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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/20/18

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, A Memo to the Publisher of the New York Times

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

When Russia moved into the Ukraine and seized Crimea in 2014, it got more than its share of (bad) media coverage in the United States, as it did when it intervened in Syria the next year. So just imagine what kind of coverage Vladimir Putin's favorite nation would be getting if, almost 17 years after it had launched a "Global War on Terrorism," Russian troops, special operations forces, airplanes, and drones were still in action in at least eight countries across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen (and, if you felt in the mood, you could even throw in the Philippines in Asia for good measure).

Imagine the outraged front-page and top-of-the-news overviews we would be getting more than a decade and a half later when it came to that never-ending Russian global war and the rubble, the chaos, the dead and displaced it continued to create. There would be critical discussions aplenty of what it meant for one of the planet's great powers to pursue such wars without end. In official Washington, the protests would be savage, the language harsh beyond imagining, the critiques unyielding and fierce. There would be blistering assessments of that nation as it continued to pursue such disintegrative wars across vast stretches of the planet without the slightest indication that their end was anywhere in sight.

What's strange, as TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, suggests today, is that in the press, the rest of the media, and official Washington, such overviews, such critiques, such assessments are almost completely absent, even though everything about the above description remains on target -- except, of course, for the name of the country pursuing that global war so relentlessly and disastrously. Tom

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On Seeing America's Wars Whole
Six Questions for A.G. Sulzberger
By Andrew J. Bacevich

March 20, 2018

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

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Congratulations on assuming the reins of this nation's -- and arguably, the world's -- most influential publication. It's the family business, of course, so your appointment to succeed your father doesn't exactly qualify as a surprise. Even so, the responsibility for guiding the fortunes of a great institution must weigh heavily on you, especially when the media landscape is changing so rapidly and radically.

Undoubtedly, you're already getting plenty of advice on how to run the paper, probably more than you want or need. Still, with your indulgence, I'd like to offer an outsider's perspective on "the news that's fit to print." The famous motto of the Times insists that the paper is committed to publishing "all" such news -- an admirable aspiration even if an impossibility. In practice, what readers like me get on a daily basis is "all the news that Times editors deem worthy of print."

Of course, within that somewhat more restrictive universe of news, not all stories are equal. Some appear on the front page above the fold. Others are consigned to page A17 on Saturday morning.

And some topics receive more attention than others. In recent years, comprehensive coverage of issues touching on diversity, sexuality, and the status of women has become a Times hallmark. When it comes to Donald Trump, "comprehensive" can't do justice to the attention he receives. At the Times (and more than a few other media outlets), he has induced a form of mania, with his daily effusion of taunts, insults, preposterous assertions, bogus claims, and decisions made, then immediately renounced, all reported in masochistic detail. Throw in salacious revelations from Trump's colorful past and leaks from the ongoing Mueller investigation of his campaign and our 45th president has become for the Times something akin to a Great White Whale, albeit with a comb-over and a preference for baggy suits.

In the meantime, other issues of equal or even greater importance -- I would put climate change in this category -- receive no more than sporadic or irregular coverage. And, of course, some topics simply don't make the cut at all, like just about anything short of a school shooting that happens in that vast expanse west of the Hudson that Saul Steinberg years ago so memorably depicted for the New Yorker.

The point of this admittedly unsolicited memo is not to urge the Times to open a bureau in Terre Haute or in the rapidly melting Arctic. Nor am I implying that the paper should tone down its efforts to dismantle the hetero-normative order, empower women, and promote equality for transgender persons. Yet I do want to suggest that obsessing about this administration's stupefying tomfoolery finds the Times overlooking one particular issue that predates and transcends the Trump Moment. That issue is the normalization of armed conflict, with your writers, editors, and editorial board having tacitly accepted that, for the United States, war has become a permanent condition.

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Let me stipulate that the Times does devote an impressive number of column-inches to the myriad U.S. military activities around the planet. Stories about deployments, firefights, airstrikes, sieges, and casualties abound. Readers can count on the Times to convey the latest White House or Pentagon pronouncements about the briefly visible light at the end of some very long tunnel. And features describing the plight of veterans back from the war zone also appear with appropriate and commendable frequency.

So anyone reading the Times for a week or a month will have absorbed the essential facts of the case, including the following:

* Over 6,000 days after it began, America's war in Afghanistan continues, with Times correspondents providing regular and regularly repetitive updates;

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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