Monday, April 21, 2008

If you get your news from TV, the Pentagon is messing with your mind

In a three-page story beginning on page 1A of Sunday's New York Times, David Barstow documents how the Pentagon has been using retired high-ranking military personnel as propaganda agents for the purpose of selling the "success" of the Iraq Occupation (my word, not theirs) to the American people on the three "major" networks, as well as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and PBS.

You've seen them--the suited "retired Army major general so-and-so" who has just returned from a "fact-finding" mission to Guantanamo/Baghdad/Afghanistan to happily report that we "have turned the corner/seen light at the end of the tunnel/begun to kick some ass/are clearly winning the war" in Iraq. The only problem: the "scoops" pouring out of these malleable mouths were nothing but Rumsfeld talking points given a military haircut and shoe shine and trotted out to see how they would play in the lala land that is contemporary major network news.

Don't you wonder why it is that we are NEVER ALLOWED TO SEE anything that looks like death on our TV screens? Why, even the sight of a flag-draped coffin containing the remains of a US soldier is taboo, let alone the gruesome, gut-wrenching stuff that draws Americans to movie and TV gore-fests like '24', CSI, and such, week after week. As Amy Goodman said in a speech last night here in Denver, if Americans were forced--as Iraqi men, women, and children are day-in/day-out--to see scenes of war AS IT ACTUALLY IS alongside images of their pretty-boy-and-girl news anchors, they would demand an end to the madness faster than the character, Marlow, in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness can say, "The horror! The horror!"

Here's another dot for you:

If you can't look at the product of your particular enterprise at any given moment, it probably isn't something you should be doing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Elephant dots

This morning, I spent about three hours watching the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee "grille" Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Some words were to be heard so frequently as to cause tears of boredom--words such as "progress", "al Qaeda", "safer", "thanks", "responsibility", "uh (from Crocker)", "surge is working", "open-ended", "extremists", "bin Laden", "cost", "coalition forces", and "Iran".

Most of the words I was listening for were nowhere to be heard: "Iraqi nationalists" ("Arab nationalists" WAS mentioned, but it's not the same thing), "Iraqi death toll", "polls of the Iraqi people", "occupation", , "quagmire", "root cause", "American economy", and anything doing with the facts on the ground in Iraq BEFORE the "coalition forces" invaded that country.

In other words--with exceptions voiced by Senators Evan Bayh, Carl Levin, and one or two others--it was basically on the level of a interview delivered by rock star to a room full of groupies. Like everything else this administration and its Senate minions do, it was based on such a small sliver of reality as to have totally lost the truth of "the big picture". (Does anyone out there in cyberspace remember the Army's half-hour TV series of the '50's and '60's by that same name? Those were the days when the US government cared about such things.)

Had any of the folks on the committee read Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine or Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater? If they had, I don't see how they could just sit there and take it while a parade of white-haired, white-skinned, privileged men from the deep South out-bid each other for the honor of having their noses buried the furthest up Petraeus' keester, while pretending that Iraq is anything other than a wasted mess of a country.

A "quagmire" is defined by Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary as "a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position". With Gen. Petraeus' repeated refusal to estimate a possible end date for the occupation of Iraq, claiming that it depended solely upon "conditions" on the ground, I would have loved just one senator to have asked, "General, would you say that the current situation in Iraq vis-a-vis the US could be summarized as a quagmire?"

The other definition for "quagmire" is "soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot". Quicksand, perhaps? Like quicksand, there seem to be only two moral options in Iraq for the US: either try not to move or change position and somehow stay afloat (Bush's course) or struggle to free ourselves (withdraw) and perhaps sink deeper into the moral morass, along with the Iraqis. There must be an especially hot place in hell for those who did this to all of us.