What would happen if we freely published the images from Iraq for one week?

| May 18, 2008 | 6 Replies

Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow is on tour promoting her new book, Standing up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times. Amy co-authored this book was with her brother David Goodman. I had the opportunity to hear Amy speak last week while she was in St. Louis.

Amy’s asked a simple question: “What would happen if we freely published the images from Iraq for one week in our mainstream newspapers?” I agree with that the outcome is quite predictable. There would be a public outcry, the politicians would finally “get it,” the American occupation of Iraq would quickly wind down. Unfortunately, we don’t have a mainstream news media that has the guts to publish those photos, certainly not in prominent places. It’s surreal that the public is not being kept up to date on the results of a project on which such vast amounts of money are being spent. Instead of seeing everyday photos of what’s on the street, we hear specious claims that everything is going well.

You know, if everything were going that well, let’s have a big parade right through the middle of Baghdad (not the Green Zone). George Bush should lead that parade, to celebrate how well we’ve stabilized Iraq. After this big celebration winds through the main streets and Americans see how well things are going, perhaps we’ll have a national consensus about whether the United States is intellectually and morally qualified to attempt to improve Iranian culture and politics.

The first chapter of Goodman’s book is called “We will not be silent.” This quote quote comes from the fourth leaflet distributed by Sophie Scholl and Kurt Huber, before they were captured by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

In that first chapter, the Goodmans quote a warning (variously attributed to Sinclair Lewis and Louisiana governor Huey Long): “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the American flag.” These are harsh words, but Goodman’s new book contains the disturbing substantiating evidence. For instance, we have a news media that readily manufacturers consent for going to war, rather than exploring whether it is necessary to go to war.

Goodman points to a survey that determined that out of the 393 interviews conducted by network news prior to the Iraq invasion, only three involved an antiwar spokesperson. What we have, then, is a news media that gladly beats the drums for war (as they are now doing with Iran). The news media has become “a conveyor belt for the government.” Goodman points out that what we have “is not a mainstream media. We’ve got to take it back.”

In her book (and at her talk) Goodman described the incredible story of a Connecticut librarian named George Christian, who was handed a national security letter (NSL) demanding subscriber information, billing information and access of any person that had used computers in any of 27 public libraries on one afternoon in February, 2005. The letter indicated that the information was sought “to protect against international terrorism.”

Instead of turning over the requested information, Christian questioned the FBI agents. They told him to carefully read their letter, which instructed that the recipient of the letter could not disclose “to any person that the FBI has sought or obtained access to information or records.” In other words, the letter indicated that it served as a “lifetime gag order.” If Christian told anybody about the letter, he could spend five years in prison. Nonetheless, Christian told the FBI agents that the letter was unconstitutional and told them that he would fight the order.

There is good reason to suspect that these NSL requests were being abused, given that 143,000 of them were issued between 2003 and 2005. Out of all of those NSL requests, only one of them led to a conviction in a terrorism case. The USA patriot act, section 215, allowed the FBI to enter a library or bookstore and demand records of the books that patrons read, including Internet sites they visit. In Christian’s case, and others involving librarians, it was clear that the FBI was using NSL requests to obtain patron records from libraries. But Christian and others were gagged from telling the press about these abuses. The librarians were forced to hire attorneys and try to restrain the government from gagging them, so that they could eventually talk. The story is long and involved, including the fact that Christian and other librarians were gagged under threat of going to prison–this untenable situation strung on during many months of litigation. Nonetheless, Christian persevered. Reading this chapter clearly shows that Christian is a modern-day hero.

Here’s where the story gets ugly. While the librarians were litigating their cases, prominent members of Congress (including Representative James Sensenbrenner) flatly declared that there were no civil rights violations committed pursuant to the Patriot Act. Only after a new version of the Patriot Act was passed in March 2006 (it also allows the production of library information based on the flimsy ground of “reasonable grounds”), did the federal government inform the ACLU (which was representing the librarians) that they would no longer enforce their gag order on the librarians. The case was mooted only after conservatives passed the new Patriot Act, based upon repeated assurances to the public that the FBI was not invading their library records.

Pretty incredible stuff, and it’s just the beginning. The Goodmans also write of 24-year-old George Deutsche, a Bush campaign hack, who was given the power to change the written articles of James Hansen, the eminent NASA scientist who also ran the Goddard Institute. It turns out that Deutsche never even graduated from college. How is it that someone so incredibly unqualified could find himself in such a powerful position?

Goodman also wrote and talked about the turmoil within the American Psychological Association. You see, the federal government needed a professional organization to join with it in conducting interrogations through the use of torture. The AMA and the American Psychiatric Association refused to go along with this despicable plan. Well, the American Psychological Association voted to give cover to the federal interrogators. The story is one of intrigue, including secret meetings and demands that members of the subcommittee not speak to the press. The bottom line is that the American psychological Association “gave cover to torturers.”

Goodman argues that the psychologists thus assumed a central role in enabling the torture of alleged terrorist prisoners. The manner in which this came about involved numerous uniformed military present on the convention floor of the 2007 American psychological Association annual convention. These uniformed military personnel took the microphone in various meetings and implored the help of the APA in order to “make interrogations safe, ethical and legal. Again, the federal government did not actually want the psychologists for these purposes, but to give cover to the grossly immoral torture that was going on. Thanks to the APA, Whenever someone questioned whether torture was occurring, the federal government was thus free to give assurance that professional psychologists were on staff to make sure everything was copacetic.

This is psychology, Gitmo-style. In the secrecy of an offshore prison, torture is immaculately conceived: no one ordered it. No one saw it. And no one tortured. So President Bush can say with a straight face to the world-and a wink to the torturers-“America does not torture.” And APA psychologists give him the cover he desperately needs.

This issue (of whether the psychologists will “work” with the government regarding future interrogations) will be taken up again at the 2008 convention of the APA.

The details of each of the above stories are surreal. Odds are that you have not read about most of these stories in any mainstream media publication. This is a sign of just how sick our national media is.

Standing Up To The Madness includes eight chapters, each of them featuring a modern-day hero who resisted government aggression and corruption. It is inspiring reading that I highly recommend, even if you think you know something about some of these stories.

Amy Goodman is one of my heroes. She is a fearless journalist who is constantly willing to take the time to get the story at the ground level from people from whom we need to hear. You can watch or listen to Amy’s daily superb broadcasts at DemocracyNow.org.

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    The U.S. Military wants to make us think that the occupation of Iraq is a sterile and routine affair. How do they paint this false picture? Massive censorship.

    DemocracyNow reports that "an American photojournalist who was embedded with the Marines in Fallujah has been barred from the Marine Corps because of graphic photographs showing Marines killed in a suicide bombing last month."

    See Amy Goodman's interview of former embedded photographer Zoriah here

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Good news from the American Psychological Association:

    The nation's leading psychologists' association has voted to ban its members from taking part in interrogations at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other military detention sites where it believes international law is being violated.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation/AP/story/6

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