Tag Archives: corporate media

Corporate Media Doublethink and the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq Connection

By Prof. James F. Tracy
May 25, 2015
Global Research

 

Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz“Doublethink,” George Orwell famously remarked, “means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The corporate news media similarly tend toward selective recall when approaching and interpreting crucial facts of national and world history. A recent example involves John Ellis “Jeb” Bush’s tentative May 10 admission that he would not have embarked on the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq had he possessed the information that his brother’s presidential administration willfully kept from the American public.

In fact, such information is but one small facet in an edifice of high crimes and subterfuge, including the George W. Bush regime’s complicity in the false flag terror attacks of September 11, 2001, or what one might otherwise term the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq connection.

pnac.org

In the midst of controversy surrounding Jeb Bush’s acknowledgement, major news media almost uniformly chose to toss the elder Bush brother’s involvement in the neoconservative Project for a New American Century as a signatory to its “Statement of Principles” down the memory hole.

As many will recall, PNAC’s 2000 document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” issued one year before the September 11 events, proclaimed how “the process of [foreign policy] transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

“A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure ‘regime change’ even before he took power in January 2001,” Neil Mackay observed in the Scottish Sunday Herald on the first anniversary of 9/11.

The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a ‘global Pax Americana’ was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W Bush’s younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The PNAC document supports a ‘blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests’.

This “American grand strategy” must be advanced for “as far into the future as possible”, the report says. It also calls for the US to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” as a “core mission”.

The historical amnesia is evident in a LexisNexis search for “Project for a New American Century” and “Jeb Bush” that yields almost no mention in print news media of the eerily prophetic, even incriminating document in the overall coverage of Bush’s admittance.

Cable news channel MSNBC was the only news outlet to (unintentionally) link PNAC to Bush’s disclosure. The reference was made by Salon.com‘s Joan Walsh on the May 14 segment of Chris Matthew’s Hardball program. The exchange is prefaced by Matthews’ remark concerning Bush’s difficulty distinguishing “himself from the ideology that took us into Iraq.”

During an exchange between Matthews, Walsh, Buzzfeed‘s McKay Coppins, and The Nation‘s Ben Goldberger concerning Bush’s present slew of “neocon” foreign policy advisors, Matthews curiously feigns ignorance of Bush’s PNAC involvement.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We were all supposed to answer hypothetical questions. Knowing what we know now, what would you have done? I would have not engaged, I would not have gone into Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I would not have gone into Iraq. It took [Bush] a while to say that … McKay, tell me why he`s had this hard time to separate himself from the ideology that took us into Iraq.

COPPINS: Well, it`s — I have a story coming out tonight where I talk to a half dozen former George W. Bush officials, neocon hawks, very pro- Iraq war at the time and still are. And they breathe two issues. One — I mean, it`s obvious that there`s still a lot of pressure from neoconservatives and Iraq hawks who don`t want him to, you know, wholly disown the Iraq [sic].

The other issue is that they — and they were all asking this question, when he was asked, you know, to put out a list of his foreign policy advisers, he came out this lengthy, kind of unwieldy list of 24 policy advisers — [sic]

MATTHEWS: But it had a few hard rights in it.

COPPINS: It had a lot of neoconservatives. And actually, I`m told that he had to scramble at the last minute to add people from the new generation. Initially, it was all –

MATTHEWS: So, what do you think he is? Do you think he`s his brother or his dad?

COPPINS: I think he`s probably, in his heart, angling more toward his dad, but I think there`s still many political pleasures within his party and, frankly, familiar pressures to not disown him.

MATTHEWS: The weird about [sic] this is the father/son thing?

WALSH: Yes, to both of them.

MATTHEWS: He railed against his father. We all know W. was the rebel, in a way that may have sort of led us into the war. We don`t know this psychological stuff.

WALSH: Right. We can`t get inside his brain.

But I mean, I think you`re making a great point. This may well be what he thinks. We don`t know what he thinks. But he was an early signatory to the project for a new American century document.

MATTHEWS: “W” was?

WALSH: No. Jeb was. Jeb was.

There are a lot of people in his orbit. Dick Cheney never said he made a mistake. They would do it all over again. They knew that WMD was a pretext in the first place.

MATTHEWS: Whose sales speech, Ben? It`s going to be an issue in the campaign. It`s the reason that Barack Obama is president over Hillary Clinton. We all know that central fight that he had, she wasn`t willing to push away the war issue. He was. He was clean [Emphasis added].

The almost complete erasure of the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq connection in the broader public discourse surrounding Bush’s admission may seem like yet another short-lived episode in US politics. Yet the omission demonstrates a type of censorship that is now at least as ideological as it is deliberate, particularly among professional journalists who tacitly recognize their roles in the political censorial process. “To know and not to know,” Orwell noted,

to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies … to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself.

Upon over a half century of unexplained political assassinations and phony wars on communism, drugs, and now “terror,” Western political leaders today appear scarcely interested in even explaining their policies, frequently because of the willful historical shorthand practiced by the journalistic institutions dependent on upholding the same political and ideational bulwark.

Overlooking the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq connection requires an informational system akin to that of 1984; one committed to a relentless forgetting of the inner party’s profound criminality.

US prepares new military provocations in South China Sea

By Peter Symonds
May 23, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

A Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft

Just days after a CNN news crew joined a P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft over a Chinese-administered islet in the South China Sea, it is clear the flight was a calculated provocation aimed at ramping up pressure on China. American officials immediately exploited the reportage to underline Washington’s determination to challenge Chinese territorial claims in these key strategic waters, regardless of the consequences.

US surveillance flights, along with naval patrols, have become routine since January when Washington initiated its scare campaign over Chinese reclamation activities in the South China Sea. But the presence of a news team for the first time on Wednesday, providing breathless coverage of the flight, along with the unprecedented release of video footage, focussed public attention in the US and internationally on the issue.

Just like the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the media is once again being “embedded” as the propaganda arm of the military as the US prepares for war with China. CNN made no pretence of independent reporting, painting China as the villain engaged in “a massive military build-up” on the islets—an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef—and dramatically highlighting warnings from a Chinese radio operator appealing for the aircraft to “please go away… to avoid misunderstanding.”

Responding to the CNN report, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren not only declared that the present “routine flights” would continue, but could in the future breach the 12-mile territorial limit around Chinese islets and reefs. While the Poseidon aircraft had not done so on Wednesday, he said, “that would be the next step.”

“We don’t recognise those islands as anything other than international space,” Warren remarked. “For us to fly through that, we wouldn’t see that as a change in the way we do business.” He acknowledged, however, that the US had not flown over Chinese claimed territory in the South China Sea in the past 20 years.

Warren’s comments confirm media reports over the past fortnight that US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has instructed the Pentagon to draw up options to fly American aircraft or send warships within the 12-mile limit. As Washington is well aware, such reckless actions have the potential to provoke conflict.

The CNN report featured the comments of former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell who warned “there’s a real risk, when you have this kind of confrontation, for something bad happening.” Asked about the danger of war between the US and China, he declared that while it was “not in their interests, [and] not in our interests,” nevertheless “absolutely, it’s a risk.”

In what can only be interpreted as a military threat to Beijing, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel told a press briefing on Thursday that the reconnaissance flight was “entirely appropriate” and the US would “continue to fully exercise” its right to operate in international waters and airspace. “Nobody in their right mind is going to try to stop the US navy from operating—that would not be a good bet,” he said.

The hypocrisy and cynicism involved is staggering. The US only began to assert its “right” to “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea in 2010, as the Obama administration prepared to unveil its “pivot to Asia” aimed at undermining China and encircling it militarily. Washington’s intervention into long-running and complex territorial disputes has transformed the region into a dangerous flashpoint.

While berating China for its land reclamation, the US remains silent about similar activities by South East Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines on islets and reefs under their administration. No one in Washington is suggesting that the Pentagon is about to challenge the 12-mile limit around disputed territory controlled by Manila and Hanoi.

Indeed, one of the main US aims has been to drive a wedge between China and its neighbours and to establish closer military ties throughout South East Asia. Washington has encouraged both the Philippines and Vietnam to more aggressively assert their territorial claims in the South China Sea against China.

Last year the US and the Philippines signed an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement that will provide American forces with virtually unlimited access to military bases in its former colony. Indeed, relations are already close, demonstrated by the fact that on Wednesday the Poseidon aircraft flew out from Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The decision to ask the CNN news team to accompany the flight is part of carefully choreographed preparations for war with China. It came days after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing to insist China back off its land reclamation, and just prior to the appearance of Defence Secretary Ashton Carter at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore next weekend where he is likely to confront Chinese military officials.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) analyst Mira Rapp Hooper explained this week: “What you’re seeing by the US is a calculated, transparent effort to reveal the situation in all its details and potential dangers.”

The CSIS is heavily involved with the US military in implementing the “pivot to Asia.” Not accidently, as the Obama administration escalated tensions with China this year over the South China Sea, the think tank established the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) headed by Hooper. Following the CNN report, using its own close Pentagon ties, the AMTI website released its own exclusive video of US surveillance flights.

There is no doubt Washington intends to continue its provocative actions. When China announced an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea in November 2013, the US immediately challenged the zone by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers into the area unannounced. US plans to fly military aircraft within the 12-mile limit around the Chinese islets are far more reckless. Beijing regards the South China Sea, which is adjacent to major Chinese mainland naval bases, as critical to its strategic interests.

Reacting to the CNN flight, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei declared: “Such action is likely to cause an accident, it is very irresponsible and dangerous and detrimental to regional peace and stability. We express our strong dissatisfaction, we urge the US to strictly abide by international law and international rules and refrain from taking any risky and provocative actions.” He warned that China would closely monitor the situation and “take the necessary and appropriate measures” to secure its islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

US imperialism’s overriding aim is not to secure “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Rather the South China Sea has become the pretext for a show of force intended to bully Beijing into accepting US hegemony in Asia. For this, Washington is preparing for, and willing to risk, war.

The author also recommends:

Is the US planning a “Gulf of Tonkin” incident in the South China Sea?
[18 May 2015]

Seymour Hersh exposes official lies about Bin Laden killing

By Niles Williamson
May 12, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Nearly four years since the US Special Forces raid that resulted in the murder of Osama bin Laden, an extraordinary political exposure by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published Sunday in the London Review of Books has torn the mask off the official narrative by the US government.

The wealth of details laid out in Hersh’s article calls attention to the reality that nothing that any government official says on the record can be taken as the truth, and that the mainstream media operates as an echo chamber for official lies. Hersh asserts that the accounts given by President Barack Obama and members of his administration “might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” author of Alice in Wonderland.

White House photo-op of Situation Room during operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden

Among the claims exposed as fabrications are that the CIA torture program contributed to the discovery of bin Laden’s hideout; that the raid was carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani government; that the Special Operations team intended to take bin Laden alive, and only killed him after he resisted; and that bin Laden was given an Islamic burial at sea from the carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Hersh writes that the 2011 operation to kill bin Laden was initiated in August 2010 after a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer walked into the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to give the CIA bin Laden’s location in return for the $25 million bounty the US government had placed on the Al Qaeda leader’s head in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In its broadcast Monday night, NBC News said that it had independently confirmed that Pakistani intelligence sources had given bin Laden’s location to the CIA in 2010—perhaps the most important claim made in Hersh’s report, and a devastating refutation of the official Obama administration cover story.

The Al Qaeda leader’s location was not discovered via the CIA’s torture program, as depicted in the propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty. This claim and the film were used to bolster public support for the CIA’s illegal operations and further reinforce the Obama administration’s concocted narrative about the killings.

The walk-in told the CIA that bin Laden had lived with several of his wives and children undetected in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan from 2001 until 2006 when his location was betrayed by local tribesman bribed by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

Bin Laden was then transferred to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was held as a prisoner of the ISI. The residence was less than two miles from the Pakistan Military Academy and a 15-minute helicopter ride from Tarbela Ghazi, an ISI covert operations base.

Bin Laden’s location in a headquarters town of the Pakistani military, crawling with security agents, has always been the weakest link in the official US narrative of the operation that killed the Al Qaeda leader. Hersh’s account provides a far more convincing explanation of why bin Laden was in Abbottabad—he was being held under house arrest by the Pakistani authorities while they discussed his fate with their American paymasters.

According to the retired US official interviewed by Hersh, Saudi Arabia was financing bin Laden’s upkeep in Abbottabad and worried that if the American government discovered that he was being held by the ISI they would force him to give up the details of the Saudi monarchy’s support for Al Qaeda. The Pakistanis in turn worried that the Saudis might provide the US with information on his location, sparking a conflict with the US. These relationships demonstrate the fraud of the “war on terror,” since bin Laden was being housed and financed by two of the leading US allies in the alleged struggle against Al Qaeda.

In fact, Saudi Arabia has longstanding ties with Al Qaeda, and members of the Saudi monarchy—likely with the knowledge of sections of the US state—financed and supported the hijackers who participated in the September 11 attacks.

Hersh’s source makes absolutely clear that it was the intention of the Obama administration from the outset to kill bin Laden, and that this was enthusiastically supported by all concerned, the Pakistanis and the Saudis, for the time-honored reason that “dead men tell no tales.” The raid against bin Laden’s compound, blessed by the ISI, was nothing less than a hit ordered by Obama, the executioner-in-chief. The informant had told the CIA that bin Laden was in poor health and would not put up any resistance.

The retired official stated that the operation against bin Laden “was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.” A former Seal commander told Hersh, “We were not going to keep bin Laden alive—to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, ‘Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.’”

The Obama administration has maintained since the assassination that killing bin Laden was seen only as a last resort, and that the primary mission was to capture him alive.

According to Hersh, the US commandos moved into the compound unopposed. There was no firefight as claimed by US officials. Using explosives to blow open steel security doors, the Special Forces operatives methodically made their way to the third-floor rooms where bin Laden was living. The Al Qaeda leader retreated to his bedroom where two of the Navy Seals opened fire with their automatic rifles, cutting his body to pieces. The commandos did not shoot in self-defense, the gravely ill bin Laden never reached for an AK-47, and he never tried to use one of his wives as a human shield.

Hersh writes that “a carefully constructed cover story would be issued” following the killing of bin Laden, in part to avoid revealing the role of the Pakistani state in providing the US with information about his location. A week after the killing, “Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border…. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests….”

The White House decided to announce bin Laden’s assassination on the night that it happened, however, in part due to the fact that a US helicopter had crashed in bin Laden’s compound, making the operation impossible to hide. The announcement—which Hersh describes as a “series of self-serving and inaccurate statements”—also provided the White House with an opportunity to rally support for the expansion of militarism abroad and the assault on democratic rights within the US.

The claim that bin Laden’s body was subsequently given a proper Islamic burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson is also exposed as a lie. Instead, what remained of bin Laden’s bullet-riddled body, including his head, which is described as having “only a few bullet holes in it,” was unceremoniously tossed into a body bag. On the commandos’ helicopter trip back to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, pieces of the body were dropped over the Hindu Kush mountains.

Hersh has come under immediate attack from the mainstream media for his reliance on anonymous sources. Such criticism means little coming from a media that relies consistently on anonymous government and intelligence sources to push the official line in the “war on terror” and in support of US provocations from Ukraine to the South China Sea. In the eyes of the government stenographers in the corporate-controlled media, Hersh’s main sin is that he uses anonymous sources to challenge the official narrative rather than regurgitate it.

Based on the historical record, Hersh is a far more reliable witness than the innumerable millionaire anchor-persons and pundits who serve as apologists for American imperialism. He was the first journalist to expose the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. In 2013-2014, he published two devastating exposures of the US claims that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, demonstrating that it was far more likely that the US-backed “rebels” were responsible.

It is far from certain that Hersh has provided the final accounting of the events that led to bin Laden’s death. While it relies chiefly on the account of a single anonymous retired senior intelligence official corroborated by other unnamed intelligence officials in the US and Pakistan, his narrative is a far more robust and believable story than the account spun by the propaganda of the Obama administration and the corporate media.

 

The author also recommends:

The killing of Osama bin Laden: Obama’s “historic moment”
[4 May 2011]

Omar Khadr, Child Soldier: “Fact” or “Notion”?

By Julie Lévesque
May 11, 2015
Global Research

 

khadr-freeCaptured at 15 in Afghanistan and jailed by the U.S., Canadian Omar Khadr, now 28, has been released on bail after 13 years of detention. Khadr mostly spent those years in Guantanamo Bay, the illegal U.S. detention facilities which, according to Amnesty International, ”have become emblematic of the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the U.S. Government in the name of fighting terrorism. At Guantanamo, the U.S. government sought to hold detainees in a place where neither U.S. nor international law applied.”

While he was detained,  the Canadian mainstream media reporting about Omar Khadr was inaccurate and filled with misinformation. It seems like this tendency is not going to end with Khadr’s release.

Although Canadian (English) mainstream media reports admit Khadr pleaded guilty for war crimes before a “widely discredited military commission”, most failed to recognize the fact that Khadr was a child soldier and was tortured while in detention in Bagram and Guantanamo. Yet, international law is unequivocal: if you are under 18 and used in an armed conflict, you are, by definition, a child soldier.

A lot of reporters and columnists say Khadr was “considered by his supporters to be a child soldier”. This is not, however, a matter of consideration, but a matter of fact: 15, in an armed conflict = child soldier. Why are reporters shying away from this particular fact?

In the following CBC news article, the term “child soldier” is not even mentioned once:

Earlier in the day, the 28-year-old convicted war criminal was granted bail in an Edmonton court while he appeals his convictions in the United States….

He was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old after a firefight with U.S. soldiers. He was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier.

In a plea deal that would include his repatriation to Canada, Khadr pleaded guilty on Oct. 25, 2010, to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, and two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying…

Born in Toronto, Khadr was the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, and the last Western citizen to be held at the detention camp. (Omar Khadr, free on bail, vows to prove he is ‘a good person’, CBC.ca, May 7, 2015)

Khadr was merely “the youngest prisoner” at Gitmo. Not a child soldier. The same goes in this other report from the Toronto Star:

Khadr, now 28, pleaded guilty in October 2010 before a widely discredited military commission to five war crimes — including murder in the death of Speer, a U.S. special forces soldier…

Khadr spent almost 13 years behind bars, four of them as a convicted war criminal.

He was captured, badly wounded, by American forces in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was 15 years old. At one time, he was the youngest prisoner at the American prison compound in Guantanamo Bay. (Mike Blanchfield, Peter MacKay praises Omar Khadr for renouncing violence, as Stephen Harper stays mum, The Canadian Press, May 8, 2015)

Both reports mention that Khadr was 15 when he was captured, but avoid describing him as child soldier. The Star, however, quotes Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski’s completely illogical comment on the “notion” of child soldiers:

Words are just words,” said Saskatchewan Conservative Tom Lukiwski. “I reject the notion he was a child soldier. I think it was a very deliberate, premeditated act, and he should pay the price for that.” (Ibid.)

“Words are just words?” Well, not exactly Mr. Lukiwski. Legal standards and legal definitions are not “just words” and “child soldier” is one of these:

The internationally agreed definition for a child associated with an armed force or armed group (child soldier) is any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities. (Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, 2007.) (Child Soldiers International, Who Are Child Soldiers?)

Mr Lukiwski’s whole statement is absurd: he rejects the “notion” that Khadr was a child soldier and says that it was “ a very deliberate, premeditated act, and he should pay the price.” First Khadr being a child soldier is a FACT, not a “notion”. Nobody can refute the fact that a 15 year old boy in an armed conflict is a child soldier and being 15 is far from being “a very deliberate, premeditated act”. Of course, Lukiwski was referring to the killing (alleged) of an American solider, being a deliberate act, but that is totally irrelevant to the fact that Khadr was 15 years old and a child soldier. Whether he killed or not, whether it was deliberate or not does not change the fact that Khadr was 15, thus a child soldier.

The International Law is unequivocal and applies to Khadr’s case: the “recruitment or use in hostilities of under-18s by non-state armed groups” is prohibited.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC): Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 May 2000, entered into force on 12 February 2002. OPAC sets 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities and for compulsory recruitment by state armed forces. States may accept volunteers from the age of 16 but must deposit a binding declaration at the time of ratification or accession, setting out their minimum voluntary recruitment age and outlining certain safeguards for such recruitment. OPAC also prohibits the recruitment or use in hostilities of under-18s by non-state armed groups. (Child Soldiers International, International Standards)

Surprisingly, the report closest to being accurate was in Canada’s conservative newspaper, The National Post:

Khadr, now 28, pleaded guilty in October 2010 before a widely discredited military commission to five war crimes — including murder in the death of Speer, a U.S. special forces soldier. He was 15 at the time of the incident, when he is said to have thrown a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan that killed Speer, and human rights groups have long considered him a child soldier whose treatment violated international law. (Harper not backing down on Omar Khadr: He ‘pled guilty to very grave crimes, including murder’, The Canadian Press, May 8, 2015)

Yet again, Khadr is only “considered by human rights groups” to have been a child soldier. Why so much disdain for legal standards? Were reporters told not to present Khadr as a child soldier?

Reporting on Khadr has never been fair and accurate. In January the support group Free Omar Khadr Now published a “Call for Fair Reporting on Omar Khadr”. We are reprinting it and again asking for fairness and accuracy. Even if now Omar Khadr is free at last, he still deserves justice:

One of the main goals of the Free Omar Khadr Now-campaign is to hold the media accountable for proper coverage of all aspects of Omar’s case. While there has been significant improvement in the way the mainstream media covers the story, misinformation, inaccuracies and lies continue to be printed!

Below the usual falsehoods that Canadian media imposes on us and our ccall for factual, fair reporting, voiced by Gail Davidson of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada:

(Call for Fair Reporting on Omar Khadr!, Free Omar Khadr Now, January 24, 2015)

Britain’s Elections: The Real Lessons of the Tory Victory

By Jonathan Cook
Global Research, May 09, 2015
Jonathan Cook’s Blog

 

Voting in Britain for war. Take your pickThere’s much that could be said about the Conservative party’s victory today in Britain’s election. Not least David Cameron has emerged stronger: he now has a small but absolute majority in parliament, compared to his last government, in which he had to share power, a little of it anyway, with his minor coalition partners, the Lib Dems.

According to the rules of the British system, he has won a supposed mandate to carry out all his party’s policies, even though the Tories gained the support of slightly less than 25% of the total electorate, and little more than a third of those who actually voted. That in itself should be enough to discredit the idea that Britain is a democracy in any meaningful sense.

But I want to focus on two issues that this particular election highlighted. Although this refers to the British election, the lessons apply equally to US elections.

The first is a debate that gripped some on the far left after Russell Brand interviewed Labour leader Ed Miliband and subsequently gave Miliband his backing. This was quite a surprise – and disappointment – given that Brand had shaken up British politics over the previous 18 months by arguing that the whole political system was inherently flawed and undemocratic. He had called on people not to vote as a way to show that the system had no popular legitimacy, and invest their energies instead in a different kind of grassroots politics. Britain’s two main parties, Brand and others argued, represented the interests of the big corporations that now dominate Britain and much of the globe.

The labels of Conservative and Labour are the misleading vestiges of a time when there was some sort of class politics in Britain: the Tories representing the unalloyed interests of the capitalist class, and Labour the interests of organised labour. But the  Tories under Margaret Thatcher long ago destroyed the power of the trade unions. Labour became a shell of its former self, its finances and ability to organise workers crumbled as the corporations entrenched their power, assisted by the Tories.

Under a power-hungry Tony Blair, Labour allowed itself to be captured by those same corporations, famously illustrated by his Faustian pact with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Labour sold what was left of its soul, becoming a Tory-lite party, and winning the support of Murdoch and his media empire as a result.

Brand seemed to understand this, arguing that what we needed was to turn our back on sham elections every five years between two parties representing the interests of the 1%. Instead the people needed to foment a non-violent political revolution, and take back power. How did voting for Miliband, a man who had largely adopted the Blair credo, make sense in the light of Brand’s earlier claims?

Brand justified his change of mind using a familiar argument. He admitted Miliband was far from perfect but was still the preferable choice because he was prepared to listen to the people, unlike Cameron’s Conservatives. He was the “lesser evil” choice.

The problem with his logic – aside from its faith-based component – was that the same argument could have been used about any recent British election. It was an excuse to avoid engaging in real politics.

Supporters of Tony Blair, even after he committed the supreme war crime by invading Iraq, could have argued quite convincingly that the Tories too would have invaded Iraq – plus they would have done worse things at home, inflicting greater damage on the health and education systems. Thus, on the lesser-evil argument, it was legitimate to vote for the war criminal Blair. A man like Blair could destroy another nation, cause suffering on a scale unimaginable to most of us, and yet still claim the moral high ground because the alternative would be even worse.

The faulty logic of the lesser-evil argument is apparent the moment we consider the Blair case. If there is no political cost for committing the ultimate war crime, because the other guys are worse, what real leverage can the electorate ever have on the political system. The “left” vote will always gravitate to the slightly less nasty party of capital. No change is really possible. In fact, over time the political centre of gravity is likely to shift – as has in fact happened – ever more to the right, as the corporations accrete ever greater power.

Further, where does Brand’s logic take us now that Miliband has lost. If we were supposed to have faith that Miliband would have listened had he achieved power, then why not extend that faith to his successor? If we are satisfied by the lesser-evil argument, why not wait till the next election to see if we can get another slightly less nasty candidate into Downing Street? We can defer the choice to demand real change indefinitely.

The second point is that the programme of extreme austerity at the heart of Cameron’s manifesto has been fully discredited by most economists over the past few years. Not only does it penalise the overwhelming majority of the population by redistributing wealth away from the working and middles classes to the financial elite, but it also inflicts great damage on the long term health of the economy. In other words, British voters look like supreme masochists. They voted to seriously harm their own, and their country’s, interests. Are Britons collectively insane?

Of course, not. So how can we explain their insane choice this week? The answer is staring us in the face. In fact, Blair showed us what was required to win a British election. A party hoping to win power needed first to seduce the corporations, and their media divisions. Without most of the media on your side, no party stands a chance of winning because the media subtly controls the narrative of the election: what count as “the issues”, how the leaders and their platforms are presented, what and who is considered credible.

Miliband’s failure was that, unlike Blair, he looked a little half-hearted about his desire to be the 1%’s mouthpiece in parliament and Downing Street. Maybe what seduced Brand about Miliband was the sliver of humanity that was still just visible below the surface of the corporate employee the Labour party had groomed their leader to become.

The revolution that we need in Britain and the US has to start with a disengagement from the mainstream media’s representation of events. We have to discard their narratives. Even more important than an overhauled electoral system, one that fairly reflects the electorate’s preferences, we need a grassroots media that is free of the control of fabulously wealthy proprietors and major corporations, that does not depend on the massive subsidies of corporations (in the form of advertising), and that does not rely, like the BBC, on funding from government. We need independent journalists, and we need to demand a new funding model for the media. And we need to do all this while the mainstream media entirely control the narrative about what a free media is.

It is a huge challenge – and one that reflects the extent of our own ideological confinement. Just like the political parties, we have been captured by the 1%. We cannot imagine a different world, a different economic system, a different media landscape, because our intellectual horizons have been so totally restricted by the media conglomerates that control our newspapers, our TV and radio stations, the films we watch, the video games we play, the music we listen to. We are so imaginatively confined we cannot even see the narrow walls within which our minds are allowed to wander.

As long as the media represent the span of interests of the 1% – from the psychopathic Murdoch empire to the capitalism with a little heart of the Guardian Media Group – our politicians will range from the Blue Tories of the Conservative party to the Red Tories of the Labour party. And we will remain enslaved.

Deadly Disinformation: War, the Mainstream Media and the Tragic Death of African Refugees

By Julie Lévesque
April 29, 2015
Global Research

 

imperialism-refugee-boatThe tragic death of hundreds of refugees last week in the Mediterranean Sea has once again brought to light the deadly hypocrisy of Western leaders and their mainstream press. Omissions and distortions are disconnecting the catastrophic event from its roots, preventing the real culprits from being publicly exposed. Were the victims Libyan “migrants seeking a better life in Europe,” or rather refugees fleeing a war zone created and fueled by Western powers?

The way the story is told and the wording are deceptive. Swedish scholar Jan Oberg explains:

In various media reports and political statements the word ”refugee” is increasingly being replaced by ”migrant”… A migrant, according to the UN, is a person who is engaged in (seeking) a remunerative activity in a state of which he or she is not a national. A refugee is an entirely different person who is outside his or her home country because of having suffered (or feared) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion; because he or she is a member of a persecuted social category of persons; or because they are fleeing a war… Using ”migrants” instead of ”refugees” takes away our attention from why they flee, from our own complicity in all this and it reduces our responsibility to protect refugees….

Because most of these refugees come from zones where Western military interventions and arms exports have failed miserably their officially stated purposes and caused only more problems.

Like with so many other problems these years, there is a psycho-political denial of the fact that Western militarism is the single most important cause of the problems we are facing. (Jan Oberg, Behind Every Refugee Stands an Arms Trader, TFF Associates & Themes Blog, April 28, 2015)

Johannes Stern and Bill Van Auken add:

The American press, led by the New York Times, writes of refugees fleeing poverty and violence in the Middle East and North Africa without so much as mentioning the actions of the United States and its European allies that have caused the humanitarian catastrophe. What is unfolding in the Mediterranean is not a tragedy; it is an imperialist war crime. (Johannes Stern and Bill Van Auken Blood on their Hands: Libya’s Boat Refugees and “Humanitarian” Imperialism, World Socialist Web Site, April 21, 2015)

Robert Parry blames the media itself for its key role in selling the war:

The mainstream U.S. news media is lambasting the Europeans for failing to stop the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea as desperate Libyans flee their war-torn country in overloaded boats that are sinking as hundreds drown. But the MSM forgets how this Libyan crisis began, including its own key role along with that of “liberal interventionists” such as Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power. (Robert Parry, The US Hand in Libya’s Tragedy, Consortium News April 21, 2015)

Since the 2011 French-led NATO intervention destroyed Libya, the most prosperous African state, the number of people literally dying to reach Europe has exploded:

Although there was outmigration from Africa and the Middle East prior to 2011, the crisis has recently surpassed anything seen in modern history. Just since the beginning of 2015, it is estimated that over 1,800 people have died in the Mediterranean in route to southern Europe. (Abayomi Azikiwe, African, Asian Migrants Dying in Mass in the Mediterranean, Global Research, April 28, 2015)

According to the IOM [International Organization for Migration], the number of people dying in the attempt to reach the shores of Europe rose by more than 500 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Of course, 2011 was the year that the US and its NATO allies, principally France and Britain, launched their war for regime change in Libya, under the fabricated pretext that they were intervening to prevent a massacre by the government of Muammar Gaddafi in the eastern city of Benghazi. (Stern, Van Auken, op. cit.)

This military intervention in support of Al-Qaeda militias is intrinsically linked to the misfortune of these people and the mainstream media failure to connect the dots can only be voluntary. In fact, their of the situation in Libya ended with the “victory of the Libyan people” and the end of a “brutal dictatorship.” The reality on the ground is far from the manufactured success story we were fed. What happened, however, after the fall of Gaddafi, once NATO left the country in the hands of terrorists, was not considered newsworthy:

This “humanitarian” mission initiated a six-month US-NATO bombing campaign that killed at least 10 times the number who died in the scattered fighting between government troops and armed rebels that had preceded it…

Nearly two million Libyan refugees—more than a quarter of the population—have been forced to flee to Tunisia to escape an unending civil war between rival Islamist militias and two competing governments… According to the web site Libya Body Count, some 3,500 people have been killed just since the beginning of 2014—three years after the US-NATO intervention.

The escalating barbarism in Libya has included mass executions… There were no such mass sectarian murders in Libya before the US-NATO war for regime change, nor for that matter did Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias exist as any more than a marginal force. These elements were promoted, armed and backed by massive airpower after the major imperialist powers decided to topple and murder Gaddafi and carry out a new rape of Libya.

The disastrous consequences of this predatory neocolonial intervention are now undeniable. It is only one in a growing number of imperialist wars and interventions in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa that have destroyed entire societies and turned millions into refugees…

According to Amnesty International, the escalating conflicts in Africa and the Middle East have “led to the largest refugee disaster since the Second World War.” (Ibid)

Sadly, an atrocious fate awaits thousands of others. The Western “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has created the monster we now call ISIS and which is used as a pretext for more military interventions in the Middle East and North Africa. ISIS terrorists are being used to wreck havoc and bring down regimes the same way they did when they were NATO terrorists in Libya, but were branded as pro-democracy rebels and used to overthrow Gaddafi.

“Who are you?” the late Muammar Gaddafi once rhetorically asked in a famous speech of his towards the end of his reign; (rightly) questioning the legitimacy of those seeking to over-throw his government at the time, calling them extremists, foreign agents, rats and drug-addicts. He was laughed at, unfairly caricatured, ridiculed and incessantly demonized;

Gaddafi knew what he was talking about; right from the get-go, he accused the so-called Libyan rebels of being influenced by Al-Qaeda ideology and Ben Laden’s school of thought; no one had taken his word for it of course, not even a little bit.

Gaddafi called them drug-addicted, Islamic fundamentalists; we know them as ISIS… it doesn’t seem much of a joke now, does it? And ISIS is what had been in store for us all along; the “revolutionary” lynching and sodomization of Muammar Gaddafi amid manic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, lauded by many at the time as some sort of a warped triumph of the good of popular will (read: NATO-sponsored mob rule) over the evil of dictatorship (sovereign state), was nothing but a gory precursor for the future of the country and the region; mass lynching of entire populations in Libya, Syria and Iraq and the breakup of key Arab states into feuding mini-statelets. (Ahmad Barqawi, Libya, ISIS and the Unaffordable Luxury of Hindsight, Counter Punch, March 12, 2015)

As incredible as it seems, Western leaders can use the same terrorists for treachery over and over and over again, just by changing their name. The media will repeat the state propaganda and people will invariably be fooled into wars. Gaddafi was laughed at when he claimed he was fighting terrorists. But the ones laughing were the real fools. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the Al Qaeda commander in Libya and NATO’s ally, is now leading ISIS in Libya:

According to recent reports, Abdelhakim Belhadj (picture, holding frame with McCain) has now firmly ensconced himself as the organizational commander of the ISIS presence inside Libya.

The information comes from an unnamed US intelligence official who has confirmed that Belhadj is supporting and coordinating the efforts of the ISIS training centers in eastern Libya around the city of Derna, an area long known as a hotbed of jihadi militancy.

While it may not seem to be a major story – Al Qaeda terrorist turns ISIS commander – the reality is that since 2011 the US and its NATO allies have held up Belhadj as a “freedom fighter.” They portrayed him as a man who courageously led his fellow freedom-lovers against the “tyrannical despot” Gaddafi whose security forces at one time captured and imprisoned many members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), including Belhadj. (Eric Draitser, Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya, New Eastern Outlook, March 10, 2015)

The mainstream media can no longer be trusted. They have proven time and time again to be nothing but propaganda outlets for the military-industrial complex. The only way we can stop this flow of deadly disinformation is with the truth. Please share this article.

For more information on Libya visit our In-depth report.

For more on the theme of ISIS and the US-NATO War Agenda, click here.

For a list of articles on Media Disinformation click here.

How Trustworthy Are U.S. & Western ‘News’ Media?

By Eric Zuesse
April 19, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

During the days of the Soviet Union, and in all dictatorial countries, the ‘news’ media were and are actually propaganda-media, which filter out information that the aristocracy (the people holding the real power, which in the Soviet Union were the Communist Party bosses) don’t want the public to know. Is the United States like that now?

I first came to the conclusion that the U.S. is a dictatorship in 2002, when I found proof that George W. Bush was lying to claim that he possessed proof that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his WMD (weapons of mass destruction) stockpiles, and when the U.S. and UK ’news’ media hid this crucial fact that their heads-of-state were lying. Bush and British Prime Minster Tony Blair were arguing in 2002 against sending IAEA inspectors back into Iraq in order to verify whether or not Saddam was rebuilding his WMD stockpiles; they alleged that they (Bush-Blair) already possessed proof that he was accumulating WMD. 

Here is how I found out that they were lying about that: On Saturday 7 September 2002, the White House issued “Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Tony Blair in Photo Opportunity Camp David” (still googlable at here), with the following exchange between a journalist and Bush-Blair:

THE PRESIDENT: AP lady.

Q Mr. President, can you tell us what conclusive evidence of any nuclear — new evidence you have of nuclear weapons capabilities of Saddam Hussein?

THE PRESIDENT: We just heard the Prime Minister talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Absolutely right.

Then, as soon as the weekend was over, on Monday 9 September 2002, was issued by the IAEA the following:

Related Coverage: Director General’s statement on Iraq to the IAEA Board of Governors on 9 September 2002 [this being a republication of their notice three days earlier, on 6 Sep.].

Vienna, 06 September, 2002 – With reference to an article published today in the New York Times [which, as usual, stenographcally reported the Administration’s false allegations, which the IAEA was trying to correct in a way that would minimally offend the NYT and the U.S. President], the International Atomic Energy Agency would like to state that it has no new information on Iraq’s nuclear programme since December 1998 when its inspectors left Iraq [and verified that no WMD remained there at that time]. Only through a resumption of inspections in accordance with Security Council Resolution 687 and other relevant resolutions can the Agency draw any conclusion with regard to Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under the above resolutions relating to its nuclear activities.

Contact: Mark Gwozdecky, Tel: (+43 1) 2600-21270, e-mail: M.Gwozdecky@iaea.org.

It even linked to the following statement from the IAEA Director General amplifying it:

Since December 1998 when our inspectors left Iraq, we have no additional information that can be directly linked without inspection to Iraq’s nuclear activities. I should emphasize that it is only through resumption of inspections that the Agency can draw any conclusion or provide any assurance regarding Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under these resolutions.

So, this was proof of the falsehood of Bush’s and Blair’s reference to the IAEA, in which Bush-Blair were saying that, upon the authority of the IAEA itself, there was “the new report … a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”

Bush invented “the new report”; it didn’t even exist, at all. And Blair, probably stunned that Bush possessed the gall to concoct things out of thin air that didn’t exist — and Blair also being Bush’s lapdog — confirmed Bush’s brazen lie, which Bush further brazenly alleged came originally from Blair. Bush’s entire brazenness likely shocked Blair. After all: Bush necessarily knew that his attributing his information “about the new report” from the IAEA, to Blair, as if Blair had read such an IAEA report (which was non-existent), was, itself, known by Blair to be false — he’s not so dumb. But Blair didn’t object to that, at all. He didn’t correct Bush; he didn’t even say (which would have been a tactful way to put it) “Well, perhaps I was misunderstood there by the President, but The New York Times does contain a rather alarming article about Iraq, which the President is referring to.”

Unfortunately, the American and British press simply ignored the IAEA’s contradiction of the U.S. President and of the British Prime Minister. (I deal in more detail on that in my 2004 IRAQ WAR: The Truth, pages 39-44.)

So: I knew, from this incident, that the U.S. and UK are dictatorships, and that the American and British publics were being lied into invading Iraq — into slaughtering and being slaughtered on the basis of dictators’ lies and aristocrats’ secret agendas. Though ultimately the inspectors did go back into Iraq, and they weren’t finding anything to indicate that Saddam had any new stockpiles, Bush-Blair alleged themselves to know better, and launched the 20 March 2003 invasion though the inspectors found no evidence to support the two leaders’ accusations.

Here are further documentations that the U.S. (and its lap-dog Britain) is a dictatorship, and that its (their) press is systematically controlled to block the public from knowing things that the aristocracy place their highest priority on keeping the public ignorant of:

“CNN Journalist ‘Governments Pay Us To Fake Stories’, Shocking Exposé”

“CNN News Stories Spoon Fed by the Gov’t”

“US Backs Honduras Death Squads”

“Leading German Journalist Admits CIA ‘Bribed’ Him and Other Leaders of the Western ‘Press’”

“The CIA and Other Government Agencies Have Long Used Propaganda Against the American People”

“How Reliable Is Reuters?”

“Western Media Blackout on the Reality in Ukraine”

“The Propaganda War About Ukraine”

“The Most-Censored News Story of 2014 Was ____(What?)_____.”

“Our ‘Enemies’ in Ukraine Speak”

“Even America’s ‘Media Watchdogs’ Hide U.S.’s Ukrainian Nazification & Ethnic Cleansing”

“NYT, Chrystia Freeland, on Ukraine: ‘This is not a civil war.’”

“Massive News-Suppression That’s Become History-Suppression”

And, finally, here is an article that I did for Huffington Post, and which they ‘published’ but buried so that virtually nobody saw it; and the reason why they ‘published’ it but hid it from the public is obvious, when you understand how this country’s dictatorship works:

“Hillary Clinton’s Two Foreign-Policy Catastrophes”

Now that story became ‘old news,’ even though it never had really been reported to the public as being news — and, so, it still actually is news, though it’s about events that occurred in 2009-2012, and so it’s history that is also, tragically, still news (because it’s still hidden).

In conclusion, regarding the title-question here: any purported national-news medium in the United States makes a choice between honestly reporting the news and being and staying small and not getting the major financial backing from the American aristocracy that would enable them to grow large; or else to sell out to the aristocracy.

The present news-article, like all I do, is being submitted free-of-charge to virtually all U.S. & UK national news media, including to CNN, NYT, HuffPo and the others I’ve mentioned here, so that they will be able to indicate now a desire to open up to the public as is done in an authentic democracy, just by their giving the present article prominent position, and so documenting that though the U.S., at present, is not a democracy, they really do want it to become  a democracy.

The American and UK ’news’ media were not held accountable for their having assisted their respective heads-of-state to deceive their public into supporting an invasion that would be based on lies, about Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Here, now, will be an opportunity for these media to turn the corner and choose to cease being ‘news’ (actually propaganda) media for a fascism, and for them to become instead news media for a democracy.

Because there really is a choice to make between fake ‘choices’ between Democratic and Republican politicians (or Labor and Tory politicians), versus real choices between democratic and fascist politicians; but there won’t be any democrat who can even possibly come to lead this country unless the aristocracy’s grip on the ‘news’ media becomes replaced by something else: control by the public. Because a government that’s answerable to the owners  of the ‘news’ media, instead of to the public, might as well itself own all the ‘news’ media (especially in our post Citizens United world, where the Government is controlled by the aristocracy). It’s not an authentic democracy, at all. And neither control by the aristocracy who control the government, nor control by the government itself, will allow a democracy to exist. The third option — direct control of the news-media by  the public, non-profit in a way that depends neither upon the aristocracy nor upon the government that the aristocrats control — is fundamental to the existence of any authentic democracy. How this can best be done is, of course, subject to debate. But that it must be done is a given for anyone who supports authentic democracy, because it’s essential to democracy, especially in a post-Citizens-United world.

And here is the bottom line on the current reality, to show that the United States, in particular, is, indeed, a dictatorship: “US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study.” So, if anyone tells you that the U.S. is a democracy, then just ask him or her to explain those findings. Because, now, you can  explain them. Those findings have been explained, right here. All of the explanation is empirical; none of it is imaginary, at all. Everything does  make sense. But it’s not necessarily the sense that has been publicized. On some matters, only the nonsense is being publicized. Because that’s far more profitable, to the people who hold the real power, in a dictatorship.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

Syrian Rebels Caught in ‘False-Flag’ Kidnapping

By Robert Parry
Global Research, April 18, 2015
Consortium News, April 16 2015

 

Richard-Engel-Syria-False-Flag-Kidnapping

Image: Richard Engel, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent.

In December 2012, Syria’s U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels pulled off a false-flag kidnapping and “rescue” of NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his crew, getting the crime blamed on a militia tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a propaganda scam that NBC played along with despite having evidence of the truth.

On Wednesday, Engel, who had blamed an Assad-linked Shiite militia in reports both for NBC and Vanity Fair, acknowledged that a new examination of the case persuaded him that “the group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia.” He added that the kidnappers “put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite shabiha militiamen.”

According to an account published by the New York Times on Thursday – in its “Business Day” section – NBC executives had evidence from the beginning that the actual kidnappers were part of “a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.”

The Free Syrian Army has been the principal rebel force supported by the U.S. government which, in April 2013, several months after Engel’s high-profile ordeal, earmarked $123 million in aid to the group to carry out its war against Assad’s government.

The other significance of the Syrian rebels’ successful false-flag kidnapping/rescue of Engel is that it may have encouraged them to sponsor other events that would be blamed on the Syrian government and excite the U.S. government and media to intervene militarily against Assad.

On Aug. 21, 2013, a mysterious Sarin gas attack outside Damascus killed several hundred people, causing U.S. officials, journalists and human rights activists to immediately leap to the conclusion that Assad was responsible and that he had crossed President Barack Obama’s “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and thus deserved U.S. military retaliation.

Within days, this political-media hysteria brought the United States to the verge of a sustained bombing campaign against the Syrian military before contrary evidence began emerging suggesting that extremist elements of the Syrian rebel force may have deployed the Sarin as a false-flag event. Obama pulled back at the last moment, infuriating America’s influential neoconservatives who had long put “regime change” in Syria near the top of their to-do list.

In retrospect, the aborted U.S. bombing campaign, if carried out, might well have so devastated the Syrian military that the gates of Damascus would have fallen open to the two most powerful rebel armies, Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the hyper-brutal Islamic State, meaning that the black flag of Islamic terrorism might have been raised over one of the Mideast’s most important capitals.

Dangers of Bad Journalism

The revelations about Engel’s staged kidnapping/rescue also illuminate the dangers of biased mainstream U.S. journalism in which the big news organizations take sides in a conflict overseas and shed even the pretense of professional objectivity.

In the case of Syria, the major U.S. media put on blinders for many months to pretend that Assad was opposed by “moderate” rebels until it became impossible to deny that the dominant rebel forces were Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State. In late September 2013, many of the U.S.-backed, supposedly “moderate” rebels realigned themselves with Al-Qaeda’s affiliate.

In the case of Ukraine, U.S. journalists have put on their blinders again so as not to notice that the U.S.-backed coup regime in Kiev has relied on neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists to wage an “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who have resisted the overthrow of their elected President Viktor Yanukovych. When it comes to Ukraine, the more than 5,000 deaths – mostly ethnic Russians in the east – are all blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.”]

These biased storylines – with the “U.S. side” wearing white hats and the other side wearing black hats – are not only bad journalism but invite atrocities because the “U.S. side” knows that the U.S. mainstream media will reflexively blame any horrors on the black-hatted “bad guys.”

In the case of Engel’s staged kidnapping/rescue, the New York Times belatedly reexamined the case not in the context of a disinformation campaign designed to excite war against Syria’s Assad but as a follow-up to disclosures that NBC’s longtime anchor Brian Williams had exaggerated the danger he was in while covering the Iraq War in 2003 – explaining the story’s placement in the business section where such media articles often go.

The most serious journalistic offense by NBC in this case appeared to be that it was aware of the behind-the-scenes reality – that individuals associated with the U.S.-backed rebels were likely responsible – but still let Engel go on the air to point the finger of blame in Assad’s direction.

The Times reported that the kidnapping

“group, known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade, was led by two men, Azzo Qassab and Shukri Ajouj, who had a history of smuggling and other crimes. … NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity, according to current and former NBC employees and others who helped search for Mr. Engel, including political activists and security professionals.

“Still, the network moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events. … NBC’s own assessment during the kidnapping had focused on Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj, according to a half-dozen people involved in the recovery effort.

“NBC had received GPS data from the team’s emergency beacon that showed it had been held early in the abduction at a chicken farm widely known by local residents and other rebels to be controlled by the Sunni criminal group.

“NBC had sent an Arab envoy into Syria to drive past the farm, according to three people involved in the efforts to locate Mr. Engel, and engaged in outreach to local commanders for help in obtaining the team’s release. These three people declined to be identified, citing safety considerations.

“Ali Bakran, a rebel commander who assisted in the search, said in an interview that when he confronted Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj with the GPS map, ‘Azzo and Shukri both acknowledged having the NBC reporters.’ Several rebels and others with detailed knowledge of the episode said that the safe release of NBC’s team was staged after consultation with rebel leaders when it became clear that holding them might imperil the rebel efforts to court Western support.

“Abu Hassan, a local medic who is close to the rebel movement, and who was involved in seeking the team’s release, said that when the kidnappers realized that all the other rebels in the area were working to get the captives out, they decided to create a ruse to free them and blame the kidnapping on the Assad regime. ‘It was there that the play was completed,’ he said, speaking of the section of road Mr. Engel and the team were freed on.

“Thaer al-Sheib, another local man connected with the rebel movement who sought the NBC team, said that on the day of the release ‘we heard some random shots for less than a minute coming from the direction of the farm.’ He said that Abu Ayman, the rebel commander credited with freeing the team, is related by marriage to Mr. Ajouj, and that he staged the rescue.”

The Sarin Mystery

While it’s impossible to determine whether the successful scam about Engel’s kidnapping/rescue influenced the thinking of other Syrian rebels to sponsor a false-flag attack using Sarin, some of the same propaganda factors applied – with the U.S. news media jumping to conclusions about Assad’s responsibility for the Sarin deaths and then ridiculing any doubters.

Yet, like the Engel kidnapping affair, there were immediate reasons to doubt the “group think” on the Sarin attack, especially since Assad had just invited United Nations inspectors to Syria to investigate what he claimed was an earlier use of chemical weapons by the rebels. As the inspectors were unpacking their bags in Damascus, the Sarin attack occurred in a Damascus suburb, a provocation that quickly forced the inspectors to address the new incident instead.

The inspectors were under extraordinary U.S. pressure to implicate Assad — especially after Secretary of State John Kerry described a massive Sarin attack using multiple rockets that he said could only have come from a Syrian military base. But the inspectors only found one crudely made Sarin-laden rocket – and when rocket experts examined it, they estimated that it could only travel a couple of kilometers, meaning it was likely fired from rebel-controlled territory. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Even as the evidence implicating the Syrian government evaporated, the mainstream U.S. news media and many wannabe important bloggers continued to defend the earlier “group think” on the Sarin attack and reject the possibility that the sainted rebels had done it. But the false-flag Engel kidnapping/rescue shows that such propaganda stunts were in the rebels’ bag of tricks.

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). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

“ISIS in Brooklyn”: US Media Inflate Threats With “ISIS Plots” Which Don’t Actually Involve ISIS

By Adam Johnson
April 02, 2015
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

 

CNN: Suspects 'Accused of ISIS Support'

Actually, the suspects were accused of conspiring to support ISIS–a significantly different legal charge.

Last Friday, the FBI announced another harrowing, 11th-hour capture of Americans plotting to join “ISIS” and launch attack within the United States. The case of two Illinois men, Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds and his cousin Jonas Edmonds, ostensibly involved the former going to Syria to join ISIS there while the latter stayed in the US, plotting to attack “scores” at a military base.

Right on cue, the American media publish dressed-up FBI press releases about the “disrupted” plot, complete with balaclava-wearing stock photos: “FBI Disrupts Plot to Kill Scores at Military Base on Behalf of Islamic State” was the Washington Post‘s headline (3/26/15).

These outlets, as usual,  omitted the rather awkward fact that this “ISIS plot” did not actually involve anyone in ISIS: At no point was there any material contact between anyone in ISIS and the Edmond cousins. There was, as the criminal complaint  lays out, lots of contact between the Edmond cousins and what they thought was ISIS, but at no point was there any contact with ISIS–the designated terror organization that the US is currently launching airstrikes against.

This distinction may seem like semantics, but it’s actually quite important when trying to accurately inform the public–only 40 percent of whom read past the headlines–about the reality of the ISIS threat vs. the fear-inducing media spectacle that so often inflates it.

MSNBC: 'ISIS Plot'

While less sensational press like the Washington Post and the New York Times are careful to avoid calling the sting operations “ISIS plots,” many outlets turn misdirection to explicit misrepresentation: This MSNBC headline (3/26/15) is fairly typical of how the reader is misled into thinking ISIS is actually involved in these arrests:

National Guard Soldier, Cousin Charged With ISIS Plot

The Edmond cousins weren’t actually charged with an ISIS plot.  They were charged with attempting to hatch an ISIS plot, but they are not accused of having any contact with ISIS whatsoever.

In a political environment where only a slight majority (54 percent) currently support the ongoing war effort against ISIS in Iraq and Syria–and soon potentially dozens of other countries–this sleight-of-hand has subtle but tremendous propaganda value. The specter of ISIS constantly trying to enlist dozens of Americans, often for attacks on US soil, is a crucial element in maintaining the current war effort. The media’s inability to point out that these “plots” are almost always entirely of the FBI’s making helps perpetuate the illusion and inflate perceived risk.

John Knefel  noted recently in the New Republic (3/24/15) the gap between our perception of the ISIS threat and the reality:

The likelihood of Al Qaeda or ISIS launching a massive attack inside the United States is “infinitesimal,” according to the Washington Post, yet a recent poll found 86 percent of Americans now see ISIS as a threat to U.S. security.

That perception, however, is based largely on a myth. The Triangle Center’s report states that publicly available information does “not indicate widespread recruitment of Muslim-Americans by transnational terrorist organizations to engage in attacks in the United States, or sophisticated planning by the handful of individuals who have self-radicalized.”

Fox News: The Lure of ISIS

This trope is also present when reporting on the much-hyped “ISIS social media” army. In a  piece headlined “The Lure of ISIS,”  Fox News (12/16/14) used two cases, that of Abdella Tounisi and Basit Javed Sheikh, as evidence of Syrian jihadists’ social media appeal–without mentioning that fact that both men, according to the FBI’s own complaints, interfaced almost entirely with FBI-created “jihadi” social media:

The cases involve individuals from all across the country, from Florida to Minnesota to Colorado. They underscore the challenge US law enforcement continue to face, as well as the global reach of recruiters and propagandists from ISIS and other groups.

But the case of Tounisi and Sheikh cannot “underscore the global reach of ISIS recruiters and propagandists,” since the only recruiters and propagandists these men met online were the FBI’s “OCE”–Online Covert Employees. In the case of Abdella Tounisi, the FBI went so far as to create an entire fake Al-Nusra website, complete with a fake Al-Nusra training video and a fake Al-Nusra email list, as the DOJ’s complaint explained.

Basit Javed Sheikh, the 29-year-old North Carolina man, was duped using an FBI-created “Al-Nusra” Facebook page set up by a female FBI employee posing as an “Al-Nusra nurse” in Syria. The “nurse” persona would have other social media accounts, as well as an “Al-Nusra” Facebook page complete with extremist messages, videos, pictures and content–all created by the FBI.

Would Tounisi and Sheikh have sought other “recruiters” online? It’s impossible to say. (Also important to note that Sheikh had fallen in love with the “Al-Nusra nurse” FBI persona, who allegedly promised him marriage in Syria.) But what is clear is that FBI-created extremist social media isn’t evidence that extremist social media is helping recruit Americans for ISIS or Al-Nusra. But media treat FBI ruses that simulate terrorist activities as evidence that the crimes the FBI is ostensibly seeking to prevent are actually happening.

The New York Daily News (3/9/15) would take this perverse logic to a comical extreme last month with this goofy headline:

Daily News: 'ISIS in B'klyn'

ISIS was not, of course, in Brooklyn. FBI agents posing as ISIS were. This isn’t a matter of emphasis–it’s a matter of reality.


Adam Johnson, a freelance journalist, was a founder of the hardware startup Brightbox. You can follow him on Twitter at @adamjohnsonnyc.

Who Owns the Media?

By Information Clearing House
March 18, 2015
Information Clearing House

 

media-propagandaMassive corporations dominate the U.S. media landscape. Through a history of mergers and acquisitions, these companies have concentrated their control over what we see, hear and read.