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Waking Up At 50

The scene struck an unsettling nerve even though its significance was largely beyond my comprehension. Hillary Clinton used a presidential primary debate stage to cite Henry Kissinger as a foreign policy mentor. Bernie Sanders called them both out and changed everything.

As a young kid in the 1970s, my trinity of trusted political gurus — a liberal Democrat father, conservative Republican stepfather, and the television — rarely came to a consensus. But in Kissinger’s case, they all agreed America’s foreign policy was in highly-capable hands.

During the 1990s, I toiled in local television newsrooms, and crafted numerous rewrites of wire-service stories involving Kissinger. The Associated Press and United Press International always placed Kissinger on a pedestal with plaudits like ‘esteemed diplomat’, ‘veteran statesman’, and ‘respected on both sides of the aisle’. So that’s all I knew, that’s all I wrote, and that’s all our viewers heard.

The reaction of shock and awe on Bernie’s face during that debate motivated me to revisit my perspective on Kissinger. I now know why critics see him as nothing short of a war criminal. Kissinger‘s public policies and secret orders led to the deaths of millions of people on multiple continents.

Hillary’s admitted admiration of Henry led Bernie to launch a Kissinger critique based largely on U.S. atrocities committed in Cambodia. For whatever reason, Sanders neglected to emphasize Kissinger’s enduring connections to present-day problems in the Middle East.

Kissinger began escalating U.S. arms sales to Iran in 1973, even overriding the Pentagon in the process. Iran soon became the world’s top buyer of American weapons. The Iranian Revolution ended all that in 1979, when the Western-installed Shah was ousted and the Ayatollah Khomeini took control.

Iraq and Saddam Hussein wasted little time and invaded neighboring Iran in 1980. Kissinger confided to colleagues that continued fighting between Iran and Iraq was “in the American interest”. The Iran-Contra Affair later confirmed the U.S. assisted both sides in the conflict. American relations with Iran and Iraq never normalized.

Kissinger‘s State Department also brokered an incredible, long-secret deal with Saudi Arabia that still shapes global policy more than 40 years later. The Saudis agreed to sell their petroleum to the world exclusively in U.S. dollars. The oil kings also promised to invest their surplus ‘petrodollars’ in American debt securities. In return, the U.S. guaranteed the Saudis full military protection.

The resulting webbed interdependence of oil, money and military still influences American administrations. Any U.S. desire to advance Saudi human rights, fight Saudi-funded terrorism, or prosecute potential Saudi-related 9/11 cases, must be weighed against the ambiguous ‘American interest’.

Of course, Bernie was right about Kissinger and Cambodia, too. The U.S. military began secretly carpet-bombing Cambodia in 1965, and continued for eight years, until the news finally reached Congress and the American people. President Richard Nixon was livid about the leak. Kissinger met with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and arranged to begin bugging suspected leakers in both the government and the media.

When Nixon resigned after the discovery of the Watergate wiretaps, he convinced incoming President Gerald Ford to keep Kissinger. Ford also added George H.W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney to his inner circle.

In the end, Kissinger‘s official career lowlights included support for a murderous dictator in Chile. Terror in East Timor. Atrocities in Angola. And Laos. Uruguay. Mozambique. Bangladesh. How and why could our major media have whitewashed all these actions performed by our government, and directed by the one man made out to be the super-smart guy?

And given that, what was I not being told during the 2016 election season? The Syrian ‘civil war’ seemed like a sensible place to start searching. Months of mainstream media coverage left me with a major unanswered question: Who were our so-called ‘rebel’ partners? Only after researching foreign media, and independent reports from the ground, did I learn some of our our allies in Syria were actually the same terrorists we’d come to condemn. Most disturbing was U.S. cooperation with Al-Nusra front, formerly known as Al-Qaeda.

Terrorists also inherited U.S. weapons stockpiles in the region, including leftovers in Libya that were remnants of regime-change policy against Colonel Qaddafi. Hillary Clinton personally pushed the policy to closure before gloating, “We came. We saw. He died.”

At the same time I was piecing together Hillary‘s hawkish record and her warmongering mentor, I was watching Bernie get railroaded by the corporate media. Why? He can’t win because he’s too liberal, they said. When they weren’t blackballing him, they were belittling him, his ideas, and his followers.

Even outlets I once considered the pinnacle of my profession, including the New York Times, joined in the Bernie bashing. The Times was caught editing digital media after release to add unwarranted negative spin against Sanders. The paper’s own Public Editor even took notice. The Public Editor position was later eliminated.

Our mainstream media corporations also gave Donald Trump $2 Billion worth of free publicity to catapult his campaign. When I floated the idea of a conspiracy among my Democrat-leaning friends and family, I was met with scorn and ridicule. Soon after, WikiLeaks confirmed the bombshell trifecta of Democratic National Committee collusion, media corruption, and the Trump ‘Pied Piper’ strategy. While I’d been vindicated on some level, I felt more betrayed, by both my country and my profession.

It’s not like I was oblivious to the news industry’s shortcomings when I was in the business. A fellow producer once called me the “conscience of the newsroom”. After decades of beating my head against corporate walls, and while still employed in a union position I could have kept until retirement, I did a whistleblower on the lie, cheat and steal practices in my news department. Exasperated, I accepted a small settlement and left my ‘dream’ job.

It was always easier to think the unethical news management practices I encountered were exceptions to the rule, rather than to believe my entire profession was polluted to the tops of the television networks and the most prominent print publications. In my endless ethical battles with middle managers and news directors, I rarely thought about their bosses, or the suits beyond them at ‘corporate’.

I’m now convinced the people in the tiny clique running the U.S. news industry through a handful of monster corporations only get there, and only remain there, because they believe what they believe. Or at least they’re willing and able to pretend. No need exists for any grand media conspiracy, because it’s built-in to the monolithic system.

Iconic newsman Ted Koppel said veteran politicians and journalists know, “If you tell the truth, you’ll lose.” Politicians would lose at the polls, journalists would lose readers and ratings, and both would lose their jobs as a result.

Armed with this new outlook, I began descending down the rabbit hole, delving into JFK‘s battles with the CIA and his assassination, Nixon’s elimination of the gold standard, the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, 9/11, and the U.S. teaming with terrorists. Our corporate-controlled ‘free’ press has never been hungry to tell us the whole truth about any of these issues. The official narratives are incomplete and suspicious. Yet doubters are ridiculed, isolated and labeled ‘conspiracy theorists’.

As we turn the page on 2017, the American media establishment is working overtime to lead the country into conflicts with Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Predictably, the propaganda relies on dubious claims, often anonymous, from the very same official sources with long records of proving they can’t be trusted. I still follow closely. But I no longer blindly believe.

Tim Nuell
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Tim Nuell

Tim is a former reporter and a news producer who pursued the profession of journalism to seek out corruption and speak truth to power. After realizing that mainstream media's objective ran counter to Tim's purpose for pursuing a career in the "fourth estate", he exited the field of media and pursued life away from the limelight. Tim offers views and perspectives about culture and politics through the prism of media.
Tim Nuell
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