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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.
Charles Lewis' book, 935 Lies, would make a fine introduction to reality for anyone who believes the U.S. government usually means well or corporations tend to tell the truth in the free market. And it would make an excellent introduction to the decline and fall of the corporate media. Even if these topics aren't new to you, this book has something to add and retells the familiar quite well.
The familiar topics include the Gulf of Tonkin, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the civil rights movement, U.S. aggression and CIA overthrows, Pinochet, Iran-Contra, lying tobacco companies, and Edward R. Murrow. Lewis brings insight to these and other topics, and if he doesn't document that things were better before the 1960s, he does establish that horrible things have been getting worse since, and are now much more poorly reported on.
The New York Times and Washington Post were afraid not to print the Pentagon Papers. Nowadays a typical decision was that of the New York Times to bury its story on warrentless spying in 2004, with the explanation that printing it might have impacted an election. TV news today would not show you the civil rights movement or the war on Vietnam as it did at the time.
Lewis has hope for new media, including the Center for Public Integrity, which he founded in 1989, and which has produced numerous excellent reports, including on war profiteering, and which Lewis says is the largest nonprofit investigative reporting organization in the world.
Points I quibble with:
1. Human Rights Watch as a model media organization? Really?
2. The New America Foundation as a model media organization? Really?
3. Think tanks as a great hope for integrity in public life? Really?
4. After making 935 of the George W. Bush gang's lies a book title, you aren't sure he "knowingly" lied? Seriously?
This is the guy who wanted an excuse to attack Iraq before he had one. He told Tony Blair they could perhaps paint a U.S. plane in U.N. colors, fly it low, and hope for it to get shot at -- after which conversation the two men spoke to the media about how they were trying to avoid war. This was January 31, 2003, and is quite well documented, but I don't think a single reporter who was lied to that day has taken any offense or asked for an apology. This is the president who rushed the war to prevent completion of inspections. This is the president who made dozens of wild claims about weapons without evidence -- in fact with evidence to the contrary.
Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: "What's the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger." What's the difference? It's the difference between lying and meaning well. This interview is available on video.
5. Why not bring the trend of lying about wars up to date, I wonder. Since I wrote War Is A Lie we've had all the lies about drone wars, the lies about Gadaffi threatening to slaughter civilians, the lies about Iranian nukes and Iranian terrorism, the lies about Russian invasions and attacks in Ukraine, the lies about chemical weapons use in Syria, the lies about humanitarian and barbaric justifications for attacking Iraq yet again. It's hard to even keep up with the pace of the lies. But we ought to be able to properly identify the mother of all lies, and I don't think it was the Gulf of Tonkin.
6. Lewis's model of integrity is Edward R. Murrow. Among Murrow's independent and heroic credentials, according to Lewis, is that he met with President Roosevelt hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, I take nothing away from Murrow's reporting and the stand he later took for a free press. But why did Lewis bring up this meeting? And once he'd brought it up why did he not mention that Murrow told his wife that night that FDR had given him the "biggest story of my life, but I don't know if it's my duty to tell it or forget it." The Murrow depicted by Lewis would have known what his duty was. Murrow later told John Gunther that the story would put his kid through college if he told it. He never did.
That many people will not immediately know what the story was is testimony to a pattern that Lewis documents. Some lies take many, many years to fall apart. The biggest ones sometimes take the longest.
What laws of war? We do what we want!: Obama Admits US Bombing Attacks in Syria Pay Little Heed to Protecting Civilians
By Dave Lindorff
In a perverse way, maybe it's progress that the US is now admitting that it doesn't really care about how many civilians it kills in its efforts to "decapitate" a few suspected terrorist leaders.
By John Grant
Ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.
- Country Joe MacDonald
Brad Friedman is the investigative blogger, journalist, broadcaster, trouble-maker and muckraker from BradBlog.com. He is a regular contributor to Salon.com and elsewhere; host of KPFK/Pacifica Radio's BradCast and the nationally-syndicated Green News Report with co-host Desi Doyen. We discuss war and peace, the environment and its destruction, and voting and everything done to prevent it. As Michael Moore says: It's a comedy!
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By Erin Niemela
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) have opened the floodgates of war journalism reporting by corporate mainstream media – to the detriment of American democracy and peace. This has been recently evident in a traditionally democratic tool used by American press: public opinion polls. These war polls, as they should be called during wartime, are an affront to both respectable journalism and an informed civil society. They’re byproducts of rally-round-the-flag war journalism and without constant scrutiny, war polls results make public opinion look a lot more pro-war than it actually is.
Public polling is meant to signify and reinforce the role of media in a democracy as reflecting or representing mass opinion. Corporate mainstream media are considered credible in providing this reflection based on assumptions of objectivity and balance, and politicians have been known to consider polls in their policy decisions. In some cases, polls may be useful in engaging the feedback loop between political elites, media and the public.
The trouble comes when public polling meets war journalism; internal newsroom goals of fairness and balance may transform temporarily into advocacy and persuasion – intentional or not – in favor of war and violence.
War journalism, first identified in the 1970s by peace and conflict scholar Johan Galtung, is characterized by several core components, all of which tend to privilege elite voices and interests. But one of its hallmarks is a pro-violence bias. War journalism presupposes that violence is the only reasonable conflict management option. Engagement is necessary, violence is engagement, anything else is inaction and, for the most part, inaction is wrong.
Peace journalism, in contrast, takes a pro-peace approach, and assumes that there are an infinite number of nonviolent conflict management options. The standard definition of peace journalismis “when editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.” Journalists taking a pro-violence stance also make choices about what to report and how to report it, but instead of emphasizing (or even including) nonviolent options, they often move straight to “last resort” treatment recommendations and stay put until told otherwise. Like a guard dog.
Public opinion war polls reflect war journalism’s pro-violence bias in the way questions are worded and the number and type of options provided as answers. "Do you support or oppose U.S. air strikes against the Sunni insurgents in Iraq?" "Do you support or oppose expanding U.S. air strikes against the Sunni insurgents into Syria?" Both questions come from a Washington Post war poll in early September 2014in response to President Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIL. The first question showed 71 percent in support. The second showed 65 percent in support.
The use of “Sunni insurgents” should be discussed another time, but one problem with these either/or war poll questions is that they assume that violence and inaction are the only available options – airstrikes or nothing, support or oppose. No question in the Washington Post’s war poll asked if Americans might support pressuring Saudi Arabia to stop arming and funding ISILor halting our own arms transfers into the Middle East. And yet, these nonviolent options, among many, many others, do exist.
Another example is the widely cited Wall Street Journal/NBC News war poll from mid-September 2014 in which 60 percent of participants agreed that military action against ISIL is in the national interest of the US. But that war poll failed to ask whether Americans agreed that peacebuilding action in response to ISIL is in our national interest.
Since war journalism already assumes there’s only one kind of action – military action – the WSJ/NBC war poll options narrowed: Should military action be limited to airstrikes or include combat? Violent option A or violent option B? If you’re unsure or unwilling to choose, war journalism says you simply “have no opinion.”
War poll results are published, circulated and repeated as fact until the other 30-35 percent, those of us unwilling to choose between violent options A and B or informed about alternative, empirically supported peace building options, have been pushed aside. “Americans want bombs and boots, see, and majority rules,” they’ll say. But, war polls don’t really reflect or measure public opinion. They encourage and cement opinion in favor of one thing: war.
Peace journalism recognizes and spotlights the many nonviolent options often neglected by war journalists and political hawks. A peace journalism “peace poll” would give citizens the opportunity to question and contextualize the use of violence in response to conflict and consider and value nonviolent options by asking questions like, “how concerned are you that bombing parts of Syria and Iraq will promote cohesion among anti-Western terrorist groups?” Or, “do you support the U.S. following international law in its response to the Islamic State’s actions?” Or maybe, “How strongly would you support a multilateral arms embargo in the region where the Islamic State operates?” When will a poll ask, “Do you believe military attacks will tend to aid recruitment of new terrorists?” What would these poll results look like?
The credibility of journalists, political elites and unelected opinion leaders should be called into question with any use of war polling or war poll results where the efficacy or morality of violence is assumed. Opponents of violence should not humor the use of war poll results in debate and should actively ask for the results of polls about peacebuilding alternatives, instead. If the one structure meant to keep us informed as a democratic society ignores or silences the vast majority of possible response options beyond violence, we cannot make truly informed decisions as democratic citizens. We need more peace journalism – journalists, editors, commentators and certainly polls – to offer more than violence A and B. If we’re going to make good decisions about conflict, we need nonviolence A through Z.
Erin Niemela is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and Editor for PeaceVoice.
Wall Street is fertile ground for a movement: Liberals and Liberation on a Weekend of Climate Action in New York
By Dave Lindorff
By Michael Caddell
North Jefferson County, Kansas -- The Sept. 6, 2014 Kansas State Fair debates in Hutchinson, with a maximum arena crowd of 2500, had satellite trucks linked to MSNBC, CNN and reporters from as far away as New York. Certainly proof something was happening in Kansas, but for too many in the state that “something” remains unknown.
If members of the U.S. public were ever to wonder what the other 95% of humanity thinks about them, would it be better to break that harsh truth to them gently or just to blurt it out?
I'm going to go with the latter.
Here's Frankie Boyle explaining the advantages of Scottish independence: "Scotland would no longer have to invade places like Afghanistan for American interests. . . . I don't support America's wars. I don't even think they are wars. They're one-way traffic, mass-murder. There's never been a time when a shepherd has beaten a helicopter. You never switch on the news to see 'A shock result in Afghanistan today when a missile was destroyed by a wedding.' Because not only will America go into your country and kill all your people. But what's worse I think is they'll come back twenty years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad. Oh boo hoo hoo. Americans making a movie about what Vietnam did to the soldiers is like a serial killer telling you what stopping suddenly for hitchhikers did to his clutch."
If you don't think people find such remarks acceptable, listen to this laughter:
Living in the United States we've been trained to appreciate the fact that the wars do in fact make the soldiers feel sad. In fact they significantly increase rates of depression and violence and suicide. We tell each other not to blame the soldiers, rather to blame the top politicians. But then we don't really do that, do we? Bush is off painting himself in the bathtub and otherwise doing his imitation of the original King George III during his blue urine period. Obama is cheered by his fans because his wars make him sad and he declares them with such heartfelt reluctance. But from the point of view of people who are told about non-American deaths in their newspapers and on their televisions and radios (that is, from the point of view of 95% of humanity) U.S. wars are mass-slaughter of innocents. Ninety percent of the deaths are on one side. Ninety percent of those deaths are civilians by every definition. When the U.S. says it's going to launch another war because it opposes genocide, the rest of the world responds "We what the f%^$^! do you call your wars?"
Think the rest of the world is crazy? Think it's just bad jokes that miss the serious complicated facts of the matter. Watch how an intelligent Englishman watches an Obama speech:
Or you can watch how an American views Lindsey Graham's speeches:
Or how an American comedian views U.S. foreign policy:
When an American gets honest about U.S. warmongering it has to be a joke. It has to sneak in. We don't want to hear it. But we shouldn't keep imagining the rest of the world doesn't know what's going on.
To the extent that the U.S. public is newly, and probably momentarily, accepting of war -- an extent that is wildly exaggerated, but still real -- it is because of videos of beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
When 9-11 victims were used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9-11, some of the victims' relatives pushed back.
Now James Foley is pushing back from the grave.
Here is video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley's killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.
The video shows Foley in Chicago helping Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago -- a film about the last NATO protest before the recent one in Wales. I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO and war. And I've met Wexler who has tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie.
Watch Foley in the video discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage -- watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley cheering like a weapons-maker or a Congress member for President Obama's announcement of more war. Try to imagine Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.
You can't do it. He's not an ad for war any more than the WMDs were a justification for war. His absence as a war justification has been exposed even faster than the absence of the WMDs was.
While ISIS may have purchased Sotloff, if not Foley, from another group, when Foley's mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley's mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we're going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.
The Coalition of the Willing is already crumbling. What if people in the United States were to watch the video of Foley when he was alive and speaking and laughing, not the one when he was a prop in a piece of propaganda almost certainly aimed at provoking the violence that Obama has just obligingly announced?
Foley said he believed his responsibility was to the truth. It didn't set him free. Is it perhaps not too late for the rest of us?
By John Grant
To do nothing is to send a message to the wrongdoer, and the general public, that the victim has no self-worth and will not marshal the internal resources necessary to reclaim his or her honor. Shattered dignity is not beyond repair, but no elevating and equalizing of dignity can occur without the personal satisfaction of revenge.
-Thane Rosenbaum, Payback: The Case For Revenge
By Norman Solomon
The editorial board of the New York Times has an Orwellian knack for war. Sixteen months ago, when President Obama gave oratorical lip service to ending “perpetual war,” the newspaper quickly touted that end as a democratic necessity. But now -- in response to Obama’s speech Wednesday night announcing escalation of war without plausible end -- the Times editorial voice is with the endless war program.
Under the headline “The End of the Perpetual War,” published on May 23, 2013, the Times was vehement, calling a new Obama speech “the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America.” The editorial added: “For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.”
The Times editorial board was sweeping in its conclusion: “Mr. Obama told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled, as it always was before 2001, primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. That shift is essential to preserving the democratic system and rule of law for which the United States is fighting, and for repairing its badly damaged global image.”
But the “essential” shift is now dispensable and forgettable, judging from the New York Times editorial that appeared hours after Obama’s pivotal speech Wednesday night. The newspaper’s editorial board has ditched the concept that the state of perpetual war is unsustainable for democracy.
Under the headline “The Attack on ISIS Expands to Syria,” the Times editorial offers only equivocal misgivings without opposition “as President Obama moves the nation back onto a war footing.” Without a fine point on the matter, we are to understand that war must be perpetuated without any foreseeable end.
The concluding paragraph of the New York Times editorial in the Sept. 11, 2014 edition is already historic and tragic. It sums up a liberal style of murmuring reservations while deferring to the essence of U.S. policies for perpetual war: “The American military’s actions in the Middle East has (sic) often fueled Arab anger, even when the United States was spending billions of dollars on beneficial programs, including health and education. Mr. Obama expressed confidence that the plan against ISIS will work and, at the moment, seems aware of the risks he takes.”
Like the vast bulk of the rest of U.S. mass media, when push comes to militaristic shove, the New York Times refuses to make a break from the madness of perpetual war. In fact, with rare exceptions, the dominant media outlets end up fueling that madness. A strong challenge to it will have to come from elsewhere. From us.
Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.
Making the news fit the politics: NY Times Finds Conclusions Where None Exist in Dutch Flight 17 Downing Report
By Dave Lindorff
The New York Times, which has been misreporting on, and misleading its readers about the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 since the plane was downed last July 17, continues its sorry track record of flogging anti-Russian sentiment in the US and of supporting the post-putsch Ukrainian government in Kiev.
By Dave Lindorff
The separatist rebels of eastern Ukraine and the government in Kiev that controls the Ukrainian army have reached a cease-fire in place that leaves the separatists largely in control of the Russian-majority regions of the eastern part of that country.
By John Grant
I just thank God I’m out of this place.
- Henry Lee McCollum
First there was Ferguson, Missouri and the gunning down of an unarmed black youth and the ad-nauseum follow-up emphasizing over-and-over the shooting officer’s fear. Now it’s the release of two half brothers in North Carolina clearly railroaded into convictions and death sentences by a notoriously remorseless, good-'ol-boy district attorney.
By Alfredo Lopez
One sensationally reported incident this week exposes a dual threat: your data isn't safe on a corporate-controlled "cloud" and spying software made for police and government agencies makes it completely accessible.
By Dave Lindorff
Flash! The US has re-invaded Iraq!
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By Alfredo Lopez
Are you a Time-Warner Internet customer? Have you ever experienced an outage? Have you called the company for a reimbursement? Most people would probably answer "no" to that last question. In fact, most company customers don't realize that these companies aren't required to reimburse and, in Time Warner's case, they usually don't. You have to call them.
Maybe it's time to make this sensitive movement for Time Warner a bit more sensitive.
By Dave Lindorff
The US corporate media are awash in fevered articles and news stories about a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine, as though it was 1938, with German troops marching into Sedetenland and Austria. But let’s step back and look at what’s going on, calmly and rationally.
By John Grant
Back in June 2011, James Foley gave an hour-long interview to an auditorium of students from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he had graduated three years earlier with a Master’s degree in journalism. It was 15 days after he had been released from 45 rough days of captivity in Libya. He was a handsome young hero returning to his alma-mater.
A BBC audio podcast from the show "Four Thought" (go here and click on the date "13 8 14") includes a talk by Italian journalist Mara Oliva. She grew up in the same Italy infatuated with the U.S. that I lived in as an exchange student -- an Italy that has largely fallen out of love with the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.
Oliva makes a case that the U.S. public is not nearly as pro-war as its government.
As early as 1954 the U.S. public opposed a U.S. war in Vietnam, and favored diplomacy with China, according to polls commissioned by President Eisenhower. Nixon finally went to China decades after the public had begun favoring that move.
In January 2003, two-thirds of the U.S. public wanted U.N. inspections to be allowed to continue in Iraq. In February 2003, a majority still wanted to see more evidence and wanted U.N. inspections to continue.
In September 2013, 80% in the U.S. were against attacking Syria. (Let's hope that holds now that Obomber wants to attack the other side in that war.)
So, it remains possible to be fond of the United States if one looks away from what we allow our government to do and focuses instead on what we tell pollsters we'd like.
But our expressing good opinions and then sitting on our hands is perhaps not the height of good world citizenship.
By John Grant
There was a moment during MSNBC's live coverage of Ferguson, Missouri, Monday night through 2AM Tuesday morning when Chris Hayes and one of his guests conceded the police (now augmented by National Guard troops said to be guarding a police command center) begrudgingly deserved a good grade because -- unlike riots in Newark and Los Angeles -- no one had been killed. This was after cops had "barked" at Hayes and threatened him with macing if he and his camera crew dared again venture "in front of" the police.
By John Grant
On Monday, I decided to spend my evenings flipping back-and-forth between Fox News and MSNBC as the two cable channels dealt with the dueling stories of the United States tiptoeing into a third war in Iraq and the sudden appearance of what appeared to be a police state in a little town outside St Louis. From Monday to Friday, the Ferguson, Missouri story has gone from that of a bizarre and dangerous war zone to one of a relief-filled carnival in the streets.
By Robert J. Gould
During the Vietnam War, my mother, an otherwise sweet and compassionate person, said “they” (Vietnamese) don’t value human life like we do, suggesting that I be more comfortable killing them. I never was comfortable with the idea of killing them, and so I didn’t.
However, I still hear some people say that an “enemy” doesn’t value human life like we do. Over the years, the enemy changes, but the refrain is the same: some people on "our" side believe that enemies think life is cheap and therefore expendable, to be easily sacrificed. These same people in our society believe that we, and probably our allies, think life is sacred, and only sacrificed in freely chosen heroic acts.
Whenever mass violence and war breaks out, the mainstream media decides (most often with the help of government spokespeople) who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, who is the enemy and who are the allies. Once this occurs, and media footage and commentary follow the script, it is surprising how many members of the public become comfortable with the killing of “enemy” people, especially when they are of another race, nationality, or religion.
Suddenly the term “enemy” expands to the whole population of people (civilians, children, the elderly) and they collectively become evil, treacherous, and targetable. We can justify our hard-heartedness towards this enemy by saying they do not value human life like we do.
We look at what the enemy has done to us, or our allies, and ignore what we, or our allies, have done to them. Through the entire news cycle, the mainstream media, selected public officials, and commentators continually feed this mismatch of perceptions. The psychological term for perceiving the enemy to be inhuman is called “enmification.” Perversely, then, life becomes cheap for us, as long as it's lives of the enemy. Falsely seeing the enemy as evil, and then doing evil to them, is deeply ironic and doubly unethical.
This enemy-making process reminds me of figuring out which team to cheer for, and which team to hate. We can come up with the flimsiest of reasons to support our choice. I cheer for Green Bay and disfavor that team from Texas for no good reason. But I don’t want any players of the Texas team to be killed, certainly not at the hands of the Green Bay players. It’s just a game, a bit of friendly competition.
But in so many ways (sports, justice, neighbors, celebrities, to name a few categories), we judge who is better, and who is lesser. I call this our tendency to take the judgmental view—very popular now in the world of quick-take, Internet opinions.
What would the world look like if we took a compassionate view? It would look like the world that my international students in conflict resolution tell me about, a world where every culture has a spectrum of good, caring people who just want to live their lives in peace, and extremes of people who have been driven to use violence out of fear or the evils of oppression.
Across the globe, we all similarly value life, but security fears, and campaigns for self-rule, often drive people to violence. They resort to violence because they have yet to learn the power and effectiveness of nonviolence, which has now been thoroughly studied to show how it has become much more effective than violence in creating security and democracy. Excusing violence against people by claiming that they don't value life is one of the greatest ethical oxymorons of our time. This practice should be abandoned forever.
Robert J. Gould, Ph.D., an ethicist syndicated by PeaceVoice, directs the Conflict Resolution Graduate and Undergraduate Programs at Portland State University.
By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance