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imperialism & war | media criticism m19 2006

Oregonian's BIG weekend editorial section on Iraq War

The Oregonian sank to new depths this weekend marking the third anniversary of the U.S. War in Iraq. As hundreds of thousands marched around the world protesting peacefully against this war, The Oregonian led off its Opinion section with the huge type, "Crossroads or dead end?" Below were imbedded two, supposedly alternative views along the line of that heading, with a third innocuous title of an opinion piece on page B5, "Are we losing an unwinnable, unjustified war?"
So far so good for good ol' American journalism, you might say. That is until you read deeper into the article. First up is Max Boot, a member of what every American citizen should recognize as the ultimate manifestation of Eisenhower's infamous "military-industrial complex" warning about the U.S. getting involved in unjustified wars, the Council on Foreign Relations (I strongly urge everyone reading this to visit www.cfr.org and research its prevalence in post WWII Executive Branch policy). Mr. Boot argues that there's been a few mistakes, but hey, compared to WWII and the Cold War, it ain't all that bad. Then for the counter-point, we've got General Merrill A. McPeak (Air Force -retired and living in Lake Oswego), suggesting that we just have not tried hard enough and additional U.S. "sacrifice" like a military draft, might be just what we need to shore things up in Iraq. Turn to page B5 and we've got Oregonian associate editor, David Reinhard, famous for his pro-Republican scribbles on the virtues of supply-side economics and his favorite party's "moral" stances (when's your defense of White House male prostitute, Jeff Gannon, coming out David?). After the aforementioned misleading headline, this George Will wanna-be steps on his soap box of column inches and starts the party hummer about how the world is better off now that Saddam Hussein (the brutal dictator the Reagan Administration spent the better part of the 80s supporting) is out of power and how the anti-war left which wants to bring all U.S. troops home safe and sound NOW, seem to rejoice in our military's problems.

Before we take another stop further, let us all be reminded that our "local" newspaper, The Oregonian, is part of a national media conglomerate called Primedia, which is owned by a the heirs of Si Newhouse, a long time Republican backer who's net worth is listed in Forbes at around $7 billion, but has been estimated to be closer to $14 billion.

Before we go any further, let us take a moment to ponder what this major newspaper in a 75% left-leaning major city called Portland didn't include in this anniversary Opinion piece. That would be an editorial by one of the people who warned against this war, like Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who told Donald Rumsfield (one of those civilian hawks who's never been in the military) that the Iraq War could not be won with less than 300,000 troops (he recommeded 500,000) and that the war would cost upward of $200 billion (civilian hawks rejected his estimates). Heck, you could even include Gen. "Stormin'" Norman Schwarzopf, the Republican "hero" of the first Gulf War, who vehemently warned against the occupation before the war. There is no shortage of heretofore loyal Republican hawks who warned that this Neocon adventure was a bad idea from the start. You really don't even need to find a Democrat to editorialize just what a mess we are in, because there are plenty of Republicans saying the same thing. Unfortunately, their views are not on offer.

Max Boot goes on to say that "it is entirely possible the naysayers will be proven right and the invasion will go down a fiasco...the more opposition on the home front, the less chance for our troops to prevail." Boot goes on to cite World War II and the Cold War to support his thesis that war is very expensive business and that mistakes have been made. The mistakes are similar, says Boot, to "the failed invasion of Canada" (I thought that was still in the realm of conspiracy theory) or The Battle of the Bulge in WWII. He cites several miscalculated battles to prove his point, but doesn't pause to mention that they were battles in a war in process, not radical "pre-emptive" acts of war sold by a U.S. President, knowingly based on false information. Boot goes on to blame the "incessant harping of the news media" and the "anti-war" movement for taking things out of context. Afterall, we've only lost an average of two men per day in this war. Nevermind that Army physicians have publicly raised the alarm about how debilitating injuries have been in this war, resulting in a higher number of amputations and shattered lives, to prevent a WMD threat that even President Bush has admitted did not exist. Boot may want to cancel his next cocktail party with David Rockefeller and his CFR chums so he can cultivate some statistics on the Civil War to make the current Gulf War more palatable, since amputations were much higher then. Then again, he shouldn't worry, since Donald Rumsfield has assured the press that civil war in Iraq won't look anything like the American Civil War. I'm not sure if that's due to a lack of blue and grey hats in the Middle East or not, but comforting words nonetheless.

Next up is retired USAF Gen. McPeak, who now resides in Lake Oswego, Oregon. McPeak flew "269 combat missions in Vietnam." McPeak sounds much like Alexander Haig, Richard Nixon, his old boss General Westmoreland, and Herr Kissinger. McPeak has the gonads to break with the party line and admit that we are caught in a civil war in Iraq, though a "low intensity" one. McPeak suggests that America needs to "control" the Iraqi government, which is at odds with all the bullshit about Iraqis governing themselves and establishing Democracy, but let's not let that end our analysis of our hawkish neighbor's commentary. Though poll after poll indicates that Iraqis want Americans out, McPeak insitst that "it's only our presence on-scene that retards the momentum of sectarian violence." We need "something like 250,000 to 300,000" troop strength. Well, we had about 500,000 in Vietnam at the height of that failed intervention and McPeak's figure is about what General Zinni predicted would be needed in the first place, so I guess that makes sense. Then he goes on to say "but we know democracy works only when checks and balances constrain the majority, when some rule of law protects the weak and disempowered." I didn't realize that this was a comedy piece, but McPeak basically lays the argument for why America is on the fast track to totalitarianism. I'd suggest he read the report by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, "What Went Wront in Ohio," or the GAO report that verified his findings.

From there, McPeak goes on to suggest that we need to spend even more money, "even a return to the draft," as his answer to "die hard Bush apologists." I am left to wonder how many opium cigarettes Merrill McPeak smoked in the whore houses of Da-Nang or if he ever read the Pentagon Papers. Nowhere does he mention CIA backed president Diem in Saigon or U.S. experiences with him milking American money and brutally repressing the Buddhist anti-war activists in Vietnam. He doesn't mention the activities of CIA Chief Jeremy Shakley in the "Golden Triangle" to disrupt opium producers that were not friendly to U.S. intelligence assets. He does not mention that the increased troop levels and investment by Americans, relentlessly touted by Washington hawks, ultimately led to more than 60,000 American dead and the fall of Saigon. He doesn't mention that most leading economists credit the U.S. debt burden from that war for the rush on U.S. gold and the decision to abandon the gold standard for the oil standard (which is currently in place, but failing fast). McPeak doesn't mention the level of fraud and the assistance given to South Vietnamese military who were channeling U.S. arms and intelligence to the NVA, even though many military officals in Iraq have publicly warned that U.S. training, arms, and intelligence are ending up in the hands of insurgents.

Switching now to our local Neocon bootlick, David Reinhard, to close the one-sided assault on Americans who choose to think for themselves rather than let Republican pundits do the thinking for them. Despite the fact that opposition to the war is coming from all sides of the political spectrum, he says the "anti-war left" seems to be "rooting against a peaceful and democratic Iraq." Reinhard characteristically doesn't go into depth about how we expected to achieve peace and democracy by installing President Allawi, a former member of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party, or supporting Iraqi congressman, Ahmed Chalabi, one of Dick Cheney's favorite "intellegence assets" who helped lie America into invading Iraq in the first place. Allawi is known in intelligence circles as a "thug" who "helped Saddam gain power" in the 1970s. Chalabi is suspected by Israeli intelligence of having tipped off Iran that the CIA had broken their communications code, presumably to his own profit. Yet Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, etc, all stand behind these men and continue to promote them in Iraq. The comparisons here to U.S. support of President Diem in Vietnam, himself a political thug known to crack down on dissent, are apparent.

Reinhard then goes on to praise the "100,000 Iraqi soldiers that hit the streets" after the the recent Samarra bombing. Yet Gen. George Casey just recently testified to Congress that only one Iraqi division is capable of operating without U.S. support, three years after the start of the war. He denies that Iraq is drifting toward civil war, citing (laughably) Victor Davis Hansen of the Neocon think tank the Hoover Institution as an objective voice. Throw in the opinion of "retired military officer Ralph Peters... He's actually been there." Peters doesn't see Civil War in Iraq either. What a relief. Why then has Donald Rumsfield in recent weeks admitted that the Pentagon is "war-gaming" for civil war in Iraq, or why has Leslie Gelb, president of the ultimate military-industrial think tank, the CFR, warned of fragmentation and civil war between Sunnis and Shiites? Why is FOX News running pundit analysis for American viewers under the title of "The Upside of Civil War in Iraq?"

"So what does an Iraq War hawk say three years later," asks Reinhard, closing the column. "All this, thanks to our soldiers who went off to fight and sometimes die in a noble and winnable war." The last five words of the column sounding frightening familiar to those of us who remember the hawkish justification for escalation of the war in Vietnam. The one question all of these columnists avoid, as has the Bush Administration since day one, is 'how much is too much?' Assuming the direction that The Oregonian obviously supports, escalation of commitment, is correct, where do we draw the line? Currently 1,000 Iraqis each month are turning up dead in sectarian violence. That is about 30 Iraqi civilians a day, many mutilated and showing signs of torture. How many deaths qualify for civil war status? How many need to die before the "upside" of civil war kicks in? How many thanks is Reinhard willing to offer to the families of the dead, the amputated, the depleted uranium poisoned, or the mentally traumatized? How many more hudreds of billions of dollars are justified in this "noble" war? When does "winnable" give way to the probability that Iraq will end up like Nixon's Vietnam, Churchill's Gallapoli, Haig's Passhendale, Montgomery's Antwerp, McAurthur's North Korea, Westmoreland's Kaesong, etc? The common denominator is hawkish arrogance and, as Roger Water's once wrote, that "they play the game with the bravery of being out of range."

Senator Hiram Johnson's 1918 declaration that "The first casualty when war comes is the truth," stands today more than ever. The reality is that the "anti-war left" is not getting even close to an equal portion of the mainstream media, though all of the above articles would have you believe that what you are seeing is a preponderance of negative war coverage. This despite the fact that the current Iraq War is probably the most censored since WWI. The Oregonian cites a CBS News poll indicating that support for the war has fallen to 31%, despite the fact that the public has been prevented from seeing the kind of combat coverage that occured in Vietnam. The bodies of the dead arrive at night and press coverage of the coffins rolling off the C-131 aerial hurses is prohibited. Casualty statistics are quoted that do not include soldiers who die from their wounds more than 24 hours after the combat incident are accepted by the media without question.

On a day that marks three years after America was not, in fact, greeted as liberators by a nation that many of America's most experienced (and even Republican) intelligence experts asserted had no role in 9-11 (a fact later admitted by President Bush himself), it is truly a shame on The Oregonian that it could not publish a single anti-war editorial. On a day when thousands of Portland citizens have gathered to protest the War in Iraq and demand that our troops be returned to their American homeland and safe from the threat of death and injury, the only perspectives that The Oregonian could give column inches to were those that attacked the peace movement and justified the bloodshed in pathetically ambiguous terms. As American soldiers fight and die under the auspices of democracy and freedom, The Oregonian betrayed those very traditions of freedom of speech and press, becoming a propaganda organ for one party rule. People like McPeak and Reinhard do more to disgrace America and insult U.S. troops abroad than any peace activist, because they continue to perpetuate the lies that led America to war and attack the very foundation of our democracy--a government of the governed.



Robert Ted Hinds is a former 2006 City Council candidate and 2004 mayoral candidate in Portland, Oregon. His grandfather was a Marine during WWI, and his grandmother's cousin was killed in his first day of combat on the Western Front in the Argonne Forest campaign. Hinds has several relatives who fought during WWII, including one who was killed in action in the Philipines. Hinds' father was drafted while in college and served as a psychiatric nurse in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. Hinds has degrees in Business, Economics, and Psychology from the University of Oregon and over 15 years of professional experience in finance, economics, and market research with some of the world's largest and most respected corporations.
Well Written ! 19.Mar.2006 20:33

Vic

Well written ! Good job and heres wishing you much success !

Failure of Journalistic Standards 20.Mar.2006 01:06

Portlander

The Oregonian as the only newspaper with state-wide circulation has an obligation to provide for BALANCED coverage especially to offset the views of the Pro-war, Pro-Israel Editorial Board. It is time that we demand BALANCE and FAIRNESS in The Opinion Pages!!!

The Feature Article on Sunday is Telling... 20.Mar.2006 11:22

Varro

...that it's not about Bush, or about how it's all chocolates and flowers for the Iraqis now that Saddam Hussein is out of power, but it's about a vet whose life was fucked up by the war.

They wouldn't have run that article had the war been as Bush, Cheney, Rummy, and the rest of the Bush Crime Family portray it.

I disagree, The Oregonian does have an obligation... 26.Mar.2006 13:07

Limo Liberal

Remember the Fairness Doctrine? You can't tell me that The Oregonian couldn't find a single, distinguished anti-war advocate in Portland to weigh in on the wisdom for a less militant strategy to the problems in the Middle East. The author is correct in asserting that Portland is a predominantly liberal city and "journalism" means responsibility in representing a balanced argument. A given newspapers bias is one thing, but it's intentional distortion and misrepresentation of the ideological spectrum belonging to the readership it is supposed to represent is another thing altogether. That is not journalism, it is propaganda, just like FOX News' O'Reilly Factor or Rush Limbaugh.