Book Review: Twilight Of Empire Responses To Occupation
Have you ever heard the term the Fourth Estate? For Americans it would be along the lines of the three branches of federal government, but this I believe came from the Brits. Or it might just have easily been the French the founders of democracy (You didn't know that did you, all you hate mongers in the United States who feel the French should have gone into Iraq with you – is that a finger I see the Statue of Liberty giving you – a present from the French on your centenary by the way – or just the cheerful wave of someone saying I told you but would you listen? At least the French learnt from their history and don't want to get bogged down in the Middle East again – they split after Algeria and aren’t in any hurry to come back) It refers to the three Estates of their governments (The British and The French), plus the fourth whose duty is to question, and examine the policies of the government on behalf of the people – that would be the Press.
Supposedly a free and separate body from the government who are at liberty to go and see whatever they want and report on it, the press were given their almost official title in recognition of the valuable role they can play in making governments toe the line and respect the rights of the people. Haven't you ever noticed that the first thing that happens in any civil war or insurrection is one side or another will always attempt to seize control of the television broadcast facilities and the radio stations? Control the information that gets to the people and you control the people.
A very simple truth. One that every single government in the world practices as much as they possibly can today. They can be a so-called democracy or a one party state and the way they treat the media will be exactly the same. The number of ways in which you can prevent information from being published in North America are greater then the number of independently owned media outlets. In fact that's one of the easiest routes to take in controlling the press – allow fewer and fewer people to own more of the media.
When the major media outlets across the country are only owned by one or two corporations – under many different names of course but ultimately the decisions are all made in one boardroom by the same group of very wealthy people whose best interests are at heart? Why their own of course, or at least people in their tax bracket who go to the same country club and belong to the same church as they do.
In other words the media represents the interests of the 3% of the population who control over 90% of the wealth one way or another. If you think they vote socialist or support free health care or anything that might sound like it would cost them a cent of profit you've got another thing coming.
So in this Brave New World of free speech and freedom of the press that we live in the reality is that we are only allowed to hear what the people who own the media thinks is good for us to hear; what they want us to hear. Now of course they don't make those decisions on their own, they leave that to the people who have the authority to let them own even more of the media pie – the government regulators.
Here's an interesting little aside for you that you probably don't know about. Before the American led invasion of Iraq took place and Coin Powell was Uncle Tomming at the United Nations for the current Bush administration, assuring the world (lying through his teeth) that weapons of mass destruction existed – his son over at the F.C.C was busy rewriting the laws making it legal for corporations to own more of the media pie. While daddy was selling the soft soap to the world son was buying the support of the American Media so they could control the flow of information out of Iraq when the war started.
The whole idea of embedded reporters would fall apart if the big four television networks in the U.S., N.B.C., C.B.S., A.B.C., and CNN, and the major papers all said no thanks, we'll go by ourselves like we always have – see you there. I think even the people of the United States would be suspect if none of them were reporting any news from the front. But instead they've all meekly, or more likely obediently, gone along with doing what they are told.
What's even scarier is us the audience going along with it because we don't any better. We are kept so far in the dark that we don't even know there is something that's not being reported. It's only when you read books like Twilight Of Empire, Responses To Occupation an anthology of writings reporting from on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan the stories that the supposed Fourth Estate hasn't bothered or been allowed to report.
For instance if we went into Iraq and Afghanistan to help preserve the rights of women in those countries how is it that it has become less safe in Iraq to be a woman now then it was before the invasion? Why hasn't it been reported that violence against women has increased to such a state that most women are afraid to go out alone because they are so scared of being kidnapped and raped. If somehow they survive that, then they have to live in fear of some male relative killing her because she is now "spoiled goods" and he has to preserve his honour by killing her.
What the hell are the Americans doing there? When they talk about security issues they don't give a shit about the people who live in Baghdad. They say things are getting more secure now, which is true if you happen to be an American soldier armed to the teeth living in a concrete bunker protected by gun emplacements.
They don't care about how many Iraqi's are killed. When asked the General staff replies – oh we don't do body counts of the enemy. They are not the enemy first of all, they are the people you came to liberate aren't they? Or is it now everybody is an enemy.
According to Christian Parenti in her article "Stretched Thin, Lied To, And Mistreated" the American soldiers on the ground now treat every Iraqi as a potential enemy because they have been forced to by the very nature of the occupation. Everybody they see is living lives of abject poverty; unemployment is rampant, the electricity was still off in the majority of the city, there was no fresh water and the only people making money are foreigners coming in and privatizing all of Iraq natural resources thanks to George Bush selling it all out from under them to his cronies in Huston.
So the American soldier who goes out on to the street is now seen as being the oppressor not the liberator. This article was written in 2003 only shortly after the "war" was officially ended, but today the violence on the ground against American soldiers is even worse then it was four years ago.
The scariest thing about a book like Twilight Of The Empire isn't reading the details of how horrible it is for people on both sides of the wire, civilians and the soldiers who are caught in the middle of policy and human decency, in Iraq. Or reading how the only thing the overthrow of the Taliban has done in Afghanistan is allow the guys who were in power before them back in. They were so bad that the Taliban were welcomed as liberators at first in some places.
These things are bad enough but what really gets me is that these stories have never been reported. That almost everything that we've been told in the mainstream press has been a lie. When the Canadian government says we are there until Afghanistan is rebuilt they are lying because they don't even talk about the fact that women are worse off then they were before our troops came. It's as Lauren Sandler reports in "Veiled And Worried In Baghdad" there can be no democracy without "himaya" – security for women.
Reading the articles in Twilight Of Empire brings home the realization of how much we've been lied to. I've known all along that most of what we have been told about the war is bullshit, but this book shows just how deep the lie runs. It wasn't just the reasons for going to war were non existent, it's also the fact that everything it was supposed to have accomplished was a lie right from the start and nobody really gives a shit about the men or women who live in these countries.
From the top down nobody really cared whether women are raped, kept from going to school, deprived of liberty, or faced with the threat of execution when they are raped, because if they did they would have done something about it by now. They wouldn't have let the same folk back into power back in Afghanistan, they would have made a concentrated effort to restore normalcy to Baghdad instead of trying to figure out how to sell off the power companies to foreign ownership.
What's more important, turning the electricity on so that people can carry on with their lives and businesses can open again or figuring out a way to sell the power company? If you opt for the latter and everybody knows that is what's happening don't you think they are going to get mad. How is it that 130,000 heavily armed soldiers, plus tanks etc can't police the streets of Baghdad and make them safe for women?
Why were all the police fired? Why were there no provisions made to replace the ones that were fired? Why are these stories never reported in our papers? Why does our government only talk about how things are getting better and that we don't understand why we have to be in these countries.
You're damned right I don't understand why we have to be over there making things worse for people on a daily basis. I don't understand why we are letting our governments steal everything the people of these countries own and sell it to their friends.
I think everybody who cares about the truth needs to read Twilight Of The Empire. It will not only show you how utterly incompetent Western media have been in reporting the story of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will show what a real member of the Fourth Estate can do when they want to.
There is not excuse for the actions of the major networks in not trying to do their jobs properly – anybody with press credentials can go out into the streets of Baghdad and get these stories. But they haven't and they won't because they have been bought and paid for by the administration.
You don't need to close the television stations or run them from government offices to control them – all you have to do is offer them a bigger piece of the pie and they will do what you want.
This is my favourite story about the media in the United State from the start of this current War. A chain of pro-Bush radio stations organized a series of pro-war demonstrations in major centres across the United States. They shipped people in, handed out banners, and signs and got all the necessary permits to allow them to take place. Then they reported on them as news of how people were spontaneously taking to the streets across the United States in support of the War.
So much for the Fourth Estate in the United States; freedom of the press doesn't exist there anymore than it did in Nazi Germany or in Communist China. Question authority, but most of all question the newspapers – if all they do is quote the government and the military you know they are not doing their jobs. We need more books like Twilight Of The Gods, and more people willing to search out the truth like the men and women who have written the reports in this book, and the men and women who have talked to the reporters in this book.
We need more truth.