James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More big news you haven't seen

The corporate news giants have deliberately failed us again. Big time.

It would be interesting to learn how many Americans have seen the biggest news story of the past month – or perhaps it's the biggest news story of the past three months, or even longer.

The news is contained in a memo from the United States ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad to his bosses in the State Department.

My guess is that no more than 10 percent of U.S. citizens know the story, which has been told throughout the rest of the world.

Like most of the corporate news outlets, my local newspaper didn't run it as a news story. The basic facts did show up on the op-ed page several days late, in a column by Paul Mulshine, distributed by Newhouse News Service. Mulshine, a columnist for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, was as bewildered as I was, and am, by the failure of the corporate news media to pick up on the story, and as suspicious.

(The now well-established pattern in my home newspaper, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, now goes like this: The news side of the operation, deliberately or otherwise, misses a big story and the good journalists on the editorial/opinion side try to make up for it by running a column that provides the basic facts while offering a commentary. The missed story almost inevitably involves important facts that reflect badly on the Bush.)

Both Mulshine and I, in our foolishness, both with much experience in the news business, saw early reports and figured the story would be at the top of page one in our newspapers the next morning. We were wrong, of course.

The news – Mulshine described it in his column as a “blockbuster story,” which also was my reaction – was covered by most of the on-line news outfits. As I recall, I first saw it in a report by The Independent, from Britain, distributed by one of our own Internet news services.

Do you know the news I'm talking about here?

Khalizad's cable was sent to State June 6. It was leaked to the press, presumably by someone within the State Department, somewhere around June 18 or 19. The Independent story I saw was dated June 20.

In that memo, the ambassador lays waste to the claims of "progress" still being made by the Pentagon and, especially, by the twisted trio of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in their fund-raising appearances before loyalty-screened crowds of very rich people around the country.

The Iraqi government we engineered is on its way to being self-sustaining, the Bush bunch says. It is approaching the point at which it can keep its citizens safe, they claim.

Wrong, said Khalilzad in the message not meant for our eyes: In fact, Islamic militancy is increasing apace. Even the massively fortified Green Zone in Baghdad is less and less safe; Iraqi guards around the perimeter can no longer be trusted. The embassy's Iraqi staff members are terrified, won't let even family members know where they work. They're also are fighting among themselves, divided by religious sect.

Women throughout the country are ever more fearful; they are being told to stop driving cars, to cover their faces, which they've never had to do before, to stop using cell phones. Men now find it dangerous to wear jeans or shorts. Even children can't play outside wearing shorts. Of course, it's become dangerous for them to play outside anyway.

With temperatures running at 115 degrees Farenheit, most Iraqis get no more than one hour of electricity for every six hours without. Some areas of Baghdad haven't had any power in more than a month.

And, said the ambassador, the government we pushed into place with such fanfare in our press, hardly exists in fact. All real power is in the hands of militias and local strongmen. Kidnappings for political, religious and merely profit reasons continue to increase. People are being forced from their homes by others who want them; those evicted have no place to go.

There is more, all put down on paper and sent to our State Department by our ambassador, but you get the idea. Iraq is in chaos, and it's getting worse, not better.

But our major broadcast and print news outfits, which regularly repeat the lies of the administration about the situation in Iraq -– sometimes several times a week –- did not tell us about the memo. And where there has been some mention, it has been downplayed or, as in Minneapolis, appeared only on the op-ed pages, thus making it seem unimportant to many readers.

Folks, the memo is hugely important, many times more important than any statement about the situation by any member of the administration or the military.

It comes from a man who was sent to Iraq by the Bush administration because he is loyal to them and would almost surely do exactly their bidding. And it refutes every claim the administration and the right-wing shouters makes about “progress” in that poor, destroyed country. It is, in fact, a clear description of the most terrible failure, a true tale of horror piling upon horror.

Our press and our broadcasters didn't tell us.

It's not the first time they've declined their responsibility to give us the real news, of course, nor even the three hundredth time. On my desk beside my keyboard right now I have a stack of paper containing 15 or 20 stories, all important, that have not been presented in major news outlets – and that's just from the past couple of weeks.

We ask over and over why the news outfits are failing so miserably, and in the process allowing our very democracy to fail, and we have to ask again.

Again, there is no great conspiracy, but instead a conjunction of interests, plus large doses of stupidity and arrogance.

Almost certainly, a great majority of the news desk people who first saw reports on the ambassador's message were skeptical. Rightly so. It is so entirely opposite of the phony message the administration and Rumsfeld-dominated Pentagon keep peddling that it was entirely reasonable to question its authenticity. But the State Department – somewhat surprisingly to me – immediately confirmed its authenticity when questioned by various news organizations (mostly those based in other countries, apparently).

OK. No further need for skepticism. But the story was withheld anyway.

Here's what I think:

Despite the now clearly established authenticity of the memo, there are a lot of people in positions of power in news operations who, like diehard Bush supporters all over the country, do not want to believe anything that reflects so badly on the Bush. They won't give us the story because they cannot emotionally accept that it is true. It is a typical right-wing reaction: somehow it just can't be correct, because we believe in Bush.

Then, of course, there is the fact – especially notable in broadcasting – that the owners of the media are very rich and powerful people who support the takeover of our government by very rich and powerful people. In most cases, they have given no overt orders to withhold information inimical to their position, but the people who work for them know where the bosses stand, and, anyway, the bosses have over the years placed people who share their thinking in many of the positions of power in their news operations.

And, there is the deep stupidity of many now in positions of power in news rooms. With absolute certainty, I can say that if you pressed a bunch of the editors who made the call about why they didn't run the story on the ambassador's memo, many would tell you that by the time they had assured themselves that it was genuine, it was “old news.”

No kidding. That's a common excuse for failure to publish a report. It was published somewhere several days or weeks ago, so it is now longer “news” -- regardless of the fact that most of the outfit's listeners or readers have not seen the story. It's still old, and they deal only in current “news.” Which, though the dummies can't see it, is an excellent reason for finding yourself other sources of information.

Also, one cannot forget the basic arrogance of a very high percentage those whose job it is to report major national and international stories to the American public. If the story originates elsewhere and I/we missed it, it simply can't be important.

There are more factors warping the judgment of those who control the dissemination of news, but I've been through most of this before.

We still get back to the fact that the traditional sources of news in this country are no longer to be trusted, and can no longer be taken at face value.

Here's one I can't resist passing on, though the importance may be questioned by some. It seems important to me:

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush –- president's brother, whom many of the imperial household hope to have replace him in the White House -– has been caught using his nonprofit “foundation” to pay his former campaign finance director, two other former campaign aides and some other outfits that have only political functions. The sum spent by the supposed nonprofit organization for such activities so far is $320,000.

The Palm Beach Post described the foundation as a way for the imperial heir to illegally keep his political organization's finances alive after he leaves office early next year.

Given brother Jeb's position in the plans of the right wing folks who now rule, this seems to me a story that should be reported nationally. Ain't happening.

I will be extremely busy, mostly with family events, over the next two weeks, so probably will not post anything new for 10 days to two weeks. Keep searching for the important news.