TEHRAN – Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has said that the most recent resolution issued against Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency raises doubt about the benefit of being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Larijani made the remarks in a speech during an open session of the Majlis on Sunday in reference to the resolution that the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors adopted in Vienna on Thursday, which condemned Iran’s refusal to meet international demands to curb uranium enrichment and its alleged failure to allay international concerns about its nuclear program.
The Iranian parliament speaker said, “The recent resolution by the Board of Governors raises this question for the public: What is the benefit of the NPT and membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency for countries?
“If Iran had not been committed to the NPT, would Western countries have taken other measures?”
He stated that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has a responsibility to encourage the world’s countries to join the NPT, adding, “Will Mr. Amano be able to succeed in his job through such high-handed decision-making?”
“If the path taken by the West and the United States is the adoption of resolutions and sanctions against Iran, then why are they seeking negotiations between Iran and Western countries? However, these countries must be aware that the result of the negotiations is predetermined with the adoption of such an attitude,” Larijani noted.
He also said, “The main text of the resolution was definitely drafted by a few Western countries. It seems that certain tyrannical countries made their intention to make excessive demands at the 5+1 talks more public with (their) insistence on the adoption of the resolution.”
The latest round of high-level talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) over the country’s nuclear program was held in Moscow on June 18 and 19.
After the Moscow talks, both sides agreed to hold expert talks, the most recent round of which was held in Istanbul on July 24.
No decision has yet been made on the next round of negotiations.
- Analysis of latest IAEA report on Iran – August 2012 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran’s right to enrichment questioned again (alethonews.wordpress.com)
UN Special Rapporteur – US Nuclear Testing Continues to Violate Human Rights in the Marshall Islands
September 13, 2012 was a historic day at the United Nations and in the Marshall Islands. On this date, in this seventh decade of the nuclear age, the UN Human Rights Council considered the environmental and human rights impacts resulting from the radioactive and toxic substances in nuclear fallout.
And, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, Marshallese citizens stood before a United Nations Council in defense of the human rights of their communities, with survivor testimony on United States nuclear weapons fallout, environment, health and human rights consequences, and the ramifications of continuing failure to achieve environmentally sound management and disposal of the hazardous substances and toxic wastes resulting from US military activities in the Pacific Proving Grounds.
This moment was generated as a result of the work of Mr. Calin Georgescu, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, who presented the report of his mission to the Marshall Islands and the United States and his findings and recommendations on the human rights consequences of nuclear contamination.
In his visit the Marshall Islands in March 2012, Mr. Georgescu reported that the communities affected by nuclear testing over sixty years ago in the Marshall Islands are still adversely affected by the radiation and near-irreversible environmental contamination from US weapons tests. In his report, the Special Rapporteur noted that these injuries had been most recently confirmed in the 2008-2009 President’s Cancer Panel which recommended that the US “honor and make payments according to the judgments of the Marshall Islands Tribunal”. Yet, for these and other reasons, the Marshallese have yet to find durable solutions to the dislocation to their indigenous ways of life.
As residents of a United Nations designated trust territory governed by the United States, the Marshallese people endured the loss of traditionally-held land and marine resources without negotiation or compensation; were exposed to fallout contamination compromising the environmental health of individuals, communities, and an entire nation; suffered through the documentation of health hazards through a decades-long medical research program that included human radiation experimentation; and, when negotiating the terms of independence in free association with the United States, were severely hampered by the US refusal to fully disclose the full extent of military activities, including the scientific documentation of the environmental and health impacts of serving as the Pacific Proving Ground for weapons of mass destruction
In his visit the Marshall Islands in March 2012, Mr. Georgescu reported that the communities affected by nuclear testing over sixty years ago in the Marshall Islands are still adversely affected by the radiation and near-irreversible environmental contamination from US weapons tests. The Marshallese have yet to find durable solutions to the dislocation to their indigenous ways of life.
Observing that prior efforts to provide redress had been limited in scope and scale, and recognizing that reparation should ideally be restoration of what has been lost, the Special Rapporteur noted that in this case what has been lost is a healthy environment that sustains a viable and culturally distinct way of life. Thus, the principle goal of reparation requires a comprehensive approach for securing the rehabilitation and long-term sustainable development of the Marshallese people. He recommended the immediate development of a national and regional plan for attending to the many ulcerating issues identified in his report, similar to the initiatives undertaken for the benefit of affected-populations by States that historically carried out and continue to carry-out nuclear testing programmes. And outlined an array of specific recommendations which collective represent a framework by which truth, justice, and reparation might achieved through actions involving the Government, the United States, the UN and its specialized agencies and institutions, and members of the international community.
Responding to the Special Rapporteur’s report, Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Phillip H. Muller acknowledged that efforts been undertaken by the United States to address the impacts of its nuclear weapons testing program, though “much more remains to be done to address the past, present, and future such impacts on the basic human rights of our Marshallese communities… Adjudicated claims of property loss and personal injury remain unfulfilled… Two UN resolutions on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands remain the only instances in which the UN ever explicitly authorized the testing of nuclear weapons. Adopted in 1954 and 1956 in rejection of our petitions to halt the testing, those resolutions made specific assurances of fairness, justice and respect for human rights, which have never been met. This continued denial of justice to our people is completely unacceptable.” “This report,” Minister Muller observed, “tells the world that the Marshall Islands is entitled to know the truth, to be treated with dignity, and to have all those human rights which should never have been lost.” The Marshall Islands welcomed the Rapporteur’s recommendations and urged the United States and the international community to do likewise.
The United States response, delivered by State Department Counselor Arselan Suleman, appreciated the opportunity for constructive and open dialogue on the issues and agreed to continued assistance, while reiterating their objection as to the validity of the Special Rapporteur’s major findings. “The United States feels strongly that nuclear testing is not, fundamentally, an issue of ‘management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.’ Particularly when described in terms of ‘improper’ or ‘environmentally sound’ management.” The US disagreed with a number of assertions of human rights law within this report, and disagreed that there is a continuing obligation by the international community to encourage a “final and just resolution” of the issue. The United States position is that it has “acknowledged and acted responsibly upon the negative effects of the nuclear testing” as evidenced by “the full and final settlement of all claims related to the testing contained in the 1986 Compact of Free Association.” Citing expenditures of $600 million to date for various technical problems, including $150 million to settle all nuclear claims, the United States assured the United Nations that “Experts and scientists from across the U.S. Government will continue their decades long engagement in the Marshall Islands to address the issues that arose from our nuclear testing.”
In the ensuing dialogue between nations, institutions, and non-governmental organizations, speakers recognized the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States towards the people of the Marshall Islands, and the need for continuing and increased levels of bilateral cooperation. They also called for radioactive waste, environmental contamination, and related human rights issues of nuclear militarism to be adequately addressed bilaterally and through the United Nations system.
Algeria said this report confirms unequivocally the cause and effect relationship between nuclear testing and violation of the right to health, damage to the environment and the displacement of populations and confirms the right of affected populations to an effective remedy. While recognizing that each situation has its own peculiarities, my delegation would like to know if the lessons and recommendations presented in the report of the visit can be extended to other situations of nuclear tests in the world?
Australia said that it had joined with other Pacific Leaders at the Pacific Island Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, in August 2012 in reaffirming recognition of the special circumstances pertaining to the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands. Australia welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur as a contribution to stimulating dialogue between the parties in the spirit of understanding and reconciliation for the benefit of the Marshallese people.
Cuba said that the United States has a responsibility and a debt to the people of the Marshall Islands, which has suffered and continues to suffer the harmful consequences of U.S. nuclear testing program in the territory. They believe, like many other countries, the United States must provide adequate compensation to the victims of their actions to restore their dignity, contribute to the resettlement of displaced populations displaced by the product of radioactive contaminants and also to revive the economic productivity and human development in the affected areas. The negative implications for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights such as food and health should be reversed immediately.
New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the Cook Islands, Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, said during the Forum’s meeting last month in the Cook Islands, leaders had recognized the special circumstances pertaining to the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States towards the people of the Marshall Islands. They also called for the issues to be adequately addressed through the United Nations system.
Maldives took note of the first report submitted to the Council by the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and said that the effect of nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands must be examined from several aspects, such as its impact on the health of the population and the environment. The support of the international community in this regard was very much needed because many small island States were struggling with multifaceted challenges and did not have the capacity to deal with such adverse impacts on the environment.
Malaysia agreed with the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur for a just and lasting solution to the continuing plight and suffering of the Marshallese People due to the effects of nuclear testing. They asked the Special Rapporteur to clarify whether that obligation rests on the international community, which had placed the Marshall Islands under trusteeship, or the relevant State actor, in its capacity as trustee, which had conducted the nuclear tests.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said that the compensation and remediation provided by the United States for the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands had been insufficient to fully attend to the healthcare and socio-economic needs of the Marshallese people. The international community, the United States and the Government of the Marshall Islands must develop long-term strategic measures to address the effects of the nuclear testing programme and provide adequate redress to the citizens of the Marshall Islands.
Physicians for Social Responsibility provided an eyewitness account of the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands by the United States by Jeban Riklon, who had lived on Rongelap Atoll, where no one knew that the United States had planned to test the Bravo bomb on that day and did not know that precautionary measures should have been taken. The population had been evacuated by the United States only two days later and brought into a military encampment and enrolled in Project 4.1 to study the effects of radiation on human beings.
Cultural Survival also provided an eyewitness account of the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands by the United States by Lemeyo Abon, President of the ERUB (damaged, broken) association of Marshallese nuclear survivors. Ms. Abon described the explosion of the bomb Bravo on Bikini Atoll, just 180 km upwind from Rongelap Atoll where she had lived. The immensely painful consequences were felt even today, with birth of babies with missing limbs and other congenital defects.
In the General Debate, an additional statement was made by Cultural Survival/ Iju in Ean club by Abacca Anjain-Maddison, to reiterate the Marshallese civil society delegation’s endorsement and appreciation of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and they look to the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to work collaboratively with all parties to move the recommendations into action. Concern was also expressed that “the ultimatum of the United States to force the Rongelap community to return to a contaminated environment will represent a new level in human rights abuses perpetuated by the US against the Marshallese.”
In his response to comments, Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu addressed the US position that consideration his of contamination from nuclear weapons testing was not included in his mandate, stating that “the long history of nuclear weapons testing on the Marshall Islands has produced a significant amount of nuclear radioactive waste which is indubitably toxic in nature and less health and continue to have several impacts to the ability of the Marshallese people to enjoy the full scope of their human rights.” With regards to the question of liability, the Rapportuer stated “I completely support that the international community has to be involved in this process; it is not only bilateral aspects.”
The UN report concludes with significant, wide-ranging recommendations to address the ulcerating legacy of nuclear militarism in the Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands should request the assistance of relevant UN agencies and bilateral partners to;
- Improve water, sanitation and waste management, health and education infrastructure, and to carry out independent, comprehensive radiological surveys of the entire nation similar to those conducted by the IAEA on testing sites in other countries.
- Strengthen health infrastructure to address concerns of the whole population.
- Turn Marshall Islands biodegenerative environment and health history into asset by taking the lead in hosting and fostering collaborative partnerships to develop and implement innovative approaches to monitoring, assessing, and caring for a contaminated environment, human health and well-being.
The United States should;
- Continue to support the Marshall Islands in efforts to protect the environment and safeguard the health of its people.
- Support Marshall Islands efforts to conduct a comprehensive survey and mapping of the radiogenic and other toxic substances remaining in the terrestrial and marine environment from US military activity in that nation.
- Continue to provide assistance and the means to secure, contain and remediate hazardous sites.
- Provide full funding for the Nuclear Claims Tribunal to award adequate compensation for past and future claims, and exploring other forms of reparation.
- Adopt a presumptive approach to groups currently excluded from the special healthcare programmes created by the US to assist survivors of nuclear testing.
And, given the role of the United Nations in establishing the strategic trusteeship of the United States, the international community should;
- Recognize and act upon its ongoing obligation to encourage a final and just resolution for the Marshallese people.
- Support bilateral and multilateral action to assist the Marshall Islands in its efforts to regain use of traditional lands, including the knowledge and means to identify, assess, remediate and restore a sustainable way of life.
- Invest and participate in collaborative partnerships to develop and deploy technologies and methods to monitor and remediate environmental hazards and reduce health.
- Support nationally-owned and nationally-led development plans and strategies.
- Mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Monitor, secure and remove nuclear wastes on a scale and standard comparable to the clean-up of domestic testing sites in the United States, as part of an international response to nuclear legacy issues.
In his informal remarks during the informal panel Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing (organized by Reaching Critical Will and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), Mr. Georgescu acknowledged that his recommendations are ambitious and in a world where so many other issues compete for attention a full measure of reparation may be difficult to secure. Yet, he pointed out, it is these other competing issues that make attention to the Marshallese situation so urgent. The failure to fully protect the health and well-being of the Marshallese nation, and the failure to fully and adequately respond to the environmental health disaster resulting from nuclear testing and fallout, has generated an ever-expanding array of rights-abusive conditions that are persistent, pervasive, and alter the very fabric of life.
The urgent need to act is echoed in Lemeyo Abon’s testimony:
“We have a saying jej bok non won ke jemake which means ‘if not us, who?’ We have to act now, we have to let peace prevail, this is our time for the future of our children and grandchildren. I urge this council and the members of the United Nations to take action to not only help us help ourselves, but to make sure that such miseries do not occur ever again.”
As Jeban Riklon noted in his statement to the Human Rights Council, “I am especially happy to be here because it is my right, as a human, to voice and make a plea before this Council for what we have been going through for many years.” After so many decades of silent anguish where Marshallese complaints have been too often been ignored or dismissed, this report, the testimony of Marshallese elders, and the response by assembled nations represents an essential element of reparation. A small measure of dignity has been restored.
For further information:
The report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste Addendum 1 – Mission to the Marshall Islands and the United States of America (AHRC/21/48/Add.1)
Full video of the Special Rapporteur report on his Mission to the Marshall Islands and the United States begins at 03:36. Webcast of individual comments is also available.
Three parallel events were sponsored by civil society to inform the Human Rights Council on the human rights implications of nuclear militarism in the Marshall Islands, and the consequential damages of a flawed radiation health science; human environmental rights conditions resulting from the military use of deleted uranium in Iraq; and a comparative consideration of experience and response to human rights impact of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan, and Australia. Organizers and cosponsors for NGO panels and speakers included Center for Political Ecology, Reaching Critical Will/Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Center for Political Ecology, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Union of Arab Jurists/European Radiation Risk Committee, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Cultural Survival. For additional information on presentations and the underlying issues, contact:
Barbara Rose Johnston, Center for Political Ecology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Beatrice Will, Reaching Critical Will/WILPF, email@example.com
Chris Busby, European Radiation Rsik Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Naji Haraj, Union of Arab Jurists email@example.com
Rick Wayman, Nucelar Age Peace Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org
BARBARA ROSE JOHNSTON is an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology. She is the co-author of The Consequential Dangers of Nuclear War: the Rongelap Report. Her most recent book, Water, Cultural Diversity and Global Environmental Change: Emerging Trends, Sustainable Futures? was copublished by UNESCO/Springer in 2012. She is currently assisting the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to document the human rights consequences of nuclear militarism in the Marshall Islands, and supporting advocacy efforts to bring Marshallese citizens to Geneva so their own voices can be heard. Contact her at: email@example.com.
- Marshalls anger over nuclear reports & compensation (radioaustralia.net.au)
- Top honour for Marshall’s movie on Bikini exiles (radioaustralia.net.au)
The protests and violence in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have caused a notable uptick in media discussions about, as Newsweek’s cover puts it, “Muslim Rage.”
Part of the corporate media’s job is to make sure real political grievances are mostly kept out of the discussion. It’s a lot easier to talk about angry mobs and their peculiar religion than it is to acknowledge that maybe some of the anger has little to do with religion at all.
Take the news out of Afghanistan yesterday: A NATO airstrike killed eight women in the eastern province of Laghman who were out collecting firewood. This has happened before. And attacks that kill a lot of Afghans–whether accidental or not–tend to be covered the same way–quietly, and with a focus not on the killing but on the ramifications.
So yesterday if you logged into CommonDreams, you may have seen this headline:
NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills 8 Women
Now look for the same news in the New York Times today (9/17/12). It’s there–but the headline is this:
Karzai Denounces Coalition Over Airstrikes
The Times gave a clear sense of what was important: “Mr. Karzai’s condemnation was likely to rankle some Western officials…” the paper’s Matthew Rosenberg explained, who went on to explain that
the confrontational tone of the statement was a sharp reminder of the acrimony that has often characterized relations between Mr. Karzai and his American benefactors.
In the Washington Post, the NATO airstrikes made the front page–sort of. Readers saw this headline at the website:
4 troops killed in southern Afghanistan insider attack
As you might have already guessed, the killings of Afghan women are a secondary news event:
Four U.S. troops were killed Sunday at a remote checkpoint in southern Afghanistan when a member of the Afghan security forces opened fire on them, military officials said. The attack brought to 51 the number of international troops shot dead by their Afghan partners this year. The insider attack came on the same day that NATO warplanes killed nine women gathering firewood in the mountains outside their village in an eastern province, according to local officials.
One has to wonder whether, absent the deaths of U.S. troops, the airstrike would have made the news at all.
A few weeks ago, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton published a revealing column in which he delved into the nettlesome question of why the Post rarely writes about Israel’s actual nuclear arsenal, even as it devotes intensive coverage to Iran’s nuclear program, which remains far short of producing a single bomb.
Pexton deemed concerns about this imbalance “a fair question” and dug back through a decade of Post articles without finding “any in-depth reporting on Israeli nuclear capabilities.” He then explored some reasons for this failure, including sympathy felt toward Israel because of the Holocaust and the difficulties that journalists confront in addressing the topic.
“But that doesn’t mean the media shouldn’t write about how Israel’s doomsday weapons affect the Middle East equation,” Pexton wrote. “Just because a story is hard to do doesn’t mean The Post, and the U.S. press more generally, shouldn’t do it.”
Yet, there are few signs, if any, that the Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets are heeding Pexton’s criticism. Obviously, one way to alleviate the imbalance would be to mention that Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal in every story that discusses Iran’s nuclear program, which Iranian leaders insist is for peaceful purposes only.
The fact that Israel has a large and sophisticated roster of nuclear weapons is surely relevant in evaluating why Iran might want a nuclear weapon of its own and why Iran would not want to provoke a war with Israel even if Iran did manufacture one or two bombs. Yet this context is almost never included in U.S. news stories.
U.S. journalists and their editors also might stop including hyperbolic statements that exaggerate the potential Iranian threat to Israel, such as the discredited claim that Iran has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” an oft-repeated refrain that resulted from a mistranslation of a comment by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
However, that seems to be too much to expect from major U.S. newspapers. For instance, on Friday, the New York Times in an article by Mark Landler and Helene Cooper not only fails to mention Israel’s nuclear arsenal but inserts the provocative claim that “Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened [Israel] with annihilation.”
The article offers no quote to back up this assertion. It simply stands as a form of boilerplate, as if everyone knows it to be true. But the reality is that Iranian leaders may wish that the Zionist government of Israel ultimately disappears to be replaced by a non-religious state, but that is a far cry from threatening to annihilate Israel militarily, which is the clear implication from Landler and Cooper.
Landler, the Times’ White House correspondent, also has been a repeat offender in this journalistic malpractice. For instance, on March 5, he appeared on MSNBC and offered this account of the Israeli-Iranian tensions:
“The Israelis feel the window for that [denying Iran the capability to build nuclear weapons] is closing and it’s closing really fast, and if they allow it to close without taking military action, they would find themselves in a position where the Iranians suddenly are in possession of nuclear weapons, which they’ve threatened already to use against Israel.
“As the Israelis always say, that’s an existential threat to Israel, which is something we don’t necessarily feel here in the United States.”
Landler’s account was hair-raising, claiming that Iranians have “threatened already to use [nuclear weapons] against Israel” which the Israelis understandably perceive as an “existential threat.” But Landler’s statement simply isn’t true.
Iranian leaders continue to deny that they even want nuclear weapons, so it makes no sense that they would threaten to use them against Israel.
In February, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who controls the armed forces, called “the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin” and said “the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.” He insisted that “the Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons.”
Further, the U.S. intelligence community reported in 2007 that Iran stopped research work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and has not resumed that effort. That assessment has been reaffirmed periodically and remains the position of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Beyond that, for Iran to threaten to “annihilate” Israel would represent one of the strangest threats in world history. Here is a nation without nuclear weapons – and whose top leader disavows any intent to get nuclear weapons – supposedly threatening to use those non-existent weapons against a nation which has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons.
You would think, at minimum, that Landler would be expected to cite an actual Iranian official making a specific threat. But he doesn’t and apparently no one in power [at the NYT] demands that he do so. His claim that Iran has threatened to attack Israel with a nuclear bomb is simply accepted as what everybody knows to be true.
Explaining the Failure
That is the sort of ludicrous propaganda that has become commonplace in the U.S. news media, a topic that the Post’s ombudsman addressed gingerly on Aug. 31. Pexton offered mostly innocent explanations for this journalistic misfeasance.
“First, Israel refuses to acknowledge publicly that it has nuclear weapons,” Pexton wrote. “The U.S. government also officially does not acknowledge the existence of such a program. … Because Israel has not signed the [nuclear non-proliferation] treaty, it is under no legal obligation to submit its major nuclear facility at Dimona to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.
“Iran, in contrast, did sign the treaty and thus agrees to periodic inspections. IAEA inspectors are regularly in Iran, but the core of the current dispute is that Tehran is not letting them have unfettered access to all of the country’s nuclear installations.
“Furthermore, although Israel has an aggressive media, it still has military censors that can and do prevent publication of material on Israel’s nuclear forces. Censorship applies to foreign correspondents working there, too.”
Plus, Israel has demonstrated that it will deliver harsh punishment on any Israeli who does divulge secrets about the nuclear program, as nuclear technician Mordechai Vununu learned in 1986 when he became a whistleblower about the secret Israeli arsenal. He was then kidnapped, taken to Israel against his will, and imprisoned for 18 years, much of it in solitary confinement.
Pexton added that “perhaps most important, Americans don’t leak about the Israeli nuclear program either.” He cited the inclination to protect a friend and ally, as well as the reality that deviating from this silence “can hurt your career.”
Pexton quoted George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as saying: “It’s like all things having to do with Israel and the United States. If you want to get ahead, you don’t talk about it; you don’t criticize Israel, you protect Israel. You don’t talk about illegal settlements on the West Bank even though everyone knows they are there.”
However, the job of journalism should be to present all the relevant facts in context, especially on life-or-death issues like war and peace.
When the New York Times and the Washington Post institute systemic bias in their coverage of such an issue – as the two newspapers also did in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq – they not only fail to uphold the principles of journalism, they risk becoming complicit in the slaughter of innocent people.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com.
In an extraordinary paper released this week, former US Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, outlined a range of military, financial and diplomatic measures that the US should be prepared to take against the Chavez government after the coming elections on October 7th.
In the paper, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Duddy’s recommendations include that in the event of “an outbreak of violence and/or interruption of democracy” the US should use various means to “to communicate to the Venezuelan military leadership that they are obliged to uphold their constitution, respect human rights, and protect their country’s democratic tradition” and “organize a coalition of partners to limit an illegitimate Venezuelan administration’s access to government assets held abroad as well as to the international financial system.”
The former Ambassador was expelled from Venezuela in 2008 after the Chavez-led government cited an American-supported plot by military officers to topple it. Having initially served under Bush he returned to Venezuela at the start of Obama’s term of office.
In the paper he outlines an even wider list of options that the US may engage in. These includes that the United States “could demand that the Organisation of American States declare Venezuela in breach of its obligations as a signatory of the Inter-American Democratic Charter” or it could “bring the issue of Venezuelan democracy to the United Nations Security Council” or “freeze individual bank accounts of key figures involved or responsible and seize assets in the United States”. He suggested the US “could also arrange for the proceeds of Venezuelan government–owned corporate entities to be held in escrow accounts until democracy is restored [and] …block access to [Venezuelan government owned] CITGO’s refining facilities in the United States and consider prohibiting [Venezuelan state] oil sales to the United States”.
Duddy dresses these up as options for the US to take “in the event that the government either orchestrates or takes advantage of a violent popular reaction to Chavez’s defeat…to suspend civil liberties and govern under a renewable state of exception”.
However there are obvious concerns that this fits neatly with the objectives of those within the right-wing opposition in Venezuela who are planning for the non-recognition of the coming elections if, as expected, Hugo Chavez wins. With the polls showing strong leads for Hugo Chavez, a campaign is already underway by sections of the right-wing opposition coalition to present any electoral defeat as being down to Chavez-led fraud. This has seen baseless attacks on the independent National Electoral Council (CNE,) which has overseen all of Venezuelans’ elections described as free and fair by a range of international observers. The opposition has announced plans to place tens of thousands of ‘witnesses’ at polling stations on election day and then, illegally to release its own results ahead of the official results in a clear bid to discredit them. These plans have sharpened fears that opposition-led disruptions and destabilisation will follow their defeat. This could easily meet Duddy’s condition of “an outbreak of violence and/or interruption of democracy”.
Clearly the paper raises the spectre that, as with the US-backed coup in 2002, the US could seek to blame any right wing opposition-led post election disruption on the Hugo Chavez government, with the US then taking the measures Duddy suggests.
The “options” suggested by Patrick Duddy’s, a former Bush era Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, form part of ongoing hostilities to the democratically elected Chavez government from neo-cons in Washington. Connie Mack, chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, has openly advocated that Venezuela is added to the US lists of states that sponsor terrorism. Whilst Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney earlier this year attacked Venezuela during the US Presidential campaign as a threat to national security and accused Venezuela of “spreading dictatorships & tyranny throughout Latin America”.
With less than one month to go until the Venezuelan people go to the polls, and with it looking likely that they will re-elect Hugo Chavez, solidarity in defence of the right of the people to choose their own government free from outside intervention clearly remains vital.
- Venezuelan Government Welcomes Colombian Peace Accord (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On September 15, McClatchy reported that the anti-American outrage in the Muslim world over a crude YouTube video insulting the Prophet Muhammad had been triggered by a phone call to an Egyptian reporter from a controversial U.S.-based anti-Islam activist:
Morris Sadek, a Coptic Christian who lives in suburban Washington, D.C., whose anti-Islam campaigning led to the revocation of his Egyptian citizenship earlier this year, had an exclusive story for Gamel Girgis, who covers Christian emigrants for al Youm al Sabaa, the Seventh Day, a daily newspaper here. Sadek had a movie clip he wanted Girgis to see; he e-mailed him a link.
“He told me he produced a movie last year and wanted to screen it on Sept. 11th to reveal what was behind the terrorists’ actions that day, Islam,” Girgis said, recalling the first call, which came on Sept. 4. Sadek, a longtime source, “considers me the boldest journalist, the only one that would publish such stories.”
The report made no mention of the provocateur’s extreme pro-Israel views, however. On his blog dedicated to the “National American Coptic Assembly” — of which he describes himself “a president” — Morris Sadek provides an erratically punctuated outline of what he claims should be “The Coptic Position on Israel”:
We recognize the sacred right of the state of Israel and the Israeli people to the land of historic Israel .
“The right of Return” of the Jewish people to the land of their foremothers and forefathers is a sacred right. It has no statute of limitation. The return must continue to enrich the Middle East .
We recognize Jerusalem as simply a Jewish city, It must never be divided, She is, and shall always be, the united capital of Israel .
The future of the Palestinians lies with the Arab states. A Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria constitute an imminent danger to world peace.
The Chantilly-based National American Coptic Assembly, Inc., a private company with a staff of two, has an estimated annual revenue of $97,000. Considering the fawning pro-Israel statements of its principal, it’s not too difficult to speculate as to the source of that revenue.
- Radical Coptic Christian Morris Sadek and anti-Islam (bikyamasr.com)
Israel duped the United Stated into believing that “thousands of terrorists” remained in west Beirut following the expulsion of Palestinian fighters 30 years ago, providing cover for the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, according to recently declassified Israeli documents.
The documents include verbatim transcripts of meetings between US and Israeli officials before and during the three-day massacre led by the right-wing Lebanese Christian Phalange militia that left roughly 2,000 people dead, mostly children, women and elderly men.
“[The transcripts] reveal that the Israelis misled American diplomats about events in Beirut and bullied them into accepting the spurious claim that thousands of “terrorists” were in the camps,” The New York Times, which obtained the documents, reported.
“Most troubling, when the United States was in a position to exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel that could have ended the atrocities, it failed to do so,” the newspaper added.
The Palestinian fighters had previously been evacuated from Lebanon in a US-coordinated effort whereby they provided assurances to protect the camp’s residents, which included both Palestinians and Lebanese.
On 16 September 1982, the first day of the massacre, US envoy to the Middle East Morris Draper met with Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon who justified Israel’s occupation of west Beirut by claiming that “2,000 to 3,000 terrorists” remained in that part of the city.
Draper, according to the documents, was furious to learn that Sharon wanted to allow the Christian militiamen into west Beirut to root out what he claimed were terrorists.
Later that evening, word began to spread in Israel that a massacre was taking place in Sabra and Shatila.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister David Levy reportedly remarked: “I know what the meaning of revenge is for [the Phalanges], what kind of slaughter. Then no one will believe we went in to create order there, and we will bear the blame.”
The following day, while the massacre continued, Draper, who had not yet learned that the Phalangists had entered the camp, met with high ranking Israeli officials including Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Shamir had known of the slaughter in the camp, but failed to inform the US diplomat.
Sharon, also at the meeting, continued to insist that the “terrorists” in west Beirut needed “mopping up.”
When Draper demanded that the Israeli forces immediately pull out of the area, Sharon responded with outrage: “I just don’t understand, what are you looking for? Do you want the terrorists to stay? Are you afraid that somebody will think that you were in collusion with us? Deny it. We denied it.”
According to the transcripts, Draper continued to insist that the Israelis leave, but eventually backed off once they agreed to a “gradual withdrawal” to allow for the Lebanese Army to enter the city.
The Israelis insisted, however, that they wait 48 hours before allowing the plan to take effect.
Draper reminded the Israelis that the US had facilitated the departure of Palestinian fighters from Beirut in order to prevent Israelis from occupying west Beirut. “You should have stayed out,” Draper said at the meeting.
The argument persisted, but it ultimately allowed Israel the cover it needed to allow the Christian fighters to continue its slaughter of the camp.
By the next day, September 18, when details of the massacre had become widely known, US President Ronald Reagan expressed “outrage and revulsion over the murders.”
US Secretary of State George Shults later admitted his country bore partial responsibility for the massacre since they “took the Israelis and Lebanese at their word.”
- The Massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Thirty Years Later (counterpunch.org)