Sep 6, 2007

Intelligent Responses to the Propaganda Campaign

"Every person is entitled to his own opinion. He is not entitled to his own facts, " said Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Great quote, great notion to hold to.

Have you been watching the media blitz supporting War with Iran? It will be continuing. A war hawk, Reuel Marc Gerecht, from the American Enterprise Institute in Newsweek; a Washington Post editorial attacking Mohammed el Baradei as if he were in league with the Iranians against the United States rather than a man trying to establish a rational alternative to another war of aggression; a few "expert" interviews on NPR.

(The people NPR calls upon for commentary on foreign affairs these days are so supportive of administration policy, almost all of them from the more conservative side of the spectrum. I don't see what the right wingers are so concerned about these days. NPR hath capitulated. The one exception was Terri Gross's interview with Charlie Savage about his new book on how the Bush administration has usurped the Constitution and re-created an "Imperial Presidency." You will remember that phrase. It was used during Nixon's era--I can remember he once had personally approved--or may even personally have designed some uniforms for the marines who guarded the White House--his own Eastern European braided and beribboned "palace guard." Or was it a design for the Washington, DC police? Funny what you remember and what you don't.)

So with Charlie Savage putting the usurpation in context, it is also good to have solid facts and common sense to go against the grain of the propaganda. Thus, I recommend that you read these, even go so far as to print them out, and make your own talking points against the supporters of the invasion of Iran--those who have had their consent manufactured by the Main Stream Media ("MSM" as I learned to call it in Memphis back in January).

First, some common sense about the Iranian (and Syrian threats) from Michael Scheuer, ex CIA analyst who is no defender of terrorism but is smart enough to see fanaticism when it appears in Washington, DC: read his article "Syria and Iran: The Threats that aren't" at It's worth a few excerpts:
And then there is Iran. How does one explain the U.S. governing elite's fear of Iran? Here we have a country that admittedly is led by one of the world's more histrionic politicians, but one that also is ringed by U.S. military bases and surrounded by an overwhelmingly more numerous Sunni world that hates Shi'ites far more than it hates Westerners. Iran‘s Islamic regime, moreover, is helplessly watching the final stages of the march of its energy resources toward oblivion, and preparing for the impoverishment and resulting internal political instability that event will usher in.
And his analysis of the real threat to the United States:
So where in this portrait is the threat to the United States? While Iran is a threat to Israel, there is surely no threat to America in Iran's less-than-impressive military forces, nuclear development program, or unattractive public diplomacy. No, the threat to the United States comes from two sources. First, the relentless "Iran is the new Nazi Germany" propaganda pushed by Israel and the American citizen Israel-firsters, and, second, the multi-decade failure of the U.S. Congress to seriously address the national-security issues of energy, borders, and immigration.
Second, another great riposte by Paul Craig Roberts, "Who Are the Fanatics?" defining further the real enemies in this conflict, the warmongers who refuse to pay attention to reality:
If Americans did rely on reason, tolerance and deliberation, they might free their minds of shrill propaganda long enough to consider the "Muslim threat." Muslims are disunited. Their disunity makes them a threat to one another, not to the West. . . .There is no such thing as Islamofascism. This is a coined propaganda word used to inflame the ignorant. There is no factual basis for the hatred that neoconservative Islamophobes instill in Americans. God did not tell America to destroy the Muslims for the Israelis. . . .In America today, blind ignorant hate against Muslims has been brought to a boiling point. The fear and loathing is so great that the American public and its elected representatives in Congress offer scant opposition to the Bush administration's plan to make Iran the third Middle East victim of American aggression in the 21st century.
Third, if any of your friends tries to adopt Bush's idiotic comparison of Iraq to Vietnam, here's ammunition from Andrew Bacevich, a man who actually fought in Vietnam, rather than hanging out in a National Guard unit based in Texas after Daddy pulled some strings in order to avoid getting sent to fly combat missions--a soldier who was a real conservative and supporter of the military until he began to study US Imperialism. And, sadly, a man who just this year, lost his officer son in the Iraq War. The man knows what he is about, and his thoughts can be heard on Antiwar radio, interviewed by Charles Goyette, the wonderful conservative voice of conscience down in Phoenix.

And finally, some more ammunition from Barnet Rubin, the Middle East scholar who I first referred to a few days back talking about how the propaganda machine was cranking up. His latest piece appears in the "Informed Comment Global Affairs" blog entry for Wednesday, September 5, 2007: "Theses on Policy toward Iran." Rubin talks about "regime change" as the motivating factor for any attack on Iran, posits some results that might come from an attack, and suggests two strategies Congress might adopt in order to avoid a conflagration. (Don't hold your breath.)

Armed with the facts and some common sense thinking, you are now ready to face the bizarre fantasies of the warmongers. Go and be gratified.

Sep 3, 2007

The First Installment of an Orderly Withdrawal

Flash from the Evening Standard in London, September 3, 2007: British Troops leave the government palace in Basra, congregate at the airport, under cover of darkness. Apparently bringing supplies to the soldiers in the center of the city has been more dangerous than stationing them together at the airport, which is always under mortar attack. This looks to be significant. Watch it. Bush is said to be really pissed off. It's about time he has to confront somebody not doing his bidding.

What I also found interesting is that--as you will see in the article--the British generals are continuing to be really disturbed by our failure to plan the aftermath of the invasion. I'm telling you, if you haven't been to see
Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight yet, find it and see it. It's in limited run. You can find the listed theaters on their site. This is what has the generals so upset and you don't have to be a military historian to see why.

I still think the war is a war of aggression and therefore an international crime. The incompetence and disastrous lack of common sense on the part of the Bush administration in executing their dreams does nothing but confirm the bankruptcy of their morals and their vapid intelligence.

Sep 2, 2007

More on Iran War Propaganda

Sara Baxter, "Pentagon 'Three-Day Blitz' Plan For Iran" reporting in the Sunday Times in the UK gives a good roundup of the information beginning to accumulate about the justification for going into war with Iran.

She picks up on a speech given at the Nixon Center by Alexis
Dabat revealing that the Pentagon has strike plans against 1200 targets in Iran. He spoke at a meeting organized by The National Interest--a conservative foreign policy group. The article also sources the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) which is part of the MEK, an anti-Iranian group seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime. The MEK , and also in a supplementary order, the NCRI have both been named as terrorist groups by the State department. That seems not to matter to our government which relies on terrorist connections when in our interest to do so. According to Scott Ritter in his book Target Iran (2007) the NCRI statements in the past have been the means through which Israel's intelligence services "made public" their information.

Although the recent positive report of the
IAEA saying Iran has been very cooperative is mentioned, it is immediately followed by a comment that "Washington fears" that this report will be used as a stalling tactic by Iran. The reporter is for The Times in the UK, but she might as well be working for the Washington Times, since many of the sources she refers to are on the right side of the spectrum and have been militating for war with Iran for many many months, if not years.

The final argument presented is that Iran is fighting a "proxy war" in Iraq, and the logic of that position is laid out in a report just published by the recently founded Institute for the Study of War (so recent in fact it is still, according to its web-site, applying for tax-exempt status). The report is written by Kimberly
Kagan, its executive director and former professor of military history. It was published in conjunction with The Weekly Standard, whose logo appears on the bottom right of all the pages of the report.

It's impressively footnoted until you see that all of the information is completely dependent upon US forces press releases (especially those of the former advisor to the President, Brigadier General Kevin
Bergner, who began cranking out questionable and weakly supported anti-Iranian statements as soon as he arrived in Iraq on his fresh assignment). Other conservative groups, or people whose credibility can be legitimately questioned, are cited. That is to say, almost all the sources have an Iranian axe to grind. Most obviously, what is missing is any information which questions the facts or suggests other possible interpretation. Jim Lobe has detailed the "Kagan network" and as Lobe suggests, watch for this study to be quoted again and again by Cheney, Bush, the Weekly Standard, WSJ (on its editorial pages to be sure, and now that Rupert Murdock is taking over, maybe even the journalistic side, See if the news people begin the to use the report without looking into the full story the full story). I have read the report almost completely now and it looks to me like it will be the Bush and Cheney catechism for the pushing the justification of an attack.

(If the link to
The Times is broken, you can find an reprint on International Clearing House's site.)

Three more links will help you get grounded on the context of what is going on:

First, another ripper
from the wonderfully outspoken and blunt Paul Craig Roberts. He does a better job than I can of summing up the situation and the moral implications in his piece, "The War Criminal in the Living Room." Here's an excerpt:

Bush is too self-righteous to see the dark humor in his denunciations of Iran for threatening “the security of nations everywhere” and of the Iraqi resistance for “a vision that rejects tolerance, crushes all dissent, and justifies the murder of innocent men, women, and children in the pursuit of political power.” Those are precisely the words that most of the world applies to Bush and his Brownshirt administration. The Pew Foundation’s world polls show that despite all the American and Israeli propaganda against Iran, the US and Israel are regarded as no less threats to world stability than demonized Iran [itself].
I love reading his things. They pin the administration's insects right through the abdomen and to the felt and let them wriggle.

constitutional scholar, and a writer who is becoming a conscience for the country, Glenn Greenwald has done a fine job in Salon of studying the President's speeches and recent statements.

And finally, some incisive weapons to attack the arguments you will hear in the patriotic rush to war, from George Packer at
The New Yorker. Read this short post if you do nothing else! Packer is a great reporter who has jumped on and begun to write on the propaganda campaign. He provides the questions that he thinks the press should be asking of the administration as the campaign unfolds. Here they are from his posting for Friday, August 31, 2007, "Test Marketing":

It’s one thing for the American Enterprise Institute, the Weekly Standard, et al to champion a war they support. It’s another to jump like circus animals at the crack of the White House whip. If the propaganda campaign predicted by Rubin’s friend is launched, less subservient news organizations should ask certain questions, and keep asking them: Does the Administration expect the Iranian regime to fall in the event of an attack? If yes, what will replace it? If no (and it will not), why would the Administration deliberately set about to strengthen the regime’s hold on power? What will the Administration do to protect highly vulnerable American lives and interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world against the Iranian reprisals that will follow? What if Iran strikes against Israel? What will be the strategy when the Iranian nuclear program, damaged but not destroyed, resumes? How will the Administration handle the international alarm and opprobrium that would be an attack’s inevitable fallout?
And he ends his piece with one of the most pessimistic statements we are going to read:
If this really is a return to the early fall of 2002 all over again, then I’m fairly sure that no one at the top of the Administration is worrying about the answers.
Oh, I fear that the fix in in. You can feel it. Watch carefully all of the speeches coming out of Washington, check the sources and look for cross quotes.

A good friend of mine in Sacramento sent me a wonderful excerpt from the recently departed Kurt Vonnegut, which he had read in a book quoting
Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut's novel about being traumatized by the fire bombing of Dresden in WW II. In the novel, Vonnegut imagines that the film of a bombing raid over Germany begins to run backwards:

"American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses, took off
backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German
fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell
fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for
wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up
backwards to join the formation.

"The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames.
The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted miraculous magnetism
which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel
containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the
planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks.....There were
still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were
in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again,
made everything and everybody as good as new.

"When the bombers got back to the base, the steel containers were
taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States, where
factories were operating day and night, dismantling the cylinders,
separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was
mainly women who did the work. The minerals were then shipped to
specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into
the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody
ever again."
I remembered reading that many years ago, in the early seventies, when the Vietnam War, which Nixon promised to end in his campaign, was still grinding down to its terrible end. The passage really is a wonderfully peaceful thing, isn't it, almost with the grace and simplicity of scripture.

I put it up here as a wonderful antidote to the war fever that will be coming over the next few months.

Sep 1, 2007

Wait until dark

Last night, driving home from seeing "No End in Sight" for the second time (if you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to do so! Bring a Republican friend if you have one!) I really noticed how the days are getting shorter. The sun was already below the mountain to the west of the city at 7:10 pm. The heat is still here in the West--it is nearly 105 today and was at least 100 yesterday--but the changes in the light tells us that Fall is on the horizon. There's nothing like blazing sunset on patches of cirrus and heavy cumulus clouds over the higher mountains to the north.

And when we get more night than day is when the fireworks are most spectacular, especially when the fireworks are real and kill, maim, and destroy. Fox News loves those shock and awe campaigns in the dead of night.

I've been writing for a number of months about a coming attack on Iran. Now, a number of ominous storm clouds are coming together. Gareth Porter is an impeccable reporter on the machinations going on in Iraq, and an interview with him on tipped me to information from Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation of New York University. Rubin has posted at Informed Comment Global Affairs information which makes a parallel between the propaganda campaign for the Iraq war in the Fall of 2002 and an upcoming campaign this Fall for war with Iran. The scary suggestion is that they are not looking for manufacturing majority consent, but only about 35 to 40% consent, from the American public. Rubin hesitated to post the information, but I for one am glad he did.

According to Rubin's post, the office of Vice President Cheney has instructed staff to line up the usual suspects (American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, et al) to initiate a major propaganda campaign to begin right after Labor Day. The Petraeus "progress report" (and what progress report do you know of that has ever reported "failure"?) is now scheduled for 9-11-2007. President Bush's major speech on Iraq shortly thereafter you just know will use 9-11 as its North Pole. All the props are being moved onto the stage. Of course, little of this "propaganda program" is confirmed, but perhaps as we watch the news we will see it unfold before us.

I urge you to review the following information and to be prepared to discuss and argue. For over six months, now, the Pentagon, military leaders in Iraq, and administration spokespeople (and their conservative flacks) have asserted that Iran is the "source for weapons" used against US troops. The assumption has been that the Iraqi insurgents are not smart enough to manufacture IEDs and that Iran therefore must be supplying them. The casus belli will clearly be those IEDs

If the United States is going to attack Iran it will be based on a mixed program of partial truth, distortions, exaggerations, fabrications, and bold lies, the same pattern that we saw in preparation for the illegal invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. George W. Bush, after years of rejecting an analogy to Vietnam, has now decided to make the analogy. Why? Because he believes--one of the standard conservative assertions that America was driven from Vietnam not because we could not win the war against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, but because the military were "betrayed" by the American public. Hogwash.

For a whole commentary on that ultimate distortion, see Arthur Silber's "They are the Damned" for February 11, 2002.

So to get back to arming yourselves with the information that will counter the manufacture of consent, please go to radio. Listen to the most recent interviews--or download an .mpg file to your iPod--with Gareth Porter and Wayne White, both of whom are very knowledgeable. Porter, as I mentioned above, is one of the impeccable reporters on the war. He will be publishing a piece soon on the attempts to fabricate the rationale for an invasion of Iraq. I'll link to it here when it comes out.

White is a former member of the State Department. He truly believes that Iran is in the process of developing Nuclear Weapons, but as with the AIEA and US intelligence sources' recent reports, they are still years away from successful manufacture of a nuclear weapon. It is a long interview but worth listening to for the sanity and practicality of his evaluation.

I am not defending Iran here. I can understand their situation, however, and I am not surprised by their dangerous and foolish bluster and tightrope walking. In many ways their leaders are as arrogant and as stupid as ours. But I also know that our diplomacy with them had been non-existent and is now too little and too late. You got a problem? talk it out and argue, but you don't solve a problem with military violence.

As White points out, the last person to try to invade and go for a regime change in Iran was Saddam Hussein. The war with Iran lasted 8 years (September 1980 to August 1988) and resulted in up to 1.5 million deaths.

And if the propaganda works and the Bush administration decides to commit the folly of attacking Iran, they will do it with our military, already stretched to the limit by the war in Iraq. I hope that reality will prevail and that an attack on Iran will be seen as impractical. However, remember what I suggested in earlier posts the carrier groups headed for the Persian Gulf area and a Navy man was put in charge of the forces in the Central command: the Air Force and the Navy, removed from the immediate action, have been champing at the bit to prove their destructive capability, and since they are not experiencing the ground casualties of the Army and Marines, they are insulated from the madness on the ground.

Ray McGovern, the former CIA officer and founding member of Veteran Intelligence Officers for Sanity (VIOS) thinks that maybe the only thing keeping us from this second madness and disaster will be the Joint Chiefs of Staff and/or leaders of the Army and the Marines. I think McGovern is searching for rays of hope, as are all of us who can see the folly in the future. But as much as the Joint Chiefs may be reluctant to invade Iran, they will follow orders if they are given. Phil Ochs, remember? Always the old who give the orders, always the young who fall.

My own ray of hope is that Congress maybe for once can dig deep down into its soul and oppose another war, and I will be writing my Congress critters to let them know my views. I am not happy with Congress so far, and don't see them changing their cowardly ways. Realism and sanity should prevail over war fever and propaganda, but I'm not sure they will. Congress will always cave in to their fear of charges of lack of patriotism.

There are demonstrations scheduled by war protesters for September and October. Time to put on the walking shows and make the banners. Last time we may have known the truth and been angry as the manufacturing of consent occurred; now that we know it is going to begin to take place--what better time than a year without an election?--let's push back against the propaganda with more confidence and indignation.