James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day pride: Not so much

Memorial Day 2008 has come and gone. Some folks tended graves of their families' dead, politicians gave speeches that mostly insulted the intelligence of Americans who have some sense of reality and knowledge of facts about the state of the country and its wars.

Many people, though perhaps fewer than usual because of soaring gasoline prices, simply took a long weekend outing and tried to avoid any thought of the suffering and pointless violence in the Middle East.

George W. Bush, who drove us into a terrible war for profit, shamed us by going to Arlington National Cemetery and spouting jingoistic falsities about “those who gave everything to preserve our way of life.”

Of course, he shames us simply by his presence on the world and national stages.

Bush did not explain how sacrificing thousands of our young and destroying a country that never presented the slightest threat to us “preserves our way of life” -- unless, of course, he referred to the self-indulgent lives of what he has publicly designated as “my kind of people,” the economic elite who continue to suck immense wealth from the Iraq war.

Along with other “defense” contractors, Vice President Dick Cheney's company, Halliburton, has seen astounding profit growth since the U.S. invaded Iraq, and its stock price, despite recent downturns in the market, has created and enhanced Midas-like fortunes for its insiders. KBR, spun off from Halliburton in the spring of 2007, saw a 65 percent year-to-year gain in fourth quarter 2007 profits, and the trend coming into this year was upward.

A small percentage of Americans, my wife and some friends among them, mostly people who have suffered the loss of loved ones in war, went to ceremonies to honor their dead. A high percentage of those, including my wife, lost someone in Vietnam, another war that we should never have fought.

Those of you who saw our unelected president on television, and those of you who wept yet again for lives lost, did the speeches make you proud?

Other than those who mourn still for people who died in wars that really did have to be fought – World War II and even Korea – did the words make any of you proud?

My guess is that for most of us, the answer is, in current vernacular, not so much.

We don't see the “Proud to be American” bumper stickers much in my neck of the woods any more, and the “Freedom Isn't Free” bumper stickers also are much less numerous than they were up to a couple of years ago.

Even some of the ex-Marines who reflexively and loudly support whoever gets us into shooting and bombing dark-skinned people on foreign soil -– I know a few of them very well -– have gone strangely quiet. They hate it, but many have been forced to recognize that there is not and never was a legitimate reason for invading Iraq or for continuing the occupation of that ruined country. Reluctantly, a growing number admit that the invasion and occupation have nothing to do with maintaining our freedom.

Some even have begun to realize that the opposite is true, that using war and terrorism as an excuse, Bush & Co. have curtailed our freedoms and wiped their feet on our Constitution.

Such realizations have not come evenly or everywhere, of course. In places like West Virginia and Mississippi -- where substantial numbers of voters told television reporters that they would never vote for Barack Obama “because he's a Muslim” or, as one redneck West Virginia woman put it, “I ain't gonna vote for no Hussein; I don't want nothin' to do with no Hussein” -- reality is only an unacceptable rumor to many.

For a while on Memorial Day, I listened to Amy Goodman's radio program. The broadcast consisted of testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans on what they saw and experienced in their wars.

The vets read their prepared statements in hauntingly flat voices, which did not change even when they talked of their post-homecoming suicide attempts, as at least two did. They spoke of mayhem and brutality that was as routine as tying one's boot laces, of deliberately and without reason shooting Iraq drivers as they came within range of the U.S. Army convoys, of taking Iraqi men who had been arrested and found innocent of any wrongdoing deep into the desert and beating them, throwing them out of trucks and stoning them “with softball-sized rocks.”

All of the U.S. veterans admitted to participating almost casually in such acts -– atrocities, we would call them if someone else did those things to Americans.

The few who were on Goodman's program are only a tiny fraction of the number of U.S. Iraq war veterans who have given such testimony. Some have spoken directly to Congressional committees. The American corporate-owned big media have refused to cover the veterans' appearances or to report their stories. The American propaganda machine, which includes even such supposedly liberal outlets as the New York Times, have put the veterans in a blackout, a no-touch, no hear zone.

Those vets who have chosen to tell the truth publicly call themselves the Winter Soldiers, and you can see and hear what some of them have to say if you use that term in whatever on-line search engine you prefer.

The blackout on the soldiers is only one aspect of the propaganda machine's current activity.

Much of America has chosen to tune out the wars. Don't ask, don't tell. Perhaps most people think there is nothing they can do to stop the madness, probably some are feeling guilty about having cheered the initial bombing of Iraq and the “Mission Accomplished” performance of our worst-ever president. And a great many of our entertainment-saturated public simply don't want to hear or see anything unpleasant. High gas prices are tragedy enough.

Whatever the case, the big, false news outfits, broadcast and print, consciously aid the willful amnesia.

As the New York Times itself reported Monday, May 26, Memorial Day, coverage of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is diminishing rapidly. Fewer reporters cover the wars than at any time since they began, and those who remain are more deeply embedded than ever, which means they seldom learn or report anything that is not approved by the military.

David Carr, the Times writer, said the Pentagon and the Bush administration continue to impose “increasingly onerous rules of engagement for the news media and the military" and to "make it difficult for the few remaining reporters and photographers to do their job: showing soldiers doing theirs.”

The dead still arrive back in this country in their flag-draped coffins in the middle of the night, and photographs still are not allowed.

The owners of the big media outfits do not fight the rules; they're on the same side, Bush's kind of people.

Carr noted that the Project for Excellence in Journalism's coverage index shows that coverage of the Afghani and Iraq wars was just 3 percent of all print and broadcast news coverage last week, down from 25 percent as recently as last fall. He also noted that it isn't because the wars are any less deadly; 2007 was the bloodiest year for American soldiers in Iraq, with 900 killed and many more maimed.

“There is a cold and sad calculation that readers/viewers aren't that interested in the war, whether because they are preoccupied with paying $4 for a gallon of gas and avoiding foreclosure, or because they have Iraq fatigue,” Carr quoted the Times' executive editor, Bill Keller.

So, if you don't want to know, they won't tell you. We can all hide from the truth.

But the big boys of the so-called news media –- they're all part of the propaganda machine now -– are falling all over themselves to help the Bush/neocon gang bring us to acceptance of yet another military adventure.

Every time the Bush crowd, or some organization under its thumb, makes an unsubstantiated claim about Iran's supposed threat to us, or Iraq, or Israel, it gets major story treatment, and no one in the propaganda media ever thinks, or dares, to ask for evidence that the claims are true.

Tuesday's New York Times (May 27, 2008), had at the top of its front page a story saying that the International Atomic Energy Agency has accused Iran of “a willful lack of cooperation, particularly in answering allegations that its nuclear program may be pointed less at energy generation than at military use.”

The story hints, and suggests, and assumes, but offers no evidence that Iran “may” be producing enriched uranium “which can be used to make electricity or to fuel bombs” faster “than expected.”

It's all innuendo; the story contains no demonstrable facts other than that Iran denied members of the agency access to some sites where, it is assumed, centrifuge components are being manufactured and where research on uranium enrichment may -– may -- be taking place.

A couple of points: Israel, which fairly openly nudges this country toward attacking Iran, is loaded with nuclear weapons -– outside of international rules, but the official pretension is that we don't know that the weapons exist -– and there have been calls from the Israeli right and its supporters to use them on Iran.

Yet imagine what Israel, let alone this country, would say if the same agency demanded full access to its nuclear program.

Oh, by the way: There is general agreement among intelligence agencies that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

But that New York Times front page story is how the propaganda machine works these days. The neocons make no secret of the fact that they want to bomb Iran, and that takes at least some public support in this country, and so you have to con a sizable portion of the public.

So. Memorial Day:

My chest used to fill with admiration –- I could physically feel it -– when speakers recalled the courage and sacrifice of those who captured Guadalcanal and fought desperately for other tiny Pacific islands. As recently as April of last year, I stood on Omaha Beach in Normandy with tears running down my cheeks as I pictured the horror and almost unimaginable courage of those who fought there in June of 1944.

But 2008, a criminally needless war designed primarily to further enrich a tiny clique of the already immensely wealthy? A president who cares nothing for “our troops” or the American people? A cowardly Congress that won't act to stop the horrors for fear of losing the votes of the terminally ignorant?

George Bush stood in Arlington Cemetery Monday and said he was proud.

But most of the rest of us: Not so much.