By Winter Patriot on 5/3/2005, 6:40pm PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

It's always nice to find a website that features plenty of talk about freedom, democracy and the press. But it's a special treat when you can actually see these things in action.

Welcome to Aljazeera. Three news items hit the front page at almost the same time today, and the story they tell in combination is much greater than the sum of its parts...

FREEDOM means you are free to tell everybody else what to do, if you're the big dog. Otherwise, FREEDOM means you are free to do what the big dog tells you to do. Have a look at some FREEDOM in action!

The time is ripe for China to move to a more flexible currency, US Treasury Secretary John Snow has said. [...] "They've committed to move to greater flexibility. They've taken a lot of steps to accommodate greater flexibility through improvements in their financial system. We think they're ready and we think now is the time for them to move."

A top Chinese finance official said recently that Beijing has no timeframe for reform of its foreign exchange system, despite increasing pressure from the United States and others to throw open its currency regime.

Snow is trying to get the Chinese to move to 'greater flexibility' with an urgency which reflects rather poorly on a supposed great power, but then again he is probably trying so hard because he knows that without at least some measure of support from the Chinese, the American dollar would sink like a rock. And therefore he must be enjoying his freedom to tell the Chinese what to do --- and to do so in a very public way:

"We have talked extensively about the move to greater flexibility and they know our position," Snow said.

"We're disappointed they haven't moved, we are not happy with where they are and now is the time for them to move."

Well of course it's time for them to move, Mr. Snow. In your eyes. But what if the Chinese have a different view of how they should run their economy? What are you gonna do then? Give them a little bit of Democracy?

DEMOCRACY is what we have bestowed upon Iraq. It is also what we have here at home. Have a look at some Iraqi DEMOCRACY!

Ali Abd al-Hasan has lost five children and now lives in the very building where they were last seen alive - the former headquarters of Saddam Hussein's mukhabarat or secret police. [...] "We used to be scared to look or gesture towards this building. Now it's our home," al-Hasan said.

Among the ruins, the unemployed Iraqi shares a single room with 13 members of his family.

Everybody says you can't enjoy FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY without a free and aggressive press corps. And rightly so.

THE PRESS tells us what's going on in the world. We cannot do a good job as informed citizens unless our press does a good job of being aggressive in the search for truth. Is that what's happening at the moment? Have a look at what's going on in the world of THE PRESS.

The Middle East, Africa and Asia are the most dangerous places to work if you are a journalist, according to a new report.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) said on Tuesday that press freedom "remains just a frustrated hope in Africa", and "informing the public in North Africa, the Middle East and Iran is a very risky business".

The Paris-based organisation also said that many Asian journalists have been reduced to "propaganda".

Oh yeah? Wonder what parts of Asia they are thinking of!

In a separate report, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IJF) said the "war on terrorism amounts to a devastating challenge to the global culture of human rights and civil liberties".

Does it ever!!

Among other things, it means you have to go to sites like Aljazeera to get news and information unfiltered through rose-colored glasses.

But there's a bonus, because once you get past the idea that somehow there's something shameful or unpatriotic about reading news of the Middle East that actually comes from the Middle East, you will find that Aljazeera's coverage is not nearly as radical as the American mass-hypnosis media would like you to believe. [More on that in another installment, maybe.] In addition, there's almost always a link to an insightful essay by Scott Ritter.

Ritter's newest piece is called "Dereliction of duty regarding Iraq" and you can read it on Aljazeera as well. Just click here.

In the months that have passed since Iraq's much-hyped democratic elections, one word keeps creeping into my mind as I assess the tragic events unfolding in Mesopotamia today: Vietnam.

The American press and punditry, intimidated and compensated into slavishly reporting on Iraq solely along lines that will not overly alienate them from the powers that be inside the administration of George Bush, have long ago foregone drawing comparisons between the ongoing conflict in Iraq and the one America lost in Southeast Asia some three decades in the past.

The lack of a basis for direct comparison makes accomplishing the denigration of any such correlation between conflicts all-too-easy for the uninformed consumer of what passes for "news" in America today: the terrain is different, the scale of violence is different, the Cold War is over, and, of course, everything changed after 9/11.

Recently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, insisted, at a press conference, that the US and coalition forces were winning the war in Iraq, and noted that he was confident of a military victory.

You may ask yourself: Why should we have to rely on a foreign news service for coverage like this? And the answer of course is that we shouldn't!!

And in fact we don't, not really, not if we can read between the lines. Here, look at some of what CNN had on their site today:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has issued a report to Congress that said the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts could hamstring the U.S.'s ability to fight other wars, and that future campaigns could last longer and produce higher casualties, a senior military official told CNN.

This appears to contradict statements made last week by the president in his news conference, according to the CNN article.

In a news conference last week, President Bush said Myers told him that "we have plenty of capacity."

Bush said he asked the general, "Do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq?

"And the answer is, no, he doesn't feel we're limited," Bush said.

In other words, the supposedly all-powerful USA is getting its reality-based ass kicked in Iraq but its faith-based leadership is too deluded to admit it. Or to let dissenting opinions stand.

Scott Ritter may think "Vietnam" when he sees all this happening; but a different word comes to my mind: "Madness!" In some ways --- and in this context --- I suppose the two words mean the same thing...

It's almost too surreal to believe. But I am not making this up. It's coming from all over the place. And how could these sources be any more different? Scott Ritter is using plain English when he says "This looks just like Vietnam". And CNN is being a bit more subtle about it. But once you get past the differences in style, you'll see that they're both telling us the same story.

Such is the role of the PRESS in an age of FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY.