Peace, press and the president collide

Despite newsworthy global events, our national newspapers seemed disinterested.

When I think about the historical events through which I have lived, particularly during the last year since the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, I am reminded of a famous speech by Malcolm X in which he stated, “You’ve been hoodwinked. You’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been led astray, run amok. You’ve been bamboozled.”

This last weekend, citizens in nearly every country and residents in major cities once again stood up to assert their collective opposition to the Iraq war and occupation by the United States. Their message, spurred by concerns raised last week by several countries that are members of the so-called coalition of the willing, is clear: Despite their best efforts, President George W. Bush and company cannot pull the wool over their eyes. The activists will not be hoodwinked, led astray, run amok.

People marched through the streets in major cities such as Bangkok, Thailand; Brasilia, Brazil; Cairo, Egypt; Caracas, Venezuela; Manila, Phillipines; Mumbai, India; Rome; Santiago, Chile; Sydney, Australia; and Tokyo. On the home front, hundreds of thousands of people voiced their dissent in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, to name but a few. In London, two protesters climbed to the top of Big Ben to unfurl a banner that said, “Time for Truth.”

Perhaps the most stirring scene occurred in Essex, New York, when 178 anti-war protesters linked arms to form a peace symbol 75 feet in diameter on top of an abandoned missile silo. At one point in recent history, the 200-foot-deep silo contained an Atlas-F intercontinental ballistic missile. The anti-war activists sang “Imagine,” which Clear Channel Communications banned, along with “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, within days of Sept. 11, 2001.

Despite these newsworthy global events, our national newspapers seemed disinterested. For example, The New York Times gave the lowliest spot for coverage of the story – the last news page. Local newspapers included coverage that was equally appalling. In fact, Minnesota anti-war protests – in Brainerd, Little Falls, Mankato, Minneapolis, Northfield, Rochester and St. Joseph – flew under the radar of the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Although the Pioneer Press published an article regarding the protests at the State Capitol, it placed the article at the back of the paper and ran it as a human-interest story rather than as news.

The reporter, Mara Gottfried, chose to highlight the confrontation between two groups – those for the war and those against – even though the war supporters drew at most 40 people and were severely outnumbered. After getting more than halfway through the article, I finally learned that about 2,000 people participated in the protests in St. Paul. The newspaper covered the rest of the world’s protests with a photograph and the caption that accompanied it of the Hungarian activists in Budapest, Hungary.

In some ways, the print media’s lack of interest in the story, like our government’s actions over the last three years, is not surprising. What is surprising is that we often fail to recognize oppression or that we are ourselves are oppressed. Although Malcolm X’s comments were meant to scold blacks for letting whites oppress them, his words are appropriate here because they are historical and timeless, as well as prophetic. When will U.S. citizens realize that they have been misled, had and took by our government – and that the U.S. media often go along for the ride?

From the beginning, France, Germany and Russia voiced their strong opposition to the war and occupation in Iraq. More recently, Spain and Poland have considered withdrawing troops. Last week, South Korea expressed doubts about sending its troops to the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraq. Other countries now recognize that they were misled in the war on Iraq.

Instead of justly calling for his impeachment, we should create a coalition of the willing to physically “outsource” Bush and his cronies to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After all, as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said, “these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I’ve ever seen.”

Joel T. Helfrich welcomes comments at [email protected]