Alternative Radio and Robert Fisk November 15, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: alternative radio, foreign affairs, foreign policy, gaza, imperialism, israel, israel military, journalism, Middle East, Palestine, reporters, reporting, robert fisk, roger hollander, settlements, war
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Roger Hollander, November 15, 2010
I thought I was up to date on alternative news and opinion sources, but today on the University of Toronto’s independent radio station, CIUT, I happened on to one of the most incisive analyses on the topic of US imperialism, the Middle East, and the status of mainstream journalism that I have ever heard.
The source was Alternative Radio (www.alternativeradio.org), and I urge you to take a look. You will find, among others, the works of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and the journalist I am citing below.
What I heard was a speech given at the University of California at Sacramento recently by Robert Fisk, the Middle East and foreign affairs reporter for the British newspaper “The Independent.” The man is brilliant and courageousand I add his name to that of Amy Goodman, Symour Hersh and Glenn Greenwald as contemporary journalists worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the legendary I. F. Stone.
If you are not already familiar with Robert Fisk, I urge you to become so.
The speech I listened to on CIUT, broadcasting a lead from Alternative Radio was entitled, “Lies, Cliches and the Middle East.” I have not been able to find the text of this address on the Internet, but it can be purchased from Alternative Radio on CD, MP3 or written transcript.
Tags: bush administration, cheney, George Bush, journalism, los angeles times, Media, new york times, reporting, thurgood marshall, torture, truth, waterboardng, will bunch
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I’m sorry — there is no other hand. Waterboarding is torture, period. It’s been that way for decades — it was torture when we went after Japanese war criminals who used the ancient and inhumane interrogation tactic, it was torture when Pol Pot and some of the worst dictators known to mankind used it against their own people, and it was torture to the U.S. military which once punished soldiers who adopted the grim practice.
And waterboarding was described as “torture,” almost without fail, in America’s newspapers.
Until 2004, after the arrival of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their criminal notions of “enhanced interrogations.” For four years — in what would have to be the bizarro-world version of “speaking truth to power,” waterboarding was almost never torture on U.S. newsprint. Then waterboarding-as-torture nearly made a mild comeback in journo-world, until perpetrators like Cheney and Inquirer op-ed columnist John Yoo began the big pushback, when American newspapers bravely turned their tails and fled.
From the early 1930′s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was torture: The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% (44 of 54) of articles on the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles (26 of 27). By contrast, from 2002-2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to waterboarding as torture. The New York Times called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%). The Los Angeles Times did so in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63). The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%). USA Today never called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture.
The report also notes that waterboarding had constantly been referred to as torture by newspapers when other nations did it, but when the United States did it in the 2000s, it was, to paraphrase Richard Nixon, not illegal. The study proves scientifically something we’ve been talking about here at Attytood since Day One, about the tragic consequences of the elevation of an unnatural notion of objectivity in which newspapers abandoned any core human values — even when it comes to something as clear cut as torture — to give equal moral weight to both sides of an not-so-debatable issue (not to mention treating scientific issues like climate changes in the same zombie-like manner).
Never before in my adult life have I been so ashamed of my profession, journalism.
As soon as Republicans started quibbling over the definition of torture, traditional media outlets felt compelled to treat the issue as a “controversial” matter, and in order to appear as though they weren’t taking a side, media outlets treated the issue as unsettled, rather than confronting a blatant falsehood. To borrow John Holbo’s formulation, the media, confronted with the group think of two sides of an argument, decided to eliminate the “think” part of the equation so they could be “fair” to both groups.
The irony that Serwer notes — and I completely agree — is that in claiming they were working so hard not to take “a side,” the journalists who wouldn’t call waterboarding “torture” were absolutely taking a side and handing a victory to the Bush administration, which convinced newspapers to stop unambiguously describing this crime as they had done for decades prior to 2004. It’s a tactic that has continued to this day. It’s the reason why Cheney– who’d been nearly invisible when he was in power — and Yoo were suddenly all over the place beginning on Jan. 21, 2009, because they were desperately trying to keep framing this debate as the newspapers had, that their torture tactics were a public, political disagreement, and not a war crime.
And tragically, they succeeded. They were America’s leaders, they tortured, and they got away with it. And newspapers and other journalists drove the getaway car.
I do think this report frames a much broader problem in America, which is that we’ve lost our ability to distinguish right from wrong on its most basic level, because of our need to filter everything through some kind of bogus political prism. Look past torture, and look at the Elena Kagan hearings down in Washington, and the shameful way that Republican senators have desecrated the memory of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. What made Marshall a great American is that he started with an alienable truth — that segregation and other unequal treatment of blacks or other minorities are a sin against mankind — and that it was our duty not just as Americans but as human beings to end that injustice by any peaceful means necessary. If Marshall had behaved the way that the 2010 Republican Party would want him to act, forget the notion of an African-American president — there would be water fountains in some American states where Barack Obama could not get a drink.
Increasingly, we’re losing our perspective, maybe our minds. We have candidates for the U.S. Congress comparing the taxes that we pay to finance the U.S. military or to pay for public schools to slavery, or to the Nazi-led Holocaust. As Americans, we should all seek higher ground over what we talk about when we talk about slavery, and what we talk about when we talk about torture.
And yet even some of my own colleagues failed — journalists who started out with a mission to tell the truth and who got very, very lost in a thicket of politics and perhaps self-importance along the way.
And that is beyond shameful.
© 2010 Media Matters for America
Tags: bagram, Criminal Justice, dan froomkin, eric holder, first amendment, gitmo, Guantanamo, human rights, Joshua Claus, jounalism, kangaroo court, military commissions, Omar Khadr, reporting, roger hollander, torture
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Jack Newfield, the legendary investigative reporter, once wrote that if government officials had their way, journalists would be “stenographers with amnesia.”
The “amnesia” part, at least, was generally considered a bit of an exaggeration.
But now, the Pentagon has banned four reporters from covering the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because they refused to forget something that had already been reported to the world.
The four reporters were covering military commission hearings at which defense attorneys for Canadian detainee Omar Khadr argued that confessions he made as a gravely wounded 15-year-old shouldn’t be admissible in his upcoming trial because they were made under duress.
And indeed, witnesses earlier this week described how Khadr’s interrogation began when he was still sedated and lying wounded on a stretcher. A medic testified that he once found Khadr chained by his arms to the door of his cage-like cell, hooded and in tears
But the defense’s star witness, on Thursday, was the first U.S. Army interrogator to question Khadr. The interrogator admitted that in an attempt to get Khadr to talk, he told the boy a “fictitious” tale of an Afghan youth who was gang-raped in an American prison and died.
And it wasn’t just what he said that was significant, it was also who he was. The interrogator was Army Sgt. Joshua Claus, who pleaded guilty in September 2005 to mistreatment and assault of detainees at the Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Claus was a central figures in the interrogation of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar whose death in U.S. custody in 2002 was ruled a homicide by military investigators and was the subject of a New York Times investigation and the Oscar-winning documentary, “Taxi to the Dark Side”.
The military judge presiding over the hearing insisted that Claus’s name was protected information, and that he should only be referred to as Interrogator # 1.
But since it was already public record that Claus was Khadr’s first interrogator — and he’d even given an interview last year about his desire to testify — the four reporters used his name in their Wednesday reports, previewing his testimony.
That was enough to get them thrown off the island.
“That reporters are being punished for disclosing information that has been publicly available for years is nothing short of absurd,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Any gag order that covers this kind of information is not just overbroad but nonsensical. Plainly, no legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known. “
The decision was announced by Col. Dave Lapan, the Pentagon’s director of press operations. He emailed the four news organizations that they could send other reporters to cover military commissions in the future, but that another violation would get their organizations banned entirely.
The decision Is being appealed.
“The company lawyers are looking at the ground rules, the timing of this, and Carol’s reporting, in preparation for appealing this decision,” said John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Carol Rosenberg, one of the four banned reporters, works for McClatchy’s Miami Herald.
The other three reporters are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of Toronto’s Globe and Mail and Steven Edwards of CanWest Newspapers.
“I’m not sure I understand the logic of trying to redact a name that has been in public for some time, of a man who has granted at least one major interview, and been convicted and sentenced,” Walcott told HuffPost.
“I hope that this decision is about what the Pentagon said it’s about, and that is an attempt to protect a witness — and not about some of the embarrassing testimony that emerged in the tribunal this week.
“I also hope it is not intended to have a chilling effect of tribunals going forward,” he said. “It won’t on us… In fact, it may have the opposite effect.”
John Stackhouse, editor in chief of the Globe and Mail, was also skeptical. “Banning the information now — when it is already known around the world — serves no apparent purpose other than to raise more questions about the credibility of the Guantanamo courts,” he said in a statement.
Khadr was shot twice in the back during a Special Forces raid on a suspected al Qaida compound in Afghanistan. He confessed under interrogation to having thrown a hand grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, and has been charged with murder as a war crime and conspiring with al Qaida. Khadr is now 23.
Claus gave an interview to Michelle Shepard of the Toronto Star (one of the four banished reporters) in March 2008. Shepard wrote:
A former U.S. soldier who spent weeks interrogating Omar Khadr says he wants to testify before a Guantanamo Bay court and rejects any accusations that he harshly treated the Canadian detainee.
In the first interview he has given since leaving the army, Joshua Claus told the Toronto Star that he feels he has been unfairly portrayed concerning his work as an interrogator at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan.
“They’re trying to imply I’m beating or torturing everybody I ever talked to,” Claus said by telephone yesterday. “I really don’t care what people think of me. I know what I did and I know what I didn’t do.”
Shepard also reported in that story:
Khadr’s lawyers fought to get access to Claus at a Guantanamo hearing earlier this month after the prosecution had dropped him from a previous witness list.
Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler accused the prosecution of trying to hide Claus’ identity because he had been involved in the interrogation of an Afghan detainee who died in U.S. custody.
Nancy A. Youssef reported Thurdsay for McClatchy Newspapers:
On Wednesday, the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, reminded reporters that even though Claus’ name was public, a protective order intended to keep him anonymous applied to journalists as well.
Rosenberg’s report that day included the following sentences: “Canadian reports have identified that interrogator as Army Sgt. Joshua Claus, who pleaded guilty in September 2005 to mistreatment and assault of detainees at Bagram. He was sentenced to five months in jail.”
Rosenberg said her story was filed before the judge’s warning. She said Claus’ name had already been revealed.
“All I did was report what was in the public domain,” Rosenberg said….
Pentagon officials said it didn’t matter that Claus’ name was already widely known.
“If his name was out there, it was not related to this hearing. Identifying him with Interrogator No. 1 was the problem,” Lapan said.
“The judge shouldn’t have had to remind them. The stories that appeared before violated the rules.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on Friday announced it is seeking a meeting with Department of Defense officials to discuss the banishment. The committee also notes that the president judge had previously insisted that a video of an interrogation of Khadr be played in a closed session with no spectators, despite the video’s availability to the public on YouTube.
President Obama severely criticized the Bush administration’s military commissions during his presidential campaign, and immediately suspended them upon taking office. But five months later, he reopened the door to their use, and now they’re up and running again.
The White House is widely expected to overrule Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the highest-profile terror suspects, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, in federal court, and send them to military commissions instead. Holder, for his part, is gamely trying to defend military commissions to skeptics.
But nothing says “kangaroo court” quite like banning the free press.
Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.
The Bad PR of Dead Civilians May 11, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
Tags: afghan airstrikes, afghanistan atrocities, Afghanistan civilian casualties, afghanistan civilian deaths, afghanistan occuption, Afghanistan War, cnn, corporate media, dead civilians, farah, journalism, new york times, obama administration, public relations, reporting, Robert Gates, roger hollander, Taliban, taliban militants, wall street journal, washington post
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Published on Monday, May 11, 2009 by FAIR
Afghan airstrikes and the corporate media
Early reports of a massive U.S. attack on civilians in western Afghanistan last week (5/5/09) hewed to a familiar corporate media formula, stressing official U.S. denials and framing the scores of dead civilians as a PR setback for the White House’s war effort.
Scanning the headlines gave a sense of the media’s view of the tragedy: “Civilian Deaths Imperil Support for Afghan War” (New York Times, 5/7/09), “Claim of Afghan Civilian Deaths Clouds U.S. Talks” (Wall Street Journal, 5/7/09), “Afghan Civilian Deaths Present U.S. With Strategic Problem” (Washington Post, 5/8/09).
As is frequently the case with such incidents (Extra! Update, 8/07), the primary fallout would seem to be the damage done to U.S. goals. The New York Times reported that civilian deaths “have been a decisive factor in souring many Afghans on the war.” As CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric put it (5/6/09), “Reports of these civilian casualties could not have come at a worse time, as the Obama administration launches its new strategy to eradicate the Taliban and convince the Afghan people to support those efforts.” Other outlets used very similar language to explain why the timing was “particularly sensitive” (Washington Post, 5/7/09) or “awkward” (Associated Press, 5/7/09) for the Obama administration.
While it is important to be cautious about early reports of such atrocities, many accounts played up U.S. denials. Some anonymous U.S. military officials vigorously denied that they were responsible, instead blaming the deaths on Taliban grenades and use of “human shields.”
The New York Times reported (5/7/09):
“Defense Department officials said late Wednesday that investigators were looking into witnesses’ reports that the Afghan civilians were killed by grenades hurled by Taliban militants, and that the militants then drove the bodies around the village claiming the dead were victims of an American airstrike.
“The initial examination of the site and of some of the bodies suggested the use of armaments more like grenades than the much larger bombs used by attack planes, said the military official, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing.”
It is troubling to see an anonymous source given so much space to make such an elaborate case, seemingly based on little evidence. By the next day’s edition of the Times (5/8/09), military sources appeared to be backtracking: “Initial American military reports that some of the casualties might have been caused by Taliban grenades, not American airstrikes, were ‘thinly sourced,’ a Pentagon official in Washington said Thursday, indicating that he was uncertain of their accuracy.” That “thin” sourcing was good enough for most of the press, though, and similar instances continued.
On CNN’s American Morning (5/8/09), anchor Kiran Chetry announced, “CNN is learning that the Taliban may have been using women, children and men as human shields during U.S. air strikes earlier this week.” That would stretch the meaning of “learning” quite a bit, since CNN’s reporter from Afghanistan, Stan Grant, had little to report beyond vague official assertions (“We’re still waiting for a formal statement, a formal report to come down from the U.S. military here in Kabul”). CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr had already (5/6/09) floated the “much grimmer scenario” coming from U.S. officials–that the Taliban had killed civilians and then paraded them around the area.
On May 8, the Washington Post was stressing the notion that, whatever the truth, Afghans are going to believe what they want: “The truth of what happened in Farah may be less important than what the Afghan people believe took place in the remote western region. [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said that a cornerstone of the Taliban campaign is to blame civilian deaths on U.S. troops.”
CBS’s Couric (5/6/09) likewise posited to U.S. Army General David McKiernan: “Whatever the outcome, rumors alone that many civilians were killed by U.S. airstrikes–that is very problematic, particularly at this moment in time.” Couric closed her report by paraphrasing McKiernan’s assessment: “The general added, because it takes time to uncover the truth, the U.S. is at a distinct disadvantage in the propaganda war with the Taliban, who often blame the United States for any civilian deaths.”
It is difficult to see the corporate media’s credulous, cursory coverage of these killings as evidence of a U.S. public relations “disadvantage.”