Friday, March 30, 2007

Helping Bush - Get Away With Murder

Getting away with murder (literally):

Presidential lying, journalistic malfeasance, and the manipulation of public opinion

Robert Jensen 2004 - Presidential Rhetoric” conference, held in the George Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University, March 6, 2004

Argument #1: George W. Bush and others involved in planning and executing the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq are guilty of crimes against peace, and;

Argument #2: The mainstream commercial U.S. news media was professionally negligent and therefore complicit in those crimes. By abandoning their role as an independent, critical force, journalists helped shape U.S. public opinion in a way that allowed the Bush administration, with significant support among Democrats, to conduct the war without serious challenge domestically.


On March 20, 2003, the United States and Great Britain launched an invasion of Iraq using missiles, aircraft and ground troops.
At the time of the invasion, no U.N. Security Council resolution authorized the use of force by any member state against Iraq.

UNSCR 1483,[1] which lifted sanctions and effectively allowed the United States to spend the oil revenue -- and which some interpret as a legalization of the U.S. occupation -- was passed on May 22, 2003, well after the end of “major combat operations” on May 1, 2003.
At the time of the invasion, Iraq was not engaged in armed attack against the United States or Great Britain, nor was Iraq was planning such an attack.
The U.S./U.K. invasion resulted in the removal of the government headed by Saddam Hussein and the creation by the United States of a Coalition Provisional Authority to govern the country during formal U.S. occupation. The United States plans to retain long-term military bases in Iraq after the formal occupation ends.
While there is no authoritative figure on the number of Iraqis, military or civilian, killed in the war, all estimates are in the thousands. Some estimates of civilian deaths top 10,000.[2](more realistically 100,000) with millions displaced as refugees in surrounding countries.



Using the terms from the constitution of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Bush administration committed a “crime against peace,” defined as: “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.”[5]

1) that the war lacked legal authorization and was therefore unlawful and

(2) that however far down the chain of command one might want to go if one was considering prosecution, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are indisputably at a level of power and decision-making that they are culpable for that crime against peace if, again, we are to use the Nuremberg standard: “Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.”


That George Bush and other members of his administration made statements in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq that were factually inaccurate is well established.[8]
Whether or not they knowingly lied is still a matter of dispute in some circles (though none that I travel in). At the moment, the Bush administration is doing its best to convince Americans that whatever pre-war statements made that are “no longer operative” (to borrow a delicate phrase from Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler) were the result of the so-called “intelligence failures.”
My assessment is that the various distorted, exaggerated, and outright false claims about Iraq’s chemical, biological, and nuclear programs, and about its alleged ties to terrorist networks, were not the product of intelligence failures but of a quite successful political campaign to create a climate of fear to build public support for a war that was being prosecuted for other reasons (to extend and deepen U.S. control over the strategically crucial oil and oil profits of the region). But, again, to stick to what is uncontroversial and to keep the focus on the news media, we need not speculate about the motivations of Bush administration officials. To examine whether journalists fulfilled their role, we need not come to any judgment about whether those officials lied intentionally or were merely gullible, incompetent, and/or clueless when they made false statements.
...Whatever one’s belief about the efficacy of prayer, it should not be controversial that on the eve of war, the inability of journalists to critique the factual claims and arguments offered to support a war -- no matter what one’s position on the justification for, or nobility of, the war -- is a serious professional failing. It also is clear that such a failing affects not just the profession but the political process. And since the enormous power of the United States and its military can be projected anywhere in the world, it is not hyperbolic to say that the failures of journalism are part of a “threat matrix” that has the rest of the world justifiably worried about where next the benevolent giant will train its guns.

[2] Iraq Body Count.
[3] Charter of the United Nations.
[4] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002.
[5] Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 1, Constitution of the International Military Tribunal, Article 6, August 1945.
[6] Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977.
[7] George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 20, 2004.
[8] There are countless articles detailing these inaccurate statements. For one example, see Christopher Scheer, “Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq,” Alternet, June 27, 2003.
[9] Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views,” March 18, 2003.
[10] quoted in Michael Getler, “Is Op-Ed ‘Op’ Enough?” Washington Post, April 6, 2003.


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