The US military deployment to Saudi Arabia was on a scale not seen since the height of the Vietnam war. The “victory” parade in Washington on June 8 was the largest celebratory military exhibition, we are told, since World War II. The parade, like the war, was designed in part to obliterate the historical memory of Vietnam. So intent was this message that you could see the erasure of significant aspects of the Gulf war as well.
The ABC newscast that evening, June 8, took passing note of the brave hundreds who came to protest the war and the celebration, and quickly cut to an image of troops and tanks moving down Constitution Avenue. “The fact is,” the newscaster intoned, “the American people supported the war.” This phrasing expressed perfectly the interface of government and media in constructing such “support,” and now enshrining it as one more “fact.” The parade is meant to close the book on this war, and on Vietnam. Erased are the eloquent statements of opposition from religious bodies like the National Council of Churches, and the moving declarations from African-American communities. Right up to the moment of war, even mainstream measures of “public opinion” registered more opposition than support. What transported opinion from division to apparent consensus were several factors, not the least of which was the artful synchrony of the state and the major media, abetted by the anointed experts, in framing perception and discussion. Hence the “apparency” of the consensus: It is as real as its portrayal.
Coverage of the “victory” parade recalled this interplay. The long parade was very much like the brief war in one respect at least. They both were, to use a phrase Fawwaz Trabulsi applies to the pretensions of the Iraqi regime, exercises in armed propaganda. What was on parade was what Anthony Cordesman, ABC’s resident military expert, lauded earlier as “America’s new military culture and competence.” Iraq’s rash bid for regional hegemony has allowed Washington to refurbish its claim on global hegemony, causing frightful devastation in the region at little apparent cost to US society. The parade marks another triumph of the state, and its enforcement capacity domestically as well as internationally.
We would like to thank Jamalie Hassan and David Thomas, two of the curators of “Media, War and the “‘New World Order,’” a “rapid response” exhibit using fax and photocopy media, for facilitating the appearance in this issue of the work by Carel Moiseiwitsch and Isabelle Bernier.