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The Seduction of Brian Williams: Embedded with the Military

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Brian Williams was seduced.

He is a liar of course, someone who did not tell the truth no matter the reason or excuse, a bad trait for a journalist. Williams lied about being RPG’ed in a helicopter over Iraq; he did not see any variant of what you can see in this photo. And that’s not a hard thing to “misremember.”

But if there is any reason to forgive Williams, it was that he was seduced by both his own conflation of his sad little life as a talking head and the “brave troops,” and, more clearly, by the process of embedding with the military. I know. I saw it.

Journalists into Liars

What is it about the military that turns many normally thoughtful journalists into liars? A reporter who would otherwise make it through the day sober spends a little time with some unit of the US military and promptly loses himself in ever more dramatic language about bravery and sacrifice, stolen in equal parts from Thucydides, Henry V, and Sergeant Rock comics.

I’m neither a soldier nor a journalist. I was a diplomat who spent 12 months as a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) leader, embedded with the military in Iraq, and let me tell you that nobody laughed harder at the turgid prose reporters used to describe their lives than the soldiers themselves. They knew they were trading hours of boredom for maybe minutes of craziness that only in retrospect seemed “exciting,” as opposed to scary, confusing, and chaotic. That said, the laziest private knew from growing up watching TV exactly what flavor to feed a visiting reporter.
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Obama's Force Authorization is a Blank Check for War Worldwide

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The president is requesting Congress to pass an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) resolution against ISIS. Congress has not issued a similar resolution since 2002, when President Bush was given the authority to wage war against Iraq. The purpose of this resolution is to give official authority to the president to do the things that he has already been doing for the past six years. Seems strange but this is typical for Washington. President Obama’s claim is that he does not need this authority. He claims, as have all other recent presidents, that the authority to wage war in the Middle East has been granted by the resolutions passed in 2001, 2002, and by article II of the Constitution. To ask for this authority at this time is a response to public and political pressure.

It has been reported that the president is going to request that the authority limit the use of ground troops. However it would not affect the troops already engaged in Syria and Iraq to the tune of many thousands. This new authority will acknowledge that more advisors will be sent. Most importantly it will appear to have given moral sanction to the wars that have already been going for years.
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Brian Williams Helped Pave the Way to War

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The scandal of the week is NBC anchor Brian Williams’s shabby bid for self-glorification by falsely claiming he was in a US military helicopter forced to land in the Iraqi desert after being hit by ground fire in 2003. Of course so-called news people shouldn’t make up stuff to look good, but there’s something much worse: uncritically passing along official lies intended to prepare the American people for war.

Williams, like nearly all of his mainstream media colleagues (with precious few exceptions) did this incessantly in the run-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. As conduits for the Bush administration’s baseless claims about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to 9/11, Williams and the others did Bush’s bidding in manufacturing public support for the illegal and morally outrageous invasion and occupation that would wreck Iraq even more than it had been wrecked in the 1990s through the military and economic warfare waged by George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

What did these fake-news presenters learn from that disgraceful episode? Not a thing. If you want proof, tune in to the three major networks’ newscasts or consult the American cable news channels: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. There you’ll find stage actors conveying the Obama administration’s neoconservative line about the ISIS threat to the American people and the need for government military action to counteract it — never noting that there was no ISIS or al-Qaeda in Iraq before the Bush war they helped make possible. Reporting “news” without providing the context is a surefire way to mislead viewers. Why don’t they know that? Or do they know it and prefer to mislead their viewers out of a sense of patriotism and in a quest for ratings?
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Kiev’s Bloody War Is Backfiring

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When Ukrainian army officers came to the Ukrainian village of Velikaya Znamenka to tell the men to prepare to be drafted, they weren’t prepared for what happened next. As the commanding officer was speaking, a woman seized the microphone and proceeded to tell him off: "We’re sick of this war! Our husbands and sons aren’t going anywhere!" She then launched into a passionate speech, denouncing the war, and the coup leaders in Kiev, to the cheers of the crowd.

What she did is now a crime in Ukraine: the only reason she wasn’t arrested on the spot is that the villagers wouldn’t have permitted it. But in Ukrainian Transcarpathia, well-known journalist for Ukrainian Channel 112 Ruslan Kotsaba has been arrested and charged with "treason" and "espionage" for making a video in which he declared: "I would rather sit in jail for three to five years than go to the east to kill my Ukrainian brothers. This fear-mongering must be stopped." Kotsaba may sit in jail for twenty-three years, the prescribed term for the charges filed against him.

Kotsaba’s arrest is part of a desperate effort by the Ukrainian government to intimidate the growing antiwar and anti-draft movement, which threatens to upend Kiev’s dreams of conquering the rebellious eastern provinces. Kotsaba’s particular crime, according to prosecutors, was in describing the conflict as a civil war rather than a Russian "invasion." This is a point the authorities cannot tolerate: the same meme being relentlessly broadcast by the Western media – that an indigenous rebellion with substantial support is really a Russian plot to "subvert" Ukraine and reestablish the Warsaw Pact – now has the force of law in Ukraine. Anyone who contradicts it is subject to arrest.
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Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates

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If I were still a practicing ob-gyn and one of my patients said she was not going to vaccinate her child, I might try to persuade her to change her mind. But, if I were unsuccessful, I would respect her decision. I certainly would not lobby the government to pass a law mandating that children be vaccinated even if the children’s parents object. Sadly, the recent panic over the outbreak of measles has led many Americans, including some self-styled libertarians, to call for giving government new powers to force all children to be vaccinated.

Those who are willing to make an “exception” to the principle that parents should make health care decisions for their children should ask themselves when in history has a “limited” infringement on individual liberty stayed limited. By ceding the principle that individuals have the right to make their own health care decisions, supporters of mandatory vaccines are opening the door for future infringements on health freedom.
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