Sunday, December 03, 2006

Are we REALLY free?

free•dom n. 1. The condition of being free of restraints. 2. Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression. 3.a. Political independence. b. Possession of civil rights; immunity from the arbitrary exercise of authority. 4. Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want. 5. The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon. 6. Ease or facility of movement: loose sports clothing, giving the wearer freedom. 7. Frankness or boldness; lack of modesty or reserve: the new freedom in movies and novels. 8.a. The right to unrestricted use; full access: was given the freedom of their research facilities. b. The right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship: the freedom of the city.

Every day, in the mass media, in popular culture, in movies and television, we are told (and/or exposed to) more and more repetitive bruiting of the phrase “We are free!” While, at the same time, day by day, every day, our constitutional rights are being increasingly limited, truncated or simply stripped from the people. Look at the definition above. Of ALL the possible definitions above, the ONLY one that arguably still remains (and that in a limited degree) is 3.a. ‘political independence’.

As far as the premier definition, “The condition of being free of restraints”, can we really claim to be free from restraints? When we can’t even board an aircraft without being wanded, probed, x-rayed, and, as we now know, even having our entire background (credit rating, criminal/arrest record, even our library files) examined in minute detail, are we “free of restraints”? Do we have “ease or facility of movement”? When the TSA maintains its highly secretive database (the infamous “No Fly List”) which determines, on undisclosed criteria that, whether a particular person will be allowed to board a particular flight, even if they have been allowed to purchase a ticket for that flight! This certainly strikes me as a violation of definitions 1., 2., 3.b., 4., 5., 6. 8.a. & b. above. So, where is our ‘freedom’?

Does anyone truly believe that our present condition of ‘freedom’ in any way comports with the vision of our Founding Fathers? Is this the reason they suffered, fought and died from 1776 to 1783? Is this UCLA Student Gets Tazered an example of our ‘free’ society? We fought a revolution, at least in part, in revulsion of the quartering of the King’s troops in private homes. So, this situation, 88-year old Kathryn Johnson killed in a no-knock drug raid gone bad, any better?

Perhaps we should stop saying how free we are and, instead, ASSERT our freedom and return the state, in all its facets, to the status of civil servant rather than allow them to be civil masters.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Militarization of America

"...overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty."

--George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796 (H.T. timbermonkey)

Although for most of us, certainly those of us in the Baby Boom Generation, it seems that America has ALWAYS been a militarized society, this certainly is not the case.

Until after WWII, the US military was primarily a truly voluntary occupation. Except in times of war, the US military was a rather small organization, composed primarily of a core of trained officers and volunteers. Many, if not most of the volunteer troops, looked upon the military as an occupation of last resort. In the period following the Civil War, the majority of the troops in active use in the military were either African-American or former civilians who, much like U.S. Grant prior to the Civil War, had simply not been able to make a go of it in civilian life.

With the conversion of the "War Department" into the "Defense Department", via the instigation and self generation of the Cold War, our country and culture has become quite militarized. As opposed to the practice in wake of prior wars, at the cessation of WWII and the instigation of the Cold War, the military draft was not ended. The draft was only ended in the wake of the social and cultural upheavals occasioned by it during the Vietnam War, when it became amply obvious that the country simply would not sanction an ever more costly (in lives and treasure) undeclared war. As middle class exemptions were beginning to vaporize and the children of the great middle class were coming more and more into the line of fire, the draft was found not to be a workable idea.

During the period after the Civil War, being a soldier was NOT considered a particularly appealing occupation. In general, the run of the mill soldiery (the troops, not officers) were considered a ruffian rabble (with the exception of the Western settlers whose lives were often dependent on the U.S. Cavalry).

In the wake of the Cold War and McCarthy witch-hunts, American society has become ever more militarized. After the conclusion of the Vietnam War and as the military was transitioned over to an "all volunteer" army, with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the local police departments started to ramp up their degree of militarization. Within a relatively short period of time local police departments, with the monetary aid and encouragement of the "Justice Department", began to militarize themselves. Even small towns and rural sheriff's departments suddenly realized that they "needed" SWAT teams. In many jurisdictions, mostly under the cloak of the "War on Drugs", local police departments began to organize "strike forces" and liberally construe their "right" to confiscate money, jewelry and other possessions (even in cases where drugs were not present nor even indicated). Many a "drug raid" would fail to find drugs or even paraphernalia. But the officers would "confiscate" valuables as being the "product" of "drug money" even where the drugs could not be found. In short order simple possession of amounts of cash that the police found "disproportionate" would be seized as prima facie evidence of "drug activity". In other words, simply having more money than the police (regardless of the premise) thought appropriate, would be evidence in and of itself of some kind of wrong-doing!

Now, after our bout of virtually perpetual "humanitarian" interventions through out the world, even preceding the fall of the Soviet Union (Operation Just Cause - 1989) and following: Somalia, Operation Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Gulf War II, we have our politicians and corporate media in general loudly cheering "our boys" and proclaiming loudly and long the beneficence of any and all of their actions, no matter how contrary to actual American tradition they may be. Perhaps the most glaringly obvious example is that of our present involvement in the destruction and occupation of Iraq. Our occupying troops have been involved in every possible heinous act of war crimes and atrocities which, in a saner age, were tried as "war crimes" and their Nazi and Japanese perpetrators executed by the Allied Powers.

There is nothing wrong with supporting our troops, assuming that their mission is the defense of kith, kin and country. There is everything wrong with supporting our troops when that means supporting war crimes and atrocities. If we support them in these actions, how, exactly, do we differentiate ourselves from the populace of Nazi Germany whom we so severely condemned and decried after the crimes of the Nazi regime came to light?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Listen to them whine....

In recent days the US news media has been bemoaning the fact that Americans are less and less likely to listen to network news and even less likely to believe the news with which they are presented. No less a light than Sam Donaldson, formerly of ABC News, has said:

"Former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson is ready to say the last rites for network news because it will soon lose its dominant position as Americans' primary source of news. "I think it's dead. Sorry," he said during a breakfast panel Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Las Vegas. "The monster anchors are through."" Donaldson: Network News Dead

In addition to Donaldson, many other members of the 'media fraternity' have been squalling that "people aren't listening to us anymore!" However, when one honestly examines the developments in US mass media in the recent past, is it any question that the general public (gullible and naïve but not as stupid as the mass media believe) have ceased believing the tripe which passes for news? One considers the following:

  1. The dramatic way in which the "mainstream media" have degenerated into nothing more nor less than a splendid echo chamber and spin machine for those in power, regardless of whether right or left, Republican or Democrat.

  2. The practically unfailing acquiescence of the mainstream US media in the run up to ANY US military action to bolster any and all pseudo justifications for military action, no matter how strained, tortured and distorted.

  3. The constant repetition of 'factoids' (def.: "a wholly spurious "fact" invented to create or prolong public exposure" Wikipedia 'Factoid'), totally extracted from and lacking any semblance of context.

  4. The rise and mainstreaming of 'advocacy journalism' (without it being labeled as an opinion or POV piece). Opinion and advocacy pieces have always been with us. However, in a more honest time, these items were labeled as 'opinion' and one usually knew that the piece was from the perspective of one who 'has a dog in the fight'.

  5. The mass media's unquestioning acceptance of any cover story, no matter how prima facia questionable, generated by the State, its organs or minions.

  6. The 'inexplicable' editorial choices made by virtually ALL the media, whether mainstream, liberal, conservative or even radical as to what stories rate 24/7, round-the-clock coverage and, more importantly, what is NOT covered. The recent examples of the 'Runaway Bride' and 'American Idol' sagas displacing any mention of the leaked British intelligence memo, the continuing 'soft revolutions' in the 'Stans, etc. ad nauseam, are but the tip of the iceberg.

OK, having touched on general statements, let's 'go to the tape' to see how this has actually worked in several recent instances.

Gulf War I (1990-1991)

It is pointless to describe ALL the various lies, deceptions and half-truths that were involved in Bush I's script for the invasion of Iraq. Any who are interested in Gulf War I are ALREADY well informed as to the April Glaspie episode. Ditto the testimony of the 'mysterious' Nayirah before the disgustingly disingenuous Rep. Tom Lantos about the 'incubator babies scandal'. Then (1990-1991), Saddam Hussein desperately tried to open negotiations with the US but, just as his son a decade later, Bush I would have none of it. Unconditional surrender or nothing. The extreme, even senseless bloodletting and the virtually total destruction of Iraq's infrastructure (waterworks, electricity, roads, bridges, etc.) were planned in such a manner as to maximize civilian casualties (a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions). The establishment of the (non-UN sanctioned) no-fly zones over Iraq and the repeated UNJUSTIFIED bombings in these areas (1991-2003) as well as the UN mandated Iraq sanctions regime were designed to create the greatest distress to the civilian population.

Obliteration of Yugoslavia (Stage I)

During the Maastricht negotiations in1991, where the EC morphed into the EU, Germany held the negotiations hostage to push special consideration of its Nazi era allies (Slovenia and Croatia) in their civil war with Yugoslavia. In total and complete contravention to the Helsinki Final Act (essentially the founding document of the OSCE). The Bush(41) administration backed Germany's move and, on a whim, authorized the illegal dismantling of a sovereign state (BTW, for the factually impaired, at that time Stejpan Mesic (a Croatian) was President of Yugoslavia soooo the EXCUSE of 'Madman' Milosevic simply did not exist and could NOT have been a basis for such a rash action, contrary to ALL the mass media's spin, both contemporaneously and subsequently). However, interestingly enough, this essential, pivotal fact is hardly ever addressed by the mainstream media and yet this is the initial major misstep in terms of the situation in Yugoslavia which has led inexorably to each ensuing misstep.

"Humanitarian Intervention and Nation Building" take 1 (Somalia)

With the excuse of 'civil war and starvation', Bush41 dispatched troops sufficient to protect humanitarian food deliveries which were deemed necessary to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Clinton determined that it was necessary to choose a side and begin to intervene militarily to the benefit of their chosen and the detriment of the damned. The mainstream media of course backed the official story to the hilt. Aidid was to be dispatched and his clan (the largest and most powerful in Somalia) disarmed. Somalia was to be recast as a nation to our liking. Aidid was the bete noire of the tale (according to the Clinton Administration) and so it was in the mainstream media. Almost totally missing (or, contrawise, severely downplayed) were the stories of American troops arbitrarily shooting Somalis, the air attacks on gatherings of Aidid's clan, including the air attack on a peace conference between Aidid's and the other clans, decapitating many of the clans and spiking any possible peace, killing dozens and similar atrocities. For most Americans, Somalia was making but tiny ripples until Blackhawk Down.

Obliteration of Yugoslavia (Stage II) - Bosnia Phase

Even before the EU/US recognition of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991, forces in the U.S. (such as Bob Dole, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ustasha/Muslim alliance) were hard at work to rend Yugoslavia to pieces. However, with Croatia's (illegal) recognition, events moved into high gear. Early on in the coverage of the Bosnian phase of the Wars of Yugoslav Dissolution, the Western (primarily American) public was assailed with the pernicious charges of 'Serbian rape camps'. As could be expected, without bothering to verify the facts, U.S. 'feminists' began a campaign to urge U.S. involvement in the Bosnian situation. The stories were truly horrendous, however, there was hardly a kernel of truth to the allegations. From a contemporaneous article by Jacques Merlino (see: "Rapes: Number in Question"), Merlino states:

"As a special envoy, Jerome Bony was send to inquire in the field traveling to Tuzla, a town mentioned in all the reports. He tells about his astonishment in a France 2 program on February 4th: "When I was at 50 kilometers from Tuzla, I was told: "Go to the gymnasium of Tuzla, there are 4,000 raped women." At 20 kilometers, the number diminished to 400. At 10 kilometers, it was only 40. And in Tuzla, I met only 4 women who wanted to witness.""

This report from France 2 received NO coverage in any of the American MSM! On the contrary, to this day the charges of 'Serbian rape camps' is repeated and was again posited during the NATO gang rape of Yugoslavia.

Additionally, from virtually the beginning of the Wars of Yugoslav Dissolution, the Serbian side of the story was systematically frozen out of the media landscape. An absolute embargo was placed on Yugoslavian TV transmissions to the US (while Croatian and Bosnian feeds were boosted). Croatians, Bosnians (and later, 'Kosovars') were permitted access to U.S. PR firms while Yugoslavia was denied. A wonderful example of this is to be glimpsed in a French interview with James Harff, Director of Ruder Finn, Global Public Affairs. A short excerpt of that interview follows.

Harff: For 18 months, we have been working for the Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as for the opposition in Kosovo. Throughout this period, we had many successes, giving us a formidable international image. We intend to make advantage of this and develop commercial agreements with these countries. Speed is vital, because items favourable to us must be settled in public opinion. THE FIRST STATEMENT COUNTS. The retractions have no effect.

Question: What are your methods of operation?

Harff: The essential tools in our work are a card file, a computer, and a fax. The card file contains a few hundred names of journalists, politicians, academicians, and representatives of humanitarian organizations. The computer goes through the card files according to correlated subjects, coming up with very effective targets.

The computer is tied into a fax. In this way, we can disseminate information in a few minutes to those we think will react (positively). Our job is to assure that the arguments for our side will be the first to be expressed.

Question: How often do you intervene?

Harff: Quantity is not important. You have to intervene at the right time with the right person... ...

Question: What achievement were you most proud of?

Harff: To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked from this angle. President Tudjman was very careless in his book "Wastelands of Historical Reality". Reading this writings, one could accuse him of anti-semitism.

In Bosnia, the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book "The Islamic Declaration". Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps. So there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile towards the Croats and Bosnians. Our chal[l]enge was to reverse this attitude. And we succeded masterfully.

At the beginning of August 1992, the New York Newsday came out with the affair of (Serb) concentration camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations - B'Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N.

This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.

Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated. But, by a single move, we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys, which would hereafter play itself.

We won by targeting Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with the use of words with high emotional content, such as "ethnic cleansing", "concentration camps", etc. which evoked images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The emotional charge was so powerful that nobody could go against it.

Question: But when you did all of this, you had no proof that what you said was true. You only had the article in Newsday!

Harff: Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it known that Newsday affirmed it.

Question: Are you aware that you took on a grave responsibility?

Harff: We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. WE ARE NOT PAID TO BE MORAL. (see: We are not paid to be moral.)

After years of covert support of its chosen belligerents (Croatia and Bosnian Muslims) and a series of staged atrocities and 'breadline massacres' in Sarajevo, Clinton and his warmongering Hag of State, Madelaine Albright, first strong-armed NATO into bombing Bosnian Serb positions which 'just happened' to coincide with a major (U.S. funded, supplied and trained by MPRI) Croatian offensive in Krajina. Croatia's 'Operation Storm' led to the largest ethnic cleansing in Europe since WWII and until NATO's bombing campaign in 1999. By this point in time, the mainstream media had already cast the Serbs as being evil incarnate (based on propaganda, biased and 'advocacy' journalism'). Even though 'Operation Storm' had caused the mass ethnic cleansing of people who had been living on the lands from which they had been cleansed for over 600 years, it was totally acceptable because the dispossessed were Serbs.

Obliteration of Yugoslavia (Stage III) - Kosovo Phase

As was the case with the Markale breadline 'massacre', the trigger for the US/UK/NATO 'humanitarian intervention' in Kosovo was based on a blatant lie. Just as unbiased sources debunked the Markale breadline 'massacre' as being a 'Serb' atrocity

"In an investigative report published in the October 2, 1995 edition of The Nation, David Binder penned a most fascinating and thorough summary of the inconsistencies associated with these two mortar attacks. While stating that the UN "sticks by the conclusions of its inquiry" and blames the Serbs - at least in the second incident - the author nevertheless persuasively enumerated the factors which indicated that the BSA was not responsible. [emphasis mine]

Binder also notes support for his arguments from some American and Canadian specialists as well as (Russian) Colonel Andrei Demurenko, the Chief of Staff of the Sector Sarajevo peacekeeping unit. (According to an article in The Sunday Times (London), British and French crater analysis teams supported these same conclusions but were overruled by the UN.) No need exists to rehash all of his convincing arguments here, but primarily, they include suspicions about the firing distance, "anomalies with the (mortar) fuse," fields of observation, and trajectory difficulties." (see: SELLING THE BOSNIAN MYTH TO AMERICA: BUYER BEWARE by Lieutenant Colonel John Sray)

The Racak "massacre" was the Markale "massacre" of Kosovo. The 'definitive' analysis of the Racak 'massacre' was delivered at the scene by William Walker, the American head of the KVM (Kosovo Verification Mission). Well, it can't be said that Walker wasn't familiar with massacres, after all it was on his watch as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador that the infamous murders of 6 Jesuit priests , their housekeeper and her daughter by the (U.S. supplied and trained) El Salvadoran Army were committed. However, as has become evident in later years, Walker was in the business of covering up the El Salvadoran Army's authorship of the massacre. (see: "William Walker: Man with a Mission") Interestingly enough, since the murderous onslaught of NATO, it has come to light that even the U.S.'s own hand picked forensic pathologist, Dr. Helen Ranta, DISAGREED with the finding of massacre. It was only after the fact that Dr. Ranta disclosed the immense pressure brought to bear upon her to second (very equivocally) Walker's (layman) finding of 'massacre'.

This dismal litany could go on and on and on, ad infinitum, each and every allegation being completely demolished with FACT as opposed to propaganda and spin, but to what end? This is but a minor demonstration of the truly disconsolate state of media; MSM, 'liberal-left', Faux News, what have you. And, remarkably, in view of the established track record of such 'journalists' as Judith Miller, Thomas Friedman, Anthony Lewis, etc. ad nauseam, reporters and 'news' outlets are bemoaning their lack of credibility. As Aesop said in The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf, "There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Dissection of "News"

*My comments are in the body of the article, in red, parenthesis and italics.

May/June 1994

Scouts Without Compasses
An NPR Reporter on the "Disinformation Trap"
in Former Yugoslavia

By Sylvia Poggioli

Covering the disintegration of Yugoslavia has often forced reporters to act as scouts without compasses in a completely unknown terrain. Reporters have had to wade through the complex cultural, historical and political geography of these conflicts. And very few had the necessary instruments. With the end of the Cold War, a whole set of principles of analysis had become useless, and reporters had to confront new problems that most of them had never explored before, such as ethnic self-assertion, tribalism, religious conflicts and the rights and limits to self-determination.

The Cold War had accustomed generations of reporters to analyze world events almost exclusively in terms of the bipolar confrontation, where good and evil were easily defined and identified. (Which tells you just how limited the ‘all knowing’ media is!) This mindset often proved unsuitable in trying to make sense of the disorder created by the collapse of Communism. (Well duh! Perhaps the fact that these ‘journalists’ were so trained to see the world in terms of black and white with no shades of gray could possibly be part of the problem.) And it was an easy prey for the highly sophisticated propaganda machines that have characterized the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

The wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia have not been played out only in the battlefield. They have also been wars of faxes and computer messages. Starting with the 10-day war in Slovenia in June-July 1991, one of the most difficult tasks for reporters has been to protect themselves from the propaganda offensive. The Slovenes never missed an opportunity to depict the conflict in the bloodiest terms possible in order to win international support for their cause as a "westward-leaning democracy" against the "brutal Communist aggressor." Those labels stuck and were reinforced as the war moved into Croatia. (Which goes to show the immense degree of mental laziness.)

The Croats soon learned from the Slovenes' use of propaganda. The Croatian news agency HINA and Croatian radio and TV unremittingly bombarded the outside world with minute details of the clashes, most of which were impossible to check. The best-known examples of vast exaggeration were reports of the massive damage inflicted on Dubrovnik, the magnificent medieval fortress city on the Adriatic. For months, Croatian media reported that the monuments in the old quarter had been devastated by Yugoslav Army shells and mortars. Western journalists who visited the walled city after the campaign ended reported seeing only superficial damage. (And, to this day, in many condemnatory pieces about the Serbs, especially from jerks like Margolis and Tony Lewis, the ‘destruction of Dubrovnik’ is always mentioned as a proof of Serbian mindless brutality.)

Another striking example of manipulation of facts was the case of a massacre in Gospic, Croatia, in 1991. Film footage showing the mutilated bodies of two young men was aired on Croatian and German TV, which identified the victims as Croats slaughtered by Serbs. The bodies were later recognized by relatives as being those of Serbs. The German network later apologized for the false report. (Perhaps the German network apologized; Christiane Amanpour certainly never has. Quite the contrary, Amanpour’s trademark propaganda pieces almost invariably show pictures of massacred Serbs and she conveniently labels them ‘Muslims’ or ‘Croats’ depending whose money she’s taking that day. A whore remains a whore.)

The Croats went even further than the Slovenes in the information war. Not only did the Croatian government hire the public relations firm Rudder-Finn to get its message out, but Croatia mobilized expatriate communities in the United States, Canada and Australia to put pressure on the media in their home countries. Letter-writing campaigns by members of both Croatian and Serbian communities in the U.S. criticizing news coverage have been a constant of the Yugoslav wars. The aim appeared to be to discredit the correspondent in the field, and many reporters told me they were having more and more difficulty in convincing their editors that what they had seen first hand was the real story, not what was contained in the U.S.-originated faxes. (Again, another NPR/CNN excuse bolthole. The fact that the Croats/ Muslims had drastically outspent [and were allowed to outspend; early on Serbs were frozen out of the media markets], seems to mean nothing.)

These have not been wars where the warring factions organize trips and escort journalists to the front-line, or where journalists can depend on independent pool reports. Press conferences by military leaders, other than by U.N. officials, have been rare. Journalists in the war zones have been on their own. The risks have been enormous (more than 30 journalists have been killed since the conflicts began), all the more so in a political culture where militiamen of all the warring sides are convinced journalists are spying for the enemy. (Another ‘Well duh!’ Could it possibly be that, at least in regards to the Serbs, there was some justification in seeing the ‘journalists’ as agents of the Croat/Muslim axis? Just as it seemed incomprehensible to the media here that during the attack of Serbia media of the powers that were doing the bombing may be persona non grata?)

A Croatian militiaman guarding a prison camp in Southern Bosnia summed up this attitude when he menacingly told an Associated Press reporter who was trying to get into the camp last year, "Reporters are like soldiers--the less they know, the longer they live."

The Serbs' deep-rooted conviction that throughout history they have been the victims of foreign powers has put them at a disadvantage in the propaganda war. (Yeah, these dumb Serbs don’t understand that reality is of little note when media generated virtual reality is sufficient for the ignorant to decide life and death issues. Barbarians!) Little or no effort has been made by the Belgrade government to try to win over the hearts and minds of the West through its media. And the Milosevic-controlled Serbian TV -- the major source of information -- has provided Serbs exclusively with the Serbian nationalist version of the conflicts. (Again, more propaganda masquerading as truth. Why should Belgrade ‘...try to win over the hearts and minds of the West through its media.”? Just exactly what is it that gives America (or the “international community” or “concerned voices” or whoever) the right to demand that its favor be curried?)

This has fomented a profound distrust, bordering on outright hatred, for foreign reporters, who are widely blamed by Serbs for their international isolation. (Gee, I wonder why that would be? Perhaps because it is foreign reporters like Poggioli, like Amanpour, like that Pulitzer prize winning liar, Roy Gutt(less)man, HAVE led to the Serbs’ international isolation through their skewed and corrupt reportages?) And--as in Croatia, where the media is equally under total control of the Tudjman government--distrust of reporters is also rooted in a Communist tradition against freedom of the press.

While there is widespread agreement that the Belgrade government and Serbian fighters have been the major culprits in the conflicts, the Serbs' entrenched attitude toward the outside world may have contributed to their being demonized and perceived by world public opinion as the sole culprits in the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia. (Widespread agreement among the same incestuous group of ‘foreign policy specialists’ and ‘foreign reporters’ who poisoned the well of Western opinion from the outset. Yeah, I guess they would all agree for to break ranks would be an admission of error (something journalists and foreign policy wonks never do.))

I went to Sarajevo for the first time in September 1991, six months before the war started, and I was struck by the sophistication and cosmopolitanism of the city. The Writers' Club, an elegant, glass-enclosed restaurant and jazz bar, was filled with intellectuals, film makers and journalists. The skyline of old Sarajevo was famous for the proximity of its Orthodox and Catholic churches, mosques and synagogues. (The only unwritten rule was that no minaret or bell tower could be higher than any of the other houses of worship.) (Just like the old Canon ad with Agassi; “Image is everything.” A perfect description of the Western mind. Reality is upsetting; put up the Potemkin villages and don’t worry, be happy.)

Dealing with Sarajevo's citizens was immediately easy. Nearly everyone I met spoke a foreign language and had traveled widely in Europe. Many were Muslims, because for centuries Muslims lived primarily in the cities, and as representatives of the urban middle class, they naturally became foreign journalists' favorite sources. (Of course, had she bothered to look, there are more people in Beograd who speak foreign languages than Sarajevo. Also, she daintily sidesteps the fact that the “siege” of Sarajevo was always a farce. Again and again and again the media told us that the Serbs ‘surrounded’ Sarajevo or whichever Bosnian town. Let’s see. City dwellers (Muslims) were trapped in cities ‘surrounded’ by Serb farmers. Maybe the Serb farmers should have farmed in the city square? OF COURSE SERBS ‘SURROUNDED’ THE VARIOUS TOWNS AND CITIES. MOST OF THE SERBS WERE FARMERS AND FARMS USUALLY SURROUND TOWNS AND CITIES!)

Months later, traveling through Bosnian villages just before the outbreak of the conflict, I discovered a reality that was perhaps unknown even to many citizens of Sarajevo. The much-touted religious tolerance and intermingling of Serbs, Croats and Muslims symbolic of the Bosnian capital was often rare outside urban areas.

The impression created by secular, multicultural Sarajevo may have helped overshadow some of the main aspects of the war. The conflict has been variously described as a civil war based on ethnic and religious hatred, as an inevitable explosion after decades of Communist suppression of nationalist differences, or as a simple land grab.

But traveling through the countryside another aspect emerged. It is what the former mayor of Belgrade-and Milosevic opponent--Bogdan Bogdanovic describes as a war of the mountain against the city, of rural backwardness against urban co-existence. (Again, of course it is the ‘backward’ Serbs who are to blame. Everyone wants to be the big city, don't they? Maybe the country folk didn’t want to become city folk. Maybe they just wanted to be left alone.) The cornerstone of the Muslim-led government's appeal for a united Bosnia--and the message it has promoted through the media to the outside world--has been shaped by the cosmopolitan reality of Sarajevo and some other cities, but does not always correspond to the pre-war tensions and animosities that had long existed in many other parts of Bosnia. (Another hot, stinking load of bovine by-product. The “...Muslim-led government's appeal for a united Bosnia...” was never anything other than a public relations ploy. The fundamentalist Muslims in charge never had any intention of having a united Bosnia except under Muslim rule.)

If one went to look at the results of the first free elections in Bosnia in the fall of 1990, it was clear that the harmony of Sarajevo was unique: Throughout Bosnia, the ethnic parties prevailed, and voting results mirrored the map of ethnic population distribution.

But, as the major information sources, Muslim intellectuals and their leaders (often providing inflated statistics on mixed marriages) were very successful in exploiting an image of pre-war idyllic co-existence, and the media in turn reduced an extremely complex situation to a war of aggression from the outside. (Again, to ignorant little dummies like her, they neglected to mention their role in WWII as the willing executioners of their Nazi masters. I can understand the perpetrators and their get to be uneasy in acknowledging their heinous deeds but without this little piece of knowledge the picture is distorted. It’s analogous to a rapist telling an interviewer he would have no difficulties living in the same house with his victim. If the interviewer doesn’t realize she is talking to a rapist she wouldn’t understand the adamant refusal of the victim and the victim then seems petty and uncooperative.)

It was the sudden and dramatic siege of Sarajevo, which began on April 6, 1992, that drew the international media to the Bosnian capital. And the focus on the continuous bombing and shelling of the city reinforced misperceptions of the war. For months, very little or no attention was paid to what was happening in other parts of Bosnia. A Bosnian Serb official in Pale, the Bosnian Serb stronghold, told me that the shelling of Sarajevo had often been intensified on purpose, as part of a specific strategy to distract media attention from the Serbs' military campaigns elsewhere.

It was not until August 1992, when the first refugees from northern Bosnia arrived in Croatia, that the world learned of concentration camps and of vicious campaigns of "ethnic cleansing." The refugees told stories of harassment, fighting, atrocities and expulsions by Serbs that had begun many months before. And it was not until the Muslims and Croats - erstwhile allies -- began massacring each other in the spring of 1993 that journalists were forced to deal with the "other war" and discovered that reciprocal "ethnic cleansing" had been going on for months in central and southwestern Bosnia. (Which is, again, what people who understood what was happening on the ground had been saying but had been consistently ignored and marginalized.)

In June 1993, two American reporters who had been covering the region for some time were discussing the disastrous role the international community had played in this tragedy. "But it has been journalism's finest hour," one of the reporters then said.

I beg to differ. There have been innumerable instances where those of us who have covered these conflicts have fallen into the disinformation trap. One of the most insidious was the numbers game--number of dead, number of refugees, and especially number of rape victims.

At the end of 1992, the Muslim-led Bosnian government said that up to 50,000 Muslim women had been raped by Serbs in Bosnia. A report by a special European Community commission, which did not include direct interviews with victims, placed the number at 20,000. On January 21, 1993, Amnesty International issued a report based on interviews with victims conducted over months by the organization itself, by women's and human rights groups working in the region and by journalists in the field.

While it stated that Muslim women had been the chief victims, it said all three warring sides in Bosnia had committed rapes and abuses against women. The report added that the issue of rape has been widely used as a propaganda weapon, with all sides minimizing or denying abuses committed by their own forces and maximizing those of their opponents.

In Geneva, Amnesty International's legal officer, Nick Howen, said in a news conference there was no evidence to back up the figure of 20,000 Muslim rape victims cited by the European Community report. And in Zagreb, American relief workers I spoke to dismissed that same estimate as highly exaggerated. But still today, the number of 50,000 (and higher) has stuck and the prevailing perception is that only Muslim women have been the victims and Serbian fighters the only perpetrators. (Even though Poggioli admits here that the ‘rape camp’ and ‘program of systematic rape’ were all media distortions, to this day they are still used as another brick to hurl against the Serbs. And, unsurprisingly, provide fodder for the ICTY. EVEN THOUGH THE UN ITSELF HAS THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATED THE 'RAPE CAMP' ACCUSATIONS TO BE WITHOUT MERIT!)

What has been almost completely ignored is that the numbers game has a long tradition in the Balkans. Even today, there are no reliable figures indicating exactly how many people died in the civil war during World War II or how many Serbs were killed at the Ustasha concentration camp of Jasenovac in Croatia. (Serbs claim as many as a million, Croats say as few as 100,000.) Nationalist leaders have traditionally manipulated numbers like these as a means to foment ethnic tensions and hatred as well as to cleanse the historical record. (Poggioli neglects to make the Kurt Waldheim connection here; after all, good old Kurt issued the death orders for thousands of Serbs and Jews in Jugoslavia. She also leaves this as ‘a numbers game’ never addressing the issue of the Croats' adherence to Nazi principles and that the Serb dead died as allies of the US and the west.)

As the conflicts have worsened and international organizations have become more and more divided and impotent, I have felt that as journalists covering former Yugoslavia (at times the only outsiders to be present in a particular area), we have found ourselves bearing an enormous responsibility. Policy in Western capitals--or lack of it--has increasingly been based on news reports, and many times the media have been better at pulling emotional strings than at analyzing facts. (I made this point in a ‘letter to the editor’ [unpublished] that I wrote about a year before this article came out. I was laughed at and told that it was insane to suggest policy was being based on media reports.)

The use of good-guy and bad-guy stereotypes often obscured the complex origins of the conflict. And little emphasis was given to some crucial factors, such as the well-documented pre-war agreement between the Croatian and Serbian leaders, Franjo Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic, to carve up Bosnia between them; Milosevic's long-standing consent to Slovenian independence, and Trudjman's publicly asserted opposition to the creation of a Muslim state in the center of Europe. I cannot help but think that one reason why the media spotlight on former Yugoslavia dimmed in the late spring of 1993 was that the collapse of the so-called Muslim-Croat alliance in Bosnia made it abundantly clear that there were no innocents in this war.

In his book The Rebirth of History, Misha Glenny had predicted that the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War would render obsolete an Old World Order system of analysis. He said it would profoundly change the profession of journalism, which now requires a rediscovery of history, geography and a rethinking of global relationships. Yugoslavia was the first serious test of this need of a new approach. No, I don't think it was journalism's finest hour. But it has taught us the clear lesson that journalists as scouts now need new compasses if they are to be a reliable link between facts on the ground and public opinion.
Sylvia Poggioli is a National Public Radio foreign
correspondent, based in Prague. In 1993, she received
the George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the
war in Bosnia. This article is reprinted with
permission from the Fall/93 issue of Nieman Reports.
Editor's Note: Extra! rarely reprints articles from
other sources. But we thought this article, from the
journal of Harvard's Nieman Foundation, contains
valuable insights on coverage of former Yugoslavia by
a reporter on the scene.
“Which way you goin' Billy?
Can I go too?”

Now that the one-party stranglehold has been broken on the U.S. Congress, now that the more obvious signs of the wreckage of our Constitutional republic become all the more apparent, now that the utter contempt and hypocrisy of our ‘rulers’ becomes all the more manifest, what direction will the new ‘bosses’ take us? Will it be, in the immortal words of “The Who”:

“I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Granted, it is vitally important that the incoming Democrats do not immediately institute comity and the sense of bipartisanship. It is vitally important that the Republicans be treated under the very rules they themselves promulgated and instituted against the minority Democrats, not so much in the spirit of vindictiveness but as an object lesson of why comity and bipartisanship are irreplaceable and necessary facets of proper and fair legislation. It is fit and proper for the Republicans to toil in basement meeting rooms; that they suffer the indignity of having their lights and microphones arbitrarily cut off; that they not be notified of hearings on bills and are forced to search Capitol Hill for the location of the hearings…from which they will be summarily excluded.

However, that being said, even before that object lesson has been adequately impressed upon the former majority, it is more than necessary that the pervasive and corrosive influence of the myriad lobbyists and special interests be immediately and obviously derailed by the new majority Democrats. Lest we forget, it was the corruption (perceived and real) of the long standing majority Democrats that led to the Gingrich “Republican revolution” of 1994. Hopefully, the years of ‘wandering in the wilderness’ as well as the unparalleled corruption exemplified by Delay’s “K Street Project” will have taught the Democrats that, regardless of who is on the receiving end of filthy lucre, it’s influence is corrupt and corrosive. Also, it will be up to those who fomented the electoral tidal wave of 2006 to not sit on their laurels; not remain satisfied that ‘our side won’. WE, the people, in order to have a vaguely functioning government, must insist that ALL those who we award with offices and power REMEMBER that THEY are our representatives; not our masters.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Pox on Both Their Houses

Much as I believe it a positive good for portions of the American public (and, even, some branches of the American media) to begin questioning the aftermath of Bush's unprovoked, illegal attack on Iraq, I can't help but wonder where was this public and media questioning in the aftermath of Clinton's unprovoked, illegal attack on Yugoslavia in 1999.

Portions of the media (generally the 'liberal' sectors) are repeatedly raising questions about the lies, distortions and media manipulation that formed the purported raison d'être for Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Congress and the media excuse their blatant pre-action warmongering on the Bush Administration's assertions surrounding WMDs(sic) and Saddam's 'threat' to 'world peace' and the US. In the period after 'major hostilities ended' in Iraq, the US has been totally incapable of adducing ANY evidence of usable or substantial stores of chemical or biological weapons, much less ANY evidence of a nuclear capability.

As a fallback position, the Bush Administration (and, virtually everyone else) has contented themselves with the chimera of a 'justifiable humanitarian' intervention. "At least the Iraqi people have been 'saved' from the despicable tyrant Saddam." In all their self satisfied preening at having 'delivered the Iraqi people from a horrible tyrant', the question is never raised whether the thousands of innocents murdered by the US in the process (not counting the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed by a decade of draconian US sanctions which prevented medicines, medical devices and even common sanitation supplies from reaching the Iraqi public) would have found the price exacted as commensurate.

The fact that SOME questions are now being raised regarding the Iraq imbroglio is all to the good. However, there are far larger questions to be raised and not only regarding the Bush/neocon junta.

It has become abundantly clear that both 'liberals' and neocons favor the use of US arms abroad. The only difference being the putative 'reasons' for such imperialistic interventions.

The neocons are at least honest in their villainy. They unabashedly favor foreign interventions to increase American power, both economic and geopolitical. The 'liberals', on the other hand, masquerade as favoring such interventions based on specious arguments of 'humanitarianism'. Both neocons and 'liberals' share the pretext of 'spreading democracy and freedom ' in these interventions.

To demonstrate the blatant hypocrisy of the majority (mostly 'liberals') of those now lambasting the Bush Administration for its actions, preceding, during and after the Iraq attack, let's examine these self same critics' behavior in regard to Clinton's equally repugnant attack on Yugoslavia.

The 'liberal' critics of Bush's attack on Iraq criticize Bush, his administration and the all too compliant mainstream media for having hyped, distorted and lied to the American Congress and people to justify said attack. In this the liberals are totally correct because it is undeniable that all the named malefactors DID INDEED hype, lie and distort the truth to form a plausible excuse for the attack. However, it has been amply demonstrated that Clinton, his admin-istration and the media were equally complicit in EXACTLY THE SAME PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR that they now castigate the Bush Administration and the pliant mainstream media for.

Just as the Bush Administration's claims of 'imminent danger' and WMDs have been definitively proven to be illusory, so too were all the claims (unilateral atrocities, genocide and ethnic cleansing) of the Clinton Administration (loudly echoed and hyped by the self same mainstream media that acted as Bush's accomplices in the Iraq crimes). Let's review just a sampling of the lies, distortions and hype that were used in the case of Kosovo, shall we?

Just as Bush now lies when he states that Saddam (actually meaning the Iraqi
people) had "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in.", so too did Clinton and his Machiavellian minions lie when they presented Milosevic (in this case meaning the Serbian people) as being implacably opposed to 'rational negotiations' at Rambouillet. Just as Bush openly lied about not allowing inspectors in (after all, who was Hans Blix?), so too did Clinton openly lie about Milosevic being opposed to negotiations (anyone heard of or remember the infamous 'Appendix B'?).

Just as Bush blatantly lied about the existence of Iraq's WMDs, which lie formed the triggering event for launching the attack in the first place, so too the Clinton administration blatantly lied about the Racak 'massacre', which formed the trigger for its illegal and unprovoked attack on Yugoslavia. The Racak 'massacre' has been just as definitively debunked subsequent to Clinton's attack on Yugoslavia as Bush's lie on Iraq's supposed WMDs.

The parallels and lies are far too numerous to detail in toto. However, the above is ample to prove the point that both 'liberals' and neocons have no compunction whatsoever to raping the truth to support their own illegitimate aims.

The question that needs to be asked, in the final analysis, is why weren't the questions that are now being asked about Bush, the Iraq attack and its aftermath asked in the face of the monumental lies and deceptions of Clinton's attack on Yugoslavia. The question, when asked, answers itself.
“The Smartest Guys in the Room” (not)!
Or “Why do they hate us?” America’s forgotten history abroad

In the immediate wake of the attacks of 9/11, one of the most prevalent and pervasive questions voiced with bitter bewilderment was “Why do they hate us?” The simple asking of this question in and of itself demonstrates the almost complete amnesia and/or ignorance of the American people. Below is a drastically abridged, illustrative exemplar of some of the reasons “why they hate us.”

1. Iran - 1953 The CIA’s first post WWII instance of ‘regime change’. Though popularly elected in ‘free and fair’ elections by the Iranian people, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, due to his insistence that Iran was entitled to a greater share of and interest in his nation’s oil reserves and revenues, it was determined by Allen Welsh Dulles that he should be removed. Though successful in removing Mossadegh and replacing him with the compliant Shah Reza Pahlavi, this external interference in Iran’s internal affairs and the Shah’s high handed tyranny remained a bitter memory in the collective Iranian mind and was a direct result of the 1979 ouster of the Shah and the related taking of American hostages.

2. Guatemala - 1954 Following in the steps of Gen. Smedley Butler (2 time Congressional Medal of Honor winner who, in his book “War is a Racket” wrote:
"I was a muscle man for big business; I was a muscle man for Wall Street; I was a gangster for Brown Brothers Harriman.") the CIA, at the behest of United Fruit Company, labeled Arbenz a Communist (for his proposal to allocate unused UFC lands to landless peasants) and financed, trained and supplied a force tied to the moneyed interests in Guatemala to overthrow Arbenz. This led to military juntas and a vicious civil war with tremendous civilian casualties.

3. Vietnam - 1945-1975 As early as May, 1945, President Truman supported French colonial desires to re-establish their dominion in Indochina. Even before the definitive defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, America was supplying over 75% of the armaments and 90% of the financing for the French Vietnamese misadventure. The US took over when the French withdrew in 1954 and maintained and increased their presence until their ignominious final withdrawal in 1975.

4. Afghanistan - 1979-1989 As stated in an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser in Le Nouvel Observateur, “Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention. [snip] Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists? B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems [emphasis added] or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” Brzezinski It was during this period (1979-1989) that the United States decided it would be a good idea to fund and encourage fanatical Muslims to battle the Soviets and, in so doing, ended up aiding one Osama bin Laden to organize what would one day become al-Qaeda.

5. Yugoslavia - 1991-1999 Though the U.S. had begun to intervene in Yugoslavia’s internal affairs as early as the mid 1980’s, the last nail in Yugoslavia’s coffin was nailed in 1991 when the U.S. backed (at Germany’s insistence) the EEC/EU’s unilateral ‘recognition’ of Slovenia and Croatia (in total and complete contravention of the Helsinki Final Act to which the U.S., Yugoslavia and the EU countries were all signatories). Though too complex to detail here, the U.S. obstructed peace negotiations, covertly violated their own arms embargo to arm the Croats and Muslims, provided extensive media disinformation to benefit their chosen clients (Croats and Muslims), turned a blind eye as the Bosnian Muslims imported foreign Muslim warriors (including Afghan veterans, foreign mercenaries and members of al-Qaeda). In 1995 the U.S. approved of, trained, provisioned and provided advanced air support for Croatia’s ‘Operation Storm’. Though hardly mentioned in the West, ‘Operation Storm’ led to the single largest instance of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Europe since WWII. The primary reason this is hardly known of in the West is that those approximately 250,000 cleansed during the operation were the demonized Serbs.

U.S./NATO’s illegitimate and illegal 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia-Montenegro, just as its previous intervention in Bosnia, was based on a torrent of lies, half-truths and disinformation. The intervention was presented as a ‘humanitarian intervention’ on behalf of the ‘abused’ Kosovo Albanians. At the conclusion of its illegal venture it was proved that all the wildly exaggerated claims of ‘genocide’, ‘mass graves’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ were completely and totally baseless.

6. Iraq - 2003-present The original justification for the intervention in Iraq was tripartite: 1) possession of WMD, 2) links to al-Qaeda and 3) links to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Once U.S. troops occupied Iraq and all three of the putative ‘justifications’ were shown to have been totally baseless, the U.S. morphed the Iraq intervention into a ‘humanitarian intervention’ to topple the tyrant Saddam and democratize Iraqi society.

As noted in the title, in our overweening hubris, we have arrogated to ourselves an omniscience believing that we can decide for all and sundry who are the ‘good guys’ and who the ‘bad guys’ and, of course, we always back the ‘good guys’. This explains why we have poisoned (both in Iran and at home) relations with the Iranians. Ditto the Israelis vs. Palestinians. Same with virtually the entirety of South and Central America. By backing our chosen ‘good guys’ in Afghanistan we spawned al-Qaeda who, in gratitude for our support bombed our embassies in Africa and ‘paid us a visit’ on 9/11. Perhaps it would be better for all involved if we were slightly less full of our ‘omniscience’ and refrained from picking ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and simply dealt honestly and above board with others and refrained from believing in our own hubristic superiority.
So, You Say You Support Our Troops, eh?

How many times have we heard, “I don’t support the (P)resident but I support our troops!”

Ask yourself the following: Question: Did all Germans support Hitler? Answer: No! Question: Were all Germans Nazis? Answer: No! Question: Did the vast majority of Germans ‘support their troops’? Answer: Yes!

I know, I’ve already lost the argument because I have transgressed the Hitler principle; once you bring up Hitler in an analogy, you have lost the argument. However, in this particular case, the Hitler analogy is eerily apropos. Even at the height of his popularity, Hitler was not supported by wide swaths of the German population. However, from the moment Germany’s army was committed to the field, virtually the entirety of the German population ‘supported their troops’ if, for no other reason, it was almost guaranteed that a member of their family was among the number of the ‘troops’

This is not to say that the German people were explicitly in favor of the atrocities that their troops were committing in the field; no more so than the American people were explicitly in favor of the atrocities our troops were carrying out in the field in Vietnam. Granted, most of the German people were neither keenly aware nor upset by those atrocities, after all most of the atrocities were being committed against ‘untermensch’. It has to be admitted that the attitude of the ‘average American’ in the 1960’s was not very much different; they certainly didn’t know the particulars of American atrocities but, even to the extent that they may have had an inkling it wasn’t that important, after all it was happening to “those little brown people over there”.

When Eisenhower’s troops liberated various concentration camps, neither Eisenhower nor the troops in general would believe that the German people living in the towns surrounding the camps could possibly have been ignorant of what was taking place in those camps. This actually is not that difficult to accept, especially in light of the willful blindness the American public has exhibited and continues to exhibit regarding the concentration camps which our government is constructing at this very moment.

Support our troops? I support the individuals as human beings; as soldiers in the field, I simply can’t. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to be a good German err American.
Behind the Mask of Civility
Are we really that ‘civilized’?

As a child growing up in post-WWII America, the question was often asked “How could the Germans, a cultured, educated and civilized people, have become as uncivilized as to perpetrate the Holocaust and the other atrocities during WWII?”

In the ensuing years, on the basis of psychological experiments such as the “Milgram” and Stanford Prison Experiments, it has been made more than manifest that the layer of civility truly is thin and, at best, a very feeble reed indeed to rely on.

The “Milgram Experiment”, carried out in 1964 and at no less an institution than Yale University, showed that subjects would, in a majority of cases, apply shocks to an unknown person that could very well be lethal. Perhaps even more interesting is the ancillary fact that although there were a number of participants who would not administer the ‘lethal’ shocks of 450 volts, not a single participant refused to cease shocking the ‘test subject’ up to and including shocks of 300 volts. And, even though many of the participants related that they were ‘uncomfortable’ administering the shocks, not a single participant quit the experiment.

The “Stanford Prison Experiment” carried out in 1971 also provided interesting though very depressing results. In that experiment volunteers (university students) were arbitrarily divided into two groups, ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’. Even though all the participants were aware that all the other participants, ‘prisoners’ and ‘guards’ alike, were simply volunteer university students, within 2 days from the inception of the experiment the guards were behaving with sufficient brutality to cause a ‘prison riot’. The conditions of the experiment got out of hand so quickly that the experiment had to be terminated early (within 6 days from inception).

The depressing reality is that humans have an all too consistent record of brutality, depravity and debauchery. For confirmation of this one need only to look at the sorry record of history. We (the bearers of Western ‘culture’) like to say: “But, we’ve gotten better!” A quick look at the behavior of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq would hardly lead to such a conclusion.

More to the point, especially we of the ‘Western Tradition’ like to style and believe ourselves as being elevated ourselves above the barbarity of such ‘savages’ as the Mongols, Tartars and Ottomans. Any fair reading of Western history would tend to disabuse us of these fables.

Well, at least we Americans have come a long way from our barbarous ancestors and become more ‘civilized’. Again, it is a comforting myth. That is all that it is, a myth. From the very first encounters of ‘Western civilization’ and the ‘New World’, the record demonstrates nothing of the sort. Columbus managed the murder and enslavement of the very “Indians” he first encountered. The predations, murder and mayhem visited upon the native Americans by following Spanish ‘Conquistadors’ are hardly an example of goodness and light.

Even if we allow that the Spanish may have been ‘blinded’ by their zeal to propagate ‘the truth faith’ to the ‘heathens’. How then do we explain the behavior of the ‘superior’ northern Europeans? As Hudson’s first mate, Robert Juet, recounted in his diary entries for July 24-25, 1609:

· 24: Juet wrote: "We kept a good watch for fear of being betrayed by the people, and noticed where they kept their shallops." The crew catch 20 "great cods and a great halibut" in nearby waters.

· 25: Juet took an armed crew of six men to the native village and wrote in his journal "In the morning we manned our scute with four muskets and six men, and took one of their shallops and brought it aboard. Then we manned our boat and scute with twelve men and muskets, and two stone pieces, or murderers, and drave the salvages from their houses, and took the spoil of them, as they would have done us."

· The crew stole a boat that morning, then later in the evening, 12 armed crew went back and drove the Indians away from their encampment, stealing everything they could, on the pretense the natives would have done the same to them. No one was punished for this act.” Henry Hudson’s Third Voyage 1609.

Not particularly ‘enlightened’ behavior. Granted, these were the Dutch. Were the English any better? History certainly doesn’t make the case. The very native Americans who aided the Pilgrims survive their first winter in the New World were unceremoniously murdered in short order by those same Pilgrims. Nor does the history of America read much better. American history reads as a tale of massive genocide and ethnic cleansing; that explains the expansion from a fragile string of 13 colonies on the east coast of the continent to encompass the entire landmass from Atlantic to Pacific between present day Canada and Mexico. When more land was ‘needed’ it was quite simply expropriated from those inhabiting them (be they native Americans or Mexican). If simple expropriation was not considered sufficient, a generated casus belli was manufactured to provide a ‘reason’ for such land theft. When we determined that the continental United States was insufficient for our needs we manufactured a war with a crumbling Spanish Empire all the better to steal those properties we found necessary and/or desirable.

In conclusion, what we found upsetting about the behavior of the Germans in WWII were the self same traits that we found so laudable in other contexts: their industriousness, their meticulousness and their efficiency. The Nazi anti-Semitism which was so decried as they executed the Holocaust was little different from that harbored in most other ‘civilized’ countries. Just recall the saga of the SS St. Louis and the wholehearted participation by citizens in most Nazi occupied countries in rounding up and turning in “their” Jews. More than anything, the Nazis baldly faced the world with the ineluctable end results of racism. In addition to the European Jews: Slavs, gypsies, and others were also eliminated as ‘untermensch’. Perhaps that was the Nazis ultimate crime, that they rubbed our noses in the end result of our own mean spirited humanity in such graphic detail.
Byzantine Blog