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MSNBC, where journalism goes to die

By Danielle Ryan | RT | April 23, 2018

It looks like we can add yet another name to the list of journalists that MSNBC has pushed out or fired for refusing to toe the establishment line: Ed Schultz.

Schultz, whose new home is at RT, recently gave an interview to the National Review’s Jamie Weinstein. During the interview, Schultz, who had been mostly quiet about his firing from MSNBC, let loose on the channel.

“There was more oversight and more direction given to me on content at MSNBC than there ever has been here at RT — and I think it’s very sad that that story is not getting out,” Schultz said. “Many times I was told what to lead with on MSNBC — many times I was told what I was not going to do.”

Schultz called MSNBC president Phil Griffin a “watchdog” unlike anything he has experienced since leaving the channel. Asked if Griffin personally told him what to say or what angle to take on a story, Schultz said that had “often” been the case.

Schultz went on to tell Weinstein a particularly disturbing story about MSNBC’s refusal to cover former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders seriously. According to Schultz, five minutes before he was due to cover Sanders’ announcement that he would run for president, Griffin called him up and told him not to report on it.

Why? Because the network was so thoroughly determined to promote Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate that giving primetime exposure to a progressive voice like Sanders would be dangerous.

“I think the Clintons were connected to [MSNBC chairman] Andy Lack, connected at the hip. I think that they didn’t want anybody in their primetime or anywhere in their lineup supporting Bernie Sanders — I think that they were in the tank for Hillary Clinton and I think it was managed — and 45 days later I was out at MSNBC.”

But Schultz is not the only former MSNBC host with such stories. Cenk Uygur, host of ‘The Young Turks’ on YouTube, has always been vocal about how he parted ways with the channel.

According to Uygur, shortly before his departure from MSNBC, Griffin called him in for a talk. The problem was not Uygur’s ratings, which were good, but it was his “tone” and the fact that “people in Washington” were not happy about it. In other words, Uygur was coming across as too anti-establishment. He was ruffling too many feathers.

“Outsiders are cool, but we’re not outsiders, we’re insiders,” Griffin told Uygur. “We are the establishment.”

Uygur ignored Griffin’s advice and his ratings shot up — surprise, surprise; people enjoy watching news anchors who actually challenge their guests and engage in real journalism. But the top dogs at MSNBC are apparently willing to forgo high ratings to please “people in Washington.”

Last week, responding to Schultz’s recent comments, Uygur confirmed the accusation that MSNBC was essentially operating as the PR arm of the Clinton campaign.

“I had another on-air talent at MSNBC tell me, off the record, that if they ever criticized Hillary Clinton, they would immediately get a call from management,” Uygur said.

This was confirmed on air by current MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, who admitted that the Clinton campaign angrily called the network after Brzezinski levelled some mild criticism at Clinton during a previous broadcast.

“NBC got a call from the campaign like I had done something that was journalistically inappropriate or something and needed to be pulled off the air,” Brzezinski said.

There can be no question that MSNBC was firmly pro-Clinton and that the Clinton campaign did everything possible to make sure it stayed that way, but the levels of irony here are outstanding.

Clinton and her media cronies have spent much of the past two years bellowing about “the Russians” and so-called “pro-Trump” Russian media, while at the same time they were calling up American channels — channels which no doubt play a far bigger role in influencing American voters —  to chastise anchors whenever their candidate was the subject of some moderate criticism.

Depressing as it is, none of this should be surprising from MSNBC.

In 2003, Phil Donahue, one of America’s best-known TV hosts, was fired from his primetime MSNBC show in the run-up to the Iraq war. Like Uygur, the problem was not Donahue’s ratings — his was the highest-rated show on the network at the time — but the tone of his show. Donahue’s crime? He had been giving airtime to anti-war guests — and questioning the rush to war was seen to be unpatriotic.

A leaked internal memo revealed that Donahue’s bosses felt he was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war” because he was providing “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

“They were terrified of the anti-war voice. And that is not an overstatement,” Donahue said in an interview in 2013. This was particularly a problem for MSNBC because it was owned by General Electric at the time — and the war was going to be a boon for GE business. The company stood to gain billions from Iraq war contracts and to have a voice like Donahue’s on air was unacceptable.

But Donahue was not the only anti-war voice MSNBC was determined to silence. Just weeks after the invasion of Iraq, up-and-coming network star Ashleigh Banfield gave a speech in which she criticized the American media’s “sanitized” coverage of the war.

“It wasn’t journalism,” she said. “Because I’m not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful terrific endeavor.” American reporters, she said, had “wrapped themselves in the American flag” instead of doing real journalism that showed the true horror of war.

Following Banfield’s speech, NBC News released a statement slamming their colleague: “Ms. Banfield does not speak for NBC News. We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her remarks, and will review her comments with her.”

After that incident, MSNBC “banished” and sidelined Banfield as punishment. They took away her office, her phone, her computer.

“For 10 months I had to report to work every day and ask where I could sit. If somebody was away I could use their desk,” she explained. They eventually gave her an office in a “tape closet.” Banfield repeatedly asked to be let free of her contract, but NBC news president Neal Shapiro would not allow it. Instead they kept her on but gave her nothing to do.

“I will never forgive him for his cruelty and the manner in which he decided to dispose of me,” Banfield said. Just a gentle reminder at this point that MSNBC bills itself as a ‘progressive’ channel.

If anything, things have only gotten worse since Banfield’s thoughtful comments on the failures of American war journalism. When President Donald Trump fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria last April, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams was visibly awestruck, called the footage “beautiful” and quoted song lyrics on air to mark the occasion.

People scoff at state-funded channels like RT, while singing the praises of channels like MSNBC and CNN. Those networks benefit hugely from the myth that because they are not state-funded, they are somehow independent.

These are networks owned by giant parent corporations with plenty of skin in the political game — yet, it is rarely acknowledged that these corporations have a detrimental influence on the quality of journalism produced by their employees. The truth is rarely uttered, that network stars like Rachel Maddow are completely beholden to those corporate and political interests — and that this basic fact massively influences their reporting.

Maddow’s ratings at MSNBC have been climbing of late, no doubt due to her obsession with the ‘Russiagate’ story — a surefire crowd-pleaser among Democratic Party loyalists. But surely Maddow knows, deep down, if she ever went off script, if she ever upset her bosses by becoming truly controversial, she’d be out. Just like Uygur, Schultz, Donahue and Banfield.

For now, Maddow is safe, because she’s exactly the kind of journalist they love: She pretends to rage against the machine while earning $30,000 a day peddling all the right conspiracy theories and picking on all the right people.

A new promo for MSNBC features the cable network’s top anchors in a series of black and white old-school journalism photos. The voiceover is the late Chet Huntley, a former MSNBC newsman: “American journalism — all of it,” he says with certitude, “is the best anywhere in the world.”

It’s hard to believe that by “best” journalism, Huntley could have meant running non-stop corporate-influenced war propaganda, firing anti-establishment voices, banishing conscientious reporters to tape closets and instructing on-air talent not to ruffle any feathers in Washington.

“This is who we are,” the tagline at the end of the ad reads. But remember, thanks to Griffin and his conversation with Uygur, we know what MSNBC really is.

“We are the establishment.”

Read more:

How to become ‘an Assad apologist’? Just question MSM rhetoric & welcome to the club

US media’s love affair with war: Major outlets showed zero opposition to Syria strikes

MSNBC host claims Obama admin was ‘virtually scandal-free’

April 23, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

Liberals, Conservatives Worry About Korean Peace Threat

By Gregory Shupak | FAIR | March 15, 2018

WaPo: North Korea and South Korea snooker Trump

Washington Post‘s Max Boot (3/8/18)

Commentators across the spectrum of acceptable establishment opinion are alarmed by the possibility of peace breaking out on the Korean peninsula.

Some oppose the idea of talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on principle. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin (3/9/18), for instance, suggested that Trump should not meet with Kim:

Is Trump now to glad-hand with Kim, treating him as just another world leader? Will Trump even bring up human rights? (You will recall that, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama was ridiculed for suggesting he’d sit down with the North Korean dictator; he prudently backed off that idea.)

Her newly hired colleague Max Boot (Washington Post, 3/8/18) concurred:

As recently as August, Trump tweeted: “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” He was absolutely right.

Boot went on to contend:

The South Koreans claim that the North Koreans are willing to discuss denuclearization, but the likelihood is that they will only do so on terms that the United States should never accept. Kim may offer to give up his nukes if the United States will pull its forces out of South Korea and sign a peace treaty with the North.

What Boot sees as a doomsday scenario—peace between the two Koreas and the withdrawal from the peninsula of US troops, which serve as a constant threat to the North and thus ensure the permanent threat of war—is actually a formula for ensuring that there isn’t a second Korean war, one that is certain to be even more devastating than the catastrophic first one for Korea, and likely for the region and further afield.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "Looked at each other as if in disbelief"

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, 3/9/18)

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, 3/9/18) seemed flabbergasted by the prospect of a meeting between the leaders:

It has been the dream of North Korean leaders for decades now that they would advance their weapons programs and their nuclear programs so much so that the United States would be forced to acknowledge them as an equal and meet with the North Korean leader…. They got there with [Trump] and I don’t know that the administration intended it to be that kind of a gift. It’s just a remarkable time to be covering this stuff.

MSNBC blogger Steve Benen (3/9/18) says he’s “not opposed to direct diplomacy,” but he sounded like a time capsule from 1951 when he warned that

Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: It would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof  (3/9/18) also claims to prefer that the US and North Korea exchange words rather than missiles, but he expressed relief that the threat of peace was minimal: “It’s genuinely encouraging that Kim doesn’t object to the US resuming military exercises,” he wrote, but worried that America

has agreed to give North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.

For Maddow, Benen and Kristof, a catastrophic nuclear war likely to kill millions is less threatening than the (frankly remote) possibility of America treating a small Asian country as an equal. This sort of commentary shows that liberal analysts are every bit as capable of a chest-thumping jingoism as their counterparts on the right.

In Praise of Sanctions

Sanctions on North Korea make it harder for aid organizations to operate in the country, and for people living there to obtain drugs and medical supplies, such as anesthesia used for emergency operations and X-ray machines needed to diagnose tuberculosis (Washington Post, 12/16/17). Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, says he is “alarmed by reports that sanctions may have prevented cancer patients from access to chemotherapy and blocked the import of disability equipment.”

According to Kee B. Park (12/18/17), a neurosurgeon at Harvard Medical School, the hunger in North Korea “is devastating. And it’s our fault. Led by the United States, the international community is crippling North Korea’s economy” by “banning exports of coal, iron, lead, seafood and textiles, and limiting the import of crude oil and refined petroleum products,” “punishing the most vulnerable citizens” of the country. For example, UNICEF says that “an estimated 60,000 children face potential starvation in North Korea, where international sanctions are exacerbating the situation by slowing aid deliveries.”

The Post’s Boot, however, is impressed by the sanctions, and worried that they might be lifted: “North Korea hopes at a minimum for a relaxation of sanctions just when they are beginning to bite.” In the interest of precision, he should have added “60,000 children” after the word “bite.”

He continued:

It may make sense to talk to North Korea, but at a lower level, while maintaining the “maximum pressure” sanctions policy. Eventually the regime may feel so much pain that it will be willing to bargain in earnest.

North Korea doesn’t have the capacity to pain on the US, so it’s worth asking: Who will enforce hunger on America and destroy its economy to compel it to reverse its past approach (The Nation, 9/5/17) and “bargain in earnest” with North Korea? And would Boot endorse such an approach?

Boot can rest easy, however, about “so much pain” being reduced, as the Trump administration appears poised to maintain the sanctions until it determines that there has been “real progress” in the talks (AP, 3/13/18).

Kristof, like Boot, suggests that Trump “probably does” deserve credit for using sanctions to get North Korea to suspend tests of nuclear weapons:

First, Trump raised the economic pressure on North Korea with additional sanctions and extra support from China, and the pain was visible when I visited North Korea in September. Kim has made rising living standards a hallmark of his leadership, and sanctions have threatened that pillar of his legitimacy.

Kristof has made a career branding himself a bleeding heart concerned for the world’s most vulnerable but evidently his heart doesn’t bleed for “the most vulnerable citizens” of states that defy US dictates.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic US-Backed War in Yemen, Finds Russia 5000% more newsworthy

By Ben Norton | FAIR | January 8, 2018

For the popular US cable news network MSNBC, the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world is apparently not worth much attention—even as the US government has played a key role in creating and maintaining that unparalleled crisis.

An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017.

And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen.

Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the US-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history.

All of this is despite the fact that the US government has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force.

With little corporate media coverage from MSNBC or elsewhere, the US—under both presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump—has staunchly supported Saudi Arabia as it imposes a suffocating blockade on Yemen, diplomatically shielding the draconian Gulf dictatorship from any form of punishment as it has plunged millions of Yemeni civilians into mass hunger and pushed the poorest country in the Middle East onto the brink of famine.

1 Mention of Saudi Airstrikes; No Mention of Cholera

MSNBC: Does Russia Have Leverage Over Trump?

A favorite theme of MSNBC coverage

FAIR conducted a thorough analysis of MSNBC‘s broadcasts archived on the Nexis news database. (The figures in this report are derived from Nexis.)

In 2017, MSNBC ran 1,385 broadcasts that mentioned “Russia,” “Russian” or “Russians.” Yet only 82 broadcasts used the words “Yemen,” “Yemeni” or “Yemenis” in the entire year.

Moreover, the majority of the 82 MSNBC broadcasts that mentioned Yemen did so only once and in passing, often simply as one nation in a longer list of nations targeted by President Trump’s travel ban.

Of these 82 broadcasts in 2017, there was only a single MSNBC news segment devoted specifically to the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen.

On July 2, the network ran a segment on Ari Melber’s The Point (7/2/17) entitled “Saudi arms deal could worsen Yemen crisis.” The three-minute broadcast covered many of the important points about US support for the catastrophic Saudi war in Yemen.

Yet this informative segment stood alone in the entire year. A search of the Nexis database and the Yemen tag on MSNBC‘s website shows that, in the approximately six months after this July 2 broadcast, the network did not devote another segment specifically to the war in Yemen.

A search of MSNBC broadcasts also shows that, while the network would sometimes within the same broadcast mention both Yemen and airstrikes, it did not—aside from Ari Melber’s lone segment—acknowledge the existence of US/Saudi coalition airstrikes on Yemen.

MSNBC: US Launches Dozens of Airstrikes Against Al Qaeda Targets in Yemen

MSNBC only notices airstrikes in Yemen when aimed at Al Qaeda

The closest the network otherwise came was in a March 31, 2017 segment on the Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, in which Joy Reid said, “And as the New York Times reports, the United States launched more attacks in Yemen this month than during all of last year.” But Reid was referencing a New York Times report (3/29/17) on US airstrikes on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (which numbered in the dozens), not US/Saudi coalition airstrikes on Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen (which numbered in the thousands).

While ignoring the US/Saudi coalition airstrikes and the thousands of civilians they killed, however, MSNBC did report on Houthi attacks on Saudi warships of the coast of Yemen. In his show MTP Daily (2/1/17), Chuck Todd favorably covered the anti-Iran posturing of Trump and National Security advisor Michael Flynn. He misleadingly spoke of the Houthis as Iranian proxies and gave former US diplomat Nicholas Burns a platform to claim, “Iran is a violent troublemaker in the Middle East.” On February 1 and 2, Chris Hayes also reported on the Houthi attack.

MSNBC was eager to highlight attacks by US official enemies, yet the tens of thousands of air sorties Saudi Arabia has launched in Yemen—with weapons, fuel and intelligence from the US and UK—were made almost entirely invisible by the network.

Years of US/Saudi coalition bombing and blockade of Yemen likewise decimated the poor country’s health system, plunging it into a cholera epidemic that has killed thousands of people and broken all previous records. MSNBC did not once acknowledge this catastrophe either, according to a search on Nexis and MSNBC‘s website. Cholera was only mentioned on MSBNC in 2017 in the context of Haiti, not Yemen.

Only Interested When Americans Die

While MSNBC did not bother to mention Yemen’s cholera epidemic, it did express lots of interest in a disastrous Navy SEAL raid President Donald Trump approved in the country, which left an American dead. Particularly early in the year, the network devoted substantial coverage to the January 29 raid, which killed dozens of Yemeni civilians and one US soldier.

A search of the Nexis database shows that MSNBC mentioned the Trump-approved US raid in Yemen in 36 distinct segments in 2017. All of the network’s major shows produced segments that focused on the raid: MTP Daily on January 31 and March 1; All In on February 2, February 8 and March 1; For the Record on February 6; The Last Word on February 6, 8 and 27; Hardball on March 1; and the Rachel Maddow Show on February 2, February 3, February 23 and March 6.

But after this raid left the news cycle, so too did Yemen. A search of Nexis and the Yemen tag on the MSNBC website shows that, excluding Ari Melber’s lone July segment, the latest segment MSNBC devoted specifically to Yemen in 2017 was the Rachel Maddow Show‘s March 6 report on the SEAL raid.

The message conveyed is clear: to the leading liberal US cable news network, Yemen is relevant when it is Americans who die—not when thousands of Yemenis are killed, bombed daily by Saudi Arabia, with US weapons, fuel and intelligence; not when millions of Yemenis are on the verge of starving to death while the US/Saudi coalition uses hunger as a weapon.

The conclusion that only Americans’ lives are newsworthy is confirmed by the fact that Trump launched another disastrous raid in Yemen on May 23, in which several Yemeni civilians were once again killed. But American soldiers did not die in this raid, so MSNBC had no interest. The network did not devote coverage to this second botched Yemen raid.

Constant Attention to Russia

According to a Nexis search of the network’s broadcasts from January 1 to July 2, 2017, “Yemen,” “Yemeni” or “Yemenis” were mentioned in 68 MSNBC segments—nearly all of which were related to the SEAL raid or the list of countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban.

In the approximately six months from July 3 through the end of December, the words “Yemen,” “Yemeni” or “Yemenis” were only uttered in 14 segments. In most of these segments, Yemen was mentioned just once in passing.

MSNBC: Russua Wish List

Thousands of MSNBC segments last year mentioned Russia

In this same 181-day period in which MSNBC had no segments devoted specifically to Yemen, the terms “Russia,” “Russian” or “Russians” were mentioned in a staggering 693 broadcasts.

This is to say, in the latter half of 2017, MSNBC aired 49.5 times more—or 4,950 percent more—segments that spoke of Russia than segments that spoke of Yemen.

In fact, in the four days from December 26 to December 29 alone, MSNBC said “Russia,” “Russian” or “Russians” nearly 400 times in 23 separate broadcasts, on all of the network’s major shows, including Hardball, All In, Rachel Maddow, The Last Word, Meet the Press Daily and The Beat.

The day after Christmas featured an onslaught of Russia coverage. On December 26, the words “Russia,” “Russian” or “Russians” were uttered a staggering 156 times in the broadcasts from 5 pm EST to 11 pm. The following is the breakdown of the number of mentions of Russia:

  • 33 times on MTP Daily at 5 pm
  • 6 times on The Beat at 6 pm
  • 30 times on Hardball at 7 pm
  • 38 times on All In at 8 pm
  • 40 times Rachel Maddow at 9 pm
  • 9 times on The Last Word (with Ari Melber filling in for O’Donnell) at 10 pm

On this one day, MSNBC mentioned Russia almost twice as many times in six hours of coverage than it mentioned Yemen in all of 2017.

Passing References

While MSNBC did not have a segment devoted specifically to the war in Yemen other than Ari Melber’s lone July broadcast, the country was sporadically mentioned in passing.

Chris Hayes briefly acknowledged Yemen a few times, although he did not devote a segment to it. In the May 23 broadcast of All In, the host did point out, “We have been arming and supporting the Saudis as they pursue a proxy war in Yemen against Shia rebels, the Houthis.” Aside from the fact that the supposed Saudi/Iran proxy war in Yemen to which Hayes apparently alludes is a misleading talking point that has been fueled by the US government and intelligence agencies and obediently echoed by corporate media (FAIR.org, 7/25/17), Hayes still did not recognize the US/Saudi coalition airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians.

In a June 29 interview on All In, Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour additionally spoke out on behalf of “Yemeni refugees who are victims of a proxy war that we’re funding.” Hayes added, “Who are starving to death, because we’re essentially funding the Saudis to hold them under siege.” This was the rare moment in which MSBNC acknowledged the Saudi blockade of Yemen—but, again, no mention was made of the US-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemenis.

On July 5, Chris Hayes spoke using extreme euphemisms, stating, “Since taking office, the president has been swayed to take Saudi Arabia’s side in its dispute with Yemen.” Looking beyond the fact that “dispute” is an outrageous understatement for a brutal war that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands, Hayes failed to point out that former president Barack Obama, like Trump, staunchly supported Saudi Arabia as it bombed and besieged Yemen.

Rachel Maddow also again briefly mentioned the botched January US raid in Yemen in her broadcasts on April 7 and 24. So too did Hayes on October 16.

On MTP Daily on December 6, Chuck Todd similarly spoke of Yemen in passing, observing:

It is interesting, Tom, that the president seems to have these Gulf State allies. He is giving them basically carte blanche a little bit on what they’re doing in Yemen, is sort of looking the other way.

But that is it. Aside from Ari Melber’s one-off July segment, in 2017 MSNBC had no other coverage of the US-backed war that has created the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world.

What is striking is that MSNBC is clearly extremely critical of Donald Trump, yet it has passed on one of the best opportunities to condemn his policies. Instead of covering some of Trump’s worst, most violent actions—his acts of war that have left many thousands of civilians dead—MSNBC has ignored Trump’s Yemeni victims.

Perhaps this is because it was a Democratic president—Barack Obama, a favorite of MSNBC—who first oversaw the war in Yemen for nearly two years before Trump entered office. But MSNBC‘s right-wing rival, Fox News, has shown again and again that it has no problem attacking Democrats for doing what Republicans did before them.


You can send a message to Rachel Maddow at Rachel@msnbc.com (or via Twitter: @Maddow). Chris Hayes can be reached via Twitter: @ChrisLHayes. Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

March 11, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Rachel Maddow Is Lost in Her Cold War Conspiracies

By Eoin Higgins | Paste | April 13, 2017

On MSNBC’s Sirius XM promos, Rachel Maddow tells the listener that the network—and by extension, herself as well—presents the news without “fear or favor.”

But a review of the month of March by Paste suggests that fear sells. With a single exception, Maddow led off every episode of her show in March with an extended, conspiratorial update for her viewers on the alleged connections between Russia and the Trump administration. Maddow’s monologues focused on the Russian oligarchic state and the authoritarian rule of President Vladimir Putin.

This obsession with Russia has had a palpable effect on the national conversation. Maddow is one of the most influential and popular voices for American liberals, and her theorizing on the Russia/Trump connection is part of a larger theory connecting the alleged collusion between the two to every world and national event.

As Aaron Mate points out in The Intercept, Maddow’s concentration on Trump is predicated on the idea that the President is a Russian pawn. It’s hardly a sure thing, and the focus may be more damaging than constructive for the “resistance.”

Maddow and likeminded influential liberals will have led their audience on a fruitless quest, all the while helping foment anti-Russia sentiment, channeling Democratic Party energy away from productive self-critique, and diverting focus from the White House’s actual policies. Trump would be handed a further gift via the damaged credibility of his “enemy”: the media responsible for holding him to account.

Look no further than the reactions to Trump’s bombing of a Syrian government airfield on April 6 for proof of that—despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad is openly backed by Russia, some liberal commentators refuse to see the missile strike as at all possibly opposed to Russian interests. “Donald Trump, Who’s Totally Not Vladimir Putin’s Puppet, Warned Russia Before Airstrikes on Syria,” was Salon’s sarcastic headline.

This is in large part because Maddow presents Russia as an outlier on the world stage, involved in activity and behavior that is incompatible with the American way of life. Yet her examples from the last month are hardly convincing.

In Russia, Maddow says, there is a “corrupt, elite class of connected thieves at the top who have been siphoning money out of that country.” Though she acknowledges that the US has massive income inequality and corruption, in Russia it’s different, because

the politically connected class at the top that is stealing is much smaller… and is much more traceable now, in the short amount of time, in terms of the way they have yanked money out of that country, and the way they have spread it all over the world to hide it and to disguise its origins.

Let’s hope nobody shatters Maddow’s image of America by pointing out that 400 Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 61 percent of the population. Or that, according to the World Bank, the United States and Russia have almost exactly the same GINI index—the standard measure of inequality.

Not only is Russia a unique kleptocracy, Maddow says, but it (along with China and North Korea) is also an abnormally bellicose nation, consumed by the need to show off its military prowess and power. This kind of behavior, Maddow argues, is antithetical to the American way of life (emphasis added).

There’s no law against parading your military, whether or not it’s an important anniversary. But through American eyes, this is a little weird, right? If this gives you the willies to look at, it`s because it`s supposed to. This is an unabashed, uncomplicated, undisguised display of military threat, military prowess or national insecurity, depending on how you look at it. I mean, this is not something that we do here in the United States.

It’s hard to know how Maddow would describe the constant flyovers by Air Force jets at football games, the honoring of fully dressed Marines at baseball games, or the numerous holidays the United States has that involve the strutting of US military machines, personnel and paraphernalia. One way to describe it, of course, would be as an unabashed, uncomplicated, undisguised display of military threat, military prowess or national insecurity—depending on how you look at it.

Instead of policy discussions, analysis of domestic issues or digging into the backgrounds of administration personnel, Maddow’s program spent March with a spotlight aimed at the new administration’s as-yet-unsubstantiated ties with Russian government intelligence services and the allegedly Russian-led hack of the DNC emails.

It paid off. Maddow’s program is the only non-Fox News program in the ten top-rated cable news programs for the first quarter of 2017, and the highest-ranked non-Fox program in the lucrative 25-54 demographic, according to AdWeek. Yet this success came with an obsession with Russia twinned with overblown dot-connecting, speculative reasoning stated as fact and an emphasis on a wide ranging, insidious conspiracy.

Maddow referenced Russia repeatedly in March. The highest number of mentions we found was 105 on March 9, the lowest was days earlier on March 6, when it came up only eight times. On average, the country was mentioned around 53 times a show—or over once a minute, once you subtract commercials from the airtime—and Maddow did not let a single opening segment go by for the entire month without at least a mention of Russia’s alleged ties to Trump.

The entire list is below, but here are three telling examples of Maddow’s obsessive attention to Russia at the expense of anything else going on in the news.

March 7, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 71 times. Maddow acknowledged news about ACA and immigration, but chose to lead instead with a study of the Russian embassy, promising to cover the breaking domestic news later.

March 14, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 19 times. The show led with the infamous tax return document that Maddow introduced with a winding 20-minute monologue that touched on a number of conspiracy theories for which she provided no proof.

March 17, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 51 times. The show led with Tom Price, then moves to the Gorsuch hearings as a pretext for a long discussion on hypothetical discoveries about Russia in House hearings.

It was on the latter date that Maddow laid out the justification for her unrelenting focus—a thesis grounded on flimsy evidence, hyperbolic rhetoric and unsubstantiated allegations:

The Russian attack on our election last year, the unexplained connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during that time, during the time of the attack, the strangeness, particularly, the strangeness of the FBI in its treatment of this matter, it’s unsettling. It’s unsettling not just because this is one scandal among so many scandals for this young administration. So many scandals that some are being ignored because they’re not big enough to warrant attention amid other scandals, right?

This is unsettling not just because it’s one scandal among many. This is unsettling because if the worst is true, if the presidency is effectively a Russian op, right, if the American presidency right now is the product of collusion between the Russian intelligence services and an American campaign—I mean, that is so profoundly big. We not only need to stay focused on figuring it out, we need to start preparing for what the consequences are going to be if it proves to be true. We need to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with the worst revelations if they do come to light, if they are proved true.

Maddow could have just looked over reporting from the last four months to see that the allegations that Russia “attacked” the presidential election are questionable. But instead, she spent the entire month of March pushing an ever-escalating conspiracy theory to explain the Trump presidency, based on speculative hyperbole describing a mass web of collusion between the president, the Russian government and other actors.

“WikiLeaks got all inextricably bound up in our new national nightmare about Russia hacking our presidential election,” Maddow said (3/6/17), and “Russian intelligence was mounting an operation against us, against our election to try to affect the outcome” (3/9/17). Yet despite the fact that the MSNBC host had “been following this [with] pretty intense attention” (3/2/17), she conceded she didn’t “know what`s going on in terms of the law enforcement and intelligence investigations” (3/3/17).

That didn’t stop Maddow from speculating about what those investigations could find out about possible Trump/Russia collusion.

“We’ve had it confirmed today that what they are also investigating is whether, once again, the Russians had help from inside the United States when it came time to humble America and show our country what they are capable of,” Maddow said (3/20/17), elaborating remarkably on the testimony of FBI Director James Comey, who had said only that the agency was investigating potential ties between the campaign and the Russian government.

Maddow’s viewers wouldn’t have known that from her. Instead, they would have been treated to more accusations of an intelligence operation that used the internet and Bernie Sanders supporters to defeat Hillary Clinton.

“Russian forces were operating inside something very high-profile,” Maddow said (3/31/17). “They were operating inside the U.S. presidential election.”

“This is not part of American politics,” she said earlier in the month (3/21/17). “This is not, you know, partisan warfare between Republicans and Democrats. This is international warfare against our country and it did not end on election day. We are still in it.”

Trump’s finances came in for scrutiny as well—understandable, given that the president has refused to release his tax returns. But even a major scoop in mid-March fell prey to a rambling monologue that tried to hit all the marks of the Russian conspiracy theory before landing on a rather deflated two-page nothingburger.

“Has [Trump] received money from foreign sources? Has he received loans from foreign sources?” Maddow asked, before revealing two pages of a 2005 tax return that indicated nothing of the sort.

She added the next day that there were questions on why Trump would make public statements on the benefits of investing in Russia in 2006, trying to tie in the widely panned exposé from the night before:

Why did he think so? Were there financial ties with Russia that would give him such confidence about that pronouncement which he made very shortly after he signed this tax return?

There are no negative consequences for the liberal commentator for trafficking in these sorts of conspiracy theories, as long as they’re aimed at the “right” target—look no further than Fairness and Accuracy’s recent reporting on Louise Mensch to see how the most discredited, illogical ideas can gain credence on the centrist liberal media circuit as long as they are aimed at Russia. And in Maddow’s case, these theories have an added bonus: higher ratings and corresponding higher ad revenue.

Maddow presents herself as a fair but tough liberal commentator. Her show is based on her presentation of the news that her audience wants and needs to hear. For her to spend so much time on a Cold War enemy at the expense of real domestic policies, and for her to do so with such speculative reasoning and logical leaps and bounds makes it clear that it’s ratings, not truth, that she’s really after.

Maddow on Russia: March, 2017

Findings on the pundit’s preoccupation

March 2, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 24 times. Show leads with Attorney Jeff Sessions’ conversations with Kislyak.

March 3, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 68 times. Show leads with profile of Russian opposition to Putin.

March 6, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 8 times. Show leads with Trump family ties to central Asian nation Azerbijain.

March 7, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 71 times. Maddow acknowledges news about ACA and immigration but chooses to lead instead with a study of the Russian embassy, promising to cover the domestic breaking news later.

March 8, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 103 times. Show leads with the GOP platform on Russia and Ukraine.

March 9, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 105 times. Show leads with sanctions and mentions the unsubstantiated dossier on Trump written by retired British intelligence officer Christopher Steele Buzzfeed published, acknowledges its content has not been verified, and then quotes from it at length.

March 10, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 47 times. Show leads with Mike Flynn’s ties to the country and his dinner with RT.

March 13, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 50 times. Show leads with Russian money laundering after Maddow lets the audience know the GOP healthcare bill has problems, but she’ll get to them later.

March 14, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 19 times. Show leads with the infamous tax return document that Maddow introduced with a winding 20-minute monologue touching on a number of conspiracy theories for which she had zero proof.

March 15, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 31 times. Show leads with Geert Wilders and the Russian investigation in Congress; Maddow tries to tie an FSB agent’s prosecution in Russia to Trump.

March 16, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 65 times. Show leads with the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

March 17, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 51 times. Show leads with Tom Price, then moves to the Gorsuch hearings as a pretext for a long discussion on hypothetical discoveries about Russia in House hearings.

March 20, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 86 times. Show leads with Russian nuclear capabilities.

March 21, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 52 times. Show leads with Bernie Sanders’ online supporters were Russian agents.

March 22, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 54 times. Show leads with Paul Manafort’s connections to an unnamed Russian billionaire.

March 23, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 57 times. Show leads with health care repeal (Russia and Ukraine are a segment later on).

March 24, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 33 times. Show leads with the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian involvement in the election.

March 27, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 50 times. Show leads with the FSB and Russian banks conspiring to get Trump elected.

March 28, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 39 times. Show leads with Maddow declaring that Russia and China’s displays of military power during national holidays are unique to those countries.

March 29, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 50 times. Show leads with alleged Russian involvement in the upcoming French elections.

March 30, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 33 times. Show leads with Mike Flynn’s request for immunity, which Maddow ties to Russia.

March 31, 2017: “Russia” or “Russians” mentioned 80 times. Show leads with the House investigation.

You can follow Eoin Higgins on Twitter and find him at Patreon.

April 17, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

The West’s Media Delusions

By James W Carden | Consortium news | November 23, 2016

In a wide ranging and necessary survey of Russian political programming, Dr. Gilbert Doctorow, himself a frequent guest on those shows, observes that:

“The charges — that Russian media are only an instrument of state propaganda directed at the domestic population to keep Russian citizens in line and at foreign audiences to sow dissent among Russia’s neighbors and within the European Union — are taken as a matter of faith with almost no proofs adduced. Anyone who questions this ‘group think’ is immediately labeled a ‘tool of Putin’ or worse.”

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow

Dr. Doctorow has launched an important conversation in light of the release of yet another alarmist media report, this time by a British neoconservative group named (oddly) after a long deceased Democratic Senator from Washington State (Henry “Scoop” Jackson), which seeks to stifle debate on Russia policy in the West by smearing dissenters from the Russia-bashing conventional wisdom as “Putin’s useful idiots.”

Doctorow’s experience with the Russian media therefore serves a double use: to combat willful Western misconceptions of the Russian media landscape as well as to serve as a useful point of comparison with U.S. media outlets and their coverage of Russia.

If we take the example of the purportedly liberal cable news outlet MSNBC, we find, paradoxically, that the hard-right neoconservative stance toward Russia goes virtually unopposed. Regarding Russia, in comparison with their principal center-left cable news rival CNN, which, to its credit occasionally makes room for the minority “detente” point of view, MSNBC leaves about as much room for dissent as the Soviet-era Pravda – actually, perhaps less.

New McCarthyism

As it happens, there was a similar disparity when it came to the way the two networks covered the U.S. presidential election. While CNN went about bringing much needed balance to its coverage, albeit in the most inept way possible – by hiring paid flacks from each of the campaigns to appear alongside actual journalists, MSNBC (like Republican rival FOX News) wholly dispensed with any pretense of objectivity and served as little more than as a mouth piece for the disastrous Clinton campaign.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin, who led the "Red Scare" hearings of the 1950s.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin

As such, the “liberal” network found itself in the vanguard of the new McCarthyism which swept the 2016 campaign, but which has, in fact, been a feature of the American debate over Russia policy since at least the beginning of the Ukraine crisis in late 2013 – if not earlier.

Examples abound, but perhaps the most striking case of the neo-McCarthyite hysteria which MSNBC attempted to dress up as its legitimate concern over U.S. national security was a rant that Rachel Maddow unleashed on her audience in June when Maddow opened her show with a monologue dedicated to the proposition that Donald Trump was in league with Vladimir Putin.

Maddow, in her signature smarter-than-thou tone, informed readers that the “admiration” between Putin and Trump “really is mutual. I mean, look at this headline, ‘Putin praises Trump. He’s brilliant and talented person.’ ‘Putin praises bright and talented Trump.’ ‘Vladimir Putin praises outstanding and talented Trump.’ There was some controversy over how to exactly translate Putin’s remarks, but Putin took care to flatter Donald Trump publicly, exactly the way Donald Trump likes to be flattered, and that’s apparently enough for Donald Trump, that`s all he needs to hear, that`s all he needs to know, to tell him, how great Vladimir Putin is.

“Putin likes Trump, he must be smart, must be great. So, that is the very, very unusual context here, that you have a Republican presidential nominee who is very, very susceptible to flattery. It`s the most powerful thing in the world to him. If you compliment him, he will never forget it and that`s kind of all he needs to know about you.”

Maddow went on in this vein for quite a while longer (meaning: little actual content but lots of “very, very’s” and eye-rolling). But her central insight, such as it was, was little more than a regurgitation of Democratic National Committee talking points. To no one’s surprise, Maddow’s accusations were repeated almost verbatim in the press releases issued by the Clinton campaign which accused Trump of being little more than a Russian fifth columnist.

Maddow’s evidence-free, innuendo laden June rant took on an added importance because she was the messenger. After the risible, self-important sports journalist Keith Olbermann left the network in 2011, Maddow took over as the network’s house intellectual. So her words carry weight with its viewers in a way, say, Mika Brzezinki’s do not.

Nevertheless at no point at which I am aware did Maddow ever host a guest who pushed back against the still unproven charges that the Russian government had interfered in the U.S. election or that Donald Trump was, in the words of former CIA functionary Mike Morell, an “unwitting agent of the Kremlin” – never mind that as recently as Nov. 15, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker admitted he had “no proof” of Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election.

While it is unclear whether MSNBC’s Joy Reid is seen as “serious” a voice as Maddow, it is unquestionable that she has emerged as the network’s most enthusiastic practitioner of the new McCarthyism.

Days before the election Reid hosted Newsweek’s increasingly unhinged Kurt Eichenwald and former Naval officer Malcolm Nance who has repeatedly and without evidence claimed the Wikileaks-Podesta emails were fake.

Why, asked Reid, are the Russians backing Trump? As if that assertion was beyond dispute. Well, said Eichenwald, “They hate Hillary Clinton…” Oh. Reid then went on to wonder why the FBI is down-playing the intelligence community’s allegedly deep concern that Russia was interfering in the election.

Putin-Bashing

Days later, right after the election, Reid re-assembled a panel featuring Nance, the reliable Putin critic Nina Khrushcheva and Esquire’s Charles Pierce to reinforce the message that MSNBC had been pushing since the summer: that the Russian government had its hand on the scale of the U.S. election. Pierce, in particular, was apoplectic.

That Reid’s roundtable featured Pierce made a good deal of sense. Throughout the campaign, Pierce has been determined to draw a direct link between the Trump campaign and Putin. A sample of his output helps tell the tale. On July 24, Pierce published “Donald Trump’s and Vladimir Putin’s Shared Agenda Should Alarm Anyone Concerned About Democracy” in which Pierce speculated that “Trump seems increasingly dependent on money from Russia and from the former Soviet republics within its increasingly active sphere of influence.”

In his offering of Sept. 9, Pierce protested that “It’s not ‘red-baiting’ to be concerned about Russian interference in our elections.” Pierce, perhaps moved to madness by The Nation editorial “Against Neo-McCarthyism,” sounded as though he were channeling the ghost of James Jesus Angleton, asking, “Are we supposed to believe that Donald Trump really went on RT television by accident? That nobody on his staff knew that the Russian government’s American network picks up Larry King’s podcast?”

About a month before the election, on Oct. 11, Pierce informed readers of the once-great Esquire, “Vladimir Putin Is Determined to See Trump in the Oval Office.” Still worse, according to Pierce, “There is little question now that Vladimir Putin is playing monkey-mischief with the 2016 presidential election, and that the Trump campaign is the primary beneficiary of that.”

All of the aforementioned is to demonstrate that the American media’s much touted pluralism is little more than a fiction when it comes to reporting on Russia. The diversity of Left-Right voices on the political spectrum that Doctorow has encountered in Moscow indicates that the widespread perception that Moscow’s political culture is monolithic compared to that of the Washington’s is, at the very least, challengeable.


James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.

November 24, 2016 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

In Clinton Cuckooland: 1000s-Strong Army of Russian Babushkas is Hacking America

Sputnik – 05.11.2016

If you thought there was nothing left for the Clinton propaganda machine to blame Russia for during this election season, hold on tight!

Newsweek’s infamous Kurt Eichenwald just released another bombshell: the US is being hacked by a massive army of elderly Russian emigrants who, underneath those headscarves, are actually top-notch cyberspies!

Newsweek has finally cracked the case!

Moscow is hacking America on behalf of Donald Trump — it’s an accusation that’s become a familiar refrain for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But who, exactly, are the soldiers behind Putin’s nefarious plan? Senior writer Kurt Eichenwald, who made headlines last month for pushing an equally absurd conspiracy theory about Sputnik’s own role in the intrigue, has the scoop: Western intelligence and law enforcement say tens of thousands of people have been working with Russia on its hacking and disinformation campaign for many years. They include propagandists and cyberoperatives stationed in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, located in the southwestern part of Siberia. Operations have also been conducted in the United States, primarily out of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Those involved include a large number of Russian émigrés, as well as Americans and other foreign nationals. Intelligence operations in Europe and the U.S. have determined that the money these émigrés receive for their work is disguised as payments from a Russian pension system.

Evidence? Nah, who needs it.

You read that right: thousands of Russian retirees that moved to the States to live with their kids are hardly who they pretend to be. Those babushkas and dedushkas are really soldiers (or maybe even officers!) in the army of cyberspies hacking America from within for Donald Trump, according to Newsweek.

Why Trump? Because he’s Putin’s puppet, of course! Eichenwald goes on to reiterate his earlier theory, which, according to his own admission, was fed to him by US intelligence. He claims that the Republican nominee rehashed Russian “propaganda” at a rally speech — transmitted to the candidate by none other than yours truly, Sputnik News. What Eichenwald misses entirely is the irony of admitting that he was handed the story by his own government — the very definition of propaganda.

“You need to ask yourself — how does someone like me who is deeply wired into the intelligence community know so fast that you had posted this? It’s not like I was sitting around reading Sputnik. Others are though, and they are not reading it 24-hours a day in real time for the purpose of keeping abreast of the news,” Eichenwald told former Sputnik News writer and editor Bill Moran in an email. Newsweek magazine is displayed on a shelf at a news stand at South Station in Boston, Wednesday, May 5, 2010. The Washington Post Co. is putting Newsweek up for sale in hopes that another owner can figure out how to stem losses at the 77-year-old weekly magazine.

Not to mention that Eichenwald tried to bribe Moran with a job as a political reporter for The New Republic in exchange for his silence, when his lies and attempts at a cover-up were revealed — he also left that out of the new report.

Newsweek’s darling also failed to mention that, since his original story was published, it has been widely debunked across the board as an absolute lie.

The New York Times recently dismissed the myth of a Trump-Putin connection, reporting that the FBI has failed to find any links between the two despite a thorough investigation. The Washington Post also dismissed Eichenwald’s conspiracy theory, openly calling him out. And the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald wrote a piece tearing apart Eichenwald’s false report.

None of these facts have stopped Newsweek’s bizarre crusade to spread this misinformation to smear both Trump and Russia, however. And Newsweek is not alone in its campaign: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday night previewed Eichenwald’s story as an important piece of evidence against Trump, and the next morning Eichenwald himself appeared on CNN to present his latest conspiracy theory. Naturally, none of the Clinton-campaigning correspondents challenged his statements.

To sum up, Eichenwald published an entirely fabricated conspiracy theory, which has been widely debunked. He attempted to bribe a journalist for his silence. He is now continuing his crusade, with new revelations about an army of geriatric ne’er-do-wells, all the while becoming more and more of a laughing stock.

Bravo, Newsweek. Now we know why you went out of print.

November 5, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Lesser Evil Politics: Really, Noam? Hubert Humphrey?

By David McDonald | CounterPunch | July 8, 2016

Is no one else tired of alternate history politics? You know, how you caused the Iraq War because you voted for Nader in 2000? I would rather jump into a pool of sludge than read more on that one. The entire enterprise is suspect because it involves just making stuff up and once you go there the sky’s the limit so you can blame anyone for anything. That’s why this tactic never dies. We are spared Al Gore in the present instance, but the price is steep.

Now Noam Chomsky has brought a cudgel to this fight. Trust me, it’s a blunt instrument.

Back in ’68, Chomsky says, “the ultraleft faction of the peace movement” caused the election of Richard Nixon by “minimizing the comparative danger” of a Nixon presidency, thereby making the huge strategic mistake of foisting Nixon on the world, prolonging the Vietnam War by “six years” and causing senseless deaths and untold suffering because we voted our hearts, not our minds.

Fortunately for those of us who were running around doing stuff in the antiwar movement and not voting Democrat, not a word of this is true.

The first fail is this: Nixon could not have been defeated even if every last member of “the ultraleft faction of the peace movement” had voted for the Democrat Humphrey, along with all their friends and relations. The devil is in those pesky electoral votes. The difference of .7% in popular vote ballooned to an electoral defeat of 301 to 191 to 46 (George Wallace), so Humphrey would have needed to pick up a bunch of states with 79 electoral votes to get to 270.

Let’s look at one of them: California. This state has a lot of data, a lot of 3rd party candidates and is favorable for Chomsky’s argument since Nixon’s victory margin there was only three percentage points. (His margin was closer in only 5 states totaling 84 electoral votes but greater in 26 others.) Nevertheless, Humphrey came up short by 223,346 votes. Now, if all the votes for all 3rd party candidates are thrown in with an equal number for their friends and family, and if this total is doubled again to account for ultraleft abstentions, Humphrey still loses California by over 10,000 votes. Chomsky’s LEV argument fails the test of arithmetic.

Really? How was it that the combined antiwar forces of 1968 could not marshal another couple hundred thousand votes (if they got their heads on straight) and could only muster 52,000 votes for all the third parties in a very contested election? Well, we didn’t have the vote. The voting age was 21. If you graduated high school after 1965 you were too young to vote in 1968. That was almost everybody in the movement. Repeat: the antiwar movement could not have saved Humphrey if it wanted to, because we didn’t have the vote. Fail.

The second fail is the preposterous charge of extending the war by 6 years. The war only lasted 6 more years under Nixon/Ford, so the Democrat, if elected, would have had to declare not just immediate but instant withdrawal. As we shall see, that is an otherworldly conjecture. Why not just claim to shorten the war by several years? This is not the only time this brief reads like a really sloppy first draft and makes an unforced error.

Chomsky himself has noted elsewhere the manner in which the decision to withdraw from Vietnam was actually made by the rulers of America. Sorry, but background. The single most important event of the Vietnam War occurred on January 31, 1968: the Tet Offensive. An armed insurrection broke out in every major town and every provincial capital and in Saigon itself, where the US Embassy was breached and partly overrun. Though this insurrection was short-lived and massively attacked with the full might of the assembled US military; although the insurrectionary forces were at least savagely repressed if not obliterated almost everywhere, and though it took years to rebuild the networks that were sacrificed in those few days; and notwithstanding the fact that the “insurrection” failed to mobilize any segment of the South Vietnamese society in noticeable let alone decisive numbers and relied instead of members of the NLF; nevertheless, the Tet Offensive is widely understood as one of the greatest military victories of history because it destroyed the will of the American people to pursue the war.

Many colonial powers have endured uprisings by subject peoples and continued more or less unfazed, like the British in India and the French in Algeria, at least for a while. But in America we were fed, for years, the lie that the war was being won and pacification of local hamlets and villages was happily proceeding. The end was in sight. So the shock of Tet in America was total. Suddenly a lot of people stopped believing anything the government said about Vietnam.

President Lyndon Johnson also stopped believing what he heard about Vietnam and in the wake of Tet instructed his new Secretary of Defense, an old pal and Democratic Party fixer going back to Truman, to assess the government’s ability to field the 205,000 more troops requested by Gen. Westmoreland as the way to put Tet behind them and go on winning the war. That was the official task but Johnson was tired of hearing totally different stories from different parts of his government and wanted to put the entire security cabinet, as the Israelis would call it, in the same room where they would be forced to arrive at an agreed assessment with no chance of weaseling out later. After three days the new Secretary of Defense concluded there was no way whatsoever to win the war and the US should adopt the strategy called “Vietnamization,” the effort to turn over fighting to the armed forces of the puppet government Washington had been propping up for over a decade. Everyone understood this could not be an overnight affair like evacuating Dunkirk, for dozens of reasons. Everyone also knew Vietnamization would never work and the real point was to disguise defeat. Whole books have been written about this. Allies had to be placated and lies prepared not just for our own but also the people of the unfortunate countries who followed the US down this rabbit hole and provided troops, like Australia and South Korea, the latter providing 50,000. Withdrawal was never going to happen in less than years, on purpose. Total fail #2.

Oddly, Chomsky’s brief never mentions by name the person we should have voted for back when we doomed the Vietnamese to six more years of war in our ultra-left fever. This is at least consistent with Chomsky’s past practice regarding Humphrey. Between when he started writing on social and political issues in February of 1967 with the explosive publication of “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” and the 1968 election Chomsky penned five important essays that established him forever as a leading American intellectual, scourge of the Vietnam War, and a man who names names. A man who would out the head of his own department in writing as no more than an academic war profiteer.

In those essays he mentions Humphrey twice, both times in passing. First:

[T]he Vice President tells us that we are fighting “militant Asian Communism” with “its headquarters in Peking” and adds that a Viet Cong victory would directly threaten the United States[.]

This is so beyond stupid that the old Chomsky, who knew when a thing spoke for itself, made no comment. Walter Lippmann, a right-wing commentator, did point out that this bespoke an unseemly lack of confidence in the US Navy. In the second mention in this blistering political year, discussing moral choices, Chomsky puts Humphrey in some spotty company thinking very bad thoughts, but also in passing, like Dante might mention some subsidiary clod shivering in a corner of some circle of hell:

Suppose that it were in the American “national interest” to pound into rubble a small nation that refuses to submit to our will. Would it then be legitimate and proper for us to act “in this national interest”? The Rusks and the Humphreys and the Citizens Committee say “Yes”. Nothing could show more clearly how we are taking the road of the fascist aggressors of a generation ago.

Is this really everything Chomsky wrote about the Man who Might Have Stopped the War? When an endorsement, in Chomsky’s mind at least, might have mattered ? Yes. That is all.

We have seen that it was mathematically impossible for Humphrey to win California, one of his better states. We have seen that the decision to exit Vietnam was taken at the level of the deep state with not an elected official in the room. Further, that the necessity to mask defeat birthed Vietnamization, which allowed for blaming everything on the hapless South Vietnamese Army as it visibly disintegrated. All this would take time. Nobody cared.

It is clear that for something other than the slow-assed withdrawal outlined above to occur Humphrey would have had to take on the entire establishment. The final fail is that Chomsky does not argue what he must: that there was something known about Humphrey’s character at the time that might make such a head-on challenge to his own administration plausible. Who, then, was Hubert Humphrey?

First, as Chomsky notes above, Humphrey was first and foremost an anti-Communist. And not just in words: He made his bones in Minnesota politics by helping to destroy the Farmer-Labor Party and fold it into the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. This meant wiping out pockets of radicalism left over from the titanic victory of the Teamsters Strike of 1934, often with the use of thugs. In national politics he sponsored a bill to make membership in the Communist Party illegal, sponsored other outlandish pieces of anti-communist legislation, voted to establish detention camps for people like us, was a founder of the anti-communist Americans for Democratic Action and was at least as full-throated an anti-communist with credentials rivaling Nixon’s.

Second, he was an order-taking schnook, and everybody knew it. It is said he advised LBJ early on that Vietnam was a loser but lost his taste for that truth when LBJ froze him out for a couple of months. Since Humphrey considered Johnson’s favor his only possible road into the White House, in the time-honored way of American politicians he proceeded to say exactly what he was told to say for the next four years, never mind that he didn’t believe it. He thus became the Administration’s foremost spokesperson on the war and gave an astonishing 400 speeches defending the Administration’s Vietnam policy.

Robert Kennedy, smelling blood because Clean Gene McCarthy almost handed Johnson his ass in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, entered the race and chased Johnson out within weeks. Before the public announcement that he would not run Johnson coldly told an ashen-faced Humphrey he would have to run against Kennedy and Humphrey, knowing he was dead meat, obeyed. Only Kennedy’s assassination saved him from utter humiliation. He took not one step to distinguish himself from Johnson’s Vietnam position during the entire campaign.

By the record, no one (except his lawyer) ever considered him a man whose thoughts or actions on the war need be discussed. Everything Chomsky himself said about Humphrey during these tumultuous times is quoted in full above. Gabriel Kolko in Anatomy of a War mentions only “Hubert Humphrey’s faltering campaign for the presidency.” In Fred Halstead’s highly detailed history of the antiwar movement Out Now he is again mentioned only once, in passing, as the evident choice of the Democratic Party machine while Jerry Rubin’s index citations run to half a column.

It is not real to think that such a man might impose his will on the machinery of state and speed up the withdrawal from Vietnam. If Chomsky has reasons to believe this, he has kept them to himself. Nothing in history and nothing in Humphrey’s character bears him out. Third and final fail.

Do you still think I have missed the boat? Let’s finally then let the candidates speak for themselves on Vietnam. Here are their respective positions as delivered from the podium during their acceptance speeches.

Humphrey:

“Let those who believe that our cause in Vietnam has been right — and those who believe it has been wrong — agree here and now: Neither vindication nor repudiation will bring peace or be worthy of our country.

The question is: What do we do now?

No one knows what the situation in Vietnam will be on January 20, 1969.

Every heart in America prays that, by then, we shall have reached a cease-fire in all Vietnam, and be in serious negotiation toward a durable peace.

Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate, and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans, that I shall do everything within my power to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war.”

Nixon:

“We shall begin with Vietnam.

We all hope in this room that there is a chance that current negotiations may bring an honorable end to that war. And we will say nothing during this campaign that might destroy that chance.

But if the war is not ended when the people choose in November, the choice will be clear. Here it is.

For four years this Administration has had at its disposal the greatest military and economic advantage that one nation has ever had over another in any war in history.

For four years, America’s fighting men have set a record for courage and sacrifice unsurpassed in our history.

For four years, this Administration has had the support of the Loyal Opposition for the objective of seeking an honorable end to the struggle.

Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively.

And if after all of this time and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership — not tied to the mistakes and the policies of the past. That is what we offer to America.

And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next Administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there — we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.”

Can’t tell the difference? Neither could we.

The paucity of effort Chomsky expends on this surreal exercise in alternate history politics is notable. He isn’t really trying. He never mentions Humphrey by name. He fact-checks nothing. He does not even appear to know what a Hobson’s Choice is. That’s because all the thinking, if you want to call it that, was done long ago when Chomsky joined the Democrat’s team and stopped thinking about how to actually forge political independence.

The genius of the Democrats is that they will cheerfully allow you to say anything at all, as a Democrat, so long as you toe the line on election day. No harm, no foul. Hence the livelihoods of predictable shills like Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales.

It is slightly different with Chomsky because he has maintained the step of organizational independence from the Democrats, does not suggest that the Democrats can be reformed or taken over, and yet still demands we vote for them if a vote against them might actually hurt. He has, by his own admission, voted in this manner for the last 17 presidential elections. In practice he is a Democratic Party dues cheater pretending a political independence he has never demonstrated.

July 9, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AMAZEBALLS: Rachel Maddow’s Ignorance on Iran

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | June 13, 2013

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has a penchant for saying smug, self-satisfied and generally stupid things about Iran. She has claimed that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 marked the establishment of a dictatorship in that country, rather than end of one; one that just so happened to be a monarchic dynasty that was proudly supported for decades by the United States government. Just two months ago, she weirdly decided to mock Iranians for their national and religious holidays because, y’know, she’s progressive like that.

Maddow was back at it this week, ending her nightly program on Monday with some juvenile comments about Friday’s presidential vote, when Iranians will elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor. Here’s how she began:

The current president of Iran has had the job for the last eight years. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he’s known around the world for defending Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

It took her all of seven whole seconds to spit out that egregious falsehood.

First, Maddow’s premise is wrong. Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Despite being the single most spied on country on the planet, U.S. intelligence consistently affirms that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and its leadership has not made any decision to start one. Iran has never breached its obligations as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The vast majority of allegations about Iranian weaponization research and testing has been provided by the United States and Israel, has never been authenticated, and refers to long-debunked claims about supposed actions that took place over a decade ago.

Iran does have, however, a highly-developed nuclear energy program and enriches uranium to levels far below weapons-grade under strict supervision and routine inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The agency has continued to verify – up to four times a year over the past ten years – that Iran has never diverted any nuclear material for military purposes and has also affirmed “it has all the means it needs to make sure that does not happen with Iran’s enriched uranium, including cameras, physical inspections and seals on certain materials and components.”

Furthermore, despite the constant mainstream perception that Iran’s nuclear facilities are opaque and mysterious, the fact is that the IAEA has conducted more inspections in Iran than anywhere else.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, now a lecturer at Princeton University, has noted, “Since 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has implemented the most robust inspections in its history with more than 100 unannounced and over 4000 man-day inspections in Iran.”

Just last year alone, IAEA investigators spent 1,356 calendar days in Iran, conducting 215 on-site inspections of the country’s 16 declared nuclear facilities, and spending more than 12% of the agency’s entire $127.8 million budget on intrusively monitoring the Iranian program, which fields only a single functional nuclear reactor, which doesn’t even operate at full capacity.

By contrast, IAEA inspectors spent only “180 calendar days in France, Europe’s biggest nuclear power,” while “Russia and the U.S., which maintain the world’s biggest atomic-weapon arsenals and aren’t required under rules to allow inspections of all facilities, received 16 and 50 calendar-day visits respectively.”

But Maddow’s ignorance was even more pronounced when she claimed that Ahmadinejad is known for “defending” a program that doesn’t exist.

Never once, in the 34 years since the revolution, has a single government official stated Iran’s intention to acquire nuclear weapons – to the contrary, such a goal has always been explicitly denied on strategic, legal, moral, humanitarian and religious grounds.

Ahmadinejad himself has never strayed from this stance. In September 2005, shortly after his first inauguration, the Iranian president stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed the Islamic Republic’s “previously and repeatedly declared position that, in accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited.”

The following year, he stated clearly, “Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country.” Indeed, over the past eight years, Ahmadinejad has lambasted the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons as “inhuman,” “against the whole grain of humanity,” “obsolete,” “abhorrent,” “disgusting and shameful.” Ahmadinejad has said, “The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon,” described it as “evil,” and declared anyone who builds an atomic bomb as “crazy and insane,” as well as “politically…backward.”

Nevertheless, American officials and their ventriloquist media puppets like Rachel Maddow continue to claim that Iran is actively pursuing the development of nuclear arms. On June 9, the New York Times stated that one of the most pressing issues for Samantha Power, Obama’s nominee to replace Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will be to confront “Iran’s apparent attempts to develop a nuclear weapon.”

The very same day, in an interview with the American overseas propaganda outfit, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman expressed, “from a U.S. perspective,” the belief that “Iran’s nuclear program… is headed towards having a nuclear weapon.”

Apparently, the “U.S. perspective,” noted by Sherman doesn’t rely on facts or evidence.

Some officials, however, choose their words more carefully than others. During testimony before Congress on June 11, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “Iran is a threat to US national security in many ways, not simply their move toward the potential to develop a nuclear weapon,” adding, “I choose my words carefully, because the intelligence community has not yet come to a conclusion that they intend to build a nuclear weapon.”

Yet Maddow’s own declaration was even more definitive, echoing, of all things, the words of George W. Bush. In March 2008, Bush, while speaking on RFE/RL’s Persian-language counterpart, Radio Farda, stated that the Iranian government have “declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people — some in the Middle East.”

This statement was so devoid of truth that even former State Department Iran specialist Suzanne Maloney was moved to speak out. Maloney, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, noted at the time, “The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon,” adding that while, in her opinion, “there’s plenty of room for skepticism about these assertions…it’s troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country.”

Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a non-proliferation group, also chimed in to correct the record. Calling Bush’s statement “uninformed,” he explained, “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true. It’s a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran.”

It is indisputable that Iranian officials have consistently denounced the acquisition, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons.

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski made this point in 2009, stating that Iran has been “publicly affirming for quite some time” three main points: “We don’t want nuclear weapons. We’re not seeking nuclear weapons. Our religion forbids us to have nuclear weapons.”

Brzeneski added, “Note, incidentally, that this stands in sharp, explicit contrast with the position of the North Koreans. The North Koreans have been saying the very opposite: ‘We want nuclear weapons. We’re seeking nuclear weapons. And, in your face, haha!, we have nuclear weapons.'” Brzenzinski also condemned the American penchant for “oversimplification and sloganeering rather than analysis” with regards to Iran.

Early this year, Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association, similarly affirmed that the “leadership in Tehran continues to challenge the rationale and morality of nuclear weapons. Although such policy statements are hardly determinative of actual intentions, they do stand in stark contrast to the declaratory policies of other governments of proliferation concern, such as North Korea or Pakistan.”

Unsurprisingly, the rest of Maddow’s segment, solely designed to make fun of Iran for some reason, was rife with worn out stereotypes and mainstream talking points.  Even the minutiae of her snide derision were weird.  Referring to the current heated presidential race as “amazeballs” – because, y’know, she’s a professional journalist – Maddow found it ridiculous that the three presidential debates, broadcast live on Iranian television, each exceeded four hours. Four hours!, she scoffed. Of course, American debates between only two candidates last roughly two hours. Iran had eight candidates. Quadruple the contenders, double the time. How absolutely insane.

Also, towards the end of her bit, Maddow claimed that Ahmadinejad was recently in a helicopter crash, when – based on the article her own staff shows onscreen – it was an emergency landing due to unspecified technical problems. The article itself states clearly that “the pilot managed to land the aircraft safely.”

Still, Maddow repeats the word “crash” four times in less than thirty seconds and speculates that the reason the helicopter landed hastily was due to foul play. Her evidence? The media put the word “accident” in between quotation marks when reporting on the story.  Here’s how she put it, using her most ironic voice:

“The media reports on the Ahmadinejad helicopter crash put air-quotes around the word accident, as in ‘President Ahmadinejad just survived a helicopter crash. It’s reported to have been an accident, nudge nudge, wink wink, yeah right’.”

Ok, first, print media can’t put “air-quotes” around anything, Rachel.  They’re actual quotes.

Second, the reason the media put the word accident in quotes is because… wait for it… the reports were quoting from the primary source of the news.  And what was that primary source that called the incident an accident?  Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s official website.

But, for Maddow and her inept interns, “The media apparently thinks he was set up.” No, the media stated the emergency landing was due to an “accident,” because that’s what the president’s press release said.

But when it comes to Iran, the liberal media darling Maddow is no different than the neoconservative editors of the Washington Post. Facts are irrelevant and propaganda prevails.

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dirty Wars and Self-Indulgence

By Douglas Valentine | Dissident Voice | June 7, 2013

Let me begin with some background not covered in the film.  Dirty War derives from “La Salle Guerre”, the term the French applied to their counter-terror campaign in Algeria, circa 1954-1961. Algeria wanted independence, and France resisted.

Like subject people everywhere, the Algerians were badly outgunned and resorted to guerrilla tactics including “selective terrorism,” a hallmark of the Viet Minh, who fought the French until 1954, when America claimed Vietnam as its rightful property. Viet Minh tactics were derived largely from Mao’s precepts for fighting a People’s War.

Selective terrorism meant the murder of low-ranking officials – collaborators – who worked closely with the people; policemen, mailmen, teachers, etc. The murders were gruesome – a bullet in the belly or a grenade lobbed into a café – designed to achieve maximum publicity and demonstrate to the people the power of the nationalists to strike crippling blows against their oppressors.

Whether the Great White Fathers are French or American or English, they agree that putting down a People’s War means torturing and slaughtering the people – despite the fact that most people are not engaged in terrorism or guerrilla action and have no blood on their hands.

As John Stockwell taught us years ago, Dirty War means destabilizing a targeted nation through covert methods, the type the CIA has practiced around the world for 66 years.  Destabilizing means “hiring agents to tear apart the social and economic fabric of the country.

“What we’re talking about is going in and deliberately creating conditions where the farmer can’t get his produce to market; where children can’t go to school; where women are terrified inside their homes as well as outside; where government administered programs grind to a complete halt; where the hospitals are treating wounded people instead of sick people; where international capital is scared away and the country goes bankrupt.”

Economic warfare – strangling nations like Cuba, Iraq and Iran in Medieval fashion – is a type of Dirty Warfare beloved by the Great White Fathers who control the world’s finances. Though no less deadly than atomic bombs, or firebombing Dresden, it is easier to sell to the bourgeoisie.

You’ll hear no mention of this in Scahill’s film, nor will you hear any references to Phil Agee, or the countless others who have explained Dirty War to each generation of Americans since World War Two.

You will not hear about psychological warfare, the essence of Dirty War.

America’s first was terror guru was Ed Lansdale, the advertising executive who made Levi’s blue jeans a national craze in the 1930’s.   He applied his sales skills to propaganda in the OSS and after WW II, concocted a new generation of psywar tactics as an agent of the Office of Policy Coordination assigned to the Philippines under military cover.  Lansdale’s bottomless black bag of dirty tricks included a “skull squadron” death squad that roamed the countryside, torturing and murdering Communist terrorists.

One of Lansdale’s counter-terror “psywar” tactics was to string a captured Communist guerrilla upside down from a tree, stab him in the neck with a stiletto, and drain his blood. The terrorized Commies fled the area and the terrified villagers, who believed in vampires, begged the government for protection.

Lansdale referred to his sadism as “low humor,” an excuse borrowed liberally by American officialdom during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Lansdale formalized “black propaganda” practices to vilify the Communists: one of his Filipino commando units would dress as rebels and commit atrocities, and then another unit would arrive with cameras to record the staged scenes and chase the “terrorists” away.

Lansdale brought his black propaganda and passion for atrocity to Saigon in 1954, along with a goon squad of Filipino mercenaries packaged as “Freedom Company.”

Under Lansdale’s guidance, Freedom Company sent Vietnamese commandoes into North Vietnam, under cover as relief workers, to activate stay-behind agent nets and conduct all manner of sabotage and subversion.  Disinformation was a Lansdale specialty, and his agents spread lurid tales of Vietminh soldiers’ disemboweling pregnant Catholic women, castrating priests, and sticking bamboo slivers in the ears of children so they could not hear the Word of God.

In the South, with the help of the American media, Lansdale re-branded the heroic Vietminh as the beastly Viet Cong.

Lansdale’s greatest innovation, still used today, was to conduct all manner of espionage and terror under cover of “civic action.”  As a way of attacking Viet Minh agents in the South, Lansdale launched “Operation Brotherhood,” a Filipino paramedical team patterned on the typical Special Forces A team. With CIA money, Operation Brotherhood built medical dispensaries that the CIA used as cover for terror operations, as depicted in the book and movie The Quiet American.

Levis never went out of fashion, nor did Lansdale’s dirty tricks. Think Saddam Hussein killing babies in their incubators. Such disinformation invariably works on an American public looking for any excuse to rationalize its urge for racist genocide.

Think Argo and Zero Dark Thirty and every Rambo and Bruce Willis films.

Only Americans were fooled by the propaganda, and the Vietnamese quickly caught on.  So the CIA in 1956 launched the Denunciation of Communists campaign, which compelled the Vietnamese people to inform on Commies or get tortured and murdered.  The campaign was managed by CIA agents who could arrest, confiscate land from, and execute Communists and their sympathizers on the CIA’s master list. In determining who was a Communist, the CIA used a three-part classification system: A for dangerous party members, B for less dangerous party members, and C for loyal citizens.

As happened later in the Phoenix program, the threat of an A or B classification was used to extort innocent civilians, while category A and B offenders were put to work building houses and offices for CIA officers and their lackeys. And, of course, the puppet Vietnamese President used his CIA created, funded and trained security forces to eliminate his political rivals.

As Lansdale confessed, “it became a repressive tool to liquidate any opponent.”

“This development was political,” Lansdale observes. “My first inkling came when several families appeared at my house one morning to tell me about the arrest at midnight of their men-folk, all of whom were political figures. The arrests had a strange aspect to them, having come when the city was asleep and being made by heavily armed men who were identified as ‘special police’.”

Lansdale complained, but he was told that a “U.S. policy decision had been made. We Americans were to give what assistance we could to the building of a strong nationalistic party that would support Diem. Since Diem was now the elected president, he needed to have his own party.”

How We Got To Scahill’s Dirty War

By 1962, as the US expanded its Dirty Wars in the Far East and South America, the military replaced its Office of Special Operations with an up-dated Special Assistant for Counter-insurgency and Special Activities (SACSA).  SACSA assigned unconventional warfare forces to the CIA and regular army commanders, who initially resisted.

The development of psychological warfare and special operations is explained in Michael McClintock’s Instruments of Statecraft. For the CIA politics behind it, see Burton Hersh’s The Old Boys.

In 1965 Lansdale went back to Vietnam to run the Revolutionary Development Cadre Program as the CIA’s “second station” with a staff of CIA officers, Green Beanies, and Daniel Ellsberg. Vietnam was a laboratory and the CIA was experimenting with Pacification, aka “the Other War.”

In 1967, the CIA created the Phoenix program to coordinate everyone in its Dirty War.  Phoenix combined existing counterinsurgency programs in a concerted effort to neutralize the civilians running the shadow government.  Neutralize means to kill, capture, or make to defect.  Central to Phoenix was that it targeted civilians. “By analogy,” said Ogden Reid, a member of a congressional committee investigating Phoenix in 1971, “if the Union had had a Phoenix program during the Civil War, its targets would have been civilians like Jefferson Davis or the mayor of Macon, Georgia.”

Under Phoenix, due process was nonexistent.  South Vietnamese civilians whose names appeared on CIA blacklists were kidnapped, tortured, detained without trial, or murdered on the word of an informer. Phoenix managers imposed a quota of 1,800 neutralizations per month on the saps running the program in the field, opening it up to abuses by corrupt security officers, policemen, politicians, and racketeers. One CIA officer described Phoenix as, “A very good blackmail scheme for the central government. `If you don’t do what I want, you’re VC.”‘

Because Phoenix assassinations (totaling 25,000+) were often conducted at night while its victims were home sleeping, Phoenix proponents describe the program as a “scalpel” designed to replace the “bludgeon” of My Lai-style search and destroy operations, air strikes, and artillery barrages that indiscriminately wiped out entire villages and did little to “win the hearts and minds” of the people.  But that was just propaganda and Phoenix was, among other things, an instrument of counter-terror – the psywar tactic in which enemy agents were brutally murdered along with their families and neighbors as a means of terrorizing the people into a state of submission. Such horrendous acts were, for propaganda purposes, often made to look as if they had been committed by the enemy.

This practice is at the heart of the film I will be reviewing.

As noted, conventional soldiers hated Phoenix. General Bruce Palmer, commander of the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in 1968, objected to the “involuntary assignment of U.S. Army officers to the program. I don’t believe that people in uniform,” he said, “who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare.”

Palmer’s was such a charming sentiment.  By 2004, Obama advisor Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, in an article for Small Wars Journal, was calling for a “global Phoenix Program.”  Tom Hayden wrote an article for The Nation about Kilcullen in 2008 titled “Reviving Vietnam War Tactics”.

Fact is, Phoenix never went out of fashion.  As McClintock notes, “Counterinsurgency and indeed all aspects of special warfare doctrine had developed a reasonable level of political sophistication by the mid-1970s, acknowledging the necessity of combining military and civil initiatives.”

By 1975 SACSA had expired, the nation had internalized its humiliating defeat in Vietnam, and the CIA, wounded by the Church Committee hearings, went underground. The age of counter-terror began.  Central and South America were the new laboratories.   The CIA forged secret alliances with proxy nations like Israel and Taiwan, whose agents taught Latin American landowners how to organize criminals into death squads which murdered and terrorized labor leaders, Human Rights activists, and all other enemies of the Great White Fathers.

To compensate for the reduction in size of its paramilitary Special Operations Division, the CIA formed its Office of Terrorism. Meanwhile, the military branches beefed up their terror capabilities, all of which glommed together in December 1980 in the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).  Steve Emerson chronicles this development in detail in Secret Warriors (1988).

JSOC’s mission, conducted on the Phoenix model with the CIA, is identifying and destroying terrorists and terror cells worldwide. Paramilitary personnel are often exchanged between JSOC and CIA.

By the early 1980s, CIA and military veterans of the Phoenix program were running counter-insurgency and counter-terror ops worldwide.

General Paul Gorman, who commanded U.S. forces in Central America in the mid-1980′s, defined this advanced form of Dirty War as “a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object.”  (Toledo Blade 1 Jan 1987)

All of which brings me to my review.

Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars is a post-modern film by Jeremy Scahill, about himself, starring himself in many poses.

The film owes more to Sergio Leone and Kathryn Bigelow than Constantinos Gavras. Scahill certainly is no Leslie Cockburn: there is no Tony Poe telling how the CIA facilitates heroin shipments; no Richard Secord suing him for unraveling the financial intrigues of the CIA’s secret operators. The CIA is rarely mentioned.

There is no reference to the Guerra Sucia in Argentina.

Scahill is no Franz Fallon documenting the devastating psychological effects of racism on society. There are no cameos by Jean-Paul Sartre advocating violent retribution on Hollywood, no mingling with the Taliban in their caves as they conspire against their Yankee oppressors at the Sundance Film Festival.

We get the first taste of his self-indulgent idiocy when he says it is “hard to tell” when the Dirty War began. He does tell us, however, that he is on the “front lines” of the war on terror.

Scahill (hereafter JS) brags that he wasn’t going to find the front lines in Kabul, although he could have, if he knew where to look. Instead he just looks around furtively on his way to the scene of a war crime. We see a close-up of his face.

The endless close-ups artfully convey the feeling that our hero is utterly alone, on some mythic journey of self-discovery, without a film crew or interpreters. There is no evidence that anyone went to Gardez to make sure everyone was waiting and not toiling in the fields or tending the flocks, or whatever they do. And we’ll never find out what the victims do. The stage isn’t big enough for JS and anyone else.

This is a major theme throughout the story – JS is doing all this alone and the isolation preys on him. He bears this heavy burden alone, with many soulless looks.

Initially, there is no mention that journalist Jerome Starkey reported what happened in Gardez. JS is too busy establishing himself as the courageous super-sleuth. As we drive along the road, he reminds us how much danger he is in.  Two journalists were kidnapped here, he says. This area is “beyond” NATO control. He must get in and out before nightfall or the Taliban will surely kill him like the Capitalist dog he is.

In my drinking days, we referred to this type of behavior as grandiosity. Telling everyone how you defied death, so the guys would talk about your exploits in the bars, and the girls would fall at your feet. For JS, this formula is working – a visit to his Facebook page reveals scores of “Millennial girls” wringing their hands and fretting for his safety as he strides across America’s secret battlefields in search of the truth. His carefully crafted Wiki bio furthers the legend.

Using the material gathered by Starkey (whom he eventually acknowledges), JS shows that in February 2010, American soldiers murdered five people in Gardez, including two pregnant women, and tried to cover it up by digging the bullets out of the targeted man’s body. He interviews the surviving family members. They weep. Violin music plays.  They seem more like props than human beings.

JS ingenuously asks various Afghan and American officials, why the cover-up? The officials suggest that the targeted man was working for the Taliban – and if you play that double-game, you risk your family and friends. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells JS they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He says there will be no investigation.

Cut to Capitol Hill where, by his own account, JS has greatness thrust upon him. “It is imperative,” he tells Chairman John Conyers, “that Congress investigates this shadow war to examine its legality.”

What, one wonders, was Conyers thinking? Forty-two years earlier, after hearing testimony from Bart Osborn and Michael Uhl about the Phoenix program, Conyers and three other U.S. representatives stated their belief that “The people of these United States … have deliberately imposed on the Vietnamese people a system of justice which admittedly denies due process of law …. In so doing, we appear to have violated the 1949 Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian peoples.”

His testimony, JS tells us, “throws him into the public arena,” ever so reluctantly. He revisits his Blackwater testimony and shows pictures of himself with numerous celebrities on TV.

B-takes of Scahill walking among the common folk in Brooklyn, plotting his next move.  Haunted by the horror of Gardez, he files FOIA requests and discovers that William McRaven is head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He’s stunned. He’s been a national security reporter for over a decade, and he’s never heard of JSOC before.  It’s covert. The story has been hidden in the shadows, he says.

This was the turning point of the film for me. For a National Security correspondent, this is an admission akin to a botanist saying he’d never heard of flowers. It’s an admission that fairly sums up the sorry state of reporting in America today. Has JS ever read a book?

JS discovers that Gardez is not an isolated incident, and that JSOC rampages across Afghanistan with “unprecedented authority.” He talks to a former JSOC soldier about its activities in Iraq, where it had hit lists and conducted night raids. This revelation, and the fact that McRaven took responsibility for Gardez, leads JS to conclude that JSOC is responsible for Gardez. It certainly wasn’t Congress, which according to JS, has no control over JSOC. JSOC money comes from rich donors.

JS learns that JSOC is not only in Afghanistan, but that it operates worldwide, and that its hit lists get bigger all the time. And we hear, for the first time, the catchy phrase, “the world is a battlefield.”

At this point JS decides, with the help of The Nation brain trust, to investigate JSOC in Yemen where CIA drones are wiping out people by the score.

B-take of JS sipping tea thoughtfully. He’s going to talk to the most powerful man in South Yemen. We view the scene of a drone strike: 46 killed, including five pregnant women. A woman in a black veil says her entire family, save one daughter, were wiped out. Violin music. But there’s no cover-up here. In fact, Obama personally kept the journalist in prison who reported the strike.

What will Obama do to JS?

Once again, we fear for JS. Luckily he lives to talk to Rachel Maddow and Morning Joe. The greatness thrust upon him forces him onto TV shows everywhere. There he is with Amy Goodman!

More close-ups. We count the pores on his nose, the hairs in his eyebrows. We feel the fear. He gets a strange call. Someone tells him JSOC tortures people without telling the CIA or regular army, which are too busy torturing people to care.

As he studies the hit lists, he comes across radical America Muslim, Anwar al-Awlaki. After talking to Tony Schaffer, he realizes JSOC targets Muslims and that is why, along with the US invasion of Iraq, Awlaki is pissed off. Awlaki is an American but is inciting people to revolution in Yemen, so Yemen allows the CIA to kill him.

Note – the CIA is mentioned maybe twice in the film. Apparently it is so covert it escaped his notice.

We see JS in an exotic location. An airplane lands. JS is back in the USA. He’s been traumatized by what he’s seen. He tells anyone who will listen that the US cannot kill its way to peace, as if peace is the objective. The war on terror, he concludes, is creating enemies, which of course is the objective.

Before the American people can rally to JS’s clarion call, Obama sends some guys to kill Osama bin Laden. This is too much of a coincidence to ignore. Was it done to subvert his investigation? In any event, McRaven and JSOC are now heroes. He meets a knowledgeable person who tells him the Dirty War will go on forever. He tells us about signature strikes that kill people randomly (but not that the CIA conducts them) and that the war on terror is out of control.

Pictures of JS pointing to countries on a map where JSOC operates. He decides to visit Somalia, where JSOC is snatching bodies and taking them to ships in the Arabian Sea, and outsourcing its Dirty War to mercenaries. He visits mercenaries wearing camo fatigues. There are no other journalists here, it is too dangerous. Someone hands JS a flak jacket.  Someone tells him they bury traitors alive. The tension soars. He’s surrounded by armed men. There’s a gunshot. He ducks behind sandbags.

We wonder who arranged for JS to meet these guys? Where did he get an interpreter? What’s the quid pro quo?

JS goes to a hospital morgue and look at a mutilated body. After which he wants to go home. But he learns that Awlaki’s son has been killed and reluctantly he returns to Yemen.

I liked this part of the film. It seemed genuine. We see home videos of Awlaki’s son doing youthful happy things. JS tries to understand why the US would deliberately kill a 16 year old kid? Which is a good question. Perhaps America is ruled by a murderous Cult of Death.

We see pictures of young girls smiling, and we revert back to the contrived scenes and monologue that drag the documentary down into gratuitous self-promotion. JS says he never had any idea where the story would lead, as if all this happened magically, like a rabbit pulled out of a hat.

The film ends and I wonder what he could have produced if he hadn’t melodramatized and spent so much time and film on close-ups. I wonder what he could have done if he’d read a few history books.

Ultimately, the film is so devoid of historical context, and so contrived, as to render it a work of art, rather than political commentary. And as art, it is pure self-indulgence.

And in this sense, it is a perfect slice of modern American life.

Douglas Valentine can be reached at dougvalentine77@gmail.com

June 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rachel Maddow Defends the US Drone Program on Howard Stern

By Sean Fenley | Dissident Voice | April 6th, 2012

Rachel Maddow defended the legally fuzzy bombardment of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, and other nations in an interview with Howard Stern. In Maddow’s words the drones, “don’t change the politics of it [war] that much.” In reality, however, the politics have changed markedly because of the US military’s use of their stable/panoply of death-inducing/mass immolating drones. And it is, moreover, exceedingly unclear what is meant by Maddow’s comments as, for example, families have embarked upon lawsuits against the US government for innocents, non-terrorists, and non-combatants — who have been unceremoniously snuffed out — by the legally hazy, and decidedly unmanned aerial drones.

Additionally and infamously, of course, whole wedding parties have been wiped out, by some detached and far-flung controller in the American Southwest or in Langley, VA. Is this what is meant by making war more and more “hospitable” and “sanitized”? I guess, in a sense, but not; of course, for those at the receiving end of the drone. Such questions, I think, force one to wonder about what Maddow thinks regarding the Constitution — vis a vis the war authorization for the US military conflict — in the so-called Afpak war zone.

Indeed, the aforementioned authorization for the war in Afghanistan, pertains to the US military’s actions in Afghanistan — and Afghanistan alone. [4] Thus, of course, there is no constitutional basis for any sort of military, or even drone activities in the sovereign nation of Pakistan (or any of the other nations where they have been used). And furthermore, one wonders what Maddow’s position on the two American citizens — executed under unconstitutional bureaucratic fiat is — considering that this was not addressed in the Howard Stern interview. These Americans were, according to the Obama administration, guilty until proven innocent, but; of course, never received anything like their inalienable right to a trial, or the long-hallowed and (previously) integrally American jury of their peers.

International law scholar Richard Falk does believe that drones have changed the idea of war/military conflict seriously, and that their advent should be regarded with grave interest/concern. According to Falk the drones clearly raise questions about national sovereignty, and the parameters about presently held notions — of what are the currently permissible forms of war. Falk likens legal “rationalities” for the usage of the deathly — and indeed death-dealing — military drone technology, as analogous to John Yoo style torture memo-esque scrawlings of the George Bush Jr. administration/cabal. So, if some more mature, rational, and informed legal bases/doctrines, don’t arise regarding present and impending drone technology; Falk envisions a dystopian future scenario of rampant proliferation that will be imposed upon the world, by a small number of select, drone-armed, and exceedingly powerful elite states.

Falk posits that in our Machiavellian world, where a handful of nuclear countries have been able to cajole a vast majority of the world’s nations, into the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that a similar regime could come forward — regarding these still fairly nascent military drones. Falk sees no impediment to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, at present, and says that the same is essentially true of the drones. But the least evil (but still evil) route for the drones may; in fact, end similarly to nuclear armaments, in which the “great powers” — self-chosen — make elaborate and extensive use of their own specific unmanned aerial drones. And by that Falk means that some nations will use drones within their own territory, whilst more powerful international actors, will use them globally (and for attack purposes too).

Falk may be putting his realist hat on, and his spot-on theorizing may be of the Machiavellian reality/order of things, but the actuality of the matter is that the drones are totally (and utterly) illegal and unfair. Like a child in a candy shop, the military-industrial complex’s eyes have bulged out, at the advent of this facile way of grievously and insufferably slaughtering people — and so Falk’s analysis is, positively, very sound in this sense. But truth, facts, and reason, I think, must be defended also, even if they are ridiculed as utopian and overly idealistic, by the egregious, sly, and unscrupulous actions — made by the technocrats, military, governmental and political elite officials — who rule our modern day Oceania-esque nation-state, and evermore integrated world.

One of the most prominent government officials of any position — or any stripe — to come out, and unequivocally attack the drones is Hina Rabbani Khar, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Khar has said that, “Drones are not only completely illegal and unlawful and have no authorization to be used — within the domains of international law, but even more importantly, they are counterproductive to your objective of getting this region rid of militancy and terrorism and extremism. Furthermore she has stated, “if one [drone] strike leads to getting you target number one, or target number three today; you are creating five more targets, or ten more targets — in the militancy that it breeds — in the fodder that it gives to the militants, to join their ranks.”

Earlier this year Amnesty International called upon the Obama administration to demonstrate the legal and factual basis of the lethal use of drones. Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director — at the time — said that, “the US authorities must give a detailed explanation of how these strikes are lawful, and what is being done to monitor civilian casualties and ensure proper accountability. And the director moreover asked, “What are the rules of engagement? What proper legal justification exists for these attacks? While the President’s confirmation of the use of drones in Pakistan, is a welcome first step towards transparency, these and other questions need to be answered.”

Thin and paltry “justifications” for the drone attacks have, in the past, been offered by US officials, and are “grounded” upon the spurious legal basis of a US global war on terrorism with Al-Qaeda — a concept that is not accepted or recognized, by international humanitarian or human rights law. Truthfully, the ultimate question is what law — if any — recognizes, or gives any credence to the deplorable bombardments, by these egregious, brutish, feral, and essentially barbaric (and deeply) inhuman drones?

International law scholar Philip Alston has said about the drones, “I’m particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe… this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”

Alston, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has proposed a summit by the “great” military powers to clarify the legal limits, and the boundaries on the extrajudicial attacks by the killer drones. If such a summit doesn’t take place, and define a fixed, immutable, firm, resolute, and unbending (drone) operational blueprint Alston says, “This expansive and open-ended interpretation of the right to self-defense [used to attempt to legitimize the drone strikes] goes a long way towards destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the [Charter of the UN].”

As made clear by Professor Richard Falk, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever, to continue on with these savage, mass slaying, and annihilating — and indeed, authentically diabolical killer drones. Like the opening of Pandora’s box, though, these horrid, reprehensible, and unconscionable technological creations may be with us for good. Professor Falk is a more learned man than I, so sadly, if the forces of peace and justice can’t effectively resist, and potentially put an end to these stealthful mass-murderers — run by cowards who have never even envisaged any battlefields — then they will continue to amass great civilian murder, death, heinousness, invidiousness, and inordinate barbarity too. This will more than likely be done by the nations, and regimes that trumpet human rights, democracy, liberty, transparency, openness, and unregulated; and unrestrained human thought, as articles that are necessary to their very basic foundational civic principles, and integral to their national essence also.

Sean Fenley is an independent progressive who would like to see the end of the dictatorial duopoly of the so-called two party adversarial system.

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on Rachel Maddow Defends the US Drone Program on Howard Stern