January 01, 2010
Inside the Military Media Industrial Complex: Impacts on Movements for Peace and Social Justice
Among the most important corporate media censored news stories of the past decade, one must be that over one million people have died because of the United States military invasion and occupation of Iraq. This, of course, does not include the number of deaths from the first Gulf War nor the ensuing sanctions placed upon the country of Iraq that, combined, caused close to an additional one million Iraqi deaths. In the Iraq War, which began in March of 2003, over a million people have died violently primarily from US bombings and neighborhood patrols. These were deaths in excess of the normal civilian death rate under the prior government. Among US military leaders and policy elites, the issue of counting the dead was dismissed before the Iraqi invasion even began. In an interview with reporters in late March of 2002 US General Tommy Franks stated, “You know we don’t do body counts.”[i] Fortunately, for those concerned about humanitarian costs of war and empire, others do.
In a January 2008 report, the British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) reported that, “survey work confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003. We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000.”[ii]
The ORB report came on the heels of two earlier studies conducted by Dr. Les Roberts and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University and published in the Lancet medical journal. The first study done from January 1, 2002 to March 18, 2003 confirmed civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. The second study published in October 2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the start of the US invasion and confirmed that US aerial bombing in civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of these deaths. Over half the deaths were directly attributable to US forces. The now estimated 1.2 million dead six years into the war/occupation, included children, parents, grandparents, cab drivers, clerics and schoolteachers. All manner of ordinary Iraqis have died because the United States decided to invade their country under false pretences of undiscovered weapons of mass destruction and in violation of international law. An additional four to five million Iraqi refugees have fled their homes
The magnitude of these million-plus deaths and creation of such a vast refugee crisis is undeniable. The continuing occupation by US forces has guaranteed a monthly mass death rate of thousands of people a carnage that ranks among the most heinous mass killings in world history. More tons of bombs have been dropped in Iraq than in all of World War II. [iii] Six years later the casualties continue but the story, barely reported from the start, has vanished.
The American people face a serious moral dilemma. Murder and war crimes have been conducted in their name. Yet most Americans have no idea of the magnitude of deaths and tend to believe that they number in the thousands and are primarily Iraqis killing Iraqis. Corporate mainstream media are in large part to blame. The question then becomes how can this mass ignorance and corporate media deception exist in the United States and what impact does this have on peace and social justice movements in the country? [iv]
Truth Emergency and Media Reform
In the United States today, the rift between reality and reporting has peaked. There is no longer a mere credibility gap, but rather a literal Truth Emergency in which the most important information-affecting people is concealed from view. Many Americans, relying on the mainstream corporate media, have serious difficulty accessing the truth while still believing that the information they receive is the reality. A Truth Emergency reflects cumulative failures of the fourth estate to act as a truly free press. This truth emergency is seen in inadequate coverage of fraudulent elections, pseudo 9/11 investigations, illegal preemptive wars, torture camps, doctored intelligence, and domestic surveillance. Reliable information on these issues is systematically missing in corporate media outlets, where the vast majority of the American people continue to turn for news and information.
Consider these items of noteworthy conditions. US workers have been faced with a thirty-five year decline in real wages while the top few percent enjoy unparalleled wealth with strikingly low tax burdens. US schools, particularly in the west, are more segregated now than half a century ago. The US has the highest infant mortality rate among industrialized nations, is falling behind in scientific research and education, leads the world as a debtor nation, and is seriously lacking in healthcare quality and coverage, which results in the deaths of 18,000 people a year. America has entered another Gilded Age. Someone should alert the media. [v]
The Free Press or Media Reform Movement is a national effort to address mainstream media failures and the government policies that sanction them. During the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Minneapolis, Project Censored interns and faculty conducted a survey, completed by 376 randomly selected NCMR attendees out of the 3,500 people registered for the conference. This survey was designed to gauge participants’ views on the state of the corporate news media and the effectiveness of the media reform movement. The survey also sought to determine the level of belief in a truth emergency, a systematic hiding of critical information in the US. Not surprisingly, for a sample of independent media reform activists, majorities in the 90% plus range agreed on most criticisms of mainstream media, that corporate media failed to keep the American people informed on important issues facing the nation and that a truth emergency does indeed exist in the US. Regarding the reasons, 87% of the participants believed that a military-industrial-media complex exists in the US for the promotion of the US military domination of the world and most agreed with research conclusions by Project Censored, and others, that a continuing powerful global dominance group inside the US government, the US media, and the national policy structure is responsible. What was clear from our survey is that media democracy activists strongly support not only aggressive reform efforts and policy changes but also the continuing development of independent, grassroots media as part of an overall media democracy movement.
While most progressive media activists do not believe in some omnipotent conspiracy, an overwhelming portion of NCMR participants do believe the leadership class in the US is dominated by a neo-conservative group of some several hundred people who share a goal of asserting US military power worldwide. This Global Dominance Group (GDM) continues under both Republican and Democratic rule. In cooperation with major military contractors, the corporate media, and conservative foundations, the GDM has become a powerful long-term force in military unilateralism and US political processes.
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