Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day of Shame, 11 years after



Goshka Macuga's "Colin Powell" statue. (via)


It has now been 11 years since Colin Powell pitched preemptive total war against Iraq based on obvious fictions... and since the American media absolutely swooned for it, condemning millions to death, dismemberment, or displacement.

Our discourse today reflects shockingly little interest in the aftermath and the lessons we should have learned.

Throughout our society, all US military actions continue to be deemed supremely heroic.

Pretty much no one in America marks this Day of Shame, the anniversary of February 5, 2003. The culture of lies and violence the Iraq War and other such enterprises rely on and represent goes almost entirely unconsidered, unchallenged, unchanged.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recommended reading

Day of Shame related posts from the past year:

Jonathan Schwarz: "Colin Powell Gets Mad at Me"

David Swanson: "Colin Powell's Tangled Web"

Day of Shame, 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago today, Colin Powell went to the United Nations and presented an emperor's-new-clothes argument for raining death, dismemberment, and displacement onto the people of Iraq.

To call the case he presented "thin" is to exaggerate its substance.

Nonetheless, the American news media had high praise for the emperor's ensemble:
"a massive array of evidence," "a detailed and persuasive case," "a powerful case," "a sober, factual case," "an overwhelming case," "a compelling case," "the strong, credible and persuasive case," "a persuasive, detailed accumulation of information," "the core of his argument was unassailable," "a smoking fusillade... a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction," "the skeptics asked for proof; they now have it," "a much more detailed and convincing argument than any that has previously been told," "Powell's evidence... was overwhelming," "an ironclad case... incontrovertible evidence," "succinct and damning evidence... the case is closed," "Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein," "masterful," "If there was any doubt that Hussein... needs to be... stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."
The cognitive dissonance of obvious, empty lies being granted the weight of life-and-death righteousness is almost no American's idea of a teachable moment.

The horrors we visited upon the Iraqi people are almost no American's idea of something consequential, something to learn from, something to atone.

Our readiness to do it again—another Iraq, another Vietnam—is almost no American's idea of something we should shame ourselves out of. And that, of course, compounds the shame.


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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day of Shame, 9th Anniversary

[See also: commemoration in cartoon form. And welcome, Naked Capitalism readers! Welcome Sideshow readers!]


President Obama began his 2012 State of the Union address speaking thusly about the war that had its marketing launch at the UN on this date in 2003:

Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought — and several thousand gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world.


He proceeded to celebrate his latest claimed end to the war, a troop drawdown precipitated only by his failed attempt to override the Bush-Maliki deadline, i.e., a bid for Iraq to grant continued immunity for American military actions there.

Can the war truly be deemed "over" in light of the ongoing massive presence of State Department/mercenary/special ops forces, drones, and so forth?

Either way, America's sugar-coating of this blood-soaked misadventure is something to behold.

In announcing the troop pullout, Obama gushed:

The last American soldier[s] will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success...


The man elected in large part as a supposed antidote to "dumb wars" has made it his business to burnish the legacy of the Iraq War, as Chris Floyd explains:

Barack Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the self-proclaimed inheritor of the mantle of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, went to North Carolina [on 12/14/11] to declare the act of aggression in Iraq "an extraordinary achievement." He lauded the soldiers gathered before him for their "commitment to fulfil your mission": the mission of carrying out an unprovoked war of aggression and imposing a society-destroying occupation that led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. These activities -- "everything that American troops have done in Iraq" -- led to "this moment of success," he proclaimed.

He spoke of suffering, he spoke of sacrifice, he spoke of loss and enduring pain -- but only for the Americans involved in the unprovoked war of aggression, and their families. He did not say a single word -- not one -- about the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Iraqis killed by this "fulfilled mission," this "extraordinary achievement," this "success." These human beings -- these sons and daughters, fathers, mothers, kinfolk, lovers, friends -- cannot be acknowledged. They cannot be perceived. It must be as if they had never existed. It must be as if they are not dead now.

The divorce from reality here is beyond description. It is only the all-pervasiveness of the disassociation that obscures its utter and obvious insanity. There is something intensely primitive and infantile in the reductive, navel-gazing, self-blinding monomania of the American psyche today. Think of the ancient Greeks, who constructed their psyches and their worldview around an epic poem, the Iliad, that depicted their enemies, the Trojans, with remarkable sympathy, understanding and insight -- while depicting their own leaders as a band of shallow, squabbling, murderous fools. Here was a moral sophistication, a cold-eyed grasp of reality -- and a level of empathy for one's fellow human beings -- far beyond the capacity of modern American society, and infinitely beyond the reach of the murderous fools who seek to lead it.

The Iraq War has not ended. Not for the dead, not for their survivors, not for the displaced, the maimed, the lost, the suffering, not for all of us who live in the degraded, destabilised, impoverished world it has spawned, and not for the future generations who will live with the ever-widening, ever-deepening consequences of this irrevocable evil.


The Iraq War, once a point of grave concern on the part of partisan Democratic voters—concern over the carnage, concern over the duplicity, concern over the squandering of money and so much more—is now a bipartisan symbol of heroic success.

Poor George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell, for not getting their due from petulant hippies when they first sold the war. Evidently, a brutal war born of lies is a proud success to be cherished forever. No one anyone listens to will tell you otherwise.

To our shame, if we had any, there is virtually no "never again" sentiment in America for our unconscionable assault on Iraq.

"Never again" is the cry only for the victims of atrocities, not the perpetrators.

In these parts, the watchword for the war in Iraq is "never remember."

The current president is quite keen to foster a post-Santayanan America, under the rubric of "look forward, not back." And it's working!

Obama got his own Middle-Eastern war with nary a peep from partisans of either major party. In fact, progressive icon Howard Dean praised Obama's suave marketing of the war, saying it was “very smart” for him to use drones and special ops, because "you don't get a lot of public resistance." Because that's really the hellish part of war, isn't it, the public resistance?

In Obama's aforementioned 2012 State of the Union address were seeds of yet another Middle-Eastern war. History repeats like a greasy pastrami sandwich.

This time, the administration hasn't even bothered to "sex up" evidence. Despite no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and—pardon the minor quibble—no god-given right for the U.S. to start slaughtering Iranians in the event that they did, we're visiting "crippling sanctions" upon the Iranian people. This, of course, is the venerable opening gambit of our national pastime, regime change.

Actually, the game is already well underway. As Glen Ford describes it:

The Obama administration is, arguably, already at war with Iran by most legal and civilized standards – a war of economic strangulation and covert aggression.


Obama stated that "a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible." In other words, there is a mere glimmer of hope that America might not initiate yet another wholly unjustified military assault on a Muslim country.

Save for a perhaps few thousand Americans who participated in yesterday's No War On Iran: National Day of Action, no one cares.

As Glenn Greenwald noted, regarding the content-free anti-Iran propaganda that's now pervasive in what passes for journalism in this country:
One thing is certain: the American media learned nothing from their enabling of the Iraq debacle & don't want to change.


It is in light of America's wholly unrepentant posture for the unspeakable crime that was and is the Iraq War—and its rally 'round the bombs readiness for more of the same—that I encourage you to mark this date each year.

To paraphrase the signature tune of the most famous entertainer of America's troops: thanks for remembering.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day of Shame, 8th Anniversary

[Crossposted at correntewire.com and vastleft.com]

Eight years ago today, Colin Powell delivered a set of the most transparent lies imaginable, and our pundit class swooned... and thereby condemned tens of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans to their deaths, and sent some trillions of taxpayers' dollars down a sinkhole of sin.

What has been learned from this? Only, apparently, that there's no limit to the ability of cynical politics and sycophantic "journalism" to create the American reality, and pretty much no one minds very much, no matter how inhuman the ends.

Perhaps one of President Obama's supposed endings of the war may turn out to be bona fide. Either way, one wonders (or ought to), where is the national look in the mirror about this crime, this mockery of truth, decency, and common sense?

Here, from the 2011 State of the Union address, is how our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president speaks of the Iraq War, one he was marketed as being wisely and bravely against.
And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we've begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's standing has been restored.

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America's commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)

Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us.
Why was there not a nationwide flood of vomit when George W. Bush's successor framed the outrage that is the Iraq War—even its putative ending—in such whitewashed terms... and concluding, as the war began, with the conflation between Iraq and Al Qaeda?

At long last, has America no sense of shame? Sadly, it has all but none.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Day of Shame, 7 years after

Today is the seventh anniversary of the Day of Shame, the day that Colin Powell made a grotesquely unconvincing case to the United Nations for the invasion and occupation of Iraq... and the American media declared it compelling.

Most Americans believed what the administration and the media told them. A lot of people died.

Absolutely nothing has been done to prevent such deadly propaganda and groupthink from winning the day again and again. No lessons learned about imperialism, jingoism, a corrupted media, nor about the pernicious effects of truthiness and STFU.

But, heck, we've "moving on," as we do.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama made this announcement:
As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
Curiously, there was little fanfare about it. One can only speculate as to why.

Perhaps...
  • People don't believe him. This promise may be forgotten, excused away, fudged, or outright lied about.
  • They know the devil's in the details. How many "non-combat" troops will remain, and how legitimate is the combat/non-combat troop distinction? How many mercenaries will remain... might their number even be increased? How many troops will hover nearby?
  • They know there's no peace dividend, with surging war in Af-Pak and beyond
  • No one wants to call attention to their role in supporting this now-unpopular war.

A blood-stained and heavily armed nation that can't be bothered to learn from the past is a nation that's hard to be proud of. But we believe in "looking forward, not backward." Move along folks, nothing to see here.

* * *

If you post on your site to commemorate the Day of Shame, please tell us here or in comments at correntewire.com.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gwen Ifill and the MSM: still shameless after all these years

This is the second of my two posts that commemorate the Day of Shame, 2009 — the sixth anniversary of Colin Powell's UN presentation and the media's chorus of approval for same.

Please share your own recollections and analyses of (what should be) an unforgettably sorry day in American history. If there are other contributions around the Internets, I'll post round-ups here and at correntewire.com.

Please also read the posts from previous years. Last year, the fifth anniversary, saw many substantial posts around the blogosphere, and the previous year (the first for this blog), this typist hammered out a cluster of posts on the import of the day.

Thanks for your memories!

* * *

Last June, pbs.com offered visitors the opportunity to ask "Five Good Questions" of media fixture Gwen Ifill.

I replied with the following question, under the title "Iraq War reporting":

The media all-but-unanimously pronounced Colin Powell's fact-challenged Feb. 2003 UN presentation "compelling."

As a direct result, the public supported a disastrous and unnecessary war.

What has changed in Beltway reporting as a result of this deadly fiasco?

Mine was one of the five selected questions, though in Ifill's response, my query had been re-written. Whether this was done before or after the question was posed to her, I do not know, as my complaint to PBS's ombudsman about the rewording and Ifill's thoughtless response received no reply.

As rephrased, "my" question now read:
Many people believe the press failed to do its job in the run up to the Iraq war. Has Beltway reporting changed as a result?
So, the world's most noble news organization eviscerated my quote and falsely attributed it back to me. 40 honest words good, 25 misquoted and dumbed-down words better.

The neutered version, in which "many people" merely "believe" there was a failure — and the context of senseless death and the applause for Powell's pathetic presentation are cleansed entirely — was still an affront to Ms. Ifill, who responded thusly:

I am not sure what you mean by "Beltway reporting."

Do you mean the New York Times reporting that exposed the Justice Department's wireless wiretapping?

The Washington Post reporting that exposed the poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center?

Or do you mean the reporting done by Pentagon reporters from the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I continue to maintain that, on balance, reporters tell us more than we would otherwise know, and that the breadth and importance of the stories we break, easily outnumber the ones we miss.

Best defense ever: if you take good pictures of your own crime scene, you're not a murderer, you're an artist!

In response, I wrote:

Gwen, thank heavens the media didn't give us more than a few scraps of honest reporting during the run-up to the war! Otherwise, those Pentagon reporters wouldn't have been able to file all that historic Iraq War correspondence (no war = no new Stone Phillipses)! There wouldn't be all those kids with their faces and limbs blown off to add color and heft to your Walter Reed reporting (empty hospital beds = no story)! And if it weren't for the debased media coverage of the Clinton years and 2000 campaign, we wouldn't have had the heroic president who ordered that "wireless wiretapping" (damn you, 802.11g)!

Please forgive me for undervaluing your profession's Serious work: reporting on the damage it's been so instrumental in facilitating!

No doubt you covered many stories broader and more important than the lies and corruption that have pushed our nation to the brink of ruin — with a Constitution in tatters and an economy spiraling out of control — and into the role of a pariah state whose baseless preemptive war destabilized the most volatile part of our planet. And you helped install an incompetent and valueless president and vice president dripping in petroleum while the global environment was ravaged, perhaps beyond repair.

Oh, and God bless you all for protecting America from a candidate with an unacceptably expensive haircut. Thanks to y'all, we dodged a bullet on that one, eh? And probably without a well-earned word of thanks from an ungrateful public.

You're not sure which media I mean, Gwen? I mean this media. And this one. And this one.

I'm sorry I asked you such a trivial and wrongheaded question. If I can get a mulligan, please try this one instead: "What was it like tossing back PBRs with Tim Russert?" Inquiring minds want to know.

A comment posted on pbs.com by Correntewire's own Lambert Strether exposes further flaws in the examples Ifill trots out to celebrate the accomplishments of the modern news media:

Bush's warrantless surveillance program

Ifill's rhetorical question on Bush's surveillance program is riddled with errors; let's unpack them. She says:

Do you mean the New York Times reporting that exposed the Justice Department's wireless wiretapping?

1. The program was not the "Justice Department's," but Bush's. In fact, portions of the still-secret program were so nefarious that John Ashcroft refused to sign off on them from his hospital bed, when then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales tried to force him to.

2. Worse, the shorthand for the program is "warrantless wiretapping," not "wireless wiretapping." That Ifill gets this wrong is doubly unfortunate; first, because the illegal and unconstitutional nature of the program comes precisely because it is "warrantless"; second, because "wireless wiretapping," considered technically, makes it sound like the program is about tapping telephone lines, when, as we have come to understand, the program is about capturing all Internet data, including email.

3. Even worse, the Times story is an example of complete journalistic malfeasance, since Bill Keller, as then ombudsman Bryan Calame pointed out, suppressed the story until after George Bush had been safely elected, yet another example of the press picking our president for us.

4. And even worse, with presumptive nominee Barack Obama's support of the FISA reform bill, which includes a provision that grants the telcos retroactive immunity for their participation in the program, "warrantless surveillance" has now become an issue in the Presidential campaign. How can Ifill be expected to cover this story if she's ignorant of basic facts on the issues? Wait, wait, don't tell me: The same way our famously free press covers ALL the issues. I knew that....
The Times, the Post, and the networks (private and public) aren't a changin' — because they don't think they've done anything wrong.

How much more blood and fortune will be lost because "the watchers" have gone corrupt and arrogant at the switch?

Naturally, I don't expect Beltway courtiers to be particular troubled about that. I just wish more of my fellow citizens were asking "a few good questions" about it, exposing the Gwen Ifills as the joke and menace that they are.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Colin creedence revival

This is the first of my two posts that commemorate tomorrow's Day of Shame. Please share your own recollections and analyses of — what should be — an unforgettably sorry day in American history!

* * *

The past year has seen much burnishing of the Colin Powell brand:
"Powell is a culturally individuated African American hero" -- Marc Ambinder
"enduring moral authority" -- Editors, The Guardian
"strength and legitimacy" -- Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org
There are those, however, who aren't so willing to vouch for Powell's respectability...
We may all love a reformed sinner, but pitching in for Obama and calling for a soft review of DADT shouldn't cut it when it comes to Powell. -- Emma Ruby-Sachs
Some of the year's best critical writing about Powell and his legacy comes from Chris Floyd, whom I will quote extensively here.
Democratic Party circles are in raptures over Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. One can see the heavily-blinkered logic behind their elation; now that our national politics has been reduced to a petty squabble over spoils among shifting factions in the imperial court, a nod from a consummate courtier like Powell is indeed a glittering prize for an ambitious prince.
But out in the real world, where the operations of imperial power have left smoking trails of murder and ruin across the globe, the "endorsement" of a man who played an indispensable role in the slaughter of more than a million innocent people in a war of Hitlerian aggression should be regarded as a thing of shame, and vociferously rejected by anyone with a scintilla of honor or morality.
In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say that Colin Powell is more responsible for the mass murder spree in Iraq than any other person except George W. Bush, who gave the actual order for the hit. For it was Powell who "made the sale" for the Bush Faction's deceitful warmongering campaign, with his infamous February 2003 presentation to the UN, laying out the false evidence about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. After that farrago of artfully delivered lies, the American Establishment -- urged on by the fawning, bloodthirsty commentariat -- lined up solidly behind the war. After all, if Colin Powell -- so "reasonable," so "honorable," so "honest" and "bipartisan" -- stood foursquare behind the Bush case for war, then it must be ironclad.
This was, again, the logic of courtiers, with little connection to reality. Powell's reputation as a wise, moderate, impartial statesman -- the very thing that made him the most effective shill for the war crime in Iraq -- was itself almost entirely a fiction. By the time he made his shameless UN appearance, Powell had already spent almost four decades as a bagman -- and frontman -- for some of the most vicious and ugly elements in American politics and government. From the My Lai massacre to Iran-Contra, from Washington's long and murderous collusion with Saddam to its long and murderous campaigns to remove him, Powell has been instrumental in perpetrating or covering up atrocities and abominations on a gigantic scale. [For details, see Robert Parry's investigation, "The Truth About Colin Powell."]
In a post titled "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien: Obama's New Advisor Stands By His War Crimes," Floyd quotes the great man himself:
"I'm well aware of the role I played [in the Iraq war]. My role has been very, very straightforward. I wanted to avoid a war. The president agreed with me. We tried to do that. We couldn't get it through the U.N. and when the president made the decision, I supported that decision. And I've never blinked from that. I've never said I didn't support a decision to go to war." -- Colin Powell
In an open letter, Ray McGovern challenges his former colleague to set the record straight:
Your U.N. speech of Feb. 5, 2003 left me speechless, so to speak - largely because of the measure of respect I had had for you before then.
Outrage is too tame a word for what quickly became my reaction and that of my colleagues in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), as we watched you perform before the Security Council less than six weeks before the unnecessary, illegal attack on Iraq.
The purpose - as well as the speciousness - of your address were all too transparent and, in a same-day commentary, we VIPS warned President George W. Bush that, if he attacked Iraq, "the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic."
That's history. Or, as investigative reporter Ron Suskind would say, "It's all on the record."
You have not yet summoned the courage to admit it, but I think I know you well enough to believe you have a Lady Macbeth-type conscience problem that goes far beyond the spot on your record.
With 4,141 American soldiers - not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens - dead, and over 30,000 GIs badly wounded, how could you not?
...
If we hear no peep out of you in the coming weeks, we shall not be able to escape concluding one of two things:
(1) That, as was the case with the White House Situation Room sessions on torture, you were a willing participant in suppressing/falsifying key intelligence on Iraq; or
(2) That you lack the courage to expose the scoundrels who betrayed not only you, but also that segment of our country and our world that still puts a premium on truth telling and the law.
McGovern's second theoretical conclusion is rather generous, as shown by a post from last year's Day of Shame commemoration:
Powell was far more than just horribly mistaken: the evidence is conclusive that he fabricated evidence and ignored repeated warnings that what he was saying was false... the State Department's intelligence staff, called the INR, prepared two memos on the presentation. They directly contradicted Powell on the aluminum tubes issue, but also warned him many of his claims were "weak," "not credible" or "highly questionable." -- Jonathan Schwarz
The record being what it is, it's hard to believe that anyone would be called upon to write such words as these:
"No president should ever take advice from this man again." -- Digby (after citing the following quote from a then-candidate for the presidency)
"He will have a role as one of my advisers" -- Barack Obama
The eve of the Presidential inauguration saw another flight of Airbrushing Force One, as Powell was described thusly:
"remarkably consistent loyalty to a set of principles: truth, loyalty and determination" -- Barack Obama
I respectfully suggest that those with loyal determination for the truth find such sentiments — contradicted by too many smoking guns to count — rather painful to digest.

But we live in the age of "get over it," "let it go," and so forth — but only for the vilest and farthest-reaching acts of the most powerful, even as our prisons swell beyond all historic proportions.

Today, those who remember the past are condemned. Period.

Our new president says that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards" and "my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing."

Powell, shockingly, supports this "moving on" philosophy as regards his own malfeasance...
And so, my concern was not my past or what happened in Iraq, but where we're going in the future. My sole concern was where are we going after January 20 of 2009, not what happened in 2003.
... but the inimitable Mr. Floyd is on the case:
Well, if I had committed a hanging offense in 2003, I'd want to concentrate on 2009 too.... His concern is not "what happened in Iraq." This encapsulates perfectly the view of the entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment. They simply could not care less about what happened in Iraq: a million dead, four million dispossessed, social, economic, cultural ruin, torture, murder, destruction, suffering: It not their "concern." They do not give a damn. The only thing that matters is "where we're going in the future;" i.e., how can we -- not "we the people" but "we" the elite, "we" the deciders, "we" the wielders of imperial power -- retain our dominance, our privilege and the proper deference that is our due from the lesser peoples of the world.
If you're ashamed of the America that brought us the product called the "Iraq War," I ask you this: do not go gentle into that get-over-it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day of Shame, Sixth Anniversary

We have just posted a call for entries to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Colin Powell's Iraq War sell job at the UN... and the media's gleeful buying of same.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

We'll meet again

Thank you for helping commemorate the fifth anniversary of the biggest sucker deal in Manhattan since Peter Minuit bought the place.

At least the Native Americans got trinkets. All we got from Colin Powell's 2/5/03 U.N. presentation — and the media's unquestioning praise for it — was a costly and unnecessary war.

* * *

Very special thanks go out to Blue Gal at Crooks & Liars, and to those who contributed heartfelt and thoughtful posts to this little memory book.

Because about some things, our memories shouldn't be little, nor should our capacity to question.

See you next year!

Same time, new president. A good one, I hope.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Day of Shame Links #8

At Maine Owl, The Owl well remembers the day Powell threw us a Curveball and digs into the archives for a chilling timeline of the days of shame that followed the boffo U.N. anthrax-and-pony show. Highly recommended reading.

James at The Mahatma X Files recalls what he said on the first anniversary: "one the most infamous acts of Propaganda in World history. We must never forget."

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Day of Shame Links #7

A Poetic Justice suggests giving peace a chance.

For Alan Perlman, AKA "The Jewish Atheist," the Day of Shame doesn't quite bring on a peaceful, easy feeling. He sees Powell as "a magnificent example of affirmative action run amok."

When asked about his, IMHO, provocative statements about the role of race in Powell's career, Dr. Perlman replied thusly:
Please know that there is no stronger defender of civil rights than I. I wrote a tribute to Dr. King on his birthday. Upon reflection, I stand by my statements: Powell gave me no reason to respect his intellect or talents. Both white and Black people do evaluate skin tone and speech patterns. There is reason to question why and how he got as high as he did.

That said, he was not alone in allowing the Iraq War. Unquestioning obedience knows no color or gender.

I love equality; I hate preferences and double standards. As long as these stand, the achievements of many Black people will be tainted.

I am merely reporting my perspective based on my observations. If anyone wants to write to me with a list of Powell's writings, original thoughts and creative accomplishments (not just awards people gave him, but substantive achievements), I would be happy to reconsider my words.

More coming soon...

Sorry, juggling Super Tuesday aftershocks and a little real life. There are more links coming today and, I hope, through the rest of the week. In the meantime, if you haven't caught up with all the links and commentary below, please take a look!

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Day of Shame Links #6

Elayne Riggs holds out hope that Barack Obama is the anti-Powell.

QSR (Quick Service Restaurant News):
2008-02-04 — The Women's Foodservice Forum (WFF) today announced this year's lineup of keynote speakers for the 2008 WFF Annual Leadership Development Conference, to be held April 13–16 in Washington, D.C. at the new Gaylord National® Resort & Convention Center.

General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), one of the most admired men in America, will deliver a compelling presentation reflecting his years of service at the highest levels of international affairs. He will be speaking on leadership to illustrate precisely what embodies a true leader and demonstrate how to consistently be focused and take responsibility while working to improve processes, organizations and people.
Still doing "compelling presentations" after all these years. No wonder he's so admired!

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Day of Shame Links #5

Driftglass marks the Day of Shame with pictures, poetry, and heartfelt prose:
The number of dead Iraqis, who might as well be so many Pac Man dots, so little do they matter to us as real, live human beings anymore. Not that they ever did, really.
The Las Vegas Gleaner describes the magical effect Colin Powell's vial of "Bisquick" had on Harry Reid:
Sen. Harry Reid explain[ed] just last year how Powell's UN performance justified Reid's vote to give Bush the blank check to go to war, even though that Senate vote happened in October 2002, which is to say nearly four months before Powell brandished his enchanted pancake mix.
Think Progress:
"one of Iraq’s engineers who tried to warn the U.S. that Saddam had shut down his weapons programs, recalls crying as he listened."
Steve Shickles:
AP - As of Monday, Feb. 4, 2008, at least 3,945 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,211 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

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Day of Shame Links #4

On February 7, 2003, Slacktavist described Powell's presentation thusly:
"POWELL'S EVIDENCE LOOKING SHAKY. No smoking gun, lots of smoke and mirrors."
If there's one thing I hate, it's 20/20 hindsight. Goddamn hippies!

See also Editor and Publisher on "5 Years Ago: When the Press Helped Colin Powell Sell the War."

(Both h/t atrios)

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Day of Shame Links #3

Rising Hegemon marks the day.

And so does Consortium News, with an excerpt about Powell at the U.N., from Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.

(h/t Rena in comments)

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Live and let die

The internets are chock full of handy lists.

An oft-posted one is "Colin Powell's Rules to Live By," which is generally set up with a gushy intro, like this one:
I was watching my favorite show on The View today, MLK Day and General Colin Powell was on. What a great father figure, so steady and self assured. Elizabeth mentioned his list of rules to live by and I had to look it up. So here it is.
  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
He has so perfectly embodied each and every one of those rules, I'm not sure there's anything else to say.

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Day of Shame Links #2

If you look around YouTube, you'll find that the MSM's Powell/U.N. postmortems are all about rehabilitating the general's reputation.

So, it's left to the blogosphere, and great work like Jonathan Schwarz's, to painstakingly detail the shameful lies.

According to blogger Montag, there was a precedent for Powell's presentation, a long time ago. In a galaxy far, far away.

And if you like things a little more outré, Lambert blurbs MJS's "Bad Magician" series thusly:
The hour may produce the man, but our times produced The Bad Magician, who defines deviancy upward from the lizard backbrain of his own Id to the hallucinatory, phantasmagoric irreality of today's prehensile discourse. The Bad Magician's creator, Corrente writer MJS, combines the semiotic trickeration of Umberto Eco with the gonzo journalism of Hunter Thompson. I laughed, I cried, I put my head in a bucket of water. Three thumbs up!

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Day of Shame Links #1

Here is the first helping of contributions to the Day of Shame blogswarm, 2008...

In reply to this year's call-to-action, whaleshaman muses about that vial of non-anthrax.

Batocchio's superb analysis, like Gaul, is divided into three parts. With understatement that burns, Batocchio says "It wasn't a pleasant feeling, knowing we were almost certainly going to war based on flimsy reasons."

Then, he lets it rip:
I understand being a clueless imbecile brings with it the reflexive need to protect one's self with plenty of self-aggrandizing, ego-fluffing bullshit, but really, enough is enough.
And, about "liberal" hawk Michael O'Hanlon:
Sometimes it takes an awfully expensive education to make a man such a fucking moron.
Go. Read. Now.

More coming soon....

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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Day of Shame and You

Please read this call to action on Correntewire.com about how you can help the world remember and maybe understand the Day of Shame, when Colin Powell and the mainstream media lied us into war.

Update 2/4/08:

The posts below represent my own commentary about that shameful event. In a terribly bitter irony, that day affected me more than any other day of this young century except for that horrid September day in 2001.

This year, we'll be hearing other voices... how about yours?

Please check back often throughout the coming week, as I'll be posting submissions already received — and others that are on the way — about the day that changed so much.

Thanks!

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Same time, next year

That's a wrap for this year's "Day of Shame" blogging, commemorating the fourth anniversary of Colin Powell's February 5, 2003 UN presentation — and the media's outrageous approval for it.

To simplify reading this first year's remembrances and commentary, here are the posts in chronological order:Of course, the echoes of what happened that day are with us all year 'round. They continue to define the conduct of the administration and the media.

Perhaps this issue, noted by Gilbert Cranberg, is the most curiously and dangerously under-explored:
The fundamental question: Why did the press as a whole fail to question sufficiently the administration’s case for war?
Do come back y'all for next year's Fabulous Fifth-anniversary Fibtacular.

By then, we may have a whole new set of stories about how hyped and falsified evidence plus media incuriosity says "bring it on" to apocalyptic mayhem.

Peace out, my friends, peace out.

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Dirty deeds done expensively

Part of the pre-Iraq War marketing was how cheap and easy it would be.

Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL) has a great — if hideously formatted — roundup of GOP claims of a zipless war. (h/t)

Just as the media didn't question whether Iraq actually had WMD, it failed to investigate the rumored stockpiles of chocolates and flowers.

Turns out, not only was there was no yellowcake, there was no cakewalk either.

When all is said and done, the costs of this misadventure are unimaginably high.

Who could have predicted it would be costly to have the media give a free ride to a naïve, incompetent, impulsive, sanctimonious, corrupt, bellicose and altogether juvenile presidential candidate, for half of America to vote for such a person, for the Supreme Court to suppress vote counting, and for Congress to enable every bad idea that person ever had or was fed? Live and learn, I guess.

Estimates put the US's financial cost in the $2 trillion range:
"The highest-grossing movie ever, Titanic, took in $1.8 billion. We spend that in Iraq in one week."
To paraphrase pre-lobotomy Dennis Miller, "Let me put that in perspective. If there were only one guy, he'd have to pay two trillion dollars." Another way to put it in perspective is to grab American Conservative from Miller's nightstand and read "Money for Nothing: Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors’ pockets":
When the final page is written on America’s catastrophic imperial venture, one word will dominate the explanation of U.S. failure—corruption....

In one notorious incident in April 2004, $1.5 billion in cash that had just been delivered by three Blackhawk helicopters was handed over to a courier in Erbil, in the Kurdish region, never to be seen again. Afterwards, no one was able to recall the courier’s name or provide a good description of him.

Paul Bremer, meanwhile, had a slush fund in cash of more than $600 million in his office for which there was no paperwork. One U.S. contractor received $2 million in a duffel bag. Three-quarters of a million dollars was stolen from an office safe, and a U.S. official was given $7 million in cash in the waning days of the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] and told to spend it “before the Iraqis take over.” Nearly $5 billion was shipped from New York in the last month of the CPA. Sources suggest that a deliberate attempt was being made to run down the balance and spend the money while the CPA still had authority and before an Iraqi government could be formed.
Where does that money come from?

Raising taxes on America's corporations and wealthiest citizens is off the table, so golly, who's going to pay? It couldn't be people on the middle and lower rungs of the economy and their children and grandchildren, could it? It couldn't come from cutting corners on education, health care, public works, alternative-energy investments, and actual homeland security, could it? It couldn't come from giving short shrift to the veterans we're keeping in Iraq for tour after tour, could it?

The cost to soldiers is heartbreaking. Yes, war is Hell. But unnecessary war is more hellish, still. US deaths have surpassed the 3,100 mark. "Non-mortal casualties" are nearing 50,000. Their personal economic and emotional costs are staggering, as well. And for what?

Estimates of Iraqi deaths are in the hundreds of thousands, and life in today's Mesopotamia is a nightmare of suicide bombs, kidnapping, torture, and vigilante executions. And then there are then hazards of living under occupation.

A quick peek at today's news from Iraq includes:
AZIZIYA - A car bomb in a vegetable market killed 17 people and wounded 27 in the town of Aziziya, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Police found seven bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, police and hospital sources said.

GARMA - Police found the bodies of three people with gunshot wounds in the head in the town of Garma, near Falluja, 50km (35 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.

NEAR FALLUJA - A car bomb exploded near a mosque and killed a worshipper and wounded four others on Wednesday in a town near Falluja, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen attacked the convoy of Ammar Tu'uma, a member of the Fadhila Shi'ite political party, and wounded one of his guards near Mansour district in western Baghdad, police and the media office of his party said. He was unharmed.

BAGHDAD - U.S. and Iraqi forces raided the Health Ministry building in central Baghdad and arrested Hakim Zamili, the deputy health minister, a ministry spokesman and witnesses said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed six people and wounded 10 others in the New Baghdad district in eastern Baghdad, police said.

SUWAYRA - Three roadside bombs exploded in quick succession, killing seven people and wounding 23 others on Wednesday in the town of Suwayra, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said on Thursday.

BAQUBA - Gunmen attacked a rapid reaction police unit and killed four policemen and a civilian in the religiously mixed city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
Oh, and:
A U.S. airstrike Thursday killed 13 insurgents in a volatile area west of Baghdad, the military said. Local officials said 45 civilians, including women and children, died in the attack.
Just another day in paradise.

Do you care, Colin Powell? Do you care, Judith Miller? Do you care, chickenhawks?

Are you proud of the numerous long-term costs of waging a withering, ill-conceived, and unnecessary war? Are you proud of the damage wrought by prisoner abuse and curtailment of domestic freedoms from this metastasized "War on Terror"?
  • Turned tamed, secular Iraq into a hotbed of religious/ethnic terror
  • Diminished our standing as an honest broker for Israel/Palestine problems
  • Pushing us to the brink of war with Iran (or at least helping provide excuses to re-try the Bush Doctrine in a neighboring and much more formidable country)
  • Potentially triggering conflicts throughout the region, which could lead to a true World War and/or consolidation of a militant Caliphate
  • Per the National Intelligence Estimate, increasing anti-US terrorist recruitment
  • Lost opportunity to secure Afghanistan and go after Al-Qaeda
  • General loss of moral authority, trustworthiness
  • Validating beliefs about Americans as unilateralists — as violent, arrogant, ignorant cowboys
  • Giving democracy a black eye
  • Squandering all post-9/11 international goodwill — and then some
  • Loss of motivation for other countries to help us with intelligence and future conflicts
  • Giving allies and enemies the (correct) impression that we're uninterested in diplomacy
  • Giving enemies the (correct) impression that we practice pre-emptive war; may lead them to heavily arm and to strike first and hard
  • Giving enemies the (correct) impression that we practice torture and extraordinary renditions; may encourage them to ignore Geneva Convention protection for American POWs
  • Diminishing our reputation for both strength and intelligence – may embolden enemies
  • Loss of trust in our government and our national integrity
  • Loss of a credible media
  • Created bitter divisions at home
  • Straining our military capacity
  • Straining our National Guard capacity
  • Making military recruitment harder
  • Loss of civil liberties (in broader so-called war on terror)
So, tell me, was removing Saddam Hussein worth all of that? Were those phantom WMDs worth all of that?

If your answer is yes, please say "hi" to Mrs. Cheney.

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The devils want to wear my red shoes

I wonder how Colin Powell marked the Monday holiday.

Maybe he spent it at the Colin Powell Center For Policy Studies, whose focus includes (I shit you not):
... the histories and best practice of international organizations such as the United Nations, with particular emphasis on issues of conflict and security.
Perhaps the tragic figure Powell cuts these days is not so Shakespearean after all. This soul-searching mission sounds more like David Duchovny as Jake, in "Red Shoe Diaries."

Citizens, do you keep PowerPoints?
Have you been betrayed?
Have you betrayed another?
Man, 69, wounded and alone,
recovering from the loss of a
once in a lifetime country,
looking for reasons why.
Willing to pay top $$$
For your experiences
Please send transcripts to:

Red State Politics
P. O. Box 2003
New York, NY 10017

All submissions strictly classified, or at least highly redacted

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Monday, February 5, 2007

Three little letters



Never underestimate the power of asking why.

It nearly saved the moon (video above), and in "The Prisoner" (spoiler alert!) merely typing it destroyed a pernicious computer.

The "why?" behind attacking Iraq is perhaps most accurately answered: "no damn good reason." Should that not suffice, there's always:
That's all well and good (not really, but c'est la guerre de caprice).

But why, we ought to wonder, did the entire media establishment declare a sociopathic fool's errand to be an iron-clad necessity? Why did the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post and every leading news magazine and television network — supposed bastions (News Corp. notwithstanding) of rigorous and even left-leaning reportage — become as trustworthy as a Nigerian investment e-mail?

There are many plausible reasons, perhaps all of which are largely true (and many of which are discussed in Eric Boehlert's Lapdogs, excerpted here):
  • Corporate consolidation: despite the ever-popular "liberal media" meme, major media outlets belong to large corporations — the GOP's most generously favored constituency
  • Jealousy of the ascendant Fox News and rightwing radio, and avarice for the profit potential of that then-growing market segment
  • Abandoning the "Fairness Doctrine" had come home to roost: deregulation squelched the tradition of seeking out responsible conflicting opinions
  • Conservatives had a better machine for developing and promoting noisy, colorful pundits (e.g., by subsidized bulk-buying of books, establishing rightwing bloviators as best-selling authors). Throughout the Bush II era, conservatives have, for example, wildly outnumbered progressives on news panels.
  • News culture has been debased into "infotainment": even where supposed "debate" occurs, it's little more than a diversionary spectacle
  • War sells: it's always a great programming idea (dramatic, visually exciting, and a nifty opportunity to use cool logos and portentous theme music)
  • Peace doesn't play in Peoria (at least not in 2003): for a wounded nation, punishing random A-rabs was in; wonky ethical debates were out. As Boehlert notes, MSNBC fired progressive Phil Donahue because he "presented 'a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.'"
  • As De Tocqueville said: "It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth." For short attention-span media, "Strong President fight war" = good story; "Disempowered progressives question war" = bad story.
  • A war story has "legs" and prestige: give me peace and I report for a day; give me war and I become Stone Phillips for a lifetime
  • Fear of undermining national security: with the open-ended "War on Terror" still in its early days, media members felt honor-bound to assist in the administration's military agendas
  • Fear of “liberal bias” accusations: the Right worked the refs so hard, the media became active partners in their Overton Window framing, and became embarrassingly solicitous of winger approval
  • Fear of personal reprisals: the creeping, nay leaping, McCarthyism of Bush's America made it far safer to be with him than agin' him
  • Fear of marginalization: the more the Bush White House played hard-to-get, the more the media played easy-to-get. Better to be an insider and stay in the game than a muckraker who can't get into a press conference. This would reach its zenith (or nadir) in the "embedded" war reporting, as journalists breathlessly described the exploits of "their units."
  • Beltway culture: Washington journalists and pundits venerate power. With the president "all in" for this new war, it would have been a huge breach of decorum to confront him on his (and Powell's) broad set of claims. Even relatively skeptical reporters in the most heated of press conferences aren't in the habit of calling the president a liar to his face.
  • Supporting the President's agenda is the most defensible position. If the war proved justified and successful, everything would be fine. If not, the press could just play the old tapes and say they were lied to. Very different from crossing swords with a President whose plan had not (yet) been proven faulty.
  • The media had made Bush into a hero for (not preventing) 9/11. Now that he was embarking on a bold, new adventure, it would be unseemly and controversial to switch to a more cynical narrative.
  • The power of the Big Lie: like many citizens, media members found it unthinkable that an American President could lie or be incompetent at such a magnitude as conning us into an unnecessary and ill-planned war
  • Jingoism: the Chris Matthewses enjoy a little Top Gun kickass, just like Joe Sixpack does
  • Incompetence: decades of focus on style over substance, noise over signal, and heat over light had thinned the ranks of capable journalists
  • Laziness: it's easier to "rip and read" what the White House gives you than to do your own reporting
  • Saddam Hussein was a cartoon villain: an actual bad guy, and one of them A-rabs. Why make waves and be accused of being un-American to save this guy (plus some other brown-skinned people we either don't care about or must sacrifice everything to liberate, depending on which way the wind was blowing that day)?
If only half of these theories are right, it's a daunting list.

It's well beyond my capacity to imagine how we'll ever get back to a trustworthy media, but on this day in particular, I'm reminded of how badly we need it.

So why ask why? Because if we don't, how will things ever get better?


Update:

In the context of the drumbeat for an Iran conflict, Dan Froomkin proposes a set of guidelines to keep the media from being suckered again:
  • You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority
  • Provocation Alone Does Not Justify War
  • Be Particularly Skeptical of Secrecy
  • Watch for Rhetorical Traps
  • Don’t Just Give Voice to the Administration Officials
  • Look Outside Our Borders
  • Understand the Enemy
  • Encourage Public Debate
  • Write about Motives
  • Talk to the Military
Now, why — I hope you'll ask them every chance you get — don't they do this, when so much hangs in the balance?

(h/t)

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Print the legend

Not to let anyone off the hook, but it's not exactly surprising that the Bush administration would head us straight into the Big Muddy.

At what point did Bush and Cheney not reek of arrogance, dishonesty, and venality? Ditto for their neocon "brain trust" and a rubber-stamp Congress drunk on pork and power.

Sarah Vowell admits she was caught off-guard:
I see my initial worries about the current administration as the greatest betrayal in my whole life by my old pal pessimism. I attended the president's inauguration in 2001. When he took the presidential oath, I cried. What was I so afraid of? I was weeping because I was terrified that the new president would wreck the economy and muck up my drinking water. Isn't that adorable? I lacked the pessimistic imagination to dread that tens of thousands of human beings would be spied on or maimed or tortured or killed or stranded or drowned, thanks to his incompetence.
Me? I expected the worst from the Bushies, and that's just what I got. "You may screw up my country," I thought, "but nothing you do will surprise me."

Surprise came from another front, and my pessimism-readiness proved just as inadequate as Vowell's. The reviews came in for Colin Powell's off-Broadway production.

If Powell's selling of the war was Shakespearean, the media's response belonged in a Greek tragedy — a unison chorus shouting "compelling, compelling":
"a massive array of evidence," "a detailed and persuasive case," "a powerful case," "a sober, factual case," "an overwhelming case," "a compelling case," "the strong, credible, and persuasive case," "a persuasive, detailed accumulation of information," "the core of his argument was unassailable," "a smoking fusillade... a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction," "the skeptics asked for proof; they now have it," "a much more detailed and convincing argument than any that has previously been told," "an ironclad case... incontrovertible evidence," "succinct and damning evidence... the case is closed," "Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein," "masterful," "If there was any doubt that Hussein... needs to be... stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."
This just couldn't be. I'd seen the show! Max Bialystock wouldn't have touched this turkey.

Though this site commemorates February 5, 2003, perhaps the true day of shame is the 6th, when the press and pundit class pronounced Powell's speech an unimpeachable call to arms.

I should have seen it coming. The signs all pointed to it.

It was there when a doddering and valueless Ronald Reagan was exalted as "presidential" and "The Great Communicator." It was there when non-stop equivalation turned a mismatch between a well-rounded statesman and a strutting twit into a horserace.

But the entire news establishment calling bullshit parfait? And not just any bullshit, bullshit that was ready, willing, and — thanks to them — able to kill hundreds of thousands of people and catalyze chaos in the most volatile part of the world!?

If the press would do that, what might they do if the government started spying on us, torturing people, and suspending the right of habeas corpus? Let's hope we don't have to find out.

Perhaps like many progressives, you saw the UN presentation for the sad, whorific spectacle it was. Or maybe like many others — including those who entrusted war powers to Bush — you believed either that Bush was bluffing his way to more leverage with Hussein or he had much stronger evidence that he couldn't reveal for security reasons.

If you were blogging in February and March 2003 (I wasn't), or if you still have your old e-mail (I do), look back at what you wrote then. George Santayana would have wanted you to.

Here's what I found in my trip down memory lane, five questions I kept sending a Republican friend while debating the merits of the pending war:
  1. In your opinion, what good evidence did Bush or Powell provide that Saddam has WMD?
  2. How can one justify a pre-emptive war absent strong evidence of either a clear and present threat or a violation of UN sanctions?
  3. If evidence doesn't matter, why did we urge the UN to resume the inspection regimes?
  4. What justified our trumping the UN's inspection efforts (which, again, were resumed at our urging), at a substantial cost to us in international good will?
  5. Why are we optimistic that regime change will be effective, given the tragic history of blowback and no U.S. good deed going unpunished in the Middle East?
The debate raged on, but he never did answer any of those questions.

I ain't no Bob Woodward. I don't have Judith Miller's Rolodex, nor the bully pulpit that is the New York Times.

They clearly know more about American politics than I ever will. So, why didn't they bother to wonder about such things? And why, to this day, does the MSM still work to tilt power toward this failed administration? Their robotic insistence on "centrism" and "bipartisanship" is, at heart, a call to unmake last November's redistribution of Congressional power:
Back in 2002, when the U.S. was debating whether to invade Iraq, those who opposed the invasion were, for that reason alone, dismissed as unserious morons and demonized as anti-American subversive hippies. Despite the fact that subsequent events have largely proven them to have been right, and that those who did the demonizing were the frivolous, unserious, know-nothing extremists, this narrative persists, so that -- even now, when most Americans have turned against this war -- the only way to avoid being an "extremist," and to be rewarded with the "centrist" mantle, is to support the continuation of this war in one form or another.
If you thought the war was a good idea at the time, remember that you had a lot of help in coming to that conclusion. I hope that makes you even more mad as hell than I am, and even more committed to not taking this anymore.

We should be mad. One of the pillars of our American democracy went completely comatose at the switch as the train hurtled toward an unfinished bridge.

[Well, I should qualify "completely." A handful of people got it right, and we're all indebted to the reporters who put it all on the line to get a little truth out of Iraq. It's a damned shame that, as an institution, speaking truth to power is the exception, not the rule, in today's Fourth Estate.]

This issue is the main reason for this Brigadoon blog (which I plan to reactivate this time each year).

Not to put too fine a point on it: what the fuck is wrong with the American news media, and what is our best hope for fixing it?

And if we can't fix it, I urge you to use this occasion this year and every year to help awaken concern about this in our fellow citizens.

Like it or not, old media still has a powerful influence on public opinion. You can bet the farm that it will make and break candidates during this election cycle, as it has in every cycle in our lifetimes.

The bumper stickers say "Bush Lied, People Died." But would he have gotten away with it without the media by his side?

We need to grab this bull by the horns, or failing that, to raise awareness about what comes out its other end.

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Something is rotten in the state

Actual logo from the White House web page for Colin Powell's UN presentation:



When Colin Luther Powell sold himself and his country down the East River, it was a tragedy worthy of the Bard himself.

Is this anthrax which I see before me?
The vial in my hand? Come, let me hype thee.
I have thee not, and yet the media see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, senseless
Like feelings about satellite photos' sight? or art thou but
A mobile WMD lab of the mind, a false creation,
Repeated by the ratings-obsessed brainless?


I come not to bury Powell, but not to praise him, either.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's former Chief of Staff, now calls the presentation "a hoax." He blames the fraudulence not on his ex-boss, but on a politicized intelligence process.

Indeed, it does appear that warnings of widely known flaws in the presentation's source materials were kept from Powell's desk, and that at every step of the evidence-gathering process it was well-understood that only one conclusion was acceptable to the White House and the Pentagon.

Former CIA European Chief Tyler Drumheller:
I had warned the CIA deputy John McLaughlin that this case could be fabricated. The night before the speech, then CIA director George Tenet called me at home. I said: "Hey Boss, be careful with that German report [about informer Curve Ball's claims]. It's supposed to be taken out. There are a lot of problems with that." He said: "Yeah, yeah. Right. Don't worry about that."

I turned on the TV in my office, and there it was. So the first thing I thought, having worked in the government all my life, was that we probably gave Powell the wrong speech. We checked our files and found out that they had just ignored it.

The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.
The one CIA agent who met (and who didn't believe) Curve Ball was told...
"Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say. The Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about."
Also, I don't doubt that Powell tried to rationalize a defensible route through the shoals of subterfuge, parsing away until he had pausible deniability for most everything he said. If there was no true smoking gun in Saddam Hussein's hand, there best not be one in Powell's either.

But as Al Smith observed, "no matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney." Given what was at stake, it's fair to say that Powell and Wilkerson were criminally willing to suspend their disbelief:
Powell allegedly told the Foreign Secretary that he had just about "moved in" with his intelligence staff to prepare for his speech but had left his briefings "apprehensive," fearing that the evidence might "explode in their faces." A U.S. News & World Report story describes the Secretary of State throwing the documents in the air and declaring, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit!" But the good soldier read it anyway.
It didn't take hindsight for someone with the least bit of skepticism — especially the presentation's preparer and deliverer — to see that the speech was full of speculation, convenient rewording, silly military-fantasy drawings worthy of Bruce McCall, and more holes than Blackburn, Lancashire.

If only Powell lov'd Caesar less and lov'd Rome more:
Powell... "is the world's most loyal soldier." Wilkerson said he admired that, but he took a different view of loyalty: not to the administration, but to the country.
Even if they protest their innocence too much, they at least understand it's a damned, unwashable spot on their hands.

Wilkerson:
I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council. How do you think that makes me feel? Thirty-one years in the United States Army and I more or less end my career with that kind of a blot on my record? That's not a very comforting thing.
Powell:
It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now.
Why was it painful? Perhaps because he knew it was wrong.

What makes Powell's role so tragic is his equivocation, the sense that at some level he knew he was carrying heavy water for some very dangerous fools:
I wonder what we'll do if we put half a million troops on the ground in Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and don't find a single weapon of mass destruction.
There's no evidence of such pause from those who drove the administration's policy and the determination to sex-up the evidence. To Wilkerson, that means in particular Cheney and Rumsfeld, whom he sees as hijackers of the ship of state:
Wilkerson blamed Bush, "not versed in international relations and not too much interested," for letting the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal to take over. He blamed Rice for dropping her role as honest broker to "build her intimacy with the president." And he blamed whoever gave Feith "carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw itself."

The cabal's end run around the bureaucracy, he argued, stalled nuclear diplomacy with North Korea and Iran. He said top officials "condoned" prisoner abuse and left the Army "truly in bad shape."

"You and I and every other citizen like us is paying the consequences," he said, "whether it was a response to Katrina that was less than adequate certainly, or the situation in Iraq which still goes unexplained."
Rumsfeld fully understood that there was no there there behind the sudden rush to war (again from Charles Hanley, who also authored this 2/7/03 AP report showing that sites Powell fear-mongered about had been thoroughly inspected and found free of WMDs):
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told U.S. senators [in July, 2003] the Bush administration actually had no "dramatic new evidence" before ordering the Iraq invasion.
For a war rationale, the Vice President had nothin' either, beyond championing a geographically quixotic application of the "9/11 changes everything" meme and willing to life non-existent connections between our forgotten enemy Al-Qaeda and his forgotten $73 million customer Iraq.

On the plus side, Cheney has shown how amazingly right he once was about the hazards of invading Iraq:
I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is... fallacious. I think if we we're going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place. What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shia government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable? I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President [George H.W. Bush] got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.
Now Cheney sits in a rubber room and insists he'd never hurt a fly.

Ultimately, one must agree with both Powell and Harry Truman about where the buck stops, especially when it comes to that most dubious of propositions — a war of whim:
"The decisions that were made were not made by me or Mr. Cheney or Rumsfeld. They were made by the president of the United States."

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Friday, February 2, 2007

An American Tragedy



On February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations to rally support for an invasion of Iraq.

Outside of war co-planner the United Kingdom, few international troops would join the U.S. in the invasion and occupation.

Yet Powell's speech had a galvanizing effect on America's mainstream media. As one, they declared the presentation "compelling."

For a nation living in the ghostly shadow of the twin towers, the MSM's Good Warmaking seal of approval was enough to keep that treasonous question — "why?" — relatively unheard.

In this space, we'll consider what was lost that day, as we mark a sobering holiday: America's Day of Shame.

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