So onward into 2003 we go, amid INS roundups of Middle Easterners in Southern California and the grand hunt for Saddam’s “material breaches,” which could be a song out of Gilbert and Sullivan. As Hilaire Belloc wrote in his “Lord Lundy,” “The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:/The Middle Class was quite prepared.” The press is certainly squared, with no one encouraged to challenge the grand consensus on our national virtue, confronting the satanic forces.
Back in early 1991, I was the first journalist, right here in The Nation, to question the charge, promoted by Amnesty International, that Iraqi soldiers had taken more than 300 babies from incubators in Kuwait and tossed them on the cold hospital floor. In the end the incubator atrocity turned out to have been concocted by the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, with its main witness being the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington. The story was the best advertisement from that war of the old line about truth being the first casualty.
You can’t keep a good lie down. As FAIR recently reported, HBO did a retrospective on CNN’s coverage of Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and its aftermath, and–guess what–there was the incubator atrocity, large as life, without a blemish to its name. Most such news “management” is entirely voluntary.
The Berlin daily Tageszeitung got a world-class scoop just before Christmas by getting hold of Iraq’s 12,000-page document concerning its relationship with weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations obeyed the US demand that it censor the report before it was given to members of the Security Council.
Swiftly excised were the corporations, mostly US, British and German, that supplied Iraq with nuclear, chemical, biological and missile technology prior to 1991. Such shipments, encouraged by the relevant governments, were illegal under the terms of solemn international treaties and laws. US corporations included Honeywell, SpectraPhysics, Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, Bechtel and others, twenty-four in all. In addition, the US Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce and Agriculture were designated as suppliers.
A big story? You might think so. The European press covered it. Amy Goodman did a report on Democracy Now!, as did IndyMedia. I heard a good interview on CBC radio with the journalist who got the scoop. The London Independent ran a story on December 18. But the US corporate press? Nothing that I can find.
The Moral of Gore’s Withdrawal
On December 15 Gore took himself out of the race for the Democratic nomination for 2004. Most of the coverage of Gore’s withdrawal took a genteelly elegiac tone. Lacking was any sense of curiosity about what prompted him to withdraw.
After all, Gore was running way ahead of any rivals in polls of Democrats, and anyone claiming that Bush will be unbeatable need only look at the economic numbers, the increasing likelihood of a double-dip recession and what happened to the incumbent’s dad in 1992, post his Iraq victory a year earlier. (We may safely discount the mushy stuff about Al being first and foremost a family man, under the rule that all politicians are family men who dream only of cozy evenings round the hearth, but that running for dogcatcher is way more fun.)
This fall Gore embarked on a carefully considered run to win renomination and recapture the left support that abandoned him for Nader in 2000. His well-written September speech in San Francisco staked out the ground: opposition to the manner of Bush’s threats to attack Iraq; an onslaught on Bush/Ashcroft’s assaults on civil liberties here in the Homeland. In the weeks that followed, during a long-planned book tour, Gore underlined this shift to the left, with calls for radical healthcare reform and populist noises about the economy and corporate crookery.
Now, what happens when a Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination campaigns as a peacenik? The mainstream press turns against that candidate and his money dries up.
Gore got poor reviews for his San Francisco speech, and political columnists began to note that funders were leery. Gore, you’ll recall, spent much of his public life courting the financial support of hawkish American Jews who are now mostly urging Bush to knock over Saddam. His line on the war can’t have been going down well with them. Just after a successful appearance on Saturday Night Live, Gore gave in to invincible forces and bowed out.
So where does that leave Ronnie Dugger? Here in The Nation a few weeks ago he urged Ralph Nader and all who supported him in 2000 to rally behind the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 (who Dugger surely anticipated would be Gore). It leaves Dugger in the position of passionately urging loyalty among the left and greens to a party whose ownership by big money is so total that no candidate arguing serious economic reform or against war–even one with the safe record of Gore–can hope to survive.
I’m sorry to tell you, Ronnie. You can write about Bush’s judicial appointments all you want, but it’s not going to fly.
Them Racist Southerners
Don’t you just love Northern liberals beating up on them racist Southerners? It seems one of the benchmarks of enlightenment is whether a politician voted for a Martin Luther King Day. Here’s the New York Times editorializing on December 10 of 1982: “Why not a Martin Luther King Day?… Dr King, a humble man, would have objected to giving that much importance to any individual. Nor should he be given singular tribute if that demeans other historical black figures like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Malcolm X.” In other words, give one of them a holiday and they’ll all be wanting one. The Times urged a statue of King in the Capitol, presumably in white marble, the better to blend in with the rest.