excerpts from the book

War Made Easy

How presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death

by Norman Solomon

John Wiley and Sons, 2005, paper


Looking toward military action overseas, the president initiates a siege of public opinion on the home front-a battleground where media spin is the main weapon, and support for war is the victory. From the outset, the quest is for an image of virtual consensus behind the commander in chief. A media campaign for hearts and minds at home means going all out to persuade us that the next war is as good as a war can be-necessary, justified, righteous, and worth any sorrows to be left in its wake.

Clara Nieto, one of Columbia's UN diplomats, 1965 regarding US action in overthrowing Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch

"A messianic and interventionist fever gripped the majorities in the United States Congress. In September by a vote of 312 to 54, the House of Representatives approved a resolution authorizing the government to intervene in the affairs of other nations, including armed intervention, where there was a risk of communist subversion, thus legitimizing the Johnson Doctrine."

... "With imperial arrogance, Johnson kept the troops and special advisers in place and intervened in the country's affairs at his whim, including placing former president Joaquin Balaguer once again in the presidency; living in exile in New York, Balaguer had served as an adviser to Johnson during the invasion. " For the next few decades, in and out of office, Balaguer thrived while Dominican society as a whole sank farther into dire poverty.

Stephen J. Randall a dean of social sciences at the University or Calgary about the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965

" ... the first direct military intervention by the United States in Latin America since the late 1920s ... the direct result was the establishment of a repressive political regime under Balaguer and the repression of Partido Revolucionario Dominicano activists.

writer Lantigua (2000) several decades after the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965

"After the invasion, Balaguer stayed in power for many of the next 28 years, winning one tainted election after another. And the legacy of 1965 lives on. Dominican leaders still rule on behalf of a privileged social class and foreign powers..."

Since the 1960s, the USA's favorite wars have been quick and-for most people back home, anyway-" successful " at generating some sense of national accomplishment 29 With the clear exceptions of Vietnam and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, modern wars have not been terribly divisive in the U.S. political arena. As matters of popular perceptions, we nicely took care of the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama in the hemisphere; likewise, farther away, the Gulf War, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. Smaller and more fleeting interventions-the bombing of Libya in 1986, the firing of missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, or the ill-fated expeditions to Lebanon in 1983 and Somalia in 1993-are praised as missions accomplished, denigrated as inadequate actions, or ruefully written off as experiments with bad results. Unless the president bites off more than the Pentagon can effectively chew, most Americans have found Uncle Sam's military ventures to be suitable for acceptance, if only in the form of passivity. Unhappiness festers and grows when the war cannot be wrapped up in weeks or months-with the commanders in Washington finding that they cannot "win the peace" without prolonged and difficult involvement of U.S. troops, while the justifications for the war become increasingly suspect to the public-when in short, might hasn't made everything seem right.

The tragic invasion of the Dominican Republic highlights some chronic elements of how)the people of the United States have been sold a succession of wars, in their names and with their tax dollars, time after time. Whatever the pace of agenda- building-whether the rationales for a war suddenly burst into news media or gradually percolate into daily coverage-the executive branch policy players, their congressional supporters, and varied media enablers come to insist that military action is necessary to prevent all manner of calamities, such as the killing of American citizens, the further triumph of tyrants, or the development of weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands. Any number of mainstream journalists seem willing to take the administration's word for it when "intelligence" is in the air. Skepticism and harsh judgments, if they come at all, tend to emerge quite a bit later: after bombs have fallen and after soldiers have marched into battle, some never to return, many more to go home with wounds to body and spirit. As for the people at the other end of America's cutting-edge weaponry, their lives, too-in far greater numbers-are also shattered.

Intense public controversy may precede the onset of warfare, but the modern historical record is clear: No matter what the Constitution says, in actual practice the president has the whip hand when it comes to military deployments-and if a president really wants a war, he'll get one. That can hardly be said about congressional passage of landmark domestic legislation. (A comprehensive overhaul of the nation's health-care system, for instance, is likely to be more elusive than another war.) In matters of war and peace, the White House is much less constrained by other branches of government.

When the president of the United States is determined to go to war, a vast array of leverage and public-relations acumen can and will be brought to bear. Consent of the governed takes form as deference, active or tacit, gained at least long enough for the war to proceed. What comes to the surface later-including evidence of prewar deceptions and wartime distortions-may cause us to feel that we live in a society with freedoms sufficient to make sure the truth will shine through, sooner or later. But war happens in the interim-after widely told lies are widely believed and before the emergence of some clarity in the mass media. The information that comes out later does not come out soon enough to prevent the unspeakable. No matter how much we follow the news, we rarely know more than little of the j human consequences.

While he played ball with Washington, the strongman (Noriega) was a good man. But later in 1986 and in 1987, signs increased that Noriega was no longer a reliable helper. 38 Noriega's noncooperation and even interference with the Contra war led to a falling-out. "Noriega was a means to an end," columnist Haynes Johnson recounted a couple of days after the invasion began. "In this decade, the desired end has been to provide secret help to U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Contra forces. For years, Noriega had been a Central Intelligence Agency 'asset.' In the Reagan era, he established a personal relationship with William J. Casey, the late director of central intelligence. What Casey wanted, and received, from Noriega was his assistance in facilitating arms shipments to the Contras.

House member Ron Deilums, who provided some context scarcely noted in news accounts: "Manuel Noriega is a direct creation-and consequence-of our hemispheric militarism. A CIA 'asset' for almost 20 years, he was one of the 'tools' employed by the Reagan administration to help destabilize another foreign nation-despite the fact that he was a known drug thug who plays a central role in international drug trafficking. On a similar note, Representative Don Edwards described the invasion as "a trigger-happy act of gunboat diplomacy that continues our mindless, 100-year abuse of small Central American nations."

Whether you're selling food from McDonald's or cars from General Motors or a war from the government, repetition is crucial for making propaganda stick.

News outlets may feature arguments about the wisdom of going war in a particular place at a specific time, but these are usually differences over tactics and priorities. (While the administration's upper echelons might be fiercely criticized as ideologues, bunglers, myopic policy wonks, or dissembling politicians,) the media assumption largely remains that Washington has laudable motivations. Unlike certain countries that object to U.S. military actions, Uncle Sam does not march to the beat of crass ulterior motives, or so the conventional wisdom goes; the grave matters of foreign policy and war are not mainly about American self-interest, much less about corporate interests. While there are enormous geopolitical advantages to be gained and massive profits to be made as consequences of exercising Pentagon muscle, the media discourse customarily excludes drawing attention to such dynamics as major factors in deployment of the country's armed forces.

One of the punditocracy's leading hawks with intellectual plumage, Charles Krauthammer, reiterated in late spring 2001: "We run a uniquely benign imperium. This is not self-congratulation; it is a fact manifest in the way others welcome our power." But the results of global surveys rendered such claims increasingly laughable. A year after the invasion of Iraq, "discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished," said an international study released in March 2004 by the Pew Research Center, which reported that "perceptions of American unilateralism remain widespread in European and Muslim nations, and the war in Iraq has undermined America's credibility abroad. The very war that had been promoted, in part, as necessary for maintaining American "credibility" was, in fact, severely damaging it.

But belief in the capacity of U.S. military might to bring salvation to benighted portions of the world was a type of patriotic faith-so intense and so deeply held that it could be understood as a form of religiosity. To its adherents, the doubters were the rough political equivalents of heathens, no matter how much the ranks of the unfaithful continued to swell. Extreme gaps in perceptions between people in the United States and the rest of the world were markers for the ease with which the American public was apt to accept rationales for going to war that were widely rejected elsewhere on the planet. Gauging attitudes in the United States and three historically allied nations (Britain, France, and Germany) as well as in Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey, the study by the Pew Research Center found "there is broad agreement in nearly all of the countries surveyed-the U.S. being a notable exception-that the war in Iraq hurt, rather than helped, the war on terrorism." The disparities of outlooks foreshadowed any number of scenarios when the United States, with its window on the world tinted red-white-and-blue, could engage in warfare that the vast majority of the world renounced.

In American media and political arenas, it is routine to ascribe lofty motivations to U.S. foreign policy, a mind-set that tends to limit outcries even when White House policies are undergoing harsh criticism. In contrast, the Pew research findings were clear: "Publics in the surveyed countries other than the United States express considerable skepticism of America's motives in its global struggle against terrorism. Solid majorities in France and Germany believe the U.S. is conducting the war on terrorism in order to control Mideast oil and dominate the world. People in Muslim nations who doubt the sincerity of American anti-terror efforts see a wider range of ulterior motives, including helping Israel and targeting unfriendly Muslim governments and groups."'

Charles Krauthammer lengthy essay "The Bush Doctrine" in the Weekly Standard:

"Today, the United States remains the preeminent economic, military, diplomatic, and cultural power on a scale not seen since the fall of the Roman Empire . . . . At the dawn of the 21st century, the task of the new administration is to develop a military and foreign policy appropriate to our position of overwhelming dominance . . . . By position and nature, we are essentially a status quo power. We have no particular desire to remake human nature, to conquer for the extraction of natural resources, or to rule for the simple pleasure of domination. We could not wait to get out of Haiti, and we would get out of Kosovo and Bosnia today if we could. Our principal aim is to maintain the stability and relative tranquility of the current international system by enforcing, maintaining, and extending the current peace."

New York Times Magazine, Michael Ignatieff at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, had this to say in its first edition of 2003:

"America's empire is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and the white man's burden. We are no longer in the era of the United Fruit Company, when American corporations needed the Marines to secure their investments overseas. The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known. It is the imperialism of a people who remember that their country secured its independence by revolt against an empire, and who like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere. It is an empire without consciousness of itself as such, constantly shocked that its good intentions arouse resentment abroad."

Howard Zinn wrote in response:

"Only someone blind to the history of the United States, its obsessive drive for control of oil, its endless expansion of military bases around the world, its domination of other countries through its enormous economic power, its violations of the human rights of millions of people, whether directly or through proxy governments, could make that statement."

Vice President George H. W. _Bush, during his successful presidential campaign, offered this assurance in mid-August 1988:

"I hate war. I love peace. We have peace. And I am not going to let anyone take it away from us." Sixteen months later, he was ordering the invasion of Panama.

President Bush, August 8, 1990

"America does not seek conflict, nor do we seek to chart the destiny of other nations,"

Daniel Ellsberg who'd given the Pentagon Papers to the press

"The American newspapers seemed as willing to collaborate in this hoax [Iraq War 1991] - this approach to war being carried on covertly - as they had been 25 years earlier, when I was in the Pentagon making plans for the bombing of North Vietnam.

President Johnson, 1964

"Our one desire-our one determination-is that the people of Southeast Asia be left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way. "

President Johnson, 1966

"I do not genuinely believe that there's any single person anywhere in the world that wants peace as much as I want it."

President Johnson, 1968

"But our goal is peace-and peace at the earliest possible moment .... I wish-with all of my heart-that the expenditures that are necessary to build and to protect our power could )' all be devoted to the programs of peace. But until world conditions permit, and until peace is assured, America's might-and America's bravest sons who wear our Nation's uniform-must I continue to stand guard for all of us-as they gallantly do tonight in Vietnam and other places in the world."

I F Stone observed days after Nixon's inauguration
"It's easier to make when you talk peace.

On April 25, 1972, the White House taping recorded this noontime dialogue among President Nixon, White House press secretary Ron Ziegler, and Henry Kissinger

President: "How many did we kill in Laos?"

Ziegler: "Maybe ten thousand-fifteen?"

Kissinger: "In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen. . .

President: "See, the attack in the North that we have in mind... power plants, whatever's left-POL [petroleum], the docks .... And I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?"

Kissinger: "About two hundred thousand people."

President: "No, no, no... I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have ' you got that, Henry?"

Kissinger: "That, I think, would just be too much."

President: "The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? ... I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes."


Nine days later, while conferring with Kissinger, Al Haig, and John Connally, the president said:

"I'll see that the United States does not lose. I'm putting it quite bluntly. I'll be quite precise. South Vietnam may lose. But the United States cannot lose. Which means, basically, I have made the decision. Whatever happens to South Vietnam, we are going to cream North Vietnam .... For once, we've got to use the maximum power of this country ... against this shit-ass little country: to win the war...


New York Times reporter Jacques Leslie was to write in a memoir.

"They met over a 10-day period in December [1972] and failed again. Then the Americans tried another gambit: in return for [South Vietnamese premier] Thieu's signature on the ceasefire pact, they pounded North Vietnam. They unloosed the biggest bombing campaign in the history of warfare, striking canals, highways, factories, air and sea ports, and three days before Christmas they leveled a Hanoi hospital; in case the bombing was perceived as unbecoming, they imposed a blackout on all news related to it."

Daniel Ellsberg describes the U.S. government's late December bombing spree this way:

"President Nixon sent B-52s over Hanoi for the first time ever. In the next 11 days and nights-with Christmas off-American planes dropped on North Vietnam 20,000 tons of bombs," amounting to "the explosive equivalent of the Nagasaki A-bomb."

On January 20, 1973, just weeks after the massive Christmastime bombing of North Vietnam's capital, Nixon said in his second inaugural address:

"Today, I ask your prayers that in the years ahead I may have God's help in making decisions that are right for America." He laid claim to the mantle of peacemaker: "Let us be proud that by our bold, new initiatives, and by our steadfastness for peace with honor, we have made a breakthrough toward creating in the world what the world has not known before-a structure of peace that can last, not merely for our time, but for generations to come."

In early 1999, reporting about prospects of a U.S.-led NATO war on Yugoslavia, the American media glided past a key aspect of negotiations taking place at Rambouillet in France. The U.S. government kept insisting on a provision-rejected by the Serb president, Slobodan Milosevic, before the bombing began in late March-that allowed for NATO troops to occupy all of Yugoslavia. It was the kind of demand that no sovereign nation would accept without a fight. But the major U.S. news outlets were silent about this provision, failing to ,inform the public about appendix B of the Rambouillet text, which (?,,,Yugoslavia] "NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, '4 vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated air space and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.

Appendix B also insisted:

* "NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the FRY."

* "NATO is granted the use of airports, roads, rails and ports without payment."

* NATO shall have] the right to use all of the electromagnetic spectrum. "26

Later, after more than two months of war, the Washington Post mentioned some of those terms at the end of a June 10 news story, on page A-24. The article noted that "a provision of the U.S.-drafted peace agreement that Belgrade rejected in February as especially unpalatable has been dropped from the new military agreement." The story went on to say that appendix B "would have limited the peacekeeping force to troops from NATO countries" and "would have allowed the peacekeepers to go wherever they wanted and do whatever they wanted throughout Yugoslavia, not just in Kosovo." The article described it as a "little-noticed appendix to that peace plan."

The appendix had been "little noticed" because the Clinton administration, after slipping it into the Rambouillet proposal as a poison pill, had no desire to highlight it. And the U.S. news media, while reporting on the Rambouillet talks as part of extensive prewar coverage of diplomatic maneuvers and saber-rattling, had not informed the American people that their government was, in effect, insisting on a far-fetched provision: so war would seem like the only wise option after Washington's supposedly good-faith negotiation efforts failed to culminate with an agreement. It would be a mistake to blame only government officials. The big U.S. media outlets did not cover appendix B-before or during the war.

Appendix B was no secret. And information about it continued to reach newsrooms, before and after the war began. For instance, on April 16, fully eight weeks before the Post described the appendix B provisions as "little noticed," my colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy put out a news release under the headline "Troubling Questions About Rambouillet," which went to well over a thousand U.S. reporters, editors, and producers via fax and e-mail. "The Clinton administration has repeatedly claimed that bombing is necessary because Milosevic would not agree to negotiations, citing his refusal to accept the Rambouillet text," the news release said. "But did Rambouillet represent real negotiations or an ultimatum?" The release pointed out: "The Rambouillet text of February 23 [1999], a month before NATO began bombing, contains provisions that seem to have provided for NATO to occupy the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo."


The habitual American media reliance on official U.S. sources predisposes most coverage to remain in sync with what is coming out of high places in Washington. Time after time, during military and public-relations buildups before a war begins, the press corps keeps relaying the points that the administration wishes to emphasize.

American envoys are shuttling to foreign capitals. Dramatic speeches underscore U.S. efforts to galvanize international support. The White House warns that the United Nations, at this historic juncture, must decide whether to take responsibility or risk irrelevance. Washington stresses that the U.S. government does not need permission to act decisively on behalf of freedom and security. As war appears more likely, media coverage grows more intense. Tearful loved ones say good-bye at ports, army bases, and airports. Poignant interviews with soldiers, pilots, and sailors remind us how young and brave they are. More American flags are on TV screens. Feature stories elaborate on the capabilities of the Pentagon's latest weaponry. The president offers assurances that innocents have nothing to fear from us. While leaders of some other countries express opposition to the probable attack, the White House explains that not going to war is now the worst option.

As usual, during the prewar agenda-setting, reliance on official sources dominated news coverage. Centers of power in the executive branch were overwhelming. The Tyndall Report, a media research outfit, crunched the numbers for ABC, CBS, and NBC-the three largest broadcast networks-between September 2002 and February 2003. During that six-month period, just before the war began, more than 90 percent of the 414 stories about Iraq had originated at the State Department, the Pentagon, or the White House.

Our leaders never lie to us - unless you mean lying by omission, lying with statistics, lying via unsupported claims, or lying with purposeful obfuscation, misleading statements, and successions of little white lies. Citizens make decisions based on information from presidents, pundits, and their colleagues in government and the news media. Often these esteemed public figures claim to have special knowledge. Our trust may be essential to their plans, but it is unwarranted.

The decade's huge quantities of U.S. media coverage about the Balkans included scant mention of what happened in August 1995 when the Croatian government-with a bright green light from the White House-sent in troops to inflict grisly "ethnic cleansing" on large numbers of Serbs living in the Krajina region. The president of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, ordered the assault. Dubbed Operation Storm, it quickly drove at least 150,000 Serbian people from their homes in the Krajina. Meanwhile, the American news media-taking a cue from the Oval Office-just shrugged. "The entire offensive was undertaken by the authorities in Zagreb with the support of the United States government," Glenny wrote. "President Clinton himself welcomed Operation Storm, suggesting that it may open the way to a solution of the Yugoslav conflict. The rest of the international community was visibly shocked by America's encouragement of Croatia.

But the U.S. news media weren't shocked. After all, the White House said the slaughter and expulsion of Serbs from the Krajina was okay; nothing to be alarmed about; no big deal. At the time Carl Bildt, who was a mediator for the European Union and a former Swedish prime minister, made a statement that years later was chilling to read: "If we accept that it is all right for Tudjman to cleanse Croatia of its Serbs, then how on earth can we object if [Boris] Yeltsin cleanses Chechnya or if one day Milosevic sends his army to clean out the Albanians from Kosovo?"

... a Newsday editorial took issue with the key analogy that had served as a very big PR flagstone on the garden path to war:

"Comparing Milosevic to Hitler is a rhetorical stretch. Milosevic is a brutal tyrant and a rabid nationalist intent on consolidating his hold on power, but he has no territorial ambitions beyond what's left of Yugoslavia. And Milosevic's ferocity against Kosovars is motivated as much by his need to put down an internal insurrection as it is by ethnic hatred. "

a New York Review of Books essay by Norman Mailer

"We have relieved the world of a monster [Saddam Hussein] who killed untold numbers, mega-numbers, of victims. Nowhere is any emphasis put upon the fact that many of the bodies were of the Shiites of southern Iraq who have been decimated repeatedly in the last 12 years for daring to rebel against Saddam in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War. Of course, we were the ones who encouraged them to revolt in the first place, and then failed to help them...

... "Yes, our guilt for a great part of those bodies remains a large subtext and Saddam was creating mass graves all through the 1970s and 1980s. He killed Communists en masse in the 1970s, which didn't bother us a bit. Then he slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqis during the war with Iran-a time when we supported him. A horde of those newly discovered graves go back to that period. Of course, real killers never look back.

In 2003, Amnesty International condemned the American and British governments for engaging in a "war on terror" that was actually emboldening many regimes to engage in horrible abuses of human rights. Amnesty International's secretary-general, Irene Khan, said that "what would have been unacceptable on September 10, 2001, is now becoming almost the norm"-with Washington promoting "a new doctrine of human rights a la carte." In 2004 the Amnesty International annual report described the invasion of Iraq, and other actions taken under the rubric of the war on terrorism, as part of a U.S. global agenda "bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle." Secretary-General Khan led off the report with a statement that stressed the damaging activities of the U.S. government: "Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty."

Early in 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero pleaded with President Carter not to send military aid to the brutally repressive Salvadoran government. The assassination of Romero happened in March of that year-on orders of Roberto D'Aubuisson, a United States-trained military officer. Carter persisted with military and political support to the regime in El Salvador, where throughout the 1980s the government assassinated students, clergy, peasants, and union organizers. Most military commanders were involved in atrocities, and most were trained by the U.S. government. The gruesome war went on until 1991, when the United Nations helped negotiate a truce between the Salvadoran regime and the country's FMLN revolutionary movement. The U.N. Truth Commission later documented the murders of more than sixty thousand civilians by the Salvadoran government and its paramilitary allies. In effect, the long war that brought about those deaths in El Salvador was aided by a pattern of U.S. media coverage, which conformed more with Washington's narratives than with reports from human rights experts and journalists in the field.

President Ronald Reagan, April 27, 1983, offering assurances about U.S. policy in Nicaragua

"But let us be clear as to the American attitude toward the government of Nicaragua. We do not seek its overthrow."

Robert Parry, Associated Press and Newsweek, early 1980s
"If the American people knew that their tax dollars were being used to arm brutal armies which were butchering political dissidents, killing children and raping young girls, then support for the Reagan-Bush policies would have evaporated."

The general consensus is that we shouldn't lose the peace by walking away from a significant foreign-policy success," an unnamed official in President George H. W. Bush's administration told the Associated Press in June 1991, commenting on plans to keep sending covert U.S. aid to Angolan guerrillas in 1992 despite a new pact to end Angola's sixteen-year civil war. Ostensibly reassuring, the statement of commitment from Washington that "we shouldn't lose the peace" actually meant more war.

For people in Angola-already the world's artificial-limb capital due to a profusion of land mines-the "success" trumpeted by the White House became even more macabre. Central to Washington's strategy to make sure it didn't "lose the peace" was the ongoing pipeline of substantial aid to the guerrilla army known as Unita, long backed by the U.S. government. Fifteen months after the benevolent-sounding statement quoted by AP, the Unita guerrillas lost an internationally supervised election to Angola's ruling party. Unita immediately launched a new military offensive.

Within a year and a half following the election, five hundred thousand more Angolans had died, the British magazine New Statesman reported in March 1994: "Inexorably, month after month since the elections in September 1992, Unita's reign of terror has worsened, outstripping in horror the familiar scenes of starvation and factional or ethnic killing in Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, or Burundi. Yet this is a war the international community had the power to prevent.

With high praise that echoed through American news coverage, President Reagan and President George H. W. Bush had lionized Unita leader Jonas Savimbi as a "freedom fighter." From the Oval Office, sustaining the Angolan war was a piece of cake. It received a tiny fraction of the U.S. media attention devoted to Bosnia-there was much coverage of Sarajevo's ordeal, for instance, but virtually none about the horrible sieges of Angolan cities such as Cuito, Huambo, and Malange-while the number of deaths in Angola was much larger and American culpability was direct.

The U.S. government was the latest in a series of powers fueling Unita's insurgency. "First the Portuguese colonists, then the South Africans in pursuit of regional dominance, then the U.S. in the name of anti-communism created and nourished Savimbi and his Unita," journalist Victoria Brittain wrote in the New Statesman. With U.S. encouragement, the United Nations had cooperated in appeasing Savimbi during the previous two years. Brittain concluded: "Angola has been destroyed by Unita leader Jonas Savimbi's determination to take by force the power successive United States administrations promised him, but which the Angolan people denied him in the polls."

Officials in Washington had made no secret of their zeal to support Unita. But as spring 1994 began, nearly three years after the Bush administration boasted of its "significant foreign-policy success," the continuation of horrors in Angola caused Brittain to write: "Every year since the mid-1980s, I have interviewed dozens of displaced peasants who described attacks on their villages by Unita, kidnapping of young men and boys, looting, beatings, and killings, while in hospital beds the rows of mutilated women bore witness to the mining of their fields. Defectors from Unita told more chilling stories of mass rallies at the headquarters in Jamba where women were burned alive as witches. These were not stories the outside world wanted to hear about Unita, whose leader was regularly received at the White House.

In October 1990, during the lead-up to the Gulf War, a Democratic congressman from northern California, Tom Lantos teamed up with an Illinois Republican to stage an informal hearing with enormous impact. "It was a propaganda exercise for the national media. and it succeeded wildly in mobilizing U.S. support for the war," media analyst john Stauber recalls. The audacity was notable: "Tom Lantos knew that the lying 15-year-old girl who claimed to have seen Iraqi soldiers kill 15 newborns by tossing them from their hospital incubators [in Kuwaiti was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., a member of the royal family. Lantos kept her identity secret, and this PR scam became the defining event that convinced the U.S. Congress to support the war.

President George H. W. Bush embraced the incubator tale as a valuable part of the agenda-building repertoire. At one midterm campaign stop in late October, he said that "they had kids in incubators, and they were thrown out of the incubators so that Kuwait could be systematically dismantled.

... when agents for human-rights groups finally got to Kuwait after the war, Middle East Watch, a human rights group, said the incubator story was 'totally false' ...

On August 15,1990-two weeks after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait-President George H. W. Bush expressed great concern about oil as the Pentagon moved to deploy troops and weaponry to the Persian Gulf.

"We are ... talking about maintaining access to energy resources that are key-not just to the functioning of this country, but to the entire world. Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom and the freedom of friendly countries around the world would all suffer if control of the world's great oil reserves fell into the hands of Saddam Hussein."

President George H. W. Bush autumn 1990. Confronted by protesters while speaking at a fund-raiser in Des Moines

"You know, some people never get the word. The fight isn't about oil. The fight is about naked aggression that will not stand."

Addressing a Republican crowd in Vermont autumn 1990

"it isn't oil that we're concerned about. It is aggression. And this aggression is not going to stand."

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, November 2003

"... this war [in Iraq] is the most important liberal, revolutionary U.S. democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan... one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad."

September 15,2002, a Washington Post story carried the headline

"In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue; U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool."

September 15,2002, a Washington Post story carried the headline

"In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue; U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool."

former CIA director James Woolsey

"France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them. If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them."

Fadel Gheit, an ex on the oil industry for Oppenheimer & Company.

"Think of Iraq as virgin territory . . . . It is the superstar of the future. That's why Iraq becomes the most sought-after real estate on the face of the earth.

media critic Herbert Schiller

"In truth, the strength of the control process [in the media] rests in its apparent absence. The desired systemic result is achieved ordinarily by a loose though effective institutional process ... the education of journalists and other media professionals, built-in penalties and rewards for doing what is expected, norms presented as objective rules, and the occasional but telling direct intrusion from above. The main lever is the internalization of values."

President Lyndon Johnson, 1966

"The exercise of power in this century has meant for all of us in the United States not arrogance but agony. We have used our power not willingly and recklessly ever, but always reluctantly and with restraint."'

I F Stone, February 1968

"It is time to stand back and look at where we are going. And to take a good look at ourselves. A first observation is that we can easily overestimate our national conscience... For all the poppycock about the Vietnamese war clashing with our past traditions, we have long been an imperialistic people. The Truman Doctrine and the Johnson Doctrine are only extensions of the Monroe Doctrine, new embodiments of that Manifest Destiny to which our expansionists appealed in a less cautious day. Bolivar once said that we plagued Latin America in the name of liberty; today we do it to a growing sector of the world. Everywhere we talk liberty and social reform but we end up by allying ourselves with native oligarchies and military cliques-just as we have done in Vietnam. In the showdown, we reach for the gun."

Media reliance on official sources facilitated the Vietnam War, as it would many other wars in the next four decades. Such reliance was the professional norm-and a shoddy rendition of journalism. As media researcher Hallin points out: "The assumptions and routines of what is often known as 'objective journalism' made it exceedingly easy for officials to manipulate day-to-day news content. There was little 'editorializing' in the columns of major American newspapers at the time of the Tonkin Gulf incident: most of the reporting, in the best tradition of objective journalism, 'just gave the facts.' But they were not just any facts. They were official facts, facts about what the president said and what 'officials here believe.' The effect of 'objectivity' was not to free the news of political influence, but to open wide the channel through which official influence flowed."

former war correspondent Sydney Schanberg during the Gulf War, 1991

"We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."

Murrey Marder, a Washington Post reporter writing about the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964

"Before I could do anything as a reporter, the Washington Post had endorsed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution." The news coverage of events in the Tonkin Gulf "was all driven by the White House," recalled Marder, who was a Post reporter from 1946 to 1985. "It was an operation-a deliberate manipulation of public opinion .... None of us knew, of course, that there had been drafted, months before, a resolution to justify American direct entry into the war, which became the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution." He told me: "If the American press had been doing its job and the Congress had been doing its job, we would never have been involved in the Vietnam War."

Daniel Ellsberg, on Face the Nation in 1964, about Senator Wayne Morse objecting when journalist Peter Lisagor told him:

"Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy."

Senator Morse responded sharply. "Couldn't be more wrong," he broke in. "You couldn't make a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president of the United States. That's nonsense." When Lisagor prodded him ("To whom does it belong then, Senator?"), Morse did not miss a beat: "It belongs to the American people .... And I am pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy."

The questioner persisted: "You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy."

Morse became positively indignant. "Why do you say that? ... I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you'll give them. And my charge against my government is we're not giving the American people the facts."

When war backers want Congress to defer to presidential enthusiasm for sending troops into action, the repertoire of justification often includes references to the ultimate information and judgment residing in the White House. A week before the Gulf War began, the avowedly moderate Senator Warren Rudman was serving as a loyal Republican. "The president's personal relationships with the leaders of the allied states are unparalleled," he said. "Having masterfully forged a fragile multinational coalition, he is the one who can best gauge its cohesion and durability." On the same day, Senator Jesse Helms used the timeworn argument of "national interest," saying that "the president has dispatched over 400,000 American military personnel to the Persian Gulf to protect the national interest. We must support the president in the course he has laid out."

Democratic senator Joseph Biden on January 24, 1991, a week into the Gulf War:

"Therefore, I believe, since I do not have any moral objection to what we are doing-I just thought it was less wise to do it this way than the way I preferred to do it-that it is my obligation to do all that I can to support the fighting women and men in the field. He is the commander in chief. We gave him the authority. We gave him the constitutional equivalent of a declaration of war. As the commander in chief, he is required to exercise that responsibility as he sees fit. I am not a military expert, and it would be presumptuous of me to suggest how that war, now that it is under way, should be conducted, and I will not. I will follow this lead and judgment on that."

Michael Kinsley, 2003

"The president's ability to decide when and where to use America's military power is now absolute. Congress cannot stop him. That's not what the Constitution says, and it's not what the War Powers Act says, but that's how it works in practice. "

Given the extent of shared sensibilities and financial synergies within what amounts to a huge military-industrial-media complex, it shouldn't be surprising that-whether in the prelude to the Gulf War of 1991 or the Iraq invasion of 2003-the USA's biggest media institutions did little to illuminate how Washington and business interests had combined to strengthen and arm Saddam Hussein during many of his worst crimes. "In the 1980s and afterward, the United . States underwrote 24 American corporations so they could sell to Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction, which he used against Iran, at that time the prime Middle Eastern enemy of the United States," Ben Bagdikian wrote in The New Media Monopoly, the 2004 (edition of his landmark book on the news business. "Hussein used ' U.S.-supplied poison gas" against Iranians and Kurds "while the [ United States looked the other way. This was the same Saddam Hussein who then, as in 2000, was a tyrant subjecting dissenters in his regime to unspeakable tortures and committing genocide against his Kurdish minorities."

Despite all the changes in news media since then, a filtration process remains crucial. Strong economic pressures are especially significant-and combine with powerful forces for conformity at times of nationalistic fervor and military action. "Even if journalists, editors, and producers are not superpatriots, they know that appearing unpatriotic does not play well with many readers, viewers, and sponsors," media analyst Michael X. Delli Carpini has commented. "Fear of alienating the public and sponsors, especially in wartime, serves as a real, often unstated tether, keeping the press tied to accepted wisdom."" Journalists in American newsrooms don't have to worry about being taken out and shot; the constraining fears are apt to revolve around peer approval, financial security, and professional advancement.

The attitudes of reporters covering U.S. foreign-policy officials are generally similar to the attitudes of those officials. "Most journalists who get plum foreign assignments already accept the assumptions of empire," according to longtime foreign correspondent Reese Erlich. He added, "I didn't meet a single foreign reporter in Iraq who disagreed with the notion that the U.S. and Britain have the right to overthrow the Iraqi government by force. They disagreed only about timing, whether the action should be unilateral, and whether a long-term occupation is practical." After decades of freelancing for major U.S. news organizations, Erlich offered this blunt conclusion: "Money, prestige, career options, ideological predilections-combined with the down sides of filing stories unpopular with the government-all cast their influence on foreign correspondents. You don't twin a Pulitzer for challenging the basic assumptions of empire."

Far from restraining the reliance on war as an instrument of foreign policy, the widespread media support for corporate "globalization" boosts the view that the U.S. government must strive to bring about favorable conditions in international affairs. The connections between military might and global commercial market share are not shouted from Washington's rooftops, but the links are solid. With matter-of-fact approval, Thomas Friedman wrote in his 1999 book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F- 15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is led the U. S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

In January 1991, the Pentagon imposed strict curbs on journalistic access to the Gulf War. American military activities in the region were mostly off-limits to reporters. Defense Department censors cleared photos, video footage, and battlefield dispatches. Reporters were only allowed to travel in pools accompanied by U.S. military escorts. A New York Times correspondent, Malcolm Browne, complained that "the pool system is turning journalists into essentially unpaid employees of the Department of Defense." The president of CBS News, Eric W. Ober, was caustic: "The new guidelines guarantee pack journalism-the worst form of reporting-and allow the military to orchestrate and control the news before it reaches the American people. 1120 But such objections amounted to little more than grumbles as major American news outlets handled the Gulf War to the evident satisfaction of the White House and the Pentagon.

Patrick J. Sloyan, who covered the war as a Newsday correspondent, has recalled that once the air bombardment got under way, "the media was fed carefully selected footage by [General Norman] Schwarzkopf in Saudi Arabia and [General Colin] Powell in Washington, D. C. Most of it was downright misleading." And Sloyan described "limitations imposed on reporters on the battlefield" during the war: "Under rules developed by [Defense Secretary Dick] Cheney and Powell, journalists were not allowed to move without military escorts. All interviews had to be monitored by military public affairs escorts. Every line of copy, every still photograph, every strip of film had to be approved-censored--before being filed. And these rules were ruthlessly enforced. But, then as now, the most pernicious restrictions remained self-imposed. Whatever the journalistic grievances, workday concepts of professionalism have included parroting Pentagonspeak.

News coverage of the Gulf War in U.S. media was sufficiently laudatory to the warmakers in Washington that a former assistant secretary of state, Hodding Carter, remarked: "If I were the government, I'd be paying the press for the kind of coverage it is getting right now. " A former media strategy ace for President Reagan put a finer point on the matter. "If you were going to hire a public relations firm to do the media relations for an international event," said Michael Deaver "it couldn't be done any better than this is being done."

When the media watch group FAIR conducted a survey of network news sources-during the Gulf War's first two weeks, the most frequent repeat analyst was ABC's Anthony Cordesman. Not surprisingly, the former high-ranking official at the Defense Department and National Security Council gave the warmakers high marks for being trustworthy. "I think the Pentagon is giving it to you absolutely straight," Cordesman said. The standard media coverage boosted the war. "Usually missing from the news was analysis from a perspective critical of U.S. policy," FAIR reported. "The media's rule of thumb seemed to be that to support the war was to be objective, while to be antiwar was to carry a bias." Eased along by that media rule of thumb was the sanitized language of Pentagonspeak as mediaspeak: "Again and again, the mantra of 'surgical strikes against military targets' was repeated by journalists, even though Pentagon briefers acknowledged that they were aiming at civilian roads, bridges and public utilities vital to the survival of the civilian population."

As the Gulf War came to an end, people watching CBS saw Dan Rather close an interview with the 1st Marine Division commander by shaking his hand and exclaiming: "Again, General, congratulations on a job wonderfully done!

Chris Hedges covered the Gulf War for the New York Times. More than a decade later, he wrote in a book: "The notion that the press was used in the war is incorrect. The press wanted to be used. It saw itself as part of the war effort." Truth-seeking independence was far from the media agenda. "The press was as eager to be of service to the state during the war as most everyone else. Such docility on the part of the press made it easier to do what governments do in wartime, indeed what governments do much of the time, and that is lie."

Instead of challenging Orwellian techniques, media outlets did much to foist them on the public. Journalists relied on official sources-with nonstop interviews, behind-the-scenes backgrounders, televised briefings, and grainy bomb-site videos. Newspeak routinely sanitized NATO's bombardment of populated areas. Correspondents went through linguistic contortions that preserved favorite fictions of Washington policymakers.

"NATO began its second month of bombing against Yugoslavia today with new strikes against military targets that disrupted civilian electrical and water supplies"-the first words of the lead article on the New York Times front page the last Sunday in April 1999-accepted and propagated a remarkable concept, widely promoted by U.S. officials: The bombing disrupted "civilian" electricity and water, yet the targets were "military." Never mind that such destruction of infrastructure would predictably lead to outbreaks of disease and civilian deaths. On the newspaper's op-ed page, columnist Thomas Friedman made explicit his enthusiasm for destroying civilian necessities: "It should be lights out in Belgrade: Every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted."

American TV networks didn't hesitate to show footage of U.S. bombers and missiles in flight-but rarely showed what really happened to people at the receiving end. Echoing Pentagon hype about the wondrous performances of Uncle Sam's weaponry, U.S. journalists did not often provide unflinching accounts of the results in human terms. Reporter Robert Fisk of London's Independent managed to do so: "Deep inside the tangle of cement and plastic and iron, in what had once been the make-up room next to the broadcasting studio of Serb Television, was all that was left of a young woman, burnt alive when NATO's missile exploded in the radio control room. Within six hours, the [British] Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, declared the place a 'legitimate target.' It wasn't an argument worth debating with the wounded-one of them a young technician who could only be extracted from the hundreds of tons of concrete in which he was encased by amputating both his legs .... By dusk last night, 10 crushed bodies-two of them women-had been tugged from beneath the concrete, another man had died in hospital and 15 other technicians and secretaries still lay buried."

Serving as bookends for U.S.-led wars in the 1990s, a pair of studies by FAIR marked the more narrow discourse once the U.S. military went on the attack. Whether the year was '91 or '99, whether the country under the U.S. warplanes was Iraq or Yugoslavia, major U.S. media outlets facilitated Washington's efforts to whip up support for the new war. During the first two weeks of the Gulf War, voices of domestic opposition were all but excluded from the nightly news programs on TV networks. (The few strong denunciations of the war that made it onto the air were usually from Iraqis.) In total, FAIR found, only 1.5 percent of the sources were identified as American antiwar demonstrators; out of 878 sources cited on the newscasts, just one was a leader of a U.S. peace organization. 47 Eight years later, the pattern was similar: in the spring of 1999, FAIR studied coverage during the first two weeks of the bombing of Yugoslavia and found "a strong imbalance toward supporters of NATO air strikes." Examining the transcripts of two influential TV programs, ABC's Nightline and the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, FAIR documented that only 8 percent of the 291 sources were critics of NATO's bombing. Forty-five percent of sources were current or former U.S. government (including military) officials, NATO representatives, or NATO troops. On Nightline, the study found, no U.S. sources other than Serbian Americans were given airtime to voice opposition.

FAIR conducted a study of the 1,617 on-camera sources who appeared on the evening newscasts of six U.S. television networks during the first three weeks of the [Iraq 2003] war. "Nearly two-thirds of all sources, 64 percent, were prowar, while 71 percent of U.S. guests favored the war. Antiwar voices were 10 percent of all sources, but just 6 percent of non-Iraqi sources and only 3 percent of U.S. sources. Thus viewers were more than six times as likely to see a prowar source as one who was antiwar; counting only U.S. guests, the ratio increases to 25 to 1.1150

When civilian casualties gradually increased during the first days of bombing Afghanistan, the U.S. government took action-not by curtailing the carnage but by foreclosing public access to detailed photos that otherwise would have been available from space. "The Pentagon has spent millions of dollars to prevent Western media from seeing highly accurate civilian satellite pictures of the effects of bombing in Afghanistan," the London-based Guardian reported. At issue were photos from the Ikonos satellite, taking pictures at such high resolution that "it would be possible to see bodies lying on the ground after last week's bombing attacks." When the Defense Department moved to prevent media access to such pictures, it did not invoke provisions of American law allowing "shutter control" over U.S.-launched civilian satellites in wartime. Instead, the Guardian reported, "the Pentagon bought exclusive rights to all Ikonos satellite pictures of Afghanistan off Space Imaging, the company which runs the satellite. The agreement was made retrospectively to the start of the bombing raids." Because photos of the human toll in Afghanistan from the air war "would not have shown the position of U.S. forces or compromised U.S. military security," the Guardian explained, "the ban could have been challenged by news media as being a breach of the First Amendment.

When Dan Rather told BBC television that American journalists were intimidated after 9/11, he went on the CNN program Larry King Live and emphasized his professional allegiance. "Look, I'm an American," Rather said. "I never tried to kid anybody that I'm some internationalist or something. And when my country is at war, I want my country to win, whatever the definition of 'win' may be. Now, I can't and don't argue that that is coverage without a prejudice. About that I am prejudiced."

Many people like to think that television conveys the horrors of war. That assumption may be comforting, but it's absurd. Watching TV resembles experiencing war in much the same way that watching a marathon is like running one. Television sets don't explode, and walls don't fall; viewers don't bleed, aren't crushed, and won't be killed on the spot. A key reality of the war experience-tremendous fear-is absent from the viewing experience. Shots are not fired at us; they're edited for us, a process that filters out the footage and statements that producers consider to be too grisly or otherwise disturbing. It's a popular illusion-the idea that today's media coverage of war tells it like it is-but we don't really get more than the images approved by careful editors.

In October 2001, CNN chairman Walter Isaacson wanted to prevent any implication of undue sympathy for the victims of Pentagon bombs. "It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan," he said in a memo ordering his staff to accompany any grim images of Afghan civilians with the message that U.S. bombing was in retaliation for the Taliban harboring terrorists. As if viewers might otherwise forget September 11, the CNN chief explained: "You want to make sure that when they see civilian suffering there, it's in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States."

"The hijacking of language is fundamental to war," Chris Hedges ' wrote after many years as a war correspondent. "It becomes difficult to express contrary opinions. There are simply not the words or phrases to do it. We all speak with the same clichés and euphemisms." Along the way, the vocabulary of journalism is part of the warmaking lexicon for dramatic scripts: "Life in wartime becomes theater. All are actors. Leaders, against the backdrop of war, look heroic, noble. Pilots who bail out of planes shot down by the enemy and who make their way back home play cameo roles. The state, as we saw in the Persian Gulf War or Afghanistan, transforms war into a nightly television show. The generals, who are no more interested in candor than they were in Vietnam, have at least perfected the appearance of candor. And the press has usually been more than willing to play the dupe as long as the ratings are good."

Meanwhile, Hedges points out, the media show is a fantasy in which "the images of war handed to us, even when they are graphic, leave out the one essential element of war-fear. There is, until the actual moment of confrontation, no cost to imagining glory. The visual and audio effects of films, the battlefield descriptions in books, make the experience appear real. In fact the experience is sterile. We are safe. We do not smell rotting flesh, hear the cries of agony, or see before us blood and entrails seeping out of bodies. We view, from a distance, the rush, the excitement, but feel none of the awful gutwrenching anxiety and humiliation that come with mortal danger. It takes the experience of fear and the chaos of battle, the deafening and disturbing noise, to wake us up, to make us realize that we are not who we imagined we were, that war as displayed by the entertainment industry might, in most cases, as well be ballet..."

ln newsrooms and studios, quite a few macho exemplars-serving behind computer screens and in front of TV cameras-reliably cheered the war effort during the invasion of Iraq. Along the way, they managed to keep a stiff upper lip about the suffering of others. Such courage is inexhaustible and sometimes awesome. "The American public knows the importance of this war," Fox News pundit and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes told viewers a few days after the invasion began. "They are not as casualty sensitive as the weenies in the American press are ."

"Those who pay the price, those who are maimed forever by war, are shunted aside, crumpled up and thrown away," Chris Hedges wrote in 2004. "They are war's refuse. We do not want to see them. We do not want to hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they bear from war is too painful for us to absorb .... If we really knew war, what war does to minds and bodies, it would be harder to wage. This is why the essence of war, which is death and suffering, is so carefully hidden from public view . . . . We taste a bit of war's exhilaration but are safe, spared the pools of blood, the wailing of a dying child."

Martin Luther King jr. also found that former allies could become incensed when he went out of his way to challenge the war. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, he said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King asked why the United States was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them. That kind of talk draw barbs and denunciations from media quarters that had applauded his efforts to end racial segregation. Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post warned that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Barbara Ehrenreich concluded in her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War

"But for all their failings, anti-war movements should already have taught us one crucial lesson: that the passions we bring to war can be brought just as well to the struggle against war. There is a place for courage and solidarity and self-sacrifice other than in the service of this peculiarly bloody institution, this inhuman 'meme'-a place for them in the struggle to shake ourselves free of it .... And we will need all the courage we can muster. What we are called to is, in fact, a kind of war. We will need 'armies,' or at least networks of committed activists willing to act in concert when necessary, to oppose force with numbers, and passion with forbearance and reason. We will need leaders-not a handful of generals but huge numbers of individuals able to take the initiative to educate, inspire, and rally others. We will need strategies and cunning, ways of assessing the 'enemy's' strength and sketching out the way ahead. And even with all that, the struggle will be enormously costly. Those who fight war on this war-ridden planet must prepare themselves to lose battle after battle and still fight on, to lose security, comfort, position, even life.

November 2002, retired U.S. Army general, William Odom, told C-SPAN viewers
"Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It's a tactic. It's about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we're going to win that war. We're not going to win the war on terrorism. And it does whip up fear. Acts of terror have never brought down liberal democracies. Acts of parliament have closed a few."

I. F Stone in 1969

"... Arab guerrillas are doing to us what our terrorists and saboteurs of the Irgun, Stern and Haganah did to the British. Another is to be willing to admit that their motives are as honorable as were ours. As a Jew, even as I felt revulsion against the terrorism, I felt it justified by the homelessness of the surviving Jews from the Nazi camps and the bitter scenes when refugee ships sank, or sank themselves, when refused admission to Palestine. The best of Arab youth ... cannot forget the atrocities committed by us against villages like Deir Yassin, nor the uprooting of the Palestinian Arabs from their ancient homeland, for which they feel the same deep ties of sentiment as do so many Jews, however assimilated elsewhere."

Nancy Snow

" ... if we really want a genuine campaign to improve the image of the United States overseas, we need to begin by changing our foreign policies-the source of much antipathy."

Eugene Secunda, a professor of marketing and former senior vice president of the J. Walter Thompson public relations firm

"In the aftermath of the [1991] war with Iraq, strategic planners, preparing for future wars, are unquestionably examining the lessons gleaned from this triumphant experience. One of the most important lessons learned is the necessity of mobilizing strong public support, through the projection of a powerful and tightly controlled PR program, with particular effort directed toward the realization of positive TV news coverage."

Ron Miller, ABC correspondent on the USS Constellation aircraft carrier, 1972, off the coast of Vietnam, taking about pilots
"It is ironic that the men who control some of the world's most destructive weapons rarely see the results of their work. Distance divorces them from ally and enemy."

a pilot from the USS Constellation aircraft carrier, 1972, off the coast of Vietnam

"I honestly don't like the idea of shooting a person. I don't know if I could do that. From good distances up looking down you don't have a chance to see the good you're doing. We're a tremendously effective destructive force."

NBC anchor Tom Brokaw
"So far the U S. has fought this war at arm's length with long-range missiles, high-tech weapons. This is to keep casualties down.

President George Bush, March 2003
"Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you."

Christopher Hitchens, March 2003 in an essay
" ... the Defense Department has evolved highly selective and accurate munitions that can sharply reduce the need to take or receive casualties. The predictions of widespread mayhem turned out to be false last time-when the weapons [in the Gulf War] were nothing like so accurate... it can now be proposed as a practical matter that one is able to fight against a regime and not a people or a nation."

front page headline in the New York Times several months after Iraq invasion

"In two weeks, the Black Hawks and Chinooks and Apaches that once zoomed overhead with such grace and panache have suddenly become vulnerable."

On October 29, 2004, the Lancet medical journal released a study by researchers from johns Hopkins and Columbia universities indicating that about 100,000 Iraqi deaths had occured over an eighteen-month period as a result of the invasion and occupation. More than half of those who died were women and children killed in the air strikes, the study reported.

President Bush said at a news conference in 2004
"It's a tough time for the American people to see that. It's gut-wrenching."

Makkial-Nazzal, a lifelong Fallujah resident who works for the humanitarian NGO InterSOS, had been pressed into service as the manager of the clinic, since all doctors were busy, working around the clock with minimal sleep .... He told us about ambulances being hit by snipers, women and children being shot. Describing the horror that the siege of Fallujah had become, he said:

'I have been a fool for 47 years. I used to believe in European and American civilization. Nothing could have been easier than gaining the goodwill of the people of Fallujah had the Americans not been so brutal in their dealings. People I interviewed vehemently denied that they were Saddam supporters and expressed immense anger and disappointment at American conduct."

cluster bombs

A warhead with the technical name CBU-87/B functioned properly in Yugoslavia, as promised by the manufacturer, which called it an "all-purpose, air-delivered cluster weapons system." The Pentagon categorized it as a "combined effects munition." One of its memorable performances came at about noon on a Friday in the city of Nis, where people were shopping at a vegetable market.

A news dispatch reported that "the bombs struck next to the hospital complex and near the market, bringing death and destruction, peppering the streets of Serbia's third-largest city with shrapnel and littering the courtyards with yellow bomb casings." It was one of the cluster bombs' few moments in the U.S. media limelight. "In a street leading from the market, dismembered bodies were strewn among carrots and other vegetables in pools of blood. A dead woman, her body covered with a sheet, was still clutching a shopping bag filled with carrots." Reporting from Belgrade, the BBC correspondent John Simpson wrote a commentary that appeared in the Sunday Telegraph in London: "In Novi Sad and Nis, and several other places across Serbia and Kosovo where there are no foreign journalists, heavier bombing has brought more accidents." Simpson noted that cluster bombs "explode in the air and hurl shards of shrapnel over a wide radius." He went on: "Used against human beings, cluster bombs are some of the most savage weapons of modern warfare.

If cluster bombs had been used by Yugoslav army troops, of course, a huge outcry would have occurred in the American media.

The cluster warhead utilized in Yugoslavia that spring was a one-thousand-pound marvel with an ingenious design. When it went off, a couple of hundred "bomblets" shot out in all directions, aided by little parachutes that slowed down the descent of the bomblets and dispersed them. After each bomblet broke into about three hundred pieces of jagged steel shrapnel, they hit a lot of what the weapon's maker described as "soft targets." The fact that its use in Yugoslavia during spring 1999 received scant U.S. media attention smoothed the way for the Defense Department to drop cluster bombs in Afghanistan during the autumn of 2001 and then to fire cluster munitions in Iraq during the spring of 2003.

Soon after the fall of Saddam's regime, researchers at FAIR pointed out that American news outlets "have been quick to declare the U.S. war against Iraq a success, but in-depth investigative reporting about the war's likely health and environmental consequences has been scarce." During the war the U.S. Army had fired thousands of cluster munitions. As in other countries where cluster weaponry had been used, unexploded cluster bomblets continued to detonate, sometimes in the hands of children. In addition, as had occurred during the Gulf War, the U.S. government again fortified some armaments with depleted uranium, leaving behind fine-particle radioactive dust of the sort that researchers have linked to cancer and birth defects.

Those important stories-about cluster weaponry and depleted uranium-became known to many news watchers on several continents. But not in the United States. More than six weeks after the invasion began, FAIR examined the comprehensive Nexis media database through May 5 and found that "there have been no in-depth reports about cluster bombs" on the major U.S. broadcast TV networks' nightly news shows since the start of the war.

But stories continued to be well worth telling. "On April 19, 2003, a little girl walked out of a crowd in Baghdad carrying a steel gray canister attached to a white ribbon," National journal reporter Corine Hegland wrote thirteen months later. "U.S. troops had left the canister behind in her part of town, and she was trying to return it to the American soldiers then on patrol. Sgt. Troy Jenkins, 25, a big man with blue eyes, recognized the child's gift as a cluster bomblet, one of the hundreds of thousands left dotting the country, and he threw himself onto it as the explosion began. When the dying was done, a family in California had lost its father and a family in Iraq had lost its daughter.

What was unusual about this event was not that it occurred but that some readers were to run across a vivid description of it in a mainstream American publication. Citing a Human Rights Watch report that during the invasion a U.S. Army cluster-munitions attack in the town Hilla had resulted in more than five hundred civilian injuries, Hegland added: "And the danger lingered after the major combat phase of the war was over. Not all of the bombs went off. Most of the Army's cluster munitions have an official 'dud' rate of 16 percent, but the actual rate is much higher; in Kosovo, some estimates put it as high as 25 percent. Over the course of the invasion period in Iraq, more than 2 million bomblets were released. Even at the official rate, that leaves about 300,000 tiny bombs waiting in fields, trees, roofs, or yards, for a child, a farmer, or even a patrolling soldier to nudge the wrong way. " The U.S. military's commanders had chosen to use these weapons. If most Americans were aware of the human consequences, the war might have lost some of its moral stature and public support.


The war effort in Afghanistan during autumn 2001 was often touted as humanitarian, laced with references to airborne food drops. Details were sketchy, but television became a free-fire zone for self-congratulation on waging an extraordinarily humane war. On Larry King Live, a bipartisan panel of senators affirmed their loyalty to the president. Senator John Warner, a former secretary of the navy, spoke as the ranking GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee when he said: "This, I think, is the first time in contemporary military history where a military operation is being conducted against the government of a country, and simultaneously, with the troops carrying out their mission, other troops are trying to take care of the innocent victims who all too often are caught in harm's way. " Yet hours after Warner's explanation, the United Nations World Food Program halted its convoys of emergency aid to Afghanistan because of the bombing campaign. Private relief workers voiced escalating alarm. The president of the humanitarian aid organization Conscience International, Jim Jennings, warned: "Food drops from high altitudes alone absolutely cannot provide sufficient and effective relief that is urgently necessary to prevent mass starvation.

To underscore the life-affirming function of the war, the Pentagon emphasized its air drops of food parcels from two C-17 planes, and President Bush made a plea for American children to aid Afghan kids with dollar bills. Many U.S. news outlets ate it all up. A New York Times editorial proclaimed that "Mr. Bush has wisely made providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people an integral part of American strategy. Four days later, on October 12, the same newspaper offered additional praise: "His reaffirmation of the need for humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan-including donations from American children-seemed heartfelt." While thousands of kids across the United States stuffed dollar bills into envelopes and mailed them to the White House, the U.S. government kept bombing. Jonathan Patrick, an official with the humanitarian aid group Concern, minced no words from Islamabad. Calling the food drops "absolute nonsense," Patrick said: "What we need is 20-ton trucks in huge convoys going across the border all the time.

In tandem with the intensive bombing, the U.S. government maintained a PR blitz about its food-from-the-sky effort. But the Nobel Peace Prize-winning French organization Doctors Without Borders charged that the gambit was "virtually useless and may even be dangerous. "76 One aid group after another echoed the assessment. The United States was dropping thirty-seven thousand meals a day on a country where many Afghans had reason to fear starvation. Some of the food, inevitably, was landing on minefields.

The bad soldiers in Vietnam lacked human qualities as far as mainstream U.S. news outlets were concerned. "Television painted an almost perfectly one-dimensional image of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong as cruel, ruthless, and fanatical-clearly beyond the bounds of Legitimate Controversy," writes Daniel Hallin. "Just as television journalists often waived the strictures of objectivity to celebrate what was seen at the beginning of the war as a national consensus behind it, they also, much more consistently, waived them to denounce the enemies of that consensus-the inhabitants of the Sphere of Deviance-both in Vietnam and . . . at home as well." Hallin concluded: "Like most 20th-century war propaganda, television coverage of Vietnam dehumanized the enemy, drained him of all recognizable emotions and motives and thus banished him not only from the political sphere, but from human society itself. The North Vietnamese and Vietcong were 'fanatical,' 'suicidal,' 'savage,' 'half-crazed.' They were lower than mere criminals... they were vermin. Television reports routinely referred to areas controlled by the NLF as 'Communist infested' or 'Vietcong infested.'

After U.S. soldiers massacred about three hundred Vietnamese civilians at My Lai in March 1968, nearly a dozen major print and TV outlets suppressed the evidence and photos of the bloodbath for well over a year-until a small, independent news service released the information. "Reporting of My Lai and other war crimes cases was extensive in the last few years of the war," Daniel Hallin noted, adding: "Stories of these incidents of course focused attention on civilian victims of the war, and no doubt contributed to some weakening of the moral dichotomy television had set up between Americans and the enemy . . . . But My Lai coverage was usually cautious and dispassionate, a great deal of it focused on legal issues in the trial of Lieutenant Calley, rather than on the massacre itself, which of course became an 'alleged massacre' once charges were filed. So it may be that for much of the viewing public, My Lai was less an atrocity, comparable to those they had heard about on the other side, than confirmation that American morale was on the decline. Many Americans, incidentally, did not believe the news of the My Lai massacre."'

"While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill," Chris Hedges wrote in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. "Thus killing done in our name, killing that concerns us little, while those who kill our own are seen as having crawled out of the deepest recesses of the earth, lacking our own humanity and goodness."

On May 1, the same day that President Bush issued his top-gun proclamation that the war was basically finished, a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer began with this observation: "Television's most heavily reported story of the Iraq war focused on a single person, Jessica Lynch. Although her rescue illuminated the daring and ingenuity of the U.S. military, it did not affect the conduct or outcome of the war. But it was the perfect story for what should be called The TV War, a production that demonstrated without question that when the nation's two biggest exports, aerospace equipment and show business, come together, useful and informative news gets left behind."

... The unraveling of the official Jessica Lynch saga began many weeks after she became a household name. Various news outlets started to question some fundamentals. A report by BBC News, airing on May 18, shredded numerous Pentagon claims about what happened to her. When Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer cited the emerging information, the Pentagon went ballistic, branding his assertions "outrageous, patently false and unsupported by the facts. But the high-dudgeon salvo from officialdom was a desperate attempt at damage control as news accounts finally revealed that U.S. officials had eagerly concocted all sorts of story lines-such as the tall tale that Lynch had suffered gunshot wounds but kept firing weapons until her ammunition ran out, "fighting to the death" at the time of her capture.

Also bogus was the Pentagon's account of the rescue. "Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen," said spokesman General Vincent Brooks, who assured the media that "it was a classic joint operation, done by some of our nation's finest warriors, who are dedicated to never leaving a comrade behind. But as the BBC reported, witnesses said the U.S. special forces "knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital." And the widely televised video of her rescue, supplied by the Defense Department, was shot as a work of dramatic artifice. "It was like a Hollywood film," said Anmar Uday, a doctor who worked at the hospital. "They cried 'go, go, go,' with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital-action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."

The BBC explained that "the American strategy was to ensure the right television footage by using embedded reporters and images from their own cameras, editing the film themselves. The Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer." He had been an adviser to the Pentagon for a prime-time TV series about American troops in Afghanistan. "That approach was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq."

... Near the end of I Am a Soldier, Too, the book quotes the famous hero at a reflective moment in her mother's kitchen. "We went and we did our job, and that was to go to the war," Jessica Lynch said, "but I wish I hadn't done it-I wish it had never happened. I wish we hadn't been there, none of us."

President George H.W. Bush said of the Gulf War victory in early 1991.
"It's a proud day for America-and, by God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.

The writer James Baldwin challenged our desire to deny responsibility-what he called "the fraudulent and expedient nature of the American innocence which has always been able to persuade itself that it does not know what it knows too well. "

Gloucester in King Lear
"Tis the time's plague when madmen lead the blind."

Daniel Ellsberg, 2004

We have again been lied into war, a war as hopeless, unnecessary, and wrongful, as potentially endless and disastrous, as Vietnam. Again, almost surely, hundreds of officials who saw what was happening in just those terms, and who had a chance to avert it by informing Congress and the public of what they knew, with documents, chose not to do so. They kept their mouths shut, or repeated official lies, out of misguided loyalty to their bosses, to the president, to their agency and party-and to their own careers-over loyalty to the Constitution and their fellow citizens. If we're ever to escape from the deadly trap we're in, those values and that behavior must change, soon.

On February 27, I sat in a small room on Capitol Hill. Around a long table, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was in session, taking testimony from an administration official. Most of all, I remember a man with a push-broom mustache and a voice like sandpaper, raspy and urgent. Wayne Morse did not resort to euphemism. He spoke of "tyranny that American boys are being killed in South Vietnam to maintain in power." Moments before the hearing adjourned, the senior senator from Oregon said that he did not "intend to put the blood of this war on my hands." And Morse offered clarity that was prophetic: "We're going to become guilty, in my judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world. It's an ugly reality, and we Americans don't like to face up to it."

Daniel Ellsberg
"On the basis of the record ever since 1946, 'telling truth to presidents' privately, confidentially-what I and my colleagues regarded as the highest calling and greatest opportunity we could imagine to serve our country-looked entirely unpromising as a way to end our war in and on Vietnam. That conclusion challenged the premises that had guided my entire professional career. To read the continuous record of intelligence assessments and forecasts for Vietnam from 1946 on was finally to lose the delusion that informing the Executive Branch better was the key to ending the war-or to fulfilling one's responsibilities as a citizen. It appeared that only if power were brought to bear upon the Executive Branch from outside it, with the important secondary effect of sharing responsibility for later events more broadly, might the presidential preference for endless, escalating stalemate rather than 'failure' in Vietnam be overruled. "

war correspondent Michael Herr recalled about the U.S. military in Vietnam

"We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to maximum brutality. Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but stop."

When a country-particularly a democracy-goes to war, the tacit consent of the governed lubricates the machinery. Silence is a key form cooperation, but the warmaking system does not insist on quietude or agreement. Mere self-restraint will suffice.

While going to war may seem easy, any sense of ease is a result of distance, privilege, and illusion.

There remains a kind of spectator relationship to military actions being implemented in our names. We're apt to crave the insulation that news outlets offer. We tell ourselves that our personal lives are difficult enough without getting too upset about world events. And the conventional war wisdom of American political life has made it predictable that most journalists and politicians cannot resist accommodating themselves to expediency by the time the first missiles are fired. Conformist behavior-in sharp contrast to authentic conscience-is notably plastic.

As an astute cliché says, truth is the first casualty of war. But another early casualty is conscience.

Conscience is not on the military's radar screen, and it's not on our television screen. But government officials and media messages do not define the limits and possibilities of conscience. We do.

Norman Solomon page

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