On December 15 of last year the State Service of Emergency Situations of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) announced that the bodies of 892 servicemen had been recovered in search and rescue operations in the majority-Armenian republic.
Today the Armenian press reveals that the Artsakh Defence Army has released the names of an additional 116 soldiers killed (since its last report) in the 45-day war unleashed by Azerbaijan with Turkish guidance and assistance, bringing the total of Nagorno-Karabakh military deaths to over 3,500; a frightful casualty rate in a nation of only approximately 145,000 persons.
Last autumn the Armenian Weekly published a study entitled What’s Behind All the Pro-Azerbaijan Articles? by the journal’s former assistant editor Nanore Barsoumian. Methodically researched, masterfully presented, it constitutes a consummate study of the role of American lobbying organizations hired by Azerbaijan (which is awash in revenue from Caspian Sea oil and gas), often in conjunction with pro-Israel lobbying groups like the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, in preparing the groundwork before, offering justification during and dictating the assessment and interpretation of the war after the event. (During last year’s war articles appeared estimating that over 60% of Azerbaijan’s weapons were provided by Israel.)
Barsoumian’s exposé documents inter alia how paid lobbyists dominate the editorial pages and letters columns of all major news and opinion outlets. These include, in her words:
“Bloomberg to CNN, the Washington Post, the Jerusalem Post, the New York Times, NBC, Al-Jazeera, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Haaretz, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal; the list is almost interminably long.”
Her invaluable examination can be applied mutatis mutandis to the often surreptitious machinations of public relations firms and lobbying groups in instigating bombing campaigns and wars over the past thirty years; from Hill & Knowlton’s notorious Kuwait incubator baby ruse in the lead-up to the U.S.’s and allies’ war against Iraq in 1991, Operation Desert Storm, to Ruder Finn’s role in poisoning world opinion against ethnic Serbs in the armed conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, leading to NATO bombing campaigns in the latter two.
The exploitation of the Fourth Estate by interested parties to sway public opinion and pressure governments to employ military force even to all-out war is not a new phenomenon. But a colossal industry of public relation firms and lobbyists overwhelming both the public and government officials with one-sided and often outright concocted information, hence monopolizing the perception of and resolve to address crises within and between nations, is something unique to the post-Cold War period. It is, if you will, a new domain of war.