In a column mocking the political ignorance of the “dumbed-down” American people and lamenting the death of “objective fact,” New York Times columnist Timothy Egan shows why so many Americans have lost faith in the supposedly just-the-facts-ma’am mainstream media.
Egan states as flat fact, “If more than 16 percent of Americans could locate Ukraine on a map, it would have been a Really Big Deal when Trump said that Russia was not going to invade it — two years after they had, in fact, invaded it.”
But it is not a “fact” that Russia “invaded” Ukraine – and it’s especially not the case if you also don’t state as flat fact that the United States has invaded Syria, Libya and many other countries where the U.S. government has launched bombing raids or dispatched “special forces.” Yet, the Times doesn’t describe those military operations as “invasions.”
Nor does the newspaper of record condemn the U.S. government for violating international law, although in every instance in which U.S. forces cross into another country’s sovereign territory without permission from that government or the United Nations Security Council, that is technically an act of illegal aggression.
In other words, the Times applies a conscious double standard when reporting on the actions of the United States or one of its allies (note how Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria was just an “intervention”) as compared to how the Times deals with actions by U.S. adversaries, such as Russia.
Biased on Ukraine
The Times’ reporting on Ukraine has been particularly dishonest and hypocritical. The Times ignores the substantial evidence that the U.S. government encouraged and supported a violent coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014, including a pre-coup intercepted phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should lead the new government and how to “midwife this thing.”
The Times also played down the key role of neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists in killing police before the coup, seizing government building during the coup, and then spearheading the slaughter of ethnic Russian Ukrainians after the coup. If you wanted to detect the role of these SS-wannabes from the Times’ coverage, you’d have to scour the last few paragraphs of a few stories that dealt with other aspects of the Ukraine crisis.
While leaving out the context, the Times has repeatedly claimed that Russia “invaded” Crimea, although curiously without showing any photographs of an amphibious landing on Crimea’s coast or Russian tanks crashing across Ukraine’s border en route to Crimea or troops parachuting from the sky to seize strategic Crimean targets.
The reason such evidence of an “invasion” was lacking is that Russian troops were already stationed in Crimea as part of a basing agreement for the port of Sevastopol. So, it was a very curious “invasion” indeed, since the Russian troops were on scene before the “invasion” and their involvement after the coup was peaceful in protecting the Crimean population from the depredations of the new regime’s neo-Nazis. The presence of a small number of Russian troops also allowed the Crimeans to vote on whether to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, which they did with a 96 percent majority.
In the eastern provinces, which represented Yanukovych’s political base and where many Ukrainians opposed the coup, you can fault, if you wish, the Russian decision to provide some military equipment and possibly some special forces so ethnic Russian and other anti-coup Ukrainians could defend themselves from the assaults by the neo-Nazi Azov brigade and from the tanks and artillery of the coup-controlled Ukrainian army.
But an honest newspaper and honest columnists would insist on including this context. They also would resist pejorative phrases such as “invasion” and “aggression” – unless, of course, they applied the same terminology objectively to actions by the U.S. government and its “allies.”
That sort of nuance and balance is not what you get from The New York Times and its “group thinking” writers, people like Timothy Egan. When it comes to reporting on Russia, it’s Cold War-style propaganda, day in and day out.
And this has not been a one-off problem. The unrelenting bias of the Times and, indeed, the rest of the mainstream U.S. news media on the Ukraine crisis represents a lack of professionalism that was also apparent in the pro-war coverage of the Iraq crisis in 2002-03 and other catastrophic U.S. foreign policy decisions.
A growing public recognition of that mainstream bias explains why so much of the American population has tuned out supposedly “objective” news (because it is anything but objective).
Indeed, those Americans who are more sophisticated about Russia and Ukraine than Timothy Egan know that they’re not getting the straight story from the Times and other MSM outlets. Those not-dumbed-down Americans can spot U.S. government propaganda when they see it.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine”; “NYT Is Lost in its Ukraine Propaganda”; “NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts”; and “NYT Enforces Ukraine ‘Group Think’”]
So it’s settled, according to The New York Times: Israel was not at fault in a strike that killed 10 civilians near a United Nations school in the 2014 assault on Gaza, nor was it guilty of breaking the law in other instances that left innocent victims dead during that conflict.
This, at least, is what the Israeli military claims, and in a one-sided story in the Times this week, Isabel Kershner takes the Israeli military findings at face value, never questioning its conclusions or seeking commentary from outside sources.
She opens her piece with a summary of the military’s own account of the strike on the school, recounting it as established fact without attribution. Kershner goes on to say that the army also declared itself innocent of deliberately causing civilian deaths in two other attacks during the 51-day offensive: a strike on the Bureij refugee camp and the death of 12 members of one family in Rafah. The three cases were among seven closed without charges this week.
The school was hit, according to the army account, because militants targeted by an air-to-ground missile happened to pass by the site too late for the Israeli army to correct its aim; the Bureij bombing was “justified and legal” because the building hit was being used by Hamas as a control center; and the Rafah deaths were caused by “errant mortar fire” from Gaza militants.
Her story makes no mention of other instances that raised international outrage, such as the mortar attack that killed four boys playing soccer on a beach, the massacre in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City and the excessive and deadly bombardment of eastern Rafah after Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier.
The article likewise fails to include any comments by outsiders on the military decision to close seven cases. Kershner did not seek responses from Gaza residents or from human rights groups that have also investigated and documented the Israeli attacks.
Other media outlets, however, included these outside perspectives: The Guardian, for instance, sought reactions from Gaza residents affected by the strikes, and the International Business Times quoted extensively from an Amnesty International staff person.
But the Times finds no reason to look for sources beyond the Israeli military, which happens to be the entity under investigation. At the same time, it shows little concern for what the people of Gaza experience.
This week’s story, for example, concludes with two paragraphs about Israeli air and tank strikes on the beleaguered strip this week. A total of 50 bombardments hit the enclave after militants fired a single rocket toward the town of Sderot.
Kershner’s story tells us only what “Israeli analysts” have to say about the strikes. The targeted sites were “empty,” she reports, and “no deaths were reported.” Other news sources, however, state that four people were injured.
The Times insists that it provides full and fair accounts, that it is neutral and balanced, but its editors and reporters fail to follow even minimal journalistic standards in reporting on Israel. Those accused of war crimes are allowed to speak for themselves without the annoyance of outside observers to challenge any aspect of their claims. Those who bear the brunt of these alleged crimes have no voice at all.
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The major American news network claims that the FBI is looking toward Russia for hacking into the New York Times and other news organizations. Where CNN got this information is unknown.
Citing only anonymous sources, CNN released a report on Tuesday claiming that the FBI and other US security agencies are investigating a series of cyber breaches at various US media outlets, including the New York Times.
“Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations,” the report reads, citing, “US officials briefed on the matter.”
The identity of these officials remains unknown, as CNN notes that none of the principals involved have commented. While the FBI declined to comment, the New York Times released a vaguely-worded statement.
“Like most news organizations we are vigilant about guarding against attempts to hack into our systems,” said New York Times Co. spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.
“There are a variety of approaches we take, up to and including working with outside investigators and law enforcement. We won’t comment on any specific attempt to gain unauthorized access to The Times.”
The Russian government has become the scapegoat for a series of cyberattacks in recent months, including hacks into the computer networks of both major US political parties. Most recently, Moscow has been blamed for hacking into the US National Security Agency and stealing cyberweapons.
The accusations are never backed by evidence, and are often contradicted by shreds of inference. In the recent NSA hack, US government hacking tools acquired through the breach were put up for auction, suggesting that the perpetrators were not sponsored by a foreign government.
“A more logical explanation could also be insider theft,” James Bamford writes for Reuters, adding that it appeared the culprits were “more like hacktivists than Russian high command.”
“Rather than the NSA hacking tools being snatched as a result of a sophisticated cyber operation by Russia or some other nation, it seems more likely that an employee stole them.”
There is little evidence that Russia is responsible for the DNC hack that led to the release of internal emails by Wikileaks.
“Intelligence agencies have again pointed the finger at Russia for hacking into these emails,” Bamford says.
“Yet there has been no explanation as to how [Wikileaks founder Julian] Assange obtained them. He told NBC News, ‘There is no proof whatsoever’ that he obtained the emails from Russian intelligence. Moscow has also denied involvement.”
Russian, Chinese, Iranian or other foreign hackers are constantly blamed for online breaches of major US government or private corporation servers. However, despite making bold headlines, these accusations are rarely confirmed by facts and often are later quietly dismissed by intelligence officials and cyberexperts. Which doesn’t stop mainstream media from running with stories attributed to anonymous sources again and again.
The network has a history of jumping to conclusions on hacking stories. In the wake of the hack into Sony Pictures, CNN was quick to pin the blame on the North Korean government, but subsequent investigations have cast doubt on Pyongyang’s role. Similarly, CNN was one of the first to blame Russia for the breach of systems at the White House without any evidence.
When writer Michael Chabon visited the West Bank city of Hebron earlier this year, the brutal reality of the Israeli occupation hit him with force. During an interview with the Forward, he appeared “visibly jarred,” and he pulled no punches in describing his reaction.
“Once you see for yourself,” he said, “it is pretty obvious, I think, to any human being with a heart and a mind, it is pretty clear what to feel about it. It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.”
His reaction echoes in the words of another author, Ben Ehrenreich, who recently published a book about the occupation, “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.” In his introduction Ehrenreich refers to “the awful clarity of the injustice,” and his book portrays Palestinian resistance under Israel’s state-sponsored system of oppression.
Both these American writers are saying that the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli rule is clear to see, an obvious truth to anyone who witnesses the situation firsthand.
Now, as Peter Baker, the latest New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, takes up his post, we can ask whether the newspaper will begin to convey this reality to its readers. Will Baker, a fresh new witness with full access to the sites under occupation, give voice to the oppression seen with such clarity by Ehrenreich and Chabon?
Baker’s predecessor, Jodi Rudoren, who left Jerusalem late last year, filed hundreds of stories over nearly four years at the post and managed not to clarify but to obscure the reality of occupation and dispossession. Her stories promoted a narrative of Israeli victimhood and Palestinian violence and deflected Israeli culpability. (See TimesWarp 12-22-15.)
Many voices vied for attention during her stint, but Rudoren turned a deaf ear to some of the most respected sources of information, not only the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch but also Israeli monitoring groups and courageous Israeli journalists. These groups and individuals were constantly documenting and reporting abuses by the Israeli forces, but the news they bore rarely found even brief mention in the Times.
When a series of stabbing and vehicular attacks on Israelis began last fall, several monitoring groups issued alerts, charging that Israeli forces were using the situation to conduct “street executions” of Palestinians who actually posed no threat.
These accusations were bolstered by video and eyewitness evidence and came from groups such as the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Amnesty International and Euro-Med Monitor. To give even more weight to their claims, a group of nine Israeli organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights and the Public Committee Against Torture, issued a joint statement saying Israeli officials were responsible for the climate that fostered these executions.
The Times took little notice. The newspaper’s headlines remained focused on Palestinian attacks, and any quotes about extrajudicial executions were attributed to Palestinian officials, as if these charges were nothing more than the opinions of partisans taking one side in a bitter exchange.
Anticipating Baker’s arrival in Jerusalem, the Times produced a video featuring him in conversation with Rudoren and another former Jerusalem bureau chief, James Bennet. The trio made many references to “the conflict” (with only a single mention of the occupation), and they insisted that Times reporting strives to be balanced and neutral.
If reporters were sincerely looking for balance, however, it would seem that truly neutral parties, such as the United Nations and human rights organizations, would provide an essential antidote to the partisan claims of two adversaries. Yet the Times turns a deaf ear to these sources, no matter how fully documented their findings are, and relies heavily on Israeli officials.
Thus, Times readers are left in ignorance, hearing almost nothing about urgent and repeated appeals from these non-partisan groups. Beyond the latest accusations of extrajudicial killings, for instance, rights organizations have consistently highlighted the mistreatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli custody and the demolition of Palestinian structures, including everything from homes and workshops to cisterns and animal shelters.
Organizations such as UNICEF, Defence for Children International, Save the Children, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Committee Against Torture in Israel have tried over several years to publicize the abuse of Palestinian children (See TW 1-13-14.), but the Times has rarely mentioned these reports and then only in stories aimed to spin the information in favor of Israel.
Throughout 2015 some of these groups continued to issue frequent reports and news releases with headlines such as “Rising physical violence against Palestinian child detainees,” “UNICEF report confirms ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees remains systematic,” and “New U.S. government report highlights violations against Palestinian kids,” but the Times showed no interest in exploring the problem.
Likewise, Israel’s rampage of demolitions in the West Bank is never brought to the attention of Times readers although the United Nations, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and other groups have issued frequent statements and demands, urging Israel to end its policy of destruction.
While the Times has remained silent, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, columnists for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have often written about the terrible toll demolitions have exacted from some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities.
Rudoren wrote occasionally about punitive demolitions, the Israeli policy of destroying the family homes of attackers, but her stories omitted any mention of the much more common demolition of structures because they lack building permits, which are rarely issued.
The policy is a constant threat to Palestinians in a large part of the West Bank, and over the decades of occupation, the state has demolished more than 48,000 Palestinian homes and other structures.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has destroyed 726 Palestinian structures so far this year, displacing 1,020 people. In a recent report, OCHA noted that during one week this month, 42 structures were demolished or confiscated. The report stated, “Twelve of the targeted structures had been previously provided as humanitarian assistance, including emergency shelters, animal sheds, latrines, a community centre, and a water connection; the confiscation of the latter means that nearly 1,000 Palestinians in five herding communities in the Jordan Valley will continue to suffer water scarcity.”
The OCHA report continued, “This brings the number of assistance items destroyed or confiscated since the start of 2016 to 200, almost double the figure for the entire 2015 (108).” In other words, donors such as the European Union and International Committee of the Red Cross have stepped in to provide tents and other items when Israel has destroyed Palestinian homes, schools, playgrounds, water wells and other structures, but the Israeli authorities have demolished even this humanitarian aid.
In this brief report from OCHA “the awful clarity of the injustice” is evident, as it has been evident in hundreds of other reports issued over the years. The rising tide of demolitions, with all its human-interest value, is most certainly newsworthy, but will the Jerusalem bureau of The New York Times report it?
So far the Times seems determined to muddy the waters, avoiding a clear exposition of Israeli brutality, but with a new bureau chief now on board, some readers may hold out a faint hope for change, for an honest and full accounting at last.
Unfortunately, here at TimesWarp, the expectation is for more of the same. It seems unlikely that the Times would allow any straightforward reporting on Israeli oppression to appear in its pages. This would destroy its carefully fostered narrative of Israeli victimhood, “ancient hatreds” and the need to place Israeli security needs above all.
“How the Most Dangerous Place on Earth Got Safer” was the headline over the lead article in the New York Times‘ “Week in Review” (8/11/16), with the teaser reading, “Programs funded by the United States are helping transform Honduras. Who says American power is dead?”
The piece never really got around to explaining, though, how Honduras became the most dangerous place on Earth. That’s American power, too.
Reporter Sonia Nazario returned to Honduras after a three-year absence to find
a remarkable reduction in violence, much of it thanks to programs funded by the United States that have helped community leaders tackle crime…. The United States has not only helped to make these places safer, but has also reduced the strain on our own country.
Nazario described US-funded anti-violence programs in a high-crime neighborhood in the Honduran city San Pedro Sula:
The United States has provided local leaders with audio speakers for events, tools to clear 10 abandoned soccer fields that had become dumping grounds for bodies, notebooks and school uniforms, and funding to install streetlights and trash cans.
She offered the results of this and similar programs as evidence that “smart investments in Honduras are succeeding” and “a striking rebuke to the rising isolationists in American politics,” who “seem to have lost their faith in American power.”
But Nazario failed to explain how American power paved the way for the shocking rise in violence in Honduras. In the early 2000s, the murder rate in Honduras fluctuated between 44.3 and 61.4 per 100,000—very high by global standards, but similar to rates in neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala. (It’s not coincidental that all three countries were dominated by violent, US-backed right-wing governments in the 1980s—historical context that the op-ed entirely omitted.) Then, in June 2009, Honduras’ left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup, kidnapped and flown out of the country via the joint US/Honduran military base at Palmerola.
The US is supposed to cut off aid to a country that has a military coup—and “there is no doubt” that Zelaya’s ouster “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup,” according to a secret report sent by the US ambassador to Honduras on July 24, 2009, and later exposed by WikiLeaks. But the US continued most aid to Honduras, carefully avoiding the magic words “military coup” that would have necessitated withdrawing support from the coup regime.
Internal emails reveal that the State Department pressured the OAS not to support the country’s constitutional government. In her memoir Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton recalled how as secretary of State she worked behind the scenes to legitimate the new regime:
In the subsequent days [following the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras, and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.
With a corrupt, drug-linked regime in place, thanks in large part to US intervention, murder in Honduras soared, rising to 70.7 per 100,000 in 2009, 81.8 in 2010 and 91.4 in 2011—fully 50 percent above the pre-coup level. While many of the murders involved criminal gangs, much of the post-coup violence was political, with resuscitated death squads targeting journalists, opposition figures, labor activists and environmentalists—of whom indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was only the most famous.
At one point, it seemed like Nazario was going to acknowledge the US role in creating the problems she gives “American power” credit for ameliorating. “We are also repairing harms the United States inflicted,” she wrote—but the explanation she gives for that was strangely circumscribed:
first by deporting tens of thousands of gangsters to Honduras over the past two decades, a decision that fueled much of the recent mayhem, and second by our continuing demand for drugs, which are shipped from Colombia and Venezuela through Honduras.
No mention of the US supporting Honduras’ coup, or the political murders of the US-backed regime.
At one point, three-quarters of the way through the lengthy piece, Nazario did acknowledge in passing the sinister role the US plays in Latin America:
It will take much more than this project to change the reputation of the United States in this part of the world, where we are famous for exploiting workers and resources and helping to keep despots in power.
Surely it’s relevant that some of the despots the US helped keep in power were in the country she’s reporting from, and that this led directly to the problem she’s writing about? But she dropped the idea there, moving on immediately to talk about the US’s interest in reducing the flow of child refugees.
The most troubling part of the op-ed is that it didn’t feel the need to acknowledge or even dispute the relationship between US support for the coup and Honduras’ shocking murder rate. The New York Times covered much of this ground, after all, in an op-ed by Dana Frank four years ago (1/26/12). Now, however, that information is down the memory hole—leaving the Times free to tout donations of trashcans and school uniforms as an advertisement for American power.
Coverage of the breakdown of the partial ceasefire in Syria illustrated the main way corporate news media distort public understanding of a major foreign policy story. The problem is not that the key events in the story are entirely unreported, but that they were downplayed and quickly forgotten in the media’s embrace of themes with which they were more comfortable.
In this case, the one key event was the major offensive launched in early April by Al Nusra Front — the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria — alongside U.S.-backed armed opposition groups. This offensive was mentioned in at least two “quality” U.S. newspapers. Their readers, however, would not have read that it was that offensive that broke the back of the partial ceasefire.
On the contrary, they would have gotten the clear impression from following the major newspapers’ coverage that systematic violations by the Assad government doomed the ceasefire from the beginning.
Corporate media heralded the ceasefire agreement when it was negotiated by the United States and Russia in February, with the Los Angeles Times (2/3/16) calling it “the most determined diplomatic push to date aimed at ending the nation’s almost five-year conflict.” The “partial cessation of hostilities” was to apply between the Syrian regime and the non-jihadist forces, but not to the regime’s war with Nusra and with ISIS.
The clear implication was that the U.S.-supported non-jihadist opposition forces would have to separate themselves from Nusra, or else they would be legitimate targets for airstrikes.
But the relationship between the CIA-backed armed opposition to Assad and the jihadist Nusra Front was an issue that major U.S. newspapers had already found very difficult to cover (FAIR.org, 3/21/16).
U.S. Syria policy has been dependent on the military potential of the Nusra Front (and its close ally, Ahrar al Sham) for leverage on the Syrian regime, since the “moderate” opposition was unable to operate in northwest Syria without jihadist support. This central element in U.S. Syria policy, which both the government and the media were unwilling to acknowledge, was a central obstacle to accurate coverage of what happened to the Syrian ceasefire.
Shaping the Story
This problem began shaping the story as soon as the ceasefire agreement was announced. On Feb. 23, New York Times correspondent Neil MacFarquhar wrote a news analysis on the wider tensions between the Obama administration and Russia that pointed to “a gaping loophole” in the Syria ceasefire agreement: the fact that “it permits attacks against the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate, to continue.”
MacFarquhar asserted that exempting Nusra from the ceasefire “could work in Moscow’s favor, since many of the anti-Assad groups aligned with the United States fight alongside the Nusra Front.” That meant that Russia could “continue to strike United States-backed rebel groups without fear … of Washington’s doing anything to stop them,” he wrote.
On the same day, Adam Entous of the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama’s “top military and intelligence advisers don’t believe Russia will abide by a just-announced ceasefire in Syria and want to ready plans to increase pressure on Moscow by expanding covert support to rebels fighting the Russia-backed Assad regime.”
For two of the country’s most prominent newspapers, it was thus clear that the primary context of the Syria ceasefire was not its impact on Syria’s population, but how it affected the rivalry between powerful national security officials and Russia.
Contrary to those dark suspicions of Russian intentions to take advantage of the agreement to hit U.S.-supported Syrian opposition groups, however, as soon as the partial ceasefire agreement took effect on Feb. 27, Russia released a map that designated “green zones” where its air forces would not strike.
The green zones, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, corresponded with Syrian opposition groups that had signed on to the ceasefire. Furthermore, Russia stopped bombing the Nusra-controlled areas of northwest Syria, instead focusing on ISIS targets, as Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis confirmed on March 14.
Breaking the Ceasefire
But instead of separating themselves from Nusra Front, the U.S.-supported armed opposition joined with Nusra and its jihadist allies in a major offensive aimed at destroying the ceasefire.
Charles Lister, a leading British specialist on the jihadists in Syria, has recounted being told by the commander of a U.S.-backed armed group that around March 20, Nusra officials began a round of meetings with non-jihadist opposition groups from Hama, Latakia and southern Aleppo — including those supported by the United States — to persuade them to participate in a major offensive against the Assad regime, rather than in a ceasefire and political negotiations.
News media did not ignore the offensive launched on April 3 by Nusra Front and its “moderate” allies. The Los Angeles Times (4/4/16) described a “punishing attack” by Nusra and several “so-called moderate rebel factions” on the town of Al Eis, southwest of Aleppo, “overlooking the M5 highway, a vital artery connecting the Syrian capital, Damascus, in the southwest of the country, with the government-held city of Homs, in west-central Syria, and Aleppo in the north.”
Associated Press (4/3/16) reported that Nusra Front’s closest ally, Ahrar al Sham, together with U.S.-supported factions had simultaneously “seized government positions in heavy fighting in northwestern Latakia province.” The story quoted Zakariya Qaytaz of the U.S.-supported Division 13 brigade as telling the agency through Twitter: “The truce is considered over. This battle is a notice to the regime.”
The Nusra-led offensive was a decisive violation of the ceasefire, which effectively frustrated the intention of isolating the jihadists. It led to continued high levels of fighting in the three areas where it had taken place, and Russian planes returned to Nusra Front-controlled territory for the first time in nearly six weeks. Yet after the first reports on the offensive, its very existence vanished from media coverage of Syria.
Disappearing Key Facts
No U.S. newspaper followed up over the next two weeks to analyze its significance in terms of U.S. policy, especially in light of the role of “legitimate” armed opposition groups in trashing the ceasefire.
Wall Street Journal correspondent Sam Dagher (4/4/16) suggested in his initial report on the offensive that it was a response to a Syrian air force airstrike in an opposition-controlled suburb of Damascus two days earlier, which activists said killed 30 civilians. But the offensive was so complex and well-organized that it had obviously been prepared well in advance of that strike.
None of the other papers sought to portray the offensive as the result of a pattern of increasing military pressure on the Nusra Front or its allies. In fact, after the initial reports, all four major newspapers — the New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — simply ignored the fact that the offensive had been carried out.
On April 19, three separate articles presented three variants of what became the broad media approach to explaining the fate of the ceasefire agreement. The Journal’s Nour Malas and Sam Dagher wrote: “A limited truce in Syria, brokered by the US and Russia in late February, has unraveled in recent weeks, with government forces escalating attacks on several fronts and rebels relaunching operations around the northern city of Aleppo.”
That formulation clearly suggested that either the regime had moved first, or that government and rebels had somehow both taken the offensive at the same moment; the former interpretation was encouraged by the headline, “Syrian Government Steps Up Airstrikes.”
On the same day, New York Times Beirut correspondent Anne Barnard wrote a piece focused mainly on regime airstrikes in two Idlib towns, Maarat al Numan and Kafr Nable, that had killed many as 40 civilians.
Barnard’s piece was headlined, “Ceasefire Crumbles as Bombings Kill Dozens” — suggesting that the airstrikes had somehow led to the “crumbling.” Barnard did refer to an otherwise unidentified “insurgent offensive” that preceded the strikes, but did not draw any causal relationship between it and the bombing.
The article cited the opposition claim that the government had repeatedly violated the partial ceasefire, but didn’t cite a single concrete instance of such a violation. And it appears to contradict that argument by observing that the Idlib airstrikes had ended “the relative respite from airstrikes that had lasted nearly two months” – i.e., from the time the ceasefire had gone into effect.
Yet a third article to appear that day, published by Reuters, explicitly asserted that the regime airstrike on a crowded market by Syrian planes to which Barnard referred was the cause of the failure of the partial ceasefire.
“Syrian peace talks appeared all but doomed on Tuesday,” it said, “after airstrikes killed about 40 people in a crowded vegetable market in rebel territory, with the opposition saying a truce was finished and it would keep out of negotiations indefinitely.”
Wrapping Up the Distortions
Finally, on April 27, Karen DeYoung, associate editor of the Washington Post, wrote a news analysis piece looking back on what happened to the ceasefire. The piece never mentioned the major Nusra Front offensive in which U.S.-supported armed groups had played a key role, passing on instead the distorted explanation of the fate of the ceasefire offered by national security bureaucrats.
“Some Defense Department and intelligence officials,” she wrote, “think Russia and its Syrian government client are clearly violating the ceasefire and provoking the opposition into doing the same.”
Like the three April 19 articles, DeYoung focused entirely on military moves taken by the regime more than two weeks after the joint Nusra/opposition April offensive. She cited the Syrian government bombing of Kafr Nabl and Maarat al Numan the previous week, asserting that the towns were “heavily bombed by Assad after rebel forces threw out Nusra occupiers and civilians took to the streets in anti-Assad demonstrations.”
But that characterization of the situation in the two towns, clearly aimed to support the notion that they were free of Nusra control, was false. In fact, Kafr Nabl had formerly been the home of the U.S.-backed Division 13, but far from having been thrown out, Nusra Front had reasserted its direct control over the towns in mid-March, kicking Division 13 out of its base and seizing its U.S.-supplied weapons after a fight over the larger town Maarat al Numan.
DeYoung went so far as to embrace the CIA/Pentagon bureaucrats’ argument that the United States should not have agreed to allow any attacks on Nusra Front in the ceasefire agreement.
“The Nusra ceasefire exception had already left a hole big enough for the Syrian government and Russia to barrel through,” she wrote, “and they have not hesitated to do so in pursuit of regaining the initiative on the ground for Assad.”
The implication of the argument is that the United States should do nothing to interfere with Nusra’s capacity to strike at the Assad regime. Thus DeYoung quoted an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War, which favors a more belligerent U.S. policy in Syria, dismissing the military collaboration by U.S.-supported groups with Nusra Front as not really significant, because it is only “tactical,” and that Nusra merely offers to help those allies “retaliate” against regime attacks, rather than seeking a military solution to the conflict.
Such arguments are merely shallow rationalizations, however, for the preference of hardliners in Washington for pitting Al Qaeda’s military power against Russia and its Syrian client, enhancing the power position of the U.S. national security state in Syria.
A Simplistic Summary
As more time passes, the media version of why the partial ceasefire failed has become even more simplistic and distorted. On July 12, DeYoung revisited the issue in the context of the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia on military cooperation against Nusra Front. This time she portrayed the ceasefire quite starkly as the victim of Syrian and Russian bombing:
“Despite a ceasefire ostensibly in effect since February, Syrian planes have kept up a steady bombardment of both civilian and opposition sites — where they have argued that Al Nusra forces, exempt from the truce, are mixed with rebel groups covered by the accord. After observing the early weeks of the ceasefire, Russian planes joined the Syrian forces, including in an offensive last weekend that took over the only remaining supply route for both rebels and civilians hunkered down in the northern city of Aleppo.”
Playing the role of ultimate media arbiter of how the attentive public is to understand the pivotal issue of why the ceasefire failed, DeYoung has deleted from memory the essential facts. In her narrative, there was no Nusra Front plan to destroy the ceasefire, and no April Nusra offensive to seize strategic territory south of Aleppo with the full participation of U.S.-supported opposition groups.
The lesson of the Syrian ceasefire episode is clear: The most influential news media have virtually complete freedom to shape the narrative surrounding a given issue simply by erasing inconvenient facts from the story line. They can do that even when the events or facts have been reported by one or more of those very news media.
In the world of personal access and power inhabited by those who determine what will be published and what won’t, even the most obviously central facts are disposable in the service of a narrative that maintains necessary relationships.
An astonishing piece appeared in the New York Times (NYT) recently. It reported a fierce bias in the Times’s coverage of politics and current affairs, most notably when it comes to Donald Trump. The bias turns up not just in the opinion pages but in the News, reports Liz Spayd, the new “public editor,” a position once called the ombudsman.
But the surprise does not end there. Spayd’s report is based on letters from liberal readers, which are filling her inbox to overflowing. Here are some examples that she cites:
“You’ve lost a subscriber because of your relentless bias against Trump — and I’m not even a Republican,” writes an Arizonan.
“I never thought I’d see the day when I, as a liberal, would start getting so frustrated with the one-sided reporting that I would start hopping over to the Fox News webpage to read an article and get the rest of the story that the NYT refused to publish,” writes a woman from California.
“The NY Times is alienating its independent and open-minded readers, and in doing so, limiting the reach of their message and its possible influence,” writes a Manhattanite.
Since these examples are all letters from liberals, the public editor comments:
“You can imagine what the letters from actual conservatives sound like….
“Emails like these stream into this office every day. A perception that The Times is biased prompts some of the most frequent complaints from readers. Only they arrive so frequently, and have for so long, that the objections no longer land with much heft.”
Of course, this is nothing new for the Times. The bias in favor of the latest project of the American Imperium has been true for my entire lifetime. But it used to be subtler, and it used to include some real information, albeit buried away somewhere deep within an article. Noam Chomsky was once fond of reminding us that it was better to read the Times articles backwards, because some truth was buried in the last couple paragraphs.
But in the last few decades since the end of the Cold War and the rise of NATO Expansion and American Exceptionalism in the Clinton “co-presidency,” the situation has grown much worse. The age of American Triumphalism has caused more rot in the mainstream media. Not only with the Times but with other major outlets like the Washington Post, the Wall St. Journal and National Public Radio.
A striking example occurred when the Times lent its front page to a fabricated and now thoroughly discredited story by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon in September, 2002 claiming that Iraq had WMD.
That was just weeks before Congress took a vote to “authorize” George W. Bush to launch an invasion of Iraq. I still recall the day I looked at that article and thought it was fact free and source free and that any decent editor would turn it back. It was clear at that moment that the fix was in and that we were on our way to a war which our Elite had decided upon. (Judith Miller eventually was the sacrificial lamb when that story and its origins in Dick Cheney’s office became known. But the co-author, Michael R. Gordon, continues as the “chief military correspondent” for the Times, and the editors in charge have never been punished.)
It seems that the situation has got worse with the rise of Trump who endangers the Imperium’s quest for world domination by seeking to “get along” with Russia and China. Once Trump took that stance, the vitriol and vituperation became a daily feature in the Times. Indeed their columnist Timothy Egan seems to write about little else these days. Only Maureen Dowd provides occasional timid relief, daring to point out that Trump “talks to the press,” a dig at Hillary who does not. (Clinton has not had so much as a single press conference in almost a year.)
I know that many Times readers now seek out Fox, just like the letter writer quoted above. And many also turn to Breitbart and the Drudge Report as well as RT and China Daily. Even when the Times reports some actual facts, it reports only selected ones (A half truth is a full lie.) or buries them in a narrative that neutralizes them.
More Times readers should recognize that they are being taken for a ride. And they should stop being so damned cocksure and snooty about their “knowledge.” They often look more foolish than they might think.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
A couple of newspaper articles caught my attention this weekend. The first was in The Times, and claimed the following:
President Putin has launched a secret propaganda assault on Britain from within its own borders, The Times can reveal. The Kremlin is spreading disinformation through a newly opened British bureau for its Sputnik international news service, and is infiltrating elite universities by placing language and cultural centres on campuses. Analysts said that the push was part of Russia’s military doctrine, which specifies the use of ‘informational and other non-military measures’ in conflicts.
The Times is particularly alarmed by the fact that, ‘the University of Edinburgh accepted £221,000 from the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) Foundation to host Britain’s first Moscow-sponsored language and cultural centre. The foundation has also opened centres at Durham University, which accepted £85,000, and St Antony’s College, Oxford.’ According to The Times, ‘A NATO source accused Russia of “operationalising information” from within Britain. “The Russian information effort is to muddy the waters, to create uncertainty,” he said.’
The second article was published in Sunday’s New York Times. In this, the former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul claims that ‘Everywhere, autocrats are pushing back against democrats, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is the de facto leader of this global movement.’ America must resist this movement, McFaul says. Otherwise, ‘The threats will grow and eventually endanger our peace, as we saw in Europe and Japan in the 1930s, and Afghanistan in the 1990s.’
What exactly should America do? McFaul suggests:
Just as the Kremlin has become more sophisticated at exporting its ideas and supporting its friends, so must we. We should think of advancing democratic ideas abroad primarily as an educational project, almost never as a military campaign. Universities, books and websites are the best tools, not the 82nd Airborne.
But it’s best not to do this openly, McFaul admits. He says, ‘Direct financial assistance to democrats is problematic: A check from an American embassy can taint its recipients. America’s next president should privatize such aid and help seed new independent foundations.’
So, let me get this straight. Russkii Mir openly provides money to the University of Edinburgh for the study of Russian language and culture. That constitutes a ‘secret propaganda assault on Britain’. Ambassador McFaul proposes giving money to Russian universities through disguised channels and for decidedly political purposes, and that is ‘advancing democratic ideas’. ‘Nuff said!
Hardline foreign policy prevails
The mass migration of apparently hundreds of nominally GOP neocon apparatchiks to the Hillary Clinton camp has moved Democratic Party foreign policy farther to the right, not that the presidential nominee herself needed much persuading. The Democratic convention platform is a template of the hardline foreign policy positions espoused by Clinton and the convention itself concluded with a prolonged bout of Russian bashing that could have been orchestrated by Hillary protégé Victoria Nuland.
The inside the beltway crowd has realized that when in doubt it is always a safe bet to blame Vladimir Putin based on the assumption that Russia is and always will be an enemy of the United States. Wikileaks recently published some thousands of emails that painted the Democratic National Committee, then headed by Hillary loyalist Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a very bad light. Needing a scapegoat, Russia was blamed for the original hack that obtained the information, even though there is no hard evidence that Moscow had anything to do with it.
Those in the media and around Hillary who were baying the loudest about how outraged they were over the hack curiously appear to have no knowledge of the existence of the National Security Agency, located at Fort Meade Maryland, which routinely breaks into the government computers of friends and foes alike worldwide. Apparently what is fair game for American codebreakers is no longer seen so positively when there is any suggestion that the tables might have been turned.
Republican nominee Donald Trump noted that if the Russians were in truth behind the hack he would like them to search for the 30,000 emails that Hillary Clinton reportedly deleted from her home server. The comment, which to my mind was sarcastically making a point about Clinton’s mendacity, brought down the wrath of the media, with the New York Times reporting that “foreign policy experts,” also sometimes known as “carefully selected ‘Trump haters,’” were shocked by The Donald. The paper quoted one William Inboden, allegedly a University of Texas professor who served on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council. Inboden complained that the comments were “an assault on the Constitution” and “tantamount to treason.” Now I have never heard of Inboden, which might be sheer ignorance on my part, but he really should refresh himself on what the Constitution actually says about treason, tantamount or otherwise. According to Article III of the Constitution of the United States one can only commit treason if there is a declared war going on and one is actively aiding an enemy, which as far as I know is not currently the case as applied to the U.S. relationship with Russia.
Another interesting aspect of the Russian scandal is the widespread assertion that Moscow is attempting to interfere in U.S. politics and is both clandestinely and openly supporting Donald Trump. This is presumably a bad thing, if true, because Putin would, according to the pundits, be able to steamroll “Manchurian Candidate” President Trump and subvert U.S. foreign policy in Russia’s favor. Alternatively, as the narrative continues, the stalwart Hillary would presumably defend American values and the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at any time against all comers including Putin and those rascals in China and North Korea. Professor Inboden might no doubt be able to provide a reference to the part of the Constitution that grants Washington that right as he and his former boss George W. Bush were also partial to that interpretation.
And the alleged Russian involvement leads inevitably to some thoughts about interference by other governments in our electoral system. Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did so in a rather heavy handed fashion in 2012 on behalf of candidate Mitt Romney but I don’t recall even a squeak coming out of Hillary and her friends when that took place. That just might be due to the fact that Netanyahu owns Bill and Hillary, which leads inevitably to consideration of the other big winner now that the two conventions are concluded. The team that one sees doing the victory lap is the state of Israel, which dodged a bigtime bullet when it managed to exploit its bought and paid for friends to eliminate any criticism of its military occupation and settlements policies. Indeed, Israel emerged from the two party platforms as America’s best friend and number one ally, a position it has occupied since its Lobby took control of the Congress, White House and the mainstream media around thirty years ago.
Donald Trump, who has perversely promised to be an honest broker in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, has also described himself as the best friend in the White House that Tel Aviv is ever likely to have. In addition to Trump speaking for himself, Israel was mentioned fourteen times in GOP convention speeches, always being described as the greatest ally and friend to the U.S., never as the pain in the ass and drain on the treasury that it actually represents.
No other foreign country was mentioned as often as Israel apart from Iran, which was regularly cited as an enemy of both the U.S. and – you guessed it – Israel. Indeed, the constant thumping of Iran is a reflection of the overweening affection for Netanyahu and his right wing government. Regarding Iran, the GOP foreign policy platform states “We consider the Administration’s deal with Iran, to lift international sanctions and make hundreds of billions of dollars available to the Mullahs, a personal agreement between the President and his negotiating partners and non-binding on the next president. Without a two-thirds endorsement by the Senate, it does not have treaty status. Because of it, the defiant and emboldened regime in Tehran continues to sponsor terrorism across the region, develop a nuclear weapon, test-fire ballistic missiles inscribed with ‘Death to Israel,’ and abuse the basic human rights of its citizens.”
The final written Republican platform for 2016 as relating to the Middle East, drawn up with the input of two Trump advisors Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, rather supports the suggestion that Trump would be pro-Israel rather than the claim of impartiality. The plank entitled “Our Unequivocal Support of Israel and Jerusalem,” promises to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, praises Israel in five different sections, eulogizing it as a “beacon of democracy and humanity” brimming over with freedom of speech and religion while concluding that “support for Israel is an expression of Americanism.” It pledges “no daylight” between the two countries, denies that Israel is an “occupier,” and slams the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which it describes as anti-Semitic and seeking to destroy Israel. It calls for legal action to “thwart” BDS. There is no mention of a Palestinian state or of any Palestinian rights to anything at all.
The Democratic plank on the Middle East gives lip service to a two state solution for Israel-Palestine but is mostly notable for what it chose to address. Two Bernie Sanders supporters on the platform drafting committee James Zogby and Cornel West wanted to remove any illegal under international law affirmation that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel and also sought to eliminated any condemnation of BDS. They failed on both issues and then tried to have included mild language criticizing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its settlement building. They were outvoted by Hillary supporters on all the issues they considered important. Indeed, there is no language at all critical in any way of Israel, instead asserting that “a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.” That none of that was or is true apparently bothered no one in the Hillary camp.
The Democratic platform document explicitly condemns any support for BDS. Hillary Clinton, who has promised to take the relationship with Israel to a whole new level, has reportedly agreed to an anti-BDS pledge to appease her principal financial supporter Haim Saban, an Israeli-American film producer. Clinton also directly and personally intervened through her surrogate on the committee Wendy Sherman to make sure that the party platform would remain pro-Israel.
But many Democrats on the floor of the convention hall have, to their credit, promoted a somewhat different perspective, displaying signs and stickers while calling for support of Palestinian rights. One demonstrator outside the convention center burned an Israeli flag, producing a sharp response from Hillary’s spokeswoman for Jewish outreach Sarah Bard, “Hillary Clinton has always stood against efforts to marginalize Israel and incitement, and she strongly condemns this kind of hatred. Burning the Israeli flag is a reckless act that undermines peace and our values.” Bill meanwhile was seen in the hall wearing a Hillary button written in Hebrew. It was a full court press pander and one has to wonder how Hillary would have felt about someone burning a Russian flag or seeing Bill sport a button in Cyrillic.
Team Hillary also ignored chants from the convention floor demanding “No More War” and there are separate reports suggesting that one of her first priorities as president will be to initiate a “full review” of the “murderous” al-Assad regime in Syria with the intention of taking care of him once and for all. “No More War” coming from the Democratic base somehow became “More War Please” for the elites that run the party.
The Democratic platform also beats down on Iran, declaring only tepid support for the nuclear deal while focusing more on draconian enforcement, asserting that they would “not hesitate to take military action if Iran violates the agreement.” It also cited Iran as “the leading state sponsor of terrorism” and claimed that Tehran “has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East.” For what it’s worth, neither assertion about Iran’s regional role is true and Tehran reportedly has complied completely with the multilateral nuclear agreement. It is the U.S. government that is failing to live up to its commitments by refusing to allow Iranian access to financial markets while the Congress has even blocked an Iranian bid to buy Made-in-the-U.S.A. civilian jetliners.
So those of us who had hoped for at least a partial abandonment of the hitherto dominant foreign policy consensus have to be disappointed as they in the pro-war crowd in their various guises as liberal interventionists or global supremacy warriors continue to control much of the discourse from left to right. Russia continues to be a popular target to vent Administration frustration over its inept posturing overseas, though there is some hope that Donald Trump might actually reverse that tendency. Iran serves as a useful punchline whenever a politician on the make runs out of other things to vilify. And then there is always Israel, ever the victim, perpetually the greatest ally and friend. And invariably needing some extra cash, a warplane or two or a little political protection in venues like the United Nations.
If you read through the two party platforms on foreign policy, admittedly a brutal and thankless task, you will rarely find any explanation of actual American interests at play in terms of the involvement of the U.S. in what are essentially other people’s quarrels. That is as it should be as our political class has almost nothing to do with reality but instead is consumed with delusions linked solely to acquisition of power and money. That realization on the part of the public has driven both the Trump and Sanders movements and, even if they predictably flame out, there is always the hope that the dissidents will grow stronger with rejection and something might actually happen in 2020.
After baseless allegations from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that the Russian government was behind a hack of the DNC’s emails, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sarcastically quipped that he hoped Russia would find and release the deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server from her time as secretary of state. The New York Times failed to note the sarcasm and treated the comments as evidence of high crimes against the state. It was an example of the modern day red-baiting against Trump, who is portrayed as being in league with Russian President Vladimir Putin to conspire against the United States itself.
The Times said Trump was “essentially urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyberespionage against a former secretary of state.” While Trump is such a narcissitic buffoon that it is often difficult to discern when he is being facetious, he was clearly making a joke.
But treating the comment in the spirit it was intended would mean passing up a golden opportunity to bash Trump for what has become common knowledge in mainstream political analysis: Trump is anti-American for being diplomatic instead of vilifying Russia and Putin at every opportunity. They scrutinize and make a point of every statement Trump makes that fails to antagonize Russia for actions the US government doesn’t antagonize other countries for.
While they merely imply “urging” cyberespionage is treasonous rather than state it explicitly, the Times finds it so important that they place it in the lead paragraph. This is curiously prominent, much more prominent than when President Barack Obama literally joked about incinerating a family with a remotely guided missile.
At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2010, Obama said:
“The Jonas Brothers are here. (Applause.) They’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But, boys, don’t get any ideas. (Laughter.) I have two words for you – predator drones. (Laughter.) You will never see it coming. (Laughter.) You think I’m joking. (Laughter.)” Unlike Trump’s joke, which warranted its own headline (“Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails”), Obama’s joke wasn’t mentioned in the Times’ headline about the event (“Obama and Leno Share a Time Slot“) nor the lead. Their summary of the night’s newsworthiness noted “jokes about Representative John Boehner’s tan, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lack of restraint and the Fox News-MSNBC divide.”
You had to go all the way down to the eighth paragraph to find the briefest possible mention of Obama’s obscene drone murder joke/threat:
“Mr. Obama noted the presence of the Jonas Brothers, who can count Sasha and Malia Obama among their fans. But the First Father warned the band: ‘Two words: predator drones.’ ” If another world leader hypothetically ran a global assassination campaign under which he unilaterally assumed the power to kill anyone he wanted in the world, anywhere, any time, with the only criteria needed to order someone’s death being internal deliberations within the executive branch, it would produce such a frenzy in corporate media they would devote themselves nearly exclusively to beating the drums for regime change, much as they did leading up to the Iraq War.
If that hypothetical leader then joked about people he was killing, it would undoubtedly be a banner headline on the front page for days or weeks. There would certainly be apoplectic outrage, and you most definitely wouldn’t have to scroll down to the eighth paragraph to learn about it.
Mark Karlin wrote in Buzzflash at Truthout in 2014 that Obama’s mock threat to the Jonas brothers “evoked the US indifference to those persons killed overseas by drone strikes. That is because the guffaws of the corporate media were based on the subconscious premise that Obama’s boasting of his power to authorize kill strikes is limited to people of little note to DC insiders, Middle-Eastern civilians (collateral damage) and persons alleged to be terrorists or in areas where terrorists allegedly congregate.”
As Jeanne Mirer, president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, writes in Drones and Targeted Killing: “If the person against whom lethal force is directed has not been convicted of a crime for which a death sentence is permissible in the state where the killing occurs, the targeted killing is also an ‘extrajudicial’ killing, outside of any legal process. Targeted extrajudicial killing is, by its very nature, illegal.”  But corporate media like the New York Times could care less that Obama is violating international human rights law and the US Constitution itself by assassinating people.
What produces the greatest moral outrage in the Times and the media elites is perceived attacks on the American state, or perceived threats to American supremacy. Thus the Times calls Trump’s joke “another bizarre moment in the mystery of whether Vladimir Putin’s government has been seeking to influence the United States’ presidential race.”
What is supposedly bizarre is unclear. What is dubbed a “mystery” is really nothing more than a conspiracy theory. The Times cites the DNC’s accusations that Russian intelligence agents hacked the committee’s emails. The DNC’s frantic finger pointing at Russia are a transparent tactic to distract from the damning content of the emails themselves, as Nadia Prupis has written at Common Dreams.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange noted in an interview with Democracy Now that any such claims are “simply speculation” and when Hillary’s campaign manager Robby Mook was asked in a TV interview to name the experts he was citing as evidence, Mook refused flatly.
The Times validates the DNC’s objective evidence-free accusations by saying American intelligence agencies have confirmed with “high confidence” the Russian government was behind the attack. They have not publicly presented any evidence at all, but their word at face value is good enough for the Times to consider it damning proof.
American intelligence agencies and the military have a motive to hype the Russian “threat” to justify their own budget requests and advance the US government’s policy of global hegemony, presumably unaware that the Cold War ended 25 years ago.
In case Russia’s transgressions are not self-evident enough for Times readers, they call attention to Trump’s refusal to condemn Russia’s “seizure” of Crimea and willingness to consider whether to lift sanctions against the Russian government as a “remarkable departure from United States policy.”
It would be a departure from US policy against Russia. But it is not US policy to sanction countries for incorporating territory outside their recognized borders in general. Quite the opposite in fact. Unlike Crimea, which voted with roughly 97 percent support to join Russia in a peaceful transition to re-integrate itself into the country it had been part of for several centuries, Israel seized the Palestinian territories nearly 50 years ago through violent military aggression against the unanimous wishes of both the Palestinians themselves and nearly the entire Middle East and beyond. In the subsequent half century, the US has showered Israel with more than $150 billion in aid while fighting tooth and nail any attempt in the United Nations to hold Israel to account for its indisputable violations of international law.
The US has also generously gifted millions of dollars in aid to countries like Indonesia after they had seized East Timor and carried a genocidal assault against nearly one third of the country’s population and sponsored France’s attempts to reconquer their former colony Vietnam after World War II (before stepping in directly and unleashing the most horrific military assault on a country’s people and environment in modern times.)
But policies of supporting other country’s human rights and international violations are not of interest to the Times if those countries are seen as allied with US “interests” or “values.” It is only when someone questions whether it is necessary to continue treating another government as an enemy that they are called on to take a hard-line in standing up for international law.
The Times calls Russia “often hostile to the United Sates” while NATO continues to encircle the country from all sides and Obama has ordered what amounts to a permanent buildup of NATO personnel and weapons along Russia’s borders and instigated a new nuclear arms race by spending $1 trillion to upgrade the US nuclear arsenal and make weapons more usable, i.e., more likely to be employed.
In another article titled “As Democrats Gather, a Russian Subplot Raises Intrigue,” the Times asks what they purport to be a widespread question: “Is Vladimir V. Putin trying to meddle in the American presidential election.”
While this is merely another conspiracy theory without any actual evidence supporting it, it is the case that countries often do meddle in the elections of other countries. But it is almost always the US government itself doing it to others, which explains why it is ignored by the Times and the rest of the media establishment.
In Rogue State, William Blum lists twenty cases of US interference in the elections of sovereign countries (including Russia itself) :
British Guyana, 1953-64
Dominican Republic, 1962
Nicaragua, 1984, 1990
But the actions themselves are not the issue. Not all violations of international law or subversion of state sovereignty are created equal. If the US government is the perpetrator of such actions, they are glossed over or ignored entirely. But when the US itself is seen as the subject of such violation (even when it is purely in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists and others seeking to demonize official enemies, as appears to be the case in the current moment) any one who doesn’t join forcefully in the demonization is vilified relentlessly, as Trump is experiencing in the pages of the Times and across the mainstream media.
 Cohn, Marjorie. Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Olive Branch Press, 2014. Kindle Edition.
 Blum, William. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. 2016. Kindle Edition.
Hillary is unique in the annals of US presidential politics, a despicable aspirant like no other, an unprecedented threat to world peace, security and humanity’s survival.
Letting her succeed Obama is an unacceptable risk no thinking, peace loving person should tolerate.
It’s inconceivable for anyone knowing her public record to support her – an untrustworthy, widely reviled she-devil, war goddess, racketeer, serial liar threat to virtually everything peace-loving people everywhere hold most dear.
New York Times – led media scoundrels deplorably endorse her, serving as virtual press agents, abandoning journalistic ethics and principles altogether, inventing a nonexistent Hillary persona, suppressing her dark side demanding condemnation, brainwashing readers and viewers to believe she’s the one, bashing Trump relentlessly, way over-the-top in how they one-sidedly go at him.
The risk in November is electoral rigging, installing her as president the way primaries and caucuses were stolen to anoint her Democrat nominee.
America’s electoral process is more scandalous than legitimate, electoral fraud longstanding since the republic’s early days – things rigged today with electronic ease, voter roll purging, millions of votes left uncounted and other dirty tricks.
Democracy in America is pure fantasy. What powerful interests want, they get. Ordinary people have no say whatever, voting a waste of time.
Hillary is clearly the establishment’s choice, Trump the unwanted outlier. US elections are farcical when held, illegitimate by any standard.
In 2000, five Supreme Court justices chose George Bush for president – overriding the popular and Electoral College votes for Al Gore, denying him the office he won.
Will grand theft anoint Hillary Obama’s successor? Are things already decided? Is November’s election (sic) an exercise in futility – theater to create the illusion of democracy?
Hillary represents the worst of Obama’s deplorable record on steroids – beholden to Wall Street, war-profiteers and other monied interests, disdainful of fundamental human rights and needs, a self-serving power-hungry woman lusting for endless wars, risking possible WW III.
Why defeating her is so essential, the choice between remaining freedoms or full-blown tyranny, perhaps life or death!
The horror of a 2nd Clinton crime family co-presidency is too unacceptable a threat to tolerate.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
Short answer: nobody knows, but the media is treating it as a fact based primarily on a single technical source employed by the Democratic National Committee. I read the source’s publically available explanation. Here’s what I found.
A Quick Taste of Media Conclusions
Despite a line in paragraph five saying “Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult,” the New York Times offers the following statements.
— “researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies;”
— “Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects;”
— “Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess.”
— “It is unclear how WikiLeaks obtained the email trove. But the presumption is that the intelligence agencies turned it over, either directly or through an intermediary. Moreover, the timing of the release, between the end of the Republican convention and the beginning of the Democratic one, seems too well planned to be coincidental.”
There’s more, but you get the picture. The article also quotes Clinton staffers citing unnamed experts and researchers.
Who Are These Experts?
The only experts cited work for a company hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hack. There is no indication of any neutral third party investigation. The company, Crowdstrike, issued a publicly available report on what they found.
The report title makes clear the company’s conclusion: Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee.
What Does the Report Say?
The report has some technical explanations, but focuses on conclusions that seem to be at best presumptions, despite the media treating them as fact.
— The key presumptive conclusion seems to be that the sophistication of the hacks points to a nation-state actor. “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities.”
— The hackers, two separate entities Crowdstrike says worked independently, used techniques known to be used by Russians. Better yet, with no evidence at all presented, Crowdstrike concludes, “Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.” Also, for one of the alleged hackers, “Extensive targeting of defense ministries and other military victims has been observed, the profile of which closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government.”
— By the end of the report Crowdstrike is just plain out called the hackers “Russian espionage groups.”
FYI: Fidelis, another cybersecurity company, was hired by Crowdstrike to review the findings. Fidelis worked exclusively and only with data provided by Crowdstrike (as did several other companies.) Fidelis They concluded the same two hackers, COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR APT, committed the intrusion, but made no comments on whether those two were linked to the Russian government.
Um, Valid Conclusions?
Despite the citing with certainty of experts and researchers by the media and the Clinton campaign, the only such expert who has made any findings public has basically thrown out little more than a bunch of presumptions and unsubstantiated conclusions.
Left undiscussed are:
— the commonality of hackers using “false flags,” say where an Israeli hacker will purposely leave behind false clues to make it seem that a Hungarian did the work. As one commentator put it sarcastically “The malware was written in Russian? It was a Russian who attacked you. Chinese characters in the code? You’ve been hacked by the Peoples Liberation Army.”
— the question of if the hackers were “Russians,” can anyone tie them to the Russian government? Joe Black Hat breaking into some system in Ireland may indeed be an American person, but it is quite a jump to claim he thus works for the American government.
— there is also a significant question of motive. For Putin to be the bad guy here, we have to believe that Putin wants Trump in power, bad enough to risk near-war with the U.S. if caught in the hack, and bad enough to really p.o. Clinton who will be nominated this week anyway, and hoping of course that evidence of dirty tricks by the DNC released in July will be enough to defeat her in November. That’s a real s-t-r-e-t-c-h, Sparky.
— other than those private persons who hack for their own entertainment or personal political beliefs, most work for money. They steal something and sell it. Information from the DNC system would find an easy buyer.
— Who might be interested in buying these emails? Along the range of actors who would benefit from exposing these emails, why would the Russians come out on top? Perhaps the Republicans? China? Pretty much any of the many enemies the Clintons have amassed over the years? Hell, even Bernie Sanders, whose complaints about the DNC were validated by the email release. The suspects based on motive alone make up a very long list.
For some intelligent analysis suspicious that the DNC hack was a Russian intelligence job, try this.
For some more technical information on one of the alleged DNC infiltrators, here you go.