This blog speaks to the power of media in shaping our political as well as mental environments relatively often. In time of war these instances of media manipulation seem accelerated in both frequency and import.
I'm sure you heard or read the other day that a large Iraqi chemical weapons factory was found and then the story became about an 'alleged' chemical weapons factory and then it faded away. The same sort of story concerning Scud missiles. Stories that turned out to be false.
Tom Hayden asks "Who will verify discoveries in Iraqi arsenals?" A a short thought provoking piece that reminds us just how many times fabricated accounts have been brought up in support of war.
Fifty-seven years ago, Orwell anticipated the obscurantist press briefings of Donald Rumsfeld, the brittle-tempered U.S. defence secretary, when he wrote: "When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs with no eyes behind them."
(Taken from " Language one of war's first casualties" by David Olive)
War seems to be promoted to us at this point as entertainment, a televised spectacle that resides in the same dubious entertainment neighborhood as the show "Cops". Add in that certain bloodless quality it offers, along with the graphics and war is turned from an abomination to a surreal spectator event, a 'game'.
"Yellowtimes", a resource you've noted I use and is on the sidebar for your ease of access was taken offline due to graphic war images that it offered at the news site. (It will be up again in the next couple days) I feel no need to see the images while I know they more accurately portray war. War is not the stuff of movies and tv shows. War is death. That's it, plain and simple; whoever kills the most wins. Maybe by wreaking carnage on the civilian population a countries spirit, its' collective will to fight can be broken; at least that is the public consumption reason for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And the reason the brutal cruise missile assault on Baghdad is called 'shock and awe'. War is about Power wielding death and destruction for its' own ends..
I'm not sure which network I saw it on, but I was repulsed to see Iraqi prisoners of war huddled in blankets and sitting and lying on the ground as a reporter spoke about them as if they were animals in the zoo, bright lights in their faces under a dark sky as the reporter picks up foil pouch at one of the 'subjects' feet to tell us that they are being fed self heating MREs... It left me surprised to hear that Iraqis were being told that doing the same sort of things to our servicemen was a war crime. One would think that neither side would stoop to humiliating their captives. Especially us, the US, as we are the 'good guys'.
It seems to me that our treatment of Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay gives us little room to grouse about mistreatment of captives. And as the 'good guys' we are the worse for it. The Geneva conventions were designed fo these instances.
Thinking is Patriotic. Talk to your friends...
An article from the Chicago Tribune By Stanley Kutler that merits reading There Will Absolutely Be No Dissension. You need to sign in initially to access the Tribune, that is why I didn't site this article earlier. Sign up, as you have for the NY Times already I hope. Here's a lengthy quotation that just touches the matter; you should read the whole article.
The freedom and diversity we so cherish for others is strikingly lacking in our public discourse. We must not forget our traditions of challenge and dissent. For openers, we can invoke the injunctions of Theodore Roosevelt, the most red-blooded and manly of our presidents--if that is to be the litmus test for strong leadership. In 1918, ex-President Roosevelt challenged Woodrow Wilson's sweeping crackdown against dissent after the American entry into World War I. "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong," Roosevelt said, "is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
Abraham Lincoln more pointedly serves the present, critical need. Challenging President James Polk's dubious response to alleged Mexican aggression against the United States, Congressman Lincoln voted to censure the president in 1848--while the war against Mexico still raged. He contended that the president's justification for war was "from beginning to end the sheerest deception." Polk would have "gone further with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not permit him." Lincoln threw down the gauntlet: "Let him answer fully, fairly and candidly. Let him answer with facts and not with arguments. ... Let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation." Lincoln more than suspected that the president was "deeply conscious of being in the wrong."
Today, as we prepare to go to war, will the qualities of democracy, diversity, and the open society President Bush so ardently desires for the nation-building he will do for the Iraqis be available at home? The chorus for unanimity is rising, usually in the name of support for our troops in harm's way. Hardly a new ploy for presidential behavior. Once he commits troops abroad, the argument goes, then we must have a moratorium on criticism.
"This is America, remember?" Debate and dissent are not just freedoms but a pre-requesite of Democracy. Granted with the present White House occupant not the winner of the Presidential election but rather a Supreme Court appointee it seems a bit of stretch of credibility to say the US will foster Democracy in Iraq. It is the whole point of Patriotism to ask questions, to think. If you care about your country you care about how it is governed, about its' actions in the world; by extension they are your actions. Our
actions. Our President and Legislators represent us.
It seems that we live in times of immense historical importance, times where each citizen is called to stand up for what they believe in, what they know to be right; to advocate for America, for it's return to us as a progressively evolving place of promise and of hope for all. To be quiet is to let our nation be Saddamized; turned into a police state where people have none of those rights that are claimed as setting us apart and beyond the other countries of the world. Even as Mr Bush gave his facile reasoning to the American people for the will behind the 9-11 tragedy, "They hate our Freedoms" his administration was working to take those freedoms away .
It is in the spirit of Democracy to ask questions of authority.
The conflicting reasons and rationalizations for this pre-emptive attack and the ensuing war with Iraq are nibbling at the consciousness of folks. Talk to the goodhearted but media misinformed people in your life and do them the favor of helping them learn about this Administration's use of misinformation as a tool of governance. The facts are on our side. They just need to come to light...