Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Democracy Now: (topics) Downing St. Memo, Emmett Till; Bob Somerby, Naomi Klein, Danny Schechter, Matthew Rothschild, Katrina vanden Heuvel

Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says)
Headlines for June 15, 2005

- 25 Iraqi Soldiers Die in Blast At Army Base
- Rumsfeld: Iraq No Safer Now Than It Was In 2003
- To Prevent Civil War in Iraq, Amnesty Considered For Fighters
- Exxon Mobil Hires Ex-White House Official
- Thousands Call For Early Elections In Bolivia
- Pakistani Bars Rape Victim From Leaving Country
- GOP Considers Raising Retirement Age to 69
- Rep. Sanders Attempts to Overturn Part of Patriot Act
- State Democrats in Wisconsin Call For Impeachment of Bush
The Downing Street Memo Comes To Washington; Conyers Blasts "Deafening Sound of Silence"

We speak with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) who is convening a public hearing tomorrow in Washington on the so-called Downing Street Memo and other newly released documents that he says show the Bush administration's "efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence." We also speak with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. [includes rush transcript - partial]
The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till: New Documentary Uncovers Evidence in 1955 Murder

Half a century after Emmett Till's mutilated body was found in a Mississippi river, investigators have unearthed his casket and reopened the case. We play excerpts of a new documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till" that uncovers new evidence in the case and we speak with the filmmaker, Keith Beauchamp.
The Daily Howler is already a popular e-mail topic this morning.  Here's the section that's been noted in e-mails:
Yesterday, the Times' Todd Purdum tortured the Downing Street companion memo, pulling out a single short phrase to suggest that Bush had made no decision on war. Today, the Post offers an editorial that is totally clueless--more likely, an intellectual fraud. Sadly, Purdum’s report and today’s editorial read more like work from the Washington Times. But as we’ve noted, there is one sure rule for the mainstream press corps--the press corps can never be wrong.
Let's note one more pathetic point from the material quoted above. Did "U.S. and British intelligence agencies genuinely believe Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction?" The record suggests that they more-or-less did, although the Admin exaggerated their state of certainty. (Much more on that all next week.) But that is not what is really at stake when we say Bush "fixed" the intel. What kind of "fixing" is really at issue? In August 2002, the Bush Admin began making wild, scary claims about Saddam's nuclear program; these claims went well beyond the state of the intel, and constitute the most important "fixing" of same (again, much more next week). When informed critics say that Bush and Cheney and Rice fixed the intel, they refer to specific claims like these--to Rice's claim that those aluminum tubes could only be used for nuclear weapons, for example. In these claims, the Bush Admion went well beyond the state of the intel. And of course, their claims were just wrong. There's a simple word for what Bush and Rice did; simply put, Rice was just lying.

Yes, that is what informed critics mean when they say Bush fixed the intel. Sadly, though, the people who run our Dem/liberal firmament are rarely this well-informed. Over and over, leading liberals go on TV and offer the silly "but Bush said there were WMD" argument. This is an automatic loser, as Howard Dean showed on Meet the Press last month in this laughable, hopeless exchange:

DEAN (5/22/05): Some of the things that the president said on our way into Iraq, they just weren't true, and I don't think that's right. So--

RUSSERT: Such as?

DEAN: Such as the weapons of mass destruction, which we have all known about, but the--

RUSSERT: Well, you said there were weapons of mass destruction!

DEAN: I said I wasn't sure, but I said I thought there probably were.

Hopeless! Dean himself had said there were WMD ("probably"), and he looked silly when Russert called him on it. Indeed, many major Dems, including Bill Clinton and Al Gore, had said there were WMD; most leading figures did seem to believe this. But neither Dean, nor anyone else, made those fake, phony claims about Saddam's nukes--the claims which drive the debate from August 02 through the fall (much more on these claims next week). Sadly, though, today's Dems and liberals are simply too stupid to organize even the simplest points. They've been slaughtered this way on TV for years--and that's why the Post can offer this cheap escape now. You might want to recall this ineptitude when you get more brilliant messaging from your inspired liberal leaders.
Terry, Faith, Brendan and Michael all take issue with the above for a series of reasons that I'm going to attempt to boil down (correct me if I'm wrong).
1) Leading Democrats or liberals to whom?
2) Everyone did not accept the rumors of WMD as truth.
(Again let me know if I got that wrong.)
"Leading Democrats" (or "liberals") and "everyone" are solid points.  But Somerby's critiquing the mainstream media.  Barbara Lee, for instance, is a leader to many but she's not a darling of the mainstream press.  Whereas this community could care less what Joe Lieberman has to say (to give but one example), he is a mainstream press favorite.
In regards to The Daily Howler, "leading Democrats or liberals to whom?" the answer is to the mainstream press.  That's Somerby's frame of reference because that's the area he's critiquing.  (That's his "beat.")  
No, everyone did not accept the rumors of WMDs as gospel.  But those voices (along with skeptical reporting) weren't to be heard or read often in/on the mainstream press.
Somerby's focus is the domestic mainstream press.
Michael is upset that there wasn't more on Todd S. Purdum.  The topic (the way it's being reported by Purdum, by the Washington Post and, probably, others) will be discussed next week according to what's in today's Howler.
Michael:  I'll give him credit for calling Toad on his nonsense.  I'm not seeing much of it online elsewhere and my friends I e-mailed the editorial too kept asking where they could find more on this.  We saw a lot of hand wringing over interns yesterday but I guess most people didn't move past the front page of the Times yesterday.
Give Somerby credit and give him time because it is noted in today's Howler that he'll be addressing the subject next week. 
Brendan and Faith specifically take issue with the fact that Bully Boy and cohorts said Saddam Hussein was a threat and made allusions to WMDs and that's not dealt with.  They're getting at the conflict in the narrative. 
Briefly, Bully Boy's argument today is bad intelligence.  "We were all wrong."  The mainstream press has pushed that nonsense.  If Bully Boy believed bad intelligence, as Brendan and Faith e-mail today, then you have to conclude that he put the US at risk by increasing the bombings in 2002.
The domestic media hasn't addressed Michael Smith's May 29th article in the Sunday Times of London.  Somerby's addressing the domestic media in the United States.  (That's not to say he will cover it if the domestic media addresses it.  That is to say, he won't critique what's not there.)
I want to use that as a jumping off point for a moment.  Visitors continue to e-mail as to why we're not quoting from and linking to the Times Iran coverage.  Cammie e-mailed (again) to complain that we still haven't noted a (Republican) Congress member's claims re: Osama running in and out of Iran.  Cammie, the Congress member has a book to sell.  The man is a Republican.  His claims may or may not be true.  We're not going to jump all over ourselves to push the book, the person or the claim.
As for the Times articles on Iran.  Cheerleading the nation into one war wasn't enough for you, Cammie?  We're supposed to help the paper help the Bully Boy?
Most intelligence (in any era) is a lot of gossip with a bit of concrete facts.That's the nature of intelligence.
With the Bully Boy, we have a saber rattler.  (On Air America's Unfiltered, Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow had a funny bit revolving around Bully Boy proclaiming "I'm a wartime president" one moment, then the next "I'm a peace time president.")  The mainstream press may let him set the tone, but that's not the case here.
Just because he wants to scare us with innuendo and the press wants to jot down his statements without exploring them doesn't mean we will here. 
With the Bully Boy, the way of "dealing" is bomb-bomb-bomb, war-war-war.  There are other ways.  (We'll do a CODEPINK excert tonight.)  That's his way of "dealing."  The press follows his lead (always).  But neither he nor the Times sets our agenda here. Or, to put it more plainly, we say no to Bullies Without Borders.  That doesn't mean we don't note news from or of Iran (see item below), it means we're not hear to push the Times' coverage which sometimes seems to exist solely to push the Bully Boy's agenda.  (Maybe, as C.J. Chivers did with regards to the Ukraine, after the uproar, a Times reporter will note,  "Oh, by the way there's a key detail that was obvious six weeks ago but we never got around to telling you about it.")
We'll note Naomi Klein and Aaron Maté's "Censoring the Dead:"
Even after her death, it seems the attacks on Zahra Kazemi will not end. It was only two months ago that Canadians were stunned by new evidence that the Montreal photojournalist was tortured to death while in Iranian custody. Kazemi was arrested in June 2003 while taking photographs outside of a prison in Iran, the country of her birth. To punish her for this transgression, Kazemi’s captors raped and beat her, according to a doctor who fled Iran to tell the story.

Close to two years later, there are new attempts to cover Kazemi’s lens, to prevent her photographs from reaching public eyes – only now the censorship is happening inside her adopted country of Canada. Last week Montreal’s Cote St. Luc Library removed five of Kazemi’s photographs from display after Jewish patrons complained of alleged “pro-Palestinian bias”; they left up the rest of the exhibition, which had already been displayed in Paris and London. Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, called the removal of the Palestinian photographs “a violation of my mother’s spirit” and rightly demanded that the library show the entire exhibit or nothing at all. So the library took down the entire show.

This made-in-Canada censorship comes as the Iranian government continues to stonewall any attempts to bring Kazemi’s murderers to justice. After refusing to return her body to her son, Iran has acquitted three intelligence officials accused in her death, and most recently, mocked Canada’s calls for an international inquiry. For its part, the Canadian government has been accused by Kazemi’s family of “begging, not insisting” that the Iranian government be held to account for her death.
(Note: Link takes you to home page of No Logo, Klein's site.  It's the top item currently.)
Martha e-mails to note Danny Schecther's latest News Dissector (add Schechter to the list, long or small, of people who have addressed Todd S. Purdum's article yesterday): 


The New York Times yesterday devoted coverage to the issue first reported on May 1 in Britain. Todd S. Purdum wrote a piece downplaying their significance with lines like, "But the documents are not quite so shocking," etc., etc. One sentence in this put-down of those concerned with the issue struck me as so typical and bizarre.

He refers to anyone who suspected that WMD's would not be found in Iraq -- "the near unanimous conventional wisdom in Washington" -- as "lonely voices," as in, "though some lonely voices did predict it."

Yo, Todd, what about the 30 million anti-war activists who rejected the "near unanimous conventional wisdom" --the "wisdom" that Senate investigators branded as "group think"? Were they all "lonely voices" a la Eleanor Rigby? This story was headlined as a "Peephole to the War Room"and played at the bottom of page A-10.

And this from the newspaper of record, the paper that has already admitted its pre-war coverage was flawed. What about today?

From the same edition of News Dissector, we'll note this:
On Thursday June 16, 2005, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room HC-9 of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Congress Members will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence of efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

The hearings had been planned for the Democratic National Committee offices because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee had refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member to use a large room on the Hill.

However, the Democrats did have access to a small room in the Capitol, and Congressman Conyers has decided to move the hearings there. This does not indicate any change in position from the Republicans."

Trina e-mails to highlight the latest from Matthew Rothschild, "Bush Runs Stop Signs:"
Bush's approval rating is now down to 43 percent, which is much lower than Reagan's or Clinton's at a comparable point in their second terms.
If fact, it's just a tad higher than Richard Nixon's, who was feeling the heat of Watergate.

Bush has only himself to blame. His assault on Social Security, his opposition to stem cell research, his padding of the wallets of his corporate cronies all have shown him to be out of step with the American people.

But it's the Iraq War that is taking a daily toll on his popularity. Vice President Cheney can prattle on about how the insurgency is in its "last throes," but the American people can see with their own eyes that this is not the case.

Every day, there's a brutal suicide bombing or two.

Every day, a U.S. soldier or two or three is being killed over there.

And the Iraqi government shows no signs of being able to put the country back together.

Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld have no answer, either.

Lloyd e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "The House of Labor . . . and the Future:"
So, with the heaving sound of an old tree suddenly splitting apart in a storm, the labor movement is finally breaking up. Last weekend the SEIU executive board authorized its leadership to leave the AFL-CIO.

Today, the five unions now comprising the Change To Win Coalition (CTWC)--along with SEIU, the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, Laborers, and UNITE HERE--meet to form what amounts to a rival federation, whether they all formally leave the AFL-CIO or not. These unions' collective 5 million membership represents 40 percent of the AFL-CIO's 13 million total. If the mammoth 2.7 million member National Education Association aligns with the effort, CTWC will hold exactly half of all union members in the United States.

The avowed basis of the break is a fundamental disagreement on strategy, often depicted as a choice by the insurgents of organizing over politics. This is misleading. Many of the unions remaining in the federation are every bit as committed as the CTWC group to organizing new union members. And some CWTC unions, particularly SEIU, are keenly aware of the importance of politics in increasing union membership. The fight is really about consolidation and political focus. SEIU has argued that the current practice of having several unions competing in single industrial sectors--"15 separate organizations in transportation, 15 in construction, 13 in public employment, 9 in manufacturing, and so on"--defeats the scaled effort needed to take on business in today's climate. It wants to compel fewer, bigger, more clearly sectorally-based unions, as in northern Europe. And it has argued that labor must find ways to mobilize support outside itself, chiefly through more engagement in state and local politics.

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