Backtalk, February 13, 2007

Listen to the Foxes, Not the Hedgehogs

Found this pretty narcissistic.

Hadar was remiss not to at least acknowledge the analytical framework provided by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky for understanding how people working in media are subject to a kind of natural selection process which favors the self-interest of media owners. They describe in Manufacturing Consent how people working successfully in corporate media come to internalize the values and biases of their employers, allowing them to advance within their respective organizations. Those who won’t or can’t adapt are weeded out along the way.

Thus mainstream pundits will predictably make the same assumptions and adopt the same logic as the centers of political and economic power who are allied to their organizations. By contrast, those working in alternative media are free to question the orthodoxy of the mainstream and consider a fuller spectrum of experience and opinion to produce their views, predictions, etc.

This seems such an obvious point that I’m afraid I’m embarrassing myself, yet there is nothing in Hadar’s commentary that suggests it.

~ Dr. Mike Gaspar, Barrie, Ontario

Leon Hadar replies:

Dear Dr. Gaspar:

Thanks for your comments. I wasn’t discussing the work of Herman and Chomsky in my piece. My focus was on Philip Tetlock’s book. I find it kind of uh… mmm… narcissistic behavior when someone expresses astonishment that you failed to write about his/her favorite topics, writers, etc. But in response to your points: It’s the editors and producers who make the decisions about whom to invite to write op-eds and/or appear on talk shows. They are the gatekeepers. In fact, one of the reasons that they invite pundit X or Y is because he/she has a specific point of view about which he/she feels strongly (pro-abortion vs. anti-abortion, for instance). Hence they have no incentive to “modify” their position so as to fit into the perspective of the media outlet. The problem with “alternative” publications is that they invite those who share their views to express their opinion. I’ve never read a pro-free market article in Marxist publications, for example.

Ahtisaari’s ‘Final Solution’

Hi Nebojsa,

I just read your piece today on I don’t know if you have clicked on the “Senior Advisors” link On the ICG Board of Advisors page that you gave (it’s easy to miss), but the list of horrors continues: Ashdown, RĂ¼he, Robertson etc.

Secondly, have you heard of Spiked? Its former editor Mick Hume used to run LM, which lost the libel action with ITN over Thomas Deichmann’s article on how the Trnopolje story was manipulated. They’ve just run two very good pieces, one on Kosovo that takes a different view and another on Germany’s proposed genocide denial law.

In fact, they have run many good articles on the former Yugoslavia.

~ Aleks

Nebojsa Malic replies:

I have indeed researched ICG’s staff in some depth, and that knowledge forms the basis of my disdain for this “independent think tank” (as mainstream media keep calling it). Thank you for pointing this out, though; it should be known.

I’ve quoted Brendan O’Neill from Spiked before, and have been following their Balkans coverage. Some good stuff there, to be sure.

I want to ask Mr. Malic what books he would recommend covering the wars in the Balkans and the split of Yugoslavia. I am looking for something unbiased and showing the whole picture – not just from one group’s point of view. Any help would be appreciated.

~ Derek VanBrocklin

Nebojsa Malic replies:

I would recommend the books from my 2003 column “The Worthy Balkans Booklist,” as well as the recently published Media Cleansing by Peter Brock.

Is Bombing Iran Bush’s Call?

Pat, you have very clearly exposed the danger, but Bush is unlikely to start an attack out of the blue, and the resolution you advocate won’t solve the problem. H.J. Res. 14 says “Absent a national emergency created by attack by Iran, or a demonstrably imminent attack by Iran, upon the United States, its territories or possessions or its armed forces, the President shall consult with Congress….” So even if it passes it leaves the doors wide open, Bush can still claim “imminent attack” (who defines “imminent”?), or manufacture some border skirmish with Iran and claim actual attack.

Or, Israel could drop the first bombs and when Iran responds Bush will claim U.S. forces in Iraq and our ally Israel is being attacked by Iran, and at that point Congress probably would support that we step in militarily.

Here are two preemptive things I believe Congress could do now that would effectively close some doors.

(1) Take the nuclear option off the table by passing a law that would make it illegal for the president to use nuclear weapons against Iran, or against any non-nuclear-weapon state, in the absence of explicit prior congressional authorization. Under any circumstance, not with the “absent a national emergency” clause. Or it could be added to H.J. Res. 14 without that clause. I believe that may deter Bush from starting any attack against Iran, conventional or otherwise.

(2) Pass a resolution now stating that if Israel starts military action against Iran while this resolution is in effect, the United States will not intervene. I believe that may deter Israel from starting it. Congress could always decide later to annul that resolution if it becomes convinced that Iran is about to acquire nuclear weapons. …

~ Jorge Hirsch

12 Consequences of Attacking Iran

You might have mentioned a 13th consequence: A war with Iran could also cost us the forces we have in Iraq. Our entire Army is supplied over a road that is about 50 miles from the Iranian military base in Khorramshahr, between Basra and Umm Qasr in Iraq, hundreds of miles from the center of U.S. operations in Baghdad. If the Iranians responded to an American attack by counterattacking into Iraq, they could reach the road in a few hours and then proceed to destroy it, cutting off our entire army 300 miles inland (some of the Marines are more like 500 miles from Kuwait, up near the Syrian border). About 90-plus percent of the supplies to our Army run over that road.

If the Iranians responded immediately, they could throw off the entire American campaign against them. The Air Force would be under pressure to bomb their formations in Iraq. This would throw off both the Naval and counter-air campaign, and probably let the Iranian air force get in a few shots of its own. Paradoxically, this would smash the road still further, digging an even deeper hole for the Army and Marines. The Army would be under even greater pressure to respond, since it would be running out of food, ammo, fuel, and water as soon as the last convoy arrived from the south.

The Iranian force would have to be large enough to turn the British out of Basra, preferably without a fight. By invading between Basra and Kuwait with 50-70 thousand troops, they would force the British (about 7,500 troops) to retreat in a roundabout way through the desert into Kuwait. Such a disaster would bring down Blair the way Suez brought down Eden. Once the British were out, the Iranians would occupy and fortify Basra against the American counterattack. They would also rouse the Shi’ite Iraqi south against the Americans, assuring that our troops would run a 300- to 400-mile gauntlet of snipers, IEDs, and other ambushes. Shortages of medical supplies and facilities on such a march would send the casualty rate soaring.

The pressure on the Army in Baghdad would be immense, because the Iranians could render the road unusable for months – they don’t need it for their operations. Sappers and bulldozers would dismantle the highway, rendering it useless until someone re-paved it. With Americans hundreds of miles inland, there would be to little stop them. In effect, the Iranians would be using Eisenhower’s pre-D-Day Transportation Plan, in which the allied air forces smashed the German supply lines into Normandy, but with ground troops instead of the air force. …

Air Force units in Iraq, at bases like Balad, would have to be pulled out because they too would start running out of fuel, spares, munitions, etc., the moment the road is cut. The planes could flown to bases elsewhere in the region pretty quickly, but getting out the ground crews, supplies, munitions, etc., would take days to weeks, and would cut into our ability to conduct air operations – and take up most of our air transport capabilities.

The ground forces in Iraq would have two options, counterattack south or retreat through relatively friendly Kurdish country into Turkey. Because without food, water (one-third of all U.S. supplies by weight consists of bottled water), ammunition, and medical supplies, they are doomed.

~ Edward Furey

Neocons to Iraq: Screw You


You write:

“The U.S. has gained no political or economic advantages from the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Quite the contrary, we are paying through the nose, and the economic costs (totaling some $1 trillion) are almost as high as the political price – world isolation and the threat of terrorism on U.S. soil.”

You are wrong. While the USA as a whole gains nothing, myriad “artificial persons” such as Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, and other defense contractors are profiting immensely from the war. U.S. “elites” – i.e., the investment class – gain a great deal. Additionally, in regard to oil, the Iraqi government just signed away a great deal of their oil proceeds to U.S. and UK energy companies at rates that would be considered thievery in any other Middle Eastern oil-producing country.

There ARE gains, Justin. But the gains are for the few; the losses for the many.

~ Kevin Bart

I totally agree that the prime mover that got us into the Iraq war is the neocons’ notion of Israel’s “security” – and the consequent mobilization of the Israel lobby to that end.

It’s also true that the Iraq war did not benefit America or improve our access to Mideast oil – quite the opposite. So it wasn’t a “war for oil.”

However, if we look at oil company PROFITS, we see that they are up astronomically, due to recent huge oil price increases. These increases are arguably due in large part to (present and future expected) threats to oil supply created by America’s present and future wars of “creative destruction” in Iraq, Iran, and God knows where else.

So in that one sense, it must be admitted that this has certainly turned out to be a war that garnered oil more oil profits (if not more oil) for a few powerful Americans (though not for “America”).

All that said, the Iraq war certainly could not have happened if not for the passionate belief of the politically all-powerful American pro-Israel organizations that such wars are “good for Israel.”

~ Mark Williams

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