Published on Saturday, July 13, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
The Narrow View of "Wide Angle":
An Open Letter to PBS
by Wallace Schultz
I just watched the season opener of "Wide Angle" on PBS.
What shameless propaganda and obvious PR maneuvering for Dubya, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz’ nasty little war plan! What a travesty of journalism! What an assemblage of hearsay and unexamined assumptions! What a monumental piece of arrogance! How much lower can PBS stoop?
Could you possibly concoct anything more one-sided? You should call the series "Right Angle"—and I don’t mean "correct."
1) Where were your reporters and Richard Perle back when Saddam took power with the help of the CIA and the blessings of the U.S.?
2) Why do "we" suddenly care about the Kurds when "we’ve" abandoned them to slaughter so many times before? Where was your moral outrage while the Kurds were actually being gassed in Halabja and elsewhere—when Saddam Hussein was a U.S. ally and "we" were supplying him (and the Iranians) in their war against one another? Why don’t you mention the more recent and ongoing Turkish attacks against the Kurds in Turkey and Northern Iraq? Could it be because Turkey is in NATO? A partner in the so-called War on Terrorism? One of the leading recipients of U.S. military aid and hardware?
3) If your reporter wants do some real investigative work, why doesn’t he uncover the names of the U.S. and European companies that did business with Saddam during this period? Rolf Ekeus’ rationalization isn’t terribly convincing or satisfying to an enquiring spirit. Couldn’t your "journalist" have asked others for this information instead of formulating a blind alley? I wonder if he even examined those unexploded shell casings for lot numbers or other trademarks? Such dedication must not go unrewarded.
4) Can’t you find another side to this story or don’t you even want to bother with the trappings of "objectivity" at all? Could you not find Tariq Aziz or Scott Ritter or Denis Halliday or Hans Van Sponeck or Ramsey Clark or John Pilger for comment? How about the widows and mothers of shepherds bombed in U.S. and British air strikes since the war supposedly ended? Would their opinions matter?
5) Where is any mention of the much more serious effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq? What about "our" use of Uranium 238 weapons during the War on Iraq? How about the long-lasting deleterious effects of Gulf War Syndrome, massive spills and oilfield fires, deliberate destruction of water systems and other civilian infrastructure? How about the willful denial of food and medicine to desperate millions?
6) If there were secret sites manufacturing "weapons of mass destruction," what sense would it make to bomb them, thereby further dispersing the deadly chemical and biological agents and causing inestimable environmental contamination? Do "we" care about future exposures and a long-term legacy or not? It’s rather easy to guess the sad answer.
7) Where is there any support for these allegations of connection to Al Qaeda? Why are the sources who purport to know these things unidentified? Couldn’t they be protected by "our" intelligence services or set up in the Witness Protection Program?
8) How do we (the people) know this isn’t just part of Rumsfeld’s promise to lie to us?
9) Where is the common-sense-and-decency challenge to the notion that "we" have the right to depose other countries’ leaders at will? (Especially ones "we" helped to power and collaborated with for years in the past?) Is there any whisper of diplomacy? International law? Peaceful, legal "regime change"?
10) How much you wanna bet the attack will be conveniently placed around the fall elections?
11) Are satellite photos of a few trailers in a line and a road that seems to peter out in a sandy, windblown desert (How could that happen?) supposed to convince us of nefarious deeds? If this is indeed a suspicious site, why haven’t "we" already bombed it like so many others in Iraq? Who or what would stop "us"? It’s not like it’s an unusual occurrence, is it? Of course, you wouldn’t want to report that, I guess. Those facts aren’t helpful to your campaign.
12) Why would a "fundamentalist" like bin Laden work hand in hand with a secularist like Saddam Hussein? Why would the Kurds be his major target in the area rather than Western oil companies or the corrupt monarchies of Gulf States that he despises for their abandonment of "traditional values" and compromises with modernist exploiters of Arab resources and sovereignty? Isn’t this supposed little grudge against the Kurds a little off-message for a guy who is allegedly responsible for attacking U.S. embassies, warships and national landmarks? Why would Hussein invite Al Qaeda in at a time when he’s trying to get rid of weapons inspectors and escape further bombings and sanctions? Why would bin Laden choose the patch of the MidEast/South Asia region most surveilled and bombed (until Afghanistan) for his base of operations or for conducting "secret terrorist training camps"?
13) What about "our" not-so-secret terrorist training camps, like Fort Benning? What about "our" weapons of mass destruction? What about "our" nuclear capability? What about "our" chemical and biological weapons programs? Is Iraq allowed to come inspect "our" facilities? Are even our own independent journalists?
14) Isn’t it thoroughly obvious that this is an administration pretext for another oil grab and for the creation of a new more dependable client state? How many people in top positions in the Bush administration are former oil executives? Who sits on the board of the Carlyle Group? Who hobnobs with Osama’s parents? Who sat in on the meetings with Cheney to develop the "new energy policy"? Where are the big corporate scandals breaking? Nothing like a little fearmongering and war to divert the people’s attention from the criminals at home, eh?
15) Can’t you at least get Jamie Rubin to pretend he has some differences with an old Republican rival like Perle? Can’t he work up any imagined reportorial detachment from an American Enterprise Institute hack? Does he have to be such a transparent flack by smiling and gushing at the end of the pre-scripted, totally rehearsed "interview"? This wasn’t even "softball"; it was more like wiffle ball with a marshmallow bat.
16) Does Rubin have to use the pronoun "we" while mapping out the strategy for all-out armed attack of a nation thoroughly demeaned and crippled by more than a decade of "the Allied Forces’" ruthless cruelty—a nation currently unengaged in military adventures or hostilities with its neighbors (unlike the USA, for one prominent example)—with such apparent relish? Are we (the viewers) supposed to believe he’s part of the Fourth Estate or is his inability to divorce himself from his former post within the establishment somehow supposed to confer his mugging and scraping with dignity and authority?
17) Where were the incubators? Don’t tell me you were concerned with credibility? Was this special broadcast gratefully funded by "the Nation of Kuwait" like NPR of a recent era? Couldn’t Rubin’s old pal Madeleine Albright be hauled in to reassure us that the coming atrocities are "worth the price"? Where was Barry McCaffrey?—an expert witness to the massacre of Iraqi non-combatants if ever there was one. Will he be called back to the theatre to preside over the carnage or is he still too busy murdering campesinos in Colombia?
18) Doesn’t your collusion in creating the conditions for the invasion and overthrow of a foreign government bother you in the slightest? Doesn’t a gleefully proposed ouster of another country’s leader involving hundreds of thousands of American troops (not to mention a probable equal number of Iraqi casualties) make you shudder or think twice? Can you not disguise your greed and jingoism a little more carefully? Or perhaps develop a conscience? How about a pretense at impartiality?
Well, I can probably guess how most of your other shows will go.
Unfortunately, I may never know, since (except for next week’s promising episode by Jon Alpert on China and the WTO) I won’t be watching. I couldn’t bear to waste another hour of my life on such patent Machiavellian brainwash as what I saw tonight. When you rediscover your mission to provide the public service of genuine journalism and alternative broadcasting instead of apologias to cynical hypocrites and cold-blooded powerbrokers, drop a line. Until then, I’ll be searching for truly wider perspectives.
P.S. Please tell me Doug Cuomo only bestowed your awful drek with his wonderful music out of contractual obligations through some package deal. I love the tunes he put together for Bill Moyers’ series "NOW," a much more even-handed and tolerable approach to current events (except when Moyers, too, is demonizing Muslims and pandering to fears of more terrorist attacks). That show has been getting steadily better since its debut and regularly challenges the status quo. You should watch it. Some integrity might rub off.
Wallace Schultz is an artist, educator, and activist living near Las Vegas, NM.