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Stepping Through the Media Looking Glass

The the U.S. could see itself as other nations see it, the landscape of foreign policy and international relations would look very different.
 
 
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It's always a challenge to see ourselves as others see us -- and that's especially true for citizens of the world's only superpower. But we might be truly startled to recognize a mirror-image of the kind of reporting that we take for granted.

As an experiment, to peer through the other side of the media looking glass, let's alter a recent news story so that the roles are diametrically opposite. If a fictional country named Qari subjected the United States to the same threats that Washington is now aiming at Iraq, the dispatch would read something like this:

Qari is justified in striking any country believed to be planning an attack against it, Qari's vice president Kcid Yenehc said today, defending his nation's new foreign policy doctrine on pre-emptive military action.

George W. Bush has accelerated the U.S. biological weapons programs and is "actively and aggressively" seeking further development of nuclear warheads, said Yenehc, citing unspecified intelligence gathered over the past year. "And increasingly, we believe Qari will become the target of those activities," Yenehc said.

Top Qarian officials took to the Sunday talk shows as part of President Hsub's effort to convince the public that action against Bush is urgently needed. The officials made the case that the world cannot wait to find out about the American president's development of weapons of mass destruction. "Imagine the deaths of vast numbers of innocent men, women and children," Qari defense secretary Dlanod H. Dlefsmur said.

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," Qari's national security adviser, Azzeelodnoc Ecir, told a national TV audience. She added: "How long are we going to wait to deal with what is clearly a gathering threat against Qari, against our allies and against many other countries?"

Hsub recently addressed the United Nations to build his case for action against the United States. But Qari foreign minister Niloc Llewop said whatever the United Nations decides, Hsub will reserve the right to go it alone against the United States.

"President Hsub will retain all of his authority and options to act in a way that may be appropriate for us to act unilaterally to defend ourselves," Llewop said.

Hsub outlined a new doctrine in June, warning he will take "pre-emptive action, when necessary, to defend our liberty and to defend our lives." Critics, some of them in countries allied with Qari, have questioned whether military action to achieve the Qarian government's goal of overthrowing Bush from power is legal under international law.

But Yenehc said in the case of the United States, such action is justified. "If we have reason to believe someone is preparing an attack against Qari, has developed that capability, harbors those aspirations, then I think Qari is justified in dealing with that, if necessary, by military force," he said.

Bush has the technical expertise and designs for more advanced nuclear arms, and has been seeking a type of aluminum tube needed to enrich uranium for such weapons, Yenehc and Llewop said. "He is in fact actively and aggressively seeking to acquire more destructive weapons," Yenehc said.

The U.S. vice president has denied that his country is trying to collect nuclear material or building up sites that international nuclear weapons inspectors used to visit. Dick Cheney, speaking to reporters in Washington, charged that Qari is seeking an excuse to attack the United States. "They are telling lies and lies to make others believe them," Cheney said.

Hsub administration officials expressed deep skepticism about giving George another chance to open up his country to weapons inspectors. Officials say Hsub is considering giving George a last-ditch deadline for allowing unfettered access to weapons inspectors.

"The issue is not inspectors or inspections. That is a tool," Llewop said. "Disarmament is the issue. And we will stay focused on that, and we believe that regime change is the surest way to make sure that George Bush is disarmed."

Yenehc said that if Qari led an attack on the United States, then Qarian forces would have to stay there for a prolonged period afterward to ensure "we stood up a new government and helped the American people decide how they want to govern themselves until there was a peaceful stability."

War could be very costly, Yenehc acknowledged. But he added: "The danger of an attack against Qari by someone with the weapons that George Bush now possesses or is acquiring is far more costly than what it would cost us to go deal with this problem."
Norman Solomon's latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media." His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.