Media Revolution

Friday, February 28, 2003


Gulf War veteran admits setting oil well fires under U.N. command

According to the American Gulf War Veterans Association. Press Release. Transcript of Interview.


Thursday, February 27, 2003


Great gift idea! 72 different Historical Nuclear Weapons Test Films for $10 each plus shipping


Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Robert Fisk: How the news will be censored in this war
"A new CNN system of 'script approval' suggests the Pentagon will have nothing to worry about."

Just where this awful system leads is evident from an intriguing exchange last year between CNN's reporter in the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, and Eason Jordan, one of CNN's top honchos in Atlanta.

The journalist's first complaint was about a story by the reporter Michael Holmes on the Red Crescent ambulance drivers who are repeatedly shot at by Israeli troops. "We risked our lives and went out with ambulance drivers... for a whole day. We have also witnessed ambulances from our window being shot at by Israeli soldiers... The story received approval from Mike Shoulder. The story ran twice and then Rick Davis (a CNN executive) killed it. The reason was we did not have an Israeli army response, even though we stated in our story that Israel believes that Palestinians are smuggling weapons and wanted people in the ambulances."

The Israelis refused to give CNN an interview, only a written statement. This statement was then written into the CNN script. But again it was rejected by Davis in Atlanta. Only when, after three days, the Israeli army gave CNN an interview did Holmes's story run – but then with the dishonest inclusion of a line that said the ambulances were shot in "crossfire" (ie that Palestinians also shot at their own ambulances).


Finally!! A detailed explanation about WHY it's the oil. READ THIS!


On Feb. 19, I linked to three articles that discussed why the United States faces serious macroeconomic problems associated with its trade deficit, budget deficit, and mounting debt (now two thirds of GDP), and why this could be a drive for a war against Iraq. I knew there was something important there, but I didn't quite put it all together. But other people have:

I introduce to you the most important article I've read all year: The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth, by W. Clark, originally published on Indymedia here and here.

In a nutshell, it's about currency. One of the United States' greatest assets is the dollar. The Federal Reserve prints money which is the de facto global currency. Other nations have to have reserves of dollars for two reasons: 1) to guard their currency in volatile currency markets by selling or buying dollars and 2) to buy items like oil which trade in dollars. The fact that oil has been traded in dollars since the 1970's is the source of the term "Petrodollars". Because other nations need dollars, their value is strengthened. Folks like Greider (see Feb 19 post) note that our trade deficit and debts are mounting: this could have caused capital flight in another country, but our position as central bank has prevented that until now. But according to Clark, Iraq, Iran, and OPEC have taken steps towards having their oil transactions conducted in Euros (Iraq started in 2000). This could do serious damage to the dollar, and if a run started, our debts could be called due. Whammo. The United States strategy: take Iraq, return its oil accounts to dollars, up oil production, undermine OPEC, and protect the dollar. Read W.Clark for a much more thorough treatise.

Corroboration by others: Clark was followed up by an equally cogent article here by Peter Dale Scott, a co-founder of Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Studies program. It is called "Bush’s Deep Reasons for War on Iraq: Oil, Petrodollars, and the OPEC Euro Question." (Check out Peter's other articles on oil, drugs, war, and al-Queda.)

Finally, W.Clark shared his article with Cóilín Nunan, who gave another (and shorter) explanation of the idea, with new references. It is published at the Irish Feasta.org.

UPDATE: A good primier on the problem of the trade deficit, by Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Alternative views from the Cato Institute. A more technical testimony by the Economic Policy Institute, which gives lots of background and is concerned about our trade deficit.


The San Fran. Chronicle belatedly hits hot topic of further media consolidation
Of course, it's in the business section...


Tuesday, February 25, 2003


FAIR's Media Alert on how the networks aren't covering potential media consolidation
In "FCC files comments, but not stories", Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) addresses the current Fed. Communications Commission review of media ownership laws which, if relaxed, could allow networks to grow.

Media companies stand to gain a lot from a relaxation of the ownership caps. So it is no surprise that NBC/General Electric, ABC/Disney and CBS/Viacom have all filed comments with the FCC.

It's what they haven't done that is more troubling: None of the big three networks have found the story worth reporting in depth. Since the FCC issued its notice on the ownership rules last September, a search of the Nexis news database turns up one network story: a short summary of the FCC's announcement on ABC's World News This Morning (9/9/02), which according to the transcript aired at 4:30 AM.

So, people who rely on network TV for their news are almost certainly unaware that the FCC is poised to roll back regulations that currently prevent networks from buying many of their independently owned affiliates. Or that the agency may soon allow one major network to buy another. Or that rules that have kept the newspaper business separate from the TV industry may soon be a thing of the past.


Words of Hans Blix
Since he is spun by both sides, it's best to read him in the original. The most recent briefing by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (Feb. 14) is here. Mohamed El Baradei's briefing is here.


Wednesday, February 19, 2003


From the New York Times Op-Ed page:
The Trouble With Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died

Pop music played a crucial role in the national debate over the Vietnam War. By the late 1960's, radio stations across the country were crackling with blatantly political songs that became mainstream hits. After the National Guard killed four antiwar demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio in the spring of 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded a song, simply titled "Ohio," about the horror of the event, criticizing President Richard Nixon by name. The song was rushed onto the air while sentiment was still high, and became both an antiwar anthem and a huge moneymaker.

A comparable song about George W. Bush's rush to war in Iraq would have no chance at all today. There are plenty of angry people, many with prime music-buying demographics. But independent radio stations that once would have played edgy, political music have been gobbled up by corporations that control hundreds of stations and have no wish to rock the boat.

Update: This article is #2 on the list of most emailed articles from the New York Times. I guess the issue is finally starting to hit mainstream awareness.


Decline of Empire


I have now come across three articles with largely the same thesis: the United States has been gutting itself economically in terms of its debt and blooming trade deficit. Each says that the financial health of the American Empire is in danger over the long term. William Greider, editor of The Nation and a powerhouse in analyzing international trade issues, spells out the general idea in the most depth. His article "The End of Empire" was published Sept. 5 and is perhaps the most compelling and in depth of the three:
You can't sustain an empire from a debtor's weakening position--sooner or later the creditors pull the plug. That humiliating lesson was learned by Great Britain early in the last century, and the United States faces a similar reckoning ahead. The US financial position is rapidly deteriorating, due mainly to America's persistent and growing trade deficit. US ambitions to run the world, in other words, are heavily mortgaged.

The other two articles contend that the spectre of economic decline is the impetus behind our drive towards war with Iraq. I previously linked to Marshall Auerback's Jan. 14 article entitled "Occupying the Iraqi oil fields ... or how America restores its international credit rating." Auerback's financial analysis complement's Greider's (he dips his toes into military analysis and does poorly, but that doesn't matter). A quote:
Because foreigners with past euphoric expectations bought a huge volume of U.S. stocks in the Bubble period and have yet to sell, and because the unsustainable U.S. current account deficit makes the U.S. dollar vulnerable, the U.S. economy is now very vulnerable to cross border flows. Consequently, the risks of a derivative/speculative unwind dollar/financial crisis along the lines of that experienced in Mexico in 1994, emerging Asia and Russia in 1998, or Argentina in 2002 remains exceedingly high. How to solve this problem? What are Bush’s real intentions? Simple: construct a military plan in Iraq which achieves the objective of “regime change” and disarmament whilst concomitantly becoming a self-financing proposition. Occupy the Iraqi oil fields.

George Monbiot's article from Feb. 18 hits a different side of the issue. He doesn't explicitly address the trade deficit issue. But he brings up a related point:
Just as it was in the early 1930s, the US is suffering from surpluses of commodities, manufactured products, manufacturing capacity and money. Just as it was then, it is also faced with a surplus of labour, yet the two surpluses, as before, cannot be profitably matched. This problem has been developing in the US since 1973. It has now tried every available means of solving it and, by doing so, maintaining its global dominance. The only remaining, politically viable option is war.

How do these ideas mesh? How can we have a surplus of commodities, manufacturing capacity and money, yet have a trade deficit? Here is my understanding of the issue: the lean mean corporation ups profits by increasing production at the same time that it reduces costs. Dropping labor costs help the individual corporation, and can increase efficiency, but if everyone is laying off workers or paying lower wages in Malaysia or Mexico, then who will buy the goods?


(Warning: mumbo jumbo alert as I try to sort out my understanding of things below).


The arguments of Monbiot and Greider are, in a broad sense, linked. Monbiot's discussion of surplus production is familiar to me--I read it in Greider's book One World, Ready or Not. Greider said that really, a lot of the stuff about trade agreements obscurs the more important struggle between nations: trying to get grab a part of the limited production is to be done. Different countries fight for manufacturing plants in the same way that different cities and states within the US do. This allows corporations to play different regions against one another for lower prices, tax breaks, and lighter regulatory restrictions. Clearly, wages do not go to zero, and are regularly above subsistence by at least a little. So a long term effect of trade is that prosperity is evened out regionally. But lower wages for most workers does limit the amount your buyers. Thus the limited demand for products and the idea of oversupply...it's not that people wouldn't like your products, but there are a limitations to what people can afford. Some people are comparatively wealthy and everyone is fighting to get those customers. Greider, in One Worldsays that oversupply also comes from corporations fighting an all-or-nothing game: you win market share by being as cheap as possible and producing as much as possible. The price goes down, however. Even worse, those that produce a lot but get underpriced end up holding the bag.

The effect of multinational corporations ruling much American politics (economics, fiscal policy, and trade policy, certainly) is connected to the following decisions: so-called "free trade" agreements which lower the cost of labor in the U.S., a funneling of government spending and subsidies not to education or social welfare, but to the military and corporate tax breaks (Monbiot calls it "military Keynesianism"), and both budget and trade deficits.


Media Consolidation Flier


Flier about the FCC review of media ownership rules which I handed out to a thousand people at the S.F. peace demonstration Feb. 16. Change it if you want.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Hussein al-Queda Valentine Farce



I wrote the following letter to the editor to the Reno Gazette-Journal. They called me and said it would be published soon, but that was before the latest Bin Laden tape came out:

We must be skeptical of Secretary Powells evidence. False evidence
has been used to justify military attacks before. Before the first
Gulf War, President Bush, Sr. said satellite photos showed Iraqi
troops massing on the Saudi border. Years later, an examination of
satellite photographs showed this story to have been a fabrication.
Likewise, stories of babies being pulled from incubators were
revealed as inventions of a P.R. firm.

Powell’s efforts to link Saddam Hussein to al-Queda appear
groundless. A British intelligence report leaked to the BBC says
there are no current links between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda.
An FBI staffer said to the New York Times, Weve been looking at this
hard for more than a year and we just dont think its there.

It comes down to whether we are safer with or without this war.
International outrage is the result of our warmongering--I fear we
will provoke new terrorist attacks. But inspections destroyed most
of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s. We have a
chance to get the rest without the awful costs of war.

Because of the new Bin Laden tape, they may not publish the letter, but they should. I am astounded at the extent to which the media is uncritically parroting Powell’s contention that the tapes establish a connection between al-Queda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Because nothing we’ve heard makes that connection. There is an ideological gulf between Bin Laden’s fundamentalist Islam and Hussein’s secular dictatorship. The British intelligence report I referred to said that these differences have kept the groups apart. The latest tape has Bin Laden (if it is Bin Laden) addressing the Iraqi people and, it seems, denouncing Saddam Hussein.

This is from antiwar.com (via www.thismodernworld.com):

MSNBC television report this afternoon that their translation of
the latest Osama bin Laden tape being read on Al-Jazeera television
contains an appeal to the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

The online story now claims that this was a mistake, that Osama
only denounced Saddam as an 'infidel." The original story
contained this sentence in the second paragraph:

At the same time, the message also called on Iraqis to rise up and
oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who is a secular leader.

This AP story mentions that "he denounced Saddam's secular,
socialist al-Baath party as 'infidels.'"

This Reuters story says that bin Laden tells Muslims not to support
"the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including
Iraq," and that he urges support for the Iraqi people rather than
the Iraqi government.

It appears that, for some reason, the media has made a decision to
bury this part of the message.

And, for what it’s worth, from Tom Tomorrow at thismodernworld.com:

I recorded the translation as it was being broadcast, and here's
the beginning of Osama's message to the Iraqi people, courtesy
of the Tom Tomorrow transcription service:


We would like to confirm at this time the lies of America
and her allies. And what they are trying to do. We want
you to be faithful in your fight. We want you to believe in
God, the one and only God. We want you to get rid of the
government that you have, they are (indecipherable). We
want you to fight for the cause of God. Fight the tyrant
and fight the agents of the devil because the devil is going
to be overcome and defeated.

(UPDATE: I know that none of the online transcriptions feature
this passage. Nonetheless, it is what the real-time translator
says on my recording of the initial broadcast. MSNBC says it
was just a bad translation.)

When the radical folks at Berkeley Liberation Radio were asking for independent translations of Bin Laden tapes over a year ago, I felt their skepticism was overdone--I'd actually heard of an independent assessment from a Berkeley professor for one tape. But right now I'm troubled by a story that is more spin than substance, but which may be the P.R. move the administration needs to start the war.

Thursday, February 06, 2003


Iraq's Catch 22


I wrote this in response to the article in http://www.counterpunch.org entitled "A Riposte to Gen. Powell: Where are the Incubators?".

A real head-scratcher is the United States’ use of arms inspections to gather intelligence about where to target our bombs, and the resulting (and perhaps legitimate) motivation for Iraq to hide weapons from inspectors, whether or not they are weapons of mass destruction. In his address to the UN Security Council, Colin Powell derided Iraq for claiming that inspectors were being used for espionage and intelligence gathering on the part of the U.S. But such espionage clearly happened in the past. From the NYTimes on 1/7/99: "United States officials said today that American spies had worked undercover on teams of United Nations arms inspectors" (1). A March 1999 article in the Washington Post make it clear that the U.S. used U.N. inspections as a cover for gathering data about the Iraqi military (2). With the extent of information gathered (read that Post article!), it was probably used to help target the U.S. & British “Desert Fox” bombing campaign of Dec. 1998. Could such espionage be happening again? The team of inspectors assembled last November had 30 inspectors from the United States, more than any other country. Hans Blix said in a Reuters article that he “could not rule out the possibility that there might be spies on his team”(3). Given the history of U.S. behavior, and the weak position of Iraq to protest, I think it’s very likely that U.S. weapons inspectors on the UNSCOM team are gathering intelligence.

So Iraq is caught in this situation where it must show where its arms are at the same time that it is facing a war where showing its arms will place it at a disadvantage. It breaks down to a gnarly game. I personally feel like Iraq is and has been practicing deception. But in a sense, the military buildup on the part of the U.S.--combined with its history of using weapons inspectors as spies--may have made inspections LESS likely to work. Proponents for the military buildup say that they made inspections more likely to work because non-compliance would face serious repercussions--a serious threat of force was at hand. However, it has been my perception, and that of many others, that Bush & Co wanted war, period, and that they never intended to let the inspections work. (I’ve read plenty of opinions saying that war is almost inevitable now because the military mobilization has a momentum of its own and that it would be politically damaging to Bush to lose face and back down.) If Iraq has the same perception--that war is inevitable--then it makes sense for them to hide things. The hawks in the Bush Administration made war seem inevitable. If war is and has been inevitable, then an Iraqi strategy that plays games with the inspections is not just mischievous and stubborn--it is a rational response. If you’re pretty sure that inspections WON’T work and that you’re going to war anyway--then plan your strategy for the war and hide your weapons.

Perhaps you find my argument has holes. I have my doubts, too. Inspections were happening and if Iraq really wanted to avoid war, it could have cooperated completely. But I think my criticism has some validity: Bush&Co were saber rattling so strongly that they were at first reluctant to involve the UN, reluctant to go the route of inspections, and were critical of Iraq’s compliance from the very start. If Iraq has been playing games, the US has been, too. I think the extent of military buildup has undermined the inspections by giving Iraq a real incentive NOT to comply: you don’t want to show your arms when you are pretty sure you are going to war.

To clinch my argument, I note that Bush&Co have had the position that even if inspections go through and Iraq disarms, they still wanted Saddam Hussein out. So, Hussein has not had the option of just disarming--either he takes the nation to war or he accepts a potentially unsafe offer for asylum from Saudi Arabia. If he wants to stay in power, his only options have been 1) disarm and hope that the international community will prevent the U.S. from still seeking a "regime change" or 2) go ahead with war, in which case obfuscating inspections is the logical course.

This is similar to the situation in North Korea. In Paul Krugman's analysis, our belligerent posturing towards the "Axis of Evil" and a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes have meant that for North Korea "there is no point in playing nice"--instead, go ahead and become a nuclear power--it earns respect (4). Similarly, as much as you want to characterize Iraq's behavior as obfuscatory (and I think it is)--it may have been the behavior we have provoked.


SOURCES:
(1) http://www.fair.org/activism/unscom-history.html
(2) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/daily/march99/unscom2.htm
(3) Institute for Public Accuracy press release. http://www.accuracy.org/press_releases/PR111802.htm
(4) http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/03/opinion/03KRUG.html

OTHER LINKS:

--TheExperiment also discusses this Catch 22 and has an interview here.

--A 1999 article, The Hijacking of UNSCOM, by Susan Wright.


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