Propaganda Analysis: Apparatus of Lies – Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda (1990-2003)

Almost every theoretical type of propaganda was employed by Saddam Hussein. Some of the prominent types are agitation, white, black and vertical propaganda. As the example of mass funeral of dead babies illustrates, Saddam intended to appeal to the emotions of the audience, circumventing deliberation on fact and logic. It served to agitate the minds of sympathizers and rally them behind his cause.

Vertical propaganda is identified with government missives given to international press, which were full of exaggeration and fabrication of facts and events. For example, Saddam perpetrated misinformation about how American missiles targeted hospitals and civilian areas. This was dictated to journalists in a top-down fashion. After the media carried these dubious official stories without cross-checking facts, it was disseminated horizontally among Iraqi citizens as well as abroad.

There are also instances of misattribution of sources (black) as well as intended ambiguity with respect to certain sources of information (gray). If the details presented in the report were to be true, then Saddam Hussein had had employed every technique, trick and nuance to enhance his own position and interests.

As per the report, Saddam Hussein employs the entire gamut of propaganda techniques there are. This includes producing falsified on-the-record information, staging suffering and grief, restricting movements of journalists, self-inflicted damage, false man-in-the-street interviews, etc. The report even claims that Saddam showed self-inflicted damage in order to garner the sympathy of the international community. Documents were fabricated, the media censored, and military assets were located in proximity to civilian residences. The latter ploy was to use civilians as human shields and protect military installations in this fashion.

The report goes on to say how Saddam exploited religious sentiment for political ends. Though an atheist in practice, his photos of praying and religious obeisance were circulated both within and outside Iraq. Through such techniques Saddam manipulated the psychology of the masses of Iraq, who are easy victims for their leader’s feigned piety. Another area where Saddam attempted a massive cover-up was regarding the effects of economic sanctions. He spread the impression that the massive malnutrition and infant mortality after the end of the Gulf war was entirely the consequence of sanctions. This claim is questionable, especially since the military expenditure continued to grow during the period, just as Saddam Hussein continued to live in palatial luxury.

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