While the U.S. government persists with a bombing campaign that shows every sign of resulting in mass starvation, the president urges the young people of the United States to send in dollar bills — "to join in a special effort to
help the children of Afghanistan." Relief workers haveâ€¦called the food drops "absolute nonsense."
The Pentagon’s air drops of food parcels and President Bush’s plea for
American children to aid Afghan kids with dollar bills will go down in
history as two of the most cynical maneuvers of media manipulation in the
early 21st century.
Many U.S. news outlets have been eager to play along. A New York Times
editorial proclaimed that "Mr. Bush has wisely made providing humanitarian
assistance to the Afghan people an integral part of American strategy." Four
days later, on Oct. 12, the same newspaper still had nothing but praise for
the U.S. government’s food aid charades: "His reaffirmation of the need for
humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan — including donations from
American children — seemed heartfelt."
While thousands of kids across the United States stuff dollar bills into
envelopes and mail them to the White House, the U.S. government continues a
bombing campaign that is accelerating the momentum of mass starvation in
Relief workers have voiced escalating alarm. Jonathan Patrick, an official
with the humanitarian aid group Concern, minced no words. He called the food
drops "absolute nonsense."
"What we need is 20-ton trucks in huge convoys going across the border all
the time," said Patrick, based in Islamabad. But when the bombing began, the
truck traffic into Afghanistan stopped.
In tandem with the bombing campaign, the U.S. government launched a PR blitz
about its food-from-the-sky effort. But the Nobel-winning French
organization Doctors Without Borders has charged that the gambit is
"virtually useless and may even be dangerous." One aid group after another
echoes the assessment.
The U.S. has been dropping 37,000 meals a day on a
country where several million Afghans face the imminent threat of
starvation. Some of the food, inevitably, is landing on minefields.
The food drops began on Sunday, Oct. 7, simultaneous with the start of the
bombing. "As of Thursday, a Pentagon spokeswoman said more than 137,000 of
the yellow-packaged rations had been dropped," the Knight-Ridder News
Service reported on Oct. 12. "International aid organization officials say,
however, that around 5 million Afghans are in danger of starvation because
the nation’s borders are sealed and food supplies are diminishing by the
day — meaning that only a tiny percentage of the hungry are receiving the
U.S. food." The borders are sealed because of the continuous bombing.
Avowedly, the main targets of the bombing are the people in the bin Laden
network and their Taliban supporters. But the rhetorical salvoes will be
understood, all too appropriately, in wider contexts. "We will root them out
and starve them out," Rumsfeld said, just before closing a news conference
with a ringing declaration: "We are determined not to be terrorized."
Supposedly, bombing Afghanistan is going to make us safer back here in the
USA. But as soon as the attacks began on Oct. 7, the FBI called for
heightened alerts across the United States — because the risk of another
deadly attack in this country had just increased. What’s wrong with this
Unlike the media herd, longtime foreign correspondent Robert Fisk is
exploring key questions. "President Bush says this is a war between good and
evil," he writes in the London-based Independent newspaper. "You are either
with us or against us. But that’s exactly what bin Laden says. Isn’t it
worth pointing this out and asking where it leads?"
Fisk asks other questions that aren’t ready for prime time: "Why are we
journalists falling back on the same sheep-like conformity that we adopted
in the 1991 Gulf War and the 1999 Kosovo war? … Is there some kind of
rhetorical fog that envelopes us every time we bomb someone?"
In its Oct. 12 editorial, headlined "Mr. Bush’s New Gravitas," the New York
Times concluded that the current president is providing exactly the kind of
leadership we need: "As he reflected on the sorrow, compassion and
determination that have swept the country since those horrifying hours on
the morning of Sept. 11, he seemed to be a leader whom the nation could
follow in these difficult times."
Among the leadership qualities most appreciated by editorial writers is the
Bush administration’s aptitude for shameless propaganda. While the Pentagon
keeps dropping tons of bombs, it scatters some meals to the winds. While the
U.S. government persists with a bombing campaign that shows every sign of
resulting in mass starvation, the president urges the young people of the
United States to send in dollar bills — "to join in a special effort to
help the children of Afghanistan."
*** Note to readers of "Media Beat": If you’d like to see Norman Solomon’s
syndicated column appear in a local daily newspaper, you can help– by
contacting the opinion-page editors of papers in your area and urging that
they give the column a try. Editors can make arrangements by phoning
Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles or by sending an email note to
[ also see related links:
Author: Norman Solomon
News Service: FAIR Media Beat – Oct. 12, 2001