The Nation

Dr. King and the Media

MEMPHIS -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy has been celebrated this weekend in Memphis by National Conference for Media Reform speakers such as Bill Moyers, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vermont Senator Bernie Sander, actor Danny Glover and Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, often prodded the U.S. media to do a better job of covering the civil rights movement that he championed in the 195Os and 196Os.

King recognized that, while ending segregation and creating opportunities for African Americans was his first goal, getting the media to do its job had to be on the agenda.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner knew that organizing, marching and protesting in a vacuum would not bring change. The American people and their elected representatives needed to know that demands were being made for the redress of grievances.

As Jodie Allen, a veteran journalist with U.S. News and World Report, has noted, "Martin Luther King presciently saw that the pictures were worth a thousand words in showing this and that segregation could not persist in the face of illumination when the spotlights were on it."

King believed that the generally favorable coverage of the 1963 March on Washington represented a breakthrough, writing in his autobiography that, "If anyone had questioned how deeply the summer's activities had penetrated the consciousness of white America, the answer was evident in the treatment accorded the March on Washington by all the media of communication. Normally Negro activities are the object of attention in the press only when they are likely to lead to some dramatic outbreak, or possess some bizarre quality. The march was the first organized Negro operation that was accorded respect and coverage commensurate with its importance. The millions who viewed it on television were seeing an event historic not only because of the subject but because it was being brought into their homes."

"Millions or white Americans, for the first time, had a clear, long look at Negroes engaged in a serious occupation," King continued. "For the first time millions listened to the informed and thoughtful words of Negro spokesmen, from all walks of life. The stereotype of the Negro suffered a heavy blow. This was evident in some of the comments which reflected surprise at the dignity, the organization, and even the wearing apparel and friendly spirit of the participants. If the press had expected something akin to a minstrel show, or a brawl, or a comic display of odd clothes and bad manners, they were disappointed. A great deal has been said about a dialogue between Negro and white. Genuinely to achieve it requires that all the media of communications open their channels wide as they did on that radiant August day."

Unfortunately, the channels have not remained so wide open.

When King began in 1967 to express outspoken opposition to the war in Vietnam, historian Taylor Branch recalls, "The reaction of the press was the most damaging public reaction that he had from the white press." The Washington Post went so far as to declare that, with his opposition to the war, "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Similarly, King's attempts to advance an economic justice agenda –- the work of his final days as he came to Memphis to march with striking garbage collectors –- was dismissed as a both futile and dangerous.

Things have only grown worse as media consolidation has led to a dumbing down of our mass communications. As civic and democratic values have been replaced by the commercial and entertainment impulses of bottom-line driven big media companies, coverage of social and economic justice movements has declined. And the relatively serious examinations of fundamental questions of war and peace that were seen during the Vietnam War have been replaced by the embedded – or, as Pultizer Prize winning author Studs Terkel refers to it: "in bed with the administration" -- coverage of the Iraq quagmire.

This weekend, as Americas prepare to mark the 78th anniversary of King's birth, activists, journalists, academics, FCC commissioners and members of Congress have gathered in Memphis for the third National Conference for Media Reform. Jackson, Moyers, Sanders, Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley and 3,000 others are raising the alarm about the threat consolidation of media ownership and the embrace of bottom-line values poses to quality journalism and to democracy itself.

Dr. King understood that a free, diverse and adventurous press was essential to social progress. As Danny Glover explained in Memphis, the media-reform movement has embraced that understanding and are carrying it into the 21st century.

Recalling King's observation that, "Our nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power," Glover told the crowd, "The nettlesome task about which Dr. King spoke is still being carried out by people who embody character, courage and the fortitude to make decisions in support of truth not spin, people who critically embrace diversity and reject monopoly."


John Nichols is a co-founder of Free Press, the national media reform network that has organized the National Conference on Media Reform.

Will Democrats Spend Their Political Capital?

White House press secretary Tony Snow is right about one thing:Democratic resolutions on Iraq may be non-binding, but the war--andnow its escalation--is "very real."

Just because the Bush Administration is out of touch with realitydoesn't mean that Democratic leaders should react in kind. Manyhigh-ranking Democrats seem to believe that a symbolic Congressionalvote against Bush's escalation of the occupation will be enough to change the President's mind. "If you really want to change the situation on the ground, demonstrate to the president he's on hisown," Senator Joe Biden told the New York Times. "That will spark real change."

Not likely--even if a significant number of Republicans vote against escalation. Bush is already on his own. Upwards of 80 percent ofAmericans--and more than half of the military, including the JointChiefs of Staff--oppose sending more troops to Iraq. The presidenthas no intention of governing by consensus. Just ask his father'sbest friend, James Baker. Bush's idea of bipartisanship, as his speech tonight made clear, consists of talking to Joe Lieberman.

His admission last March that future Presidents will decide whento withdraw US troops from Iraq was no slip. The only way Bush willlisten to the Congress is if they force him to, by refusing toprovide the money or the manpower to escalate the war.

Jack Murtha get this. So does Ted Kennedy. As he said yesterday atthe National Press Club: "We campaigned as Democrats in 2006. And wemust govern as Democrats in 2007. We have the solemn obligation nowto show the American people that we heard their voices. We will standwith them in meeting the extraordinary challenges of our day – notwith pale actions, timid gestures, and empty rhetoric, but with boldvision, clear action, and high ideals that match the hopes and dreamsof the American people. That is our duty as Democrats and asAmericans on the war in Iraq."

In the Democratic response to Bush, Senator Dick Durbin hinted at Congressional action beyond passing a non-binding resolution. "I believe we need to go beyond that," Senator Barack Obama said tonight. The logical next step is legislation introduced by Kennedy andRep. Marty Meehan, which simply and effectively states that "no funds can be spent to send additional troops to Iraq unless Congress approves the President's proposed escalation of American forces." Presidential candidates John Edward and Tom Vilsack have endorsed such an approach.

Criticism alone will not be enough to stop the President in thisinstance. In an important post, blogger Chris Bowers likens the comingfight over escalation to the 2005 battle to save Social Security. "Inthe Social Security fight, Democrats ended up looking like heroes notjust because they weren't those evil Republicans who tried to destroySocial Security," Bowers writes, "but rather because Democrats werethose stalwart fighters who prevented Republicans from destroyingSocial Security."

The difference between then and now is that in 2005 Bush claimed"political capital"--at least briefly. After a year of ineptness bythe President, Democrats won in '06 precisely because voters wantedthem to keep Bush's powers in check, particularly on Iraq. "We[Democrats] were swept into office," Bowers writes, "not just becausewe voiced support for withdrawal or opposition to Bush's policies,but with the expectation that we could stop Bush's policy."

A large majority of Americans in a recent CBS News Poll want andexpect Democrats in Congress to try and decrease or remove all UStroops from Iraq. But 82 percent of those polled say CongressionalDemocrats have still not developed a "clear plan" for resolving theconflict. Blocking Bush's escalation will go a long way towardconvincing skeptical Americans that Democrats have an idea about howto end the war.

Surge Into A Quagmire

In a sober address to the nation Wednesday night, President Bush confirmed his determination to surge the United States military deeper into the Iraq quagmire by sending roughly 21,500 more troops to that troubled land.

The president went even further than his critics feared he might, outlining a dangerous program of integrating U.S. and Iraqi military units – with U.S. trainers and strategists embedded in Iraqi units and U.S. brigades partnered with Iraqi brigades. And he signaled that he will implement his new approach before Congress has a chance to consider it. Indeed, the first new U.S. brigade is scheduled to hit the ground in Iraq Monday.

Bush confidently dismissed Congressional opposition, anticipating – correctly it turned out – that while Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would criticize the strategy, they would not move to block it by employing the power of the purse to cut off funding of moves to escalate the war.

Despite the muted Democratic response, the proposal advanced by the president in Wednesday evening's televised address to the nation will be rejected on its merits by serious-minded Americans, able military analysts and those members of Congress who take seriously their Constitutionally-mandated duty to check and balance a dangerous executive. And, predictably, these expressions of sincere opposition to a misguided strategy will be criticized by the Bush administration's amen corner.

The president's boosters will continue to claim that any challenge to his war-making authority amounts to, at best, hatred of America, and, at worst, playing politics with the lives of U.S. troops already on the ground in Iraq.

No Democratic criticism of the president's same-as-it-ever-was approach – be it from cautious leaders or bolder backbenchers -- will be accepted by those who have decided that their first loyalty is to the Bush administration rather than to the United States.

So it is only appropriate to turn for comment of the president's "surge" strategy to a Republican supporter of the war who has made eight trips to Iraq.

Suggesting that Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq "sounds eerily like Lyndon Johnson's plan to save Vietnam in the mid 1960s" with an escalation of U.S. troops numbers in southeast Asia, Lt. Colonel Oliver North says the this president's approach is every bit as wrong as Johnson's.

"Sending more U.S. combat troops is simply sending more targets," North argued in columns and television appearances during the period leading up to the president's speech.

The Marine who was the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra point man and who went on to run as a Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Virginia, before joining Fox News as the host of the conservative network's "War Stories" program, has actually done something that few conservative supporters of the war have. He's gone to Iraq, again and again, spending substantial amounts of time talking with the troops, the commanders and Iraqis.

As a result, North speaks with a measure of authority when he rejects the arguments of the neoconservative theorists and hawkish senators, such as Arizona Republican John McCain and Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman, who advocate for a troop surge in Iraq. Bluntly stating that McCain and Lieberman, and by extension Bush, are "wrong" to argue for adding troops, North complained before the president's speech that the neoconservatives and their senate allies were not listening to the Americans who are already on the ground in Iraq.

"Messrs. McCain and Lieberman talked to many of the same officers and senior noncommissioned officers I covered for Fox News during my most recent trip to Iraq," North noted this week. "Not one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen or Marines I interviewed told me they wanted more "U.S. boots on the ground." In fact, nearly all expressed just the opposite: 'We don't need more American troops, we need more Iraqi troops,' was a common refrain. They are right."

"Adding 10,000 or 20,000 more U.S. combat troops -- mostly soldiers and Marines -- will not improve Iraqi willingness to fight their own fight, which is an imperative if we are to claim victory in this war," explains North, who adds that, "While putting 200,000 American or NATO troops on the Iranian and Syrian borders to stop infiltration might make sense, that's "mission impossible" given the size of U.S. and allied armed forces."

Don't get North wrong. He's not a "Bring the Troops Home Now!" man. He favors a continued U.S. presence in Iraq, and he's particularly enthusiastic about adding more trainers to help the Iraqis to actually "stand up" so that Americans can "stand down." And North can be expected to soft peddle some of his message in the days to come, as he is facing immense pressure from his conservative allies and employers to get on board for the surge.

But North's writings and comments regarding the surge strategy -- especially a thoughtful column that appeared in the Washington Times Tuesday -- offer a poignant reminder of how even the president's amen corner is no longer shouting "amen."

Reasonable people can -- and should -- debate North on whether a continued U.S. presence in a country where the vast majority of people do not want us. And, certainly, reasonable people can debate the colonel's continued willingness to give the Bush administration one more chance.

But there is no debating that North got things right when he warned against any escalation of that presence.

Forget about the Democratic response to Bush's madness. When the president's defenders attack war critics for questioning the sanity of the surge, just point them toward Lt. Colonel North's observation that: "A 'surge' or 'targeted increase in U.S. troop strength' -- or whatever the politicians want to call dispatching more combat troops to Iraq -- isn't the answer."


John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal,Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into theintentions of the founders and embraced by activists for itsgroundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability.After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone politicalwriter Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "JohnNichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, TheGenius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less withthe particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and insteadcombines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe "heroic medicine" that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and atwww.amazon.com

Iraq Protests Planned Nationwide

As John Nichols reports in The Online Beat, White House counselor Dan Bartlett has told the press that President Bush will announce tonight that he plans to commit an additional 21,500 US combat troops to Iraq. Bush will reportedly tell skeptical Americans that it was a mistake to not have more forces fighting the unpopular war in the past.

Specifically, according to breakdowns provided by the White House, 4,000 more Marines will be sent to the violence-torn Anbar Province, while 17,500 more troops will be dispatched to Baghdad. These troops will be sent into a chaotic situation with no discernible mission. Top generals have spoken out against the escalation, and recently-removed CentCom commander Gen John Abizaid reported unanimous opposition among commanders to the surge.

In contrast to Bush who seems poised to recklessly waste more lives and resources in pursuit of his ideological mission and the salvaging of his legacy, Katrina vanden Heuvel shows in Editor's Cut that the new Democratic Congress and peace activists across the nation are crafting alternatives to the president's misbegotten Iraq plan.

Katrina mentions United for Peace and Justice's plans for a January 27 march on Washington. The idea is to show Congress that America wants a peace surge and to push the legislators to listen to the voters, not Bush, and bring the war to a close. The weekend's activities will include an interfaith peace service and a Congressional Education Day on Monday, January 29th. Click here for info on transportation and here for info on housing. And, if you have the time, sign up to be a local coordinator to help mobilize people from your area to come to DC and/or help spread the word by posting flyers, downloading web buttons and sharing videos.

UFPJ is also working with the Win Without War coalition under the banner of "America Says NO to More Troops! End the War!" to launch a wave of local protests within twenty-four hours of Bush's announcement tonight to send more troops to Iraq. There are currently more than 300 events planned nationwide, including a demonstration at the 31st and Riverside Pedestrian Bridge in Tulsa, OK; a leafleting party in Norfolk, VA and a singing protest in Augusta, GA. Click here to find an event near you.

The Rush to Surge

It has been an open secret for weeks that President Bush would reject the message of the American people from the November 7 elections, along with the advice of savvy military strategists and foreign affairs experts, and surge the United States military deeper into the Iraq quagmire.

Now, as the President prepares to confirm his commitment to carry on in the wrong direction, with tonight's primetime address to the American people, Bush's White House has begun to leak details of how many more troops will be dispatched to Iraq--and, even more significant, how quickly those troops will be moved into position.

According to White House counselor Dan Bartlett, Bush will announce that he plans to commit an additional 21,500 US combat troops to the Iraq fight. Specifically, according to breakdowns provided by the White House, 4,000 more Marines will be sent to the violence-torn Anbar Province, while 17,500 more troops will be dispatched to the hell that is Baghdad.

According to the White House, the first new US brigade will hit the ground in Iraq by Monday. The next brigade is expected to arrive by February 15, while additional brigades continuing to enter the country at 30-day increments.

By moving so quickly, the President essentially pushes Congress aside. This is, at least to some extent, the fault of the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, which has known for weeks that the President was moving in the direction of a surge but which has failed to develop a coherent response.

But make no mistake, the Bush White House is not merely implementing a military strategy with regard to Iraq tonight. It is also implementing a political strategy with regard to Capitol Hill.

The President who has failed to consult with Congress throughout has decided to implement an immediate surge in hopes that it will become a reality before the House and Senate hold hearings, debate or take even the most minimal steps to check and balance his mad schemes.


John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal,Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into theintentions of the founders and embraced by activists for itsgroundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability.After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone politicalwriter Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "JohnNichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, TheGenius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less withthe particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and insteadcombines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe "heroic medicine" that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and atwww.amazon.com

Hawkish New Commander for Iraq

Several people have been writing fairly glowing accounts of the "brainy"and essentially anti-inflammatory approach the US military's new command teamin Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus and his number two, Lt.-Gen. Ray Odierno, may bring to their work there. Okay, to be fair, most of these accountshave centered on Petraeus-- who has, I should note, long cultivated his relationshipwith the press. Thus, we have had Juan Cole: "Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and dida fine job... when he was in charge of Mosul"; Trudy Rubin: "one of the Army's smartest and most creative generals", and many others...

However, very few of these people in Petraeus's personal cheering sectionseem to have dug much deeper-- either into Petraeus's own strategic thought,as reflected in the new counter-insurgency manual he helped write during his latest gig as commander of the army's "CombinedArms Center" in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; or into the professional recordof the man who will be in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq under hisleadership, Ray Odierno.

A first stab at understanding what Odierno might bring to his new job shouldstart with the record of his service as commander of the 4th Infantry Divisionduring its time in Iraq, March 2003 through April 2004. The WaPo'sThom Ricks wrote a lot about that at the time, and has included a lot ofinformation about Odierno in his recent book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq If you have a copy of the book, then go first to pp. 232-4, and thento pp.279-91. If you don't have a copy, you could go to that Amazon.comlink there, and do a "Search inside the book" for either "Odierno" or "H& I".

H&I, short for "Harrassment and Interdiction" was just one of the aggressivetactics Odierno used in the portion of the Sunni Triangle where the 4th IDwas operating...

On p. 234, Ricks refers to an article Odierno later published in Field Artillery magazine:

He wrote that he often responded with heavy firepower: "We usedour Paladins [155 millimeter self-propelled howitzer systems] the entiretime we were there," he said [probably, "wrote", not "said" ~HC]. "Most nights we fired H&I fires... what I call 'proactive' counter-fire." His conclusion was that "artillery plays a significant role in counter-insurgencyoperations." That assertion is at odds with the great body of successfulcounterinsurgency practice, which holds that firepower should be as restrainedas possible, which is difficult to do with the long-range, indirect fireof artillery.

It should go without saying that there is no such thing as "counter-" firethat is "proactive", i.e., pre-emptive. Basically, what Odierno waswriting about there was a mode of operating inside Iraq that included goingaround firing wildly with some pretty heavy artillery pieces simply to "harrass"and, often pre-emptively, "interdict" any suspected or possibly even quiteimaginary opponents. (Okay, that was just about the same thingthat Bush did in ordering the whole invasion of Iraq, in the first place. To that extent, we could certainly note the unity of approach betweenthe commander-in-chief and Ray Odierno, at that time.)

Over the pages that followed that quote, Ricks also writes a lot about thelethal, esclatory excesses committed by one of the brigade commanders workingunder Odierno in the 4th ID, Col. David Hogg. That portion of the bookis worth reading, too.

On p.232-3, Ricks writes of the 4th ID under Odierno,

Again and again, internal Army reports and commanders in iterviewssaid that this unit-- a heavy armored division, despite its name-- used ham-fistedapproaches that may have appeared to pacify its area in the short term, butin the process alienated large parts of the population.

"The 4th ID was bad," said one Army intelligence officer who worked withthem. "These guys are looking for a fight," he remembered thinking. "I saw so many instances of abuses of civilians, intimidating civilians,our jaws dropped."

"Fourth ID fueled the insurgency," added an Army psychological operationsofficer...

"they are going through neighborhoods, knocking on doors at two in the morningwithout actionable intelligence," said a senior officer. "That's howyou create new insurgents."

A general who served in Iraq, speaking on background, said flatly, "The 4thID-- what they did was a crime."

So here's my question: Why on earth should we be expected to believe thatRay Odierno-- a man who spent the vast majority of his career rising up insidethe "massive land force" portions of the US Army-- has had a complete character/professionalmakeover since April 2004, and that he is now going to go into Iraq withPetraeus and conduct any kind of a "brainy", culturally and politically sensitivecounter-insurgency campaign?

(I'm planning to expand some on the Petraeus part of this topic over at myblog Just World News, within the next couple of hours.)

Past Precedents For Blocking Escalation

Sen. Joe Biden could not have been more wrong when he claimed on Meet the Press on Sunday that Congress does not have the constitutional power to block an escalation of the war in Iraq.

An insightful new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) gives numerous examples of how past Congresses have acted to change, curtail or end US military deployments--by either refusing to fund them, capping the number of troops available or specifying that a deployment end by a date certain.

"While the president is commander-in-chief," CAP experts Larry Korb and Brian Katulis write, "Congress retains the power (with the consent of the president) to establish the laws by which the United States conducts foreign policy."

Here are just a few of the many relevant examples detailed in the CAP report:

December 1970. P.L. 91-652 – Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law. The Church-Cooper amendment prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.

June 1973. P.L. 93-50 – Supplemental Foreign Assistance, "None of the Funds herein appropriated under this act may be expended to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by United States forces, and after August 15, 1974, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other act may be expended for such purposes."

December 1974. P.L. 93-559 – Foreign Assistance Act of 1974. The Congress established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year.

December 1982. P.L. 98-215 – Defense Appropriations Act. In what became known as the Boland Amendment, Congress prohibited covert military assistance for Nicaragua.

June 1983. P.L. 98-43 – The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983. The Congress required the president to return to seek statutory authorization if he sought to expand the size of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon.

Moreover, throughout the 1990s, both Democrats and Republicans unsuccessfully tried to limit or prohibit US military assistance and operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Rational presidents from both parties consulted with and listened to the Congress. President Gerald Ford was particularly aware of Congress's influence in the realm of national security. In April 1975, after Congress had forced an end to combat operations in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland tried to convince Ford to send American troops back in. But according to his autobiography, Ford told Westmoreland no. If he defied the Congress, Ford said, he'd be impeached.

The GOP's 100 Hour Plan

It's always fascinating to see how one side views the other in politics. Scrolling through my inbox last night, I noticed that Republicans had a very different conception of the House Democrats' 100 hour plan, both substantively and rhetorically. They've even renamed the key provisions.

The Dems "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations,"--under consideration today in the House--became the GOP's "Not Fully Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations."

"The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007," sponsored by Democrat George Miller and scheduled for debate tomorrow, transformed into the GOP's "Minimum Wage Increase Without Assistance for Small Business."

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act = The Destruction of Human Embryos for Research.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act = Government "Negotiated" Drug Prices.

No word yet on what they're calling the Democratic plans to cut student loan rates in half and roll back tax breaks for oil companies. How about "Welfare for College Students" and "Tax Increase for Texas."

Pentagon Dystopia

In our world, the Pentagon and the national security bureaucracy have largely taken possession of the future. In an exchange in 2002, journalist Ron Suskind reported a senior adviser to President Bush telling him:

"that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. ‘We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality… We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

Slowly, step by step, the present White House has found itself forced back into at least the vicinity of the reality-based community. This week we may, in fact, get to hear one of the last of this President's great Iraqi fictions.

The same cannot be said of the Pentagon and the Intelligence Community (IC). They have settled into the future and taken it in hand in a business-like, if somewhat lurid, way. It's the Pentagon that, in 2004, was already producing futuristic studies about a globally warmed world from Hell; it's the Pentagon's blue-skies research agency, DARPA, that regularly lets scientists and other thinkers loose to dream wildly about future possibilities (and then, of course, to create war-fighting weaponry and other equipment from those dreams). It's the National Nuclear Security Administration that is hard at work dreaming up the nature of our nuclear arsenal in 2030.

Typical is the National Intelligence Council, a "center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government, reporting to the Director of Central Intelligence." In 2005, it was already expending much effort to create fictional scenarios for 2010, 2015, and 2020. Someone I know recently attended workshops the Council's long-range assessment unit organized, trying to look at the "threats after next" -- and this time they were deep into the 2020s.

The future -- whether imagined as utopian or dystopian -- was, not so long ago, the province of dreamers, or actual writers of fiction, or madmen and cranks, or reformers and journalists, or even wanna-be war-fighters, but not so regularly of actual war-fighters, or secretaries of defense, or presidents. In our time, the Pentagon and the IC have quite literally become the fantasy-based community. And yet, strangely enough, the urge of our top policy-makers (and allied academics and scientists) to spend their time in relatively distant futures has been little explored or considered by others.

A couple of things can be said about this near compulsion. First, it's largely confined to the arts of war. There is no equivalent in our government when it comes to health care or education, retirement or housing. No well-funded government think-tanks and lousy-with-loot research organizations are ready to let anyone loose dreaming about our planet's endangered environment, for instance. The future -- the only one our government seems truly to care about -- is most distinctly not good for you. It's a totally weaponized, grimly dystopian health hazard for the planet.

Of course, future fictions are notorious for their wrong-headedness. All you have to do is check out old utopian or dystopian fiction, if you don't believe me. The scandal here is not that, like most human beings, our soldiers and spies are sure to be desperately wrong on most aspects of their future fictions. The scandal is that we're mortgaging our wealth and our futures, whatever they may be, to their bloodcurdling, self-interested, and often absurd fantasies. After all, they're running a giant, massively profitable business operation off fictional futures, while creating their own armed reality at our expense.

For a peek at the Pentagon's vision of how to fight in Baghdad 2025, check out Nick Turse's latest piece at Tomdispatch.com.