About the Iraq tragedy – commentary and information

Updated 3/30/13

The Neo­con­ser­v­a­tives

The Project for the New Amer­i­can Cen­tury By William Rivers Pitt, Infor­ma­tion Clear­ing House 02/25/03

The Project for a New American Empire, by Duane Shank, Sojourners Magazine, September-October 2003 (Vol. 32, No. 5, pp. 27-30).

Prince of Dark­ness Denies Own Exis­tence by Dana Mil­bank, Wash­ing­ton Post, Feb­ru­ary 20, 2009

Con­text  HistoryCommons.org

It’s About A Lot More Than A “God­damned Piece of Paper” by Steve Wat­son,  Capi­tol Hill Blue, Decem­ber 12 2005

Costs of war

War Is a Force That Pays the 1 Per­cent: Occu­py­ing Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­icy by: J.A. Myer­son, Truthout | News Analy­sis, Novem­ber 14, 2011

Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Tril­lion, Could Grow to $6 Tril­lion, Says Wat­son Insti­tute Study By Daniel Trotta, Reuters 3/14/13 on

Amer­i­can Mil­i­tarism: Costs and Con­se­quences By Melvin Good­man, City Lights Books | Book Excerpt, Truth-out.org, 05 March 2013

Look­ing back

Ten Years After – Editorial, New York Times

Democ­rats Share the Blame for Tragedy of Iraq War, 17 March 2013 06:59 By Stephen Zunes, Truthout | Op-Ed 

10 Years After Iraq Inva­sion: Con­tin­ued Myths, Hun­dreds of Thou­sands Killed by Andrea Ger­manos, staff writer, Com­mon Dreams, March 18, 2013

10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished

Ten Years Later, Eyes Still Wide Shut on the Iraq War by Ray McGov­ern, Con­sor­tium News,  Feb­ru­ary 25, 2013

How the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion Sold the War – and We Bought It by Joe Wil­son and Valerie Plame Wil­son, The Guardian, Feb­ru­ary 28, 2013

The Worst Mis­take in U.S. His­tory — Amer­ica Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great For­eign Pol­icy Dis­as­ter By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dis­patch , March 7, 2013

10 Years Later: Look­ing Back on the Iraq War So We Can Clearly Look For­ward by Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, Huff­in­g­ton Post, 03/06/2013

Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by The Observer,   Sep­tem­ber 1, 2012   — Arch­bishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the inter­na­tional crim­i­nal court in The Hague and deliv­ered a damn­ing cri­tique of the phys­i­cal and moral dev­as­ta­tion caused by the Iraq war.

The Siren Song Of War: Why Pundits Beat The Drums For Iraq by Kath­leen Geier, nationalmemo.com, March 22, 2013 

Articles posted previously on 3/26/13

 

Ten Years After – Editorial, New York Times

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, March 19, 2013

Excerpt

Ten years after it began, the Iraq war still haunts the United States in the nearly 4,500 troops who died there; the more than 30,000 American wounded who have come home; the more than $2 trillion spent on combat operations and reconstruction, which inflated the deficit; and in the lessons learned about the limits of American leadership and power.

It haunts Iraq too, where the total number of casualties is believed to have surpassed 100,000 but has never been officially determined; and where one strongman was traded for another, albeit under a more pluralistic system with a democratic veneer. The country is increasingly influenced by Iran and buffeted by the regional turmoil caused by the Arab Spring.

In 2003, President George W. Bush and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, used the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to wage pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein and a nuclear arsenal that did not exist. They promised a “free and peaceful Iraq” that would be a model of democracy and stability in the Arab world…Yet none of the Bush administration’s war architects have been called to account for their mistakes, and even now, many are invited to speak on policy issues as if they were not responsible for one of the worst strategic blunders in American foreign policy…

Iraq is a reminder of the need for political leaders to ask the right questions before allowing military action and to listen honestly rather than acting on ideological or political impulses. Mr. Bush led the war, but Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress endorsed it. Iraq also shows the limits of America’s influence in regions where sectarian enmity remains strong and where democracy has no real history…The Iraq war was unnecessary, costly and damaging on every level. It was based on faulty intelligence manipulated for ideological reasons. The terrible human and economic costs over the past 10 years show why that must never happen again.

Full text

Ten years after it began, the Iraq war still haunts the United States in the nearly 4,500 troops who died there; the more than 30,000 American wounded who have come home; the more than $2 trillion spent on combat operations and reconstruction, which inflated the deficit; and in the lessons learned about the limits of American leadership and power.

It haunts Iraq too, where the total number of casualties is believed to have surpassed 100,000 but has never been officially determined; and where one strongman was traded for another, albeit under a more pluralistic system with a democratic veneer. The country is increasingly influenced by Iran and buffeted by the regional turmoil caused by the Arab Spring.

In 2003, President George W. Bush and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, used the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to wage pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein and a nuclear arsenal that did not exist. They promised a “free and peaceful Iraq” that would be a model of democracy and stability in the Arab world. While no one laments Saddam’s passing and violence is down from peak war levels, the country is fragile, with grave tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and Arabs and Kurds that could yet erupt into civil war or tear the state apart.

A State Department travel warning last month described Iraq as dangerous, with numerous insurgents, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, still active, and said Americans were “at risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence.” On Tuesday, a wave of car bombings and other attacks in Baghdad killed more than 50 people and wounded nearly 200.

Yet none of the Bush administration’s war architects have been called to account for their mistakes, and even now, many are invited to speak on policy issues as if they were not responsible for one of the worst strategic blunders in American foreign policy. In a video posted recently by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Wolfowitz said he still believed the war was the right thing to do. Will he and his partners ever have the humility to admit that it was wrong to prosecute this war?

President Obama opposed the Iraq war from the start and has been single-minded about ending it, withdrawing the last combat troops in 2011. American influence in Iraq has greatly declined since then and Mr. Obama’s attention, like that of most Americans, has shifted to other priorities. Iraqis are responsible for their own future. But the country is a front line in the conflict between moderate Islam and Al Qaeda, not to mention its role as an oil producer. It requires more sustained American involvement than we have recently seen.

Iraq is a reminder of the need for political leaders to ask the right questions before allowing military action and to listen honestly rather than acting on ideological or political impulses. Mr. Bush led the war, but Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress endorsed it. Iraq also shows the limits of America’s influence in regions where sectarian enmity remains strong and where democracy has no real history.

That experience is informing American policy judgments more generally. It has affected decisions about Syria, where President Obama has been right to move cautiously. For a long time the Syrian opposition was divided, and it was hard to know which group, if any, deserved help. It also made sense not to rush into another costly war in another Arab country that could fuel new anti-American animosities and embroil the United States for another decade.

But with the Syrian conflict in its third year, the fighting has already spilled over the borders, destabilizing its neighbors, even as Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels play a bigger role. The reasons for opposing direct American involvement in Syria remain strong, but the United States needs to calibrate its policies continually and should not allow the Iraq experience to paralyze its response to different circumstances.

The lessons of Iraq, however, seem to fade when it comes to Iran. Many of the conservatives who strongly supported the charge into Iraq are fanning calls for United States military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. President Obama has also been threatening “all options” if negotiations to curb Iran’s ambitions are not successful, and many lawmakers seem ready to take action against Iran soon.

The Iraq war was unnecessary, costly and damaging on every level. It was based on faulty intelligence manipulated for ideological reasons. The terrible human and economic costs over the past 10 years show why that must never happen again.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/opinion/ten-years-after-the-iraq-war-began.html

10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished

AlterNet [1] / By Nicolas J.S. Davies [2] March 15, 2013

Excerpt

Since the end of the Second World War, American political leaders and opinion-makers have led the public to believe that the aggressive use of overt and covert military force are essential tools of US foreign policy…the web of myths, euphemisms and ever-growing secrecy behind which our leaders feel compelled to hide their war policies belies their claims to have learned the lessons of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else…

…the central unmentionable problem of U.S. war policy, that it is in fact a crime, aggression, to attack or invade another country.  The judges at Nuremberg called aggression the “supreme international crime” [5], because, as they said, “it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”  The Iraq Inquiry in the U.K. has declassified documents showing that Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were warned consistently and repeatedly that invading Iraq would be a crime of aggression [6], which their legal advisers called “one of the most serious offenses under international law.”

The disaster of two World Wars brought the world’s leaders together to sign the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles.  They saw war as an existential threat to the future of mankind, as it still is.  So the U.N. Charter expressly prohibited the use of military force by any country against another [7].  For the next 45 years, the U.S. could only justify its wars by self-defense of an ally (as in Vietnam) or U.N. action (as in Korea).  The U.S. conducted wars in secret (as in Central America)…

In place of the “peace dividend” that most Americans hoped for, the end of the Cold War perversely encouraged delusions of a “power dividend” and “full spectrum dominance” in Washington.  U.S. leaders exploited public grief and panic in the wake of September 11th to reclaim the use of military force as an accepted form of international behavior, if only for themselves and their allies

Our military leaders may be chronically unable to win a war in another country, but they sure know how to wage a propaganda war in America…

Established principles of law also provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle American war crimes… Neither Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bybee, Gonzalez, Yoo, nor Generals Franks, Sanchez, Casey or Petraeus, should presume that they will live out their lives beyond the reach of justice.

But it is also a well-established principle of international law that countries who commit aggression bear a collective responsibility for their actions.  Our leaders’ guilt does not let the rest of us off the hook for the crimes committed in our name…

Full text

Since the end of the Second World War, American political leaders and opinion-makers have led the public to believe that the aggressive use of overt and covert military force are essential tools of US foreign policy.  As we reel from one military disaster to the next, sending our loved ones off to war, killing millions of innocent people and destabilizing one region after another, each new administration assures us that it has learned the lessons of the past and deserves our support and sacrifice for its latest military strategy.

But the web of myths, euphemisms and ever-growing secrecy behind which our leaders feel compelled to hide their war policies belies their claims to have learned the lessons of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.  The brave efforts of Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning to let us honestly examine the record for ourselves and draw our own conclusions are met with vindictive terror in the halls of power.

 

Forty years after the last U.S. troops came home in defeat from Vietnam, Nick Turse’s book, Kill Anything That Moves [3], has documented the systematic slaughter that thousands of American soldiers took part in and millions of Vietnamese suffered.  Turse has restored the lived reality of millions of people to its rightful place in American history, from which it had simply been redacted and suppressed.

 

As British playwright Harold Pinter said in his 2005  [4]Nobel Speech [4], “…my contention here is that the U.S. crimes… have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all.”

 

Pinter leads us to the central unmentionable problem of U.S. war policy, that it is in fact a crime, aggression, to attack or invade another country.  The judges at Nuremberg called aggression the “supreme international crime” [5], because, as they said, “it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”  The Iraq Inquiry in the U.K. has declassified documents showing that Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were warned consistently and repeatedly that invading Iraq would be a crime of aggression [6], which their legal advisers called “one of the most serious offenses under international law.”

 

The disaster of two World Wars brought the world’s leaders together to sign the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles.  They saw war as an existential threat to the future of mankind, as it still is.  So the U.N. Charter expressly prohibited the use of military force by any country against another [7].  For the next 45 years, the U.S. could only justify its wars by self-defense of an ally (as in Vietnam) or U.N. action (as in Korea).  The U.S. conducted wars in secret (as in Central America), but that led to a guilty verdict at the International Court of Justice [8] and an order to pay war reparations to Nicaragua – reparations that remain unpaid, like the $3.3 billion that President Nixon promised to Vietnam [9].

 

In place of the “peace dividend” that most Americans hoped for, the end of the Cold War perversely encouraged delusions of a “power dividend” and “full spectrum dominance” in Washington.  U.S. leaders exploited public grief and panic in the wake of September 11th to reclaim the use of military force as an accepted form of international behavior, if only for themselves and their allies.  Under the ill-defined parameters of the “war on terror”, they now claim the right to use military force in ways that have long been outlawed by the U.N. Charter.  But the Charter has not been repealed.  Aggression is still a crime, whether it is conducted by drone strikes or by a full-scale invasion of another country.

 

The reality of the “accumulated evil” unleashed on the people of Iraq by the “supreme international crime” of aggression has been painstakingly obscured behind a tapestry of lies.  Our military leaders may be chronically unable to win a war in another country, but they sure know how to wage a propaganda war in America:

 

- Fantastical notions of the accuracy of “precision” weapons obscured the widespread slaughter and destruction of the invasion, which unleashed 29,200 bombs and missiles [10] in the first month of the war and killed tens of thousands of civilians [11].

 

- Reports by the Iraqi Health Ministry [12] in 2004 that occupation forces were killing far more civilians than were killed by “insurgents” were efficiently suppressed [13].

 

- Epidemiologists who estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died by 2006 [14] were ignored or dismissed.  As the war went on, the number of dead probably reached a million by 2008 [15].

 

-  U.S. troops were brainwashed to link Iraq with September 11th and thus to see Iraqis resisting the illegal invasion and occupation of their country as terrorists like the ones who attacked New York and Washington.  A Zogby Poll in February 2006 [16], three years into the war, found that 85% of U.S. troops in Iraq believed that their mission was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks.”

 

-  U.S. rules of engagement in Iraq flagrantly violated the laws of war.  They included: “dead-checking” [17] or killing wounded resistance fighters; orders to “kill all military-age m [18]en [18] [18] during some operations; “360 degree rotational fire” [19] on streets packed with civilians; standing orders to “call for fire” [20], meaning air strikes, even on villages or apartment buildings full of people; and Fallujah and other areas were designated “weapons free” [21] or “free fire” zones, where thousands of civilians were killed [22].

 

- Torture was more widespread and systematic in U.S. prisons than media reports about Abu Ghraib suggested.  A leaked report [23] from the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2004, based on 27 visits to 14 U.S. prisons in Iraq, and other human rights reports documented: mock executions; water-boarding; “stress positions”, including excruciating and sometimes deadly forms of hanging; extreme heat and cold; sleep deprivation; starvation and thirst; withholding medical treatment; electric shocks; rape and sodomy; beatings with all kinds of weapons; burning; cutting with knives; injurious use of flexi-cuffs; suffocation; sensory assault and/or deprivation; and psychological torture such as sexual humiliation and threats against family members.

 

- Human Rights First’s “Command’s Responsibility” [24] report investigated 98 deaths in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These included at least 12 people who were definitely tortured to death, 26 other cases of suspected or confirmed homicide and 48 more that escaped official investigation altogether.  HRF found that senior officers abused their positions of power to place themselves beyond the reach of the law even as they gave orders to commit terrible crimes.  No officer above the rank of Major was charged with a crime even though torture was authorized from the highest level, and the most severe punishment handed down was a 5 month prison sentence.  The paper trail already in the public record appears sufficient to convict Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, their lawyers and senior military officers of capital offenses under the U.S. War Crimes Act [25].

 

- The U.S. recruited, trained and deployed at least 27 brigades of Iraqi Special Police Commandos [26], who detained, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of men and boys in Baghdad and elsewhere in 2005 and 2006.  At the peak of this campaign, 3,000 bodies per month were brought to the Baghdad morgue and an Iraqi human rights group matched 92% of the corpses [27] to reported abductions by U.S.-backed forces.  U.S. Special Forces officers in Special Police Transition Teams [28] worked with each Iraqi unit, and a high-tech command center [29] staffed by U.S. and Iraqi personnel maintained U.S. command and control of these forces throughout their reign of terror.

 

- In 2006 and 2007, U.S. forces worked in tandem with the Special Police Commandos (by then rebranded “National Police” following the exposure of one of their torture centers [30]) in Operation Together Forward I & II and the so-called Surge to complete the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad.  The U.S. occupation deliberately targeted the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq, eventually killing about 10% of Sunni Arabs and driving about half of them from their homes.  This clearly meets the definition of genocide [31] in international treaties.  We must therefore add the crime of genocide to the prospective charge sheet of American crimes in Iraq.

 

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the transition from Bush to Obama was that the new President not only failed to hold U.S. officials criminally accountable for their crimes but in fact embraced the doctrines and policy developed under Bush and expanded their application to U.S. policy around the world.  Obama’s ever-expanding drone strikes [32] and doubling of Special Forces operations from 60 to 120 countries [33] are spreading the violence, lawlessness and instability of Bush’s “war on terror” to the four corners of the Earth.

 

Central to the perversion of law and order by U.S. policy is the application of “war rules” to civilians, as an Eminent Jurists Panel [34] of the International Commission of Jurists noted in 2009.  Many public debates on this issue pit a U.S. government insider or lawyer who regards the entire world as an American battlefield governed by “war rules” against an outsider talking about things like “due process”, “human rights” and “international humanitarian law.”  They usually talk at cross purposes for the length of a radio or TV show and then go their separate ways.

 

But this is a critical question, and the ICJ’s Eminent Jurists Panel, headed by former Irish President Mary Robinson, reached very definite conclusions on it. It found that U.S. leaders had confused the public by framing their counterterrorism campaign within a “war paradigm,” and that the U.S. government was distorting, selectively applying or simply ignoring binding human rights laws.

 

The ICJ panel concluded that that U.S. violations of international law were neither an appropriate nor an effective response to terrorism, and that established principles of international law “were intended to withstand crises, and they provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle terrorism.”

 

Established principles of law also provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle American war crimes.  Elsewhere in the world, Argentinian Generals Videla and Bignone [35] are already serving life terms, even as they face further charges, and General Rios Montt [36] of Guatemala is standing trial for the genocide of Mayan Indians in Ixil.  These men all assumed that their powerful positions and connections would shield them from accountability for their crimes.  But their countries have changed in response to the strength and will of their people.  Neither Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bybee, Gonzalez, Yoo, nor Generals Franks, Sanchez, Casey or Petraeus, should presume that they will live out their lives beyond the reach of justice.

 

But it is also a well-established principle of international law that countries who commit aggression bear a collective responsibility for their actions.  Our leaders’ guilt does not let the rest of us off the hook for the crimes committed in our name.  The United States has a legal and moral duty to pay war reparations to Iraq to help its people recover from the results of aggression, genocide and war crimes – this is a central demand of one very special group of Americans whose experiences and sacrifices make them uniquely qualified to press such a demand: Iraq Veterans Against the War [37].

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/world/10-years-after-invasion-america-destroyed-iraq-our-war-crimes-remain-unacknowledged-and

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/nicolas-js-davies
[3] http://killanythingthatmoves.tumblr.com/
[4] http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture-e.html
[5] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judnazi.asp
[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/invade-and-be-damned-foreign-office-lawyers-say-advice-on-legality-of-war-was-ignored-1879969.html
[7] http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_v._United_States
[9] http://countrystudies.us/vietnam/62.htm
[10] http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2003/uscentaf_oif_report_30apr2003.pdf
[11] http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/politics/bib/lancet.pdf
[12] http://www.commondreams.org/headlines.shtml?/headlines04/0925-02.htm
[13] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/4217413.stm
[14] http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/center-for-refugee-and-disaster-response/publications_tools/publications/additional_pdfs/Burnham_2006-Iraq2_Lancet.pdf
[15] http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130
[16] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-zogby/on-a-new-poll-of-us-soldi_b_16497.html
[17] http://www.villagevoice.com/2004-11-16/news/dead-check-in-falluja/full/
[18] http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/28/world/middleeast/28abuse.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[19] http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/360-degrees-rotational-fire
[20] http://www.ivaw.org/blog/rules-engagement/clifton-hicks-and-steve-casey
[21] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6450268/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/marines-let-loose-streets-fallujah/#.UT4kL45qrfg
[22] http://www.antiwar.com/jamail/?articleid=8147
[23] http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/pdf/icrc_iraq.pdf
[24] http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/06221-etn-hrf-dic-rep-web.pdf
[25] http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2441
[26] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/06/pentagon-iraqi-torture-centres-link
[27] http://brusselstribunal.org/IraqUNHRC.htm
[28] http://www.army.mil/professionalWriting/volumes/volume4/february_2006/2_06_3.html
[29] http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-crimes-iraqs-red-crescent-under-attack-complicity-of-us-occupation-forces/5315862?print=1
[30] http://www.brusselstribunal.org/FullerJadiriyah.htm
[31] http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html
[32] http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/
[33] http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175426/nick_turse_a_secret_war_in_120_countries
[34] http://www.ifj.org/assets/docs/028/207/3e83f1c-fbfc2cf.pdf
[35] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/operation-condor-trial-begins-buenos-aires
[36] http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/8920
[37] http://www.ivaw.org/about
[38] http://www.alternet.org/tags/iraq-0
[39] http://www.alternet.org/tags/america
[40] http://www.alternet.org/tags/war-crimes
[41] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Iraq War excerpts updated 3-30-13

Retrospectives

The Worst Mis­take in U.S. His­tory — Amer­ica Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great For­eign Pol­icy Dis­as­ter By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dis­patch , March 7, 2013 …by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we — and so many others — will pay the price for it for a long, long time.

Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by  The Observer,   Sep­tem­ber 1, 2012   — Arch­bishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the inter­na­tional crim­i­nal court in The Hague and deliv­ered a damn­ing cri­tique of the phys­i­cal and moral dev­as­ta­tion caused by the Iraq war.

The Siren Song Of War: Why Pundits Beat The Drums For Iraq by Kathleen Geier, nationalmemo.com, March 22, 2013   Pundits like to imagine that they take political positions only after a careful consideration of the merits — listening to arguments, studying position papers, weighing the pros and cons, and coming to a decision. But politics is not necessarily so rational, and never was irrationality more plainly on display than in the months leading up to the Iraq War. Ten years later, it is worth exploring why so many opinion-makers – including those who were otherwise critical of the Bush administration — passionately advocated war. For at least some leading pundits, their position seems to have been shaped less by “reason” or “ideas” than something more primal and even tribal, reflecting their fantasies about who they imagined themselves to be. What follows is a taxonomy of certain pundits on the center and the left who, to their eternal shame, beat the drums of war — hard…Matthew Yglesias…Dan Savage…Christopher Hitchens…Paul Berman…David Rieff…Peter Beinart…Thomas Friedman…Next up are those heroic journalists – sometimes dubbed the “Keyboard Commandos” — who wanted to re-fight World War II in Iraq. This crew saw Islam as a noxious, world-conquering ideology akin to Nazism: Islamofascism, as the late Christopher Hitchens once coined it. He and Andrew Sullivan flattered themselves as intellectual heirs of George Orwell, saving the world from both fascism and left-wing appeasers. Sullivan’s smearing of war opponents as a “fifth column” made that abundantly clear……The inability of these pundits to think straight may simply be a symptom of narcissism poisoning. For them, invasion and war were all about presenting their preferred face to the world — and to themselves. Henry James once wrote that a writer should be “one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” For these pundits, everything was lost — everything, that is, but their own overgrown egos.

Democ­rats Share the Blame for Tragedy of Iraq War, 17 March 2013 06:59 By Stephen Zunes, Truthout | Op-Ed  The Democrats who voted to support the war and rationalized that vote by making false claims about Iraq’s WMD programs – a minority of Democrats, but much over-represented in Democratic leadership councils – were responsible for allowing the Bush administration to get away with lying about Iraq’s alleged threat. in most cases these members of Congress had been informed by knowledgeable sources of the widespread human and material costs that would result from a US invasion…As a result, support for the resolution authorizing the Iraq War is not something that can simply be forgotten…

How the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion Sold the War – and We Bought It by Joe Wil­son and Valerie Plame Wil­son, The Guardian, Feb­ru­ary 28, 2013 – We knew WMD intelligence was flawed, but there was a larger failure of officials, media and public to halt the neocon juggernaut…The Bush administration was determined to go to war, however bad the intelligence…That it was so successful is an indictment of a corrupt administration. But it is also emblematic of the failure of the checks and balances that are the hallmark of our democracy…the US Congress was ineffective, to say the least, in the exercise of its oversight responsibilities…Washington press corps was dilatory in its investigative reporting – valuing access and cozy relationships with senior officials above the search for truth; ultimately, the media served as lapdogs rather than watchdogs.

10 Years Later: Look­ing Back on the Iraq War So We Can Clearly Look For­ward by Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, Huff­in­g­ton Post,03/06/2013 …March 20, the 10th anniversary of one of the biggest disasters in the history of the United States. That was the day George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and a team of others — along with much of Washington and a very complicit mainstream media — took the nation to war against Iraq. The devastating consequences of that war will continue for decades, but a full accounting has still yet to happen. And that in itself has consequences. Allowing the toxic mixture of lies, deception and rationalizations that led to that war to go unchallenged makes it more likely that we will make similar tragic mistakes in the future. So I hope we can use this moment to assess what really happened, to look back in order to look forward…In the seemingly endless manufactured crisis over the “fiscal cliff” and the sequester, it’s amazing how much airtime and print space have been devoted to the deficit with the word “Iraq” barely getting a mention. Clearly a triumph of forgetting. … the consequences of this disastrous war are still very much with us……it’s vital that our accounting of the failures that led to this tragedy not be relegated to the past…for the 10th anniversary, let’s also build online monuments dedicated to those who planned and provoked and fomented the war, so we can join in the struggle of memory against forgetting.

The Neo­con­ser­v­a­tives

The Project for the New Amer­i­can Cen­tury By William Rivers Pitt, Infor­ma­tion Clear­ing House 02/25/03 - The People versus the Powerful is the oldest story in human history. At no point in history have the Powerful wielded so much control…PNAC, is a Washington-based think tank created in 1997. Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations…When Bush assumed the Presidency, the men who created and nurtured the imperial dreams of PNAC became the men who run the Pentagon, the Defense Department and the White House. When the Towers came down, these men saw, at long last, their chance to turn their White Papers into substantive policy. Vice President Dick Cheney…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld…and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is the ideological father of the group…

Cost of war

A Fearful Price By BOB HERBERT, Op-Ed Colum­nist, New York Times, Decem­ber 8, 2009 …The idea that fewer than 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans are being called on to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and that we’re send­ing them into com­bat again and again and again — for three tours, four tours, five tours, six tours — is obscene. All decent peo­ple should object…the over­whelm­ing major­ity of Amer­i­cans have no desire at all to share in the sac­ri­fices that the ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies are mak­ing. Most Amer­i­cans do not want to serve in the wars, do not want to give up their pre­cious time to do vol­un­teer work that would aid the nation’s war­riors and their fam­i­lies, do not even want to fork over the taxes that are needed to pay for the wars…The rea­son it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to con­tinue fight­ing year after year after year, is because so few Amer­i­cans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fight­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II com­bined. If vot­ers had to choose right now between insti­tut­ing a draft or exit­ing Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two coun­tries in a heartbeat…Here’s George Washington’s view, for exam­ple: “It must be laid down as a pri­mary posi­tion and the basis of our sys­tem, that every cit­i­zen who enjoys the pro­tec­tion of a free gov­ern­ment owes not only a pro­por­tion of his prop­erty, but even his per­sonal ser­vice to the defense of it.”

War Is a Force That Pays the 1 Per­cent: Occu­py­ing Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­icy by: J.A. Myer­son, Truthout | News Analy­sis, Novem­ber 14, 2011 …The nexus of power that Occupy is looking to challenge in this country does not stop at Wall Street. Military profiteering is an integral part of the system and it should be challenged…War profiteers benefit from the same corrupt system that bolsters the wealth of stock traders: this country provides more democracy, freedom and protection to the very wealthy than to the average citizen…

Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Tril­lion, Could Grow to $6 Tril­lion, Says Wat­son Insti­tute Study By Daniel Trotta, Reuters 3/14/13  …The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number

Amer­i­can Mil­i­tarism: Costs and Con­se­quences By Melvin Good­man, City Lights Books | Book Excerpt, Truth-out.org, 05 March 2013  …The United States has the most secure geopolitical environment of any major nation, but sustains a defense budget that equals the combined budgets of the rest of the world. ..The United States has become that militarized nation that President Dwight D. Eisenhower presciently warned against in his farewell address more than fifty years ago… …President George W. Bush … campaigned [in 2000] on the basis of moderation in foreign policy, multilateralism, and the so-called “new world order,” he and [Vice President] Cheney moved quickly to establish a “wartime presidency.” He campaigned on the basis of a modest buildup of the defense establishment, but doubled the defense budget during his presidency. …President Bush enunciated his doctrine of preemptive war in Iraq…His policy of unilateralism, … marked a radical turn in U.S. foreign policy…

Media/Communications

The Day That TV News Died by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, March 25, 2013 I am not sure exactly when the death of tele­vi­sion news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the triv­ial and the inane, into the cha­rade on cable news chan­nels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up cor­po­rate polit­i­cal pup­pets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legit­i­mate news. But if I had to pick a date when com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion decided amass­ing cor­po­rate money and pro­vid­ing enter­tain­ment were its cen­tral mis­sion, when it con­sciously chose to become a car­ni­val act, it would prob­a­bly be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Don­ahue off the air because of his oppo­si­tion to the calls for war in Iraq.

Don­ahue and Bill Moy­ers, the last hon­est men on national tele­vi­sion, were the only two major TV news per­son­al­i­ties who pre­sented the view­points of those of us who chal­lenged the rush to war in Iraq. Gen­eral Elec­tric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense con­trac­tors that went on to make tremen­dous prof­its from the war—were not about to tol­er­ate a dis­sent­ing voice. Don­ahue was fired, and at PBS Moy­ers was sub­jected to tremen­dous pressure…

The celebrity trolls who cur­rently reign on com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion, who bill them­selves as lib­eral or con­ser­v­a­tive, read from the same cor­po­rate script…Their role is to fun­nel viewer energy back into our dead polit­i­cal system—to make us believe that Democ­rats or Repub­li­cans are not cor­po­rate pawns…

What mat­tered then and what mat­ters now is likability—known in tele­vi­sion and adver­tis­ing as the Q score—not hon­esty and truth. Tele­vi­sion news celebri­ties are in the busi­ness of sales, not jour­nal­ism. They ped­dle the ide­ol­ogy of the cor­po­rate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omis­sion is still a lie. It is what these news celebri­ties do not men­tion that exposes their com­plic­ity with cor­po­rate power.…They are paid to dis­credit or ignore the nation’s most astute crit­ics of cor­po­ratism, among them Cor­nel West, Medea Ben­jamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chom­sky. They are paid to chat­ter mind­lessly, hour after hour, fill­ing our heads with the the­ater of the absurd…Elite media fea­tures elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Don­ahue spent four years after leav­ing MSNBC mak­ing the movie doc­u­men­tary “Body of War” …about the par­a­lyzed Iraq War vet­eran Tomas Young… Don­ahue noted that only a very small per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans have a close rel­a­tive who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller num­ber make the per­sonal sac­ri­fice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is san­i­tized.”… Don­ahue was told that the film, although it had received great crit­i­cal acclaim, was too depress­ing and not uplifting.…I am stunned at how many Amer­i­cans stand mute.”

Updated 3/30/13

Original list of 3/26/13 containing additional quotes

Our ‘Government of Laws’ Is Now Above the Law

by Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post, March 13, 2013

“The government of the United States,” wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in his famous decision in Marbury v. Madison, “has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men.” This principle — grounded in the Constitution, enforced by an independent judiciary — is central to the American creed. Citizens have rights, and fundamental to these is due process of the law.

This ideal, of course, has often been trampled in practice, particularly in times of war or national panic. But the standard remains, central to the legitimacy of the republic.

What if the war has no end, no defined enemy, no defined territory? How can markets work if the financial behemoths are too big to fail and too big to jail?

Yet last week Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking for the administration with an alarmingly casual nonchalance, traduced the whole notion of a nation of laws.

First, the attorney general responded to Sen. Rand Paul’s inquiry as to whether the president claimed the “power to authorize a lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and without trial.” After noting that the United States has never done so and has no intention of doing so, Holder wrote that, speaking hypothetically, it is “possible to imagine” an extraordinary circumstance in which that power might become “necessary and appropriate.”

This triggered Paul’s now-famous 13-hour filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, as Paul (R-Ky.) promised to “speak until I can no longer speak” to sound the alarm that “no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime” and being found guilty in a court of law.

In response to the growing furor, Holder sent Paul another letter, stating clearly that the president has no authority to use a “weaponized drone” against an American in the United States who is “not engaged in combat.”

But that, of course, only begs the question. The country is waging a war on terrorism that admits no boundary and no end. Now Holder is saying that the president has the authority to kill Americans in the United States if they are “engaged in combat.” No hearing, no review, no due process of law. For those who remember how the FBI deemed Martin Luther King Jr. a communist, and how the national security apparatus termed Nelson Mandela a terrorist, alarm is surely justified.

Then, the attorney general, while testifying before the Judiciary Committee, was challenged by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) about the glaring absence of any indictments against leading bankers or big banks coming out of the financial collapse. Holder responded that, essentially, these banks were too big to jail.

“The size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy,” he said.

This astounding admission of what clearly has been administration policy helped spur newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to grill regulators at a separate banking committee hearing. Asking why there was no indictment of the big British bank HSBC, which settled after after an investigation found that it laundered billions of dollars from Iran, Libya and drug cartels despite repeated cease-and-desist warnings, Warren expressed the public’s exasperation.

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life,” Warren said. “But, evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your bed at night — every single individual associated with this. And I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

Taken together, the attorney general’s astounding claims undermine the whole notion of a nation of laws.

The national security state, operating under the president’s power as commander in chief, now claims the right to make war or peace, and to kill an American citizen even in America without a hearing.

The 12 largest U.S. banks — “systemically significant financial institutions,” in the words of the Dodd-Frank reform legislation— control 69 percent of all financial assets, according to the conservative president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fisher. As we have seen, they have the capacity to blow up the economy from their own excesses. Yet they now can apparently trample the laws with impunity, confident that they risk, at worst, an infrequent fine that is the equivalent in relation to their earnings of a New Yorker paying a parking ticket.

The laws, Cicero wrote in the days of the Roman Republic, “are silent in time of war.” But what if the war has no end, no defined enemy, no defined territory? How can markets work if the financial behemoths are too big to fail and too big to jail?

If the national security state has the power of life or death above the law, and Wall Street has the power to plunder beyond the law, in what way does this remain a nation of laws?

© 2013 The Washington Post

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/13-0

American Values Project

American Values Project 

http://americanvaluesproject.com/

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions link to pdf

Progressive Building Blocks

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions

What It Means To Be A Progressive: A Manifesto By John Halpin, Guest Blog­ger and Ruy Teix­eira, Guest Blog­ger on Mar 22, 2013

Progressive Building Blocks

American Values Project

A concise, coherent and compelling progressive vision for America rests on three, fundamental building blocks, which are explored in detail in Progressive Thinking. They are:

  • Our Values
  • Our Beliefs
  • Our Issues

Our values, beliefs and issues build on and support our vision for America, with values occupying the bottom and most important tier, philosophical beliefs the middle tier and issues the top tier. The pyramid points, ultimately, to our vision of the society we are trying to create – steadily improving living standards and opportunities for everyone; safe, clean and healthy communities; a government that works for all people; and economic growth with widely shared prosperity. The entire pyramid then becomes an outline of our central progressive message: “Everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”

Some progressives tend to be overly analytical in their communications, favoring discussions of issues and policy rather than venturing into the sometimes murky territory of morals, values and core beliefs. But if we want more people to connect with a progressive view of the world, we need to reach their hearts and their heads. As the architecture of this pyramid highlights, core progressive values form the most important level of our communications, with political beliefs and issue positions building on this values foundation. Implied is the need to articulate our values and beliefs as much, if not more than, we discuss our positions on the issues – as a way to highlight our broad, common ground.

http://americanvaluesproject.com/progressive-building-blocks/

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions

American Values Project, representing a cross section of leaders from think tanks, philanthropic organizations, and environmental, labor, youth, civil rights, and other progressive groups, to try to distill progressive beliefs and values into clear language in one digestible resource.

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions.

Progressive Thinking is a comprehensive and practical synthesis of the current and best understanding of progressivism, encompassing its history, traditions, worldview, values and positions on major issues. Progressive Thinking is designed to serve as a foundation for greater coherence in communications and unity in the expression of progressive ideals and aspirations. This document – and our use of the terms “Progressive Thinking” and “synthesis” – are informed by our communications with more than 300 progressives and extensive correspondence and conversations with many of our nation’s leading progressive thinkers.

Progressive Thinking outlines what we believe as progressives and how we view the world. It is designed to help our nation’s diverse progressive community better understand and articulate a common philosophical and values framework to the wider public. We also believe a majority of Americans will find themselves and their views represented in these pages because progressive thought is deeply rooted in the values and philosophies on which our country was founded and upon which we have built nearly two and a half centuries of American achievement.

We sincerely hope Progressive Thinking and its central, common-sense theme – “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules” – will help focus the views and, indeed, the hopes of a growing majority of Americans committed to progressive principles and policies.

To download a PDF of Progressive Thinking, please click here. You will need Adobe Acrobat or Preview to view this document.

http://americanvaluesproject.com/progressive-thinking/

Progressive Building Blocks

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions

What It Means To Be A Progressive: A Manifesto

What It Means To Be A Progressive: A Manifesto

By John Halpin, Guest Blogger and Ruy Teixeira, Guest Blogger on Mar 22, 2013

People often ask what, exactly, do progressives believe?  Over the past few years, we’ve worked with a great group called the American Values Projectrepresenting a cross section of leaders from think tanks, philanthropic organizations, and environmental, labor, youth, civil rights, and other progressive groups, to try to distill progressive beliefs and values into clear language in one digestible resource.

The result of this collective effort is called Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions The document is free and we encourage you to read, review, critique, and pass it around to others.  As the handbook states, the central progressive message is one of fairness and equality:

Our approach is simple to summarize and is built upon the ideas of generations of progressives from Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama:  everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. As progressives, we believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent, fulfilling, and economically secure life.  We believe that everyone should do his or her fair share to build this life through education and hard work and through active participation in public life.   And we believe that everyone should play by the same set of rules with no special privileges for the well-connected or wealthy.

The book is divided into sections outlining the overall progressive story, foundational beliefs about government, the economy, and national security, and the application of this framework to contemporary issues.  It also includes a number of useful speeches and essays that show progressive values and beliefs in action throughout our nation’s history.

In terms of values, Progressive Thinking breaks down the four pillars of progressive thought as follows:

1. Freedom.  In terms of our political foundations, the most basic progressive value is freedom. This also happens to be one of the most contested values in American life.  Progressives have a two-part definition of freedom:  “freedom from” and “freedom to”.  First, we believe that all people should have freedom from undue interference by governments and others in carrying out their private affairs and personal beliefs.  This includes our rights to freedom of speech, association, and religion as well as the freedom to control our own bodies and personal lives.  Second, we believe that all people should have the freedom to lead a fulfilling and secure life supported by the basic foundations of economic security and opportunity.  This includes physical protections against bodily harm as well as adequate income, economic protections, health care and education, and other social provisions…

2.  Opportunity.  Complementing our commitment to human freedom is our belief in opportunity.  Like freedom, the concept of opportunity has two components:  one focuses on political equality and the other on economic and social arrangements that enhance our lives.  The first component of opportunity prohibits discrimination against anyone based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious faith or non-faith, or disability.  It also means embracing the diversity of American society by ensuring that all people have the chance to turn their talents and ambitions into a meaningful life, not just the rich and powerful or dominant racial and ethnic groups.  The second component of opportunity involves the conditions necessary for people to be secure and to move up in life—health care, education, a decent job, labor rights, a secure retirement…

3.  Responsibility.  Along with freedom and opportunity comes responsibility — personal responsibility and the responsibility we have to each other and to the common good.   Personal responsibility requires each of us to do our part to improve our own lives through hard work, education, and by acting with honesty and integrity.  Responsibility to others and to the common good requires a commitment to putting the public interest above the interests of a few and an understanding that strong families and communities are the foundation of a good society.  It means working to achieve greater social justice and economic conditions that benefit civil society broadly.  It demands an open and honest government and an engaged and participatory citizenry…

This requires public investments in things like transportation and trade, innovation, a skilled workforce, courts to protect patent rights and contract agreements, public safety and other measures that support the creation of wealth and help to make individual prosperity possible.  It also requires progressive taxation, meaning those who have and earn more should pay more to help support the investments in things like schools, transportation, and economic competitiveness necessary to advance the interests of all.

A key component of responsibility involves ecological and social sustainability.  This requires on-going stewardship of our land, water, air and natural resources, smart use of energy, and the responsible consumption of goods…

4.  Cooperation.  Rounding out these political values which are primarily directed at the rights, opportunities, and duties of individuals is the basic progressive value of cooperation.   Cooperation is the foundation of our most important social institutions including our families, our communities, and our civic and faith groups.  Freedom without cooperation leads to a divided society that cannot work together to achieve common goals and improve the lives of all.  Cooperation as a value requires that we try to be open-minded and empathetic toward others and that we are accountable for their well-being as they are accountable to us.  Progressives believe that if we blindly pursue our own needs and ignore those of others, our society will degenerate.

Successful families and communities cannot exist without cooperation.  We also value human interdependence on a larger scale and accept the importance of looking beyond our own needs to help others and find global solutions to global problems.

As progressives gear up for inevitable fights over taxes, budgets, and social policy, we shouldn’t forget about the importance of values in explaining who we are and what we want to achieve. We believe in freedom with opportunity for all, responsibility to all, and cooperation among all. We believe that the purpose of government is to advance the common good, to secure and protect our rights, and to help to create a high quality of life and community well-being. We want decent paying jobs and benefits for workers and sustainable economic growth. We want growing businesses producing the world’s best products and services. We want an economy that works for everyone, not just the few. We want all nations to uphold universal human rights and to work together to solve common challenges. This is what a progressive America looks like.

http://thinkprogress.org/election/2013/03/22/1761431/what-it-means-to-be-a-progressive-a-manifesto/

The Day That TV News Died

by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, March 25, 2013

Excerpt

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure…

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script…Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns…

What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power….They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd…Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” …about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young… Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”… Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting….I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.”

Full text

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place.

The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns. The cable shows, whose hyperbolic hosts work to make us afraid self-identified liberals or self-identified conservatives, are part of a rigged political system, one in which it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Electric or ExxonMobil. These corporations, in return for the fear-based propaganda, pay the lavish salaries of celebrity news people, usually in the millions of dollars. They make their shows profitable. And when there is war these news personalities assume their “patriotic” roles as cheerleaders, as Chris Matthews—who makes an estimated $5 million a year—did, along with the other MSNBC and Fox hosts.

It does not matter that these celebrities and their guests, usually retired generals or government officials, got the war terribly wrong. Just as it does not matter that Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman were wrong on the wonders of unfettered corporate capitalism and globalization. What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street. That is not why they are paid. They are paid to stymie meaningful debate. They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd. They play clips of their television rivals ridiculing them and ridicule their rivals in return. Television news looks as if it was lifted from Rudyard Kipling’s portrait of the Bandar-log monkeys in “The Jungle Book.” The Bandar-log, considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their complete self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity, chant in unison: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.”

When I reached him by phone recently in New York, Donahue said of the pressure the network put on him near the end, “It evolved into an absurdity.” He continued: “We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. The film, which Donahue funded himself, began when he accompanied Nader to visit Young in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“Here is this kid lying there whacked on morphine,” Donahue said. “His mother, as we are standing by the bed looking down, explained his injuries. ‘He is a T-4. The bullet came through the collarbone and exited between the shoulder blades. He is paralyzed from the nipples down.’ He was emaciated. His cheekbones were sticking out. He was as white as the sheets he was lying on. He was 24 years old. … I thought, ‘People should see this. This is awful.’ ”

Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”

“I said, ‘Tomas, I want to make a movie that shows the pain, I want to make a movie that shows up close what war really means, but I can’t do it without your permission,’ ” Donahue remembered. “Tomas said, ‘I do too.’ ”

But once again Donahue ran into the corporate monolith: Commercial distributors proved reluctant to pick up the film. Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting. Distributors asked him who would go to see a film about someone in a wheelchair. Donahue managed to get openings in Chicago, Seattle, Palm Springs, New York, Washington and Boston, but the runs were painfully brief.

“I didn’t have the money to run full-page ads,” he said. “Hollywood often spends more on promotion than it does on the movie. And so we died. What happens now is that peace groups are showing it. We opened the Veterans for Peace convention in Miami. Failure is not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.

Copyright © 2013 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/25-0