Friday, December 23, 2005


Children’s oblivious frolicking in the street,
The cubicles in the market replete with wares,
Vendors beseeching people in the crowded square,
Customers foraging for bargained provisions,
The smell of food permeating the air,
Clothes and trinkets crowding the shelves,
None of which portends their unforeseen fate.

A faint drone above whispers its omen,
Children’s eyes frozen in fear,
Recognizing the approaching scourge above,
As the drone becomes louder announcing its mission.
Seconds later screams and wailing replace idle banter,
Debris from the cubicles litters the laneway,
Holes become monuments to those who vanished,
The innocence of children violated again.

Wanton destruction’s unremitting journey,
Leaving unanswered questions in its path,
As to why such vile deeds are accepted by so many.
The seeds of social progress so desperately needed,
Have failed to germinate into a communal flower,
Overshadowed by the corrupt temperament of man,
Resulting in the fleeting death of children,
Whose only sin is their place of birth.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Al Jazeera and "Manufacturing Consent"

Al Jazeera's boldness in uncovering stories in Iraq and elsewhere stands in sharp contrast to American mainstream reporters who are nothing more than stenographers for the pentagon and the Bushites. They seem content to accept whatever crumbs that are thrown their way without making a conscious effort to investigate further or to explore events beyond the obvious bias of the military.
Since 1989 during the immoral invasion of Panama, American mainstream reporters conceded complete control over their stories to the military. To date, the Pentagon has enforced one of two schemes to ensure that the media only has access to events and people who will reveal nothing that is threatening to the war effort. The two schemes are press pools and embedding.
In Panama, the military devised the concept of "press pools" whereby only one reporter was designated each day to cover the story du jour accompanied by military personnel. Not only did the military choose the story, they also censored it before it was reported back to the remaining reporters who were cowering in a safe military compound while waiting for their pap.
The military prevented reporters from entering Panama for the crucial first hours of the slaughter followed by the forced confinement of all news correspondents except for the one reporter designated to cover a safe story chosen by the military. Reporters who wandered into terrain where the reality conflicted with the official truth were forced to retreat by marines at roadblocks located at strategic locations. News people, who were able to slip past the roadblocks into the poor neighborhoods where most of the damage was inflicted, were forced to remove the film from their cameras. One Spanish photographer was assassinated by a marine. The official spokesperson for the Pentagon, Pete Smith, very convincingly bypassed the truth with disinformation which precluded any public awareness of the slaughter of innocent civilians, the destruction of entire neighborhoods and the execution of prisoners without any due process.
The Empowerment Project produced a documentary which unmasked the hidden horrors of the invasion including innocent people who had been run over by tanks, the execution of helpless soldiers and mass graves where young, old and crippled civilians had been buried. They took their revealing footage to the major networks only to discover that they weren’t interested in disclosing the truth about the invasion.
Press pools were utilized in the 1990/1991 Persian Gulf War. The American public was deprived of the truth about the bombing, observing only smart missiles striking military targets with surgical accuracy. Ramsey Clark, former Attorney-General under JFK and LBJ, traveled to Iraq to film the carnage caused by American bombs. The entire infrastructure and most of the industrial and agricultural base of the country were destroyed along with markets, schools and hospitals. Over 100,000 people died. According to John Macarthur in Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the gulf War, “The twelve hundred U.S. journalists covering the mostly American side in Saudi Arabia…simply weren’t permitted to file much that was worth either reading or watching.”
When Ramsey Clark took his documentary to the major networks, they refused to show it. The only explanation for their refusal to show at least a snippet of the footage is that the images in the documentary contradicted the impressions created by the mainstream media...
On one occasion, the designated reporter was interviewing a pilot who had just returned from a bombing mission. In his story, the reporter described the behaviour of the pilot as "giddy" forcing the military censors to reach for their whiteout to conceal the nasty truth that sometimes the pilots were experiencing an adrenalin rush while dropping bombs on helpless and faceless victims 35,000 feet below.
The owners of the mainstream media lodged a perfunctory complaint about supression of freedom of the press and then dropped it without as much as a critical murmur. John Macarthur in Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War argues that “Despite the public statements of some, I came increasingly to believe that the media were themselves largely indifferent to their stunning loss of prerogative.”
The latest method of controlling the press is to embed them with the military. The term begs the expression "strange bedfellows". The media would travel with the troops on land or sea and report what they observed. The pentagon hoped that embedding the media would facilitate a close relationship with the soldiers implanting a bias in reporters to frame their perspective on the war in terms favorable to the administration.
Embedding the media was the contrivance of choice for the Pentagon in the 2003 Iraq war and in the military operations during the occupation. The attack on Fallujah exposes the one-sided reporting of the mainstream media who focused on the confrontation with the insurgents, while al Jazeera reporters were risking their lives to capture the killing of civilians, the deliberate destruction of homes, and the use of white phosphorous.
In the bombing of Iraq, the U.S. used cluster bombs which are banned by the Geneva Conventions because they kill indiscriminately as they release hundreds of bomblets which fly out in all directions and injure or kill anything in their path. The mainstream media did not expose the use of these bombs and the fact that they are designed to kill people. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq point out that “Other mentions in the U.S. press consisted of statements that talked about efforts to protect U.S. soldiers from cluster bombs, without mentioning who was dropping them.”
By collaborating with the military, the mainstream media have completely sold out and abandoned serving as the fifth estate to protect democracy from presidential abuses of power. Without balanced and objective coverage of events, the American people will remain ignorant of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” of U.S. presidents and thus will not be able to hold them accountable for their actions.
Al Jezeera provides the balance that is missing in the mainstream media. It lacks the gatekeepers who control the flow of information in the mainstream media. The catch-22 is that although al Jazeera coverage is essential for a balanced perspective of the war and occupation, the information rarely reaches the public through the mainstream media whose gatekeepers are on a constant vigil.