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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Friday, 3 June 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

The Uses of The Past: Who Cares?

Wednesday in Paying Attention: What’s News and What Isn’t you would find this:

So now we know who Deep Throat was.

Fine.

So?

And nothing more was said. You can watch all the commentary on the cable news shows, and read the web logs and newspaper and magazine analyses, but really, does this matter?

Yes and no. You might drop by Whiskey Bar where Billmon offers us all this - Sore Throat - which is good.

Sample?
Anonymous whistleblowers have become little more than curious anachronisms, as likely to turn out to be bumbling fools or cynical disinformation artists (paging Michael Isikoff) as dedicated civil servants wiling to risk their careers to save the Republic.

The Republic is rather obviously beyond saving now -- even George Lucas understands that. Which is why the self-outing of Mark Felt had about as much relevance to our current slow motion coup d'etat as a late-night cable rerun of All the President's Men.
Agreed.

But this cheered me up -
… reading all the liberal pundits and bloggers moaning and groaning about the death of investigative reporting, and the pusillanimity of the corporate media, and the pure Nixonian evil of the Bush administration, and the crying need for more hero-patriots like Mark Felt, made me feel like screaming Buster Keaton's anti-nostalgia line from Limelight: "If one more person tells me this is just like ol' times, I swear I'll jump out the window."

The truth is that we do have heroic whistleblowers such as Mark Felt today. Their names are Richard Clarke and Sibel Edmonds and Ray McGovern and Scott Ritter -- and even Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury Secretary.

You want well-placed anonymous sources? How about the military officers who fed CBS and Sy Hersh their Abu Ghraib scoops, or the lawyers in the Judge Advocate General's office who spilled the beans on the torture memos, or whoever leaked the Downing Street memo.

You want ordinary Joes and Janes willing to risk the wrath of the powers to do what's right? How about the enlisted man who walked into the Army IG's office in Baghdad and told them the Marquis de Sade was making house calls at Abu Ghraib prison, or the Pentagon auditors who refused to sign off on the Halliburton payola, or the former detainees and the families in Afghanistan who risked their lives -- not just their careers -- by talking to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

You say we need indefatigable investigators, willing to follow the truth no matter where it leads? How about General Taguba or the International Red Cross or the ACLU lawyers who've been using the Freedom of Information Act to pry out far more information than I thought we would ever know about the inner workings of the Guantanamo gulag. you could even throw in David Kay -- the WMD true believer who tried mightly to prove Bush's case, but finally accepted and admitted that the primary rationale for the Iraq invasion was completely false.
So, the age of heroes – or some people doing the right thing - is not over. It is nice to be reminded of that.

But Billmon – just to be clear - does say justice has not been done, and isn't likely to be done in our lifetimes. Why?
- Bush's crimes are more deeply embedded in his presidential war powers than Nixon's were (although heaven knows Nixon also tried to hide behind those same powers.)

-One party rule has choked off investigations armed with the subpoena power to go where journalists and the ACLU cannot tread.

- The administration's cunning use of extra-territoriality and military secrecy has made it vastly harder for any would-be Judge Siricas to pierce the veil of executive privilege.

- Last but hardly least, the weapons of information warfare in the Bush White House propaganda armory are infinitely more subtle, powerful and effective than the Nixon stonewall. Or, as Salon puts it: The Bush administration has developed so many ways of manipulating information that anonymous sourcing would now be of little use. Secret "military" tribunals, indefinite detention without charge, torture, kidnapping, dressing up official press releases as news stories for complicit publishers -- these all make the Watergate coverup seem quaint.
Well, all you can do is keep plugging away.

Go read the whole thing.

And consider this –

Federal Court Orders Government to Turn Over Videos and Photos Showing Detainee Abuse
ACLU Press Release, June 2, 2005
NEW YORK -- A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to turn over dozens of photographs and four movies depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"These images may be ugly and shocking, but they depict how the torture was more than the actions of a few rogue soldiers," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The American public deserves to know what is being done in our name. Perhaps after these and other photos are forced into the light of day, the government will at long last appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the torture and abuse of detainees."

The court order came in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights to obtain documents and materials pertaining to the treatment of detainees held by American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Attorneys for the government had argued that turning over visual evidence of abuse would violate the United States’ obligations under the Geneva Conventions, but the ACLU said that obscuring the faces and identifiable features of the detainees would erase any potential privacy concerns. The court agreed.

"It is indeed ironic that the government invoked the Geneva Conventions as a basis for withholding these photographs," said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney at the ACLU. "Had the government genuinely adhered to its obligations under these Conventions, it could have prevented the widespread abuse of detainees held in its custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay." …
It is indeed ironic?

Irony is all we have left these days.

__

Late comment ?

From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
These times, I fear, will not be looked back upon as "the good old days."

What this country had going for it back in the Golden Age of Watergate was a pack of politicians inside the beltway who were -- probably through rampant naivete, I suspect -- afraid that if they got caught on the obviously wrong side of scandal, the public would "throw the bums out". Today, unfortunately for the rest of us, those who strut through those hallowed halls of power in Washington are much more sophisticated than that about what they can get away with.

Back then, if you had irony on your side, you also had hope. But nowadays, if all you got is irony, you ain't got jack.
Perhaps so.

Irony? a sense of the absurd?.

Note that Peggy Noonan here and Pat Buchanan here and Rush Limbaugh here and Ben Stein here each blame Mark Felt for the genocide in Cambodia - because he assisted those investigating Watergate.

Had Nixon remained president? No killing fields. That?s obvious, isn?t it?

I myself think if it were not for Mark Felt undermining Nixon, Roberto Clemente would still be alive today. Damn that "Deep Throat" guy!

The gods of irony are smiling.

__


Footnote:

Henry Porter is the London editor of Vanity Fair, the publication that revealed who this Deep Throat person actually was. In the June 4 issue of the Guardian (UK) you will find his comments on this business and on the press over here - A study in emasculation: In the US media, a mission to explain has been replaced by a mission to avoid. The title says it all.

Excerpt?
? I visit the States three or four times a year, and watching the television news in hotel rooms in the last three years has been like witnessing a time-lapse study of emasculation. It's not just the unbearable lightness of purpose in most news shows; it's the sense that everyone is rather too mindful of the backstairs influence of the White House in companies such as Viacom and News Corporation that own the TV news. The anchorman Dan Rather, for example, was eased out by Viacom - CBS's owner - after he wrongly made allegations about the president's time in the Texas Air National Guard. It was not a mistake that required his head on a platter.

The result of this climate of fear and caution is that few Americans have any idea of the circumstances in which 1,600 of their countrymen have lost their lives in Iraq, the hideous injuries suffered by both Iraqi and American victims of suicide bombers, or even the profound responsibility that lies with Rumsfeld for mishandling practically every facet of the occupation. The mission to explain has been replaced by the mission to avoid. If today there was a whistleblower as well-placed, heroically brave and strategic as Mark Felt, one wonders whether he would now find the outlet that Felt did at the Washington Post between 1972 and 1974.
Of course, Porter is right, and the item contrasts what Felt and Woodward and Bernstein did with the new policy at Newsweek in the aftermath of the Koran-was-really-not-in-the-toilet scandal. Newsweek will now not use confidential sources - especially those "reliable" confidential sources that after you publish say that now they are no longer sure of the information they gave you ? except in extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of the managing editor and the corporation that owns the publication and is responsible for profit or loss - that is, responsible for shareholder value.

No more of this Deep Throat business.

Porter suggests no one now seems to possess "an elementary understanding of the sacred duty of the press, which, however dishonored and ignored, is to watch government and make it answerable when the processes of democracy are corrupted by politics and the self-interest of politicians."

Putting aside this "sacred duty" business ? the word "sacred" may be a stretch ? and whether or not Felt was "heroically brave and strategic" or merely ticked off at being passed over for promotion ? the point is investigative journalism has become bad business. It involves far too much risk to the shareholders.

So that?s where we are now.

Posted by Alan at 19:25 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 4 June 2005 08:00 PDT home

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