and its sequel, Matrix Reloaded, offer a useful analogy for anyone
trying to make sense of the chasm that has opened between whats real
and what Americans perceive is real. Like the science-fiction world of the
two movies, a false reality is being pulled daily over peoples eyes,
often through what they see and hear on their TV screens. Facts have lost
value. Logic rarely applies.
Some living in this American Matrix are like
the everyday people in the movies, simply oblivious to whats going on
beneath the surface, either too busy or too bored to find out. Others
appear to know better but behave like Cipher, the character in the
original movie who chooses the fake pleasures of the Matrix over what
Morpheus calls the desert of the real.
Many Americans so enjoyed the TV-driven nationalism
of the Iraq War, for instance, that they didnt want it spoiled by
reality. During the conflict, they objected to news outlets showing
mangled bodies or wounded children or U.S. POWs. Presenting the ugly face
of war was seen as unpatriotic or somehow disloyal to the troops.
Only positive images were welcome and dissent was deemed almost
Now, even as U.S. forces in Iraq slide closer to the
guerrilla-war quagmire that some skeptics predicted, Americans continue to
say they trust George W. Bush to handle the situation. Some military
analysts close to the Bush administration are beginning to feel
differently, however. Were hanging on by our fingernails, one
told me recently.
But Americans still prefer to feel good about the
war. They want to believe that the U.S. invasion was just, and that Saddam
Hussein really was poised to use weapons of mass destruction. By large
majorities, Americans either believe that these weapons have already been
found or they dont care that the Bush administration may have misled
The Disputed Labs
For its part, the U.S. news media from Fox News
to the New York Times repeatedly trumpeted supposed weapons
discoveries, only to play down later stories showing that the original
reports were bogus. The only evidence Bush now cites is the discovery of
two mobile labs that the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency insist could
be used for producing biological weapons.
Those who say we havent found the banned
manufacturing devices or banned weapons are wrong, Bush declared,
referring to the mobile labs. We found them. [Washington Post, May
Yet, the U.S. intelligence analysis of these labs is
more a piece of the American Matrix than a dispassionate examination of
the evidence. The report reads like one more example of selective
intelligence, which spurns plausible alternatives if they dont fit
Bushs political needs.
In this case, the Bush administration, which said for
months that the Iraqi weapons secrets would be revealed once U.S. forces
captured and questioned Iraqs top scientists, now doesnt like what
those scientists are saying. When questioned, the captured scientists said
the labs were used to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons.
In the CIA-DIA report, U.S. analysts agreed that
hydrogen production was a plausible explanation for the labs. Some of
the features of the trailer a gas collection system and the presence
of a caustic are consistent with both bio-production and hydrogen
production, the CIA-DIA report said. The plants design possibly
could be used to produce hydrogen using a chemical reaction.
The report also noted that preliminary sample
analysis results are negative for five standard BW agents, including bacillus
anthracis, and for growth media for those agents. Also missing are
companion mobile labs that would be needed to prepare and sterilize the
media and to concentrate and possibly dry the agent, before the agent is
ready for introduction into a delivery system, such as bulk-filled
munitions, the CIA-DIA report said.
In other words, U.S. intelligence analysts found no
evidence that these labs had been used to make biological weapons or that
the two labs alone could produce weaponized BW agents. But that was
obviously the wrong answer.
Arguing the Issue
So the CIA-DIA analysis veered off into an
argumentative direction. The report asserted that the labs would be
inefficient for producing hydrogen because their capacity is
larger than typical units for hydrogen production for weather
balloons. Better systems are commercially available, the CIA-DIA
But the U.S. analysts dont assess whether those
more efficient systems would have been commercially available to
Iraq, which has faced a decade of trade sanctions. What may be considered
inefficient to U.S. scientists might be the best home-made option
available to Iraqis.
Having made the inefficiency argument, the CIA-DIA
analysis concluded that hydrogen production must be a cover story
and that BW agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose
for these vehicles. In the American Matrix, pretty much any argument
can work if the guys in charge want it to. [For more details, see the CIA-DIA
report, May 28, 2003]
Tom Tomorrows This
Modern World captured this aspect of what he called The
Republican Matrix in a cartoon that also uses the analogy of the Matrix
In the cartoons drawings, clueless Americans
parrot back Bush administration messages as the cartoon asks, What is
the Republican Matrix? It is an illusion that engulfs us all
barrage of images which obscure reality. It is a world born anew each
in which there is nothing to be learned from the lessons of the past
a world where logic holds no sway
where up is down and black is
where reality itself is a malleable thing
subject to constant
revision. In short, its their world.
The cartoon ends with a frame showing Bush, Vice
President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in sunglasses
like those worn by the anti-human agents in the Matrix. What
should we do today, fellas? Bush asks. Any damn thing we want,
George, answers Cheney.
Indeed, Bush and his advisers have grasped that they
face few limits on how far they can push their political/media advantage.
Protected by an army of media allies, who either share a conservative
ideology or see financial gain in playing along, Bush has learned that he
stands little risk no matter how over-the-top his imagery or assertions.
Many Americans, too, seem to enjoy the process of their own manipulation.
The administration is so confident about this control
that Bush dared dress up in a Top Gun outfit for an unnecessary jet flight
to a U.S. aircraft carrier on May 1 to declare victory over Iraq.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been at sea for 10
months, was within helicopter range but that didnt offer the exciting
visuals of a carrier landing and Bush in a flight suit. So, the ship
slowed its pace and circled idly in the Pacific Ocean to guarantee
favorable camera angles while servicemen and women delayed their
Though Bushs father made great fun of Democrat
Michael Dukakis when he rode in a tank in 1988 and the national news media
had a field day in 1993 when President Bill Clinton got a haircut while
Air Force One waited at a Los Angeles airport, the tone was different when
Bush pulled off his Top Gun performance.
U.S. television coverage ranged from respectful to
gushing, observed New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Nobody
seemed bothered that Mr. Bush, who appears to have skipped more than a
year of the National Guard service that kept him out of Vietnam, is now
emphasizing his flying experience. [NYT, May 6, 2003]
Indeed, the likes of MSNBCs Chris Matthews used
the occasion of Bush strutting about the carriers deck to praise
Bushs manliness in contrast to Democratic presidential candidates,
including Sen. John Kerry who earned a Silver Star in Vietnam.
Imagine Joe Lieberman in this costume, or even
John Kerry, Matthews said on MSNBC on May 1. Nobody looks right in
the role Bush has set for the presidency-commander-in-chief, medium
height, medium build, looks good in a jet pilots costume or uniform,
rather has a certain swagger, not too literary, certainly not too verbal,
but a guy who speaks plainly and wins wars. I think that job definition is
hard to match for the Dems.
On the same show, when Matthews was asked about the
Boston Globe article in 2000 describing gaps in Bushs National Guard
duty, Matthews swatted the question away without addressing its substance.
Theres any chance that the Boston Globe city room will ever endorse
George Bush for president? Matthews laughed. Great reporting. But is
it going to cost him a single state? Theyre not going to get
Massachusetts to start with.
What the political odds in Massachusetts had to do
with the factual issue of whether Bush ducked out on his military service,
possibly going AWOL and getting protected by his fathers influence, was
not explained. In the American Matrix after all, rational connections
arent necessary. Like facts, logic is routinely overwhelmed by image,
tone and tude. [For more analysis on the news medias treatment of
Bushs aircraft landing, see Bob Somerbys DailyHowler.]
Bush got the images he wanted in his carrier landing
while his aides mounted a mini-cover-up of the facts. In the days after
the photo op, the White House first lied about the reasons for the jet
flight, insisting that it was necessary because the ship was outside
helicopter range. That story fell apart when it became clear that the ship
was only 30 miles offshore and slowing up to give Bush an excuse to use
A later New York Times article revealed that Bush had
personally collaborated on the jet landing idea and that the imagery was
choreographed by a White House advance team led by communications
specialist Scott Sforza, who arrived on the carrier days earlier. The
carrier landing was just one scene in a deliberate pattern of images
sought by the White House, the article said.
At a recent economic speech in Indianapolis, people
sitting behind Bush were told to take off their ties so theyd look more
like ordinary folks, WISH-TV reported. At a speech at Mount Rushmore in
South Dakota, cameramen were given a platform that offered up Bushs
profile as if he were already carved into the mountain with Washington,
Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. [NYT, May 16, 2003]
But the TV media and the American people shrugged off
concerns about whether Bush had used the USS Abraham Lincoln and its crew
as a political prop. When Democrats demanded a cost accounting, MSNBC
posed its question-of-the-day this way: President Bushs Flight Flap.
Much Ado About Nothing? [MSNBC, May 8, 2003] A New York Times/CBS News
poll found 59 percent of the American people agreeing that use of the
carrier was appropriate and saying that Bush was not seeking political
So how did the American people reach this point where
a majority doesnt mind being manipulated no matter how obvious or
absurd the trickery?
Part of the answer, of course, relates to the trauma
of Sept. 11 when the nation felt victimized and concluded that united
we stand was the right strategy even if that meant giving Bush a blank
check to do whatever he wanted, no matter how reckless.
The Matrix's Origin
But a fuller explanation for this American Matrix
goes back much farther and like the Matrix in the movie we know
some but not all the facts.
The American Matrix grew out of Republican anger in
the 1970s. That anger followed the leaking of the Pentagon Papers which
described the secret the history of the Vietnam War and the revelations
about President Richard Nixons political abuses known as Watergate.
Those two disclosures helped force U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and drove
Nixon from office.
For leading Republicans, the trauma was extreme as
the party was pummeled in congressional elections in 1974 and lost the
White House in 1976. An influential core of wealthy conservatives decided
that they needed to assert tighter control over what information reached
and influenced the people.
Led by former Treasury Secretary Bill Simon and
enlisting the likes of right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife,
these Republicans began pouring tens of millions of dollars into building
a conservative media infrastructure to challenge the mainstream press,
which the conservatives labeled liberal. [For more background, see
This political/media strategy gained momentum in the
1980s when President Ronald Reagans image-savvy team worked closely
with the emerging conservative media, such as Rev. Sun Myung Moons
Washington Times which Reagan called his favorite newspaper.
Meanwhile, a host of conservative attack groups, such as Accuracy in
Media, went after journalists who exposed embarrassing facts about
Reagans secret operations, such as the Iran-contra scandal and
drug-trafficking by the Nicaraguan contras, Reagan's beloved "freedom
Conservative activists worked hand-in-glove with
Reagans public diplomacy apparatus, which borrowed psychological
operations specialists from the U.S. military to conduct what was termed
perception management. Their goal was to manage the perceptions of
the American people about key foreign-policy issues, such as Central
America and the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
"The most critical special operations mission we
is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to
get us," explained deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, J.
Michael Kelly, at a National Defense University conference.
In the 1980s, the Republicans were helped by news
executives in mainstream publications who favored Reagans hard-line
foreign policy, including New York Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal.
Some of these executives turned their news organizations away from the
tough reporting that was needed to expose the foreign policy abuses that
were occurring under Reagan.
That averting of eyes was one of the key reasons
major newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post,
largely missed the Iran-contra scandal and attacked the reporting of other
journalists who uncovered foreign-policy crimes such as cocaine
trafficking by Nicaraguan contra forces. A false reality was being created
that covered up the ugly side of U.S. foreign policy. [For details, see
Robert Parrys Lost History.]
In the 1990s, the interests of the maturing
conservative news media and the mainstream news media merged even more
fully as both groups found common cause in exaggerating misconduct by
President Bill Clinton. Mainstream journalists discovered that they could
report sloppily about Clinton and gain the praise rather than the
opprobrium of the well-financed conservative attack groups. [For
details, see The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, or
Sidney Blumenthals The Clinton
Though many key facts about Clintons Whitewater
investments and other scandals were misrepresented by the national
press, there were no punishments for the reporters involved, only rewards.
By contrast, the few reporters who still had the audacity to dig up
evidence of past crimes from the Reagan-Bush era found themselves under
attack and their livelihoods threatened.
For instance, when San Jose Mercury News reporter
Gary Webb revived the contra-drug story in the mid-1990s, he was denounced
by the New York Times and other leading newspapers that had pooh-poohed
the scandal when it was unfolding in the 1980s. Even when a 1998 CIA
report verified that the contras were implicated in the drug trade and
that the Reagan-Bush administration had hidden the evidence, the major
newspapers continued to concentrate their wrath on Webb, who was driven
out of the profession. [For details, see Parrys Lost History.]
The same patterns carried over into the 2000 election
in which Democrat Al Gore faced withering attacks on his credibility
often from made-up or exaggerated examples of his supposed lying while
Republican George W. Bush got pretty much a free pass. [For details, see
the Consortiumnews.coms "Protecting
Again, the conservative and mainstream media outlets
often worked in tandem, with the New York Times joining the Washington
Times in misquoting Gore about inventing the Internet or claiming
that I was the one that started the Love Canal toxic-waste cleanup.
Again, there were no consequences for reporters who got the facts wrong.
[For details, see the Consortiumnews.coms "Al
Gore v. the Media."]
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only
deepened these tendencies.
The following month, for instance, a group of news
organizations completed a press recount of all legally cast votes in the
pivotal presidential election in Florida. The original purpose of the
recount had been simple: to determine which candidate the voters of
Florida actually had picked for president based on votes considered legal
under Florida law.
But the recounts outcome presented a challenge.
Regardless of what standard was used for the famous chads whether
perforated, hanging or fully punched through Al Gore was the winner by
a narrow margin. In other words, if the state of Florida had been allowed
to count all its legally cast ballots, George W. Bush would not be
president. That finding, however, would have certainly drawn the wrath of
the administration and many Americans who were rallying around Bush in the
wake of Sept. 11.
The decision of the news executives was to simply
misrepresent the results. For the leads of their stories, the New York
Times, CNN and other news organizations arbitrarily ignored the legal
Florida ballots in which voters both marked and wrote in their choice, the
By claiming, incorrectly, that these ballots would
not have been counted in the state-court-ordered recount, which was
stopped by Bushs allies on the U.S. Supreme Court, the media outlets
kept up the pretense that Bush was the legitimate winner of Florida and
thus the White House. Though this manipulation of the vote tally was noted
by a few publications at the time, including this Web site, the false
reality of Bushs Florida victory has become part of the American
Matrix. [For details, see Consortiumnews.coms "So
Bush Did Steal the White House."]
The American Matrix grew, too, with the altering of
U.S. intelligence to buttress the case for war against Iraq.
As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh discovered, a
small group of neo-conservative ideologues, calling themselves the Cabal
and stationed at the Pentagons Office of Special Plans, reworked U.S.
intelligence on Iraqs weapons of mass destruction to help justify a
U.S. invasion. The Cabal was organized by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz, an architect of Bushs policy of pre-emptive attack against
perceived American enemies, Hersh wrote in an article for The New Yorker.
Special Plans was created in order to find
evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
believed to be true that Saddam Hussein had close ties to al-Qaeda,
and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and
possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially,
the United States, Hersh wrote, citing a Pentagon adviser who supported
the Cabals work.
Hersh also quoted a former Bush administration
intelligence official as saying he quit because they were using the
intelligence from the CIA and other agencies only when it fit their
agenda. They didnt like the intelligence they were getting, and so they
brought in people to write the stuff. They were so crazed and so far out
and so difficult to reason with to the point of being bizarre.
Dogmatic, as if they were on a mission from God.
Hersh found, too, that Wolfowitz and other key
neo-conservatives at the Pentagon were disciples of the late political
philosopher Leo Strauss, who believed that some deception of the
population is necessary in statecraft. The whole story is complicated
by Strausss idea actually Platos that philosophers need to
tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful
politicians, said Stephen Holmes, a law professor at New York
University. [See The
New Yorker, May 12, 2003]
While the post-Sept. 11 period was creating these new
openings for the Pentagons Straussians to manipulate the American
people, it was also offering enticing opportunities for the U.S. cable
news networks to brand themselves in red, white and blue.
While unapologetic flag-waving journalism on cable
news had been pioneered by Rupert Murdochs conservative Fox News
network, third-ranked MSNBC seized the new opportunity with the most
obvious zeal. The network, a Microsoft-General Electric collaboration,
dumped war critic Phil Donahue, adopted the administrations title for
the war Operation Iraqi Freedom and emblazoned an American
flag on the corner of its screens, just like Fox.
During the war, MSNBC flooded its programming with
sentimental salutes to the troops, including mini-profiles of U.S.
soldiers in a feature called Americas Bravest. The network also
broadcast Madison Avenue-style promos of the war that featured images of
heroic U.S. troops and happy Iraqis, without any blood-stained images of
overflowing hospitals, terrified children or grieving mothers. The promos
carried messages, such as Home of the Brave and Let Freedom
Reporting about U.S. military reversals during the
early days of the war also brought swift reprisals. When veteran war
correspondent Peter Arnett observed accurately to an Iraqi TV interviewer
that Iraqi military resistance was stiffer than U.S. military planners had
expected, he was fired by NBC and kicked off its MSNBC affiliate.
Web sites, such as this one, were hit with angry
e-mails from readers furious at any suggestion that the war was not a
total success or that the Bush administration had colored its war-fighting
scenarios with dangerous wishful thinking. Even taking note of obvious
facts, such as the failure of the administrations initial shock and
awe bombing strategy, was controversial.
Ironically, while telling these truths real-time
could bring reprisals, Bush himself acknowledged their accuracy later.
Shock and awe said to many people that all weve
got to do is unleash some might and people will crumble, Bush said in
an interview with NBCs Tom Brokaw. And it turns out the fighters
were a lot fiercer than we thought.
The resistance for our troops
moving south and north was significant resistance. [NBC Nightly News
interview, released April 25, 2003]
As craven as the U.S. medias behavior may have
been, flag-waving journalism worked where it counts in the ratings
race. While MSNBC remained in third place among U.S. cable news outlets,
it posted the highest ratings growth in the lead-up to war and during the
actual fighting, up 124 percent compared with a year earlier. Fox News,
the industry leader, racked up a 102 percent gain and No. 2 CNN rose 91
percent. [WSJ, April 21, 2003]
Though some Americans switched to BBC or CNNs
international channels to find more objective war coverage, large numbers
of Americans clearly wanted the feel-good nationalism of Fox News
and MSNBC. Images of U.S. troops surrounded by smiling Iraqi children were
more appealing than knowing the full truth.
The full story of the Iraq War demanded unsettling
judgments about the slaughter of thousands of Iraqis and the maiming of
children, like the 12-year-old boy who lost both his arms and his family
to a U.S. bombing attack. Balanced coverage would have recognized that
many Iraqis reacted with coldness and hostility to U.S. forces, a
harbinger of the Iraqi resistance thats now killing an average of one
or two U.S. soldiers a day.
To some foreigners, the uniformity in the U.S. war
coverage had the feel of a totalitarian state.
There have been times, living in America of late,
when it seemed I was back in the Communist Moscow I left a dozen years
ago, wrote Rupert Cornwell in the London-based Independent. Switch
to cable TV and reporters breathlessly relay the latest wisdom from the
usual unnamed senior administration officials, keeping us on the
straight and narrow. Everyone, it seems, is on-side and on-message. Just
like it used to be when the hammer and sickle flew over the Kremlin.
Cornwell traced this lock-step U.S. coverage to the
influence of Fox News, which has taken its cue from George Bushs
view of the universe post-11 September either youre with us or
against us. Fox, most emphatically, is with him, and its paid off at
the box office. Not for Fox to dwell on uncomfortable realities like
collateral damage, Iraqi casualties, or the failure of the U.S. troops to
protect libraries and museums. [Independent,
April 23, 2003]
But the U.S. cable news networks and talk radio went
beyond simply boosting the war. They often served as the Bush
administrations public enforcers, seeking out and destroying Americans
who disagreed with the war policy.
Because one of the Dixie Chicks criticized Bush, the
music group has faced an organized campaign to boycott their music and
destroy their careers. MSNBC offered up a program hosted by Republican
commentator Joe Scarborough asking why actors Sean Penn and Tim Robbins,
who criticized the war, are now whining about retaliation.
Sean Penn is fired from an acting job and finds
out that actions bring about consequences. Whoa, dude! chortled
As justification for depriving Penn of work,
Scarborough cited a comment that Penn made while on a pre-war trip to
Iraq. Penn said, I cannot conceive of any reason why the American
people and the world would not have shared with them the evidence that
they claim to have of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [MSNBC
transcript, May 18, 2003]
As it turned out, Penns pre-war comments would be
equally valid today, with the U.S. and Great Britain desperately seeking
that WMD evidence.
In their defense, many news executives might argue
that their jobs go beyond simply telling the American people the truth.
They also are concerned about national unity, especially at a time of
crisis. And they dont want to be accused of undercutting U.S. troops at
Yet, there is a grave danger to both troops and
civilians when the news media sanitizes war. By keeping unpleasant images
from the American people, the news media feeds the illusion that war is
painless, even fun, something to be engaged in easily over slight or
imagined provocation. This sort of lazy thinking gets people killed and
can squander the wealth of the most powerful nations.
Among U.S. politicians, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.,
has been the most forceful in addressing the dangers to democracy and to
U.S. troops that comes from pervasive government lying.
No matter to what lengths we humans may go to
obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out
through the cracks, eventually, Byrd said on the Senate floor on May
21. But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The
danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized. The
reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and
go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue.
Byrd continued, Regarding the situation in Iraq,
it appears to this senator that the American people may have been lured
into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation
of long-standing international law, under false pretenses.
The run up
to our invasion of Iraq featured the president and members of his Cabinet
invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds,
to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ-laden
death in our major cities.
The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure
reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post
traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 9-11. It was
the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.
Presently our loyal military personnel continue
their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up
only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons and the occasional
buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue
to be at grave risk, Byrd said.
But the Bush teams extensive hype of WMD in
Iraq as justification for a pre-emptive invasion has become more than
embarrassing, the aging West Virginia senator continued. It has
raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of
power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi
civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the
American public deliberately misled? Was the world? [Full
Right now, a far more vigorous examination of these
questions is underway in Europe, where leading politicians and journalists
are questioning the pre-war claims of Bush and British Prime Minster Tony
We were told that Saddam had weapons ready for use
within 45 minutes, declared former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook,
who resigned over Blairs pro-war policies. Its now 45 days since
the war has finished and we have still not found anything.
Paul Keetch, defense spokesman for a British
opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, said, No weapons means no
threat. Without WMD, the case for war falls apart. It would seem either
the intelligence was wrong and we should not rely on it, or the
politicians overplayed the threat. [Independent,
May 29, 2003]
BBC News quoted a senior British intelligence
official as saying that a dossier that Blairs government compiled about
Iraqs alleged WMD program was rewritten to make it sexier,
including the addition of a dubious claim that the Iraqis were prepared to
launch a WMD strike within 45 minutes.
It was included in the dossier against our wishes
because it wasnt reliable, the official said. Most things in the
dossier were double source but that was single source and we believe the
source was wrong. [BBC
News, May 29, 2003]
The worlds press also has pounced on admissions by
senior U.S. officials conceding that the pre-war WMD claims may have been
In a speech in New York, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
said it is possible that they [the Iraqis] decided that they would
destroy them prior to a conflict and I dont know the answer. In an
interview with Vanity Fair, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz said the
WMD allegation was stressed for bureaucratic reasons because it
was the one reason everyone could agree on.
Lt. Gen. James Conway, who commanded the 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force, told reporters that it remains a surprise
to me that we have not uncovered (chemical) weapons
in some of the
forward dispersal areas where U.S. intelligence claimed they were ready
for use by Iraqs Republican Guards. We were simply wrong, Conway
Destroying the Matrix
As with the Matrix of the movies, the first step
toward destroying this American Matrix will be for the people to get a
fuller understanding of the truth, even if that truth is difficult and
unpleasant. Why that first step has been so difficult, however, is that
there exist too few U.S. news outlets that will challenge the
Longer-term challenges to the American Matrix may
come simply from the grinding logic of budgetary policies. In less than
three years in office, Bush has dug a budget hole so deep that an expected
$5.6 trillion surplus over a 10-year period from 2002 to 2011 has been
transformed into a projected $3.6 trillion deficit, a $9 trillion reversal
of black ink to red ink. [Washington Post, May 31, 2003]
The U.S. budget surplus was expected to help pay
retirement costs for the Baby Boom generation, but now a fiscal train
wreck seems increasingly unavoidable.
The failure of Bushs policies to create new jobs
may be another wake-up call to Americans. Since Bush took office, the U.S.
economy has shed more than two million jobs, leaving about 9.2 million
Americans out of work.
The U.S. is experiencing the most protracted
job-market downturn since the Great Depression, wrote the Wall Street
Journal. It has left behind a remarkably broad swath of workers
from young to old, and from high-school dropouts to the highly
educated. [WSJ, May 29, 2003]
Those lucky enough to find new jobs often are forced
to take steep pay cuts, as are many who manage to hold onto their old
jobs, Time magazine reported.
The net result of the various pressures on pay: in
the first three months of 2003, median weekly earnings adjusted for
inflation fell 1.5 percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department,
Time wrote. Wage erosion partly explains why the Federal Reserve Board
openly frets about the threat of deflation, a downward spiral in prices
that can cripple an economy. [Time, May 26, 2003]
If the American people are armed with more facts,
they may be able to start seeing through the manipulative reality of
feel-good war images. Possibly that change, if rapid enough, could spare
the nation from the most devastating of political and economic
Yet without a major investment of resources and
talent in honest news media now, the American Matrix may remain the only
reality that most Americans ever will know.
While at the Associated Press and Newsweek in the
1980s, Robert Parry broke many of the stories now known as the Iran-Contra
Affair. His latest book is Lost History.