I recently saw the film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, the name given to a secret Department of Defense study of US political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The Papers implicated the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, forcing the latter to resign in disgrace. This study, officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, was commissioned in 1967 by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
When Daniel Ellsberg, a military strategist employed at the time by the RAND Corporation, decided to make these papers public in 1971, he first approached the New York Times. After consulting with its legal staff and ignoring charges by government officials of a national security breech, the Times agreed to publish parts of the Pentagon Papers because it felt strongly that the public needed to know what its government was doing in Vietnam. Some twenty-seven other newspapers followed suit, each publishing portions of the seven thousand page document.
Sadly, the mass media news outlets of today serve the power brokers and the Washington Establishment, not the American public. As a result they, for the most part, are left in the dark about the neocons’ undue influence over our foreign policy, about our intimate involvement in the coup d’état in Ukraine and the war in Yemen, about the CIA’s training of jihadists in Jordan since the early 2000’s in order to carry out “regime change” in Syria, the odd-couple relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia and their attempts to scuttle the Iran deal, our ally Turkey’s involvement with ISIS and its staging of a lethal sarin gas attack on civilians and then blaming it on President Assad, Obama’s unwillingness to condemn Saudi Arabia’s beheading of a prominent Shiite leader whose only crime was to criticize the monarch or to object to the Saudi’s plan to crucify the cleric’s teenage nephew because he participated in the Arab Spring protests.
In this age of pervasive media, there is an obsession among the power elites to control as much of the messaging as possible. According to Robert Parry in his article The Power of False Narrative in Consortium News, “Strategic communications,” or Stratcom, a propaganda/psy-op technique that treats information as a “soft power” weapon to wield against adversaries, is the new catch phrase in an Official Washington obsessed with the clout that comes from spinning false narratives.”
As though this were not enough, we also have the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon and NATO pushing various narratives to sell the American public on how they should view US foreign policies, rivals and allies, painting black hats on adversaries and white hats on so-called allies, regardless of what the truth really is. It is the 1980’s all over again when the Reagan Administration sought to override “the Vietnam Syndrome,” the public’s aversion to foreign military interventions that followed the Vietnam War. To get Americans to “kick” this syndrome, Reagan’s team developed “themes” about foreign events that would push American “hot buttons.” Putin is the newest “hot button,” followed by President Assad and Hezbollah.
It is a dangerous game our media minders are playing and for that reason it is more important than ever that we have access to honest reporting. Thankfully the internet allows us to seek out such reporters as Robert Parry, Alexander Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Naom Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Bill Moyers, Glen Greenwald, Pepe Escobar, Max Blumenthal and Ramzy Baroud, to name but a few. In writing The Syrian, a political thriller that takes place between Syria and Lebanon, I use fiction to convey the truth about US and Israeli atrocities which I lived through and know to be true.
So, what can we do to counter the false narratives and endless wars? First and foremost, we must overcome our complacency and become better informed on the issues affecting our foreign policy so as to better differentiate fact from fallacy. And we can also hope that more Daniel Ellsberg’s will come forward to lead the way.
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