Narco News 2001
on Terrorism: a
the U.S. Press
Declare War (Again)
Defining the Enemy
test-tube clone of the "War on Drugs"
By Al Giordano
Special to the Narco News Bulletin
I of a Series
``There are reminders to all Americans that
they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this
is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.''
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
MEXICO CITY, SEPTEMBER
28, 2001: Is there a doctor
in the house? Among the injured in
the aftermath of the September 11th attacks is the United States
press corps. American journalism has sustained a broken arm from
patting itself on the back. The soldiers of the Fourth Estate
don't admit it, but they are ecstatic to be the center of attention
again. What journalists have failed to provide in hard information
they have compensated for with pure adrenaline and self-praise.
They are Media; hear them roar.
Whatever whimpers of self-criticism can
be heard through the din are restricted to discusions of wartime
ettiquette (such as what is "appropriate" to say "at
a time like this") and of fashion, such as whether TV news
anchors should wear American Flag lapel pins or not. (Narco
News suggests to our colleagues: Yes, wear those flags, wear
them wide and high, for that would offer the full disclosure
that authentic journalism requires; really, based on recent behavior,
you ought to wear uniforms, too.)
But on the basics of journalism - the
who, the what, the where, the when, the why - the mediators-in-chief
have so far failed.
It's the drug war all over again: Same
script, same faceless ever-morphing "enemy," same lack
of definable goals, same eternal shadow-boxing and same detour
of resources from real human needs
Except the drug war
itself hasn't gone away. To the contrary, the "war on terrorism"
is the cloned test-tube baby of the "war on drugs."
(Is that what the editors of the San Francisco Examiner
and the Village Voice meant by their single-word banner
headlines titled Bastards? Does it take one to know one?)
start with the question to which miles
of column inches, video, and audiotape have already been dedicated:
Whodunit? Atrocious crimes have been committed. There
is a search for two levels of criminals: The "material authors"
(the suicide bombers, some of whose identities are known based
on reported evidence), and the "intellectual authors."
The material authors are dead. Whether an intellectual author
or authors who orchestrated the work of the material authors
exist at all is itself speculation, but it is stated every hour
on the hour as fact.
Welcome to the all-speculation-all-the-time
networks. These have been dark days for journalistic practice.
Did you see it on the news? We're going to teach those terrorists
a lesson! We're going to blow them up! Oh, they already blew
themselves up? That's okay, the president will find somebody
to blow up! Don't touch that dial, América! This has been
the story, the only story, and it drives the polling data, which
in turn drives the press, and a vicious cycle has already ensued.
years ago, it was the government and
the media, together, that drove the early speculation after the
April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building
in Oklahoma City toward dark, bearded, foreign perpetrators of,
they told us, Middle Eastern descent: Government statements and
documents, repeated obediently by the press as authoritative
On April 20, 1995, one day after what
was then the single-largest "terrorist attack" on U.S.
soil, FBI Special Agent Henry C. Gibbons filed a sworn affidavit
that eyewitnesses "saw two individuals running from the
area of the federal building toward a brown Chevrolet truck prior
to the explosion
males, of possible Middle Eastern descent
one of the persons was further described as approximately 25-26
years old, having dark hair and a beard. The second person was
described as approximately 35-38 years old, with dark hair and
a dark beard with gray in it
The FBI put out an "all points bulletin,"
repeated verbatim on TV and radio, looking for a "middle
eastern male." The Oklahoma highway patrol's bulletin instructed
police to look for a Chevy "occupied by Middle Eastern male
subject or subjects
The rush to blame foreigners was not simply,
as the revisionist history of today implies, the result of pre-existing
public prejudices. Official statements were broadcast as unquestioned
facts by the mass media. Only when the official party line changed
did the press sing a new tune that led to the single-bomber theory
and a vilified, now executed, blonde and beardless perpetrator.
To be fair, there are still those today
who do not believe that the Oklahoma City bombing was carried
out exclusively by Desert Storm vet Timothy McVeigh, any more
than the majority of people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted
alone in the Kennedy assassination of 1963. Those views are simply
discounted. The press loves to hate conspiracy theories, in part,
because it is precisely the poor job done by the press that leaves
fertile ground for such hypotheses to thrive for years, even
The dynamic of the World Trade Towers
attacks has wrought an emotional furor that is far greater in
gale force in its windy hunt for someone to blame, anyone
to retaliate against, so that for years to come it seems that
solving this crime will be like Dallas 1963 times Oklahoma City
1995 squared: Long after the bombs have been dropped, after the
wars have been waged and victors declared, we may never know.
with the drug war, the behavior of
the media and its professional mediators discounts any search
for root causes. When radical views are so timely that they can't
be marginalized, they are demonized. The few commentators who
have suggested any analysis outside of the party line in recent
days - from Bill Maher to Susan Sontag - have been vilified,
much as Gary Webb was unfairly attacked by the mediators-in-chief
for having suggested that the United States government was complicit
in the cocaine and crack trades. History has been kinder to Webb
and will be kinder to Sontag (Maher's apology was, ahem, as cowardly
as the Gulf War; but at least he provoked the advertising class
- in this case Federal Express and Sears - to remind us of who
exactly runs the televised show.)
Yet, the very kinds of perspective that
are discounted and attacked by the current media mania are precisely
what are needed at this hour.
To all the newly-minted patriots, put
down your shiny Made-in-Taiwan flags for a moment and try to
attack this: The Pakistan government reports that right now,
along the Afghan-Pakistani border, there are an estimated one
million Afghani civilian peasants who, based only on their rational
fear that a bloody war is about to be waged in their territory,
are trying to leave the country. Pakistan officials have sealed
the border. Already malnourished and impoverished, many of these
people - who were not responsible for the attacks of September
11th- are likely going to die, stuck in the place with no exit,
many of them slowly, painfully. This, before a single Raytheon-brand
missile is fired. The mere threat of war has already sealed the
fate of innocents. The threat was delivered, like a Son-of-Sam
letter, by the media.
If I point out that these deaths are foreseeable,
preventable, and will likely constitute, in pure numbers, a greater
death toll than that of September 11th, well, I have just invited
the same kind of vilification that others have faced in recent
days. So be it. For I have simply repeated verifiable facts and
commented part of my opinion as to their likely tragic consequences.
That is my job, journalist, and if you use that title, too, it
ought to be yours. You will only know that you are doing your
job at the moment the Sunshine Patriots attack you. Until then,
you are wasting ink, electricity and talent.
less emotional comparison, because
it has no clear perpetrator to blame, comes from this North American
Ground Zero of sixteen years ago: On September 19, 1985, two
earthquakes struck Mexico City. The minimum estimated death toll
was 10,000 (Peter Arnett recently cited a figure of 25,000 deaths).
Six thousand buildings were destroyed. 100,000 families lost
their homes on a single day. Mexico City was not inalterably
changed or destroyed; in fact it grew bigger, more populated,
by 1997 it gained the kind of statehood representation that Washington
DC still craves, and today it has more true spirit of democratic
debate and participation in a single block than can be found
on all the United States TV networks combined.
The World Trade Center attacks were horrible.
But they do not constitute the single-largest loss of human life
in a single day in North America in the past century nor in recent
decades. Nor do they necessarily mean the end of democracy as
we know it - that is up to you, and you, and you, and me.
There are other human tragedies of the
20th century that do have material and intellectual authors:
Those of Dresden, of Hiroshima, of Nagasaki, of a prior September
11, 1973 in Chile (when, in a military coup backed by Washington,
tens of thousands of Chileans were rounded up in a stadium and
elsewhere, tortured and assassinated). What about a single day
in the Gulf War in Iraq, where the civilian death toll has reached
a half-million? Here, on these (web) pages, we have reported
the death and misery index of the war on drugs in America, a
preventable atrocity caused by the very public policies that
claim to combat its ills. Colombia and Mexico each lose more
than 10,000 lives annually to assassinations driven by the imposition
of a foreign power: the US-mandated policy of drug prohibition.
To offer these historic realities as context
is not intended to demean nor minimize the shock or horror over
what happened this month in New York or Alexandria. Nor does
it attempt to justify it. The feeding of more information to
the public, of factual information, is, however, still subversive
to men of power. Perspective and reason tend to put the brakes
on hasty and bellicose decisions.
Now is the hour to be that kind of seditionary.
Because without efforts by good journalists and citizens to jam
the frequencies of the shrill march to war, the media and government
will lead us to more atrocity. Two related emotions - that which
views U.S. lives as more important or valuable than those of
others, and that which answers one human tragedy with the base
desire to inflict the same or worse on others - are converging,
right now, into a mutually-assured massacre on and by all sides.
The media uses the term "war"
recklessly, just as Washington has identified a word to define
the enemy: "Terrorism."
But as with the war against "drugs,"
the war on terrorism has been made unwinnable by the manner in
which its commanders and publicists have failed to define it.
live in the kind of moment parodied
by Groucho Marx upon taking the helm of the mythical Freedonia:
To War! To War! Unfortunately, Groucho is not with us
today to offer an appropriate response to White House Press Secretary
Ari Fleischer's warning that Americans had better watch what
we say. It falls upon the rest of us to assert that being American
is defined precisely by not watching what we say, especially
during times of crisis.
The current quagmire also brings to mind
the words of the "intellectual author" of the construction
of the World Trade towers, the former Port Authority of New York-New
Jersey director, David Rockefeller: "We are on the verge
of a Global Transformation. All we need is the right major crisis
and the nation will accept the New World Order."
To War? To War?
Against whom shall it be waged? Against terrorists, they say?
Well, then, who are the terrorists?
The Oxford American Dictionary says that
terrorism is the "use of violence and intimidation especially
for political purposes." To terrorize is "to fill with
terror, to coerce by terrorism." A terror, according to
the dictionary, is an "extreme fear," "a terrifying
person or thing," or, in its informal form, "a formidable
person, a troublesome person or thing." Nothing in the definition
indicates that "terrorism" is carried out by non-governmental
Based on these definitions, the one million
peasants now lined up along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have
the same right and reason to view the terror they face as a violence
and intimidation by "terrorists" from the United States.
Terrorist, terrorize thyself? From my
perspective as a citizen of the United States, I will speak,
very briefly, of "we," but specify that I mean we citizens,
and the government that is, ideally, our extension. We are, in
effect, terrorizing ourselves, and guaranteeing future terror
aimed upon the civilians of the United States and the world.
The suicide bombers did not leave a note,
at least in terms of any statement of political demands. If there
are intellectual authors of the September 11 attacks who seek
to "destroy America," or "American freedom,"
as so many media commentators have speculated, they are right
now succeeding beyond dream. They are not winning because of
their actions, but because they accurately counted on a predictable
response by the U.S. media and government. They must be laughing,
these faceless and still unidentified beings from the realm where
reality meets fantasy, as they watch the United States destroy
itself from within.
And for those who do not wish to see America
self-destruct, this is the time to state inconvenient opinions,
and to report inconvenient facts, Mr. Fleischer. It is always
the time to dissent and always will be. Who the hell are you
to suggest otherwise? You are a mere functionary, a press secretary
for an illegitimate president, whose major weakness in trying
to "lead" a "war effort" by his country in
self-proclaimed defense of democracy is that he, George W. Bush,
was not democratically elected. You are the mouthpiece for a
regime, not for a nation.
for the sleeping giant in immediate American history - the Stealing of the President 2000 - the following
news organizations have just made folly of themselves and their
own stated missions to inform the public: the New York Times,
the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal,
the Boston Globe, Newsday, CNN, the Tribune Company, the St.
Petersburg Times, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the Palm
Beach Post. These are the news organizations that participated
in a million dollar recount of the ballots in the state of Florida
for the last presidential election.
The results of a project this big, this
costly, this worthy, will not be able to remain hidden for long.
News about the self-censorship of the news found its way to Mnookin,
and the hand of mediating power is now forced: The information
will come to light -- as soon as the mediators-in-chief figure
out how to minimize its impact. The game, however, will be to
time the release of this obviously bad news for democracy (if
the results weren't inconvenient, there would be no need to withhold
them), to save it for a moment when other events distract from
or lessen the impact of the facts. As Narco News has often
pointed out, the timing of when the news is reported constitutes
one of the media's central methods of manipulating opinion and
policy. (Remember when the New York Times and its inauthentic
journalist Larry Rohter withheld the news about the El Salado
massacre in Colombia for more than three months, until the day
after Clinton signed the Plan Colombia $1.3 billion military
The prototype for the "War on Terrorism"
- and the media's enlistment in it - is the "War on Drugs."
Anybody who wants to understand how the media will play the power
game with industry and government during "wartime"
need only review the press's behavior in covering the drug war,
abroad and at home. The script is already written: Pretexts for
gutting Civil Liberties at home, the trampling of democracy and
human rights abroad, violent atrocities explained by euphemism,
media censorship and corruption, persecution of the remaining
free press (including on the Internet), refusal to discuss the
root causes of the atrocities in any meaningful way, the glamorization
of "official" sources, and a convenient, faceless,
ever-shifting "enemy" that guarantees eternal expenditure
for a war that can not be won, that does not want to be won,
because it accomplishes so many other agendas of power in its
"Wars" against concepts are
perpetual by definition - until their roots are dug up and held
up to the sunlight. These wars - against terrorism, against drugs
- are aided and abetted by a commercial media, the great majority
of whose journalists are the illegitimate sons and daughters
of the First Amendment. If you feel yourself to be an exception
to these class clones - as a journalist, as a citizen, as a vintage
patriot, as a human being - now is the time to ask and to answer
the inconvenient question of the day: Who are the "bastards"
II of this Series Now Online:
Patriotism, Authentic Journalism