FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

All the News That’s Fit to Slant

by ROBERT FISK

It is a bright winter morning and I am sipping my first coffee of the day in Los Angeles. My eye moves like a radar beam over the front page of the Los Angeles Times for the word that dominates the minds of all Middle East correspondents: Iraq. In post-invasion, post-Judith Miller mode, the U.S. press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war. So the story beneath the headline “In a Battle of Wits, Iraq’s Insurgency Mastermind Stays a Step Ahead of U.S.” deserves to be read. Or does it?

Datelined Washington — an odd city in which to learn about Iraq — its opening paragraph reads: “Despite the recent arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded capture, U.S. authorities say, because his network has a much better intelligence-gathering operation than they do.”

Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis — along with myself — have grave doubts about whether Zarqawi exists, and that al-Qaida’s Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of “insurgency mastermind,” the words that caught my eye were “U.S. authorities say.” And as I read through the report, I note how the Times sources this extraordinary tale. I thought U.S. reporters no longer trusted the U.S. administration, not after the mythical WMD and the equally mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes against humanity of 9/11. Of course, I was wrong.

Here are the sources — on pages 1 and 10 for the yarn spun by reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: “U.S. officials said,” “said one U.S. Justice Department counter-terrorism official,” “Officials … said,” “those officials said,” “the officials confirmed,” “American officials complained,” “the U.S. officials stressed,” “U.S. authorities believe,” “said one senior U.S. intelligence official,” “U.S. officials said,” “Jordanian officials … said” — here, at least is some light relief — “several U.S. officials said,” “the U.S. officials said,” “American officials said,” “officials say,” “say U.S. officials,” “U.S. officials said,” “one U.S. counter-terrorism official said.”

I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times — along with the big East Coast dailies — should all be called U.S. OFFICIALS SAY. But it’s not just this fawning on political power that makes me despair. Let’s move to a more recent example of what I can only call institutionalized racism in U.S. reporting of Iraq. I have to thank reader Andrew Gorman for this gem, a January Associated Press report about the killing of an Iraqi prisoner under interrogation by U.S. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr.

Welshofer, it was reported in court, had stuffed Iraqi Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush headfirst into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest, an action that — not surprising — caused the general to expire. The military jury ordered a reprimand for Welshofer, a forfeiture of $6,000 of his salary and confinement to barracks for 60 days. But what caught my eye was the sympathetic detail.

Welshofer’s wife’s Barbara, the AP told us, “testified that she was worried about providing for their three children if her husband was sentenced to prison. ” ‘I love him more for fighting this,’ she said, tears welling up in her eyes. ‘He’s always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do.’ ”

But the real scandal about these reports is we’re not told anything about the general’s family. Didn’t he have a wife? I imagine the tears were “welling up in her eyes” when she was told her husband had been done to death. Didn’t the general have children? Or parents? Or any loved ones who “fought back tears” when told of this vile deed? Not in the AP report he didn’t. Mowhoush comes across as an object, a dehumanized creature that wouldn’t let the Americans “break the back” of the insurgency after being stuffed headfirst into a sleeping bag.

Now let’s praise the AP. On an equally bright summer’s morning in Australia a few days ago, I open the Sydney Morning Herald. It tells me, on page 6, that the news agency, using the Freedom of Information Act, has forced U.S. authorities to turn over 5,000 pages of transcripts of hearings at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. One of them records the trial of since-released British prisoner Feroz Abbasi, in which Abbasi vainly pleads with his judge, a U.S. air force colonel, to reveal the evidence against him, something he says he has a right to hear under international law.

And here is what the U.S. colonel replied: “Mr. Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable and this is your absolute final warning. I do not care about international law. I do not want to hear the words international law. We are not concerned about international law.”

Alas, those words — which symbolize the very end of the American dream — are buried in the story.

I am now in Wellington, New Zealand, watching on CNN Saddam Hussein’s attack on the Baghdad court trying him. And suddenly, the ghastly Saddam disappears from my screen. The hearing will now proceed in secret, turning this drumhead court into even more of a farce. It is a disgrace. And what does CNN respectfully tell us? That the judge has “suspended media coverage.” If only, I say to myself, CNN — along with the U.S. press — would do the same.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk’s new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

 

 

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump. It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail