“On February 13, 2003, teams of artists and activists postered New York City with thousands of copies of snapshots from Baghdad. Quiet and casual, the snapshots show a part of Baghdad we rarely see: the part with people in it.
“The snapshots were taken by a friend of ours who just got back from Baghdad working with the Iraq Peace Team. Yes, he saw Iraqis suffering and struggling. But he also saw Iraqis dancing and laughing. This moved him because laughing under the weight of the UN sanctions and the threat of an absurd war is no easy task. We were moved because the people in the pictures remind us of our friends & family.
“Thousands of snapshot posters now pepper Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.”
“We want to show New York the people who will get both liberty and death in one fatal stroke if this war begins. We want you to show them in your city. The entire snapshot collection is online as pdfs. Print them out and poster them anywhere and everywhere.”
The New York Baghdad 2 were arrested for their action. Their case goes to trial March 13.
I get tired of this sort of thing.
MSNBC is cancelling the Donahue talk show. Donahue was a fairly liberal, fairly open-minded political debate/interview program that the station had put on in attempt to support its sagging ratings. Despite the fact that Donahue got some of the network’s highest ratings, the show is being cancelled.
That’s not the part I’m tired of, we’ll get there in a minute.
Now, the lefty blogs are all abuzz at a month-old MSNBC study which claimed that Donahue had to go, because it could hurt the network if they were “stigmatized” as anti-war by Donahue’s views. And therefore this proves that the media is pro-war, blah blah blah (as if you couldn’t tell by simply turning on a television).
But what’s our source here? The source of all of this hubub is a column by Rick Ellis, in which he claims that received this report from an “NBC news insider.” Rick Ellis writes for AllYourTV.com, a site I have never heard of in my life.
So that’s it. The left-wing of the blogosphere is running amuck over an alleged report by an unnamed source mentioned on a column by an unknown writer in an unknown website. Some of my fellow bloggers are even claiming this pile of anonymity is a “smoking gun” proving media bias. But if a White House claim had come out with this hazy type of sourcing, they’d be crucifying it. Sorry folks, if you’re going to be picky and skeptical, you have to view every source of information to that kind of critical eye, even the ones that confirm what you already believe.
So that’s what I’m tired of, selective skepticism, selective eagerness. For all I know, Rick Ellis is true-blue and his article is 100% pure fact. But until I have some harder evidence, I can’t embrace his claims, and I wish some of my compadres would hold out for better support as well.
Pentagon’s Recipe for Propaganda- unlike the Gulf War, the Pentagon is at least pretending to give reporters full access to the battlefield. This will be done by having journalists go through specialized combat-preparedness training, and then “embedding” them within a military unit “for life”:
At a recent orientation meeting with Washington bureau chiefs, [Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Bryan] Whitman described the ideal “embed” as one who follows a unit (ground, air or sea) from load-out to deployment through combat (subject to field approval) to the “march on whatever capital we happen to march on” to the return trip home and the “victory parade.” This could take “two weeks, two months, two years.” If reporters leave a unit there is no guarantee they can return or even join another unit. Probably they will be “pooled” in mobile media clusters that form and dissolve as the action dictates. “Itinerants” (reporters working independently) are not encouraged.
In other words, journalists will be trained as soldiers, and then live, work and risk their lives with American soldiers for the duration of the war. Could this lead the reporters to identify very strongly with the soldiers and lead to strongly positive coverage of the war? Nah.
Journalists Are Assigned to Accompany U.S. Troops- as if the mild brainwashing above wasn’t enough, journalists will need to get permission from “their” commanding officer about “live, continuing action,” “future operations or postponed or canceled operations.” While that sounds reasonable in the name of military secrecy, I also note that “the outcomes of mission results can be described only in general terms,” and most tellingly, that “other ground rules remain to be spelled out.” Which could presumably include complete censorship when the military feels like it.
MSNBC adjusts image as war looms- apparently the MSNBC news channel is “rebranding” itself as a “hard news” station. Which probably has more drawing power than their previous, unofficial “we kinda suck” brand image.
Caught on Film: The Bush Credibility Gap- are the Democrats growing some balls? They are allegedly beginning a new political and media strategy of questioning the truthfulness of George W. Bush. This page is a series of comparisons between what Bush says at political photo ops, and how his true policies frequently contradict this statements 100%. The page appears on the Appropriations Committee Democrats webpage.
Fla. Court Overturns Reporter’s Jury Award- this one pisses me off because I’ve been writing about this story for years. Back in 1997, two Tampa reporters put together a series of television news segments about the use of artificial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) in dairy cows to increase their milk production. The two found that rBGH posed a risk to human health, and that there was really no way of knowing if the milk Floridians were drinking came from rBGH cows or not. Enter Monsanto, one of the most evil corporations on planet Earth. Before the story aired, Monsanto (which manufactures and sells “Posilac,” the most popular brand of rBGH) intimidated the reporters’ television station into re-editting the piece so that it was “more fair” to Monsanto’s point of view. But repeated re-writse were not good enough for the scared execs, and eventually the reporters were fired for refusing to lie in their story.
The reporters recently sued their old employers, claiming that they had violated the state’s whistleblower act. The two argued that they were about to “blow the whistle” on their station’s illegal practice of distorting the news, and that their station illegally fired them in retaliation. They won the suit.
And then their win was overturned. This latest judge found that the whistleblower claim didn’t hold up, because her station did not violate the law. And since they didn’t violate the law, they couldn’t have a whistle blown on them.
The ruling explicitly claims that when a TV station distorts the news, it is not violating FCC regulations. In other words, it is perfectly legal for television news to lie to you. Which is good for the Fox News Channel, I suppose.
The War Behind Closed Doors- PBS documentary that looks behind the “WMD” and “oil” reasons for the war on Iraq to what I feel is the core: the desire to reshape Middle Eastern politics to favor the U.S. I missed it on TV, but the entire broadcast is on this site in streaming video. If you can’t handle that kind of bandwidth, I’d at least recommend reading this analysis, keeping in mind that the U.S. frequent defines “democracy” as “any pro-U.S. government, no matter how corrupt or repressive, that has elections.”
Bush Set to Be Pivot in Diplomacy- “The president is scheduled to give a major speech Wednesday laying out his vision of a new Middle East, beginning with the disarmament of Iraq … The goal is to portray Iraq as only a piece in the broader U.S. plan to reconfigure the Middle East political map and make it conform to democratic changes that have swept much of the rest of the world over the past 15 years.” See my comment above about the U.S. definition of “democracy.”
Iraqis will not be pawns in Bush and Blair’s war game- “An American attack on my country would bring disaster, not liberation,” says Iraqi intellectual in exile Kamil Mahdi.
Disquiet on the Northern Front- this should be one of the more disturbing stories you read about the pending Iraq war. The Iraqi Kurds of northern Iraq want their own autonomous state. The Turks don’t want them to have one, because it may incite Turkish Kurds to try to fight for their own independence. So as part of their deal to cooperate with the U.S. on the war, Turkey wants to send 80,000 of its own troops into northern Iraq. It is unclear whether or not these troops are intended to get between the two forces, preventing the Iraqi and Turkish Kurds from joining forces, or if it is an actual plan by Turkey to crush the Iraqi Kurds and prevent their independence. The Iraqi Kurds have announced that any Turkish troops sent into Iraq’s Kurdish regions will be seen as invaders. Meaning that the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein could easily blossom into a Turkey-Kurdistan war within weeks or months.
The other part of the article is also a bit disturbing. Iran has sent a proxy army (5000 Iraqis who are loyal to Iran) into Iraq. No idea how that will play out. Not surprisingly, with Iraq about to be rent asunder, Iran wants to have some forces there to nab some of the pieces.
U.S. on Diplomatic Warpath- could it have been any more blatant that America was buying Turkey’s cooperation for the war? I also found it intriguing that Turkey demanded that the deal be spelled out in writing because they were promised aid in 1991, but did not receive it.
The Bush administration’s actions are ridiculous from a reasonable, objective point of view. What incentive does any country in the world have to join the U.S. in a seemingly pointless war? Why should any world leader risk their political position by taking an incredibly unpopular stand on the issue? For example, 94% of the Turkish population is against the war. In a democratic regime, that could mean losing an election. In a non-democratic regime, that risks the possibility of a coup. The common sense reaction for most world leaders is to “respectfully disagree,” to steal a recent Bush quote, and not join in the war effort.
The U.S. knows this, and has now jumped into both the bribery and intimidation games (hmm, kinda like the mafia). Not only is the U.S. paying huge amounts in aid and loans to get regional cooperation and Security Council votes, the U.S. is now threatening to withhold or end aid to countries that don’t support the war. Motherfuckers.
U.S. Officials Say U.N. Future At Stake in Vote- “You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not,” the [senior Russian] diplomat said U.S. officials told him. “That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not.” That’s a little shaky due to the quasi-anonymous sourcing, but it’s pretty much what I’ve felt since August. The U.S. has always intended to invade Iraq, and everything else was just a sideshow.
Missile Defense Waiver Sought- “The Bush administration is proposing to exempt the Pentagon’s controversial missile defense system from operational testing legally required of every new weapons system in order to deploy it by 2004.” That’s right. The Bush administration wants its missile defense system so badly that they don’t even care if it works. And evidence from previous tests shows that it doesn’t. And in the few tests where the missile defense system does work, it is usually rigged.
I’ve been thinking a lot about metaphors in political discussion because they’re being used so often to try to discredit anti-war activists at the moment. Of course, no metaphor holds up under intense scrutiny, but some of them don’t even hold up to a second glance. So, it’s time for me to kick some metaphors in the nuts.
The first I keep hearing is the Appeasement Metaphor. It is usually said in a haughty nasal tone, like “These protesters remind me a bit of Neville Chamberlain before World War II.” The implication being that protesters are being “soft” on Saddam Hussein the way that England and France were “soft” on Adolf Hitler. Therefore we anti-war activists are responsible for the Holocaust or WWII or something.
This metaphor falls apart in so many ways.
Let’s look at the scenarios.
In the 1930s, Germany had violated many aspects of the Treaty of Versailles, their WWI surrender agreement. They had built a huge, technologically- advanced army and taken over/merged with Austria. In 1938, Adolf Hitler demanded that Germany be given the Sudetenland, big chunk of Czechoslovakia. If Germany got this land, they would stop their efforts for expansion. If they didn’t…. In order to prevent war, Britain and France agreed to give the Sudetenland to Germany (Czechoslovakia had no say in the matter). Britain and France cheered that they had achieved peace, and then Hitler conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia. With 60+ years of searing 20-20 hindsight, it is commonly agreed that Appeasement was one of the stupidest foreign policy moves ever. Because all of us 21st century folks know that you shouldn’t trust Hitler, Britain and France of the 1930s should also have known not to trust Hitler.
In 1980, Saddm Hussein tried to take over Iran, and after nearly a decade, failed. In 1990, Saddam Hussein took over Kuwait, and then was forcefully routed and kicked out by a U.S.-led international force. Iraq was then bombed and embargoed for over a decade. Iraq may have violated some aspects of its own surrender treaty, and the U.S. argues that therefore Iraq should be invaded and Saddam Hussein should be removed from power. In this scenario, “appeasement” is to disagree that Iraq should be invaded, or prefer that weapons inspectors continue to scour Iraq for “weapons of mass destruction” and find evidence of these alleged treaty violations.
Probably the biggest differences here are 1) Germany demanded land; Iraq has not demanded anything of anyone, and 2) 1930s Germany was a military juggernaut; 2003 Iraq is a frail shell of its 1991 military self, which was easily routed even then.
The analogy also assumes that things would’ve been much different, much better, if Germany had not been appeased. But would they? The implication is that WWII could have been avoided if only there had been no appeasement. But no one knows what would’ve happened. Maybe Germany would have been repelled. Maybe they would have easily destroyed their two unprepared rivals. Hard to say.
So how does Iraq figure in? If we refuse to attack Iraq, will it conquer or seek to conquer all of the region? In its current military state, that seems unlikely.
The next analogy is one that popped up in my memory lately. Right before the U.S. war on Afghanistan began (the 2001 one), there was a joke being passed around by pro-war folks. It went something like “when you see someone protesting, go up to them and punch them in the face. When they punch you back, smile and say that’s what the U.S. is doing, fighting back when necessary.” I admit, this pissed me off, the whole smug “they’re just hypocrites who don’t know what they’re talking about” thing. I also didn’t like the idea of strangers punching me in the face as part of some alleged object lesson (I tend to oppose most Jake-face-punching policies).
Now, the problem with this metaphor is degree. I’ve thought an awful lot about force, power and violence since 9-11, both figuratively and literally. When you take any action, the more force you use, the more likely you are to cause unintended damage. For example, cutting someone with a scalpel during a surgery is a reasonable application of violence, because of its limited use and its precision. But when you use more force, like cutting them with a hatchet or chainsaw, you are causing huge amounts of unintended damage. This is one of the reasons that modern warfare is so catastrophic: modern armies try to achieve surgical goals with hatchets.
It reminds me of the 1999 war against Serbia. The idea was to protect the Albanian Kosovars from attack by the Serbians. To achieve this goal, U.S. planes dropped bombs from tens of thousands of feet in the air. At the time, I argued that if the U.S. really cared about achieving this goal, they should send ground troops in to physically prevent such attacks, either by getting in the way or attacking the attackers. Much less physical force would have been used, with much less destruction.
Which is why this analogy falls apart. A fist is a much more precise instrument of physical force than is a cluster bomb or a daisy-cutter. And frankly, I would whole-heartedly support an elite team of U.S. forces springing into action in Iraq, punching every evil-doer in sight until Iraq was disarmed and/or until Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It’s when you start using high-powered explosives and depleted uranium shells in areas highly populated with innocent folks that I take up opposition.
And finally, we have Bush’s explanation for why 11 million peace protesters don’t make a difference: “Size of protest, it’s like deciding, ‘Well I’m going to decide policy based up on a focus group’. The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security - in this case - security of the people.”
Actually, this could lead to an interesting debate about the role of leaders in a democratic republic: do the people elect a leader and then respect that leader’s judgement, or do they elect a representative who they expect to respond to their wishes while in office? We see Bush’s stance on the issue, he’s a “you’ve elected me, now I do my thing” man.
But Bush’s comment is bizarre because “size of crowd” is more or less what American democracy (actually, America is a republic, not a democracy. But when you call it “American republicanism,” people get confused). The number of people who show up at the ballot box IS the democracy.
And you have to see that there’s a difference between a small group of 5-15 people in a quasi-office setting answering questions because they are bored or because someone offered them money, and tens of thousands of people sometimes travelling extreme distances to march around in 10 DEGREE NEW YORK WEATHER of their own free will to express their strongly-held opinions.
Bush’s comment is also amusing because I’m sure the Bush administration makes extensive use of focus groups, at least during election campaigns.
In conclusion, metaphors are stupid. Thank you.