The NY Times reports a blockbuster story about the anti-Iran lobby group, United Against a Nuclear Iran. It’s an especially perfidious group supporting regime change, though it couches its approach in terms of opposing Iran’ nuclear program. Curiously, this is precisely the same way Israel’s far-right government disguises its own support for the violent overthrow of the Iranian government. Knowing that such a plan is not supported by the west including the Obama administration, they believe that they can paint Iran as enough of a threat to the world through it’s alleged plans to create nuclear weapons, that this will get them half-way to regime change.
UANI specializes in “outing” companies which allegedly violate UN sanctions against Iran. The Times article revealed that the companies are usually approached by an Israeli “fixer” with close ties to the Mossad. He’s Rami Ungar, owner of an Israeli company, Ray Shipping, who’s worth $500-million.
Ungar gives them an opportunity to renounce their supposed trade with Iran. Sometimes they’re extorted for a donation to UANI as well. Though the article doesn’t mention it, I’m certain that the Mossad intermediary probes for companies that will serve Israel’s interests in its fight against Iran. Companies doing business with Iran who are willing to become Mossad assets are worth their weight in gold, since the Iranians trust them and Israel can use such trust to sabotage whatever aspect of the Iranian military or commercial interests the sanctions-buster participates in.
What brought much of this to light is a lawsuit brought by one of the ship owners who was targeted by UANI. Instead of rolling over and playing dead, Victor Restis decided to sue UANI to find out what was going on inside the bowels of this organization. Restis, who denies all charges against him made by UANI, decided to take the battle to UANI. He’s demanding to see internal documents that would show who conveyed information to the group about him, what the information said, and how it was collected. His suit also implies that the Mossad directly funds UANI, another explosive charge.
What’s especially odd about the case is that the U.S. Justice Department has threatened to intervene in the case on behalf of UANI. Clearly, the real reason they’re willing to take such an unusual step is that they’re trying to protect the Mossad. It would not only embarrass our Israeli ally[sic], it might expose the covert methods and work product of Israeli intelligence. It might allow Iran to find out what Mossad knows about it and how.
This is so unseemly because the Obama administration is protecting a foreign spy agency which aggressively steals U.S. secrets when possible. We are also protecting the Mossad as it attempts to manipulate U.S. public opinion in a witch hunt against Iran, which is a country with whom we’re trying to negotiate a rapprochement. Here is how the U.S. explained its “interest” in the case:
Government lawyers said they had a “good faith basis to believe that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, reveal investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released.
If we take this literally, it means the U.S. government has been in cahoots with the Mossad in this campaign against Iranian commerce. Even if it means something less than that, it certainly means that we’re protecting the Mossad as one of our “confidential sources.” The other possible interpretation is that the U.S. is investigating UANI or the Mossad for their collusion together, though the article doesn’t point in that direction at all.
UANI, though it claims to be a bi-partisan group above the political fray, is heavily laden with neocon, Bush-era personnel and board members. It’s full of U.S. intelligence officials and diplomats known as especially friendly to Israel, including Dennis Ross. Meir Dagan is also listed as an advisor. UANI appears little more than an extension of Israeli intelligence based in the U.S.
As nuclear-armed America hurtles into a completely avoidable crash with nuclear-armed Russia over Ukraine, you can now see the dangers of “information warfare” when facts give way to propaganda and the press fails to act as an impartial arbiter.
In this sorry affair, one of the worst offenders of journalistic principles has been the New York Times, generally regarded as America’s premier newspaper. During the Ukraine crisis, the Times has been little more than a propaganda conveyor belt delivering what the U.S. government wants out via shoddy and biased reporting from the likes of Michael R. Gordon and David Herszenhorn.
The Times reached what was arguably a new low on Sunday when it accepted as flat fact the still unproven point of how Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. The Times dropped all attribution despite what appear to be growing – rather than diminishing – doubts about Official Washington’s narrative that Ukrainian rebels shot down the plane by using a powerful Russian-supplied Buk missile battery.
U.S. and Ukrainian government officials began pushing this narrative immediately after the plane went down on July 17 killing 298 people onboard. But the only evidence has been citations of “social media” and the snippet of an intercepted phone call containing possibly confused comments by Ukrainian rebels after the crash, suggesting that some rebels initially believed they had shot the plane down but later reversed that judgment.
A major problem with this evidence is that it assumes the rebels – or for that matter the Ukrainian armed forces – operate with precise command and control when the reality is that the soldiers on both sides are not very professional and function in even a deeper fog of war than might exist in other circumstances.
But an even bigger core problem for the U.S. narrative is that it is virtually inconceivable that American intelligence did not have satellite and other surveillance on eastern Ukraine at the time of the shoot-down. Yet the U.S. government has been unable (or unwilling) to supply a single piece of imagery showing the Russians supplying a Buk anti-aircraft missile battery to the rebels; the rebels transporting the missiles around eastern Ukraine; the rebels firing the fateful missile that allegedly brought down the Malaysian airliner; or the rebels then returning the missiles to Russia.
To accept Official Washington’s certainty about what it “knows” happened, you would have to believe that American spy satellites – considered the best in the world – could not detect 16-feet-tall missiles during their odyssey around Russia and eastern Ukraine. If that is indeed the case, the U.S. taxpayers should demand their billions upon billions of dollars back.
However, the failure of U.S. intelligence to release its satellite images of Buk missile batteries in eastern Ukraine is the “dog-not-barking” evidence that this crucial evidence to support the U.S. government’s allegations doesn’t exist. Can anyone believe that if U.S. satellite images showed the missiles crossing the border, being deployed by the rebels and then returning to Russia, that those images would not have been immediately declassified and shown to the world? In this case, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence – absence of U.S. evidence.
The U.S. government’s case also must overcome public remarks by senior U.S. military personnel at variance with the Obama administration’s claims of certainty. For instance, the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported last Saturday that Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said last month that “We have not seen any of the [Russian] air-defense vehicles across the border yet.”
Whitlock also reported that “Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said defense officials could not point to specific evidence that an SA-11 [Buk] surface-to-air missile system had been transported from Russia into eastern Ukraine.”
There’s also the possibility that a Ukrainian government missile – either from its own Buk missile batteries fired from the ground or from a warplane in the sky – brought down the Malaysian plane. I was told by one source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts that some satellite images suggest that the missile battery was under the control of Ukrainian government troops but that the conclusion was not definitive.
Plus, there were reports from eyewitnesses in the area of the crash that at least one Ukrainian jet fighter closed on the civilian plane shortly before it went down. The Russian government also has cited radar data supposedly showing Ukrainian fighters in the vicinity.
Need for a Real Inquiry
What all this means is that a serious and impartial investigation is needed to determine who was at fault and to apportion accountability. But that inquiry is still underway with no formal conclusions.
So, in terms of journalistic professionalism, a news organization should treat the mystery of who shot down Flight 17 with doubt. Surely, no serious journalist would jump to the conclusion based on the dubious claims made by one side in a dispute while the other side is adamant in its denials, especially with the stakes so high in a tense confrontation between two nuclear powers.
But that is exactly what the Times did in describing new U.S. plans to escalate the confrontation by possibly supplying tactical intelligence to the Ukrainian army so it can more effectively wage war against eastern Ukrainian rebels.
On Sunday, the Times wrote: “At the core of the debate, said several [U.S.] officials — who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy deliberations are still in progress — is whether the American goal should be simply to shore up a Ukrainian government reeling from the separatist attacks, or to send a stern message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin by aggressively helping Ukraine target the missiles Russia has provided. Those missiles have taken down at least five aircraft in the past 10 days, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.” [Emphasis added.]
The link provided by the Times’ online version of the story connects to an earlier Times’ story that attributed the accusations blaming Russia to U.S. “officials.” But this new story drops that attribution and simply accepts the claims as flat fact.
The danger of American “information warfare” that treats every development in the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity to blame Putin and ratchet up tensions with Russia has been apparent since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis – as has been the clear anti-Russian bias of the Times and virtually every other outlet of the mainstream U.S. news media. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Will Ukraine Be NYT’s Waterloo?”]
Since the start of the crisis last year, U.S. officials and American-funded non-governmental organizations have not only pushed a one-sided story but have been pushing a dangerous agenda, seeking to create a collision between the United States and Russia and, more personally, between President Barack Obama and President Putin.
The vehicle for this head-on collision between Russia and the United States was the internal political disagreement in Ukraine over whether elected President Viktor Yanukovych should have accepted harsh International Monetary Fund austerity demands as the price for associating with the European Union or agree to a more generous offer from Russia.
Angered last September when Putin helped Obama avert a planned U.S. bombing campaign against Syria, American neocons were at the forefront of this strategy. Their principal need was to destroy the Putin-Obama collaboration, which also was instrumental in achieving a breakthrough on the Iran nuclear dispute (while the neocons were hoping that the U.S. military might bomb Iran, too).
So, on Sept. 26, 2013, Carl Gershman, a leading neocon and longtime president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to urge the U.S. government to push European “free trade” agreements on Ukraine and other former Soviet states and thus counter Moscow’s efforts to maintain close relations with those countries.
The ultimate goal, according to Gershman, was isolating and possibly toppling Putin in Russia with Ukraine the key piece on this global chessboard. “Ukraine is the biggest prize,” Gershman wrote. “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
To give the United States more leverage inside Ukraine, Gershman’s NED paid for scores of projects, including training “activists” and supporting “journalists.” Rather than let the Ukrainian political process sort out this disagreement, U.S. officials, such as neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and neocon Sen. John McCain, also intervened to encourage increasingly disruptive demonstrations seeking to overthrow Yanukovych when he opted for the Russian deal over the EU-IMF offer.
Though much of the ensuing violence was instigated by neo-Nazi militias that had moved to the front of the anti-Yanukovych protests, the U.S. government and its complicit news media blamed every act of violence on Yanukovych and the police, including a still mysterious sniper attack that left both protesters and police dead.
On Feb. 21, Yanukovych denied ordering any shootings and tried to stem the violence by signing an agreement brokered by three European nations to reduce his powers and hold early elections so he could be voted out of office. He also complied with a demand from Vice President Joe Biden to pull back Ukrainian police. Then, the trap sprang shut.
Neo-Nazi militias overran government buildings and forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives. The State Department quickly endorsed the coup regime – hastily formed by the remnants of the parliament – as “legitimate.” Besides passing bills offensive to ethnic Russians in the east, one of the parliament’s top priorities was to enact the IMF austerity plan.
White Hats/Black Hats
Though the major U.S. news media was aware of these facts – and indeed you could sometimes detect the reality by reading between the lines of dispatches from the field – the overriding U.S. narrative was that the coup-makers were the “white hats” and Yanukovych along with Putin were the “black hats.” Across the U.S. media, Putin was mocked for riding on a horse shirtless and other indiscretions. For the U.S. media, it was all lots of fun, as was the idea of reprising the Cold War with Moscow.
When the people of Crimea – many of whom were ethnic Russians – voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, the U.S. media declared the move a Russian “invasion” although the Russian troops were already in Ukraine as part of an agreement with previous Ukrainian governments.
Every development that could be hyped was hyped. There was virtually no nuance in the news reporting, a lack of professionalism led by the New York Times. Yet, the solution to the crisis was always relatively obvious: a federalized system that would allow the ethnic Russians in the east a measure of self-governance and permit Ukraine to have cordial economic relations with both the EU and Russia.
But replacement President Petro Poroshenko – elected when a secession fight was already underway in the east – refused to negotiate with the ethnic Russian rebels who had rejected the ouster of Yanukovych. Sensing enough political support inside the U.S. government, Poroshenko opted for a military solution.
It was in that context of a massive Ukrainian government assault on the east that Russia stepped up its military assistance to the beleaguered rebels, including the apparent provision of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to fend off Kiev’s air superiority. The rebels did succeed in shooting down some Ukrainian warplanes flying at altitudes far below the 33,000 feet of the Malaysia Airlines plane.
For a plane at that height to be shot down required a more powerful system, like the Buk anti-aircraft batteries or an air-to-air missile fired by a fighter jet. Which brings us to the mystery of what happened on the afternoon of July 17 and why it is so important to let a serious investigation evaluate all the available evidence and not to have a rush to judgment.
But the idea of doing an investigation first and drawing conclusions second is a concept that, apparently, neither the U.S. government nor the New York Times accepts. They would prefer to start with the conclusion and then make a serious investigation irrelevant, one more casualty of information warfare.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Following are a few short questions for the New York Times in regard to a recent news report:
1. When are you going to cover the killing of Palestinians the same way you cover the killing of Israelis?
Israel’s killing of at least 8 civilians in one day was relegated to the second half of the story and not mentioned in the headline.
The murder of a father of three children, a staff member for Defense for Children International, got two sentences in the 17th paragraph. Israeli forces’ killing of a 17-year-old got one sentence in the 25th paragraph. The killing of a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old got a half sentence – between them – in the 27th paragraph.
2. When are you going to stop calling Palestinians who are fighting to protect their homeland “militants” and start calling them resistance fighters?
3. When are you going to stop framing this as “Israel against Hamas” rather than Israel against Gazans? Or Israel against Palestinians?
The vast majority of the over 800 people Israeli forces have killed in the last 19 days are civilians, many of them children. The vast majority of the over 5,000 injured are civilians, many of them children. Israel is, once again, destroying large amounts of civilian infrastructure: hospitals, schools, roads, family homes, etc.
4. When are you going to include crucial context on the American connection – that hard-pressed American taxpayers give Israel $8.5 million per day?
When are you going to mention that we have given tiny Israel far more of our tax money than to any other country – In total, over $233.7 billion (corrected for inflation). Currently, on average, 7,000 times more per capita than to others around the world.
5. When are you going to tell your readers that senior “objective” reporter Isabel Kershner was a British citizen who went to Israel to become an Israeli citizen? When are you going to divulge her family ties to the Israeli military?
6. When are you going to include the true context of the violence:
- Gaza is basically an open-air prison that Israel has been starving for over seven years (an Israeli official called it putting Palestinians “on a diet“),
- Rockets from Gaza began in April 2001 AFTER Israeli invasions and shelling of Gaza, that the vast majority of these rockets are small, home-made projects that cause no damage (and that this was the case long before the Iron Dome system was deployed),
- During the entire time the rockets have been used they have killed a total of approximately 30 Israelis, while during this same period Israeli forces have killed over 4,700 Gazans?
- The Jewish state was created through a war of ethnic cleansing, and that the allegedly “only democracy in the Middle East” has no constitution and has never declared its borders,
- Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are living on approximately 15 percent of their original land.
7. When are you going to give readers the facts without Israeli spin?
Alison Weir is president of the Council for the National Interest, executive director of If Americans Knew, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: How the US was used to create Israel.
Despite doubts within the U.S. intelligence community, the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media are charging off toward another rush to judgment blaming Ukrainian rebels and the Russian government for the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines plane, much as occurred last summer regarding a still-mysterious sarin gas attack in Syria.
In both cases, rather than let independent investigators sort out the facts, President Barack Obama’s ever-aggressive State Department and the major U.S. media simply accepted that the designated villains of those two crises – Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine – were the guilty parties. Yet, some U.S. intelligence analysts dissented from both snap conventional wisdoms.
Regarding the shoot-down of the Malaysian jetliner on Thursday, I’m told that some CIA analysts cite U.S. satellite reconnaissance photos suggesting that the anti-aircraft missile that brought down Flight 17 was fired by Ukrainian troops from a government battery, not by ethnic Russian rebels who have been resisting the regime in Kiev since elected President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown on Feb. 22.
According to a source briefed on the tentative findings, the soldiers manning the battery appeared to be wearing Ukrainian uniforms and may have been drinking, since what looked like beer bottles were scattered around the site. But the source added that the information was still incomplete and the analysts did not rule out the possibility of rebel responsibility.
A contrary emphasis has been given to the Washington Post and other mainstream U.S. outlets. On Saturday, the Post reported that “on Friday, U.S. officials said a preliminary intelligence assessment indicated the airliner was blown up by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by the separatists.” But the objectivity of the Obama administration, which has staunchly supported the coup regime, is in question as are the precise reasons for its judgments.
Even before the Feb. 22 coup, senior administration officials, including Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, were openly encouraging protesters seeking the overthrow of Yanukovych. Nuland went so far as to pass out cookies to the demonstrators and discuss with Pyatt who should be appointed once Yanukovych was removed.
After Yanukovych and his officials were forced to flee in the face of mass protests and violent attacks by neo-Nazi militias, the State Department was quick to declare the new government “legitimate” and welcomed Nuland’s favorite, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as the new prime minister.
As events have unfolded since then, including Crimea’s secession to join Russia and bloody attacks directed at ethnic Russians in Odessa and elsewhere, the Obama administration has consistently taken the side of the Kiev regime and bashed Moscow.
And, since Thursday, when the Malaysian plane was shot down killing 298 people, the Ukrainian government and the Obama administration have pointed the finger of blame at the rebels and the Russian government, albeit without the benefit of a serious investigation that is only now beginning.
One of the administration’s points has been that the Buk anti-aircraft missile system, which was apparently used to shoot down the plane, was “Russian made.” But the point is rather silly since nearly all Ukrainian military weaponry is “Russian made.” Ukraine, after all, was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and has continued to use mostly Russian military equipment.
It’s also not clear how the U.S. government ascertained that the missile was an SA-11 as opposed to other versions of the Buk missile system.
Slanting the Case
Virtually everything that U.S. officials have said appears designed to tilt suspicions toward the Russians and the rebels – and away from government forces. Referring ominously to the sophistication of the SA-11, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power declared, “We cannot rule out Russian technical assistance.” But that phrasing supposedly means that the administration can’t rule it in either.
Still, in reading between the lines of the mainstream U.S. press accounts, it’s possible to see where some of the gaps are regarding the supposed Russian hand in Thursday’s tragedy. For instance, the Post’s Craig Whitlock reported that Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said last month that “We have not seen any of the [Russian] air-defense vehicles across the border yet.”
Since these Buk missile systems are large and must be transported on trucks, it would be difficult to conceal their presence from U.S. aerial surveillance which has been concentrating intensely on the Ukraine-Russia border in recent months.
The Post also reported that “Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said defense officials could not point to specific evidence that an SA-11 surface-to-air missile system had been transported from Russia into eastern Ukraine.”
In other words, the mystery is still not solved. It may be that the rebels – facing heavy bombardment from the Ukrainian air force – convinced the Russians to provide more advanced anti-aircraft weapons than the shoulder-fired missiles that the rebels have used to bring down some Ukrainian military planes.
It’s possible, too, that a rebel detachment mistook the civilian airliner for a military plane or even that someone in the Russian military launched the fateful rocket at the plane heading toward Russian airspace.
But both the Russian government and the rebels dispute those scenarios. The rebels say they don’t have missiles that can reach the 33,000-foot altitude of the Malaysian airliner. Besides denying a hand in the tragedy, the Russians claim that the Ukrainian military did have Buk anti-aircraft systems in eastern Ukraine and that the radar of one battery was active on the day of the crash.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that “The Russian equipment detected throughout July 17 the activity of a Kupol radar, deployed as part of a Buk-M1 battery near Styla [a village some 30 kilometers south of Donetsk],” according to an RT report.
So, the other alternative remains in play, that a Ukrainian military unit – possibly a poorly supervised bunch – fired the missile intentionally or by accident. Why the Ukrainian military would intentionally have aimed at a plane flying eastward toward Russia is hard to comprehend, however.
A Propaganda Replay?
But perhaps the larger point is that both the Obama administration and the U.S. press corps should stop this pattern of rushing to judgments. It’s as if they’re obsessed with waging “information warfare” – i.e., justifying hostilities toward some adversarial nation – rather than responsibly informing the American people.
We saw this phenomenon in 2002-03 as nearly the entire Washington press corps clambered onboard President George W. Bush’s propaganda bandwagon into an aggressive war against Iraq. That pattern almost repeated itself last summer when a similar rush to judgment occurred around a sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, on Aug. 21.
Though the evidence was murky, there was a stampede to assume that the Assad government was behind the attack. While blaming the Syrian army, the U.S. press ignored the possibility that the attack was a provocation committed by radical jihadist rebels who were hoping that U.S. air power could turn the tide of the war in their favor.
Rather than carefully weigh the complex evidence, the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry tried to spur President Obama into a quick decision to bomb Syrian government targets. Kerry delivered a belligerent speech on Aug. 30 and the administration released what it called a “Government Assessment” supposedly proving the case.
But this four-page white paper contained no verifiable evidence supporting its accusations and it soon became clear that the report had excluded dissents that some U.S. intelligence analysts would have attached to a more formal paper prepared by the intelligence community.
Despite the war hysteria then gripping Official Washington, President Obama rejected war at the last moment and – with the help of Russian President Putin – was able to negotiate a resolution of the crisis in which Assad surrendered Syria’s chemical weapons while still denying a hand in the sarin gas attack.
The mainstream U.S. press, especially the New York Times, and some non-governmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, continued pushing the theme of the Syrian government’s guilt. HRW and the Times teamed up for a major story that purported to show the flight paths of two sarin-laden missiles vectoring back to a Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away.
For a time, this report was treated as the slam-dunk evidence proving the case against Assad, until it turned out that only one of the rockets carried sarin and the maximum range of the one that did have sarin was only about two kilometers.
Despite knowing these weaknesses in the case, President Obama stood by his State Department hawks by reading a speech to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24 in which he declared: “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”
In watching Obama’s address, I was struck by how casually he lied. He knew better than almost anyone that some of his senior intelligence analysts were among those doubting the Syrian government’s guilt. Yet, he suggested that anyone who wasn’t onboard the propaganda train was crazy.
Since then, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed other evidence indicating that the sarin attack may indeed have been a rebel provocation meant to push Obama over the “red line” that he had drawn about not tolerating chemical weapons use.
Now, we are seeing a repeat performance in which Obama understands the doubts about the identity of who fired the missile that brought down the Malaysian airliner but is pushing the suspicions in a way designed to whip up animosity toward Russia and President Putin.
Obama may think this is a smart play because he can posture as tough when many of his political enemies portray him as weak. He also buys himself some P.R. protection in case it turns out that the ethnic Russian rebels and/or the Russian military do share the blame for the tragedy. He can claim to have been out front in making the accusations.
But there is a dangerous downside to creating a public hysteria about nuclear-armed Russia. As we have seen already in Ukraine, events can spiral out of control in unpredictable ways.
Assistant Secretary Nuland and other State Department hawks probably thought they were building their careers when they encouraged the Feb. 22 coup – and they may well be right about advancing their status in Official Washington at least. But they also thawed out long-frozen animosities between the “ethnically pure” Ukrainians in the west and the ethnic Russians in the east.
Those tensions – many dating back to World War II and before – have now become searing hatreds with hundreds of dead on both sides. The nasty, little Ukrainian civil war also made Thursday’s horror possible.
But even greater calamities could lie ahead if the State Department’s “anti-diplomats” succeed in reigniting the Cold War. The crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 should be a warning about the dangers of international brinkmanship.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Remember the appalling New York Times headline of July 10 over a story about a family of nine Palestinians killed by an Israeli strike as they watched the World Cup on the beach: “Missile at beachside Gaza cafe finds patrons poised for World Cup.” Could you imagine a more obfuscatory and misleading headline? Like the missile made the decision about where to strike on its own. I thought that was about as low as the NYT would sink.
But I was wrong. They have come up with an even more dissembling headline, one clearly crafted to avoid highlighting the embarrassing fact that Israel slaughtered four boys yesterday who were playing football in clear view on the beach.
The first subeditor does a reasonable job: “Four young boys killed playing on a Gaza beach”. It’s not exactly clear who did the killing, but at least it gives an idea of the story.
But then, it seems, the senior editors stepped in and demanded the headline be rewritten. Not to make the headline better or clearer, mind you. Simply to strip it of any relevance to the story; in fact, to strip it of any obvious meaning at all. Here it is: “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.”
No missile strike, no blast, no deaths and injuries, no Israeli responsibility to be found in the headline. All of it whitewashed by that weasel word “strife”.
And look at the enormous burden being placed on the verb “drawn”. It leaves the reader wondering not why Israel targeted four children but why they were “drawn” to the beach in the first place. And further, why they were drawn – rather than thrust by Israel – into the “center of strife”. The clear implication is that they were pawns, lured to the beach and exploited for some nefarious end. Who could have done such luring and to what purpose?
The NYT editors are world-class wordsmiths. They understand the power of words and they are experts at using them to achieve the desired effect. There is nothing accidental about this headline. It is as precisely targeted as the Israeli missile that ended those four young boys’ lives.
She didn’t quite put it in those words, but it’s essentially what she’s saying: that the U.S. government would contact the New York Times and tell them that publishing this, that or the other story would ‘help the terrorists’. And that the New York Times would take those threats seriously and bring the story to a halt (even if they did eventually work out that the U.S. government’s intentions may not always have been entirely honourable).
Here’s a quote from an interview Abramson recently gave to Cosmopolitan :
‘Sometimes the CIA or the director of national intelligence or the NSA or the White House will call about a story . . . You hit the brakes, you hear the arguments, and it’s always a balancing act: the importance of the information to the public versus the claim of harming national security . . . Over time, the government too reflexively said to the Times, ‘you’re going to have blood on your hands if you publish X’ and because of the frequency of that, the government lost a little credibility . . . But you do listen and seriously worry . . . Editors are Americans too . . . We don’t want to help terrorists’.
Interesting, as well, that Abramson seems to be suggesting that being ‘against terrorists’ – or at least, people who the U.S. government claim are terrorists – is somehow an inherent part of being an American, like it’s a national religion or something.
Which for the political and media classes, I suppose it is – except when it comes to the terrorism of the U.S. government and its allies, in which case being ‘against terrorism’ is blasphemous.
A principal way that the New York Times and other leading U.S. news outlets engage in propaganda is by selecting which facts to include in a story and which ones to exclude, a process exemplified by a Times article on an interview in which the head of NATO excoriates Russia over Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused Russia of playing a “double game,” warned the West not to be fooled by the peaceful overtures of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and declared, “There’s no doubt that Russia is heavily engaged in destabilizing eastern Ukraine, and they continue their activities.”
However, since Rasmussen provided no evidence, his credibility would seem to be central to this story. And, on Wednesday, correspondents Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon provided some background about Rasmussen, noting that he served as prime minister of Denmark before getting the NATO gig in 2009.
But what is excluded from the Times’ story is what the readers would need to evaluate Rasmussen’s honesty as well as his own ability to weigh evidence. Not mentioned by Landler and Gordon was the fact that this is the same Anders Fogh Rasmussen who swallowed President George W. Bush’s bogus case for invading Iraq hook, line and sinker.
Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, Rasmussen famously declared that “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think; it is something we know. Iraq has itself admitted that it has had mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, but Saddam won’t disclose. He won’t tell us where and how these weapons have been destroyed. We know this from the UN inspectors, so there is no doubt in my mind.”
Of course, pretty much everything that Rasmussen declared was wrong, but it succeeded in tricking the Danish parliament into voting to join Bush’s “coalition of the willing” to invade Iraq. Yet, while Rasmussen was rewarded for his cooperation and his duplicity with the NATO job, a Danish intelligence analyst Frank S. Grevil was imprisoned for four months for disclosing documents that exposed Rasmussen’s deception.
While such an arrangement might now seem normal for Americans who have gotten use to prosecutions of truth-tellers who expose war crimes and immunity for liars who start unnecessary wars, Rasmussen’s falsehoods on Iraq – and his role in that criminal invasion – are facts that should have been provided to the Times’ readers as they judge whether to believe his current allegations about Russia and Ukraine.
But Landler and Gordon saw fit to protect the Fogh machine by leaving out his unpleasant history, all the better to sell the preferred narrative blaming the entire Ukraine crisis on Russia and Putin. [For more on the New York Times' journalistic malfeasance, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Will Ukraine Be NYT’s Waterloo?”]
Checkered Journalistic Careers
Michael Gordon’s bias in favor of U.S./NATO propaganda also has a long history. He co-wrote, with Judith Miller, the infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, relying on U.S. intelligence sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of “mushroom clouds” if they didn’t support Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The timing played perfectly into the administration’s advertising “rollout” for the Iraq War.
The story turned out to be false and to have unfairly downplayed skeptics of the nuclear-centrifuge scenario. The aluminum tubes actually were meant for artillery. But the article provided a great impetus toward the Iraq War, which ended up killing nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Gordon’s co-author, Judith Miller, became the only U.S. journalist known to have lost a job over the reckless and shoddy reporting that contributed to the Iraq disaster. For his part, Gordon continued serving as a respected Pentagon correspondent.
Gordon’s name also showed up in a supporting role on the Times’ botched “vector analysis” story of Sept. 17, 2013, which nearly helped get the United States into another Mideast war, with Syria. That story traced the flight paths of two rockets, recovered in suburbs of Damascus after the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack, back to a Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away.
The article became the “slam-dunk” evidence that the Syrian government was lying when it denied launching the sarin attack that killed several hundred people. However, like the aluminum tube story, the Times’ ”vector analysis” ignored contrary evidence, such as the unreliability of one azimuth from a rocket that landed in Moadamiya because it had struck a building in its descent. That rocket also was found to contain no sarin, so it’s inclusion in the vectoring of two sarin-laden rockets made no sense.
But the Times’ story ultimately fell apart when rocket scientists analyzed the one sarin-laden rocket that had landed in the Zamalka area and determined that it had a maximum range of about two kilometers, meaning that it could not have originated from the Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away. C.J. Chivers, one of the co-authors of the article, waited until Dec. 28, 2013, to publish a halfhearted semi-retraction. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis.”]
Last April, Gordon was involved in another journalistic fiasco when he and two other correspondents fell for some grainy photographs peddled by the U.S. State Department to supposedly prove that Russian military personnel — who had been “clearly” photographed in Russia — turned up fighting in Ukraine.
However, two days later, the Times was forced to retract the story when it was discovered that a key photo that was supposedly taken in Russia was actually snapped in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the article. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]
Taking the Israeli Line
Landler, the Times’ White House correspondent, has been another propaganda specialist when it comes to framing foreign confrontations in ways favorable to the U.S. government and its allies. For instance, on March 5, 2012, he appeared on MSNBC and offered this account of 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 would perceive as an “existential threat.” But Landler’s statement simply wasn’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.
For instance, in February 2012, 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 with its hypothetical nuclear weapons 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.
So, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Times would spare its readers the relevant background on NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s credibility because otherwise the supposed “newspaper of record” might also be expected to explain why it continues to entrust sensitive stories to journalists who have a history of slanting information in ways that may advance their careers but misleads the public.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Israelis, not Palestinians, Excel at Vengeance
Shock and anger have engulfed Israeli and Palestinian societies since they learned last week of the barbarous murder of children from their communities. Hours after three Israeli teenagers’ bodies were located, long after their abduction, a Palestinian youth, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped, beaten and burned to death, apparently as revenge.
These horrifying events should serve as a lesson in the obscene futility of vengeance. As a relative of one of the murdered children observed: “There is no difference between blood and blood.”
Sadly, that was not the message implicit in much of last week’s coverage. On social media, a juxtaposition of pictures from the same day’s New York Times showed how easy it is to forget not only that our blood is the same but that grief is too.
A headline about Israelis’ “heartbreak” was illustrated movingly by the families of the three Israeli teenagers huddled together, overwhelmed by their loss. A report on the killing of 16-year-old Abu Khdeir, on the other hand, was accompanied by an image of masked youths throwing stones.
These contrasting depictions of mourning were entirely misleading. True, Palestinian youngsters have been violently protesting in Jerusalem and communities in Israel since Abu Khdeir was buried. But so have groups of Israeli Jews. They have rampaged through Jerusalem and parts of Israel, calling out “Death to the Arabs” and attacking anyone who looks Palestinian.
Nonetheless, Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, a US Jewish organisation that claims to fight bigotry, was peddling an equally divisive message. In the Huffington Post he wrote of a Palestinian “culture of hatred”.
According to Foxman, Palestinian and Israeli societies are fundamentally different. Palestinian discontent is “fanned and incited into hatred by a widespread, unfettered support for violence against Jews and Israel”.
He was echoing a sentiment common in Israel, and famously voiced in the late 1960s by the then prime minister, Golda Meir. She suggested that even harder than forgiving the Arab enemy for killing Israel’s sons would be “to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons”.
In a bout of similar self-righteousness, many Israelis berate Palestinian parents for putting their children in danger’s way by allowing them to throw stones at Israeli security forces. The implication is that Palestinians – as a result of either culture or religion – value life less than Israelis.
Strangely, Israelis rarely question the implication of the decision taken by one in 10 of their number to live in illegal colonies on stolen Palestinian land. The settlers choose to put themselves and their children on the front lines too, even though they have far more choices than Palestinians about where to live.
In fact, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can claim to be above a culture of hate. As long as Israel’s belligerent occupation continues, their lives together in one small patch of the Middle East will continue to be predicated on bouts of violent confrontation.
But that does not mean Israeli and Palestinian culpability is equal. The reality is that Israelis, unlike Palestinians, have a sovereign state that represents them and protects them with a strong army.
Last week, the Israeli army announced that it had arrested several soldiers who posted online photographs of themselves vowing revenge against “Arabs” – part of a flood of calls for vengeance on ¬Hebrew social media. The arrests played well with Israel’s image as a country that enforces the rule of law, but they concealed deeper truths.
The first is that the Israelis thirsting for reprisals are simply echoing their politicians and religious leaders whose statements for vengeance surpassed even the ugly grandstanding of Hamas, which had praised the Israeli teenagers’ abduction.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the way, citing a famous line of Hebrew poetry: “The devil himself has not yet created vengeance for the blood of a small child.” His economics minister, Naftali Bennett, urged Israel to “go mad”, while a former legislator vowed that Israel would turn Ramadan into a “month of darkness”. An influential and supposedly moderate rabbi hoped for “an army of avengers”.
Last week, left wing Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv to castigate the Netanyahu government for “incitement to violence”. But even this underestimated the problem.
Israeli leaders’ threats are not simply stoking an ugly mood on the street. The huge muscle of the Israeli security apparatus is flexing at their behest too. That was given graphic illustration in video footage of armed police in Jerusalem relentlessly kicking and punching a child – a 15-year-old American relative of Abu Khdeir – as he lay cuffed and helpless on the ground.
The cabinet is plotting a more subtle revenge. It plans to build new settlements – violence against Palestinian life on the little slivers of territory left to them – specifically to honour the three teenagers. Guarded by the army, settlers have already set up a new encampment in the West Bank.
The army, meanwhile, launched a series of strikes on Gaza, culminating in a new large-scale attack dubbed Operation Protective Edge. It has also revived a policy of demolishing the homes of relatives of Palestinian terror suspects. Backed by the courts, soldiers blew up the family homes of two men it accused of being behind the teenagers’ abduction.
As Human Rights Watch warned, Israel’s recent actions – mass arrests; armed raids; the killing of Palestinians, including minors; lockdowns of cities, house demolitions; and air strikes – amounted to “collective punishment”, international law’s euphemism for revenge, against Palestinians.
In the face of the enduring violence of Israel’s occupation, and the licence it provides soldiers to humiliate and oppress, ordinary Palestinians have a stark choice: to submit or resist. Ordinary Israelis, on the other hand, do not need to seek revenge on their own account. The Israeli state, military and courts are there every day doing it for them.
The New York Times, in its never-ending fawning over Apartheid Israel, published recently what is obviously meant to be a heart-rending story of a Jewish woman whose son was killed during the intifada of 2001. The article talks about Sherri Mandall, an American living in settlements that the world condemns as illegal. She, herself, is also part of a serious violation of international law that states that an occupying power must not move residents onto occupied land.
The article discusses the ‘murder’ of her son, and her ‘noble’ efforts to assist others who have lost loved ones.
This writer searched the New York Times archives in vain to find an article that interviewed a Palestinian mother whose young son had been killed by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists. Was The Times unable to find such an individual? In the last 14 years, while 129 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians, at least 1,530 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis. Surely, one or two mothers could have been located from among that number. Perhaps the mother of Nadim Nawara, 17, unarmed and shot in the back by IDF soldiers, a crime captured by a video camera and shown around the world, might be interested in telling her story. Surely The Times could extract some human pathos from such an interview.
Or perhaps The Times is only interested in interviewing U.S. citizens (Mrs. Mandall holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship). This writer also searched the archives for an interview with Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, a U.S. citizen who was crushed to death by a bulldozer in Gaza, as she was attempting to stop an illegal home demolition. Unfortunately, he was not successful in finding such an interview.
Could it be that The New York Times, once undeservedly revered for publishing ‘all the news that’s fit to print’, somewhere along the line decided to print just what it determines is news?
The recent disappearance of three Israeli teenagers, living illegally in the West Bank, has garnered extensive coverage in The Times. However, the kidnapping of hundreds of Palestinian youths each year, some of them pre-teens, by the IDF, usually does not warrant so much as a mention by the paper. The cold-blooded murder of Nadim Nawara, in May of this year, did receive an unprecedented three articles over a period of a week. But there has been no mention of Mr. Nawara since the end of May. This writer would imagine that his mother may be available for comment.
It is difficult to see this happening, this lack of reporting, without the ugly word ‘racism’ coming to mind. Is the grief of an Israeli mother somehow, in the opinion of The New York Times, more poignant or searing than that of a Palestinian mother? If that is not the opinion of The Times, then what would be the reason for highlighting one while ignoring the other?
Information about home-made bottle rockets being shot into Israel from the Gaza Strip also seems to be considered newsworthy by The Times. But what of the carpet bombing of Gaza, with sophisticated weaponry, including chemical weapons, provided by the United States? If the use of chemical weapons in Syria is so serious, shouldn’t the same standard apply to their usage in Palestine? Or is anything acceptable as long as it’s done by Israel?
Journalism is, by nature, expected to be unbiased. News is reported simply because it is newsworthy. The disappearance of hundreds of Palestinian children each year, often violently taken from their beds in the middle of the night by IDF terrorists, is news. Proportionally, it is more newsworthy than the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers, simply because the numbers kidnapped are so much greater.
This racism is reflected in journalistic circles throughout the United States. The ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ describes the disproportionate amount of news coverage given to upper-middle-class white women who disappear, over minority women who disappear. About half of people, including men, women and children, who are reported missing in the U.S. each year are white, and they receive about 80% of the media coverage of missing persons.
So The New York Times, a rag inexplicably popular with the left, is only following the long-standing national trend: report in depth on the sufferings of whites, but let minorities fend for themselves.
One might ask how Israel fits into all this. Why are the children of settlers, living in communities that the world has condemned as illegal, so very precious, while the children of the oppressed Palestinians are somehow expendable? Why does this mindset seem also to permeate the hallowed halls of Congress, and the White House?
There seems to be a perverse symbiotic relationship at work: the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) purchases members of Congress, who then toe the Israeli line. The New York Times, wanting nearly unlimited access to the corridors of power in the U.S., report what those power-holders say, and want reported. And the only thing to get lost in all this is truth.
Since this writer began this article, news that the bodies of the three missing teenagers have been found has been reported. One feels sorrow and compassion for their survivors, but no more so than one feels for the surviving loved ones of Nadim Nawara and the countless other Palestinians murdered in cold-blood by Israel. Palestinian victims are living in their homelands; the three Israeli teenagers were part of an occupying population, living where they were in violation of international law. This does not alter the sorrow of the families, but there is certainly some risk in living in a settlement as part of a brutal occupation.
How will The Times report on this new development, and Israel’s horrifically brutal response? Will the three Israeli victims be honored, while the countless Palestinian victims are ignored and forgotten? Will the anticipated carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip, and the further crack down in the West Bank, be reported as reasonable responses to the deaths? And will any Palestinian resistance to this unspeakable brutality be ascribed as the work of terrorists?
The Israeli public relations machine, so effective with the U.S. press and political establishment, will shift into high gear, to ensure support for whatever oppressive cruelty, and whatever extreme and shocking violation of human rights, Israel decides to perpetrate. And The New York Times will follow Israel’s game plan to the letter.
Perhaps this will finally motivate that stooge of Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to petition the International Criminal Court for redress. Were he not a puppet of Israel he would have done so long ago, but perhaps even for him there is a tipping point. If the expected brutal barrage that Israel is now expected to unleash on Palestine isn’t enough incentive for him to act, nothing will be. The sooner Palestinian elections are held, and the sooner he can be removed from office, the better it will be for all Palestinians.
But regardless of the actions of the weak, corrupt Mr. Abbas, The New York Times will continue to report on Israel’s ‘victimhood’ and Palestinian ‘terrorism’, once again demonstrating that in the world of U.S. journalism, black is white and white is black. One looks in vain for any real, fact-filled, investigative reporting from The Times.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
It is enlightening to see how pugnacious the U.S. establishment, led by the Peace Laureate, has been in dealing with the Ukraine crisis. The crisis arguably began when the Yanukovich government rejected an EU bailout program in favor of one offered by Russia. The mainstream media (MSM) have virtually suppressed the fact that the EU proposal was not only less generous than the one offered by Russia, but that whereas the Russian plan did not preclude further Ukrainian deals with the EU the EU plan would have required a cut-off of further Russian arrangements. And whereas the Russian deal had no military clauses, that of the EU required that Ukraine affiliate with NATO. Insofar as the MSM dealt with this set of offers they not only suppressed the exclusionary and militarized character of the EU offer, they tended to view the Russian deal as an improper use of economic leverage, “bludgeoning,” but the EU proposal was “constructive and reasonable” (Ed., NYT, Nov. 20, 2014). Double standards seem to be fully internalized within the U.S. establishment.
The protests that ensued in Ukraine were surely based in part on real grievances against a corrupt government, but they were also pushed along by rightwing groups and by U.S. and allied encouragement and support that increasingly had an anti-Russian and pro-accelerated-regime-change flavor. They also increased in level of violence. The sniper killings of police and protesters in Maidan on February 21, 2014 brought the crisis to a new head. This violence overlapped with and eventually terminated a negotiated settlement of the struggle brokered by EU members that would have ended the violence, created an interim government and required elections by December. The accelerated violence ended this transitional plan, which was replaced by a coup takeover, along with the forced flight of Victor Yanukovich.
There is credible evidence that the sniper shootings of both protesters and police were carried out by a segment of the protesters in a false-flag operation that worked exceedingly well, “government” violence serving as one ground for the ouster of Yanukovich. Most telling was the intercepted phone message between Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Upton in which Paet regretfully reported compelling evidence that the shots killing both police and protesters came from a segment of the protesters. This account was almost entirely suppressed in the MSM; for example, the New York Times never mentioned it once through the following two months. It is also enlightening that the protesters at Maidan were never called “militants” in the MSM, although a major and effective segment was armed and violent—that term was reserved for protesters in Eastern Ukraine, who were commonly designated “pro-Russian” as well as militants.
There is also every reason to believe that the coup and establishment of a right wing and anti-Russian government were encouraged and actively supported by U.S. officials. Victoria Nuland’s intercepted “fuck the EU” words express her hostility to a group that, while generally compliant and subservient, departed from neocon plans for a proper government in Kiev headed by somebody like “Yats.” So she would surely have been pleased when the EU-supported February compromise plan was ended by the violence and coup. The U.S. support of the coup government has been enthusiastic and unqualified, and whereas Kerry and company delayed recognition of the elected government of Maduro in Venezuela, and have strongly urged him to dialogue and negotiate with the Venezuelan protesters—in fact, threatening him if he doesn’t — Kerry and company have not done the same in Ukraine where the Kiev government forces have slowly escalated their attacks on the Eastern Ukraine, but not on “protesters,” only on “militants!”
The Kiev government’s military is now using jets and helicopters to bomb targets in the East and heavy artillery and mortars in its ground operations. Its targets have included hospitals and schools, and as of June 8 civilian casualties have been in the hundreds. A dramatic massacre of 40 or more pro-Russian protesters in Odessa on May 2 by a well-organized cadre of neo-Nazi supporters, possibly agents of the Kiev government, was an early high point in this pacification campaign. No investigation of this slaughter has been mounted by the Kiev government or “international community” and it has not interfered in the slightest with Western support of Kiev. In parallel the MSM have treated it in very low key. (The New York Times buried this incident in a back page continuation of a story on “Deadly Clashes Erupt in Ukraine,” May 5, which succeeds in covering up the affiliation of the killers.) Kerry has been silent, though we may imagine his certain frenzy if Maduro’s agents had carried out a similar action in Venezuela. Recall the “Racak massacre,” where the deaths of 40 alleged victims of the Serb military created an international frenzy; but in that case the United States needed a casus belli, whereas in the Odessa case there is a pacification war already in process by a U.S. client, so MSM silence is in order.
It is an interesting feature of media coverage of the Ukraine crisis that there is a regular focus on alleged or possible Russian aid, control of and participation in the actions of the protesters/militants/insurgents in Eastern Ukraine. This was evident in the Times’s gullible acceptance of a claim that photos of insurgents included a Russian pictured in Russia, later acknowledged to be problematic (Andrew Higgins, Michael Gordon and Andrew Kramer, “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia,” NYT, April 20, 2014); and in another lead article which was almost entirely speculation (Sabrina Tavernise, “In Ukraine Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints,” NYT, June 1, 2014.). But this interest in foreign intrusion in Ukraine affairs, with the implication of wrong-doing, does not extend to evidence of U.S. and other NATO power aid and control. Visits by Biden, Cain, Nuland and intelligence and Pentagon figures are sometimes mentioned, but the scope and character of aid and advice, of U.S. “fingerprints,” is not discussed and seems to be of little interest. It is, in fact, normalized, so that as with the aid plans in which Russian proposals are “bludgeons” but U.S.-EU plans are “constructive and reasonable” the double standard is in good working order here as well.
Isn’t there a danger that Russia will enter this war on behalf of the pro-Russian majority of the eastern part of Ukraine now under assault? Possibly, but not likely, as Putin is well aware that the Obama-neocon-military-industrial complex crowd would welcome this and would use it, at minimum, as a means of further dividing Russia from the EU powers, further militarizing U.S. clients and allies, and firming up the MIC’s command of the U.S. national budget. Certainly there are important forces in this country that would love to see a war with Russia, and it is notable how common are political comments, criticisms and regrets at Obama’s weak response to Russian “aggression” (e.g., David Sanger, “Obama Policy Is put to Test: Global Crises Challenge a Strategy of Caution,” NYT, March 17, 2014). But so far Putin refuses to bite.
In response to this pressure from the powerful war-loving and war-making U.S. constituencies, Obama has been furiously denouncing Russia and has hastened to exclude it from the G-8, impose sanctions and penalties on the villain state, increase U.S. troops and press military aid on the near-Russia states allegedly terrified at the Russian threat, carry out training exercises and maneuvers with these allies and clients, assure them of the sacredness of our commitment to their security, and press these states and major allies to increase their military budgets. One thing he hasn’t done is to restrain his Kiev client in dealing with the insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Another is engaging Putin in an attempt at a settlement. Putin has stressed the importance of a constitutional formation of a Ukraine federation in which a still intact Ukraine would allow significant autonomy to the Eastern provinces. There was a Geneva meeting and joint statement on April 17 in which all sides pledged a de-escalation effort, disarming irregulars, and constitutional reform. But it was weak, without enforcement mechanisms, and had no effect. The most important requirement for de-escalation would be the termination of what is clearly a Kiev pacification program for Eastern Ukraine. That is not happening, because Obama doesn’t want it to happen. In fact, he takes the position that it is up to Russia to curb the separatists in East Ukraine, and he has gotten his G-7 puppies to agree to give Russia a deadline to do this, or face more severe penalties.
This situation calls to mind Gareth Porter’s analysis of the “perils of dominance,” where he argued that the Vietnam war occurred and became a very large one because U.S. officials thought that with their overwhelming military superiority North Vietnam and its allies in the south would surrender and accept U.S. terms—most importantly a U.S. controlled South Vietnam—as military escalation took place and a growing toll was imposed on the Vietnamese (see his Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam). It didn’t work. In the Ukraine context the United States once again has a militarily dominant position. On its own and through its NATO arm it has encircled Russia with satellites established in violation of the 1990 promise of James Baker and Hans-Dietrch Genscher to Mikhail Gorbachev to not move eastward “one inch,” and it has placed anti-missile weapons right on Russia’s borders. And now it has engineered a coup in Ukraine that empowered a government openly hostile to Russia and threatening both the well-being of Russian-speaking Ukrainians and the control of the major Russian naval base in Crimea. Putin’s action in reincorporating Crimea into Russia was an inevitable defensive reaction to a serious threat to Russian national security. But it may have surprised the Obama team, just as the Vietnamese refusal to accept surrender terms may have surprised the Johnson administration. Continuing to push the Vietnamese by escalation didn’t work, although it did kill and injure millions and ended the Vietnamese alternative way. Continuing and escalating actions against Russia in 2014 may involve a higher risk for the real aggressor and for the world, but there are real spinoff benefits to Lockheed and other members of the MIC.
It’s always interesting when the New York Times promotes a false narrative – as it has on Ukraine by blaming the crisis all on “Russian aggression” – and then has to shift its storyline when events move in a different direction, like President Vladimir Putin’s recent peacemaking initiatives.
On Thursday, the Times explained Putin’s call for an extended ceasefire as a case of him caving in to U.S. pressure. Correspondents Andrew Roth and David S. Herszenhorn wrote:
“Faced with the threat of additional economic sanctions from Washington, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia discussed an extension of the cease-fire, which is to expire on Friday, in a telephone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President François Hollande of France and Ukraine’s new president, Petro O. Poroshenko.”
The article then continued the tough-guy, ultimatum-threatening chest-pounding that has become de rigueur for the State Department and the mainstream U.S. news media. The Times article noted:
“The Obama administration has drawn up plans to escalate sanctions against Russia if it does not back the current peace plan by halting the flow of weapons and fighters across the Russian border. The sanctions could target some of Russia’s largest banks, or energy and defense firms.”
The Times also reported, without skepticism, the unverified allegations that the Russian government is supplying heavy weapons to the eastern Ukrainian separatists who rebelled after violent protests by western Ukrainians ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22.
The U.S. government has repeatedly made allegations about “Russian aggression” in eastern Ukraine but has failed to present any verifiable proof to support the claims. One State Department attempt, which involved getting the Times to run a lead article citing photos purportedly proving that Russian military personnel were operating in Ukraine, collapsed under scrutiny and was later retracted by the Times.
Nevertheless, the Times still conveys the State Department’s claims without noting the absence of evidence, itself evidence of the Times’ unstinting bias in its coverage of the Ukraine crisis. For instance, the Times reported:
“On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry began a news conference at NATO in Brussels by calling for Mr. Putin ‘to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across the border.’ Mr. Kerry said that the missile launcher that brought down the [Ukrainian military] helicopter on Tuesday was Russian-made and urged Mr. Putin to call for separatist forces to lay down their arms. A senior administration official said Friday that several tanks under rebel possession had come from Russia.”
Normally, when one party in a dispute makes an allegation and fails to provide meaningful evidence to support it, news organizations add something like: “However, the claim could not be independently verified” or the Times might have noted that “similar claims by the State Department in the past have proven to be false.”
But the Times simply can’t seem to deviate from its four-month display of an extraordinary lack of balance, which brings us back to the Times’ attempt to explain Putin’s peacemaking as a development that could only be explained as him caving in to U.S. pressure. [For more on the Times’ bias, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT’s One-Sided Ukraine Narrative.” For more on Herszenhorn’s bias, see “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass.”]
There is, of course, an alternative explanation for Putin’s recent behavior: that he never sought the Ukraine crisis and surely did not plan it; it resulted, in part, from U.S. and European provocations designed to put Putin in a corner in his own corner of the world; Putin reacted to this Western maneuver but was always willing to compromise as long as the end result was not a strategic threat to Russia.
I’m told that Putin, like many historic Russian leaders, has wanted to see Russia accepted as a member of the First World and took personal pride in helping President Barack Obama defuse crises in Syria and Iran last year. Arguably, it was Putin’s assistance on those crises that made him a target of Washington’s still influential neocons who had hoped instead for U.S. bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran.
By late September 2013 – on the heels of Obama rejecting plans to bomb Syria – leading neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, identified Ukraine as a key piece on the chessboard to checkmate Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
The Ukraine crisis really emerged from the European Union’s offer of an association agreement that President Yanukovych was initially inclined to accept. But it was accompanied by harsh austerity demands from the International Monetary Fund, which would have made the hard life for the average Ukrainian even harder.
Because of those IMF demands and a more generous $15 billion loan offer from Russia, Yanukovych backed away from the EU association, angering many western Ukrainians and creating an opening for U.S. neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain, to urge on protests to unseat Yanukovych.
In February, as the Ukraine crisis worsened, Putin was preoccupied with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but he went along with a compromise plan on Feb. 21 in which Yanukovych agreed to reduced powers and early elections (so he could be voted out of office) as well as to pull back the police. That opened the way for violent attacks by neo-Nazi militias who overran government buildings on Feb. 22 and forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.
With the U.S. State Department endorsing the coup as “legitimate,” a right-wing government quickly took shape under the leadership of Nuland’s hand-picked prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Four ministries were given to the neo-Nazis in appreciation of their key role in the coup, including the appointment of Andriy Parubiy as chief of national security.
The new regime immediately displayed hostility toward the ethnic Russians in the east and south, including sending wealthy “oligarchs” to serve as the new regional governors and dispatching neo-Nazi militias – reconstituted as the National Guard – to crackdown on dissent.
The regional government of Crimea, a longtime part of Russia and home of the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, organized a referendum to secede from Ukraine and to rejoin Russia, a move supported by Putin and aided by the thousands of Russian troops already in Crimea under a basing agreement with Ukraine.
Crimea’s secession was treated by the mainstream U.S. media as a Russian “invasion” and an act of “aggression,” though the reunification with Russia clearly had overwhelming support from the people of Crimea as expressed in the referendum and in opinion polls.
Still, across Official Washington, the narrative took hold that Putin had ginned up the Ukraine crisis so he could seize territory and begin to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. Right-wing and neocon pundits raised the specter of Putin attacking the Baltic states. The U.S. news media lost all perspective on the actual events in Ukraine.
The reality was that Putin was reacting to a Western provocation on his border, a coup d’etat to pry Ukraine away from its traditional relationship with its neighbor Russia and into the embrace of the European Union and NATO. Putin himself noted the threat to Russian national security if NATO’s nuclear-missile-bearing ships were berthed in Sevastopol.
From the beginning, Putin hoped to resolve this crisis through discussions with his erstwhile collaborator, Barack Obama, but – with the U.S. media in a frenzy demonizing Putin – Obama would not even come to the phone at first, I’m told. Afraid of being called “weak,” Obama followed the lead of the State Department’s hawks who were lusting for Cold War II.
Gradually, with Europe’s fragile economic recovery at risk if Russia’s natural gas supplies were disrupted, cooler heads began to prevail. Obama eventually took Putin’s phone calls and the two met face-to-face during the ceremonies around the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France. Putin also viewed chocolate manufacturer Petro Poroshenko as a reasonable choice to fill the slot of Ukraine’s new president.
Poroshenko and Putin found common ground in their desire to deescalate the crisis although neither leader has been able to fully control the hardliners, not Poroshenko in trying to rein in the Right Sektor which has taken a lead role in killing ethnic Russians in Odessa and other cities, nor Putin in convincing the separatists that they have a future in the post-coup Ukraine.
But Putin continues to signal support for Poroshenko’s stated intent to respect the rights of eastern Ukrainians by offering more self-rule and respecting their use of Russian as an official language. In a sign of good faith, Putin has even sought to rescind the permission from the Russian legislature to intervene militarily to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine.
However, these developments created a dilemma for the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream U.S. news media. If the Ukraine crisis had been just an excuse for Putin to seize territory and revive the “Russian empire,” why would he be so eager to work out a peaceful settlement? The opposite should be true. If the MSM had it right, Putin would be escalating the crisis.
So, we now have this new version: Yes, Putin precipitated the Ukraine crisis so he could conquer Eastern Europe. But he backed down because of tough talk from Official Washington (including on the MSM’s op-ed pages). In other words, the MSM had it right but tough-guy-ism and the threat of sanctions scared Putin into retreat.
That this analysis makes little sense – since it was the European Union that was most unnerved by the prospects of U.S.-driven sanctions disrupting Russia’s natural gas supplies and plunging the Continent into a recessionary relapse – was of little regard to the U.S. press corps. The new false narrative was simply a necessary way to cover for the old false narrative.
It could never be acknowledged that the New York Times and the other esteemed U.S. journals had gotten another major international story wrong, that another “group think” had led the MSM down another rabbit hole of mistakes and misunderstanding. Instead, all that was needed was some creative tinkering with the storyline.
The idea that the Great Depression was finally brought to an end by the onset of WWII has been a staple of history textbooks, documentaries and various war propaganda for decades. This myth continues to be perpetuated to the present day.
The idea that war is good for the economy is, needless to say, a fallacious argument which itself is based on incorrect economic data.
The idea that the economic activity surrounding militarization represents a net economic gain is called the “broken window fallacy.” This fallacy was named and identified by French economist Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen,” in which he imagines the case of a shopkeeper whose careless son breaks a pane of glass in his shop window. In Bastiat’s example, ‘that which is seen’ is that the glazier comes, performs the task of fixing the window, and receives six francs for his effort. Onlookers to the scene believe that the economy has actually been bolstered by this act of destruction, since six francs have been spent into it that otherwise would not have been.
But Bastiat notes that what is important is not what is seen, but what is not seen: “It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.”
Similarly, production for war is the broken window fallacy writ large. Economic “gains” produced by government spending on munitions and vehicle manufacture and supplying and equipping the troops are not gains at all; money has merely been diverted to the pockets of the defense contractors via the political cronies in their back pocket.
So why is this important? Because sadly, this myth is being played on by the warmongering class to once again push the idea that war is good and even necessary for economic progress. This time it is not just manufacture of supplies or munitions that are being touted, but war’s ability to justify government spending on investment. No matter how unlikely the threat, or whether it is indeed completely made up, this warped thinking holds that such lies and exaggerations are the answer to our current economic problems.
Sadly, it is not just intellectual deficients like making this case. In a new op-ed in the New York Times, Tyler Cowen of George Mason University argues that technological advances from nuclear research to rocketry to internet and robotics have all been spurred by defense spending, and thus war or threats of war are necessary to continue the advance of civilization.
Why these technologies are ends in themselves, or more valuable than the tens of millions of lives lost in the previous “great wars” is a question left unexamined. Perhaps more to the point, Cowen never addresses why such advances could not take place in the absence of war or without the motivation of advancing the methods of killing as their impetus.
What is most fundamentally upsetting about the mindset that justifies carnage in the name of “economic gain” is that economic gain is usually measured in abstract concepts like GDP growth or increasing equities markets that have no or even negative correlation with the livelihood of the poorest members of society. Income actually shrank by 0.7% for 99% of Americans during the supposed “recovery” of 2009-2011. For the top 1%, income grew 11.5%. This is the type of “help” that massive government spending on bank bailouts and other stimulus measures invariably creates. In times of war, the situation is even more perverse: money is created as debt owed to the banks, backed up by the average working taxpayer, to pay politically-connected defense contractors to create bombs to kill poor brown people on the other side of the planet. This is called economic progress.
Taken to its logical conclusion, there is only one more effective way of solving the problem of poverty. After all, if we are willing to believe the lie that sacrificing lives is good for the economy, why not go that one step further…