April 29, 2008

One Final Goodie from Bush & Co.

Ruining our economy wasn’t enough. Nor was waging an immoral, unnecessary war. No, it seems that the Bushies might have one final goodie for the American people. Yes, that’s right, a war with Iran.

Not only does the administration continue saber rattling over Iran, but it’s now known that the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action.”

The stated reasons for this potential attack are that (1) Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons and (2) Iran has for some time been waging a proxy war against the U.S. in Iraq.

So these are the charges. Of course, charges are not always factual, and we should keep a few things in mind.

First, according to the U.S. intelligence agencies, Iran terminated its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Now, of course, Dick Cheney claims that he knows better, that he knows what Iran is really up to with its uranium enrichment program. But this guy doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to making predictions; moreover, I think it’s safe to say that the 16 U.S. spy agencies know more about the inner workings of Tehran than our Rambo-wannabe vice president.

But why then, some have asked, does Iran insist on enriching uranium? Surely, they must be lying when they say they have peaceful intentions; surely they must want to blow up the world. But that doesn’t at all follow. Just three short decades ago, Henry Kissinger claimed that Iran needed nuclear energy because its economy demanded that it save its oil for other purposes. (We should also keep in mind that, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.)

Let’s move on to the second charge, which is that the Iranian government is arming many of the Iraqi insurgents. Now, for obvious reasons, even if it could be shown that the insurgents have arms that were made in Iran, it wouldn’t follow that the Iranian government was responsible for the attacks. Among others, this point has been made by Gen. Peter Pace, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In February 2007 when the Bush gang began claiming that the Quds Force was sending explosives to Iraqi insurgents, Pace told the Voice of America, “It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”

This should all sound very familiar. The same people who lied about Saddam Hussein having WMDs and al Qaeda ties (and in case you didn’t hear, there were no WMDS and no al Qaeda ties)—these same people are now trying to hoodwink the country into another war.

I’m certainly not defending Tehran, which is repressive and undemocratic. I personally think the Iranian people were much better off under Mohammad Mossadegh, who was a peace-loving and democratically-elected prime minister in the 1950s, a man who—oh by the way—was driven from power by the CIA and replaced by a brutal monarch. (And what, you’re asking, did Mossadegh do to deserve such treatment? The answer is that he thought Iran’s oil reserves should be owned by Iran, not the British government. A very heretical belief in Western minds.)

Now it’s certainly possible that, despite its claims, Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. And I certainly don’t think the world would be a better place with a nuclear-armed Iran. But it’s simply absurd to believe that, if Iran got nukes, it would use them against the U.S. and/or Israel. If nothing else, the Iranian government is rational. And therefore it realizes that using nuclear weapons against nations with superior military forces and enormous nuclear stockpiles would result in its own annihilation. So if Iran is seeking nukes—and again, our intelligence agencies tell us that such is not the case—but if it is, then it would only want them as a deterrent.

Now is not the time for another war. Now is the time to talk, something the Iranians have been trying to do for several years. In May 2003, for instance, Iran’s leaders sent a negotiating package to the U.S. through a Swiss diplomat. There wasn’t anything Tehran wasn’t willing to discuss: “everything was on the table—Iran’s nuclear program, policy toward Israel, support of Hamas and Hezbollah, and control over al-Qaeda operatives captured since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan.” Yet the Bush administration not only refused to talk to the Iranians but even reprimanded the Swiss diplomat for conveying the message.

It seems that all we can do at this point is pray.

Also published at ZealForTruth.

April 20, 2008

Mad As Hell

Thoughts on the election.

Choosing between the current presidential nominees is a lot like being asked to choose between terminal illnesses. “Clinton, McCain, or Obama?” Not all that different than, “Leukemia, brain tumor, or bone marrow cancer?”

Of course, there are dozens of third-party candidates running, candidates from the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, the Green Party, and—yes, they’re still around—the Prohibition Party. The problem with these people, of course, is that they don’t stand a chance of winning. Therefore, voting for such a candidate is a waste of time, it’s throwing your vote away. Or at least that’s what we’re told.

I’ve never been all that persuaded by this argument. Far from throwing your vote away, voting for a third-party nominee is making a statement. It’s saying, in the immortal words of Howard Beale, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And, let’s face it, unless you’re either (a) a moron or (b) a total schmuck, you should be mad as hell, you should be unwilling to take this anymore. Our government is corrupt, pandering to corporate elites, exploiting millions of individuals both here and overseas.

So voting third-party sends a message. To the media—to stop kissing up to the Democrats and Republicans. And to the Democrats and Republicans—to stop…well, to stop doing what they’re doing.

But what about the lesser of two evils argument? You know, “That leukemia’s really a bitch, but a brain tumor—well, what can I say, I really don’t want a brain tumor.” Yes, the lesser of two evils argument.

It’s a compelling argument, I’ll be the first to admit that. In fact, as an anti-imperialist, I’m struggling with it quite a bit this year. I see very few reasons not to hate Barack Obama. Yes, I know he gave a great antiwar speech in Chicago in 2002, and I know he promises to engage in “aggressive diplomacy” (whatever the hell that is), but he’s undoubtedly an imperialist. Yet, as bad as Obama may be, I’d much rather have him in the White House than either Clinton or McCain.

Let me put it this way. If these candidates were diseases…no, no, no, let’s switch the analogy. If these candidates were required reading material, then Obama would be the white pages and McCain and Clinton the U.S. Tax Code. Now, given that it’s shorter, I’d rather read the white pages—but, my God, even that would be worse than having my legs chopped off!

So what do I do? If Obama gets the nomination, it might be a tough decision.

I could always watch the polls and vote for Obama if it looks like Colorado is going to be a swing state, but otherwise vote third party. There seems to be a certain logic in this. And yet I just don’t know if I could actually go through with it.

No matter what I decide, I plan to go on dreaming that there’s still hope for this nation, that the current two-party monopoly will one day come to an end.

April 13, 2008

Faux News

As Joseph Goebbels noted, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Case in point: Fox News, whose mantras include “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide,” is now the most trusted name in all of news.

Fox’s extreme neoconservative bias is well known and—

What’s that? Proof? You want proof that Fox is biased? Well, I don’t even know where to begin. Hmm…how about here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here

But maybe we should cut to the chase and go right for the smoking gun. And, yes, there is a smoking gun, a very big one—in fact, it looks somewhat like an uzi—and it’s being held by none other than John Moody, Fox’s Senior Vice President. Like most bosses, Moody likes to send out memos to his employees. But unlike most bosses, Moody has a whistle blower or two working for him, and as a result some of his memos occasionally end up in the hands of people like filmmaker Robert Greenwald. A few years ago, Greenwald obtained and subsequently made public 33 such memos, all of which reveal that…well, why don’t you just judge them for yourselves:

· 06/03/2003: “The president is doing something that few of his predecessors dared undertake: putting the US case for mideast peace to an Arab summit. It’s a distinctly skeptical crowd that Bush faces. His political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting through the day.”

· 03/16/2004: “Gas prices are at all time highs in the US. There are reasons for the surge, some economic, some mere business tactics. Remember: US prices, while they seem high tot\ us [sic], are a half or less the cost of gasoline elsewhere.”

· 03/23/2004: “The so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting. In fact, this is the eighth session. The fact that former Clinton and both frmer and current Bush administration officials are testifying gives it a certain tension, but this is not ‘what did he know and when did he know it’ stuff. Do not turn this into Watergate. Remember the fleeting sense of national unity that emerged from this tragedy. Let's not desecrate that.”

· 04/04/2004: “Into Fallujah: It's called Operation Vigilant Resolve and it began Monday morning (NY time) with the US and Iraqi military surrounding Fallujah. We will cover this hour by hour today, explaining repeatedly why it is happening. It won’t be long before some people start to decry the use of ‘excessive force.’ We won't be among that group.”

· 04/06/2004: “The events in Iraq Tuesday are going to be the top story, unless and until something else (or worse) happens. Err on the side of doing too much Iraq rather than not enough. Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of US lives and asking out loud why are we there? The US is in Iraq to help a country brutalized for 30 years protect the gains made by Operation Iraqi Freedom and set it on the path to democracy. Some people in Iraq don’t want that to happen. That is why American GIs are dying. And what we should remind our viewers.”

The other released memos go on much in the same vein.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Moody rejected the idea that he was “controlling the news coverage.” Fox employees, he claimed, “are free to call me or message me and say, ‘I think you’re off base.’ Sometimes I take the advice, sometimes I don’t.”

Of course Moody has a point here. I, for one, never take my boss’s directives seriously. If my boss tells me to, say, come in for work early on a particular day, I certainly don’t feel obligated to comply. Like most workers, I just figure he’s giving me friendly advice, advice I’m free to take or free to completely disregard. (For those of you slower readers out there, my tongue is in my cheek. Repeat: tongue in cheek.)

Needless to say, Moody’s employees feel obligated to carry out his—ahem—suggestions. An example of this occurred after the Democratic victory in 2006 when Moody sent out a memo stating, “And let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.” That very afternoon, Fox reporter Martha MacCullum, while sitting at the “Live Desk” and talking about the Democratic victory, claimed there were “Some reports of cheering in the streets on behalf of the supporters of the insurgency in Iraq that they’re very pleased with the way things are going here and also with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.” There were, of course, no such reports of cheering, at least none that have been verified.

Given that Fox is so unashamedly neoconservative, it’s should be no surprise that their viewers tend to buy the Republican Party line, even when that line is known to be false. For instance, 2003 polling conducted by the Program on International Policy revealed that those who primarily received their news from Fox were more likely than others to believe that there was evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, that WMDs had been found, and that world opinion favored the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Eighty percent of Fox viewers had at least one of these misperceptions, which was significantly higher than those who received their news from other sources.[1]

Are you shocked? Disgusted? Well, what did you expect from a network owned by a man who once said that Pat Robertson was “right on all the issues.” What did you expect from a network whose president was a political operative for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush? What did you expect, reporting that was fair and balanced?

* * * * *

[1] Of course, the poll doesn’t prove that Fox is the reason its viewers are so misinformed. It’s certainly possible that misinformed viewers just happen to watch Fox News.

April 9, 2008

Obama is Antiwar—and other myths from the campaign trail

And now it’s time for a little Election 2008 Trivia…

Question #1: Which current presidential candidate (1) supports increasing the size of the U.S. military, (2) voted against withdrawing troops from Iraq, and (3) said he would have no qualms authorizing a military attack against terrorists in Pakistan, even without the approval of the Pakistani government?

If your answer is John McCain, then you would be…wrong.

The correct answer is Barack Obama. Yes, you heard me right—Barack Obama, everyone’s favorite dove, the man who loves to speak of “aggressive diplomacy” (and, oh how the women swoon when he utters those words—“aggressive diplomacy”)…

Now as far as I can tell, Barack has been embraced by much of the antiwar movement because of a rousing speech he gave when still a state senator back in 2002. But as eloquent as he was on that day, many peace activists have been fooled into accepting him as one of their own.

Let’s keep in mind that he opposed the Iraq War, not because he believed Bush’s policy of preemption was fundamentally wrong, but because he didn’t think Saddam’s military was strong enough to pose a serious threat. He later admitted that, had he been privy to the Senate intelligence reports given to the likes of John Kerry and Hilary Clinton, he too may have voted to authorize the war.

And, while Barack now favors withdrawing American troops from Iraq within sixteen months, his view on the matter—in what appears to be a near-perfect synchronization with public opinion polls—has evolved. In June 2006 he voted against the Kerry-Feingold amendment to redeploy troops within twelve months. He didn’t begin calling for “a serious change of course in Iraq” until October of that year, and it wasn’t until the following May that he finally voted against funding the war.

When it comes to other foreign matters, Barack is quite the neocon. Take Iran. Though preferring diplomacy, he says he “will not take the military option off the table.” (And would someone please tell me how this is any different from McCain saying, “We cannot take the military option off the table, but we have to make it very clear it’s the last option”?) Though he lauds the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he supports putting more sanctions on Iran for enriching uranium, even though that is a right granted to it as a signatory of the Treaty. And though he opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, arguing that it was not the time for “saber-rattling”, he didn’t even bother to show up and vote against it.

Similarly, his views on Israel seem to be no different than those of the Bush administration. Though he once had the courage (or audacity, depending on who you talk to) to voice sympathy for the suffering Palestinians, he consistently panders to the Israel lobby, and not only supports giving them more money, but even characterizes their 2006 war of aggression against Lebanon as an act of self defense.

Now this is not to say that Barack is no different than the warmongering John McCain. Forced to choose between the two candidates, the antiwar movement would be foolish not to support Barack. But it needs to be reminded that a lightweight imperialist is an imperialist all the same.