This book is a MUST READ. Of course it is old now and the 911 inside job has uncovered a much deeper level of a criminal empire. BUT IT IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT for us to have an understanding of the ways that our democracy is undermined by the ILLEGITEMATE OWNERS of this world. The book is freely availabe from zmag.org website. Blogspot adaptation by u2rh2.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Ergenekon Gladio in premier Turkish Newspaper
Three sides to every story
Friday, February 18, 2011 ÖZGÜR ÖĞRET
There are two sides to every story. No, three. After the police raided the offices of an Internet news portal Monday, debate broke out over press freedom and the alleged Ergenekon coup gang. Let's review the perspective from the two sides of the raid on the news portal. Then I'll show you why there is a third.
From one side, there is an alleged clandestine, cell-type terrorist organization that has its fingers in every dirty little state pie. Some cells are aware of each other, some are not. The theory is that Ergenekon is the Turkish version of NATO's "stay-behind" group in Italy called Gladio. Tens of thousands of unsolved murders in Turkey are on the gang's heads. This organization tried to topple the government, but failed and is now on trial. It sought to create chaos by terrorist attacks and assassinations and set the stage for a military coup. Such was the game before the 1980 military takeover. Naturally, the organization has a press arm and ultranationalist Oda TV is one of its fingers.
The counter perspective believes there is no Ergenekon. The indictment is a mess, the evidence is fabricated, the case is merely a tool used by the ruling party to silence opposition. Some suspects on trial have been behind bars for years while other obvious ones haven't even been questioned. The Ergenekon investigation has turned into a witch hunt like the communist hunt of the McCarthy Era in the U.S. This side says the military did not prepare secret plans for a takeover and there was no clandestine organization trying to provoke it. There actually is a "deep state," but its name is not Ergenekon. Rather, it is in the ruling party's secret agenda to transform Turkey into a fundamentalist state once the secularist opposition is dispatched. Oda TV was raided as a strong and fierce critic.
Now the third side. It is the bigger picture, it is both and it is neither. The first mention of an underground network called Ergenekon covering up "deep state" actions dates back more than a decade; way before the ruling party was even an idea. The book "Ergenekon," by journalists Can Dündar and Celal Kazdağlı, had its first print run in 1997. TV coverage of the material was aired in 1996 and is now at YouTube. Open calls to the military to take action against the government were made during the first term of the leading party. Some of the suspects in the case are people who have long been expected in court for shadowy dealings. The indictments are actually messy. But any lawyer will tell you this is routine in Turkey. However, two major points smell rotten.
The first is that there is a real problem with unearthing thousands of political murder victims in southeastern Turkey because the role of the "deep state" in the region is obvious. The second is the culpability of top officers. You need a military to stage a military coup. I lost faith in the investigation long ago when force commanders were questioned and not charged. The diary of one is the main piece of evidence in the case, which excited everyone when it was leaked to the press. But today, it is not even included as evidence. People mentioned in the diary are now under arrest within the scope of another coup attempt case called "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer), but the two are not related. My honest opinion, as one who has read the indictments and followed the trial, is that although Ergenekon might be very real, this case is no longer the sword that can slay that dragon.
Now let us come to Oda TV itself. It is among the harshest critics of the president and the prime minister. Since opening in 2007, Oda TV has had a slogan, "Special news only." Its "special news" is special for one thing: It is all anti-government. Which is fine, advocacy journalism is not a crime and other forms of it exist in Turkey. The Oda TV staff was detained with the prosecutors' suspicions of links to terrorism, but some in the public are suspicious that the accusations are just an excuse to silence an irritating voice. Without some semblance of charges backed with evidence, the raid would be a direct assault on the freedom of the press.
Those are the three sides to this story. Mine own is actually a fourth. I perceive Oda TV as a source of hate speech targeting beliefs, political views and ethnicity. Factless strings of text considered as news stories are often direct, verbal insults against people who Oda TV staff disagree with. It does not shy away from publishing lists of these people, which in one case included me. Under different circumstances, the staff might well be on trial for hate crimes. But Turkey's laws against "inciting people to hatred and animosity" are outdated far short of international standards.
A recent example from Oda TV's archives is its coverage of the release of a 2011 pocket calendar that was published with the theme of "Racism, discrimination and hate crime." When it was released, a bookstore chain refused to sell the calendar because it had a picture of a peeing kid on each page, including on the anniversary of Atatürk's death, which the chain said was insulting to his memory. Then members of an extreme right-wing political party began threatening other stores that continued to sell the calendar. In protest of the threats against these stores, people will gather Saturday outside Istanbul's Galatasaray High School and sell the calendar themselves. In this already tense atmosphere, Oda TV decided to run a story titled "Nobody has seen this" and pointed out to everyone that the calendar listed the "Armenian genocide" alongside the Holocaust and slaughters in Bosnia and Rwanda. Oda TV "broke the story" by seeking out an aspect that could be manipulated for ultra-nationalist purposes, then of course did not hesitate to dump gasoline on the fire when it found one.
Whether Oda TV aids a terrorist organization, or is simply a bunch of journalists who oppose the government, it is now a matter for the courts and the public opinion. However, it is hardly the team of white knights for press freedom that many suggest.
And probably a fifth side is closest to the truth. That is why it is necessary to free the press so they can report and opine on any subject and then you have the opportunity to root out the truth. I once called a former President of the United States a whore to his face, and told him he was a huge embarrassment to our mutual home state with this actions while in the White House. hmmmm I have still not been arrested or imprisoned, nor have I been found dead in my home or car "due to a self inflicted wound" after a "long depression". You can say what you like about freedom of speech in the USA, but....
In your 2007 book, 'Fantasy Island', co-written with Dan Atkinson, you made the following astute observation about global warming and the economy:
'Ministers accept that since the start of the industrial age 250 years ago, there has been a significant increase in global temperatures associated with human activities. Given the weight of scientific evidence, they can hardly do anything else. What they cannot accept, possibly because it is too difficult to do so politically, is that this means that the capitalist model to which pretty much every nation in the world is now committed is bankrupt.' (p. 199)
You also rightly said that:
'The fantasy that it can be business as usual on the growth front without boiling the planet is the most dangerous of them all.' (p. 192)
But then yesterday, you wrote about the 'good news' in figures for 'growth' that may be a sign of 'the long-awaited re-balancing of the British economy'. ('The economy's tricky re-balancing act', guardian.co.uk, February 1, 2011, 12.25 GMT)
Why is it that in your day job as economics editor of the Guardian, you continue to propagate a bankrupt model of capitalism – while as a book author you rightly denounce it as 'bankrupt' and the most dangerous fantasy of all?
Elliott replied on the same day:
Many thanks for your email. There are, I think, three possible ways we can go. The first is to stick to business as usual, and assume that the planet can cope with India, China and all the other developing countries consuming as much as we do in the West. There are those who believe this is possible providing we increase productivity and use resources more efficiently. I find that hard to believe. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who believe that the pressures are so great that the only way forward is to have zero - or perhaps even negative - growth. Even if that is the case, I think it will be impossible to sell politically. Equally, it may be pie-in-the-sky to imagine that the middle way - A Green New Deal - in which we attempt to cut dependency on fossil fuels, invest more heavily in renewables, and use the money from quantitative easing for environmentally-friendly projects - offers an alternative. I'm hopeful that it is possible to have low-intensity green growth, but I'm willing to accept that I might be wrong.
As for the differences between books and newspaper articles, I think there is a difference. As far as the chancellor was concerned, the fact that manufacturing was doing well and the economy showing signs of rebalancing, was good news and I feel obliged to report it that way. It would be a bit rum for me to give every story a 'green' slant, saying for example: 'There was further bad news for Britain's carbon emissions today when a snapshot of industry showed output from factories on the rise'.
But, having said all that, I accept that I could be doing more to change perceptions of what 'good' means when it comes to the economy. I have done that on quite a few occasions.
On February 3, we wrote back:
Many thanks for kindly replying. I wasn't actually asking which possible ways you think the global economy might go, although it's interesting to read your thoughts.
The question is this: Why is there a gulf between your Guardian journalism on the one side and sustained critical analysis of corporate-led globalisation on the other side, together with the likely consequences of such a 'bankrupt' system for climate stability? Serious climate scientists are warning that we could be on the brink of runaway global warming.
I welcome you saying that you 'could be doing more to change perceptions of what "good" means when it comes to the economy'. The intention is admirable. But on a daily basis, your role and journalistic output as economics editor of the Guardian helps to prop up the discredited status quo. There is too much routine channelling of 'dangerous fantasies' and misleading assumptions from establishment figures in the economic pages of the Guardian. Yes, on occasion, you make critical remarks about the economic system (albeit couched in mild terms about the need for 'rebalancing'). But to what extent are you thereby serving a useful fig-leaf role on the paper as a – rather muted - voice of dissent?
Where is your brave reporting of the inherently biocidal and psychopathic logic of corporate capitalism? Where is your analysis of how the system is structurally locked into generating maximised revenues in minimum time at minimum cost? Where have you explained to your readers that corporations are legally obliged to maximise profits for shareholders, and that it is therefore illegal for corporations to prioritise the welfare of people and planet above private profit? How can this elementary fact of entrenched corporate immorality be so invisible in your reporting and in the Guardian as a whole; indeed, in any responsible discussion of the industrial destruction of global life-support systems?
If you were to pursue these questions openly and thoroughly in your journalism – as surely you should, given the stakes - you wouldn't last long in your privileged position.
I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts in response to all of the above, please.
On February 7, Elliott responded:
I'm not sure there's much to add to my previous email. All sorts of people read the Guardian: free-market capitalists, Keynesians, Marxists, social democrats, liberals, greens. You want me to write for one specific audience - those that believe that 'corporate capitalism' is 'inherently biocidal and psychopathic'. I'm not prepared to do that any more than I am prepared to cater exclusively to the Marxists who think that capitalism is about to be brought down by its own internal contradictions.
I am aware of the dangers of climate change and write about it often. But, I don't share your view. Firstly, there are many different variants of capitalism - German capitalism is different from US capitalism; Swedish capitalism is different from Indian capitalism - and to brand them all as biocidal and psychopathic seems to me a bit one-dimensional. Secondly, I don't accept that all growth is bad. Life was nasty, brutish and short in the days before the start of the industrial age, and I have no particular desire to go back to the times when people were lucky to live until they were 40, died of all sorts of preventable diseases and worked very long hours for little reward. I'm not sure the hundreds of millions of people in China and India who have been lifted out of poverty by growth in the past 20 years would accept that all growth is bad either. Finally, it is easy enough to have a pop at the evils of 'corporate capitalism', but a lot tougher to come up with a route map for arriving at an alternative. That's why I was a founder member of the Green New Deal Group.
I am grateful for your interest in the Guardian's economics coverage but I am not sure that I can add to what I have said in my two emails. Most readers only get one reply! if you have any further points to raise, it would probably be better if you addressed them to the editor, Alan Rusbridger, as he ultimately decides whether I stay in my job or no[t].
With very best wishes
Different Variants Of The Same Beast
We were grateful to Larry Elliott for responding at length and in a friendly manner. His thoughtful responses are worth looking at in more detail. Note that Elliott claimed:
'You want me to write for one specific audience - those that believe that "corporate capitalism" is "inherently biocidal and psychopathic".'
We were not asking Elliott to 'write for one specific audience' at all, a familiar retort from corporate journalists. The question is why he ignores a mountain of well-informed economic analysis and evidence exposing the inherent destructiveness of global capitalism.
We asked Joel Bakan to respond to Elliott's point about the 'many different variants of capitalism.' In reply, Bakan told us that while his book and film focused on the Anglo-U.S. model of the corporation, his analysis was increasingly of worldwide relevance:
'First, there is a trend towards greater homogeneity in corporate governance across the globe - less variation - as globalization progresses; and second, the homogenization works against the more social forms of capitalism that historically characterized other variants, including those of many continental European countries. Legal reforms at both the pan-European level and at the domestic level of many European countries are pushing in the direction of shareholder (as opposed to other stakeholder) primacy in corporate governance and decision-making. That, of course, is the model typical of Anglo-U.S. law, and it is the model that prompted me to dub the corporation "psychopathic."' (Email, February 16, 2011, our emphasis)
'As I argued in The Corporation, it is the requirement of corporate law that managerial decisions must always be in the corporation's best interests that creates a purely self-interested character in the corporate "person" - one analogous to a human psychopath. As the Anglo-U.S. model of corporate governance becomes more widely-embraced across the globe, the corporation and capitalism themselves become one-dimensional, and in ways that justify the psychopath analogy. I find it surprising that the increasing hegemony of the shareholder-primacy model in corporate governance has not been picked up by mainstream (or alternative) media. It is a huge story. There is some academic writing on it but nothing that I am aware of in the popular media.'
Economist Harry Shutt is author of several books, including The Trouble with Capitalism and Beyond the Profits System. We asked him to comment on our email exchange with Elliott.
Shutt began by noting 'the particularly desperate conjuncture at which the global economy has now arrived and the increasingly conflicted position of journalists, academics and others who still feel professionally obliged to go on trying to reconcile fantasy with reality - at least in their public pronouncements.' (Email, February 13, 2011)
Shutt dismissed Elliott's reference to 'variants of capitalism', calling it 'an obvious smokescreen', adding: 'he has ignored your point about the compulsive need for corporations - whatever the "variant" of capitalism - to maximise profit at the expense of all other needs and interests. This can and does lead some of them to be genocidal as well as biocidal.' (Email, February 15, 2011)
Shutt then described Elliott's responses as comprising 'rather familiar and cheap points'. He expanded:
'e.g. his attempt to suggest that any attack on capitalism is by extension an attack on the benefits of industrialisation and modern technology (as if we could not in any event have had these without capitalism), or the "hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese who have been lifted out of poverty by growth" without mentioning a) the fact that most of these still live very insecure lives because of the relentless competitive squeeze, b) the comparable numbers in other countries (e.g. Mexico) whose livelihoods have been destroyed by competition from China and c) the even greater number in India, China and elsewhere who have never been touched by this growth and remain sunk in permanent misery.'
In support of this latter point, economist David Harvey has observed that in China there is 'a rising tide of unrest there as the worldwide economic downturn creating unwelcome and unaccustomed (in China) increases in unemployment (in early 2009 estimated to be close to 20 million unemployed) within a recently proletarianised population.' (David Harvey, 'The Enigma of Capital', Profile Books, 2010, p. 66)
'But surely the most contemptible cop-out of all is the tired refrain about the difficulty of "coming up with a route map" to an alternative system. The obvious riposte is that it might be much easier if only the Guardian or any other organ would allow such alternatives to be discussed. I'm perhaps more keenly aware of this constraint than most given that none of the four books I've written in the past 15 years has received anything resembling a serious review in a mainstream British paper - even though both LE [Larry Elliott] and Dan Atkinson have cited The Trouble with Capitalism on occasions, demonstrating that they're quite well aware of the pointers it gives to a possible alternative model.' Shutt noted that the Guardian's economics editor had difficulty in disputing the main charge levelled against him: 'namely that, however terminally untenable he may know the system to be he cannot say as much in the paper without losing his "privileged position". Indeed in finally referring you to the editor he effectively concedes the point.'
Shutt added: 'All this of course just serves to underline the critique of our subtly totalitarian media that you at Media Lens - along with Chomsky and a few others - have been admirably hammering home for years. As you might say, Comment is Free (according to the Guardian), but Freedom is Slavery (Big Brother).'
Shutt ended with a well-aimed challenge to the fig-leaf journalists who, even now, justify participation in the corporate media propaganda system:
'At what point do journalists like Larry Elliott who know how dire and unsustainable things have become decide they have nothing to lose by speaking out? Or, put another way, why aren't they more worried about the prospects for their families in a world sinking ever more palpably into chaos and anarchy? Perhaps they're just waiting for more people to take to the streets, hoping that they'll be as peaceful as the ones in Cairo.'
"The Arab World Is on Fire" by: Noam Chomsky, Op-Ed
According to Noam Chomsky, President Obama's reaction to the Egyptian revolution conforms to the normal US response when one of their "favored dictators" loses control. "There is a kind of a standard routine," he says referring to Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu and Suharto. "[K]eep supporting them as long as possible; then, when it becomes unsustainable—typically, say, if the army shifts sides—switch 180 degrees, claim to have been on the side of the people all along, erase the past, and then make whatever moves are possible to restore the old system under new names."
One interesting question to explore is what the Americans might do if they are unable to "restore the old system." Following Hosni Mubarak's dramatic departure the situation in the region remains uncertain, but it is clear that the events witnessed over the past month will lead to a reconfiguration of power in the Middle East. Should this reconfiguration jeopardize Western strategic interests it is likely that the US and its allies will use all means available to reassert their influence.
Mubarak's billions.. made in USA. Thank you USA. Great Help.
Nearly 55 years have passed since Anglo-French troops landed in Port Said and Israeli forces crossed into the Sinai peninsular to try and wrest back control of the Suez canal, newly nationalized by President Nasser. While much has changed since that time the strategic importance of the canal and the pipeline that runs beside it is undiminished. With their economies dependent on oil and gas, Western powers are determined to prevent anything that might restrict their tankers, battleships and aircraft-carriers accessing the canal. Asked this month what action the US would take should travel through the shipping channel be disrupted, General Mattis, the head of US Central Command, replied that "we would have to deal with it diplomatically, economically, militarily."
Washington policy-makers are deeply concerned at the sudden and unprecedented rise of people power that is sweeping the region. With Iran's 1979 revolution still fresh in the US collective memory, many express fears about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, in spite of the fact that Egyptians do not want to create an Islamic state. Indeed, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of Egyptians were concerned at the global rise of Islamic extremism. A confluence of a number of factors including a strong civil society, moderate potential leadership in the shape of Mohamed El Baradei, Ayman Nour or Amr Moussa, do not quell fears in Washington. They know that democracies are hard to predict and harder to control. Even a liberal, secular Western-looking democracy in Egypt would be not prioritize US interests in the way that Mubarak's regime has done for over 30 years, and it would doubtless be much harder in its attitude towards Israel.
USA? The revolution will not be televized!
In January, ahead of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mubarak to discuss the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jordan's King Abdullah warned prophetically that the "deadlocked peace process threatens the entire region." The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and beyond make the need for intensive direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians more pressing than ever, but rather than pushing Israel towards the negotiating table the recent geo-political shifts may force Israel to even greater militarized isolationism.
Mubarak's fall has meant the loss of a vital regional ally and Israel fears that Jordan, another key partner, could follow suit. Despite assurances by Egypt's current military rulers that the 30 year peace treaty between the two countries would remain in place, Israel fears that a democratically elected government might abrogate the treaty and open Egypt's border with Gaza.
While Washington undoubtedly had made contingency plans in preparation for the time when aging strongmen such as Mubarak stepped down, they had clearly not been prepared for the speed, force and direction of change. They are now playing catch-up, working to ensure a new Egyptian leadership that will be both legitimate in the eyes of the Egyptian people as well as sympathetic to US interests. If this cannot be achieved and an 'unfriendly' government looks likely to take power in Cairo, the US and its allies will act - overtly or covertly – to safeguard their interests. Throughout the Cold War and beyond, the US supported insurgent groups, sponsored coups, and fought real and proxy wars in order to protect and extend its influence.
In his 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama acknowledged that tensions between the Western and Muslim worlds have "been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations." He failed to mention that, long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of these countries were still being treated as proxies with their leaders – including Hosni Mubarak - propped up by the West. As these leaders start to topple, the test for Obama will be the extent to which he can reign in the natural instincts of his foreign policy-makers and allow genuine democracy to take root in the Middle East's shifting sands.
Stefan Simanowitz is a journalist, writer and political analyst.
Obama and Mubarak photo show
Noam Chomsky - "The Arab World Is on Fire" Thursday 03 February 2011
"The Arab world is on fire," al-Jazeera reported on Jan. 27, while throughout the region, Western allies "are quickly losing their influence."
The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a Western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator's brutal police.
Observers compared the events to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but there are important differences.
Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather, Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless it is properly tamed.
One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the East European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased.
That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo Hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure that a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path.
The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist Gen. Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt's vice president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.
A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. In the Arab world, the U.S. and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.
A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological center of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistan's dictators and President Reagan's favorite, who carried out a program of radical Islamization (with Saudi funding).
"The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control," says Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian official and now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment. "With this line of thinking, entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground."
Therefore the public can be dismissed. The doctrine traces far back and generalizes worldwide, to U.S. home territory as well. In the event of unrest, tactical shifts may be necessary, but always with an eye to reasserting control.
egyptian sphinx Che Guevara artwork
The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against "a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems," ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for their venality. This was the assessment by U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.
Therefore to some observers the WikiLeaks "documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren't asleep at the switch" – indeed, that the cables are so supportive of U.S. policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)
"America should give Assange a medal," says a headline in the Financial Times. Chief foreign-policy analyst Gideon Rachman writes that "America's foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic … the public position taken by the U.S. on any given issue is usually the private position as well."
In this view, WikiLeaks undermines the "conspiracy theorists" who question the noble motives that Washington regularly proclaims.
Independent journalism is important. Click here to get Truthout stories sent to your email.
Godec's cable supports these judgments – at least if we look no further. If we do, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godec's information in hand, Washington provided $12 million in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most U.S. military aid in the hemisphere.
Heilbrunn's Exhibit A is Arab support for U.S. policies targeting Iran, revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the educated culture.
Unmentioned is what the population thinks – easily discovered. According to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs agree with Washington and Western commentators that Iran is a threat: 10 percent. In contrast, they regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats (77 percent; 88 percent).
Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington's policies that a majority (57 percent) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, "there is nothing wrong, everything is under control" (as Marwan Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored – unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.
Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments about Washington's nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of "legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28 forced removal of President Manuel 'Mel' Zelaya."
The embassy concluded that "there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch." Very admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and dismissing subsequent atrocities.
Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.
The cables reveal that the U.S. embassy is well aware that Washington's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant anti-Americanism but also "risks destabilizing the Pakistani state" and even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.
Again, the revelations "should create a comforting feeling … that officials are not asleep at the switch" (Heilbrunn's words) – while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.
(Noam Chomsky's most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is "Gaza in Crisis." Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.)
HISTORY EGYPT NASSER -- Murderous CIA and Saudi ISLAM BROTHERHOOD
History of Military Dictatorship in Egypt
Gilbert Achcar: Military rule in Egypt began with Nasser's overthrow of King Farouk and increasing independence from the US
Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon, and is currently Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. His books include The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder, published in 13 languages, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Noam Chomsky, and most recently the critically acclaimed The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay. In Egypt, the military dictatorship continues its rule. The question is whether it will be with or without President Mubarak. How did in fact this dictatorship, this military regime come to power in Egypt? Now joining us to talk about the history of this regime is Gilbert Achcar. He grew up in Lebanon. He's now a professor of development studies and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His most recent book is The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives. Thanks for joining us, Gilbert.
PROF. GILBERT ACHCAR, SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES: Thank you, Paul. My pleasure.
JAY: So talk a bit--first of all, do you agree with this description, that Egypt is in fact essentially a military dictatorship?
ACHCAR: Of course, essentially. I mean, it has been like that since 1952. It has been basically a country where the backbone of the political power is the military. Of course, it has taken more of a civilian facade in the last few decades, but the real center of power remains the army.
JAY: So in 1952 this is essentially the coup led by the then middle rank officer Nasser overthrowing the king. Give us a sense of the arc of history. Take us from there to today.
ACHCAR: Well, by a kind of historical coincidence, if you go back to the year 1952, this is a year that started with a major day of riots and fire in Cairo. That was on 26 January 1952. And by, I mean, historical coincidence, the events this time start on 25 January. So that was an indication of the ripeness of the situation for something. That was really a very explosive situation: very sharp social contradictions, a lot of discontent, a very hated monarchy, British domination. So a huge resentment. And on top of all that, of course, the resentment created by the war of Palestine in 1948 and the defeat of the Arab armies, including the Egyptian army, in that war. So, all that created a very unstable situation. The country already, after '45, had gone through a wave of social struggle, which peaked in 1946. Now, in terms of political forces [that] you had, I mean, the organized workers movement in the country was quite weak. What could be described as the liberal party was rather discredited and unable to lead any mass uprising. The major organized political force that existed was already at that time the Muslim Brotherhood. So you can see a lot of repetition, actually, in history. And the end result of all that was that the army moved forward and seized power. But that was not the army. We have to be clear on the fact that that was actually a group of officers that organized within the army. They called themselves the Free Officers. And that was a committee representing more or less all the major political currents within the Egyptian opposition. So you had people among them close to the Muslim Brotherhood, to people close to the communists, and nationalists in between, and even a few liberal figures at the beginning.
JAY: Alright. Gilbert, back up just a sec. For viewers that aren't too aware of this history, talk about the issue of the Suez Canal, what was at stake, that the--the extent to which Britain and France had, you know, control of this region, and why the Suez was so important.
ACHCAR: Well, that came later, the issue of the Suez Canal. I mean, of course, that was an old nationalist demand--or normal national demand, I would say, in Egypt by the national movement, because the Suez Canal is such a vital economic artery for Egypt that they thought that it didn't--I mean, it wasn't correct, it wasn't right that it belonged to foreign interests. But actually the new regime that came to power in '52, and when even after Nasser took over in 1954 and he became the president, '54--for the first two years someone else was at the head of--I mean officially at the head of the state. He--it is not before 1956 that he nationalized the Suez Canal. And that came also after the failure of attempts to get US aid, actually, for economic projects in Egypt. And finally the government, faced with the conditions put by the United States, the reluctance of United States to give it aid, and also the fact that they couldn't even get arms, which they needed, finally decided to nationalize the Suez Canal in 1956. And that led to the tripartite aggression against Egypt waged by Britain, France, and Israel. The three of them attacked Egypt. And, well, that ended with them having to withdraw with a few conditions, but under international pressure, including that of the United States at that time. Both Moscow and Washington made pressure on the three countries to withdraw from Egypt. And Nasser came out of that as a major hero for not only the Egyptians but all the Arab people, and beyond the Arab world, actually, as one of the key heroes of the -- what used to be called -- it started [to] be calling at that time the Third World.
JAY: And again, for people that don't understand the geography here, the Suez Canal was the central route for oil tankers moving oil from the Arabian Gulf oil fields to Europe. In fact, I would expect, at that time at least, it was the majority of Europe's oil would've been traveling through the Suez. So it had enormous strategic interests for England and France, but also for the United States, who wants to start to control the world by controlling the Middle East oil supply.
ACHCAR: Absolutely. That's absolutely the case. And it remained so until 1967, when it had to be closed as a result of the war, the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War. And it remained closed for quite a long time, and tankers were developed to go, you know, around Africa. And that diminished somewhat the importance of the canal. But when it was reopened, it recovered part of its importance, and it's one of the major sources of income for Egypt.
JAY: So, as you say, the beginning of the military regime is the coup that overthrows the king in 1952. Nasser emerges as a nationalist hero who, if I understand correctly, sort of plays the Soviet Union and the United States off against each other to some extent, at least more independent than others in the Middle East. What happens to Nasser? And then what happens to the character of the military regime?
ACHCAR: Well, this is--I mean, Nasser took over in '54. He nationalized the Suez Canal in '56 and had his first war, with him at the head of the state, against Israel. But one of his major projects was Arab unification, because he was an Arab nationalist -- more than an Egyptian nationalist, he was an Arab nationalist. And there has been an attempt at creating what was called the United Arab Republic by the union of Egypt and Syria, but that was relatively short-lived. It ended in '61. During that time, there has been a gradual radicalization of the Nasserite regime. It started at the beginning, with a, let's say, fairly relatively moderate, democratic (in the social sense, not in the political sense) kind of program that is a certain degree of agrarian reform, what at the beginning was rather moderate, and some national aspirations. So sovereignty, agrarian reform, the removal of the old land-based classes, that was the initial program. And gradually this government went into gradual encroachments in capitalist property in Egypt, starting with foreign property at the time of the Suez Canal. And later on, most of foreign investments in Egypt were nationalized. And later on, in the early '60s, that moved to local capital. And the government proclaimed socialism in the early '60s and started defining itself as socialist, renamed the ruling party the Socialist Union, the Arab Socialist Union. And that was seen, you know, from Washington as a kind of equivalent of what was happening in Cuba, what's happened in Cuba, you know, after Fidel Castro seized power and revolutionaries took power in '59. Well, a couple of years later the revolution had proclaimed itself socialist, and even adopted Marxism in Cuban case, which is not the case, was never the case in the Egyptian case, where it was rather what used to be called -- what has been called at that time "Arab socialism". They wanted to have their own brand of socialism in the same way that you had in that same period of history African socialism in some Sub-Saharan African countries and the like.
JAY: What was Nasser's relationship with the more dominant members of the Egyptian elite, non-nonmilitary elite?
ACHCAR: Well, they practically--I mean, the military regime, well, started by substituting itself politically to the former ruling class and to whichever class was dominant, the economically dominant class in Egypt. But then, a few years later, this substitution moved from the political realm into the economic realm, where actually they even took over economically and the economy became completely dominated by state capitalism, that is, the public sector, a very sweeping nationalization of the industry, which became almost completely nationalized, except a relatively marginal private sector when it comes to the industry. So, you know, at that time in the '60s you had debates even among Marxists about how to describe this country of Egypt. Was it the equivalent of what you had in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, or even Cuba or other countries? Was it, you know, this kind of socialism? Or was it something different because of the different ideology, because there was no commitment to suppress private property as such as a principle, and because the government still spoke of the union of classes and of popular forces? But it was indeed a very radical experience, one of the most radical experiences led by nationalists, short of those which were led by communists in other countries, like China or Vietnam or the rest. If you take nationalist-led experiences, there's no doubt that the Egyptian one has been historically one of the most radical, if not the most radical.
JAY: Now, there's a quote from President Eisenhower where he talks about using the alliance with the Saudi family, Saudi royal family, and their defense of Mecca to spread Wahhabism throughout the Middle East, and one of the objects is to fight Nasserism. So how does the US deal with Nasser?
ACHCAR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, once--you know, after the turn of the regime towards the [inaudible] opening up the regime towards the Soviet Union, which started in the mid-'50s with arms imports and gradually deepened, the country, seen from Washington, as I said, became another Cuba. You know, that was seen by Washington as some kind of communist state and closely allied to the Soviet Union, so part of the Soviet system. And the United States faced Egypt through its main region -- and oldest regional ally, which is the Saudi Kingdom, which we shouldn't forget, every time, that the Saudi Kingdom is by far the most undemocratic, the most anti-women, the most obscurantist and fundamentalist state of the whole region, and that compared to Saudi Kingdom, Iran, even Iran is a beacon of democracy and women's liberation. And so this state, which has been, which is the oldest ally of the United States in the region, it's really a US protectorate. I call that in one of my books an Islamic Texas. It's the real 52nd state of the United States of America--well, the 51st. The Saudi Kingdom was instrumental in the alliance with the United States in trying to fight Nasserism. And that went through support to the Muslim Brotherhood, who were repressed by Nasser in 1954 after an attempt at assassinating him, and who became Nasser's most bitter enemy. His fiercest enemy were the Muslim Brotherhood, and they were backed by the Saudi Kingdom and by the CIA and the United States.
JAY: Yeah. This is of course one of the great ironies of this whole current war on terrorism rhetoric, that so much of this Islamic extremist radical movement was nurtured and brought into being by the US and the Saudis to fight Nasserism and other forms of Arab nationalism.
ACHCAR: Absolutely. I mean, the United States has been instrumental in producing the kind of political cycle that prevailed after the '70s and through which Islamic fundamentalist organizations and movements became the main forces in the in the mass opposition in the Arab world. But that is a result of two decades of fight by the United States against any kind of progressive current, secular or whatever you want to call it, any kind of left-wing current in the region, and fighting them through the use of Islam, of the Muslim Brotherhood, of the Saudi Kingdom, and a whole range of Islamic fundamentalist organization. And this kind, you know, of line followed by Washington ended relatively recently, because the last major example or illustration of this same line is the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. I mean, everybody knows how the United States also there used Islamic fundamentalist forces in alliance with the Saudi Kingdom again and the Pakistani dictatorship in fighting the Soviet occupation of the country.
JAY: And, of course, the alliance with the Saudis is as close as ever. Gilbert, let's pick this up in part two of our interview about the rise of the current military state of Egypt. Please join us for part two of this interview on The Real News Network.
Twenty months ago, masked soldiers armed with automatic weapons burst into the bedroom of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ordering him to board a plane, or die. The plane refueled at the US airbase of Palmerola, then flew on to Costa Rica where it dumped the elected president on the runway, in his pajamas. The soldiers were operating under the command of two SOA graduates: Generals Vázquez Velázquez and Prince Suazo.
Honduras is certainly not the only example of how soldiers trained at the SOA have obliterated the sovereignty, dignity and very lives of people throughout Latin America. But, it is the most recent egregious example. Today - twenty months after the coup and ensuing illegal "elections" - Honduras continues to bleed. Over 4,000 grave violations of human rights have been registered since the coup, including 64 political assassinations since the U.S. approved "election" of Porfirio Lobo.
But Honduras also continues to resist. And, in the resistance movement, comprised of teachers, farmers, trade unionists, feminists, journalists, gay rights activists, indigenous communities, and progressive religious groups, I find some of my greatest inspiration today.
I invite you to join me on a delegation to Honduras, from April 30 to May 9, so that we can bring our message of solidarity directly to the Honduras Resistance. We will do so in the spirit of Father James "Guadalupe" Carney, a St. Louis Jesuit priest whose commitment to the poor campesinos of that country led him to make decisions that ultimately led to his disappearance in 1983, under orders of another SOA graduate, General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez.
We will meet with Resistance leaders, human rights activists, journalists, workers and campesino organizations struggling to return democracy to their nation, and will visit places that marked the extraordinary life of Fr. Guadalupe, and led him to choose a path of radical commitment to the poor. In addition, we will visit the U.S. military base at Palmerola which played a role in the 2009 coup and is receiving more US funds, troops and drones.
This is a special benefit delegation. Proceeds will go to the SOA Watch "Activantia" program that invites young people from around the Americas to work together to resist militarization and promote a culture of peace. One of these SOA Watch activantes, Jimena Paz, has organized this delegation to share with others the reality of her country: the pain of repression, the hope of the resistance.
Solidarity takes on many important forms: letters, emails, marches, lobbying, But there is no more powerful way to express your solidarity than to deliver the message in person. And no more transformative way for yourself. After my previous visits to Honduras, I returned with an even greater commitment to the people of Latin America, and with a deeper reserve of inspiration. Join me in bringing your solidarity directly to the Honduran resistance and in doing so, fortify your hope for the cause of peace and justice in our Americas.
Before flying to Honduras on April 30, I will travel to Washington, DC for a week long fast to close the SOA during the SOA Watch Days of Action from April 4-10, 2011. On Sunday, April 10, I will engage in a nonviolent direct action at the White House. I believe that we must up the ante, push the envelope, and risk arrest in order to call attention to the continued training of repressive troops at the School of the Americas and the accelerating U.S. militarization of the Americas. Please consider joining me in the fast and the nonviolent direct action in Washington, DC. Contact our field organizer Nico in the SOA Watch office in DC at 202-234-3440 for more information about the fast and the action.
Thank you for all that you do to work for a world of peace and justice.
Father Roy Bourgeois, M.M. SOA Watch founder
Roy Bourgeois is an American activist. He was ordained a priest in the Maryknoll order of the Roman Catholic Church and is founder of the human rights group SOA Watch.
Father Bourgeois was excommunicated latae sententiae for his participation in a women's ordination ceremony in August 2008.
In July 2010, feeling it necessary to avoid any appearance of endorsing his views on women's ordination, his order revoked its $17,500-a-year funding support for School of the Americas Watch
Bourgeois was born in Lutcher, Louisiana in 1938. He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in geology.
After graduation, Bourgeois entered the United States Navy and served as an officer for four years. He spent two years at sea, one year at a station in Europe, and one year in Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart during a tour of duty in Vietnam.
After military service, he entered the seminary of the Catholic religious order|Maryknoll Missionary Order. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1972 and sent to Bolivia.
1972-1975 Fr. Bourgeois spent five years in Bolivia aiding the poor before being arrested and deported for attempting to overthrow Bolivian dictator General Hugo Banzer.
1980 Fr. Bourgeois became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America after four American churchwomen, Sister Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Sister Ita Ford, and Sister Dorothy Kazel, were raped and killed by a death squad consisting of soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard.
1990 Fr. Bourgeois founded the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), an organization that seeks to close the School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001, through nonviolent protest.
1998 Fr. Bourgeois testified before a Spanish judge seeking the extradition of Chile's ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet.
2008 In August 2008, Fr. Bourgeois participated in and delivered the homily at the ordination ceremony of Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a member of Womenpriests, at a Unitarian Universalist church in Lexington, Kentucky. Fr. Bourgeois received a 30 days' notice as of October 21, 2008 regarding possible excommunication for this action. He was later fully excommunicated.
* Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award (1997) * Thomas Merton Award (2005)
EGYPT TUNESIA It's not radical Islam that worries the US – it's independence
It's not radical Islam that worries the US – it's independence
The nature of any regime it backs in the Arab world is secondary to control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains
NOAM CHOMSKY "The Guardian" (England newspaper that is a little better than the gutter press) 4 Feb 2011
'The Arab world is on fire," al-Jazeera reported last week, while throughout the region, western allies "are quickly losing their influence". The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator's brutal police.
Observers compared it to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but there are important differences. Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather, Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless properly tamed.
One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the east European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased. That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo-hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path. The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist General Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt's vice-president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.
A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. The US and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.
A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological centre of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistan's dictators and President Reagan's favorite, who carried out a programme of radical Islamisation (with Saudi funding).
"The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control," says Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian official and now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment. "With this line of thinking, entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground."
Therefore the public can be dismissed. The doctrine traces far back and generalises worldwide, to US home territory as well. In the event of unrest, tactical shifts may be necessary, but always with an eye to reasserting control.
The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against "a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems", ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for their venality. So said US ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.
Therefore to some observers the WikiLeaks "documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren't asleep at the switch" – indeed, that the cables are so supportive of US policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)
"America should give Assange a medal," says a headline in the Financial Times, where Gideon Rachman writes: "America's foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic … the public position taken by the US on any given issue is usually the private position as well."
In this view, WikiLeaks undermines "conspiracy theorists" who question the noble motives Washington proclaims.
Godec's cable supports these judgments – at least if we look no further. If we do,, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godec's information in hand, Washington provided $12m in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most US military aid in the hemisphere.
Heilbrunn's exhibit A is Arab support for US policies targeting Iran, revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the educated culture.
Unmentioned is what the population thinks – easily discovered. According to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs agree with Washington and western commentators that Iran is a threat: 10%. In contrast, they regard the US and Israel as the major threats (77%; 88%).
Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington's policies that a majority (57%) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, "there is nothing wrong, everything is under control" (as Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored – unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.
Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments about Washington's nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of "legal and constitutional issues surrounding the 28 June forced removal of President Manuel 'Mel' Zelaya."
The embassy concluded that "there is no doubt that the military, supreme court and national congress conspired on 28 June in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the executive branch". Very admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and dismissing subsequent atrocities.
Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.
The cables reveal that the US embassy is well aware that Washington's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant anti-Americanism but also "risks destabilising the Pakistani state" and even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.
Again, the revelations "should create a comforting feeling … that officials are not asleep at the switch" (Heilbrunn's words) – while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.
COMMENTS (that are worth reading)
Really interesting article of of Syria manages to avoid the mass poverty of Egypt and why the regime is much less resented by adopting a socailist econimc policy, refusing foreign aid and sticking 2 fingers to uncle sam. It is also a secular state with 10% Christian population and with the treat of the MB also. A genuine arab nationalist regime can be a genuine alturnative to a stooge US regime which only increases support for Islamist politics
WHY YOU WILL NOT BE INFORMED WHEN WATCHING TV LISTENING TO THE RADIO OR READING NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES.
It's not hard to spot the scientists in commercial advertising: they're the ones wearing white coats. Whether hawking toothpaste, skin cream, or even cigarettes, the white coat vouches for the presence of a highly-trained, disinterested expert ensuring product safety and effectiveness.
The label 'journalist' performs a similar function. It also indicates a highly-trained, disinterested expert: an 'insider' with specialist skills performing investigative analysis beyond the ken of ordinary folk.
But beneath the white coat, journalism 'smuggles in values conducive to the commercial aims of the owners and advertisers, as well as the political aims of the owning class,' as media analyst Robert McChesney has observed. (McChesney, in Kristina Borjesson, ed., Into The Buzzsaw - Leading Journalists Expose The Myth Of A Free Press, Prometheus Books, 2002, p.369)
In his book, Flat Earth News, Guardian journalist Nick Davies made much of the difference between media 'insiders' and 'outsiders'. He wrote: 'a lot of media critics are outsiders who recycle evidence from other outsiders and often develop theories which simply don't catch the reality of what goes on inside newsrooms'. (Davies, Flat Earth News, Vintage 2008, p.13)
In fact, 'outsiders' formulate their 'theories' on the basis of media output that can be monitored by almost anyone. What counts is the capacity of any given model to identify patterns in past performance, to predict trends in future performance, and to rationally account for both.
One BBC 'insider', who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote to us describing his own experience within the media:
'I don't doubt actual exposure to the industry has shone extra light on a few areas, but on the whole it conforms remarkably to the kind of analyses with which you guys will be familiar both in terms of established orthodoxies and individual rationale, but then it is like any other hierarchical structure in that respect – there are rules in place for a reason and it's just a case of having the courage/perception to identify them, even when they go by more insidious labels.
'But the "insider knowledge essential" line trotted out by journos as a means of evading criticism really is, to my mind at least, BS of the highest order. For so many reasons, but above all it reeks of hubris. Their work ain't the stuff of open heart surgery, but listening to some hacks you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.'
Peter Wilby, formerly editor of the New Statesman, now a Guardian commentator, is a rare example of a high-profile 'insider' willing to lift the lid on the 'BS':
'I have often expressed the view that journalism needs a social class category all to itself. It is not a profession (no esoteric knowledge) nor a skill (many hacks, including me, don't have shorthand) nor a working-class occupation (no manual labour). I would call it unskilled middle class.' (Wilby, 'The making of a tyrant,' The Guardian, December 10, 2008)
The evidence is all around us. Ian Sinclair, who writes for the Morning Star, emailed the BBC's North America editor, Mark Mardell, asking him why he had described US support for the Egyptian regime as 'aid', rather than as 'military aid'. Mardell had blogged: 'It gets $1.5bn (£942m) in aid from the US, just behind Israel, Pakistan and Afghanistan.'
Mardell replied on January 28:
'I agree it is an important point. The figure is not only military aid because it includes civil society/promoting democracy stuff. But I confess I don't know if it includes military aid. AP are saying that the US is reviewing aid. We are checking this out and I am trying to break down the figure.'
Sinclair did it for him:
'To be honest I am a little shocked that a professional, full-time BBC journalist writing about US "aid" to Egypt, by his own admission, doesn't know if this includes military aid.
'The report notes "In 2010, $1.3 billion went to strengthen Egyptian forces versus $250 million in economic aid. Another $1.9 million went for training meant to bolster long-term U.S.-Egyptian military cooperation."' (Email, copied to Media Lens, January 29, 2011)
Straightforward, credible information - Mardell ignored it, his blog remains unchanged.
Nick Davies dismisses 'outsider' media analyses as 'conspiracy theories which are attractive but heavily overstated'. (Davies, op.cit., p.14) He explains:
'So, for example, there is a popular theory that mass-media coverage is orchestrated or at least fundamentally restricted in order to win the favour of corporate advertisers. To an outsider's eye, this is very tempting: these advertisers have money, the media outlets need the money, so they must be vulnerable to some kind of pressure from the advertisers to describe the world in a way which suits their interests. It's a fine theory, particularly favoured by left-wing radicals, but its truth is very limited.' (ibid.)
As we have previously described, while very tempting to an insider's eye, this theory doesn't catch the reality of what goes on outside newsrooms – it is not at all what serious critics like Herman and Chomsky have argued. Davies courageously pulled a number from his 'insider' media hat in estimating interference from owners and advertisers:
'Journalists with whom I have discussed this agree that if you could quantify it, you could attribute only 5% or 10% of the problem to the total impact of these two forms of interference.' (ibid., p.22)
Perhaps Davies should have a chat with Bruce Guthrie, former editor of Australia's biggest-selling daily newspaper, Melbourne's Herald Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch - When Newspapers Further Corporate Ends
Guthrie has recently described his second period of employment with Murdoch, which began in 2003:
'By now Murdoch was much less of a regular presence in Australia, preferring to spend most of his time in the US. But it didn't matter. The most senior people at News [Corporation] behave as if he is sitting on their shoulders, factoring in his world view, preferences and prejudices at every turn.
'What hadn't changed at News was the company's propensity to use its newspapers to further corporate ends.'
Guthrie explains how, in the 1980s, Murdoch's then CEO had criticised the editor of the Melbourne Herald, Eric Beecher, for publishing a report of an overseas plane crash in which several hundred people had died. According to Beecher: 'He informed me that because they owned an airline they didn't put air crashes in the paper because they wanted people to fly.'
Two decades later, one of Murdoch's editors' conferences was devoted to examining ways Murdoch's papers could cross-promote Australia, the movie starring Nicole Kidman in which Murdoch's Fox had invested heavily. Guthrie comments:
'Sure enough, when the film came out, most Murdoch front pages that week looked more like movie posters than news pages.'
Guthrie reports that his summary dismissal from the Herald Sun came just weeks after he had reported that the local police commissioner had taken free overseas travel, prompting widespread condemnation:
'Our reporting upset the police commissioner's good friend, HWT [the Herald and Weekly Times] chairperson Janet Calvert-Jones, who also happens to be Rupert Murdoch's sister. There was speculation that it was this that had cost me my job. At News, in my experience, public interest often runs second to corporate interests or relationships.'
These splendid revelations appeared in the Guardian. But similar and more subtle pressures are at work there as they are throughout the media. In a recent guest media alert, journalist Jonathan Cook described the Guardian's reluctance to publish stories critical of Israel:
'I regularly travelled to the Middle East, dispatching reports for the Guardian. Normally there was no problem. But whenever I offered articles about Israel, or the Israel-Palestine conflict, I sensed a reluctance, even a resistance, to publishing them. The standard of proof required to print anything critical of Israel, it became apparent to me, was far higher than with other countries.
'Despite the Guardian's international reputation as the Western newspaper most savagely critical of Israel's actions, I quickly realised that there were, in fact, very clear, and highly unusual, limitations on what could be written about Israel.'
A reader wrote to us last month:
'I'd just like to bring to your attention a very blatant example of media bias within our own "liberal" newspaper, The Guardian. The piece is supposed to give a brief history of the key events of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Somehow, the Guardian managed to do this without a single mention of Zionism, or the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who were driven from their homes in 1948, before and after the UN partition, and without giving any detail of the amount of land annexed from Palestine either in 1948 or 1967. There are many other "key events" that are curiously absent from the Guardian's shameful piece.' (Email to Media Lens, January 10, 2011)
Carrot and stick pressures – Murdochian, but also more subtle, as described by Cook - inevitably cause journalists to follow lines and angles popular with powerful interests, and to avoid those that generate corporate and political flak.
Moral Creepback - Bombs Awry!
Actual flak was, of course, a major threat to Allied bombers attacking Germany during the Second World War, contributing to a phenomenon known as 'creepback'. The most dangerous time in a bombing raid was just prior to the release of bombs. With bomb doors wide open, pilots had to fly the aircraft straight and level as they approached target indicator flares dropped by 'pathfinder' aircraft. For a few hair-raising minutes, no evasive action could be taken to avoid searchlights, fighters or flak. Given that a direct hit in a fully-loaded bomb bay meant instant death, there was a powerful incentive for aircrew to shorten time spent as sitting ducks by releasing their bombs early, which they tended to do just before reaching the target flares.
Aircraft that followed then also tended to drop their bombs just before reaching the fires created by these first, prematurely released bombs, and so on. The result, historian Martin Middlebrook noted, was that 'bombing inevitably crept back along the line of the bomb run'. (Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg, Allen Lane, 1980, p.99)
Compare and contrast with life in the mainstream media. Corporate high-flyers who maintain a straight and level course for the proper target of honest journalism – the responsibility of powerful interests for human and environmental disaster – also face serious and intensifying risks to their careers. On the other hand, journalists who drop their focus short of the target – exposing the crimes of villains in Iran, Venezuela and North Korea – are far more likely to return from their keyboards to a ticker-tape welcome. Thus, corporate journalists are under constant pressure to creep back to lines favourable to powerful interests.
After 100 years of near-total corporate media monopoly (challenged, at last, in the age of the internet), journalistic creepback often produces media performance all but unrecognisable as serious reporting.
Consider that on the BBC website recently, Jim Muir described the plight of Iraq's refugees. Muir's journalistic target selection was admirable – it was a vanishingly rare article on the subject - but his execution was abysmal. He wrote:
'In one way or another, most of the factors that drove people here can be traced back to Saddam Hussein's rule and the chaos that followed.'
Muir commented on a woman who 'was chased from her home in Kirkuk by armed Kurds after the downfall of Saddam in 2003'.
Other families 'had to escape the depredations of al-Qaeda and other militant groups'.
Another family fled 'because the drying up of the waters there made it impossible to continue farming'.
Muir had not one word to say about the responsibility of the illegal US-UK 2003 invasion, of mass US-UK violence, of sanctions, or of US-UK support for Saddam Hussein as causes of the calamity afflicting Iraq's refugees. Media creepback is such that this spectacular airbrushing of history is virtually the norm and goes completely unnoticed. We wrote to Muir, as did several other activists, but he failed to respond.
Commenting on Tony Blair's appearance before the Chilcot Inquiry, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian:
'It was an electric close to what had seemed set to be a rather dry session, one of interest to few beyond the families in mourning and the dwindling band of Iraq obsessives.'
Indeed to the dwindling band of Iraqis. Imagine Freedland referring to 'the dwindling band of Hiroshima obsessives', or 'the dwindling band of Holocaust obsessives'. Powerful flak would have arisen to greet the last two comments – the first is considered unremarkable. It is this power differential, ignoring or rewarding one focus while punishing another, that inevitably causes pro-power bias in media performance.
Writing on the BBC website, Jeremy Bowen commented:
'President Hosni Mubarak has been the central pillar of the alliance between Western powers and authoritarian Arab leaders and without him it may not be sustainable.
'He has been the only Arab leader the Israelis trusted. Their biggest fear is that without him their cold - but so far resilient - peace with Egypt will be in danger.
'The president has been the West's necessary man in the Middle East for 30 years.'
Journalistic self-censorship is not always this obvious. Mubarak isn't 'the West's necessary man' just because of his importance to Israel. This isn't the sole, or even primary, reason the West maintains authoritarian Arab leaders with billions of dollars of military 'aid'. Bowen knows this but kept quiet - the truth is just too ugly for the BBC website.
With the help of the United States, Britain created all of the dictatorships in the Gulf. We did our dirty work in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. When independent nationalists threatened our control, as in Iran, we did our best to destroy them. The journalist Charles Glass wrote in 1996:
'The United States has one strategic interest in the Middle East: oil. Everything else is gravy, sentiment, rhetoric... American transnational corporations do not care about Israeli settlers and their biblical claims, Palestinians who are losing their land and water, Kurds who are caught stateless between gangsters in Baghdad and Tehran, victims of war or torture in Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, South Lebanon...' (Glass, New Statesman, November 15, 1996)
Media creepback means that the men and women in white coats will on occasion hint in the direction of this truth in the days and weeks to come. They may, very rarely, state it openly. After all, who can deny, now, that Mubarak is a dictator? And who can deny that the West has given him massive support? But corporate interests and political machinations will not be presented as joined at the hip, and they will not be offered as a framework for understanding events in Egypt and Tunisia. For that we will have to look elsewhere.
"Now ... it is not the role of any other country to determine egypt's leaders, only the egyptian people can do that."
HAH! What a hypocrit, a liar and a double-faced illusionist!
The USA elites have changed the leaders of so many countries. The USA elites DO see it as their role. Just google
Mohhamed Moussadeq Kermit
In recent weeks, popular uprisings in the Arab world have led to the ouster of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the imminent end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime, a new Jordanian government, and a pledge by Yemen's longtime dictator to leave office at the end of his term. We speak to MIT Professor Noam Chomsky about what this means for the future of the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the region. When asked about President Obama's remarks last night on Mubarak, Chomsky said: "Obama very carefully didn't say anything... He's doing what U.S. leaders regularly do. As I said, there is a playbook: whenever a favored dictator is in trouble, try to sustain him, hold on; if at some point it becomes impossible, switch sides."
AMY GOODMAN: For analysis of the Egyptian uprising and its implications for the Middle East and beyond, we're joined now by the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of over a hundred books, including his latest, Hopes and Prospects.
Noam, welcome to Democracy Now! Your analysis of what's happening now in Egypt and what it means for the Middle East?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, what's happening is absolutely spectacular. The courage and determination and commitment of the demonstrators is remarkable. And whatever happens, these are moments that won't be forgotten and are sure to have long-term consequences, as the fact that they overwhelmed the police, took Tahrir Square, are staying there in the face of organized pro-Mubarak mobs, organized by the government to try to either drive them out or to set up a situation in which the army will claim to have to move in to restore order and then to maybe install some kind of military rule, whatever. It's very hard to predict what's going to happen. But the events have been truly spectacular. And, of course, it's all over the Middle East. In Yemen, in Jordan, just about everywhere, there are the major consequences.
The United States, so far, is essentially following the usual playbook. I mean, there have been many times when some favored dictator has lost control or is in danger of losing control. There's a kind of a standard routine—Marcos, Duvalier
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