Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

P.C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy

November 19, 2010

By Paul Criag Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 18, 2010

Ten years of rule by the Bush and Obama regimes have seen the collapse of the rule of law in the United States. Is the American media covering this ominous and extraordinary story?  No, the American media is preoccupied with the rule of law in Burma (Myanmar).

The military regime that rules Burma just released from house arrest the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The American media used the occasion of her release to get on Burma’s case for the absence of the rule of law. I’m all for the brave lady, but if truth be known, “freedom and democracy” America needs her far worse than does Burma.

I’m not an expert on Burma, but the way I see it, the objection to a military government is that the government is not accountable to law.  Instead, such a regime behaves as it sees fit and issues edicts that advance its agenda.  Burma’s government can be criticized for not having a rule of law, but it cannot be criticized for ignoring its own laws. We might not like what the Burmese government does, but, precisely speaking, it is not behaving illegally.

In contrast, the United States government claims to be a government of laws, not of men, but when the executive branch violates the laws that constrain it, those responsible are not held accountable for their criminal actions.  As accountability is the essence of the rule of law, the absence of accountability means the absence of the rule of law.

Continues >>

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Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza

January 7, 2009
Published: January 6, 2009

JERUSALEM — Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border.

And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

“This is the result of what happened in the 2006 Lebanon war against Hezbollah,” said Nachman Shai, a former army spokesman who is writing a doctoral dissertation on Israel’s public diplomacy. “Then, the media were everywhere. Their cameras and tapes picked up discussions between commanders. People talked on live television. It helped the enemy and confused and destabilized the home front. Today, Israel is trying to control the information much more closely.”

The government-commissioned investigation into the war with Hezbollah reported that the army had found that when reporters were allowed on the battlefield in Lebanon, they got in the way of military operations by posing risks and asking questions.

Maj. Avital Leibovich, an army spokeswoman, said, “If a journalist gets injured or killed, then it is Central Command’s responsibility.” She said the government was trying to protect Israel from rocket fire and “not deal with the media.”

Beyond such tactical considerations, there is a political one. Daniel Seaman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said, “Any journalist who enters Gaza becomes a fig leaf and front for the Hamas terror organization, and I see no reason why we should help that.”

Foreign reporters deny that their work in Gaza has been subject to Hamas censorship or control. Unable to send foreign reporters into Gaza, the international news media have relied on Palestinian journalists based there for coverage.

But it seems that many Israelis accept Mr. Seaman’s assessment and shed no tears over the restrictions, despite repeated protests by the Foreign Press Association of Israel, including on Tuesday.

A headline in Tuesday’s issue of Yediot Aharonot, the country’s largest selling daily newspaper, expressed well the popular view of the issue. Over a news article describing the generally negative coverage so far, especially in the European media, an intentional misspelling of a Hebrew word turned the headline “World Media” into “World Liars.”

This attitude has been helped by supportive Israeli news media whose articles have been filled with “feelings of self-righteousness and a sense of catharsis following what was felt to be undue restraint in the face of attacks by the enemy,” according to a study of the first days of media coverage of the war by a liberal but nonpartisan group called Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel.

The Foreign Press Association has been fighting for weeks to get its members into Gaza, first appealing to senior government officials and ultimately taking its case to the country’s highest court. Last week the justices worked out an arrangement with the organization whereby small groups would be permitted into Gaza when it was deemed safe enough for the crossings to be opened for other reasons.

So far, every time the border has been opened, journalists have not been permitted to go in.

On Tuesday, the press association released a statement saying, “The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.”

At the same time that reporters have been given less access to Gaza, the government has created a new structure for shaping its public message, ensuring that spokesmen of the major government branches meet daily to make sure all are singing from the same sheet.

“We are trying to coordinate everything that has to do with the image and content of what we are doing and to make sure that whoever goes on the air, whether a minister or professor or ex-ambassador, knows what he is saying,” said Aviv Shir-On, deputy director general for media in the Foreign Ministry. “We have talking points and we try to disseminate our ideas and message.”

Israelis say the war is being reduced on television screens around the world to a simplistic story: an American-backed country with awesome military machine fighting a third-world guerrilla force leading to a handful of Israelis dead versus 600 Gazans dead.

Israelis and their supporters think that such quick descriptions fail to explain the vital context of what has been happening — years of terrorist rocket fire on civilians have gone largely unanswered, and a message had to be sent to Israel’s enemies that this would go on no longer, they say. The issue of proportionality, they add, is a false construct because comparing death tolls offers no help in measuring justice and legitimacy.

There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict, of course. But no matter what, Israel’s diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins. So in a war that they consider necessary but poorly understood, they have decided to keep the news media far away from the death.

John Ging, an Irishman who directs operations in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, entered Gaza on Monday as journalists were kept out. He told Palestinian reporters in Gaza that the policy was a problem.

“For the truth to get out, journalists have to get in,” he said.

Allowing the Destruction of Palestine, We Die Hungry Too

January 7, 2009

by Ru Freeman

Today’s New York Times highlights the plight of the Samouni family in Gaza who lost eleven of their members despite their calls to the Red Cross to help them evacuate from Gaza, and after the order from the Israeli military forces, who occupied their home, to relocate to another building. Masouda al-Samouni lost her husband, mother in law and her 10 month old son for whom she had been preparing food. “He died hungry,” she said.

Let us set aside the business of occupation and military aggression for a moment and reflect on the words of Major Avital Leibovich, a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces who repeats the oft repeated: Hamas has built its network among civilians and therefore civilians are collateral damage. The entire Gaza strip is 360 square km. That is just about 50 sq. km. larger than New York City. Should the rest of the neighboring states here decide to surround the city of New York, cut off access to it or departure from it, ignore its elected leaders, withold its legally earned revenue, set up refugee camps and periodically bulldoze them as well as adjoining neighborhoods, starve the people, cut off their water and their electricity and prevent the supply of humanitarian aid, where would the city’s resistance reside? I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be congregating en masse down 5th Avenue.

In the occupied territories of Palestine – and I call them that because we are all intelligent enough to know that occupation does not have to mean physical presence, it is the power to deny human freedoms and to prevent the right to the conduct of normal life – there are no families left who have not suffered a loss at the hands of the IDF. That makes every Gazan a victim. That makes every Gazan have anger toward the IDF. That does not make every Gazan deserving of murder.

Collateral damage is an easy term to toss around. The term collateral comes from the Latin and its meaning is not only “parallel,” it is also “additional but subordinate.” The United States military defines it as being damage that “is not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the military advantage anticipated by the attack.” Since when is the premeditated murder of an innocent human being, “subordinate” to anything? How, exactly, do we define “excess?” Would we have mourned less if nobody had gone to work on 9/11 and only a few janitors and an over-zealous upper manager or two were killed? Is there a certain number after which we begin to pay attention? When our basic human instinct to feel for one another, to mourn the death of another like us, kicks in?
In 1994, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire watched as his troops, sent for peace-keeping, were withdrawn over the death of ten Belgian soldiers. He went on to write a book, Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, in which he poses the question, why did the deaths of ten Belgians matter so greatly, and the death of eight hundred thousand Rwandans matter so little?

The question for us today is the same. We have the UN inside Palestine, along with numerous other organizations including the Red Cross. Apparently, we care enough to maintain an international presence that can help eleviate the suffering of the people of Palestine. But we don’t care enough to stop the continuing massacre of those people. We don’t care enough to set aside our polite requests by international governments, not specific leaders, and our little European delgations flying hither and yon asking for a bit of mercy on behalf of those people, to put our feet down in the soil inside Palestine and say no.

In 2003, a 23 year old American activist, Rachel Corrie, had the guts to do what we refuse to do. She stood before a caterpillar bulldozer being driven by the IDF, to ask that they not destroy the home of a Palestinian family. Despite the attemts of her fellow activists to contact the American embassy, and the knowledge of the IDF about the presence of Rachel and other International Solidarity Movement volunteers in Rafah, Rachel was killed as her friends watched.

This country came together, not so long ago, to bring about a transformation that the world never expected of it. During those twenty months, and right up to the day of the presidential elections, we were all Rachel Corries, we were simply doing her work inside America. So long as we consider that to be sufficient contribution to the progress we desire, to the peace we seek, and to the change we want, we will all die hungry.

Ru Freeman is an author and activist. Her political journalism and cultural criticism has appeared internationally. Her novel, A Disobedient Girl, will be published in English and in translation in July, 2009.

Israel’s Warped Self-justification For Murder

December 31, 2008

Paul J. Balles exposes Israel’s warped definition of self-defence, which it uses as a cover for its murder of innocent Palestinians, including women and children, and its destruction of universities, mosques and other civilian infrastructure in the occupied Gaza Strip.

By Paul J. Balles | Information Clearing House, Dec 31, 2008

Israel brazenly lies, saying that Hamas broke the cease-fire when it was Israel that broke the cease-fire in November.

In Haaretz, Zvi Barel writes: “Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire.”

Israel continues its propaganda, claiming that its attack on Gaza is in self-defence.

The Huffington Post reports, “A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”

Self-defence?

The New York Times reported: “At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, women wailed as they searched for relatives among bodies that lay strewn on the hospital floor.”

Self-defence?

While the world is busy attempting to assess the damage from the financial crisis, Israel decides that it’s a fitting time to massacre 350 and injure another 1500 in Gaza.

Self-defence?

In its propaganda dissemination, Israelis have been getting instruction on how to paint Israel as angels and Hamas as devils. What makes Hamas Beelzebubs? They have sent 1000 rockets into Israel, killing four Israelis altogether.

Self-defence?

The Israeli navy attacked and rammed a humanitarian boat in international waters off the coast of Gaza, preventing it from delivering desperately needed medical supplies and treatment.

Self-defence?

Eva Bartlett (Canadian), International Solidarity Movement, reported from inside Gaza on 27 December: “Israeli missiles tore through a children’s playground and busy market in Diyar Balah. We saw the aftermath – many were injured and some reportedly killed.”

Self-defence?

Ewa Jasiewicz (Polish and British), Free Gaza Movement, observed: “The morgue at the Shifa Hospital has no more room for dead bodies, so bodies and body parts are strewn all over the hospital.”

Self-defence?

Sharon Lock (Australian), International Solidarity Movement, writing from Gaza: “This massacre is not going to bring security for the State of Israel or allow it to be part of the Middle East. Now calls of revenge are everywhere.”

Self-defence?

Jenny Linnel (British), International Solidarity Movement, reporting from Gaza: “In front of our house we found the bodies of two little girls under a car, completely burnt. They were coming home from school.”

Self-defence?

Nora Barrows-Friedman, Flashpoints Radio, says: “The people [in Gaza] are filled with panic and terror – and this comes after a prolonged siege that deprives them of needed food, medicine, clean water, electricity – the basics of life.”

Self-defence?

Laila El-Haddad, a mother from Gaza, writes: “My father just called to inform me he was OK – after warplanes bombed the Islamic University there, considered to be the Strip’s premier academic institution.” They also bombed a mosque. Why would the Israeli Air Force bomb a place of learning and one of prayer?

Self-defence?

Justin Alexander, writing for the Economist, notes: “”Israel’s past military responses to the rocket threat, although massively disproportionate, have … been largely ineffective. It demolished buildings and levelled large areas of farmland in the northern part of Gaza to reduce the cover available for rocket crews. It fired over 14,000 artillery shells in 2006, killing 59 Palestinian civilians in the process, in what was framed as a preventive tactic to make it more difficult for rocket crews to operate.”

Self-defence?

Haaretz ran an article by Gideon Levy reporting: “Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday [27 December] afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation ‘Cast Lead’ is only in its infancy.”

Self-defence? Not on your life! Or death!

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.

Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan

September 11, 2008

By ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI | The New York Times, Sep 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior American official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the missions. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

The Central Intelligence Agency has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But the new orders for the military’s Special Operations forces relax firm restrictions on conducting raids on the soil of an important ally without its permission.

Pakistan’s top army officer said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.”

It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country. A second senior American official said that the Pakistani government had privately assented to the general concept of limited ground assaults by Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission.

Continued . . .

The Dark Side Of The “Free World”

August 31, 2008


By Rob Gowland | Information Clearing House

The book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, published in mid-July, is written by US journalist Jane Mayer, whose specialty is writing about counter-­terrorism for The New Yorker.

The book has particularly peeved the CIA and its boss in the White House for, apparently, Ms Mayer has had access to a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross issued last year labelling the CIA’s interrogation methods for “high-level Qaeda prisoners” as “categorically” torture. In consequence, the Bush administration officials who approved these methods would be guilty of war crimes.

The book says the Red Cross report was shared with the CIA, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It would not be the first time of course that US authorities (civil, intelligence or military) have indulged in or turned a blind eye to torture or other forms of horrifying brutality.

One thinks of their blood-soaked activities to thwart the former Communist Resistance leaders from gaining political power in Western Europe after WW2, or their even more bloody destruction of democracy in Guatemala or Chile, El Salvador and pre-Castro Cuba.

The many atrocities by US forces in Korea and Vietnam were far too numerous to be the work of “rotten apples”; they were clearly the result of US government and military policy, just like the actions of the US military in charge of the Abu Graib prison in Iraq.

A society that bases itself on force and brutality, on state terrorism, while simultaneously indulging in the most hypocritical lip-service to the ideals of humaneness and justice, cannot but find excuses for torture.

Only last year or the year before, Amnesty International — an organisation not noted for being hostile to the USA — stated that the procedures in many US civilian jails amounted to torture. Military prisons operated by the US in other countries must surely be hell on earth.

Red Cross representatives were only permitted to interview high-level “terrorist” detainees in late 2006, after they were moved to the military detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Until then, while the prisoners were being “interrogated” in the CIA’s secret prisons, the Red Cross was not given access to them.

It is now well known that these secret prisons are located in US client states, some in Eastern Europe where anti-Communist regimes are all too willing to co-operate with their US backers, and some in states like Egypt that are equally dependent on US support. Significantly, they all practice torture.

We have all seen the images from Guantánamo Bay of prisoners, shackled and manacled, stumbling along with a guard on either side. But all the time, the particularly frightening threat hangs over them of being taken from there and returned to one of the secret prisons away from any prying eyes.

In testimony to the Red Cross, Abu Zubaydah, the first major Al Qaeda figure the United States captured, told how he was confined in a box “so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the foetal position” and was one of several prisoners to be “slammed against the walls”.

The CIA has admitted that Abu Zubaydah and two other prisoners were water-boarded, a form of torture in which water is poured in the nose and mouth of the victim to simulate the sensation of suffocation and drowning.

The Pentagon and the CIA have both defended water-boarding on the same grounds: “because it works”, the torturer’s classic justification. Jane Mayer’s book says Abu Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he had been water-boarded at least ten times in a single week and as many as three times in a day.

The Red Cross report says that another high level prisoner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, told them that he had been kept naked for more than a month and claimed that he had been “kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room”.

A New York Times article on the report says the prisoners considered the “most excruciating” of the methods was being shackled to the ceiling and being forced to stand for as long as eight hours. This is a well-known torture technique that has severe physical effects on the victim’s body.

According to The New York Times article, eleven of the 14 prisoners reported to the Red Cross that they had suffered prolonged sleep deprivation, including “bright lights and eardrum-shattering sounds 24 hours a day”.

The New York Times reported that a CIA spokesman had confirmed that Red Cross workers had been “granted access to the detained terrorists at Guantánamo and heard their claims”.

The same CIA spokesman said the agency’s interrogations were based on “detailed legal guidance from the Department of Justice” and had “produced solid information that has contributed directly to the disruption of terrorist activities”. There’s that justification of torture again.

Bernard Barrett of the International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on the book when asked by The New York Times. He did not deny any of the book’s claims, but regretted “that any information has been attributed to us” because, it seems, the International Committee of the Red Cross “believes its work is more effective when confidential”!

He went on to say: “We have an ongoing confidential dialogue with members of the US intelligence community, and we would share any observations or recommendations with them.”

So that’s OK then.

U.S. Officers Executed Iraqis, Statements Say

August 27, 2008

In March or April 2007, three noncommissioned United States Army officers, including a first sergeant, a platoon sergeant and a senior medic, killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head as the men stood handcuffed and blindfolded beside a Baghdad canal, two of the soldiers said in sworn statements.

After the killings, the first sergeant — the senior noncommissioned officer of his Army company — told the other two to remove the men’s bloody blindfolds and plastic handcuffs, according to the statements made to Army investigators, which were obtained by The New York Times.

The statements and other court documents were provided by a person close to one of the soldiers in the unit who insisted on anonymity and who has an interest in the outcome of the legal proceedings.

After removing the blindfolds and handcuffs, the three soldiers shoved the four bodies into the canal, rejoined other members of their unit waiting in nearby vehicles and drove back to their combat outpost in southwest Baghdad, the statements said.

The soldiers, all from Company D, First Battalion, Second Infantry, 172nd Infantry Brigade, have not been charged with a crime. However, lawyers representing other members of the platoon who said they witnessed or heard the shootings, which were said to have occurred on a combat patrol west of Baghdad, said all three would probably be charged with murder.

The accounts of and confessions to the killings, by Sgt. First Class Joseph P. Mayo, the platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr., Company D’s senior medic and an acting squad leader, were made in January in signed statements to Army investigators in Schweinfurt, Germany.

In their statements, Sergeants Mayo and Leahy each described killing at least one of the Iraqi detainees on instructions from First Sgt. John E. Hatley, who the soldiers said killed two of the detainees with pistol shots to the back of their heads. Sergeant Hatley’s civilian lawyer in Germany, David Court, did not respond to phone calls and e-mail messages Tuesday.

Last month, four other soldiers from Sergeant Hatley’s unit were charged with murder conspiracy for agreeing to go along with the plan to kill the four prisoners, in violation of military laws that forbid harming enemy combatants once they are disarmed and in custody.

In an Army evidentiary hearing on Tuesday in Vilseck, Germany, two of those soldiers — Specialists Steven A. Ribordy and Belmor G. Ramos — invoked their right against self-incrimination. Reached by telephone, James D. Culp, a civilian lawyer for one of the other two soldiers charged, Staff Sgt. Jess C. Cunningham, declined to comment. A lawyer for the fourth soldier, Sgt. Charles P. Quigley, could not be reached.

In their sworn statements, Sergeants Mayo and Leahy described the events that preceded the shooting of the Iraqi men, who apparently were Shiite fighters linked to the Mahdi Army militia, which controlled the West Rashid area of southwest Baghdad.

After taking small-arms fire, the patrol chased some men into a building, arresting them and finding several automatic weapons, grenades and a sniper rifle, they said. On the way to their combat outpost, Sergeant Hatley’s convoy was informed by Army superiors that the evidence to detain the Iraqis was insufficient, Sergeant Leahy said in his statement. The unit was told to release the men, according to the statement.

“First Sergeant Hatley then made the call to take the detainees to a canal and kill them,” Sergeant Leahy said, as retribution for the deaths of two soldiers from the unit: Staff Sgt. Karl O. Soto-Pinedo, who died from a sniper’s bullet, and Specialist Marieo Guerrero, killed by a roadside bomb.

“So the patrol went to the canal, and First Sergeant, Sgt. First Class Mayo and I took the detainees out of the back of the Bradley, lined them up and shot them,” Sergeant Leahy said, referring to a Bradley fighting vehicle. “We then pushed the bodies into the canal and left.”

Sergeant Mayo, in his statement, attributed his decision to kill the men to “anger,” apparently at the recent deaths of his two comrades.

Sergeant Leahy, in his statement, said, “I’m ashamed of what I’ve done,” later adding: “When I did it, I thought I was doing it for my family. Now I realize that I’m hurting my family more now than if I wouldn’t have done it.”

The NYT Finds Heroes in Tbilisi – In Baghdad, Only Terrorists

August 15, 2008

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By: Laura Flanders Tuesday August 12, 2008 3:45 pm
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The New York Times ran a feature August 12, on Georgian civilians who’ve joined the fight against the Russian invasion of that former Soviet republic. The story, by Nicholas Kulish and Michael Schwirtz is full of empathy and heart.

Nika Kharadze and Giorgi Monasalidze went to war last week, the Times report begins, “even though they were not warriors.”

It goes on to describe how the men’s parents have been searching for them ever since. They’ve gone from hospital to hospital, to the local and International Red Cross. Mom and dad even asked the cellphone company to trace the last known location of their son’s phone. No luck.

And then there’s this line: as parts of the country fell before the Russian invaders, the Times writes, “it was not only the army that rose in its defense but also regular citizens.” Resistance, we learn, was part of a tradition, inscribed in local history and culture going back to “medieval times.”

To make the point, the writers describe a government employee, standing under a statue of Stalin in the city’s main square with a rifle slung over his civilian clothes. The man is part of a group of a dozen locals who tell the reporter they’re there to defend their town.

The story also describes displacement caused by bombing. “The planes came in and they started to bomb. The ground was covered with dead people, and there was nowhere to go,” says Goderzi Zenashvili, 48. “The people that died, they died from their houses falling in on them, from the shrapnel and from concussions.”

So now we know! The New York Times can do it when they want to. They can paint a picture of war that’s hard to shake: heroic, hapless young men who take up arms to defend their homelands; moms and dads and lovers worried sick. The Times can explain how invading armies provoke righteous resistance.

But they didn’t – not when it was Baghdad instead of Tbilisi, and the statue Saddam’s, not Stalin’s. Then, local people in resistance were called dead enders, killers, terrorists. Because of course — here’s the difference: then the resisters were the enemy and the invaders were – are – us.

The F Word is a daily commentary by Laura Flanders

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Press

August 14, 2008

Credit and Credibility

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | Counterpunch, Aug. 13, 2008

So attacks in Afghanistan must be the work of Pakistan’s dastardly Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), yet again, because the New York Times told us the other day that “American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.” The New York Times went on to claim that “The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region. The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.”

There are plenty of clichés (“powerful spy service” and “actively undermining” are splendid examples), but not a shred of hard evidence in this important story. There is not one bit of material that can be verified or even checked for accuracy. No names are named. There are declarations by anonymous “American officials” concerning supposed electronic intercepts of which no details are provided. But the New York Times and other US newspapers chose to blare to the world the unsupported conclusion that Pakistan is guilty of treason against itself.

It might be thought that the New York Times would have learned a lesson after being manipulated by the infamously incompetent and gullible reporter Judith Miller who made such a fool of the paper at the time of the US invasion of Iraq. She swallowed nonsense purveyed to her by un-named “government officials” and other anonymous and indeed malevolent sources, but the newspaper’s editors just followed along and published the rubbish. Garbage in; Garbage out. As one of her colleagues said of her in the context of a combined story : “She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies.”

To believe the sort of drivel that comes from “officials” of any nationality who refuse to be identified takes particular energy and dedication. But even those who are required to speak on the record are liars when it suits official purposes and policies. Take the VOA report in early July that “The Pentagon says no civilians were killed in an air strike Sunday in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan, which local officials say killed 27 people who were walking to a wedding . . . US military officials in Kabul say they believe the air strike hit its intended target, a group of militants. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed that view. “I can only tell you I talked to Afghanistan this morning, and they are very clear with that particular strike that they believe they struck the intended target and that there were not innocent civilians involved in that particular strike”.”

The claim, the flat statement, that there were no civilian casualties was first made by unidentified “US military officials,” then by a spokesman who had “talked to Afghanistan.” To whom did he talk? To any Afghans? To anyone in the Afghan government? To an Afghan who had lost a wife or husband or children in the blitzed village of Deh Bala where so many civilians were killed? Of course not : he spoke with “Afghanistan” as represented by a bunch of unnamed US officials in Kabul. He then retailed the same rubbish, that “there were not [sic] innocent civilians involved,” which was a lie, because the province governor stated with hard evidence – like bodies of children – that there had indeed been many civilian deaths.

Then the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, left his fortress in Kabul and flew to the stricken village to speak with the tribes, saying he had “come to share your grief.” Now : is it likely that Karzai, beholden to Bush as he is, would have taken the trouble to do that if the US claim of no civilian deaths had been even remotely believable?

One has to give Karzai recognition for venturing into the region where the US bombing took place, because there is no doubt that by doing so his life was in extreme danger (possibly from a US airstrike like the one for which he went to offer condolences). We must give credit where it’s due. But there is no credit, or credibility for that matter, due to the liars who try, with increasing success, to mislead the media and thereby the outside world, about the slaughter of civilians through incompetence. And when they kill so many scores of civilians by reason of technical or human ineptitude and then lie about the crimes, how can we believe mysterious unidentified “officials” who allege without evidence that Pakistan’s intelligence agency was responsible for the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul?

Stories change ; usually when the lie has become too obvious for all the “officials” and other sources to continue spreading it. As happened with the killing of a bank manager and two of his staff by American troops on Baghdad’s Airport Road on 25 June, for example. It was stated officially that “The attack left bullet holes in two of the convoy vehicles, and a weapon was found in the car;” but these were lies. Deliberate, unvarnished, straightforward, downright lies. Iraqi outrage was such that there had to be an investigation, and eventually a US spokesman had to say that the official description of the incident was poppycock from beginning to end. (Nobody was punished for telling lies or slaughtering civilians, of course : that would be too much to expect.)

There are dozens of stories like this. Most of the killings of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are ignored because US military media releases are published unquestioningly by the world’s newspapers. The words of US “officials” go straight into print without question and are presented as incontrovertible fact.

The evidence that US “officials” have lied to the depth of their bootstraps is, however, irrefutable. So why believe the unsupported word of nameless US officials that Pakistan plotted the Kabul bombing?

As a result of worldwide parade of a media report based on unverifiable declarations by anonymous “US government officials” there has been a dramatic dive, a terrible crash in relations between Pakistan and India. At the exact time when, for the first time in almost five years, there were exchanges of fire between soldiers of India and Pakistan along the Line of Control in Kashmir, the sadly disputed territory between the two countries, there suddenly appeared a US-sourced report that gravely endangers ongoing but fragile India-Pakistan confidence-building discussions.

Why?

The tale from unidentified US “officials” that Pakistan was involved in an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul was published in a period when the governments of India and Pakistan are extremely vulnerable to religious and nationalist pressures. In Delhi the shaky coalition is apprehensive about elections next year and trying to be all things to all people; it is under enormous strain. In Islamabad there is a barely-functioning coalition of mutual distrust, and the country is desperately in need of external support that could promote domestic calm. Domestic and bilateral stability in the region, one would think, should be encouraged by foreign powers.

Yet “American intelligence agencies” and “United States government officials” tell newspaper reporters that Pakistan was involved in attacking the Indian embassy in Kabul, thus immeasurably increasing tension between Islamabad and Delhi (and Islamabad and Kabul, of course) and almost destroying their faltering but sincere approaches to rapprochement.

The extremely serious implications of such statements to reporters of a large US newspaper, and consequent international results, must have been understood by whoever made them. So why did they make them? What was the purpose? It certainly wasn’t to encourage dialogue between two neighbours who distrust each other.

We will never know the motive, of course, because there is no means of finding out; just as there is no means of verifying the story. So once again some unaccountable US officials have sown even more distrust and created much more resentment in a region in which there is singular lack of trust and a marked inclination to believe the worst of neighbours. Whoever had the bright idea of spreading this malevolent tale must now have the satisfaction that it had the result of stirring up hatred and suspicion. Give credit where it’s due. But credibility is quite another matter.

Brian Cloughley lives in France. His website is www.briancloughley.com

Making Nuclear Extermination Respectable

August 1, 2008
James Petras | The Palestine Chronicle, July 30, 2008
‘Morris is a frequent lecturer and consultant to the Israeli political and military establishment.’

On July 18, 2008 the New York Times published an article by Israeli-Jewish historian, Professor Benny Morris, advocating an Israeli nuclear-genocidal attack on Iran with the likelihood of killing 70 million Iranians — 12 times the number of Jewish victims in the Nazi holocaust:

Iran’s leaders would do well to rethink their gamble and suspend their nuclear program. Barring this, the best they could hope for is that Israel’s conventional air assault will destroy their nuclear facilities. To be sure, this would mean thousands of Iranian casualties and international humiliation. But the alternative is an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland.

Morris is a frequent lecturer and consultant to the Israeli political and military establishment and has unique access to Israeli strategic military planners. Morris’ advocacy and public support of the massive, brutal expulsion of all Palestinians is on public record. Yet his genocidal views have not precluded his receiving numerous academic awards. His writings and views are published in Israel’s leading newspapers and journals. Morris’ views are not the idle ranting of a marginal psychopath, as witnessed by the recent publication of his latest op-ed article in the New York Times.

What does the publication by the New York Times of an article, which calls for the nuclear incineration of 70 million Iranians and the contamination of the better part of a billion people in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, tell us about US politics and culture? For it is the NYT, which informs the ‘educated classes’ in the US, its Sunday supplements, literary and editorial pages and which serves as the ‘moral conscience’ of important sectors of the cultural, economic and political elite.

The New York Times provides a certain respectability to mass murder, which Morris’ views otherwise would not possess if say, they were published in the neo-conservative weeklies or monthlies. The fact that the NYT considers the prospect of an Israeli mass extermination of millions of Iranians part of the policy debate in the Middle East reveals the degree to which Zionofascism has infected the ‘higher’ cultural and journalist circles of the United States. Truth to say, this is the logical outgrowth of the Times‘ public endorsement of Israel’s economic blockade to starve 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza; the Times’ cover-up of Israeli-Zionist-AIPAC influence in launching the US invasion of Iraq leading to over one million murdered Iraqi citizens.

The Times sets the tone for the entire New York cultural scene, which privileges Israeli interests, to the point of assimilating into the US political discourse not only its routine violations of international law, but its threats, indeed promises, to scorch vast areas of the earth in pursuit of its regional supremacy. The willingness of the NYT to publish an Israeli genocide-ethnocide advocate tells us about the strength of the ties between a purportedly ‘liberal establishment’ pro-Israel publication and the totalitarian Israeli right: It is as if to say that for the liberal pro-Israel establishment, the non-Jewish Nazis are off limits, but the views and policies of Judeo-fascists need careful consideration and possible implementation.

Morris’ New York Times ‘nuclear-extermination’ article did not provoke any opposition from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) because, in its daily information bulletin, Daily Alert, it has frequently published articles by Israeli and US Zionists advocating an Israeli and/or US nuclear attack on Iran. In other words, Morris’ totalitarian views are part of the cultural matrix deeply embedded in the Zionist organizational networks and its extensive ‘reach’ in US cultural and political circles. What the Times did in publishing Morris’ lunacy has taken genocidal discourse out of the limited circulation of Zionist influentials and into the mainstream of millions of American readers.

Apart from a handful of writers (Gentile and Jewish) publishing in marginal web sites, there was no political or moral condemnation from the entire literary, political and journalistic world of this affront to our humanity. No attempt was made to link Morris’ totalitarian genocidal policies to Israel’s public official threats and preparations for nuclear war. There is no anti-nuclear campaign led by our most influential public intellectuals to repudiate the state (Israel) and its public intellectuals who prepare a nuclear war with the potential to exterminate more than ten times the number of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis.

A nuclear incineration of the nation of Iran is the Israeli counterpart of Hitler’s gas chambers and ovens writ large. Extermination is the last stage of Zionism: Informed by the doctrine of rule the Middle East or ruin the air and land of the world. That is the explicit message of Benny Morris (and his official Israeli sponsors), who like Hitler, issues ultimatums to the Iranians, ‘surrender or be destroyed’ and who threatens the US, join us in bombing Iran or face a world ecological and economic catastrophe.

That Morris is utterly, starkly and clinically insane is beyond question. That the New York Times in publishing his genocidal ravings provides new signs of how power and wealth has contributed to the degeneration of Jewish intellectual and cultural life in the US. To comprehend the dimensions of this decay we need only compare the brilliant tragic-romantic German-Jewish writer, Walter Benjamin, desperately fleeing the advance of totalitarian Nazi terror to the Israeli-Jewish writer Benny Morris’ criminal advocacy of Zionist nuclear terror published in the New York Times.

The question of Zionist power in America is not merely a question of a ‘lobby’ influencing Congressional and White House decisions concerning foreign aid to Israel. What is at stake today are the related questions of the advocacy of a nuclear war in which 70 million Iranians face extermination and the complicity of the US mass media in providing a platform, nay a certain political respectability for mass murder and global contamination. Unlike the Nazi past, we cannot claim, as the good Germans did, that ‘we did not know’ or ‘we weren’t notified’, because it was written by an eminent Israeli academic and was published in the New York Times.

-James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ forthcoming book, Zionism and US Militarism, is due from Clarity Press, Atlanta, in August 2008. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: jpetras@binghamton.edu.


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