Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

24 Jul, 2005

Wag The Dog Distractions: The Oldest Trick in the Book

Originally Published: 24 Jul 2005

“Soul-searching” of June 12 ended with this comment: “Today, ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ is on the wane. The real ‘Operation Infinite Justice’ has just begun. What’s likely to happen next? See the movie, ‘Wag the Dog’.”

“Wag the Dog” is a Robert de Niro movie about a political distraction created by master spin-doctor to prop up a president’s position in the face of a sex scandal, with an election approaching.

It’s the oldest trick in the book — a ruse to sidetrack public attention from an unpopular issue. The London bombings of July 7 did just that.

Until then, the British media was in hot pursuit of the Downing Street memo. Even the embedded US press was joining in. Both Blair and Bush were under massive pressure over the mounting Iraqi casualty count.

Overnight, it is “war-on-terror” time again. Iraq and the Downing Street memo both have faded from the media radar screen.

To those tracking the war on Islam, the game-plan is proving all too predictable.

On July 11, Blair told the House of Commons: “It seems probable that the attack was carried out by Islamist extremist terrorists, of the kind who over recent years have been responsible for so many innocent deaths in Madrid, Bali, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco, of course in New York on September 11th, but in many other countries too.”

He could have stopped at …Islamists,” or at “…Islamist extremists.” But no, he went the distance, in full view of the TV cameras, just to make absolutely clear which terror he was referring to.

On July 13, it was reported that hundreds of armed men surrounded a primary school and houses in northern Kenya and killed at least 56. One mother told of how the gunmen killed her two children and beheaded her husband while she watched.

As “Islamist extremist terrorists” were not involved, the mainstream media and politicians had little interest. No-one mentioned the ‘t’ word. There were no moments of silence or flowers of emotional stories about the victims.

Today, the 7/7 bombers apparently have been identified. But death also apparently means automatic conviction.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman callously put it: “One of the London bombers was married, with a young child and another on the way…. when a British Muslim citizen, nurtured by that society, just indiscriminately blows up his neighbours and leaves behind a baby and pregnant wife, to me he has to be in the grip of a dangerous cult or preacher – dangerous to his faith community and to the world.”

Had he been alive, wouldn’t that have read “alleged London bombers”?

My understanding of the “freedom and democracy” being so tenaciously spread worldwide is that citizens are innocent before being proven guilty.

Until it can be established after due legal process that the alleged bombers were responsible beyond any reasonable doubt, they are within their rights to be referred to as “suspects”.

As of this writing, details of the 7/7 bombing are very murky. Totally clear, however, are the weapons of mass deception blazing away at “Islamist extremism”.

On July 15, another NYT columnist, Paul Krugman, explained how this game is played.

“Mr. (Karl) Rove (Bush’s senior advisor and chief political strategist) also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics.

“Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don’t have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person’s effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they’ll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.”

In other words, a lie told often enough becomes the truth.

A wag-the-dog war-on-terror distraction allows other potentially controversial actions to be taken free of an international furore.

On 10 July 2005, the Israeli cabinet approved a new route for its West Bank wall that will separate some 55,000 Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem from the rest of the city. No outcry followed.

The eight-metre high Israeli wall was ruled illegal by the UN International Court of Justice last year.

But, in one of the many idiosyncrasies of the “new world order”, that court’s rulings are non-binding. Hence, Israel, a “democracy”, simply ignores them.

So do the countries preaching “freedom and democracy.”

Then, consider this report on http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=85346. [It was still there at the time of writing of this column on July 18].

Headlined, “Israel Was Warned Ahead of First Blast,” it said: “Army Radio quoting unconfirmed reliable sources reported a short time ago that Scotland Yard had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred.

“The Israeli Embassy in London was notified in advance, resulting in Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remaining in his hotel room rather than make his way to the hotel adjacent to the site of the first explosion, a Liverpool Street train station, where he was to address an economic summit.”

That story alone should warrant a thorough investigation. Who told the Israelis? Why just them?

And why not the hapless London commuters, for God’s sake?

It was later claimed that the Israelis were notified only “after” the blast. If you believe that, I have a used car to sell you.

Even if everything being written about “Islamist extremism” is true, it is also certifiably, undeniably true that, contrary to the assertions of the leaders of the “free and democratic” countries, not a single weapon of mass destruction was found in Iraq, thousands of people have died and no-one has been held accountable.

We are now being asked to simply “move on” and let “freedom and democracy” take hold in Iraq.

Does the term “evil ideology” apply only to “Islamic extremism”?

What’s next? Some more forecasts:

As British investigators and media get to the bottom of what really happened on 7/7, some highly unpalatable truths will emerge.

Then, it will be time for another “Wag the Dog” crisis – like an international economic meltdown, or an attack on Iran (after somehow linking it to ‘Islamic terror’), or some other upheaval to distract attention.

These things DO NOT happen just by chance. Chief political strategists make sure of that.