Dear Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr., we are still watching war mongering on television, the same as when you were here with us.
Since they took you out, in 1968, we have only enjoyed some modest relief with the advent of Ted Turner’s Cable News Network, in 1980, challenging the big three, ABC, CBS, NBC, and punching some holes through their blanket programming of love for U.S. wars. In 1991 we watched and listened to CNN correspondent Peter Arnett, imbedded, so to speak, among the people we had made our enemy, reporting from Baghdad on civilian casualties and sad destruction during the Gulf War bombing. CNN reporting that was to the consternation of the CEOs of the older networks and the government war policy makers their network programs were uncritically praising. This slight opening of a window on reality that only the CNN channel provided us lasted some fifteen years before the deep pockets of Time Warner forced its merger in 1995, and subsequent conforming to featuring the same love of war prevalent as the norm for conglomerate owned media.
You might remember, when you were in college, the first publicly funded radio network, Pacifica Radio, founded by a pacifist Lew Hill in 1946, went on the air. A few years after you were assassinated, Congress, amazingly, established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that created National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) TV, which to some degree have been less controlled by big business interests. But since the general public is so bamboozled by the more spectacular conglomerate owned and operated commercial entertainment/news media, 90% of NPR and PBS programming is forced to go along with the same capitalist bias and war indoctrination of its corporate ‘Big Brother'. The PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, gives us the same slant as the earlier evening networks news programs that precede it, but since it caters to a more intellectual audience, the other evening, we were treated to an in depth half hour discussion of a Federal Judge’s decision to keep one Lewis Gordon Libby (affectionately called “Scooter”) in jail, while his 30 month sentence was under appeal, which is normal procedure for any conviction.
Rev. Martin, this Libby trial outcome, sadly, was already legally twice removed from its original importance as an expose of the Bush administration lying its way to war; the trial itself was once removed from an investigation into the administration itself blowing the cover of a CIA agent in unseemly petty vengeance on the agent’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who blew the whistle on one of the Bush pretexts for war, a fake story that the government of Niger had been approached by the Saddam government for possible purchase of uranium. Wilson had firmly put this fantasy to rest; reporting back in the negative after completing his Bush administration approved investigation, and later publicly denounced the use of this planted uranium purchase story as a reason for war. By an incredibly belabored show of interest in exactly how many months of incarceration this Chief of Staff of the main architect of the Iraq war, Vice-President Cheney, would receive for lying in obstruction of justice, PBS News Hour made the conviction thrice removed from the subject of the Iraq war.
The PBS program went on and on about Libby’s possibly spending a few months in some soft prison facility as if the captive media audience all across this country really sympathized with the family of this super highly placed government official convicted of lying to obstruct an investigation that might have discredited the war their sons and daughters are dying in. The viewers are duped into thinking that their ‘free press’ media was dutifully and honestly covering and presenting this trial as meaningful for the face and fate of America, as Iraq under the U.S. occupation suffers death by the thousands upon thousands.
Then we survey late news on the other four channels offering establishment approved sources of war propaganda; watch video clips of our star-wars-outfitted boys kicking in the doors of suspected bad guy hideouts in Baghdad, and view long winded discussions on the stagnation in Congress, or the sundry views of presidential candidates, all straining to be different from each other, all backed by the same large corporations, with exception of Congressmen Kucinich and Pauls, whose sane and honest arguments are never worthy of any anchor’s time. We listen to purportedly well educated network experts, explain and emphasize the overwhelming complications of war, and hear their obsequious and unctuous praise for our dead soldiers, who died fighting a swelling army of multinational al-Qaida and ungrateful local insurgents. All pointing out a humanitarian need for the U.S. occupation to continue ad infinitum to protect Iraqi citizens, whom these ‘experts’ in the goodness of their hearts are concerned about; concerned of course as well, to protect ‘their’ oil. We recall our dear martyred anti-war leader saying, “I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."
On none of the five conglomerate owned TV channels, nor on PBS, is it reported, let alone emphasized as it should be, that the Iraqi legislature passed a bill three weeks ago calling for an immediate timetable for the withdrawal of foreign (largely U.S.) troops. This, to the great embarrassment of the Bush gang, insisting on staying in Iraq, and to the greater embarrassment of the pro-American Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki.
Rev. King, we listen to talk shows and panel discussions of Middle East ‘experts’ and never hear that on December 31, the lower house of the Afghan parliament passed a bill calling for a 25 year amnesty for all war crimes, negotiation with the former governing Taliban, and the withdrawal of all foreign (mostly American) armed forces; never hear a network anchor express concern over another unreported parliamentary resolution demanding a halt to daily air strikes killing so many civilians; no media concern expressed, though even ‘our man’, President Karzai, has added his voice to the denouncing of the air strikes. But today, we don’t have you, Martin Luther Jr., in the pulpit, crying, "For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
The Christian Science Monitor of May 10, 2007 informs, “Afghan lawmakers urge ceasefire, talks with Taliban” “The motion came hours before a US strike that local officials say killed at least 21 civilians.” We won’t hear it on CNN. One might add that the NY Times almost daily reports without comment successful air strikes on suspected Taliban in Afghanistan; on suspected insurgents in Iraq; on suspected members of the Ethiopian defeated former governing Islamic Courts in Somalia. Media persons have no trouble with the word ‘suspected’.
Dear Rev. King, from news media, we often hear about the suffering caused by war in Darfur, but nary a word about the CIA having funded and armed the rebellion in the late 70s and 80s, headed up by a John Garang, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Arabs know very well that oil underlies the Darfur tragedy. Media studiously avoids mention Darfur oil.
During the run up to the invasion of Iraq until now, we heard no mention on the tube of the total support of Saddam Hussein by President Ronald Reagan, especially during his war on Iran, though we read here and there of even our sales of gas components and our satellites having provided reconnaissance of Iranian positions. Never and inkling of an idea that Reagan and Rumsfeld were complicit collaborators in Saddam's crimes comes across.
But Rev. Martin, millions of us the world over have not forgotten you, and are always thinking of how we can speak in your name. In these last years, many organizations have sprung up for media reform and the taking back of publicly owned broadcast frequencies leased for next to nothing to conglomerates that use them to propagate wars.
Fortunately since the Federal Communications Commission oversees the leasing, it legally must provide us with various means to voice our just demand for FCC oversight of programed news presentation that has OBVIOUS violent intentions to mislead and maintain ignorance about the present military-industrial complex’ controlling influence within the corporate governance of our nation.