Saturday, July 21, 2007

John Pilger, Iraq, etc.

I've made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia. It describes the American bombing that provided the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started, Pol Pot completed -- CIA files alone leave no doubt of that. I offered Year Zero to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said, "John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot."
I said, "Do you dispute the evidence?" I had quoted a number of CIA documents. "Oh, no," he replied. "But we've decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator."
Now the term "journalist adjudicator" might have been invented by George Orwell. In fact they managed to find one of only three journalists who had been invited to Cambodia by Pol Pot. And of course he turned his thumbs down on the film, and I never heard from PBS again. Year Zero was broadcast in some 60 countries and became one of the most watched documentaries in the world. It was never shown in the United States. Of the five films I have made on Cambodia, one of them was shown by WNET, the PBS station in New York. I believe it was shown at about one in the morning. On the basis of this single showing, when most people are asleep, it was awarded an Emmy. What marvelous irony. It was worthy of a prize but not an audience.
Harold Pinter's subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism, and described a battle for history that's almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age. And this is the secret heart of propaganda today. A propaganda so vast in scope that I'm always astonished that so many Americans know and understand as much as they do. We are talking about a system, of course, not personalities. And yet, a great many people today think that the problem is George W. Bush and his gang. And yes, the Bush gang is extreme. But my experience is that they are no more than an extreme version of what has gone on before. In my lifetime, more wars have been started by liberal Democrats than by Republicans. Ignoring this truth is a guarantee that the propaganda system and the war-making system will continue. We've had a branch of the Democratic Party running Britain for the last 10 years. Blair, apparently a liberal, has taken Britain to war more times than any prime minister in the modern era. Yes, his current pal is George Bush, but his first love was Bill Clinton, the most violent president of the late 20th century. Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown is also a devotee of Clinton and Bush. The other day, Brown said, "The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate."
Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won; that the millions who died in British-imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten -- like the millions who have died in the American Empire will be forgotten. And like Blair, his successor is confident that professional journalism is on his side. For most journalists, whether they realize it or not, are groomed to be tribunes of an ideology that regards itself as non-ideological, that presents itself as the natural center, the very fulcrum of modern life. This may very well be the most powerful and dangerous ideology we have ever known because it is open-ended. This is liberalism. I’m not denying the virtues of liberalism -- far from it. We are all beneficiaries of them. But if we deny its dangers, its open-ended project, and the all-consuming power of its propaganda, then we deny our right to true democracy, because liberalism and true democracy are not the same. Liberalism began as a preserve of the elite in the 19th century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggled for.
A senior member of the antiwar coalition, United For Peace and Justice, said recently, and I quote her, "The Democrats are using the politics of reality." Her liberal historical reference point was Vietnam. She said that President Johnson began withdrawing troops from Vietnam after a Democratic Congress began to vote against the war. That's not what happened. The troops were withdrawn from Vietnam after four long years. And during that time the United States killed more people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with bombs than were killed in all the preceding years. And that’s what’s happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported. And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it. During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what were euphemistically called the "no fly zones." At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called economic sanctions, killing as I’ve mentioned, perhaps a million people, including a documented 500,000 children. Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media. Last year a study published by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that since the invasion of Iraq 655, 000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the invasion. Official documents show that the Blair government knew this figure to be credible. In February, Les Roberts, the author of the report, said the figure was equal to the figure for deaths in the Fordham University study of the Rwandan genocide. The media response to Robert's shocking revelation was silence. What may well be the greatest episode of organized killing for a generation, in Harold Pinter's words, "Did not happen. It didn't matter."

The above, noted by Marcus, is from John Pilger's "The Invisible Government" (Dissident Voice). It's from a speech he gave at the Socialist Forum in June and, if I'm remembering right, two Fridays ago, Amy Goodman played some of it on WBAI. I'm not sure of the time (and wouldn't be if I wasn't rushing). I was just in town to speak and asked the taxi driver to flip to 99.5, it was after Democracy Now! and WBAI is in pledge drive till the end of the month (or almost the end). But if you go to the first or second hour after Democracy Now! ended (in the WBAI archives), you should be able to listen to a sample of the speech. (Which also means, since it is their pledge drive, the speech is probably available on disc via a pledge of a certain amount.)

Marcus noted Senator Crazy's remarks last week re: Cambodia (in the Senate Cloakroom) where he began LYING about Cambodia and proving just how insane John McCain is. Marcus asked if we could lead with that on Sunday (for "And the war drags on") and I don't want to hold it until Sunday because I will forget.

Moving over to the Los Angeles Times, from Molly Hennesy-Fiske's "Iraqi jails in 'appalling' condition: Crowded detention facilities are overwhelmed by an influx of suspects. Corruption and delays are endemic:"

This facility, the National Police detention center in northwest Baghdad, was intended to house up to 300 inmates when it opened two years ago. Nearly 900 are now crammed inside -- an unwieldy mix of suspected insurgents, alleged criminals and apparent innocents.
Other Iraqi detention facilities have seen a similar influx since the launch of the U.S.-led security crackdown in February.
Partially treated wounds, skin diseases and grossly unsanitary conditions appear common here. So, too, is extortion by guards, say U.S. officials who serve as advisors to the Iraqi staff, but disclaim responsibility for the conditions inside.
"They're Iraqi government facilities. We work with the Iraqi government to get their facilities established. It's their responsibility to maintain the facilities, it's their responsibility to provide the guards," said a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad.

Actually, as long as the US occupies Iraq, it is the US responsibility -- morally and legally. The only thing that ends the legal responsibility is ending the illegal war and the illegal occupation. That "a senior U.S. military official" is so unaware of international law is as frightening as the conditions of the jails.

Funding the war is funding the killing and it's funding the crimes that go on every day and are greeted with shrugs -- like the "senior U.S. military official" who wants to claim what the jails are like in occupied Iraq are not a responsibility for the occupiers (that would be the US).

In news of other shirked responsibilities, from Mike Drummond and Laith Hammoudi's "U.S. is still slow to admit Iraqi refugees" (McClatchy Newspapers):

The State Department will fall far short of the 7,000 Iraqi refugees it had said it was prepared to accept by the end of September.
A State Department official told McClatchy Newspapers this week that it plans to interview 4,000 potential Iraqi refugees by then.
The State Department has said that helping Iraqi refugees -- particularly those who work with Americans -- remains a top priority.
In April, the department approved one Iraqi refugee. It allowed one in May, as well.

7,000 is an appalling number to begin with. That the State Department can't even meet that number is a sign of how ineffective Condi and Bully Boy are.

One of the stories that's not been covered in a way that the point is getting through is how the US used Iraqis. I was speaking Thursday to a group and brought this up only to be greeted with "For real?"s. Yes, for real. (One student did know of it because his brother served in Iraq starting in April 2003. He was the only one who had heard of this.) The US military needed Iraqi support within Iraq. They needed interpreters (and, of course, they also needed spies). To recruit them, they promised big money (that never came) and that they would be first in line for US citizenship (in this country, they weren't promising to make Iraq a US colony).

When the Iraqis willing to help you are lied to, you better believe it further destroys your image. Fortunately for the White House, that's really not an issue now. Assisting with the war and the occupation now does not allow for easy re-entry. (A significant number of the externally displaced Iraqi refugees include those who assisted the US military and were not able to go to the US -- as promised -- and were not able to return to their own towns and cities due to the fact that they were seen as collaborators.)

That happened repeatedly, the promise and then the breaking of the promise. That broken promise is not a new feature of this illegal war; however, the fact that the 'cakewalk' has lasted so long means that there is a higher number of Iraqis who have been betrayed.

Kind of the way the American people are betrayed when the Democratically elected Congress decides to play the con game instead of ending the illegal war. Brenda notes a Congressional Quartery summary (done by Adam Graham-Silverman) that is at the New York Times website detailing the 69 House Democrats (and Republican Ron Paul) who have sent Bully Boy a formal letter stating they will not be funding the illegal war without a timeline for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Also in/at the New York Times, Thom Shanker apparently loses IQ points when standing too close to Ann Coulter's buddy David E. Sanger. That's the only explaination for their "White House and Military Say Iraq Report Will Be Ready in September:"

The White House and senior military officers vowed Friday that an important assessment on progress in Iraq would be delivered by the Sept. 15 deadline set by Congress, even if it takes weeks longer to compile a more complete judgment on the current troop increase.
A day after the No. 2 American commander in Iraq said it would take "at least until November" to complete a full assessment, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said neither the White House nor military officers in Baghdad were asking for more time before reporting to Congress on progress in Iraq.

Of course the September report will be given. It's mandated. That's not the issue. The issue is the White House has launched an offensive to mitigate the results of the report and laid the groundwork for arguing (in September) that no one can really know the 'success' level until November. The same tired arguments put forward this past week about 'more time' being needed will be put forward in November. It's a variation on the 'turned corner' that never got turned but was always promised. The illegal war is lost and what they're doing now is trying to extend it. No one has claimed that the blessed David will not give his report in September. That's not what Operation Push-Back has been about. It's been about the administration lowering expectations and laying the groundwork for the argument to come: We need to wait until November! If they get away with that, no doubt, by the first week of October, the next push-back will be sold. That may include Bully Boy announced 10,000 or more US troops being sent into Iraq in October and arguing that this is a fine tuning and he needs more time to see how it works.

The American people decided in the United States and they long ago said, "You've had more than enough time." It's only Congressional leadership that refuses to step up and say the same.
(A proposed partial withdrawal does not say, "Time's up." It says, "Keep playing your illegal war but use less US lives.")

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that some of today's violence includes: "15 civilians killed and 10 were wounded when American air planes bombed Al Husseiniyah district north Baghdad around 3,00 am." Three in the morning.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

AP reports that Hillary Clinton has responded to the administration's efforts to slime her using McCarthy tactics:

Later in the day, in a conference call with reporters, Clinton called Edelman's argument "offensive and totally inappropriate," and said it was more evidence that smart military planning is being subverted by misguided White House strategies.
"I don't want to wake up and be surprised once again that what any of us would have assumed was absolutely accepted has been derailed or stonewalled by the White House because it doesn't fit the ideological or political agenda," she said.
She was joined in the conference call by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic nominee. The two plan legislation forcing the Pentagon to report to Congress about withdrawal plans.
Clinton said she and Kerry were "shocked by the timeworn tactic of once again impugning the patriotism of any of us who raise serious questions" about the Iraq war. Kerry accused the Bush administration of making "planning a dirty word and an alien concept."
Clinton first raised the issue of troop withdrawal planning in May, pointing out that whenever U.S. forces leave, it will be no simple task to transport the people, equipment and vehicles out of Iraq, possibly through hostile territory.

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