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The Purpose And The Pretence - Bombing Isis

Media Lens - Mið, 24/09/2014 - 10:59

 

Tom Bradby, ITV News political editor, nutshelled the media zeitgeist in a single tweet:

'I am not at all religious, but I can't help feeling there may be a seventh circle of hell reserved somewhere for Jihadi John [the killer of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines].'

For 'Jihadi John' and the West's close allies in Saudi Arabia, perhaps, where 'scheduled beheading reflects authorities' callous disregard to human rights', according to Amnesty International.

Bradby's comment indicates just how rapidly Isis has come to represent nothing less than Pure Evil for the state-corporate media. Or as Mehdi Hasan, political director of Huffington Post, commented (without irony):

'Isis, in other words, is evil. Scum. The worst of the worst. Unique, to borrow Obama's phrase, in its brutality.'

Traditionally, claims that an Official Enemy is uniquely Evil rise to a deafening crescendo just prior to an attack on that enemy. In late 2002, a former intelligence officer told John Pilger that the flood of government terror warnings at the time were 'a softening up process' ahead of an attack on Iraq and 'a lying game on a huge scale'. (Pilger, 'Lies, damned lies, and government terror warnings,' Daily Mirror, December 3, 2002)

Sure enough, the US and various unsavoury allies this week began a bombing campaign ostensibly against Isis in Syria. As Jonathan Cook notes, the attack has taken place without a UN Security Council resolution or any serious argument that the US is acting in self-defence:

'That makes it a crime of aggression, defined at Nuremberg as "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".'

Compared to Obama - now embarking on his seventh war - George W. Bush appears a paragon of virtue, having at least troubled with UN resolutions. Bush commented in March 2003:

'The world needs [Saddam Hussein] to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed as required by Resolution 1441? Or has it not?'

Early reports estimated that eight Syrian civilians had been killed in the latest bombing raids by US militants. The BBC buried a reference to the killings in a ten-word sentence in the middle of a news report:

'Eight civilians, including three children, were reported to have died.'

Bad enough that civilians 'died', but how much worse if they had been killed by Britain's leading ally.

A September 4 search of the Nexis media database for mentions of 'Isis' (Islamic State) and its alternative title, 'Isil', found the following mentions:

January 1 - May 31, 2014, CNN mentioned 'Isis/Isil' 110 times.

June 1 - August 31, 2014, CNN mentioned 'Isis/Isil' 1,465 times.

Between these same dates, the New York Times mentioned 'Isis/Isil' 89 times and 389 times, respectively. (David Peterson, email to Media Lens, September 4, 2014)

Much of this coverage has of course focused on Isis beheadings, massacres and other crimes - self-declared and alleged - in Iraq and Syria.

Absent from most media coverage is the recognition that these conflicts have been characterised by appalling violence on all sides. A curious omission, given that the same media have focused intensively on gruesome atrocities committed, for example, by the pro-Assad 'shabiha' militia in Syria, alleged to have been responsible for the May 2012 Houla massacre.

In the last three years, Lexis media database finds 933 UK national newspaper articles mentioning 'shabiha'. In the last twelve months, there have been just 28 mentions, with 19 this year (Media Lens search, September 15, 2014). Yet another Damascene conversion, it would seem, just as the Western state-corporate media crosshairs moved from Assad to Isis.

Similarly, while it is true that Sunni forces, including Isis, have committed horrific crimes in Iraq, Sunnis have also suffered terribly. A recent New York Times headline made the point: 'Sunnis in Iraq Often See Their Government as the Bigger Threat.' The report explained:

'Iraq's Sunnis vividly recall how militias linked to the governing Shiite parties staged attacks against Sunnis during the worst years of the sectarian conflict last decade, often in cooperation with Iraq's military and police forces, or while wearing their uniforms.

'Mr. Maliki [former Iraqi president] was criticized for his inability or unwillingness to dismantle the groups, hardening Sunni mistrust of the government.'

Investigative journalist Scott Peterson added some background:

'From the indiscriminate bombing of Sunni areas... to large numbers of languishing detainees, many Sunnis say the roots of discontent are obvious, and have resulted in support for groups as radical as IS.'

While the tit-for-tat nature of Sunni-Shia tortures, disappearances and massacres was extensively covered during the US-UK occupation, it is rarely mentioned now in media condemnations of Isis.

In fact, arguing that the West should 'degrade and ultimately destroy' Isis on the basis of its human rights record, without mentioning the context, is like arguing that Britain and America should have been wiped out for their conventional and atomic bombing of cities packed with civilians in the Second World War without mentioning German and Japanese crimes. Indeed, to be consistent, the West should be arguing that much of the Middle East and all members of the 'coalition of the willing' should be degraded and destroyed for committing atrocities.

In reality, of course, the attack on Isis is not about preventing atrocities. As Glenn Greenwald notes, 'the U.S. does not bomb countries for humanitarian objectives. Humanitarianism is the pretense, not the purpose'.

We wonder if state-corporate propagandists are able to reflect on the irony that even before two US journalists were murdered, the US had sent bombers half-way around the world to kill Isis fighters. And yet, over the last three years, the West has tirelessly condemned the actions of the Syrian government in a literal war for survival against Isis and other foreign-backed 'rebel' groups, on Syrian soil – a war that is alleged to have cost 190,000 lives, including 50,000 Syrian government forces. Certainly Assad's troops have committed appalling war crimes. But one can barely imagine the scale of the US reaction if Isis had wreaked even a tiny fraction of this death and destruction on its homeland and forces, much less threatened its very survival.

The Purpose And The Pretence - Bombing Isis

Media Lens - Mið, 24/09/2014 - 10:59

 

Tom Bradby, ITV News political editor, nutshelled the media zeitgeist in a single tweet:

'I am not at all religious, but I can't help feeling there may be a seventh circle of hell reserved somewhere for Jihadi John [the killer of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines].'

For 'Jihadi John' and the West's close allies in Saudi Arabia, perhaps, where 'scheduled beheading reflects authorities' callous disregard to human rights', according to Amnesty International.

Bradby's comment indicates just how rapidly Isis has come to represent nothing less than Pure Evil for the state-corporate media. Or as Mehdi Hasan, political director of Huffington Post, commented (without irony):

'Isis, in other words, is evil. Scum. The worst of the worst. Unique, to borrow Obama's phrase, in its brutality.'

Traditionally, claims that an Official Enemy is uniquely Evil rise to a deafening crescendo just prior to an attack on that enemy. In late 2002, a former intelligence officer told John Pilger that the flood of government terror warnings at the time were 'a softening up process' ahead of an attack on Iraq and 'a lying game on a huge scale'. (Pilger, 'Lies, damned lies, and government terror warnings,' Daily Mirror, December 3, 2002)

Sure enough, the US and various unsavoury allies this week began a bombing campaign ostensibly against Isis in Syria. As Jonathan Cook notes, the attack has taken place without a UN Security Council resolution or any serious argument that the US is acting in self-defence:

'That makes it a crime of aggression, defined at Nuremberg as "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".'

Compared to Obama - now embarking on his seventh war - George W. Bush appears a paragon of virtue, having at least troubled with UN resolutions. Bush commented in March 2003:

'The world needs [Saddam Hussein] to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed as required by Resolution 1441? Or has it not?'

Early reports estimated that eight Syrian civilians had been killed in the latest bombing raids by US militants. The BBC buried a reference to the killings in a ten-word sentence in the middle of a news report:

'Eight civilians, including three children, were reported to have died.'

Bad enough that civilians 'died', but how much worse if they had been killed by Britain's leading ally.

A September 4 search of the Nexis media database for mentions of 'Isis' (Islamic State) and its alternative title, 'Isil', found the following mentions:

January 1 - May 31, 2014, CNN mentioned 'Isis/Isil' 110 times.

June 1 - August 31, 2014, CNN mentioned 'Isis/Isil' 1,465 times.

Between these same dates, the New York Times mentioned 'Isis/Isil' 89 times and 389 times, respectively. (David Peterson, email to Media Lens, September 4, 2014)

Much of this coverage has of course focused on Isis beheadings, massacres and other crimes - self-declared and alleged - in Iraq and Syria.

Absent from most media coverage is the recognition that these conflicts have been characterised by appalling violence on all sides. A curious omission, given that the same media have focused intensively on gruesome atrocities committed, for example, by the pro-Assad 'shabiha' militia in Syria, alleged to have been responsible for the May 2012 Houla massacre.

In the last three years, Lexis media database finds 933 UK national newspaper articles mentioning 'shabiha'. In the last twelve months, there have been just 28 mentions, with 19 this year (Media Lens search, September 15, 2014). Yet another Damascene conversion, it would seem, just as the Western state-corporate media crosshairs moved from Assad to Isis.

Similarly, while it is true that Sunni forces, including Isis, have committed horrific crimes in Iraq, Sunnis have also suffered terribly. A recent New York Times headline made the point: 'Sunnis in Iraq Often See Their Government as the Bigger Threat.' The report explained:

'Iraq's Sunnis vividly recall how militias linked to the governing Shiite parties staged attacks against Sunnis during the worst years of the sectarian conflict last decade, often in cooperation with Iraq's military and police forces, or while wearing their uniforms.

'Mr. Maliki [former Iraqi president] was criticized for his inability or unwillingness to dismantle the groups, hardening Sunni mistrust of the government.'

Investigative journalist Scott Peterson added some background:

'From the indiscriminate bombing of Sunni areas... to large numbers of languishing detainees, many Sunnis say the roots of discontent are obvious, and have resulted in support for groups as radical as IS.'

While the tit-for-tat nature of Sunni-Shia tortures, disappearances and massacres was extensively covered during the US-UK occupation, it is rarely mentioned now in media condemnations of Isis.

In fact, arguing that the West should 'degrade and ultimately destroy' Isis on the basis of its human rights record, without mentioning the context, is like arguing that Britain and America should have been wiped out for their conventional and atomic bombing of cities packed with civilians in the Second World War without mentioning German and Japanese crimes. Indeed, to be consistent, the West should be arguing that much of the Middle East and all members of the 'coalition of the willing' should be degraded and destroyed for committing atrocities.

In reality, of course, the attack on Isis is not about preventing atrocities. As Glenn Greenwald notes, 'the U.S. does not bomb countries for humanitarian objectives. Humanitarianism is the pretense, not the purpose'.

We wonder if state-corporate propagandists are able to reflect on the irony that even before two US journalists were murdered, the US had sent bombers half-way around the world to kill Isis fighters. And yet, over the last three years, the West has tirelessly condemned the actions of the Syrian government in a literal war for survival against Isis and other foreign-backed 'rebel' groups, on Syrian soil – a war that is alleged to have cost 190,000 lives, including 50,000 Syrian government forces. Certainly Assad's troops have committed appalling war crimes. But one can barely imagine the scale of the US reaction if Isis had wreaked even a tiny fraction of this death and destruction on its homeland and forces, much less threatened its very survival.

‘Dark Omens’ And ‘Horror Shows’: Scottish Independence, Power And Propaganda

Media Lens - Mán, 15/09/2014 - 00:06

Established power hates uncertainty, especially any threat to its grip on the political, economic and financial levers that control society. And so it is with elite fears that the United Kingdom, formed by the 1707 Acts of Union, could be on the verge of unravelling.

No informed commentator doubts that elite interests will do all they can to maintain hegemony in an independent Scotland, should that historic shift occur following the referendum of September 18. But if it does happen, there will likely be significant consequences for the Trident nuclear missile system, the future of the NHS and the welfare state, education, climate policy, energy generation and other industry sectors, the media and many additional issues; not just in Scotland, but beyond, including Nato and the European Union. There is clearly a lot at stake and established power is concerned.

Just over a week ago, to the consternation of Westminster elites and their cheerleaders in media circles, a YouGov opinion poll showed that the 'Yes' vote (51%) had edged ahead of 'No' (49%) for the first time in the campaign, having at one point trailed by 22%. The Observer noted 'signs of panic and recrimination among unionist ranks', adding that 'the no campaign is desperately searching for ways to seize back the initiative'. The panic was marked by 'intensive cross-party talks' and underpinned George Osborne's announcement on the BBC Andrew Marr show on September 7 that 'a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland' in the event of a No vote would be detailed in the coming days.

Confusion reigned in the Unionist camp, and in media reporting of their befuddlement. According to the rules governing the referendum, the UK and Scottish governments are forbidden from publishing anything which might affect the outcome during the so-called 'purdah period' of 28 days leading up to September 18. So, how to reconcile the opportunistic 'promise' during purdah to grant Scotland new powers following a 'No' vote? BBC News dutifully reported the government sleight-of-hand that:

'the offer would come from the pro-Union parties, not the government itself.'

Voters, then, were supposed to swallow the fiction that the announcement came, not from the UK government represented by Chancellor George Osborne, but from the pro-Union parties represented by senior Tory minister George Osborne!

However, Alastair Darling, leader of the pro-Union 'Better Together' campaign, told Sky News that all new powers for Scotland had already been placed on the table before the purdah period. What had been announced was 'merely... a timetable for when the Scottish Parliament could expect to be given the limited powers already forthcoming.'

Thus, an announcement setting out a timetable for enhanced powers was completely above board and not at all designed to influence the very close vote on independence. This was establishment sophistry and a deeply cynical manipulation of the voters.

Media manipulation was exposed in stark form when Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, was rumbled by viewers able to compare his highly selective editing of an Alex Salmond press conference last Thursday with what had actually transpired. Robinson had asked Salmond a two-part question about supposedly solid claims made by company bosses and bankers -  'men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits' - that independence would damage the Scottish economy. Not only did the full version of the encounter demonstrate that Salmond responded comprehensively, but he turned the tables on Robinson by calling into question the BBC's role as an 'impartial' public broadcaster. The self-serving report that was broadcast that night by Robinson on BBC News at Ten did not reflect the encounter which the political editor summed up misleadingly as:

'He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting.' 

The distorted BBC News reporting was picked up on social media and no doubt encapsulated what many viewers and listeners, particularly in Scotland, have been observing for months, if not years. One reader wrote an excellent email to us in which he said:

'Honestly, this is just ONE example of pathetic bias which more and more Scots are seeing through. I've long been a follower of your site, and I make a point of reading each and every alert. This is the first time I've taken to contacting you, and as I said, I imagine lots of others will be doing just that on the same subject.

'I've seen so much media bias with BBC Scotland since the turn of the year, but it's now getting to laughable proportions. And now that we have the entire London press-mafia crawling all over it too, it's daily headline news - all doom and gloom about how Scotland will fail, Scotland will be bankrupt, there's no more oil left, jobs will go, etc etc. It's been diabolical.'

The BBC's dismissive response to the public complaints about Robinson's skewed report concluded with the usual worn-out boilerplate text:

'the overall report [was] balanced and impartial, in line with our editorial guidelines.'

It is not only the bias in BBC News reporting that has alienated so many people, but the way the public broadcaster fails to adequately address public complaints - on any number of issues.

‘Dark Omens’ And ‘Horror Shows’: Scottish Independence, Power And Propaganda

Media Lens - Mán, 15/09/2014 - 00:06

Established power hates uncertainty, especially any threat to its grip on the political, economic and financial levers that control society. And so it is with elite fears that the United Kingdom, formed by the 1707 Acts of Union, could be on the verge of unravelling.

No informed commentator doubts that elite interests will do all they can to maintain hegemony in an independent Scotland, should that historic shift occur following the referendum of September 18. But if it does happen, there will likely be significant consequences for the Trident nuclear missile system, the future of the NHS and the welfare state, education, climate policy, energy generation and other industry sectors, the media and many additional issues; not just in Scotland, but beyond, including Nato and the European Union. There is clearly a lot at stake and established power is concerned.

Just over a week ago, to the consternation of Westminster elites and their cheerleaders in media circles, a YouGov opinion poll showed that the 'Yes' vote (51%) had edged ahead of 'No' (49%) for the first time in the campaign, having at one point trailed by 22%. The Observer noted 'signs of panic and recrimination among unionist ranks', adding that 'the no campaign is desperately searching for ways to seize back the initiative'. The panic was marked by 'intensive cross-party talks' and underpinned George Osborne's announcement on the BBC Andrew Marr show on September 7 that 'a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland' in the event of a No vote would be detailed in the coming days.

Confusion reigned in the Unionist camp, and in media reporting of their befuddlement. According to the rules governing the referendum, the UK and Scottish governments are forbidden from publishing anything which might affect the outcome during the so-called 'purdah period' of 28 days leading up to September 18. So, how to reconcile the opportunistic 'promise' during purdah to grant Scotland new powers following a 'No' vote? BBC News dutifully reported the government sleight-of-hand that:

'the offer would come from the pro-Union parties, not the government itself.'

Voters, then, were supposed to swallow the fiction that the announcement came, not from the UK government represented by Chancellor George Osborne, but from the pro-Union parties represented by senior Tory minister George Osborne!

However, Alastair Darling, leader of the pro-Union 'Better Together' campaign, told Sky News that all new powers for Scotland had already been placed on the table before the purdah period. What had been announced was 'merely... a timetable for when the Scottish Parliament could expect to be given the limited powers already forthcoming.'

Thus, an announcement setting out a timetable for enhanced powers was completely above board and not at all designed to influence the very close vote on independence. This was establishment sophistry and a deeply cynical manipulation of the voters.

Media manipulation was exposed in stark form when Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, was rumbled by viewers able to compare his highly selective editing of an Alex Salmond press conference last Thursday with what had actually transpired. Robinson had asked Salmond a two-part question about supposedly solid claims made by company bosses and bankers -  'men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits' - that independence would damage the Scottish economy. Not only did the full version of the encounter demonstrate that Salmond responded comprehensively, but he turned the tables on Robinson by calling into question the BBC's role as an 'impartial' public broadcaster. The self-serving report that was broadcast that night by Robinson on BBC News at Ten did not reflect the encounter which the political editor summed up misleadingly as:

'He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting.' 

The distorted BBC News reporting was picked up on social media and no doubt encapsulated what many viewers and listeners, particularly in Scotland, have been observing for months, if not years. One reader wrote an excellent email to us in which he said:

'Honestly, this is just ONE example of pathetic bias which more and more Scots are seeing through. I've long been a follower of your site, and I make a point of reading each and every alert. This is the first time I've taken to contacting you, and as I said, I imagine lots of others will be doing just that on the same subject.

'I've seen so much media bias with BBC Scotland since the turn of the year, but it's now getting to laughable proportions. And now that we have the entire London press-mafia crawling all over it too, it's daily headline news - all doom and gloom about how Scotland will fail, Scotland will be bankrupt, there's no more oil left, jobs will go, etc etc. It's been diabolical.'

The BBC's dismissive response to the public complaints about Robinson's skewed report concluded with the usual worn-out boilerplate text:

'the overall report [was] balanced and impartial, in line with our editorial guidelines.'

It is not only the bias in BBC News reporting that has alienated so many people, but the way the public broadcaster fails to adequately address public complaints - on any number of issues.

Damascene Conversions - Isis, Assad And The Bombing Of Iraq

Media Lens - Mán, 01/09/2014 - 11:17

This time last year, Western corporate media were focused on a single, grave threat to human life and civilised values. An endless stream of atrocity claims – some real, some fabricated with 'evidence' posted on YouTube - depicted President Assad of Syria as the latest incarnation of Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, Gaddafi: namely, the Official Enemy to be targeted for destruction.

Once again, 'quality' media generated a sense of inevitability – this Enemy was also so monstrous that the US-UK alliance had to 'intervene', to 'act'. It later transpired that the plan was to 'completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had'.

The massacre claims were part of a rolling propaganda barrage intended to clear a path through public opposition to an attack. It was a close copy of the 1991 Gulf War media campaign described by the late historian Howard Zinn:

'The American population was bombarded the way the Iraqi population was bombarded. It was a war against us, a war of lies and disinformation and omission of history. That kind of war, overwhelming and devastating, waged here in the US while the Gulf War was waged over there.' (Zinn, Power, History and Warfare, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 8, 1991, p.12)

This summer, the Assad atrocity stories splashed across newspaper front pages and TV broadcasts for so long have mysteriously dried up. If the BBC website looked like this last year, it now looks like this, this and this. The Independent published an article with a title that would have been unthinkable even a few months ago:

'Putin may have been right about Syria all along - Many cautioned against the earlier insistence of the Obama administration that Assad must go'

Has the man universally loathed and reviled by corporate commentators undergone an appropriately Damascene conversion? A more prosaic explanation was supplied by the Financial Times:

'US and allies must join Assad to defeat Isis [Islamic State], warns British MP' (Sam Jones, Financial Times, August 21, 2014)

The MP in question, Sir Malcolm Rifkind - chairman of parliament's intelligence and security committee, and a former foreign secretary - declared:

'"[Isis] need to be eliminated and we should not be squeamish about how we do it... Sometimes you have to develop relationships with people who are extremely nasty in order to get rid of people who are even nastier."'

One year ago, Rifkind called for a 'military strike' on Syria of 'a significant kind':

'If we don't make that effort to punish and deter, then these actions will indeed continue.'

Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army, observed last month:

'The old saying "my enemy's enemy is my friend" has begun to have some resonance with our relationship in Iran and I think it is going to have to have some resonance with our relationship with Assad.'

Again, unthinkable in the recent past, when Media Lens was smeared as 'pro-Assad' for challenging obviously suspect, warmongering claims.

Fighters hailed by the media last year as heroic 'rebels' opposing Assad's army are now decidedly 'jihadists'. In 2012, the New York Times reported:

'Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists...'.

Assad, it seems, is yesterday's 'bad guy' - Isis is the new 'threat'. On this, almost every media commentator appears to agree. A Guardian leader of August 11, commented:

'President Obama had no real alternative to the air strikes he ordered last week against Islamic State (Isis) forces... Quite apart from the threat to the future of Iraq as a whole, the US and Britain have a humanitarian duty to the endangered minorities, and a debt of honour to the Kurds.'

It is pretty remarkable that journalists are still able to believe (presumably dismissing Gaza as a blip) that US-UK foreign policy is guided by notions of 'duty' and 'honour'. The UK's leading 'liberal-left' newspaper is apparently not appalled by the prospect that the killers of half a million children through sanctions and in excess of one million people as a result of the 2003 invasion are once again affecting to 'help' Iraq. Why, because the editors can perceive 'ignorance and incompetence' in Western actions but not self-interested criminality. Thus, for the Guardian, 'America is right to intervene.'

The editors offered the vaguest of nods in the direction of one of the great bloodbaths of modern times:

'After all that has passed in recent years, hesitation about any kind of intervention in the Middle East is entirely understandable. But the desperate plight of the Iraqi minorities and the potentially very serious threat to the Kurds surely warrants a fundamental reconsideration.'

Alternatively, 'all that has passed in recent years' might provoke 'a fundamental reconsideration' of the idea that the US-UK alliance is guided by concern for the plight of Iraqi minorities.

As Steve Coll wrote in The New Yorker last month:

'ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms.'

Coll added sardonically:

'It's not about oil. After you've written that on the blackboard five hundred times, watch Rachel Maddow's documentary "Why We Did It" for a highly sophisticated yet pointed journalistic take on how the world oil economy has figured from the start as a silent partner in the Iraq fiasco.'

The conclusion:

'Obama's defense of Erbil is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal - as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example - are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company...'

Damascene Conversions - Isis, Assad And The Bombing Of Iraq

Media Lens - Mán, 01/09/2014 - 11:17

This time last year, Western corporate media were focused on a single, grave threat to human life and civilised values. An endless stream of atrocity claims – some real, some fabricated with 'evidence' posted on YouTube - depicted President Assad of Syria as the latest incarnation of Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, Gaddafi: namely, the Official Enemy to be targeted for destruction.

Once again, 'quality' media generated a sense of inevitability – this Enemy was also so monstrous that the US-UK alliance had to 'intervene', to 'act'. It later transpired that the plan was to 'completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had'.

The massacre claims were part of a rolling propaganda barrage intended to clear a path through public opposition to an attack. It was a close copy of the 1991 Gulf War media campaign described by the late historian Howard Zinn:

'The American population was bombarded the way the Iraqi population was bombarded. It was a war against us, a war of lies and disinformation and omission of history. That kind of war, overwhelming and devastating, waged here in the US while the Gulf War was waged over there.' (Zinn, Power, History and Warfare, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 8, 1991, p.12)

This summer, the Assad atrocity stories splashed across newspaper front pages and TV broadcasts for so long have mysteriously dried up. If the BBC website looked like this last year, it now looks like this, this and this. The Independent published an article with a title that would have been unthinkable even a few months ago:

'Putin may have been right about Syria all along - Many cautioned against the earlier insistence of the Obama administration that Assad must go'

Has the man universally loathed and reviled by corporate commentators undergone an appropriately Damascene conversion? A more prosaic explanation was supplied by the Financial Times:

'US and allies must join Assad to defeat Isis [Islamic State], warns British MP' (Sam Jones, Financial Times, August 21, 2014)

The MP in question, Sir Malcolm Rifkind - chairman of parliament's intelligence and security committee, and a former foreign secretary - declared:

'"[Isis] need to be eliminated and we should not be squeamish about how we do it... Sometimes you have to develop relationships with people who are extremely nasty in order to get rid of people who are even nastier."'

One year ago, Rifkind called for a 'military strike' on Syria of 'a significant kind':

'If we don't make that effort to punish and deter, then these actions will indeed continue.'

Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army, observed last month:

'The old saying "my enemy's enemy is my friend" has begun to have some resonance with our relationship in Iran and I think it is going to have to have some resonance with our relationship with Assad.'

Again, unthinkable in the recent past, when Media Lens was smeared as 'pro-Assad' for challenging obviously suspect, warmongering claims.

Fighters hailed by the media last year as heroic 'rebels' opposing Assad's army are now decidedly 'jihadists'. In 2012, the New York Times reported:

'Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists...'.

Assad, it seems, is yesterday's 'bad guy' - Isis is the new 'threat'. On this, almost every media commentator appears to agree. A Guardian leader of August 11, commented:

'President Obama had no real alternative to the air strikes he ordered last week against Islamic State (Isis) forces... Quite apart from the threat to the future of Iraq as a whole, the US and Britain have a humanitarian duty to the endangered minorities, and a debt of honour to the Kurds.'

It is pretty remarkable that journalists are still able to believe (presumably dismissing Gaza as a blip) that US-UK foreign policy is guided by notions of 'duty' and 'honour'. The UK's leading 'liberal-left' newspaper is apparently not appalled by the prospect that the killers of half a million children through sanctions and in excess of one million people as a result of the 2003 invasion are once again affecting to 'help' Iraq. Why, because the editors can perceive 'ignorance and incompetence' in Western actions but not self-interested criminality. Thus, for the Guardian, 'America is right to intervene.'

The editors offered the vaguest of nods in the direction of one of the great bloodbaths of modern times:

'After all that has passed in recent years, hesitation about any kind of intervention in the Middle East is entirely understandable. But the desperate plight of the Iraqi minorities and the potentially very serious threat to the Kurds surely warrants a fundamental reconsideration.'

Alternatively, 'all that has passed in recent years' might provoke 'a fundamental reconsideration' of the idea that the US-UK alliance is guided by concern for the plight of Iraqi minorities.

As Steve Coll wrote in The New Yorker last month:

'ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms.'

Coll added sardonically:

'It's not about oil. After you've written that on the blackboard five hundred times, watch Rachel Maddow's documentary "Why We Did It" for a highly sophisticated yet pointed journalistic take on how the world oil economy has figured from the start as a silent partner in the Iraq fiasco.'

The conclusion:

'Obama's defense of Erbil is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal - as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example - are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company...'

Plastkort, peningar og lýðræði

Gunnar Skúli bloggar - Þri, 26/08/2014 - 00:13

Stundum er sagt að ”fjármálavaldið” ráði mest öllu í þjóðfélagi okkar og mun meira en Alþingi. Þetta er satt en hvernig fer það að því, í hverju felast völd þess. Kjarninn í fjármálavaldinu eru bankarnir. Þeir búa til peningana. Þeir hafa einkaleyfi á því. Hið opinbera, fyrirtæki og almenningur verður að taka peninga að láni hjá bönkunum til að geta stundað sín viðskipti.
Peningar flytja verðmæti frá einum stað til annars. Svipað og fyrirfram greitt debet kort, þú setur ákveðna upphæð inná kortið þitt og nýtir hana seinna. Þetta plastkort geymir því verðmæti. Plastkortið flytur því verðmæti þín frá einum stað til annars og auk þess getur þú geymt peningana á kortinu að vild. Einnig er hægt að nota kortið til að greiða skatta til hins opinbera og þar með er þetta kort orðið ígildi peninga. Kostnaðurinn við kortið er einhver föst stærð óháð því hversu mikið þú setur inná það. Það sem ég er að reyna að segja er að miðillinn, kortið, er selt á kostnaðarverði.
Peningarnir sem við fáum hjá bönkunum eru eins og plastkortið. Hlutverk kortsins og peninganna er það sama, að flytja verðmæti okkar frá einum stað til annars, frá einum tíma til annars, að geyma verðmæti okkar. Það er þó einn mikilvægur munur því við fáum ekki peningana á kostnaðarverði. Á peningana er stimplaðar ákveðnar upphæðir eins og við þekkjum.
Plastkortið kostar nánast ekkert og peningar ættu ekki að kosta neitt heldur. Vandamálið er að bönkum tókst fyrir 300 árum að fá einkaleyfi á því að framleiða peninga og þar með verðleggja þá. Við fáum ekki peningana á kostnaðarverði hjá bönkunum heldur verðum við að taka þá að láni hjá þeim. Lánsupphæðin ákvarðast af þeirri upphæð sem stimpluð er á peningana. Ef við þurfum 1000 krónur þá þurfum við að fá þá að láni hjá bankanum og þegar við höfum greitt þá skuld höfum við borgað 1000 krónur fyrir 1000 króna seðilinn. Síðan getum við notað hann til að flytja verðmæti vinnu okkar frá einum stað til annars.
Þetta er ein aðferð til að framleiða peninga svo við getum átt í viðskiptum en hefur í för með sér óendalega mikla skuldasöfnun. Í raun skulda allir; einstaklingar, fyrirtæki og hið opinbera bönkunum. Auk þess eru það bankarnir sem ákveða hvað er framkvæmt því þeir skammta lánin til þeirra sem eru þeim þóknanlegir. Ef peningar væru búnir til án skuldsetningar af hinu opinbera þá værum við ekki jafn skuldum vafin og almenningur hefði aðgöngu að ákvörðunum um það hvernig við deilum út peningum.
Forseti í einhverju þriðja heims ríki fær ekki krónu lánaða hjá neinum banka heldur bara hjá Alþjóðagjaldeyrissjóðnum og fylgja þá oft ströng skilyrði með. Skiptir þá ekki máli þó stót hluti þjóðarinnar sé á vergangi vegna uppskerubrests og deyjandi úr hungri og þorsta. Viðkomandi land fær þróunarhjálp frá vesturveldunum sem er þó minni upphæð en landið borgar í afborganir af lánum til vesturveldanna.
Það væri mun gæfulegra ef viðkomandi ríki(og öll önnur) gæti framleitt sína peninga sjálft án milligöngu banka. Það gæti þá strax hafist handa við vatnsveitur og annað sem vinnur bug á hungri og þorsta, nægt er vinnuaflið, og greitt fyrir með peningum búnum til án skuldsetningar af hinu opinbera. Þar með væru peningar aftur komnir á sinn stall við að flytja verðmæti frá einum stað til annars án sérstakrar skuldsetningar. Þar með væru peningar aftur orðnir fjórða valdið í lýðræðisskipulagi okkar undir stjórn almennings en ekki fámennrar elítu einkarekinna banka.
Bankarnir yrðu af ofsagróða en við myndum höndla hið lýðræðislega vald aftur.

Hugsa, horfa og framkvæma svo

Gunnar Skúli bloggar - Mið, 20/08/2014 - 22:58

Var að glugga á netið og reyna að átta mig á tillögum Fylkisflokksins. Þar kennir margra grasa. Mikið er rætt um að við fáum betra líf og aukið réttlæti. Þar sem fyrrnefndar framfarir eru að mestu á kostnað elítunnar á Íslandi sem stjórnar fjórflokknum þá má gera ráð fyrir kröftugri andstöðu. Tel líklegast að ef Fylkisflokkurinn nær fram sínum tillögum á Alþingi þá verði hugmyndin felld í þjóðaratkvæðagreiðslu með sauðtryggum atkvæðum fjórflokksins. PR lið fjórflokssins mun sjá um það. Þannig fer um sjóferð þá.
Vil nú ekki vera úrtölumamaður góðra hugmynda né flykkja mér með elítunni gegn Fylkisflokknum. Þrátt fyrir góðan hug finnst mér hugmyndin með Fylkisflokknum vera uppgjöf fyrir verkefninu að betrumbæta íslenskt þjóðfélag. Má vera að hægt sé að kaupa norskan pakka með ”all inclusive” en slíkir pakkar eru oft dýrir og Norðmenn ekki þekktir fyrir aumingjaskap í viðskiptum.
Þar sem gera má ráð fyrir að hugmyndin komist ekki í gegnum þjóðratkvæðagreiðslu stöndum við eftir með ókláraða búsáhaldarbyltingu. Við erum búin að prófa alla fjórflokkana og virðast allir kjósendur þeirra og annarra sammála því að þeir hafi ekki staðið sig vel. Nú er mál að linni og að kjósendur axli sína ábyrgð, hugsi, horfi og framkvæmi svo. Ef ekki þá verður Fylkisflokkurinn; Gnarr taka tvö.
Eins og ég skil mannkynssöguna þá þurfum við að berjast og færa fórnir til að öðlast réttlæti. Afar okkar og ömmur brutu lög, týndu lífinu eða heilsu og lífsviðurværi til að færa okkur þau réttindi sem við höfum í dag. Ef við viljum meira réttlæti þá er þetta eina færa leiðin í dag sem fyrr. Ef þjóðin vill meira réttlæti þá þarf hún að taka sig taki og ákveða hvernig öllum þessum auði sem Ísland gefur sé dreift milli þegnannna.
Svo er náttúrulega hinn möguleikinn að velta sér upp úr öllum smjörklípunum og böðlast á Facebook elítunni til ánægju og yndisauka, eða sjálfum sér…

Ólafur þ z eða ég lenti ekki á þessum steini

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir bloggar - Mið, 20/08/2014 - 22:02

 

Ólafur þ z á hatt, eða svona hettu
svona skuplu, nei, svona húfu
nokkurskonar húfu
eins og mamman í kofa
kofanum á steininum
kannski fyrsta konan í kofa
á steini
með hvíta húfu, bundna undir hökunni
fyrsta konan með svoleiðis þar.

Ólafur þ z setur á sig húfuna,
hún heitir arfleiðin
Hann segir ég lenti ekki á þessari húfu, þessi húfa lenti á mér.
Með jafn marga fingur og konan átti börn
allavega þrjátíu, allavega fimmtán á hvorri hönd
eða kannski miklu fleiri.

Þá er hægt að byrja að hugsa,
kominn með húfuna og alla þessa putta.

Ólafur þ z með húfunu yfir hárinu
nú er þá hægt að byrja að hugsa og skrifa.

Ólafur þ z með fjarska marga putta
byrjar að skrifa.
Tekur um sláttuorfið
með öllum þessum þrjátíu fingrum
hann finnur fyrir titringnum
þetta er enginn smávegis titringur.
Hann lætur hendurnar óma
það er sónn í höndunum.
Ólafur þ z ber hendurnar upp að höfðinu
athugar slaufuna undir hökunni
leggur svo hendurnar að eyrunum,
þær óma, í þeim heyrist sónn:
átján til þrjátíu og sex milljarðar.
Hann tekur aftur um sláttuorfið
Ólafur skrifar og skrifar.

Ólafur þ z með þrjátíu fingur
húfan arfleið á höfðinu
titrari í höndunum
hann heldur um hann með í það minnsta fimmtán fingrum
eins og konan í kofa
hann heldur um hann eins og hún hefði gert,
fyrsta konan sem átti svoleiðis.
Ómur í höndunum,
sónn í höndunum.
Hann slær og slær
fingurnir titra
af slætti.

Ólafur þz horfir í spegil
hann ljómar,
húðin ljómar,
hann tekur um eyrun,
þau eru heit
eins og á konu.
Hann tekur af sér húfuna
blessaða arfleið, blessuð sértu,
þú lentir á mér
ég fékk þig í höfuðið
eins og stein,
mikil guðs mildi.
Ég fékk þig í höfuðið og á báðum höndum
uxu aukafingur
til að skrifa og skrifa
og slá og slá
átján milljarða af hekturum
útum allt
átján til þrjátíu og sex milljarða hektara af steinum
þá þarf að slá, þeir slá sig ekki sjálfir.

Ólafur þ z leggur frá sér sláttuorfið
hann leggur frá sér titrarann
búinn að slá
búinn að titra
búinn að skrifa
alveg búinn.

Ólafur þ z horfir í spegil
hann strýkur yfir hárið
fallegt eins og á konu,
með öllum þessum fingrum
hann lenti ekki á þessari húfu,
heldur hún á honum,
eins og steinn í hausinn
átján til þrjátíu og sex milljarðar steina í hausinn
engir smávegis steinar
í engan smávegis haus
sem ljómar ekkert smávegis
af engum smávegis hugsunum.


Ort í París undir miklum áhrifum frá Ólafi Þ Z  og Malcolm X.


Fréttir

Gunnar Skúli bloggar - Fös, 15/08/2014 - 21:59

Hvað eru fréttir? Hvað er mikilvægt fyrir almenning að vita um og ræða sín á milli. Ritstjórnarstefna fjölmiðils ákveður hvað er fréttnæmt eða ekki fyrir almenning. Þar sem stór hluti stærstu fjölmiðla heims er í eigu sömu aðila þá er það fámennur hópur og skoðanir þeirra sem skammta fréttir. ”Main stream” fréttir eru fréttir þeirra sem eiga miðlana og fjandsamleg yfirtaka á DV er kannski eitthvað í þessum dúr, hver veit. Það hentar er ekki Hr ”main stream” að það sé verið að bögga stjórnvöld sem að öllu jöfnu fylgja honum að málum. Að missa DV inn í heilaþvottaskrif elítunnar væri skaði. Það er frétt.

án titils

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir bloggar - Mán, 11/08/2014 - 22:53

Þetta kvæði er tileinkað konunum í Sjálfstæðisflokknum. Það er frekar lélegt og ort á korteri, en það verður að hafa það. Mér bara leið allt í einu eins og ég yrði að semja litla vísu, sérstaklega fyrir þær. Eitthvað smá flipp, eins og ég væri í Framsókn.

Allavega, hér er lítil partýpulsa handa ykkur, konur í Sjálfstæðisflokknum, ég er enginn Ahab og þið allsekki Moby Dick, ekki einu sinni Hanna Birna, ég er ekki með þráhyggju, allsekki, ég bara lagði mig og þegar ég vaknaði gat ég ekki hugsað um neitt annað í smástund. Ekkert nema ykkur.

- – - – -

Heyrðu?

Mætti ég kannski fá að skreppa?

Heldurðu að ég mætti nokkuð fá að gera eitthvað annað?

Ég var að spá hvort ég mætti kannski fá smá pláss einhversstaðar annarsstaðar?

Bara eitthvað lítið, bara fyrir mig.

Þá getur þú verið í friði.

- – - – -

Í tíuþúsund ár höfum við legið hérna, undir þessum feldi

Þessu flísteppi

Eða á þessum sólstól, undir rauða teppinu

Í tíuþúsund ár en mikið voru þau fljót að líða

Mér líður eiginlega eins og allt hafi gerst í gær

Í mesta lagi fyrir 10 árum síðan, að allt hafi gerst í síðasta lagi þá

Í gær fyrir þúsund árum

Fyrir tíuþúsund árum

Hvað tíminn er fljótur að líða

Mig minnir að það hafi verið eitthvað í gangi þegar ég lagðist

Á sólstólinn, það var ótrúlega kósý

Ég ætlað að lesa en dottaði í staðinn

Í tíuþúsund ár

Og það dró ekki ský fyrir sólu

Svona getur lífið verið notalegt hugsaði ég og var ánægð með að hafa lagst

Ansi er þetta góð hugmynd

En ég verð að viðurkenna að stóllinn var þarna, tilbúinn

Alveg eins og þau sem lögðust á undan mér í þessi árþúsund,

Það var allt tilbúið fyrir þau, bæði teppið og feldurinn

Auðvitað legst maður þegar allt er svona kósý,

Við í það minnsta, auðvitað gerum við það

Við höfum nægan tíma, ein þúsöld einn lúr undir mjúku teppi

Það var eitthvað að gerast minnir mig

En því miður er ég ekki alveg viss hvað það var, maður getur ekki munað allt.

En auðvitað lagðist ég.

Hver gengi fram hjá sólstólnum án þess að leggjast

Enginn sem ég þekki

Enginn sem ég hef þekkt í tíuþúsund ár

 

Hvað var aftur að gerast þegar ég lagði mig?

Ekki að mér finnist neitt óþægilegt að muna það ekki

En samt

En ég er auðvitað nývöknuð

Eftir allar þessar þúsaldir

Var ekki einhver að reyna að leggja sig?

Minnir mig

Hann var með svefnpoka

Og vekjaraklukku

Ég man ekki alveg hvernig þetta var

En hann var með svefnpoka og vekjaraklukku

Alveg rétt

Mér fannst mjög óþægilegt að heyra í klukkunni

Þetta var lítil klukka en tikkið var frekar hátt

Svona miðað við

Sérstaklega miðað við að við höfum ekki verið að nota svona klukkur

Frekar ósmekklegt fannst mér

Minnir mig

Að taka með sér klukku

En ok, hann ætlaði náttúrlega að leggja sig í svefnpoka

Það er öðruvísi en að leggjast undir feld

Hlýtur að vera, annars veit ég ekkert um það

En það hlýtur bara að vera

Þú getur varla notað svefnpoka ef þú ætlar að leggja þig í árþúsund

Þá þarftu teppi eða feld

Og sólstól ef sólin skín

Sem hún gerði einmitt

Allavega, okkur öllum fannst

Við vorum sammála um það

Að finnast þetta tikk, að finnast það satt best að segja  óþægilegt

Þannig var það bara

En ég man ekki alveg hvernig þetta var

En ég man að hann var með svefnpoka og ætlaði að leggjast í hann

En einhver sagði, hann er of sver fyrir þennan poka, alltof sver

Sjáiði, hann kemst ekkert í þennan svefnpoka

Þetta er viðkvæmur poki, hann á aldrei eftir að þola svona

Það segir sig sjálft

Og í tíuþúsund ár?

Það er augljóst að þessi poki á ekki eftir að endast í tíuþúsund ár

Ef þú ætlar að leggja þig í þúsaldir, eins og við gerum hér

Höfum alltaf gert

Við höfum aldrei notað svefnpoka

Þetta gengur aldrei

En ég man ekki alveg hvað gerðist

Ég er auðvitað nývöknuð

Eftir langan tíma

Það er alltaf þannig eftir svona langan tíma

Mig minnir að þetta hafi verið svona

Það var maður með svefnpoka og klukku

Við vorum sammála um að það gengi ekki og hann fór

Tók þetta  óþolandi tikk með sér

Og allt of lítinn svefnpoka

Minnir mig

En ég var auðvitað ekki að fylgjast sérstaklega vel með

Var að leggja mig

Sólin skein

Ég ætlaði að lesa í smástund en dottaði eiginlega um leið og ég lagðist

Sólin skein, þetta var ótrúlega notalegt

Eins og alltaf

Í tíuþúsund ár

Eins og alltaf

Eins og það hafi gerst í gær

Við lögðumst útaf, með teppi

Eins og við höfum alltaf gert

Í tíuþúsund ár.

 


Börnin á Gaza

Gunnar Skúli bloggar - Lau, 02/08/2014 - 20:52

Morðin og limlestingarnar á Palestínumönnum eru myndbrot úr mikið stærri mynd. Ísrael er nauðsynlegt fyrir heimsvaldastefnu Bandaríkjanna. Það sem helgar þá stefnu er að ná undir sig auðlindum stórfyrirtækjum til arðráns. Þess vegna eru Bandaríkin verkfæri elítunnar. Að halda að það skipti einhverju máli hver er forseti Bandaríkjanna er miskilningur. Sama gildir um Evrópu, það er enginn munur á stefnu stjórnmálaflokka gagnvart hagsmunum elítunnar, elítan ræður för.
Elítan er nafn- og andlitslaus og illa skilgreind en hún stjórnar. Hún samanstendur af bönkum, seðlabönkum og alþjóðlegum stórfyrirtækjum. Hún hefur náð undir sig fjölmiðlum þannig að hún skapar almenningsálitið. Hefur gríðaleg ítök innan hergagnaframleiðslunnar, leyniþjónustu og þinga þjóðríkja. Markmiðið eru völd og hámarks gróði.
Palestínumenn skipta elítuna engu máli.
Elítan stjórnar öllum ríkisstjórnum sem við kjósum þannig að ekki er hægt að minnka völd hennar með kosningum. Það sem veitir elítunni sérstöðu er að bankar eru hluti hennar og þannig skuldsetur hún alla og gerir alla háða sér. Skiptir ekki máli hvort um er að ræða einstaklinga, fyrirtæki eða þjóðríki. Bankar hafa einkarétt á því að búa til peninga sem skuld og vistfræðilega er það fóðrið sem gefur þeim valdið til að stjórna heiminum.
Limlestingar og morð á Palestínumönnum vekur með okkur andstyggð á verkfærum elítunnar.
Til að skapa réttlæti er nauðsynlegt að afnema einkarétt banka til að búa til peninga sem skuld. Það er forsendan fyrir völdum elítunnar. Til að skapa réttltæti verðum við að færa það vald aftur til almennings. Það er það fyrsta sem við verðum að gera og hefur í raun lítið með pólitík að gera. Þjóðríki verða ein að hafa valdið til að búa til peninga en ekki einkafyrirtæki og þá mun hið lýðræðislega vald almennings hafa eithvað að segja. Þá getum við farið að rökræða mismunandi pólitík, hvernig við ráðstöfum peningunum.
Von barnanna á Gaza er að við hættum að kljúfa okkur niður í mismunandi pólitíska flokka og sameinumst um að færa valdið til að búa til peninga aftur til almennings frá einkafyrirtækjum. Þá fyrst getum við stöðvað blóðbaðið. Eða er pólitísk rétthugsun mikilvægari?

 

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