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Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Dark Art of Propaganda

Posted on Aug 30, 2011
Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney at the conservative CPAC conference, where he presented former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the ironically named “Defender of the Constitution Award.”

By Amy Goodman

“When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it,” wrote Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s Reich minister of propaganda, in 1941. Former Vice President Dick Cheney seems to have taken the famous Nazi’s advice in his new book, “In My Time.” Cheney remains staunch in his convictions on issues from the invasion of Iraq to the use of torture. Telling NBC News in an interview that “there are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington” as a result of the revelations in the book, Cheney’s memoir follows one by his colleague and friend Donald Rumsfeld. As each promotes his own version of history, there are people challenging and confronting them.

Rumsfeld’s book title, “Known and Unknown,” is drawn from a notorious response he gave in one of his Pentagon press briefings as secretary of defense. In Feb. 12, 2002, attempting to explain the lack of evidence linking Iraq to weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said: “[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Rumsfeld’s cryptic statement gained fame, emblematic of his disdain for reporters. It stands as a symbol of the lies and manipulations that propelled the U.S. into the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.

One person convinced by Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was Jared August Hagemann.

Hagemann enlisted in the Army to serve his country, to confront the threats repeated by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. When the U.S. Army Ranger received the call for his most recent deployment (his wife can’t recall if it was his seventh or eighth), the pressure became too much. On June 28, 2011, 25-year-old Hagemann shot himself on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle. The Pentagon notes that Hagemann died of a “self-inflicted” gunshot wound, but has not yet called it a suicide. 

Hagemann had threatened suicide several times before. He was not alone. Five soldiers reportedly committed suicide at Fort Lewis in July. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 returning troops suffer from PTSD or depression.

Hagemann’s widow, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, found out that Rumsfeld was doing a book signing on the base. On Friday, Aug. 26, she handed Rumsfeld a copy of the program from her late husband’s memorial service. She recounted, “I told him that I wanted him to see my husband, and so he would know—he could put a face with at least one of the soldiers that had lost their lives because of his lies from 9/11.”

I asked her about Rumsfeld’s response: “All I remember is him saying, ‘Oh, I heard about that.’ And after that, all I remember is being bombarded with security personnel and being pushed out and told not to return.” Unfortunately, it’s Staff Sgt. Hagemann who will never return to his wife and two little children.

In his NBC interview, Cheney claimed to have played a role in the January 2005 resignation of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, called the claim “utter nonsense.” More important, though, is Wilkerson’s unflinching call for accountability for those involved in leading the nation to war in Iraq—including punishment for himself. A central pillar of the invasion of Iraq was Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003, speech before the United Nations, which laid out the case of weapons of mass destruction. Wilkerson, who takes full responsibility for coordinating Powell’s address, told me: “It was probably the biggest mistake of my life. I regret it to this day. I regret not having resigned over it.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights and lawyer/blogger Glenn Greenwald are among those who have long called for criminal prosecution of Cheney, Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials. Said Wilkerson, “I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due.”

Wilkerson says Cheney’s book is “written out of fear, fear that one day someone will ‘Pinochet’ Dick Cheney,” referring to the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was arrested in Britain and held for a year before being released. A Spanish judge had wanted him extradited to be tried for crimes against humanity.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and the casualties mount on all sides, the books by Rumsfeld and Cheney remind us once again of war’s first casualty: truth.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2011 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By LocalHero, September 13, 2011 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

Cheney and Rumsfeld deserve to be decently treated.

“They were decently treated. They were decently fed and then they were decently shot. Those men are common outlaws, nothing more.”

(Adapted from “The Outlaw Josey Wales”)

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By Ken, September 2, 2011 at 7:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The corollary of propaganda is self-censorship.  The testimony of then-Secretary of Transportation Norman Minetta that was “omitted” from the 9/11 Commission’s report regarding Cheney’s activities on the morning of September 11, 2001 (c.f. Cover Stories of the People in Charge: Dick Cheney by Jim Hoffman) is one of many factoids linking the Bush Administration to the events of 9/11 that have never been reported on Democracy Now!

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By Sabagio Mauraeno, September 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Propaganda? Origins? Tis American as apple pie. Twas Invented by P.T. Barnum with his observation “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Josef Goebbels built upon Barnum’s approach to hoodwinking the masses with “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

These days a bias-driven, profit-seeking Mediaocracy is easy pickings for those both in and out of power, political as well as economic, anonymous groups of governing coalitions that have mastered the art of managing the news and manipulating the press through regular massaging of the super-inflated egos of the current crop of on-air or in-print Talking(but not Walking)Heads.

Sabagio Mauraeno watching another curtain fall on the….

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By cpb, September 1, 2011 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

@ SoleProp

You are correct - it was US selling the public into WWI
that inspired the Nazis for what they proceeded with
leading into WWII.  To whatever extent they may have
‘improved’ on things, such was noted and subsequently
implemented when the technology of manipulation came full
circle back across the Atlantic.

Google for video’s by Adam Curtis for the BBC.  The Power
of Nightmares is one, I forget the other - both are worth
watching for more in depth history on that topic.

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By bogi666, September 1, 2011 at 4:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That the Repubican Party uses NAZI tactics was admitted by former Repubican National Committee chairman Rollins during a very brief TV interview in the mid 90’s. he was posed the question by the interviewer, “why does the Repubican Party use NAZI style regalia at its demonstrations” to which Rollins replied.“If these tactics worked for the NAZI’S the tactics will work for us[Republicans]. Why wouldn’t we Repubicans use the same tactics[that the NAZI’S] used.” The interviewer wash aghast as was I and asked Rollin if he realized what the question and his reply was and Rollins declared he knew, unabashedly.

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By Sole Prop, August 31, 2011 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment

Lexicron -

Do you have a reference on that? I recall reading,
although I no longer remember the source, that Madison
Avenue in the pre-war period had gone through a rapid
evolution of methods (WWI propaganda comes to mind, but
also in implementing commercial programs) that Goebbels
and his group used in basing and implementing their own
operations. This was some time ago when I read this,
but I would like to get it straight.

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A Bird in the Hand's avatar

By A Bird in the Hand, August 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment

Cheney IS Darth Vader…

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By GW=MCHammered, August 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ah, the man with no heart beat. How incarnate.

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By glider, August 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

>>Wilkerson, who takes full responsibility for coordinating Powell’s address, told me: “It was probably the biggest mistake of my life. I regret it to this day. I regret not having resigned over it.”<<

This is the very sad bit these days.  Whether it is the Administration or the Corporatocracy, employees doing the right thing is not tolerated and many psychological methods are brought to bear to assure that the party line is followed regardless of morality.  Unfortunately, those that don’t cave end up being purged and the problem then grows even worse.

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By Lexicron, August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually, Sole Prop here got it backwards. Madison Ave.
derived most advertising principles from Goebbels via
Ogilvy’s Americanized texts. It’s embarrassing how many
tactics the US adopted from the Third Reich. Very

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By KittyAntonikWakfer, August 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

What to do about Dick Cheney’s memoir? Don’t buy it! Urge others to do the same. Shun it & him too - do no-shows at his appearances!

Instead of high sales and long lines of people seeking his autograph on book copies, even when they don’t like him or his excuses for his actions, let him face scanty book sales and mainly reporters, most of whom will interview anyone.

This is negative Social Preferencing and (along with its positive form towards those providing value) has enormous potential for motivating behavioral change and effecting social order without government. It has received virtually no public media attention and one can reasonably ask, “Why?” Is it to continue the idea that governments are a necessity? I strongly suspect so.

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By Sabagio, August 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

Cheney. Rumsfield. Tweedle dumb and tweedledee. Nixon holdovers.  They still want us to believe that the Watergate Breakin was a good ideal and President Nixon would have led us to a new world order, if only he had not been betrayed by his enemies.

Sabagio Mauraeno home in Decatur Georgia and still puzzled that Dick and Don haven’t dried up and blown away with yesterdays news, and hoping if they do that Pat Buchannan , George Will and John McGlaughlin will soon follow.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, August 31, 2011 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

RE: Democracy Now - listen to Don Debar @ 3:20 in this interview where he
discusses the orchestrated demonization of Qaddafi in the media (DN included) -
listen to the entire interview to get a more honest picture of the Libya NATO
regime change operation!

visit this site to learn what no MSM will reveal in the MSM

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Sole Prop's avatar

By Sole Prop, August 31, 2011 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

I believe Goebbels propaganda machine was based on
earlier techniques developed and implemented on Madison
Avenue for commercial interests. I’d say “what goes
around comes around” (to bite you) except I’d argue
it’s never left our shores for a minute in these years

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By felicity, August 31, 2011 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

Dick’s partner in crime, Rumsfeld (his silliness with
the knowns and unknowns, obviously in devotion to that
disjointed pop-philosopher, Miss Rand) were ‘known’ as
far back as the Reagan Administration as “the crazies.”

Who can forget Rumsfeld’s (in)famous no-show WMD’s -
“Absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence.”  Is
there a person on the planet who believes otherwise? 
Mr. Rumsfeld does.

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By Mad Rabbit, August 31, 2011 at 9:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would like to address the poem below, written by Yeats in Ireland nearly a century ago, to our politicians, pundits, and ideologues. While the problems of cynical manipulation, abuse of power, and corruption in politics are precisely as old as politics itself, it is to all of our great shame that we assent to its continuation in an ostensibly democratic society, and especially in one as civilized as our purports to be. Forgive me if I am inclined to remain skeptical regarding the hope of progress in these matters.


They must to keep their certainty accuse
All that are different of a base intent;
Pull down established honor; hawk for news
Whatever their loose fantasy invent
And murmur it with bated breath, as though
The abounding gutter had been Helicon
Or calumny a song. How can they know
Truth flourishes where the student’s lamp has shone,
And there alone, that have no solitude?
So the crowd come they care not what may come.
They have loud music, hope every day renewed
And heartier loves; that lamp is from the tomb.

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By James Lee Pridmore, August 31, 2011 at 9:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jacob Bronowski once termed war “Organized Theft.” What is ultimately stolen is the people’s power and trust in representaive political efficacy as democratically efficacious.At the best of times in a dual system….economic oligarchy and limited democratic-representative political dynamics, it is difficult to sustain the people’s involvment in the policy decisions that they must feel the consequences of. It becomes nearly impossible with war-corporate profiteering agendas dictating “no-bid” secret policies under the guise of war response.

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By thecrow, August 31, 2011 at 6:53 am Link to this comment

“Dark art” is not hyperbole, btw:

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peterjkraus's avatar

By peterjkraus, August 31, 2011 at 4:38 am Link to this comment

Since Nixon, with the possible exception
of Jimmy Carter, all administrations have
stuck to the Nazi playbook. They lied big,
and they stuck by it. Why not? It worked
for Germany, which, because of the Big
Lie, lost a large part of its territory,
an enormous number of its citizens, and
ultimately its soul. Divided for almost
fifty years, it learned its lesson. Will

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, August 31, 2011 at 4:23 am Link to this comment

Why was Donny outside the Pentagon playing paramedic for a photo op instead of doing his job in the NMCC while an unknown number of attackers were still in the air?

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, August 31, 2011 at 4:09 am Link to this comment

Dick’s been a bad boy.

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By thecrow, August 31, 2011 at 4:02 am Link to this comment

“Corporate mass media not only allowed the lies but in fact promoted them, silenced critiques and allowed no journalistic investigation. All driven by their owners, the military industrial complex, those that profited by the murders committed all based upon unnecessary wars driven by empty propaganda.”

Aye. Well-spoken, Robert.

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By Michael Shaw, August 31, 2011 at 3:58 am Link to this comment

I can’t believe these scathing attacks on Amy Goodman. She is one of the few truth Sayers out there. Then again, perhaps that’s why she is attacked!?!

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By morris, August 31, 2011 at 1:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

- Hermann Goering

Nazi war Criminal, Hitlers deputy

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By blogdog, August 30, 2011 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

RE: The Big Lie (as per Goebbles, Cheney, et al); seems NATO has learned it well. After blasting a
path from the sea to the city with bombers and strafing choppers for their Maiden Dawn
amphibious force to come blazing their way through residential neighborhoods into the center of
Tripoli, and activating numerous sleeper cells to start randomly executing citizens, while blaring
battle sound tracks through commandeered minaret PAs; within 24 hours, through the global MSM,
they’d declared VICTORY over the Qadaffi regime and full control of Tripoli.

A total lie. Yet, an essential one in their full-on propaganda war to cement a VICTORY before
NATO’s UN Mandate’s Sept. expiration. A lie so blatant, they had to support it with fake Green Square media footage, shot on a mach set in Doah Qatar; which Al Jazeera (MI6 puppet) showed all over the Arab world and beyond.

Just weeks before NATO’s blatant violation of its UN Mandate and Propaganda Coup de Main, roughly a
million citizens of Tripoli had turned out to voice support of the Qadaffi regime; yet, it never made
the global MSM -

Simply put: Goebbles lives on as a prime force in the hegemonic agenda of the global finance
oligarchy - as anyone who has seriously studied this whole NATO operation knows - it was not for
any humanitarian issue (the big pretext lie) - it was because Libya had developed as a self-
determinant state apart from the IMF and Central Banking dominant paradigm; and, more
importantly, had initiated a program to help Africa develop along similar lines.

Plainly and simply: intolerable to the global finance oligarchy - so, they had to attack, with brute force - NATO are war criminals, par excellence!

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By david451, August 30, 2011 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment

@ cpb

It was never awkward for me.  And, of course you’re correct, our oxcarts and rowboats had no bearing on the outcome.  But be assured, Bush was pissed that Jean showed some backbone. The “coalition of the willing” was really the “coalition of fall in line” — I know this from a brief exchange I had with Lawrence Wilkerson.

My point in raising that little bit of in-your-face-George was to highlight the willingness on the part of Harper to play supplicant, and also to signal the extent to which the Straussian philosophy has taken root up here.

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By cpb, August 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment

To put the differences in perspective, the CDN boys are coming home just as effed up with PTSD etc… as their fellows who arrive from Iraq.

I do find it highly fortunate that, by that policy, they don’t have to come home having spent months breathing in depleted uranium.

And while we’re arguing about Amy, I think it fair to say that she does a pretty determined job of ‘trying’ to bring more attention to the plight of returning soldiers, the scope of their tragedies, the statistics, including suicides, the callous treatment of broken veterans, etc. etc. etc…  all of which escape the MSM.

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By cpb, August 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm Link to this comment

@ david451

“Former Prime Minister Chretien was one of the few of sound mind after 9/11 in his refusal to engage in Iraq.  Alas, his like is now gone from our national scene.”

Yeah I felt awkwardly and inappropriatley proud of that one too for awhile.  I don’t make too much of it anymore though.  His stance was fine with the boys down south, our oxcarts and rowboats wouldn’t have helped much in Iraq anyway.  Chretien got to save face and we got to go to Afghanistan.  It’s all the same Global War on Terror remember.

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By david451, August 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment

Cheers to Robespierre115.  The comments regarding Ms Goodman are spot on.

Here in Canada, I have yet to find a rational explanation as to why are we in Libya (and, until recently, in Afghanistan).  There is, of course, no rational explanation, but that it suits those in power (here, that would be Stephen Harper).  Former Prime Minister Chretien was one of the few of sound mind after 9/11 in his refusal to engage in Iraq.  Alas, his like is now gone from our national scene.

Since I’m on a binge of all things Canuck, please access the post from Professor Shadia Drury and her commentary on Leo Strauss, the Noble Lie, and perpetual war, .  Seems now even our gentle country is not immune from the efficacy of the Big Lie.


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By Robert, August 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cheney, Rumsfeld et al, were the liars, the professional deceivers but at the end of the day, they were still nothing but psychopaths serving their own greed and, would have managed very little damage had it not been for their facilitators.
Corporate mass media not only allowed the lies but in fact promoted them, silenced critiques and allowed no journalistic investigation. All driven by their owners, the military industrial complex, those that profited by the murders committed all based upon unnecessary wars driven by empty propaganda.
You can point at the public image of psychopathy, those that spoke the words but behind them is another layer of hidden corporate executives and major share holders, all bathed in the blood of innocents in their insane drive for more profit and their lust to have power over their peoples lives, the power to have them randomly, indifferently executed.

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By cpb, August 30, 2011 at 7:27 pm Link to this comment

@ Robespierre115, August 30 at 7:51

“Goodman can talk about propaganda when she stops inviting pro-war “liberal” Juan Cole on her show to discuss Libya.”

I agree that there is hypocrisy apparent.  But there is much we don’t know about walking the fine line that I believe AG has to walk to some extent.  And on behalf of us all I request permission to be wrong on occasion.

Goodman most certainly can talk about propaganda.  That ‘you’ve got to be part of it in order to broadcast it’, is not her fault.  I know many ‘Diggers have issues with Amy, and good points are often made, but given a choice between the imperfections of DemNow and it not existing, I’ll stomach the compromise.

TDig gets a rap on these same pages daily, but we’re here aren’t we?  Why do you suppose that is?  Or does it matter?  We are here.  And look what we have to put up with?  Clap-trappers, dogmatic know-it-alls, religious mongers and haters, armchair economists, digital immigrants that can’t type FOR SCREAMING, and digital natives that can’t spell, tin-foil hats and sand-bucket hats, trolls and all (damn those phreaking trolls). 

Not quite the truth, and usually not digging deep enough often enough.  We’re still here.


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By cpb, August 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

Justice.  JUSTICE!  justice?

Give us Justice!!!


Blindness isn’t her only disability.

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By Robespierre115, August 30, 2011 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

Goodman can talk about propaganda when she stops inviting pro-war “liberal” Juan Cole on her show to discuss Libya.

Today’s Counterpunch asks why Goodmand Democracy Now promote Cole’s “humanitarian imperialism.”


Whither the Left on the Question of Intervention?

None of this is all too surprising given Cole’s status as a “humanitarian” hawk.  But it is outrageous that he is so often called on by Democracy Now for his opinion.  One of his appearances there was in a debate on the unconstitutional war in Libya, with CounterPunch’s estimable Vijay Prashad taking the antiwar side and Cole prowar.  It would seem strange for the left to have to debate the worth of an imperial intervention.  Certainly if one goes back to the days of the Vietnam War there were teach-ins to inform the public of the lies of the U.S. government and the truth about what was going on in Vietnam.  But let us give Democracy Now the benefit of the doubt and say that the debate was some sort of consciousness raising effort.  Why later on invite as a frequent guest a man who was the pro-war voice in the debate?  That is a strange choice indeed.

This writer does not get to listen to Democracy Now every day.  But I have not heard a full-throated denunciation of the war on Libya from host or guests.  Certainly according to a search on the DN web site, Cynthia McKinney did not appear as a guest nor Ramsey Clark after their courageous fact finding tour to Libya.  There was only one all out denunciation of the war – on the day when the guests were Rev. Jesse Jackson and Vincent Harding who was King’s speechwriter on the famous speech “Beyond Vietnam” in 1967 in which King condemned the U.S. war on Vietnam.  Jackson and the wise and keenly intelligent Harding were there not to discuss Libya but to discuss the MLK Jr. monument.  Nonetheless Jackson and Harding made clear that they did not like the U.S. war in Libya one bit, nor the militarism it entails.

If one reads, or The American Conservative, one knows that one is reading those who are anti-interventionist on the basis of principle.  With Democracy Now and kindred progressive outlets, it’s all too clear where a big chunk of the so-called “left” stands, especially since the advent of Obama.  In his superb little book Humanitarian Imperialism Jean Bricmont criticizes much of the left for falling prey to advocacy of wars, supposedly based on good intentions.  And Alexander Cockburn has often pointed out that many progressives are actually quite fond of “humanitarian” interventionism.  Both here and in Europe this fondness seems to be especially true of Obama’s latest war, the war on Libya .  It is little wonder that the “progressives” are losing their antiwar following to Ron Paul and the Libertarians who are consistent and principled on the issue of anti-interventionism.

Democracy Now, quo vadis?  Wherever you are heading, you would do well to travel without Juan Cole and his friends.

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By Mike Lenkowski, August 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry to remark on these guys but they are professional liars… I appreciate their expertise to say the least!

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