COLIN POWELL: DISMANTLING THE IMAGE
John Powers has written fine and insightful articles on U.S.
policies, especially since 9/11. Thus, I am puzzled by his uncritical stance
in “Visible Men”
[On, February 22–28] on Colin Powell, someone who’s benefited from mass
media that have refused to examine Powell’s record, e.g., on Vietnam, Iran-contra,
Panama and the Persian Gulf War. The carefully crafted image of Powell as soldier-statesman
is contradicted by the facts. Few know that the then-Major Colin Powell helped
to suppress the inquiry into the 1968 My Lai massacre. When ordered to investigate
the killings and rapes, Powell concluded that while there might have been some
“isolated incidents” of abuse, there were no widespread atrocities in Vietnam,
and that relations between Americans and Vietnamese were “excellent.” How could
he be so wrong on My Lai and the Vietnam War and yet be trusted on contemporary
world conflicts? His style may be different from Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s, but
in essence all three are architects of imperialist economic and military policies
that bring death and devastation to Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.
Powell has advised and pursued policies that violate international law, human
rights and the Constitution. As assistant to former Pentagon boss Casper Weinberger
during the Reagan administration, he was involved in the illegal and unconstitutional
Iran-contra affair and perjured himself before Congress. He later persuaded
former President Bush to pardon Weinberger for the latter’s involvement in Iran-contra.
Then, in 1989, after Powell urged Bush to invade Panama under the pretext of
bringing Manuel Noriega, formerly on the CIA payroll, to justice, thousands
of Panamanians were killed. And he was a key figure in the Gulf War slaughter
that left perhaps 150,000 Iraqi troops dead. To this day he supports the U.S.-led
U.N. embargo that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi
children since 1991.
Given the recent attention to human rights because of charges against former
Chilean President Augusto Pinochet and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic,
and the efforts to question Henry Kissinger about his role in the overthrow
of the Allende government in Chile by Pinochet, why have the mass media refused
to examine Powell’s involvement in war crimes? Americans who advocate human
rights and international law and oppose tyrants such as Milosevic and Pinochet
cannot ignore the tyranny of our own leaders, even those who, like Powell, get
kid-glove treatment. No leader is above the law when it comes to human rights
and murder; there must be a single standard in such matters. If Milosevic and
Pinochet can be charged with crimes against humanity, then justice and truth
demand that Powell have his day in court as well.
THE ALUMINUM KING: NO TONY SOPRANO
I was very disappointed to find a sensationalistic article
such as Christine Pelisek and Charles Rappleye’s “Pet
Shop Murder” in the L.A. Weekly [February 22–28]. “Fraud, the Mob
and the Aluminum King,” said the cover, preparing the reader for a New York–style
Mafia story. On the next page, in the Contents section, the words “Armenian
crime scene,” used in the same sentence with “massive rip-offs from the $450
million state recycling program,” make you think, “Hey, this is big stuff.”
But as you read more, you can’t help but be disappointed — that the story isn’t
as juicy as you expected; that a wannabe Mafioso bringing aluminum cans from
across the state, who lives in a modest house with his wife and mother, hardly
qualifies as an “aluminum king”; that a publication that I used to respect has
sunk to the level of the Channel 13 News; that you go back to 1999 and choose
this story as the first major story you do about the 60,000 Armenians living
in Los Angeles — “the anonymous immigrant population,” as you refer to them.
If the Armenian population were anonymous to your readers, wouldn’t you serve
them better by doing a story that paints not an overly positive or optimistic
picture of the Armenian community, but a realistic one, of a community less
than 1 percent of which (according to your own article) are involved in illegal
activities, a population whose overwhelming majority are hard-working, law-abiding,
taxpaying Americans. There are many stories out there. Choosing which one to
tell is what separates Jerry Springer from Charlie Rose.
I was curious about why a story about criminal corruption was so concerned
with Sarkis Antonyan’s “heavily oiled hair,” then taken aback by the writers’
interest in “his long, broad nose.” True discomfort set in when I learned that
“Like so many ambitious immigrants before him, he shunned the prospect of menial
work . . . living by his wits on the far side of the law.” Media such as the
Weekly have so often given me an alternative to Rush Limbaugh– and Pat
Robertson–like rhetoric. That is why reading â such an article, in these tense
times, both angered and saddened me.
GRANDMA: SHE’D PROBABLY HAVE A CONNIPTION FIT
“Where can I take Grandma to Sunday brunch by the sea?”
reads question No. 39 in your Winter
Restaurants 2002 guide [February 8–14]. The Weekly recommends One
Pico, located in the luxurious Shutters Hotel. But if Grandma has a social conscience,
she’ll chew you out. As reported previously in the pages of the Weekly,
Shutters is the leader of the hotel-backed campaign to derail Santa Monica’s
living-wage law. First it spent tens of thousands of dollars to try to pass
a fake living-wage referendum, called “Prop. KK,” which was defeated by 79 percent
of Santa Monica’s voters. Now it has poured more thousands into qualifying a
repeal of the living-wage ordinance on the November ballot.
Maybe the Weekly’s food reviewers should make a point of reading the
Weekly’s news stories. Part of what you pay for an entrée at One Pico
goes toward fighting the right of workers to earn a decent wage.
What would Grandma think of that?
BOB COSTAS: NO FRIENDS IN QUAKERTOWN
I chuckled while reading Brendan Bernhard’s take on NBC’s
Healing Games,” Box Populi, March 1–7]. It mirrors mine completely. Only
a few additional comments I’d have made:
1) He left out the part where Bush said (as he says in every speech he makes),
“We are the greatest nation in the world” ad nauseam. This at the Olympics,
the one place where nations can show good sportsmanship.
2) NBC’s figure-skating commentator Sandra Bezic couldn’t shut up about how
wonderful the Canadian pair were; I personally preferred the Russians.
3) When the Russians complained about the judging being unfair in a few events,
I happened to agree with them, but that’s beside the point. It was childish
of NBC’s commentators to make fun of them. Didn’t the U.S. and Canada complain
for days on end about the pair-skating competition?
4) One disagreement: I used to love watching Jim McKay when he was the lead
commentator on the Olympics. Coverage was terrific then. But I’m in total agreement
with finding Bob Costas’ drivel extremely annoying. I wish he’d disappear .
. . forever.
FOR THE RECORD
Re: last week’s book page. Reviewer R.U. Sirius’ book
The Revolution: Quotations From Revolution Party Chairman R.U. Sirius
was published in June 2000 by Feral House, which also published Extreme Islam,
one of the books reviewed. Also, due to an editorial oversight, in Judith Lewis’
interview with Lupe Ontiveros, the name of Chuck & Buck’s director,
Miguel Arteta, was misspelled throughout.