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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ex-cop, Vietnam veteran focuses his fury on the war

I met D. in Maryland by chance, stopping to refresh myself after a day of wandering the attractive community where D. lives.

I'm choosing to keep D. anonymous because I don't want to misquote him, or expose his views without his permission.

D's obviously quite fit for a man his age--I'd guess late 50's. He wears jeans and a short pony tail; he's got a tanned, rugged look. His blue eyes are crystal sharp; he drinks a beer but his talk is clear and focused.

D. bears a grudge with Bush and Cheney and all their crew--like others, D. is bursting with brutal honesty, as if revealing his true feelings towards the President will release some of the hate he's been carrying around.

Our talk turns to Vietnam. D is a Vietnam veteran. We talked about body bags, and what is done with dog tags to corpses returning from abroad.

Gory stuff; D. isn't the first Vietnam veteran I've heard open up. I'd met an Amtrak cook who'd talked over a late night drinking session in New Orleans. {I'd lost it--literally--and I'm not sure it was all the whiskey I'd drunk that night or what chef had told me. No matter--I simply hope telling me what had gone on helped him heal.}

My experience with Vietnam vets tells me that these are resilient people, proud of their service but reluctant to reveal their wartime experiences. D. was hardly the kind of man to expose his feelings to a stranger, which is what made his willingness to openly voice hatred of the Commander-in-chief and the nefarious crew that started the war all the more powerful. I had unleashed a fury dormant in a man of strong opinions, someone not prone to idle chatter.

Media coverage of Dover AFB is blacked out, D. tells me. Why, D. asks me.

I tell him that's where corpses from Iraq are brought home. He and I both know the media war--him being a vet and me knowing what I do about this war.

Compared to the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968, where hundred of GIs would come home in body bags every week, now we see scarcely a dozen from Iraq. D. didn't say that the casualty count was too low--with a son at risk, he was certainly in no mood to see casualties rise. Still, the comparison left me with the idea that the antiwar movement would be far more active if the casualties mounted as they had during Vietnam.

D. has a son in the Marine Corps in Iraq.

D. says the Corps had changed his boy greatly, where his personality has changed radically, into a killing machine utterly unrecognizable from his former self--the man that had been their son before the transformation. Marines pray to God for hostilities to come along, D. tells me.

Turns out D. is a retired cop. 35 years on the job and in DC no less. Since I'm on my way to the protest there, he's got my attention--what will the police reception be like? I'd searched the DC police's website, but being that this was my first major protest I needed to know just what really went on.

D. told me about protests in 1971, I believe the year was. He'd become a DC cop straight out of Vietnam.

There'd been huge protests then, and some 10,000 had been arrested during one particularly wild period, D. explained.

"Washington is a city that depends on its traffic circles," D. tells me.

D. then explains how Abbie Hoffman had instructed his followers to accumulate every old junker they could and drive them into the city, on a weekday just before rush hour. Then he said how Hoffman and his nefarious pranksters parked the junkers in traffic circles, crawled under the cars and proceeded to hammer holes in the gas tanks.

Lit afire, flaming gasoline streaming from their tanks, the old behemoths burned and DC traffic was shut down. For days.

I asked D. if that's what it would take to end this war-radical confrontation.

Catching on to the possibility his recollections of Vietnam era protest mights be radicalizing me, D. then gave me very pointed instructions. When asked to leave by police, obey their instructions, he told me.

D. explained that when cops start telling people what to do, the danger increases dramatically. The risk of what happening wasn't exactly clear, which in itself added some real meaning to the warning, as D. was talking about dire bodily harm more than simple arrest.

I certainly had no intention of confronting anyone in DC, but D.'s warning would stick in my mind. It had been his city. He knew what had happened there in the last war, from the other side.

I'd been impacted by this chance encounter, and the conversation served as an more important insight into another person world, someone who had to live with the extreme stress of having a child in Iraq.

The conversation I had with D. gave me a great perspective on what he felt about the war. It was as if my first story about the protest had been told before it had even begun.

The style with which D. talked about war could really only come from a veteran of war, someone who'd seen men die up close and personal. Being a retired cop, D. also lent a tremendous amount of credibility to what he said. And the emotional hook was his own son being in Iraq. How D. balanced his emotions I could not begin to fathom.

Like grunts in Vietnam, he put up with a lot, too much really for any one person to deal with. But I'd say D. could cope far better than most, but the burden is truly heavy. And like a grunt, D. is expected to put up with a lot. But that wasn't were the story ended; D. refused to remain silent, and would offer his very personal brand of hatred for those who got us into this war. These emotions were running close to the surface, just waiting for a passing listener then,,,wham,,,out they come, like furious djinnis out of the bottle.

D.'s personal goal was clearly to get his children back from the war. Serving in Vietnam must have given hime a close look into the horrors and madness of war.

A rare breed, people like D. impress me with the strength of their convictions, their belief that the war is wrong and that Americans had been and were continuing to be misled. In this sense, D. is like a hippie but with none of the counter-cultural tendencies, which makes his grudge that much more significant.

But D. wasn't a hippie: he'd been on the other side of the law back then. I guess his utter despise for Bush was as radical a protest as he could muster, in his own way.

D. may not be lining up to protest the war, but his opinion counts with the people who matter, in a way that transcend politics. Honestly, I'd be scared if I were one of those who'd authorized this war and supported its continuation. I wouldn't fear the usual critics on the other side, but rather animosity that comes from within--from veterans like D., loyal unassuming patriots who hate what they've done to our country.

If the war is for the heart and soul of America's bluebloods, it's already been lost. The cause and even the war itself is lost if these people hate the war for they are our nation's backbone. And they are angry.

Mainstream Media Whiplash

There are countless stories like D.'s waiting to be told. Yet the mainstream media hasn't been telling them.

I began this blog to respond to inadequate media coverage. My motivation was the sin of omission practiced by media corporations in the run-up to Iraq, as well as their coverage of the Plame scandal.

I see it as my duty to tell the stories that the media does not tell. People like D. are eager to have their voices heard. I don't need fancy equipment or editing machines to tell their stories, I simply need the patience to listen, the compassion to care, and the means to tell them.

I made my protest video with a Sony camcorder hand-me-down and a three-year-old Minolta. Sure I got some scoffs from the pros, but hey I was there at Lafayette Square capturing the real story which wasn't up on the stage but out in the sea of faces out in the crowd. While my Interviews video wasn't so great, I was also doing a service to the antiwar movement by letting people speak.

One person in particular that struck me was at the end of the tape, a woman sitting by herself, addressing Ahmadinejad, in Farsi no less. Taking the time to sit down and talk with her showed me how kind and delicate this person was, and how she really did love and care for Iranians and the victims of US military aggression. These are the people that made the protest real, not the high falutin' figures we see celebrated in the mainstream. Their remarkableness lies in just how much they resemble us, in just how much like us they are. The only difference is that they are willing to participate personally and force the establishment to count them among their detractors.

Only a physical presence can make that discontent known.

With no advertizers, I have no ulterior motives for protecting anyone. So I am as free and independent as I possibly could be. But my limited audience attests to important of reach. And with a larger audience comes responsibility. Americans are as busy as ever: they are owed clear and unbiased news information.

I don't intend to gain great popularity. What is praised most by the mainstream is what I shun; the stories I feel I should tell are those which they don't.


The domination of the mainstream media by massive conglomerates has made the status quo completely acceptable. I went to a conference at the University of Illinois run by Robert Chesney and his freepress.net in 2005 that showed just how five companies had come to own over 85%+ of the media outlets in this country. The ramifications were staggering; the takeover meant independent outlets had been eliminated from the broadcast spectrum.

The leadership composition of the FCC under Bush meant that traditional federal regulatory standards were subverted. Throughout his govenrment, former lobbyists became Department heads, in a wholesale abandonment of conflict-of-interest concerns that has since resulted in a massive drop-off in mine safety and mountaintop removal, among many other consequences.

Ownership of the media by a few conglomerates meant powerful business interests and overachieving businessmen control the coverage. Jack Welch, CEO of GE, was an ardent Bush supporter alongside Murdoch of FOX, whose network is arguably the most partisan in modern American history. GE is the nation's largest military contractor.

Rather than shape the news by choosing favorable stories, most mainstream media opts for a game of news suppression and dumbing down. Products that sister divisions sell naturally take up a large portion of the "news". With entertainment divisions, media conglomerates have a vested interest in showcasing music celebrities in their camp, and writers from print media sold by publishing houses owned by the same conglomerate.

A culture of consumerism is cultivated, as media is meant to be a product that serves related brands as a push to market. News that has no marketing value is seen as valueless. As a matter of fact, one of the first step of media consolidation is to eliminate jobs that produce hard content. News divisions are treated as independent profit centers; naturally this makes them vulnerable to funding cuts. And as the content dumbs down, and hard news increasingly makes way for infotainment and celebrity marketing, the quality suffers.

Discerning news consumers turn to other sources, which may have further depressed the value of news entities subject to corporate subterfuge. Alternative media may attract a good portion of MSM "news" viewers completely turned off by Natalie Holloway, OJ Simpson, and the blonde who died in the Bahamas.

If the marketplace for news is truly free, then the market will turn away from watered-down crap in favor of real news. Yet the media conglomerates prey on ignorance, and channel unwitting news consumers into brand purchasers as if the news were a giant marketing funnel.

Eventually people will begin to wake up. Already they have. Every month more people flock to the Web. As the dilemna we now face in Iraq becomes clear, the lies that launched the Iraq war have come under additional scrutiny. And as many in the blogosphere have been saying for years now, the mainstream media has largely been responsible for letting the administration's fallacies go unchecked. Look no further than the Judith Miller stories in the New York Times on how editorial discretion, traditionally a source of moderation and temperance in news coverage, became an accelerant for prowar propaganda.

The motivations of omitting accurate coverage and criticizing government position were largely political. Newspaper owners are largely Republican--the larger the conglomerate, the more likely the owners are to be either ardent Zionists or avid greed-is-good Republicans. So when the media consolidation train began rolling, a pro-Republican bias was almost certain to spread to the editorial ranks and into the content of the various media. No big surprise, therefore, that criticism of the war was suppressed, figures like Donahue fired, and the unverified assertions of Scooter Libby's friend Miller about Iraqi WMD made into front page material.

The first step in addressing this problem is getting the American people to understand there is a problem. Unfortunately, the price of our slumber is perhaps the most expensive war in American history. Like some war supporters say, we may find ourselves now in an inextractible position.

In a Spiegel Online interview, Seymour Hersh called Iraq a strategic failure of epic proportions. Hersh goes on, saying that Bush is:

"...secretive and he doesn't tell Congress anything and he's inured to what we write. In such a case, we (journalists) become more important. The First Amendment failed and the American press failed the Constitution. We were jingoistic. And that was a terrible failing. I'm asked the question all the time: What happened to my old paper, the New York Times? And I now say, they stink. They missed it. They missed the biggest story of the time and they're going to have to live with it." [Link above]

I'm guessing "the biggest story of the time" is the flagrant abuse of the public trust in the lead-up to Iraq--outright lying to start a war. Hersh is telling those in the know what we've known for years: that the US media failed to tell the story they had to and as a result the US is in a dreadful predicament which will likely culminate in more terrorism, a bankrupt Treasury, a run-down military, untold suffering, and more than a million deaths and counting.

Covering the "little" story is a responsibility that has been rightfully transferred from major media companies to blogs and the alternative media. As the corporate media has failed to be objective, it has subsequently lost viewership. This is the yin and yang of any truly free market; eventually viewership will transfer to the most deserving outlets, assuming people have choices and know the difference between fake news and the real thing.

The public's inability to discern between the two is viewed as an advantage by corporate media directors, who believe that dumbing down makes news more commerically viable. We can only hope the American people can see what's being done to shape their media environment behind their backs, arranged in the corridors of government in a quid pro quo aligning corporate takeovers with inadequate oversight.

Unfortunately, as bad as it is, Iraq may be far from the worst thing that can come from media omission and the uncontested insertion of government propaganda in the media stream. More wars may be on the platter, carried alongside the manipulation of fear for political purposes, which is a hallmark of the War on Terror.

These Orwellian techniques may not end with the Bush presidency; media manipulation could lead to the creation of a full-blown Orwellian state. For a nightmare scenario, see my review and commentary on Children of Men.

Other Sources

McChesney and the freepress people--there are other similar groups as well--have been very active from the earliest days of the Bush junta. They've participated in the fight against selling off public airwaves as well as telecom plans to put toll booths on the information superhighway. And in the recent FISA law-breaking, with retroactive immunity for telecoms, freepress.net fully anticipated a violation of our privacy rights.

For grins, freepress has a Whack-A-Murdoch game showing just how broadly Fox and its sister companies have spread. Their Stopbigmedia.com has organized information on the reality of media consolidation and the need to oppose the corporate takeover of our media.



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