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2004: The Year Of The Passive Press

by Jeff Elliott

2003: The Year Of Pack Journalism

The Passive Press
The great scary floating head will say many interesting things, but it's there to entertain and distract you, not tell you the truth. News is what's taking place behind the curtain. It's important for those who work in the media to understand the difference
time for liberals and lefties to suck it up: Americans gave hard-right conservatives a decisive victory this year because they liked what they saw. You can now expect moderates to tilt sharply right in hopes of appealing to this new face of America.

No, it's not the presidential election, where Bush barely won the popular vote -- it's the world of broadcast news, which is still reeling from FOX News' ground-shaking ratings win during the week of the GOP convention. Fox averaged 7.3 million viewers -- over four times higher than the 1.4 million people watching second-ranked NBC. In media circles, weeks of handwringing followed: Was it a fluke? Media consultants couldn't decide. But after the election was credited to a whopping turnout of the "traditional values" crowd, you can bet that corporate boardrooms are turning up the pressure on newsrooms to add a shrill voice or three to the lineup.

Network and cable news networks may very well lean rightwards as they seek to steal away red-staters from Fox. The same may happen with print media, where readership has been slowly sliding down the cliff for more than a decade. It could be happening already; notice a greater number of "good news" stories about Iraq, and less emphasis on the daily carnage?

Owners and corporate chiefs can (and do) pressure editors and producers to spin the news, usually by keeping a tight grip on the wallet. Stories requiring significant original research are expensive; what's the payback? Bottom-up pressure to suppress stories is often just as strong. Spending too much time on a story makes a reporter look like an unproductive worker. Worse, reporting on a controversial topic might jeopardize your career, and good journalism jobs are far and few in-between. Do you dare take the risk? Top investigative reporter Gary Webb did in 1996, with an acclaimed series on the CIA-Contra drug connections. But under pressure his editor at the San Jose Mercury News killed the series, and Webb was demoted to an office distant from his family, where he soon quit. His career never recovered and he committed suicide this month. Caveat scriptor.

This year's theme of the "Passive Press" is a natural sequel to our choice of "pack journalism" last year, describing how journalists cover the same angles of the same stories because it's the safest option. The Passive Press waits for stories to be handed to them, a gift neatly wrapped. The Passive Press loves handouts, press pool coverage, photo-ops, and pictures that can be incorporated into news broadcasts. The Passive Press loves non-profit groups that give them investigative reports chock full o' facts and figures -- and hopefully, pictures that can be incorporated into news broadcasts. The Passive Press knows spokesmen and women don't always tell the whole truth, but doesn't really care. If there's a contrary point worth making, it's up to the opposing side to make it; more coverage will be given to whichever side offers the best pictures that can be incorporated into news broadcasts.

The Passive Press is especially dazzled by celebrity. Oh, how it is dazzled. Celebrities that cross over from the magic world of entertainment are news in themselves; a single opinionated movie star outweighs diplomats, authors, scholars, and scientists. Powerful politicians are another breed of celebrity, both nutured and feared by the Passive Press. Easily bullied by the most intimidating voice in the room (hello, Karl Rove), the Passive Press is loathe to offend the powerful -- don't expect pushy questions at news conferences, or embarassing followup stories.

But mostly, the Passive Press believes its work ends with disseminating facts. Successful careers in the Passive Press are built upon presenting those facts in an entertaining way. These facts may be untrue, and everyone in the news organization may know this, but no matter; it's up to news consumers to gather enough information from all sources to decide that for themselves. Informing the public is one thing, actually explaining the truth is someone else's task.

For additional reading we recommend Meet the Stenographers from FAIR and Cowardice In The Newsrooms by Edward Wasserman, which eloquently describes the climate of fear in today's newsrooms.

(In most cases, further links within the stories below provide even more background. Some articles are available to subscribers only. Here is information on how to subscribe.)


Good news! The mad scientist who was providing the "Axis of Evil" with nuclear weapons technology and components has been uncovered! When this top Saddam henchman goes to trial, the world will finally see that the invasion of Iraq was completely justified. Oh, wait, this evildoer had nothing to do with the Iraq regime -- and instead of being held accountable, he wasn't charged with wrongdoing.

On February 4, A.Q. Khan, known as the 'Father of the Pakistani Bomb,' admitted to selling WMD know-how and materials to Iran, Libya and North Korea. The very next day he was pardoned for his crimes by Pakistan. Nuclear weapons proliferation is not a crime under Pakistan law.

Khan escaped punishment because the man caught in the middle was really Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf, probably the most important Terror War ally of the Bush White House.


"Blood and tears, the smell of gunpowder and sound of bullets drown out the sound of democracy"

-- Cemil Cicek, Turkey's justice minister. Associated Press, April 13

"It doesn't help you win the hearts and minds of the public if you put a bullet in their hearts and another in the minds"

-- Mark Garlasco, senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, quoted by AP December 10, the same day that a U.S. soldier was found guilty of murdering a wounded Iraqi teenage boy in a "mercy killing." Garlasco said there were 1,000 "questionable deaths" of civilians in just the first 3 weeks of the invasion, and it has been impossible to count civilian deaths since that time

"We want Bush because with him the American troops will stay in Iraq and that way we will be able to develop"

-- Former hostage Georges Malbrunot, recalling that his captors in Iraq cheered for Bush to win the election because they thought his victory would boost their cause. AP, December 24

"The Bush administration had over a year of planning before going to war in Iraq. An ammunition shortage is not an exercise in tough love"

-- Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who has acted as a defense lawyer in military courts, on equipment shortages and poor training given to reservists and National Guard troops being called back to active duty. One group of 200 soldiers were given only an hour of training with night-vision goggles, sharing 30 pairs which they had to pass around quickly, according to the Los Angeles Times November 22. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said

"We didn't know they had that room to grow. It's like, 'Crunch all you want -- we'll make more.' They just make more Republicans"

-- Kerry campaign Ohio spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, on the post-election shock of discovering that they had badly underestimated GOP stength in exurbia, particularly 10 crucial counties, where Christian conservatives were now living in new town houses and McMansions. ''They just came in droves," she said. NY Times Magazine, November 21

"When the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility"

-- NBC cameraman Kevin Sites, writing a November 21 open letter to the U.S. soldiers he covered in Falluja. Sites, who filmed one of them shooting an unarmed, wounded Iraqi man in a mosque, has received death threats for filming the execution-style killing   (MORE)

"[The media] are incapable of regulating themselves. What's at stake is our democracy. If you think that American democracy can survive without an ethical media, then you are wrong"

-- Howard Dean, on the need for government regulation of media ownership. "The media is a failing institution in this country... [it] is trained to get the entertainment value and screw the facts." Quoted at a November 17 symposium by Yale Daily News

"If we can't win this damn election, with a Democratic Party more unified than ever before, with us having raised as much money as the Republicans, with 55% of the country believing we're heading in the wrong direction, with our candidate having won all three debates, and with our side being more passionate about the outcome than theirs, if we can't win this one, then we can't win [anything]! And we need to completely rethink the Democratic Party"

-- James Carville at an October 21 gathering, quoted by Arianna Huffington's Nov. 11 column. Three days later on 'Meet The Press' he smashed a raw egg on his head to express that he had 'egg on his face'

"We love doing the death of the parties and the death of great movements. It's just a good, sexy story to say, 'Are the Democrats through?' If we didn't write about process, my God, we'd have to start writing about policy"

-- Roger Simon of U.S. News & World Report, quoted in the Washington Post November 4

"I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon"

-- A U.S. soldier who was "devastated" to learn that a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control shortly after the fall of Baghdad, taking lethal materials such as live HIV and black fever virus. U.S. troops stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important. Anecdote told by former ambassador Peter W. Galbraith in a Boston Globe commentary, October 27

"Their army is how much bigger than mine? Three percent? Well shucks, Bubba. Now is the time to establish a network and an attitude"

-- Hunter S. Thompson quoted in the Aspen Daily News, November 4. "You make friends in moments of defeat. People in defeat tend to bond because they need each other. We can't take the attitude that it's over and we give up. We're still here."

"Now comes the revolution"

-- Richard Viguerie, the dean of conservative direct mail, quoted in the NY Times November 3. "If you don't implement a conservative agenda now, when do you?"

"Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost."

-- Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, to columnist Sidney Blumenthal, September 16. "This is far graver than Vietnam... we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies."

"Soon after the regime fell, porno discs were all the rage. Now it's beheadings"

-- Attallah Zeidan, co-owner of a bookshop in Baghdad's Old City. AP September 27

"He does not understand that when you act recklessly, your mistakes will come back and bite you on the ass"

-- Chas Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia under George H.W. Bush, on Dick Cheney. "It was clear from the start that Bush required adult supervision -- but it turns out Cheney has even worse instincts." Rolling Stone, August 25

"[Karl] Rove lives for this stuff. Not just attacking Kerry's strengths but also doing something that distracts reporters' attention from looking for the real stories."

-- James Moore, co-author of "Bush's Brain," on the media attention given to anti-Kerry veterans. "Democrats always make the mistake of believing the media will be a referee and truth will prevail. It's as if they have learned nothing from Paula Jones and Whitewater," added media critic James Wolcott. Both quotes from The Washington Post, August 26

"Wives, daughters, husbands -- you just know you're destroying that tomb. It doesn't feel right sometimes"

-- Sgt. Hector Guzman, 28, of the 1st Cavalry Division's 5th Regiment, fighting rebels in the vast cemetery in Najaf where as many as 2 million Muslims are buried. "We feel bad that we're destroying, that we're desecrating graves and such," Staff Sgt. Thomas Gentry also told The Washington Post August 10. "That's not what we want to do"

"I'm tired of every time we go out the gate, someone tries to kill me"

-- Staff Sgt. Sheldon Rivers, on duty in Ramadi, Iraq. Troops no longer do neighborhood patrols, according to the July 21 Knight-Ridder story, instead moving in heavily armed convoys to other bases or to guard key locations

"We are not lying anymore"

-- Journalists on Ukraine's state-owned channel UT-1 announcing live November 26 on the evening news that the entire news team was joining protests by the opposition. Earlier in the day, the sign language interpreter for the news broadcast ignored the presented text and signed to viewers, "The results announced by the Central Electoral Commission are rigged. Do not believe them. Our president is Yushchenko. I am very disappointed by the fact that I had to interpret lies. I will not do it any more. I do not know if you will see me again"

"Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man, but he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians - wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage"

-- Ron Reagan Jr., presumably referring to President Bush in a eulogy for his father, June 11. Reagan Jr. has made several negative comments about Bush in recent years, including his remark at the Y2000 GOP convention: "What's his accomplishment? That he's no longer an obnoxious drunk?"

"It is easier to raise money for ads attacking Kerry than for pro-Bush ads"

-- Stephen Moore, president of the conservative group Club For Growth, which raised over $10 million in 2002, much of it given to defeat candidates it calls RINOs - Republicans in Name Only. It was thought that only half of the members attending a New York City meeting contributed to Bush. The NY Times, June 4

"The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself'"

-- Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr. as quoted in testimony from another soldier stationed at Abu Ghraib prison. In civilian life, Graner is a Pennsylvania prison guard. Washington Post, May 22

"Iraq might have been worth doing at some price. But it isn't worth doing at any price. And the price has gone very high."

-- Defense consultant Michael Vickers, quoted in the Washington Post, May 9

"That picture showed exactly the type of torture that Saddam's thugs used. The Americans promised us that things would be different than they were under Saddam. They lied"

-- Hassan Saeed, a 27 year-old Iraqi angered over the photos of U.S. soldiers humiliating and torturing prisoners. "These are the things that make Iraqis pick up a weapon and want to kill American soldiers," said another man, quoted by Newsday, May 1. "When I saw those pictures, I wanted to pick up a weapon, too"

"The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."

-- John Dean, legal counsel to Richard Nixon, quoted on NOW with Bill Moyers, April 2. "That is worse than Watergate. No one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses."   (MORE)

"For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks"

-- Max Cleland, quoted by AP February 21. Chambliss won the 2002 Georgia chair in the Senate after smearing Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran, as too soft on homeland security

"It's going to be a mean, nasty campaign"

-- Karl Rove at a Manhattan fund-raiser, quoted by the New York Daily News, February 20

"What do you want me to do, go over and kiss the camera?"

-- Ever gracious Bill O'Reilly, apologizing on Good Morning America February 10 for assuring his audience for months that U.S. forces would discover WMD in Iraq. "I was wrong. I am not pleased about it at all and I think all Americans should be concerned about this... [I am] much more skeptical about the Bush administration now"

"It turns out we were all wrong, and that is most disturbing"

-- David Kay, former top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, January 28. It is still "theoretically possible" that large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons may turn up, Kay said, but it is "highly unlikely"

Instead of clamping down on Pakistan, Bush rewarded the country a month later by making it a "major non-NATO ally," on par with Israel and Japan, and now eligible to buy America's cutting-edge military gear. Musharraf reciprocated with a much-hyped major military operation against al-Qaeda militants in the wilds of South Waziristan, where it was soon claimed that they were about to capture a "high value target." They didn't. That was no surprise; all important al-Qaeda suspects captured in Pakistan have been found in the cities, not in remote areas. (For more information on that, see our 2003 feature, "Who's Hiding Osama Bin Laden?")

Clearly Bush had a none-too-subtle deal with his pal, Musharraf. With crucial elections coming up -- Afghanistan's in October and Bush's own in November -- Musharraf could offer vital help by stopping (or at least, slowing down) the Islamic extremists in Pakistan's wild 'n' wooly west, an area one American intelligence official later told The Atlantic was ''the most concentrated Al-Qaida area on the planet.'' If someone indeed captured a "high value target" such as bin Laden or Mullah Omar, it would probably ensure Bush's victory. In return, Musharraf won the much-coveted status upgrade, and last month the U.S. also helped Musharraf in his bid to become a Middle East peacemaker, a role that will go far to protect his back from Islamic fundamentalists back home.

Bush delivered a policy speech Feb. 11 that portrayed A.Q. Khan's network as a threat deftly averted. The Passive Press followed his lead, and told the tale as they might report the bust of a really big drug cartel: Shadowy international companies were named, crates of illegal material with phony labels were described, accounts were told of authorities making deals with ringleaders. A thrilling and scary crime neatly solved and wrapped up.

In his policy speech, Bush also omitted any mention of Pakistan's role in the scheme, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there was no need to punish the nation with U.S. or UN sanctions: "We think that Pakistan is taking serious efforts to end the activities of a dangerous network." It was a disingenuous comment that deflected media attention from the true issue: it was Pakistan behind the network -- Khan was just a salesman.

"This is not a few scientists pocketing money and getting rich. It's a state policy," an expert on Pakistan politics told The New Yorker. None of this could have taken place without the consent of Pakistan's security agencies, controlled by the military. The Kahuta nuclear facility and its personnel are tightly guarded (former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto complained that she could never enter), yet Khan and his cohorts smuggled out massive centrifuges.

And Bush didn't mention the signifigance of the damage already done, even though CIA director George Tenet said just the week before that Khan was "shaving years off the nuclear weapons development timelines" for his customers. As usual, Sy Hersh got it right in a must-read article that puts the story into clear perspective, complete with its terrifying implications:

Many experts fear that, with Khan's help, the world has moved closer to a nuclear tipping point. Husain Haqqani, who was a special assistant to three prime ministers before Musharraf came to power and is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted, with some pride, that his nation had managed to make the bomb despite American sanctions. But now, he told me, Khan and his colleagues have gone wholesale: "Once they had the bomb, they had a shopping list of what to buy and where. A. Q. Khan can bring a plain piece of paper and show me how to get it done -- the countries, people, and telephone numbers. 'This is the guy in Russia who can get you small quantities of enriched uranium. You in Malaysia will manufacture the stuff. Here's who will miniaturize the warhead. And then go to North Korea and get the damn missile.'"


The centrifuge materials that the inspectors found in Libya had not been assembled -- in most cases, in fact, the goods were still in their shipping cases. "I am not impressed by what I've seen," a senior nonproliferation official told me. "It was not a well-developed program -- not a serious research-and-development approach to make use of what they bought. It was useless. But I was absolutely struck by what the Libyans were able to buy. What's on the market is absolutely horrendous. It's a Mafia-type business, with corruption and secrecy."

[UN nuclear] IAEA inspectors, to their dismay, even found in Libya precise blueprints for the design and construction of a half-ton nuclear weapon. "It's a sweet little bomb, put together by engineers who know how to assemble a weapon," an official in Vienna told me. "No question it'll work. Just dig a hole and test it. It's too big and too heavy for a Scud, but it'll go into a family car. It's a terrorist's dream."

The world had a glimpse of the true WMD dangers in February, but few understood what they saw, thanks to lax media coverage. If the Homeland Security color-coded alert system truly meant anything, it would have gone to an ultissimo state of bright, bright red and stayed pegged at the top ever since.

Pakistan Keeping Taliban Alive, Analysts Say
A New Nuclear Proliferation
Intrigue Deepens Over Pakistan's "Pardon" Of Atomic Expert
Pakistan's Nukes-For-Sale Saga Is Far From Over
Pakistan And The True WMD Threat
Mystery Surrounds Iran Nuclear Capability
Pakistan's Musharraf Lobbies To Be Middle East Peacemaker


You know the pictures; you probably have nightmares about them. A prisoner dragged on a leash, naked men piled in a heap, a screaming man cringing from an attack dog, a hooded figure standing christlike with electrodes attached to his fingertips. The torture pictures of Abu Ghraib say much about the U.S. conduct of the Iraq invasion -- and much about the way the U.S. press has failed to do its job.

The military knew about torture at Abu Ghraib at least as far back as October 2003, when the Red Cross notified U.S. authorities about evidence found during its visit -- two months before the infamous photos were taken. In January, Major General Antonio Taguba began his investigation, handing in his report two months later. Nothing happened until the end of April, when copies were leaked to New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and CBS.

Calls for punishment and investigations followed, but little has been done, except for courts-martial of a few low-level guards seen in the pictures. The Pentagon also dispatched Brig. General Charles Jacoby Jr. to write a similar report about prison conditions in Afghanistan, but his finished report -- carefully restricted to looking at only the current situation -- remains "under review" by the military, with no release date announced.

The prisoner abuse story is about the systematic failure of U.S. military ethics -- and also shows a systematic failure of the U.S. press to do its job in at least four significant ways:

  • Failure to explain why the story is important   No matter what happens in the Iraq voting booth or on the Iraq streets, know this: The Battle of Hearts And Minds was decisively lost at Abu Ghraib -- and not just for Iraq, but probably for the entire Muslim world. Americans seem to be the only people who don't grasp the damage done by these pictures, and that's because our media hasn't explained why they are so deeply offensive and racist. But for Muslims, the images are festering wounds that stir emotions as powerful as what we feel about the collapsing twin towers. From those icons will a thousand jihads bloom.

  • Failure to explain who is responsible   In the U.S. press only Fox and friends mentions this issue regularly, and that by editorializing that the blame should fall only on Lynndie England and those few other prison guards, rotten apples, all. But the authorization for abusing prisoners reaches directly into the White House, where White House counsel (and now, presumptive Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales wrote memos justifying the use of torture. Rumsfeld was so indifferent to the problem that he ignored the Taguba report for months -- only after he watched the CBS broadcast did he read the report and see the pictures for the first time. And if these really are war crimes, isn't it the media's job to raise an important question: Who's to blame? Which brings us to...

  • Failure to investigate   Once upon a time, exposing wrongdoing was the media's highest calling. But with only a few exceptions such as The New Yorker, U.S. news organizations are waiting passively for the Pentagon to investigate itself, or for human rights groups to uncover new evidence for them. As Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said this month, "We keep getting new figures [from the Bush administration] every time someone like us or the ACLU comes out with material -- they drip out a little bit more information... They're only doing this under pressure." Unfortunately, the U.S. media is doing precious little to pressure the military into disclosure. Yes, Rumsfeld's Pentagon is secretive, but the Abu Ghraib scandal wasn't a tightly-held conspiracy; scores, probably hundreds, of soldiers knew what was going on -- they were burning CD-ROMs of the pictures and passing them around like trading cards. That the lid was kept on the scandal for six months is a scandal itself.

  • Failure to keep the public aware   The shocking photos were splattered everywhere at first, but when no more pictures of nude Iraqis were forthcoming, interest in new developments waned in the American media. Attention CNN: If you can keep Scott Peterson's face on the screen daily for six months, can't you at least find a couple of minutes for an occasional update about possible war crimes? But new developments about Iraq, Afghanistan, or Guantanamo prison abuse are usually ignored or pushed to the side. Not a single U.S. newspaper can be found that printed either the AP or UPI October 12 wire stories about the eleven prisoners that have "disappeared" in U.S. custody -- a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The prisoner abuse story begins at Abu Ghraib, but the trail leads to Guantanamo and an unknown number of nameless prisons. Will it take war crimes trials to bring the facts out?

Prisoner Abuses Continue In Iraq, Guantanamo
Time For Bush To "Get Serious" About Prosecuting Soldiers, Rights Group Says
Molly Ivins: Speak Out Against U.S. Torture, And Do It Now
U.S. Denies Red Cross Charge Of Guantanamo Torture
UN Report: Fighting Terror Does Not Justify Torture
Bush Losing War For Muslim Hearts And Minds, Pentagon Finds
U.S. Has 'Disappeared' 11 Terror War Prisoners
Iraq Prison Abuse Mirrors Problems In Afghanistan Lockups
Abuse Of Iraqi Prisoners May Be Widespread
U.S. Media Ignores The Racism In Abu Ghraib Prison Photos
Calls For Rumsfeld To Quit Over Prisoner Scandal
Growing Charges Of U.S. Abuse In Iraq
Evidence Growing of Atrocities Against Afghanistan War Prisoners (2002)
Taliban Prisoners Dying In Afghanistan Lockups (2002)


To the media failures listed in the item above, let's add another scold: Failure of the U.S. press to police itself.

This should come as no great surprise; every kind of organization thinks it can keep itself honest -- often even after it's been caught with a stinking heap of dirty laundry. Some news orgs have an ombudsman that acts as a sort of reader's advocate. It's a noble idea to have an independent outsider looking into complaints, but the ombud often ends up defending the newspaper's editorial decisions, explaining why they were dropping Ann Coulter's column or not running another "Doonsbury." Like Stockholm Syndrome, the poor hapless ombudsman often ends up identifying with his or her captors.

Only about sixty U.S. news organizations have even a part-time ombudsman position; the New York Times appointed its first last summer, and only after the embarassment of having writer Jayson Blair caught fabricating articles, such as the infamous "Bambi" story that claimed dirty old men were paying up to $10,000 to shoot naked women with paintball guns. The Times' real problem wasn't Blair and Bambi, however -- it was Judy and her pal Ahmad, who together bear a large chunk of guilt for the Iraq mess.

Chalabi at State of Union
Laura Bush applauds her special guest, Dr. Adnan Pachachi, President of the Iraqi Governing Council, during the State of the Union Address, Jan. 20. Ahmad Chalabi was seated directly behind the President's wife
By the start of this year, everyone and his dog knew that Bush had ginned up Iraq's WMD threat. The few who still held on to the hope of finding weapons had their hopes dashed in January, when former top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq David Kay told the Senate, "It turns out we were all wrong, and that is most disturbing." Handwringing began at the Pentagon and White House: Who to blame? On the short list of names was Iraqi "defector" Ahmad Chalabi -- who, by awkward coincidence, was seated next to First Lady Laura Bush at the State of the Union address exactly one week before Kay's damning testimony.

The key role played by Chalabi's group was explained in February when veteran journalist Michael Massing's feature, "Now They Tell Us" appeared in The New York Review of Books. Massing concluded that the Washington Post, and especially the Times' star WMD reporter Judith Miller, were suckered by Chalabi's group; the journalists were fed bad information which they published as fact, which in turn was used by the Bush administration hawks as confirmation that the WMD danger was real. Making matters worse, the rest of the U.S. press followed close behind these two newspaper giants as they ran off the road. "One of the most insidious aspects of journalism here [is] the tendency of everybody to write similar stories to one another, to rely on the same people, and not attempt to go off and [chart] new territory," Massing says in an interview that appeared in the Monitor. "Everyone wants to write what everyone else is doing, and it leads often to an echo chamber in journalism."

Shortly before the Times hired its first ombudsman, the newspaper published a terse mea culpa that left no one satisfied. It listed a half-dozen page one stories that were "problematic" and "not as rigorous" as they could have been. That was more than generous: A key feature published Sept. 8, 2002 depended entirely on anonymous government and Iraq sources, and every single assertion made by those sources turned out to be false. Problematic, indeed.

As for Judith Miller, who wrote or co-wrote four of the six stories, the Times evaded naming names:

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.
Sorry, but that's a shameful answer, after you've irresponsibly printed misleading information that directly led to war. Navel-gazing is okay when the issue is stupid fluff like Jayson Blair's Bambi hoax, but for the WMD lies, we deserve to see the end of Miller's career, executive editor Bill Keller's career, and the career of anyone else directly involved. For good measure, the Times could also frog-march them out the front door.

The WMD crisis was hardly the first time that the Times was charged with fudging the truth, particlarly about U.S. foreign policy. Another book we highly recommend: "The Record of The Paper," Howard Friel and Richard Falk (Verso 2004). It's a valuable reference that every library should have on its shelves.

It's also important to note that many writers were skeptical about the WMD story from the beginning; the first article we can find in the Monitor dates from August 2002 ("Attacking Iraq For the Hell of It)". Specific criticism about New York Times bias in its WMD coverage was mentioned by Alexander Cockburn in two columns that appeared many months before the breakthrough essay by Michael Massing (see: "U.S. Media Spins The 'Good News' About Iraq" from April, 2003 and "Judy Miller's War" from July).

NY Times Slammed For Phony Stories On Iraq's WMD
Interview With Michael Massing: Times, Post Aided WMD Deception
The New York Times vs. Michael Moore
NY Times' Mea Culpa Doesn't Cut It
Trust Us, We're The "Liberal" Media


Let's be clear -- no matter what turns up about Diebold scanner foulups or Ohio voter hassles, Kerry blew it. Here are just a few reasons why: Kerry's Ohio campaign made a fatal error by ignoring ten crucial counties that swung the state for Bush. Kerry was shunned in most of the south, winning only 90 of the 1,154 white majority counties (in 1996, Clinton won 510 of them). And while he started the race with a strong tailwind of 22 million Americans apparently determined to cast their vote for anyone except Bush, Kerry couldn't muster a simple majority, come election day. Bush may not have won a decisive victory, but Kerry came away with a decisive defeat.

At the same time, the U.S. media, particularly cable news, bears some responsibility for the 2004 Presidential outcome. Unlike the last election, when stories about Gore were twice as likely to be negative than stories about Bush, the coverage wasn't particularly tilted towards either Kerry or Bush (fairly unbalanced Fox News being the exception, of course). The problem was that the Passive Press relied on the campaigns to write the stories for them. This gave Bush an unfair advantage; on his side was Reichspropagandaminister Karl Rove, while Kerry's campaign advisor was Bob Shrum, with his 0-7 record in presidential elections dating back to McGovern.

The single factor that probably tipped the election was the first "Swift Boat Veterans" ad. "This is the best $40,000 investment made by any political group, but it was only because of the news coverage that it got where it did," Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said recently. Although her numbers were slightly off -- the group spent over $60,000 through the end of June (DETAILS) -- the ad had an impact far beyond the three states where airtime was originally purchased. The cable news channels christened Kerry's Vietnam service as a legit talk show news topic, in part because the candidate was talking about it so much himself. But that meant that all or part of the Swiftie's ad -- as well as even more lurid accusations against Kerry made by spokesman John O'Neill on many talk shows -- became part of the 24-hour campaign coverage, giving the anti-Kerry faction millions of dollars worth of free publicity. Meanwhile, the Kerry campaign did nothing to counter the message, confident that it would blow over soon. It didn't. By the end of August, it was clear that the candidate was damaged; 1 in 4 believed Kerry did not earn his Vietnam medals.

Pre-election coverage: Bush the swaggering- but- pious Bubba

While cable news was enabling Kerry's suicide at the end of the summer, Bush was enjoying a pair of gifts from the print media. Both TIME and Newsweek gave him softball feature stories that even offered similar covers -- informal portraits of Bush the squinty, jut-jawed Texas rancher turned president. This was a great triumph for Rove, who had spent 20 years reshaping George W. Bush's image from a Connecticut-bred preppie -- who apparently is as smart or smarter than Kerry, according to an analysis of their military service tests -- into a swaggering- but- pious Bubba. (If you don't see why this is important, rush to your local independent bookstore and buy Thomas Frank's vital post-election book, "What's The Matter With Kansas?" and read chapter six, which explores"authenticity" in red-state America.)

Kerry's media train wreck ended a month later with the controversy over the memos about Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. In the same broadcast, CBS featured an interview with former Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes, who confirmed that he got Bush into the notorious "Champagne Unit" of the Guard as a favor to the powerful Bush family. The Barnes story was damning to the Bubba Bush image. But fortunately for the president, the roiling controversy over the memos completely pushed Barnes out of the media limelight. Curiously, Bush had very similar luck in the 2000 campaign, when other uncomfortable questions about his service in the Guard were forgotten after an old, minor DUI was uncovered. Many saw the hand of Rove in the fortunate discovery then, and many suspected the recent memos were likewise his handiwork.

None of these episodes show a pro-Bush or anti-Kerry bias by the mainstream press, yet all show a complacent willingness to be led, even knowingly manipulated, by whatever message each campaign wanted to put out that particular day. It could have been different; the U.S. press could have better served the public by assigning good reporters to do investigative profiles of the candidates, warts and all. For these two particular men, there was unusually fertile ground to explore.

Kerry talked little about his accomplishments after Vietnam. The Bushies pounced on this reticence and defined him as a do-nothing politician with no distinguished accomplishments in the Senate -- although not once, but twice, Kerry used his experience as a former prosecutor to expose great national scandals with Senate investigations, and both implicated members of the Bush family in wrongdoing, to some degree.

If we thought it would have made a difference, we would have sent his office a wallet-sized assortment

Kerry's reluctance to talk about these issues probably was part of the campaign's deliberate strategy to sidestep anything that might require more than a soundbite to explain, or worse, possibly tag him as a "liberal." But for whatever reasons, Kerry is as reluctant as Bush to talk about his past, a modesty that preceeded the campaign. When preparing the feature stories on Kerry's Senate investigations we contacted his aides, looking for photographs of him during any of those hearings. They had nothing available -- there were significant gaps about the Senator's past even in his own archives. (Our independent research unearthed a picture of Kerry from that time, and we e-mailed a scanned copy to his office.)

In contrast to Kerry's accomplishments, Bush's past was a hornet's nest waiting to be poked and have trouble spill out. There was the long trail of failed businesses that were bailed out by his father's friends, his mysterious years of service (or not) in the Guard, and the twenty years of drunkeness that followed. Just such a story surfaced on October 23, when the Miami Herald appeared to uncover a long-kept secret.

At the peak of his hard-drinking playboy years, Bush abruptly began working in 1973 with a now-defunct inner-city Houston program for troubled teens, Project PULL. It was this volunteer work, Bush said in his (ghost written) autobiography, that became the core to his "compassionate conservative" personal philosophy. Bush claimed that PULL's executive director John White invited him "to come help him run the program." Not so, Herald reporter Meg Laughlin found out:

White's administrative assistant and others associated with PULL, speaking on the record for the first time, say Bush wasn't helping to run the program and that White hadn't asked Bush to come aboard. Instead, the associates said, White told them that he agreed to take Bush on as a favor to Bush's father, who was honorary co-chairman of the program at the time, and that Bush was unpaid. They say White told them Bush had gotten into some kind of trouble but that White never gave specifics.

''We didn't know what kind of trouble he'd been in, only that he'd done something that required him to put in the time,'' said Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant... "George had to sign in and out -- I remember his signature was a hurried cursive -- but he wasn't an employee. He was not a volunteer either,'' Turner said. ''John said he had to keep track of George's hours because George had to put in a lot of hours because he was in trouble.''

The suggestion that Bush was in some sort of trouble at the time had the potential to be explosive, coming less than ten days before the vote. In his 1999 book Fortunate Son, the late J.H. Hatfield claimed that Bush was at Project PULL as part of a court-ordered deal to purge an arrest for cocaine possession.

This was heart-pounding news to owners of anti-Bush web sites, but the story went nowhere in the mainstream press -- NEXIS lists only three newspapers that picked it up. Hey, if it really was an important story for the press corps to cover, Bob Shrum would have sent out a memo. Right?

Why On Earth Is He Losing?
The Questions Are About Bush, Not Ben Barnes
With 6 Weeks To Go, Kerry Finally Confronts Iraq
Kerry's Contra Cocaine Investigation
The Senator Who Exposed The Criminal Bankers
Dubya's Vietnam Years Deserve "Swift Boat Scrutiny"
Kerry Invited Backlash By Cultivating War-Hero Image
Rove's Brain and Media Manipulation


Perhaps Karl Rove's greatest bit of pre-election legerdemain was keeping Bush out of the Culture War. The president didn't need to speak out on touchy issues such as same-sex marriage or abortion; the True Believers already knew he is one of them. Any further comments risked offending voters who mistakenly thought he was politically moderate and not a religious extremist -- or at least no more god-crazy than uncle Jerry, with his treasured collection of "Left Behind" first editions.

But a little incident in October -- reported only in the Monitor, LA Times, and a handful of other newspapers -- shows this administration's take- no- prisoners approach towards rewriting history more to their liking. That month over 350,000 copies of a booklet designed to help parents and children learn more about America's past, "Helping Your Child Learn History," were destroyed by the Department of Education. Was the information untruthful or outdated? Not at all; the books were deemed unsuitable because their contents weren't positive enough.

Behind the book-burning was Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick, who has a long-running feud with the National Standards for History, which were guidelines for teaching history in secondary schools. Developed at UCLA in the 1990s, the standards suggested the heresy that American history should be taught with an eye not only to America's successes but to its struggles and dark moments as well. This offended Cheney, then head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as Steven J. Ross described in his article:

What was so horrible about the National Standards for History that any reference to them would merit the mass destruction of several hundred thousand volumes of knowledge? According to Cheney, the standards failed to recognize the achievements of America's traditional heroes and focused instead on the accomplishments of women, minorities and radicals such as Harriet Tubman, the former slave who helped found the Underground Railroad. As Cheney wrote in 1994, "We are a better people than the national standards indicate, and our children deserve to know it."

Cheney insisted that the standards focused too much on the negatives of the past, on the presence of such stains on our democratic legacy as the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism, and not enough on great heroic figures such as Paul Revere, Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Wright brothers.

Retired UCLA professor Gary Nash, co-chairman of the effort to develop the National Standards for History, was dismayed to learn that Cheney has finally won her battle to destroy the voluntary guidelines. "If that's not Big Brother or Big Sister, I don't know what is," he told the Los Angeles Times.

A 21st Century Book-Burning


Culture War, Part II: Bush/Cheney '04 claimed rural America as its own during the summer and autumn, swaggering across the red states as if they were already taking a victory lap. "It's great to be in a place where people work hard, live off the land, raise their families. It's what I call the heart and soul of the country," Bush repeated nearly everwhere in the opening to his stump speech. "The other folks believe the heart and soul is in Hollywood." Well, that was subtle.

But if you look at what the president and the veep actually said at these carefully-managed rallies, you'll find they disrespectfully treated their audiences as if they were gullible hayseeds. Cheney and Bush beat the drums on two specific themes: That the future of their farms rested on abolition of the estate tax (called the "death tax" by Repubs), and that the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would be expanded.

In truth, neither program offer much, if any, benefit for family farmers. Permanently ending the estate tax is another giveaway for Bush's ultra-wealthy contributors -- the pro-repeal American Farm Bureau Foundation couldn't provide a single example of a family farm lost because of it. The original CRP, which began in 1985, became a major conservation program that reversed the loss of wetlands. Thanks to Bush, the program will soon be expanded to subsidize big agribusiness; now included will be 800,000 more acres of grassland, border farmland, and non-floodplain wetlands. And here's the ugly catch: Those lands will also be exempt from any environmental protection. This might allow a slaughterhouse, for example, to not only dump animal waste in a seasonal wetland (Bush calls 'em "Prairie Potholes") without worry of government penalty, but also be paid about $60/acre for doing it.

Media coverage of those two issues shows the Passive Press at its worst. Many newspapers included estate taxes on simplistic election-eve pro:con checklists without discussion of the topic. Articles mentioning the wetlands program misrepresented it as an environmental strength for the president, as if he created it: "Bush also has been praised by many hunters and fishermen for his support of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which compensates farmers for idling marginal land and turning it into wildlife habitat..." (Kansas City Star, Oct. 24) "...the program has proved popular with farmers, hunters and environmentalists..." (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 5). No mention could be found in pre-election broadcasts or print media describing how Bush is about to torpedo it.

It's bad enough that Bush insulted America's farmers by falsely linking them to deals for his big-money buddies, and it's disgraceful that the U.S. press acted as his willing accomplice. But even worse, a scandal that affected the livelihood of as many as 100,000 real family farmers was completely ignored: How the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cheated black farmers out of billions of dollars.

Five years ago, the USDA conceded it had blatantly discriminated against black farmers seeking routine farm loans and promised to pay up to $2.3 billion in restitution. But when the farmers filed to claim their money, they faced a fight with an army of Justice Dept. lawyers who often told them that they had insufficient documentation. As a result, black farmers scrambled to reconstruct, on their own, records that were readily available at the agency, Katherine Stapp writes in her IPS story reprinted in the Monitor.

"USDA took advantage of the shortcomings of the agreement to deny the farmers' claims," Arianne Callender, an attorney told IPS. "They've also filed hundreds of challenges to favorable rulings, basically treating the farmers as adversaries. And the farmers just don't have the resources to challenge a big agency like USDA."

The 1999 class-action suit proved that the USDA has shut out African American farmers from crop loan programs for decades. Linwood Brown, one of those who never received full compensation, describes the Jim Crow treatment routinely given to black farmers seeking USDA help:
"I'd apply for assistance around the first of the year, but wouldn't receive the money until June or July," says Brown, who owned a 80 acre plot in Virginia where he grew corn, soybeans and tobacco. "That wasn't enough time to plant the seeds, put the fertilizer and chemicals on at the right time, do all the things you needed to do."

"So then your yields would suffer, and you'd only get, say, 80 percent of your crop. Then they'd use that against you in future years saying your yields were low so you can't get the money you need to farm the land."

Black farmers in Brown's county were also required to meet with a white supervisor to pick up their checks and required to justify each expense, while white farmers were paid a lump sum.

It's not over yet; a new class-action lawsuit was filed in September as the nation's various black farm groups formed a new group, the Congress of Black Farmer Organizations, which represents as many as 100,000 black farmers -- the equivalent of every farming household in Iowa.

Brief descriptions of the scandal appeared in a few of the big papers, and the "news in brief" sections of some rural state newspapers mentioned it. Summaries also appeared in Black Enterprise and JET magazine. The story was completely ignored by cable and network news.

USDA Cheated Black Farmers Out Of Muti-Billion Dollar Settlement


Where were you on April 25? If you were in Washington D.C, it was probably to participate in the largest gathering in human history, as over one million gathered for the March for Women's Lives. If you were relaxing at home watching TV that night, you probably didn't know it happened. CNN featured Michael Jackson's decision to replace the attorneys in his child molestation case.

Applause to CBS, which at least gave the march five minutes at the top of the broadcast; boos to CNN Sunday Morning, which turned it into a People magazine event: "In Washington, dozens of celebrities are attending what is being billed as the rally for women's lives."

Media coverage was nothing short of a disgrace, as Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) explains. Read "Muting the Women's March" by Julie Hollar -- and when you're finished, subscribe to Extra! and support their fine work.

Media Shunned Largest March In Human History
Pro-choice Washington March Largest In History
Marching With A Million Women As A Pro-Choice Man


About one reader in ten stumbles across the Albion Monitor while doing Google searches, and sometimes we offer selections in a special feature we call "Curious Minds," with a sample of the more cryptic -- and occasionally poetic -- entries. Mostly the searchers are looking for information on Bush and his policies, Iraq, sweatshops, the Indian trust fund scandal, and other topics that really are often found in the Monitor archives. But in the last months of 2004, a surprising new entry moved into the top ten: "Mara Salvatrucha." Who was she, we wondered, and why are a growing number of people trying to find information about her? Our own Monitor search reminded that Mara Salvatrucha is not a she but an it -- as well as an important story almost entirely ignored by the Passive Press.

Also known as Mara 13, Mara Salvatrucha is a Latin American gang that may have as many as 500,000 members. It emerged from El Salvador in the late 1990s and quickly spread to Guatemala and Honduras, then southern Mexico. It is now flowing up both coasts of the United States -- the place where it really began.

The gang was born when the U.S. began deporting thousands of Salvadoran gang members back to their native land. Many of them had come to the United States as young children with their families, part of a immigration wave encouraged by the Reagan administration, which was then turning El Salvador into an American military base. As a result, many of the nearly 12,000 deported young men had no connection with their home country -- one day they're part of the urban gang scene with their Homies, and a short INS plane ride later, they're sweating under a blazing sun in a dirt-poor Third World nation with no money, no family, no friends.

"They've spent most of their lives in the States. So they are dumped in a foreign culture and immediately face discrimination," deportee Eric Henriquez told the LA Times, in one of the very few in-depth articles to appear in the U.S. press. "Employers see those tattoos and close their doors. You can die of hunger here. So you look for any network you can find."

While it's no surprise that the new exiles banded together to form mirrors of their U.S. gangs, there was a deadly twist. They weren't in Estados Unidos now -- they were in a lawless country awash with guns, and where police were often indistinguishable from criminals. As a virus becomes stronger after not being stopped by antibiotics, Mara Salvatrucha became more cut-throat, more vicious than the original gangs. Mara Salvatrucha ruthlessly preys on everyone they can, even the poorest migrants trying to make their way northward to the U.S. "Mara" in their name is a tribute to the hard-to-kill marabunta ants, which swarm and devour everything in their path. (Mara Salvatrucha is not to be confused with rival gang Mara 18, which is linked to Los Angeles's 18th Street gang. The Latin press often refers to them collectively as "the Maras.")

Efforts by Central America authorities to crackdown on the Maras have only made the problem worse. Honduras' anti-gang law has made it open season for death squads, largely made up of off-duty police officers, to kill hundreds of teenagers suspected of being gang members -- or their supporters. Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, told AP last month that the campaign is really "social cleansing." Anyone who objects is "ignored or attacked as pro-street gang."

But declaring war on the Maras is the worst thing to do, says Rafael Ramirez Heredia, who lived with gang members before writing his best-selling novel "La Mara" (sadly, not yet in English translation). In an interview last month with an Oaxaca newspaper, Heredia explained that the police murders are only creating martyrs and driving the gang underground. He also emphasizes that the gang's dedicated membership springs from a simmering resentment by youths who saw their families grow ever poorer during decades of neo-liberal policies. Their parents grew up under the economic colonization of companies like United Fruit, worked in clothing sweatshops for U.S. companies, and lived under governments manipulated by IMF for profit. "Mara is the result of a brutal economic policy," he says. "When a country is flooded, the diseases arrive later."

Except for mention in the local crime beat columns ("Man Pleads Guilty in Machete Attack in Virginia"), the Maras rarely appeared in the U.S. press until September, when a Sunday NY Times feature on the gang appeared. The Washington Times followed with a sensational page-one story claiming that al Qaeda was seeking to work with the gang -- a story based only on unnamed "law enforcement authorities" who claimed that a Saudi national suspected of terrorist ties was reportedly spotted in Honduras this summer. The story spread through other conservative news sources: the Chicago Tribune, the Murdoch-owned UPI wire, and a column by race-baiting columnist Michelle Malkin. (Although an al Qaeda/Mara linkup would be doubtful, it would not be unprecedented; in 1986 Libya paid a South Chicago gang $2.5 million to bring down a jet airliner at nearby O'Hare airport.)

Central America In Bloody War On Gangs
Latin Gang Grows To 300,000 Members
Central America Death Squads Murder Teens Suspected Of Gang Membership


Dear Ms. Illmanners: Is it okay to laugh about discrimination? Lou, the sportsguy here at TV 6 Action News says no, but I've got some real funny puns I could use. - Steve, the anchordude

Dear Steve: Careful! Don't let the "P.C. police" hear you, ha ha, but seriously, it is always safe to chuckle about individuals mistreated, but don't get caught joking about the groups to which they belong. Remember: If you don't make jokes about someone's misfortune, then your competition will!

Newspaper editors and broadcasters rarely offer the same spin on a story, but they seemed to march lock-step in September, when Yusuf Islam, once known as Cat Stevens, was blocked from entering the United States. Islam was aboard a Washington-bound flight September 22 when the plane was suddenly diverted to Maine after federal officials learned that his name was on a "no-fly" list.

The next day, it seemed as if every anchordude and headline editor competed for the worst pun involving famous lines from his hit songs (unofficial newspaper tally: "wild world" 58, "moon shadow" 16, if you care) or his name ("Scat, Cat" - NY Daily News). The Hartford Courtant was inspired to write possibly the most convoluted headline ever to appear in an American newspaper: "Feds Finally Figure Out Danger Of 'Moon Shadow'; But Why Did It Take So Long To Find That Nebulous Troublemaker, And Is He 'Gonna Stay The Night?'"

The feds won't officially say why he was banned -- only that he was blacklisted "because of concerns about activities that could potentially be related to terrorism." AP quoted an anonymous official that it was because donations may have ended up with terrorist groups, including Hamas. Islam is the founder of Small Kindness, a charity for children and families suffering from poverty and war that has also donated money to 9/11 victims and to fight AIDS in South Africa.

"I was devastated," Islam wrote in a LA Times piece. Only two months earlier, he had spoken about his charity work with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. "Had I changed that much? No. Actually, it's the indiscriminate procedure of profiling that's changed," Islam said. "I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America's image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries."

It's unknown how many Muslims like Yusuf Islam have been unfairly blocked from entering the U.S. since 9/11, but ancedotal evidence suggests it must number in the thousands. We don't hear about those men, women, and their families; the only reason we learned about Islam was because he was a former American rock star -- and, when you cut to the nub of it, most media outlets still probably wouldn't have mentioned it without the opportunity to make those lame puns.

After Yusuf Islam, the most famous Muslim denied entry is Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss professor and renowned author of twenty books, who was abruptly denied a work visa to teach at Notre Dame by a last-minute decision from the Department of Homeland Security. Like the case with Islam, no definite reason was given, and also like Islam, the professor is a moderate -- his work focuses on improving communications between Islam and the Western world. After fighting the decision through the autumn, Ramadan finally gave up in December and submitted his resignation to the university. His ban, by the way, received only a fraction of the overall media attention given to Islam's.

The two cases have raised much concern in the Muslim world. "We are really appalled at what is happening," Mohammad Abdul Bari, the Muslim Council of Britain's deputy general secretary told AFP. "It is a slap in the face of sanity. If prominent, well-known personalities are treated like this, then how can there be bridge building?" More specifically, Muslims are asking in the world press: who is "acceptable" -- and who's deciding these things?

The answers are not apparent. Part of the problem is an enormous backlog of applications: Over six million are waiting, as we reported in January, with the lines growing longer every day. Also contributing is the snafu of bureaucracy. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service is dead; long live the new Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services -- don't you feel safer as a result? The bottom line: Immigration processing stopped on 9/11, for all practical purposes. No one wants to stamp the visa of the next Mohammed Atta.

Into this vacuum steps neo-cons such as Daniel Pipes, who seeks to be the arbiter of who is/is not a Muslim moderate and warns that our greatest threat to homeland security comes from Muslim immigrants. Pipes, who has said that he believes up to 15 percent of Muslims are extremists, has bashed the FBI for being too soft on groups and individuals he claims are linked to terrorism. Pipes cheered the ban on Ramadan and Islam, but it is unknown what role, if any, Pipes or his work play in the creation of secretive lists used by Homeland Security. He certainly has the attention of the Bush administration: Last year he was named to the board of the United States Institute of Peace in a controversial recess appointment by Bush (and which the Washington Post opined was "a cruel joke").

U.S. Bars Moderate Muslim Scholar From Teaching
Cat Stevens Incident Pulls Rug From Under Moderate Muslims
Foreign Student Numbers At Lowest In 3 Decades
Virtually All Immigration Processing Stopped Since 9/11
Neo-cons Seek To Create Pro-U.S. "Islamic Progress Institute"

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Albion Monitor December 31 2004 (

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