Evolution and Eden: Integrating Genesis with Fossil Records

Monday, April 30, 2007


Has Bush Committed Impeachable Acts?

by Phil Worden

As an attorney I often get asked if I think President Bush has committed any impeachable “high crimes or misdemeanors.” The Constitution gives the power to remove the President to the Congress, not the judiciary, so the question is more political than legal. The legalistic language about “high crimes and misdemeanors” and a “trial” in the Senate reminds Congress that ours is not a parliamentary system; Congress cannot remove a president with a mere “no confidence” vote. In terms of whether President Bush has committed any offenses that could justify impeachment, consider the following:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the chief prosecutor of the major Nazi war criminals, called starting a war without cause the “supreme war crime” because all other war crimes flow from it. Under the United Nations Charter, which is a binding international treaty ratified by the United States, it is illegal to attack another nation except: 1) when authorized by the Security Council; or 2) when necessary for self-defense and then only for as long as necessary to get the matter to the Security Council.

The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441 that found Iraq in material breach of prior resolutions and warned of “severe consequences” if Iraq didn’t conform. But that resolution also explicitly stated that the Security Council remained seized of the issue and the United States assured the other members that Resolution 1441 did not authorize it to attack Iraq; the U.S. would have to return to the Security Council for another resolution before it could attack Iraq. In early 2003, the United States did return to the Security Council with a resolution authorizing an attack on Iraq. When it became clear that the proposed resolution could not muster a majority, the United States withdrew the resolution and attacked Iraq anyway. There is no crime more serious than illegally starting a war.

In garnering support for his invasion of Iraq, President Bush selectively cherry-picked the advice and intelligence that supported the end result he wanted to achieve. Many career officers at the CIA and the Pentagon quit when their reservations about the war were ignored. President Bush misled Congress when he pretended he had solid intelligence that Iraq had the ability and desire to attack America.

President Bush has shown a consistent hostility to civil rights. Tens of thousands were swept up in immigration raids after the Bush administration announced it intended to use immigration laws against suspect populations not for immigration purposes but as part of its “War on Terror.” It claimed a right to seize U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and to hold them indefinitely without charges, a trial, an attorney or even the right to remain silent. It not only supported the USA PATRIOT Act but, according to the inspector general, systematically abused it after it became law.

In the late 1970s, Congress established a secret court to issue search warrants in foreign intelligence cases. Congress diluted the definition of “probable cause” in foreign intelligence cases to make these warrants easy to get. President Bush, however, authorized the National Security Agency to seize telephone records without getting warrants from the foreign intelligence court. The NSA had the technology to monitor all phones calls and did not want to identify the particular records to be seized as is done in search warrants. The idea was to seize all phone records and then “data mine” them to see if any of them contained foreign intelligence information. This invasion of privacy not only circumvented the statute establishing the foreign intelligence court but the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment as well. The Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit the British type of “general warrant” that authorized a particular person to search or seize anything he wants.

Although the Bush administration uses the language of war, such as “War on Terrorism,” it insisted that the prisoners captured in Afghanistan were not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions because they did not wear uniforms. President Bush’s attorney called the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” However, the same administration claimed a right to detain these prisoners indefinitely without any kind of hearing on the grounds that prisoners of war can be detained without hearing until the war ends. President Bush uses the international law of warfare selectively, saying it applies when it suits his purposes but does not apply when it does not suit his purposes.

Both international and U.S. law condemn torture. President Bush’s administration has redefined torture to only include serious physical injury that can lead to death and then used that narrowed definition to authorize “water boarding,” sensory deprivation, sleep denial, and other aggressive interrogation techniques commonly understood to be torture. In response, Congress passed a statute outlawing inhumane treatment of prisoners. When he signed that statute into law, President Bush issued a separate “signing statement,” saying that he reserved the right to use torture if he thought it was necessary for national security.

President Bush has authorized the use of depleted uranium shells in Iraq, which will create health hazards there for decades to come. He authorized the use of phosphorus bombs against Fallujah, a civilian target. While it’s true that phosphorus bombs burn people, their primary purpose is to suck oxygen out of the air so people hiding in buildings suffocate. “Daisy cutter” bombs create a concussion that makes the eye balls and ear drums of people hiding in bunkers explode.

My conclusion: It is the political will to impeach, not the legal grounds, that we lack.

Phil Worden lives in Tremont, Maine. E-mail: pworden@adelphia.net, or write PO Box 1009, Northeast Harbor, ME 04662

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bush has gone AWOL on Iraq, says retired General

Bush Has Gone AWOL

by General William Odom

The following is a transcript of the Democratic Radio Address delivered by Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.) on Saturday April 28, 2007:

“Good morning, this is Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army, retired.

“I am not now nor have I ever been a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, I do not speak for the Democratic Party. I speak for myself, as a non-partisan retired military officer who is a former Director of the National Security Agency. I do so because Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked me.

In principle, I do not favor Congressional involvement in the execution of U.S. foreign and military policy. I have seen its perverse effects in many cases. The conflict in Iraq is different. Over the past couple of years, the President has let it proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued.

“Thus, he lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money, and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies. The Congress is the only mechanism we have to fill this vacuum in command judgment.

“To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is ‘absent without leave.’ He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games.

“Some in Congress on both sides of the aisle have responded with their own tits-for-tats. These kinds of games, however, are no longer helpful, much less amusing. They merely reflect the absence of effective leadership in a crisis. And we are in a crisis.

“Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President’s management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right.

“The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests.

“But it has served Iran’s interest by revenging Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran’s influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda’s interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible.

“We cannot ‘win’ a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did.

“A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed.

“No effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us. Withdrawal is the pre-condition for winning support from countries in Europe that have stood aside and other major powers including India, China, Japan, Russia.

“It will also shock and change attitudes in Iran, Syria, and other countries on Iraq’s borders, making them far more likely to take seriously new U.S. approaches, not just to Iraq, but to restoring regional stability and heading off the spreading chaos that our war has caused.

The bill that Congress approved this week, with bipartisan support, setting schedules for withdrawal, provides the President an opportunity to begin this kind of strategic shift, one that defines regional stability as the measure of victory, not some impossible outcome.

“I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans.

“This is retired General Odom. Thank you for listening.”

General Odom has served as Director of the National Security Agency and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer. In his address, General Odom will discuss why he believes President Bush should sign the conference report on the Iraq Accountability Act.

You can download the radio address by clicking here.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Imus contfroversary "Canary in the coal-mines" flag: sign of the grossing of manners and respect in our culture

"Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser

Don't think twice: Media inured to subtler smears, pervasive sexism

Now that MSNBC and CBS Radio have both dropped Don Imus, and the Rutgers basketball team has accepted his apology, Imus himself is no longer the most interesting thing about the controversy he touched off with his racist and sexist comments about the team -- if he ever was, that is.

One of the more interesting aspects of the controversy is whether (and why) Imus' guests -- some of the most influential and respected journalists and public figures in America among them -- have, by their appearances on his show, tacitly endorsed his behavior. Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox, a frequent Imus guest, explained this week how she came to overlook the "casual locker-room misogyny" of Imus' show:

As the invites kept coming, I found myself succumbing to the clubhouse mentality that Imus both inspires and cultivates. Sure, I cringed at his and his crew's race-baiting (the Ray Nagin impersonations, the Obama jokes) and at the casual locker-room misogyny (Hillary Clinton's a "bitch," CNN news anchor Paula Zahn is a "wrinkled old prune"), but I told myself that going on the show meant something beyond inflating my precious ego. I wasn't alone. As Frank Rich noted a few years ago, "It's the only show ... that I've been on where you can actually talk in an informed way -- not in sound bites." Yeah, what he said!


My giving up the show, I acknowledge, is too little and too late. I doubt that I'll be missed. It's depressingly easy to find female journalists who will tolerate or ignore bigotry if it means getting into the boys' club someday. (If only I were the only one.)

To her credit, Cox announced she would no longer appear on Imus' show, writing, "I'm embarrassed to admit that it took Imus' saying something so devastatingly crass to make me realize that there just was no reason beyond ego to play along."

One quibble with Cox's account: As she surely knows, it's depressingly easy to find male journalists who tolerate or ignore bigotry, too.

Imus' comments, though shocking and unusually blunt, are also a reminder that bigoted and hurtful commentary is all too common in even the most reputable mass media outlets.

The reference to "bigoted and hurtful commentary," rather than to "bigots," is intentional. As Geoffrey Nunberg has explained, it is the commentary itself, not the speaker, that matters:

Imus's beliefs and character are completely irrelevant here. When a white person calls somebody a nigger or describes a women's basketball team as nappy-headed hos, he or she has committed a racist act. As with redskin, the words trail their own sordid history behind them, and their power to hurt is independent of the intentions of the person who utters them. And my own view is that the broadcast media should have a zero-tolerance approach to this kind of language -- "use an epithet, you're out of here." To do anything less is to implicitly sanction a racist act.

And, like Imus, other media figures have a long history of comments that any reasonable person would understand carry the "power to hurt," as Media Matters has detailed:

  • CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, also a "regular commentator" for ABC's Good Morning America, has called Hillary Clinton "the stereotypical bitch" and Rosie O'Donnell a "fat witch" with "blubber ... just pouring out of her eyes." He has referred to Katrina survivors as "scumbags" and declared that "I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims." He has also said on-air that he was "thinking about killing Michael Moore" and told the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, "what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' "
  • Syndicated radio host Neal Boortz has claimed that "at its core," Islam is a "violent, violent religion," and said, "[T]his Muhammad guy is just a phony rag-picker." Boortz asserted that "[i]t is perfectly legitimate, perhaps even praiseworthy, to recognize Islam as a religion of vicious, violent, bloodthirsty cretins." Boortz also described then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), who is African American, as looking "like a ghetto slut," like "an explosion at a Brillo pad factory," like "Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence," and like "a shih tzu."

  • Bill O'Reilly told a Jewish caller to his radio show "if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel." O'Reilly routinely makes sexually suggestive comments about his radio co-host, Lis Wiehl, including his suggestion that she might want to learn to become a stripper, to which he added, "You're a good-looking girl. I mean, if you haven't seen Lis on TV, she's a good-looking blonde."

  • Michael Savage, who lost his own MSNBC show after he told a caller he hoped he would "get AIDS and die," recently called Barbara Walters a "double-talking slut" and said of Melissa Etheridge, "I don't like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke." He also told listeners that gay people "threaten your very survival" and said that the "average prostitute" is "more reliable and more honest than most U.S. senators wearing a dress."
  • And Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter ... well, they are Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. If they aren't insulting women or minorities, they're probably asleep.

Limbaugh, Coulter, Savage, Boortz, and others regularly make bigoted comments not unlike those that cost Don Imus his job. And those comments, regardless of their intent, carry the power to hurt, as Nunberg explained -- and lack any redeeming value to offset the pain they can cause.

But these statements not only insult and hurt those they directly and indirectly smear. They also make other troubling comments seem tame by comparison, to the point that most people don't even blink when mainstream journalists make casual, offhand comments with deeply sexist or racist implications.

(Paschal: A regular friend of mine (no longar), a regular Limbaugh fan, once said to me that Democrats were "Communists." Republican conservatives also called FDR "both socialist and communist" for his Social Security and government programs to help the nation out of the depression of the early 1930s)

With Rush Limbaugh ranting about "femi-Nazis" and Don Imus calling people "hos" and Ann Coulter calling people "faggots," few speak out when three seperate CNN reporters -- including Emmy Award winners Wolf Blitzer and Tom Foreman -- describe the first woman to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives by referring to the Girls Gone Wild video series.

Or when Chris Matthews compares Hillary Clinton to a stripper and refers to her as an "uppity" woman. Or when he says she looks "witchy." Or when he regularly asserts that "Midwest guys" are "not up to modern women as president" -- an assertion which, given his other comments about Clinton, one can only assume is a classic case of projection.

Or when countless mainstream journalists dismissively refer to John Edwards as the "Breck Girl." Forget for a moment the propriety of journalists' repeating GOP talking points in order to derisively describe a Democratic presidential candidate. What do these journalists imply about women when they use "girl" as a pejorative description?

And when the likes of Limbaugh and Imus have used words like "bitch" and "femi-Nazi" so much that mainstream journalists -- male and female -- consider it perfectly acceptable to use the word "girl" as an insult, who even notices more subtle problems, like Charlie Gibson asking Hillary Clinton if she "would ... be in this position were it not for your husband?" A perfectly reasonable question -- except that it's a question that could just as easily be asked of, say, John McCain, whose path to Congress (and, thus, a presidential run) was paved by his marriage to a wealthy and politically connected woman. It's a question that could just as easily be asked of McCain -- but it isn't.

And then there's the matter of who the media turn to for interviews, analysis, and commentary. As Adele Stan has noted at Tapped this week, even as cable news programs have devoted extensive coverage to Imus' racist and sexist comments, they have often done so without the benefit of women among their panelists. Stan described the panels MSNBC hosted to discuss their decision to dump Imus:

[F]or the rest of the night, MSNBC show hosts discussed the channel's decision with panel after panel of experts, populated, with one exception, entirely by men. (Thank goodness that Joe Scarborough likes to fight with Salon.com's indomitable Joan Walsh or, out of a total of about a dozen commentators, there would have been no women featured on Imus segments of the cable channel's three major evening shows: "Hardball," "Countdown," and "Scarborough Country.") And while the producers did a pretty good job maintaining a racial mix on the panels, they apparently couldn't find a single African-American woman to comment on Imus's firing -- despite the fact that, just miles from MSNBC headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey, New Jersey NOW staged a rally that was led by African-American leaders in the women's movement. Until more women hold major positions of behind-the-scenes power in mainstream media, things will likely remain as they are: a bunch of guys debating whether or not another guy who verbally assaulted a group of women in a sexualized manner deserves to be fired for having done so.

(Full disclosure: Stan previously worked for Media Matters for America.)

In the midst of a torrent of comments about "femi-Nazis" and "bitches" and "hos," these more subtle problems are rarely even noticed, and even more rarely discussed among the media elite and those who appear on their shows.

And that may be the most damaging effect of the kind of commentary that we routinely hear from the likes of Imus and Limbaugh and Coulter: Rhetoric that should be unacceptable becomes merely outrageous; that which should be outrageous becomes merely controversial; and that which should be controversial is barely noticed, if at all.

That's why we at Media Matters hope the Imus incident prompts the nation's media -- both individual journalists and the organizations that employ them -- to consider whether they can and should be more responsible in their role as stewards of the national discourse.

Not just Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and the people who enable them. Charlie Gibson and Wolf Blitzer and Maureen Dowd (one of the foremost practitioners of the "Breck Girl" insult) and the bookers and producers who assemble woman-free panels to discuss sexist comments and countless others who, intentionally or otherwise, write and say things that, in ways large and small, have the power to hurt.

As Media Matters president and CEO David Brock said in response to Imus' firing: "It is our hope that this incident will begin a broader conversation about the responsibility that news corporations, journalists, and media figures have to the American public. This is an opportunity for the media to truly raise the bar to a higher standard and return to the fundamentals of journalism."


Friday, April 13, 2007

Leadership of Bush is trashed, by Iacocca in Detroit with new book.

Iacocca Bashes Bush in New Book
By Gordon Trowbridge
The Detroit News

Thursday 12 April 2007

Ex-Chrysler CEO also rips Congress, but the harshest criticism goes to president's leadership.

Washington - Lee Iacocca, author of the original business management best-seller, is giving President Bush an "F" in leadership.

In a book to be released Tuesday, the former Chrysler CEO - who supported Bush's first campaign in 2000 but backed Sen. John Kerry four years later - accused Bush of leading the nation to war "on a pack of lies" and lacking the basic components of good leadership.

"I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while," Iacocca writes, according to excerpts from "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" released on the Web site of publisher Simon & Schuster.

The book, co-written by New York journalist Catherine Whitney, comes 23 years after Iacocca's best-selling autobiography "Iacocca," which reshaped the way the publishing industry viewed business books. USA Today recently ranked the book among the 25 most influential among publishers and readers over the past 25 years.

In addition to politics, Iacocca weighs in on his experiences at Chrysler and the future of the U.S. auto industry in typically blunt fashion.

His latest broadside is in character, said Matthew Seeger, chairman of the communication department of Wayne State University and author of a book on Iacocca's speeches.

"As he's gotten older, he's gotten more blunt, more willing to take stands on issues," Seeger said.

But tough words from Iacocca may not carry the same weight they once did, said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Michigan.

"Some people might have some awfully harsh criticism of Lee Iacocca, too," Cole said.

Despite his stature as the savior of Chrysler in the 1980s, Cole said, other events, including his failed bid with Kirk Kerkorian to take over the company in the 1990s, have diminished his clout.

Iacocca has described himself as a political independent, and his new book is the latest twist in political history that includes a brief flirtation with his own run for president. He had a close relationship with Democrat Gov. James Blanchard and President Reagan during his time at Chrysler; he made ads for President Bush in 2000 but made campaign appearances with Kerry four years later; and he made more ads, this time for GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, last year.

"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening?" Iacocca writes. "Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.'"

Disdain for Washington is nothing new from Iacocca, said Gerald Meyers, former chairman of American Motors and a business professor at the University of Michigan. Recalling a trip to talk to lawmakers in the 1970s about the Clean Air Act, Meyers said, Iacocca had little regard for politicians.

"Zero respect. Nada. No respect whatsoever," Meyers said.

Iacocca has tough things to say about Congress, corporate America, the press and even the voters who put the nation's current leadership in power. But his harshest criticism is saved for Bush.

  • He savages Bush's famous determination: "George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping," Iacocca writes. "There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty."
  • He accuses Bush of substituting macho for courage: "Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk."
  • And he scoffs at Bush's business-degree background: "Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters."

White House spokesman Alex Conant said he had not seen the book. "We don't do book reviews at the White House," he said.

Simon & Schuster says the book will also include Iacocca's thoughts on how U.S. businesses can compete with rising economies in China and India. And he calls for government action to address the massive health care costs facing the Detroit's automakers and other U.S. businesses.

"Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing," he writes. "Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'the Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Terrifying Truth, but are we half-asleep, half aware riding on our Pullman coaches?,

A Terrifying Truth

by Dave Lindorff

It wasn’t too long ago that the death of socialism, the triumph of capitalism and the end of history were being widely hailed.

What a difference a few years and a few fractions of a degree in world temperature change makes!

We may still be contemplating the end of history, but of a different sort. It is suddenly becoming painfully obvious that the pursuit of profit and the philosophy of growth for growth’s sake and of dog eat dog is about to kill us all off.

Now that it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the earth is headed for a global heat wave the likes of which hasn’t been seen in hundreds of thousands and perhaps tens of millions of years–the kind of killing heat that in the past has led to mass extinctions–it is ludicrous to talk about things like carbon trading and raising vehicle mileage standards.

We need a revolution in the way we human beings live and the way we treat each other.

There is no way that the world’s 6.5 billion people–and especially the 2 billion of them who live in wealthier societies–can continue to consume energy at even close to the level that we have been consuming it. There is no way we in the developed world can continue to live the way we have been living, in oversized houses, heated in winter and cooled in summer. There is no way in the northern hemisphere we can continue to have teakwood or mahogany-floored living rooms and eat strawberries in December.

There is no way that we can continue to squander trillions of dollars on war and military spending every year.

No way, that is, if we plan on leaving a livable world for our children and grandchildren.

The so-called “green” politicians who talk about instituting carbon-trading schemes, about driving hybrid automobiles, about buying fluorescent light bulbs, and about turning down the thermostat and wearing sweaters, are deceiving us or themselves.

None of this is going to save us.

What will save us is recognizing that the age of consumer-driven capitalism is over.

We either come up with a new way to organize society, in which production is based upon real needs, not upon manufactured needs, and in which scarce resources are made available to those who need them, not just to those who can afford them, or we will all be doomed–or at least our progeny.

The peoples of the world–especially of the developed world, but really everywhere–need to recognize that unless our expectations are changed, unless our selfish desire for more is curbed, unless wasteful production is ended, we are all likely to be on that extinction list.

So where are the leaders of boldness and vision in politics, media and academia who are ready to tell the truth? Where are the people who are willing to listen to, and reward that truthtelling?

This is not an “inconvenient” truth we need to confront. It’s a terrifying truth.

We need to change everything, and we need to do it quickly, too.

Here in America, that means an end to subsidies for suburban sprawl. There should be no more federal or state funds for road building and road repair. If people want to live miles away from where they work, let them pave their own roads. That’s the only way to get people to realize they’re going to have to start supporting funding for mass transit, and to start thinking about living near where they work. We need to end subsidies for agribusiness, which has virtually decimated local agriculture to the point that prime farm states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey now import all their food from the West Coast. Ridiculous!

We need to levy a massive tax on gasoline, so that no one will buy cars, and so that those who have them will drive them only rarely. Large, heavy vehicles for personal use should be outright banned. Trucks too should be heavily taxed, so that products will reflect the true cost of the environmental damage that shipping them around causes.

Electricity and home heating fuels should also be heavily taxed, with some kind of a rebate program for low-income families, so that people will stop heating and cooling large homes.

As these things are done, there clearly will be massive dislocation. People who live in hot climes like Florida or Arizona will no doubt decide they can’t afford to cool their homes, and will move north. People in cold regions may decide it’s too expensive to heat their homes and will move to more temperate zones. Companies like the Detroit automakers will go bust or shrink enormously. Power plants will be shut down. Oil companies will go bankrupt.

That all has to happen, but it doesn’t mean people have to starve. We as a society need to demand a government that will help those who are displaced by the crisis to relocate and to find new productive ways to earn a living. A huge government program of investment in alternative energy systems would be able to hire many of those whose jobs are lost by the shutdown of the carbon economy.

A new ethos needs to be developed. Conspicuous consumption, egoism and the so-called “American Dream” of having it all for one’s self and one’s family need to be replaced with a new-actually a very old-concept: communalism.

Instead of thinking of ourselves as consumers and competitive free agents, we need to start thinking of ourselves as passengers on a boat that is sinking. If we all run for the lifeboats and life preservers and fight to see who can be saved, the life vests will be torn and ruined and the lifeboats will fall into the sea and sink. In the end, we’ll all go down. If, on the other hand, we change tack, recognize that we’re all in this together, and make orderly plans to save ourselves collectively, we may all be able to get away.

To succeed, we need to acknowledge that everyone is at risk, everyone is contributing to the common goal of survival, and everyone will be taken care of.

The same approach needs to be taken in the larger world. If the poorer nations believe that they are going to be abandoned to catastrophe and famine, they will do two things: continue to try and survive by the old strategies of wasteful energy use and environmental destruction, and of mass migration to safer havens. The first response–for example the continued destruction and burning down of rainforests for wood and cropland and ethanol feedstocks–will threaten us all with ever worsening global warming. The second will lead to overcrowding of more fortunately situated nations, and a drain on their resources.

The only answer is again for all the wealthy nations, and those that are better situated by geography to survive climate change, to commit themselves to helping the more threatened nations and societies. This is not a matter of altruism; it is the simple logic of survival.

But before we can start making the huge changes that are called for–really the dismantling of the whole capitalist system and the freemarket ethos–we need to start hearing, and demanding to hear, the truth–from scientists, from politicians, from business leaders, from the media, and ultimately from ourselves.

For starters, let’s stop kidding ourselves that the latest UN report on climate change is the real story. That report, ominous as it sounds, doesn’t tell the half of it. The report was first watered down by the scientists who reviewed it, and then it was censored by the governments that feared its findings. For one thing, it didn’t even mention that all the projections for warming during this century don’t even take into consideration the role that hundreds of billions of tons of methane gas underlying the Arctic and Antarctic permafrost and trillions of tons of methane lying in the form of frozen hydrates deep under the ocean could play if that super global warming gas should start pouring out into the atmosphere.

We are in a situation where it is wholly inappropriate to act on optimistic assumptions. Rather, we need to consider worst-case scenarios, and start planning and acting with those in mind. That means, for example, that to keep that methane fiasco from occurring, we don’t want the permafrost to go away in the polar regions, we don’t want the oceans to warm precipitously and we don’t want the ice caps to melt away. That means we have to act much more dramatically than just worrying about coastal erosion and lowered crop yields might lead us to do.

This is a crisis that isn’t going away. It is a crisis that isn’t going to be solved with band-aids. It is a crisis that isn’t going to be solved by smooth talk. And it is a crisis that will get worse the longer we take to recognize its true gravity, and the longer we take to face up to the revolution that needs to take place if we are to prevent it.

And that is the truth.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist whose work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net and www.counterpunch.org. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His home will be submerged when the Greenland icecap melts.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lapdogs not watchdogs: How the Media failed us in the run-up to the Iraqi war

Iraq: Why the media failed

Afraid to challenge America's leaders or conventional wisdom about the Middle East, a toothless press collapsed. from SALON.

By Gary Kamiya

Apr. 10, 2007 | It's no secret that the period of time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq represents one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media. Every branch of the media failed, from daily newspapers, magazines and Web sites to television networks, cable channels and radio. I'm not going to go into chapter and verse about the media's specific failures, its credulousness about aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds and failure to make clear that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 -- they're too well known to repeat. In any case, the real failing was not in any one area; it was across the board. Bush administration lies and distortions went unchallenged, or were actively promoted. Fundamental and problematic assumptions about terrorism and the "war on terror" were rarely debated or even discussed. Vital historical context was almost never provided. And it wasn't just a failure of analysis. With some honorable exceptions, good old-fashioned reporting was also absent.

But perhaps the press's most notable failure was its inability to determine just why this disastrous war was ever launched. Kristina Borjesson, author of "Feet to the Fire," a collection of interviews with 21 journalists about why the press collapsed, summed this up succinctly. "The thing that I found really profound was that there really was no consensus among this nation's top messengers about why we went to war," Borjesson told AlterNet. "[War is the] most extreme activity a nation can engage in, and if they weren't clear about it, that means the public wasn't necessarily clear about the real reasons. And I still don't think the American people are clear about it."

Of course, the media was not alone in its collapse. Congress rolled over and gave Bush authorization to go to war. And the majority of the American people, traumatized by 9/11, followed their delusional president down the primrose path. Had the media done its job, Bush's war of choice might still have taken place. But we'll never know.

Why did the media fail so disastrously in its response to the biggest issue of a generation? To answer this, we need to look at three broad, interrelated areas, which I have called psychological, institutional and ideological. The media had serious preexisting weaknesses on all three fronts, and when a devastating terrorist attack and a radical, reckless and duplicitous administration came together, the result was a perfect storm.

The psychological category is the most amorphous of the three and the most inexactly named -- it could just as easily be termed sociological. By it, I mean the subtle, internalized, often unconscious way that the media conforms and defers to certain sacrosanct values and ideals. Journalists like to think of themselves as autonomous agents who pursue truth without fear or favor. In fact, the media, especially the mass media, adheres to a whole set of sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit codes that govern what it feels it can say. Network television provides the clearest example. From decency codes to subject matter, the networks have always been surrounded by a vast, mostly invisible web of constraints.

Seen in this light, the mass media is a quasi-official institution, an info-nanny, that is held responsible for maintaining a kind of national consensus. Just as our legal system is largely based on what a "reasonable" person would think, so our mass media is charged with presenting not just an accurate view of the world but also an "appropriate" one.

What "appropriate" means in absolute terms is impossible to define. In practice, however, its meaning is quite clear. It's reflected in a cautious, centrist media that defers to accepted national dogmas and allows itself to shade cautiously into advocacy on issues only when it thinks it has the popular imprimatur to do so. The "culture wars" of recent decades are largely a backlash by enraged conservatives who correctly perceive that the "liberal" media has conferred its quasi-official seal of approval on issues like gay rights and women's right to abortion. In fact, the mainstream media only dares to deviate from the imagined national center, from "appropriate" discourse, within a highly circumscribed area.

Parents may be justified in basing their decisions on what is "appropriate." But for media organizations to do it is extremely dangerous -- and even more so in times of war or national trauma. After 9/11, the area of allowed deviation shrank even more. What was "appropriate" became deference to the nation's leaders. Patriotism and national unity trumped truth.

The outburst of media patriotism after the attacks reveals how fragile the barrier is between journalism and propaganda. Fox News, whose newscasters sported American flag pins and where the "news" consisted of cheerleading for Bush administration policies, was, of course, the most egregious case. One month after the United States began bombing Kabul, Fox anchor Brit Hume actually said, "Over at ABC News, where the wearing of American flag lapel pins is banned, Peter Jennings and his team have devoted far more time to the coverage of civilian casualties in Afghanistan than either of their broadcast network competitors." Reading this statement five years later is a salutary reminder of how pervasive such jingoist, near-Stalinist groupthink was in those days -- and still is on Fox.

Fox was the worst, but the rest of the mainstream media was clearly influenced by the perceived need to be "Americans first and journalists second." This was manifested less in obviously biased or flawed stories than in subtler ways: the simple failure to investigate Bush administration claims, go outside the magic circle of approved wise men, or in general aggressively question the whole surreal adventure. This failure was even more glaring because the run-up to war took place in slow motion. For nine months or more, everyone knew Bush was determined to attack Iraq, and no one really knew why. Yet the mainstream media was unable to break out of its stupor. At a critical moment, that stupor appeared almost literal.

In an infamous Bush press conference on March 6, 2003, just days before the Iraq war began, the assembled media bigwigs were so lethargic and apparently resigned to the inevitability of war that they seemed to be drugged. ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran said that the press corps left "looking like zombies."

I'm not saying that there's no place for patriotism, or fellow feeling, in journalism. 9/11 was a special case. Thousands of Americans had just been killed, and a heightened emotional awareness of our shared national identity was both inevitable and unexceptionable. Who, for example, would quarrel with the "Portraits of Grief" series the New York Times ran, honoring each of the victims of 9/11? Running this series had clear political ramifications. The Times, for instance, has never run a series about the 3,000 or more victims of automobile accidents killed every month in the United States. But it was a legitimate news decision.

But when it comes to forward-looking analysis and reporting -- as opposed to elegiac coverage -- patriotism and groupthink are journalistic poison. Hume's implicit argument that it was "un-American" to report extensively on civilian casualties was an extreme example. But in newsrooms across the land, thousands of smaller, unnoticed cases of self-censorship or selective reporting were taking place. 9/11 in particular was a sacred taboo that even the most cold-blooded, dispassionate journalists feared to disturb. They'd seen what happened to Susan Sontag, who was crucified for daring to say that the 9/11 attackers were not cowards, that President Bush's tough-talking response was "robotic," and that America urgently needed to rethink its Middle East policies. (The New Republic ran an article that began, "What do Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Susan Sontag have in common?") Bill Maher lost his network TV show after he refused to kowtow to the "terrorists are cowards" line, and Noam Chomsky was virtually declared a traitor for calling America a terrorist state and warning that a violent response to 9/11 would backfire.

A personal example: In a Salon piece I wrote before the 2004 elections, when the worst of the patriotic fervor had long subsided, I wrote, "Heretical as it is to say, the terror attacks proved that it is possible to overreact -- more specifically, to react foolishly -- to an attack that left 3,000 dead." The idea that we had "overreacted" to this sacred event was so explosive, even then, that my editor flagged the line and questioned me about it. In the end the line stayed, but I write for Salon -- one of the few major media outlets that were consistently against the war from the beginning, one that has no corporate owner and is aggressively independent. How many such sentiments ended up on cutting-room floors across the country -- or were never even typed? As Mark Hertsgaard noted in his important study of the media's weakness during the Reagan years, "On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency," the most effective censorship is self-censorship.

In short, the attacks not only killed almost 3,000 Americans, but also killed the mainstream media's ability to challenge the administration -- one that was expert at framing all dissent as bordering on treason. When Ari Fleischer infamously said that "all Americans ... need to watch what they say, watch what they do," the mainstream media obeyed. This timorousness was brought into stark relief by the far more trenchant and critical perspectives offered by analysts, often academics, who didn't write for a mass audience, and who therefore had not learned, as so many mainstream journalists have, to defer to the best and brightest and make their opinions conform to an imagined American center.

Time and again, in the run-up to war and during its early phase, I was amazed at the difference between the clear-eyed analysis to be found in books, and the mushy centrist pap that dominated the papers and TV. It was a kind of surreal battle of books vs. the mass media -- and books won hands down.

Rashid Khalidi's "Resurrecting Empire," written before and during the early days of the Iraq war, accurately predicted the quagmire that America was about to step into, hammering home the notion that for people in the Middle East, who have a long historical memory of imperialist oppression, our "noble" mission would not be seen as such. Michael Mann's "Incoherent Empire," also written just before and in the early days of the Iraq war, exposed the incoherence of Bush's "war on terror." Mann pointed out that there is a fundamental difference between "national" terrorists like Hamas and "international" ones like al-Qaida, and that treating them as if they were the same, as Bush moralistically did and still does, was a catastrophic blunder. And Malise Ruthven's "A Fury for God," which came out before the Iraq war, traced the historical and intellectual roots of violent Islamism through the Muslim Brotherhood to Sayyid Qutb, noted the corrosive effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Muslim minds, and cautioned that "another Gulf War will do far more harm than good."

Not all was lost. Some of the best breaking commentary was on the Internet, on blogs like Juan Cole's "Informed Comment" and Helena Cobban's "Just World News," but these sites had a limited readership. There were some notable exceptions on the print side, like the superb reporting of Knight Ridder's Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, who aggressively reported out the Bush administration's bogus claims about the "threat" posed by Saddam Hussein. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus also questioned Bush administration claims about WMD (his big pre-war story on this subject, after almost being killed, was relegated to page A-17). And the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh and Mark Danner, writing for the New York Review of Books, also distinguished themselves with excellent coverage of Abu Ghraib, following the thread that led directly from the blood-spattered rooms outside Baghdad to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But such authors and journalists were few and far between, and they were almost never seen on TV. Long into the Iraq war, much of the mainstream media continued to fixate on Saddam Hussein's missing WMD and bloviate about the challenges of "reshaping the Middle East," ignoring these deeper arguments. It was a stark illustration of the difference between journalism and scholarship.

Even before Iraq and the Bush presidency revealed its feet of clay, American journalism was not in one of its heroic phases. The press is less aggressive than it was in the Watergate era. Its adversarial role has been weakened. It defers more to authority. It is tamer, more docile, less threatening to what the great Israeli journalist Amira Hass called "the centers of power."

There are a number of reasons for this softening of journalism's backbone. One is economic. The decline of newspapers, the rise of infotainment, and media company owners' insistence on delivering high returns to their shareholders have diminished resources and led to a bottom-line fixation unconducive to aggressive reporting. There are big bucks to be made in being aggressively adversarial, but most of those bucks are on the right, not the left. The meteoric success of right-wing media outlets like Fox News and ranting demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter has not encouraged media owners, too shortsighted to see that there are viable alternatives to the kind of bland national nanny-ism manifest on the networks, to pursue real journalism. (The blogosphere represents the beginning of a national revolt against the now-discredited media gatekeepers.)

Another is the opiating effect of corporate culture: Major media has become increasingly bland and toothless, just like the huge bureaucracies that own it and that are increasingly indistinguishable from each other and from the federal government. It is harder to "monitor the centers of power" when you work for a gigantic corporation that is itself at the bull's-eye of power.

Then there is the Faustian trade-off of "access" journalism, to which, as the Judith Miller debacle revealed, more and more prominent journalists have succumbed. As Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg told Editor and Publisher in 2003, this is a cardinal journalistic sin. "It is irresponsible for anyone in the press to take your understanding exclusively from government accounts, from the president or secretary of defense or lower-level officials," Ellsberg said. "That definitely includes backgrounders that purport to be the 'real' inside story. Just as press conferences are a vehicle for lying to the public, backgrounders are a vehicle for lying to the press, convincing the press they are getting the inside story when all they are getting is a story that is sellable to the press."

As the war drums beat, the Beltway press bought and bought and bought -- before they discovered they'd been sold.

A closely related issue is the rise of a super-class of journalists, mostly TV talking heads, who are as wealthy and famous as the people they cover -- and who routinely hobnob with them at parties and social events. These celebrity journalists may make a show of their "toughness," but they swim happily in the conventional wisdom that flows all around them. And as it relates to the Middle East, that conventional wisdom is bankrupt.

Which leads us to the third and final area where journalism failed in the aftermath of 9/11: ideology. Evaluating why America was attacked required journalists to learn about the history of the Arab/Muslim world -- and not just skim one of Bernard Lewis' tendentious articles discounting Arab grievances. Evaluating how dangerous Saddam Hussein really was required knowledge of the contemporary Middle East -- not just a quick read of Kenneth Pollack's "The Threatening Storm," which argued that Saddam posed so great a threat to America that war was necessary. Assessing Bush's entire "war on terror" required a dispassionate exploration of terrorism itself -- an understanding that terrorism is essentially a form of asymmetrical warfare, that it often succeeds by provoking an overreaction, that it can be waged in the service of legitimate goals, and that most terrorists are not cowards or madmen -- free of 9/11 emotionalism. Indeed, every one of these issues needed to be looked at completely objectively, without sacred cows of any kind.

None of this happened for three closely related reasons. The first was simple ignorance: Most mainstream journalists simply didn't know very much about the Middle East, and in thrall to a kind of bad humility, deemed it above their pay grade to find out.

Second, American society in general has a strongly pro-Israel orientation -- one that journalists generally share (or are too intimidated or ignorant to contest) -- which inevitably guides their assumptions and beliefs about Arabs, terrorism and the Middle East in general. The historian Tony Judt argued in the London Review of Books that the support so many liberal journalists and pundits gave to Bush's war is best explained by their backing for Israel. This orientation, because it is deemed "appropriate," affects virtually every aspect of the media's coverage of the Middle East. Arab and Muslim perspectives, because they tend to be anti-Israeli, are rarely heard in the American media; if they had been, many Americans might have had quite a different assessment of the Iraq war's chances of success. Instead, the U.S. media works within a tiny ideological spectrum on the Middle East, using the same center-right and right-wing sources again and again. To take just one specific example, the New York Times, when it needs comment on Israeli affairs, often relies on experts from the Washington Institute on Near East Affairs (WINEP), a center-right, pro-Israel think tank. The Times rarely asks center-left or left-wing Middle East experts like Cobban or M.J. Rosenberg to comment on Israel. There is no evidence that the Iraq debacle, which these right-wing pundits almost universally supported, has led the media to rethink its sources or its ideological orientation.

Still worse, perhaps, the taboo against discussing this subject in public helped stifle vitally needed debate about the war. As Michael Kinsley pointed out more than four years ago in Slate, the fact that a large motivation for the war was influential neoconservatives' support for Israel was "the proverbial elephant in the room: Everybody sees it, no one mentions it." Kinsley correctly points out that there were honorable motivations behind this silence: no one wanted to put in play the crude anti-Semitic smear that this war was drummed up by Jews whose primary allegiance was to Israel. This is a caricature. As Kinsley and I have both argued, for the neoconservative Jews who played a key role in brainstorming the war, it was simply taken as axiomatic that America's interests and Israel's are identical. But that assumption of shared interests is itself highly problematic, to say the least. Some commentators, like Philip Weiss, have begun to raise the sensitive issue of the role played by the neocons' concern for Israel's security. In years to come, historians will ponder why America under Bush adopted, in effect, the Israeli position toward the Arab world without the ramifications of this radical and extremely risky move ever being discussed, or indeed the parallels even being acknowledged.

Finally, the media was unable to deal with the abstract and highly ideological motivations for Bush's war -- especially because those motivations, as Paul Wolfowitz notoriously admitted, were never really made clear. To oppose the war, one had to challenge the two real reasons behind it -- the neoconservative crusade against "Islamofascism" and the cold warriors' desire to assert American power -- head on. But this meant not only taking on the sacred cows of 9/11 and Israel, but also dealing with the refusal of the administration to publicly acknowledge these abstract reasons, and challenging a White House that "for bureaucratic reasons," in Wolfowitz's words, was hiding behind its trumped-up "evidence" about Saddam's WMD. For the mainstream media -- unprepared, intimidated, caught up in the torrent of Beltway wisdom and flag-waving -- this was far too much to deal with. As Kristina Borjesson noted, the result was that the media signed off on a war that it itself did not understand. There could be no more damning indictment.

We should note one more reason for the media's Iraq failure: the Bush administration. The mainstream media, especially in its current enfeebled form, is simply not equipped to deal with a regime as secretive, manipulative, vengeful and, not to put too fine a point on it, malignant as the present one. Watching the mainstream press try to contend with the Bush-Cheney gang is like watching the Polish cavalry galloping up in 1939 as the Wehrmacht tanks approach.

So has the media learned its lesson? And what does the future hold? In many ways, the media has definitely improved. After the war turned south and the WMD failed to appear, most news organizations began to get much tougher on the Bush administration. The New York Times, in particular, has found its backbone, roasting the administration for its incompetence and duplicity and turning an increasingly skeptical eye on its claims of progress in Iraq. And from the beginning of the war, the media's reporting from the field in Iraq has been far better than its analysis.

The problem, of course, is that the press only really turned on Bush when his ratings began to fall -- another indication that the Fourth Estate has become more of a weathervane than a truth teller.

The final verdict is not yet in. The media has improved, without question, but it has a lot of making up to do. The structural problems -- psychological, institutional, ideological -- that played so big a role in its collapse have not gone away, and there is no reason to think they will. And then there's war, which reduced so much of the media to flag-waving courtiers. If the media has learned that a bugle blast can be sounded by a fool, that not every war the United States launches is wise or necessary, and that self-righteousness is not an argument, maybe something can be salvaged from this sorry chapter after all.

-- By Gary Kamiya

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Martin Luther King you don't see on TV

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

Created Apr 5 2007 - 10:29am

AlterNet [1]
By Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen
April 4, 2007

It's become a TV ritual: Every year on April 4, as Americans commemorate Martin Luther King's death, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about these reviews of King's life is that several years -- his last years -- are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.


It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" -- including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 -- and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington -- engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be -- until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" -- appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."

How familiar that sounds today, nearly 40 years after King's efforts on behalf of the poor people's mobilization were cut short by an assassin's bullet.

In 2007, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and most in Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. They fund foreign wars with "alacrity and generosity," while being miserly in dispensing funds for education and healthcare and environmental cleanup.

And those priorities are largely unquestioned by mainstream media. No surprise that they tell us so little about the last years of Martin Luther King's life.

Source URL:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Suicides in the Military increase. . . .worth noting

Armed forces' suicides surpass combat deaths

By Sophie Goodchild and Jonathan Owen

Published: 01 April 2007

More servicemen and women have committed suicide over the past two decades than have died in military action, according to new figures.

The latest death toll for those in the armed forces who have taken their own lives has risen to 687 compared with 438 killed during active service in major conflicts such as the Gulf, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures released this weekend also reveal that the number of suicides among servicemen and women has risen by at least 49 in a year. This is more than three times the number of soldiers killed since the start of war in Afghanistan in 2001 and has raised fresh concerns about the mental welfare of troops. Those most at risk of taking their own lives are soldiers in their early 20s and teenage army recruits.

The suicide figures are based on research by the Government's Defence Analytical Services Agency (Dasa). Its latest report reveals that between 1984 and 2006, 687 armed-forces personnel killed themselves, a figure that includes 672 men and 15 women. This compares with 638 deaths between 1984 and 2005, and 624 up to 2004.

Dasa says male suicide rates in the forces are lower than in the general population, with the exception of army males under the age of 20. The Army has a higher rate of suicides than the Navy or RAF, particularly for those aged 25 and under. Male soldiers aged 20 to 24 and those aged under 20 have the highest rates of suicide, with 18 deaths and 16 respectively per 100,000 troops. This comes just weeks after opposition MPs demanded action following the disclosure that at least 17 personnel had taken their own lives after seeing action in the Gulf.

Last month, this newspaper highlighted the plight of traumatised troops returning from combat who feel abandoned by the state. Numerous public figures have signed up to The Independent on Sunday's campaign to achieve justice for the victims of post-traumatic stress.

Charities, including Combat Stress and the Royal British Legion, warn that figures of mental illness could rise and that doctors are poor at recognising conditions such as combat stress.

Clive Fairweather, a former SAS colonel, said there is "no doubt the modern Army is exposed to a lot more pressure because there are fewer soldiers