Thursday, August 31, 2006

Narrowing the Debate

In the context of the US Senate, I respect Senator Boxer, but after NPR gives more airtime to Bush nonsense on Iraq and the "war on terror" I want more than a Democratic opponent to critique the presidents lies and crimes. As a Democratic leader Boxer is limited in what she can say since most of her party is complicit in voting for and funding the crimes of the US war of agression against Iraq. I want someone who will address the illegality of the war, the predatory policies of the Bremer occupation, and the institutional crimes of illegal detention and torture that the US has visited on Iraq.

At least in the Gonyea piece that preceeds the Boxer interview we get to hear an old WWII veteran exposed to Bushspeak say of the president, "I wonder if he himself really knows what's going on [in Iraq]." Amen...

The Foreigner's Gift

Those ungrateful Iraqis. Listen at your peril. No comment!

IMF dirty MF

The title of this post is taken from the the song, "Call It Democracy" by Bruce Cockburn, and you'll learn more about the IMF from his song than from the weak piece on NPR this morning. Adam Davidson reports on the IMF's proposal to make its voting procedures more fair, but Davidson describes the "work" of the IMF as stepping in to bail out desperately poor countries by making "demands to reform failed economies." In fact many thinking folks would assert that it is the IMF that ruins the societies and economies where it intervenes (as in Argentina and Africa for example).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Working for the Company

A reader of this blog commented that I really needed to listen to yesterday's piece on Hugo Chavez by Tom Gjelten. I went back and listened to it and it's a doozy! I don't know how I missed this fine piece of propaganda.

In his report Gjelten relies heavily on Javier Corrales of Amherst University. Gjelten says that-- according to Corrales-- Chavez needs the price of oil to stay high and "that may be one reason Hugo Chavez has seemed intent lately on stirring up trouble in the Middle East encouraging Iran to stand up to the United States for example and cheering Hezbollah in its war with Israel." I swear this is what was reported--unbelievable! This passes for journalism? If anyone is "stirring up trouble" in the Middle East it is the Oilygarchs occupying the White House. Their warmaking has proven mighty beneficial to Exxon, BP etc.

I remember suffering through Tom Gjelten's "coverage" of Central America (read: cover-up of US crimes there) during the late 80s and jokingly call him "CIA Tom." Well, if Tom's not working for the CIA, he ought to be.

Can You Say National Health Care?

You can, but NPR can't. At least they are reporting on the fact that 46.6 million Americans are without health insurance, but they narrow the spectrum of options to that offered by the compassionate folks at the consumer group Families USA who want to see the estate tax maintained and kids insured and the Libertarian tightwads at the CATO Institute who blame the uninsured for high medical insurance costs. What we don't hear is how all of us are getting gouged by the Health Insurance industry. Just for the record, I pay over $7000 a year for family health care insurance (and my employer kicks in $375 a month to boot!) Yes, that's right, $10,000 a year for health insurance that isn't very good anyway. It would be nice to hear from doctors who know we need a National Health Insurance plan.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Short Stack

On the anniversary of one of the Bush administrations greatest domestic crimes, the negligent homicide of New Orleans, we get to hear NPR's coverage of Bush's visit there today. Introducing the story Robert Siegel mentions that Bush "has been sharply criticized" for his handling of the disaster, and then turns to Audie Cornish for the report. What we get is more of the phony-folksy propaganda of Bush starting his day at Betsie's Pancake House with a "short stack and a promise," telling the waitress, "No Maam (pause) not again" when she asked "Mr. President, are you going to turn your back on me?" We also learn that he was in the front row of the cathedral with Laura for memorial services. Finally we hear that many who traveled in to hear the president "applauded the president's message of rebirth and self-sufficiency."

I'll be sharp here. This is not reporting, this is worthless propaganda--a Bush campaign commercial. I'm tired of hearing NPR state that Bush has been "criticized" or "sharply criticized" with no follow up about why. How about serious reporting? How about accountability? This is the president cum fool who was hiding out on vacation when Katrina struck, who appointed an incompetent boob to run FEMA, who helped starve New Orleans of federal funding, who was informed long before the storm hit that thousands could die because of being too poor or infirm to evacuate, who was informed when the levees broke--and who did NOTHING. And what does NPR serve up? This threadbare hucksterism of Bush as a gee-shucks good guy who eats at pancake diners, says "Yes Maam," and gets applauded for speechifying. Give me a break!

A Category Five Lie

NPR continues the misinformation on Hurricane Katrina. In the opening news summary on morning edition today Carl Castle states that New Orleans was nearly destroyed by a hurricane. This is completely untrue--and is misinformation that is immensly beneficial to the Bush administration. New Orleans was nearly destroyed--not by Katrina--but by the failure of the levees (fault of the Army Corps of Engineers) and the hundreds (about 1500) of people who drowned there died because of the incompetence of the Bush administration and FEMA which ignored researched instructions for evacuating the elderly, sick, and impoverished.

Given that Morning Edition then follows with shallow coverage of Bush's midyear electioneering trip to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, this opening report is indeed frustrating.

Listeners who want to inform theselves should take a look at the LSU Hurricane Center website or listen to yesterday's Democracy Now story by Greg Palast which featured the deputy director of the LSU Center.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Consider the Sources

Javed Iqbal, a man in NYC, is stuck in jail for allegedly conspiring to sell access to al-Manar TV to his customers. Adam Davidson covers this story for NPR by talking to Iqbal's lawyer and Donna Liebermann of the New York ACLU. The lawyer, of course, defends his client, and the ACLU states that it is investigating the case and might well take it on. Neither of these people speak about the substance of al-Manar TV or about Hezbollah. For this viewpoint NPR turns to reactionary, pro-Zionist sources that are worth taking a closer look at.

Davidson interviews Mark Dubowitz (misidentified as Mark Dubinksy). Take a look at Dubowitz' biography where you can find his dishonest article on the Israel wall. Davidson notes that Dubowitz founded the Coalition Against Terrorist Media, but Davidson doesn't tell you anything about who else is behind this pro-Zionist, rightwing organization. If you look at their statement you will see that they were founded by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) (of which Dubowitz is the Chief Operating Officer). Now more interesting than the FDD's website above is their website showing their staff--a real neoliberal/neocon hall of shame: Jeanne Kirkpatrick, William Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Zell Miller, Sen. Joe Libermann, etc.

In the report Davidson plays a clip from al-Manar in which a student on a moderated program (Is it an uncensored talk show?) is apparently (if the translation can even be trusted) spewing virulent, anti-Semitic bile. But where does this snippet come from? It comes from the Middle East Media Research Institute which again is an extreme pro-Zionist organization with a history of unreliable and biased "information." After airing the clip, Davidson mentions in passing that al-Manar is "not like that all the time."

It's a shame to hear such a biased and lopsided report on NPR. People in the US need information on the Middle East that is not provided by apologists for Israel's military actions in the region. Or, if those sources are quoted, they should be clearly identified by their staff, their ideological background, their history, and their connections to governments--foreign and domestic.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Scott Simon's Incredible Shrinking Memory

Today Scott Simon talks to Mike Schuster about events in Iran (particularly the opening of a new nuclear heavy-water facility in Iran). Simon asks Schuster, "Help us remember how we got this far?" That is a great question, but guess how far back Schuster and Simon take us--5 years, 20 years, 50 years? No, just back to the "European" proposal in June...of this year!

Here's a little history lesson for the memory challenged at NPR--a few places that the story of Iran's quest for nuclear weapons might begin: the beginnings of Israel's quest for nuclear weapons (1948!), the overthrow of the democratic government of Iran (1953), or the revelation that Israel possessed a substantial nuclear arsenal (1986), or journalist Seymour Hersh's expose on Israel's nuclear policies (1991).

All right, maybe I'm expecting a bit much to think that NPR might go back as far as 1991! Well, the story could have even picked up at a two more recent dates to help explain why Iran might be pursuing nuclear arms (or might be demanding security guarantees and a declaration of its "right" to enrich uranium.) The story might have begun with Bush's threatening "Axis of Evil" speech of 2002 -- at a time when the political movement in Iran was toward moderation and reapproachment. Lastly the story could have begun with the Iranian offer in 2003 to put all its cards on the table and make a deal that would have included recognition of Israel, cutting ties to Hezbollah, etc.

One can see that to begin the story at any of these points in history actually puts the story in a more meaningful context--and puts US policy toward Iran in a far less favorable light: something NPR seems to be incapable of doing.

No Virginia, There is No War on Terror

It would be a great step forward for NPR (and all other news outlets) to stop referring to the "war on terror" as if it were an undisputed term. It is powerful pro-militarist propaganda to report on the "war on terror" as if it were a war in the pattern of more conventional wars such as World War II, the Korean War, or Russia's War in Chechnya.

There are several good reasons why news outlets should refer to it as "the so-called war on terror." As for the US, there has never been a Cnstitutional declaration of war and since part of the so-called war on terror is an assault on Constitutional liberties this is significant. Second, there is no end that can be assertained in the "war on terror" and so it might as well be called the "endless war" which has serious implications for its growth, spread and detriment to progressive values and liberties. Finally, there is a strong case to be made that not only is the US-led "war on terror" not doing anything significant to improve US security, but is in fact dramatically increasing the growth of non-state terrorism and making the US less secure.

And so it was that this morning it really got under my skin (again) to hear the piece on NPR discussing the threat of the Internet in the "US-led war on terror."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pat Tillman and the Big Lie

NPR talks about the infamous death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman. He was the NFL star who joined the military after 9/11 and then was killed in Afghanistan. His death was quickly seized on as a conservative's pro-war advertising extravaganza, while the circumstances of his death by friendly fire (and his own frustration at the Bush project for Iraq) were covered up.

If you were listening to tonight's piece on NPR you might think that the main problem was just with a mixed-up Army policy on reporting the deaths of soldiers in which the wrong information emerges from the messy circumstances of war and combat (and the uncomfortable situation of reporting "friendly fire" deaths). What tonight's story doesn't do is put the Tillman death (and the death of two soldiers killed by Iraqi infiltrators they were training) in context. The context is one in which the Bush administration and Pentagon have gone out of their way to lie and misinform about the "war on terror" and in which the MSM (including NPR) have often gone along as dupes. This is yet another missed opportunity where NPR could have done a really significant piece, but instead opted for a more shallow and uninformative report. For a fine article on the misinformation war see this article by Ramzy Baroud.

Ted Koppel's Been Thinking

Wouldn't it be great if NPR could find a news analyst who would really go out on a limb and challenge conventional thinking and mainstream ideas on issues of foreign policy. Instead they recently signed on Ted Koppel, who is by no means the worst of commentators, but.... I remember the Reagan years and watching Nightline occasionally back then: I don't ever recall any significant information coming out about US support for torture and death squads in Central America (even though I knew about it) and I certainly don't recall any serious critiques of Israel's previous invasion and slaughter of Lebanese back in the 80's on Nightline either. So I cringed when Ted Koppel's piece was introduced by telling me that he had "been thinking" about the recent crisis in Lebanon. I was right to be cautious:
  • "In the worst of all possible worlds, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah will order his Hezbollah fighters into military hibernation over the winter. No more rocket attacks on Israel, no more cross border raids. Instead, the Party of God will burnish its reputation as the social conscience and savior of Lebanon, while Iran and Syria collaborate in replenishing its supply of short- and medium-range rockets."
So begins Koppel's piece on Lebanon. Well, I have a few even "worst of all possible worlds" scenarios for Mr. Koppel: 1. Bush, Cheney, et. al will continue (as Koppel does) to lay all the blame at Hezbollah, Iran and Syria's door and use this misinformation to launch a war on Iran and/or Syria, or 2. Israel will launch airstrikes on Iran, or 3. Israel will attack Hezbollah with another precision operation like this summer's where they displaced about a quarter of the population, destroyed major infrastructure and killed about a thousand civilians.

Well you get the picture....but I don't know if NPR ever will.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Schorr and Schorrer

Someone needs to tell Dan Schorr to do a little research before offering his threadbare ramblings on Iran. It's really sad to hear him disgrace himself as he prepares the ground for a US war against Iran. His ideas on Iran are about as thoughtful of those of our proud to be stupid president. He posits Iran's success of late (a success of which a respected British research group seems to concur) on Iran's active planning and scheming (they urged Hezbollah to start a war against Israel, after all--in Schorr's world of make believe). He fails to give any of the credit to our own cadre of bumbling, ignorant and violent religious extremists holding court in Washington. Could Iran's political successes of late have anything to do with the US invading Iraq, or helping Israel dismantle Lebanon's civil society? Not in Schorr-world. According to Schorr there is a battle going on between radical Islam (=Iran) and democracy (=US), and radical Islam has the upper hand. What a sad and simple-minded assessment of the many strands of politics, religion, culture, extremism, and violence that are now tangled up in the Middle East.

Can't Touch That

An interesting trend I've noticed on NPR is that an intriguing bit of information will come up during a report or interview (a bit of information that sheds light on one of the most significant aspects of a story) and there will be no follow up investigation or questioning on that point.
This morning offered a good example: NPR is interviewing a Marine captain who thinks he may soon be reactivated from the Marine Reserves and sent to Iraq. He mentions, in passing, that the reserves are meant to be used for "national emergencies" not troop shortages in an ongoing conflict.

Hmmm...a president who is misusing the military reserves to pursue a failed policy in order to save his political reputation and that of his party: Now that's a story! Follow-up or comment from NPR? Not a bit.

Evil Iran

Today's interview with a Tehran-based reporter, Gareth Smyth from the Financial Times is illustrative of the inherent bias in the hosts of Morning Edition. Renee Montagne was questioning the reporter about yesterday's response from the Iranian government regarding the Security Council's demands that Iran halt uranium enrichment and the EU/US/China/Russian offer of incentives for such suspension. In every question Montagne's implication was that Iran's negotiating strategy was guided by sinister motives. She asked if Iran's proposal yesterday wasn't meant to just split off the Russians and Chinese from the US/EU consensus. She also wondered if Iran isn't just trying to stall for time before economic sanctions might be imposed.

Her guest was a bit more balanced in his responses and didn't take her leads to "bash" Iran, and noticiably the interview ended without ever questioning the complexities of the issue that her guest kept referring to.

There is no problem with inquiring about possible subterfuges that any side in a conflict might be engaging in--it's just that NPR generally focuses on only on the party that the US government has identified as the "enemy" or the the "problem." This interview would have been an excellent time to discuss the maneuverings and dishonesty of the US actions during this "crisis" (for example, US demands on Iran, while ignoring Israel's huge nuclear arsena or the US insisting on a "non-starter" such as immediate suspension of enrichment verses an increased inspections regimine--or, God forbid, direct talks between the US and Iran.)

Given that there is mounting evidence that the US is planning a military strike on Iran, NPR owes it to listeners to probe all aspects of this conflict--not just the angle of the State Department, Pentagon and Bush administration.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How News Is Born

ATC today allows an unintended look into the machinations of the US propaganda machine. NPR interviews Sarah Chayes, a former NPR Afghanistan reporter who is now running a self-help program in Khandahar.

During the interview Chayes describes how during the downfall of the Taliban in late fall 2001, she ended up reporting a completely bogus story supplied by the US government. The story claimed that a fierce battle was waged by local forces in Kandahar against the Taliban--though she later learned it was a complete fabrication meant for consumption back in the US.

The focus of the piece was on the failure of US policy in Afghanistan and especially the supposed role of Pakistan in supporting former Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan which was interesting. But I found myself wondering two things. First, why should I trust Chayes information and deductions now--given that she had been so misled and misinformed before. And most importantly--how many other stories on NPR have been nothing but US government planted stories?

Unfortunately these two questions were never addressed in the piece?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Warmed Over Chile - 1973 Style

Listen to Julie McCarthy's piece on Venezuela at your peril. It is a completely lopsided, ahistorical look at Venezuela's military build-up. This report might well have been written in the offices of the US State Department or Pentagon. It presents Chavez as a dictator in the making filled with paranoid delusions that the US wants to attack or overthrow him militarily. NPR conveniently fails to mention that the last coup against Chavez had US fingerprints all over it!

I listened to this sad bit of propaganda and thought if it were the Spring of 1973, I'd be hearing NPR warn us about the threatening government of Salvador Allende and his paranoia of the US and CIA. They'd be contrasting his dictatorial style with the US friendly military juntas in Brazil and Nicaragua--but NPR didn't exist in 1973 and so now they are making up for a lost opportunity by doing the journalistic "dirty work" on Venezuela.

We've Won the War on Terrorism!

Declare victory, suggests James Fallows, renowned journalist of the Atlantic Monthly this morning on NPR. This report is interesting and highlights a lot of the problems with NPR's "coverage" of the "war on terror." Fallows does mention in passing that papers seized by the US indicate that the attacks of 9/11 were predicated on Osama Bin Laden's belief that the US political system was so bankrupt that many of our cherished ideals would be trashed and the US would launch punitive, disproportionate warfare against mainly Muslim "enemies" and find itself in a quagmire of sorts that would benefit radical, terrorist activism. Sounds to me like Fallows is congratulating the wrong side on "victory."

Besides that valuable bit of information, Fallows swallows (!) the whole the idea that there is a legitimate "war on terror" and that it has been successful! He qualifies it by stating that what has been acheived is a significant weakening of al-Qaeda "central" as a force capable of launching a terrorist attack against the US on the scale of 9/11. Well...

However there are several gross misteps in his analysis. First he posits that "political violence" is the domain of terrorist groups and is something that the "developed world just has learned to live with. This ignores that the developed world is a significant participant in violence that targets civilians--the US / Israeli assault on Lebanon being only the most recent obvious example.

Fallows also has nothing--absolutely nothing--to say in this interview about the violent, militaristic, anti-democratic policies of the US since WWII that have fostered the conditions of terrorism (the pond in which terrorist "fish" swim to use his metaphor).

Fallows and Liane Hansen rehash the canard that Israel (unlike the US) does face terrorist threats to its existence and is therefore excused for its militaristic aggression. This, by the way, helps undercut the power of Jamie Tarabay's moving report from Lebanon.

I don't have a problem with NPR interviewing Fallow's on his Atlantic Monthly story, but they should be much more challenging in the analysis. Who specifically were his "expert sources" and why see Iraq as any kind of aberration? Also what about Afghanistan as a "success" even before this past spring and summer?

Instead NPR goes along with the nonsense that US policy has helped stop terrorism, when any thinking individual would at least wonder if that policy hasn't helped create a far vaster pool of potential terrorists and --especially in Iraq-- provided them with weapons, training, skills, and a cause that someone like Bin Laden could have only dreamed of before 9/11.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sorry Steve Not Everyone Is Gungho for War

Today was an interesting case where a NPR has a guest on who is more thoughtful and unbiased than the interviewer thought he would be. Steve Inskeep interviews Vali Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, and asks him if Iran didn't in fact cause the latest war in Lebanon. Nasr hedges his answer, noting that Hezbollah was preparing for some kind of Israeli invasion/assault. When that tack didn't pay off, Inskeep then asks if Bush isn't right in asserting that if Iran had a nuclear bomb things in the region would be unnacceptable. Nasr doesn't take the bait, and instead notes that, if anything, a nuclear Iran would shift the balance of power and perhaps have a restraining effect on violence in the region (remember deterrence?). Credit goes to Nasr for not being a dupe for Inskeep's obvious agenda of stirring up the US public to a frenzy of Iranaphobia--something NPR seems to be encouraging of late.

One New Yorker Writer

When I saw that ATC yesterday interviewed a New Yorker writer about Lebanon I thought, "Better late than never; at least now they are talking to Seymour Hersh." How wrong I was. Instead we are given a serious helping of misinformation from Jeffery Goldberg on how "very, very very radical," terrorist and anti-Semitic Hezbollah is--and how peaceful and well behaved Israel has been since leaving Lebanon in 2000. According to Goldberg, Israel didn't even know that Hezbollah was massing arms! There is nothing in this report revealing the barbarity of the Israeli forces during their occupation of Lebanon from 1982-2000 (slaughter, torture, destruction, etc.). Nothing about how Israel was driven from Lebanon by Hezbollah. Nothing suggesting that Hezbollah is not a "terrorist" organization in that it has not carried out typical terror activities for over ten years.

Seems like NPR is again helping soften up the public for the next phase of gettting a war on--see you in Tehran!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Road Rage and Convictions

NPR often talks about "driveway moments"-- its stories that are so engaging that you can't get out of the car until they're done. I'd suggest a collection of "road rage" stories -- ones that are so biased and distorted that they make you want to pull the car over and scream "Enough!" I had one of those today hearing Rob Gifford's rather perverse adulation over the noble "convictions" of that great liar and war criminal across the pond, Tony Blair.

In light of the Downing Street Memo and other leaked documents, it is clear that Blair - like Bush - is a calculating liar, and that in the service of one of international law's greatest crimes, a crime against the peace, aggressive war.

In a real rhetorical twist of logic Gifford notes that Blair was intitially seen as being like Bill Clinton -- a creature who based decisions on polls and focus group studies. He then notes that the Iraq war unveiled the nobler Blair, a man of convictions and integrity (like Bush!) who was willing to go against "popular opinion" to support a war he believed in. This is astounding and thoroughly dishonest. To compare poll-watching political maneuvering (which for Blair and Clinton was always serving establishment interests) to the blatant anti-democratic actions of Blair in ignoring literally millions-in-the-street public protests and overwhelming public and "expert" disapproval of the war against Iraq is really grotesque.

Also, to describe the arrogant, dishonest, and self-serving delusions of Bush and Blair as convictions is contempuous of even the most basic ethical codes of human behavior. Ironically, Blair and Bush should have convictions -- in an international criminal court of law!

And yes, Blair rolled the political dice in supporting the Bush war machine and has lost the gamble (along with hundreds of thousands of human lives), but his actions are not contradictory to his New Labor politics, which are decidedly right-wing in nature. Only in our own narrow and debased political universe could someone like Rob Gifford describe (without irony) the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as being left-of-center. What center--the Liebermann, Limbaugh, Berlusconi center of politics?

Darby Truncated

Credit is due to NPR for interviewing the Abu Ghraib whistleblower, Joe Darby--but the really damning details of the story were never investigated. I found it frustrating that right at the start of the interview, when Darby mentions that humilation and abuse was already ongoing when his unit arrived, Michele Norris does not follow up on this. This after all belies the Bushists alibi that it was a few "bad apples on the night shift" and indicates that the torture and abuse was more systematic.

It was interesting to me to note that Darby still had two weeks in the military as of the interview--I hope NPR will revisit him after he is fully discharged, when he might be freer to speak of the culpability of higher-ups.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Parable

Morning Edition today unintentionally offers a parable for our nation. Listen to the piece on the woman who married into the Mob--her book is called Divorced from the Mob. Her story makes a perfect parable for our nation (which we all know is ruled by homicidal kleptomaniacs). I loved when she spoke about Mob wives "not knowing" the killings their husbands were doing; she says, "We knew."
This morning Tom Gjelten continues NPR's Castro "deathwatch" coverage of Cuba. The theme of today's story is wonder at why Cuban's won't rise up in revolt when Castro passes away. Maybe Cubans are smarter than their peers here in the US, and look at other US-assisted "free" states in the region. Perhaps they look at #1 and #2 countries, Haiti and Nicaragua respectively--oh, and that's #1 and #2 in poverty.

As in previous posts, I am not apologizing for the dictatorial police-state of Castro's Cuba--just suggesting that US "help" has a history of making human rights horribly worse, while making poverty blossom!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Vintage Bush - Drink Up

On ATC we get to hear David Greene recount Dear Leader's weighing in with his intellectual gifts and oratorical prowess on the ceasefire in Lebanon. Here's how it breaks down according to Bush: team-USA/Israel WON! Lebanon--like Iraq and Afghanistan--is another victory in the war on terror! Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are completely to blame! Freedom and democracy are on the march! As Greene says, "It was vintage Bush."

It's the Frickin' Forest

The big story today is that the last month of Israel's slaughter of Lebanon was brought to us by the Washington neocons as another cakewalk, slam-dunk, runup to the big Friday night game against Iran. The story was broken by the esteemed and accurate investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker magazine (someone needs to nominate this guy for the Nobel Peace Prize!).

Meanwhile NPR continues its "Gameday" coverage of the ceasefire: how many rockets, numbers of troops, hours of the ceasefire, etc. Perhaps they will get on the phone to Seymour Hersh before day's end--we'll see. In the meantime skip NPR and watch/listen to today's Democracy Now!'s extended interview with Hersh--you won't be disappointed.

A few other news outlets around the world also considered the Hersh story newsworthy enough to include in their coverage, for example CBS, ABC, and Arutz Sheva of Israel!

Making Up News and Numbers

Steve Inskeep continues his dismal performance on NPR this morning. In reporting on the ceasefire in Lebanon and northern Israel he sums up the horror show of the last month by stating, "34 days of warfare have devastated much of south Lebanon, left northern Israel in shambles – about 900 people have been killed." This is so incredibly biased and sloppy that it deserves mention. First, the Israeli airforce has devastated ALL of Lebanon not just much of the south [consider this BBC assessment after just two weeks of the air assault]. Then to contextually balance this with the statement about "northern Israel in shambles" is grotesque [again let me emphasize that I consider Hezbollah's rocket attacks on Israeli civilian cities a war crime and if we lived in a world with any semblance of justice Nasrallah and Olmert (and the entire military leadership of Israel) would be cellmates in the Hague right about now.] Lastly, where does Inskeep get the figure of 900 people from? I recall 900 being bandied about a week or so ago--and each day since then there have been many more killings of civilians and - of course - combatants. For better information on casualties I'd suggest these sites at Wikipedia or

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's Been a Robust Summer, Don't You Think?

Have you noticed that the latest word-of-the-month seems to be "robust"? It has struck me that lately on the news there's a lot of talk about "robust responses," "robust peace keeping forces," etc. Do a quick search of robust on NPR to see what I mean.
It would be interesting to know what all the Lebanese dead civilians felt about the robust Israeli self-defense. Or how inmates at Qitmo or Abu Gharaib like our robust hospitality?
I wonder if the mainstream media will describe al-Qaeda's next massacre as a "robust" operation? I kind of doubt it!
It's interesting to note how certain words find their way into the "news" vocabulary. Earlier in the year it struck me that I heard the words "vetted" and "vetting" more frequently than at any time before or since.

Our Best and Brightest

The "Best and the Brightest" of course was used to describe the Kennedy-Johnson schemers and plotters (esp. Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy) who brought us mass murder in Indochina. Today NPR interviews James Mann who's book, Rise of the Vulcans investigates the history of today's murderous foreign policy masterminds working in the White House. A helpful review of the book by Martin Sief appeared in in which he calls it the "'Best and the Brightest'-lite" noting that Mann takes an oddly respectful and detached view of his subjects. Today's interview on NPR, focusing on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's role in the Lebanon and other Middle East disasters of this administration, finds Mann again taking a strangely respectful tone. For instance, Debbie Eliot asks Mann about how Rice's infamous "birth pangs" description of the Israeli devastation of Lebanon played in the Middle East, and he responds that her "comments came at the time of the outbreak of war, so in the Middle East it was taken as meaning that the 'New Middle East' meant more and greater violence. That s not what she intended but it was the wrong time to say it." How convenient that Mann knows what she intended and can defend her, whereas any thinking individual might conclude that that's exactly what she meant and intended. After all, at that point in the war Israel had already pulverized Lebanon's infrastructure and killed hundreds of civilians and Rice was purposely blocking any ceasefire so that Israel could continue its rampage. That was the stated policy--at least on this planet!

Mann concludes the interview by indirectly criticizing Sec. Rice for not engaging with Iran and Syria more directly, but he fully swallows the complete B.S. of team-Bush wanting to spread democracy in the Middle East: "she’s going to have to engage in some tough bargaining and some tough talk both with America’s allies—like Israel—and also with people the United States, with governments it doesn’t agree with including possibly Syria or Iran.....she’s going to have to talk…without giving speeches about democracy in the Middle East, that s not going to help, that’s a worthy cause, but not something she’s going to help by preaching on."

Sounds Like Hiding Among Civilians to Me

Do a quick search of "hiding"+"Hezbollah"+"civilians" on NPR's web site and you'll see a lot of airtime has been given to the frequently specious claim that Hezbollah uses civilians as a cover for its operations (It is always interesting to me when an aggressor nation invades another nation's civilian areas and then carps about resistance coming from civilian areas). However today's report from Linda Gradstein from northern Israel is really quite interesting for reasons that I'm sure were unintended. Her report focuses on the massing of Israeli reserve forces in northern Israeli towns near the Lebanese border. The story features the seamless interaction of military operations with the use of civilian homes and facilities in Israel. Soldiers camp out in towns before moving into battle in Lebanon and then return and use homes for rest, supplies, showers, etc. Yet I didn't hear one word in this report about "blending in among civilians" or "using civilian shields." Could there be a double-standard afoot? BTW the photo is of armed Israeli "settlers" not those dreaded Hezbollah militants.

Thanks for the Laughs

In a time when world events are highlighting the disasters of the Bush administration and he continues to say stupid things like "get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over" or
"this nation is at war with Islamic fascists", NPR entertains us with an interview with Kenneth Walsh (graphic image warning--only for strong stomachs). Walsh has written a book on presidential retreats. One might expect to hear about our "vacation President" and especially last summer's Crawford adventures of our Boy Emperor hiding from Cindy and playing rancher while Rome burned (drowned)--but instead we get to hear G.W. compared to the first G.W. chilling out at slave central (Mt. Vernon), Lincoln retreating from the pressures of his civil war, or FDR seeking respite from running the war against an earlier Axis of evil. You've got to love NPR's unwitting, twisted sense of humor!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Join Us for Another Successful Military Attack!

All right, NPR's Tom Bowman has jumped in with both feet to help construct the next Washington warmongers military adventure--this time in Iran. He talks to some choice individuals (Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle) and presents some real pearls of misinformation. Here are a few of the really shining moments from this "journalist":

  • Regarding the debate in the US government about Iran he says, "nowhere is that debate as intense as at the Pentagon which would be called upon should diplomatic efforts fail at the State Department." Notice how this assumes it as a given that war should follow if Iran refuses to stop uranium enrichment.
  • Referrring the thuggish Perle and Gingrich he states, "Gingrich and other Pentagon advisors including Richard Perle are calling for covert support for democratic groups in Iraq" [interesting--he meant to say Iran]. Suggesting that Perle and Gingrich support any democratic groups is like suggesting the Klan supports activists for racial harmony.
  • Bowman continues the lie that the nasty Iranian president has "has publicly called for destruction of the Jewish state." This is a mistranslation.
  • Noting that a one-time Israeli strike on Iran would not stop its nuclear development he says, "a one time strike would do little to halt Iran’s nuclear program…that means an effective military attack on Iran could only be done by the Americans—cruise missles fired from ships, B-2 warplanes hammering Iranian nuclear facilities..." Like our other successful military attack on Iraq! If this isn't cheerleading for war on Iran what is?
  • Bowman continues the complete nonsense that Iran is helping the insurgency in Iraq. Any fool knows that Iran is helping the Shiite parties in Iran, but has no interest in helping the Sunni insurgency. Bowman states, "Gingrich says there are deep divisions…the defense department he says is at the very least eager to cut off the growing Iranian help to Iraqi insurgents."
This is disgraceful reporting at best. And notice again that NPR offers NO historical context to the issue--even something as recent as Iran's peace offers in 2003.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Doing Backflips for the Homeland

Michele Norris interviews Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. This is a fascinating study of how NPR bends over backwards to avoid the obvious questions at the heart of the so-called War on Terror.

Chertoff states: "I also have to point out that some of these plots are what we call home-grown plots where people are radicalizing themselves over the Internet or in small groups and the larger question is, you know, What do we do about the increased radicalization of some people into an ideology of terror and hatred, and that is a much more fundamental study which we are undertaking with a great deal of energy and a great deal of urgency."

At this point the OBVIOUS follow-up question, the friggin' elephant-in-the-living-room question would be, "With all due respect Mr. Secretary, aren't these people being radicalized by the US invasion/occupation of Iraq, the one-sided backing of the US for Israel's assault on Gaza and Lebanon, and the refusal of the US to insist on Israel giving up settlements in the West Bank? I mean that is what the London train bombers of last summer stated."

But instead Norris takes an even more militaristic tack than Chertoff! She asks, "Well I guess that goes to the question of how you actually vanquish this threat, because unless you can actually weaken their ability to plan and to plot and to pay for these events, it seems like you're engaged in almost like a game of 'Whack a mole' just trying to knock them down when they come up with these plots."

To which Chertoff, of course replies, "You're exactly right.....that psychology of what makes a person convert from an ordinary individual into a suiced bomber is I think at the core of a longer term strategy to winning here--which is worth a great deal of study and discussion. "

And Now the Hard Questions

This morning Cory Flintoff reports on the US-made nightmare called Iraq. He interviews a goldsmith from Baghdad who was kidnapped by men in a police uniform in a police vehicle, who thought he'd be worth a lot of money, and when that failed tried to sell him to insurgents.

Interesting enough, but how about NPR confronting some of the hucksters of our Iraq adventure with this situation. I seem to recall Rumsfeld trumpeting how great US training of Iraqi troops and policemen was going not so long ago. Why not call up the Pentagon and ask them about the infiltration of the security forces? Why not ask about our policy of creating death squads in Iraq (the so-called Salvador Option--see my previous post).

It's interesting to see the shift in coverage on Iraq of late. There is more coverage of the disaster that Iraq has become--but without identifying those responsible (starting with Bush and working down).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dumbing Us Down

I had to hear Tom Gjelten describe Hezbollah and al-Qaeda as "rival terrorist organizations." Well, isn't that a convenient, simple-minded distortion favoring US and Israeli war-makers. Before the Israeli's assault on Lebanon, just how many civilians had Hezbollah killed in say the last ten years? Hardly any, and those were in missile exchanges with Israel. To compare Hezbollah with al-Qaeda--which aimss specifically for mass casualty civilian targets in belligerent states-- is ridiculous.

So far all of NPR's coverage about the airline terrorism plot foiled by the British authorities has focused on surface issues (how many people, what are the new regulations, how would bombs be made, etc.). I keep waiting for that forbidden question: "Why?" That is the question that we are not allowed to consider. Why exactly are these terrorists targeting US/UK airlines? What are their complaints/demands/grievances? It is interesting to compare the coverage of the US/Israeli destruction of civilians and civilian targets with the coverage of terrorist operations. When it is the US/Israel destroying civilian targets all we hear about is "stopping terrorists," "establishing security" and "self-defense" as if legitimate aims justify terrorist tactics. Yet we almost never hear about the motives or platforms of non-state terrorist organizations unless it is some nonsense from US officials about their "hating freedom" or "hating our way of life."

Shouldn't there be one standard of ethics applied equally to all parties in a conflict?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Uninformed Balance with Guy Raz

Yesterday and today NPR's All Things Considered presented views from the Arab and Jewish communities around Dearborn, Michigan. This could have been a great opportunity to present the ugly facts of Israel's war on Lebanon and to ask some hard questions of all people interviewed. In Tuesday's report Raz talks to Lebanese and Arab Americans about the war. Raz says, "the conflict that has left parts of Lebanon in ruins has had immesurable impact on this community...but it has also coarsened some of the rhetoric in this city...." Raz then questions Osama Siblani of The Arab American News about Hezbollah's designation by the State Department as a terrorist organization and asks, "Would you agree?" to which he says, "I totally disagree the terrorist in here is the Bush administration." Is this the coarsened rhetoric? Raz also focuses on the anger of some Lebanese who compare Israel's actions with Nazi Germany. Why instead doesn't he focuse on the substance of war crime activities that Israel is doing? Why no hard numbers: about 1,000 civilians killed, over a million (one quarter of the Lebanese population) displaced (cleansed), massive infrastructure destroyed.

Today's report has Raz speaking to the Jewish community near Dearborn. Raz asks none of the Jewish people inteviewed if they support "collective punishment" or complete forced depopulation of civilian areas, or blockades of humanitarian relief, etc. Instead he focuses on issues of "self defense," Holocaust memories, and repeating the lie that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." (a gross mistranlation)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Jackie Northam for Rice and Bush

Jackie Northam reports on the UN Resolution on Lebanon crafted by the US and France. In describing this resolution Northam states that it addresses the "root cause" of the problem. Any rational person might ask, "Oh, you mean Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, and the nuclear weapons possessed by Israel, and the Lebanese prisoners that Israel still holds, and the violations of Lebanese airspace that Israel has committed regularly since 2000, and the US flooding the region with weapons, and the US agression in Iraq, and etc. etc.... No, not in NPRspeak: the root cause is....Hezbollah--what a surprise!

For an informed historical perspective on the Lebanon, Hezbollah, Israel issue I'd recommend readers to see this commentary from the Guardian Unlimited [UK]. It represents the kind of complex, informative coverage that we should be getting from NPR.

Gaza Forgotten?

Despite the Israeli assault on Lebanon, the IDF continues its crimes against Palestinians in Gaza with almost no coverage from NPR (and the rest of the MSM). For an excellent update on the situation visit this post from Helena Cobban's blog, Just World News. Cobban is a Contributing Editor of the Boston Review, a columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, and an independent scholar. (She is one of those creatures--a scholar/writer/analyst with a sharp mind, a big heart and conscience).

Good Counterpoint to Juan Williams

After my post lamenting Juan Williams yesterday (see below), I'll recommend NPR's interview this morning with Cory Booker, the new mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He represents neither the pro-Establishment views of Williams, nor a traditional civil rights approach, but more of a historically informed pragmatism. This is refreshing since many NPR debates offer a narrow right vs. right center framework. It will be interesting to see who else NPR interviews for this Black Leadership series.

Watson Keeps It Real

Once again praise is due to Ivan Watson for his humane reporting on the impact of the war on civilians in Lebanon. Yesterday on ATC he gave a poignant audio piece on the rescue of a teen from the rubble of a pancaked apartment building. NPR also deserves credit for airing Watson's stories.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sexual Perversity In Iraq

John Hendren reports from Iraq today. It was a strange piece to say the least: after describing atrocities committed by Shiite extremists to enforce severe sexual repression, and other more typical atrocities he says, "but I've also been inspired by a soldier who agreed to an interview with a bullet in his leg; by American military surgeons who operated side by side on an Iraqi policeman and an Iraqi insurgent; and Iraqis who've returned to work with us despite death threats kidnappings and slain relatives."

There's nothing wrong on the face of it about reporting on the sexual repression of fanatic Shiites who kill a grocer for displaying vegetables in a way that only a pervert could see as "erotic" or kill a sheperd for not covering the privates of his goats. But what's the point? And then to contrast it with the oh-so-noble US soldier and military surgeons and Iraqis who work with "us." To me it smacks of the "Aren't we so civilized and aren't these people so barbaric and bizarre that in spite of trying to help them and democratize them, it's hopeless" argument.

Watching the Iraq War spiral deeper and deeper into failure for the US, I'm always watching and wondering who will be blamed for the failure. You can almost be certain that on NPR it won't be the criminal masterminds at the top of our government or their whole violent, arrogant, greedy project for Iraq that will be held to account.

Juan Williams' Sloppy Attack

I've sometimes wondered what's up with Juan Williams. His project on the Civil Rights Movement, Eyes on the Prize, is powerful and inspiring, but when I hear his remarks on NPR or on PBS news I'm often struck by how pro-establishment he seems. Today, offers a clue of what's up. NPR says that this week it's "sampling the debate over African American leadership," and begins the series with Juan Williams assailing current African American leaders as "delighting in victimhood." Williams' piece is provocative. After describing the heroics of the Civil Rights Movement, he contrasts today's leadership as "a generation of leadership that somehow delights in victimhood," offering "conpiracy theories…wrapped in this cloak of victimhood..." He claims that current African American leadership "defends negative disfunctional behavior" giving the interesting example of African Americans who ask, "Why is there a lesser penalty for powdered cocaine than for crack cocaine instead of saying don’t do" either drug. (I found this an interesting example because it is a question that goes to the heart of the current prison-industrial complex and "drug war" policy that has criminalized a huge portion of the Black community.)

The most disturbing thing though about Williams' piece was its utter lack of details. Who are all the voices of victimhood that he denounces. Only Al Sharpton's name comes up. And what about the incredibly short-lived life of affirmative action and the roll-back of civil rights that really got rolling with Reagan? What about the complete destruction of more militant African American leaders by the police and government in the 60's (e.g. Fred Hampton)?

I don't object to raising thorny issues about problems in the African American community--but where is the contextual perpective?

Williams did have a few details that hint where his loyalties lie. When asked what Black leaders are "getting it right" he cites Sen. Barak Obama, Colin Powell, and Dick Parsons (CEO of AOL/Time Warner)--deconstruct that! I can tell you as an Illinois progressive that Obama is a pathetic disappointment supporting the war in Iraq, hawkish on Iran, and hawkish for Israel. Powell (UN liar and Vietnam cover-up man) has surely disgraced himself in his salesmanship for the Bush project in Iraq and the Middle East, and then Parsons [helped with Bush's Social Security Commission] the head of a mega-media conglomerate (we know how democratic and progressive they are!). Yes, Williams wants self-empowerment all right--but only if it's cozied up with those in power--regardless of what wrongs they are committing.

We'll see if this NPR "series" offers any progressive voices from the African American community.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

When You Vote for Terror...

The title of this post comes from the title of tonight's piece on NPR's website--which they post with no sense of irony. NPR interviews Noah Feldman, a quasi-liberal apologist for US foreign policy (see his publications). As with other mainstream media outlets NPR continues the tradition of arguing that there are rules that should apply to everyone else in the world (except for the US and our closest allies) -- a particularly destructive form of American Exceptionalism.

There were two gems in this interview. Implicitly blaming the Palestinians and the Lebanese for being hammered by indiscriminate Israeli violence Feldman makes the following two statements:

  • "...if you elect a government that's hostile to us or to our allies, we're just not going to deal with that government; we’re going to treat you as a hostile state. The message there is that democracy is just fine, but there's no excuse-making for the public when they've elected democratically a government that goes out and breaks international law or that violates the borders of its neighbors...."

  • "people do not take responsibilty for what their governments do. They point the finger they say well my government did this but I don't support my government's policies or it's unfair to attack my country because we really didn't do this just our government did it but if you've actually elected the government then you have to be prepared to take responsibility for what it does. That doesn’t mean that civilians can be targeted—of course that's wrong—nobody should target civilians on either side and if anyone does it’s a clear violation of international law."

State Department Reporting on Cuba

NPR is worse than worthless on the Cuba story (please see my two recent posts regarding NPR and Cuba: Aug. 3, 2006 and Aug. 4, 2006). NPR might as well just republish propaganda from the State Department instead of pretending to provide information. Today NPR promises to cover "the history and evolution of US relations with Cuba" by interviewing, Daniel Erikson, the Director of Caribbean Programs at the Inter-American Dialogue. Erikson's earlier paper about Cuba is fairly interesting reading in terms of Cuban economic policies in the 1990s and beyond, but in this interview the history of Cuba is reduced to the following: US is good; Castro came to power during Eisenhower's presidency and nationalized Cuban industry and property proving he was a bad communist who has to go. Nothing about Eisenhower's villanous role in overthrowing elected governments in Iran and Guatelmala and installing torture regimes in their place (which had to give the Castro government pause). Nothing about US-organized sabatoge, assasination, and terrorist attacks against Cuba over the years. And nothing about the bloody history of the US in Latin America.

What is sad is that NPR could use the current events in Cuba to investigate the complexities of Cuba: its dismal human rights record, the success of its medical and public education system, its emergency preparedness successes, and of course the violent crimes by the US against Cuba and horrific crimes against South and Central America by the US and especially by the current crop of criminals running the executive branch of our government.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

War Crimes or War Crimes Lite : a Phony Debate

I thought I might have to eat my words when I heard NPR's ATC state that they were going to debate the issue of possible "war crimes" in the conflict in Lebanon. Instead NPR lowers its journalistic credibility another notch by pulling the con of having two people who only disagree on minor points while fully endorsing the major goals and strategies of US-Israeli foreign policy. The two notables are Major General Robert Scales, Jr., USA (Ret.)--former commandant of the Army War College--and Professor Sir Adam Roberts. In this debate the neither of these "experts" can call Israel's actions war crimes, and basically agree that Hezbollah is the villain and responsible for the devastation being wrought on Lebanon. Sir Roberts comes out as the liberal who does gently question the bombing of the power plant, relief convoys, and the Qana building. And both do discuss how Israel's actions may be tactically unwise.

Has NPR heard of Richard Falk? His name came up on NPR one time back in 2002 when he "supported" the US attack on Afghanistan as just. Maybe they could bring him back again, although he might not fit into NPR's pro-US slant on this conflict (or the Occupied Territories or the war in Iraq).

Air Assault!

No, this is not about the Israeli methodical destruction of Lebanon, but was in the top of the hour newscast on Sunday's All Things Considered with Craig Windham in which we are told "President Bush went mountain biking at his Texas ranch in 100 degree heat today; as he started one major climb he shouted 'Air assault!' Mr. Bush’s heart rate shot up to 177 beats a minute at the top." That was the whole story. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!

Schorr and Simon Waste Airtime

Dan Schorr and Scott Simon bounce around the current crises in the Middle East with remarkable lies and ignorance. Both seem surprised that civil war may be occuring in Iraq. Schorr tries to imply that the US Military was not lying back six months ago when it asserted that Iraq was nowhere near civil war.

A simple Google search of "civil war constitution" on Juan Cole's Informed Comment page reveals several pertinent facts: last summer's US-rushed Iraqi constitution nearly guaranteed civil war. As Juan Cole wrote on August 12, 2005: "And thus, this rush to a constitution, mainly for the benefit of the Bush administration, which wants it done so Bush can gracefully begin exiting next year in time to affect the 2006 congressional races, is highly unwise. It may well contribute to the outbreak of a civil war in the future in Iraq." You'd also see that Cole was describing the conflict in Iraq as an "unconventional civil war" in July of 2005.

Then onto Lebanon where Schorr and Simon continue the big lie that the US has been working overtime to find an end to the conflict--it just wants it to be "sustainable." This is pure nonsense; the stalling by the US in preventing a ceasefire has had nothing to do with "sustainable" peace, but has been a policy decision to allow Israel to complete the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure and punish the civilians of Lebanon with the supposed goal of destroying Hezbollah. Even CBS news noted on July 25th that Sec. of State Rice in meetings in Lebanon was "repeating the same conditions for a ceasefire that Israel has laid out." And of course Fox News interviewing Rice on July 16th, reveals Rice agreeing with Chris Wallaces statement that the US opposes a ceasefire because "the Israelis are talking about a bombing campaign that could take weeks to basically rewrite the facts on the ground and put Hezbollah out of business in southern Lebanon."

Did Scott Simon Really Say That

Covering the Israeli assault on Lebanon, Ivan Watson is describing the intentional destruction of several hundred small fishing boats at a pier in Beruit. Watson mentions that the fishermen who make about $600 a month were looking at their strafed and destroyed boats and joking that they were "Hezbollah aircraft carriers!" I guess Scott Simon didn't get the joke and asks--in all seriousness--" I suppose the Israelis were worried that small boats can in fact be used to transport missiles in and out."

Friday, August 04, 2006

What About Jimmy?

You might think NPR would find it newsworthy when a former US President blasts the current US foreign policy regarding the war in Lebanon, especially when that president, Jimmy Carter, is best known for his diplomatic accomplishments between Israel and Egypt. I'm stll waiting...

Which Side are They On?

How the news is headlined often indicates which way the broadcaster wants the news perceived. At 5:00 pm, NPR leads off All Things Considered by stating that it was another day of heavy rocket fire for Israel and that two more Israeli civilians were killed.

Yes, the Hezbollah attacks on Israeli towns and cities are clearly war crimes and are terrible. But on a day when 40 Lebanese civilians are killed by the US supplied/funded/encouraged Israeli air force and when further assaults are launched against relief supplies and infrastructure in Lebanon (a clear war crime) it is a sickening way to open the news by focusing on the small number of Israeli casualities and shows the pro-Israeli bias of NPR.

More Cuba Nonsense from NPR

Two pieces come from NPR's morning edition today. In one Tom Gjelten looks back at the "history" of US Cuba relations through ten US presidencies from Kennedy to G.W. Bush. In the second report from Greg Allen listens in on the Cuban-American exile community in south Florida.

The Gjelten piece begins as if it might actually be informative describing Kennedy's botched Bay of Pigs invasion and mentioning that Pres. Johnson through "Operation Mongoose," supported Cuban exile militants who trained in Guatemala and Nicaragua and attacked Cuba, sinking ships and bombing a refinery in Havana. That is as close to the truth as this report comes. It then goes on to describe the admirable sending of Cuban troops to Angola in 1975, the more dubious sending of Cuban troops to Ethiopia (since Ethiopia was controlled by military dictators) to stop an illegal invasion from Somalia, and the shooting down of two small civilian aircraft that had repeatedly invaded Cuban airspace as "provocative act[s]." This is history turned on its head--the provocative acts came from the US not from Cuba (this is an excellent link).

As far as the Cuban exile community, NPR would do its listeners a service to even briefly cover its sordid history of attacking free expression and supporting violence and terrorism (and these are the folks who will supposedly bring "freedom" to a post-Castro Cuba).

Here are a two more links of interest regarding Cuba/US relations:
Center for International Policy
A Chomsky essay

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Guerilla Strongholds Again...

NPR just can't stop calling any place that Israel bombs in Lebanon a "guerilla stronghold." Renee Montagne introduces a piece on Morning Edition about the UN Security Council's inaction on Lebanon by saying "Israel today renewed airstrikes on guerilla strongholds in the southern outskirts of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. " This on the day when Human Rights Watch reports that Israel's targeting indiscriminately hits civilians and constitutes war crimes. NPR can do better than this.

Cuba and Memory Lane

Yesterday on ATC Melissa Block interviewed Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who helped lead the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, a Bush-created commission. Block admirably challenged Gutierrez when he claimed that there is no way to know what Cuban dissidents since they "are not being interviewed." Block said, "Well, in fact, we interviewed Mr. Espinosa yesterday." Oscar Espinosa Chepe is an internationally recognized victim of Cuban government persecution. Block even quoted Sr. Espinosa as saying, "We request they [US] do no meddle in our country."

However, the report opens with Block noting that "three weeks ago that commission released a 40 page plan on hastening the transition to a democratic society," yet at no time during the interview is this premise that the US supports democracy in Latin America challenged. This is a glaring oversight since even a brief look back shows that the US has consistently supported state terror and torture regimes when they have been friendly to US business interests in the region. This reminded me of the unbelievable bragging about US policy in Central America that Dick Cheney engaged in during the 2004 campaign.

I am not suggesting that NPR be an apologist for the despicable human rights record of the Castro dictatorship, but it is critical to report on the sordid history of US foreign policy in the region so that people can deduce what kind of future the US government has in mind for Cuba [Haiti and Nicaragua are good examples.] And finally, covering this history is very relevant because the main villains of the 1980s are back in power and setting the current agenda in the Middle East.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Gradstein Celebrates Militarism

In a completely pro-Israeli Defense Forces report Linda Gradstein covers the funeral of Israeli soldier, Yonatan Einhorn, 22, killed Tuesday in heavy fighting with Hezbollah guerillas north of the Israeli border. In the "report" we hear about what a brave, loving, dedicated soldier he was and hear from his friends and family mourning his death. Without any sense of the grotesque, Gradstein mentions that he was part of an elite unit founded by (guess who?)--Ariel Sharon, whose history clearly implicates him as a terrorist and war criminal (implicated in the Sabra and Shatila massacres during Israel's previous invasion of Lebanon). Gradstein opens the piece defensively noting that NPR has covered deaths on both sides of the conflict, but I'll be waiting for the laudatory coverage of a funeral for one of the Hezbollah fighters defending Lebanon from the invaders of their country.

Why Not the Best?

What are the US Army Green Berets best known for? I would have said training foreign militaries to murder, torture, rape, and destroy dissent under dictatorial regimes and I would be basing it on historical facts. But facts and history are not going to interfere with NPR's propaganda piece for the Pentagon's activities in Iraq. John Hendren reports from Kirkuk in a piece on US Special Forces training for Iraqi soldiers. His piece is a laudatory send up of the US Army Green Berets and a condescending and patronizing description of Iraqi trainees. His statement early in the report that left me speechless was this: "So you want to field an army….next you need trainers, well why not the best….the Green Berets, the elite Army Special Forces so secretive we’ve agreed not to disclose even their first names. The Green Berets are are best known for their combat skills but their primary mission since 1952 has been training foreign militaries."

I wonder if any of the forces they're training will be able to live up to past students of the Green Berets like those in Vietnam, El Salvador, Egypt, Colombia, and Uzbekistan? Given the bodies turning up in the streets of Baghdad, they may already be hard at work.

War Crimes! War Crimes! Rah!...Rah!...Rah!

Jackie Northam adds her journalistic skills to the IDF's efforts to explain away its war crimes in this piece on today's Morning Edition.
Describing the Israeli assault on a HOSPITAL in Baalbek, Northam states, "Hezbollah says that the hospital that the commandos hit during this raid, the Dar al-Hikma, is only about 10 miles from Lebanon's border with Syria so it's a strategic area. Residents in Baalbek say that this hosptial is financed by an Iranian charity the Imam Khomeini Charitable Society and it has close ties to Hezbollah. By the way Renee, Israeli warplanes hit that hospital last night and destroyed most of it; it had already been evacuated...."

According to the NPR bio of Jackie Northam, she "is the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and the administration's policies on torture and the Geneva Conventions." Well, Northam seems to have missed a few key points of the Geneva Convention, so I'll provide them here (see this link for the source):
  • hospitals

Fixed establishments and mobile medical units must be protected and respected by all sides in a conflict. (Convention I, Art. 19)

Hospitals may have personnel who carry arms for self-defense or for the maintenance of order; may be protected by a picket, by sentries, or by an escort; may temporarily store small arms and ammunition taken from patients; may be associated with a veterinary unit; and may treat civilians. (Convention I, Art. 22)

Hospitals may not be used to commit acts harmful to the enemy. If they do, they lose their protections under the Geneva Conventions after due warning has been given and a reasonable time limit has passed. (Convention I, Art. 21)

Not terribly difficult to understand and interpret. Nothing in there about closeness to the border of a hostile country or being funded by charities from a country one doesn't like. And for those of you who think the assault on the hospital is only being reported by critics of Israel, here is what Haaretz had to say about it. And notice that they have the integrity to report on how the hospital got "evacuated" before it was destroyed:
  • "Witnesses in Baalbek said they saw dozens of IAF helicopters hovering over the city. They said the hospital in Baalbek, filled with patients and wounded people, was bombed by IAF helicopters late Tuesday. Plumes of burning smoke billowed from the hospital after it was directly hit, they said." (link here)
NPR needs to hear from its listeners on these types of irresponsible, distorted reports. See the link to the NPR Ombudsman over on the right side of the page under "Links."

Bush Seeks Peace [from the War is Peace Department]

At the top of the hour news summary Carl Kasell read the following concerning the war in Lebanon: "President Bush is pressing for a UN resolution linking a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah to a broader plan for peace in the Middle East."

It is statements like this that drove me to write this blog. How can NPR expect its listeners to have an informed opinion when they broadcast this kind of Whitehouse propaganda as if it were fact? There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement. All evidence points to the contrary--that Bush is seeking and promoting more conflict and war in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Gaza, West Bank, and Iran for example). It really is sickening to hear NPR day after day reassert the completely unfounded and ridiculous claims of the Bush administration that their project in the Middle East is somehow about peace, freedom, and democracy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How Many Deaths Will it Take...

Linda Gradstein reports this morning from Israel, especially noting widespread Israeli support for the war in Lebanon. She notes that in support does not to seem to be waning, "although some on the left say that if there is a large civilian death toll, or even a large death toll among soldiers, that opinion could shift...."

Ok, at this point in the interview I expected that she or Renee Montagne would express some kind of reaction such as "Do you mean to say that 57 sheltering civilians in one strike doesn't count?" Or "Are you saying the over 500 killed civilians in three weeks isn't a large death toll?" But instead there is no reaction at all and the statement is just left there as if it were a normal, understandable figure.

I'll comment on this; let's do a little sad math. Lebanon has about 4 million citizens and the US has about 300 million. That means that the US population is about 75 times greater than Lebanon's. So we'll count consider the single Israeli air strike on the building in Qana. It killed 57 people; if a similar massacre by proportion took place in the United States that would entail the murder of 4275 innocents (that number is not far off the Sept. 11, 2001 figures). As for death toll of at least 600 civilians in Lebanon, that would translate to 45,000 dead. (Oh, and the 800,000 displaced would be the equivalent of 60,000,000.)

I guess the pro-war Israelis (and pro-war US House, Senate, and Executive ) will only take notice when the death toll is closer to the 1982 figure of about 18,000 civilians slaughtered (see the Library of Congress country study site on Lebanon for this number).

I won't apologize for being partisan on this one. This also in no way excuses the Hezbollah war crime of targeting Israeli cities. But NPR has no excuse for being so crass and dispassionate about the killing of so many innocent civilians by a state armed, funded, and encouraged by the our government. To do so is to support the US /Israel war of aggression against Lebanon.