Friday, April 13, 2007

Prayers for Peace in the Middle East

Greetings my Muslim Brothers,
Greetings my Dear Mary Anderson,
Greetings my Blood Brother Steve Wilson,
Greetings my Dear friends Jim & Jane Gisselquist and Paul & Pat Vogel

I wish to introduce you to one another. Mary Anderson is my dear friend, and my strongest supporter and staunchest advocate within the church my parents attend.

Mary also coordinates the monthly Prayers for Peace in the Middle East service held on the 15th at The Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Barrington.

The service is typical of many Lutheran services - music, singing, prayers, scripture. But also more somber, more moving than most, because of the commitment to peace justice in the middle East that those assembled bring to the service.

It is also a considerably smaller gathering, bringing together a significant percentage of people from other Christian denominations as well as an occasional Jews and Muslim.

Mary also recruits guest speakers to talk afterwards. Most have returned recently, from Jerusalem. They give their witness and will answer questions after the service. Tea and coffee are available.

These after dinner discussions are unique because

1. Great sympathy exists for plight of the Palestinians
2. The speakers are encouraged to speak frankly of their
3. Honest and realistic assessments of the impact of U.S. foreign
policy are given.

At least some of the sympathy towards the Palestinian peoples in particular, and Muslims in general, is owing to the former Pastor of the congregation, Dr. Said Ailabouni, himself a Palestinian, whose own parents were forced to leave their ancestral home in 1948.

Dr. Ailabouni's wife Helen accompanies the musical portion of the service accompanying on the piano, and leads the singing.

These three good Lutherans, Mary Anderson and Dr. Said and Helen Ailabouni, have been instrumental in helping to heal my soul and restore me to sanity during several very trying times of my life. They have prayed for me, and given of their time to me. I have been blessed by knowing them.

My blood brother Steve Wilson has been my staunchest ally from the world of bridge, with whom I share the wounds of my soul, inflicted once again by my country upon downtrodden peoples half-way across the globe. We both remember all too well the American invasion and occupation of Viet Nam. He carries the scars of the soldier, I carry the wounds of having lost a beloved uncle to a combat death. We share a mutual hatred of war and revulsion of those who would wage it as anything but a last resort, and only then in the presence of a clear and present danger.

Jim and Jane Gisselquist and I have sung many songs together in choir at Atonement over the years, and this has been a great blessing upon my soul.

Paul and Pat Vogel have been very active and prominent in their opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Paul arranged for marches in protest of the invasion both in Barrington and in Chicago. Pat has stood with Cindy Sheehan, in Crawford Texas, outside the home of the elected leader of America, in opposition to the war.

When my dear Christian friends sing "Let Freedom Ring" they sing it with a heart-felt understanding of the meaning of the word FREEDOM that only a true Winter Patriot, an immigrant, or a Muslim can fully appreciate.

And to you my beloved Christian friends, may I present my esteemed and cherished Muslim brothers, men of my ummah, my community, who have accepted me in their ranks, prayed with me standing shoulder to shoulder, and hold me up for my conversion to Islam. May I always be worthy of their esteem.

I extend to you, now my brothers, and your wives and children, an invitation to come, to pray in community, for peace in the middle East. It is so important for peoples of faith, peoples of good will, peoples of love, peoples of peace, to come together, to come to know one another, to come to share their hopes, their dreams, their prayers.

Here is the formal announcement from Mary Anderson:

On Sunday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m.,
a prayer service for peace in the Middle East
will be held at Lutheran Church of the Atonement,
909 (East) Main Street in Barrington.
Following the service Anne Basye will tell
about her recent visit to Israel/Palestine
as one of a group of leaders from the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Ms. Basye is Associate Director for
Global Resources for ELCA Global Mission.
Ms. Basye paid attention to language and
vocabulary because she's a writer.

She'll talk about what she heard
in Jerusalem and how people
are talking about the situation there.

Those of you who have never been in a Christian church might have some reluctance, but my parents church, my former church has always been one of acceptance and welcome.

Dress comfortably, do not be reluctant to wear robes if that is how you wish to present yourself in one of the Lord's houses.

Christians generally wear keep their shoes on. (Although, not always).

Men and women may sit together with one another in the same room, on the same pew, although if this would be discomforting, there is a room at the back from where your wives or daughters may view the service.

One of the sights that always brought joy to my heart when I attended this church was to see families together with their children, especially the young ones, who would turn their heads and engage my eyes with their smiles, just as so many of my beloved Muslim nieces and nephews at the Mosque do while in line for Qu'arnic recitation and Sunday school.

Perhaps because of my own failed marriage, I love to look at the families, and think of what might have been, and what might yet one day be. And because my own son is Roman Catholic while I was a Lutheran, we rarely went to church together. And this has caused created an emptiness in my heart, but an emptiness that is salved by the sight of families in church, sharing their love, engaging their community, and standing before their Creator, and pleasing Him greatly.

May Allah's Peace be upon us
May Allah's Grace shine down upon us
May Allah's Love fall like gentle rain upon us

Br. Mark

Victor Davis Hanson - Energy Conservationist

Sometimes I even agree with Charles Krauthammer. But, I never thought I'd see the day when I agreed with Victor Davis Hanson. While I would argue the route he takes to reach his conclusions, I must give the devil his due, and agree that there are compelling reasons for the United states to:

curb its voracious purchases of foreign oil by using conservation, additional petroleum production, nuclear power, alternate fuels, coal gasification and new technologies

Although, as the grand son of a life long rail road man who permitted me to ride in the engine where the engineers let me blow the whistle on the Rock Island Line, I suggest that a serious investment of national treasures into the rail roads might also help curb consumption of foreign oil.

a musical diversion:
The City of New Orleans

by Steve Goodman

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score.
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.


Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

©1970, 1971 EMI U Catalogue, Inc and Turnpike Tom Music (ASCAP)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Iran May Be the Greatest Crisis of Modern Times

John Pilger on the never ceasing Iranian Crisis

I've admired John Pilger's writing for almost five years since I first encountered him, back in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2002. HE has covered wars around the globe for 40 years. His assessment is glum. I can't think of anyone who has ever overstated how much carnage the imperialistic, triumphalist fantasies of war-mongering U.S. Presidents (Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Shrub I, Shrub II in my lifetime) produce upon the poor non-anglo citizens of the world.

His take on the chency sock-puppet administration and mine coincide. We both believe the neocons and theocons still ruling aspire to a state of perpetual war in order to advance the political fortunes of the republican party, the republican party's corporate sponsors (and benefactors) and the fundamentalist religious right.

Pilger and I both believe Shrub wants desparately to attack Iran in order to prevent the loss of control of the Office of the Dauphin over the mideastern iron grab. We the people of conscience, must resist being lulled into sleep, we must resist being frightened by monsters, living mostly in the heads of those who transmit hate and cruelty in the name of "bringing freedom and democracy to the free peoples of the world."

Below is Pilger's article in its entirety.

The Israeli journalist Amira Hass describes the moment her mother, Hannah, was marched from a cattle train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. “They were sick and some were dying,” she says. “Then my mother saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just looking. This image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable ‘looking from the side’.”

(MG) "looking from the side" sure sounds like much of the U.S. population

It is time we in Britain and other Western countries stopped looking from the side. We are being led towards perhaps the most serious crisis in modern history as the Bush-Cheney-Blair “long war” edges closer to Iran for no reason other than that nation's independence from rapacious America. The safe delivery of the 15 British sailors into the hands of Rupert Murdoch and his rivals (with tales of their “ordeal” almost certainly authored by the Ministry of Defence -- until it got the wind up) is both a farce and a distraction. The Bush administration, in secret connivance with Blair, has spent four years preparing for “Operation Iranian Freedom.” Forty-five cruise missiles are primed to strike. According to Russia's leading strategic thinker General Leonid Ivashov: “Nuclear facilities will be secondary targets . . . at least 20 such facilities need to be destroyed. Combat nuclear weapons may be used. This will result in the radioactive contamination of all the Iranian territory, and beyond.”

(MG) In Joe Conanson's recent book, It CAN Happen Here he lays out the rovian plan to keep the republican party in power ad infinitum ... maintain a state of perpetual war by keeping the GAP (great american public) in a state of constant fear

And yet there is a surreal silence, save for the noise of “news” in which our powerful broadcasters gesture cryptically at the obvious but dare not make sense of it, lest the one-way moral screen erected between us and the consequences of an imperial foreign policy collapse and the truth be revealed. John Bolton, formerly Bush's man at the United Nations, recently spelled out the truth: that the Bush-Cheney-Blair plan for the Middle East is "an agenda to maintain division and ethnic tension". In other words, bloodshed and chaos equals control. He was referring to Iraq, but he also meant Iran.

(MG) ... lest the one-way moral screen erected between us and the consequences of an imperial foreign policy collapse and the truth be revealed. We must never forget this ... U.S. foreign policy has consequences. If the U.S. were to withdraw its support of Israel (financial and military) the Arab world, and the Islamic communities of the world would change their attitudes. The first president to do this will be lauded around the world forever.

Sounds of Silence by Paul Simon

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains, within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone,
Narrow streets of cobblestone,

'neath the halo of a street lamp,
turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed
by the flash of a neon light

That split the night,
and touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw,
Ten thousand people, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,

People writing songs,
that voices never share.

And no one dared,
Disturb the sound of silence.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know,
Silence like a cancer grows.

Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you."

But my words
like silent raindrops fell,

And echoed,
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed,
To the neon god they made.

And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls."
and whisper'd in the sounds of silence.

One million Iraqis fill the streets of Najaf demanding that Bush and Blair get out of their homeland -- that is the real news: not our nabbed sailor-spies, nor the political dance macabre of the pretenders to Blair's Duce delusions. Whether it is treasurer Gordon Brown, the paymaster of the Iraq bloodbath, or John Reid, who sent British troops to pointless deaths in Afghanistan, or any of the others who sat through cabinet meetings knowing that Blair and his acolytes were lying through their teeth, only mutual distrust separates them now. They knew about Blair's plotting with Bush. They knew about the fake 45-minute “warning”. They knew about the fitting up of Iran as the next “enemy”.

Declared Brown to the Daily Mail: “The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over. We should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it.” In Late Victorian Holocausts, the historian Mike Davis documents that as many as 21 million Indians died unnecessarily in famines criminally imposed by British colonial policies. Moreover, since the formal demise of that glorious imperium, declassified files make it clear that British governments have borne “significant responsibility” for the direct or indirect deaths of between 8.6 million and 13.5 million people throughout the world from military interventions and at the hands of regimes strongly supported by Britain. The historian Mark Curtis calls these victims “unpeople”. Rejoice! said Margaret Thatcher. Celebrate! says Brown. Spot the difference.

(MG) this is Albion's stain - the mantle of Great Britian's murderous imperial ways has been taken up by the U.S. Well, after WWII, the Independence of India, etc, the British Empire became but a shell of its former self ... clearly, the dream of a glorious Victorian-like British Empire burns brightly in the minds of some highly placed British public officials

(MG) the brits called it "the white man's burden", the earlier Americans called it "manifest destinay" it's all the same baloney ... justification of imperialism based on the alleged "superiority" of the white race ... hell, if the white race were so superior, why would they have to say it all the time ... actions speak louder than words

(MG) what exactly is it about the white race that makes it so imperialistic? There's an obvious answer -- genetic mutations. The scientific community agrees that the first humans came from Africa. Have you ever looked at the pigmentation of the hands of a black person and compared to the pigmentation of the hands of a white person? Both races have hands which are "white". Leo Shlain, writing in The Goddess Versus the Alphabet hypothesizes there are evolutionary reasons for this .. that people needed hand signals at night to communicate quietly over distances. So, the whiteness of our hands results from a long process of genetic mutations.

(MG) but sometimes, the white pigmentation mutations affected more than just the hands, and a lighter race came into being, a race ill-suited for the heat and sun of Africa, and not well suited for the heat and sun of the deserts. A race that had to migrate ever northward, to the colder climes, where, in the winters, food was scarce. So, to survive, the lighter-skinned races needed to pillage and plunder. The white skin pigmentation mutation gene wold also seem to carry the seeds of a mentality that countenances pillaging and plundering for survival. Thus, the white race can be viewed (and I do view it this way) as an inferior race with war-like, imperialist tendencies towards pillaging and plundering, and an inferior intellect -- cognitive dissonance that prevents many from seeing the race for what it has been, and what it is.

(MG) But a race which at its core, understands the magnitude of it's own evil. But rather than confront that evil, it projects that inherent evil, that tendency towards pillage and plunder, rape and murder, chaotic destruction onto "the other", the darker-skinned other. Thus we have neocons, and the fundie theocons, genetic and mental defective descendants who self-justify their cruelty via a complicated belief system that revolves around the ideas of: the superiority of the white race; the choseness (by the white god) of the white people. And, when you have the guns and you have the god, who can defeat you?

(MG) when you have the guns, when you have the god, and you are defeated (as were the Germans in WWI, as were the Americans in their attempts to occupy and keep in power their client puppet in Viet Nam) how could this have happened? ENEMIES FROM WITHIN -- commies, pinkos, fags, niggers, spics, injuns, egg-heads, jews, catholics, a-rabs, bithces, and WORST OF ALL ... liberals.

(MG) To return to its god-mandated former glory, the country must be purged of these enemies of state. Adolf Hitler rose to power .. demonizing "the other", Joe McCarthy too, GWB too. And you don't need THAT many "true believers", somewhere I read what is needed is about one-third of a nations adult population of true believers in the Arryan Race, true believers in the Reich, or, more recently, true believers in GWB as god's own appointed ruler. KILL ALL THE LIBERALS ... and THEN go back and wage war on the yellow people, the brown people, the black people ... teach 'em a thing or two ... put 'em back in their place ... SHOW them the awesome power of white race ... er, ain't that America.

Brown is no different from Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the other warmongering Democrats he admires and who support an unprovoked attack on Iran and the subjugation of the Middle East to "our interests" -- and Israel's, of course. Nothing has changed since the US and Britain destroyed Iran's democratic government in 1953 and installed Reza Shah Pahlavi, whose regime had "the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture" that was "beyond belief" (Amnesty).

(MG) warmongering Democrats who support an unprovoked attack on Iran and the subjugation of the Middle East ... I've already posted about Obama. Hillary will be worse, Edwards too -- what is the matter with these people? I'd say it's political. AIPAC has LOTS of money to support candidates who will carry Israel's water ... but merely electing a president from the democratic party in 2008 will NOT be enough. Hillary, Barak, Edwards -- if elected will give us more of the same in the middle East -- the situation will exacerbate, middle eastern peoples WILL hate us more than ever, for our government's foreign policies, which have ALWAYS been the problem. "They" have NEVER hated "us" for "our freedoms." That's just a sound bite. They despise our government for its policies; it's the policies, stupid.

(MG) But unless the foreign policies change dramatically, and soon and very soon, they will hate "us" for our inertia, for our de facto countenance of illegal wars, for our rapes and murders, for our renditions, for our pillaging of their lands, for our pilfering of their natural assets, for our indifference to their suffering, for our wanton consumption of far more than a fair portion of the world's resources. Hell, I despise myself for not taking a stronger stand earlier. But I'll get over it. I'll try to make things better, in any small way, each and every day.

Look behind the one-way moral screen and you will distinguish the Blairite elite by its loathing of the humane principles that mark a real democracy. They used to be discreet about this, but no more. Two examples spring to mind. In 2004, Blair used the secretive "royal prerogative" to overturn a high court judgment that had restored the very principle of human rights set out in Magna Carta to the people of the Chagos Islands, a British colony in the Indian Ocean. There was no debate. As ruthless as any dictator, Blair dealt his coup de grâce with the lawless expulsion of the islanders from their homeland, now a US military base, from which Bush has bombed Iraq and Afghanistan and will bomb Iran.

In the second example, only the degree of suffering is different. Last October, the Lancet published research by Johns Hopkins University in the US and al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, which calculated that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the Anglo-American invasion. Downing Street officials derided the study as “flawed”. They were lying. They knew that the chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, Sir Roy Anderson, had backed the survey, describing its methods as “robust” and “close to best practice,” and other government officials had secretly approved the “tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones”. The figure for Iraqi deaths is now estimated at close to a million -- carnage equivalent to that caused by the Anglo-American economic siege of Iraq in the 1990s, which produced the deaths of half a million infants under the age of five, verified by UNICEF. That, too, was dismissed contemptuously by Blair.

(MG) I hadn't seen the "close to a million" estimate of the number of Iraqi deaths that have resulted as direct and indirect consequences of governor bush's decision to attack. But I had seen the 650,000 figure. But that was a while ago. Let's see, some rough calculations:

almost 1,000,000 dead
2,000,000 have left Iraq
1,900,000 have been forced to flee their homes (but can't get out)

Iraq's population at the start of the invasion was about 27,000,000
The U.S. population was about 10 times greater
Let's do another actuarial type study to put the Iraqi numbers into an American context
Easy calculation ... just inflate by a factor of ten

almost 10,000,000 dead
almost 20,000,000 emigrating from the country
19,000,000 forced to flee their homes

Until we here in America can understand consequences to our country of THAT magnitude, it's not too difficult

“This Labour government, which includes Gordon Brown as much as it does Tony Blair,” wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, “is party to a war crime of monstrous proportions. Yet our political consensus prevents any judicial or civil society response. Britain is paralysed by its own indifference.”

Such is the scale of the crime and of our “looking from the side.” According to the Observer of 8 April, the voters’ “damning verdict” on the Blair regime is expressed by a majority who have “lost faith” in their government. No surprise there. Polls have long shown a widespread revulsion to Blair, demonstrated at the last general election, which produced the second lowest turnout since the franchise. No mention was made of the Observer's own contribution to this national loss of faith. Once celebrated as a bastion of liberalism that stood against Anthony Eden's lawless attack on Egypt in 1956, the new right-wing, lifestyle Observer enthusiastically backed Blair's lawless attack on Iraq, having helped lay the ground with major articles falsely linking Iraq with the 9/11 attacks -- claims now regarded even by the Pentagon as fake.

(MG) the problem when "the people" lose faith in their elected leaders, in their government, becomes mistrust and apathy ... it is precisely at such moments that the cracks open up, "what me vote? they're all crooks anyway, what difference does it make?" and that virulent strain of white-supremacist war-mongering fascists can take over, literally coopt the governance of a county.

As hysteria is again fabricated, for Iraq, read Iran. According to the former US treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, the Bush cabal decided to attack Iraq on “day one” of Bush's administration, long before 11 September 2001. The main reason was oil. O'Neill was shown a Pentagon document entitled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,” which outlined the carve-up of Iraq's oil wealth among the major Anglo-American companies. Under a law written by US and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth to Anglo-American companies.

Nothing like this piracy has happened before in the modern Middle East, where Opec has ensured that oil business is conducted between states. Across the Shatt al-Arab waterway is another prize: Iran's vast oilfields. Just as non-existent weapons of mass destruction or facile concerns for democracy had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, so non-existent nuclear weapons have nothing to do with the coming American onslaught on Iran. Unlike Israel and the United States, Iran has abided by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it was an original signatory, and has allowed routine inspections under its legal obligations. The International Atomic Energy Agency has never cited Iran for diverting its civilian program to military use. For the past three years, IAEA inspectors have said they have been allowed to “go anywhere.” The recent UN Security Council sanctions against Iran are the result of Washington's bribery.

(MG) okay folks, HERE we have it. I've not seen such a bold statement anywhere else. Pilger's knife cuts to the heart of truth. You'll be seeing this statement atop my blogs for a long time to come.

Until recently, the British were unaware that their government was one of the world's most consistent abusers of human rights and backers of state terrorism. Few Britons knew that the Muslim Brotherhood, the forerunner of al-Qaeda, was sponsored by British intelligence as a means of systematically destroying secular Arab nationalism, or that MI6 recruited young British Muslims in the 1980s as part of a $4bn Anglo-American-backed jihad against the Soviet Union known as “Operation Cyclone.” In 2001, few Britons knew that 3,000 innocent Afghan civilians were bombed to death as revenge for the attacks of 11 September. No Afghans brought down the twin towers. Thanks to Bush and Blair, awareness in Britain and all over the world has risen as never before. When homegrown terrorists struck London in July 2005, few doubted that the attack on Iraq had provoked the atrocity and that the bombs that killed 52 Londoners were, in effect, Blair's bombs.

(MG) I have never seen this connection between the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and MI6 before. This is ALL news to me. Somehow or another, I am neither surprised, nor shocked.

In my experience, most people do not indulge the absurdity and cruelty of the “rules” of rampant power. They do not contort their morality and intellect to comply with double standards and the notion of approved evil, of worthy and unworthy victims. They would, if they knew, grieve for all the lives, families, careers, hopes and dreams destroyed by Blair and Bush. The sure evidence is the British public's wholehearted response to the 2004 tsunami, shaming that of the government.

Certainly, they would agree wholeheartedly with Robert H Jackson, chief of counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders at the end of the Second World War. “Crimes are crimes,” he said, "whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

As with Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld, who dare not travel to certain countries for fear of being prosecuted as war criminals, Blair as a private citizen may no longer be untouchable. On 20 March, Baltasar Garzón, the tenacious Spanish judge who pursued Augusto Pinochet, called for indictments against those responsible for “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history” -- Iraq. Five days later, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, said that Blair could one day face war-crimes charges.

These are critical changes in the way the sane world thinks -- again, thanks to the Reich of Blair and Bush. However, we live in the most dangerous of times. On 6 April, Blair accused “elements of the Iranian regime” of “backing, financing, arming and supporting terrorism in Iraq.” He offered no evidence, and the Ministry of Defence has none. This is the same Goebbels-like refrain with which he and his coterie, Gordon Brown included, brought an epic bloodletting to Iraq. How long will the rest of us continue looking from the side?

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His newest book is Freedom Next Time (Bantam Press, June 2006). Visit John Pilger's website:

A Rape in Iraq

I encountered Riverbend, a young Iraqi woman blogger after reading a post from Turning Tables, the blog of an American soldier serving in Iraq. During the "halcyon days" of the U.S. invasion and occupation, I used to read Turning Tables' blog aloud to my son and nephew on Saturday nights while they were playing video games. I wanted them to hear the words of an honest witness from the ground in Iraq, an American soldier who hoped our cause was just. Turning Tables admired and deeply respected Riverbend, as well as many of the Iraqi people with whom he came into contact.

I wanted my son Adam James especially and Scott David, my nephew, to admire the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers, and Turning Tables personified all those qualities that one prays that his nation's soldiers will have ... intelligence, compassion, professionalism, insightful, dedicated to the soldiers under his command, willing to ask most fundamental of the combat soldiers' questions: "Is this thing I am doing, is this the right thing?"

Prior to August, 2002, when my guts told me, when I knew, that the cheney sock-puppet would send the U.S. war machine to rain down the American people's wrath upon the poor peoples of Iraq, I had given thought to how my son might benefit from military service. He's a drummer, a very fine drummer. But school had been a curse upon him. Diagnosed with ADD, innaattentive subtype in sixth grade, he went to a nearby private school, and then enrolled at Elgin Academy, a college prep school near by. He lasted a month there, before he stopped going. I didn't learn of this until the day before his 15th birthday, which we celebrated here, at my parents' home.

On that day, his mom called and told me the news. She wanted me, with my health insurance background, to help him get into Alexian Brothers outpatient mental health facility. She swore me to secrecy, that I could not tell his maternal grand father, who was footing the bill for the private schooling.

Eventually, we all got over this, Adam went to a private school in town, with intensive one-on-one teaching, got his GED, and is presently, to the best of my knowledge, taking courses at the nearby Harper Junior College. I've seen him but on a handful of times since last August (2006), when I quit taking my meds, and he tried to emotionally black mail me into getting "professional help". I think we've gotten beyond that. After all, he's 22 now, drumming in a kick-*ss Indie Rock and Roll Band, The Alleyways, a paid drummer at Holy Family Catholic Church in nearby Inverness, a Tae Kwon Do black belt who teaches pee wees, and a church youth leader, who teaches catechism, and feels it would be hypocritical for him to practice other than what he teaches.

To say that Adam James is a good Roman Catholic young man really does justice to neither Adam James, nor good Roman Catholic young men. He has always been my light and inspiration. And the emotional blackmail, well, he did from of love. On his mother's side of the family, there is a long tradition of involuntarily committing "problem children" to mental hospitals. My ex-wife had me involuntarily committed twice during the first four months of our marriage. But, by the second commitment, I had already begun divorce proceedings. Adam's mother spent a lot of time in various hospitals when she was younger. Plus Adam's Uncle Grant, whom I greatly admired, was committed after breaking a kid's nose at school, and getting drunk. The kid called him a faggot. There were consequences. We are condemned either to both repeat and reject the patterns of our parents. Would that we repeat the best of those patterns, and reject the worst.

That family does these things out of love, although, as my dearest Natalie Jean once said: "Mark, committing someone to a mental hospital is not how I would show my love." My in laws also did such things out of frustration -- a sub contracting out of what some might consider parental responsibilities.

Adam is still taking classes at Harper. At the rate he's been going, he ought to get his associate's degree in, oh, about eight to twelve years, God willing. We've talked a couple of times since the emotional black mail days, and he sounds genuinely interested in listening to the tidbits of my life. I even invited him to accompany me to the mosque this Saturday for the Hadiya Ameen Ceremony to which my Muslim Brother so graciously invited me.

The only time I have ever feared for Adam was December, 2003, when he came over and informed me that he had dropped his classes at Harper, and was going to enlist in the army. He had seen a recruiter. His mom and grandfather were pleased. They thought it was a great opportunity for him. I was heart sick with despair. Not that I would entertain thoughts of him dying a soldier. The U.S. wages technological war, dropping bombs and ordnance, killing the innocents from long distance. Such strategy comes from a belief in the effectiveness of terror bombing, and of technological war -- we worship our technology. The science of killing more and ever more of "them" while minimizing our own casualties has produced things like cluster bombs, and bunker busters, and bombs that will kill people, but leave city infrastructures largely intact.

Besides, my actuarial training gives me the analytic tools. The numbers are like this:

four years of war
3,200 troop fatalities
800 mercenary fatalities (they are called "contractors" in the press)
160,000 troops on the ground, per year, more or less
40,000 merc's on the ground, per year, more or less.

Average annual exposure to combat fatality risk: 200,000 (including merc's)
Average annual combat fatalities: 1,000
Fatality rate: 1,000 / 200,000, one in 200, or 0.005 (half of one percent)

These are approximations, but they are close enough, even more than close enough for government work.

See how easy that was? Actuarial science in action. Take human beings, and dehumanize them -- turn them into numbers - the numbers numb one. Take the reality, the blood, the pain, the confusion, the agony, the hatred, the fear, and put it out of your mind. Turn it into an analytic exercise. Make sure to use the Balducci Hypothesis, so that each death is credited with one full year of exposure to the risk of fatality. Only under the Balducci Hypothesis does the mortality rate for an individual in the year of his death equal 100%.

So, the probability of Adam dying would be small. No, that was not my fear. I feared for his life. I feared he would kill another human being. And I knew then, as I know now, that he would be VERY good at killing. On my father's family side, our roots are all German. The Teutonic peoples produce outstanding musicians, scholars, philosophers, and Adolph Hitler, of whom Norman Mailer said, "If you will accept that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, then I will say, that Adolph Hitler was the son of Satan."

The Teutonic peoples followed Hitler, blindly. So few resisted. "I was only doing my duty", the Eichmann defense, although one man, Albert Speer, confessed to his war crimes, and served 23 years in prison. He also wrote a book, Inside the Third Reich, from which Daniel Ellsburg quoted extensively in an essay about American war crimes.

So, who was the most monstrous? Hitler, for giving the orders? Or the German generals for having obeyed? And were not, in fact, the German peoples who chose oblivion the ones who enabled the Halocaust.

And thus, today, if one looks a tad too closely in the mirror, one risks asking the question: Who is the most monstrous? george bush in giving the orders? Or the American people, for re-electing him?

Some things you don't forget. They become part and parcel of who you are, of what you do. When my humanity is threatened, I can retreat into my numbers, and forget my humanity. No, that's a lie. I retreated into numbers and lost a good deal of my humanity.

My humanity is most at risk when I retreat from it. So, to recover my humanity, I read Riverbend. I hope she can forgive me for repeating her blog in full, but even if there is but one of you reading this, out there in cyberspace, this message will make you feel, even if not make you think.

It takes a lot to get the energy and resolution to blog lately. I guess it’s mainly because just thinking about the state of Iraq leaves me drained and depressed. But I had to write tonight.

As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can’t talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

She might just be the bravest Iraqi woman ever. Everyone knows American forces and Iraqi security forces are raping women (and men), but this is possibly the first woman who publicly comes out and tells about it using her actual name. Hearing her tell her story physically makes my heart ache. Some people will call her a liar. Others (including pro-war Iraqis) will call her a prostitute- shame on you in advance.

I wonder what excuse they used when they took her. It’s most likely she’s one of the thousands of people they round up under the general headline of ‘terrorist suspect’. She might have been one of those subtitles you read on CNN or BBC or Arabiya, “13 insurgents captured by Iraqi security forces.” The men who raped her are those same security forces Bush and Condi are so proud of- you know- the ones the Americans trained. It’s a chapter right out of the book that documents American occupation in Iraq: the chapter that will tell the story of 14-year-old Abeer who was raped, killed and burned with her little sister and parents.

They abducted her from her house in an area in southern Baghdad called Hai Al Amil. No- it wasn’t a gang. It was Iraqi peace keeping or security forces- the ones trained by Americans? You know them. She was brutally gang-raped and is now telling the story. Half her face is covered for security reasons or reasons of privacy. I translated what she said below.

“I told him, ‘I don’t have anything [I did not do anything].’ He said, 'You don’t have anything?’ One of them threw me on the ground and my head hit the tiles. He did what he did- I mean he raped me. The second one came and raped me. The third one also raped me. [Pause- sobbing] I begged them and cried, and one of them covered my mouth. [Unclear, crying] Another one of them came and said, 'Are you finished? We also want our turn.' So they answered, ‘No, an American committee came.’ They took me to the judge.

Anchorwoman: Sabrine Al Janabi said that one of the security forces videotaped/photographed her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the rape. Another officer raped her after she saw the investigative judge.

Sabrine continuing:
“One of them, he said… I told him, ‘Please- by your father and mother- let me go.’ He said, ‘No, no- by my mother’s soul I’ll let you go- but on one condition, you give me one single thing.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘[I want] to rape you.’ I told him, ‘No- I can’t.’ So he took me to a room with a weapon… It had a weapon, a Klashnikov, a small bed [Unclear], he sat me on it. So [the officer came] and told him, ‘Leave her to me.’ I swore to him on the Quran, I told him, ‘By the light of the Prophet I don’t do such things…’ He said, ‘You don’t do such things?’ I said, ‘Yes’.

[Crying] He picked up a black hose, like a pipe. He hit me on the thigh. [Crying] I told him, ‘What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you rape me? But I can’t… I’m not one of those ***** [Prostitutes] I don’t do such things.’ So he said to me, ‘We take what we want and what we don’t want we kill. That’s that.’ [Sobbing] I can’t anymore… please, I can’t finish.”

I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.

She’s just one of tens, possibly hundreds, of Iraqi women who are violated in their own homes and in Iraqi prisons. She looks like cousins I have. She looks like friends. She looks like a neighbor I sometimes used to pause to gossip with in the street. Every Iraqi who looks at her will see a cousin, a friend, a sister, a mother, an aunt
Humanitarian organizations are warning that three Iraqi women are to be executed next month. The women are Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad. They are being accused of 'terrorism', i.e. having ties to the Iraqi resistance. It could mean they are relatives of people suspected of being in the resistance. Or it could mean they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of them gave birth in the prison. I wonder what kind of torture they've endured. Let no one say Iraqi women didn't get at least SOME equality under the American occupation- we are now equally as likely to get executed.
And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.
Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

Tears are running from my eyes,
Down my face,
I can barely breath,
My heart is sick
Forgive me Riverbend
Forgive me Allah
I have not done my all to end this
I have not done enough for my ummah
For my brothers and sisters in Iraq
That changes, going forth, from this moment on.

Lieberman speaks with forked tongue

Robert Scheer, fired from the Los Angeles Times by its Chicago Tribune owners for his consistent denunciation of the cheney administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq, has an excellent post up.

Scheer calls the liars liars. We have come to expect politicians to dissemble and distort. I hold Lieberman with a special degree of contempt, and his protege Barak Obama also. Obama is sufficiently tainted by his closeness to Lieberman, but even absent that baggage, has shown his lack of character and convictions. Two examples:

Obama recanted on his statement that U.S. troops had died in vain in Iraq. Until or unless this nation's Presidents STOP waging war, every U.S. troop death has been in vain. The U.S. army and marine troops who died fighting in Korea died in vain. Each and every soldier's death in Viet Nam was in vain. This includes my Uncle Jim:

James Raymond Hockett
First Lieutenant
Army Of The United States

Home: Blue Island, Illinois

DOB: Saturday, 10/27/1945

Sex: Male

Race: Caucasian

Married? Yes

Religion: Methodist


Service: Army Of The United States

Comp: Reserve

Grade: O2

Rank: First Lieutenant

ID No: O5337539

MOS: 1542 - Infantry Unit Commander

LenSvc: Between 3 and 4 years

Unit: 25 INF DIV


Start Tour: Tuesday, 08/13/1968

Cas Date: Sunday, 09/22/1968

Age at Loss: 22

Remains: Body Recovered

Location: Tay Ninh, South Vietnam

Type: Hostile, Died Of Wounds

Reason: Artillery, Rocket, Mortar - Ground Casualty

Last Update: September 1969


Panel 43W Line 063

The above tribute, some family photos, our memories of him, and the stories told by his widow to the grade school children she taught for 20+ years are his legacy. He could have accomplished quite a bit more. His death was in vain. In vain.

Strike two on Barak. At a fund raising dinner in New York City, Obama could not even say that SOMETIMES police use excessive force. Such a statement would not be a denunciation or indictment of every police officer in America. It would be a simple fact. A reality that can be changed, or at least lessened. But if one won't talk about injustice, one cannot expect for the injustice to go away. Only by speaking out, by taking action, have changes been made to curb the abuses of the powerful upon the less powerful, upon the most powerless.

Here are some excerpts from Scheer's commentary.

You have to hand it to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., for having the chutzpah to cite the fiercely anti-American rally that dominated the anniversary of Iraq’s fourth year of U.S. occupation as evidence that the troop “surge” is working. ...

After a weekend in which 10 U.S. soldiers were killed—four more were killed on Monday, bringing the total to 45 already in April—and the citizens of once bustling Baghdad cowered in their homes under a U.S.-imposed round-the-clock curfew, President Bush had the good sense for once to say not a word about the glorious “liberation” of Iraq. ...

Meanwhile, back in liberated Iraq, the anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow was marked by only one sign of public response: In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, hundreds of thousands gathered to burn American flags and otherwise denounce the United States. “Yes! Yes! Iraq. No! No! America,” chanted demonstrators organized by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, reported the BBC. “We were liberated from Saddam. Now we need to be liberated again. Stop the suffering. Americans leave now.”

What part of “leave now” doesn’t Lieberman get? Speaking of the rally called by Sadr to blast the Americans as Iraq’s “archenemy” and to demand “that the occupiers withdraw from our land,” Lieberman surreally sought to find a silver lining of support for U.S. policy: “[Sadr] is not calling for a resurgence of sectarian conflict. He’s striking a nationalist chord. He’s acknowledging that the surge is working,” he said.
(MG) Those who consistently obfuscate to lie have no reasons to believe the straight talk of what others say. An expensive price to pay for lying is that you have no means to recognize a truth teller, nor any reason to believe such critters even exist.

Ugh. What tortured logic. Ponder that sentence for the sheer mendacity of its optimism, which conveniently ignores the fact that the nationalist chord is a stridently anti-American one. Yes, there were Sunni clerics in the Najaf march and Sadr’s followers heeded his call to wrap themselves, literally, in the Iraqi flag while shunning sectarian slogans—but what united them was the demand to end the U.S. occupation, which Lieberman so fervently supports.
So apparently the surge is working … to unite all Iraqis against us.

(MG) The emperor has no clothes. NO WONDER the MSM hates blogs so much. The writing style, conclusions formed on the basis of verifiable facts is anathema to the punditocracy, our press corpse, whores of the pen, and their corporate sponsors.

What irony: The final refuge of the scoundrels who sold us on this war, Lieberman included, was that although it could not be justified by claims that Saddam had WMD or an alliance with al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, the invasion would implant American ideals of democracy on Iraqi soil. What is being implanted instead is a virulent anti-American and anti-Israeli nationalism, Sadr’s current cause, competing with a smoldering sectarian civil war, which this multitasking demagogue has also fueled. Yet, spinning like a top, Sen. Lieberman desperately finds solace in a resurgent Iraqi nationalism based on hatred of the United States.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Christians visit Iran 25 Feb, 2007

U.S. Religious Delegation Finds Hope in Iran
February 25, 2007

As Christian leaders from the United States, we traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time of increased tension believing that it is possible to build bridges of understanding between our two countries. We believe military action is not the answer, and that God calls us to just and peaceful relationships within the global community.

We are a diverse group of Christian leaders from United Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker, and Mennonite traditions. The Mennonites have 17 years of on the ground experience in Iran. We were warmly welcomed by the Iranian people, and our time in Iran convinced us that religious leaders from both countries can help pave the way for mutual respect and peaceful relations between our nations.

During our visit we met with Muslim and Christian leaders, government officials, and other Iranian people.

Our final day included a meeting with former President Khatami and current President Ahmadinejad. The meeting with President Ahmadinejad was the first time an American delegation had met in Iran with an Iranian president since the Islamic revolution in 1979. The meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours and covered a range of topics, including the role of religion in transforming conflict, Iraq, nuclear proliferation, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What the delegation found most encouraging from the meeting with President Ahmadinejad was a clear declaration from him that Iran has no intention to acquire or use nuclear weapons, as well as a statement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be solved through political, not military means. He said, “I have no reservation about conducting talks with American officials if we see some goodwill.”

(MG) Assume for a moment that Ahmadinejad speaks truthfully, that his words mean what they say. After all, Iran RELEASED the British sailors and marines and nobody died; no bombs were dropped; it was peaceful. Contrast with how what the cheney administration says conflicts with their actions. The present White House administration LIES with the same ease and as reflexively as we, the people, breath air. Of course, the administration projects its own duplicity and double-speak onto their chosen "enemy."

(MG) Those who routinely say what the do not mean, will never trust the words of another, even if those words mean exactly what they say.

We believe it is possible for further dialogue and that there can be a new day in U.S. – Iranian relations. The Iranian government has already built a bridge toward the American people by inviting our delegation to come to Iran. We ask the U.S. government to welcome a similar delegation of Iranian religious leaders to the United States.

As additional steps in building bridges between our nations, we call upon both the U.S. and Iranian governments to:

* immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks;
* cease using language that defines the other using “enemy” images; and
* promote more people-to-people exchanges including religious leaders, members of Parliament/Congress, and civil society.

As people of faith, we are committed to working toward these and other confidence building measures, which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of war to a more just and peaceful relationship.

On Monday, the National Council of Churches issued the following press release:

[NCC News] Iran president open to talks with U.S., religious leaders told

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2007--The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a delegation of American religious leaders visiting Tehran last Saturday that he is willing to engage in talks with the United States government.

"I have no reservation about conducting talks with American officials if we see some good will," President Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a statement by a religious delegation just back from Iran. It was issued today at a news conference at the National Press Club here.

The delegation's statement (complete text below) called for immediate direct talks between the U.S. and Iran, an immediate halt to the use of enemy images in each other's rhetoric, and increasing the number of people-to-people delegations between the two countries at several levels.

"What the delegation found most encouraging from the meeting with President Ahmadinejad," said the statement, "was a clear declaration from him of no intention to acquire or use nuclear weapons, as well as a statement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be solved through political not military means."

"President Ahmadinejad used the same train analogy quoted in the media about not stopping Iran's nuclear program," said the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), an analogy that brought him a storm of criticism from within Iran, including from his conservative base and senior religious leaders. “Yet, Ahmadinejad insists that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. Indeed, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei under whose authority the nuclear program rests has issued a fatwa (edict) that making or using nuclear weapons goes against Islamic teaching.” “Ahmadinejad comes across as a very religious man,” said Premawardhana, “He is very unlikely to go against a religious edict.”

The NCC's Premawardhana was among the 13-member delegation representing the Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Baptist and United Methodist churches. They spent six days in Iran talking with religious leaders, government officials and general citizens.

"We believe it is possible for further dialogue and that there can be a new day in U.S.-Iranian relations," said their statement. But at a meeting last Tuesday there was at least one Iranian religious leader who desired to move further.

"We need to go beyond dialogue and establish tangible results," said Iranian Ayatollah Dr. Monhaghegh Damad of Shahid Behesti University in Tehran. "We need to hold dialogue to eliminate ambiguities and misunderstandings between religions that emerge once in a while and work through them to establish peace."

"Peace is the key teaching of Christianity and Islam and this will be realized in our lives," said Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian of the Armenian Orthodox church in Iran at the Tuesday meeting. "This is the product of dialogue."

"As people of faith, we are committed to working towards these and other confidence building measures, which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of war to a more just and peaceful relationship," concluded the statement.

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, .
Latest NCC News at

Impeachment: All Down the Line

Robert Jensen, in a piece published today by Common Dreams, documents some chilling stuff. Our press corpse ... admits they are shills for war ... whores for war, doing their part to excite the Greater American Public to wargasms. Jensen suggests that quite a few more folks than the obvious ones have culpability for our invasion and occupation of Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Key grafs:

I’m a former journalist and a journalism professor, and it seems to me that maybe it’s time that we started impeachment proceedings against the corporate commercial news media. We may recall that journalists were an integral part of the creation of public support for the unlawful invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These weren’t idiosyncratic failures of a few rogue journalists, but rather reflections of a systemic subordination to power.

Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who served as a willing conduit for some of the most fraudulent claims the Bush administration used to build support for the Iraq war, offered this pathetic defense of her failures: “My job was not to collect information and analyze it independently as an intelligence agency. My job was to tell readers of the New York Times as best as I could figure out, what people inside the governments who had very high security clearances, who were not supposed to talk to me, were saying to one another about what they thought Iraq had and did not have in the area of weapons of mass destruction.”

(MG) and as long as people inside the governments with very high security clearances who were not supposed to talk to her KNEW that this was her job, the could in fact talk to her, and manipulate her, and ... oh my, poor poor poor poor Judy. She was only doing her job ... hmmm .. that sounds like a familiar defense.

(MG) and based on the salary she was commanding, and the amount of money the NYT spent in her defense, I'd have to say her employers were well pleased with how she performed her job.

Karen DeYoung, senior diplomatic correspondent and associate editor of the Washington Post, and also author of Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell, was unusually honest in describing this process: “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power. If the president stands up and says something, we report what the president said.” She explained that if contrary arguments are put “in the eighth paragraph, where they’re not on the front page, a lot of people don’t read that far.”

(MG) is this what is being taught in journalism school today? The Inevitability of Stenography? Or are things like they were for actuarial students, where, you study from a lot of books and hand outs stuff that you get tested on, tests you must pass (although 50% scores and lower had been known to pass) and then when you get into the "real world", threw most of the text book stuff out the window, and adhered to contemporary standards and practices.

(MG) I'll have to start reading at least as far as the eight paragraph.

When reporters from two of the most authoritative newspapers in the United States concede that in the course of doing their jobs — playing by the commonly understood rules of the game — they will be little more than delivery systems for the propaganda of the powerful, it seems that contemporary corporate commercial journalism should be impeached for its failure to fulfill its role as a check on concentrated power.

(MG) "playing by the commonly understood rules of the game" this game we're discussing here ... uh, what is its name? ... oh, wait, I've got it ... THE COURSE OF DOING THEIR JOBS is the name of the game. Their jobs are a GAME. Fun times. For everybody. Well, maybe not so fun for the up to 500,000 dead Iraqis, or 2,000,000 displaced Iraqis ... maybe not so much fun for dead American troops, wounded American troops, the families of the dead and wounded, the children of serving soldiers

(MG) "little more than delivery systems for the propaganda of the powerful" but, let us hasten to add, WELL PAID delivery systems for the propaganda of the powerful.

When one worships the all mighty dollar (pay attention to how much coverage was given the fund-raising efforts of the Democratic front runners -- search high and low to find what platforms these candidates are standing for, or on), it becomes a god before all others. Part and parcel of what one is about. Begotten, not made. One of the Hunt Brothers contended that the problem with the U.S. elections was that it should have been not "one man, one vote" but "one vote for each dollar".

When Nikita Krushchev said "We will be there at your funeral" (far more often wrongly translated as "We will bury you") he was serious.

A diversion: Russians - Sting

In Europe and America,
there's a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too

How can I save my little boy
from Oppenheimer's deadly toy
There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

There is no historical precedent
To put words in the mouth of the president
There's no such thing as a winnable war
It's a lie we don't believe anymore
Mr. Reagan says we will protect you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us me and you
Is that the Russians love their children too

Sean Gonsalves on Propoganda

Sean Gonsalves is a treasure, one of those op-ed writers one discovers reading things like the Common Dreams web site. The link to his April 10, 2007 column The Hand That Rocks The Cradle can be found here. Gonsalves echoes a number of ideas raised by Stuart Chase in The Tyranny of Words.

In this “Information Age” you can have your adult mind rocked to sleep with propaganda – the conscious manipulation of information, by word or deed, designed to direct popular support for, or against, various forms of power and privilege. It’s the hand that rocks the cradle of mass society.
(MG) My quibble here is that propaganda is NOT new to the "information age".

Here are the relevant Miriam Webster Online Dictionary Definitions

Function: noun

: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person

: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect
The debate over the precise nature of propaganda is a long and unresolved one. But right away we can dispense with the common misunderstanding that propaganda is the same thing as making a blatant argument through, say, an opinion column, or that propaganda is used only by tyrannical dictatorships to manipulate public opinion.
Three things are not in dispute: 1.) Propaganda must be based on facts for it to be effective; 2.) It’s not about changing individual opinions but awakening already-existing emotions that incite, or in some cases prevent, mass action; and 3.), all modern societies, especially democracies, use propaganda.
Unfortunately, “education,” as presently designed, is what lays the foundation for people to be propagandized. In fact, the more “education” someone has, the more susceptible they are to propaganda because most schooling is geared toward teaching what to think; not how to think.
That’s why you have to use your critical thinking skills with even the best news sources, ... It’s not that news organizations are filled with dishonest dissemblers. Most reporters and editors, like most cops and soldiers, are decent, honest folk just like you.
The problem isn’t on the individual level. It’s on the institutional level where the parameters of public thought are drawn. The space and time constraints that major news organizations are forced to work under means the value you get from “the news” is in direct proportion to the depth and breadth of historical understanding you bring to it.
So if you’ve led a sheltered life and all you’ve been fed is school-book tales about U.S. policymakers going to war only as a “last resort” and for the noblest of reasons, then you’ll eat up that story about Sen. John McCain’s visit to Iraq and consider it evidence that the “liberal” media just refuses to report the “good news” and “progress” in Iraq.
But, if you have even a rudimentary understanding of the history of guerrilla war – a.) short of genocide, there is no military answer to guerrilla insurgencies, and b.) guerrillas fade into their civilian support network when the enemy surges – you’ll see right through the staged nonsense.

On the flip side, there was the news about Iran capturing British soldiers. The Iranian propaganda machine kicked in: they aired video of the soldiers reading obviously forced apologies.
But the real propaganda value was in showing the world the contrast in the way Iran treats its enemies and the “take-the-gloves-off” Guantanamo way, vociferously defended by “the leaders of the free world.” Iran released the British soldiers just in time for Easter, as if to say: See, we don’t keep our enemies locked up in cages for the indefinite future and we respect their religion unlike some nations we know.
(MG) I made the point in an earlier post that Iran's return of the sailors/marines has given them an important advantage, they COMMAND the higher moral ground. World opinion will be on their side. At least SOME American opinion too.

Behind the propaganda, it’s Iran’s way of sending U.S. and Israeli hawks a don’t-get-it-twisted message: Iran is willing and able to project its power in their own backyard and won’t roll over just because Bush and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee says so.
(MG) I still contend that Iran is fully prepared to be attacked by either the U.S. or some proxy. This is wisdom. And, yes, they are stirring up the cauldron, on their terms. Nevere forget this: ours is a nation that countenances torture, rape, breaking into houses into the middle of the night, holding captive innocents, holding American citizens without the benefit of hearings. This is who we are. This is what we do. We, the people, have expressed little outrage.

The Global War on Terror changed everything. Right. Just who in the world are we fighting? The main propoganda target of the US GWOT is the Greater American Public. This can be seen day after day after day.

But, how much of the GAP is willing to fight this war? I suggest that everyone who is not actively criticizing it, writing letters to editors, congress-critters, or marching in visible opposition is de facto supporting the "war."

We get the leaders we deserve. GWB won the 2004 elections. GOPpers controlled the House and Senate. WE THE PEOPLE have supported the perpetual war machine being sold to us by the cheney administration.

This only scratches the propaganda surface. In my next letter I’d like to discuss with you one particular piece of propaganda – the essentially unchallenged idea that expert opinion should be followed and public opinion shouldn’t be taken too seriously because it’s allegedly inconsistent, incoherent, and ignorant. ...

(MG) I can hardly wait.

A lyrical diversion: Wind Up by Jethro Tull

When I was young and they packed me off to school
and taught me how not to play the game,
I didn't mind if they groomed me for success,
or if they said that I was a fool.
So I left there in the morning
with their God tucked underneath my arm --
their half-assed smiles and the book of rules.
So I asked this God a question
and by way of firm reply,
He said -- I'm not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.
So to my old headmaster (and to anyone who cares):
before I'm through I'd like to say my prayers --
I don't believe you:
you had the whole damn thing all wrong --
He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.
Well you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school
and have all the bishops harmonize these lines --
how do you dare tell me that I'm my Father's son
when that was just an accident of Birth.
I'd rather look around me -- compose a better song
`cos that's the honest measure of my worth.
In your pomp and all your glory you're a poorer man than me,
as you lick the boots of death born out of fear.
I don't believe you:
you had the whole damn thing all wrong --
He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.