By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA
April 26, 2006
Laughter in spite of the anger tempered David Barsamian’s rollicking talk Sunday in Hood River, with the media and the Bush administration receiving near-equal doses of stinging criticism.
"We are a permanent war economy," said Barsamian, founder of Alternative Radio. “It is time to delink ourselves from the chariot, say no to war, and advocate to peace and justice,” Barsamian told a crowd of about 100 people in the sanctuary at Riverside Community Church in a presentation sponsored by Columbia River Fellowship for Peace.
Barsamian railed against the Bush adminstration’s military policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sounded an alarm on what he believes is the next military target: Iran.
He called Iran "villain du jour,” holding up a recent Newsweek magazine cover that asked if Iran is the next danger.
“The same language is being used on Iran as with Iraq: ‘growing menace,’ ‘growing peril,’ ‘our greatest threat,’ said the Boulder, Colo.-based Barsamian. “These kinds of things are very common, and are used to whip up fear. Inside our country we have the immigrants, and outside, the Al Qaeda is everywhere.
"It is very clear they intend to launch a military attack on Iran of some kind, as the poll numbers go down every day, and they'll do it before the fall election, because the goal is to save the House for the GOP. They'll get people afraid.”
"People should be aware,” he said. “Talk to your neighbors. It reminds me of 1969: as the (Vietnam) war disintegrated, Nixon did the same things. Did he contract? No, he expanded the war to Laos and Cambodia, and another 3 million people died. Desperate people do desperate things."
Barsamian said that “even the so-called right wing” are increasingly critical of militarized Bush foreign policy.
“Old style conservatives are absolutely furious,” he said. “Real conservatives are angry with the bankrupt policies. Words like democracy and conservatism have been thrown in the dumpster. Real conservatives are wary of big spending and foreign military intervention — and it's filtering down to our brothers around the country.
“Even Fox News, the cheerleader for the war, has had to admit that President Bush's approval rating is down to 33 percent,” Barsamian said. “And (vice president) Cheney, he's at 18 percent. I ‘m glad you’re laughing because if you were on a poll and you think about statistical errors, a lot of people would just check your name and you'd get something like 18 percent.”
Barsamian said that on Cheney’s recent trip to Texas, the vice president defended the Iraq policy by saying, "They started it," referring to the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Even now, going on five years later, this big lie is still being repeated over and over,” Barsamian said.
“‘It takes a social revolution,’ as MLK said, at Riverside Church on April 4, 1964: taking on the ‘terrible triplets of military, racism and capitalism’ to build a progressive society.
“We need to be on the mark,” he said, charging the mainstream media with jingoism and neglecting to report on the misdeeds of the administration.
“If only we had journalists in this country and not stenographers,” said Barsamian, arguing that newspapers including The New York Times and Washington Post essentially brush up Pentagon press releases and call it news.
“All we have with Iran is a set of allegations,” he said. “Under NPT (Nuclear Proliferation Treaty), Iran has the right to pursue nuclear power.” Israel and other nations are not held as accountable, Barsamian said.
“The double standards and transparent biases are so evident,” he said.
There is better reporting on international news in Mexico, in particular La Journada, he said.
"People know more about Kobe Bryant than about who represents them in Congress,” he said.
"If we had truly independent media we'd have reporting on violations of the United Nations charter, the U.S. Constitution, and the War Powers Act.
He cited the recent World Tribunal on Iraq, in Istanbul, Turkey, which he said was “a huge event, and I was the only American journalist there. The final proceedings were held in a packed courtroom, but the entire tribunal “was completely blacked out in the United States."
The tribunal was significant, he said, because for the first time, corporations such as Halliburton and Bechtel, and the media, “were specifically singled out for complicity” with war crimes and treaty violations.
Corporate media, he said, are “conveyor belts for propaganda," and "echo chambers for state power."
"That's why we have a dysfunctional democracy today."
“Even the liberal press is carrying imbedded assumptions,” Barsamian said, saying that the U.S. is too entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan to attack Iran. “They're not saying we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing; they’re saying we're too involved in other imperial aggressions to do another one."
He cited Canadian media, including the ad-free magazine Adbusters and its recent coverage on Bush, titled "Crack in the facade."
Barsamian acknowledged that his views have been labeled “anti-American.” In response, he paraphrased a quote from Mark Twain: "I love my country all the time and the government when it earns my support.
“We cannot be held to allegiance to a criminal government. This is a time for civil disobedience.
"Why are you silent? Why are people looking away pretending not to know what's going on? Conservatives should be outraged that the future economy is being sold to China and Saudi Arabia, outraged over insane tax cuts for the rich and a bloated military budget, now at $600 billion.”
Barsamian is the author of several books but he did not mention any of them Sunday. Instead he quotes — and sells — books and CDs of others works, and Alternative Radio interviews, and extensively quotes other writers, such as Noam Chomsky, Amy Freeman, and Howard Zinn, with whom he recently appeared at a sold-out Carnegie Hall show.
"I’m just that voice on the radio,” he said. “This is you with your community. Carnegie Hall was a blast but I couldn’t see the audience because of the lights. Here is more the kind of contact.
“It was relatively easy for me to come here. I just drive to the Denver airport — sorry, it's too far to bicycle — and then drive here. All the important work was already done.”