The Cult of the Dear Leader

I am not making this up.
From Michelle Goldberg of Salon, who reported on last week's Conservative Political Action Conference, where rabid Bush-worshippers learned that liberals hate America and that we really did find WMD in Iraq. She writes:
It's a good thing I went to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year. Otherwise I never would have known that, despite the findings of the authoritative David Kay report and every reputable media outlet on earth, the United States actually discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, vindicating all of George W. Bush's pre-war predictions. The revelation came not from some crank at Free Republic or hustler from Talon News, but from a congressman surrounded by men from the highest echelons of American government. No wonder the attendees all seemed to believe him.
The crowd at CPAC's Thursday night banquet, held at D.C.'s Ronald Reagan Building, was full of right-wing stars. Among those seated at the long presidential table at the head of the room were Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Dore Gold, foreign policy advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and NRA president Kayne Robinson. Vice President Dick Cheney, a regular CPAC speaker, gave the keynote address. California Rep. Chris Cox had the honor of introducing him, and he took the opportunity to mock the Democrats whose hatred of America led them to get Iraq so horribly wrong.
"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq." Apparently, most of the hundreds of people in attendance already knew about these remarkable, hitherto-unreported discoveries, because no one gasped at this startling revelation.
And why would they? Like comrades celebrating the success of Mao's Great Leap Forward, attendees at CPAC, the oldest and largest right-wing conference in the country, invest their leaders with the power to defy mere reality through force of insistent rhetoric. The triumphant recent election is all the proof they need that everything George W. Bush says is true. Sure, there's skepticism of the president's wonder-working power among some of the old movement hands -- including the leaders of the American Conservative Union, which puts CPAC on. For much of the rank and file, though, the thousands of blue-blazered students and local activists who come to CPAC each year to celebrate the völkisch virtues of nationalism, capitalism and heterosexuality, Bush is truth. They don rhinestone W brooches and buy mouse pads, posters and T-shirts showing the president as a kind of beefcake Uncle Sam, with flowing white hair and bulging muscles threatening to rend his red, white and blue garments.
It's not only liberals who have noticed that Bush's most committed followers are caught up in the fact-filtering force field of a personality cult. In January, Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the treasury during the Reagan administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal's far-right editorial page, published a damning column in the progressive Z Magazine about fascist tendencies in the conservative movement. "In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush," he wrote. "Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush … Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy."
This kind of ground-level devotion was key to the volunteer-driven get-out-the-vote campaign, and the administration sent important emissaries to convey the president's gratitude. Although the Republicans always have high-powered representatives at CPAC, this year the lineup at the three-day conference is particularly impressive. On the first day alone, attendees heard from Karl Rove and Sen. Rick Santorum as well as Cheney. Tonight, there will be a speech by Zell Miller, the former Democratic senator who delivered the vein-popping keynote address at this year's Republican National Convention. He'll be delivering a "Courage Under Fire" award to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Tomorrow, we'll hear from Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and Newt Gingrich.
Neither Cheney nor Rove said anything very interesting. As he does most years, the vice president essentially rehashed Bush's State of the Union, although he mercifully omitted any reference to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Rove's speech was about the growth of the right from "a small principled opposition" to "a broad and inclusive movement that is self-assured, confident and optimistic, and forward leading, and most important of all, dominant in American politics today."
Their mere presence was more significant than their words, putting the White House imprimatur on an event that featured, in addition to the Swift Boat Veterans, venomous CPAC regulars like Ann Coulter, Oliver North and Michelle "In Defense of Internment" Malkin. It was yet more evidence that this administration puts little distance between itself and the most reactionary forces in the Republican Party.
The people who come to CPAC range from very conservative to proto-fascist. Within that grouping, though, are a host of different concerns. Some of CPACers hate taxes and love guns but are basically social libertarians. Others, like the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, a far-right Catholic outfit, support the criminalization of homosexuality and oppose legalized birth control. A few have very specific grievances, like the man who stood after Santorum's talk to rant about judges who discriminate against fathers during custody disputes and women who won't let their ex-husbands see their children more than twice a month.
In his speech, Santorum tried to unite the various constituencies behind the anti-gay marriage amendment with the Orwellian argument that such an amendment is actually necessary to keep government out of people's private lives.
"I know there are some people who may be economic conservatives and not consider themselves cultural conservatives," he said. Addressing himself to them, he tried to explain how banning gay marriage is crucial to laissez-faire governing. "Think about those communities where marriage does not exist," he said, invoking their poverty and illegitimacy. "What you see is a model of what life would look like in a country that has fathers and mothers not wedded together in strong relationships to raise children." In poor neighborhoods, he said, there's a strong government presence, "because if Mom and Dad isn't there to raise the child, someone else has to bridge the gap, and that someone else is always the government."
Santorum didn't quite explain how proscribing gay unions would strengthen families in poor communities. The assumption seemed to be that homosexuality would make a travesty of matrimony. Like a suburban block where undesirables insist on moving in, its worth would go down. "If we deconstruct marriage in society, if we say marriage is whatever you want it to be, then marriage loses its intrinsic value," he said.
"I'm talking at a very protective level about what is important to our society if we are to be a free people," he said. "The less virtue we have in our society, the more the need for government to control our lives, to govern our lives." In other words, government needs to enforce virtue in order to keep government out of our lives.
This argument seemed to make sense to his audience.
Who needs logic when you've got power?


Am I dreaming?

From the Associated Press:
The day before President Bush's inauguration, listeners tuning in to the Detroit sports station WXDX-AM were suddenly greeted by the sound of braying donkeys. By the time Bush was taking the oath of office, the radio station had new call letters and a full schedule of liberal talk shows.
WXDX-AM -- now known as WDTW-AM -- is one of 22 stations owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc. that have switched to a liberal talk format in the last year. This month, KTLK-AM in Los Angeles became the latest Clear Channel station to adopt the format.
Those who track broadcasting trends say there's money to be made in liberal talk radio. Todd Webster, a consultant for Washington-based liberal talk show producer Democracy Radio, said Clear Channel is expected to introduce the left-leaning format on 20 more stations by the end of the year.
"There is a tremendous appetite out there for progressive talk," he said.
Webster said that even as recently a year ago, no one thought Texas-based Clear Channel, a media conglomerate that owns 1,200 stations -- including Twin Falls radio stations KEZJ-FM, KLIX-AM and KLIX-FM -- would ever become partners with upstart liberal talkers.
"There has been a tectonic shift in the industry from all of the big brains and the head honchos saying, 'Nobody wants to listen to a bunch of whiny liberals on the radio,"' Webster said.
The partnership might seem surprising because of Texas-based Clear Channel's conservative reputation. Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays and his wife gave $65,000 to the Republican National Committee in the last election cycle, and two-thirds of the company's federal donations went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The company says politics aren't involved in its decision to put liberal talk shows on the air.
"I'm trying to identify needs in our various communities, whether it's German industrial music or punk rock or progressive talk," said Gabe Hobbs, vice president of news and talk programming for Clear Channel. "That happens to be good business."
Hobbs said Clear Channel began programming offerings from Air America Radio, which produces comedian Al Franken's three-hour talk show, and Democracy Radio, which produces a popular show by liberal talker Ed Schultz, because listeners were demanding an alternative to conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh during the 2004 election.

Kids say the darndest, most Stalinist things

Bill Maher in the LA Times:
A new survey found that a majority of high schoolers think newspapers should not be allowed to publish without government approval. And almost one in five said that Americans should be prohibited from expressing unpopular opinions.
Lemme tell you little darlings something: This is my livelihood you're messing with, so either learn the Bill of Rights or you don't deserve Social Security.
Now, to those of you who think I'm overreacting: Yes, I understand that when you're in high school you're still very young and that no one really cares what kids say anyway — it's not like priests are dating them for their brains.
But the younger generation is supposed to rage against the machine, not for it; they're supposed to question authority, not question those who question authority.
And what's so frightening is that we're seeing the beginnings of the first post-9/11 generation — the kids who first became aware of the news under an "Americans need to watch what they say" administration, the kids who've been told that dissent is un-American and therefore justifiably punished by a fine, imprisonment — or the loss of your show on ABC.
President Bush once asked, "Is our children learning?" No — they isn't. A more appropriate question might be, "Is our teachers teaching?" In four years, you can teach a gorilla sign language. Is it too much to ask that in the same amount of time a kid be taught what those crazy hippies who founded this country had in mind?
I know the Morals & Values folks want us to take time out of the school day for prayer and the Ten Commandments and abstinence training and at least two theories of evolution — the one agreed upon by every scientist in the world and the one that involves naked ladies and snakes — but, lest we forget, last month the people of Iraq risked death and danger to send a simple, inspiring message: America, get out of our country. But also, we want the freedoms you take for granted.
Now, I didn't mind being on the losing side of the last election. But as a loser, I guess I have some "unpopular" opinions — and I'd like to keep them. I'd even like to continue to say them right out loud on TV, because if I just get up there every Friday night and spout the Bush administration's approved talking points, that's not freedom or entertainment. It's Fox News.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here...

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern argues that the appointment of John Negroponte to be director of National Intelligence is the latest evidence that President Bush is strengthening his cabinet's capacity to mislead Congress and trample civil liberties.
Like Eliot Abrams (neocon Iran-Contra thug turned "democracy" advisor to GWB), Negroponte has a record of incomplete candor with Congress.  Had he been frank about serious government-sponsored savagery in Honduras, the country would have forfeited U.S. aid—thwarting the Reagan administration’s use of Honduras to support the Contras.  So Negroponte, too, has evidenced Abrams-style “patriotism.” Those in Congress who still care, beware.

The 27 Rationales for War and the Consequences of Iraq

Chris Bowers of MyDD has some excellent summaries of the situation in Iraq. First he notes:
More soldiers have already died in February of 2005 than in February of 2004.
More soldiers died in January of 2005 than January of 2004.
More soldiers died in December of 2004 than December 2003.
More soldiers died in November of 2004 than November of 2003.
More soldiers died in October of 2004 than October of 2003.
More soldiers died in September of 2004 than September of 2003.
More soldiers died in August of 2004 than August of 2003.
More soldiers died in July of 2004 than July of 2003.
More soldiers died in June of 2004 than June of 2003.
More soldiers died in May of 2004 than May of 2003.
More soldiers died in April of 2004 than April of 2003.
March looms.
Daily coalition fatality rate before Saddam Hussein's capture: 2.03
Daily coalition fatality rate after Saddam Hussein's capture: 2.55
Daily coalition fatality rate before the transfer of power away from the CPA: 2.09
Daily coalition fatality rate after the transfer of power away from the CPA: 2.86
And that's not all. With the human cost steadily mounting, even after milestones are passed that supposedly will make things better, the head of both intelligence agencies agree: the war in Iraq is fueling the growth of terrorism worldwide:
The Iraq insurgency continues to baffle the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and the U.S. occupation has become a potent source of recruiting for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, top U.S. national security officials said before Congress on Wednesday. "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists," CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," he said. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."
"Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment," Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate panel. "Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world."
And the insurgency is growing in strength:
Jacoby said the Iraq insurgency has grown "in size and complexity over the past year" and is now mounting an average of 60 attacks per day, up from 25 last year. Attacks on Iraq's election day last month reached approximately 300, he said, double the previous one-day high of 150, even though transportation was virtually locked down.
And our military readiness has been significantly reduced:
Stretched thin in Iraq, the U.S. military would have trouble responding as quickly and effectively as commanders would like if it had to go to war in Iran or North Korea, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress Wednesday.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, said a sudden military crisis in one of those two nations -- both of which are resisting U.S. demands that they give up nuclear programs -- would likely force the Pentagon to remobilize reserve and Guard components that have rotated home from Iraq to rest.
In addition, because of the current strain on U.S. forces, it would take longer for U.S. troops to respond to a crisis in Iran, North Korea or some other major conflict than U.S. battle plans call for, Myers told the House Armed Services Committee.
But don't' forget, despite all of this, suggesting that our current policy in Iraq is more destructive than productive is borderline traitorous.

You probably didn't need another reason to not believe a single thing the Bush administration claims about WMD's, but Brad Blog provides you with one anyway:
After yesterday's BRAD BLOG exposé on the use of a satellite photo of a (presumably) Iranian nuclear facility which was misrepresented as a nuclear facility in North Korea by the U.S. Government funded "news" site Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an April 2004 story, the site has now removed that photograph from the article without giving explanation on their webpage for the removal.
To make matters worse, we pointed out yesterday that the photo of the (follow closely now) supposed Iranian nuclear facility that was used with the article on North Korea was actually filenamed "Iraq-nuclear.jpg"!
It has now been discovered that the same photograph was indeed also used on RFE/RL stories about WMDs in Iraq.
A search of RFE/RL's website reveals that there were at least 9 different instances of that same "Iraq-nuclear.jpg" photo being used along with stories about nuclear or WMD programs in all three different countries. The first known instance of its use at RFE/RL was on February 5, 2004 in an article headlined -- ironically enough -- "CIA Head Defends WMD Intelligence on Iraq"!
In another instance (see screenshot at bottom of this story, captured prior to scrubbing of photo), a story from RFE/RL published on April 20, 2004 titled "Iraq/U.S.: New Book Contradicts CIA Director's Intelligence" the photo was -- again, ironically enough -- used above the caption: "Convincing enough?"
As of this afternoon it seems that all of the RFE/RL stories on either Iraq or North Korea, which had once used that same file photo to represent nukes or WMD in all three respective countries, have now had the photo either removed entirely or replaced by another. Only the stories on Iran continue to use the photo, and even one of those was changed to a photo of the International Atomic Energy Association's Muhammad el-Baradei (again, for reasons not explained on the site).
Good lord. The whole thing is like those colorforms I played with as a child--take the picture of WMD's and stick it on any claim about any country having any WMD's at any time. No wonder it's all "liberty" now, and the lies bout WMD's have fallen off the face of the Earth.

Devon Largio completed a research project entitled Uncovering the Rationales for the War in Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001 until October 11 2002. It is, as far as I can tell, the only research project of its kind. Largio sifted through thousands of statements, speeches and articles in an attempt to document all of the rationales that were used in order to justify invading Iraq between September 11th and the Senate vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq on October 12th, 2002.
Largio separates her research into three distinct periods, each with different primary and secondary justifications taking prominence. In a summary near the end of the piece (starting on page 152), she breaks down the frequency that each of the twenty-seven rationales were used during the entire thirteen month period:
The five primary reasons
The war on terror
Prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
Lack of inspections
Removal of the Hussein regime
Saddam Hussein is evil

Three nearly primary reasons
Liberation of the Iraqi people
Broken promises by failing to comply with United Nations resolutions
Iraq poses and imminent threat to the safety of the United States

Secondary Reasons
Because we can
Unfinished business from the first Gulf War
Disarmament of all weapons inside Iraq is necessary
Connection to al-Qaeda
Safety of the World

Minor reasons rarely used
History is an ideal directive that commands us to invade Iraq
Revenge for attempting to kill the first President Bush
War will help oil continue to flow westward
Iraq is a threat to the region
Iraq is unique since it the most serious threat to the world
Preservation of peace by invading Iraq and thereby preventing Iraq from invading others
By oppressing its people and threatening others with terrorist acts, Saddam Hussein's regime is a threat to freedom
Stimulation of the economy ala WWII
Preserve the relevance of the UN by enforcing its resolutions
Commitment to the safety of our children
Gain favor in the Middle East by protecting other countries form Saddam Hussein
Send a message to other rogue states by making an example of Iraq
Saddam Hussein Hates the US
Iraq is in violation of International law

This is the breadth and the totality of the hawk argument before the war. As you can see, "liberation of the Iraqi people" was not even among the five most commonly used reasons, much less the top reason. That, however, is what the majority of hawks are now focusing upon.
Of course, for them liberation appears simply to mean voting for a council that will then elect the true governing body, since fear of death and violence has actually increased dramatically, and the role of women in Iraqi society has been significantly hamstrung. If this is what they want to hang their hat on now, just wait a few months. With twenty-seven rationales for war, you seem to be allowed to pick and choose at your want which one was the real reason.
Back in June I wrote a rebuttal to each of these twenty-seven reasons. Or, I could just ask my push poll question:
Do you support Senator ______'s policy that calls for an invasion of Saudi Arabia to overthrow the oppressive monarchy there so that in two years, after 1,500 American soldiers are dead, 11,000 American soldiers are wounded, tens of thousands of civilian deaths have been caused, $300 billion American dollars have been spent, Saudis are able to hold elections where a fundamentalist Islamic government allied with Iran is elected to power in a landslide?

The freaks at PowerLine blog...

...have apparently objected to the US naming a nuclear sub after Jimmy Carter (who was himself a Navy man and nuclear physicist), saying that Carter is "on the other side" in the War on Terror. (As you may recall, a PowerLine blogger broke the "story" about 60 Minutes using faked documents in the Bush TANG story.)
Matthew Yglesias points out the "all-important distinction between political disagreement and warfare" and says he would be interested in hearing the views of the "responsible" right out there. He writes:
Do others out there think Jimmy Carter is on the other side? Working in league with Osama bin Laden and others who seek the mass murder of American citizens? Or is this more the sort of situation where an increasingly shrill and hysterical right-wing has, despite its monopoly on political power in this country, chosen to adopt a bizarre paranoid worldview in which the fact that many people (including almost half of the American population and an absolute majority of the citizens of the world) think its policies are misguided is equivalent to the existence of a vast global conspiracy to advance the jihad? David Horowitz's Discover the Network site in which we learn of an undifferentiated left composed, apparently, of John Podesta, Mohammed Atta, John Kerry, Ayatollah Khomeini, Rob Reiner, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi might also be relevant here.
Or to put it another way: What's wrong with you people?


Bad news for the "poor people stuff"

"From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the 'poor people stuff.'"
- David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

You can read his entire article on BeliefNet. He blames the Democrats for being "allergic to faith," but mostly the White House and Congressional Republicans for being "indifferent to the poor."

Breaking News: Iraq War Helps Recruit Terrorists!

From the Washington Post:
"The insurgency in Iraq continues to baffle the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and the U.S. occupation has become a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, top U.S. national security officials told Congress yesterday."
I guess the "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here" rationale is FUBAR.

Congressman Waxman wants 9/11 and Condi Rice hearings

In a letter to the Government Affairs Committee of the HOR:
"We are writing to request that our Committee hold hearings to investigate two extremely serious questions raised by an article that appeared in this morning's New York Times. The first question is whether the Administration misused the classification process to withhold, for political reasons, official 9/11 Commission staff findings detailing how federal aviation officials received multiple intelligence reports warning of airline hijackings and suicide attacks before September 11. The second question relates to the veracity of statements, briefings, and testimony by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice regarding this issue."

Another lying liar

From the Associated Press:
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge met privately with Republican pollsters twice in a 10-day span last spring as he embarked on more than a dozen trips to presidential battleground states.
Ridge's get-togethers with Republican strategists Frank Luntz and Bill McInturff during a period the secretary was saying his agency was playing no role in Bush's re-election campaign were revealed in daily appointment calendars obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.
"We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security," Ridge told reporters during the election season.

Olbermann interviews FDR's grandson, who says Brit Hume has "outrageously distorted" FDR's ideas

You can read the interview at Media Matters for America.
Why does Brit Hume still have a job? Oh, I forgot...

Frank Rich, Daily Show, Christian Science Monitor weigh in on Gannon Scandal


And an update from Eric Boehlert of Salon. The plot thickens:
Thanks to the continued digging by online sleuths, there's now documented evidence that Guckert attended White House briefings as early as February 2003. Guckert, using his alias "Jeff Gannon," once boasted online about asking then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer a question at the Feb. 28, 2003, briefing. The date is significant because in order to receive a White House press pass, Guckert would have needed to prove that he worked for a news organization that, in the words of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, "published regularly," in itself an extraordinarily low threshold. Critics have charged that while Talon News may publish regularly, it boasts a nearly all-volunteer news team which includes not a single person with actual journalism experience. (The team does, though, have quite a bit of experience working on Republican campaigns.) In other words, the outfit is not legitimate nor independent, two criteria often used in Washington, D.C., to receive press credentials.
But what's significant about the February 2003 date is that Talon did not even exist then. The organization was created in late March 2003, and began publishing online in early April 2003. Gannon, a jack of all trades who spent time in the military as well as working at an auto repair shop (not to mention escorting), has already stated publicly that Talon News was his first job in journalism. That means he wasn't working for any other news outlet in February 2003 when he was spotted by C-Span cameras inside the White House briefing room. And that means Guckert was ushered into the White House press room in February 2003 for a briefing despite the fact he was not a journalist.

Oppressed conservative students, unite!

RE: My previous post on Crazy Dave Horowitz's "snitch" website, where oppressed conservative students can lodge their complaints against specific professors who are persecuting them.
Click on the link in the title and you'll go to the complaint log.
I'm not sure which ones are funnier: the actual complaints, or the hackers who've satirized or ridiculed the site with their posts.
I especially like the one who complained that his professor ridiculed the president repeatedly and brought in an actual Congressman who did the same.
Then he says, "Oh, did I mention it was in 1996, the president was Clinton, and the Congressman was Newt Gingrich?"

Midnight cowboy in the garden of Bush and evil

From Sidney Blumenthal on Salon:
...Thus a phony journalist planted by a Republican operation, used by the White House press secretary to interrupt questions from the press corps, called on by the president for a safe question, protected from FBI vetting by the press office, disseminating innuendo and smears about critics and opponents of the administration, some of them gay-baiting, was unmasked not only as a hireling and fraud but as a gay prostitute, with enormous potential for blackmail.
The Bush White House is the most opaque, allowing the least access for reporters, in living memory. All news organizations have significant economic interests subject to government regulation. Every organization seems to be intimidated, and reporters who have done stories the administration finds discomfiting have received threats about their careers. The administration has its own quasi-official state TV network in Fox News; hundreds of right-wing radio shows, conservative newspapers and journals, and Internet sites coordinate with the Republican apparatus.
Lifting the heavy Puritan curtain draping Bush's Washington reveals enlightening scenes of its decadent anthropology. Even as Guckert's true colors were revealed, the administration issued orders that the words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" be removed from the program of a federally funded conference on suicide prevention. But the transparent hypocrisy of conservative "values" hardly deters a ruthless government.
The experiment of inserting an agent directly into the White House press corps was a daring operation. Guckert's "legend," in the language of espionage, was that he was a news director, and his "false flag" was journalism. Until his exposure, this midnight cowboy in the garden of Bush and evil proved marginally useful for the White House. But the affair's longer-run implication is the Republican effort to sideline an independent press and undermine its legitimacy. "Spin" seems too quaint. "In this day and age," said McClellan, waxing philosophical about the Gannon affair, "when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist." The problem is not that the White House press secretary cannot distinguish who is or is not a journalist; it is that there are no journalists, just the gaming of the system for the concentration of power.

Maureen Dowd nails it

From her NY Times column:
I am very impressed with James Guckert, a k a Jeff Gannon.
How often does an enterprising young man, heralded in press reports as both a reporter and a contributor to such sites as Hotmilitarystud.com, Workingboys.net, Militaryescorts .com, MilitaryescortsM4M.com and Meetlocalmen.com, get to question the president of the United States? Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?
It's hard to believe the White House could hit rock bottom on credibility again, but it has, in a bizarre maelstrom that plays like a dark comedy. How does it credential a man with a double life and a secret past?
"Jeff Gannon" was waved into the press room nearly every day for two years as the conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a wealthy Texas Republican. Scott McClellan often called on the pseudoreporter for softball questions.
Howard Kurtz reported in The Washington Post yesterday that although Mr. Guckert had denied launching the provocative Web sites - one described him as " 'military, muscular, masculine and discrete' (sic)" - a Web designer in California said "that he had designed a gay escort site for Gannon and had posted naked pictures of Gannon at the client's request." And The Wilmington News-Journal in Delaware reported that Mr. Guckert was delinquent in $20,700 in personal income tax from 1991 to 1994.
I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values? At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.
In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon. Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."
I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.
Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation? Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."
With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers. At last month's press conference, Jeff Gannon asked Mr. Bush how he could work with Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." But Bush officials have divorced themselves from reality.
They flipped TV's in the West Wing and Air Force One to Fox News. They paid conservative columnists handsomely to promote administration programs. Federal agencies distributed packaged "news" video releases with faux anchors so local news outlets would run them. As CNN reported, the Pentagon produces Web sites with "news" articles intended to influence opinion abroad and at home, but you have to look hard for the disclaimer: "Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense." The agencies spent a whopping $88 million spinning reality in 2004, splurging on P.R. contracts.
Even the Nixon White House didn't do anything this creepy. It's worse than hating the press. It's an attempt to reinvent it.


Putting the pieces together

John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, worked for years as chief economist at an international consulting firm in Boston called Chas. T. Main. His job was to persuade countries that are strategically important to the U.S. - such as Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Iran and Saudi Arabia – to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development and then to make sure the lucrative projects were contracted out to U.S. corporations. Saddled with huge debts they couldn't possibly repay, these countries came under the control of the U.S. government, the World Bank and other U.S.-dominated aid agencies that acted like loan sharks, dictating repayment terms and bullying foreign governments into submission.
Amy Goodman interview him on her Democracy Now radio show recently.
A couple of key excerpts:
"So, to make a long story short, we put together this deal whereby the House of Saud agreed to send most of their petro dollars, the money we paid for petroleum, back to the United States and invest it in U.S. securities. The interest from those securities would be dealt out by the treasury department to U.S. engineering construction firms to build Saudi Arabia in the Western image, to build huge cities out of the desert, which we've done – power plants, highways, McDonald's, the whole works – to make Saudi Arabia a very westernized country. And the House of Saud would guarantee to keep oil prices within limits acceptable to us, and we would guarantee to keep the House of Saud in power. And we have. All those things have followed since the early 1970s. The policy still holds. Even to the point where we know that the House of Saud supports Osama bin Laden, supported him at our encouragement, of course, in Afghanistan, continues to support him and a lot of terrorist movements."
...Iraq followed Saudi Arabia. After our tremendous success in Saudi Arabia, we decided we should do the same thing in Iraq. And we figured that Saddam Hussein was corruptible. And, of course, we had been involved with Saddam Hussein anyway for some time. And so the economic hit men went in and tried to bring Saddam Hussein around, tried to get him to agree to a deal like the royal House of Saud had agreed to. And he didn't. So, we sent in the jackals to try to overthrow him or to assassinate him. They couldn't. His Republican Guard was too loyal and he had all these doubles.
So, when the economic hit men and the jackals both failed, then the last line of defense that the United States, the empire, uses these days, is the military. We send in our young men and women to die and to kill, and we did that in Iraq in 1990. We thought Saddam Hussein at that point was sufficiently chastised that now he would come around, so the economic hit men went back in the 1990s, failed once again. The jackals went back in, failed once again, and so once again the military went in – the story we all know – because we couldn't bring him around any other way.
Iraq had become very, very important to us for many reasons. Its strategic location, the fact that it controls a great deal of the water of the Middle East, the Tigris and Euphrates both flow through and out of Iraq and, of course, its oil.
And now we're not so sure we can keep the House of Saud in control. It's become extremely unpopular amongst its own people. Over 100 assassinations this year. We've been recently reading about the U.S. Consulate being attacked in Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud is losing control. It's very unpopular, partly because it accepted this deal with the West. It did a lot like what the Shah of Iran has done. And Osama bin Laden, of course, is very against it. But so are a tremendous number of Muslims around the world. So we've been afraid that we're going to lose the grip on the House of Saud. One way to protect against that is by taking over Iraqi oil fields, which may be larger than those in Saudi Arabia.

You can read the whole interview through the link in the title.

More from the crackpot front: David Horowitz has a little list...

From Kurt Nimmo on SmirkingChimp:
Is there a difference between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Dennis Kucinich? Or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Susan Sarandon? How about Mohammed Atta and Noam Chomsky?
Not according to DiscoverTheNetwork (DTN), a “Guide to the Political Left,” a sprawling database set up by the former Maoist and reborn Strausscon, David Horowitz. DTN, according to its About page, “identifies the individuals and organizations that make up the left and also the institutions that fund and sustain it; it maps the paths through which the left exerts its influence on the larger body politic; it defines the left’s (often hidden) programmatic agendas and it provides an understanding of its history and ideas.”
Sort of like the Illuminati or Third Degree Masons, only Marxist.
I had no idea this database existed until earlier today. I was tipped off by my secret contacts in North Korea and al-Qaeda. Provided with a login and password, I ventured forth, reading all sort of miscellanea on enemies of the United States, for instance the “radical anti-American journalist” Alexander Cockburn and the “anti-white, anti-Semitic writer” Amiri Baraka.
Since I am not included in this database, I am not sure if I should be relieved or disappointed. However, if email in response to an article I wrote and recently posted about Ann Coulter is any indication—dozens stacked upon dozens—I am considered one of the Hate America legion. But then, as the About page indicates, Horowitz’s smear portal is an on-going project. David will need a sturdy server and a workaholic webmaster to catalog all the lefties out there who pose a threat to the United States—in other words, lefties who oppose the warmongering madness of the Bushites and write, speak, or teach about it.
Some of the people Horowitz includes in the database would hardly be considered dangerous commies or al-Qaeda simpatico fellow travelers. For instance, Horowitz includes Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A careful reading of Ginsburg’s profile reveals why she was included: not only did she work for the evil ACLU and champion feminist causes, “Ginsburg also dissented from the Court’s decision that effectively gave President Bush the victory in the 2000 election,” in other words she opposed the idea that presidents should be appointed by right-wing Supreme Court Justices instead of voted into the White House by the people, obviously a dangerous idea as Bush made sure to steal the 2004 election as well, minus participation of the Supreme Court, and once again write off the American people as mere spectators. God bless Diebold and the thuggish intimidation tactics at the polling places.
I’m not sure if Jim McDermott, Democratic member of Congress, would take a shining to being lumped in with Zacarias Moussaoui—but there they are, included on the same page. It appears Jim’s sin, in addition to hanging out with the “radical” Progressive Caucus, led by the Osama lover Rep. Nancy Pelosi, is having gone to Baghdad “along with fellow Progressive Caucus member Rep. David Bonior (D-Michigan) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-California). These lawmakers embraced Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein and created propaganda in his behalf,” in other words they preferred diplomacy over killing 100,000 innocent Iraqis. I’m not sure McDermott actually “embraced” Saddam, but a couple decades before this treasonous act Donald Rumsfeld did the next best thing—he shook hands with the dictator, in the official capacity as Reagan’s special envoy. Good old Don was sent to establish “direct contact between an envoy of President Reagan and President Saddam Hussein,” while emphasizing “his close relationship” with the president. Rumsfeld also told Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, now locked up and facing trial for war crimes, “the U.S. and Iraq shared many common interests,” especially the “common interest” of killing as many Iranians as possible (see the previous link). And yet Donald Rumsfeld is not mentioned anywhere on Horowitz’s site as a traitor, his picture is not featured next to Fidel Castro or Ramzi Yousef.
Actually, the more you look at this site, the more absurd it becomes—even John Kerry, who voted for Bush’s invasion, is considered a leftist kook. If Kerry is a leftist, well then Angela Davis is out there somewhere on the other side of Pluto. In fact, Horowitz’s lumping together of such disparate people as Ted Kennedy and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman sends an unmistakable message, the same message sent five days a week by the proto-fascist radio demagogue Michael “Savage” Weiner: if you are left of center-right, you are a “cancer cell” (in Weiner’s words) and thus a dangerous threat to the body politic and should be excised pronto. You are with Osama and Abu and the rest of the murderous rabble, never mind that the former was never apprehended and charged with a crime (and thus we have no idea if he did it or not) and the latter is mostly a fictitious and semi-literate hobgoblin with a peg leg who is probably dead. Point is that the Ayatollah Khomeini, also featured here, is about as leftist as Pat Robertson, one of Horowitz’s natural allies. As well, there is no word in Horowitz’s write-up of Khomeini about the fact he encouraged Muslim fundamentalists to attack and kill Iranian leftists.
I’m beginning to think Mr. Horowitz needs to enroll in the local community college and take a political science refresher course.
But then that’s how the crackpot far right thinks, as exemplified by Bush’s Manichean declaration that you’re either with him and the Strausscons or you’re with Osama and his cave-dwelling medieval Muslim terrorists. No middle ground here, folks. Everything on the other side of the Strausscon Republicans, the Likudites, and the whacky Christian Zionists is unmitigated evil and needs to be excised. Posting names and images of the evil-doers, based on the pioneering work on Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch, is but another step in the process. Ward Churchill and Shahid Alam are only the beginning.
“The purpose of the DiscoverTheNetwork site is not to stifle free speech but to clarify it,” Horowitz or one of his scriveners write. “We recognize that people are not always candid in what they say in public life, particularly in the arena of political discourse. Truth in political advertising would be a more accurate description of our intentions in assembling this data.” In other words, in the paranoid world of Horowitz and Crew, everybody this side of John Kerry harbors a secret agenda: the complete destruction of America and, of course, Israel. Because leftists are hateful and secretive by nature—probably inserting terrorist code in their writings like we are told Lynne Stewart did in her correspondence with Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman—there needs to be a clearing house, of sorts, where David Horowitz, a former communist himself, can spell out our nefarious agenda in black and white.
As Horowitz would have us believe, this nefarious anti-American agenda is funded by “tens of millions of dollars” forked over by the likes of the Ford Foundation, a Marxist operation if there ever was one. Horowitz makes sure to tell us that Henry Ford II, son of Edsel and grandson of Henry Ford, the automotive industrialist who at one time hobnobbed with Nazis, washed his hands of the foundation in 1977 for its unabashed support of “anti-capitalist, anti-business enterprises of the political left,” even though the foundation receives its money from investments in international securities, not exactly the sort of behavior one would expect from an “anti-capitalist, anti-business” foundation. As an example of this sort of Marxist subversion, Horowitz writes that with “the help of Ford’s philanthropy, [Fenton Communications] has taken its message across the United States and around the world; it is a message that blames American policies for having spawned Islamist terrorism and hostilities in Iraq.” Never mind that the CIA admits it created the Islamic Terror Network in Afghanistan, claiming proudly, as did Zbigniew Brzezinski, that it is the spook agency’s most successful operation to date, and without Bush’s invasion of Iraq—predicated on lies and deception—around 100,000 Iraqis would be alive right now. If the United States had not invaded Iraq, there would be no “hostilities in Iraq.”
Truly, Horowitz’s latest endeavor is a sight to behold—an exercise in massive right-wing paranoia and vindictiveness, making the so-called Left, from Ted Kennedy to the bedtime bogeyman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (if Abu’s a leftist, then I’m Donald Trump), into something it is not: a massive, secret, treasonous, hateful, and violent (as in Ayman al-Zawahiri) conspiracy to destroy David Horowitz’s version of America.
I’d encourage you to go see this remarkable site for yourself—but then you’d have to register and David would end up with your email address and send you spam about how it is your patriotic duty to donate money to him and his organization so they can kick the lefties out of the universities ... or out of America entirely.
For David Horowitz, it is not only about getting rid of the leftists but also about making the endeavor into a profitable business.

Stories from FreakWorld

Two items from the Center for American Progress Report today that make me want to expatriate:
1. DAVID HOROWITZ, CHAMPION OF OPEN DEBATE: Horowitz, who has been the driving force behind the movement for "academic freedom" in Ohio and other states, has a distinguished history of intellectual defamation, historical inaccuracy and political bullying. He has freely compared American liberals to Islamic terrorists, slandered the Democratic Party and John Kerry for criticizing the war in Iraq and made a habit out of accusing his detractors of racism. Most recently, when African-American historian John Hope Franklin questioned Horowitz's 2001 claim that black people benefited from slavery and owed a "debt" to white America, Horowitz responded by calling the eminent historian "a racial ideologue rather than a historian" and "almost pathological." Horowitz has no academic credentials and routinely distorts facts – exactly the crime he accuses "liberal" professors of committing – to fit his political bias.
Horowitz's best attempt to prove liberal bias on campus is his "Academic Freedom Abuse Center," housed on the Students for Academic Freedom (SAS) website. But the database, which invites students to report having their "rights abused" in class, only looks impressive until you start reading the actual claims. Some highlights: One student complains because her professor suggested men and women might see colors differently. Another is offended she was asked to watch an "immoral Seinfeld episode." The latest entry in the database as of Tuesday afternoon was from an Ohio State student who claims he got a bad grade on an essay because his English professor "hates families and thinks it's okay to be gay." One of the complaints comes from an Augustana College senior who is upset her school used "funds from Student activity fees to bring in the one-sided speaker David Horowitz."
2. ADMINISTRATION – PUTTING IDEOLOGY BEFORE SUICIDE PREVENTION: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, essentially forced the deletion of the words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" from the title of an upcoming suicide prevention workshop, even though it was meant to address those particular at-risk populations, at a federally funded conference. Wielding its funding power much in the same manner as Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, the administration requested the removal of those words as well as an additional workshop "session on faith-based suicide prevention." SAMHSA has defended its actions by claiming a preference for the "inclusive" term "sexual orientation," but as one of the three outraged workshop presenters explained, "Everyone has a sexual orientation. But this was about gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders," who are at two to three times higher risk of attempting suicide.

Media for a post-truth society

Eric Alterman on Alternet:
The United States government is currently run by a group of people for whom verifiable truth holds no particular privilege over ideologically inspired nonsense. For members of the mainstream media, trying to maintain a sense of self-importance and solemnity and to keep the wing nuts from crowing for more scalps, this requires a series of stratagems to keep up the scripted charade, no matter how foolish it makes them look or feel while doing so.
The easiest of these stratagems is simply to stack the coverage with political partisans and give them free rein to spout GOP propaganda. That's what the cable news networks do, as Media Matters for America has demonstrated. Consistent with cable inauguration coverage, for example, MSNBC offered viewers of its State of the Union commentary 11 right-wing pundits and just two Democrats or liberals in response.
A second technique is more often deployed on network television, where such naked partisanship is frowned upon, but executives are, if anything, even more worried about appearing unsympathetic to the red-state, red-meat offerings of George W. Bush. This is to ignore the substance and focus on the spectacle, the "feelings" and the atmosphere.
...Of course, journalism is by definition a process of selection and omission, so it can be a little unfair to single out what reporters failed to report about Bush's SOTU speech. But the unhappy fact is that almost everything this administration tries to sell to Americans is snake oil, and the mere act of reporting it without comment implicates the media in the fundamental dishonesty that is this president's modus operandi. When he says "freedom," he means the freedom of the United States and its allies to jail and torture anyone they choose. When he says "liberty," he means the liberty of other governments to profess to share the alleged aims of U.S. foreign policy and then – like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Egypt – jail and silence all critics without inconvenient criticism from the United States. (If you play the game right, you can even provide weapons to anti-American terrorists and fund anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda on behalf of the terrorists, all the while remaining a close friend of Bush & Co.)
This is apparently what NBC's Andrea Mitchell had in mind when she spoke of the administration's "democracy agenda that Condi Rice is going to be bringing to Europe and the Middle East." Or perhaps she meant an American invasion of Iran; or the destruction of Social Security. It's hard to know in a post-truth society what anything means anymore, except more nonsense and lies, dutifully reported.

"Liberal" media silent about Guckert matter

From Joe Conason in the NY Press:
What Mr. Guckert seems to have been is not a journalist but a Republican dirty trickster. He was schooled at the Leadership Institute--an outfit run by veteran right-wing operative and Republican National Committee member Morton Blackwell. (It was Mr. Blackwell who distributed those cute "purple heart" Band-aids mocking Mr. Kerry's war wounds at the Republican convention last summer.) His former employers at Talon News include leading Republican fund-raisers and former officials of the Texas Republican Party who have been active in partisan affairs for the past two decades.
How did this character obtain a coveted place in the White House? What did the White House press staff know about him? How does his story fit within the larger scandal of payola punditry, with federal funds subsidizing Republican propagandists in the press corps? Did someone in the Bush administration give him a classified document? Such questions are evidently of little concern to our liberal media outlets, whose leading lights prefer to deliver prim lectures about the unwarranted invasion of Mr. Guckert's private affairs and his victimization for his conservative views. In fact, everything known about him comes from material he posted on public Web sites, but that's beside the point.
Imagine the media explosion if a male escort had been discovered operating as a correspondent in the Clinton White House. Imagine that he was paid by an outfit owned by Arkansas Democrats and had been trained in journalism by James Carville. Imagine that this gentleman had been cultivated and called upon by Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart--or by President Clinton himself. Imagine that this "journalist" had smeared a Republican Presidential candidate and had previously claimed access to classified documents in a national-security scandal.
Then imagine the constant screaming on radio, on television, on Capitol Hill, in the Washington press corps--and listen to the placid mumbling of the "liberal" media now.


US accused of plan to muzzle Al-Jazeera

From the Independent (UK):
America and its key ally Saudi Arabia are being accused of quietly seeking to muzzle al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite news station that has often incurred Washington's ire for its coverage of Iraq and President George Bush's "war on terror".
According to reports in the US and the Gulf, the Qatari government, owner of al-Jazeera since its foundation in 1996, has ordered privatisation plans for the station to be speeded up. Many al-Jazeera employees fear this could lead to a loss of editorial freedom. A set of proposals is already said to have been presented to al-Jazeera's board of directors.
US officials reject all charges of meddling. Nonetheless, such suspicions are inevitable. Senior US officials, among them the Vice-President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, have fiercely criticised al-Jazeera for what they say is biased and inflammatory reporting. Washington has been particularly irritated by the station's coverage of civilian casualties and destruction caused by US troops in Iraq, and by its airing of messages from Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'ida leader. In Iraq and some other Arab countries, al-Jazeera offices have been shut down.
At the same time the Qatari government's ownership of the station has strained diplomatic ties between Washington and one of its traditional allies in the Gulf. In what was seen as a sign of US displeasure, the emirate was conspicuously not invited to a summit on Middle East democracy last summer. Though Qatar has pledged to defend the station's independence (not least as proof of its sincerity in promising greater democracy at home), its diplomats in Washington have reportedly been asked to tone down the station's coverage.
With a regular audience of between 35 and 50 million, al-Jazeera is the most popular source of news in the Arab world. It is a rare beacon of uninhibited reporting and free expression in a region where strict state control of the media is the norm.
But it has rarely been profitable and relies on an estimated $100m (£53m) annual funding from its government sponsor. Assuming privatisation goes ahead, the station is likely to be listed on Qatar's stock market, where most of its shares would be available only to citizens of member countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). This could allow Saudi Arabia, the richest GCC member and a prime source of media funding across the region, to gain a major stake in al-Jazeera. The Saudi regime has also been a vigorous critic of al-Jazeera's coverage of opponents of the regime. It has already suspended advertising on the station - adding to its financial problems.
But the quandary is deepest for Washington. Officials maintain that slanted reporting by the station has contributed to the surge of anti-Americanism across the Arab world. But an attempt to silence this inconvenient voice would run contrary to the proclaimed US intention of fostering free speech and democracy in the region.

White House turns tables on Gulf War POW's

From today's LA Times:
The latest chapter in the legal history of torture is being written by American pilots who were beaten and abused by Iraqis during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And it has taken a strange twist. The Bush administration is fighting the former prisoners of war in court, trying to prevent them from collecting nearly $1 billion from Iraq that a federal judge awarded them as compensation for their torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The rationale: Today's Iraqis are good guys, and they need the money.
The case abounds with ironies. It pits the U.S. government squarely against its own war heroes and the Geneva Convention.
Many of the pilots were tortured in the same Iraqi prison, Abu Ghraib, where American soldiers abused Iraqis 15 months ago. Those Iraqi victims, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said, deserve compensation from the United States.
But the American victims of Iraqi torturers are not entitled to similar payments from Iraq, the U.S. government says.
The case, now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, tests whether "state sponsors of terrorism" can be sued in the U.S. courts for torture, murder or hostage-taking. The court is expected to decide in the next two months whether to hear the appeal.
Congress opened the door to such claims in 1996, when it lifted the shield of sovereign immunity — which basically prohibits lawsuits against foreign governments — for any nation that supports terrorism. At that time, Iraq was one of seven nations identified by the State Department as sponsoring terrorist activity. The 17 Gulf War POWs looked to have a very strong case when they first filed suit in 2002. They had been undeniably tortured by a tyrannical regime, one that had $1.7 billion of its assets frozen by the U.S. government. The picture changed, however, when the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein from power nearly two years ago. On July 21, 2003, two weeks after the Gulf War POWs won their court case in U.S. District Court, the Bush administration intervened to argue that their claims should be dismissed.
"No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of this very brutal regime and at the hands of Saddam Hussein," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters when asked about the case in November 2003.
Government lawyers have insisted, literally, on "no amount of money" going to the Gulf War POWs. "These resources are required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq," McClellan said.
The case also tests a key provision of the Geneva Convention, the international law that governs the treatment of prisoners of war. The United States and other signers pledged never to "absolve" a state of "any liability" for the torture of POWs.

"What we don't know about 9/11 hurts us"

Hard-hitting editorial by Robert Scheer of the LA Times:
Would George W. Bush have been reelected president if the public understood how much responsibility his administration bears for allowing the 9/11 attacks to succeed?
The answer is unknowable and, at this date, moot. Yet it was appalling to learn last week that the White House suppressed until after the election a damning report that exposes the administration as woefully incompetent if not criminally negligent. Belatedly declassified excerpts from still-secret sections of the 9/11 commission report, which focus on the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration to heed multiple warnings that Al Qaeda terrorists were planning to hijack planes as suicide weapons, make clear that this tragedy could have been avoided.
For the last three years, administration apologists have tried to make the FAA the scapegoat for the 9/11 attacks. But it is the president who ultimately is responsible for national security, not a defanged agency that is beholden to the industry it allegedly monitors.
The terrible fact is that the administration took none of the steps that would have put the protection of human life ahead of a diverse set of economic and political interests, which included not offending our friends the Saudis and not hurting the share prices of airline corporations.
The warnings provided by intelligence agencies to the FAA were far clearer and more specific than suggested by Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission when she reluctantly conceded the existence of a presidential briefing that warned of impending Al Qaeda attacks. Rice had dismissed those warnings as "historical," but according to the newly released section of the 9/11 report, an astonishing 52 of the 105 daily intelligence briefings received by the FAA — and available to Rice — before the Sept. 11 attacks made specific reference to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Given this shocking record of indifference on the part of the administration, it is politically understandable that it tried to prevent the formation of the 9/11 commission in the first place, and then for five months prevented the declassification of key sections of the final report. Commission members, including its Republican chairman, Thomas Kean, stated in the past that there was no national security concern that justified keeping those sections of the report from the public.
And let's be clear: The failure to fully disclose what is known about the 9/11 tragedy is not some minor bureaucratic transgression. Not since the Soviets first detonated an atomic bomb more than half a century ago has a single event so affected decision-making in this country, yet the main questions as to how and why it happened remain mostly unanswered.
Even worse, what we do know calls into question our government's explanation that a diabolical international terrorist conspiracy exploited our liberal, naive society. What has emerged, instead, is a portrait of an often bumbling terrorist gang allowed to wreak havoc because the top tiers of the administration were so indifferent to the alarms, which former CIA Director George Tenet described so graphically: "The system was blinking red."
Had the business-friendly administration put safety first and ordered a full complement of air marshals into the air, over the obscene objections of airlines loath to give up paid seats, nearly 3,000 people might not have died that day. And had the president of the United States taken some time from his epic ranch vacation that August to order a nationwide airport alert, two bloody wars abroad, as well as an all-out assault on civil liberties in this country, probably would not have happened.
Instead, an administration that resisted spending the tens of millions required to fortify airline security before 9/11 is nearing the $300-billion mark on Afghanistan and Iraq. And declassified documents have unmistakably said the latter had nothing to do with 9/11. Meanwhile, those countries that at least indirectly did, most notably "allies" Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, have been let off the hook.
Indeed, the 9/11 commission was not allowed to get near that story: It is an unnoticed but startling truth that the basic narrative on the tragedy derives from the interrogations of key detainees whom the 9/11 commissioners were not allowed to interview. Nor were they permitted to even take testimony from the U.S. intelligence personnel who interrogated those prisoners.
When the truth and governmental transparency are arbitrarily trumped by the invocation of national security, the public is simply incapable of making informed decisions on the most crucial decisions we face — starting with whom we elect as our commander in chief.

US Occupation Authority in Iraq like the "Wild West"

Why is the international press covering the US better than our own media?
From Reuters:
The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq had a chaotic, "Wild West" approach to contracting there which opened up the system to abuse and waste, a former employee from the authority said Monday. Ex-Coalition Provisional Authority official Franklin Willis cited examples of this "chaos" at a hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and said he believed most abuse and waste could have been avoided.
Willis showed a picture of himself and other U.S. officials holding up plastic-wrapped 'bricks' of $100 bills worth $2 million to pay security contractor Custer Battles, which the Defense Department has since suspended due to billing issues. "The Custer Battles case, which while anecdotal, reflects a general pattern of waste and inefficiencies which could have been avoided," said Willis of contracting abuses in Iraq. "In sum, inexperienced officials, fear of decision-making, lack of communications, minimal security, no banks and lots of money to spread around. This chaos I have referred to as a 'Wild West'," Willis, who was a senior aviation official for the CPA, told the hearing.
Democrats have called for a full congressional hearing on what they say is a pattern of contracting abuses in Iraq, from overcharging by lead contractor Halliburton to poor planning and mismanagement.
Audits last month by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction were particularly scathing over the CPA's handling of more than $20 billion of Iraq's own money and said lack of oversight opened up these funds to corruption.
North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan said passing money stuffed into plastic bags to contractors made it all the more difficult to track funds. "Your description of passing money around sounds like passing an ice cube around. By the time the person gets the ice cube at the end of the line, it's much smaller," he said. "There is a lot here that should be the subject of aggressive oversight hearings."

Jeff Gannon and Manufactured Journalism: The Houston Chronicle Gets It

Editorial in the Houston Chronicle:
The unmasking of an alleged journalist who used a pseudonym to gain access to White House briefings and news conferences raises more questions about the Bush administration's tactics for securing favorable news. James Guckert, who used the Talon News byline "Jeff Gannon," managed to get access to the White House on a daily basis for two years.
Guckert questioned President Bush at a January news conference last month, tossing a softball query that ridiculed Democrats for "being divorced from reality." The organization Guckert worked for turned out to be an arm of a partisan group, GOPUSA, a conservative Web site based in Houston and dedicated to "spreading the conservative message throughout America." It turns out Talon News was created only a few days before Guckert first applied for a White House daily pass.
Guckert was denied similar credentials to cover Capitol Hill because of questions about his legitimacy as a reporter. His identity was exposed by bloggers, and he turned out to be associated with a number of sexually oriented Web sites. Guckert resigned, claiming harassment by liberals.
Guckert's only credential as a journalist appears to be attendance at a two-day seminar by the conservative Leadership Oriented Broadcast Journalism School. He apparently gained access to the White House using little more than a fake name, a Social Security number, and date of birth. In an age of heightened security, it's hard to believe this lapse could occur without someone inside the White House vouching for Guckert. The alternative would be little meaningful security at the executive mansion.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said President Bush did not know who Guckert was. A journalist familiar with the process says it's likely Bush was tipped by his press staff that "the bald guy would lob him an easy one." If so, setting up ringers to toss fawning questions to the president is another indication, if any were needed, that the administration prefers the media to be propagandists rather than independent inquisitors.
At least there's no indication the White House was involved in directly paying Guckert for his services, as the administration did in three other recent incidents. Last month, conservative commentator Armstrong Williams apologized for not disclosing that his company had received $240,000 from a public relations agency hired by the Department of Education to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher also apologized to her readers for not disclosing a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help create materials used to promote Bush's $300 million initiative encouraging marriage to strengthen families. HHS later disclosed that a third conservative columnist, Mike McManus, had received $10,000 to promote Bush's marriage initiative, according to an Associated Press report. His weekly column appears in about 50 newspapers.
The practice of buying ostensibly independent reporters and writers to shill for politicians deceives the public and corrupts the free media. Allowing fake reporters to compete with credentialed journalists for sparse press conference time with the leader of the free world demeans the whole process.

Buying back the media, one billionaire at a time

From Will Pitt at Truthout:
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Billionaire investors Warren Buffett and George Soros are getting hooked up with cable.
Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, doubled its holdings in Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator to 10 million shares, during the fourth quarter, while it dumped its shares in hospital operator HCA and slashed its holdings in athletic apparel manufacturer Nike.
Soros Fund Management LLC disclosed in its own SEC filing that as of Dec. 31, it owned 2.6 million shares of Time Warner, owner of Time Warner Cable, the nation's No. 2 cable operator, as well as a host of other media properties, including CNN/Money. It had no shares in Time Warner at the end of the third quarter.
Soros's fund also bought 17 million shares of satellite television operator Echostar Communications during the quarter, adding another company it did not own on its earlier report. And it bought 209,272 shares of media conglomerate News Corp., which besides owning a number of broadcast and cable networks recently gained satellite television provider DirecTV.

One of the most important web pages you'll find tracking corporate conglomerate media ownership is the 'Who Owns What' page run by the Columbia Journalism Review. You want to see scary? Check out what else the owners of NBC are into. Check out what else the owners of CNN are into. Check out what else the owners of CBS are into. Check out what else the owners of ABC are into. If you really want to wig out, check out how much of the media world is controlled by ClearChannel. These companies are so wildly diversified that their journalism components are incapable of reporting on many major stories without making a subsidiary, an advertiser or a profitable little war look bad. This is the hard nub of why journalism, specifically television journalism, has become such a swamp of late.

So I'm guardedly pleased that Mr. Soros is deciding to bring his billions of dollars and anti-George opinions into the media game. I'm getting an especially big kick out of the fact that he bought up 209,272 shares of News Corp., the parent company of Fox. These days, I guess, you fight billionares with billionares.

Update on Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert

From Eric Boehlert of Salon:
There's new evidence that the Talon reporter, who lobbed softball questions at Bush during press conferences on behalf of a dubious news operation, recently worked as a male escort.
Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, made headlines last week when he resigned from Talon after days of intensive scrutiny from bloggers. Online critics first raised questions about Guckert's questionable journalistic methods and his lack of experience (he often cut and pasted White House press releases into his "news" stories), as well as Talon's lack of independence from Eberle's purely partisan GOPUSA Web site. Then questions arose about why the Talon reporter was given access to the White House press room after being turned down for Capitol Hill press credentials. The final straw for Guckert came when bloggers revealed associations that Guckert and his Delaware-based company had with a handful of male escort services.
Guckert insisted his only involvement with the sex sites was as a software consultant. On Monday, John Aravosis posted on his liberal site AmericaBlog.org detailed evidence indicating that not only was Guckert personally involved with the Web sites, but he was also offering his own escort services. Aravosis received on-the-record confirmation, complete with invoices and photos, paid by Delaware's Bedrock Corp. AmericaBlog also details scores of other escort sites featuring photos and personal profiles of Guckert. Guckert's first site remained live until May 8, 2003, one month after he began covering the White House for Talon. According to Aravosis' research, Guckert's escort profile on WorkingBoys.net was still active as of Monday.
Addressing the question of why Guckert's personal life matters, Aravosis wrote, "This is the Conservative Republican Bush White House we're talking about. It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a 'daily basis.'"
Guckert's brand of openly partisan journalism was often suspect. Last February he reported that a former Kerry intern had taped an interview with "one of the major television networks" to discuss her affair with the senator, an assertion that was completely false. The intern never appeared on television and never claimed to have had an affair with Kerry. (Since quitting, all of Gannon's stories have been scrubbed from the Talon site.)
News of Guckert's past, or at least how he was able to land a coveted White House press pass without submitting himself to a full-scale FBI background check, will likely be addressed at Tuesday's meeting between leaders of the White House Correspondents Association and White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Most White House reporters obtain a permanent, or "hard," press pass only after passing an FBI background check, and only after first securing Capitol Hill credentials. Guckert was denied Hill credentials when the committee in charge of issuing them could not confirm Talon was a legitimate, independent news organization. Instead, Guckert, with the help of someone inside the White House press office, used a daily pass for nearly two years. Daily passes require only instant background checks, compared to the ones the FBI conducts for hard-pass applicants, which can take several months to complete.
According to Eberle, Guckert provided White House officials with his real name, which means they knew he was writing under a false one. White House officials refuse to discuss why they let Guckert in or what, if any, criteria they used to determine his qualifications.
Last week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., requested from McClellan all documents related to Guckert's press passes. "As you may know, Mr. Guckert/Gannon was denied a Congressional press pass because he could not show that he wrote for a valid news organization. Given the fact that he was denied Congressional credentials, I seek your explanation of how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials," Lautenberg wrote. On Monday, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer noted, "This issue is important from an ethical as well as from a national security standpoint. It is hard to understand why a man with little real journalism experience was given a White House press corps credential."

Minority Retort

From David Morris on AlterNet:
We all know the situation. At the federal level, we are now living under a one-party system and that party has demonstrated a willingness, even an enthusiasm, for brutally exercising power. Republican control of the House is so complete that Democrat representatives are not even privy to discussions about policy before a bill is introduced. The last election sufficiently widened their control of the Senate that only a 100 percent party solidarity by the Democrats and a willingness to filibuster could prevent a bill from becoming law.
The Democrats are not only a minority party. They are, at least in Washington, a distant minority party.
Given this bleak state of affairs, what should the Democratic Party do? Here’s a two-tiered strategy, one focused on Washington, the other on the states.
In Washington, Democrats must, above all, obstruct. Doing this successfully requires two elements: a willingness to obstruct and a clear message explaining why obstruction is necessary. A few days ago Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid made a good start on the message part of the strategy when he responded to charges of obstructionism by accusing the Republicans of being "destructionists." That's the message. The Democratic Party is preventing evil from happening. It is fighting to preserve the essential values of America from destruction: liberty, mercy, justice, compassion. This message works only if the Democratic Party is willing to put its actions where its rhetoric is. That means actually obstructing. It means abandoning the idea that they should strive to make a perfectly horrid piece of legislation a tiny bit better, or tag onto a catastrophic tax giveaway a few goodies for their own constituents. It means being principled, being willing to take risks and be called bad names by the media.
Doing this will demonstrate to the American people that Democrats have backbone. Americans like backbone. Equally important, it will show people that the Democratic Party is acting as if it truly believes we are at a historical moment of genuine constitutional and democratic crisis, one in which people need to stand up and bear the personal and political risks of doing the right thing. To successfully obstruct, of course, the Democratic Party must be disciplined. Which means abandoning the famous Democratic tolerance of dissent and even treason within its ranks. No longer can the Party allow a person to make a keynote address at the Republican National Convention and continue to be a member. No longer can a person say he would support Antonin Scalia as chief justice of the Supreme Court and be allowed to hold a high rank in the Party. If this means the Party loses a few members, so be it. There is far more deterrent power in a coherent and committed 40 senators than in a fractured and incoherent 44.
The second tier upon which the Democratic Party should fight is for the right of states and communities and individuals to make their own decisions. This will be difficult. Liberals have long believed that it is necessary for the federal government to impose itself on states and communities in order to increase the public welfare. But today's political landscape argues for a different approach. First of all, federal pre-emption of state and local authority and a centralization of power in Washington is occurring at an unprecedentedly rapid rate. The enlargement of the state in both power and reach under President George W. Bush has been both startling and terrifying. And this pre-emption is occurring not to make people more secure but less, not more democratic, but less. By arguing that authority should be devolved to the lowest possible level, that wherever possible decisions should be made by those who will feel the impact of those decisions, the Democratic Party will open up a dialogue with many members of the Republican Party and many more independents who fear the growing power of the state. We might recall, for example, that far more Republicans than Democrats broke ranks to vote against the No Child Left Behind legislation, and the reach and power of the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act frightens at least as many conservatives as liberals. Arguing for devolution has both a negative and a positive element. While the Democratic Party argues against Washington making improper decisions, it also can, at the grassroots level, work to encourage states and communities to make proper decisions.
Nothing good will come out of Washington for the foreseeable future. Thus any actions the Democratic Party takes in Washington must by their nature be defensive, oppositionist, negative. But at the state and local level its strategy can, and should be, proactive and positive.
Unlike at the federal level, in many states and cities and counties, Democrats still wield considerable authority. Indeed, in the recent election, the shift in control of state legislatures and governorships tilted slightly in favor of Democrats. And it is at the local and state level where the rubber meets the road, where the policies of Washington, for good or for bad, have their impact. It is at the state and local level that we can most clearly make the case that politics largely concerns making decisions about the allocation of scarce resources. We make choices. And in cities and counties and states, in neighborhoods and farms, the process can be made much clearer and transparent and accessible. And to tie the two tiers together, the Democratic Party can explain how decisions made in Washington are affecting the ability of small towns and large cities to make the right decisions.
In essence, this is a three-step plan:
Stop Washington from doing evil/work to devolve authority;
Ally with those with different ideologies who are also working for those goals;
Work to exercise local and state authority to build institutions and programs and communities that make concrete the principles and values of the Democratic Party.

They Shoot Journalists, Don't They?

From Chris Paterson on AlterNet:
CNN has a habit of devouring its own. Whenever the right-wing flak machine cranks up, CNN, like CBS last fall, dispenses with another top executive, producer, or correspondent, no matter how celebrated. The resignation last Friday of CNN’s top news executive, Eason Jordan, should be seen in the context of CNN’s previous abandonment of its top journalists, like April Oliver and Peter Arnett, and CBS’ dismissal of top producer Mary Mapes; all of whom raised the ire of the right with the revelation of unflattering facts about the military. But the resignation is also being hailed as more evidence of the power of bloggers to fell their perceived enemies.
In recent weeks, the “blogsphere,” as it likes to call itself, has been abuzz with vitriol over remarks Jordan made in a panel discussion at the Davos Economic Forum, in which he seemed to suggest that U.S. troops in Iraq shoot at journalists. Importantly, the controversy has obscured the more intriguing question of why international news executives (Richard Sambrook, news chief of the BBC, was also present) were addressing a conference of the global political and economic elite they report on; but such cozy interaction between news executives and the world’s movers and shakers is not uncommon.
According to Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who was also on the Jan. 27 panel with Jordan and recounted the event for the Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, Jordan said “he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq.” According to the Post and The New York Times accounts, Jordan’s exact wording remains unclear. A videotape is said to have been made by the forum organizers, but has not been released on the grounds that the discussion was to be “off the record.” Did Jordan say U.S. troops targeted journalists, or didn’t he? It is agreed that he later attempted to clarify that he didn’t know if any journalists in Iraq were deliberately targeted. In an unprecedented message to blogger and media scholar Jay Rosen, Sambrook (one of the most important global journalists, given the reach, credibility, and agenda-setting power of the BBC) confirmed Barney Frank’s account and added that he shares Jordan’s concern about journalists: safety. Since the U.S. invasion, 60 journalists (more or less, depending on which account one consults) have died violently in Iraq while attempting to do their work.
An editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal, who, intriguingly, was also present in Davos, also confirmed the remarks and attempted retraction, and went on to call for Jordan’s resignation — not for lying about the issue, but because Jordan “can't be trusted to sit on a panel and field softball questions.” It is rather like the Journal, from its position as flagship of the “credible” conservative American media, is reminding CNN that some things shall not be spoken of. (But, of course, it is TV, not print, reporters who have been dying.) This, more than the blog-feeding frenzy which “real” journalists purport to ignore, may have inspired Jordan to step down (or inspired some high-up at Time Warner to request he do so).
I referred at the outset to unflattering facts about the U.S. military; but, like CBS’ truthful, though bungled, expose of the president’s unflattering war record, the facts of the story are all but lost when the conservative flak machine attacks the messenger. Government has no need to defend itself from criticism when popular media like Fox, and its countless devotees in the blogsphere, do so for them. Credible reports of the killing, torture, and harassment of journalists by “coalition” forces in Iraq have existed since the start of the U.S. invasion, and have been well documented by respected press freedom organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters sans frontières, and the International Federation of Journalists. The historical record suggests a pattern of these activities, but the question of deliberation cannot be answered unless each and every incident is fully, and independently, investigated — and to date, that hasn’t happened.
News executives like Jordan, Sambrook, and senior figures from Reuters have spoken about their concerns for some time, and leading British journalists, like Robert Fisk of The Independent and Janine di Giovanni of The Times, have written of the pattern of violence against journalists which they’ve witnessed. While news executives may know of incidents which are not part of the public record, they also tend to cautiously cite only those which are well documented by the press freedom groups, and this may ignore other incidents which those groups have avoided discussing.
For example, the killing of two journalists by a U.S. tank crew as they took pictures from their Baghdad hotel in 2003 was thoroughly described by veteran journalists — dozens of whom were present — and was the subject of a public battle waged by Reuters to hold the military to account. As with every other incident involving journalists, the U.S. military exonerated itself. But the presence of the world’s media in the hotel was well known to military commanders, leading to the suspicion that the killing wasn’t accidental.
But another possible murder of journalists was reported in the British press, though it — perhaps for lack of corroboration — has inspired less outrage. At the outset of the invasion, journalists were warned by the U.S. military not to operate independently in Iraq, and one British TV reporter, with his crew, died attempting to do so. The Mirror newspaper in the U.K. reported that witnesses watched a U.S. military helicopter kill the journalists. Other journalists attempting to operate independently in Iraq were detained by U.S. troops, and, in the early days of the invasion, U.S. forces threatened — according to a senior British reporter — to launch missiles against media organizations transmitting pictures out of Baghdad. U.S. missiles had already killed dozens of reporters in Afghanistan (where Al-Jazeera, Radio Kabul, and the BBC were attacked in 2001) and Serbia (where Serbian TV, along with CNN facilities, were attacked in 1999).
Both the Arab television media and the international news agencies have borne the brunt of the violence. CPJ and the other journalists’ organizations record a large number of lethal and non-lethal attacks by U.S. troops on Arab journalists. A senior Al-Jazeera correspondent was arrested, released, and re-arrested in Spain without clear charges, and an Al-Jazeera cameraman has been detained in Guantanamo Bay for four years. In Iraq, two Iranian journalists were detained for four months without charge. Two Al-Jazeera employees reported that they were tortured by U.S. troops last year, and the Associated Press reported that an Arab cameraman working for a European broadcaster said, after being attacked by U.S. troops, “They checked our identity badges and then let us go, saying they thought we were with Al-Jazeera. ...” Several Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya journalists have been killed by U.S. forces in well-documented incidents. Robert Fisk wrote with alarm about an attack by U.S. troops which he witnessed on a clearly marked press vehicle, again, driven by Arab journalists.
With so many American journalists operating in Iraq since 2003, it is odd that none report being targeted in the same way, as one might expect if the violence was the inevitable result of war correspondents’ proximity to fighting (as much of the recent blog blather has suggested). In addition to believing three of its cameramen have been killed by U.S. troops (two in view of other journalists), Reuters also complained to the U.S. military that four journalists working for them, and NBC, were abducted by U.S. troops and tortured for three days in January of last year. That incident, documented though it was by Reuters, the news organization most journalists trust above all others, was also referred to by Jordan in Davos, provoking the ire of not just the conservative bloggers, but of congressman Frank, according to the various accounts of those present. So far, neither Frank, nor Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who was also present, nor any other U.S. legislator, have called for investigation of the incidents Jordan referred to.
Ann Cooper, director of the CPJ, wrote that in late 2003, “30 international media organizations wrote to the Pentagon to complain of numerous examples of U.S. troops physically harassing journalists and, in some cases, confiscating or ruining equipment, digital camera discs, and videotapes.” Cooper’s observation, along with the public complaints of the Arab media and leading western media like the BBC, Reuters and CNN, confirm that this is no new story, but just the most recent, and public, development in an issue which has been concerning journalists for some time. They are concerned enough to have organized their own investigation under the rubric of the “International News Safety Institute” to discuss whether international legal protections for journalists need to be strengthened.
With proper investigation, it may be found that the attacks on journalists were genuinely accidental; though — as Reuters has pointed out in regard to its journalists — the question of how accidental torture can happen will be hard to explain. International laws (and indeed, U.S. laws, if they apply) require the protection of journalists (and certainly American advocacy of free information flow would suggest an interest in doing so). Disturbingly, the information available about most of the incidents in Iraq suggests the journalists involved were well identified and clearly engaging in journalism, and so the concerns expressed by the international press are not hard to fathom.
It remains to be seen if the media organizations with the most at stake — CNN, NBC, the BBC, AP, Reuters, and others — will weigh in forcefully on behalf of the news workers in jeopardy, or fall in line with the Right’s presumption that soldiers, in the heat of combat, never do things they shouldn’t. The major press freedom groups have been shouting as loudly as they can, but as with the ignored advanced warning about Abu Ghraib from the Red Cross and Amnesty International, their shouts will be in vain until policy makers and major media accept the need for comprehensive, independent, investigation in the spirit of creating a safer working environment for journalists. A military with nothing to hide should welcome an independent inquiry.
Jordan might have thought that raising the issue with the world’s top decision-makers would put it so fully into the public eye that news media, and U.S. lawmakers, could no longer ignore it. In that, he may have been right; and he may even have expected to take the fall to accomplish that goal.

Rainforest Martyr

The town of Anapu, on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, is most notable for the dust that clogs its streets and for the number of shops selling chain-saws. It is also the place that Sister Dorothy Stang called home for more than 30 years and where she organised her efforts to try to protect the rainforest and its people from disastrous and often illegal exploitation by logging firms and ranchers. Now Anapu will be known as the place where Sister Dorothy is buried.
The 74-year-old activist was laid to rest yesterday morning after being assassinated by two gunmen on Saturday at a remote encampment in the jungle about 30 miles from the town. Sister Dorothy - the most prominent activist to be murdered in the Amazon since Chico Mendez in 1988 - was shot six times in the head, throat and body at close range. "She was on a list of people marked for death. And little by little they're ticking those names off the list," said Nilde Sousa, an official with a local women's group who worked with the nun.
As with the death of Mr Mendez, a rubber tapper, the murder of Sister Dorothy has triggered waves of outrage among environmental and human rights activists who say she dedicated her life to helping the area's poor, landless peasants and confronting the businesses that see the rainforest only as a resource to be plundered and which have already destroyed 20 per cent of its 1.6 million square miles.
It has also highlighted the problem for the Brazilian government of balancing a desire to protect the rainforest with pressure to open tracts of forest to support strong economic growth as demanded by the International Monetary Fund, which loaned Brazil billions of dollars following a recession in 2002. Such a conflict of interests has hindered attempts by the authorities to fulfil the promise of the left-leaning President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to find homes for 400,000 landless families. The promise is badly off target and showing no signs of rapid improvement.
Greenpeace estimates that 90 per cent of the timber in the Para region is illegally logged. The danger of speaking out against such exploitation could barely have been greater. Campaigners say Para has the country's highest rate of deaths related to land battles. Greenpeace said that more than 40% of the murders between 1985 and 2001 were related to such disputes.
Sister Dorothy was originally from Dayton, Ohio, and when she left school she joined the convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Cincinnati. The order, founded in France in the early 18th century, is a proponent of liberation theology and social justice. Its mission statement dedicates the order to "take our stand with poor people especially women and children, in the most abandoned places".