Doubt Creeps Back Into Corporate Media
Some 21 months ago, the plowshares of UN inspections were being beaten into Coalition swords. Saddam Hussein was capable of launching a long-range chemical- or biological-weapons attack within 45 minutes. Iraq was mere weeks away from being nuclear-capable, and this was all the more dire because Hussein and Osama bin Laden had collaborated on the attack on the World Trade Center. Iraq was full of weapons of mass destruction, including specialized trucks full of nerve gas and anthrax that--in their routine covert redeployments--regularly roared through Baghdad's accident-prone traffic.
Those claims have all turned out to be horseshit. Yet there were the leaders of the free world, not only earnest but also doing their best to hold their rage while they spewed exaggerations, hypocrisy, distortions, and outright lies. All the while, more pertinent and more factual information was available on the Internet but was continually being ignored by the mainstream newspapers, radio, and television media, who collectively decided that Paul Joseph Goebbels's view of how to rally public opinion wasn't so far wrong. Thus this column came to be.
It was only supposed to be for the duration of the imminent war, or so said my editor. I said the war would be a matter of weeks but the aftermath could go into the next century. So stop it when you think you're finished, said my editor.
It has been such an interesting 21 months that I must have been cursed by some proverbial Chinese sage. Although lying to win votes is fairly standard in a democracy, lying in order to initiate war with murky motives at the possible cost of tens of thousands of lives is not something you associate with the term "responsible democratic government". Yet afterward, the U.S. voters were left with two candidates both advocating an undoubted widening of a so-called war against terror that will tend to isolate citizens of the world's only superpower amidst a planet full of pissed-off people, too many of whom have access to a multitude of lethal, if not massive, weapons of destruction.
The result? More U.S. citizens (not percentage-wise, but in actual numbers) voted against George W. Bush this year than voted against him in 2000. But it's also true that Republican efforts were successful in rousing the four million religious extremists they estimated had failed to vote in the last election, leading to Bush's victory and his mandate to continue his jihad. Ignoring the deep division among U.S. voters, Bush has arrogantly announced that he has been given political "capital" and plans to "spend" it. All I can say is that Osama bin Laden, three years after the most powerful nation on Earth swore to get him, has gained even more political capital. How will he spend it? Probably in the same way: useless and senseless slaughter of innocents in the cause of vengeance and religious bigotry.
At the time this column started, I did not personally have Internet access, which is why Usman Majeed was indispensable as a Web scanner and general researcher, channelling hundreds of downloads into a computer at the Straight until they became thousands and I pleaded with him to stop. He never did, and over the months his material revealed us as caught in the web of lies, of war, of the past, of the future, and of vain and venal men who want to control us to the point where they will send us off to faraway places to die not for genuine freedom but for the glory and the gain of themselves and their friends.
That is not the story they tell, of course, and it was certainly not the story that you read in the daily papers 21 months ago. But over that time things have changed, I think for the better. Doubt has crept back into the mainstream media, and Canada's newspaper chains have had to catch up to USA Today when it comes to printing critical and incisive material. Not even the corporate media toadies can any longer ignore some of the more obvious abuses of power that have become standard in U.S. foreign policy.
We got caught in the web because no one was watching, but I have the hope that an open society with a free press, with the help of the Internet, will live up to its billing and catch all the lies eventually. For now, I am weary of counting casualties and will be looking forward to acclaimed author and always-interesting columnist Terry Glavin reclaiming this space for his Chronicles column in the New Year. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward all.