Word on the Street: Endless War

US soldier with the American Flag on the background

It has been 13 years since 9/11, and America’s wars show no signs of ending.  The country is now at war, either openly or covertly, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and who knows where else.  President Obama recently made it clear that there is no place in the world that the US will not intervene to achieve its objectives.

We wanted to find out what public opinion is towards this state of perpetual warfare.  Do citizens support this, or do they want it to end?  Is this now the new “normal?”  To find out, we did some spontaneous, random interviews at the University of North Carolina campus in Greensboro NC.  As we expected, many of the college students were informed and adamant in their responses.  There was a range of opinions, not always in agreement.  Do they have it right?  What do you think?



Rooting Out Bad Cops

NY Cop Beating

60 Minutes did a report on police abuse last Sunday that’s better than most of the major media coverage on the subject.  It at least recognizes that there are bad cops, lots of them.  The fact is, police departments attract people who enjoy wielding power and authority over others.  For too many police, that is a primary motivation.  Although abusive cops are in the minority, they taint the environment for the majority of police officers who work to protect and serve their communities.

The 60 Minutes piece also addresses the culture of “Us vs. Them” that is pervasive among police, and shows that officers are often actually afraid of the public they are supposed to serve, considering them potential enemies.  Officials who oversee the police are also very steeped in this culture, along with prosecutors who rely on police to achieve convictions.  Until police departments stop hiring and recruiting people who have no business being cops, and get rid of those who are, we will keep seeing more outrageous incidents of excessive force.

60 Minutes did not look at the unsettling problem of how police are increasingly being used as a quasi-military force to suppress popular uprisings that challenge public policy and state power.  Politicians and officials aligned with the corporate/security state are supporting the expansion of militarized police to protect against any challenge to their power and privilege, as we saw in the FTAA protests in Miami in 2003, the Republican National Convention in 2008, and more recently in the organized crackdown on the Occupy Movement in 2012.

-David Kasper

Telling Too Much Truth

Webb w Headline
Investigative journalist Gary Webb’s conflict with major media outlets is portrayed in a new film.

Kill the Messenger, a captivating movie now playing in theaters nationwide, tells a revealing story not only of the US government’s dirty secrets, but of how the major media can control public awareness, and punish those who step out of line.

That the CIA has been complicit in the illegal drug trade has been irrefutably established by investigative journalists over the years, going back to the Vietnam War and before.  In 1972, Alfred McCoy’s groundbreaking book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia documented CIA involvement in heroin trafficking.  During the Reagan administration in 1985, reporters Robert Parry and Brian Barger of the Associated Press revealed that the CIA was participating in the transportation of cocaine into the United States to support the illegal Contra War in Nicaragua.  In 1988, the Empowerment Project’s documentary Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair included prison interviews with convicted traffickers who explained how they flew cocaine into the US, using the same planes that the CIA used to transport weapons to the Contras.

All of this was largely ignored by the the major media, which succeeded in keeping the embarrassing story out of public awareness.  At least until a courageous journalist named Gary Webb discovered some shocking new information in 1996, and published the results of his investigation in the San Jose Mercury News.  In a series of articles called Dark Alliance, he exposed how the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles and other cities was fed by the CIAs complicity in importing cocaine into the US.

By the standards of the relatively young Internet at the time, the story went viral.  Outrage erupted in LA’s African American community where a crack epidemic had been ravaging South Central neighborhoods.

The major media was caught flat-footed.  Rather than pursuing the story further themselves, they either ignored it completely or tried to discredit Webb and his reporting.  In particular, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times launched a coordinated campaign.  No doubt motivated by their desire to maintain friendly relations with their government sources, and to obscure their own deliberate failure to investigate the story, they focused on smearing Webb and his reporting.

Unfortunately, they were all too successful.  The editors at San Jose Mercury News were intimidated into pulling Dark Alliance from their website, even as Webb was about to publish more reports.  They took him off the beat and consigned him to an innocuous job, which he eventually quit.  With his credibility destroyed, he wasn’t able to work again as a journalist, and in 2004 he was found dead from gunshots to the head, a presumed suicide.

Gary Webb’s tragic story was not widely known in the years that followed.  Kill the Messenger, based on Nick Schou’s book of the same name, finally brings this story to a wide audience.  It does an outstanding job of revealing what would otherwise remain buried and hidden from the public consciousness.

-David Kasper

 

Only Government-Approved Media Coverage Allowed

3 Fuguson Cops2

The excessive police response to the uprising in Furguson shocked the country and the world.  Militarized police are treating the public as an enemy that needs to be controlled and suppressed—hardly what most Americans believe to be the function of local police.

Along with the abusive and aggressive treatment of peaceful protestors, the police are deliberately targeting journalists, or anyone with a camera or cell phone, in a systematic effort to conceal police actions from public view.

As the ACLU described it in a recent article, “Police repeatedly ordered protesters to turn off cameras and cell phones recording law enforcement. Roving SWAT teams raided a McDonald’s and arrested two journalists engaged in the suspicious act of recharging their phones. Police aimed tear gas canisters directly at members of the press. A local news crew caught police riding up afterwards and disassembling another crew’s media equipment.”

Even the Federal Aviation Administration aided in the coverup by declaring a no-fly zone over the city so that TV news helicopters couldn’t show what was happening.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated instance of the government trying to control media coverage.  It is a further extension of the growing pattern of intimidation and harassment of journalists that has been accelerating since 9/11.

Along with the government’s obsession with keeping what it does as secret as possible, we are seeing reporters threatened with prosecution for publishing stories that the government doesn’t like, including James Risen of the New York Times, who may end up in prison for not revealing a confidential source, and Glenn Greenwald who reported on the Ed Snowden leaks for the Guardian.

–David Kasper & Wendy White

 

 

 

Shhhh … It’s A Secret

 

ShhhhSECRECYAlthough an informed citizenry has long been considered essential in a democracy, many government officials instead see the free flow of information as a threat to the power and security of the state.  The domestic population is increasingly considered unworthy of being trusted with knowledge of what its government is doing.

According to participants who appear in Seizing Power,  much of what is kept secret is for the purpose of concealing illegality, corruption and incompetence, and to enable authorities to do as they please without having to provide justification or obtain consent from the public.

In this video, they describe the government’s dangerous obsession with secrecy:

– Wendy White