Monday, July 31, 2006

Wide-Eyed Schorr

On Sunday's weekend edition Dan Schorr stated that "what made my eyes widen was...laser-guided, anti-tank missiles—laser guided!" supplied "presumably by the Hezbollah brethren in Iran." From this surprise Schorr concludes "so insurgents can now inflict a greater toll on up to date military forces; that may help to explain why America and its allies have run into such serious trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, and why Bush finds himself having to send more troops to the mean streets in Baghdad..." This passes for informed analysis. Nothing about the extreme human rights abuses, the cultural insensitivity, the extreme overkill violence of the US military; nothing about the illegal invasion of Iraq, the "shock and awe" arrogance, the bungling stupidity of Bush, Bremer, Rumsfeld, etc. No, according to Schorr it's sophisticated weaponry (and probably from Iran!)

I didn't comment on that piece since I figured that since Schorr is the "senior" news analyst, NPR is obliged to give him occasional airtime--regardless of how delusional his commentary may be, but then he was back on today with more. Following the massacre at Qana yesterday, one might think Schorr would reconsider Israel's mission in Lebanon, but instead he's back to claiming it is the Iranian-supplied weapons that are so troublinh in the conflict and that "Israel, trying strenuously to eliminate hard to find well-dug-in Hezbollah launching sites was drawn in to risky bombings that killed civilians including women and children and spread sympathy and support…" Yes, poor Israel, just got pulled in to killing those 57 hiding civilians (and the other 500+ , and the ambulances, and the bridges, and the UN outposts, and the apartment buildings, and....)


This morning's "analysis" between Don Gonyea and Cokie Roberts is a excellent example of how poorly NPR serves its listeners. Gonyea and Roberts are discussing Lebanon and Iraq. Here are some of the most glaring points of misinformation they engage in:

Gonyea states: "The Bush administration'’s approach to the situtation in Lebanon, it is very different from where it was just last week, isn'’t it?"
Roberts responds: "she [Rice] seemed to be taking her time to let Israel have a chance to disable Hezbollah, but since then she'’s been there twice and not able to achieve any kind of real cease fire or any kind of what the administration keeps talking about, sustainable peace....she [Rice] will work with the United Nations for a security council resolution; this is different from that go-it-alone attitude that the United States seemed to be taking at beginning of this conflict...."

  • Consider the question from Gonyea--different in what way, shape, or form? The US is still opposing any stop to the agression from Israel. Then with Roberts' response; that she can call the wholesale destruction of infrastructure, villages, and civilians "a chance to disable Hezbollah" is appalling. And then to assert that after providing weeks of stalling that Israel needed for its assault, the approach of Rice seeking a US/Israeli supported UN resolution as being a different is absurd.

On the topic of Iraq Gonyea and Roberts are unbelievable. After Gonyea mentions "significant changes in Iraq" relating to increased US troops there (esp. in Baghdad), Roberts responds, "that becomes a big problem for the President because it makes his goal of a new Middle East, a broader Middle East of peace and democracy seem more elusive…"

  • New Middle East? Broader Middle East of peace and democracy? This is material that a Bush speech writer would envy. It represents an absolute acceptance of the claims that the Bush administration (and most memberts of Congress) have put forth to hide the US military grab for resources and power in the Middle East. That a supposedly informed and objective NPR employee can make such biased assertions with no sense of irony is really upseting.
Lastly, in talking about the US policy in Iraq and the its growing unpopularity with voters as evidenced by the possibilty that incumbent Democratic hawk, Senator Lieberman may be defeated, Cokie Roberts arrives at this bizarre conclusion: "This is going to have a very strong effect--not only on Lieberman--but on members running in both parties because any attempt they now see to move away from the base of the party, move to the middle is going to be punished...."

  • One could write a disseration on the twisted logic of this one. In Roberts logic, Lieberman's support for illegal wiretaps, illegal detention, suspension of habeus corpus, and illegal wars of invasion represents "a move to the middle"! The middle--God help us.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

What an Effort

Craig Windham in the news summary during ATC today stated that the Israeli air strike that killed over 50 civilians in Lebanon "marred" Sec. of State Rice's "weeklong effort" at ending the fighting in Lebanon. What effort? Rice has clearly been working closely with the Israeli government to facilitate their airwar against Lebanon.


Debbie Elliot insists on calling the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan moderate. She was interviewing Debra Amos who deserves credit for describing Arab governments in the discussion as regimes that support US policy or oppose it. Is that so hard to do?

Which Reality Is It?

NPR's Sunday Weekend Edition presents disturbing coverage of the US/Israeli assault on Lebanon. This morning's news broke with the latest horror of civilian slaughter: the more than fifty people killed as they sheltered in a basement in the Lebanese town of Qana. The piece that NPR aired giving an overview of this event had Liane Hansen interviewing Mike Shuster from northern Israel. (Given that Ivan Watson and Jackie Northam are in Lebanon this seemed odd.) This interview is not an overview, but an IDF rationalization of the mass killing of the civilians. Shuster states, "the Israelis say they did not target civilians specifically; they say that Hezbollah has been launching hundreds of rockets from Qana in and around this area that was bombed. And they also say, the Israelis also say, that the civilian residents of Qana have been warned; there were leaflets dropped over the town, even telephone calls made to people, to civilians in Qana, to leave and the Israelis believe they should have left earlier...." Hansen also continues the distortion of presenting the US assistance and cooperation with Israel as diplomacy. She asks, "What’s your impression of where all this leaves the US diplomatic effort to end the figthting?" to which Shuster responds, "It leaves it somewhat shattered at the moment...."

NPR does go on to present Ivan Watson (who continues to do admirable work) reporting on the scene in Qana. The strangest interchange occurs after Watson has stated that a UN observer in Qana told him that there were no Hezbollah fighters in the village and that he had no idea why Israel would have bombed the building. To this Liane Hansen responds, "Is there any sign of humanitarian aid getting in more rescue operations, the roads are bad and the Israeli Prime Minister has said he’s going to try to get some humanitarian aid in there; can you see any signs of any more people coming in to help?" I had to listen to this several times to be sure I had heard it correctly!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Only a Nut Would Do That!

NPR opened its Saturday ATC with its news bulletin and commented on Ahmadinejad's order that European/foreign words be purged from Iranian language. The news caster smugly noted that "pizza" will now be called "elastic loaves." I agree that Ahmadinejad is a lousy, bigoted religious zealot, unlike our rational leaders who would never do such a bizarre thing!

One Step Back

After two strong pieces (see previous post) on Saturday Weekend Edition, Scott Simon and Juan Williams were back to explaining away the horrors of US and Israeli policy in the Middle East. Scott began the analysis by stating the number of Lebanese displaced at 40,000--although this may have been a genuine reading error since later Juan Williams quoted the figure of 800,000 displaced! I found the most depressing part came when Scott Simon asked if the "air campaign" by Israel could in fact weaken Hezbollah, and Juan Williams answered, "but when you’re talking about where missles are stored, when you’re talking about where Hezbollah has more armaments and headquarters, it’s just so hard because it’s hidden among civilian populations which is exactly why Israel says that it has had no choice but to engage in such a massive bombing campaign that has devastated much of southern Lebanon." (As if Israel has no peaceful options.)

Reality on Iraq and Iran!

I about fell out of my chair. I have to praise the two segments on Saturday's Weekend Edition. Scott Simon interviewed Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland about the US in Iraq and he gave an articulate explanation of why the US must commit to leaving Iraq and why the failure in Iraq is not a tactical one but a strategic and policy one--amazing!
In another segment Simon interviewed Ali Ansari, a professor at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, about Iran and its role vis-a-vis Hezbollah in Lebanon. He is the author of a book called Confronting Iran, which is perhaps why he was on (I'm not sure.) He was also fairly measured and insisted that the level of Iranian influence over Hezbollah is uncertain. He also made it clear that the confrontational approach to Iran (and Syria) only worsens the situations in Lebanon and Iraq. Wow!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Coup de Grace

In my post yesterday (Limited Debate), I remarked on how constrained the debate is regarding US/Policy. Today demonstrates the power of that constraint: yesterday's interview was the "dissenting" opinion on US policy in the Middle East and today's is an unrestrained endorsement of the policy. Notice that this false "two-sides" construct eliminates any serious, intellectual critique of US policy past/present in Middle East. Essentially the debate is reduced to the question of how should the US play the role of imperial power in the region--never questioning whether being imperial is legally or ethically right and humane.
Today's guest, Robert Satloff is the executive director of neocon thinktank Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He, of course, spins out the Bush administration argument for destroying Lebanon in order to save it. Here are a few "highlights" of this interview:
Renee Montagne asks, "When these strikes against Hezbollah targets have accomplished their objective..." (Is she referring to the ambulances, relief supplies, high rise apartment buildings, power plants, fuel depots, etc.?)
Later Montagne states, "The project of the Bush administration is bringing democracy to the Middle East…." (I swear I'm not making this up!)
Satloff states, "in the end we can reconstruct a new political framework in Lebanon which is to the service of the Lebanese people." Again and again he says "we allowed" "we set up" "we advanced" "we should not have" in reference to the events in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Occupied Territories--and Renee Montagne never once questions who the "we" is and whether "we" have any right to be doing these things.

Just Sort of Anti-American and Pretty Anti-Israel

That's the expert opinion from British Economist reporter, John Prideaux, this morning on NPR. He really did describe those who are angry and upset that the US and Israel are wreaking wholesale destruction and death on a defenseless nation as "just sort of anti-American and pretty anti-Israel." That Don Gonyea doesn't even challenge this simple-minded and pro-US/Israel analysis tells you something about where his bias lies.

Lebanon Shooting Gallery

Relax, Israel is just bombing Hezbollah targets and strongholds now. That's according to Jackie Northam on Morning Edition today. Apartment buildings, trucks full of relief supplies, families trying to flee, communication towers: these are all Hezbollah strongholds! NPR should be demanding payment from the Israeli Defense Forces--they've earned it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Limited Debate

NPR had an interesting interview this morning with Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group and former official with the Clinton administration. He spoke with Renee Montagne about the Bush administration's strategy regarding the current Middle East crisis (especially in Lebanon). This piece is worth listening to because it at least questions the current policy of the Bush administration. The down side of the interview is that it in no way challenges/critiques the historical trajectory of US/Israeli policy in the region. Noam Chomsky has spoken of this tactic for allowing the most limited debate on US policy. Regarding the hard-won freedoms of dissent in countries such as the US he notes that those in power will, "try to constrain debate and discussion within narrow limits." He cites as examples the "hawk-dove" debates on Vietnam where the "nobilty" of US goals was never questioned. In the NPR piece this morning Malley correctly notes the irony of "birth pangs" for a "new Middle East" occuring among so much US sanctioned violence, but then he asserts, "and violence is the terrain that militants—whether its Hezbolla, Hamas, al-Queda, or others—like best." Really? What about those other militants--the neocons (Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc.), the Likud leaders, the IDF generals, the US generals, etc. I think it's fair to say they seem to thrive on violence.
Malley also argues that there should be an immediate cease fire, followed by addressing the root causes which he sees as "related to the fact that there are unresolved issues between Israel and Lebanon" and "of the broader picture in the Middle East because Hezbollah is not simply a Lebanese instrument it’s also an actor that fits into Syrian and Iranian objectives - and it’s also an expression of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict." Notice how he never says the O-word or the I-word (occupation [Iraq, West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights, etc.] or invasion [Lebanon, Iraq, etc.] ). Instead these are just vague, "unresolved" issues and conflicts.

Definitely Not Impartial

Yesterday on All Things Considered Michele Norris interviewed Linda Gradstein regarding the Israeli strike on a UN observation post that killed 4 UN observers. The story has been making headlines mainly because there is significant evidence that the strike was intentional (hours of artillery shelling, phone calls to Israeli commanders, assurances of safety, and the final, lethal attack being done with a laser guided bomb.) There were two pointed moments in this interview. In the first Michele Norris asks Linda Gradstein what the Israeli military is saying about the attack, and Gradstein answers, "Well, they won’t give details; they say that the issue is still under investigation and they don’t know exactly how the mistake happened, however they completely reject any allegations that Israel deliberately targeted a UN base...." Notice how this subtle this sleight of hand is: Gradstein is not directly quoting a military source, she's summing it up. That she calls it "the mistake" is unacceptable reporting since that is the position of the IDF, not objective fact supported by evidence. Another stunner is later in the interview when Gradstein is describing the UN observers and their mission and says "at the same time Israeli officials have said to me that the United Nations troops were not necessarily impartial and that they were prejudiced against Israel" (the implication, of course, is that they deserved targeting them--even though it was a mistake!)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Anti-US Alliance?

The intro to this morning's report on the travels of the new villain de jour, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela stated that he was traveling to Russia and beyond to "court[ing] countries in the region to form an anti-US alliance." To further discredit Chavez, we are told that he is "a self-proclaimed leftist revolutionary." Finally to make sure that we know how bad Chavez is we are told of his cozy meeting with "strongman" and dictator, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka. A couple of problems here. First let me say that the evidence does indicate that the leader of Belarus is pretty horrible. Second, I'm not going to be an apologist for Chavez' governments human rights abuses. But NPR's lopsided coverage of these issues is unacceptable and its oversimplified painting of Chavez as "anti-US" is both sloppy and false. Without reporting on the US role of launching coups against democratically elected governments (as recently as the US-orchestrated coup against Aristide in Haiti in 2004) listeners may conclude that Chavez's allegations of the US being behind the coup against him in 2002 is just leftist paranoia instead of fact. Finally, trying to demonize Chavez because he meets with dictators is using a technique that NPR never used with Bush administration officials when they schmooze with nasty leaders in places like Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan (which Sec. Rice praised as an "island of stability" in October of 2005).

Living Dangerously

NPR continues its disinformation service for the US State Department by reporting on family life for US ambassadors posted around the world. The report is by Megan Meline who is identified as a spouse to a US diplomatic staffer (no conflict of interest there!) I found the most interesting portion of the report was in the beginning of the article Meline is discussing how romanticized the life of embassy families is portrayed and as evidence plays a clip from the movie, The Year of Living Dangerously. That is perfect! What is pointedly missing--and what would truly help listeners understand why US embassy personnel are so distrusted and sometimes hated around the world--is the story of the role of US embassy/CIA staffers in the horrific 1965 massacres of 500,000 - 1,000,000 "suspected communists" in Indonesia in 1965 (the events that form the backdrop of the film). If you doubt the US involvement you might also want to read this coverage by the group FAIR or this BBC story of how the US officially tried to cover up its involvement as late as 2001. Lastly, you have to love the sick irony of the title of this NPR piece: "Foreign Service Life Disruptive for Families."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's Hard Being Imperial

Megan Meline reports on the difficulties of being a diplomat in US embassies around the world. This report is a sadly lacking look at how dangerous it is being an agent of the US imperial project. All we hear about are the dangers facing diplomats and typical State Department propaganda about how the problem is rooted in Islamic extremism, al-Queda, etc. There is nothing (absolutely nothing) reported about how the US embassies have served to overthrow elected governments, provide support for torture and death squads, whitewash and cover-up torture regimes, and generally bring misery to the countries in which they are located.

Rocket Lobbers

I had to hear Debra Amos reporting on Rice's plans for Lebanon and Syria's role in the conflict describe Hezbollah as "the Lebanese group lobbing rockets into Israel." Ok? I was then waiting for a little balance, maybe a description of Rice as the representative of the government that "fixes intelligence" and "invades" countries or "kidnaps people and tortures them." Or I thought she might describe Israel as the nation that "shoots missles at civilians" or "bombs hi-rise apartments into rubble" or "destroys powerplants." As you can guess I waited and waited...

Same Rice Different Day

NPR's coverage of Rice's work as Secretary of State for US/Israel continues to lack any balance or objectivity. If all you knew was what Don Gagne, Renee Montagne and Mike Schuster present you would hear that Rice is on a "diplomatic mission" to "bring an end to the fighting" in Lebanon. However, if you have a little background information and "listen" between the lines you can figure out that Rice is on an Israel/US war mission. She's delaying any diplomacy so that Israel can continue pounding Lebanon, she's offering a 20 mile buffer zone for Israel in Lebanon (remember the 18 years of torture/murder/occupation that Israel already inflicted there), and she's demanding Hezbollah's disarmament. If NPR insists on calling it "diplomacy" then they should at least be accurate and say "her pro-Israel diplomatic mission" in which she seeks the destruction of Hezbollah at ANY cost before she'll push for an end to massive bombings and killings. To call her plan a "peace" plan is truly Orwellian.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Occasionally I have to give credit to NPR: Ivan Watson is doing very humane work covering the civilian costs of the Israeli assault on Lebanon and NPR is giving him air time on their broadcasts.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Crossfire, Money, Law

NPR covers the continuing conflict in Lebanon. Jackie Northam reporting from Beirut is asked about Israeli targets. She answers, "Well Israel says it is not deliberately targeting civilians, although many civilians are getting caught in the crossfire and dying. There was a minivan today that was hit; it was carrying sixteen people and three of those people died." Then later in the report Northam mentions the visit to Lebanon by Jan Egeland, UN emergency relief coordinator. She informs us that he stated it will cost about $100 million to provide relief in the next few months and billions of dollars to rebuild Lebanon.

There are two significant problems with this report. First crossfire implies civilians getting accidently caught between two warring factions, but even her report on the minivan bombing contradicts the use of the term crossfire. There seems to be nothing accidental about the civilian deaths unleashed on Lebanon by the Israelis, just as there is nothing accidental about the criminal Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel's cities. Second she fails to mention really newsworthy aspect of Egeland's visit: he denounced Israel's assault on Lebanon's infrastructure and declared that it violated international humanitarian law. Other media outlets saw this as worthy of highlighting (see Al-Jazeera or The Guardian).

The overall effect of this report is to downplay the culpability of Israel's military assault on Lebanon (and of course the US culpability in supporting and supplying the campaign.)

Kelemen Disinformation Continues

Michele Kelemen continues to be a spokesperson for Secretary of State Rice. This morning she tells us that Rice will be "frank" with the Israelis insisting on details of when they will finish in Lebanon and that she will "continue" to urge restraint. In an unbelieveable statement she says that she will urge restraint because of the potential for a "catastrophic" incident. I thought Kelemen might say due to the horrors of the Israeli assault, or due to the likely blowback from this current war against civilians, or more cynically a concern for image or perceptions. What does Kelemen mean by a "catastophic" event? Can you imagine US highways, bridges, trucks, towns, power plants, civilians being bombed for two weeks with one eighth of the population being internally displaced and then hearing a reporter saying that a "catastrophic" event might happen? What more has to happen? I guess Keleman assumes that a single-target mass killing of dozens or hundreds is the only thing that would be really bad. (photo from Angry Arab).

Silencing Ivan

Ivan Watson has been doing humane and gritty reporting on the ground in Lebanon. His reports often present details of the death and devastation that Israel is inflicting on Lebanon. This morning on Sunday's Weekend Edition it was striking when Watson was being interviewed by Don Gagne. Watson reported about three automobiles of refugees targeted by Israel. One of the cars was 30 feet from the hospital where Watson was reporting. Some obvious questions that Gagne might have asked would be whether the attacks were intentional, why is Israel warning civilians to flee and then bombing people who do flee, etc. Instead Gagne quickly moved on to asking about Hezbollah fighters, asking Watson if he had seen any fighters, etc. No emotional response, no follow-up, no questioning the legality of the attacks or the US backing for the attacks.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

That Elusive Victory

NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday finds some "interesting" guests for its listeners--especially when Scott Simon is at the helm. Today he interviews Frederick Kagan, an extreme right thinktanker (from the American Enterprise Institute). Kagan blithely tells us that the US can defeat the Iraq insurgency and obtain victory with about 25,000 more US troops on the ground in Iraq and with a more comprehensive counterinsurgency program. The only "successful" counterinsurgency operation he sites is in Tal Afar (the "success" of which is questionable according to a Reuter's reporter who went there). In a stunning statement Kagan says that a key to victory in Iraq is to "establish security in the Sunni areas." Yes that would be great if one could also stop the Shiite death squads operating out of the Interior ministry, keep the US military from slaughtering civilians, keep Shiite militias in the south from fighting each other, keep the Kurds from going independent, keep Turkey out of the Kurdish north...etc., etc. What is really disturbing about this report is that even if you originally believed in the Bush project for Iraq, the reality on the ground suggests that any hope that the US could establish "security" is long gone--much less any neocon pipedream of acheiving "victory."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Making War is Not Diplomacy

NPR continues to be a forum for Ricespeak as it covers Sec. of State Rice's upcoming trip to the Middle East. Even though the Bush/Rice policy has been to defend and provide cover and support for nearly two weeks of Israeli assaults on civilians and civilians infrastructure in Lebanon, Melissa Block says, "Rice will leave on Sunday to try to find a diplomatic solution to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah." No, Rice will leave to try and prop up the Bush policy of military dominance and intervention in the region--this is not a diplomatic solution. Then Michelle Kelemen provides further explanation of Rice's view of the situation with excepts of Rice saying that we are witnessing "the birth pangs of a new Middle East!" Kelemen states, "The Bush administration is counting on moderate Arab states to play key roles in the diplomacy, especially in putting pressure on Syria…" Again NPR is adopting US government distortions: Is Saudi Arabia moderate? Is Egypt's dictatorship moderate?

Diplomatic Effort?

This morning's discussion of Secretary of State Rice's likely trip to the Middle East next week was interesting for its language. John Ydstie states that "US officials continue to say that Israel has the right to defend itself; Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice plans to take that message to the Middle East, possibly as early as next week. For a look at how this diplomatic effort could be received in the region we turn to Judith Palmer Harik." What is not stated is that by "self-defense" the US government means an all out assault on Lebanon's civilian population and infrastructure. It is also interesting to see how this inflexible position can be called a "diplomatic effort." Later Ydstie states, "...if the actors are stuck in their positions and there doesn'’t seem to be anyone with any leverage, what kind of diplomacy is possible here?" No one with any leverage? Excuse me, but I think there is one nation that completely funds, arms, and assists one of the belligerents in this tragedy--and it's not Syria or Iran. This statement continues to misinform the public about how much leverage the US could exert on Israel: were the US to cut military and economic assistance (more than $3 billion a year) to Israel barring an immediate cease-fire, then the assault would stop, and real diplomacy could begin.

War Crimes Makes the News!

Today NPR interviewed Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, about war crimes in the current Israeli assault on Lebanon and Hezbollah's targeting of Israeli cities. She was GREAT! In spite of John Ydstie bringing up all the Israeli government's arguments defending it's actions, she was clear and precise about the nature of the laws covering both war crimes and crimes against humanity. When asked if it's fair to compare Israel's actions to Hezbollah's she stated, "I never see much moral difference between one murder and another." Then when asked about Israel's moral right to self-defense, she answered, " can have a very just cause; you could be acting in self-defense. All this has nothing to do with whether or not you are allowed to target civilian populations." I'll give NPR credit for seeking out Ms. Arbour and running this interview.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What War Crimes?

Louise Arbour, UN high commissioner for human rights, indicated yesterday that the actions of Israel and Hezbollah constitute war crimes and those responsible could face prosecution. Given that the US government is strongly backing Israel and encouraging its attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure one might expect this to make it into NPR's Morning Edition. But there was nothing of this in the news. It might be helpful for NPR to cover the Geneva Convention sections that are relevant to war crimes accusations so that listeners could decide what they think. If you are interested, here is an article that covers this subject and is worth reading (cited by Juan Cole today.)

Consider the Source

Consider the following: "Given the organization's record of bloodshed and hostility, the question is not whether Hezbollah should be stopped; it is how" or "The upshot is that although Washington should indeed confront Hezbollah, it should do so indirectly."

These are from Daniel Byman's 2003 article in Foreign Affairs. And Byman is the "expert" that NPR talks to about Hezbollah in the current crisis. All we learn about Byman is that he is the director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies which sounds fine. However, the center is closly alligned with the US government and guess what other institute Byman is part of...the Brookings Institute (a strong backer of US foreign policy).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Torture: Like Deja Reverse

NPR's ATC tonight covered the special prosecutor's report about torture in Chicago's police department that started in the 1970's and continued on through the 80's. This is familiar to me since I lived in Chicago in the 80's and went down to the station run by Burge to protest the torture there. The Chicago Reader covered the case several times and its reporter, John Conroy, included the events in a book he wrote on torture. In a 2005 article Conroy makes the case for the fact that Burge learned his "dark arts" in the US military during the Vietnam War. Why didn't NPR search out Mr. Conroy for this piece tonight? Amy Goodman managed to interview him recently. Why don't they connect the dots? Torture is not a new aberration that cropped up at Abu Ghraib...the only new thing is that it's been official policy of the Bush administration. This piece on NPR could have been an excellent look into the abuse of human rights in US prisons, the CIA, and the military. Instead it makes it look like Burge and his detectives were just a few bad apples who have gotten away with it due to the statute of limitations. Sounds like the Bush line doesn't it? If you want to read more about this case here is a good link.

Echo Chamber Lebanon

This morning in a brief update on "the fighting" Renee Montagne mentions that the death toll in Lebanon continues to rise as a family of five was killed when their house was bombed in southern Lebanon. She then says, "Israel was targeting a Hezbollah company's offices when they were killed. " Really? Where does this "fact" come from?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Heart and Brain

If you are fed up with the misinformation from NPR and the MSM in general please take a read of the late Tikkun--especially this piece. They prove that people of all beliefs can have intelligence, conscience and plain old humanity!

It's a Stronghold

On NPR's Morning Edition Renee Montagne introduced the news about Lebanon by stating that Israel airstrikes hit "a Hezbollah stronghold" for the seventh day in a row. She also stated that the airstrikes were aimed at freeing two captured Israeli soldiers. For NPR the whole of Lebanon is a Hezbollah stronghold! The irony was that her interviews with Ivan Watson and Deborah Amos contained unnerving details about the reality of life under bombardment for civilians (especially foreigners trapped in Lebanon).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel Army Peaceful According to Schorr

Dan Schorr gave one of the most dishonest commentaries I've ever heard aired on NPR. He blames the current Middle East crisis squarely on Iran. He repeats the mistranslation about Iran's president threatening to "wipe Israel off the map," and declares that in "peaceful moves" Israel left southern Lebanon and Gaza. Just for the record Israel left southern Lebanon under constant attack from a successful Hezbollah-led resistance to Israel's brutal and illegal invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s. In Gaza, Israel withdrew, but maintained a full seige-like control of Gaza--maintaining, in effect, a prison for the inhabitants of Gaza. I wonder if NPR will offer equal time to someone like journalist Robert Fisk or As'ad AbuKhalil, a Lebanese professor of political science at California State University and author of the Angry Arab blog.

Idiot Wind Follow Up

My previous post needs a little fleshing out. Here are some of the egregious points of NPR's Morning Edition coverage on the Middle East Crisis. In the piece on foreigners fleeing Lebanon Renee Montagne states that "Israeli warplanes are back in action...hitting a Hezbollah stronghold and..." I would like to ask Montagne what stronghold that was--a house with family members in it, a convoy of civilians fleeing the bombing? Imagine if the Hezbollah rocketing of Haifa was described as hitting an Israeli Kadima stronghold? In a later piece Renee Montagne is interviewing Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev. She does ask him about "massive attacks on Lebanese infrastructure and civilian casualties unrelated or at least not related directly to Hezbollah" which is positive, but she lets him off with his response of "we've been hitting Hezbollah and Hezbollah infrastructure to prevent Hezbollah from being rearmed." Okay, and then the follow-up questions with details of homes, bridges, villages etc. being hit and international laws on collective punishment, etc? Nothing, instead Montagne asks three times about whether Israel will bomb Iran or Syria. She also allows Regev to cite UN resolutions three times regarding disarmament of Hezbollah and yet never asks about numerous UN resolutions that Israel regularly flaunts. Lastly Montagne updates the death toll in Lebanon and then states, "Hezbollah is thought to receive between ten million and twenty million dollars a month in aid from Iran and its fighters go there for training." This is given with absolutely no citation of the source of this "intelligence." Sounds like propaganda to me.

Idiot Wind

I listened to an hour of NPR Morning Edition this morning of the US backed-Israeli war against civililians in the Middle East and was struck by how void of intelligent content the reports are. That is the best one can say for their coverage. There is nothing on the criminal, unjustifiable assault by the US backed-Israeli military on civilian cities, roads, bridges, airports, etc. except a few weak echoes of Israel's claim to be trying to attack Hezbollah and free its soldiers. Please contact NPR and DEMAND coverage of the international laws that are being violated, reports of exactly what is being hit with civilian casualties, numbers of missles fired and bombing sorties, interviews with citizens/professors/activists/journalists who are citizens of Lebanon and the Occupied Territories. For yourself, I'd recommend listening to Democracy Now, reading Juan Cole, looking at Electronic Intifada and its coverage of Lebanon, Haaretz, the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, etc. Sigh...heartbreaking frankly....

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Please Post

I'll be out of computer land for about a week. If you hear any really strikingly bad NPR reports please mention the show (and date and time) in the comments section.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Cuba Libre?

NPR gives an uninformative spot on US "plans" for a post-Castro Cuba. First let me say that I have no fondness for the Castro dictatorship and would recommend readers to look at Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International for information on Cuba. However, to give space to US State Department hypocrisy on Cuba is really inexcusable without examining the ugly record of the US-led assault on human rights in other Spanish-speaking countries over the last 50 years (Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Argentina, Chile, etc.). Lastly, NPR should report on the history of US policy toward Cuba and anti-Castro terrorists which would reveal the hypocrisy and doublespeak of the US policy both in the "war on terror" and toward Cuba specifically.

More Pentagon Reporting

NPR's morning edition "covers" the US military Iraq scandals/atrocities that are receiving attention lately. Steve Inskeep interviews NPR's Pentagon correspondent . After discussing the rape/murder investigation and the Haditha Massacre investigation, Inskeep asks Bowman "why all this is coming to light now." Bowman answers this by saying, "What we do know is that Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli who runs the day to day operations in Iraq is very concerned about the deaths of innocent Iraqis; he’s very concerned about fighting this in a classic counter-insurgency way which is to gain the trust of the Iraqi population, get information on the bad guys, and that’s how you end an insurgency. You don’t end an insurgency by using heavy handed tactics: kicking doors in, shooting indiscriminately and using bombs, so Chiarelli I would say again is--he understands how to fight the insurgency and is much more adept than some of his predecessors." This is simply mind-boggling for its complete lack of evidence or truthfulness. What proof is there that Chiarelli cares one iota about Iraqi deaths? What is the "classic counter-insurgency?" Is it what Chiarelli learned at Fort Benning when he was being trained there January to July of 1978 (Ft. Benning being the home of the Latin America torture/massacre counter-insurgency training center, the "School of the Americas." The bad guys? Just who are the "bad guys"--our troops occupying the country illegally, the interior ministry police torture/death squads we helped train, the militias, the foreign jihadis, the nationalist insurgents? Then to finish the piece with the refrain of "he understands how to fight the insurgency." This isn't reporting; it's nothing but Pentagon propaganda. If you want Dept. of Defense information on Chiarelli you can look at the Multi National Corp - Iraq website.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Nightmare Begins Responsibility

Apologies to Michael Harper for the title. Tonight NPR's reports on the unfolding horrors of sectarian violence in Iraq. This is good, but now reporters need to raise the realities of Iraq with the fanstasies and lies of the Bushists. They could also remind listeners of the vicious "Salvador" option that the US implemented (see my earlier post). They also might want to interview people like Juan Cole or Robert Fisk who have been warning for YEARS about how US policy in Iraq has been driving the country to the brink of sectarian disaster. Otherwise the story of the horrors will play into the cynical Republican designs of blaming the disaster on the Iraqis instead of on themselves and those (such as the many Democrats) who voted for this war and continue to vote for its funding.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mexico (Ohio - Florida)

NPR is not alone in providing frustrating coverage of the Mexican election. Tonight's coverage with doesn't really do justice to the context of this election. Garcia-Navarro tells us that Obrador has "always used the power of the people to reinforce his political point" and "has always painted himself as a victim of the political machinations of the right and his followers really do respond to that." The report mentions that international observers did not cite any evidence of vote fraud. I think the report would have been strengthened by citing the history of the 1988 stolen presidential election and by interviewing Greg Palast about the discrepancy of exit polling and the Bush actions during the campaign and election. Of course to do this might stir up the history of our own deplorable presidential "elections" of 2000 and 2004.


A pretty good report by Adam Hochberg on the Smithfield Foods Pork processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C. The report mentions that the courts and the National Labor Relations Board did find that Smithfield used unfair practices during the unionizing efforts by the United Food and Commercial Workers union in 1992 and 1997. However the article downplays the problems at the plant and the grievous nature of the offenses committed by he company. The piece on NPR also doesn't put the actions at Smithfield in the larger context of the awful conditions in the meat industry--so bad they have drawn the attention of Human Rights Watch as in this report. Given that even the worker that the company put forth to praise her job at Smithfield had to concede that injuries are a fact of life at the plant, I wanted to know what medical benefits and compensation are available to injured workers. For readers wanting to learn more about the Smithfield case take a look at a few of these links: the Washington Post, and the UCFW.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Valiant Shield

NPR produced a piece on the build-up of US military might in the Pacific that might as well have come from the Pentagon. The piece--highlighting a massive US war game, "Operation Valiant Shield"-- is completely uncritical; we hear about the growing dangers of China (from Rumsfeld!), North Korea, and "terrorist" threats in the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Malacca Straits. The thrust of the story is that the US must project its military might as a counterweight to China and that the US military buildup and presence there makes us (and the world) safe. Significant is any lack of information on the cost of such a buildup, the effect it might have on human rights in places like the Philippines, or the possibility that it may actually increase the arms race in the area. Is it really impossible for NPR to find a scholar who questions the assumption that the US has the right to dominate every corner of the globe? Is it so hard to find someone who can counter the premises for militarism given by the Pentagon? Is NPR unable to find even one "expert" citizen from one of the countries of the Asia/Pacific area who might critique the military (dare one say imperial) ambitions of the US in this region--or even some US critics? In reality even the most cursory bit of research would have turned up some possibilities such as the signatories at the bottom of the Statement of the Asia-Pacific People's Forum on Sustainable Development (Nov. 25-26, 2001 in Phnom Penh) or some folks from the American Friends Service Committee.

Worse Than Worthless on AIPAC

A few complaints about Steve Inskeep's talk with Dennis Ross on AIPAC. During the interview Inskeep asks, "Why do you think it is that large swaths of the world look at US policy toward Israel and say the US is just overly devoted to Israel, has overlooked so many things that in the point of view of many Arabs are terrible things that Israelis have done and that this is a huge liability for the United States." This is inexcusably sloppy and distorted. Notice how Inskeep inserts the qualifying statement "in the point of view of many Arabs" to imply 1) that there is no objective standard by which to judge US-backed Israeli actions over the years, and that 2) only Arabs have any objections to Israeli actions. Inskeep is wrong on both points. Israeli actions since 1967 have ruthlessly and flagrantly defied international law (see Wikipedia's entry on this, or browse the resources on the Foundation for Middle East Peace website). As for his second point Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and BT'selem from Israel hardly qualify as an Arab point of view! Instead of the unsupported statement of "terrible things that Israelis have done," Inskeep/NPR could have done a few minutes of research and simply mentioned a few of the documented acts that the vast majority of the world finds so objectionable.

A few last notes about this interview. Though this piece is presented as a rebuttal to the Walt/Mearsheimer interview yesterday (see post below), NPR fails to noted that though Walt/Mearsheimer are scholars with no connection to AIPAC or any pro-Palestinian lobby, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that Ross is with has close ties to AIPAC! I also found it fascinating that though Ross is supposed to dismiss the idea that AIPAC has undue influence on US foreign policy regarding the Middle East he does say that "its weight is mostly felt on the congress" where it has "considerable influence," including the election of members and is a "significant force on the hill." He also makes a slip of the tongue that is quite telling: when asked if he ever met with AIPAC while working for Bush I and Clinton he says yes, but "with American groups as well" (critics of AIPAC have frequently requested that it be registered as an agent of a foreign government).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Antisocial Personality Disorder

All Things Considered presented information on antisocial personality disorder in relation to the ex-soldier being charged with rape and murder committed while serving in Iraq. Here are the characteristics of such a person as given in the report:
  • "is extraordinarily manipulative and willing to expoit others and has no sense of guilt"
  • "to their advantage to be deceitful, and not conform to laws, and to exploit other people"
  • "don’t seem to care about other people"
  • "they don’t feel guilty about the kind of transgressions somebody would ordinarily feel guilty about"
  • "they tend not to follow conventional societal rules"
  • "most people with the condition are very good liars"
The disturbing ironies of this description were too much for me to overlook...and this man is from Midland, Texas too.

Mearsheimer and Walt

This morning NPR interviews professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt whose paper on the Israel Lobby created a firestorm of criticism. If you are interested in this issue you should definitely look at this critique by Michael Massing from the New York Review of Books which does an excellent job of surveying the reactions to the Mearsheimer/Walt piece and of critiquing the paper in a scholarly fashion (You may be surprised by Massing's conclusions!) This interview by NPR is pretty thin on substance which is why I recommend the Massing article.

A few further notes of interest in this interview. Inskeep says, "Gentlemen can we get to the underlying issue beneath all of this debate: is it in the US national interest to provide support to Israel?" (I thought Inskeep was going to say that the underlying issue is the charge of anti-Semitism cast on the authors--or, for that matter, anyone who criticizes Israeli expansionist/repressive policies.) Walt answers the given question by stating his belief that support for Israel's existence and defense is a crucial US interest and one that he and Mearsheimer support, but "'s a separate question whether the United States should be providing unconditional backing for Israel and all of Israel's policies, most notably the continued occupation and control over the Palestinians and the refusal to negociate a long term peace settlement with the Palestinians." To this Inskeep cuts in to say, "I should mention, Steven Walt, just to note that Israeli spokesmen would dispute almost every phrase of what you just described..." and when Walt tries to respond Inskeep cuts him off by asking, "John Mearsheimer, what do you think?" This filling in as a hypothetical spokesperson for an antagonistic viewpoint is an interesting role for Inskeep to take, given that Israeli spokespeople frequently get unchallenged airtime on NPR. What do you think?

The Italian Job

This morning NPR's Steve Inskeep covers the story of the CIA 's kidnapping and rendition of Mostafa Hassan Nasr Osama (Abu Omar) from the streets of Milan on February 17, 2003. (See these older pieces for basic information: Newsweek or the Washington Post. ) This suspected terrorist was living in Milan, Italy at the time and was under close surveillance by Italian intelligence (NPR's Sylvia Poggioli provided good factual information on this story when it broke back in March 2005).
Today's piece highlights TWO significant problems with current NPR coverage of the "war on terror." First, Inskeep states that rendition is "the secret seizure and transfer of international terrorism suspects." That's it. Not one word about torture. Second, there is no discussion of how damaging the US kidnapping was to real security in this case. If you go back and listen to the Poggioli report above or her later one on June 30, 2005 you learn that valuable anti-terrorism intelligence was being gathered by the Italians from their surveillance of Abu Omar, and that the US kidnapping terminated this valuable source of information (a source which was leading to other cells in Europe). Given that he offered such rich information while being surveilled, any credible journalist would question why the US was so keen on kidnapping this man and sending him off to Egypt to be tortured, but to ask this might call into question other agendas behind the Bush/US "war on terror" and so the issue is not even raised.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Battles and Battlefields

On ATC yesterday David Greene covered of Bush's 4th of July maneuvers at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bush (as usual addressing an audience that is NOT free to express dissent) celebrated our Independence Day by giving a speech to the 81st Airborne troops at Ft. Bragg. Greene covers Bush's speech and activities with almost no critical commentary. We do learn that, as Greene puts it, Bush was "determined to find a more upbeat mood." What I found compelling in this coverage was the use of the term "battle" and "battlefield." We get to hear the following from Bush's speech: "....when the job in Iraq is done, (pause) it will be a major victory in the battle against the terrorists...." and then without pause David Greene's voice comes in saying, "it's a battle in which Ft. Bragg has carried much of the burden...." This subtly both accepts and reinforces Bush's assertion that the adventure in Iraq is a battle against terrorists, and that Iraq is just one set piece in the grand "War on Terror." This is straight Bush propaganda. There is immense debate and disagreement (even within the mainstream) on all aspects of the Iraq war and its relationship to terrorism. Just days ago 80% of "security experts" polled believe that the "war on terror" is a failure and that Iraq is one primary reason why.
Finally--after airing a clip of Bush describing the compassionate soldiers treating Zarqawi before he died--Greene states, "at a time when some Democrats are calling for a timetable to bring US troops home Mr. Bush repeated an argument that has infuriated his critics including some military families--he said one reason he'’s determined to stay the course in Iraq is to honor those who have already died on the battlefied." Notice how skillfully this acknowledges Bush critics, without giving any of their reasons, and then proceeds to undermine these critics by returning to the battle/battlefield argument. After all, if the war in Iraq really is an essential "battle" against terrorists (and can be "won" like any traditional battle) then who can argue against just leaving the "battlefield" where so many soldiers have already died?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th

Enjoy the 4th of July. It was nice to wake up to Judy Muller's commentary this morning on NPR.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Oh, Osama!

Listen to NPR's piece on the failure to catch (or kill) Osama Bin Laden. There are some interesting aspects to the story. At one point in the report Mary Louise Kelly notes that Gary Burnson (former CIA field commander in Afghanistan after 9/11) "scoffs at the notion that war in Iraq has drained resources and distracted attention from the pursuit of Bin Laden." She states this as if this argument were given airtime earlier in the report, which would make sense given that many consider the War in Iraq to have been a huge diversion from really achieving security success in Afghanistan (see this Democratic Policy report--be sure to look at its references). I had to re-listen to the report and found it astounding that nowhere in the report is this argument made! So all we have is Burnson's judgment call on this.
Other interesting items are the really scary comments dropped about Pakistan and Musharaff by several counterterrorism "experts." Basically they all hint that his hold on power is precarious, that his government is rife with Bin Laden sympathizers, oh...yea...and that Pakistan has lots of nukes. The obvious questions that come to my mind are, What realistic non-proliferation policies is the US pursuing both for itself and the region? Are US actions in Iraq building sympathy for Bin Laden within Pakistan? What do polls suggest Pakistanis think of the US, of Musharaff, etc.? Unfortunately these never come up.
Readers should also take a look at these "old" but still quite relevant pieces: one from the New Yorker and the other from Knight Ridder(through Common Dreams).

Sunday, July 02, 2006

How Business Views Mexico

On the day of an important election we get analysis of the competing candidates from corporate risk management spokesperson, Pamela Starr of the Eurasia Group. We learn a few choice things during this interview. We hear that the US government is "fairly sure they're not going to get another Hugo Chavez." Debbie Elliot asks Starr, "there are some reports in the press that Obrador may be more open to relationships with Latin American leftist policies--is that something the United States should be worried about?" Interesting, just who is this United States? It's definitely not me--leftist policies in Latin America are fine by me. We also learn that US corporations are exporting some production processes to Mexico and that our economy depends on "using Mexico to keep its global costs of production low." I wonder how that impacts US worker wages and the standard of living for Mexicans? Are there any connections between this outsourcing and immigration issues? Starr also concludes that to export these "production processes" it "needs the Mexican economy to be sound." Sound for who? The wealthy Mexicans? The wealthy US CEOs? It's not that NPR shouldn't let us know what the corporate sector thinks--this is important since they do hold immense power and influence. But here are a few interesting sources for alternative views: the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and Human Rights Watch.

IDF News

How many more times will NPR and all the MSM sources echo the Israeli Defense Forces line that their actions against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are being done "in an effort to free an Israeli soldier." Again tonight they repeated that refrain without any evidence to support such a claim.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hard Hearted

Listen to Eric Westervelt reporting from Gaza if you can bear it. Debbie Elliott introduces the piece describing the Gaza crisis as "the tense situation." There is a lot about "militant" Palestinians, divisions within Hamas, violent struggles between Palestinians, Israeli artillery barrages, tanks massing, etc. But there is nothing from the host of All Things Considered or from Westervelt to indicate the immense suffering that the Israeli military attacks are having on the lawful inhabitants Occupied Territories. Nothing about the illegal attacks on power stations, bridges, etc. In fact nothing about international law. We do learn that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last summer "is not working [Elliott]" and caused Israelis to be "traumatized" by the Qassam rockets fired into nearby Israeli towns (Yes, these rocket attacks are wrong, wrong, wrong--but reporting them without reporting on the extreme violence and daily degradations that Israel wages against Palestinians civilians leaves listeners with no sense of what is happening in Gaza or the West Bank.) Westervelt tells us that less than a year after leaving Gaza, "it appears Israel could become entangled even more deeply in a military operation in Gaza" (there's that passive construction again as if the Israeli government just has no other alternatives.) This is the report I'd expect from the IDF not from a news source that claims to be professional and credible.

Schorr Misses the Point

Daniel Schorr talking with Scott Simon completely misses the point about the alleged rape and murder of Iraqis by US soldiers. First Schorr just brushes it aside as part of the typical brutality of war. Second he strongly praises the US military leadership for aggressively pursuing all allegations of atrocities. The record shows that the leadership only pursues these cases when there is evidence that can't be hushed up or has been made public (Not to mention that many of the miltary's standard operations in Iraq -- broad house invasion searches, detention of thousands of uncharged Iraqis, airstrikes, etc. -- could be called atrocities. However, the point that Schorr misses is that even if you think this event is isolated--it will be so offensive to Iraqis and Muslims that it will further enrage people who are already justifiably enraged at US hypocrisy and brutality in the "war on terror."

Simon Takes on Moore

Scott Simon uses the death of a Marine in Iraq to try to rip Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911. The Marine was one of the recruiters in Moore's film who is shown trying to get young people to join up. The portrayal is not flattering, but then again there's nothing particularly flattering about recruiting teenagers for the military anyway. Simon tries to make it sound like the film attacks the recruiters for being smug and safe while they get young people to go off and fight. My recollection of the film is quite different. Moore goes to great lengths to acknowledge his respect for people in the armed forces. The target of his film is the leaders who use and frankly kill the young people who out of idealism or economic necessity join the military. His movie makes a strong case that the people behind the war in Iraq are motivated mostly by greed, arrogance, and a lust for power. Moore's film (and his continuing work since) also consistently shows that one of the great passions that motivates Moore is his desire to see no more US troops killed or injured.

Apparently Defensive

This morning Scott Simon mentions the US Army's investigation into at least 5 of its soldiers on charges of rape and murder in Iraq by saying that the soldiers are "apparently accused." It seems Simon is trying so hard to hold any allegations of US wrongdoing to the most rigorous standards of proof that he can't even say the fact that they are accused. I realize this was probably a slip and he meant to say that the accused men are alleged to have committed the crimes in question. This is typical of NPR's defensive coverage of US and ally crimes and wrongdoing, and stands in stark contrast to the unqualified reporting of so many "militants," "insurgents," "terrorists," or "Taliban" killed that occurs daily on NPR (the information almost always solely based on US military reports). I almost never hear them say "alleged" militants or "alleged" Taliban fighters. Of course, as the record often reveals (usually weeks or months later), these supposed combatants are often civilians mistakenly (or not mistakenly) targeted.