CBS recently released results from a survey of public opinion on the war in Iraq. Most of the results were fairly predictable. The poll verified that the majority of Americans believe that the invasion wasn’t such a bright idea to begin with and a significant minority thinks that now is a good time to head for the nearest exit.
The CBS poll is just the latest confirmation that the average citizen is not buying into the administration’s contention that this war of choice is worth the price in blood and treasure. Even so, one of the alarming findings of the poll indicates that the pre-war propaganda campaign still resounds with an unhealthy majority of Republicans. As incredible as it may seem, the poll found that “44% of Republicans think Hussein was involved in 9/11 and 61% think Hussein was working with Al Qaeda before the war.”
Why do so many Republicans continue to believe this kind of nonsense? The short answer is that they -- like many other mass media consumers -- were taken in by the incredible mind messing mass media machine.
In a spirit of charity, let’s assume for a moment that the reporters and publishers who disseminated these absurd notions were themselves victims of the WMD hoax and swallowed whole the discredited neocon assertions about Iraq’s involvement in the 9/11 atrocities. Given that the 9/11 commission -- after investigating every possible link between Saddam and Bin Laden -- concluded that Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda -- a sworn enemy of the secular Baathists in Baghdad. And given that the manufactured WMD canards have also proven to be false. Why then have these same media conglomerates refused to make an effort to correct the misperceptions of so many Americans -- misperceptions implanted by their misleading and uncritical reporting?
You would think that any journalist or publisher who had been led astray by the Bush administration would take umbrage at being used by the neocon propagandists as conduits for leaking an endless stream of misinformation to an unsuspecting public. To this day, the New York Times blames Judith Miller’s infamous WMD reporting on Ahmed Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles. Sulzberger insists that Miller confirmed and double sourced Chalabi’s fiction with “United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources.”
To buy into Sulzberger’s alibi, you have to accept that Miller was some kind of virgin unfamiliar with the neocon pedigree of her contacts in the Pentagon and the White House. In fact, she was an imbedded journalist with the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and the Office of Special Plans (OSP). Both these outfits were specifically set up for the purpose of manufacturing and twisting intelligence and then using their foul produce to market the war in Iraq. While in bed with these warmongers, Judith appears to have been impregnated with their ideological zeal to beat the drums of war.
Is it possible that Miller was unaware of Chalabi’s intimate and long standing relationships with Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Lewis Libby? With 1,200 reporters on the beat and a brigade of journalists assigned to their Washington bureau -- the New York Times certainly doesn’t lack sufficient resources to figure out who’s who in the neocon world. You can crowd all the neocons into a single think tank and still have enough room for a pool full of sharks. Does anyone seriously believe that Miller was a gullible intern who was taken in by a few shrewd neocon operatives who abused her trust and converted her into a passive conduit for spreading war fever? Did her colleagues at the Times just stand by and allow her to make a fool of herself or did they understand that Sulzberger had given Miller explicit authority to participate in a government propaganda campaign?
From a strictly technical perspective, the campaign to market the war was a splendid success -- especially when you consider that the government doesn’t own any media assets. Stalin always had Pravda to fall back on -- but Bush and his merry band of neocons had to go hat in hand searching for mass media collaborators. And they found enough of them at the New York Times to launch high caliber weapons of mass deception that ultimately won the day and paved a path to war.
It would be unfair to suggest that the folks at the New York Times were the only mass media operators to make a deal with the neocon government within a government. No one signed on the dotted lines with more enthusiasm than Rupert Murdoch and the war loving delinquents at FOX. And CNN also contributed generously into making the war a smashing “shock and awe” reality show. This war was delivered with the seal and approval of the cable tabloids.
One of the third rails of American politics is to suggest that media monopolies have a tendency to act like other monopolies -- with a large degree of impunity. As recently as last month, Sulzberger was waging a public crusade to transform Judith Miller into a heroine fighting the good fight for “the public’s right to know.” Now back from her self-imposed jailhouse exile -- Judith insists on maintaining her silence about a criminal conspiracy to get even with a legitimate whistle-blower -- former ambassador Joseph Wilson. After writing a single column full of crater sized holes, Judith has abruptly decided to take a leave of absence. She spent 85 days in jail to “protect our right to know” only to assume the character of a Trappist monk and keep her trap shut. This woman isn’t selling you the Brooklyn Bridge -- she can get you Brooklyn at wholesale prices.
Judith “Run a Mock” Miller is no ordinary journalist. By her own admission, she had security clearance and ready access to powerbrokers like Lewis Libby and assorted neo-con insiders who consistently declined to be identified. This is a reporter that was willing to let Libby leak his poisonous backstabbing allegations and credit them to a “Former Hill Staffer.” On this count, she makes the point that she felt that “since The Times had run Wilson’s original essay, it had an obligation to explore any allegation that undercut his credibility.” It doesn’t seem to matter to this Pulitzer Prize winner that Wilson made his allegations in a public forum while Libby decided to counter the ambassador’s contentions by anonymously leaking defamatory “nepotism” slurs that Miller was happy to attribute to some unidentified “Former Hill Staffer.”
Apparently -- while in Iraq -- Miller had a direct line to Rumsfeld and threatened to use it when army officers conducting WMD searches didn’t obey her marching orders. And let’s not forget Miller’s Anthrax hoax. At a time when she was busy marketing her Germs book -- she set off an alarm about a suspicious envelope that might contain some of the deadly spores. The Times building was evacuated and emergency teams were sent in to inspect the premises. Traffic in Manhattan came to a crawl as streets were cordoned off and her book sales went through the roof. Was it all a prank? Given her track record, shouldn’t that incident be investigated to determine if she committed a felony? What’s the difference between that and calling in a bomb threat?
Onward to Miller’s account of her testimony before the Grand Jury. For over a year, Miller refused to testify. Had she complied with Fitzgerald’s subpoena in August of 2004 -- it might very well have impacted the presidential campaign. Had she and other mass media journalists refused to act like stenographers for the neocon warlords -- would we still have invaded Iraq?
Miller now claims a little bout of amnesia regarding who told her about Valerie Plame. She portrays Libby as a sympathetic character who was only out to protect Cheney from the CIA -- which had launched a “perverted war” to shift blame for the “intelligence failure” to the White House. There is no suggestion in her article that Libby was a mover and shaker among a clique of neo-cons in the Vice President’s Office and at the Pentagon that systematically undermined the more cautious findings of the CIA regarding Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Miller does, however, allude to “a particular bureau within the agency.” This is a journalist who was very familiar with the internal anatomy of the intelligence community. She leaves open the question of whether she knew about Plame before or after her encounters with Libby. “Another possibility is that I gave Libby the wrong name to see whether he would correct me and confirm her identity.” So, a question still hangs in the air: did she tell Libby about Valerie Plame or vice versa. She had three meetings with Libby before Wilson went public with his charges. Were they collaborating on a pre-emptive strike against the ambassador?
Miller, who until very recently insisted she was “fucking right” on Iraq’s fictional WMD stockpiles, now admits that she “got it totally wrong.” Yet she continues to perpetuate the myth that there was an “intelligence failure” and allows Libby to blame it all on the CIA. This alone should prove that Miller is a neocon operative. The whole purpose of Wilson’s whistle-blowing was to point out that there was no intelligence failure and that the intelligence was “twisted” to make the case for war. The ambassador was right about the yellow cake uranium hoax -- he was right to point out that intelligence was fixed and he had the courage to come out in public -- long before the Downing Street Memos confirmed his allegations.
Both Libby and Cheney pressured CIA analysts to be more “aggressive”. Miller herself berated the intelligence community for not listening to her suspect Iraqi sources -- the same sources she now blames for duping her. And yet, even at this late date, Miller has no problem perpetuating the myth that the war can be blamed on faulty CIA findings and that the CIA is out to pass the buck to an innocent Vice President.
While few people continue to believe the WMD hoax, the mass media is content to perpetuate the myth that “we got it totally wrong” because the folks at Langley didn’t have a clue. Why then did the CIA bother to send Wilson to Niger to double check and uncover the scam? Why did they insist that it be kept out of the President’s speech? Why did they advise Powell to avoid using it in his infamous and discredited presentation to the United Nations?
Judith Miller knew that the intelligence was cooked and was happy to provide some ingredients to spice up the mix. She continues to show no remorse about force-feeding the polluted stew to a vulnerable nation that was still in a state of shock. As a journalist who won her Pulitzer Prize for reporting on Al Qaeda, she had to know how ludicrous it was to suggest that Saddam was responsible for the 9/11 atrocities. As for Sulzberger, the publisher of the “paper of record” is content to let that deliberately inflammatory canard remain in the first draft of our history books. Considering that one out of every two Republicans continues to believe the fiction about Iraq’s link to the terrorists who assaulted the World Trade Center, why doesn’t Sulzberger make a concerted effort to set the record straight?
Almost 2,000 young Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have already paid the ultimate price in an illegal war that was launched after a systematic propaganda campaign that involved the collaboration of the neocons inside the administrations with the neocons who man the printing press. Fifteen thousand veterans will spend the rest of their lives coping with permanent paralysis, lost limbs, blindness and disfigurement. Thousands more will return with their psyches bent out of shape. Many will be haunted by the knowledge that -- in the fog of war -- they killed innocent civilians. These young soldiers and marines sacrificed their lives, their body parts, their sanity and their innocence in the honest belief that they were avenging the slaughter of 9/11. Among the things they carried into battle were postcards of the WTC in flames. They believed Sulzberger and they believed Judith Miller and her clones. It never occurred to them that neocon operators like Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were lurking behind the scenes with agendas that have yet to be made public. It never occurred to them that yellow journalists at the “paper of record” would team up with these ideological zealots to put them in harm’s way.
Judith Miller’s stain on the press is a large pool of innocent blood that was shed to appease the ideological yearnings of a tiny cabal of warmongering neo-conservative ideologues who can readily be traced to the Israeli Lobby. An honest accounting of her crimes against the truth would not be complete without implicating her publisher. Sulzberger and Miller are not just guilty of sloppy journalism and sensational jailhouse antics. They stand accused of participating in a coordinated government propaganda blitz to market an illegal and immoral war.
How will the mass media barons react to the Miller scandal? First, there is talk of a lucrative book deal. As of this writing, the Society of Professional Journalists is in the process of honoring this disgraced author of WMD fiction. The stated mission of this society is to promote the free flow of information, protect freedom of speech and stimulate high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism.
It is still not clear in my mind why not a single Times reporter has yet to quit in disgust. One can still remember their collective outrage and self-flagellation over the Jayson Blair affair. At the time, Kurt Eichenwald, a Times reporter opined that, “Pathological liars are pathological liars. They lie. I have come across more than my share of Blair-type liars. They are all the same. Once they are caught, they pretend to be confessing -- then lie all over again ... And all of them -- as you dig deeper into their false confessions -- are thoroughly, thoroughly unrepentant.”
Jayson Blair must be eating his heart out and wondering why he had to pay such a steep price for his relatively harmless pranks. Maybe he should sue Sulzberger for discriminatory practices in hiring and retaining journalists who cook up fiction for the credulous masses.
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