Rabid Journalists and Pundits Push Bush to Extremes

As the Bush administration rapidly expands law enforcement power and national security authority, a phalanx of white male commentators with magazines of opinion like the New Republic and the Weekly Standard have become a steady bellicose chorus, flirting with macabre doomsday scenarios. Their voices urge the administration to escalate the battle beyond Afghanistan and to use more force.

As the Bush administration rapidly expands law enforcement power and national security authority, a phalanx of white male commentators with magazines of opinion like the New Republic and the Weekly Standard have become a steady bellicose chorus, flirting with macabre doomsday scenarios. Their voices urge the administration to escalate the battle beyond Afghanistan and to use more force.

By calling for Bush to step up the war effort, curtail civil liberties, consider torture, and imagine the deaths of tens of millions of Muslims, these writers and TV personalities have dominated the intellectual debate. By grossly distorting the positions of critics, they have helped to give Bush a free ride and undermine healthy discourse.

It used to be that the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed page was the most reactionary and predictable of the national print press. But it now has stiff competition, as Michael Massing notes in the Nation: “Since September 11th, the Washington Post Op-Ed page has been a playpen for columnist-commanders. No fewer that seven regular contributors compete to offer the toughest, manliest views on the conflict.”

Massing adds that the most ferocious of the bellicose boys writing for the Post is Charles Krauthammer, who expresses “contempt for the administration’s food drops and concern for civilian casualties.”

War expansion is a major goal of the belligerent bunch, and now a defacto goal of the Post, “since the paper has run at least a dozen columns demanding the overthrow of Sadaam Hussein, yet not a single one has bothered to consider how daunting the task might be,” writes Massing. Nor has the Post considered what an attack on Iraq’s impact might be on civilian populations.

The far-right hysteria put forth by these militants of the chattering class strengthens the position of the right in the Bush administration. One result, for example is Bush’s support of the Ashcroft plan for the establishment of kangaroo military courts to jail or execute non-Americans.

President Bush admitted that this plan would involve “dismissing the principles of law and the rules of evidence” that provide the foundation for the U.S. legal system.

As conservative columnist William Safire explains in the NY Times, the Bush kangaroo court can conceal evidence by citing national security and make up its own rules. It can find a defendant guilty even if a third of the officers disagree, and execute the alien with no review by any civilian court.

In an Orwellian twist, Bush’s order calls this Soviet style abomination : “a full and fair trial.”

Fox News Network the most conservative of the cable news operations has also sounded a steady pro-war drumbeat. Here’s their star prime-time “go to guy,” Bill O’Reilly: “The US should bomb the Afghan infrastructure to rubble — the airport, the power plants, their water facilities, the roads.

“The Afghans are responsible for the Taliban. We should not target civilians, but if they don’t rise up against this criminal government, they starve, period.”

Perhaps the most disturbing of the B-Boy habits is their uncontrolled lust for revenge — revenge for the actual events of 9/11 and for theoretical future attacks. In fact, doomsday scenarios, like terrorists exploding a nuclear bomb in D.C. seem to have been conjured up by the writers themselves to instill fear and justify their positions.

It is difficult to grasp the depths of pent-up, vengeful emotions that have been unleashed by the terrorists attack in September. It is astonishing, that these pundits can make no meaningful distinction between hated despots and the population they oppress. “If the terrorists are Muslims, then all Muslims must pay,” seems to be the credo.

With their belligerence, and with the cooperation of their editors , they have shifted the debate so far to the right that any sensible critic gets labeled a pacifist or even a traitor.

It truly seems like a dark time for debate and dissent in America. Many patriotic critics, who offer complex, nuanced responses, have been shut out of the discourse, despite their willingness to promote military response.

Author: Don Hazen

News Service: AlterNet – November 21, 2001

URL: http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11952