Privileged Should Heed Kosman\’s Message

May 27, 2004 at 9:54 pm
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My step dad, one of the few graduates of Harvard who also happens to be a Viet Nam vet, submitted this letter to the editor of the Harvard Alumni magazine. He makes a very interesting point about the real effects of the disproportionate burden the poor shoulder when it comes to military service.

Published on Monday, May 24, 2004
Privileged Should Heed Kosman’s Message
Letters to the Editors

To the editors:
Thirty-six years ago this fall I became the first Vietnam veteran to register as a freshman at Harvard. My new classmates had little, if any, understanding or appreciation for my experience. The University, unlike a generation before us, was not a veteran friendly place. Little has changed since (Column, “Poor Man’s Fight,” May 17).

One reality upon which my classmates and I did agree was that the war in Vietnam was an awful mistake. We would, thereby, dedicate ourselves to both stopping it and making certain that America did not send her grand young sons off in harm’s way again without a worthy cause and an executable plan.

What happened? As Phoebe Kosman ’05 notes in her excellent column, nothing.

There are precious few Vietnam veterans in the three branches of the federal government. That absence permeates through all elements of our society from the faculty in Harvard University (student deferments personified thirty-five years after) to business, non profits, foundations, the legal profession, physicians, etc.

Now, as with Vietnam, rich men wage the war and poor boys fight it.

Kosman concludes with her prophetic, “We must remember what it’s like to be 20. And in 30 years, we must not allow another generation of twenty-year-olds to be shipped overseas on the flimsiest of pretenses.”

History tells us that we will not remember. The country is currently run by a generation of men who avoided the draft, the same men who, like my classmates, once dedicated themselves to never allowing another Vietnam. Perhaps if they had actually served when their country called, had been shot at with live ammo, had been forced into the full horror of a front row seat in a theater of combat, perhaps then they might have thought twice before marching our children into perdition again.

Another generation like the last is currently being bred at Harvard and America’s other elite institutions. Despite Kosman’s wistful warning, perhaps it would be more fitting to cite George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


Washington, D.C.

May 18, 2004

Greg Palast: Muzzling Michael

May 6, 2004 at 2:18 pm
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I have a huge backlog of stuff to send you, as usual. But this one was too good to wait. Greg Palast (author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy of course) lays it down. I’m pasting the whole thing right here into the email so you don’t even have to click to read it.


Thursday, May 6, 2004
Hands off the fat guy in the chicken suit, Mr. Mogul.

by Greg Palast, author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.”  Palast is currently in LA to receive the ACLU’s Freedom of Expression award.

WHEN the fattened cats at Disney put the kibosh on Michael Moore’s new film, “Fahrenheit 9-11,” they did more than censor an artist.  Gagging Moore is only the latest maneuver in suppressing some most uncomfortable facts:  the Bush Administration’s killing off investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror including evidence involving a few members of the bin Laden family in the USA.

I know, because, with my investigative team at BBC television and The Guardian of Britain, I wrote and filmed the original reports on which Moore’s new documentary are based.

On November 11, 2001, just two months after the attack, BBC Television’s Newsnight displayed documents indicating that FBI agents were held back from investigating two members of the bin Laden family who were fronting for a “suspected terrorist organization” out of Falls Church, Virginia – that is, until September 13, 2001.  By that time, these birds had flown.

We further reported that upper level agents in the US government informed BBC that the Bush Administration had hobbled the investigation of Pakistan’s Khan Laboratories, which ran a flea market in atomic bomb blueprints.  Why were investigators stymied?  Because the money trail led back to the Saudis.

The next day, our Guardian team reported that agents were constrained in following the money trail from an extraordinary meeting held in Paris in 1996.  There, in the Hotel Monceau Royale, Saudi billionaires allegedly agreed to fund Al-Qaeda’s “educational” endeavors.

Those stories ran at the top of the nightly news in Britain and worldwide but not in the USA.  Why?

Our news teams picked up several awards including one I particularly hated getting:  a Project Censored Award from California State University’s school of journalism.   It’s the prize you get for a very important story that is simply locked out of the American press.

And that hurts.  I’m an American, an L.A. kid sent into journalistic exile in England.

What’s going on here?

Why the heck can’t agents follow the money, even when it takes them to Arabia?  Because, as we heard repeatedly from those muzzled inside the agencies,  Saudi money trails lead back to George H.W. Bush and his very fortunate sons and retainers.  We at BBC reported that too, at the top of the nightly news, everywhere but America.

Why are Americas media barons afraid to tell this story in the USA?  The BBC and Guardian stories were the ugly little dots connected by a single theme: oil contamination in American politics and money poisoning in the blood of our most powerful political family.  And that is news that dare not speak its name.

This is not the first time that Michael Moore attempted to take our BBC investigative reports past the US media border patrol.  In fact, our joke in the London newsroom is that if we can’t get our story on to American airwaves, we can just slip it to the fat guy in the chicken suit. Moore could sneak it past the censors as ‘entertainment.’

Here’s an example of Moore’s underground railroad operation to bring hard news to America: In the Guardian and on BBC TV, I reported that Florida’s then Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, removed tens of thousands of Black citizens from voter rolls just prior to the 2000 election.  Her office used a list of supposed ‘felons’ – a roster her office knew was baloney, filled almost exclusively with innocents.

I printed the first installment of that story in the Guardian papers while Al Gore was still in the race.  The Washington Post ran my story seven months later. By then, it could be read with a chuckle from the Bush White House.

The Black voter purge story would have never seen the light of day in the USA, despite its front-page play over the globe, were it not for Moore opening his book, “Stupid White Men,” with it.

So go ahead, Mr. Mickey Mouse mogul, censor the guy in the baseball cap, let the movie screens go dark, spread the blindness that is killing us.  Instead, show us fake fly-boys giving the “Mission Accomplished” thumbs up.   It’s so much easier, with the lights off, for the sheiks, who lend their credit cards to killers, to jack up the price of oil while our politicians prepare the heist of the next election, this time by computer.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Tube news in the USA is now thoroughly Fox-ified and print, with few exceptions, still kow-tows to the prevaricating pronouncements of our commander in chief.

Maybe I’m getting too worked up. After all, it’s just a movie.

But choking off distribution of Moore’s film looks suspiciously like a hunt and destroy mission on unwanted news, even when that news is hidden in a comic documentary. Why should the media moguls stop there?  How about an extra large orange suit for Michael for the new Hollywood wing in Guantanamo?

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