Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"In My Time": A Memoir Written Out of Fear

Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Dark Art of Propaganda
By Amy Goodman / August 30, 2011

“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]

Source / Truthdig

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Signs of a Sick Society: Throw Away Your TV

National Park Service Ranger Jeff Goad views the destruction to N.C. Hwy 12 on the north edge of Rodanthe, North Carolina due to the storm surge from Hurricane Irene. Photo: Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT/Getty Images.

Disaster Perversion
By OHollern / August 29, 2011

I don’t know about you, but I’m spent from this disaster porn marathon. I feel seedy and low. I need a cigarette. I need to think about something that doesn’t have the power to titillate me in any way, like baseball or algebra. I don’t usually care about weather, but yesterday I just had to watch. I was like a man possessed. There was just something about Michael Bloomberg and Chris Christie, each so different in style — one a rich little prick, the other a rich fat prick — but both so bold in the face of danger! I swear I could hear the courtiers in the big media whispering a collective prayer: “Why, oh Lord, can’t they both become president?” And the coverage, the endlessly redundant, jaw-droppingly pointless saturation coverage. It kept me utterly transfixed. I haven’t been that dumbly sedated since the time I took four Vicodin for a severe headache and watched Jurassic Park III.

When we were invading Iraq, I was watching the McNeil Lehrer Newshour one night and the guest was Zbigniew Brzezinski. At the end of the discussion, he said something totally out of left field that was very interesting. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “There is something perverse about this.” He had this sort of weird, uncomfortable look on his face. If the sound had been turned down I’d have guessed he was suffering from gas. When asked to explain, he said, “I’m not exactly sure why, but there is just something perverse about people sitting at home watching a bombing on TV.”

I thought about that while sitting around in lurid anticipation waiting for the hurricane to make landfall. Will Atlantic City be destoyed? Will Lower Manhattan flood? Boston even? Which network will be the first to seize on the phrase “The Storm of the Century,” leaving the others to fight over “The Perfect Storm” or “Disaster on the Eastern Seaboard” or some other ludicrous appellation that reeks of action movie melodrama. How long until some conservative toad on FOX starts gloating about this being Obama’s Katrina? (Actually, I think some of them already may have.) How long until Pat Roberston said it was God punishing New York because they legalized gay marriage? There was something perverse about it.

But there I sat, glass in hand, watching in a kind of numb stupor as a lethal hurricane rolled over the East Coast. I felt like a debauched Roman. This thing has killed people, and it could have killed hundreds more, just wiped them clean off the earth for all eternity, and I swear it takes a determined, conscious effort to differentiate it in my mind from a fictional media event. The coverage just makes it all feel unreal.

Did it seem to you that there was a noticeable sense of disappointment in the media when Irene was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, and then, more distressingly, a mere tropical storm? They seemed to spend the greater part of the day convincing us that it was still a dangerous storm, mind you. So stay afraid, stay cautious, keep watching, and help us justify the gargantuan, over-the-top hype with which we greeted this event.

The sad, the perverse thing, is this: I bet you a lot of them secretely wanted it to be worse. I’m not saying they are evil people. I’m suggesting that their professional interests conflicted with basic morality in this case. Deep in their media hearts, they wanted a category 3 to slam straight into New York City. Imagine, wall to wall coverage of death and destruction for weeks. It’s the only thing in mainstream media land more fun than making pointless predictions about our pointless elections, or turning sinister whack balls like Rick Perry into legitimate presidential contenders.

They’d get to wallow in death and gore under the cover of journalism. They could gush with praise over the first responders and all the ordinary heroes who pitched in and helped out and did extraordinary things. They could create lots of poignant human interest stories that make us feel all right about being Americans. We’d pat ourselves on the back. Hey, you know, we’re not so bad after all.

Then those heroes would be callously ignored when they needed help paying the doctor bills. That is to say, after the bodies were buried, the water drained, and the rubble swept away, lots and lots of Americans would revert to their instinctive natural ethic, which is perfectly reflected in our current politics: I’ve got mine, fuck you.

They’d canonize Bloomberg, and then give every rat-fuck politician in the country an opportunity to stick his face in front of a camera and bleed concern for the sake of his own petty aggrandisement, even the vicious bastards who want to cut budgets and lay those first responders off, or let them die like dogs without proper health care when they fall ill. You’d need to tape a barf bag to your chest, and then lay a towel down in front of your TV so their tears wouldn’t stain the rug.

Obama will arrive in full “commander-in-chief-on-the-disaster-scene mode,” which means he’ll be wearing khakis and a denim shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the standard uniform politicians wear when surveying wreckage or getting face time with blue-collar workers. The Republican candidates, dressed the same, will do the same, and the media will treat is as if it’s something other than a hackneyed political stunt.

In short, we would (will) be deluged, no pun intended, with same formulaic narratives that the media always rolls out on these occasions. That’s what happens when monopolies run things. Choices are restricted and quality suffers.

I’m not making light of tragedy or saying we shouldn’t praise those who help the victims and clean up the mess. Of course we should. My beef is with the scripted, overblown, almost phony way the media depicts it. It’s a screen play for a TV show. We have a disaster. Now we need victims, now heroes, now villians. Now a photo collage, and now endless retrospectives. Cue fear, cue horror, cue hope, cue anger. Time for a Levitra commercial. …

There’s something perverse about it.

I just can’t feel genuine grief or sadness, or compassion or concern, when some six figure hairdo is telling me exactly when and how I am supposed to, and then suddenly switch it off to watch a commercial for a pill that will make my pecker hard. There’s something perverse about it.

(I do, however, feel genuine humor when all of those TV clowns pretend to be courageous journalists by standing on the beach in a raincoat, bowling us over with such profundities as “It’s really windy right now” or “It’s really wet!”)

Source / Bad Attitudes

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

September 11th: We Didn't Learn Anything

I find it moronic that we would want to commemorate September 11th in any fashion. It is the same as celebrating other criminal acts, which we generally do not do. How about commemorating the obliteration of 400 Iraqi civilians when bunker-buster bombs penetrated a bomb shelter in downtown Baghdad? What about commemorating the deliberate Valentine's Day fire-bombing of Dresden and the 40,000 deaths there? Criminal acts could serve as teachable moments, and we are learning sweet fuck all. Revenge is evil. -- Richard Jehn

9/11: Ten Years Later, Americans Still Stupid and Vulnerable
By Ted Rall / August 28, 2011

They say everything changed on 9/11. No one can dispute that. But we didn't learn anything.

Like other events that forced Americans to reassess their national priorities (the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Sputnik) the attacks on New York and Washington were a traumatic, teachable moment.

The collective attention of the nation was finally focused upon problems that had gone neglected for many years. 9/11 was a chance to get smart—but we blew it.

First and foremost the attacks gave the United States a rare opportunity to reset its international reputation. Even countries known for anti-Americanism offered their support. "We are all Americans," ran the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde.

The century of U.S. foreign policy that led to 9/11—supporting dictators, crushing democratic movements, spreading gangster capitalism at the point of a thousand nukes—should and could have been put on hold and reassessed in the wake of 9/11.

It wasn't time to act. It was time to think.

It was time to lick our wounds, pretend to act confused, and play the victim. It was time to hope the world forgot how we supplied lists of pro-democracy activists to a young Saddam Hussein so he could collect and kill them, and forget the "Made in USA" labels on missiles shot into the Gaza Strip from U.S.-made helicopter gunships sold to Israel.

It was time, for once, to take the high road. The Bush Administration ought to have treated 9/11 as a police investigation, demanding that Pakistan extradite Osama bin Laden and other individuals wanted in connection with the attacks for prosecution by an international court.

Instead of assuming a temperate, thoughtful posture, the Bush Administration exploited 9/11 as an excuse to start two wars, both against defenseless countries that had little or nothing to do with the attacks. Bush and company legalized torture and ramped up support for unpopular dictatorships in South and Central Asia and the Middle East, all announced with bombastic cowboy talk.

Smoke 'em out! Worst of the worst! Dead or alive!

By 2003 the world hated us more than ever. A BBC poll showed that people in Jordan and Indonesia—moderate Muslim countries where Al Qaeda had killed locals with bombs—considered the U.S. a bigger security threat than the terrorist group.

In fairness to Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld and Bush's other leading war criminals, everyone else went along with them. The media refused to question them. Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, cast votes in favor of Bush's wars. Democrats and leftist activists ought to have pushed for Bush's impeachment; they were silent or supportive.

9/11 was "blowback"—proof that the U.S. can't wage its wars overseas without suffering consequences at home. But we still haven't learned that lesson. Ten years later, a "Democratic" president is fighting Bush's wars as well as new ones against Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Now he's saber-rattling against Syria.

American officials correctly inferred from 9/11 that security, particularly at airports but also in ports where container ships arrive daily from around the world, had been lax. Rather than act proactively to close gaps in transportation security, however, bureaucrats for the new Department of Homeland Security created a gauntlet of police-state harassment so onerous that it has threatened the financial health of the aviation industry.

"Aviation security is a joke, and it's only a matter of time before terrorists destroy another airplane full of innocent passengers," wrote Barbara Hollingsworth of The Washington Examiner after the 2009 "underwear bomber" scare. As Hollingsworth pointed out, the much-vaunted federal air marshals have been removed from flights because the TSA is too cheap to pay their hotel bills. (This is illegal.) What's the point of taking off your shoes, she asked, when planes are still serviced overseas in unsecured facilities? No one has provided an answer.

Ten years after 9/11, there is still no real security check when you board a passenger train or bus. Perhaps the sheer quantity of goods arriving at American ports makes it impossible to screen them all, but we're not even talking about the fact that we've basically given up on port security.

While we're on the subject of post-9/11 security, what about air defenses? On 9/11 the airspace over the Lower 48 states was assigned to a dozen "weekend warrior" air national guard jets. Every last one of them was on the ground when the attacks began, allowing hijacked planes to tool around the skies for hours after they had been identified as dangerous.

Which could easily happen again. According to a 2009 report by the federal General Accounting Office on U.S. air defenses: "The Air Force has not implemented ASA [Air Sovereignty Alert] operations in accordance with DOD, NORAD, and Air Force directives and guidance, which instruct the Air Force to establish ASA as a steady-state (ongoing and indefinite) mission. The Air Force has not implemented the 140 actions it identified to establish ASA as a steady-state mission, which included integrating ASA operations into the Air Force's planning, programming, and funding cycle. The Air Force has instead been focused on other priorities, such as overseas military operations."

Maybe if it stopped spending so much time and money killing foreigners the American government could protect Americans.

On 9/11 hundreds of firefighters and policemen died because they couldn't communicate on antiquated, segregated bandwidth. "Only one month away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11," admits FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, "our first responders still don't have an interoperable mobile broadband network for public safety. Our 911 call centers still can't handle texts or pictures or video being sent by the phones that everyone has."

Because the corporate masters of the Democratic and Republican parties love the low wage/weak labor environment created by illegal immigration, American land borders are intentionally left unguarded.

A lot changed on 9/11, but not everything.

We're still governed by corrupt idiots. And we're still putting up with them.

What does that say about us?

Source / Common Dreams

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Naomi Klein: El Saqueo on a Grander Scale

Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery
By Naomi Klein / August 16, 2011

I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in other European cities—window smashing in Athens, or car bonfires in Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police violence, a generation that feels forgotten.

But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years, and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the aftermath of the US invasion—a frenzy of arson and looting that emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.

Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as Saddam and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a few things for themselves. But London isn’t Baghdad, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is hardly Saddam, so surely there is nothing to learn there.

How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford—clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a “state of siege” to restore order; the people didn’t like that and overthrew the government.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo — the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.

But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.

This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions – mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.

This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.

Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.

The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered — a union job, a good affordable education — being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

David Cameron’s response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

At last year’s G-20 “austerity summit” in Toronto, the protests turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The big controversy then was that the government had spent $675 million on summit “security” (yet they still couldn’t seem to put out those fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new arsenal that the police had acquired—water cannons, sound cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets—wasn’t just meant for the protesters in the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.

This is what David Cameron got wrong: you can't cut police budgets at the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance—whether organized protests or spontaneous looting.

And that’s not politics. It’s physics.

[Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit]

Source / The Nation

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Afghan Civilian Carnage: Why Does the American MSM Ignore It?

The Invisible Dead and "The Last Word": Lawrence O'Donnell 'Rewrites' the Occupation of Afghanistan
By Nima Shirazi / August 12, 2011

"It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder." -- Albert Einstein

On Saturday August 6, 2011, a U.S. military Chinook transport helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing 30 American soldiers, including 17 elite Navy SEALs, and eight Afghans. The mainstream news media was awash with somber reports about this being the "deadliest day" for U.S. forces in the ten years since the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan began.

Notably, many news outlets such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and The Washington Post claimed the helicopter crash and its 30 American casualties marked the "deadliest day of the war", without adding the vital qualification, "for United States military personnel." Even the progressive website Truthout provided its daily email blast that day with the headline: "Deadliest Day in Decade-Long Afghanistan War: 31 Troops Killed in Shootdown."

The obvious implication of these reports was that on no single day since October 7, 2001, when the U.S.-led invasion and bombing campaign began, had as many people been killed in Afghanistan as on August 6, 2011.

Perhaps most brazen and sanctimonious regarding this claim was MSNBC's primetime anchor Lawrence O'Donnell. Introducing the "Rewrite" segment of his Monday August 8 broadcast of "The Last Word", O'Donnell looked directly into the camera and, in his measured and most heartfelt serious voice, told his viewers:
"This weekend saw the worst single loss of life in the ten years of the Afghan War."

He was lying. Unless, of course, like so many Americans, O'Donnell doesn't count Afghan civilians as human beings worthy of being allowed to stay alive. In fact, the invisibility of the native population of Afghanistan is so ubiquitous in the American media, O'Donnell and his writers probably didn't even think they needed to acknowledge civilian death tolls at the hands of foreign armies. As General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, told reporters at Bagram Air Base in March 2002 when asked about how many people the U.S. military has killed, "You know we don't do body counts."

After showing a video clip of CIA Directer-cum-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's statement that the helicopter crash served as "a reminder to the American people that we remain a nation still at war," O'Donnell took seven minutes of airtime to lecture his viewers about a country that has forgotten the hardships of warfare, due to the absence of a draft or rationing or war taxation. Clearly passionate and frustrated, he rhetorically wondered, "What kind of nation would need to be reminded that it is still at war?" He continued,
"There will be other nights for us to discuss the way forward or the way out of Afghanistan. Tonight is not that night. Tonight is for reminding this nation that it is indeed at war. And tonight is for reminding the nation of the price of war. The ultimate sacrifice."

At this point, O'Donnell displayed photographs of some of the soldiers killed in the crash while delivering brief biographies, a sort of "Last Word" eulogy for the dead.

In his effort to tug at his viewers heartstrings, O'Donnell told us of one young soldier who had only "been in Afghanistan for less than two weeks." Another was described by his mother as "a gentle giant." A SEAL Team 6 member also killed in the crash, we were told, had a wife, a two-year-old son and a two-month old baby girl while another solider was survived by his pregnant wife and three children. O'Donnell eulogized one of the deceased servicemen by telling us of his personal history as a high school wrestler and his lifelong dream of becoming a Navy SEAL.

O'Donnell concluded the segment with the assurance that none of the family members of those soldiers who had died - as opposed to the million of Americans whose lives are totally unaffected by the ongoing occupation - needed any "reminding" that "we are a nation at war."

Never once during this paean to the military did O'Donnell make even a passing reference to the thousands upon thousands of Afghan men, women, and children killed by U.S. and NATO forces in their own homeland, their own country, their own towns, their own communities, their own homes, hospitals, mosques, and schools, and at their own weddings.

The Afghan village of Karam was completely destroyed on October 12, 2001 when American forces dropped a one-ton bomb on it and killed over 100 people. On October 21, 2001, "At least twenty-three civilians, the majority of them young children, were killed when U.S. bombs hit a remote Afghan village," according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Not a solitary syllable was uttered to honor the seven children blown apart "as they ate breakfast with their father" when "a US bomb flattened a flimsy mud-brick home in Kabul" on Sunday October 29, 2001. The Times of India, citing a Reuters report, revealed that "the blast shattered a neighbour's house killing another two children."

A few weeks later, on November 17, 2001, U.S. bombs fired at the village of Chorikori murdered "two entire families, one of 16 members and the other of 14, who lived, and perished, together in the same house," reported The Los Angeles Times. Shortly thereafter, heavy American bombing in Khanabad near Kunduz was said to have killed 100 people. The same day, a religious school in Khost was bombed, killing 62 people.

Around the same time, James S. Robbins, a professor of International Relations at the National Defense University, published an article in The National Review entitled, "Humanity of the Air War: Look how far we've come." The piece began this way: "Think airpower can't bring victory in Afghanistan? Think again."

Robbins continued his claim that "the air campaign over Afghanistan has been effective by most reports" and that "critics of the air campaign at home and abroad make as much of civilian casualties as suits their purposes, but arguments over whether a few, a dozen, or hundreds of people have died only show how civilized warfare has become." He averred that "[a]ny civilian deaths caused by allied bombs are unintended deaths" (emphasis in original), declared that the U.S. was using the "tools and means of the humane" to bomb Afghan civilians to death on a regular basis, and concluded, "The allied air campaign is demonstrating how moral a war can be."

On December 31, 2001, U.S. ground forces confirmed an enemy target in the village of Qalaye Niazi and "three bombers, a B-52 and two B-1Bs, did the rest, zapping Taliban and al-Qaida leaders in their sleep as well as an ammunition dump." A military spokesman, Matthew Klee, proudly told reporters that the strike was an unmitigated success, saying, "Follow-on reporting indicates that there was no collateral damage." However, The Guardian reported:
Some of the things his follow-on reporters missed: bloodied children's shoes and skirts, bloodied school books, the scalp of a woman with braided grey hair, butter toffees in red wrappers, wedding decorations.

The charred meat sticking to rubble in black lumps could have been Osama bin Laden's henchmen but survivors said it was the remains of farmers, their wives and children, and wedding guests.

They said more than 100 civilians died at this village in eastern Afghanistan.

In the first three months of the Afghanistan assault, Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives found that upwards of 4,200-4,500 Afghan civilians had been killed as a result of the U.S.-led bombing campaign and the "starvation, exposure, associated illnesses, or injury sustained while in flight from war zones" that followed the invasion and airstrikes. In May 2002, Jonathan Steele of The Guardian reported that, up to that point, "As many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention."

For O'Donnell, it appears the "price of war" doesn't include the 48 civilians killed and 117 wounded, many of them women and children, when U.S. jets bombed a wedding party in Oruzgan in July 2002, the 17 civilians, mostly women and children, killed by coalition bombs in Helmand in February 2003, the eight civilians killed by a U.S. gunship and bomber in Bagram Valley the same month, the eleven civilians killed, including seven women, by a U.S. laser-guided bomb that hit a house outside the village of Shkin in April 2003, the six family members killed by U.S. bombs that hit the village of Aranj in October 2003, or the nine children (seven boys and two girls aged 9 to 12) murdered by two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II planes which attacked the village of Hutala while the children were playing ball.

The human cost of the Afghan occupation, so far as O'Donnell is concerned, doesn't include the eleven people, four of them children, killed by an American helicopter which fired on the village of Saghatho in January 2004, the scores of civilians bombed to death by NATO airstrikes in October 2006, eight civilians shot by American soldiers in Kandahar in 2007, the more than 100 civilians killed in numerous U.S. and NATO bombings in May 2007, the seven children killed by a U.S.-led airstrike in June 2007, the group of bus passengers gunned down by US troops on December 12, 2008, the seven civilians killed by American troops in a rural village near Nad-E'ali in 2009, the 26 civilians, including 16 children, killed by British forces, the scores of dead civilians in Kunduz and Helmand who were killed by 500-pound bombs dropped by U.S. jets in September 2009, the 27 civilians killed by a NATO strike in the Afghan province of Uruzgan in February 2010, the five civilians, including two pregnant women and a teenage girl killed in Khataba, the 45 civilians (most of whom were women and children) murdered by a NATO rocket in Afghanistan in July 2010, the 30 or more civilians killed in two NATO air strikes on two villages in the Nangarhar province in August 2010, or the numerous civilian men, women, children, dogs, donkeys, and chickens slaughtered by Task Force 373, a clandestine black ops unit which NATO uses as an assassination squad.

On March 23, 2011, U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the willful murder and mutilation of three Afghan civilians - a fifteen-year-old boy, a mentally-retarded man, and a religious leader. Other members of Morlock's platoon, the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, have been "charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones," The Washington Post previously reported. At the beginning of the court-martial proceedings, Morlock admitted to the military judge presiding over the case that the murders he and four fellow soldiers were charged with committing had been deliberate and intentional. "The plan was to kill people, sir," he said.

Broadcasting live across the country that evening, Lawrence O'Donnell didn't cover the story. Instead, he spent a considerable amount of airtime justifying Barack Obama's decision to begin bombing Libya, interviewing Anthony Weiner about healthcare, and poking fun at potential GOP presidential candidates. He ended the program that night, however, with a touching and earnest memorial for someone who had recently died: Elizabeth Taylor.

For O'Donnell, the "ultimate sacrifice" he spoke of this week naturally didn't include the Afghan man, four women, and baby murdered at a wedding party by a Polish mortar strike on the village of Wazi Khwa on August 16, 2007, which also injured three other women, one of whom was nine months pregnant. Nor does it include the "nineteen unarmed civilians killed and 50 wounded" when, during "a frenzied escape" on March 4, 2007, U.S. Marines "open[ed] fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road." The April 2009 U.S. raid on Khost, which killed four civilians, including a woman and two children, didn't receive a sad obituary on primetime cable television either. The American soldiers on that raid "also shot a pregnant woman and killed her unborn baby, which had almost come to term."

To O'Donnell, the "worst single loss of life" in Afghanistan during the last decade wasn't the more than 140 civilians reportedly killed when "U.S. aircraft bombed villages in the Bala Boluk district of Afghanistan's western Farah province" on May 3, 2009 in what is now known as the the Granai airstrike. Reuters revealed that "93 of those killed were children -- the youngest eight days old," and that "[a]ccording to villagers, families were cowering in houses when the U.S. aircraft bombed them." The death toll of this one airstrike is nearly five times larger than the U.S. helicopter crash, which took the life of not a single civilian, let alone child.

255 civilians were killed in military operations in June 2008. In early July 2008, near the village of Kacu, "a U.S. air strike killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, as they were travelling to a wedding in Afghanistan...The bride was among the dead."

The following month, 90 civilians, including 60 children and 15 women, were killed during military operations in Herat province alone.

Sixty-five civilians, including 40 children, were killed in a NATO assault on Kunar in February 2011. A few weeks later, NATO helicopter gunners shot nine boys - aged 9 to 15 - to death as they gathered firewood. On May 28, 2011, NATO bombs killed two women and 12 children in Helmand. In the month leading up to the Chinook crash last week, dozens of Afghan civilians were killed in NATO airstrikes and raids.

O'Donnell didn't feel the need to show pictures of any of these victims or quote what their loved ones had to say about them.

The "deadliest day", in O'Donnell's estimation, could not possibly have been when, in July 2007, "U.S. special forces dropped six 2,000lb bombs on a compound where they believed a 'high-value individual' was hiding, after 'ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area'. A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died."

Lawrence O'Donnell didn't tell his viewers of the hopes and dreams of the hundreds of Afghan children liberated forever from this world by noble American troops and their stalwart allies. He didn't mention how some of the young boys murdered by U.S. missiles loved to play soccer and couldn't wait to learn how to drive. He didn't solemnly note that many of the young girls shot to death by soldiers who love what they do wanted to become doctors and lawyers and human rights activists and teachers and wives and mothers. He didn't devote a segment of his show to the murder of Mohammed Yonus, "a 36-year-old imam and a respected religious authority", killed in Kabul in early 2010 while commuting to a madrasa where he taught 150 students." The New York Times reported, "A passing military convoy raked his car with bullets, ripping open his chest as his two sons sat in the car."

O'Donnell didn't tearfully point out that the bullets and bombs that have killed so many men and women have left countless orphans and widows and taken countless children away from countless parents all sacrificed on the altar of the so-called "War on Terror" and American security and exceptionalism.

None of these innocents - people obliterated in their own houses, in their own fields, and in their own cars on their own roads - was accorded a second of screen time or a moment of acknowledgment during O'Donnell's "Rewrite."

It is unsurprising that, in March 2010, General Stanley A. McChrystal told U.S. troops during a video-conference about civilian deaths at checkpoints in Afghanistan, "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Nevertheless, upon McChrystal's dishonorable retirement only a few months later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered the following tribute: "Over the past decade, arguably no single American has inflicted more fear, more loss of freedom and more loss of life on our country's most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal."

Lawrence O'Donnell, while chastising the American public for not paying enough attention to our myriad military invasions, occupations and war crimes, said that only "a nation whose news media is more troubled by the loss of credit-ratings than the loss of life" could act in such a way. He didn't mean, of course, the loss of Afghan lives, only of American soldiers. The U.S. government operates the same way; it still doesn't compile death tolls for its murderous operations. Earlier this year, the ACLU revealed [PDF]:
The Department of Defense has confirmed that it does not compile statistics about the total number of civilians that have been killed by its unmanned drone aircraft.


According to the DOD, the military’s estimates of civilian casualties do not distinguish between deaths caused by remote-controlled drones and those caused by other aircraft. While each drone strike appears to be subject to an individual assessment after the fact, there is no total number of casualties compiled. Moreover, information contained in the individual assessments is classified – making it impossible for the public to learn how many civilians have been killed overall.

On July 5, 2005, journalist Peter Symonds wrote:
In what can only be regarded as a bloody act of revenge, the US military last Sunday killed as many as 17 civilians in an air raid on the remote village of Chechal in the northeast Afghan province of Kunar.

The attack took place just five kilometres from where a US Chinook helicopter was shot down, four days before, resulting in the deaths of 16 US special forces personnel — the largest single loss of American troops since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

While it remains to be seen what kind of lethal punishment Afghan civilians will bear in retaliation for the most recent Chinook crash with its record-breaking American death toll, one thing is certain: Lawrence O'Donnell will offer no words of sorrow or condolence, no melancholy homage to the dead, no decorous harangue of the American public for not caring enough, for not knowing the names, faces, and stories of those killed by our own soldiers whose salaries we pay and bombs we build.

To mourn only fallen soldiers of one's own country and not even notice the civilians they are trained to kill in their own country is to rewrite the history of war and violence and further entrenches the vile ideology of "us vs. them", inverts aggressor and victim, and praises invasion and empire. Lawrence O'Donnell, by deliberately ignoring the thousands of Afghan dead during his encomium for the dead American soldiers, has proven that, as far as the mainstream media is concerned, justice will never have the last word.

[Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. His analysis of United States foreign policy and Middle East issues is published on his website,, and can also be found in numerous other online and print publications.]

Source / Wide Asleep in America

Fluxed Up World

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Climate Change: We've Just Seen the Beginning

The Fires This Time
By Neil deMause / August 3, 2011

In coverage of extreme weather, media downplay climate change

On April 14, a massive storm swept down out of the Rocky Mountains into the Midwest and South, spawning more than 150 tornadoes that killed 43 people across 16 states (Capital Weather Gang, 4/18/11). It was one of the largest weather catastrophes in United States history—but was soon upstaged by an even larger storm, the 2011 Super Outbreak that spread more than 300 tornadoes across 14 states from April 25 to 28 (including an all-time one-day record of 188 twisters on April 27), killing 339 people, including 41 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN, 5/1/11).

Ensuing weeks saw Texas wildfires that had been burning since December expand to consume more than 3 million acres (Texas Forest Service, 6/28/11; CNN, 4/25/11), plus record flooding along the Mississippi River, which couldn’t contain the water from April’s storms on top of the spring snowmelt. On May 22, a super-strong F5 tornado killed 153 people as it flattened a large part of Joplin, Missouri (National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, 5/22/11) ; in the first two weeks of June, a heat wave broke temperature records in multiple states, and the Wallow fire became the largest in Arizona state history (Washington Post, 6/14/11).

It was an unprecedented string of severe weather: By mid-June, more than 1,000 tornadoes had killed 536 people (NOAA, 6/13/11), nearly as many deaths as in the entire preceding decade. And it was only natural to ask: Were we seeing the effects of climate change?

Most scientists would say yes, or at least “probably.” The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, a global scientific body that has been a target of conservatives despite a record of soft-pedaling its findings to avoid controversy (Extra!, 7/8/07), warned on February 2, 2007, “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.” (In science-speak, “very likely” refers to a certainty of greater than 90 percent, and is as near as you get to a definitive conclusion.) Other forecasts (e.g., Environment America, 9/8/10) have projected that wet regions will receive record rainfall thanks to increasing evaporation, while dry ones get record drought, as climate patterns shift to accommodate the new normal.

Yet despite these dire predictions, U.S. media were hesitant to investigate the links between climate change and this spring’s extreme weather. Much coverage settled for the cheap irony of contrasting extreme phenomena, as when NBC’s Saturday Today show meteorologist Bill Karins (6/11/11) quipped:

Feast or famine’s been the rule this spring. The northern half of the country, we’ve dealt with the heavy rain, the record snow pack that’s now melting in the northern Rockies. That’s causing the flooding. The southern half of the country, you would love some of that rain.

Even news reports that probed deeper into the causes of the spring’s extreme weather, though, often stopped short of looking at climate factors. A Chicago Tribune story (4/29/11) headlined, “Why April Record for Twisters? Experts Call It Random, Say Nature Varies,” noted that “some meteorologists” blame the periodic weather pattern known as La Niña, but then cited other scientists as saying the tornado outbreak was just random variation, with University of Illinois meteorologist Bob Rauber saying, “Global warming is occurring, but this is not a manifestation of it.”

On the CBS Evening News (6/9/11), meanwhile, John Blackstone noted, “Perhaps the biggest weather troublemaker has been in the Gulf of Mexico, where sea surface temperatures have been almost 2 degrees [Fahrenheit] above average. That warm, moist Gulf air meeting the powerful jet stream created the string of tornadoes that killed 525 people.” Yet, asked by anchor Scott Pelley why the Gulf of Mexico is hotter than usual, Blackstone replied only: “Well, it’s related to the drought in the South—in the South-Southwest, with little clouds, lots of sunshine, the waters warming up and those warm waters could add energy to this hurricane season as well.”

But while La Niña is a natural cyclical variation, the warming Gulf is not—at the very least, it’s exacerbated by the global warming trend, which has pumped at least four times the heat energy into the oceans that it has into the atmosphere (NPR, 3/19/08). As National Center for Atmospheric Research climatologist Kevin Trenberth explained to Extra!, the air over oceans now averages 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer and 4 percent wetter than it was before 1970. “So there is more warm moist air from the Gulf flowing into all spring storms that travel across the U.S. That destabilizes the air, provides fuel for thunderstorms and converts some thunderstorms into supercell storms, which in turn provide the environment for tornadoes to form.”

The easiest connection for most reporters to make was with heat waves, probably because they match best with the popular image of “global warming.” “Intense hot conditions will increase dramatically over the next 30 years,” ABC News’ Jim Avila (6/8/11) reported after June’s record-setting heat wave. “Climatologists say it’s clear: Global warming is beginning to show itself in plain sight.”

For other extreme weather events, though, climate change only merited occasional mention. The wildfires that raged out of control across the Southwest in May and June were mostly covered as an unexpected natural disaster, without much thought of causes; in one exception, the Arizona Republic (6/12/11) fixed the blame squarely on the state having too many trees—a charge also brought up by the New York Times (6/11/11), which reported that, among other things, “Some [residents and experts] complained that it was environmentalists who had caused the forests to become tinderboxes by preventing the thinning of trees as they sought to protect wildlife.”

This common conservative claim, Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm noted (6/12/11), was refuted in a 2006 paper (Science, 8/16/06) that found that fires were increasing the most at higher elevations, where forest restoration is less of an issue, but where warmer temperatures have a huge impact by melting winter snows earlier and increasing summer drought.

In fact, scientists have long predicted that one result of climate change would be a dramatic increase in Western wildfires, as Pete Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor explained in a rare article making such connections (6/9/11). The National Academy of Sciences projected (7/16/10) that a 1-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures—just half the best-case scenario in most climate models—could more than triple the acreage burned by wildfires in the U.S. West. Washington Post blogger Jason Samenow (6/14/11) reported on this study, but it went unmentioned in the newspaper’s wildfire coverage.

Similarly, a NASA wildfire model released last year (10/27/10) projected that climate change would lead to an increase of fires in the U.S. West of between 30 and 60 percent by 2100. “I want you to think a little bit of fire as a metaphor for the many things that climate change holds for us,” NASA earth sciences director Peter Hildebrand told a conference in Colorado in early April—though the only reporter to note this statement was environmental journalist Brendon Bosworth on his self-titled blog (4/8/11).

As for tornadoes, news coverage was openly dismissive of their connection to climate change. A New York Times Q & A following the Joplin tornado (5/25/11) asked: “Can the intensity of this year’s tornadoes be blamed on climate change?” and answered “Probably not. Over all, the number of violent tornadoes has been declining in the United States, even as temperatures have increased.”

Indeed, while the number of reported tornadoes has steadily risen in recent years, prior to this year the number of strong tornadoes (category F4 or F5) had not, leading most scientists to conclude that the rising totals for weak storms are merely a result of more thorough reporting, thanks to sprawling development in tornado-prone regions that has put more people within sighting distance. And because the mechanics of tornado generation are poorly understood—and they depend on vertical temperature differential, so a warming lower atmosphere would predict more tornadoes, but a warming upper atmosphere would tend to reduce them—most scientists say that stronger and more frequent tornadoes can’t be definitively linked to climate.

Still, Trenberth told the blog Think Progress (4/29/11) that it’s “irresponsible” not to mention climate change in tornado coverage. “The basic driver of thunderstorms is the instability in the atmosphere: warm moist air at low levels with drier air aloft,” he told the site. “With global warming, the low-level air is warm and moister and there is more energy available to fuel all of these storms.”

Most reporters, though, chose to stick to the narrower question of whether these particular tornadoes were caused by climate change—which, given all the factors involved to create any particular storm, is impossible to answer, except in the sense in which all weather today is the product of a warmed climate.

“Contributing to the thrashing were the La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the increase of moisture in the atmosphere caused by the warming climate,” wrote the Washington Post (6/15/11) on the spring’s tornadoes, fires and floods. The piece cited National Oceanographic and Atmo-spheric Administration climate director Thomas Karl as “caution[ing] against focusing on any single cause for the unusual chain of events,” quoting him as saying that “clearly these things interconnect.”

Karl also featured prominently in an article by the New York Times’ John Broder (6/15/11) that reported, “Government scientists said Wednesday that the frequency of extreme weather has increased over the past two decades, in part as a result of global warming,” but quickly added that scientists “were careful not to blame humans for this year’s rash of deadly events.” Broder’s only evidence: Karl’s statement that “since 1980, indeed, extreme climatological and meteorological events have increased. But in the early part of the 20th century, there was also a tendency for more extreme events followed by a quiet couple of decades.”

The story’s headline: “Scientists See More Deadly Weather, but Dispute the Cause.” (Broder later apologized to Romm—Climate Progress, 6/18/11—for what he called a “crappy headline.”)

In fact, though, Karl had previously made clear that climate change would result in more extreme weather. “How climate change will be felt by you and impact your neighbors is probably going to be through extreme weather and climate events,” he told EarthSky (3/15/10). “We may be fine for many years, and all of a sudden, one particular season, one particular year, the extremes are far worse than we’ve ever seen before.”

In many ways, articles like Broder’s parallel the decades-long public debate over carcinogens: It’s just as difficult to say whether any one person’s cancer was caused by pollutants as whether one weather event was caused by climate change. And in both cases, statistical studies have a literally fatal drawback: By the time you’ve gathered enough data, it’s too late to prevent the consequences.

Scientists, then, may conclude that it’s “too soon to tell” exactly how climate change affects tornadoes and other severe weather, but that’s not the same as saying it has no effect. As Trenberth tells Extra! of the spring’s string of catastrophes: “Much of what goes on is natural variability and weather. But there is a component from human influences through global warming. While it may be modest, it is real and significant.”

As noted, the role of climate change in the spring’s severe weather wasn’t entirely ignored. The Christian Science Monitor (6/9/11), in its report on Arizona wildfires that had “blackened an area half the size of Rhode Island,” called them “the latest poster child for what some scientists see as a long-term trend toward larger, longer-lived wildfires in the American West,” noting that “climate change appears to be an important contributor.”

Urgency was left to op-ed pages: Climate activist Bill McKibben wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post (5/23/11) that sarcastically suggested: “It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies.” Environmental writer Chip Ward wrote an opinion piece on CBS (6/16/11): “Global warming, global weirding, climate change—whatever you prefer to call it—is not just happening in some distant, melting Arctic land out of a storybook. It is not just burning up far-away Russia. It’s here now.” (CBS News’ television programs, meanwhile, never once mentioned climate change in their coverage of the spring’s wildfires.)

One example of how to cover the story differently came from the Edmonton Journal (5/17/11), where columnist Graham Thomson wrote:

No scientist can guarantee that any of these events are caused by human-induced climate change. Climate change is all about trends.

However, the trends are consistent: The atmosphere is warming, the climate is changing and we are largely responsible through our burning of fossil fuels.

What scientists can tell us is that as the climate warms we’ll experience more extreme weather events leading to floods, droughts, forest fires and crop failures. In other words, it’s what we’re seeing now.

Even Thomson, though, didn’t try to suggest that we change our behavior to prevent extreme weather from becoming the norm.

Similarly, when the New York Times editorial page weighed in on what can be done about climate change (6/1/11), it was to praise the city of Chicago for building more rooftop gardens and adding air conditioning to classrooms as part of “long-term preparations for a warmer, stormier climate.” Never mind that the electricity needed to power air conditioners is a major contributor of carbon emissions, or that air conditioning in schools is unlikely to do much to stem the additional 166 to 2,217 annual deaths that researchers Roger Peng and Francesca Domenici estimate Chicago will suffer by the end of the century as the result of climate change (Environmental Health Perspectives, 5/11).

And then there was the counsel given by Nightline anchor Bill Weir (4/26/11), who bent over backwards to avoid definitive conclusions on the causes of the deadly weather:

After months of epic droughts and floods, blizzards and heat waves, some are seeing proof of warnings past, while others refuse to believe that man could ever wreck God’s planet. But neither side can deny that we are having one hellacious spring.

He informed viewers that a NASA scientist says blaming individual weather events on climate change is “a leap too far,” then signed off with this advice: “In the near term, the best you can do is get a weather radio and try to stay dry.”

SIDEBAR: Don’t Need a Weather Channel to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

When NBC Universal purchased the Weather Channel in 2008, it was described by company CEO Jeffrey Zucker (New York Times, 7/7/08) as making the network “the pre-eminent leader in news and information. We’re No. 1 in business news, No. 1 in general broadcast news, and now we’re No. 1 in weather news too.”
During this spring’s extreme weather events, NBC certainly made use of its new property, with repeated appearances by familiar Weather Channel faces on its news programs. After the late April tornadoes, NBC anchor Brian Williams asked meteorologist Greg Forbes (4/28/11): “People ask the same question, what’s going on here? Is this something we have done?” Forbes avoided the climate question: “Certainly the atmosphere has been in a frenzy. The jet stream just keeps blasting across the country, and then the warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico just keeps feeding with instability, and so we’ve had tornado after tornado.”

The next night (4/29/11), it was the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore—familiar to millions of viewers as the face peering out from inside a rain slicker during any number of hurricanes—who was similarly questioned by Williams, with no clearer results:

CANTORE: Brian, when you go back and you look for evidence of something, sometimes the most obvious things don’t hit you until you just—they’re right there in front of your face. If we have a warmer Earth, and the purpose of the jet stream is to help equalize all of that, well, because it’s warmer, it’s going to have to work a lot harder. And that, in addition to the fact that we have so much instability out there in this month of April, heat and humidity, those two things create this monster outbreak....

WILLIAMS: I guess we’re all looking for ways to explain away what happened here.

CANTORE: It’s hard to do that.

Forbes and Cantore should perhaps be cut some slack, as they’re meteorologists, not climate experts. The Weather Channel used to have an environmental reporting team, including a weekly show called Forecast Earth that focused on climate change—but they were all laid off as one of NBC’s first cost-cutting moves after purchasing the channel (,11/21/08).

[Neil deMause is a frequent contributor to Extra! and a contributing editor for City Limits magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @neildemause.]

Source / Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Fluxed Up World

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