Solomon, Nader, Cornel West and Chomsky: Building a Powerful Left in the U.S.

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Building A Powerful Left in the United States

February 4, 2011

Capitalism Kills Love

Image by buridan via Flickr

[…]

Ralph Nader brings to bear the wisdom of six decades of fighting the good fight as he summarizes strategies and policies he feels can revitalize American society.

[…]

Noam Chomsky reminds us that it can be done; though the powerful few aren’t going to make it easy – but with perseverance and organizing there’s a world to win.

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Finally, the Story of the Whistleblower Who Tried to Prevent the Iraq War

Dandelion Salad

by Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t
Thursday 25 September 2008

Of course, Katharine Gun was free to have a conscience, as long as it didn’t interfere with her work at a British intelligence agency. To the authorities, practically speaking, a conscience was apt to be less tangible than a pixel on a computer screen. But suddenly – one routine morning, while she was scrolling through email at her desk – conscience struck. It changed Katharine Gun’s life, and it changed history.

Despite the nationality of this young Englishwoman, her story is profoundly American – all the more so because it has remained largely hidden from the public in the United States. When Katharine Gun chose, at great personal risk, to reveal an illicit spying operation at the United Nations in which the US government was the senior partner, she brought out of the transatlantic shadows a special relationship that could not stand the light of day.

By then, in early 2003, the president of the United States – with dogged assists from the British prime minister following close behind – had long since become transparently determined to launch an invasion of Iraq. Gun’s moral concerns were not unusual; she shared, with countless other Brits and Americans, strong opposition to the impending launch of war. Yet, thanks to a simple and intricate twist of fate, she abruptly found herself in a rare position to throw a roadblock in the way of the political march to war from Washington and London. Far more extraordinary, though, was her decision to put herself in serious jeopardy on behalf of revealing salient truths to the world.

[…]

t r u t h o u t | The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War.

h/t: VoyagerFilms

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No End to Media Myths About Healthcare Policy

Dandelion Salad

by Norman Solomon
Mar 8, 2008

I remember the ferocious media debate over the proper government role in healthcare — 43 years ago. As the spring of 1965 got underway, the bombast was splattering across front pages and flying through airwaves.

A bill in Congress aimed to assure some basic healthcare for all Americans at least 65 years old. The U.S. government would automatically cover the costs for a bedrock of medical services.

It was called Medicare.

These days, when I speak on campuses about media coverage of healthcare policy options, I bring up current proposals for a “single payer” system — in effect, Medicare for Americans of all ages. Most students seem to think it’s a good idea. But once in a while, someone vocally objects that such an arrangement would be “socialism.”

The objection takes me back to the media uproar of early 1965. And it reminds me that ideological blinders have continued to constrict the national debate on realistic possibilities for developing a truly humane healthcare system.

In the current presidential campaign, none of the major candidates can be heard talking about Medicare for all. Instead, there’s plenty of nattering about whether “mandates” are a good idea. Hillary Clinton even had the audacity (not of hope but of duplicity) to equate proposed healthcare “mandates” to the must-pay-in requirements that sustain Social Security and Medicare.

…continued

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The War Election By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
Creative-i
Mar 3, 2008

Maybe it sounded good when politicians, pundits and online fundraisers talked about American deaths as though they were the deaths that mattered most.

Maybe it sounded good to taunt the Bush administration as a bunch of screw-ups who didn’t know how to run a proper occupation.

And maybe it sounded good to condemn Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush for ignoring predictions that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to effectively occupy Iraq after an invasion.

But when a war based on lies is opposed because too many Americans are dying, the implication is that it can be made right by reducing the American death toll.

When a war that flagrantly violated international law is opposed because it was badly managed, the implication is that better management could make for an acceptable war.

…continued

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The Media and Class Warfare by Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

by Norman Solomon
Atlantic Free Press
Thursday, 22 November 2007

A few decades ago, upwards of one-third of the American workforce was unionized. Now the figure is down around 10 percent. And news media are central to the downward spiral.

As unions wither, the journalistic establishment has a rationale for giving them less ink and air time. As the media coverage diminishes, fewer Americans find much reason to believe that unions are relevant to their working lives.

But the media problem for labor goes far beyond the fading of unions from newsprint, television and radio. Media outlets aren’t just giving short shrift to organized labor. The avoidance extends to unorganized labor, too.

So often, when issues of workplaces and livelihoods appear in the news, they’re framed in terms of employer plights. The frequent emphasis is on the prospects and perils of companies that must compete.

Well, sure, firms need to compete. And working people need to feed and clothe and house themselves and their families. And workers hope to provide adequate medical care.

The issue of health insurance is a political talking-point for many candidates these days. But meanwhile, unionized workers are finding themselves in a weakened position when they try to retain whatever medical coverage they may have. And non-unionized workers often have little or none.

With all the media discussion of corporate bottom-line difficulties, the human element routinely gets lost in the shuffle. In day-to-day business news and in general reporting, the lives of people on the line are apt to be rendered as abstractions. Or they simply go unmentioned.

The topic of war in Iraq is huge in the media. I can’t say much for the quality of that coverage, but at least it keeps reporting that a military war is happening overseas. But what about the economic war that’s happening at home?

Phrases like “class war” have been discredited in American news media — tarred as too blunt, too combative, too rhetorical. But, call it what you will, the clash of economic interests is with us always.

Waged from the top down, class war is a triumphant activity — and part of the success involves the framing and avoidance of certain unpleasant realities via corporate-owned media outlets. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a social scientist to grasp that multibillion-dollar companies are not going to own, or advertise with, media firms that challenge the power of multibillion-dollar companies.

One of the dominant yet little-remarked-upon shifts in the media landscape over the past couple of decades has been the enormous upsurge in business news as general news. A result is that tens of millions of low-income people are seeing constant news stories about challenges and opportunities for well-to-do investors.

The reverse, of course, is not the case. The very affluent of our society don’t often pick up a newspaper or tune in the evening news and encounter waves of stories and commentaries about the dire straits of America’s poor people and what it’s like to be one of them. And it’s even more rare to see coverage of ways that a few people grow obscenely wealthy as a direct result of the further impoverishment of the many.

“Class war”? The nation’s most powerful editors cringe at the phrase. But every day, millions of Americans are painfully aware that — by any other name — class warfare is going on, and they’re losing.

Norman Solomon’s latest book is “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.” For more information, go to: www.MadeLoveGotWar.com

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Made Love, Got War: Norman Solomon on Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State (link)

Dandelion Salad

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

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“The warfare state doesn’t come and go. It can’t be defeated on Election Day,” writes media critic Norman Solomon in his new book, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State. Like it or not, it’s at the core of the United States – and it has infiltrated our very being.” Norman Solomon joins us in our firehouse studio to about the book. [includes rush transcript]


From privatized war, we now turn to a discussion of permanent war. “The warfare state doesn’t come and go. It can’t be defeated on Election Day. Like it or not, it’s at the core of the United States – and it has infiltrated our very being.” That’s a quote from media critic and best-selling author Norman Solomon’s new book. It’s called “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.”The book traces the panic generated by the launch of Sputnik exactly 50 years ago to the current warmongering with Iran. It is the story of the US government’s preoccupation over the past half-century with “the business of killing and being killed.”Norman Solomon is a nationally syndicated columnist and the author of 12 other books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is also the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

  • Norman Solomon, Author of “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.” He is a nationally syndicated columnist on media and politics and the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

transcript

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Here’s the Smell of the Blood Still By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
ICH
09/12/07 “Common Dreams

The following essay is adapted from Norman Solomon’s new book, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State:

When Martin Luther King Jr. publicly referred to “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government,” he had no way of knowing that his description would ring so true 40 years later. As the autumn of 2007 begins, the reality of Uncle Sam as an unhinged mega-killer haunts a large minority of Americans. Many who can remember the horrific era of the Vietnam War are nearly incredulous that we could now be living in a time of similarly deranged official policy.

Despite all the differences, the deep parallels between the two war efforts inform us that the basic madness of entrenched power in our midst is not about miscalculations or bad management or quagmires. The continuity tells us much more than we would probably like to know about the obstacles to decency that confront us every day.

The incredulity and numbing, the frequent bobbing-and-weaving of our own consciousness, the hollow comforts of passivity, insulate us from hard truths and harsher realities than we might ever have expected to need to confront — about our country and about ourselves.

Of all the words spewed from the Pet Crock hearings with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, maybe none were more revealing than Petraeus’s bid for a modicum of sympathy for his burdens as a commander. “This is going on three years for me, on top of a year deployment to Bosnia as well,” he said at the Senate hearing, “so my family also knows something about sacrifice.”

There’s sacrifice and sacrifice.

“It is as bad as it seems,” longtime activist Dave Dellinger told a gathering of protesters outside the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach as it prepared to re-nominate a war-criminal president. “We must achieve a breakthrough in understanding reality.”

I listened, agreeing. But it was, and is, easier said. How do we truly grasp what’s being done in our names, with our tax dollars — and, most of all, with our inordinate self-restraint that tolerates what should be intolerable?

* * *

From an Oval Office tape, May 4, 1972: “I’ll see that the United States does not lose,” the president said while conferring with aides Al Haig, John Connally and Henry Kissinger. “I’m putting it quite bluntly. I’ll be quite precise. South Vietnam may lose. But the United States cannot lose. Which means, basically, I have made the decision. Whatever happens to South Vietnam, we are going to cream North Vietnam…. For once, we’ve got to use the maximum power of this country … against this shit-ass little country: to win the war. We can’t use the word, ‘win.’ But others can.”

By mid-1972, U.S. troop levels in Vietnam were way down — to around seventy thousand — almost half a million lower than three years earlier. Fewer Americans were dying, and the carnage in Vietnam was fading as a front-burner issue in U.S. politics. Nixon’s withdrawal strategy had changed the focus of media coverage.

The executive producer of ABC’s evening news, Av Westin, had written in a 1969 memo: “I have asked our Vietnam staff to alter the focus of their coverage from combat pieces to interpretive ones, pegged to the eventual pull-out of the American forces. This point should be stressed for all hands.” In a telex to the network’s Saigon bureau, Westin gave the news of his decree to the correspondents: “I think the time has come to shift some of our focus from the battlefield, or more specifically American military involvement with the enemy, to themes and stories under the general heading ‘We Are on Our Way Out of Vietnam.’”

The killing had gone more technological; from 1969 to 1972 the U.S. government dropped 3.5 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, a total higher than all the bombing in the previous five years. The combination of withdrawing U.S. troops and stepping up the bombardment was anything but a coincidence; the latest in military science would make it possible to, in President Nixon’s private words, “use the maximum power of this country” against a “shit-ass little country.”

In December 1972, Nixon delivered on his confidential pledge to “cream North Vietnam,” ordering eleven days and nights of almost round-the-clock sorties (Christmas was an off day) that dropped twenty thousand tons of bombs on North Vietnam. B-52s reached the city of Hanoi. During that week and a half, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg later noted, the U.S. government dropped “the explosive equivalent of the Nagasaki A-bomb.”

* * *

Visiting Baghdad near the end of 2002, I looked at Iraqi people and wondered what would happen to them when the missiles arrived, what would befall the earnest young man managing the little online computer shop in the hotel next to the alcohol-free bar, who invited me to a worship service at the Presbyterian church that he devoutly attended; or the sweet-faced middle-aged fellow with a moustache very much like Saddam Hussein’s (a ubiquitous police-state fashion statement) who stood near the elevator and put hand over heart whenever I passed; or the sweethearts chatting across candles at an outdoor restaurant as twilight settled on the banks of the Tigris.

* * *

That winter, movers and shakers in Washington shuffled along to the beat of a media drum that kept reporting on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a virtual certainty. At the same time, millions of Americans tried to prevent an invasion; their activism ranged from letters and petitions to picket lines, civil disobedience, marches, and mass rallies. On January 18, 2003, as the Washington Post recalled years later, “an antiwar protest described as the largest since the Vietnam War drew several hundred thousand … on the eve of the Iraq war, in subfreezing Washington weather. The high temperature reported that day was in the mid-20s.”

The outcry was global, and the numbers grew larger. On February 15, an estimated 10 million people demonstrated against the impending war. A dispatch from Knight-Ridder news service summed up the events of that day: “By the millions, peace marchers in cities around the world united Saturday behind a single demand: No war with Iraq.” But the war planners running the U.S. government were determined.

* * *

During one year after another, the warfare intensified in Iraq. And an air war kept escalating. The U.S. media assumed that almost any use of American air power was to the good. (Exceptions came with fleeting news of mishaps like dropping bombs on wedding parties.) What actually happened to human beings every day as explosives hit the ground would not be conveyed to the reputedly well-informed. What we didn’t know presumably wouldn’t hurt us or our self-image. We thought ourselves better — incomparably better — because we burned people with modern technology from high in the air. Car bombs and detonation belts were for the uncivilized.

One of the methodical quirks of U.S. Air Force news releases has been that they consistently refer to insurgents as “anti-Iraqi forces” — even though almost all of those fighters are Iraqis. So, in a release about activities on Christmas Day 2006, the Air Force reported that “Marine Corps F/A-18Ds conducted a strike against anti-Iraqi forces near Haqlaniyah.” The next day, it was the same story, as it would be for a long time to come — with U.S. Air Force jets bombing “anti-Iraqi forces” on behalf of missions for “Operation Iraqi Freedom” in order to “deter and disrupt terrorist activities.”

* * *

In my kitchen is a dark-red little carpet with black designs, imported from Baghdad. I bought it there one afternoon in late January 2003 at the bazaar (not so different, to my eyes anyway, from the market I later visited in Tehran). My traveling companion was a former high-ranking U.N. official, Denis Halliday, who had lived in Baghdad for a while during the 1990s before resigning as head of the “oil for food” program in protest against the draconian sanctions that caused so much devastation among civilians. Denis was revisiting some of the shopkeepers he had come to know. After warm greetings and pleasantries, an Iraqi man in his middle years said that he’d heard on the BBC about a French proposal for averting an invasion. The earnest hope in his voice made my heart sink, as if falling into the dirty stretch of the Tigris River that Denis and I had just hopped a boat across, where people were beating rugs on stones alongside the banks.

Often when I look at the carpet in the kitchen I think that it is filled with blood, remembering how one country’s treasures become another’s aesthetic enhancements. I had carted home the rolled-up carpet and less than two months later came “shock and awe.” Now, more than four years afterward, the daily papers piled up on the breakfast table a few feet away tell of the latest carnage. I don’t think the rug has ever given me pleasure since the day it unfurled across the hardwood floor. It hasn’t been cleaned since presumably it soaked up the Tigris water during its last washing. There’s blood on the carpet and no amount of trips to the dry cleaners could change that.

Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1: “Out, damned spot! out, I say! … What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? — Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? … What, will these hands ne’er be clean? … Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

Norman Solomon’s new book “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State” has just come off the press. For more information, go to: www.MadeLoveGotWar.com. The documentary film “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” is based on Norman Solomon’s book of the same title. For information about the full-length movie, narrated by Sean Penn and produced by the Media Education Foundation, go to: www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Six Years of 9/11 as a License to Kill by Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

by Norman Solomon
Atlantic Free Press
Monday, 10 September 2007

It evokes a tragedy that marks an epoch. From the outset, the warfare state has exploited “9/11,” a label at once too facile and too laden with historic weight — giving further power to the tacit political axiom that perception is reality.

Often it seems that media coverage is all about perception, especially when the underlying agendas are wired into huge profits and geopolitical leverage. If you associate a Big Mac or a Whopper with a happy meal or some other kind of great time, you’re more likely to buy it. If you connect 9/11 with a need for taking military action and curtailing civil liberties, you’re more likely to buy what the purveyors of war and authoritarian government have been selling for the past half-dozen years.

“Sept. 11 changed everything” became a sudden cliche in news media. Words are supposed to mean something, and those words were — and are — preposterous. They speak of a USA enthralled with itself while reducing the rest of the world (its oceans and valleys and mountains and peoples) to little more than an extensive mirror to help us reflect on our centrality to the world. In an individual, we call that narcissism. In the nexus of media and politics, all too often, it’s called “patriotism.”

What happened on Sept. 11, 2001, was extraordinary and horrible by any measure. And certainly a crime against humanity. At the same time, it was a grisly addition to a history of human experience that has often included many thousands killed, en masse, by inhuman human choice. It is simply and complexly a factual matter that the U.S. government has participated in outright mass murders directly — in, for example, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq — and less directly, through aid to armies terrorizing civilians in Nicaragua, Angola, East Timor and many other countries.

The news media claim to be providing context. But whose? Overall, the context of Uncle Sam in the more perverse and narcissistic aspects of his policy personality. The hypocrisies of claims about moral precepts and universal principles go beyond the mere insistence that some others “do as we say, not as we do.” What gets said, repeated and forgotten sets up kaleidoscope patterns that can be adjusted to serve the self-centered mega-institutions reliably fixated on maintaining their own dominance.

Media manifestations of these patterns are frequently a mess of contradictions so extreme that they can only be held together with the power of ownership, advertising and underwriting structures — along with notable assists from government agencies that dispense regulatory favors and myriad pressure to serve what might today be called a military-industrial-media complex. Our contact with the world is filtered through the mesh of mass media to such a great extent that the mesh itself becomes the fabric of power.

The most repetitious lessons of 9/11 — received and propagated by the vast preponderance of U.S. news media — have to do with the terribly asymmetrical importance of grief and of moral responsibility. Our nation is so righteous that we are trained to ask for whom the bell tolls. Rendered as implicitly divisible, humanity is fractionated as seen through red-white-and-blue windows on the world.

Posing outside cycles of violence and victims who victimize, the dominant vision of Pax Americana has no more use now than it did six years ago for W.H. Auden’s observation: “Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”

We ought to know. But we Americans are too smart for that.

The U.S. media tell us so.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The Warfare State is Part of Us – How to Survive at the Pentagon on $2 Billion a Day By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
ICH
08/22/07 “
CounterpunchThe USA’s military spending is now close to $2 billion a day. This fall, the country will begin its seventh year of continuous war, with no end in sight. On the horizon is the very real threat of a massive air assault on Iran. And few in Congress seem willing or able to articulate a rejection of the warfare state.

While the Bush-Cheney administration is the most dangerous of our lifetimes — and ousting Republicans from the White House is imperative — such truths are apt to smooth the way for progressive evasions. We hear that “the people must take back the government,” but how can “the people” take back what they never really had? And when rhetoric calls for “returning to a foreign policy based on human rights and democracy,” we’re encouraged to be nostalgic for good old days that never existed.

The warfare state didn’t suddenly arrive in 2001, and it won’t disappear when the current lunatic in the Oval Office moves on.

Born 50 years before George W. Bush became president, I have always lived in a warfare state. Each man in the Oval Office has presided over an arsenal of weapons designed to destroy human life en masse. In recent decades, our self-proclaimed protectors have been able — and willing — to destroy all of humanity.

We’ve accommodated ourselves to this insanity. And I do mean “we” — including those of us who fret aloud that the impact of our peace-loving wisdom is circumscribed because our voices don’t carry much farther than the choir. We may carry around an inflated sense of our own resistance to a system that is poised to incinerate and irradiate the planet.

Maybe it’s too unpleasant to acknowledge that we’ve been living in a warfare state for so long. And maybe it’s even more unpleasant to acknowledge that the warfare state is not just “out there.” It’s also internalized; at least to the extent that we pass up countless opportunities to resist it.

Like millions of other young Americans, I grew into awakening as the Vietnam War escalated. Slogans like “make love, not war” — and, a bit later, “the personal is political” — really spoke to us. But over the decades we generally learned, or relearned, to compartmentalize: as if personal and national histories weren’t interwoven in our pasts, presents and futures.

One day in 1969, a biologist named George Wald, who had won a Nobel Prize, visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — the biggest military contractor in academia — and gave a speech. “Our government has become preoccupied with death,” he said, “with the business of killing and being killed.”

That preoccupation has fluctuated, but in essence it has persisted. While speaking of a far-off war and a nuclear arsenal certain to remain in place after the war’s end, Wald pointed out: “We are under repeated pressure to accept things that are presented to us as settled — decisions that have been made.”

Today, in similar ways, our government is preoccupied and we are pressurized. The grisly commerce of killing — whether through carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan or through the deadly shredding of social safety-nets at home — thrives on aggressive war and on the perverse realpolitik of “national security” that brandishes the Pentagon’s weaponry against the world. At least tacitly, we accept so much that threatens to destroy anything and everything.

As it happened, for reasons both “personal” and “political” — more accurately, for reasons indistinguishable between the two — my own life fell apart and began to reassemble itself during the same season of 1969 when George Wald gave his speech, which he called “A Generation in Search of a Future.”

Political and personal histories are usually kept separate — in how we’re taught, how we speak and even how we think. But I’ve become very skeptical of the categories. They may not be much more than illusions we’ve been conned into going through the motions of believing.

We actually live in concentric spheres, and “politics” suffuses households as well as what Martin Luther King Jr. called “The World House.” Under that heading, he wrote in 1967: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men. When we foolishly minimize the internal of our lives and maximize the external, we sign the warrant for our own day of doom. Our hope for creative living in this world house that we have inherited lies in our ability to re-establish the moral ends of our lives in personal character and social justice. Without this spiritual and moral reawakening we shall destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments.”

While trying to understand the essence of what so many Americans have witnessed over the last half century, I worked on a book (titled “Made Love, Got War”) that sifts through the last 50 years of the warfare state… and, in the process, through my own life. I haven’t learned as much as I would have liked, but some patterns emerged — persistent and pervasive since the middle of the 20th century.

The warfare state doesn’t come and go. It can’t be defeated on Election Day. Like it or not, it’s at the core of the United States — and it has infiltrated our very being.

What we’ve tolerated has become part of us. What we accept, however reluctantly, seeps inward. In the long run, passivity can easily ratify even what we may condemn. And meanwhile, in the words of Thomas Merton, “It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared.”

The triumph of the warfare state degrades and suppresses us all. Even before the weapons perform as guaranteed.

Norman Solomon is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Backspin for War: The Convenience of Denial By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
Investigating New Imperialism
Aug. 16, 2007

The man who ran CNN’s news operation during the invasion of Iraq is now doing damage control in response to a new documentary’s evidence that he kowtowed to the Pentagon on behalf of the cable network. His current denial says a lot about how “liberal media” outlets remain deeply embedded in the mindsets of pro-military conformity.

Days ago, the former CNN executive publicly defended himself against a portion of the “War Made Easy” film (based on my book of the same name) that has drawn much comment from viewers since the documentary’s release earlier this summer. As Inter Press Service reported, the movie shows “a news clip of Eason Jordan, a CNN News chief executive who, in an interview with CNN, boasts of the network’s cadre of professional ‘military experts.’ In fact, CNN’s retired military generals turned war analysts were so good, Eason said, that they had all been vetted and approved by the U.S. government.”

Inter Press called the vetting-and-approval process “shocking” — and added that “in a country revered for its freedom of speech and unfettered press, Eason’s comments would infuriate any veteran reporter who upholds the most basic and important tenet of the journalistic profession: independence.”

But Eason Jordan doesn’t want us to see it that way. And he has now fired back via an article in IraqSlogger, which calls itself “the world’s premier Iraq-focused Web site.” Jordan runs that Web site.

The journalist who wrote the Aug. 14 article, Christina Davidson, was in an awkward spot: “War Made Easy” directly criticizes her boss, and it was the subject of the article. www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/3919/War_Made_Easy_Makes_Easy_Viewing

Davidson’s only assessment of the film that wasn’t favorable had to do with its criticisms of Jordan. “While there’s no doubt that journalistic laziness contributed to the uncritical re-broadcasting of the Bush administration’s official line,” she wrote, “Solomon takes it a little too far in trying to make the case that all of the cable networks were actively complicit in promoting the war. Solomon bases his reasoning primarily on one choice quote from Eason Jordan, former CNN news chief and current CEO of IraqSlogger’s parent company, Praedict.”

In fact, the film provides a wide range of evidence that “all of the cable networks were actively complicit in promoting the war” — the result of chronic biases rather than “journalistic laziness.” And CNN, like the rest of the cable news operations, comes in for plenty of tough scrutiny in the documentary. As the magazine Variety noted in a review of “War Made Easy” a few days ago, “Fox News is predictably bashed here, but supposedly neutral CNN gets it even harder.” www.variety.com/review/VE1117934412.html?categoryid=31&cs=1
CNN is among the news outlets at the core of the myth of “the liberal media” — perpetuated, in part, by the fact that people are often overly impressed by the significance of rhetorical attacks on some media organizations by more conservative outlets. (Before his resignation from CNN in 2005, Eason Jordan was himself subjected to denunciations from the right — for allegedly skewing news coverage to curry favor with the Baghdad government during Saddam’s rule and, after the invasion, for reportedly stating that U.S. troops had targeted some journalists in Iraq.) But antipathy from right-wing pundits is hardly an indication of journalistic independence.

Stretching to defend Jordan’s CNN record, IraqSlogger complains that the CEO of its parent company is unfairly characterized in the film: “Solomon assumes that Jordan was seeking the blessing of Pentagon officials on the propriety of his choices, when in fact he was just doing a boss’s duty.”

The article then provides a quote from Jordan, supplying his explanation to set the record straight: “Employers routinely vet prospective employees with their previous employers. In these cases, we vetted retired generals to ensure they were experts in specific military and geographic areas. The generals were not vetted for political views.”

The explanation can only flunk the laugh test.

Eason Jordan was CNN’s chief news executive when, on April 20, 2003 (a month after U.S. troops invaded Iraq), he appeared on CNN and revealed that he’d gotten the Defense Department’s approval of which retired high-ranking officers to put on the network’s payroll. “I went to the Pentagon myself several times before the war started and met with important people there and said, for instance — ‘At CNN, here are the generals we’re thinking of retaining to advise us on the air and off about the war’ — and we got a big thumbs-up on all of them. That was important.”

With war euphoria riding high, Jordan was eager to shore up his — and CNN’s — image as cooperative pals of the nation’s military commanders. Now, Jordan is trying some backspin with the claim that he was merely checking job references.

“Often journalists blame the government for the failure of the journalists themselves to do independent reporting,” I note in the documentary. “But nobody forced the major networks like CNN to do so much commentary from retired generals and admirals and all the rest of it.” What Jordan did on behalf of CNN “wasn’t even something to hide, ultimately. It was something to say to the American people on his own network, ‘See, we’re team players. We may be the news media, but we’re on the same side and the same page as the Pentagon.’ And that really runs directly counter to the idea of an independent press. And that suggests that we have some deep patterns of media avoidance when the U.S. is involved in a war based on lies.”

Part of that deadly avoidance comes when powerful news executives do the bidding of the Pentagon — and then, later on, claim that they did nothing of the kind.

____________________________________

The new documentary film “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” — based on Norman Solomon’s book of the same title, narrated by Sean Penn and produced by the Media Education Foundation — is available on DVD. www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The Media Kaleidoscope of Memory by Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

by Norman Solomon
Aug. 11, 2007

News coverage often fixates on many aspects of digital memory. The products, services, technologies and near-infinite implications of the Internet are constant media fodder. And enormous attention gets focused on the power of hard drives and small chips to do amazing things.

There’s no denying that the Internet and miniaturized computer technologies add up to a huge multilayered story that’s constantly evolving. The story runs the gamut from effects on individual lives to politics, economics, political machinations and global relations.
But meanwhile, the emphasis on the tangible and the measurable tends to overshadow what is far less defined — and, arguably, far more human. Computers can “remember” facts so prodigiously that human memory can seem feeble, even pathetic. Yet a lot of what humans remember is far beyond the realm of digital recall — and routinely beyond the grasp of media outlets.

Whether media organizations are reporting on events around the world or across town, the technical capabilities of speed and clarity are truly awesome. But, in terms of actual human experience, how true are the stories they convey?

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Media Blitz for War: The Big Guns of August By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
AfterDowningStreet.org
Submitted by davidswanson on Thu, 2007-08-02 11:16

The U.S. media establishment is mainlining another fix for the Iraq war: It isn’t so bad after all, American military power could turn wrong into right, chronic misleaders now serve as truth-tellers. The hit is that the war must go on.

When the White House chief of staff Andrew Card said five years ago that “you don’t introduce new products in August,” he was explaining the need to defer an all-out PR campaign for invading Iraq until early fall. But this year, August isn’t a bad month to launch a sales pitch for a new and improved Iraq war. Bad products must be re-marketed to counteract buyers’ remorse.

“War critics” who have concentrated on decrying the lack of U.S. military progress in Iraq are now feeling the hoist from their own petards. But that’s to be expected. Those who complain that the war machine is ineffective are asking for more effective warfare even when they think they’re demanding peace.

If Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack didn’t exist, they’d have to be invented. The duo’s op-ed piece on July 30 in the New York Times, under the headline “A War We Just Might Win,” was boilerplate work from elite foreign-policy technicians packaging themselves as “two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq.” A recent eight-day officially guided tour led them to conclude that “we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.”

Both men have always been basic supporters of the Iraq war. O’Hanlon is a prolific writer at the Brookings Institution. Pollack’s credits include working at the CIA and authoring the 2002 bestseller “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.” In the years since the candy and flowers failed to materialize, their critiques of the Iraq war have been merely tactical.

The media maneuvers of recent days are eerily similar to scams that worked so well for the Bush administration during the agenda-setting for the invasion. Vice President Cheney and his top underlings kept leaking disinformation about purported Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda — while the New York Times and other key media outlets breathlessly reported the falsehoods as virtual facts. Then Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and other practitioners of warcraft quickly went in front of TV cameras and microphones to cite the “reporting” in the Times and elsewhere that they had rigged in the first place.

The ink was scarcely dry on the July 30 piece by O’Hanlon and Pollack before the savants were making the rounds of TV studios and other media outlets — doing their best to perpetuate a war that they’d helped to deceive the country into in the first place.

The next day, Cheney picked up the tag-team baton. On CNN’s “Larry King Live,” he declared that the U.S. military “made significant progress now into the course of the summer. … Don’t take it from me. Look at the piece that appeared yesterday in the New York Times, not exactly a friendly publication — but a piece by Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack on the situation in Iraq. They’re just back from visiting over there. They both have been strong critics of the war.”

On August 1, the U.S. News & World Report website noted: “The news that the U.S. death toll in Iraq for July, at 73, is the lowest in eight months spurred several news organizations to present a somewhat optimistic view of the situation in Iraq. The consensus in the coverage appears to be that things are improving militarily, even as the political side of the equation remains troubling.”

Such media coverage is a foreshadowing of what’s in store big-time this fall when the propaganda machinery of the warfare state goes into high gear. The media echo chamber will reverberate with endless claims that the military situation is improving, American casualties will be dropping and Iraqi forces will be shouldering more of the burden.

Arguments over whether U.S. forces can prevail in Iraq bypass a truth that no amount of media spin can change: The U.S. war effort in Iraq has always been illegitimate and fundamentally wrong. Whatever the prospects for America’s war there, it shouldn’t be fought.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. news media were fond of disputes about whether light really existed at the end of the tunnel. Framed that way, the debate could — and did — go on for many years. The most important point to be made was that the United States had no right to be in the tunnel in the first place.

For years now, many opponents of the Iraq war have assumed that the tides of history were shifting and would soon carry American troops home. “President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over,” New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote in August 2005. He concluded that the United States as a country “has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We’re outta there.”

As I wrote at the time, Rich’s storyline was “a complacent message that stands in sharp contrast to the real situation we now face: a U.S. war on Iraq that may persist for a terribly long time. For the Americans still in Iraq, and for the Iraqis still caught in the crossfire of the occupation, the experiences ahead will hardly be compatible with reassuring forecasts made by pundits in the summer of 2005.”

Or in the summer of 2007.

Unfortunately, what I wrote two years ago is still true: “We’re not ‘outta there’ — until an antiwar movement in the United States can grow strong enough to make the demand stick.”

The American media establishment continues to behave like a leviathan with a monkey on its back — hooked on militarism and largely hostile to the creative intervention that democracy requires.

The new documentary film “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” is based on Norman Solomon’s book of the same title. For information about the full-length movie, narrated by Sean Penn and produced by the Media Education Foundation, go to: www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Iraq & the Non-Withdrawal Withdrawal By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
July 27, 2007

Editor’s Note: Despite growing public calls for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the insider community of Washington is contemplating a long-term occupation, possibly by curtailing ground combat missions to minimize American casualties.

The thinking is that many Americans will accept an imperial U.S. role in the Middle East as long as the costs in U.S. dollars and U.S. dead are reduced. In this guest essay, media analyst Norman Solomon examines the subtle promotion of this goal by the American press:

Last week, a media advisory from “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” announced a new series of interviews on the PBS show that will address “what Iraq might look like when the U.S. military leaves.”

A few days later, Time magazine published a cover story titled “Iraq: What will happen when we leave.”

But it turns out, what will happen when we leave is that we won’t leave.

Urging a course of action that’s now supported by “the best strategic minds in both parties,” the Time story calls for “an orderly withdrawal of about half the 160,000 troops currently in Iraq by the middle of 2008.” And: “A force of 50,000 to 100,000 troops would dig in for a longer stay to protect America’s most vital interests…”

On Iraq policy, in Washington, the differences between Republicans and Democrats — and between the media’s war boosters and opponents — are often significant. Yet they’re apt to mask the emergence of a general formula that could gain wide support from the political and media establishment.

The formula’s details and timelines are up for grabs. But there’s not a single “major” candidate for president willing to call for withdrawal of all U.S. forces — not just “combat” troops — from Iraq, or willing to call for a complete halt to U.S. bombing of that country.

Those candidates know that powerful elites in this country just don’t want to give up the leverage of an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq, with its enormous reserves of oil and geopolitical value. It’s a good bet that American media and political powerhouses would fix the wagon of any presidential campaign that truly advocated an end to the U.S. war in — and on — Iraq.

The disconnect between public opinion and elite opinion has led to reverse perceptions of a crisis of democracy. As war continues, some are appalled at the absence of democracy while others are frightened by the potential of it. From the grassroots, the scarcity of democracy is transparent and outrageous. For elites, unleashed democracy could jeopardize the priorities of the military-industrial-media complex.

Converging powerful forces in Washington — eager to at least superficially bridge the gap between grassroots and elite priorities — are likely to come up with a game plan for withdrawing from Iraq without withdrawing from Iraq.

Scratch the surface of current media scenarios for a U.S. pullout from Iraq, and you’re left with little more than speculation — fueled by giant dollops of political manipulation. In fact, strategic leaks and un-attributed claims about U.S. plans for withdrawal have emerged periodically to release some steam from domestic antiwar pressures.

Nearly three years ago — with discontent over the war threatening to undermine President Bush’s prospects for a second term — the White House ally Robert Novak floated a rosy scenario in his nationally syndicated column that appeared on Sept. 20, 2004.

“Inside the Bush administration policy-making apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year,” he wrote. “This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.”

Novak’s column went on to tell readers: “Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out.”

Those well-placed sources were, of course, unnamed. And for good measure, Novak followed up a month before the November 2004 election with a piece
that recycled the gist of his Sept. 20 column and chortled: “Nobody from the administration has officially rejected my column.”

This is all relevant history today as news media are spinning out umpteen scenarios for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The game involves dangling illusionary references to “withdrawal” in front of the public.

But realities on the ground — and in the air — are quite different. A recent news dispatch from an air base in Iraq, by Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press, provided a rare look at the high-tech escalation underway.

Continued…

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The Repeating Spiral Of Media, War And History by Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

by Norman Solomon
July 14, 2007

As the political turmoil over the Iraq war escalates in Washington, it is a faint shadow of the horrendous violence that was unleashed on people in Iraq starting with the invasion more than 50 months ago. But in mid-July 2007, as is often the case, the USA’s front pages and prime-time newscasts are focusing on the politics of American war-making more than its human consequences.

The tensions between Congress and the White House will grow more pronounced in the weeks and months ahead. Many psychodramas — some, for the first time, pitting Republicans against their leader in the Oval Office — are sure to make for dramatic journalistic storylines. Along the way, developments will often be dubiously reported as surprising if not downright astonishing.

Many events cannot be predicted, but — in the light of history — the progression of recent pro-war maneuvers in American politics has been predictable. Not because history simplistically repeats itself, but because so many of the same basic elements of Americana now in place were also the basis for what transpired in U.S. media and political realms during the Vietnam War. History is not a closed loop, but it tends to be a spiral.

The historical record gives more than ample reason to conclude that willingness to serve as accessories to a war based on mendacity is not the aberration of one particular party, administration, or coterie of journalists.

Blame Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, or George W. Bush, all you want, but they did not invent the depraved and murderous gambits that manipulated the news media and plunged the country evermore deeply into war. Blame the credulous press of 1964, or the credulous press of 2002, all you want — but the reputedly top journalists of each era did not invent their techniques of serving the powerful any more than they laid those techniques to rest.

If “Rip Van Nam” woke up today after a 38-year sleep, the dynamic along Pennsylvania Avenue in July 2007 would be familiar — with the president under enormous pressure to show “progress” in a war that should never have been started in the first place.

The shortcomings of an illegitimate host regime (in Saigon then, Baghdad now), reliant on the occupying forces, are the whipping boys of countless officials and pundits who have to cast the blame somewhere for the U.S. military’s inability to subdue the resistance to the imperial carnage being inflicted in the land of the resisting.

Almost 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon proclaimed that the U.S. government had previously “Americanized the war in Vietnam” but that “we are Vietnamizing the search for peace.” It wasn’t much more than an echo of the same idea when President George W. Bush learned to recite the line: “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”

And, there was a certain venerable motif of demagoguery at work when Nixon’s upwardly mobile butler-like vice president, Spiro Agnew, told a group of upper-crust Republican diners feasting on his words: “In the United States today we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Taking his turn in the long-term spiral, Vice President Dick Cheney told another wealth-drenched audience of war enthusiasts at a formal gathering: “The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their backbone, but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.”

And so the spiral has gone, with some critical media coverage but a great deal more media assistance. Long after establishing massive records of duplicity, people in very high Washington places have benefited from journalistic co-dependence so extreme as to border on the pathological. Day by day, year by year, reporters have conflated intimidation with respect, cowardice with professionalism, conformity with objectivity and boat-rocking with bias. The warfare state and its few bloated beneficiaries have been the winners. The rest of us have already lost far more than the mainline press can ever say.

Norman Solomon’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” is now available in paperback. To find out more about Norman Solomon and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2007 DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.