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PM Invents New ‘Invisible Ink’ For Iraq Stories :: The Slant / UK News
January 17th
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Politics/Current Affairs

PM Invents New ‘Invisible Ink’ For Iraq Stories

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006 at 11:18 by Stephen Ball

This story doesn’t contain any news. ”3,500 civilians were killed in Iraq in July alone.”

See? Everyone’s turned off already. The eyes glaze, the page is turned, the newspaper doesn’t sell issues on that kind of front page anymore. Don’t go! There’s a competition at the end that’s fun and exciting, and I promise some comedy further down the page. Just read the next bits first.

Yesterday in Iraq, 68 people were killed and nearly 300 injured by bombs - in just 30 minutes.

Pentagon officials wearing “lalala I cannot hear you” fingers-in-ears hats once again said that there was definitely no civil war. Then they said that the violence these days was mostly about Sunni Iraqis attacking Shia Iraqis, instead of insurgents vs. US soldiers. Which to anyone with a dictionary would be the definition of civil war - but it isn’t. Honest. 

In the past three months, attacks are up 15% and casualities up 51%. To most people, that would suggest that the security forces are losing control of the situation… but no. With Tony’s amazing “buried on page 12″ two-line stories written in invisible ink, we can be reassured on page 2 with the messages the administration would rather send out.

These would be the comedy I promised earlier. For example, Donald Rumsfeld (in a brave move this week) told the American Legion war veterans that anyone who opposed the US’s current policies was “morally or intellectually confused”.

Leaving aside the quite staggering natural reaction of most people to that, I’d have to say no, Don. We’ve simply seen “XX dead in Iraq” so many times it’s faded into the background. The numbers don’t mean anything. The fact that 99% of them are now civilians doesn’t shock us anymore. Too many zeroes on the end of the number make it hard to picture. 

Somehow Iraq is not only off the front pages, but has also lost any kind of momentum to damage Tony Blair. The calls for his leaving (from his own party, since the Conservatives seem to love him) are on different issues - mainly that his personal unpopularity is hurting Labour. But he’s no longer being pulled up on his responsibility for this almighty mess. By sticking it out while the headlines raged, he’s got to the point where he’s immune to further damage from the impact of new numbers. He’s created invisible ink for Iraq stories: we know he won’t do anything, we know any protests will just be ignored, and we know we can’t get him out of office in the next two days. So unless his own party attack him, he’s safe until the next major elections.

Which coincidentally is precisely the situation Bush is in. After somehow managing to compare the self-made debacle in Iraq to WW2, George recently said: “We’re not leaving so long as I’m the President. That would be a huge mistake.”

The potential answers to that one are too massive and varied for this reporter to answer, so I’m declaring it *Competition Time!* Best answer gets to watch Iraq descend into the inevitable civil war and violence-enhancing ‘three state’ solution everyone predicted four years ago.

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9 Comments on “PM Invents New ‘Invisible Ink’ For Iraq Stories”

  1. Mawgen Says:

    I can’t be the only one that read the headline ‘8 soldiers killed in Iraq’ and thought “So what?” That’s 8 British soldiers, that chose their job. Not hundreds of civilians trying to go about their daily lives.

  2. Simon Kimber Says:

    “So what?” is a little harsh isn’t it? Yes, they chose their career, but I’m sure most people have, at one time or another, found themselves lumbered with an incompetent boss who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

  3. Stephen Ball Says:

    I do see an awful lot on the American boards that should be answered with “you know what? Soldiers *chose to be soldiers*.” With all respect for the unbelievably hard situation and conditions they’ve fought in, many armchair commentators do seem to think that putting any soldier in harms way ever is an unacceptable breach of trust.

    As far as “8 soldiers killed in Iraq” goes, I don’t think the public will ignore it just because soldiers dying in a warzone isn’t that unusual. I think they’ll ignore it because the number 8 is so tiny and insignificant compared to the daily carnage that we can’t even put it on the same scale graph in our heads.

    3500 civilians in July alone - and that’s Iraq, not Lebanon.

  4. Mawgen Says:

    In reply to Steve:

    Yes, that’s what I thought. 8 one week for people who work in the armed forces. 3,500 Iraqis about a week later was reported.

    In reply to Simon:

    yes, but why do our newspapers make a big deal of 8 Britons dying, and the 3,500 Iraqis get much less press coverage. I have much more sympathy for the Iraqis.

  5. Simon Kimber Says:

    Mawgen: I don’t disagree with you, i just thought that your “So what?” was a little cold blooded. I think the approach of the newspapers is essentially a macrocosm of a family bereavement. Losing a (loved) family member will always be more distressing than hearing of any number of strangers dying.

    Rightly or wrongly, and regardless of numbers, I think most people will be more upset about the deaths of those from their own country, perhaps because they can more closely identify with them, or put themselves more easily in the shoes of the victims and/or their families than in the shoes of people from a culture they have no experience of and know much less, if anything, about.

    I’m not saying that it’s right or fair but on all levels people are always going to be concerned about their own groups first and outsiders second. I think that’s just an unavoidable part of human nature.

  6. Thesme Says:

    Stephen BALL eh?

  7. Stephen Ball Says:

    Ah, someone who knows me elsewhere online :) Yes, that would be me.

  8. Thesme Says:

    I love these articles by the way. OH, by the way where you say

    “we know any protests will just be ignored” would it be fair to add:
    ‘we know that any protest taking place too close to the Houses of Parliament will result in us being unnecessarily arrested in true democratic tradition’? At all?

  9. Stephen Ball Says:

    “In a way never before seen in UK history?” Yes. Yes it would.

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