4/27/08

A New York Times report shines a light on how the military-industrial complex tries to shape broadcast news

Many times I have pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com that Fascism is the political ideology toward which Americans should be most on guard..... it is insidious, and the modern Republican Party has already made decades of progress in moving the public psyche ever to the right..... to the degree that now we have experienced eight years of a Republican administration that is in essence the fruition of "movement conservativism" itself. Modern Republicans are FAR from being "conservatives". A true American conservative would be conservative about the Liberal tradtion and foundations of this great Nation!

If Americans wish to regain a sense of who they are, they need only return to the ideas found in foundational documents of this Nation.... America was founded on a bedrock of revolutionary concepts for Liberal governance.... the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights not only affirm the freedom and dignity of the individual, but also provides for a Liberal structure for governance that ensures that Freedom..... The current Republican administration has taken every opportunity to undermine America's Liberal Democracy and concentrate power in the Executive Branch to avoid checks and balances from the Congress and the Judiciary....... Liberalism is hated by Communists, Fascists, Theocrats and the Republican Party of the United States for that reason..... it is a revolutionary concept, yet one that does not accommodate extremist ideologues easily. Ladies and gentlemen, the political and economic ideology of the Republican Party in America is an extremist ideology that can no longer be considered part of the American tradition.

This Nation has moved to far to the right, and it is time to take it back..... make America America again.....

One of the things that has to change is the notion that the American
Government can simply propagandize and manipulate the American People.

Here is an article concerning that very issue:

TV Military ‘Analysts’ Are Part of What Ike Warned Against

by Nancy Grape

Maine Sunday Telegram, Sunday, 27 April 2008

The faces dominating the front page of The New York Times last Sunday were male, strong-jawed and familiar. Indeed, that was the point.

They were the faces of nine retired military officers (there were more inside the paper) who appear regularly on network and cable television news to give viewers informed, independent assessments of the war in Iraq.

At least that was the idea.

What viewers have been getting, the Times revealed, is something quite different. The paper reported convincingly that some retired officers appearing as “military analysts” have been pushing Pentagon propaganda in return for continued access to top officials and financial benefit for themselves.

According to the Times report, “Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department.

“In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated,” the report said. “Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access. A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an enthusiastic golfer in his presidential years, left behind more than spike marks on the White House floor. He stood at a convergence in American history. He knew it. And he gave voice to a solemn warning, delivered in 1961, three days before he left office.

Eisenhower, a renowned World War II general, declared, “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

“In the councils of government,” he warned, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes,” he declared. “We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

The Times’ report on the military analysts is a tale of propaganda, hidden loyalties and financial interests. It reveals a vulnerability that reaches all the way to the survival of the United States as a country governed by the informed opinion of its people.

The newspaper’s investigation shows that in case after case, the military analysts take their cues and their information from specially prepared Pentagon briefings and trips.

A number wear more than one hat. In addition to offering their “analysis” on television, they work for pay for defense-related industries. Employers range from military equipment manufacturers and contractors to lobbyists and consulting firms on the hunt for defense-related business.

The report is important for the glimpse it provides into how powerful forces help keep us enmeshed in Iraq.

The 17 military analysts pictured include such oft-seen faces as retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey on NBC News, retired Brig. Gen. James Marks on CNN and retired Lt. Gen. Tom McNerney on Fox. Even so, television news audiences haven’t heard much about the report. Up it popped on Sunday morning, and by Sunday night, it was smothered like a Philadelphia cheese steak in rehashed political news.

“This article would have come sooner, but it took us two years to wrestle 8,000 pages of documents out of the Defense Department that described its interactions with network military analysts,” reporter David Barstow explained on the Times’ Web site. “We pushed as hard as we could, but the Defense Department refused to produce many categories of documents in response to our requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act.”

Ultimately the Times went to court. Yet even then, Barstow said, “the Pentagon failed to meet several court-ordered deadlines.” Finally, the judge had enough. He threatened the Defense Department with sanctions if it continued to defy court deadlines. The stalling stopped.

The television networks and cable fiefdoms involved probably would prefer this story follow another military tradition and just fade away. Like it or not, however, the report on the Pentagon puppets leaves an indelible mark.

Eisenhower, president and general, would see it and heed it. So should we.

Nancy Grape comments on state and national issues for the Maine Sunday Telegram

4/21/08

Top Bush Aides Pushed for Guantanamo Torture

As I've pointed out to my friends many times at Lucianne.com, this Republican administrations policies with respect to the use of torture is particularly indicative of the rightist influence the Republican Party has become in America.

U.S. Army Field Manual 34-52:
"
The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

In the following article we see how political appointees of this Republican administration actually circumvented traditional and conventional thinking from military experts to establish the legal framework which violated the Constitution and International Law, embarrassed America in the eyes of the world, and undermined our sense of who we are as a Nation.

This should be an item of profound reflection. Not only did this Republican administration proceed with the matters at hand in an immoral, illegal and unethical way, it demonstrated its typical disregard for practical expertise in the matter of torture. The plain fact is despite the claims of TV programs like "24" and the like, torture never produces reliable information. Torture is a tool for dictatorships and authoritarian regimes (not to mention common criminals) to effect population control through violence, coercion and intimidation. Long a tool to extract false confessions and demonstrate regime or cult dominance over the weak, the use of torture for this Republican administration was all about demonstrating to the American People how "tough" they were on terrorists..... it is a tool of political propaganda. There is no other strategic or tactical utility.


Here's a very fine article on the mechanics of how this happened:


Published on Saturday, April 19, 2008 by The Guardian Top Bush Aides Pushed for Guantanamo Torture

Senior Officials Bypassed Army Chief to Introduce Interrogation Methods

By Richard Norton-Taylor

America’s most senior general was “hoodwinked” by top Bush administration officials determined to push through aggressive interrogation techniques of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, leading to the US military abandoning its age-old ban on the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, the Guardian reveals today....

In his new book, Torture Team, Philippe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London, reveals that: · Senior Bush administration figures pushed through previously outlawed measures with the aid of inexperienced military officials at Guantanamo.

· Myers believes he was a victim of “intrigue” by top lawyers at the department of justice, the office of vice-president Dick Cheney, and at Donald Feldspars defence department.

· The Guantanamo lawyers charged with devising interrogation techniques were inspired by the exploits of Jack Bauer in the American TV series 24.

· Myers wrongly believed interrogation techniques had been taken from the army’s field manual.

The lawyers, all political appointees, who pushed through the interrogation techniques were Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and William Haynes. Also involved were Doug Feith, Rumsfeld’s under-secretary for policy, and Jay Bybee and John Yoo, two assistant attorney generals.....

Myers mistakenly believed that new techniques recommended by Haynes and authorized by Rumsfeld in December 2002 for use by the military at Guantanamo had been taken from the US army field manual. They included hooding, sensory deprivation, and physical and mental abuse.

“As we worked through the list of techniques, Myers became increasingly hesitant and troubled,” writes Sands. “Haynes and Rumsfeld had been able to run rings around him.”

Myers and his closest advisers were cut out of the decision-making process. He did not know that Bush administration officials were changing the rules allowing interrogation techniques, including the use of dogs, amounting to torture.

“We never authorized torture, we just didn’t, not what we would do,” Myers said. Sands comments: “He really had taken his eye off the ball … he didn’t ask too many questions … and kept his distance from the decision-making process.”

Larry Wilkerson, a former army officer and chief of staff to Colin Powell, US secretary of state at the time, told the Guardian: “I do know that Rumsfeld had neutralized the chairman [Myers] in many significant ways.

“The secretary did this by cutting [Myers] out of important communications, meetings, deliberations and plans.

“At the end of the day, however, Dick Myers was not a very powerful chairman in the first place, one reason Rumsfeld recommended him for the job”.

He added: “Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzalez and - at the apex - Addington, should never travel outside the US, except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court.”

4/19/08

Talking about Creeping Fascism: Lessons From the Past

As I've pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com many times, the Republican Party has become a totally rightist phenomenon in American politics.
Here is a great article by Ray McGovern on the topic of fascism, and why Americans should be concerned about the rightist-drift in this Nation:
Quote
Creeping Fascism: Lessons From the Past
by Ray McGovern
Link
“There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater…Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later….”
These are the words of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as “Geschichte eines Deutschen” (The Story of a German). The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages-in English as “Defying Hitler.”
I recently learned from his daughter Sarah, an artist in Berlin, that today is the 100th anniversary of Haffner’s birth. She had seen an earlier article in which I quoted her father and emailed to ask me to “write some more about the book and the comparison to Bush’s America…this is almost unbelievable.”
More about Haffner below. Let’s set the stage first by recapping some of what has been going on that may have resonance for readers familiar with the Nazi ascendancy, noting how “odd” it is that the frontal attack on our Constitutional rights is met with such “calm, superior indifference.”
Goebbels Would be Proud
It has been two years since top New York Times officials decided to let the rest of us in on the fact that the George W. Bush administration had been eavesdropping on American citizens without the court warrants required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The Times had learned of this well before the election in 2004 and acquiesced to White House entreaties to suppress the damaging information.
In late fall 2005 when Times correspondent James Risen’s book, “State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” revealing the warrantless eavesdropping was being printed, Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., recognized that he could procrastinate no longer. It would simply be too embarrassing to have Risen’s book on the street, with Sulzberger and his associates pretending that this explosive eavesdropping story did not fit Adolph Ochs’ trademark criterion: All The News That’s Fit To Print. (The Times ‘ own ombudsman, Public Editor Byron Calame, branded the newspaper’s explanation for the long delay in publishing this story “woefully inadequate.”)
When Sulzberger told his friends in the White House that he could no longer hold off on publishing in the newspaper, he was summoned to the Oval Office for a counseling session with the president on Dec. 5, 2005. Bush tried in vain to talk him out of putting the story in the Times. The truth would out; part of it, at least.
Glitches
There were some embarrassing glitches. For example, unfortunately for National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the White House neglected to tell him that the cat would soon be out of the bag. So on Dec. 6, Alexander spoke from the old talking points in assuring visiting House intelligence committee member Rush Holt ( D-N.J.) that the NSA did not eavesdrop on Americans without a court order.
Still possessed of the quaint notion that generals and other senior officials are not supposed to lie to congressional oversight committees, Holt wrote a blistering letter to Gen. Alexander after the Times, on Dec. 16, front-paged a feature by Risen and Eric Lichtblau, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.” But House Intelligence Committee chair Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) apparently found Holt’s scruples benighted; Hoekstra did nothing to hold Alexander accountable for misleading Holt, his most experienced committee member, who had served as an intelligence analyst at the State Department.
What followed struck me as bizarre. The day after the Dec. 16 Times feature article, the president of the United States publicly admitted to a demonstrably impeachable offense. Authorizing illegal electronic surveillance was a key provision of the second article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. On July 27, 1974, this and two other articles of impeachment were approved by bipartisan votes in the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Bush Takes Frontal Approach
Far from expressing regret, the president bragged about having authorized the surveillance “more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks,” and said he would continue to do so. The president also said:
“Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.”
On Dec. 19, 2005 then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-NSA Director Michael Hayden held a press conference to answer questions about the as yet unnamed surveillance program. Gonzales was asked why the White House decided to flout FISA rather than attempt to amend it, choosing instead a “backdoor approach.” He answered:
“We have had discussions with Congress…as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.”
Hmm. Impossible? It strains credulity that a program of the limited scope described would be unable to win ready approval from a Congress that had just passed the “Patriot Act” in record time. James Risen has made the following quip about the prevailing mood: “In October 2001 you could have set up guillotines on the public streets of America.” It was not difficult to infer [[ http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/60/19945 ]] that the surveillance program must have been of such scope and intrusiveness that, even amid highly stoked fear, it didn’t have a prayer for passage.
It turns out we didn’t know the half of it.
What To Call These Activities
“Illegal Surveillance Program” didn’t seem quite right for White House purposes, and the PR machine was unusually slow off the blocks. It took six weeks to settle on “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” with FOX News leading the way followed by the president himself. This labeling would dovetail nicely with the president’s rhetoric on Dec. 17:
“In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations…. The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September 11 helped address that problem…”[emphasis added]
And Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed NSA from 1999 to 2005, was of course on the same page, dissembling as convincingly as the president. At his May 2006 confirmation hearings to become CIA director, he told of his soul-searching when, as director of NSA, he was asked to eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant. “I had to make this personal decision in early Oct. 2001,” said Hayden, “it was a personal decision…I could not not do this.”
Like so much else, it was all because of 9/11. But we now know…
It Started Seven Months Before 9/11
How many times have you heard it? The mantra “after 9/11 everything changed” has given absolution to all manner of sin.
We are understandably reluctant to believe the worst of our leaders, and this tends to make us negligent. After all, we learned from former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that drastic changes were made in U.S. foreign policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue and toward Iraq at the first National Security Council meeting on Jan. 30, 2001. Should we not have anticipated far-reaching changes at home, as well?
Reporting by the Rocky Mountain News and court documents and testimony in a case involving Qwest Communications strongly suggest that in February 2001 Hayden saluted smartly when the Bush administration instructed NSA to suborn AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest to spy illegally on you, me, and other Americans. Bear in mind that this would have had nothing to do with terrorism, which did not really appear on the new administration’s radar screen until a week before 9/11, despite the pleading of Clinton aides that the issue deserved extremely high priority.
So this until-recently-unknown pre-9/11 facet of the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” was not related to Osama bin Laden or to whomever he and his associates might be speaking. It had to do with us. We know that the Democrats who were briefed on the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (the one with the longest tenure on the House Intelligence Committee), Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) and former and current chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA). May one interpret their lack of public comment on the news that the snooping began well before 9/11 as a sign they were co-opted and then sworn to secrecy?
It is an important question. Were the appropriate leaders in Congress informed that within days of George W. Bush’s first inauguration the NSA electronic vacuum cleaner began to suck up information on you and me, despite the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment?
Are They All Complicit?
And are Democratic leaders about to cave in and grant retroactive immunity to those telecommunications corporations-AT&T and Verizon-who made millions by winking at the law and the Constitution? (Qwest, to it’s credit, heeded the advice of its general counsel who said that what NSA wanted done was clearly illegal.)
What’s going on here? Have congressional leaders no sense for what is at stake? Lately the adjective “spineless” has come into vogue in describing congressional Democrats-no offense to invertebrates.
Nazis and Those Who Enable Them
You don’t have to be a Nazi. You can just be, well, a sheep.
In his journal Sebastian Haffner decries what he calls the “sheepish submissiveness” with which the German people reacted to a 9/11-like event, the burning of the German Parliament (Reichstag) on Feb. 27, 1933. Haffner finds it quite telling that none of his acquaintances “saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from then on, one’s telephone would be tapped, one’s letters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”
But it is for the cowardly politicians that Haffner reserves his most vehement condemnation. Do you see any contemporary parallels here?
In the elections of March 4, 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire, the Nazi party garnered only 44 percent of the vote. Only the “cowardly treachery” of the Social Democrats and other parties to whom 56 percent of the German people had entrusted their votes made it possible for the Nazis to seize full power. Haffner adds:
“It is in the final analysis only that betrayal that explains the almost inexplicable fact that a great nation, which cannot have consisted entirely of cowards, fell into ignominy without a fight.”
The Social Democratic leaders betrayed their followers-”for the most part decent, unimportant individuals.” In May they sang the Nazi anthem; in June the Social Democratic party was dissolved.
The middle-class Catholic party Zentrum folded in less than a month, and in the end supplied the votes necessary for the two-thirds majority that “legalized” Hitler’s dictatorship.
As for the right-wing conservatives and German nationalists: “Oh God,” writes Haffner, “what an infinitely dishonorable and cowardly spectacle their leaders made in 1933 and continued to make afterward…. They went along with everything: the terror, the persecution of Jews…. They were not even bothered when their own party was banned and their own members arrested.” In sum:
“There was not a single example of energetic defense, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion. In March 1933 millions were ready to fight the Nazis. Overnight they found themselves without leaders…At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown…. The result is today the nightmare of the rest of the world.”
This is what can happen when virtually all are intimidated.
Our Founding Fathers were not oblivious to this; thus, James Madison:
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations…. The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
We cannot say we weren’t warned.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. A former Army officer and CIA analyst, he worked in Germany for five years; he is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com.