Just before the Christmas season, an obscure tax-payer supported organization called the Institute for Public Accuracy, sponsored a visit to Baghdad by actor Sean Penn. Near the end of his tour, Penn announced, "If there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis will be on our hands." Consistent with the tenets of leftist anti-Americanism, Penn absolved by omission a genocidal mass murderer. Building on the legacy of Neville Chamberlain, Penn voiced his "hopes that any of us present may contribute in any way to a peaceful resolution to the conflict at hand," evidently even if the solution involves American appeasement or abdication of its duty to safeguard the free world. Capitalizing on Penn’s naiveté, the Iraqi News Agency falsely reported that Penn "confirmed that Iraq is completely clear of weapons of mass destruction."
Berkeley professor Norman Solomon, president of the Institute for Public Accuracy and Penn’s handler for the occasion summarized Penn’s mission: "[Penn’s] visit could inspire many Americans from various walks of life to explore how they can impede the momentum toward war, whether in Baghdad or at home in the United States." Impeding Saddam’s capacity for mass murder is clearly a lower priority for Solomon and the IPA. Penn offered his "thanks to Norman Solomon and the Institute for Public Accuracy for facilitating my visit."
U.S. taxpayers also facilitated the visit. Enjoying tax exemption as an IRS 501c(3) charitable organization, the left-wing Institute for Public Accuracy Institute operates the inaptly named www.accuracy.org and describes itself "as a consortium for an abundance of diverse expertise" that "widen[s] the bounds of media discussion" on current events and coverage of the news. IPA actually promotes an anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-Israeli agenda. Veteran leftists and Marxist ideas dominate IPA, which also has deep ties to radical Arab activists.
As another Gulf War looms, the Institute has worked with the Iraqi regime to operate what Lenin might have described as a travel agency for useful idiots. Aided by IPA, left-leaning U.S. political and entertainment figures have traveled to Iraq to gain all the insight available from staged events controlled with Stalinist precision by Saddam’s henchmen. Baghdad has exploited the visits to elicit sympathy for Saddam’s victims and to endeavor to weaken American resolve.
Leftist author and media critic Norman Solomon serves as IPA’s Executive Director and has organized at least two subversion tours of Iraq. When not addressing anti-Israel rallies at Berkeley or writing for the Saudi-backed Arab News, Solomon weaves Marxist threads throughout his books and columns, which primarily focus on media issues. Private media ownership especially irks Solomon. Condemning the CBS-Viacom merger, he railed, "Any successful movement for basic progressive change will need to push big money off the windpipe of the First Amendment." Of course, the sheer volume of contemporary discourse strongly suggests an unobstructed windpipe; additionally, the First Amendment protects everybody’s right to operate a press freely but guarantees nobody a cost-free or government-funded press. Despite the Constitution, Solomon implicitly demands a government-funded press when he argues, "freedom to speak must be accompanied by freedom to be heard" regardless of whether the speaker can compete in the marketplace of ideas.
Long-time IPA President and Board member Robert McChesney is a communications professor at the University of Illinois who despises "the contradiction between a for-profit … corporate media system and the communication requirements of a democratic society," even though a for-profit media system seems particularly appropriate within a capitalist system. Naturally, he advocates government-funded media and extensive government control over private broadcasters. McChesney, Solomon, and their ilk appear oblivious to what many would find obvious: 1) powerful state-controlled media are not always synonymous with free media; and 2) considering the scope of its power, the U.S. government should avoid endorsing certain media outlets over others.
IPA Communications Director Sam Husseini previously worked as Media Director for the extremist American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, where he undoubtedly forged a relationship with hard-left ex-Senator James Abourezk (further discussed below). ADC opposes U.S. aid to Israel and U.S. action against Iraq and is currently suing John Ashcroft and the INS over government efforts to thwart potential terrorists already in the U.S. Like Mr. Solomon, Husseini has close ties to leftist media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which campaigns in conjunction with IPA against non-leftist think tanks.
While the ruins of the World Trade Center and Pentagon still smoldered, IPA rushed to advocate appeasement and agitate against a meaningful U.S. response to the barbaric attacks. On September 12, 2001, IPA issued a press release touting the availability of some "experts" for interviews and summarizing their positions. Far from decrying the terrorists, one "expert" declared that American condemnation of the attackers "holds up a mirror to U.S. policy of causing massive civilian suffering in Iraq … we hope that along with the grief, we can … form deeper compassion and understanding." Another "expert" anticipated the needs of our enemies and proclaimed, "This is not a 'war' that can be won by military means."
Although the Institute cultivates the image of a people-powered, grass roots movement, financials records suggest something else. IPA’s tax return for the fiscal year ended 12/31/00, for example, lists gross revenues of $221,621. Six anonymous parties contributed approximately 82% of that total, including individual payments of $121,990, $20,807, and $20,000.
Last September, IPA sponsored a visit to Iraq by a delegation that included Democrat Congressmen Nick Rahall of West Virginia, former Democrat Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota, and IPA’s Mr. Solomon. After seeing exactly what the Iraqi government wanted them to see, the delegation more or less said what the Iraqi government wanted them to say.
Rahall, who went to Baghdad despite widespread opposition to the trip in his home district, solemnly declared, "What I want to give here is peace a chance." In reality, he served as a propaganda tool for the enemy and undermined the prospects for lasting peace by promoting the notion that the U.S. might accept a Saddam-friendly resolution.
Ex-Senator Abourezk’s appearance in Iraq was likely no surprise to followers of his hard-left career. After a single term in the Senate, during which Tom Dashcle entered politics by working on his staff, Abourezk founded the aforementioned American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Besides assuming a radical anti-Israel posture (discussed above), ADC consistently supported the PLO, Marxist groups, and other Soviet clients. Predictably, Abourezk played the humanitarian card in defense of Saddam’s sadistic regime, i.e. blame for Iraqi suffering bypasses Baghdad and falls on Washington. Rhetorically comforting the enemy, Abourezk asserted that U.S. military action in Iraq would constitute "a new and unprovoked war … in violation … of basic humane values."
To the relief of those concerned about the possibility of acrimonious consultations, Norman Solomon described the IPA group’s meetings with government officials as suffused with "some real warmth and shared desire to avert the looming specter of just a really horrific war." Indeed, Solomon recounted many "moments that were really transcendent, in terms of human connectedness," a sentiment probably not shared by victims of Saddam’s sadistic security apparatus.
Solomon told of the delegation’s "urging [the Iraqis] to agree to unfettered access for UN weapons inspectors" even as he condemned the inspectors as U.S. military spies and the U.S. as "determined to inflict a horrendous war." He refrained from commenting on the horrendous wars that Saddam has unleashed on Iran, Kuwait, and his own people.
As if armed with Ba’th Party talking points, Solomon argued, "I certainly think that the idea of pre-emptive strikes is, I would say, insane." He also reported, "we all agreed on … the regime change demand of the Bush administration as being a major obstacle."
The Institute for Public Accuracy has become an important weapon in Saddam’s propaganda arsenal. While masquerading as an organization fighting for ordinary citizens, IPA is actually a hard left cabal primarily financed by a handful of backers. Unfortunately, the American people must partially subsidize IPA political activity because of the group’s tax-exempt status. Of course, the U.S. has the strength to tolerate and even indirectly foster dissent that borders on hostility; a lesson lost on the likes of Norman Solomon is that his Iraqi equivalent would be either in exile, a government torture chamber, or an unmarked grave.