Friday, May 8, 2015

"Mr Khadr, you're free to go" - Omar Khadr experiences freedom for the 1st time in over a decade

'Mr Khadr, you're free to go'

I have covered Omar Khadr’s incarceration and legal battles since 2004, when the United States first convened the controversial military commissions to try inmates at Guantanamo Bay. As the youngest prisoner at the US military base in Cuba, he was seen by rights groups as a juvenile, and entitled to much more lenient treatment than he…

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kansans' Human and Civil Rights not for consideration by Sam "Right to [Destroy] Life" Brownback

Sam Brownback by DonkeyHotey

In the spirit of full disclosure, Kansas was my "home" for the first 18 years of life. I left, returned and left again (1984) - I was done with Kansas.

The Kansas of my youth (as a post-war Baby Boomer growing up in a northeastern Kansas wealthy suburb of upwardly mobile Middle Class, very white Americans always fearful of the ever pervasive "threat" of a mushroom cloud), was Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Anderson, Jr,  strong education and progressive teachers; neighborhoods of like kind families of single incomes; Mental Health facilities, hospitals, PTAs and concern for children, but there was that ever pervasive "Red Scare" and imagined mushroom cloud (one of my first memories beyond climbing trees, my imaginary friend named Johnny P, and running, feral, with my brother, Jonnie, was a National Geographic insert about a place called Vietnam - a place the US sent more "advisers" to assist after the French withdrew from the fight against "Communism"...I think I was about 6).

As I grew in my political awareness (for me, I was still in the single digit age bracket), I developed major issues with the political bend of a state hell bent on Republicanism. I watched the Jekyll and Hyde mentality of Eastern Republicans (more liberal, bigger cities, more money, more highly educated) vs Western Republicans (small farming communities isolated by wheat fields and clinging strongly to fundamentalist religion) and a state growing more and more rigid under the insanity of it's "elected" officials - abortion was legalized while juvenile judges declared women and children property (and upon reaching the age of 18, men became emancipated, women were still considered "owned by the state" until "wed" - or so I was told repeatedly as I attempted to advocate for adolescents in front of the courts); Kansas supported the ERA but still prosecuted women who defended themselves against rape by their husbands.

Historically, Kansas came by its Republicanism before and during the Civil War - back when Republicans were abolitionists, educated and actually somewhat liberal - but Kansas was known to embrace their religious zealots even then.

Carrie Nation

****Note: Kansas was used as the example for Prohibition. Prohibition of alcohol (well, except communion wine) went in to effect in 1917 and wasn't changed until 1948.  Kansas continued to have strict laws banning saloons as well as liquor sales - no "liquor by the drink" was allowed until 1986.

40 years after Carrie Nation, Fred Phelps incorporated his Westboro Baptist Church, Incorporated - a  Kansas "not-for-profit" entity (1967).

In 1971,  Vern Miller, Attorney General (1971-1975) initiated his terrorist campaign busting up church cakewalks (against the law to gamble), prosecuting farmers for allowing ditch weed/hemp to grow in their fields and in creeks - Kansas is covered in that ubiquitous plant and it is nearly impossible to eradicate; and raiding Amtrak trains for serving alcohol...The horror!

And in 2010, Kansas elected another zealot to governor, Sam Brownback (bad enough Kansas "elected" him to the US House, then the Senate under the Bush administration. Brownback was a resident at the C Street House in DC).

Courtesy of "The Kansas City Star"

Mr. Brownback has always been on the far side of Right-wingery.  His stance on issues (From Ballotpedia):

...But this is only a snapshot of  views and views are not necessarily indicative of actions.  It is his actions that I deal with here.

Since Brownback became governor, he has declared war on human and civil rights of nearly everyone except like-minded, irrational, non-reality based people and corporations.  Like all ideologues, his actions aren't based on facts, they are based on a personal set of rigid and dogmatic "beliefs" that have little to do with fact.

The following is a review of just some of the laws and executive orders supported and signed by Sam Brownback:
Gov. Sam Brownback abided by a pledge to sign Tuesday a controversial income tax reduction bill after hope dissolved a less-risky version would be adopted by the Legislature.

Brownback, who urged the House and Senate to pass a more modest blueprint for slicing taxes, said the commitment to lowering the state's tax burden would result in renewed business investment and job growth.

"My faith is in the people of Kansas, not the government's ability to tax and redistribute," Brownback said. "Today's legislation will create tens of thousands of new jobs and help make Kansas the best place in America to start and grow a small business."

On Sunday, the 2012 Legislature adjourned the regular session without passing an alternative bill slowing the pace of tax reductions, holding longer to budget surpluses and moderating the threat of deficits.

From the "Lawrence Journal-World," June, 2012:
Brownback, a conservative Republican, made tax cuts the centerpiece of the 2012 legislative session.

The bill he signed will cut the individual income tax rates of 6.45 percent, 6.25 percent and 3.5 percent to just two rates at 4.9 percent and 3 percent.

It will also eliminate state income taxes for the owners of partnerships, S corporations and limited liability companies. In addition, it exempts from taxes income from farms, royalties on minerals, oil, gas copyrights and patent, and real estate rental income.

“The ramifications of this are really something,” Dickinson said about the business tax changes.

For example, he said, in a partnership of physicians, the physicians won’t pay state income taxes under the new law, but the nurses, lab techs and clerical workers will continue to pay income taxes.

Brownback has said the changes will stimulate the economy like an adrenaline shot to the heart. He said that the tax cuts will create 22,900 new jobs, give $2 billion more in disposable income to Kansans and increase population by 35,740, in addition to normal population growth.

The tax cuts, Brownback said, will “help make Kansas the best place in America to start and grow a small business.” The Brownback administration has said the new law will leave $1.1 billion in the pockets of Kansans during a two-year stretch.

What could possibly go wrong? Besides the failed Reaganomics policy of "trickle down"  - proven to be nothing more than creating a fully protected and pampered class of the "Landed Gentry" and corporations now feeding everything into their personal piggy banks (Real gluttonous, arrogant, hybridized and teflon coated pig banks....OINK). Sounds all great for everyone except the working stiffs who will now have to foot the bill for their corporate overlords.

It's not like the Governor wasn't warned of problems ...

From House Minority Leader Paul Davis, June 2012:
"Governor Brownback completely choreographed this fiscally irresponsible plan from start to finish," Davis said. "There is no feasible way that private-sector growth can accommodate the price tag of this tax cut, which means our $600 million surplus will become a $2.5 billion deficit within just five years."

The Tax Foundation, May 29, 2012:
“First, the exemption creates an incentive for businesses to structure as pass-throughs for tax reasons, even if it might be unwise to do so for non-tax reasons. Instead of the Kansas tax system treating similar activity similarly, the system will encourage economically inefficient, though tax-reducing activities.
“While this can be difficult and complicated, especially in business taxation, Kansas’s decision to exempt one type of business structure completely from taxation (pass-throughs) while continuing to tax others (C corporations) is problematic. It rewards certain business structures while punishing others. There is no sound economic justification for treating these two types of business activity so dramatically differently.”
“Further, while tax reductions can have positive economic benefits, they will cost revenue and will ultimately have to be paid for either by cutting spending or increasing taxes elsewhere.”
"Forbes," June, 2012:
“Kansas slashed the tax rate for the better off and exempted huge chunks of business, farm and self employment income from its individual income tax, while increasing the burden on some of the state’s poorest residents by eliminating a rebate they now get to offset the state’s sales tax on food.”
“When the food sales tax rebate disappears next year, Kansas will join Alabama and Mississippi as the only states that levy a tax on food and don’t in some way compensate lower income residents for the strain on their budgets.”

Kansas Economic Progress Council released their report in October, 2012:

Their conclusion:

Here we are in 2015, so how did that all work out for Kansas?

From "The Atlantic," April 9, 2015:
Surviving a tough reelection race, as Sam Brownback did in Kansas last year, can often be a cleansing experience for a governor. It should certainly bring relief. After all, Brownback managed to earn a fresh nod of support from voters despite a messy first term marked by a fiscal embarrassment of his own making.

Yet three months later, the humbling in the heartland goes on, much to the frustration of a Republican governor and one-time presidential contender who hoped to make Kansas the national emblem of conservative governance. Brownback's hard-fought victory on election day won him another four years, but it did nothing to fix the problem that nearly cost him his job: the state's finances. Kansas's budget has for months resembled a wallet with a hole in it—every time the state's bookkeepers peek inside, they find less money than the government thought would be there. Just a few days after the November election, the Kansas budget office revealed that revenue projections were off by more than $200 million, bringing the budget gap facing Brownback to $600 million in all.

The yawning deficit is widely blamed on the deep income tax cuts that Brownback, along with a Republican legislature, enacted during his first two years in office. They not only slashed rates, but more importantly, they created a huge exemption for business owners who file their taxes as individuals. By Brownback's own description, the tax plan was a "real live experiment" in supply-side economics, with the idea being that lower taxes would spur investment, create jobs, and refill Kansas's coffers through faster growth. Yet even under the most charitable analysis, revenue has plummeted much faster than the economy has expanded.
Brownback, refusing to admit to the failure, has gone on to cut everything  until it bleeds out - an all out destruction of the social safety net (what little there is in Kansas)   while proposing more taxes - not on the wealthy but on the people (remember that promise of $1.1 Billion in the pockets of Kansans?) in the way of  "Sin" taxes and begging to slow the flood of red ink:

More from "The Atlantic":
Now, Kansas's red ink has left the governor red- faced. Brownback is asking Republican state lawmakers to slow the income tax cuts over the next few years, raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, overhaul school funding, and divert money from the state's highway fund in order to balance the budget. It's not as if he's abandoning his conservative economic philosophy—he still wants to replace the state's income tax entirely with consumption taxes over time. And like any politician on the ropes, he is preaching patience. "These things take time," he said last month. He also acknowledged the toll his stumbles have taken on his image. "We're in Lent season, so I'm giving up worldly things, like popularity," he joked to a small crowd. Brownback has blamed the budget shortfall in part on automatic increases in education spending (a subject of a long-running court dispute), and he's cited a recent uptick in job growth as evidence that the tax cuts, on the whole, are working. "Kansas is on the rise, and the state of our state is strong," the governor proclaimed in an annual budget address in January.

Guess who takes the heat?  The elderly, the poor, the working class and kids.

February, 2015, Brownback executes an executive order to rescind former Governor Sebilius' orders - to include LGBT protections.  From the "Kansas Office of the Governor"  Press Release:
Governor Sam Brownback issues Executive Orders

TOPEKA – Kansas Governor Sam Brownback today released two executive orders, one rescinding certain Executive Orders and another encouraging employment practices for veterans and disabled individuals.

Executive Order 15-01 rescinds nine previous executive orders and abolishes specific inactive councils, task forces, committees, boards, advisory councils and commissions created through the following Executive Orders:

07-21 rescinds an order signed by Governor Sebelius making the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees/Child Care Providers Together the exclusive majority representative of all registered and licensed family child care providers.

07-24 is replaced by Executive Order 15-02 and rescinds an order signed by Governor Sebelius that unilaterally established additional “protected class rights” for state employees, specifically for sexual orientation and gender identity. 

08-01 rescinds the order signed by Governor Sebelius establishing the Governor’s Wind Working Group.

08-05 abolishes the the Governor’s P20 Education Council, established by Governor Sebelius.

09-02 abolishes the Kansas Coalition for Children in Nature established by Governor Seblius. The functions of this coalition duplicate efforts of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

10-04 abolishes the Commission on Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery established by Governor Mark Parkinson. Current programs including Jobs for America’s Graduates and Career and Technical Education address these issues more efficiently.

10-08 abolishes the Kansas Broadband Advisory Task Force established by Governor Mark Parkinson.

10-11 abolishes the Kansas Food Security Task Force established by Governor Mark Parkinson.

10-13 abolishes the Interagency Working Group for Wind Energy established by Governor Mark Parkinson.

“Many of these commissions, working groups and task forces have not met for several years or duplicate other ongoing efforts,” Governor Brownback said. “These changes streamline operations and reduce operational costs of maintaining these various committees.”

Executive Order 15-02 reaffirms the commitment of the State of Kansas to employment practices which do not discriminate based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age. It further establishes that state entities will implement employment management practices for veterans and disabled individuals that include outreach, hiring, support, mentoring, development, rewards and recognition for achievement.

“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Governor Brownback said. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action. The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.”
***Note - 07-24 made bold by this author

In Kansas, state employees can now be fired from their jobs for being gay.

Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order on Tuesday reversing a 2007 measure that barred employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state workers.

“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” the governor said in a statement. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action.”

Doug Bonney, the legal director of ACLU’s Kansas chapter, called the ruling “shocking” and “unprecedented.” “I read this as a signal ‘go ahead’ you can discriminate against people on their sexual orientation,” he said. “It sends absolutely the wrong message … it says, frankly, ‘please leave.’”

Under Brownback’s new order, Kansas workers can still be protected against “race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age” discrimination, however.

State employees now join the rest of Kansas’ workforce — none of whom have no workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

While the state workers lose the discrimination protections they’ve had for more than seven years, they are returning to a situation all too familiar to many American employees: 29 states, including Kansas, have no protections in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

But he wasn't done there....

TOPEKA - Kansas became the first state Tuesday to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, signed a bill imposing the ban. The new law takes effect July 1.

Two abortion rights groups that operate clinics with abortion services, Trust Women and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said they’re considering challenging the new law in court.

The law bans the dilation and evacuation procedure and redefines it as “dismemberment abortion.” Drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, the measure also has been introduced in Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina, though only Kansas lawmakers have passed it.

“This is a horrific procedure,” Brownback spokesman Eileen Hawley said. “He hopes the nation follows suit.”

The procedure is banned except when necessary to save a woman’s life or prevent irreversible damage to her physical health. Doctors cannot use forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces.

Abortion rights supporters said the procedure is often the safest for women seeking to terminate pregnancies during the second trimester. The procedure accounted for about 9 percent of abortions last year in Kansas, where most pregnancies are terminated in the first trimester and the state already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week.

“This dangerous law dictates to qualified physicians how they can practice medicine and treat their patients,” Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, said in a statement.

Brownback continues his 5 year war against a woman's right to choose in Kansas, practicing his own dismemberment abortion of Kansas women's right to self determination (back to that state ownership thing again).

From WIBW:
An abortion provider and an attorney spoke out in a news conference Tuesday against Governor Brownback's bill banning a certain abortion procedure.

Dr. Kris Neuhaus and her attorney, Bob Eye say Brownback's decision to make Kansas the first state to ban a second trimester abortion procedure is "anti-scientific and anti-woman."
***Note - Physician who's license was revoked by the state of Kansas Board of Healing Arts for her referrals and 2nd opinions in late term abortion cases, specifically for her work with Dr. George Tiller, murdered by Scott Roeder in 2009.  The state claimed it was for "sloppy" records.  The coincidental prosecution following the acquittal of Dr. George Tiller and the continued harassment of same by Kansas indicates otherwise.

Laura McQuade, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said, “Kansas is now not only the sole state with this atrocious law; it also now has more restrictions on abortion than any state in the U.S.”

Nationally, nearly nine in 10 abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, commonly using a vacuum method that would not be affected by the Kansas law. By some accounts, about 9 percent of abortions in Kansas could be affected.

Alternatives in the second trimester, like medically induced, nonsurgical abortions, are more dangerous for some women, can involve days of uncertain waiting and may require access to hospital facilities, said Dr. Kathleen Morrell, a gynecologist and obstetrician in New York and a fellow of Physicians for Reproductive Health, which defends abortion rights.

“When it is safe to offer a choice of induction or D and E,” she said, referring to dilation and evacuation, “my patients overwhelmingly choose D and E. They are able to be asleep and comfortable for the procedure and then can go home to their own beds at night.”

It might also be possible, some experts said, for doctors to comply with the law by killing the fetus with an injection of the heart drug digoxin before starting a dilation and evacuation procedure. This is commonly done in very late abortions, after perhaps 18 weeks, but not earlier because, experts say, it seems unnecessary and adds uncertainties to the procedure.

Earlier in pregnancy, the fetus’s neurological system is just developing and by all accounts cannot feel pain, medical experts say. But in addition, the safety and efficacy of using digoxin earlier than 18 weeks into pregnancy have not been studied, and there are some indications that it could increase the chance of complications, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who spoke on behalf of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The Kansas law includes no exemptions for rape or incest, only to preserve a woman’s life or prevent irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors who violate the law could be charged with a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony for successive violations.

“The law raises very grave constitutional concerns,” said Janet Crepps, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York.

Brownback is unfazed. In fact, he merges the latest atrocity with his destruction of the state's coffers in a beautifully created psychotic package and touts it as being good for the Kansas economy. From "Salon":

It takes a special kind of delusion to believe — despite decades of empirical evidence — that massive income tax cuts for the wealthy will unleash economic prosperity, thereby boosting job creation and increasing government revenues. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, however, clung to that delusion. Advised by the charlatan Art Laffer — originator of the curve — Brownback slashed income taxes for individuals and businesses, promising that his supply-side “experiment” would jump-start the Sunflower State’s economy. Instead, Kansas’ rendezvous with voodoo has created a $344 million revenue shortfall that legislators must fill by June, while the tax cuts haven’t delivered the promised economic benefits: Kansas’ rate of job growth has lagged behind that of the nation, per-capita income has remained stagnant, and the state’s GDP growth has fallen behind that of its neighbors in the Midwest and Great Plains.

How, then, does the delusional emperor of Brownbackistan respond? By insisting that all is going swimmingly, of course.

In an interview with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins over the weekend, Brownback hailed his state’s phantom progress, asserting that Kansas’ economic engines were roaring and arguing that the good times will become even better provided that the state — wait for it — continues to make it harder for women to have abortions.

“You have advanced pro-life policies, pro-family policies, and now you are building a strong economic base that is showing the federal government a thing or two when it comes to job creation,” a fawning Perkins said, displaying either embarrassing obsequiousness or an utter ignorance of recent news — or some combination thereof.

“Well, it’s working,” Brownback replied. “And we’re pretty straightforward here. What we want Kansas to be is the best place in America to do two things: Raise a family, grow a small business.”....

....“I’ve signed 10 pro-life bills. There’s another one moving through the legislature on ending dismemberment abortions, where you actually dismember the child to abort it,” he said, vowing to sign the latest bill.

Reflecting on the connection between socially conservative policies and economic growth, Brownback said, “They really support each other. Frankly, one of the problems we have in the country is we’re not forming enough families. And that is hurting our economic work, and it’s hurting our economic projections, because the best place for a child is within a strong family unit. And if you’re not forming the family unit you’re also slowing your economic performance, so these things really tie closely together. And I think we do a disservice politically when we separate them.”

From Right Wing Watch - Brownback and Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council:

As Sam Brownback and his right wing charlatan Republican sycophants in Topeka continue their attacks on both civil and human rights, they prove to have little concern for the progress of Kansas. Instead, he is continuing the state's retrograde, at full speed, as if on a mission to be the first state to return to the days when the Ozarks were beachfront property - next to the Late Cretaceous Niobrara Seaway.....

Science, welfare and humanity be damned in Brownback's Kansas..

Monday, March 30, 2015

Imperialist "Peacekeeping": One nation neoconned, with liberty and justice for none.

"Always question a paradigm promoted by those who's livelihood depends on it"
                                                                            ~ Rock Cosmos

In 2004 (and updated in 2006), "The Lancet," published "Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey" (Dr Les Roberts, PhD, Riyadh Lafta, MD, Prof Richard Garfield, Dr PH, Jamal Khudhairi, MD, Gilbert Burnham, MD), boldly claiming the "excess" (the numbers above the pre-invasion death rate) death toll of Iraqis after the "Shock and Awe" invasion was as high as 100,000 between March, 2003 and September 2004, basing their study on the number of violent deaths (mostly by gunshot) reported by families in interviews and morgue statistics (noting that not all casualties were sent to the "morgue" for a variety of reasons to include religious, fear, access, as well as location). The updated version appearing in 2006, put the figures from the beginning of "Shock and Awe" through July, 2006, closer to 601,027 (426,369–793,663).

From "The Lancet" Report (2006):

There has been widespread concern over the scale of Iraqi deaths after the invasion by the US-led coalition in March, 2003. Various methods have been used to count violent deaths, including hospital death data from the Ministry of Health, mortuary tallies, and media reports. The best known is the Iraq Body Count, which estimated that, up to September 26, 2006, between 43 491 and 48 283 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion.1 Estimates from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior were 75% higher than those based on the Iraq Body Count from the same period. An Iraqi non-governmental organisation, Iraqiyun, estimated 128 000 deaths from the time of the invasion until July, 2005, by use of various sources, including household interviews.
The US Department of Defence keeps some records of Iraqi deaths, despite initially denying that they did.4 Recently, Iraqi casualty data from the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) Significant Activities database were released. These data estimated the civilian casuality rate at 117 deaths per day between May, 2005, and June, 2006, on the basis of deaths that occurred in events to which the coalition responded. There also have been several surveys that assessed the burden of conflict on the population. These surveys have predictably produced substantially higher estimates than the passive surveillance reports.

Aside from violence, insufficient water supplies, non-functional sewerage, and restricted electricity supply also create health hazards. A deteriorating health service with insecure access, and the flight of health professionals adds further risks. People displaced by the on-going sectarian violence add to the number of vulnerable individuals. In many conflicts, these indirect causes have accounted for most civilian deaths.

In 2004, we did a survey of 33 randomly selected clusters of 30 households with a mean of eight residents throughout Iraq to determine the excess mortality during the 17·8 months after the 2003 invasion. The survey estimated excess mortality of at least 98 000 (95% CI 8000–194 000) after excluding, as an outlier, the high mortality reported in the Falluja cluster. Over half of excess deaths recorded in the 2004 study were from violent causes, and about half of the violent deaths occurred in Falluja.

To determine how on-going events in Iraq have affected mortality rates subsequently, we repeated a national household survey between May and July, 2006. We measured deaths from January, 2002, to July, 2006, which included the period of the 2004 survey.

As expected, the outrage poured in from Washington to London accusing the researchers of everything from manipulated statistics, errors in methodology to out right lying. Sure, the research methodology used was not quite what the US' own DOD reported, though the DOD claimed they "don't do body counts" (US General Tommy Franks declared in 2002: "We don't do body counts.") - they do, they did and Wikileaks proved it; Sure, they used a small sampling and anecdotal evidence, but the question of war caused death to a civilian population, created solely by the hubris of American neoconned imperialism, hung in the air like the stench of death and white phosphorus over Fallujah.

From "US War On Iraq Claimed Half a Million Lives, Study Finds," By Joseph Brownstein, 2013
(Please note the numbers are even higher than this article reports)

Late last month,  Physicians for Social Responsibility (aka, PSR) released "Body Count - The report: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the 'War on Terror',” again, addressing the question of civilian deaths, as well as human suffering, as a result of America's latest war on the Middle East:
The picture of physically wounded military personnel for both war theatres is incomplete. Only the U.S. military is identified: (a) 32,223 were wounded during the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath, and (b) until November 2014 20,040 were wounded in Afghanistan.

No figures are known for mental disorders involving military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Officially ignored are casualties, injured or killed, involving enemy combatants and civilians. This, of course, comes as no surprise. It is not an oversight but a deliberate omission. The U.S. authorities have kept no known records of such deaths. This would have destroyed the arguments that freeing Iraq by military force from a dictatorship, removing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and eliminating safe-havens for terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas has prevented terrorism from reaching the U.S. homeland, improved global security and advanced human rights, all at “defendable” costs.

However, facts are indeed stubborn. Governments and civil society know now that on all counts these assertions have proved to be preposterously false. Military battles have been won in Iraq and Afghanistan but at enormous costs to human security and trust among nations. One must not forget the financial costs. The 21st century has seen a loss of innocent civilian life at an unprecedented scale, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody should even dare to ask the question whether it was worth it! As independent U.S. journalist Nir Rosen noted, “the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis are not better off, […] the children who lost their fathers aren’t better off, […] the hundreds and thousands of refugees are not better off.”

The IPPNW Body Count publication must be seen as a significant contribution to narrowing the gap between reliable estimates of victims of war, especially civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and tendentious, manipulated or even fraudulent accounts. These have in the past blurred the picture of the magnitude of death and destitution in these three countries. Subjective and pre-conceived reporting certainly is a serious matter. This includes the dissemination of deliberately falsified information. In the context of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there are many examples of manipulated “facts.” The U.S. Department of Defense’s shortlived (2001/02) Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) is one stark example of government-generated mis- and dis-information meant to influence public opinion in supporting its Iraq policies.

The Human loss of life as a cost of the War on Terror?  Again, from the report:
This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs. And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.

Investigations were based on the results of individual studies and data published by UN organizations, government bodies and NGOs. Figures for Afghanistan and Pakistan are only estimates based on the numbers of observed or reported deaths (passive determination).In Iraq, however, several representative surveys were also conducted in the context of studies seeking to determine the increase in the mortality rate since the onset of war, and therefore the total death toll among Iraqis arising from war or occupation. Although extrapolation of the results of such ‘active’ determination techniques inevitably causes significant breadth of range, this investigation shows that the data it provides is still far more reliable
As far as the financial cost to the US taxpayer (without regard for the financial cost to the people in the Middle East):
As if in response to the latest figures of blood and gore [we caused] in the Middle East (like some reptilian brain being cued by the stench of rotting corpses and blood), the US "National Philosophers," the Neo-Conservatives, have been beating the war drums even harder.

Neo-Cons are nothing new for DC - They started infiltrating in the 50's; becoming advisers in the 60's; taking the WH and cabinet in the 80's; continuing their roles in the 90's and becoming fully entrenched on both sides of the aisle in the 21st century - but it doesn't stop there. In 2015, they are on the airways every night; filling TV screens as they run the circuit of Sunday morning talk shows; given forum as "columnists" in the major papers like "The Washington Post," the "New York Times" "The Wall Street Journal"; and whine in Congress on a daily basis (well, on the few days that Congress is in session).  The Neo-Con war drums beat loud and long for decades - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Iraq, Palestine, Kosovo, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya.

Today, all of them, each and every Neo-Con (Cheney, Friedman, McCain) to Neo-Con Lite (Obama, Clinton, Kerry), continue to pound those drums. Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia... The beat goes on.

Perpetual war perpetuated.

At one time, the war hawks attempted the appearance of "good taste" by waiting a few minutes before jumping into another war - World War II gradually moved into Korea that slowly sidled into Vietnam, expanding to Laos and Cambodia (sorry, the Pentagon's "we were never there" lie didn't quite sell the public) as they began "maneuvers" in the Middle East. Politicians bickered war vs. diplomacy but somehow war usually won.

The 21st Century Neo-Con war hawks don't even bother with appearances. The only bickering left is how big we bomb and where next to drop them; whether or not 10,000 troops of 50,000 troops should be in an occupied land and where next to put more boots on the ground. Calls ring out for bombing Iran; boots in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and leaving more in Afghanistan and Iraq; bombing ISIS; drones used for killing across any border; and expanding occupation anywhere there are "people in need of democracy" (code for occupation and exploitation).

The US has gone into full on, 1984, perpetual war mode - destruction of entire regions of the world, raining fire from the skies by remote control, and let's not forget the covert operations of CIA backed contractors, agents, and "rebels" in Yemen, Syria, Somalia and anywhere we can sneak them in.

The people of the US, after over a decade of warring in Iraq and Afghanistan, claimed we were tired of war.  One year after drawing down a few troops and listening to the war drums beat, we are ready to war, once again.

Now, those drums are beating louder and stronger....

Over the past few weeks, we saw John Bolton (former undersecretary of state for the GW Bush administration turned into the United States ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006 and now considered a "scholar" with, of course, AEI), in his commentary for the "New York Times, call for bombing Iran:

The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.

Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.

Mr. Obama’s fascination with an Iranian nuclear deal always had an air of unreality. But by ignoring the strategic implications of such diplomacy, these talks have triggered a potential wave of nuclear programs. The president’s biggest legacy could be a thoroughly nuclear-weaponized Middle East.
(US backing for regime change? That worked so well before, didn't it?)
Hear those drum beats?
"We need to encourage this administration to go take out Iran’s nuclear capability," he said on the Family Research Council's "Washington Watch" radio show, according to a Right Wing Watch recording. "I don’t think we ought to put Israel in position of having to save both themselves and the United States. I think it’s time to bomb Iran — anything that resembles a nuclear facility."
Those drums getting louder.
O.K., so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?

In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.

ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really?
John McCain continuing to be John McCain, who called for boots on the ground in 7 countries during the last RNC convention in 2008, proposes that Israel "go rogue" and attack Iran.

More drum beats even from the floor of the Senate.

It's not just far right wing or Republicans clamoring for war.  President Barack Obama has been calling for action in Syria for over 2 years; JSOC continues to carry out operations in foreign lands; More drones fly over and hit more targets (people); more US arms are given away or sold to nearly everyone; and Republicans and Democrats alike are supporting the use of US military might over the Middle East as the corporate owned US media rarely discusses any alternative to war.

As far as the American people, worn and battered from years of war; US war veterans left to fight a failing VA system just to get benefits and assistance; and the entire nation's infrastructure crumbling around us, we still seem easily swayed by the idea that "the road to peace" is just pouring more money into more war.

We have become one nation, neoconned with liberty and justice for none.

Our perpetual warring will do little more than leave more innocents slaughtered, nations destroyed, land poisoned, resources exploited, and anger in our wake.  With that anger will be more overtly hostile acts against us that will be used to justify, in our minds anyway, the continuation of perpetual war.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The real war will not be televised...and now a word from our sponsor, the MIC

Ronald Haeberle's Photo of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 1968)

Imagery has the power to destroy and the power to heal; the power to make humans quake in their boots or soar with ecstasy.

Vietnam was the first televised war.....

The battle of la Drang Valley - 1965

The Tet offensive - 1968

Hue City 1968

Medic Thomas Cole of Richmond, Virginia, looks up with his one unbandaged eye as he continues to treat wounded S.Sgt. Harrison Pell of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, during a firefight, January 30, 1966. The men belonged to the 1st Cavalry Division, which was engaged in a battle at An Thi, in the Central Highlands, against combined Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. This photo appeared on the cover of Life magazine, February 11, 1966, and photographer Henri Huet’s coverage of An Thi received the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club

........ that coverage - those images - spurred a near revolt confronting the war paradigm as promoted by the Pentagon and those in support of the Pentagon.

San Francisco 1965

October, 1967 - Exorcise and Levitate the Pentagon

1968 Police Riot - DNC Convention

Vietnam Moratorium October 15, 1969 and again November 15, 1969

Taking that lesson to heart, the war paradigm promoters from the Oval Office to the Pentagon have learned to manipulate the message by banning coverage, embedding only those "journalists" willing to be sycophants and mewling cronies, and through a protracted plan to discredit anyone they can who might not report what they want (and the corporation lawyers for NYT, Comcast, WaPo,  Clear Channel, Time-Warner, Scripps and all the rest fall to the pressure).

Lie by Lie - Mother Jones Illustration: John Ueland

Media coverage of the most recent War on Iraq....

Slick productions; limited ground coverage; military created videos - mainstream media companies ate it up...

And what mainstream coverage was regurgitated 24/7 was interspersed with ...

We were left with jingoistic diatribes repeated, ritualistically, until they became the only message heard on major television stations in the US. The message set for the masses to believe.

From "New York Times," (April 20, 2008)...setting the message:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access...

...Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

From Democracy Now! (2007):

Bill Moyers, April 5, 2007:

(Please note: Night Ridder, noted in the above story, was sold to McClatchy, June, 2006)

And from the "National Security News Service," (September 30th, 2013):

The Department of Defense has turned its huge public affairs program into an offensive propaganda campaign being run by the same contractors that spy on the world through the intelligence agencies, according to a DCBureau-National Security News Service (NSNS) investigation

The positive public image of the military has allowed defense contractors and the military leadership to replace traditional public outreach with an aggressive propaganda effort that has little to do with providing factual information about the armed forces. Nearly every element of outreach now must go through a maze of strategic communication contractors to decide whether or not a reporter is given an interview or information.

While the changes to the Pentagon outreach effort accelerated during the George W. Bush administration, the confluence of a “strategic communications” approach that once was reserved for foreign targets of military operations is now used for domestic consumption. Under President Obama and his defense secretaries – Gates, Panetta, and Hagel – hundreds of millions of dollars in propaganda and strategic communication contracts have been let, with the details of many of them classified...

...In 2009, an Associated Press investigation found that the Pentagon’s public affairs budget had grown by 63 percent in the past five years. Pentagon officials set aside $4.7 billion for recruiting, advertising, public affairs and psychological operations. But that number may not even be the total as millions more dollars are buried in classified budgets hidden from the public. When broken down, $1.6 billion is set aside for recruitment and advertising, $547 million for public affairs, roughly $489 million for psychological operations that reach foreign audiences, and $2.1 billion for staff for these areas. One Navy document posted online a few years ago, reveals that thousands of enlisted personnel and officers are assigned to public relations on every ship and submarine, at every base and station in the Navy. The numbers are similar for the other services.

According to internal memorandum, Pentagon public relation messages are being delivered by new and different means. Emerging technologies have created new opportunities to get their messages out to a wider audience and a narrower audience. E-mail messages can target individuals within the government and military, while Internet websites can blanket mass audiences. Repetition is the key for oral learning. Military themes, phrases, or slogans are repeated to ensure the targeted audience gets the desired message. For example, the public has been trained to automatically thank troops for their service.

Each branch of the military has its own operations. The Navy, for example, has the capability, according to internal memorandum, to produce audiovisual products from the Fleet Audio-Visual Command, Pacific; Fleet Imagery Command, Atlantic; fleet combat camera groups; various film libraries; and Naval Imaging Command. Naval assets have the capability to broadcast AM/FM radio and produce documents, posters, articles, and other materials.

A growing portion of the Pentagon budget goes to contractors who are merging their intelligence and eavesdropping activities into propaganda and media. A former undersecretary of defense during the Reagan years called the changes “absolutely chilling.” He says, “Fundamentally what it means is the contractors now have full control of the military. It is the contractors and not the officer corps that has control of the institution that is our military. The ability for these companies to control all the information and cycle the senior officer corps from the Pentagon to their boardrooms makes the system foolproof and completely corrupt.”

When asked about congressional oversight, the former Reagan official says, “Look at where these congressmen and senators get their contributions. Even when our soldiers, sailors and Marines are damaged by a contractor’s action, there are no hearings, no penalties to pay.”

This is the dark side of the Pentagon’s outreach effort. Defense contractors that are largely reliant on the Pentagon for their shareholders’ profits are deeply involved in what the intelligence community used to call deception operations and what the public relations industry rebranded “strategic communication” or more recently “communications synchronization.” One veteran Washington editor whose publication covers the military told NSNS, “The days of a reporter calling a DOD press representative and getting a straight answer to a question are a quaint part of the past.” Inserted between press officers and the Pentagon brass are the contractors who actually make “strategic” decisions about whether it is in the Pentagon’s interest to provide a reporter with information or withhold cooperation.

A former top Army information officer told NSNS, “The change is now complete in the military. The trust between PAOs and the media has been eroded. It used to be if a tough reporter had a story that was going to make us look bad, we would use the trust that was built up with the reporter and the outlet to work the issue through. Now the door is slammed on the reporter and the strategic advice is usually just to blacklist the guy and his outlet. Sometimes the strategic advice includes putting out a fictional narrative and the outcomes have been horrible for the Army. What they call strategic communication is simply deception. We have had horrible outcomes to story after story because of this policy.” The former official cited the phony cover story about pro football player Pat Tillman’s death during the Afghan War. The Army portrayed Tillman as being killed by enemy fire when, in fact, they knew he had been killed by friendly fire. The Army also knowingly distributed a false story about a young private named Jessica Lynch describing her fictional heroics during the Iraq War.

The former Army officer says, “Strategic communications may sound like pr to the public. That is not what it is. These are offensive propaganda operations that often include trying to discredit news organizations and reporters who endanger the military reputation or disagree with the information the military wants out. The truth of the information reporters have is not relevant to these guys…One technique used is to exploit inexperienced bloggers and new media types to put out what they want. They actually hold briefings that target the dumbest of these folks, and they carry the DOD’s message, thinking they got some big scoop.”

A top editor for a major military publication says that the military has “almost no respect for today’s web based reporters.” The editor says, “They hold sessions for bloggers and feed them tidbits and manipulate them because the bloggers, for the most part, don’t have a clue about what questions to ask. The truth is there are very few good reporters still covering the military. Because the news organizations don’t have the resources, the DOD is using contractor-produced, unvetted material to fill this information vacuum. Because of the declining financial condition of the media, this is what has replaced real reporting for many news organizations.”

Many of the major Pentagon exposés of the 1980s and 1990s came from nonprofit watchdog organizations that focused on military waste, fraud and abuse. The handful of NGOs that did the stories like $600 toilet seats, secret multi-billion dollar programs to resume atmospheric nuclear testing, the infamous School of the Americas, and a general flying his mistresses at taxpayers’ expense across the Atlantic stopped getting funding when many of the large foundations’ priorities changed and they redirected the NGOs to other areas. One NGO investigator says, “The money dried up after 9/11. We just don’t have the money to carry out many deep dive investigations anymore. Without the nonprofits doing the spadework on these kinds of stories, the public is being fed a diet of DOD-contractor propaganda.”

According to a senior editor whose publication focuses on the Pentagon, “Every senior commander is expected to take advice from an expert in strategic communication before agreeing to a media interview. Inside every DOD facility is a team of Public Affairs Officers whose first job when contacted by a reporter is to determine if the reporter has been friendly to the DOD or unfriendly. If the reporter has been tough or critical, he or she will not get the interview. It is that simple. They can afford to do this because the media is so ineffective now, they can just communicate through their own outlets. Enough editors will take their unverified, free story packages and run them without warning their readers or viewers that the material is Pentagon produced.”

A veteran civilian Pentagon official told NSNS, “What is more worrying is they are combining public affairs and outreach with propaganda. They consider social media as a propaganda tool. They are treating communication with the public in the same way they do propaganda overseas.”

Nearly every service likes to show a friendly, inspiring public face from military bands to honor and color guards for large and small community and commercial events. What the Pentagon refuses to allow is free access by the media of returning caskets from the war. Studies show that images of soldiers killed in the line of duty undermines public support for war. These actions are all part of the partnership between contractors and the military. President Dwight D. Eisenhower became so concerned about the nexus between corporate money and the Defense Department that he gave a farewell address in 1961 warning the nation of the threat of what he called “the growing military-industrial complex.”

President Eisenhower is the Army general who led the United States and our allies to victory in Europe during World War II. Over the years, others have reinforced the president’s warnings, most notably, an Emmy award-winning CBS News report called “The Selling of the Pentagon” by correspondent Roger Mudd and producer Peter Davis, which aired in February 1971. That report was so devastating, defense contractors conducted a huge public relations campaign to try to counteract its effect on the public perception of the defense and weapons business.

It used to be called “the revolving door” – where military officers went to work for companies they had given contracts. One of the issues that worried President Eisenhower was how shamelessly the defense complex would use the reputation earned by the blood of our troops to mitigate contractor abuses. This is why many military leaders favored a draft, convinced that citizens who were forced to serve would keep the entire system accountable. It is not coincidental that the role of contractors increased dramatically after the draft was eliminated. Now the revolving door from Pentagon to contractor and back goes from five star officers all the way down to grunts with specialized training. It is seamless. It has evolved into a very lucrative job-for-life safety net for the military. High-ranking officers become millionaires overnight. There is no “assault on the middle class” among the military, even in many of the lower ranks.

Public affairs is a relatively new addition to the military. During World War II, the Department of War became aware of the need for military officials to be able to supply news to the public. The civilian media was often misinformed about news on the frontline, so soldiers, airmen, and sailors stepped up as public affairs officers. In 1946, the Army formed it first information school to train military members in journalism and public affairs. The DOD has always maintained a longstanding relationship with the American public. Decades ago, posters showed Uncle Sam urging young men outside of recruiting stations to join up. Recently, an “Army Strong” commercial portrays proud men and women jumping out of airplanes to rescue villagers. But as the Blue Angels roar overtop stadiums and children wave their American flags with pride, few are noticing that the Pentagon is reaching deeper into the taxpayers’ pocket.

By 2009, Americans spent over $4.7 billion a year to fund Department of Defense public affairs, a number that has multiplied. A high-level Department of Defense official said the total number “is deliberately disguised in a maze of budgets.” He says, “The real total for outreach and recruitment now exceeds $15 billion annually and is growing.” Adding to the number are contractors who sell systems and logistical support to the government. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their own public relations and advertising campaigns and charging that money off on their Pentagon contracts.

Fifty-three-years after President Eisenhower’s warning, the situation has gotten far more serious. Even the current Pentagon spokesman is not a distinguished former journalist or service member but George Little, a former employee of defense-intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, the same company that constructs and maintains the NSA-CIA surveillance apparatus for which whistleblower Edward Snowden worked. Attempts to get answers directly from the Pentagon public affairs staff are completely stymied all the way to Little’s office. While he publicly preaches openness when he lectures at the Defense Information School, he and his staff have no real interest in helping the media.

NSNS reporters wanted to know why the military’s public relations apparatus promises cooperation only to violate every promise of assistance it makes. The simple answer turned out to be the Pentagon has no reason to fear the media because it knows that poll numbers conclusively demonstrate the armed forces are the most trusted institution in the country. That support reflects the massive contraction in the news industry since the recession. The remaining news management fear a backlash against any organization that takes on the military. Any criticism will be portrayed as being “against our troops” or “unpatriotic” by a team of strategic communications contractors. Pentagon management now thumbs their collective noses at the news media. PAOs still cater to the large broadcast and cable networks. But producers for these correspondents seldom undertake critical Pentagon stories. As one major network senior news manager says, “We are well aware the Pentagon can deny access. When we do a critical story we understand the Pentagon and services have the firepower to fight back.”

The natural tension between an independent press and government-controlled public affairs is all but gone as the national media has shrunk in both numbers and resources. Corporate style media operations are now common across the government. But no government agency has seen a more profound change than the Department of Defense. The scrutiny of national, local, and regional news outlets that focused on Pentagon coverage has been replaced by bloggers often of dubious origin. Media budget constraints has created an opening for government contracted propagandists to supplant genuine reportage with internally produced news “packages” and “feel good” stories, like service members returning from war and surprising their children or being reunited with their dog. The gee-whiz latest unmanned weapons systems stories are Pentagon-contractor created diversions that consume column inches, web space, and airtime that would be more meaningfully spent on serious issues like contractor fraud, the increased rates of suicides, and an officer corps even more reliant on private contractors.

Equally disturbing is that the oversight committees in Congress have ignored the contractors’ control of Pentagon propaganda and strategic communications. When NSNS reporters reached out to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee for assistance on how much was being spent on Pentagon public communications, the committees had no comment. The military contractors are generous contributors to members of the oversight committees. One veteran Republican staff member was blunt in laying out the reality: “There is no upside to going after the Pentagon on wasteful spending. The truth is it does not matter what reporters like you do. The public trusts the military over the media. Our polling confirms that. The truth is the media has lost its power and the military establishment no longer needs you to tell its story. …Welcome to the 21st Century.”

The fact that the Pentagon dissembles to the media on a regular basis is also ignored by most of the major media. For example, the DOD has made much of sequester cuts damaging national security. One way the Pentagon PR machine tries to get attention is to tug on the national heartstrings. Recently there were news reports that a fly over Arlington National Cemetery to salute two MIAs being interred had to be canceled because of budget woes. What is not shown are a laundry list of other activities that are ongoing. For example, there is plenty of money to allow West Point cadets to parachute out of a Lakota Helicopter for fun several times a week as part of an informal jumping group. It costs thousands of dollars per hour to keep a Lakota chopper with a full crew in the air...

...The Pentagon and national security establishment are using the same contractors who have built the post 9/11 spy apparatus to control the U.S. military version of its activities. Corporations with no stake in openness or experience in providing the public information are being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to fend off reporters and control what comes out of the battlefield and from the Pentagon. These same companies, reliant on the Pentagon and intelligence community for more contracts, have no motivation or incentive to release information that might embarrass the national security establishment. So when wrongdoing does take place, there is virtually no chance of it being revealed to the American public. For example, when hundred of National Guard reservists during the Iraq War were exposed to cancer causing chemicals at an Iraqi power plant that supposedly was made safe by defense contractor KBR, the Pentagon and Army sided with the contractor when reservists came down with cancer. The contractor’s influence was so great that the sick veterans could not even get an official hearing from the Senate or House Armed Services Committees. Instead, only the Democratic Policy Committee, which has no official standing, bothered to hold hearings.

The worry about unfavorable publicity seems to dominate every aspect of current Pentagon media policy. Directly attacking reporters came into vogue in the 1990s after the Navy’s Tailhook scandal. The Navy’s aggressive head of public affairs at the time, Rear Admiral Kendall Pease, set a new harsh tone toward reporters who took on the Navy. After Pease retired from the Navy, he, too, went to work for a contractor, General Dynamics. The training for Navy public information officers changed dramatically under Pease in 1996, and this new aggressive attitude toward reporters deemed unfriendly was adapted by the other services. For the first time reporters were openly seen as adversaries. The policy was to assist “friendlies” and discredit “unfriendlies.”...

...Perhaps the most embarrassing failure of the major networks was their complicity in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American public. It is also an example of how the Pentagon’s strategic communications efforts were used by willing network executives. The networks had on their payrolls retired senior officers who were telegenic and seemed authentic heroes. What was not mentioned is many of them were also working for defense contractors who had a vested interest in keeping the wars going. Bush administration Pentagon officials brought these former officers in regularly for special briefings. The idea behind the briefings was to give these network consultants special access so they could be “message force multipliers” to sell the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the American public. The trouble is that much of the information given to them was wrong. NSNS assisted New York Times Reporter David Barstow with his investigation into these retired military officers. The devastating stories revealed both the mendacity of the consultants and the indifference by network news management. NBC News fared the worst. The Barstow stories revealed the hold the military industrial complex has on network media. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for these stories.

The Pentagon investigated and cleared itself in the consultant scandal. The networks, with the single exception of Public Broadcasting, accepted no responsibility for misleading the public, and in the case of NBC continued to use a former general who had the greatest conflicts of interest.

...U.S. military propaganda is everywhere. It’s on Netflix, ipads, cellphones, television sets and movie screens.

....Offensive operations are run against reporters critical of the military and intelligence communities. In addition, the Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted military and intelligence whistleblowers and allowed wiretaps and surveillance of reporters and news bureaus. One recent court decision suggests it a crime for a reporter to receive classified information from a source. The country was founded on the concept of “checks and balances.” There are only two institutions large enough to provide “checks” on the military and intelligence communities: Congress and the media. Congress chooses not to do its job. The media no longer can.

There were a few smaller stations and web-based publications reporting more accurate accounts of the lead up to war:

Democracy Now!  September, 2002:
White House officials say a centerpiece of the strategy is to use Bush’s speech on September 11th to bolster support for an attack. Chief White House political adviser Karl Rove said, quote, "Everybody felt that was a moment that Americans want to hear from him, to seize the moment to make clear what lies ahead." Toward that end, the White House picked Ellis Island in New York Harbor for Bush’s September 11th speech. The television camera angles were most spectacular there, where the Statue of Liberty will be seen glowing behind Bush. His September 11th remarks are to serve as the emotional precursor for a tougher speech at the United Nations General Assembly the following day. The White House has dispatched envoys to Moscow, Beijing and Paris for follow-up discussions to the UN speech.

Democracy Now!  brought stories of the human toll, the effect of destroying water and power systems on the innocent people of Iraq

And brought coverage of the deception used to promote the war

Jeremy Scahill put himself on the ground to report on Iraq before, during.....

...And after and continues to report on Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia (now sold as "The War On Terror")...

Jason Leopold wrote about the behind the scenes stories of corruption and manipulation from the planning of the War on Iraq (February 23, 2003):

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz undertook a full-fledged lobbying campaign in 1998 to get former President Bill Clinton to start a war with Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein's regime. They claimed that the country posed a threat to the United States, according to documents obtained from a former Clinton aide.

This new information begs the question: what is really driving the Bush Administration's desire to start a war with Iraq if two of Bush's future top defence officials were already planting the seeds for an attack five years ago?

To the big money received by preferred companies formerly run by White House officials (May, 2003):

Halliburton Corp., the second largest oil services company in world, is the poster child for corporate greed and terror. And it seems that nothing will stop Vice President Dick Cheney's old company from repeatedly breaking the law to save and earn mountains of cash.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week, Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton unit that won a controversial no-bid contract to extinguish Iraqi oil well fires, disclosed that it paid $2.4 million in bribes to a Nigerian tax official to obtain favorable tax treatment in the country where it's building a natural gas plant and an offshore oil and gas facility.

The bribes were paid between 2001 and 2002 to "an entity owned by a Nigerian national who held himself out as a tax consultant, when in fact he was an employee of a local tax authority," the company said in the SEC filing, which was discovered during an internal audit...

...News of KBR's expanded role in Iraq prompted criticism from some congressional critics who were under the impression that the company's job would be limited to putting out fires and repairing damage to Iraq's rich petroleum fields. The Army Corps of Engineers said KBR actually had been authorized under the original contract to operate and distribute oil produced in Iraq, but the Corps of Engineers played down that aspect of the deal in its initial communications with Congress and the media. For pumping oil from Iraq's oil fields and importing gasoline and propane from Turkey and other countries, Halliburton will receive $24 million, raising to $76.8 million the amount it will have received since being awarded the contract in March, said Scott Saunders, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers. Saunders said the Halliburton subsidiary now is pumping 125,000 barrels of oil a day, far short of the demand that is expected to reach 400,000 barrels.

Meanwhile, while KBR is skirting U.S. laws and profiting off rebuilding Iraq's oil fields, the SEC is still investigating the company for alleged accounting fraud. The SEC is examining how Halliburton booked and disclosed cost overruns on construction contracts beginning in 1998, when Cheney was chief executive officer. The SEC, according to a lawyer familiar with the matter, has not contacted Cheney. Cheney's office confirmed he hasn't been questioned, Reuters reported.

The company said Thursday it turned over about 300,000 documents to the SEC, a process that "is essentially complete," according to a regulatory filing. The company said it is continuing to make people available to testify under subpoenas.

... Michael Hastings, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, James Risen and other practitioners of adversarial journalism all tried to get these stories out in front of the people. Many ended up on web based publications like "Salon," "AlterNet," "Truthout," "Buzzfeed" or outside the US, published in Al Jazeera or the The Guardian.

Even today, 12 years after "Shock and Awe" (Isn't that a great soundbyte?), many in America still think Saddam Hussein was building WMDs; Iraqis welcomed us as "saviors" (Cheney, circa 2003); and the 6 slaughters of Fallujah were well justified.  Many still believe Guantanamo is a "resort" filled with evil terrorists, that they were all captured on the battlefield trying to kill Americans, and that torture works.

America (and the rest of the planet) needs more Amy Goodmans, Jeremy Scahills, Jason Leopolds, Michael Hastings, Glenn Greenwalds, Laura Poitras', and James Risens but get more Bill O'Reillys, Brian Williams', David Gregorys, and Chuck Todds.  Talking heads replace investigative journalists and propaganda replaces adversarial journalism.

We need journalists with big brass balls instead of tiny, fearful hearts.