Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

04.18 'We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See': New Video From AOC Envisions a #GreenNewDeal Future [7:35 video]

04.18 'Decades of denial': major report finds New Zealand's environment is in serious trouble

04.17 Thawing Permafrost Emitting Higher Levels of Potent Greenhouse Gas Than Previously Thought: Study

04.16 'That Backfired': Watch Bernie Sanders Counter Right-Wing Talking Point, Make Case for Medicare for All on Fox News

04.16 Cause of cancer is written into DNA of tumours, scientists find, creating a 'black box' for origin of disease

04.16 Scientists Unveil World's First Human Heart 3D-Printed From Patients' Own Cells

04.15 What It Was Like to Have a Baby in Sweden

04.14 'Shut the country down': British climate group Extinction Rebellion heads to US

04.13 With Youth Climate Actions Backed by Leading Experts, Latest Round of Protests Highlights Call for Bold and Urgent Action

04.11 Will You Rise Up for Climate Justice Next Week? Don’t Let Fatalism and Cynicism Hold You Back

04.11 300+ Groups to Congress: #GreenNewDeal 'Must Transform Our Food System and Revitalize Rural America'

04.10 Glaciers and arctic ice are vanishing. Time to get radical before it's too late [Willfully ignorant "conservatives" and corporately-bribed liberals diddle self-obsessively while life on earth dies]

04.10 Is there a beautiful, briny solution to the world’s clean water crisis?

04.08 'The perfect storm': hydrogen gains ground on LNG as alternative fuel [Good!]

04.08 Himalayan glaciers on the eve of destruction

04.08 Russia moves to free nearly 100 captive whales after outcry [Good!]

News Media Matters

04.12 DOJ Charging Docs: Julian Assange Committed Journalism

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

04.19 14 Must-Read Moments From the Mueller Report

04.19 No One Listens to the President

04.19 'Whimsical, uninformed': French ambassador's parting verdict on Trump

04.19 Mueller report: press secretary Sarah Sanders admitted to lying to reporters

04.19 Videos appear to show armed militia detaining migrants at US-Mexico border

04.19 Mueller report unable to clear Trump of obstruction of justice [PDF]

04.19 Nadler says Mueller report shows 'disturbing evidence' of obstruction of justice – video [2:41 video]

04.19 The Pentagon’s Bottomless Money Pit [pdf; Until the Pentagon can pass audits, use their allocated budget to fight causes of global warming]

04.18 Top Democrats Accuse Barr of 'Acting to Protect Donald Trump' Ahead of Mueller Report Rollout

04.18 Bernie Sanders 'Raises the Bar Even Further' on Climate With Vow to Ban Fracking, All New Fossil Fuel Projects [Mindlessly killing ourselves must stop]

04.16 How Progressives Can Fix the Progressive Income Tax

04.16 Why the US Elected a Despot, and Why It's Poised To Do It Again

04.16 'This Is a Big Deal': Warren Vows to Ban New Leases for Fossil Fuel Drilling Offshore and on Public Lands

Justice Matters

04.19 The Mueller Report Is Clear: Donald Trump Repeatedly Tried to Obstruct Justice

High Crimes

04.17 'Shameful': With Millions on Brink of Famine in Yemen, Trump Vetoes Resolution to End US Complicity

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

04.19 The Public Banking Revolution Is Upon Us

04.18 Mark Carney tells global banks they cannot ignore climate change dangers

04.17 A Path to Democratic Socialism Means a Path To Climate Justice

04.12 Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest [4:30 video]

International & Futurism

04.19 Ways to Save the World

04.18 Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population

04.18 Britain will have its second referendum – at the EU elections on 23 May

04.18 Hypocrisy without borders: the pomposity of Ivanka Trump’s trip to Africa

04.16 Our Zero Emission Future [Be smart or life dies]

04.16 'The Time for Excuses Is Over': Extinction Rebellion Protests Shut Down European Cities

04.16 The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Print view: How the Right Still Frames Iraq
THE WURLITZER BLOWS:

How the Right Still Frames Iraq

Thanking Bush for killing a million and wasting 3 $trillion.

by Robert Parry
Originally published in ConsortiumNews.com yesterday, 1 September 2010

President Barack Obama’s instruction to “turn the page” on the Iraq War has set off a new wave of frustration on the American Left, which believes that the architects of this war of aggression should face some accountability for the death and destruction.

But Obama’s non-partisan olive branch – hailing all sides as “patriots” and praising the troops for carrying out a difficult assignment – may reflect his realistic assessment that the balance of national political/media power still tilts sharply to the neocon and right-wing side.

Indeed, the biggest controversy around Obama’s speech Tuesday night was not whether the United States should acknowledge war crimes in Iraq but whether Obama should praise former President George W. Bush for supposedly salvaging the war effort by ordering a “surge” of 30,000 more troops in 2007.

In coverage of the speech, every major U.S. news outlets repeated the now-enshrined conventional wisdom that the “surge” turned the tide of the war.

For instance, the Washington Post noted that Obama had called Bush before the speech but added that Obama’s aides wouldn’t comment on whether “Obama gave Bush credit for his decision ... to order the 2007 troop surge that led to a reduction in violence.”

Though the U.S. press did carry some critical commentary about the overall consequences of the Iraq invasion, particularly its death toll and trillion-dollar price tag, there were no suggestions in the mainstream media that Bush and his neocon aides deserved a long visit with the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

In practical terms, the conventional wisdom on the “successful surge” has meant that there will be no meaningful accountability of any sort against the neocons who used “stove-piped intelligence” on WMD to create a false casus belli, the Bush administration officials who carried out the unprovoked invasion, or the mainstream U.S. journalists who played along with the deceptions to protect their careers.

Rather than any accountability, the neocons and other hawks have retained positions of influence in Washington. Their jobs at prominent think tanks and their access to influential op-ed pages also ensured that when the level of violence in Iraqi violence began declining in late 2007 and early 2008 – from catastrophic to simply horrific – they could quickly give credit to the “surge.”

Although other military factors were of equal or greater importance in this decline, anyone who pointed out the more complex reality was shouted down and made to admit that Bush’s supporters had been “right” about the “surge.”

During Campaign 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Obama was one of the few politicians who tried to make the more nuanced case, placing the “surge” among a number of developments, including some key ones – like the Sunni Awakening – that pre-dated or were unrelated to the “surge.”

However, Obama was browbeaten by mainstream “journalists.” In separate interviews, CBS anchor Katie Couric and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos demanded to know why Obama wouldn’t just admit that his rival, Sen. John McCain, had been “right” about the “surge.”

Finally, Obama chose to surrender to this conventional wisdom, however misguided. He confessed to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that the surge "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Obama’s cave-in allowed the neocons and their sympathizers to further ridicule anyone who wouldn’t go along. But it also demonstrated the real power of the media machine that the Right and the neocons have built over the past several decades. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

A Deformed Conventional Wisdom

To fit with the prevailing conventional wisdom, even the New York Times altered the chronology of events to give the “surge” primacy as the key factor in the declining violence. Although the Sunni Awakening, in which Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda and received U.S. payments, took root in 2006, the Times routinely began to cite the “surge” of 2007 first and the Sunni shift second, as if that were the real order of events.

Still, some military analysts continued to insist that Bush’s “surge” was at best a minor factor in improving Iraq’s security climate. For his book, The War Within, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward interviewed a number of military officials and concluded:

“In Washington, conventional wisdom translated these events into a simple view: The surge had worked. But the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge.”

Woodward reported that the Sunni rejection of al-Qaeda extremists in Anbar province (which preceded the surge) and the surprise decision of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr to order a unilateral cease-fire by his militia were two important factors.

A third factor, which Woodward argued may have been the most significant, was the use of new highly classified U.S. intelligence tactics that allowed for rapid targeting and killing of insurgent leaders. Woodward agreed to withhold details of these secret techniques from his book so as not to undercut their continued success.

Other brutal factors further explained the decline in violence:

  • Vicious ethnic cleansing had succeeded in separating Sunnis and Shiites to such a degree that there were fewer targets to kill. Several million Iraqis were estimated to be refugees either in neighboring countries or within their own.
  • Concrete walls built between Sunni and Shiite areas made “death-squad” raids more difficult but also “cantonized” much of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, making everyday life for Iraqis even more exhausting as they sought food or traveled to work.
  • During the “surge,” U.S. forces expanded the round-up of so-called “military age males” and locked tens of thousands in prison. Loose rules of engagement also permitted the killing of “MAMS” if they simply looked suspicious, as a video distributed by WikiLeaks revealed. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Watching Innocent Iraqis Die.”]
  • Awesome U.S. firepower, concentrated on Iraqi insurgents and civilian bystanders for more than five years, had slaughtered countless thousands of Iraqis and had intimidated many others to look simply to their own survival.
  • And, the biggest decline in violence came after it was made clear in 2008 that the Iraqi government was serious about setting a timetable for a U.S. military pullout. As U.S. troops first withdrew from the cities and then started heading for the exits, the number of attacks on Americans dropped to near zero.

In other words, the scaling back (and the promised end) of the U.S. occupation may have been the most significant factor in stanching the bloodshed, although the level of Iraqi political violence remains horrible to this day.

Controlling the Debate

Still, by controlling the “surge” debate, the neocons rehabilitated themselves in the eyes of Official Washington and essentially guaranteed that they would face no accountability, either before some international war crimes tribunal or in their career prospects. They then used their strong position in policy circles to push Obama into another “surge” – for Afghanistan.

Washington’s deformed reality also shaped the debate prior to Obama’s speech announcing the end of American combat operations. The only media question that seemed to get any traction was whether Obama should thank Bush for all he did for Iraq and particularly for the “surge.”

In the end, Obama didn’t go that far, but the American Left should take note that its media weakness – in the face of the neocon/right-wing media powerhouses – is a clear and present danger to American democracy and the security of the world.

Despite the Iraq War’s many disasters, the complicit (or subservient) U.S. news media has continued to let the neocon/Right frame the national debate, and the American Left invests almost no money in trying to restore some balance.

Considering how dependent modern politics is on media -- to get out a message or to present a coherent narrative that lets voters put issues into a meaningful context -- it remains remarkable how low a priority progressives make building a media infrastructure.

In many ways, this imbalance of media power continues to slip further in the direction of the neocons and the right-wing, as they use their dominance of talk radio and cable news to reach into the homes of working-class people, appealing especially to white men.

And the situation could get worse. Earlier this year, after wealthy progressives pulled the plug on the Air America radio network, the Left’s primary media outlet became MSNBC’s evening line-up of liberal hosts – Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

In other words, the Left is now heavily dependent on General Electric, a charter member of the military-industrial complex, for reaching the American public. And GE only allowed this experimental line-up on MSNBC after trying almost everything else, including an attempt to out-fox Fox News by pandering to the Right.

It’s also not clear what might happen to this fragile oasis of liberal opinion if the Republicans reclaim the Congress next year and thus hold the purse strings to GE’s lucrative military contracts. Or what might change if the deal goes through to sell a majority interest in NBC Universal to Comcast.

To put it mildly, neither GE nor Comcast’s corporate leadership has the kind of ideological commitment to MSNBC’s liberal evening programming that, say, News Corp.’s Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has toward Fox News’ right-wing content.

Indeed, the “free-market” orientation of CNBC and the more conservative bent of MSNBC’s daytime shows, like “Morning Joe” with former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, are more in line with GE’s corporate interests.

The Right and the neocons also continue to invest heavily in building up their presence on the Internet, as many worthy independent and progressive Web sites struggle for survival or go under.

So, the Left shouldn’t be surprised when the frame of the national debate is constructed by neocon, center-right and far-right elements – or when President Obama ducks a fight over the accountability that Bush and the neocons should face for a cruel and unnecessary war.


Robert Parry

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



Copyright © 2010 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on September 2, 2010.

 

Public Service Ads: