FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The WSJ’s Paranoid Lens on Latin America

by PHILLIP CRYAN

In one of her Wall Street Journal columns last year, Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote that U.S. lawmakers and State Department officials who criticize the Colombian military’s human rights record are “still fighting the Cold War, on the wrong side.” She struck again February 6, accusing nongovernmental organizations of publishing fraudulent statistics about Colombia’s record. She said they’re “cooking the human-rights books,” aiding a guerrilla effort to dupe U.S. officials into reducing military aid.

O’Grady, a senior Journal editorial writer since 1999, is far from the only journalist guilty of bias and omission in coverage of Colombia. Most U.S. reporters provide no historical context and base their claims on government sources and on opinion polls that exclude the country’s poor majority.

But O’Grady’s distortions differ from such biases. They are purposeful and consistent, systematic.

A typical column from 2002 was headlined, “Capitol Hill Leftists Side With Colombia Terrorists.” By “terrorists,” she meant only the guerrillas, not the paramilitaries. One of the “leftists,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), wrote in response that O’Grady’s “absurd” arguments aimed “to brand people who defend human rights as enemy sympathizers.”

An O’Grady column published November 13, 2003 led to a similar response from a Fellowship of Reconciliation volunteer living in San José de Apartadó, a western Colombian village where dozens of residents have been killed for refusing to acknowledge the authority of any armed actors, whether guerrillas, paramilitaries or official security forces. The volunteer, Sarah Weintraub–in a somewhat better position than O’Grady to assess the community’s practices, having lived there for nearly a year–found it bewildering O’Grady’s column labeled the community a “guerrilla haven,” an accusation that invited paramilitary attacks on the villagers. “This was not a misunderstanding,” Weintraub wrote in her group’s newsletter. “This must have been deliberate.”

She has not confined her reckless accusations to Colombia. She started a 2002 column with the hysterical question, “Is Fidel Castro busy cooking up viruses in Cuban labs to share with Islamic fundamentalists?” And she wrote at least two columns defending President George W. Bush’s 2001 appointment of Otto Reich as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. Reich was a key figure in the Reagan administration’s Iran-contra scandal and multiple Latin American counterinsurgency wars, yet O’Grady called Democratic Party opponents of his nomination Castro supporters still sore over the defeat of Nicaragua’s socialist government.

“After eight years of drift, serious policy makers are back in charge,” she wrote in the first paragraph of a piece praising Reich. It reminded me of a “Get Your War On” cartoon from November 2002, after George W. Bush named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to head the government’s 9/11 inquiry (Kissinger later stepped down to avoid disclosing the names of his consulting firm’s clients): “I’m sure [Kissinger has] already drafted his final report: ‘Over the past few years, there has been an unfortunate lapse in the number of innocent people being slaughtered as a direct result of my foreign policy initiatives! Can we please get back on track?'” Serious policy-makers indeed.

O’Grady’s February 6 piece suggests that NGO statistics have heightened U.S. government concern about human rights and that this concern has “hollowed out the Colombian military,” prolonging the war and causing thousands of deaths. She singles out the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), a highly respected organization that has helped bring military officials to trial.

The CCJ replied with a letter to the editor that notes some of O’Grady’s falsehoods and exaggerations, such as her suggestion that only groups “lying to serve certain unacknowledged political goals” would criticize President Alvaro Uribe Vélez’s administration for jailing people based on mere suspicion of guerrilla collaboration. The letter notes that the Colombian government’s own inspector general objects to the roundups. “The least we can ask,” it adds, “is that you publish these corrections to partially reduce the harm these unbalanced insinuations may cause those who work for human rights in Colombia.”

O’Grady’s accusations, in other words, could get CCJ leaders killed, restoring literal meaning to the phrase “hatchet job.” The Journal, nevertheless, has not published the letter.

She has even advised that Colombia “legalize self-defense groups.” Anyone with a passing knowledge of the country’s conflict can get the unsubtle hint. Right-wing paramilitary groups have been legal for the better part of the last four decades, and Uribe seems intent on cleansing paramilitaries’ records yet again.

After all, “the U.S. admits that it will need the help of bad guys in the Arab world to fight its enemies,” O’Grady wrote during the buildup to war in Afghanistan, in a column called “What About Colombia’s Terrorists?” So what if they massacre hundreds of innocent civilians each year? They’re fighting the bad guys. Case closed.

All O’Grady’s positions seem derived from a simplistic and increasingly irrelevant template: fervent anti-communism. Never mind that fifteen years have passed since the Berlin Wall fell. In O’Grady’s anachronistic–and frankly pathetic, if the size of her audience did not make it enraging–paranoia, anyone not squarely in her camp is either a communist or a hapless “do-gooder” manipulated by the wily, mighty Reds.

It is O’Grady, not those she attacks, who seems bent on bringing the Cold War back into style.

PHILLIP CRYAN returned to the United States in November after 18 months in Colombia. A shorter version of this piece appeared in his biweekly Colombia Week column on media coverage of Colombia’s war. He lives in Ames, Iowa. He can be reached at: phillipcryan000@yahoo.com

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail