How US achieves Hollywood-style heroism through fake propaganda
Art of the lie
Published: Jan 20, 2022 08:15 PM

A baby is being pushed up to US soldiers by a crowd gathered outside Kabul Airport in Afghanistan on August 19, 2021. Photo: VCG

A glittering example of human kindness, a photo that shows Afghan baby Sohail Ahmadi being handed to a US soldier during the chaotic withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 has come back into public view recently, with some untold and rather sad truths being revealed. However, experts warn that it's, once again, just another example of the US-orchestrated "Hollywood-style heroism through fake propaganda."

Unlike the initial incident that has been portrayed by Western media as a humanitarian emblem of US troops, it has now garnered criticism on China's social media platforms following CCTV News' posting of the backstory behind the dramatic aby-ditching scandal - based on the investigation of CCTV's Kabul reporter visiting Ahmadi's family in the city. 

Ahmadi, the then two-month-old infant, was handed to the US soldier by his parents in the hope that the soldier would save their baby from getting trampled on by crowds madly charging toward departure gates to leave Afghanistan when the city of Kabul was handed to the Afghan Taliban.

However, to the great astonishment and disappointment of most people, Ahmadi was then abandoned in one corner of the airport by the US soldier, along with several other children, all approximately between the ages of 5 and 7, who were left unattended.

Ahmadi was lucky that he was rescued by a Afghan taxi driver, according to CCTV's investigation.

Yet the photo of the US military saving the baby was widely publicized by the US in a misguided attempt to rewrite the shameful history of their hasty retreat by fixating on this purported glimmer of hope. Experts say this is not the first time the US has used false propaganda to bolster an image of pseudo heroism as justification for its unwarranted invasion of other countries.

The overtly contrasted moments - how Ahmadi was "saved" by the US soldier as camera lights flashed capturing the heart-wrenching moment and how he too was ultimately abandoned, crying for his life on the airport's tarmac - have sparked netizens' ire on Sina Weibo. They called out the hypocrisy behind staging such a photo merely for the purposes of publicity and to further the narrative of American heroism - the face of a humane army corps. 

"The US has always used this method to showcase itself in an effort to control narratives around its image. Democracy is decent in itself, but after it is sanitized by its powerful propaganda machine, it is turned into democracy formalism," Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times.  

'Heroic script flopped'

Under the hash tag "how the US troops' heroic baby savior script flopped," CCTV News posted a video which has received more than 84 million views as of press time. Some netizens commented on the heroic skit by the US and its abject failure, and how its "pseudo savior" persona has collapsed in front of the hard truth of the baby having actually been abandoned and ultimately going missing. 

"They have always indulged themselves in the notion of heroism," posted a netizens on Sina Weibo.

Despite the fact that Sohail Ahmadi was rescued and was reunited with his relatives in Kabul on January 9, his tragic journey back has been a traumatic, nightmarish experience for mostly his parents in the US, and also his grandfather in Afghanistan. Ahmadi's grandfather, Mohammad Qasem Razawi, described to CCTV News correspondent in Kabul how the family was practically in tears and consumed with despair every day for the past few months.

Mirza Mohammad Qasemi, grandfather of Sohail Ahmad, weeps during an interview at his house in Kabul on January 9, 2022. Photo: VCG

Mohammad Qasem Razawi, grandfather of Sohail Ahmad, weeps during an interview in his house in Kabul on January 9, 2022. Photo: VCG

Ahmadi's story has also been followed by some Western media outlets. However, their reports seemed to have tried to hide the fact that the baby had been abandoned by the US army, but they simply emphasized that he was eventually found.

"I shuddered at the thought that maybe behind every single glorious story presented by the US, there was a nightmare attached," posted a netizen on Sina Weibo.   

"First of all, all US organizations are very good Hollywood-style publicity in publicizing personal heroism. Take this picture for example. In terms of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US is still trying to cover up its failure through propaganda. They seized the opportunity to save a baby, magnifying this one detail, in an attempt to cover up their astonishing failure," said Shen.

This is far from the first time that a US-orchestrated scandal was exposed by the media while the country purported to create an image of humanitarianism through "clumsy performances," Shen noted.

In 1977, Carl Bernstein, an American investigative journalist, unveiled a scandal implicating the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a drive to recruit journalists who were to be put on its payroll and would be instructed to write "fake stories" during the Cold War, a covert operation which was launched under the name "Operation Mockingbird."

According to the detailed news reports of The New York Times in 1977, the CIA later admitted that at least 400 journalists and 25 worldwide organizations had secretly carried out assignments for the agency since its founding in 1947, as the agency attempted to manipulate global public opinion.

To be more specific, the report said that at least 22 American news organizations had employed American journalists who were also working for the CIA, and ranged from some of the most influential in the nation to some of the most obscure, including ABC and CBS News, News Magazine, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and the United Press International. 

What's more, on October 10, 1990, a 15-year-old girl, Nayirah, who claimed herself to be a volunteer at a Kuwait hospital, shed tears in the US Congress floor and said she had witnessed a "horrific" scene after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

"While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers coming into the hospital with guns and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die," she said,  as Los Angeles Times reported.

And those words were later used as the fuse to ignite the anger of people in the US against Iraq and would be the catalyst to the launch of the Gulf War. At the same time, talk surrounding "saving the babies" reinforces the so-called humanitarian aspect of the Gulf War in 1991. 

However, many insiders commented that the whole "incubator incident" was "ridiculous" and it is nothing but a play co-starred by US politicians, after the incident was exposed and found to be nothing but a skit designed to elicit strong emotions from the US public. 

They manipulate citizens' emotions, love and hate, through public opinion, just to achieve their political goals, said insiders.

Shortly after the Gulf War ended in 1991, a number of international organizations revealed that after conducting independent investigations, they found no reliable evidence that Iraqi forces had caused the deaths of babies by removing them from or ordering their removal from incubators.

Local resident Ibrahim shows a photo of his house destroyed by a missile fired by US forces in Salahuddin province, Iraq, on January 4, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Local resident Ibrahim shows a photo of his house destroyed by a missile fired by US forces in Salahuddin Province, Iraq, on January 4, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

It was also revealed by the media in 1992 that Nayirah was in fact not the girl's real name, and she was also not just an ordinary Kuwaiti but the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US.

"What everyone should see clearly is that, whether it is through bribing reporters or actors that were finally exposed by the media, the US' histrionics have received condemnation from the public for a period of time. But ultimately, decades later, the US still goes its own way. Even if it is exposed, it faces no adverse consequences. This is inseparable from their powerful propaganda machine, a lie-weaving machine," commented Shen.

Another example is in regards to the Syrian "White Helmets," a "civil organization" funded by the US, which "is also a true follower of false propaganda as instructed by the US," said some insiders.

In 2011, an injured man lay in the rubble as two members of the Syria Civil Defense group, known as the "White Helmets," came to his aid, and the video record was posted on social media platforms to highlight this apparent victim of the Syria's civil war.

However, the video was not a true representation of the facts on the ground but a campaign organized by the volunteers in following the social media Mannequin Challenge trend, which required groups of participants to assume dramatic poses.

The video was then lambasted by the public as inappropriate. And later the "White Helmets" released a statement reiterating that the video about the alleged rescue had been purposely reenacted as an act against the Syrian government. It was termed as an "error of judgment."

"The video and the related posts were recorded by the Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horrors in Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge," said the statement.

The "White Helmets" has repeatedly discredited the Syrian government by means of video fraud. The US has been an important supporter of the organization - in 2019, then US president Donald Trump publicly ordered $4.5 million in aid be made to the organization, said AFP.

Ironically, the White Helmets had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 in name of rescuing an estimated thousands of people in Syria, which caused a storm of public opinion. Observers say that they're confused for the "basis of a nomination" concerning the organization's video faking experience.

A local resident stands next to the wreckage of a car in a neighborhood hit by a US airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 2, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

A local resident stands next to the wreckage of a car in a neighborhood hit by a US airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 2, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

"They started the war by promoting humanitarian aid, and then try to cover up the failure of the war by promoting humanitarian aid. Yet the fact is that they did not achieve any tangible humanitarian objectives they had promoted, just like the incident of the soldier pretending to rescue the child in Afghanistan," noted Shen.

The fact is that if the US could ever do half of what they've publicized to the world, Afghanistan and other countries where the US has waged wars would not have become what it is today, Shen said.