Sunday, August 25, 2013

Media: Pimping War

It's not often you hear a sitting US president called a p**sy on national radio.  Even less so on National Public Radio.  But that's pretty much what happened last week.


It shouldn't have happened for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, an adult was supposed to be present: USA Today's Susan Page.

She was, in fact, supposed to be the guest host for both hours of The Diane Rehm Show and had even Tweeted about it:

  • Looking forward to hosting show today - Intl News Roundup - w/ Warren Strobel, ,

  • And with Susan and the New York Times' Mark Landler, things might have been different.

    Instead, Pentagon chew-toy Tom Gjelten was the guest host and, if you stood still and silent, you could almost hear the nation shudder in horror.

    The second hour of The Diane Rehm Show kicked off with over 15 minutes of war propaganda, with Barack laughed at (listen, they're actually amused) for not starting war with Syria, with ridiculous claims presented as fact and so much more.  How do wars get started?

    In part, they get started by media calling for them and presenting one-sided arguments.

    That's what Tom offered, it's what  McClatchy Newspapers' Warren P. Strobel offered [we warned you here repeatedly about him -- most recently in "Media: The Destruction of McClatchy will be broadcast (it all hits the fan)" and "Media: The destruction of McClatchy willbe broadcast, not printed (Iraq)"], it's what the awful Barbara Slavin (Al-Monitor) offered and it's what Mark Lander increasingly offered as he stopped hedging and decided to roll in the mud with the other three pigs.

    Let's stop here for a moment because we have the power to call this out and we should and do use that power.  But here, in our space, we also have the power to correct. Let's start with International Action Center's Sara Flounders.

    Sara Flounders: A big thing on Syria, and a reason that the US is determined to destroy it, to shred it, to rip it apart is that it is a secular state and there is nationalized property.  And, as Barbara just described, there's a rich culture.  There's enormous -- whether it's in TV or it's archaeological or its the high education level, or it's the fantastic, really, I mean, the medical schools?  Top notch.  The pharmaceutical industry.   They want to destroy all of this.  And they also -- It's what they want to destroy.  It's what they're targeting in Iran.  The idea of a country using its oil wealth for its own development and the development of the culture and the educational level of its people and a huge improvement in life expectancy -- a big cut in child mortality.  That's big accomplishments.  But the very fact that Syria -- it's an example to the whole region --  could be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, secular state.  And it's secular, see.  And the US response has been how to bring in intolerant religious fanaticism.   And fund it.  And fund it and use it as a battering ram against any kind of progress.

    Sara Flounders wasn't on the program.  She couldn't be.  She can't sing from the War Is Good hymnal.  But she can speak her truth and she's been doing that for some time including in this Workers World video.

    She's an American.  She follows current events and writes often of them.  If the US is planning military action, voices like Sara's have every right to be involved in the debate.

    The debate?

    Saturday morning, we went to visit a down on her luck friend and take care of errands for her.  That means we covered her expenses as we went to various stores.  At the liquor store she frequents, she was entranced by the TV broadcast.  It was Fox News.

    Back at her place, as we helped her unpack groceries, booze and some clothing, she informed us, "I'm thinking about it and, man, Barack needs to send some missiles over there."

    She continued speaking for quite a bit more before she noticed our shocked faces.

    This woman spoke out against the Iraq War (as did we), she voted for Barack for president twice (our hands are clean), she defines herself as a Socialist and, to her, that largely means that she grumbles about any police officer she sees -- under her breath until they are out of ear shot.  She hates all forms of authority (and every Oval Office occupant except for Barack).

    Yet here she was --  granted, suffering from momentary Fox News exposure -- insisting that the answer was for the US government to play cops of the world and bomb Syria?  Hit it, Carly.

    Strange times in Portland, Maine
    Lobsters dancing on the docks
    Switzerland's been weird since they unplugged the clocks
    Man and a woman in Brooklyn Heights
    Each convinced the other's in the wrong
    While last year the divorce rate tripled in Hong Kong

    If through all the madness
    We can stick together
    We're safe and sound
    The world's just inside out and upside down

    -- "Safe and Sound," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on her Hotcakes


    And our friend?

    She's one of the good people who lose their way.  When the media wants war and sells war, many good people can lose their way.

    The media ensures this by keeping people like Sara Flounders out of the discussion.

    The media ensures this by promoting war and setting doubts and facts to the side.

    Let's review that first 15 minutes.

    Tom Gjelten quickly declares 1000 dead in Syria and that "it certainly appears that chemical weapons have been used" (at a time when no such thing was certain).  Mark Landler noted some in the US government believe chemical weapons were used, that there are "expressions of certainty from Israel," that the White House met with top US officials Thursday to discuss what might have happened and how and if to respond.  Gjelten stated Barack noted concerns in a CNN interview but "words don't mean all that much anymore."  Barbara Slavin chimed in to compare the whole thing -- with Tom's help -- to when "Saddam Hussein used poison gas" on the Kurds in Halabja.

    Slavin then repeated "words don't seem to matter much" and noted Barack had "warned of enormous consequences" and done so "just a year ago" but nothing happened, but "then, of course, in April the administration confirmed that there had been some use of chemical weapons.  And at the time Obama promised that there would be weapons sent to -- not chemical weapons, but other weapons -- sent to the Syrian opposition.  As far as we know, that hasn't happened yet.  So I think there are real questions about the credibility of the Obama administration if it doesn't react in some more forceful way."

    And they weren't done yet.

    But grasp what took place.  NPR refuses to question the credibility of the administration with regards to spying on the American people, despite one revelation after another, despite one lie after another.  But the network explains that if Barack "doesn't react in some more forceful way" with Syria, he will lose credibility.

    Those are the priorities when media whores gather.

    Gjelten was amused at this point and felt the need to remind that "the red line was actually crossed a couple of months ago and," excuse his mirth, Warren Strobel, explain what happened then. An amused Warren explained the administration insisted on background that they were going to send lethal arms to the so-called rebels but that never happened.

    Warren Strobel:  I think Obama's really on the spot here. And let's not forget, almost two years ago to the day, August 18, 2011, he called on President Assad to leave power.

    And that didn't happen either.

    Gjelten, moving the conversation along, pruned options to "sending arms to rebels" or what?  Mark offered there could be "a one-off cruise missile strike."  And maybe this would back up what Barack's talk of the red line was meant to do -- meant to do but "which has clearly failed."

    At this point, possibly remembering he was a reporter, Mark Landler cited the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Dempsey, and referred to his statements about complexities.  But when you sell war, you stay focused on propaganda which is why Gjelten cut him off with "Right" and immediately went to Barbara to ask if the UN was needed to determine what happened?

    Barbara Slavin:  Yeah, but it's not necessary. I mean there are other ways in terms of interviewing survivors and other ways in which U.S. intelligence was able to verify the previous claims of chemical weapons use. So it would be good, but I don't think it's essential. Also, you know, the administration has used many excuses for inaction in Syria over the last two years. And it just strikes me that so many of their arguments -- I mean if you look at what the Israelis have done, they've repeatedly now -- two or three times -- gone into Syria and hit discreet targets that they thought were of concern. When it appeared that certain weapons were being transferred to Hezbollah, for example, the Israelis went in and struck. They even killed a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps during one of their strikes. And why the United States could not do one or two strikes -- also, it appears that U.S. -- if not U.S. domestic opinion is changing, certainly opinion in Congress is changing about this. Some of the folks who were more dovish are turning more hawkish after this.  And even a few weeks ago you had Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, talking about the need for strikes on Syrian airplanes, air fields, missile batteries. So there are steps that could be taken without embroiling the United States deeply in this war. 

    You really need to re-read that passage to grasp both the hubris and the inherent stupidity of Barbara Slavin.

    Mainly, you should wonder how, after Iraq or the failures of 9-11, Slavin can cite US intelligence as trust worthy.

    Gjelten then noted that a journalist was kidnapped "by the rebel forces."  And, gosh, The New York Times splashed that on the front page and "did not present those rebel forces in a very positive light."  Strobel to the rescue, that's "al-Nusra Front [and it] is not the largest in terms of size."

    Oh, well thank goodness.  Just a tiny element of the 'rebels' are kidnapping journalists.

    Strobel allowed that "the Pentagon, from day one, and Dempsey's letter reflects it, they want no part of this" but "the State Deparment and John Kerry have consistently been pushing for more action."

    The discussion repeatedly hit a low point throughout, but one stand out moment has to be this.

    Tom Gjelten:  Well, you know, I mentioned this interview that President Obama gave to CNN. And in that interview he said the American people expect me to think before taking action. And that's probably true. And I mean, Barbara, I didn't mean -- do we -- is there really popular appetite for something beyond cruise missiles and, you know, one-off bombing raids? 

    Barbara Slavin:  Possibly not, but there's also, you know, the question of whether we're over thinking this. 

    Trust us, no one's ever accused Barbara Slavin of over thinking -- or even accused her of thought.

    Barbara Slavin:  I mean, sometimes you just have to respond to an atrocity. 

    Where there's ass to be kicked, there is Barbara Slavin . . . urging someone else to do it.  And if she wants to respond to an atrocity, we'd suggest she start by going after whomever gave her that ridiculous haircut.

    Barbara Slavin:  And, you know, there's a question of whether the United States is now suffering from Iraq syndrome or Afghanistan syndrome, whatever you want to call it --

    Mere thinking might provide the answer as to what to call it but, again, Slavin's known for being a non-thinker.

    Barbara Slavin: --  that we're so afraid of getting involved in another war that we're paralyzed in a case like this. And I think if it's proven that the Assad regime killed more than 1000 people with chemical weapons, it's not enough just to call an urgent session of the U.N. Security Council. 

    Wait.  "We're"?

    Okay, we're confused.  We need to know what war Barbara Slavin is a veteran of because we weren't aware of her military service.

    She has no military experience?  She's supposed to be an independent journalist?

    Well they don't generally make statements like "we're so afraid of getting involved in another war that we're paralyzed in a case like this."

    Reporters also usually don't treat general's opinions as material for brief asides.  Gen. Martin Dempsey's thoughts last week were conveyed in an August 19th letter to US House Rep Eliot Engel -- a letter Engel leaked to the Associated Press (really, Engel, did you think no one would find out?) in an effort to push the US government into action against Syria.

    The letter from Dempsey is now online and you can read it [PDF format warning] at the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Democratic Party website:

    To the specific point in your letter, there are certainly actions short of tipping the balance of the conflict that could impose a cost on them [Syrian government] for unacceptable behavior.  We can destroy the Syrian Air Force.  The loss of Assad's Air Force would negate his ability to attack opposition forces from the air, but it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict.  In a variety of ways, the use of U.S. military force can change the military balance, but it cannot resolve the underlying and historic, ethnic, religious, and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.
    Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides.  It is my belief that thr side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor.  Today, they are not.  The crisis in Syria is tragic and complex.  It is a deeply rooted, long-term conflict among multiple factions, and violent struggles for power will continue after Assad's rule ends.  We should evaluate the effectiveness of limited military options in this context.  

    Possibly backing up Dempsey's view is Matthew Schrier.


    That would be the journalist, the kidnapped one.

    Strangest thing, four journalists present on Diane's show and Schrier's on the front page of The New York Times but not one of them knows his name or can mention it?

    Of course not.  Never name the victims when it doesn't help your case for war.

    Schrier was tortured by the so-called rebels who mocked him and said this was retribution for Guantanamo Bay Prison.  Sort of goes to Dempsey's points.

    Friday, the same day the 'reporters' were treating the alleged attack as real and carried out by the Syrian government,  Jason Ditz ( pointed out, "Officials continue hyping Wednesday’s allegations of a chemical weapons strike, saying that they believe such an attack probably happened even though they don’t have any actual proof to back that up."

    And when you have no proof and you're pimping war, you insult.  In the lead up to the Iraq War, the press insulted protesters.  In the march to war on Syria, we hear the press attempting to bait Barack into it by inferring he's a p**sy and that he'd losing his credibility by not killing people.

    And maybe it will work considering how image conscious Barack is.

    But are you starting to get just how f**ked up the press actually is?

    As we listened to the horrid broadcast, we were reminded that Diane Rehm always brags that her listeners are the smartest people.  So we checked the message board.

    Sure enough, Diane is right.

    Her listeners, in comment after comment, not only rejected the war being pimped, they rejected the pimps as well.  For example:

    I am very surprised at the comments made by Barbara concerning our role in Syria. She clearly wants to get in there ASAP, and the saber rattling in her comments is pretty chilling. Barbara - why is it our responsibility to go in there? You're advocating even unilateral intervention! Unbelievable. You've clearly been drinking to much of the cool aid at the Atlantic Counsel luncheons. Hey, are you a journalist, or a neo-con meddler?
    You had the gall to also suggest said that we may be suffering from "Iraq Syndrome." Well, THAT'S A GOOD THING! I commend the President for his great reluctance regarding intervention - I wish the last dope had the foresight to avoid similar entanglements.

    August 23, 2013 - 11:32 am
    It has yet to be determined that the Syrian Regime was the party responsible for using chemical weapons. If the evidence eventually proofs that the rebels were the ones responsible; Is the U.S. prepared to take the side of Assad? Twenty years ago we heard the testimony from a young lady named Nayirah. And about a decade ago we were given indisputable evidence of WMDs in Iraq. Both testimonials were eventually discredited. Unfortunate too late for far too many. Isn't it time that "journalists" return to objective reporting instead of reporting conjecture.

    August 23, 2013 - 11:33 am
    It's not even clear that chemical weapons were used at all, though that seems likely. That is my take from interview with Raymond Zilinskas, a former U.N. chemical and biological weapons inspector in Iraq, who directs the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. That would be the first question, before attribution. Asking this question is not "overthinking."
    Barbara Slavin said we should not "overthink" intervention. She then hedged by saying if we have proof that Assad regime used chemical weapons. Her comments lead me to believe she will not worry much about the standard of proof. I agree with BrooksDavid that her saber-rattling was chilling, but I am not sure if she is a neocon, or a cruise missile humanitarian.

    August 23, 2013 - 12:28 pm
    I think the so called "iraq syndrome" is positive, another name for common sense, rational thinking, caution, and a clear eyed realization that the 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a colossal waste of resources and lives. The press should stop their slick manipulative name calling. And furthermore the press should stop hounding and bullying the American people into going to war.
    August 23, 2013 - 4:28 pm

    Whose American sons and daughters do these neocons want to send into Syria? Surely not their own. Isn't that always the case with these warmongers.

    Yes, it is always the case.  And thinking about it (over thinking?), we realized that there was no Iraq War syndrome.  There was only less gullibility as a result of the public catching on to just how much they were lied to.  Though we'd take away the Iraq War in a minute if we had a magic wand, if that dreadful and illegal war had to take place, at least it's left citizens more aware of just how dishonest their government can be and just how much the media lies.

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