Thursday, November 16, 2006
And the war drags on . . .
The American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
In the latest media assault, right-wing outfits like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are secondary. The heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA -- the front page of the New York Times.
The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterm elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops.
Under the headline "Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say," the Nov. 15 front page of the New York Times prominently featured a "Military Analysis" by Michael Gordon. The piece reported that -- while some congressional Democrats are saying withdrawal of U.S. troops "should begin within four to six months" -- "this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies."
Reporter Gordon appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is "simply not realistic." Sounding much like a Pentagon spokesman, Gordon went on to state in no uncertain terms that he opposes a pullout.
If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated against any such withdrawal during his Nov. 15 appearance on CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded -- and probably would be taken off the beat -- by the Times hierarchy. But the paper's news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic worldviews of the country's national security state.
That's how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. That's how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon.
The above, noted by Mia, is from Norman Solomon's "The New Media Offensive for the Iraq War" (Common Dreams). The Times is selling the war again through people like Gordo. And Adam Nagourney and quite a few others. Is anyone going to pay attention to that (other than Solomon) or are we all going to act as though Judith Miller wrote, edited, printed and delivered the paper of no record to every front porch? Some of the stories singled out the sort-of-culpa were co-written. One of the co-writers was Gordo. Who also praised the US military targeting Iraqi journalists when appearing on CNN with Aaron Brown.
But bash-the-bitch allows a lot of people to feel good about themselves, to think they accomplished something and to dust off their past criticism yet again. The reality is Dexter Filkins has provided a 'unique' view from Iraq that allowed Americans to see fantasy as opposed to reality. It's only when it all fell to pieces (and Dexy didn't tell readers that) that Americans started to grasp how awful things were. In spite of Dexy, in spite of Gordo. The paper continues to sell the war. Like the administration, they want 'refining' of tactics, they're not against the war and the coverage reflects that. An article today that we didn't highlight told you what Sunnis think. Or tried to. It didn't address the reality of Sunni opinion. It just rounded up a few voices, a few Sunni voices, that would say "America needs to stay" and then editorialize (in a news article) that these reflected all Sunni voices. No one voice reflects all but the Times seems to think they can summon some sort of authority that will convince people it's true.
Why could they get away with that? Possibly because indy media wants to rehash Judith Miller (and even blame her for stories she didn't write)? The paper's still selling the war. They're attempting to manage opinion on the war. They're down playing voices objecting, myth-making the Baker Iraq Study Group, and trying to reassure Americans that, yes, things are bad, but there's something new, a plan!, that will turn the entire illegal war around.
They get away with it because people who sometimes appear not to have even read what Miller wrote (if they had, they wouldn't blame her for an article she didn't write or co-write) know Miller's an easy topic. Say the two words ("Judy Miller") and suddenly you seem wise and informed. To be offering 'criticism' today of the Times and only saying "Judy Miller" means be unwise and uninformed.
It also means they get cover to repackage the illegal war as they attempt to sell it again. And . . . the war drags on.
They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)
Last Thursday, the total number of US troop fatalities stood at 2839. Right now? 2865. Twenty-six more. Realize how close we are to 2900? Does it matter? You couldn't tell it from the coverage. Here's a suggestion to war resisters planning to make public stands next summer -- do so with a recipe so you can be considered for the special food issue or have a Katrina story. On the latter, you might get your name mentioned in an issue, Carl Webb did, you just won't be identified as a war resister in the story.
Joan notes AP's "Watada explains his refusal to go to Iraq:"
Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada defended himself on national television yesterday against criticism that he was coward for refusing to fight in Iraq. Watada, who is from Honolulu, faces a court martial after denying orders to deploy to Iraq and challenging the Bush administration's justification for the war. Watada said on C-N-N that everyone is afraid of getting killed, but his reason for staying home was because he took an oath to defend America against all enemies. He said those enemies include those within the U-S who are breaking the law by trying to do whatever they want.
Well, take comfort in the fact that the AP will cover war resisters even when our independent magazines can't or won't. And of course Ehren Watada was on CNN. He even got a write up, a fairly straightforward article, in the New York Times this summer. He just hasn't made it into our big independent magazines. Anyone walking through a Border, Barnes & Noble or whatever chain was able to see the cover story on the 'generals' revolt.' But in terms of putting out the face of a war resister, getting the word out on that, don't hold your breath.
It's called "The Full Brobeck" -- when independent media shuts out coverage of and voices of war resisters -- and sadly it's becoming very obvious. Which is why, if you count on independent media coverage for your news, you may not know that Ehren Watada is facing a court martial. You may not know that Ivan Brobeck turned himself on election day. You may not that Kyle Snyder turned himself and then self-checked out again when the military lied to him. He's underground now but still showing up to speak out.
Anyone old enough to remember when Angela Davis was underground can probably remember how support for her did influence. If Angela Davis went underground today would it even be covered? Probably not. We're getting text equivalents of the Sunday chat and chews. We're not getting challenged, we're not getting informed. (There are exceptions.) If you were on a desert island and all the issues of a magazine from this year floated onto land, reading them, would you know there was a war going on? You might miss that there is a peace movement going on, that there is war resistance within the military (despite what Mommy's Pantyhose thinks). If their goal is introduce elements and opinions into the conversation, they need to do a better job. Providing the "response" to the right-wing's "call" isn't offering anything new. It's still letting them set the agenda, define the terms.
Kevin notes Mark Almberg's "Iraq war refuser speaks on Veterans Day" (People's Weekly World):
Gathering at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial alongside the Chicago River to the musical refrains of "I ain't gonna study war no more," veterans and their supporters helped bring a distinctly antiwar cast to Veterans Day 2006.
It was cold and windy, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the 60 or so participants.
Among the speakers was Kyle Snyder, 23, an Iraq war refuser who is seeking a negotiated end to his contract with Army because he believes the war to be immoral and unjust.
"I was recruited into the Army in 2003," he told the crowd. "I was given promises of a $5,000 signing bonus and medical benefits. I believed at the time what I was doing was right."
Originally told he would be operating heavy equipment rebuilding schools and other infrastructure in Iraq, he said it wasn't until he arrived in Kuwait that he learned he had been reassigned to handling a .50-caliber machine gun as part of an escort for high-ranking officials.
Once in Iraq, Snyder soon began to grow uncomfortable with what he was seeing.
"Iraqi children were flipping us," he said. "Iraqi civilians I saw were really angry at us. It looked like they were fed up with the occupation. And the people who were called terrorists or insurgents were just like me -- 17- or 18-year-olds, defending their homes, doing the same thing I would be doing if someone attacked my home here in the U.S."
"I really changed my mind after I saw the shooting of a civilian that wasn’t properly investigated," Snyder said. "My chain of command basically told me that I could pick up my weapon and shoot anyone I wanted to because it was wartime and it would be OK.
"That was the wrong answer for me," he said.
Where else did you hear or read that? What are you paying for that could be providing you with that coverage but isn't? And are you okay with that? Do you really need to read that Joe Lieberman might flip? Did you need someone telling you that or didn't you already know that? In fact, didn't Kate Zernike cover that on the front page of the New York Times?
Now maybe you feel that Iraq, the peace movement and war resistance haven't been covered because other worthy topics are being covered? If you feel that way, you're not one of deaf or hearing impaired members. They're quite aware that a protest went on for months and months but where was the brave independent media? Where were they to make sure that got covered?
Or maybe you're one of our young members that wonders where the hell coverage of students are? Or you're one of our members in the US who either immigrated or had someone in your family or circle who did and you're wondering why the issue of immigration didn't just hit the independent mags only when middle-aged adults were involved but you're also wondering why they've yet to take the coverage to the very obvious stage -- children. Young, old, adult, underage. Families will be split up. When people want to focus on this or that in their gas bagging, they seem to ignore that basic point. That is where the conversation needs to go, that is something that will turn down some of the hatred being heaped upon immigrants -- when people grasp that families will be split up.
As we continue to have our time wasted, the war's not ending. It's not going to end because someone wants to audition for Meet the Press or any other 'acceptable' goal. Acceptable and respectable seems to be the hallmark of too much independent media these days.
Carl had a highlight he thought Betty would enjoy. (She did. Dona, Kat and I are at Betty's this evening. Kat's back from Ireland as of today -- I'll be substituting for her tomorrow night -- and Dona and I are speaking to students through Friday.) This is Cynthia McKinney's "In Opposition to the Resolution to Go to War in Iraq: Statement on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Cynthia McKinney" (currently at her House website) from October 9, 2002:
Thank you very much. I share the same revulsion that many others have towards Saddam Hussein. We all know that he’s brutal, and that his regime has terrorized the Iraqi people and the people of nearby countries. But there was a time not so long ago when despite all of this, we chose to allow him to be our friend. There was a time we supplied him with chemical weapons and other military technologies. If our nation really cared about Iraq's neighbors, we never would have supplied him the military arsenal that we did. And if we really cared about his people, we would have done something to alleviate the suffering of the Kurds, who for years have been brutalized by the Iraqi military. If we cared about the Iraqi people, we would have done something to lift the burdens imposed on them by UN sanctions, which to date have claimed in excess of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children.
But the truth is we didn't really care about any of that suffering. Madeleine Albright even said that the price of 500,000 dead Iraqi children was "worth it." Now, however, we claim to care. Now, Saddam Hussein has just become another name on a long list of other tyrants who we once aided and abetted but now oppose. But what to do? In the past, other tyrants we've grown tired of were assassinated, like Jonas Savimbi, or charged with war crimes, like Slobodan Miloševiæ, or forced from power through U.S.-backed uprisings, like Mobutu Sese Seko. President Bush is confronted with a "what to do question." He appears to be choosing war to get rid of this tyrant, and of course he has to justify it. That is the public relations part of the equation.
The words "Gulf of Tonkin" have echoed around Washington this last month with many people concerned that the Bush Administration is now manufacturing an international crisis in order to launch a pre-emptive military strike against Saddam Hussein. In 1964, there were some courageous members of this House who knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a political ruse, being used by the Johnson Administration in order to justify the United States going to war in Vietnam. For their courage to speak out and resist, they suffered a tidal wave of public ridicule. But we now know they were right and that the Vietnam War was a monumental mistake that cost the lives of some 60,000 brave young Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.
And still, we have many Americans and Vietnamese who suffer the health effects of agent orange and other toxins faced on the battlefield. And all across the American and European landscape, today, veterans still suffer from Gulf War Syndrome and exposure to depleted uranium. Will we let this president create yet another generation of veterans to whom we've broken our promise? I see too many of these veterans sleeping on our streets. The President can see them, too, if he would just look. They sleep on the sidewalks, the benches, and the heating vents just across the street from the White House. And sadly, one of the first things our President did after he declared this war on terrorism was to deprive our young men and women who are now fighting on the front lines their high deployment overtime pay. He doesn't even want to pay them.
Mr. speaker, do we give this President the green light to go to war on Iraq based on evidence which many weapons experts believe to be exaggerated? Are we now turning a blind eye to another Gulf of Tonkin-type incident? Shouldn't we trust the legal and diplomatic means of the United Nations? Do we give the President the green light to go to war in Iraq because it has refused to comply with U.N. Security Council weapons inspections resolutions? At the same time Israel refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions with respect to the occupied territories. Do we have difference standards for different countries?
Mr. speaker, the Cuban missile crisis and the Gulf of Tonkin, if they taught us anything, they taught us the dangers of choosing the military option over diplomatic and legal alternatives. The current terrorist crisis facing our nation is so much bigger and complicated than this call for war on Iraq. Should we miscalculate our military actions in Iraq, we could cause many American service men and women to lose their lives. Needless to say, we could also cause untold numbers of Iraqis to be killed or injured. Worse still, instead of solving the current threat of terrorism against us, going to war in Iraq might well make things far worse for us both at home and abroad. I hope and pray that we choose our options carefully. And for that reason, I will be voting "no" on this resolution to go to war in Iraq. Thank you, Mr. speaker.
That's "currently at" because McKinney won't be in the new Congress. She got stabbed in the back (again) by her own party. All the gas bagging and rah-rah can't seem to find time for that. But if there'd been more in the Congress with McKinney's courage in 2002, Bully Boy wouldn't have gotten his blank check. Dennis Kucinich spoke in a brave voice on Democracy Now! Wednesday. Antonia Juhasz was also a guest on Wednesday -- she spoke about the need for oversight in the reconstruction. On that topic, Brandon notes Russ Feingold's "SENATE APPROVES PROPOSAL TO EXTEND THE TERM OF THE SPECIAL IG FOR IRAQI RECONSTRUCTION" (from his official Senate website):
Bill Offered By Senators Collins, Feingold, Lieberman, and Coleman Approved As Part of Military Construction Spending Bill
November 14, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC-- The U.S. Senate has approved legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and cosponsored by 25 Senators to include Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Norm Coleman (R-MN), that will extend the term of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Without this legislation, the SIGIR's term would expire next year, on October 1, 2007. The Senators' legislation would enable the SIGIR to continue his critical oversight work until late 2008 and was approved as an amendment to the fiscal year 2007 Military Construction Appropriations bill.
Senator Collins said, "I am pleased by the strong support for this amendment and that our colleagues in the Senate recognize how crucial it is for the SIGIR's work to continue. This office has proven to be a much-needed watchdog, auditing reconstruction contracts in Iraq and spotlighting numerous cases of waste, fraud, and abuse and we must keep the watchdog on the job. This office provides a $25 dollar benefit for every dollar spent on oversight and investigations. It is inconceivable that we would remove this aggressive oversight while the American taxpayer is still spending billions of dollars on Iraq reconstruction projects."
Senator Feingold said, "I am pleased the Senate passed this common sense provision to extend the mandate of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. This critical office has been incredibly successful in its role as a watchdog of U.S. taxpayer dollars used for reconstruction efforts in Iraq. While there are varying views about the situation in Iraq, the SIGIR is one thing that everyone should agree helps ensure the effective use of our reconstruction funds. This office must be able to continue its important work to uncover any further waste, fraud, and abuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Iraq."
Senator Lieberman said, "Stuart Bowen and his staff have performed a great service by uncovering billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on abuse and mismanagement of Iraqi reconstruction contracts. That’s why the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction must be allowed to continue his work for as long as American taxpayers are footing the bill for Iraqi reconstruction projects."
Senator Coleman said, "Bringing our Iraq reconstruction oversight efforts to a premature end is simply not an option. I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle demonstrated their overwhelming support for this amendment. Without question, the SIGIR's oversight during this process has been essential to ensuring that the taxpayers' dollars are being used effectively and efficiently.
Specifically, the legislation would reinstate the SIGIR's previous termination schedule of ten months after 80 percent of funds for Iraq reconstruction have been expended. A recently enacted defense authorization bill includes a provision that would end the SIGIR's oversight responsibilities next year. The Senators believe that the work of the SIGIR's office, led by Stuart Bowen, is critical and has effectively rooted out millions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse, and therefore, must be continued.
The SIGIR's office is responsible for oversight of approximately $32 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts and grants. As a result of his work, the SIGIR estimates that the financial impact of his audits, investigations, and inspections, is approximately $1.87 billion, far exceeding the offices expenses of $72 million.
The SIGIR's office has issued 73 audit reports and 65 project assessments, and the office's work has resulted in the arrest of five people, and the convictions of four, with more than $17 million in assets seized.
Additional cosponsors of the bill include Senators Joseph Lieberman, (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Biden (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Sununu (R-NH), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND, Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Warner (R-VA), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Robert Bennett (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-NE), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
For more information read a fact sheet on the legislation.
Listen to Senator Feingold talk about the legislation.
Remember that's only the Senate. Speaking with Juhasz, Amy Goodman identified the person who snuck the elimination of the special inspector general over Iraq construction as being Duncan Hunter. And while we're back to Democracy Now!, Marcia notes Johsua Scheer's "Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Cut Off Iraq War Funding" (Truthdig):
TRUTHDIG: I was just reading up on your [Nov. 15] appearance on Democracy Now!, in which you talked about cutting off the funds to Iraq as being the only way to make any progress there. Do you want to comment on that?
KUCINICH: Today, it was announced that 2,000 more Marines are being sent to Anbar province--a place which was already declared "lost" for the purposes of military occupation. Why are we sacrificing our young men and women? Why are we keeping them in an impossible situation? Why are we stoking a civil war with our continued presence? We have to take a new direction in Iraq, and that direction is out.
Now, there are many plans out there. The people talking about phased redeployment, the president as the commander in chief ultimately has the authority to determine the placement of troops. Congress' real authority, and Congress' constitutional [mandate] as a co-equal branch of government, requires that it be heard from, and I believe that Congress must exercise its authority to protect the troops by bringing them home. And the only way we can do that effectively is to vote against supplemental appropriations--which has kept the war going, or to vote against appropriation bills which fund the war. That’s Congress' ultimate power--the power of the purse.
If we truly care about our troops, we'll get them out. It's the phoniest argument to say that a cut-off of funds will leave troops stranded in the field. There's always money in the pipeline to pay for an orderly withdrawal. But those who favor continuing the war or escalating the war are using the troops as a tool to further policies that are against the interests of the troops, against the interests of [the] American people, and against the interests of peace in the world.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org. And Betty's latest went up this evening, "The Girth of the Tabby."
and the war drags on
thomas friedman is a great man