Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Manufacturing War, At Home and Abroad....

There have been near-constant comparisons and contrasts between the Iraq-war-gone-sour and the Vietnam war. There are, indeed, points to compare and some contrasts between the two. One that's not mentioned much in the news, however, is that both were pretty much manufactured wars--as have been most military engagements since WWII.

A few years ago, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky teamed up to write a little ditty called Manufacturing Consent, in which they posited that the media follow a propaganda model designed to promote the views and desired subjects for public conversation of a ruling elite.

That model explains why the New York Times is the way it is today--still passing on the information the administration most wants to get out to the public, and only incidentally challenging the factual basis of that information.

More to the point, all the tangential evidence shows that the Bushies, collectively, form the most secretive, deceitful and corrupt administration in modern history--maybe in all of American history--and the common-sensical view would be to treat everything they say with considerable skepticism, to assume, for a working reporter's purposes, that they are lying, no matter what they wish the public to believe.

And yet, that's just not the case. The sad, farty little Judith Miller singlehandedly swallowed every bit of information handed her by government shills that pointed to a need for war--by extension, the New York Times actively promoted the administration's desire for war by publishing her ill-substantiated and uncorroborated claims as front-page material. And now that she's been banished to Sag Harbor, her compatriot in journalistic crime, Michael Gordon, is now doing the exact same thing with administration propaganda intended to gin up popular support for some manner of military attack on Iran.

And, there's another point of similarity between Iraq and Vietnam. The large newspapers in the `60s, as most reporters and editors are happy to forget, editorialized in support of the Vietnam war, before and after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. It was not until the news out of Vietnam began to be at odds with what the Johnson administration was saying that the public sensed that they were being deceived about progress, and it was not until then that those same newspapers slowly began to change their stance with regard to the war. Sound familiar?

There's another similarity between the two wars--during both, the government began spying on the public with increasing frequency. Thousands of individuals and hundreds of peace organizations were placed under surveillance by both the FBI and the CIA, along with some agencies of military intelligence. Acronyms such as CHAOS and COINTELPRO are now part of the national political lexicon. Today, we have the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program," which no one in the public yets knows anything about, except that Bush has admitted of it in public. There are likely domestic spying programs to sweep up millions, possibly billions, of domestic emails, phone calls, web traffic and faxes, along with data mining programs of unknown sophistication which may be taking illegally obtained information and then joining that information with other relational databases purchased or borrowed from commercial firms in order to mine them for, potentially, the most ephemeral of connections to terrorism--or to create political enemies lists, for all we know.

In the `60s and `70s, when the activities of the government became generally known, particularly through Congressional investigative operations such as the Church and Pike Committees, in the Senate and House, respectively, the public was incensed, and rightfully so. The end result was a new round of legal restraints on the government, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). To civil libertarians, FISA was a joke--a secret court making determinations on surveillance warrants in secret which did not require the same level of proof as for domestic criminal warrants. And yet, it acted as a marginal constraint on an intelligence system which had been out of control for decades. The FBI and the CIA had to have at least some half-assed reason for their domestic spying.

The Bushies have ignored FISA and the FISA court to a degree that, thirty years ago, would have gotten them impeached in an afternoon, but they go on doing what they please regarding surveillance without much concern for what Congress or the public thinks.

This may be the worst part of any war--the President then thinks, "it's emergency time," and, "the Constitution doesn't count in wartime." It doesn't matter that the damage done domestically is greater than what terrorism can do on its own. Such policies do greater damage to us, put us at greater risk, nationally and socially, than any terrorist can.

Add idiots like Bush and Cheney and their trusted insider hirelings to that mix and the opportunity for radical changes in the country goes up exponentially. The public sees nearly 3000 people killed on a single day and gives up all power to the very people who are the least able to exercise that power responsibly, and then, years later, wonder why the country's gone to hell in a rocket-powered handbasket, and, wonder why rights they assumed to be inviolate are now effectively gone, then refuse to understand the relationship of an undeclared war on an emotion, terror, to that loss of rights, to the clusterfuck they see going on in Iraq, to the constant propagandizing they're getting from all sides.

When we stopped being the home of the brave, brave enough to challenge our own government's usurpations of power, we also stopped being the land of the free. That's an even bigger loss than 3000 people on a single day.


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