Published on Monday, August 14, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
What We Learned from Mainstream Media Last Week (and What We Didn't)
by John Atcheson
Lesson #1: The thwarted attempt of the English-born PAKISTANI terrorists justifies Bush’s IRAQI misadventures.
Yup. That’s the talking point being generated by the Republican Spinmeisters and that’s the story the lapdog mainstream media (MSM) are dutifully picking up. Isn’t the Iraq/terrorist link getting a little strained? I mean so far, there’s been no Iraqi’s involved in any of these terrorist acts. Not London, not Spain, not Bali, Not 911, not this latest attempt. If Bush’s past "logic" gets played out to its logical conclusion, look for us to find some other random country to invade in response to all these English-borne Pakistani’s who are "agin us." Maybe Nepal? Meditations of mass destruction?
Lesson #2: A Democrat who runs on a platform that 60% of the American people support is either an extremist, an elitist, anti-American or all three and his nomination is a "disaster" for the Democratic Party.
Cokie "clueless" Roberts, David Brooks, David Broder, the rest of the MSM, Cheney and the entire Republican spin machine (with Loserman) repeated this bit of wisdom in response to Lamont’s campaign and victory all last week. So, 60% of Americans are anti-American extremists, or elitists apparently. Who knew.
Of course, this begs a few questions: if a majority of Americans hold a particular set of beliefs (i.e. that the Iraqi war is making terrorism worse, that invading Iraq was a mistake, that it’s making America less safe, and that it’s time to leave) can those beliefs be "unAmerican?" Isn’t it Americans who determine what is and isn’t American? Maybe not. Maybe we’ve relinquished that role to Joe Loserman, Karl Rove and the pack of MSM headbobbers who repeat their discredited mantra.
And aren’t elitists, by definition, a minority? Is it possible for a 60% majority to be elitist? Only if some votes and some opinions are special, and count more than others.
Lesson #3: If the Democrats follow their base and oppose Bush’s Iraqi fiasco, they’re soft on terrorism and they’re in political trouble.
That’s right. The MSM is mindlessly repeating the Republican talking points that say if the Dems come out against the Iraqi war, it means they’re soft on terrorism.
This bizarre conclusion follows from the two "lessons" we learned from the MSM outlined above: first, that somehow, any terrorist activity anywhere on earth is intimately linked in some mysterious way to Iraq, all evidence to the contrary not withstanding; and second, that some 60% of Americans are unAmerican idiots because they don’t buy the link between Iraq and the war on terror.
So, if the Democrats drop the Loserman/Hillary-have-it-both-ways Clinton stance on Iraq and follow the Gore/Lamont/Kennedy/Boxer/Murtha/Feingold strategy of focusing on safeguarding our ports; protecting our schools, chemical plants, power plants, bridges, buses, trains, ferries, and tunnels; securing the world’s loose nuclear material (enough to make nearly 40,000 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs); and capturing real terrorists like bin Laden; they’re soft on terrorism. Get it?
Meanwhile, Bush is spending more than $260 million a day occupying a hostile Iraq that had nothing to do with terrorist threats until he invaded it. He has yet to offer a real justification for this occupation, or a strategy for successfully ending it. Our troops find themselves in the midst of a civil war, wandering about between hostile factions trying to figure out why they’re there, and why nearly 2600 of their brothers and sisters in arms have died, and nearly 19,000 more have been wounded. Iraqis, for their part, grow increasingly impatient with this occupation in which more than 50,000 Iraqis have died, and their country has been plunged into chaos.
So far, the payoff for this benighted strategy, beyond fostering a civil war, has been to increase al Qeda’s global recruiting base from a few tens of thousands to several hundred million, while simultaneously alienating the US in the international community, destroying our all-volunteer military, and cranking up the national debt to record levels. In order to fund this obscenity while giving Paris Hilton and friends a series of tax cuts, Bush has rejected real homeland security measures, and he’s proposed slashing funds for explosive detection systems in our airports (the kind that would have detected the binary liquid explosives the English terrorists intended to use), cutting funds for first responders here at home, and all but ignoring programs designed to improve the safety of our trains, subways, buses, ferries, bridges, tunnels, ports, schools, chemical plants etc.
Most foreign policy experts – Republican and Democrat – agree that Bush’s war on terror is flawed and failing, and that it has made America less safe. The best we can hope for at this point if we "stay the course" in Iraq is a fundamentalist theocracy aligned with Iran. The worst is a couple of failed states.
And if the Dems object to this cavalcade of lies, hubris and incompetence – we learned last week from the MSM – they’re in trouble for being soft on terrorism. Whew. If the MSM hadn’t told me, I for one, wouldn’t have been able to parse that out from the facts.
Lesson # 4: We’re in a global war with Islamo-fascists.
The phrase "Islamo-fascists" has spread around the MSM like a bad case of clap in a Texas whorehouse. Once again, the Republicans are being allowed to create a brand new scary enemy just in time for elections, and once again, using verbal sleights of hand and legerdemain, they are linking it to Iraq, and once again, the MSM isn’t calling them on it.
Well, it’s time to slip on our intellectual condoms, and stop this particular bit of intellectual VD from spreading any further. Because the real lesson last week confirmed what we already knew: defeating terrorism isn’t only about bullets, guns, sabers and nation states. It’s about good old-fashioned police work, intelligence gathering, international cooperation, strong international institutions, diplomacy, judicious use of force as a last – not first – resort, and it’s about having people in the Muslim community who share our values. And that requires an even-handed and just stance in the world. It requires respect, tolerance, and a consistent support for human rights. It requires real compassion. It cannot be imposed by arrogant rhetoric, bullets or bayonets.
A Few Lessons the MSM Overlooked
The real story on the war on terrorism is not that the Dems are "soft on terrorists" it’s how spectacularly Bush has screwed it up. After all, justification number 5999 – "that we’re fightin’ em over there, so’s we don’t have to fight em over here," should be officially dead after several terrorist attempts domestically and after this latest one in London. Bush and crew may be able to come up with yet another retroactive reason for Iraq, but surely by this time, even the MSM will see it for what it is – a desperate attempt to avoid the stench of failure.
The evidence of this failure is now incontrovertible. From the moment Bush took charge, in January of 2000, he’s mishandled the threat from terrorism and made America less safe.
A few facts: the strategy of deterrence and containment for Iraq– which began under Bush’s father and continued under Clinton -- worked to keep Iraq from becoming a threat. (As the Duefler Report, the 911 Commission, and the Senate Intelligence committee noted).
When Clinton left office, there were IAEA inspectors in Iran and North Korea, North Korea’s nuclear material was under lock and key and an agreement with the US was all but signed.
As Bush took office, al Qaeda was a small band of fanatics with limited support in the Muslim world, but they were recognized as the number one security issue in US policy.
The Bush administration – whose early foreign policy seems to have been based on doing the opposite of anything Clinton did, shifted priorities and funding away from terrorism –DOD focused on rogue nations, not stateless terrorists; Justice revamped the budget to increase spending on crime at the expense of anti-terrorist activities. Indeed, within a day of 911, Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to give a speech outlining the administration’s foreign policy, and terrorism was scarcely mentioned in the text.
Fast forward six years and the results reveal the full depth of Bush’s failure. Jihadists number in the tens of thousands and have the support of hundreds of millions of Muslims and the US – which had broad support in most Muslim nations – is now universally loathed by them. UN inspectors have been kicked out of North Korea and Iran, and one has the bomb, and the other is getting close. Globally, terrorist attacks have been increasing exponentially – in 2003, there were a total of 208 terrorist attacks worldwide; in 2004, there were 2,800; and in 2005 there were 11,111.
And once again, the "tough on terror" Mr. Bush is in Crawford Texas as events unfold on the world stage.
We’ve been here before. As Christopher Dickey points out in an on-line commentary for Newsweek, just one month before terrorists struck the World Trade Center, "... panicked CIA analysts flew to Texas to brief Bush personally in [August] 2001, to intrude on his vacation with face-to-face alerts. Bush sized them up, as is his wont, looking to judge the content of what they told him by the confidence with which the message was delivered. Bush wasn’t convinced. ‘All right,’ said the president, ‘you’ve covered your ass now’... "
It’s time for the MSM to stop covering Bush’s ass.
Bottom line: Despite admonitions from Sandy Berger and Clinton himself, Bush abandoned anti-terrorism as job 1 in national security until 911 happened. He abandoned diplomacy with both Iran and North Korea while simultaneously threatening them; then he preemptively invaded Iraq, a country that posed no threat to the US, had no links to 911, and functioned as an effective counter-balance to Iran in the Mideast. In short, Bush killed policies that were working, and his new approach didn’t solve our problems, it created more.
By relying on clumsy cowboy diplomacy based on a ready-fire-aim fantasy that looked and sounded good in a campaign (or a grade B movie) but failed the reality test, Mr. Bush has made America weaker and more vulnerable. But at some point, the campaign ends, and governance must begin. The Bush administration, which doesn’t believe in government anyway, never made that leap.
We’ve reaped the consequences of a tough-guy, fly by the seat of your pants foreign policy in the form of a more chaotic, more dangerous world. While Bush focused on not being Bill Clinton, and not even bothering to talk to "evil-doers" the world went to hell.
Tough is all well and good. But America has decided they want tough and smart, not tough and dumb. And that’s the real lesson from last week. But don’t look to the MSM to report it – they’re too busy mindlessly repeating Republican talking points to bother with historical context or present day facts.
Sadly, you won’t hear it from all of the Dems, either. Many of them are still holding their fingers to the wind while they duck and cover from their convictions, including our front-running candidate. Well, it’s OK. You can come out now, Hillary. If you won’t lead the American people, at least have the guts to follow them. In fact, if you don’t, you’ll soon be joining Joe Loserman.
John Atcheson's work has appeared in the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Baltimore Sun. He is currently completing a novel, an eco-thriller centered on global warming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org