If President Bush had stood on the steps of the White House with a megaphone when he set out to sell the Iraq War, he might have convinced a few people about the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. But he had something far more powerful that convinced far more people: He had a compliant press corps ready to amplify his lies. This was the same press corps that investigated and reported for years on President Clinton's lying about an extramarital affair. The difference here was that President Bush's lies take lives.
In order to be able to get that all-important leak from a named or, better yet, unnamed "senior official," reporters trade truth for access. This is the "access of evil," when reporters forgo the tough questions out of fear of being passed over.
And then there is the embedding process. Journalists embedded with US troops in Iraq bring us only one perspective. How about balancing the troops' perspective with reporters embedded in Iraqi hospitals, or in the peace movement around the world? Former Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke proclaimed the embedding process a spectacular success. For the Pentagon, it was. More powerful than any bomb or missile, the Pentagon deployed the media.
The above is from Amy Goodman's "Access of Evil" (The Nation). We're opening with it because we need a strong sense of reality before wading through the latest by Dexter Filkins. The media that sold you the war continues to sell you it. This as some on the 'left' waste everyone's time rallying around war hawks like Hillary Clinton. Let's be clear that the stay-the-course crowd (in DC), except for the very stupid, aren't screaming that because of their feelings regarding the state of the Iraqi people. This was never about the Iraqi people (you should have grasped that when there was no attempt to seriously address the issue of potable water or the electricity or to account for billions of dollars that disappeared from the so-called coalition or . . . .) . What it was about was outlined some time ago, planned disaster, in Naomi Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's magazine). Heath just finished Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse (a great book) and e-mailed to say he went back and read Klein after and now gets it.
All the posturing doesn't change reality. Or change the fact that a whole lot of ugly pigs have had their fingers in the pie. (Mad Maddie, we mean you!) Which is among the reasons that, at this site, we don't stay silent when CODEPINK's trashed and stabbed in the back and why we don't rush in to defend war hawk Hillary Clinton who knows far more than she's ever told. Or link to a bit of nonsense about flags written by Bob Kerry who was selling the invasion (alongside John McCain and others) before the war started.
Sadly, it was Jewel, and not some on the left, who sang "I won't be made useless." Some on the left feel bound and determined to demonstrate just how useless they can be. (And at that, they succeed.) It's not about democracy in Iraq, it never was. The puppet government will not bring democracy and has not brought democracy.
For people to buy into that myth, it takes a lot of useless people from all over the spectrum. Yes, now we're ready to talk Dexy.
Apparently it was play Al Qaeda Idol or sing "It Might As Well Rain Until September" for Dexy and he decided to do what he'd always done best, push whatever nonsense he was told. Having already demonstrated he could be the chief propagandist for the military with Zarqawi (see Thomas E. Ricks' "Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi" in the Washington Post -- and not much else because far too many shy from addressing the issue of Dexter Filkins publicly), today he goes to bat for the latest contestant with "U.S. Portrayal Helps Flesh Out Zarqawi's Heir" in this morning's New York Times.
American military officers on Thursday . . .
. . . they say succeeded . . .
Mr. Masri, he said, . . . [note that "he" is of course an American general]
General Caldwell said Mr. Masri . . .
. . . American officials predicted . . .
Still, on Thursday, American officials said . . .
. . . the Americans claim . . .
The Americans said . . .
General Caldwell said . . .
But, the general said, . . .
That's how it goes for the entire article. We could continue this game (and we've played it before) (and played the game before it was a much linked article, lest we be accused of ripping off anyone -- the excercise was actually done by Norman Solomon back in the 90s and I'm sure by someone else before that) but I think every member gets the idea.
Dexy has nothing to say, nothing to offer, but what he's told. It's not reporting. It never has been.
So Dexy was on the NewsHour and I, being averse to PBS (we won't try to save it here) and really most TV in general, missed it. But Phyllis Bennis and Philip Maldari mentioned it yesterday on KPFA's The Morning Show so I looked at the transcript. Bennis and Maldari panned for gold and found the only thing of value in the nonsense interview that Filkins gave.
But Baghdad is, neighborhood by neighborhood, very, very close to total anarchy. The amount of violence is absolutely extraordinary, and it's not just insurgent violence. It's violence by the militias; it's kidnapping; it's murder.
It's really, really dangerous here, as the ambassador said. And so I think that nobody really expects that the killing of one man, even a man as murderous as Zarqawi, could make that much of a difference.
And would he have offered even that much if "the ambassador" hadn't already "said" it? Magic 8 Ball says: "Selling the illegal war is in his blood and in his cheerleading tights." But he offered "anarchy" on TV and it's far more reality than anything he's offered in print. (That appearance was June 13th for those trying to figure what day he didn't write that in the paper.)
Not one to pan for gold, here's what stands out to me:
DEXTER FILKINS: Well, first of all, the president took a helicopter from the airport to the Green Zone. He didn't drive the road. The airport road, as a lot of people know, is a notorious place where there are suicide bombings there everyday.
But even as he took the helicopter, he got to see quite a bit. He flew over the Green Zone. He could see the power plants in Dora, which is one of the most insurgent-ridden neighborhoods in the whole city. He flew over the buildings where Saddam Hussein and his former henchmen are now being tried.
So he got a good look at the city. And Baghdad is a really -- it's a really extraordinary sight from the sky.
I bet it is a wonderful sight from the sky, far removed from the reality those on the ground, outside the Green Zone, have to face daily. The helicopter, like Dexy's writing, is far removed from reality. He saw "power plants in Dora," "flew over the buildings where Saddam Hussein and his former henchmen are now being tried" . . . Dexy really is useless and he's made himself that.
"Very close to total anarchy"? Well he never wrote about the truth on the ground in real time (guess no official could be quoted -- maybe, like with Paul Bremer, he'll slam them for it when they later write a book?). He's one of the reasons we stay. He lies a little every day and every day that he lies about the reality of life in Iraq (forget the reason we're over there, just the reality) allows the illegal occupation to continue as some Americans convince themselves that things really aren't that bad.
If Judith Miller had a hand in getting us over there (and she did with the help of Michael R. Gordon and others at the paper), then Dexy Filkins (to repeat) has had a hand in keeping us there. Today, instead of giving readers any reality, he yet agains files another lengthy press release from the Green Zone and passes it off as a report. The puppet occupation has a puppet 'reporter' and Dexy long ago cast himself in that role. Of those in the supposed press who sold us into war, Dahr Jamail rightly asked: "Would this war have even happened if these people had not done what they did?" (Mark Gabrish Conlan's "Independent Journalists Visit, Report on Iraq").
No. And it's equally true that illegal occupation would not continue, day after day, for over three years and with over 2500 Americans troops dead (which doesn't rate a story of its own in today's paper of no record) if 'reporters' didn't continue to sell it. Dexy sells it again today. It's old, it's tired, but he pinches his cheeks, steps into his fishnets, and trolls under the street lamp for another night. The only thing worse than being an old joke is being a dirty, old joke.
Remember to listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today.
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[C.I. note: "trolls" added instead of "stepped under" being used twice. Also this post's time was messed up. I was attempting to get "And the war drags on . . ." at the top -- posted during a roundtable you can read in the gina & krista roundrobin -- and got all messed up on time.]