Why, Thank You

The god I don't believe in knows well how I feel about Red Blogistan, so this doesn't come casually. Captain Ed, of all people, in defending the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, wrote this, perhaps by accident but I assume because he's a nice, gracious dude:
Many on the left disagree, however, and often they provide challenging arguments and valuable perspectives on policy and the manner in which it gets implemented.
Given the severely divided state of the country, sharpened in the Red-Blue Blogistan divide, this is quite an admission. I wish others would admit as much. Kudos to the Kaptain for giving Blue Blogistan a teensy bit of credit. Maybe I'm an asshole, but I can't do the same (no offense to the Kaptain--this is a broader issue). That's not because I don't think most Red Blogistanis are sincere, it's because they're opinions are (mostly) based on falsehoods. If we were all working from the same base of information, this problem wouldn't exist and we could argue about solutions to problems instead of arguing about whether problems exist.

The broader issue is this. It would be wonderful if the country weren't divided. It would be wonderful if there were nothing but raucous debate from varying perspectives on all the issues of the day. But we have no such debate. On TV and even in the papers we have a restricted, narrow range of debate, usually limited to a couple of points of view reduced to a couple of sentences each. This is childish (and probably has a lot to do with the decline of the papers and the ascent of simplicity-prone, image-dependent TV--and I say that as a photographer and ad-agency employee).

To make matters worse, our country's being run by a Party who's wedding to bullshit marketing (read "outright lying") to push their agenda through, because few voters would approve of their agenda if they understood it. Not only that, but their followers have been eating this perfumed horseshit and not questioning it but instead declaring how good it smells and what an ingenious meal they've been served (Zagat rated!).

I used to suspect that the blogosphere was divided by perspective. But after extensive research into various issues (using, oh, I dunno, primary sources), it's pretty clear that one side, though biased in favor of certain policies and behaviors, is familiar with verifiable facts (or at least decent reporting) while the other is mired in bullshit.

It's not a matter of perspective, it's a matter of propaganda. And the propaganda is all on one side.


Snowed In

Jeebus. Next: Fox News announces it's changing its name to "White House Propaganda."

UPDATE: It's Uhfishul.


CIA Blogmining

Recently Schroeder noted that his blog had mysterious readers from Reston. The night I read his post, I noticed I had some too (I've been getting hits from Reston for ages). My "readers" were on an AOL server, so I figured that it was just a crawler, which it probably was. But as Schroeder pointed out, lots of spooky gov't agencies hang out in Reston. So it was with some interest that I read this Washington Times article sent in by a flesh-and-blood reader.


Pulitzers for Journalism

So many reporters do their jobs and get little, if any, recognition. Most, it seems, get lots of complaints about minor errors and no kudos for getting most of their facts straight. Hats off, then, to the New Orleans' Times-Picayune and the Mississippi Gulf Coast's Sun-Herald for kicking proverbial ass during and after that Stalin-inspired storm Katrina ravaged our corner of the coast. Hats off as well to James Risen and Eric Lichtblau for breaking the story of domestic spying, to Dana Priest for his coverage of secret prisons, and to Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer for uncovering the Dukestir's malfeasance. While it's unfortunate that there wasn't stiffer competition (ahem), these guys deserve free dinners and drinks for eternity. We're some kinda grateful.

Get the skinny here.


Pesky "Leftists"

Joe Klein and Eric Alterman duked it out in the Huffinton Post recently over Klein's breakfast remarks about the "left wing" of the Democratic Party. Klein claims Alterman misrepresented what he said by conflating the terms "liberal" and "left wing" (though how "right wing" could accurately reflect "liberal" positions or how "liberal" isn't "left" he does not say). Klein can nitpick if he wants, but his remarks are still relevant. In his own defense he wrote in the HuffPo that
The default position of leftists like, say, Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation, is that America is essentially a malignant, imperialistic force in the world and the use of American military power is almost always wrong. Liberals have a more benign, and correct, view of America's role in the world and tend to favor the use of military force if it is exercised judiciously, as a last resort, and in a multilateral contect--with U.N. approval or through NATO. The first Gulf War, the overthrow of the Taliban and the Kosovo intervention met these criteria; Bush's Iraq invasion clearly did not.
(Emphasis mine.)

Here, Joe Klein unwittingly reveals his profound ignorance of both history and world journalism from the last few decades. Leaving aside the ethical question of whether intervention is "wrong," America's imperialist interventions are so well documented that it's pathetic that so many Americans (most self-styled "conservatives," say) are unaware of them. If they were aware of what the foreign policy apparatus of our government has done, they would be horrified. Knowing what the US government has done and reacting appropriately to it as humans capable of empathy and regret is distinct from supporting socialist or progressive policies. This is why "left" and "liberal" are non-descriptive, distracting adjectives here. There has always been a tradition in this country of non-intervention in foreign affairs. President George Washington advised against it, and even a pro-assassination president like Eisenhower warned against the corrupting influence of the military-industrial complex. Recently, conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com have argued against intervention (Raimondo is pretty hard-line about it).

Shelves of thoroughly researched books that Joe Klein apparently hasn't read have detailed the covert (and overt) actions of the US intelligence-security apparatus in world affairs, and "almost always" these actions weren't "exercised judiciously, as a last resort, [or] in a multilateral contect" (even spell-check would've caught that one, Joe). To note this is not to "hate" America, it is to recognize what's been done in our name and what's led to much of the world "hating" us. It is to insist that instead of following the usual protocols, we should actually do what Klein stupidly thinks we've done. Because if we really had used "military force if it [were] exercised judiciously, as a last resort, and in a multilateral contect," we'd have few problems.

This is not what we have done. As I told one of our mystery reporters last week (at the Mayfair Lounge, no less), Americans live in a bubble. Within the borders of our country, our laws sorta kinda apply (see influence-peddling, elections, etc. for exceptions), while without our borders our government acts like Tony Soprano. This is no exaggeration. It is the truth. But it is not without exception. And this is where it's critical to note that knowing our history and writing about it is not to "hate America" or to be "anti-American." Because Western governments have repeatedly and routinely acted just as the United States has. When the US wasn't preeminent, back in the days of the French and British and German empires, Western colonial powers did exactly what we've been doing since WWII. (Indeed, we did the same things before WWII, but to a smaller extent, because we weren't so powerful and rich. Remember Mexico? Remember the Maine?) I don't doubt most governments throughout history have acted similarly, depending on their ability to do so. The reason America stands out is that it's the lone superpower. Even during the Cold War, the US was stronger and richer than the USSR, and it acted accordingly, viz. for its "interests."

But what are "interests"? Why do governments do these things? Governments--and ours is no exception--always claim that their reasons are noble. They're going to bring freedom, defend the country against a dire threat, civilize the natives--you name the cause, they've made it, always straightfaced and rarely sincerely. The British were going to liberate Iraq. Later, of course, they fought a battle for Fallujah, faced an insurgency and bombed thousands of civilians. Yes, things certainly have changed. In the late 19th century, Western nations invaded Africa and raped it for its resources. What did they tell their people at the time? They were going to "civilize" Africa. Who knew that "civilizing" meant cutting down so many with recently invented Gatling guns? (Pesky darkies!) And does anybody remember the Opium Wars or how we pried open Japan's legs? Our current wars and the reasons for them are no different. Anyone who wants to know what the "war on terror" is about should peruse Zbigniew Brzezinski's book The Grand Chessboard. (Hint: it's not about "terror.") There is one word for why most governments do such dastardly things: power. And in many instances that amounts to trade.

In the case of our "war on terror," America's "interests" are power-based. They have to do with money and influence and with maintaining our preeminence in the world. If we acted "judiciously" in Bosnia because of the Kosovars, why did we make a deal with Al Qaeda there? According to Congressional terrorism expert Yosef Bodansky, American officials promised Al-Zawahiri's brother (or Al-Zawahiri himself) $50 million in exchange for Al Qaeda not attacking us there. We also trained KLA terrorists in the region, even after we supposedly had stopped because of international agreements. This is troubling, to say the least. If we bombed Afghanistan because of 9/11, why were we preparing to do so before 9/11 and why did American officials reportedly threaten the Taliban with a war in October, which is exactly what happened after the WTC and Pentagon were attacked? Oddly enough, an oil pipeline route was at stake; so was influence over Afghanistan and Central Asia (Condi Rice's expertise), the fulcrum of power in Eurasia. But enough of 9/11. There's a long list of covert US action to "hate."

Here's a short list: United Fruit, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Congo, Iran, Egypt, Italy, the Phillippines (Abu Sayyaff? We helped create them). For more, read Killing Hope, The Assassination Business, or the ugliest one of all, The War on Truth. The list is too long for a blog post of any detail. If you're curious, not really busy or not incredibly lazy, then read these books; they'll change your perception of what you're told on TV. Note: Why did Al-Zawahiri pick 9/11? That's when the US-supported Egyptian security forces picked him up and tortured him (he's since deserved it). Go figure.

Some Americans may have asked themselves why prisoners at Abu Ghraib and many other detention facilities, for example, were mistreated tortured. I don't know. But I and many others have repeatedly noted that the methods used were drawn up by the CIA and taught to police forces throughout Central and South America decades ago. The mystery of Abu Ghraib isn't why or how it happened, it's why and how we let it happen repeatedly in the past fifty years. The only difference between then and now is that in Iraq, we weren't using proxies.

Since the grand productive colonial days, Western governments have done no less than what they always have, limited only by an increasingly curious media (until recently) and evolving standards that mitigate against wholesale slaughter. (I don't doubt that non-Western governments do the same or would do so if they were rich and powerful, but I don't know much about them.) So are Brits or French who criticize their governments' foreign maneuvers labelled "anti-British" or "anti-French"? Do they "hate" their countries? I don't know. But presumably they do not. As with US citizens who criticize their government's inhumane foreign actions, I imagine they recognize the distinction between covert action and country. If a wife criticizes her husband, does she hate him? If he punches his friend and she scolds him, is she anathema? No. And those who criticize the abhorrent behavior of our government are no different.

BONUS: Nobody noticed, but in his Klein-critical HuffPo piece, Alterman wrote that he "went to a breakfast this morning sponsored by HBO and the Council on Foreign Relations where Tina Brown interviewed Julia Sweig, author of Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century..." (emphasis mine). Time Warner's HBO and the CFR? How bizarre is that? Is there a precedent?


Negligent Homicide

No, I'm not dead, I just started a new job at a fancy ad agency and don't know what the future of this extremely low-readership blog will be. But anyway, one of the many stories barely reported in this news vacuum known as the Washington Press Corpse is that the Army Corpse of Engineers (no, not all of the engineers, but presumably a few decision makers) is guilty* of negligent homicide. In honor of the news vacuum, which continues to not show the consequences of either Iraq or, god forbid, Katrina, here are a couple of gruesome photos compliments of Robert Lindsay by way of Your Right Hand Thief. (By way of Schroeder.)

BONUS: On a tangential note, Mystery Reporter 1 (2?) and I recently dined at Cooter Brown's for the final Final Four game. Highlight was the Tom Benson sandwich, made of chicken. (For out-of-towners, that's an insult to the owner of the Saints.)

*Not in the court-of-law sense, since they haven't been prosecuted. But the prosecutorial evidence is abundant.