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5 Things to Do About ISIS, or Can an American Without a Gun "Do Something"?

Toward the end of altering our idea of what counts as "doing something," I offer this composite representation of numerous media interviews I've done.  

Interviewer: So you'd stop the planes and the drones and the bombs and the special forces. You've said lots about what you wouldn't do, but can you say what you would do?

Me: Sure, I believe the United States government should propose and attempt to negotiate and at the same time unilaterally begin a ceasefire. When President Kennedy asked the Soviet Union to agree to a ban on nuclear tests, he announced that the United States was itself going ahead and halting them. Negotiating is helped through leadership by example. For the United States to stop engaging or assisting in live fire would give huge momentum to a ceasefire negotiation.

Interviewer: So, again, you would stop firing, but what would you do instead?

Me: The United States ought to propose and work to negotiate and unilaterally begin an arms embargo. I say the United States because I live there and because the majority of the weapons in the Middle East originate in the United States. U.S. participation alone in an arms embargo would end the majority of arms provision to Western Asia. Ceasing to rush Saudi Arabia more weapons would do more good than writing a report on that kingdom's atrocities, for example. An arms embargo should be developed to include every nation in the region and be expanded into disarmament -- first and foremost of all nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons (yes, including Israel's). The United States has the leverage to accomplish this, but not while working against it -- as it now vigorously does.

Interviewer: Yet again, here's something you don't want to do: provide arms. But is there something that you do want to do?

Me: Other than creating peace and a WMD-free Middle East? Yes, I'm glad you asked. I'd like to see the U.S. government launch a massive program of reparations and aid to the people of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Pakistan, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, and the entire rest of the region. (Please, please, please take my word for it that I am not listing every single nation purely in order to save time, and not because I hate some of them or any such insanity.) This no-strings-attached program should include food aid, medical aid, infrastructure, green energy, peace workers, human shields, communications technology for popular use of social media, environmental cleanup, and cultural and educational exchanges. And it should be paid for (note that it does have to be paid for and therefore should count as the very essence of a capitalist "doing something") through a modest reduction in U.S. militarism -- in fact, converting U.S. military facilities in the Middle East into green energy and cultural institutions, and handing them over to the residents.

Interviewer: I hate to have to keep asking the same question, but, again, what is it that you would do about ISIS? If you oppose war, do you support police action? What is something, anything at all for goodness sake, that you would dooooooooo?

Me: Well, in addition to halting violence, negotiating disarmament, and investing on a scale and with a level of respectful generosity to bump the Marshall Plan right out of the history books, I would begin efforts to deprive ISIS of funding and weaponry. A general halt to arms shipments would, of course, already help. Ending the air strikes that are ISIS's biggest recruitment tool would help. But Saudi Arabia and other regional powers have to be brought around to cutting off the funding to ISIS. That would not be nearly as difficult to do if the U.S. government ceased thinking of Saudi Arabia as a valued weapons customer and stopped bowing down to its every demand.

Interviewer: Stop the funding. Stop the arming. This all sounds nice. And you keep saying it over and over again. But I'm going to ask you one last time to say what you would do instead, and what weaponry you would use exactly to do it.

Me: I would use the weapon that eliminates enemies by turning them into something other than enemies. I would embrace the ideology that ISIS works against. It doesn't oppose U.S. militarism. It feeds off it. ISIS opposes humanism. I would welcome refugees without limit. I would make the United States a part of the global community on an equal and cooperative basis, joining without reservations the International Criminal Court, and existing treaties on the rights of the child, land mines, cluster bombs, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, weapons in space, rights of migrant workers, arms trade, protection from disappearances, rights of people with disabilities, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I would work to reform the United Nations beginning by unilaterally foreswearing use of the veto. I would announce a policy of ceasing to prop up or to overthrow foreign dictators. I would announce plans to support nonviolence, democracy, and sustainability at home and abroad, leading by example -- including in the area of disarmament. Reforming U.S. democracy by removing the system of legalized bribery and the whole list of needed reforms would set an example and also allow more democratic policies. I would shift our officially propogated sympathies from We Are All France to We Are All the World. To imagine that any of these steps is unrelated to ISIS is to misunderstand the power of propaganda, image, and the communication of respectful goodwill or arrogant disdain.

Interviewer: Well, we've run out of time, and yet you still won't tell me anything you would do. Sadly, that leaves us obliged to support an assault on ISIS, as much as we dislike war.

The TPP: You, Me, Everyone Else, Against the Media

The proposal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a test of whether the people of the United States can communicate something critically important to each other that the major media corporations do not want communicated.

For years I've joined with others in quoting people like former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to the effect that if the text of the TPP were shown to the public, that would be the end of it, because it's just so awful.

But now that the text has finally been made public, certain questionable assumptions loom large, such as that the public will read the text of the TPP and understand it, or that someone will read the text of the TPP and tell the public what it says, and be believed.

The role of communicating what's wrong with the TPP cannot be left to the major corporate media. You can, for example, check out NPR, or Reuters, or the Washington Post, and come away completely uninspired by the importance of stopping the TPP, and generally unenlightened about what's in it. Articles with "Here Are the Details" headlines provide very few details, drop a few hints, and focus on "he said - she said" coverage of who likes the TPP and who doesn't rather than any credible communication of who is right and what the TPP actually has in it.

The full text was made available here, but the site is sometimes down for "maintenance" including outside the hours that it says it will be (and at least the main text of it can be searched here - the page states that the annexes cannot be searched but they show up in the results anyway). The text is also posted here in sections with lots of U.S. flags. The text is here or here in PDFs. Very helpful analysis by Public Citizen is here and here.

The trouble is that the TPP is longer and more boring than a presidential debate, with each section prefaced by pages of definitions, acronyms, unenforceable rhetoric, references to other sections, etc. -- much of it apparently put there purely for obfuscation. So, here's an attempt to communicate what appear, based on trying to read the darn thing and reading the analyses of experts, to be some of the key points:

Under the TPP, corporations will be able to appeal the laws of nations to 3-member panels of arbitrators, with one arbitrator chosen by them and a second agreed to by both them and the nation whose laws they are seeking to overturn. See the chapter on "investment," for how this works. It means that a foreign oil or mining corporation, for example, could overrule a U.S. environmental law by appealing to 2 out of 3 corporate lawyers on a secret panel.

The TPP puts a large number of disastrous policies in place without waiting for corporate arbitration. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy would be required to approve any applications to export liquefied "natural" gas -- meaning more fracking, more destruction of the earth's climate, more profits for those who've been writing this treaty in secret for years, but not more sustainability, environmental protection, or even U.S. energy "independence."

The TPP would lower U.S. tariffs to zero while keeping Vietnam's, for example, in place, which -- along with no meaningful or enforceable labor standards -- will encourage U.S. corporations to move even more jobs abroad to low-wage and even slave labor. The Obama Administration reported on slavery in Malaysia, then altered Malaysia's ranking in order to allow its participation in the TPP. This race to the bottom would lower U.S. wages without encouraging better practices abroad.

"According to an initial analysis published in the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. market access concessions alone will increase the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods and autos and auto parts by more than $55 billion dollars resulting in the loss of more than 330,000 jobs." --Public Citizen

The TPP could require the United States to import food that doesn't meet U.S. safety standards. Any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling, or additives that is higher than international standards could be challenged as an "illegal trade barrier."

The TPP would threaten provisions included in Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' health programs to make medicines more affordable, as well as domestic patent and drug-pricing laws.

The TPP is broader and more encompassing than NAFTA, and weakens rather than strengthening NAFTA's weak protections for labor and the environment. Barack Obama campaigned on substantially reforming NAFTA in those regards. Instead, he's now proposing the worst of NAFTA on steroids.

What can be done?

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Sign this petition to the U.S. Congress:

"If you don't oppose and vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I will not vote for you in any future primary or general election in which you are a candidate."

Sign this petition to the Speaker of the House, Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democratic Party Leader Harry Reid:

"We are writing to urge the Congress to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This agreement would destroy jobs, degrade the environment, undermine the Internet and weaken U.S. democracy and sovereignty."

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Is War Beautiful?

"War Is Beautiful" is the ironic title of a beautiful new book of photographs. The subtitle is "The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict." There's an asterisk after those words, and it leads to these: "(In which the author explains why he no longer reads The New York Times)." The author never explains why he read the New York Times to begin with.

The author of this remarkable book, David Shields, has selected color war photographs published on the front page of the New York Times over the last 14 years. He's organized them by themes, included epigrams with each section, and added a short introduction, plus an afterword by Dave Hickey.

Some of us have long opposed subscribing to or advertising in the New York Times, as even peace groups do. We read occasional articles without paying for them or accepting their worldview. We know that the impact of the Times lies primarily in how it influences television "news" reports.

But what about Times readers? The biggest impact that the paper has on them may not be in the words it chooses and omits, but rather in the images that the words frame. The photographs that Shields has selected and published in a large format, one on each page, are powerful and fantastic, straight out of a thrilling and mythical epic. One could no doubt insert them into the new Star Wars movie without too many people noticing.

The photos are also serene: a sunset on a beach lined with palm trees -- actually the Euphrates river; a soldier's face just visible amid a field of poppies.

We see soldiers policing a swimming pool -- perhaps a sight that will someday arrive in the Homeland, as other sights first seen in images from foreign wars already have. We see collective military exercises and training, as at a desert summer camp, full of camaraderie in crises. There's adventure, sports, and games. A soldier looks pleased by his trick as he holds a dummy head with a helmet on the end of a stick in front of a window to get it shot at.

War seems both a fun summer camp and a serious, solemn, and honorable tradition, as we see photos of elderly veterans, militaristic children, and U.S. flags back Home. Part of the seriousness is the caring and philanthropic work exhibited by photos of soldiers comforting the children they may have just orphaned. We see sacred U.S. troops protecting the people whose land they have been bombing and throwing into turmoil. We see our heroes' love for their visiting Commander, George W. Bush.

Sometimes war can be awkward or difficult. There's a bit of regrettable suffering. Occasionally it is tragically intense. But for the most part a rather boring and undignified death about which no one really cares comes to foreigners (outside the United States there are foreigners everywhere) who are left in the gutter as people walk away.

The war itself, centrally, is a technological wonder bravely brought out of the goodness of our superior hearts to a backward region in which the locals have allowed their very homes to turn to rubble. An empty settlement is illustrated by a photo of a chair in a street. There are water bottles upright on the ground. It looks as though a board meeting just ended.

Still, for all war's drawbacks, people are mostly happy. They give birth and get married. Troops return home from camp after a good job done. Handsome Marines innocently mingle with civilians. Spouses embrace their camouflaged demigods returned from the struggle. A little American boy, held by his smiling mother, grins gleefully at the grave of his Daddy who died (happily, one must imagine) in Afghanistan.

At least in this selection of powerful images, we do not see people born with gruesome birth defects caused by the poisons of U.S. weapons. We do not see people married at weddings struck by U.S. missiles. We do not see U.S. corpses lying in the gutter. We do not see nonviolent protests of the U.S. occupations. We do not see the torture and death camps. We do not see the trauma of those who live under the bombs. We do not see the terror when the doors are kicked in, the way we would if soldiers -- like police -- were asked to wear body cameras. We do not see the "MADE IN THE USA" label on the weapons on both sides of a war. We do not see the opportunities for peace that have been studiously avoided. We do not see the U.S. troops participating in their number one cause of death: suicide.

A few of those things may show up now and then in the New York Times, more likely on a page other than the front one. Some of those things you may not want to see with your breakfast cereal. But there can be no question that Shields has captured a portrait of a day in the life of a war propagandist, and that the photographers, editors, and designers involved have done as much to cause the past 14 years of mass dying, suffering, and horror in the Middle East as has any single New York Times reporter or text editor.

Living With Racism in the USA

I thought Deepa Iyer's new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, would be about positive and jarring cultural contributions from immigrants, how their literature, music, myths, cooking, clothing, and cultural practices are merging with and influencing wider U.S. culture. I think that would be a good book. Maybe someone's written it.

This, too, is a good book, and I recommend it. But it is mostly about the all-too-familiar story of post-911 prejudice, racism, violence, and police profiling and abuse, with a particular focus on South Asians. As an opponent of murder in any form, my first response to this topic is usually: Take the guns away! Hatred doesn't kill people -- hatred in people with guns kills people! But of course I'd love to take the hatred away as well and get the gun deaths down to accidents, suicides, and non-hate crimes.

I admit some uncertainty as to how we can identify a gun murder as free of hate. Here's how Iyer describes hate crimes:

"Hate violence affects everyone in America. A hate crime affects not only the person being targeted but the entire community to which that person belongs. Acts of hate violence can disrupt and affect even those who do not belong [to] the community being directly targeted, as we witnessed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where non-Sikhs also experienced fear and anxiety in the wake of the massacre."

Of course, that sounds almost identical to the effects of a non-hate school shooting. A value to be found in distinguishing crimes motivated by, for example, hatred of Muslims, lies in the consequent ability to report on and know how widespread that phenomenon is. Does badmouthing Muslims encourage shooting them? Does shooting them encourage discriminating against them? We cannot study and address these matters if we don't identify them. And of course, fearing being shot for living in a country whose government has been purchased by the NRA, is not exactly the same as fearing being shot for being a Muslim and living in a country whose government has been purchased by the NRA. Hatred of part of your identity can make you want to hide that identity and/or resent the suggestion that you should do so and/or internalize the idea of inferiority, etc.

On the other hand, hate crimes laws don't just produce data. Neither do they do anything to reduce racism or other bigotry or to address underlying insecurities and grievances. What they do, as Iyer points out, is increase long sentences in the U.S. mass incarceration system.

Much of the work that Iyer describes being undertaken by community groups in support of abused minorities and crime victims involves attempting to tweak the flood of sewage spewing forth from the corporate media. She urges reporters not to talk about non-Muslim people having been mistaken for Muslims when they've been attacked. Her reason is that this could be taken to imply that it's all right to attack Muslims. That sounds crazy, but of course she is right that that could happen. Why, then, does locking people up for additional years or decades because they killed while racist not risk implying that it's OK to kill while not racist? It seems no more crazy.

The permanent U.S. war on the Middle East has fed the streams of both private and police hate crimes, and that war has trained many to believe that, in fact, it is OK to kill only while believing in racism and bigotry. Members of the military cannot avoid thinking that, while killing was wrong all through their childhood, something has suddenly made it acceptable when they are ordered to engage in it. For many the dehumanizing tactic that allows them to obey their orders is racism. Such racism at home, Iyer argues, enables the United States to keep going to war.

And what about the endless FBI frame-ups, the profiling, the deportations, and all the racist abuse by "law enforcement" -- why aren't these hate crimes? Don't they set examples and influence the broader culture? If someone in Germany proposes immigration policies resembling those of the United States they are immediately denounced for racism and hatred.

Iyer's book is full of heart-wrenching stories of raging racist hatred and violence, and the suffering it creates. She also proposes some good ideas rarely heard about in the corporate media, including reparations for the victims of post-911 state bigotry, on the model of reparations for the victims of the Japanese-American internment camps.

What really breaks my heart in reading so many accounts of the sort of nastiness that has just helped lead that young man whose school clock project was labeled a bomb to leave the United States for someplace less hostile, is the focus of the corrective work on trying to influence the corporate media. We all know how awful the corporate media is, how little it is turned into a force for good, and what minor partial tweaks are proclaimed as victories by activists.

We need a communications system that ceases to condone hatred or violence, that includes all voices in its communications, and that condemns cruelty -- whether public or private -- without exception.

Can Corporatized Universities Allow Criticism of Israel?

The University of California is seeking to ban criticism of Israel. This is a widespread phenomenon in the United States, as attested by two new reports and cases like that of Steven Salaita, author of Uncivil Rights: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom.

Salaita was fired by the University of Illinois for criticizing Israel on Twitter. Norman Finkelstein had been denied tenure by DePaul University for criticizing Israel. William Robinson was almost driven out at UC Santa Barbara for refusing to "repent" after criticizing Israel. Joseph Massad at Columbia had a similar experience.

Why, in a country that stretches "freedom of speech" to the point of covering the bribery of politicians, should it be acceptable to criticize the United States but not a tiny, distant country only just created in 1948? And why should such censorship reach even into institutions that usually pile "academic freedom" on top of "freedom of speech" as an argument against censorship?

First and foremost, I think, is the nature of Israel. It's a nation practicing apartheid and genocide in the twenty-first century using U.S. funding and weaponry. It can't persuade people of the acceptability of these policies in open debate. It can only continue its crimes by insisting that -- precisely as a government serving one ethnic group only -- any criticism amounts to the threat of apartheid and genocide known as "anti-Semitism."

Second, I think, is the subservience of the contemporary degenerate educational institution, which serves the wealthy donor, not the exploration of human intellect. When wealthy donors demand that "anti-Semitism" be stamped out, so it is. (And how can one object without being "anti-Semitic" or appearing to dispute that there actually is real anti-Semitism in the world and that it is as immoral as hatred of any other group.)

Third, the crackdown on criticizing Israel is a response to the success of such criticism and to the efforts of the BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) movement. Israeli author Manfred Gerstenfeld published openly in the Jerusalem Post a strategy for making an example of a few U.S. professors in order to "diminish the threat of boycotts."

Salaita called his book Uncivil Rights because the accusations of unacceptable speech typically take the form of proclaiming a need to protect civility. Salaita didn't tweet or otherwise communicate anything actually anti-Semitic. He tweeted and otherwise communicated many statements opposing anti-Semitism. But he criticized Israel and cursed at the same time. And to compound the sin, he used humor and sarcasm. Such practices are enough to get you convicted in a U.S. Court of Indignation without any careful examination of whether the sarcastic cursing actually expressed hatred or, on the contrary, expressed justifiable outrage. Reading Salaita's offending tweets in the context of all his other ones exonerates him of anti-Semitism while leaving him clearly guilty of "anti-Semitism," that is: criticizing the Israeli government.

This criticism can take the form of criticizing Israeli settlers. Salaita writes in his book:

"There are nearly half a million Jewish settlers on the West Bank. Their population currently grows at double the rate of other Israelis. They use 90 percent of the West Bank's water; the 3.5 million Palestinians of the territory make due with the remaining 10 percent. They travel on Jewish-only highways while Palestinians wait for hours at checkpoints (with no guarantee of passing through, even when they are injured or giving birth). They regularly assault women and children; some bury alive the natives. They vandalize homes and shops. They run over pedestrians with their cars. They restrict farmers from their land. They squat on hilltops that don't belong to them. They firebomb houses and kill babies. They bring with them a high-tech security force largely composed of conscripts to maintain this hideous apparatus."

One could read even such a longer-than-twitter criticism and imagine certain additions to it. But, reading the whole book from which I've quoted it, would eliminate the possibility of fantasizing that Salaita is, in this passage, advocating vengeance or violence or condemning settlers because of their religion or ethnicity or equating all settlers with each other except in so far as they are part of an operation of ethnic cleansing. Salaita does not excuse either side of the conflict but criticizes the idea that there is a conflict in Palestine with two equal sides:

"Since 2000, Israelis have killed 2,060 Palestinian children, while Palestinians have killed 130 Israeli children. The overall death count during this period is over 9,000 Palestinians and 1,190 Israelis. Israel has violated at least seventy-seven UN resolutions and numerous provisions of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Israel has imposed hundreds of settlements on the West Bank, while Palestinians inside Israel increasingly are squeezed and continue to be internally displaced. Israel has demolished nearly thirty thousand Palestinian homes as a matter of policy. Palestinians have demolished zero Israeli homes. At present more than six thousand Palestinians languish in Israeli prisons, including children; no Israeli occupies a Palestinian prison."

Salaita wants Palestinian land given back to Palestinians, just as he wants at least some Native American land given back to Native Americans. Such demands, even when they amount to nothing but compliance with existing laws and treaties, seem unreasonable or vengeful to certain readers. But what people imagine education consists of if not the consideration of ideas that at first seem unreasonable is beyond me. And the notion that returning stolen land must involve violence is a notion added to the proposal by the reader.

However, there is at least one area in which Salaita is clearly and openly accepting of violence, and that is the United States military. Salaita wrote a column criticizing "support the troops" propaganda, in which he said, "My wife and I often discuss what our son might grow up to accomplish. A consistent area of disagreement is his possible career choice. She can think of few things worse than him one day joining the military (in any capacity), while I would not object to such a decision."

Think about that. Here is someone making a moral argument for opposing violence in Palestine, and a book-length defense of the importance of this stand outweighing concerns of comfort or politeness. And he wouldn't so much as object to his son joining the United States military. Elsewhere in the book, he notes that U.S. academics "can travel to, say, Tel Aviv University and pal around with racists and war criminals." Think about that. This is an American academic writing this while David Petraeus, John Yoo, Condoleezza Rice, Harold Koh, and dozens of their fellow war criminals teach in U.S. academia, and not without huge controversy about which Salaita cannot have avoided hearing. In response to outrage at his criticism of "support the troops," his then-employer, Virginia Tech, loudly proclaimed its support for the U.S. military.

The U.S. military acts on the belief, as found in the names of its operations and weapons as well as in its extended discussions, that the world is "Indian territory," and that native lives don't matter. A West Point professor recently proposed targeting critics of U.S. militarism with death, not just denial of tenure. And why is such criticism dangerous? Because nothing the U.S. military does to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, or anywhere else is any more defensible than what the Israeli military does with its help -- and I don't think it would take much consideration of the facts for someone like Steven Salaita to realize that.

Lila Garrett’s CONNECT THE DOTS. This Monday:

Monday morning  at 7-8AM  tune in (KPFK 90.7 fm) or log on:

Guests include:
I share my open letter to Congressman Ted Lieu of Los Angeles about his decision to accept a junket to Israel for freshman Congress people at this critical time.  (You can also read it in the LA Progressive) 

MEDEA BENJAMIN, co-founder of Code Pink & author of DRONE WARFARE on the importance of approving the Iran deal, the alarming increase in our use of drones, protests that work,  and more.

DAVID SWANSON, Director of,  author of WHEN THE WORLD OUTLAWED WAR,  DAYBREAK ,   THE MILITARY COMPLEX AT 50, WAR IS A LIE  &  more, discuses Israel’s part in trying to torpedo the Iran deal,  some Congress people’s collusion, risks if we don’t pass it, how to get it approved.

U.S. Movies and T.V. Shows Have U.S. Army Ratings

The U.S. Army and Air Force public relations offices have responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by releasing huge lists of movies and television shows that they have assessed and, at least in many cases, sought to influence. Here's the Army's PDF. Here's the Air Force's PDF.

The shows and films, foreign and U.S. made, aimed at foreign and U.S. audiences, including documentaries and dramas and talk shows and "reality" TV, cross every genre from those obviously related to war to those with little discernable connection to it.

Films show up in theaters without any notice that they have been influenced by the Army or Air Force or other branch of the military. And they carry ratings like G, PG, PG-13, or R. But the Army's until-now-secret assessments of films also give them ratings. Every rating is positive and cryptic. They include:

  • Supports Building Resiliency,
  • Supports Restoring Balance,
  • Supports Maintaining our Combat Edge,
  • Supports Adapting Our Institutions,
  • Supports Modernizing Our Force.

Some films have multiple ratings. Truth in advertising, I think, would include these ratings on previews and advertisements for films. I'd like to know what the Army thinks of a film. It would make my decision to avoid it much easier. Go ahead and scroll through the Army document linked above, and chances are you'll find out what a movie you're currently interested in or recently saw is rated by the folks who brought you Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and top ratings worldwide for the U.S. as the nation considered the greatest threat to peace on earth (Gallup, December 2013).

Here's a comment from Zaid Jilani at Salon: "The sheer scale of the Army and the Air Force's involvement in TV shows, particularly reality TV shows, is the most remarkable thing about these files. 'American Idol,' 'The X-Factor,' 'Masterchef,' 'Cupcake Wars,' numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, 'Ice Road Truckers,' 'Battlefield Priests,' 'America’s Got Talent,' 'Hawaii Five-O,' lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, 'War Dogs,' 'Big Kitchens' — the list is almost endless. Alongside these shows are blockbuster movies like Godzilla, Transformers, Aloha and Superman: Man of Steel."

That list is a sampling, nothing more. The full list goes on and on and on. It includes many films about wars or U.S. base construction. There's an Extreme Makeover Home Edition at Fort Hood. There's The Price Is Right's Military Appreciation Episode. There's a C-Span show called "The Price of Peace" -- C-Span is of course often thought of as a neutral fly on the wall. There are, as mentioned above, lots of BBC documentaries -- the BBC is of course often thought of as British.

The documents linked above consist mostly of assessments with relatively little explicit discussion of military influence. But further research has produced that. The Mirror reports on the censoring of an Iron Man movie because the military is -- not kidding -- actually trying to create Iron Man type suits of armor/weaponry: "Directors are being forced to re-write scripts by the United States Department of Defense if the content is deemed inappropriate -- and the big screen hits affected include Iron Man, Terminator Salvation, Transformers, King Kong and Superman: Man of Steel. . . . Last year, President Barack Obama appeared to be joking when he said the U.S. military was working on its own Iron Man suit for troops. But the first prototypes of a super-strong exoskeleton being developed for chiefs by universities and technology players were delivered last June."

Shouldn't viewers of fantasy cartoonish movies know that the Army has been involved and what it rates those films in terms of their recruitment value?

"To keep Pentagon chiefs happy," reports the Mirror, "some Hollywood producers have also turned villains into heroes, cut central characters, changed politically sensitive settings -- or added military rescue scenes to movies. Having altered scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests, many have in exchange gained inexpensive access to military locations, vehicles and gear they need to make their films."

Guess who pays for that?

In fact many of the listings in the documents above originated as requests from film makers to the military. Here's an example:

"Comedy Central – OCPA-LA received a request from Comedy Central to have Jeff Ross, the Roastmaster General, spend 3 to 4 days on an Army post where he will embed himself amongst the Soldiers. This project will be a hybrid of a documentary and a stand up special/comedy roast. Ross, who has gone on several USO tours, wants to participate in various tactical drills and exercises, as well as interview soldiers and officers of all different ranks to get a fuller understanding of what a life in the military is really like, and how extraordinary those who choose to serve truly are. Then on his last day at the base, armed with the personal knowledge he has acquired, Jeff will put on a roast/standup comedy concert for all the people on the base that he has gotten to know during his tenure there. We are working with OCPA to see if this is something that can be supported and, if so, to find the best fit."

These questions as to whether something can be supported are frequent, but in skimming the documents I notice no negative ratings like

  • Supports Resistance to Mass-Murder
  • Supports Peace, Diplomacy, or Intelligent Foreign Relations
  • Supports Disarmament and Wise Use of Peace Dividend

Apparently all news is good news. Even cancellations get good ratings:

"'BAMA BELLES' REALITY TV SHOW (U), The Bama Belles, a reality show based out of Dothan, AL is being cancelled. According to cast member and producer Amie Pollard, TLC will not continue with a second season of "Bama Belles" and is still deciding whether to air the third episode. One of the actors on the show was SGT 80th Training Command (USAR). Assessment: Cancellation of the show is in the best interest of the US Army. Supports Building Resiliency."

Propaganda aimed at foreign audiences is included right alongside that aimed at potential recruits and voters in the United States:

"(FOUO) STATE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENTARY, AFGHANISTAN (FOUO) (SAPA-CRD), OCPA-LA contacted by production company contracted by U.S. State Dept. Filmmaker requesting to film short scene on FOB in Afghanistan and involving use of five soldiers. The short scene will 'involve a female interrupter [sic] working for US forces and her family struggles.' The soldiers will be mostly background and will only have a few lines. Filmmaker requesting to film the scene in the last two weeks of JAN. ISAF/RC-E has expressed willingness to support. OCPA-LA is coordinating with OSD(PA) for approval. ASSESSMENT: Viewership UNK; video product aimed at Afghan national audiences. Supports Adapting Our Institutions."

Perhaps most disturbing are the advertisements for future war-making. There is, for example, a National Geographic series on "futuristic weapons." There's also this video game that seeks to depict a U.S. soldier in the year 2075:

"(FOUO) ACTIVISION/BLIZZARD VIDEO GAME (FOUO) (OCPA-LA), OCPA-LA was contacted by Activision/Blizzard, the largest video game publisher in the world. They are in the initial stages of a new project designed to create a realistic representation of a Soldier in 2075. They are interested in discussing the U.S. Army of the future; equipment, units, tactics, etc. Have scheduled an introductory meeting this week to discuss. While their interests will require an outside paid consultant, our interest is to correctly establish and frame the Army brand within the game while still in development. Update: and met with company president and game developers. Expressed concern that scenario being considered involves future war with China. Game developers looking at other possible conflicts to design the game around, however, developers are seeking a military power with substantial capabilities. ASSESSMENT: Anticipate game release will be very high-profile and comparable to recent ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Medal of Honor’ releases. Will likely sell in the range of 20-30 million copies. Supports Adapting our Institutions and Maintaining Our Combat Edge."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff last month published the nonfiction "National Military Strategy of the United States of America -- 2015," which also struggled to identify a frightening enemy. It named four nations as the justification for massive U.S. military spending, while admitting that none of the four wanted war with the United States. So, after U.S. government consultation with Sony and its depiction of the fictional murder of the leader of North Korea, it's nice to see some hesitation about depicting a 2075 US-China war. But what exactly is a "correct" depiction of the U.S. Army in 2075? Who has credibly suggested that Western "civilization" can survive war and nationalism that long? And where is Hollywood's investment in depicting an alternative future with greater likelihood of actually being sustainable? 

Jon Stewart Blew Last Chance to Ask Obama a Question

Jon Stewart interviewed President Obama for the last time and told jokes instead of asking questions.

If Stewart retires, where will we find someone willing to let Obama spew nonsense at such length unchallenged?

I discussed Obama's interview on RT on Wednesday, and someone asked me to post the Youtube, but RT has to do that, not me. So here's the gist of what I think.

Stewart said to Obama: you've tried bombing and overthrowing leaders and arming rebels and ... what's that new thing ... oh yeah, diplomacy.

Everybody laughed.

Obama talked up the Iran deal.

Stewart should have asked Obama a question, such as, "If you prefer diplomacy in this case, why not in many other cases where you seem to prefer war?" He could have followed up by asking about each war.

Stewart jumped in with another joke line to make absolutely sure Obama wouldn't think he'd been asked something. "We still get to bomb people," Stewart said. Obama's response was not the stern reprimand he gave a reporter who suggested that Obama was choosing to leave U.S. prisoners in Iran. Nor was it the warning that some topics aren't funny, which Obama applied recently to the topic of prison rape. In fact, Obama offered no objection at all to joking about bombing, and he's done the same himself warning would-be boyfriends of his daughters that he could murder them with a drone.

Stewart also told a non-question joke about the tangled web of enemies of enemies in current U.S. wars in Western Asia. It's worse than Stewart said, with U.S. weapons on both sides of every war, U.S. funding on both sides in Afghanistan, U.S. allies funding ISIS, the U.S. jumping into the Syrian war in 2014 on the opposite side of what it proposed in 2013, etc. But Stewart didn't ask a question, such as, "The majority of weapons in the most violent region on earth are U.S. weapons; why not stop selling and giving them?" He could have followed up by asking for a justification for arming each brutal government. Instead he cut off the possibility of any serious answer with, "Who are we bombing?"

Obama has no idea who he's bombing even with drone strikes. That's what "signature strike" means. That's why they just killed a leader of the non-existent Khorasan Group for the third time.

Obama held up the Cold War as a greater danger than Iran presents. Well, no kidding. Whatever the latest new food at McDonald's is, is probably a greater danger than Iran presents. But Obama spoke as if the age of the United States and Russia pointing nuclear missiles at each other were over. And Stewart said nothing. During the Cold War, the U.S. military was in Western Europe. Now it's on the Russian border playing war games. Captain Peace Prize is building more nukes, planning more nukes in Europe, and backing a dangerous coup government and a package of war lies in Ukraine more dangerous than a Cold War skirmish.

Of course if you make these complaints to Stewart he'll laugh and claim not to be real news. Of course he isn't. But neither are a lot of the news outlets that report on Stewart's non-news as if it were news material. The fact is that we don't have a lot of good news. Stewart's excuse could be used equally by the New York Times. So how good an excuse is it, really?