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America’s Double Standard: The Liberation of Journalists Laura Ling & Euna Lee vs. Ibrahim Jassam

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media clownsAll that’s missing is the hero’s welcome: that ubiquitous twenty-four/seven media circus that accompanies every Big Story on the latest media darling (heroes, victims, pop stars and nutwings alike) to capture the American fancy. No doubt, every network is clamouring to be among the first to claim an Exclusive Interview with Laura Ling or Euna Lee (or with anyone who’s ever known these women, from 1st grade onward). Queues of talking heads have been lined up and put on standby. No doubt, the two freed journalists’ homes have already become backstage lots for the paparazzi, some being drawn from their previous posts at the gates of Neverland. 

Freedom-loving Americans everywhere are poised with flags in hand, ready at a moment’s notice to roll out their teary-eyed patriotic rhetoric: By golly, here in America, we know a thing or two about freedom! Not like these godless countries that imprison innocent people and throw away the key! 

It is, of course, an occasion for celebration anytime a wrongfully imprisoned human being is released. Today, Euna Lee and Laura Ling know this firsthand. And they surely feel a great debt of gratitude to Bill Clinton for serving as ambassador to their liberation — which gives these women a unique voice for the cause of falsely imprisoned journalists everywhere.  They could do this; they could use their voices. After all, they have the media’s ear — but only for a moment, because it’s only a matter of time before they are usurped by the next media darling. Laura Ling and Euna Lee can use their voices to deliver this most powerful message: silencing the voice of even one journalist anywhere silences the voice of truth everywhere.

The question is, will they do this? Or will they succumb to the lure of fame — to the whirlwind of the media frenzy, the magazine covers and book deals, so that they can tell us exactly what we already know? Namely, that oppressive regimes routinely silence journalists — whether through intimidation, imprisonment or death — specifically to keep people from knowning the truth.  

Reuters photographer, Ibrahim Jassam, imprisoned without charges since September 2008.

Reuters photographer, Ibrahim Jassam, imprisoned without charges since September 2008.

Should Euna Lee and Laura Ling choose the path of right — which is to serve as ambassadors to liberate journalists around the world who are currently being held in captivity by oppressive regimes — I have a suggestion for their first assignment: go to bat for Ibrahim Jassam. Tell the world about how this Reuters photographer has been falsely imprisoned for nearly a year now, held without formal charges, without even a semblance of due process.   

Tell the world about how, on September 1, 2008,  Ibrahim Jassam’s home was stormed in the middle of the night by men with dogs, who broke down his door — barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. Tell them how Ibrahim Jassam was taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Tell the world about Ibrahim Jassam, even if it means poking a sharp flag-stick in the eye of your liberators. Tell the world that the United States — with the approval of both the Bush and Obama Administrations — used imprisonment to silence the voice of a journalist in Iraq. And while you’re at it, maybe you can tell the stories about the others. Because Ibrahim Jassam is not the only voice to be silenced in Iraq.  

Iraq has remained in 2008 the most dangerous country [in the world], with 15 deaths since January. This is, however, significantly lower than the 50 journalists killed in 2007 (a drop of 70% in the number of victims) and the 48 killed in 2006. Since the beginning of the war in March 2003, at least 265 journalists have perished in this country. — from the Press Emblem Campaign, Geneva report, released in December 2008: 95 Journists Killed in One Year in 32 Countries

A media watchdog group [the Committee to Protect Journalists] said it has urged President Barack Obama to end the US military’s practice of detaining journalists without charges and asked for a full investigation into killings of journalists by US military forces. . . . Officials with the New York-based group took the United States to task, saying the detention of journalists without trial by US authorities in such countries as Iraq has reduced America’s standing in the world and emboldened other countries to do the same. . . . [Wall St. Journal editor] Paul Steiger noted in [the letter to Obama] that 14 journalists have been held without due process for long periods in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Sixteen journalists have been killed by US fire in Iraq, he said. “We don’t believe that these are deliberate attacks, but they have not been adequately investigated,” Simon said.excerpted from an Associated Press report published in the New Zealand Herald, February 11, 2009

Granted, using your voices to reveal these ugly truths would be a real buzz-kill to the media frenzy surrounding your release from North Korea. But it’s the right thing to do. And someone needs to do it. If not you, then who?

Obama should follow Iran’s example and release Ibrahim Jassam. But, in the absence of outcry and protest from other journalists, Obama has little to lose by ignoring Jassam’s case.— excerpt from Jeremy Scahill’s May 2009 piece, Iran Freed Saberi; When Will US Free Jassam?

The question is, will you do it? Will do everything in your power to free Ibrahim Jassam? And, if you choose not to, will it be because you prefer the path of fame and fortune? Or because (be truthful now) you are afraid of the consequences — even as the worst you will likely suffer here on American soil is obscurity?

Truth is, it’s become clear that no U.S. president, former or current, has any intention of taking a stand against the false imprisonment of our own. That role is, and always has been, carried by the media — by journalists like yourselves. The media rose to your cause, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. To what cause will you now choose to rise? To uphold the integrity of your profession? Or to become, much like the paparazzi covering your story, a cheap and gaudy farce — mere clowns, masquerading as journalists?

Abu Miriam, holds a photo of his brother, detained Iraqi journalist Ibrahim Jassam.

Abu Miriam, holds a photo of his brother, detained Iraqi journalist Ibrahim Jassam.

 

Ibrahim Jassam’s brother, Walid, visited him recently in Camp Bucca, the desolate, tented U.S. prison camp in the desert in southern Iraq, and found him close to breaking point.

“He used to be handsome, but now he’s pale and he’s tired,” said Walid, who insists his brother had no contacts with insurgents. “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me, ‘please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.”

“I told him we already tried everything.”

— excerpted from  from the May 24, 2009 Los Angeles Times article, U.S holds journalist without charges in Iraq: Ibrahim Jassam is the latest journalist the U.S. has arrested and not presented evidence against. A media group notes such actions hurt U.S. standing when it speaks for press freedom and rule of law.

 

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Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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 For more reading:

NPR: July 20, 2009 U.S. Military Holds Iraqi Journalist Without Charge

Salon: May 11, 2009 Roxana Saberi’s plight and American media propaganda

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

New York Times February 2008  When We Torture (by Nicholas D. Kristof) The most famous journalist you may never have heard of is Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who is on a hunger strike to protest abuse during more than six years in a Kafkaesque prison system….

The New York Times May 1, 2008 Sami al-Hajj Reported Freed (by Nicholas D. Kristof) I’ve heard that Sami al-Hajj, a journalist who has been held — and mistreated — for six years in Guantanamo is now in a plane en route back to his native Sudan. His plane is supposed to arrive this evening.

The Independent UK: September 25, 2008 Six years in Guantanamo: Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman, was beaten, abused and humiliated in the name of the war on terror. He tells our correspondent about his struggle to rebuild a shattered life….

Glen Greenwald: October 2006 Unclaimed Territory What the Bilal Hussein detention reveals about the Bush administration: Bilal Hussein is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer who was detained by the U.S. military in Iraq back in April — almost six months ago. Along with 14,000 other people around the world (at least), he continues to remain in U.S. custody without being charged with any crime….

American Journalism Review: January 2007 Behind Bars The story of Pulitzer Prize winning AP photographer, Bilan Hussein, who was ultimately held for two years, without charges, by U.S. forces. 

Associated Press: April 16, 2008 AP Photographer Bilal Hussein Released (also see the video, below, for the emotional reunion between Bilal Hussein, his family and his AP colleagues, upon his release from prison). 

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183 Times is the Charm: The Accusation (by Torture) of a Young Mother Named Aafia Siddiqui

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NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)

The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)

"Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

"The Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?

[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, “disappeared,” subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years — and counting.]

An American Story

Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.

“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”

Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.

‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.

Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.

Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”

But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.

2891436BG002_Ottawa_CitizenNow imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.

While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.

Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).

[see also: Patrick Leahy’s interrogation of Gonzales on the Maher Arar case here, and the 1-1/2 hour video of the U.S. Congressional hearing on Maher Arar’s case here].

Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.

The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.

Ibrahim JassamNow imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008,  U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.

In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of  dozens of  journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.

You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders,  hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”

A young boy hopes for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj’s story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration’s “intelligence” that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees — including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture — as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only “threat to national security” being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s tyranny.]

(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family

Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released  in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”

Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn — specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, “Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.

Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.

Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials.  Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.

By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.

Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife).  Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.

To this story add water, then quickly spin

It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.

(continued page 2 —–>)

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The White House Propaganda Machine: When the Truth Just Won’t Do

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A well-oiled contrivance, the White House propaganda machine is running at full pitch these days. And, although the evidence is right under our noses, much like a gas leak, most of us don’t smell it. Here, we will describe the key notes to that smell, so that you will learn to detect — from a 10-foot pace — the distinct odor of fat, stinking elephants in the middle of the room.

In Jeff Huber’s excellent April 2008 post, titled, “When Did Iran Start Beating Its Wife Again?” he describes the White House propaganda machine’s ongoing work to prime the U.S. and the international community for war in Iran. As evidence, he cites an April 2008 article in the New York Times, titled, “Questions Linger Over Scope Of Iran’s Role in Iraq Fighting,” which turns out to be a virtual schoolroom for those interested in seeing how the propaganda machine works.

As any good propagandist could tell you, there are three steps to effective propaganda. The 1st step is the easiest: make the stuff up. The 2nd step is to officiate the lies, which goes hand-in-hand with the 3rd step: disseminating the lies. In Huber’s post, he shows us how the above-mentioned NYT article neatly accomplished the 2nd and 3rd steps, as Huber counts no less than 30 references to phantom “official” sources, whose quotes serve to officiate the Bush-Cheney propaganda line on Iran. Most readers of the NYT article would simply skim past the following words, unawares that they’d just been fed a cookie:

Officials say…intelligence and administration officials said…American officials have publicly portrayed…military, intelligence and administration officials showed…officials said…some officials said…a senior official familiar with the intelligence about Iran said in an interview…officials said…top American officials in Iraq have portrayed…none of the officials interviewed disputed…officials said…the officials offered an assessment…statements by Mr. Bush and other officials…officials declined to detail publicly…one of the officials said…according to two senior administration officials…those and other officials said…A senior administration official described…the officials said…the officials said…the officials said…a senior official said…the officials said…the official said…the officials said…a senior official familiar with the intelligence reports on Iran said in an interview…according to other officials…the officials said…officials said…according to a senior American official…

As you read the “facts,” as quoted by these phantom, un-named sources, you may notice that these “facts” bear an eerily resemblance to the “facts” reported by the media during the 2001-2003 lead-up to the war in Iraq. As we learned with Iraq, swaying world opinion is an easy job: just take a handful of lies and repeatedly throw them into the news until the lies become accepted fact. With respect to Iran, just as in Iraq, our government wants us to perceive Iran as an evil, freedom-hating, terrorist empire, actively manufacturing WMDs, specifically nuclear bombs to kill Americans and Israelis, and also working hand-in-hand with Al Queda terrorist cells, crossing the border into Iraq to train and arm Iraqis to kill Americans.

Ideally, by the time the U.S. bombs Iran (in case you haven’t been paying attention, the U.S. is already perched to go to war with Iran — another war for oil, being waged under the false flags of WMDs/terrorism) Bush-Cheney would like the world community — the U.S. citizenry and Congress in particular — to resemble, in spirit, the angry, rampaging villagers in Frankenstein, wielding torches and pitchforks, demanding death to the monster. To that end, our government hires professionals to disseminate propaganda to the American citizens. Your tax dollars pay for our government to, “manufacture and disseminate intelligence leaks to influence the media and the public to support the administration’s policies.”
This is nothing new. What is new, however, is the extent to which the U.S. corporate media uses government propaganda as their primary news source. This has been a growing influence over the past 25 years, as one corporate arm has grown to encompass another and another — the lines becoming increasingly blurred as the media is owned by corporate conglomerates — most of them with ties to military and defense — who almost entirely fund the campaigns of our lawmakers, and whose lobbyists are appointed to government positions and vice-versa — bringing us to our current state, where the distinctions between the independent media, corporate PR and government propaganda no longer exists.

Few in the U.S. realize just how well-organized the White House/Pentagon propaganda machine has become. Here, we offer a quick-sketch chronology of the propaganda agencies utilized by our government over the past 25 years:

  • OPD (National Security Council’s Office of Public Diplomacy) 1983-1986 Started under Ronald Reagan in 1983 and headed by Otto Reich ,whose job was to covertly disseminate intelligence leaks to journalists, to trump up a Nicaraguan “threat,” and to sanctify the U.S.-backed Contra guerrillas fighting Nicaragua’s government as “freedom fighters.” The propaganda was aimed at influencing Congress to continue to fund the Contras. A few of Otto Reich’s planted “leaks” that were later revealed as lies: (1) Nicaragua had acquired chemical weapons from the Soviets, (2) high-level Sandinistas were involved in drug trafficking, (3) the leak that served to discredit and intimidate those in the U.S. media who weren’t following the Reagan war script, that U.S. reporters were receiving sexual favors from Sandinista-provided prostitutes in return for favorable coverage, and (4) the timely leak, on the eve of Reagan’s re-election, that Soviet MiG fighter jets were arriving in Nicaragua. The OPD was declared illegal on September 30, 1987, after an investigation by the Comptroller General, who found that the OPD engaged in “prohibited, covert propaganda activities, beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities,” and that the OPD also violated “a restriction on the State Department’s annual appropriations prohibiting the use of federal funds for publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by Congress.” The declassified records of the OPD and Otto Reich are available here, at the National Security Archives website.
  • U.S. Army’s 4th PSYOPS Group at CNN (The U.S. Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg) 1999. Ordinarily, our government only conducts psychological operations in foreign countries, and not in the U.S., where — in theory, anyway — we turn to the media for an independent voice of truth. So you can imagine the surprise of some when, beginning during the last days of the Kosovo War in 1999, the Army’s 4th PSYOPS began working within the news division at CNN, as part of CNN’s ‘Training With Industry’ program. The details on this are sketchy, but it appears that public scrutiny and controversy put an end to the PSYOPS work at CNN several weeks after it started. (As an aside: The 1300-member 4th PSYOPS Group is one of many government PSYOPS groups that works to disseminate U.S. government propaganda. Integral to the U.S. war machine, their work is ongoing. Composed of soldiers and officers, the PSYOPS‘ duties include disseminating “selected information” to “influence media and public opinion in armed conflicts in which American state interests are said to be at stake.” The 4th PSYOPS served various purposes in the 1980s-90s. In the 1980s, they broadcast radio and television programs into Nicaragua, which were intended to undermine the Sandinista government. They were also variously used in the 1980s-90s in the first Gulf War, the Bosnian War and Kosovo War and in efforts to encourage public support for American “peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.)
  • OSI (Office of Strategic Influence) 2001-2002. Started after September 11th, 2001 and headed by Air Force Brig. Gen Robert Worden to “to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.” Due to public criticism, the Pentagon was forced to officially “close” the OSI in February 2002, although the closing was in name only. The program, itself, lived on, as Donald Rumsfeld announced in a November 2002 media briefing: “And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And ‘oh my goodness gracious isn’t that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.’ I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.”
  • IAO (Information Awareness Office). Started in 2002 and assumed to be ongoing. Working under the auspices of DARPA (and perhaps as an umbrella to the White House Iraq Group, AKA the White House Information Group or WHIG and the Iranian Directorate, AKA the Directorate for Iran and the Office of Special Plans — and gawdknowswhatotheroffices of propaganda) the IAO may or may not be the successor to the OSI. The Information Awareness Office works to: “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate, and transition information technologies, components, and prototype closed-loop information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness that is useful for preemption, national security warning, and national security decision making.” Reading this job description, it’s difficult to comprehend just what they do. I don’t imagine they’d have it any other way.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain in Emerald City (Dick Cheney) Somewhere along the way, our administration figured out a more efficient way to disseminate propaganda: straight from the elephant’s mouth. Here’s how it works: Cheney delivers his talking points to an assembly of Pentagon allegiates and corporate heads, who are given officious-sounding titles for the occasion, such as “military expert,” and “military analyst” and “White House Official.” These corporate heads are primarily defense & military contractors, lobbyists, senior corporate executives and board members — many of whom are former military officers, all of whom are already being paid obscene salaries by our government to staff our mercenary armies throughout the world. Once Cheney has delivered his talking points, these “experts,” “analysts” and “officials” they then either report straight to the media, or they conduct whatever “investigations” are necessary to support the talking points. Then they commence to disseminating.

With all of the above in mind, here are a few rules of thumb to follow when trying to discern propaganda from fact:

  1. Credibility. As a rule, when our government wages serious accusations against other countries and individuals (e.g. “They’re making weapons of mass destruction to kill Americans” or “They are freedom-hating terrorists” or “They are a safe-haven for al Queda”) the sources for these quotes should be accountable for what they’re accusing. It is realistic for American citizens to expect legitimate sources for these accusations. It’s called transparency, and allows the rest of us in the world to decide whether the quoted military and White House officials are speaking from a true place of authority, or if we are simply being fed cookies by phantom corporate heads, with conflicts of interest, who are merely echoing our government’s talking points. By the same token, when you hear that evidence exists to support these accusations, you should expect tangible proof of this evidence. While there are exceptions to this rule, these should be rare and only rarely accepted and, even then, only from governments who have proven they own the integrity to be entrusted with such a rare exception.
  2. Gag Orders. Anytime you see a government silencing its citizens, whether through censorship or intimidation, it’s a red flag. This administration has not been favorable to those who dissent their policies, or ask questions, or speak outside of the Bush-Cheney script. To this end, they paint those who protest their policies with the same paint brush they use on rogue terrorists (AKA: peace activist = terrorist appeaser; skeptic citizen who doesn’t believe the Bush-Cheney talking points = conspiracy theorist; Congressman voting against Bush-Cheney agenda = weak on terrorism). When you see this happening, take a whiff. Somewhere in the room is a big, fat stinking elephant.
  3. History. With specific regard to the Bush-Cheney Administration, whenever you hear them accusing citizens or politicians in any country (including our own country) as being terrorists, terrorists-appeasers, or safe-havens for terrorist, check the facts. You are guaranteed to find oil in the equation. The country in question will either have vast oil reserves, or will be strategic to transporting the oil. Anyone who impedes the Bush-Cheney mandate for controlling the oil in that region — be that obstacle a member of the U.S. Congress, or one of our allies, or an international humanitarian group, or the media, or an ordinary citizen — that obstacle will be painted, alike, with the same terrorist paint brush. Check your facts. Look for oil. Don’t believe everything you read.

Bush-Cheney would like us to believe that all versions of the news, except theirs, are the ramblings of left-wing conspiracy nuts. While it’s true that some of the alternative news sites propose far-out theories, none are so outrageous or dangerous as the lies being fed to us by the Bush-Cheney Administration. And I can hardly fault those individuals who have wandered too far, when exploring the myriad webs of deceit spun by Bush-Cheney. These instances are the exception. Most versions of the news that are painted as “conspiracy theories” by Bush-Cheney are actually factual.

Here at the Canary Papers, we are careful to research all of our facts, and aspire to offer credible references, via links within our posts, for nearly everything we write. This site also offers a variety of links to international, alternative and independent media sources, where you can often find more factual accounts of the news. Feel free to send us other links. We’ll post them. And if you have a question, feel free to ask. We promise not to call you a terrorist and will do our level best to point you toward some answers.

p.s. Be sure to check out the 2 videos at the bottom of this page, from the 2006 film, “American Blackout.” The first video, below, is a 6-minute clip. The second video is the full-length, 89-minute version. An artfully produced film, “American Blackout” is primarily a challenge to Americans to refuse allowing the 2008 election be a repeat of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The star in this effort is former U.S. Rep., Cynthia McKinney — a rare politician who doesn’t follow the standard script for Washington politicians. An outspoken, straightforward and passionate leader, McKinney is devoted to fighting the corruption and propaganda that both influence and define American politics today. The film documents some of her work to restore truth to the American political process — from her demands for an independent investigation of 9-11, through her battles against voter fraud and voter disenfranchisement in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She has paid dearly for her efforts. Yet, like David to Goliath, she fights on. America could use more politicians like Cynthia McKinney.

Friday, July 4th, is "National Dennis Kucinich Day." How Will You Celebrate?

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It’s seems only appropriate that The Canary Papers — a small blog that largely goes unread — should be the ones to unveil a day honoring Dennis Kucinich, a man of small build, who largely goes unheard.

Small of build, yes, but a giant among men, Dennis Kucinich may very well be the greatest American patriot alive today. Yet, he is all but ignored by the media. He is ignored, not despite, but because he works tirelessly on issues of actual importance to Americans. Issues that involve real change — the kind that will actually improve and protect the lives of living, breathing Americans; Issues that are nearly all shelved because the change they call for involves stepping on the toes of big corporations, and the toes of the politicians funded by big corporations, not to mention the toes of two of the world’s most dangerous men: Bush & Cheney.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Our media, under the heavy influence of our corporate-funded politicians, turns a deaf ear on Dennis Kucinich. And on those rare occasions when the media are not ignoring him, it is only to discredit him or dismiss the importance of his work, usually by painting him as tiny, insubstantial piece of fringe from the tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist gang. Or to insult his height. Or, by comparison, his wife’s height. Only by looking at the body of his work (a tiny portion of which is outlined below) will you get a true sense of his largeness.

THE WAR IN IRAN: Offering little more than a cursory glance at the facts, our media has been a willing mouthpiece for the Bush-Cheney propaganda campaign over the past several years, waged to gain approval for war in Iran. Of particular note in this potential war: Bush has stated that he’s not ruled out bombing Iran’s nuclear power & research facilities. This could release nuclear fallout of catastrophic proportions, killing millions of people, possibly affecting worldwide populations. Those who know the facts know that this war is not only avoidable and unnecessary, it carries the real potential of becoming World War III. Kucinich has been very vocal on this and active in efforts to stop the war in Iran before it starts, including work to educate the public on the facts, and to pass legislation urging diplomacy, not war. In January 2008, he cosponsored H.R. 5056, the Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008, which is also supported by the supported the Physicians for Social Responsibility . Without the benefit of a truthful media, it has been a difficult task to any individual or group to offset the Bush-Cheney propaganda. Physicians for Social Responsibility has worked hard to educate the world on the consequences of such a war, and has been urging and petitioning our leaders to pursue resolution through diplomacy, not bombs. Others — from Wes Clark to moveon.org have waged similar efforts. See their petitions near the top, right, of this blog page. (You can also read more on the Iran War efforts in my June 28 post)

HEALTH CARE: The only presidential candidate to support true universal health care, Dennis Kucinich has twice co-sponsored H.R. 676, the only true universal health care plan that has ever been put before Congress. Introduced before both the 109th and 110th Congress, in 2005 and 2007, the bill has been slow to gain cosponsors on Capitol Hill. Why are so many in Congress hesitant to support this plan? Look again to corporate influence, as H.R. 676 doesn’t stand to line the pockets of the insurance industry, which has grown to be little more than a profit-greedy middle-man, antagonistic to providing needed health care. Instead, H.R. 676 seeks to provide universal, quality health care for all Americans, bar none. This plan would grant Americans the same quality of health care enjoyed by other developed countries in the world, who have — unlike our government — put the health and well-being of their citizens above corporate interests and, yes, without losing their shirts.

IMPEACHMENT OF DICK CHENEY: In April 2007, Kucinich proposed H.R. 333, the articles of impeachment for Cheney. Why wouldn’t our Congress support impeachment of Cheney? Pelosi opposed impeachment, as it might be “divisive and likely unsuccessful.” What she didn’t mention are the corporate donors who profit from Cheney’s wars and other deals, and who would pull the plug on campaign funds to any politician who voted to unthrone Cheney, who is said by some to be the most powerful man in the world. Dennis Kucinich — unphased by the political repurcussions to himself — has worked long and hard and almost single-handedly, like David to Goliath, toward bringing justice to this war criminal. Guilty of treason and multiple crimes against humanity, Cheney was the primary planner of the illegal war for oil in Iraq, responsible for the deaths of 4100 American citizens, nearly 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens, and maiming of millions upon millions of both American and Iraqi citizens.

IMPEACHMENT OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The articles to impeach Bush, introduced by Kucinich one month ago, in June 2008, were also shelved, with Pelosi’s opposition the same as she gave on Cheney. Our president — although little more than a hapless hand puppet to Cheney — is also guilt of crimes against humanity, treason and war crimes.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? 

Zeus and I often ponder this question, in so many words, when considering the battles betwen right and might, as they are waged by mere mortals, such as Dennis Kucinich, against truly evil empires, such as that of Bush-Cheney.Make no mistake: It’s no accident that Dennis Kucinich has been portrayed by our media as a kook. Few politicians have the shown the courage to buck the coercive influences of our broken political system to endorse and support Kucinich’s work. But, the fact is: You will find few experts in any field — scientists, politicians, diplomats, activists, policy makers — who stand firmly on the the moral, ethical right side of any issue, who do not also hold Kucinich in the highest esteem.Which brings us back to National Dennis Kucinich Day. How will you celebrate it?You could spend 20 or so minutes signing the various petitions linked-to on this page to stop the war in Iran before it starts. Or you can spend some time giving your voice to whatever issues concern you. Or not, as is also your right. But please know that, in the absence of your voice, there are powerful voices out there, already speaking on your behalf, who are not acting in the best interest of this country, or you, or your children or grandchildren. Which leaves an awesome job for men, such as Dennis Kucinich, who do speak for your better interests.Zeus and I, we keep up with the issues and speak out as much as possible. We realize, of course, that we’ll likely be the only ones celebrating National Dennis Kucinich Day on July 4th, since were the ones who invented it, and no one ever reads our blog. Still. As the last sparks from the last Roman candle flicker out, we’ll honor Dennis Kucinich by making a wish for our country, the same way we do when we blow out the candles on our birthday cakes.While it seems, at times, that we, as a country, have little more than a wing and a prayer to work with, we are grateful for this small-built man, named Dennis Kucinich, whose work to restore our country and our Constitution places him shoulder to shoulder with the great men who originally founded this country with a vision toward freedom from oppression.

READ MORE ABOUT DENNIS KUCINICH HERE:Interview with Congressman Dennis Kucinich by Hooshang Amirahmadi
Rep. Dennis Kucinich Tackles Healthcare

NPR Interview with Seymour Hersh: Covert Operations in Iran

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We’ve heard several interviews this week with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh. This NPR Fresh Air interview is by far the most comprehensive we’ve heard to date. It’s 45 minutes long and is worth every second of your time, if you value knowing the facts. The facts here pertain to the U.S.- Bush-Cheney covert actions in Iran — past and present — including the military and congressional actions that appear to be paving the way to war in Iran.

NPR Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross and Seymour Hersh:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92025860

Written by canarypapers

June 30, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Think the War in Iraq was a Bad Idea? Wait ’til You See What Bush-Cheney & Co. Have in Mind for Iran.

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Perhaps you missed the headlines: America on the Brink of War Against Iran. 

Or perhaps not, since this news has been conspicuously absent from the mainstream media in America. Now. Before you brush this news aside as the rantings of a tinfoil hat-wearing Chicken Little, running in circles, squawking, “The sky’s falling!” consider that Congress is set to vote, any day, on the very resolutions that will finalize the Bush-Cheney preparations for war against Iran, waged on the claims that Iran has WMDs. Or that they *will* have WMDs. Any day now….Even though the intelligence and inspectors’ reports say otherwise. Sound familiar?

(At this point, before you read on, please consider pausing long enough to protest ResolutionS 362 AND 580).

Consider, also, what the U.N.’s chief weapons inspector and director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — which oversees nuclear inspections in Iran — said, just last week:

I DON’T believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger…. A military strike [from the U.S. or Israel], in my opinion, would be worse than anything. It would turn the region into a fireball. 

History seems to be repeating itself. Using the same blueprint they used to trick America into an illegal war in Iraq, Bush-Cheney are making a case for war in Iran, despite that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped nuclear weapons-related work in 2003 and had not resumed it as of last year, and despite that IAEA inspectors have found no evidence of nuclear weapons work in Iran. History is, indeed, repeating itself:

Has it been only 5 years since the Bush Administration similarly disregarded — ridiculing as naive — the findings of IAEA inspectors Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix, who told the Bush Administration there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq?

  • October 1997: IAEA reports Iraq is free of nuclear weapons.
  • February 2001: Colin Powell reports that Iraq is “contained” and is “unable to project conventional power against his neighbors” and that “he threatens NOT the United States.”
  • February 2002: CIA confirms that Iraq has not provided WMDs to terrorists.
  • August 2002: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons…. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.” — Dick Cheney
  • September 2002: “Iraq is six months away from producing a (nuclear) bomb.” President George W. Bush
  • September 2002: “Iraq’s military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons, with command, control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so;” — from the document: Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government
  • September 2002: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” — Condi Rice
  • January 2003: “In the course of these inspections we have not found any smoking gun,” Hans Blix
  • January 2003: “He has weapons of mass destruction — the world’s deadliest weapons — which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies.” — President George W. Bush
  • March 6, 2003: “The IAEA finds no indication of resumed nuclear activities in Iraq.” — IAEA director general/UN inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei
  • March 16, 2003: “Mr. ElBaradei is, frankly, wrong.” — Dick Cheney, three days before the invasion of Iraq.
  • May 1, 2003: “We found the weapons of mass destruction.” — President George W. Bush
  • June 26, 2008: “We have found the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. It is oil.” — Dennis Kucinich

That was Iraq. This is Iran:

  • December 2005: “We haven’t seen a smoking gun in Iran. We haven’t seen an underground production enrichment facility. We haven’t seen enough materials in Iran…to put into a weapon.” — Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA
  • October 2007: “There is NO evidence of a concrete, active nuclear weapon program” going on inside Iran.” — Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA report
  • October 2007: “The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences.” — Dick Cheney
  • October 2007: “If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace. So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested” in ensuring Iran not gain the capacity to develop such weapons.” — President George W. Bush
  • November 2007: “Mohamed ElBaradei is an apologist for Iran….Even a stopped clock is right twice a day” — John Bolton
  • March 2008: “Obviously, they’re also heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels,” — Dick Cheney
  • June 4, 2008: “We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat….George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on that matter BEFORE THE END OF HIS TERM in the White House.” — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 

To that end, Israel just recently carried out a full rehearsal of an air assault on Iran, to the tune of nearly 100 warplanes aimed at Iran’s nuclear sites — nuclear sites which, according to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, are being used to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes: power, not weapons use. Yet, today, as in October 2002, Cheney is poised to, in his own words, “discredit inspections in favor of disarmament,” which translates roughly to: So what if there aren’t any nuclear weapons? We’re going in, anyway.

So here we are, perched on the precipice of another war. Only, this war carries the potential to escalate out of control, possibly even to the scale of the sky-falling scenario that Chicken Little envisioned. The question today is: Is there any one here who knows why the U.S. and Israel should not join together in this most unholy of wars against Iran? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.

_______________________________

For more reading, see:

UPDATE NOV. 2008: For a better historical understanding of our relationship with Iran, read this excellent article from the October 2008 Smithsonian: Inside Iran’s Fury

Seymour Hersh’s July 7, 2008 New Yorker article, Preparing the Battlefield
The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran
: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh 

Seymour Hersch 6/30/2008 NPR interview on U.S. covert military operations in Iran: http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=92025860&m=92028303

When Did Iran Stop Beating Its Wife? http://www.military.com/opinion/0,15202,158545,00.html

When Did Iran Start Beating Its Wife Again? http://discuss.epluribusmedia.net/node/1448

This article has some important background, particularly on banking and financial sanctions, including the Bush Administration’s blackmailing of other countries into supporting these sanctions, which are a lead-up to war: The March 20, 2008 Declaration of War on Iran: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/the-march-20-2008-us-declaration-of-war-on-iran-by-john-mcglynn/

Bush-Cheney-Israel Disinformation Campaign to Justify Attack on Iran: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/bush-cheney-israel-disinformation-campaign-to-justify-an-attack-on-iran/

Secret Bush “Finding” Widens War on Iran – Democrats OK Funds for Covert Ops: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/secret-bush-finding-widens-war-on-iran-democrats-ok-funds-for-covert-ops/

Joint Chiefs Chairman Says U.S. Preparing Military Options Against Iran: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/04/25/joint-chiefs-chairman-says-us-preparing-military-options-against-iran/

Ripped from the Headlines!

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Capitol Hill Clueless Over the Real Reason Bush Removed North Korea from the Axis of Evil

The folks on Capitol Hill are sqawking up a storm today over Bush’s decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. “A profound disappointment!” crowed one. “It flies in the face of history!” screeched another. Don’t expect anything fancier than this, in the way of explanation, from the media.

Fact is — as some of us have known for a long time — Bush & Cheney have bigger fish to fry, and if there’s one thing you need to fry big fish, it’s oil. Lots and lots of oil.

In plainspeak, the reason North Korea has officially been put on the back burner is to clear the path for the war against Iran. This is old news. Perhaps, if the good folks on Capitol Hill were to delve into the tin-foil havens of the internet, they wouldn’t be so clueless. But, then, that would defeat the purpose of pretending to not be a part of the neocon agenda, now wouldn’t it?