Thursday, November 30, 2006

Idealism and Moral Imperatives

What is an informed, humane listener supposed to think when a news interview begins with the following statement: "In a new book, two scholars say America's strategy, not just in those countries [Afghanistan and Iraq], but overall has failed because it's based on idealism and moral imperatives?"

NPR introduces these "scholars" as a conservative and liberal who "find common ground in a world view that goes back to the 1940s and 50s. Then, as Anatol Lieven explains, Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower tried to contain Soviet expansion."

The two "scholars," Anton Lieven and John Hulsman, admire the "tough resistance to Soviet expansionism" and the "tough minded strategy" of containment during the Cold War.

I just couldn't help wonder if they admire the quarter-of-a-million toughness of Guatemalan or East Timorese containment, or the multimillion corpse containment of Korea and Vietnam. Yes, those were the days of ethical realism - not like today's saintly approach to Iraq and Afghanistan based on nothing but oil idealism and moral imperatives.

Where's Jimmy?

I waited several days before posting this because I thought surely NPR news would interview former President Carter about his new book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. I'm not one to gush over Carter (I've never gotten over his support of government by death squad in El Salvador), but his remarks on Palestine are truly breathtaking. They reveal how hollow, stupid and and rabidly pro-Zionist the usual Newspeak on the Israel/Palestine issue is (think Gradstein and Westervelt for example). If you missed him on PBS' Newshour, it's worth watching, listening to, or reading here.

There's no excuse for NPR news not to host Carter for an extended interview as soon as possible (Fresh Air picked him up recently, after all). And in light of NPR's recent enthusiasm for ex-presidents (see posts below), what are they waiting for? It's sad that anytime Bush opens his mouth to bumble through a canned speech, NPR is there to rehash and repeat it, but when a former President, winner of a Nobel Prize, and strong critic of current US policy in Israel/Palestine speaks out with intelligence and conscience on such a vital issue, it is treated as a non-story.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Russian Mirror

There is something about the subject of Russia that causes NPR to create unintended mirror images of our own corrupt government and slovenly mainstream media. On Morning Edition today Renee Montagne interviews David Remnick of the New Yorker about Putin's rollback of democracy in Russia - especially his muzzling of the Russian press. (Oddly, the archived audio link to this story omits quite a bit of what was actually broadcast.)

In the broadcast Remnick tells us, "You can pick up newspapers that seemingly are very lively and are filled all kinds of differing points of views. That's fine, but those newspapers now have minimal circulation, and similar reporting is not allowed on the medium that everyone sees and everybody listens to, and that's television...." The question never raised is, "So how is that different from the US?" Yes, there are very good alternative, lively news sources here in the US, but on the "medium that everyone sees" (or hears in the case of NPR) where are the challenges to the premises of defense spending, military intervention, unrestricted corporatism, etc?

Remnick also says that Russia "..doesn't permit political opposition or real politics. Anytime real politics begins to form, it's snuffed, and it's done rather easily, and all in the interest of stability...." Couldn't the same be said of third parties in the US, or of the manufactured issue of "bipartisanship" within the limited two party system? Such an obvious comment is never raised.

This strange echo of Russian despotism was especially poignant given the other story on Morning Edition about "Benjamin Army National Guard captain embedded with the Afghan National Army." Of Afghanistan, Cpt. Tupper tells us "the installation we call home is built upon the ruins of an old Russian airforce base." Ah yes, the Russian nightmare of Afghanistan, seems like just yesterday, and the soul of the Russian despot seems awfully familiar--ghosts and reflections.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Tough Spot

Iraq is a disaster, a failure, a tragedy, a catastrophe. Even the Poodle has admitted it. It is a daily horror show that has been going on for several years. Yes, most of Congress, the loyal media (NPR included), and many citizens are to blame, but the person ultimately responsible for the war is George W. Bush. Only a fool or a scoundrel would allow him to distort the history of this sordid war and to try and weasel his way out of responsibility by blaming it on someone else (especially the main victims, the Iraqis.)

But Robert Siegel opens tonight's report on Bush's trip to Latvia telling us that Bush "insisted that the surge in sectarian violence is only part of a wave of violence that began back in February." A quick glance back at Juan Cole's Informed Comment from a full year before last February belies such nonsense.

Then David Greene dutifully becomes the uncritical spokesperson for Bush's attempt to pass off blame:
  • "Mr. Bush blamed al-Qaeda. He said the terrorist group was determined to set off this sectarian warfare and they succeeded…"
  • "The other striking thing we heard from him was a message today to Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq that it is up to him to figure out how to end the violence..."

Then Robert Siegel asks a good question, "Why is the US stressing Iraq’s autonomy right now?"

A thinking, rational person would respond, "Well, Robert, given how horribly this war is going, Mr. Bush is clearly looking for somewhere to put the blame before the scale of this disaster becomes fully apparent to everyone and people start demanding accountability." Instead David Greene, White House reporter, states, "You know the President really does seem like he’s in a tough spot diplomatically right now; he wants to express confidence in the new Iraqi government, give them responsibility, but in the same breath he and his advisors say the new government just isn’t able to do the job yet and secure the country…" A tough spot diplomatically? NO, he's being confronted with the reality of a war in which hundreds of thousands of civilians and nearly 3000 of our country's soldiers have died - a war of agression launched with "fixed" intelligence, lies, and a desire to control Middle East oil and to make a killing off of privatizing Iraq's economy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Pageant of History

Is this Presidents' Week, or is NPR just in an Orwellian mood to rewrite a few chapters of the sordid history of our nation's highest office (see Sunday's post)? This morning David Greene presents his "reporter's notebook" on second- term presidents, which is a feeble attempt to reassure us that the future may prove that the current Bush administration is not the train wreck that we all know it to be.

Greene's battle against reality follows a twofold strategy. First, he treats US Presidents and their policies as if all that ultimately counts are approval ratings and the judgment of some historians. Thus we get Truman, father of our National Security State, presented as the hero "who did set forces in motion that did eventually end the cold war." We hear Truman's 1947 Truman Doctrine speech (spliced together with one from G.W. Bush!) with no mention given that the assistance to Greece and Turkey that Truman was calling for helped preserve two repressive, far right regimes and set a pattern for fostering torture and dictatorship throughout the Cold War. Instead all that matters is that Truman was unpopular toward the end of his presidency, but now is revered by loyal historians and pundits alike. Similarly, President Reagan's sordid and violent Presidency is recalled because - in spite of scandals - "Reagan left office with nearly 6 in 10 Americans approving of his performance."

The second front in Greene's war on truth is to trivialize Presidential assaults on Constitutional safeguards and law by treating them as nothing more than scandals that overtake passive Presidents. In this way Reagan's secret arms-hostage trading with Iran to support his illegal war on Nicaragua is nothing but "the Iran-Contra scandal which engulfed Ronald Reagan’s White House." And what matters is that "Reagan reenergized his administration with some new faces and he made himself a prominent player on the world stage with trips like this to Berlin" (we hear wild cheering as Reagan makes his "Mr. Gobachev, tear down this wall" speech). So Bush can relax, knowing that his disastrous Iraq War, his torture policies, his secret prisons, his unauthorized eavesdropping, etc. won't stand in the way of the eventual popularity that history or unforeseen events will bestow on him.

If you are angry, disturbed, disgusted by the actions of the Bush administration, calm down! Remember that the "march of freedom" doesn't follow a straight path, and as David Greene says, "President Bush himself talks about leading freedom’s march; that march has taken him today to a moment of political uncertainty."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Of Guns and Presidents - The Presidents

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday chose to highlight two books for its show today. One on the AK-47 and one on the lives of ex-Presidents. Both are telling as much for what is said as what is not said.


NPR interviews Mark Updegrove, author of the book, Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House. Now, I don't know about you, but my memory of Reagan's post presidency is how shamelessly he turned his status to a mulitmillion dollar cash machine in Japan. My recollection of George H. W. Bush (41) is that he also used his government experience and influence to cash-in - especially with the nasty Carlyle group. As for Nixon, who unfortunately was pardoned by his appointed Vice President Ford, he "rehabilitated" himself with just this kind of "feel good" media assistance. Now Carter, at least, does seem to put his name and status to some decent use in the world (e.g. the Carter Center).

Notice how Carter stands out from this crew. But here is what Andrea Seabrook says, "it seems like Carter, Bush, to some extent Reagan – although of course he battled Alzheimers in his post presidency - and now Bill Clinton - they all sort of center on human rights issues, poverty, health care. Is that the theme that seems to be rolling out?"

Human rights? Poverty? Health care? Reagan, Nixon, Bush?

All right, well maybe it's just that Seabrook is just profoundly ignorant and the author will gently set the record straight. So how does Updegrove respond? "You’re right, that is a common theme." So much for history.

Of Guns and Presidents - The Guns

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday chose to highlight two books for its show today. One on the AK-47 and one on the lives of ex-Presidents. Both are telling as much for what is said as what is not said.


NPR interviews Larry Kahaner, the author of the book about the AK-47 assault rifle. Andrea Seabrook asks Kahaner how the AK-47 has "changed the face of modern warfare" - which seems to be his central theme. He responds by talking about "asymetric warfare" and then says of the AK-47, "...anyone can have them, anyone can own them, and that’s what’s changed warfare is that anybody can be a soldier. Now the US has the best disciplined, best trained soldiers in the world – I believe – but you can put anybody in a Toyota pickup truck and give them AK 47s and they can go out and give US soldiers a hard time.”

Seabrook doesn't bring up any of the obvious questions such as. "Doesn't the US military allow each Iraqi family to own an AK-47?" or "How many US casualties can actually be attributed to AK-47s? Aren't more deaths due to IEDs, car bombs, RPGs, and sniper rifles?"

What is most sad, is that the real victims of the ubiquitous AK-47s are usually civilians in poor countries wracked by conflict. Furthermore, the worlds largest supplier of arms to conflict zones is--guess who?--the United States. And perhaps most disturbing of all, is that there is one nation that is doing more to impede global cooperation to end small arms proliferation - again the United States! None of this comes up; it's as if Kahaner and NPR are looking in the wrong end of the telescope asking How is this one weapon harming US soldiers? and not How is US foreign policy harming all the peoples of the world including US soldiers who often face enemies armed with weapons from the US arms trade flood?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Scandal My #$+*%!

NPR does have perseverance. They have found yet another angle for trying to bury the voter's revolt of the 2006 midterms (see earlier post). This morning they turn to Lanny Davis, former Clinton advisor, who has written a book about scandal in American politics. Davis tells us that during the last decade "there was vitriol on the left and the right unlike anything seen in America for many years. I saw a revolt of the center and I think we’ve seen the great center of American politics coming back together again." And later, "in the last election the American people are starting to say we need to do it differently."

There are several starkly obvious questions that a decent journalist might ask Mr. Davis:
  • What polling data do you base your conclusions on?
  • What "left" in American politics are you talking about--or do you mean the center right Clinton administration that you were a part of?
  • Are you suggesting that a scandal of sexual harassment between a President and an adult intern and his lies before a grand jury about it is equivalent to the scandals of "fixing intelligence" for launching a war, eavesdropping on Americans without court approval, issuing torture guideline memos, and setting up clandestine prisons?

Of course that is exactly what Davis and the NPR reporters are suggesting. For whatever reason NPR is working hard to create the lie that the midterm elections were a call for "bipartisanship" and not the call for the end to the occupation of Iraq and CORRUPTION in politics that polls have shown.

It's as if NPR has launched it's own preemptive strikes against any movement to quickly end the occupation of Iraq and to investigate the Bush administration and hold it accountable for behaviors that clearly fit the "high crimes and misdemeanor" standards for impeachment written into our Constitution.

A Better Report

NPR deserves some credit for interviewing Fawaz Gerges today on Weekend Edition Saturday. It was really refreshing to hear someone talk about the complexities of the Lebanese situation, and to respond to questions with nuanced answers. Scott Simon asks him, "Who gains and who loses from Mr. Geymayel’s death?" and he replies, "Well I think it's too early to say definitely who wins and who loses. In the short term however, the main loser is the Syrian-Iranian alliance led by Hezbollah..." He later spells out that regional the regional alliances Syria-Iran and US-Israel both use Lebanon in their own geopolitical conflicts.

Notice that Gerges doesn't make accusations, but simply tries to suggest the several directions to which history and evidence point. We listeners have to draw our own--possibly even differing--conclusions. How refreshing!

Of course it is this kind of inquisitiveness and willingness to consider the US as one of several less-than-idealistic players in the region that earns people like Gerges the honor of being attacked by McCarthyite Campus Watch/National Review by the McCarthyite thought police.

Come on NPR. Let's have some more.


I have to confess that even an unbeliever like me, blushes at the crass selling of the Christmas Holidays. For the last two weeks there have been several features on the "hot" gaming platforms (see earlier post) , tickle-me Elmos, and endless plugging for "Black Friday." During one of the hourly news updates yesterday I had to hear a reporter telling me that one shopper had bought a 30-something inch TV for himself, while his friend "scored" a 40-something inch one.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not off the grid and I've bought consumer electronics--but "Hello..." it's not newsworthy and it's nothing to brag about.

I naively thought that today being Saturday, I wouldn't hear so much BS about the holy experience of shopping...but no...NPR reminded me this morning that Monday was CYBER-MONDAY and that I'd better get online and start spending--Jesus!

Oh yeah...Him.

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related posts welcomed.

Friday, November 24, 2006

How Stupid Does NPR Think You Are?

This morning NPR's Inskeep tells us they are going to "examine two things that are said again and again about the Middle East. These are basic statements that turn up in news coverage, not always with much explanation. One statement is about Iran and we’ll get to that in a moment. The other involves Lebanon which is in the news this week."

This seems like a reasonable start to an important topic, but note what comes next--the voice of President Bush breaks in, "We support the Lebanese people’s desire to live in peace and we support their efforts to defend their democracy against attempts by Syria, Iran, and allies to foment instability and violence in that important country."

Bush, Inskeep explains, "was responding this week to the assassination of a Lebanese politician. The politician was an opponent of neighboring Syria and the President, like many officials, mentioned Syria’s attempts to influence Lebanon. That leads to the basic question of why Syria would try to influence Lebanon."

Unbelievably, there is no irony intended, even though Bush helped Olmert and Israel's armed forces virtually destroy 15 years of Lebanese structural and political gains during Israel's 34 day rampage against Lebanon this summer. What kind of mess has Bush-US foreign policy created in the Middle East and why have they done it is the "basic question" that comes up if you have a heart and a brain.

As usual NPR refuses to seriously question the aims of US foreign policy, and so to answer its own biased question, it turns to former US Ambassador to Syria, Theodore Katouff! There is nothing wrong with interviewing ambassadors (the Syrian ambassador was just on the BBC) but they are never independent sources of information (unless they have defected or renounced their professional role). Katouff, actually seems like a thoughtful man, and he genuinely seems to want better relations with people in the Middle East -- but he is a career representative of US foreign policy and has nothing critical to say about this summer's tragedy. Why not consult Josh Landis, Bassam Haddad, Juan Cole, or the intrepid Dahr Jamail?

In this two part series, NPR next is going to tell us about Iran's role in the Iraq conflict and whether they can help stabilize it. NPR opens this part with this blather from Blair regarding Iran: "where the roots of this global terrorism are to be found, where the extremism flouishes." Then to explain the Iranian connections to Iraq, NPR turns to its own Mike Shuster! This is really sad; Shuster has no expertise on Iran, and apparently doesn't speak Farsi or Arabic. From him we get the lukewarm statement that assertions about Iran assisting the insurgency are "questionable" (they are in fact absolutely ludicrous). He also asserts that Iran "could prevail upon certain political figures like Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq to reign in their forces" even though al-Sadr is no tool of Iran , whereas the ruling DAWA party or SCIRI parties are very close to Iran (something Shuster never mentions).

Could NPR be more lazy and unprofessional? Probably...

Open Thread - Friday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Absorbing Lessons

When an army is accustomed to besieging, humiliating, torturing, and killing kids and other civilians trapped in their homes, and then has to fight a disciplined, highly motivated guerrilla force, that army often endures heavy losses, confusion and disorientation--and frequently turns against other vulnerable civilians.

But that's not what happened to the Israel Defense Force in Lebanon this summer according to Eric Westervelt and "analysist" Michael Oren. Talking about what "lessons" haven't been "absorbed" Westervelt says, "the Israeli army changed dramatically during the second Palestinian uprising, or Intifada. After decades preparing to face off against big Arab armies, the Israel Defense Force, by the end of 2002, had transformed itself into a kind of giant police SWAT team, whose main job was arresting or killing Palestinian militants in crowded urban areas in the Occupied West Bank or Gaza. So when war broke out this summer in the rocky terrain of Lebanon…they were ill prepared for the wider fight."

Giant SWAT team? Arresting or killing Palestinian militants? How about a brutal occupation force rounding up and killing many innocent civilians and engaging in extrajudicial executions?

Then Oren, commenting on Israel's inability to defeat Hezbollah says of the IDF, "they had very good weapons for fighting in hallways, in Jenin, but nothing for fighting in the hills of Southern Lebanon." Very good weapons? Hallways in Jenin? That is some dramatic mythmaking--one of those hallways in Jenin is pictured in the photo on this post (from Electronic Intifada). If you think Oren is an impartial historian because of his book on the Six Day War, consider these comments from a Winter 2006 paper of his:
  • "...the Israeli army has become the world’s foremost anti-terrorist fighting force."
  • "...the refusal of many Arab leaders, whether they be Palestinians, Iraqis, Saudis, or Syrians, to take responsibility for their own failures and foibles....this refusal to accept responsibility is the largest single obstacle to America’s efforts to foster democracy in the Middle East."
  • "Israeli soldiers go into the homes of terror suspects, risking their own lives and often sacrificing them in order to reduce civilian casualties, where another army might simply call in an air strike or an artillery barrage."
Given that the US and Israeli efforts to subjugate Palestinians is at the heart of the widening conflicts in the Middle East, NPR is only helping perpetuate such tragedies by airing this distorted reporting. It is this kind of sloppy journalism that leaves so many Americans confounded at the anger of Arabs and convinced of our own supposed moral superiority.

Another Turkey

NPR reported on Cheney apparently showing up in Baghdad today to "spend the holiday" with the troops. There were several versions of the report on NPR given during the top-of-the-hour news casts. One reported on Bush's serving turkey when he came in 2003. That's funny because what he "served" was cynical PR (a decorative centerpiece turkey) during his 2 1/2 hour "spending the holiday" visit in 2003.

NPR noted in all its reporting that these visits by high level officials has become a tradition and is done to boost troop morale. Do visits by Bush, Rumsfeld, Lieberman, and Cheney in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 respectively really boost anyone's morale -- or appetite for that matter?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


There are two glaring holes in NPR's Morning Edition and ATC coverage of the tragic assassination of Pierre Gemayel in Lebanon. The first is the refusal to bring up the possibility of his assassination being the direct or indirect work of Israeli or US covert operations. Any impartial coverage of the situation would have to at least bring this up given Israel's history of assassinations and covert operations in Lebanon and other countries, US rogue behavior, and the political benefits that the US and its allies have gained from this assassination (not to mention its obvious disadvantages to Syria and Hezbollah). NPR on the contrary repeats again and again the opinion that Syria was behind the assassination (which may or may not be true).

The other missing angle on this development is that a major reason the current Lebanese government is so weak and Lebanon so fractured is because of the US/Israeli assault on Lebanon this past summer (NPR politely calls it the war between Israel and Hezbollah). On Morning Edition Peter Kenyon has the gall to say, " in Lebanon, where arguably the closest thing to a success the White House has had in the Middle East is the pressure that forced Syria to withdraw its troops last year. If this government now falls and a pro-Syrian or dysfunctional national unity government takes its place some say that success would be badly tarnished." Tarnished? -- hey newsflash Peter, that "success" was killed and buried in this summer's preplanned military attack on Lebanon.

It is really sad that NPR can't offer its listeners full, complex, nuanced coverage on an issue such as this one, even if it means daring to question Israel and the supposed good intentions of US foreign policy.

P.S. A reader kindly pointed out the close coverage of the assassination offered on the Angry Arab blog -- take a look if you get a chance.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Glimpse

It was refreshing that NPR aired the Guantanamo tapes this morning and evening and let them stand for the mockery of justice they represent. Finally a audio-glimpse into the Kafkaesque world of GWOT justice. I do think it would be more responsible for journalists to call the prisoners extrajudicial detainees, or arbitrary detainees instead of "terror suspects." Given that there is no impartial, verifiable evidence on which to base suspicion of these prisoners, calling them "suspects" gives an undeserved legitimacy to the whole sham. That being said, the audiotapes are a powerful indictment of the legal fraud being perpetrated by the US government and military on these prisoners and on our Constitutional liberties and principles -- and NPR should be proud of airing them.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Corruption Starts at the Top

"...violence may be the most obvious problem in Iraq, but there’s another…the problem is corruption…what makes it especially pervasive is that the corruption starts at the top....”

That's a promising start from Steve Inskeep on NPR this morning . So hopefully, we're going to hear from Jamie Tarabay how corruption in Iraq is the direct offspring of Paul Bremer and the CPA's "free fraud zone" and how the Bush administration refused to prosecute those responsible. Right?

Wrong. Instead of discussing the corrupt Iraqi Green Zone government in the context of its proud parents, NPR puts all the focus on corrupt Iraqis. We hear from Bush appointee, "Stuart to audit and investigate shoddy workmanship and possible fraud among US contractors, but he says there are problems with the Iraqis as well -- (his voiceover cutting in) 'corruption is endemic; it’s what I’ve heard Iraqi officials describe it to know hundreds and hundreds of reports documenting concerns about corruption”

So the problem is those darned Iraqis. This is not a new trend; it seems to be a conscious plan of the administration to dump responsibility for its Iraq disaster on to the Iraqis - and NPR is willing to go along. As Tarabay states at the end of the piece: "The burden is now on the Iraqis."

Update: I had to add this great post on US led corruption which was noted by Informed Comment.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rah, Rah, Rahm!

NPR continues its spin on the election - working to shift the significance of Nov. 7th as far to the right as they can (They are not alone in this trend.) Today on Weekend Edition Sunday, Andrea Seabrook talks to Rahm Emanuel. Ignoring the most obvious reason for the election outcome, she all but gives full credit for the Democratic victories to Emanuel: "Thanks in large part to Emanuel’s fundraising prowess and tireless campaigning the Democrats now outnumber the GOP in the house." She opens the interview with " you’re the golden boy. What do you do now?"

What follows is so remarkable that I had to listen to it twice to be sure I wasn't mistaken. During the interview Emanuel and Seabrook talk about the priorities of the incoming Democratic majority: a minimum wage increase, lobbying and ethics reform, lower prescription drug prices, pay-as-you-go rules on the budget, cutting interest on college loans, and energy policy.

Hmmm...something is missing from the discussion. Just what could it be? Guess what word never even came up? No, not impeachment--this is NPR after all. National health care? No--the lower prescription drug prices cover that one. Come on kids, its 6438 miles away. It sits on a lot of oil. Yes, IRAQ! They didn't once mention the frickin' war, and the fact that voters rejected the war out of hand on Nov. 7th. Maybe it didn't come up because Rahm's non-plan for the war isn't so different from W's after all.


Consider for a moment NPR's laudatory coverage of Milton Friedman, the economist who suffered for decades from free market rabies, and died on November 16, 2006. Reporting on Friedman makes sense - his bitemarks are all over the Pinochet's Chile, creepy Reaganism, stagnant wages, sweatshop globalism, and compassionate corporatism- but the excesses of NPR might have even made the old guy himself blush. Except for this bit of pro-market criticism - "…they say he took a sensible argument – markets are good; markets are efficient – to an illogical extreme..." - here's a taste of what NPR had to offer on Friedman:

Weekend Edition, Nov. 18, 2006
  • "...the most persuasive advocate for an unfettered freemarket which he believed maximized human liberty...'
  • "...he proposed many ideas that have become accepted, including income tax withholding, volunteer army, and school vouchers..."( someone needs to tell Scott Simon that school vouchers have not become accepted.)
ATC Nov. 16, 2006
  • "He promoted liberty in all human spheres...."
  • "...did the most to promote human freedom around the world during the twentieth century."
  • "...displayed the sly humor that disarmed even some of his intellecual foes."
  • "...was also a policymaker with his finger in all sorts of pies."
  • "He was consistently for freedom."

For those wanting a little antidote to such overkill, be sure to see the following links that were featured on Wall Street Journal (far more informative than anything on NPR), Greg Palast, CounterPunch, and Znet.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.

My Beloved Ace

James McManus knows a lot about poker, and he is an accomplished writer, but when it comes to offering insights on Iran--his is a weak hand. Even though McManus has no expertise on Iran, he was featured on NPR this morning and had his piece, "Bluff," published in the LA Times on November 5, 2006.

McManus, noting the origin of poker from a Persian game, as-Nas (which he translates as "my beloved ace"), asserts that Iranians are naturally partial to bluffing (deception) when it comes to diplomacy. He also makes some provocative assertions about Iran's President Ahmadinejad and US policy toward Iran:
  • "you have a President of Iran a Basij recruiter...signed up people and trained them and encouraged them to walk across minefields, most of these people were children by the way."
  • "because there’s a very real possibility that he may have the weapons soon and would be willing to use them."
  • "when one of the first speeches he gives after being inaugurated as president says that martyrdom is the highest art form that human beings can participate in...."
  • "Ultimately we may have to eliminate the possiblity of bluffing given the apparently suicidal nature of Ahmadinejad and his policy."
I'm not interested in defending the bigoted Ahmadinejad; Juan Cole has noted his shortcomings (many of which mirror those of Bush!). Also the the Basij of Iran is a violent, deplorable organization. But to express horror at the suicidal tactics of stopping Iraq's agression in the Iran-Iraq war is a bit hypocritical given that the US was helping Iraq with the slaughter. And to posit that the praise of throwing away one's life in battle is unique to Iran leaves me wondering where the US "worship" of our war dead fits into the equation.

What is most striking about McManus is that despite his unique angle as an expert poker player, his main ideas about Iran are nothing but recast neoconservative talking points. If you try to find the sources for the quotes and ideas presented in McManus' NPR interview and in his LA Times article you will find that again and again they are neoconservative or pro-Zionist. Each of the following article-links are likely sources of McManus' quotations and share his arguments:
The heart of McManus' argument is that if Iran ever gets a nuclear bomb, it will probably use it on Israel because that would produce two results that the political leadership of Iran wants: 1) the destruction of Israel and 2) mass suicide (in the apocalyptic retaliation that would follow). Therefore McManus would argue that the US must never let Iran get a nuclear weapon.

I frankly know very little about poker. But I know a scam when I see one. And whether McManus intends it or not, he is getting played by a bunch of neoconservative policymakers who will happily use people like him to build a climate of prejudice and fear that will prepare the public for military strikes on Iran.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Worse Than Stupid

When Bush says something really stupid, NPR seems compelled to restate and rebroadcast it as if it had merit. Here's Don Gonyea this morning: "When asked if Vietnam holds lessons for the war in Iraq, the President said one is that people want there to be instant success in the world but that the task in Iraq will take a while." This is followed with no interruption by a soundbite of Bush saying, "We’ll succeed unless we quit."

This soundbite is actually quite remarkable. Bush is clearly impressed with the growth and vibrancy of Vietnam [it's success] and someone needs to remind him [and listeners] that this "success" is there because the US military quit Vietnam [withdrew, left, got driven out]. The main failure of Vietnam is that the US didn't quit 58,000 soldiers and 3 million civilians sooner.

Then this afternoon on NPR's hourly news summary I had to hear Don Gonyea again giving the airways over to Bush telling us "that Iraq is going to take a while." But that wasn't all, Gonyea adds his own dishonest and unsubstantiated frame to the situation: "Critics of the Iraq War liken it to Vietnam saying both lacked clear objectives and strategy, but the White House says Iraq is different."

This is surprising. Critics of the Iraq War havent' spent much time trying to "liken it to Vietnam." Most longtime critics have focused on the specific criminal elements of this war such as the constant lies, the plan to control oil resources, the profiteering, the torture, etc. When critics have made connections between Vietnam and Iraq, it has not been to claim that the two wars lacked "clear objectives and strategy," but it has been to point out -- both before and during the Iraq war -- the moral bankruptcy of the objectives and strategies underpinning the US actions in both Vietnam and Iraq.

Inskeep Tangles with Rangle

I think Inskeep must be hoping to break into the ranks of the wealthiest 15% of Americans who benefit most from the Bush Tax "cuts." Today he carps abouts Democrats "raising taxes" in his interview with Rep. Charles Rangle of NY. Rangle impressively handles Inskeeps attempt to turn the interview into a Republican campaign ad against "tax and spend" Democrats.

Inskeep took a similar tack in his interview with Rahm Emanuel on October 17, 2006. He was actually quite rude with Emanuel (see my previous post), interrupting him twice in the following interchange:
Emanuel: we are proposing "tax reform to 'simplify the code--' "
Inskeep cutting in: "Is that a tax increase?"
Emanuel reponds: "For 85% of the American people it’s a tax cut, specifically for the middle class--"
Inskeep:(interrupting again) "and the other 15% was that an increase."

It was striking how today Inskeep vigorously interjected the issue of raising taxes as soon as Rangle talked about improving health care and education for working people. I don't think I've ever heard him be so vigilant about taxes when the discussion is on funding the bloated Pentagon budget. Very interesting.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Only a Military Option

Imagine if part of an NPR story about the current conflict with Iran was an investigation of why the US spurned a truly dramatic diplomatic offer by the Iranians on May 2, 2003 -- an offer in which Iran proposed to do the following: allow more intrusive nuclear inspections, support the 2002 Arab League Initiative recognizing Israel, cut off support for Hezbollah and Hamas, share intelligence on captured al-Qaeda operatives, and work with the US to stabilize Iraq. Such a story would be compelling news, quite different from today's bit from Ted Koppel where he states, "Absent diplomacy and with the general ineffectiveness of economic sanctions, Washington would appear to be left with only a military option."

And what if an NPR report on the Iranian nuclear crisis spent significant time detailing the US's silence and complicity on Israel's massive nuclear weapons program and how that affects Iran's own nuclear plans (not to mention nuclear nonproliferation in general)? That would be informative journalism - and would put Iran's stance in a different light.

This non-coverage of key elements in a story is nothing new. Regarding Iran, NPR news refuses to cover the contradictions and sinister elements of US policy, and instead keeps the focus on fear ("What horrifies U.S. policy makers is the prospect of Iran armed with nuclear weapons") and the idea that a military option is legitimate and reasonable. Listening to Koppel's piece took me back to the spring of 2002, when a lot of airtime was being given to Jeffery Goldberg's fantasy about the connection between Hussein's 1988 Halabja chemical attack and Iraq'a "ties to al-Qaeda." At the time I remember having the sick feeling that the wheels of war were already in motion and that cynical stories like Goldberg's were just part of the larger operation. I have to say NPR's current shoddy reporting on Iran gives me the same foreboding unease.

Open Thread - Thursday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lethal Brilliance

"Robert MacNamara was the brilliant number-cruncher who served for seven years, but got snared in the Vietnam War. Donald Rumsfeld is the brilliant bureaucratic fighter who served almost six years but got snared by a war in Iraq."

Those were the words of Steve Inskeep as he began his interview with David Halberstam today on Morning Edition. I hate to tell Inskeep, but neither of these mass murderers got snared in their brilliant wars - the ones who were snared were the countless civilians and thousands of soldiers who perished under their genius.

We now know that between 426,369 and 793,663 civilians have needlessly died in Rumsfeld's Iraq experiment, but to find the "crunched numbers" of civilians killed in Vietnam took a bit more searching. However, sources seem to agree on a figure between 2 and 4 million people. How one can call such monsters brilliant is outside of my moral universe.

I've come to expect such moral depravity from Inskeep, but he wasn't alone; David Halbertam had some unsavory comments on why Operation Iraqi Freedom is a losing prospect. "Right now, every night on Arab TV, in the Arab world, with Arab spin, in Arab language, there is the taking of the film of what’s going on there and the spin in an anti-American way so that we are profoundly affecting future generations in that area, making them think a) that we are aggressors, Christian aggressors and b) that we are weak Christian and weak and incompetent Christian aggressors. It’s a twofer and they’re both bad."

Halberstam has a thing about Arabs, doesn't he? It's amazing how those Arabs can spin our unprovoked war of agression against Iraq into making us look like the agressors. And to think they spin our crusader President and Christian warrior generals (Boykin and Mattis) into looking like Christian agressors is a real accomplishment? Next thing you know is they'll take the photos and videos shot by our troops and make it look like we torture people!

Halberstam does show his soft side when he talks about considering "the child." He is refering to the US soldiers sent to kill and be killed in Iraq and recalling that each one is someone's child. I would agree with that sentiment, but he doesn't make a peep about the Iraqi children who are shot, burned, blasted, malnourished, etc. by the US Iraq war.

There is something horrible about this kind of exceptionalism that puts a premium on American lives while treating those we kill as unworthy of even mentioning, much less counting.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Terror 101

Tuesday morning NPR has a piece about radiocative "dirty bombs," car bombs, kidnappings, and the assasination of journalists. NPR sent John Hendren, its "Pentagon reporter," to the Air Force's Joint Special Operations University at Hulburt Field, Florida to tell us all about a "popular course," the Dynamics of Terrorism.

There was a certain gruesome irony to the story in which NPR reported on the terror tactics of official US enemies, the "bad guys" as the report calls them. As is typical, what NPR doesn't report are the terrror tactics of the "good guys": US radiocative (depleted Uranium) bombs and their effects, US-sponsored car bombs, kidnappers and assassins trained by the US, and journalists bombed and murdered by US forces.

Maybe I'm rushing to judgement, and this morning's report was only part one of the story, and soon NPR will air part two and cover these missing elements--or maybe not.

The Blair Switch Project

During the five minute news roundup on Morning Edition I heard Karl Casell saying that Tony Blair, in his latest remarks on the Middle East, "advocated reaching out to Iran and Syria." This is quite a distortion of Blair's retreaded speech on the Middle East. Here is the part of his "reaching out" speech regarding Iran and Syria:

Instead they are using the pressure points in the region to thwart us. So they help the most extreme elements of Hamas in Palestine; Hizbollah in the Lebanon; Shia militia in Iraq. That way, they put obstacles in the path to peace, paint us, as they did over the Israel/Lebanon conflict, as the aggressors, inflame the Arab street and create political turmoil in our democratic politics.

It is a perfectly straightforward and clear strategy. It will only be defeated by an equally clear one: to relieve these pressure points one by one and then, from a position of strength to talk, in a way I described in July in my speech in Los Angeles: offer Iran a clear strategic choice: they help the MEPP [Middle East Peace Process] not hinder it; they stop supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq; and they abide by, not flout, their international obligations. In that case, a new partnership is possible. Or alternatively they face the consequences of not doing so: isolation.

Basically the message is for Syria and Iran to fully accept the US interpretations and policies in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon or "face the consequences." What a offer.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How to Veto a Veto

Even USA Today saw fit to comment on the John Bolton's US veto of a Security Council resolution on Israel's Beit Hanoun slaughter of last week. This really isn't surprising given the slanted and threadbare coverage of the ongoing crimes of Israel against the people of Gaza. Consider the coverage of the Beit Hanoun killings offered by NPR:
  • Morning Edition Nov. 8, 2006: The story gets a brief mention. "The Islamic militant group Hamas today declared an end to an unofficial truce with Israel. This followed the shelling of the northern Gaza town Beit Hanoun that killed 18 people. All of those killed were civilians."
  • ATC Nov. 8, 2006: Michele Norris states " at least 18 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip when Israeli artillery fire struck a residential area. Israel expressed regret at the civilian deaths and said its military was targeting militants...." Eric Westervelt adds "Nearly 300 Palestinians, about half of them armed militants, have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a series of operations in late June after militants attacked an Israeli border post, killing two soldiers and capturing 20-year-old Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit." Notice how often targets and the dead are described as "militants" even though there has been no impartial investigation into any of these killings. Also notice the continuing lie about Israel launching a series of operations AFTER a border post attack and capture of the Israeli soldier. The fact is that Israel had been assaulting Gaza from early June and had targeted and killed a family on a Gaza beach on June 9, 2006.
  • Morning Edition Nov. 9, 2006: Linda Gradstein states, "Then yesterday...errant artillery shells hit a residential compound in Beit Hanoun." Amazing that Gradstein can verify and conclude that they were "errant" and not fired intentionally. You'd never know that groups like Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem have called for independent investigations.

When I condsider how Palestinian people and their culture are being slowly crushed and wiped out by Israel and the US, it sickens and saddens me. The UN Resolution vetoed was a watered down balanced denounciation of the Beit Hanoun attack and still it was too much for the US/Israel coalition. And to listen to NPR' s complicity and silence in this sordid chapter of our history is really maddening.

National Public Infomericals

This morning's business section was a great plug for Nintendo and Sony. I hope those companies appreciate listener supported advertising! This piece seemed geared to offend; not only was it a waste of airtime meant to build hype and buzz for two new products hitting the shelves at Christmas time, but it opened with a sexist adverstising "spoof" from YouTube of how the Nintendo system is like a "slim blonde in a red and white bikini" while the Sony system is like a large woman with glasses and "schlumpy" clothes. The rest of the report features spokespeople from Sony and Nintentdo talking up all the features of each product.

I'd be curious to know where these products and their components are made. How much do assemblers make per hour? What resources are required to make them? I guess those topics will be covered in NPR's "labor" news....

Open Thread - Monday

NPR related comments welcomed.

The One That Got Away

It was really sad to hear Andrea Seabrook interviewing Richard Perle yesterday on Weekend Edition Sunday. Has Seabrook ever heard of doing one's homework before interviewing a guest? A great place to start would have been Source Watch. Perle is one of the big fish behind the mess in Iraq, but Seabrook doesn't know enough to hold him to account.

At one point she mentions the discredited linking of the Saddam Hussein regime to terrorists and Perle responds, "I don’t believe it’s correct to say his ties to terrorists have been discredited. There were numerous links between Iraqi inteligence and various terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda; those have been documented. And I frequently hear people say that there’s no evidence. It’s simply wrong; I’ve seen the evidence." That would be easy enough to counter. She might have said, "Well, I'd challenge you to produce any such documentation, since no ties to al-Qaeda have ever been proved."

Instead Seabrook responds in the most haltering, timid manner that this quote does little to convey, "But much of that evidence that I’ve heard other analysts say on both sides of the aisle and from several different policy points of view has in fact been discredited. Most people it seems now are saying Saddam Hussein didn’t have any serious connection with terrorists." To which Perle simply says, "that’s wrong. I’ve looked at the evidence."

Seabrook then comes out with this: "Going into Iraq was part of a larger plan for the Middle East, part of a large picture of spreading democracy in the Middle East… is that still viable?"

Unbelievable. Even Perle has to remind her that spreading democracy had nothing to do with toppling Saddam.

If Seabrook had done her work she might have challenged Perle on his reasons for pushing for the Iraq War-- his Likuud/Israel connections, his championing of the corrupt Chalabi and Iraqi National Congress, and his own corrupt history.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Seeing Red

I had to wake up this morning and hear Andrea Seabrook telling me that after the national elections, Utah's politics "remain as red as the rock monuments in its national parks." Following the sweeping national rejection of the Iraq War and Bush policy, NPR and Andrea Seabrook found it necessary to spotlight Utah and how it bucked national trends by voting largely Republican. Here are a few of the bits from Seabrook and NPR:
  • "What does this say about Utah? Not easily swayed by peer pressure? Too square to be hip?"
  • "Whatever the reason, Utah politics remained rock solid."
  • "And perhaps the rest of the nation should take heed--after all the lyrics to Utah's state song say, 'Utah getting bigger and better; Utah always leading the way!'"
From some sources this might have been nothing but tongue-in-cheek fun, but it's tone of glib admiration and NPR's narrow interpretation of Tuesday's election, leave little doubt that it's not just Utah's politics that are as "red as the rock monuments."

Shape Shifting

NPR continues trying to shape the analysis of the 2006 elections by shifting its meaning to the right. NPR's line is that voters want a non-partisan get work done Congress (see my post above on the Invisible Issue). NPR's other line is that Democrats won because they ran on a more rightwing "centrist" platform. Today Andrea Seabrook interviews Jim Matheson (D-UT), co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats, who NPR's website claims "helped bring the Democrats to power in last week's elections."

In the report Seabrook says, "politicians from both parties are vowing to work together to get things done" and "with moderate to conservative democrats picking up seats in the house…there is a least a chance of bipartisan cooperation." At one point in the interview Seabrook also asserts, "Leaders of both parties are to the far extremes of their parties. "

The problem with this is that instead of presenting these positions as two of several debated interpretations of the elections, NPR gives them as established fact. Notice that NPR gives no coverage to the role of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, no notice of centrist candidates who got defeated, and no notice of Internet leftists. Instead we get the boring Sunday pundit spin on this very interesting election.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Invisible Issue

I've heard an odd conclusion on the news following Tuesday's dramatic elections. Several times NPR has talked about the message of voters to Congress and the President being "to work together" and "get things done." Funny, I've been looking at polls of issues that motivated voters on Tuesday and have yet to find one result indicating that ending gridlock or "bipartisanhip" was a key issue. (See CNN's and Gallup's pre-election polls and CNN's, Greenberg's and the Pew's post election polls.) The stand-out issues again and again are the Iraq war, corruption, and anti-Bush sentiment.

But on ATC yesterday I heard Melissa Block say "both Democrats and President Bush have been saying they got the message. They say they’re ready to work together to get things done for the American people. " Mara Liasson follows this up by talking about how successfully Clinton followed the demise of his party in 1994 by "triangulating and cutting deals with the Republican Congress." Questioning whether Democrats can be effective, she quotes Clinton's onetime chief of staff, "Panetta asks the same question of the Democrats, who he says have gotten used to throwing grenades from their position in the minority." I'm curious what "grenades" these are--the resolution on use of force against Iraq in 2002, the Patriot Act passage, the continued blank check for funding the Iraq War, the confirmation of Rice, Justice Roberts and Alito, and joint saber-rattling on Venezuela and Iran.

And this morning Daniel Schorr brings up this made-up issue of working together; he says, "the first mandate I think they [Democrats] have is that I think the public wants them very much to try to get together [with Bush and Republicans]….they [Bush and Democrats] feel a lot of pressure from around the country to stop all this nonsense and all the politics and get something done for a change."

This talk of bipartisanship and "working together" is especially odd, since turning over the House in dramatic fashion, and the Senate narrowly, suggests that voters want a Congress that will OPPOSE the President, not compromise with his policies. Of course people want to see action on ending the war in Iraq, improving wages, and ending corruption (getting things done)--but the message was clearly one rejecting the policies of Bush and his Republican allies.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What's Important About November 12th?

Nothing, but it is telling to see what dates a news organization sees fit to hold up as significant. Listeners of Morning Edition learned that this Sunday Gerald Ford will become the oldest living former US president--wow! Imagine how different it would be if on December 7th we learned about Ford's 1975 "day of infamy" when Indonesia invaded East Timor and began it's genocidal slaughter of at least 250,000 civilians with US-supplied armaments. Or on March 24th, NPR could commemorate the Argentine neofascist coup of 1976 which launched the "dirty war" and received political cover and assistance from the Ford administration. On the other hand, NPR could continue to stick with "patriotic" trivia and sentimental statement's like Ford's thanking "God for the gift of every sunrise."

Acceptable Numbers

On the hourly news updates today, Jamie Tarabay commented on the Iraqi Health Minister's statement of 150,000 civilians killed in Iraq since the US invasion. She stated that it was "a number three times previously accepted estimates."

That's news to me! Accepted by who? Iraq Body Count (IBC) has a 50,000 figure, but it is based only on media reports. Bush claimed 30,000 back when IBC was at about 30,000. So the "accepted" figure is what the US government/military approves of, not 655,00, which is what a scientific/peer-reviewed study concluded.

The World According to Max

Yesterday morning, Jackie Northam took on the task of "explaining" how US war policy in Iraq may change given the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. Northam, yet again talking to think tank "experts," asserted that "there’s not much appetite in Congress for inserting more US troops into Iraq to help stabilize the country." Later, of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki she stated that he "is not widely viewed as a robust, hands-on type of leader."

These are problematic assertions. Her first statement is based on the assumption that US military troops are a stabilizing factor (or that a lot more of them would be). One could just as easily argue that not just the presence, but the behavior of the US military, has promoted violence and chaos in Iraq and that more troops would simply kill a lot more people. Her second bit about al-Maliki is truly bizarre--robust? hands-on? Sounds like a description of Sadaam. And, frankly is what does it mean to be "hands-on" when one is holed-up inside the Green Zone?

It's not surprising that Northam would make such off the mark conclusions. Consider one of the "experts" she relied on for much of her report, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations. Here are some of his greatest hits:

October 31, 2002: "The Islamist militants - who are increasingly allied with Saddam Hussein's secular regime in battling against their common enemies in the west - may have reserved their deadliest blow for the US."

December 9, 2002: "Of the many silly reasons propounded for leaving Saddam Hussein on his blood-stained throne, the silliest has to be the suggestion that to remove him would promote 'instability.' "

February 11, 2003: "Secretary of State Colin Powell made a powerful, indeed incontrovertible, case at the United Nations on Wednesday that Saddam Hussein is sabotaging the UN weapons inspection process."

May 13, 2003: "But, on the whole, U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century."

June 5, 2003: "Opponents of the war in Iraq must be chagrined to see pretty much all of their arguments discredited by events. Not able to forgive George W. Bush and Tony Blair for being right...."

September 7, 2003: "as in Vietnam, U.S. troops in Iraq are slowly winning the war on the ground, even as they're losing the public relations battle back home" (after spending 10 days in Iraq with the US military).

September 29, 2003: "Despite the missteps, the U.S. occupation is making rapid progress. During a recent tour of Iraq, I saw substantial normality in most areas. Markets are full of food, streets full of pedestrians and roads full of cars."

Don't expect the Boot to get booted from NPR anytime soon. In spite of being completely wrong about Iraq each step of the way he will probably be back on NPR to weigh in on Iran. Here is the cold-blooded advice he offered readers of the LA Times last month on that crisis: "we need to think about a tougher approach to regime change...we need to consider the possibility of going beyond peaceful measures to foment change. An American invasion is out of the question. But perhaps we could do to Iran what the Iranians are doing to us in Iraq, where they are funneling weapons and money to militias that are killing our soldiers." He specifically wants to encourage sectarian and ethnic war in Iran--"The rest of the country is made up of ethnic minorities, many of them quite restive.... all have active separatist movements that have carried out anti-regime bombings...."

I'll close by letting "Mad Max" be hoisted by his own petard. Back in February 27, 2003, lambasting anti-war protesters (then and throughout history) for causing more carnage and bloodshed than decisive military men, he declared:
  • "It is perhaps too much to expect self-doubt from any political activist, right or left. But given the dismal record of antiwar demonstrations, today's marchers should heed Oliver Cromwell's advice to the Kirk of Scotland in 1650: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.' "

Open Thread - Weekend

NPR related comments welcomed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One Extremely Smart Official

Morning Edition was just gushing over Donald Rumsfeld. John Hendren was shining up Rummy's legacy. Steve Inskeep prepped the piece by letting us know that Rumsfeld "has probably set more records than any Defense Secretary in American history" -- and he wasn't talking about civilian lives snuffed out or soldiers lives wasted. Hendren then comes on admiring "the former Princeton wrestler" who "was both combative and commanding, sometimes charming his way out of answering questions." Hendren notices that "his speech was precise, and yet it was often confusing." After commenting on Rumsfeld's "silver tongue" Hendren states that "Pentagon insiders say Rumsfeld had been looking for at least a year for a chance to leave on a high note, but the rising tide of public resentment over the war simply made that impossible." Odd, I thought it was the rising tide of corpses and horror that one, two, or three more years would do nothing to improve.

Then later in the show Inskeep and Montagne comment on "memorable moments" of Rumsfeld. Inskeep states that "it is worth remembering the value of Rumsfeld’s public statements, they were more informative than most, careful listeners got some insight into one extremely smart official’s thoughts" (he's not being sarcastic!) As a finale to the adulation of Rumsfeld Inskeep and Montagne add this commentary on Rumsfeld's own "unknown unknowns" mishmash:

Inskeep states, "Here is something that is not as widely known: the context of Rumsfeld’s famous statement. He was speaking in 2002, before the war in Iraq. When he spoke of unknown unknowns he was suggesting that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq could provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, even though there wasn’t much evidence” (and then with no break) Montagne finishes up, “he was trying to say that what you don’t know can hurt you. The weapons never turned up, but as the war grew longer the secretary insisted on knowing what he could know."

I think they out Rumsfelded Rumsfeld!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Crashing the Gates

Forget ATC with Melissa Block's interview with Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institution (also see this from Sourcewatch) about Robert Gates, former CIA director and new appointee for Secretary of Defense. (As even NPR states on its website, Pollack worked with Gates at the CIA and NSC.) If you want to find out more about Bush's new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just do this little search of him on Common Dreams -- makes for some (interesting, unsettling, disturbing) reading.

Open Thread - Wednesday

NPR related comments welcomed.

Guiding Principles of Tom Gjelten

Yesterday on NPR's Morning Edition Steve Inskeep talked with Tom Gjelten about Daniel Ortega's likely victory in Nicaragua's presidential election. Gjelten offered the following version of US foreign policy in Central American during the 1980s:

  • "...there was this idea in the United States that Nicaragua was going to become a Soviet military base and this was part of that long ago thing we called 'the Cold War' – remember that? – we were in a global struggle against communism. That was the political background and Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas, and it looked a lot like Fidel Castro; they wore camouflage uniforms and carried guns and talked about Cuba being an inspiration. Then there was this other thing a, called 'the Reagan Doctrine.' President Reagan was committed at that time to fighting communism in those places where there were local forces who were willing and able to do the actual fighting on the ground. Kind of proxy armies....and in Nicaragua, you had this Contra Army that was willing to fight the Sandinistas, so that was one of the places where the United States decided to make a stand." When asked how this compares to today's "war on terror" Gjelten responds, anti-communism "was the guiding principle of US foreign policy then just as opposing terrorism is now. "
  • Gjelten also asserts that "the wars in Central America were not ethnic conflicts....wasn't in any sense an ethnic or religious war. These were wars that were often brutal and a lot of civilians did get killed, but it was fundamentally an economic conflict in each of these countries. The issue was how to distribute wealth, who got the land, it was a haves verses have-not conflict.
  • Lastly Gjelten concludes that though "the US won that first round," it "basically just declared victory and walked away from Central America without doing all that much to resolve the underlying issues, which was the lack of equitable economic development, the absence of democratic institutions, the problems of corruption."
There are a few problems with this version (perversion) of history. In simplifying the struggle in Central America to "fighting communism" Gjelten papers over the fact that the US principle in Central America was a to train and assist these "proxy armies" to commit systematic and widespread atrocities against the civilian populations. He mentions that the wars were "brutal" but fails to mention that nearly ALL of the torture, rapes, disappearances, and killings were inflicted by the US proxies. He states that the conflicts were about how to distribute wealth. No, the conflicts were about how the US could prevent any wealth from being distributed. In every conflict, the US backed a tiny, extremely wealthy minority of each country in repressing the impoverished majority. Gjelten states that the wars were not religious or ethnic in nature, even though in Guatemala the US-supported government was committing genocide against Mayans and throughout Central America the target of US sponsored violence was frequently the Catholic Church (remember Archbishop Romero?).

Lastly, to conclude that the US "just walked away" is sadly misinformed. True, resolving issues of poverty and corruption, was ignored since the US had "won" the war to keep people impoverished. Just look at the decline of Nicaragua after the Sandinistas were defeated. But the US didn't walk away, it continued to seek further militarization and influence in the region.

For myself, it's hard to decide whether to feel more angry or sad about this slanted, dishonest report from NPR.