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December 2014 -- New Book!

Putin Shot Down a Plane! Putin Shot Down a ... What? Never Mind

Search for "Malaysian Airlines Flight 17" on the New York Times website and you'll find a page promoting three articles from July, two hyping the idea that Russia did it and one just focused on the horror of it.

Below that you'll find 109 articles arranged from newest to oldest. The newest is from December 10th and consists of 4 sentences that convey little. The next is from November and all about an inappropriate tweet. The next half dozen take us back through September and we're little the wiser for it.

Yet the world outside of the U.S. media is full of evidence suggesting that Russia did not do it.

The silence is deafening. Dutch plans to produce a dubious report by next summer are being outpaced by steps toward war.

Here's a petition that concerned people are signing:

Call For Independent Inquiry of the Airplane Crash in Ukraine and its Catastrophic Aftermath

To: All the heads of states of NATO countries, and of Russia and the Ukraine, to Ban-ki Moon and the heads of states of countries on the UN Security Council

With the U.S. and Russia in possession of over 15,000 of the world’s 16,400 nuclear weapons, humanity can ill-afford to stand by and permit these conflicting views of history and opposing assessments of the facts on the ground to lead to a 21st Century military confrontation between the great powers and their allies.  While sadly acknowledging the trauma suffered by the countries of Eastern Europe from years of Soviet occupation, and understanding their desire for the protection of the NATO military alliance, we the signers of this global call to action also note that the Russian people lost 20 million people during WWII to the Nazi onslaught and are understandably wary of NATO expansion to their borders in a hostile environment.   Russia has lost the protection of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US abandoned in 2001, and warily observes missile bases metastasizing ever closer to its borders in new NATO member states, while the US rejects repeated Russian efforts for negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space, or Russia’s prior application for membership in NATO. 

For these reasons, we the peoples, as members of Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations, and global citizens, committed to peace and nuclear disarmament, demand that an independent international inquiry be commissioned to review events in Ukraine leading up to the Malaysian jet crash and of the procedures being used to review the catastrophic aftermath.  The inquiry should factually determine the cause of the accident and hold responsible parties accountable to the families of the victims and the citizens of the world who fervently desire peace and a peaceful settlement of any existing conflicts.  It should include a fair and balanced presentation of what led to the deterioration of U.S. –Russian relations and the new hostile and polarized posture that the U.S. and Russia with their allies find themselves in today.

The UN Security Council, with US and Russian agreement, has already passed Resolution 2166 addressing the Malaysian jet crash, demanding accountability, full access to the site and a halt to military activity which has been painfully disregarded at various times since the incident.   One of the provisions of SC Res 2166 notes that the Council “[s]upports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.”  Further, the 1909 revised Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes adopted at the 1899 Hague International Peace Conference has been used successfully to resolve issues between states so that war was avoided in the past.  Both Russia and Ukraine are parties to the Convention. 

Regardless of the forum where the evidence is gathered and fairly evaluated, we the undersigned urge that the facts be known as to how we got to this unfortunate state of affairs on our planet today and what might be the solutions.  We urge Russia and Ukraine as well as their allies and partners to engage in diplomacy and negotiations, not war and hostile alienating actions.   The world can little afford the trillions of dollars in military spending and trillions and trillions of brain cells wasted on war when our very Earth is under stress and needs the critical attention of our best minds and thinking and the abundance of resources mindlessly diverted to war to be made available for the challenge confronting us to create a livable future for life on earth.

Why is this important?

It’s important because there is so much misinformation and disinformation in the media that we are careening towards a new cold war with Russia over this.

Initial Signatories for petition:
(Organizations for Identification Only)

Hon. Douglas Roche, OC, Canada
David Swanson, co-founder, World Beyond War
Bruce Gagnon,  Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space
Alice Slater, JD, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY
Professor Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois College of Law
Natasha Mayers, Union of Maine Visual Artists
David Hartsough, co-founder, World Beyond War
Larry Dansinger, Resources for Organizing and Social Change
Ellen Judd, Project Peacemakers
Coleen Rowley, Women Against Military Madness
Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
Brian Noyes Pulling, M. Div.
Anni Cooper, Peaceworks
Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
Leah Bolger, CDR, USN (Ret), Veterans for Peace
Raymond McGovern, former CIA analyst, VA
Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Gloria McMillan, Tucson Balkan Peace Support Group
Ellen E. Barfield, Veterans for Peace
Cecile Pineda, author. Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step
Jill McManus
Steve Leeper, Visiting professor, Hiroshima Jogakuin University,Nagasaki University
Kyoto University of Art and Design
William H. Slavick, Pax Christi Maine
Helen Caldicott, Helen Caldicott Foundation
David Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Brigadier Vijai K Nair, VSM [Retd] Ph.D. , Magoo Strategic Infotech Pvt Ltd
Kevin Martin,  Peace Action
Carol Reilly Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Ann E. Ruthsdottir
Kay Cumbow
Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Tiffany Tool,  Peaceworkers
Sukla Sen, Committee for Communal Amnity, Mumbai India
Joan Russow, PhD, Coordinator, Global Compliance Research Project
Rob Mulford, Veterans for Peace, North Star Chapter, Alaska
Jacqueline Cabasso,  Western States Legal Foundation, United for Peace and Justice
Ingeborg Breines, Co-president International Peace Bureau
Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action
Felicity Ruby
Jerry  Stein,  The Peace Farm, Amarillo , Texas
Michael Andregg, professor, St. Paul, Minnesota
Elizabeth Murray,  Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council, ret.: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Washington
Robert Shetterly, artist,  “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” Maine
Katharine Gun, United Kingdom
Dave Webb, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, UK
Amber Garland, St. Paul, Minnesota
John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus
Beverly Bailey, Richfield, Minnesota
Joseph Gerson,  Convener, Working Group for Peace & Demiitarization in Asia and the Pacific
Stephen McKeown, Richfield, Minnesota
Dominique Lalanne,  France
Bill Rood, Rochester, Minnesota
Tom Klammer, radio host, Kansas City, Missouri
Barbara Vaile, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mali Lightfoot, Helen Caldicott Foundation
Tony Henderson, spokesperson for universal humanism, Hong Kong
Darlene M. Coffman, Rochester, Minnesota
Sister Gladys Schmitz, Mankato, Minnesota
Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
J. Kirk Wiebe, NSA Senior Analyst (ret.), MD
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Jill Stein, Green Party 2012 Presidential nominee
Cheri Honkala, Green Shadow Cabinet
Ed Asner
Norman Solomon, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Agneta Norberg, Sweden
Rick Rosoff, Stop NATO
Kathleen Sullivan, Hibakusha Stories
Michael Eisenscher, US Labor Against the War
Clare Coss, playwright
Jean-Marie Matagne, President, Action des Citoyens pour le Désarmement Nucléaire (France)
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg, United for Peace and Justice

Add your name.

A Hollywood Hack Holiday: Ending Torture One Dick At a Time

By John Grant


CAUTION! To paraphrase Bill O’Reilly, you are now entering a no-censor zone that discusses obscene activity.
 

The Christmas movie from Sony Pictures I want to see is Seth Rogan and James Franco rectally feeding Dick Cheney at the climax of a movie sequel called The Enhanced Interview: Saving the Homeland One Dick At a Time.


Intersection of Mistakes With Misdeeds

On a pleasant spring day in December it's nice to drive past the endlessly under-construction intersection of Route 250 and McIntire Road in Charlottesville, Va., and realize that the darn thing must nearly be completed. It looks sturdy and attractive. There's a nice new bicycle path heading north from it. All must be right with the world.

This intersection has its own official website stating that it won't really be done until next summer -- a website that is otherwise about as helpful as healthcare.gov.

Here are my concerns.

This intersection was only required by the construction of a 2-mile-long unnecessary road leading out of it, a road aimed at taking traffic off other roads that will certainly fail in that quixotic mission. Construction of new houses along those other roads has outpaced the construction of the new road that will produce the traffic needed to fill it, as they always do.

The intersection is supposed to cost $33 million, and together with the 2-mile-long road a total of $67 million.

The increased traffic is predictably driving discussion of additional new intersections to receive it. Price tags for improving four intersections on nearby Route 29 have been discussed as ranging from $250 million to $350 million. An intersection many miles up Route 29 in Gainesville is under construction for a cost of $216 million. A ridiculous proposal for a whole new road to the west of Charlottesville has been stopped by public pressure but left $200 million lying around for people to find something to spend it on. The Virginia Department of Transportation has a six-year plan to spend $13 billion on transportation projects.

To put this madness into perspective, the World Food Program needs $413 million for Syrian refugees for the next six months and doesn't have it. That's the cost of a couple of pointless and counterproductive intersections.

About $11 billion per year would provide clean drinking water to every part of the world that lacks it. That's less than a certain collection of road construction projects in just one U.S. state.

About $30 billion per year would end starvation and hunger around the world. In the United States alone we spend about $80 billion per month on highway and road construction projects.

The problem is not just that we're paving the planet rather than saving lives. And it's not just that paving one's way out of traffic predictably generates more traffic. It's also that we're destroying the planet's climate in the process.

Oh, and we're also creating a motivation for endless wars over oil.

Speaking of wars, no intersection would be complete without a war memorial. As part of the construction of the $33 million intersection in Charlottesville, big improvements are being made to the Dogwood Veterans Memorial, a monument to the war on Vietnam that was built during that war in 1966.

That war killed some 4 million Vietnamese, and the people whose government killed them have absolutely no shame. In fact, they don't even know about it. Ask a German or a Japanese about their nations' greatest sins, and they'll cite you chapter and verse with grave remorse. Ask a U.S.-American how many people died in Vietnam and you'll get at best a blank stare.

So, as you speed through the new intersection admiring the blacktop and the war monument -- I'm sure there's something similar in your part of the country too --  give some thought to the general priorities they represent.

Making a joke of the Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget

By Dave Lindorff


Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.

The US Must Prosecute Torturers and their Enablers, or Forever Be a Labeled a Rogue Nation

By Dave Lindorff

            In all the media debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release, finally, of a heavily redacted report on officially sanctioned torture by the CIA and the US military during the Bush/Cheney administration and the so-called War on Terror, there has been little said about the reality that torture, as clearly defined in the Geneva Convention against Torture which went into effect in 1987, is flat-out illegal in the US as a signatory of that Convention.

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

Three Rotten Cases and Counting: Is the Police Reform Movement Getting Legs?

By John Grant


How and why certain events in politics and culture coalesce into a critical mass is always an interesting thing to ponder. Sometimes it can happen when all hope has been lost.

Lawless Law Enforcer: Robert P. McColloch Personifies Misconduct by Prosecutors

By Linn Washington Jr.

 

When discredited Missouri prosecutor Robert P. McColloch recently defended his calculated manipulation of a grand jury which led jurors to free the policeman who fatally shot Michael Brown last summer, McColloch declared piously that eyewitness accounts must “always match physical evidence.”

McColloch, however, did not apply that ‘always match’ standard in the case of Antonio Beaver, a St. Louis man wrongfully convicted by in 1997 of a violent carjacking case tried by McColloch.

In combat, the killing of Michael Brown by Officer Wilson would have been called a war crime

By Dave Lindorff

 

What’s wrong Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson’s killing of the unarmed 18-year-old black teenager, Michael Brown, and with a Grand Jury decision not to indict him for that outrageous slaying, is what is wrong with American law enforcement and American “justice” in general. 

 

Both actions were permeated not only with racism, which clearly played a huge rule in both the verdict rendered by a Grand Jury composed of nine whites and only three blacks, and in this tragic police killing by a white cop of a black child, but also by a mentality on the part of police -- and apparently by at least a majority of the citizen jurors on a panel evaluating Wilson’s actions -- that cops are authorities who must be obeyed without question, on pain of death.

 

Oh no! The American jihadis are coming!: Stoking Fear as the US Prepares for the Nest War in the Middle East

By Dave Lindorff


You read it in USA Today: The latest “threat to America” is “thousands of jihadis” with Western passports,” returning from battle in Syria and Iraq to wreak havoc and destruction in the “US homeland.”


It’s a nightmare profoundly hoped for by the US Department of Homeland Security, that massive security-state bureaucracy looking for a raison d’être

It’s not about justice, it’s winning convictions: Prosecutors Falsely Push Prison Term for Innocent Teen

By Linn Washington Jr.

 

Nasheeba Adams was both ecstatic and sad as she stood outside of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center courthouse recently hugging her son Tomayo McDuffy.

US news organizations dispense propaganda, not news: Forget ‘Fair and Balanced,’ US Corporate Media Give Only the Government’s

By Dave Lindorff


One searches almost in vain for honest reporting on the Ukraine conflict in the US corporate media, which is simply parroting the US government position, which is that the rebels in eastern Ukraine are simply tools of Russian aggression against Ukraine.


No Anti-War Voices on TV -- Well, Sort of

Here's FAIR's excellent report on pro-war bias in the corporate media, and here's Peter Hart describing it well on Democracy Now:

I'd love to see a complete report of all the corporate media coverage for the whole lead-up to Iraq War III: This Time as Farce. Here I am getting a few minutes to oppose war on MSNBC two days after the period FAIR covered, on a program other than the ones FAIR covered:

 

 

I suspect there were lots of other exceptions. Did they come late? Were they evenly scattered across the programs so that each program could claim to have been "balanced," or did any actually devote more than a few minutes to peace? Which ones never ever admitted peace into the discussion?

I don't want to lose FAIR's focus on the central point that pro-war pseudo-debate voices were so dominant and repetitive as to drill into people's brains the idea that a mad idea was inevitable common sense. But I think the whole picture could be shown without doing that.

Whether the brighter spots, if any, could or should be encouraged, I don't know. And I have no interest in singling out the worst of the worst in a way that implies the other media outlets are doing all right. But I'd like to see the whole picture and then decide what it means.

Therefore: Send FAIR money to use on longer reports!

When expediency calls for principles: Obama on Net Neutrality: Principle or Politics?

By Alfredo Lopez

 

The week before last, our President made a pronouncement on Net Neutrality that pleasantly surprised activists and won him favorable coverage in the newspapers: both rare outcomes these days.

Hot tub poll shows Republicans don’t like their politicians: Election Night Wasn’t a GOP Victory, It was a Democratic Rout

By Dave Lindorff


The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress. 


Talk Nation Radio: Jeff Cohen on media no-fly zones, killing the messenger, getting big stories wrong

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jeff-cohen-on-media-no-fly-zones-killing-the-messenger

Jeff Cohen discusses the state of the media today. Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he is an associate professor of journalism. Cohen founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986, and cofounded the online activist group RootsAction.org in 2011. He's the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. His website is at jeffcohen.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Prof. Boyle may be wrong, but he may be right: With a Government this Vile and This Secretive We Need to Ask Questions

By Dave Lindorff

A few days ago, I published a short story linking to a PRN.fm radio interview PRN.fm radio interview I did with noted international law attorney Francis Boyle, whom I pointed out was a drafter of the US Biological Weapons and Anti-Terrorism Act passed into law in 1981, which supposedly barred the United States from continuing to keep or to develop new germ warfare weapons.

Boyle told me, on last Wednesday’s radio program “This Can’t Be Happening!,” that he believes the Zaire Ebola strain that is wracking Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea   in west Africa, originally came from one of several BSL4-level bio-research labs operated in those countries and funded by a combination of the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the US Defense Department, perhaps because of testing of Ebola being conducted there, or because of some containment breach. 

Everything Wrong With Liberalism in One Image Found on FaceBook

Here's a fairly typical image of a sort that constantly clogs up my FaceBook page. I take it to be the full and open expression of someone or some group's honest outlook. I don't think they'd identify themselves at the bottom as "Jesus, Republicans & Other Bullshit" if they were self-censoring.

And I certainly appreciate the cursing and the criticism of religion.

Here are my concerns:

"We've been at war now for over 12 years."

No, we haven't. The U.S. government and the U.S. military have, and it's been for over two centuries now. This latest installment has been actively opposed by many of us and opposed in many ways in opinion polls by a majority of the U.S. population for years. It's OK to take responsibility and blame for insufficient resistance, but not to identify with the criminals. If "we" are at war, we want "us" to win or to "redeploy responsibly," but certainly not to face prosecution or to make restitution -- as basic morality requires.

"Experts put the total cost at $4 - $6 trillion dollars." That's a sum of direct and indirect costs of war spending. The direct spending on the wars that is included in it is much smaller. It's certainly right to include the indirect damage. But we should start from the right place. The Pentagon and the media, and everyone who sees or reads the media, separate war costs from routine basic military spending. The latter is spending preparing for wars and provoking wars. It is justified by the existence of the wars. The wars are fought using the weapons and bases not counted as "war spending." That basic war preparations cost is now over $1 trillion each year. That's over $10 trillion each decade. Then add some extra hundreds of billions in "war costs." And then calculate the indirect damages and lost opportunities, which are enormous. The $4 - $6 trillion figure is ridiculously low, subservient to propaganda, and builds in the notion that possessing the sort of massive military that guarantees eternal wars is perfectly acceptable.

"Imagine if we had invested that in our own country and people." The war on Iraq was not an investment in the people of Iraq. It killed a million, injured millions, made millions into refugees, and absolutely destroyed a society, leaving behind the disaster now being addressed with another war. Yes, of course, we should have invested many trillions of dollars in people's needs rather than in mass murder. But anyone who's really tried to figure out how to spend many trillions of dollars would know that it's almost impossible to do. One will be obliged to let the other 95% of humanity have some of it for sheer lack of ways to spend it in the United States. And anyone who's given any thought to global suffering would be sickened by the idea of 5% of humanity hoarding such unfathomable wealth, just as many of us are sickened by the military using it to kill -- and to kill many more by taking that money away from where it's needed than the military ever kills using weapons.

Moving away from militarism requires identifing with humanity, not a nation. "We" must begin to mean humanity. Our graphics should not push nationalism, falsify numbers to make militarism seem normal, pretend war is something new to the United States -- which was born out of war and for the sake of war. Moving away from militarism requires dumping the Democratic Party along with the Republican, and along with both great mountains of bullshit. In certain of his comments, Jesus was actually closer to where we need to go than FaceBook posters are.

It won't protect you at all: Default Encryption: Apple and Google's Latest Marketing Ploy

By Alfredo Lopez


A couple of weeks ago, the mere mortals who lead the voracious giants of technology -- Google and Apple -- announced that they were striking a blow for protection against NSA spying by making "encryption" the default on Google cell phone software (which is used on most cell phones) and THEY software used on Apple mobile devices.

This affects equipment like the ubiquitous cell phone, although it is also relevant to some handheld computers and similar portable equipment.

Talk Nation Radio: Charles Lewis on 935 Lies and Media Decline

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-charles-lewis-on-935-lies-and-media-decline

Charles Lewis has been an investigative producer for ABC News and the CBS news program 60 Minutes. He founded The Center for Public Integrity.  He is executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication. And he is the author of 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity. We discuss his book.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Pranking the CIA: The New Get Rich Quick Story

When New York Times reporter James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn't wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication -- so it may be that the Times' claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen's book.

One of those stories, found in the last chapter, was that of Operation Merlin -- possibly named because only reliance on magic could have made it work -- in which the CIA gave nuclear weapon plans to Iran with a few obvious changes in them. This was supposedly supposed to somehow slow down Iran's nonexistent efforts to build nuclear weapons. Risen explained Operation Merlin on Democracy Now this week and was interviewed about it by 60 Minutes which managed to leave out any explanation of what it was.  The U.S. government is prosecuting Jeffrey Sterling for allegedly being the whistleblower who served as a source for Risen, and subpoenaing Risen to demand that he reveal his source(s).

The Risen media blitz this week accompanies the publication of his new book, Pay Any Price. Risen clearly will not back down. This time he's made his dumbest-thing-the-CIA-did-lately story the second chapter rather than the last, and even the New York Times has already mentioned it. We're talking about a "torture works," "Iraq has WMDs," "let's all stare at goats" level of dumbness here. We're talking about the sort of thing that would lead the Obama administration to try to put somebody in prison. But it's not clear there's a secret source to blame this time, and the Department of So-Called Justice is already after Sterling and Risen.

Sterling, by the way, is unheard of by comparison with Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden or the other whistleblowers Risen reports on in his new book. The public, it seems, doesn't make a hero of a whistleblower until after the corporate media has made the person famous as an alleged traitor. Sterling, interestingly, is a whistleblower who could only be called a "traitor" if it were treason to expose treason, since people who think in those terms almost universally will view handing nuclear plans to Iran as treason. In other words, he's immune from the usual attack, but stuck at the first-they-ignore-you stage because there's no corporate interest in telling the Merlin story.

So what's the new dumbness from Langley? Only this: a gambling-addicted computer hack named Dennis Montgomery who couldn't sell Hollywood or Las Vegas on his software scams, such as his ability to see content in videotape not visible to the naked eye, sold the CIA on the completely fraudulent claim that he could spot secret al Qaeda messages in broadcasts of the Al Jazeera television network. To be fair, Montgomery says the CIA pushed the idea on him and he ran with it. And not only did the CIA swallow his hooey, but so did the principals committee, the membership of which was, at least for a time: Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, So-Called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Tenet plays his usual role as dumber-than-a-post bureaucrat in Risen's account, but John Brennan is noted as having been involved in the Dennis Montgomery lunacy as well. The Bush White House grounded international flights as a result of Montgomery's secret warnings of doom, and seriously considered shooting planes out of the sky.

When France demanded to see the basis for grounding planes, it quickly spotted a steaming pile of crottin de cheval and let the U.S. know. So, the CIA moved on from Montgomery. And Montgomery moved on to other contracts working on other horse droppings for the Pentagon. And nothing shocking there. "A 2011 study by the Pentagon," Risen points out, "found that during the ten years after 9/11, the Defense Department had given more than $400 billion to contractors who had previously been sanctioned in cases involving $1 million or more in fraud." And Montgomery was not sanctioned. And we the people who enriched him with millions weren't told he existed. Nothing unusual there either. Secrecy and fraud are the new normal in the story Risen tells, detailing the fraudulent nature of drone murder profiteers, torture profiteers, mercenary profiteers, and even fear profiteers -- companies hired to generate hysteria. So forcefully has the dumping of money into militarism been divorced in public discourse from the financial burden it entails that Risen is able to quote Linden Blue, vice chairman of General Atomics, criticizing people who take money from the government. He means poor people who take tiny amounts of money for their basic needs, not drone makers who get filthy rich off the pretense that drones make the world safer.

The root of the problem, as Risen sees it, is that the military and the homeland security complex have been given more money than they can reasonably figure out what to do with. So, they unreasonably figure out what to do with it. This is compounded, Risen writes, by fear so extreme that people don't want to say no to anything that might possibly work even in their wildest dreams -- or what Dick Cheney called the obligation to invest in anything with a 1% chance. Risen told Democracy Now that military spending reminded him of the Wall Street banks. In his book he argues that the big war profiteers have been deemed too big to fail.

Risen tells several stories in Pay Any Price, including the story of the pallets of cash. Of $20 billion shipped to Iraq in $100 bills, he writes, $11.7 billion is unaccounted for -- lost, stolen, misused, or dumped into a failed attempt to buy an election for Ayad Allawi. Risen reports that some $2 billion of the missing money is actually known to be sitting in a pile in Lebanon, but the U.S. government has no interest in recovering it. After all, it's just $2 billion, and the military industrial complex is sucking down $1 trillion a year from the U.S. treasury. 

When Risen, like everyone else, cites the cost of recent U.S. wars ($4 trillion over a decade, he says), I'm always surprised that nobody notices that it is the wars that justify the "regular" "base" military spending of another $10 trillion each decade at the current pace.  I also can't believe Risen actually writes that "to most of America, war has become not only tolerable but profitable." What? Of course it's extremely profitable for certain people who exert inordinate influence on the government. But "most of America"? Many (not most) people in the U.S. have jobs in the war industry, so it's common to imagine that spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs -- with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work. Military spending radically increases inequality and diverts funding from services that people in many less-militarized nations have. I also wish that Risen had managed to include a story or two from that group making up 95% of U.S. war victims: the people of the places where the wars are waged.

But Risen does a great job on veterans of U.S. torture suffering moral injury, on the extensiveness of waterboarding's use, and on a sometimes comical tale of the U.S. government's infiltration of a lawsuit by 9/11 families against possible Saudi funders of 9/11 -- a story, part of which is given more context in terms of its impact in Afghanistan in Anand Gopal's recent book.  There's even a story with some similarity to Merlin regarding the possible sale of U.S.-made drones to U.S. enemies abroad. 

These SNAFU collection books have to be read with an eye on the complete forest, of course, to avoid the conclusion that what we need is war done right or -- for that matter -- Wall Street done right. We don't need a better CIA but a government free of the CIA. That the problems described are not essentially new is brought to mind, for me, in reading Risen's book, by the repeated references to Dulles Airport.  Still, it is beginning to look as if the Dulles brothers aren't just a secretive corner of the government anymore, but the patron saints of all Good Americans. And that's frightening. Secrecy is allowing insanity, and greater secrecy is being employed to keep the insanity secret. How can it be a "State Secret" that the CIA fell for a scam artist who pretended to see magical messages on Al Jazeera? If Obama's prosecution of whistleblowers doesn't alert people to the danger, at least it is helping sell Jim Risen's books, which in turn ought to wake people up better than a middle-of-the-night visit in the hospital from Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card.

There's still a thin facade of decency to be found in U.S. political culture. Corrupt Iraqi politicians, in Risen's book, excuse themselves by saying that the early days of the occupation in 2003 were difficult. A New York Times editor told 60 Minutes that the first few years after 9/11 were just not a good time for U.S. journalism. These should not be treated as acceptable excuses for misconduct. As the earth's climate begins more and more to resemble a CIA operation, we're going to have nothing but difficult moments. Already the U.S. military is preparing to address climate change with the same thing it uses to address Ebola or terrorism or outbreaks of democracy. If we don't find people able to think on their feet, as Risen does while staring down the barrel of a U.S. prison sentence, we're going to be in for some real ugliness.

Karmic payback for selfish Americans: Dickensian US Working Conditions Almost Guarantee Ebola Catastrophe

By Dave Lindorff

 

Ebola is coming! Ebola is coming! America is doomed!


That, in essence, is the message of the US corporate news media, always on the lookout for the next sensational story with which to stir up hysteria among the public in the interest of higher ratings.


The Resurrection of Reporter Gary Webb: Will Hollywood Give Him Last Word Against the CIA's Media Apologists?

By Jeff Cohen

It's been almost a decade since once-luminous investigative journalist Gary Webb extinguished his own life.

It's been 18 years since Webb's "Dark Alliance" series in the San Jose Mercury News exploded across a new medium -- the Internet -- and definitively linked crack cocaine in Los Angeles and elsewhere to drug traffickers allied with the CIA's right-wing Contra army in Nicaragua. Webb's revelations sparked anger across the country, especially in black communities.

But the 1996 series (which was accompanied by unprecedented online documentation) also sparked one of the most ferocious media assaults ever on an individual reporter -- a less-than-honest backlash against Webb by elite newspapers that had long ignored or suppressed evidence of CIA/Contra/cocaine connections.

The assault by the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times drove Webb out of the newspaper business, and ultimately to his death.

Beginning this Friday, the ghost of Gary Webb will haunt his tormenters from movie screens across the country, with the opening of the dramatic film Kill the Messenger -- based partly on Webb's 1998 "Dark Alliance" book.

The movie dramatizes Webb's investigation of Contra-allied Nicaraguan cocaine traffickers Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandon (whose drug activities were apparently protected for reasons of U.S. "national security") and their connection to L.A.'s biggest crack dealer, "Freeway" Ricky Ross.

The original "Dark Alliance" series was powerful in naming names, backed by court documents. Webb added specifics and personalities to the story of Contra drug trafficking first broken by Associated Press in 1985 (ignored by major newspapers) and then expanded in 1989 by John Kerry's Senate subcommittee report which found that Contra drug dealing was tolerated in the U.S. frenzy to overthrow Nicaragua's leftwing Sandinista government. Kerry's work was ignored or attacked in big media -- Newsweek labeled him a "randy conspiracy buff."

There were some flaws and overstatements in the Webb series, mostly in editing and presentation; a controversial graphic had a crack smoker embedded in the CIA seal. But in light of history -- and much smoke has cleared since 1996 -- Webb's series stands up far better as journalism than the hatchet jobs from the three establishment newspapers.

Don't take my word for it. A player in the backlash against Webb was Jesse Katz, one of 17 reporters assigned by L.A. Times editors to produce a three-day, 20,000 word takedown of "Dark Alliance." Last year, Katz referred to what his paper did as "kind of a tawdry exercise" which "ruined that reporter's career" -- explaining during a radio interview: "Most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled onto one lone muckraker up in Northern California."

Katz deserves credit for expressing regrets about the "overkill."

His role in the backlash was to minimize the importance of Ricky Ross, who received large shipments of cocaine from Contra-funder Blandon. In the wake of Webb's series, Katz described Ross as just one of many "interchangeable characters" in the crack deluge, "dwarfed" by other dealers.

But 20 months before Webb's series -- before the public knew of any Contra (or CIA) link to Ross' cocaine supply -- Katz had written quite the opposite in an L.A. Times profile of Ross: "If there was a criminal mastermind behind crack's decade-long reign, if there was one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles' streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was Freeway Rick." Katz's piece referred to Ross as "South-Central's first millionaire crack lord" and was headlined: "Deposed King of Crack."

One of the more absurd aspects of the backlash against Webb -- prominent in the Washington Post and elsewhere -- was criticism over his labeling of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), a Contra army supported by Blandon and Meneses, as "the CIA's army." As I wrote in an obituary when Webb died: "By all accounts, including those of Contra leaders, the CIA set up the group, selected its leaders and paid their salaries, and directed its day-to-day battlefield strategies." The CIA also supervised the FDN's day-to-day propaganda in U.S. media.

It was as much "the CIA's army" as the force that invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Just weeks ago, new light was shed on this old puzzle with the release of a remarkable CIA internal report - which shows that "the CIA's army" phrase was one of the Agency's main complaints about Webb's series. As silly as the CIA's complaint was, it received serious echo in friendly newspapers. In fact, the CIA author of the report seemed to marvel at how compliant major newspapers were in attacking the "Dark Alliance" series, which he attributed to "a ground base of already productive relations with journalists."

The CIA's internal report mentioned that soon after the "Dark Alliance" series was published, "one major news affiliate, after speaking with a CIA media spokesperson, decided not to run the story." When the Washington Post attack on Webb appeared, the CIA aggressively circulated it to other journalists and to "former Agency officials, who were themselves representing the Agency in interviews with the media."

A disturbing feature of the triple-barreled (Washington Post/NY Times/LA Times) backlash against Webb was how readily elite journalists accepted the denials from the CIA -- and from unnamed "former senior CIA officials" -- of any knowledge of Contra cocaine trafficking. Media critic Norman Solomon noted that the first New York Times piece on Webb's series lacked "any suggestion that the CIA might be a dubious touchstone for veracity."

It's worth remembering that the New York Times and Washington Post editorially endorsed military aid to the human rights-abusing Contras -- a position almost as embarrassing now as their faulty coverage in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

The unfolding of history can be helpful in settling disputes -- and it has proved kinder to Webb than eagerly gullible establishment newspapers. "Dark Alliance" and the public uproar over the series in black communities and elsewhere pressured the CIA to order a review of Contra cocaine links by CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz. Although barely covered by the big three dailies, Hitz's final volume (published in October 1998) provided significant vindication of Webb.

Journalist Robert Parry, a Webb supporter who broke the Contra cocaine story in 1985 while at A.P., concluded that Hitz "not only confirmed many of the longstanding allegations about Contra-cocaine trafficking but revealed that the CIA and the Reagan administration knew much more about the criminal activity." In the 1998 volume, "Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s."

Thanks to the magic of the silver screen, the specter of Gary Webb (brought to life by actor Jeremy Renner) will now be vexing the media heavyweights who savaged him. The script for Kill the Messenger -- based on Webb's book and Nick Schou's Kill the Messenger -- was written by Peter Landesman, a former investigative writer himself.

In comments last week to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Landesman offered explanations of the triple attack on Webb's series:

"Each one of the papers did it for a different reason. The L.A. Times had an envious, jealous reaction of being scooped in their own territory . . . The Washington Post had a very strong quid pro quo relationship with the CIA . . . The New York Times approach was more professional arrogance."

And there's a unifying factor: All three newspapers had avoided the CIA/Contra/cocaine story in the 1980s -- they seemed to be punishing Webb for reviving it in 1996.

With Kill the Messenger opening in hundreds of theaters, is it possible Gary Webb will get the last word after all?

* * * *
Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College, cofounder of the online activism group RootsAction.org, and founder of the media watch group FAIR, which defended Gary Webb against the backlash.

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