Ask No Questions, Tell No Truths


“Daddy,” the little boy on the bus asks, “what park is that?”

“I don’t know.”

Two blocks later. “Who’s the man in that statue?”

“Beats me.”

“What’s that big building with the point on top?”

“I haven’t a clue”

“Dad. Does it bother you if I keep asking questions?”

“If you don’t ask questions how will you learn?”

We once learned that a free press would protect the public from shady government and business operations. The stereotyped journalist oozed skepticism and curiosity; got in the face of the powerful, with tough questions. Reporters embodied courage to provide transparency; needed for democracy.

However, rather than informing the public on what led them into war in Iraq – and maybe Iran – “experts” analyze Gingrich’s lunacy (Moon colony?) or Romney’s wealth. The modern media inundates us with Angelina’s problems, Jennifer’s marital spats and Lindsay’s addictions, while acting as stenographer for the “national security” elite.

When we get “facts” they come without proper context. On January 10, for example, an assassin’s bomb killed an Iranian nuclear scientist; three previous scientists were assassinated since 2010. Iran accused Israel’s Mossad. Israeli Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, posted on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear.” (Mehdi Hasan Guardian Jan 16, 2012)

US media didn’t press Israeli officials about moral differences between “Palestinian terrorism” (occasional rockets landing in Israel) with Israeli government sponsored assassinations.

Did they press Washington’s elite as to whether they approved of the hit? Israeli officials and their US policy fan club dismissed the incident as ho, hum, routine counter terrorism.

Reporters understand that applying the “t” word to Israel constitutes a bad career choice. They’d get charged with being anti-Semitic. The media breaks hot stories about athletes and actors, but actually abetted Bush when he used the WMD issue to justify his invasion of Iraq. (See Judith Miller’s 2002-3 New York Times  “scoop” stories.) Nor did they push President Obama on his orders to execute – no judicial process — un-indicted US citizens in Yemen last year. The media instead inures us by reprinting security prattle like “targeted killings.” Instead of describing executive assassinations as terrorism – or, God forbid, murder – media “experts” debate the fine points between defense and atrocity. President Obama only “targets” enemies – Muslims who kill innocents. Well, a few mistakes were made…

Almost alone among mainstream journalists Andrew Sullivan asked: ”is not the group or nation responsible for the murder of civilians in another country terrorists?” (“The Terrorism We Support,” The Daily Beast January 11, 2012).

Which reporter asks: “What did Iran do to us again to merit the harsh sanctions, threats and nastiness? Did they overthrow our government as the CIA and MI6 did theirs in 1953? Did they install a King (Shah) in Washington who practiced repression and torture  — until Iranians overthrew him in 1979?”

Some apparent terrorism doesn’t fit the Muslim mold. Christians did the1995 Oklahoma Federal Building bombing. Indeed, army veteran Timothy McVeigh had registered Republican, belonged to the National Rifle Association and got confirmed in a Catholic church. Terrorists? No, extremists, vengeance seekers, bitter guys.

Take the case of “freedom fighters.” “American prosecutors presented evidence in open court that Mr. [Luis}Posada [Carriles]— a man originally trained in explosives by the C.I.A. — played a major role in carrying out bombings in Cuba.” In a 2011 trial in El Paso, “the government presented material showing he had participated in a campaign of bombings in Cuba.” (NY Times April 11, 2011) But prosecutors charged Posada with lying to immigration officials, not terrorism. A confused jury acquitted him.

In January, Posada keynoted a Miami ceremony honoring Jose Marti. The man identified in declassified US documents as masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane (73 died) gets feted as a Cuban “freedom fighter.” Imagine Marti advocating bombing a civilian airliner!

Indiana Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) and Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) attended Posada’s performance along with former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso who had pardoned Posada and cronies in a 2000 conviction for planning to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama. Moscoso would repeat the deed if she could, she said. Reporters omitted that Moscoso coincidentally had also received a $4 million deposit in her offshore account. For that price lots of people would proudly repeat unethical acts.

Without media questioning, the national security elite monopolize the terrorism theme. Israel and the US accuse their enemies of terrorism, while practicing assassinations and deadly drone strikes. In 2009 Ros Lehtinen said she “would welcome anyone who wanted to assassinate Fidel Castro.” And she didn’t get tossed into Guantanamo for advocating the assassination of a foreign leader – from her congressional office.

Israel fears Iran will develop a nuclear weapon via the very secret process Israel chose. Indeed, Israel bombed Syria and Iraqi nuclear installations to stop their attempts to do what Israel did.

In April 1963, President Kennedy asked Israeli Premiere Shimon Peres about nuclear intentions. Peres lied: “I can tell you forthrightly that we will not introduce atomic weapons in to the region. We certainly won’t be the first to do so. We have no interest in that. On the contrary, our interest is in de-escalating the armament tension, even in total disarmament.”  (Barry Lando, “The Iran Crisis: Only Half the Story,” CounterPunch, February 2, 2012)

Israel’s nukes receive scant media attention. When an Iranian scientist gets whacked, the media shrug.  After all, everyone knows, Israel had to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuke. Israel only has 200 of them. Would a career-minded reporter ask about such contradictions? If he doesn’t ask how will he (we) learn?

Saul Landau, an Institute for Policy Studies fellow, produced Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up (Cinema Libre Studio).  CounterPunch published his Bush and Botox World. 

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