And if, perchance, you wanted to read an investigative report on -- ho-hum, another Vietnam-ish topic -- the way we may be setting up a mini-version of the CIA's infamous and murderous Vietnam-era Phoenix Program in Iraq, you would naturally turn to a publication with investigative clout and resources, something major with a lot of well-funded reporters on hand -- let's say that monster of the media, American Prospect magazine. There, Robert Dreyfus informs us about the latest plans of frustrated neocons to win the counterinsurgency war in
"With the 2004 electoral clock ticking amid growing public concern about
"The Prospect has learned that part of a secret $3 billion in new funds-tucked away in the $87 billion Iraq appropriation that Congress approved in early November-will go toward the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen associated with former Iraqi exile groups. Experts say it could lead to a wave of extrajudicial killings, not only of armed rebels but of nationalists, other opponents of the
"'They're clearly cooking up joint teams to do Phoenix-like things, like they did in
The point is, if you read American Prospect or visit www.Antiwar.com or regularly stop at the Guardian or Asia Times on-line, there's plenty to learn about what's actually happening in our world. There you can find journalists and analysts ready to put things together for you. Here, aside from the odd op-ed page columnist like Paul Krugman or James Carroll, the mainstream is an interpretive desert. The main activity in the mainstream media, in a sense, is the disconnect, the breaking of the large into its component parts and then the staring at each one as if it were a unique event or an anomaly.
Faced with the coherent, repetitive kingdom of lies which is the Bush administration, lies that are utterly familiar and yet endlessly and effectively reiterated, our media has proved hopeless and helpless -- alternately cowed, complicit, confused, and largely incapable of making connections. Though enough stories have appeared to add up to a list of scandals, lies, and corrupt practices that make the
We've probably never had an administration which is so much a matter of linkages and connections -- government, corporate, military, think-tank, lobbyist. And this is the moment our media has chosen to demobilize itself. They are in full disconnect mode.
Yes, there are scandals that have individually been well covered in recent months, particularly in the Washington Post. Yes, the New York Times front-paged its coverage of the Halliburton fuel-overcharging scandal and recently the Boston Globe's Stephen J. Glain had a good business piece, "Pentagon freezes Iraq funds amid corruption probes" (12/30), on "allegations of corruption and cronyism" associated with Iraq's reconstruction that have caused the Pentagon to postpone the handing out of much of that $18.6 billion appropriated by Congress. But these are almost invariably dealt with as isolated matters.
If you want to find a listing of the scattered lies and scandals, of the mis- and disinformation campaigns of this administration in one place, you have to turn to dissident websites like the always interesting Democrats.com where Bob Fertik and Ted Kahl in Top Bush Scandals of 2003, Part I: Iraq list twenty of them ranging from lying to Congress and war profiteering to "the hiring of murderers and training of assassins" -- including (#7) the administration's massive disinformation campaign itself that accompanied the drive to war, the war, and the postwar months without cessation.
"â€¦[T]he White House and the Pentagon used a massive disinformation campaign to 'sell' the war to the American people before the invasion, and that disinformation campaign is still ongoing. This disinformation campaign has been conducted through 'leaks' to both the mainstream media (including front page NY Times propaganda by Judith Miller about
A rare list of administration lies in the mainstream can be found in a recent piece by Ruth Rosen, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle ("To Tell the Truth,"
"Our economy (actually, corporate profits) is rapidly recovering -- despite the fact that homelessness, hunger, outsourcing of jobs overseas and lagging job growth have widened the gap between people who can buy luxury goods and those who can't make ends meet.
"We are safer now, even though commercial airplanes and ships anchored in our ports still carry cargo that is not inspected for lethal weapons. Our invasion of
"The military action in
"We are so committed to democratic principles that we must export them to
Otherwise, the scattered lies and scandals still await their collective moment, while (like the Nixon administration) the Busheviks do their canny best to push them off to a distant, post-election future as, for instance, they have done with the outing of Valerie Plame, CIA agent and former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife. This was an egregious act of retribution for
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has written a fine assessment of what the belated appointment of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as "special counsel" in the Plame case actually means (Don't Be Fooled):
"Even the Times, in its 'Right Thing' editorial, notes that 'there are still serious questions about the investigation,' namely, will Fitzgerald have 'true operational independence.' The odds are strongly against it.
"Let not yesterday's maneuver obscure the fact that in naming Fitzgerald, who remains under the authority of Ashcroft's deputy, the Bush administration has rejected the only appropriate course-naming a complete outsider to be special counsel, as Justice Department regulations allow. Why has that path been rejected? One need not be paranoid to see these latest moves as evidence the White House has something very sensitive to hide. Has one of their senior officials committed a felony, endangered lives, and vitiated the ability of a senior intelligence official to use her net of agents to acquire critical information on weapons of mass destruction (Valerie Plame's portfolio)?â€¦
"The Bottom line? As Shakespeare put it, the truth will out-eventually. But at this point it seems a safe bet that (as with the phantom "weapons of mass destruction" in
The "intelligence community" is still seething on this subject -- and many others; the military is roiled; and
Just connect -- the global dots
To finish off this dispatch, I thought I might offer some global-level, end-of-the-year connections made by others -- the sorts of connections you simply can't find in our press (no less -- don't even think about it -- on television, a few Frontline documentaries aside). For any attempted large snapshots of how our imperial globe fits together today, you have no choice but to look to the margins, or abroad.
Here, then, are three large snapshots/interpretations with a few interpolations from elsewhere -- not one from a mainstream source in this country. The fact is (in case nobody's noticed), even at year's end, when summing-up is usually the order of the day, there remains something of a taboo in the American press against linking three or four countries in the same article or op-ed or column, even, it seems, a taboo against wide-ranging reports or analysis of any kind. So the three pieces included below come from the Moscow Times, New Labor Forum, and the blog of a well-known scholar of imperial decline, Immanuel Wallerstein.
Let's start with "'Bleeding strategy' comes home," contributed to the Moscow Times of Dec. 23 by Nicholas Berry, director of ForeignPolicyForum.com. He makes a fascinating suggestion for which a little background is in order. During the Age of Reagan, as the Pentagon budget was being hiked into the heavens -- quite literally with all the r&d for "Star Wars" weaponry -- it was often suggested by conservatives that we were pursuing a policy meant to "bleed" our superpower opponent to death economically via an escalating arms race in which the Soviets couldn't afford to compete without bankrupting themselves. The idea was that the Soviet economy simply wouldn't be able to take it. And when the
"Bush then is free to pursue his narrow agenda. And that leaves the rest of the world free to pursue their agendas without much
This is certainly an interesting suggestion and I urge you to consider the whole article. Behind this lie two developments -- both involving old Cold War opponents.
In the meantime,
"Opposition [to the Bush administration], moreover, was not confined to the European powers.
Martin Walker, senior correspondent for UPI and a most knowledgeable observer, wrote similarly in a year-end piece ("
Meanwhile in the borderlands of Russia and Central Asia, a new "cold war" is slowly heating up as Russia threatens to reassert itself as a modest regional imperial power in areas where, since the Clinton administration, the U.S. has made military and economic inroads as a global imperial power. The Guardian's Jonathan Steele lays out the bruising American side of that new cold war as it's being played out in Georgia, the small state on Russia's border, where a "velvet revolution" recently took place ("The new cold war," 1/3/04):
"Bush's people supported
Conservative columnist Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun in his end-of-the-year roundup offers these brief comments on Russia's leader ("The good, the bad and the lucky," 12/28):
"Barely noticed by the outside world, this hard man has gathered all the reins of power in Mother Russia and put his former KGB colleagues in charge of just about everything important. The unsmiling, incorruptible Putin is laying the foundation for the re-emergence of
Walden Bello, the Philippine economist who always has a strong eye for the ways in which things don't mix-and-match at a global level, suggests in a year-ending piece for New Labor Forum that "developing countries, some once hopeful that the WTO [World Trade Organization] would in fact bring more equity to global trade, unanimously agree that most of what they have reaped from WTO membership are costs, not benefits. What happened? In a word, Empire. It turns out that globalization and
Finally, Immanuel Wallerstein of
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]