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Foreign Engagement Versus Aggression

By Edward S. Herman • Z Magazine • June 2016

The double standard in the media’s treatment of U.S. plans and actions (“us”) and those of  our allies, on the one hand, and enemy/target plans and actions (“them”), on the other hand, applies at many levels. The United States has been intervening and fighting wars abroad almost continuously since World War II.  This has involved frequent aggressions, using standard definitions of the word, with many of them extremely destructive, and with effects often not consistent with claimed objectives and very costly to U.S. taxpayers. But these cannot be designated “aggression” in our well-honed propaganda system. That word is reserved for dastardly actions such as the Russian takeover of Crimea.

A useful introduction to the lexicon of aggression apologetics can be read from a piece on “Our New Isolationism” by Bill Keller, published in the New York Times on September 9, 2013, and aimed at justifying an enlarged U.S. participation in the war on Syria. Keller, the Executive Editor at the Times for some eight years (2003-2011), was the sponsor of reporter Judith Miller’s notorious war propaganda, and he himself led the Times to support the invasion-occupation-destruction of Iraq from 2003. It is amusing to read Keller in 2013 saying that ”To be sure, nothing has done more to discredit an activist  foreign policy than the blind missionary arrogance of the Bush administration [in Iraq and Afghanistan].”  But if Keller could swallow the fairly obvious lies of Bush war propaganda ten years earlier, and ignore throughout the Iraq war and occupation the gross violations of international law, why should anybody trust his judgment as he tries to rationalize the next war? What does it tell us about the paper that he could survive there as a leader for eight years (and many more as a reporter, Managing Editor and columnist) and still be able to use it for more war propaganda a decade later?

We may note that in 2013 Keller didn’t use the word “aggression” to describe the invasion-occupation of Iraq, nor is Bush described in negative terms beyond “arrogant” even after having destroyed a country and bearing prime responsibility for the killing of possibly a million people. Bush pursued an “activist” foreign policy, and in this article Keller calls for more “activism,” though not with “missionary arrogance,” but only with imperialist-apologetic arrogance. The new target, Assad, is a “merciless dictator,” whereas Bush is not merciless but only arrogant. Keller has other euphemisms for pre-approved military interventions abroad: there is “foreign engagement,” “a more assertive foreign policy,” and “calibrated interventions to shift the balance.” And no question is raised as to the motives behind any new distant military intervention by us.

Keller clears the decks of any possible non-benign or less-than-benevolent aims: he dismisses the idea that the Israelis might be “duping us into fighting their wars,” but he doesn’t mention AIPAC or any neocon influence on policy, and, of course, he never mentions the military-industrial complex and its possible influence on policy. He is just sure that our “vital interests” are at stake in Syria and he hopes that Congress can elicit from the President a recognition of those interests and a “strategy that looks beyond the moment.” Only rival states and those competing with us or our allies have expansionary internal dynamics and dubious aims.

Leaving this comic book-worthy analysis and getting back to the omnipresent double standard, a conspicuous manifestation is in the media’s use of  “purr” and “snarl” words and comparable phrases. The United States and its allies and their leaders are never “merciless dictators” and “butchers” that commit “horrors,” but Assad can be so described (“Syria’s Horrors,” ed., NYT, February 25, 2012; ”Assad the Butcher,” ed., NYT, June 9, 2012; Keller, above). Only leaders of enemy/target states have “tantrums.” (“North Korea’s Latest Tantrum,” ed., NYT, July 14, 2010), resort to “cash and charm” to create divisions among target states (“With Cash and Charm, Putin Sows E.U. Divide,” NYT, April 7, 2016 [the NYT almost never mentions Putin without denigrating adjectives, in a kind of lengthy childish tantrum of its own]); make “brazen nuclear moves (“North Korea’s Brazen Nuclear Moves,” ed, NYT, May 2.  2016); or need to be “reined in.” (“The Best Chance to Rein in Iran,” ed., NYT, July 15, 2015). Surely Israel and the United States don’t have to be reined in; Israel’s steady dispossessions and periodic major assaults are only  retaliating and protecting its national security in the face  of  inexplicable Palestinian terror. The United States was busy “containing” the Soviet Union as the US built its world-wide system of military bases from 1945 to 1990, and it has recently been compelled to contain Russia as the Soviet successor regime threatens all of its neighbors, who cower in fear while the United States seeks to reassure them with denunciations of Russia, arms, bases, training exercises and efforts to get the major EU countries to increase military spending.

Poor NATO has been driven by this resurgent Russian imperialism into defensive responses (Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers, “NATO Refocuses On the Kremlin, Its Original Foe,” NYT, June 24, 2015). We only respond as Russia provokes and tests us (Steven Castle, “Russia Tests Distant Water, Resurfacing Cold War Fears,” NYT, May 11, 2015). It is not permissible in the mainstream to suggest that the Kremlin is the one engaging in defensive moves against an expanding NATO; that the U.S.-NATO sponsorship of an anti-Russian coup in Kiev in February 2014, which threatened the major Russian naval base in Crimea, virtually forced a Russian military response. This is avoided in the Times and its confreres by ignoring the coup and its U.S.-NATO link and blacking out the fact that NATO has been steadily expanding and encircling Russia since 1996, perhaps regarding this process as anticipatory self-defense.

The ability to get indignant over the casualty-free Russian takeover of Crimea, by the government that invaded Iraq in a not-casualty-free war of choice only a little more than a decade back, is startling. It is testimony to the power of the double standard and the ability of  politicians at home and in the EU, media and public to block out inconvenient facts. On the same topic it must be considered an Orwellian classic of forgetfulness that Kerry could have stated in 2015 that “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext” (Face the Nation, CBS News, March 2, 2015). This was not only a perfect case of purposeful forgetfulness, it was a double lie, as the Russians had a real national security case for their action, whereas the true “trumped up case” was the one concocted for the Iraq invasion. But no U.S. mainstream publication chortled at Kerry’s Orwellian performance.

An equally interesting case of rewriting history was the claim by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during an interview on the German TV channel ARD in January 2015,  that “Russian aggression in Ukraine is an attack on world order and order in Europe. All of us still clearly remember the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. [Emphasis added.] That has to be avoided. And nobody has the right to rewrite the results of the Second World War. And that is exactly what Russia’s President Putin is trying to do.” Interestingly, the interviewer on this program made no comment and asked no questions about this claim of a Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany in World War II. (See Lena Sokoll, “Ukraine Premier’s Pro-Nazi version of World War II: USSR invade Ukraine, Germany,”, January 19, 2015.)  And you may be sure that neither the New York Times nor any other mainstream English language publication reported this nugget. It should be recalled that Yatsenyuk is the “Yats” who U.S. official Victoria Nuland suggested before the February 22, 2014 coup in Kiev would be an appropriate choice to head the new regime, and who did, in fact, soon become Prime Minister.

Just as the “lie that wasn’t shot down” about Korean airliner 007 served the Cold War militarization plans of the Reagan administration, so the media’s handling of the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner MH-17 flying over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, has served the Obama administration in its anti-Russian campaign. U.S. officials, led by John Kerry, immediately claimed that they  had tracked the killer missile, knew exactly where it came from and that it was the Russian-backed rebels who did it. But the U.S. intelligence report that soon followed indicated that there was uncertainty as to the perpetrators, and there was no evidence that the rebels possessed Buk missiles that could have reached the necessary 33,000  feet. The Kiev government forces did have such missiles and capability.

However, in another telling manifestation of the ability of the powerful to use disinformation to convert a tragedy into a propaganda coup, Kerry’s evidence-free and dubious accusations immediately became a Western truth that was used to smear the Russians and underpin a new sanctions regime against them. A very sluggish investigation into the shootdown was organized by the West, with the NATO-member Dutch in charge, the Russians excluded and the Kiev government a participant with a veto power over the findings. The report which followed, after over a year lag, concluded  that the plane had been shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile, but it came to no firm conclusion on the directly responsible parties. The United States has still not produced its evidence showing rebel-Russian guilt, but the DSB failed to mention, let alone criticize, this U.S. silence, and its focus on the Russian-made Buk as the instrument of destruction made it possible for the Western media to continue the initially established guilt claims against Western targets (Russia and the “Russian-backed rebels”).

The New York Times, as in the previous case of the “lie that was not shot down,” could continue to play dumb, refuse to investigate, and fail to call for the United States to disclose publicly its evidence of  “Russian-supported rebel” guilt. It also added its touch of continuing bias in supposed news reports. For example, the “news” reports repeatedly mention that the missile that struck MH-17 was “Russian made,” but they never feature or even mention that the Kiev government had such missiles whereas the rebels did not—which allows them to tie the killing to Russia, without a hint that it was not Russia that used it in the present case. (“Nicola Clark and Andrew E. Kramer, “Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Most Likely Hit by Russian-Made Missile, Inquiry Says,” NYT, October 13, 2014.

Neither in their news reports nor in their editorial on the case does the Times ever ask the question of who benefits from the shootdown? The Russians and rebels had neither military nor political reasons for the act. On the other hand, the Kiev government and the United States would gain if the shootdown could be blamed on the Russians and rebels, a benefit that was, in fact realized. I don’t claim that this proves who did it. But it does raise questions that are worth thinking about. The Times and Western media in general ignore the issue. In its editorial on the subject, the Times makes the Russians guilty because, while the DSB didn’t find them guilty, their detailed findings are “consistent with theories advanced by the United States and Ukraine,” so we can take Russian guilt as proven! (“Russia’s Fictions on Malaysia Flight 17,” NYT, ed., October 15, 2015) This idiotic non-sequitur is also supported by Russia’s “doing its best to thwart investigations,” a lie in light of thwarted Russian efforts to participate in the investigation. It is notable here that the Times doesn’t raise a question about the U.S. failure to supply the DSB with any data that would support Kerry’s initial claim of possession of crucial evidence. That is really thwarting a meaningful investigation. (Robert Parry, “MH-17: The Dog Still Not Barking,” Consortiumnews, October 15, 2015. “The Dog Not Barking in the Dutch report… is the silence regarding U.S. intelligence information that supposedly had pinned down key details just after the crash but has been kept secret.”)

In short, there are no holds barred in this government-media propaganda barrage. Lie after lie can be brought forward and refuted only in a marginalized media, with dire implications for democratic rule. We may recall James Madison’s 1822 statement that “a popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Vladimir Vladimirovich and the Grey Lady

By Robert Bonomo | The Cactus Land | December 26, 2013

Bill Keller, editorialist for the NY Times and former executive editor of the paper, has recently penned a strong attack on Vladimir Putin arguing that Putin’s leadership “deliberately distances Russia from the socially and culturally liberal West”, describing the Kremlin’s policies as “laws giving official sanction to the terrorizing of gays and lesbians, the jailing of members of a punk protest group for offenses against the Russian Orthodox Church, the demonizing of Western-backed pro-democracy organizations as ‘foreign agents’, expansive new laws on treason, limits on foreign adoptions.”

Keller, who during his tenure as executive editor of the NY Times argued for the invasion of Iraq and wrote glowingly of Paul Wolfowitz, makes no mention of Moscow’s diplomatic maneuvers that successfully avoided a US military intervention in Syria or the Russian asylum given to Eric Snowden. Keller, who had supported the US intervention in Syria by writing, “but in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy,” also made no mention of Seymour Hersh’s stinging dissection of the Obama administration’s misinformation campaign regarding the sarin attacks in Syria. Hersh’s piece, which drives grave doubts into the case against Assad actually having carried out the attacks, was not published in the New Yorker or in the Washington Post, publications that regularly run his work.

Keller focuses on a Russian law that bans the promotion of gay lifestyles in Russia, a far cry from “giving official sanction to the terrorizing of gays and lesbians”, while failing to mention that according to his own paper, 88% of Russians support the law.

Putin did expel the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from Russia, cutting off the $50 million in aid, most of which went to pro-democracy and anti-corruption groups. The Kremlin believed that much of this money wound up supporting the protest movement against Putin that emerged in 2011. If Russian funding had been suspected in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, would the New York Times have supported Putin for promoting social equality in the US? If the punk band Pussy Riot had broken into a prominent Jewish temple in New York, instead of a Moscow cathedral, and defamed it to call attention to the millions of Palestinians living in refugee camps, would the young ladies have done some time? And if so, would they have received support from all corners of stardom?

The European Model

Quoting Dmitri Trenin, Keller argues that Putin sees Europe in decline, “it’s national sovereignty… is superseded by supranational institutions.” Is Putin mistaken in his assumption? Maybe ask the people of Greece, Spain, or Ireland. Keller also mentions “limits on foreign adoptions” but fails to mention the cause, the Magnitsky Act, which imposed “visa and banking restrictions on Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses.” The Kremlin saw this law as the perfect example of US meddling in internal Russian affairs.

The heart of the Magnistsky saga was the death in Russia, while under custody, of an attorney for Hermitage Capital, a hedge fund run by a British citizen William Browder, who renounced his US citizenship. Browder made billions in Russia before running afoul of Russian authorities. His Hermitage Capital was funded by the Lebanese national Edmond Safra and eventually claimed to have lost $300 million after having moved billions out of Russia. Browder lobbied hard in Washington to have the Magnitsky Act passed. Why was the US involved in passing a law to protect Lebanese and British capital and a Russian prisoner? America hasn’t enough trouble with its own prison system that it needs to legislate on the Russian penal system? Are there no American politicians who have been implicated in human rights abuses?

Keller’s final point is that Putin is being heavy handed over the Ukrainian/EU integration crisis, but Keller avoids discussing the deep historic and ethnic links between Russia and Ukraine. Most Americans would agree that Russia should stay out of NAFTA negotiations, seeing North America as clearly not within the Russian sphere of influence. Ukrainians are deeply divided over the integration with Europe, so why not let the Ukrainians and Russians work out their trade relations without the American government getting involved?


Probably more than any other topic, the NY Times has repeatedly published articles in defense of the long imprisoned and recently freed Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a man whose rise to power was filled with unsavory schemes to appropriate businesses which were once the property of the Russian people. The NY Times Sabrina Tavernese wrote in 2001 that he had “orchestrated a series a flagrant corporate abuses of minority shareholders unparalleled in the short history of modern Russian capitalism.”

Khdorkovsky eventually wound up the billionaire owner of Yukos Oil, which he planned to sell to Exxon Mobil. Khdorkovsky also had political ambitions, creating the Open Russian Foundation and putting Henry Kissinger and Lord Jacob Rothschild on the board of directors. He was clearly eyeing political power by making close ties with the West, even being named to the Advisory Board of the Carlyle Group, all of which made him a potential threat to the Kremlin.

The Khodorovsky affair was a complex battle for power in Russia with Khodorkovsky playing the Western powers against the strongly nationalistic Putin. But at the NY Times editorialist Joe Nocera in four pieces on Khodorkovsky never delves into the complexities of Putin’s strategy to keep Western interests at bay, preferring to present a black and white scenario of ‘western liberal’ rule of law against the ‘authoritarian’ Putin.

Curiously, the NY Times doesn’t seem so interested in Harvard’s Russia Project which ended in disgrace and professor Andrei Shleifer, Larry Summers protege, being forced to pay a $2 million fine for enriching himself under the guise of a USAID program where he was to ‘teach’ Russians about capitalism. He gave them an interesting lesson, yet was not forced to resign his post at Harvard, possibly due to his close relationship with Summers. Nocera hasn’t written one article on that scandal which is much more relevant to Americans and their iconic institutions, but which also might make him a few enemies closer to home.

Putin and American Values

Most Americans see Eric Snowden as whistleblower and not a traitor, yet the NY Times star editorialist, Thomas Friedman, isn’t so sure, “The fact is, he dumped his data and fled to countries that are hostile to us,” though he doesn’t elaborate on why Russia is a ‘hostile’ nation and he advises Snowden to come home and face the music if he’s truly a patriot, “It would mean risking a lengthy jail term, but also trusting the fair-mindedness of the American people.”

Putin is a social conservative and a fierce patriot who, like many Americans, opposes regime change in the name of democracy. The American people, after failed interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, agree with him — both Putin and Americans, unlike the NY Times, vehemently opposed a US intervention in Syria. It seems Putin has more in common with the opinions of Americans than does the NY Times, which begs the question, why is the NY Times so hell bent on demonizing the President of the Russian Federation when he’s supported by more than 60% of the Russian people?

The New York Times has written extensively about the gay rights issue in Russia but 45% of Americans still think that homosexuality is a sin and as the ‘Duck Dynasty’ controversy has revealed, homosexuality in America is still a very divisive issue. Is the prohibition against publicly speaking in favor of gay lifestyles in Russia such an important stumbling block to ties between the two nations when the vast majority of Russians support the law?

Americans probably don’t approve of roads where members of one religion can drive while members of another religion must walk, as occurs in Hebron and reported on by Ynet, “Jewish residents are allowed to cross the road by vehicle, but Palestinians are now only permitted to cross by foot or by bicycle.” They probably wouldn’t look fondly on back of the bus seating for women, yet in spite of this type of segregation in a country that claims to be democratic, the NY Times doesn’t feel compelled to demonize Mr. Netanyahu and his ‘socially conservative’ Likud party.

The Interests of the American People

Just as the NY Times despises Putin and Russia, it’s equally enamored with Israel. Imagine if the millions of Palestinian refugees were not in camps because of their mother’s religion but instead because they were LGBT? What if Netanyahu were held to the same standard as Mr. Putin? How many millions of Palestinian Khodorkovsky’s are languishing in refugee camps in their own country? It seems that Mr. Keller, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Nocera are much more interested in the rights of Khodorkovsky and William Browder than they are in the rights of Palestinian children living in squalor under an Israeli blockade in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia and Israel, the latter through its surrogate AIPAC, lobbied hard for war in Syria and both supposed allies are furiously attempting to undermine peace talks with Iran. The government Putin leads brokered the deal to avoid US involvement in Syria, played an important role in the Iranian peace initiative and also allowed Americans a glimpse into the massive surveillance program the NSA has hoisted upon them by giving refuge to Eric Snowden.

Just as Americans would not look fondly at the Kremlin interfering in domestic American politics, so the Kremlin pushes back when it see US interference in it’s internal affairs, a good example being American aid to opposition groups during the 2011 Moscow protests against Putin. If the US can accept serious human rights violations by supposed allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, can’t it also accept that Russia has its own way of governing itself, based on its own history and culture?

The NY Times does not represent the best interests of most Americans, nor does it use its powerful voice to protect the millions persecuted within the realms of so called allies. The NY Times represents a small sector of US power, bent on propagating special interests at the expense of the vast majority of Americans.

Mr. Putin certainly acts in the best interests of Russia, but curiously enough, by working in his own interest, he has done more to protect the 4th Amendment than the constitutional law professor currently occupying the White House. In Syria he was protecting Russian interests, but by doing so he kept the US out of an intervention that could have easily developed into a major war. If it had been up to the NY Times, we would have intervened in Syria and Snowden would be behind bars awaiting the mercy of the Obama Administration.

So who is a better friend of the American people? There are no doubts that the NY Times is a better friend of the Khodorkovsky’s and William Browder’s of the world but Americans might actually be better off if their government listened more to Putin and less to the Grey Lady.

December 27, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran Coverage Offers Confusion Over Clarity

By Peter Hart – FAIR – 09/10/2012

On NBC‘s Meet the Press (9/9/12), Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and host David Gregory had a discussion about the failures of the Obama administration’s foreign policy that included this:

ROMNEY: The president has not drawn us further away from a nuclear Iran. And in fact Iran is closer to having a weapon, closer to having nuclear capability, than when he took office.  This is the greatest failure, in my opinion, of his foreign policy.  He ran for office saying he was going to meet with Ahmadinejad.  He was going to meet with Castro, Kim Jong Il.  All the world’s worst actors, without precondition, he’d meet with them in his first year.

GREGORY: President Bush said that he would stop Iran from going nuclear.  So did President Obama.  Neither one were able to achieve that.  Correct?

ROMNEY:  President Obama had a policy of engagement with Ahmadinejad.  That policy has not worked and we’re closer to a nuclear weapon as a result of that.

Set aside the talk about the U.S. having a “policy of engagement” with Iran–we have a policy of sanctions. The real question is what Gregory is talking about when he talks about Iran “going nuclear,” and how Bush and Obama failed “to achieve that.”

In this context, “going nuclear” would seem to refer to producing a nuclear weapon, which nobody claims Iran has done. Gregory has mislead viewers on this before: “Iran: Will talks push that country to give up its nuclear weapons program?” he declared a few years back (10/4/09).

There is as yet no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. What we know now is that the country has a nuclear energy program, and some countries demand to know more about that program, based on the theory that Iran is hiding something. Perhaps they are, but no evidence to that effect exists.

But it is common for media to start the Iran conversation based on the assumption that there’s a weapon being built. You could see that in Bill Keller’s column in the New York Times today (9/10/12). “Negotiations aimed at preventing the dreaded Persian Bomb have resumed their desultory course,” he explained to readers–before posing what I think Keller believes is a provocative question:  “Can we live with a nuclear Iran?”

Keller believes his column is adding something novel to the debate over Iran:

The prevailing view now is that a nuclear Iran cannot be safely contained. On this point both President Obama and Mitt Romney agree.

Keller then goes on: “Let’s assume, for starters, that Iran’s theocrats are determined to acquire nuclear weapons.” The rest of the column consists mostly of a “theoretical exercise” where Keller ends up opposing pre-emptive war in favor of allowing Iran to enrich uranium so long as it doesn’t pursue a weapons program. Then we could “gradually relaxes sanctions and brings this wayward country into the community of more-or-less civilized nations.”

It’s a strange argument, given that Iran says that’s what it’s doing, and the inspectors that are supposed to monitor Iran’s nuclear program are already reporting that there is no evidence any of the country’s uranium is being diverted for a weapons program. It sure doesn’t seem as if sanctions relief is right around the corner.

A truly novel media approach that Keller–or any other columnist–might want to try: Assume, for the sake of novelty, that Iran is not pursuing a weapons program. Then take every fact of the Iran showdown–the sanctions, the threats from various Israeli government officials that a military attack could be imminent–and try to reconcile them with the assumption that Iran is not developing the weapons that are the focus of so much controversy.

It’s much more difficult to rationalize U.S. policy if one explores this “theoretical exercise.” Which is likely why pundits like Keller go a different route.

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment