Two longtime critics of the 2003 war against Iraq delivered memorable lectures last week on the war's tenth anniversary. Anti-war crusader David Swanson and Iraq-born bookstore owner Andy Shallal exemplified the long-run positive impact individuals can have against the war machine and its media arm -- even as the United States ramps up supplies for rebels against Syria's government in a new war.
While war critics looked backward, a secret journalistic drama unfolded elsewhere last week in the nation's capital.
The Washington Post editorial staff spiked an assigned Sunday opinion column about the war by author and longtime journalist Greg Mitchell. Mitchell published the column instead at The Nation. Over the weekend, Mitchell exposed the Post's bad faith when he saw that the Post claimed in a staff-written Sunday column that its reporters responsibly covered the 2003 run-up to the Iraq war.
Mitchell's action, like those of Swanson and Shallal, is part of the ongoing struggle pitting individuals against a war industry that funds most politicians from both parties, as well as the major media.
Two other media critics, former AP and Newsweek reporter Bob Parry and Daily Howler blogger Bob Somerby, were among those took bold stands last week against the nation's mainstream media for beating the war-drums to invade Iraq and other Mideast nations.
Hardest-hitting of all, at least from those formerly at a high level in mainstream media, was Paul Craig Roberts, the former Wall Street Journal associate editor and former Reagan administration assistant Treasury Secretary. Roberts, an author and free-lancer, continued his recent practice of calling the media "presstitutes" for their war-mongering.
My column today provides a snapshot of these developments and an appendix of relevant coverage. The gist is that the largest media outlets have immense difficulties appraising war making, in part because the overall U.S. economy is now so heavily dependent on war-making. Defense contractors and their Wall Street financiers thus help fund or otherwise influence virtually all government leaders from both parties, and the parent companies of media outlets. Major media, many of them subsidiaries of larger companies with diversified Washington regulatory needs, are dependent on narrowly constricted reporting and commentary for fear of losing access or otherwise antagonizing officials.
By contrast, independent media are making significant progress in showing the disastrous judgment of the nation's best-known foreign policy decision-makers and corporate-controlled pundits.
Yet much more needs to be done, given the high-stakes. The war machine constantly seeks new battlefields, including Syria, even during a time of enforced budget austerity on ordinary Americans.
The latest news regarding Syria is that the Obama administration is claiming human rights violations and a threat from weapons of mass destruction. These arguments are remarkably similar to war rhetoric in 2003 before the long-planned invasion of Iraq. The new Obama administration Secretary of State John Kerry, right, reiterated such claims this month. So has his holdover spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, wife of Robert Kagan, the neo-con pundit who helped organize planning for a new Iraq war as early as 1996.
My retrospective on the Iraq war anniversary begins at one of the Busboys and Poets bookstores that Shallal founded in the Washington metro area. Along with the book browsers and buyers, the stores gather independent-minded customers for coffee and lectures.
On the evening of March 18, the auditorium at his 14th Street store was filled to its capacity of about 60 for a tribute to Swanson for his years of advocacy for peace and other progressive causes. The highlight of the evening was intended to be the unveiling of a portrait of Swanson by Robert Shetterly, shown at right with Veterans for Peace former president Leah Bolger.
Shetterly is an award-winning painter who has painted for the past decade a series of portraits, "Americans Who Tell the Truth." A book of the portraits has won the top award of the International Reading Association for Intermediate non-fiction.
With Swanson's customary initiative, he wrote, published, and excerpted for the audience his 86-page PDF book, Iraq War Among World's Worst Events, whose cover is shown above left. Swanson thereby transformed the portrait unveiling from a personal honor into a larger cause.
A 25-minute video of his remarks is here: Iraq 10 Years Later: Still Shocked, Not Awed.
His free book calculates casualties at more than a million Iraqis dead, and more than four million wounded. He said this total of a five percent death rate is much higher than any U.S. death total in any war, and illustrates the scope of the war's disaster. As context, Swanson's estimates are significantly higher than many mainstream accounts excerpted below, including a recent Brown University study: Study: Iraq War Cost 190K Lives, $2.2 Trillion.
The bright and personable University of Virginia graduate, shown at left with his son, for years has advocated progressive causes that most others in Washington's professional circles consider lost, doomed, wrong-headed or worse. Swanson's parents helped film the event, with photos here.
His main cause is peace, articulated in such books as Daybreak and War Is A Lie, along with a War Is A Crime website. Also, he has been a key organizer for the Occupy DC movement, the presidential campaign of Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and the communications director for the grassroots urban communities organizer, A.C.O.R.N. The latter group is defunct from a combination of a serious embezzlement by its founder (not involving Swanson) and vicious right-wing attacks on its core mission of voter registration. He currently works for RootsAction.org and Veterans for Peace, and hosts the show, Talk Nation Radio.
Preceding Swanson on the program was Bolger, who described how Swanson had inspired her and many others with his passion for social justice.
Shallal focused primarily on the unreported devastation that the war has caused his native Iraq. He said he and his immediate family had fled Iraq because of Saddam Hussein. The situation, however, is immeasurably worse now, he said.
For example, he said Sunni versus Shia intra-Muslim rivalries are extremely dangerous and now divide families once united by marriage.
Shallal, right, is an artist, peace and social justice activist and entrepreneur who founded Busboys and Poets, and Eatonville. He sits on the board of several art, business and peace and justice organizations including the Institute for Policy Studies, Anacostia Community Museum and Think Local First D.C.
Meanwhile, a number of other writers provided anniversary commentaries on the war. The Washington Post scheduled one for its March 24 Sunday Outlook section, written by Mitchell. He is a freelancer who author of a book about Iraq and edited for nearly a decade the magazine Editor and Publisher. The weekly glossy magazine was for man years the primary trade journal for the combined newspaper and book industry. Therefore, Mitchell's position as the magazine's top editor for so long before it dropped its print edition suggested a strong skill set in writing and in navigating controversy.
The Post's decision to reject his column illustrates the tight control mainstream news organizations exercise over such sensitive topics as warmaking. We can assemble the following chronology from published accounts of the dust-up:
Mitchell took his rejected column from the Post to the Nation, a progressive magazine that published it largely unchanged. Mitchell kept quiet, as would most freelancers who cannot afford to antagonize an important market such as the Post, the capital city's primary gatekeeper for information and commentary.
But Mitchell wrote a blog March 22 about the process when he saw that the Post was running in Outlook a staff-written piece by reporter Paul Farhi reporting favorably aspects of the Post's pre-war coverage in 2002 and 2003. The Post's Outlook editor responded with an unusual commentary, reported by the Huffington Post, saying that Mitchell's piece included too much reporting about specifics and not enough analysis. Mitchell responded further. Readers have responded further in the comments sections of the articles.
My strong suspicion is that the Post's assignment editor sought to reach beyond the newspaper's usual stable of pro-war pundits, which regularly include Henry Kissinger and Robert Kagan along with their Democratic kindred spirits, but EditorialPage Editor Fred Hyatt, slapped down the concept. It's incredible that the editorial page staff could not work with the experienced freelance to add or delete a few paragraphs to make the piece publishable, or to run a version on another day if they so desired. Such revisions are what newspaper editors do every day, all day long, as I can vouch after 14 years working for a metro daily.
Clearly, Mitchell's facts and theme -- like many others regarding national affairs -- was intolerable for the Post to share with its readers.
By going public, Mitchell provided far more instruction to Post readers than even if his column had been printed. All subscribers, including me, have yet another confirmation that we receive only part of the story by reading the paper's reports.
As a result, anyone hoping to understand world affairs must pay attention to alternative United States and independent media, and also use common sense. Robert Parry, an author and the founder of Consortium News after he left the Post-owned Newsweek, gave the Post harsh reviews for its editorial on the Iraq war's start.
In Neocon-land, the big U.S. mistake in Iraq was not forcing the Iraqis to accept an indefinite U.S. military occupation, compounded by the Obama administration’s hesitancy to join Israel in bombing Iran and to jump into another bloody quagmire in Syria – in other words to continue the neocon grand plan of “regime change” across the Middle East.
Not only did the Post editorial, entitled “Iraq, 10 years later,” offer no self-reflection on the Post’s many factual errors about Iraq’s non-existent WMD, no apology for its bullying of war skeptics, and no recognition of its complicity in a criminal invasion, but the newspaper’s editors appear to have absorbed not a single lesson from what happened a decade ago.
That inability to utter even the most obvious and necessary mea culpa is disturbing in itself. Indeed, if the Post were still a serious news organization committed to the principles of honest journalism, it would have undertaken a major overhaul of its editorial-page staff rather than keeping in place the same leadership and punditry that was so embarrassingly wrong on Iraq.
Looking ahead to Syria, the United States and allies have ramped up rhetoric against the governing "regime." For a controlled media, virtually every commentary and most news stories are slanted to describe allies favorably and opponents as "regimes" criticized by "human rights" organizations. Parry, the country's main reporter breaking the Iran-contra scandal in the 1980s, provides important perspective also on Syria. He reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's disclosed that Bush Vice President Dick Cheney outlined a plan whereby the United States, Britain, and their allies would topple in succession the governments of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
One factoid almost never reported in the mainstream media is that Russia maintains on Syria's coast a naval military base, the only one of its kind operated by Russia on the Mediterranean. It is difficult to report on the so-called world community's reaction to the Syrian civil war without reporting about that base, which helps deter the United States from imposing a No Fly Zone and other direct acts of war. This is one of many glitches in the neo-con master plan.
Another unexpected complication was Christian minorities have become especially vulnerable to reprisals by Islamist fighters and governments in Iraq and Syria as Islamist jihadists fought to replace secular dictatorships amid chaotic conditions.
These are among the many details of war planning that the United States left to idealogues, with disastrous results.
Pictures can help the story. So we close with an array from Foreign Policy, a mainstream publication owned by the Post. It published last week a collage of photos from 10 years of war that speak volumes: The 10 Most Iconic Images from Iraq.
Related News Coverage
Costs of Iraq War
Paul Craig Roberts.org / Institute for Political Economy, Iraq After Ten Years, Paul Craig Roberts, March 19, 2013. Ten years ago today, the Bush regime invaded Iraq. It is known that the justification for the invasion was a packet of lies orchestrated by the neoconservative Bush regime in order to deceive the United Nations and the American people. The US Secretary of State at that time, General Colin Powell, has expressed his regrets that he was used by the Bush regime to deceive the United Nations with fake intelligence that the Bush and Blair regimes knew to be fake. But the despicable presstitute media has not apologized to the American people for serving the corrupt Bush regime as its Ministry of Propaganda and Lies.
War Is a Crime.org, Iraq War Among World's Worst Events, David Swanson, March 17, 2013. The following is a brief summary of a much longer, and fully documented, report being made available for free for download. At 10 years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation (to use the original name with the appropriate acronym, OIL) and over 22 years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefited Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful. A number of U.S. academics have advanced the dubious claim that war making is declining around the world. Misinterpreting what has happened in Iraq is central to their argument. As documented in the full report, by the most scientifically respected measures available, Iraq lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, saw 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the U.S. Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the U.K. and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an absolute number as well as a percentage of population than these other horrific losses. U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they've taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing U.S. news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering.
Foreign Policy, Deadly bombings hit Iraq on 10th anniversary of U.S. invasion, March 18, 2013. 50 people are estimated to have been killed and over 150 injured in a dozen bombings throughout Baghdad on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. At least 10 car bombs were set off in a coordinated campaign which targeted busy areas in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods including a market, bus stops, and the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies. Additionally, a suicide bomber attacked a police base in a Shiite town south of Baghdad and three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were set off in the northern region of Kirkuk. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamic State of Iraq, the Iraqi wing of al Qaeda, has carried out similar bombings before and has vowed to increase attacks on Shiite targets in attempts to undermine the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Violence peaked in Iraq between 2006 and 2007, but sectarian tensions and the political crisis have worsened since U.S. troops departed in December 2011. In addition to continued violence, economic conditions are deteriorating and an influx of Syrian refugees into the country has only increased concerns.
TruthDig / OpEdNews, The Treason of the Intellectuals, Chris Hedges, April 1, 2013. The rewriting of history by the power elite was painfully evident as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others among "Bush's useful idiots" argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. The war boosters, especially the "liberal hawks" -- who included Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and John Kerry, along with academics, writers and journalists such as Bill Keller, Michael Ignatieff, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, George Packer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kanan Makiya and the late Christopher Hitchens -- did what they always have done: engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it. These apologists, however, acted not only as cheerleaders for war; in most cases they ridiculed and attempted to discredit anyone who questioned the call to invade Iraq. Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing "patriots" and their liberal apologists, became pariahs.
FireDogLake, The Bodies of War That Iraq War Architects Dare Not Acknowledge or Confront, Kevin Gosztola, March 22, 2013. Tomas Young, a veteran of the Iraq War whose story was presented in the 2007 documentary, Body of War, appeared on “Democracy Now!” on March 21. The dying soldier read his moving letter to President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and all the other war criminals that sent him and tens of thousands of other young men and women to Iraq to engage in violence in a country, which posed no threat to America whatsoever.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur / Military.com, Pat Reber, Study: Iraq War Cost 190K Lives, $2.2 Trillion, Miliary.com March 15, 2013. The U.S.-led war in Iraq claimed 190,000 lives and will cost the U.S. government at least $2.2 trillion, according to the findings of a project at Brown University released Thursday. The Costs of War report, released ahead of the 10th anniversary of the war on March 20, said that the financial calculation included "substantial" costs to care for wounded U.S. veterans. The total estimate far outstrips the initial projection by President George W. Bush's government that the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion. More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq were civilians, or an estimated 134,000 people. A small number of the 190,000 dead were U.S. casualties: 4,488 U.S. military members and at least 3,400 U.S. contractors, according to the report. "The staggering number of deaths in Iraq is hard to fathom, but each of these individuals has to count and be counted," said Catherine Lutz, a professor at Rhode Island-based Brown University who helped lead the study. The U.S. government has spent $60 billion on reconstruction, but little has gone to restoring destroyed infrastructure. Most of the money has gone to the Iraqi military and police, the report noted.
Huffington Post, War Anniversary Finds Republicans Regretful, Seeking A Path Forward, Jon Ward, March 19, 2013. Back when the Iraq war was going to be a surgical operation and not an eight-year occupation, Barack Obama was a largely unknown state senator in Illinois and Republicans like Karl Rove, left, were dreaming of maintaining their party's newfound political dominance for decades. Rove, then a top White House adviser to President George W. Bush, is often credited with saying at the time that he wanted to create a "permanent Republican majority." This is something of an urban legend. Rove did not use that language, but he did say a year before the 2004 election that he wanted to help the GOP stay on top for many years. He later referred to it as a "durable majority."
Guardian, David Frum, the Iraq war and oil, Glenn Greenwald, March 18, 2013. "Wars rarely have one clear and singular purpose, and the Iraq War in particular was driven by different agendas prioritized by different factions. To say it was fought exclusively due to oil is an oversimplification. But the fact that oil is a major factor in every Western military action in the Middle East is so self-evident that it's astonishing that it's even considered debatable, let alone some fringe and edgy idea. Yet few claims were more stigmatized in the run-up to the Iraq War, and after, than the view that oil was a substantial factor. In 2006, George Bush instructed us that there was a "responsible" way to criticize the US war effort in Iraq, and an "irresponsible" way to do so, and he helpfully defined the boundaries.
Huffington Post, Never Forget: Our Invasion of Iraq Was a Breach of Trust, Richard A. Clarke, March 19, 2013. On Tuesday, at this 10th anniversary of the American Invasion of Iraq, we would do well to remind ourselves about some painful facts. Keeping those facts in our collective memory may make it easier for us as a nation to prevent future mistakes. So, let us recall five unfortunate facts about the U.S. invasion of Iraq. First, the leaders of the Bush administration were intent on invading from the beginning of their time in the White House. When the 9-11 attacks occurred, Bush cabinet members immediately discussed how that tragedy could be used to justify an invasion. Second, the Bush-Cheney team settled on the excuse for invading that Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction. They trotted out to Congress, the American people and the United Nations a series of fabricated intelligence reports. Third, the mismanagement of the war cost thousands of American lives and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and disfigured, dismembered or traumatized tens of thousands of Americans. The financial and human cost of those casualties will be felt for decades.
Media Coverage of the Iraq War Consortium News, The Washington Post’s Unbridled Arrogance, Robert Parry, March 23, 2013. Perhaps more than any news organization, the Washington Post steered the United States into the illegal invasion of Iraq. But a Post editorial, which belatedly takes note of the war’s tenth anniversary, admits to no mistakes and acknowledges no lessons learned, reports Robert Parry. Four days after the Iraq War’s tenth anniversary, the Washington Post published an editorial about the disastrous war of choice, a conflict which the Post’s neocon editors promoted with falsehoods and distortions both before the invasion and for years afterwards. However, if you thought there would be some admission of the newspaper’s long litany of mistakes or some apology to the war’s critics who were routinely maligned in Post editorials and op-eds, you would be sorely disappointed. There was not even a mention of the nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died.
Washington Post, On Iraq, journalists didn’t fail. They just didn’t succeed. Paul Farhi, March 22, 2013. "Failure” grossly oversimplifies what the media did and didn’t do before the war, and it ignores important reasons the reporting turned out the way it did. As new threats loom, from Iran to North Korea, better understanding these circumstances can help us assess what happened and whether we’re better positioned today.
Huffington Post, Washington Post Defends Not Running Article On Iraq Media Failure, Michael Calderone, March 24, 2013. Greg Mitchell, author of a recently updated book on media mistakes during the run-up to the Iraq War, So Wrong For So Long, revealed Saturday night on his blog that the Washington Post's Outlook section had killed an assigned piece related to the press debacle that was slated for publication this weekend. Mitchell noted that the Outlook section did run what he called a “misleading, cherry-picking” piece by Post media writer Paul Farhi, in which Farhi claims the media didn’t fail during the 2002-2003 rush to war.
Pressing Issues Blog, Double Failure, Greg Mitchell, March 22, 2013. The Washington Post killed my assigned piece for its Outlook section this weekend which mainly covered media failures re: Iraq and the current refusal to come to grips with that (the subject of my latest book)--yet they ran this misleading, cherry-picking, piece by Paul Farhi claiming the media "didn't fail." I love the line about the Post in March 2003 carrying some skeptical pieces just days before the war started: "Perhaps it was too late by then. But this doesn’t sound like failure." Bob Woodward, shaming himself and his paper, once said it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly if WMD were ultimately found in Iraq. Rather than look silly, they greased the path to war. “There was an attitude among editors: Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?" admitted the Post's Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks in 2004. And this classic from a top reporter, Karen DeYoung: “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.“ In Farhi's new piece, Len Downie, the longtime Post editor, is still claiming, with a shrug, hey, we couldn't have slowed or halted the war anyway. Farhi agrees with this. Nothing to see here, move along.
Pressing Issues, That Piece Killed by the 'Post,' Greg Mitchell, March 23, 2013. Due to "popular demand," based on my post last night, I'm publishing below the assigned Outlook piece that I submitted to the Washington Post on Thursday. I see that the Post is now defending killing the piece because it didn't offer sufficient "broader analytical points or insights." I'll let you decide if that's true and why they might have rejected it. The original appeared almost word-for-word at The Nation this weekend (there I added a reference to Bob Woodward and to Bob Simon). I had absolutely no plans to even mention that the piece was killed until late last night when I saw that Paul Farhi of the Post had written for Outlook a piece claiming that the media "didn't fail" in the run-up to the Iraq war. That inspired me to write the post last night which has proved quite popular.
Daily Howler: Musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the American discourse, How poorly did the press corps do with Iraq! Bob Somerby, March 25, 2013. In the Post Outlook section, Paul Farhi considered the press corps’ performance in the run-up to war in Iraq. In Farhi’s view, the press corps didn’t do as poorly as is widely said, though they also didn’t do well. We wouldn’t necessarily say he’s wrong in some of his overall judgments. Let’s note two points on which Farhi is probably right, two points on which he seems to be wrong....In this piece, he is talking about the quality of mainstream reporting. He doesn’t discuss the screeching, hollering, keening and wailing which came from the press corps’ opnion brigade. From Thomas L. Friedman down through Chris Matthews, these people staged a series of loud nervous breakdowns, insisting on the need for war. The reporting may not have been quite as bad as folk say. The punditry may have been worse. Talk Nation Radio, Robert Shetterly's Portraits of Americans Who Tell the Truth, David Swanson, March 27, 2013 (29-minute audio). Robert Shetterly is a painter who is producing a collection of portraits (currently 190 of them) of "Americans Who Tell the Truth." He discusses the selection of subjects, and the reception the collection has been receiving around the country, the educational and activism possibilities. For more see his work here.
Susan Lindauer Statement, Patriot Act -- Freedom of Speech Criminalized, March 23, 2013. (Video). "I was the Chief U.S. Asset covering the Iraqi Embassy at the United Nations for 7 years before the War. I was subsequently arrested on the Patriot Act, locked up on Carswell Air Force Base, and threatened with forcible drugging to silence me when the Bush cabal decided to blame pre-war Intelligence for their catastrophic decision to go to war. On the 10th-year anniversary, it's worth examining the comprehensive peace option hammered out in the two year run up to the invasion. I was traveling in Minnesota this week for speaking engagements. In a television interview, I discussed the peace option at length. I hope it will persuade the world to give diplomacy a chance to forestall confrontation with Iran in the months ahead. It's never so hopeless as you might think.
Obama, CIA Ramp Up for More War in Syria
Washington Post, Not heeding the lessons of war, Walter Pincus, March 26, 2013. Syria may show how little some U.S. political leaders have learned from 10 years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. Capitol Hill’s intensified drumbeat last week for U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war ignored the long-term implications of what lawmakers were proposing. Let’s for a moment forget how difficult or costly providing military support to the “good” Syrian opposition would be and concentrate on post-Assad Syria. Also, let’s remember the issues that arose from a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and post-Gaddafi Libya. And, of course, there are the current issues in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
Washington Post, In Syria, America’s fractured hopes, David Ignatius, March 25, 2013. The moderate political and military command structure the U.S. has been trying to foster within the Syrian opposition appears to be fracturing, a victim of bitter Arab regional rivalries. The regional tension splitting the Syrian rebel movement is between Qatar and Turkey, on one side, and Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Emirates on the other. The former group would like to see an Islamist government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad. The latter group opposes any expansion of Muslim Brotherhood influence into Syria, fearing that the movement could spread from there to endanger Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.
Foreign Policy, The opposition takes Syria’s seat at the Arab League summit, Staff report, March 26, 2013. The Syrian National Coalition has taken Syria's seat at the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar. The Arab League suspended the government of President Bashar al-Assad in November 2011 for its violent crackdown against the opposition. Assad accused the Arab League of handing the seat to "bandits and thugs." Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib led the delegation to the summit and was joined by the newly elected Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto. Khatib had initially tendered his resignation as head of the coalition, but later retracted, saying he will stay as long as certain "red lines" are not reached. At the meeting, Khatib said that he had asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to provide Patriot surface-to-air missiles to help protect opposition-held territory in northern Syria from government airstrikes. He said the United States is failing in its duty to protect civilians and should play a bigger role to end the two-year conflict in Syria. Meanwhile, the United Nations is pulling about half of its foreign staff members out of Syria over security concerns.
Foreign Policy, Syrian opposition leader resigns and an explosion injures FSA head, Staff report, March 25, 2013. Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), announced his resignation on Sunday via a statement written on his Facebook page. He has repeatedly voiced frustrations, particularly with the lack of international support to Syrian opposition fighters. There is also speculation that his resignation was related to last week's election of Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of an interim opposition government. Hitto is a moderate Islamist and an American citizen; and his victory provoked the resignation of several coalition members. Additionally, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has rejected Hitto, saying he did not have consensus support and was forced on the coalition.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Free Syrian Army founder and commander Colonel Riad al-Assad, was severely injured in an explosion while conducting a tour in the eastern town of Mayadeen, south of Deir al-Zour. Al-Assad reportedly lost his leg, and is currently being treated in Turkey. According to a report, the C.I.A. has been increasingly assisting Turkey and Arab governments in airlifting arms and equipment to Syrian opposition fighters. The United States has consistently refused to offer lethal aid to opposition forces. But, the involvement of the C.I.A., despite acting mostly in a consultative role according to U.S. officials, shows a possible shift in the Obama administration's willingness to support the opposition with lethal resources.
Washington Post, Kerry: Iraq helping Syria’s Assad by allowing arms flow, Anne Gearan, March 24, 2013. Iraq is helping to shore up the besieged regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by allowing Iranian arms and fighters to cross into Syria from Iraq, Secretary of State John F. Kerry charged Sunday. During an unannounced trip to Baghdad, Kerry lobbied Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for greater scrutiny of flights that cross Iraq. He appeared to make little headway with Maliki, a Shiite with long-standing ties to Iran and little inclination to do U.S. bidding 10 years after the American invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. Video: Just days after the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry confronted Iraq for continuing to grant Iran access to its airspace, saying it was raising questions about Iraq's reliability as a partner. Consortium News, Blair Reveals Cheney's War Agenda, Robert Parry, Sept. 6, 2010. Ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s new memoir offers the expected rationalizations for his joining in an illegal, aggressive war against Iraq, even to the point of quibbling about the death toll. But Blair does reveal how much more war was favored by Vice President Dick Cheney and the neocons. In A Journey: My Political Life, Blair depicts Cheney as believing the United States was at war not only with Islamic terrorists but with “rogue states that supported them” and that “the only way of defeating [this threat] was head-on, with maximum American strength.” Cheney wanted forcible “regime change” in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests, according to Blair. “He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.,” Blair wrote. “In other words, he [Cheney] thought the world had to be made anew, and that after 11 September, it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.” New York Times, Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid, C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, March 24, 2013. With help from the Central Intelligence Agency, Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Guardian, David Petraeus to apologize for affair in comeback speech, Ewen MacAskill, March 26, 2013. David Petraeus, one of America's most decorated generals, is expected to make his public comeback Tuesday night with an apology for the extramarital affair that led to his resignation. Petraeus is to quaintly refer to the affair as "slipping his moorings" during a speech at the University of Southern California. Petraeus resigned as CIA director in November after the affair was discovered during an FBI investigation into a potential breach of security that involved email exchanges. At the time, his stock was so high that he was being mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate. In an advance of the speech obtained by the New York Times, Petraeus, sown at right in a file photo with his lover Paula Broadwell, is expected to say: "Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago. I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. "So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologise for — the circumstances that led me to resign from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters." Such a show of contrition is part of a pattern in US, the first stage in a process that almost always allows high-profile figures to return to public life.
Nation, Obama's Crackdown on Whistleblowers, Tim Shorrock, March 26, 2013. In the annals of national security, the Obama administration will long be remembered for its unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. Since 2009, it has employed the World War I–era Espionage Act a record six times to prosecute government officials suspected of leaking classified information. The latest example is John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer serving a thirty-month term in federal prison for publicly identifying an intelligence operative involved in torture. It’s a pattern: the whistleblowers are punished, sometimes severely, while the perpetrators of the crimes they expose remain free.The hypocrisy is best illustrated in the case of four whistleblowers from the National Security Agency: Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis. Falsely accused of leaking in 2007, they have endured years of legal harassment for exposing the waste and fraud behind a multibillion-dollar contract for a system called Trailblazer, which was supposed to “revolutionize” the way the NSA produced signals intelligence (SIGINT) in the digital age. Instead, it was canceled in 2006 and remains one of the worst failures in US intelligence history. But the money spent on this privatization scheme, like so much at the NSA, remains a state secret.
War Is a Crime, Bradley Manning's Nobel Peace Prize, David Swanson, March 25, 2013. Whistleblower Bradley Manning, left, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he should receive it. No individual has done more to push back against what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism" than Bradley Manning. The United States is the leading exporter of weapons and itself spends as much preparing for more wars as the rest of the world combined. Manning is the leading actor in opposition to U.S. warmaking, and therefore militarism around the world. What he has done has hurt the cause of violence in a number of other nations as well.
War is a Crime, The Good Intentions That Pave the Road to War, Diana Johnstone, Feb. 5, 2013. Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States.Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities. Five years ago, an unlikely “Genocide Prevention Task Force” was set up headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, both veterans of the Clinton administration. The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, A Problem from Hell. Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide.” It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor.
Why has the U.S. government so eagerly endorsed the crusade against “genocide”? The reason is clear. Since the Holocaust has become the most omnipresent historical reference in Western societies, the concept of “genocide” is widely and easily accepted as the greatest evil to afflict the planet. It is felt to be worse than war. Therein lies its immense value to the U.S. military-industrial complex, and to a foreign policy elite seeking an acceptable pretext for military intervention wherever they choose. The obsession with “genocide” reverses the final judgment of the Nuremberg Trials that: War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. Instead, war is transformed into a chivalrous action to rescue whole populations from “genocide.”
OpEdNews, Leave the British Press Alone -- No "Royal' Charter, No Regulation, Michael Collins, March 19, 2013. Great Britain's three political parties just made a deal to provide a degree of regulation for the British press. The deal produces a Royal Charter that establishes a press regulator at arms-length from the government plus a regulation regime that the major media companies can join. The charter is an outgrowth of the Leveson Commission established to get to the bottom of the press abuses in the phone hacking scandal that resurfaced in 2011. Thousands of crime victims, celebrities, and lower profile citizens had their phone hacked by the press and private detectives working for the Murdoch papers and other media outlets. The London Metropolitan Police (the Met) colluded with the Murdoch papers both by ignoring obvious criminal behavior and by using police resources to track and snoop on the news targets of the tabloids. Why would a news organization join the voluntary regulatory regime if it's voluntary? Good question. It's not exactly voluntary.
WhoWhatWhy, NYT’s Rhodes to Nowhere: A Cipher in the Oval Office, Russ Baker, March 21, 2013. For some possible context to President Obama’s current trip to Israel, I thought back to yet another of the New York Times’s oddly unsatisfying “profiles of power.” This one, which was published last week, introduces us to a highly influential Obama foreign policy adviser: As President Obama prepares to visit Israel next week, he is turning, as he often does, to Benjamin J. Rhodes, a 35-year-old deputy national security adviser with a soft voice, strong opinions and a reputation around the White House as the man who channels Mr. Obama on foreign policy. Though the Times never underlines this, the careful reader comes to realize that Rhodes’s guiding philosophy is as hard to discern as the precise reasons that he has the president’s ear. In 1997, he briefly worked on the re-election campaign of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican. Shortly after 9/11, the aspiring novelist suddenly decided to do his part for society, moving in 2002 from Queens to Washington, and quickly found himself “helping draft the 9/11 Commission report as well as the Iraq Study Group report.” The Times, of course, does not think it is worth pointing out how strange this is. It is almost as if all 24-year-olds with no apparent credentials of any kind go directly to explaining the most massively controversial and complex set of circumstances to the American people.
Haaretz.com, Obama's Israeli Columbia classmates don't recall the young president, Judy Martz, March 15, 2013. President Obama, in Israel for his first official visit, graduated college in 1983; yet, none of the 25 or so alumni of his class who are now living in Israel remember laying eyes on him.
New York Post, Military-style drones will patrol NYC: Bloomberg, David Seifman, March 22, 2013. Like it or not, the eye in the sky will soon be following your every move, according to Mayor Bloomberg, left. "You can't keep the tides from coming in," the mayor remarked when asked about drones on his weekly radio show. "We're going to have more visibility and less privacy. I just don't see how you could stop that." The NYPD already has cameras mounted at strategic locations around the city and there's no reason, by the mayor's reckoning, that they have to attached to light poles. "It's scary. What's the difference if a drone is up in the air or on a building," he said. "I mean, intellectually, I have trouble making a distinction. And you know you're going to have face recognition software. People are working on that." The mayor put the timeframe for an all-seeing society at about five years, when he estimated "there'll be cameras every place."
New York Times, After the Flimflam, Paul Krugman, March 14, 2013. It has been a big week for budget documents. In fact, members of Congress have presented not one but two full-fledged, serious proposals for spending and taxes over the next decade. Before I get to that, however, let me talk briefly about the third proposal presented this week — the one that isn’t serious, that’s essentially a cruel joke. Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan, right, as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man. Even then, his proposals were obviously fraudulent: huge cuts in aid to the poor, but even bigger tax cuts for the rich, with all the assertions of fiscal responsibility resting on claims that he would raise trillions of dollars by closing tax loopholes (which he refused to specify) and cutting discretionary spending (in ways he refused to specify). The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome. This time around, quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves.
FireDogLake, First Female Head of CIA’s Clandestine Service Signed Off on Destruction of Torture Tapes, Kevin Gosztola, March 27, 2013. One week before John Brennan assumed office as CIA director, a woman was put in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service. It was the first time in the history of the agency that a female officer was running the agency. But, according to the Washington Post, the officer was one of two CIA officers who signed off on the destruction of torture tapes in 2005. See also: CounterPunch, Why John Yoo and Other Top Administration Lawyers Should be Investigated for War Crimes Under U.S. Law Torture is Always Illegal, Marjorie Cohn, May 6, 2008.
Americans’ Economic Prospects And Civil Liberties Have Been Stolen, Paul Craig Roberts, March 24, 2013. I receive numerous questions from readers about our economic situation and the condition of civil liberty. There is no way I can answer so many inquiries, and no need. I have written two books that provide the answers, and they are inexpensive. I have done my job. It is up to you to inform yourself. Kindle Reader software is available as a free online download that permits you to read ebooks in your own web browser.