Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

by Steve Bell c 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pig Fucking GopPig, Little-Boy-Strokers play dirty with Political Ads as well

The Year Of Playing Dirtier
Negative Ads Get Positively Surreal

By Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 27, 2006; A01

Rep. Ron Kind pays for sex!

Well, that's what the Republican challenger for his Wisconsin congressional seat, Paul R. Nelson, claims in new ads, the ones with "XXX" stamped across Kind's face.

It turns out that Kind -- along with more than 200 of his fellow hedonists in the House -- opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies. According to Nelson's ads, the Democrat also wants to "let illegal aliens burn the American flag" and "allow convicted child molesters to enter this country."

To Nelson, that doesn't even qualify as negative campaigning.

"Negative campaigning is vicious personal attacks," he said in an interview. "This isn't personal at all."

By 2006 standards, maybe it isn't.

On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion.

At the same time, the growth of "independent expenditures" by national parties and other groups has allowed candidates to distance themselves from distasteful attacks on their opponents, while blogs and YouTube have provided free distribution networks for eye-catching hatchet jobs.

"When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative," said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political advertising. "And the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to get free media coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the extremes."

The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit. A few examples of the "character issues" taking center stage two weeks before Election Day:

· In New York, the NRCC ran an ad accusing Democratic House candidate Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex. "Hi, sexy," a dancing woman purrs. "You've reached the live, one-on-one fantasy line." It turns out that one of Arcuri's aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25.

· In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell, trailing by more than 20 points in polls, has accused front-running Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland of protecting a former aide who was convicted in 1994 on a misdemeanor indecency charge. Blackwell's campaign is also warning voters through suggestive "push polls" that Strickland failed to support a resolution condemning sex between adults and children. Strickland, a psychiatrist, objected to a line suggesting that sexually abused children cannot have healthy relationships when they grow up.

· The Republican Party of Wisconsin distributed a mailing linking Democratic House candidate Steve Kagen to a convicted serial killer and child rapist. The supposed connection: The "bloodthirsty" attorney for the killer had also done legal work for Kagen.

· In two dozen congressional districts, a political action committee supported by a white Indianapolis businessman, J. Patrick Rooney, is running ads saying Democrats want to abort black babies. A voice says, "If you make a little mistake with one of your hos, you'll want to dispose of that problem tout de suite, no questions asked."

· In the most controversial recent ad, the Republican National Committee slammed Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) for attending a Playboy-sponsored Super Bowl party. In the ad, a scantily clad white actress winks as she reminisces about good times with Ford, who is black. That ad has been pulled, but the RNC has a new one saying Ford "wants to give the abortion pill to schoolchildren."

Some Democrats are playing rough, too. House candidate Chris Carney is running ads slamming the "family values" of Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), whose former mistress accused him of choking her. And House candidate Kirsten Gillibrand has an ad online ridiculing Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) for attending a late-night fraternity party. "What's a 50-year-old man doing at a frat party anyway?" one young woman asks, as a faux Sweeney boogies behind her to the Beastie Boys. "Totally creeping me out!" another responds.

But most harsh Democratic attacks have focused on the policies and performance of the GOP majority, trying to link Republicans to Bush, the unpopular war in Iraq and the scandals involving former representative Mark Foley and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That is not surprising, given that polls show two-thirds of the electorate thinks the country is going in the wrong direction. And studies show that negative ads can reduce turnout; Democrats hope a constant drumbeat of scandal, Iraq and "stay the course" will persuade conservatives to stay home on Nov. 7.

It is harder for Republicans to blame out-of-power Democrats for the current state of Washington, but they are equally eager to depress Democratic turnout and fire up their conservative base. One GOP strategy has been raising the specter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, becoming speaker; for example, Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) is airing radio ads warning that a Democratic victory would allow Pelosi to "put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda." Then again, Hostettler's opponent, Democrat Brad Ellsworth, has accused him of promoting the sale of guns to criminals, "including child-rapists."

Some of this year's negative ads are more substantive, reprising a successful Republican strategy from 2002 and 2004: portraying Democrats as soft on terrorism. For example, Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-Conn.) has an ad lambasting her opponent for opposing Bush's efforts to conduct wiretaps without search warrants. A host of Democrats have been accused of trying to "cut and run" in Iraq -- including House candidate Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both legs in Iraq.

The RNC has raised eyebrows with an ad consisting almost entirely of al-Qaeda videos starring Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. There is no sound except the ticking of a bomb before the final warning: "These are the stakes. Vote November 7th." John G. Geer, a Vanderbilt professor who has written a book defending negative political ads, said he told a well-connected Republican friend in Washington that the ticking-bomb ploy seemed like a desperation move. The friend e-mailed back: "John, we're desperate!"

"Look, the electorate is polarized, the stakes are large, and neither party has much to run on right now," Geer said. "You can expect to see some pretty outlandish ads."

The "pays for sex" ad against Kind in Wisconsin -- along with a similar one aired against Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) -- may be the most extreme. It says Kind spent tax dollars to study "the sex lives of Vietnamese prostitutes" and "the masturbation habits of old men" and "to pay teenage girls to watch pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia." Cue the punch line: "Ron Kind pays for sex, but not for soldiers." The Wisconsin Republican Party denounced the ad, and several TV stations refused to air it, but that only got it more attention. It is the centerpiece of Nelson's Web site: "This ad is so powerful, a sitting U.S. Congressman threatened TV stations with legal action if they dared to play it."

Kind joked in an interview that he has been paying for sex ever since he said "I do." But on a more serious note, he said Nelson's attack ad is typical of modern politics, in which desperate candidates can attract media coverage and rally their base with distortion. He opposed the amendment in question -- as did many Republicans -- because he does not think Congress should interfere in peer-reviewed NIH studies, not because of any interest in teenage genitalia. That particular study, incidentally, had nothing to do with teenagers.

"Man, it's a crazy system, and it's getting worse every year," Kind said. "We rip each other to shreds, and then we're all supposed to come back to Washington and try to work together. It's a hell of a way to elect representatives."

At least it is clear who is responsible for Nelson's ad: Nelson. The Playboy ad bashing Ford, on the other hand, is a typical product of the attack politics of 2006. Its beneficiary, GOP Senate candidate Bob Corker, called it "tacky" but said he cannot do anything about an RNC ad. Even RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman said he is powerless to stop it; it is an "independent expenditure" of the RNC, out of the committee's control. He doesn't seem too upset about it, though. Corker has been rising in the polls since it started airing.

Experts say that in the past, negative ads were usually more accurate, better documented and more informative than positive ads; there was a higher burden of proof. Stanford's Iyengar thinks that is still true for candidate-funded messages, which now require candidates to say they approved them. But it is not true when the messages are produced by political parties, shadowy independent groups or partisans posting on YouTube.

"You're going to see more of this sensational, off-the-wall stuff," Iyengar said. "If you get people disgusted, they might withdraw from politics, and that's the real goal these days."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Administration cuts and runs from ‘stay the course’

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Even with a congressional election less than two weeks off, the Bush White House appears incapable of getting real about Iraq. Over the weekend, the president delivered a Saturday radio address insisting, “Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging. Our goal is victory.” On Sunday, George W. Bush appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” There he somewhat altered his rote invocation of steely resolve. Bush remains patient, “but not patient forever.” Host George Stephanopoulos sought clarification. “That’s exactly what I wanted to ask you about,” he said, “because [former Secretary of State] James Baker says he’s looking for something between ‘cut and run’ and ‘stay the course.’” “ Listen,” Bush insisted, “we’ve never been ‘stay the course,’ George. We... will complete the mission. We will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting the tactics.” For a politician, he’s an amazingly bad liar. Whenever Bush says, “listen,” it’s a dead giveaway, a verbal tic similar to what poker players call a “tell.” Never described his Iraq policy as “stay the course?” Bush himself has used the phrase countless times since the March 2003 invasion. So have White House spokesmen.

“We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century,” Bush pronounced in an Aug. 30, 2006, speech.

With evidence mounting that voters doubt Bush’s capacity to learn from reality in Iraq, he began making noises about changing tactics. Even so, in an Oct. 11 press conference Bush insisted, “stay the course also means don’t leave before the job is done.” That was two weeks ago, for readers keeping score at home.

Is Bush so brazen he thinks nobody remembers? So delusional he actually doesn’t recall?

Why would White House senior advisor Dan Bartlett deny something everybody knows to be true? CBS’s Hannah Storm asked Bartlett whether “staying the course is no longer the operative strategy?”

“Well, Hannah,” he said, “it’s never been a ‘stay the course’ strategy.”

Faced with mounting derision, press spokesman Tony Snow tried to perfume the skunk. “Is the President responsible for the fact people think it’s ‘stay the course,’” a reporter asked, “since he’s, in fact, described it that way himself?”


Winston Smith, call your office. Smith, of course, was a Ministry of Truth rewrite man in George Orwell’s “1984.” Slogging away in his airless cubicle, Smith’s job was continuously to alter the historical record, so that whatever Big Brother found it convenient to say today magically became exactly what he’d said forever. “‘Reality control,’ they called it; in Newspeak, doublethink.’”

Bush’s reasons for disowning the phrase may be psychological as much as political. A sailing metaphor, “stay the course” became almost synonymous with George H. W. Bush, the Connecticut preppie father whose topsiders Junior still can’t fill. It even became the focus of a memorable “Saturday Night Live” mock campaign debate with Dana Carvey impersonating then-Vice President Bush, and Jon Lovitz his hapless 1988 Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis.

“MODERATOR: ‘You still have 50 seconds left, Mr. Vice President.’

CARVEY: ‘Well, let me just sum up. On track, stay the course, a thousand points of light. Stay the course.’

MODERATOR: ‘Governor Dukakis, rebuttal?’

LOVITZ: ‘I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.’”

How anybody ever mistook George W. Bush for a tough guy escapes me. But that’s beside the point. What’s important here is something I’ve been predicting to outraged Bush cultists for months: the U.S. retreat from this strategically incoherent, incompetently conducted war has begun. Next comes finding a scapegoat. Needless to say, the Limbaugh-Coulter-Hannity axis will blame the press, left-wing college professors, and Barbra Streisand. Saner individuals will focus on the triumvirate of Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld—along with their political enablers in both parties.

Deeper thinkers are already waxing philosophical. Niall Ferguson, the Harvard historian sometimes called “neoconservative” by detractors, sums up his reasons for predicting the American empire would fall short of his native Great Britain’s. “My argument,” Ferguson writes in The Los Angeles Times, “was that the United States was unlikely to be as successful or as enduring an imperial power as its British predecessor for three reasons: its financial deficit, its attention deficit and, perhaps most surprisingly, its manpower deficit. Rather cruelly, I compared the American empire to a ‘strategic couch potato,’ consuming on credit, reluctant to go to the front line [and] inclined to lose interest in protracted undertakings.” Actually, professor, there’s a more basic reason imperialists find themselves repeatedly frustrated by American unwillingness to “stay the course.” The first of Britain’s colonials to win a “war of national liberation,” Americans will fight like rabid wolverines to defend themselves, but they have never really wanted an overseas empire. The sooner Washington power brokers accept that, the sooner we’ll return to a rational foreign policy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sure to make you sick to your stomach...

New York Times “military analysis” foreshadows US bloodbath in Baghdad

By Barry Grey and Joe Kay
24 October 2006

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In the midst of intensive strategy sessions between the Bush administration and military commanders and urgent calls from politicians and media commentators for a “change of course” in Iraq, the New York Times has published a “military analysis” that lays bare the core of the various schemes being discussed to salvage the American occupation of the country.

At the center of the crisis talks are plans for a military assault on densely populated neighborhoods in the capital city, where anti-American insurgents and militia are entrenched, beginning with Sadr City, the home of some 2 million impoverished Shia and the stronghold of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

The commentary, appearing on the front page of Monday’s Times and authored by Michael R. Gordon, makes no attempt to disguise the newspaper’s support for such an action, which would entail killing on a mass scale. Below the heading “Military Analysis,” the headline reads: “To Stand or Fall in Baghdad,” followed by a second headline: “For American Commanders, This Is It: Securing Capital Is the Key to Their Mission.”

Calling the “Baghdad security plan” the American military’s “last hand,” Gordon writes: “But military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy to clear violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, hold them with Iraqi and American security forces, and then try to win over the population with reconstruction projects.... There is no fallback plan that the generals are holding in their hip pocket. This is it.”

The unstated premise of the article is continued support for the real cause of the nightmare of death and destruction in Iraq—the American invasion and military occupation of the country. As with virtually all reportage and commentary on the war by the Times and the US media as a whole, the American military is presented as a benign force seeking to protect the Iraqi people from “insurgents” and sectarian militias, who are depicted uniformly as hostile forces bent on thwarting the humanitarian mission of the United States.

The deteriorating military and political situation for the US in Iraq now requires the apologists for US imperialism at the Times to justify in advance a massive escalation of American violence.

At the point in his commentary where Gordon defines the US mission, he omits, significantly, any mention of democracy. Citing American generals who speak of the “larger American mission in Iraq,” he writes: “Their assessment is that if Baghdad is overwhelmed by sectarian strife, the cause of fostering a more stable Iraq will be lost.”

Following the evolving line of the Bush administration, the mantra of a “democratic” Iraq is shelved. Democracy in Iraq has always been a façade to conceal Washington’s real war aims: seizing control of the country’s oil riches and establishing a subservient client regime and military beachhead in the Middle East.

However, the downgrading of “democracy” as the purported aim of the occupation coincides with high-level discussions among US policymakers about ousting the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by means of a military coup, should he continue to resist American pressure to disarm Shia militias that are hostile to the US presence.

An earlier article in the Times, published on Sunday (“US to Hand Iraq a New Timetable on Security Role”), cited “senior American officials” who indicated that one of the alternatives under consideration is to “give the Iraqi Army the lead role in domestic security, downgrading the role of police units.” A turn to the Army for policing operations would represent a turn to military dictatorship and the enlistment of the traditional Sunni officer corps to attack Sadr and his militia.

Gordon’s commentary is typical of the Times cynical and dishonest coverage of the war. After quoting Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, commander of American forces in Iraq, as stating, “As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq,” Gordon adds his own comment: “It is hard to see how any Iraq plan can work if the capital’s citizens cannot be protected.”

Protected from whom? The Times depicts the American military as the protector of the Iraqi people, even as it promotes plans for a massive assault on Baghdad neighborhoods.

As confirmed by polls released last month, a large majority of Iraqis believe that the American military is the main threat to their security and well-being. A poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes reported that 60 percent of Iraqis approve the attacks on US-led forces and almost 80 percent say the US military provokes more violence in Iraq than it prevents. The US State Department’s own poll, according to the Associated Press, found that two thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor an immediate withdrawal of US forces.

Gordon goes on to assert that “the sectarian violence would be far worse if not for the American efforts.” How does he know? The US occupation is the basic cause for the eruption of sectarian conflicts, and the US military has promoted these divisions in an effort to pit Iraqis against each other in line with the old colonialist strategy of “divide and rule.”

Gordon’s article suggests that the Times favors a further increase in American troop strength in Iraq. He writes: “Keeping the Army’s Fourth Division in place in Baghdad instead of rotating it home when it is to be replaced by the First Calvalry Division would substantially increase the number of American troops in the city. There have been no indications that such an idea is under serious consideration.”

Maliki himself made clear what the Bush administration and the US military are demanding in an interview published October 16 in USA Today. The newspaper quoted him as saying: “We have told the Americans that we don’t mind targeting a Mahdi Army cell inside Sadr City. But the way the multinational forces are thinking of confronting this issue will destroy an entire neighborhood.”

There is a model for such actions. In November of 2004, the US “secured” the predominantly Sunni city of Fallujah by driving out or killing most of its population of 300,000 and leveling large swaths of buildings and homes. Much of the city was destroyed through an aerial bombardment, which was followed by “clear and hold” operations. When they were finished, Fallujah was transformed into a garrison city, subject to permanent conditions of martial law.

The Times is touting measures that are no different from the type of actions for which Saddam Hussein is presently on trial for his life. He is being tried as a war criminal for carrying out bloody assaults on civilian populations in pursuit of political aims. How is this in any way different from what the American military has already done and what it is preparing to do on an even bigger scale in the coming weeks and months? The Times cheers on the trial of Saddam Hussein even as it endorses even more bloody war crimes by the US.

Gordon’s column casts additional light on the newspaper’s decision to bury a Johns Hopkins University study released earlier this month that estimates 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the American invasion and occupation of the country. The virtual silence of the Times on this staggering and damning scientific study was not a casual editorial decision, but rather part and parcel of the newspaper’s support for an escalation of the killing.

The Times articulates in broad terms the outlook of the “liberal” establishment in general and the Democratic Party in particular. Gordon’s article makes clear that a Democratic victory in the November congressional elections, or even in the 2008 presidential race, will in no way signal a retreat from the Bush administration’s policies of militarism and war. The entire US political and media establishment is implicated in the war and committed to avoiding a defeat for US imperialism in Iraq, regardless the cost in Iraqi as well as American lives.

See Also:
Demands for Iraq "course change" grow louder in Washington
[23 October 2006]

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Will real conservatives?

Will real conservatives please stand up?
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Almost from the first, President Bush has acted as if there would never be another election. That’s the main thing adepts of the cult of personality surrounding this arrogant, befuddled little man love about him. “As his supporters saw him,” Sidney Blumenthal writes in his bracing new book, “How Bush Rules,” “ his simplistic rhetoric was straight talk, his dogmatism fortitude, his swagger reassuring, his stubbornness... a bulwark against danger, and his rough edges proof that he was a man of the people. ” What most Americans have appeared reluctant to grasp, Blumenthal thinks, is the radical extremism behind the administration’s concept of the “unitary executive” —seizing upon the metaphorical war on terror to declare the commander-in-chief above the strictures of the U.S. Constitution and unfettered by whatever limitations a timorous Congress might seek to impose. By and large, the rubber-stamp Republican House and Senate have imposed none. On critical issues, the so-called GOP moderates and mavericks have feigned resistance, then gone along for the ride. Last month’s shameless capitulation allowing Bush to strip “enemy combatants” —American citizens included—of the right to challenge their imprisonment in court was a dramatic example.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., for example, opined that the White House’s bill permitting indefinite detention by presidential fiat set American law back 900 years. It’s blatantly unconstitutional. The Constitution specifically forbids suspending habeas corpus “unless... in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion.” Lest he be branded soft on terrorism, Specter then voted for it with the rest, including alleged maverick Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

There’s long been an undercurrent of authoritarianism in American politics, particularly across the South and agrarian Midwest. Some of Bush’s warmest supporters are direct descendants of the 19th century nativist Know-Nothing Party. Many seem morally outraged by anybody who can count higher than two. I get frequent e-mails telling me that being anti-torture makes me pro-terrorist or that it’s un-American to oppose life imprisonment without a trial. Some take grim pleasure in identifying the enemy as Islam itself, making the conflict religious and racial—just how they like it.

There are many ways to characterize such views, but conservative isn’t one of them. There’s nothing conservative about a lynch mob. To his credit, Bush stresses that “Islamic” and “terrorist” aren’t synonyms. But he also tells thunderous falsehoods casting Democrats as enemy sympathizers. At a GOP fund-raiser recently, he charged that “177 of the opposition party said, ‘You know, we don’t think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.’”

Challenged, the White House press office was unable to identify a single
Democrat who’d said anything so absurd. Nobody’s against spying on terrorists. What they objected to was the president’s refusal to obtain warrants from the FISA court specifically set up for that purpose—a statute Congress would surely have amended had the White House requested it. Instead, Bush chose to defy the law, seemingly to prove himself above it.

Has terrorism succeeded? Have Americans become too gutless for democracy? Blumenthal cites a trenchant passage by Theodore Roosevelt. Writing about Oliver Cromwell, the self appointed “Lord Protector” of 17th century England, Roosevelt wrote that “when the people will not or cannot work together; when they permit groups of extremists to decline to accept anything that does not coincide with their own extreme views, or when they let power slip from their hands through sheer supine indifference; then they have themselves chiefly to blame if the power is grasped by stronger hands.”

Dudes, we’re there. Most Americans are more pragmatic than ideological. They want a government that works. By any reasonable measure, one-party Republican government has been a disaster. On almost every issue, from stem-cell research to runaway budget deficits to the ongoing disaster in Iraq, Bush has substituted dogma for reality, party loyalty for competence. The results range from comical to catastrophic. Imperfect as Democrats are, the only remedy available to engaged citizens is to vote them into power. Imperfect as he is, that’s what Bill Clinton was getting at in a recent Nevada speech. “For six years,” he said, “this country has been totally dominated—not by the Republican Party, this is not fair to the Republican Party—by a narrow sliver of the Republican Party, its more rightwing and its most ideological element.... [T] His country has been jammed... into an ideological corner, alienated from its allies, and we’re in a lot of trouble.” He added: “The Democratic Party has become the liberal and conservative party in America. If you want to be fiscally conservative, you’ve got to be for us. If you want to conserve natural resources, you’ve got to be for us. If you want a change of course in Iraq... you’ve got to be for us.” This strikes me as cogent and politically shrewd. What remains unclear is how many Americans are listening.

WSWS : News & Analysis : North America

Bill Keller at the University of Michigan

New York Times editor touts role of establishment press in “war on terror”

By Barry Grey
21 October 2006

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The executive editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, delivered a lecture on October 16 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor entitled “Editors in Chains: Secrets, Security and the Press.” Keller was presented to the audience of several hundred faculty, students and area residents as a spokesman for the liberal values of freedom of the press and open debate against the Bush administration and its policies of secret government and press censorship.

As the content of his lecture demonstrated, it would have been more accurate to present him as a representative of the decay of American liberalism and its abandonment of democratic principles.

Keller was chosen to give the Sixteenth Annual University of Michigan Senate’s Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom (named in honor of three professors who were purged by the university during the anti-communist witch-hunt of the 1950s) because the New York Times has been singled out for attack by the Bush administration and congressional Republicans for publishing articles exposing classified information on two of the administration’s secret spying programs: the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping, without court warrants, of telephone and email communications between Americans in the US and purported terrorist suspects abroad, and the Treasury Department-CIA program to monitor US and international bank records.

These exposés stand out as notable exceptions to the newspaper’s general policy of promoting official claims and vetting the news so as to shield the government’s more sinister and secret practices from public scrutiny.

The other domestic spying program to have been revealed by the American press is the NSA’s data base on millions of telephone calls made by Americans, compiled with the cooperation of most major US telecommunications companies.

Such police-state operations, as well as Pentagon surveillance of anti-war activists, state and local wire-tapping and monitoring of anti-government dissidents, and other programs that remain cloaked in secrecy, all of which are justified in the name of the “war on terror,” were only tangentially the subject of Keller’s remarks.

He offered no assessment of the major steps already taken in the direction of a presidential dictatorship, failing to even mention the passage last month of the Military Commissions Act, which sanctions drumhead courts, authorizes the president to declare any individual an “unlawful enemy combatant” and consign him to indefinite detention without legal recourse, permits the use of torture, and abolishes habeas corpus rights for non-citizen military detainees.

Nor did Keller directly contest the legality of the government’s domestic spying operations. Taken as a whole, his lecture was a concentrated expression of not only the cowardice of the New York Times and the so-called “liberal” media as a whole, but their complicity in the war in Iraq and the unprecedented assault on the democratic rights of the American people.

This should come as no surprise to those who have followed the reporting and commentary of the Times on the “war on terror” and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The “newspaper of record” has played a critical role in lending its prestige to a so-called war, never declared by Congress, that is indefinite in time and place and serves as an all-purpose pretext for military aggression and the gutting of democratic rights.

The Times’ Judith Miller, among other Times reporters, systematically promulgated the administration’s baseless claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction both before and after the March 2003 invasion, while the newspaper’s chief foreign policy columnist, Thomas Friedman, churned out one rationalization after another for what he called a “war of choice” against Iraq.

Today, Keller and the Times adamantly oppose an early withdrawal of US troops from the devastated country. Their criticisms of Bush’s war policy are from the standpoint of the administration’s incompetence and its failure to crush the Iraqi resistance. The newspaper continues to cover up the scale of death and destruction wreaked by the US on the Iraqi people.

As the World Socialist Web Site pointed out in a statement distributed by WSWS supporters to those who attended Keller’s lecture, the Times has relegated to its back pages, in one article, a scientific epidemiological study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, published earlier this month in the British medical journal the Lancet, which concludes that 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the US invasion and occupation of the country. (See “Why is the New York Times silent on massive Iraq death toll? A question for Bill Keller,” 16 October, 2006). The newspaper has not even bothered to publish an editorial on a study that documents a level of killing, more than three times the estimated death toll in Darfur, that deserves to be called genocide.

Keller directed his remarks toward several audiences, including liberal-minded individuals who continue to identify the Times with democratic values, and his counterparts in the American press. But his arguments were constructed to appeal, above all, to the American ruling elite and the Bush administration itself.

The Times editor’s main aim was convince the power elite that McCarthyite-style attacks on what he called “the establishment press” are counterproductive and dangerous from the standpoint of “national security” and the requirements of the “war on terror.” He spoke entirely as a loyal representative of the existing social, economic and political order, and a partisan of the foreign policy objectives of American imperialism.

Calling himself the “favorite chew toy of the right and left,” Keller sought in his opening remarks to distance himself from left-wing opponents of the war and the Bush administration with a quip about “faith-based partisans of the right and left.”

Speaking of the December, 2005 Times article that revealed the existence of the NSA domestic spying program and the June, 2006 article on the Treasury Department’s surveillance of bank records, he took pains to associate himself with the “war on terror” and grant these illegal and unconstitutional operations a degree of legitimacy they in no way merit. “Both of these programs,” he said, “were designed to catch terrorists, and, in case you’re wondering, like most Americans I’m in favor of that.”

Thus, whatever his criticisms of the Bush administration’s methods, Keller vouched for its stated motives in employing them. He made no attempt to explain why massive government spying on ordinary Americans was necessary to protect the people from terrorists. Starting from the legitimacy of the “war on terror,” he accepted in principle the government’s premise for undermining the Bill of Rights and constructing the legal and police-military framework for massive repression.

Keller reiterated this position several times in the course of his remarks. Speaking of the denunciations of the Times by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Republican congressmen following the publication of the article on the bank surveillance program, and noting the existence of a grand jury and possible subpoenas in relation to the NSA spying article, he said he recognized that some of this “reflected genuine frustration and the conviction that in perilous times the president needs extraordinary powers unfettered by congressional oversight, court meddling or the strictures of international law, and certainly safety from the attention of nosey reporters.”

”Clash of ideologies”

Later he declared that the Times was “invested in the struggle against murderous extremism,” and even echoed Bush’s apocalyptic language, saying, “We have no doubts about where our sympathies lie in this clash of ideologies.”

Keller outlined what he called the journalistic ethics of the Times. This was a thoroughly self-serving and sanitized presentation of the real considerations that guide the newspaper’s reportage. Declaring, “We strive to be independent and impartial,” he acknowledged occasional failings, among which he noted “episodes of credulous reporting in the prelude to the war in Iraq.”

“We do not manipulate or hide facts to advance an agenda,” he said, an assertion that flies in the face of the newspaper’s record on Iraq and other aspects of the actions and policies of the government. Of course, full enlistment in the “war on terror” does not count, according to Keller, as promoting an agenda.

He continued, “Reporting alternative points of view is embedded in our culture and incorporated in our professional DNA”—this from a newspaper that rigorously excludes socialist views.

Finally, Keller said, “our mission is not to tell readers what we think, or what they ought to think, but to supply them as best as we can the basis to make up their own minds.” This, again, rings utterly false from a newspaper that has systematically concealed information that contradicts the official bipartisan line on both international and domestic affairs, and has promulgated government disinformation on such immense issues as the war in Iraq.

Keller then proceeded to the central point of his discourse, declaring that since 9/11 newspaper editors have faced “excruciating choices” in regard to exposing government secrets. He noted that the Times and other major newspapers have withheld information “because we were convinced that publishing it would put lives at risk.”

Based on Keller’s lecture, “putting lives at risk” is the basic criterion that guides the Times’ decisions on whether to publish or withhold information that the government wants to keep secret. But this criterion is, on its face, so abstract and arbitrary as to justify any act of self-censorship.

Keller smugly invokes “saving lives” as a justification for editorial decisions that have facilitated the destruction of thousands of American soldiers’ lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, not to mention all those caught up in America’s gulags in Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Next, Keller sought to establish his newspaper’s “responsible” approach to government secrets, noting that the Times, as well as the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers, have withheld information whose exposure would be detrimental to the “war on terror,” and gave a number of examples.

He cited as a legitimate “exercise in restraint” his decision, in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, to withhold the story on the Bush administration’s NSA domestic spying program—a program that flouts the post-Watergate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. He noted that he met with Bush personally in the Oval Office and the president threatened that the Times would be held “accountable” if it published the story.

The threat evidently had the desired effect, and Keller held the story for more than a year, publishing it only in December of 2005. In his lecture, Keller justified his capitulation on the grounds that “it took more than a year of further reporting” before he was convinced the newspaper knew enough to justify publication. This rationale, it should be noted, contradicts the explanation for this extraordinary act of self-censorship given in an August, 2006 column by the Times’ public editor, Byron Calame, who cited Keller as saying he decided to hold the story because top Bush administration officials assured him the NSA program was legal.

In his lecture, Keller dismissed his decision to keep the electorate in the dark about Bush’s unconstitutional invasion of their privacy rights as follows: “Critics of the Bush administration speculated that if we had rushed the information into print before the 2004 election, the outcome would have been different. I tend to doubt that that’s so.”

This is an evasion. The issue is not whether the information might have cost Bush the election—a distinct possibility given the closeness of the outcome—but the right of the American people to have, in Keller’s own words, “the basis to make up their own minds.”

Posing the question of what can be done to mitigate the conflict between the government and the press over the publication of secret or classified information, Keller proposed a change in his newspaper’s policy toward the confidentiality of anonymous sources that represents a major concession to government censorship and a blow to the ability of reporters to carry out investigative journalism.

He suggested that reporters limit their guarantee of confidentiality to a would-be whistle-blowers by telling him they would reveal the source’s identity rather than face jail time for defying a subpoena or have the Times face fines for contempt of court in leak investigations. “There may be cases where we risk losing an exclusive because a source will not accept these terms,” he acknowledged, and further admitted that “a lot of reporters I know reject this approach, fearing it would chill relations with sources.” But he defended his proposal nonetheless.

He then proceeded to the nub of his argument. Quoting from the brief of the New York Times’ lawyer in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, he declared that a mutually advantageous relationship between the government and the press “assumes a respectful, if adversarial, relationship between an establishment press and a government that accepts the value of compromise in the conduct of public affairs.”

Keller made reference several times to the Pentagon Papers episode, when the New York Times published, beginning in June of 1971, a series of excerpts from a classified Pentagon report on the secret plans and actions of the US government, beginning in the 1960s, expanding the American intervention in Vietnam. The exposé had a galvanizing effect in fueling the anti-war movement. The Nixon administration obtained a court injunction to halt the publication of the papers, but the Supreme Court overturned the injunction in late June of 1971.

While Keller cited this case to bolster the Times’ liberal credentials, the glaring difference between the response of the Times 35 years ago to a war conspiracy hatched by the government—only after, it must be added, the war had produced a foreign policy and military disaster—and its servile role today only underscores the scale of the complicity and collapse of the liberal media.

The Internet and “national security”

Keller then launched into an argument on the dangers to the government and the political establishment of a weakening of the “establishment press” in the face of growing competition from alternative sources of news and opinion on the Internet. “The notion of an establishment press,” he warned, “is at least under siege.”

Elaborating on this theme, he said, “Legions of Internet journalists include at least a few who would feel no compunction about disclosing life-threatening information. If a blogger hostile to the Bush administration managed to document sensitive secrets about the war on terror, would he stop to weigh the consequences of making them public? And once the information had rebounded through the blogosphere, how long would the major news organizations hesitate before picking it up?”

To leave no doubt about his message to the Bush administration and the US ruling elite, Keller continued, “So while the mainstream press might not enjoy the hegemony it held before the Internet, we have not yet fallen into information anarchy. Most of what the country knows about the secret activities of the government, it knows thanks to serious news organizations that still take their responsibilities seriously.”

In other words, don’t undermine our ability to control and vet the flow of information to the public and thereby weaken our ability to defend the vital interests we hold in common. When Keller talks here about “responsibility,” he is speaking of responsibility to the government and the ruling class, not to the people.

Extending his line of argument, Keller went on to assert that the Bush administration’s posture of “with us or against us” and its “zeal to tighten controls on the flow of information” were harmful to “national security” and the “war on terror.” He said, “I strongly suspect that these attempts to enforce a single authorized version of the truth help explain why the most secretive of administrations has lost control of its most sensitive secrets.

“This distaste for dissent has another cost. Fighting terrorists, whatever method you might choose, depends on making alliances at home and abroad. It depends on a consensus of the civilized world, and I wonder whether the discrediting of honest critics has undermined the unity of purpose essential to such a struggle.”

He then quoted approvingly a commentary by Jonathan Rauch in the October issue of the Atlantic Monthly that criticized Bush for undermining the “war on terror.” Acknowledging that the “war on terror” requires “spying at home, detaining terror suspects and conducting tough interrogations” for “many years to come,” Rauch attacked Bush for “running the war against jihadism out of his back pocket, as a permanent state of emergency,” in which Bush “circumvents outmoded laws and treaties, when he should be creating new ones.”

Precisely which laws, treaties, or, perhaps, provisions of the Bill of Rights have become “outmoded,” neither Rauch nor Keller chose to stipulate.

Keller suggested in conclusion that the establishment press, by “forcing these questions onto the national agenda,” has “created the possibility of a national consensus, a foundation for the long defense of our freedoms,” (the latter phrase implying an identity, ala Bush, between the “war on terror” and the defense of freedom).

The reactionary substance of Keller’s position was amplified in the question-and-answer period that followed his lecture. When a supporter of the World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party challenged his newspaper’s virtual silence on the Johns Hopkins report on Iraqi deaths, Keller countered that the publication of a single article did not fit his definition of “suppressing” a story. “We didn’t splash it on the front page,” he said, as though it were self-evident that a study by one of the largest and most prestigious schools of public health documenting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths from the US war did not merit such prominent placement.

This reporter said that Keller’s lecture had given no serious accounting of the enormous responsibility of the New York Times for the catastrophe unleashed by the United States on Iraq. He pointed out the contradiction between the journalistic ethics Keller had outlined and the newspaper’s role in covering up the truth about the war. He then cited the newspaper’s decision, in the run-up to the 2004 election, to suppress its report on Bush’s illegal NSA spying program, saying, “The American people had a right to know before they went to the polls that one of the candidates, the incumbent president, had violated the FISA law, the US Constitution, and their privacy rights.”

In response, Keller admitted that the “American media let the country down in its reporting before the war,” but drew no further conclusions. Instead, he said it was “a little hysterical to suggest that Judy Miller and the New York Times took the country to war in Iraq,” and then gave the stock evasion/lie of both the Bush administration and the Democratic Party: “The notion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was not an eccentric notion in the year before the United States invaded Iraq. It was the prevailing view” of the Clinton administration, the UN Security Council, most weapons inspectors, etc.

In fact, the head of the UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, both refuted Washington’s claims about Iraqi WMD and told the UN Security Council prior to the invasion that they had found no evidence of such weapons or weapons programs.

The socialist left press, beginning with the World Socialist Web Site, opposed and exposed the lies of the Bush administration, and the WSWS explained the real motives behind the US war. The 20 million people who demonstrated around the world against the impending war on February 20, 2003, including millions of Americans, were not taken in by the administration’s phony intelligence. But we are to believe that the Times was merely “credulous!”

Keller’s lecture at the University of Michigan confirms the calculated complicity of the New York Times and the so-called “liberal” media in the Iraq war and the broader imperialist agenda of which it is a part. It demonstrates the intention of the Times to continue and deepen its collaboration with the government, and its lack of any genuine commitment to the defense of democratic rights.

See Also:
Why is the New York Times silent on massive Iraq death toll? A question for Bill Keller
[16 October 2006]
Why is the American press silent on the report of 655,000 Iraqi deaths?
[13 October 2006]
New study says US war has killed 655,000 Iraqis
[12 October 2006]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why is the New York Times silent on massive Iraq death toll?

A question for Bill Keller

16 October 2006

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The following leaflet is being distributed outside a lecture being given by New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Monday, October 16.

The corporate-controlled American media is deliberately suppressing the results of a survey that demonstrates that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has caused more than 600,000 deaths in the past three years—a figure that in and of itself refutes all the claims by the Bush administration that it carried out the invasion of Iraq in order to foster democracy in the Middle East. What kind of “freedom” and “human rights” can be the consequence of such a slaughter?

The major American media organizations—including the New York Times—published only brief reports on the study October 11. Taking their cue from President Bush, who declared the survey’s methodology faulty without offering any proof, the Times and other leading media outlets have dropped the subject. There have been no editorials in the Times, the Washington Post, or other major newspapers, nor any demands for a more serious response from the Bush administration.

There is no legitimate, scientific basis for rejecting the findings of this survey carried out under the auspices of Johns Hopkins, one of the leading US universities. Under the direction of epidemiologists at the college’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, Iraqi interviewers visited thousands of Iraqi families throughout the war-torn country. The sample size was huge: 12,801 individuals in 1,849 households, in a country of 26 million people. By comparison, the CBS-New York Times poll, whose findings receive regular front-page coverage in the Times, uses a sample of 800 to 2,000 people in a country of 300 million.

If President Bush were to declare at his next press conference that the opinion polls showing 60 percent or more of the population opposed to the war in Iraq are bogus, and based on a “flawed methodology,” the Times would presumably denounce such an accusation and demand the White House provide proof of the alleged poll-rigging.

Why is a similar standard not applied to the Johns Hopkins inquiry into the excess deaths in Iraq? Is it, perhaps, because these figures would implicate all those responsible for the US military intervention—including its media apologists—in killing on a scale that deserves to be called genocide?

During the week since the Johns Hopkins survey was published, the Times has found ample space to report on the affairs of the multimillionaire Astor family, the charges against a local high school teacher of having sex with a student, and countless other news items of even lesser weight. Yet it has had no room to follow up the findings of a study, carried out with a standard scientific method—a “cluster survey”—and published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet.

As a number of public health professionals have explained in letters and blogs to leading newspapers like the Times itself and the Guardian in Great Britain, the most important data provided by the Hopkins survey is the enormous difference between the death rate reported by the surveyed families before and after the US invasion.

In the 18 months before the invasion, the more than 12,000 individuals reported 82 deaths, two of them by violence. In the 39 months since the invasion, this group saw 547 deaths, 300 of them by violence. The death rate in this surveyed group jumped from 0.7 percent to 2.5 percent, a rise of nearly 300 percent.

Such an increase is utterly incompatible with the official Bush administration estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths—as of December 2005—or the estimates of 50,000 to 60,000 deaths from groups like Iraq Body Count, which have no on-the-ground reporting capability and rely on media accounts.

There is every reason to believe that the Times and other US media outlets are refusing to further report and investigate the Johns Hopkins study because its findings demonstrate that both the Bush administration and the American media itself have been carrying out a cover-up of the bloodbath in Iraq.

One has only to contrast the silence on the Hopkins study with two equivalent cases: the Kosovo War of 1999 and the Darfur conflict of the past three years.

In Kosovo, the media readily echoed the Clinton administration claims that tens, even hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians had been massacred by the Serbian military and paramilitary forces. In fact, the death toll, horrendous as it was, came to several thousands, with crimes committed on both sides of the conflict between the Serb forces and the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army. But the US media blared out numbers that suggested death on a Holocaust-like scale in order to swing public opinion behind the NATO war against Serbia.

More recently, the Times has been one of the publications most adamant about the necessity for UN or NATO intervention in Darfur, in the western Sudan. Using statistical methods no different from those employed by the Johns Hopkins study in Iraq, humanitarian aid organizations have produced credible estimates that some 200,000 people may have died of starvation and ethnic killings by militias backed by the central government in Sudan.

The US government and the American media generally have labeled the killings in Darfur as genocide. According to the Hopkins study, the Iraq war has taken three times as many lives as the bloodbath in Sudan, a country whose population is roughly equal to Iraq’s. The Bush administration is thus implicated in a crime which approaches those of the Nazis. Indeed, if Americans were dying at the rate that Iraqis have died over the past three years, the death toll would be 7.5 million.

There are many other reasons to examine with a critical eye the pretensions of the New York Times to represent a genuine “Fourth Estate.” This newspaper is deeply implicated in the drive to condition the American people to accept the war in Iraq. It played the leading role, through the activities of reporters like Judith Miller, in peddling and validating Bush administration lies about weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda ties to Iraq, and the supposed Iraqi threat to the United States.

Only two months ago, the Times public editor Byron Calame revealed that the newspaper deliberately withheld its report on the Bush administration’s program of illegal domestic spying until after the 2004 election. This decision was taken by executive editor Bill Keller, and its effect was to help insure Bush’s reelection.

Mr. Keller will appear in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Monday, October 16, to give the Sixteenth Annual University of Michigan Senate Lecture On Academic And Intellectual Freedom. He has chosen as his topic, “Editors in Chains: Secrets, Security and the Press.”

After the Times editor gives his account of his moral sweatings over whether or not to make public a criminal conspiracy by the Bush administration against the democratic rights of the American people, he should be asked why his newspaper is choosing to cover up a serious and meticulously documented report on the worst human rights violation of the twenty-first century: the US war in Iraq.

US-SEP lecture series
The economic and political roots of the crisis of American democracy
A lecture by David North, chairman of the World Socialist Web Site
University of Michigan
Monday, October 30, 7:00 p.m.
University of Michigan
Michigan Union, Kuenzel Room
530 S. State St.
Ann Arbor

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The cowardly cockroach corporate media--good Nazis?

Why is the American press silent on the report of 655,000 Iraqi deaths?

By Joe Kay and Barry Grey
13 October 2006

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The US media is virtually silent on a new scientific study that estimates the Iraqi death toll from the US war at 655,000. The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was posted Wednesday on the web site of the British medical journal, the Lancet.

The study is the only systematic estimate of the number of Iraqi civilians and military personnel to have died as a result of the US invasion and occupation to be brought to the attention of the American and international public.

Unlike previous estimates, which were based on reviews of media reports or tallies made by the US-backed Iraqi government, the Johns Hopkins study was carried out by Iraqi physicians who interviewed—often at great personal risk—nearly 2,000 families spread across the country, utilizing standard and widely used statistical methods to arrive at an objective estimate of the death toll from the war and occupation. The vast majority of the reported deaths were substantiated by death certificates.

The study concluded with a 95 percent degree of certainty that the number of “excess deaths” in Iraq since the invasion—the number of people who have died in excess of the number that would be expected on the basis of pre-invasion mortality rates—is between 393,000 and 943,000. The figure of 655,000 is given as the most likely number. This represents an astonishing 2.5 percent of the entire Iraqi population.

The researchers further estimated that about 600,000 of the deaths were due to violence in some form, including gunshots, air strikes and bombings. They concluded that US and allied military forces directly caused at least 31 percent—or 186,000—of the violent deaths.

Some 336,000 people, or 56 percent of those killed in violent actions since the invasion, died from gunshot wounds. The study also found that the number of violent deaths in Iraq has steadily increased every year since the invasion. In the period from June 2005 to June 2006, the researchers found a nearly four-fold increase in the mortality rate relative to pre-invasion levels.

There can be no legitimate doubts about the credibility of the study. Lancet is one of the oldest and most prestigious peer-reviewed medical publications in the world. The Johns Hopkins public health school is the largest in the world, and regularly ranks as the top public health school in the United States. The journal article was reviewed and approved for publication by four independent scientific experts in the area.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the report, even if one assumes its low-end estimate of 393,000 Iraqi deaths to be correct. It demonstrates that the American intervention in Iraq has produced a social and humanitarian catastrophe of historical dimensions, with vast political implications not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world and, above all, in the United States itself.

By any objective standard, the report merits front-page coverage in every major newspaper in the country and extensive discussion and reporting on television news broadcasts. Yet the response of the US press has been to virtually ignore the report and limit its coverage to news accounts on inside pages which report, uncritically, unsubstantiated statements by government and military officials dismissing the report as “not credible.”

In burying the story, the New York Times and Washington Post have played a particularly significant role. The original articles published by these newspapers on Wednesday were relegated to the inside pages: in the Times on page 8, in the Post on page 12.

The Post decided to bury the story in its back pages despite the fact that the article it published vouched for the scientific validity the Johns Hopkins study, noting that it, and an earlier report on Iraqi deaths published by the same team, “are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods.” The “cluster sampling” technique used by the scientists, the newspaper wrote, “is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.”

Minimal coverage in the press continued on Thursday, despite the fact that the issue was raised by a reporter at a White House press conference on Wednesday. President Bush contemptuously dismissed the report, stating that it was not credible. He was not challenged and the question was not followed up by any of the other reporters at the news conference.

Bush’s remarks were followed by statements from various supporters and architects of the war similarly dismissing the Johns Hopkins study’s casualty figures. General George Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, admitted that he had not bothered to read the report, but nevertheless concluded that it did not have “much credibility at all.”

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the figure of 655,000 killed is “not one we believe to be anywhere near accurate.” Iraqi government officials likewise declared that the figure was “exaggerated.”

On Thursday, neither the Times nor the Post published an editorial on the Johns Hopkins report, or even a follow-up article on the report and the response of the Bush administration.

There was not one challenge in the establishment media to the official attempts to disparage the report. Instead, the minimal coverage on Thursday was largely devoted to reporting the statements by Bush, Casey, Blair and the Iraqi stooge regime. The Los Angeles Times, for example, published a story on its inside pages, “Iraq Disputes Claim of 600,000 War Dead,” reporting the statements by the Iraqi government. The newspaper added its voice to the chorus by remarking that it had conducted its own survey and reached a figure of 50,000 killed.

The attempts to discredit the report are not backed up by any factual or methodological arguments. The administration and its supporters assume, correctly, that they can simply make unsubstantiated claims and the media will not challenge them.

Lee Roberts, a co-author of the study, noted in an interview with the radio program Democracy Now! on Thursday that the cluster survey approach the researchers used “is the standard way of measuring mortality in very poor countries where the government isn’t very functional or in times of war.” He pointed out that both the United Nations and the US government have used the method in determining mortality, including after the Kosovo and Afghan wars. “Most ironically,” he said, “the US government has been spending millions of dollars per year... to train NGOs and UN workers to do cluster surveys to measure mortality in times of wars and disasters.”

With its silence, the media is once again taking its cue from the government. It does not challenge Bush’s ignorant and cold-blooded dismissal of the Johns Hopkins report, just as it did not challenge Bush’s offhand remark at a December, 2005 press conference that 30,000 Iraqis, “more or less,” had been killed since the March, 2003 US invasion—an absurdly low estimate.

The corporate-owned-and-controlled media have buried this story because they do not want the American people to know the truth of what is happening in Iraq.

They want to conceal this truth—as they have done consistently since the war began—because they are complicit in a massive war crime in Iraq, and continue to support the bloodletting by the US military.

The Johns Hopkins report, by revealing the colossal dimensions of the death and destruction wreaked by the United States in Iraq, shatters the edifice of lies that has been erected in an attempt to deceive the people and justify the war—from the phony claims of weapons of mass destruction and Iraq-Al Qaeda ties, to the current claims of a war for “freedom and democracy” and the overarching deception of the “war on terrorism.”

The report inevitably highlights the culpability of the media itself, which has combined an acceptance of unprecedented censorship by the military with self-censorship and deliberate misinformation in order to whitewash an imperialist war for oil and geo-strategic domination of the Middle East.

The scale of mass killing revealed in the Johns Hopkins study published by the Lancet stands as an indictment of the entire American ruling elite, both of its political parties—Democratic no less than Republican—and all of its official institutions, among which the media has played a particularly sordid role.

What the corporate, political and media establishment fear are the explosive social and political implications of growing popular revulsion over the crimes of US imperialism in Iraq and around the world, combined with mounting anger over relentless attacks on working people’s social conditions and democratic rights. The entire political system is being exposed and discredited before the eyes of the people. Such a process inevitably brings with it revolutionary consequences.

See Also:
New study says US war has killed 655,000 Iraqis
[12 October 2006]

Deaths in Iraq

Deaths in Iraq
Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
Click on image to see full size. copyright Steve Bell 2006 Guardian_London

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fucking Pizzant Bush Wants to Jail dissenters any way he can

American Prison Camps Are on the Way

Kellogg Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, is constructing a huge facility at an undisclosed location to hold tens of thousands of Bush's "unlawful enemy combatants." Americans are certain to be among them.

By Marjorie Cohn

10/13/06 "
AlterNet" -- -- The Military Commissions Act of 2006 governing the treatment of detainees is the culmination of relentless fear-mongering by the Bush administration since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Because the bill was adopted with lightning speed, barely anyone noticed that it empowers Bush to declare not just aliens, but also U.S. citizens, "unlawful enemy combatants."

Bush & Co. has portrayed the bill as a tough way to deal with aliens to protect us against terrorism. Frightened they might lose their majority in Congress in the November elections, the Republicans rammed the bill through Congress with little substantive debate.

Anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on Bush's list of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's policies could be declared an "unlawful enemy combatant" and imprisoned indefinitely. That includes American citizens.

The bill also strips habeas corpus rights from detained aliens who have been declared enemy combatants. Congress has the constitutional power to suspend habeas corpus only in times of rebellion or invasion. The habeas-stripping provision in the new bill is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court will likely say so when the issue comes before it.

Although more insidious, this law follows in the footsteps of other unnecessarily repressive legislation. In times of war and national crisis, the government has targeted immigrants and dissidents.

In 1798, the Federalist-led Congress, capitalizing on the fear of war, passed the four Alien and Sedition Acts to stifle dissent against the Federalist Party's political agenda. The Naturalization Act extended the time necessary for immigrants to reside in the U.S. because most immigrants sympathized with the Republicans.

The Alien Enemies Act provided for the arrest, detention and deportation of male citizens of any foreign nation at war with the United States. Many of the 25,000 French citizens living in the U.S. could have been expelled had France and America gone to war, but this law was never used. The Alien Friends Act authorized the deportation of any non-citizen suspected of endangering the security of the U.S. government; the law lasted only two years and no one was deported under it.

The Sedition Act provided criminal penalties for any person who wrote, printed, published, or spoke anything "false, scandalous and malicious" with the intent to hold the government in "contempt or disrepute." The Federalists argued it was necessary to suppress criticism of the government in time of war. The Republicans objected that the Sedition Act violated the First Amendment, which had become part of the Constitution seven years earlier. Employed exclusively against Republicans, the Sedition Act was used to target congressmen and newspaper editors who criticized President John Adams.

Subsequent examples of laws passed and actions taken as a result of fear-mongering during periods of xenophobia are the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, the Red Scare following World War I, the forcible internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II, and the Alien Registration Act of 1940 (the Smith Act).

During the McCarthy period of the 1950s, in an effort to eradicate the perceived threat of communism, the government engaged in widespread illegal surveillance to threaten and silence anyone who had an unorthodox political viewpoint. Many people were jailed, blacklisted and lost their jobs. Thousands of lives were shattered as the FBI engaged in "red-baiting." One month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft rushed the U.S.A. Patriot Act through a timid Congress. The Patriot Act created a crime of domestic terrorism aimed at political activists who protest government policies, and set forth an ideological test for entry into the United States.

In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the internment of Japanese and Japanese-American citizens in Korematsu v. United States. Justice Robert Jackson warned in his dissent that the ruling would "lie about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need."

That day has come with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It provides the basis for the President to round-up both aliens and U.S. citizens he determines have given material support to terrorists. Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Cheney's Halliburton, is constructing a huge facility at an undisclosed location to hold tens of thousands of undesirables.

In his 1928 dissent in Olmstead v. United States, Justice Louis Brandeis cautioned, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." Seventy-three years later, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, speaking for a zealous President, warned Americans "they need to watch what they say, watch what they do."

We can expect Bush to continue to exploit 9/11 to strip us of more of our liberties. Our constitutional right to dissent is in serious jeopardy. Benjamin Franklin's prescient warning should give us pause: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. Her new book, "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law," will be published in 2007 by PoliPointPress

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New study says US war has killed 655,000 Iraqis

By the editorial board
12 October 2006

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This article is available as a PDF leaflet to download and distribute

According to a study published Wednesday in the British medical journal the Lancet, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq are responsible for the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis.

The survey of Iraqi casualties was conducted by a team of Iraqi physicians under the direction of epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland.

The estimate of the researchers is more than 12 times the figure of 44,000 to 49,000 civilian deaths given by the British group Iraq Body Count, and nearly 22 times the figure of 30,000, “more or less,” mentioned by President Bush in a December 2005 press conference.

The number of estimated deaths of Iraqis since the invasion corresponds to 2.5 percent of the population of Iraq. A matching percentage of the US population of 300 million would be 7.5 million—nearly the entire population of New York City.

The number of 655,000 represents the “excess” deaths caused by the American invasion and occupation. This is the difference between the number of people killed since March 2003 and the number of deaths that would be expected on the basis of pre-war death rates.

Of the total number of war-related deaths, an estimated 600,000 died as a result of violence, including gun shots, car bombs and other explosive devices, and air strikes. An estimated 31 percent of these, or 186,000, are attributed by the study directly to coalition forces—that is, these Iraqis were killed by the American military or its allies. According to the study, gunshot wounds caused 56 percent of violent deaths—an extraordinarily high figure that points again to the direct role of the US military.

An additional 24 percent of war-related deaths are attributed to other sources, including sectarian killings and suicide bombings, while 45 percent are classified as unknown.

These figures give a partial picture of the consequences of a war crime of vast dimensions. US imperialism has laid waste to an entire country and killed a significant proportion of the population in order to seize control of Iraq’s vast oil resources and establish a hegemonic position in the Middle East. The Lancet report stands as an indictment not only of the Bush administration, but of the entire US political establishment.

Death on such a scale was an entirely foreseeable result of the invasion of Iraq. The US attack has produced a social catastrophe of historical proportions.

The nightmare of death and destruction unleashed by the US gives the lie to all of the claims, beyond the phony allegations of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi support for Al Qaeda, advanced to justify the war—that it was launched to liberate the Iraqi people, that it is a war for democracy and freedom, etc.

The report states that the US intervention has killed more than twice as many Iraqis in the space of three-and-a-half years than were killed by the regime of Saddam Hussein in the course of its 24-year reign, based on the estimate by Human Rights Watch of 250,000 to 290,000 killings under the deposed Baathist government.

The occupying forces are responsible not only for those they killed directly, but for all of the violence that has been unleashed by the invasion. The US policy of supporting different ethnic groups and pitting them against each other has led to the sharp increase in sectarian killings over the past year. The ultimate cause of all the deaths, as well as the uncounted injuries, lies in the decision to launch the war itself.

The 55,000 additional deaths from non-violent sources are attributed by the study to heart attacks, cancer, infant mortality and other illnesses. This increase is directly related to the destruction of Iraq’s social infrastructure, including electricity, sanitation, clean water and medical care.

The immediate response of the Bush administration to the Lancet report was a predictable mixture of contempt and indifference. In a press conference on Wednesday, Bush called the figure of 655,000 “not credible” and said the methodology used in the study had been “discredited.” He did not bother to explain the basis on which he dismissed the report.

For its part, the Pentagon responded by saying that it “regrets the loss of any innocent life in Iraq or anywhere else.” The pro-forma character of this statement betrays the complete indifference of the US military. The Pentagon went on to claim, “It would be difficult for the US to precisely determine the number of civilian deaths in Iraq as a result of insurgent activity.”

This statement, as with virtually all official US statements on Iraqi casualties, attributes the toll on Iraqi lives entirely to the resistance, not to US violence. This is yet another in the mountain of lies employed to justify the war.

Since the invasion, the US government has refused to release figures on the deaths it has caused. The US-backed Iraqi government has systematically underestimated the death toll, and has stepped up its policy of concealment in tandem with the increasing carnage from US military attacks, mass killings by death squads, and suicide bombings. Beginning in September, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki barred the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry from releasing their own reports on deaths.

The Lancet study is the most credible estimate of deaths available, and is based on an entirely sound methodology. The figure of 655,000 is much higher than numbers reported by other surveys, including Iraq Body Count, because these other estimates rely on passive surveys of deaths reported in the press. This method is known to vastly underestimate actual deaths, since most killings go unreported. Iraq Body Count also includes only civilian casualties, while the Lancet report includes all deaths.

In an article on Wednesday, the Washington Post cited several researchers who backed the survey’s findings, including Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, who said the survey methods were “tried and true” and that the results were “the best estimate of mortality we have” from Iraq. Sarah Leah Whitson, from Human Rights Watch, said that there was “no reason” to question the report’s findings.

The Post noted, “Both this and the earlier [Johns Hopkins] study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called ‘cluster sampling,’ is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.”

To arrive at their estimate, the researchers selected a random population sample across different regions of Iraq and then calculated the number of deaths since the invasion of March 2003 in that sample. In total, 1,849 households were visited, and a member of the household was asked to report on deaths in the family from the period beginning 14 months before the invasion of Iraq through to the present.

To verify the reported deaths, the interviewers requested death certificates 87 percent of the time. Of those asked, 92 percent were able to give certificates.

After calculating the number of post-invasion deaths among the households sampled, the resulting figure was used to estimate the number of deaths for the population as a whole. Based on pre-invasion death rates, the researchers calculated the expected deaths during the same period. The difference between these two figures yielded the “excess” deaths produced by the invasion and occupation. The 655,000 number is a middle figure. The researchers reported that they were 95 percent confident that the actual number of deaths was between 393,000 and 943,000.

Even if one assumes that the low-end of their estimate is correct, the death toll is staggering, with the US military directly responsible for more than 110,000 violent deaths.

Claims that the Johns Hopkins research methods are unsound were also used in an attempt to discredit an earlier report that estimated 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq from March 2003 to September 2004. The new study gives independent confirmation of that figure, yielding on the basis of an independent sample an estimate of 112,000 during that same period.

In answering a question on the Lancet report during his press conference on Wednesday, Bush’s comments reeked of stupidity, indifference and imperial arrogance. Acknowledging that “a lot of innocent people have died,” Bush said he applauded the Iraqi people “for their courage in the face of violence.”

“This is a society which so wants to be free that... there’s a level of violence they are willing to tolerate,” Bush said. The truth is the exact opposite. The violence is a product of colonial subjugation of a population that overwhelmingly opposes the presence of foreign troops in Iraq. Recent polls have found that at least 60 percent of the population supports attacks on US military forces.

At the same time, Bush indicated that the level of killing will increase in the coming period. He declared that it is “time for the Iraqi government to work hard to bring security in neighborhoods”—a reference to US demands for a violent crackdown on Iraqi resistance, particularly on anti-American Shiite militias. Last weekend, US forces carried out a major action in Diwaniyah, a city south of Baghdad, against militias associated with Shiite fundamentalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Also on Wednesday, the US Army said that it planned to keep troop numbers at current levels through 2010. Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker said the move was intended to insure that “I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot.”

Washington has used the alleged killing of smaller numbers of people by other governments as a pretext for military attack. The Clinton administration and the media made vastly exaggerated and entirely unsubstantiated claims of Serbian killings of Albanian Kosavars in early 1999 to justify the US plan to launch an air war against the former Yugoslovia. At that time, figures in the area of 100,000-200,000 were tossed out and the regime of Slobodan Milosevic was roundly accused of genocide.

However, following the air war, the Tribunal on War Crimes in Kosovo issued an estimate of Albanian deaths from Serb attacks plus the US-led NATO bombing campaign at between 2,000 and 3,000. This figure is obviously dwarfed by the death toll resulting from the US rape of Iraq. But there are no charges from any section of the US political establishment, from either of its two parties, or from the media of genocide in Iraq.

While Milosevic, at the behest of Washington, was put on trial at the Hague for war crimes, the very suggestion that Bush and the top policy makers—Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz—who conspired to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq should suffer a similar fate would be denounced on all sides as nothing short of treason.

The scale of death and destruction in Iraq has been systematically concealed from the American people, with the complicity of the mass media and the Democratic Party.

There has been very little reporting on the recently launched military operations in Iraq, in both Shiite and Sunni areas. US troops have been conducting neighborhood sweeps, seizing and arresting an untold number of people. How many thousands of people have been killed during the latest round of military aggression? Without any independent reports of what is going on, it is impossible to know.

The silence of the media and both parties reflects the American ruling elite’s contempt for human life in general, and the lives of Iraqis in particular.

The attitude of the Bush administration and the Democrats stands in sharp contrast to the sentiment of broad sections of the US population, who are increasingly disgusted, horrified and shamed by the brutality unleashed by the US invasion in the name of the American people.

The only party in the November elections that represents this growing opposition is the Socialist Equality Party. In its election program (see “For a socialist alternative in the 2006 US elections”), the SEP calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq—the elementary precondition for putting an end to the brutal and ongoing slaughter.

The SEP demands that those responsible for the war be tried as war criminals. The election program also calls for the US government to compensate the Iraqi people for the destruction and suffering it has caused, as well as the families of American soldiers killed in the war and the men and women who have been wounded, both mentally and physically.

The war in Iraq has been waged in the interests of the American ruling elite, not the American people. The SEP calls for a break with the two parties of big business and the building of a new socialist party of the working class. The only viable basis for a struggle against imperialist war is the development of a mass socialist movement against the two-party capitalist system.

We call on all those who oppose the occupation of Iraq to vote for the SEP candidates where they are standing. Study our program, donate to our election fund, and contact the SEP to participate in our campaigns. Join the SEP and help fight for a socialist alternative to war and social reaction.

See Also:
Provocative US attack on Shiite militia in Iraq
[11 October 2006]
US casualties soar as military intensifies violence in Baghdad
[6 October 2006]