the battlefield success of the "coalition"
forces may be the subject of a
vigorous debate, none can dispute their conquest
of the American media. They
took out NBC this week, although Iraqi
television flickers back after each bombing raid.
We can't be sure that Saddam Hussein was killed or seriously
injured in that first missile strike, but Peter Arnett,
we know for certain, is a goner.
ritual slaying of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
on the altar of wartime political correctness is meant
as a warning to "mainstream" journalists:
this could be you. Either "embed" yourself
in the American propaganda machine, or choose exile.
one disputes the veracity of what
Arnett actually said. It is true, as the veteran
war correspondent put it, that
the American war planners misjudged the determination
of the Iraqi forces."
military officers in the field are saying the same thing
even as I write but try firing them! And who
can dispute the following?:
Iraqi friends tell me there is a growing sense of nationalism
and resistance to what the United States and Britain
don't need Arnett or the Iraqis to tell us that resistance
to the invasion is motivated by nationalism. Invasions
invariably provoke resistance, even in the most decadent
of nations. But here is what really stuck in the collective
craw of the War Party, and demanded nay, cried
out! for punishment:
is clear that within the United States there is growing
challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the
war and also opposition to the war. So our reports about
civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the
Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It
helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the
policy to develop their arguments."
a reporter, in the course of developing a story, instead
becomes the story, some grand journalistic ethic
is said to have been breached. But who made Arnett the
story? NBC claims to have been inundated by 8,000 emails
in response to Arnett's broadcast a paltry number,
given that it would be no mean feat of
technology for a single person to generate that many
within hours. Arnett, intones
Walter Cronkite, " hangs by a rope of his own
weaving," and various and sundry professors have
been trotted out particularly on NBC – to verify
that he "crossed the line" between advocate
from a television network that has U.S. government propaganda
designed into its logo!
each and every talking head or battle scene, in NBC's
continuous war coverage, the words "Operation Iraqi
Freedom" are vividly emblazoned as if "freedom"
had anything to do with the American imperial project.
A loud brouhaha was raised over the military attire
of Arnett's interlocutor even as our own airwaves
are filled with strutting generals in full uniform,
aiming their pointers at battlefield maps, like rapiers
stabbing at the heart of Iraq.
it just me, or is the fiction that we are supposed to
be bringing "democracy" and freedom to the
benighted peoples of the Middle East somewhat undermined
by the ideological cleansing of the American media?
The uniformly propagandistic tone of American television
coverage resembles a Soviet propaganda film, circa 1936.
Fox News, with its all-braying-all-the-time format,
was the precursor of this Sovietizing trend, and now
MSNBC is taking on the same Leninist style. The race
is on between Aaron
Brown of CNN and Dan
Abrams of MSNBC to see who can parrot the party
line most faithfully: the winner so far is Brown, for
of Dan Ellsberg. But Abrams is doing his best to
keep up: the other day, he answered the query of a journalism
professor as to the provenance of the "Operation
Iraqi Freedom" logo wasn't that "crossing
the line," too? Oh no, opined Abrams, because,
you see, "that is the actual name of this operation"!
Shafer, media critic at Slate.com, thinks Arnett
should have been fired but not because of anything
he said about the failure of the U.S. war plan, or unexpected
was nothing Democratic foes of the war haven't been
saying for a week and some Republicans are sharing anonymously
today with the Washington Post."
real crime, according to Shafer, is speaking at all
to the Iraqis, in an Iraqi venue:
Arnett took his star turn on Iraqi state television
and spoke seriously to a uniformed member of the Iraqi
military indicates that he possesses the credulousness
of a child, not the judgment of a seasoned reporter."
least the Iraqi interviewer had the honesty to wear
a military uniform: some of our own "journalists"
might as well be wearing U.S. military uniforms, for
all the objectivity they bring to the unfolding story
of this war. Shafer
has the temerity to compare Arnett to Lord
Haw Haw – for the high crime of pointing out
that the Iraqis have been granting him access for 12
years, and for referring to their "courtesy."
The Enemy must never be presented as anything but murderous
never mind courteous! This interferes with the demonization
process, and, if it became widespread, would undermine
the war effort: it might even be construed as providing
comfort to the enemy. That senile old crock Cronkite
even raised the specter of "treason."
this be treason, then what Cronkite and his fellow television
reporters did during the Vietnam war is equally so,
and there is no statute of limitations on such a serious
crime, as far as I know. But of course it isn't treason:
it is truth-telling. As Arnett pointed out in his piece
for the [UK] Mirror, the U.S. didn't want him
transmitting pictures and viewpoints from
besieged Baghdad in 1991, and they don't want it
gives voice to the pro-war intelligentsia's latent desire
for a wartime dictatorship by taking Arnett to task
for even reporting the Iraqi claim that the U.S.
has started using cluster bombs. According to Shafer,
this was supposedly refuted by NBC's Pentagon reporter
a few hours later. But so what? A cynic might look at
Arnett's reporting as quite useful if the goal is to
underscore the laughable incompetence of Baghdad's propaganda
is in Baghdad, not at "coalition" headquarters
in Kuwait or Washington, and is naturally reporting
on the Iraqi perspective. The point is that there is
to be no Iraqi or Arab perspective on this war, at least
on American television. No other perspectives but the
semi-official one, granting a subtle variation or two
here and there.
is outraged that Arnett considers the antiwar movement
a significant factor. Why, it was "rattlebrained"
to have said so. But that oft-cited 70 percent-plus
in favor of the war is decidedly soft, and the center
is notoriously fickle. They are just now waking up to
the costs of this war, and the opposition, on the other
hand, is considerably more hardened. The pundits and
the pollsters smugly assume that what is happening,
today, will continue indefinitely, but such hubris is
what got Rummy and the war planners in trouble with
their own soldiers in the field to begin with.
for its part, at
first defended Arnett, and then caved
in less than 12 hours later, which lends credence
to his claim that NBC "came under great commercial
pressure from the outside" to fire him. Arnett
is not the first person to lose a job due to war hysteria,
and he won't be the last. The
neocons have Bob Novak in their sights, and I'll
be greatly surprised if Pat Buchanan and Bill Press
are allowed to stay on at MSNBC unless they button their
lips in both cases, I trust, highly unlikely.
so we are to be given a diet of straight war propaganda,
24/7, a thin tasteless gruel of televised hectoring
and verbatim reading of Pentagon press releases. There
is to be no end to this, at least until the present
phase of the war comes to a climax with the taking of
Baghdad and that, alone, is reason enough to hope
for a rapid American "victory."
Arnett, the tedious unanimity of televised reporting
on this war is like the droning of cicadas on a warm
summer night, lulling us all into a troubled sleep.
As we go about our business, pretending that God is
with us and the U.S. military will make it all right,
dreams of disaster steal into our brains, subverting
the national sense of certainty under cover of night.
Yet even if expression of these doubts is expressly
forbidden, instead of merely enforced by means of strong
social and economic sanctions, there is no way for the
War Party to achieve its dream of a war without patriotic
dissent. The media elite may have signed on to "Operation
Iraqi Freedom" with no questions asked, but Operation
American Freedom still commands the allegiance
suppose I could go into a little spiel, right about
here, explaining why "alternative" media like
Antiwar.com are so vitally important in wartime, and
especially for the duration of this war. I could tell
you, once again, that if we don't raise another $20,000
in this quarter, you may come up with an error message
the next time you try to log on to this site.
I'm so damned depressed about the prospect of having
to listen to Aaron Brown, Christiane Amanpour who
lied her way straight through the Kosovo war and the
rest of the usual clowns droning on for months if not
years, that I just can't bring myself to do anything
your urgent attention to this link. Click, my friend,
and give Antiwar.com your support in the form of a contribution.
In the meantime, I think I'll go curl up with a good
book perhaps the newly-released
collection of Garet Garrett's antiwar editorials,
beautifully packaged by the Caxton
Press and treat myself to some peace and quiet.
IN THE MARGINS
a useful collection of tidbits documenting the latest
idiocies of the War Party, Check out the new weblog
at Chronicles magazine, Winds
we're on the subject of antiwar conservatives, Bill
Berkowitz, over at WorkingforChange.org, notes David
Frums smear of right-wingers opposed to this war, including
myself, but can't really bring himself to utter a word
of protest. Ill remember that when John Ashcroft and
his newly reconstituted Red Squads start rounding up
troublemakers like Berkowitz and his leftie pals. Gee,
whatever happened to "the people united will never
last column, I mistakenly described this
website, 911-strike.com, as anti-Semitic. It is
actually just plain loony, and not anti-Semitic as I
first surmised. My apologies.
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