Sunday, December 09, 2007

Editorial: It's not an issue to be 'dropped'

"This is an unusual debate. We've selected just three topics, subjects we think deserve close examination. And because we're limiting the topics, the candidates will have more time to explain their positions, and we will have the time to follow up on some of those answers," declared Robert Siegel last week on the alleged debate that took up two hours of NPR time and probed all the Democratic candidates, except Bill Richardson, for president about their position.

It was a joke from the start and it was a joke throughout. That wasn't limited to the refusal to allow Mike Gravel to speak of tarrifs when the most pressing issue in the world was brought up. Most pressing issue in the world? We're being sarcastic. The issue was toys from China.

Increasing standards on imports (safety standards or otherwise) doesn't really require a great deal of explanation and it certainly doesn't rate being one of the three topics.

But that's what NPR offered.

That's what NPR offered while the US is engaged in war with Iraq. The Iraq War. Begun in March of 2003 and still ongoing. According to the three media designated 'front runners' (in their New Hampshire 'debate') it would still be going on in 2013 if they were elected president.
But there were no questions on Iraq.

Well into the debate, Siegel tried to cheat the audiences, stating, "We've already heard the candidates on Iran and the lessons of Iraq." There was on discussion on the lessons of Iraq. That was a bold face lie offered by someone old enough to better and old enough to be ashamed that while the country is involved in an ongoing war, NPR used two hours to avoid the topic.

You can check the transcript yourselves and find that there was no question about Iraq and that those who brought up the 'lessons' of Iraq (a) did so on their own, (b) very few bothered to and (c) 'lessons' from the illegal war involve a bit more than comparing an NIE on Iran to the lies told in the leadup to Iraq.

It needs to be noted that Steve Inskeep thought he was broadcasting on Fox 'News' -- at least when he felt the need to go after Dennis Kucinich. As you read the following exchange, keep in mind that the tone Inskeep uses was only deployed on Kucinich, that Inskeep had already announced time was short so there was even less reason for his editorial interruption and that this aired on NPR:

MR. INSKEEP: Congressman Kucinich.
REP. KUCINICH: I wrestle with the question as to whether or not the president and the vice president should be held liable for crimes, for taking us into a war based on lies.
I mean, I'm ready to be president. I've been right all along on Iraq, on Iran, on not-for-profit health care and giving our children a chance for an education from age 3 all the way through to a degree --
MR. INSKEEP: Oh, come on. You know what you want to do on that. You want to impeach people --
REP. KUCINICH: I know. Listen, I'm ready to be president. I am ready to be president. And the standards -- I'm the only one here who has said that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney ought to be impeached for lying to the American people, not only to take us into war against Iraq, but now this new development with the -- with the National Intelligence Estimate.
Tell us what our standards should be for the Oval Office. Tell us what standards -- I'm asking my colleagues here -- that you would expect to be obtained by anybody who would be president. Can you lie about a war? Is that okay?

"Oh, come on," snarled Stevie, "You know what you want to do on that. You want to impeach people." What a loon, what an embarrassment. As embarrassing as the fact that Siegel handled the issue of Iran while Inskeep handled the issue of immigration and Michele Norris was left to tackle toys from China that attempted to pass for a trade discussion. Norris: "It's the holiday season and many Americans are heading to the stores, and many of the products that they're going to find on the shelves have a 'Made in China' label." Did no one catch that? Maybe they didn't catch that she wasn't on for the first segment either? No, "This is Michele Norris." Was she flown in from the 'soft' issue?

But let's be really clear, ignoring the Iraq War is reducing the debate to nothing but 'soft' issues. When a nation is engaged in an ongoing war, there is no justification for a debate or 'debate' featuring presidential candidates that ignores the war. That is just shameful.

After C.I. commented on the disgrace in Wednesdy's "Iraq snapshot," a friend at NPR advised C.I. that the Democratic candidates were running from the war issue and that this could be verified by checking out their websites. True enough and in Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" it's noted the only two candidates offered anything new mentioning Iraq last week. The two were Hillary Clinton (offering a streaming video endorsement from Wesley Clark asserting Clinton "has what it takes to end the war in Iraq") and Mike Gravel (a rally in LA's Pan Pacific Park from one to four p.m. tomorrow features the slogan "Bring Our Troops Home").

But guess what? NPR isn't supposed to be an arm of a political party and just because candidates don't want to address Iraq doesn't mean that a news outlet spends two hours avoiding the issue.

We're rather appalled by the number of media commentators (from the left and 'left') weighing in on the NPR broadcast without ever noting (or noticing?) that Iraq wasn't the focus of any segment, wasn't even a question from the moderators.

This week, December 11th, the Canadian Parliament holds hearings where Iraq War resisters seeking asylum will testify in public. Who's going to cover that?

As the Democratic candidates rush to find another topic, as press outlets such NPR assist them by not addressing Iraq, who will be covering the hearings?

Or are we all supposed to pretend they don't matter?

Right or left, this is a significant moment for the illegal war. (The squishy center naturally wishes to avoid it.) The right's preparing to laugh loudly, the left's hoping the testimonies will prompt the Canadian legislature to do the right thing.

No real history of the illegal war in five, ten, twenty or however many years from now can offer retrospective coverage without covering this event. US war resisters went to Canada in order not to participate in the illegal war. But who's going to have archived footage? Who's going to have text commentaries in their online archives?

Who's going to be present and accounted for?

The future Sir! No Sir! documentary on this illegal war will surely need footage. If it's made in our lifetime and independent media ignores what happens December 11th, we'll happily offer to go on camera and point out the fact that the event was known, that the event was well publicized and that independent media had more 'pressing' issues to attend to.
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