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Solomon's Unspinning of War

By David Swanson

Norman Solomon's new book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," opens with a disturbing prologue. The U.S. media has refused to give serious coverage to the Downing Street Memos on the grounds that they are "old news." In the initial pages of his book, and supplemented by the rest, Solomon makes a case that both outdoes and undoes that claim.

Solomon outdoes the "old news" claim by providing evidence that the Bush Administration's campaign to take the country to war in Iraq on the basis of lies was remarkably similar to President Lyndon Johnson's use of the media when he wanted to attack the Dominican Republic and Reagan's when he was inclined to invade Grenada, not to mention Bush the First's when Panama was his chosen victim. In fact, Solomon draws disturbing parallels to Johnson and Nixon's lies about Vietnam, Reagan's about Libya and Lebanon, Bush the First's about the First Gulf War and about Haiti, Clinton's about Haiti, Yugoslavia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and Bush Jr.'s all too recent lies about Afghanistan. There just doesn't seem to be anything new about a president taking this country to war on the basis of laughably bad lies that anyone who was paying attention never fell for.

Solomon undoes the "old news" claim by documenting how hard the media has always made it for people to be paying proper attention. Not only are the Downing Street Memos not old news to most American media consumers, who've never been told what's in them, but the facts about many past wars are still not known to much of the country. The Washington Post has never apologized for or retracted the Jessica Lynch fictionalization, but that itself is nothing new. Solomon writes:

"In July 1998 I asked a number of Washington Post staffers whether the newspaper ever retracted its Gulf of Tonkin reporting. Finally, the trail led to someone with a definitive answer. 'I can assure you that there was never any retraction,' said Murrey Marder, a reporter who wrote much of the Washington Post's political coverage of Tonkin Gulf events in August 1964. He added: 'If you were making a retraction, you'd have to make a retraction of virtually everyone's entire coverage of the Vietnam War.'"

The Washington Post further distinguishes itself in Solomon's account of past media coverage of wars with this opinion it published when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the Vietnam War:

"King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Damn liberal media!

Of course, many of the facts that Solomon employs in his critique of the media's role as megaphone for presidential warmongering falsehoods come from the media. But they come from passing stories in lower paragraphs on back pages, not from endlessly repeated headlines and sound bites. Solomon does not present a lot of new information in his book, but by gathering together key facts from extensive research he performs the reporting that he criticizes the media for failing to have done.

A good analogy for much of the U.S. media's coverage of war, I think, is the coverage Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, gave to Columbus in a text book critiqued by Howard Zinn in the opening pages of "A People's History of the United States." Zinn writes:

"One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

"But he does something else – he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important – it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world….

"To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice."

Of course, there's plenty of lying outright in the US media's coverage of wars, but there's a lot more Morisonizing.

Solomon's book is not a chronology and does not have any plot that progresses from event to event. Nor is it organized in a predictable manner around an argument. In fact, it reads a little like a book written by someone who's used to writing 700-word columns. But that is, of course, something that Solomon does with a brilliance that is seldom surpassed. And, while there is something I prefer about his columns, this book doesn't fall far short of brilliant itself.

It's organized by a series of statements often made by our media pundits. These serve as chapter headings. If they strike you as false and damaging, this book will provide you with the ammunition to refute them. In that way, this is a resource book that can be regularly consulted. If any of the statements strike you as true, then you really must read this book. Here's a sampling from just the first five chapters:

1. America is a Fair and Noble Superpower
2. Our Leaders Will Do Everything They Can to Avoid War
3. Our Leaders Would Never Tell Us Outright Lies
4. This Guy Is a Modern-Day Hitler
5. This is About Human Rights


DAVID SWANSON is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997.


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Looked at in historical perspective, there really is nothing that is the least bit unusual or surprising about recent U.S. actions. Whether it's a land grab, a gold rush, a corporate protection racket, or just a "splendid little war" to improve Hearst newspaper sales, American troops have frequently been sent to die for the purely selfish motives of those in power.

The quote U.S. Marine General Smedley: "I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purifly Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested... . Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents."

Iraq is merely the latest in a long series of such (mis)uses of American military force and the sacrifice of its "cannon fodder" by the people who have purchased actual control of the U.S. government throughout its history. All the "democracy" and "freedom" and "best government in the world" propaganda is just one of their promotional tools.

for the first time we have evidence as storng as the downing street memos this early

for the first time we have resistance this widespread this early

for the first time the labor movement has opposed a war, helping to unite economic activists with peace activists

and for the first time, we're going to stop the bastards and let much of the world know that wars are frauds, not merely mistakes

I hope so, David. I sincerely hope so.

Your efforts are greatly appreciated by those of us "outsiders" who could only watch with dismay and disbelief as a totally corrupt administration was re-elected(?) to lead "the world's only remaining superpower" in its slaughter of innocents abroad.

thanks, and we're not outsiders -- we're the citizens of what we need to turn into a democracy!

I didn't mean to suggest that you are an "outsider", although it may be an arguable point of view. :)

I was actually speaking about myself (a Canuck) and others like me who cannot participate directly in the U.S. electoral process but can only watch the results and their global impacts with grave concern.

(Sorry about the double-posted reply. Please feel free to delete the isolated duplicate.)

Solomon does a terrific job of connecting the militarization of the President's office with the documentation of past wars. There is a difference with the fight against Communism and this administration.
Viet Nam we got in the middle of someone else's civil war. Iraq was a pre-emptive strike on a sovereign nation for a shock and awe advantage.
This goes way beyond any rational,legal justification for the use of bombs etc.

I fear, that using the Solomon analysis, the argument would be they all did it... We cannot accept that... Kerry even used that argument for the war. No, it is time to stand against this misuse of force by our government and hold them accountable... No foreign policy that will give us blowback in 20 years is acceptable....this does not make us strong but weaker and defenseless against terrorists.
We are paying for the actions of the Reagan administration in the 80s...where they all got off... Stop the madness.

I didn't mean to suggest that you are an "outsider", although it may be an arguable point of view. :)

I was actually speaking about myself (a Canuck) and others like me who cannot participate directly in the U.S. electoral process but can only watch the results and their global impacts with grave concern.

Outsiders? Non-sense. We are all in this together.

1.8 Billion of US said so during Live 8 on 02 July 05.

Despite what these PNAC NEO CON "Roman -wannabees" tell ya,
"WE THE PEOPLE" does NOT just mean "White Anglo Saxon Protestants
with no arrest records, a job and clean urine."

Remember the dream, baby . . .(in my best Mike Myers-Austin Powers)

"WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men (humans)
are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty,
and the Pursuit of Happiness . . ."

peace. . . for us ALL. . .

Amen to that.

Canadians very willingly provided help for the Al Qaeda hunt in Afghanistan after 9/11 and we're still there, but I don't think most of us will soon forget the insults from Bush's ambassador about our refusal to join his trumped-up slaughter in Iraq. So, if you can think of a way for 30 million Canadians to contribute to U.S. "regime change", I'm quite sure you'd have majority support.

A personal note to Mr. Swanson:

Thank you for your courage and relentless pursuit of the truth. It is very difficult to remain patient as all of this unfolds in front of our very eyes. Patience is, after all, a virtue and ours is a virtuous cause, the reclamation of our Constitutional Democracy from the fascism of the Bush regime.

I am from the Lehigh Valley (Alelntown, Bethlehem, Easton) area of Pennsylvania and around here there were no organized events to mark the third anniversary of the DSM. I am ashamed of myself for not trying to organize anything on my own. Let's just say there are circumstances which make my being involved in organizing efforts problematical.

I would like to be of greater service to the cause in any participatory manner and to that end I am providing you my e-mail address: so you can steer me to others in my area if you come across them.

As a lawyer, I am ashamed that there are other officers of the court and members of the judiciary who are participating in this fascist regime and its rogue policies! I have such admiration for your colleague, John Bonifaz, Esquire. His legal analysis is sheer brilliance. It is stark contrast to the Gonzalez/Ashcroft drivel.

I write to seek your guidance and assistance in becoming a more effective force in all of these endeavors. I look forward to hearing from you when and if you get the opportunity.

Richard J. Schaedler, Esquire
PA Supreme Court ID#27809

It's a chess game. It is shameful the way our government is behaving but I think it really has to do with world politics, China and Russia. The oil is running out and this oil president knows it. We have fourteen permanent bases in Iraq. Why? We need to have control over the oil. Simple. This government had lied and has spent billions of dollars on this war, they have been corrupt. I think democrats can change things by changing the direction of thinking. We need to make a positive out of a negative and be the warriors who seek alternative energy. SCREW THE REPUBLICAN OIL IDIOTS!


Americans were horrified at the amount of deaths of our soldiers in the last few weeks. How much more horrified would they be if they found out the Bush Administration and the Department Of Defense were once again deceiving Americans as too how many deaths REALLY have occurred!

There are two sources I know have that our delving into the inconsistencies reported on the deaths of our soldiers. The Bush Administration is steeped in so much secrecy, why would it be so hard to believe another big misrepresentation is occurring right under our eyes? The total reported of soldier deaths stand at 1828 and rising. How true of a figure is that?

The first source would be Brian Harring’s report on Read the complete report!

There is excellent reason to believe that the Department of Defense is deliberately not reporting a significant number of the dead in Iraq. We have received copies of manifests from the MATS that show far more bodies shipped into Dover AFP than are reported officially

• Mark Benjamin, UPI Investigations editor. He has been closely following the hidden US casualties from the Iraq war. He was awarded the American Legion's top journalism award for 2004 for his reporting last year on the plight of hundreds of sick, wounded and injured soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga

Scroll down for Mr. Benjamin’s report

MARK BENJAMIN: Well, with respect to the wounded, the Pentagon does report a number that it says is the number of soldiers that are wounded in the war. I think we're running around 7,000 or 8,000 in Iraq. But what that number does not include is the number of soldiers who are wounded or ill, or injured in operations that are not directly due to the bullets and bombs of the insurgents. So, for example, as of mid-September, if you take actually Afghanistan and Iraq together, there were 17,000 soldiers who were injured or ill enough to be put on airplanes and flown out of theater, and none of those casualties, and I call them casualties because they fit the Pentagon's definition of casualties, none of those casualties appear on any public casualty lists.

We ask ourselves, with all the lies, misinformation, secrecy, and one scandal after another how long can the eyes and ears of those in denial remain closed? How long can they make excuses for a Bush Administration’s DEFICIT OF HONESTY, and the ethical violations in the Republican Party? Right now we are living in an Orwellian world and they evoke, "Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage - - - -torture, imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of civilians - - - - which does not change its moral color when it is committed by our side. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."
-George Orwell

As I said below, this U.S. operation isn't really much different from many precedents motivated by corrupt power and corporate greed. In days gone by it was the United Fruit Company; now it Dick Cheney's Haliburton and subsidiaries. The names may change, but, as always, it's "largely a matter of loot".

Blood and Gravy
By Chris Floyd
Published: August 5, 2005

It's easy to forget sometimes -- amid all the lofty talk of geopolitics, of apocalyptic clashes between good and evil, of terror, liberty, security and God -- that the war on Iraq is "largely a matter of loot," as Kasper Gutman so aptly described the Crusades in that seminal treatise on human nature, "The Maltese Falcon." And nowhere is this more evident than in the festering, oozing imposthume of corruption centered around the Gutman-like figure of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Yes, it's once more unto the breach with Halliburton, the gargantuan government contractor that still pays Cheney, its former CEO, enormous annual sums in "deferred compensation" and stock options -- even while he presides over a White House war council that has steered more than $10 billion in no-bid Iraqi war contracts back to his corporate paymaster. This is rainmaking of monsoon proportions. Indeed, the company's military servicing wing announced a second-quarter profit spike of 284 percent last week -- a feast of blood and gravy that will send Cheney's stock options soaring into the stratosphere.

But although Halliburton has already entered the American lexicon as a byword for rampant cronyism, the true extent of its dense and deadly web of graft is only now emerging, most recently in a remarkable public hearing that revealed some of the corporation's standard business practices in Iraq: fraud, extortion, brutality, pilferage, theft -- even serving rotten food to U.S. soldiers in the battle zone.

By piecing together bits from the fiercely suppressed reports of a few honest Pentagon auditors and investigators, a joint House-Senate minority committee (the Bushist majority refused to take part) has unearthed at least $1.4 billion in fraudulent overcharges and unsourced billing by Cheney's company in Iraq. Testimony from Pentagon whistleblowers, former Halliburton officials and fellow contractors revealed the grim picture of a rogue operation, power-drunk and arrogant, beyond the reach of law, secure in the protection of its White House sugar daddy.

One tale is particularly instructive: Halliburton's strenuous efforts to prevent a company hired by the Iraqis, Lloyd-Owen International, from delivering gasoline into the conquered land from Kuwait for 18 cents a gallon. Why? Because LOI's cost-efficient operation undercuts Halliburton's highway-robbery price of $1.30 a gallon for the exact same service.

But how is Halliburton able to interfere with the sacred process of free enterprise? Well, it seems that Cheney's firm, a private company, has control over the U.S. military checkpoint on the volatile Iraq-Kuwait border, and it also has the authority to grant -- or withhold -- the Pentagon ID cards that are indispensable for contractors operating in Iraq. (Even contractors who, like LOI, are working for the supposedly sovereign Iraqi government.) Halliburton used these powers to block LOI's access to the military crossing -- which provides quick, safe delivery of the fuel -- for months. Then the game got rougher.

In June, Cheney's boys blackmailed LOI into delivering some construction materials to a Halliburton project in the friendly confines of Fallujah: no delivery, no "golden ticket" Pentagon card, said Halliburton. They neglected to tell LOI that convoys on the route had been repeatedly hit by insurgents in recent days. And sure enough, LOI's delivery trucks were ripped to shreds just outside a Halliburton-operated military base. Three men were killed and seven wounded. But that's not all. An e-mail obtained by investigators revealed that Halliburton brass had expressly prohibited company employees from offering any assistance to the shattered convoy.

Halliburton extended this milk of human kindness to its food services as well. The firm had to bring in Turkish and Filipino guest workers to feed U.S. soldiers, because the happily liberated Iraqis couldn't be trusted not to blow up their benefactors. The Cheneymen treated these coolies as befitted their lowly station: They packed them into tents with sand floors and no beds, and literally fed them scraps from the garbage. When the peons complained, Halliburton sacked the subcontractor, who had been buying bargain produce and meat from the locals, and hired an American crony to ship in food all the way from Philadelphia.

U.S. soldiers weren't treated much better. Employees testified that Halliburton brass had ordered them to serve spoiled and rotten food to soldiers, day in and day out. Meanwhile, Halliburton brass were reserving choice cuts for the big beer-soaked barbecues they threw for themselves two or three times a week. They also billed the taxpayer for 10,000 "ghost meals" per day at a single base: The food was phantom, but the rake-off was real. Meanwhile, any employee who made noises about exposing the fraud to auditors was threatened with transfer to a red-hot fire zone, like Fallujah or Saddam's hometown, Tikrit.

All of this criminal katzenjammer -- and much, much more -- was authorized at the highest levels, as top procurement brass and Pentagon officials confirmed. Cheney's office kept tabs on Halliburton's bids while Pentagon warlord Don Rumsfeld "violated federal law," the committee noted, by directly intervening in the procurement process to eliminate all possible rivals and to make sure Cheney's employer got the guaranteed-profit gig. Rumsfeld's office also removed oversight procedures for the dirty deals and ignored repeated warnings from Pentagon auditors about Halliburton's blatant, persistent, pervasive fraud. And the money keeps rolling in. Just last month, Don and Dick ladled another $1.75 billion dollop of pork gravy into Halliburton's bowl.

For this they have made a holocaust in the desert sands, sacrificing tens of thousands of innocent lives: for cheap, greasy graft; for grubby pilfering; for the personal profit of Richard B. Cheney and the whole pack of Bushist jackals gorging themselves on blood money.


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