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War and Propaganda

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Photo by Expert Infantry | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Expert Infantry | CC BY 2.0

The U.S. has been at war throughout much of its history. Some wars were blatantly wars of conquest, e.g., the Indian Wars (the near genocide of Native Americans) and the Mexican-American War. Whatever the real reasons for our military actions, they were usually sold to the public as being defensive in nature and this practice still goes on.

Some insiders have spoken more openly about reasons for wars. For example, in 1933 Major General Smedley Butler USMC, who served for 33 years and was one of the most highly decorated marines, stated:

“War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses….

And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Another leading U.S. military figure, General Douglas MacArthur, spoke in 1957 at a Sperry Rand Corporation annual meeting:

“Our swollen budgets constantly have been misrepresented to the public. Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”

Shamefully, the U.S. mainstream media plays a key role in advancing the establishment’s stories in creating enemies and in pushing the use of the military instead of diplomacy. For example, most of the influential media unquestionably spread the false claims about weapons of mass destruction before the illegal and unwarranted U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003. This monstrous U.S. war crime killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and caused incredible suffering and devastation that continue even today. In addition, that attack played a major role in creating the chaos in the Middle East and in spawning ISIS and other terrorists groups.

For a decade now, the influential media has been building fear of and animosity against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. For example, the media spread the establishment’s story that NATO’s buildup of weapons and forces near the Russian border is a reaction to Russian aggression. In its coverage, the media downplayed the U.S. violation of its pledge not to expand NATO ‘one inch’ to the east if the Soviet Union would allow Germany to be reunited. Unfortunately, the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations all violated that pledge. Perhaps the media didn’t think NATO’s expansion to Russian borders might have been viewed as a provocation to Russia.

However, a key insider saw things very differently. In 1996 George Kennan, architect of the containment policy towards the Soviet Union, warned that NATO’s expansion into former Soviet territories would be a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.” In 1998, Thomas Friedman solicited Kennan’s reaction to the Senate’s ratification of NATO’s eastward expansion. Kennan said: ”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.”

The mainstream U.S. media also downplayed the importance of the U.S. supported 2014 Ukrainian coup, a major provocation that caused Russia to react as Kennan had predicted. Even George Friedman, CEO of Stratfor, a U.S. firm involved in analyzing intelligence, spoke about this coup that the media hailed as a revolution: “It really was the most blatant coup in history.”

The media continues the campaign against Russia by hyping the unsubstantiated claim that the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails and somehow provided the emails to Wikileaks. This problematic charge further bolsters the perception of Russia as our enemy, making the idea of war more palatable.

Disappointingly, the influential U.S. media ignores a strong challenge to this claim from former intelligence officials (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) who have a very good track record in evaluating evidence. Adding to the concern about these claim, it is important to remember that the CIA’s political leadership has a major credibility problem. Moreover, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, denied receiving the emails from the Russian government. Given these concerns and the lack of any solid evidence being shown to the public, a responsible media would certainly have carefully investigated the charge before unnecessarily heightening tensions between two powers with nuclear weapons.

Accuracy in reporting is especially important now since Russian and U.S./NATO forces are operating in close proximity along the Russian border and in Syria. Any small miscalculation could set off a nuclear conflict with unbelievably dire consequences for life on the planet. For example, studies by well-informed scientists have clearly demonstrated that there are no winners in a nuclear conflict. Therefore, it is past time for the mainstream U.S. media to live up to its responsibilities to the public and to carefully investigate claims instead of simply being a shameless propaganda tool of the U.S. political and military establishment.

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Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics and former Green candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado.

CounterPunch Magazine

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