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Propaganda as a War Crime / Bruce G. Richardson
Thursday, 02.14.2013, 12:20am (GMT+1)

‘By way of deception you shall make war’

Motto of Israel’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the Mossad

On May 1, 2012, during an address to the American military personnel and later to the American public, the President of the United States issued two false statements concerning the war in Afghanistan. The president told American military personnel gathered at Bagram Airbase that ‘we did not choose this war, the war came to us on 9/11’, and later to the American public, ‘this is where the war began and this is where it will end.’ Both statements and resultant policies are reflective of another of the world’s unjust and extrajudicial conflicts (Palestine), as perpetrated by an aggressive, occupational military power, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in concert with their intelligence service (Mossad). Under international covenant, policies viewed as extra-legal statecraft as drafted in Tel Aviv are succinctly manifest with strategy, prosecution, practice and adherence to their original operational-motto: ‘By way of deception you shall make war.’

While inflammatory, as well the president’s statements are decidedly false. Both statements posture Afghanistan as complicit in 9/11 while the precise opposite is true. Afghanistan not only made concessions to the Bush Administration concerning the extradition of Osama bin Laden but provided actionable intelligence as well alerting the  Administration that al-Qaeda was planning an operation against the homeland involving the use of aircraft. All of the Taliban conciliatory diplomatic gestures were unceremoniously ignored by Bush officials.  It is now widely held that the Bush Administration had planned war in Afghanistan prior to 9/11, the U.S. Government’s alleged justification for retributive war.

As international jurists and historians aver, the above referenced statements by the President of the United States constitute ‘propaganda’, a codified war crime under the (U.N. Resolutions’ 59-1 and 110 explicit) statutes. 


Two months following the execution of convicted Nazi war criminals the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 59 (1) declaring:

Freedom of information requires an indispensable element the willingness and capacity to employ privileges without abuse. It requires as a basic discipline the moral obligation to seek the facts without prejudice and to spread knowledge without malicious intent.

The following year another General Assembly Resolution was adopted, Resolution 110 which condemns all forms of propaganda in whatsoever country conducted, which is either designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breech of the peace, or act of aggression.

Most jurisdictions have yet to recognize propaganda for war as a crime. However, several journalists have been convicted of incitement to genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Because there is stiff resistance especially from the United States, the effort to criminalize war propaganda faces an uphill battle. However, in legal terminology it seems relatively straight forward, if incitement to genocide is a crime, them incitement to aggression another Nuremberg crime, could and should be as well. 

The role played by American mainstream media during the run-up to the invasion of Afghanistan was marked by widespread unquestioning submission to the Bush Administration and abandonment of the most fundamental journalistic responsibility to the public. In addition, a significant number of journalists genuflected before administration requests that they not write negatively about U.S. foreign policy. This responsibility is embodied not only in Resolution 59 (1) but in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics as well, which states that: Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. (See: Truth, Propaganda and Media Manipulation, after-text notes)

Nuremberg prosecutor Griffith Jones concerning for-war propaganda by German journalist Julius Streicher:

Streicher made these crimes possible…made these crimes possible which could never have happened had it not been for him and those like him. In his infamous role as Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels asserted: Make the lie big, make it simple keep saying it and eventually they will believe.

The critical role of propaganda was affirmed at Nuremberg by the prosecution’s rendering judgment and also with the testimony of the most prominent Nazi defendant Reich Marshall Herman Goering:

Modern and total war develops as I see it, along three lines: the war of weapons on land, at sea and in the air, economic war, which has become an integral part of every modern war and third, propaganda warfare.

War on Terror:

Prior to and during George W. Bush’s “Global War on Terror”, endless propaganda emanated from the mainstream media. The public was assured that the United States possessed “hard evidence” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, was allied with al-Qaeda, had dispensed anthrax within the Continental United States and was a threat to the mainland U.S. and to our proxy…Israel. The only solution was invasion and regime change so said our government and their champions in the press. It has been uncontestably demonstrated that these contentions were based on manipulated and or fabricated intelligence, false assumptions, disinformation and propaganda, and therefore represent the solicitous marketing of war to an unsuspecting American public. (See: Truth, Propaganda and Media Manipulation, after-text notes)

Afghanistan too, was singled out for punishment, the Taliban, said the government-corporate-media-cabal, have been complicit in the attack on the World Trade Center. But recent revelations tell a different story. The Government of Afghanistan was not a partner in the 9/11 attack and no Afghan citizen played any role whatsoever.  Yet, both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama have steadfastly asserted that Afghanistan is a hub of international terrorism. During a NBC broadcast of the Today Show, Matt Lauer commented in reference to the Taliban that ‘these are the guys that brought us 9/11’. What is not generally known, however, is that it is widely acknowledged as unimpeachable-fact that the Taliban played absolutely no role in the planning or implementation of 9/11 and kept ‘alleged 9/11 mastermind’ Osama bin Laden under virtual house arrest to prevent him engaging in terrorism from Afghanistan soil. In yet additional exculpatory endeavors in what has not been acknowledged in the pro-war media is that the Taliban were in contact with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad alerting them to the fact that al-Qaeda was planning something big against the U.S. that involved the use of aircraft, their warnings went unheeded. In yet another act of contrition, the Taliban offered to surrender Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities in Pakistan, yet were not afforded either official recognition for acquiescing to America’s concerns and demands or for their cooperative diplomatic approach, an approach which sought a genuine solution to a diplomatic impasse that was feared would lead to war.  In a recent article entitled ‘Iran Behind 9/11 Attack’, the author asserts that there is not ‘a scintilla of evidence to demonstrate beyond doubt that Osama bin Laden was the architect or even implicated as the mastermind of the 9/11 attack’.   

During the summer of 2001 it has been learned that the Bush Administration threatened the Taliban with carpet bombing when negotiations for the proposed Trans-Afghan-Pipeline were seen to be failing. Additionally, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik said that during a conference in Berlin U.S. officials advised him that they would ‘attack Afghanistan before the snow flies in October’, several months prior to 9/11.

With the exception of two courageous French journalists in a book titled Forbidden Truth, the media ignored overwhelming evidence that the U.S.-stated justification for attacking Afghanistan while predicated on 9/11 was false and had been planned long before the event. The evidence suggests that the U.S. goal and motive for the attack was regime change in order to facilitate a successful pipeline contract negotiation in favor of the American/Saudi concern, Unocal. During this time of intense negotiations and prior to his assassination, America’s ally, the late Ahmad Shah Massoud had accepted a 1.0-million dollar bribe from Bridas, Unocal’s Argentine rival, to continue to foment violence to insure instability which would serve to undermine Unocal’s efforts to secure the contract and hence viable financing in a stable, risk-adverse environment. See: Truth, Propaganda and Media Manipulation, after-text notes)

Most if not all of the mainstream print and broadcast media were and are guilty of disseminating false information about the true facts behind the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, the general public had been incited to support aggression on the part of the Government of the United States, under which literally millions of innocents have lost their lives in the prosecution of the so-called War on Terror, enabled, aided and abetted by a compliant media that functioned as a government-run ministry of information. Therefore, under U.N. Resolution 59 (1), this witting or unwitting reportage constitutes a war crime. Certain members of the media, along with U.S. Government officials, should be, as were convicted Nazi journalists, remanded to The Hague to stand trial as war criminals.

Thus far, the United States, Israel, Russia, China, North Korea and Libya have refused to ratify the International Criminal Court (ICC) soon to be convened for atrocities committed by Serbian military personnel in Yugoslavia and with the full consent and support of the U.S. Government, those who as yet are unwilling to confront or even acknowledge the commission of war crimes by their own hand. Should foreign jurisdictions elect, however, to indict those guilty of war crimes based on international agreements, protocol and convention and or legal precedent, former Bush Administration and current Obama Administration officials and media propagandists are at risk of arrest should they venture outside the Continental United States.

Such is the example and case of Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel. Srour el-Meri is one of 28 Palestinians bringing war crimes charges against Ariel Sharon under a 1993 Belgian Law which gives universal jurisdiction over war criminals whatever their nationality. Sharon is accused of overseeing the massacre of more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatila Refugee Camps in Lebanon in 1982. The Israeli press has alleged through endless editorializing that the Palestinian people were less than human, deserving of extinction and therefore are complicit in a multitude of war crimes committed by the Israeli state through the dissemination of propaganda and volatile missives orchestrated to incite and secure approval by the Israeli public.

Undoubtedly, the extradition of Ariel Sharon and members of the Israeli press, like that of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, prominent members of the U.S. media cognoscente and current Obama Administration officials, would undoubtedly face formidable legal challenges. Nevertheless, under the 1993 Belgian Law, war criminals can be apprehended when and if they travel beyond the borders of their native country and are (forever) at the mercy of international jurists. When the guns fall silent again…perhaps a war crimes tribunal will be convened for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bruce G. Richardson, 2/2013


For additional reading please refer to the select bibliography below:

Documents on the Laws of War: Edited by Adam Roberts and Richard Guelff, Second Edition, 1995.

Afghanistan: Political Frailty and External Interference, by Dr. Nabi Misdaq, 2006.

American Raj: Liberation or Domination, resolving the Conflict between the West and the Muslim World, by Eric S. Margolis, 2008.

Global Research E-Newsletter, ‘Iran Accused of Being Behind 9/11 Attack’, by Julie Levesque, 5/14/2012, www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va?aid=3077

Global Research: ‘Fighting the battle against mainstream media disinformation,’ 7/18/12. Global Research reported in ‘Truth, Propaganda and Media Manipulation’, 12/05/12, that there were over 400 American journalists who had secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency. The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence gathering employed by the CIA. Among organizations which cooperated with the CIA were the ‘American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps Howard, Newsweek Magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Saturday Evening Post And the New York Herald Tribune. By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. The CIA even ran a training program to teach agents to be journalists, who were then placed in major news organizations with help from management.  

America’s war in Vietnam has long been seen as a template for American military comportment in other areas of conflict to include Afghanistan. For disturbing details concerning the use of torture, the commission of  rape, deliberate destruction of villages, deliberate and condoned mass killings of civilians to satisfy the demand from command for a high body-count, aided by subsequent, massive cover-ups by various US investigatory agencies, killings which were then falsely reported as (KIA) enemy insurgents and an assortment of other war crimes as codified under national and international law and or treaty and  committed to under statute by the US as a signatory country in a time of war, see: Kill Anything That Moves, The Real American War in Vietnam, by Nick Turse, 2013.



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