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The Left Was Right

There's precious little consolation in knowing that you were right when you opposed the war against Iraq before Congress authorized George Bush to invade. Being right won't bring back 3,941 Americans killed in Iraq. It won't heal all the wounded. It will never revive the thousands of Iraqis killed. (Estimates range from 80,000 to more than 100,000.) It won't rebuild a single bombed out home or school or power plant.

But there is a lesson to be learned: Look left. Look left, especially now, while Bush pushes for an invasion of Iran. Left-wing publications and left-wing radio were dead right in their predictions about Iraq and dead right in their analysis of this disaster after it began and are dead right today in continuing to warn us about this warmongering administration and the politicians who voted for this war and continue to support it.

Among the news sources to consult are The Nation, Z Magazine, In These Times, The Guardian, Mother Jones, The Progressive, and Pacifica Radio. The tragedy is that the kind of information and analysis they provided did not reach a wider audience until it was far too late. The reason it didn't reach that audience is quite simple: the major media abdicated its responsibility and served as a propaganda tool for the government, failing utterly to present opposing points of view.

 Just how bad a job they did was made crystal clear in an April 2002 interview with then-anchor of CNN's Newsnight Aaron Brown by Pacifica Radio's Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill, which also appeared in Z Magazine.

Brown's reporting wasn't even as flimsy as that of the other networks, but his pathetic, defensive account of his effort at war coverage reveals much that was wrong that coverage and with the major media.

Goodman's other guest was Steve Rendall of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog organization. Rendall noted that during a two-week period the month before the invasion, people opposed to the war made up only 1 percent of all those who spoke about it ABC, NBC, CBS and the PBS News Hour. 

 "Whenever the question is war," Rendall said, "what we see is the networks and the cable news channels running out and hiring ex-generals, former Pentagon officials, national security types--people to a man and woman who think in terms of military solutions." He went on to ask, "Why aren't people hired who would serve as a counter weight to all those militarist voices? People who've spent, decades in some cases studying international law, human rights, or conflict resolution- traditions of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. What I'd like to ask Aaron Brown is: why don't you consider hiring these types of people as a counterweight?"

 Brown was reduced to blubbering, "Wow, that's a long windup to a question. When, would be my response; at what point, would be my response? …. I am really comfortable that when the history of that period is written, Newsnight will do just fine. But I've also said that I thought all of us in this organization were a little late in coming to see an anti-war movement."

 A little late? The  "coalescing" had taken place almost 6 months earlier, as Rendall reminded Brown, noting that the antiwar movement was "well organized as early as September [2002] and was having demonstrations that were drawing hundreds of thousands."

 Brown tried this feeble defense of his negligence: "For a long time, until honestly the die was well cast, the movement as best I could see it, had no center to cover. There was no clear focus to it, it was a mish mash in many ways. . .. I'm not saying that there weren't people who felt strongly, because I knew there were . . . . I just don't think it had coalesced in a way that made it easy to cover."

 "As best I could see it"? If you weren't looking, as most of the media weren't, you wouldn't see it. But as we'll find out in a moment, there were all kinds of places to look.

Easy to cover? This is so lame it would laughable if it weren't so frightening, because it means that, well, journalists are only obliged to pay attention to issues that are "easy to cover." But the war should have been quite easy to cover long before it began. Widely respected people were openly opposing it, from the National Council of Churches to the atheist Gore Vidal, one of our greatest writers, with internationally renowned figures along the way, like Jurgen Habermas, Germany's most famous contemporary philosopher. Interviewing even a handful of the above-mentioned people would have been just about a journalistic piece of cake.

 How easy? Well, among the thousands speaking and writing against the war long before it began, an obvious go-to guy would have been longtime, well-known critic of U.S. military adventures, MIT professor Noam Chomsky perhaps summed it up most chillingly in The Guardian (September 9, 2oo2): "As for a U.S. attack against Iraq, no one, including Donald Rumsfeld, can realistically guess the possible costs and consequences. Radical Islamist extremists surely hope that an attack on Iraq will kill many people and destroy much of the country, providing recruits for terrorist actions. They presumably also welcome the 'Bush doctrine' that proclaims the right of attack against potential threats, which are virtually limitless. The president has announced: 'There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland.' . . . The prescription for endless war poses a far greater danger to Americans than perceived enemies do, for reasons the terrorist organizations understand very well."

 Publications like The Nation www.thenation.com/

were predicting the disastrous outcome of the invasion in July 2002, 8 months before the bombs started falling, and ran scores of pieces on the topic before Shock and Awe was successfully marketed with the collaboration of the media.

 A few choice examples from that magazine alone:

 In "War on Iraq Is Wrong" (July 8, 2002), the editors warned that to "adopt such a destabilizing strategy is profoundly contrary to our interests and endangers our security. What was once the frothing of right-wing ideologues is now on the verge of becoming national policy. Yet we hear no opposition from leading Democrats regarding the new doctrine--which will alienate allies and makes us even more hated around the world." Sadly, this has come to pass.

 "In making the case for taking pre-emptive action against Iraq, the White House has been long on innuendo and very short on evidence of an Iraqi threat requiring such drastic remedies. What we do know is that since the Gulf War, Iraq's military capabilities have weakened significantly, to the point where they pose little or no threat to its neighbors." Quite true, as we learned.

 "Again, there is no evidence that Saddam has cooperated with Al Qaeda or other "terrorist groups with global reach," in the Administration's words. In fact, according to the State Department's own report, Iraq's support for terrorist activities is modest compared with that attributed to some of the other states on its list." Yes, but of course the administration conveniently ignored such reports.

 A few more examples from The Nation:

 "No Case for War," September 30, 2002: With the executive branch committed to war, those who morally oppose an invasion of Iraq--because of the suffering it would inflict on US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, because of its potential to destabilize the region, because it would distract this country from the brokering of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, because a war in Iraq would detract from the campaign against Al Qaeda and from pressing domestic needs--have only Congress to turn to. That prospect doesn't offer much comfort, since the Democratic leadership in the Senate appears ready to write the Administration a resolution authorizing military action, albeit with some conditions.

 "If Congress abdicates its role, it will harm not only the country but itself. Bush's claim of the right to make pre-emptive war would give him and future Presidents the authority to determine when a threat exists and to take action on that threat without subjecting it to debate or to verification by other branches of government. The principle of Congressional oversight of the most fundamental decision government can make--whether to send its sons and daughters into danger--will have been entirely abandoned."

 "Iraq War Blowback," by Saskia Sassen, February 3, 2003, predicted an increase of terrorism that has now occurred: "Any blowback from bombing Iraq, such as an increase in terrorism, is likely to be targeted at cities rather than at military bases. When Bush seeks to persuade the American people to support the bombing of Iraq, he should acknowledge that this would raise the risk of terrorist attacks in US cities."

 "Cities all over the world have long been targets of such attacks. What is new is the sharp increase in the likelihood that they will be attacked."

 And on and on the venerable magazine went. Here are a few more samples of authors and titles: "Blood for Oil, by Gore Vidal, October 28, 2002; "US Double Standards," by Stephen Zunes, October 28, 2002; "Letter to America," by

Jürgen Habermas, December 16, 2002.

 And on and on.

  Published April 8, 2007

  Number of U.S. Troops killed in Iraq as of Feb. 3, 2008

 

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