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America: Land of the free, home of the gullible

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 14, 2001


"A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war." — Dr. Martin Luther King

After September 11, 2001 few people can deny the United States is vulnerable to random acts of terrorism perpetrated by those unhappy with American policy elsewhere in the world. Nor can anyone deny that when America wants a new war it gets one. Sadly common sense is the first casualty.

Last week the Bush Administration made sure the world knew that it was determined to win the propaganda war associated with the war on terrorism. The common definition for propaganda is half-truths and misinformation. So, we should take this to mean Uncle Sam is going to meet Amu Osama, lie for lie, on the battlefield of public opinion. And if the mainstream media is the weapon of choice, how will we ever be able to separate fact from carefully crafted fiction?

Turn on the television and you are immediately bombarded with words and images designed to justify Operation Enduring Freedom. Last week the Bush propaganda machine kicked into high gear following news that a majority of Europeans where not buying the red, white, and blue smoke screen used as cover for a bombing campaign they see as a way of securing American strategic interests in the oil rich Caspian Basin.

In a televised speech seen by leaders of 20 central and eastern European nations, President Bush warned that Osama bin Laden, his al Qaeda network, and the Taliban " are seeking chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons." Hoping they share the selective memory of most Americans, I'm sure George failed to mention in his speech, that the United States government currently possesses enough conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons to destroy life on the planet a hundred times over. All of which we have used in the past, and are willing to use in the future.

To maintain the propaganda front of "America's new war" the Bush Administration has created the Coalition Information Centers (CIC) with offices at the White House, one in London, and another planned for Islamabad. It's no coincidence there is a London office as the British, in its colonial fervor, started the whole Afghanistan debacle in the first place, when it invaded in 1836 as a way of preventing Russian expansionism while protecting its own interests in India. The Pakistan office is hardly a done deal as few Pakistani citizens support President Pervez Musharraf, the military general who seized power in a coup not long ago.

Also drafted to help fight the war of public opinion has been Madison Avenue. The pentagon recently granted a $400,000 contract to a public relations firm to market Operation Enduring Freedom in 79 countries. And if that doesn't speak to the Bush Administration's hollow rhetoric, the new U.S. undersecretary for public diplomacy recently designed the marketing campaigns for Uncle Ben's Rice and Gillette razors. Weird does not begin to describe the world we now live in.

George talks about helping people in need, while dropping cluster bombs on those very same people. What George has yet to talk about is the collusion between his administration, the Taliban, Unocal, and Musharraf regime in their mission to a build a pipe line from the oil fields of Kazakhstan to the Pakistani port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea. Coincidence? I think not. Also not a coincidence is that the propaganda war is aimed at making sure Americans never know how much the Bush Family and their friends have to gain from an Afghanistan in ruin and a corporate friendly regime in place.

Not only does the current administration have to sell the war to other nations, it is also using fear to sell their "new war" to Americans. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge are going out of their way to evoke the threat of small pox and other such horrors. They are also making sure Americans know the government is not prepared for such attacks. Such communications are designed to ferment America's blood lust.

Making sure the propaganda war is not interrupted by balanced reporting on the part of the American media, the Media Research Council, a conservative media watchdog organization, markets their own brand of propaganda to media stooges such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Brit Hume. These conservative voices see themselves as the patriotism police and fancy themselves to be purveyors of modern day McCarthyism. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, ignorance is still in fashion. Sadly, so too are carpet bombs and lies of omission.

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