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After The Iraq Debacle, It Would Be Negligent For Americans Not To Watch Ahmadinejad’s U.N. Speech

9:34 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

One reason why the most powerful interests succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of the American people is because the masses rarely if ever take the time to read or view the raw information available to them. Instead they rely on others’ interpretations.

Everyone is guilty of this to different degrees. People’s lives are hectic, there are only so many hours in a given day. So the masses look for quick summaries, 30-minute news programs covering dozens of different news briefs that can be measured in seconds. Fast food news consumption for those on the go.

But in doing so, they become dependent upon these same powerful interests, not only to inform them about what they need to know, but how to think about these issues.

When the interests of both the public and the powerful coincide, then the public can often glean an accurate, though often ‘Cliffs Notes’-level of comprehension on any given issue. But when the public interest conflicts with the interests of the powerful on an issue, then the establishment is well positioned to massage the message and misinform, or to drop its coverage entirely, thereby ensuring the public remains uninformed.

This helps to ensure the masses vote and cheerlead against their own best interests, and in ways that further enrich the powerful. The public ends up supporting wars they later learn were unnecessary, unlawful, costly, and resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, often including members of their own families.

A majority of Americans knew close to nothing about Saddam Hussein after Sept. 11, 2001, at a time when the Bush Administration began its propaganda campaign to mislead the country into a war with Iraq. This made the Neocons’ job very easy. By repeating talking points laced with demagoguery and fear mongering, the Bush Administration convinced a major majority of Americans that this dictator was so evil, so dangerous, so irrational, that his accelerating ‘nuclear weapons program’ made him an ‘imminent threat’ to American security.

One of the most oft-repeated phrases the Neocons used to help demonize Saddam as a monster was “he gassed his own people.”

George W. Bush on Oct. 11, 2001 (one month after 9-11):

“There’s no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he’s been developing weapons of mass destruction. … And so we’re watching him very carefully. We’re watching him carefully.”

The gassing allegation was true. Saddam DID gas the Kurds on 40-some different occasions. His largest gassing was against the Kurdish town of Halabja in March of 1988, resulting in the deaths of 5,000 people. But what George W. Bush didn’t want you to know, and could rely on the establishment media not to tell you, was that this gassing took place back when Saddam was an ally and aid recipient of the United States, during the Administration of his father, George H.W. Bush.

Samantha Power, in her Pulitzer Prize winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” revealed that not only was the Bush Administration well aware of the gassing of the Kurds, they refused to even condemn it. Despite knowing definitively that Saddam was responsible, as declassified documents now reveal, the State Department went as far as to suggest that perhaps Iran was involved on some level in the gassing.

Does this fact make Saddam any less evil? Of course not. But had the public at large realized that Bush and his fellow Neocons were capitalizing on incidents that occurred nearly 15 years earlier — incidents that happened when Saddam was cozy with Bush’s own father and some of these same Neocons, and with their full knowledge — it might have led the public to question why these Neocons suddenly ’saw the light’ on Saddam’s monstrosity. And that might have taken some of the air out of the ‘imminent threat’ bubble.

And now Americans are being sold that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new Adolph Hitler. This week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly (99 votes to 1) passed a new non-binding resolution, proclaiming war to be a viable option should the Iranians gain the capability for a nuke — even if they have no intentions of creating one. The knowledge, in itself, has now been pronounced grounds for war.

Now, you might not like Ahmadinejad, you might even find his views on any number of subjects repugnant, or his abuse of political dissidents criminal, but he is NO Adolph Hitler, NOR Saddam Hussein.

The Washington establishment is terrified that you too might draw this same conclusion. Because if Israel were to launch an attack on Iran, the U.S. would undoubtedly be dragged into war. And none of our politicians have the guts to ward Israel off by threatening repercussions (e.g. aid cuts, no more U.S.-vetoes to shield Israel from accountability at the U.N. Security Council, etc.). And no one in the mainstream media has the courage to address this unprecedented ‘tail wags dog’ dynamic.

So instead, they ALL demagogue the Iranian President, embellish his words, make comparisons to Hitler, as if to make his ‘irrationality’ and ‘evilness’ a type of conventional wisdom that must remain unchallenged, especially during prime time.

When President Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the U.N. yesterday, the U.S. delegation boycotted it, thereby sending a loud and clear message to the nation that this leader is so despicable, so evil, so threatening, that they wouldn’t dare attend.

Despite President Obama’s apparent reluctance for war, the American war drums continue to bang loudly. Each week, the threat of an Israeli attack gets heightened and PM Netanyahu continues to meddle in the U.S. Presidential Elections, blatantly trying to entrap the U.S. President into committing to war.

All Americans owe it to themselves to watch Ahmadinejad’s U.N. speech. Watch it and decide for yourselves whether the Iranian President is the depraved lunatic you’ve been told; whether his words make him such an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States, that hundreds of thousands more innocent lives are worth losing, trillions more dollars are worth spending (err borrowing); that it is worth having our gas prices tripled, and our economy ransacked.

Spare yourselves the establishment’s caricature of Ahmadinejad and just watch him for yourself:

TRANSCRIPT (at mid-page)

Clinton To Iran: We Have No Proof You Are Pursuing WMDs, So Prove You Are Not Intending To

11:16 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Despite all intelligence agencies (in the U.S. and in Israel) reconfirming the assessment that “Iran hasn’t yet decided to pursue a nuclear weapon and has not reconstituted a clandestine nuclear weapons program,” which the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) expressed, with “high confidence,” had been abandoned in 2003, the world is nonetheless punishing (boycotting) Iran, as if it is doing just that.

Now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is stating that Iran bares the burden of proving its “Intentions” to her:

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday urged Iran to back up its declaration that Islam bars weapons of mass destruction by agreeing to a plan that would prove it does not intend to develop nuclear arms.

To demonstrate just how ludicrous this line of thinking is, imagine if a police officer knocked on your door, and informed you that all their evidence suggested you were an honest and law-abiding citizen, but that he would arrest you anyways, unless you could provide proof to him that you had no “intentions” of committing a crime.

More and more, this ‘Iranian threat’ crusade is beginning to resemble a staged controversy of the very worst kind.

Originally published at AlterPolitics

The Truth About Democracy: It’s Only as Reliable as Our News Programming

11:54 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

In light of Jane Hamsher appearing on Fox News today, I felt compelled to cross publish this post I did a while back.

Originally published on Oct. 4, 2009 at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
–Thomas Jefferson

The first decade of this new century will be remembered by many as a time when a significant segment of our society became incapable of differentiating news from propaganda. This phenomenon has endangered the very fabric of our democracy. The founding fathers of our country worried incessantly about a misinformed electorate, which led many—most notably, Thomas Jefferson -— to advocate for a public education system. He hoped this would serve as a form of insurance policy for our fledgling democracy, whereby the masses could be counted on to formulate rational, well-informed opinions, which would propagate into the public square, and ultimately shape our national legislative agenda.

If only they could see us now—here, in the 21st Century—where a significant percentage of citizens rely on the likes of the Fox News Channel for their news information. I suspect Jefferson would like a chance to revisit and remedy the incongruencies which exist between unrestrained freedom of speech and a viable, sustainable Democracy.

It’s perfectly acceptable for news commentators to lean right or left, and to even articulate and promote their own personal opinions to the masses. Spirited political discourse is essential to the democratic process, because it fosters competition between opposing ideologies in our so-called ‘marketplace of ideas’. When this competition is waged in an honest manner—meaning their opinions are supported by facts—then the different ideologies can be fairly contrasted, and a majority of the public will likely draw rational conclusions.

But what happens when a self-proclaimed ‘news network’ consistently lies to its viewers as a means of promoting its own rigid political ideology? These viewers —- whose numbers have proven decisive in elections past -— are not exposed to a marketplace of ideas, but propaganda. Lies—being reported as facts—are indeed perilous to our democracy, because they often prohibit the best ideas from becoming policy. A mislead citizen cannot be counted on to participate rationally in the democratic process. Over the last decade, this phenomenon has jeopardized both the national security and the fiscal health of the United States.

University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy (PIPA) conducted a study on public misperceptions, from January 2003 through September of 2003, leading up to and beyond the invasion of Iraq. The study revealed that those who identified Fox News as their primary news source were significantly more likely to have misperceptions (80%), while those who signified NPR or PBS were least likely (23%). 55% of both CNN and NBC viewers held misperceptions, as did 47% of those who relied primarily on print sources.

Shockingly, nearly half of all Fox News viewers incorrectly believed that evidence existed which linked Iraq to Al Qaeda. This helps to explain the grand illusion held by many at the time that Iraq was complicit in the 9-11 attacks. And as one might predict, the study showed a direct correlation between misperceptions and support for the Iraq war. Only 23% of those who held no misperceptions supported the invasion of Iraq, whereas 53% of those who held one misperception supported it, 78% of those with two misperceptions supported it, and 86% of those with three misperceptions supported it. Thus, the most misinformed citizens largely supported the invasion of Iraq, while the best informed citizens opposed it. This misinformation campaign used to sell the war has cost us dearly: thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, nearly a trillion dollars in U.S. national debt, thereby surpassing the entire expense of Vietnam.

We now find our nation engaged in another major policy debate: how to reform our broken health care system. Fox News commentators have, for months now, been fueling some of the most outlandish lies in an effort to sabotage the President’s plan. The most egregious one being the allegation that the President was proposing ‘death panels’ to kill off our elderly in an effort to reduce health care costs. And, once again, their viewers appeared to swallow these new lies —- hook, line, and sinker. The question we must all confront is this: How can our democracy work in an environment where lies -— espoused by those entrusted to report news -— continue to sway our nation’s course of action on issues as important as these?

I propose we grant the Federal Communications Commission new oversight responsibilities -— ones which empower it to investigate the validity of ‘facts’ being reported by news broadcasters. They already police broadcasters for programming obscenities. Give them the authority to review dubious statements made by news personalities -— as flagged by viewers and listeners -— to render judgment about the truthfulness of these statements, and to force the offending news broadcasters to correct their misinformation during their next broadcast. Could there be a better deterrent against propaganda masquerading as journalism?

Commentators’ opinions -— no matter how extreme —- should remain immune from oversight. This isn’t about silencing dissenting opinions. But news information being reported as ‘facts’, should in fact be, … well, facts! Our country needs a public, non-partisan news fact-checker more than ever.

Our goal, as a nation, should be to create a healthier and more sustainable democracy. Only when presented with truthful information, can the U.S. electorate be relied upon to make rational choices which serve our nation’s best interests. Considering the dishonest discourse which now dominates our airwaves, is it any wonder our country has lost its way?

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech Incites Neo-Con Cartwheels

7:12 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech, in my opinion, was an attempt to somehow mesh Candidate Obama — the principled, compassionate, mindful leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize — to President Obama — torch bearer of the neo-con commitment to open-ended warring.

He started off on a semi-defensive tone, giving something of a broad justification for embarking on an indefinite commitment to more killing and dying in occupied Afghanistan. He then transformed into the more thoughtful, sensible, Candidate Obama persona — the one that artfully taps into secular humanistic sensibilities. A little something for everyone, I guess …

In all fairness to Obama, he never should have been awarded this honor, and he somewhat acknowledged that fact. So it was by no fault of his own that he had to somehow overcome this uncomfortable, somewhat vicarious predicament. And from the favorable reception this speech has been getting from both the Left and Right, it’s safe to conclude he pulled it off — politically-speaking. You know you are the rhetorical master when you deliver a speech that:

has Karl Rove waving pom poms and doing cartwheels, …

It was as if Obama was saying: even THIS president doesn’t do canapés and champagne with European peaceniks! Hoo-ah! After the speech, Karl Rove was crowing, if you can crow by Twitter. “Tweeted that Gerson and Thiessen had gone to work at the Obama White House,” he e-mailed me—Gerson and Thiessen being the two neo-con wordsmiths in the Bush shop.

and also garners support from left-of-center columnists like Joe Klein of Time:

“How does a rookie President, having been granted the Nobel Peace Prize, go about earning it? Well, he can start by giving the sort of Nobel lecture that Barack Obama just did, an intellectually rigorous and morally lucid speech that balanced the rationale for going to war against the need to build a more peaceful and equitable world.”

Here are a couple things from the speech that managed to exorcise my ire:

1. The beginning of Obama’s speech, where he resorted to exaggerated, simplistic notions — i.e. ‘neo-con speak’ — to try to justify his Afghanistan decision:

“For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”

This part really disappointed me — that he would resort to this kind of charged-up demagoguery. He has never been one to shy away from complexity in making his case to the American people. His sudden fallback on words like “evil,” and conjuring up images of Adolph Hitler to justify his decision in Afghanistan, will lead many discerning viewers to question his underlying sincerity; especially after eight years of George W. Bush misleading us into wars, committing war crimes, and trampling upon our Constitutional rights — all under the guise of that same simplistic imagery. It’s as if Obama himself has come to recognize that his own substantive case for war is somehow unconvincing on its own merits.

Yes, we are all keenly aware that there’s a small band of loosely connected thugs (al Qaeda), which poses a threat — on some level — to American security. But don’t even try and muddy that threat with Adolph Hitler imagery — a dictator of an industrial nation that had one of the most powerful militaries in the world; one who bombed and invaded country after country, committing genocide against Jews and other innocents, and who ultimately left over 65 million dead in his wake. It’s a disingenuous comparison. The world faces no equivalent threat to Nazi Germany, and this kind of demagoguery has been used far too often — as of late — by disingenuous leaders seeking to justify unnecessary wars.

World War II was a necessary war, but Iraq was not — something he acknowledged, if only by its omission from his speech. But a continued military escalation in Afghanistan is also unnecessary. The tragic consequences of neo-con warmongering has all but ensured that exaggerated threats leveled as a run-up to military escalation is only going to fall on deaf ears, and his doing so only undermines America’s ‘new and improved’ image abroad.

2. Obama’s speech then pivoted to a more idealistic discussion on world responsibility — one where all countries are subjected to the same standards:

To begin with, I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t. [...]

Furthermore, America — in fact, no nation — can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified. [...]

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard. [...]

Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted.

This one almost made me laugh. Mr. President, clearly this rings hollow to anyone who’s been following your continued cover up of Bush Administration war crimes and your continuation of indefinite detention. Hell — let’s put your predecessor’s illegalities (and your cover up and perpetuation of them) aside for a second. You extend this same “exceptionalism” — this same exemption from international law — to another country: Israel. Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict produced a credible, scathing report documenting Israeli and Hamas war crimes. You, your administration, and the U.S. Congress immediately discarded it outright using flimsy, ridiculous, unsupportable excuses, as if international laws shouldn’t apply to Israel either.

It appears that much of his speech’s positive feedback from the Left has been directed at his placing recognition on the historic role of war in helping to actually foster peace. He brought up the Balkans as an example. It’s a legitimate point; there are times when war is absolutely necessary in preserving or restoring peace. And yes, the U.S. has willfully assumed a great deal of the world’s burden on this front, paying dearly in American lives and treasure.

There are very few who would look back on history and contend that the U.S. should have stayed out of the 2nd World War, or shouldn’t have intervened — the embarrassingly few times we actually did — to stop genocide. The problem I have is he’s obviously attempting to conflate these noble causes of war with something unrelated: Afghanistan.

Obama is not sending 30,000 additional troops to Darfur or to the Congo to save millions of civilian lives. We’re sending young Americans to prop up a corrupt and illegitimate regime in Afghanistan that has its hands deep into the world’s heroin industry. And this is supposedly vital to U.S. security interests, only because there are fewer than 100 cave-dwelling al Qaeda operatives somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama is a master orator — I give him that.

Having said all this, the entirety of Obama’s speech was not utterly deplorable — in fact, he’s incapable of delivering a bad speech. But overall, it rang hollow to me, leaving me with the following impressions:

  1. He knew, as we all did, that he had NO BUSINESS being in Oslo, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. (He cannot be blamed for this.)
  2. In using neo-con, war-mongering rhetoric overseas, he slightly diminished America’s ‘new’ standing in the world, as well as his own image, while simultaneously giving the now-ridiculed neo-cons a HUGE moral victory; a big ‘told you so’. It felt like he somehow substantiated their despicable and dishonest methods by exhibiting lines from their very own playbook, word for word, to reach a similar ends. How appalling, after all the calamity they inflicted upon this country and this world.

Have we finally seen the real Obama?