Read All About It…Here!

So many things have been happening in the news this week–The NPR Williams firing, the latest Wikileaks leak, Bank mortgage fraud, DU weapons fallout in Fallujah, a sane person running for Texas School Board, the deepening crisis of joblessness — I feel I should offer another perspective on them:

The Firing of Williams by NPR

Juan Williams was fired by NPR because of a comment he made on Fox-TV saying he was afraid getting on an airplane if he saw people in Arab Muslim garb seated among the passengers. But really, it should not a matter of his being racist or even un-PC, which is how the issue is being debated in the corporate media. Hell, if being racially insensitive were a bar to being a broadcast journalist in America, half the talking heads on air would be gone. No, Williams should have been fired simply for being stupid. No airline in recent memory has been hijacked or blown up by anyone dressed in Muslim garb. Even the famed 9-11 hijackers were clean-shaven men dressed in casual Western attire–button-down shirts and pressed pants.

Transportation Security Administration inspectors pay special attention to anyone going through security checkpoints who is wearing a hijab or some other Arab or Muslim clothing. Obviously, if someone were intending to sneak onto a plane with a bomb, a gun or a knife of some sort, or with accelerants in his underwear, with intent to do harm to the plane or its passengers, he or she would dress like the rest of the passengers.

Wikileaks’ ongoing release of documents about America’s wars

Wikileaks, yet again, has shamed the American corporate media. Its latest dump of 400,000 leaked documents relating to the Iraq War and the criminal way it was conducted by the US military, especially with the massive killing of civilians and the operation of both US and US-trained Iraqi death squads and the deliberate, widespread use of torture, tell of things that could easily have been reported as they were happening. In fact, the stories were being reported–overseas. Those of us in the US alternative media, who bothered to read the foreign press, knew all about this stuff and wrote about it at length. Domestic sources were readily available too–for example returned veterans like those in the organization Iraq Veterans Against the War–who had first-hand knowledge. But the corporate media don’t go to those sources, and has consistently preferred to pass along unremarked upon the lies offered by the Pentagon propaganda machine, or to publish the filings of its imbedded, and thus censored and sanitized, military reporters. So now we have the Times and other organizations reporting on documents released by Wikileaks–an organization that the Pentagon and the US intelligence apparatus is trying desperately to shut down by getting its banks to block its funds, and by using a dirty tricks campaign to try and tarnish the reputation of its founder, Julian Assange. (Indeed, many mainstream media outfits have devoted as much or more space to passing along the disinformation about Assange and his organization as to covering the information that Wikileaks is releasing.)

Writing after the first dump of documents by Wikileaks, which lead to the arrest of Specialist Bradley Manning, who has been enduring the tender mercies of his American military captors in a jail cell in Kuwait, charged with leaking national security secrets, our reporter John Grant, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, called Defense Secretary Robert Gates a liar for making his false claim that the Wikileaks documements would cause the deaths of many Afghans who supported the US (are there really many of those?). John also made an observation you will never see in the corporate media, or for that matter on NPR.

He wrote:

Gates and the US militarists who initiated the war in Iraq and who have continued the war in Afghanistan for nine years, the people who keep everything about these wars secret except what is useful to sustain them, the people who finance these wars on credit without raising taxes, dumping the costs on future generations – these people are not “morally culpable,” “guilty” or endangering anyone?

Do I have that right?

In other words, to reveal information about the war makes one morally guilty of endangering people, while being responsible for the war itself does not.

Crime Wave in the Suites

The banking industry has engaged in fraud on a heroic scale, deliberately “losing” or destroying the paper trail of ownership of mortgages in order to facilitate the slicing and dicing of those mortgages and the creation of tradable securities composed of a collection of pieces of mortgages of various degrees of credit-worthiness. The fraud has been magnified by the deliberate forging of mortgage repayment documents, again perpetrated on a heroic scale, which are required where owners have fallen behind in payments and banks want to foreclose on them. Most of the corporate media are reporting on this scandal as if it were a minor paperwork issue, when the truth is that the whole mortgage system has been fatally undermined. (If you’ve ever gotten a mortgage, you know how anal the whole process is, with buyer and seller and bank all assembled in a room signing all the papers with a notary present, so that every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed. The way these documents are being tossed around, lost and deliberately shredded now, these transactions might as well be conducted over the phone or online, the way you make a credit card payment!) As I wrote earlier this week, it is likely that tens of millions of mortgages are essentially null and void because the banks have no legal documentation to allow them to enforce repayment. And that’s a story we’re not hearing or reading.

America’s Biggest War Crime: Depleted Uranium Weapons

Truthout published on Oct. 23 an excellent piece by Dirk Adriaensens of the Brussels Tribunal Executive Committee, about the ongoing horrors in Fallujah, a city virtually flattened by a politically-driven assault by US Marines in 2004 (actually two assaults–an aborted one in April, and a devastating one in November that left the city a toxic waste dump of depleted uranium dust. Here is a story that even the left has handled poorly. The US by most accounts expended several thousand tons of depleted uranium ordnance–ranging from bombs and missiles to anti-tank penetrators and even 30 and 20 calibre shells fired by aircraft and helicopter gunships–during the Iraq War. The bulk of it, 1-2000 tons, was expended during the first few weeks of the US invasion of Iraq in early 2003, but evidence is strong, including testimony from veterans of the conflict, that DU ammunition and bombs were also used particularly heavily in the assault on Fallujah in November, 2004. Today, the frequency of bizarre birth defects consistent with fetal radioactive exposure, is greater in Fallujah than in Hiroshima after the dropping of the first US atomic bomb on Japan, but this is a story that simply has not appeared in the US media. (An exception was reporter Juan Gonzales’s excellent piece in the New York Daily News on the DU poisoning of members of the New York National Guard who returned from an Iraq tour to find their health damaged, and their new babies being born with bizarre birth defects.

Even some of the left press has been scared off of this story, thanks in part to a concerted underground — and illegal — disinformation campaign by the Pentagon to use “critics” posing as independent actors, but actually working for the government, to sow doubt about stories about DU weapons use and their aftereffects, on both innocent civilian victims and US troops. I had experience with this deceptive government disinformation campaign on two occasions. The first was when I wrote a piece on DU weapons use and its effects for In These Times–an alternative weekly publication I had written for regularly since it was founded in the late 1970s. The article was attacked by a letter campaign that disputed my figure of several thousands of tons of DU weapons expended–a figure whose accuracy has been confirmed by many sources subsequently, and which was well sourced at the time. The magazine’s editor, Joel Bleifus, who respected and knew my work well over the years, ran a critical reader letter disputing my figures, without even alerting me to it, though the magazine’s tradition has always been to allow writers to respond to critics’ letters. When I complained, I was offered a chance to write a rebuttal letter to be published in a later edition. That letter however, was destructively edited by Bleifus, who additionally appended his own comment after it (in italics), saying the magazine agreed with the critic–a gutless undermining of a long-time writer which led me to ask to have my name removed from the masthead as a contributing editor (and to stop writing for the publication).

For a more detailed account of what happened to the ITT story, please read my article about it in Counterpunch magazine.

An article I subsequently did on DU in Common Dreams was also attacked in the comments section by several people, including one later identified to me as an active member of the military with the rank of colonel, who had not identified himself as an active officer working for the Pentagon. An editor at Common Dreams informed me that the publication had looked at the ISPs of the letter writers and determined that they had originated from inside the Pentagon.

Battling the crazies for our children’s sake in Texas

Our own Charles M. Young wrote a piece–his second–on the bold campaign by educator Judy Jennings to win a seat on the benighted and medieval Texas School Board. Here is a story of clear national import, given the fact that the Texas School Board (which of late has tried to wipe any mention of Islam in America and even of the role of Founding Father and president Thomas Jefferson, from public school history books), in determining the content of the nation’s textbooks. Because Texas operates with a state curriculum, all its schools buy the same history and science texts. This means if the Texas School Board, a majority of whose members are Christian fundamentalists who believe evolution is a myth and who have a truly twisted notion of what the American Revolution was about and what the Constitution says, wants books that distort both history and science, the textbook publishing industry is pretty accommodating, to the detriment of students across the nation. You would think that given this outsized influence that the Texas School Board has on the quality, or lack thereof, of American education that the national news media would be closely following this race, but if you thought that, you’d be wrong. You have to go to ThisCantBeHappening! to learn about Jennings’ campaign.

The true horror of long-term joblessness

The same can be said about another article in the current issue of ThisCantBeHappening, by Linn Washington, who writes about the terrible psychological suffering that the millions of American workers who have been jobless for years are enduring. In the corporate media, not only do we not hear about this terrible situation, but we are fed distorted information suggesting that unemployment is “only” 9.7%, when the reality is that one in five working-age Americans is unemployed, many of having been jobless now for a year or longer.

And so dear readers…

All of which brings me to an important point. You can’t get the real truth about these issues, can’t any information about them at all sometimes, by relying on the corporate media, whether it’s your local newspaper, the national papers like the NY Times, Washington Post, USA Today or Wall Street Journal, or the radio and TV news. You need to go to the alternative media. And let me add with some sense of pride that all of the above stories–and many, many more–have been addressed here, at ThisCantBeHappening!, in articles all written by our own news collective. And we’ve only been at this now for less than six months.

So here’s the pitch: If you value getting the real story, presented fearlessly and straight, without any gauze placed over the lens, then take a moment and go to our Paypal button (it says “Donate”) on the lower right of the home page, and make a contribution to support what we’re doing at ThisCantBeHappening!

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