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On Korea, Here We Go Again!

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | November 24, 2010

If American journalism should have learned one thing over the years, it is to be cautious and skeptical during the first days of a foreign confrontation like the one now playing out on the Korean Peninsula. Often the initial accounts from the “U.S. side” don’t turn out to be entirely accurate.

While you can delve back through history for plenty of examples, today’s U.S. journalists might remember events like the Gulf of Tonkin clash that opened the door to the disastrous Vietnam War and the misplaced certainty about Iraq’s WMD that led to a bloody U.S. invasion and occupation.

In both cases, contrary claims from the “enemy side” were discounted and mocked as U.S. journalists puffed out their chests and waved the flag.

Today’s Korean crisis over an exchange of artillery fire between North Korea and South Korea is similar. Though the evidence is that South Korea fired first, you wouldn’t know that if you’ve been watching most U.S. news shows and reading the major newspapers, which have laid the blame squarely at the doorstep of North Korea.

To get an inkling of the actual chronology, you’d have to read between the lines or carefully examine a graphic published in the New York Times. Along with a map of the conflict zone, the Times included this notation: “South Korea had been firing test shots from Baengnyeong Island, according to a South Korean official.”

But you wouldn’t find much about that fact in the accompanying news articles. Instead, the Times, like other major U.S. news outlets, offered up ready-made narratives for the crisis – that North Korea was acting in an aggressive and provocative manner to shake down the international community for more aid, or to solidify the power of the ruling family, or some other self-serving reason.

And, who knows? There might be some truth to that. However, it’s also possible, as the North Koreans have stated, that they were reacting to what they interpreted as an unprovoked barrage by the South Korean military from an island only a few miles off the North Korean coast.

In a backhanded way, the New York Times lead editorial does acknowledge this possibility, although the article mostly parrots the conventional wisdom about North Korean recklessness and the failure of China to rein in its dangerous neighbor.

“On Tuesday,” the Times wrote, China “was still in denial. After the [North Korean] shelling [of a South Korean military base], China called only for a resumption of six-party nuclear talks.”

However, the Times editorial then notes that  the North Korean “attack on Yeonpyeong Island occurred after South Korean forces on exercises fired test shots into waters near the North Korean coast. We hope South Korea’s president is asking who came up with that idea. But the North should have protested, rather than firing on a populated area.”

So, at least the Times marginally acknowledges a competing narrative, that the ever-paranoid North Koreans interpreted a barrage against their shoreline as a provocation that merited a muscular response directed against a South Korean military base.

Still, for the most prominent newspaper in the United States, a country that has repeatedly invaded and bombed other nations and killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of their inhabitants, isn’t it a bit hypocritical to lecture a small country about how it should respond to an enemy firing at it?

Double Standards

But such is the never-ending disconnect between the U.S. news media’s righteous indignation about what adversarial countries do and what the United States and its allies do.

The U.S. government, with its vast nuclear arsenal, leaves “all options on the table” when discussing how to confront fledgling nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran (which denies it even wants nuclear weapons). Meanwhile, Washington refuses to acknowledge that its ally, Israel, is a full-blown rogue nuclear state with a sophisticated and undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own.

So, instead of anything approaching “objectivity,” the U.S. news media dishes out selective outrage. And those double standards were out in force regarding the latest Korean crisis.

The neoconservative Washington Post was back in full belligerency mode with a lead editorial urging a stern response against North Korea. Unlike the Times, which at least acknowledged the South Korean provocation, the Post saw only a black-and-white scenario, with South Korea wearing the white hat and the North the black hat.

The Post’s editorial-page editors behaved much the same during the run-up to war with Iraq, stating as undisputed fact the existence of Iraq’s non-existent WMD programs. After the invasion – and the failure to find the WMD – Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt noted in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review in 2004:

“If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Saddam Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction. If that’s not true, it would have been better not to say it.”

But Hiatt, who remains in the same job more than six years later, was back doing the same thing on Wednesday in connection with another country from George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.”

“North Korea’s artillery attack against a South Korean island Tuesday was the latest and arguably most reckless in a series of provocations by its Stalinist regime,” the Post editors wrote, also citing as flat fact that the North had “torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors” earlier this year,  a charge North Korea denies.

The Post continued: “Now comes the shelling of an area populated by civilians as well as South Korean troops, two of whom were killed. This blatantly criminal act will have the probably intended effect of forcing the Obama administration to pay attention to a regime it has mostly ignored. But it should not lead to the economic and political bribes dictator Kim Jong Il has extracted in the past.

“It’s hard to know what is motivating Pyongyang’s behavior; experts offer varying explanations even while conceding they don’t know much.

“Some say Mr. Kim is creating an atmosphere of crisis to help smooth a transition of power to his son. Others contend the regime is hoping to force the lifting of U.S. sanctions and the resumption of international aid, which has dwindled since Mr. Kim failed to fulfill a nuclear disarmament agreement.”

The Post makes no reference to the possibility that North Korea simply overreacted to what it saw as an attack from the South. Nor has the Post ever acknowledged that President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq — endorsed by the Post and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — was a “blatantly criminal act.”

A Hard Line

While urging the Obama administration to take an especially hard line today, the Post criticized prior administrations for granting North Korea “political and economic concessions in exchange for promises of disarmament. In each case, Mr. Kim pocketed the benefits but refused either to fully disclose or to irreversibly dismantle his nuclear weapons and missiles.”

The Post, however, has never been known to criticize Israel for pocketing billions of dollars in U.S. aid – and counting on unwavering U.S. political support – without ever disclosing or dismantling its array of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, which are far more sophisticated than North Korea’s.

Instead, the Post was again applying double standards, again beating the war drums. It called on the Obama administration to “make clear … that the United States is prepared to help South Korea defend itself from attack.”

The Post also demanded more sanctions on North Korea and more pressure on China. “The United States and its allies should hold Beijing responsible for putting a stop to Mr. Kim’s dangerous behavior,” the Post declared.

However, before the war rhetoric gets completely out of control again – and creates another political dynamic that leads toward a bloody escalation – perhaps the U.S. news media should reflect for a moment on all the other times the American press corps has let itself and the country be stampeded into a dangerous misunderstanding of an international incident.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 4 Comments

“War criminals” leak strikes at heart of Israeli society

By Paul Larudee | Redress | 23 November 2010

When unknown elements in Israel leaked the name, rank, identification number and other information about two hundred Israeli military personnel who reportedly participated in the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza, the effect was sudden and profound, according to sources in Israel.

Although the first site on which the  leaked information appeared was taken down by the host, it has continued to circulate via email, and has appeared on a number of other sites. The Israeli military and other Israeli agencies are reportedly doing all they can to shut down every site on which it appears, and to prevent it from “going viral”. At least one popular blog that links to the site has received a record number of death threats.

What is so special about the list? As several critics have pointed out, it doesn’t even state the crimes that the listed individuals are alleged to have committed.

The root of the problem, according to the sources in Israel, is a poorly kept secret — namely, that it is hard to serve in the Israeli military without committing war crimes, because such crimes are a matter of policy. What Israeli soldier has not ordered a Palestinian civilian to open the door to a building that might house armed militants or be booby-trapped? Who has not denied access to ambulances or otherwise prevented a Palestinian from getting to medical care, education or employment?

Some, of course, have gone much farther, and deliberately targeted unarmed civilians (as in the “buffer zones” along the border of the Gaza Strip), tortured detainees, and have either ordered or participated in massive death, injury and destruction at one time or another. These acts have all been heavily documented by numerous credible agencies, such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Goldstone Commission, Human Rights Watch, and B’tselem.

What has been missing in large measure is accountability. To be sure, isolated victories have been won, usually with great effort. Within Israel, token trials and punishment, such as the conviction of the shooter of British human rights volunteer Tom Hurndall, continue to provide a thin cloak of respectability to the Israeli justice system. Beyond Israel’s control, however, senior Israeli officials have been forced to avoid travel to an increasing number of countries for fear of law-enforcement action. Nevertheless, ordinary Israelis had not yet been made to feel directly subject to such pressures.

The publication of the list of 200 changes everything. The list contains the names of a few high-ranking officers, but many of those named are in the lower ranks, all the way down to sergeant. The effect is to make ordinary Israelis concerned that they, too, may be subject to arrest abroad, and without the protection that well-connected higher officials might enjoy. They know what they have done, or been ordered to do, or have ordered others to do, and they suspect that they may be held accountable by foreign laws, over which their government has little control.

Many Israelis already fear that an anti-Semitic world is looking for an excuse to shut down the Zionist experiment. It is therefore not a great leap to believe that they could become pawns — or scapegoats — in the rising chorus of voices speaking out for Palestinian rights and against Israeli abuses.

Coupled with this is the Israeli addiction to vacationing abroad, which is a national obsession and almost a right, in the mind of many.  The result is that suddenly, with the release of the list of 200, the prospect of being held accountable outside Israel is no longer an abstraction, to be dealt with at the level of diplomats, government policy and the news stories. It hits home.

This has serious consequences for Israeli society.  It potentially increases the number of youths who will try to avoid the military, the rates of emigration and immigration, and other patterns of commitment to Israel and its military. Most of all, according to the sources, it may cause soldiers to begin to question policy and orders far more than in the past, because of the way it may affect them personally. The debate is already taking place around the question, “Can I be held responsible?”

The answer to that question could potentially determine whether it will be possible to mount a massive offensive against a population that has no effective military forces, as in Gaza, or where saturation bombing, cluster munitions and depleted uranium might be used, as in Lebanon.  This is potentially a daunting prospect for Israeli military commanders, and some sources in Israel believe that the publication of the 200 has already had that effect.

More likely, however, it is premature to make such a call.  It seems unlikely that Israel will succeed in putting the genie back in the bottle with regard to the list of 200. It is already leaping from one place to another in cyberspace, via website and email (although Israel seems to have been temporarily successful in banning it from Facebook). However, will it generate further research and release of information on the potential offences committed by the named individuals, and will it lead to further publication of such lists?

According to the sources in Israel, the military and perhaps other agencies have gone into high gear to track down the source of the leaks.  This is a typical Israeli response to the problem. Instead of asking why some groups or individuals in Israeli society are willing to take great risks to hold that society accountable for its actions, Israel prefers to blame the problem on treacherous, self-hating, anti-Semitic Jews, and to instill fear and hatred as the means for preventing Israelis from examining their consciences.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | War Crimes | 1 Comment

Enabling Bullies

By Linh Dinh | Dissident Voice | November 25, 2010

This July, traveling by Greyhound, I arrived in Detroit from Windsor, Canada. A dog sniffed all passengers for drugs, and a border agent checked our bags. U.S. citizens produced IDs, while foreigners displayed visas and/or passports. Nothing was out of the ordinary except for this exchange I had with an officer:

“Why are you going to Detroit?”

“I’ve never been here. I just want to check it out.”

“How long will you stay?”

“Just a couple of days.”

“Where will you stay?”

“At a motel… on Jefferson Street, I think.” Normally, I can’t instantly recall the street of my hotel, or even its name.

“Where will you go after Detroit?”

“Home, to Philadelphia. I live in Philadelphia.”

“Where did you buy this ticket?”


“It says Dallas on your ticket.”

“Huh, I don’t know, maybe that’s the headquarters for Greyhound. I bought my ticket online.”

Then he let me go. It was truly weird, that brief grilling, and totally unnecessary. An American returning home should not have to answer any of these questions. As long as I carried no contraband, it should not matter why I was going to Detroit, how long I would stay, or where I bought my ticket. The only two tasks of our border agents are 1) To stop anyone from entering this country illegally, and 2) To prevent people from bringing banned substances into the U.S. Maybe this officer simply assumed that there were no legitimate reasons for anyone to visit Detroit? But so what if I was irrational or insane? He still had to let me in. Maybe I had a dollar in my pocket and wanted to buy a spacious home, right outside downtown. Maybe I couldn’t wait to have a Coney Island hot dog, then a raccoon quiche… Again, an American coming home should not have to explain himself, especially if he was arriving from Canada, and not an enemy country like North Korea. Maybe I had no place to stay in Detroit and was ready to join the thousands sleeping on its empty lots or inside its abandoned buildings. He still had to let me in. What would he do if I gave an unsatisfying answer? Kick me back to Canada?

It’s only routine to ask foreign nationals for where they would stay while in the U.S. On October 28th, 2002, National Review examined the visa applications of 15 of the 9/11 alleged hijackers. (Four applications were not available.) Of these, only one listed an address. The rest scribbled nonsensical answers such as “Wasantwn,” “Hotel D.C.,” “Hotel” or “JKK Whyndham Hotel.” One simply wrote “NO,” as to where he would stay. There were additional problems with each of these applications, yet all the men were granted visas, absurdly enough. The attitude of these alleged hijackers was not just casual, it was flippant, as if they knew this annoying procedure was entirely unnecessary, a mere formality.

Similarly, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, could expect to fly from Amsterdam to Detroit without a passport. With the right string pulled,  who needs a stupid document? Before boarding, Abdulmutallab was spotted by an American couple, lawyer Kurt Haskell and his wife, Lori. This shabbily dressed, 23-year-old Nigerian was accompanied by a suited, Indian-looking man around 50-years-old. The odd pair caught the Haskells’ attention. Speaking in American accented English, the Indian-looking man intervened with the ticket agent to get Abdulmutallab onboard, “He is from Sudan, we do this all the time.” Who are “we,” Haskell would wonder later, if not the U.S. government?

Abdulmutallab then tried to blow up the plane, but eighty grams of PETN couldn’t explode without a blasting cap. Bumbling Umar didn’t know that, however, so only his crotch was martyred. Online, Abdulmutallab had often complained about controlling his sex drive, how even “The hair of a woman can easily arouse a man,” how, despite much effort, he couldn’t always lower his gaze at the sight of female flesh. Perhaps Abdulmutallab was only trying to purify himself by making mince meat out of his ragingly persistent endowment. Down, boy, down! The lives of the hundreds of infidels were just an extra bonus.

Not amused, Kurt Haskell wanted to know who this Indian-looking man was. When the F.B.I. visited him four days after the incident, Haskell asked if they had brought the Amsterdam security video so he could help to identify this enabler of terrorism, “but they acted as though my request was ridiculous.” There was no follow up investigation. Someone did bother to phone Haskell, however, to warn him, rather menacingly, that it was “in [his] best interest to stop talking publicly” about this episode.

So people who should be stopped are not stopped, but Americans returning home are sometimes subjected to ridiculous questions, or worse. In January of this year, journalist and photographer Michael Yon was handcuffed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for refusing to answer a question about his annual salary. “When they handcuffed me,” Yon relates, “I said that no country has ever treated me so badly. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Afghanistan. Definitely not Singapore or India or Nepal or Germany, not Brunei, not Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Kuwait or Qatar or United Arab Emirates. No country has treated me with the disrespect that can be expected from our border bullies.” Yon concluded that a question about his income had nothing to do with airport security, and he was right, obviously. It only takes common sense to figure that out, except that our national security is no longer based on common sense.

In 2008, at Lubbock Airport, Mandi Hamlin was forced to remove her nipple rings before she could board a flight. As male TSA agents snickered nearby, she had to use pliers to take one off. Why was her humiliating and painful ordeal necessary? How could nipple rings ever be a security threat, unless, of course, it’s not about security at all, but power.

Also in 2008, Robert Perry, a 71-year-old man in a wheelchair, was at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when he set off the metal detector. Perry explained that it was likely his artificial knee that had caused the alarm, but a TSA agent still pulled his pants down in view of other passengers. Humiliated, Perry asked to see a supervisor. She came but, instead of showing common sense or, God forbid, compassion, only pounded on her chest, “I have power! I have power! I have power!” How asinine must you be to assume that there was even a remotest chance that this old man had implanted a bomb inside his own knee? No fresh suture marks, see? Are you happy now?

Of course, it’s not about security or common sense, but power. At its essence, power is always the ability to dictate, control or violate another body. Power means “I can lay my hand on you,” if not, “I can fuck you up.” The sexual aspect is not incidental. Before a black man was lynched, he was often stripped naked and displayed. Stripped naked, Iraqi prisoners were forced to perform humiliating acts and/or stacked onto pyramids. Perhaps we should replace the generic pyramid on our dollar bill with disrobed detainees? They don’t have to be foreigners, since we also strip our domestic prisoners. Perhaps we can have pyramids of naked airline passengers on dollar bills? Novus ordo seclorum, New order of the ages!

Power is also the ability to be unjust, irrational or merely stupid. Although it makes no sense, I will do this to you because I can. Take the current prohibition against taking photos in certain places. A real terrorist would not take a photo, then plant a bomb. He would just plant his bomb. Again, it’s not really about security, but power. Even as Big Brother sees through your clothes, he can arrest you for snapping a photo in public.

As we experience further turbulence in the years ahead, economically and socially, expect to see more bullying from our government and its agents, even the pettiest. Especially the pettiest. Unwilling to restore meaning and purpose, they will subject their subjects to more absurd orders. Craving solutions, many of us will mistake their ridiculous commands for answers.

Linh Dinh born in Vietnam in 1963, came to the US in 1975. He is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, with a novel, Love Like Hate, scheduled for September. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Police Arrest Journalists For Doing Their Job, Freedom of the Press Threatened

November 25, 2010 | The Intel Hub

Two Russia Today reporters were arrested outside the Fort Benning military base in Columbus, Georgia, U.S. for doing their job and covering a protest at the “School of Assassins.” Clearly the arrests were 100% illegal and all officers involved should be charged with violating the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

The journalists were arrested for no reason and were not given their rights or told what they did wrong for over four hours.

Notice how police physically grab the woman as if she is a terrorist and arrest her for doing her job.

U.S. nationals Kaelyn Forde and Jon Conway, who are employees of the Moscow-based Russia Today (RT) TV channel, were arrested on Saturday after covering a protest near Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Georgia, “despite complying with the police demand not to come close to the gates of the base,” the network said. The crew, which was filming an annual protest by human rights activists against a U.S. Defense Department training program for Latin American police, was released after posting $1,300 bail. Several International organizations protecting journalists and their rights condemned the arrest.’

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has condemned the arrests as a threat to the freedom of the press.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, today condemned the detention and arrest over the weekend of several journalists covering demonstrations outside the Fort Benning military base in Columbus, Georgia, U.S.

A television crew from Russia Today, Kaelyn Forde and Jonathan R. Conway, on Monday were found guilty of violating city ordinances. Each paid a $290 fine.

“The fact that local police officers would detain, handcuff and arrest members of the press as they engaged in their duty to report on a public event is disturbing,” Mijatovic said.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | 5 Comments

Israeli army still using children as human shields in 2010

Defence for Children International | 22 November 2010

One day after an Israeli military court imposed a suspended sentence on two Givati Brigade soldiers for using a nine-year-old boy as a human shield in Gaza, DCI-Palestine has just obtained an affidavit from a 13-year-old boy who reports being used as a human shield on 19 August 2010. This brings to three, the number of human shield cases documented by DCI-Palestine in 2010.

18 February 2010Voices From The Occupation (16-year-old girl from Nablus)
16 April 2010Voices From The Occupation (14-year-old boy from Beit Ummar)
19 August 2010Voices From The Occupation (13-year-old boy from near Nablus)

The practice of using human shields involves forcing civilians to directly assist in military operations or using them to shield an area or troops from attack. Both of these circumstances expose civilians to physical, and sometimes, mortal danger. Civilians are usually threatened and/or physically coerced into performing these tasks, most of the time at gunpoint. The practice is illegal under both international and Israeli domestic law.

In the latest case documented by DCI-Palestine, a 13-year-old boy from a village near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, was beaten and then forced at gunpoint to search and open doors in a house where the army suspected a wanted person might be hiding – Nazzal A. – Voices From The Occupation.

Since April 2004, DCI-Palestine has documented 16 cases involving Palestinian children being used as human shields by the Israeli army. Fifteen of the 16 cases, occurred after the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled the practice to be illegal in October 2005, suggesting that the army is not effectively implementing the Court’s decision, or simply disregarding the Court’s order altogether.

On Sunday, 21 November 2010, two soldiers from the Givati Brigade became the first soldiers to be charged and convicted of using a child as a human shield. The two soldiers were demoted from the rank of staff sergeant to sergeant and each given a three-month suspended prison sentence. DCI-Palestine is of the view that the lenient sentences handed down on Sunday are unlikely to deter the future use of children as human shields – Majed J. – Voices From The Occupation.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, War Crimes | 7 Comments

Independent Police Complaints Commission: One a week dies after contact with British police

Press TV | 9th November 2010

The UK’s Independent Police Complaints Commission has revealed that on average one individual dies every week after having contact with the British police. More details in this report.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | Comments Off on Independent Police Complaints Commission: One a week dies after contact with British police

Israel has put 200,000 Palestinians before military tribunals since 1990

MEMO | November 26, 2010

A report from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs has claimed that 200,000 Palestinians have been tried by Israeli military tribunals since 1990. What the report describes as “unfair and arbitrary” trials in Israel have led to thousands of Palestinians languishing in the Zionist state’s prisons.

“Military court rooms surrounded by the fences of military bases have operated since the beginning of the Occupation shrouded in mystery,” said the report. “Journalists are prevented from attending the trials and so the proceedings are not reported.” The sentences passed in these courts don’t provoke any discussion or controversy inside Israel; neither the judicial nor academic communities take any interest, it added.

The military tribunals are, claims the report, the backbone of Israel’s occupation apparatus. The official and civic silence about the courts’ affairs strengthens the Israeli security forces by allowing violations of international law to occur with impunity. Israel’s military courts reject international law although the latter obliges occupying powers to implement its provisions.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Israel has put 200,000 Palestinians before military tribunals since 1990