Africa & Beyond

Scott McClellan’s Book: How the Media Betrayed America

As I watched the round of evening news, I am mad. I am not just mad, but mad as hell. Four thousand boys dead, thousands injured, billions spent, economy in ruins, reputation destroyed and this is what we get? The media must think the members of the listening public are a bunch of morons. When will the media circus get it that we have stopped buying their bunk? What a bunch of hypocrites! Here they are dancing around the grave of George Bush as if Scott’s book is about an obviously unpopular president. There is nothing new in that book- it is old news! The American public has already passed their judgment on the war; the propaganda and the information manipulation that the Bush administration used to get its destructive ways in Iraq is already reflected in public opinion polls, and the series of midterm and special elections that have revealed the Republican Party’s underbelly.

This debate or book sales, depending how you look at the media circus the book is generating, is not about a morally bankrupt or lying through the teeth Republican Party and its leaders. It is about a press corps that failed in its duties, slept at the wheel, and went down limping at the most important point in the history of this country in years. I wrote previously in an article marking the grim landmark death of the 4000th soldier in Iraq that many (even then) could see through the duplicity of those selling the war. Some people saw it; Barack Obama did. Hillary Clinton blinded by sheer ambition and desire to be hawkish and strong was sold pronto! So was John McCain who needed to guarantee his tough boy, no nonsense credentials, and needed to warm up to the Bush machine that denied him the 2000 nomination so he could have a chance once again.

The question is- will we buy the media crap again? The media is too consumed with who wins and loses in Washington. That was why for months they looped Jeremiah Wright’s sermon (of course its premise now validated by Scott) instead of focusing on what represents the important challenges facing this nation in the coming years which are Healthcare, Social Security, Energy Security, Global Competitiveness and Terrorism. In those months, the media, who were supposed to be the fourth estate of the realm, depended again on the right wing propaganda machine that sold us the war for their feeds; while neglecting the core principles of our democracy of separation of church and state. Why should the listening public care where Obama worshipped or who his pastor was? These hard questions were never properly asked; instead they sought to draw blood until they had their eventual fill. Shame on them!

The American press is a disgrace; a shadow of its old self; with very few courageous individuals left. The rest are trying so hard to kiss up to the corporatist interests that have taken over the media houses and who are in favor of the status quo. No real news is aired these days; instead the public is fed continually to opinion. Even, news channel like CNN that used to be at the vanguard of real investigative journalism are trying so hard to be like Fox News Channel (Fix Noose I’d rather say). In a world replete of liberal versus conservative media, what we get instead of facts is what someone in the editorial room regards as politically expedient. Commentators allow their guests to spew propaganda uncorrected; while half truths are sold as facts. We are consumed in the drive to bipolarize not based on what is right (the truth), but by who is winning (the ideology). The American public deserves better, and it is a shame that no man could be found worthy to do them that honor in the run up to the war. Patriotism (which meant sheepish submission to propaganda) replaced a sense of duty to expose the facts; the underlying truth, which could either doom the war or help in its successful prosecution, was left unsaid. Hence in exchange for access, the media sacrificed its credibility.

That is why I am mad as hell. I am mad as hell at all these commentators acting as if there is some new information, or a eureka moment, revealed in Scott’s “tell tale”. Even ABC News or Associate Press Stories on the book intentionally left out Scott’s criticisms of media leniency in which he said and I quote:

“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. . . . In this case, the “liberal media” didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

This is coming from someone on the receiving side of this liberal media halfhearted check, and heck sure knew how hard or soft the so called “liberal media” had been. They were wussies! Is this not five years after the war? How many WMD have been found? Why can’t any brave journalist go on TV and use the word “lie” the exact manner the press and their conservative acolytes used those words to crucify President Clinton who denied having “sex with that woman” in 1998. Heck, I will pay to have Bush have hours of blow jobs performed on him on the steps of the Capitol in lieu of the 4000 plus brave souls dead, 40 000 soldiers injured, 500 000 Iraqis dead and 600 billion dollars that was better spent on an economy now sputtering to recession. We would do anything to restore the credibility of this country! The chaos in Iraq is what happens when the media fails to ask the hard questions, or buys the official line of thinking.

One of such instances of media dropping the ball on their audience was the presentation of opinions of administration insiders as facts relating to the allegations of nuclear weapon development in Iraq sometimes in September, 2008. To be specific, the September 7, 2008 story of Judith Miller (yes you got that right, the same woman that went to jail for perjurer Scooter Libby) and her colleague that appeared in the New York Times alleging Saddam’s renewed push for nuclear weapons was not their own words but the idea of the administration fed down to them and reported as facts. In fact, looking back the near synchronization and appearance of administration officials appearing in Sunday talk shows on the same day, and thereafter feeding the propaganda was a sham. In fact, we now even know that most of those military experts that the media called upon to analyze in those days were in fact debriefed by Rumsfeld’s pentagon and sometimes were on its payroll! The media did not do their homework!

Even in the midst of this shenanigan; another propaganda of sort in trying to rewrite the history of the war is ongoing. Forget about the White House half hearted attempt to discredit Scott McClellan (or its choreographed response of “this is not the Scott we know”), the larger war is this duplicity of saying the real motive of the war was to democratize Iraq by force and that WMD was used as a cover up because the American public was unlikely to fall for this line of thinking. I think not. While I definitely think George Bush might have thought this war was aimed at restoring democracy in Iraq and planting a seed in the Middle East, I seriously doubt that Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Wolfowitz and the rest of the Neocon crew that surrounded the president thought the same way. In the President, they saw a willing captive; someone who lacking in above average intelligence was led by ego massage (the “my dick (read gun) is bigger than yours” syndrome) to destroy a two hundred plus years tradition started by George Washington to avoid meddling in unnecessary foreign wars especially one unprovoked.

To Dick’s and Paul’s credit, they are no fools or gullible saints. If restoring democracy in the Middle East was of uppermost concern, there were easier targets than Saddam Hussein and indeed, Saudi Arabia the country which bred two thirds of the 9-11 attackers could easily have been given the kick without even firing a single bullet. A mere indication to the reformist elements in that country that America was ceasing its military and diplomatic support for the theocratic dictatorship could easily have spelt the beginning of its end. But no: war profiteering a la KBR/Halliburton from which Dick Cheney still draw a pretty tidy annual pension and holds significant common stock, and helping out his oil buddies in Texas who have benefited from the war premium that drove up a barrel of oil from $25 to $130 today is the real motive of the war. The Industrial War Complex and the Oil companies are the only two beneficiaries of the Iraq war, and that is the cold fact. If anything, I owe it to me readers to reveal nothing but the unadulterated truth; I refuse to drink from the cup of press gullibility.

Again, the coming election is very unlikely to be decided on the back of foreign policy especially if the nation slips into recession. But if it will, the choice is clear before the American people. This choice is about on one hand the reality of voting for the continuation of this deceit, or to send a clear message for change. The Obama camp can help the public by doing a better job of framing its message on the war for the general election electorate. What worked in the primary may not work in November. The goal should be to avoid the Ides of Kerry, where thoughtfulness is mistaken for timidity. Instead, the strategy should be KISS: short for Keep It Simple Stupid.

Using the KISS strategy, the Barack Obama strategy on selling his ideas on the war must tie his desire to withdraw the troops not on how bad things are going in Iraq, but on the fact that if the reasons for going to war was the WMD- then it has not been found (read: Mission Accomplished by default).Alternatively, that if the reasons were regime change that Saddam is dead for a long time; read also mission accomplished. However, he must emphasize that the best way to use tax payers dollars is not to build Iraq or to use our boys (the best trained fighting machine in the world) as glorified Iraqi police force but to bring them home to protect the homeland from real threats of terrorism and destroy Al Qaeda and Osama wherever George Bush and John McCain have allowed them to hide. By framing his desire to withdraw as a debate over the best use of the military and the distraction from the real threats of terror, Obama will put McCain in an un-winnable corner; one devoid of the machismo that the republicans favor that have led us to no where in the past seven years. As once posited, the time has come to declare victory, and bring the boys home!

P.S: If you have not seen it, take your time to watch the scintillating revelation, the PBS Frontline Documentary, Bush’s War. You cannot but come off with the feeling of how “the boys” have been running and ruining this great country.

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