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Snowden Made the Right Call When He Fled the US July 8, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, History, Whistle-blowing, Wikileaks.
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Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

(Photo: The Guardian)

 

After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg was put on trial in 1973 for leaking the Pentagon Papers, but the case was dismissed after four months because of government misconduct. He is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

Monsanto, Agent Orange Creator, Returns To Vietnam February 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Health, History, Vietnam, War.
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Published on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 by Common Dreams

Monsanto ready to sell GM crops and weed-killing chemicals in Vietnam; Many outraged

  – Common Dreams staff

Multinational agricultural biotech corporation Monsanto, known as the creator of chemical weapon Agent Orange, is attempting to infiltrate Vietnam once again — this time as GMO dealer.

Agent Orange, used for chemical warfare in the Vietnam War, is estimated to have killed 400,000, deformed 500,000 and sickened another 2 million.

“BA VI, VIETNAM: Handicapped orphans are fed by the medical staff at the Ba Vi orphanage. These young children represent the 3rd generation of Agent Orange victims more than 30 years after the war in Vietnam, where a battle is still being fought to help people suffering from the effects of the deadly chemical.” – Global Post (Photo Paula Bronstein / AFP/Getty Images)

“Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects, and other chronic diseases during the war that ended in 1975, according to the Vietnam Red Cross,” Thanh Nienn News writes.

30 years after the war, three generations have suffered from the effects of Agent Orange.

Now, as Monsanto seeks to reap profits in Vietnam once again, this time through agribusiness, many are speaking out against the corporation as well as the potential effects of the GM seeds and herbicides that Monsanto seeks to sell.

* * *

Thanh Nienn News in Ho Chi Minh City reports:

No biotech company has yet got the official green light for selling genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but it does not assuage the fears that Vietnam could end up with another tragic legacy from a company that once caused many deaths in the country, environmental activists say.

It would be ironic if Vietnam becomes a willing party to a “lethal” product made by the same US company that manufactured Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used during the Vietnam War.It would be ironic if Vietnam becomes a willing party to a “lethal” product made by the same US company that manufactured Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used during the Vietnam War, they pointed out. [...]

In 2006 the government approved a blueprint that envisaged covering between 30 percent and half of the country’s agriculture lands with the controversial gene-altered crops by 2020.

Only three companies – Monsanto, Syngenta, and Pioneer – have been licensed to carry out lab research and tests in Vietnam, the minister’s statement said.

Monsanto accounts for almost one-quarter (23 percent) of the global proprietary seed market.

[Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh, former deputy defense minister, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange] is also worried about the weedkiller Roundup Monsanto plugs for use along with its crops.

“By introducing [GMOs] paired with toxic weed killers, the tragic legacy of Agent Orange might repeat itself,” he warned. [...]

The U.S. Airforce spraying ‘Agent Orange’ defoliant over the countryside of Vietnam. Originally termed “Operation Hades,” the spraying program was renamed “Operation Ranch Hand” to improve public relations.

Jeffrey Smith, author of the bestseller Seeds of Deception and founder and executive director of the California, US-based NGO Institute for Responsible Technology, said: “It is not inconsequential that a new genetically modified corn up for review is designed to be tolerant to the herbicide 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange.

“This means that much higher amounts of toxic 2,4-D will drench the agricultural lands where this new crop is planted.

“It would be a harsh and ironic consequence if Vietnamese people suffer from birth defects from both of these Monsanto products, Roundup and Agent Orange.”

* * *

The Global Post reports:

Monsanto is, of course, highly aware of Agent Orange’s reputation and has fought numerous lawsuits filed by chemical’s victims both Vietnamese and American. The chemical, commissioned by the U.S. military, was dumped over jungles to kill vegetation and rout communist forces.

In Monsanto’s own primer on the Agent Orange era, it casts the chemical as patriotic — it was meant “to save the lives of U.S. and allied soldiers,” Monsanto says — and contends that the matter “should be resolved by the governments that were involved.”

Keeping Monsanto out of Vietnam already appears to be an uphill fight.

A Vietnamese legislator and former deputy defense minister has, according to Thanh Nien, faced evasion when he tried to raise the issue with the [government].

14 Comments so far

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Posted by Atomsk
Feb 7 2012 – 4:52pm
      So…who *exactly* won that war in the end?   Is it still obvious that it was “worth it”? :-(((( So that Vietnam can now “democratically” allow these god damn evil shitfuckers to make even more money on them?   Fuck, this is a fucking god damn disgrace, pissing on the graves of the millions of brave peasants who died fighting against the shitfucking imperialist pigdogs.  Fuck.  Fuck.  FUCK.
Posted by tellthetruth
Feb 7 2012 – 5:19pm
      Lots of folks are going to be outraged. Many of us cut our protest teeth trying to end that insane genocide and expose the profiteers behind it.
But Monsanto? Darling of the Nazi World Order? I am really appalled this could happen, everywhere I look, people still buy into the BS.
One of my pet projects is investigating the myths of human culture including anthropological/historical myths… been looking very hard at SE Asia… as a natural human habitat it ranks… First? maybe.
And now: “In 2006 the government approved a blueprint that envisaged covering between 30 percent and half of the country’s agriculture lands with the controversial gene-altered crops by 2020.”
There must be a reckoning. There are no nations (not sovereign ones anyway). Ignore these deceptive constructs… it’s a total waste of time. There are policy makers and planners that are international, the defacto elite world order (Nazi World Order). Address them!!
Because, they have only one agenda… defoliate, dessertify, toxify, starve, pollute, enslave, militarize, incarcerate, genocide… to extend and maintain elite rule.
Posted by Atomsk
Feb 7 2012 – 5:27pm
      I don’t really like to compare people to Nazis because, you know, they were pretty bad people, it’s not too easy to follow in their footsteps.  But this…wow.  Definitely very good students.  Mengele would be so proud.  Although maybe he did work for Monsanto, who knows.
Posted by WonderWoman
Feb 7 2012 – 5:08pm
      So sad. I remember reading a while back that the U.S. government decided to quit investigating the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam (see: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7034/full/434687a.html). Not sure about the specifics of that case or whether an investigation was resumed at some point since then.
Here’s an excellent article that’s also related to the general topic of health effects of chemicals used in agriculture (though, not specifically about Vietnam) that was just published a couple of days ago: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/03/poisoned-in-the-fields/
And, just in case anyone here thinks that these chemicals don’t affect them: well, in rural areas around the U.S., land is still [being] contaminated with a lot of herbicide/pesticide/defoliant residue.
Posted by Atomsk
Feb 7 2012 – 5:20pm
      I just think this is even worse than “just” the poison issue, which is already extremely bad :-/   You know, ‘Roundup’ in Vietnam?  Maybe ‘Roundup and Execute?’  ‘Roundup and Move into Model Village?’  This is just disgusting.
Posted by tellthetruth
Feb 7 2012 – 6:25pm
      Interesting you mention ‘model village’. One of the freakiest things I saw there. When I retell the story, I wonder myself at what I saw. Looked like individuals, remnants of other families, thrown together into units to comprise ‘model’ families to make ‘family’ units for the ‘model village’.
Posted by John F. Butterfield
Feb 7 2012 – 6:06pm
      Mutational agricultural biotech corporation Monsanto
Posted by Steve Woodward
Feb 7 2012 – 6:10pm
      It’s not surprising that “Keeping Monsanto out of Vietnam already appears to be an uphill fight.” It is, after all, a fight we lost without even engaging here in the U.S., where they simply own our agriculture. This is one corporation which deserves to be burned to the ground. Careful, though — you wouldn’t want to breathe the fumes from a fire like that.
Posted by jclientelle
Feb 7 2012 – 9:14pm
      Thank you CD for this article.
“In 2006 the government approved a blueprint that envisaged covering between 30 percent and half of the country’s agriculture lands with the controversial gene-altered crops by 2020.”.
What in the hell is wrong with them?  They fought off the French.  They fought off the most powerful military on earth using brains. organization, and an unusual level of incorruptibility.  They have suffered the consequences of ruthless use of chemical poisons on their land.  Now that they are rid of imperialist armies,  they invite one of the worst devils of the corporate sector to take over their food supply, to poison and exploit the land.
Is Madame Nhu back in town? I can only imagine some big money changed hands.  That’s the default explanation when destructive paths are inexplicably  taken.  Makes me sad.
Posted by PaulK
Feb 7 2012 – 8:55pm
      The solution is obvious:Roundup-ready and Agent Orange-ready GM Vietnamese Children.  A little slice of fish gene, maybe a few genes from the country’s Politburo chairman inserted into every Vietnamese woman’s fertilized egg cell and voila!  The kids are great swimmers too!

Posted by suhail_shafi
Feb 7 2012 – 9:51pm
      I sometimes wish more Vietnamese people in Vietnam and around the world would come forward to expose the true savagery of what the US inflicted on their country. Most of the opposition to the war and the depiction of what horrors really happened come from Americans which gives a very one sided depiction of the Vietnam war.
Posted by PantherM120
Feb 7 2012 – 10:13pm
      Vietnam has one of the more corrupt governments and corrupt bureaucracies in the world. All too easy to buy one’s way around Vietnam if one has a spare $100 million. Vietnam is also a police state, like the USA, and whilst it is all smiles for the foreigner, you are being watched. The southern Vietnamese disease went north very quickly after 1975, no doubt aided by the extreme poverty forced on the country by the US and western trade embargo that lasted until the Vietnamese caved in in 1989. Poverty breeds corruption in government, which is no doubt why we have austerity measures forced on us by such benevolent organisations as the IMF and World Bank.
Posted by clearbluesky
Feb 8 2012 – 12:04am
      In Vietnam, they practically lost an entire generation, after the war the largest part of the population were 35 years old or younger.  This is not the usual cultural context there and the profiteers have been relentless (that is what the war was designed to do and in some places continues on some levels).  Shock and awe.  The effects of agent orange are pervasive.  Most of the people here that were involved are sick or dying, but the legacy lives on.
Posted by SisterVee
Feb 8 2012 – 3:42am
      How can the government of Vietnam consider talking to these inhumane killers.  Monsanto wants the world to think that they have cleaned up their act. No, they haven’t. They are the same greedy, selfish bastards they were back in the Vietnam War.    I am ashamed that the Government of Vietnam did not send a platoon of soldiers to escort them back to the plane and kick their azzes out of Vietnam.  Is there no end to the greed and selfishness of American corporations?

America Owned by Its Army November 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Monday, November 9, 2009 by CommonDreams.orgby William Pfaff

It is possible that the creation of an all-professional American army was the most dangerous decision ever taken by Congress. The nation now confronts a political crisis in which the issue has become an undeclared contest between Pentagon power and that of a newly elected president.

Barack Obama has yet to declare his decision on the war in Afghanistan, and there is every reason to think that he will follow military opinion. Yet he is under immense pressure from his Republican opponents to, in effect, renounce his presidential power, and step aside from the fundamental strategic decisions of the nation.

The officer he named to command the war in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, demands a reinforcement of forty thousand soldiers, raising the total US commitment to over 100 thousand troops (or more, in the future). He says that he cannot succeed without them, and even then may be unable to win the war within a decade. Yet the American public is generally in doubt about this war, most of all the president’s own liberal electorate.

President Obama almost certainly will do as the the general requests, or something very close to it. He can read the wartime politics in this situation.

The Vietnam war was opposed by the public by the 1970s, when according to the Pentagon Papers, the government itself knew that victory was unlikely. Today the public doubts victory in the war in Afghanistan. However the version of Vietnam history most Americans (who were not there!) read today says there really was no defeat at all.

It is argued that there was only a collapse of civilian support for the war, caused by the liberal press, producing popular disaffection both at home and inside the conscript army, with a breakdown of military discipline, “fraggings” (murders) of aggressive combat leaders, and demoralization in the ranks. This is the version most military officers believe today.

It is an American version of the “stab in the back” myth believed in German military and right-wing political circles after the first world war.

In the US case, the Vietnam defeat was painfully clear at the time, and few believed that either the US Congress or the Nixon Administration (which signed the peace agreement with North Vietnam) were parties to any betrayal of the United States.

Today the revised interpretation of the Vietnam war, claiming that it actually was a lost victory, has become an important issue because most Pentagon leaders are committed to the “Long War” against “Muslim terrorism.” An Obama administration order to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq (or Pakistan) would be attacked by many in Congress and the media, and by implicitly insubordinate elements in the military community, as “surrender” by an Obama government lacking patriotism and unfit to govern.

Conservative politicians are convinced that any policy not set on total victory for the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan – and in coming months, perhaps in Somalia, Yemen, or possibly in Palestine, or sub-Saharan Africa, (or even in an Iran determined to pursue its nuclear ambitions) – would mean American humiliation and defeat.

After Vietnam, Congress ended conscription (which in that war had become heavily corrupt: the poor and working classes were drafted, while many of the privileged had influential families and found complacent doctors or college deans willing to hand over unjustified draft exemptions to those – like the future Vice President Richard Cheney – who had “other priorities” than patriotism and national service.

Congress created a new all-volunteer army. The sociology of the new army was very different from the old citizens’ army. The new one was also composed of people who wanted to be soldiers, or wanted the college education that an enlistment could earn you, or often were high-school graduates who didn’t have much in the way of other career choices, but since 9/11, and the Iraq invasion, the new army has increasingly relied on immigrants or other young foreigners who can earn permanent US residence by way of a US Army enlistment. The US also increasingly has relied on foreign mercenaries hired by private companies.

Its professional character is fundamentally different from the old army. In the old army, career West Point officers were during wartime largely outnumbered by war-service-only officers, the graduates of Officer Candidate schools or Reserve Officers trained in universities (where much of the cost of higher education could be earned in exchange for a fixed term of duty afterwards as a junior commissioned officer).

Thus the US army from the start of the Second World War to the end of Vietnam was effectively a democratic army, with civilian conscripts, and the majority of its non-commissioned and commissioned officers peacetime civilians, with solid commitments to civilian society, often with families at home – doing their temporary (or “for the war’s duration”) patriotic duty.

Professional armies have often been considered a threat to their own societies. It was one of Frederick the Great’s own officers who described Prussia “as an army with a state, in which it was temporarily quartered, so to speak”. The French revolutionary statesman Mirabeau said that “war is Prussia’s national industry”. Considering the portion of the US national budget that is now consumed by the Pentagon, much the same could be said of the United States.

The new army also has political ambitions. It now dominates US foreign relations with a thousand bases worldwide and regional commanders like imperial proconsuls. Both General McChrystal and his superior, General David H Petraeus, have been mentioned as future presidential candidates. The last general who became American president was Dwight Eisenhower. He is the one who warned Americans against “the military-industrial complex”.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services International

William Pfaff is the author of eight books on American foreign policy, international relations, and contemporary history, including books on utopian thought, romanticism and violence, nationalism, and the impact of the West on the non-Western world. His newspaper column, featured in The International Herald Tribune for more than a quarter-century, and his globally syndicated articles, have given him the widest international influence of any American commentator.

Celebrating Cronkite While Ignoring What He Did July 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Media, Vietnam.
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Published on Saturday, July 18, 2009 by Salon.com by Glenn Greenwald

“The Vietcong did not win by a knockout [in the Tet Offensive], but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. . . . We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. . . .

“For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. . . . To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past” — Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News, February 27, 1968.

“I think there are a lot of critics who think that [in the run-up to the Iraq War] . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you’re a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn’t do our job. I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role” – David Gregory, MSNBC, May 28, 2008.

 

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam died, media stars everywhere commemorated his death as though he were one of them — as though they do what he did — even though he had nothing but bottomless, intense disdain for everything they do.  As he put it in a 2005 speech to students at the Columbia School of Journalism:  “the better you do your job, often going against conventional mores, the less popular you are likely to be . . . . By and large, the more famous you are, the less of a journalist you are.” 

In that same speech, Halberstam cited as the “proudest moment” of his career a bitter argument he had in 1963 with U.S. Generals in Vietnam, by which point, as a young reporter, he was already considered an “enemy” of the Kennedy White House for routinely contradicting the White House’s claims about the war (the President himself asked his editor to pull Halberstam from reporting on Vietnam).  During that conflict, he stood up to a General in a Press Conference in Saigon who was attempting to intimidate him for having actively doubted and aggressively investigated military claims, rather than taking and repeating them at face value:

Picture if you will rather small room, about the size of a classroom, with about 10 or 12 reporters there in the center of the room. And in the back, and outside, some 40 military officers, all of them big time brass. It was clearly an attempt to intimidate us.

General Stilwell tried to take the intimidation a step further. He began by saying that Neil and I had bothered General Harkins and Ambassador Lodge and other VIPs, and we were not to do it again. Period.

And I stood up, my heart beating wildly — and told him that we were not his corporals or privates, that we worked for The New York Times and UP and AP and Newsweek, not for the Department of Defense.

I said that we knew that 30 American helicopters and perhaps 150 American soldiers had gone into battle, and the American people had a right to know what happened. I went on to say that we would continue to press to go on missions and call Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins, but he could, if he chose, write to our editors telling them that we were being too aggressive, and were pushing much too hard to go into battle. That was certainly his right.

Can anyone imagine any big media stars — who swoon in reverence both to political power and especially military authority — defying military instructions that way, let alone being proud of it?  Halberstam certainly couldn’t imagine any of them doing it, which is why, in 1999, he wrote:

Obviously, it should be a brilliant moment in American journalism, a time of a genuine flowering of a journalistic culture . . .

But the reverse is true. Those to whom the most is given, the executives of our three networks, have steadily moved away from their greatest responsibilities, which is using their news departments to tell the American people complicated truths, not only about their own country, but about the world around us. . . .

Somewhere in there, gradually, but systematically, there has been an abdication of responsibility within the profession, most particularly in the networks. . . . So, if we look at the media today, we ought to be aware not just of what we are getting, but what we are not getting; the difference between what is authentic and what is inauthentic in contemporary American life and in the world, with a warning that in this celebrity culture, the forces of the inauthentic are becoming more powerful all the time.

All of that was ignored when he died, with establishment media figures exploiting his death to suggest that his greatness reflected well on what they do, as though what he did was the same thing as what they do (much the same way that Martin Luther King’s vehement criticisms of the United States generally and its imperialism and aggression specifically have been entirely whitewashed from his hagiography).

So, too, with the death of Walter Cronkite.  Tellingly, his most celebrated and significant moment — Greg Mitchell says “this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million” — was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.  In other words, Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed.  These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

Despite that, media stars will spend ample time flamboyantly commemorating Cronkite’s death as though he reflects well on what they do (though probably not nearly as much time as they spent dwelling on the death of Tim Russert, whose sycophantic servitude to Beltway power and “accommodating head waiter”-like, mindless stenography did indeed represent quite accurately what today’s media stars actually do).  In fact, within Cronkite’s most important moments one finds the essence of journalism that today’s modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility.

 UPDATE:  A reader reminds me that — very shortly after Tim Russert’s June, 2008 death — long-time Harper‘s editor Lewis Lapham attended a party to mark the release of a new book on Hunter Thompson, and Lapham said a few words.  According to New York Magazine‘s Jada Yuan, this is what happened:

Lewis Lapham isn’t happy with political journalism today. “There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field,” he said at a premiere party for Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on June 25. “The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government.” An example? “Tim Russert was a spokesman for power, wealth, and privilege,” Lapham said. “That’s why 1,000 people came to his memorial service. Because essentially he was a shill for the government. It didn’t matter whether it was Democratic or Republican. It was for the status quo.” What about Russert’s rep for catching pols in lies? “That was bullshit,” he said. “Thompson and Russert were two opposite poles.”

Writing in Harper‘s a few weeks later, Lapham — in the essay about Russert (entitled “An Elegy for a Rubber Stamp”) where he said Russert’s “on-air persona was that of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter, as helpless as Charlie Rose in his infatuation with A-list celebrity” — echoed Halberstam by writing:

Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession.

That Lapham essay is full of piercing invective (“On Monday I thought I’d heard the end of the sales promotion. Tim presumably had ascended to the great studio camera in the sky to ask Thomas Jefferson if he intended to run for president in 1804″), and — from a person who spent his entire adult life in journalism — it contains the essential truth about modern establishment journalism in America:

On television the voices of dissent can’t be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the “news media” serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature. Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as “securitizing the junk.” When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn’t think, we’re here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.

That’s why they so intensely celebrated Tim Russert:  because he was the epitome of what they do, and it’s why they’ll celebrate Walter Cronkite (like they did with David Halberstam) only by ignoring the fact that his most consequential moments were ones where he did exactly that which they will never do.

© 2009 Salon.com

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Robert McNamara and Smedley Butler July 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Vietnam, War.
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Published on Monday, July 13, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Tom Gallagher
There’s been a lot of ink spilled in the past week over how we ought to think about the late Robert McNamara. (And yes, real ink, not just virtual – even the remaining real newspapers were in on it.) Does the fact that he came to realize that the Vietnam War (“McNamara’s War” to some) was wrong even as he continued to pursue it as Lyndon Johnson’s Defense Secretary make him a better or a worse person? And what of his willingness to say it publicly – but only three decades later? There may be a more useful way to think about him, however. And it involves considering him not in conjunction with, say, Henry Kissinger, who followed a course similar to his but apparently without hesitation, but more in terms of General Smedley Butler, someone who did learn from his experience.

Butler, of course, achieved far greater clarity than the ever-hedging McNamara did. Butler’s story is fairly well known: four years after a military career that included service in Cuba, China, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, Haiti, and France, he wrote a book called “War is a Racket.” He gave speeches in which he would say things like, “during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Whether any of this later-in-life understanding made Butler a better or worse person I do not know. What I do know, though, is that what Butler was willing to say and write was extremely helpful to more than one generation of antiwar activists: “Hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to this guy, he should know.”

Likewise, I suggest to no one that they should get over their antipathy to Robert McNamara if that is what they feel – the evil that he and Kissinger and the rest did will long outlive them. And anyone who no longer hates the criminals should certainly remain outraged at their crimes. But let us take something of value out of McNamara’s life.

When we encounter potential military recruits looking to serve in one of the nation’s seemingly always available wars but not looking too closely at exactly what it is we’re fighting for because they assume our leaders wouldn’t lead them astray on matters of life and death, let’s tell them about Robert McNamara. If the man in charge of one of our wars could later write that what the US did at the time was “wrong, terribly wrong,” don’t we all owe it to ourselves to take a closer look at where those in power are leading us today?

And when it comes to questioning the conduct of modern war, it’s hard to beat McNamara’s comments in Errol Morris’ documentary film “The Fog of War”: “We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” he told Morris. “[General Curtis] LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals.” And that was World War II he was talking about – the “good war.” Words to keep in mind the next time one of our drones accidently bombs a wedding.

A remark of McNamara’s made during a C-SPAN discussion of his 1995 memoir, “Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam,” is a good reminder of just how infuriating he could be, right to the end. In regard to Vietnam, he told his interviewer, “We were fighting — and we didn’t realize it — a civil war. Now, true, obviously there were Soviet and Chinese influence and support and no question that the communists were trying to control South Vietnam, but it was basically a civil war.”

Well, if McNamara didn’t know it was a civil war, it wasn’t because tens of thousands of the war’s opponents hadn’t said so or because President Eisenhower hadn’t publicly acknowledged that Ho Chi Minh would have been elected president of Vietnam in a fair election.

But even if McNamara may never have been a man to be taken entirely at his word, what he went on to say on C-SPAN that day might just have some value today as the US plunges deeper into an already nearly eight year old war in Afghanistan: “And one of the things we should learn is you can’t fight and win a civil war with outside troops, and particularly not when the political structure in a country is dissolved.”

 
Tom Gallagher is a San Francisco antiwar activist who initiated last November’s successful Proposition U calling upon the city’s congressional representatives to vote no further funding for the Iraq War.  He is a past member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  Contact him at TGTGTGTGTG@aol.com
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