February 17th, 2006


My feelings exactly.

Clinton on the cartoons of Mohammed:

"I strongly disagree with the creation and publication of cartoons that are considered blasphemous by the Muslims around the world. . . I thought it was a mistake."

I didn't see the point in passing along the cartoons, in part because they were a stupid publicity whoring stunt, and in part because they were neither humorous nor illuminating. Incidentally, I don't feel the least bit of responsibility to pass along anti-semetic cartoons in my blog either, even if they suddenly become "newsworthy" according to some. I absolutely defend the right for these cartoons to be created and for their artists to create them without fear of Rushdie-like jihads, but I thought it was a stupid thing for a public newspaper with a large Islamic constituency to intentionally comission a series of cartoons which mocked and violated the religious beliefs of many of their readers. I mean, how dumb is that?

Many of these so-called conservatives spreading the comics in question are actually radical fundamentalists with a profound lack of tolerance for other races and religions. They're often the same people who wanted to ban Harry Potter because of witchcraft, or who wanted to burn Dixie Chicks albums and force them off the radio because they spoke out against Bush. Really, if these people really loved free speech and our Constitution, you'd think that they would've elected a president who would actually support and defend those rights.

Seems to me that all these people were doing was defending the right of the Right to use the mainstream media as a place for racebaiting, religious and ethnic slurs, and other forms of media that appeals to their own worst natures... but if you show them pictures of Abu Ghraib, and of the dehumanization that occurs when we treat Iraqis with the an open expression of the kind of hatred and racism that people like Coultier and O'Reilly like to encourage, well, that's just wrong.

It's funny to see so many conservatives jumping to the defense of a newspaper's right to intentionally offend followers of the Islam, but if Walmart inadvertently tells people "Happy Holidays!" instead of "Merry Christmas!", you'd better watch out. *THAT"S* a far more accurate and apt comparison of the hypocracy going on here than whether a paper that published pictures from Abu Ghraib also republished pictures of the cartoons in question. It's certainly a far more hypocritical situation than for a major publication to avoid needlessly offending many of their readers, while still pointing out that the Abu Ghraib scandal was far more serious than we were initially led to believe. Torture. Murder. Sexual abuse. Inhuman treatment...Nobody dares to call it a frat prank anymore.

Keep in mind the initial pictures from Abu Ghraib didn't have dead bodies, or horrible wounds, or pictures of Iraqi women forced to expose their breasts, or large pools of blood, or video of horribly shamed Iraqi prisoners forced to masturbate in front of a camera. What we got originally was Abu Ghraib lite. What we have now is something closer to the full reality, but still, we know from the Taguba Report that there is either video or photographic evidence of Iraqi women being forced to have sex with guards, of Iraqi teens being forceably sodomized... and, behind it all, there are sworn statements saying that Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo, was sent by Rumsfeld and/or Gen. Sanchez to Gitmoize Abu Ghraib, forcing military police to abandon the regular bounds of their training and "soften up" prisoners before interrogation, blurring the distinctions between random suspects, petty criminals, legitimate prisoners of war and terrorist combattants, and telling the guards at Abu Ghraib to treat the prisoners "like dogs". They were treated like dogs, alright.

So, why publish pictures from Abu Ghraib instead? Easy. Because the public has a right to know what was done in their name, and has a right -- and even an obligation -- to hold their government accountable.

In early March, George W. Bush is scheduled to visit Pakistan, despite the high level of unrest. Under the circumstances, this seems far more inflammatory and unnecessary to me than releasing Abu Ghraib photos. I look forward to the same Republcans who denouced the Abu Ghraib photos as needlessly inflammatory commenting on the wisdom of having such a trip at this time.

Rumsfeld declares war on the media.

Citing a new communications era of "E-mail; Blogs; Blackberries; Instant messaging; Digital cameras; A global Internet with no inhibitions; Cell phones; Hand held video cameras; Talk radio; 24 hours news broadcasts; and Satellite television," Donald Rumsfeld announced that the military must extend today's conflicts and those of the future into the realm of the media.

"What complicates the ability to respond quickly is that, unlike our enemies, which propagate lies with impunity -- with no penalty whatsoever -- our government does not have the luxury of relying on other sources for information -- anonymous or otherwise. Our government has to be the source. And we tell the truth."

Except, of course, when they don't and they get caught. What I think he means to say is that "we create the truth", a la the Ministry of Truth. In any event, I'm a private citizen. I should have the right to spread the truth, and lies, and any information I want within reason, "with no penalty whatever", except to my reputation.

That, ultimately, is the real battleground here... one of reputation and perception. And if the Department of Defense is losing that battle, I would suggest that it has something to do with them not being a reliable, credible, fair source of balanced information. The expectations are higher for them to be credible, but they don't seem to realize that point. In fact, Rumsfeld's speech seems to ignore that aspect entirely, and ignore the lessons that the DoD should've learned from this conflict thus far.

As he states:
"In Iraq, for example, the U.S. military command, working closely with the Iraqi government and the United States Embassy, has sought non-traditional means to provide accurate information to the Iraqi people in the face of the aggressive campaign of disinformation.

Yet this has been portrayed as inappropriate -- for example, the allegations of “buying news” in Iraq. The resulting explosion of critical press stories then causes everything -- all activity, all initiative -- to stop.

Even worse, it leads to a “chilling effect” for those who are asked to serve in the military public affairs field.

The conclusion is drawn that there is no tolerance for innovation, much less any human error that could conceivably be seized upon by a press that seems to demand perfection from the government, but does not apply the same standard to the enemy or even sometimes to themselves."

I guess people expect more from their governments than they do from insurgents. They don't expect their government to subvert -- or attack -- media organizations, bribe reporters, etc. Is that wrong? I don't think so.

Rumsfeld's answer to this previous failure?
"Engaging experts from both within and outside of government to help to communicate. . . Developing and executing multifaceted media campaigns -- print, radio, television and Internet."

In other words, more of the same. Bribing reporters, bloggers, etc. A PR disaster in the making.

We get it. He, however, does not. We're all going to have to pay for it, however.