If there's one influence that's shaped worldwide politics over the past year plus, it's the extent to which the Bush Administration has exploited the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to solidify its military and economic control of the world at the expense of democracy, true justice and the environment. But President George W. Bush hasn't simply been responding to world events. The agenda his administration has followed fits perfectly with a clearly defined plan that's been in place for more than a decade.
The neoconservative blueprint for U.S. military domination is hardly a secret. A group called Project for the New American Century — a think tank founded by hawks who now hold prominent jobs in the White House — released a version of it three years ago. The document is shocking in its candor: It asserts that the United States should be moving unilaterally to assert military control around the globe and that all that's necessary to jump-start the effort is a "new Pearl Harbor."
Yet none of the major news media in this country have reported on this document or on the fact that Bush is so closely following its script. That's the biggest "censored" story in the nation over the past year, according to Sonoma State University's Project Censored, a 27-year-old program dedicated to shining some light on the shortcomings of the major news media.
Researchers at Sonoma State in Sonoma, Calif., meticulously combed through news reports from 2002 and the first quarter of 2003 to find stories that didn't get the media attention they deserved. This year's big stories include the attack on civil liberties at home, Donald Rumsfeld's plan to provoke terrorists and treaty-busting by the United States.
In many cases, these stories got little or no play — or else were presented piecemeal without any attempt to put the information in context.
"The stories this year reflect a clear danger to democracy and governmental transparency in the U.S. and the corporate media's failure to alert the public to these important issues," says Project Censored Director Peter Phillips. "The magnitude of total global domination has to be the most important story we've uncovered in a quarter century."
Here's a rundown of Project Censored's top 10 censored or underreported stories for last year, followed by the alternative media sources that shed light on these issues:
1. The neoconservative plan for global dominance
"Terror: A question of when, not if" read the front-page headline of the Sept. 7, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle. Americans, the article argued, will just have to get used to the fact that we're now engaged in a "perpetual war."
Later that day Bush went on TV to ask the nation for another $87 billion for the fight against terrorism. But the concept of perpetual war and the military strategy that comes with it — of unilateralism, preemptive strikes and a "forward presence" in key regions throughout the globe — is nothing new. The Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon simply provided the perfect rationale to implement existing plans.
Back in the early 1990s, hawks in Bush Sr.'s administration — notably, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Colin Powell and then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz — drew up a plan that was virtually identical to the National Security Strategy unveiled in September 2002.
Their blueprint — first spelled out in a 1992 classified internal policy statement titled "Defense Planning Guidance" (later repeated in Cheney's "Defense Strategy for the 1990s," formally released in January 1993) — called for the United States to assert its military superiority to prevent the emergence of a new superpower rival. It called for the United States to diversify its military presence throughout the world, offered a policy of preemption, argued for the expansion of the U.S. nuclear program while discouraging those of other countries and foresaw the need for the United States to act alone, if need be, to protect its interests and those of its allies. Sound familiar?
Yet the neocons knew they faced a hard sell as Bill Clinton took office. "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources," a report released by Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in 2000, stated that the United States needed a catastrophe — "a new Pearl Harbor," as the authors called it — to jumpstart the neocons' blueprint for all-encompassing military and economic world dominance. (PNAC was founded by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld and other former Reagan and Bush administration hawks.)
Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, just nine months after the Bush Administration took office. The events of that day provided the perfect excuse for Cheney and company to finally see their plans to fruition.
Top on their list of targets was Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Within 24 hours of the planes hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — and without so much as an inkling of evidence as to who had carried out the attacks — Attorney General John Ashcroft was already calling for war on Iraq, according to a report by Bob Woodward in The Washington Post.
Indeed, the neocons have had the Persian Gulf in their crosshairs for 30 years now. After the oil crisis of 1976 and the Gulf states' nationalization of their petroleum industries in the years that preceded it, the United States began building up forces in the region — primarily in Saudi Arabia — and strengthening relationships with regional dictatorships. The reasons seem simple: The region holds two-thirds of the world's oil.
"Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan and China," Hampshire College professor and Resource Wars author Michael Klare told Mother Jones. "It's having our hand on the spigot."
(David Armstrong, Harper's Magazine, October 2002; Robert Dreyfuss, Mother Jones, March 2003; John Pilger, www.pilger.carlton.com, Dec. 12, 2002.)
2. Homeland security threatens civil liberties
The year 2002 ought to be remembered as the year Big Brother came of age. As the Pentagon waged unending war abroad in the name of battling terrorism, the Bush Administration pursued a parallel, wholesale war on dissent at home, fusing foreign intelligence operations with domestic security.
Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation were granted sweeping powers to spy on U.S. citizens. Civil liberties took the greatest hit in the last 30 years as the feds consistently slashed away at our basic constitutional rights — including the right to privacy, to any semblance of a fair trial in cases broadly defined as terrorism-related and to the freedoms of speech, association and assembly.
The Bush Administration undertook all this and much more by means of the USA Patriot Act, executive orders and the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
On Oct. 1, 2002, the government established the Northern Command — a branch of the U.S. armed forces empowered to coordinate military "assistance" to domestic law enforcement agencies. That was just the latest in a push to allow the federal government to use the U.S. military against its own citizens in the event of mass civil unrest. (That trend wasn't without precedent: An anonymous Justice Department official reportedly told Seattle Weekly in late December 1999 that the feds had deployed an elite U.S. Army strike force by the name of the Delta Force to infiltrate the now-infamous anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations in that city weeks earlier.)
Yet media coverage of such measures was piecemeal at best and failed to shed light on the sordid details and ominous repercussions that accompanied them. But it gets worse: The administration is pushing the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, dubbed Patriot Act II. Now that there's opposition, the administration is trying to sneak major provisions through as riders in other congressional bills.
"The second Patriot Act is a mirror image of powers that Julius Caesar and Adolf Hitler gave themselves," Alex Jones wrote on www.rense.com.
(Frank Morales, Global Outlook, Winter 2003; Alex Jones, www.rense.com, Feb. 11, 2003, and Global Outlook, Vol. 4; Charles Lewis and Adam Mayle, Center for Public Integrity, Feb. 7, 2003.)
3. U.S. illegally removes pages from Iraq U.N. report
Bush Administration insiders often take extreme measures to protect their own, including those who supplied Hussein's regime with weapons of mass destruction and training on how to use them.
Even as Bush urged military action against Iraq for the country's failure to divulge details of its alleged chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal, the U.S. government covertly removed 8,000 of the 11,800 pages of the weapons declaration the Iraqi government had submitted to the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But the Iraqis released copies of the full report to key media outlets in Europe. It turns out that the missing pages might have contained damning details on 24 U.S.-based corporations, various federal departments and nuclear weapons labs and several high-ranking members of the Reagan and Bush administrations that, from 1983 until 1990, helped supply Hussein with botulinum toxins, anthrax, gas gangrene bacteria, the makings for nuclear weapons and associated instruction. Among those implicated: Eastman Kodak, Dupont, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Bechtel, the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield.
(Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice, Jan. 1, 2003, and The Humanist, March/April 2003.)
4. Rumsfeld's plan to provoke terrorists
Buried deep in one of its Sunday issues late last October, The Los Angeles Times published a story by military analyst William Arkin about a slew of secret armies the Pentagon had been creating around the world. One such force caught the eye of Moscow Times columnist and regular CounterPunch contributor Chris Floyd, who picked up on the tip and ran with it.
"According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, the new organization — the 'Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (dubbed the Pee-Twos)' — will carry out secret missions designed to 'stimulate reactions' among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to 'counterattack' by U.S. forces," Floyd wrote.
In short, the alleged document seemed to show that the Pentagon was gearing up to actively instigate terrorist acts, despite the risk to innocent civilians.
"The Pee-Twos will thus come in handy whenever the Regime hankers to add a little oil-laden real estate or a new military base to the Empire's burgeoning portfolio," Floyd continued. "Just find a nest of violent malcontents, stir 'em with a stick and presto: instant 'justification' for whatever level of intervention/conquest/rapine you might desire." Or, he proffers, just make them up after the fact.
(Chris Floyd, CounterPunch, Nov. 1, 2002.)
5. The effort to make unions disappear
What better way to make those pesky unions disappear than by branding them a threat to national security? That's precisely what the neocons in the White House and on Capitol Hill have been doing — in a blatant move to break some of the country's most powerful labor syndicates. And, so far, they've gotten away with it.
Bush, certainly not known as a stalwart of workers' rights, invoked his war on terrorism rhetoric in early October 2002 to force striking International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) workers in Oakland back on the job, thereby undermining the future of the ILWU's West Coast labor agreement.
"Some $300 billion worth of cargo — equivalent to 30 percent of U.S. gross domestic product — passes through ILWU members' hands each year," Lee Sustar wrote in Z Magazine. (The ILWU is also renowned as one of the nation's most progressive unions, having shut down ports up and down the Pacific Coast in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal and, later, the anti-WTO protesters in Seattle during the '90s.)
Then, when the Bush Administration created the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge invoked similar reasoning to argue that the department's employees be exempted from civil service regulations governing pay scales, hiring and promotion practices, bans on discrimination, whistle-blower protections and, last but not least, collective bargaining rights. The formation of the DHS accounted for the largest restructuring of U.S. government since 1947 and brought together more than 100 executive agencies under one roof — equaling a total of 180,000 workers.
Immigrant workers also took a big hit. The federalization of airport screeners caused thousands of noncitizens to lose their jobs. Others were swept up by Immigration and Naturalization Service raids targeting not only baggage screeners but also other airport workers, including food servers.
(Lee Sustar, Z Magazine, Sept. 20, 2002; David Bacon, War Times, October-November 2002; Anne-Marie Cusac, The Progressive, February 2003; Robert L. Borosage, The American Prospect, March 2003.)
6. Closing access to information technology
All the stories that make up this year's Project Censored winners were gleaned from alternative and international media sources. Likewise, progressives quickly learned to seek out sources like CommonDreams.org, truthout.org and the U.K. Independent's Web site for the real news on the latest war on Iraq.
The Internet has functioned as the single most important medium for accessing these kinds of information. But if the big communications companies get their way, the Web could be compromised as a democratic source of alternative news and perspectives. Soon what we get from the Web could be a carbon copy of what we already get from corporate TV, cable, radio and newspapers.
For several years now, businesses that provide access to the Web — cable, telephone and (more recently) satellite companies — have been working to cash in on their control over distribution. Unlike the companies controlling telephone lines — which by law must grant access to any company that wants to use them — the Federal Communications Commission opted in spring 2002 to grant cable companies full control over who could use their cable networks and under what terms.
Cable companies can now manage the speed at which different sites pop up, block out any content they choose and even deny sites and ISPs access to their lines altogether. Of course, telephone companies have since been lobbying for the same exclusive rights over DSL.
The telephone and cable lines are controlled by monopolies in most U.S. cities and towns. Without any open-access laws to preserve competition, those monopolies are sure to hike up their rates, making it more difficult for small businesses and nonprofits to stay online.
The thousands of ISPs currently available could dwindle to just two or three for any given region, as broadband distributors favor their own companies' ISPs over others. Customers might be forced to pay more for a wider variety of sites, and companies could block whatever sites they chose to.
Of course, the largest media conglomerates have already been merging with the companies that provide Internet access to the vast majority of U.S. households and stand to gain handsomely from such a deal. So is it any wonder they've blacked out the story?
(Arthur Stamoulis, Dollars and Sense, September 2002.)
7. Treaty busting by the United States
Even as the Bush Administration publicly demanded that terrorists be brought to justice and that Iraq, Iran, North Korea and others dismantle their (in Iraq's case, alleged) nuclear weapons programs, it consistently worked to undermine hard-fought international agreements — including numerous treaties and the international court system — meant to do just that.
Bush has resuscitated the Reagan-era missile defense program, pursued the development of a "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" bomb and other small-size nuclear weapons for use in its military campaigns abroad, declared its intent to create bio-warfare-agent facilities at the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos labs, adopted a policy of preemptive military strikes, waged an illegal war against Iraq and actually voted to authorize a U.S. military attack on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague should the ICC dare try any American for war crimes.
In fact, the United States has now "either blatantly violated or gradually subverted" at least nine multilateral treaties on which it is a signatory, Project Censored found. These include the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Commission, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the U.N. Convention on Climate Change and the Rome Statute of the ICC.
All these actions have been taken in the name of national security. Yet, "this unprecedented rejection of and rapid retreat from global treaties ... will render these treaties and conventions invalid without the support and participation of the world's foremost superpower," wrote Project Censored's authors.
(Marylia Kelly and Nicole Deller, Connections, June 2002; John B. Anderson, The Nation, April 2002; Eamon Martin, Ashville Global Report, June 20-26, 2002; John Valleau, Global Outlook, Summer 2002.)
8. U.S. and British forces continue use of depleted uranium weapons despite massive evidence of negative health effects
Former Sergeant First Class Carol Picou will never be the same after serving in the first Gulf War. On the front lines with a mobile medical unit, "I noticed that all the bodies that were on the highways and the tanks and all the armament that was damaged was burnt," the veteran nurse told Hustler magazine last spring. "It was actually literally black, and I thought the Iraqi people were black-skinned. It amazed me that they were burnt that bad — that we would have used some type of armament that would actually melt these people into their vehicles."
Picou began experiencing serious health effects almost immediately. Back in the United States, her muscles were deteriorating. She permanently lost control of her bowels. She suffered from 104-degree fevers, and her skin would break open and bleed. Rather than take care of Picou, who had served in the armed forces since 1978, the Army medically discharged her against her wishes in 1995.
"More than 9,600 of the relatively young Operation Desert Storm veterans have died since serving in Iraq, a statistical anomaly," wrote Dan Kapelovitz, the reporter who interviewed Picou. Of those still living, more than a third — upward of 236,000 — have filed Gulf War Syndrome-related claims with the Veteran's Administration.
Research overwhelmingly suggests these ailments and deaths were caused by depleted uranium, a metal the military uses in much of its hardware that's so dense it can pierce through steel-armored tanks. But this radioactive material has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, according to renowned scientist Helen Caldicott. In Iraq incidences of cancer, childhood leukemia and rare mutations in newborns have skyrocketed.
A study conducted by the U.S. Army in 1990, at least six months before the first Gulf War, shows the U.S. government knew what the effects would be. Nonetheless, the Americans and Brits dropped anywhere between 300 to 800 tons of the stuff on Iraq over the four-day assault. They've done nothing to clean up the radioactive mess left behind.
"In effect, George Bush Sr. used weapons of mass destruction on his own people," Kapelovitz continued.
But it didn't end there. The United States has since used depleted uranium weapons in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and again during its most recent assault on Iraq — a fact that was reported in the European media but not widely in the United States.
(Dan Kaplevitz, Hustler, June 2003; Reese Erlich, Children of War, March 2003.)
9. In Afghanistan: poverty, women's rights and civil disruption worse than ever
Rather than allow the international community to supply sufficient security forces to safeguard Afghan citizens from brutal warlords — and thereby create the foundation necessary for democracy and reconstruction — the United States has instead financed and armed regional warlords in its effort to root out the last remaining Al Qaeda forces.
As a result, by October 2002 — a year after the United States embarked on its campaign to "liberate" that war-torn Central Asian country — private armies were estimated to be 700,000 strong. (The International Security Assistance Force, in contrast, consists of a scant 5,000 troops, only enough to provide meager protection for Kabul, Afghanistan's capital.)
The practice has, in effect, strengthened the nation's endemic system of military feudalism. The heroin trade has skyrocketed. Life expectancy is a mere 46 years, with more than one in four children not making it to their fifth birthday. Only 10 percent of those who survive have access to an education. In many regions the constraints placed on women's basic liberties have reverted to those imposed by the Taliban. Per capita average yearly income is only $280. And the basic infrastructure needed to reintroduce law and order — like a working justice system, banking institutions, a national army — remains a pipe dream.
In short, thanks to American policies, Afghanis are more forsaken than ever. Yet, as far as the mainstream U.S. media are concerned, Afghanis' worst fear has come true: Afghanistan has once again dropped off the corporate media's radar and, with it, that of the American public.
(Ahmed Rashid, The Nation, Oct. 14, 2002; Pranjal Tiwari, Left Turn, February/March 2003; Jan Goodwin, The Nation, April 29, 2002; Scott Carrier, Mother Jones, July/August 2002.)
10. Africa faces new threat of colonialism
Many Americans are now at least marginally aware of recent neoliberal economic programs such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas and Plan Colombia. But how many have heard of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a plan being forwarded by the world's most powerful industrialized nations?
NEPAD was launched at the G8 meeting in June 2002 presumably to help combat poverty in Africa by encouraging outside investment. Curiously enough, the architects of the program didn't bother to consult with representatives of a single African nation while drawing up their plan. Critics fear the program is just another bid by more powerful nations to exploit the continent's last remaining natural resources — at the expense of Africans themselves.
First-world meddling has already wrought havoc on Africa. During the cold war, the United States alone injected $1.5 billion worth of weaponry and training into the continent — now the most war-torn in the world. From 1991 to 1995, the United States increased its military contributions to 50 of Africa's 53 nations. Millions have died from war, displacement, disease and starvation as a result.
Meanwhile, structural adjustment programs force-fed to African nations by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and G8 in the name of development have only resulted in the continent's foreign debt rising by a whopping 500 percent over the past 20 years. More of the same isn't likely to help.
(Michelle Robidoux, Left Turn, July/August 2002; Asad Ismi, Briarpatch (excerpted from the CCPA Monitor, October 2002); Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, New Internationalist, January/February 2003.)
Project Censored Runners-up:
11. U.S. implicated in Taliban massacre (Kendra Sarvadi, Asheville Global Report; Adam Porter, In These Times)
12. Bush Administration behind failed military coup in Venezuela (Duncan Campbell and Greg Palast, The London Guardian; Joe Taglieri, Global Outlook; Karen Talbot, People's Weekly World; Jon Beasley-Murray, NACLA Report on the Americas)
13. Corporate personhood challenged (Thom Hartmann, CommonDreams and Impact Press; Thom Hartmann, Wild Matters; Jim Hightower, The Hightower Lowdown)
14. Unwanted refugees a global problem (Daniel Swift, In These Times; Charles Bowden, Mother Jones; Bill Frelick, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
15. U.S. military's war on the earth (Bob Feldman, Dollars and Sense; David S. Mann and Glenn Milner, Washington Free Press; John Passacantando, Wild Matters)
16. Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA (Miguel Pickard, CorpWatch.org; Timi Gerson, Public Citizen's Trade Watch; Tom Hansen and Jason Wallach, Labornotes; Rachel Coen, Asheville Global Report and Extra!)
17. Clear Channel monopoly draws criticism (Jeff Perlstein, MediaFile)
18. Charter forest proposal threatens access to public lands (Kristin Robison, Earth First! Journal; Jon Margolis, American Prospect)
19. U.S. dollar vs. the Euro: Another reason for the invasion of Iraq (William Clark, The Sierra Times; Cóilin Nunan, Feasta; William Greider, The Nation)
20. Pentagon increases private military contracts (Nelson D. Schwartz, Fortune; Pratap Chatterjee, CorpWatch.org; Antony Barnett, London Observer)
21. Third-world austerity policies coming soon to a city near you (Greg Palast, Harper's Magazine; Michael Parenti, Covert Action Quarterly; Gabriella Bocagrande, Texas Observer)
22. Welfare reform up for reauthorization but still no safety net (Barbara Ehrenreich and Frances Fox Piven, Mother Jones; Neil deMause, In These Times; Dave Hage, The American Prospect; Heather Boushey, Dollars and Sense)
23. Argentina crisis sparks cooperative growth (Lisa Garrigues, Yes! Magazine; Leif Utne, Utne Magazine)
24. U.S. aid to Israel fuels repressive occupation in Palestine (John Steinbach, Covert Action Quarterly; Matt Bowles, Left Turn; Bob Wing, War Times)
25. Convicted corporations receive perks instead of punishment (Emad Mekay, Asheville Global Report; Ken Silverstein, Mother Jones)
CAMILLE T. TAIARA writes for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where a version of this story first appeared. Check All the News That Causes Fits, Read All About It . . . Or Not and The News That's Not Fit to Print for previous years' Project Censored reports.