Pundit’s Progress By William Bowles

11 December 2003

On BBC Radio 4 (10/12/03) a panel of pundits prognosticated on the progress (or otherwise) of the invasion of Iraq. One, whose name I failed to catch, commented that the USUK invasion of Iraq was probably the biggest foreign policy disaster since Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union before “finishing off” Western Europe. The question one must ask of course, is where (or whom) did the US have to ‘finish off’ first before invading Iraq?

The observation however, does raise a very fundamental question about the clique of people and the corporations they represent who have installed themselves into the US government. Just how competent are they at being imperialists? But there’s an even deeper issue embedded in this question and that is complicity of the intelligentsia – especially the media, the educational establishment, scientists, civil servants and so forth – who ensure that the entire edifice staggers along from crisis to crisis.

What would make me laugh – if it weren’t so tragic – is that on this side of the pond, the ‘serious’ press, actually consider the policies of the imperium as though they were rational. It just goes to show just how complicit the media is in selling capitalism. And we only need look at daily press coverage for endless examples of the complicity, conscious or otherwise, between the media and the dominant culture.

Every day we read commentary in the press that actually considers a clique of crooks and criminals with some regard as to their competence to rule and indeed, it’s precisely the process of complicity that lends credence to the process; that legitimises the state’s ability to rule as though – not only that it knows what it’s doing – but that it has the right to do it.

In the runup to the invasion of Iraq for example, we saw here in the UK what passed for ‘debate’ in the media about the rights and wrongs of the proposed invasion that largely avoided the fundamental issue of ‘pre-emptive’ war and focused exclusively on how “evil” Saddam Hussein was. The fact that the UK and US governments were largely responsible for installing and maintaining him in power for two decades was simply ignored. When it was mentioned, it was in passing, as if past policies were not relevant to the present.

How does this come about? How is it that educated people are able to rationalise the irrational? To what degree are the journalists themselves complicit in the process of effectively re-ordering history? Do they sleep soundly at night?

Contrary to popular mythology, all journalism emerges from an historical context, a context within which ‘news’ is covered whether it’s the unconscious assumption about the ‘superiority’ of the Western view of events and their causes or the conscious intervention of editors, who are after all, selected and appointed because they have or are willing to subsume their ‘personal’ views to the worldview of the owner/editor. The mythology is reinforced by another popular mythology, that of the ‘independence’ of the editor.

Planet of the Apes?
Press coverage disconnects the centrality of economics to government policy as if economics only exists in the business section. Economics becomes a ‘mere’ technical issue in the progress of human affairs. Any analysis of the coverage of the Iraq disaster reveals the truth of this view. The number of times that the role of economics in the war figured in ‘news’ coverage could counted on the fingers of one hand.

Take for example the role of oil in the invasion and its centrality to foreign policy. Wherever the issue of its centrality was raised, mainstream journalists denigrated its significance and relegated it to ‘conspiracy corner’. This is spite of the fact of the centrality of oil to western interests – and hence strategy – that goes back for almost one hundred years.

This is what the Independent wrote back in April:

“Conspiracy [sic] theories abound…. Others claim it was inspired by oil…. [This] theor[y] [is] largely nonsense.” – The Independent April 16, 2003.

And this was no op-ed piece, it was in a ‘news’ item. Note however, the wording; “largely nonsense’? Does this mean that some of it isn’t nonsense and if so, what isn’t nonsense and what is?

In a piece I wrote back in April[1] of this year, I cited many examples of how the role of oil was central to the invasion and the way the press was complicit in downplaying/ignoring its significance. And again in a piece I wrote on Ahmed Chalabi and his connection to US oil interests on April 18 2003,[2] today we not only see Chalabi presented minus his criminal past, minus his role in the disinformation campaign used to justify war, his connections to US oil are also completely ignored. Chalabi becomes just another player, devoid of history, devoid of intent, devoid of context in the process of selling the imperialist vision of reality. It’s as if press coverage takes place on another planet that on the surface, looks exactly like the one we all live on but minus the essential elements that makes it hang together.

Who stole the goal posts?
So for example, the Independent’s (10/12/03) front page story actually has the nerve to present a potential presidential struggle, that of Howard Dean versus George Bush as a “clear clash between right and left”. But any investigation of Howard Dean reveals a person who is anything but from the left:

“[W]hen asked whether his views are closer to the dovish Americans for Peace Now (APN) or the right-wing, Sharon-supporting American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he stated unequivocally in an interview with the Jewish weekly The Forward, “My view is closer to AIPAC’s view.”

“At one time the Peace Now view was important, but now Israel is under enormous pressure. We have to stop terrorism before peace negotiations,” he said.

“Similarly, Dean’s official campaign position on solving the Palestinian-Israeli problem is that “terrorism against Israel must end,” but there is no mention of the Israeli violence that has resulted in over 2,391 deaths since September 2000.”

Or how about Dean’s position on the US occupation?

“Dean recently declared in a Washington Post interview that he is now opposed to a pullout of US troops from Iraq. According to the interview, he now feels we must stay as a matter of national security, and not allow another anti-American regime to develop.”

Or Dean on the idea of ‘pre-emptive war’ and unilateralism?

“Although he would likely be more sparing in its application, Dean has endorsed the Bush doctrine of preventive war, saying that he would not rule out using military force to disarm either North Korea or Iran. Dean has never voiced an objection to the notion that it is Washington’s prerogative to decide which countries may have nuclear weapons, or its right to forcefully disarm those who do not do so voluntarily.”

Dean on the ‘war on terror’:

“Iran (along with Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Libya) are “funding Palestinian terrorists and fueling terrorism throughout the world.”

Dean on domestic policy:

“During his Vermont tenure, he tried to cut benefits for the aged, blind and disabled, spearheaded a new workfare state”

Dean the ‘progressive’?

“Says Robert Dreyfuss, “He’s a hard-nosed, penny-pinching fiscal conservative who seems to delight in sticking his thumb in the eye of the Democrats on the party’s ever-shrinking left wing.” In fact Dean clashed so “often with [Vermont’s legislative] Democrats over taxes and spending [that he drove] many liberal-left Democrats into the arms of the Progressive Party and of Representative Bernie Sanders, Congress’s lone socialist.” (One can assume, given the Democrats’ attacks on Ralph Nader following the 2000 election, that what Dean produced in Vermont is precisely what the Party seeks to avoid in 2004.) Economist Max Sawicky says Dean “often turned his acerbic words on the left wing of his own party. . . [He] supported Vermonters’ right to carry concealed weapons and resisted many spending proposals.” And, quoting political scientist Garrison Nelson, “His born-again liberalism has caught a lot of us by surprise.” Elizabeth Mehren of the Los Angeles Times quotes Dean’s “determination to ‘make sure this party comes back to its center.’”

The above link is well worth visiting especially by the Independent’s journalists, who would do well to check their facts before dumping their vision of reality on us.

The central point is however, that the mainstream press has done a con job on the reader by not merely moving the goal posts, it has removed them entirely. The discourse, such as it is, has shifted the debate from the realm of the real world to that of one invented purely in the minds of media and its corporate owners.

The carefully crafted illusion that the media presents to us, excludes any reference to that other Howard Dean, the real Howard Dean, a man, who in pursuit of votes has shifted his position to exploit the deep discontent felt by many in the US not only about the war but also the domestic economy.

Where for example, is the coverage of Dennis Kucinich, one of the the only genuinely progressive Democratic candidates, who has been totally excluded from press coverage, not only in the US but also here in the UK? Nowhere, and why? Because Kucinich is not a ‘front runner’. And why is not a ‘front runner’? Because his programme runs counter to the ideology of the corporate media, hence all reportage of his programme is excluded from public discourse. What happened I wonder, to the notion of ‘objective’ news, or presenting all sides of the issue?


  1. https://investigatingimperialism.wordpress.com/2003/04/22/more-about-conspiracies-and-oil/
  2. https://investigatingimperialism.wordpress.com/2003/04/18/ahmed-chalabi-oil-man-in-baghdad-by-william-bowles/

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