The dictatorship that governs Pakistan was held in contempt by the West prior to September 11, first for its repression of democracy at home and second for its ties with terrorists. Now that it has become our ally against Afghanistan, however, the song has changed. "It may be a good thing that Pakistan is ruled by a friendly military dictator," says Newsweek magazine, "rather than what could well be a hostile democracy." As Robert Fisk points out, "This, of course, is the very policy that dictates Washington's relations with the Arab world.
Jerold M. Starr, executive director of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, takes an in-depth look at the Public Broadcasting Service in a series of article for TomPaine.com. In part three, Starr writes, "It is times like these that Americans need a truly independent public broadcasting service.
American people remain largely uninformed about the many foreign policy decisions (including aiding in the overthrow of leaders in Iran and bombing Lebanon, Afghanistan, Sudan and Libya) that have inflamed much of the Islamic world. We instead are told that we are hated because we are rich, free and angelic. Nor are most Americans aware that Central Asia, according to the Oil and World Journal, will account for 80 percent of our oil by 2050, and that some people with connections to the Bush administration have commercial interests in that exploration.
The New York Times reports that Hollywood executives and White House officials discussed recently how the entertainment industry can help the Bush administration's war effort. "Bryce Zabel, the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, said there was a strong sense among executives at the meeting that the United States needed to do more to highlight its strengths internationally. The United States, Mr. Zabel said, is losing the propaganda war abroad because so many people are willing to line up against it.
The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a well-known Washington public-relations firm, to help it explain U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences. Rendon will be paid $397,000 over the next four months to monitor news media in 79 countries, conduct focus groups and create a counterterrorism Web site. Rendon's help is needed because "we are clearly losing the 'hearts and minds' issue," said one official involved in the administration spin effort.
Military analysts say propaganda is especially critical in a war against those isolated from Western views and infused with a dogmatic hatred for the United States. But is the military up to the task? A Pentagon report commissioned after psyops failures in the 1999 Kosovo conflict criticized the military for failing to keep pace with advances in electronic communications. It also called the equipment the Air Force is now using to broadcast radio and perhaps TV messages to Afghans "outdated and inadequate."
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has issued a new statement of policy that encourages federal agencies to resist Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The new statement supersedes a 1993 memorandum from Attorney General Janet Reno which promoted disclosure of government information through the FOIA unless it was "reasonably foreseeable that disclosure would be harmful." The Ashcroft policy rejects this "foreseeable harm" standard and instructs agencies to withhold information whenever there is a "sound legal basis" for doing so.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has shut down its website. The state of Pennsylvania has decided to remove environmental information from its website. Risk management plans, which provide information about the dangers of chemical accidents and how to prevent them, have been removed from the web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
USA Today has joined a number of other news media outlets in criticizing Bush Administration restrictions on public access to information. "Americans are being asked to give up their rights to information, with no evidence that it presents any real risk," the editorial states. "Today, the Bush administration is packaging its attempts to restrict information as a way to protect the war effort -- when in fact they could do the opposite. The moves violate the very spirit of freedom that America is fighting for. ... Americans overwhelmingly support the war on terrorism.
"In the days since the United States launched its armed and diplomatic responses to the Sept. 11 atrocities, few phrases have passed the lips of American leaders as often as 'this is not a war against Islam.' But as civilian casualties from American airstrikes in Afghanistan begin to pile up, and as the timeline for military action threatens to stretch into months, growing anti-American riots in the Muslim world are underscoring the message's limited reach."