AlterNet.org: Robert Parry http://lists.alternet.org/authors/robert-parry en The Right Wing's Fake History of the Second Amendment http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/right-wings-fake-history-second-amendment <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The framers never intended the amendment to be construed as the right for individuals to take up arms against the Republic. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_124919357_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>False history continues to kill Americans, as we saw once again last week at Umpqua Community College in Oregon where a disturbed young man whose mother had loaded the house with loaded handguns and rifles executed nine people and then committed suicide – one more mind-numbing slaughter made possible, in part, by an erroneous understanding of the Second Amendment.</p><p>A key reason why the United States is frozen in political paralysis, unable to protect its citizens from the next deranged gunman and the next massacre, is that many on the American Right (and some on the Left) have sold much of the country on a false history regarding the Second Amendment. Gun-rights advocates insist that the carnage can’t be stopped because it was part of what the Constitution’s Framers designed.</p><p>Republican presidential candidates have been among the leaders in promoting this fake narrative, with surgeon Ben Carson saying the latest slaughter and all the other thousands of shootings are just part of the price of freedom. “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,” Carson said, noting that he had removed bullets from a number of gunshot victims.</p><p>But the Constitution’s Framers in 1787 and the authors of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress in 1789 never intended the Second Amendment to be construed as the right for individuals to take up arms against the Republic. In fact, their intent was the opposite.</p><p>The actual goal of the Second Amendment was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order in a time of political uprisings, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers. Indeed, its defined purpose was to achieve “security” against disruptions to the country’s republican form of government. The Second Amendment read:</p><p>“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In other words, if read in context, it’s clear that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e., to put down armed disorder and protect its citizens.</p><p>In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of “bearing” arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn’t mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.</p><p><strong>No Anarchists</strong></p><p>Yet, one of the false themes peddled by some on the Right and the Left is that the Framers, having won a revolution against the British Crown, wanted to arm the population so the people could rebel against the Republic created by the U.S. Constitution. This vision of the Framers of the Constitution and members of the First Congress as some anarchists wanting an armed population to overthrow the government if the people weren’t happy with something is completely opposite of what was intended.</p><p>Whatever one thinks about the Federalists, who were the principal constitutional Framers and the leaders of the First Congress, they constituted the early national establishment – people like George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris. They feared that their new creation, a constitutional republic in an age of monarchies, was threatened by the potential for violent chaos, which is what European aristocrats predicted.</p><p>According to the idea of a representative democracy, the Framers sought a system that reflected the will of the citizens but within a framework that constrained the passions of democracy. In other words, the Constitution sought to channel political disputes into non-violent competition among various interests. The Framers also recognized how fragile the nation’s independence was and how domestic rebellions could be exploited by European powers.</p><p>Indeed, one of the crises that led to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 was the inability of the old system under the Articles of Confederation to put down Shays’s Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-87. So, the Federalists were seeking a system that would ensure “domestic Tranquility,” as they explained in the Constitution’s Preamble. They did not want endless civil strife.</p><p>The whole idea of the Constitution – with its mix of voting, elected and appointed representatives, and checks and balances – was to create a political structure that made violence unnecessary. In other words, the Framers weren’t encouraging violent uprisings against the Republic that they were founding. To the contrary, they characterized violence against the constitutional system as “treason” in Article III, Section 3. They also committed the federal government to protect each state from “domestic Violence,” in Article IV, Section 4.</p><p>One of the first uses of the new state militias formed under the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts, which required able-bodied men to report for duty with their own muskets, was for President Washington to lead a federalized force of militiamen against the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania in 1794.</p><p>In the South, one of the principal reasons for a militia was to rally armed whites to put down slave uprisings. Again, the Second Amendment was meant to maintain public order – even an unjust order – rather than to empower the oppressed to take up arms against the government. That latter idea was a modern reinterpretation – or distortion – of the history.</p><p>The Constitution’s Framers were not some early version of Leon Trotsky favoring permanent revolution. The most radical-talking leader at the time, Thomas Jefferson, had little to do with either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights since he was serving as a diplomat in France at the time.</p><p>Yet, the revisionists who have transformed the meaning of the Second Amendment love to cite provocative comments by Jefferson, such as a quote from <a href="http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/tree-liberty-quotation" target="_blank">a 1787 letter</a> <em>criticizing</em> the Constitution for its commander-in-chief provisions. Jefferson argued that violence, like Shays’s Rebellion, was to be welcomed. He declared that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.”</p><p>It is ironic, however, that Jefferson was never willing to risk his own blood as that “natural manure.” During the Revolutionary War when traitor Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia’s governor, declined to rally the state militia in defense of the capital but rather fled for his life. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.</p><p>However, Jefferson was eager for Virginia to have a state militia of armed whites to crush possible black slave rebellions, another prospect that terrified him. As a slaveholder and a pseudo-scientific racist, Jefferson surely did not envision blacks as having any individual right to own guns themselves or to fight for their own liberty. Reflecting on blacks who fought bravely in the Revolution, Jefferson concluded that their courage was an illusion resulting from their intellectual inability to recognize danger.</p><p>Yet, whatever one thinks of Jefferson’s racism and cowardice, it’s a historical error to cite Jefferson in any way as speaking definitively about what the Framers intended with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was not directly involved in either.</p><p><strong>A Collective Right</strong></p><p>The real history of the Second Amendment was well understood both by citizens and courts in the generations after the Constitution and Bill of Rights were enacted. For most of the years of the Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right, allowing Americans to participate in a “well-regulated Militia,” not an individual right to buy the latest weaponry at a gun show or stockpile a military-style arsenal in the basement.</p><p>It’s true that many Americans owned a musket or rifle in those early years especially on the frontier, but regulations on munitions were still common in cities where storing of gunpowder, for instance, represented a threat to the public safety. As the nation spread westward, so did common-sense restrictions on gun violence. Sheriffs in some of the wildest of Wild West towns enforced gun bans that today would prompt a recall election financed by the National Rifle Association.</p><p>However, in recent decades – understanding the power of narrative on the human imagination – a resurgent American Right (and some on the Left) rewrote the history of the Founding era, dispatching “researchers” to cherry-pick or fabricate quotes from Revolutionary War leaders to create politically convenient illusions. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s <a href="http://kryo.com/2ndAmen/Quotes.htm" target="_blank">compilation</a> of apocryphal or out-of-context gun quotes.]</p><p>That bogus history gave rise to the image of the Framers being wild-eyed radicals encouraging armed rebellion against the Republic. Rather than people who believed in the rule of law and social order, the Framers were contorted into crazies who wanted citizens to be empowered to shoot police, soldiers, elected representatives and government officials.</p><p>This false history was advanced particularly by the American Right in the last half of the Twentieth Century as a kind of neo-Confederate call to arms, with the goal of rallying whites into a near-insurrectionary fury particularly in the South but also in rural areas of the North and West. Many fancied themselves an armed resistance against the tyrannical federal government.</p><p>Southern whites brandished guns and engaged in violence to resist the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when the federal government finally stepped in to end Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. In the 1990s, “citizens militias” began to pop up in reaction to the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1994.</p><p>While designed primarily for the weak-minded, the Right’s faux Founding history also had an impact on right-wing “intellectuals” including Republican lawyers who worked their way up through the federal judiciary under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.</p><p>By 2008, these right-wing jurists held a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and could thus overturn generations of legal precedents and declare that the Second Amendment established an individual right for Americans to own guns. Though even these five right-wing justices accepted society’s right to protect the general welfare of the population through some gun control, the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively “validated” the Right’s made-up history.</p><p>The ruling created a political dynamic in which even liberals in national politics, the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, had to genuflect to the supposed Second Amendment right of Americans to parade around in public with guns on their hips and high-powered semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.</p><p><strong>What the Framers Wanted?</strong></p><p>As guns-right activists struck down gun regulations in Congress and in statehouses across the nation, their dominant argument was that the Second Amendment offered no leeway for restrictions on gun ownership; it’s what the Framers wanted.</p><p>So, pretty much any unstable person could load up with a vast killing capacity and slouch off to a bar, a work place, a church or a school – even an elementary school – and treat fellow Americans as targets in a violent video game. Somehow, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was overtaken by the “right” to own an AR-15 with a 30-or-100-bullet magazine.</p><p>When right-wing politicians talk about the Second Amendment now, they don’t even bother to include the preamble that explains the point of the amendment. The entire amendment is only 26 words. But the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another Republican presidential candidate, find the preamble inconvenient because it would undercut the false storyline. So they just lop off the first 12 words.</p><p>Nor do they explain what the Framers meant by “bear arms.” The phrase reflected the reasoning in the Second Amendment’s preamble that the whole point was to create “well-regulated” state militias to maintain “security,” not to free up anybody with a beef to kill government officials or citizens of a disapproved race or creed. (The Oregon gunman targeted practicing Christians; a previous gunman in South Carolina went after African-Americans in a church.)</p><p>Yet, after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/10/the-right-to-shoot-tyrants-not-deer/" target="_blank">declared</a>: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”</p><p><em>Noah Pozner, 6, one of 20 children murdered on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.</em></p><p>At the time, the clear message from the Right was that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama – the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) – especially if he pressed ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions.</p><p>But Napolitano is simply wrong on the history. The Second Amendment was designed for states to maintain “security,” whether that meant putting down a tax rebellion in Pennsylvania, a slave revolt in the South or a Native American uprising on the frontier. One can disagree about the rightness of those actions by state or federal authorities, but the history is clear.</p><p>The Second Amendment was not designed to encourage violence against the government or – for that matter – to enable troubled individuals to murder large numbers of their fellow citizens.</p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 12:26:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1043746 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics Civil Liberties Culture News & Politics The Right Wing second amendment constitution guns gun control How the Government Spins False Narratives to Control the Message http://lists.alternet.org/media/how-government-spins-false-narratives-control-message <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Since nearly all foreign leaders have serious flaws, it proved much easier to demonize them.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ab501165b80545c9b1afa0a21f288137739399c5.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In this age of pervasive media, the primary method of social control is through the creation of narratives delivered to the public through newspapers, TV, radio, computers, cell phones and any other gadget that can convey information. This reality has given rise to an obsession among the power elite to control as much of this messaging as possible.</p><p>So, regarding U.S. relations toward the world, we see the State Department, the White House, Pentagon, NATO and other agencies pushing various narratives to sell the American people and other populations on how they should view U.S. policies, rivals and allies. The current hot phrase for this practice is <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/09/02/usnato-embrace-psy-ops-and-info-war/" target="_blank">“strategic communications”</a> or Stratcom, which blends psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into one mind-bending smoothie.</p><p>I have been following this process since the early 1980s when the Reagan administration sought to override “the Vietnam Syndrome,” a public aversion to foreign military interventions that followed the Vietnam War. To get Americans to “kick” this syndrome, <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/28/the-victory-of-perception-management/" target="_blank">Reagan’s team developed “themes”</a> about overseas events that would push American “hot buttons.”</p><p>Tapping into the Central Intelligence Agency’s experience in psy-ops targeted at foreign audiences, President Ronald Reagan and CIA Director William J. Casey assembled a skilled team inside the White House led by CIA propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr.</p><p>From his new perch on the National Security Council staff, Raymond oversaw inter-agency task forces to sell interventionist policies in Central America and other trouble spots. The game, as Raymond explained it in numerous memos to his underlings, was to glue black hats on adversaries and white hats on allies, whatever the truth really was.</p><p>The fact that many of the U.S.-backed forces – from the Nicaraguan Contras to the Guatemalan military – were little more than corrupt death squads couldn’t be true, at least according to psy-ops doctrine. They had to be presented to the American public as wearing white hats. Thus, the Contras became the <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2007/030607.html" target="_blank">“moral equals of our Founding Fathers”</a> and Guatemala’s murderous leader Efrain Rios Montt was getting <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2013/02/21/how-reagan-promoted-genocide/" target="_blank">a “bum rap” on human rights</a>, according to the words scripted for President Reagan.</p><p>The scheme also required that anyone – say, a journalist, a human rights activist or a congressional investigator – who contradicted this white-hat mandate must be discredited, marginalized or destroyed, a routine of killing any honest messenger.</p><p>But it turned out that the most effective part of this propaganda strategy was to glue black hats on adversaries. Since nearly all foreign leaders have serious flaws, it proved much easier to demonize them – and work the American people into war frenzies – than it was to persuade the public that Washington’s favored foreign leaders were actually paragons of virtue.</p><p><strong>An Unflattering Hat</strong></p><p>Once the black hat was jammed on a foreign leader’s head, you could say whatever you wanted about him and disparage any American who questioned the extreme depiction as a “fill-in-the-blank apologist” or a “stooge” or some other ugly identifier that would either silence the dissenter or place him or her outside the bounds of acceptable debate.</p><p>Given the careerist conformity of Washington, nearly everyone fell into line, including news outlets and human rights groups. If you wanted to retain your “respectability” and “influence,” you agreed with the conventional wisdom. So, with every foreign controversy, we got a new “group think” about the new “enemy.” The permissible boundary of each debate was set mostly by the neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks.</p><p>That this conformity has not served American national interests is obvious. Take, for example, the disastrous Iraq War, which has cost the U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion, led to the deaths of some 4,500 American soldiers, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and unleashed chaos across the strategic Middle East and now into Europe.</p><p>Most Americans now agree that the Iraq War “wasn’t worth it.” But it turns out that Official Washington’s catastrophic “group thinks” don’t just die well-deserved deaths. Like a mutating virus, they alter shape as the outside conditions change and survive in a new form.</p><p>So, when the public caught on to the Iraq War deceptions, the neocon/liberal-hawk pundits just came up with a new theme to justify their catastrophic Iraq strategy, i.e., “the successful surge,” the dispatch of 30,000 more U.S. troops to the war zone. This theme was as bogus as the WMD lies but the upbeat storyline was embraced as the new “group think” in 2007-2008.</p><p>The “successful surge” was a myth, in part, because many of its alleged “accomplishments” actually predated the “surge.” The program to pay off Sunnis to stop shooting at Americans and the killing of “Al Qaeda in Iraq” leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi both occurred in 2006, before the surge even began. And its principal goal of resolving sectarian grievances between Sunni and Shiite was never accomplished.</p><p>But Official Washington wrapped the “surge” in the bloody flag of “honoring the troops,” who were credited with eventually reducing the level of Iraqi violence by carrying out the “heroic” surge strategy as ordered by President Bush and devised by the neocons. Anyone who noted the holes in this story was dismissed as disrespecting “the troops.”</p><p>The cruel irony was that the neocon pundits, who had promoted the Iraq War and then covered their failure by hailing the “surge,” had little or no regard for “the troops” who mostly came for lower socio-economic classes and were largely abstractions to the well-dressed, well-schooled and well-paid talking heads who populate the think tanks and op-ed pages.</p><p>Safely ensconced behind the “successful surge” myth, the Iraq War devotees largely escaped any accountability for the chaos and bloodshed they helped cause. Thus, the same “smart people” were in place for the Obama presidency and just as ready to buy into new interventionist “group thinks” – gluing black hats on old and new adversaries, such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and, most significantly, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.</p><p><strong>Causing Chaos</strong></p><p>In 2011, led this time by the liberal interventionists – the likes of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White House aide Samantha Power – the U.S. military and some NATO allies took aim at Libya, scoffing at Gaddafi’s claim that his country was threatened by Islamic terrorists. It was not until Gaddafi’s military was destroyed by Western airstrikes (and he was tortured and murdered) that it became clear that he wasn’t entirely wrong about the Islamic extremists.</p><p>The jihadists seized large swaths of Libyan territory, killed the U.S. ambassador and three other diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, and forced the closing of U.S. and other Western embassies in Tripoli. For good measure, Islamic State terrorists forced captured Coptic Christians to kneel on a Libyan beach before beheading them.</p><p>Amid this state of anarchy, Libya has been the source of hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe by boat. Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean. But, again, the leading U.S. interventionists faced no accountability. Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Power is now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.</p><p>Also, in 2011, a similar uprising occurred in Syria against the secular regime headed by President Assad, with nearly identical one-sided reporting about the “white-hatted” opposition and the “black-hatted” government. Though many protesters indeed appear to have been well-meaning opponents of Assad, Sunni terrorists penetrated the opposition from the beginning.</p><p>This gray reality was almost completely ignored in the Western press, which almost universally denounced government when it retaliated against opposition forces for killing police and soldiers. The West depicted the government response as unprovoked attacks on “peaceful protesters.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/20/hidden-origins-of-syrias-civil-war/" target="_blank">Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.</a>”]</p><p>This one-sided narrative nearly brought the U.S. military to the point of another intervention after Aug. 21, 2013, when a mysterious sarin gas attack killed hundreds in a suburb of Damascus. Official Washington’s neocons and the pro-interventionists in the State Department immediately blamed Assad’s forces for the atrocity and demanded a bombing campaign.</p><p>But some U.S. intelligence analysts suspected a “false-flag” provocation by Islamic terrorists seeking to get the U.S. air force to destroy Assad’s army for them. At the last minute, President Obama steered away from that cliff and – with the help of President Putin – got Assad to surrender Syria’s chemical arsenal, while Assad continued to deny a role in the sarin attack. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/07/the-collapsing-syria-sarin-case/" target="_blank">The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.</a>”]</p><p><strong>Upset over Iran</strong></p><p>Putin also assisted Obama on another front with another demonized “enemy,” Iran. In late 2013, the two leaders collaborated in getting Iran to make significant concessions on its nuclear program, clearing the way for negotiations that eventually led to stringent international controls.</p><p>These two diplomatic initiatives alarmed the neocons and their right-wing Israeli friends. Since the mid-1990s, the neocons had worked closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/20/the-mysterious-why-of-the-iraq-war/" target="_blank">plotting a “regime change” strategy</a> for countries that were viewed as troublesome to Israel, with Iraq, Syria and Iran topping the list.</p><p>Putin’s interference with that agenda – by preventing U.S. bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran – was viewed as a threat to this longstanding Israeli/neocon strategy. There was also fear that the Obama-Putin teamwork could lead to renewed pressure on Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. So, <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2014/03/19/neocons-ukraine-syria-iran-gambit/" target="_blank">that relationship had to be blown up.</a></p><p>The detonation occurred in early 2014 when a neocon-orchestrated coup overthrew elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a fiercely anti-Russian regime which included neo-Nazi and other ultra-nationalist elements as well as free-market extremists.</p><p>Ukraine had been on the neocon radar at least since September 2013, just after Putin undercut plans for bombing Syria. Neocon Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, wrote a Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/former-soviet-states-stand-up-to-russia-will-the-us/2013/09/26/b5ad2be4-246a-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html" target="_blank">op-ed</a> deeming Ukraine “the biggest prize” and a key steppingstone toward another regime change in Moscow, removing the troublesome Putin.</p><p>Gershman’s op-ed was followed by prominent neocons, such as Sen. John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, urging on violent protests that involved firebombing the police. But the State Department and the mainstream media glued white hats on the Maidan protesters and black hats on the police and the government.</p><p>Then, on Feb. 20, 2014, a mysterious sniper attack killed both police and demonstrators, leading to more clashes and the deaths of scores of people. The U.S. government and press corps blamed Yanukovych and – despite his signing an agreement for early elections on Feb. 21 – the Maidan “self-defense forces,” spearheaded by neo-Nazi goons, overran government buildings on Feb. 22 and installed a coup regime, quickly recognized by the State Department as “legitimate.”</p><p>Though the fault for the Feb. 20 sniper attack was never resolved – the new Ukrainian regime showed little interest in getting to the bottom of it – other independent investigations pointed toward a provocation by right-wing gunmen who targeted police and protesters with the goal of deepening the crisis and blaming Yanukovych, which is exactly what happened.</p><p>These field reports, including <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31359021" target="_blank">one from the BBC</a>, indicated that the snipers likely were associated with the Maidan uprising, not the Yanukovych government. [Another worthwhile documentary on this mystery is “<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4052016/" target="_blank">Maidan Massacre</a>.”]</p><p><strong>One-Sided Reporting</strong></p><p>Yet, during the Ukrainian coup, The New York Times and most other mainstream media outlets played a role similar to what they had done prior to the Iraq War when they hyped false and misleading stories about WMD. By 2014, the U.S. press corps no longer seemed to even pause before undertaking its expected propaganda role.</p><p>So, after Yanukovych’s ouster, when ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine rose up against the new anti-Russian order in Kiev, the only acceptable frame for the U.S. media was to blame the resistance on Putin. It must be “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”</p><p>When a referendum in Crimea overwhelmingly favored secession from Ukraine and rejoining Russia, the U.S. media denounced the 96 percent vote as a “sham” imposed by Russian guns. Similarly, resistance in eastern Ukraine could not have reflected popular sentiment unless it came from mass delusions induced by “Russian propaganda.”</p><p>Meanwhile, evidence of a U.S.-backed coup, such as <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957" target="_blank">the intercepted phone call</a> of a pre-coup discussion between Assistant Secretary Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on how “to midwife this thing” and who to install in the new government (“Yats is the guy”), disappeared into the memory hole, not helpful for the desired narrative. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/01/06/nyt-still-pretends-no-coup-in-ukraine/" target="_blank">NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.</a>”]</p><p>When Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the blame machine immediately roared into gear again, accusing Putin and the ethnic Russian rebels. But some U.S. intelligence analysts reportedly saw the evidence going in a different direction, implicating a rogue element of the Ukrainian regime.</p><p>Again, the mainstream media showed little skepticism toward the official story blaming Putin, even though the U.S. government and other Western nations refused to make public any hard evidence supporting the Putin-did-it case, even now more than a year later. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/17/mh-17-mystery-a-new-tonkin-gulf-case/" target="_blank">MH-17 Mystery: A New Tonkin Gulf Case.</a>”]</p><p>The pattern that we have seen over and over is that once a propaganda point is scored against one of the neocon/liberal-hawk “enemies,” the failure to actually prove the allegation is not seen as suspicious, at least not inside the mainstream media, which usually just repeats the old narrative again and again, whether its casting blame on Putin for MH-17, or on Yanukovych for the sniper attack, or on Assad for the sarin gas attack.</p><p>Instead of skepticism, it’s always the same sort of “group think,” with nothing learned from the disaster of the Iraq War because there was virtually no accountability for those responsible.</p><p><strong>Obama’s Repression</strong></p><p>Yet, while the U.S. press corps deserves a great deal of blame for this failure to investigate important controversies independently, President Obama and his administration have been the driving force in this manipulation of public opinion over the past six-plus years. Instead of the transparent government that Obama promised, he has run one of the most opaque, if not the most secretive, administrations in American history.</p><p>Besides refusing to release the U.S. government’s evidence on pivotal events in these international crises, Obama has prosecuted more national security whistleblowers than all past presidents combined.</p><p>That repression, including a 35-year prison term for Pvt. Bradley/Chelsea Manning and the forced exile of indicted National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has intimidated current intelligence analysts who know about the manipulation of public opinion but don’t dare tell the truth to reporters for fear of imprisonment.</p><p>Most of the “leaked” information that you still see in the mainstream media is what’s approved by Obama or his top aides to serve their interests. In other words, the “leaks” are part of the propaganda, made to seem more trustworthy because they’re coming from an unidentified “source” rather than a named government spokesman.</p><p>At this late stage in Obama’s presidency, his administration seems drunk on the power of “perception management” with the new hot phrase, “strategic communications” which boils psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into one intoxicating brew.</p><p>From NATO’s Gen. Philip Breedlove to the State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, the manipulation of information is viewed as a potent “soft power” weapon. It’s a way to isolate and damage an “enemy,” especially Russia and Putin.</p><p>This demonization of Putin makes cooperation between him and Obama difficult, such as Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria as part of a commitment to prevent a victory by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Though one might think that Russian help in fighting terrorism would be welcomed, Nuland’s State Department office responded with <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/09/10/madness-of-blockading-syrias-regime/" target="_blank">a bizarre and futile attempt to build an aerial blockade</a> of Russian aid flying to Syria across eastern Europe.</p><p>Nuland and other neocons apparently would prefer having the black flag of Sunni terrorism flying over Damascus than to work with Putin to block such a catastrophe. The hysteria over Russia’s assistance in Syria is a textbook example of how people can begin believing their own propaganda and letting it dictate misguided actions.</p><p>On Thursday, Obama’s White House <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/09/25/obamas-flak-demeans-putins-posture/" target="_blank">sank to a new low</a> by having Press Secretary Josh Earnest depict Putin as “desperate” to land a meeting with Obama. Earnest then demeaned Putin’s appearance during an earlier sit-down session with Netanyahu in Moscow. “President Putin was striking a now-familiar pose of less-than-perfect posture and unbuttoned jacket and, you know, knees spread far apart to convey a particular image,’ Earnest said.</p><p>But the meeting photos actually showed both men with their suit coats open and both sitting with their legs apart at least for part of the time. Responding to Earnest’s insults, the Russians denied that Putin was “desperate” for a meeting with Obama and added that the Obama administration had proposed the meeting to coincide with Putin’s appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.</p><p>“We do not refuse contacts that are proposed,” said Yuri Ushakov, a top foreign policy adviser to Putin. “We support maintaining constant dialogue at the highest level.” The Kremlin also included no insults about Obama’s appearance in the statement.</p><p>However, inside Official Washington, there appears to be little thought that the endless spinning, lying and ridiculing might dangerously corrode American democracy and erode any remaining trust the world’s public has in the word of the U.S. government. Instead, there seems to be great confidence that skilled propagandists can discredit anyone who dares note that the naked empire has wrapped itself in the sheerest of see-through deceptions.</p><p> </p> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 08:05:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1043206 at http://lists.alternet.org Media Media News & Politics Strategic Communications Stratcom psy-ops Group Think Is Putting the US on the Precipice of Dangerous Conflict with Russia http://lists.alternet.org/world/group-think-putting-us-precipice-dangerous-conflict-russia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Express dissent over the one-sided coverage of Ukraine, and you&#039;re deemed a “stooge of Moscow.”</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/269ed228fad6518d8d908f3eae791322c97bd30a.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you wonder how the lethal “group think” on Iraq took shape in 2002, you might want to study what’s happening today with Ukraine. A misguided consensus has grabbed hold of Official Washington and has pulled in everyone who “matters” and tossed out almost anyone who disagrees.</p><p>Part of the problem, in both cases, has been that neocon propagandists understand that in the modern American media the personal is the political, that is, you don’t deal with the larger context of a dispute, you make it about some easily demonized figure. So, instead of understanding the complexities of Iraq, you focus on the unsavory Saddam Hussein.</p><p>This approach has been part of the neocon playbook at least since the 1980s when many of today’s leading neocons – such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan – were entering government and cut their teeth as propagandists for the Reagan administration. Back then, the game was to put, say, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega into the demon suit, with accusations about him wearing “designer glasses.” Later, it was Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and then, of course, Saddam Hussein.</p><p>Instead of Americans coming to grips with the painful history of Central America, where the U.S. government has caused much of the violence and dysfunction, or in Iraq, where Western nations don’t have clean hands either, the story was made personal – about the demonized leader – and anyone who provided a fuller context was denounced as an “Ortega apologist” or a “Noriega apologist” or a “Saddam apologist.”</p><p>So, American skeptics were silenced and the U.S. government got to do what it wanted without serious debate. In Iraq, for instance, the American people would have benefited from a thorough airing of the complexities of Iraqi society – such as the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shiite – and the potential risks of invading under the dubious rationale of WMD.</p><p>But there was no thorough debate about anything: not about international law that held “aggressive war” to be “the supreme international crime”; not about the difficulty of putting a shattered Iraq back together after an invasion; not even about the doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about whether Iraq possessed usable WMD and whether Hussein had any ties to al-Qaeda.</p><p>All the American people heard was that Saddam Hussein was “a bad guy” and it was America’s right and duty to get rid of “bad guys” who supposedly had dangerous WMDs that they might share with other “bad guys.” To say that this simplistic argument was an insult to a modern democracy would be an understatement, but the propaganda worked because almost no one in the mainstream press or in academia or in politics dared speak out.</p><p>Those who could have made a difference feared for their careers – and they were “right” to have those fears, at least in the sense that it was much safer, career-wise, to run with the herd than to stand in the way. Even after the Iraq War had turned into an unmitigated disaster with horrific repercussions reaching to the present, the U.S. political/media establishment undertook no serious effort to impose accountability.</p><p>Almost no one who joined in the Iraq “group think” was punished. It turns out that there truly is safety in numbers. Many of those exact same people are still around holding down the same powerful jobs as if nothing horrible had happened in Iraq. Their pontifications still are featured on the most influential opinion pages in American journalism, with the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman a perfect example.</p><p>Though Friedman has been wrong again and again, he is still regarded as perhaps the preeminent foreign policy pundit in the U.S. media. Which brings us to the issue of Ukraine and Russia.</p><p><strong>A New Cold War</strong></p><p>From the start of the Ukraine crisis in fall 2013, the New York Times, the Washington Post and virtually every mainstream U.S. news outlet have behaved as dishonestly as they did during the run-up to war with Iraq. Objectivity and other principles of journalism have been thrown out the window. The larger context of both Ukrainian politics and Russia’s role has been ignored.</p><p>Again, it’s all been about demonized “bad guys” – in this case, Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s elected President Vladimir Putin – versus the “pro-Western good guys” who are deemed model democrats even as they collaborated with neo-Nazis to overthrow a constitutional order.</p><p>Again, the political is made personal: Yanukovych had a pricy sauna in his mansion; Putin rides a horse shirtless and doesn’t favor gay rights. So, if you raise questions about U.S. support for last year’s coup in Ukraine, you somehow must favor pricy saunas, riding shirtless and holding bigoted opinions about gays.</p><p>Anyone who dares protest the unrelentingly one-sided coverage is deemed a “Putin apologist” or a “stooge of Moscow.” So, most Americans – in a position to influence public knowledge but who want to stay employable – stay silent, just as they did during the Iraq War stampede.</p><p>One of the ugly but sadly typical cases relates to Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, who has been denounced by some of the usual neocon suspects for deviating from the “group think” that blames the entire Ukraine crisis on Putin. The New Republic, which has gotten pretty much every major issue wrong during my 37 years in Washington, smeared Cohen as “Putin’s American toady.”</p><p>And, if you think that Cohen’s fellow scholars are more tolerant of a well-argued dissent, the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies further proved that deviation from the “group think” on Ukraine is not to be tolerated.</p><p>The academic group spurned a fellowship program, which it had solicited from Cohen’s wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel, because the program’s title included Cohen’s name. “It’s no secret that there were swirling controversies surrounding Professor Cohen,” Stephen Hanson, the group’s president, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/arts/scholars-at-odds-on-ukraine.html?src=me&amp;_r=1">told</a> the New York Times.</p><p>In a protest letter to the group, Cohen called this action “a political decision that creates serious doubts about the organization’s commitment to First Amendment rights and academic freedom.” He also noted that young scholars in the field have expressed fear for their professional futures if they break from the herd.</p><p>He mentioned the story of one young woman scholar who dropped off a panel to avoid risking her career in case she said something that could be deemed sympathetic to Russia.</p><p>Cohen noted, too, that even established foreign policy figures, ex-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have been accused in the Washington Post of “advocating that the West appease Russia,” with the notion of “appeasement” meant “to be disqualifying, chilling, censorious.” (Kissinger had <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2014/11/12/when-henry-kissinger-makes-sense/">objected</a> to the comparison of Putin to Hitler as unfounded.)</p><p>In other words, as the United States rushes into a new Cold War with Russia, we are seeing the makings of a new McCarthyism, challenging the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t get into line. But this conformity of thought presents a serious threat to U.S. national security and even the future of the planet.</p><p>It may seem clever for some New Republic blogger or a Washington Post writer to insult anyone who doesn’t accept the over-the-top propaganda on Russia and Ukraine – much as they did to people who objected to the rush to war in Iraq – but a military clash with nuclear-armed Russia is a crisis of a much greater magnitude.</p><p><strong>Botching Russia</strong></p><p>Professor Cohen has been one of the few scholars who was right in criticizing Official Washington’s earlier “group think” about post-Soviet Russia, a reckless and mindless approach that laid the groundwork for today’s confrontation.</p><p>To understand why Russians are so alarmed by U.S. and NATO meddling in Ukraine, you have to go back to those days after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Instead of working with the Russians to transition carefully from a communist system to a pluralistic, capitalist one, the U.S. prescription was “shock therapy.”</p><p>As American “free market” experts descended on Moscow during the pliant regime of Boris Yeltsin, well-connected Russian thieves and their U.S. compatriots plundered the country’s wealth, creating a handful of billionaire “oligarchs” and leaving millions upon millions of Russians in a state of near starvation, with a collapse in life expectancy rarely seen in a country not at war.</p><p>Yet, despite the desperation of the masses, American journalists and pundits hailed the “democratic reform” underway in Russia with glowing accounts of how glittering life could be in the shiny new hotels, restaurants and bars of Moscow. Complaints about the suffering of average Russians were dismissed as the grumblings of losers who failed to appreciate the economic wonders that lay ahead.</p><p>As recounted in his 2001 book, <em>Failed Crusade</em>, Cohen correctly describes this fantastical reporting as journalistic “malpractice” that left the American people misinformed about the on-the-ground reality in Russia. The widespread suffering led Vladimir Putin, who succeeded Yeltsin, to pull back on the wholesale privatization, to punish some oligarchs and to restore some of the social safety net.</p><p>Though the U.S. mainstream media portrays Putin as essentially a tyrant, his elections and approval numbers indicate that he commands broad popular support, in part, because he stood up to some oligarchs (though he still worked with others). Yet, Official Washington continues to portray oligarchs whom Putin jailed as innocent victims of a tyrant’s revenge.</p><p>Last October, after Putin pardoned one jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, neocon Freedom House sponsored a Washington dinner in his honor, hailing him as one of Russia’s political heroes. “I have to say I’m impressed by him,” declared Freedom House President David Kramer. “But he’s still figuring out how he can make a difference.”</p><p>New York Times writer Peter Baker fairly swooned at Khodorkovsky’s presence. “If anything, he seemed stronger and deeper than before” prison, Baker <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/03/world/europe/mikhail-khodorkovsky-ex-oil-tycoon-plans-to-lead-political-movement.html?_r=0">wrote</a>. “The notion of prison as cleansing the soul and ennobling the spirit is a powerful motif in Russian literature.”</p><p>Yet, even Khodorkovsky, who is now in his early 50s, acknowledged that he “grew up in Russia’s emerging Wild West capitalism to take advantage of what he now says was a corrupt privatization system,” Baker reported.</p><p>In other words, Khodorkovsky was admitting that he obtained his vast wealth through a corrupt process, though by referring to it as the “Wild West” Baker made the adventure seem quite dashing and even admirable when, in reality, Khodorkovsky was a key figure in the plunder of Russia that impoverished millions of his countrymen and sent many to early graves.</p><p>In the 1990s, Professor Cohen was one of the few scholars with the courage to challenge the prevailing boosterism for Russia’s “shock therapy.” He noted even then the danger of mistaken “conventional wisdom” and how it strangles original thought and necessary skepticism.</p><p>“Much as Russia scholars prefer consensus, even orthodoxy, to dissent, most journalists, one of them tells us, are ‘devoted to group-think’ and ‘see the world through a set of standard templates,’” wrote Cohen. “For them to break with ‘standard templates’ requires not only introspection but retrospection, which also is not a characteristic of either profession.”</p><p><strong>A Plodding Pundit</strong></p><p>Arguably, no one in journalism proves that point better than New York Times columnist Friedman, who is at best a pedestrian thinker plodding somewhere near the front of the herd. But Friedman’s access to millions of readers on the New York Times op-ed page makes him an important figure in consolidating the “group think” no matter how askew it is from reality.</p><p>Friedman played a key role in lining up many Americans behind the invasion of Iraq and is doing the same in the current march of folly into a new Cold War with Russia, including now a hot war on Russia’s Ukrainian border. In one typically mindless but inflammatory <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/opinion/thomas-friedman-czar-putins-next-moves.html">column</a>, entitled “Czar Putin’s Next Moves,” Friedman decided it was time to buy into the trendy analogy of likening Putin to Hitler.</p><p>“Last March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, supposedly in defense of Russian-speakers there, was just like ‘what Hitler did back in the ‘30s’ — using ethnic Germans to justify his invasion of neighboring lands. At the time, I thought such a comparison was over the top. I don’t think so anymore.”</p><p>Though Friedman was writing from Zurich apparently without direct knowledge of what is happening in Ukraine, he wrote as if he were on the front lines: “Putin’s use of Russian troops wearing uniforms without insignia to invade Ukraine and to covertly buttress Ukrainian rebels bought and paid for by Moscow — all disguised by a web of lies that would have made Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels blush and all for the purpose of destroying Ukraine’s reform movement before it can create a democratic model that might appeal to Russians more than Putin’s kleptocracy — is the ugliest geopolitical mugging happening in the world today.</p><p>“Ukraine matters — more than the war in Iraq against the Islamic State, a.k.a., ISIS. It is still not clear that most of our allies in the war against ISIS share our values. That conflict has a big tribal and sectarian element. It is unmistakably clear, though, that Ukraine’s reformers in its newly elected government and Parliament — who are struggling to get free of Russia’s orbit and become part of the European Union’s market and democratic community — do share our values. If Putin the Thug gets away with crushing Ukraine’s new democratic experiment and unilaterally redrawing the borders of Europe, every pro-Western country around Russia will be in danger.”</p><p>If Friedman wished to show any balance – which he clearly didn’t – he might have noted that Goebbels would actually be quite proud of the fact that some of Hitler’s modern-day followers are at the forefront of the fight for Ukrainian “reform,” dispatched by those Kiev “reformers” to spearhead the nasty slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.</p><p>But references to those inconvenient neo-Nazis, who also spearheaded the coup last February ousting President Yanukovych, are essentially verboten in the U.S. mainstream media. So, is any reference to the fact that eastern Ukrainians have legitimate grievances with the Kiev authorities who ousted Yanukovych who had been elected with strong support from eastern Ukraine.</p><p>But in the mainstream American “group think,” the people of eastern Ukraine are simply “bought and paid for by Moscow” – all the better to feel good about slaughtering them. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2014/09/08/seeing-no-neo-nazi-militias-in-ukraine/">Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine</a>.”]</p><p>We’re also not supposed to mention that there was a coup in Ukraine, as the New York Times told us earlier this month. It was just white-hat “reformers” bringing more U.S.-sponsored good government to Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2015/01/06/nyt-still-pretends-no-coup-in-ukraine/">NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine</a>.”]</p><p>In his column, without any sense of irony or awareness, Friedman glowingly quotes Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s new finance minister (leaving out that Jaresko is a newly minted Ukrainian citizen, an ex-American diplomat and investment banker with her own history of “kleptocracy.”)</p><p>Friedman quotes Jaresko’s stirring words: “Putin fears a Ukraine that demands to live and wants to live and insists on living on European values — with a robust civil society and freedom of speech and religion [and] with a system of values the Ukrainian people have chosen and laid down their lives for.”</p><p>However, as I noted in December, Jaresko headed a U.S. government-funded investment project for Ukraine that involved substantial insider dealings, including $1 million-plus fees to a management company that she also controlled.</p><p>Jaresko served as president and chief executive officer of Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by the U.S. Agency for International Development with $150 million to spur business activity in Ukraine. She also was cofounder and managing partner of Horizon Capital which managed WNISEF’s investments at a rate of 2 to 2.5 percent of committed capital, fees exceeding $1 million in recent years, according to <a href="http://www.horizoncapital.com.ua/files/2012/WNISEF%20eng.pdf">WNISEF’s 2012 annual report</a>.</p><p>In the 2012 report, the section on “related party transactions” covered some two pages and included not only the management fees to Jaresko’s Horizon Capital ($1,037,603 in 2011 and $1,023,689 in 2012) but also WNISEF’s co-investments in projects with the Emerging Europe Growth Fund [EEGF], where <a href="http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=28386716">Jaresko was founding partner and chief executive officer</a>. Jaresko’s Horizon Capital also managed EEGF.</p><p>From 2007 to 2011, WNISEF co-invested $4.25 million with EEGF in Kerameya LLC, a Ukrainian brick manufacturer, and WNISEF sold EEGF 15.63 percent of Moldova’s Fincombank for $5 million, the report said. It also listed extensive exchanges of personnel and equipment between WNISEF and Horizon Capital.</p><p>Though it’s difficult for an outsider to ascertain the relative merits of these insider deals, they involved potential conflicts of interest between a U.S.-taxpayer-funded entity and a private company that Jaresko controlled.</p><p>Based on the data from WNISEF’s 2012 annual report, it also appeared that the U.S. taxpayers had lost about one-third of their investment in WNISEF, with the fund’s balance at $98,074,030, compared to the initial U.S. government grant of $150 million. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/05/ukraines-made-in-usa-finance-minister/">Ukraine’s Made-in-USA Finance Minister</a>.”]</p><p>In other words, there is another side of the Ukraine story, a darker reality that Friedman and the rest of the mainstream media don’t want you to know. They want to shut out alternative information and lead you into another conflict, much as they did in Iraq.</p><p>But Friedman is right about one thing: “Ukraine matters.” And he’s even right that Ukraine matters more than the butchery that’s continuing in Iraq.</p><p>But Friedman is wrong about why. Ukraine matters more because he and the other “group thinkers,” who turned Iraq into today’s slaughterhouse, are just as blind to the reality of the U.S. military confronting Russia over Ukraine, except in the Ukraine case, both sides have nuclear weapons.</p> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 12:36:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1031272 at http://lists.alternet.org World World cold war russia ukraine group think putin iraq It's Not All About Democracy: The Very Dark Side of American History http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/its-not-all-about-democracy-very-dark-side-american-history <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This tradition goes back to the treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_241863763.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p class="article_main_text"><em><strong>Editor's Note: Many Americans view their country and its soldiers as the "good guys" spreading "democracy" and "liberty" around the world. When the United States inflicts unnecessary death and destruction, it's viewed as a mistake or an aberration.</strong></em></p><p class="article_main_text"><em><strong>In the following article, Peter Dale Scott and Robert Parry examine the long history of these acts of brutality, a record that suggests they are neither a "mistake" nor an "aberration" but rather conscious counterinsurgency doctrine on the "dark side."</strong></em></p><p class="print_title">There is a dark -- seldom acknowledged -- thread that runs through U.S. military doctrine, dating back to the early days of the Republic.</p><p class="article_main_text">This military tradition has explicitly defended the selective use of terror, whether in suppressing Native American resistance on the frontiers in the 19th Century or in protecting U.S. interests abroad in the 20th Century or fighting the "war on terror" over the last decade.</p><p class="article_main_text">The American people are largely oblivious to this hidden tradition because most of the literature advocating state-sponsored terror is carefully confined to national security circles and rarely spills out into the public debate, which is instead dominated by feel-good messages about well-intentioned U.S. interventions abroad. </p><p class="article_main_text">Over the decades, congressional and journalistic investigations have exposed some of these abuses. The recent release of the Senate torture report is one example. But when that does happen, the cases are usually deemed anomalies or excesses by out-of-control soldiers.</p><p class="article_main_text">Yet the historical record shows that terror tactics have long been a dark side of U.S. military doctrine. The theories survive today in textbooks on counterinsurgency warfare, "low-intensity" conflict and "counter-terrorism."</p><p class="article_main_text">Some historians trace the formal acceptance of those brutal tenets to the 1860s when the U.S. Army was facing challenge from a rebellious South and resistance from Native Americans in the West. Out of those crises emerged the modern military concept of "total war" -- which considers attacks on civilians and their economic infrastructure an integral part of a victorious strategy.</p><p class="article_main_text">In 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman cut a swath of destruction through civilian territory in Georgia and the Carolinas. His plan was to destroy the South's will to fight and its ability to sustain a large army in the field. The devastation left plantations in flames and brought widespread Confederate complaints of rape and murder of civilians.</p><p class="article_main_text">Meanwhile, in Colorado, Colonel John M. Chivington and the Third Colorado Cavalry were employing their own terror tactics to pacify Cheyennes. A scout named John Smith later described the attack at Sand Creek, Colorado, on unsuspecting Indians at a peaceful encampment:</p><p class="article_main_text">"They were scalped; their brains knocked out; the men used their knives, ripped open women, clubbed little children, knocked them in the head with their guns, beat their brains out, mutilated their bodies in every sense of the word." [U.S. Cong., Senate, 39 Cong., 2nd Sess., "The Chivington Massacre," Reports of the Committees.]</p><p class="article_main_text">Though Smith's objectivity was challenged at the time, today even defenders of the Sand Creek raid concede that most women and children there were killed and mutilated. [See Lt. Col. William R. Dunn, <em>I Stand by Sand Creek</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text">Yet, in the 1860s, many whites in Colorado saw the slaughter as the only realistic way to bring peace, just as Sherman viewed his "march to the sea" as necessary to force the South's surrender.</p><p class="article_main_text">The brutal tactics in the West also helped clear the way for the transcontinental railroad, built fortunes for favored businessmen and consolidated Republican political power for more than six decades, until the Great Depression of the 1930s. [See Consortiumnews.com's "<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2010/100610b.html">Indian Genocide and Republican Power</a>."]</p><p class="article_main_text">Four years after the Civil War, Sherman became commanding general of the Army and incorporated the Indian pacification strategies -- as well as his own tactics -- into U.S. military doctrine. General Philip H. Sheridan, who had led Indian wars in the Missouri territory, succeeded Sherman in 1883 and further entrenched those strategies as policy. [See Ward Churchill, <em>A Little Matter of Genocide</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text">By the end of the 19th Century, the Native American warriors had been vanquished, but the Army's winning strategies lived on.</p><p class="article_main_text"><strong>Imperial America</strong></p><p class="article_main_text">When the United States claimed the Philippines as a prize in the Spanish-American War, Filipino insurgents resisted. In 1900, the U.S. commander, General J. Franklin Bell, consciously modeled his brutal counterinsurgency campaign after the Indian wars and Sherman's "march to the sea."</p><p class="article_main_text">Bell believed that by punishing the wealthier Filipinos through destruction of their homes -- much as Sherman had done in the South -- they would be coerced into helping convince their countrymen to submit.</p><p class="article_main_text">Learning from the Indian wars, he also isolated the guerrillas by forcing Filipinos into tightly controlled zones where schools were built and other social amenities were provided.</p><p class="article_main_text">"The entire population outside of the major cities in Batangas was herded into concentration camps," wrote historian Stuart Creighton Miller. "Bell's main target was the wealthier and better-educated classes. … Adding insult to injury, Bell made these people carry the petrol used to burn their own country homes." [See Miller's <em>"Benevolent Assimilation."</em>]</p><p class="article_main_text">For those outside the protected areas, there was terror. A supportive news correspondent described one scene in which American soldiers killed "men, women, children … from lads of 10 and up, an idea prevailing that the Filipino, as such, was little better than a dog. …</p><p class="article_main_text">"Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to 'make them talk,' have taken prisoner people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down as an example to those who found their bullet-riddled corpses."</p><p class="article_main_text">Defending the tactics, the correspondent noted that "it is not civilized warfare, but we are not dealing with a civilized people. The only thing they know and fear is force, violence, and brutality." [<em>Philadelphia Ledger</em>, Nov. 19, 1900]</p><p class="article_main_text">In 1901, anti-imperialists in Congress exposed and denounced Bell's brutal tactics. Nevertheless, Bell's strategies won military acclaim as a refined method of pacification.</p><p class="article_main_text">In a 1973 book, one pro-Bell military historian, John Morgan Gates, termed reports of U.S. atrocities "exaggerated" and hailed Bell's "excellent understanding of the role of benevolence in pacification."</p><p class="article_main_text">Gates recalled that Bell's campaign in Batanga was regarded by military strategists as "pacification in its most perfected form." [See Gates's <em>Schoolbooks and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines</em>, 1898-1902.]</p><p class="article_main_text"><strong>Spreading the Word</strong></p><p class="article_main_text">At the turn of the century, the methodology of pacification was a hot topic among the European colonial powers, too. From Namibia to Indochina, Europeans struggled to subdue local populations.</p><p class="article_main_text">Often outright slaughter proved effective, as the Germans demonstrated with massacres of the Herrero tribe in Namibia from 1904-1907. But military strategists often compared notes about more subtle techniques of targeted terror mixed with demonstrations of benevolence.</p><p class="article_main_text">Counterinsurgency strategies were back in vogue after World War II as many subjugated people demanded independence from colonial rule and Washington worried about the expansion of communism. In the 1950s, the Huk rebellion against U.S. dominance made the Philippines again the laboratory, with Bell's earlier lessons clearly remembered.</p><p class="article_main_text">"The campaign against the Huk movement in the Philippines … greatly resembled the American campaign of almost 50 years earlier," historian Gates observed. "The American approach to the problem of pacification had been a studied one."</p><p class="article_main_text">But the war against the Huks had some new wrinkles, particularly the modern concept of psychological warfare or psy-war.</p><p class="article_main_text">Under the pioneering strategies of the CIA's Major General Edward G. Lansdale, psy-war was a new spin to the old game of breaking the will of a target population. The idea was to analyze the psychological weaknesses of a people and develop "themes" that could induce actions favorable to those carrying out the operation.</p><p class="article_main_text">While psy-war included propaganda and disinformation, it also relied on terror tactics of a demonstrative nature. An Army psy-war pamphlet, drawing on Lansdale's experience in the Philippines, advocated "exemplary criminal violence -- the murder and mutilation of captives and the display of their bodies," according to Michael McClintock's <em>Instruments of Statecraft</em>.</p><p class="article_main_text">In his memoirs, Lansdale boasted of one legendary psy-war trick used against the Huks who were considered superstitious and fearful of a vampire-like creature called an asuang.</p><p class="article_main_text">"The psy-war squad set up an ambush along a trail used by the Huks," Lansdale wrote. "When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man on the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail.</p><p class="article_main_text">"When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed the asuang had got him." [See Lansdale's <em>In the Midst of Wars</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text">The Huk rebellion also saw the refinement of free-fire zones, a technique used effectively by Bell's forces a half-century earlier. In the 1950s, special squadrons were assigned to do the dirty work.</p><p class="article_main_text">"The special tactic of these squadrons was to cordon off areas; anyone they caught inside the cordon was considered an enemy," explained one pro-U.S. Filipino colonel. "Almost daily you could find bodies floating in the river, many of them victims of [Major Napoleon] Valeriano's Nenita Unit. [See Benedict J. Kerkvliet, <em>The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text"><strong>On to Vietnam</strong></p><p class="article_main_text">The successful suppression of the Huks led the war's architects to share their lessons elsewhere in Asia and beyond. Valeriano went on to co-author an important American textbook on counterinsurgency and to serve as part of the American pacification effort in Vietnam with Lansdale.</p><p class="article_main_text">Following the Philippine model, Vietnamese were crowded into "strategic hamlets"; "free-fire zones" were declared with homes and crops destroyed; and the Phoenix program eliminated thousands of suspected Viet Cong cadre.</p><p class="article_main_text">The ruthless strategies were absorbed and accepted even by widely respected military figures such as General Colin Powell, who served two tours in Vietnam and endorsed the routine practice of murdering Vietnamese males as a necessary part of the counterinsurgency effort.</p><p class="article_main_text">"I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male," Powell wrote in his much-lauded memoir, <em>My American Journey.</em> "If a helo [a U.S. helicopter] spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him.</p><p class="article_main_text">"Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served at Gelnhausen [West Germany], Lt. Col. Walter Pritchard, was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong."</p><p class="article_main_text">In 1965, the U.S. intelligence community formalized its hard-learned counterinsurgency lessons by commissioning a top-secret program called Project X. Based at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Fort Holabird, Maryland, the project drew from field experience and developed teaching plans to "provide intelligence training to friendly foreign countries," according to a Pentagon history prepared in 1991 and released in 1997.</p><p class="article_main_text">Called "a guide for the conduct of clandestine operations," Project X "was first used by the U.S. Intelligence School on Okinawa to train Vietnamese and, presumably, other foreign nationals," the history stated.</p><p class="article_main_text">Linda Matthews of the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Division recalled that in 1967-68, some of the Project X training material was prepared by officers connected to the Phoenix program. "She suggested the possibility that some offending material from the Phoenix program may have found its way into the Project X materials at that time," the Pentagon report said.</p><p class="article_main_text">In the 1970s, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School moved to Fort Huachuca in Arizona and began exporting Project X material to U.S. military assistance groups working with "friendly foreign countries." By the mid-1970s, the Project X material was going to armies all over the world.</p><p class="article_main_text">In its 1992 review, the Pentagon acknowledged that Project X was the source for some of the "objectionable" lessons at the School of the Americas where Latin American officers were trained in blackmail, kidnapping, murder and spying on non-violent political opponents.</p><p class="article_main_text">But disclosure of the full story was blocked near the end of the first Bush administration when senior Pentagon officials working for then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney ordered the destruction of most Project X records. [See Robert Parry's <em><a href="http://www.neckdeepbook.com/">Lost History</a>.</em>]</p><p class="article_main_text"><strong>Living Dangerously</strong></p><p class="article_main_text">By the mid-1960s, some of the U.S. counterinsurgency lessons had reached Indonesia, too. The U.S. military training was surreptitious because Washington viewed the country's neutralist leader Sukarno as politically suspect. The training was permitted only to give the United States influence within the Indonesian military which was considered more reliable.</p><p class="article_main_text">The covert U.S. aid and training was mostly innocuous-sounding "civic action," which is generally thought to mean building roads, staffing health clinics and performing other "hearts-and-minds" activities with civilians. But "civic action" also provided cover in Indonesia, as in the Philippines and Vietnam, for psy-war.</p><p class="article_main_text">The secret U.S.-Indonesian military connections paid off for Washington when a political crisis erupted, threatening Sukarno's government.</p><p class="article_main_text">To counter Indonesia's powerful Communist Party, known as the PKI, the army's Red Berets organized the slaughter of tens of thousands of men, women and children. So many bodies were dumped into the rivers of East Java that they ran red with blood.</p><p class="article_main_text">In a classic psy-war tactic, the bloated carcasses also served as a political warning to villages down river.</p><p class="article_main_text">"To make sure they didn't sink, the carcasses were deliberately tied to, or impaled on, bamboo stakes," wrote eyewitness Pipit Rochijat. "And the departure of corpses from the Kediri region down the Brantas achieved its golden age when bodies were stacked on rafts over which the PKI banner proudly flew." [See Rochijat's "Am I PKI or Non-PKI?" Indonesia, Oct. 1985.]</p><p class="article_main_text">Some historians have attributed the grotesque violence to a crazed army which engaged in "unplanned brutality" or "mass hysteria" leading ultimately to the slaughter of some half million Indonesians, many of Chinese descent.</p><p class="article_main_text">But the recurring tactic of putting bodies on gruesome display fits as well with the military doctrines of psy-war, a word that one of the leading military killers used in un-translated form in one order demanding elimination of the PKI.</p><p class="article_main_text">Sarwo Edhie, chief of the political para-commando battalion known as the Red Berets, warned that the communist opposition "should be given no opportunity to concentrate/consolidate. It should be pushed back systematically by all means, including psy-war." [See <em>The Revolt of the G30S/PKI and Its Suppression</em>, translated by Robert Cribb in <em>The Indonesian Killings</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text">Sarwo Edhie had been identified as a CIA contact when he served at the Indonesian Embassy in Australia. [See <em>Pacific</em>, May-June 1968.]</p><p class="article_main_text"><strong>U.S. Media Sympathy</strong></p><p class="article_main_text">Elite U.S. reaction to the horrific slaughter was muted and has remained ambivalent ever since. The Johnson administration denied any responsibility for the massacres, but <em>New York Times</em> columnist James Reston spoke for many opinion leaders when he approvingly termed the bloody developments in Indonesia "a gleam of light in Asia."</p><p class="article_main_text">The American denials of involvement held until 1990 when U.S. diplomats admitted to a reporter that they had aided the Indonesian army by supplying lists of suspected communists.</p><p class="article_main_text">"It really was a big help to the army," embassy officer Robert Martens told Kathy Kadane of States News Service. "I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment." Martens had headed the U.S. team that compiled the death lists.</p><p class="article_main_text">Kadane's story provoked a telling response from <em>Washington Post</em> senior editorial writer Stephen S. Rosenfeld. He accepted the fact that American officials had assisted "this fearsome slaughter," but then justified the killings.</p><p class="article_main_text">Rosenfeld argued that the massacre "was and still is widely regarded as the grim but earned fate of a conspiratorial revolutionary party that represented the same communist juggernaut that was on the march in Vietnam."</p><p class="article_main_text">In a column entitled, "Indonesia 1965: The Year of Living Cynically?" Rosenfeld reasoned that "either the army would get the communists or the communists would get the army, it was thought: Indonesia was a domino, and the PKI's demise kept it [Indonesia] standing in the free world. …</p><p class="article_main_text">"Though the means were grievously tainted, we -- the fastidious among us as well as the hard-headed and cynical -- can be said to have enjoyed the fruits in the geopolitical stability of that important part of Asia, in the revolution that never happened." [Washington Post, July 13, 1990]</p><p class="article_main_text">The fruit tasted far more bitter to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, however. In 1975, the army of Indonesia's new dictator, Gen. Suharto, invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. When the East Timorese resisted, the Indonesian army returned to its gruesome bag of tricks, engaging in virtual genocide against the population.</p><p class="article_main_text">A Catholic missionary provided an eyewitness account of one search-and-destroy mission in East Timor in 1981.</p><p class="article_main_text">"We saw with our own eyes the massacre of the people who were surrendering: all dead, even women and children, even the littlest ones. … Not even pregnant women were spared: they were cut open. …. They did what they had done to small children the previous year, grabbing them by the legs and smashing their heads against rocks. …</p><p class="article_main_text">"The comments of Indonesian officers reveal the moral character of this army: 'We did the same thing [in 1965] in Java, in Borneo, in the Celebes, in Irian Jaya, and it worked." [See A. Barbedo de Magalhaes, <em>East Timor: Land of Hope</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text">The references to the success of the 1965 slaughter were not unusual. In <em>Timor: A People Betrayed</em>, author James Dunn noted that "on the Indonesian side, there have been many reports that many soldiers viewed their operation as a further phase in the ongoing campaign to suppress communism that had followed the events of September 1965."</p><p class="article_main_text">Classic psy-war and pacification strategies were followed to the hilt in East Timor. The Indonesians put on display corpses and the heads of their victims. Timorese also were herded into government-controlled camps before permanent relocation in "resettlement villages" far from their original homes.</p><p class="article_main_text">"The problem is that people are forced to live in the settlements and are not allowed to travel outside," said Msgr. Costa Lopes, apostolic administrator of Dili. "This is the main reason why people cannot grow enough food." [See John G. Taylor, <em>Indonesia's Forgotten War: The Hidden History of East Timor</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text"><strong>Public Revulsion</strong></p><p class="article_main_text">Through television in the 1960-70s, the Vietnam War finally brought the horrors of counterinsurgency home to millions of Americans. They watched as U.S. troops torched villages and forced distraught old women to leave ancestral homes.</p><p class="article_main_text">Camera crews caught on film brutal interrogation of Viet Cong suspects, the execution of one young VC officer, and the bombing of children with napalm.</p><p class="article_main_text">In effect, the Vietnam War was the first time Americans got to witness the pacification strategies that had evolved secretly as national security policy since the 19th Century. As a result, millions of Americans protested the war's conduct and Congress belatedly compelled an end to U.S. participation in 1974.</p><p class="article_main_text">But the psy-war doctrinal debates were not resolved by the Vietnam War. Counterinsurgency advocates regrouped in the 1980s behind President Ronald Reagan, who mounted a spirited defense of the Vietnamese intervention and reaffirmed U.S. resolve to employ similar tactics against leftist forces especially in Central America. [See Consortiumnews.com's "<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2010/100310.html">Guatemala: A Test Tube for Repression</a>."]</p><p class="article_main_text">Reagan also added an important new component to the mix. Recognizing how graphic images and honest reporting from the war zone had undercut public support for the counterinsurgency in Vietnam, Reagan authorized an aggressive domestic "public diplomacy" operation which practiced what was called "perception management" -- in effect, intimidating journalists to ensure that only sanitized information would reach the American people.</p><p class="article_main_text">Reporters who disclosed atrocities by U.S.-trained forces, such as the El Mozote massacre by El Salvador's Atlacatl battalion in 1981, came under harsh criticism and saw their careers damaged.</p><p class="article_main_text">Some Reagan operatives were not shy about their defense of political terror as a necessity of the Cold War. Neil Livingstone, a counter-terrorism consultant to the National Security Council, called death squads "an extremely effective tool, however odious, in combatting terrorism and revolutionary challenges." [See McClintock's <em>Instruments of Statecraft</em>.]</p><p class="article_main_text">When Democrats in Congress objected to excesses of Reagan's interventions in Central America, the administration responded with more public relations and political pressure, questioning the patriotism of the critics. For instance, Reagan's United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick accused anyone who took note of U.S.-backed war crimes of "blaming America first."</p><p class="article_main_text">Many Democrats in Congress and journalists in the Washington press corps buckled under the attacks, giving the Reagan administration much freer rein to carry out brutal "death squad" strategies in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.</p><p class="article_main_text">What is clear from these experiences in Indonesia, Vietnam, Central America and elsewhere is that the United States, for generations, has sustained two parallel but opposed states of mind about military atrocities and human rights: one of U.S. benevolence, generally held by the public, and the other of ends-justify-the-means brutality embraced by counterinsurgency specialists.</p><p class="article_main_text">Normally the specialists carry out their actions in remote locations with little notice in the national press. But sometimes the two competing visions - of a just America and a ruthless one - clash in the open, as they did in Vietnam.</p><p class="article_main_text">Or the dark side of U.S. security policy is thrown into the light by unauthorized leaks, such as the photos of abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or by revelations about waterboarding and other torture authorized by George W. Bush's White House as part of the "war on terror."</p><p class="article_main_text">Only then does the public get a glimpse of the grim reality, the bloody and brutal tactics that have been deemed "necessary" for more than two centuries in the defense of the purported "national interests."</p> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 06:33:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Peter Dale Scott, Consortium News 1029818 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics empire counterinsurgency american history How Rupert Murdoch’s Media Empire Benefited from Selling Reagan’s CIA Propaganda http://lists.alternet.org/world/how-rupert-murdochs-media-empire-benefited-selling-reagans-cia-propaganda <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Right-wing media began expanding in the 1980s as the Reagan administration coordinated foreign policy initiatives with conservative media executives.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/murdoch_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The Reagan administration pulled right-wing media executives Rupert Murdoch and Richard Mellon Scaife into a <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/28/the-victory-of-perception-management/">CIA-organized “perception management” operation</a> which aimed Cold War-style propaganda at the American people in the 1980s, according to declassified U.S. government records.</p><p>Although some records relating to Murdoch remain classified, several documents that have been released indicate that he and billionaire Scaife were considered sources of financial and other support for President Ronald Reagan’s hard-line Central American policies, including the CIA’s covert war in Nicaragua.</p><p>A driving force behind creation of Reagan’s extraordinary propaganda bureaucracy was CIA Director William Casey who dispatched the CIA’s top covert action specialist, Walter Raymond Jr., to the National Security Council to oversee the project. According to the documents, Murdoch was brought into the operation in 1983 – when he was still an Australian citizen and his media empire was much smaller than it is today.</p><p>Charles Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan, the first on Jan. 18, 1983, when the administration was lining up private financing for its propaganda campaign, according to records at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California. That meeting also included lawyer and political operative Roy Cohn and his law partner Thomas Bolan.</p><p>The Oval Office meeting between Reagan and Murdoch came just five days after NSC Advisor William Clark noted in a Jan. 13, 1983 memo to Reagan the need for non-governmental money to advance the project. “We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding,” Clark wrote, as cited in <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/lostchapter.pdf">an unpublished draft chapter</a>of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation.</p><p>Clark then <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/clark-reaganmemo.pdf">told</a> the President that “Charlie Wick has offered to take the lead. We may have to call on you to meet with a group of potential donors.”</p><p>The documents suggest that Murdoch was soon viewed as a source for that funding. In an Aug. 9, 1983 memo summing up the results of a Casey-organized meeting with five leading ad executives regarding how to “sell” Reagan’s aggressive policies in Central America, Raymond referred to Murdoch as if he already were helping out.</p><p>In <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/raymond-clarkmemo.pdf">a memo</a> to Clark, entitled “Private Sector Support for Central American Program,” Raymond criticized a more traditional White House outreach program headed by Faith Whittlesey as “preaching to the converted.”</p><p>Raymond told Clark that the new project would involve a more comprehensive approach aimed at persuading a majority of Americans to back Reagan’s Central American policies, which included support for right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador as well as the Contra rebels fighting the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua.</p><p>“We must move out into the middle sector of the American public and draw them into the ‘support’ column,” Raymond wrote. “A second package of proposals deal with means to market the issue, largely considering steps utilizing public relations specialists – or similar professionals – to help transmit the message.”</p><p>To improve the project’s chances for success, Raymond wrote, “we recommended funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center. Wick, via Murdoch, may be able to draw down added funds for this effort.”</p><p>Raymond included similar information in a separate memo to Wick in which Raymond noted that “via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds” to support the initiative. (Raymond later told me that he was referring to Rupert Murdoch.)</p><p>In a March 7, 1984 <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/crozier-memo.pdf">memo</a> about the “‘Private Funders’ Project,” Raymond referred to Murdoch again in discussing a request for money from longtime CIA-connected journalist Brian Crozier, who was “looking for private sector funding to work on the question of ‘anti-Americanism’ overseas.”</p><p>Raymond wrote: “I am pursuaded [sic] it is a significant long term problem. It is also the kind of thing that Ruppert [sic] and Jimmy might respond positively to. Please look over the stack [of papers from Crozier] and lets [sic] discuss if and when there might be further discussion with our friends.”</p><p>Crozier, who died in 2012, had <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Crozier">a long history</a> of operating in the shadowy world of CIA propaganda. He was director of <em>Forum World Features,</em> which was set up in 1966 by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which received covert funding from the CIA. Crozier also acknowledged in his memoir keeping some of his best stories for the CIA.</p><p>At least one other document related to Murdoch’s work with USIA Director Wick remains classified, according to the National Archives. Murdoch’s News Corp. has not responded to requests for comment about the Reagan-era documents.</p><p><strong>Helping Murdoch</strong></p><p>Murdoch, who became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1985 to meet a regulatory requirement that U.S. TV stations must be owned by Americans, benefited from his close ties to both U.S. and British officialdom.</p><p>On Monday, the UK’s Independent reported that Ed Richards, the retiring head of the British media regulatory agency Ofcom, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/government-favoured-rupert-murdochs-media-empire-says-outgoing-ofcom-chief-9947518.html">accused</a> British government representatives of showing favoritism to Murdoch’s companies.</p><p>Richards said he was “surprised” by the informality, closeness and frequency of contact between executives and ministers during the failed bid by Murdoch’s News Corp. for the satellite network BSkyB in 2011. The deal was abandoned when it was discovered that journalists at Murdoch’s <em>News of the World</em> tabloid had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and others.</p><p>“What surprised everyone about it – not just me – was quite how close it was and the informality of it,” Richards said, confirming what had been widely reported regarding Murdoch’s access  to powerful British politicians dating back at least to the reign of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The Reagan documents suggest that Murdoch built similarly close ties to leading U.S. politicians in the same era.</p><p>In 1983, Murdoch’s rising media empire was still based in Australia with only a few U.S. properties, such as the Star tabloid and the New York Post. But he was eyeing expansion into the U.S. media market. In 1984, he bought a stake in 20th Century Fox and then six Metromedia television stations, which would form the nucleus of Fox Broadcasting Company, which was founded on Oct. 9, 1986.</p><p>At the time, Murdoch and other media moguls were lobbying for a relaxation of regulations from the Federal Communications Commission, a goal that Reagan shared. Under FCC Chairman Mark Fowler, the Reagan administration undertook <a href="http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/mediatimeline.html">a number of steps</a> favorable to Murdoch’s interests, including increasing the number of TV stations that any single entity could own from seven in 1981 to 12 in 1985.</p><p>In 1987, the “Fairness Doctrine,” which required political balance in broadcasting, was eliminated, which enabled Murdoch to pioneer a more aggressive conservatism on his TV network. In the mid-1990s, Murdoch expanded his political reach by founding the neoconservative Weekly Standard in 1995 and Fox News on cable in 1996. At Fox News, Murdoch has hired scores of prominent politicians, mostly Republicans, putting them on his payroll as commentators.</p><p>Last decade, Murdoch continued to expand his reach into U.S. mass media, acquiring DirecTV and the financial news giant Dow Jones, including The Wall Street Journal, America’s leading business news journal.</p><p><strong>Scaife’s Role</strong></p><p>Richard Mellon Scaife exercised his media influence on behalf of Reagan and the conservative cause in a different way. While the scion of the Mellon banking, oil and aluminum fortune did publish a right-wing newspaper in Pittsburgh, the Tribune Review, Scaife mostly served as a financial benefactor for right-wing journalists and think tanks.</p><p>Indeed, Scaife was one of the original financiers of what emerged as a right-wing counter-establishment in media and academia, a longstanding goal of key Republicans, including President Richard Nixon who recognized the importance of propaganda as a political weapon.</p><p>According to Nixon’s chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, as reported in <em>The Haldeman Diaries</em>, one of Nixon’s pet ideas was to build a network of loyal conservatives in positions of influence. The President was “pushing again on project of building our establishment in press, business, education, etc.,” Haldeman wrote in one entry on Sept. 12, 1970.</p><p>Financed by rich conservative foundations and wealthy special interests, Nixon’s brainchild helped tilt politics in favor of the American Right with Richard Mellon Scaife one of the project’s big-money godfathers. By using family foundations, such as Sarah Scaife and Carthage, Scaife joined with other leading right-wing foundations to fund think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, which Scaife helped launch in 1973.</p><p>In 1978, Nixon’s friend and Treasury Secretary William Simon provided more impetus to this growing machine, declaring in his book, <em>Time for Truth</em>: “Funds generated by business … must rush by the multimillion to the aid of liberty … to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars, social scientists, writers and journalists who understand the relationship between political and economic liberty.”</p><p>With Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 – and Casey’s selection as CIA director – Scaife and other right-wing ideologues were in position to merge their private funding with U.S. Government money in pursuit of the administration’s geopolitical goals, including making sure the American people would not break ranks as many did over the Vietnam War.</p><p><strong>Building the Operation</strong></p><p>On Nov. 4, 1982, Raymond, after his transfer from CIA to the NSC staff but while still a CIA officer, <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/webdocs/Nov4,82.pdf">wrote</a> to NSC Advisor Clark about the “Democracy Initiative and Information Programs,” stating that “Bill Casey asked me to pass on the following thought concerning your meeting with Dick Scaife, Dave Abshire [then a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board], and Co.</p><p>“Casey had lunch with them today and discussed the need to get moving in the general area of supporting our friends around the world. By this definition he is including both ‘building democracy’ … and helping invigorate international media programs. The DCI [Casey] is also concerned about strengthening public information organizations in the United States such as Freedom House. …</p><p>“A critical piece of the puzzle is a serious effort to raise private funds to generate momentum. Casey’s talk with Scaife and Co. suggests they would be very willing to cooperate. … Suggest that you note White House interest in private support for the Democracy initiative.”</p><p>In subsequent years, Freedom House emerged as a leading critic of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, which Reagan and Casey were seeking to overthrow by covertly supporting the Contra rebels. Freedom House also became a major recipient of money from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was founded in 1983 under the umbrella of the Casey-Raymond project.</p><p>The role of the CIA in these initiatives was concealed but never far from the surface. A <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/webdocs/Dec2,82.pdf">Dec. 2, 1982 note</a> addressed to “Bud,” a reference to senior NSC official Robert “Bud” McFarlane, described a request from Raymond for a brief meeting.  “When he [Raymond] returned from Langley [CIA headquarters], he had a proposed draft letter … re $100 M democ[racy]  proj[ect],” the note said.</p><p>While Casey pulled the strings on this project, the CIA director instructed White House officials to hide the CIA’s role. “Obviously we here [at CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor should we appear to be a sponsor or advocate,” Casey said in <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/webdocs/casey-meese.pdf">one undated letter</a> to then-White House counselor Edwin Meese III as Casey urged creation of a “National Endowment.”</p><p>On Jan. 21, 1983, Raymond <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/webdocs/jan21,83.pdf">updated</a> Clark about the project, which also was reaching out to representatives from other conservative foundations, including Les Lenkowsky of Smith-Richardson, Michael Joyce of Olin and Dan McMichael of Mellon-Scaife. “This is designed to develop a broader group of people who will support parallel initiatives consistent with Administration needs and desires,” Raymond wrote.</p><p><strong>Bashing Teresa Heinz</strong></p><p>One example of how Scaife’s newspaper directly helped the Reagan administration can be seen in <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/heinz-article.pdf">clippings</a> from the Tribune-Review that I found in Raymond’s files. On April 21, 1983, the newspaper published a package of stories suggesting illicit left-wing connections among groups opposed to nuclear war.</p><p>The articles leave little doubt that Scaife’s newspaper is suggesting that these anti-war activists are communists or communist fellow travelers. One headline reads: “Reds Woo Some U.S. Peace Leaders.”</p><p>Another article cites an accusation from one congressman in the 1950s, after hearings on foundation grants “to numerous Communists and Communist-front organizations,” that “Here lies the story of how Communism and Socialism are financed in the U.S. – where they get their money.” The 1983 article then asks: “Is history repeating itself?”</p><p>Ironically, one of the philanthropists who is singled out in these red-baiting articles is Teresa Heinz, then married to Sen. John Heinz, R-Pennsylvania, who died in a 1991 plane crash. In 1995, Teresa Heinz married Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who is currently Secretary of State.</p><p>The organizational role of Casey and Raymond in this domestic propaganda campaign raised concerns about the legality of having two senior CIA officials participating in a scheme to manage the perceptions of the American people.</p><p>Both in internal documents and a deposition to the congressional Iran-Contra committee, Raymond made clear his discomfort about the possible legal violation from his and Casey’s roles. Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983, so, he said, “there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this.”</p><p>That sensitivity was also reflected in <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Raymond-Guidance.pdf">press guidance</a> prepared in case a reporter noted Raymond’s CIA background and the problems it presented to the “public diplomacy” effort. In case someone challenged press reports that asserted “there is no CIA involvement in the Public Diplomacy Program” and then asked “isn’t Walt Raymond, a CIA employee, involved heavily?” – the prescribed answer was:</p><p>“Walter Raymond is a member of the National Security Council staff. In the past he has worked for Defense, CIA and State. It is true that in the formative stages of the effort, Walt Raymond contributed many useful ideas. It is ironic that he was one of those who was most insistent that there be no CIA involvement in this program in any way.</p><p>“Indeed, it is a credit to the Agency that it has stressed throughout that the United States ought to be completely open about the programs it puts in place to assist in the development of democratic institutions and that none of these programs should come under the aegis of the CIA. They do not want to be involved in managing these programs and will not be. We have nothing to hide here.”</p><p>If a reporter pressed regarding where Raymond last worked, the response was to be: “He retired from CIA. He is a permanent member of the National Security Council.” And, if pressed about Raymond’s duties, the scripted answer was: “His duties there are classified.” (Raymond’s last job at the CIA was Director of the Covert Action Staff with a specialty in propaganda and disinformation.)</p><p>Beyond how Raymond’s “classified duties” contradict the assertion that “we have nothing to hide here,” there was a more deceptive element of the press guidance: it didn’t mention the key role of CIA Director Casey in both organizing and directing the project – and it suggested that Raymond’s role had been limited to offering “many useful ideas” when he was the hands-on, day-to-day manager of the operation.</p><p><strong>Casey’s Hidden Hand</strong></p><p>Casey’s secret role in the propaganda scheme continued well into 1986, as Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss, even as Raymond fretted in one memo about the need “to get [Casey] out of the loop.”</p><p>The “public diplomacy” operation was “the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in,” Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics “not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat.”</p><p>Though the Casey-Raymond teamwork ended with the exposure of the Iran-Contra scandal in late 1986 and with Casey’s death on May 6, 1987, its legacy continued with Scaife and other rich right-wingers funding ideological media that protected the flanks of President Reagan, his successor President George H.W. Bush and other Republicans of that era.</p><p>For instance, Scaife helped fund the work of Steven Emerson, who played a key role in “discrediting” investigations into whether Reagan’s 1980 campaign had sabotaged President Jimmy Carter’s hostage negotiations with Iran to gain an edge in that pivotal election. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2011/10/30/unmasking-an-october-surprise-debunker/">Unmasking October Surprise Debunker</a>.”]</p><p>Scaife also helped finance the so-called “Arkansas Project” that pushed hyped and bogus scandals to damage the presidency of Bill Clinton. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/archive/clinto13.html">Starr-gate: Cracks on the Right.</a>”]</p><p>Walter Raymond Jr. died on April 16, 2003. Richard Mellon Scaife died on July 4, 2014. But Rupert Murdoch, now 83, remains one of the most powerful media figures on earth, continuing to wield unparalleled influence through his control of Fox News and his vast media empire that stretches around the globe.</p><p> </p><p> </p> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 13:30:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1029588 at http://lists.alternet.org World Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Media World CIA propaganda Richard Mellon Scaife robert parry ronald reagan rupert murdoch Walter Raymond Jr william casey Why Are We Obsessed With Declaring that America Is 'Awesome'? http://lists.alternet.org/world/why-are-we-obsessed-declaring-america-awesome <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A Fox News host faces ridicule for refuting the torture report and saying the U.S. is &quot;awesome.&quot; She&#039;s not the only one making that claim.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/fox_journo.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is facing some well-deserved ridicule for refuting the stomach-turning Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture by declaring that “The United States is awesome. We are awesome” and claiming that the Democrats and President Barack Obama released the report because they want “to show us how we’re not awesome.”</p><p>Tantaros’s rant did have the feel of a Saturday Night Live satire, but her upbeat jingoism was only a slight exaggeration of what Americans have been hearing from much of their media and politicians for decades. At least since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, any substantive criticism of the United States has been treated as unpatriotic.</p><p>Indeed, a journalist or a politician who dares point out any fundamental flaws in the country or even its actual history can expect to have his or her patriotism challenged. That is how debate over “how we’re not awesome” is silenced.</p><p>Fox News may be the poster child of this infantile anti-intellectualism but the same sentiments can be found on the Washington Post’s neocon editorial pages or in <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/08/the-new-republics-ugly-reality/">the higher-brow New Republic</a>. If you dare point out that America or one of its favored “allies” has done some wrong around the world, you’re an enemy “apologist.” If you regularly adopt a critical stance, you will be marginalized.</p><p>That’s why so many serious national problems have lingered or gotten worse. If we don’t kill the messenger, we denounce him or her as un-American.</p><p>For instance, the data on racial disparities in police killings and prison incarcerations have long been available, but the vast majority of whites seem oblivious to these continued injustices. To point out that the United States has still not done the necessary hard work to correct these history-based imbalances makes you seem out of step amid the happy-face belief that whatever racism there was is now gone. We have a black president, you know.</p><p>So, when white police shoot or otherwise apply excessive violence against blacks at a wildly disproportionate rate to whites, many white Americans just shrug. They even get annoyed if black athletes join in some symbolic protests like raising their hands as Michael Brown did before he was shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri. Many people hate to have the real world intrude on their sports entertainment.</p><p>In reaction to such events, Fox News and much of talk radio find reasons to ridicule the victims and the protesters rather than address the real problems. The unwelcome evidence of racism is just another excuse to roll the eyes and infuse the voice with dripping sarcasm.</p><p><strong>Mundane Neglect</strong></p><p>On a more mundane level in Arlington County, Virginia, where I live, many whites simply don’t see the racial disparities though they are all around. While overwhelmingly white North Arlington benefits from all manner of public investments, including a state-of-the-art subway system which cost billions upon billions of dollars and amenities likes a $2 million “dog park renovation,” racially diverse South Arlington, the historic home of the County’s black population, is systematically shortchanged, except when it comes to expanding the sewage treatment plant.</p><p>When the County Board finally approved a much cheaper light-rail mass-transit plan for South Arlington’s Columbia Pike and voted for a public pool complex in another South Arlington neighborhood, North Arlington residents rose up in fury. The local newspaper, the Sun-Gazette, which doesn’t even distribute in much of South Arlington – due to the demographics – rallied the political opposition.</p><p>Before long, the County Board was in retreat, killing both the public pools and the light-rail plan, all the better to free up taxpayer money for more North Arlington projects. Yet, when I have noted the racial component to how the two halves of the county are treated, many Arlington whites get furious. They simply don’t see the residual racism or don’t want to see it. They view themselves as enlightened even as they favor neglecting their black and brown neighbors.</p><p>After I wrote <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/04/raw-deal-for-black-freedom-trail/">a column</a> about the history of Columbia Pike, which became an African-American freedom trail after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and ex-slaves escaped up the roadway toward Washington, one reader complained that I had slighted Robert E. Lee by saying he had “deserted” the U.S. Army when his fans prefer saying that he “resigned his commission,” which sounds so much more proper.</p><p>The point is interesting not only because the commenter didn’t seem nearly as concerned about the fate of the African-Americans, some of whom joined the U.S. Colored Troops to fight for the final defeat of slavery. And not only because General Lee violated his oath as a U.S. officer in which he swore to “bear true allegiance to the United States of America” and to “serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States.”</p><p>But the commenter’s point is also interesting because it underscores how white Americans have excused and even glorified the Confederate “heroes” who were fighting to protect a system based on the ownership of other human beings. If you have any doubt about the glorification, just visit Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, where towering statues of Confederate generals dominate the skyline.</p><p>Or, if you’re in Arlington and driving on Route One, you might notice that it is still named in honor of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy who was a fervent white supremacist and a major slaveholder. And, if President Davis and General Lee had been successful in their war of secession, it could have meant that slavery might never have ended. Yet, these protectors of slavery are treated with the utmost respect and any slight toward them requires a protest.</p><p><strong>Crude Racism</strong></p><p>My writings about Thomas Jefferson also have elicited anger from some people who wish to idolize him as a noble philosopher/statesman when the reality was that he was a crude racist (see his <em>Notes on the State of Virginia</em>) who mistreated his Monticello slaves, including having boys as young as ten whipped and raping one and likely other of his slave girls. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/07/04/thomas-jefferson-americas-founding-sociopath/">Thomas Jefferson: America’s Founding Sociopath</a>.”]</p><p>Much like the defender of Robert E. Lee who preferred more polite phrasing about the general’s betrayal of his oath, defenders of the Jefferson myth expressed much more outrage over my pointing out these inconvenient truths about their hero than they did about the victims of Jefferson’s despicable behavior and stunning hypocrisies.</p><p>Which gets us back to Andrea Tantaros and how “awesome” America is. The context for her remarks was the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report which detailed what can no longer be euphemized away as “enhanced interrogation techniques” or EITs as CIA officials prefer.</p><p>The only word that can now apply is torture, at least for anyone who has read the page-after-page of near drownings via waterboard, the hallucinatory effects of sleep deprivation, the pain inflicted by hanging people from ceilings, and the sexual sadism of keeping detainees naked and subjecting them to anal rape under the pretext of “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding.”</p><p>The various apologists for this torture – people like Tantaros, Vice President Dick Cheney and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer – prefer to counterattack by questioning the patriotism or the intellectual consistency of those Americans who are outraged at these actions. The torture defenders excuse the behavior because we were scared after 9/11 and wanted the Bush administration to do whatever it took to keep us safe.</p><p>All of these excuses are designed to prevent the sort of soul-searching that one should expect from a mature democratic Republic, a country that seeks to learn from its mistakes, not cover them up or forget them.</p><p>Instead of Americans confronting these dark realities of both their history and their present – and making whatever amends and adjustments are necessary – the torture apologists or those who don’t see racism would simply have us wave the flag and declare how “awesome” we are.</p><p> </p> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 10:03:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1028661 at http://lists.alternet.org World Civil Liberties Media World american exceptionalism mainstream media patriotic torture racism Don't Shed a Tear for the Magazine That Backed Genocides and Coups for Decades http://lists.alternet.org/media/problems-new-republic-go-deeper-staff-turmoil-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The New Republic was a vicious imperial mouthpiece. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/the_new_republic_magazine_february_11_2013_cover.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There has been much handwringing of late in Official Washington about an editorial shakeup at The New Republic and the possibility that the century-old political magazine’s legacy will somehow be tarnished by its new owner. But the truth about The New Republic is that it has more blood on its hands than almost any other publication around, which is saying something.</p><p>In my four decades in national journalism – that’s two-fifths of The New Republic’s life – what I have seen from the magazine is mostly its smug advocacy for U.S. interventionism abroad and snarky putdowns of antiwar skeptics at home. Indeed, you could view The New Republic as the most productive hothouse for cultivating neoconservative dogma — and at least partly responsible for the senseless slaughter associated with that ideology.</p><p>Though The New Republic still touts its reputation as “liberal,” that label has been essentially a cover for its real agenda: pushing a hawkish foreign policy agenda that included the Reagan administration’s slaughter of Central Americans in the 1980s, violent U.S. interventions in Iraq, Syria and other Muslim countries for the past two decades, and Israel’s suppression of Palestinians forever.</p><p>Indeed, the magazine’s long-ago-outdated status as “liberal” has long served the cause of right-wingers. The Reagan administration loved to plant flattering stories about the Nicaraguan Contras in The New Republic because its “liberal” cachet would give the propaganda more credibility. A favorite refrain from President Ronald Reagan’s team was “even the liberal New Republic agrees …”</p><p>In other words, the magazine became the neocon wolf advancing the slaughter of Central Americans in the sheep’s clothing of intellectual liberalism. Similarly, over the past two decades, it has dressed up bloody U.S. interventionism in the Middle East in the pretty clothes of “humanitarianism” and “democracy.”</p><p>The magazine – which has given us the writings of neocons Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Steven Emerson, Robert Kagan and many more – has become a case study in the special evil that can come from intellectualism when it supplies high-minded rationalizations for low-brow brutality.</p><p>In the world of the mind, where The New Republic likes to think it lives, the magazine has published countless essays that have spun excuses for mass murder, rape, torture and other real-world crimes. Put differently, the magazine afforded the polite people of Official Washington an acceptable way to compartmentalize and justify the ungodly bloodshed.</p><p>Perhaps The New Republic had a different existence in the years before I arrived on the scene. I’ve heard some longtime New Republic lovers wax on about its era of thoughtful progressivism. But The New Republic that I encountered from the 1970s onward was the magazine of Martin Peretz, a nasty neocon who cared little about journalism or even thoughtful analyses, but rather pushed a dishonest and cruel agenda including crude insults against Muslims.</p><p>In his later years after moving part-time to Israel, Peretz began to expose more of his personal agenda. In one <a href="http://www.tnr.com/blog/77475/the-new-york-times-laments-sadly-wary-misunderstanding-muslim-americans-really-it-sadly-w" target="_blank">TNR blog post</a> regarding the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan which prompted post-9/11 right-wing outrage, Peretz declared: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf [the promoter of the Islamic center] there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood.</p><p>“So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.” (Facing accusations of racism, Peretz later issued a half-hearted apology which reiterated that his reference to Muslim life being cheap was “a statement of fact, not opinion.”)</p><p>A New York Times magazine <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/magazine/30Peretz-t.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">profile</a> of Peretz in 2011 noted that Peretz’s hostility toward Muslims was nothing new. “As early as 1988, Peretz was courting danger in The New Republic with disturbing Arab stereotypes not terribly different from his 2010 remarks,” wrote Stephen Rodrick.</p><p>Steven Emerson, one of Peretz’s favored TNR writers, also became notorious for similar Islamophobia as well as shoddy and dishonest journalism. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2011/10/30/unmasking-an-october-surprise-debunker/" target="_blank">Unmasking October Surprise Debunker</a>.”]</p><p><strong>Ignoring the History</strong></p><p>Yet, very little of this real history of The New Republic can be found in the mainstream media’s coverage of the recent staff revolt against plans by new owner (and Facebook co-founder) Chris Hughes to modernize the publication. Hughes’s new chief executive – former Yahoo official Guy Vidra – vowed to rebuild the magazine as a “vertically integrated digital media company.”</p><p>At the Washington Post, the New York Times and pretty much the entire MSM, there has been much rending of garments over these plans and the ouster of some top editors but almost nothing about what some of those now ex-TNR editors actually did.</p><p>One was longtime literary editor Leon Wieseltier, who was a prominent advocate for the Iraq War and a promoter of right-wing Zionism. Another was editor Franklin Foer, another hawkish intellectual. Their departures were followed by a walkout by a dozen or so members of the editorial staff, resignations from contributing columnists, an outraged letter from former TNR writers and furious columns by ex-TNR staffers.</p><p>“The New Republic is dead; Chris Hughes killed it,” wailed Post columnist Dana Milbank, another TNR alumnus.</p><p>On Monday, the 31-year-old Hughes took to the Post’s op-ed page to offer Official Washington something like a paper bag to control all the hyperventilating. He denied that he was behaving like some spoiled Silicon Valley rich kid imposing an Internet-style culture on an old-fashioned print publication, but rather was trying to save the institution.</p><p>“I came to protect the future of the New Republic by creating a sustainable business so that our journalism, values and voice — the things that make us singular — could survive,” Hughes <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chris-hughes-crafting-a-sustainable-new-republic/2014/12/07/2138faf6-7e28-11e4-9f38-95a187e4c1f7_story.html" target="_blank">wrote</a>.</p><p>But the real question is: Does The New Republic deserve to survive? Wouldn’t it be appropriate that at least one neocon institution faced some accountability for the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, not to mention the other victims of reckless U.S. interventionism in the Middle East or the tens of thousands of murdered Central Americans during the Reagan years?</p><p>Though The New Republic’s apologists depict the magazine as an honorable place where “long-form journalism” thrived and “serious thinking” was nourished, the reality was actually much different. Indeed, much of the trivialization of U.S. journalism in the 1980s stemmed from the punchy opinions voiced by TNR columnists as they moonlighted as talking heads on the TV “shout shows,” like “The McLaughlin Group” and “Inside Washington.”</p><p>Many of the regulars on those media “food fights” came from The New Republic and lowered the intellectual level of Official Washington into a “thumbs up, thumps down” reductionism where political leaders were rated on scales of one to ten. Their well-compensated behavior was the opposite of true intellectualism or – for that matter – true journalism.</p><p><strong>Phony Posture</strong></p><p>The typical posture of these media-beloved neocons was to pretend that they were bravely standing up against some “liberal” orthodoxy, courageously daring to embrace the Nicaraguan Contras or other right-wing “freedom fighters” despite the danger of taking such principled stands.</p><p>The reality was that TNR’s writers were lining up behind the real power structure, standing with the Reagan administration and much of the major media while joining in the bullying of the relatively weak and vulnerable forces in Washington that went against this grain.</p><p>The phoniness of TNR’s pretend bravery was demonstrated by how the neocon commentators were rewarded with plum jobs, prominent op-ed slots, regular seats on the TV shows, lucrative speaking fees, book contracts, etc. The opposite was true for journalists who challenged the Reagan administration’s propaganda. They were the ones who faced real punishment.</p><p>Journalists who dared file critical stories about the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army or the CIA-trained Contra rebels found themselves reassigned or out on the street. The New York Times’ Raymond Bonner was the best known example after he was pulled out of Central America while under fierce right-wing attack for his accurate reporting on human rights atrocities in El Salvador.</p><p>In a similar case, the Reagan administration’s public diplomacy team browbeat National Public Radio for airing a story about a Contra massacre of farmworkers in northern Nicaragua. Sensitive to government strings on NPR’s funding, NPR executives appeased the administration by getting rid of foreign editor Paul Allen who had allowed the story to air.</p><p>Within a short time, Washington journalists understood that their route to professional success required them to swallow any propaganda from Reagan’s team, no matter how absurd.</p><p>That servility was on display when Reagan’s White House fumed over one human rights report citing 145 sworn affidavits signed by Nicaraguans who had witnessed Contra atrocities. Many of the witnesses described Contras slitting the throats of captives and mutilating their bodies.</p><p>In stepped The New Republic and one of its many pro-Contra writers, Fred Barnes, who countered the eyewitnesses by referencing the findings of a secret U.S. investigation which had absolved the Contras of many charges, he wrote. In a harsh article entitled “The Sandinista Lobby,” Barnes denounced the human rights community for hypocritically criticizing the innocent Contras and other pro-U.S. forces, while allegedly going soft on Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.</p><p>But when I got hold of the investigative report in 1986, I found that it had been written by the CIA and was based on the word of the Contras themselves. One of the CIA’s key findings, supposedly debunking the slitting-throat allegations, was that the Contras said they could not have slit throats because they “are normally not equipped with either bayonets or combat knives.” The CIA failed to note that photographs of the Contras from that period showed them slouching off to battle carrying a variety of machetes and other sharp objects.</p><p>The absurdity of suggesting that the Contras could not have slit the throats of captives because they weren’t “normally” given knives should have been something a cub reporter would have laughed at. But clearly journalism was not what was going on at The New Republic where there was no interest in exposing the atrocities committed by the Contras. It was all about pushing a hawkish foreign policy and serving the Reagan agenda.</p><p><strong>A Contra Exposé</strong></p><p>That sort of behavior continued throughout the Reagan era with one notable exception in fall 1986 – when editor Jefferson Morley and investigative reporter Murray Waas asked me and my Associated Press colleague Brian Barger to expand the work that we had done exposing Oliver North’s secret Contra support network into a New Republic cover story.</p><p>Our article appeared in November 1986 while Peretz was out of town visiting Israel. But he soon weighed in after receiving a furious letter from then-Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Elliott Abrams, another arch-neocon. Abrams ostentatiously canceled his TNR subscription in protest of our article, and Peretz responded to Abrams’s complaint by excluding Waas from the magazine and putting Morley in the publisher’s doghouse.</p><p>The situation could have gotten worse for those who had a hand in bringing our story into the magazine, except that the Iran-Contra scandal broke wide open in November 1986, confirming that Barger and I had been right about North’s secret network. Abrams eventually pleaded guilty to misleading Congress (though he was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush and was brought into President George W. Bush’s National Security Council to oversee Middle East policy, including the invasion of Iraq).</p><p>The New Republic’s pattern of playing fast and loose with the facts would eventually cause the magazine some embarrassment in 1998 when it was caught publishing a number of fabrications by writer Stephen Glass. But TNR never was held accountable for its support for atrocities in Central America, its pushing for illegal wars in the Middle East or its smearing of honest journalists and human rights investigators.</p><p>Though Peretz finally lost control of the magazine’s content in 2010, The New Republic has remained an important vehicle for pushing the neocon agenda. Earlier this year, TNR published a long exaltation to American interventionism by neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and a leading proponent for the Iraq War.</p><p>In the essay, “<a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117859/allure-normalcy-what-america-still-owes-world" target="_blank">Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire</a>,” Kagan “depicted President Obama as presiding over an inward turn by the United States that threatened the global order and broke with more than 70 years of American presidents and precedence,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/16/us/politics/historians-critique-of-obama-foreign-policy-is-brought-alive-by-events-in-iraq.html?_r=0" target="_blank">wrote</a> Jason Horowitz in the New York Times. “He called for Mr. Obama to resist a popular pull toward making the United States a nation without larger responsibilities, and to reassume the more muscular approach to the world out of vogue in Washington since the war in Iraq drained the country of its appetite for intervention.”</p><p>President Barack Obama, who remains hypersensitive to criticism from well-placed and well-connected neocons, responded by inviting Kagan to lunch at the White House and shaping his foreign policy speech at West Point’s graduation in May to deflect Kagan’s criticism.</p><p>So, when you read the endless laments from the mainstream U.S. news media about the tragedy of having some Silicon Valley barbarians violating the sacred journalistic temple of The New Republic, you might reflect on all the suffering and death that the magazine has rationalized and intellectualized away.</p><p> </p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:30:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1028408 at http://lists.alternet.org Media Media the new republic chris hughes What Gun Nuts Get Totally Wrong About the 2nd Amendment http://lists.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/what-gun-nuts-get-totally-wrong-about-2nd-amendment <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Right-wing gun advocates think the Founding Fathers would have wanted an armed population to resist the U.S. government.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_170423123-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Right-wing resistance to meaningful gun control is driven, in part, by a false notion that America’s Founders adopted the Second Amendment because they wanted an armed population that could battle the U.S. government. The opposite is the truth, but many Americans seem to have embraced this absurd, anti-historical narrative.</p><p>The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison.</p><p>The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 weren’t precursors to France’s Robespierre or Russia’s Leon Trotsky, believers in perpetual revolutions. In fact, their work on the Constitution was influenced by the experience of Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786, a populist uprising that the weak federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, lacked an army to defeat.</p><p>Daniel Shays, the leader of the revolt, was a former Continental Army captain who joined with other veterans and farmers to take up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.</p><p>The rebellion alarmed retired General George Washington who received reports on the developments from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as Generals Henry Knox and Benjamin Lincoln. Washington was particularly concerned that the disorder might serve the interests of the British, who had only recently accepted the existence of the United States.</p><p>On October 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”</p><p>In another letter on November 7, 1786, Washington questioned General Lincoln about the spreading unrest. “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Lincoln responded: “Many of them appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”</p><p>However, the U.S. government lacked the means to restore order, so wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington expressed satisfaction at the outcome but remained concerned that the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.</p><p>“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws &amp; constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite – a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington <a href="http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/creating-new-government/resources/george-washington-discusses-shays%E2%80%99-rebellion-and-up">wrote</a> to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws … anarchy &amp; confusion must prevail.”</p><p>Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in – and preside over – the Constitutional Convention. The convention was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution, which shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.</p><p id="bookmark">The drastic changes prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry, who denounced the federal power grab and rallied a movement known as the Anti-Federalists. Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were.</p><p>To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Madison’s political maneuvering succeeded as the Constitution narrowly won approval in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights which were ratified in 1791. [For details, see Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>The Second Amendment dealt with concerns about “security” and the need for trained militias to ensure what the Constitution called “domestic Tranquility.” There was also hesitancy among many Framers about the costs and risks from a large standing army, thus making militias composed of citizens an attractive alternative.</p><p>So, the Second Amendment read:  “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Contrary to some current right-wing fantasies about the Framers wanting to encourage popular uprisings over grievances, the language of the amendment is clearly aimed at maintaining order within the country.</p><p>That point was driven home by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.</p><p>In 1794, President Washington, who was determined to demonstrate the young government’s resolve, led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels. Their revolt soon collapsed and order was restored, demonstrating how the Second Amendment helped serve the government in maintaining “security,” as the Amendment says.</p><p>Beyond this clear historical record – that the Framers’ intent was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions – there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land. They recognized that a strong central government and domestic tranquility were in their economic interests.</p><p>So, it would be counterintuitive – as well as anti-historical – to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people – at least the white males – so uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts, could be repulsed.</p><p>However, the Right has invested heavily during the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.</p><p>This bogus “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus – Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications – to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun-owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.</p><p>The mythology about the Framers and the Second Amendment is, of course, only part of the fake history that the Right has created to persuade ill-informed Tea Partiers that they should dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and channel the spirits of men like Washington and Madison.</p><p>But this gun fable is particularly insidious because it obstructs efforts by today’s government to enact commonsense gun-control laws and thus the false narrative makes possible the kinds of slaughters that erupt periodically across the United States, like in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 schoolchildren and six teachers were murdered in minutes by an unstable young man with a civilian version of the M-16 combat rifle.</p><p>While it’s absurd to think that the Founders could have even contemplated such an act – in their 18th Century world of single-fire muskets that required time-consuming reloading – right-wing gun advocates have evaded that obvious reality by postulating that Washington, Madison and other Founders would have wanted a highly armed population to resist the U.S. government.</p><p>Today’s American Right is drunk on some very bad history, which is as dangerous as it is false.</p> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:39:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 1024860 at http://lists.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing gun control 2nd amendment Fascism Is Rearing Its Ugly Head in Ukraine http://lists.alternet.org/world/ukraine-catastrophe-offers-many-frightening-reminders-nazi-era <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The fire in Odessa, killing dozens of ethnic Russians, has disrupted the US media’s efforts to deny the existence of neo-Nazis.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-05-06_at_5.05.40_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As much as the coup regime in Ukraine and its supporters want to project an image of Western moderation, there is a “Dr. Strangelove” element that can’t stop the Nazism from popping up from time to time, like when the Peter Sellers character in the classic movie can’t keep his right arm from making a “Heil Hitler” salute.</p><p>This brutal Nazism surfaced again on Friday when right-wing toughs in Odessa attacked an encampment of ethnic Russian protesters driving them into a trade union building which was then set on fire with Molotov cocktails. As the building was engulfed in flames, some people who tried to flee were chased and beaten, while those trapped inside heard the Ukrainian nationalists liken them to black-and-red-striped potato beetles called Colorados, because those colors are used in pro-Russian ribbons.</p><p>“Burn, Colorado, burn” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/05/world/europe/kievs-reins-weaken-as-chaos-spreads.html?hpw&amp;rref=world">went</a> the chant.</p><p>As the fire worsened, those dying inside were serenaded with the taunting singing of the Ukrainian national anthem. The building also was spray-painted with Swastika-like symbols and graffiti reading “Galician SS,” a reference to the Ukrainian nationalist army that fought alongside the German Nazi SS in World War II, killing Russians on the eastern front.</p><p>The death by fire of dozens of people in Odessa recalled a World War II incident in 1944 when elements of a Galician SS police regiment took part in the massacre of the Polish village of Huta Pieniacka, which had been a refuge for Jews and was protected by Russian and Polish partisans. Attacked by a mixed force of Ukrainian police and German soldiers on Feb. 28, hundreds of townspeople were massacred, including many locked in barns that were set ablaze.</p><p>The legacy of World War II – especially the bitter fight between Ukrainian nationalists from the west and ethnic Russians from the east seven decades ago – is never far from the surface in Ukrainian politics. One of the heroes celebrated during the Maidan protests in Kiev was Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose name was honored in many banners including one on a podium where Sen. John McCain voiced support for the uprising to oust elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in eastern Ukraine.</p><p>During World War II, Bandera headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-B, a radical paramilitary movement that sought to transform Ukraine into a racially pure state. OUN-B took part in the expulsion and extermination of thousands of Jews and Poles.</p><p>Though most of the Maidan protesters in 2013-14 appeared motivated by anger over political corruption and by a desire to join the European Union, neo-Nazis made up a significant number. These storm troopers from the Right Sektor and Svoboda party decked out some of the occupied government buildings with Nazi insignias and even <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-are-nazi-and-confederate-flags-on-display-in-kiev/5372042">a Confederate battle flag</a>, the universal symbol of white supremacy.</p><p>Then, as the protests turned violent from Feb. 20-22, the neo-Nazis surged to the forefront. Their well-trained militias, organized in 100-man brigades called “the hundreds,” led the final assaults against police and forced Yanukovych and many of his officials to flee for their lives.</p><p>In the days after the coup, as the neo-Nazi militias effectively controlled the government, European and U.S. diplomats scrambled to help the shaken parliament put together the semblance of a respectable regime, although <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SBo0akeDMY">four ministries</a>, including national security, were awarded to the right-wing extremists in recognition of their crucial role in ousting Yanukovych.</p><p>Seeing No Nazis</p><p>Since February, virtually the entire U.S. news media has cooperated in the effort to play down the neo-Nazi role, dismissing any mention of this inconvenient truth as “Russian propaganda.” Stories in the U.S. media delicately step around the neo-Nazi reality by keeping out relevant context, such as the background of national security chief Andriy Parubiy, who founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991, blending radical Ukrainian nationalism with neo-Nazi symbols. Parubiy was commandant of the Maidan’s “self-defense forces.”</p><p>When the neo-Nazi factor is mentioned in the mainstream U.S. press, it is usually to dismiss it as nonsense, such as an April 20 column by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who visited his ancestral home, the western Ukrainian town of Karapchiv, and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/opinion/sunday/in-dads-hometown-european-souls.html?ref=opinion&amp;_r=0">portrayed its residents</a> as the true voice of the Ukrainian people.</p><p>“To understand why Ukrainians are risking war with Russia to try to pluck themselves from Moscow’s grip, I came to this village where my father grew up,” he wrote. “Even here in the village, Ukrainians watch Russian television and loathe the propaganda portraying them as neo-Nazi thugs rampaging against Russian speakers.</p><p>“‘If you listen to them, we all carry assault rifles; we’re all beating people,’ Ilya Moskal, a history teacher, said contemptuously.”</p><p>In <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/opinion/in-ukraine-seeking-us-aid.html?ref=nicholasdkristof">an April 17 column</a> from Kiev, Kristof wrote that what the Ukrainians want is weapons from the West so they can to go “bear-hunting,” i.e. killing Russians. “People seem to feel a bit disappointed that the United States and Europe haven’t been more supportive, and they are humiliated that their own acting government hasn’t done more to confront Russian-backed militants. So, especially after a few drinks, people are ready to take down the Russian Army themselves.”</p><p>Kristof also repeated the U.S. “conventional wisdom” that the resistance to the coup regime among eastern Ukrainians was entirely the work of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, Kristof wrote, “warns that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. But the chaos in eastern cities is his own creation, in part by sending provocateurs across the border.”</p><p>However, when the New York Times finally sent two reporters to spend time with rebels from the east, they encountered an indigenous movement motivated by hostility to the Kiev regime and showing no signs of direction from Moscow. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/05/04/another-nyt-sort-of-retraction-on-ukraine/">Another NYT ‘Sort of’ Retraction on Ukraine</a>.”]</p><p>Beyond the journalistic risk of jumping to conclusions, Kristof, who fancies himself a great humanitarian, also should recognize that the clever depiction of human beings as animals, whether as “bears” or “Colorado beetles,” can have horrendous human consequences as is now apparent in Odessa.</p><p>Reagan’s Nazis</p><p>But the problem with some western Ukrainians expressing their inconvenient love for Nazis has not been limited to the current crisis. It bedeviled Ronald Reagan’s administration when it began heating up the Cold War in the 1980s.</p><p>As part of that strategy, Reagan’s United States Information Agency, under his close friend Charles Wick, hired a cast of right-wing Ukrainian exiles who began showing up on U.S.-funded Radio Liberty praising the Galician SS.</p><p>These commentaries included positive depictions of Ukrainian nationalists who had sided with the Nazis in World War II as the SS waged its “final solution” against European Jews. The propaganda broadcasts provoked outrage from Jewish organizations, such as B’nai B’rith, and individuals including conservative academic Richard Pipes.</p><p>According to an internal memo dated May 4, 1984, and written by James Critchlow, a research officer at the Board of International Broadcasting, which managed Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, one RL broadcast in particular was viewed as “defending Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the SS.”</p><p>Critchlow wrote, “An RL Ukrainian broadcast of Feb. 12, 1984 contains references to the Nazi-oriented Ukrainian-manned SS ‘Galicia’ Division of World War II which may have damaged RL’s reputation with Soviet listeners. The memoirs of a German diplomat are quoted in a way that seems to constitute endorsement by RL of praise for Ukrainian volunteers in the SS division, which during its existence fought side by side with the Germans against the Red Army.”</p><p>Harvard Professor Pipes, who was an informal adviser to the Reagan administration, also inveighed against the Radio Liberty broadcasts, writing – on Dec. 3, 1984 – “the Russian and Ukrainian services of RL have been transmitting this year blatantly anti-Semitic material to the Soviet Union which may cause the whole enterprise irreparable harm.”</p><p>Though the Reagan administration publicly defended Radio Liberty against some of the public criticism, privately some senior officials agreed with the critics, according to documents in the archives of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. For instance, in a Jan. 4, 1985, memo, Walter Raymond Jr., a top official on the National Security Council, told his boss, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, that “I would believe much of what Dick [Pipes] says is right.”</p><p>What the Reagan administration apparently didn’t understand three decades ago – and what the U.S. State Department still has not seemed to learn today – is that there is a danger in stirring up the old animosities that divide Ukraine, east and west.</p><p>Though clearly a minority, Ukraine’s neo-Nazis remain a potent force that is well-organized, well-motivated and prone to extreme violence, whether throwing firebombs at police in the Maidan or at ethnic Russians trapped in a building in Odessa.</p><p>As vengeance now seeks vengeance across Ukraine, this Nazi imperative will be difficult to hold down, much as Dr. Strangelove struggled to stop his arm from making a “Heil Hitler” salute.</p> Tue, 06 May 2014 13:53:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 989646 at http://lists.alternet.org World World ukraine Why Joining Russia Might Be Crimea's Most Reasonable Option http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-joining-russia-might-be-crimeas-most-reasonable-option <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As a new Cold War hysteria grips U.S. pols and pundits, the truth of the situation in Ukraine is getting foggy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/russianowar.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">If you were living in Crimea, would you prefer to remain part of Ukraine with its coup-installed government — with neo-Nazis running four ministries including the Ministry of Defense — or would you want to become part of Russia, which has had ties to Crimea going back to Catherine the Great in the 1700s?</span></p><p>Granted, it’s not the greatest choice in the world, but it’s the practical one facing you. For all its faults, Russia has a functioning economy while Ukraine really doesn’t. Russia surely has its share of political and financial corruption but some of that has been brought under control.</p><p>Not so in Ukraine where a moveable feast of some 10 “oligarchs” mostly runs the show in shifting alliances, buying up media outlets and politicians, while the vast majority of the population faces a bleak future, which now includes more European-demanded “austerity,” i.e. slashed pensions and further reductions in already sparse social services.</p><p>Even if the U.S.-backed plan for inserting Ukraine into the European Union prevails, Ukrainians would find themselves looking up the socio-economic ladder at the Greeks and other European nationals already living the nightmare of “austerity.”</p><p>Beyond that humiliation and misery, the continuing political dislocations across Ukraine would surely feed the further rise of right-wing extremists who espouse not only the goal of expelling ethnic Russians from Ukraine but Jews and other peoples considered not pure Ukrainian.</p><p>This troubling racist element of the “inspiring” Ukrainian uprising has been mostly airbrushed from the U.S. media’s narrative, but more honest sources of news have reported this disturbing reality. [For instance, watch <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SBo0akeDMY">this report from the BBC.</a>]</p><p><b>What’s Wrong with Secession?</b></p><p>And, despite what you hear from the U.S. government and the mainstream U.S. media, it’s not at all uncommon for people to separate themselves from prior allegiances.</p><p>It’s especially common amid political upheavals, like Ukraine’s neo-Nazi-spearheaded coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych — after he signed an agreement on Feb. 21 to relinquish much of his power, hold early elections and order police to withdraw.</p><p>Though this agreement was co-signed by European nations, they stood aside when neo-Nazi militias exploited the police withdrawal and overran government buildings, forcing Yanukovych and many government officials to flee for their lives.</p><p>Then, under the watchful eye of these modern-day storm troopers, the rump parliament “impeached” Yanukovych but did not follow the procedures laid out by Ukraine’s constitution. The overthrow was, in reality, a putsch.</p><p>But American political leaders and journalists have pretty well expunged that inconvenient history, making the crisis simply a case of black-hatted villain, Russian President Vladimir Putin, bullying the white-hatted “pro-democracy” coup-making heroes of Ukraine.</p><p>U.S. politicians and pundits now cite the Ukrainian constitution as some sacred document as they argue that Crimea has no right to hold a popular referendum on leaving Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation. President Barack Obama says a Crimean plebiscite would be illegitimate unless Crimea gets permission to secede from the national government in Kiev as stipulated in the constitution.</p><p>In other words, the Ukrainian constitution can be violated at will when that serves Official Washington’s interests, but it is inviolate when that’s convenient. That situational view also presumes that some normal constitutional process exists in Kiev when one doesn’t.</p><p><b>More Hypocrisy</b></p><p>This U.S. government/media hypocrisy on the Crimean vote is underscored, too, by Official Washington’s frequent role in advocating and even mid-wifing secession movements when they correspond with U.S. foreign policy interests.</p><p>Fifteen separate nations emerged from the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 as U.S. politicians celebrated. No one seemed to mind either when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.</p><p>That same decade, U.S. officials helped negotiate the dissection of Yugoslavia into various ethnic enclaves. Later in the 1990s, the U.S. government even bombed Serbia to help Kosovo gain its independence, despite centuries of deep historical ties between Serbia and Kosovo.</p><p>In 2011, the U.S. government supported the creation of South Sudan, carving this new oil-rich nation out of Sudan. The supposed motive for breaking South Sudan loose was to stop a civil war, although independent South Sudan has since slid into political violence.</p><p>The Obama administration disputes allegations of U.S. hypocrisy about secessions, calling these comparisons “apples and oranges.” But the truth is that all secession cases are unique, a balance of history, pragmatism and politics. Very seldom are they simple and clear-cut.</p><p>In Crimea, the case for secession from Ukraine seems strong: Crimea is populated mostly by ethnic Russians; many people speak Russian; and they have historically viewed themselves as part of Russia. If a large majority of the voters prefer joining Russia, why shouldn’t they?</p><p>Perhaps the case for Crimea’s secession would have been weaker if the Western nations hadn’t so eagerly embraced the putsch in Kiev. If the Feb. 21 agreement had been enforced — clearing the way for Yanukovych’s orderly departure — Obama’s argument might make more sense. The constitutional procedures would have remained intact.</p><p>But the haste with which Washington and Brussels recognized the coup government — with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s choice for Ukraine’s leadership, neoconservative favorite Arseny Yatsenyuk, named interim prime minister — shattered the formal political process of Ukraine.</p><p>That was followed by the post-coup rump parliament passing measures, often unanimously, that targeted the political security of ethnic Russians in the country’s east and south. Combined with threats from the neo-Nazis who have grabbed significant power and favor a purified Ukraine for ethnic Ukrainians, the nation confronts a potential civil war.</p><p>In such a case — with the prospects of ethnic cleansing and the violence that would surely follow — the most reasonable solution might well be to hold referenda in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine on whether the people in those areas want to stay attached to the Kiev regime. If the people in those regions want independence or association with Russia, why should the United States ratchet up a new Cold War to prevent that?</p><p>If what’s left of Ukraine wants to join the European Union — and if the E.U. would want it — then those Ukrainians could vote for their future, too.</p><p>Democracy means little if populations are compelled to remain part of an undemocratic regime that has seized power in the capital by force and demonstrates hostility toward outlying regions. Since such a predicament now exists in Ukraine, the best-imperfect solution could be to dispatch international observers to Crimea to monitor the plebiscite and verify whether the popular vote fairly reflects the people’s will.</p> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 10:46:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 968425 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World Crimea ukraine russia neo-nazis President Viktor Yanukovych cold war Victoria Nuland european union Dangerous 'We-Hate-Putin' Groupthink Among U.S. Political-Elite Threatens World Security http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/dangerous-we-hate-putin-groupthink-among-us-political-elite-threatens-world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Hawkish neocons refuse to acknowledge that Putin helped to peacefully address the Syrian crisis and created inroads in nuclear talks with Iran.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/groupthink.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The U.S. political-media elites, which twisted themselves into a dangerous “group think” over the Iraq War last decade, have spun out of control again in a wild overreaction to the Ukraine crisis. Across the ideological spectrum, there is rave support for the coup that overthrew Ukraine’s elected president — and endless ranting against Russian President Vladimir Putin for refusing to accept the new coup leadership in Kiev and intervening to protect Russian interests in Crimea.</p><p>The “we-hate-Putin” hysteria has now reach the point that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has deployed the “Hitler analogy” against Putin, comparing Putin’s interests in protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine with Hitler citing ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe to justify aggression at the start of World War II.</p><p>“I just want people to have a little historic perspective,” the reputed 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner told a question-and-answer session at UCLA on Wednesday, confirming reports of her using the Hitler analogy during an earlier private fundraiser.</p><p>Some Clinton backers suggested she made the provocative comparison to give herself protection from expected right-wing attacks on her for having participated in the “reset” of U.S. policy toward Russia in 2009. She also was putting space between herself and President Barack Obama’s quiet effort to cooperate with Putin to resolve crises with Iran and Syria.</p><p>But what is shocking about Clinton’s Hitler analogy — and why it should give Democrats pause as they rush to coronate her as their presidential nominee in 2016 — is that it suggests that she has joined the neoconservative camp, again. Since her days as a U.S. senator from New York — and as a supporter of the Iraq War — Clinton has often sided with the neocons and she’s doing so again in demonizing Putin.</p><p>Democrats might want to contemplate how a President Hillary Clinton would handle that proverbial “3 a.m. phone call,” perhaps one with conflicting information about a chemical weapons attack in Syria or muddled suspicions that Iran is moving toward a nuclear bomb or reports that Russia is using its military to resist a right-wing coup in neighboring Ukraine.</p><p>Would she unthinkingly adopt the hawkish neocon position as she often did as U.S. senator and as Secretary of State? Would she wait for the “fog of war” to lift or simply plunge ahead with flame-throwing rhetoric that could make a delicate situation worse?</p><p>There’s also the question of Clinton’s honesty. Does she really believe that Putin protecting ethnic Russians from an illegitimate government that seized power in a right-wing coup on Russia’s border is comparable to Hitler invading Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland?</p><p><strong>Media Endorsement</strong></p><p>Normally, anyone who uses a Hitler analogy is immediately chastised for both absurd hyperbole and anti-Semitism. Besides the extreme exaggeration involved, the Hitler analogy trivializes the scope of Hitler’s crimes both in provoking World War II and carrying out the Holocaust against European Jews.</p><p>Usually neocons are among the first to protest this cheapening of the Holocaust’s memory, but apparently their determination to take down Putin for his interference in their “regime change” plans across the Middle East caused some neocons to endorse Clinton’s Hitler analogy. One of the Washington Post’s neocon editorial writers, Charles Lane, wrote on Thursday: “Superficially plausible though the Hitler-Putin comparison may be, just how precisely does it fit? In some respects, alarmingly so.”</p><p>Yet, outside of this mad “group think” that has settled over Official Washington, Clinton’s Hitler analogy is neither reasonable nor justified. If she wanted to note that protecting one’s national or ethnic group has been cited historically to justify interventions, she surely didn’t have to go to the Hitler extreme. There are plenty of other examples.</p><p>For instance, it was a factor in the Mexican-American War in the 1840s when President James Polk cited protecting Texans as a justification for the war with Mexico. The “protect Americans” argument also was used by President Ronald Reagan in justifying his invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983. Reagan said he was protecting American students at the St. George’s Medical School, even though they were not in any real physical danger.</p><p>In other conflicts, human rights advocates have asserted the right to defend any civilians from physical danger under the so-called “responsibility to protect” — or “R2P” — principle. For example, neocons and various U.S.-based “non-governmental organizations” have urged a U.S. military intervention in Syria supposedly to protect innocent human life.</p><p>However, if anyone dared compare Ronald Reagan or, for that matter, R2P advocates to Hitler, you could expect the likes of Charles Lane to howl with outrage. Yet, when Putin faces a complex dilemma like the violent right-wing coup in Ukraine — and worries about ethnic Russians facing potential persecution — he is casually compared to Hitler with almost no U.S. opinion leader protesting the hype.</p><p><b>Who Were the Snipers?</b></p><p>There is also new evidence suggesting that the sniper shootings in Kiev — a pivotal moment in the uprising to overthrow President Viktor Yanukovych — may have been the work of neo-Nazi provocateurs trying to foment a coup, not the police trying to stop one.</p><p>According to an intercepted phone conversation between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Paet reported on a conversation that he had with a doctor in Kiev who said the sniper fire that killed protesters was the same that killed police officers. As <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/05/ukraine-bugged-call-catherine-ashton-urmas-paet" target="_blank">reported by the UK Guardian</a>, “During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga — who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor — blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.”</p><p>Paet said, “What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides.</p><p>“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. … So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”</p><p>Ashton replied: “I think we do want to investigate. I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh.”</p><p>However, the sniper fire has been cited by the U.S. government and major U.S. news outlets as evidence of Yanukovych’s depravity, thus justifying his violent removal from office last month when he was forced to flee for his life after neo-Nazi militias seized control of government buildings.</p><p>Yet, despite the new evidence suggesting that the coup-makers may have been responsible for instigating the violence, the mainstream U.S. press continues to revise the preferred narrative by putting white hats on the coup-makers and black hats on the Yanukovych government. For instance, the New York Times has stopped reporting that more than a dozen police officers were among the 80 or so people killed as protests in Kiev turned violent. The typical <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/03/05/putin-or-kerry-whos-delusional/http:/consortiumnews.com/2014/03/05/putin-or-kerry-whos-delusional/">new version</a> in the U.S. press is simply that Yanukovych’s police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, killing 80 of them.</p><p>And to take a contradictory view of this conventional wisdom marks you as “crazy.” When Yanukovych and Putin raised questions about who actually opened fire, the U.S. news media dismissed their suspicions as “conspiracy theories” and proof of “delusional” thinking. It is now a virtual consensus across the U.S. news media that Putin is “unstable” and “disconnected from reality.”</p><p>The Washington Post called Putin’s Tuesday news conference “rambling.” However, if you <a href="http://www.voltairenet.org/article182486.html">read the transcript</a>, it is anything but “rambling” or “delusional.” Putin comes across as quite coherent, expressing a detailed understanding of the Ukraine crisis and the legal issues involved.</p><p>Putin begins his response to reporters’ questions by puzzling over the reasons for the violent overthrow of Yanukovych, especially after the Ukrainian president agreed to European terms for surrendering much of his power, moving up elections and ordering police to withdraw. But that Feb. 21 agreement lasted only two hours, ended by neo-Nazi extremists seizing control of government buildings and forcing Yanukovych to flee for his life.</p><p>Putin said, “There can only be one assessment: this was an anti-constitutional takeover, an armed seizure of power. Does anyone question this? Nobody does. There is a question here that neither I, nor my colleagues, with whom I have been discussing the situation in Ukraine a great deal over these past days, as you know — none of us can answer. The question is why was this done?</p><p>“I would like to draw your attention to the fact that President Yanukovych, through the mediation of the Foreign Ministers of three European countries — Poland, Germany and France — and in the presence of my representative (this was the Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin) signed an agreement with the opposition on Feb. 21.</p><p>“I would like to stress that under that agreement (I am not saying this was good or bad, just stating the fact) Mr. Yanukovych actually handed over power. He agreed to all the opposition’s demands: he agreed to early parliamentary elections, to early presidential elections, and to return to the 2004 Constitution, as demanded by the opposition.</p><p>“He gave a positive response to our request, the request of western countries and, first of all, of the opposition not to use force. He did not issue a single illegal order to shoot at the poor demonstrators. Moreover, he issued orders to withdraw all police forces from the capital, and they complied. He went to Kharkov to attend an event, and as soon as he left, instead of releasing the occupied administrative buildings, they [the armed militias] immediately occupied the President’s residence and the Government building — all that instead of acting on the agreement.</p><p>“I ask myself, what was the purpose of all this? I want to understand why this was done. He had in fact given up his power already, and as I believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected. Everybody agrees on this, everyone I have been speaking to on the telephone these past few days. What was the purpose of all those illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this chaos in the country?”</p><p>Now, there also is independent evidence suggesting that elements of the right-wing militias may have killed both protesters and police to destabilize the Ukrainian government and justify the coup.<br /><b>U.S. Hypocrisy</b><br />In the same news conference, Putin noted the U.S. government’s hypocrisy in decrying Russia’s intervention in Crimea. He said: “It’s necessary to recall the actions of the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, where they acted either without any sanction from the U.N. Security Council or distorted the content of these resolutions, as it happened in Libya. There, as you know, only the right to create a no-fly zone for government aircraft was authorized, and it all ended in the bombing and participation of special forces in group operations.”</p><p>There is no denying the accuracy of Putin’s description of U.S. overreach in its interventions in the Twenty-first Century. Yet, Secretary of State John Kerry has ignored that history in denouncing Russia for using military force in the Crimea section of Ukraine. Kerry said on Tuesday: “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not Twenty-first Century, G-8, major-nation behavior.”</p><p>Despite Kerry’s bizarre lack of self-awareness — as a senator he joined in voting to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq — it is Putin who gets called “delusional.” While virtually all mainstream U.S. news outlets join in the demonization of Putin, there have been almost no words about the truly delusional hypocrisy of U.S. officials. Ignored is the inconvenient truth that the U.S. military invaded Iraq, still occupies Afghanistan, coordinated a “regime change” war in Libya in 2011, and has engaged in cross-border attacks in several countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.</p><p>Though we’ve seen other examples of the U.S. political/media elite losing its collective mind — particularly during the crazed run-up to war in Iraq in 2002-2003 and the near stampede into another war with Syria in 2013 — the frantic madness over Putin and Ukraine is arguably the most dangerous manifestation of this nutty Official Washington “group think.”</p><p>Not only does Putin lead a powerful nation with a nuclear arsenal but his cooperation with President Obama on Syria and Iran have been important contributions toward tamping down the fires of what could become a wider regional war across the Middle East.</p><p>Yet, it is perhaps Putin’s assistance in finding peaceful ways out of last year’s Syrian crisis as well as getting Iran to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program — rather than pressing for violent “regime change” in the two countries — that earned Putin the undying enmity of the neocons who still dominate Official Washington and influence its “group think.”</p><p>Maybe that enmity explains part of the mysterious why behind the Ukraine crisis and the endless demonization of Putin.</p><p>Elliott Abrams, a leading neocon who oversaw Middle East policy on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, was quick to pounce on the Ukraine crisis and the pummeling of Putin to urge a new push for legislation that would pile on more sanctions against Iran, a move that President Obama has warned could kill negotiations.</p><p>“This would be a very good time for Congress to pass the Menendez-Kirk legislation,” Abrams <a href="http://blogs.cfr.org/abrams/2014/03/01/ukraine-and-iran/">wrote</a>. “One lesson of events in Ukraine is that relying on the good will of repressive, anti-American regimes is foolish and dangerous. Another is that American strength and strength of will are weakened at the peril of the United States and our friends everywhere.”</p><p>While at the NSC, Abrams was one of the neocon hardliners — along with Vice President Dick Cheney — who “”were all for letting Israel do whatever it wanted” regarding attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his memoir, "Duty."</p><p>That attack-Iran argument nearly carried the day during the final months of the Bush-43 administration since, according to Gates, “Bush effectively came down on Cheney’s side. By not giving the Israelis a red light, he gave them a green one.”</p><p>But a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, representing the views of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran had stopped work on a nuclear weapon four years earlier. Bush has acknowledged that this NIE stopped him from going forward with military strikes on Iran.</p><p>The neocons, however, have never given up that dream. Now, with the “we-hate-Putin” group think gripping Official Washington, they may feel they have another shot.</p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 18:19:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 967651 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics World vladimir putin russia ukraine anti-Putin sentiment group think robert gates Duty National Intelligence Estimate Neo-Nazism Obama Trying Diplomacy with Putin While Neocons Are Trying to Stoke Conflicts http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-has-two-foreign-policies-toward-russia-obamas-stabilizing-plan-and-neocon <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Neocons are doing their best to extinguish all chances for diplomacy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/kievukrainefire.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.</p><p>The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a region in southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.</p><p>Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.</p><p>Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.</p><p>If not for Putin, the neocons — along with Israel and Saudi Arabia — had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.</p><p>The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.</p><p>Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.</p><p>U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.</p><p>In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/01/06/the-mysterious-why-of-the-iraq-war-2/">The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War</a>.”]</p><p>So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”</p><p>Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities — with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran — Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.</p><p><b>The Rise of Obama</b></p><p>The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.</p><p>Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.</p><p>Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.</p><p>So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.</p><p>From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.</p><p>Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.</p><p>Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.</p><p>Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.</p><p>In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).</p><p>Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.</p><p>Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.</p><p>For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/09/14/how-war-on-syria-lost-its-way/">How War on Syria Lost Its Way</a>.”]</p><p>Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/11/24/a-saudi-israeli-defeat-on-iran-deal/">A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal</a>.”]</p><p><b>Unorthodox Foreign Policy</b></p><p>Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy — essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy — has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.</p><p>For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.</p><p>Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.</p><p>But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.</p><p>Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic — and potentially most dangerous — counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.</p><p>Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine — between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south — neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.</p><p>NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/27/a-shadow-us-foreign-policy/">A Shadow US Foreign Policy</a>.”]</p><p>State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.</p><p>Last December, Nuland <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37599.htm">reminded</a> Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.</p><p>But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.</p><p>Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.</p><p>By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.</p><p>“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.</p><p>As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.</p><p>With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.</p><p>With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.</p><p>Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/26/cheering-a-democratic-coup-in-ukraine/">Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine</a>.”]</p><p><b>Separating Obama from Putin</b></p><p>The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.</p><p>It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.</p><p>But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”</p><p>The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.</p><p>Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces — regular and irregular — be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”</p><p>The Post editors are fond of <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/14/obama-deflects-neocon-pressure-on-syria/">calling for ultimatums</a> against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.</p><p>But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.</p><p>By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.</p><p>“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”</p><p>The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.</p><p>Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.</p><p>The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.</p><p>Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/former-soviet-states-stand-up-to-russia-will-the-us/2013/09/26/b5ad2be4-246a-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html">wrote</a> in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.  … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”</p><p>At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran — and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.</p><p>As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.</p><p>That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.</p> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 10:12:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 965335 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics Investigations News & Politics World russia ukraine obama administration barack obama vladimir putin obama foreign policy iraq iran syria leon panetta central asia National Endowment for Democracy Crimea President Viktor Yanukovych washington post What Happened in Ukraine Was a Presidential Coup, Pure and Simple http://lists.alternet.org/world/what-happened-ukraine-was-presidential-coup-pure-and-simple <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In the upside-down world that has become the U.S. news media, the elected president was a dictator and the coup makers were “pro-democracy” activists.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-02-27_at_11.22.44_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There was always a measure of hypocrisy but Official Washington used to at least pretend to stand for “democracy,” rather than taking such obvious pleasure in destabilizing elected governments, encouraging riots, overturning constitutional systems and then praising violent putsches.</p><p>But events in Ukraine and Venezuela suggest that the idea of respecting the results of elections and working within legal, albeit flawed, political systems is no longer in vogue, unless the “U.S. side” happens to win, of course. If the “U.S. side” loses, then it’s time for some “shock doctrine.” And, of course, the usual demonizing of the “enemy” leader.</p><p>Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was surely no one’s idea of a pristine politician, though it looks like there are few to none of those in Ukraine, a country essentially controlled by a collection of billionaire oligarchs who jockey for power and shift their allegiances among corrupt politicians.</p><p>But Yanukovych was elected in what was regarded as a reasonably fair election in 2010. Indeed, some international observers called the election an important step toward establishing an orderly political process in Ukraine.</p><p>But Yanukovych sought to maintain cordial relations with neighboring Russia, which apparently rubbed American neocons the wrong way. Official Washington’s still-influential neocons have been livid with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin because he cooperated with U.S. President Barack Obama in averting U.S. wars against Iran and Syria.</p><p>In both cases, the neocons thought they had maneuvered Obama into confrontations that could have advanced their long-term strategy of “regime change” across the Middle East, a process that started in 2003 with the U.S. invasion of Iraq but stalled with that disastrous war.</p><p>However, last year, prospects for more U.S. military interventions in two other target countries – Iran and Syria – were looking up, as Israel joined with Saudi Arabia in stoking regional crises that would give Obama no choice but to launch American air strikes, against Iran’s nuclear facilities and against Syrian government targets.</p><p><strong>Putin’s Interference</strong></p><p>That strategy was going swimmingly until Putin helped bring Iran to the negotiating table over guarantees that its nuclear program would not lead to a nuclear weapon. Putin also brokered a deal to avert threatened U.S. air strikes on Syria over disputed evidence regarding who launched a chemical attack on civilians outside Damascus. Putin got the Syrian government to agree to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal.</p><p>So, Putin found himself in the center of the neocons’ bulls-eye and – given some of his own unforced errors such as defending Russia’s intolerance toward gays and spending excessively on the Sochi Olympics – he became the latest “designated villain,” denounced and ridiculed across the neocon-dominated op-ed pages of the Washington Post and other major news outlets.</p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Even NBC, from its treasured spot as the network of the Olympic Games, felt it had no choice but to </span><a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/23/seeing-evil-in-the-new-russia/" style="font-size: 12px;">denounce</a><span style="font-size: 12px;"> Putin in an extraordinary commentary delivered by anchor Bob Costas. Once the demonizing ball gets rolling everyone has to join in or risk getting run over, too.</span></p><p>All of which set the stage for Ukraine. The issue at hand was whether Yanukovych should accept a closer relationship with the European Union, which was demanding substantial economic “reforms,” including an austerity plan dictated by the International Monetary Fund. Yanukovych balked at the harsh terms and turned to Ukraine’s neighbor Russia, which was offering a $15 billion loan and was keeping Ukraine’s economy afloat with discounted natural gas.</p><p>Reasonable people can disagree about whether the EU was driving too hard a bargain or whether Ukraine should undertake such painful economic “reforms” – or how Yanukovych should have balanced the interests of his divided country, with the east dominated by ethnic Russians and the west leaning toward Europe.</p><p>But protesters from western Ukraine, including far-right nationalists, sought to turn this policy dispute into a means for overthrowing the elected government. Police efforts to quell the disturbances turned violent, with the police not the only culprits. Police faced armed neo-Nazi storm troopers who attacked with firebombs and other weapons.</p><p>Though the U.S. news media did show scenes of these violent melees, the U.S. press almost universally blamed Yanukovych – and took almost gleeful pleasure as his elected government collapsed and was replaced by thuggish right-wing militias “guarding” government buildings.</p><p>With Yanukovych and many of his supporters fleeing for their lives, the opposition parties seized control of parliament and began passing draconian new laws often unanimously, as neo-Nazi thugs patrolled the scene. Amazingly, the U.S. news media treated all this as uplifting, a popular uprising against a tyrant, not a case of a coup government operating in collusion with violent extremists.</p><p>In the upside-down world that has become the U.S. news media, the democratically elected president was a dictator and the coup makers who overthrew the popularly chosen leader were “pro-democracy” activists.</p><p><strong>A Curious History</strong></p><p>There’s also a curious history behind U.S. attitudes toward ethnically divided Ukraine. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency – as he escalated Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union – one of his propaganda services, Radio Liberty, began broadcasting commentaries into Ukraine from right-wing exiles.</p><p>Some of the commentaries praised Ukrainian nationalists who had sided with the Nazis in World War II as the SS waged its “final solution” against European Jews. The propaganda broadcasts provoked outrage from Jewish organizations, such as B’nai B’rith, and individuals including conservative academic Richard Pipes.</p><p>According to an internal memo dated May 4, 1984, and written by James Critchlow, a research officer at the Board of International Broadcasting, which managed Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, one RL broadcast in particular was viewed as “defending Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the SS.”</p><p>Critchlow wrote, “An RL Ukrainian broadcast of Feb. 12, 1984 contains references to the Nazi-oriented Ukrainian-manned SS ‘Galicia’ Division of World War II which may have damaged RL’s reputation with Soviet listeners. The memoirs of a German diplomat are quoted in a way that seems to constitute endorsement by RL of praise for Ukrainian volunteers in the SS division, which during its existence fought side by side with the Germans against the Red Army.”</p><p>Harvard Professor Pipes, who was an informal adviser to the Reagan administration, also inveighed against the RL broadcasts, writing – on Dec. 3, 1984 – “the Russian and Ukrainian services of RL have been transmitting this year blatantly anti-Semitic material to the Soviet Union which may cause the whole enterprise irreparable harm.”</p><p>Though the Reagan administration publicly defended RL against some of the public criticism, privately some senior officials agreed with the critics, according to documents in the archives of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. For instance, in a Jan. 4, 1985, memo, Walter Raymond Jr., a top official on the National Security Council, told his boss, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, that “I would believe much of what Dick [Pipes] says is right.”</p><p>This three-decade-old dispute over U.S.-sponsored radio broadcasts underscores the troubling political reality of Ukraine, which straddles a dividing line between people with cultural ties oriented toward the West and those with a cultural heritage more attuned to Russia. Though the capital Kiev sits in a region dominated by the western Ukrainians, the Russian-allied Ukrainians represent most of the population, explaining Yanukovych’s electoral victory.</p><p><strong>Loving a Putsch</strong></p><p>Now, right-wing militias, representing those historical resentments toward the Russians and hostility toward the Jews, have seized control of many government buildings in Kiev. Faced with this intimidation, the often-unanimous decisions by the remaining legislators would normally be viewed with extreme skepticism, including their demands for the capture and likely execution of Yanukovych.</p><p>But the U.S. press corps can’t get beyond its demonization of Putin and Yanukovych. The neocon Washington Post has been almost euphoric over the coup, as expressed in a Feb. 24 editorial:</p><p>“Ukraine has shaken off its corrupt president and the immediate prospect of domination by Russia — but at the risk of further conflict. The decision by Viktor Yanukovych to flee Kiev over the weekend triggered the disintegration of his administration and prompted parliament to replace him and schedule elections for May.</p><p>“The moves were democratic — members of Mr. Yanukovych’s party joined in the parliamentary votes — but they had the effect of nullifying an accord between the former government and opposition that had been brokered by the European Union and tacitly supported by Russia.</p><p>“Kiev is now controlled by pro-Western parties that say they will implement the association agreement with the European Union that Mr. Yanukovych turned away from three months ago, triggering the political crisis.</p><p>“There remain two big threats to this positive outcome. One is that Ukraine’s finances will collapse in the absence of a bailout from Russia or the West. The other is that the country will split along geographic lines as Russian speakers in the east of the country, perhaps supported by Moscow, reject the new political order.”</p><p>The Post continued, “What’s not clear is whether Mr. Putin would accept a Ukraine that is not under the Kremlin’s thumb. The first indications are not good: Though Mr. Putin has been publicly silent about Ukraine since Friday, the rhetoric emanating from his government has been angry and belligerent. A foreign ministry statement Monday alleged that ‘a course has been set to use dictatorial and sometimes terrorist methods to suppress dissenters in various regions.’”</p><p>So, the Washington Post’s editors consider the violent overthrow of a democratically elected president to be “democratic” and take comfort in “democratic” actions by a legislature, despite the curious lack of any no votes and the fact that this balloting has occurred under the watchful eye of neo-Nazi storm troopers patrolling government offices. And, according to the Post, the Russian government is unhinged to detect “dictatorial and sometimes terrorist methods.”</p><p>The New York Times editorial page was only slightly less celebratory, proclaiming: “The venal president of Ukraine is on the run and the bloodshed has stopped, but it is far too early to celebrate or to claim that the West has ‘won’ or that Russia has ‘lost.’ One incontrovertible lesson from the events in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, is that the deeply divided country will have to contend with dangerous problems that could reverberate beyond its borders.”</p><p>There has been, of course, a long and inglorious history of the U.S. government supporting the overthrow of elected governments: Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Allende in Chile in 1973, Aristide in Haiti twice, Chavez in Venezuela briefly in 2002, Zelaya in Honduras in 2009, Morsi in Egypt in 2013, and others. After Yanukovych, the next target of these U.S.-embraced “democratic” coups looks to be Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.</p><p>In these cases, it is typical for the mainstream U.S. news media to obsess over perceived flaws in the ousted leaders. On Wednesday, for instance, the New York Times made much of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/world/europe/an-unfinished-ukraine-palace-and-a-fugitive-leaders-folly.html?hp">an unfinished presidential palace</a> in Ukraine, calling it “a fugitive leader’s folly.” The idea seems to be to cement in the minds of impressionable Americans that it is okay for the U.S. government to support the overthrow of democratically elected presidents if they have flaws.</p><p>The outcomes for the people of these countries that are “saved” from their imperfect leaders, however, often tend to be quite ugly. Usually, they experience long periods of brutal repression at the hands of dictators, but that typically happens outside the frame of the U.S. news media’s focus or interest. Those unhappy countries fade from view almost as quickly as they were thrust to center stage, next to the demonization of their elected leaders.</p><div style="text-align: center;">© 2014 Consortium News</div> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 08:10:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 963819 at http://lists.alternet.org World Media World coup How Even a Proven Government Conspiracy Can Get Totally Dismissed by Corporate Media http://lists.alternet.org/media/how-even-well-established-govt-conspiracy-can-get-totally-dismissed-corporate-media <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Contra-Cocaine exposes of the 80s laid bare a nefarious govt. orchestrated scheme. Big media outlets have attacked it ever since. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-12-03_at_5.05.22_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In the insular world of Manhattan media, there’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/business/media/long-on-cutting-edge-of-print-new-york-magazine-cuts-back.html?hp&amp;_r=0">much handwringing</a> over the latest blow to print publications as New York Magazine scales back from a weekly to a biweekly. But the real lesson might be the commercial failure of snarky writing, the kind that New York demonstrated in its recent hit piece on “conspiracy theories.”</p><p>What was most stunning to me about <a href="http://nymag.com/news/features/conspiracy-theories/50-years-of-conspiracy-theories/">the article</a>, pegged to the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was that it began by ridiculing what is actually one of the best-documented real conspiracies of recent decades, the CIA’s tolerance and even protection of cocaine trafficking by the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s.</p><p>Author Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes: “The wider the aperture around this theory, the harder its proponents work to implicate Washington, the shakier it seems: After several trials and a great deal of inquiry, no one has been able to show that anyone in the CIA condoned what Blandon was doing, and it has never been clear exactly how strong Blandon’s ties to the contraleadership really were, anyway.”According to New York Magazine, the Contra-cocaine story – smugly dubbed “the last great conspiracy theory of the twentieth century” – started with the claim by ”crack kingpin” Ricky Ross that he was working with a Nicaraguan cocaine supplier, Oscar Danilo Blandon, who had ties to the Contras who, in turn, had ties to the CIA.</p><p>So, it was all a goofy “conspiracy theory.” Move along, move along, nothing to see here. But neither Wallace-Wells nor his New York Magazine editors seem to have any idea about the actual history of the Contra-cocaine scandal. It did not begin with the 1996 emergence of Ricky Ross in a series of articles by San Jose Mercury-News investigative reporter Gary Webb, as Wallace-Wells suggests.</p><p>The Contra-cocaine scandal began more than a decade earlier with a 1985 article that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press. Our article cited documentary evidence and witnesses – both inside the Contra movement and inside the U.S. government – implicating nearly all the Contra groups fighting in Nicaragua under the umbrella of Ronald Reagan’s CIA.</p><p>Our Contra-cocaine article was followed up by a courageous Senate investigation led by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts who further documented the connections between cocaine traffickers, the Contras and the Reagan administration in a report issued in 1989.</p><p>Yet, part of the scandal always was how the Reagan administration worked diligently to undercut investigations of the President’s favorite “freedom fighters” whether the inquiries were undertaken by the press, Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration or federal prosecutors. Indeed, a big part of this cover-up strategy was to mock the evidence as “a conspiracy theory,” when it was anything but.</p><p>Big Media’s Complicity</p><p>Most of the mainstream news media played along with the Reagan administration’s mocking strategy, although occasionally major outlets, like the Washington Post, had to concede the reality of the scandal.</p><p>For instance, during the drug-trafficking trial of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1991, U.S. prosecutors found themselves with no alternative but to call as a witness Colombian Medellín cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who — along with implicating Noriega — testified that the cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, an allegation first unearthed by Sen. Kerry.</p><p>“The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time,” a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991, acknowledged. “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”</p><p>Yet, despite the Washington Post’s belated concern about the mainstream news media’s neglect of the Contra-cocaine scandal, there was no serious follow-up anywhere in Big Media – until 1996 when Gary Webb disclosed the connection between one Contra cocaine smuggler, Danilo Blandon, and the emergence of crack cocaine via Ricky Ross.</p><p>But the premier news outlets – the likes of the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times – didn’t take this new opportunity to examine what was a serious crime of state. That would have required them to engage in some embarrassing self-criticism for their misguided dismissal of the scandal. Instead, the big newspapers went on the attack against Gary Webb.</p><p>Their attack line involved narrowing their focus to Blandon – ignoring the reality that he was just one of many Contras involved in cocaine smuggling to the United States – and to Ross – arguing that Ross’s operation could not be blamed for the entire crack epidemic that ravaged U.S. cities in the 1980s. And the newspapers insisted that the CIA couldn’t be blamed for this cocaine smuggling because the agency had supposedly examined the issue in the 1980s and found that it had done nothing wrong.</p><p>Because of this unified assault from the major newspapers – and the corporate timidity of the San Jose Mercury-News editors – Webb and his continuing investigation were soon abandoned. Webb was pushed out of the Mercury-News in disgrace.</p><p>That let the mainstream U.S. media celebrate how it had supposedly crushed a nasty “conspiracy theory” that had stirred up unjustified anger in the black community, which had been hit hardest by the crack epidemic. The newspapers also could get some brownie points from Republicans and the Right by sparing President Reagan’s legacy a big black eye.</p><p>But Webb’s disclosure prompted the CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz to undertake the first real internal investigation of the ties between the Contra-cocaine smugglers and the CIA officers overseeing the Contra war in Nicaragua.</p><p>The CIA’s Confession</p><p>When Hitz’s final investigative report was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war had taken precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra drug-smuggling crimes from the Justice Department, Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.</p><p>Besides tracing the extensive evidence of Contra trafficking through the entire decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of Contra-drug smuggling but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.</p><p>According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”</p><p>Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts. Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations — serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his disclosures in 1996.</p><p>Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by the big American newspapers. On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s final report was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood.</p><p>Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the contents of Hitz’s findings though Los Angeles had been “ground zero” of the Ross-Blandon connection.</p><p>In 2000, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.</p><p>“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”</p><p>The House committee’s majority Republicans still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”</p><p>Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000 — except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com. Because the confirmation of the Contra-cocaine scandal received so little mainstream media coverage, Gary Webb remained a pariah in his profession of journalism, making it next to impossible for him to land a decent-paying job and contributing to his suicide in 2004. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/09/the-warning-in-gary-webbs-death-2/">The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death</a>.”]</p><p>What’s a Conspiracy Theory?</p><p>So, what is one to make of New York Magazine’s decision 15 years after the CIA’s confession and nearly a decade after Webb’s death to lead off its snarky ridicule of “conspiracy theories” with such a grossly inaccurate account of what was undeniably a real conspiracy?</p><p>One might have hoped that a publication that fancies itself as iconoclastic would have had the journalistic courage not to simply reinforce a fake conventional wisdom – and have the human decency not to join in the mainstream media’s dancing on Webb’s grave. But that is apparently too much to expect of New York Magazine.</p><p>There is another problem in New York’s sneering takedown of “conspiracy theories” – and that is the magazine lacks a decent definition of what a “conspiracy theory” is, especially given the pejorative implications of the phrase.</p><p>In my view, a “conspiracy theory” is a case of fanciful, usually fact-free speculation positing some alternative explanation for an event. Typically, a “conspiracy theory” not only lacks any real evidence but often ignores compelling evidence that goes in other directions. For instance, the current conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama being born in Kenya despite birth certificates and birth notices of his birth in Hawaii.</p><p>By contrast, a real conspiracy can be defined as a collaboration among individuals to engage in criminal or scandalous behavior usually in a secretive manner. There are many such examples involving high government officials, including Richard Nixon’s Watergate and Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra Affair.</p><p>The difference between a “conspiracy theory” and a real conspiracy is that the latter is supported by substantial evidence and the former is reliant on someone simply thinking something up, often with partisan or ideological motivation.</p><p>There is, of course, much gray area between those two poles. There are cases in which some evidence exists indicating a conspiracy but it’s short of conclusive proof. In such cases of legitimate doubt, aggressive investigations are warranted – and the U.S. news media should welcome, not punish, these lines of inquiry.</p><p>Instead, the role of the mainstream press often has been to ridicule journalists and other investigators who venture into these murky waters. Often, that ridicule leads to serious cases of journalistic malfeasance as occurred with the mistreatment of Gary Webb and the Contra-cocaine story.</p><p>Other times the smug “anti-conspiracism” makes it impossible to get at the facts and to inform the American public about wrongdoing in a timely fashion. That can allow corrupt government officials to go unpunished and sometime to return to government in powerful positions.</p><p>The other important lesson to take from New York Magazine’s lumping real conspiracies and possible conspiracies in with fanciful conspiracy theories is that each case is unique and should be treated as such. Each set of facts should be examined carefully.</p><p>Just because one conspiracy can be proven doesn’t substantiate every claim of conspiracy. And the opposite is also true, just because one fact-free conspiracy theory is nutty doesn’t mean all suspected conspiracies deserve ridicule.</p><p>Through its anti-journalistic behavior, New York Magazine makes it hard to mourn its current financial predicament as it cuts back to publishing every other week. Indeed, the magazine is making a case that few tears should be shed if it disappears entirely.</p><p>Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in<a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">print here</a> or as an e-book (from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Stolen-Narrative-Washington-ebook/dp/B009RXXOIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1350755575&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=americas+stolen+narrative">Amazon</a> and <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/americas-stolen-narrative?keyword=americas+stolen+narrative&amp;store=ebook&amp;iehack=%E2%98%A0">barnesandnoble.com</a>). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer,<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/06/14/get-your-rewrite-of-us-history/">click here</a>.</p> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 13:56:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 931943 at http://lists.alternet.org Media Drugs Media contra-cocaine We Are Witnessing the Emergence of a Political Process That Allows Right-Wing Billionaires the Power to Turn off Govt. Like a Switch http://lists.alternet.org/we-are-witnessing-birth-political-process-allows-right-wing-billionaires-power-turn-govt-switch <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The fiscal crisis in Washington is not simply a threat to economic and government stability, as serious as that is. It is a premeditated scheme.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/62f9f1c6f6ad17816fa9de565c3d4bd3cc6ec3ce.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>That is what we’re watching now, what might be called the Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option,” pulling down the temple to destroy their enemies even if doing so is also destructive to them and their fortunes.</p><p>Charles and David Koch and other right-wing billionaires and near-billionaires are blind with anger after wasting millions of dollars on Mitt Romney, Karl Rove and the Republican Party in a failed attempt to defeat Barack Obama, the Democrats and health-care reform. These were the guys who smirked knowingly when Romney sneered at “the 47 percent” of Americans who receive some government help; they got snappish when Obama called them “fat cats”; they demanded the honorific title of “job creators.”</p><p>Then, they had to sit in their plush party rooms waiting to celebrate Romney’s victory only to be frustrated by a coalition of voters led by African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites who are comfortable in a more diverse country.</p><p>Despite all the money and electoral tricks, the Koch Brothers and friends failed to block the reelection of the first African-American president; they watched the Democrats defy the odds and retain the Senate; and they barely managed to hold onto a slender Republican House “majority” through aggressive gerrymandering and other anti-democratic anomalies that overcame the GOP’s loss in the popular vote of about 1½ million ballots.</p><p>To make matters worse, these rich white guys had to listen to endless commentary about the coming demographic changes and the need for Republicans to improve their image with racial and ethnic minorities. Through a blinding rage, the Right’s billionaires plotted revenge.</p><p>Plotting Obama’s Downfall</p><p>Of course, many pragmatic rich folk understand how the extraordinary U.S. system – built by the sweat and ingenuity of countless “average Americans” and protected by the blood of heroic common citizens – has made their fortunes possible. These patriotic multi-millionaires cringe at the spectacle of a U.S. government shutdown and panic at the thought of defaulting on U.S. debt.</p><p>But the right-wing billionaires and their political front groups welcome the current chaos. Indeed, they began planning today’s fiscal crisis as soon as their stunning defeat of last November sank in. Rather than behave as a loyal opposition, the Right started plotting soon after Obama took the oath of office a second time, as the New York Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/us/a-federal-budget-crisis-months-in-the-planning.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">reported</a>:</p><p>“Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.</p><p>“Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed ‘<a href="http://www.freedomworks.org/blog/ryanriebe/joint-letter-on-sequester-savings">blueprint to defunding Obamacare</a>,’ signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. …</p><p>“To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. …</p><p>“Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.</p><p>“The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.”</p><p>The Right also has relied on its well-financed propaganda machine to obscure for millions of Americans what is actually underway in Washington. The curtain on that was lifted briefly on Sunday with the recognition that the Democrats agreed to the budget terms demanded by House Speaker John Boehner, who then double-crossed them.</p><p>On TV interview shows, Boehner conceded that he had struck a deal with the Democrats in which the Senate would accept the lower House budget figures, which included the so-called “sequester” cuts, in exchange for passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government going.</p><p>Reneging on a Deal</p><p>As the Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/us/politics/obama-aide-urges-lawmakers-to-raise-debt-ceiling.html">reported</a>, “the speaker acknowledged that in July he had gone to the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid … and offered to have the House pass a clean financing resolution. [Boehner’s] proposal would have set spending levels $70 billion lower than Democrats wanted, but would have no contentious add-ons like changing the health-care law. Democrats accepted, but they say Mr. Boehner then reneged under pressure from Tea Party conservatives.”</p><p>So, Boehner had laid out terms for a deal that the Democrats disliked but agreed to accept, only to see Boehner pocket their major concession, tack on a host of new demands including stopping health-care reform, and then berating them with the “talking point” that it was the Democrats who wouldn’t negotiate.</p><p>There was also the point that House Republicans had refused for six months to appoint members of a conference committee to hammer out budget differences between the House and Senate.</p><p>If not for the powerful right-wing media which continues to repeat the “Democrats won’t negotiate” mantra, the American public would have no doubt who provoked the current crisis. But what’s even more significant is what this right-wing strategy means to the future of American democracy.</p><p>The position of the Koch Brothers and other right-wing plutocrats is that democracy itself is the problem. It’s bad enough that they have to listen to views that they disagree with; they certainly shouldn’t have to sit back and watch these lesser beings elect leaders and enact policies that involve raising taxes on the rich to provide benefits to other Americans.</p><p>While reflective of “free-market” extremism, this right-wing view also has a racial component, since the Right’s billionaires have relied on Tea Party foot soldiers to fight these political wars – and many of those white populist right-wingers are attracted by neo-Confederate ideology, i.e. the supposed “rights” of states to ignore federal mandates, especially those designed to help blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.</p><p>“States’ rights” have had a long and grim history in the United States, touted from the early years of the Republic as necessary to defend slavery, then leading to the Civil War and to a near-century of Jim Crow racial segregation.</p><p>After the civil rights movement of the 1960s, opportunistic Republicans, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, saw their chance to snatch the South by playing to white resentment against integration. So, they played up their commitment to “states’ rights” and were rewarded by switching the Deep South from the Democrats to the GOP.</p><p>Danger of Fair Elections</p><p>Today, however, the Right fears that the nation’s demographic changes could mean that fair elections would end frequently with the selection of candidates who favor stronger federal action to address problems confronting the nation and the world, from the economic risk posed by the concentration of wealth in the top one percent to the existential threat posed by global warming.</p><p>An energetic federal government is needed to address these challenges. If the Great American Middle Class is to survive, Congress will have to raise taxes on the rich and invest that money in national infrastructure, cutting-edge research, affordable education, expanded health care and other domestic programs. If global warming is to be slowed and eventually reversed, the federal government must move quickly to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions while revamping the U.S. energy system.</p><p>But the Right wants to prevent such government activism. So, it has developed strategies to give more weight to the votes of white Republicans and less weight to the votes of blacks, Hispanics and other groups that tend to go Democratic. That’s why organizations supported by the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires have backed Republican efforts to impose strict voter ID laws, reduce voting hours and aggressively gerrymander congressional districts to lump Democratic votes in one while ensuring solid Republican majorities in others.</p><p>The Right is implementing a strategy as old as the southern poll tax and literacy tests for blacks, i.e. the need to negate post-Civil War amendments that guaranteed equal rights under the law and the right to vote regardless of the color of a person’s skin.</p><p>Today’s right-wing strategy follows the thinking of urbane conservative William F. Buckley, who explained in 1957 – when Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders were agitating for enforcement of post-Civil War provisions – that “The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”</p><p>Now the Buckley doctrine is being applied nationwide. But the problem for the Right is that even with all the voter suppression and shorter voting hours creating nightmarish lines especially in minority neighborhoods, the American people still reelected Barack Obama and favored Democrats over Republicans for Congress.</p><p>Thanks to gerrymandering and other anti-democratic moves, the Right still has a tenuous foothold through its control of the House and can count on the Senate GOP minority to filibuster nearly everything.</p><p>However, for the Right to have the power to implement policies of its choice, a new strategy was needed. It surfaced first in 2011 with the threat to default on the nation’s debt, which coerced President Obama into accepting severe cuts in federal spending, called the “sequester.”</p><p>Now, in 2013, the Republican Right has doubled down on that strategy, merging a government shutdown with an impending credit default in an effort to extort more concessions from Obama and the Democrats. But the larger goal is to create a new constitutional structure in which the Right, regardless of its minority status, gets to dictate what the federal government can and cannot do.</p><p>To make this strategy work, however, requires a readiness to play Samson and to pull down the temple on your enemies as well as yourself. That appears to be the extreme option that the Koch Brothers and their fellow right-wing billionaires have chosen. If they can’t rule America, they will reduce the country to economic rubble through a fiscal crisis and a premeditated financial collapse.</p><p>Then, perhaps out of the rubble, a chastened American people will emerge to accept their subordinate position in this new plutocratic structure. In the future, they will know better than to do something that the Koch Brothers and their right-wing friends don’t like.</p><p>All that stuff about a government of the people, by the people and for the people will finally have perished from the earth.  [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com's "<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/10/03/americas-government-by-extortion/">America's Government by Extortion</a>."]</p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 08:11:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 907635 at http://lists.alternet.org The Right Wing kochs White, Right-Wing Racism Is Alive and Well in the USA http://lists.alternet.org/civil-liberties/white-racism-alive-and-well-usa <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The House GOP dumping the food stamp program, continuing GOP assaults on voting rights, and bizarre celebrations of the Trayvon Martin verdict are clear signs.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1340645887563-1-0_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If there remained any doubt about the connection between American racism and “small-government conservatism,” the Tea Party-dominated House Republican majority helped remove it last week in its handling of the farm bill. The Republicans larded on extra money for agricultural subsidies benefiting mostly white-owned agribusiness and then lopped off the food-stamp program entirely. It, after all, benefits a disproportionate share of blacks and other racial minorities.</p><p>In this exercise of government favoritism for wealthy whites and cruelty toward the poor (many blacks and other minorities), the pretense of free-market economics was even stripped away. If “libertarianism” were not just a polite cover for racism, the House Republicans would have killed agricultural subsidies, too.</p><p>In justifying the House action on food stamps, Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tennessee, referred to the New Testament but ignored the teachings of Jesus, who told his followers to feed the poor and care for the needy. Instead, Fincher extracted a line from Thessalonians, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”But the Republicans didn’t. They seemed fine with various forms of taxpayer giveaways to white-owned agribusinesses, but they were determined to inflict as much pain as possible on blacks and minorities who already have suffered the most from the Great Recession. There was even a cruel vindictiveness to the process.</p><p>But it turned out that the starving mandate did not apply to Fincher, who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/us/politics/farm-subsidy-recipient-backs-food-stamp-cuts.html?_r=0">has been a recipient</a> of several million dollars in farm subsidies, including $70,000 in direct payments in 2012 alone for doing nothing. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/opinion/krugman-hunger-games-usa.html?ref=opinion">wrote</a> on Monday, “I don’t think the word ‘hypocrisy’ does it justice.”</p><p>Obviously, the Republican mean-spirited behavior is not entirely aimed at minorities. As Krugman noted, “almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites” and the percentage is 63 percent in Fincher’s Tennessee district. But race remains a powerful driving force for the GOP’s behavior.</p><p>Indeed, whenever you run up against right-wing hypocrisy, it’s a safe bet that race is a factor. For instance, Tea Partiers love to go to Washington, dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and protest their taxation <em>with</em>representation. But they are remarkably silent about a continuation of “taxation <em>without</em> representation” for the residents of the District, many of whom are black.</p><p>Yes, it’s true that D.C. whites are also denied congressional representation but you can bet that if D.C. were overwhelmingly white (and right-wing) rather than substantially black (and liberal), the Tea Partiers would be screaming about the injustice of it all.</p><p>It’s also true that the Republican insistence of voter IDs (to eliminate the virtually non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud) will disenfranchise some poor and elderly whites who may not have drivers’ licenses. But the right-wing politicians who are pushing these laws know that on balance it will keep more black- and brown-skinned Americans from the polls.</p><p>That’s the numbers game they’re playing. But to rig the elections, they must frame their maneuvers in “race-neutral” ways, which means that, sadly, some whites must be disenfranchised along with blacks and other minorities. Those whites shut out from elections amount to collateral damage in the war to “take our country back.”</p><p><strong>Pleasing Euphemisms</strong></p><p>“Free market,” “libertarian,” “contract rights” and “small government” are the current in-vogue euphemisms for maintaining white supremacy. Though you still hear, “states’ rights” from some right-wing politicians, the phrase does have a stigma from the battles to protect segregation a half century ago.</p><p>But these various concepts – all targeting the possibility that the federal government might reflect the democratic will of the American people and act against racial bigotry or other injustices – can be traced back to the original political battles of the young Republic over slavery.</p><p>The Federalists, who were the prime movers behind the Constitution, were what you might call “pragmatic nationalists.” They understood that the point of the document crafted in Philadelphia in 1787 and ratified in 1788 was to centralize power in the federal government and enable it to take the actions necessary to build the country.</p><p>Their “originalist” view of the Constitution could be described as the federal government doing whatever it must to protect the country and advance the nation’s “general welfare.” Many Framers were troubled by slavery but they were not purists. They even accepted repulsive compromises that counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of representation in Congress. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/07/06/the-rights-made-up-constitution/">The Right’s Made-up Constitution</a>.”]</p><p>Nevertheless, Southern Anti-Federalists – the likes of Virginia’s George Mason and Patrick Henry – argued that the Constitution, by centralizing power in the federal government, would inevitably lead the United States to outlaw slavery and cost wealthy plantation owners their massive capital investment in human chattel.</p><p>Though these Anti-Federalists narrowly lost the fight over ratification, they didn’t fade away. They organized behind the charismatic Thomas Jefferson, who had been in France during the writing and ratifying of the Constitution. Jefferson served as Secretary of State under Federalist George Washington and as Vice President under Federalist John Adams, but he fought the ambitious nation-building plans of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and undermined Adams. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/07/04/rethinking-thomas-jefferson/">Rethinking Thomas Jefferson</a>.”]</p><p><strong>Protecting Slavery</strong></p><p>As the new constitutional Republic took shape, worried plantation owners, including many Anti-Federalists, organized themselves as the core of an agrarian-based political movement that is commonly referred to as Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. The party presented itself as representing the interests of simple farmers, but – in reality – the base of Jefferson’s movement was in the slaveholding aristocracy.</p><p>Jefferson himself was a deeply racist individual who made a mockery of the words he wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal.” He engaged in the pseudo-science of skull measurements to argue in<em>Notes on the State of Virginia</em> that African-Americans were inferior to whites. He also insisted that it would be impossible for whites to live in the same country with freed blacks.</p><p>But Jefferson proved to be a skilled – if unscrupulous – political leader. His party’s success, in first demonizing the Federalist Party and then dethroning its leaders, led to a 24-year run of Virginian presidents, starting with Jefferson in 1801 and followed by Jefferson’s neighbors and protégés, James Madison (a former Federalist ally of Washington) in 1809 and James Monroe (who had been one of the early Anti-Federalists allied with Mason and Henry) in 1817.</p><p>All three were slaveholders who defended the institution of slavery and opposed the manumission (or freeing) of slaves in the United States. As Virginia’s governor in 1800, Monroe called out the state militia to brutally put down an incipient slave revolt known as Gabriel’s Rebellion, with 26 alleged conspirators hanged. Jefferson and Madison pondered various schemes for deporting freed African-Americans.</p><p>Though slavery was always in the background, the chief political principle of Jefferson’s party was to roll back the Constitution’s empowerment of the federal government and to claim that the document’s seemingly expansive powers were really quite narrow. The effect was to shield the interests of slaveholders who feared that their investments in bondage might otherwise be lost.</p><p>By the end of the Virginia Dynasty in 1825, the roots of slavery had dug down even deeper in America’s soil with many Virginian plantation owners, who had exhausted their own land by overuse, starting a new industry: breeding slaves for sale to the new slave states to the west. The United States was on course for the Civil War. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/06/23/the-rights-dubious-claim-to-madison/">The Right’s Dubious Claim to Madison</a>.”]</p><p><strong>The Demise of Slavery</strong></p><p>Ironically, just as the Anti-Federalists had feared, the growing industrial power of the North and its swelling immigrant population tilted national power away from the South. But slavery was still defended by Jefferson’s Democratic Party, which competed against the Whigs and then the Republicans, based primarily in the North.</p><p>The election of anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln was the final straw for hard-line slavers who then orchestrated the secession of 11 Southern states. With secession, the Democratic Party lost much of its representation in Congress.</p><p>Despite the centrality of slavery to the War Between the States, Southerners insisted then – and some still do today – that the conflict was not about slavery, but about “limited government,” “constraints on federal power,” “states’ rights,” and “contract rights.” But the inconvenient truth was that the Confederacy quickly drafted a constitution perpetuating slavery and the South conditioned its later peace negotiations on slavery’s continuation.</p><p>In the final days of the war in 1865, while the Southern states were still in rebellion, Lincoln engineered passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. After the South’s surrender and Lincoln’s assassination, the Radical Republicans pushed through the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law and the Fifteenth Amendment assuring the right to vote regardless of one’s color.</p><p>After the Southern states returned to the Union – and especially after Reconstruction ended in 1877 – the pro-slave Democratic Party became the party of Jim Crow and made possible the brutal oppression of freed blacks, who faced lynching and other acts of terror. The solid Democratic South only changed in the 1960s when the national Democratic Party took the lead in passing major civil rights laws.</p><p>The so-called Dixie-crats were then welcomed into the Republican Party by opportunistic politicians such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Given the stigma of outright racism, Nixon, Reagan and other Republicans employed code words – dog whistles – that were heard by the white racists but could be explained away to more enlightened Americans.</p><p><strong>Rebranding as Patriots</strong></p><p>Thus, we were back to euphemisms about “limited government,” “constraints on federal power,” “states’ rights,” and “contract rights.” One other cosmetic change in the new millennium was for the Right to “rebrand” itself from its overt love of the Old Confederacy to a supposed harkening back to the Framers’ “originalist” view of the Constitution.</p><p>Except that instead of citing the pragmatic nationalism of Washington, Hamilton, Adams and the earlier incarnation of Madison – who all favored a vibrant central government – the Right promoted the revisionist version of a weak central government as devised by Jefferson and the Southern slaveholders.</p><p>With the election of the first African-American president in 2008, and with it the recognition of the demographic changes that Barack Obama represented, the lightly repressed racism of the American Right bubbled to the surface with conspiracy theories about Obama’s supposed Kenyan birth and posters showing him in African tribal dress with a bone through his nose.</p><p>Of course, Republican and Tea Party leaders still insisted that their political movement was not about racism, but<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/06/27/the-marriage-of-libertarians-and-racists/">about free markets</a> and removing the heavy hand of government regulation. But their actions kept belying their words, both in the racially tinged legislation – like discriminatory voter ID laws, <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/07/12/igoring-the-gops-white-racism/">resistance to immigration reform</a>and elimination of food stamps – and in the rulings of the right-wing Supreme Court, such as <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/06/25/supreme-courts-war-on-democracy/">gutting the Voting Rights Act</a>.</p><p>Then, there was the right-wing backlash on Fox News and talk radio against the public outrage over the murder of an unarmed 17-year-old African-American boy Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Some right-wing commentators even celebrated the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman on Saturday, much as an earlier generation of racists cheered “not guilty” verdicts for Klansmen accused of lynching uppity Negroes.</p><p>When confronting the apparent glee that some right-wingers expressed over Zimmerman’s acquittal – and facing comparable sentiments when the Supreme Court’s majority trashed the Voting Rights Act and House Republicans axed food stamps for the poor – one has to wonder where these white racists hope to take the United States.</p><p>In their ugly words and deeds, there is an echo of Jefferson and an earlier generation of American racists who wistfully hoped that they could ship non-whites out of the United States and make the young nation white and homogenous.</p><p>We heard that wistful voice again last year in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanting to make life so miserable for Hispanic immigrants that they would “self-deport” and complaining that Obama was giving “stuff” to the unworthy “47 percent” whose color in the mind’s eyes of Romney’s white listeners was surely of a darker hue.</p><p>The current dysfunction of the Congress is another distant echo of the pre-Civil War days when Southern whites obstructed any proposal for federal government action, even disaster relief, as a possible precedent for ending slavery. In the modern case, the fear may be that the federal government will help non-whites gain genuine political power.</p><p>So, what is becoming painfully apparent is that the pleasant thought that the United States was finally reaching a post-racial future isn’t true. The only question is whether the reassertion of white supremacy – now in the guise of “small-government conservatism” – will succeed in creating a Second Jim Crow era.</p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 13:16:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 870214 at http://lists.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties racism The Long, Sordid History of the American Right and Racism http://lists.alternet.org/civil-liberties/long-sordid-history-american-right-and-racism <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Other factors have come and gone for the Right, but racism has always been there. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1368867058714-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>Racism has been a consistent thread weaving through the American Right from the early days when Anti-Federalists battled against the U.S. Constitution to the present when hysterical Tea Partiers denounce the first African-American president. Other factors have come and gone for the Right, but racism has always been there.</p><p>Though definitions of Right and Left are never precise, the Left has generally been defined, in the American context, by government actions – mostly the federal government responding to popular movements and representing the collective will of the American people – seeking to improve the lot of common citizens and to reduce social injustice.</p><p>The Right has been defined by opposition to such government activism. Since the Founding, the Right has decried government interference with the “free market” and intrusion upon “traditions,” like slavery and segregation, as “tyranny” or “socialism.”</p><p>This argument goes back to 1787 and opposition to the Constitution’s centralizing of government power in the hands of federal authorities. In Virginia, for instance, the Anti-Federalists feared that a strong federal government eventually would outlaw slavery in the Southern states.</p><p>Ironically, this argument was raised by two of the most famous voices for “liberty,” Patrick Henry and George Mason. Those two Virginians spearheaded the Anti-Federalist cause at the state’s ratifying convention in June 1788, urging rejection of the Constitution because, they argued, it would lead to slavery’s demise.</p><p>The irony of Henry and Mason scaring fellow Virginians about the Constitution’s threat to slavery is that the two men have gone down in popular U.S. history as great espousers of freedom. Before the Revolution, Henry was quoted as declaring, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Mason is hailed as a leading force behind the Bill of Rights. However, their notion of “liberty” and “rights” was always selective. Henry and Mason worried about protecting the “freedom” of plantation owners to possess other human beings as property.</p><p>At Virginia’s Ratification Convention, Henry and Mason raised other arguments against the proposed Constitution, such as concerns that Virginia’s preeminence might not be as great as under the weak Articles of Confederation and that population gains in the North might erode Virginia’s economic welfare.</p><p>But the pair’s most potent argument was the danger they foresaw regarding the abolition of slavery. As historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg wrote in their 2010 book, Madison and Jefferson, the hot button for Henry and Mason was that “slavery, the source of Virginia’s tremendous wealth, lay politically unprotected.”</p><p><strong>The Slavery Card</strong></p><p>At the center of this fear was the state’s loss of ultimate control over its militia which could be “federalized” by the President as the nation’s commander in chief under the new Constitution.</p><p>“Mason repeated what he had said during the Constitutional Convention: that the new government failed to provide for ‘domestic safety’ if there was no explicit protection for Virginians’ slave property,” Burstein and Isenberg wrote. “Henry called up the by-now-ingrained fear of slave insurrections – the direct result, he believed, of Virginia’s loss of authority over its own militia.”</p><p>Henry floated conspiracy theories about possible subterfuges that the federal government might employ to deny Virginians and other Southerners the “liberty” to own African-Americans. Describing this fear-mongering, Burstein and Isenberg wrote:</p><p>“Congress, if it wished, could draft every slave into the military and liberate them at the end of their service. If troop quotas were determined by population, and Virginia had over 200,000 slaves, Congress might say: ‘Every black man must fight.’ For that matter, a northern-controlled Congress might tax slavery out of existence.</p><p>“Mason and Henry both ignored the fact that the Constitution protected slavery on the strength of the three-fifths clause, the fugitive slave clause, and the slave trade clause. Their rationale was that none of this mattered if the North should have its way.”</p><p>At Philadelphia in 1787, the drafters of the Constitution had already capitulated to the South’s insistence on its brutal institution of human enslavement. That surrender became the line of defense that James Madison, a principal architect of the new governing structure, cited in his response to Mason and Henry.</p><p>Burstein and Isenberg wrote, “Madison rose to reject their conspiratorial view. He argued that the central government had no power to order emancipation, and that Congress would never ‘alienate the affections five-thirteenths of the Union’ by stripping southerners of their property. ‘Such an idea never entered into any American breast,’ he said indignantly, ‘nor do I believe it ever will.’</p><p>“Madison was doing his best to make Henry and Mason sound like fear-mongers. Yet Mason struck a chord in his insistence that northerners could never understand slavery; and Henry roused the crowd with his refusal to trust ‘any man on earth’ with his rights. Virginians were hearing that their sovereignty was in jeopardy.”</p><p>Despite the success of Mason and Henry to play on the fears of plantation owners, the broader arguments stressing the advantages of Union carried the day, albeit narrowly. Virginia ultimately approved ratification by 89 to 79. However, the South’s obsession over perceived threats to its institution of slavery remained a central factor in the early decades of the Republic.</p><p><strong>Arming Whites</strong></p><p>Though today’s Right pretends that the Second Amendment was devised to give individual Americans the right to own and carry any weapon of their choice – so they can shoot policemen, soldiers and other government representatives in the cause of anti-government “liberty” – it was primarily a concession to the states and especially to the South’s fears that were expressed at the Virginia convention.</p><p>Approved by the First Congress as part of the “Bill of Rights,” the Second Amendment explained its purpose as the need to maintain “the security of a free State,” an echo of Mason’s concerns about “domestic safety,” i.e. a Southern state’s ability to maintain slavery by force and defend against slave uprisings.</p><p>As the amendment emerged from various committee rewrites, it stated: “A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But that right, of course, did not extend to all people, not to people of color.</p><p>The Second Congress put substance to the structure of state militias by passing the Militia Acts, which specifically mandated that “white men” of military age obtain muskets and other supplies for participation in state militias. At the time, the concerns were not entirely over rebellious slaves, but also over rebellious poor whites.</p><p>Part of the backdrop of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 had been Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787, an uprising of white farmers led by a former Continental Army officer, Daniel Shays. After ratification of the Constitution, the first significant use of federalized militias was in 1794 to crush an anti-tax revolt in western Pennsylvania led by poor whites known as the Whiskey Rebellion.</p><p>That uprising was treated as an act of treason as defined by the U.S. Constitution, although President Washington used his pardon power to spare rebel leaders from execution by hanging. Similar mercy was not shown when Southern states confronted actual or suspected slave revolts. In 1800, Virginia Gov. James Monroe called out the militia to stop an incipient slave uprising known as Gabriel’s Rebellion. Twenty-six alleged conspirators were hanged.</p><p><strong>Jeffersonian Influences</strong></p><p>Of course, slavery and racism were not the only defining characteristics of the Right during the country’s early years, as economic interests diverged and political rivalries surfaced. James Madison, for instance, had been a key protégé of George Washington and an ally of Alexander Hamilton during the fight for the Constitution.</p><p>Madison had even advocated for a greater concentration of power in the federal government, including giving Congress the explicit power to veto state laws. However, after the Constitution was in place, Madison began siding with his Virginian neighbor (and fellow slave-owner) Thomas Jefferson in political opposition to the Federalists.</p><p>In the first years of the constitutional Republic, the Federalists, led by President Washington and Treasury Secretary Hamilton, pushed the limits of federal power, particularly with Hamilton’s idea of a national bank which was seen as favoring the financial interests of the North to the detriment of the more agrarian South.</p><p>The Jeffersonians, coalescing around Jefferson and Madison, fiercely opposed Hamilton’s national economic planning though the differences often seemed to be driven by personal animosities and regional rivalries as much as by any grand ideological vision regarding government authority. The Jeffersonians, for instance, were sympathetic to the bloody French Revolution, which made a mockery of the rule of law and the restraint of government power.</p><p>Nevertheless, history has generally been kind to Jefferson’s enthusiasm for a more agrarian America and his supposed commitment to the common man. But what is left out of this praise for “Jeffersonian democracy” is that Jefferson’s use of the word “farmers” was often a euphemism for his actual political base, the slave-owning plantation aristocrats of the South.</p><p>At his core, despite his intellectual brilliance, Jefferson was just another Southern hypocrite. He wrote that “all men are created equal” (in the Declaration of Independence) but he engaged in pseudo-science to portray African-Americans as inferior to whites (as he did in his Notes on the State of Virginia).</p><p>His racism rationalized his own economic and personal reliance on slavery. While desperately afraid of slave rebellions, he is alleged to have taken a young slave girl, Sally Hemings, as a mistress.</p><p>Jefferson’s hypocrisy also surfaced in his attitudes toward a slave revolt in the French colony of St. Domingue, where African slaves took seriously the Jacobins’ cry of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” After their demands for freedom were rebuffed and the brutal French plantation system continued, violent slave uprisings followed. Hundreds of white plantation owners were slain as the rebels overran the colony. A self-educated slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture emerged as the revolution’s leader, demonstrating skills on the battlefield and in the complexities of politics.</p><p><strong>The ‘Black Jacobins’</strong></p><p>Despite the atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict, the rebels – known as the “Black Jacobins” – gained the sympathy of the American Federalists. L’Ouverture negotiated friendly relations with the Federalist administration under President John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton, a native of the Caribbean himself, helped L’Ouverture draft a constitution.</p><p>But events in Paris and Washington soon conspired to undo the promise of Haiti’s emancipation from slavery. Despite the Federalist sympathies, many American slave-owners, including Jefferson, looked nervously at the slave rebellion in St. Domingue. Jefferson feared that slave uprisings might spread northward. “If something is not done, and soon done,” Jefferson wrote in 1797, “we shall be the murderers of our own children.”</p><p>Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the chaos and excesses of the French Revolution led to the ascendance of Napoleon Bonaparte, a brilliant and vain military commander possessed of legendary ambition. As he expanded his power across Europe, Napoleon also dreamed of rebuilding a French empire in the Americas.</p><p>In 1801, Jefferson became the third President of the United States – and his interests at least temporarily aligned with Napoleon’s. The French dictator wanted to restore French control of St. Domingue and Jefferson wanted to see the slave rebellion crushed. President Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison collaborated with Napoleon through secret diplomatic channels. Napoleon asked Jefferson if the United States would help a French army traveling by sea to St. Domingue. Jefferson replied that “nothing will be easier than to furnish your army and fleet with everything and reduce Toussaint [L’Ouverture] to starvation.”</p><p>But Napoleon had a secret second phase of his plan that he didn’t share with Jefferson. Once the French army had subdued L’Ouverture and his rebel force, Napoleon intended to advance to the North American mainland, basing a new French empire in New Orleans and settling the vast territory west of the Mississippi River.</p><p><strong>Stopping Napoleon</strong></p><p>In 1802, the French expeditionary force achieved initial success against the slave army, driving L’Ouverture’s forces back into the mountains. But, as they retreated, the ex-slaves torched the cities and the plantations, destroying the colony’s once-thriving economic infrastructure. L’Ouverture, hoping to bring the war to an end, accepted Napoleon’s promise of a negotiated settlement that would ban future slavery in the country. As part of the agreement, L’Ouverture turned himself in.</p><p>But Napoleon broke his word. Jealous and contemptuous of L’Ouverture, who was regarded by some admirers as a general with skills rivaling Napoleon’s, the French dictator had L’Ouverture shipped in chains back to Europe where he was mistreated and died in prison.</p><p>Infuriated by the betrayal, L’Ouverture’s young generals resumed the war with a vengeance. In the months that followed, the French army – already decimated by disease – was overwhelmed by a fierce enemy fighting in familiar terrain and determined not to be put back into slavery. Napoleon sent a second French army, but it too was destroyed. Though the famed general had conquered much of Europe, he lost 24,000 men, including some of his best troops, in St. Domingue before abandoning his campaign. The death toll among the ex-slaves was much higher, but they had prevailed, albeit over a devastated land.</p><p>By 1803, a frustrated Napoleon – denied his foothold in the New World – agreed to sell New Orleans and the Louisiana territories to Jefferson, a negotiation handled by Madison that ironically required just the sort of expansive interpretation of federal powers that the Jeffersonians ordinarily disdained. However, a greater irony was that the Louisiana Purchase, which opened the heart of the present United States to American settlement and is regarded as possibly Jefferson’s greatest achievement as president, had been made possible despite Jefferson’s misguided – and racist – collaboration with Napoleon.</p><p>“By their long and bitter struggle for independence, St. Domingue’s blacks were instrumental in allowing the United States to more than double the size of its territory,” wrote Stanford University professor John Chester Miller in his book, The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. But, Miller observed, “the decisive contribution made by the black freedom fighters … went almost unnoticed by the Jeffersonian administration.”</p><p><strong>Consequences of Racism</strong></p><p>Without L’Ouverture’s leadership, the island nation fell into a downward spiral. In 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the radical slave leader who had replaced L’Ouverture, formally declared the nation’s independence and returned it to its original Indian name, Haiti. A year later, apparently fearing a return of the French, Dessalines ordered the massacre of the remaining French whites on the island. Jefferson reacted to the bloodshed by imposing a stiff economic embargo on Haiti. In 1806, Dessalines himself was brutally assassinated, touching off a cycle of political violence that would haunt Haiti for the next two centuries.</p><p>Even in his final years, Jefferson remained obsessed with Haiti and its link to the issue of American slavery. In the 1820s, the former president proposed a scheme for taking away the children born to black slaves in the United States and shipping them to Haiti. In that way, Jefferson posited that both slavery and America’s black population could be phased out. Eventually, in Jefferson’s view, Haiti would be all black and the United States white.</p><p>While the racism of Jefferson and many of his followers may be undeniable, it is not so easy to distinguish between Right and Left in those early years of the American Republic. Though Hamilton was more open-minded toward freedom for black slaves, there were elements of his government intervention on behalf of the fledgling financial sector that might today be regarded as “pro-business” or elitist as there were parts of Jefferson’s attitude toward greater populism that might be seen as more “democratic.”</p><p><strong>Stumbling toward War</strong></p><p>Yet, as the first generation of American leaders passed away and the nation expanded westward, the issue of slavery remained a threat to America’s unity. The South’s aggressive defense of its lucrative institution of slavery opened violent rifts between pro-slave and pro-free settlers in territories to the west.</p><p>The modern distinctions between America’s Right and Left also became more pronounced, defined increasingly by race. The North, building a manufacturing economy and influenced by the emancipationist movement, turned increasingly against slavery, while the South, with a more agrarian economy and much of its capital invested in slaves, could see no future without the continuation of slavery.</p><p>Politically, those distinctions played out not unlike what Anti-Federalists George Mason and Patrick Henry had predicted at Virginia’s ratification convention in 1788. The North gradually gained dominance in wealth and population and the South’s barbaric practice of slavery emerged as a hindrance to America’s growing reputation in the world.</p><p>So, a key divide of U.S. politics between Right and Left became the differences over issues of slavery and race. The racist aspects of the Anti-Federalists and the “Jeffersonian democrats” became a defining feature of the American Right as captured in the argument for “states’ rights,” i.e., the rights of the Southern states either to nullify federal laws or to secede from the Union.</p><p>Though the concentration of power in Washington D.C. gave rise to legitimate questions about authoritarianism, the federal government also became the guiding hand for the nation’s economic development and for elimination of gross regional injustices such as slavery. Federal action in defense of national principles regarding justice eventually helped define the American Left.</p><p>But the slave-owning South would not go down without a fight. After the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860, 11 Southern states seceded from the Union and established the Confederate States of America with the goal of perpetuating slavery forever. It took four years of war to force the Southern states back into the Union and finally bring slavery to an end.</p><p>However, the Southern aristocracy soon reclaimed control of the region’s political structure and instituted nearly a century more of racial oppression against blacks. During this Jim Crow era, racism – and the cruel enforcement of racial segregation – remained central elements of the American Right.</p><p><strong>An Anti-Government Coalition</strong></p><p>In the latter half of the Nineteenth Century and the early Twentieth Century, other political and economic factors bolstered the Right, particularly a class of Northern industrialists and financiers known as the Robber Barons. Their insistence on laissez-faire economics in the North – and their opposition to reformers such as Theodore Roosevelt – dovetailed with anti-federal attitudes among the South’s white aristocracy.</p><p>That coalition, however, was shattered by a string of Wall Street panics and other economic catastrophes culminating in the Great Depression. With millions of Americans out of work and many facing starvation, Franklin Roosevelt’s administration initiated the New Deal which put people back to work building national infrastructure and imposing government regulations on the freewheeling ways of Wall Street.</p><p>Under Roosevelt, laws were changed to respect the rights of labor unions and social movements arose demanding greater civil rights for blacks and women. The Left gained unprecedented ascendance. However, the old alliance of rich Northern industriasts and Southern segregationists saw dangers in this new assertion of federal power. The business barons saw signs of “socialism” and the white supremacists feared “race-mixing.”</p><p>After World War II – with the United States now a world superpower – the continued existence of institutionalized racism became an embarrassment undermining America’s claim to be a beacon of human freedom. Finally, spurred on by Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, the federal government finally moved against the South’s practice of segregation. That reignited the long-simmering conflict between federal power and states’ rights.</p><p>Though the federal government prevailed in outlawing racial segregation, the Right’s anger over this intrusion upon Southern traditions fueled a powerful new movement of right-wing politicians. Since the Democratic Party led the fight against segregation in the 1960s, Southern whites rallied to the Republican Party as their vehicle of political resistance.</p><p>Opportunistic politicians, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, deftly exploited the white backlash and turned much of the Dixie-crat South into solid Republican Red. This resurgence of white racial resentments also merged with a reassertion of “libertarian” economics as memories of the Great Depression faded. In essence, the late Nineteenth Century alliance between segregationist whites in the South and laissez-faire businessmen in the North was being reestablished.</p><p>This right-wing collaboration reached a new level of intensity in 2008 after the election of the first African-American president whose victory reflected the emergence of a multi-racial electorate threatening to end the historic white political domination of the United States. With the election also coming amid a Wall Street financial collapse – after years of reduced government regulation — Barack Obama’s arrival also portended a renewal of federal government activism. Thus, the age-old battle was rejoined.</p><p>Yet, given the cultural tenor of the time, the Right found it difficult to engage in overt racial slurs against Obama, nor could it openly seek to deny voting rights to black and brown people. New code words were needed. So Obama’s legitimacy as an American was questioned with spurious claims that he had been born in Kenya, and Republicans demanded tighter ballot security to prevent “voter fraud.”</p><p>Today’s Right also recognized that it could not simply emphasize its Confederate heritage. A more politically correct re-branding was needed. So, the Right shifted its imagery from the “Stars and Bars” battle flag of the Confederacy to the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag of the American Revolution. That way, Americans who don’t overtly see themselves as racist could be drawn into the movement. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/05/07/the-rights-re-branding-1860-to-1776/">The Right’s Re-Branding: 1860 to 1776</a>.”]</p><p>However, the historical narrative that the Right constructed around the nation’s Founding was not the one that actually happened. In seeking to present themselves as the true defenders of the Constitution, the Right had to air-brush out the failed experiment with the Articles of Confederation, which had made the states “sovereign” and “independent” with the central government just a “league of friendship.”</p><p>The Constitution represented the nation’s greatest transfer of power into federal hands in U.S. history, as engineered by Washington, Madison and Hamilton. Indeed, Madison favored even greater dominance by the central government over the states than he ultimately got in the Constitution.</p><p>However, in the Right’s revisionist version, the Articles of Confederation are forgotten and the Framers were simply out to create a governing system with strong states’ rights and a weak federal government. That fabrication played well with an uneducated right-wing base that could then envision itself using its Second Amendment rights to fight for the Framers’ vision of “liberty.”</p><p>As this right-wing narrative now plays out, Barack Obama is not only a black Muslim “socialist” oppressing liberty-loving white Christian Americans but he is a “tyrant” despoiling the beautiful, nearly divine, God-inspired Constitution that the Framers bestowed upon the nation — including, apparently, those wonderful provisions protecting slavery.</p> Mon, 20 May 2013 11:39:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 842946 at http://lists.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties race right america Howard Kurtz’s Belated Comeuppance: The Media Critic's Firing Comes After a Long History of Journalistic Abuses http://lists.alternet.org/media/howard-kurtzs-belated-comeuppance-media-critics-firing-comes-after-long-history-journalistic <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Throughout his career, he has consistently -– and unfairly -– punished journalists who had the courage to ask tough questions and pursue truly important stories.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/480px-howard_kurtz_2012_shankbone.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>For nearly a quarter century, Howard Kurtz has served as hall monitor for Washington’s conventional wisdom, handing out demerits to independent-minded journalists who don’t abide by the mainstream rules. So, there is some understandable pleasure seeing Kurtz face some accountability in his ouster as bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast.</p><p>However, the more salient point is that Kurtz, who continues to host CNN’s “Reliable Sources” show, should never have achieved the level of influence in journalism that he did. Throughout his career, he has consistently – and unfairly – punished journalists who had the courage to ask tough questions and pursue truly important stories.</p><p>When one looks at the mess that is modern journalism in the United States, a chief culprit has been Howard Kurtz. Yet, his downfall did not come because of his smearing of fellow journalists – like Gary Webb and Helen Thomas – but rather from a blog post that unfairly criticized basketball player Jason Collins after he revealed that he was gay.</p><p>Kurtz faulted Collins for supposedly not revealing that he had once been engaged to a woman, but Collins had mentioned those marriage plans. Twitter exploded with comments about Kurtz’s sloppy error. On Thursday, The Daily Beast retracted the post, and the Web site’s editor-in-chief Tina Brown <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/business/media/howard-kurtz-leaves-daily-beast-after-column-is-retracted.html?_r=0">announced</a> that Kurtz would be departing.</p><p>However, Kurtz has committed far more serious offenses during his years destroying the careers of journalists who dared make life a bit uncomfortable for Official Washington’s powerful elites. For instance, Kurtz played a key role in the destruction of investigative reporter Gary Webb, who had the courage to revive the long-suppressed Contra-cocaine story in the mid-1990s.</p><p>Working at the San Jose Mercury-News, Webb produced a multi-part series in 1996 revealing how cocaine that was smuggled into the United States by operatives connected to the Nicaraguan Contra war of the 1980s had contributed to the “crack cocaine” epidemic that ravaged U.S. cities. Webb’s articles put the major U.S. news media on the spot because most mainstream outlets had dismissed the Contra-cocaine allegations when they first surfaced in the mid-1980s.</p><p>My Associated Press colleague Brian Barger and I wrote the first story about the Contra-cocaine scandal in 1985 and our work was met with a mix of condescension and contempt from the New York Times and the Washington Post, where Kurtz worked for many years. Even after an investigation by Sen. John Kerry confirmed – and expanded upon – our work, the big newspapers continued to dismiss and downplay the stories.</p><p>It didn’t matter how much evidence was developed on the Contra-cocaine smuggling or on the Reagan administration’s role covering up the crimes; the conventional wisdom was that the scandal must be a “conspiracy theory.” Journalists or government investigators who did their job, looking at the problem objectively, risked losing their job.</p><p><strong>Career Consequences</strong></p><p>Journalistic up-and-comers, such as Michael Isikoff (then at the Washington Post), advanced their careers by focusing on minor flaws in Kerry’s investigation rather than on major disclosures of high-level government complicity with drug trafficking. Newsweek’s “conventional wisdom watch” mocked Kerry as “a randy conspiracy buff.”</p><p>So, when Gary Webb revived the Contra-cocaine scandal in 1996 by pointing out its real-world impact on the emergence of crack cocaine that ravaged inner cities across the United States in the 1980s, his stories were most unwelcome.</p><p>At first, the mainstream news media tried to ignore Webb’s work, but African-American lawmakers demanded investigations into the scandal. That prompted a backlash from the major news organizations. Webb’s articles were dissected looking for tiny flaws that could be exploited to again discredit the whole issue.</p><p>On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s series, although acknowledging that some Contra operatives indeed did help the cocaine cartels.</p><p>The Post’s approach was twofold: first, the Post presented the Contra-cocaine allegations as old news — “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post sniffed — and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one Contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted in his series, saying that it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.” A Post sidebar dismissed African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”</p><p>Next, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times weighed in with lengthy articles castigating Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series. The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988 — almost a decade earlier — that supposedly had cleared the spy agency of any role in Contra-cocaine smuggling.</p><p>But the CIA’s cover-up began to unravel on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, and the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.</p><p><strong>Sealing Webb’s Fate</strong></p><p>By then, however, Webb had already crossed over from being a serious journalist to an object of ridicule. Washington Post media critic Kurtz effectively sealed Webb’s fate with a series of articles confirming Webb’s new status as a laughable pariah.</p><p>For instance, Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the Contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz chortled.</p><p>However, Webb’s suspicion was no conspiracy theory. Indeed, White House aide Oliver North’s chief Contra emissary, Robert Owen, had made the same point in a March 17, 1986, message about the Contras leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]</p><p>In other words, Webb was right and Kurtz was wrong. Even Oliver North’s emissary had reported that many Contra leaders treated the conflict as “a business.” But accuracy had ceased to be relevant in the media’s bashing of Gary Webb.</p><p>While Webb was held to the strictest standards of journalism, it was entirely all right for Kurtz — the supposed arbiter of journalistic standards — to make judgments based on ignorance. Kurtz faced no repercussions for disparaging an embattled journalist who was factually correct. (Kurtz’s sloppiness regarding Webb was similar to Kurtz’s cavalier approach to Collins’s brave announcement as the first player in a major U.S. team sport to declare that he is gay.)</p><p>Yet, with Kurtz’s imprimatur, the Big Three’s assault on Webb — combined with their derogatory tone — had a predictable effect on the executives of the <em>Mercury-News</em>. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who had his own corporate career to worry about, was in retreat.</p><p>Webb was forced out of his job to the satisfaction of Kurtz and many in the mainstream media. Webb’s humiliation served as a vindication to their longstanding dismissive treatment of the Contra-cocaine story.</p><p>Even when CIA Inspector General Hitz determined that, indeed, the Contra movement had been permeated with cocaine traffickers and that the CIA had shielded them from law enforcement, the mainstream media’s focus remained the alleged shortcomings in Webb’s journalism. [For details, see Robert Parry’s <em><a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">Lost History</a></em>.]</p><p>So, while Kurtz and other Contra-cocaine “debunkers” saw their careers soar, Webb couldn’t find decent-paying work in his profession. Finally, in December 2004, despondent and in debt, Webb took his own life. Even after his death, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets continued disparaging him. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/09/the-warning-in-gary-webbs-death-2/">The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death</a>.”]</p><p><strong>Hooting at Democracy</strong></p><p>As the 1990s ground to a close with the Washington news media obsessing over “important” issues like President Bill Clinton’s failed Whitewater real-estate deal and his sex life, Kurtz and his fellow-travelers were setting the sorry standards for modern U.S. journalism. Many were swooning over the manly man George W. Bush and happily hazing the wonky Al Gore.</p><p>Though Gore won the national popular vote in Election 2000 and would have prevailed in the swing state of Florida if all the legal ballots had been counted, five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court stopped that counting and installed George W. Bush in the White House – with little protest from the national news media.</p><p>That pro-Bush/anti-Gore attitude grew stronger after the 9/11 attacks when a group of news organizations completed an unofficial tally of the ignored Florida ballots, which showed that Gore would have carried that key state. Yet, instead of simply telling the American people that the wrong guy was in the White House, the major U.S. news outlets twisted their own findings to protect Bush’s fragile “legitimacy.”</p><p>Out front defending that journalistic malfeasance was Howard Kurtz. He rallied behind the decision of the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and other heavy-hitters to focus on hypothetical partial recounts rather than what the Florida voters actually voted for, i.e., a Gore victory.</p><p>On Nov. 12, 2001, the Post’s headline was “Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush” and Kurtz backed that judgment up by dismissing anyone who actually looked at the statistical findings of the recount as a kook. Kurtz’s sidebar – headlined, “George W. Bush, Now More Than Ever” – ridiculed as “conspiracy theorists” those who thought Gore had won.</p><p>“The conspiracy theorists have been out in force, convinced that the media were covering up the Florida election results to protect President Bush,” Kurtz wrote. “That gets put to rest today, with the finding by eight news organizations that Bush would have beaten Gore under both of the recount plans being considered at the time.”</p><p>Kurtz also mocked those who believed that winning an election fairly, based on the will of the voters, was important in a democracy. “Now the question is: How many people still care about the election deadlock that last fall felt like the story of the century – and now faintly echoes like some distant Civil War battle?” he wrote.</p><p>After reading Kurtz’s dismissive tone, it was a bit jarring to examine the actual results of the statewide review of 175,010 disputed ballots. “Full Review Favors Gore,” the Washington Post admitted in a box buried on page 10, showing that under all standards applied to the ballots, Gore came out on top. The New York Times’ graphic revealed the same outcome.</p><p>However, based on the “journalism” promoted by Howard Kurtz, any reporter who actually read and reacted to the real findings would be risking his or her career. Thus, millions of Americans continued to believe that Bush was the legitimate winner in Florida when the facts showed otherwise. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/04/30/sandra-day-oconnors-maybe-regret/">Sandra Day O’Connor’s ‘Maybe’ Regret.</a>”]</p><p><strong>Demonizing Helen Thomas</strong></p><p>Given Kurtz’s history as hall monitor for the conventional wisdom, it surely should come as no surprise that he would join in the demonization of longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, known for her courage in asking uncomfortable questions and for her critical views toward Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.</p><p>When Thomas made an impolitic remark about Israelis leaving what had been Palestine, her mainstream media colleagues joined the loud calls for her career to be brought to an ignominious end, her apology notwithstanding.</p><p>Kurtz penned a harsh <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/08/AR2010060801088.html?hpid=topnews">retrospective</a> on Thomas’s sudden retirement from journalism, giving Thomas’s critics a free shot at denouncing her for an alleged lack of “objectivity” and her supposedly off-the-wall questions to politicians.</p><p>“She asked questions no hard-news reporter would ask, that carried an agenda and reflected her point of view and there were some reporters who felt that was inappropriate,” CBS correspondent Mark Knoller was quoted as saying. “Sometimes her questions were embarrassing to others.”</p><p>“She’s always said crazy stuff,” added National Review Online columnist Jonah Goldberg, whose “journalism” career was launched as a defender of his mother, Lucianne Goldberg, after she advised disgruntled federal employee Linda Tripp to tape her conversations with President Clinton’s girlfriend Monica Lewinsky and to save the semen-stained blue dress.</p><p>“I did my bit in the trenches of Clinton’s trousers,” Goldberg once wrote. So, in the funhouse-mirror world of today’s Washington news media, Goldberg parlayed his time in Clinton’s trousers into a slot as a frequent guest on high-profile TV news shows, such as ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” CNN’s “Larry King Live,” and, of course, many Fox News programs.</p><p>As examples of Helen Thomas’s “crazy stuff,” Kurtz cited some of her questions as if the very words proved her unfitness to work as a national journalist. For instance, he wrote: “In 2002, Thomas asked [White House press secretary Ari] Fleischer: ‘Does the president think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?’”</p><p>Apparently, no further comment was needed for Washington Post readers to understand how outlandish such a question was. Kurtz continued: “Four years later, Thomas told Fleischer’s successor, Tony Snow, that the United States ‘could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon’ by Israel, but instead had ‘gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.’ Snow tartly thanked her for ‘the Hezbollah view.’”</p><p><strong>Praise for Critics</strong></p><p>Kurtz also praised some of Thomas’s colleagues who alerted the world to the dangers of Helen Thomas earlier. He wrote: “A handful of journalists questioned her role over the years. In a 2006 New Republic piece, Jonathan Chait accused Thomas of ‘unhinged rants,’ noting that she had asked such questions as: ‘Why are we killing people in Iraq? Men, women, and children are being killed there … It’s outrageous.’”</p><p>Again, Kurtz appeared to believe that the absurdity of Thomas’s statement was self-evident.</p><p>Yet, as President George W. Bush’s unprovoked invasion and bloody occupation of Iraq claimed the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, perhaps the greater absurdity was that Helen Thomas was often alone in asking such impertinent questions.</p><p>Thomas also had the integrity to refuse to allow her name and reputation to be used by South Korean theocrat (and right-wing funder) Sun Myung Moon when he took over United Press International in 2000. Then the best-known journalist at UPI, she resigned as an act of principle.</p><p>Though Moon was a notorious propagandist who had founded the Washington Times in 1982 as a vehicle for supporting some American politicians (such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) and for tearing down others (such as John Kerry, Bill Clinton and Al Gore), much of the “objective” Washington press corps tolerated and even promoted Moon’s curious newspaper.</p><p>In the mid-1980s, after Moon’s newspaper signed up for the Associated Press wire service, AP executives told AP staffers, including me, that we were no longer allowed to mention Moon’s connection to the newspaper when we cited the Washington Times’ reporting in AP copy. That policy change meant that readers of AP stories around the world wouldn’t be alerted to the propaganda element of Moon’s operation.</p><p>Other respected Washington news figures, such as C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, actively promoted Moon’s newspaper by hoisting up its articles before viewers, many of whom had no idea that the Times’ owner was a religious cult leader with mysterious ties to foreign intelligence services and to international crime syndicates. [For details, see Robert Parry’s <em><a href="http://www.neckdeepbook.com/">Secrecy &amp; Privilege</a></em>.]</p><p>So, while Moon’s newspaper was influencing the U.S. political debate with propagandistic articles – and while Moon was spreading around money for political and journalism conferences – Helen Thomas was one of the few prominent figures in the Washington press corps to object. (After resigning from UPI, she took a job as a columnist for the Hearst newspapers.)</p><p>Nevertheless, at the end of her long and groundbreaking career as one of the first women to operate in the male-dominated Washington press corps, Helen Thomas was the one pilloried as crazy and unprofessional by the arbiter of all that is good in journalism, Howard Kurtz.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, </strong><em style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>America’s Stolen Narrative,</strong></em><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"> either in </strong><a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>print here</strong></a><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"> or as an e-book (from </strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Stolen-Narrative-Washington-ebook/dp/B009RXXOIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1350755575&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=americas+stolen+narrative" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>Amazon</strong></a><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"> and </strong><a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/americas-stolen-narrative?keyword=americas+stolen+narrative&amp;store=ebook&amp;iehack=%E2%98%A0" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>barnesandnoble.com</strong></a><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">).</strong></p> </div></div></div> Sun, 05 May 2013 09:23:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 835340 at http://lists.alternet.org Media Media News & Politics howard kurtz Bush and His Cronies Bear 'Ultimate Responsibility' for Torture -- So What's Stopping Us from Prosecuting Them? http://lists.alternet.org/civil-liberties/bush-and-his-cronies-bear-ultimate-responsibility-torture-so-whats-stopping-us <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;No person is above the law,&quot; right? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/media_sbushhandslarge.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Now that a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel has reached the conclusion that President George W. Bush and his top advisers bear “ultimate responsibility” for authorizing torture in violation of domestic and international law, the question becomes what should the American people and their government do.</p><p>The logical answer would seem to be: prosecute Bush and his cronies (or turn them over to an international tribunal if the U.S. legal system can’t do the job). After all, everyone, including President Barack Obama and possibly even Bush himself, would agree with the principle that “no man is above the law.”</p><p>At least that is what they profess in public, but they then apply this principle selectively, proving that they don’t really mean it at all. The real-world standard seems to be: you are above the law if you have the political or economic clout to make prosecution difficult or painful. Then, more flexible rules apply.</p><p>For instance, we’re told that Pvt. Bradley Manning may have had good intentions in exposing U.S. government wrongdoing to WikiLeaks, but he still must be punished for taking the law into his own hands. The only question seems to be whether he should be imprisoned for 20 years or life.</p><p>Even the U.S. soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison who imitated the abusive techniques that Bush and his advisers authorized in more limited situations had to face justice. Eleven were convicted at court martial, and two enlisted personnel – Charles Graner and Lynndie England – were sentenced to ten and three years in prison, respectively. A few higher-level officers had their military careers derailed.</p><p>But the buck pretty much stopped there. It surely didn’t extend up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush. They simply engaged in a game of circular excuse-making, claiming that they had relied on Justice Department legal guidance and thus their own criminal actions really weren’t criminal at all.</p><p>Yet, along with its judgments about torture, the 577-page report from the <a href="http://www.constitutionproject.org/">Constitution Project</a> obliterated that line of defense by detailing how the Bush administration’s lawyers offered up “acrobatic” legal opinions to justify the brutal interrogations, which included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress position, forced nudity and other acts constituting torture.</p><p>Lawyers from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, particularly John Yoo and Jay Bybee, collaborated closely with senior administration officials in choreographing these legal gymnastics. Then, when other government lawyers later challenged the Yoo-Bybee rationalizations, those lawyers faced career reprisals from the White House. They were essentially forced out of government, the report found.</p><p>In other words, Bush’s team had arranged its own legal opinions that empowered the President do whatever he wanted. Indeed, the Yoo-Bybee legal opinions gave the President carte blanche by citing his supposed “plenary powers,” meaning that he could do literally anything he wished during “wartime,” even a war as nebulously defined as the “war on terror.”</p><p>Establishment Blessing</p><p>While the new torture report mostly covers old ground about how the Bush administration moved into the “dark side,” the report’s primary significance is that its 11-member panel represents a bipartisan mix of Establishment figures.</p><p>The task force was headed by two former members of Congress who have worked in the Executive Branch – James R. Jones, D-Oklahoma, an ex-ambassador to Mexico, and Asa Hutchinson, R-Arkansas, who served as an under-secretary of Homeland Security during the Bush administration. Other members were prominent Americans from the fields of military, academia, law, ethics and diplomacy – including former FBI Director William Sessions and longtime senior diplomat Thomas Pickering.</p><p>The report didn’t mince words in its principal conclusions: “Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture. This finding, offered without reservation, is not based on any impressionistic approach to the issue. …</p><p>“Instead, this conclusion is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notably historical and legal [including] instances in which the United States has leveled the charge of torture against other governments. The United States may not declare a nation guilty of engaging in torture and then exempt itself from being so labeled for similar if not identical conduct.”</p><p>The report also noted that the behavior of the Bush administration deviated from the most honorable traditions of U.S. history, dating back to the Revolutionary War and General George Washington’s instructions to his troops not to respond to British cruelty in kind but to treat prisoners of war humanely.</p><p>In contrast to those traditions, after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration approved specific techniques of torture while formulating legal rationalizations for these violations of law. Never before, the report found, had there been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”</p><p>Beyond the illegality and immorality of torture, the report found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that the harsh interrogations extracted information that could not have been obtained by legal means. The report also challenged the legality of “enforced disappearances,” renditions and secret detentions.</p><p><strong>No Accountability</strong></p><p>Yet, the panel demanded no meaningful accountability from Bush and his top aides, as former Ambassador Pickering made clear in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday.</p><p>In underscoring the report’s findings, Pickering lamented how the Bush administration’s use of torture had imperiled efforts to persuade other countries not to resort to cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. “Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic,” Pickering wrote.</p><p>He proposed several steps “to mitigate the damage and set this country on a better course.” This list included finally confronting the harsh truth about torture; releasing relevant evidence that the Obama administration is still keeping secret; enacting new legislation to close “loopholes” that were exploited to justify torture; and insisting on verifiable protections of prisoners transferred to other countries (rather than relying on “diplomatic assurances”).</p><p>However, neither the report nor Pickering’s op-ed addressed the significant point that laws against torture and mistreatment of prisoners already existed and that Bush and his team simply had ignored or evaded them. If Bush and Yoo could concoct an excuse giving the President the “plenary” power to do whatever he wants in wartime, why couldn’t some future President and legal adviser do the same?</p><p>What good does it do to tighten “loopholes” if a President and his aides can flout the law and escape accountability? The only rational (and legal) response to Bush’s use of torture is to arrest him and his key advisers and put them on trial.</p><p>Yet, in this case, the rational and legal remedy is considered unthinkable. If President Obama’s Justice Department were to move against Bush and other ex-officials, the Washington Establishment – from the Republican Party to the mainstream news media to much of the Democratic Party – would react in apoplexy and outrage.</p><p>There would be fears about Washington’s intense partisanship growing even worse. There would be warnings about the terrible precedent being set that could mean that each time the White House changes hands the new administration would then “go after” the former occupants. There would howls about the United States taking on the appearance of a “banana republic.”</p><p>However, there also are profound dangers for a democratic Republic when it doesn’t hold public officials accountable for serious crimes, like torture and aggressive war. Indeed, one could argue that such a country is no longer a democratic Republic, if one person can operate with complete impunity amid declarations of “plenary powers” – which is what the Bush administration claimed in its memos justifying torture.</p><p>The report from the Constitution Project can declare that torture is incompatible with democracy, but it is equally true that if the President can torture anyone he chooses and then walk away – free to attend baseball games, celebrate his presidential library and pose for the cover of “Parade” magazine – then you are not living in a real democracy.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy &amp; Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at <a href="http://www.secrecyandprivilege.com/">secrecyandprivilege.com</a>. It's also available at <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1893517012/102-6417841-4919329?v=glance&amp;s=books">Amazon.com</a>, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press &amp; 'Project Truth.'</p> </div></div></div> Mon, 22 Apr 2013 16:06:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 828962 at http://lists.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties News & Politics bush torture Will Visitors to George W. Bush's New Presidential "Lie Bury" Fall for the Gimmicky Game That Helps Him Evade Accountability? http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/will-visitors-george-w-bushs-new-presidential-lie-bury-fall-gimmicky-game-helps <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s my answer to Bush&#039;s pathetic efforts to redeem his legacy. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1366021670195-3-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>The strategy at George W. Bush’s presidential library for fending off criticism of Bush’s controversial – indeed criminal – decisions is to put a visitor on the defensive with the question: “Well, what would you have done?” The idea is to get the average person to sympathize with the 43rd president’s predicament and thus judge him more leniently.</p><p>The New York Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/us/politics/hitting-rewind-bush-museum-says-you-decide.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">reported</a> that “the hypothetical exercise, which includes touch screens that let user’s watch videos of ‘advisers’ before voting on whether they would make the same choices that Mr. Bush did, revisits the most consequential moments of his administration.”</p><div id="attachment_8168"><p>The George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, is set for dedication on April 25 and opening to the public on May 1.</p></div><p>So, let me take a crack at what I would have done if I were in Bush’s shoes – or what I think he should have done.</p><p>First, if my primary qualification to be president was that my dad had held the job, if I had failed at nearly every job I ever had because I was a throwing-up drunk through my 40th birthday, if I were thoroughly unprepared in my understanding of American constitutional principles and in my knowledge of world events, I would never have run for such a powerful office.</p><p>To do so would be reckless and irresponsible. Who knows? I might have ended up getting a lot of innocent people killed, driving the United States deeply into debt, and wrecking the world’s economy.</p><p>Second, if I did run for the office and lost the national popular vote by more than a half million ballots, I would have let the local officials in Florida do their job and count all the votes in that swing state as accurately as they could. I would not have turned to my brother’s cronies in Florida and my dad’s friends on the U.S. Supreme Court to thwart the will of the American people.</p><p>As we now know, a full count of Florida votes that were regarded as legal under state law would have given Florida narrowly to Al Gore. I would have accepted that judgment rather than dispatching rioters to block a recount in Miami and then getting five Republican partisans on the Supreme Court to block the state from completing its vote count. [For details, see <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">Neck Deep</a>.]</p><p><strong>Taking Advice</strong></p><p>Third, if I had run despite my lack of qualifications and if I had stolen the election, I would have listened to the advice of outgoing President Bill Clinton who urged that the federal budget surplus be safeguarded to assure Social Security and Medicare for the Baby Boomer generation. Or at least we could have continued paying down the debt, which was projected to completely disappear over the next decade.</p><p>I wouldn’t have blundered forward with an ideological plan to slash taxes mostly to benefit the rich and to throw the federal government back into an ocean of red ink. I also wouldn’t have followed right-wing orthodoxy and cut back on regulation of banks and other major economic institutions.</p><p>Fourth, I would have listened to professional counterterrorism experts who warned about a growing threat from al-Qaeda terrorists. I wouldn’t have blown off increasingly dire CIA threat analyses like the one delivered to my ranch in Texas on Aug. 6, 2001, the one that read: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” I would have ordered an all-hands-on-deck assessment of the risk and what to do to stop the impending attack.</p><p>Fifth, if the 9/11 attacks occurred anyway, I would have concentrated on bringing the perpetrators to justice with a minimal level of additional violence. If the Afghan government was willing to turn over Osama bin Laden and other conspirators and would agree to shut down al-Qaeda bases, I would have pursued that possibility.</p><p>If there was no way to get bin Laden and his terrorist associates through traditional legal channels and an invasion became necessary, I would have stuck to the goal of effecting their capture. If bin Laden and his men were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, I would have provided the military resources (requested by U.S. Special Forces) to finish the job then and there, rather than abruptly diverting the Pentagon brass toward planning for an invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.</p><p>Sixth, under no circumstance would I have drummed up a fake case for invading Iraq. Not only was Iraq innocent of 9/11 and unconnected with al-Qaeda, but an unprovoked invasion of a country is a violation of international law.</p><p>At the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, U.S. prosecutors proclaimed aggressive war “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” I would not have mocked international law, but rather embraced it as the most effective way to build real peace and cooperation in the world, including addressing the existential threat of global warming.</p><p>Seventh, I would have trusted FBI interrogators to extract useful intelligence from al-Qaeda detainees without resorting to the disgraceful practice of torture. I would have slammed the door on the psycho babble from CIA contractors about “learned dependency” and shown the door to John Yoo and anyone else spouting legal mumbo-jumbo justifying “enhanced interrogation techniques.”</p><p>As President of the United States – a nation that has a proud history of rejecting the barbaric practice of torture, even enshrining in the Constitution a prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishments” – I would have summarily fired anyone suggesting such a thing and ordered the prosecution of anyone who committed such a crime.</p><p>Eighth, I also would have sent packing anyone who suggested that the President has “plenary” – or unlimited – powers during wartime, even a “war” as amorphous as the “war on terror.” And I never would have used such an imprecise and insidious phrase, since it suggests a never-ending war against an emotion or a tactic, not some definable enemy.</p><p>Ninth, I wouldn’t have allowed my political operatives to attack the patriotism of fellow Americans just for disagreeing with me. On the contrary, I would have insisted on a full and free debate on an issue as weighty as going to war. I would have repudiated any suggestion that the debate should be constrained through intimidation.</p><p>There would have been no winking at supporters who threatened the Dixie Chicks nor nodding toward subordinates who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame as part of a whispering campaign to discredit her husband for questioning one of the false claims about Iraq (a lie about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa that I would not have included in my 2003 State of the Union speech in the first place).</p><p>Tenth, having stumbled through the first four years of my presidency – with nearly 3,000 Americans dead from a preventable terrorist attack, with two open-ended wars bleeding the U.S. military, with tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans dead and many more grievously injured, with scandals over torture, with the federal surplus transformed into a huge deficit, and with the economy on increasingly shaky ground – I would have proved beyond a doubt my initial observation about my unfitness for the office.</p><p>Thus, I would announce that I would not seek reelection. In that way, I would be spared my later decisions about how to respond to Hurricane Katrina, how to oversee the worsening violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how to regulate the Wall Street banks.</p> Mon, 22 Apr 2013 12:14:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 828770 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics bush library terror war iraq The Media's Dangerous Rush to Judge: Right-Wing or Middle Eastern, Planned or Amateur, Terrorist or the Work of a Nut-Job? http://lists.alternet.org/world/medias-dangerous-rush-judge-right-wing-or-middle-eastern-planned-or-amateur-terrorist-or-work <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obama’s caution appeared well-placed, since a presidential declaration prejudging some act as terrorism could have legal ramifications.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-04-16_at_1.02.26_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>The U.S. news media appears to have learned some painful lessons from past experiences about jumping to conclusions after terrorist incidents, and most pundits as well as journalists demonstrated more professional restraint in their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, the Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts.</p><p>While there was speculation about a possible attack by Middle East terrorists, spurred by the questioning of a Saudi national, there were also timely observations about the significance of the date for American right-wing extremists.</p><p>Not only is April 15 known as Tax Day because of the federal filing deadline, but Patriots Day in Massachusetts honors the Minutemen who battled the British on April 19, 1775, the start of the Revolutionary War. Some right-wing extremists have hijacked such patriotic symbolism to justify violent attacks on the federal government.</p><p>Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City was on April 19, 1995, which also was the second anniversary of the fiery conclusion of the Waco siege which began 50 days earlier when a heavily armed Christian sect opened fire on and killed federal agents arriving to serve a warrant to search for illegal guns.</p><p>Given the intense passions about gun control and the other significance of Patriots Day, the hesitancy to immediately blame “Muslim terrorists” represented an improvement over the recklessness that was common at such moments, especially in the 1990s when some “terrorism experts” regularly pointed their fingers in the wrong directions.</p><p>In flipping the channels on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, I did encounter some silly chatter criticizing President Barack Obama for not immediately condemning the twin bombings in Boston as “terrorism.” Obama apparently was being circumspect in his brief speech to the nation on Monday evening and did not want to enflame the situation with speculation.</p><p>The definition of terrorism is a violent act directed against civilians to achieve a political goal. While the Boston bombing was clearly a violent attack on civilians, it wasn’t immediately clear what the motivation was since no individual or group had credibly claimed responsibility for the attack.</p><p>In the absence of known motivation, one could not rule out the possibility of a single perpetrator acting out of personal rage or simply insanity, which might fall outside the rubric of terrorism. So, Obama’s caution appeared well-placed, since a presidential declaration prejudging some act as terrorism could have legal ramifications.</p><p>The pundit chatter over his choice of words, therefore, represented an example of a contrived “controversy,” sadly the sort of silliness that the news media seemed to be avoiding with its more careful handling of the tragedy in Boston.</p><div style="text-align: center;">© 2013 Consortium News</div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1893517039?tag=commondreams-20/ref=nosim" target="_blank">Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush</a>, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1893517012?tag=commondreams-20/ref=nosim" target="_blank">Secrecy &amp; Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq</a> and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1893517004?tag=commondreams-20/ref=nosim" target="_blank">Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press &amp; 'Project Truth'</a>.</p> </div></div></div> Tue, 16 Apr 2013 12:19:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 825669 at http://lists.alternet.org World World right-wing terrorism Is Tom Friedman the Most Overrated and Disgraceful Journalist in America? http://lists.alternet.org/media/tom-friedman-most-overrated-and-disgraceful-journalist-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There are a lot of candidates, but Tom Friedman takes the cake. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/thomas-friedman.jpeg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When ranking which multi-millionaire American pundit is the most overrated, there are, without doubt, many worthy contenders, but one near the top of any list must be the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman – with his long record of disastrous policy pronouncements including his enthusiasm for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.</p><p>Friedman, of course, has paid no career price for his misguided judgments and simplistic nostrums. Like many other star pundits who inhabit the Op-Ed pages of the Times and the Washington Post, Friedman has ascended to a place where the normal powers of gravity don’t apply, where the cumulative weight of his errors only lifts him up.</p><p>Indeed, there is something profoundly nonsensical about Friedman’s Olympian standing, inhabiting a plane of existence governed by the crazy rules of Washington’s conventional wisdom, where – when looking down on the rest of us – Friedman feels free to cast aspersions on other people’s sanity, like the Mad Hatter calling the Church Mouse nuts.</p><p>Friedman describes every foreign adversary who reacts against U.S. dictates as suffering from various stages of insanity. He accepts no possibility that these “designated enemies” are acting out of their own sense of self-interest and even fear of what the United States might be designing.</p><p>In last Sunday’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/opinion/sunday/friedman-weve-wasted-our-timeout.html?_r=0">column</a>, for instance, Friedman airily dismissed the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, China and Russia as all operating with screws loose, either totally crazy or fecklessly reckless. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was a “boy king … who seems totally off the grid.” In Friedman’s view, China is enabling North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship and “could end the freak show there anytime it wants.”</p><p>Russia is aiding and abetting both the violence in Syria and the supposed nuclear ambitions of Iran. Friedman asks: “Do the Russians really believe that indulging Iran’s covert nuclear program, to spite us, won’t come back to haunt them with a nuclear-armed Iran, an Islamist regime on its border?”</p><p>To Friedman, Bashar al-Assad is simply “Syria’s mad leader,” not a secular autocrat representing Alawites and other terrified minorities fearing a Sunni uprising that includes armed militants associated with al-Qaeda terrorists and promoting Islamic fundamentalism.</p><p>You see, according to Friedman and his neoconservative allies, everyone that they don’t like is simply crazy or absorbed with mindless self-interest – and it makes no sense to reason with these insane folks or to propose power-sharing compromises. Only “regime change” will do.</p><p><strong>Who’s Detached from Reality?</strong></p><p>But the argument could be made that Friedman and the neocons are the people most disconnected from reality – and that the New York Times editors are behaving irresponsibly in continuing to grant Friedman some of the most prestigious space in American journalism to spout his nonsensical ravings.</p><p>Looking back at Friedman’s history of recommending violence as the only remedy to a whole host of problems, including in places like Serbia and Iraq, you could reasonably conclude that he’s the real nut case. He’s the one who routinely urges the U.S. government to ignore international law in pursuit of half-baked goals that have spread misery over large swaths of the planet.</p><p>In 1999, during the U.S. bombing of Serbia, Friedman showed off his glib warmongering style: “Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.”</p><p>Before George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, Friedman offered the witty observation that it was time to “give war a chance,” a flippant play on John Lennon’s lyrics to the song, “Give Peace a Chance.”</p><p>Yet, even amid his enthusiasm to invade Iraq, Friedman was disappointed by Bush’s clunky rhetoric. So, he hailed the smoother speechifying of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and dubbed himself “a Tony Blair Democrat.” Today, it might seem that anyone foolish enough to take that title – after Blair has gone down in history as “Bush’s poodle” and is now despised even by his own Labour Party – should slink away into obscurity or claim some sort of mental incapacity.</p><p>But that isn’t how U.S. punditry works. Once you’ve risen into the firmament of stars like Tommy Friedman, you are beyond the reach of earthly judgments and surely beyond human accountability.</p><p>When the Iraq War didn’t go as swimmingly as the neocons expected, Friedman became famous for his repetitious, ever-receding “six month” timeline for detecting progress. Finally, in August 2006, he concluded that the Iraq War wasn’t worth it, that “it is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are babysitting a civil war.” [NYT, Aug. 4, 2006]</p><p>At that point, you might have expected the New York Times to drop Friedman from its roster of columnists. After all, the Iraq War’s costs in lives, money and respect for the United States had become staggering. You might even have thought that some accountability would be in order. After all, advocacy of aggressive war is a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II.</p><p>Yet, 12 days after his admission of Iraq War failure, Friedman actually demeaned Americans who had opposed the Iraq War early on as “antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in.” [NYT, Aug. 16, 2006] In other words, according to Friedman, Americans who were right about the ill-fated invasion of Iraq were still airheads who couldn’t grasp the bigger picture that had been so obvious to himself, his fellow pundits and pro-war politicians who had tagged along with Bush and Blair.</p><p>As I noted in an article at the time, “it’s as if Official Washington has become a sinister version of Alice in Wonderland. Under the bizarre rules of Washington’s pundit society, the foreign policy ‘experts,’ who acted like Cheshire Cats pointing the United States in wrong directions, get rewarded for their judgment and Americans who opposed going down the rabbit hole in the first place earn only derision.”</p><p>Instead of a well-deserved dismissal from the Times and journalistic disgrace, Friedman has continued to rake in big bucks from his articles, his books and his speeches. Meanwhile, his record for accuracy (or even sophisticated insights) hasn’t improved. Regarding foreign policy, he still gets pretty much everything wrong.</p><p><strong>‘Crazy’ Enemies</strong></p><p>As for the supposed madness of America’s “designated enemies,” Friedman refuses to recognize that they might see defensive belligerence as the only rational response to U.S. hostility. After all, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi both accepted U.S. demands for disarmament and both were subsequently attacked by U.S. military force, overthrown and murdered.</p><p>So, who in their right mind would accept assurances about the protections of international law when Official Washington and Tommy Friedman see nothing wrong with invading other countries and overthrowing their governments? In view of this recent history, one could argue that the leaders of Iran, Syria and even North Korea are acting rationally within their perceptions of national sovereignty – and concern for their own necks.</p><p>Similarly, Russia and China have searched for ways to resolve some of these conflicts, rather than whipping up new confrontations. On the Iranian nuclear dispute, for instance, Russia has worked behind the scenes to broker a realistic agreement that would offer Iran meaningful relief from economic sanctions in exchange for more safeguards on its nuclear program.</p><p>It has been the United States that has vacillated between an interest in a negotiated settlement with Iran and the temptation to seek “regime change.” Recently, the Obama administration spurned a Russian push for genuine negotiations with Iran, instead favoring more sanctions and demanding Iranian capitulation.</p><p>It should be noted, too, that the Iranian government has renounced any desire to build a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, since 2007, that Iran ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003, a decade ago. Friedman could be called irrational – or at least irresponsible – for not mentioning that fact. And you might wonder why his Times’ editors didn’t demand greater accuracy in his column. Is there no fact-checking of Friedman?</p><p><strong>Seeking ‘Regime Change’</strong></p><p>Of course, the Times and Friedman have a long pattern of bias on Iran, much as they had on Iraq. For instance, the newspaper and its star columnist heaped ridicule on Turkey and Brazil three years ago when those two U.S. allies achieved a breakthrough in which Iran agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for some medical isotopes. To Friedman, this deal was “as ugly as it gets,” the title of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/opinion/26friedman.html">his column</a>.</p><p>He wrote: “I confess that when I first saw the May 17 [2010] picture of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms — after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program — all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?</p><p>“No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”</p><p>Though Friedman did not call Lula da Silva and Erdogan crazy, he did insult them and impugned their motives. He accused them of seeking this important step toward a peaceful resolution of an international dispute “just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table.”</p><p>In the column, Friedman also made clear that he wasn’t really interested in Iranian nuclear safeguards; instead, he wanted the United States to do whatever it could to help Iran’s internal opposition overthrow President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic Republic.</p><p>“In my view, the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades,” Friedman wrote. “It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success — not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics — is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal.”</p><p>Just three years later, however, it’s clear how wrongheaded Friedman was. The Green Movement, which was never the mass popular movement that the U.S. media claimed, has largely disappeared.</p><p>Analyses of Iran’s 2009 election also revealed that Ahmadinejad did win a substantial majority of the vote. Ahmadinejad, with strong support from the poor especially in more conservative rural areas, defeated the “Green Revolution” candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi by roughly the 2-to-1 margin cited in the official results.</p><p>For instance, an analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes concluded that most Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad and viewed his reelection as legitimate, contrary to claims made by much of the U.S. news media. Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed Mousavi, a former prime minister, ahead or even close.</p><p>“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/022710.html">Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It</a>!”]</p><p><strong>Bias Over Journalism</strong></p><p>During the Green Movement’s demonstrations, a few protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police (scenes carried on CNN but quickly forgotten by the U.S. news media) and security forces overreacted with repression and violence. But to pretend that an angry minority – disappointed by election results – is proof of a fraudulent election is simply an example of bias, not journalism.</p><p>One can sympathize with those who yearn for a secular democracy in Iran – as you may in other religiously structured states including Israel – but a journalist is not supposed to make up his or her own facts, which was what the Times and Friedman did in 2009 on Iran.</p><p>Friedman’s contempt for the Turkey-Brazil deal in 2010 also looks pretty stupid in retrospect. At the time, Iran only had low-enriched uranium suitable for energy production but not for building a nuclear weapon. If Iran had shipped nearly half that amount out of the country in exchange for the medical isotopes, Iran might never have upgraded its reactors to refine the uranium to about 20 percent, what was needed for the isotopes and which is much closer to the level of purity needed for a bomb.</p><p>There are other relevant facts that a serious analyst would include in the kind of column that Friedman penned last Sunday, including the fact that the United States possesses a military force unrivaled in world history and enough nuclear bombs to kill all life on the planet many times over.</p><p>Also relevant to the Iran issue, Israel possesses a rogue nuclear arsenal that is considered one of the world’s most advanced, but Israel has refused to accept any international oversight by rejecting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed and insists it is living by.</p><p>An objective – or a rational – observer would consider the unbelievable destructiveness of the U.S. and Israeli nuclear stockpiles as a relevant factor in evaluating the sanity of the supposedly “crazy” leaders of Syria, Iran and North Korea – and their alleged accomplices in Russia and China.</p><p>But Friedman operates on a plane of impunity that the rest of us mortals can only dream about. Apparently once you have achieved his punditry status, you never have to say you’re sorry or acknowledge countervailing facts. All you have to do is say that everybody else is crazy.</p>© 2013 Consortiumnews Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:26:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 823967 at http://lists.alternet.org Media Media World tom friedman Have We Ever Gotten to the Bottom of Exactly 'Why' Bush and the Neocons Disastrously Invaded Iraq? http://lists.alternet.org/world/have-we-ever-gotten-bottom-exactly-why-bush-and-neocons-disastrously-invaded-iraq <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The true purpose of the Iraq invasion remains opaque. Here&#039;s a theory why.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/topstories_iraqfuneral070730ssh.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A decade after President George W. Bush ordered the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, one of the enduring mysteries has been why. There was the rationale sold to a frightened American people in 2002-2003 – that Saddam Hussein was plotting to attack them with WMDs – but no one in power really believed that.</p><p>There have been other more plausible explanations: George Bush the Younger wanted to avenge a perceived slight to George Bush the Elder, while also outdoing his father as a “war president”; Vice President Dick Cheney had his eye on Iraq’s oil wealth; and the Republican Party saw an opportunity to create its “permanent majority” behind a glorious victory in the Middle East.</p><p>Though George W. Bush’s defenders vigorously denied being motivated by such crass thinking, those rationales do seem closer to the truth. However, there was another driving force behind the desire to conquer Iraq: the neoconservative belief that the conquest would be a first step toward installing compliant pro-U.S. regimes throughout the Middle East and letting Israel dictate final peace terms to its neighbors.</p><p>That rationale has often been dressed up as “democratizing” the Middle East, but the idea was more a form of “neocolonialism,” in which American proconsuls would make sure that a favored leader, like the Iraqi National Congress’ Ahmed Chalabi, would control each country and align the nations’ positions with the interests of the United States and Israel.</p><p>Some analysts have traced this idea back to the neocon Project for the New American Century in the late 1990s, which advocated for “regime change” in Iraq. But the idea’s origins go back to the early 1990s and to two seminal events.</p><p>The first game-changing moment came in 1990-91 when President George H.W. Bush showed off the unprecedented advancements in U.S. military technology. Almost from the moment that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Iraqi dictator began signaling his willingness to withdraw after having taught the arrogant al-Sabah ruling family in Kuwait a lesson in power politics.</p><p>But the Bush-41 administration wasn’t willing to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Kuwait invasion. Instead of letting Hussein arrange an orderly withdrawal, Bush-41 began baiting him with insults and blocking any face-saving way for a retreat.</p><p>Peace feelers from Hussein and later from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev were rebuffed as Bush-41 waited his chance to demonstrate the stunning military realities of his New World Order. Even the U.S. field commander, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, favored Gorbachev’s plan for letting Iraqi forces pull back, but Bush-41 was determined to have a ground war.</p><p>So, Gorbachev’s plan was bypassed and the ground war commenced with the slaughter of Iraqi troops, many of them draftees who were mowed down and incinerated as they fled back toward Iraq. After 100 hours, Bush-41 ordered a halt to the massacre. He then revealed a key part of his motivation by declaring: “We’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” [For details, see Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">Secrecy &amp; Privilege</a>.]</p><p><strong>Neocons Celebrate</strong></p><p>Official Washington took note of the new realities and the renewed public enthusiasm for war. In a post-war edition, Newsweek devoted a full page to up-and-down arrows in its “Conventional Wisdom Watch.” Bush got a big up arrow with the snappy comment: “Master of all he surveys. Look at my polls, ye Democrats, and despair.”</p><p>For his last-minute stab at a negotiated Iraqi withdrawal, Gorbachev got a down arrow: “Give back your Nobel, Comrade Backstabber. P.S. Your tanks stink.” Vietnam also got a down arrow: “Where’s that? You mean there was a war there too? Who cares?”</p><p>Neocon pundits, already dominating Washington’s chattering class, could barely contain their glee with the only caveat that Bush-41 had ended the Iraqi turkey shoot too soon and should have taken the carnage all the way to Baghdad.</p><p>The American people also rallied to the lopsided victory, celebrating with ticker-tape parades and cheering fireworks in honor of the conquering heroes. The victory-parade extravaganza stretched on for months, as hundreds of thousands jammed Washington for what was called “the mother of all parades.”</p><p>Americans bought Desert Storm T-shirts by the caseloads; kids were allowed to climb on tanks and other military hardware; the celebration concluded with what was called “the mother of all fireworks displays.” The next day, the Washington Post captured the mood with a headline: “Love Affair on the Mall: People and War Machines.”</p><p>The national bonding extended to the Washington press corps, which happily shed its professional burden of objectivity to join the national celebration. At the annual Gridiron Club dinner, where senior government officials and top journalists get to rub shoulders in a fun-filled evening, the men and women of the news media applauded wildly everything military.</p><p>The highlight of the evening was a special tribute to “the troops,” with a reading of a soldier’s letter home and then a violinist playing the haunting strains of Jay Ungar’s “Ashoken Farewell.” Special lyrics honoring Desert Storm were put to the music and the journalists in the Gridiron singers joined in the chorus: “Through the fog of distant war/Shines the strength of their devotion/To honor, to duty,/To sweet liberty.”</p><p>Among the celebrants at the dinner was Defense Secretary Cheney, who took note of how the Washington press corps was genuflecting before a popular war. Referring to the tribute, Cheney noted in some amazement, “You would not ordinarily expect that kind of unrestrained comment by the press.”</p><p>A month later at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the U.S. news media and celebrity guests cheered lustily when General Schwarzkopf was introduced. “It was like a Hollywood opening,” commented one journalist referring to the spotlights swirling around the field commander.</p><p>Neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer lectured the few dissidents who found the press corps’ groveling before the President and the military unsettling. “Loosen up, guys,” Krauthammer wrote. “Raise a glass, tip a hat, wave a pom-pom to the heroes of Desert Storm. If that makes you feel you’re living in Sparta, have another glass.”</p><p><strong>American Hegemony</strong></p><p>Like other observers, the neocons had seen how advanced U.S. technology had changed the nature of warfare. “Smart bombs” zeroed in on helpless targets; electronic sabotage disrupted enemy command and control; exquisitely equipped American troops outclassed the Iraqi military chugging around in Soviet-built tanks. War was made to look easy and fun with very light U.S. casualties.</p><p>The collapse of the Soviet Union later in 1991 represented the removal of the last obstacle to U.S. hegemony. The remaining question for the neocons was how to get and keep control of the levers of American power. However, those levers slipped out of their grasp with Bush-41’s favoritism toward his “realist” foreign policy advisers and then Bill Clinton’s election in 1992.</p><p>But the neocons still held many cards in the early 1990s, having gained credentials from their work in the Reagan administration and having built alliances with other hard-liners such as Bush-41’s Defense Secretary Cheney. The neocons also had grabbed important space on the opinion pages of key newspapers, like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, and influential chairs inside major foreign-policy think tanks.</p><p>The second game-changing event took place amid the neocon infatuation with Israel’s Likud leaders. In the mid-1990s, prominent American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for the campaign of Benjamin Netanyahu and tossed aside old ideas about a negotiated peace settlement with Israel’s Arab neighbors.</p><p>Rather than suffer the frustrations of negotiating a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem or dealing with the annoyance of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the neocons on Netanyahu’s team decided it was time for a bold new direction, which they outlined in a 1996 strategy paper, called “<a href="http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm">A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm</a>.”</p><p>The paper advanced the idea that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Under this “clean break,” Israel would no longer seek peace through compromise, but rather through confrontation, including the violent removal of leaders such as Saddam Hussein who were supportive of Israel’s close-in enemies.</p><p>The plan called Hussein’s ouster “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right,” but also one that would destabilize the Assad dynasty in Syria and thus topple the power dominoes into Lebanon, where Hezbollah might soon find itself without its key Syrian ally. Iran also could find itself in the cross-hairs of “regime change.”</p><p><strong>American Assistance</strong></p><p>But what the “clean break” needed was the military might of the United States, since some of the targets like Iraq were too far away and too powerful to be defeated even by Israel’s highly efficient military. The cost in Israeli lives and to Israel’s economy from such overreach would have been staggering.</p><p>In 1998, the U.S. neocon brain trust pushed the “clean break” plan another step forward with the creation of the Project for the New American Century, which lobbied President Clinton to undertake the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein.</p><p>However, Clinton would only go so far, maintaining a harsh embargo on Iraq and enforcing a “no-fly zone” which involved U.S. aircraft conducting periodic bombing raids. Still, with Clinton or his heir apparent, Al Gore, in the White House, a full-scale invasion of Iraq appeared out of the question.</p><p>The first key political obstacle was removed when the neocons helped engineer George W. Bush’s ascension to the presidency in Election 2000. However, the path was not fully cleared until al-Qaeda terrorists attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, leaving behind a political climate across America favoring war and revenge.</p><p>Of course, Bush-43 had to first attack Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda maintained its principal base, but he then quickly pivoted to the neocons’ desired target, Iraq. Besides being home to the already demonized Saddam Hussein, Iraq had other strategic advantages. It was not as heavily populated as some of its neighbors yet it was positioned squarely between Iran and Syria, two other top targets.</p><p>In those heady days of 2002-2003, a neocon joke posed the question of what to do after ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq – whether to next go east to Iran or west to Syria. The punch-line was: “Real men go to Tehran.”</p><p>But first Iraq had to be vanquished, and this other agenda – restructuring the Middle East to make it safe for U.S. and Israeli interests – had to be played down, partly because average Americans might be skeptical and because expert Americans might have warned about the dangers from U.S. imperial overreach.</p><p>So, Bush-43, Vice President Cheney and their neocon advisers pushed the “hot button” of the American people, still frightened by the horrors of 9/11. The bogus case was made that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD that he was ready to give to al-Qaeda so the terrorists could inflict even greater devastation on the U.S. homeland.</p><p><strong>Stampeding America</strong></p><p>The neocons, some of whom grew up in families of left-wing Trotskyites, viewed themselves as a kind of a “vanguard” party using “agit-prop” to maneuver the American “proletariat.” The WMD scare was seen as the best way to stampede the American herd. Then, the neocon thinking went, the military victory in Iraq would consolidate war support and permit implementation of the next phases toward “regime change” in Iran and Syria.</p><p>The plan seemed to be working early, as the U.S. military overwhelmed the beleaguered Iraqi army and captured Baghdad in three weeks. Bush-43 celebrated by landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a flight suit and delivering a speech beneath a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”</p><p>However, the plan began to go awry when neocon pro-consul Paul Bremer – in pursuit of a neocon model regime – got rid of Iraq’s governing infrastructure, dismantled much of the social safety net and disbanded the army. Then, the neocon-favored leader, exile Ahmed Chalabi, turned out to be a non-starter with the Iraqi people.</p><p>An armed resistance emerged, using low-tech weapons such as “improvised explosive devices.” Soon, not only were thousands of American soldiers dying but ancient sectarian rivalries between Shiites and Sunnis began tearing Iraq apart. The scenes of chaotic violence were horrific.</p><p>Rather than gaining in popularity with the American people, the war began to lose support, leading to Democratic gains in 2006. The neocons salvaged some of their status in 2007 by pushing the fiction of the “successful surge,” which supposedly had turned impending defeat into victory, but the truth was that the “surge” only delayed the inevitable failure of the U.S. enterprise.</p><p>With George W. Bush’s departure in 2009 and the arrival of Barack Obama, the neocons retreated, too. Neocon influence waned within the Executive Branch, though neocons still maintained strongholds at Washington think tanks and on editorial pages of national news outlets like the Washington Post.</p><p>New developments in the region also created new neocon hopes for their old agenda. The Arab Spring of 2011 led to civil unrest in Syria where the Assad dynasty – based in non-Sunni religious sects – was challenged by a Sunni-led insurgency which included some democratic reformers as well as radical jihadists.</p><p>Meanwhile, in Iran, international opposition to its nuclear program prompted harsh economic sanctions. Though President Obama viewed the sanctions as leverage to compel Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program, some neocons were salivating over how to hijack the sanctions on behalf of “regime change.”</p><p>However, in November 2012, Obama’s defeat of neocon favorite Mitt Romney and the departure of neocon ally, CIA Director David Petraeus, were sharp blows to the neocon plans of reclaiming the reins of U.S. foreign policy. Now, the neocons must see how they can leverage their continued influence over Washington’s opinion circles – and hope for advantageous developments abroad – to steer Obama toward more confrontational approaches with Iran and Syria.</p><p>For the neocons, it also remains crucial that average Americans don’t think too much about the why behind the disastrous Iraq War, a tenth anniversary that can’t pass quickly enough as far as the neocons are concerned.</p> Fri, 22 Mar 2013 11:07:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 813509 at http://lists.alternet.org World World iraq Pope Francis, the CIA and the ‘Death Squads’ http://lists.alternet.org/pope-francis-cia-and-death-squads <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1363378955775-5-0_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>The election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis brings back into focus the troubling role of the Catholic hierarchy in blessing much of the brutal repression that swept Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, killing and torturing tens of thousands of people including priests and nuns accused of sympathizing with leftists.</p><p>The Vatican’s fiercely <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/world/europe/pope-francis-praises-benedict-urges-cardinals-to-spread-gospel.html?ref=world&amp;_r=0">defensive reaction</a> to the reemergence of these questions as they relate to the new Pope also is reminiscent of the pattern of deceptive denials that became another hallmark of that era when propaganda was viewed as an integral part of the “anticommunist” struggles, which were often supported financially and militarily by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.</p><div id="attachment_7697"><p>It appears that Bergoglio, who was head of the Jesuit order in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s grim “dirty war,” mostly tended to his bureaucratic rise within the Church as Argentine security forces “disappeared” some 30,000 people for torture and murder from 1976 to 1983, including 150 Catholic priests suspected of believing in “liberation theology.”</p></div><p>Much as <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/16/evita-the-swiss-and-the-nazis/">Pope Pius XII</a> didn’t directly challenge the Nazis during the Holocaust, Father Bergoglio avoided any direct confrontation with the neo-Nazis who were terrorizing Argentina. Pope Francis’s defenders today, like apologists for Pope Pius, claim he did intervene quietly to save some individuals.</p><p>But no one asserts that Bergoglio stood up publicly against the “anticommunist” terror, as some other Church leaders did in Latin America, most notably El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero who then became a victim of right-wing assassins in 1980.</p><p>Indeed, the predominant role of the Church hierarchy – from the Vatican to the bishops in the individual countries – was to give political cover to the slaughter and to offer little protection to the priests and nuns who advocated “liberation theology,” i.e. the belief that Jesus did not just favor charity to the poor but <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/09/20/jesus-redistributionist-in-chief-2/">wanted a just society</a> that shared wealth and power with the poor.</p><p>In Latin America with its calcified class structure of a few oligarchs at one end and many peasants at the other, that meant reforms, such as land redistribution, literacy programs, health clinics, union rights, etc. But those changes were fiercely opposed by the local oligarchs and the multinational corporations that profited from the cheap labor and inequitable land distribution.</p><p>So, any reformers of any stripe were readily labeled “communists” and were made the targets of vicious security forces, often trained and indoctrinated by “anticommunist” military officers at the U.S.-run School of the Americas. The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system.</p><p>It is noteworthy that the orchestrated praise for Pope Francis in the U.S. news media has been to hail Bergoglio’s supposedly “humble” personality and his “commitment to the poor.” However, Bergoglio’s approach fits with the Church’s attitude for centuries, to give “charity” to the poor while doing little to change their cruel circumstances – as Church grandees hobnob with the rich and powerful.</p><p><strong>Another Pope Favorite</strong></p><p>Pope John Paul II, another favorite of the U.S. news media, shared this classic outlook. He emphasized conservative social issues, telling the faithful to forgo contraceptives, treating women as second-class Catholics and condemning homosexuality. He promoted charity for the poor and sometimes criticized excesses of capitalism, but he disdained leftist governments that sought serious economic reforms.</p><p>Elected in 1978, as right-wing “death squads” were gaining momentum across Latin America, John Paul II offered little protection to left-leaning priests and nuns who were targeted. He rebuffed Archbishop Romero’s plea to condemn El Salvador’s right-wing regime and its human rights violations. He stood by as priests were butchered and nuns were raped and killed.</p><p>Instead of leading the charge for real economic and political change in Latin America, John Paul II denounced “liberation theology.” During a 1983 trip to Nicaragua – then ruled by the leftist Sandinistas – the Pope condemned what he called the “popular Church” and would not let Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and a minister in the Sandinista government, kiss the papal ring. He also elevated clerics like Bergoglio who didn’t protest right-wing repression.</p><p>John Paul II appears to have gone even further, allowing the Catholic Church in Nicaragua to be used by the CIA and Ronald Reagan’s administration to finance and organize internal disruptions while the violent Nicaraguan Contras terrorized northern Nicaraguan towns with raids notorious for rape, torture and extrajudicial executions.</p><p>The Contras were originally organized by an Argentine intelligence unit that emerged from the country’s domestic “dirty war” and was taking its “anticommunist” crusade of terror across borders. After Reagan took office in 1981, he authorized the CIA to join with Argentine intelligence in expanding the Contras and their counterrevolutionary war.</p><p>A key part of Reagan’s Contra strategy was to persuade the American people and Congress that the Sandinistas represented a repressive communist dictatorship that persecuted the Catholic Church, aimed to create a “totalitarian dungeon,” and thus deserved violent overthrow.</p><p>A special office inside the National Security Council, headed by longtime CIA disinformation specialist Walter Raymond Jr., pushed these propaganda “themes” domestically. Raymond’s campaign exploited examples of tensions between the Catholic hierarchy and the Sandinista government as well as with La Prensa, the leading opposition newspaper.</p><p>To make the propaganda work with Americans, it was important to conceal the fact that elements of the Catholic hierarchy and La Prensa were being financed by the CIA and were coordinating with the Reagan administration’s destabilization strategies. [See Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">Lost History</a>.]</p><p><strong>Evidence of Payments</strong></p><p>In 1988, I discovered evidence of this reality while working as a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. At the time, the Iran-Contra scandal had undermined the case for spending more U.S. money to arm the Contras. But the Reagan administration continued to beat the propaganda drums by highlighting the supposed persecution of Nicaragua’s internal opposition.</p><p>To fend off U.S. hostility, which also included a harsh economic embargo, the Sandinistas announced increased political freedoms. But that represented only a new opportunity for Washington to orchestrate more political disruptions, which would either destabilize the government further or force a crackdown that could then be cited in seeking more Contra aid.</p><p>Putting the Sandinistas in this “inside-outside” vise had always been part of the CIA strategy, but with a crumbling economy and more U.S. money pouring into the opposition groups, the gambit was beginning to work.</p><p>Yet, it was crucial to the plan that the CIA’s covert relationship with Nicaragua’s internal opposition remain secret, not so much from the Sandinistas, who had detailed intelligence about this thoroughly penetrated operation, but from the American people. The U.S. public would get outraged at Sandinista reprisals against these “independent” groups only if the CIA’s hand were kept hidden.</p><p>A rich opportunity for the Reagan administration presented itself in summer 1988 when a new spasm of Contra ambushes killed 17 Nicaraguans and the anti-Sandinista internal opposition staged a violent demonstration in the town of Nandaime, a protest that Sandinista police dispersed with tear gas.</p><p>Reacting to the renewed violence, the Sandinistas closed down La Prensa and the Catholic Church’s radio station – both prime vehicles for anti-Sandinista propaganda. The Nicaraguan government also expelled U.S. Ambassador Richard Melton and seven other U.S. Embassy personnel for allegedly coordinating the disorders.</p><p>Major U.S. news outlets, which had accepted their role treating the Sandinistas as “designated enemies” of the United States, roared in outrage, and the U.S. Congress condemned the moves by a margin of 94-4 in the Senate and 385-18 in the House.</p><p>Melton then testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee first in secret and then in public, struggling to hide the open secret in Washington that Nicaragua’s internal opposition, like the Contras, was getting covert help from the U.S. government.</p><p>When asked by a senator in public session about covert American funding to the opposition, Melton dissembled awkwardly: “As to other activities that might be conducted, that’s – they were discussed – that would be discussed yesterday in the closed hearing.”</p><p>When pressed by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum on whether the embassy provided “encouragement – financial or otherwise – of dissident elements,” Melton responded stiffly: “The ambassador in any post is the principal representative of the U.S. government. And in that capacity, fulfills those functions.” He then declined to discuss “activities of an intelligence nature” in open session.</p><p><strong>On the Payroll</strong></p><p>In other words, yes, the U.S. government was covertly organizing and funding the activities of the supposedly “independent” internal opposition in Nicaragua. And, according to more than a dozen sources that I interviewed inside the Contra movement or close to U.S. intelligence, the Reagan administration had funneled CIA money to virtually every segment of the internal opposition, from the Catholic Church to La Prensa to business and labor groups to political parties.</p><p>“We’ve always had the internal opposition on the CIA payroll,” one U.S. government official said. The CIA’s budget line for Nicaraguan political action – separate from Contra military operations – was about $10 million a year, my sources said. I learned that the CIA had been using the Church and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo to funnel money into Nicaragua.</p><p>Obando was a plodding but somewhat complex character. In the 1970s, he had criticized the repression of the Somoza dictatorship and expressed some sympathy for the young Sandinista revolutionaries who were trying to bring social and economic changes to Nicaragua.</p><p>However, after the murder of El Salvador’s Archbishop Romero in 1980 and Pope John Paul II’s repudiation of “liberation theology,” Obando shifted clumsily into the anti-Sandinista camp, attacking the “people’s church” and accusing the Sandinistas of “godless communism.”</p><p>On May 25, 1985, he was rewarded when the Pope named him Cardinal for Central America. Then, despite mounting evidence of Contra atrocities, Obando traveled to the United States in January 1986 and threw his support behind a renewal of military aid to the Contras.</p><p>All this made a lot more sense after factoring in that Obando had essentially been put onto the CIA’s payroll. The CIA funding for Nicaragua’s Catholic Church was originally unearthed in 1985 by the congressional intelligence oversight committees, which then insisted that the money be cut off to avoid compromising Obando further.</p><p>But the funding was simply transferred to another secret operation headed by White House aide Oliver North. In fall 1985, North earmarked $100,000 of his privately raised money to go to Obando for his anti-Sandinista activities, I learned from my sources.</p><p>I was also told that the CIA’s support for Obando and the Catholic hierarchy went through a maze of cut-outs in Europe, apparently to give Obando deniability. But one well-placed Nicaraguan exile said he had spoken with Obando about the money and the Cardinal had expressed fear that his past receipt of CIA funding would come out.</p><p><strong>What to Do?</strong></p><p>Discovering this CIA funding of Nicaragua’s Catholic Church presented professional problems for me at Newsweek, where my senior editors were already making clear that they sympathized with the Reagan administration’s muscular foreign policy and felt that the Iran-Contra scandal had gone too far in undermining U.S. interests.</p><p>But what was the right thing for an American journalist to do with this information? Here was a case in which the U.S. government was misleading the American public by pretending that the Sandinistas were cracking down on the Catholic Church and the internal opposition without any justification. Plus, this U.S. propaganda was being used to make the case in Congress for an expanded war in which thousands of Nicaraguans were dying.</p><p>However, if Newsweek ran the story, it would put CIA assets, including Cardinal Obando, in a dicey situation, possibly even life-threatening. So, when I presented the information to my bureau chief, Evan Thomas, I made no recommendation on whether we should publish or not. I just laid out the facts as I had ascertained them. To my surprise, Thomas was eager to go forward.</p><p>Newsweek contacted its Central America correspondent Joseph Contreras, who outlined our questions to Obando’s aides and prepared a list of questions to present to the Cardinal personally. However, when Contreras went to Obando’s home in a posh suburb of Managua, the Cardinal literally evaded the issue.</p><p>As Contreras later recounted in a cable back to Newsweek in the United States, he was approaching the front gate when it suddenly swung open and the Cardinal, sitting in the front seat of his burgundy Toyota Land Cruiser, blew past.</p><p>As Contreras made eye contact and waved the letter, Obando’s driver gunned the engine. Contreras jumped into his car and hastily followed. Contreras guessed correctly that Obando had turned left at one intersection and headed north toward Managua.</p><p>Contreras caught up to the Cardinal’s vehicle at the first stop-light. The driver apparently spotted the reporter and, when the light changed, sped away, veering from lane to lane. The Land Cruiser again disappeared from view, but at the next intersection, Contreras turned right and spotted the car pulled over, with its occupants presumably hoping that Contreras had turned left.</p><p>Quickly, the Cardinal’s vehicle pulled onto the road and now sped back toward Obando’s house. Contreras gave up the chase, fearing that any further pursuit might appear to be harassment. Several days later, having regained his composure, the Cardinal finally met with Contreras and denied receiving any CIA money. But Contreras told me that Obando’s denial was unconvincing.</p><p>Newsweek drafted a version of the story, making it appear as if we weren’t sure of the facts about Obando and the money. When I saw a “readback” of the article, I went into Thomas’s office and said that if Newsweek didn’t trust my reporting, we shouldn’t run the story at all. He said that wasn’t the case; it was just that the senior editors felt more comfortable with a vaguely worded story.</p><p><strong>Hot Water</strong></p><p>We ended up in hot water with the Reagan administration and right-wing media attack groups anyway. Accuracy in Media lambasted me, in particular, for going with such a sensitive story without being sure of the facts (which, of course, I was).</p><p>Thomas was summoned to the State Department where Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams heaped more criticism on me though not denying the facts of our story. Newsweek also agreed, in the face of right-wing pressure, to subject me and the article to an internal investigation, which quietly reconfirmed the facts of the story.</p><p>Despite this corroboration, the incident damaged my relations with senior Newsweek editors, particularly executive editor Maynard Parker who saw himself as part of the New York/Washington foreign policy establishment and was deeply hostile to the Iran-Contra scandal, which I had helped expose.</p><p>As for Obando, the Sandinistas did nothing to punish him for his collaboration with the CIA and he gradually evolved more into a figure of reconciliation than confrontation. However, the hyper-secretive Vatican has refused to open its archives for any serious research into its relationship with the CIA and other Western intelligence services.</p><p>Whenever allegations do arise about the Catholic Church’s hierarchy winking and nodding at the kinds of human rights atrocities that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, the Vatican PR department lashes out with sternly worded denials.</p><p>That practice is playing out again in the days after the election of Pope Francis I. Rather than a serious and reflective assessment of the actions (and inactions) of Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal Obando, Pope John Paul II and other Church leaders during those dark days of torture and murder, the Vatican simply denounces all allegations as “slander,” “calumny” and politically motivated lies.</p> Sun, 17 Mar 2013 09:17:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 810612 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics Pope Francis the cia death squads Shocking New Evidence Reveals Depths of 'Treason' and 'Treachery' of Watergate and Iran-Contra http://lists.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/shocking-new-evidence-reveals-depths-treason-and-treachery-watergate-and-iran <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New evidence continues to accumulate showing how Official Washington got key elements of two major presidential scandals of the Nixon and Reagan administrations wrong.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-03-10_at_9.08.35_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>A favorite saying of Official Washington is that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But that presupposes you accurately understand what the crime was. And, in the case of the two major U.S. government scandals of the last third of the Twentieth Century – Watergate and Iran-Contra – that doesn’t seem to be the case.</p><p>Indeed, newly disclosed documents have put old evidence into a sharply different light and suggest that history has substantially miswritten the two scandals by failing to understand that they actually were sequels to earlier scandals that were far worse. Watergate and Iran-Contra were, in part at least, extensions of the original crimes, which involved dirty dealings to secure the immense power of the presidency.</p><p>Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.</p><p>The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. However, as the new President was taking steps in 1969 to extend the war another four-plus years, he sensed the threat from the wiretap file and ordered two of his top aides, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to locate it. But they couldn’t find the file.</p><p>We now know that was because President Johnson, who privately had called Nixon’s Vietnam actions “treason,” had ordered the file removed from the White House by his national security aide Walt Rostow.</p><p>Rostow labeled the file <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/03/03/lbjs-x-file-on-nixons-treason/">“The ‘X’ Envelope”</a> and kept it in his possession, although having left government, he had no legal right to possess the highly classified documents, many of which were stamped “Top Secret.” Johnson had instructed Rostow to retain the papers as long as he, Johnson, was alive and then afterwards to decide what to do with them.</p><p>Nixon, however, had no idea that Johnson and Rostow had taken the missing file or, indeed, who might possess it. Normally, national security documents are passed from the outgoing President to the incoming President to maintain continuity in government.</p><p>But Haldeman and Kissinger had come up empty in their search. They were only able to recreate the file’s contents, which included incriminating conversations between Nixon’s emissaries and South Vietnamese officials regarding Nixon’s promise to get them a better deal if they helped him torpedo Johnson’s peace talks.</p><p>So, the missing file remained a troubling mystery inside Nixon’s White House, but Nixon still lived up to his pre-election agreement with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to extend U.S. military participation in the war with the goal of getting the South Vietnamese a better outcome than they would have received from Johnson in 1968.</p><p>Nixon not only continued the Vietnam War, which had already claimed more than 30,000 American lives and an estimated one million Vietnamese, but he expanded it, with intensified bombing campaigns and a U.S. incursion into Cambodia. At home, the war was bitterly dividing the nation with a massive anti-war movement and an angry backlash from war supporters.</p><p>Pentagon Papers</p><p>It was in that intense climate in 1971 that Daniel Ellsberg, a former senior Defense Department official, gave the New York Times a copy of the Pentagon Papers, the secret U.S. history of the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967. The voluminous report documented many of the lies – most told by Democrats – to draw the American people into the war.</p><p>The Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971, and the disclosures touched off a public firestorm. Trying to tamp down the blaze, Nixon took extraordinary legal steps to stop dissemination of the secrets, ultimately failing in the U.S. Supreme Court.</p><p>But Nixon had an even more acute fear. He knew something that few others did, that there was a sequel to the Pentagon Papers that was arguably more explosive – the missing file containing evidence that Nixon had covertly prevented the war from being brought to a conclusion so he could maintain a political edge in Election 1968.</p><p>If anyone thought the Pentagon Papers represented a shocking scandal – and clearly millions of Americans did – how would people react to a file that revealed Nixon had kept the slaughter going – with thousands of additional American soldiers dead and the violence spilling back into the United States – just so he could win an election?</p><p>A savvy political analyst, Nixon recognized this threat to his reelection in 1972, assuming he would have gotten that far. Given the intensity of the anti-war movement, there would surely have been furious demonstrations around the White House and likely an impeachment effort on Capitol Hill.</p><p>So, on June 17, 1971, Nixon summoned Haldeman and Kissinger into the Oval Office and – as Nixon’s own recording devices whirred softly – pleaded with them again to locate the missing file. “Do we have it?” a Nixon asked Haldeman. “I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.”</p><p>Haldeman: “We can’t find it.”</p><p>Kissinger: “We have nothing here, Mr. President.”</p><p>Nixon: “Well, damnit, I asked for that because I need it.”</p><p>Kissinger: “But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.”</p><p>Haldeman: “We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.”</p><p>Nixon: “Where?”</p><p>Haldeman: “[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God that there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings.”</p><p>Nixon: “Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.”</p><p>Kissinger: “Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.”</p><p>Nixon: “I want it implemented. … Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”</p><p>Haldeman: “They may very well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to –“</p><p>Kissinger: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.”</p><p>Haldeman: “My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.”</p><p>But Johnson did know that the file was no longer at the White House because he had ordered Rostow to remove it in the final days of his own presidency.</p><p>Forming the Burglars</p><p>On June 30, 1971, Nixon again berated Haldeman about the need to break into Brookings and “take it [the file] out.” Nixon even suggested using former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to conduct the Brookings break-in.</p><p>“You talk to Hunt,” Nixon told Haldeman. “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in. … Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.”</p><p>Haldeman: “Make an inspection of the safe.”</p><p>Nixon: “That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, clean it up.”</p><p>For reasons that remain unclear, it appears that the Brookings break-in never took place, but Nixon’s desperation to locate Johnson’s peace-talk file was an important link in the chain of events that led to the creation of Nixon’s burglary unit under Hunt’s supervision. Hunt later oversaw the two Watergate break-ins in May and June of 1972.</p><p>While it’s possible that Nixon was still searching for the file about his Vietnam-peace sabotage when the Watergate break-ins occurred nearly a year later, it’s generally believed that the burglary was more broadly focused, seeking any information that might have an impact on Nixon’s re-election, either defensively or offensively.</p><p>As it turned out, Nixon’s burglars were nabbed inside the Watergate complex on their second break-in on June 17, 1972, exactly one year after Nixon’s tirade to Haldeman and Kissinger about the need to blow the safe at the Brookings Institution in pursuit of the missing Vietnam peace-talk file.</p><p>Ironically, too, Johnson and Rostow had no intention of exposing Nixon’s dirty secret regarding LBJ’s Vietnam peace talks, presumably for the same reasons that they kept their mouths shut back in 1968, out of a benighted belief that revealing Nixon’s actions might somehow not be “good for the country.”</p><p>In November 1972, despite the growing scandal over the Watergate break-in, Nixon handily won reelection, crushing Sen. George McGovern, Nixon’s preferred opponent. Nixon then reached out to Johnson seeking his help in squelching Democratic-led investigations of the Watergate affair and slyly noting that Johnson had ordered wiretaps of Nixon’s campaign in 1968.</p><p>Johnson reacted angrily to the overture, refusing to cooperate. On Jan. 20, 1973, Nixon was sworn in for his second term. On Jan. 22, 1973, Johnson died of a heart attack.</p><p>Toward Resignation</p><p>In the weeks that followed Nixon’s Inauguration and Johnson’s death, the scandal over the Watergate cover-up grew more serious, creeping ever closer to the Oval Office. Meanwhile, Rostow struggled to decide what he should do with “The ‘X’ Envelope.”</p><p>On May 14, 1973, in a three-page “memorandum for the record,” Rostow summarized what was in “The ‘X’ Envelope” and provided a chronology for the events in fall 1968. Rostow reflected, too, on what effect LBJ’s public silence then may have had on the unfolding Watergate scandal.</p><p>“I am inclined to believe the Republican operation in 1968 relates in two ways to the Watergate affair of 1972,” Rostow wrote. He noted, first, that Nixon’s operatives may have judged that their “enterprise with the South Vietnamese” – in frustrating Johnson’s last-ditch peace initiative – had secured Nixon his narrow margin of victory over Hubert Humphrey in 1968.</p><p>“Second, they got away with it,” Rostow wrote. “Despite considerable press commentary after the election, the matter was never investigated fully. Thus, as the same men faced the election in 1972, there was nothing in their previous experience with an operation of doubtful propriety (or, even, legality) to warn them off, and there were memories of how close an election could get and the possible utility of pressing to the limit – and beyond.” [To read Rostow’s memo, click <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0451.JPG">here</a>, <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0452.JPG">here</a> and <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0453.JPG">here</a>.]</p><p>What Rostow didn’t know was that there was a third – and more direct – connection between the missing file and Watergate. Nixon’s fear about the file surfacing as a follow-up to the Pentagon Papers was Nixon’s motive for creating Hunt’s burglary team in the first place.</p><p>Rostow apparently struggled with what to do with the file for the next month as the Watergate scandal expanded. On June 25, 1973, fired White House counsel John Dean delivered his blockbuster Senate testimony, claiming that Nixon got involved in the cover-up within days of the June 1972 burglary at the Democratic National Committee. Dean also asserted that Watergate was just part of a years-long program of political espionage directed by Nixon’s White House.</p><p>The very next day, as headlines of Dean’s testimony filled the nation’s newspapers, Rostow reached his conclusion about what to do with “The ‘X’ Envelope.” In longhand, he wrote <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0486.JPG">a “Top Secret” note</a> which read, “To be opened by the Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, not earlier than fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.”</p><p>In other words, Rostow intended this missing link of American history to stay missing for another half century. In <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0484.JPG">a typed cover letter</a> to LBJ Library director Harry Middleton, Rostow wrote: “Sealed in the attached envelope is a file President Johnson asked me to hold personally because of its sensitive nature. In case of his death, the material was to be consigned to the LBJ Library under conditions I judged to be appropriate. …</p><p>“After fifty years the Director of the LBJ Library (or whomever may inherit his responsibilities, should the administrative structure of the National Archives change) may, alone, open this file. … If he believes the material it contains should not be opened for research [at that time], I would wish him empowered to re-close the file for another fifty years when the procedure outlined above should be repeated.”</p><p>Ultimately, however, the LBJ Library didn’t wait that long. After a little more than two decades, on July 22, 1994, the envelope was opened and the archivists began the long process of declassifying the contents.</p><p>Yet, because Johnson and Rostow chose to withhold the file on Nixon’s “treason,” a distorted history of Watergate took shape and then hardened into what all the Important People of Washington “knew” to be true. The conventional wisdom was that Nixon was unaware of the Watergate break-in beforehand – that it was some harebrained scheme of a few overzealous subordinates – and that the President only got involved later in covering it up.</p><p>Sure, the Washington groupthink went, Nixon had his “enemies list” and played hardball with his rivals, but he couldn’t be blamed for the Watergate break-in, which many insiders regarded as “the third-rate burglary” that Nixon’s White House called it.</p><p>Even journalists and historians who took a broader view of Watergate didn’t pursue the remarkable clue from Nixon’s rant about the missing file on June 17, 1971. Though a few other historians did write, sketchily, about the 1968 events, they also didn’t put the events together.</p><p>So, the beloved saying took shape: “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” And Official Washington hates to rethink some history that is considered already settled. In this case, it would make too many important people who have expounded on the “worse” part of Watergate, i.e. the cover-up, look stupid. [For details, see Robert Parry’s<a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>The Iran-Contra Cover-up</p><p>Similarly, Official Washington and many mainstream historians have tended to dismiss Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal as another case of some overzealous subordinates intuiting what the President wanted and getting everybody into trouble.</p><p>The “Big Question” that insiders were asking after the scandal broke in November 1986 was whether President Reagan knew about the decision by White House aide Oliver North and his boss, National Security Advisor John Poindexter, to divert some profits from secret arms sales to Iran to secretly buy weapons for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.</p><p>Once, Poindexter testified that he had no recollection of letting Reagan in on that secret – and with Reagan a beloved figure to many in Official Washington – the inquiry was relegated to insignificance. The remaining investigation focused on smaller questions, like misleading Congress and a scholarly dispute over whether the President’s foreign policy powers overrode Congress’ power to appropriate funds).</p><p>At the start of the Iran-Contra investigation, Attorney General Edwin Meese had set the time parameters from 1984 to 1986, thus keeping outside of the frame the possibility of a much more serious scandal originating during Campaign 1980, i.e., whether Reagan’s campaign undermined President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages in Iran and then paid off the Iranians by allowing Israel to ship weapons to Iran for the Iran-Iraq War.</p><p>So, while congressional and federal investigators looked only at how the specific 1985-86 arms sales to Iran got started, there was no timely attention paid to evidence that the Reagan administration had quietly approved Israeli arms sales to Iran in 1981 and that those contacts went back to the days before Election 1980 when the hostage crisis destroyed Carter’s reelection hopes and ensured Reagan’s victory.</p><p>The 52 hostages were not released until Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.</p><p>Over the years, about two dozen sources – including Iranian officials, Israeli insiders, European intelligence operatives, Republican activists and even Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat – have provided information about alleged contacts with Iran by the Reagan campaign.</p><p>And, there were indications early in the Reagan presidency that something peculiar was afoot. On July 18, 1981, an Israeli-chartered plane crashed or was shot down after straying over the Soviet Union on a return flight from delivering U.S.-manufactured weapons to Iran.</p><p>In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials. “It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.</p><p>In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election. “It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”</p><p>When I re-interviewed Veliotes on Aug. 8, 2012, he said he couldn’t recall who the “people on high” were who had described the informal clearance of the Israeli shipments but he indicated that “the new players” were the young neoconservatives who were working on the Reagan campaign, many of whom later joined the administration as senior political appointees.</p><p>Neocon Schemes</p><p>Newly <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/02/15/how-neocons-messed-up-the-mideast/">discovered documents</a> at the Reagan presidential library reveal that Reagan’s neocons at the State Department – particularly Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz – initiated a policy review in 1981 to allow Israel to undertake secret military shipments to Iran. McFarlane and Wolfowitz also maneuvered to put McFarlane in charge of U.S. relations toward Iran and to establish a clandestine U.S. back-channel to the Israeli government outside the knowledge of even senior U.S. government officials.</p><p>Not only did the documents tend to support the statements by Veliotes but they also fit with comments that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir made in a 1993 interview in Tel Aviv. Shamir said he had read the 1991 book, October Surprise, by Carter’s former National Security Council aide Gary Sick, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter’s reelection.</p><p>With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”</p><p>“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”</p><p>And, there were plenty of other corroborating statements as well. In 1996, for instance, while former President Carter was meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat in Gaza City, Arafat tried to confess his role in the Republican maneuvering to block Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations.</p><p>“There is something I want to tell you,” Arafat said, addressing Carter in the presence of historian Douglas Brinkley. “You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal [for the PLO] if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the [U.S. presidential] election,” Arafat said, according to Brinkley’s article in the fall 1996 issue of Diplomatic Quarterly.</p><p>As recently as this past week, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr reiterated his account of Republican overtures to Iran during the 1980 hostage crisis and how that secret initiative prevented release of the hostages.</p><p>In a Christian Science Monitor commentary about the movie “Argo,” Bani-Sadr wrote that “Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation … which prevented the attempts by myself and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 U.S. presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”</p><p>Though Bani-Sadr had discussed the Reagan-Khomeini collaboration before, he added in his commentary that “two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, … and the Reagan administration.”</p><p>In December 1992, when a House Task Force was examining this so-called “October Surprise” controversy – and encountering fierce Republican resistance – Bani-Sadr submitted a letter detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Khomeini and his son Ahmad over their secret dealings with the Reagan campaign.</p><p>Bani-Sadr’s letter – dated Dec. 17, 1992 – was part of a flood of last-minute evidence implicating the Reagan campaign in the hostage scheme. However, by the time the letter and the other evidence arrived, the leadership of the House Task Force had decided to simply declare the Reagan campaign innocent. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/07/october-surprise-and-argo/">‘October Surprise’ and ‘Argo.’</a>”]</p><p>Burying the History</p><p>Lawrence Barcella, who served as Task Force chief counsel, later told me that so much incriminating evidence arrived late that he asked Task Force chairman, Rep. Lee Hamilton, a centrist Democrat from Indiana, to extend the inquiry for three months but that Hamilton said no. (Hamilton told me that he had no recollection of Barcella’s request.)</p><p>Instead of giving a careful review to the new evidence, the House Task Force ignored, disparaged or buried it. I later unearthed some of the evidence in unpublished Task Force files. However, in the meantime, Official Washington dismissed the “October Surprise” and other Iran-Contra-connected scandals, like Contra drug trafficking, as conspiracy theories. [For the latest information on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s<a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>As with Watergate and Nixon, Official Washington has refused to rethink its conclusions absolving President Ronald Reagan and his successor President George H.W. Bush of guilt in a range of crimes collected under the large umbrella of Iran-Contra.</p><p>When journalist Gary Webb revived the Contra-Cocaine scandal in the mid-to-late 1990s, he faced unrelenting hostility from Establishment reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. The attacks were so ugly that Webb’s editors at the San Jose Mercury News forced him out, setting in motion his professional destruction.</p><p>It didn’t even matter when an internal investigation by the CIA’s inspector general in 1998 confirmed that the Reagan and Bush-41 administrations had tolerated and protected drug trafficking by the Contras. The major newspapers largely ignored the findings and did nothing to help rehabilitate Webb’s career, eventually contributing to his suicide in 2004. [For details on the CIA report, see Robert Parry's <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">Lost History</a>.]</p><p>The major newspapers have been equally unwilling to rethink the origins – and the significance – of the October Surprise/Iran-Contra scandal. It doesn’t matter how much new evidence accumulates. It remains much easier to continue the politically safe deification of “Gipper” Reagan and the fond remembrances of “Poppy” Bush.</p><p>Not only would rethinking Iran-Contra and Watergate stir up anger and abuse from Republican operatives and the Right, but the process would reflect badly on many journalists and historians who built careers, in part, by getting these important historical stories wrong.</p><p>However, there must come a point when the weight of the new evidence makes the old interpretations of these scandals intellectually untenable and when treasured sayings – like “the cover-up is worse than the crime” – are swept into the historical dustbin.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, </strong><em style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>America’s Stolen Narrative,</strong></em><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"> either in </strong><a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>print here</strong></a><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"> or as an e-book (from </strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Stolen-Narrative-Washington-ebook/dp/B009RXXOIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1350755575&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=americas+stolen+narrative" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>Amazon</strong></a><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"> and </strong><a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/americas-stolen-narrative?keyword=americas+stolen+narrative&amp;store=ebook&amp;iehack=%E2%98%A0" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>barnesandnoble.com</strong></a><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">).</strong></p> </div></div></div> Sun, 10 Mar 2013 20:47:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 807184 at http://lists.alternet.org The Right Wing News & Politics The Right Wing nixon reagan watergate iran contra The Neo-Confederate Supreme Court Gearing Up to Restore White Rule Over America http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/neo-confederate-supreme-court-gearing-restore-white-rule-over-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">GOP desperation over U.S. demographic changes has spread to the U.S. Supreme Court -- a majority is ready to tear up the most important part of the Voting Rights Act.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1358304101663-1-0_8.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">If white rule in the United States is to be restored and sustained, then an important first step will be the decision of the five Neo-Confederate justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act, a move that many court analysts now consider likely.</span></p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The Court’s striking down Section Five of the Voting Rights Act will mean that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting – mostly in the Old Confederacy – will be free to impose new obstacles to voting by African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities without first having to submit the changes to a federal court.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Already, the Republicans’ aggressive gerrymandering of congressional districts has ensured a continued GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives although Democrats outpolled Republicans nationwide in Election 2012.</span>This green light to renew Jim Crow laws also would come at a time when Republican legislatures and governors across the country are devising new strategies for diluting the value of votes from minorities and urban dwellers in order to protect GOP power, especially within the federal government.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Some GOP-controlled states, which also have tended to vote Democratic in presidential elections, are now considering apportioning presidential electors according to these gerrymandered districts to give Republican presidential candidates most of the electoral votes even if they lose the state. [See Consortiumnews.com's "<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/26/return-of-three-fifths-of-a-person/" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135);">Return of Three-Fifths of a Person</a>."]</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">On Wednesday, the five partisan Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court showed that they wanted to do their part in devaluing the votes of blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites. So the key GOP justices indicated during oral arguments that they are looking for excuses to strike down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia shocked the courtroom when he dismissed the Voting Rights Act as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” suggesting that the right of blacks to vote was some kind of government handout.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">But almost as troubling was the remark from Justice Anthony Kennedy who insisted that the Voting Rights Act, which was first enacted by Congress in 1965 and was renewed overwhelmingly in 2006, was an intrusion on Alabama as an “independent sovereign,” states’ rights language reminiscent of the Old Confederacy.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Indeed, the five Republican justices – also including John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – seem to have absorbed a Neo-Confederate interpretation of the Constitution that is at odds with what the Framers intended.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>The Stolen Narrative</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The language about “independent” and “sovereign” states was part of the Articles of Confederation, which governed the United States from 1777 to 1787 and which proved so disastrous that George Washington and James Madison insisted that the Articles be tossed out entirely during the writing of the Constitution in 1787.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">General Washington, in particular, hated the concept of “independent” and “sovereign” states because he saw the effect on his inability to secure adequate supplies and munitions for his troops during the Revolutionary War. The states often reneged on their promises to provide support, and the central government had little power. In the Articles, it was deemed a “league of friendship.”</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">With the Articles failing as a governing structure, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was instructed to propose amendments, but Washington and Madison engineered the complete elimination of the Articles in favor of the new Constitution.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The Constitution made federal law supreme and transferred national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People.” All language about state “sovereignty” and “independence” was expunged, though the Framers left the states substantial control over local matters.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">However, the tensions between the federal government and the states continued, especially over the South’s insistence that the slavery of African-Americans be made a permanent part of American life. Among the compromises in Philadelphia had been a particularly offensive clause that counted black slaves as “three-fifths of a person” for the purpose of representation.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Slave states also wanted their “peculiar institution” to be extended to other incoming states to prevent the possibility of non-slave states outvoting the slave states in Congress. Ultimately, this dispute led to Southern states seceding from the Union after Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>The Rise of Jim Crow</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The North’s victory in the Civil War appeared to establish the supremacy of federal law as expressed in the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment was enacted in the waning days of the conflict, abolishing slavery once and for all. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments then established the principles of equal protection under the law, including the right to vote.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">But still the former slave states didn’t give up. With whites reasserting their racial supremacy – and their political dominance through electoral trickery and terrorist violence – the states of the Old Confederacy created a Jim Crow system of racial segregation that included devious means to rob African-Americans of the voting franchise.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">It was not until the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s that the federal government again stepped in against these racist laws and actions. This intervention produced an angry white backlash in the South and a resurgence in the Right’s pseudo-scholarship about the U.S. Constitution.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Over the past half century, wealthy right-wingers have invested millions and millions of dollars in “think tanks” and other research institutions – the likes of Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and Federalist Society – that have worked diligently to cherry-pick the nation’s early history to transform America’s Founding narrative into its opposite, with Washington and Madison made into states’ rights lovers and federal government haters.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">In this right-wing narrative, the Articles of Confederation largely disappear because their presence destroys the storyline of the Framers enacting the Constitution to enshrine the principles of states’ rights and a weak central authority. After all, if the Framers wanted that kind of system, why did they throw out the Articles with those “sovereign” and “independent” states and with the federal government just a “league of friendship”?</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">But the Right’s scholars were well-paid to make a Neo-Confederate case. So they took the rather inconsequential Tenth Amendment and elevated it into some defining principle. In reality, it was a sop to the Anti-Federalists during the difficult ratification of the Constitution and simply says that powers not granted to the federal government remain with the people and the states.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The amendment meant very little since the Constitution granted very broad powers to the central government, and Madison always asserted that the Constitution defined the limits of federal power (which is why he initially thought there was no need for a Bill of Rights). [For more on this history, see Robert Parry’s <em><a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135);">America’s Stolen Narrative</a></em>.]</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><strong>Neo-Confederate Revisionism</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Why this history is significant today is that the five right-wing justices, making up the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, are the products of this Neo-Confederate revisionism. They absorbed this ersatz history as they rose through the ranks of right-wing ideology and institutions.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Now they are in position to impose their false constitutional thinking on the United States, particularly as those theories relate to the present Republican crisis with the country’s changing demographics. As the white population shrinks to below 50 percent, the only way to sustain white control is by devaluing minority votes by, in effect, counting them as only worth three-fifths of a person.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">If the GOP can’t rig future elections to give greater weight to white votes and less value to the votes of blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and urban white youth (who accept the nation’s new multiculturalism), then the right-wing cause will almost surely be lost.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Thus, the Supreme Court’s arguments tend to sound more like a pundit debate on Fox News or a discussion group at the Conservative Political Action Conference than a serious legal deliberation.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">For instance, Chief Justice Roberts questioned the need for Section Five of the Voting Rights Act by making the clever but disingenuous argument that blacks in Mississippi vote in higher proportions relative to whites than those in Massachusetts.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">However, his point is illogical because, first, that would indicate that the Voting Rights Act is working as intended in Mississippi – not that it should be struck down – and, second, people aren’t saying that Massachusetts has taken actions to discourage black voting. In the United States, people have the right to vote or not to vote. The legal problem arises when state and local jurisdictions try to stop people from voting.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The Supreme Court’s apparent intention to gut the Voting Rights Act also could be viewed in the continuum of its five-to-four ruling in the <em>Citizens United</em> case of 2010 in which the right-wing justices freed up rich Americans to spend unlimited amounts to influence political campaigns. In other words, the Court’s majority seems intent on tilting the political playing field in favor of white plutocrats.</p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">But the Court’s Neo-Confederate rationale was underscored mostly openly by Justice Scalia and his sneering remark about minority voting rights being a “racial entitlement” and by Justice Kennedy’s insistence that Alabama has the “independent sovereign” right to set its own voting rules without federal oversight.</p> Thu, 28 Feb 2013 12:28:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 802184 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics supreme court voting rights act Finally, the Swaggering Republicans Are Afraid http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/finally-swaggering-republicans-are-afraid <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">House Speaker Boehner warned his fellow GOPers that Obama may be preparing “to annihilate” the GOP, marking a stunning reversal of fortune.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-01-25_at_12.33.29_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>During a <a href="http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2013/01/23/boehner-obama-wants-annihilate-republican-party#ixzz2Iur430wN">private luncheon</a> of the Republican Ripon Society on Tuesday, Boehner cited Obama’s progressive agenda as outlined in his Second Inaugural Address as representing an existential threat to the GOP.</p><p>“It’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.” The Ohio Republican also claimed that it was Obama’s goal “to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”</p><p>Of course, Boehner may be wildly exaggerating the Republican plight to shock the party out of its funk, raise more money, and get right-wing activists back to the barricades. Still, his comments marked a remarkable reversal of fortune, like the playground bully getting his nose bloodied and running to the teacher in tears.</p><p>Even if hyped from political effect, Boehner’s lament also might force some progressives to rethink their negative views about President Obama. If indeed Obama has gotten the upper hand on America’s swaggering Right, then he might not be the political wimp that many on the Left have pegged him to be.</p><p>Without doubt, America’s political landscape has shifted from what it was just eight years ago when President George W. Bush was talking about using his political capital to privatize Social Security and Bush’s political guru, Karl Rove, was <a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/09/karl-rove-gop-craig-unger">contemplating</a> an enduring Republican control of all three branches of the U.S. government.</p><p>As part of that Zeitgeist of 2005, as Bush entered his second term, right-wing activist Grover Norquist joked about keeping the Democrats around as neutered farm animals. The president of Americans for Tax Reform – most famous for getting Republicans to pledge never to raise taxes – told the Washington Post that congressional Democrats should grow accustomed to having no power and no reproductive ability.</p><p>“Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans,” Norquist said. “Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they’ve been ‘fixed,’ then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful.”</p><p><strong>How We Got There</strong></p><p>That moment of right-wing arrogance represented a culmination of decades of hardball Republican politics, a take-no-prisoners style that usually encountered only the softest of responses from the Democrats and progressives.</p><p>Arguably the pattern was set in fall 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson learned that GOP presidential nominee Nixon was sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks to ensure his victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey – but Johnson stayed silent about what he called Nixon’s “treason” out of concern that its exposure would not be “good for the country.” [See Robert Parry’s <em><a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">America’s Stolen Narrative</a></em>.]</p><p>Nixon’s success in 1968 – and the Democratic silence – contributed to his decision several years later to create an extra-legal intelligence unit to spy on and undermine the Democrats heading into Election 1972. Finally, Nixon’s political chicanery undid him when his team of burglars was arrested inside the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate building. The resulting scandal led to his resignation in 1974.</p><p>But the Republican response to Watergate wasn’t to mend the party’s ways but rather to learn how to protect against ever again being held accountable. That reality became the political back story of the next three decades, as the Right built up a fearsome media apparatus and deployed well-funded operatives to shield Republicans and to discredit anyone who presented a threat, whether untamed Democrats, nosy reporters or average citizens.</p><p>This Right-Wing Machine showed off its value during the 1980s and early 1990s when President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were caught up in the Iran-Contra national security scandal but succeeded in skating away with only minimal political damage. Instead of Reagan and Bush being held accountable for their crimes, far worse damage was inflicted on the careers of investigators, journalists and witnesses who tried to expose the wrongdoing.</p><p>Within this political/media framework, when Democrats did win elections, Republicans immediately demeaned them as illegitimate interlopers. For instance, Bill Clinton’s electoral victory in 1992 was an opportunity for the Right-Wing Machine to demonstrate that it could play offense as well as defense, tying up Clinton’s presidency endlessly in trivial “scandals” and setting the stage for the GOP congressional comeback in 1994.</p><p>Over those decades, the Republicans behaved as if national power was their birthright. In Election 2000, they saw nothing wrong with aggressively disrupting the recount in Florida, both with rioters on the ground and partisan justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. It didn’t matter that Vice President Al Gore had won the nation’s popular vote and would have carried Florida if all legal ballots were counted. What mattered was putting a Republican in the White House by whatever means necessary. [For details, see <em><a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">Neck Deep</a></em>.]</p><p><strong>The Republican Apex</strong></p><p>After the 9/11 attacks, even as Democrats set aside partisan concerns to support President George W. Bush’s response to the crisis, Bush and the Republicans painted the Democrats as “soft on terror” and unpatriotic. The GOP did whatever it took to expand and solidify power.</p><p>In 2004, the Republicans and the Right went so far as to portray Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as a fake Vietnam War hero. GOP activists even mocked his war wounds by passing out “Purple Heart Band-Aids” at the Republican National Convention.</p><p>Then, after Bush rode his post-9/11 reputation as a “war president” to a second term, Republican operatives like Rove and Norquist saw their moment for making their political power permanent, in effect turning the United States into a one-party state with the Democrats kept around for the necessary cosmetics of a “democracy.” The GOP would use its money, its media and its control of the judicial process to make successful electoral challenges unthinkable.</p><p>But 2005 instead turned out to be the GOP’s high-water mark, a time of premature celebration, the last moment of sunlight before the arrival of darkening clouds, or in this case, the American people’s realization that the Right’s anti-government extremism – mixed with the neocons’ imperialist wars – was a recipe for disaster.</p><p>Bush’s inept handling of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that it inflicted along the Gulf of Mexico showed the downside of a hollowed-out federal government. And the bloody stalemate in Iraq revealed the dangers of ill-conceived military adventures.</p><p>Bush’s tax-cutting and deregulation produced other harmful consequences, including soaring federal deficits, rising income inequality, an eroding middle class and an unstable “bubble” economy that finally burst in 2008. The electorate’s recognition of Bush’s failures led to Democratic victories, including Obama’s election as President.</p><p>Yet, despite the extraordinary national crisis that Bush left behind – millions of Americans losing their jobs and their homes as well as two unfinished wars – the Republicans refused to play the role of “loyal opposition.” They pulled out their successful playbook from the early Clinton years and confronted Obama with unrelenting hostility.</p><p>Once again, the obstructionist strategy worked at least in a narrow political sense. By mid-2009, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other loud voices from the muscular Right-Wing Machine had whipped up a passionate Tea Party opposition to Obama, including crypto-racist allegations that the President was born in Kenya, despite the evidence of birth records in Hawaii.</p><p>Meanwhile, America’s weak and disorganized Left mostly complained that Obama hadn’t delivered on everything that he should have. For his part, Obama squandered valuable time reaching out for a bipartisanship that never came, and the mainstream news media faulted him anyway for failing to achieve that bipartisanship.</p><p><strong>Getting Obama</strong></p><p>So, the Right surged to electoral victories in 2010. Republicans reclaimed the House and seized control of many state governments. Senior Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, openly declared that their top priority would be to ensure Obama’s failure as President and his defeat in 2012. Part of the Republican strategy to reclaim national power was to disenfranchise blacks and other minorities by creating obstacle courses of legal impediments to voting, such as onerous voter ID laws and reduced hours.</p><p>Many top GOP operatives, including Rove, remained confident of success as late as Election Night 2012, expecting Mitt Romney to unseat Barack Obama. However, Democrats blocked many of the voter-suppression schemes and Obama marshaled an unprecedented coalition of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women and the young to decisively defeat Romney.</p><p>In Congress, Democrats strengthened their control of the Senate and narrowed the Republican majority in the House. That GOP majority was retained only because Republicans had gerrymandered districts after the 2010 elections enabling the party to keep most seats despite losing the popular vote nationally.</p><p>During his Second Inaugural Address, Obama also made clear that he had finally forsaken the “inside game” of trying to sweet talk the Republicans into cooperation or negotiating from positions of weakness. Instead, Obama delivered a strong defense of American progressivism. He tied that tradition to the ideals of the Framers who wrote the Constitution with the intent of creating a vibrant Republic, a government of, by and for the people.</p><p>Obama’s speech and its warm reception apparently unnerved Speaker Boehner who suddenly saw something akin to an existential threat to the GOP. There were the painful election results, the nation’s shifting demographics, the newly assertive President, and hundreds of thousands of Americans again packing the Mall to celebrate Obama’s victory.</p><p>After his Inaugural Address as he stepped back into the U.S. Capitol, President Obama paused, turned around and looked back at the throngs of people waving American flags as far as the eye could see. He said wistfully, “I’m not going to see this again.”</p><p>From his seat in the Inaugural reviewing stands, Speaker Boehner saw the same impressive scene, and he may have grasped its implicit message. The large and diverse crowd personified the Obama coalition — and the mortal threat that it represents to traditional American politics, always dominated by white men of means.</p><p>Of course, the Republicans still have the Right-Wing Machine churning out propaganda to rally the party’s angry white-male base. Plus, the GOP is coming up with more new plans for minimizing the votes of black and brown people and maximizing the political clout of whites, such as a scheme in several states to apportion presidential electors based on the Republicans’ gerrymandered congressional districts.</p><p>But Boehner seems to sense that something fundamental has changed. Perhaps he was playacting a bit when he warned fellow Republicans that Obama hoped to “annihilate” the Republican Party. But – overdramatized or not – Boehner’s alarm suggests that finally it is the Republicans who are afraid.</p> Fri, 25 Jan 2013 12:24:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 783344 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics The Right Wing gop politics America's Big Political Fight: Will We Grapple with Reality or Fully Detach and Live in Fantasyland? http://lists.alternet.org/media/americas-big-political-fight-will-we-grapple-reality-or-fully-detach-and-live-fantasyland <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Key elements of the American Right have set up permanent residence in the world of make-believe, making the real-world challenges we face almost impossible to solve.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-01-16_at_8.33.23_am.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The real struggle confronting the United States is not between the Right and the Left in any traditional sense, but between those who believe in reality and those who are entranced by unreality. It is a battle that is testing whether fact-based people have the same determination to fight for their real-world view as those who operate in a fact-free space do in defending their illusions.</p><p>These battle lines do relate somewhat to the Right/Left divide because today’s right-wing has embraced ideological propaganda as truth more aggressively and completely than those on the Left, though the Left (and the Center, too) are surely not immune from the practice of ignoring facts in pursuit of some useful agit-prop.</p><p>But key elements of the American Right have set up permanent residence in the world of make-believe, making any commonsense approach to the real-world challenges nearly politically impossible. The Right’s fantasists also have the passions of true-believers, like a cult that gets angrier the more its views are questioned.</p><p>So, it doesn’t matter that scientific evidence proves global warming is real; the deniers will insist the facts are simply a government ploy to impose “tyranny.” It doesn’t matter how many schoolchildren are slaughtered by semi-automatic assault rifles – or what <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/14/more-second-amendment-madness/">the real history</a> of the Second Amendment was. To the gun fanatics, the Framers wanted armed rebellion against the non-violent political process they worked so hard to create.</p><p>On more narrow questions, it doesn’t matter whether President Barack Obama presents his short or long birth certificates, he must have somehow fabricated the Hawaiian state records to hide his Kenyan birth. Oh, yes, and Obama is “lazy” even though he may appear to an objective observer to be a multi-tasking workaholic.</p><p>The American Right’s collective departure from reality can be traced back decades, but clearly accelerated with the emergence of former actor Ronald Reagan on the national stage. Even his admirers acknowledge that Reagan had a strained relationship with facts, preferring to illustrate his points with distorted or apocryphal anecdotes.</p><p>Reagan’s detachment from reality extended from foreign policy to economics. As his rival for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, George H.W. Bush famously labeled Reagan’s supply-side policies – of massive tax cuts for the rich which would supposedly raise more revenues – as “voodoo economics.”</p><p>But Bush, who knew better, then succumbed to Reagan’s political clout as he accepted Reagan’s vice presidential offer. In that way, the senior Bush would become a model for how other figures in the Establishment would pragmatically bend to Reagan’s casual disregard for reality.</p><p><strong>Perception Management</strong></p><p>The Reagan administration also built around the President a propaganda infrastructure that systematically punished politicians, citizens, journalists or anyone who dared challenge the fantasies. This private-public collaboration – coordinating right-wing media with government disinformationists – brought home to America the CIA’s strategy of “perception management” normally aimed at hostile populations.</p><p>Thus, the Nicaraguan Contras, who in reality were drug-connected terrorists roaming the countryside murdering, torturing and raping, became “the moral equivalent” of America’s Founding Fathers. To say otherwise marked you as a troublemaker who had to be “controversialized” and marginalized.</p><p>The remarkable success of Reagan’s propaganda was a lesson not lost on a young generation of Republican operatives and the emerging neoconservatives who held key jobs in Reagan’s Central American and public-diplomacy operations, the likes of Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan. The neocons’ devotion to imperialism abroad seemed to motivate their growing disdain for empiricism at home. Facts didn’t matter; results did. [See Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">Lost History</a>.]</p><p>But this strategy wouldn’t have worked if not for gullible rank-and-file right-wingers who were manipulated by an endless series of false narratives. The Republican political pros manipulated the racial resentments of neo-Confederates, the religious zeal of fundamentalist Christians, and the free-market hero worship of Ayn Rand acolytes.</p><p>That these techniques succeeded in a political system that guaranteed freedom of speech and the press was not only a testament to the skills of Republican operatives like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. It was an indictment of America’s timid Center and the nation’s ineffectual Left. Simply put, the Right fought harder for its fantasyland than the rest of America did for the real world.</p><p>There were a number of key turning points in this “info-war.” For instance, Reagan’s secret relationship with the Iranian mullahs was partly revealed in the Iran-Contra scandal, but its apparent origins in treacherous Republican activities during Campaign 1980 – contacting Iran behind President Jimmy Carter’s back – were swept under the rug by mainstream Democrats and the Washington press corps.</p><p>Similarly, evidence of Contra drug-trafficking – and even CIA admissions about covering up and protecting those crimes – were downplayed by the major newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times. Ditto the work of Central American truth commissions exposing massive human rights violations that Reagan aided and abetted.</p><p>The fear of taking on the Reagan propaganda machine in any serious or consistent way was so great that nearly everyone looked to their careers or their personal pleasures. One side dug in for political warfare and the other, too often, favored trips to wine country.</p><p><strong>Distrusting the MSM</strong></p><p>As this anti-empiricism deepened over several decades, the remaining thinking people in America came to distrust the mainstream. The initials “MSM” – standing for “mainstream media” – became an expression of derision and contempt, not undeserved given the MSM’s repeated failure to fight for the truth.</p><p>National Democrats, too, showed little fight. When evidence of Republican misconduct was available – as in the investigations of the early 1990s into Iran-Contra, Iraq-gate and the October Surprise case – accommodating Democrats, such as Rep. Lee Hamilton and Sen. David Boren chose to look the other way. [See Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>The Democrats even submitted when the Right and the Republicans overturned the electoral will of the American people, as happened in Election 2000 when George W. Bush stole the Florida election and thus the White House from Al Gore. [For details, see the book, <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">Neck Deep</a>.]</p><p>In the decades after the Vietnam War, the American Left also drifted into irrelevance. Indeed, it’s common in some circles on the Left to observe that “America has no Left.” But what was left of the Left often behaved like disgruntled fans in the bleachers booing everyone on the field, the bad guys who were doing terrible things as well as the not-so-bad guys who were doing the best they could under impossible conditions.</p><p>This post-modern United States may have reached its nadir with George W. Bush’s presidency. In 2002-03, patently false claims were made about Iraq’s WMD and virtually no one in a position of power had the courage to challenge the lies. Deceived by Bush and the neocons – with the help of centrists like Colin Powell and the editors of the Washington Post – the nation lurched off into an aggressive war of choice.</p><p>Sometimes, the Right’s contempt for reality was expressed openly. When author Ron Suskind interviewed members of the Bush administration in 2004, he encountered a withering contempt for people who refused to adjust to the new faith-based world.</p><p>Citing an unnamed senior aide to George W. Bush, Suskind wrote: “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ …</p><p>“‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”</p><p><strong>Reality Bites Back</strong></p><p>Despite this imperial arrogance, real reality gradually reasserted itself, both in the bloody stalemate in Iraq and in the economic crises that Bush’s anti-regulatory and low-tax policies created at home. By Election 2008, the American people were awaking with a terrible hangover from a three-decade binge on anti-reality moonshine.</p><p>In that sense, the election of Barack Obama represented a potential turning point. However, the angry Right that Ronald Reagan had built – and the corresponding crippling effects on the Center and the Left – didn’t just disappear.</p><p>The Right counterattacked ferociously against the nation’s first African-American president, even intimating violent revolution if Obama acted on his electoral mandate; Obama often behaved like one of those accommodating Democrats (in retaining much of Bush’s national security team, for instance); the mainstream press remained careerist; and the Left demanded perfection regardless of the political difficulties.</p><p>This combination of dysfunction contributed to the rise of the Tea Party and the Republican congressional victories in 2010. But Election 2012, with Obama’s reelection and a general rejection of Tea Party fanaticism, has created the chance of a do-over for American rationalists.</p><p>After all, the United States continues to see the consequences of three decades of right-wing delusions, including high unemployment; massive deficits; self-inflicted financial crises; a degraded middle class; poor health care for millions; a crumbling infrastructure; an overheating planet; costly foreign wars; a bloated Pentagon budget; and children massacred by troubled young men with ridiculously easy access to semi-automatic assault rifles.</p><p>Yet, if rational and pragmatic solutions are ever going to be applied to these problems, it is not just going to require that President Obama display more spine. The country is going to need its conscious inhabitants of the real world to stand up with at least the same determination as the deluded denizens of the made-up world.</p><p>Of course, this fight will be nasty and unpleasant. It will require resources, patience and toughness. But there is no other answer. Reality must be recovered and protected – if the planet and the children are to be saved.</p> Wed, 16 Jan 2013 08:26:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 778010 at http://lists.alternet.org Media Media News & Politics reality media united states left right politics Armed Guards in Schools? The NRA Wants a Police State http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/armed-guards-schools-nra-wants-police-state <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The idea of expanding the use of armed guards at schools would only make the country a worse place to live in.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-12-24_at_3.42.40_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>If one follows the “logic” of the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre, the United States should become an armed camp with armored-up police carrying high-powered weapons stationed at virtually every location where children might congregate and where a crazy person might show up with a semi-automatic assault rifle.</p><p>After all, why stop at protecting schools? A mentally unstable individual could just as easily walk into a shopping mall at Christmas and murder kids waiting to talk to Santa Claus or enter a theater showing a Disney film and open fire on the tiny movie-goers or stroll onto a field where children are playing soccer and empty a 100-round magazine.</p><p>If we are to really protect the children as LaPierre suggests, we should have armor-encased SWAT officers at literally every event where there are kids. It clearly wouldn’t do to just have some donut-eating cops with simple sidearms. All they would do is provide initial target practice for a gunman with his Bushmaster AR-15.</p><p>No, we would need “good guys with guns” at least equal in firepower to the “bad guys with guns.” That is, if we were to apply LaPierre’s reasoning as expressed at the NRA’s news conference on Friday, belatedly responding to the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, a week earlier.</p><p>So, rather than enact commonsense gun-control laws that could begin ratcheting down America’s crazy arms race, LaPierre recommends escalating the arms race by turning pretty much the entire country into security zones, the sort that U.S. airports have become, except at airports the passengers are not allowed to carry guns.</p><p>Everywhere else – if LaPierre and the NRA’s benefactors in the gun industry have their way – “good guys” will be wielding lethal weapons for self-defense and for the defense of others, unless, of course, one of the “good guys” snaps and suddenly becomes a “bad guy.” Or a “good guy” might misinterpret a move by a suspected “bad guy” and start blasting away under the NRA’s “stand your ground” principle.</p><p>Presumably, then, others might join in with their Bushmasters and then one of the omnipresent SWAT officers might have to unleash his own lethal firepower to bring matters under control.</p><p>It’s been noted that at the Columbine massacre, there was an armed officer present who fired on the gunmen but missed, failing to deter the slaughter. And, in stopping a knife-wielding man in Times Square, trained New York police officers wounded nine civilians.</p><p>In other words, the cinematic version of gunplay, as envisioned by LaPierre and right-wing politicians like Newt Gingrich, in which the hero-policeman or the hero-civilian fires one precise shot to take out the villain-gunman isn’t how things play out in real life. Usually there’s a lot of collateral damage.</p><p>Ironically, LaPierre seems to have watched too many of those violent movies that he blames for America’s epidemic of gun violence.</p><p>The Framers’ Intent</p><p>Ironically, too, LaPierre and his fellow-travelers claim they are all about “liberty,” i.e. their twisted historical narrative that insists the Framers included the Second Amendment because they wanted the American people to go to war with their own constitutionally elected government.</p><p>But LaPierre’s prescription for addressing the need to protect America’s children is to further militarize American society. A country with SWAT teams deployed preemptively at every public place where a deranged gunman might murder children is a nation with all the trappings of a police state.</p><p>LaPierre’s defenders might say that his recommendation only applies to schools, a proposal that would require its own massive reallocation of government resources. But even this gargantuan obligation to defend all schools all the time would not achieve the desired goal of protecting the nation’s children.</p><p>That would require a much larger effort, practically a permanent deployment of militarized SWAT teams everywhere at all times. Which, in turn, might convince “liberty-loving” Americans that it’s finally time to put that arsenal in the basement to use for real, fighting against the oppressive state.</p><p>Of course, the real American Framers, people like James Madison and George Washington, were not crazed ideologues like Wayne LaPierre. They were pragmatic nationalists who feared the danger to their newly independent nation if “domestic Tranquility” could not be achieved through the creation of effective governance.</p><p>The Framers assembled in Philadelphia in 1787 to replace the ineffective, states’-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation. In writing the U.S. Constitution, they opted instead for a new democratic Republic with a strong central government. [See Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>With memories of the 1786-87 Shays’ Rebellion still fresh, Madison and Washington led the way in devising a system that allowed for the expression of popular will through the House of Representatives, elected every two years, yet with safeguards against hasty changes by having the Senate, elected (then by state legislatures) to six-year terms.</p><p>Contrary to the Right’s current false narrative, the Framers were not inviting armed resistance to the government by adding the Second Amendment. After all, the Framers mostly were the government. In the Constitution, they also defined armed rebellion – “levying war against” the United States – as treason, and they included a federal guarantee to protect the states “against domestic Violence.”</p><p>The Second Amendment with its right to bear arms was added to the Constitution with the preamble that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” indicating that its chief purpose was to enable the government to form militias to maintain “security,” not to invite violence and insecurity.</p><p>Simultaneous with the ratification of the Bill of Rights , i.e. the first ten amendments in 1791, was an anti-tax uprising in western Pennsylvania known as the Whiskey Rebellion. So, with the Second Amendment on the books, the Second Congress enacted the Militia Acts of 1792, which mandated all military-age white males to procure a musket and other equipment so they could participate in militias.</p><p>State militias were organized or strengthened, and President Washington personally led a combined force of state militias numbering around 13,000 men to suppress the Whiskey rebels in 1794. In other words, the first use of the new militia powers was to put down a popular revolt, not invite one.</p><p>Yes, I know the Right has cherry-picked some inflammatory comments by Founders to suggest that they wanted an armed population to wage perpetual revolution, but that is not what the historical record indicates. The leading lights of the Constitution were mostly aristocrats, like Washington and Madison, who had personal as well as political interests in making the American experiment succeed with minimal domestic unrest.</p><p>Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the most incendiary of the major Founders, but significantly he did not participate in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 because he was serving as America’s ambassador to France. Thus, he was not a Framer of the Constitution, though he generally supported it.</p><p>Jefferson also was a notorious hypocrite, proclaiming that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 but justifying his slave-holding by arguing for white superiority in his 1781 Notes on the State of Virginia. As the nation’s third president from 1801-09, one of Jefferson’s principal fears was the possibility of slave revolts like the one that occurred in Haiti.</p><p>Indeed, contrary to the Right’s current mythology about the Framers wanting an armed population to resist the tyranny of their own government, the Framers actually saw the arming of whites as a means of crushing slave revolts, as well as providing “security” on the frontier and the ability to put down other insurrections, like the Whiskey Rebellion.</p><p>Until 2008, when modern right-wingers had control of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Second Amendment had been interpreted as a collective right – for a “well-regulated Militia,” not an individual right. But Justice Antonin Scalia led four other right-wing justices in reversing that longstanding precedent though still recognizing the government’s right to establish some reasonable limits on gun ownership.</p><p>Scalia is one who often insists that the “original intent” of the Framers must be followed. But he ignored the evidence that the Framers saw the Second Amendment as a means to promote “security,” not insecurity.</p><p>It’s also obvious that the Framers lived in a world of single-fire muskets that required time-consuming reloading between shots.The Framers had no experience with repeat rifles, let alone semi-automatic assault rifles with 100-bullet magazines, the kind of weapon that could kill 20 schoolchildren and six teachers in a matter of minutes.</p><p>Yet, LaPierre and other right-wingers insist that the “liberty” to own such weapons was what the Framers intended and is therefore inviolate.</p><p>So, to maintain this fictional “liberty,” LaPierre and his allies offer two principal solutions: one, to crack down on the media for glamorizing violence (despite the protections of the First Amendment) and put the United States on course to become ever more a police state, where heavily armed “good guys” are on guard almost everywhere waiting to gun down some perceived “bad guy.” On top of that there is the ghastly prospect that poorly trained citizens will be encouraged to whip out their own guns and start firing at every possible threat.</p><p>Surely, this is not what the Framers had in mind to “insure domestic Tranquility.”</p><div>© 2012 Consortiumnews</div> Mon, 24 Dec 2012 15:38:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 766402 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics Civil Liberties Culture Education News & Politics nra armed guards schools The Real Rationale for the 2nd Amendment, That Right-Wingers Are Totally Ignorant About http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/real-rationale-2nd-amendment-right-wingers-are-totally-ignorant-about <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A big obstacle to commonsense gun control is the Right’s false historical narrative that the Founders wanted an armed American public that could fight its own government.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2012-12-18_at_10.58.09_am_0.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>Right-wing resistance to meaningful gun control is driven, in part, by a false notion that America’s Founders adopted the Second Amendment because they wanted an armed population that could battle the U.S. government. The opposite is the truth, but many Americans seem to have embraced this absurd, anti-historical narrative.</p><p>The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison.</p><div id="attachment_6495"><p>President George Washington, as Commander-in-Chief, leading a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.</p></div><p>The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 weren’t precursors to France’s Robespierre or Russia’s Leon Trotsky, believers in perpetual revolutions. In fact, their work on the Constitution was influenced by the experience of Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786, a populist uprising that the weak federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, lacked an army to defeat.</p><p>Daniel Shays, the leader of the revolt, was a former Continental Army captain who joined with other veterans and farmers to take up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.</p><p>The rebellion alarmed retired Gen. George Washington who received reports on the developments from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as Gen. Henry Knox and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. Washington was particularly concerned that the disorder might serve the interests of the British, who had only recently accepted the existence of the United States.</p><p>On Oct. 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”</p><p>In another letter on Nov. 7, 1786, Washington questioned Gen. Lincoln about the spreading unrest. “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Lincoln responded: “Many of them appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”</p><p>However, the U.S. government lacked the means to restore order, so wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Gen. Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington expressed satisfaction at the outcome but remained concerned the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.</p><p>“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws &amp; constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite – a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington <a href="http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/creating-new-government/resources/george-washington-discusses-shays%E2%80%99-rebellion-and-up">wrote</a> to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws … anarchy &amp; confusion must prevail.”</p><p>Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in – and preside over – the Constitutional Convention, which was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution, which shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.</p><p>The drastic changes prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry, who denounced the federal power grab and rallied a movement known as the Anti-Federalists. Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were.</p><p>To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Madison’s political maneuvering succeeded as the Constitution narrowly won approval in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights which were ratified in 1791. [For details, see Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037/">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>Behind the Second Amendment</p><p>The Second Amendment dealt with concerns about “security” and the need for trained militias to ensure what the Constitution called “domestic Tranquility.” There was also hesitancy among many Framers about the costs and risks from a large standing army, thus making militias composed of citizens an attractive alternative.</p><p>So, the Second Amendment read:  “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Contrary to some current right-wing fantasies about the Framers wanting to encourage popular uprisings over grievances, the language of the amendment is clearly aimed at maintaining order within the country.</p><p>That point was driven home by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.</p><p>In 1794, President Washington, who was determined to demonstrate the young government’s resolve, led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels. Their revolt soon collapsed and order was restored, demonstrating how the Second Amendment helped serve the government in maintaining “security,” as the Amendment says.</p><p>Beyond this clear historical record – that the Framers’ intent was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions – there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land. They recognized that a strong central government and domestic tranquility were in their economic interests.</p><p>So, it would be counterintuitive – as well as anti-historical – to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people – at least the white males – so uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts, could be repulsed.</p><p>However, the Right has invested heavily during the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.</p><p>This bogus “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus – Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications – to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun-owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.</p><p>The mythology about the Framers and the Second Amendment is, of course, only part of the fake history that the Right has created to persuade ill-informed Tea Partiers that they should dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and channel the spirits of men like Washington and Madison.</p><p>But this gun fable is particularly insidious because it obstructs efforts by today’s government to enact commonsense gun-control laws and thus the false narrative makes possible the kinds of slaughters that erupt periodically across the United States, most recently in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 schoolchildren and six teachers were murdered in minutes by an unstable young man with a civilian version of the M-16 combat rifle.</p><p>While it’s absurd to think that the Founders could have even contemplated such an act – in their 18th Century world of single-fire muskets that required time-consuming reloading – right-wing gun advocates have evaded that obvious reality by postulating that Washington, Madison and other Founders would have wanted a highly armed population to resist the U.S. government.</p><p>Today’s American Right is drunk on some very bad history, which is as dangerous as it is false.</p><p>Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">print here</a> or as an e-book (from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Stolen-Narrative-Washington-ebook/dp/B009RXXOIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1350755575&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=americas+stolen+narrative">Amazon</a> and <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/americas-stolen-narrative?keyword=americas+stolen+narrative&amp;store=ebook&amp;iehack=%E2%98%A0">barnesandnoble.com</a>).</p> Fri, 21 Dec 2012 13:11:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 765325 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics gun control 2nd amendment Meet the GOP Politicians That Made America Gun Crazy http://lists.alternet.org/meet-gop-politicians-made-america-gun-crazy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">These are the politicians who pandered to the NRA and its obsessive opposition to commonsense gun control, like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2012-12-17_at_10.30.08_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p> </p><p>New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof offers <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-have-the-courage-to-stop-this.html?ref=opinion&amp;_r=0">a typical column</a> reacting to the massacre of 20 school children in Newtown, Connecticut. He calls on politicians to show courage in standing up to the National Rifle Association, but he doesn’t seem to have the courage himself to identify the key political culprits in a three-decade-long pandering to the NRA’s clout.</p><p>There’s a reason for that. The vast majority of the politicians who have served as handmaidens to the NRA’s war on commonsense gun control are Republicans, including such icons as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And it is routine for mainstream pundits, like Kristof, to avoid “sounding partisan.”</p><p>So, it makes lots of career sense to wring one’s hands over the horrifying image of a deranged gunman slaughtering first-graders in their classroom and then spread the blame across the political spectrum – while not pointing fingers at the politicians who have most enabled this sickening madness to continue.</p><p>After all, Reagan and Bush-41 are held in high esteem across Official Washington. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has hailed Reagan as “one of the all-time greats,” and Bush-41 supposedly represents the good old days of Republican moderation.</p><p>But the reality is that the United States had begun grappling with its epidemic of gun violence in the 1970s by passing commonsense gun laws, and it was Reagan and Bush-41 who saw the political advantage in playing the tough-guy role and treating gun-control advocates as sissies.</p><p>Both Reagan and Bush-41 pandered to the NRA, recognizing and honoring its political muscle. Reagan, for instance, fawned over the NRA in a speech to a 1983 luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona. In doing so, Reagan displayed his patented technique of making crazy policies seem normal.</p><p>For instance, in the 1983 speech, Reagan praised the NRA’s defeat of California’s Proposition 15, which would have required the registration of handguns, limited the number of guns registered by each individual, and restricted mail-order and out-of-state purchases.</p><p>“You shocked California last November when you mobilized to send help and to down Proposition 15 and defeat it,” Reagan said. “You pointed out that police would be so busy arresting handgun owners that they would be unable to protect the people against criminals. It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun-control laws.”</p><p>Reagan also compared the NRA’s rejection of gun laws to the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, telling the NRA audience: “You live by Lincoln’s words, ‘Important principles may and must be inflexible.’ … The NRA believes that America’s laws were made to be obeyed and that our constitutional liberties are just as important today as 200 years ago.</p><p>“And by the way, the Constitution does not say that government shall decree the right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution says ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’” [For a critique of that misguided history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/15/the-2nd-amendment-and-killing-kids/">The 2nd Amendment and Killing Kids</a>.”]</p><p>Reagan continued: “But I believe we share the same goal, a strong America, carrying the banner of freedom and secure from threats to our domestic tranquility, economic well-being, and national security. No group does more to promote gun safety and respect for the laws of this land than the NRA, and I thank you.”</p><p>Reagan then mocked those who warned about the dangers of uncontrolled gun possession, saying: “We’ve both heard the charge that supporting gun-owners rights encourages a violent, shoot-em-up society. But just a minute. Don’t they understand that most violent crimes are not committed by decent, law-abiding citizens? They’re committed by career criminals.</p><p>“Guns don’t make criminals. Hard-core criminals use guns. And locking them up, the hard-core criminals up, and throwing away the key is the best gun-control law we could ever have.”</p><p>Looking back on the past three decades, it should be obvious that Reagan was profoundly and tragically wrong. Many of the most notorious mass slaughters of recent years were inflicted by “law-abiding citizens,” that is people with little or no criminal records but with unchecked mental disorders.</p><p>Their easy access to high-powered and semi-automatic weapons allowed them to murder large numbers of people before they could be stopped. To suggest that the NRA has somehow helped “secure … our domestic tranquility” is a sick joke.</p><p>But Reagan surely benefited from the staunch support of the NRA and gun owners when he swept to a landslide reelection in 1984. Those results were duly noted by Reagan’s Vice President George H.W. Bush who made opposition to gun control an important part of his 1988 campaign.</p><p>Bush’s opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, was a strong supporter of gun-control laws and Bush saw that as an opening. Bush accused Dukakis of wanting to disarm all private citizens. “That is not the American way,” declared Bush at one campaign rally. “I feel just the opposite.”</p><p>With Bush’s landslide victory in 1988 – and with the well-meaning Dukakis dismissed as a hopeless “loser” – the path was cleared for the NRA to rollback even modest gun-control laws, such as restrictions on assault rifles.</p><p>In 2010 on a 5-4 vote, right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court – placed there by Reagan, Bush-41 and George W. Bush – overturned longstanding legal precedents that deemed “the right to bear arms” a collective right and transformed it instead into an individual right. That meant even local gun-control ordinances could be struck down.</p><p>In other words, Republicans – and particularly Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – hold primary responsibility for the kinds of horrors that have claimed innocent lives in places like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech and so many other locations whose names will long be associated with butchery.</p><p>While Kristof and fellow mainstream pundits may be right in noting that it’s time for all politicians to stand up to the NRA, they are wrong in spreading the blame equally. They should have the courage to tell the truth, that Reagan, Bush-41 and other Republicans have led the way into this national madness.</p><p>Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">print here</a> or as an e-book (from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Stolen-Narrative-Washington-ebook/dp/B009RXXOIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1350755575&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=americas+stolen+narrative">Amazon</a> and <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/americas-stolen-narrative?keyword=americas+stolen+narrative&amp;store=ebook&amp;iehack=%E2%98%A0">barnesandnoble.com</a>).</p><div> </div><div> </div> Mon, 17 Dec 2012 07:25:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 762251 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics guns gun control reagan bush How the Right Has Twisted the 2nd Amendment http://lists.alternet.org/how-right-has-twisted-2nd-amendment <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The 2nd Amendment was written to ensure security, but isn&#039;t making us any safer. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_102088966_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The American Right is fond of putting itself inside the minds of America’s Founders and intuiting what was their “original intent” in writing the U.S. Constitution and its early additions, like the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.” But, surely, James Madison and the others weren’t envisioning people with modern weapons mowing down children in a movie theater or a shopping mall or now a kindergarten.</p><p>Indeed, when the Second Amendment was passed in the First Congress as part of the Bill of Rights, firearms were single-shot mechanisms that took time to load and reload. It was also clear that Madison and the others viewed the “right to bear arms” in the context of “a well-regulated militia” to defend communities from massacres, not as a means to enable such massacres.</p><p>The Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Thus, the point of the Second Amendment is to ensure “security,” not undermine it.</p><p>The massacre of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, which followed other gun massacres in towns and cities across the country, represents the opposite of “security.” And it is time that Americans of all political persuasions recognize that protecting this kind of mass killing was not what the Founders had in mind.</p><p>However, over the past several decades, self-interested right-wing “scholarship” has sought to reinvent the Framers as free-market, government-hating ideologues, though the key authors of the U.S. Constitution – people like James Madison and George Washington – could best be described as pragmatic nationalists who favored effective governance.</p><p>In 1787, led by Madison and Washington, the Constitutional Convention scrapped the Articles of Confederation, which had enshrined the states as “sovereign” and had made the federal government a “league of friendship” with few powers.</p><p>What happened behind closed doors in Philadelphia was a reversal of the system that governed the United States from 1777 to 1787. The laws of the federal government were made supreme and its powers were dramatically strengthened, so much so that a movement of Anti-Federalists fought bitterly to block ratification.</p><p>In the political maneuvering to assure approval of the new system, Madison and other Federalists agreed to add a Bill of Rights to ease some of the fears about what Anti-Federalists regarded as the unbridled powers of the central government. [For details, see Robert Parry’s <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">America’s Stolen Narrative</a>.]</p><p>Madison had considered a Bill of Rights unnecessary because the Constitution, like all constitutions, set limits on the government’s power and it contained no provisions allowing the government to infringe on basic liberties of the people. But he assented to spell out those rights in the first 10 amendments, which were passed by the First Congress and ratified in 1791.</p><p>The intent of the Second Amendment was clarified during the Second Congress when the U.S. government enacted the Militia Acts, which mandated that all white males of military age obtain a musket, shot and other equipment for service in militias.</p><p>The idea was to enable the young country to resist aggression from European powers, to confront Native American tribes on the frontier and to put down internal rebellions, including slave revolts. There was nothing particularly idealistic in this provision; the goal was the “security” of the young nation.</p><p>However, the modern American Right and today’s arms industry have devoted enormous resources to twisting the Framers into extremist ideologues who put “liberties” like individual gun ownership ahead of all practical concerns about “security.”</p><p>This propaganda has proved so successful that many politicians who favor common-sense gun control are deemed violators of the Framers’ original intent, as essentially un-American, and face defeat in elections. The current right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has even overturned longstanding precedents and reinterpreted the Second Amendment as granting rights of individual gun ownership.</p><p>But does anyone really believe that Madison and like-minded Framers would have stood by and let deranged killers mow down civilians, including children, by using guns vastly more lethal than any that existed in the Revolutionary era? If someone had wielded a single-shot musket or pistol in 1791, the person might get off one volley but would then have to reload. No one had repeat-firing revolvers, let alone assault rifles with large magazines of bullets.</p><p>Any serious scholarship on the Framers would conclude that they were, first and foremost, pragmatists determined to protect the hard-won independence of the United States. When the states’-rights Articles of Confederation wasn’t doing the job, they scrapped it. When compromises were needed – even on the vile practice of slavery – the Framers cut the deals.</p><p>While the Framers cared about liberty (at least for white men), they focused in the Constitution on practicality, creating a flexible system that would advance the “general Welfare” of “We the People.”</p><p>It is madness to think that the Framers would have mutely accepted the slaughter of kindergarteners and grade-school kids (or the thousands of other American victims of gun violence). Such bloody insecurity was definitely not their “original intent.”</p><p> </p> Sat, 15 Dec 2012 11:05:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 761580 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics 2nd amendment connecticut sandy hook shooting security safety protection Ron Paul's Farewell Speech in Congress Lays Bare His Hatred for "Pure Democracy," and Love of Oligarchy http://lists.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/ron-pauls-farewell-speech-congress-lays-bare-his-hatred-pure-democracy-and-love <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Paul believes in liberty... for businessmen. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/media_rtronpaul070810ms.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Rep. Ron Paul, an icon to the libertarian Right and to some on the anti-war Left, gave a farewell address to Congress that expressed his neo-Confederate interpretation of the Constitution and his anti-historical view of the supposedly good old days of laissez-faire capitalism.</p><p>In a near-hour-long <a href="http://www.campaignforliberty.org/national-blog/transcript-of-farewell-address/">rambling speech</a> on Nov. 14, Paul also revealed himself to be an opponent of “pure democracy” because government by the people and for the people tends to infringe on the “liberty” of businessmen who, in Paul’s ideal world, should be allowed to do pretty much whatever they want to the less privileged.</p><p>In Paul’s version of history, the United States lost its way at the advent of the Progressive Era about a century ago. “The majority of Americans and many government officials agreed that sacrificing some liberty was necessary to carry out what some claimed to be ‘progressive’ ideas,” said the 77-year-old Texas Republican. “Pure democracy became acceptable.”</p><p>Before then, everything was working just fine, in Paul’s view. But the reality was anything but wonderful for the vast majority of Americans. A century ago, women were denied the vote by law and many non-white males were denied the vote in practice. Uppity blacks were frequently lynched.</p><p>The surviving Native Americans were confined to oppressive reservations at the end of a long process of genocide. Conditions weren’t much better for the white working class. Many factory workers toiled 12-hour days and six-day weeks in very dangerous conditions, and union organizers were targeted for reprisals and sometimes death.</p><p>For small businessmen, life was treacherous, too, with the big monopolistic trusts overcharging for key services and with periodic panics on Wall Street rippling out across the country in bank failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures.</p><p>Meanwhile, obscenely rich Robber Barons, like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, personally controlled much of the nation’s economy and manipulated the political process through bribery. They were the ones who owned the real “liberty.”</p><p>It took the Great Depression and its mass suffering to finally convince most Americans “that sacrificing some liberty was necessary,” in Paul’s curious phrasing, for them to gain a living wage, a measure of security and a little respect.</p><p>So, under President Franklin Roosevelt, laws were changed to shield working Americans from the worst predations of the super-rich. Labor standards were enacted; unions were protected; regulations were imposed on Wall Street; and the nation’s banks were made more secure to protect the savings of depositors.</p><p>Many social injustices also were addressed during Ron Paul’s dreaded last century. Women got the vote and their position in the country gradually improved, as it did for blacks and other minorities with the belated enforcement of the equal rights provisions of the 14th Amendment and passage of civil rights legislation.</p><p>The reforms from the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the post-World War II era also contributed to a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, making the United States a richer and stronger country. The reforms, initiated by the federal government, essentially created the Great American Middle Class.</p><p><strong>Paul’s Complaint</strong></p><p>But in Paul’s view, the reformers should have left things the way they were – and he blames the reforms for today’s problems, although how exactly they’re connected is not made clear.</p><p>Paul said: “Some complain that my arguments make no sense, since great wealth and the standard of living improved for many Americans over the last 100 years, even with these new policies. But the damage to the market economy, and the currency, has been insidious and steady.</p><p>“It took a long time to consume our wealth, destroy the currency and undermine productivity and get our financial obligations to a point of no return. Confidence sometimes lasts longer than deserved. Most of our wealth today depends on debt.</p><p>“The wealth that we enjoyed and seemed to be endless, allowed concern for the principle of a free society to be neglected. As long as most people believed the material abundance would last forever, worrying about protecting a competitive productive economy and individual liberty seemed unnecessary.”</p><p>But Paul’s blaming “progressive” reforms of the last century for the nation’s current economic mess lacks any logic, more a rhetorical trick than a rational argument, a sophistry that holds that because one thing happened and then some bad things happened, the first thing must have caused the other things.</p><p>The reality is much different. Without Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Era and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the direction of America’s capitalist system was toward disaster, not prosperity. Plus, the only meaningful “liberty” was that of a small number of oligarchs looting the nation’s wealth. (It would make more sense to blame the current debt problem on the overreach of U.S. imperialism, the rush to “free trade,” the unwise relaxing of economic regulations, and massive tax cuts for the rich.)</p><p>Besides his reactionary fondness for the Gilded Age, Paul also embraces an anti-historical attitude toward the Founding Era. He claimed that the Constitution failed not only because of the 20th Century’s shift toward “pure democracy” but because of a loss of moral virtue among the populace.</p><p>“Our Constitution, which was intended to limit government power and abuse, has failed,” Paul said. “The Founders warned that a free society depends on a virtuous and moral people. The current crisis reflects that their concerns were justified.”</p><p>However, there’s no compelling evidence that people were more moral in 1787 or in 1912 than they are today. Indeed, one could argue that many slave-owning Founders were far less moral than Americans are now, a time when tolerance of racial, gender and other differences is much greater.</p><p>And as for the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the pious morality of the Robber Barons included the cruel exploitation of their workers, the flaunting of obscene wealth amid widespread poverty, and the routine bribery of politicians. How that measures up to moral superiority is a mystery.</p><p>In his speech, Paul declared that “a society that boos or ridicules the Golden Rule is not a moral society,” but many of the Founders and the Robber Barons did not follow the Golden Rule either. They inflicted on others great pain and suffering that they would not want for themselves.</p><p><strong>Misreading the Constitution</strong></p><p>Paul’s historical incoherence extends to what the Framers were doing with the Constitution. He argues that they were seeking “to limit government” in 1787 when they drafted the Constitution. But that was not their primary intent. The Framers were creating a strong and vibrant central government to replace the weak and ineffective one that existed under the Articles of Confederation.</p><p>Of course, by definition, all constitutions set limits on the power of governments. That’s what constitutions do and the U.S. Constitution is no exception. However, if the Framers wanted a weak central government and strong states’ rights, they would not have scrapped the Articles of Confederation, which governed the United States from 1777 to 1787. The Articles made the states “independent” and “sovereign” and left the federal government as a supplicant.</p><p>The key point, which Paul and other right-wingers seek to obscure about the Constitution, is that it granted broad powers to the central government along with the mandate to address the nation’s “general Welfare.”</p><p>The key Framers of the Constitution, particularly George Washington and James Madison, were pragmatists who understood that a strong and effective central government was necessary to protect the independence of a large and sprawling nation. For that reason, they recognized that the Articles had been a failure, preventing the 13 states from functioning as a cohesive nation. Indeed, the Articles didn’t even recognize the United States as a government, but rather as a “league of friendship.”</p><p>General Washington, in particular, hated the Articles because they had left his Continental Army begging individual states for supplies during the Revolutionary War. And after the hard-won independence, Washington saw European powers exploiting the divisions among the states and regions to whittle away that independence.</p><p>The whole American enterprise was threatened by the principle of states’ rights because national coordination was made almost impossible. It was that recognition which led Madison, with Washington’s firm support, to seek first to amend the Articles and ultimately to throw them out.</p><p>When Madison was trying to get Virginia’s endorsement of an amendment to give the federal government power to regulate commerce, Washington wrote: “the proposition in my opinion is so self evident that I confess I am at a loss to discover wherein lies the weight of the objection to the measure.</p><p>“We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of a general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending it to be.” [For more on this background, see Robert Parry’s <em><a href="http://www.neckdeepbook.com/">America’s Stolen Narrative</a></em>.]</p><p><strong>On to Philadelphia</strong></p><p>After Madison was stymied on his commerce proposal in the Virginia legislature, he and Washington turned their attention to a convention that was technically supposed to propose changes to the Articles of Confederation but, in secrecy, chose to dump them entirely.</p><p>When the convention convened in Philadelphia in spring 1787, it was significant that on the first day of substantive debate, there was Madison’s idea of the federal government regulating commerce.</p><p>As the Constitution took shape – and the Convention spelled out the sweeping “enumerated powers” to be granted to Congress – Madison’s Commerce Clause was near the top, right after the power to tax, to pay debts, to “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare,” and to borrow money – and even above the power to declare war. Yes, the Right’s despised Commerce Clause, which was the legal basis for many reforms of the 20th Century, was among the “enumerated powers” in Article 1, Section 8.</p><p>And gone was language from the Articles of Confederation that had declared the states “sovereign” and “independent.” Under the Constitution, federal law was supreme and the laws of the states could be stricken down by the federal courts.</p><p>Immediately, the supporters of the old system recognized what had happened. As dissidents from the Pennsylvania delegation wrote: “We dissent … because the powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several states, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government.”</p><p>A movement of Anti-Federalists arose, led by the likes of Patrick Henry, to defeat the Constitution. They organized strong opposition in the states’ ratifying conventions of 1788 but ultimately lost, after winning the concession from Madison to enact of Bill of Rights during the first Congress.</p><p>The inclusion of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for the states and the people powers that the Constitution does not give to the federal government, is the primary hook upon which the modern Right hangs its tri-corner hat of anti-federal ideology.</p><p>But the amendment was essentially a sop to the Anti-Federalists with little real meaning because the Constitution had already granted broad powers to the federal government and stripped the states of their earlier dominance.</p><p><strong>Remaking Madison</strong></p><p>The Right’s “scholars” also make much of a few quotes from Madison’s Federalist Paper No. 45, in which he sought to play down how radical a transformation, from state to federal power, he had engineered in the Constitution. Rather than view this essay in context, the Right seizes on Madison’s rhetorical attempts to deflect the alarmist Anti-Federalist attacks by claiming that some of the Constitution’s federal powers were already in the Articles of Confederation, albeit in a far weaker form.</p><p>In Federalist Paper No. 45, entitled “The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State Governments Considered,” Madison wrote: “If the new Constitution be examined with accuracy, it will be found that the change which it proposes consists much less in the addition of NEW POWERS to the Union, than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL POWERS.” Today’s Right also trumpets Madison’s summation, that “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”</p><p>But it should be obvious that Madison is finessing his opposition. Whether or not some shadow of these federal powers existed in the Articles of Confederation, they were dramatically enhanced by the Constitution. In No. 45, Madison even plays down his prized Commerce Clause, acknowledging that “The regulation of commerce, it is true, is a new power; but that seems to be an addition which few oppose, and from which no apprehensions are entertained.”</p><p>However, in Federalist Paper No. 14, Madison made clear how useful the Commerce Clause could be as he envisioned national construction projects.</p><p>“[T]he union will be daily facilitated by new improvements,” Madison wrote. “Roads will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order; accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout, or nearly throughout the whole extent of the Thirteen States.</p><p>“The communication between the western and Atlantic districts, and between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult to connect and complete.”</p><p><strong>Founding Pragmatism</strong></p><p>The Framers also understood that the country would not remain locked in a late 18th Century world. Though they could not anticipate all the changes that would arise over more than two centuries, they incorporated broad powers in the Constitution so the country through its elected representatives could adapt to those times.</p><p>The true genius of the Framers was their pragmatism, both for good and ill, in the cause of protecting American independence and unity. On the for-ill side, many representatives in Philadelphia recognized the evils of slavery but accepted a compromise allowing the states to count African-American slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of representation in Congress.</p><p>On the for-good side, the Framers recognized that the American system could not work without a strong central government with the power to enforce national standards, so they created one. They transferred national sovereignty from the 13 “independent” states to “We the people.” And they gave the central government the authority to provide for the “general Welfare.”</p><p>Yet, the fight over America’s founding principles didn’t end with the Constitution’s ratification in 1788. Faced with a growing emancipation movement – and losing ground to the industrial North – the Southern slave states challenged the power of the federal government to impose its laws on the states. President Andrew Jackson fought back against Southern “nullification” of federal law in 1832 and the issue of federal supremacy was fought out in blood during the Civil War from 1861-65.</p><p>Even after the Civil War, powerful regional and economic forces resisted the imposition of federal law, whether intended to benefit freed slaves or to regulate industry. In the latter third of the 19th Century, as Jim Crow laws turned blacks into second-class citizens, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan created industrial monopolies that rode roughshod over working-class Americans.</p><p>For different reasons, the South’s agrarian oligarchs and the North’s industrial oligarchs wanted the federal government to stay out of their affairs – and they largely succeeded by wielding immense political power until the 20th Century.</p><p>Then, in the face of widespread abuses, President Theodore Roosevelt went after the “trusts,” President Franklin Roosevelt responded to the Great Depression with the New Deal, and post-World War II presidents and federal courts began the process of overturning racial segregation.</p><p><strong>The Right’s Emergence</strong></p><p>In reaction to those changes – federal regulation of the economy and rejection of overt racial discrimination –the modern American Right emerged as a sometimes uneasy coalition between the “free-marketeers” and the neo-Confederates, sharing a mutual hatred of modern liberalism.</p><p>Those two groups also drew in other constituencies harboring resentments against liberals, such as the Christian Right – angered over Supreme Court prohibitions on compulsory prayers in public schools and abortion rights for women – and war hawks, drawn from the ranks of military contractors and neoconservative ideologues.</p><p>These right-wing movements recognized the importance of propaganda and thus – in the 1970s – began investing heavily in an infrastructure of think tanks and ideological media that would develop supportive narratives and disseminate those storylines to the American people.</p><p>It was especially important to convince Americans that the New Deal and federal interference in “states’ rights” were a violation of the Founders’ core principles. Thus, the Right could pretend that it was standing up for the U.S. Constitution and the Left was out of step with American “liberty.”</p><p>So, right-wing “scholars” transformed the purpose of the Constitutional Convention and recreated James Madison in particular. Under the Right’s revisionist history, the Constitution was drafted to constrain the power of the federal government and to ensure the supremacy of states’ rights. A few Madison quotes were cherry-picked from the Federalist Papers and the significance of the Tenth Amendment was exaggerated.</p><p>The success of the pseudo-history can’t be overstated. From the Tea Party, which arose in angry determination to “take back our country” from the first African-American president, to the hip libertarians who turned the quirky Ron Paul into a cult figure, there was a certainty that they were channeling the true vision of the American Founders.</p><p>A large segment of the American Left also embraced Ron Paul because his ideology included a rejection of imperial military adventures and a disdain for government intrusion into personal lives (although he is a devout “right-to-lifer” who would deny women the right to have an abortion).</p><p>Paul’s mix of libertarianism and anti-imperialism has proven especially attractive to young white men. He is viewed by some as a principled prophet, predicting chaos because the nation has deviated from the supposed path of “liberty.”</p><p>However, as his farewell address revealed, his ideology is a jumble of anti-historical claims and emotional appeals. For instance, he posed unserious questions like “Why can’t Americans decide which type of light bulbs they can buy?” – apparently oblivious to the need for energy conservation and the threat of global warming.</p><p>In the end, Ron Paul comes across as little more than a political crank whose few good ideas are overwhelmed by his neo-Confederate thinking and his sophistry about the inherent value of free-market economics.</p> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 12:10:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 751768 at http://lists.alternet.org The Right Wing Civil Liberties News & Politics The Right Wing Visions ron paul liberatarian farewell address laissez-faire capitalism confederate Obama Won, But He Still Has to Contend with Millions of Americans Taught to Hate Their Own Government http://lists.alternet.org/obama-won-he-still-has-contend-millions-americans-taught-hate-their-own-government <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s no small obstacle that tens of millions of voters think government is the problem.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/topstories_morans.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As Campaign 2012 ends, it is clear that perhaps the most profound transformation of American politics in recent decades has been the Right’s successful demonization of the federal government and its role in national life. Tens of millions of voters, especially white men, buy into Ronald Reagan’s dictum that “government is the problem.”</p><p>This animosity toward the federal government explains not only the Tea Party’s victories in 2010 but the buoyancy of Mitt Romney’s candidacy in 2012 despite his stunningly dishonest campaign and his off-putting political persona.</p><p>The hard truth for liberals and progressives is that the Right’s imposing propaganda machinery can make pretty much make anything into anything, whatever serves the Right’s ideological and political needs, while the Left has nothing to compare to this right-wing capability.</p><p>For instance, the Right’s propaganda has convinced many Americans of a bogus historical narrative which has the Framers enacting the Constitution as a states’-rights document designed to have a weak central government – when the reality was nearly the opposite.</p><p>The key Framers, James Madison and George Washington, organized the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to rid the young country of a governing document, the Articles of Confederation, that declared the states “sovereign” and “independent” and gave the federal government very limited powers. The Constitution stripped out the language about state sovereignty and made federal law supreme.</p><p>As Washington had noted earlier in supporting one of Madison’s ideas – to give the federal government authority over interstate commerce – “the proposition in my opinion is so self evident that I confess I am at a loss to discover wherein lies the weight of the objection to the measure.</p><p>“We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of a general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending it to be.”</p><p>Washington had personally witnessed the dysfunction of the Articles of Confederation during the Revolutionary War when the “sovereign” states balked at sending promised supplies and money to his Continental Army.</p><p><strong>The Commerce Clause</strong></p><p>After the war, Washington recognized the need to build a national infrastructure of canals and roads to enable the sprawling young nation to grow and to succeed. That practical interest became a key factor for Madison as he devised the new Constitution with an explicit clause giving the federal government power over national commerce, the so-called Commerce Clause.</p><p>In Federalist Paper No. 14, Madison described major construction projects made possible by the powers in the Commerce Clause. “[T]he union will be daily facilitated by new improvements,” Madison wrote. “Roads will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order; accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout, or nearly throughout the whole extent of the Thirteen States.</p><p>“The communication between the western and Atlantic districts, and between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult to connect and complete.”</p><p>The Framers expressed through the Constitution what might be called a Founding Pragmatism. The Articles of Confederation weren’t working because the central government was too weak so the likes of Washington and Madison scrapped the Articles and created a strong central government under the Constitution.</p><p>Their interest was more in devising a system that would protect the nation’s hard-won independence and to thwart foreign commercial encroachment than in imposing some rigid ideology of liberty. After all, many Founders viewed freedom in a very restricted sense – at least by modern standards – applying it mostly to white men. In those years, slave-ownership was widespread and married women were legally subordinated to their husbands.</p><p>When the Constitution was publicly unveiled in 1787, Madison’s constitutional masterwork drew fierce opposition from defenders of the old order who became known as the Anti-Federalists. They immediately recognized what Madison, Washington and the other Federalists were up to.</p><p>Dissidents from Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Constitutional Convention wrote: “We dissent … because the powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several states, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government.” [See David Wootton, The Essential Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.]</p><p>It’s true that some of the Anti-Federalists were a bit hyperbolic in their concerns. But there can be no doubt that the Constitution consolidated under the new central government the power to act on matters of national interest, including to promote the “general welfare.”</p><p>Still, the Founding dispute over the balance between federal and state powers didn’t disappear after the Constitution was narrowly ratified. In particular, Southern states bristled at the imposition of federal authority, leading eventually to the Civil War in 1860. Even after the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, white Southerners continued to resist federal demands for equal treatment of former black slaves and their descendants.</p><p><strong>Economic Necessities</strong></p><p>The spirit of Washington’s and Madison’s pragmatism reemerged in the 1930s in the economic sphere. Laissez-faire capitalism had failed, marred by a series of financial panics and recessions through the latter half of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, finally culminating in Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.</p><p>At that point, President Franklin Roosevelt invoked the broad powers of the Constitution to impose regulations on Wall Street, to organize a national effort to put Americans back to work, to legalize labor unions, and to expand the nation’s infrastructure. His New Deal also created a limited safety net for Americans who were unable to work or who lost their jobs due to the vicissitudes of capitalism.</p><p>Subsequent presidents built on Roosevelt’s reforms, through such measures as the GI Bill, which helped World War II veterans buy houses and return to school, and the Interstate Highway System, which made transportations faster and cheaper. The federally funded Space Program provided a powerful impetus to technological development, and Medicare addressed the problem of families being impoverished to pay for medical treatment of senior citizens.</p><p>Overall, the reforms from the 1930s through the 1960s created the Great American Middle Class, which in turn fueled more economic and productivity growth. As Washington and Madison might have appreciated, the pragmatism of their founding document had helped make the United States the envy of the world.</p><p>In the 1950s and 1960s, the federal government also began enforcing the legal framework for equality that had been enacted nearly a century earlier after the Civil War. The South’s walls of segregation were battered down by a combination of brave civil rights activists and a supportive national government.</p><p>That federal intervention, however, revived the old conflicts over states’ rights, with many white Southerners furious that they could no longer marginalize, humiliate and terrorize blacks. Under Richard Nixon, the Republicans also spotted an opportunity to peel off Southern states from the Democrats by appealing to these racial antagonisms.</p><p>The 1970s marked an important political turning point in the United States with many middle-class Americans having forgetten how they and their parents benefited from the New Deal, with many working-class whites resentful of gains by minorities, and with frustration building over a decline in American dominance in the world. The Vietnam War was lost; oil-producing states were banding together to raise oil prices; inflation soared; foreign competition increased; wages began to stagnate; and the environment became a concern.</p><p>The Right – detecting an opening amid these public resentments – began to pour vast sums of money into creating a right-wing propaganda system that combined sophisticated think tanks with extensive media outreach to the American people. The overriding message was that Big Government was the problem, interfering with states’ rights, corporate autonomy and individual liberty.</p><p>The Left inadvertently magnified the success of the Right’s new strategy by shutting down many progressive publications, downplaying the importance of information, and refocusing on “local organizing” about local issues. “Think Globally, Act Locally” became the Left’s new slogan, even as the Right began waging a national “war of ideas.”</p><p><strong>The Rise of Reaganism</strong></p><p>The stage was set for the former actor Ronald Reagan to emerge as a transformational figure in U.S. politics, playing to white racism with comments about “welfare queens” and ridiculing the work of government with the old joke: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”</p><p>During Reagan’s First Inaugural Address, he declared that “government is the problem” and he soon enacted drastic cuts in the income tax rates for the wealthy. This policy of wealth redistribution to the upper levels was justified by a novel economic theory called “supply-side economics,” which held that the rich would then invest in new factories and other businesses, thus creating new jobs and improving productivity.</p><p>However, Reaganomics proved terribly flawed. The rich invested relatively little in U.S. manufacturing which continued to decline, while the well-to-do lavished themselves with luxury goods and showed little patriotism in where they did put their money, favoring fast-growth foreign countries, not the United States.</p><p>Yet, the Right’s propaganda system – now fueled by the diversion of money to the upper classes – continued to expand with right-wing media moguls buying up or starting up all sorts of new outlets, from newspapers, magazines and books to radio, TV and eventually the Internet.</p><p>The anti-government message became pervasive, sometimes cleverly tailored to specific interest groups, such as young white men who were told that they had become the victims of “political correctness” when they faced punishment for uttering racial or sexist epithets. Even as millions of Americans were pushed down the ladder of personal success, many kept believing that the federal government was somehow at fault.</p><p>The Right also devoted some of its vast supply of money to assigning “scholars” the task of reframing the Founding narrative by cherry-picking a few quote out of context to transform Framers like Madison into federal-government-hating, states’-rights-loving ideologues.</p><p>Much was made of Madison’s efforts to downplay how radically he had expanded federal power under the Constitution and his agreement to add the Tenth Amendment as a sop to the Anti-Federalists, though it had little real meaning since it only reserved to the states and individuals powers not granted to the federal government under the Constitution, when those grants of power were already quite extensive.</p><p><strong>One-Sided Argument</strong></p><p>But the Right made its loud propaganda case often unopposed. By the 1990s, the Left’s media had shriveled to irrelevance and the mainstream media was increasingly intimidated by right-wing attack groups that would go after individual journalists who could be labeled “liberal.”</p><p>In this hostile climate, many Democrats also scurried to the center and struggled to protect the core programs of the 1930s and 1960s, the likes of Social Security and Medicare. But they made major concessions on issues like Wall Street regulations, enabling freewheeling casino capitalism to return.</p><p>The consequences of decades of Reaganomics and hostility to “guv-mint” landed on the American electorate just weeks before Election 2008 when Wall Street experienced its worst financial crash since the Great Depression.</p><p>The collapse helped Democrat Barack Obama to become the first African-American U.S. President, but the underlying ideological realities hadn’t changed. The Republicans recognized that fact and immediately went to work seeking to ensure that Obama would be a one-termer, even if that meant worsening the suffering of Americans.</p><p>Drawing from the power of the Right’s propaganda machinery, the Tea Party quickly emerged as a potent force in U.S. politics. And, as Obama futilely tried to gain some bipartisanship in Congress, the Republicans worked to make his political life miserable and the country as ungovernable as possible.</p><p>Their success can be measured in the Republican congressional victories in 2010 and the closeness of the election in 2012 as Obama sought to refashion the argument for an effective federal government as a fight to protect the embattled middle class.</p><p>However, Obama found himself arguing against a powerful and longstanding dynamic: how tens of millions of Americans had been taught to hate their own government.</p> Thu, 08 Nov 2012 09:57:00 -0800 Robert Parry, Consortium News 741447 at http://lists.alternet.org Election 2016 Media voters elections propaganda government Bush All Over Again: Mitt Romney Is Trojan Horse for the Neocons http://lists.alternet.org/election-2012/bush-all-over-again-mitt-romney-trojan-horse-neocons <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Despite the bloody and costly catastrophe in Iraq, the neocons&#039; warmongering dream is still alive -- and Romney shares their illusions.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-10-25_at_8.36.49_am.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Mitt Romney’s peculiar sense of geography – thinking Iran was some landlocked country that needed Syria as a “route to the sea” – may have raised some eyebrows over Romney’s lack of basic knowledge, but another part of the same answer, referring to the civil war in Syria as “an opportunity,” should have raised more alarm.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Though Romney’s goal in Monday’s foreign policy debate was to downplay his warlike neoconservative stands, his reference to the Syrian chaos as “an opportunity” suggests that his more moderate rhetoric is just another ploy to deceive voters and win the election, not a real abandonment of neocon strategies.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">In that sense, the new “moderate Mitt” is less a sign of a neocon retreat from his earlier bellicosity than a Trojan Horse to be wheeled onto the White House grounds on Jan. 20, 2013, so the neocons can pour forth from its hollowed-out belly and regain full control of U.S. foreign policy.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">So, the neocons don’t really mind that Romney has suddenly abandoned many of their cherished positions, such as extending the Afghan War beyond 2014 and returning U.S. troops to Iraq. The neocons understand the political need for Romney to calm independent voters who fear that he may be another George W. Bush.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">In Monday’s <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/10/22/163436694/transcript-3rd-obama-romney-presidential-debate" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none; ">debate</a>, Romney said, “Syria’s an opportunity for us because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now. Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a — a replacement government being responsible people is critical for us.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The “route to the sea” comment – with its faint echo of a distant time in geopolitics – represented proof that Romney lacks even a rudimentary knowledge of world geography, since much of Iran’s southern territory fronts on the Persian Gulf and Iran could only reach Syria by transiting Iraq. Syria and Iran have no common border.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">But more significantly, Romney was revealing the crucial connection between the neocon desire for “regime change” in Syria and the neocon determination to strangle Israel’s close-in enemies, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Romney’s demand for a new Syrian government of “responsible people” further suggests that the Republican presidential nominee shares the core neocon fantasy that the United States can simply remove one unsavory Middle East dictator and install a pro-Western, Israel-friendly leader who will then shut off aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">That was the central fallacy in the Iraq War, the notion that United States with its unparalleled military might could shift the Mideast’s political dynamics to Israel’s advantage through coercive “regime change.” In Iraq, the U.S. military eliminated Saddam Hussein but then saw a new Iraqi government ally itself with Iran.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The new Iraq may be less of a military threat, but it has not reached out and embraced Israel as some neocons had hoped. Indeed, by removing Hussein’s Sunni-controlled regime – and ending up with a Shiite-dominated one – Bush’s Iraq War essentially eliminated a major bulwark against the regional influence of Iran’s Shiite regime.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; "><strong>Dream Still Alive</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Yet, despite the bloody and costly catastrophe in Iraq, the heart of the neocon dream is still beating – and Romney’s comment indicates that he shares its illusions. Dating back at least to the mid-1990s, the neocon idea has been to use violent or coercive “regime change” in Muslim countries to secure Israel’s security.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The neocons’ first target may have been Iraq, but that was never the endgame. The strategy was to make Iraq into a military base for then removing the governments of Iran and Syria. Back in the heady days of 2002-2003, a neocon joke posed the question of what to do after ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq – whether to next go east to Iran or west to Syria. The punch-line was: “Real men go to Tehran.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">According to the neocon grand plan, once pro-Israeli governments were established in Iran, Iraq and Syria, Israel’s hostile neighbors, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, would lose their benefactors and shrivel up, without money or weapons. Then, Israel could dictate its terms for peace and security.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">This neocon strategy emerged after the lopsided U.S. victory in Kuwait, in which President George H.W. Bush demonstrated the leaps-and-bounds advantage of the high-tech U.S. military over the Iraqi army whose soldiers were literally blown to bits by U.S. missiles and “smart bombs” while American casualties were kept to a minimum.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">After that 1991 victory, it became conventional wisdom in Washington that no army on earth could withstand the sophisticated killing power of the U.S. military. That belief – combined with frustration over Israel’s stalemated conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah – led American neocons to begin thinking about a new approach, “regime change” across the Middle East.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The early outlines of this aggressive concept for remaking the Middle East emerged in 1996 when a group of neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for Israel’s Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu during his campaign for prime minister.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The neocon strategy paper, called “<a href="http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none; ">A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm</a>,” advanced the idea that only regime change in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Under the “clean break,” Israel would no longer seek peace through mutual understanding and compromise, but rather through confrontation, including the violent removal of leaders such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein who were supportive of Israel’s close-in enemies.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The plan called Hussein’s ouster “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right,” but also one that would destabilize the Assad dynasty in Syria and thus topple the power dominoes into Lebanon, where Hezbollah might soon find itself without its key Syrian ally. Iran also could find itself in the cross-hairs of “regime change.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">But what the “clean break” needed was the military might of the United States, since some of the targets like Iraq were too far away and too powerful to be defeated even by Israel’s highly efficient military. The cost in Israeli lives and to Israel’s economy from such overreach would have been staggering.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">In 1998, the U.S. neocon brain trust pushed the “clean break” plan another step forward with the creation of the Project for the New American Century, which urged President Bill Clinton to overthrow Saddam Hussein.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">However, Clinton would only go so far, maintaining a harsh embargo on Iraq and enforcing a “no-fly zone” which involved U.S. aircraft conducting periodic bombing raids. Still, with Clinton or his heir apparent, Al Gore, in the White House, a full-scale invasion of Iraq appeared out of the question.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; "><strong>An Opening</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The first key political obstacle was removed when the neocons helped engineer George W. Bush’s ascension to the presidency in Election 2000. However, the path was not fully cleared until al-Qaeda terrorists attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, leaving behind a political climate across America for war and revenge.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Of course, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 had other motives besides Israeli security – from Bush’s personal animus toward Saddam Hussein to controlling Iraq’s oil resources – but a principal goal of the neocons was the projection of American power deep into the Muslim world, to strike at enemy states beyond Israel’s military reach.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">In those days of imperial hubris, the capabilities of the U.S. military were viewed as strategic game-changers. However, the Iraqi resistance to the U.S. conquest, relying on low-tech weapons such as “improvised explosive devices,” dashed the neocon dream – at least in the short run. The “real men” had to postpone their trips to Tehran and Damascus.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">But the dream hasn’t died. It just had to wait out four years of Barack Obama. In Campaign 2012, the neocons have returned to surround Mitt Romney, who like George W. Bush a decade ago has only a vague understanding of the world and is more than happy to cede the direction of U.S. foreign policy to the smart, confident and well-connected neocons.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The neocons also understand the need to manipulate the American people. In the 1980s, when I was covering Ronald Reagan’s Central American policies, I dealt with the neocons often and came to view them as expert manipulators whose view of democracy was that it was okay to trick the common folk into doing what was deemed necessary.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">So, the neocons learned to exaggerate dangers and exploit fears. They tested their skills out in Central America with warnings about how peasant rebellions against corrupt oligarchs were part of some grand Soviet scheme to conquer the United States through the soft underbelly of Texas.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">When the neocons returned to power under George W. Bush, they applied the same techniques in hyping the threat from Iraq. They pushed baseless claims about Saddam Hussein sharing non-existent weapons of mass destruction with al-Qaeda, all the better to scare the American people.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; "><strong>Painful Reversals</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">The neocons faced some painful reversals when the Iraq War foundered from late 2003 through 2006, but they salvaged some status in 2007 by pushing the fiction of the “successful surge,” which supposedly turned impending defeat into victory, although the truth was that the “surge” only delayed the inevitable failure of the U.S. enterprise.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">After Bush’s departure in 2009 and the arrival of Obama, the neocons retreated, too, to Washington think tanks and the editorial pages of national news outlets. However, they continued to influence the perception of events in the Middle East, shifting the blame for the Iraq defeat – as much as possible – onto Obama.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">New developments in the region also created what the neocons viewed as new openings. For instance, the Arab Spring of 2011 led to civil unrest in Syria where the Assad dynasty – based in non-Sunni religious sects – was challenged by a Sunni-led insurgency which included some democratic reformers as well as some radical jihadists.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Meanwhile, in Iran, international resistance to its nuclear program prompted harsh economic sanctions which have undermined the Islamic rule of the Shiite mullahs. Though President Obama views the sanctions as leverage to compel Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program, some neocons are already salivating over how to hijack the sanctions on behalf of “regime change.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">At this pivotal moment, what the neocons need desperately is to maneuver their way back into the White House behind Mitt Romney’s election. And, if that requires Romney to suddenly soften his hard-line neocon rhetoric for the next two weeks, that is a small price to pay.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Which brings us back to Monday’s foreign policy debate in which Romney abandoned what had been his supposedly principled stands, such as denouncing Obama’s schedule to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Though Romney had called that a major mistake – telling the Taliban when the Americans were departing – he embraced the same timetable. The voters could breathe a sigh of relief over “Moderate Mitt.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">However, in Romney’s comment about Syria, he showed his real intent, the neocon desire to exploit the conflict in Syria to replace Bashar al-Assad with a new leader who would accommodate Israel and shut down assistance going to Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It was in that context that Romney termed the Syrian violence, which has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, an “opportunity.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">But the real opportunity for the neocons would come if the American voters, satisfied that Romney no longer appears to be the crazy war hawk of the Republican primaries, elect him on Nov. 6 and then celebrate his arrival next Jan. 20 by pushing a crude wooden horse through the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.</p> Thu, 25 Oct 2012 08:33:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 733300 at http://lists.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 News & Politics World mitt romney neocons election 2012 Are We in for a Shocking October Surprise Like Those of Elections Past? http://lists.alternet.org/election-2012/are-we-shocking-october-surprise-those-elections-past <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">History points to Republican sabotage playing a role in Democratic losses in presidential campaigns. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-10-23_at_8.57.43_am.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>This article has been adapted from <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037">America's Stolen Narrative</a>, Robert Parry's newest book. </em></p>The phrase “October Surprise” is now part of the American political lexicon, referring to some last-minute event that might change the course of a U.S. presidential election. But the two prototypical “October Surprise” cases, in 1968 and 1980, have never earned a place in mainstream American history.<p>The October Surprise allegations of 1968 and 1980 also were something of a misnomer since they centered on Republican efforts to block an October Surprise by sabotaging game-changing diplomatic successes by incumbent Democratic presidents. In 1968, it was Lyndon Johnson achieving a breakthrough in the Vietnam War peace talks. In 1980, it was Jimmy Carter securing the release of 52 American hostages held in Iran.</p><p>Recent disclosures from the National Archives as well as statements from participants have shed new light on these dark chapters of U.S. history – and revealed previously unknown links between the 1968 case and the Watergate scandal of 1972 and between the 1980 Iran-hostage case and the Iran-Contra Affair of 1985-86. The new evidence suggests a more continuous narrative connecting these scandals and thus represents a powerful challenge to the established history.In both cases, the Democratic presidents failed to accomplish their goals and the Republican candidates, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, went on to victories. Yet, these important October Surprise mysteries have remained largely unsolved: Did Republican sabotage actually play a role in the Democratic failures?</p><p>Possibly the most notorious “October Surprise” case – and the first of this modern era – occurred in fall 1968 when Republican Richard Nixon was locked in a tight presidential race with Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and President Johnson was making progress in Vietnam peace negotiations.</p><p>At that point, a half million American soldiers were in the war zone and more than 30,000 had already died, along with Vietnamese dead estimated at about one million. In late October 1968, Johnson saw a chance for a breakthrough that would involve a bombing halt of North Vietnam and a possible framework for peace.</p><p>However, Johnson encountered surprising resistance from U.S. allies in South Vietnam. President Nguyen van Thieu was suddenly laying down obstacles to a possible settlement in the Paris peace talks.</p><p>On Oct. 29, 1968, Johnson got his first clear indication as to why. According to declassified records at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, Eugene Rostow, Johnson’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, got a tip from Wall Street financier Alexander Sachs who said that one of Nixon’s closest financial backers was describing Nixon’s plan to “block” a peace settlement.</p><p>Nixon’s backer was sharing this information at a working lunch with his banking colleagues in the context of helping them place their bets on stocks and bonds. In other words, the investment bankers were colluding over how to make money with their inside knowledge of Nixon’s scheme to extend the Vietnam War.</p><p>Eugene Rostow passed on the information to his brother, Walt W. Rostow, Johnson’s national security adviser. Eugene Rostow also <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0462.JPG">wrote a memo</a> about the tip. “The conversation was in the context of a professional discussion about the future of the financial markets in the near term,” he wrote. “The speaker said he thought the prospects for a bombing halt or a cease-fire were dim, because Nixon was playing the problem … to block. … They would incite Saigon to be difficult, and Hanoi to wait.”</p><p>In a later memo providing a chronology of the affair, Walt Rostow said he got the news about the Wall Street lunch from his brother shortly before attending a morning meeting at which President Johnson was informed by U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker about “Thieu’s sudden intransigence.”</p><p>Walt Rostow said “the diplomatic information previously received plus the information from New York took on new and serious significance,” leading Johnson to order an FBI investigation that soon uncovered the framework of Nixon’s blocking operation. [To read that Rostow memo, click <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0451.JPG">here</a>, <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0452.JPG">here</a> and <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0453.JPG">here</a>.]</p><p>From the FBI wiretaps, Johnson quickly learned about the role of Nixon campaign official (and right-wing China Lobby figure) Anna Chennault contacting South Vietnam’s Ambassador to the United States Bui Diem regarding the political importance for President Thieu’s continued boycott of the Paris peace talks.</p><p><strong>Nixon’s ‘Treason’</strong></p><p>After reading these secret FBI cables, Johnson began working the phones to counter the Nixon campaign’s gambit. According to recordings of the phone calls that have since been declassified, Johnson complained to Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen about the subterfuge.</p><p>On Nov. 2, just three days before the election, an angry Johnson <a href="http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/dictabelt.hom/highlights/may68jan69.shtm">telephoned</a> Dirksen at 9:18 p.m., to provide details about Nixon’s activities and to urge Dirksen to intervene forcefully.</p><p>“The agent [Chennault] says she’s just talked to the boss in New Mexico and that he said that you [South Vietnam] must hold out, just hold on until after the election,” Johnson said. “We know what Thieu is saying to them out there. We’re pretty well informed at both ends.” [Johnson believed “the boss in New Mexico” was Nixon’s running mate, Spiro Agnew, who was there on a campaign trip.]</p><p>Johnson then injected a thinly veiled threat to go public. “I don’t want to get this in the campaign,” Johnson said, adding: “They oughtn’t be doing this. This is treason.”</p><p>Dirksen responded, “I know.”</p><p>Johnson continued: “I think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter of this importance. I don’t want to do that [go public]. They ought to know that we know what they’re doing. I know who they’re talking to. I know what they’re saying.”</p><p>Dirksen: “I better get in touch with him [Nixon], I think.”</p><p>“They’re contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war,” Johnson said. “It’s a damn bad mistake. And I don’t want to say so. … You just tell them that their people are messing around in this thing, and if they don’t want it on the front pages, they better quit it.”</p><p>After hearing from Dirksen, Nixon grew concerned that Johnson might just go public with his evidence of the conspiracy. At 1:54 p.m. on Nov. 3, trying to head off that possibility, Nixon spoke directly to Johnson, according to <a href="http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/dictabelt.hom/highlights/may68jan69.shtm">an audiotape</a> released by the LBJ Library.</p><p>Nixon: “I just wanted you to know that I got a report from Everett Dirksen with regard to your call. … I just went on ‘Meet the Press’ and I said … that I had given you my personal assurance that I would do everything possible to cooperate both before the election and, if elected, after the election and if you felt … that anything would be useful that I could do, that I would do it, that I felt Saigon should come to the conference table. …</p><p>“I feel very, very strongly about this. Any rumblings around about somebody trying to sabotage the Saigon government’s attitude, there’s absolutely no credibility as far as I’m concerned.”</p><p>Armed with FBI reports and other intelligence, Johnson responded, “I’m very happy to hear that, Dick, because that is taking place. Here’s the history of it. I didn’t want to call you but I wanted you to know what happened.”</p><p>Johnson recounted some of the chronology leading up to Oct. 28, 1968, when it appeared that South Vietnam was onboard for the peace talks. He added: “Then the traffic goes out that Nixon will do better by you. Now that goes to Thieu. I didn’t say with your knowledge. I hope it wasn’t.”</p><p>“Huh, no,” Nixon responded. “My God, I would never do anything to encourage … Saigon not to come to the table. … Good God, we want them over to Paris, we got to get them to Paris or you can’t have a peace. … The war apparently now is about where it could be brought to an end. The quicker the better. To hell with the political credit, believe me.”</p><p>Johnson, however, sounded less than convinced. “You just see that your people don’t tell the South Vietnamese that they’re going to get a better deal out of the United States government than a conference,” the President said.</p><p><strong>An Almost Scoop</strong></p><p>After the conversation with Nixon, Johnson continued to consider whether he should go public with Nixon’s “treason.” A last-minute opportunity arose when a <em>Christian Science Monitor</em> correspondent in Saigon, Beverly Deepe, got word from South Vietnamese sources about the pressure on Thieu from the Nixon campaign to block the peace talks.</p><p>Deepe’s story draft read: “Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks – at least until the American Presidential election is over.”</p><p>So, on Nov. 4, journalist Saville Davis from the <em>Monitor’s</em> Washington bureau checked out Deepe’s story with South Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem and with the White House. Bui Diem knocked the story down and the decision by the White House on whether to confirm the story went to President Johnson himself.</p><p>In a <a href="http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/dictabelt.hom/highlights/may68jan69.shtm">conference call</a>, Johnson consulted with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Defense Secretary Clark Clifford and Walt Rostow. All three advisers recommended against going public, mostly out of fear that the scandalous information might reflect badly on the U.S. government.</p><p>“Some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected,” Clifford said. “It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.”</p><p>Johnson concurred with the judgment, and an administration spokesman told Davis, “Obviously I’m not going to get into this kind of thing in any way, shape or form,” according to <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0456.JPG">an “eyes only” cable</a> that Rostow sent Johnson. The cable added:</p><p>“Saville Davis volunteered that his newspaper would certainly not print the story in the form in which it was filed; but they might print a story which said Thieu, on his own, decided to hold out until after the election. Incidentally, the story as filed is stated to be based on Vietnamese sources, and not U.S., in Saigon.”</p><p>Rostow’s cable also summed up the consensus from him, Rusk and Clifford: “The information sources [an apparent reference to the FBI wiretaps] must be protected and not introduced into domestic politics; even with these sources, the case is not open and shut.”</p><p>Thus, the American electorate went to the polls on Nov. 5 with no knowledge that Johnson’s failed peace talks may have been sabotaged by Nixon’s campaign. Nixon prevailed over Humphrey by about 500,000 votes or less than one percent of the ballots cast in one of the closest elections in U.S. history.</p><p><strong>‘Sordid Story’</strong></p><p>After Nixon’s victory, Johnson tried to get the peace talks back on track. He appealed directly to Nixon in another phone call on Nov. 8 and again raised the implied threat of going public with his growing file on Republican contacts with the South Vietnamese:</p><p>“They’ve been quoting you [Nixon] indirectly, that the thing they ought to do is to just not show up at any [peace] conference and wait until you come into office. Now they’ve started that [boycott] and that’s bad. They’re killing Americans every day. I have that [story of the peace-talk sabotage] documented. There’s not any question but that’s happening. … That’s the story, Dick, and it’s a sordid story. … I don’t want to say that to the country, because that’s not good.”</p><p>Faced with Johnson’s threat, Nixon promised to tell the South Vietnamese officials to join the peace talks. However, nothing changed. For LBJ, there would be no peace.</p><p>As Inauguration Day approached, an embittered President Johnson ordered his national security aide Walt Rostow to remove from the White House the file containing the secret evidence of this “sordid story,” a decision that would have its own unintended consequences.</p><p>After taking office, President Nixon was told by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover about Johnson’s wiretaps. But Hoover gave Nixon the impression that the bugging was more intrusive and widespread than it actually was. Nixon launched an internal search for the file containing the secret wiretaps, but to no avail.</p><p>For Nixon, the missing file emerged as a deepening concern in June 1971 when <em>The New York Times</em> began publishing excerpts from the leaked Pentagon Papers, a study of the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967 that revealed U.S. government deceptions especially by the Johnson administration.</p><p>But Nixon knew something that few others did, that there was a potential sequel to the Pentagon Papers, a file on his campaign’s treachery in undercutting Johnson’s peace initiative and in extending the ruinous Vietnam War.</p><p>Just four days after the Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, one of Nixon’s Oval Office tapes – on June 17, 1971 – records him demanding extraordinary measures to locate the missing file. Nixon’s team referred to it as related to Johnson’s Vietnam bombing halt of Oct. 31, 1968, but it encompassed LBJ’s failed peace effort and more importantly the apparent Republican sabotage.</p><p>In the wake of the public outrage over the Pentagon Papers, Nixon clearly would have understood the danger to his reelection campaign if the second shoe had dropped, the revelation of Nixon’s role in extending the war to help win an election.</p><p><strong>‘Do We Have It?’</strong></p><p>The Oval Office conversation on June 17, 1971, is the first transcript in Stanley I. Kutler’s <em>Abuse of Power</em>, a book of Nixon’s recorded White House conversations relating to Watergate, and suggests Nixon had been searching for the 1968 file for some time.</p><p>“Do we have it?” a perturbed Nixon asked his chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman. “”I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.”</p><p>Haldeman responded, “We can’t find it.”</p><p>National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger added, “We have nothing here, Mr. President.”</p><p>Nixon: “Well, damnit, I asked for that because I need it.”</p><p>Kissinger: “But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.”</p><p>Haldeman: “We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.”</p><p>Nixon: “Where?”</p><p>Haldeman: “[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God that there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings.”</p><p>Nixon: “Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.”</p><p>Kissinger: “Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.”</p><p>Nixon: “I want it implemented. … Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”</p><p>Haldeman: “They may very well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to –“</p><p>Kissinger: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.”</p><p>Haldeman: “My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.”</p><p>But Johnson did know that the file was no longer at the White House because he had ordered Walt Rostow to remove it in the final days of his own presidency.</p><p>On June 30, 1971, Nixon again berated Haldeman about the need to break into Brookings and “take it [the file] out.” Nixon even suggested using former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt (who later oversaw the two Watergate break-ins in May and June of 1972) to conduct the Brookings break-in.</p><p>“You talk to Hunt,” Nixon told Haldeman. “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in. … Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.”</p><p>Haldeman: “Make an inspection of the safe.”</p><p>Nixon: “That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, <em>clean it up</em>.” For reasons that remain unclear, it appears that the planned Brookings break-in never took place, but Nixon’s desperation to locate Johnson’s peace-talk file was an important link in the chain of events that led to the creation of Nixon’s Plumbers unit and then to Watergate.</p><p><strong>The ‘X’ Envelope</strong></p><p>Ironically, Walt Rostow made that link in his own mind when he had to decide what to do with the file in the wake of Johnson’s death on Jan. 22, 1973. In the preceding four years, Rostow had come to label the file <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/03/03/lbjs-x-file-on-nixons-treason/">“The ‘X’ Envelope,”</a> a name that he wrote in longhand on the file’s cover.</p><p>On May 14, 1973, as he pondered what to do with the file, the Watergate scandal was spinning out of Nixon’s control. In a three-page “memorandum for the record,” Rostow summarized what was in “The ‘X’ Envelope” and provided a chronology for the events in fall 1968.</p><p>Rostow reflected, too, on what effect LBJ’s public silence may have had on the unfolding Watergate scandal. Rostow had a unique perspective in understanding the subterranean background to Nixon’s political espionage operations.</p><p>“I am inclined to believe the Republican operation in 1968 relates in two ways to the Watergate affair of 1972,” Rostow wrote. He noted, first, that Nixon’s operatives may have judged that their “enterprise with the South Vietnamese” – in frustrating Johnson’s last-ditch peace initiative – had secured Nixon his narrow margin of victory over Hubert Humphrey in 1968.</p><p>“Second, they got away with it,” Rostow wrote. “Despite considerable press commentary after the election, the matter was never investigated fully. Thus, as the same men faced the election in 1972, there was nothing in their previous experience with an operation of doubtful propriety (or, even, legality) to warn them off, and there were memories of how close an election could get and the possible utility of pressing to the limit – and beyond.” [To read Rostow’s memo, click <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0451.JPG">here</a>, <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0452.JPG">here</a> and <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0453.JPG">here</a>.]</p><p>Rostow apparently struggled with this question for the next month as the Watergate scandal continued to expand. On June 25, 1973, fired White House counsel John Dean delivered his blockbuster Senate testimony, claiming that Nixon got involved in the cover-up within days of the June 1972 burglary at the Democratic National Committee. Dean also asserted that Watergate was just part of a years-long program of political espionage directed by Nixon’s White House.</p><p>The very next day, as headlines of Dean’s testimony filled the nation’s newspapers, Rostow reached his conclusion about what to do with “The ‘X’ Envelope.” In longhand, he wrote <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0486.JPG">a “Top Secret” note</a> which read, “To be opened by the Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, not earlier than fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.”</p><p>In other words, Rostow intended this missing link of American history to stay missing for another half century. In <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/IMG_0484.JPG">a typed cover letter</a> to LBJ Library director Harry Middleton, Rostow wrote: “Sealed in the attached envelope is a file President Johnson asked me to hold personally because of its sensitive nature. In case of his death, the material was to be consigned to the LBJ Library under conditions I judged to be appropriate. …</p><p>“After fifty years the Director of the LBJ Library (or whomever may inherit his responsibilities, should the administrative structure of the National Archives change) may, alone, open this file. … If he believes the material it contains should not be opened for research [at that time], I would wish him empowered to re-close the file for another fifty years when the procedure outlined above should be repeated.”</p><p>Ultimately, however, the LBJ Library didn’t wait that long. After a little more than two decades, on July 22, 1994, the envelope was opened and the archivists began the process of declassifying the contents.</p><p>Since the audiotapes from many of Johnson’s phone conversations have also been declassified, it is now possible to overlay the information that Johnson had from the FBI wiretaps upon his conversations with Nixon and other principals and thus get a fuller sense of the high-stakes drama.</p><p><strong>Lost History</strong></p><p>Yet, Rostow’s delay in releasing “The ‘X’ Envelope” had other political consequences. Since the full scope of Nixon’s political intelligence operations were not understood in 1973-74, Washington’s conventional wisdom adopted the mistaken lesson that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” What wasn’t understood was how deep Nixon’s villainy may have gone.</p><p>That context also wasn’t known when a reprise of the 1968 “October Surprise” gambit may have played out in 1980. As that election campaign wound down, President Jimmy Carter was struggling to secure the release of 52 American hostages seized at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and Republican operatives again were alleged to have gone behind the President’s back.</p><p>The hostages were kept in Iran until Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981. Over the years, about two dozen sources – including Iranian officials, Israeli insiders, European intelligence operatives, Republican activists and even Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat – have provided information about alleged contacts with Iran by the Reagan campaign.</p><p>This October Surprise controversy finally drew some official attention in 1991-92 around the question of whether Ronald Reagan’s secret arms sales to Iran in 1985-86 – the Iran-Contra Affair – had originated several years earlier via his campaign’s contacts with Iran during Carter’s hostage crisis in 1980.</p><p>There were indications early in the Reagan presidency that something peculiar was afoot. On July 18, 1981, an Israeli-chartered plane crashed or was shot down after straying over the Soviet Union on a return flight from delivering U.S.-manufactured weapons to Iran.</p><p>In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials. “It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.</p><p>In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election. “It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”</p><p>When I re-interviewed Veliotes on Aug. 8, 2012, he said he couldn’t recall who the “people on high” were who had described the informal clearance of the Israeli shipments but he indicated that “the new players” were the young neoconservatives who were working on the Reagan-Bush campaign, many of whom later joined the administration as senior political appointees.</p><p>In 1993, I took part in an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Tel Aviv during which he said he had read the 1991 book, <em>October Surprise</em>, by Carter’s former National Security Council aide Gary Sick, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter’s reelection.</p><p>With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”</p><p>“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.” Later in the interview, Shamir seemed to regret his frankness and tried to backpedal on his answer, but his confirmation remained a startling moment.</p><p>In 1996, while former President Carter was meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat in Gaza City, Arafat tried to confess his role in the Republican maneuvering to block Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations.</p><p>“There is something I want to tell you,” Arafat said, addressing Carter in the presence of historian Douglas Brinkley. “You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal [for the PLO] if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the [U.S. presidential] election,” Arafat said, according to Brinkley’s article in the fall 1996 issue of Diplomatic Quarterly.</p><p><strong>A Dismissive Report</strong></p><p>But many of these additional details surfaced only after the 1980 case was buried by a House task force investigation that concluded in January 1993 that there was “no credible evidence” to support the allegations of a Republican sabotage operation behind Carter’s back. That finding allowed “October Surprise” to be treated as something of a conspiracy theory.</p><p>Newly declassified records from the National Archives and statements by key investigators, however, have undermined the House task force’s conclusions. For instance, a pivotal moment in the October Surprise investigation came in mid-November 1991 when two magazines, <em>Newsweek</em> and <em>The New Republic</em>, mocked the suspicions as a myth.</p><p>The impact of that dual debunking was profound, emboldening Senate Republicans to filibuster funding for a planned Senate inquiry and taking the wind out of a parallel House task force which, afterwards, focused more on disproving the allegations than confirming them.</p><p>A central element of those debunking stories was a supposed alibi for Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey, who had been placed in Madrid by one Iranian witness, Jamshid Hashemi, for a two-day meeting with an Iranian emissary, Mehdi Karrubi, in late July 1980.</p><p>As it turned out, Casey had broken off from the campaign in late July to attend a historical conference in London, putting him a short flight from Madrid. However, the two newsmagazines cited attendance records from the conference as showing Casey there for a morning session on July 28, thus supposedly making Hashemi’s account of a two-day meeting impossible.</p><p>In fall 1991, I was working at PBS “Frontline” on a documentary about the 1980 October Surprise case and we did what the two newsmagazines didn’t do. We interviewed other Americans who had attended that day’s conference, including the speaker, historian Robert Dallek, who said he had looked for Casey in the modest-sized conference room and discovered he wasn’t there.</p><p>The House task force interviewed Dallek, too, and quietly repudiated the London alibi. But the task force then created a different alibi for Casey on that weekend, placing him at the exclusive Bohemian Grove in northern California, although the Grove’s records and contemporaneous notes by a Grove member put Casey at its Parsonage cottage on the first weekend of August, not the last weekend of July. The task force even found <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/07/13/bohemian-grove-reagans-treason/">a group photo</a> of the Parsonage guests and members for the last weekend of July and Casey wasn’t in it.</p><p><strong>Casey in Madrid</strong></p><p>Still, the Bohemian Grove alibi became a key feature in the House task force’s conclusion rejecting Hashemi’s testimony and dismissing the broader October Surprise allegations. Yet, a recently released document from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, reveals that by early November 1991 – as<em>Newsweek</em> and <em>The New Republic</em> were putting the finishing touches on their London alibi – Bush’s White House counsel’s office was being informed that Casey had traveled to Madrid.</p><p>State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson told associate White House counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. that among the State Department “material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown,” Beach noted in a “<a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007-0491-F,Folder1,Part5-b(dragged).pdf">memorandum for record</a>” dated Nov. 4, 1991.</p><p>The <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2011/07/12/inside-the-october-surprise-cover-up/">archival records</a> also reveal that Bush’s White House, facing an increasingly tough reelection fight in 1992, coordinated with other federal agencies and congressional Republicans to delay, discredit and destroy the October Surprise investigation.</p><p>As assistant White House counsel Ronald von Lembke, <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007-0491-F,Folder5,Part1(dragged).pdf">put it</a>, the goal was to “kill/spike this story.” To achieve that desired result, the Republicans coordinated the counter-offensive through the office of White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, under the supervision of associate counsel Janet Rehnquist, the daughter of the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist.</p><p>On Nov. 6, 1991, just two days after Beach was informed about Casey’s mysterious trip to Madrid, Gray explained the stakes at a White House strategy session. “Whatever form they ultimately take, the House and Senate ‘October Surprise’ investigations, like Iran-Contra, will involve interagency concerns – and be of special interest to the President,” Gray declared, according <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007-0491-F,Folder1,Part5(dragged).pdf">to minutes</a>. [Emphasis in original.]</p><p>Among “touchstones” cited by Gray were “No Surprises to the White House, and Maintain Ability to Respond to Leaks in Real Time. This is Partisan.”</p><p>White House “talking points” on the October Surprise investigation urged restricting the inquiry to 1979-80 and imposing strict time limits for issuing its findings. “Alleged facts have to do with 1979-80 – no apparent reason for jurisdiction/subpoena power to extend beyond,” <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007-0491-F,Folder14,Part1(dragged).pdf">the document said</a>. “There is no sunset provision – this could drag on like Walsh!” – a reference to Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh.</p><p>Bush’s White House was particularly concerned that the October Surprise investigation of alleged contacts with Iran in 1980 might merge with the Iran-Contra scandal which was then focused on events from 1985-86. If the firebreak separating the two scandals was jumped in the months before Election 1992, Bush’s already dimming hopes might have been dashed.</p><p>Walsh’s Iran-Contra investigation had already begun to suspect that the origins of the 1985-86 arms sales to Iran could be traced to 1980. When Walsh’s investigators subjected former CIA officer Donald Gregg to a polygraph exam, Gregg, who had served as Vice President Bush’s national security adviser, was asked about his alleged participation in the October Surprise operation and was judged to be deceptive in his denials. [Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I, p. 501]</p><p><strong>Second Thoughts</strong></p><p>In retracing these investigations in 2010-12, I also discovered that there was much greater doubt inside the House task force than its dismissive conclusions suggested. For instance, chief counsel Lawrence Barcella told me in e-mails that so much incriminating evidence against the Republicans arrived near the end of the task force’s investigation that he asked the task force’s chairman, Rep. Lee Hamilton, to extend the inquiry for three more months.</p><p>However, Barcella said Hamilton declined to go through the necessary reauthorization of the task force and instead ordered him to proceed with the final report, which was published on January 13, 1993, and concluded that there was “no credible evidence” behind the suspicions. In 2010, when I asked Hamilton about why he had rejected Barcella’s request for an extension, the centrist Indiana Democrat said he had no recollection of such a proposal.</p><p>Barcella and Hamilton also differed on whether Barcella had forwarded to Hamilton an extraordinary report from the Russian government about what Moscow’s intelligence files showed about the alleged contacts between Americans and Iranians in 1980 and beyond.</p><p>The report, which had been requested by Hamilton and was addressed to him, was provided by Sergey V. Stepashin, chairman of the Supreme Soviet’s Committee on Defense and Security Issues. It was translated by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and forwarded to the House task force on Jan. 11, 1993, just two days before the task force’s final report was to be released.</p><p>The Russian Report contradicted the task force’s findings. As described by the Russians, the 1980 hostage negotiations boiled down to a competition between the Carter administration and the Reagan campaign offering the Iranians different deals if the hostages were either released before the election to help Carter or held until after the election to benefit Reagan.</p><p>The Iranians “discussed a possible step-by-step normalization of Iranian-American relations [and] the provision of support for President Carter in the election campaign via the release of American hostages,” according to the U.S. Embassy’s classified translation of the Russian report.</p><p>Meanwhile, the Republicans were making their own overtures, the Russian Report said. “William Casey, in 1980, met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership,” the report said. “The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris.”</p><p>At the Paris meeting in October 1980, “R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part,” the Russian Report said. “In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran.”</p><p>Both the Reagan-Bush Republicans and the Carter Democrats “started from the proposition that Imam Khomeini, having announced a policy of ‘neither the West nor the East,’ and cursing the ‘American devil,’ imperialism and Zionism, was forced to acquire American weapons, spares and military supplies by any and all possible means,” the Russian Report said.</p><p>According to the Russians, the Republicans won the bidding war. “After the victory of R. Reagan in the election, in early 1981, a secret agreement was reached in London in accord with which Iran released the American hostages, and the U.S. continued to supply arms, spares and military supplies for the Iranian army,” the Russian Report continued.</p><p>The deliveries were carried out by Israel, often through private arms dealers, the Russian Report said. [For text of the Russian report, click <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2005/russiantext.html">here</a>. To view the U.S. embassy cable that contains the Russian report, click <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2005/russianreport1980.html">here</a>.]</p><p><strong>Disappeared Document</strong></p><p>After I discovered the Russian Report in late 1994 after gaining access to the task force’s unpublished files, I was told by Barcella that he had stuck the document into one of the cardboard storage boxes with the expectation that it would disappear into a vast government warehouse like the closing scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”</p><p>But I was surprised to be told by Hamilton in 2010 that he had never seen the document, until I shipped a PDF file to him. After all, it had been addressed to him and represented possibly Moscow’s first post-Cold War collaboration with the United States on an intelligence mystery. So, after speaking with Hamilton, I went back to Barcella who acknowledged by e-mail that he didn’t “recall whether I showed [Hamilton] the Russian report or not.”</p><p>What became clear from my reexamination of both the 1968 and the 1980 “October Surprise” cases was that there was a resistance among both Republicans and Democrats to dig too deeply into these mysteries for fear that the discoveries would devastate the political comity upon which national governance rests.</p><p>There was also the concern raised by Defense Secretary Clifford that public recognition of the depths that some politicians would sink to win control of the White House was “so shocking” that it would not “be good for the country to disclose the story.”</p><p>Yet, while the old saying asserts that “ignorance is bliss,” the absence of a truthful history is harmful to a vibrant democracy. Also, by pretending that these historical “October Surprise” cases are entirely mythical makes a recurrence more likely.</p><p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><strong style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">Robert Parry broke many Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, he worked on two PBS documentaries regarding the 1980 October Surprise case. His new book on these and other historical mysteries is <em>America’s Stolen Narrative</em>.</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; "><strong>You can buy </strong><em><strong>America’s Stolen Narrative</strong></em><strong> either in <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); ">print here</a> or electronically (from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Stolen-Narrative-Washington-ebook/dp/B009RXXOIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1350755575&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=americas+stolen+narrative" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); ">Amazon</a> and<a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/americas-stolen-narrative?keyword=americas+stolen+narrative&amp;store=ebook&amp;iehack=%E2%98%A0" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); ">barnesandnoble.com</a>). If you buy a hard copy of the book through the <a href="https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1868/t/12126/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=1037" style="text-decoration: none; outline: none; color: rgb(32, 91, 135); ">Consortiumnews.com Web site</a>, you will not only get free shipping but for only a nickel more you can get one of the companion books, </strong><em><strong>Secrecy &amp; Privilege</strong></em><strong> or </strong><em><strong>Neck Deep</strong></em><strong>.</strong></p><p style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; "> </p> </div></div></div> Tue, 23 Oct 2012 08:48:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 731892 at http://lists.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 election 2012 october surprise In Big Foreign Policy Speech, Romney Lies to the Entire World http://lists.alternet.org/world/big-foreign-policy-speech-romney-lies-entire-world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Romney displayed again his proclivity to lie on specifics and distort the broader reality.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/mittromney-bigflag.jpeg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p> </p><p>While it’s true that all politicians play games with the facts, it is actually rare for a politician to be an inveterate liar. But Mitt Romney is one of that rare breed on matters both big and small. And with some polls showing his surge toward victory on Nov. 6, his dishonesty may soon become an issue for the entire world.</p><p>Romney’s foreign policy speech on Monday was another example of his tendency to lie on minor stuff as well as weighty issues. For instance, he claimed that President Barack Obama “has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years” though Obama secured passage of agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and signed them in October 2011.</p><p>So, by any normal use of the English language, Obama had signed new trade agreements, but Romney simply stated the opposite.Romney apologists suggest that the Republican presidential nominee was hanging his truthiness on the word “new” since negotiations on the agreements began late in George W. Bush’s presidency. But the work was completed by Obama and he pushed the deals through Congress despite resistance from some of his own supporters in labor unions.</p><p>Romney also accused Obama of staying “silent” in the face of street protests in Iran over the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. But Obama wasn’t “silent.” He did speak out, with his comments becoming increasingly harsh as more images of violence emerged.</p><p>“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days,” the President said on June 23, 2009. He added that he strongly condemned “these unjust actions.”</p><p>If Romney wished to criticize Obama for not condemning Iran in even stronger terms or for not using his harshest language immediately that might be one thing, but to say, the President was “silent” is just a lie.</p><p>More broadly, Romney’s depiction of U.S. foreign policy as weak and feckless under Obama is almost the inverse from the truth. For instance, Obama helped organize an international military force to wage war in Libya, enabling rebels to overthrow longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but Romney acts as if that never happened.</p><p>Instead, Romney lays every foreign policy problem at Obama’s door and credits others with every accomplishment, including the killings of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders.</p><p>On that topic, Romney said: “America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden.” But Romney gives no credit to Obama for ordering these strikes and taking criticism from many on the Left for his aggressive use of drone attacks.</p><p><strong>The Palestine Flip-Flop</strong></p><p>Another jaw-dropping example of Romney’s dishonesty was his sudden embrace of negotiations leading to a Palestinian state after he was recorded in his infamous “47 percent speech” last May as deeming such talks hopeless.</p><p>“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way,” Romney told a group of wealthy donors. “The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”</p><p>As for what the U.S. policy would be in a Romney administration, he said, “we kick the ball down the field.”</p><p>However, on Monday, Romney declared: “I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.”</p><p>And again, all the blame for the impasse is placed on Obama: “On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”</p><p>And then, there’s the traditional hypocrisy that you get from both parties but most notably from the Republicans, preaching the value of liberty and democracy but advocating ever closer ties with the oppressive monarchies of the Persian Gulf.</p><p>Romney declared about Obama’s approach to the Arab Spring that “the greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East — friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us.”</p><p>However, Romney then added, “I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf.”</p><p><strong>Neocon Revival</strong></p><p>Besides the lies and misrepresentations in the speech, there were some genuine policy differences expressed by the Republican presidential nominee. For instance, he vowed to expand the U.S. military and to deploy it more aggressively around the globe.</p><p>Romney also repeated his pledge to yoke U.S. foreign policy to Israel’s desires. “The world must never see any daylight between our two nations,” he said.</p><p>And Romney renewed his belligerence against Russia, which he had previously deemed “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” In his speech on Monday, Romney said, “I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”</p><p>Despite the Depression-level economic crisis gripping Europe, Romney also announced that he “will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.”</p><p>One might regard Romney’s neoconservative revival as delusional in a variety of ways – further driving the United States toward bankruptcy even as U.S. interventionism in the Muslim world would surely make matters worse – but it is Romney’s reliance on systematic lying that perhaps should be more troubling to American voters.</p><p>Romney has long been known as a serial flip-flopper who changes positions to fit the political season, but his pervasive mendacity has been a concern since the Republican primaries when his GOP rivals complained about him misrepresenting their positions and reinventing his own. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/04/23/mitt-romney-professional-liar/">Mitt Romney: Professional Liar</a>.”]</p><p>That pattern has continued into the general election campaign, with Romney telling extraordinary whoppers on the campaign trail and even during last Wednesday’s presidential debate, such as when he claimed his health-care plan covered people with pre-existing conditions when it doesn’t. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/10/05/mitt-romney-as-eddie-haskell/">Mitt Romney as Eddie Haskell</a>.”]</p><p><strong>Strategic Lying</strong></p><p>One reason that I criticized Romney’s debate performance – though many other Americans, including many Democrats, disagreed with my assessment – was that I felt his lying and his squirrely behavior were more important than Obama’s sluggishness. Telling lies while waving your arms shouldn’t trump telling the truth in a moderate tone.</p><p>Indeed, as a journalist, I simply cannot abide politicians who lie systematically, who don’t just trim the truth once in a while but make falsehoods a strategic part of their politics and policies.</p><p>When I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a reporter for the Associated Press, the nation had just emerged from the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. To reassure the country that the government could be honest, President Jimmy Carter promised never to lie to the American people.</p><p>But then came the Reagan administration with its concept of “perception management,” i.e., the manipulation of the public’s fears and prejudices for the purpose of lining up the people behind new foreign adventures. A chief “public diplomacy” goal of the administration was to cure the American people of “the Vietnam Syndrome.”</p><p>Thus, minor threats, like peasant uprisings in Central America, were portrayed as part of a grand Soviet strategy to invade the United States through Texas. The strength of the Soviet Union was itself exaggerated to justify a massive U.S. military build-up. Today’s neocons cut their teeth of such distortions and lies.</p><p>Post 9/11, with George W. Bush in the White House, this neocon strategy of fear-mongering led the United States into the debacle of the Iraq War (in pursuit of imaginary weapons of mass destruction).</p><p>Now, less than a year after U.S. military forces left Iraq — and with a withdrawal from Afghanistan finally underway — the latest polls suggest that the American voters are shifting toward the election of another neocon President who promises more soaring rhetoric about U.S. “exceptionalism” and more interventionism abroad.</p><p>It’s almost as if many Americans like being lied to.</p> Tue, 09 Oct 2012 11:39:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 724165 at http://lists.alternet.org World Election 2016 The Right Wing World romney foreign policy Romney's Neocon Foreign Policy: Written by Those Who Ignored al Qaeda Threat http://lists.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/romneys-neocon-foreign-policy-written-those-who-ignored-al-qaeda-threat <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The emerging history of 9/11 reveals that George W. Bush’s failure to protect the nation resulted from neocon insistence that Iraq was the real threat, not al Qaeda. Today is those neocons seek to regain power under a Romney presidency. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/twintowers-statueofliberty.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em><small>This article originally appeared as a special report on the Web site of Consortium News. Sign up for e-mail alerts on Consoritum News content <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/archives/">here</a>. (Mid-page, right-hand column.)</small></em></p><p>Eleven years after the fact, the key relevance of 9/11 to Campaign 2012 is that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has surrounded himself with neoconservative foreign policy advisers much as George W. Bush did in 2001, when the neocons let their ideological obsessions blind them to the threat from al-Qaeda.</p><div id="mainwrapper"><div id="leftcontent"><div id="post-5286"><p>In spring and summer 2001, the CIA and counterterrorism experts frantically rang warning bells, trying to get President Bush to order a full-court press aimed at stopping an attack that al-Qaeda was plotting. U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t sure exactly where al-Qaeda would strike but they were sure that something big was coming.</p><p>The neocons, however, had regarded the Clinton administration’s fear about al-Qaeda terrorism as a distraction, a relatively minor concern when compared to the neocon certainty that the far greater Middle East danger came from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.</p><p>In the neocon world view, “regime change” in Iraq would be the great “game changer,” setting in motion the toppling of hostile governments in Syria and Iran – and ultimately enabling Israel to dictate surrender terms to its close-in adversaries, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.</p><p>So, when many Clinton holdovers renewed their alarms in 2001, the warnings fell mostly on deaf ears inside the Bush administration. Indeed, some of Bush’s top neocons believed the CIA analysts were being tricked into getting the inexperienced young President to take his eye off the ball, that is, off Iraq.</p><p>In <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/opinion/the-bush-white-house-was-deaf-to-9-11-warnings.html?_r=1&amp;ref=opinion">an op-ed</a> for the <em>New York Times</em> on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, journalist Kurt Eichenwald fills in some missing pieces to the pre-9/11 narrative, putting into context the infamous “Presidential Daily Brief” of Aug. 6, 2001, which was entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”</p><p>Since the PDB was declassified in 2004, Bush’s defenders have argued that the President’s indifference to the warning was because the PDB was mostly a historical recounting of past al-Qaeda operations. But Eichenwald writes that the PDB was only one of a series of alarming reports that counterintelligence officers were putting before Bush and his national security team.</p><p>“While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed,” Eichenwald writes. “In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.”</p><p><strong>‘Imminent’ Strike</strong></p><p>For instance, Eichenwald reports that by May 1, 2001, the CIA had informed the White House that “a group presently in the United States” was plotting a terrorist attack. By June 22, a PDB called the expected al-Qaeda strike “imminent” although the precise timing was considered flexible.</p><p>So, when the Aug. 6 PDB arrived, it already had a troubling context, mounting evidence that al-Qaeda had placed a team of terrorists inside the United States with plans for a dramatic attack on American soil. Yet, Bush brushed aside the Aug. 6 warning while vacationing at his Texas ranch and literally went fishing. Why?</p><p>Eichenwald writes that Bush’s nonchalance could be traced to the success of neocon advisers in convincing the President that the warning was “just bluster.” The neocons have never been known to be humble in their assessment of their own intellectual prowess and that self-certainty apparently swayed Bush.</p><p>According to Eichenwald, “An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.</p><p>“Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day. In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.”</p><p>Eichenwald writes that a PDB of June 29 read, “The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden.” The brief listed evidence, “including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya,” Eichenwald reports.</p><p>The CIA continued to build on its case, including comments from operatives close to bin Laden that the impending attack would have “dramatic consequences” with heavy casualties. “Yet, the White House failed to take significant action,” Eichenwald writes.</p><p>“Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else. …</p><p>“On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.”</p><p><strong>More Witnesses</strong></p><p>Over the past several years, other senior intelligence officials have commented on the mounting evidence of a planned attack and the failure of Bush to react.</p><p>“It all came together in the third week of June,” said Richard Clarke, who was the White House coordinator for counterterrorism. “The CIA’s view was that a major terrorist attack was coming in the next several weeks.”</p><p>In late June, CIA Director George Tenet was reported “nearly frantic” about the likelihood of an al-Qaeda attack. He was described as running around “with his hair on fire” because the warning system was “blinking red.”</p><p>Some information even began to reach Washington reporters, but apparently not enough or the right ones. <em>New York Times</em> reporter Judith Miller, in a 2006 interview with <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/36388/">AlterNet</a>, said a well-placed CIA official briefed her on an al-Qaeda intercept over the July Fourth holiday in 2001.</p><p>“The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up,” Miller said. “The incident that had gotten everyone’s attention was a conversation between two members of al-Qaeda. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the [destroyer USS] Cole [which was bombed on Oct. 12, 2000].</p><p>“And one al-Qaeda operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry; we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.’”</p><p>Miller, who herself had close ties to the neocons, expressed regret that she had not been able to nail down enough details about the intercept to get the story into the newspaper. The Alternet interview was published in May 2006 after Miller resigned from the Times, in part, over her cozy ties with key neocons in Bush’s administration.</p><p>On July 5, 2001, at a meeting in the White House Situation Room, counterterrorism chief Clarke told officials from a dozen federal agencies that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.” But instead of sparking an intensified administration reaction to the danger, the flickering light of White House interest in the terror threat continued to sputter.</p><p>By July 10, senior CIA counterterrorism officials, including Cofer Black, had collected a body of intelligence that they presented to Director Tenet.</p><p>“The briefing [Black] gave me literally made my hair stand on end,” Tenet wrote in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm. “When he was through, I picked up the big white secure phone on the left side of my desk – the one with a direct line to [national security adviser] Condi Rice – and told her that I needed to see her immediately to provide an update on the al-Qa’ida threat.”</p><p>After reaching the White House, a CIA briefer, identified in Tenet’s book only as Rich B., started his presentation by saying: “There will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months!”</p><p>Rich B. then displayed a chart showing “seven specific pieces of intelligence gathered over the past 24 hours, all of them predicting an imminent attack,” Tenet wrote. The briefer presented another chart with “the more chilling statements we had in our possession through intelligence.”</p><p>These comments included a mid-June statement by Osama bin Laden to trainees about an attack in the near future; talk about decisive acts and a “big event”; and fresh intelligence about predictions of “a stunning turn of events in the weeks ahead,” Tenet wrote.</p><p>Rich B. told Rice that the attack will be “spectacular” and designed to inflict heavy casualties against U.S. targets. “Attack preparations have been made,” Rich B. said about al-Qaeda’s plans. “Multiple and simultaneous attacks are possible, and they will occur with little or no warning.”</p><p>When Rice asked what needed to be done, the CIA’s Black responded, “This country needs to go on a war footingnow.” The CIA officials sought approval for broad covert-action authority that had been languishing since March, Tenet wrote.</p><p><strong>Dismissive Aides</strong></p><p>Despite the July 10 briefing, other senior Bush administration officials continued to pooh-pooh the seriousness of the al-Qaeda threat. Two leading neoconservatives at the Pentagon – Stephen Cambone and Paul Wolfowitz – suggested that the CIA might be falling for a disinformation campaign, Tenet recalled.</p><p>But the evidence of an impending attack kept pouring in. At one CIA meeting in late July, Tenet wrote that Rich B. told senior officials bluntly, “they’re coming here,” a declaration that was followed by stunned silence.</p><p>Through the sweltering heat of July 2001, Bush turned his attention to an issue dear to the hearts of his right-wing base, the use of human embryos in stem-cell research.</p><p>Medical scientists felt stem cells promised potential cures for debilitating and life-threatening injuries and illnesses, from spinal damage to Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, despite this promise, the Christian Right objected on moral grounds to the extraction of cells from embryos, even if those destined for destruction as waste at fertility clinics.</p><p>While the team of al-Qaeda terrorists made final preparations for their attack, the U.S. press corps also missed the drama playing out inside the U.S. intelligence agencies. The hot stories that steamy summer were shark attacks and the mystery of a missing Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levy, who’d had an affair with Rep. Gary Condit, a California Democrat.</p><p>The news media pretended that its obsession with Levy’s disappearance was a heartfelt concern to help her parents find their missing daughter; the sexual gossip about Levy and Condit proved to be just a fortuitous byproduct. Yet, as cable news played the Chandra Levy case 24/7, a far more significant life-or-death drama was playing out inside the FBI and CIA.</p><p><strong>Flight Schools</strong></p><p>At the FBI’s Phoenix field office, FBI agent Kenneth Williams noted the curious fact that suspected followers of bin Laden were learning to fly airplanes at schools inside the United States.</p><p>Citing “an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” attending American flight schools, Williams sent a July 10, 2001, memo to FBI headquarters warning of the “possibility of a coordinated effort by Usama Bin Laden” to send student pilots to the United States. But the memo produced no follow-up.</p><p>CIA officials encountered similar foot-dragging at the White House. At least two officials in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center were so apoplectic about the blasé reactions from the Bush administration that they considered resigning and going public with their concerns. Instead, the CIA hierarchy made one more stab at startling Bush into action.</p><p>So, on Aug. 6, 2001, the CIA dispatched senior analysts to brief Bush who was starting a month-long vacation at his Crawford ranch. They carried a highly classified report with the blunt title “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” This PDB summarized the history of bin Laden’s interest in launching attacks inside the United States and ended with a carefully phrased warning about recent intelligence threat data:</p><p>“FBI information … indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York. The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.”</p><p>Bush was not pleased by the CIA’s intrusion on his vacation nor with the report’s lack of specific targets and dates. He glared at the CIA briefer and snapped, “All right, you’ve covered your ass,” according to an account in author Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine, which relied heavily on senior CIA officials.</p><p>Putting the CIA’s warning in the back of his mind and ordering no special response, Bush returned to a vacation of fishing, clearing brush and working on a speech about stem-cell research.</p><p>Yet, inside the FBI as the month wore on, there were more warnings that went unheeded. FBI agents in Minneapolis arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in August because of his suspicious behavior in trying to learn to fly commercial jetliners when he lacked even rudimentary skills.</p><p>FBI agent Harry Samit, who interrogated Moussaoui, sent 70 warnings to his superiors about suspicions that the al-Qaeda operative had been taking flight training in Minnesota because he was planning to hijack a plane for a terrorist operation.</p><p>But FBI officials in Washington showed “criminal negligence” in blocking requests for a search warrant on Moussaoui’s computer or taking other preventive action, Samit testified more than four years later at Moussaoui’s criminal trial.</p><p><strong>No Urgency</strong></p><p>A big part of the problem was the lack of urgency at the top. Counterterrorism coordinator Clarke said the 9/11 attacks might have been averted if Bush had shown some initiative in “shaking the trees” by having high-level officials from the FBI, CIA, Customs and other federal agencies go back to their bureaucracies and demand any information about the terrorist threat.</p><p>If they had, they might well have found the memos from the FBI agents in Arizona and Minnesota. Clarke contrasted President Bill Clinton’s urgency over the intelligence warnings that preceded the Millennium events with the lackadaisical approach of Bush and his national security team.</p><p>“In December 1999, we received intelligence reports that there were going to be major al-Qaeda attacks,” Clarke said in an interview. “President Clinton asked his national security adviser Sandy Berger to hold daily meetings with the attorney general, the FBI director, the CIA director and stop the attacks.</p><p>“Every day they went back from the White House to the FBI, to the Justice Department, to the CIA and they shook the trees to find out if there was any information. You know, when you know the United States is going to be attacked, the top people in the United States government ought to be working hands-on to prevent it and working together.</p><p>“Now, contrast that with what happened in the summer of 2001, when we even had more clear indications that there was going to be an attack. Did the President ask for daily meetings of his team to try to stop the attack? Did Condi Rice hold meetings of her counterparts to try to stop the attack? No.”</p><p>In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke offered other examples of pre-9/11 mistakes by the Bush administration, including a downgrading in importance of the counterterrorism office, a shifting of budget priorities, an obsession with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and an emphasis on conservative ideological issues, such as Reagan’s missile defense program.</p><p>A more hierarchical White House structure also insulated Bush from direct contact with mid-level national security officials who had specialized on the al-Qaeda issue.</p><p>The chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission – New Jersey’s former Republican Governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, respectively – agreed that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented.</p><p>“The whole story might have been different,” Kean said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 4, 2004. Kean cited a string of law-enforcement blunders including the “lack of coordination within the FBI” and the FBI’s failure to understand the significance of Moussaoui’s arrest in August while training to fly passenger jets.</p><p>Yet, as the clock ticked down to 9/11, the Bush administration continued to have other priorities. On Aug. 9, Bush gave a nationally televised speech on stem cells, delivering his judgment permitting federal funding for research on 60 preexisting stem-cell lines, but barring government support for work on any other lines of stem cells that would be derived from human embryos.</p><p>Scientists complained that the existing lines were too tainted with mouse cells and too limited to be of much value. But the news media mostly hailed Bush’s split decision as “Solomon-like” and proof he had greater gravitas than his critics would acknowledge.</p><p><strong>One Last Pitch</strong></p><p>CIA Director Tenet said he made one last push to focus Bush on the impending terrorism crisis, but the encounter veered off into meaningless small talk.</p><p>“A few weeks after the August 6 PDB was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the President stayed current on events,” Tenet wrote in his memoir. “This was my first visit to the ranch. I remember the President graciously driving me around the spread in his pickup and my trying to make small talk about the flora and the fauna, none of which were native to Queens,” where Tenet had grown up.</p><p>Bush and his neocon advisers continued their hostility toward what they viewed as the old Clinton phobia about terrorism and this little-known group called al-Qaeda. On Sept. 6, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened a presidential veto of a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., seeking to transfer money from strategic missile defense to counterterrorism.</p><p>Also on Sept. 6, former Sen. Gary Hart tried to galvanize the Bush administration into showing some urgency about the terrorist threat. Hart met with Condoleezza Rice and urged the White House to move faster. Rice agreed to pass on Hart’s concerns to higher-ups. However, nothing was done before al-Qaeda struck on Sept. 11.</p><p>When the first plane crashed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center in New York at 8:46 a.m., President Bush was on a trip to Florida, visiting a second-grade classroom. After the second plane hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., White House chief of staff Andrew Card whispered into Bush’s ear that “America is under attack.”</p><p>Bush sat dumbstruck for seven minutes holding a book, <em>The Pet Goat</em>. He later said he didn’t react immediately because he didn’t want to alarm the children.</p><p>Though Bush’s neocon advisers had been disastrously wrong about anticipating al-Qaeda’s terrorist strike, they quickly turned the catastrophe to their advantage by convincing Bush that he should go beyond simply striking back at al-Qaeda; that he should seize the opportunity to take out Saddam Hussein as well.</p><p>The Bush administration was soon on course to launch not only an invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, but Iraq as well. The neocons also revived their dreams about using Iraq as a launching pad for additional “regime change” in Syria and Iran. In the short term, the 9/11 disaster worked out so well for the neocons that some cynics began to suspect that the neocons had secretly wished for the attack all along.</p><p>As the years wore on, neocon hubris contributed heavily to the bloody mess in Iraq as nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The war in Afghanistan became a blood-soaked quagmire, too. The price tags for the wars were soon exceeding $1 trillion.</p><p>Bush’s military overreach set the stage for the 2008 election of Barack Obama who famously opposed the Iraq invasion as a young aspiring politician in Chicago. Yet, despite the calamities in their wake, the neocons never went far from the center of Washington influence and power. They retreated to high-paying jobs at think tanks, wrote books and sought out a new Republican presidential hopeful.</p><p><strong>The Romney Retreads</strong></p><p>The smart neocon bet was soon placed on Mitt Romney, who like Bush was a relative neophyte on foreign policy. The smooth-talking neocons quickly earned a place of trust in the Romney camp. The former Massachusetts government largely delegated to the neocons the job of writing his foreign policy white paper, “<a href="http://mittromney.com/sites/default/files/shared/AnAmericanCentury-WhitePaper.pdf">An American Century</a>.”</p><p>Romney allowed the title to be an obvious homage to the neocon Project for the New American Century, which in the 1990s built the ideological framework for the Iraq War and other “regime change” strategies of President Bush. Romney recruited Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century and a protégé of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, to write the foreword.</p><p>Romney’s white paper chastised Barack Obama for committing himself to pulling out the 30,000 “surge troops” from Afghanistan by mid-2012 and conducting a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 70,000 by the end of 2014. Romney’s white paper argued that Obama should have followed the advice of field commanders like then-Gen. David Petraeus and made withdrawals either more slowly or contingent on American military success. The white paper also opposed a full withdrawal from Iraq.</p><p>The white paper made clear that if Romney wins the White House, he is determined to reconstruct much of Bush’s foreign policy, complete with a renewed insistence on U.S. military dominance of the world and a full restoration of neocon influence.</p><p>Romney’s “An American Century” also brought back a favorite tactic of the Bush years, the baiting of Americans who dare criticize the nation’s hubristic foreign policy of the last decade. Echoing a favorite Republican talking point, Romney scolded Obama for supposedly “apologizing” for America.</p><p>The white paper stated: “In his first year in office alone, President Obama issued apologies for America in speeches delivered in France, England, Turkey, and Egypt not to mention on multiple similar occasions here at home.</p><p>“Among the ‘sins’ for which he has repented in our collective name are American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, for committing torture, for fueling anti-Islamic sentiments, for dragging our feet in combating global warming, and for selectively promoting democracy.</p><p>“The sum total of President Obama’s rhetorical efforts has been a form of unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere. A President who is so troubled by America’s past cannot lead us into the future.”</p><p>In other words, Romney’s neocons were reaffirming their long-held pattern of demonizing anyone who tries to discuss U.S. foreign policy honestly. After all, the neocons of the Bush years were guilty of pretty much every “sin” that is cited above. Apparently, it’s disqualifying to tell the truth if it makes the neocons look bad.</p><p>Romney also attacked Obama for even modestly trimming the U.S. military budget, which is now is roughly equal to what is spent by all other nations on the planet combined. According to “An American Century,” Romney “will put our Navy on the path to increase its shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year. He will also modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army, and Marines, and selectively strengthen our force structure.</p><p>“And he will fully commit to a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies.” The white paper did make one concession to reality by conceding that “this will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it.” The white paper added:</p><p>“Romney will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending — meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development — at afloor of 4 percent of GDP,” or about $565 billion.</p><p><strong>Protecting Israel</strong></p><p>Typical of a neocon-written white paper, there also was the obligatory declaration that the United States must do whatever is necessary to protect Israel’s interests. It stated: “Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. The tumult in the Middle East has heightened Israel’s security problems.</p><p>“Indeed, this is an especially dangerous moment for the Jewish state. It has deteriorating relationships with Turkey and Egypt. It faces longstanding dangers from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, a violent and highly unstable Syria, and a nuclear-aspiring Iran whose leadership is openly calling for Israel’s annihilation.</p><p>“To ensure Israel’s security, Mitt Romney will work closely with Israel to maintain it strategic military edge. … The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that their interests are not served by isolating Israel.</p><p>“With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Romney’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s. …  President Obama for too long has been in the grip of several illusions. One is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the central problem in the region [which has] led the administration to believe that distancing the United States from Israel was a smart move that would earn us credits in the Arab world and somehow bring peace closer.</p><p>“The record proves otherwise. The key to negotiating a lasting peace is an Israel that knows it will be secure. … The United States needs a president who will not be a fair-weather friend of Israel. The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. We must fight against that campaign in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate.”</p><p>Romney also suggested an expansion of legal authority for U.S. officials conducting the “war on terror.” His white paper said: “As president, Mitt Romney will empower all relevant military, intelligence, and homeland security agencies with the appropriate legal authority and policy guidance to dismantle terrorist groups and prevent terrorist attacks on our homeland and on targets abroad.”</p><p>Those broader legal authorities would take aim at what Romney calls “an emerging threat to the homeland [from] the radicalization of U.S. citizens and residents leading to ‘homegrown’ Islamist terrorism. … Mitt Romney will make countering this mounting danger a top priority. …</p><p>“Our counterterrorism professionals will need to continue to develop ‘fusion centers’ and other innovative systems to collect and systematically analyze information about domestic activities. They will need the capacity, consistent with U.S. law, to collect and unflinchingly analyze communications between terrorist networks abroad and people within our borders.”</p><p>It’s always hard to know what neocons mean when they say “consistent with U.S. law,” since they devised the Bush administration’s doctrine of unlimited presidential powers, but the word “unflinchingly” suggests they envision a robust domestic spying program.</p><p>With most political observers predicting a close election in November, the neocons hope that they can ride back into power in Washington behind a President Romney and then resume their role as his foreign policy foremen, advising the inexperienced Romney much as they did the novice Bush.</p><p>In making a choice for President, therefore, the American voters must realize that they are electing not just the people on the ballot but a cast of advisers who come along with the winners. Mitt Romney has made clear that he will staff much of his foreign policy team with neocon retreads from the Bush-43 administration.</p><p>Though these neocons always talk tough, the overwhelming evidence now indicates that when the United States was actually under the imminent threat of a domestic attack, the arrogant neocons blocked a meaningful response. Then, after the devastation, they compounded the mistake by diverting the U.S. military into a war on Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.</p><p>One of the questions that American voters might want to consider before Nov. 6 is whether a Romney presidency, staffed with belligerent neocons, would make the United States safer or put its citizens more at risk.</p></div></div></div><p> </p> Tue, 11 Sep 2012 09:10:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 708315 at http://lists.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 Investigations News & Politics World 9/11 romney bin laden bush saddam hussein Is Making a Protest Vote in Presidential Elections a Vanity Choice? http://lists.alternet.org/election-2012/making-protest-vote-presidential-elections-vanity-choice <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We need to realistic about elections and stop using them as opportunities to express disappointment, anger or even personal morality. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-08-03_at_3.47.00_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p> </p><p>My recent article, “<a href="http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/robert-parry/44590/the-vanity-of-perfectionism">The Vanity of Perfectionism</a>,” has stirred up some anger, in part, because of my choice of the word “vanity” to describe some behavior that I have witnessed on the American Left in people who sit out presidential elections or cast ballots for third-party candidates who have no chance of winning.</p><p>So, let me explain what I was driving at. The central point of the article was that Americans, especially on the Left, need to get realistic about elections and stop using them as opportunities to express disappointment, anger or even personal morality. Through elections, Americans are the only ones who can select our national leaders, albeit in a limited fashion.</p><p>The rest of the world’s people have no say in who’s going to run the most powerful nation on earth. Only we can, at least to the extent permitted in the age of <em>Citizens United</em>. The main thing we can still do is stop the more dangerous major-party candidate from gaining control of the executive powers of the United States, including the commander-in-chief authority and the nuclear codes, not small things.</p><p>So, when we treat elections as if they are our moment to express ourselves, rather than to mitigate the damage that a U.S. president might inflict on the world, we are behaving selfishly, in my view. That’s why I used the word “vanity.” U.S. elections should not be primarily about us.</p><p>U.S. elections should really be about others – those people who are likely to feel the brunt of American power – Iraqis and Iranians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, Vietnamese and Cambodians, Palestinians and Syrians, etc., etc. Elections also should be about future generations and the environment.</p><p>Whether we like it or not, the choice this year looks to be between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. People were free to run in the primaries to challenge these guys and, indeed, Romney faced a fairly large field of Republicans whom he defeated. Progressives could have challenged Obama but basically chose not to.</p><p>I believe it is now the duty of American voters to assess these two candidates and decide which one is likely to inflict less harm on the planet and its people. One of them might even do some good. We can hope.</p><p>If you do your research and decide that Romney is that guy, then vote for him. If it’s Obama, vote for him. (Before you make your decision, I would recommend that you read Romney’s book, <em>No Apology,</em> a full-throated neocon manifesto, which he claims that he wrote himself.)</p><p>In my view, everything else that Americans do – throwing away their votes on third parties or sitting out the election – are acts of vanity. Maybe it’s moralistic vanity or intellectual vanity or some other kind of vanity, but it is vanity. It has no realistic effect other than to make the person feel good.</p><p>I’ve known people who say they have always voted for Ralph Nader or some other third-party candidate. Thus, they say, they are not responsible for whatever the United States does to other countries. But that attitude, too, is vanity.</p><p>Instead of doing something practical to mitigate the harm that the U.S. does in the world – by voting for the person who might be less likely to overuse the U.S. military or who might restrain the emission of greenhouse gases – these folks sit on the sidelines basking in their perfection. They won’t make a call.</p><p>The hard decision is to support the imperfect candidate who has a real chance to win and who surely will do some rotten things but likely fewer rotten things than the other guy – and might even make some improvements.</p><p>I know that doesn’t “feel” as satisfying. One has to enter a morally ambiguous world. But that it is the world where many innocent people can be saved from horrible deaths (though not all) and where possibly actions can be taken to ensure that future generations are left a planet that is still habitable or at least with the worst effects of global warming avoided.</p><p><strong>Has That Technique Ever Worked?</strong></p><p>Though the choice of the word “vanity” may have been the most controversial part of my article, the bulk of it addressed another issue. Has the Left’s recurring practice of rejecting flawed Democratic candidates actually done any good? Was it preferable for Richard Nixon to defeat Hubert Humphrey; Ronald Reagan to beat Jimmy Carter; and George W. Bush to elbow past Al Gore to the White House?</p><p>If the Left’s tendency to punish these imperfect Democrats for their transgressions had led to some positive result, then the argument could be made that more than vanity was involved here, that the effect of causing some Democrats to lose was to make later Democrats more progressive and thus more favorable to the Left. Or maybe that the Left is on its way to building a viable third party that can win nationally.</p><p>But any examination of those three case studies – Elections 1968, 1980 and 2000 – would lead to a conclusion that whatever practical goals that some on the Left had in mind were not advanced by the Democratic defeat. The Democrats did not become more progressive, rather they shifted more to the center.</p><p>All three Republican presidents – Nixon, Reagan and Bush-43 – extended or started wars that their Democratic rivals might have ended or avoided. Those elections – plus congressional outcomes in 1980, 1994 and 2010 – also bolstered the Right and helped consolidate anti-progressive attitudes on domestic and foreign policies.</p><p>More than four decades after 1968 and a dozen years after 2000, there is still no left-wing third party that can do more than play the role of spoiler.</p><p>Yet, if there has been no positive practical result from these electoral tactics in the past – and there is no reasonable expectation for the future – then what’s the point of repeating them? There’s the old saying that one definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.</p><p>Nor, by the way, is there a popular movement that can significantly alter government policies strictly through civil disobedience or via protests in the streets – with all due respect to Occupy Wall Street. So, what’s up here?</p><p>The only explanation that I can come up with for throwing away a vote on a third-party candidate or not voting for “the lesser evil” is that such a choice represents a personal expression of anger or disappointment. And I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s right to feel those emotions. Given the recent history, it’s hard not to.</p><p>But – when some lives can be saved, when some wars can be averted and when the planet can possibly be spared from ecological destruction – the true moral imperative, in my view, is to engage in the imperfect process of voting for the major-party candidate who seems more likely than the other one to do those things.</p><p>To ignore that imperative, I’m sorry to say, is an act of vanity.</p>  Fri, 03 Aug 2012 15:42:00 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 686842 at http://lists.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 robert parry obama mitt romney Big Media's So-Called "Fact-Checkers" Carry Romney's Water on Bain http://lists.alternet.org/story/156339/big_media%27s_so-called_%22fact-checkers%22_carry_romney%27s_water_on_bain <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">These &quot;independent fact-checkers&quot; try to shield Mitt Romney from questions about Bain. It&#039;s not working.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1340650550_mitt.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> Mitt Romney is refusing to answer questions about contacts with his Bain Capital subordinates after he took a partial leave of absence in February 1999 to work on the Winter Olympics. Instead, he’s sticking to sweeping denials that he had any role in managing the company as it off-shored jobs and shuttered factories.</p> <p> Increasingly, Romney’s defense relies on self-styled “independent fact-checkers,” Brooks Jackson at Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org and the <em>Washington Post</em>’s Glenn Kessler, who have issued quarrelsome denunciations of President Barack Obama’s campaign for connecting Romney to Bain’s activities from 1999 to 2002.</p> <p> Yet, these “fact-checkers” acknowledge that they are operating with a limited body of facts, i.e., what has so far been made public. In an interview on MSNBC on Monday, Kessler admitted that he had no access to internal information at Bain Capital regarding how often Romney was in touch with his company in those three years.</p> <p> Nevertheless, Romney repeatedly has cited the two “fact-checkers” as clearing him of allegations from the Obama campaign – and now from a number of news organizations – that a long paper trail exists of Bain Capital reporting Romney’s continued involvement with Bain during the three years in question.</p> <p> To state the obvious, it seems like a contradiction in purpose for “independent fact-checkers” to allow themselves to become accomplices in a politician stonewalling the disclosure of facts that bear directly on his qualifications and integrity. At minimum, it would seem that Jackson and Kessler should suspend their denunciations of the Obama campaign until Romney and Bain clear up the many discrepancies.</p> <p> On Monday, the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/us/politics/when-did-romney-step-back-from-bain-its-complicated.html?ref=us">tallied</a> 142 times when Romney’s name appears on Bain’s securities regulation forms during the three-year period, many listing him as owner, chairman, chief executive officer and the controlling person. Talking Points Memo cited one such form that listed Romney’s “principal occupation” as “managing director” of Bain Capital Investors VI Inc., a private equity fund.</p> <p> Romney also told the <em>Boston Herald</em> in 1999 that he would continue assisting Bain in decisions regarding investments and personnel. However, in TV interviews last Friday, Romney repeated his current mantra that he provided no such input. When pressed on exactly what contacts he actually had, he dodged the questions and referred back to the supportive stories by the two “independent fact-checkers.”</p> <p> <strong>‘Retroactive’ Retirement?</strong></p> <p> On Sunday, Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, went on CNN to reiterate Romney’s position, but added a new twist by claiming that Romney had “retired retroactively” from Bain Capital two years after moving to Salt Lake City – whatever that means.</p> <p> Ever since he ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002, Romney has sought to distance himself from the results of Bain Capital investments, including some that he engineered before his partial leave of absence in 1999. Some of those investments led to closed factories, painful layoffs and off-shoring of jobs to low-wage countries.</p> <p> Instead of taking responsibility for those outcomes, Romney has insisted that a bright line existed between his 15 years of hands-on control of the private equity firm and the three years after he agreed to oversee the Winter Olympics games in Salt Lake City.</p> <p> That attempt to convince voters that there was a “good” Bain Capital under Romney and a “bad” Bain Capital once he left has led to the current confusion and — as far as the Romney campaign is concerned — the helpful intervention of the two “independent fact-checkers.” But they acknowledge that they have no inside information about exactly what Romney was telling his subordinates during those years or how often he was in communication with them.</p> <p> The “fact-checkers” simply have taken Romney at his word and taken Obama to task. Annenberg’s FactCheck.org told the President’s campaign that it was “all wet” in its six-page defense of the Obama ads that blamed Romney for Bain-related layoffs and off-shoring. Kessler gave Obama and his campaign four “Pinocchios” (a total “whopper”) in one “fact-check” and three “Pinocchios” in a follow-up.</p> <p> Those “fact-checking” reports, which read more like tendentious legal arguments from Romney’s lawyers than journalistic assessments, prompted Romney to flood the airwaves with attack ads citing those “independent fact-checkers” and calling President Obama a liar. Romney also demanded an “apology,” which Obama refused to give. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/07/14/the-romney-fact-checking-scandal/">The Romney ‘Fact-Checking’ Scandal</a>.”]</p> <p> <strong>Demands for Answers</strong></p> <p> Though Brooks Jackson and Glenn Kessler have become heroes to the Romney campaign and its Republican backers, these “independent fact-checkers” have found themselves increasingly isolated within the journalistic community as more news outlets note the contradictory Bain filings and call for more disclosures by Romney’s camp.</p> <p> On Monday, the <em>New York Times</em> published an editorial, entitled “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/opinion/mitt-romneys-complaints.html?_r=1&amp;ref=opinion">Mitt Romney’s Complaints</a>” with a sub-head: “He is not coming clean with voters and President Obama has nothing to apologize for.” The editorial states: “If Mr. Romney doesn’t want to provide real answers to the questions about his career, he had better develop a thicker skin. Mr. Romney’s descriptions of when he left Bain have been erratic and self-serving.</p> <p> “In 2002, when he needed to show he was still a Massachusetts resident, he denied he had quit in 1999, saying he had taken <a href="http://bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/07/13/evidence-mounts-mitt-romney-continuing-ties-bain-after/w9vGMpkCKg1GaYdaU8l8GL/story.html">a leave of absence</a> to run the Olympics committee. A series of documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Committee show that Bain certainly didn’t describe him as absent after 1999. …</p> <p> “Mr. Romney has persistently refused to tell voters about his finances. Even now it is not clear how much money he has made from Bain in the 13 (or 10) years since he left the company. The right way to respond to Mr. Obama is to release his tax returns from that period, or open up Bain documents. But Mr. Romney told CNN he would not release more than the one year’s return he has already released and the one for 2011 when it is finished.”</p> <p> If Annenberg’s Jackson and the <em>Post</em>’s Kessler want to show that they truly care about facts, they would join the <em>New York Times</em> and others in demanding more disclosures from Romney – and they would be offended that he is using them to hide relevant information from the American voters.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Robert Parry's new book is <a href="http://www.secrecyandprivilege.com/">Secrecy &amp; Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq</a>." You can now order his last two books, Secrecy &amp; Privilege and Neck Deep, at the discount price of only $16 for both. For details on the special offer, click <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/04/18/emptying-the-book-warehouse/">here</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 21:00:01 -0700 Robert Parry, Consortium News 671709 at http://lists.alternet.org Election 2016 News & Politics Media Election 2016 obama romney sec bain capital factcheck.org glenn kessler annenberg center brooks jackson