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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail