Now, with the seizure of a Swedish boat in international waters, The New York Times can no longer ignore Flotilla III, the latest attempt to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. So we find a story today that ends the paper’s silence on this weeks-long saga that began in Gothenburg last month.
Times readers learned nothing of the Marianne and her three companion vessels as the international organizers of the flotilla announced their plans and gathered crews throughout the spring. Even when one of the boats was sabotaged last week or when a Palestinian member of the Knesset announced that he was joining the group, none of these events appeared in the Times.
Those who checked out The Washington Post, Newsweek, CBS News or Israeli media would have known that Flotilla III was on its way to Gaza, with the Swedish vessel approaching the strip and the others far behind. The Times, however, avoided any mention of the effort until today, when the Israeli navy announced that it had seized the Marianne and was taking her to the port of Ashdod. (The other vessels by then had turned back toward Europe.)
Now the Times has published an article by Diaa Hadid on the seizure, and her piece gives precedence to Israeli spin, allowing official excuses for the brutal siege of Gaza to stand as fact. Thus, she writes that Israel maintains a naval blockade of the strip “because militants have tried to smuggle in weapons and attack Israel by sea.”
Hadid repeats this formula in the subsequent paragraph where she states that Israel allows only “small amounts” of construction materials into Gaza “because Hamas has used building materials to construct tunnels to attack Israel.”
United Nations investigations have provided very different takes on these two issues: A 2010 fact-finding mission, for instance, declared that Israel has imposed the blockade (by land and sea) out of “a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.”
Where Hadid’s piece implies that tunnels have been used for random “terror” attacks on Israel, a recent UN report on the 2014 conflict found that the tunnels had been used only for legitimate means, to engage with Israeli troops during the fighting this past summer. Neither the Times nor any other media outlet has named a single Israeli civilian who was harmed because of these tunnels. (See TimesWarp 6-22-15.)
Unfortunately, Hadid fails to mention either of these findings and repeats Israeli spin as accepted fact. She fails to make even a minimal attempt at attribution, and so we have no “according to” or “Israel claims” here—just the bald, assertive “because.”
Her story ends with a poignant quote that begs for explanation. As fishermen gathered in Gaza to protest the seizure of the Marianne, one of them spoke to a Times representative. “We hope that other activists come to Gaza to help us break the naval siege,” he said, “so that we can sail again without fear.”
The article leaves us with an unanswered question: Why are the fishermen living in fear? Times readers, however, never learn the answer: Israeli naval boats routinely open fire on fishermen as they sail within the 6-mile limit imposed by the blockade. At least one died this year, several have been injured, and several have lost their boats and equipment because of the Israeli attacks.
The Times ignores this ongoing breach of the August 2014 truce, which stated that the fishing limit would expand to 12 miles. (This in itself is still far short of the 20-mile boundary set by the Oslo accords.) The paper also ignores Israel’s military incursions into Gaza, which are further breaches of the ceasefire.
Times editors are counting on a short shelf life for the Flotilla III story. Too much attention to such messy topics as international law, the definition of piracy, assaults on unarmed fishermen and Israeli breaches of the 2014 ceasefire might expose some inconvenient facts about Israel’s pitiless siege of Gaza, and this is not to their taste.
It now appears that the longest drawn out negotiations in history since the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War will again be prorogued. I am, of course, referring to the P5+1 talks in Vienna seeking to come up with a peaceful resolution to the problem of Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program. Today represents the third deadline as the negotiations have already been extended twice, ostensibly to permit further discussion of details of timing for the lifting of sanctions as well as verification and inspection procedures.
I refer to a “nonexistent” program as the frequently cited intelligence suggesting that a weapon was being developed has turned out to be based on forgeries provided by the Israelis. Currently, both the CIA and Mossad agree that no such program exists though both Washington and Tel Aviv persist in suggesting that Iran might change its mind and therefore must not even be able to develop relevant technologies in the future.
In theory an agreement should have been reached long ago as the two basic elements are well understood: Iran wants an end to sanctions and the United States plus its negotiating partners want a verifiable end to existing and potential programs in Iran that could possibly produce a nuclear weapon. The devil would appear to be in the details but that is not necessarily the case as the real problem is political. The talks have in fact been subject to a relentless media campaign by Israel and its friends in the U.S. to derail any possible agreement, to include a number of appearances by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. Netanyahu has been warning that an Iranian weapon is imminent since 1996 and he has even produced a cartoon showing a bomb with a ticking fuse to illustrate his thinking on the issue.
The intensity of the anti-Iran campaign has increased to a boiling point as the end of June deadline has approached, to include full page ads in newspapers and a rash of editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor. If you read an article about the negotiations on an unmoderated site like yahoo you will see numerous comments trashing Iran using the same misspellings and phrases, suggesting that they originate in the banks of paid students organized and directed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
In order to avoid constantly rehashing the same material, the well-funded and highly creative exploration of Persian perfidy has meant in practice that the media and punditry are constantly raising new issues that have nothing to do with the nuclear weapons themselves. These have included demanding that a contrite Iran confess that it once sought a weapon, addressing the state of possible missile delivery systems in the discussions, assessing Iran’s intentions as a regional power, critiquing the country’s human rights record and examining Tehran’s support of organizations that critics choose to describe as terroristic. Congress is on record calling for the prevention of Iran’s “capability” to construct a weapon, a threshold that it already has passed. Presidential wannabe Senator Marco Rubio has even demanded that Iran recognize “Israel’s right to exist.” The latest wrinkle is to insist on assurances over what might happen in ten years’ time when any agreement negotiated currently will presumably expire.
Assuming that the neocons’ other pet projects to go to war with Russia and eventually also China do not actually materialize and that we will all still be here in a decade, it has to be recognized that what is occurring in Vienna this week is already a war. On one side are the serious players, including Secretary of State John Kerry acting for the president as well as the Russians, Germans, Chinese, British and French, all of whom understand that no agreement leaves armed conflict as the only remaining option. They realize that a major explosion in the Persian Gulf would be disastrous for all parties and potentially even for the world economy. On the other side are the naysayers from Israel and its formidable amen section, deeply embedded in the media and among politicians at all levels. Many believe that, as Israel firster mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson has recommended, all Iran really needs is an admonitory nuclear strike to show the Mullahs that we are serious about the military option.
As in any war it is important to know what the enemy is doing. That generally requires massive mobilization of resources to collect intelligence, but in this case we are fortunate in that our enemies write for the Washington Post, The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal when they are not, collectively speaking, busy appearing on the Sunday morning talk shows and on Fox.
My favorite Queen of Mean among the pro-Israel shock troops is Jennifer Rubin, who writes a blog appropriately labeled “Right Turn” for the Washington Post. In previous incarnations before she found her niche with editorial page chief Fred Hiatt at the Post Jennifer wrote for neocon house organs Commentary, Human Events and Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard. Jenn has ungraciously referred to President Barack Obama as the “most anti-Israel president ever.” Ben Smith at Politico describes her as “caustic and single minded” possessing an “intense and combative interest in foreign affairs and politics in general, and in Israel in particular – the sole bumper sticker on her gray Honda Pilot reads, “JERUSALEM IS NOT A SETTLEMENT. It’s Israel’s Eternal And Undivided Capital.” A recent comment on one of her pieces observed “Science is wrong. The world revolves around Israel. Jennifer knows it to be true. Bibi told her.”
Rubin writes about Iran frequently. Between June 16th and the 26th she penned no less than seven articles attacking the Mullahs – “Obama ignores Iran’s human rights atrocities,” “The Iran missile mistake,” “Democrats, Republicans, neutral experts reject Iran sellout,” “The Iran debacle unfolds,” “Iran appeasement relies on self-delusion,” “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?” and “Iran sanctions back on the table.” All of her writing on Iran beats to death the same theme, i.e. that Iranians are both evil and liars and are out to destroy Israel. Driven by her obsession with Israel, she is constantly at work finding connections and seeing things that the rest of us cannot discern, appreciating as she does that there is always an Israeli angle as well as an evil Muslim narrative hidden somewhere as long as one looks long and hard enough. One of her most recent gems “Can these forces stop a rotten Iran deal?”, which appeared on June 25th, does a good job recounting recent commentary by all her friends in the Israel Lobby who are opposing a nuclear deal, which to her mind represents objective opinion. As is always the case, I searched in vain for any real evidence that Iran in any way threatens the United States but that does not appear to be on her agenda. She does, however, quote a number of Israeli politicians.
And Rubin is far from a lonely voice crying in the wilderness. The New York Times featured a story last Wednesday revealing that “former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers” had written a letter advising caution on the possible Iran agreement. The article describes in some detail the objections of Dennis Ross, David Petraeus, Robert Einhorn, Gary Samore, Stephen Hadley and General James E. Cartwright. The signatories, who are accepted at face value in the article, should give one pause. Ross is chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute (which opposes intermarriage of Jews with non-Jews) and has been described as “Israel’s lawyer” while Hadley, a National Security Adviser for George W. Bush, believes that Iran is intent on dominating much of the Middle East and has a nuclear program that “…is a complex threat to international peace and stability.” Einhorn, who helped “devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran,” and Gary Samore have been persistent critics of the ongoing negotiations. Samore is a fixture at the Harvard Belfer Center, a neocon stronghold, and heads United Against Nuclear Iran. Petraeus is probably the best known of the signatories but I will leave it up to the reader to judge his integrity.
If one were looking for someone who might just entertain the thought that Iran has a legitimate point of view it would not be found in the letter nor in the Times coverage. But the most astonishing thing about the article is what the editors chose not to mention, an omission that would appear to constitute deliberate obfuscation of the letter’s intent. The Times notes towards the end of the article that the letter was commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), but it does not reveal that WINEP is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is an organization that is de facto opposed to any agreement with Iran that is not endorsed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which means no deal at all.
Interestingly, Israel is not mentioned even once in the letter nor in the Times coverage of it even though it certainly loomed large in the mind of Ross in particular and likely for all of the other co-authors. One might also note that the arguments against the possible agreement made by the signatories is based on the reader’s acceptance of the view that Iran is some kind of global threat, though they make no attempt to explain how that is so and they also assume that its rulers are not to be trusted without an intrusive inspection regime directed against all military facilities in the country, something that no government anywhere could possibly accept. The five signatories of the letter all claim to support a negotiated settlement with Iran but they are just not happy with what Obama has come up with, which is a characteristic line for many of those who in reality want no agreement at all.
Finally, in a completely bizarre instance of the Israel Lobby’s unwillingness to miss any opportunity in its campaign against Iran, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft traveled to Israel last week with an entourage of 20 Hall of Fame football players. They met with Prime Minister Netanyahu who lectured the players, attired in their Hall of Fame gold Jackets, all about Iran by using a football metaphor: “Iran is one yard away from the goal line. If they get nukes, the preeminent terrorist regime of our day will be armed with nuclear weapons. That’s dangerous for the United States and for Israel and for the entire world. And our effort today is to make sure that we block them and push them back.” The appreciative players gave Bibi a game jersey, a helmet and a signed football in return.
And so the enormous smear campaign against Iran goes on, though I suppose we can always hope that Obama will show a little intestinal fortitude and go ahead with an agreement. I will most certainly never watch the New England Patriots again, but I made that decision some time ago based on their win at any cost ethos. Indeed, since the Israel Lobby is very much in the game of punishing critics as it is doing with its odious website Canary Mission perhaps it is past time for a little pushback coming from Americans who would like to take their government back. Folks like myself who object to the Lobby’s overweening influence over our foreign policy might initiate personal boycotts of the products and business interests of those billionaires who are the most enthusiastic supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu and who are the enablers of Israel’s crimes against humanity. It would be partial payback for nearly seventy years of systematic abuse of America’s true interests. Don’t attend their sporting activities, don’t buy their products, don’t watch their films and don’t stay in their hotels or play in their casinos. Such a reckoning would certainly include people like Robert Kraft, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, as well as Hollywood moguls Haim Saban and Arnon Milchan. Milchan notoriously spied against the U.S. for Israel and is still walking around free, which I don’t quite get. I won’t suggest any additional names but other over the top friends of Likudnik Israel are easily identifiable through Google. As the Mikado’s Lord High Executioner once put it, “I’ve got a little list.”
In George Orwell’s 1984, the leaders of Oceania presented “Two Minutes Hate” in which the image of an enemy was put on display and loyal Oceanianians expressed their rage, all the better to prepare them for the country’s endless wars and their own surrender of freedom. And, now, in America, you have The New York Times.
Surely the Times is a bit more subtle than the powers-that-be in Orwell’s Oceania, but the point is the same. The “paper of record” decides who our rotating foreign enemy is and depicts its leader as a demon corrupting whatever he touches. The rest of us aren’t supposed to think for ourselves. We’re just supposed to hate.
As the Times has degenerated from a relatively decent newspaper into a fount of neocon propaganda, its editors also have descended into the practice of simply inventing a narrative of events that serves an ideological purpose, its own version of “Two Minutes Hate.” Like the leaders of Orwell’s Oceania, the Times has become increasingly heavy-handed in its propaganda.
Excluding alternate explanations of events, even if supported by solid evidence, the Times arrogantly creates its own reality and tells us who to hate.
In assessing the Times’s downward spiral into this unethical journalism, one could look back on its false reporting regarding Iraq, Iran, Syria or other Middle East hotspots. But now the Times is putting the lives of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren at risk with its reckless reporting on the Ukraine crisis – by setting up an unnecessary confrontation between nuclear-armed powers, the United States and Russia.
At the center of the Times’ propaganda on Ukraine has been its uncritical – indeed its anti-journalistic – embrace of the Ukrainians coup-makers in late 2013 and early 2014 as they collaborated with neo-Nazi militias to violently overthrow elected President Viktor Yanukovych and hurl Ukraine into a bloody civil war.
Rather than display journalistic professionalism, the Times’ propagandists ignored the evidence of a coup – including an intercepted phone call in which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussed how to “mid-wife” the regime change and handpick the new leaders.
The Times even ignored a national security expert, Statfor founder George Friedman, when he termed the ouster of Ukraine’s elected president “the most blatant coup in history.” The Times just waved a magic wand and pronounced that there was no coup – and anyone who thought so must reside inside “the Russian propaganda bubble.”[See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]
Perhaps even more egregiously, the Times has pretended that there were no neo-Nazi militias spearheading the Feb. 22, 2014 coup and then leading the bloody “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the south and east who resisted the coup. The Times explained all this bloodshed as simply “Russian aggression.”
It didn’t even matter when the U.S. House of Representatives – of all groups – unanimously acknowledged the neo-Nazi problem when it prohibited U.S. collaboration in military training of Ukrainian Nazis. The Times simply expunged the vote from its “official history” of the crisis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine.”]
Yet, for an Orwellian “Two Minute Hate” to work properly, you need to have a villain whose face you can put on display. And, in the case of Ukraine – at least after Yanukovych was driven from the scene – that villain has been Russian President Vladimir Putin, who embodies all evil in the intense hatred sold to the American public.
So, when Putin presents a narrative of the Ukraine crisis, which notes the history of the U.S.-driven expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders and the evidence of the U.S.-directed Ukrainian coup, the Times editors must dismiss it all as “mythology,” as they did in Monday’s editorial regarding Putin’s remarks to an international economic conference in St. Petersburg.
“President Vladimir Putin of Russia is not veering from the mythology he created to explain away the crisis over Ukraine,” the Times’ editors wrote. “It is one that wholly blames the West for provoking a new Cold War and insists that international sanctions have not grievously wounded his country’s flagging economy.”
Without acknowledging any Western guilt in the coup that overthrew the elected Ukrainian government in 2014, the Times’ editors simply reveled in the harm that the Obama administration and the European Union have inflicted on Russia’s economy for its support of the previously elected government and its continued backers in eastern and southern Ukraine.
For nearly a year and a half, the New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have simply refused to acknowledge the reality of what happened in Ukraine. In the Western fantasy, the elected Yanukovych government simply disappeared and was replaced by a U.S.-backed regime that then treated any resistance to its rule as “terrorism.” The new regime even dispatched neo-Nazi militias to kill ethnic Russians and other Ukrainians who resisted and thus were deemed “terrorists.”
The upside-down narrative of what happened in Ukraine has become the conventional wisdom in Official Washington and has been imposed on America’s European allies as well. According to The New York Times’ Orwellian storyline, anyone who notes the reality of a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine is engaging in “fantasy” and must be some kind of Putin pawn.
To the Times’ editors, all the justice is on their side, even as Ukraine’s new regime has deployed neo-Nazi militias to kill eastern Ukrainians who resisted the anti-Yanukovych coup. To the Times’ editors, the only possible reason to object to Ukraine’s new order is that the Russians must be bribing European dissidents to resist the U.S. version of events. The Times wrote:
The Europeans are indeed divided over the extent to which Russia, with its huge oil and gas resources, should be isolated, but Mr. Putin’s aggression so far has ensured their unity when it counts. In addition to extending existing sanctions, the allies have prepared a new round of sanctions that could be imposed if Russian-backed separatists seized more territory in Ukraine. …
Although Mr. Putin insisted on Friday that Russia had found the ‘inner strength’ to weather sanctions and a drop in oil prices, investment has slowed, capital has fled the country and the economy has been sliding into recession. Even the business forum was not all that it seemed: The heads of many Western companies stayed away for a second year.
An Orwellian World
In the up-is-down world that has become the New York Times’ editorial page, the Western coup-making on Russia’s border with the implicit threat of U.S. and NATO nuclear weapons within easy range of Moscow is transformed into a case of Russian aggression. The Times’ editors wrote: “One of the most alarming aspects of the crisis has been Mr. Putin’s willingness to brandish nuclear weapons.”
Though it would appear objectively that the United States was engaged in serious mischief-making on Russia’s border, the Times editors flip it around to make Russian military maneuvers – inside Russia – a sign of aggression against the West.
Given Mr. Putin’s aggressive behavior, including pouring troops and weapons into Kaliningrad, a Russian city located between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, the allies have begun taking their own military steps. In recent months, NATO approved a rapid-reaction force in case an ally needs to be defended. It also pre-positioned some weapons in front-line countries, is rotating troops there and is conducting many more exercises. There are also plans to store battle tanks and other heavy weapons in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.
If he is not careful, Mr. Putin may end up facing exactly what he has railed against — a NATO more firmly parked on Russia’s borders — not because the alliance wanted to go in that direction, but because Russian behavior left it little choice. That is neither in Russia’s interest, nor the West’s.
There is something truly 1984-ish about reading that kind of propagandistic writing in The New York Times and other Western publications. But it has become the pattern, not the exception.
The Words of the ‘Demon’
Though the Times and the rest of the Western media insist on demonizing Putin, we still should hear the Russian president’s version of events, as simply a matter of journalistic fairness. Here is how Putin explained the situation to American TV talk show host Charlie Rose on June 19:
Why did we arrive at the crisis in Ukraine? I am convinced that after the so-called bipolar system ceased to exist, after the Soviet Union was gone from the political map of the world, some of our partners in the West, including and primarily the United States, of course, were in a state of euphoria of sorts. Instead of developing good neighborly relations and partnerships, they began to develop the new geopolitical space that they thought was unoccupied. This, for instance, is what caused the North Atlantic bloc, NATO, to go east, along with many other developments.
I have been thinking a lot about why this is happening and eventually came to the conclusion that some of our partners [Putin’s way of describing Americans] seem to have gotten the illusion that the world order that was created after World War II, with such a global center as the Soviet Union, does not exist anymore, that a vacuum of sorts has developed that needs to be filled quickly.
I think such an approach is a mistake. This is how we got Iraq, and we know that even today there are people in the United States who think that mistakes were made in Iraq. Many admit that there were mistakes in Iraq, and nevertheless they repeat it all in Libya. Now they got to Ukraine. We did not bring about the crisis in Ukraine. There was no need to support, as I have said many times, the anti-state, anti-constitutional takeover that eventually led to a sharp resistance on the territory of Ukraine, to a civil war in fact.
Where do we go from here?” Putin asked. “Today we primarily need to comply with all the agreements reached in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. … At the same time, I would like to draw your attention and the attention of all our partners to the fact that we cannot do it unilaterally. We keep hearing the same thing, repeated like a mantra – that Russia should influence the southeast of Ukraine. We are. However, it is impossible to resolve the problem through our influence on the southeast alone.
There has to be influence on the current official authorities in Kiev, which is something we cannot do. This is a road our Western partners have to take – those in Europe and America. Let us work together. … We believe that to resolve the situation we need to implement the Minsk agreements, as I said. The elements of a political settlement are key here. There are several. […]
The first one is constitutional reform, and the Minsk agreements say clearly: to provide autonomy or, as they say decentralization of power, let it be decentralization. This is quite clear, our European partners, France and Germany have spelled it out and we are quite satisfied with it, just as the representatives of Donbass [eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russians who had supported Yanukovych have declared independence] are. This is one component.
The second thing that has to be done – the law passed earlier on the special status of these territories – Luhansk and Donetsk, the unrecognized republics, should be enacted. It was passed, but still not acted upon. This requires a resolution of the Supreme Rada – the Ukrainian Parliament – which is also covered in the Minsk agreements. Our friends in Kiev have formally complied with this decision, but simultaneously with the passing by the Rada of the resolution to enact the law they amended the law itself … which practically renders the action null and void. This is a mere manipulation, and they have to move from manipulations to real action.
The third thing is a law on amnesty. It is impossible to have a political dialogue with people who are threatened with criminal persecution. And finally, they need to pass a law on municipal elections on these territories and to have the elections themselves. All this is spelled out in the Minsk agreements, this is something I would like to draw your attention to, and all this should be done with the agreement of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Unfortunately, we still see no direct dialogue, only some signs of it, but too much time has passed after the Minsk agreements were signed. I repeat, it is important now to have a direct dialogue between Luhansk, Donetsk and Kiev – this is missing.
Also missing is any objective and professional explanation of this crisis in the mainstream American press. Instead, The New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have continued with their pattern of 1984-ish propaganda.
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 New York Times has had plenty to say about the infamous tunnels built from Gaza into Israel, providing us with photos, articles, videos and frequent talk of “terrorist attacks.” The presence of the tunnels, Times editors said, justified the bloody ground invasion of the strip last summer.
Today we find little mention of these threatening tunnels in a story by Jodi Rudoren about the just-released United Nations Human Rights Council report on the attacks. She tells us that the report “extensively discussed the tunnels militants had used to infiltrate Israeli territory,” but that is the end of it. [Note: this was expanded in later versions of the article.]
The report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict had this to say about the tunnels: “The commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were used only to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
It seems that the Times has scant interest in telling readers that tunnels were used for legitimate purposes. The discussions Rudoren mentions have little to say except that Israelis were scared by the tunnel reports; the final tally shows that not a single civilian was harmed because of them.
The Times, however, bought into the hype of the Israeli government and army. At the beginning of the ground invasion, it ran an editorial claiming that troops were in Gaza to stop rockets and “terrorist attacks via underground tunnels” even though the newspaper had yet to report even one such assault.
The absence of civilian casualties or even of a single attack, however, did not stop the Times from publishing three articles (here, here and here), two of them with Rudoren’s byline, and two videos (here and here), which focused on the tunnels, all of this in addition to the editorial.
It later followed up with a piece about Hezbollah tunnels reportedly running from Lebanon into northern Israel. Again, the Hezbollah story has only Israeli fear to report and no hard evidence of either tunnels or their use in attacks.
The UN report notes such Israeli anxieties in its Concluding Observations: “The increased level of fear among Israeli civilians resulting from the use of the tunnels was palpable.” This is the full extent of damage from the notorious “terror tunnels”—they frightened people.
When the Israeli army and government eagerly played up this supposed evidence of Palestinian “terrorist” intentions, The New York Times (and the United States government) followed suit, citing the tunnels as justification for the invasion. With so much hysteria emanating from the media and officialdom, it is no wonder Israeli civilians were expressing fear.
With its alarmist focus on the Gaza-Israel tunnels, the Times played the role of propagandist for Israel. Now, with the UN report, it could place the issue in a more valid perspective, but Rudoren’s piece suggests that the newspaper would rather avoid the facts in favor of a false Israeli narrative.
When a 22-year-old man died under an Israeli army jeep recently, The New York Times virtually ignored the incident. Now come reports of another death in the West Bank, and the newspaper has given notice with an article appearing both online and in print.
The difference is all in the ethnicity: The first man was Palestinian and his attackers were Israeli soldiers. The second was Israeli and died at the hands of a Palestinian gunman.
When Abdallah Ghuneimat died on Sunday, eyewitnesses reported that he had been shot and then deliberately run down by soldiers in a jeep; the army, however, claimed the vehicle had fallen on him by accident. The Times made fleeting mention of the incident in a wire service story that appeared only online. (See TimesWarp 6-17-15.)
The newspaper has continued to turn its back on the story even as new eyewitnesses have come forth to say that Ghuneimat “was left bleeding under the jeep for hours while Israeli soldiers were jubilantly cheering.” Witnesses also said that troops fired tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition to prevent villagers from approaching the victim.
Now, with the death of an Israeli four days later, we find a different approach from the Times. Editors were not content with a wire service report in this case; they assigned a reporter to cover the incident and published a story replete with quotes from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, education minister Naftali Bennett and a United Nations coordinator.
The Israeli victim, Danny Gonen, 25, had come to the West Bank with a friend to visit a spring near the illegal Israeli settlement of Dolev, according to the account. As they were leaving the area, a man flagged down the car and asked if there was water in the spring. He then pulled out a gun and shot both men. The friend was slightly wounded, but Gonen was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The author of the Times story, Diaa Hadid, writes in the second paragraph that the timing of shooting was a “grim reminder of the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers” last year, “which unleashed tensions that culminated in a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas.”
Missing from her article is the context of Israeli attacks on Palestinians, including the deaths of two Palestinian men so far in June. According to United Nations data, Israeli forces injure an average of 39 Palestinians each week, and they have killed 13 so far this year. These numbers do not include injuries inflicted by settlers.
The same UN report notes that Palestinians have injured an average of two Israeli civilians each week. Two, including Gonen, have died this year.
In spite of these facts, Hadid has chosen to emphasize Palestinian violence and ignore Israeli attacks, which have injured and killed at a significantly higher rate.
Her story also glosses over another unsavory fact of life in the West Bank by noting that the territory “is dotted with springs” used by Israelis and Palestinians, but some have been made off limits to Palestinians. In her brief treatment of the issue, she fails to describe the full injustice here.
Settler takeovers of springs on private Palestinian land have become so flagrant that the United Nations issued a report specifically addressing the problem. The report states that settlers use threats, intimidation and barriers to prevent villagers from accessing their traditional water sources, at great cost to farmers and herders. The Israeli government acquiesces in these crimes and sometimes actively supports them, the UN says, often allowing the settlers to turn the springs into revenue generating tourist attractions.
But readers learn none of this—neither the casualty rates nor the extent of water theft in Palestinian territory. Although this tragic incident provided an opportunity to inform the public of facts on the ground in the West Bank, the Times has little interest in reporting these details. It glosses over Palestinian deaths, dwells on Israeli casualties and turns its back on the brutality of the Israeli occupation.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW how sausages are made, don’t start reading Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World by Michael Springmann. The sausages in this case: the string of too-easily-swallowed accounts of bloody events in the “global war on terror,” served up daily with relish by the mainstream media. In reality these sausages are filled with tainted meat that’s making everyone sick.
Springmann is a brave whistle blower living in Washington, D.C. He’s written an accessible book, safe to digest, highlighting details of the corruption of the American Empire (and its accomplices, including Canada) as he experienced them from the inside during his years with the U.S. State Department.
While he served as a visa officer in the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for instance, he was obliged under threat of dismissal to issue visas to persons hired clandestinely by the CIA to become trained-in-the-USA terrorists. Most of these psychopathic thugs were clearly and legally unqualified to be issued visas. There is every reason to believe the “Visas for Terrorists” program remains fully operative today. It takes a lot of expendable terrorists to run a global terrorism op.
Springmann places his experiences both within the context of the historical roots of the U.S. Empire and within its current ongoing global destabilization project.
“This tale,” the author states near the beginning, “is a sordid sketch of backstabbing, disloyalty, double crosses, faithlessness, falsity, perfidy, sellouts, treachery, and betrayal.”
And that only covers the bureaucratic aspect. Even more sobering is his sketch of human rights violations: torture, assassinations, massacres including bombings of markets, invasions and occupations of countries, destabilization of nations and regions.
Then there’s the financial side: widespread criminality, resource theft, bribery, diversion of funds, illicit drug dealing and more.
Not to mention the flouting of international laws. This dimension includes gross infringements on national sovereignty, the casual violation of treaties and ho-hum everyday general lawlessness, risking even the threat of nuclear annihilation.
All this before taking into account the moral dimension, in which trashing the Ten Commandments is just an opening trifle.
“My story shows how things really work,” Springmann writes, correctly. In the book’s 250 pages he names names, dates, times and places – presumably opening himself up to lawsuits, should there be anything here that the individuals named deem libelous. They might think twice, however, since Springmann is a lawyer by profession and knows his way around the Empire’s capital – as well as some of its outlying ramparts such as Stuttgart, New Delhi and especially Jeddah.
Stinging in itself, Springmann’s book also can be read as an authenticating companion to Michel Chossudovsky’s Towards a World War III Scenario (2012) and The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” Against Humanity (2015). Along the way, both authors deal, to one extent or another, with the ideological, hubristic and increasingly bellicose role of the Harper government as handmaiden to the American Empire, including military involvements in Libya, Serbia and the Ukraine. Springmann necessarily refers very little to Canada, but to read his account of the cowardly and unnecessary rain of death inflicted on Libya, for instance, is to be obliged as a Canadian to think of Harper’s enthusiasm and pride in having this country share in the slaughter and destabilization carried out under the Orwellian “responsibility to protect” notion.
Springmann quotes Maximilian C. Forte who notes that before the attack Libya enjoyed the highest Human Development Index (a UN measurement of well-being) in all Africa. “After Western military forces destroyed the country the Index only records the steep collapse of all indicators of well-being. More Libyans were killed with intervention than without. It was about control, about militarizing Africa,” Forte argues.
What Springmann brings uniquely to the table is his firsthand knowledge of precisely how the USA recruits terrorists (no quotation marks needed), sends them to the USA for training and then deploys them to carry out murders, torture, bombings and more. The bloody mayhem carried out by these thousands of paid mercenaries – ostensibly beheading-habituated “jihadists” fighting against democracy, decency and the USA and its “allies – is planned, organized and funded by none other than the same USA and its allies. It’s a global false flag operation – the largest by far in history.
As Springmann on page 65 writes of the “Visas for Terrorists Program:”
This was not an ad hoc operation, conceived and carried out in response to a specific foreign policy issue. Rather, it was another of too many CIA efforts to destroy governments, countries, and politicians disfavored by the American “establishment” in its “bipartisan” approach to matters abroad. Whether it was opposing the imaginary evils of communism, the fictitious malevolence of Islam, or the invented wickedness of Iran, America and its intelligence services, brave defenders of “The City Upon A Hill,” sought out and created fear and loathing of peoples and countries essentially engaged in efforts to better their lives and improve their political world. Along the way, Agency-sponsored murders, war crimes, and human rights violations proved to be good business. Jobs for the Clandestine Service (people who recruit and run spies), sales of weapons and aircraft, as well as the myriad items needed to control banks, countries and peoples all provided income for and benefits to American companies.
That the American Empire has been able to carry out such a massive illegal program for so long is the saddest of commentaries on how deep the rot is, how effective the secrecy, how complicit the media.
As to the span of dangerous widespread deception, Springmann notes that Rahul Bedi wrote in Jane’s Defence Weekly on September 14, 2001 that beginning in 1980 “thousands [of mujahideen] were … brought to America and made competent in terrorism by Green Berets and SEALS at US government East Coast facilities, trained in guerilla warfare and armed with sophisticated weapons.”
The point is made repeatedly that Al Qaeda and now ISIS/ISIL/the Islamic State are essentially “Made in USA” entities, brought into being and organized for the Empire’s purposes. Among the elements that make possible such a vast fraud are deception, compartmentalization and secrecy. Springmann quotes attorney Pat Frascogna, “a man with FOIA expertise,” about secrecy and its purpose:
Thus whether it be learning the dirty and unethical business practices of a company or the secrets of our government, the same deployment of denials and feigning ignorance about what is really going on are the all-too-common methods used to keep the truth from the light of day.
Langley recruited the Arab-Afghans so clandestinely that the terrorists didn’t know they had been recruited. They thought that they had found a battlefield on their own, or through the Internet or through Twitter or through television…
Frascogna’s observation intersects with Springmann’s on-the-job experiences as a visa officer in Jeddah starting in 1987. Springmann was repeatedly overruled when he turned down disqualified applicants for U.S. visas. He writes:
As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. They worked with the American intelligence services and the State Department to destabilize governments the United States opposed. While it’s no secret, most knowledgeable people still refuse to talk about this agenda.
As Springmann learned, “the average percentage of intelligence officers to real diplomats at a given Foreign Service post is about one in three. My experience in Jeddah, Stuttgart, and New Delhi might place it higher—at least 50 percent, if not more.” According to the Anti-CIA Club of Diplomats: Spooks in U.S. Foreign Service [sic], a twelve-page, 1983 Canadian publication (see namebase.org), the percentage is 60 percent.
“At Jeddah,” Springmann writes, “to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.” Elsewhere Springmann suggests that essentially the CIA runs the State Department, and that this is true of many other U.S. government departments and agencies as well. It seems that it’s almost impossible to over-estimate the reach of the CIA’s tentacles or the overweening treason of its nonstop black ops and unconstitutional operations domestically.
Springmann toward the end of the book refers to the beginnings of the CIA. It’s interesting for this reviewer to think that he was 13 years of age in 1947 when U.S. president Harry Truman agreed with the National Security Council (NSC) to secretly create the CIA and NSA. I remember that in my teenage years a few of my peers said there “was something” called “the CIA.” This was around the time a few people also said there “was something” called “the Mafia.” The consensus was that both ideas were very far-fetched.
In 1948 Truman approved yet another NSC initiative, providing for “propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, antisabotage,
demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerillas, and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” That’s a tabula rasa if there ever was one: a license for lawlessness.
The CIA’s twisted hits have just kept coming. It’s worth noting that Truman didn’t singlehandedly initiate this monstrosity. The dark recesses of the Deep State, as Peter Dale Scott calls it, are where the demonic entity was spawned. Ever since, Frankenstein’s monster has been a harmless schoolboy by comparison.
To read of the rape of Libya with active Canadian military complicity makes for difficult reading. The lies are piled as high as the bodies, and these two categories are insuperably paired.
Equally sordid, especially in light of Stephen Harper’s enthusiasm for expanding the war on Russia (the economic sanctions and the diplomatic exclusion of Russia from the G8 are forms of warfare, not to mention decades of covert* military incursion by the West onto the territory of the former USSR and now the Russian Federation, as described in Visas for Al Qaeda) is to read some of the history of the Ukraine. “The West’s” meddling in the Ukraine has a long illicit pedigree. As Springmann writes:
It seems that the CIA had problems [in the immediate post World War II period] distinguishing between underground groups and above-ground armies. Langley used Marshall Plan money to support a guerrilla force in the Ukraine, called “Nightingale.” Originally established in 1941 by Nazi Germany’s occupation forces, and working on their behalf, “Nightingale” and its terrorist arm (made up of ultranationalist Ukrainians as well as Nazi collaborators) murdered thousands of Jews, Soviet Union supporters, and Poles.
Even relatively recently, since the so-called Orange revolution in the Ukraine made events there eminently newsworthy, I can’t remember seeing in the mainstream media a single substantial article dealing with the historical relationships between the Ukraine and Russia going back to World War II, nor such an article laying out the history of the involvement –overt or covert – of “the West” in the Ukraine.
Instead, we see the surreal ahistorical likes of the top headline in The New York Times International Weekly for June 13-14, “Russia is Sowing Disunity,” by Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger. They report breathlessly in the lead paragraph: “Moscow is leveraging its economic power, financing European political parties and movements, and spreading alternative accounts of the Ukraine conflict, according the American and European officials.
True to the narrative of “the West” as a pitiful giant facing a powerful and expansionist Russia, the writers posit that the “consensus against Russian aggression” is “fragile.
The drift of this NYT yarn, typical of Western propaganda across the board, is that there remains in effect a behemoth “Soviet empire” surreptitiously shipping “Moscow gold” to dupes in “green movements” and so on. Even a former American national intelligence officer on Russia, Fiona Hill, now at the Brookings Institution, told the writers: “The question is how much hard evidence does anyone have?
Maybe this NYT propaganda, like its clones across the mainstream media, is not ahistorical after all. The story comes across rather as an historical relic of the Cold War – found in a time capsule in a fallout shelter – that the NYT editors decided to publish as a prank. A sausage.
* Military action by “the West” has not always been covert. Springmann notes that American and Japanese soldiers were dispatched to Russia in 1917 to squelch the fledgling Russian revolution. The soldiers were part of what was called the Allied Expeditionary Force. Winston Churchill for his part said: “We must strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib.” Springmann might have noted that Canadian soldiers were part of the AEF.
Abdullah Iyad Ghanayim, 22, died under an Israeli army jeep last Sunday in the West Bank village of Kafr Malik. The New York Times barely took notice. Other news media inform us that there is a story here and one that is in dispute.
Eyewitnesses in the village east of Ramallah say soldiers shot Ghanayim in the back and then ran him down with a jeep, crushing him against a wall, which collapsed on the vehicle and knocked it over. The soldiers got out, observers say, left the man pinned under the jeep and prevented medics from attending to him.
According to witnesses, Ghanayim was throwing stones when he was shot and bled to death after being left unattended for more than an hour. The mayor of Ramallah, Laila Ghannam, told reporters that soldiers killed Ghanayim “in cold blood.”
The Israeli army had a different story: Ghanayim was throwing a Molotov cocktail at the jeep, and this caused it to swerve and crash. After the vehicle turned over on the victim, the army claimed, “forces later entered the village to try and provide medical assistance,” but the man had already died.
In spite of the army’s failure to explain why “forces” had to enter the village to provide aid when soldiers were already present, The New York Times goes with the army account. This appears in the form of a three-paragraph Associated Press story, which made an obscure and fleeting appearance online and none at all in print. The article gives a brief nod to the eyewitness accounts, saying the mayor of the village claimed the man was shot first.
It’s possible the Times was unable to assign one of its three reporters in Israel to get a firsthand account, but the paper also omitted the story from its World Briefing section, where it frequently runs AP and Reuters news.
The Times had a choice. It could have run a Reuters story by Ali Sawafta and Dan Williams, which states in the lead that “military and locals gave conflicting accounts” and also quotes witnesses who said the man was “run down and then crushed.” Instead it chose the AP version, which relies almost entirely on the Israeli army.
We find fuller reports elsewhere, such as in The National, Agence France-Presse, and Maan, but the Times treatment falls short. It has chosen a biased wire service piece over a more complete and honest report. Thus it avoids revealing unsavory charges against the Israeli army and allows one more Palestinian death to pass unnoticed.
It takes some attention and a bit of math, but readers of The New York Times now have the means to discover just how great the chasm is between Israelis and Palestinians—not just in politics but in hard cash.
In an article and follow-up editorial concerning a report by the RAND Corporation, an establishment think tank, the Times informs us that if the adversaries negotiated a two-state peace deal, both Palestinians and Israelis would gain financially. Over 10 years, RAND says, Israel would gain $123 billion and Palestine $50 billion.
We learn that in terms of annual per capita income this breaks down to a 5 percent increase, or $2,200, for Israelis and a 36 percent increase, or $1,000, for Palestinians.
Readers are apt to take that in with little pause, but if we do the calculations, this tells us that current incomes average $44,000 for Israelis and $2,778 for Palestinians. This puts Israel far above the World Bank standard of $12,746 for high-income countries. It places Palestine barely over the low-income level.
This means Palestinians make less than their neighbors in Egypt, Jordan or Iraq. It places Palestine in the same World Bank grouping as Guatemala, South Sudan and others with per capita incomes from $1,046 to $4,125.
Israel rates with the economic stars, not only in the high-income category but in the elite of that group. On average, its citizens earn yearly incomes very near those in Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. [The World Bank lists Israel’s per capita income as $32,030, but this includes occupied Palestine, which is given no separate economic status. The RAND report distinguishes between Israel and Palestine.]
The Times would have done its readers a favor by untangling the data and revealing the stark difference between Israeli and Palestinian earnings, but the story and editorial give a sense that the two sides are on an even playing field. A two-state solution, the Times editorial states, “makes both sides winners.”
The article, by Jodi Rudoren, puts emphasis on how much the occupation costs Israel in support for settlements and security. It is seen, she writes, as a “self-imposed economic burden.” There is no mention of the burden on the Palestinian side.
The think tank, however, does better than the Times by stating outright that “A singular feature of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is the power imbalance between the two parties: Israel dominates the region both militarily and economically.”
The report makes clear that Israeli policy has harmed Palestinian commerce with regulations favoring Israeli companies, restrictions on movement and the confiscation of water and land. It also points up the devastating impact of Israel’s policy of demolishing housing and infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.
None of this appears in the Times, which sticks to the dry numbers of the RAND report, but this data has provided clues to a reality the Times obscures—the scandalous inequality between Israelis and Palestinians.
This disparity should inform the paper’s reporting on relations between the two sides, yet we read of the peace talks as if they involve two equal parties, both asked to make concessions. Likewise, in reports on Gaza, we read of the threat of rockets but learn almost nothing about the overwhelming military might of Israel’s arsenal and army.
Readers should not have to take to their calculators to discover the huge imbalance that underlies every aspect of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Our newspaper of record should have revealed that reality long before now and not in hidden ciphers.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the U.S. government’s plunge into Cold War II would bring back the one-sided propaganda themes that dominated Cold War I, but it’s still unsettling to see how quickly the major U.S. news media has returned to the old ways, especially the New York Times, which has emerged as Official Washington’s propaganda vehicle of choice.
What has been most striking in the behavior of the Times and most other U.S. mainstream media outlets is their utter lack of self-awareness, for instance, accusing Russia of engaging in propaganda and alliance-building that are a pale shadow of what the U.S. government routinely does. Yet, the Times and the rest of the MSM act as if these actions are unique to Moscow.
A case in point is Monday’s front-page story in the Times entitled “Russia Wields Aid and Ideology Against West to Fight Sanctions,” which warns: “Moscow has brought to bear different kinds of weapons, according to American and European officials: money, ideology and disinformation.”
The article by Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger portrays the U.S. government as largely defenseless in the face of this unprincipled Russian onslaught: “Even as the Obama administration and its European allies try to counter Russia’s military intervention across its border, they have found themselves struggling at home against what they see as a concerted drive by Moscow to leverage its economic power, finance European political parties and movements, and spread alternative accounts of the conflict.”
Like many of the Times’ recent articles, this one relies on one-sided accusations from U.S. and European officials and is short on both hard evidence of actual Russian payments – and a response from the Russian government to the charges. At the end of the long story, the writers do include one comment from Brookings Institution scholar, Fiona Hill, a former U.S. national intelligence officer on Russia, noting the shortage of proof.
“The question is how much hard evidence does anyone have?” she asked. But that’s about all a Times’ reader will get if he or she is looking for some balanced reporting.
Missing the Obvious
Still, the more remarkable aspect of the article is how it ignores the much more substantial evidence of the U.S. government and its allies themselves financing propaganda operations and supporting “non-governmental organizations” that promote the favored U.S. policies in countries around the world.
Plus, there’s the failure to recognize that many of Official Washington’s own accounts of global problems have been riddled with propaganda and outright disinformation.
For instance, much of the State Department’s account of the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin attack in Syria turned out to be false or misleading. United Nations inspectors discovered only one rocket carrying sarin – not the barrage that U.S. officials had originally alleged – and the rocket had a much shorter range than the U.S. government (and the New York Times ) claimed. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis.”]
Then, after the Feb. 22, 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine, the U.S. government and the Times became veritable founts of propaganda and disinformation. Beyond refusing to acknowledge the key role played by neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias in the coup and subsequent violence, the State Department disseminated information to the Times that later was acknowledged to be false.
In April 2014, the Times published a lead story based on photographs of purported Russian soldiers in Ukraine but had to retract it two days later because it turned out that the State Department had misrepresented where a key photo was taken, destroying the premise of the article. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Ukraine Photo Scoop.”]
And sometimes the propaganda came directly from senior U.S. government officials. For instance, on April 29, 2014, Richard Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy, issued a “Dipnote” that leveled accusations that the Russian network RT was painting “a dangerous and false picture of Ukraine’s legitimate government,” i.e., the post-coup regime that took power after elected President Viktor Yanukovych was driven from office. In this context, Stengel denounced RT as “a distortion machine, not a news organization.”
Though he offered no specific dates and times for the offending RT programs, Stengel did complain about “the unquestioning repetition of the ludicrous assertion … that the United States has invested $5 billion in regime change in Ukraine. These are not facts, and they are not opinions. They are false claims, and when propaganda poses as news it creates real dangers and gives a green light to violence.”
However, RT’s “ludicrous assertion” about the U.S. investing $5 billion was a clear reference to a public speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, in which she told them that “we have invested more than $5 billion” in what was needed for Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Who’s the Propagandist: US or RT?”]
One could go on and on about the U.S. government making false or misleading claims about these and other international crises. But it should be clear that Official Washington doesn’t have clean hands when it comes to propaganda mud-slinging, though you wouldn’t know that from the Times’ article on Monday.
And, beyond the U.S. government’s direct dissemination of disinformation, the U.S. government also has spread around hundreds of millions of dollars to finance “journalism” organizations, political activists and “non-governmental organizations” that promote U.S. policy goals inside targeted countries. Before the Feb. 22, 2014 coup in Ukraine, there were scores of such operations in the country financed by the National Endowment for Democracy. NED’s budget from Congress exceeds $100 million a year.
But NED, which has been run by neocon Carl Gershman since its founding in 1983, is only part of the picture. You have many other propaganda fronts operating under the umbrella of the U.S. State Department and its U.S. Agency for International Development. Last May 1, USAID issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”
USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the coup, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security.”
USAID, working with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society, also funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.
Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Though most genuinely independent bloggers are ignored by the mainstream media, Higgins has found his work touted.
In other words, whatever Russia is doing to promote its side of the story in Europe and elsewhere is more than matched by the U.S. government through its direct and indirect agents of influence. Indeed, during the original Cold War, the CIA and the old U.S. Information Agency refined the art of “information warfare,” including pioneering some of its current features like having ostensibly “independent” entities and cut-outs present the propaganda to a cynical public that rejects much of what it hears from government but may trust “citizen journalists” and “bloggers.”
To top off this modern propaganda structure, we now have the paper-of-record New York Times coming along to suggest that anyone who isn’t disseminating U.S. propaganda must be in Moscow’s pocket. The implication is that now that we have Cold War II, we can expect to have McCarthyism II 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).
If sanity ruled U.S. foreign policy, American diplomats would be pushing frantically for serious power-sharing negotiations between Syria’s secular government and whatever rational people remain in the opposition – and then hope that the combination could turn back the military advances of the Islamic State and/or Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
But sanity doesn’t rule. Instead, the ever-influential neocons and their liberal-hawk allies can’t get beyond the idea of a U.S. military campaign to destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s army and force “regime change” – even if the almost certain outcome would be the black flag of Islamic nihilism flying over Damascus.
As much as one may criticize the neocons for their reckless scheming, you can’t call them fickle. Once they come up with an idea – no matter how hare-brained – they stick with it. Syrian “regime change” has been near the top of their to-do list since the mid-1990s and they aren’t about to let it go now. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”] That’s one reason why – if you read recent New York Times stories by correspondent Anne Barnard – no matter how they start, they will wind their way to a conclusion that President Barack Obama must bomb Assad’s forces, somehow conflating Assad’s secular government with the success of the fundamentalist Islamic State.
On Wednesday, Barnard published, on the front page, fact-free allegations that Assad was in cahoots with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in its offensive near Aleppo, thus suggesting that both Assad’s forces and the Islamic State deserved to be targets of U.S. bombing attacks inside Syria. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT’s New Propaganda on Syria.”]
On Thursday, Barnard was back on the front page co-authoring an analysis favorably citing the views of political analyst Ibrahim Hamidi, arguing that the only way to blunt the political appeal of the Islamic State is to take “more forceful international action against the Syrian president” – code words for “regime change.”
But Barnard lamented, “Mr. Assad remains in power, backed by Iran and the militant group Hezbollah. … That, Mr. Hamidi and other analysts said, has left some Sunnis willing to tolerate the Islamic State in areas where they lack another defender. … By attacking ISIS in Syria while doing nothing to stop Mr. Assad from bombing Sunni areas that have rebelled, he added, the United States-led campaign was driving some Syrians into the Islamic State camp.”
In other words, if one follows Barnard’s logic, the United States should expand its military strikes inside Syria to include attacks on the Syrian government’s forces, even though they have been the primary obstacle to the conquest of Syria by Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or Al-Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State. (Another unprofessional thing about Barnard’s articles is that they don’t bother to seek out what the Syrian government thinks or to get the regime’s response to accusations.)
The Sarin Story
So, “regime change” remains the neocon prescription for Syria, one that was almost fulfilled in summer 2013 after a mysterious sarin gas attack on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus – that the U.S. government and mainstream media rushed to blame on Assad, although some U.S. intelligence analysts suspected early on that it was a provocation by rebel extremists.
According to intelligence sources, that suspicion of a rebel “false-flag” operation has gained more credence inside the U.S. intelligence community although the Director of National Intelligence refuses to provide an update beyond the sketchy “government assessment” that was issued nine days after the incident, blaming Assad’s forces but presenting no verifiable evidence.
Because DNI James Clapper has balked at refining or correcting the initial rush to judgment, senior U.S. officials and the mainstream media have been spared the embarrassment of having to retract their initial claims – and they also are free to continue accusing Assad. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria.”]
Yet, the DNI’s refusal to update the nine-days-after-the-attack white paper undermines any hope of getting serious about power-sharing negotiations between Assad and his “moderate” opponents. It may be fun to repeat accusations about Assad “gassing his own people,” a reprise of a favorite line used against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but it leaves little space for talks.
There has been a similar problem in the DNI’s stubbornness about revealing what the U.S. intelligence community has learned about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people on July 17, 2014. DNI Clapper released a hasty report five days after the tragedy, citing mostly “social media” and pointing the blame at ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government.
Though I’m told that U.S intelligence analysts have vastly expanded their understanding of what happened and who was responsible, the Obama administration has refused to release the information, letting stand the public perception that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow at fault. That, in turn, has limited Putin’s willingness to cooperate fully with Obama on strategies for reining in hard-charging crises in the Middle East and elsewhere. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
From the Russian perspective, Putin feels he is being falsely accused of mass murder even as Obama seeks his help on Syria, Iran and other hotspots. As U.S. president, Obama could order the U.S. intelligence community to declassify what it has learned about both incidents, the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 MH-17 shoot-down in eastern Ukraine, but he won’t.
Instead, the Obama administration has used these propaganda clubs to continue pounding on Assad and Putin – and Obama’s team shows no willingness to put down the clubs even if they were fashioned from premature or wrongheaded analyses. While Obama withholds the facts, the neocons and liberal hawks are leading the American people to the cliffs of two potentially catastrophic wars in Syria and Ukraine.
Though Obama claims that his administration is committed to “transparency,” the reality is that it has been one of the most opaque in American history, made much worse by his unprecedented prosecution of national security whistleblowers.
Even in the propaganda-crazy days of the Reagan administration, I found it easier to consult with intelligence analysts than I do now. While those Reagan-era analysts might have had orders to spin me, they also would give up some valuable insights in the process. Today, there is much more fear among analysts that they might stray an inch too far and get prosecuted.
The danger from Obama’s elitist – and manipulative – attitude toward information is that it eviscerates the American people’s fundamental right to know what is going on in the world and thus denies them a meaningful say in matters of war or peace.
This problem is made worse by a mainstream U.S. news media that marches in lockstep with neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks, narrowing the permitted policy options and guiding an enfeebled public to a preordained conclusion – as New York Times correspondent Anne Barnard has done over the past two days.
In the case of Syria, the only “acceptable” approach is the reckless idea that the U.S. government must militarily damage the principal force – the Syrian army – that is holding back the rising tide of Sunni terrorism and then must take its chances on what comes next.
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).
As the New York Times continues its descent into becoming an outright neocon propaganda sheet, it offered its readers a front-page story on Wednesday alleging – based on no evidence – that the Syrian government is collaborating militarily with the Islamic State as the brutal terror group advances on the city of Aleppo.
Yet, while the Times played up those unverified allegations from regime opponents, the newspaper has either ignored or downplayed much more significant evidence that Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been providing real assistance to Sunni jihadists who dominate the Syrian rebel movement, especially Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
For instance, in March 2015, a Wall Street Journal reporter confirmed that Israel was treating wounded Nusra fighters and then returning them to Syria to carry on their war aimed at overthrowing the secular regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Israel also has struck militarily at Lebanese Hezbollah troops and Iranian military advisers who have been helping Assad’s regime battle against those Sunni extremists. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Syria’s Nightmarish Scenario.”]
Meanwhile, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have ramped up their weapons support for the so-called Army of Conquest in which the Nusra Front plays a key role. The Army of Conquest has made major military advances against Assad’s beleaguered army over the past several weeks.
Assad’s stretched-thin military also was routed by Islamic State militants who captured the strategic and historic city of Palmyra. So, a reasonable person could argue that the combined efforts of Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, et al were contributing to Sunni terrorist advances across Syria, both by Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda’s hyper-brutal spinoff, the Islamic State.
You could argue, too, that covert CIA arms shipments to the supposedly “moderate” rebels, many of whom have since joined the ranks of Nusra and the Islamic State, have aided the terrorist cause as well, even if inadvertently.
However, instead of addressing the Israeli-Saudi-Turkish-Qatari role in a significant way, the Times spins a conspiracy theory about the Assad government consciously aiding the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — as its head-chopping militants seek to supplant other rebels who have dug in around the important city of Aleppo.
The Times article by Anne Barnard states: “Syrian opposition leaders accused the Syrian government of essentially collaborating with the Islamic State, leaving the militants unmolested as they pressed a surprise offensive against other insurgent groups — even though the government and the Islamic State are nominal enemies — and instead striking the rival insurgents. …
“Khaled Khoja, the president of the main Syrian exile opposition group, accused Mr. Assad of deploying his warplanes ‘as an air force for ISIS.’ Echoing those claims, the Twitter account of the long-closed United States Embassy in Syria made its strongest statement yet about Mr. Assad’s tactics.
“‘Reports indicate that the regime is making airstrikes in support of #ISIL’s advance on #Aleppo, aiding extremists against Syrian population,’ the embassy said in a series of Twitter posts. In another post, it added that government warplanes were ‘not only avoiding #ISIL lines, but actively seeking to bolster their position.’”
Barnard added that “Neither American officials nor Syrian insurgents have provided proof of such direct coordination, though it has long been alleged by the insurgents. The State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Tuesday that United States officials were looking into the claims but had no independent confirmation.”
Yet, despite the lack of evidence, the Times – by hyping these unconfirmed suspicions on its front page while burying or ignoring more substantive information about Israel-Saudi-Turkey-Qatar assistance to Sunni terror groups – is continuing its long campaign to induce President Barack Obama to intervene militarily in Syria to destroy Assad’s army and achieve “regime change.”
Further demonstrating the Times’ bias, there is no indication that the Times thought to ask the Syrian government for its comment on the allegations, though Barnard had the help of five other Times reporters on the article. That reflects what is becoming a typical lack of professional standards at the Times and other mainstream publications on such topics.
While getting the other side of the story is now apparently unnecessary – maybe even proof that you’re an “Assad apologist” – it has become an article of faith in neocon-dominated Official Washington that if Obama had only engineered “regime change” in Syria earlier that everything would be going swimmingly. Ignored is the reality that Sunni militants, including Al-Qaeda affiliates, were always part of the anti-Assad uprising. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Holes in the Neocons’ Syria Story.”]
Almost surely, a U.S. military intervention – along the lines of the “regime change” air war that the U.S. and its allies waged against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – would have resulted in either the same sort of bloody chaos that has engulfed Libya or an outright victory by Al-Qaeda or its spinoff, the Islamic State.
President Obama confided as much to New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman in 2014, saying the idea of arming Syria’s “moderate” opposition as an effective counterweight to Assad’s army was “always … a fantasy.” But it is a beloved fantasy in Official Washington.
In late August 2013, the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks thought they were on the verge of getting their long-wished-for Syrian “regime change” after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus, which the Obama administration, the New York Times and virtually the entire mainstream media immediately pinned on Assad.
But there was countervailing evidence that the lethal sarin attack was a provocation carried out by rebel extremists with the goal of goading Obama into a major military strike to devastate Assad’s military and clear their path to victory. Aware of those intelligence doubts, Obama pulled back at the last minute and worked with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a compromise in which Assad surrendered his chemical weapons arsenal (while still denying a role in the sarin attack).
Later, additional evidence pointed to the rebels having carried out a “false-flag” attack, but Official Washington has refused to budge from its initial rush to judgment – and the Inside-the-Beltway in-crowd still faults Obama for failing to enforce his “red line” against Assad for supposedly using chemical weapons. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]
With its deeply biased coverage of Syria, the New York Times has been a key factor in promoting propaganda about the crisis. And, with its latest front-page salvo, it clearly is back in the business of egging Obama into a U.S. military intervention to destroy Assad’s military so the insignificant “moderates” could somehow prevail.
In its coverage of Syria – and regarding the pay-back-to-Putin crisis in Ukraine – the Times has performed as shamefully as it did in pushing the U.S. invasion of Iraq with its bogus stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, including the infamous “aluminum tube” story in 2002 that had Americans fearing imaginary “mushroom clouds.”
And, in its front-page article on Wednesday – by linking Assad with the Islamic State – the Times is reprising the bogus contention popular before the Iraq War that Hussein and Al-Qaeda were somehow allied, an assertion that also turned out to be a lie.
Yet, rather than having learned lessons from the Iraq War catastrophe, the Times keeps plunging deeper into the grim fantasy land of neocon propaganda.
The latest political move by the U.S.-backed “pro-democracy” regime in Ukraine was to foist on the people of Odessa the autocratic Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, a neoconservative favorite and currently a fugitive from his own country which is seeking him on charges of human rights violations and embezzlement.
New York Times correspondent David M. Herszenhorn justified this imposition of a newly minted Ukrainian citizen on the largely Russian-speaking population of Odessa by saying that “the Ukrainian public’s general willingness to accept the appointment of foreigners to high-level positions underscores the deep lack of trust in any government after nearly a quarter-century of mismanagement and corruption.”
But Herszenhorn made no apparent effort to gauge how willing the people of Odessa are to accept this choice of a controversial foreign politician to govern them. The pick was made by President Petro Poroshenko and is just the latest questionable appointment by the post-coup regime in Kiev.
For instance, shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, the new U.S.-endorsed authorities in Kiev named thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk in southeastern Ukraine. Kolomoisky, regarded as one of Ukraine’s most corrupt billionaires, ruled the region as his personal fiefdom until he was ousted by Poroshenko earlier this year in a dispute over Kolomoisky’s use of strong-arm tactics to maintain control of Ukrainian energy companies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other.”]
Poroshenko also has granted overnight Ukrainian citizenship to other controversial foreigners to hold key positions in his government, including Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, an ex-U.S. State Department official whose qualifications included enriching herself through her management of a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund for Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine Finance Minister’s ‘American Values’.”]
Beyond his recruitment of questionable outsiders, Poroshenko has made concessions to Ukraine’s far-right nationalists, including signing legislation to extend official recognition to Ukrainian fascists who collaborated with the Nazis in killing Jews and Poles during World War II. In a bitter irony, the new law coincided with the world’s celebration in April of the 70th anniversary of Russian and U.S. troops bringing an end to the Holocaust. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How Ukraine Commemorates the Holocaust.”]
Now Poroshenko has given Saakashvili his own province to govern, rescuing him from an obscure existence in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. According to a New York Times profile last September, Saakashvili was there “writing a memoir, delivering ‘very well-paid’ speeches, helping start up a Washington-based think tank and visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state.”
McCain and Nuland were key neocon backers of the coup that ousted Yanukovych and touched off the bloody civil war that has killed thousands of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, while also reviving Cold War tensions between the West and Russia. Before the coup, McCain urged on right-wing protesters with promises of U.S. support and Nuland was overheard hand-picking Ukraine’s new leadership, saying “Yats is the guy,” a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became prime minister after the coup.
According to the Times profile, Saakashvili also “entertained David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” another neocon favorite who ran into legal trouble himself when the FBI discovered he had shared top-secret information with his biographer/lover and then lied about it to FBI agents. Petraeus, however, received only a suspended sentence and a fine in contrast to intelligence-community whistleblowers who have faced serious prison time.
Models, Nude Artist and Massage Therapist
While cooling his heels in Brooklyn, Saakashvili fumed over charges leveled against him by prosecutors in his home country of Georgia. According to the Times profile, Saakashvili was accused of “using public money to pay for, among other things, hotel expenses for a personal stylist, hotel and travel for two fashion models, Botox injections and hair removal, the rental of a yacht in Italy and the purchase of artwork by the London artist Meredith Ostrom, who makes imprints on canvases with her naked, painted body. …
“Mr. Saakashvili is also accused of using public money to fly his massage therapist, Dorothy Stein, into Georgia in 2009. Mr. Saakashvili said he received a massage from Ms. Stein on ‘one occasion only,’ but Ms. Stein said she received 2,000 euros to massage him multiple times, including delivering her trademark ‘bite massage.’ ‘He gave me a bunch of presents,’ said Ms. Stein, who splits her time between Berlin and Hoboken,” including a gold necklace.
The Georgian prosecutors also have charged Saakashvili with human rights violations for his violent crackdown on political protesters in 2007.
However, in Herszenhorn’s May 31 article about Saakashvili’s appointment as Odessa’s governor, the Times correspondent (who has behaved more like a pro-Kiev propagandist than an objective reporter) wrote that the criminal charges against Saakashvili and other officials from his government are “widely perceived as a campaign of political retribution.”
Herszenhorn didn’t say where he had gained that perception, but it is true that Official Washington’s neoconservatives will broach no criticism of their longtime hero Saakashvili, who was a big booster of the Iraq War and even named a boulevard in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in honor of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Saakashvili apparently felt that his close ties to the Bush administration would protect him in summer 2008 when he provoked a border clash with Russian troops over the rebellious territory of South Ossetia. Georgia suffered a sharp military defeat and Saakashvili’s political star quickly faded among his countrymen, leading to his party’s rejection at the polls and his exile.
But Saakashvili’s love of the high life might find similar attitudes among some of the other “carpetbaggers” arriving in Ukraine to take Ukrainian citizenship and get top jobs in the post-coup government. Estonian Jaanika Merilo, an associate of Finance Minister Jaresko’s, was brought in to handle Ukraine’s foreign investments, but Merilo is best known on the Internet for her provocative party photos.
Janika Merilo, the Estonian being put in charge of arranging foreign investments into Ukraine. (From her Facebook page via Zero Hedge)
Janika Merilo, an Estonian brought into the Ukrainian government to oversee foreign investments. (From her Facebook page via Zero Hedge)
Yet, as much fun as some of these well-connected politicians and bureaucrats may be having in Kiev, the plight of the average Ukrainian continues to worsen as “free-market” reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund take hold. Those “reforms” have included slashing old-age pensions, removing worker protections, and hiking the price of heating fuel.
Now, the latest “democratic” reform is to appoint a neocon politician on the run from his own country’s criminal justice system to govern what is likely to be a hostile population of ethnic Russians in Odessa.
On May 2, 2014, neo-Nazi street fighters set fire to Odessa’s Trade Union Building and burned alive dozens of ethnic Russians who had taken refuge there. The building was also spray-painted with Nazi slogans, including praise for the Galician SS, a Ukrainian force that fought with the Nazis and slaughtered Jews. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Dr. Strangelove Reality.”]
Overseeing that tense city now is an unelected ex-Georgian neocon politician who is facing charges in his homeland for human rights abuses and misuse of government funds — more “democracy promotion” in the tragic land of Ukraine.
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)