Sam Husseini

The corporate press is setting a dangerous precedent by giving Biden a pass on his support for Iraq War

While Biden and his surrogates like John Kerry continue to falsely claim that the former vice president and U.S. senator was not for the Iraq invasion, the Bernie Sanders campaign has rightly highlighted more documentation—such as this video—of Biden's support for the Iraq invasion both before and after it happened.

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The AP expunges Iran/Contra pardons from Barr’s record — and proves how little interest there is in the trajectory of presidential power

A president facing a major scandal, just as the highest-profile trial is about to begin, pardons the indicted or convicted officials around him to effectively stop the investigation that’s closing in on his own illegal conduct.

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The Anti-Muslim Origins of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'

As several writers have noted—before and after the furor surrounding quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner"—the national anthem is racist. Specifically, the third stanza: 

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Embattled Wife of Orlando Nightclub Shooter: Everything You're Hearing About Me Is a Lie

Virtually everything in the media about Noor Zahi Salman, Omar Mateen's wife, is from anonymous government sources. They lie in situations like this. 

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Rep. Keith Ellison Seems Unaware That Clinton Returned Muslim Donations

At a news conference Tuesday, I asked Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and André Carson (D-Ind.) about Hillary Clinton's having returned money from Muslims and refusing to meet with Arab and Muslim groups in her 2000 Senate run.

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The Late Saudi King Abdullah Was No Reformer - So Why Are People Saying He Was?

Many are voicing surprise at the comments of IMF head Christine Lagarde following the death of the Saudi monarch. She said, "He was a great leader. He implemented lots of reforms, at home, and in a very discreet way, he was a great advocate for woman. It was very gradual, appropriately so probably for the country, but I discussed that issue with him several times and he was a strong believer." After a reporter expressed surprise that a woman would say that, Lagarde added: "Very often, Saudi Arabia is portrayed as a place where women do not play quite the same role." The last sentence hasn't been seriously scrutinized, but it should be. "Quite the same role" is a remarkable way to describe a country that has a system of male guardianship.

This would seem to be another example of the emptiness -- even on the most limited basis -- of a shallow diversity that seeks to put a woman or African American in a prominent position while maintaining incredibly oppressive power dynamics. 
And that's how her statements should be seen: The source is not some random woman. She is the the head of the IMF, an international financial institution purported to aid global development but is frequently criticized as doing the bidding of the rich and powerful -- such as the major U.S. and European banks. And, like a good managing director, Lagarde is probably on the lookout for more funding for the IMF -- it's not straightforward to find out how much the Saudis have already ponied up. 
Back in 2011, when the Arab uprisings were in their seemingly promising first year I vigorously questioned Saudi Amb. Turki about the legitimacy of the Saudi regime and in his response he indicated part of their "legitimacy" was money given to international organizations, of which the IMF is one. 
I forcefully questioned Saudi legitimacy because I could see what was happening in 2011: The uprisings were taking root, and deforming into violent proxy wars -- in secular states (Libya and Syria), which were at times somewhat critical of the U.S. establishment -- while the pro-U.S. establishment regimes, largely monarchies like Saudi Arabia, were getting let off the hook. Those repressive monarchies would therefore be able to mold events in the formerly secular states and the future of the region. Democracy, equality and the voice of the people would hardly be on their list of goals. 

So, when he came to the National Press Club, I asked Turki what the legitimacy of the Saudi regime was. I was immediately suspended from the Press Club for my actions, though that was receded by the Club's Ethics Committee some ten days later. I was very gratified to have received support from a good number of people during my suspension, but one unfortunate aspect of the suspension is that it drew attention away from what Turki said in our exchange.

His first line of defense to my questioning the legitimacy of the regime was this: "I don't need to justify my country's legitimacy. We're participants in all of the international organizations and we contribute to the welfare of people through aid program not just directly from Saudi Arabia but through all the international agencies that are working throughout the world to provide help and support for people."

I thus wrote at the time: "Turki's response that Saudi Arabia gets legitimacy because of its aid programs is an interesting notion. Is he arguing that by giving aid to other countries and to international organizations that the Saudi regime has somehow purchased legitimacy, and perhaps immunity from criticism, that it would otherwise not have received? This is worth journalists and independent organizations pursuing."

I suspect that that's exactly what we're seeing manifested in Lagarde's comments. Some have noted aspects of the collusion between international financial institutions like the IMF and the Saudis, see for example, Adam Hanieh's piece "Egypt's Orderly Transition? International Aid and the Rush to Structural Adjustment." Too often in poor countries around the world, the form of "development" that's funded is a collusion between what the IMF wants and what states like Saudi Arabia want. Not exactly a prescription for fostering meaningful democratic development. But an excellent example of backscratching between elites. Really, a manifestation of Husseini's first law of politics: the powers collude and the people get screwed (and not in a good way). 

The relativistic part of Lagarade's comment -- "appropriately so probably for the country"— also echoed Turki: "After how many years since the establishment of the United States did women get to vote in the United States? Does that mean that before they got the vote that United States was an illegitimate country?" Indeed, my questioning of Turki was cut off when I tried to follow up with "So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward?"—that they should be 100 years behind U.S.? Though perhaps the most amusing part of Turki's comments about women were not in response to me, but the obsequious question that followed mine—asked by a worshiping female—where he refers to a "colleague" being "a woman as you can see." 

The initial media wave of calling "King Abdullah" a "reformer"— why exactly should a reasonable person actually use such absurd titles without scare quotes?— has brought on some minimal backlash. But it's largely constrained to domestic issues. 

The geopolitical threats to democracy and peace are even more daunting -- and full of myth. Saudi Arabia has been a center of counter-revolution and worse in Arab countries. The Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, as did the Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh for a time. The Saudi regime reportedly tried to prevent the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak from stepping down. Saudi Arabia moved into Bahrain to stop a democratic uprising there. But much of its power is more indirect -- for example, through a sizable media infrastructure that highlighted uprisings in secular republics and ignored democratic moves in monarchies. 

All this has totally deformed the Arab uprisings the last four years, leading to horrific civil wars and the prospect of wider wars—and it was foreseeable, which is why I and others sought to challenge it from the beginning. 
On the U.S.-Saudi relationship, now, the Harvard Political Review tells us: "The partnership was straightforward: Saudi Arabia provided special access to oil for the United States, and in return the superpower developed military installations across Saudi Arabia to advance mutual security goals." In fact, it was not about "access" to oil as Noam Chomsky has noted, but about control of oil, as well as investment in Western banks, not in real regional or global development. As Eqbal Ahmed was fond of asking: How did the wealth of the Mideast get separated from the people of the region? 
The Saudi regime paved the way for the U.S.'s wars against Iraq and elsewhere, postured as helping the Palestinians while in a tacit alliance with the equally hyper-hypocritical Israelis. The Saudi regime fosters violent al-Qaeda type violent extremism and facilitates its violent U.S. mirror image. 

Blackout of Winter Soldier Hearings Exposes Weakness of Indy Media

Jeff Cohen -- full disclosure: he used to be my boss and is a friend -- makes some very valid and important points in "Iraq Winter Soldier Hearings: Victory for Independent Media."

But there is another way of looking at this.

The fact that the mainstream paid so little attention to Winter Soldier -- as well countless other worthy stories -- is itself a failure of independent media to propel those stories into the mainstream.

Jeff writes that "these Iraq veterans had little but scorn for U.S. corporate media whose journalistic failures helped sell the war five years ago, and whose sanitized coverage helps sell the troop 'surge' today. But thanks to the Internet and the growing capacity of independent TV, radio and web outlets, a significant minority of Americans had access to these proceedings. And the archived hearings are now available to anyone anytime with computer access."

But only if you already know about it for the most part.

The great success of Fox News Channel is not that it has done what it has done, but that it has influenced the "mainstream" as it has.

And in that sense, independent media has totally failed.

To take the example at hand, what we did not see in the last several weeks was independent media asking questions about Winter Soldier at the White House press conferences, or at the Pentagon or State Department. Had they done so, the administration spokesperson's words would likely have led to more attention to Winter Soldier than all the work of all the people who labored on it for months. A serious debate between the veterans speaking out at Winter Soldier and the administration and its allies may well have ensued. This would have likely led to a dramatically different dynamic around the fifth anniversary of the war.

But no one asked at the news conferences, so none of that happened.

As it is, Winter Soldier likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on, and it was a very important, historic event, but it so far has not reached beyond those who likely already agreed with much of what was said. Web activism and other worthwhile efforts might build on what was done, but the lack of challenging government officials at the crucial time makes a world of difference.

People in independent media who complain about the lack of coverage of Winter Soldier and other important stories by mainstream U.S. media really have to look at the mirror as well.

Early in this decade I was among many who spent a great deal of time and effort to "save" Pacifica. After that battle was "won," I repeatedly urged the Pacifica board, then executive director Dan Coughlin, board chair Leslie Cagan (now of United for Peace and Justice) and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman to have reporters at news conferences in Washington. It never happened.

I publicly criticized Pacifica for this failure almost two years ago in "Can Pacifica Live Up to Its Promise?" Still, virtually nothing has changed. (Free Speech Radio News, aired on Pacifica stations, has a reporter on Capitol Hill, very rarely at any executive functions.)

Pacifica at one point actually canceled a program by Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, who at the time was getting into the White House to ask questions. His questions were posted on Common Dreams, but were not broadcast anywhere. (Ron Pinchback, the manager of WPFW, at one point assured me that Mokhiber's show would not be canceled after it was repeatedly pre-empted, shortly thereafter, it was canceled.)

This indicates that the problem is not so much one of resources, but of journalistic integrity and political will.

Now Pacifica will reportedly be bringing on a new executive director shortly, Nicole Sawaya. Will she do what is needed? Will Pacifica listener members demand it?

Other institutions have similarly failed. The Nation magazine's "Washington Correspondent" (John Nichols) is based in Wisconsin. Similarly, The Progressive magazine had an editor based in D.C., (Ruth Conniff) but she moved (also to Wisconsin) several years ago and was not replaced by anyone. Last year Mother Jones magazine proclaimed in an email heralding the re-opening of its Washington office (the office was closed about a decade ago): "This Changes Everything." They have some informative blog postings, but that's hardly going to "change everything."

Nor is the failure limited to U.S.-based independent media. Al-Jazeera (both Arabic and English) has scores of staffers in Washington, but not one gets into the White House to ask a tough question. Al-Jazeera reporters in Afghanistan and Iraq have braved U.S. missiles, but Al-Jazeera reporters in Washington have not braved White House news conferences.

Similarly, the BBC and CBC and tons of other media from around the world simply report out of Washington, but do not really change the landscape.

It should be obvious that many of these journalists and outlets have done good work -- I'm pointing to a broad, institutional -- really, perhaps cultural -- failure.

I should say that I've regularly asked tough questions at the National Press Club where I'm based and that's gotten crucial information out. I've also spent some of my Sunday mornings doing Washington Stakeout -- asking questions to politicos as they leave the Sunday morning talk shows, to some good effect with virtually no resources, other than the help of a few friends. I have done some work with The Real News and hope this crucial project can do much of the work that is desperately needed.

There needs to be lots of independent media doing much more than "preaching to the choir." The most obvious thing to do is set up the structures to question and scrutinize officials. It will not only lead to a broader dialogue, but will force independent media to get to specifics, to not rely on demonizing Bush and sloganeering. This is the way to get to the truth: challenge, scrutinize, repeat.

Isn't that what real independent media should be?

Inside the G-8: Inaction and Unresolved Issues

Like thousands of other activists who went home from Genoa dissatisfied, Neil Watkins had little good to say about the G8 leaders who engaged in summitry there. As project coordinator with the Center for Economic Justice, he returned to Washington and went right back to work, denouncing "the failure of the G-8 to cancel the debt of the poorest countries and respond to the protesters' call to stop policies that are causing global economic apartheid."

Debt cancellation was a key demand in the streets of Genoa -- where, Watkins noted, "the largest anti-corporate globalization protests yet took place." The movement has been buoyed by the influx of many young people.

Adam Taylor, the Boston-based executive director of a new student organization called Global Justice, speaks passionately about the debt issue -- and disparages President Bush's recent calls for the World Bank to increase the amount of grants made to developing countries. "That rings hollow," Taylor says, "since the U.S. gives the least of all the wealthy countries. About 0.1 percent of our GDP goes to foreign assistance."

The White House response to the AIDS crisis also angers Taylor: "The $200 million pledged by the administration for the UN Global Health Fund so far is a pittance of what is needed and sends the wrong signal to other potential donors. AIDS exposes other deeper inequalities our world is faced with, including a lack of respect for human rights, deepening poverty and debt."

Maneuvering inside global economic structures such as the World Trade Organization, the U.S. government is holding back vital progress on dire health-related problems, many activists contend.

"At a recent WTO meeting," says Health Gap Coalition staffer Paul Davis, "almost all rich nations joined with the countries of the South in asking the WTO to reform its drug monopoly rules so that affordable generics could quickly become available to address the devastation caused by the AIDS epidemic. The representative of Pope John Paul stated that 'The law of profit alone cannot be applied to that which is essential for the fight against hunger, disease and poverty. Hence, whenever there is a conflict between property rights, on the one hand, and fundamental human rights and concerns of the common good, on the other, property rights should be moderated...' Only the U.S. opposed this."

Meanwhile, critics say the G-8 and the economic elites it represents are refusing to come to terms with current realities. Ellen Frank, a professor of economics at Emmanuel College in Boston, told the Institute for Public Accuracy in mid-July: "The U.S. is sliding into a recession, Europe is stagnant, Japan is in a depression. Argentina and other major developing countries face debt problems that are insurmountable without a coordinated international response."

Frank added: "We sit on the brink of a serious world economic crisis that will require imaginative and thoroughgoing policy coordination between the major countries. But the political will to undertake such serious action seems nowhere in evidence. The leaders of the G-8 will likely agree to write off a few more billion dollars in already-bad loans to the poorer nations, but they are unlikely to fully address the serious economic issues before us -- the collapse of world demand, the irrational and speculative financial system, environmental problems of a global nature."

Operation Allied Farce?

President Clinton is being hailed by many as a hero -- we are told his bombing "worked," the Yugoslavian army has agreed to withdraw from Kosovo and the Kosovar Albanians will presumably be allowed to return to their homes. Clinton, as in his favorite movie "High Noon," is being celebrated as having stared down a bully and saved the day.Trouble is, essentially the same agreement with Yugoslav president Milosevic could have been achieved without the bombing. Flash back to March 23, before NATO unleashed its bombing runs and cruise missiles on Yugoslavia. Back then, the U.S., through its Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke, was demanding that Milosevic sign the Rambouillet text or be bombed. Milosevic refused, saying that he would not submit his country to occupation. The agreement now reached is quite different from Rambouillet and in many respects it is NATO -- and not Yugoslavia -- that has changed its position.Most importantly, Appendix B of Rambouillet stated that "NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia... NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated air space and territorial waters" -- that is, precisely what Milosevic feared, the legal basis for the occupation of all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo. In contrast, the current agreement says that the international force will "operate without hindrance in Kosovo," not all of Yugoslavia.Nor does the current agreement call for the force to be under NATO auspices. Rather, it will be under the United Nations, and with a Russian contingent, something totally different than Rambouillet. Steven Erlanger of The New York Times reported that "just before the bombing, when [the Serbian parliament] rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of a United Nations force to monitor a political settlement there." The question remains: Why wasn't this possibility perused if the administration was really interested in peace?Phyllis Bennis, author of "Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN" and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, said, "This agreement might have been achievable months earlier, without the devastation of Yugoslavia and the escalation of the anti-Albanian 'ethnic cleansing' in Kosovo wrought by NATO's bombing campaign." Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, says Rambouillet was an ultimatum "impossible for [Milosevic] to accept. NATO [has] now diluted its demands but, to justify [its] bombing, claims Milosevic capitulated."Whatever the pecking order in the military chain of command between the UN, NATO and Russia, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees -- not NATO -- will be in charge of getting the Kosovar Albanians back to their homes. This could empower the UN, or it could be laying at its door a disaster should the repatriation effort sour.Perhaps the most important difference between Rambouillet and the current agreement for the Kosovar Albanians is that Rambouillet called for a referendum after three years on the fate of the Serbian province, meaning independence was on the table. That now has been dropped and the fate of the province is in doubt.Perhaps the future is most in doubt for the Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo, who make up about ten percent of the population and who could be "ethnically cleansed" like many of their fellow Serbs in Croatia were. The leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which the current agreement calls on to disarm, actually took part in the ethnic cleansing of the Serbians in Croatia.Milosevic did get a worse deal than Rambouillet in some ways -- he won't be able to have thousands of troops in Kosovo, only hundreds. That fact could further compel many of the Serbians in Kosovo to leave while they still can. Also, in the course of the war, Milosevic was branded a war criminal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. However, without Appendix B of Rambouillet, which allowed NATO to detain individuals in Yugoslavia, the prospects for his being brought to justice seem slim.When queried about whether NATO's actions -- targeting electrical facilities, broadcast stations, factories and other civilian structures -- don't also constitute a war crime, NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea replied: "NATO is the friend of the Tribunal... NATO countries are those that have provided the finances to set up the Tribunal, we are among the majority financiers." Says Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, "Mr. Shea clearly knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune."Could Clinton, who floated that he was "ministering" to Monica Lewinsky when he was denying his affair with her a year ago, once again be hiding behind moral rhetoric to cover up for his own deeds? Clinton waged an illegal war, what Walter Rockler, a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, called "a war of aggression... the supreme international crime" -- all the while invoking the name of humanity.What then was the reason for the bombing? Both Cohn and Hussein Ibish, foreign policy analyst with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, point to the Pentagon's first major "post-Cold War" planning document, "Defense Planning Guidance for Fiscal Year 1994-99," leaked to The New York Times in 1992. That document stated that "we must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO... It is of fundamental importance to preserve NATO as the primary instrument of Western defense and security, as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs." These analysts view the bombing of Yugoslavia largely as a way to extend NATO's life and thus U.S. control over European affairs. This would imply that the war was an extraordinarily Machiavellian plan: that is, if it really helps NATO by giving it a new lease on life and doesn't discredit it.The Rambouillet scandal implies that this war would be a comical farce, were it not for the fact that what has resulted is the death of thousands, the expulsion or displacement of nearly a million and the destruction of much of the infrastructure of Yugoslavia. If hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died from a devastated infrastructure and sanctions are any indication, Yugoslavia's plight may have its worst days ahead of it, not behind.Sam Husseini is Communications Director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. (www.accuracy.org)

Stop the Great Spectrum Giveaway

Rupert Murdoch recently announced his Fox television network, now the largest holder of TV broadcast outlets, would offer free airtime to the major presidential candidates. President Clinton and Dole would get 10 one-minute candidate statements in the weeks just before the election. The other networks have followed with similar proposals. Murdoch decried the fact that candidates have to beg for millions of dollars to buy TV commercials. "Money corrupts the political system, from top to bottom," Murdoch said. "It corrodes our democracy. ... It is a cancer in our system which we must tackle." In a major reversal in July the four major TV networks agreed for the first time to broadcast a specific amount of educational children's programming over the publicly-owned airwaves -- three hours per week. For twenty-five years, the networks resisted a ratings system for violence and sexual content in their programming. Then, last January, the top network executives had a summit with President Clinton in which they pledged to institute a rating system to warn parents of programming that contains objectionable material. Have the broadcasters had an epiphany? Are network chiefs suddenly filled with a desire to do good with the bottom line reduced to an afterthought? Are broadcast licensees suddenly reborn as ideal corporate citizens? Hardly. The broadcasters are behaving like a child who wants a cookie -- except the broadcasters want a multi-billion dollar cookie. The current television license holders want the government to give them control of a new, invaluable chunk of broadcasting spectrum. With this new spectrum, each licensee will be able to air six TV channels instead of the current one and possibly even pager and other wireless telecommunications services. The new broadcast channels could be pay-TV, around the clock info-mercials, or just more of the same. You're going to have to buy a new TV to pick up the new signal. With a spectrum giveaway, the administration also benefits. Clinton gets the backing of many of the broadcasters and reaps the political benefit of having addressed violence on TV, gotten more time for kids' programming -- and he gets some free TV time for himself too.The Federal Communications Commission Chair Reed Hundt seems content with merely nudging the broadcasters to engage in "voluntary ethical behavior" to them to provide five percent public interest time, like TV for kids. He recently remarked to the New York Times that "I probably should be embarrassed for asking so little in return for the public's property." Yes, he should. Bob Dole has denounced the prospect of handing the new spectrum over to the incumbent broadcasters as "the biggest giveaway of the century." Indeed, while the government is taking benefits away from the poor on welfare, it is giving an incredible gift to some of the riches entities in the country. Instead, Dole proposes an auction of the new spectrum. Recent auctions of much smaller slivers of the spectrum have raised $15 billion. Estimates for this piece of prime spectrum real estate vary from $11 billion to $100 billion. However, auctioning off the spectrum may mean transferring actual ownership of the airwaves to the broadcasters and the public would have to compensate the broadcasters if it wanted the spectrum back. And while some of the monies raised from an auction could be used for a public media trust fund to wire schools and libraries and fund independent producers, actual control of the airwaves could be more firmly entrenched in private hands. An auction would not allow truly fresh voices on the airwaves. The alternative to a giveaway or an auction would be to allocate control of some of the airwaves to various non-commercial voices: labor, religious, educational, civic, environmental groups could join commercial broadcasters in putting out information. This would add to a diverse media culture. Hardly anyone is happy with the job the current broadcasters are doing. Why give them six times as much capacity? And why not give others a voice? But it looks as though the current broadcasters are going to get the new spectrum all to themselves for virtually nothing. A proposal by Rep. Barney Frank to pass legislation and hold serious hearings (as the Congressional leadership said it would do last January) on the spectrum issue was defeated 408 to 16 on July 24 -- a tribute to the hold the broadcasters have over Washington. Both Gingrich and the Clinton administration are urging the FCC to just hand over the spectrum to the broadcasters. The law requires that broadcasters use their license in the "public interest." That is a joke. The license to broadcast commercials has been a license to print money -- it's as though the public gave newspapers free paper and ink. Now is the time to asses s how content we are with the performance of the current broadcasters of the last half century -- and last-minute conversions by the broadcasters should not cloud our view.

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