Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Voters want us out of Iraq, but the media and the pols want us still in - who the fuck runs our country?

1. The New Media Offensive for the Iraq War -- by Norman Solomon

The American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

In the latest media assault, right-wing outfits like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are secondary. The heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA -- the front page of the New York Times.

The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterm elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops.

Under the headline "Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say," the Nov. 15 front page of the New York Times prominently featured a "Military Analysis" by Michael Gordon. The piece reported that -- while some congressional Democrats are saying withdrawal of U.S. troops "should begin within four to six months" -- "this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies."

Reporter Gordon appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is "simply not realistic." Sounding much like a Pentagon spokesman, Gordon went on to state in no uncertain terms that he opposes a pullout.

If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated against any such withdrawal during his Nov. 15 appearance on CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded -- and probably would be taken off the beat -- by the Times hierarchy. But the paper's news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic worldviews of the country's national security state.

That's how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. That's how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon.

At this point, categories like "vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies" are virtually meaningless. The bulk of the media's favorite "vehement critics" are opposed to reduction of U.S. involvement in the Iraq carnage, and some of them are now openly urging an increase in U.S. troop levels for the occupation.

These days, media coverage of U.S. policy in Iraq often seems to be little more than a remake of how mainstream news outlets portrayed Washington's options during the war in Vietnam. Routine deference to inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom has turned many prominent journalists into co-producers of a "Groundhog Day" sequel that insists the U.S. war effort must go on.

During the years since the fall of Saddam, countless news stories and commentaries have compared the ongoing disaster in Iraq to the Vietnam War. But those comparisons have rarely illuminated the most troubling parallels between the U.S. media coverage of both wars.

Whether in 1968 or 2006, most of the Washington press corps has been at pains to portray withdrawal of U.S. troops as impractical and unrealistic.

Contrary to myths about media coverage of the Vietnam War, the American press lagged way behind grassroots antiwar sentiment in seriously contemplating a U.S. pullout from Vietnam. The lag time amounted to several years -- and meant the additional deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and perhaps 1 million more Vietnamese people.

A survey by the Boston Globe, conducted in February 1968, found that out of 39 major daily newspapers in the United States, not one had editorialized for withdrawing American troops from Vietnam. Today -- despite the antiwar tilt of national opinion polls and the recent election -- advocacy of a U.S. pullout from Iraq seems almost as scarce among modern-day media elites.

The standard media evasions amount to kicking the bloody can down the road. Careful statements about benchmarks and getting tough with the Baghdad government (as with the Saigon government) are markers for a national media discourse that dodges instead of enlivens debate.

Many journalists are retreading the notion that the pullout option is not a real option at all. And the Democrats who'll soon be running Congress, we're told, wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- dare to go that far if they know what's good for them.

Implicit in such media coverage is the idea that the real legitimacy for U.S. war policymaking rests with the president, not the Congress. When I ponder that assumption, I think about 42-year-old footage of the CBS program "Face the Nation."

The show's host on that 1964 telecast was the widely esteemed journalist Peter Lisagor, who told his guest: "Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy."

"Couldn't be more wrong," Sen. Wayne Morse broke in with his sandpapery voice. "You couldn't make a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president of the United States. That's nonsense."

Lisagor was almost taunting as he asked, "To whom does it belong then, Senator?"

Morse did not miss a beat. "It belongs to the American people," he shot back -- and "I am pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy."

The journalist persisted: "You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy."

Morse's response was indignant: "Why do you say that? ... I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you'll give them. And my charge against my government is, we're not giving the American people the facts."

Morse, the senior senator from Oregon, was passionate about the U.S. Constitution as well as international law. And, while rejecting the widely held notion that foreign policy belongs to the president, he spoke in unflinching terms about the Vietnam War. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Feb. 27, 1968, Morse said that he did not "intend to put the blood of this war on my hands."

And, prophetically, Morse added: "We're going to become guilty, in my judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world. It's an ugly reality, and we Americans don't like to face up to it."

(Norman Solomon's latest book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, " is out in paperback. For information, go to:

2. Who Will Pay for Iraq and When? -- by Jonathan Coopersmith

In all the heated words about the Iraq war, we've heard little or nothing about paying for it. Regardless of how you feel about the war, you must concede that it is going to cost us all dearly.

The Iraq war is consuming over $1.4 billion a week - or $200 million a day. In the time it takes you to read this article, the American government will have spent $700,000 on the war. The war has cost $200 billion already. Economists have estimated the war's ultimate bill will be $1-2 trillion, which includes costs such as the hospitalization and long-term care of tens of thousands of wounded veterans, interest payments on the wartime debt and replacement of worn-out equipment.

The enormous expense of the Iraq war is no surprise: historically, wars cost money, lots of it. In the past, paying for wars has often provided the impetus for new and more efficient ways of taxing citizens. Lotteries, an essential source of income for 42 states today, helped pay for the Revolutionary War. The income tax first surfaced in the United States to pay the huge costs of the Civil War, although the Supreme Court declared the tax unconstitutional after the war.

Half a century later, in 1913, Congress passed an income tax. That progressive tax began at 1 percent for married couples making over $4,000 and rose to 7 percent on incomes over $500,000. To pay for World War I, the top rate rose to 77 percent on income over $2 million, although the number of people earning $2 million then was minuscule. To pay for World War II, Congress expanded the number of people paying income taxes from 4 to 42 million and increased the top rate to 91 percent. Excess-profits taxes brought in even more money, as did sales of savings bonds.

And those were "good" wars. Controversial wars, such as the Iraq war today, have been harder to fund. Lyndon Johnson and his successor, Richard Nixon, failed to raise taxes sufficiently to pay for the Vietnam War, partly because of opposition to the war from liberals and others, and to Johnson's war on poverty from conservatives. Neither left nor right wanted to fund what they considered as dangerously misguided government policies.

Consequently, growing deficits and cuts to politically vulnerable parts of the federal budget marked attempts by Johnson and Nixon to pay for the war in Vietnam. Among the cuts were those to scientific and technical research that could have had long-term benefits; cutting such funding meant slower long-term growth. The deficits also helped spark an inflationary spiral that persisted through the 1970s. This inflation reduced the value of the dollar, a less direct but longer-lasting cost of the Vietnam war.

The most impressive wartime financing ever was by President Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, in the first Gulf War of 1990-1991. The first President Bush and his advisers worked through diplomacy to persuade countries like Japan to pay almost all of America's immediate war costs.

In the case of Iraq, instead of raising taxes to pay for the war, the current Bush administration is cutting them, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal deficit. The Bush administration has raised the ceiling on the national debt from $5.95 trillion in 2001 to $9.62 trillion in 2006, an increase of over 60 percent in five years. All this debt must eventually be repaid by taxing us, our children and our grandchildren.

Why this flight from financial reality? No politician likes to raise taxes. The Bush administration has made cutting taxes a policy hallmark and has vigorously opposed any discussion of raising any taxes.

Before it invaded Iraq, the White House disavowed its treasury secretary, John Snow, who estimated the war would cost $100-200 billion. The administration argued that the war would cost only a few tens of billions of dollars, hardly enough to get excited about. Since then, the administration has funded the war through annual supplemental requests instead of regular budget appropriations, effectively hiding the war's cost.

For their part, Democrats have not tried to pay for the war by raising taxes, for fear the Republicans will call them "tax-and-spend" liberals. Although this is a far more responsible policy than being a "borrow-and-spend" conservative, a platform of fiscal frugality will not win elections in today's polarized political climate. Nor, afraid of being accused of not supporting the troops, have Democrats attempted to challenge funding for the war.

Equally important, investors, including the Chinese government, are financing the war in Iraq by buying Treasury bonds. Foreign investors are not buying bonds because they agree with American foreign policy; they buy bonds as a good investment that will be repaid with interest - by taxes on Americans for decades to come.

Both the Congress and the president deserve blame for not fulfilling their Constitutional duty to find the funding for the Iraq war. But especially for an administration that uses historical events to justify its actions, it's sad that the president and his supporters have not learned one of the most important lessons of history: fiscal responsibility.

(Jonathan Coopersmith is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University and is a writer for the History News Service, an independent, nonprofit distribution service provided by professional historians to the news media, offers commentary that places current issues in their historical perspectives.)

3. A Way Out of Iraq -- by Russ Feingold/

On Election Day, the American people weighed in at the ballot box: They want to get our troops out of Iraq. Voters rejected the president's failed Iraq policy, putting Democrats in charge of Congress and responsible for setting a new direction for Iraq, and, most importantly, for our national security.

Democrats agree that we should begin redeploying troops, but some do not want to set a target deadline for the majority of troops to be withdrawn. That is a mistake. Without a target date, redeployment could drag on indefinitely. The president consistently refused to set a target date for withdrawal, and Democrats shouldn't follow in his footsteps. Democrats should move forward with a new Iraq policy that includes a target date for the redeployment of U.S. troops so that we can refocus on defeating global terrorist networks.

On Tuesday, I introduced legislation requiring U.S. forces to redeploy from Iraq by July 1, 2007. My legislation recognizes that a target date for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq will help pressure the Iraqis to get their political house in order. Simply announcing when we will begin redeployment, without any end date, is unlikely to put adequate pressure on the Iraqis.

A target date isn't just critical to our Iraq policy, it is essential for our national security policy. We cannot adequately focus on the pressing national security challenges we face around the globe when so many of our brave troops are in Iraq, and so many billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent there. A timetable ensures that we can refocus our resources on fighting terrorist networks and on addressing trouble spots around the world that threaten our national security.

Because problems in Iraq won't dry up overnight, my legislation would allow for a minimal level of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq for targeted counterterrorism activities, training of Iraqi security forces, and the protection of U.S. infrastructure and personnel.

But our current Iraq policy is making the United States weaker, not stronger. The president has continually refused to change our current approach in Iraq, despite a growing number of policymakers and experts, including many Republicans, advocating for a change of course. Voters responded to his failed policies by putting Democrats in control of Congress. They want to change course, and they have given Democrats the chance to finally put our national security policy right by proposing a timetable for redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq.

The president's policy has us in Iraq with no end in sight. But the Iraqis need an end in sight to get their political house in order, and we need an end in sight so we can get back to fighting terrorist networks. Our disproportionate focus on Iraq has undermined our ability to confront the terrorist threat around the globe. Now Democrats can start to turn these wrong-headed policies around. But we won't do that by continuing our open-ended commitment of troops on Iraq. And we won't do it with tepid or muddled policies of our own. We will do it by setting a target date for redeployment, so that we can direct our resources to defeating the terrorist organizations that seek to harm this country.

(Russ Feingold is a United States senator from Wisconsin.)

4. Voters Have Spoken: Bring Troops Home -- by John Nichols/ Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin)

Political and media insiders were willing to admit, albeit cautiously, that last week's election results in which Democrats took control of Congress, with explicitly anti-war candidates posting frequently unexpected wins in districts across the country represented a repudiation of the Bush administration's invasion and continued occupation of Iraq.

President Bush confirmed the assessment when he welcomed the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Unfortunately, while the analysts finally acknowledged the deep and broad opposition to the war, they continued to question whether Americans really want to bring the troops home now . They were not willing to speak the truth that Siobhan Kolar, who helped organize an anti-war referendum campaign in Illinois, did when she declared: "The anti-war majority has spoken!"

The prospect of rapid withdrawal still scares the vast majority of what can loosely be referred to as "the political class" not because those who understand the seriousness of the troubles in Iraq think that withdrawal is a particularly bad option, but because they fear the American electorate might object to the abandonment of a mission that they have been told for more than three years is essential.

As they have since before the war began, most pundits and pols are underestimating the awareness and the maturity of the American people with regard to exit strategies. If only they would travel this country and actually talk to voters, they would run into people like Regina Miller, the mother of an Army captain serving his second tour in Iraq, who spoke to a reporter while waiting in line to vote in Baltimore.

"I really don't think we're making a difference there, so we need a change. We need to pull out. That's their war," Miller said of the Iraqis. "That's a civil war."

That is not a naive or misinformed sentiment. That's realism a realism that accepts that Iraq is a mess and that it will probably remain a mess for quite some time. It asks only the most basic question: Why should American troops remain bogged down in the middle of the mess?

Let's be clear: There will come a point at which the United States exits Iraq. That point will be preceded by chaos and followed by chaos. Keeping U.S. troops on the ground there only guarantees one thing: more funeral services for young U.S. soldiers in inner cities and small towns across America.

The great mass of voters are not fearful about exiting Iraq. They fear the funerals, and the wheelchairs, and the emotional trauma, and the unmet needs at home and the continued war profiteering that go with a "stay the course" strategy. And they are ready to get out. National exit polling last Tuesday found a 55 percent to 37 percent landslide majority of Americans in favor of withdrawal.

When voters were given the opportunity to address the question directly, as was the case in more than 150 communities in Wisconsin, Illinois and Massachusetts that voted on "Bring the Troops Home" referendums, they left no doubt that they are ready to end this war. Big cities such as Chicago and Milwaukee joined smaller communities such as Geneva township, Ill., and Boscobel, Wis., in voting for withdrawal. All 10 referendums that were on the ballot in Wisconsin won including the one in Middleton, which prevailed by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin and those results follow upon last spring's voting in the state, when another 24 communities voted for immediate withdrawal. All 11 referendums that were on the ballot in Illinois won. And the overwhelming majority of the 139 that were on the ballot in Massachusetts won. Rarely was the divide even close.

"I don't think the voters could make themselves any clearer," explained Steve Burns, the program coordinator with the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, which promoted the referendums.

"The voters get it they know that the best thing for the American people and the Iraqi people is for us to bring our troops home from their country. Now it's time for our government to listen."

Now, indeed.


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