We know a lot more now about the dangers and disasters of U.S. empire building in Iraq—the ongoing bloodshed on the ground, expansion of terrorist activities, the huge budget-busting costs of occupation, the stretching and undermining of the military and the increased sense of fear and insecurity that many Americans feel as a result of the invasion and its potential for blowback.
We also now have a better handle on the immediate and flimsy reasons for the invasion. Bush told us we were going to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that threatened us. Hussein was reconstituting his nuclear weapons programs (the aluminum tubes, the uranium from Africa). He had huge stocks of chemical and biological weapons that could be launched somehow in a way that threatened the United States. And finally, that Saddam was working with Al Qaeda. According to some polls, as much as 70 percent of the public believed this. But now it seems clear these were all falsehoods. The lies and deceptions Bush and his minions were feeding to the media are making their way into public discourse and are being covered fairly extensively in the press, in columns by Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, in wide-ranging reporting at the Washington Post and elsewhere.
But far, far less is known about the planning and the actors that brought us this foreign policy disaster. What ideas and worldviews motivated the push to overreach and try to dominate the globe, with Iraq as step No. 1? What secret maneuvers and behind-the-scenes policy power struggles after the attacks of 9/11 led the United States to invade a country that had nothing to do with that infamous day?
The reminder that the media often reports the "news" as fed to it by those in power, and skips past the real news—the reasons for the behaviors and policies—is good reason for the continued existence of Project Censored, a program in its 27th year that collects under-reported stories from around the country and compiles a list of the Top 10 "censored stories" as well as 15 runners-up. About 200 students and faculty from Sonoma State University compiled and reviewed the stories for Project Censored. The project describes its mission as "to stimulate responsible journalists to provide more mass media coverage of those under-covered issues and to encourage the general public to demand mass media coverage of those issues or to seek information from other sources."
Most of the stories on Project Censored’s top 10 relate to the United States’ war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. On the one hand, this emphasis indicates how the issue dominates the news, but on the other, how few news consumers really understand how it happened and why. Taken together, these stories paint a chilling picture of a long-ranging plan to dominate huge sections of the globe militarily and economically, and to silence dissent, curb civil liberties and undermine workers’ rights in the course of it. Some of the information published as part of the project is pretty shocking, like the fact that the United States removed 8,000 incriminating pages from Iraq’s weapons report to the United Nations or that Donald Rumsfeld may have a plan to deliberately provoke terrorists so we can react. Other issues like the attacks on civil liberties have been covered in the mainstream press, but not in the comprehensive way Project Censored would like to see. The Top 10 censored stories, followed by the 15 runners-up, are:
The neoconservative plan for global dominance
Sources: The Sunday Herald (September 15, 2002), Harper’s Magazine (October 2002), Mother Jones (March 2003), Pilger.com (December 12, 2002)
Project Censored has decided that the incredible lack of public knowledge of the United States’ plan for total global domination,
outlined by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), represents the media’s biggest failure over the past year. PNAC plans advocated the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and other current foreign policy objectives, long before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Chillingly, one document published by the PNAC in 2000 actually describes the need for a "new Pearl Harbor" to persuade the American public to accept the acts of war and aggression the Administration wants to carry out. "But most people in the country are totally unaware that the PNAC exists," said Peter Phillips, a professor at Sonoma State and major domo of The Project Censored Project. "And that failure has aided and abetted this disaster in Iraq."
According to Project Censored authors, "In the 1970s, the United States and the Middle East were embroiled in a tug-of-war over oil. At the time, the prospect of seizing control of Arab oil fields by force was considered out of line. Still, the idea of Middle East dominance was very attractive to a group of hard-line Washington insiders that included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol and other operatives. During the Clinton years they were active in conservative think tanks like the PNAC. When Bush was elected they came roaring back into power."
In an update for the Project Censored Web site, Mother Jones writer Robert Dreyfuss noted, "There was very little examination in the media of the role of oil in American policy toward Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and what coverage did exist tended to pooh-pooh or debunk the idea that the war had anything to do with it."
Homeland security threatens civil liberties
Sources: Global Outlook (Winter 2003), Rense.com (February 11, 2004 and Global Outlook, Volume 4), Center for Public Integrity (publicintegrity.org). Corporate media partial coverage: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 11, 2003), The Tampa Tribune (March 28, 2003), Baltimore Sun (February 21, 2003)
While the media did cover the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act, and the so-called PATRIOT Act II, which was leaked to the press in February 2003, there wasn’t sufficient analysis of some of the truly dangerous and precedent-setting components of both acts. This goes especially for the shocking provision in PATRIOT II that would allow even U.S. citizens to be treated as enemy combatants and held without counsel, simply on suspicion of connections to terrorism.
Under section 501, a U.S. citizen engaging in lawful activity can be picked off the streets or from home and taken to a secret military tribunal with no access to or notification of a lawyer, the press or family. This would be considered justified if the agent "inferred from the conduct" suspicious intention.
Fortunately, PATRIOT I is under major duress in Congress as both parties are supporting significant revisions. Yet President Bush, realizing that he and his unpopular Attorney General, John Ashcroft, are losing popular support, is threatening a veto, and has aggressively gone on the offensive in favor of the repugnant PATRIOT II. Let’s see if the media has learned its lesson from PATRIOT I. Will it probe the new legislation much more thoroughly than the first round, which received inadequate analysis post-9/11?
United States illegally removes pages from Iraq United Nations report
Source: The Humanist and ArtVoice (March/ April 2003), first covered by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
Story No. 3 is the shockingly under-reported fact that the Bush Administration removed a whopping 8,000 of 11,800 pages from the report the Iraqi government submitted to the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The pages included details on how the United States had actually supplied Iraq with chemical and biological weapons and the building blocks for weapons of mass destruction. The pages reportedly implicate not only officials from the Reagan and Bush administrations but also major corporations including Bechtel, Eastman Kodak and Dupont, and the U.S. departments of Energy and Agriculture.
In comments to Project Censored, Michael Niman, author of one of the articles cited, noted that his article was based on secondary sources, mostly from the international press, since the topic received an almost complete blackout in the U.S. press. Referring to his first Project Censored nomination in 1989, for which he went into the bush in Costa Rica, he said, "With such thorough self-censorship in the U.S. press, reading the international press is now akin to going into the remote bush."
Rumsfeld’s plan to provoke terrorists
Source: CounterPunch (November 1, 2002)
Moscow Times columnist and CounterPunch contributor Chris Floyd developed this story off a small item in the Los Angeles Times in October 2002 about secret armies the Pentagon has been developing around the world. "The Pro-active, Preemptive Operations Group (or so called Pee-Twos) will carry out secret missions designed to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to ‘counterattack’ by U.S. forces," Floyd wrote. "The Pee-Twos will thus come in handy whenever the regime hankers to add a little oil-laden real estate or a new military base to the Empire’s burgeoning portfolio. Just find a nest of violent malcontents, stir ‘em with a stick, and presto: instant justification for whatever level of intervention-conquest-raping that you might desire."
Floyd notes that while the story received considerable play in international and alternative media, it has hardly been mentioned in the mainstream U.S. press.
"At first glance, this decided lack of interest might seem a curious reaction, given the American media’s insatiable—and profitable—obsession with terrorism," he told Project Censored. "But the media’s equally intense abhorrence of moral ambiguity, especially when it involves possible American complicity in mayhem and murder, makes the silence easier to understand."
The effort to make unions disappear
Sources: Z Magazine (November 20, 2002), War Times (October 11, 2002), The Progressive (November 2003), The American Prospect (March 2003)
The war on terrorism has also had the convenient side benefit for conservatives of making it easier for employers and the government to suppress organized labor in the name of national security. For example, in October 2002 Bush was able to force striking International Longshore and Warehouse Union members back to work in the San Francisco Bay Area in the name of national safety.
Chicago journalist Lee Sustar noted that labor coverage is usually woefully inadequate in the mainstream media, even though union membership, while shrinking, still makes up a national constituency that is 13 million strong.
"Twenty years ago every paper had a beat reporter on labor who knew what was going on," he said. "Today that’s not the case. Besides a token story on Labor Day or a human-interest story here and there, you don’t see coverage of labor. You only see coverage from the business side," said Sustar, although Steven Greenhouse, the labor reporter for The New York Times, is one obvious exception to Sustar’s claim.
Ann Marie Cusac, whose story for The Progressive about the decimation of unions was cited, said she thinks the position of organized labor is worse than it has ever been.
She combed National Labor Relations Board files for egregious examples of the lengths to which employers will go to bust unions. And she found a lot. "They had a woman with carpal tunnel syndrome pulling nails out of boards above her head, because they wanted her to go on disability so she couldn’t organize," she said. "But she did it, even knowing she might disable herself. The willingness of people to sacrifice, because they know how important it is to unionize, is a sign of hope."
Closing access to information technology
Source: Dollars and Sense (September 2002)
The potential closing of access to digital information is a development that could have a harmful effect on the powerful role online media plays in side-stepping media gatekeepers and keeping people better informed. "The FCC and Congress are currently overturning the public-interest rules that have encouraged the expansion of the Internet up until now," writes Arthur Stamoulis, whose story was published in Dollars and Sense.
The Internet currently provides a buffet of independent and international media sources to counter the mostly homogenous offerings of mainstream U.S. media, especially broadcast.
As the shift to broadband gains momentum, cable companies are trying hard to dominate the market and eventually control access.
In 2002 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to allow cable networks to avoid common carrier requirements. Now the giant phone companies, who offer the competitive DSL services, want the same freedoms to control access to their lines. In the long run, instead of the thousands of small ISP services to choose from, the switch from dial-up to broadband means that users will have less and less choice over who provides their Internet access.
While the media finally woke up and gave significant coverage to the recent public rebellion against the FCC, which voted to increase media concentration even further, there has been scant coverage of the possibility that the Internet as we know it might be lost.
Treaty busting by the United States
Sources: Connections (June 2002), The Nation (April 2002), Ashville Global Report (June 20-26, 2002), Global Outlook (Summer 2002)
"The United States is a signatory to nine multilateral treaties that it has either blatantly
violated or gradually subverted," says Project Censored. These include the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Just as the Bush Administration is crowing about the possibility of Saddam Hussein manufacturing nuclear or chemical weapons, it is violating treaties meant to curb these threats, including the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Commission.
U.S./British forces continue use of depleted uranium weapons despite massive evidence of negative health effects
Sources: The Sunday Herald (March 30, 2003), Hustler Magazine (June 2003), Children of War (March 2003)
The eighth story on the list deals with another subject that victims have tried to get into the mainstream media for more than a decade—the United States’ use of depleted uranium in Iraq, in both the recent invasion and in the Gulf War. Depleted uranium (DU) was also used in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia.
The publications cited, including hard-core porn magazine Hustler, note that cancer rates have skyrocketed in Iraq since the first Gulf War, most likely because of the massive contamination of the soil with DU from explosive, armor-piercing munitions. U.S. soldiers are also victims of this travesty, suffering Gulf War syndrome and other ailments that many feel sure are linked to their exposure to DU.
Reese Erlich, a freelance journalist who reported on the topic for a syndicated radio broadcast and related website report, said that the Federal government has dealt with the issue of DU the way the tobacco industry deals with its liability problems. "They’ll fog the issue so no one can say for sure what’s happening," he said. "They’ll commission studies so they can say, ‘There are conflicting reports,’ [or] ‘We need more information.’"
He noted that while the U.S. media is quiet about the issue, it is a hot topic in the international press. "When you get outside the United States, the media is much more critical," he said. "They refer to it as a weapon of mass destruction. This will be a legacy the United States has left in Iraq. Long after the electricity is repaired and the oil wells are pumping, children will be getting cancer. The United States knew this would happen, it can’t claim ignorance."
In Afghanistan, poverty, women’s rights and civil disruption are worse then ever
Sources: The Nation (October 14, 2002), Left Turn (March/April, 2003), The Nation (April 29, 2002), Mother Jones (July 8, 2002). Mainstream coverage: Toronto Star (March 2, 2003)
Though his work isn’t cited here, Erlich also reported on the topic of the ninth story on the list, the continuing poverty, civil disruption and repression of women in Afghanistan. While the country has virtually dropped off the radar screen in the United States press and public consciousness, it is suffering its worst decade of poverty ever. Warlords and tribal fiefdoms continue to rule the country, and women are as repressed as ever, contrary to the feel-good images of burqa-stripping that have been broadcast in the media here.
"Reporters by and large don’t go to Afghanistan to report on what they see," said Erlich, who spent several weeks reporting in the country. "They go to the State Department officials, so everything is filtered through these rose-colored glasses, saying things are getting better. But they’re not."
Africa faces new threat of new colonialism
Source: Left Turn (July/August, 2002), Briarpatch (vol. 32, No. 1), excerpted from The CCPA Monitor, (October, 2002), New Internationalist (January-February, 2003)
While Afghanistan is being essentially ignored, the tenth story on the list shows how African countries are getting plenty of attention from the United States—but not the kind of attention they need. These stories deal with the formation in June, 2002, of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, or NEPAD, by a group of leaders from the world’s eight most powerful countries (the G8) who claim to be carrying out an anti-poverty campaign for the continent. But the group doesn’t include the head of a single African nation, and critics charge that the plan is more about opening the continent to international investment and looting its resources than fighting poverty.
"NEPAD is akin to Plan Colombia in its attempt to employ Western development techniques to provide economic opportunities for international investment," says Project Censored.
The Bush Administration’s dubious deeds extend to the ecosystem
The current issue of Mother Jones magazine features a 20-page package on the Bush Administration’s stealth war on environmental regulations. This list, reprinted here with permission from the magazine, offers a quick overview. For more on the subject, see the September/October issue of Mother Jones or visit www.motherjones.com and check out "The UnGreening of America."Tons of additional air pollutants permitted to be released by 2020 under Bush’s "Clear Skies" plan: 42 million
Estimated number of premature deaths that will result: 100,000
Estimated amount that Clear Skies-related health problems will cost taxpayers, per year: $115 billion
Days after Bush took office that he reneged on his campaign promise to regulate CO2 emissions frompower plants: 53
Days after the U.S. Geological Survey released a 12-year study indicating that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would pose
"significant harm to wildlife" that the agency reversed itself: 7
Years that the Bush Administration says global warming must be further studied before substantive action can be taken: 5
Number of members of the 63-person energy advisory team Bush convened early in his administration who did not have ties to corporate energy interests: 1
Amount that energy team members gave to Republican candidates in the 2000 election: $8 million
Percentage of "replacement
wetlands" developers are required to create that end up failing, according to the General Accounting Office: 80
Area, in acres, of wetlands, lakes and streams opened to development under a proposal to end Federal oversight of "isolated waters": 20 million
Area, in acres, of Lake Superior: 20.3 million
Estimated acres of public land the Administration announced in April it will open to logging, road building and mining: 220 million
Acreage of California and Texas, combined: 267 million
Number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone National Park this winter, per day: 1,100
Percentage of the 360,000 public comments received by the Park Service that were against repealing the Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in the park: 80
Percentage of Superfund cleanup costs paid for by corporate polluters in 1996: 82
Percentage that will be paid for by taxpayers under Bush’s 2004 budget: 79
Amount at which the Environmental Protection Agency historically valued each human life when conducting economic analyses of proposed regulations: $6.1 million
Amount the EPA considers each person worth as of 2003: $3.7 million
Average annual number of species added to the Endangered and Threatened Species list between 1991 and 2000: 68.4
Number voluntarily added by the Bush Administration since taking office: 0
Grade Bush received on the League of Conservation Voters’ 2002 presidential report card: D-
Grade he received in 2003: F
Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, Clear the Air, Department of the Interior, Earthjustice, General Accounting Office, League of Conservation Voters, National Park Service, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
In other news…
Project Censored’s 15 runners-up
to the Top 10 censored stories of the year
11) U.S. implicated in Taliban massacre
12) Bush Administration behind failed military coup in Venezuela
13) Corporate personhood challenged
14) Unwanted refugees a global problem
15) U.S. military’s war on the earth
16) Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA
17) Clear Channel monopoly draws criticism
18) Charter forest proposal threatens access to public lands
19) U.S. dollar vs. the Euro another reason for the invasion of Iraq
20) Pentagon increases private military contracts
21) Third World austerity policies coming soon to a city near you
22) Welfare reform up for re-authorization, but still no safety net
23) Argentina crisis sparks cooperative growth
24) Aid to Israel fuels repressive occupation in Palestine
25) Convicted corporations receive perks instead of punishment