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What Police Videos Teach Us About Wars


Before people had an easy way to see video footage of police murders, headlines crediting the police with just and noble actions couldn’t be effectively questioned.

We’re still back there in the dark ages when it comes to war murders, but we can overcome the lack of quickly shared videos if we choose to. When the headlines celebrate some sort of “victory” in Mosul or anywhere else, we can point out that the videos of people being blown up in their houses would be truly horrific if we had them. This is not, after all, a point on which there can actually be any question.

The police who murder innocents say they serve a grander purpose of maintaining law and order. Watching the videos of what they do eliminates all possibility of taking that seriously.

The war makers say they serve a grander purpose of . . . well, it depends; sometimes it’s also law and order, other times spreading democracy, other times weapons elimination, other times simply revenge. Imagining the videos we aren’t seeing should help us understand why these justifications do not hold up.

The U.S. has, in recent years, bombed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. None of them is safer, less armed, more democratic, more peaceful, more prosperous, or less of a threat to others. Quite the contrary. “Defeating” ISIS by bombing people will fuel more suffering and violence, just as “defeating” the government of Saddam Hussein fueled ISIS.

Picture a woman in Mosul who lacks permission to go outside without a male guardian. Now picture that woman’s roof collapsing on her and her children with a thunderous crash and a cloud of dust. Is she better off? Do those who love her appreciate her “liberation”? Would the video be allowed on U.S. media outlets unless we shared it on social media as many times as we do a police video?

“One unfortunate incident.” “Collateral damage.” “A few bad apples.”

No. Police murder routinely and with immunity. Wars murder extensively, immorally, counterproductively, and illegally with immunity. There can be good policing. But there cannot be good war making. It’s all illegal under the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The war on terrorism has been increasing terrorism for years. The U.S. government itself admits it has no idea who most of the people are that it murders with drones.

“So you’re on the side of the criminals.” “You must love ISIS.” “Putin LOVER!”

In fact, this childish retort is more common on the question of war and, tragically, is sometimes fueled by a grain of truth. Even so-called peace groups have fallen for the “pick a side” routine on Syria for years. I know people opposed to U.S. war-making in Syria but not to the U.S. providing weapons to others. I know people opposed to both of those things but not to Syrian government war-making with help from Russia and others. I know people opposed to Syrian and Russian war-making but not to anything directed at overthrowing the Syrian government. I know people in favor of war against ISIS but not against Syria. I know people in favor of any war making armed and funded by Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Turkey but not by the United States or Russia. I could list 18 more variations, all from people claiming — as does the Pentagon — to favor peace.

I oppose war in the way I oppose dueling or blood feuds, not by supporting one side. I oppose the U.S.-led arming of Western Asia the way I oppose pushing heroin in poor neighborhoods, not by wanting particular people to get it all. I oppose murder by police or soldiers in the way that I oppose capital punishment — that is: not because videos make my social media browsing unpleasant, but because people’s lives are being taken.

It’s time we put an end to war as if we could see it.

Keywords to add to all electronic communications: As the Surveillance Expands, Best Way to Resist is to Bury the NSA in Garbage

By Dave Lindorff


Word that Yahoo! last year, at the urging of the National Security Agency, secretly developed a program that monitored the mail of all 280 million of its customers and turned over to the NSA all mail from those who used any of the agency's thousands of keywords, shows that the US has become a total police state in terms of trying to monitor every person in the country (and outside too).

A scandal that reveals more than it says: Yahoo Scanned All Users’ Mail for the Government

By Alfredo Lopez


If you are one of the approximately 280 million people with Yahoo email accounts, your email was scanned for content and possibly turned over to the U.S. government. Yahoo, on Tuesday, admitted that fact.

US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing

By Dave Lindorff


If the danger of the anti-Putin, anti-Russian disinformation propaganda campaign out of the Pentagon and promoted by the US corporate media weren't so serious, the effort itself might be laughable. I did laugh,

The African American History Missing from the Smithsonian

The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.

This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.

The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."

Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.

We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.

African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.

Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.

What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.

Public Relations Firm Claims to Have Ghost Written Thousands of Op-Eds in Major U.S. Newspapers

Laura Bentz of Keybridge Communications describes her company as "a boutique PR firm -- founded by a former writer for the Wall Street Journal -- that specializes in writing and placing op-eds. With some of the country's most influential trade groups and global corporations as clients, we run many of the major op-ed campaigns in the U.S. We place roughly 3,000 op-eds per year."

On its website, Keybridge openly claims to be able to "brand a CEO" by putting op-eds into newspapers in "virtually every major city."

Less openly, Keybridge carefully markets its services with a PDF that names people for whom it claims to have written and placed op-eds.

For a mere $5000, Keybridge offers this service in the PDF: "First, we write a 500-800 word op-ed. Then we place it in one or more newspapers around the country. If we're pitching to a national audience, we guarantee that we'll reach at least 50,000 readers. Includes media monitoring."

The PDF claims credit for and includes full images of op-eds in the following newspapers by these individuals:

  • Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by Bill Ingram, vice president of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social.
  • Washington Post, an op-ed by Doc Woods, a member of Virginians for Quality Healthcare.
  • Los Angeles Daily News, an op-ed by James G. Nondorf, vice president for enrollment and student advancement at the University of Chicago, and Jarrid J. Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid at Cal Tech.
  • Newsday, an op-ed by Patricia Morton, Dean and Professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing.
  • USA Today, an op-ed by Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam.

Of course it goes without saying that organizations and political campaigns and businesses have staff ghost write or draft or assist with op-eds by their figureheads. So this could be described as merely outsourcing that service to a PR firm. But it's considerably more damaging to public communications than that, I think.

For one thing, there are millions of people with important and new and different things to say who do not have $5000 to spend on saying it. Read these op-eds in the PDF and see if you can claim they are in the top 1,000 you've seen. Is there one among them you'll have a hard time forgetting?

Additionally, paying $5000 for this service is not simply paying for research or editing. It's paying for the unfair advantage of having your op-ed pitched by people who've built cozy relationships with op-ed page editors, and who in at least some cases used to be op-ed page editors.

Even worse, it's paying for the insider skill of churning out or transforming an op-ed into just the sort of familiar, boring, cookie-cutter columns that clutter up the dying institution of the daily, dead-tree, advertising-and-rewritten-government-statement sheets we call major newspapers.

This is why the more stimulating op-eds are often to be found on independent websites.

But to the extent that this service can really reach 50,000 people whom one wouldn't have otherwise reached, it is part of the corruption of a thoroughly corrupt communications system. It's part of the rigging of everything that breeds cynicism and resentment.

Do op-ed page editors know that Keybridge pitches op-eds that it claims to have ghost written? Are they all completely, or only partially, ghost written? Those might be questions for some future WikiLeaks release.

Meanwhile, here's a fun fact: Keybridge is a supposedly savvy PR firm in Washington, D.C., that bears the name of a bridge named for Francis Scott Key who owned people as slaves, supported killings of African Americans, penned an anti-Muslim poem that later became a celebration of killing people escaped from slavery and of a flag surviving a battle that killed human beings during a war that failed to conquer Canada but succeeded in getting the White House burned. That revised poem became the U.S. national anthem. Great image, guys! I'd pay $5000 for that.

Protests of National Anthem Restore My Faith in Humanity

Speaking out against racism is one thing -- and a wonderful and admirable thing it is -- but choosing to do so by sitting out the U.S. national anthem, and then having others join in, or "come out" as routine national anthem sitters: this is fantastic!

A self-governing republic of thinking people (whose first thought should be "My god, what are we doing to the rest of the planet with all this pollution and all these wars?") ought to have no use for mandatory flag worship, required hand positions, or enforced recitations of pledges of allegiance to colored bits of cloth. Or if only some people outgrow such practices, others ought to leave them alone about it.

The protest thus far is severely limited, of course. The primary reason that it is useful to break down required patriotism rituals is their intimate connection to militarism. Yet many are claiming other motives and swearing their steadfast allegiance to militarism. That's OK. It's still an enormous step, and one that thousands are thanking Colin Kaepernick for taking.

Hard believe people can write such crap: The Dumbed-Down NY Times Columnist

By Dave Lindorff


I was reading the latest smug piece by New York Timescolumnist Timothy Egan, when I came across the most amusing example of being what you're criticizing.

Egan, in a piece titled "The Dumbed Down Democracy," bemoaned the spreading ignorance of the American electorate.

Prejudice against atheists troubling

Effort against Sanders exemplifies prejudice against unchurched

By Kristin Christman, Commentary   

The Democratic National Committee's conspiring to sabotage Bernie Sanders' campaign is disturbing on many levels, but what makes me livid is that the DNC was hoping to portray Bernie Sanders as an atheist. What's worse than the intended smear is the belief that branding someone an atheist is a smear.

So what if he were atheist? Does this make him less qualified? And why would the DNC consider encouraging the notion that atheism is shameful? Atheists deserve as much respect as anyone else. Thinking otherwise is bigotry.

Atheists belong to the category "freethinkers," which ranges from the anti-religious, who perceive religion as harmful, to atheists, agnostics and deists, to those with unconventional religious beliefs.

An atheist is not a God hater or Satan worshipper. Nor is an atheist a worshipper of money, selfishness or valueless culture. Like Christianity and Islam, atheism covers a vast range of personalities.

Unethical antics: Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Even in politics, where alarming perversions too often parade as acceptable standards, it is pretty astounding for a politician to assert that inadvertent error is the reason for his failure to report receipt of gifts and other free items valued at $160,050 over a five-year period.

ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders

ABC Television's 20/20 will air a program on Friday called "The Girl Left Behind," the main thrust of which is already apparent on ABC's website.

The horribly tragic story is that of Kayla Mueller, an American held hostage and reportedly raped and tortured by ISIS before dying -- it's unclear how, possibly at the hands of ISIS, possibly killed by bombs dropped by U.S. ally Jordan.

Another hostage who was freed reported that ISIS blamed Kayla Mueller for U.S. actions in the Middle East. Among those actions, we learned this week, was imprisoning future ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at Abu Ghraib, not just at Camp Bucca as previously reported.

Mueller, like fellow ISIS victim James Foley, meant well and was in Syria to try to help people nonviolently. But U.S. policy has made it unsafe for Americans to travel to many places.

ABC will seek to pin blame for what happened to Mueller on Doctors Without Borders. She was kidnapped out of a Doctors Without Borders car, and that organization negotiated the freedom of its employees while refusing to help Mueller or even to trust her family enough to share with them information intended for them from ISIS.

But Doctors Without Borders was in Syria to help people and appears to have meant well. Blaming the doctors is easy to overdo here, and not just because the United States has been bombing its hospitals -- acts that may not involve rape or torture, but do involve murder and maiming. The U.S. government could have helped Mueller by never having destroyed Iraq in the first place, never having sought to overthrow Syria, never having overthrown Libya, or never having flooded the region with weapons. Or the U.S. government could have negotiated with ISIS or allowed victims' families to do so -- something it now allows, too late for Kayla Mueller. Or the U.S. government could have announced new policies that ISIS would likely have accepted as ransom.

ISIS asked, in exchange for Mueller's freedom, for the freedom of Aafia Siddiqui or $5 million Euros. If the U.S. government had, instead, offered an apology to the victims of its wars and prison camps, and massive reparations to the region, ISIS might very well have responded in kind. Instead, the U.S. government proceeded to bomb people, including many civilians, for a cost many times greater than $5 million Euros.

The telling of Mueller's story is, in itself, worthwhile. But the focus on an American victim of a war that is victimizing all kinds of people fuels dangerous attitudes. Focusing on the crimes of ISIS, but not of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or, for that matter, the United States, looks like propaganda for more war. When a New Yorker like Jeffrey Epstein rapes, nobody proposes to bomb New York, but when Baghdadi allegedly rapes, the appropriate response is widely understood to be bombing people.

I don't think the suffering of Kayla Mueller or James Foley should be used to justify the infliction of more suffering. As 9/11 victims have been used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims' relatives have pushed back. James Foley is pushing back from the grave. Posted online is a video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley's killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.

The video shows Foley in Chicago helping the late Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago -- a film about a protest of NATO. I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO. And I met Wexler who tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie.

In the video you can watch Foley discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage -- watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.

When Foley's mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley's mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we're going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.

New York Times shames itself: Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange for Doing What Journalists are Supposed to Do

By Dave Lindorff


While I periodically have written commentaries dissecting and pillorying news articles in the New York Times to expose their bias, hypocrisy half-truths and lies, I generally ignore their editorials since these are overtly opinions of the management, and one expects them to display the elitist and neo-liberal perspective of the paper’s publisher and senior editors.

Not just toilet lids Pentagon Money Pit: Unaccountable Army Spending of $6.5 Trillion and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades

By Dave Lindorff


What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.

The ultimate attribution error fuels war: The Post-Dallas Kumbaya Window Begins to Close

By John Grant


Someone's crying, Lord, kumbaya

- From the Gullah song meaning, Lord, come by here and help us


On forgetting and forgiving: Killing and Our Current American Crisis

By John Grant


Kill one person, it’s called murder.

Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.

        - A popular bumper sticker

Speaking Events

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