Dec 27

Obama’s Gift to Al-Qaida, Support for Tyranny, and FBI Monitoring of Dissent



Nothing will change to make a better world until there is an independent, public interest mass media source which allows criticism of the ruling Forces of Greed and their National Security State. An ignorant public is a controlled public, which is why a handful of giant, transnational corporations that don’t give a damn about this country or its people have bought up the mass media for control.

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner notified Congress yesterday that we will hit the debt ceiling on New Years Eve, as we slide toward the edge of the very scary fiscal cliff. This appears to be one last attempt to convince Congress to accept President Obama’s austerity program.

The latest polling shows that corporate media have been successful in convincing the masses we have to all sacrifice what little goes to the American people from their taxes in order to maintain the massive tax breaks for the transnational investors and corporations who now pay a tiny fraction of what they paid fifty years ago, coupled with a thousand foreign military bases, numerous wars, massive corporate welfare and other untouchable programs the masses are not supposed to notice, as fear is stoked about a fiscal cliff. Our mass media seem to be shamelessly saying, “quick, grab grandma’s cat food,” and about half the population has bought the scam.



The first casualty of war is the truth, and attempting to discover the truth during war is difficult at best. Western media, including al Jazeera, drumbeat that the Syrian government is evil, and wonderful humanitarian-minded Syrian dissidents are nobly attempting to overthrow it. It is the same media line used in Libya, and many of the “Syrian dissidents” are the same people our mass media defined as “Libyan dissidents” in that overthrow.

Russians are upset, having been duped in the UN Security Council to vote for the assault on Libya after being told the lie that it was not about regime change, and that wouldn’t be part of the deal. They later discovered that was in fact what was planned when terrorists from all over the Middle East were unleashed on the government of Libya.

This time the Russians and Chinese are dragging their feet even after terrorists have been unleashed on the Syrian people, asking for dialogue. They have received no support from the USA, which prefers guns and bombs to diplomacy (and pretty much always has, though we used to do it quietly, behind the scenes, as in the case of putting the Shah on the throne in Iran, Generals in charge of Guatemala etc.).

Russian news, this morning, gives a very different view of what’s happening in Syria, much of it opinion and fact not allowed in our corporate viewpoint mass media.

The week between Christmas and New Years Day is always the slowest period for news, with many writers on vacation or stringing long weekends together. Glenn Greenwald took the time to write a blockbuster of a column, as he often does, about odds and ends, that we find to be worth recommending.

Of particular interest, mixed with current events and the long-running creation of terrorists by our government, is the portion about al Jazeera selling out, as we’ve noticed more than ever in recent years. We’ve linked to articles of theirs fewer times in the last year than ever, finding much of what they do these days to be propaganda which could as easily have come from Hillary’s State Department.

The reason for this, beyond that which Greenwald reveals, is that al Jazeera wants to crack the US TV market. Most Americans get their TV through their local monopoly cable company, and most markets in the Land of the Free have al Jazeera blacked out. The only path to American cable company access is fealty to the National Security State viewpoint. Al Jazeera will be on American TV sets when they have knelt and kissed butt long enough to prove their fealty, and they are currently on their knees kissing butt in expectation of recognition, a shadow of their former self –Jack Balkwill

Obama’s Gift to Al-Qaida, Support for Tyranny, and FBI Monitoring of Dissent

Numerous individual events from this week alone signify important trends in US government policy


by Glenn Greenwald
This week will likely entail light posting, but here are several items worthy of note:

(1) I can’t recall any one news article that so effectively conveys both the gross immorality and the strategic stupidity of Obama’s drone attacks as this one from Monday’s Washington Post by Sudarsan Raghavan. It details how the US-supported Yemeni dictatorship lies to its public each time the US kills Yemeni civilians with a drone attack, and how these civilian-killing attacks are relentlessly (and predictably) driving Yemenis to support al-Qaida and devote themselves to anti-American militancy:

“Since the attack, militants in the tribal areas surrounding Radda have gained more recruits and supporters in their war against the Yemeni government and its key backer, the United States. The two survivors and relatives of six victims, interviewed separately and speaking to a Western journalist about the incident for the first time, expressed willingness to support or even fight alongside AQAP, as the al-Qaeda group is known.

“‘Our entire village is angry at the government and the Americans,’ Mohammed said. ‘If the Americans are responsible, I would have no choice but to sympathize with al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda is fighting America.’

“Public outrage is also growing as calls for accountability, transparency and compensation go unanswered amid allegations by human rights activists and lawmakers that the government is trying to cover up the attack to protect its relationship with Washington. Even senior Yemeni officials said they fear that the backlash could undermine their authority.

“‘If we are ignored and neglected, I would try to take my revenge. I would even hijack an army pickup, drive it back to my village and hold the soldiers in it hostages,’ said Nasser Mabkhoot Mohammed al-Sabooly, the truck’s driver, 45, who suffered burns and bruises. ‘I would fight along al-Qaeda’s side against whoever was behind this attack.'”

Similarly, the LA Times has a long article on drone attacks in Yemen and quotes Ahmed al Zurqua, an expert on Islamic militants, explaining the obvious: “The drones have not killed the real Al Qaeda leaders, but they have increased the hatred toward America and are causing young men to join Al Qaeda to retaliate.”

History will surely record that one of the most moronic collective questions ever posed is “Why do they hate us?” – where the “they” are: “those we continuously bomb and kill and whose dictators we prop up.” Noting the two US drone attacks on December 24 in his country, the 23-year-old Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana asked: “Two US drone strikes in Yemen today. Should we consider them a Christmas gift?!” That’s exactly what al-Qaida undoubtedly considers them to be.

(2) Speaking of the “why-do-they-hate-us?” question, the Bahraini democracy activist Zainab al-Khawaja has a powerful Op-Ed in the New York Times detailing the extreme brutality and repression of the regime against its own citizens, and explaining the self-destructive though steadfast support for that regime by the US and its close Saudi allies:

“But despite all these sacrifices, the struggle for freedom and democracy in Bahrain seems hopeless because Bahrain’s rulers have powerful allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United States.

“For Bahrainis, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the Saudis and the Americans. Both are supporting the Khalifa regime to preserve their own interests, even if the cost is the lives and rights of the people of Bahrain.

“The United States speaks about supporting human rights and democracy, but while the Saudis send troops to aid the Khalifa government, America is sending arms. The United States is doing itself a huge disservice by displaying such an obvious double standard toward human rights violations in the Middle East. Washington condemns the violence of the Syrian government but turns a blind eye to blatant human rights abuses committed by its ally Bahrain.

“This double standard is costing America its credibility across the region; and the message being understood is that if you are an ally of America, then you can get away with abusing human rights.”

With rare exceptions, the only people delusional and naive enough to believe the US is serious about its “commitment-to-human-rights” rhetoric – as opposed to exploiting human rights concerns as a tool to undermine regimes it dislikes – are found in the west. In the regions where the US enthusiastically supports even the most repressive regimes provided those regimes show fealty to US dictates, the stench of this hypocrisy, of this radical dishonesty, is so potent that it cannot be evaded.

But it is an extraordinary testament to the power of propaganda that one constantly finds westerners claiming with a straight face that the same country that hugs and props up the Saudis, the Bahrainis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis and so many others is committed to undermining tyranny and spreading freedom and democracy. Or, as Hillary Clinton put it in 2009: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.”

(3) The long-time Berlin correspondent for Al Jazeera, Aktham Suliman, recently resigned, and he explains in this rather amazing interview that he did so because the regime in Qatar, which owns the network, has been increasingly shaping and dictating the news network’s coverage of events to advance the regime’s interests. In particular, he cites Al Jazeera’s coverage of the conflicts in Libya and Syria which, he says, has been systematically distorted in order to justify the wars which the Qataris seek against the dictators in those countries which they dislike:

“Of course Muammar Gadhafi was a dictator, and of course he’d ruled for far too long. Of course there was a desire among the Libyans to get rid of him. All that is clear. But it’s also clear that killing a dictator, as happened with Gadhafi, is absolutely unacceptable on human rights grounds, revolution or no. And that’s not emphasized. That is: We stressed the necessity of a revolution in Libya and the humanity of the revolutionaries, but said nothing about the murder of a dictator.

“What should also give us pause for thought is that it wasn’t just Gadhafi who was killed. Many others were killed after him – including, incidentally, the man who shot Gadhafi. He was killed by another group of revolutionaries. That’s the actual environment in Libya. And that’s exactly what you don’t see on today’s Al Jazeera. That’s not professional.

“In Syria, too, society is divided. You have the pro-Assad people, and those who are against him. However, when you make one side out to be mass murderers and turn the others into saints you’re fueling the conflict, not presenting the situation in an appropriate and balanced way. There are murders, injustices and good things on both sides. But you don’t see that on Al Jazeera. My problem is and was: When I see Al Jazeera’s Syrian coverage, I don’t really understand what’s going on there. And that’s the first thing I expect from journalism.”

As was true of Saddam, there is no question that Gadhafi and Assad have committed atrocities. But just as was true in Iraq, that does not justify the grossly simplistic propaganda that distorts rather than clarifies what the realities in those countries are.

(4) Documents just obtained from the FBI by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund reveal, as the New York Times put it, that “the [FBI] used counterterrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street movement, including its communications and planning” and in general show “how deeply involved federal law-enforcement authorities were in monitoring the activities of the movement.” The heavily redacted documents, which can be read here, reveal numerous instances of the FBI collaborating with local police forces and private corporations to monitor and anticipate the acts of the protest movement.

As obviously disturbing as it is, none of this should be surprising. Virtually every seized power justified over the last decade in the name of “terrorism” has been applied to a wide range of domestic dissent. The most significant civil liberties trend of the last decade, in my view, is the importation of War on Terror tactics onto US soil, applied to US citizens – from the sprawling Surveillance State and powers of indefinite detention to the para-militarization of domestic police forces and the rapidly emerging fleet of drones now being deployed in countless ways. As I’ve argued previously, the true purpose of this endless expansion of state power in the name of “terrorism” is control over anticipated domestic protest and unrest.

It should be anything but surprising that the FBI – drowning in counter-terrorism money, power and other resources – will apply the term “terrorism” to any group it dislikes and wants to control and suppress (thus ushering in all of the powers institutionalized against “terrorists”). Those who supported (or acquiesced to) this expansion of unaccountable government power because they assumed it would only be used against Those Muslims not only embraced a morally warped premise (I care about injustices only if they directly affect me), but also a factually false one, since abuses of power always – always – expand beyond their original application.

(5) At the excellent online journal Jadaliyya, Max Ajl has a very interesting essay that presents a much different view on the debate over the Chuck Hagel nomination specifically, and on US policy toward Iran and Israel more broadly. I don’t necessarily endorse his argument, but it’s well-argued, provocative and highly worth reading.

(6) After film critics almost unanimously gushed over Zero Dark Thirty and showered it with every accolade they could get their hands on, the list of writers, commentators, officials and others who have denounced the film for its favorable (and false) depiction of torture has grown quite rapidly. Here is the most updated list of just some of those critics; if you read just one of these essays, I’d recommend this by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

In an LA Times Op-Ed strongly condemning the film, Terry McDermott reports that, at one point, FBI agents were chasing around geese in Central Park because Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, under torture, had told his CIA interrogators that al-Qaida “had explosives stuffed up their ass”. Had Zero Dark Thirty included a depiction of that scene, it at least would have been mildly more entertaining, offering some redeeming value for this film. As is, there is basically none.


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