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A scholarly study has found that the U.S. public believes that whenever the U.S. government proposes a war, it has already exhausted all other possibilities. When a sample group was asked if they supported a particular war, and a second group was asked if they supported that particular war after being told that all alternatives were no good, and a third group was asked if they supported that war even though there were good alternatives, the first two groups registered the same level of support, while support for war dropped off significantly in the third group. This led the researchers to the conclusion that if alternatives are not mentioned, people don’t assume they exist — rather, people assume they’ve already been tried.
The evidence is, of course, extensive that the U.S. government, among others, often uses war as a first, second, or third resort, not a last resort. Congress is busily sabotaging diplomacy with Iran, while James Sterling is on trial in Alexandria for exposing a CIA scheme to gin up supposed grounds for a war with Iran. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney once pondered the option of having U.S. troops shoot at U.S. troops dressed up as Iranians. Moments before a White House press conference at which then-President George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed they were trying to avoid war in Iraq, Bush had proposed to Blair that they paint planes with UN colors and fly them low trying to get them shot at. Hussein was willing to walk away with $1 billion. The Taliban was willing to put bin Laden on trial in a third country. Gadaffi didn’t really threaten a slaughter, but Libya’s seen one now. The stories of chemical weapons attacks by Syria, invasions by Russia into Ukraine, and so forth, that fade away when a war fails to begin — these are not efforts to avoid war, to hold war off as a last resort. These are what Eisenhower warned would happen, and what he had already seen happen, when huge financial interests are stacked up behind the need for more wars.
But try telling the U.S. public. The Journal of Conflict Resolution has just published an article titled “Norms, Diplomatic Alternatives, and the Social Psychology of War Support,” by Aaron M. Hoffman, Christopher R. Agnew, Laura E. VanderDrift, and Robert Kulzick. The authors discuss various factors in public support for or opposition to wars, including the prominent place held by the question of “success” — now generally believed to matter more than body counts (meaning U.S. body counts, the massively larger foreign body counts never even coming into consideration in any study I’ve heard of). “Success” is a bizarre factor because of its lack of a hard definition and because by any definition the United States military just doesn’t have successes once it moves beyond destroying things to attempts at occupation, control, and long-term exploitation — er, excuse me, democracy promotion.
The authors’ own research finds that even when “success” is believed likely, even the muddle-headed people holding that belief tend to prefer diplomatic options (unless, of course, they are members of the United States Congress). The journal article offers some recent examples beyond the new research to back up its idea: “In 2002–2003, for instance, 60 percent of Americans believed that a US military victory in Iraq was likely (CNN/Time poll, November 13–14, 2002). Nevertheless, 63 percent of the public said they preferred a diplomatic solution to the crisis over a military one (CBS News poll, January 4–6, 2003).”
But if nobody mentions nonviolent alternatives, people aren’t uninterested in them or dismissive of them or opposed to them. No, in large numbers people actually believe that all diplomatic solutions have already been attempted. What a fantastic fact! Of course, it’s not that shocking given that war supporters habitually claim to be pursuing war as a last resort and to be fighting war reluctantly in the name of peace. But it’s an insane belief to hold if you’re living in the real world in which the State Department has become a minor unpaid intern to the Pentagon master. Diplomacy with some countries, like Iran, has actually been forbidden during periods in in which the U.S. public apparently thought it was being thoroughly pursued. And what in the world would it mean for ALL nonviolent solutions to have been tried? Could one not always think of another? Or try the same one again? Unless a looming emergency like the fictional threat to Benghazi can impose a deadline, the mad rush to war is unjustified by anything rational at all.
The role that the researchers attribute to a belief that diplomacy has already been tried could also be played by a belief that diplomacy is impossible with irrational subhuman monsters like ________ (fill in the government or residents of a targeted nation or region). The difference made by informing someone that alternatives exist would then include in it the transformation of monsters into people capable of speech.
The same transformation might be played by the revelation that, for example, people accused of building nuclear weapons aren’t actually doing so. The authors note that: “average support for the use of force by the U.S. military against Iran between 2003 and 2012 appears to be sensitive to information about the quality of available alternative courses of action. Although the use of force was never sup- ported by a majority of Americans during George W. Bush’s presidency (2001– 2009), it is notable that a significant drop in support for military action against Iran occurs in 2007. At that time, the Bush administration was seen as committed to war with Iran and pursuing diplomatic action half-heartedly. Seymour M. Hersh’s article in The New Yorker (2006) reporting that the administration was devising an aerial bombing campaign of suspected nuclear sites in Iran helped confirm this sense. Yet, a release of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 because of international pressure, undercut the argument for war. As an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told The Wall Street Journal, the authors of the NIE ‘knew how to pull the rug out from under us’.”
But the lesson learned never seems to be that the government wants war and will lie to get it. “While public support for military operations against Iran declined during the Bush administration, it generally increased during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009–2012). Obama came to office more optimistic than his predecessor about the ability of diplomacy to get Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. [You notice that even these scholars simply assume such pursuit was underway, despite their inclusion of the above NIE in the article.] Obama, for example, opened the door to direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program ‘without preconditions,’ a position George Bush rejected. Nevertheless, the inefficacy of diplomacy during Obama’s first term appears to be associated with gradual acceptance that military action might be the last viable option capable of getting Iran to change course. Paraphrasing former CIA director Michael Hayden, military action against Iran is an increasingly attractive option because ‘no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program’ (Haaretz, July 25, 2010).”
Now how does one keep pushing ahead with something that a foreign government persists in wrongly suspecting or pretending that one is doing? That’s never made clear. The point is that if you declare, Bushlike, that you have no use for diplomacy, people will oppose your war initiative. If, on the other hand, you claim, Obamalike, to be pursuing diplomacy, yet you persist, also Obamalike, in promoting the lies about what the targeted nation is up to, then people will apparently feel that they can support mass murder with a clear conscience.
The lesson for opponents of war seems to be this: point out the alternatives. Name the 86 good ideas you have for what to do about ISIS. Hammer away at what should be done. And some people, though generally accepting of war, will withhold their approval.
*Thanks to Patrick Hiller for letting me know about this article.
Video of David Swanson, Brian Becker, and Patrick Henningsen on Crosstalk on RT: here.
Some killings are reported on in a slightly different manner from how the Charlie Hebdo killings have been. Rewriting a drone killing as a gun killing (changing just a few words) would produce something like this:
Freedom Fighters Gun Strike in Europe Is Said to Have Killed 12 Militants
PARIS, France — At least 12 foreign militants were believed to have been killed in a freedom fighter gun strike in the North Paris tribal region on Wednesday morning, a Liberation security official said.
The Liberation official said guns fired 128 precision bullets into a compound in the Cafe Au Lait subdistrict at 6:40 a.m. The area is close to the headquarters of numerous French businesses.
“The guns targeted a base of a French commander known as Francoise, killing 12 French militants. Two militants are wounded,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
It was unclear whether Francoise was there at the time of the attack. The local news media has reported that he is allied with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and engaged in plans to ship troops and weaponry to Western Asia.
Gun strikes in France, often attributed to Muslims, prompt regular diplomatic protests from the entire Western world.
Separately, the Liberation military said four terrorist hide-outs and a training center for bombers were damaged by gun strikes late Saturday in a remote suburb of the nearby South Paris tribal region.
In a brief statement, the military said that “6 terrorists, including some bomber pilots, were killed in precise gun strikes.” There was no independent confirmation of the military’s claim.
Last summer, the Liberation military launched a long-awaited offensive against French and foreign militants holed up in the Western Europe region. The military claims that it now controls 0.4 percent of the region.
NATO attacks in recent years have left hundreds of thousands dead.
In contrast, rewriting a Charlie Hebdo report as a drone report might produce something like this:
Drone attack on Pakistani house kills 12
Drone pilots have shot dead 12 people at the home of their grandmother in an apparent militant Imperialist attack.
Four of the family's youngest generation, including its new-born infant were among those killed, as well as two friends visiting at the time.
A major police operation is under way to find three drone pilots believed to be hiding out in Langley, Virginia.
President Mamnoon Hussain said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack "of exceptional barbarity".
It is believed to be the deadliest attack in Pakistan since last Tuesday, when another drone -- or possibly the same one -- sent a missile into a picnic killing 18.
The distant faceless attackers opened fire with hellfire missiles in the sky above the family's home and faced no opposition. They later flew the drone higher in the sky, presumably recording video footage, the buzzing of their deadly machine still audible below as rescuers waited for it to leave before daring to search for survivors.
People had been "murdered in a cowardly manner", presidents and leaders around the globe remarked in unison. U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned the "horrific shooting", offering to provide any assistance needed "to help bring these terrorists to justice".
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "It was a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the safety of a family in its home."
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet: "The murders in Pakistan are sickening. We stand with the Pakistani people in the fight against terror."
Eurocentric clubs and Christian churches around the world rushed to condemn the killing.
Footage shot by an eyewitness outside the house shows scattered rubble and what appears to be bits of flesh and clothing hanging from a nearby tree.
A former Governor of Virginia is expected to be sentenced to a long stay in prison. The same fate has befallen governors in states across the United States, including in nearby Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia. A former governor of Illinois is in prison. Governors have been convicted of corruption in Rhode Island, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Connecticut, and (in a trumped-up partisan scam) in Alabama. The statewide trauma suffered by the people of states that have locked up their governors has been . . . well, nonexistent and unimaginable.
Locking U.S. presidents up for their crimes is a different story. Former President Richard Nixon's understanding that whatever a president does is legal has not been challenged since he made that comment. The Washington Post -- not exactly a Nixon supporter -- has the same understanding now. The Post recently justified the latest proposal to re-ban torture by explaining that even though torture was already banned, President George W. Bush tortured and therefore had found a legal way around the law. In other words, because he hasn't been prosecuted, what he did was legal.
The New York Times, which urged prosecuting former President George W. Bush for torture six years ago, recently wrote this:
"Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president. But any credible investigation should include . . . "
The editorial goes on to list the people who should be prosecuted, up to and including the former vice president. But the president gets a pass, not on the basis of some reasoned argument, but because the authors cannot imagine a president being held accountable for crimes. They or their colleagues could imagine it several years ago but have progressed to the point where it has become unthinkable.
The state flag of Virginia, or any other of the 50 states, can be turned into a table cloth or a picnic blanket. It can be used to keep the rain off your firewood. Or it can be burned to get your fire started. Nobody cares what you do with it. Children aren't forced to pray to it every morning in school. It's just a flag. And because it's just a flag, nobody has any interest in abusing it, and virtually nobody would recognize what it was if they saw it burned or trampled or turned into a bathrobe or a bikini. The flag of Virginia, although we don't actually imagine it as having feelings, is treated just fine. So are state songs, even though nobody is required to stand and sing them with a fascistic pose as troops march by.
The same is true of state governors. They're treated with civility and respect. They're honored when they perform well and held accountable when they abuse power. Understood as human beings, they aren't abused as anything less. But they are not gods. And they are not gods because they are not makers of war.
Presidents make wars. And they now do so without any formal checks on their power. They can destroy the earth with the push of a button. They can destroy a hut or a village or a city at their discretion. Their killer flying robots rain hell from the skies worldwide, and neither Congress nor the Washington Post nor the people who lock up governors for taking bribes can even imagine questioning that power, that privilege, that divine right.
Congress may, it is true, "authorize" one of the current wars for three more years after allowing it to proceed illegally for several months. Or it may not. Nobody cares. The pretense that it matters is a vestige of a time in which we saw presidents differently.
But if murdering large numbers of people doesn't disturb us, if we've all concluded that murder is morally superior to imprisonment and torture and that there is no third option, are we perhaps capable of spotting a problem in what presidents have become in relation to the rule of law? Should it not disturb us that we've given single individuals for 4- or 8-year runs more power than King George III ever dreamed of, and that we've collectively declared any declaration of independence unimaginable?
The cover of the January-February 2015 The Atlantic asks "Why Do The Best Soldiers in the World Keep Losing?" which leads to this article, which fails to answer the question.
The main focus of the article is the by now endlessly familiar discovery that most U.S.-Americans are not in the military. The article is accompanied by another advocating a draft. The claim in the main article is that because most people are disconnected from the military they are more willing to send it off into unwinnable wars.
Nowhere does the author, James Fallows, attempt to so much as hint at what makes the wars unwinnable. He does claim that the last war that was in any way victorious for the United States was the Gulf War. But he can't mean that it resolved a crisis. It was a war followed by bombings and sanctions and, in fact, the repeated revival of the war, ongoing and escalating even now.
What Fallows must mean is that once the U.S. military had done what it can do -- namely, blow stuff up -- in the Gulf War, it more or less stopped. The early days in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq 2003 saw very similar "victories," as did Libya 2011 and numerous other U.S. wars. Why Fallows ignores Libya I don't know, but Iraq and Afghanistan go down as losses in his book, I think, not because there's no draft or because the military and Congress are corrupt and build the wrong weapons, but because after blowing everything up, the military stuck around for years trying to make people like it by murdering their friends and family members. Such occupations are virtually unwinnable, as in Vietnam and numerous other places, because people will not accept them, and because military attempts to create acceptance are counterproductive. A better military with more self-criticism, a draft, and an audited budget would not alter this fact in the slightest.
Fallows' contention that nobody pays any attention to wars and militarism misses the point, but it is also overstated. "I'm not aware," he writes, "of any midterm race for the House or Senate in which matters of war and peace . . . were first-tier campaign issues." He's forgotten 2006 when exit polls showed ending the war on Iraq as the number one motivator of voters after numerous candidates opposed the war they would escalate as soon as they were in office.
Fallows also overstates the impact of public separation from the military. He believes it was possible to make fun of the military in popular culture when, and because, more of the public was closer to the military through family and friends. But this avoids the general downward slide of the U.S. media and the militarization of U.S. culture which he has not shown to be completely attributable to disconnection.
Fallows thinks that Obama would not have been able to make everyone "look forward" and avoid contemplating military disasters if "Americans had felt effected by the wars' outcome." No doubt, but is the answer to that problem a draft or a bit of education? It doesn't take much to point out to U.S. college students that student debt is unheard of in some nations that fight fewer wars. The U.S. has killed huge numbers of men, women, and children, made itself hated, made the world more dangerous, destroyed the environment, discarded civil liberties, and wasted trillions of dollars that could have done a world of good spent otherwise. A draft would do nothing to make people aware of that situation. And Fallows' focus only on the financial cost of a war -- and not on the 10-times-greater cost of the military justified by the wars -- encourages acceptance of what Eisenhower warned would generate more warfare.
Fallows' effort to look backwards also seems to miss the robotization of U.S. wars. No draft is going to turn us into drones, the pilots of which death machines are themselves disconnected from the wars.
Still, Fallows has a point. It is utterly bizarre that the least successful, most wasteful, most expensive, most destructive public program is largely unquestioned and generally trusted and revered by most of the public. This is the operation that coined the term SNAFU for godsake, and people are ready to believe its every wild tale. Gareth Porter explains the knowingly doomed decision to re-launch the Iraq war in 2014 as a political calculation, not as a means of pleasing profiteers, and of course not as a means of accomplishing anything. Of course, war profiteers work very hard to manufacture the sort of public that insists on or tolerates lots of wars, and the political calculation may be related to pleasing elites more than the general public. It is still worth framing as the greatest cultural crisis before us -- alongside climate denial -- that too many people are willing to cheer for wars and even more to accept the permanent war economy. Anything that shakes up that situation is to be applauded.
Rolling Stone alleged a gang rape at UVA and now doubts its own report. I have no knowledge of the matter. Maybe the victim was completely honest. Maybe she was largely honest but too drunk, or just too traumatized, to remember which fraternity house she was in. Maybe she made it all up. I have no idea and hope a competent police department, rather than an incompetent magazine, tries to find out if possible.
Predictably enough, the internet is now being flooded with articles pointing out that even if one alleged rape victim is lying, many others are not.
The thing is, I believe a lot of people know that, and more might know it now, rather than fewer.
But it's possible they'll know it with a little more seriousness.
It's all too common to assert, absurdly, outrageously, and immorally that all alleged victims must be believed as a matter of principle. It's all too common to assume they are all lying. Neither position is a principle. Either is a preposterous bit of stupidity.
I think the more the matter is discussed, examined, and considered, the fewer people will hold either idiotic position.
So here are some possible silver linings:
Awareness that people lie about rape.
Awareness that people also tell the truth about rape, and that doing so is in some cases so notoriously difficult that a well-meaning journalist may bend over backwards to help.
Awareness that journalism can make a difference, and that it would make a bigger difference if done better. What if that were applied to military and corporate funding of universities, or the poor manner in which history is taught in our colleges, or the lives of UVA staff who work extra jobs and still need public support?
Awareness that inactive, tv-viewing, partying students can get active about something and make a difference. What if they were to notice climate change or mass incarceration or the fact that college is free in some countries that fight fewer wars?
Awareness that one incident is not a trend, and that treating it as such is unfair to all involved.
Awareness that many rapes are never reported.
Awareness that men have spent many years in prison before being cleared of false rape charges.
Awareness that people claiming rape should be treated with kindness, consideration, understanding, and professional support, not because there is a certain high percentage chance they are telling the truth, but because they are people. Period.
Awareness that people accused of rape should be treated with kindness, consideration, understanding, and professional support, not because they could be innocent, but because they are people. Period.
Awareness that labeling people or institutions innocent or guilty, in combination with anger and vengeance, leads to blinding prejudices that make a mockery of the right to a trial and the wisdom meant to be instilled by a well-rounded education.
Awareness of all of the following:
Rape victims are victims of traumatic violence.
Someone making a false accusation may be a victim of an earlier, unreported assault, or of a traumatic or humiliating non-criminal experience, but is in any case troubled and in need of understanding.
Victims of false accusation can find the damage traumatic and lasting.
Someone accurately accused of rape is clearly a very troubled person in need of help he will not get from "correctional officers" or "inmates."
Collectively, UVA needs restorative justice, truth and reconciliation, open discussion of rapes real, fictional, and disputed.
Individually, victims and assailants need restorative justice. Those guilty need to be brought to understand and regret their victims' pain and suffering, and to work to make it up to them to the extent possible. Victims need to be brought to understand that they are not to blame, that their community supports them, and that those responsible are sorry for what they've done. None of that comes out of an ancient British system of adversarial justice, an unprecedented epidemic of U.S. mass incarceration, or journalism that doesn't bother to get more than one side of a story.
Here's FAIR's excellent report on pro-war bias in the corporate media, and here's Peter Hart describing it well on Democracy Now:
I'd love to see a complete report of all the corporate media coverage for the whole lead-up to Iraq War III: This Time as Farce. Here I am getting a few minutes to oppose war on MSNBC two days after the period FAIR covered, on a program other than the ones FAIR covered:
I suspect there were lots of other exceptions. Did they come late? Were they evenly scattered across the programs so that each program could claim to have been "balanced," or did any actually devote more than a few minutes to peace? Which ones never ever admitted peace into the discussion?
I don't want to lose FAIR's focus on the central point that pro-war pseudo-debate voices were so dominant and repetitive as to drill into people's brains the idea that a mad idea was inevitable common sense. But I think the whole picture could be shown without doing that.
Whether the brighter spots, if any, could or should be encouraged, I don't know. And I have no interest in singling out the worst of the worst in a way that implies the other media outlets are doing all right. But I'd like to see the whole picture and then decide what it means.
Therefore: Send FAIR money to use on longer reports!
Talk Nation Radio: Jeff Cohen on media no-fly zones, killing the messenger, getting big stories wrong
Jeff Cohen discusses the state of the media today. Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he is an associate professor of journalism. Cohen founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986, and cofounded the online activist group RootsAction.org in 2011. He's the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. His website is at jeffcohen.org
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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A note from David Swanson: