At the Gates of Power

Joel Bleifuss

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In These Times is not a legitimate media outlet, or so says Mark Abraham of the Photographers Gallery on Capitol Hill. In September, he denied photographer Jeremy Bigwood press credentials because one of his letters of reference was from In These Times, which, according to Abraham, was too editorial.

In These Times does take editorial positions. And yes, In These Times reporters present a point of view, but so do their mainstream counterparts. Its just the agendas that are different. And yes, we are outraged at being excluded by Congress media gatekeepers.

On the other hand, we cant help but take that rejection as a backhanded compliment. In These Times stands out these days because the for-profit media has been so uniformly gung-ho in endorsing the Bush administrations wartime strategies. Indeed, if this magazine were serving up what now passes for news, we would not be living up to our mission to provide an accessible forum for debate about the public policies that shape our future. No public policy will shape our future, and that of our children, more than how the administration responds to the threat posed by Islamic extremists.

A united front is helpful in time of war. But when that front is being constructed by the same officials who oppose the Kyoto treaty on global warming, who have tried to scuttle the International Criminal Court and who, through the feint economic stimulus, give the rich huge tax breaks (did someone say war profiteers?), we must turn a critical eye to the strategies being proposedand blindly endorsed by the mainstream media under the banner of national unity.

Where in the media is an ongoing debate over U.S. policies that have fueled anger across the Islamic world? The sanctions and air strikes against Iraq have contributed to a humanitarian disaster that in the past 11 years has taken more than a million lives. These sanctions are needed, the U.S. government claims, to prod Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions. The United States has no corresponding compunction against Israels refusal to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by the United States, that call on Israel to dismantle its settlements and then withdraw from the territories it occupied during the 1967 War.

Further, would it be too much to expect the media to explore the implications posed by casualty figures of the Palestinian Intifada. The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories reports that from September 29, 2000 to October 23, 2001, Israel security forces killed 603 Palestinians, including 492 civilians (40 of whom were extrajudicially executed) and 106 members of Palestinian security forces, while Israeli citizens killed 11 Palestinians. In the same period, Palestinian security forces killed eight members of Israeli security forces, while Palestinian civilians killed 165 Israelis, including 125 civilians and 40 members of Israeli security forces.

Though all the deaths are tragic, the situations of the combatants are hardly parallel. On one side, the armed forces of a democratic state supported with billions of dollars in U.S. aid are doing the killing. On the other, the killing is committed by terrorists who operate outside the control of the Palestinian National Authority.

Yet the Bush administration has been hesitant to condemn the Israeli military attacks on the Occupied Territories, much less endorse the Palestinian struggle for independence or demand the dismantlement of Israeli settlementsa stance that is endorsed, indeed encouraged, by the mainstream press.

Many in the Islamic world believe that U.S. policies put little value on Muslim livesa perception not easily refuted. Add the bombing of Afghanistan, which has already taken civilian lives, and one can make a case that Osama bin Laden is only the beginning. All of which raises obvious questions about the wisdom of current U.S. policyquestions that have yet to be granted a hearing by those members of the press deemed worthy of congressional press credentials.

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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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