Thursday, January 29, 2009

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can You Find the Watchdog?

Has anyone else noticed that NPR seems to be interested in journalism now that the Liar in Chief has departed Washington. Obama wasn't even sworn in and NPR was selling the "Obameter." Yesterday on ATC they brought out Folkenflik to give lip service to the the ethics of journalism. He airs Bill Nichols, managing editor of the utterly uninspired online and print publication Politico:
"I just also want to be sure that the President and the people who work for him are being subject to people who are trained as journalists and who are asking the question that perhaps some of the people watching things from out there in the country are not able to ask."
Folkenflik then introduces "veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante" talking about the Obama administration's transgression of offering a White House produced photo from the Oval Office. Folkenflik notes that Plante "said news outlets needed to draw the line." We then hear Plante:
"Do you originate the material or do you function as a transmission belt for handouts from the government. The whole idea of an independent press as guaranteed by the the First Amendment is that it would serve as a watchdog and check on the power of government."
Folkenflik also claims that
"in a conventional model of news gathering - think of what the Washington Post does - journalists are supposed to be watchdogs and surrogates for the public, trained to see patterns in data and ask informed questions, though some critics argue there's more bark than bite."
Holy cow! If NPR had been doing any of these things, I'd gladly shut this blog down.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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Monday, January 26, 2009

$+!@*&/% !

Tonight NPR takes us on a time trip back to Leave it To Beaver Land. Given the problems that the world is facing, you might hope NPR would do a story on the founder(s) of a group working for social change that actually challenges the powerful instead of a fricking "No Cussing" club.

I went ahead and dropped the following comment on the NPR web site:
Global climate catastrophe, 1.3 million civilians dead in the Iraq War, the curse of child labor, insane global war spending, global assaults on human rights, etc. and NPR devotes 4.5 minutes of prime news time to this trivial "No Cussing" campaign - well, damn!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Tom's Moment of Orwell

This morning featured a real keeper from NPR's Mr. Langley, Tom Gjelten:
"One provision of yesterday's executive order prohibits the CIA from holding any detainees in secret prisons. Not a big change; those prisons are all closed anyway, according to US officials."
Brilliant reasoning, eh? All the CIA secret prisons are closed because US officials - who ran these covert, CIA criminal black sites for years and years - say they're shut down.

Yes, NPR is really out in front on this one. The CIA torture sites were making news way back in 2004 as this report from HRW and this one from the Guardian indicate, but NPR didn't get around to the story until Novemeber of 2005, when it was safely out in the open in the Washington Post.

And as others have noted, there is no sense of moral/legal revulsion at the practice - only relentless suggestions that the practices have helped keep us secure or saved lives.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yardwork with Anne

Goodness me, I thought that Israel's Gaza Massacre was all about slaughtering children and attacking UN safe havens. How wrong I was - turns out that "Operation Cast Lead" was just a bunch of Israeli groundskeepers going in to Gaza to mow the grass. Seriously, I learned that from brush-clearing Anne Garrels tonight on NPR as she claimed to be presenting Israeli "analysts, who cover the political spectrum..." One of these brilliant scholars, "Efraim Inbar says, the best that can be hoped for is conflict management. He calls it mowing the grass." Honestly, that's what Garrels said, and then let Inbar speak for himself:
"We go in, do some damage to the terrorist infrastructure knowing well that this type of hatred toward Israel cannot be totally eliminated and we'll have to do it again."
Yes, Garrels really covered the breadth of Israeli opinion in the piece that she opened by claiming, "The one thing Israelis agree on is that Israel showed, after what many consider a humiliating defeat in Lebanon two years ago, it can respond forcefully." I guess Amira Haas and Uri Avnery and Btselm workers don't fall qualify as Israeli analysts, but the following do:
I hope Anne doesn't feel too bad for wielding the old, bloody hedge-trimmer for Israel, she's in good company with a couple of other brush clearers - Ronny and W.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

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And Speaking for the IDF

I noticed Left I on the News had a telling post about how, in spite of the Israeli Defense Forces rationales for attacking civilians being given huge amounts of press time, the corporate press will actually repeat these rationales even when IDF spokespersons aren't present. Left I writes, "No need for the Israelis to make excuses; the press will do it for them! Unbelievable."

The same could be said for Inskeep this morning as he talks to Eric Westervelt in Gaza this morning. I have to say that Westervelt has seemed to try and maintain a sense of humanity in his reporting on this crime against Palestinians. I recall that in his first story after the initial surprise air attack by the Israelis, he sounded shaken by the extent of the killing. One can also read the transcript of his decent January 11th report on the Israeli targeting of a building filled with civilians and the IDF's refusal to provide or allow medical assistance to the wounded.

So this morning after Israel's blockade of journalists from Gaza, Westervelt is in to survey the damage. Westervelt is noting the massive extent of the damage he sees and Inskeep jumps in to say:
"I wonder now that you are on the scene of some of these explosions; you talk about destroyed living rooms - of course we've heard about destroyed schools - Israel has said that anytime it was striking targets like that it was firing at Hamas rocket launchers nearby, or fighters of one kind or another..."
Pretty incredible really. No acknowledgement that the wanton slaughter and devastation was intentional (at least according to the IDF plans laid out in October of last year), and that the goal of the Gaza Massacre had little to do with the rockets of Hamas, but as John Mearsheimer points out was "...part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a 'Greater Israel.' Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them."

Interesting that these rather obvious stated and implied goals are never mentioned on NPR, but the ridiculous claims and excuses of the IDF (and the US government) are repeated and repeated and repeated.

It's What's for Breakfast

As people have noted in the Q Tips section below, today's Morning Edition offers some pretty crappy breakfast fare - Mara Liasson on "post partisanship," Newt Gingrich redux, and Steve Inskeep jabbering on about Obama and cinematic "magic negroes." I also cringed at Renee Montagne's interview with Bill Cosby and co-author and professor, Alvin Poussaint. The two were on to promote the ideal of two parent families. Steve Inskeep introduced the segment with the following,
"Cosby played the perfect father on TV in the 80s and in more recent years he spoke out against irresponsible fathers, and teen pregnancy, and high drop-out rates in school."
In truly amazing fashion, Montagne managed to conduct the interview without one single reference to Bill Cosby's own shortcomings in the father/husband role that he is so keen on promoting. She didn't mention his own admitted affair and the child that may or may have not been his own. She also failed to mention the allegations of sexual abuse against Cosby, one of which resulted in an out of court settlement.

It's not that Montagne needed to demonize Cosby. He's still a cultural figure to be reckoned with, but for God's sake, to omit the most obvious references to his past was really astounding.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

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It's Me Trying and Failing

Rebecca Roberts may be "trying and failing" on an Apache helicopter simulator, but she's not trying and failing at hosting a US Army commercial on NPR (nothing exceptional on All Things Military - machismo, drones, recruiting, etc.).

Roberts offers one challenging question to Maj. Dillard who runs the Army video game recruiting station: "...some have criticized it for bait and switch tactics, masquerading as an arcade when it's really an Army recruiting station." Not a bad start...but after the officer counters by saying that in traditional recruiting stations there are "not a lot of ways to get a virtual experience of about what the Army might be like" - Roberts is done with questions.

Being at the exciting Army Experience Center, you might have hoped that in addition to playing Apache Helicopter killer and interviewing a kid who was "taking a quick break from blowing bad guys away," Rebecca would have asked if she could play the endless the stop-loss Deployment Game, or the thrilling Battle for the Benefits, or the Depression and PTSD Treatment Roulette Game. And since we got to hear about "bad guys" twice she might have asked to play When Bad Guys Happen to be Good Guys. Of course those games are off limits to NPR, which is fast becoming a radio version of The Pentagon Channel.

Roberts, however is happy to play the Go Army game with Dillard as he declares that "if you understand the Army then you're inclined to think highly of it and join the Army." Then noting that many people have negative impressions of the military, Dillard shows Roberts "some of tools designed to counter those misconceptions. Two giant video displays - one called a career navigator; the other called a global base locator. Think of them as huge plasma screen rumor debunkers." (I swear to God she called them that!) I was waiting for her to ask, "And just how many bases does the US have around the globe?" Let's just say I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Ticking Tom Bomb Again

This morning Renee Montagne begins a report on US torture with the following:
"We heard earlier that Eric Holder thinks waterboarding is torture, his view matters because Holder is Barack Obama's choice to be Attorney General. But waterboarding is just one of the techniques used by the CIA after 9/11 to extract information from suspected terrorists"
This is revealing. Seems NPR bases its moral (immoral) compass on whoever holds the reins of power. You might think a more stable point of reference would be something quaint like, say international and domestic laws on torture.

The rest of the feature is engineered by Tom Gjelten who is on to explain that - in spite of Pres. Elect Obama's campaign promises "against the use of anything like torture"- the real world is "not clear cut." Honest to God, Gjelten is always on overdrive to defend torture and degrading treatment by the CIA when it is in any way threatened. He cites outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden:
"'These techniques worked,' Hayden insisted yesterday in a meeting with reporters. 'I'm convinced,' he said, 'that the program got the maximum amount of information.'"
Gjelten closes his piece by speculating that
"Obama himself appears to be keeping his decision options open. He may be realizing that this issue, like others, is not clear-cut. John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the CIA, says the debate over what interrogation methods should be used is abstract until the day the U.S. government finds itself holding a terrorist who really does know about an upcoming attack on the United States."
What do you know, we're back in the Dershowitz and Jack Bauer snuff-fantasy world of the ticking time bomb. It's significant that in this pro-torture piece, not only is no reference made to US obligations under law, but no description is ever given of of the sickening "enhanced" interrogation techniques, the historical record of US torture, and - of course - not a mention of the US/CIA's house of horrors record in Latin America. The reason is obvious: to detail the factual record would reveal that the real purpose of "harsh interrogation" has nothing to do with gathering intelligence. Its main purpose is to demonstrate the unrestrained and terrorizing power of the state and to let any and all resisters know that it is more than willing to violate the most intimate sanctity of the human body and psyche.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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Planet Gitmo

Welcome to NPR's world of All Things Gitmo. On Wednesday's ATG Michele Norris serves as our guide into the circular thinking that would make Joseph Heller blush. Here she is serving as a deputized spokesperson for the Borgs the Pentagon:
"The Pentagon said yesterday that 61 former detainees who were released, quote, 'returned to the fight against the US' meaning that they had returned to some form of terrorism." So for those detainees who are deemed dangerous, but for whom no clear evidence exists for prosecution, what should be done with the prisoners that fall in that category?"
That is quite a statement. Notice how broad the label of terrorism has become for NPR: anyone who is in "the fight against the US" is now engaged in "some form of terrorism." That is precisely the twisted line of thinking that permeates the US armed forces. Consider this very typical DOD article from the American Forces Press Service back in March 30, 2008 regarding the Iraqi insurgents:
"An American aircrew killed 12 insurgents today after they attacked a U.S. infantry patrol in northern Baghdad. Soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team pursued the insurgents after they had broken off their attack. U.S. military aircraft arrived to provide air-to-ground support. After positively identifying the attackers, the air weapons team engaged and killed the 12 terrorists. "
It's a pretty nifty trick to turn a guerrilla band of 12 fighters who are willing to attack a US infantry patrol into "terrorists." What civilians were they attacking? What civilian targets had they engaged?

Returning to Norris' statement, one can ask the same questions regarding the 61 victims of the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay. What form of terrorism? What acts of terrorism did they engage in? Do you have ANY evidence to back up your dramatic charge that they "returned to some form of terrorism"? Oops, did I just request "evidence"? (How quaint of me.) Regarding evidence, Norris has some very modern ideas about that: she wonders about "
those detainees who are deemed dangerous, but for whom no clear evidence exists for prosecution, what should be done...?" Yes, indeed - what should be done?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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Quixotic

Okay, I've contacted the OMBOTsman 9000 at NPR again on its surging enthusiasm for US counterinsurgency. If you've missed the latest, check out Monday's or Tuesday's ATC piece from the NPR chum cannon (several readers have commented in the Q Tips sections below on these "reports.") You can also click on the counterinsurgency tag below to follow NPR's love affair with counterinsurgency.

I sent the following to Ms. Shepard at NPR:
Back on Dec. 22 the Weekend Edition host noted:
"Hugh Sanson reflects the opinion of a number of you when he writes 'The stories of young soldiers' lasting suffering are deeply moving - I would be further moved if NPR could consider any of the millions of Iraqis affected - the million dead, and the millions wounded or displaced. What effect would a story of a victim of an American bombing have. Is NPR too timid or too dishonest to offer such stories?' Mr. Sanson, our plan is to do just that in January." Well your two reports on Iraq and Afghanistan were nothing of the sort. Now how about you try the same test on your upbeat counterinsurgency reports. Let's hear from some of the victims of past US counterinsurgency in Vietnam and Latin America - or is NPR too timid or dishonest?
I think I'll be waiting a long, long time for any NPR story that includes that perspective...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Go Slow Gitmo

Tonight on ATC a virtual repeat piece from back in November, including the expert opinions of Scott Silliman again. Look at this report from the Detroit Free Press; there are a lot of experts with similar backgrounds as Silliman who want Bush administration officials investigated for war crimes - but not Silliman (sounds like a ticket to the NPR studio to me).

You can take look at the comments under the web posting of the report to see what I contributed there regarding Silliman's rather unique views on dangerousness and evidence.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

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Heckuv a Job

At least on ABC's feel-good Extreme Home Makeover program they don't try to convince you that the luxurious house at the end of the show is the same run-down junker of a home that was there at the beginning of the show. They actually show you their crew tearing down the old one and putting up a new one. NPR's Extreme President Makeover is not so forthcoming. NPR struggles mightily to convince listeners that there is some grand, noble "legacy" that will exist when the Bush administration leaves the White House.

Today was a shameless homage to George W. Bush as the "normal, regular guy." Yeah, Bush is such a likable guy! Linda Wertheimer's slavish send-up of Bush is notable for its lack of any serious, critical voices; instead Wertheimer turns to a friend of Bush, and administration insider, and a charmed reporter clucking about George:
  • "Dan Bartlett works in Austin now, but he was a close White House aide for seven years."
  • "Cox Newspapers' Ken Herman, who has covered Bush for years, says the president prefers a quiet life."
  • "Don Evans, secretary of commerce in the president's first term and a friend of 40 years, says that act [quitting abusing alcohol] demonstrated the president's commitment to his family and to the Bush family's belief in public service." [trans. "public self-service"!]
Frankly, even if Bush were a likable character, it doesn't matter a whit. Likability is an utterly worthless measure of a leader's behavior as characters like Stalin, Idi Amin and Milosevic among others have proven. This excerpt from the article, "Amin's Economic War Left Uganda On Crutches" by Patrick Luganda are painfully apt:
"'Popular and a natural leader of men, but simple and practically illiterate; a man of the people... An imposing presence, 6'3" in height; once a good distance runner good heavyweight boxer and mountain biker rugby player. As Head of State, has shown an engaging lack of formality and a disregard for his personal safety. Benevolent but tough. Well-disposed to Britain perhaps to an extent damaging to him in the African context. Speaks passable English. God fearing and deeply religious....,' read the notes."

NPR's Gold Standard = Bush's Gold Standard

Let's travel back in time to October 2006 when the Lancet published it's 2nd report on Iraqi civilian deaths and came up with the horrifying number of about 600,000. And what was the reaction of the team Bush-Blair?
But wait, as the BBC reported, UK officials were a tad more honest off the record. A Ministry of Defense science official described the report as "robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to 'best practice' in this area" while a Foreign Office official noted that "it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."

So you might think Lourdes Garcia-Navarro would be a little bit embarrassed this morning when David Green asks her, "How many Iraqi civilians have died, do we have a sense?" and she answers:
"The short answer, David, is no, we don't know. Let me go through the numbers. The gold standard really is Iraq Body Count - according to their website which we use...it's the most credible one out there for now....There was one very controversial and well known report published in 2006 by the Lancet..."
Zounds! This is about as sloppy and dishonest as it gets. As the UK officials secretly noted above, the Lancet report was anything but controversial in its methodology. Others have noted that identical studies are used to cite authoritative death estimates in places like the Congo and Darfur with no hint of "controversy." The only thing controversial about the Lancet report and the ORB report (which Garcia-Navarro doesn't even mention) was the disturbing truth that so many hundreds of thousands (now over a million) of innocent people have perished in the Bush-Blair Iraq war. Any dispassionate look at Iraq Body Count (IBC) would find it anything but a "gold standard." Media Lens has an extensive look at its shortcomings and the BBC in its coverage of the challenges to IBC from Media Lens lists many endorsements of the Lancet's findings from actual experts in epidemiological studies.

Lastly, NPR's Iraq report today (and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson's dismal piece last week) was somehow supposed to balance the deluge of generally prowar "Impact of War" reports that NPR has run. It was supposed to address the concern of a listener who challenged NPR,
"I would be further moved if NPR could consider any of the millions of Iraqis affected - the million dead, and the millions wounded or displaced. What effect would a story of a victim of an American bombing have."
Neither report offers a shred of intense, personal stories about innocents killed by the US. But if you are a big fan of Bush, Blair and their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then you'd have to agree that for spin and distortion, these reports are the gold standard after all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Getting Their Jack On


There be some folks at NPR that love them their Jack Bauer. Why just last month, little Stevie Inskeep was getting his Jack on just thinking about wanting to hit an uncooperative prisoner. It's not just the guys at NPR either; Pam Fessler was pretty jazzed for Jack just last spring.

Now that there's a mood in the ruling class to sweep a few little unpleasantries under the rug and move on with the surging victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, you wouldn't expect NPR to miss the chance to get a little Foxy Jack back on the show.

So this morning Ari Shapiro enjoys a deep intellectual Fox commercial for 24.

We hear the Jack character at a Congressional hearing say, "Am I above the law? No sir, I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please do not sit there with that smug look on your face."

Shapiro comments that "this sounds like a real hearing that took place a few months ago with some Bush administration officials called to testify about torture." Ari must be thinking about NPR News' fantasy coverage (try to find it if you can) of the House and Senate hearings that actually did occur.

You have to love how even though Abu Ghraib and other US torture atrocities became public in 2004, Keifer Sutherland says "with regards to the torture aspect....Then obviously the events in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and everything else became a real focal point for us as a nation to look at what we were doing. So it only seemed sensible that we as a show would do the same thing." Kind of fits the pattern of all these criminals of the past 8 years experiencing conversions on the death bed of the Bush presidency...ugh.

But Ari mainly wants to plug the excitement of the show. He asks Sutherland, "Does your pulse jump when you hear that little ticking second sound?....Mine does!"

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Plungers and Breakers

Just had to note that NPR on Wednesday felt the need to immediately publicize the fact that Joe the Plunger (no toilet too nasty or clogged) is joining the society of no-nothing journalists (maybe there's some sympathy at NPR for such?) by heading off to Israel.

Also, this morning I had to post a comment on NPR's web site about the US being a peace broker in the Israel Palestine conflict. Ari Shapiro is interviewing Aaron Miller - yet again (see here and here). Is there a rational, thinking human in the world who actually thinks the US is some kind of fair broker between Israel and the Palestinians?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Bumper Sticker if You Will

A real laugher on NPR this morning (and afternoon...and - God forbid -"a series"): a 7 minute plus analysis on - as Don Gonyea puts it "a continuing debate over [Bush's] legacy." Continuing debate? One little thing NPR fails to mention is that there's no debate: Bush sucks and 98 percent of historians agree. So what's the debate - or as NPR titles this mind numbing stupidity "Undecided We Stand: Debating Bush's Legacy"?

I guess NPR thinks that the Magical History Tour that has turned Death Squad Reagan into Mr. Morning in America will turn the greed, cynicism, aggressive warmaking, torture and economic cronyism of the Bush administration into "a consequential presidency...one who thought boldly and aimed explicitly to make a lasting impact" (that according to George Edwards who is the recipient of "the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service from the U.S. Army - wow!).

You might wonder where on earth the idea for such waste of radio time comes from? Why, from the jaws of the Decider himself. As Don Gonyea explains, "President Bush says it's up to history to judge him and he likes to recall that Harry Truman was unpopular when he left the White House...but has become an icon of strength in adversity." Well I guess if you count killing more than a million civilians (Japan - Korea - Afghanistan - Iraq) and putting Harry's golem of the National Security State on steroids then maybe Dubya and Truman do have something in common.

The "debate" was - no surprise - thin on substance and heavy on fantasy and foolishness. The "expert" guests were Robert Draper, Bush's airbrush biographer, the aforementioned George Edwards who actually says "if Iraq should turn into a stable democracy and a model for the Middle East, that will be a huge plus in his legacy" - and Robert Dallek who is the only seriously (and briefly quoted) critical voice in the piece. Edwards wraps the piece up with a brainless bit of insight about presidents being remembered for having "some kind of catch phrase — a bumper sticker, if you will. Theodore Roosevelt, the square deal. Franklin Roosevelt, the new deal....Reagan remembered for saying 'It's morning in America.' What is there with George W. Bush? What's the bumper sticker? I don't know."

Poor Professor Edwards just doesn't know; I imagine readers of this blog can come up with a few appropriate bumper sticker phrases for this worthless twit of president that the world has suffered under for the last 8 years.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Memory Hole - NPR Style

If you've been listening to NPR's coverage of the Gaza Massacre you've probably heard some fairly imaginative history. I recall being treated to some fine HistoryLite™ by former US tool Philip Wilcox who claimed that Hamas emerged in the 1st Intifada. You've also heard Inskeep claim that Hamas broke the ceasefire and others assert that Hamas had no interest in a ceasefire.

Just to set the record straight there are a few missing factoids in the NPR storyline:

Hamas was around before the 1st Intifada, and was strengthened and supported by...Israel! How curious, seems like there were a few problems with a secular, nationalist Palestinian movement - perhaps the greatest problem being that it was willing to accept a two state solution before Israeli expansionism was complete.

As far as the Hamas "takeover" of Gaza - that little plot was conceived and midwifed by old birth-pangs-Rice, Bush and the complicit "Quartet."

As far as the broken ceasefire, even CNN had someone who actually read a few articles to see if there was an actual record of a major Israeli violation - there was. Johann Hari also pointed out that not only did Hamas not flagrantly break the ceasefire, it actually wanted to continue it. He sites the source of his information as Shin Bet chief, Diskin, who is quoted in Haaretz saying, "Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms. It wants us to lift the siege [on Hamas-ruled Gaza], stop [IDF] attacks, and extend the truce to include Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]."

O, memory hole, thy name is NPR...

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He Just Keeps Going, and Going, and...

Intelligence professional Tom Gjelten distorted the opposition to Brennan being appointed to the CIA back on November 26, 2008 and again on December 4, 2008 and - dang! - if he ain't at it again. Yesterday, he was on ATC to express the shock and surprise of Obama's choice for Leon Panetta to run the CIA.

Here was the heart of his chat with Michele Norris:
"The Obama people felt they had no other choice but to go with an outsider. So many of the intelligence professionals, the insiders, were seen as being in some way tainted by some of the controversies that have surrounded the CIA in recent years: wiretapping, secret CIA prisons, coercive interrogation techniques. When it appeared for a while that the Obama people were heading toward an insider there was a firestorm of reaction, of criticism, so they apparently decided to go with someone from the outside."
I have to hand it to Mr. Gjelten, he is indeed an intelligence professional. Notice how he turns flagrantly illegal domestic spying, kidnapping, and torture into reassuring "wiretapping, secret CIA prisons, [and] coercive interrogation techniques." He also (for the third time on NPR) distorts the reaction of progressive critics, claiming that "there was a firestorm" because "the Obama people were heading toward an insider." As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out [including in a lengthy interview with Gjelten] the opposition was focused on those insiders who explicitly supported and endorsed the illegal CIA activities listed above.

This kind of dishonest nonsense allows Michele Norris to query Gjelten, "So, those people who were stoking the fires of criticism, will they be satisfied by the selection?" That's a beauty, eh? In NPR-world citizens who give a rat's ass about their government spying on them or disappearing and torturing suspects are just "stoking the fires of criticism."

The real power of such sloppy and distorted journalism is obvious in this report. Instead of Gjelten and Norris asking if Panetta will be able to rein in the lawless and inhumane behavior of the CIA and make it an effective intelligence gathering agency, these two make sure that the story only reflects a "CIA insider's" perspective - right down to Norris wondering aloud, "You've been speaking to intelligence professionals. I'm interested in hearing a a little bit more about how they are reacting to this?" All she has to do is ask Gjelten to get it right from the horse's bunny's mouth...

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Great Task of the Israeli Defense Forces

Regarding the assault on Gaza, the Israeli Army has learned "to take the operation slowly in a manner that will not only safeguard Israeli troops to the degree that you can, but also minimize the number of civilian casualties on the other side." Additionally, "keeping those civilian casualties less than excessive, as you would say, is the great task of the Israeli Defense Forces and I think up to this point we are doing very admirably in that way."

It must be true because I heard it on NPR this morning - and from a "scholar of military history in the Middle East" no less. I would definitely agree that NPR favorite, and war criminal spokesperson Michael Oren is certainly doing an admirable job with his assistant Ari Shapiro.

Shapiro goes along for the ride even as Oren proudly claims that of the slaughtered Gazans "well over three quarters have been armed gunmen and that is a percentage which is very rarely attained in urban warfare." Armed gunmen? Well over three quarters? As if one quarter of the dead being women and kids is just hunky dory - for God's sake.

It is disgraceful that NPR again and again gives unchallenged coverage to such Israeli government propagandists when that same government bars independent reporting from the inside Gaza.

BTW, see earlier posts on Oren (May 2008 and Nov. 2006).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

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A Promise and an Apologia

NPR listeners may recall that on Dec. 22, 2008 at the end of an Impact of War story, the host of the show stated:
"Hugh Sanson reflects the opinion of a number of you when he writes 'The stories of young soldiers' lasting suffering are deeply moving - I would be further moved if NPR could consider any of the millions of Iraqis affected - the million dead, and the millions wounded or displaced. What effect would a story of a victim of an American bombing have. Is NPR too timid or too dishonest to offer such stories?' Mr. Sanson, our plan is to do just that in January."
Well, this morning NPR starts delivering on its promise. Liane Hanson states,
"During the month of December we broadcast a series of stories and conversations about the impact of war on US military personnel and their families. Now we're going to examine the wars' effects on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Next Sunday Iraq...today we focus on Afghanistan."
Interestingly, the story has almost nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan, instead focusing on how the rise of civilian killings by US and NATO forces is creating problems for the US/NATO "mission" there. Here's the substance of the piece:
  • Nelson: "Well, Liane, Afghans are very, very angry, but surprisingly perhaps, their anger is directed mainly at Western forces...."
  • Nelson: "...this operation [in Azizabad] had gone after a Taliban leader in the village, and what happened was when US special forces and Afghan special forces showed up to arrest the man - he and his men apparently fired first, and this resulted in a battle that lasted for many hours, and by the time it was over 90 civilians were dead..."
  • When Hansen asks, "What accounts for the increasing death toll at the hands of US and NATO troops?" Nelson answers, "Well, one problem is that there just are not enough troops to deal with the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan which basically means that NATO and US forces have to use airstrikes to cover more ground to be able to get at the insurgents and the uh the terrorists that they're trying to get rid of...."
  • Nelson: "And what are the troops going to do? They're going to have to fire back, and if they need help, they'll call in air strikes and you end up with a lot of civilian casualties.
  • Nelson: "Another big problem is when in fact the Taliban do engage the West...they will do so from villagers homes and they will use people as human shields - and certainly that's what happened in the Azizabad case according to the Americans."
  • Hansen: "Why aren't the Afghans expressing more anger then toward the Taliban fighters who are purposely putting Afghan civilians in harm's way?"
  • Nelson: "Well to ease the anger the Americans do something...make condolence payments when there is an incident of civilian death that's caused, that's proven. And they do this quite liberally and quite frequently - also in general the West has changed it's rule of engagement in the past year or so, really addressing the need to be more careful, and perhaps look before you shoot and that sort of thing, they've also improved public outreach, and conducted joint investigations.
And where is the up-close, personal story focused on the impact of war on Afghanis that has marked the extensive "Impact of War" series so far? Guess I missed it.

Not only is Nelson's piece little more than a thinly veiled patchwork of pro-US/NATO damage control spin, it is poorly researched and simplistic. Throughout she portrays the war in Afghanistan as being "The West" against some monolithic Taliban (a misleading simplification that favors the US role in Afghanistan) or terrorists. Anand Gopal deconstructs this nonsense and his Global Dispatches blog offer an antidote to NPR's disinformation. Needless to say, Nelson didn't include input from any independent Afghani group such as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission or the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan-RAWA (no wonder!) or any other independent locally based group.

Hansen ends the piece with "Next week our Baghdad correspondent...will join us to talk about the impact of war in Iraq on its citizens." So I guess that "story of a victim of an American bombing" will just have to wait for next week...or maybe the week after that...or maybe...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Accomplices

Friday Morning two busy little spin bodies (h/t to War on War Off ) were busy on NPR:
  • Steve Inskeep: "And here's what raises the question of how Israel intends to finish the operation. The bombing was intended to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel and despite hundreds of bombing runs those rockets are still arriving."
  • Mike Shuster: "First Israel hit military targets - buildings tunnels and bases used by the security forces of Hamas..."
If a war crimes trial is ever held for the Israeli leadership that launched this "operation" on "military targets" I hope they save two seats in the docket for Shuster and Inskeep.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

Targets and Goals

(click on image for source)

On Wednesday morning Steve Inskeep displayed the extent of his woeful ignorance (or stupidity). He was interviewing Mustafa Barghouti, an independent lawmaker in the West Bank city of Ramallah and asked the following question:
"There was a ceasefire in Gaza for months. It expired, as you know, and then Hamas began firing rockets into Israel knowing there might be a harsh Israeli response. Why did Hamas do that?"
One has to love Mr. Barghouti's reply:
"No sir, I think what you have described is the Israeli narrative and it's not correct..."
Barghouti then patiently explained how throughout the ceasefire Israel tightened its total blockade and committed a violent and flagrant violation of the ceasefire toward the end.

Unfortunately, nothing seems to penetrate the pro-IDF bubble in which Inskeep operates. During a discussion with Mike Shuster this morning he says,
"As they begin to run out of new targets to hit...are the Israelis any closer to their goal which is to stop rocket fire from coming out of Gaza into Israel?"
You could spend a lot of time unpacking such a statement. Who says the goal of the Israelis is to stop rocket fire coming out of Gaza? What rockets were driving Israel's ghettoization and utter destruction of a Gaza when rockets weren't being fired?

And targets? Since when do mosques, police stations, homes, and thousands of wounded and killed civilians count as "targets"? The whole of Schuster and Inskeep's talk is riddled with the use of the "target" euphemism and claims based solely on Israeli Defense Forces statements:
  • Inkseep: "Israeli jets struck multiple targets including the Palestinian Parliament building in Gaza City. Israeli naval forces also fired at targets inside the territory."
  • Shuster: "Israeli airstrikes on tunnels...where Israel says Hamas has been smuggling in weapons....the Israelis targeted what they called a weapons manufacturing and storage facility in central Gaza. The Israeli navy has gotten into the operation with ships off the coast hitting Hamas coastal outposts and rocket launching spots according to the Israeli Defense Force....500 sorties by warplanes against targets in Gaza...hundreds more carried out by helicopter...looks like Israel is beginning to run out of new targets to hit."
Shuster and Inskeep aren't the only ones at NPR using the vague "target" language. I hear about "Hamas targets" almost anytime I catch one of NPR's hourly updates. Why not just state the fact that the whole of Gaza is being targeted by both bombardment and the blockade of basic necessities such as food, fuel and medicine?