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March 2002

The journalist I.F. Stone was fond of pointing out that the United States government rarely utters an outright lie. As Stone demonstrated during his amazing dissection of official documents during the Vietnam War, more often than not, the government tells the truth - we just have to learn how to read the "newspeak" they prefer to use when informing the public of their actions. Stone became fluent in the government tongue, allowing him to uncover again and again smoking guns that proved what most people intuitively knew in the 1960s and 1970s: our government - or perhaps more accurately the thugs in suits and wingtips in power - were committing war crimes in pursuit of their imperialist goals.

A new wave of journalists are proving that Stone's observations have not gone out of fashion. In fact, there may be even more candor - of a twisted kind - coming out of the current administration than anything voiced by Johnson or Nixon (or Reagan for that matter). George W. Bush has not balked at outlining his plan for military adventures overseas, particularly in western and central Asia. Mike Ruppert's recent work - even if one disagrees with what he concludes from his data - certainly shows an openness on the part of the administration impose U.S. control over the fragmented people of that part of the world.

The same could also be said about the gradual tightening of the noose on access to information. Much has been made about the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). Even the mainstream pundits who have demonstrated an inexhaustible supply of hot air to expend in support of Bush and his dirty little wars felt compelled to raise the alarm about the proposed OSI. But creating a separate box on the organizational chart was pretty much the finishing touch on a non-stop campaign by the government to control information since Sept. 11. Few journalists in the mainstream press, or the public for that matter, showed much of a desire to question the path the president was leading us along. Even when the search for that chimera, Osama bin Laden, was largely dropped without any real explanation, the press and the public did not bother to ask why.

Now the administration is happily announcing the need to protect petroleum resources in Colombia and the possible need to transfer resources (i.e. tanks, plans, troops, etc.) designated for the "War on Drugs" to protect that nation's oil resources from terrorist attack. Afterall, Osama, like the elusive exiled leader in Orwell's dystopia, may be lurking nearby to create more havoc and advance cause of the evil axis.

Halfway across the world, U.S. troops have died in the Philippines as part of the war on terrorism. Their presence was openly acknowledged by the administration. They were there to help our Philippine allies root out terrorism. Of course, the target they name consists of little more than a handful of extortionists who have little or nothing to do with the real turmoil taking place in the southern islands of the Phillipines. The "terrorists" there are actually part of a decades-old struggle for national liberation from the U.S.-dominated national government.

And now there's the potential for an attack on Northern Iraq. No hidden war here. The prospect is openly discussed by the administration. The silence is not theirs but the media's and the public's. It's not answers that are missing but the critical questions.

Which is why alternative media faces such a heavy burden now. With the mainstream press currying favor with the administration at a level unseen since Hearst and Pulitzer helped the McKinley administration get its "dirty little war" in Cuba, it is the alternative media's responsibility to fill the breach as much as possible.

Whether the alternative media succeeds at that task is not so much a question of how well we dig for the news - it is practically be served to us on a platter - but what we do with it.

We can continue on our present course and serve a community with which we are comfortable. We can help reinforce within the progressive community's mind that we are on the right side in this fight. But as has been said in this column in the past, being right and $2.00 might get you a cappucino in this town.

What all of us in the alternative press need to figure out is how we are going to reach beyond our current boundaries. How are we going to reach people who, recognizing something is wrong but are resigned that nothing can be changed? How are we going to stir the larger public to ask questions of the media and - we would hope - eventually of the government about what is going on?

If we don't figure that out and do it soon, we may as well sign up for the OSI press list along with the rest of the press.

-Dave Mazza

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