President Barack Obama is turning his back on possibly the last best chance to resolve the bloody Syrian war because he fears a backlash from Official Washington’s powerful coalition of neoconservatives and “liberal interventionists” along with their foreign fellow-travelers: Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf sheikdoms.
The route toward peace would be to collaborate with Russia and Iran to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to accept a power-sharing unity government that would fairly represent Syria’s major religious and ethnic groups – Christians, Alawites, Shiites and moderate Sunnis – along with a commitment for free, internationally monitored elections once adequate security is restored.
But for such an arrangement to work, Obama also would have to crack down aggressively on U.S. regional “allies” to ensure that they stopped funding, supplying and otherwise assisting the Sunni extremist forces including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State (or ISIS). Obama would have to confront the Sunni “allies” – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – as well as Israel.
His pressure would have to include stern action aimed at the global finances of the Gulf states – i.e., seizing their assets as punishment for their continuing support for terrorism – as well as similar sanctions against Turkey, possibly ousting it from NATO if it balked, and a withdrawal of political and financial support for Israel if it continued helping Nusra fighters and viewing Al Qaeda as the “lesser evil” in Syria. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Israel.”]
Obama also would have to make it clear to Syria’s “moderate” Sunni politicians whom the U.S. government has been subsidizing for the past several years that they must sit down with Assad’s representatives and work out a unity government or the American largess would end.
This combination of strong international pressure on the Sunni terror infrastructure and strong-arming internal players in Syria into a unity government could isolate the Sunni extremists from Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and thus minimize the need for military strikes whether carried out by Russia (against both Al Qaeda and ISIS) or the U.S. coalition (focusing on ISIS).
And, the arrival of Russian military support for the Assad government – as well as the increased backing from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah – represented the moment when the prospect for peace was brightest, whatever one thinks of those various players. However, instead of working with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, President Obama chose to bend to the pressures of Official Washington.
Appeasing the Warmongers
Thinking he had stretched the tolerance of neocons and liberal hawks as far as he could by pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama fell in line behind their propagandistic denunciations of Assad and Putin. Obama’s administration joined in promoting the new favorite “group think” of Washington – that Putin had promised to only bomb the Islamic State and then reneged by attacking “moderate” rebels and their more powerful ally, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Conveniently, this storyline doesn’t cite the wording of Putin’s supposed “promise” although some articles do mention him vowing to attack “terrorist” groups, which the mainstream U.S. news media has interpreted as the Islamic State only. But this odd framing accepts the breathtaking premise that Al Qaeda is no longer a terrorist organization – apparently rehabilitated by the fact that Israel has been helping Al Qaeda’s affiliate, the Nusra Front, along the Golan Heights and prefers it to Assad’s continued rule. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Should US Ally with Al Qaeda in Syria?”]
Among the many purveyors of this “Putin lied” narrative is Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who on Tuesday repeated the canard that Putin had “promised” to strike only the Islamic State and then broke that promise. For good measure, Cohen added that the Russians had “invaded” Syria although they were formally invited by the recognized government of Syria.
“Yes, the Russians did invade,” Cohen wrote. “They sent war planes, mechanized units and even troops into Syria. They have begun bombing missions, apparently hitting insurgents seeking to topple Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and not only, as Russian President Vladimir Putin promised, Islamic State units. Putin – surprise! – lied.”
Normally in journalism, before we accuse someone of lying, we show what they actually said and contrast it with the facts. But Official Washington has long since moved Putin into the free-fire zone of demonization. Anything can be said about him, whether based in reality or not, and anyone who objects to this “group think” is called a “Putin bootlicker” or a “Putin apologist.”
Thus, any reality-based skepticism is ruled out of the frame of debate. Such was the way that the United States plunged blindly into the Iraq War in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was the demonized figure and the Europeans who warned President George W. Bush not to invade were laughed at as “Euro-weenies.” American skeptics were “Saddam apologists.”
Cohen is back at it again in his Tuesday column, which – on the Internet – has the curious title “The High Cost of Avoiding War in Syria.” Cohen throws around the word “invasion” where Russia is involved – even when there was no “invasion” – but he advocates an actual U.S. invasion with cavalier hypocrisy.
Cohen slams Obama for not having established “a no-fly zone” in Syria earlier, which would have involved the United States bombing and destroying Syria’s air force, a clear act of aggression and an obvious boon to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Cohen also says he was for “arming the rebels,” another violation of international law which – when tried by Obama to appease the drumbeat from Cohen and his ilk – led to many U.S.-trained and U.S.-armed rebels taking their equipment and skills to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Yet, Cohen — on the prized opinion real estate of The Washington Post’s op-ed page and in his nationally syndicated column — unapologetically encourages an illegal invasion of another country while condemning Russia for doing the same except that Russia was following international law by working with the sovereign government of Syria and therefore has not “invaded” Syria.
We also are supposed to forget that Cohen’s ideas would benefit Sunni jihadists, such as the Al Qaeda-dominated “Army of Conquest” which could use the “no-fly zones” to mount a victorious offensive to capture Damascus and create a humanitarian crisis even worse than now.
Possibly with ISIS chopping off the heads of “infidels” – Christians, Alawites, Shiites, etc. – and with Al Qaeda having a new home in the center of the Middle East to plot terror strikes on the West, Cohen’s plan might necessitate a major U.S. military intervention that would get even more people killed and deal the final death blow to the American Republic.
In evaluating Cohen’s lame-brained double-think, it is worth remembering that he was one of the many U.S. opinion leaders who cheered on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deceptive Iraq War speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. Waving “we-love-Colin” pompoms alongside all his esteemed colleagues, Cohen laughed at anyone who still doubted that Saddam Hussein possessed hidden WMD stockpiles.
“The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations – some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail – had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them,” Cohen wrote. “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise.”
Ha-ha, did you get that clever line – “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman” – pretty funny except that by heaping ridicule on those of us who doubted Powell’s evidence, Cohen contributed to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than $1 trillion, and chaos now spreading across not just the Middle East but into Europe.
In a normal place where there was some modicum of accountability, you would have expected Cohen to be banished to Storage Room B with his red stapler or worse. But no, Cohen is back running with the same juvenile in-crowd, behaving just as stupidly and just as recklessly as he has many times in the past.
But the larger problem is that President Obama appears intimidated by this collection of know-it-alls who preen across the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times or who hold down prestigious “fellowships” at the Brookings Institution or other big-name think tanks or who self-identify as “human rights activists” advocating “humanitarian” wars.
Arguably, Obama has always had an outsized regard for people with establishment credentials. It is, after all, how he rose through the ranks as first an extremely bright academic and later a talented orator and politician. Without family connections or personal wealth, he needed the approval of various influential individuals. If he offended them in some way, he risked being pigeonholed as “an angry black man.”
Indeed, the comedy duo Key & Peele developed a series of funny skits with Jordan Peele playing the always proper and controlled Obama and Keegan-Michael Key as “anger translator Luther.” Obama even invited “Luther” to translate Obama’s speech to the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner, except that by the end of that talk Obama was expressing his own anger and Luther peeled away.
The problem in the real world is that Obama remains cowed by the Important People of Washington – represented in that oh-so-important crowd at the dinner – and bows to their misguided thinking.
Obama also is facing a beefed-up lobbying operation for Saudi Arabia to go along with the always formidable Israel Lobby. The Intercept reported that in September the Saudi kingdom added to its large stable of thoroughbred influence-peddlers by signing “Edelman, the largest privately owned public relations agency in the world [and] the Podesta Group … a lobbying firm founded by Tony Podesta, a major fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.”
Indeed, the repressive Saudi kingdom may need some special P.R. help as it prepares to behead Ali Mohammed al-Nimr whose body would then be attached to a cross or otherwise displayed in a crucifixion that would leave his corpse to rot for several days as a warning to others. Al-Nimr is a Shiite who at the age of 17 in 2012 participated in a pro-democracy demonstration that was viewed as an affront to the monarchy.
The Saudis also have been waging a ruthless air war against impoverished Yemen, attacking Houthis who stem from a branch of Shia Islam which Saudi Sunni Wahhabism considers apostasy. The Saudi bombing campaign, which recently killed some 131 celebrants at a wedding inside Yemen, gets intelligence and logistical support from the Obama administration even though the slaughter of Houthis has benefited their Yemeni rivals, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” who have gained ground behind the Saudi air offensive.
Yet, the Saudis’ P.R. battalions – along with the Israel Lobby – have kept Official Washington’s focus in other directions. Indeed, there are now so many false or dubious narratives dis-informing the capital’s “group think” that U.S. decisions are driven more by mythology than facts.
Obama could begin the process of restoring sanity to Washington by declassifying U.S. intelligence analyses on several key issues. For instance, Obama could release what’s now known about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus.
After that attack, there was a rush to judgment at the State Department and within the mainstream U.S. news media to blame that atrocity on Assad’s forces, although I’m told that CIA analysts have since moved away from that view and now agree that the attack was likely a provocation designed to draw the U.S. military into the war on the side of the Sunni jihadists. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]
Though Obama and other officials have dropped the sarin accusations from their public speeches – harping instead on “barrel bombs” as if those homemade weapons are some uniquely evil device – Obama has refused to retract the sarin allegations which helped shape the hyper-hostile “conventional wisdom” against Assad.
Similarly, Obama has withheld U.S. intelligence information about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, letting stand hasty accusations blaming Putin. Obama appears infatuated by the trendy concept of “strategic communications” or “Stratcom,” which blends psy-ops, propaganda and P.R. into one noxious brew to poison public opinion about one’s “enemy.”
With the recent Russian military intervention in Syria, Obama had the chance to correct the record on the sarin-gas attack and the MH-17 shoot-down but instead continued the “Stratcom” both in his United Nations speech and his news conference last Friday with more hyperbolic attacks against Assad and Putin. In doing so, Obama apparently bowed to the desired rhetoric of hardliners like U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and the editorial-page masters of The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Obama may have hoped his harsh language would appease the neocons and their liberal-hawk pals, but the tough-guy rhetoric has only opened him up to new attacks over the disparity between his words and deeds. As the clueless columnist Richard Cohen wrote, “A no-fly zone needs to be established. It is not too late to do something. By doing so little, the United States has allowed others to do so much.” [Emphasis in original.]
In other words, Cohen appears to want the U.S. military to shoot down Russian planes over Syria, even though the Russians have been invited by the recognized government to be there and the U.S. has not. The minor complication of possible human extinction from a nuclear war apparently is of little consequence when compared to the street cred that one gets from such manly talk.
For Official Washington – and apparently Obama – the peace option is regarded as unacceptable, i.e., working with Russia and Iran to achieve a power-sharing unity government in Damascus (with the promise of elections as soon as possible) along with the United States demanding from its regional “allies” a complete shutdown of assistance to the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and all other Sunni jihadists.
That option would require Obama and the neocon/liberal-hawk cowboys to get down off their high horses, admit they have been tossing their lasso in the wrong direction – and compromise.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Sunday, I reported on the police execution of East Jerusalem Palestinian teenager, Fadi Alloun, outside the Old City. I noted the false reporting of the Jerusalem Post which stated that the police saw him “holding a knife” and “neutralized” him. There has been no supporting reporting in the Israeli media confirming this.
Now the international newspaper of record, the NY Times, gets in on the act. In Diaa Hadid’s report tonight, instead of focusing on his murder, she focuses on a supposed disagreement between villages and political factions about where he should be buried. The title of her story: Dispute Over a Burial Reveals Palestinian Divisions. Instead of focusing on the real news story of the video showing a flagrant execution, she invents a dispute purporting to show the Palestinian national movement in disarray.
This paragraph in particular irks:
“Mr. Alon was fatally shot by police officers early Sunday after he stabbed and wounded a 15-year-old Jewish boy on a road outside the Old City, according to the police. A video clip showed Mr. Alon being shot, apparently as he was trying to flee, with Israeli civilians in pursuit and shouting “Shoot him!”
In fact, no Israeli media has offered any proof that Alloun was the attacker who stabbed the Israeli. If you watch the video of the Alloun killing, he was not “apparently fleeing” the stabbing. He was fleeing the Israelis who were rushing at him. At one point, he says to his attackers: “Let me pass.” This is a youth being pursued by baying hounds, and seeking safety.
Why does the report not display the video of the Alloun killing in which the policeman exits his car and immediately murders Alloun without telling him to stop or saying anything to him? Why not note that when the policeman asks a bystander if Alloun had stabbed anyone, the bystander replies: “not yet.”
Why would the NY Times permit a regurgitation of police claims without offering any qualification or skepticism when no actual proof or evidence has been offered?
This is the rankest of journalism. Instead of providing illumination to readers in a dark hour of Israeli-Palestinian history, the Times gives us pandering and stenography.
Finally, there remains a possibility that Alloun was the attacker who stabbed the Israeli boy (the stabbing and later murder happened in the general vicinity). But there is not yet any firm evidence supporting this claim. The Times’ rush to judgment is irresponsible.
A minor quibble: though I am not an expert in Arabic (by any means), Hadid spells Alloun’s name “Alon.” That does not seem to be phonetically close to the spelling Electronic Intifada adopted and which I’ve used. The name Alon is a common Israeli name. But Palestinian?
As Israelis and Palestinians die in an upsurge of violence, The New York Times fails once again to give readers an honest look at the causes of this agonizing conflict. Missing from its pages is any real exposure of the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine that underscores every aspect of the current crisis.
Thus we find a story today that focuses on the abstract: how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can “calibrate his response” to avoid provoking greater violence and satisfy his extremist opponents in the government. It is heavily weighted with Israeli punditry and refers to ongoing clashes and attacks, but it makes no effort to provide the essential context.
In this article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner the word “occupation” appears only in a quote by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. “Palestine,” she says, “has been subject to the systematic and escalating violence of the occupation, whether in the form of settler-terrorism or at the hands of the Israeli military using live ammunition.”
Times readers are likely to dismiss her words as little more than rhetorical flourishes of the opposition, given that the newspaper has consistently failed to show the full reality of life for Palestinians, glossing over violence by soldiers and settlers and giving prominence to Palestinian attacks.
For instance, today’s report states that a Palestinian teenager was shot after he tried to stab an Israeli youth early Sunday, but it omits any mention that videos show he was chased down by a mob, shot by police, was carrying no knife and did not pose a threat to anyone in the area.
The story also says nothing of settler rampages throughout the West Bank in recent days, which have left dozens injured and forced the Red Crescent Society to declare a state of emergency after numerous attacks on its ambulances by both settlers and security forces.
Times readers rarely receive even a brief glimpse of what occupation means to Palestinians. The newspaper largely ignores the constant reports emanating from alternative media, the United Nations and monitoring groups that show how a sophisticated military power oppresses a nearly helpless population lacking even the most basic weapons for defense.
Readers remain ignorant of the Israeli abuse of Palestinian child prisoners, a situation that has been documented and criticized in numerous reports. They are unaware of the frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza fishermen and farmers and a recent United Kingdom report that states Israel has violated the 2014 ceasefire some 700 times since August of last year.
They hear nothing of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli troops harass the poorest and most vulnerable communities, burning their crops, destroying their tents and water systems and repeatedly forcing them from their homes for “maneuvers.”
They are unaware of the huge disparity in water supplies between the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the indigenous Palestinian villages, and they were never informed when hundreds of animals died in the West Bank community of Kafr Qaddoum this summer as Israeli officials cut off water deliveries during a stifling heat wave.
These constant, daily cruelties find no place in the Times, and readers likewise find no historical backdrop for the occupation. It is rarely, if ever, reported that Israel is in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a military occupying force and that the settlements are built in defiance of international law.
Without this backstory, it is not surprising when readers take Netanyahu’s claim at face value: that acts of resistance against the occupation are nothing but terrorist assaults arising out of a free-floating hatred of Jews.
Palestinians watch with dismay as Israel confiscates ever more land and resources, forcing the indigenous communities into poverty-stricken bantustans. This is the reality that is missing from the Times, deliberately obscured in the context-free reporting of Rudoren and Kershner.
A week and a half ago news emerged from Havana that the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Colombian government had reached a framework for a final peace agreement to be signed within six months. This was hailed as a breakthrough in the half-century-old conflict and an opportunity to bring peace to the people of Colombia. But by adopting the government’s narrative, mainstream media have failed to recognize the primary cause of the violence and the inevitability that it will continue in the future.
The decades-long policy of the Colombian government has been a national security strategy of counterinsurgency, developed in the late 1950s under the sponsorship of the US military. The goal of the US government was to maintain a business-friendly political system that would implement economic policies amenable to multinational corporations and foreign capital. Resistance to such policies was deemed subversion, and people who sympathized with such resistance were branded as internal enemies to be eliminated or neutralized by military means.
The narrative of the national security doctrine holds that if the insurgent threat is eliminated, then peace will be restored. The implicit assumption is that the FARC rebels have always been the side standing in the way of peace. According to this interpretation, when the FARC initiated their military operations the state was acting for the benefit of the nation as a whole by organizing a counter response.
But this narrative is historically inaccurate. The Colombian conflict is not a battle of society at large against a group of guerillas, but a battle of a small group of elites controlling the state apparatus against the majority of the population.
“As in many other Latin American countries, we can find the seeds of present-day social inequality and strife in the concentration of Colombia’s land and resources under the control of a tiny minority, matched by the progressive dispossession of the majority of people, which originated with colonialism in the sixteenth century,” explains Jasmin Hristov in her book Blood and Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia. 
After the FARC developed as the armed wing of the Communist Party in Colombia, the counterinsurgency doctrine – developed by the US military and codified in manuals distributed as early as the 1960s – taught the US’s Colombian counterparts to view any advocacy for social justice or democratic reform as a form of Communist insurgency. In addition to armed rebels, clergy, academics, labor leaders, human rights workers, and other members of civil society became potential insurgent targets.
To further extend their reach into Colombian society, the government legally authorized paramilitarism in 1965 with Plan Lazlo to form “civilian defense forces” armed and incorporated into the Colombian military system.  These forces serve the government’s goal of preserving the status quo by carrying out their dirty work through the use of death squads, assassinations, torture, intimidation and disappearances while providing cover and the appearance of distance from the state itself.
The Colombian conflict cannot be understood without recognizing the true nature of the actors involved and the interests they represent. “The paramilitary has never been, and is even less so now, a third actor (the state and the guerillas being the other two), as portrayed in mainstream security discourses,” writes Hristov. 
Writing in the New York Times after the peace agreement was announced, Ernesto Londoño declared the “three-way fight among guerilla factions, government forces and right-wing paramilitary bands that often acted as proxies for the state had killed more than 220,000 people and displaced an estimated 5.7 million.”
Dan Kovalik, Professor of International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, disputes the notion that paramilitaries merely occasionally serve as proxies: “It is impossible to talk about the paramilitaries as separate from the Colombian state, for the Colombian state helped create the paramilitaries, and human rights groups have concluded year after year that the state has provided them with weapons, logistical support and has carried out joint operations with them, Even federal courts confronted with this questions under the Alien Tort Claims Act have concluded that the paramilitaries are sufficiently integrated with the state that their misdeeds constitute state action.”
Aside from inaccurately describing the fighting, Londoño’s statement uses statistics about the cumulative violence without describing who holds responsibility for the deaths and displacements. Later in his editorial, Londoño implicitly blames the FARC for the majority of the violence: “Dozens of victims traveled to Havana to speak about abuses they endured at the hands of the guerilla leaders. Some implicated government forces in brutal acts… The special war tribunals the government intends to start adjudicating crimes will be dismissed as kangaroo courts by those who would have favored a military defeat of the FARC.”
If one accepts the national security narrative that most violence by the government amounts to collateral damage as a result of reaction to insurgent aggression, then guerillas would be responsible for the majority of deaths and injuries. But this is hardly the case.
Kovalik notes that “human rights groups have consistently concluded that the Colombian state and its paramilitary allies commit the lion’s share of the human rights violations in that country – in the worst years, at least 80% of the abuses can be attributed to these forces.”
US Government Intervention and Plan Colombia
Londoño also credits US policy with providing the impetus to achieving peace: “Washington’s forceful intervention in the war, an intervention that began in the late 1990s, enabled the Colombian government to weaken the FARC and ultimately set the stage for peace negotiations.”
Washington’s counterinsurgency policy is seen not only as an instrument for peace, but as the primary factor enabling its achievement. This is stunning historical revisionism that portrays the instigator and sponsor of massive violence that has lasted decades as an honest broker for ending this violence.
In reality, Washington’s intervention began 40 years earlier than Londoño claims, and it created the war that has raged ever since. By any objective measure, US policy in Colombia has been an abject failure. Under US direction, funding and training, the Colombian state has had one of the worst human rights records in the hemisphere. Many human rights organizations attest to this, and have demanded an end to US military aid to Colombia.
“Year after year US policy has ignored the evidence and the cries of the United Nations, Colombian and international non-governmental organizations and the people of Colombia. Plan Colombia is a failure in every respect and human rights in Colombia will not improve until there is a fundamental shift in US foreign policy,” writes Amnesty International USA.
A Human Rights Watch report declared that: “all international security assistance should be conditioned on explicit actions by the Colombian Government to sever links, at all levels, between the Colombian military and paramilitary groups. Abuses directly attributed to members of the Colombian military have decreased in recent years, but over the same period the number and scale of abuses attributed to paramilitary groups operating with the military’s acquiescence or open support have skyrocketed.”
Bogotá professor and historian Renán Vega Cantor, in a study of U.S. involvement in Colombia, writes that: “State terrorism that has been perpetual in Colombia since the end of the 1940s feeds off the military support and financing of the United States, as much as the interests of the dominant Creole classes, to preserve their wealth and power and deny the fulfillment of elemental economic and social reforms that are redistributive.”
What the New York Times and the mainstream media miss in their analysis is that the current neoliberal Colombian sociopolitical system necessitates the continuance of violence to accommodate capital.
“The guerilla was not the cause of the Colombian conflict but rather one of its symptoms, and simultaneously became a contributing factor in the sense that its very existence has provided the ideological substance for the pretext and justification behind state-sanctioned violence and militarization, Thus unfortunately the presence of the guerilla has been used by the powerful to legitimate the onslaught on social forces that challenge the power of the dominant classes,” writes Hristov in her latest book, Paramilitarism and Neoliberalism: Violent Systems of Capital Accumulation in Colombia and Beyond. 
Hristov says that in order for the government to meet FARC’s demands, they would have to invest in social programs at the expense of the military-security apparatus currently in place. But since these systems serve the neoliberal economic restructuring that funnels land and resources from the masses to the tiny elite minority, it would be naive to assume this will happen.
“Even in a post-FARC era the state would always have a pretext, such as BACRIM [criminal bands with roots in nominally disarmed paramilitary groups] or the existence of other guerilla groups, to maintain its high level of militarization,” Hristov writes. 
The portrayal of the Colombian conflict in the New York Times and other mainstream media replicates state propaganda, in the form of the national security doctrine, while failing to account for the inherent violence of the economic system in Colombia that has driven the perpetual militarism and coercion in the country.
While any agreement offering the prospect of decreased bloodshed is encouraging, the fact that the Colombian state continues to abide by the Washington Consensus and its neoliberal socioeconomic model sadly signifies that the country is inevitably headed for continued violence, dispossession, and suffering by the vast majority of the population.
When the Colombian government and the western media recognize that Washington intervention exacerbates the violence, rather than helps minimize it, then possibly Colombia can begin to extricate itself and pursue a course that will enable the Colombian people to achieve lasting peace and social justice.
 Hristov, Jasmin. Blood and Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia. Ohio University Press; 1 edition, 2009. Kindle edition.
 Hristov, Jasmin. Paramilitarism and Neoliberalism: Violent Systems of Capital Accumulation in Colombia and Beyond. London: Pluto Press, 2014. (pg. 153)
 Hristov, 2014 (pg. 157)
Moscow – Western news agencies reported civilian victims resulting from Russian air strikes in Syria. The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called such fabrications a dangerous trend.
As stated on Wednesday at a meeting with journalists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova, the propaganda of the anti-Russian campaign against Moscow’s actions in Syria started even before Russia launched an operation to combat ISIS. She called this practice a dangerous but significant trend.
“Numerous fabrications have appeared in the media that in the course of Russian operations, civilians have been killed and that these are aimed at the democratic forces of the country”, – Zakharov clarified in response to questions about whether the Russian military pilots could be eliminating peaceful citizens.
Earlier Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported that on Wednesday in the Syrian province of Homs, as a result of air strikes, at least 27 people were killed, including six children. The agency did not report whose planes struck the airstrike.
Following this, a number of Western and Ukrainian media outlets reported that as a result of Russian air force sorties around the Syrian city of Homs, at least 30 jihadists were killed, including 12 children. In these publications the source of the information refers to other media, in particular to the newspaper Times of Israel.
“All of this – an information attack, war, of which we have heard of so many times,” – said Zakharov on the occasion.
The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry recalled that, in contrast to the actions of the ‘international coalition’ formed under the aegis of the United States – which makes airstrikes without the consent of the UN – the Russian military arrived in Syria at the request of the current government of that country. Their targets are the positions of militants of the terrorist organization “Islamic State”, whose activities are prohibited on the territory of Russia, as well as a number of other banned extremist organizations.
All countries do it — promoting their own societies in ideal terms in order to influence others. The U.S. devotes a huge amount of time and money to selling its self-image and a view of the world as seen through American eyes — and perhaps denigrating others as well.
Such “crafted” image-making is hardly exclusive to the U.S. government. The New York Times, for example, supposedly our gold-standard on objective reporting, is heavily slanted when it comes to reporting nearly anything on China or Russia — among other issues.
If you recognize the nature of what you’re reading, that’s fine. But if you think you’re getting the full skinny on the world, then it can be dangerous and self-deceiving. As we say in the free market, let the buyer beware.
China and Russia, among others, certainly produce their own state propaganda, often far less skillfully than the U.S., and it more often comes in state-controlled media. The real danger, of course, comes when you start believing your own spin as representing reality around you.
But there can actually be some virtue in reading “propaganda.” (Let’s use a better description for it — promotion of one’s own view of the world — in the effort to bring others over to your view.) The value of reading such material can actually be great — particularly for those interested in international affairs. Certainly when I was at CIA we read a lot of what could be called “foreign propaganda.”
Indeed there was an entire branch of CIA which monitored and published on a daily basis a thick booklet of selected broadcast items from around the world — available by subscription. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service provided an invaluable service. It is now sadly defunct, the victim of short-sighted budget cutting — an operation which probably cost less annually than one fighter aircraft and offered much more.
One virtue of these broadcast items was the nuggets of domestic information from those countries which were otherwise not readily known about — a kind of news coverage. But the greater value was the ability to see how a foreign state viewed itself and the world around it. Propaganda? Sure, in one sense. But the thoughtful reader could fairly soon get a sense of how Russia, China, North Korea, or say Iran, saw themselves. Sometimes you might find a strikingly different interpretation of events that revealed a lot about their psychology and even their likely reactions and behavior down the road.
For the thoughtful statesman and analyst, this was good stuff. It helped explain where other leaders were coming from, what they more or less believed. Their worldview also offered perspectives about how they saw the U.S. Whether we liked it or not, it contained a few revelations about our mutual, and differing, perspectives.
Sadly today, one gets a sense that large elements of the U.S. government, and especially Congress, are quite ignorant of any possible alternative explanations of why other countries see things the way they do, and how they see us. If you’re a small country, such insularity might not matter all that much; when you claim to be world leader such insularity matters a whole lot.
There’s no mystery in this. Successful people often are very perceptive about how others see things and why they speak and act the way they do.
In today’s world, then, there is huge value in looking at what, say, China and Russia say about themselves and how they view us. It helps to remove surprises from negotiations and might even cause us to consider for a second whether there is any logic or even possible truth in how they view us. Or even to reconsider what we are doing.
That’s why it’s useful to have summits, even private conversations between leaders in the hallways of the UN — they get to hear directly how the other leader thinks. If we don’t like what they have to say, maybe it’s doubly necessary to hear it.
So when major speeches or articles appear from other leaders or commentators from countries we don’t like, my old habits kick in. I find I can learn a lot about the texture of international events from reading these pieces. Naturally some writings are more thoughtful than others, but they give me a chance to put myself in their shoes, see the world their way, and maybe anticipate certain kinds of actions and responses.
Some of those perceptions and views we might regard as erroneous, but then perhaps some of our own views might be erroneous. There is no single truth in foreign policy out there — only differing perspectives. There may be some validity to more than one of them.
Case in point: this article from the China Daily, an English language publication that unquestionably reflects Chinese government thinking. The story presents a view of how China views itself — and more importantly — how it views us.
Do I accept the Chinese view as the “accurate” view, the full story of what we, or they, are doing? Of course not; you and I can readily pick a few holes in what the China Daily has to say. Self-serving? Sure, like White House or Pentagon press briefings that need to be taken with a huge grain of suspicion and skepticism as well.
You’ve got to read everything with vigilance and discrimination, including the New York Times. And we in the U.S. have some TV channels dedicated almost entirely to formulation of an American right-wing propaganda view of the world, however remote from reality. But do China and Russia find it important to listen to that discourse? You better believe it.
So I suggest reading the piece as one of many that show how our competitors view themselves — and us. We can all learn a thing or two through the privilege of entering into their mental world and perspective on affairs.
From time to time I may select a few other pieces that help hold a mirror up to ourselves. Any good intelligence analyst reads many of these things with profit. So can you.
Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com
Freelance journalist and data artist Josh Begley has been methodically recording U.S. military drone activity for years. Every week or so — whenever the strikes occur — Begley will post a news story from the @dronestream Twitter account, identifying when and where drone strikes have occurred before feeding the results into an app called Metadata+.
But on Sunday, Dronestream tweeted that Metadata+, which sends out push notifications every time there is a U.S. drone strike, had been removed from the App Store after seven months of being openly available.
Apple still aspires to be a hub for serious news. It’s building tools like Apple News to help journalists and publishers reach new audiences. But Apple’s opaque filtering process shows that it may not be ready to decide for the public what kind of content we should or shouldn’t be exposed to.
Earlier this month, Apple censored a journalistic app that took you to the scene of the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael Brown. The tech giant has also taken down educational apps that depicted the Confederate Flag in its historical context. All while allowing for apps that include violence and graphic depictions of war, like Hitman: Sniper and Zynga’s Empires and Allies.
Then again, those apps all include in-app purchases from which Apple collects revenue. And none of them is offensive to the United States government.
Jack Smith IV is a writer and reporter covering the intersection between the Internet, culture, politics, the economy and the future. Send tips, comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this age of pervasive media, the primary method of social control is through the creation of narratives delivered to the public through newspapers, TV, radio, computers, cell phones and any other gadget that can convey information. This reality has given rise to an obsession among the power elite to control as much of this messaging as possible.
So, regarding U.S. relations toward the world, we see the State Department, the White House, Pentagon, NATO and other agencies pushing various narratives to sell the American people and other populations on how they should view U.S. policies, rivals and allies. The current hot phrase for this practice is “strategic communications” or Stratcom, which blends psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into one mind-bending smoothie.
I have been following this process since the early 1980s when the Reagan administration sought to override “the Vietnam Syndrome,” a public aversion to foreign military interventions that followed the Vietnam War. To get Americans to “kick” this syndrome, Reagan’s team developed “themes” about overseas events that would push American “hot buttons.”
Tapping into the Central Intelligence Agency’s experience in psy-ops targeted at foreign audiences, President Ronald Reagan and CIA Director William J. Casey assembled a skilled team inside the White House led by CIA propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr.
From his new perch on the National Security Council staff, Raymond oversaw inter-agency task forces to sell interventionist policies in Central America and other trouble spots. The game, as Raymond explained it in numerous memos to his underlings, was to glue black hats on adversaries and white hats on allies, whatever the truth really was.
The fact that many of the U.S.-backed forces – from the Nicaraguan Contras to the Guatemalan military – were little more than corrupt death squads couldn’t be true, at least according to psy-ops doctrine. They had to be presented to the American public as wearing white hats. Thus, the Contras became the “moral equals of our Founding Fathers” and Guatemala’s murderous leader Efrain Rios Montt was getting a “bum rap” on human rights, according to the words scripted for President Reagan.
The scheme also required that anyone – say, a journalist, a human rights activist or a congressional investigator – who contradicted this white-hat mandate must be discredited, marginalized or destroyed, a routine of killing any honest messenger.
But it turned out that the most effective part of this propaganda strategy was to glue black hats on adversaries. Since nearly all foreign leaders have serious flaws, it proved much easier to demonize them – and work the American people into war frenzies – than it was to persuade the public that Washington’s favored foreign leaders were actually paragons of virtue.
An Unflattering Hat
Once the black hat was jammed on a foreign leader’s head, you could say whatever you wanted about him and disparage any American who questioned the extreme depiction as a “fill-in-the-blank apologist” or a “stooge” or some other ugly identifier that would either silence the dissenter or place him or her outside the bounds of acceptable debate.
Given the careerist conformity of Washington, nearly everyone fell into line, including news outlets and human rights groups. If you wanted to retain your “respectability” and “influence,” you agreed with the conventional wisdom. So, with every foreign controversy, we got a new “group think” about the new “enemy.” The permissible boundary of each debate was set mostly by the neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks.
That this conformity has not served American national interests is obvious. Take, for example, the disastrous Iraq War, which has cost the U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion, led to the deaths of some 4,500 American soldiers, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and unleashed chaos across the strategic Middle East and now into Europe.
Most Americans now agree that the Iraq War “wasn’t worth it.” But it turns out that Official Washington’s catastrophic “group thinks” don’t just die well-deserved deaths. Like a mutating virus, they alter shape as the outside conditions change and survive in a new form.
So, when the public caught on to the Iraq War deceptions, the neocon/liberal-hawk pundits just came up with a new theme to justify their catastrophic Iraq strategy, i.e., “the successful surge,” the dispatch of 30,000 more U.S. troops to the war zone. This theme was as bogus as the WMD lies but the upbeat storyline was embraced as the new “group think” in 2007-2008.
The “successful surge” was a myth, in part, because many of its alleged “accomplishments” actually predated the “surge.” The program to pay off Sunnis to stop shooting at Americans and the killing of “Al Qaeda in Iraq” leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi both occurred in 2006, before the surge even began. And its principal goal of resolving sectarian grievances between Sunni and Shiite was never accomplished.
But Official Washington wrapped the “surge” in the bloody flag of “honoring the troops,” who were credited with eventually reducing the level of Iraqi violence by carrying out the “heroic” surge strategy as ordered by President Bush and devised by the neocons. Anyone who noted the holes in this story was dismissed as disrespecting “the troops.”
The cruel irony was that the neocon pundits, who had promoted the Iraq War and then covered their failure by hailing the “surge,” had little or no regard for “the troops” who mostly came for lower socio-economic classes and were largely abstractions to the well-dressed, well-schooled and well-paid talking heads who populate the think tanks and op-ed pages.
Safely ensconced behind the “successful surge” myth, the Iraq War devotees largely escaped any accountability for the chaos and bloodshed they helped cause. Thus, the same “smart people” were in place for the Obama presidency and just as ready to buy into new interventionist “group thinks” – gluing black hats on old and new adversaries, such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and, most significantly, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
In 2011, led this time by the liberal interventionists – the likes of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House aide Samantha Power – the U.S. military and some NATO allies took aim at Libya, scoffing at Gaddafi’s claim that his country was threatened by Islamic terrorists. It was not until Gaddafi’s military was destroyed by Western airstrikes (and he was tortured and murdered) that it became clear that he wasn’t entirely wrong about the Islamic extremists.
The jihadists seized large swaths of Libyan territory, killed the U.S. ambassador and three other diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, and forced the closing of U.S. and other Western embassies in Tripoli. For good measure, Islamic State terrorists forced captured Coptic Christians to kneel on a Libyan beach before beheading them.
Amid this state of anarchy, Libya has been the source of hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe by boat. Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean. But, again, the leading U.S. interventionists faced no accountability. Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Power is now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Also, in 2011, a similar uprising occurred in Syria against the secular regime headed by President Assad, with nearly identical one-sided reporting about the “white-hatted” opposition and the “black-hatted” government. Though many protesters indeed appear to have been well-meaning opponents of Assad, Sunni terrorists penetrated the opposition from the beginning.
This gray reality was almost completely ignored in the Western press, which almost universally denounced the government when it retaliated against opposition forces for killing police and soldiers. The West depicted the government response as unprovoked attacks on “peaceful protesters.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.”]
This one-sided narrative nearly brought the U.S. military to the point of another intervention after Aug. 21, 2013, when a mysterious sarin gas attack killed hundreds in a suburb of Damascus. Official Washington’s neocons and the pro-interventionists in the State Department immediately blamed Assad’s forces for the atrocity and demanded a bombing campaign.
But some U.S. intelligence analysts suspected a “false-flag” provocation by Islamic terrorists seeking to get the U.S. air force to destroy Assad’s army for them. At the last minute, President Obama steered away from that cliff and – with the help of President Putin – got Assad to surrender Syria’s chemical arsenal, while Assad continued to deny a role in the sarin attack. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]
Upset over Iran
Putin also assisted Obama on another front with another demonized “enemy,” Iran. In late 2013, the two leaders collaborated in getting Iran to make significant concessions on its nuclear program, clearing the way for negotiations that eventually led to stringent international controls.
These two diplomatic initiatives alarmed the neocons and their right-wing Israeli friends. Since the mid-1990s, the neocons had worked closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in plotting a “regime change” strategy for countries that were viewed as troublesome to Israel, with Iraq, Syria and Iran topping the list.
Putin’s interference with that agenda – by preventing U.S. bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran – was viewed as a threat to this longstanding Israeli/neocon strategy. There was also fear that the Obama-Putin teamwork could lead to renewed pressure on Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. So, that relationship had to be blown up.
The detonation occurred in early 2014 when a neocon-orchestrated coup overthrew elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a fiercely anti-Russian regime which included neo-Nazi and other ultra-nationalist elements as well as free-market extremists.
Ukraine had been on the neocon radar at least since September 2013, just after Putin undercut plans for bombing Syria. Neocon Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, wrote a Washington Post op-ed deeming Ukraine “the biggest prize” and a key steppingstone toward another regime change in Moscow, removing the troublesome Putin.
Gershman’s op-ed was followed by prominent neocons, such as Sen. John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, urging on violent protests that involved firebombing the police. But the State Department and the mainstream media glued white hats on the Maidan protesters and black hats on the police and the government.
Then, on Feb. 20, 2014, a mysterious sniper attack killed both police and demonstrators, leading to more clashes and the deaths of scores of people. The U.S. government and press corps blamed Yanukovych and – despite his signing an agreement for early elections on Feb. 21 – the Maidan “self-defense forces,” spearheaded by neo-Nazi goons, overran government buildings on Feb. 22 and installed a coup regime, quickly recognized by the State Department as “legitimate.”
Though the fault for the Feb. 20 sniper attack was never resolved – the new Ukrainian regime showed little interest in getting to the bottom of it – other independent investigations pointed toward a provocation by right-wing gunmen who targeted police and protesters with the goal of deepening the crisis and blaming Yanukovych, which is exactly what happened.
These field reports, including one from the BBC, indicated that the snipers likely were associated with the Maidan uprising, not the Yanukovych government. [Another worthwhile documentary on this mystery is “Maidan Massacre.”]
Yet, during the Ukrainian coup, The New York Times and most other mainstream media outlets played a role similar to what they had done prior to the Iraq War when they hyped false and misleading stories about WMD. By 2014, the U.S. press corps no longer seemed to even pause before undertaking its expected propaganda role.
So, after Yanukovych’s ouster, when ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine rose up against the new anti-Russian order in Kiev, the only acceptable frame for the U.S. media was to blame the resistance on Putin. It must be “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”
When a referendum in Crimea overwhelmingly favored secession from Ukraine and rejoining Russia, the U.S. media denounced the 96 percent vote as a “sham” imposed by Russian guns. Similarly, resistance in eastern Ukraine could not have reflected popular sentiment unless it came from mass delusions induced by “Russian propaganda.”
Meanwhile, evidence of a U.S.-backed coup, such as the intercepted phone call of a pre-coup discussion between Assistant Secretary Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on how “to midwife this thing” and who to install in the new government (“Yats is the guy”), disappeared into the memory hole, not helpful for the desired narrative. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]
When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the blame machine immediately roared into gear again, accusing Putin and the ethnic Russian rebels. But some U.S. intelligence analysts reportedly saw the evidence going in a different direction, implicating a rogue element of the Ukrainian regime.
Again, the mainstream media showed little skepticism toward the official story blaming Putin, even though the U.S. government and other Western nations refused to make public any hard evidence supporting the Putin-did-it case, even now more than a year later. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “MH-17 Mystery: A New Tonkin Gulf Case.”]
The pattern that we have seen over and over is that once a propaganda point is scored against one of the neocon/liberal-hawk “enemies,” the failure to actually prove the allegation is not seen as suspicious, at least not inside the mainstream media, which usually just repeats the old narrative again and again, whether its casting blame on Putin for MH-17, or on Yanukovych for the sniper attack, or on Assad for the sarin gas attack.
Instead of skepticism, it’s always the same sort of “group think,” with nothing learned from the disaster of the Iraq War because there was virtually no accountability for those responsible.
Yet, while the U.S. press corps deserves a great deal of blame for this failure to investigate important controversies independently, President Obama and his administration have been the driving force in this manipulation of public opinion over the past six-plus years. Instead of the transparent government that Obama promised, he has run one of the most opaque, if not the most secretive, administrations in American history.
Besides refusing to release the U.S. government’s evidence on pivotal events in these international crises, Obama has prosecuted more national security whistleblowers than all past presidents combined.
That repression, including a 35-year prison term for Pvt. Bradley/Chelsea Manning and the forced exile of indicted National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has intimidated current intelligence analysts who know about the manipulation of public opinion but don’t dare tell the truth to reporters for fear of imprisonment.
Most of the “leaked” information that you still see in the mainstream media is what’s approved by Obama or his top aides to serve their interests. In other words, the “leaks” are part of the propaganda, made to seem more trustworthy because they’re coming from an unidentified “source” rather than a named government spokesman.
At this late stage in Obama’s presidency, his administration seems drunk on the power of “perception management” with the new hot phrase, “strategic communications” which boils psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into one intoxicating brew.
From NATO’s Gen. Philip Breedlove to the State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, the manipulation of information is viewed as a potent “soft power” weapon. It’s a way to isolate and damage an “enemy,” especially Russia and Putin.
This demonization of Putin makes cooperation between him and Obama difficult, such as Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria as part of a commitment to prevent a victory by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Though one might think that Russian help in fighting terrorism would be welcomed, Nuland’s State Department office responded with a bizarre and futile attempt to build an aerial blockade of Russian aid flying to Syria across eastern Europe.
Nuland and other neocons apparently would prefer having the black flag of Sunni terrorism flying over Damascus than to work with Putin to block such a catastrophe. The hysteria over Russia’s assistance in Syria is a textbook example of how people can begin believing their own propaganda and letting it dictate misguided actions.
On Thursday, Obama’s White House sank to a new low by having Press Secretary Josh Earnest depict Putin as “desperate” to land a meeting with Obama. Earnest then demeaned Putin’s appearance during an earlier sit-down session with Netanyahu in Moscow. “President Putin was striking a now-familiar pose of less-than-perfect posture and unbuttoned jacket and, you know, knees spread far apart to convey a particular image,’ Earnest said.
But the meeting photos actually showed both men with their suit coats open and both sitting with their legs apart at least for part of the time. Responding to Earnest’s insults, the Russians denied that Putin was “desperate” for a meeting with Obama and added that the Obama administration had proposed the meeting to coincide with Putin’s appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.
“We do not refuse contacts that are proposed,” said Yuri Ushakov, a top foreign policy adviser to Putin. “We support maintaining constant dialogue at the highest level.” The Kremlin also included no insults about Obama’s appearance in the statement.
However, inside Official Washington, there appears to be little thought that the endless spinning, lying and ridiculing might dangerously corrode American democracy and erode any remaining trust the world’s public has in the word of the U.S. government. Instead, there seems to be great confidence that skilled propagandists can discredit anyone who dares note that the naked empire has wrapped itself in the sheerest of see-through deceptions.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Israel, The New York Times tells us, has vowed to crack down on violence in Jerusalem, allowing the use of live fire against Palestinians who take to “rock throwing and firebombing,” expanding the rules of engagement and lengthening sentences for such crimes.
In a story titled “Israel Acts to Combat Violence in Jerusalem,” Isabel Kershner quotes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls such Palestinian weaponry “deadly and murderous objects,” which have been “thrown without response and without being thwarted.”
It is noteworthy that Netanyahu, responsible for bombing and strafing the 1.8 million residents of Gaza, can say these words without a hint of irony. It is also striking that the Times can report his utterances without pointing out the full context here—the lopsided nature of the conflict.
In fact, it is the Palestinians who face a deadly enemy: Israel possesses armored vehicles, automatic rifles, drones, rockets, fighter jets, smart bombs and sophisticated surveillance equipment, all of them more “deadly and murderous” than Palestinian rocks. As the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel also has a stockpile of up to 300 nuclear weapons, which can be launched by air, land or sea.
Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have nothing more than stones, firecrackers, kitchen knives and homemade firebombs. The mortality figures reflect this disparity: Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed more than 25 Palestinians in the West Bank (settlers have killed at least another three), while Palestinians are responsible for the deaths of four Israelis within the West Bank and Israel combined.
Yet the Times strains to make Israelis appear as the victims, giving voice to the claims of Netanyahu, playing down Palestinian deaths and hyping Israeli casualties. A recent headline declared, “Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car in East Jerusalem,” suggesting that the driver was stoned to death. In fact, he had a heart attack, lost control of his car and ran into a light pole. The Times story cites only one object hitting the car.
By contrast, the paper gives a bland and ambiguous title to the story of a young Palestinian woman who died from a barrage of Israeli bullets last week as she tried to cross a checkpoint in Hebron. This news appears under the title, “2 Are Killed in West Bank as Jewish and Muslim Holidays Approach.”
Readers find no hint of the bloody assault on 18-year-old Hadeel Al Hashlamoun in this headline, and the Times has also failed to report that Amnesty International termed her killing a “extrajudicial execution” and called for a “prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations” into her death.
Firsthand accounts say that an Israeli soldier shot Al Hashlamoun in the leg, and when she lay motionless on the ground, approached her and fired several more shots into her abdomen. Witnesses add that soldiers refused to let a Palestinian ambulance approach her and left her to bleed for about half an hour before allowing an Israeli ambulance to arrive and take her away. Video footage also shows a soldier grabbing her by a foot as she lay bleeding on the ground and dragging her out of camera sight.
This is raw violence with “deadly and murderous” arms, but the Times and Netanyahu do not find the word “violence” appropriate here. They reserve its use for Palestinians who throw rocks and firecrackers, never applying it to the atrocities of Israeli security forces. The irony and hypocrisy in this discourse seem to elude them entirely.
In a story that appeared online yesterday, the Times reports that four Palestinian youths have been arrested for throwing rocks at the car of the man who died after crashing in East Jerusalem. This news is in striking contrast to the latest, disturbing developments in the case of three Palestinian family members who died in an arson attack.
When news broke of the fire that killed a toddler in the West Bank village of Duma and led to the later deaths of his mother and father, the Times quoted the reactions of Israeli politicians at length and described Jewish Israeli “soul searching” over the deaths. The paper also noted that some extremist settlers had been arrested but that no one accused of the Duma arson was in custody.
The Times ran several stories immediately after the arson attack, reporting that Netanyahu vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but after running a brief article when the mother died earlier this month, the newspaper has been silent, even though there is news to tell: Israeli officials know who committed the crime but do not plan to arrest them.
Israeli media have reported that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted that the names of the suspects are known but the defense establishment has not arrested anyone “to avoid revealing intelligence sources in court.”
So we have the quick arrest of four youths suspected of throwing rocks and (perhaps) indirectly causing the death of an Israeli driver, while those responsible for burning and killing three innocent Palestinians go free. The remarks by Ya’alon add even more irony to Netanyahu’s complaint that rock throwing occurs “without response and without being thwarted.”
The Times has shown itself to be tone deaf to such dissonance in the Israeli narrative. Far from analyzing or commenting on the hypocrisy of vilifying rock throwers, it has worked to support this deliberate distortion of the reality in Palestine.
So in the Times we find silence concerning official complicity in settler crimes, efforts to portray Israelis as victims and a refusal to state the obvious: Killing civilians with the world’s most sophisticated weapons ranks high on the scale of violence, far above the efforts of Palestinian youth who face armored soldiers and tanks with slingshots and stones.
Dear American friends who are reporting on, analyzing, or advising decision makers on Syria,
No one is expecting you to “Support Assad”, just like you really shouldn’t have wasted the past four years committed to supporting Assad’s adversaries and opponents.
- You started (summer 2011) by working with your allies (especially the French) to pass a security council resolution that would authorize you to use force in Syria against the Syrian army. You only stopped after repeated vetoes by Russia and China.
- You recognized the Syrian National Council as “legitimate representative of the Syrian people”, then you recognized the Syrian National Coalition. Both groups included opposition characters that were selected and managed by you, the French and your Gulf Arab state allies. “The Syrian people” had zero input in the selection process. Both groups included secular faces but the real power behind them was the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with a criminal past and present … An organization that refused to support war on ISIS. An organization that bullied then alienated many of the liberals, women and minorities in Syrian opposition.
- You boycotted (or rarely interacted with) millions of Syrians who supported their government against your favorite side in the Syrian conflict (“the opposition”). Syrian visa applicants who did not support “the revolution” in US consulates had to answer and almost apologize to your immigration officers who asked them why are they not on America’s side in the Syrian conflict.
- Your media and analysts simply followed your state department’s directives. CNN and the Washington post mobilized in favor of anyone who would carry arms against the Syrian army. CFR and other think tanks discussed openly the need to work with Al-Qaeda (Annusra) in order to defeat the regime. Large numbers of American activists (a mix of those naturally inspired, and many others who are paid to write against Assad) worked relentlessly on social media platforms to attack, humiliate and discredit any Syrian or non Syrian who advocated dialogue as a way to end the conflict. Your passionate warmongers included the leftists (“we are here to help the Syrian people”) and the neocons (“We should teach Assad a lesson”).
- You know that there is no proof and there is no logic behind accusations that “Assad” used chemical weapons, yet you continued to use it as a pressure tool against Assad, despite the resulting escalation in hate and violence among the Syrian people that your regime-demonization propaganda was contributing to.
The United States does not need to do a 180 degree turn (and it will not). Here is how a 90 degree adjustment can lead to a more constructive role in the exceptionally complex and dangerous Syrian crisis.
- Do not recognize ANYONE of being the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. There are millions of Syrians who support Assad/government/the army. There are millions of Syrians who support the opposition. There are millions of Syrians who do not care about politics. They just want to go back to normal life.
- Everyone contributed to violence. No, Assad is not the main culprit. Before 2011, he ruled Syria for 11 years without killing anyone. He reduced the number of political prisoners from an estimated 1,300 in 2001, to an estimated 200 in 2010. Everyone, starting with the United States, is responsible for what happened after 2011. If you are not planning to demonize yourself, please try to realize that it is only fair to not demonize anyone. If you want a quantification of the size of your responsibility, try to imagine the recently revealed (by the Washington Post ) details about your covert CIA Syria annual budget of $1 billion… Did you buy anything good with that yearly investment?
- If you insist on calling Assad “The ruthless Syrian dictator”, please make sure you call Syrian opposition figures “ruthless corrupt, weak, naive, sectarian, vengeful, and utterly useless Syrian opposition figure”. Or better, avoid the negativity on both sides.
- Forget the past. If your allegations (unproven) of a Syrian role in the attack on US marines in Beirut in 1983 (32 years ago) is still bothering you, why not take it out on the Saudis for their more certain role in 9/11, or why not first punish yourself for the millions of Iraqis who died because of “mistakes” by previous US administrations… you lost hundreds. others lost millions … they are not seeking revenge.
- The end does NOT justify the means. If you are dying to spread democracy, remember that there are millions of other ideologues who are equally eager to spread communism, or their fanatic interpretations of Islam … Everyone believes in salvation through his ideology.
- Democracy is not working too well in most countries. Lebanon and Iraq (your democratic allies in the Arab world) are even more corrupt than authoritarian Syria. Instead of promoting democracy, try to promote the foundations on which democracy can be later successfully established. Promote the separation of religion and state in Syria. Promote tolerance and respect of opinions that differ. Promote women’s rights. Promote freedom of speech (which Lebanon and Iraq have, and so should Syria).
- Reopen your embassy in Damascus. This time direct your diplomats (and security officers) to work for peace and reconciliation. U.S. interests will be better served that way. Regime supporters, rational opposition, and the larger segment of Syrians who are neutral, will all thank you.
- Close the Facebook page of the US embassy in Damascus, or replace its current immature editor(s).
- Call on all sides to join you in admitting their mistakes. Everyday that you all wait before you radically change, hundreds of innocent Syrians will die.
- When you work with regional and international actors, please try to respect the desires of the majority of Syrians who do not wish to become an American, Russian, Iranian, Saudi, Turkish or Qatari satellite. There will be a long term, costly, resistance to any proposal that gives outside powers an exceptional influence in Syria. Please do not waste time and innocent lives. Syrians do not wish to be a Jordan or a Lebanon. You do not want Syria to be a bigger Lebanon that borders (and constantly exports its problems to) your allies to the north, east, south and east or Syria.
- You want what’s good for the Syrian people? While it is hard to find a clear majority of Syrians agreeing on the question of regime change, there is little doubt that the vast majority of Syrians want the Golan Heights back (illegally occupied by Israel since 1967). They want economic prosperity… ending torture … freedom of press with responsibilities (no sectarianization, no promotion of hate or violence… ), they want to fight corruption … they want a more accountable government. You surely can help by pressuring Israel to return the Golan, by economic assistance to Syria, and by pressuring the Syrian government AND Syrian opposition to respect those truly popular demands (and not only the issues the US and its Syrian opposition allies always used to demonize the regime and only the regime).
- Oh … can you start by ending economic sanctions that you placed in 1979 (to punish Syria for its resistance to the Camp David accord)? … you are not hurting “the regime” with those sanctions … you are killing innocent Syrians instead. Remember that your sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children during the nineties.
Here is the the preamble to the 1789 American constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Eighty one years later (on February 3, 1870) the 15th amendment that granted African Americans the right to vote was ratified.
One hundred and thirty one years later (on August 18, 1920), the 19th amendment that guarantees all American women the right to vote was ratified.
Please be careful with Syria. Change takes time and planning. It takes a favorable regional environment… and it takes realism. 120-min Hollywood or Disney fairy tale movies (“the Arab Spring”) are not going to lead to a happy ending in a country as complex as Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown U.S. policymakers what amounts to a lifeline to pull them out of the quicksand that is the Syrian war, but Official Washington’s neocons and the mainstream U.S. news media are growling about Putin’s audacity and challenging his motives.
For instance, The New York Times’ lead editorial on Monday accused Putin of “dangerously building up Russia’s military presence” in Syria, even though Putin’s stated goal is to help crush the Sunni jihadists in the Islamic State and other extremist movements.
Instead, the Times harrumphs about Putin using his upcoming speech to the United Nations General Assembly “to make the case for an international coalition against the Islamic State, apparently ignoring the one already being led by the United States.”
The Times then reprises the bizarre neocon argument that the best way to solve the threat from the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other jihadist forces is to eliminate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military who have been the principal obstacles to an outright victory by the Sunni terrorist groups.
The dreamy Times/neocon prescription continues to be that “regime change” in Damascus would finally lead to the emergence of the mythical “moderate” rebels who would somehow prevail over the far more numerous and far better armed extremists. This perspective ignores the fact that after a $500 million training project for these “moderates,” the U.S. military says four or five fighters are now on the battlefield inside Syria. In other words, the members of this U.S.-trained brigade can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
But rather than rethink Official Washington’s goofy “group think” on Syria – or provide readers a fuller history of the Syrian conflict – the Times moves on to blame Putin for the mess.
“No one should be fooled about Russia’s culpability in Syria’s agony,” the Times writes. “Mr. Putin could have helped prevent the fighting that has killed more than 250,000 Syrians and displaced millions more, had he worked with other major powers in 2011 to keep Mr. Assad from waging war on his people following peaceful anti-government protests. … Mr. Assad would probably be gone without the weapons aid and other assistance from Russia and Iran.”
This “group think” ignores the early role of Sunni extremists in killing police and soldiers and thus provoking the harsh retaliation that followed. But the Syrian narrative, according to The New York Times, is that the “white-hat” protesters were simply set upon by the “black-hat” government.
The Times’ simplistic story-line fits neatly with what the influential neoconservatives want the West to believe, since the neocons have had Syria on their “regime change” list, alongside Iraq and Iran, since the list was compiled as part of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996 political campaign. The Times’ narrative also leaves out the crucial role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other U.S. “allies” in supporting Al Qaeda and its Islamic State spinoff.
Bush’s Unaccounted-for Cash
Further complicating Official Washington’s let’s-blame-Putin Syrian narrative is the unintended role of President George W. Bush and the U.S. military in laying the groundwork for these brutal Sunni extremist movements through the invasion of Iraq last decade. After all, it was only in reaction to the U.S. military presence that “Al Qaeda in Iraq” took root in Iraqi and then Syrian territory.
Not only did the ouster and execution of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein alienate the region’s Sunnis, but Bush’s desperation to avert an outright military defeat in Iraq during his second term led him to authorize the payment of billions of dollars to Sunni fighters to get them to stop shooting at American soldiers and to give Bush time to negotiate a U.S. troop withdrawal.
Beginning in 2006, those U.S. payments to Sunni fighters to get them to suspend their resistance were central to what was then called the “Sunni Awakening.” Though the program preceded Bush’s “surge” of troops in 2007, the bought-and-paid-for truce became central to what Official Washington then hailed as the “successful surge” or “victory at last.”
Besides the billions of dollars paid out in pallets of U.S. cash to Sunni insurgents, Bush’s “surge” cost the lives of another 1,000 U.S. soldiers and killed a countless number of Iraqis, many just going about their daily lives until they were blown apart by powerful American munitions. [See, for example, the “Collateral Murder” video leaked by Pvt. Bradley/Chelsea Manning]
But what the U.S. intelligence community is only now assessing is the collateral damage caused by the bribes that the Bush administration paid to Sunni insurgents. Some of the cash appears to have become seed money for the transformation of “Al Qaeda in Iraq” into the Islamic State as Sunnis, who continued to be disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, expanded their sectarian war into Syria.
Besides the Iraqi Sunnis, Syria’s secular government, with Assad and other key leaders from the Alawite branch of Shiite Islam, also was set upon by home-grown Sunni extremists and foreign jihadists, some of whom joined the Islamic State but mostly coalesced around Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other radical forces. Though the Islamic State had originated as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” (or AQI), it evolved into an even more bloodthirsty force and, in Syria, split off from Al Qaeda central.
U.S. intelligence followed many of these developments in real time. According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report from August 2012, “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. … AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”
In other words, Assad’s early complaint about “terrorists” having infiltrated the opposition had a basis in fact. Early in the disorders in 2011, there were cases of armed elements killing police and soldiers. Later, there were terrorist bombings targeting senior Syrian government officials, including a July 18, 2012 explosion – deemed a suicide bombing by government officials – that killed Syrian Defense Minister General Dawoud Rajiha and Assef Shawkat, the deputy defense minister and Assad’s brother-in-law.
By then, it had become clear that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and other Sunni-ruled countries were funneling money and other help to jihadist rebels seeking to oust Assad’s regime, which was considered a protector of Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities fearing persecution if Sunni extremists prevailed.
As the 2012 DIA report noted about Syria, “internally, events are taking a clear sectarian direction. … The salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. … The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.”
The DIA analysts already understood the risks that AQI represented both to Syria and Iraq. The report included a stark warning about the expansion of AQI, which was changing into the Islamic State or what the DIA referred to as ISI. The brutal armed movement was seeing its ranks swelled by the arrival of global jihadists rallying to the black banner of Sunni militancy, intolerant of both Westerners and “heretics” from Shiite and other non-Sunni branches of Islam.
As this movement strengthened it risked spilling back into Iraq. The DIA wrote: “This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi [in Iraq], and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters [apparently a reference to Shiite and other non-Sunni forms of Islam]. ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
Facing this growing Sunni terrorist threat — which indeed did spill back into Iraq — the idea that the CIA or the U.S. military could effectively arm and train a “moderate” rebel force to somehow compete with the Islamists was already delusional, yet that was the “group think” among the Important People of Official Washington, simply organize a “moderate” army to oust Assad and everything would turn out just great.
On Oct. 2, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden let more of the cat out of the bag when he told an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School: “our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” [Quote at 53:20 of clip.]
In other words, much of the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition actually has been involved in financing and arming many of the same jihadists that the coalition is now supposedly fighting. If you take into account the lost billions of dollars that the Bush administration dumped on Sunni fighters starting in 2006, you could argue that the U.S.-led coalition bears primary responsibility for creating the problem that it is now confronting.
Biden made a similar point at least in reference to the Persian Gulf states: “Now all of a sudden, I don’t want to be too facetious, but they have seen the lord. … Saudi Arabia has stopped funding. Saudi Arabia is allowing training [of anti-Islamic State fighters] on its soil … the Qataris have cut off their support for the most extreme elements of terrorist organizations, and the Turks … [are] trying to seal their border.”
But there remain many doubts about the commitment of these Sunni governments to the cause of fighting the Islamic State and even more doubts about whether that commitment extends to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other jihadist forces. Some neocons have even advocated backing Al Qaeda as the lesser evil both vis a vis the Islamic State and the Assad regime.
Yet, the Times editorial on Monday blamed Putin for a big chunk of the Syrian mess because Russia has dared support the internationally recognized Syrian government in the face of vicious foreign-supported terrorism. The Times casts no blame on the United States or its allies for the Syrian horror.
The Times also hurled personal insults at Putin as part of its equally one-sided narrative of the Ukraine crisis, which the editorial writers have summarized as simply a case of “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion” – ignoring the behind-the-scenes role of neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in orchestrating the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
In Monday’s editorial, the Times reported that President Barack Obama “considers Mr. Putin a thug,” though it was President Obama who boasted just last month, “I’ve ordered military action in seven countries,” another inconvenient fact that the Times discreetly leaves out. In other words, who’s the “thug”?
Yet, despite all its huffing and puffing and calling Putin names, the Times ultimately concludes that Obama should test out the lifeline that Putin has tossed to Obama’s Syrian policy which – with all its thrashing and arm waving – is rapidly disappearing into the quicksand. The editorial concluded:
“Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in London on Friday, made it clear that America would be looking for ‘common ground’ in Syria, which could mean keeping Mr. Assad in power temporarily during a transition. The Russians should accept that Mr. Assad must go within a specific time frame, say six months. The objective is a transition government that includes elements of the Assad regime and the opposition. Iran should be part of any deal.
“America should be aware that Mr. Putin’s motivations are decidedly mixed and that he may not care nearly as much about joining the fight against the Islamic State as propping up his old ally. But with that in mind there is no reason not to test him.”
Kerry’s apparent willingness to work with the Russians – a position that I’m told Obama shares – is at least a sign that some sanity exists inside the State Department, which initially mounted an absurd and futile attempt to organize an aerial blockade to prevent Russia from flying in any assistance to Syria.
If successful, that scheme, emanating from Nuland’s European division, could have collapsed the Syrian regime and opened the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State and/or Al Qaeda. So obsessed are the neocons to achieve their long-held goal of “regime change” in Syria that they would run the risk of turning Syria over to the Islamic State head-choppers and Al Qaeda’s terrorism plotters.
However, after the requisite snorting and pawing of hooves, it appears that the cooler heads in the Obama administration may have finally asserted themselves – and perhaps at The New York Times as well.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The United States sends at least $3.1 billion in military aid grants to Israel every year, more than the amount given to all the rest of the world combined, and although Americans oppose this excess, their opinion has had no effect: Officials are now in talks to raise the yearly amount by as much as 50 percent.
If you missed that news in The New York Times, there is no reason for surprise. The issue has essentially remained out of sight, glossed over in a smattering of news stories, where readers find murky references to US aid and no enlightening details.
Thus we have a story by Jodi Rudoren this month, a look at how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a “pivot” after losing his battle against the nuclear agreement with Iran. Several paragraphs into this piece she writes, “Washington is expected to deliver a huge new military aid package to Israel… to appease Mr. Netanyahu and Democratic supporters of Israel who reluctantly backed the nuclear deal.”
This begs for explanation. How much is “huge”? Why is this “expected”? But nothing more is forthcoming.
Times readers have to look elsewhere for a fuller story. Other sources tell us that Israel has been asking for up to $4.5 billion a year in military aid and that talks have been going on “away from the spotlight.” Observers expect announcement of an aid agreement in November, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington.
The Times did manage to work in the $4.5 billion price tag, in the last paragraph of a story that ran in July. The US has guaranteed Israel $31 billion in military aid grants over 10 years ending in 2017, and Israel now wants a new deal guaranteeing up to $45 billion over another 10 years. The article states that officials will frame the deal that finally emerges as an effort to bolster Israel’s defenses in the face of a resurgent Iran. Thus they will try to defuse the charge that the new deal is a way of “appeasing” Israel.
Since this story appeared, the Times has avoided the subject, except for Rudoren’s reference to a “huge” new package, and brief comments elsewhere about “compensation” for defying Israel on the Iran nuclear deal.
US aid to Israel is a subject that the Times would like to avoid. On many fronts it is difficult to defend and shines a harsh light on the actions of both the US and Israeli governments. For instance:
- Congress has been willing to maintain and even increase military aid to Israel even as it cuts programs for education, food assistance and tax relief for working families in the United States.
- Israel receives US aid even though it is one of the most economically advanced countries in the world.
- US military aid makes up a full 20 percent of the Israeli military budget.
- Israel, a small country, is so well supplied with arms that it is the tenth largest purveyor of weaponry in the world. In other words, Israel receives military aid from the US, and then makes money by selling arms to other nations.
- US aid to Israel amounts to $10.2 million per day or $450 per year for each Israeli citizen.
- Israel receives special perks that other aid recipients are denied, such as the right to use some of the funds to buy weapons from Israeli manufacturers instead of being required to purchase American products.
- Israel spends more on military expenditures than any other country in the world, based on percentage of gross domestic product.
- The annual U.S. military aid package for Palestine is $0.00.
- In addition to the $3.1 billion in direct military aid guaranteed each year, Israel receives other gifts, such as economic grants and immigration assistance, raising the total aid well beyond the stated amount. (Vice President Joe Biden recently cited $7.18 billion for a one-year package.)
- Sixty percent of Americans polled in a survey said the United States “gives too much aid to Israel.”
In addition, human rights organizations and other observers have raised ethical concerns over supplying arms to Israel in view of its deadly attacks on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Last year, during the assaults on Gaza that left some 2,200 Palestinians dead, Amnesty International called on the United States to stop transferring arms to Israel, citing “growing evidence of war crimes.” In June of this year, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) asked the State Department to review the legality of military aid to Israel in light of evidence that security forces abuse child prisoners and have killed nonviolent demonstrators.
This past week a coalition of 10 organizations—American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, Defense for Children International and others—sent out a petition asking President Obama to stop supplying Israel with arms. In particular the petition targets the 50 percent increase in direct aid from $3.1 to $4.5 billion now under consideration.
Within days, by Sept. 21, the petition had reached its goal of 50,000 signatures and reset its sights on 60,000.
The Times, however, has had nothing to say about these protests, although they have been reported elsewhere. Rep. McCollum’s letter, which garnered the signatures of 18 additional members of Congress, was featured in US and Israeli media but found no mention in the Times.
The subject of military aid to Israel demands a fuller treatment in the Times. Readers should know the actual cost to U.S. taxpayers; they should be told of ethical concerns raised by organizations and officials; they are entitled to know more about the lethal effects of Israel’s weaponry; they should find Times analysts willing to discuss the contrast between congressional largess for Israel and the efforts to cut domestic programs.
It is not too much to say that US military aid to Israel is scandalous in light of the devastating effects it has had on innocent Palestinians and also on Americans deprived of basic needs. The failure of the Times to address the issue also amounts to scandal, making it fully complicit in this sordid affair.