REV JESSE JACKSON INTERVIEW (PART 2): 'American media have become too embedded'

The Nation, Regional - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

This is the second and final part of former US presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson's interview with Nation Group editor-in-chief Suthichai Yoon. Jackson was in Thailand last week to kick-start a "Bridges - Dialogues, Towards a Culture of Peace" event being organized by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation. Excerpts:

Suthichai: The Iraq war is a very significant change to American foreign policy. The top priority of your foreign policy is now anti-terrorism. And wherever you go, you ask whether your friend is on your side or not. If not on your side, you are

Jackson: Evil.

Suthichai: evil. You're an enemy.

Jackson: That kind of language has been quite divisive in the world. Like, Iraq is an evil empire in the world. Those make good headlines in America but they turn whole nations of people against America. We have been seen on our best days as the land of the free that welcomed immigrants and the home of the brave - a multiracial, multicultural society. And now we are abrasively calling people evil, threatening and using our military for suspect reasons. Is it peace that we seek or is it hegemony that we seek? We see the world through a keyhole, not through a door. And half of all human beings are Asian and half of those are Chinese. There are a billion people in India, two times the US and Russia combined.

Suthichai: But you have the biggest armed forces.

Jackson: Somehow, people are entitled to self-determination. My point is, today most people in the world are yellow, are brown, are black, non-Christian, poor, female, and don't speak English. But the one-sixth has a strong hold on the weapons and resources. The five-sixths find themselves in poverty, without drinking water and healthcare. And this gap with those who live in the surplus culture, the top one-sixth, and the bottom five-sixths calls for a balanced distribution of resources. The way to fight the roots of terrorism - which are anger and desperation - is by making a commitment to feed more people, give them more drinkable water, more healthcare, more education.

Suthichai: You can sense the rise of anti-American sentiment through the world now? You can sense it very clearly, right - after the brief sympathy for the US following September 11?

Jackson: Well, when you call Iraq and North Korea - this kind of country - evil, it is a kind of undiplomatic language, you see. Then you don't with the UN sessions in South Africa and Kyoto out of apathy. These isolationist moves are not good. People from other cultures are not going to join us [in the fight against Iraq] just for the right to die.

Suthichai: Do you think the Americans understand the current trend, which is quite anti-American in many parts of the world?

Jackson: Americans have begun to get to grips with it, slowly. The reason that the demonstrations against the Iraq war in Europe and around the world are much bigger is because the press is freer to tell the story than the American press, which has become so close to the government - embedded with, and thus in the bed with the government. They cannot see the ramifications of this war.

Suthichai: You say there are 6.000 American soldiers wounded already as a result of this war, and most of them cannot get medical assessment or proper surgery.

Jackson: When those 15 soldiers who were killed yesterday come back home, there'll be a blockade. The American press cannot cover their coming back, which will enrage a lot of people, and the Pentagon will not release their pictures to the American press so they can cover it. So people are beginning to sense now there's something not quite right - there's 15 killed, three killed, two killed. They [the press] are saying that they [troops] were sent to die. I think the American press is now becoming much more curious and much more aggressive in covering the ramifications of this war. And now we are spending another US$87 billion [Bt3.5 trillion] on Iraq, while you still have to handle the problems concerning economic growth at home. You have a net loss of jobs in every state. Jobs are going down, tuition costs are going up. There's a lot of bad news about our economy at home. So why do we have to use $87 billion in Iraq for reconstruction of roads, bridges, hospitals, schools and homes?