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COLUMN

Turning From The Axis

Vivek Rao

While delivering his State of the Union address, George W. Bush put together his best Dan Quayle imitation with a series of statements ending with his conclusion that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea constitute an “axis of evil.” While on the surface such rhetoric may seem harmless, it provides another example of the propaganda that has been flung unremittingly at the American public ever since the Sept. 11 attacks. At its core, the modern American media is an enigmatic bunch.

Though journalists throughout the country are ready and willing to jump on domestic scandals or outrages like the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and the Elian Gonzalez saga, the press is remarkably timid and spineless when it comes to international affairs, putting a pro-United States spin on nearly every issue and siding with the government’s policies a vast majority of the time. With the nation’s major information sources in his back pocket, Bush has few obstacles in pushing his platform. Though he appears sincere in his desire to make his nation more secure, his method of pouring money into the defense budget and threatening action against “evil” nations will only serve to further increase worldwide anti-American sentiment while drawing valuable money away from key domestic programs.

The Pentagon and the White House would have you believe that they have not deceived the American public, but they have certainly not told the whole truth. The current cauldron of international affairs is more complex than a good/evil division. To think that the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks committed the act purely on the impetus of hatred for the United States, freedom, and democracy is naÏve.

What Bush and his colleagues will never admit is that America’s foreign policy can be as offensive as the actions of the alleged “axis of evil.” Though we would like to believe that our nation is a bastion of righteousness, the bottom line is that our government’s stance on international affairs is ruled less by a desire to protect freedom and more by an insatiable need to increase American power.

Of course, it has always been quite clear that neither modesty nor honesty is plentiful in the Oval Office, and no one should expect that to change with Bush. Yet it is reasonable to expect the media to point out the flaws in American foreign policy. The press has been remarkably unwilling to deal with the issue of why the Sept. 11 attacks took place. For years, the United States government has been one of the world’s leading terrorists, using threats of military action or economic sanctions to eliminate obstacles to American might. Some American policies, such as favoritism toward Israel in its conflict with Palestine and extensive sanctions against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, have been criticized by many around the world, especially in Arab nations.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to truthful, balanced media coverage is our skewed definition of patriotism. While the term implies a sense of pride and confidence in one’s country, it should not be linked with blind, unwavering support for every one of the nation’s policies. If major newspapers and television networks were to consistently provide an honest account of America’s image in other countries, and thorough documentation of the effects of recent foreign policy on that image, they would be doing a patriotic service. By educating the people who trust their coverage of world events, such media outlets would enable American citizens to analyze their government’s policies and debate them. Over time, this would result in a more evolved vision for the future of the United States, producing more realistic plans for ensuring safety from terrorist threats and improving America’s image overseas.

As the war against the Taliban winds down, we must turn from punishing the Sept. 11 terrorists to preventing future attacks. While this nonsensical “axis of evil” rhetoric spews from Bush’s mouth, doing nothing but angering other potential terrorists, a more constructive approach must be taken, and it is the responsibility of the media to take an active role in such a campaign. If our country is truly the model democracy that we want it to be, then our citizenry must be knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions about government policies. Until the national media stops pandering to Bush’s propaganda and offers the public a more thorough investigation of the causes of terrorism, the United States can hardly be considered a model for other nations to follow.