"We call our stuff information and the enemy's propaganda," says Col. Jack N. Summe, former commander of the Fourth Psychological Operations Group, in Jeff Gerth's masterful, must-read investigation into how the US military is waging a quasi-secret information war in Iraq and the Middle East. Even in the Pentagon, Summe admits to Gerth, "some public affairs professionals see us unfavorably," and inaccurately, he says, as "lying, dirty tricksters."
It turns out that the Lincoln Group, the Washington-based subcontractor hired by the Pentagon to plant stories in Iraq's media was no rogue operation. Instead, as Gerth documents, it was just one of many elements in the Bush Administration's vast, extensive and costly propaganda apparatus.
Recent news stories have documented how the Lincoln group received tens of millions of dollars in Pentagon contracts to plant paid, boosterish articles in the Iraqi and Arab media. Now we learn that while US troops had defective bulletproof vests, US taxpayer money was being used to help Lincoln pitch pop culture ideas as a way to win hearts and minds in the Middle East.
If you're really organized you've already completed your holiday shopping for the year. If so, you can take a break from this column. But if you're like me and still looking for holiday presents with a progressive slant, keep reading for ideas, many of them courtesy of my crack intern researcher Mike Fox (who also plays a mean fiddle and whose band's CD makes a nice holiday gift too).
First, check out Katha Pollitt's latest Nation column, which upholds her recent tradition of offering annual suggestions for giving to groups and organizations doing unbelievable work with shockingly little money. The efficiency of some of these places would awe a McKinsey consultant, so look them over before you make your final round of charitable contributions this year.
Heifer International also makes it easy to help assist needy families far from home. The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase an animal that can be a life-line for families in the developing world. A pig can be bought for $120 (or chip in $10 to help share the cost of one), three rabbits are a bargain at $60 total, a flock of chicks costs only $20, and if you're feeling really generous, a $1,500 donation provides two sheep, four goats, a heifer and two llamas.
Even the poets are restless now. TheyÂ¡Â¦re not content to go along with Shelley and be the unacknowledged legislators of the world. They want to be acknowledged just a little bit.
Eugene McCarthyMarch, 1968
Eugene McCarthy, who has died more quietly than he lived at the venerable age of 89, will be remembered first and foremost as the courageous Minnesota senator who, when the anti-Vietnam War movement needed a champion in the political arena, took up the fight and deposed one of the most powerful presidents in history.
The remaining members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad say their work will go on regardless of what happens to their four colleagues still held hostage. CPT workers were among the first to expose abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and continue to document the excesses of the US occupation.
Four years ago, when U.S. Senator Russ Feingold stood alone in the Senate to oppose the Bush administration's Patriot Act, he was portrayed as a political fringe dweller whose determination to defend basic liberties was out of touch with the realities of the post-9/11 era.
This year, as Feingold leads the fight to block a flawed proposal to reauthorize the Patriot Act, he does so as the voice of a national movement that includes conservatives and liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and independents, and residents of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And he has enough Senate allies to speak seriously about launching a filibuster to block the measure.
What has changed since 2001?
Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, died 25 years ago this month. Today Catholic Workers are in Cuba, keeping vigil outside the US Naval Prison at Guantanamo Bay and keep a vigil for detainees. This Colman McCarthy meditation on Day's funeral sheds light on Catholic Workers as a political and social force.
Twenty-five members of the Catholic Worker movement are walking across Cuba to the US Naval prison at Guantánamo Bay in hopes of meeting with more than 500 detainees, the first time peace activists have brought their protests to the tropical gulag. If they are turned away, the pilgrims plan on conducting a vigil outside.
The Tipton Three embody a nightmare scenario of the "war on
terror": Young British men visiting Pakistan for a wedding wound up
accused of terrorism in Afghanistan, imprisoned and tortured at
Guantánamo Bay, then released with no charges. Now they're
telling their story in the docu-drama, The Road to Guantánamo.
The pursuit of truth in drama is elusive, but in life it is mandatory, wrote Harold Pinter, who died Wednesday at 78. When he won the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature, he condemned the United States for its actions in Iraq and and called on its citizens to reject the manipulation of political language.
The current debate in the United States over the use of torture in the
interrogation of terror suspects has prompted Patricia Isasa, a teenage
torture victim in Argentina's "dirty war," to speak out against the
School of the Americas, a longtime training ground for torture
The Chronicles of Narnia is the perfect combination
of Christian allegory and The Lord of the Rings, a well-crafted
commodity and nothing more. The Ice Harvest, an anti-Christmas
film noir, has an unexpected depth of feeling. Memoirs of a
Geisha is all prestige and promotions.
Photographs are supposed to be unbiased recognitions of
reality, but they're really self-portraits of the photographer. The
Ongoing Movement, a blend of biography and analysis, examines what
happens when photographers create deliberately untruthful pictures.
Last May, I wrote an Annals of Outrage IIÂ chronicling the waste, fraud and abuse in the federalÂ government in the first half of 2004. Plenty of timeÂ has passed since my last piece and muchÂ has happened. Here, then, is my latest attempt toÂ guide you through the Bush Administration's mostÂ egregious corruption scandals. The information comesÂ to us courtesy of the federal government's internalÂ investigations into administration fraud, waste andÂ abuse. The cronyism and corruption have hit a new low.Â
1) Bat Mitzvah Corruption: In terms of sheer outrage,Â millionaire defense contractor David H. Brooks is hardÂ to top. The New York Daily News recently reported thatÂ Brooks spent an estimated $10 million on hisÂ daughter's bat mitzvah reception. Aerosmith performedÂ at the reception (reportedly earning a cool two million dollars), and Kenny G, 50 Cent, Tom Petty and TheÂ Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh also played. Here'sÂ the kicker: Brooks has reportedly made more thanÂ $250 million in wartime profits as the CEO of DHB Industries-- which has had thousands of defective bulletproof vests recalled by the government!Â
According to a government investigation intoÂ the faulty vests that was uncovered by the MarineÂ Corps Times, DHB's equipment saw "multiple completeÂ penetrations" when 9mm pistol rounds were fired intoÂ the vests. One government ballistics expert quoted inÂ the government's findings said he had "littleÂ confidence" in DHB's equipment. Meanwhile,Â the SEC is looking into Brooks' 2004 sale of $186Â million worth of company stock. Institute for PolicyÂ Studies' Sarah Anderson, who co-authored a reportÂ called "Executive Excess 2005," called Brooks a "worldÂ champion war profiteer," concluding, he has "no shame."Â
Four editors of October magazine trace the history of
contemporary art. Though Art Since
1900 seeks to be comprehensive, its writers leave out entire movements and impose moralistic
judgments on the artists and art they profile.
Does it lessen the horror to admit that this is not the first time the
US government has used torture to wipe out political opponents? The
exclusion of the impact of the School of the Americas on war crimes in El
Salvador, Argentina and Panama from our current debate on torture is
evidence of our collective amnesia.
Bush brings a robust simplicity to the business of news
management: Where possible, buy journalists to turn out favorable
stories. And if you think you can get away with it, shoot them or blow
The Democratic Leadership Council purports to speak for Democrats, yet
still employs former Christian Coalition official Marshall Wittmann to
parrot dishonest right-wing talking points about the war. Meanwhile,
Nancy Pelosi joins Representative Jack Murtha to demand withdrawal from