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State of War The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by  James Risen Books

Hard to put down, yet you want to throw it away., January 15, 2006

Agnostic "-one" (Chicago) - See all my reviews

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This review is from: State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (Hardcover)

A brilliant current history, written by a careful, talented and accurate journalist. Mr. Risen is a member of that rare, dying breed, a journalist who is neither paid off, nor prostituting himself for a political agenda, AND who works hard to dig out the truths behind the lies.

The result is a book that is truly hard to put down, even though the reader is repeatedly tempted, just so he can scream or write a letter to the White House or to his local paper.

Risen makes sense out of much of the history which brought us to the quagmire currently known as Iraq. He confirms much of what many thinking Americans suspect, only to inform us that things are actually much worse.

NSA data mining and domestic spying?

CIA in competition with the FBI and DOD on prisoner torture?

Tenet being rolled repeatedly by Rumsfeld?

Cheney and Rummie actually setting foreign and war policy, to the exclusion of other branches of government?

Condi Rice - an idiot who was way out of her league, and quite probably the worst National Security Adviser ever to mis-serve her president and her country?

Wolfowitz being brainwashed by Israeli Intel, then blaming CIA truth-tellers of lying?

What a list. What a book!

This is a must read book, one that will help the reader make sense of so much and make the reader quite angry at what has happened to our country.

Three major scoops, useful summary of tidbits from others, January 11, 2006


Robert David STEELE Vivas (Oakton, VA United States) - See all my reviews


Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (Hardcover)

EDITED to add note at bottom addressing anonymous sceptic. EDITED 6 Jun 06 to add note of Pentagon failing to capture Bin Laden.

There are three major scoops in this book that earn it five stars where the rest of the book might only merit four:

1) The obvious scoop now before Congress and the press, with respect to the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping on citizens without a warrant.

2) The really really huge scoop, that Charlie Allen, then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Collection, was able to guide the recruitment of no fewer than 30 Iraqis able to travel back to see their relatives and conclusively document that there was no nuclear program and no weapons of mass destruction--this information was evidently not provided to Congress, the President, or (naturally), the public.

3) Slightly less sensational, the book reveals for the first time that a CIA "bait" operation actually delivered to Iran completely useful plans for creating a nuclear bomb...the CIA "flaws" intended to render the plans unworkable were detected in one glance by a Russian courier scientist, and easily correctable by the Iranians.

Over-all the book renders an important public service by pulling together in one place the many tid-bits that are publicly known, but is distressingly weak on crediting those many other sources (e.g. Jim Bamford, the last word on NSA).

The cover of the book is quite revealing in that it has photos of Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Tenet--those who follow the politics of the Executive know that Cheney is the man pulling the puppet strings, generally without being detected, and it is Cheney that allowed Rumsfeld to blatantly ignore the President, steam-roll Condi Rice, disrespect Tenet, and sideline Colin Powell.

Other major points in the book that merit our attention and respect:

1) According to the author, but consistent with my own experience across three three of CIA's directorates, CIA consistently screws those that try to tell the truth, such as the Chief of Station in Iraq that wrote the report saying the insurgency was going to hurt us badly and we were not winning.

2) CIA developed a "poisonous culture" that sought to mollify the President, avoid conflict with the Pentagon, and generally not be serious about its mission {"ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free")

3) CIA did not blow the whistle on the ramping up of Afghan drug production, and allowed the Pentagon to ignore the urgent calls from the Department of State for aerial spraying and other eradication measures--today Afghanistan provides 80% of the opium on the market.

4) Israel's Mossad briefed the neo-conservatives along lines they were pleased to hear, going around and against the CIA.

There are several minor flaws in the book that would normally reduce my appreciation to four stars, but the above scoops more than compensate. However, they are worth noting:

1) The book seriously over-sells and exaggerates NSA's capabilities. While they can indeed do some wondrous things, on balance NSA is in the 1970's and not at all ready for the modern world of emails, web directories, and phone texting.

2) The book touches on New York Times stories based on "leaks" from the White House but avoids naming Judith Miller or exploring whether she was an Israeli agent of influence.

3) The book touches on torture and rendition, but does not discuss how many have been imprisoned erroneously (in the dozens according to some accounts) or died as a result of torture (as many as two dozen according to some accounts). CIA literally made people "disappear" making it no better than the Argentines or the Israelis or the Nazis. Most of CIA is honest; a small segment engaged in torture and renditions is out of control.

4) The book supports the CIA field claims that the Northern Alliance allowed Bin Laden to escape, but fails to mention the well-documented facts that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, without consulting anyone, gave the Pakistanis an air corridor, ostensibly to evacuate a few of their "observers," that was used to actually evacuate over 3,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda personnel trapped by US forces in the Tora Bora area; and that CIA tracked Bin Laden for four days from Tora Bora to the Waziristan border, but the Pentagon was too chicken to drop a battalion of Rangers in his path (see my review of "JAWBREAKER."

5) The book comments on the 9-11 Commission being contradicted by open records in many respects, but fails to examine the close relationship between the White House, the Bush Family, and the Saudis, who were complicit in Al Qaeda's global growth and unwilling to help the US until after 9/11 and even then, very marginally.

6) The book has a highly questionable allegation that a single error by a CIA communicator "blew" all CIA Iranian assets. My understanding is that the CIA has been equally incompetent in recruiting Iranians as it was in recruiting Iraqis. This smells like a fish story.

Over-all the book delivers two compelling indictments:

1) Of CIA for self-censorship, pandering to the President and the Vice President, and failing to cover the Middle East properly over a period of decades.

2) Of Cheney and Rumsfeld, for orchestrating a virtual coup in which the President could be ignored, the National Security Advisor steam-rolled, the Secretary of State side-lined, and the entire policy process set aside in favor of Cheney-Rumsfeld dictates.

This is quite an amazing book, and highly recommended.

NOTE TO SCEPTIC: I bought this book from Amazon as soon as it was offered, read it on an airplane to Los Angeles on 10 Jan, and posted my review along with those of three other books I read on the trip, the evening I returned, 13 January. I read a lot, mostly on airplanes and hotel rooms. I put my notes on the flyleaf and mark the books up heavily.

[Oct 2, 2006] Why Capitol Pages Fear Retaliation

by Robert Parry | Oct 2 2006 - 4:31pm | permalink
article tools: email | print | read more Robert Parry

Pressing the Press

The second important target was the U.S. national press corps. The strategy here was twofold: to build an ideologically conservative news media and to put pressure on mainstream journalists who generated information that undercut the desired message.

The so-called "controversializing" of troublesome mainstream journalists was aided and abetted by the fact that many senior news executives and publishers were either openly or quietly sympathetic to the neocons' hard-line foreign policy agenda.

That was even the case in news companies regarded as "liberal" - such as the New York Times, where executive editor Abe Rosenthal shared many neocon positions, or at Newsweek, where top editor Maynard Parker also aligned himself with the neocons.

In the 1980s, reporters who dug up hard stories that challenged the Reagan administration's propaganda found themselves under intense pressure, both externally from well-funded conservative attack groups and behind their backs from senior editors.

The New York Times' Central America correspondent Raymond Bonner was perhaps the highest profile journalist pushed out of a job because his reporting angered the neocons, but he was far from alone.

The Reagan administration even organized special "public diplomacy" teams to lobby bureau chiefs about ousting reporters who were deemed insufficiently supportive of government policies. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]

To protect their careers, journalists learned that it helped to write stories that would please the Reagan administration and to avoid stories that wouldn't.

The same bend-to-the-right dynamic prevailed in the 1990s as mainstream journalists wrote more harshly about President Bill Clinton than they normally would because they wanted to show that they could be tougher on a Democrat than a Republican.

This approach was not journalistically sound - reporters are supposed to be evenhanded - but it made sense for journalists who knew how vulnerable they were, having seen how easily the careers of other capable journalists had been destroyed. [For an extreme example, see's "America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb."]

The consequences of these changes in journalism and intelligence became apparent when the neocons - the likes of Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams - returned to power under George W. Bush in 2001 and especially after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

As happened with the hyping of the Soviet threat in the 1980s, a pliant intelligence community largely served up whatever alarmist information the White House wanted about Iraq and other foreign enemies.

When an individual analyst did challenge the "group think," he or she would be called unfit or accused of leftist sympathies, as occurred when State Department analysts protested Undersecretary of State John Bolton's exaggerated claims about Cuba's WMD. [See's "John Bolton & the Battle for Reality."]

Propaganda Game

Meanwhile, in the mainstream media, news executives and journalists were petrified of accusations that they were "blaming America first" or were "soft on terror" or didn't sufficiently "support the troops."

News executives transformed their networks and newspapers into little more than conveyor belts for the Bush administration's propaganda.

Poorly sourced allegations about Iraq's supposed nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs were trumpeted on Page One of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Skeptical stories were buried deep inside.

This fear of retaliation has continued to spread. Academia is now feeling the heat from right-wingers who want to eliminate what they see as the last bastion of liberal thought. Corporate leaders also appear to be suffering from the paralysis of fear.

After traveling to many American cities in 2005, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman observed that CEOs were staying on the sidelines in crucial debates about education, energy, budgets, health care and entrepreneurship.

"When I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive - America's business leaders - they seem to be missing in action," Friedman wrote. "In part, this is because boardrooms tend to be culturally Republican - both uncomfortable and a little afraid to challenge this administration."

So, in the context of Washington political/media society, which has cowered in fear before the Bush administration and its aggressive right-wing allies for years, it shouldn't be surprising that bright high school students who go to Washington to serve as congressional pages would catch on to the most pervasive message of all:

In a one-party political system in which power in concentrated in a few hands, it is not wise to offend the people in charge, even when one of them is writing you sexually offensive e-mails.

About author Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.' Robert Parry's web site is Consortium News

[Sept 28, 2006] Media Critic Takes on Major TV NetworksPublished by the Brown (University) Daily Herald (Rhode Island) by Simmi Aujla

... ... ...

Cohen said he has encountered many journalists who were "energetic, sincere, but ultimately powerless" in the face of network leaders who did not want to antagonize a government that shared their interests.

"(President George W.) Bush is 100 percent on the side of the corporations, and (former President Bill) Clinton was only 80 percent," he said.

Cohen also alleged that corporations are "terrified of progressives" and never allow true liberals into debates. "Corporate television wants a battle between conservative Republicans and Republicans," Cohen said.

But corporations are most concerned with preserving their power, Cohen said. MSNBC, he charged, will never include coverage that is injurious to General Electric because the company owns MSNBC.

Every corporate sponsor has stories that are off-limits to journalists, Cohen said.

But the Internet - which Cohen says is "tailor-made for real debate" - has empowered liberal, independent media.

"Progressives dominate the internet," Cohen said, adding that those interested in the news can take advantage of this growing format.

"Active news consumers have far better access now to alternatives of corporate media," Cohen said.

[Jul 28, 2006] How Bush Turns Information Into Propaganda (excerpts) , Krugman

... A few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda. At one level, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don’t like have been established, whether it’s the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole. But it’s dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective.

... ... ...

Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag. Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980’s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.) Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina....

...The climate of media intimidation [by the Bush administration] that prevailed for several years after 9/11, which made news organizations very cautious about reporting facts that put the administration in a bad light, has abated. But it’s not entirely gone....Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?

From: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Where eight million innocent civilians live
Eric: 'Civilian Casualty'? It Depends - Los Angeles Times

Alan Dershowitz wrote this in the LA Times today:

There is a vast difference — both moral and legal — between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets. Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism.

Finally, there is a difference between civilians who are held hostage against their will by terrorists who use them as involuntary human shields, and civilians who voluntarily place themselves in harm's way in order to protect terrorists from enemy fire.

These differences and others are conflated within the increasingly meaningless word "civilian" — a word that carried great significance when uniformed armies fought other uniformed armies on battlefields far from civilian population centers. Today this same word equates the truly innocent with guilty accessories to terrorism.

Right Web Analysis The Neocons Are Talking War—Again

The Neocons Are Talking War—Again Tom Barry, IRC | June 8, 2006

The neocons are largely united over Iran policy, which they say should have three pillars: avoid diplomacy, which they call appeasing the “evildoers;” destabilize Iran and set the stage for regime change by supporting the “true democrats;” and bomb Iran before it poses an imminent threat to Israel or the United States.

The neocons and their allies in the Pentagon and vice president's office set the Bush administration's policy on Iraq. As they set their sights on the next target of preventive war and regime change, what the “scholars” at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Iran Policy Committee, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and other neocon groups are saying about Iran merits attention.

In both the House and the Senate, the large majority of policymakers on both sides of the aisle back the Iran Freedom and Democracy Act, whose unstated but implicit objective is U.S.-guided regime change in Iran. Nothing wrong with freedom and democracy—Iranians themselves clearly want more of both—but lawmakers are once again setting the stage for war, just as they did in the late 1990s when they passed similar neocon-inspired bills calling for the liberation of Iran.

Today, the gathering War Party on Iran is discussing a two-pronged strategy—having the United States and Israel begin preparations for military strikes, while at the same time immediately putting into motion a destabilization strategy involving U.S. support for Iranian dissidents.

Back in the 1980s, the neoconservatives who helped guide the rollback policies of the Reagan presidency didn't use the term “regime change.” But the policies they helped put in place—democratization aid to U.S. allies and covert support for “freedom fighters” in Central America, Afghanistan, and Angola—are playing out again in the war on terror. The neocons and liberal hawks are again playing what proved to be a successful strategy.

More alarming still is the easy talk circulating in Washington of missile strikes, bombing, and an expanded U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

Not Just Containment, but “Extended Commitment”

While some neocons are focusing on increasing U.S. democratization aid to media and information projects, others such as Thomas Donnelly, Reuel Gerecht, and Raymond Tanter are talking about military strategies that could advance the war on terrorism in the Middle East.

AEI's Tom Donnelly explicitly links Iran policy to the overall objective of transforming and controlling the Middle East through new military operations, including an expanded U.S. troop presence throughout the region. Donnelly, former top military analyst for the moribund Project for the New American Century (PNAC), was the lead author of Rebuilding America's Defenses, PNAC's 2000 policy blueprint for military transformation.

In an October 2005 essay in the book Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran, Donnelly contends that a “nuclear Iran” represents a security threat—not so much because Tehran would use the weapons or pass them on to terrorists, but rather because of “the constraining effect it threatens to impose upon U.S. strategy for the greater Middle East.” The greatest danger, according to Donnelly, is that the “realists” will “pursue a ‘balance of power' approach with a nuclear Iran, undercutting the Bush ‘liberation strategy'.”

The scope of U.S. national security strategy extends beyond the “war against radical Islamist networks” to an “extended commitment to reshape the region's political order in a liberal and democratic fashion,” says Donnelly. Consequently, “American security strategy requires more than containment or even a ‘rollback' of enemies in the greater Middle East; it demands that we establish something more lasting in partnership with local allies. The job for our forces is to create the opportunity for these more representative, liberal, and ultimately stable governments to take root.”

In Iraq, this grand strategy means occupying Iraq beyond the time when there is a “return of sovereignty, democratic elections, and a modicum of security.” Even if the United States successfully achieves these goals, “it will remain obligated to help a free Iraq defend itself in a hostile region.” He warns that U.S. withdrawal is not possible: “There is a substantial ‘defer forward' mission that looms after the ‘win decisively' is done. And what is true in Iraq is also true on a smaller scale in Afghanistan.”

Nuclear Earth Penetrators and MEK Empowerment

Raymond Tanter of the Iran Policy Committee says that one option in Iran would be for the U.S. military to use a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which the Pentagon still seems interested in developing. The problem that Tanter sees with using these “bunker-busting” bombs to take out underground Iranian nuclear development facilities is not radiation or setting off a world war, but that the United States would come under international criticism for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bans the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Tanter points out that “such a prohibition might not apply as much to Israel,” which is not an NPT signatory. At a press conference in late 2005, Tanter noted, “The United States has sold Israel bunker-busting bombs, which keeps the military option on the table.”

Tanter's main mission at the Iran Policy Committee is to have the U.S. government work more closely with the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), which has more than 3,500 militants based in Iraq. “Empowerment requires working with Iranian opposition groups in general and with the main opposition in particular,” advises Tanter. He says the MEK and its political front, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, “are not only the best source for intelligence on Iran's potential violations of the nonproliferation regime. The NCRI and MEK are also possible allies of the West in bringing about regime change in Tehran.”

Seeing the possibility that a better-financed and -equipped MEK could destabilize the government, Tanter and the Iran Policy Committee have recommended that the State Department remove the cult-like MEK from its list of terrorist organizations and that the U.S. government begin to covertly fund MEK “freedom fighters.”

To Bomb, or Not to Bomb

Neoconservative warmongering and grand delusions fill the pages of the Weekly Standard, the flagship magazine established in 1996 by William Kristol, who the next year founded PNAC. In the April 24 issue, Reuel Gerecht discussed military options in the cover story, “To Bomb, or Not to Bomb.”

Gerecht, an AEI resident fellow who once directed PNAC's Middle East Initiative, warned: “Those who are unwilling to accommodate [Iran] need to be honest and admit that diplomacy and sanctions and covert operations probably won't succeed, and that we may have to fight a war—perhaps sooner rather than later—to stop such evil men from obtaining the worst weapons we know.”

Six years ago, PNAC published a collection of essays entitled Present Dangers, edited by Kristol and fellow PNAC cofounder Robert Kagan, which set forth a radical foreign policy agenda. Typical of neocon thinking, Gerecht equates national security with Israel's security. In his Present Dangers essay on Iran policy, Gerecht wrote: If the Israelis “believe they've got the goods on the Iranians—for example, finding evidence linking them to anti-Israel/anti-Jewish bombings abroad—then they should by all means retaliate as directly as possible. And Washington should do nothing to discourage an Israeli response, but rather let it be known that the United States will aid the Israelis in any way possible to exact vengeance on the terrorists.”

If the U.S. decides to attack, it shouldn't rely on precision strikes on selected targets. “If we attack,” wrote Gerecht, “the U.S. armed forces must strike with truly devastating effect against the ruling mullahs and the repressive institutions that maintain them. That is, no cruise missiles at midnight to minimize the body count. The clerics will almost certainly strike back unless Washington uses overwhelming, paralyzing force.”

For the neocons and their partners in U.S. global reach, talk is cheap and counterproductive. Diplomacy with evil regimes is appeasement, they say. Instead, some of the leading neocons call for a regime-change strategy that involves surrogate freedom fighters and preventive war.

One of the lessons of the Iraq War is that we all should listen closely to what the neocons are saying and planning because, once again, it may be that that they are talking about our future.

Tom Barry is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at, and author of numerous books on U.S. foreign policy.

The Alchemists: Turning Blood Into Gold, Chris Floyd

This week an interesting story appeared in the Washington Post – buried on page 16, of course, lest anyone think it was of the slightest importance. It revealed that documentary proof has now emerged confirming the fact that in the spring of 2003, the Bush Regime – flush with its illusory "victory" in Iraq – spurned a wide-ranging peace feeler from Iran which offered "full cooperation" on every issue that the Bushists claim to be concerned about in regard to Tehran: "nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups." The offer was made through the Swiss Embassy....In other words, everything that George W. Bush says he wants from the Iranians now, he could have had for the asking – three years ago. What then can we conclude from the rejection of this extraordinary initiative? The answer is obvious: that the Bush Faction is not really interested in curbing nuclear proliferation or defusing the powder keg of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the regional and global terror that it spawns. ....

Despite it Being the Worst Military Blunder in U.S History, the GOP Sees Iraq War as Campaign Opportunity. Am I Missing Something?, Andy Ostroy

So what gives with the Repugs? They are now embracing the war whole-hog. What do they know about it, or its political currency, that's getting them excited about November? The answer is simple: as it was in 2004, it's all about lies, deception and fear-mongering. A masterful campaign to scare the bejesus out of Americans. It's Karl Rove's game plan, and it worked like a charm before. The question is, will it work again? The Repugs are banking heavily on it. Listen to the rhetoric; to the character assassinations. Close your eyes and it's '04 all over again. Witness the Swift-boating attacks on Kerry and Rep. John Murtha (PA), branded as "cut and run" cowards. Listen as VP Dick Chickenhawk warns that the Kerry/Murtha withdrawal plans tell the world that "Americans don't have the stomach for this fight" (a subject Mr. Five Deferments knows a lot about personally). Listen to the misuse and abuse of the word "terrorist." Throughout American military history, we've fought many types of enemies in battle: armies, rebels, guerrillas, insurgents. But since 9/11, and as a direct result of Bush's unjust invasion of Iraq, every enemy's a "terrorist" now. And this morphing process serves one purpose: to use 9/11 as a deceptive basis for, and justification of, the Iraq invasion. "Fight 'em over there so we don't have to over here," is the common Bushevik refrain. It's been over three years since the invasion, and we all now know that (a) there was no WMD in Iraq, (b) there was no direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and (c) Iraq had zero to do with 9/11. Yet it's astounding that the Repugs are back morphing the two, however overtly and/or subtly, in their quest to scare Americans into voting once again for their failed leadership.....

Fracturing the Bush Base: A Compassionate Approach, Bernard Weiner

My understanding of Buddhist practice -- big on compassion and understanding, small on coercion and retribution -- kicked in after watching Frontline's "The Dark Side" last week, the powerful 90-minute documentary examination of how the CheneyBush White House manipulated the country into war with Iraq. I wondered whether a shift in thinking about Bush and Cheney and Rumseld and the rest of the crew would alter the way I viewed them and the war. (By the way, if you missed the show -- the first such full-length documentary on a major network laying out the lies and deceptions -- it can now be seen online. Here's what I mean: Suppose one viewed the members of Bush&Co. as sincere idealists. They had been warned by the outgoing Clinton administration that al-Qaida was extremely dangerous, but it wasn't until the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that they woke up and, out of love of country, decided to do something about it. (Even if you don't think this scenario accords with the facts, I beg you to stick with me here, and see where this line of argument is going.).... Crocodile Tears: U.S. and Human Rights, William Fisher
If you're into black humor, you might find it amusing that two of the countries with some of the world's worst human rights records are making international propaganda hay out of America's performance in prisoner abuse and civil liberties. For example, Saudi Arabia's Arab News, the largest English language newspaper in the Middle East, weighed in on the arrest of the seven Miami men accused of conspiring to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. In an editorial, the newspaper uses the arrests to observe that, post 9/11, 'Many Americans may overlook the increasingly draconian security measures being applied in their own backyard as part of the war against terrorism.' The paper asks: 'Will history record that Osama Bin Laden succeeded after all against his real enemies of liberty and freedom?'......

[Jun 25, 2006]Murtha says U.S. poses top threat to world peace South Florida Sun-Sentinel Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.25.2006

MIAMI — American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said to an audience of more than 200 in North Miami Saturday afternoon.

Murtha was the guest speaker at a town hall meeting organized by Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, D-Miami, at Florida International University's Biscayne Bay Campus. Meek's mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Miami, was also on the panel.

War veterans, local mayors, university students and faculty were in the Mary Ann Wolfe Theatre to listen to the three panelists discuss the war in Iraq for an hour.

A former Marine and a prominent critic of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, Murtha reiterated his views that the war cannot be won militarily and needs political solutions. He said the more than 100,000 troops in Iraq should be pulled out immediately, and deployed to peripheral countries like Kuwait.

"We do not want permanent bases in Iraq," Murtha told the audience. "We want as many Americans out of there as possible."

Murtha also has publicly said that the shooting of 24 Iraqis in November at Haditha, a city in the Anbar province of western Iraq that has been plagued by insurgents, was wrongfully covered up.

The killings, which sparked an investigation into the deadly encounter and another into whether they were the subject of a cover-up, could undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq more than the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib in 2004, Murtha said.

"(The United States) became the target when Abu Ghraib came along," Murtha said.

[Apr 26, 2006] Charley Reese Epitaph For The War Dead

A long time ago, Ezra Pound wrote an epitaph for the war dead of the 20th century, and now it applies equally well to the war dead of the 21st.

They "walked eye-deep in hell believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving came home, home to a lie, home to many deceits, home to old lies and new infamy, usury age-old and age-thick and liars in public places. ... There died a myriad, and of the best, among them, for an old bitch gone in the teeth, for a botched civilization."

That's what all the young men and now women are dying for - lies and a botched civilization. They are not dying for freedom or to defend their homes and loved ones. They are dying so corporations can make big profits, so evil old men who presume to re-arrange the world to suit their notions can test their theories. They are dying for money, oil and ego, and none of it is worth the life of single boy or girl.

Ernest Hemingway said it best when he said, "War itself is a crime against humanity." The people who deserve to be tried as war criminals are the politicians on both sides who start the wars. To think of the millions of young people, all the joys of life still ahead of them, who have died for scabrous ideologies, political stupidity and the greed of people far from the sound of the guns should turn everyone into an isolationist.

But lies are powerful, and people are easy to manipulate. One of the Nazis said all you have to do is have an enemy at the gate and then suggest that anyone who opposes you is unpatriotic. That is precisely the game plan the Bush administration has employed.

What's actually unpatriotic is to support wars started by crooks and liars for reasons they hide from the public. What's unpatriotic is for old men who won't be within 7,000 miles of the sight of blood to be cheerleaders for the war du jour. What's unpatriotic is for the press to act as a conduit for propaganda rather than independently developing information the people need to know.

It's painful to acknowledge that these young people, so idealistic, were and are being lied to so that they die not for their ideals, but for the sordid schemes of lying politicians, corporations and special-interest groups. No wonder the Bush administration doesn't want photographs of the coffins and tries to blame the press for bad news even though, God knows, the American media rub every story with Clorox and censor the photographs like they were some Puritan in pursuit of sin. No wonder the Bush administration has a murderous hatred for Al-Jazeera, the Arab television station that shows the reality of the war with all its stink, filth and blood.

American society today is a house of lies. People are continuously being lied to for commercial, political and ideological reasons. They are lied to about the environment, the war, foreign policy, the economy, agriculture and public health. You name it, and the Establishment has a set of lies all ready to dupe the public into supporting its selfish aims.

I advise every parent to actively discourage his or her children from joining the military until we have cleaned up the political mess in Washington. Idealistic young men and women should not be sent to do the work of mercenaries.

For the kind of murder Mr. Bush wants to commit, he should form an American version of the French Foreign Legion and pay the market price for mercenaries. There are enough heartless psychopaths in the world to do that kind of work without killing, maiming and scarring the souls of America's best young people.

If you want to support the troops, put pressure on the spineless, lying politicians to bring them home. Don't worry about Iraq going to hell. It's already there...

[May 20, 2006] Charley Reese 'What people believe'

Charley Reese,

How do you persuade a man who has a wife and children and who works hard but can barely make ends meet to take a pay cut and go do something that has a high probability of getting him killed or seriously injured?

Clearly, it is not in a man's self-interest to go to a foreign country and fight in a war, the outcome of which won't affect him or his family. So how do you persuade him to do it?

The answer lies in the nature of the human being. We are mind-directed creatures. We act on the basis of our beliefs. Therefore, if you can control what people believe, you can control what they do. That's the whole purpose of advertising, for example - to instill in people's minds the belief that a product or service will be beneficial to them.

Persuading people to go to war is much more complicated and involves identity, which is constructed of beliefs. When we are born, we don't know who we are or where we are. We only know we've just been pushed out of the warm womb into the drafty world of giants who can pick us up by our feet and whack our backsides. We protest the only way we can - by yelling.

The first beliefs that will come to constitute our identity come from parents or caregivers. Any psychiatrist can tell you how important these beliefs are and how difficult they are to shed. Then we begin to add more from our peers, from the culture and from education. So, we learn we are Americans, and just what are Americans? Well, we are told about that largely through history, through stories told by our own family and stories we read or see in the movies.

And once we identify ourselves as Americans, then we will act as we believe Americans, as we have defined them, ought to act. It was not in my self-interest to go into the Army. I had a good job. I had already decided against the military as a career. But, as an American, I believed it was my duty, so I went, and if the Army had said to go to Vietnam, I would have gone without question. My identity as an American was based on my beliefs, and part of those beliefs was that every American had a duty to take his turn on watch.

Millions of men have gone to war because, as Americans or British or French or Germans or Russians or Japanese, they believed it was their duty. The danger lies in the fact that unscrupulous men, through misrepresentation and propaganda, can motivate people to go to war even though it is not in their country's interest, much less their own. Unless there is an invader threatening one's home and hearth, it is never in the interest of an individual to go war - unless he decides to be a mercenary.

It is an evil paradox that men with the lowest motives can launch wars by appealing to the highest ideals of better men.

The millions killed in all the wars were nobodies as far as the leaders who sent them into war were concerned. They were cannon fodder. They all shared in common the fact that their political leaders were willing to sacrifice them for greed or ego. For all practical purposes, all of the dead in wars are unknown soldiers in the war leaders' eyes. The dead are known only to the people who loved them.

The trick is to remember to make the distinction between America in the abstract and America in reality. The America in the abstract is made up of all our experiences, memories, stories, legends and myths. The America in reality consists of what exists right at this moment.

And what exists right at this moment is a corrupt federal government with a foolish man in the White House. What exists at this moment is a military-industrial complex with a vested interest in war and conflict. What exists at this moment are unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What exists at this moment is a government solicitous of corporate welfare, but one that doesn't give a hoot about the individual American.

Rudyard Kipling said it so well when in a poem he wrote: "If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied." Be alert when you hear politicians talk about abstractions like patriotism, national security and international stability. They are trying to control you by controlling your mind.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column three times a week for King Features, which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

Copyright 2006

Film warns of military-industrial complex

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- In his new documentary, 'Why We Fight,' director Eugene Jarecki examines the growth of the United States` military-industrial complex from after World War II up to today`s controversial war in Iraq.

'Back then, the reasons (for war) were clear -- fascism, genocide, oppression,' Jarecki, who also directed 2002`s 'The Trials of Henry Kissinger,' says on the movie`s Web site. 'Today, if you ask people why we are fighting in Iraq, I think the reasons are far less clear.'

The movie, the Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, focuses on the topics of preemption, the industry of war and global economic colonialism by the United States. The documentary uses no real narrator; instead telling a story through interviews with bomber pilots, government employees, politicians and average American citizens in 30 states as it unveils a war-dependent U.S. culture.

The film opens with President Dwight D. Eisenhower`s 1961 farewell speech, in which he predicted the problems a permanently militarized United States would have.

'In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,' Eisenhower said in the speech, often championed by Jarecki throughout the film. 'The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.'

From there, Jarecki interviews the pilots who dropped the first bombs on Iraq in 2003, a Vietnamese war survivor turned tactical weapons expert and recounts the tale of Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York City policeman who lost his son in the Sept. 11, 2001 mega-terror attacks. After the attacks, Sekzer contacted the armed forces, and eventually got his son`s name on a bomb that later fell on Iraq.

After President George W. Bush confirmed that Iraq had played no part in the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, Sekzer felt exploited for his patriotism.

'Am I sorry I asked for my son`s name to be put on the bomb?' Sekzer muses. 'No, because I acted under the conditions at the time. Was it wrong? Yeah, it was wrong, but I didn`t know that.'

Rather than using the heavy-handed approach that another documentary film-maker Michael Moore took in 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' Jarecki stays behind-the-scenes throughout the movie, allowing his interviewees to do the talking. Though Jarecki maintains he interviewed a conservative majority, it would be a lie to say 'Why We Fight' doesn`t take a liberal slant. Despite the biased angle, conservative voices receive an opportunity to comment on the film`s issues, most notably military preemption.

'What`s the big fuss about preemption?' says former Defense Department official and neo-conservative Richard Perle. 'You`d shoot first if someone was planning to shoot you right?'

The movie separates itself from simple anti-Bush critiques by offering a broader cultural study, both historically and geographically. An especially powerful segment of the film shows a world map that is then chronologically peppered with U.S. military conflicts from World War II until the present.

The United States` support of and then subsequent hostility towards foreign nations is also a talking point, punctuated by the image of current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983.

In contrast to the critiques against preemption and the United States` economic war machine is the story of George Solomon, a 23-year-old who signs up to be an army pilot after his mother dies. Solomon represents the thousands of people who turn to the military as the answer for their life`s complications.

'These three problems: my mother`s death, my financial hardship and my inability to complete my education,' Solomon says. 'All of these problems are gonna be solved by my enlistment in the military.'

If Eisenhower is the hero in 'Why We Fight,' the villain must be Vice President Dick Cheney, who is identified as a former weapons contractor and personifies the idea of war as a business. Cheney`s economic impact on the military is thoroughly criticized by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is interrupted while panning Cheney on-camera by a phone call from the vice president himself.

While at times the movie seems to only raise more questions rather than answers, one strong message is for the United States to remember its political and military history. Scattering the film`s 98 minutes are quotes from Presidents George Washington and Eisenhower that warn of the dangers of a U.S. permanent military presence. Using techniques like this, Jarecki sends a clear message the United States must avoid becoming what author Gore Vidal calls the 'United States of Amnesia.' The Media-Industrial Complex

The Media-Industrial Complex is a term I made up for what used to be called the Military-Industrial Complex.

Back when the cold war was in full swing, the military-industrial complex would propose multi-billion dollar "defense" projects to Congress, hoping that Congress would allocate billions of tax dollars to fund these projects.

Congressional members who voted for these projects received campaign funds from the military-industrial complex so they could get re-elected. The factories, military bases, and research institutions that these billions of dollars paid for ended up being located in the home districts of the same influential congressmen and senators who voted for the projects in the first place.

Any member of Congress who did not vote for these projects would be labeled "soft on communism" or a "pacifist" or a "traitor to the American Way Of Life". When the next election came around, people who voted against these projects would find that their opponents were suddenly much better funded than they'd been in the past.

Some of these projects were actually nd power gener profits. The senators and congressmen got re-election funds and managed to hold on to power for as long as they wished. The American people got a first-rate defense system, although they'd paid billions more for that defense than they probably needed to, and ended up putting their great-grandchildren into debt in the process.

In this post-cold war world, the military doesn't have the power it once did to create multi-million dollar projects that were easily sold to a willing Congress. We just don't have the same threats to the American Way of Life that we once did. However, the same defense contractor shareholders who siphoned off billions of tax dollars using the "defense" scam are still out there and they're still the same greedy bastards they always were. As the cold war wound its way down these people sold off their defense stocks and started buying media companies.

We no longer have real threats to the American Way of Life, but if the media tells you day after day of some new danger, real or imaginary, you can bet that Congress will be only too happy to allocate the funds to fight that danger. The cycle will continue, campaign funds will be given, and stockholders will get rich off of American taxpayer dollars. That's why a defense contractor like General Electric bought NBC, and another defense contractor named Westinghouse bought ABC. Those are the well-known cases, but they're just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

25 Rules of Disinformation: How to Fight Back by VoxFux
People can be bought, threatened, or blackmailed into providing disinformation, so even "good guys" can be suspect in many cases.
Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks by Richard Stallman
The Soviet Union treated it as very important. There this unauthorized copying and re-distribution was known as Samizdat and to stamp it out, they developed a series of methods: First, guards watching every piece of copying equipment to check what people were copying to prevent forbidden copying. Second, harsh punishments for anyone caught doing forbidden copying. Third, soliciting informers, asking everyone to rat on their neighbors and co-workers to the information police.
Corporate Influence on the Media and Perception of History by Greg Wells
This is a short essay, in the form of a speech. I used it as an outline of sorts for a lecture. Focusing on the biased slant in news reporting placed by corporate interests, and the apparent lack of historical analysis of the assassination of Senator Huey Long, this short essay is pretty basic stuff, but interesting.
Freedom Or Copyright? by Richard Stallman
Computers can be powerful tools of domination when a few people control what other people's computers do. The publishers realized that by forcing people to use specially designated software to read e-books, they can gain unprecedented power: they can compel readers to pay, and identify themselves, every time they read a book!
From Melbourne to Prague: the Struggle for a Deglobalized World by Walden Bello
For years, we were told that globalization was benign, that it was a process that brought about the greatest good for the greatest number, that good citizenship lay in accepting the impersonal rule of the market and good governance meant governments getting out of the way of market forces and letting the most effective incarnation of market freedom, the transnational corporation, go about its task of bringing about the most efficient mix of capital, land, technology and labor.
Goverment Influence Of The Media
This Article purports to have copies of memos from the White House telling media stations what to say and not say.
Media Literacy: How the Media Constructs Reality by Media Literacy Resource Guide
1. All media are CONSTRUCTIONS. 2. All media construct REALITY. 3. AUDIENCES negotiate meaning in media. 4. Media have COMMERCIAL implications. 5. Media contain IDEOLOGICAL and VALUE messages. 6. Media have SOCIAL and POLITICAL implications. 7. Media have UNIQUE AESTHETIC FORM that is closely related to CONTENT.
Overcoming the Trickster: Media Wars of the 21st Century by Roger W. Wicke
To do this successfully in the realm of truth-finding, we must know the tactics and strategies of our opponents in the great media wars of the 20th and 21st centuries; then, we must change our own behaviors and strategies so that we are no longer susceptible to these techniques.
Propaganda in Theory and Practice
"If you give a man the correct information for seven years, he may believe the incorrect information on the first day of the eighth year when it is necessary, from your point of view, that he should do so. Your first job is to build the credibility and authenticity of your propaganda, and persuade the enemy to trust you although you are his enemy."
Senator Kerrey Speaks on Government/Media Complicity by Joel Bleifuss and Senator Bob Kerrey
Government/Media complicity during the 1990 Gulf War.
Subliminal Ads on TV in the Bay Area!
Is this supposed to be some sort of joke, or a form of subliminal message? The message appears only for a fraction of a second, then disappears...
The CIA's Project MOCKINGBIRD: Ongoing Covert Control of the Media by Alex Constantine
Who Controls the Media? Soulless corporations do, of course. Corporations with grinning, double-breasted executives, interlocking directorates, labor squabbles and flying capital. Dow. General Electric. Coca-Cola. Disney.
The Future of the DJ by Andrew Octopus
As corporations coagulate into multimedia hegemonies and consolidate their grasp on airwaves of all sorts, the physical and digital spaces we control and use for audiovisual expression on the independent individual level become more critical, to the point of being crucial.
The Israeli Spy Ring Scandal by whatreallyhappened
Prior to 9/11, the FBI had discovered the presence of a massive spy ring inside the United States run by the government of Israel. This seems a harsh gratitude from a nation which obtains 10% of its annual budget from the American taxpayer, $3+ billion a year. Over the years, American taxpayers have been required to send Israel more than four times what the US spent to go to the moon.
The Media Goes to War: How TV Sold The Panama Invasion by Mark Cook and Jeff Cohen
Obviously there was a mix of opinion inside Panama, but it was virtually unreported on television, the dominant medium shaping US attitudes about the invasion. Panamanian opposition to the US was dismissed as nothing more than "thugs" who'd been given jobs by Noriega. It was hardly acknowledged that the high-visibility demonstration outside the Vatican Embassy the day of Noriega's surrender had been actively "encouraged" by the US.
The Peruvian Embassy Siege and the Media by Andrew Flood
The action by the MRTA in seizing the Japanese in Lima, Peru in December and capturing a spectacular array of personnel from the Peruvian and international ruling class in doing so at first attracted considerable international media attention.
The Spectacular Achievements of Media Control by Chuck Dodson
Basically this is a serious magnification of Noam Chomsky's 1991 "Media Control, The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda" speech about the war against Iraq and the broader issues behind it and leading up to it. With this paper, I compare Chomsky's insights into the culture that promotes and allows a continual *parade* of foreign enemies, and show how the same phenomenon happens at home with a *parade* of domestic enemies, especially focusing on the continual hype against persons called "pedophiles".
Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation by H. Michael Sweeney
Manufacture a new truth. Create your own expert(s), group(s), author(s), leader(s) or influence existing ones willing to forge new ground via scientific, investigative, or social research or testimony which concludes favourably.
Video Game Violence vs. Societal Violence by XiPPiLLi
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went to their high school, in Littleton, Colorado and killed 12 classmates and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves. The Columbine High incident raised a panic level already high in the United States, and, most would say, rightfully so. People realized then, if they hadn't already, that kids have access to guns and that the results can be grim. The Rocky Mountain News covered the incident in depth, reporting on August 22, 1999, "His [Eric Harris] nickname, Reb, was inspired by a character in one of his favorite computer games, Doom, where the goal is to score high body counts." The paper pointed out "one of the game's slogans: 'Doom -- where the sanest place is behind a trigger.'" It was widely publicized that police had found a videotape that showed either Harris or Klebold with a sawed-off shotgun on his lap that he called "Arlene"--a Doom reference.
What Good is Free Speech if No One Listens? by Kurt Luedtke
I was for 15 years a journalist, a vocation in which you'd think you would learn a lot. I learned three things: The accused you've never met is more guilty than the one you've talked to. Truth and accuracy are not the same. Things are never, ever, as they appear to be.
Why Newspapers are Pro-government by Vin Suprynowicz
Having worked in the newspaper business for 25 years, I'm often at pains to explain to folks that the pro-big-government slant of the news media (though very real) is not a "conspiracy," in the simplistic sense. That is to say, I've never known an editor to wear a hole in his carpet, pacing the floor as he waits for the phone call from the Tri-Lateral Commission (or whomever) to "instruct" him which stories to feature, and how to interpret them.
World Media Protest Day by RecDude
The mission statement and date for the World Media Protest

Robert Fisk 'Seymour Hersh versus the Bush administration (and the DC press corps)'

Hersh might have said that we'd also had a "collapse" of the media in the United States, a total disintegration of the Ed Murrow/Howard K Smith/ Daniel Elsworth/Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward school of journalism. The greying, bespectacled, obscenity-swearing Hersh is about all we have left to frighten the most powerful man in the world (save for the jibes of Maureen Dowd in The New York Times).

So it's good to know he's still doing some fighting, including other journalists on his target list. "I know some serious generals," he says. "I can't urge them to go public. They'd be attacked by Fox (TV), and the (New York) Times and The Washington Post would wring their hands. It's a mechanism. You don't get rewarded in the newsroom for being a malcontent." Journalists on the mainstream papers are largely middle-class college graduates--not reporters who came up the hard way like Hersh's street reporting in Chicago in his early days. They have largely no connection to the immigrants' society. "They don't know what it's like to be on social welfare. Their families weren't in Vietnam and their families are not in Iraq." The BBC, too, has "fallen off the way".

Conversation with John Kenneth Galbraith, p. 3 of 7

One gets the sense today that the liberals still have a fear of losing a domino on their watch. To quote from your autobiography, talking about President Kennedy and referring to the Bay of Pigs and the acceptance of neutral Laos, Kennedy said, "You have to realize that I can only afford so many defeats in one year." Electoral loss is a real fear for liberal democratic politicians when they confront the Third World, when they confront communism.

Oh no question about it, and I wouldn't, for a moment, be happy about it.

I knew the Far East probably somewhat better than my colleagues in the Kennedy administration, and I would never have supported the idea of a communist Indochina or a communist Vietnam. I don't think communism is relevant to that stage of economic development. But I was strongly persuaded that this was not something that was within the reach of our power, and that we could mire ourselves there in an impossible situation, because extending our information to that country was an impossible task. So my basic argument in those days was that Vietnam and Indochina must be returned to the obscurity on the world's scene for which God intended them. That they were not of great social, political, economic, or strategic importance to the United States. In taking that position, I was somewhat successful in avoiding the label of being pro-communist. I always argued that it takes a very precise Washington observer to tell the difference between a communist jungle and a capitalist jungle -- both are irrelevant to the jungles of Vietnam.

[May 14, 2006] Staff spy scandal at German magazine - World -

BERLIN: Germany's prestigious news magazine Der Spiegel, famed throughout decades for rooting out corruption and the vagaries of errant politicians, admitted today some of its staff had been working for the government intelligence service.

In an article in the next edition on Monday, released in advance, the celebrated weekly - considered a watchdog of press and democratic freedoms in post-war Germany - said one staff member in a regional bureau had been working for the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) as recently as last northern autumn.

Another filing from war zones around the world had likewise been providing information to the BND on a colleague working for Focus, a rival weekly German news magazine.

The BND, Germany's overseas intelligence-gathering agency, has in effect admitted to committing "mistakes", thereby appearing to confirm indirectly that it had been spying on German journalists.

The revelations appeared yesterday in the quality Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Quoting from Spiegel's own article, it said the BND had kept several journalists under surveillance for some years in order to find out the source of leaks from the BND to the press.

Former BND chief Volker Foertsch has also admitted that journalists had sometimes been used as informers.

"The aim of the contacts was to prevent publication of prejudicial articles and find out where the journalists were getting their information from inside the BND," he was quoted by another newspaper, the Berliner Zeitung, as saying.

Der Spiegel, founded in 1947, became widely read as West Germany developed post-war democratic institutions.

It achieved its greatest moment of fame in 1962 when its publisher Rudolf Augstein and top editorial staff were temporarily taken into police custody on suspicion of treason after the magazine published damaging details of results of a NATO military exercise.

All were later released without charge and Der Spiegel's reputation was secured as a pillar of press freedom in a post-war society ultra-sensitive about the probity of political institutions.

[Apr 29, 2006] TomDispatch - Tomgram Judith Coburn, Caring for Veterans on the Cheap

Tomgram: Judith Coburn, Caring for Veterans on the Cheap

Can anyone be surprised any longer when FEMA reneges on its promise of a year's free housing to Hurricane Katrina evacuees? Or that, in once can-do America, the devastated southeastern coast from which those residents fled in such confusion remains almost singularly unreconstructed as the next hurricane season approaches? Or that the only ones likely to receive relief at the gas pump this summer are the oil companies? Or that the Bush administration is incapable of running a new Medicare drug program as anything other than an experience in chaos? Or that so many functions that once made civil government seem in any way civil are simply disappearing and others are being rebuilt on a military model? Typically, a Senate report on dismantling FEMA suggests replacing it with

"a new National Preparedness and Response Authority whose head would... serve as the president's top adviser for national emergency management, akin to the military role served by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It would reunify disaster preparedness and response activities that [Department of Homeland Security head Michael] Chertoff decoupled, and restore grant-making authority taken away by Congress in redefining a stronger national preparedness system with regional coordinators, a larger role for the National Guard and the Defense Department and more money for training, planning and exercises."

None of this should surprise anyone all these years into the Bush presidency. But if you really want a benchmark of where we're heading, consider the Veterans Administration as the gasping canary in the American mineshaft of civility. And think of the matter this way: While President Dwight Eisenhower warned of a "military-industrial complex" in his 1961 farewell address to the American people ("In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex..."), we have never had a president who was so determined to turn more of what once passed for civil government over to the Pentagon, an organization seemingly intent on proving in Iraq and elsewhere that reconstruction and civil governance are nowhere in its bag of tricks. Yet from avian-flu defense to catastrophe relief, from civil reconstruction to global diplomacy and domestic intelligence-gathering, the Pentagon, whose budget dwarfs all else, is the preeminent institution in this country today, shouldering ever more of the burden ever more poorly.

So when what is most "civil" in the military starts to falter as well, all of us should take note. In this case, as Judith Coburn reports below, the health-care and disability system for American veterans -- the very men and women this administration so cavalierly sent off to its war of choice in Iraq -- is in a state of increasing disarray and faces a wounded administration that secretly likes to think of the medical care of veterans as another form of welfare to be slashed. Tom

Coming Home from War on the Cheap

Shortchanging the Wounded
By Judith Coburn

On the eve of his Marine unit's assault on Falluja in November, 2004, Blake Miller read to his men from the Bible (John 14:2-3): "In my father's house, there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I leave this place and go there to prepare a place for you, so that where I may be, you may be also."

A photograph of Miller's blood-smeared, filthy face, so reminiscent of David Douglas Duncan's photos of war-weary Marines in Vietnam, is one of the Iraq War's iconic images. Over a hundred newspapers ran it. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported recently, Miller, a decorated war hero, has been shattered psychologically by Iraq. Disabled by flashbacks and nightmares, he continues to pay daily and dearly for his service there.

His eloquent commitment to his fellow Marines is the highest value in military life. But the Bush administration, which sent Blake Miller, his fellow Marines, and 1.3 million other Americans (so far) to war in Iraq and Afghanistan apparently does not share this commitment.

Much has been written about how President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waged war on the cheap, sending too few ill-equipped young soldiers -- 30% of them ill-trained Reservists and National Guardsmen -- into battle. But little has been reported about how shockingly on-the-cheap the homecomings of these soldiers have proved to be. The Bush administration awarded Blake Miller a medal, but it has fought for three long years to deny soldiers like him the care they need. While Miller and his men were being thrown into the fire in Falluja, the White House was proposing to cut the combat pay of soldiers like them. (Only an outburst of outrage across the political spectrum caused the administration to back off from that suggestion.)

The Veterans Administration, now run by a former Republican National Committeeman, has been subjected to the same radical hatcheting that the White House has tried to wield against the rest of America's safety net. Cutbacks, cooking the books, privatization schemes, even a proposal to close down the VA's operations have all been in evidence. The administration's inside-the-beltway supporters like the Heritage Foundation and famed anti-tax radical Grover Norquist like to equate VA care with welfare. Traditionally, however, most Americans have held that the VA's medical care and disability compensation was earned by those who served their country.

Unfortunately, in our draft-free country, the fight to protect the Veteran's Administration and to fully fund it has gone on largely out of public sight. Other than the Washington Post and the Associated Press, relatively few journalistic organizations have bothered to regularly cover the VA. The fight over it that White House hatchetmen, VA political appointees, and their allies in Congress have had with Congressional critics (Democratic and Republican) along with veterans' organizations has been monitored closely only by veterans' websites like Larry Scott's, and

"Enron-styled Accounting"

While national deficits soar, thanks in part to skyrocketing war costs, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are flooding into the increasingly underfunded VA system. The Pentagon says that 2,389 Americans have died and 17,648 have been wounded in combat in Iraq (and another 285 have died in Afghanistan). But these casualty figures seem to be significant undercounts. After all, 144,424 American veterans have sought treatment from the VA system since returning from those wars, not including soldiers actually hospitalized in military hospitals.

These figures were wrested only recently from the Veteran's Administration after years of fruitless demands from Democrats on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. The 144,424 figure includes not only many of those 17,648 reported wounded in combat by the Pentagon -- if that figure is, in fact, accurate -- but those wounded psychologically, those injured in accidents, and those whose ailments were caused or exacerbated by service in the war. (Think of war, in this sense, as an extreme sport in its toll on the body.) Of course, neither Pentagon, nor VA figures for the wounded include estimates of those soldiers or veterans who don't show up at a Department of Defense (DoD) or VA facility. Among these casualties are post-combat-tour suicides (who obviously can't show up) and the victims of diseases like leishmaniasis, caused by the ubiquitous sand flies in Iraq, who often suffer on their own.

Nonetheless, the VA has admitted -- and it's been confirmed by an Army study -- that a staggering 35% of veterans who served in Iraq have already sought treatment in the VA system for emotional problems from the war. Add this to the older veterans, especially from the Vietnam era, pouring into the VA system as their war wounds, both physical and emotional, deepen with age or as, on retirement, they find they can no longer afford private health insurance and realize that VA health care is -- or, at least in the past, was -- more generous than Medicare.

Just as the Pentagon failed, after its March 2003 invasion of Iraq, to plan for keeping the peace, guarding against looting, fighting a resilient insurgency, or handling a civil war, so has the Veterans Administration failed to plan for caring for casualties of the war. The VA admitted recently that 33,858 more vets showed up for treatment in just the first quarter of FY2006 than were expected for the entire year. Do the math yourself. Multiply times 4, assuming that the war goes on injuring Americans at current levels, and you get a possible underestimate of 135,000 casualties for the year.

Even more distressing, the San Diego Union recently reported that mentally ill soldiers are being sent back to war armed only with antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. The Union quotes Sydney Hickey of the National Military Family Association as saying that "more than 200,000 prescriptions for the most common antidepressants were written in the last 14 months for service members and their families." According to the Union, an Army study also found that 17% of combat-seasoned infantrymen suffer from major depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a single tour in Iraq. California Sen. Barbara Boxer has called for an investigation.

Are such chronic underestimates merely the result of incompetence? Not according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress's investigative arm. In a series of reports on the Veterans Administration over the last three years, the GAO found that the VA's top officials submitted budget requests based on cost limits demanded by the White House, not on realistic expectations of how many veterans would actually need medical care or disability support.

In repeated testimony before Congress, top VA political appointees have opposed demands by veterans' groups like the American Legion and the Disabled Veterans of America to increase significantly funds for medical care and disability payments for the new patients now flooding the system. Top VA officials assured Congress that more money wasn't needed because the agency had stepped up "management efficiencies." But the GAO found that, from 2003-2006, there were no obvious management efficiencies whatsoever to offset the increased treatment costs from the Iraq War, nor did the VA even have a methodology for reporting on such alleged efficiencies.

While the GAO's findings, when describing the VA's budget manipulations, were couched in such relatively polite bureaucratic euphemisms as "misleading," "lacked a methodology," and "does not have a reliable basis," the conclusions nonetheless were striking. "The GAO report confirms what everyone has known all along," American Legion National Commander Thomas L. Bock commented. "The VA's health-care budget has been built on false claims of 'efficiency' savings, false actuarial assumptions and an inability to collect third-party reimbursements -- money owed them. This budget model has turned our veterans into beggars, forced to beg for the medical care they earned and, by law, deserve. These deceptions are especially unconscionable when American men and women are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Some veterans are calling it fraud. Rep. Lane Evans (Dem.-Ill.) of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee calls it "Enron-styled accounting."

Budget Busting

The economic realities of the wars the Bush administration has taken us into are, in truth, budget busting. A recent study by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard management expert Linda Biones -- that actually factored the costs of "coming home" into war expenditures -- sets the total cost of the Iraq War between $1 and 2 trillion, including $122 billion in disability payments and $92 billion in health care for veterans.

Pentagon health-care costs for soldiers still in the military have doubled in the last five years and are projected to total $64 billion or 12% of the official Pentagon budget by 2015, according to William Winkenwerder, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Soaring American medical costs are only partly to blame. Advances in combat medical care have also meant that far more wounded soldiers are being kept alive than in earlier wars, many of them with serious brain injuries and/or multiple amputations. Taking care of these tragically maimed soldiers for life will be extraordinarily costly, both in terms of medical care and their 100% disability payments. (The VA rates disability on a scale of 0 to 100%, which then determines the size of the monthly disability payment due a veteran.)

Even before recent veterans began flooding the system, the VA was already underfunded and being criticized for poor services. Then, three years ago, Rep. Evans and Rep. Chris H. Smith, (Rep.-NJ), Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, raised the alarm that the VA, already short of funds, would face a catastrophe as the troops began returning from Iraq.

Smith was rewarded for his efforts to sound the alarm by being removed not just from his chairmanship, but from the committee altogether, by the House Republican leadership. Similarly, in November 2004, VA head Anthony Principi was forced out by the White House because of his opposition to the VA being shortchanged in the budget the White House demanded -- so lobbyists for veterans believe. But Principi seems not to have suffered from his VA experience. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that a medical services company Principi headed, and returned to after running the VA, earned over a billion dollars in fees, much of it from contracts approved while Principi was VA chief.

The VA admits its disability system was overburdened even before the administration invaded Iraq; and, by 2004, it had a backlog of 300,000 disability claims. Now, the VA reports that the backlog has reached 540,122. By April 2006, 25% of rating claims took six months to process -- no small thing for a veteran wounded badly enough to be unable to work. An appeal of a rejected claim frequently takes years to settle. One hundred twenty-three thousand disability claims have been filed already by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, in its budget requests, the administration has constantly resisted congressional demands to increase the number of VA staffers processing such claims.

The True Cost of Coming Home

Congress has fought the White House over its low VA budgets for several years. In the FY 2006 budget, all Congress could finally grant the VA was $990 million above the agency's already meager request -- an increase of just 3.6% over the previous year despite the rise in casualties to be treated. In fact, top VA officials now admit it would take a 14% increase in the present budget simply to keep up with the inflation in medical costs.

Rep. Evans estimates that there has been a $4 billion shortfall in VA funding in the years 2003-06. In 2005, the White House admitted that, for medical services alone, the VA was short $1 billion for the year -- and another estimated $2.6 billion in 2006.

What may ultimately swamp the Veterans Administration's ability to cope is the emotional toll of combat -- unless it jettisons thousands of returning soldiers. Nearly one in three veterans has been hospitalized at the VA, or visited a VA outpatient clinic, due to an initial diagnosis of a mental-health disorder, according to the VA itself. Its numbers are consistent with a recent Army study on soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Such a rate might add up over time (depending on how long these wars last) to almost half a million veterans in need of treatment -- or more. A 2004 study of several Army and Marine units returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine found only 23-40% of those with PTSD had sought treatment. And post-traumatic stress is called "post" for a reason -- its most serious symptoms usually emerge long after the trauma is over.

Listen to the VA's own national advisory board on PTSD in a report released in February, 2006:

"[The] VA cannot meet the ongoing needs of veterans of past deployments while also reaching out to new combat veterans of [Iraq and Afghanistan] and their families within current resources and current models of treatment."

The VA is now paying out $4.3 billion a year for PTSD disability to 215,871 veterans. The report also found that a returning war veteran suffering from emotional illness now has to wait an average of 60 days before he or she can even be evaluated for diagnosis, let alone treated. Forty-two percent of VA primary care clinics had no mental-health staff members and 53% of those that did had only one. Eighty-two percent of new patients needed to be in the most intensive PTSD treatment programs, the VA report found, but 40% of those programs were already so full that they could only take a few more patients; 20% said they were too full to take any at all.

"VA's data show a 30% increase in the number of [Iraq and Afghan War] veterans who have an initial diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from the end of FY 2005," says Rep. Michael Michaud (Dem.-Me). "I applaud the courage of these veterans who have sought help, but the administration refuses to acknowledge fully the demand and need for mental health services."

Further down the line: How many Iraqi veterans will eventually join the ranks of the 400,000 homeless vets on the streets of American cities? (Right now the VA takes care of only 100,000 such vets, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.)

This dire situation has only encouraged the budget cutters and anti-government radicals like Norquist, who once joked that he hoped to shrink the government enough so that he could drown it in a bathtub. With PTSD rates soaring among vets, the hatchets have been out not just when it comes to treating them, but even when it comes to the diagnosis of PTSD itself. In 2005, the VA, under White House pressure, announced that it was reopening 72,000 long-approved PTSD disability claims for review, many of them for Vietnam veterans. Right-wing columnists quickly swung into action with op-ed pieces insisting that many PTSD claims were fraudulent. The VA backed off -- but only after a New Mexico newspaper reported that a troubled Vietnam veteran with a 100% PTSD disability killed himself upon fearing that the VA might review his case and a firestorm of criticism from Congress and veterans' organizations followed.

Other White House ideas for cutting back the VA, including making vets pay insurance premiums, higher co-pays and doubling Vets' costs for prescription drugs, have also been beaten back by Congress. One VA response to its huge backlog of claims has been to limit enrollment for its services. In January 2003, the White House ordered the VA to create a new temporary cost-cutting category of "affluent" vets who would not be eligible to use the VA. But the new category seems headed for permanency. And it sets the cut-off level for eligibility for VA care so low -- around $30,000 for a so-called "affluent" family of four -- that many vets who have been cut off can't possibly afford health insurance and medical care on the private market.

In World War II, 12 million Americans fought on behalf of a nation of 130 million. Twenty-five percent of American men served in that war. They came back heroes to a country more than willing to give them the latest medical care, compensate them for their wounds, send them to college, and help them buy homes.

Fifty years later in Iraq -- an unpopular war -- only 1.3 million are fighting for a nation of 300 million. "Never have so few sacrificed so much for so many," one Desert Storm veteran said recently. Iraq may be the wrong cause for sacrifice. But Vietnam veterans taught us that once war starts we must be willing to take care of everyone who gets hurt in it.

Judith Coburn has covered war and its aftermath in Indochina, Central America, and the Middle East for the Village Voice, Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times, and Tomdispatch, among other media outlets.

[Apr. 6, 2006] - Spirit of DeLay lives on in Congress Spirit of DeLay lives on in Congress

It would be tempting to herald the resignation of Tom DeLay — former majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives — as the end of an era. Tempting, but premature. DeLay, who was indicted last September on election-related money laundering charges, was a friend of Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist, who was last week sentenced to almost six years in prison for fraud and corruption.

DeLay rose to prominence in 1994 in tandem with Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, when the Republicans took control of both houses for the first time in a generation. Brandishing his "Contract with America," Gingrich promised to put an end to the era of big government and to cut back drastically on the thicket of federal regulations.

With less fanfare, DeLay launched the "K Street Project" that sought to persuade, flatter and cajole Washington's lobby groups into the Republican camp. Gingrich was outfoxed in a budget battle with president Bill Clinton in 1995 and his Republican Revolution lost steam. DeLay, meanwhile, went from strength to strength. More than a decade later, it is evident which of the two men had a more lasting influence on the workings of America's federal government.

Since 1994 the number of lobby groups registered in Washington has risen almost fourfold to 36,000. The cost of "earmarks," by which lawmakers insert unrelated special interest subsidies into broader spending bills, skyrocketed to $62 billion last year. And America's tax system has gone from thicket to forest. According to the Cato Institute, the number of pages of federal tax rules rose from 40,500 in 1995 to 66,498 this year.

DeLay's K Street Project bears much of the blame for the deterioration in the quality of legislation. That decline was also in evidence last week when the Senate passed a heavily diluted version of plans to curtail the influence of lobby groups. It cut from $50 to $20 the cost of meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists. But it left untouched "study trips" in which lobbyists fund the travels of lawmakers to plush resorts in exotic locations. Among the lobbyists breathing a sigh of relief last week were 29 former DeLay staff employees. Two others, including Delay's former deputy chief of staff, have been indicted on corruption charges.

Meanwhile, John Boehner, who replaced DeLay as majority leader, yesterday praised his predecessor's "integrity and honour." Boehner came to the job promising to put an end to sleaze, in spite of having been caught distributing campaign cheques from the tobacco industry on the house floor in 1995. DeLay is quitting Congress. But his soul is marching on.

This is an edited version of an editorial that appeared yesterday in the Financial Times, London.



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