlet that would contradict them.
And he concludes:
What we are seeing is the terrifying rise of the zombie state narrative in Western culture. It does not matter how definitively we can prove that something is a lie, the full spectrum dominance of the Establishment in media resources is such that the lie is impossible to kill off, and the state manages to implant that lie as the truth in the minds of a sufficient majority of the populace to ride roughshod over objective truth with great success. It follows in the state narrative that anybody who challenges the state’s version of truth is themselves dishonest or mad, and the state manages also to implant that notion into a sufficient majority of the populace.
These are truly chilling times.
Perhaps all times are chilling. Two thousand years ago, Jesus said
“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37)
The man he was speaking to responded by muttering “What is truth?”
He was, of course, someone who had a lot of experience in politics.
I suspect that most people today don’t take much more interest in truth than Pontius Pilate did. But there is such a thing as truth. It is often unpopular. But it matters. And honest people will look for it with an open mind, and stand up for it.