Hans Johnson reports from the United States on attempts to launch a US-sponsored radio station intended to help oust Saddam Hussein.
There are growing calls in the Clinton Administration and the American Congress for a new radio station, a Radio Free Iraq. Born out of frustration with Saddam Hussein, such agitation breeds desperate measures. Supporters of the project fall into two broad categories.
One group desires a propaganda station that will play a part in ridding Iraq and, of course, the United States, of Hussein. Others see a station that could serve as a news source for information-starved Iraqis. In either case, Radio Free Iraq, should it succeed in gaining official backing, will be redundant and ineffective.
The United States wants Saddam Hussein out of power. America has the ability to do this, but not the will. So, unwilling to take real action, the United States plans to settle on Radio Free Iraq along with other steps. Radio Free Iraq serves as a neat cliche, the appearance of doing something, however ineffective that might be.
"If you can't shoot them, you shout at them," explains John Nichols, Associate Professor of Communications at America's Pennsylvania State University and co-author of Clandestine Radio Broadcasting.
The model for a US government-sponsored propaganda station goes back to the 1950s. The CIA's Voz de Liberacion played a key role in overthrowing the Arbenz government of Guatemala in 1954. Its very success made the CIA overconfident that "psychological warfare could achieve the same goals as real warfare at a substantially lower human and monetary cost," according to Clandestine Radio Broadcasting.
Some proponents of the proposed Radio Free Iraq apparently continue to harbour this fantasy. In this dream, Radio Free Iraq inspires an uprising that sets the stage for Saddam Hussein's downfall.
The fantasy is also history. Voice of Free Iraq, established on the eve of the Gulf War and almost certainly a creation of the United States government, repeatedly urged Iraqis to overthrow Saddam Hussein in its broadcasts. A number of Iraqis bravely took up the challenge in 1991, only to be slaughtered while powerful US forces stood by and watched.
Voice of Free Iraq failed to overthrow Hussein, but its broadcasts resulted in real...