Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tools of disinformation and control

(MG) Writing in the June 14, 2007 edition of The Black Commentator, Larry Pinkney takes a critical look at "the US mass media." President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the "military-industrial" complex. This complex has become more encompassing (and more dangerous) today than ever, and should more properly be called the "military - industrial - politico - educational - media / infotainment - financial services - health care" complex. Knowledgeable readers, please feel free to advise me of other sectors that should rightfully be included.

By definition, the word "media" is the plural of the word medium which is, in relevant part, defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as, "An agency by which something is accomplished, conveyed, or transferred."

For purposes of clarification, in this instance, reference to "the US mass media" is including not only corporately controlled newspaper, radio, and television so-called "news" outlets, wire services, and information sources, but also most of the schools, colleges, and universities throughout America, where those of our Black youth who are not dead or in penitentiaries are calculatedly and callously miseducated.

(MG) the callous miseducation applies to and infects red youth, brown youth, yellow youth and white youth also as well as the poor, it also applies to and infects women - much of the American system of education is about indoctrinating and inculcating students to "buy into" certain myths - the myth of American exceptionalism being at the forefront. Way too many primary and secondary school resources have been diverted to "teaching" students to pass multiple choice tests mandated by No Child Left Behind (No Child Gets Ahead) laws.

When closely considering the above definition of the word "medium," we must ponder precisely what it is that the mass media of white America exists to "accomplish," and how - what is to be accomplished- is actually "conveyed or transferred," as it pertains specifically to the economic, political, and cultural disposition of Black Americans past, present, and future. From its very inception, the institutions of that entity which became known as the United States of America, made it crystal clear that the lot of Black people on this continent was to be one of collective inferiority, destitution, and subservience. However, what is often missed is that this position of collective inferiority, destitution, and subservience of Black people was and continues to be rationalized, maintained, and perpetuated by a US mass media whose objective is to misinform, disinform, and miseducate Black people and other people of color. A people who do not know, collectively, who they are, their enormous past achievements, or their incalculable contributions to humanity as a whole are incapable of attaining or even aspiring to attain the heights of greatness reserved for all human beings and their rightful and equal place in the human family. Thus, the ongoing and despicable role of the US mass media, be it in the form of so-called "news" and information or the miseducation of Black and other people of color in schools, colleges, and universities in the 21st Century, throughout America.

Contrary to alleged conventional wisdom, it is not "the medium that is the message" or vice versa; it is the debilitating and vile intent of the medium that is the actual ongoing powerful and crippling message to Black people, sometimes in overt form and at other times, insidiously subtle. The US mass media of white America and its surrogates is to Black and other people of color, akin to a virus that horribly weakens and debilitates the body. It is reminiscent of how true history reminds us that deadly disease-infested blankets were distributed by certain whites on this continent to Indigenous so-called "Indian" people in the name of honor and helping them. Such is the reality of the US mass media, both past and present.

Black America knows, from continuous and deeply painful first-hand experience, that those politicians and "journalists" who, for example, feign surprise and ignorance at there having been no so-called "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq are, in fact, part and parcel of what the US mass media and "educational" system have always been about: deceit and disinformation [see Black Commentator-American Democracy: Legacy of Hypocrisy & Deceit]. In this vein, it is stunning to the point of being absurd that the US "news" media, which represents the only nation in the world to have actually used nuclear weapons - having dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities - dares to schizophrenically portray America as if it has never used weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations, and as if other nations (particularly of color) throughout the world are not keenly aware of this fact.

We must steadfastly refuse to succumb to the deliberate disempowering, inaccurate, and wholly misleading terms and expressions used by the US mass media, including "educational" institutions and so-called "news" and information outlets. An example of this is the misleading and inaccurate term "third world debt." There is absolutely no such thing as so-called third world debt. Rather, the accurate definition and description is actually "first world" (i.e. European and US) extortion. Yes, it is extortion by European nations and the US (through thievery of natural resources, amoral subjugation, colonization and neocolonization) of the peoples of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Central & South America. To reiterate: There is no such thing as "third world debt;" there is, quite bluntly, US and European extortion of these nations.

(MG) Oh what a difference the words make. Mr. Pinkney's example here is a shocking eye-opener. To reiterate: There is no such thing as "third world debt;" there is, quite bluntly, US and European extortion of these nations.

We must endeavor to be discerning. The US mass media is not, nor has it ever been, the friend of Black America. We must constantly educate ourselves and our youth to this reality, realizing the folly of allowing the US mass media to miseducate us. We must support and create those sources which serve our political, social, and economic interests. Nothing less will do as we remain determined to persevere and keep it real in our struggle alongside the rest of humanity.

(MG) Nor is the U.S. mass media the friend of working America, nor is the U.S. mass media the friend of poor America. The U.S. mass media exists to serve a very small and VERY privileged class of wealthy, powerful people -- this class has become ever more wealthy and ever more powerful, especially since the Reagan years -- and for the most part, seeks to become even wealthier and more powerful. There is NOTHING democratic and nothing egalitarian about this.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

War is a drug

(MG) Chris Hedges' War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning addresses truths of war that typically do not make it into movies, histories, novels, media reports.

I learned early on that war forms its own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by mythmakers - historians, war corespondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state - all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty. It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it, even humor, which becomes preoccupied with the grim perversities of smut and death. Fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many war is so hard to discuss once it is over.

The enduring attraction of war is this
: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. And those who have the least meaning in their lives, the impoverished refugees in Gaza, the disenfranchised North African immigrants in France, even the legions of young who live in the splendid indolence and safety of the industrialized world, are all susceptible to war's appeal.
(MG) These words reveal much about their author. Opportunities to "rise above OUR small station in life" are selling points used by the "mythmakers." People who view their station in life as small, then, would be easy targets for the sellers of war. This points to a lack of purpose and meaning in one's daily life - a spiritual void - a problem that seems to have accompanied "modernization," "the industrial revolution," and "western civilization."

(MG) We need to examine our lives, to carefully consider just what it is that makes them worth living. Because WHEN (or if) the answer comes back, "not much," we are vulnerable to buying into wars.

... When we ingest the anodyne of war we feel what those we strive to destroy feel, including the Islamic fundamentalists who are painted as alien, barbaric, and uncivilized. It is the same narcotic. I partook of it for many years. And like every recovering addict there is a part of me that remains nostalgic for war's simplicity and high, even as I cope with the scars it has left behind, mourn the deaths of those I worked with, and struggle with the bestiality I would have been better off not witnessing. There is a part of me - maybe it is a part of many of us - that decided at certain moments that I would rather die like this than go back to the routine of life. The chance to exist for an intense and overpowering moment, even if it meant certain oblivion, seemed worth it in the midst of war - and very stupid once the war ended.

(MG) There is a clear death wish expressed here, one that Karen Armstrong discusses in "The Battle for God".

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Propaganda about Iraq

(MG) A recent piece by John Pilger reveals interesting information about the occupation of Iraq (which as we all know is going badly by any definition, from any perspective, except al-Qaeda's).


More often than not, [media] censorship by omission is employed: for example, by omitting the fact that almost 80 per cent of attacks are directed against the occupation forces (source: the Pentagon) so as to give the impression that the occupiers are doing their best to separate “warring tribes” and are crisis managers rather than the cause of the crisis.

There is a last-ditch sense about this kind of propaganda. Seymour Hersh said recently, “[In April, the Bush administration] made a decision that because of the totally dwindling support for the war in Iraq, they would go back to the al-Qaeda card, although there’s no empirical basis. Most of the pros will tell you the foreign fighters are a couple of per cent and they’re sort of leaderless... there’s no attempt to suggest there’s any significant co-ordination of these groups, but the press keeps going ga-ga about al-Qaeda... it’s just amazing to me.

Corporate Crime in America

(MG) The following information about corporate crime comes from Russell Mokhiber's Corporate Crime Reporter web site. It is almost enough to give one pause, especially when thinking about what entities really decide which candidates the parties will run for the office of POTUS.

Number 20

Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Whether in bodies or injuries or dollars lost, corporate crime and violence wins by a landslide.

The FBI estimates, for example, that burglary and robbery – street crimes – costs the nation $3.8 billion a year.

The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds – Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron – swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.

Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.

The savings and loan fraud – which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called "the biggest white collar swindle in history" – cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion.

And then you have your lesser frauds: auto repair fraud, $40 billion a year, securities fraud, $15 billion a year – and on down the list.

Number 19

Corporate crime is often violent crime.

Recite this list of corporate frauds and people will immediately say to you: but you can't compare street crime and corporate crime – corporate crime is not violent crime.

Not true.

Corporate crime is often violent crime.

The FBI estimates that, 16,000 Americans are murdered every year.

Compare this to the 56,000 Americans who die every year on the job or from occupational diseases such as black lung and asbestosis and the tens of thousands of other Americans who fall victim to the silent violence of pollution, contaminated foods, hazardous consumer products, and hospital malpractice.

These deaths are often the result of criminal recklessness. Yet, they are rarely prosecuted as homicides or as criminal violations of federal laws.

Number 18

Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live.

The mafia, no.

The gangstas, no.

The street thugs, no.

But the corporate criminal lobby, yes. They have marinated Washington – from the White House to the Congress to K Street – with their largesse. And out the other end come the laws they can live with. They still violate their own rules with impunity. But they make sure the laws are kept within reasonable bounds.

Exhibit A – the automobile industry.

Over the past 30 years, the industry has worked its will on Congress to block legislation that would impose criminal sanctions on knowing and willful violations of the federal auto safety laws. Today, with very narrow exceptions, if an auto company is caught violating the law, only a civil fine is imposed.

War Gives Us Meaning

(MG) I'm currently rereading Chris Hedges War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Hedges relentlessly hammers his sobering message home, page after page. His direct, no-nonsense prose resonates with me, and all he has to say about war are things that on a gut level, I already know.
I pray that I might always have the strength to resist the mongers of war, the courage to speak to their lies, and the compassion to see "the other" as human beings, created by a Loving God.

The ethnic conflicts and insurgencies of our time ... are not religious wars. They are not clashes between cultures or civilizations, nor are they the result of ancient ethnic hatreds. They are manufactured wars, born out of the collapse of civil societies, perpetuated by fear, greed, and paranoia, and they are run by gangsters, who rise up from the bottom of their own societies and terrorize all, including those they purport to protect.

Often none of this is apparent from the outside. We are quick to accept the facile and mendacious ideological veneer that is wrapped like a mantle around the shoulders of those who prosecute the war. In part we do this to avoid intervention, to give this kind of slaughter an historical inevitability it does not have, but also because the media and most of the politicians often lack the perspective and analysis to debunk the myths serve up by the opposing sides.
Look not to religion and mythology and warped versions of history to find the roots of these conflicts, but to the warlords who dominated the Balkans. It took Milosevic four years of hate propaganda and lies, pumped forth daily over the airways from Belgrade, before he got one Serb to cross the border into Bosnia and being the murderous rampage that triggered the war. And although the war was painted from afar as a clash of rival civilizations, the primary task of Milosevic in Seriba, Franjo Tudjman in Croatia, and the other ethnic leaderships was to dismantle and silence their own intellectuals and writers of stature and replace them with second-rate, mediocre pawns willing to turn every intellectual and artistic endeavor into a piece of ethnic triumphalism and myth.

(MG) The online e-zine Counterpunch has posted excerpts of an essay from Jeffrey St. Clair's recent End Times book addressing the issue of selling a war:

(St. Clair) The war on Iraq won't be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as "weapons of mass destruction" and "rogue state" were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.

To understand the Iraq war you don't need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.


... the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.

Facts were never important to the Bush team. They were disposable nuggets that could be discarded at will and replaced by whatever new rationale that played favorably with their polls and focus groups. The war was about weapons of mass destruction one week, al-Qaeda the next. When neither allegation could be substantiated on the ground, the fall back position became the mass graves (many from the Iran/Iraq war where the U.S.A. backed Iraq) proving that Saddam was an evil thug who deserved to be toppled. The motto of the Bush PR machine was: Move on. Don't explain. Say anything to conceal the perfidy behind the real motives for war. Never look back. Accuse the questioners of harboring unpatriotic sensibilities. Eventually, even the cagey Wolfowitz admitted that the official case for war was made mainly to make the invasion palatable, not to justify it.

(MG) Patrick Lang also speaks of the "morality play" modality used to stroke the country to wargasmic fever pitch about Iraq / Saddam:

(Lang) War is not about virtue as opposed to sin. War is about the struggle of opposed interests and wills. To begin this war, a "morality play" atmosphere was generated which led to "war fever" on a massive scale. It was skilfully done by people who thought "they knew best." I hope they are happy with the result of their efforts. The country is only now slowly recovering. It is as though the United States is now in a protracted "de-tox" program.

(Hedges) Lawrence LeShan in The Psychology of War differentiates between "mythic reality" and "sensory reality" in wartime. In sensory reality we see events for what they are. Most of those who are thrust into combat soon find it impossible to maintain the mythic perception of war. They would not survive if they did. Wars that lose their mythic stature for the public, such as Korea or Vietnam, are doomed to failure, for war is exposed for what it is -- organized murder.

But in mythic war we imbue events with meanings they do not have. We see defeats as signposts on the road to ultimate victory. We demonize the enemy so that our opponent is no longer human. We view ourselves, our people, as the embodiment of absolute goodness. Our enemies invert our view of the world to justify their own cruelty. In most mythic wars this is the case. Each side reduces the other to objects -- eventually in the form or corpses.


When we allow mythic reality to rule, as it almost always does in war, then there is only one solution -- force. In mythic war we fight absolutes. We must vanquish darkness. It is imperative and inevitable for civilization, for the free world, that good triumph ...

(St. Clair) The Bush claque o

f neocon hawks viewed the Iraq war as a product and, just like a new pair of Nikes, it required a roll-out campaign to soften up the consumers. The same techniques (and often the same PR gurus) that have been used to hawk cigarettes, SUVs and nuclear waste dumps were deployed to retail the Iraq war. To peddle the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell and company recruited public relations gurus into top-level jobs at the Pentagon and the State Department. These spinmeisters soon had more say over how the rationale for war on Iraq should be presented than intelligence agencies and career diplomats. If the intelligence didn't fit the script, it was shaded, retooled or junked.

Take Charlotte Beers whom Powell picked as undersecretary of state in the post-9/11 world. Beers wasn't a diplomat. She wasn't even a politician. She was a grand diva of spin, known on the business and gossip pages as "the queen of Madison Avenue." On the strength of two advertising campaigns, one for Uncle Ben's Rice and another for Head and Shoulder's dandruff shampoo, Beers rocketed to the top of the heap in the PR world, heading two giant PR houses: Ogilvy and Mathers as well as J. Walter Thompson.

At the state department Beers, who had met Powell in 1995 when they both served on the board of Gulf Airstream, worked at, in Powell's words, "the branding of U.S. foreign policy." She extracted more than $500 million from Congress for her Brand America campaign, which largely focused on beaming U.S. propaganda into the Muslim world, much of it directed at teens.

"Public diplomacy is a vital new arm in what will combat terrorism over time," said Beers. "All of a sudden we are in this position of redefining who America is, not only for ourselves, but for the outside world." Note the rapt attention Beers pays to the manipulation of perception, as opposed, say, to alterations of U.S. policy.

But the goal we seek when we embrace myth is impossible to achieve. War never creates the security or the harmony we desire, especially the harmony we briefly attain during wartime. And campaigns, such as the one in Afghanistan, become starting points for further conflicts, especially as we find that we are unable to root out terrorism or maintain the kind of solidarity that comes in the days just after a terrorist attack.

The chief institutions that disseminate the myth are the press and the state. The press has been culpable since the telegraph made possible the modern war correspondent. And starting with the Crimean War, when the first dispatches were fed by newly minted war correspondents in real time, nearly every reporter has seen his or her mission as sustaining civilian and army morale. The advent of photography and film did little to alter the incentive to boost morale, for the lie in war is almost always the lie of omission. The blunders and senseless slaughter by our generals, the execution of prisoners and innocents, and the horror of wounds are rarely disclosed, at least during a mythic war, to the public. only when the myth is punctured, as it eventually was in Vietnam, does the press begin to report in a sensory rather than a mythic manner. But even then it it [the press] reacting to a public that has changed its perception of war. The press usually does not lead.

Mythic war reporting sells papers and boosts ratings. Real reporting, sensory reporting, does not, at least not in comparison with the boosterism we witnessed during the Persian Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. The coverage in the Persian Gulf war was typical. The international press willingly administered a restrictive pool system on behalf of the military under which carefully controlled groups of reporters were guided around the front lines by officers. It could have never functioned without the cooperation of the press. The press was as eager to be of service to the state during the war as most everyone else.

Such docility on the part of the press made it easier to do what governments do in wartime, indeed what governments do much of the time, and that is lie.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Authenticity or policy?

Rich liberals who claim they'll help America's less fortunate are phonies.

Let me give you one example — a Democrat who said he’d work on behalf of workers and the poor. He even said he’d take on Big Business. But the truth is that while he was saying those things, he was living in a big house and had a pretty lavish summer home too. His favorite recreation, sailing, was incredibly elitist. And he didn’t talk like a regular guy.

Clearly, this politician wasn’t authentic. His name? Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Luckily, that’s not how the political game was played 70 years ago. F.D.R. wasn’t accused of being a phony; he was accused of being a “traitor to his class.” But today, it seems, politics is all about seeming authentic. A recent Associated Press analysis of the political scene asked: “Can you fake authenticity? Probably not, but it might be worth a try.”

What does authenticity mean? Supposedly it means not pretending to be who you aren’t. But that definition doesn’t seem to fit the way the term is actually used in political reporting.

For example, the case of F.D.R. shows that there’s nothing inauthentic, in the normal sense of the word, about calling for higher taxes on the rich while being rich yourself. If anything, it’s to your credit if you advocate policies that will hurt your own financial position. But the news media seem to find it deeply disturbing that John Edwards talks about fighting poverty while living in a big house.

(MG) Note - Krugman makes an assertion, and then gives an example to support his assertion. We have a concrete, real-world example of what Krugman is talking about. He then notes how "deeply disturbing" it is (to the news media) that John Edwards can live in a big house and talk about fighting poverty.

On the other hand, consider the case of Fred Thompson. He spent 18 years working as a highly paid lobbyist, wore well-tailored suits and drove a black Lincoln Continental. When he ran for the Senate, however, his campaign reinvented him as a good old boy: it leased a used red pickup truck for him to drive, dressed up in jeans and a work shirt, with a can of Red Man chewing tobacco on the front seat.

But Mr. Thompson’s strength, says Lanny Davis in The Hill, is that he’s “authentic.”

Oh, and as a candidate George W. Bush was praised as being more authentic than Al Gore. As late as November 2005, MSNBC’s chief political correspondent declared that Mr. Bush’s authenticity was his remaining source of strength. But now The A.P. says that Mr. Bush’s lack of credibility is the reason his would-be successors need to seem, yes, authentic.

Talk of authenticity, it seems, lets commentators and journalists put down politicians they don’t like or praise politicians they like, with no relationship to what the politicians actually say or do.

Here’s a suggestion: Why not evaluate candidates’ policy proposals, rather than their authenticity? And if there are reasons to doubt a candidate’s sincerity, spell them out.


The point is that questions about a candidate shouldn’t be whether he or she is “authentic.” They should be about motives: whose interests would the candidate serve if elected? And think how much better shape the nation would be in if enough people had asked that question seven years ago.

(MG) Be still my heart! Question a candidate's motives - ask whose interests would be served if a candidate were elected. What novel ideas.

MSM - an extension of great power

(MG) In a fascinating interview on Decmocracy Now, John Pilger, award-winning documentary film maker, investigative journalist, and war correspondent makes a number of interesting observations:

JUAN GONZALES: In your viewpoint, what is the basis for why especially the media in the West have such a blind spot toward a fair portrayal of the situation in Israel? And how has does that relate to your overall theme of this book of empire and the importance of understanding empire in the world?

JOHN PILGER: I think I started to realize what I was first sent to Vietnam as a foreign correspondent, and [my] naivete started to crumble pretty quickly that basically the main so - what we call the mainstream media, that amorphous thing, is an extension of great power. Yes, there are exceptions and very fine exceptions, but we have seen that time and time again. And with the- especially in the United States – with such an extraordinarily powerful, vociferous groups supporting Israel, associating any criticism in Israel with anti-Semitism, and I’ve been on the, I’ve been at the tail wind of this, with massive e-mail campaigns and so on. Very intimidating. It’s worked on the BBC to a great deal – to a great extent, rather. Uh, when, I think when you have that, then, the media will then revert back to what it sees, interestingly, as the center. Well, it’s not the center. It’s really as an extension, an expression of, of, of government and power. Yes, personalities are criticized. George W. Bush is fair game probably now. Certainly, finally, Tony Blair is, but the system that produced them is not.

a reflection on the media age

(MG) The following statement comes from John Pilger a documentary film maker and investigative journalist. Pilger said these words during an interview with Amy Goodman.

"I quote at length in the book a pioneering study done by Glasgow University Media Group in which it asked a cross-section of television, viewers of television news in Britain, what they knew about the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict. And they found that of young viewers, I think people under the age of 21 who watched TV news, 92% of them thought that the settlers, the illegal settlers, uh, were Palestinians. And the clear, and the clear message from this report was that the more people watch television, the less they knew. And, I think, I have to say that because I think Edward Said’s rather bitter lament just before he died, in which he blamed journalists, foreign journalists, for ignoring the history of the Palestinian struggle, never contextualizing it, never using the terms equally, like terrorism towards Israel as well as toward the Palestinians, almost never used towards Israel. His complaint stands today, and I think the fact that we still have so much misinformation about what is the world's longest military occupation and one of the world's longest struggles for basic justice, uh, is, is a reflection on the so-called media age in which we are said to live."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

20th century history of Iraq

(MG) William R. Polk, writing at Juan Cole's Informed Comment web site offers an excellent 20th century history of Iraq

What is Iraq: Iraq was created by Great Britain at the end of the First World War from three provinces of the defeated Ottoman Empire. While it is common to think of it as still those three parts – the Kurdish Muslims in the North, the Sunni Muslims in the middle and the Shia Muslims in the South – it has become considerably integrated over the last century so all three communities are intermingled.

(MG) this perspective was collaborated by Riverbend on Monday, Dec 22, 2003:

Sunnis and Shi'a have always lived in harmony in Iraq and we still do, so far. I'm from a family that is about half Shi'a and half Sunni. We have never had problems as the majority of civilized people don't discriminate between the two.

It is also common to call Iraq “artificial,” and in part that is true, but the same could be said for virtually all countries. What is certain is that it is a small country, not quite two-thirds the size of Texas of which most is barren. Only an area about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined can be farmed by rainfall. Elsewhere, agriculture depends on the rivers – the Euphrates at Baghdad is about the size of the Arkansas River at Little Rock and the Tigris is about as large as the Missouri River at Kansas City. Because of the intense solar radiation, agriculture is difficult to maintain. Thus, until recently, Iraq has always been a poor country. What changed Iraq was oil. Oil was discovered in 1927 and is potentially very abundant but as yet is largely undeveloped; such developed facilities as exist have been severely damaged. It was oil, however, that paid for Iraq in the 1980s to become one of the most advanced countries of the Middle East.

While he was a brutal, aggressive dictator, Saddam Husain used oil revenues to fund public health, education, the building of modern infrastructure and the growth of industry. The population benefited and grew to about 24 million with a high level of education. Today the population is in turmoil with millions of people leaving their homes or even leaving the country, but with about half the population below the age of fifteen, growth will continue to be rapid.

(MG) Here's what Riverbend had to say about education in Iraq on Tuesday, Sept 16, 2003 (these comments would apply only BEFORE the U.S. invasion)

Something you probably don't know about Iraq: We have 18 public universities and over 10 private universities, plus 28 technical schools and workshops. The difference between private and public colleges is that the public colleges and universities (like Baghdad University) are free, without tuition. The private colleges ask for a yearly tuition which is a pittance compared to colleges abroad. Public colleges are preferred because they are considered more educationally sound.

Arab students come from all over the region to study in our colleges and universities because they are the best. Europeans interested in learning about Islamic culture and religion come to study in the Islamic colleges. Our medical students make the brightest doctors and our engineers are the most creative…

In 6th year secondary school (12th grade), Iraqi students are made to take a standardized test known as the Bakaloriah. The students are assigned 9-digit numbers and taken to a different school with random examination supervisors to watch over the testing process. For 'science students' the subjects required for examination are math, physics, English, Arabic, chemistry, Islam (for Muslim students only), French (for students taking French), and biology. For non-science students, the subjects are Arabic, English, history, geography, Islam (for Muslims), math, and economics - I think.

As soon as we get our averages, we fill out forms that go to the Ministry of Higher Education. In these forms, you list the colleges and universities you would like to end up in, the first being the one you want most.…

Anyway, according to the student's average, and the averages of the people applying to other colleges, the student is 'placed'. You don't even meet the dean or department head until after classes have begun. Ironically, ... [a] guy can get into an engineering college with a 92% while for females, the average is around 96% because the competition between females is so high.

... in engineering, science and medical colleges over half of the students in various departments are females- literate females, by the way. Our male and female graduates are some of the best in the region and many public universities arrange for scholarships and fellowships in Europe and America.

What we were told about Iraq: The litany of partial- or mis-information is well known. Iraq did not support terrorism, did not have or even intend to get nuclear weapons, had an antiquated army and air force and could not possibly have been a danger to the United States. It did, however, have an ugly, tyrannical government – like many others in the world – but the United States government worked closely with, and supported, that government for many years during the Reagan and first Bush administration.

The first American invasion: Relations between Saddam Husain’s regime and Kuwait (which every Iraqi government since the 1920s regarded as a part of Iraq illegally split off by the British) hinged on loans made to Iraq by Kuwait during the Iraq-Iran war. Kuwait pressed hard for repayment and Saddam was nearly bankrupt. He concluded that Kuwait was attempting to overthrow his government. Arab efforts at mediation failed and the United States told Saddam that it had no position on the disagreement. ... (MG) Saddam interviewed U.S. Ambassador Gilpatric to get a sense of how the U.S. would respond to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait ... he was told the U.S. had no position on this disagreement ... never forget this ... Saddam asked and got an answer ... Rightly or wrongly, Saddam took our statements as a “green light” and attacked Kuwait. The attack was naked aggression and on behalf of the United Nations, the United States (under the first Bush administration) drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait. The U.S. did not attempt to conquer Iraq. President Bush commented: “Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.” ...(MG) But President Bush the 41st DID exhort the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam, and the Iraqi peoples took him at his word ... they rose up in revolt and had taken over 16 of the 19 Iraqi provinces when Saddam unleashed the Red Brigade in retaliation ... there is ample documentation from U.S. military about their heart sickness of being ordered to PERMIT the Red Brigade to fly (via helicopter) into the various provinces to crush the uprisings ... what President George H.W. Bush wanted was a MILITARY overthrow of Saddam, and a new Iraqi strongman, who would hearken to the back and call of the U.S. government to take power ... but the uprising threatened to empower forces / people whom the U.S. government might not be able to control ... But he and President Clinton imposed upon the country a severe program of sanctions that virtually crippled the economy and severely damaged the society.

Sanctions did not, however, accomplish what most people believed to have been their objective, to overthrow the regime. That was done in the second American invasion of 2003. The second American invasion and occupation. In the spring of 2003, American (together with smaller British and other) forces quickly defeated the Iraq army and occupied the country. When the regime collapsed, the U.S. created an occupational government known as the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) headed by an American official. Then, on March 8, 2004, the American-written constitution was approved by the American-appointed and controlled Iraqi Governing Council and selected an interim prime minister. Meanwhile, from April 2003, Iraqis began a major and wide-spread rebellion against the Americans and the American-appointed Iraqi administration.

Paris Hilton & Iraqi Prisoners

(MG) Professor Juan Cole offers the following perspective on what we the people are being "fed" by cable news. The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned the public about has morphed into an even larger hazard which should be more accurately described as the military-industrial-educational/indoctrination-infortainment complex.

American cable news has been fixated on the jailing of socialite Paris Hilton for the past week, on grounds that she twice violated the probation sentence she earlier received for drunk driving. They interrupted coverage of world leaders at the G8. They briefly spliced in Gates's decision not to reappoint Peter Pace as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. A new frenzy broke out with every tiny twist . She was brave, she was weeping, she was mentally fragile. She was released, she was rejailed, she shouted it was unfair and cried, she was undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

Just for a little perspective, we could consider the news from Iraq on Saturday. Incoming mortar fire from guerrillas hit Bucca prison, killing 6 inmates and wounding 50.

The US military is holding 19000 Iraqis, 16000 of them at Bucca. Although most are guerrillas or their helpers, a lot of them were picked up because they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once arrested, an inmate often cannot clear himself for months or years. I don't think they have access to attorneys. No one cares if they are depressed. At Abu Ghraib earlier on, some inmates were systematically tortured. It is unlear if all such practices have ceased.

Some Iraqi women have been held in this way. Some were essentially hostages, taken to make them reveal where their husbands or fathers were or to guarantee their good behavior. Their reputations were shot, since Iraqis think Americans are sex fiends and wouldn't trust the virtue of a woman who had been in their custody. The unmarried among them are likely doomed to be spinsters.

American television never mentions that the US has 19000 Iraqis in jail, or that some have been women, or that some are innocent, or how they feel about being in prison.

(MG) As an example of equivalence, were the shoe on the other foot, and the U.S. was being occupied by a foreign power, this would be equivalent to about 225,000 citizens jailed by the occupying military power.

So is Paris Hilton being given special treatment by our media? We all are, folks.

Paul Craig Roberts on the Iraq occupation

(MG) In the June 8, 2007 edition of Counterpunch, Paul Craig Roberts spotlights many of the criminal aspects of the Iraq invasion and occupation. His indictment of the American people (not merely the politicians) is trenchant. WE the people by now have sufficient information to understand the criminal nature of this illegal, immoral war. To the extent we do nothing about it, we are all complicit; we are all guilty.


All the reasons President Bush gave us for his war are false. Bush said he invaded Iraq "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people."

We now know that these were false claims. Disinformation about Iraq was produced by a special unit within the Pentagon run by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. The unit operated outside the normal intelligence channels of the CIA and DIA. Its purpose was to create false intelligence to enable Bush to initiate war with Iraq.


Millions of Americans have come to their own conclusions about the reasons for Bush's invasion:

(1) Oil: the US government wants to hold on to power by expanding its control over oil, and Bush and Cheney want to reward their oil company cronies.

(2) Military-security complex: Police agencies favor war as a means of expanding their power, and military industries favor war as a means of expanding their profits.

(3) Neoconservative ideology: Neocons' believe in "American exceptionalism" and claim that America's virtue gives the US government the right and the obligation to impose US hegemony on the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East where independent Muslim states object to Israel's theft of Palestine.

(4) Karl Rove: Rove used the "war president" role to rescue Bush from attack by Democrats as an illegitimate president elected by one vote of the US Supreme Court.

(5) American self-righteousness over 9/11 and lust for revenge.

(MG) There's quite a bit to this, IMO. "Somebody has to pay" my cousin's husband (former U.S. air force officer) told me, prior to March, 2003.

All of these reasons came together to make a cruel war on an innocent people.

There may be other reasons about which we know not.

As it is now recognized ... every reason [given] for the war is false or illegitimate, the question is: ... There were no weapons of mass destruction, no connections to al Qaeda, and Bush has installed a puppet Iraqi government that cannot venture outside the heavily fortified and US protected "green zone." The Iraqi government governs nothing.

War without cause is murder, not war.

That the American people and their elected representatives continue to tolerate a war that has killed and maimed thousands of their own soldiers, destroyed the infrastructure of a country, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and created 4 million refugees for no known reason raises serious questions about the morals of the American people.

... have Americans become morally degenerate as commentators increasingly assert?

(MG) The opposite of love is indifference, and many Americans are indifferent to the suffering of the Iraqi and Afghani peoples. We are inured to their suffering.

One indication would be the response of presidential candidates to the gratuitous and failed war. ... All of the leading Republican presidential candidates openly and nonchalantly endorsed using nuclear weapons against Iran unless Iran abandons its right to enrich uranium under the non-proliferation treaty, to which Iran is a signatory (unlike nuclear-armed Israel, India, and US puppet Pakistan).

What is moral degeneracy if it is not using nuclear weapons to murder masses of innocent civilians and spread deadly radioactivity over vast areas merely in order to force a country to do as we order? If this isn't barbarism, what is barbarism?

Do the American people realize that the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination are monsters who want to murder people who have done us no harm?

After five years of war that has achieved no noble purpose, no valid aim, indeed, no aim at all except perhaps Osama bin Laden's aim of stirring up uncontrollable strife in the Middle East, how can Republicans cheer for candidates who preach a wider war and the use of nuclear weapons against defenseless people?

(MG) But the three front-running Democratic candidates are all uniform in their position re: Iran -- "all cards are on the table" (which of course includes bombing, invasion, war, and presumably the nuclear option). THIS is horrifying beyond words.

Is the approval lavished on Republican presidential candidates, who are willing to use nuclear weapons as means of terrorizing Muslim peoples, an indication that the American people have morphed into inhuman monsters?

If not, what does it indicate? Ignorant fanaticism? Paranoia? Blind hatred? The belief that no one is of any value but Americans?

For six and one-half years the Bush Regime has relied on coercion, intimidation, war, and threats of war. Diplomacy and good will have been shunned. The regime's blatant warmongering has resurrected the nuclear arms race. China and Russia regard America's drive for world hegemony with great alarm. China has put nuclear ICBMs on mobile platforms to increase their survivability in event of an American attack. Russia has developed new multi-warhead ICBMs, which can penetrate any known missile defense, and new cruise missiles that Putin says will be targeted on Europe if the US persists in its aggressive military encirclement of Russia.

An administration that resurrects the threat of nuclear Armageddon ... is evil beyond compare.