Two longtime critics of the 2003 war against Iraq delivered memorable lectures last week on the war's tenth anniversary. Anti-war crusader David Swanson and Iraq-born bookstore owner Andy Shallal exemplified the long-run positive impact individuals can have against the war machine and its media arm — even as the United States ramps up supplies for rebels against Syria's government in a new war.
While war critics looked backward, a secret journalistic drama unfolded elsewhere last week in the nation's capital.
The Washington Post editorial staff spiked an assigned Sunday opinion column about the war by author and longtime journalist Greg Mitchell. Mitchell published the column instead at The Nation. Over the weekend, Mitchell exposed the Post's bad faith over the weekend when he saw that the Post claimed in a staff-written Sunday column that its reporters covered the 2003 run-up to the Iraq war in responsible fashion.
Mitchell's action, like those of Swanson and Shallal, is part of the ongoing struggle pitting individuals against a war industry that funds most politicians from both parties, as well as the major media.
Two other media critics, former AP and Newsweek reporter Bob Parry and Daily Howler blogger Bob Somerby, were among those took bold stands last week against the nation's mainstream media because of their commentaries preparing the country for the Iraq war and its successors. Hardest-hitting of all, at least from those formerly mainstream, was Paul Craig Roberts, the former Wall Street Journal associate editor and former Reagan administration assistant Treasury Secretary. Roberts, an author and free-lancer, continued his recent practice of calling the media “presstitutes” for their war-mongering.
My column today provides a snapshot of these developments and an appendix of relevant coverage. The gist is that the mainstream media have immense difficulties appraising war making, i part becuase the economy is now so heavily dependent on war-making that virtually all government leaders from both parties and parent companies. Major media, many subsidiaries of larger companies with diversified Washington regulatory needs, are dependent also on hewing to standard themes..
By contrast, independent media are making significant progress in showing the disastrous judgment of the nation's best-known foreign policy decision-makers and corporate-controlled pundits.
Yet much more needs to be done, given the high-stakes. The war machine constantly seeks new battlefields, including Syria, even during a time of enforced budget austerity on ordinary Americans.
The latest news regarding Syria is that the Obama administration is claiming human rights violations and a threat from weapons of mass destruction. These arguments are remarkably similar to war rhetoric in 2003 before the long-planned invasion of Iraq. The new Obama administration Secretary of State John Kerry, right, reiterated such claims, as has his holdover spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, wife of Robert Kagan, the neo-con who advocated a new Iraq war as early as 1996.
The best place to start a retrospective on Iraq that may lead directly to Syria and beyond is the at one of the Busboys and Poets bookstores that Shallal founded in the Washington metro area. Along with the book browsers and buyers, the stores gather independent-minded customers for coffee and lectures.