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War as a public relations excercise (was re:Comrade Klinton at it again)
> [email protected] is accused of writing:
> As I recall, the name "Desert Fox" was a nickname
> held by a Nazi general. Fitting, that.
It's what Allied journalists called Erwin Rommel, who was a German general,
if not exactly a Nazi. Sometimes said to be a military genius. IIRC he
distinguished himself well as a Panzer commander under Guderian in the
attack on France; commanded the Afrika Korps & was beaten by the Allies
(doing his reputation little harm - they were strongly outnumbered and
probably lasted longer than they were expected to); and then was injured in
the D-day invasion, invalided out and accused of plotting to kill Hitler. He
was murdered by the Nazis (in that he was told that if he commited suicide
his wife and children would not be sent to a concentration camp, which
counts as murder in my book).
Once upon a time a code name for a military "operation" was just that, a
code name. These days it is a brand label. Probably thought up by the same
guys that Coca-Cola or Ford would hire to name a new product.
For any British person over the age of about 30 "Desert Fox" will
immediately bring to mind Rommel, WW2 and the "Desert Rats", the British
8th Army (in fact mostly Indian + Australian with contingents from all over
the Empire) who fought against Rommel in North Africa. That reminds us of
the long-range Desert Group & for those who have been paying attention, the
SAS, (who get *heaps* of publicity here. There is a whole tacky genre of SAS
books and magazines) which in turn is supposed to make us feel good (all
that rhetoric about "punching above our weight" and the "best trained and
most skilled army in the world", "the Professionals").
And "Fox" brings to mind foxhunting of course. The choice of name is meant
to imply to British audiences that "our boys" are out there hunting Saddam,
even though that has been officially denied by both UK and US government.
All the publicity refers to "him" and "his" weapons. No-one ever says "we
are at war with Iraq", it is always "we are denying *him* the use of *his*
weapons of mass destruction". Maybe we will soon start to see planted
media hints that there are, or have been, SAS on the ground in Iraq
looking for *him* - which will be instantly denied in such away as to allow
people to carry on thinking that it is true if they want to. The US may
have a law against killing heads of state but we Brits don't (although
apparently we are still unsure as to whether we have a law against
extraditing them to Spain when accused of a mere 3,000 murders).
I strongly suspect the news management for this war was handled by the
Brits, possibly the same spin team that handled last years Labour general
The first attack was about 4 minutes to 10 pm UK time. I heard it as a
newsflash on the radio & then turned on the TV just in time for ITV's "News
at Ten" program. One of their journalists was waiting outside that front
door of 10 Downing Street, obviously tipped off about an "important
announcement" and the PM came out sometime around 10 past 10 to make his
speech (half an hour *before* Clinton, which must have been agreed between
the governments) which ended just in time for the ad break.
I suppose Clinton's speech would have been about lunchtime on the West
Coast, late afternoon on the East Coast. A bit early from the POV of news
management. It gives the networks a few hours to work on it before
prime-time TV. One of the first rules of this sort of thing you want your
own words to go over unedited if at all possible - the less time the
networks get the more likely you are just to be given a live mike. That way
you get to choose your own sound-bites. Or borrow them from Margaret
"There is No Alternative" Thatcher. Of course she needed the Falklands War
to get re-elected, and Clinton needs all the help he can get, but Blair is
still master of all he surveys (Well, except for a few of us unreconstructed
far-lefties, Peter Mandelson's private life, and Welsh Labour Party) so
perhaps he can afford to be magnanimous in victory. Or perhaps he really
thinks that there is no alternative.
We could accuse them or timing the attack for TV, although I suspect 0100
Baghdad time was in fact a sensible H-hour. You'd want it after dark, and
later rather than earlier if you were interested in minimising civilian
casualties. I suppose 0300 or 0400 might have been better - but that would
have missed UK evening TV and given the news media time to sort out their
story for the morning (some of the "serious" papers here came out against
the attack. Tabloids seem to be all for it of course). As it was everyone
got the government announcement first.
This all my opinion and nothing to do with my employers. (And I am
certainly not even going to speculate about oil prices from this address).