Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Great Year Ebbed, Another Ahead: So, Count Our Blessings

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Count our blessings, an act the eternally pessimistic American left usually shuns, on the grounds it might indicate we’ve made some headway in progress towards the good, the true and the beautiful.

First let’s look back. 2003 was a pretty good year. Who can complain about a span of time in which both William Bennett and Rush Limbaugh, exposed as, respectively, a compulsive gambler and a drug addict, were installed themselves in the public stocks amid the derision of the citizenry? Some say that they’ve both winched themselves out of the mud, with Bennett’s sessions in Las Vegas and Limbaugh’s steady diet of OxyContin already faded in the public mind. I don’t think so. There’s nothing so enjoyable as the plight of a professional moralizer caught in the wrong part of town.

And again, who can complain about a year in which the New York Times tripped itself up so gloriously with no, not the Jayson Blair affair, where the Times thumped its breast in contrition and self abasement for minor, unimportant works of the imagination by its young black reporter. I’m talking about the far larger scandal of Judith Miller’s extended series of alarmist articles about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Here the Times has remained more or less silent about the expose of its star reporter, but Miller’s shameless propagandizing, abetted by her editors, will stand as one of the most disgraceful displays of tendentious reporting in the history of the US press, and I include in this category the Times’ terrible performance in the Wen Ho Lee affair.

For a vivid account of just how bad the Times has been for many, many years, I strongly recommend John L. Hess’s vivid memoir My Times: a Memoir of Dissent, published by Seven Stories Press. Hess, cranky, heterodox, cultured and irreverent, is the Ideal Type of what any member of our profession should be, but who is usually leached out of the system in the dawn of their careers. He was a brilliant Paris correspondent for the Times in the 60s and early 70s, returned to New York and promptly wrote memorable exposés of the Metropolitan Museum (notably the incredible antics of its director Thomas Hoving), and of New York’s nursing homes. Then he and his wife Karen briefly took charge of the food and restaurant column and caused turmoil in that back-scratching sector. These days we’re glad to run the acerbic commentaries he does for WBAI. Real journalists don’t end up teaching ethics (aka kissing corporate ass) in journalism schools. They write till they drop. John Hess is a real journalist, virtually an extinct breed. Long may he write.

Hess pens the Times’s obituary as America’s supposedly greatest paper. In his c austic pages there is nothing more savage, and contrite than his account of what the New York Times did not report about the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Every journalism student, and every reporter should have this book in their backpacks.

Of course 20003 was a year in which the governments, the intelligence services, the military bureaucracies, the intellectual whoremongers and whores of two countries, American and Britain, displayed themselves as brazen and incompetent liars as they maneuvered towards war on Iraq. What more could any radical ask for?

So why did the US want to invade Iraq in 2003 and finish off Saddam? There are as many rationales as there were murderers on Christie’s Orient Express. In the end my mind goes back to something my friend the political scientist Doug Lummis wrote from his home in another outpost of the Empire, in Okinawa at the time of the first onslaught on Iraq at the start of the Nineties.

Iraq, Lummis wrote, had been in the Eighties a model of an oil-producing country thrusting its way out of the Third World, with a good health system, an efficient bureaucracy cowed from corrupt practices by a brutal regime. The fundamental intent of the US in 1991 was to thrust Iraq back, deeper, ever deeper into Third World indigence.

In the fall of 2003 I was in London and across a weekend enjoyed the hospitality of the first-class journalist Richard Gott, also of his wife Vivienne. At one point our conversation turned to the question of motive, and I was interested to hear Gott make the same point as Lummis, only about the attack of 2003. I asked him why he thought this, and Gott recalled a visit he’d made to Baghdad in April, 2003.

This was a time when the natural and political inclination of most opponents of the impending war was to stress the fearful toll of the sanctions imposed from 1990 on. Gott had a rather different observation, in part, because of his experience in Latin America. Baghdad, he said, looked a lot more prosperous than Havana. “It was clear today,” Gott wrote after his April, 2003, visit, “from the quantity of goods in the shops, and the heavy traffic jams in the urban motorways, that the sanctions menace has been effectively defeated. Iraq is awakening from a long and depressing sleep, and its economy is clearly beginning to function once more. No wonder it is in the firing line.”

Eyes other than Gott’s no doubt observed the same signs of economic recovery. Iraq was rising from the ashes, and so, it had to be thrust down once more. The only “recovery” permitted would be on Uncle Sam’s terms. Or so Uncle Sam, in his arrogance, supposed.

I’ve never liked the left’s habit here in the US of announcing clamorously that we’re on the brink of fascism, and that sometime in the next month or two the equivalent of Hitler’s Brown Shirts will be marching down Main Street. There was a lot of that sort of talk around the time of the Patriot Act was rushed through Congress. I was a bit more optimistic. I always thought that when the initial panic after the attacks on the Twin Towers subsided, a measure of sanity would seep back into the judicial system, restoring it to normally insane levels. And so it has come to pass. For sure, if another attack comes, we’ll slide back again, but for now the erosion of the Bill of Rights has slowed.

2003 gave us other minor pleasures, few more keenly savored here than the eviction of the loathsome Democrat Gray Davis from the governor’s mansion in Sacramento, California. Bono did not win the Nobel Peace Prize for which he has ceaselessly campaigned.

And 2004? Dean versus Bush the mutual funds scandal it promises to be a lot of fun.

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]