Friday, December 09, 2005

Hidden in Plane Sight: U.S. Media Dodging Air War in Iraq

From ZNet:

Hidden in Plane Sight: U.S. Media Dodging Air War in Iraq
by Norman Solomon

The U.S. government is waging an air war in Iraq. “In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased,” Seymour Hersh reported in the Dec. 5 edition of The New Yorker. “Most of the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border.”

Hersh added: “As yet, neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a significant discussion or debate about the air war.”

Here’s a big reason why: Major U.S. news outlets are dodging the extent of the Pentagon’s bombardment from the air, an avoidance all the more egregious because any drawdown of U.S.

troop levels in Iraq is very likely to be accompanied by a step-up of the air war.

So, according to the LexisNexis media database, how often has the phrase “air war” appeared in The New York Times this year with reference to the current U.S. military effort in Iraq?

As of early December, the answer is: Zero.

And how often has the phrase “air war” appeared in The Washington Post in 2005?

The answer: Zero.

And how often has “air war” been printed in Time, the nation’s largest-circulation news magazine, this year?


This extreme media avoidance needs to change. Now. Especially because all the recent talk in Washington about withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq is setting the stage for the American military to do more of its killing in that country from the air.

The last few weeks have brought a dramatic shift in the national debate over Iraq war policies. On Capitol Hill and in major news outlets, the option of swiftly withdrawing U.S. troops -- previously treated as unthinkable by most partisan leaders and media pundits -- became part of serious mainstream media conversation.

At least implicitly, news coverage has viewed the number of boots on the ground as the measure of the U.S. war effort in Iraq. And as a consequence, public discussion assumes -- incorrectly -- that a reduction of American troop levels there will mean a drop in the Pentagon’s participation in the carnage.

In fact, beneath the surface of mass-media discourse, there are strong indications that the U.S. military command will intensify its bombardment of Iraq while reducing the presence of American occupying troops before the U.S. congressional elections next fall. With the White House eager to show progress toward U.S. disengagement from Iraq, we should expect enormous media spin to accompany any pullout of troops in 2006.

“The American air war inside Iraq today is perhaps the most significant -- and underreported -- aspect of the fight against the insurgency,” Hersh’s New Yorker article observed. The magnitude of the U.S. bombing is a mystery in American media coverage relying on what’s spoon-fed by the Pentagon. “The military authorities in Baghdad and Washington do not provide the press with a daily accounting of missions that Air Force, Navy, and Marine units fly or of the tonnage they drop, as was routinely done during the Vietnam War.”

Surely the media spinners in the White House are keenly aware that the air war in Iraq has been flying largely beneath the U.S. media’s radar -- inattention that augurs well for a scenario of reducing U.S. troop levels while stepping up the air war. Hersh’s reporting suggests that’s in the offing: “A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the president’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units.”

Mainstream news outlets in the United States haven’t yet acknowledged a possibility that is both counterintuitive and probable: The U.S. military could end up killing more Iraqi people when there are fewer Americans in Iraq. “Lowering the number of U.S. troops in conjunction with a more violent air war and creation of an Iraqi client military, as some are suggesting, will likely increase the number of Iraqis killed,” says Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee. “This would in effect be ‘changing the color of the corpses’ in order to make the continuing war more palatable to the U.S. public.”

There is a strong precedent for such a politically driven strategy. Midway through 1969, President Richard Nixon announced the start of a “Vietnamization” policy that cut the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam by nearly half a million over a three-year period. But during that time, the tonnage rate of U.S. bombs dropped on Vietnam actually increased.

A similar sequence of events is apt to get underway next year, before the November elections determine which party will control the House and Senate through 2008. Caught between the desire to prevent a military defeat in Iraq and the need to shore up Republican prospects at home in the face of an unpopular war, President Bush is very likely to keep escalating the U.S. air war in Iraq while reducing U.S. troop levels there. And he has good reason to hope that the American news media will continue to evade the air war’s horrendous consequences for Iraqi people.
Norman Solomon is the author of the new book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” For information, go to:http://www.warmadeeasy.com/

The Decline Of Democracy And Rise Of Plutocracy And Corporate Rule

From Scoop Independent News:

Mattern: The Rise Of Plutocracy & Corporate Rule
Opinion: Douglas Mattern

The Decline Of Democracy And Rise Of Plutocracy And Corporate RuleBy Douglas Mattern
It’s difficult to comprehend how the political leadership in the United States of America has degenerated from the brilliant leadership of Franklin Roosevelt and the inspiration of John Kennedy to the dreadful leadership of recent years. The U.S. has sadly declined from the noble democratic ideals so eloquently expressed by President Roosevelt on the role of government: “The pace of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough to those who have too little.”

This ideal has degraded to a “greed is good” philosophy and the Ronald Reagan drivel that “government is the problem.” Add the many politicians that are bought by corporate America through campaign donations and the result is legislation that is transforming the U.S. from a democracy to a plutocracy where the rich rule.

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have greatwealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both- Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Brandeis

And today we do not have both. The richest 1 percent of Americans now have more income that the bottom 96 million. The richest 1 percent owns nearly half the country's wealth. The top 10 percent owns 80 percent of the wealth. The Census Bureau reports the gap between rich and poor is the largest in 75 years, just before the Great Depression.

Moreover, it’s getting worse under the woeful leadership of the Bush Administration. Last year, for example, another one million Americans were added to the poverty role that now totals 37 million of our citizens. As the number of people in poverty rises, so does the number of billionaires in this country, over 225 and increasing.

The 2005 Human Development Report (HDR) that is issued annually by the United Nations and covers all 191 Member States shows the U.S. ranks 10th among the world’s nations in the category that combines health quality, education, and standard of living. In the category of life expectancy the U.S. ranks 29th. In the poverty index involving the richest 18 countries, the U.S. ranks at the bottom in 17th place. This is a disgraceful condition in the world’s richest country and a betrayal of the hard-fought struggles for democracy and equality waged in past decades by American workers.

The globalization free-market policy led by the U.S. has also produced gross inequality in many parts of the world. The HDR states: “Large parts of the Developing World are being left behind.” and further, “human development gaps between rich and poor countries, already large, are widening.”

The HDR states: “For all of the highly visible achievements, the reach of globalization and scientific advance falls far short of ending the unnecessary suffering, debilitating diseases and death from preventable illness that blight the lives of the world’s poor people.”
On the global level, 20 percent of the population holds over 75 percent of the wealth. A few hundred billionaires have compiled as much wealth as half of humanity. This inequality is the source of great unrest and protest with the most recent example at the Fourth Summit of the Americas held in Argentina with most of the hostility directed at Bush the Second.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime - Aristotle

Academician Bernard Poirot-Delpech wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde a few years ago: “The temptation is to shut ourselves off,cover our eyes and applaud the use of force, but the tide of the poor keeps coming, wave after wave, each time stronger and stronger. The Third World War has begun, waged by the rich against all others.”

Globalization should mean working together to create a just world community for the 21st century and not waging a kind of economic warfare to hoard the world’s wealth and resources for a minority that also has no consideration for leaving precious resources for future generations.

What we have is not globalization for the many, but corporate globalization to serve the interests of a few rich governments, the multinationals, and in the process making the rich fabulously richer.

Corporate globalization is undemocratic and destructive. It is also an environmental nightmare due to its dependency on mass consumption and waste, along with turning our planet into a giant marketplace where everything is for sale to the highest bidder.

We must achieve globalization that is democratic and serves all the people with new economic models, and where it would be unthinkable for a few billionaires to possess as much wealth a billion poor people.

In addition to education and peaceful protests against unjust free- market policies and the mind-numbing “let the market rule” mentality, we need to find, support, and elect a new kind of political leadership with idealism and a democratic vision of the future. Senator William Fulbright described this kind of leadership in his book, The Price of Power: “The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership—a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition…The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and understanding between cultures.”

Such a change would bring people back to the voting booth and help rescue our democracy here and the world community. It’s a non-violent imperative revolution, and it’s time to begin.

Douglas Mattern is president of the Association of World Citizens, a San Francisco based international peace organization with branches in 30 countries, and author of the forthcoming book "Looking for Square Two - Moving From War and Violence to Global Community" published by American Book Publishing Co.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cryptic Bush poem was in Pakistani textbooks

Now this is just downright weird!

From the Guardian:

Veiled ode to George Bush deleted from Pakistani textbooks
Alex Kum

At first sight it is little more than a poetic polemic about the virtues of an effective leader. But a poem has been removed from school textbooks in Pakistan after it became clear that the first letter of each line spelt out "President George W Bush".

Penned by an anonymous writer, The Leader embarrassed education officials in the country after it found its way into an English textbook for 16-year-olds.

The 20-line work, which was first printed last year, includes the lines: "Never back down when he sees what is true/Tells it all straight, and means it all too/Going forward and knowing he's right/Even when doubted for why he would fight."

And the poetic description of the ideal leader continues: "Over and over he makes his case clear/Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear/Growing in strength, he won't be unnerved/Ever assuring he'll stand by his word/Wanting the world to join his firm stand."
The revelation is likely to embarrass Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf, who has been criticised at home for taking what has been perceived to be a pro-American stance in supporting the Bush administration's so-called war on terror.

An official working with the Pakistan Education ministry told the Times of India: "We have decided to delete the poem from the book, published by the National Book Foundation, and prescribed for federal board students.

"It will be stretching the matter too far to assert that the poem was inserted in the book deliberately to enumerate the qualities of President Bush."

An investigation has been launched to find out how the work was not spotted by the committees which censor the content of textbooks. It was first printed in A Textbook of English last year after the Pakistani government took the decision to deregulate the publication of textbooks.

The leader
atient and steady with all he must bear,
Ready to accept every challenge with care,
Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,
Strong in his faith, refreshingly real,
Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,
Doesn't conform to the usual mold,
Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight wont do
Never back down when he sees what is true
Tells it all straight, and means it all too
Bracing for war, but praying for peace
Using his power so evil will cease:
So much a leader and worthy of trust,
Here stands a man who will do what he must