"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty." ~ George Bernard Shaw
We are a people who observe anniversaries. Some are grand and celebratory recollections, events we embrace with family, friends, glee. Others are hardly more than obligatory nods to some arbitrary date. Others still, are those from which we cower.
Last week marked one of the latter.
It marked an anniversary that we, as free, intelligent, caring men and women can only face with horror. Last week marked the third anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. It also marked the third anniversary of our toleration of atrocity carried out in our name.
We are now in our fourth year of occupation there. It is our fourth year of stomping the life from a defenseless people and a sovereign state, neither of which intended us harm. We are in our fourth year of demonstrably senseless and often indiscriminate slaughter of strangers in a strange land. It is a slaughter carried out by an unholy alliance of the most and the least powerful of our countrymen. It is an atrocity inspired by the richest Americans, prosecuted by the poorest, and funded by neither. The war makers' shield is the worn fašade of a once proud America.
Simply stated, we are in our fourth year of the American democracy's abject failure.
The tragedy is compounded by an apparent willingness on the part of so many of our countrymen and their "leaders" to simply ignore or defend the litany of American atrocities rather than admit to them. Their attitudes and actions diminish us all. They diminish America.
But even as our countrymen kill without reason, steal without recourse, proceed without plans, still another atrocity - an entirely new one - must be endured by thinking and reasoning Americans. We must now, it seems, endure the nauseatingly predictable platitudes of the very same hypocrites who cheered us into this bloody, oily, sorrowful, costly mess. By that I mean the talking heads of TV and the equally useful idiots of the press. I mean those who've spent the years since 9/11 growing rich or famous or just saving their jobs as propagandists by exploiting the gullible, the easily-spooked, and the bloodthirsty among us. They've done so with their words, with their sensational if irrelevant reportage, and with their bankrupt philosophies of fear and loathing, all of it screamed from their pulpits on high.
Those of us who think, are condemned to watch along with those whom it seems do not.
We're condemned to eavesdrop as those who still purport to be journalists and experts, yet have proven themselves little more than accessories to grand theft and murder, weasel out of the lies they've spewn since that September morn three years ago. We must listen, unwillingly, as their lies impinge upon our ears, our eyes, our psyche, unrelenting, unwanted, Orwellian. We must look at and we must listen to the liars as they climb from the mire of their absolute professional failings and personal cowardice, neither humbled nor repentant.
We must watch because it is no longer enough to just change the channel. No. The liars are everywhere now. We are force fed their images by TV screens that have become an irritating part of airport waiting rooms. We must listen to them on taxicab radios. And we must read, involuntarily, their glaring, monosyllabic headlines as we walk quickly past the news stand where we once happily paused each day.
In short, if we are to be in the American scene at all, we must endure the calculated assault on our senses that today characterizes a ubiquitous popular media.
Undaunted by their unbroken string of errors, the practitioners of pulp continue to regale us with their dueling quotes disguised as insight, their neuroses disguised as toughness, their White House press releases disguised as analysis, their incorrect opinions disguised incredibly as wisdom. In the words of the old Billy Joel song, we cannot avoid "Their pointless points of view." It is brainwashing, plain and by no means simple. And it works.
Otherwise, how can it be that after five years of this crap, they've not run out their credibility string these know-nothing experts of the corporate media?
I had a willing hand in building this media. Today, I find so much of it insufferable.
Perhaps it's because I have proximity. I can see what's crawling in the darkness beneath the rocks. Perhaps that's why I see signs that they are finally sounding and behaving like the uninformed talking heads, or the outright liars they surely are. Perhaps it's why I see the fantasy of balanced perception these hucksters so proudly hail, as slowly shifting its underlying but mandatory bias.
Even outside the media's ivory towers, much of the public is starting to sense that the pundits seem to be suddenly, if dimly, aware that they might have missed something lo these past few dismally retrogressive years.
Small wonder. Because the something they've missed has been roughly as apparent to the rest of us as would be an enormous, stinking, bellowing, rampaging, bull elephant living in our underwear. That something is of course the pop press's long overdue recognition that this federal administration, this gaggle of knaves upon whom the ladies and gentlemen of the information mass media have spent the last five years doting, is a bunch of crooks, traitors, killers, and just plain knuckleheads.
As the circulation and ratings of news media dwindle, a growing number of the media's practitioners seem suddenly less willing to blindly kiss up and ask softball questions at White House press briefings in an effort to get - albeit incorrect - information from a vindictive and stonewalling White House communications office. They seem no longer completely blinded - not completely blinded - by the Bush administration's staged, if non-existent heroics. In fact, we are starting to actually hear and read about this administration's serial incompetence. The irony is that we're getting it from another bunch of proven incompetents: the mainstream press, the cable TV pundits, and the oh-so-serious "Sabbath Gasbags," as columnist Calvin Trillin has correctly labeled the Alibi Ikes who appear on the Sunday morning TV "news" shows.
Could it be that the mainstream media have actually noticed in our "leaders" an absence of both ethics and abilities that the "alternative" press and so called "fake news" had somehow recognized and have been reporting on contiguously since the 1999 campaign?
But instead of coming clean, the talking heads of electronic and the stenographers of print journalism are visibly struggling to cover those deadly mistakes now.
Unfortunately, and in the finest tradition of the paranoid corporate hacks they so obviously are, the blabbers and scribblers are not admitting their deadly mistakes. Instead, they are squirming in the light and heat of accountability. The disciples of "stay the course" are suddenly drifting to port. I say drifting because they are following the current, not leading, not navigating, not forecasting, not doing what training and ethics would mandate.
No. They are drifting - less wrong today than yesterday perhaps, but not more right. They are hoping to hide their post 9/11, unbroken record of wrongness, and wrongness, and more wrongness yet, and doing it the only way they know how, behind a facade of righteous indignation and feigned outrage.
Will their public, their readers and viewers and listeners, those who've hung on their every word and gesture while themselves cowering too deeply in fear to find the truth on their own, be willingly fooled again? Perhaps. Because when it comes to punditry, angry commentary is usually enough. Sprinkle it with a smattering of arcane words their fans don't recognize and it'll sound downright brilliant. In fact, if the commentary is delivered by a bulimic Barbie doll, or a guy wearing googley eyeglasses and a bowtie some might think it worthy of a Pulitzer!
To validate this, one need only stop for a moment and consider the childlike, credulous, and hopelessly biased fan base the conservative pundits have built. Look at the growing ratio (60 to 1) of right-wing versus progessively formatted radio talk shows that have emerged in the past 15 years. Compare that to the declining circulation of newspapers among informed and critical readers and the ever-more tabloid editorial formats that will drive many of us farther away still. Consider that each of them has closed its foreign bureau or reduced it to but a single correspondent, most covering an entire continent. Consider this in the light of its rationale: a self-defeating hope of gaining a foothold among the uncritical, the true believers, the semi-literate - or more simply put: the easily sold.
Consider these things and you'll understand why the pundits think that they can fool their faithful base yet again and get away with it. Do that, and you'll see why perhaps this time, after all this time, the pundits might actually be right about something.
Could it be that those who remain faithful to these so called journalists who've gotten it wrong from the start, will believe much on faith? Need it only come from a pulpit of authority? I, for one, think so.
That pulpit might be a podium emblazoned with a fancy emblem, such as that behind which the president stands when he lies to us. Or it might be a newspaper masthead, a radio tower, a TV satellite in space. It matters but little. It's an authority icon, and they - the faithful - are childlike. They'll believe what they're told, wholly unaware that when examined in context, faith and knowledge can coexist only in inverse proportion.
Sooner or later, when claim after claim goes unproven and unfounded, all but the most completely credulous humans lose their faith in authority. Critical thinkers eventually demand evidence. Since 9/11 the authority peddlers have shown us much of the former and none of the latter.
So, as we the people reflect upon a sad anniversary, a period spent in mass demonstrations, or in quiet and somber contemplation of that which our countrymen have wrought with their fear and ignorance, we mustn't forget the travesty of truth spewn forth by the vulgar, manipulative swine of the right-wing and mainstream media who fed that fear and ignorance. We should be less than willing to forgive these killers of the innocents whose words are their weapons - these creatures whose putrid mouths and poison pens now feign a righteous outrage as if this debacle of blood and death and heartbreak and robbery, this avoidable human tragedy, unfolded sans their complicity.
So, while they endeavor to convince themselves and persuade their followers that it would all have happened with or without their encouragement, the rest of us just won't buy it anymore.
But lest we do forget, and as we watch them slowly squirm and change their childish stories, hoping their murderous lies of the recent past will fall into the great American memory hole, as they probably will if the rest of us remain silent, please allow me to remind us all how very obvious was the criminal manipulation of our innocent, frightened, gullible, or just simple-minded American brethren who believed the lies of the corporate press and right wing media and the White House communications office.
To that end I offer the
following: I began the article that appears below back in January of the
strange - though apparently predictable - year, 2003. Completed and published
in its print version weeks before the invasion of Iraq began, I was moved to
write it while witnessing what seemed a growing and irrational level of support
for an unjustified, but ever-more-probable "war" against a people who - despite
their despicable leader - had done us no appreciable harm. Since that time, not a speck of evidence has
been found that might indicate that they had they ever intended to. The war
against Iraq is an action that was - and remains - a crime against humanity,
all of humanity not just the innocents whose lives, families, and bodies it's
ruined so far. It is a crime of maiming
and murder, of robbery and deception on the grandest of scales. As Americans of self-proclaimed free will we
have borne witness or been party to a horrific atrocity accomplished by an
easily manipulated president for his personal ends and the personal ideologies
of those who control him. His actions
were supported and enabled by an as-easily manipulated press. And all of it was instigated upon our
countrymen's now world-famous ignorance, bigotry, and fear. Three years ago,
they the people - (I refer to Americans of popular mind) - frustrated by our
government's inability to bring the perpetrators of September Eleventh to
justice, seemed intent upon killing somebody.
In fact, the somebody need not be demonstrably complicit in our
violation, merely different, Arab-seeming, Muslim-like, virtually
Three years on and Hussein is neutered. No matter. We still kill the other Iraqis upon whose oil and homeland our armies tread uninvited, unwelcome, unreasoned, unwavering.
Three years on and nothing's changed but the story of why we're there. Stay the course there, change the story here.
Three years on, and at home we face more danger from terrorists than ever. Abroad, Osama bin Laden is now a folk hero on the order of a turbaned Davy Crockett. And when the monetary cost of our leaders' treasonous folly is tallied, our children's future has been traded for blood and nothing more. Nothing.
We've squandered our national security. Economic stability is security. Money is security. Not guns, not armies, money! It's the reason the paranoids at the top of this dung heap are gathering as much of it as they can. The rest, well, the rest have seen their economic stability thrown away along with their children's prospects for a better life. Anyone doubting that need only realize that America and Americans are today more indebted to foreigners than at any point in our personal or our nation's history. Ever.
As this congressional election year unfolds, and we continue to suffer the perpetual spectacle of our rudderless republic amok in the world; as we further endure the waffle and babble of most of our elected representatives in their collective careerist attempts to distance themselves from their savage decision to slaughter over 100,000 civilians; as we watch them defend their willingness to do so; and as we endure the pundits' ratings-preserving bullshit, I ask you once more to consider the following short essay. It was first published at the start of 2003 and before the start of what was at that time still quietly called Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) by its plotters. In the interim, the acronyms have changed, but nothing has changed as relates to Iraq's complicity. This war was never justified. Thinking, objective Americans knew that then. Today, a growing number of formerly trusting, nationalistic, credulous, or perhaps just slow to comprehend Americans are coming to know it too.
For today, only slaves to their personal biases cling to the myth of might is right, Go W, These Colors Don't Run, Power Of Pride, and God Bless America.
Which god might that be? Which America would he deign to bless?
So, come back with me now to the dawn of 2003. Read once more - or perhaps for the first time - what was written before the headlong plunge into a war for oil and personal revenge against a nation we'd spent the previous 12 years disarming. Read what we knew and our government pretended they did not. Get mad as hell again.
Get mad with the talking heads, get mad with the politicians, get mad with the yellow "journalists" whose lies you've rejected, and stay that way until November. Then march to the polls with the single-minded will to toss these bums out of our - OUR! - government and start the process that will impeach and/or indict the rest.
It can be done!
In the name of our children's and our country's future, it must be done.
The following was first published in February, 2003. It is offered here for your recollection and reference.
By Dom Stasi
February 2003: George W. Bush does not appear to be a complicated man. In fact, with the exception of his apparently instant grasp of the complex legal abstractions attendant to Antonin Scalia's appointing him president of the United States, Mr. Bush seems the very paragon of intellectual simplicity itself. "I see things in black and white," he so readily declares. "I'm not about nuancing," he adds, daily swelling America's lexicon if not its coffers. How comforting a worldview his must be.
Well, however comforting it might be to Mr. Bush and his ilk, the rest of us should be troubled as hell by such statements emanating from a president of the United States. In fact, I would submit that his "good versus evil/you're either with us or against us" homilies have a profoundly discomforting, even juvenile, quality to them. Yet we've watched silently these past two years of civil retrogression as he's drawn conclusions supremely unworthy of any world leader, much less one who must reconcile diplomacy to awesome power, less yet again America's president.
We the people seem not the least bit troubled by this apparently simple man's simple words. Neither are we much concerned that the simple man seems so readily accepting of complex advice, advice fomented in minds perhaps not as simple as his own, minds whose motivations most Americans - to their credit - neither know nor understand.
Mr. Bush is also a man of obvious faith. Witness the zeal with which he promotes his constitutionally dubious "faith-based initiative" even as we prepare for mortal war.
Of course, faith can be a wonderful and healing force. It can also be blind, if not tempered with reason. For faith is a state of mind that cannot coexist with knowledge in context. To quote the American genius, Carl Sagan, "I'd rather know than believe." When confronted with this particular black and white simplicity, Mr. Bush will too quickly opt for the latter. It's easier to believe than it is to know - more convenient, less critically complex. Witness his indifference toward that critical basis of knowledge called evidence. Witness how readily he eschews it when it interferes with his decision-making. Such credulity is both troubling and, in the complex global framework of today, patently un-American. Rarely in the practice of American governance has that credulity been more blatantly manifest than it has been these past weeks in Bush's approach to the matter of Iraq. The promotion of his agenda, through the compelling yet wholly circumstantial evidence provided the United Nations by the charismatic Colin Powell, was pure theater. For however compelling the secretary of state's presentation might have been on the visceral level, it was wholly inconclusive on a critically objective basis. Its examples of "evidence" were wholly refutable in their ambiguity, its dramatics better suited to inspiring Hollywood actors to action than lethal armies. Such evidence as that, which Secretary Powell presented, would be dismissed as circumstantial by any honest judge in any American court of law. Neither would such ambiguities hold up against a reasonable jury in whose hands lay the fate of but a single, however suspect, human being in an American trial. But alas, this is international power ball, not an American trial, and however inconclusive the out-of-context sound bytes and meaningless snapshots presented by Colin Powell might appear to a trained and objective analyst (such as myself), they are apparently definitive enough for Mr. Bush and a majority of Americans to willingly, if not eagerly, sacrifice the lives of an as-yet incalculable number of innocents to arbitrary and merciless execution. I submit that had the same standard of evidence been applied to Mr. Bush's insider trading allegations, or to his alleged dereliction of military duty during the Vietnam War, his government service might by now find itself limited to the manufacture of license plates.
But more to the point: Does Saddam have nuclear weapons?
He almost certainly does not.
Does he have chemical and biological weapons? Probably. But these are hardly weapons of mass destruction by modern standards.
I pose this latter assertion not as conjecture, but as a matter of history supported by physical evidence. But the audit trail to that evidence - based upon American government records - might surprise you.
Quoting the president's father, who, near the end of his term, said, "As you may remember from history, there was a lot of support for Iraq at that time [1980s] as a balance against a much more aggressive Iran, under Khomeini."
A lot of support? How about $5 billion in intelligence, weapons and training?
Recorded history, not conjecture.
Quoting again, this time the man considered America's foremost war historian, Gabriel Kolko: "The United States was Iraq's functional ally and encouraged it to build and utilize a huge army with modern armor, aviation, artillery and chemical and biological weapons." Saddam's first recorded use of mustard gas, cyanide and nerve agents against humans began at that time. This begs the question: Was our $5 billion gift of weapons and training a coincidence or the proximate cause of Iraq's use and subsequent knowledge of germs and gas?
Why was this historically recorded transaction never mentioned or referenced among the "evidence" the Bush administration seemed so desperate to produce? Let's be simpler still. Whose spent nerve gas canisters did the weapons inspectors find in the sands of Iraq following the Gulf War and again so recently? Are they ours? Russia's? Or the product of "evil" Iraqi science? These too represent direct evidence, physical evidence. We are told only of their presence, never of their provenance. Well, it takes no leap of imagination to conclude that the act of giving Saddam the wherewithal to use germs and poison gas is less inflammatory than when we gave him these capabilities. If not the material itself, we certainly offered Saddam access or, at the very least, tacit approval and huge sums of money to gain access to these products of World War I era technology that have now - in the nuclear age - become known as "weapons of mass destruction." But that we did so during the Iran-Contra years, the conservative movement's Camelot years ... the Ronald Reagan years, well, that makes public consideration of this stuff a Bush administration taboo. Now, I ask you, what sort of an American president, however reluctantly, chooses to suppress direct evidence while allowing his cabinet to compromise national security by revealing confidential sources in a misguided dog and pony show whose probative value will be argued by historians forever. Could the answer be a president who would compromise his citizens' safety before risking the wrath of his faithful right-wing base, a wrath he'd surely incur by blaspheming its beatified former president, Ronald Reagan? Conjecture? My apologies.
President Bush (the current one), while expecting the United Nations to rationally consider its course, recently offered a characteristically simple mandate: "Show some backbone," he admonished the ostensibly spineless world body. Act upon Iraq or be considered irrelevant was the Hobson's choice he offered up, adding that the United States will "act" with or without the UN's assent. By this simple dictate, the president himself rendered the world body irrelevant, nullifying in advance the implications of whatever consensus might derive from disciplined, civilized discourse - discourse born of empirical inspection. Instead, we and the world at large are subjected to Mr. Bush's peevish ultimatums. We witness scene upon scene akin to an American prosecutor advising a global jury, "I'm gonna hang the suspect, no matter what you people decide."
Last week he turned that same reductio-ad-absurdum logic upon the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. When European NATO member states did the very thing treaty organizations are formed to do - enforce the treaty and keep the peace - Mr. Bush declared them irrelevant.
Yesterday, he completed the circle. This president who ascended his high office one-half million votes short of a popular mandate, referred to the millions of anti-war demonstrators whose voices were raised in global unity this weekend, and by inference another 100 million less active but like-minded Americans, as - you guessed it - irrelevant.
But perhaps the most troubling insight into our president's simplicity is simplicity itself. Despite that George W. Bush somehow commands the most terrible and destructive power ever poised upon our fragile planet by mortal man, he has not yet so much as learned its name (the power, that is - I must presume he knows the planet's name). I, for one, cannot persuade myself that George Bush's ignorance of the atom, which begins with the assumption of a "nuke-u-lus" at its center, does not extend to the implications of its misuse. Perhaps that, too, is irrelevant.
Make no mistake, this writer considers
Saddam Hussein a festering pustule on the anus of humanity. I care not one wit
for his well being or how horribly he might meet his end.
However, I neither earned nor did I contribute a lifetime of tax dollars expecting that, in the end, so much as a penny of my taxes would be used along with yours to incinerate children. But acquiescing to George W. Bush's horrific demands in the absence of genuine, direct, supporting evidence of our enemy du jour's capabilities or intent will mean just that. As one Iraqi diplomat said, upon considering the likely indiscriminate slaughter of his people, "America has smart bombs, but not smart leaders."
Lest we as a nation become as simple as our American president's diatribes, we the people must understand that through such inhumane and undisciplined use of its irresistible power, the United States - not simply the United Nations or the treaties we sign in good faith, but the United States itself, its people and the grand human experiment to which we ascribe and to whose principles our forbears committed their lives -- will be rendered truly, not allegedly, irrelevant.
That would be the truest manifestation of spinelessness imaginable.
-The Author -
Dom Stasi is a technology executive in the television and motion picture industry in Hollywood. Mr. Stasi also flew aerial reconnaissance during the Cold War and, after an honorable discharge, worked as a flight test engineer whose specialty was the flight test and certification of advanced military aerial reconnaissance systems.
-Footnotes & References-
2. Counterpunch, January 19, 2004: Alexander Cockburn
Copyright: Dom Stasi