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  1. #1
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    Post Filtering the propaganda

    from an Arab point of view.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Al-Ahram Weekly Online

    16 - 22 May 2002, Issue No.586
    Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

    Filtering the propaganda

    The US is intensifying its propaganda war by launching a new radio station targeting Arab youth. Ayman El-Amir asks if young Arab minds are America's for the taking


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You are a young Arab under the age of 30. You love pop music, you are confused about your cultural identity and you are troubled by the current carnage in the Middle East. You wonder if the US is at war with Islam and are baffled by abstractions such as "martyrdom," "resistance" and "terrorism." If this describes you, then fear no more -- Radio Sawa is on its way to help you.

    The Middle East Radio Network (MERN), or Radio Sawa ("Together") for short, is a new initiative launched by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors -- the body that oversees US government-sponsored broadcasting, including the Voice of America Radio Station. An enthusiastic US Congress has been more than generous in endowing the new station with an initial budget of $30 million. Hundreds of millions of dollars more will be forthcoming if and when a satellite television network is launched -- Al-Jazeera, watch out.

    Christened as "A New Station for a New Generation," Radio Sawa has been planned as a 24-hour, boom-box-on-FM operation, targeting young Arab listeners with a meticulously researched blend of Western and Arabic pop music, peppered with a five-minute news and analysis segment on the half- hour. It will feature an interactive call-in programme that will allow young Arabs, from Oman to Egypt, to discuss a variety of topics, some of which have hitherto been deemed taboo. The indications are that its image-makers will try and make it fast-paced, trendy and zesty -- a mix of community radio and the US government's answer to the "why-they-hate-us" syndrome that bedeviled American public and policy makers alike in the aftermath of 11 September.

    Pop music will be the driving force behind building a loyal following for the new station, which is also designed to replace the Voice of America's Arabic service. The latter, which according to Congressional figures shyly boasts of less than two per cent audience penetration in the Middle East, will be phased out before the end of the year.

    Sawa is already on the air (FM) in Jordan, the West Bank, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi), Qatar and Bahrain. The new US station has its headquarters in Washington DC, a regional broadcast centre in Dubai, and offices in Amman, Cairo and Jerusalem. Sawa can be heard in Cairo and all over the Arab region and the Gulf on medium-wave, coming from Rhodes where the transmitters of the VOA are located. It is also available on the audio sub-channels of NileSat and Hotbird.

    So what does the US think it has to gain from this? "The reason why they hate us is because they don't know us", said Norman Pattiz, the creator of "Radio Sawa." Pattiz is set to oversee the new broadcasting venture in his capacity as member of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors. A Clinton- appointee and a significant contributor to the Democratic Party's election fund, Pattiz has a missionary-like belief in his salesmanship skills and his ability to "deliver" disenchanted Arab young men and women through a mix of the American pop culture and value system. Moreover, he is a man who knows his business; he is the founder and chairman of Westood One, the $3.5 billion-company that is the largest distributor of commercial radio programming in the US.

    But isn't Radio Sawa's brief a little too sinister to be considered "deliverance?" Neither Pattiz nor Gary Thatcher, who has been named director of MERN, have denied that the new radio network is a US government policy instrument. In an interview with US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) TV, Thatcher acknowledged that "These broadcasts are paid for by the United States of America as a public service to the people in the Arab world."

    For his part, Norman Pattiz defines the challenge as follows: "The enemy's weapons are hate radio, incitement to violence, misinformation and censorship." He then poses the rhetorical question "will they like us when they know us in an accurate fashion? Put it this way: We stand a better chance."


    LIMITS TO BRAINWASHING: Their parents' Alaaeddin has been transformed into the fully Americanised Aladin. But does the fact that a great many Arab children are growing up with Disney's take on their heritage make them pliant tools of American dominance?

    What's wrong with propaganda? Nothing, except if you claim that it is not what it appears to be. Almost all countries practice propaganda in one form or another, depending on the policy agenda and the region of interest. Furthermore, radio is an unsurpassed outlet for the pumping out of information. The overwhelming preeminence of terrestrial and satellite television has not diminished the value of radio as one of the most direct, far-reaching, cost-effective and readily available media for news, information, entertainment and, of course, propaganda.

    Cross-border broadcast radio transmission, first started by Radio Netherlands in 1928, soon developed into a policy instrument that was perfected by the BBC during World War II. That was the beginning of a tradition. All international broadcasters, first transmitting on short- wave and now via satellite to FM local radio stations, have the singular mission of influencing the target audience in the political, economic, cultural, linguistic or religious interests of the originating country or institution. This holds equally true for world leaders in the broadcasting industry such as the BBC World Service, which claims an international audience of more than 130 million people, and the Voice Of America which broadcasts in 55 languages, from Arabic to Uzbek.

    Even before short-wave broadcasting acquired a global status, Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and first chairman of the Russian Communist Party, once commented that "Radio is a newspaper without paper, and without borders." No one understood the value of propaganda better than the now- defunct communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

    Radio Sawa is a product of the aftershocks of 11 September, despite its own assertions to the contrary. It is founded on the notion "if they know us better, they will understand our value system and what we do will then be interpreted within the context of that system." If US policy considerations condone the crushing of Palestinian civilians under Israeli tanks as acts of "self-defence," block action in the United Nations Security Council to investigate Israeli crimes or mount a military strike against Iraq, Radio Sawa claims the news will be reported "objectively," analysed "professionally," presented "concisely" and, if it is too bitter for the young Arab listener to swallow, will be washed down with heavy doses of pop music.

    It is likely, therefore, that the claim of "objective journalism" will succumb to the political exigencies of the United States government. He who pays the piper must inevitably call the tune.

    So the devil, it seems, is on the agenda. The United States has consistently been a good exporter of its short-term myopic interests, and a bad promoter of the ideals of the value system on which it was founded. That may explain why outside Europe, the US of the post-World War II era found itself more in the bad company of ruthless dictators, rather than in the good company of democratically elected leaders.

    From the perspective of the target audience, the sound may be upbeat but the agenda is flawed. Nothing is more telling than the behavioral pattern of a typical would-be target audience for Sawa: the students of the American University in Cairo (AUC). During the mass student protests that rocked the Arab region in the face of Israeli atrocities against Palestinian civilians, AUC students took a leading activist role, surprising some sceptics. In their on-campus and off-campus demonstrations, "AUCians" provided compelling evidence that they are a bastion of Arab patriotism rather than a loyal product of the American value system.

    Mr Pattiz's broadcasting concept has yet another intriguing flaw: if the US government will invest millions of dollars to let "us" know "them," will it also strive to let "them" know "us"? We must stand up and postulate the outrageous assumption that in order for us to know the American people, appreciate their ideals and value system, they, too, will have to know the same about us, the Arabs. Otherwise, the result will be a lopsided knowledge, a case of unrequited love.

    Arab governments, leaders, summits, information ministers and the League of Arab States, despite the determined efforts of its dynamic secretary-general, Amr Moussa, have failed to agree on the development of a single channel of communication that would help the American people know something about us, about our value system and about Islam. Is Mr Pattiz now meant to do this for us?

    So how will the Sawa broadcasting initiative fare in achieving the strategy of Norman Pattiz "to go after the hearts and minds you can get"? Sawa is the heir of Voice Of America Arabic Service, which occasionally offered some good journalism. But that service eventually slipped into oblivion. Mr Thatcher, Radio Sawa's director, has "guaranteed to Congress that we will at least double the audience, which is, we hope, easily achievable."

    The US Congress and US broadcasting pundits are keenly aware of the dismal experience of Radio and Television Marti -- the anti-Castro broadcasting initiative that started broadcasting a radio station in 1985 and a TV station in 1991. Marti cost US taxpayers $500 a year at its peak, and has now sunk into administrative chaos and political squabble among the south Florida rival Cuban political factions.

    Radio Sawa may be luckier, at least for a while. But then again, the target audience will also be more sophisticated. The chances are the Arab youth themselves will split the strategy: take the US sound and discard the US agenda.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Post Filtering the propaganda

    from an Arab point of view.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Al-Ahram Weekly Online

    16 - 22 May 2002, Issue No.586
    Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

    Filtering the propaganda

    The US is intensifying its propaganda war by launching a new radio station targeting Arab youth. Ayman El-Amir asks if young Arab minds are America's for the taking


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You are a young Arab under the age of 30. You love pop music, you are confused about your cultural identity and you are troubled by the current carnage in the Middle East. You wonder if the US is at war with Islam and are baffled by abstractions such as "martyrdom," "resistance" and "terrorism." If this describes you, then fear no more -- Radio Sawa is on its way to help you.

    The Middle East Radio Network (MERN), or Radio Sawa ("Together") for short, is a new initiative launched by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors -- the body that oversees US government-sponsored broadcasting, including the Voice of America Radio Station. An enthusiastic US Congress has been more than generous in endowing the new station with an initial budget of $30 million. Hundreds of millions of dollars more will be forthcoming if and when a satellite television network is launched -- Al-Jazeera, watch out.

    Christened as "A New Station for a New Generation," Radio Sawa has been planned as a 24-hour, boom-box-on-FM operation, targeting young Arab listeners with a meticulously researched blend of Western and Arabic pop music, peppered with a five-minute news and analysis segment on the half- hour. It will feature an interactive call-in programme that will allow young Arabs, from Oman to Egypt, to discuss a variety of topics, some of which have hitherto been deemed taboo. The indications are that its image-makers will try and make it fast-paced, trendy and zesty -- a mix of community radio and the US government's answer to the "why-they-hate-us" syndrome that bedeviled American public and policy makers alike in the aftermath of 11 September.

    Pop music will be the driving force behind building a loyal following for the new station, which is also designed to replace the Voice of America's Arabic service. The latter, which according to Congressional figures shyly boasts of less than two per cent audience penetration in the Middle East, will be phased out before the end of the year.

    Sawa is already on the air (FM) in Jordan, the West Bank, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi), Qatar and Bahrain. The new US station has its headquarters in Washington DC, a regional broadcast centre in Dubai, and offices in Amman, Cairo and Jerusalem. Sawa can be heard in Cairo and all over the Arab region and the Gulf on medium-wave, coming from Rhodes where the transmitters of the VOA are located. It is also available on the audio sub-channels of NileSat and Hotbird.

    So what does the US think it has to gain from this? "The reason why they hate us is because they don't know us", said Norman Pattiz, the creator of "Radio Sawa." Pattiz is set to oversee the new broadcasting venture in his capacity as member of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors. A Clinton- appointee and a significant contributor to the Democratic Party's election fund, Pattiz has a missionary-like belief in his salesmanship skills and his ability to "deliver" disenchanted Arab young men and women through a mix of the American pop culture and value system. Moreover, he is a man who knows his business; he is the founder and chairman of Westood One, the $3.5 billion-company that is the largest distributor of commercial radio programming in the US.

    But isn't Radio Sawa's brief a little too sinister to be considered "deliverance?" Neither Pattiz nor Gary Thatcher, who has been named director of MERN, have denied that the new radio network is a US government policy instrument. In an interview with US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) TV, Thatcher acknowledged that "These broadcasts are paid for by the United States of America as a public service to the people in the Arab world."

    For his part, Norman Pattiz defines the challenge as follows: "The enemy's weapons are hate radio, incitement to violence, misinformation and censorship." He then poses the rhetorical question "will they like us when they know us in an accurate fashion? Put it this way: We stand a better chance."


    LIMITS TO BRAINWASHING: Their parents' Alaaeddin has been transformed into the fully Americanised Aladin. But does the fact that a great many Arab children are growing up with Disney's take on their heritage make them pliant tools of American dominance?

    What's wrong with propaganda? Nothing, except if you claim that it is not what it appears to be. Almost all countries practice propaganda in one form or another, depending on the policy agenda and the region of interest. Furthermore, radio is an unsurpassed outlet for the pumping out of information. The overwhelming preeminence of terrestrial and satellite television has not diminished the value of radio as one of the most direct, far-reaching, cost-effective and readily available media for news, information, entertainment and, of course, propaganda.

    Cross-border broadcast radio transmission, first started by Radio Netherlands in 1928, soon developed into a policy instrument that was perfected by the BBC during World War II. That was the beginning of a tradition. All international broadcasters, first transmitting on short- wave and now via satellite to FM local radio stations, have the singular mission of influencing the target audience in the political, economic, cultural, linguistic or religious interests of the originating country or institution. This holds equally true for world leaders in the broadcasting industry such as the BBC World Service, which claims an international audience of more than 130 million people, and the Voice Of America which broadcasts in 55 languages, from Arabic to Uzbek.

    Even before short-wave broadcasting acquired a global status, Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and first chairman of the Russian Communist Party, once commented that "Radio is a newspaper without paper, and without borders." No one understood the value of propaganda better than the now- defunct communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

    Radio Sawa is a product of the aftershocks of 11 September, despite its own assertions to the contrary. It is founded on the notion "if they know us better, they will understand our value system and what we do will then be interpreted within the context of that system." If US policy considerations condone the crushing of Palestinian civilians under Israeli tanks as acts of "self-defence," block action in the United Nations Security Council to investigate Israeli crimes or mount a military strike against Iraq, Radio Sawa claims the news will be reported "objectively," analysed "professionally," presented "concisely" and, if it is too bitter for the young Arab listener to swallow, will be washed down with heavy doses of pop music.

    It is likely, therefore, that the claim of "objective journalism" will succumb to the political exigencies of the United States government. He who pays the piper must inevitably call the tune.

    So the devil, it seems, is on the agenda. The United States has consistently been a good exporter of its short-term myopic interests, and a bad promoter of the ideals of the value system on which it was founded. That may explain why outside Europe, the US of the post-World War II era found itself more in the bad company of ruthless dictators, rather than in the good company of democratically elected leaders.

    From the perspective of the target audience, the sound may be upbeat but the agenda is flawed. Nothing is more telling than the behavioral pattern of a typical would-be target audience for Sawa: the students of the American University in Cairo (AUC). During the mass student protests that rocked the Arab region in the face of Israeli atrocities against Palestinian civilians, AUC students took a leading activist role, surprising some sceptics. In their on-campus and off-campus demonstrations, "AUCians" provided compelling evidence that they are a bastion of Arab patriotism rather than a loyal product of the American value system.

    Mr Pattiz's broadcasting concept has yet another intriguing flaw: if the US government will invest millions of dollars to let "us" know "them," will it also strive to let "them" know "us"? We must stand up and postulate the outrageous assumption that in order for us to know the American people, appreciate their ideals and value system, they, too, will have to know the same about us, the Arabs. Otherwise, the result will be a lopsided knowledge, a case of unrequited love.

    Arab governments, leaders, summits, information ministers and the League of Arab States, despite the determined efforts of its dynamic secretary-general, Amr Moussa, have failed to agree on the development of a single channel of communication that would help the American people know something about us, about our value system and about Islam. Is Mr Pattiz now meant to do this for us?

    So how will the Sawa broadcasting initiative fare in achieving the strategy of Norman Pattiz "to go after the hearts and minds you can get"? Sawa is the heir of Voice Of America Arabic Service, which occasionally offered some good journalism. But that service eventually slipped into oblivion. Mr Thatcher, Radio Sawa's director, has "guaranteed to Congress that we will at least double the audience, which is, we hope, easily achievable."

    The US Congress and US broadcasting pundits are keenly aware of the dismal experience of Radio and Television Marti -- the anti-Castro broadcasting initiative that started broadcasting a radio station in 1985 and a TV station in 1991. Marti cost US taxpayers $500 a year at its peak, and has now sunk into administrative chaos and political squabble among the south Florida rival Cuban political factions.

    Radio Sawa may be luckier, at least for a while. But then again, the target audience will also be more sophisticated. The chances are the Arab youth themselves will split the strategy: take the US sound and discard the US agenda.

  3. #3
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    Well it kinda makes me sad that the U.S., how it is the most powerful country in the world uses its influence to control other countries to get what it desires. Dont get me a wrong if you have the power you certainly must use it, but nonetheless the U.S knew they coudnt get through to the older generation of Middle Easteners as they have become set in their ways and now resort to an attack on the psyche of their yournger generation. To have them grow up with our ideals and beliefs. and only because we have intrests in oil over there. O wlel thats capitalism for you.

  4. #4
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    Well it kinda makes me sad that the U.S., how it is the most powerful country in the world uses its influence to control other countries to get what it desires. Dont get me a wrong if you have the power you certainly must use it, but nonetheless the U.S knew they coudnt get through to the older generation of Middle Easteners as they have become set in their ways and now resort to an attack on the psyche of their yournger generation. To have them grow up with our ideals and beliefs. and only because we have intrests in oil over there. O wlel thats capitalism for you.

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    i think the part that is most disturbing is that the US warmachine rages on and is now picking up steam... America could soon be at war on 3 fronts and after that who knows how may more fights will be picked.
    Learn like you are going to live forever, live like you are going to die tomorrow.

    Propoganda

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    i think the part that is most disturbing is that the US warmachine rages on and is now picking up steam... America could soon be at war on 3 fronts and after that who knows how may more fights will be picked.
    Learn like you are going to live forever, live like you are going to die tomorrow.

    Propoganda

  7. #7
    Senior Member SodaMoca5's Avatar
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    OK, I am confused, enlighten me to what the problem is. I must have missed something.

    America is funding a radio station to provide entertainment but also "propaganda". This is not a new thing. Radio Free Europe was funded by the Nato powers with America funding 90% of it. It's goal was to reach behind the Iron Curtain. Radio stations are set up to reach into China, North Korea, etc. This has been a standard method of providing news, advertising, enticements, and (if you wish to call it such) propaganda to nations who deny freedom of speech to their people. Many people from the formerly controlled Soviet Eastern Bloc commented after the end of the cold war that RFE was a favorite underground radio station to listen to as was the BBC which broadcast into the soviet bloc as well. It was seen as a positive asset which helped, in a small way, to bring the cold war to an end.

    So far we have seen a strong push towards western culture in all of the areas affected except for North Korea and Cuba. Both are nations that are still held by strong dictatorial powers who have not opened up their markets for free trade with the world. This does raise the question about whether it was the radio stations or the free trade (personally I vote for free trade).

    However, what is wrong with it? Our newspapers cry out for understanding. They urge us to learn about our enemies. Through learning and understanding we are told that we can start to reach agreement and peace. Shouldn't they also be given the opportunity to learn about us? What is wrong with trying to help them understand what we are like, what we do for entertainment, believe in, and are willing to fight for. What is wrong with trying to bring some understanding that, hopefully, will save lives?

    Is it wrong because it involves oil or economic benefit to us? Why should that be? Should we only spend money or try to influence people where we have no stake in the matter and nothing to gain from it? We have proven that we are willing to send our economic and military assets to locations that have no economic or political gain for us (Bosnia, Somalia, Liberia, Grenada, and many others). What is wrong about also using them where there is the possiblity of economic and political gain?

    I cannot see how it is preferrable to continue to accept that there are barriers of culture that allow one section of people to deem it acceptable to commit terrorist attacks on another. I cannot see how it is preferrable to continue to ignore cultural biases that have set the stage for what could possibly expand into WW-III because we cannot find any common ground on which to deal with our enemies or they with us. I cannot perceive what is wrong with trying to bring the cultures closer together in the hope, however vain, that maybe some steps towards peace can be taken if only both sides would show a better understanding and greater restraint.

    Please explain to me how setting up a radio station puts us in the wrong? I am very confused.
    SodaMoca5
    \"We are pressing through the sphincter of assholiness\"

  8. #8
    Senior Member SodaMoca5's Avatar
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    OK, I am confused, enlighten me to what the problem is. I must have missed something.

    America is funding a radio station to provide entertainment but also "propaganda". This is not a new thing. Radio Free Europe was funded by the Nato powers with America funding 90% of it. It's goal was to reach behind the Iron Curtain. Radio stations are set up to reach into China, North Korea, etc. This has been a standard method of providing news, advertising, enticements, and (if you wish to call it such) propaganda to nations who deny freedom of speech to their people. Many people from the formerly controlled Soviet Eastern Bloc commented after the end of the cold war that RFE was a favorite underground radio station to listen to as was the BBC which broadcast into the soviet bloc as well. It was seen as a positive asset which helped, in a small way, to bring the cold war to an end.

    So far we have seen a strong push towards western culture in all of the areas affected except for North Korea and Cuba. Both are nations that are still held by strong dictatorial powers who have not opened up their markets for free trade with the world. This does raise the question about whether it was the radio stations or the free trade (personally I vote for free trade).

    However, what is wrong with it? Our newspapers cry out for understanding. They urge us to learn about our enemies. Through learning and understanding we are told that we can start to reach agreement and peace. Shouldn't they also be given the opportunity to learn about us? What is wrong with trying to help them understand what we are like, what we do for entertainment, believe in, and are willing to fight for. What is wrong with trying to bring some understanding that, hopefully, will save lives?

    Is it wrong because it involves oil or economic benefit to us? Why should that be? Should we only spend money or try to influence people where we have no stake in the matter and nothing to gain from it? We have proven that we are willing to send our economic and military assets to locations that have no economic or political gain for us (Bosnia, Somalia, Liberia, Grenada, and many others). What is wrong about also using them where there is the possiblity of economic and political gain?

    I cannot see how it is preferrable to continue to accept that there are barriers of culture that allow one section of people to deem it acceptable to commit terrorist attacks on another. I cannot see how it is preferrable to continue to ignore cultural biases that have set the stage for what could possibly expand into WW-III because we cannot find any common ground on which to deal with our enemies or they with us. I cannot perceive what is wrong with trying to bring the cultures closer together in the hope, however vain, that maybe some steps towards peace can be taken if only both sides would show a better understanding and greater restraint.

    Please explain to me how setting up a radio station puts us in the wrong? I am very confused.
    SodaMoca5
    \"We are pressing through the sphincter of assholiness\"

  9. #9
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    However, what is wrong with it? Our newspapers cry out for understanding.
    What have you learned about the Middle East (particularly arabs) since 9/11? The US govt knows that the Middle East is on the verge of "revolution", much like the Iranian revolution of 1979. The Arab govts(like Egypt, Jordon, S.Arabia among others), toe the US line, but the people dont. All authoritarian "govts". We toot our own horn about how we're a freedom loving nation etc. But not when it comes to others whom we can exploit. When I say "we" I'm referring not to ordinary citizens like you, but the big oil companies. If there was democracy in the ME tomorrow, do you think we would be paying a $1.50 a gallon for our SUVs? Selective freedom is hypocrisy. We supposedly went to Afghanistan to "liberate" them. This is what is we have done there . Oh that's right, there's that pipeline that's been in the planning for God knows how many years, it must've slipped my mind .

    It's an attempt at damage control(and a lousy one at that), for undermining Democratic govts for the past 40 years in the ME.
    \"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.\" -- Dom Helder Camara

  10. #10
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    However, what is wrong with it? Our newspapers cry out for understanding.
    What have you learned about the Middle East (particularly arabs) since 9/11? The US govt knows that the Middle East is on the verge of "revolution", much like the Iranian revolution of 1979. The Arab govts(like Egypt, Jordon, S.Arabia among others), toe the US line, but the people dont. All authoritarian "govts". We toot our own horn about how we're a freedom loving nation etc. But not when it comes to others whom we can exploit. When I say "we" I'm referring not to ordinary citizens like you, but the big oil companies. If there was democracy in the ME tomorrow, do you think we would be paying a $1.50 a gallon for our SUVs? Selective freedom is hypocrisy. We supposedly went to Afghanistan to "liberate" them. This is what is we have done there . Oh that's right, there's that pipeline that's been in the planning for God knows how many years, it must've slipped my mind .

    It's an attempt at damage control(and a lousy one at that), for undermining Democratic govts for the past 40 years in the ME.
    \"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.\" -- Dom Helder Camara

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