I had dinner with a friend a few nights ago who shocked me by saying the U.S. had the most diverse media in the world. He is someone I respect as an AIDS/queer activist, who was arrested at the Matthew Shepard march in 1998 plus a number of other times, but who seems to have bought into what our government and the mainstream press are selling. He was also untroubled by the stifling of dissent, even to the point of arresting legal protesters standing on a sidewalk or questioning them about their political beliefs, feeling that it was mostly "foreigners" who should be worried.
It's one of the main reasons I stopped posting for over a week. If people like him feel that way, I'm not sure I see much of a point in doing anything or even writing about what's going on. I'm feeling that maybe I should devote my energies to trying to make more of a difference locally: spending my money and time on helping NYC and the most physically or economically vulnerable people here and elsewhere in the U.S. (but mostly in NYC). Probably my biggest concern outside of NYC is for gay kids, like the kid in Arkansas who was outed by school officials and forced to read the Bible.
After that complaint, to illustrate my point about the media, the British press is all over the story of "hyped" intelligence -- or lies if you prefer -- as the reason to go to war with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction. The Independent also has a story about the illegal use of cluster bombs. A selection:
- Government blames spies over war
A senior minister warned yesterday that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would constitute "Britain's biggest ever intelligence failure" and would trigger an overhaul of the security services.
The minister told The Independent that the security services were responsible for Downing Street's uncompromising stance on Saddam Hussein's weapons. He spoke after a row erupted between politicians and the intelligence community over the Government's justification for going to war.
A senior intelligence official also told the BBC that Downing Street had wanted the Government dossier outlining Saddam's capability "sexed up" and that Downing Street included information against security service advice.
Meanwhile, Washington dealt another devastating blow to Tony Blair, who was visiting troops in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, said that disarming Saddam of illegal weapons was nothing more than a "bureaucratic reason" for war.
He told Vanity Fair magazine that members of the divided White House cabinet pushed the issue because it was the only way they could present a united front.
- Allied use of cluster bombs illegal, minister admits
The Government admitted during the war on Iraq that the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets would "not be legal", a letter obtained by The Independent has revealed.
Anti-landmine charities claimed last night that the letter by Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, proved that the Ministry of Defence had broken international law by using the munitions in towns and cities.
Mr Ingram stressed that the British armed forces strove to act in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. "It is clear that when we apply these principles there will be occasions when the use of cluster bombs against certain targets would not be legal," he wrote. "There will be occasions when the use of other munitions would be legal but the use of cluster bombs would not."
Richard Lloyd, director of the charity Landmine Action, said the letter, with yesterday's admission, proved the Geneva Conventions were knowingly breached. "Mr Ingram has admitted the Government acted outside the law," he said.
- Britain and US urged to show arms evidence
PRESSURE was growing on Tony Blair and President Bush last night to publish the evidence on weapons of mass destruction that they used to justify going to war in Iraq.
Scores of MPs are backing an early day motion demanding that the Government spell out its case after a minister admitted that an important claim about Saddam Husseins weapons was based on uncorroborated information.
- No10's ORDER: MAKE SADDAM DOSSIER SEXY
EVIDENCE against Saddam Hussein was "sexed up" on Downing Street orders because it was not damning enough to justify war on Iraq, it was claimed yesterday.
An intelligence source said No10 spin doctors ordered them to distort the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It was "transformed" before publication to make it "sexier" - including a claim that WMDs could be ready for use in 45 minutes.
- Blair: WMD dossier claims 'absurd'
Tony Blair today made an angry but opaque denial of accusations that Downing Street asked for a dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to be "sexed up".
Speaking in Poland ahead of a speech on the extension of the EU, Mr Blair said it was "completely absurd" to suggest that MI6 was made to "invent some piece of evidence".
However, the actual allegation, made to the BBC yesterday by a senior security official, was that the government had asked for the document to be "sexed up".
Explaining why it had taken 24 hours for the prime minister to answer the allegations, Mr Blair said he had "only caught up overnight" with the claims, although he spent yesterday in Iraq, with a mobile office.
- Iraq's 'weapons' doubts
So is the Bush administration backing away from its insistence that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the war?
The public justification for the British and American decision to go to war to oust Saddam Hussein was the clear and imminent threat said to have been posed by his regime's weapons of mass destruction.
While the Americans and British have insisted that significant resources are being deployed in the hunt, the fact remains that many sensitive sites - including Iraqi nuclear facilities - may well have been looted and potential evidence destroyed.
If I search on Google News for the Wolfowitz story about WMD being "just a bureaucratic reason" for war, at the moment I don't get too much U.S. media. The NY Times is a Krugman column (worth reading), and The Boston Globe story that shows up is from Reuters:
'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,'' Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in Vanity Fair magazine's July issue.
Wolfowitz said another reason for the invasion had been ''almost unnoticed but huge'' -- namely that the ousting of Hussein would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where their presence had long been a major Al Qaeda grievance.
''Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door'' to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying.
The magazine said he made the remarks days before suicide bombings, attributed to Al Qaeda, against Western targets in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Casablanca, Morocco, two weeks ago that killed 75 people.
I think Israel should be worried. It sounds like we found a new "aircraft carrier" in the Middle East.