November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website, traprockpeace.org, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.THIS SITE NO LONGER REFLECTS THE CURRENT AND ONGOING WORK OF TRAPROCK PEACE CENTER, which has reorganized its board and moved to Greenfield, Mass. To contact Traprock Peace Center, call 413-773-7427 or visit its site. Charles Jenks is posting new material to PeaceJournal.org, a multimedia blog and resource center.
“Wagging the Puppy” -- and Unleashing the Deadly Dogs of War
July 25, 2005
By Norman Solomon
Midway through July, the Karl Rove scandal was dominating the national
news -- until the sudden announcement of a Supreme Court nominee
interrupted the accelerating momentum of the Rove story. Since then, some
anti-Bush groups and progressive pundits have complained that the White
House manipulated the media agenda. But when it comes to deploying weapons
of mass distraction, the worst is yet to come.
Changing the subject is a key aspect of political damage control.
Media spin is often most effective when it displaces one storyline with
No one is in a better position to shift the country’s media focus than
the president. And no technique has been more successful than military
Just two days after a truck bomb killed 241 Americans at a Marine
headquarters in Beirut, the U.S. invasion of Grenada quickly pushed the
Lebanon disaster out of the media spotlight. On the day of the invasion
(Oct. 25, 1983), President Reagan told reporters that the factor “of
overriding importance” was the need to protect “innocent lives, including
up to a thousand Americans, whose personal safety is, of course, my
That pretext for the invasion was bogus; the U.S. citizens in Grenada
had not been in danger and they didn’t want to be “rescued.” Yet the
invasion of Grenada was a big hit in the United States, and opinion polls
showed a net gain of several points for Reagan’s favorable numbers. On the
front pages and TV networks, he had changed the military subject from
disaster in Lebanon to triumph in Grenada.
Instead of critically examining the assumptions and effects of
militarism, the news media celebrated it. Within 48 hours, the president
had accomplished a remarkable public-relations feat -- all the more notable
because he directly transformed the public view of his role as commander in
Fast forward two decades: The summer of 2002 began with Republicans on
Capitol Hill in a near-panic. Congressional elections were just a few
months off, and the front pages were filled with stories about economic
distress. Widespread unemployment, fear of layoffs and spiking health-care
costs had created a political atmosphere that threatened the Republican
Party’s control over both houses of Congress. But then war drums started
beating -- very loud.
It wasn’t necessary for the president to “wag the dog” by starting a
war before the November 2002 election. Wagging the puppy would suffice. The
summer was filled with a rising chorus of alarms -- sounded by the Bush
administration and echoed by many reporters, pundits, think-tank allies and
other spinners. By the time the first leaves fell that autumn, the economy
was off the front pages, replaced by a huge focus on the possibility of
The current Rove scandal could hoist the Bush administration on its
own “national security” petard. Certainly, if the key political strategist
for a Democrat in the White House had leaked the name of an undercover CIA
operative, the Republicans would be howling. But anti-Bush media forces
lack the kind of massive echo chamber that the right wing enjoys. And the
Bush regime can rely on more than the usual White House prerogative to
launch some kind of military attack at an opportune moment.
In political terms, 9/11 is a gift that keeps on giving to George W.
Bush. It’s a golden goose that the right wing is determined to keep
The previous few presidents could rely on intermittent warfare to
rally their domestic forces around the flag. But today, the “war on terror”
provides the president with a nonstop set of options for drawing attention
away from scandalous stories that could undermine his administration.
The Bush team has made good on a promise from Donald Rumsfeld, two
weeks after 9/11, that “this will be a war like none other our nation has
faced.” In an op-ed article that appeared in the New York Times on Sept.
27, 2001, Rumsfeld declared: “Forget about ‘exit strategies’; we’re looking
at a sustained engagement that carries no deadlines.”
This “sustained engagement” -- the supposed “war on terrorism” -- has
become the ultimate propaganda weapon and open-ended cashier’s check for an
administration that will do whatever it can to retain power. Already, vast
amounts of taxpayer money have been squandered and countless lives have
been destroyed. Sooner rather than later, we must void this blank check.
This article is adapted from Norman Solomon’s new book “War Made Easy: How
Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” For information, go to:
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