Playing the "Terrorism" Card
By Norman Solomon

"Ever since the terrible crime against humanity known
as 9/11, the White House has exploited the specter of terrorism to move the
GOP's doctrinaire agenda. Boosting the military budget, cutting social programs and shredding civil liberties are well underway."

"In the propaganda end game prior to an all-out attack on Iraq, the Bush crew is playing a favorite card; as a word, terrorism can easily frighten the public and keep competing politicians at bay."

"When the sludge of propaganda is afflicting the body politic of our
country, news outlets have a crucial role to perform. Media can function as a circulatory system for the nation; the free flow of information and debate is the lifeblood of a democracy. But right now, the USA's media
arteries are clogged."

"If seeing a 'Terror Alert: High' sign on your TV screen makes you feel
edgy, imagine what it's like to be living in Baghdad or Basra."

"We desperately need a full national debate on whether we as a society ought to condemn terrorism -- across the board -- no matter who is doing
the terrorizing.   So, let's stop waiting for others to rise to the occasion. If we want to get an authentic debate going, we'll need to do it ourselves."

 

These days, it's a crucial ace up Uncle Sam's sleeve. "Terrorism" is George W. Bush's magic card.

For 17 months now, the word has worked like a political charm for the Bush administration. Ever since the terrible crime against humanity known as 9/11, the White House has exploited the specter of terrorism to move the GOP's doctrinaire agenda. Boosting the military budget, cutting social programs and shredding civil liberties are well underway.

Like the overwhelming majority of politicians on Capitol Hill, most journalists in Washington are too timid to do anything other than quibble about fine-tuning and get out of the way of rampaging elephants.

The word "terror" has become a linguistic staple in news media. For
keeping the fearful pot stirred, it's better than the longer word "terrorism," which refers to an occasional event. The shortened word has an ongoing ring to it. At the end of February's first week, when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced an official hike in the warning code, the cable networks lost no time plastering "Terror Alert: High" signs on TV screens.

Days later, the administration literally couldn't wait to tell the world about a new audiotape from Osama bin Laden. The eagerness of Colin Powell knew no bounds. He was spinning about the tape at a congressional appearance even before a single moment of the audio had premiered on the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network.

The next day, a White House spokesman did what he could to bolster the
thin wisps of supposed links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. "If that is not an unholy partnership, I have not heard of one," said Ari Fleischer,
who trumpeted "the linking up of Iraq with Al Qaeda." It was, he said, "the
nightmare that people have warned about."

Actually, it was a dream that the Bush team has been yearning for -- some semblance of a public embrace involving Osama bin Laden and Saddam
Hussein.

You wouldn't know it from the dominant media coverage, but the embrace
was not only distinctly one-sided -- it was also riddled with caveats and barbs. In his statement, Bin Laden made clear that he has never stopped
viewing Hussein as an infidel. And the Iraqi dictator has continued to keep
his distance from longtime foe Bin Laden.

In the propaganda end game prior to an all-out attack on Iraq, the Bush crew is playing a favorite card; as a word, terrorism can easily frighten the public and keep competing politicians at bay. And now, Washington's policymakers are on the verge of implementing a military attack that will, in effect, terrorize large numbers of Iraqi people.

Pentagon war plans, dubbed "Shock and Awe," call for sending many
hundreds of missiles into Baghdad during the first day. Numerous articles
in the daily British press have been decrying these plans. In contrast,
with few exceptions, mainstream U.S. journalists have been shamefully
restrained.

The people in control of U.S. foreign policy are now determined to
treat 9/11 as a license -- their license -- to kill. Although even the most
fanciful statements from the Bush administration have not claimed that the
Iraqi regime had anything to do with the events of Sept. 11, the murderous
actions on that day are being cited to justify a military attack on Iraq
sure to take thousands of civilian lives.

When the sludge of propaganda is afflicting the body politic of our
country, news outlets have a crucial role to perform. Media can function as
a circulatory system for the nation; the free flow of information and
debate is the lifeblood of a democracy. But right now, the USA's media
arteries are clogged.

If seeing a "Terror Alert: High" sign on your TV screen makes you feel
edgy, imagine what it's like to be living in Baghdad or Basra. For people
in the United States, the odds that terrorism will strike close to home are
very small compared to the chances that any particular Iraqi family will be
decimated before summer.

We desperately need a full national debate on whether we as a society
ought to condemn terrorism -- across the board -- no matter who is doing
the terrorizing. Clearly, politicians will be the last to initiate such a
nationwide discussion. And, sad to say, few journalists show much
inclination to ruffle the feathers of the hawkish gang that rules the roost
in Washington. So, let's stop waiting for others to rise to the occasion.
If we want to get an authentic debate going, we'll need to do it ourselves.

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy (I'd recommend a visit to the site), a nationwide consortium of public-policy researchers. He has written op-ed pieces for Boston Globe, Washington Post, Newsday, New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Baltimore Sun, and is a far more successful writer than Alex Sandell will ever be.  His column, normally titled, "Media Beat," is nationally syndicated in a wide variety of newspapers.  If you'd like to see his weekly "Media Beat" column published on the opinion page of your local daily newspaper(s), please contact the opinion-page editor at the paper(s) and suggest that the paper give his column a try. Please mention to editors that his weekly column is available to newspapers from Creators Syndicate. "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You," by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, has just been published as a paperback original by Context Books. The introduction is by Howard Zinn and the afterword is by Sean Penn. For the prologue to the book and other information, go to: http://www.contextbooks.com/newF.html

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