The so-called “War on Terror” Featuring Norman Solomon / Lee Camp Discusses His Book “Dangerous Ideas”

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The so-called "War on Terror" Featuring Norman Solomon / Lee Camp Discusses His Book "Dangerous Ideas"
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On the latest Project Censored Show, Mickey talks with independent journalist and author Norman Solomon about his new book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of its Military Machine. They discuss the great costs of the so-called War on Terror after two decades and how little most Americans seem to know or understand about the consequences of a permanent warfare state. They also analyze the role of the establishment press keeping citizens in the dark instead of holding the military industrial complex and politicians who enable it to account. Then, Eleanor Goldfield speaks with comedian, author and activist Lee Camp about his new book Dangerous Ideas, and the use of comedy as a gateway drug for questioning everything from useless purchases to the global capitalist economy. Camp also shares updates on the state of state censorship, a topic he’s become familiar with as America’s most censored comedian.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy Made Love, Got War, among others. See https://www.normansolomon.com

Lee Camp is a comedian, author, and activist. He is the former head writer and host of Redacted Tonight. His books include Bullet Points and Punchlines (PM Press, 2020) and his latest, Dangerous Ideas. More of his work can be found at at https://leecamp.com

Video of Interview with Norman Solomon

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Norman Solomon

Mickey: Welcome to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host, Mickey Huff. Today in the segment, we are honored to welcome author and journalist Norman Solomon, co founder of RootsAction. org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His previous books include War Made Easy, Made Love, Got War and his many other books, by the way, and Norman can tell you where you can get more information at his website and so on, but today we’re here to discuss his incredibly timely and important brand new book out from the new press how it’s called War Made Invisible, How America Hides the Human Toll, of its military machine.

And I have to say as we are ever in the throes of jingoism and militarist propaganda here and the so called exceptional American empire books like these are unfortunately more and more relevant and important and need to be read by A wider audience, and I think Norman Solomon does a really great job in his latest book of laying out how we’re able to continue a militaristic empire, how we’re able.

To basically have this military machine running roughshod the world over and a big part of it is, is lack of media coverage and a lack of awareness in the American public of the costs of war, which we’re going to talk to Norman Solomon about, including the human toll of these wars. And Norman Solomon starts out the book with a, I believe, a fantastic quote from Aldous Huxley.

That says the greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. And of course, our establishment press in the U. S. has been remarkably silent about the truth of war while promoting the very same.

Norman Solomon, welcome to the Project Censored Show.

Norman: Thanks a lot, Mickey.

Mickey: It’s it’s an honor to have you here, and I wanted to start just riffing on Huxley and the attention to the significance of propaganda and why history matters to such a great degree. And you start your book looking at the, at the, at 9 11 and particularly the 9 11 wars and basically riffing on the perpetual war theme.

So, can you just get us get us started into the trajectory of your book, Norman Solomon?

When you

Norman: were reading the quote from Aldous Huxley, I thought about the phrase silence is deafening, and then it made me think silence can be deadly. We know from the AIDS movement in the 1980s, the saying silence equals death, and I think that’s very true in a time when ongoing war has been normalized, and silence is akin to invisibility.

And actually, at first I was thinking to title this new book as sort of a sequel to War Made Easy, which came out, gee, almost 20 years ago. I thought, well, I could title it more War Made Easy, but I realized that while war has been ongoing in different guises, there’s also been a transformation in the way in which Americans don’t experience war, and a lot of that is the invisibility.

So at least in news media, while it was very deficient coverage of the U. S. invasion and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, there was at least some ongoing media and therefore public awareness that a war was going on, that the U. S. was engaged in bombing and military activities and battles and so forth.

Because it became sort of a human bites dog story or rather a dog bites human story. It became in the newsrooms of the country considered to be less newsworthy. And the other big change is that not only that the wars ongoing, the 9 11, post 9 11 so called war on terror wars became sort of white noise.

Also, more and more, it was about being above it all, bombing from the air, fewer boots on the ground. And that’s really in 2023. where we are now, that the invisibility is at multiple levels physically, psychologically, visually, on screens, and also in terms of any moral or ethical connection to what’s being done in our names with our tax dollars.

Yeah,

Mickey: it’s, it’s really become war has been made abstract in a lot of ways and media. It’s interesting because the media, the corporate media and you know, you, you’ve done so much work over the years on this subject. And I, I’m remembering now. Some of the poignant clips that you had from Hijacking Catastrophe media education film from years ago you know, where, where part of the focus was just looking at the glorification of war, sort of the, the Hollywoodification of the news coverage, the infotainment angle of this.

Of course, there’s also the connections to the military industrial complex, advertising dollars. I mean, it’s a symbiotic propaganda machine from the Pentagon to the corporate media.

Yes, there’s the

Norman: phrase which you use, which is I think an appropriate one, infotainment, and a permutation of that is disinfotainment.

Mickey: Yes.

Norman: Because more and more, the rendition of war is so effective in Portraying it as a noble enterprise. And that’s thematic, not all, but most, the majority, vast majority of Hollywood type films, Top Gun and many permutations. I mentioned in the book that according to the New York Times, the most influential film of our previous decade was American Sniper.

And a theme of that was the heroic ability of one man to be Someone who had killed, as a sniper, more people than anybody else in U. S. history. That’s a hero. And there’s another facet that the Pentagon even often has script approval. Because if it’s going to provide you gratis an aircraft carrier to shoot your film, they want to make sure they like the script.

And that’s sort of, in itself is important, but also a metaphor. not only for the entertainment industry, the corporate one, but also with journalism in general. And of course, Project Censored has documented a lot of good stories, excellent journalism that does go on every year. Unfortunately, it is dwarfed by the overwhelming majority of stories in the case of war that do not challenge the prerogatives of the United States to try to work its way on the world militarily.

Mickey: Yeah, and again, you cover so much ground in this, in this book. It’s a couple hundred pages content, but then another 50 of notes and index which I’m a big fan of. The work is meticulously researched. You’re, you’re trying to bring people, in many ways, you know, these kind of books are an act of media literacy in themselves.

Because you’re trying to expose people to different sources of information and break them outside of the, of the corporate bubble, so to speak. And, you know, one of the themes, Norman Solomon, that runs also throughout the book about invisibility hearkening back to Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model out of 1988’s Manufacturing Consent book, was the worthy and unworthy.

Victims theme and you, you represent that in, in many ways. You also include many other kinds of elements of the propaganda model, the reliance on elite sourcing. In your previous one of your previous books from 2005, War Made Easy, you quote Daniel Hallen about the Vietnam War, and talking about how the establishment press seem to take their cues from the very establishment that is waging these wars, and so they’re more stenographers to power in many ways, and that is also what helps inform them of what they see as something that’s Worthy or unworthy.

A bunch of migrants just died over in the Mediterranean and got some coverage, but there was no real, you know, massive media blast about rescue efforts. Meanwhile, we have five millionaire billionaires going down in a submarine to see the Titanic and it’s like a global emergency. I’m not belittling the lives of anyone, but my point is, is that the corporate media has so much power.

Where they focus, but then inevitably, de facto, where they do not, and you cover a lot of that in this book.

Norman: It comes down to, in many ways, who matters and who doesn’t, who counts and who doesn’t, who is counted in war and who is discounted and ignored. Very powerful, goes back to the point about silence and underneath, underlying, has to do with our own humanity.

If we’re going to… De facto sort of bifurcate the world into the worthy and unworthy victims. It’s especially pernicious. I mean, I would argue whether you call it spiritual or moral, ethical, it’s very degrading and corrosive to divide the world into the worthy people and the unworthy people. It’s especially corrosive and really damaging to the integrity of an individual life or the life of a nation.

When There’s particular avoidance when your own country is responsible for the suffering. I mean, we can ask ourselves when the United States is directly involved in causing suffering of civilians through warfare, whether it’s the U S is dropping the bombs or the U S is supplying the weaponry as Saudi Arabia has received so much weaponry from the U S and slaughtering people in Yemen.

It comes back to then. Are we not hearing from our U. S. corporate media about those realities, in spite of the fact that the U. S. is involved? Or maybe even because the U. S. Is involved. And this goes to the question of the relationships between major U. S. Media outlets and the U. S. Government. You know Mickey, it’s a truism that news media are supposed to be independent.

We have the New York Times slogan without fear of favor, and yet it’s not unfair to say that with few exceptions and the essence of propaganda is repetition, not the exception. With few exceptions. We have major media outlets in terms of foreign policy functioning more like a fourth branch of government than the fourth estate.

And the implications of that for democracy are really terrible because we’re told, I learned this in civics class, that democracy requires the informed consent of the governed. What we’re getting is the uninformed consent of the governed, and in some cases even worse. You know, there’s that saying that it’s not what you don’t know that’s a problem, it’s what you know that just ain’t so.

Mickey: Yeah, you had mentioned disinformation being, you know, a big, big part of this and that always swirls around any wars, conflicts. I mean, even the way we talk about them, you know, the war on terror was an abstraction and something that happens over there. And we have to fight them over there. So we don’t have to fight them over here, hearkening back to World War I.

You know, again, that’s part of that propaganda and repetition. And you start the book with a whole chapter on this issue, the, the repetition and omission, right? As part of how propaganda too, is often partly true. The messages that come out might be partly true. It’s what’s, it’s what’s not being told.

And as we mentioned moments ago it’s, we, we don’t necessarily hear about the victims later in the book. Of course, you go into detail about the human costs of war, the financial costs of war. The media in this country don’t, they don’t cover those things very well and, or at all. And I’m reminded too by Khalil Bendib the editorial cartoonist once said you know, CNN and Fox News, they, they like to show the images of the war machinery and the bombs taking off and the ships taking, all that.

Sort of top gun nonsense and other outlets across the world, Al Jazeera or other outlets, they show what happens when the bombs land and right. So the frame, the perception, what people are looking at right in different parts of the world, it matters. And people in this country are unfortunately

ritually propagandized and not just woefully misinformed or underinformed, but as you said, disinformed and independent media has to go a lot of a long way, I think, to really turn the tide and we need to somehow pressure corporate media in order to be able to do that, which is very difficult especially when we have an adjacent

sort of military Hollywood complex, you had mentioned American Sniper one of the quotes you have in the book that I found, again, very interesting and telling, is that Clint Eastwood, who directed that, actually said it was in a way a film that honored veterans and was an anti war movie that was a very perplexing kind of way that Eastwood was, was sort of rationalizing, the theme here being that from Hollywood to the corporate media Our outlets do everything they can to cover up the violence and cost of war and heroify it in many ways.

Norman: When you look over into the journalistic realm, as a practical matter, what is defined as professionalism is basically what flies, what works, what people are promoted for doing, what they succeed and become eminent in the journalistic profession and various media outlets. That’s the model for people who come into the profession, who are young, who want to.

Want to achieve and and rise in the media rank, so to speak. And a lot of that is simply learning what happens to those who echo and boost the basic assumptions of the warfare state versus those who do not. And Mickey, you’re reminding me of something I cover in the book where. A eminent, an eminent journalist who raised the question of what happens not only when the missiles are fired, but what happens after they land.

Her entire career was destroyed. in terms of an eminent journalist. And I’m talking about Ashley Banfield, who was at the Twin Towers within moments after they fell on 9 11. She was sent by MSNBC and then NBC to the Middle East, to Afghanistan, became very eminent. She was even touted as possible successor in the main anchor chair of NBC to eventually replace Katie Couric.

But a few weeks after the U. S. invasion of Iraq in early 2003, she stepped over the line. She gave a speech at a university in Kansas. And she said, essentially what you mentioned a couple of minutes ago, that just seeing what happens when the missiles are launched doesn’t really tell you the effects.

It’s not just a puff of smoke where it lands. And she said, there’s a real difference between coverage and journalism. When that news story broke about her speech, she was toast. She was reprimanded publicly and privately by NBC management. She came back literally to a tape closet. Her office was gone. NBC would not let her out of her contract.

And so she was left to cool her heels for many, many months. And she was done in big network news. This is a message to journalists about what happens when you really challenge the warfare state.

Mickey: Well, your longtime colleague and friend from FAIR, Jeff Cohen, experienced that with the Phil Donahue show, of course where there was great pressure for Donahue to have extra pro war guests on the show because he was allegedly biased against the war, and you know, again, a towering figure in, televised programs like that and Donahue didn’t stand a chance either.

Norman: Yes, this was in the months before the 2003 U. S. invasion of Iraq. Some people listening might think, well, how do we know why his show was canceled? We know why his show is canceled because of a leaked memo. Under the letterhead of top officials at NBC News, and they never intended for it to be public. It was authentic, and it said these were people with internal deliberations.

They said the U. S. is ready to go to war. Our competition at Fox and CNN will be waving the flag. And yet we have Phil Donahue, who seems to, they said, delight in bringing anti war guests onto his program night after night. One point of fact, Phil Donahue’s show did have anti war guests, also had pro war guests.

That was too much for the network. Having an actual dialogue was too much, and so the show was cancelled.

Mickey: It’s remarkable.

Welcome back to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio.

I’m your host, Mickey Huff. Today on the program in this segment, we welcome author and independent journalist, Norman Solomon. Norman is co founder of RootsAction. org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy, Made Love, Got War. And his latest book that we’re talking about today is War Made Invisible, How America Hides the Human Toll of its Military Machine.

Norman Solomon, before the break, we were talking about media censorship around issues of war. And I wanted to segue back to some of our theme on worthy, unworthy victims. You spent a decent amount of the book talking about, quote-on-quote humane wars and also about lives that really matter, lives that don’t.

There’s a lot of riffing on that theme. You also have a chapter on the color of war, right? Bringing in issues of race, American exceptionalism. Could you talk a little bit about some of the segments that you cover there?

Norman: One of the themes that is sometimes explicit in U. S. media has come to the fore is that U. S. wars are increasingly humane. I talk about a book by Samuel Moyne that got a lot of attention, a Yale professor, and the title of the book was Humane, and the assertion was that that is what the U. S. wars have come to, is humane characteristics. He praises drones as a very precise activity of attack, and totally ignores how terrorizing, by all accounts, it is to have a drone overhead.

And at any moment it could strike and kill you. The book really talks about my book shows that this is a myth that drones are even accurate. And in fact, up to 90% in court, according to the Pentagon’s own documents, up to 90% of people killed by U. S. Drone attacks. Were not even intended victims. They were civilians.

So this tells you a lot about the praise of U. S. Wars. You would think that the troops when they’re mobilized when the drone operators. Push their buttons on their consoles and a few seconds later missile strikes in Somalia or Syria or wherever, according to the tone of media coverage, you would think that these were sort of angels of mercy, not killers.

And yet we should face what this is, what it really is. Another aspect that It really did not strike me when I was first working on this book, and it’s another reason why I think the title War Made Invisible is appropriate, has to do with the chapter that I titled Color of War. It really struck me that I can’t remember any corporate media in the United States really going into the reality that the so called War on Terror has killed almost everybody on its victim list, people of color.

And I tried to think of, is that really true? I mean, you go through the list of countries that the United States has attacked and been engaged in warfare in, in the last two decades plus, got Afghanistan. We have Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and you go down the list. It’s all countries inhabited by people of color.

And I think especially striking to me in the last few years is the reality that ever since the police officer murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we have had an ongoing, not sufficient, but improved ongoing national dialogue about. Structural racism, systemic racism, and yet that discourse, that examination, that scrutiny stopped at the water’s edge.

And somehow the realities of US foreign policy and structural systemic racism, they’re just off the table. It’s not even being talked about. It’s hidden in plain sight. And one of the hopes I have for this book is that this topic will be put on the national table.

Mickey: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more, Norman Solomon.

I have a whole segment in my Intro to Social Justice class on foreign policy and warfare because you just summed up the whole section. It’s, it’s somehow that the analysis doesn’t extend over to what’s happening quote over there. It’s been rendered invisible, right? Even though that it is, it’s an extraordinary extension of the same kind of policy that we were purportedly decrying here.

Norman: Yeah. And I think sometimes of the story that. Many of us grew up hearing and reading The Emperor’s New Clothes, where it’s right in front of us, and rather than being a reason that it’s talked about, it’s such a hot wire, such a third rail topic, that it’s reality, rather than being a reason to talk about it in mass media and politics in the United States, It’s so combustible as an issue that we don’t talk about it and we don’t hear about it.

Mickey: Norman Solomon, we have a long history in the United States of attacking the very people who do want to talk about it. And you mentioned Daniel Hale in your book, who blew the whistle on the drone strikes. And we got to learn a lot more about you know, people basically like video game style in Nevada or Utah.

Killing wedding parties, you know, overseas having this extraordinary disconnect. But when some of that reality started to hit home, instead of those people leaving their video game work base and sort of going to the barracks or their homes or whatever some of those people started to develop a sense of conscience that what they were doing was very real and it was very visible to them, it’s just being hidden from everyone else as part of the sanitization of war.

And of course, as you wrote in previous books, you know, the Pentagon learned a lot from Vietnam meaning, you know, forget the body counts. We don’t do the body counts. We don’t focus on that attention. We, we don’t call attention to the death and the carnage. We have to, we have to control that narrative and

face attention elsewhere. So when whistleblowers make this, whether it’s Hale or of course whether it’s Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, who has been punished extraordinarily rotting in the Belmarsh prison as we speak for the work he’s done as a publisher and journalist over the years.

Your longtime friend the recently late great Daniel Ellsberg of course, 50 years ago in the Pentagon Papers and talked about he lived civil courage, you know, and just exemplified it extraordinarily and you, you have place certainly have proper places in your book where you clearly acknowledge the importance of these whistleblowers and the need to protect independent journals and whistleblowers because they’re the ones that can make these things As you said, hidden in plain sight, they can render them more visible to more people to have the debates and dialogues that you’re saying we desperately need to have.

Norman: It’s been really moving to me to meet and work with a lot of the so called national security whistleblowers, people who worked for the CIA, the National Security Agency. The FBI and so forth. And when you think about it in lots of lines of work and social environments, conformity can be very powerful.

All the more so in these agencies where secrecy is a code that everybody’s supposed to adhere to and so forth. I was really pleased to be able to put in the book, the letter that Daniel Hale, the drone whistleblower wrote for the judge as he was being sentenced. He’s currently in prison. He got a approximately almost four year prison sentence for telling the truth.

For providing documents to The Intercept media outlet showing this is not an allegation, this is government documents showing that the U. S. was killing way more civilians than the intended targets, the ostensible terrorists in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan and so forth. Well, this is a a moral indictment of U. S. foreign policy in general and militarism overall. And yet no good deed going unpunished, a really good deed being really punished.

Mickey: Yeah, it’s extraordinary, that story. And you end your book with a really wonderful and compelling story where you were visiting Daniel Ellsberg. And something that also we see kind of written out of The obituaries of Daniel Ellsberg they, of course, the Pentagon Papers is splashed around historically.

But there’s this, there’s this narrative in the corporate media about good and bad whistleblowers. That’s, that’s, that’s very useful propaganda for the establishment. But Ellsberg didn’t believe that nonsense at all. He encouraged. Not only to the end for there to be more whistleblowers and the information must come out and he wants information to come out and was calling for more whistleblowers to come out.

He was also a relentless and staunch advocate for peace. He was a strong anti nuke and peace activist. And a lot of that somehow gets written out of the narrative.

Norman: Absolutely. The last 52 years of his life, once he went public with the Pentagon papers, really devoted to preventing nuclear war and working for peace.

And as you say, Mickey, that is not the popular focus of the US news media, really, I think, largely because Dan announced that he had been diagnosed with a terminal pancreatic cancer and then was able to live several months later. He got more of a media platform than he had for quite a while to talk about peace and to talk about the need for nuclear disarmament and an end of this insane and omnicidal nuclear arms race.

I was really pleased that I was able to transcribe a conversation I had with Daniel Ellsberg a couple of years ago and put it in the book because if I was going to choose a couple of pages out of the 200 in the book, I think that. Is a keynote expression of what I was trying to get at that. He talks about how the people who suffered on 9 11 were appropriately reported on.

And the New York Times actually had a little thumbnail picture of every single one of those 3000 people and said a little bit about their lives to convey They were human. There were things that they cared about what made them human in some sense, as Dan said. And yet, when you think about the shock and awe, so called attacks on Baghdad, there was no interest really in doing that at all.

So again, it’s back to that point of the worthy and non worthy victims, the humans and non humans, the tacit bifurcation of humanity in the media narratives, not only by what is said, But what what is left out the statements and the silences and I would give an example that in the last year and a half or so we have received enormous quantities of media coverage of the suffering of people in Ukraine, and that’s appropriate.

It can be done to show the suffering and and the humanity of people who are subjected to this awful invasion and war on Ukraine by Russia. Good. But what about at the same time, the people in Yemen who have been slaughtered by U. S. Weapons provided to ally Saudi Arabia? You’ll remember Biden’s fist bump a year ago with the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

What about those folks in Yemen? 200, 000 of them died subjected to the largest cholera epidemic In world history, where are the Yemeni flags? I drive around my neighborhood, I see Ukrainian flags. I haven’t seen any Yemeni flags, even though perhaps especially because the US government is not fessing up to its own involvement in the suffering in Yemen

Mickey: indeed.

And we don’t see many Palestinian flags either.

Norman: Indeed. That’s right. And you get to that point. And I mentioned in the book, an extraordinary 10 year financial deal where the U S is now midway through sending 3. 8 billion every year to Israel while Israel continues to suppress the basic human rights of 5 million Palestinian people.

Mickey: Norman Solomon, you end the book on I think a hopeful note. Talking about including Dan Ellsberg and you end with a very well known James Baldwin quote that not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. And until we make the wars, the carnage, the violence more visible and people see it.

We really will have a difficult time turning the tide and turning public opinion in the U. S. You know, it’s very, this is a very important book, and I think that it it needs to be read, unfortunately, by a lot of people who won’t read it. But I think you put on the table so many poignant reminders of how things could be, and certainly the way they could be if our establishment press did more of the job that the independent press is doing.

So, Norman Solomon, any. Final thoughts as we conclude this segment of the interview, including places where people can contact you or follow your important work.

Norman: Well, I’m very glad to hear from anybody. You can reach me at normansolomon.com. This is a process where just as militarism and the propaganda of what we can call the warfare state is ongoing.

It’s a 24 seven also is the resistance to it and the awareness. And we can reach out to others and we can build independent media outlets. We should be realistic, but not fatalistic. We can make the changes that are really imperative.

Mickey: Absolutely.

Norman Solomon, thanks so much for joining us on the Project Censored show today.

Your latest book, War Made Invisible, How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, out now from the New Press. Norm, thanks so much for joining us today.

Norman: Thank you.