You Should Not Demand Your Rights, You Should Just Exercise Them. Turn Your Back On These So Called "Authorities" Walk Away, Stop Paying For Your Own Enslavement. Nobody Has The "Right" To Tell You What Your Rights Are. We Are Mankind, Not Fictional "Citizens". We Have Inalienable Natural Rights. STOP FEEDING THE SYSTEM.
If You Think What’s Happening In Egypt An Lybia Won’t Happen Within The United States, You’ve Been Watching Too Much TV. The Statistics Speak For Themselves.
Libya Has No Monopoly On Lunatics.
Glenn Beck claims that protesters in the United States and in Egypt are being duped and "have no clue" that they are unwittingly advancing a coordinated plot by communists and Islamists to destroy Israel and "the Western way of life" and install a global caliphate or a new world order.
Labor Organizers Consider General Strike in Wisconsin As Gov. Walker Refuses to Negotiate Over Anti-Union Bill
Democracy Now: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is expected to propose deep cuts to the state’s health programs for the poor and aid to local governments. Walker has also threatened to start the process of laying off 1,500 state workers unless 14 Democratic senators return to the state and vote to refinance millions in debt. The Walker administration is coming under intense criticism for largely shutting off the state Capitol to protesters ahead of his speech. Democracy Now! Senior Producer Mike Burke speaks to Frank Ems...
Workers' Uprising: Americans Overwhelmingly on Public Workers' Side, Republicans Defect from Walker's Scorched-Earth Tactics
Follow the latest developments and analysis on the democratic uprising spreading from Wisconsin to the rest of the country. Read More
Workers' Uprising: Large Protests in Ohio Where Vote on Anti-Union Bill Could Come Tomorrow; Progressives Go After GOP Senators With Potential Recall; Judge Orders Madison Capitol Building Re-Opened
Posted by Andy Kroll at 6:29pm, February 27, 2011.
Right now, at the invaluable Antiwar.com website -- overflowing with blazing headlines -- you can see two worlds of trouble awkwardly intertwined. The first is a Middle East newly afire, one in which Muammar Qaddafi’s rotting, mad regime is shrinking to the size of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, while the rest of the region continues to light up with protest. In Iraq, tens of thousands of demonstrators ignored government warnings and curfews to attend a nationwide “day of rage” for a better life, “storming provincial government offices in several cities” and forcing government officials to resign, even as they faced tear gas, batons, and in some cases real bullets.
Elsewhere nervous rulers were moving to placate their restless, angry populations, including 87-year-old Saudi King Abdullah, a sclerotic, American-backed autocrat who just announced a massive $36 billion package of benefits (think: bribe) aimed at his own people, lest they, too, get out of hand. Nonetheless, as an Antiwar.com headline tells us, the King -- according to a New York Times report, so “popular” as to be almost invulnerable to “democracy movements” -- now faces Facebook threats of the first “day of rage” in his kingdom. The U.S. is still betting that its Persian Gulf autocrats and oil sheiks will emerge as winners, but hold onto your hats. In a crunch, the Saudi king’s popularity may prove all-too-Mubarakian, meaning that Washington would again find itself on the wrong side of history.
Unfortunately for such regimes right now, acts of repression only enrage, and so expand, the opposition, while any concessions are seen (quite rightly) as signs of weakness.
At the same time, consider the headlines from that other (increasingly beside-the-point) world, the one where American imperial adventures take place. Yes, yet another American aircraft hasgunned down Afghan civilians. Yes, yet more CIA drone aircraft launched yet more Hellfire missiles in the Pakistani borderlands, killing yet more unknown people who may or may not be “terrorists.”
Yes, the Pakistani police have picked up yet another American of unknown provenance, this time in those same borderlands, whose visa had “expired.” It's likely he'll turn out to be one of the scoresor even hundreds of CIA operatives and Agency contractors who have entered Pakistan in recent months to pursue Washington's covert war there. Yes, we have yet another “runaway” American general in Afghanistan who evidently organized psy-ops squads to shape the malleable minds of visiting congressional representatives. Yes, despite repeated claimed of "progress" in the Afghan War, a U.N. official now insists that security in the country has fallen to its worst level since 2001.
Yes, yet another Afghan valley which the best American military minds long claimed “vital” for the U.S. to garrison is being abandoned. (It’s called “realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people.”) And yes, even though the training of Afghan security forces is supposedly going swimmingly, “attrition” reportedly remains sky-high, with the Afghan Army losing 32% of its forces annually, mainly through desertion, in this Groundhog Day version of war.
You get the idea -- and so, evidently, does Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who just told an audience of West Point cadets that, as far as he was concerned, there should be no future Afghan-style American ground wars on the Asian continent or in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, in far-off Wisconsin, the protesters who massed for a huge rally Saturday evidently know instinctively which side of history they're on; unlike the Obama administration, they identify with those organizing the “days of rage” in the Middle East, not with its autocrats. American demonstrators may still be focused on issues of immediate self-interest, but remember, only yesterday no one thought a non-Tea-Party-type would ever again take to an American street shouting protest slogans.
And keep in mind as well, if you stay out in the streets long enough, sooner or later you’ll move beyond an imperious and manipulative governor and run smack into imperial power itself -- into, that is, our obtuse, time-warped wars which take their toll here, too. If the protests continue to spread, so will the subject matter, and then it will be clearer, as TomDispatch associate editor Andy Kroll reports from Madison, just how close we're coming to Cairo. Tom
Cairo in Wisconsin
Eating Egyptian Pizza in Downtown Madison
By Andy Kroll
Eating Egyptian Pizza in Downtown Madison
By Andy Kroll
The call reportedly arrived from Cairo. Pizza for the protesters, the voice said. It was Saturday, February 20th, and by then Ian's Pizza on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, was overwhelmed. One employee had been assigned the sole task of answering the phone and taking down orders. And in they came, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from Morocco, Haiti, Turkey, Belgium, Uganda, China, New Zealand, and even a research station in Antarctica. More than 50 countries around the globe. Ian's couldn't make pizza fast enough, and the generosity of distant strangers with credit cards was paying for it all.
Those pizzas, of course, were heading for the Wisconsin state capitol, an elegant domed structure at the heart of this Midwestern college town. For nearly two weeks, tens of thousands of raucous, sleepless, grizzled, energized protesters have called the stately capitol building their home. As the police moved in to clear it out on Sunday afternoon, it was still the pulsing heart of the largest labor protest in my lifetime, the focal point of rallies and concerts against a politically-charged piece of legislation proposed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a hard-right Republican. That bill, officially known as the Special Session Senate Bill 11, would, among other things, eliminate collective bargaining rights for most of the state's public-sector unions, in effect eviscerating the unions themselves.
"Kill the bill!" the protesters chant en masse, day after day, while the drums pound and cowbells clang. "What's disgusting? Union busting!"
One World, One Pain
The spark for Wisconsin's protests came on February 11th. That was the day the Associated Press published a brief story quoting Walker as saying he would call in the National Guard to crack down on unruly workers upset that their bargaining rights were being stripped away. Labor and other left-leaning groups seized on Walker's incendiary threat, and within a week there were close to 70,000 protesters filling the streets of Madison.
Six thousand miles away, February 11th was an even more momentous day. Weary but jubilant protesters on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and other Egyptian cities celebrated the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who had ruled over them for more than 30 years and amassed billions in wealth at their expense. "We have brought down the regime," cheered the protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the center of the Egyptian uprising. In calendar terms, the demonstrations in Wisconsin, you could say, picked up right where the Egyptians left off.
I arrived in Madison several days into the protests. I've watched the crowds swell, nearly all of those arriving -- and some just not leaving -- united against Governor Walker's "budget repair bill." I've interviewed protesters young and old, union members and grassroots organizers, students and teachers, children and retirees. I've huddled with labor leaders in their Madison "war rooms," and sat through the governor's press conferences. I've slept on the cold, stone floor of the Wisconsin state capitol (twice). Believe me, the spirit of Cairo is here. The air is charged with it.
It was strongest inside the Capitol. A previously seldom-visited building had been miraculously transformed into a genuine living, breathing community. There was a medic station, child day care, a food court, sleeping quarters, hundreds of signs and banners, live music, and a sense of camaraderie and purpose you'd struggle to find in most American cities, possibly anywhere else in this country. Like Cairo's Tahrir Square in the weeks of the Egyptian uprising, most of what happens inside the Capitol's walls is protest.
Egypt is a presence here in all sorts of obvious ways, as well as ways harder to put your finger on. The walls of the capital, to take one example, offer regular reminders of Egypt's feat. I saw, for instance, multiple copies of that famous photo on Facebook of an Egyptian man, his face half-obscured, holding a sign that reads: "EGYPT Supports Wisconsin Workers: One World, One Pain." The picture is all the more striking for what's going on around the man with the sign: a sea of cheering demonstrators are waving Egyptian flags, hands held aloft. The man, however, faces in the opposite direction, as if showing support for brethren halfway around the world was important enough to break away from the historic celebrations erupting around him.
Similarly, I've seen multiple copies of a statement by Kamal Abbas, the general coordinator for Egypt's Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services, taped to the walls of the state capitol. Not long after Egypt's January Revolution triumphed and Wisconsin's protests began, Abbas announced his group's support for the Wisconsin labor protesters in a page-long declaration that said in part: "We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don't waiver. Don't give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights."
Then there's the role of organized labor more generally. After all, widespread strikes coordinated by labor unions shut down Egyptian government agencies and increased the pressure on Mubarak to relinquish power. While we haven't seen similar strikes yet here in Madison -- though there's talk of a general strike if Walker's bill somehow passes -- there's no underestimating the role of labor unions like the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and the American Federation of Teachers in organizing the events of the past two weeks.
Faced with a bill that could all but wipe out unions in historically labor-friendly states across the Midwest, labor leaders knew they had to act -- and quickly. "Our very labor movement is at stake," Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of Wisconsin's AFL-CIO branch, told me. "And when that's at stake, the economic security of Americans is at stake.”
“The Mubarak of the Midwest”
On the Sunday after I arrived, I was wandering the halls of the Capitol when I met Scott Graham, a third-grade teacher who lives in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Over the cheers of the crowd, I asked Graham whether he saw a connection between the events in Egypt and those here in Wisconsin. His response caught the mood of the moment. "Watching Egypt's story for a week or two very intently, I was inspired by the Egyptian people, you know, striving for their own self-determination and democracy in their country," Graham told me. "I was very inspired by that. And when I got here I sensed that everyone's in it together. The sense of solidarity is just amazing."
A few days later, I stood outside the capitol building in the frigid cold and talked about Egypt with two local teachers. The most obvious connection between Egypt and Wisconsin was the role and power of young people, said Ann Wachter, a federal employee who joined our conversation when she overheard me mention Egypt. There, it was tech-savvy young people who helped keep the protests alive and the same, she said, applied in Madison. "You go in there everyday and it's the youth that carries it throughout hours that we're working, or we're running our errands, whatever we do. They do whatever they do as young people to keep it alive. After all, I'm at the end of my working career; it's their future."
And of course, let’s not forget those almost omnipresent signs that link the young governor of Wisconsin to the aging Hosni Mubarak. They typically label Walker the "Mubarak of the Midwest" or "Mini-Mubarak," or demand the recall of "Scott 'Mubarak.'" In a public talk on Thursday night, journalist Amy Goodman quipped, "Walker would be wise to negotiate. It's not a good season for tyrants."
One protester I saw on Thursday hoisted aloft a "No Union Busting!" sign with a black shoe perched atop it, the heel facing forward -- a severe sign of disrespect that Egyptian protesters directed at Mubarak and a symbol that, before the recent American TV blitz of “rage and revolution” in the Middle East, would have had little meaning here.
Which isn't to say that the Egypt-Wisconsin comparison is a perfect one. Hardly. After all, the Egyptian demonstrators massed in hopes of a new and quite different world; the American ones, no matter the celebratory and energized air in Madison, are essentially negotiating loss (of pensions and health-care benefits, if not collective bargaining rights). The historic demonstrations in Madison have been nothing if not peaceful. On Saturday, when as many as 100,000 people descended on Madison to protest Walker's bill, the largest turnout so far, not a single arrest was made. In Egypt, by contrast, the protests were plenty bloody, with more than 300 deaths during the 29-day uprising.
Not that some observers didn't see the need for violence in Madison. Last Saturday, Jeff Cox, a deputy attorney general in Indiana, suggested on his Twitter account that police "use live ammunition" on the protesters occupying the state Capitol. That sentiment, discovered by a colleague of mine, led to an outcry. The story broke on Wednesday morning; by Wednesday afternoon Cox had been fired.
New York Times columnist David Brooks was typical of mainstream coverage and punditry in quickly dismissing any connection between Egypt (or Tunisia) and Wisconsin. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart spoofed and rejected the notion that the Wisconsin protests had any meaningful connection to Egypt. He called the people gathered here "the bizarro Tea Party." Stewart's crew even brought in a camel as a prop. Those of us in Madison watched as Stewart's skit went horribly wrong when the camel got entangled in a barricade and fell to the ground.
As far as I know, neither Brooks nor Stewart spent time here. Still, you can count on one thing: if the demonstrators in Tahrir Square had been enthusiastically citing Americans as models for their protest, nobody here would have been in such a dismissive or mocking mood. In other parts of this country, perhaps it still feels less than comfortable to credit Egyptians or Arabs with inspiring an American movement for justice. If you had been here in Madison, this last week, you might have felt differently.
Pizza Town Protest
Obviously, the outcomes in Egypt and Wisconsin won’t be comparable. Egypt toppled a dictator; Wisconsin has a democratically elected governor who, at the very earliest, can't be recalled until 2012. And so the protests in Wisconsin are unlikely to transform the world around us. Still, there can be no question, as theyspread elsewhere in the Midwest, that they have reenergized the country's stagnant labor movement, a once-powerful player in American politics and business that's now a shell of its former self. "There's such energy right now," one SEIU staffer told me a few nights ago. "This is a magic moment."
Not long after talking with her, I trudged back to Ian's Pizza, the icy snow crunching under my feet. At the door stood an employee with tired eyes, a distinct five o'clock shadow, and a beanie on his head.
I wanted to ask him, I said, about that reported call from Cairo. "You know,” he responded, “I really don't remember it." I waited while he politely rebuffed several approaching customers, telling them how Ian's had run out of dough and how, in any case, all the store’s existing orders were bound for the capitol. When he finally had a free moment, he returned to the Cairo order. There had, he said, been questions about whether it was authentic or not, and then he added, "I'm pretty sure it was from Cairo, but it's not like I can guarantee it." By then, another wave of soon-to-be disappointed customers was upon us, and so I headed back to the capitol and another semi-sleepless night.
The building, as I approached in the darkness, was brightly lit, reaching high over the city. Protestors were still filing inside with all the usual signs. In the rotunda, drums pounded and people chanted and the sound swirled into a massive roar. For this brief moment at least, people here in Madison are bound together by a single cause, as other protesters were not so long ago, and may be again, in the ancient cities of Egypt.
Right then, the distance separating Cairo and Wisconsin couldn’t have felt smaller. But maybe you had to be there.
Andy Kroll is a reporter in the D.C. bureau of Mother Jones magazine and an associate editor at TomDispatch.com. He will never again sleep on the frigid stone floor of a state capitol.
The Films And Journalism Of John Pilger
24 February 2011
Shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I interviewed Ray McGovern, one of an elite group of CIA officers who prepared the President’s daily intelligence brief. McGovern was at the apex of the “national security” monolith that is American power and had retired with presidential plaudits. On the eve of the invasion, he and 45 other senior officers of the CIA and other intelligence agencies wrote to President George W. Bush that the “drumbeat for war” was based not on intelligence, but lies.
“It was 95 per cent charade,” McGovern told me.
“How did they get away with it?”
“The press allowed the crazies to get away with it.”
“Who are the crazies?”
“The people running the [Bush] administration have a set of beliefs a lot like those expressed in Mein Kampf... these are the same people who were referred to in the circles in which I moved, at the top, as ‘the crazies’.”
I said, “Norman Mailer has written that that he believes America has entered a pre-fascist state. What’s your view of that?”
“Well... I hope he’s right, because there are others saying we are already in a fascist mode.”
On 22 January, Ray McGovern emailed me to express his disgust at the Obama administration’s barbaric treatment of the alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and its pursuit of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. “Way back when George and Tony decided it might be fun to attack Iraq,” he wrote, “I said something to the effect that fascism had already begun here. I have to admit I did not think it would get this bad this quickly.”
On 16 February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at George Washington University in which she condemned governments that arrested protestors and crushed free expression. She lauded the liberating power of the internet while failing to mention that her government was planning to close down those parts of the internet that encouraged dissent and truth-telling. It was a speech of spectacular hypocrisy, and Ray McGovern was in the audience. Outraged, he rose from his chair and silently turned his back on Clinton. He was immediately seized by police and a security goon and beaten to the floor, dragged out and thrown into jail, bleeding. He has sent me photographs of his injuries. He is 71. During the assault, which was clearly visible to Clinton, she did not pause in her remarks.
Fascism is a difficult word, because it comes with an iconography that touches the Nazi nerve and is abused as propaganda against America’s official enemies and to promote the West’s foreign adventures with a moral vocabulary written in the struggle against Hitler. And yet fascism and imperialism are twins. In the aftermath of world war two, those in the imperial states who had made respectable the racial and cultural superiority of “western civilisation”, found that Hitler and fascism had claimed the same, employing strikingly similar methods. Thereafter, the very notion of American imperialism was swept from the textbooks and popular culture of an imperial nation forged on the genocidal conquest of its native people. And a war on social justice and democracy became “US foreign policy”.
As the Washington historian William Blum has documented, since 1945, the US has destroyed or subverted more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and used mass murderers like Suharto, Mobutu and Pinochet to dominate by proxy. In the Middle East, every dictatorship and pseudo-monarchy has been sustained by America. In “Operation Cyclone”, the CIA and MI6 secretly fostered and bank-rolled Islamic extremism. The object was to smash or deter nationalism and democracy. The victims of this western state terrorism have been mostly Muslims. The courageous people gunned down last week in Bahrain and Libya, the latter a “priority UK market”, according to Britain’s official arms “procurers”, join those children blown to bits in Gaza by the latest American F-16 aircraft.
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator but a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.
How did such extremism take hold in the liberal West? “It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed,” observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago, “[and] to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centred egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that [an order of] inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved. In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is under way to convince people – particularly young people – that this not only is what they should feel but that it’s what they do feel.”
Like the European revolutions of 1848 and the uprising against Stalinism in 1989, the Arab revolt has rejected fear. An insurrection of suppressed ideas, hope and solidarity has begun. In the United States, where 45 per cent of young African-Americans have no jobs and the top hedge fund managers are paid, on average, a billion dollars a year, mass protests against cuts in services and jobs have spread to heartland states like Wisconsin. In Britain, the fastest-growing modern protest movement, UK Uncut, is about to take direct action against tax avoiders and rapacious banks. Something has changed that cannot be unchanged. The enemy has a name now.
An Empire of Lies : Why Our Media Betrays Us
By Jonathan Cook
By Jonathan Cook
February 28, 2011 "Information Clearing House" --- Last week the Guardian, Britain’s main liberal newspaper, ran an exclusive report on the belated confessions of an Iraqi exile, Rafeed al-Janabi, codenamed “Curveball” by the CIA. Eight years ago, Janabi played a key behind-the-scenes role — if an inadvertent one — in making possible the US invasion of Iraq. His testimony bolstered claims by the Bush administration that Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, had developed an advanced programme producing weapons of mass destruction.
Curveball’s account included the details of mobile biological weapons trucks presented by Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, to the United Nations in early 2003. Powell’s apparently compelling case on WMD was used to justify the US attack on Iraq a few weeks later.
Eight years on, Curveball revealed to the Guardian that he had fabricated the story of Saddam’s WMD back in 2000, shortly after his arrival in Germany seeking asylum. He told the paper he had lied to German intelligence in the hope his testimony might help topple Saddam, though it seems more likely he simply wanted to ensure his asylum case was taken more seriously.
For the careful reader — and I stress the word “careful” — several disturbing facts emerged from the report.
One was that the German authorities had quickly proven his account of Iraq’s WMD to be false. Both German and British intelligence had travelled to Dubai to meet Bassil Latif, his former boss at Iraq’s Military Industries Commission. Dr Latif had proven that Curveball’s claims could not be true. The German authorities quickly lost interest in Janabi and he was not interviewed again until late 2002, when it became more pressing for the US to make a convincing case for an attack on Iraq.
Another interesting disclosure was that, despite the vital need to get straight all the facts about Curveball’s testimony — given the stakes involved in launching a pre-emptive strike against another sovereign state — the Americans never bothered to interview Curveball themselves.
A third revelation was that the CIA’s head of operations in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, passed on warnings from German intelligence that they considered Curveball’s testimony to be highly dubious. The head of the CIA, George Tenet, simply ignored the advice.
With Curveball’s admission in mind, as well as these other facts from the story, we can draw some obvious conclusions — conclusions confirmed by subsequent developments.
Lacking both grounds in international law and the backing of major allies, the Bush administration desperately needed Janabi’s story about WMD, however discredited it was, to justify its military plans for Iraq. The White House did not interview Curveball because they knew his account of Saddam’s WMD programme was made up. His story would unravel under scrutiny; better to leave Washington with the option of “plausible deniability”.
Nonetheless, Janabi’s falsified account was vitally useful: for much of the American public, it added a veneer of credibility to the implausible case that Saddam was a danger to the world; it helped fortify wavering allies facing their own doubting publics; and it brought on board Colin Powell, a former general seen as the main voice of reason in the administration.
In other words, Bush’s White House used Curveball to breathe life into its mythological story about Saddam’s threat to world peace.
So how did the Guardian, a bastion of liberal journalism, present its exclusive on the most controversial episode in recent American foreign policy?
Here is its headline: “How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam”.
Did the headline-writer misunderstand the story as written by the paper’s reporters? No, the headline neatly encapsulated its message. In the text, we are told Powell’s presentation to the UN “revealed that the Bush administration’s hawkish decisionmakers had swallowed” Curveball’s account. At another point, we are told Janabi “pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence”. And that: “His critics — who are many and powerful — say the cost of his deception is too difficult to estimate.”
In other words, the Guardian assumed, despite all the evidence uncovered in its own research, that Curveball misled the Bush administration into making a disastrous miscalculation. On this view, the White House was the real victim of Curveball’s lies, not the Iraqi people — more than a million of whom are dead as a result of the invasion, according to the best available figures, and four million of whom have been forced into exile.
There is nothing exceptional about this example. I chose it because it relates to an event of continuing and momentous significance.
Unfortunately, there is something depressingly familiar about this kind of reporting, even in the West’s main liberal publications. Contrary to its avowed aim, mainstream journalism invariably diminishes the impact of new events when they threaten powerful elites.
We will examine why in a minute. But first let us consider what, or who, constitutes “empire” today? Certainly, in its most symbolic form, it can be identified as the US government and its army, comprising the world’s sole superpower.
Traditionally, empires have been defined narrowly, in terms of a strong nation-state that successfully expands its sphere of influence and power to other territories. Empire’s aim is to make those territories dependent, and then either exploit their resources in the case of poorly developed countries, or, with more developed countries, turn them into new markets for its surplus goods. It is in this latter sense that the American empire has often been able to claim that it is a force for global good, helping to spread freedom and the benefits of consumer culture.
Empire achieves its aims in different ways: through force, such as conquest, when dealing with populations resistant to the theft of their resources; and more subtly through political and economic interference, persuasion and mind-control when it wants to create new markets. However it works, the aim is to create a sense in the dependent territories that their interests and fates are bound to those of empire.
In our globalised world, the question of who is at the centre of empire is much less clear than it once was. The US government is today less the heart of empire than its enabler. What were until recently the arms of empire, especially the financial and military industries, have become a transnational imperial elite whose interests are not bound by borders and whose powers largely evade legislative and moral controls.
Israel’s leadership, we should note, as well its elite supporters around the world — including the Zionist lobbies, the arms manufacturers and Western militaries, and to a degree even the crumbling Arab tyrannies of the Middle East — are an integral element in that transnational elite.
The imperial elites’ success depends to a large extent on a shared belief among the western public both that “we” need them to secure our livelihoods and security and that at the same time we are really their masters. Some of the necessary illusions perpetuated by the transnational elites include:
– That we elect governments whose job is to restrain the corporations;
– That we, in particular, and the global workforce, in general, are the chief beneficiaries of the corporations’ wealth creation;
– That the corporations and the ideology that underpins them, global capitalism, are the only hope for freedom;
– That consumption is not only an expression of our freedom but also a major source of our happiness;
– That economic growth can be maintained indefinitely and at no long-term cost to the health of the planet; and,
– That there are groups, called terrorists, who want to destroy this benevolent system of wealth creation and personal improvement.
These assumptions, however fanciful they may appear when subjected to scrutiny, are the ideological bedrock on which the narratives of our societies in the West are constructed and from which ultimately our sense of identity derives. This ideological system appears to us — and I am using “we” and “us” to refer to western publics only — to describe the natural order.
The job of sanctifying these assumptions — and ensuring they are not scrutinised — falls to our mainstream media. Western corporations own the media, and their advertising makes the industry profitable. In this sense, the media cannot fulfil the function of watchdog of power because, in fact, it is power. It is the power of the globalised elite to control and limit the ideological and imaginative horizons of the media’s readers and viewers. It does so to ensure that imperial interests, which are synonymous with those of the corporations, are not threatened.
The Curveball story neatly illustrates the media’s role.
His confession has come too late — eight years too late, to be precise — to have any impact on the events that matter. As happens so often with important stories that challenge elite interests, the facts vitally needed to allow western publics to reach informed conclusions were not available when they were needed. In this case, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are gone, as are their neoconservative advisers. Curveball’s story is now chiefly of interest to historians.
That last point is quite literally true. The Guardian’s revelations were of almost no concern to the US media, the supposed watchdog at the heart of the US empire. A search of the Lexis Nexis media database shows that Curveball’s admissions featured only in the New York Times, in a brief report on page 7, as well as in a news round-up in the Washington Times. The dozens of other major US newspapers, including the Washington Post, made no mention of it at all.
Instead, the main audience for the story outside the UK was the readers of India’s Hindu newspaper and the Khaleej Times.
But even the Guardian, often regarded as fearless in taking on powerful interests, packaged its report in such a way as to deprive Curveball’s confession of its true value. The facts were bled of their real significance. The presentation ensured that only the most aware readers would have understood that the US had not been duped by Curveball, but rather that the White House had exploited a “fantasist” — or desperate exile from a brutal regime, depending on how one looks at it — for its own illegal and immoral ends.
Why did the Guardian miss the main point in its own exclusive? The reason is that all our mainstream media, however liberal, take as their starting point the idea both that the West’s political culture is inherently benevolent and that it is morally superior to all existing, or conceivable, alternative systems.
In reporting and commentary, this is demonstrated most clearly in the idea that “our” leaders always act in good faith, whereas “their” leaders — those opposed to empire or its interests — are driven by base or evil motives.
It is in this way that official enemies, such as Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, can be singled out as personifying the crazed or evil dictator — while other equally rogue regimes such as Saudi Arabia’s are described as “moderate” — opening the way for their countries to become targets of our own imperial strategies.
States selected for the “embrace” of empire are left with a stark choice: accept our terms of surrender and become an ally or defy empire and face our wrath.
When the corporate elites trample on other peoples and states to advance their own selfish interests, such as in the invasion of Iraq to control its resources, our dominant media cannot allow its reporting to frame the events honestly. The continuing assumption in liberal commentary about the US attack on Iraq, for example, is that, once no WMD were found, the Bush administration remained to pursue a misguided effort to root out the terrorists, restore law and order, and spread democracy.
For the western media, our leaders make mistakes, they are naïve or even stupid, but they are never bad or evil. Our media do not call for Bush or Blair to be tried at the Hague as war criminals.
This, of course, does not mean that the western media is Pravda, the propaganda mouthpiece of the old Soviet empire. There are differences. Dissent is possible, though it must remain within the relatively narrow confines of “reasonable” debate, a spectrum of possible thought that accepts unreservedly the presumption that we are better, more moral, than them.
Similarly, journalists are rarely told — at least, not directly — what to write. The media have developed careful selection processes and hierarchies among their editorial staff — termed “filters” by media critics Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky — to ensure that dissenting or truly independent journalists do not reach positions of real influence.
There is, in other words, no simple party line. There are competing elites and corporations, and their voices are reflected in the narrow range of what we term commentary and opinion. Rather than being dictated to by party officials, as happened under the Soviet system, our journalists scramble for access, to be admitted into the ante-chambers of power. These privileges make careers but they come at a huge cost to the reporters’ independence.
Nonetheless, the range of what is permissible is slowly expanding — over the opposition of the elites and our mainstream TV and press. The reason is to be found in the new media, which is gradually eroding the monopoly long enjoyed by the corporate media to control the spread of information and popular ideas. Wikileaks is so far the most obvious, and impressive, outcome of that trend.
The consequences are already tangible across the Middle East, which has suffered disproportionately under the oppressive rule of empire. The upheavals as Arab publics struggle to shake off their tyrants are also stripping bare some of the illusions the western media have peddled to us. Empire, we have been told, wants democracy and freedom around the globe. And yet it is caught mute and impassive as the henchmen of empire unleash US-made weapons against their peoples who are demanding western-style freedoms.
An important question is: how will our media respond to this exposure, not just of our politicians’ hypocrisy but also of their own? They are already trying to co-opt the new media, including Wikileaks, but without real success. They are also starting to allow a wider range of debate, though still heavily constrained, than had been possible before.
The West’s version of glasnost is particularly obvious in the coverage of the problem closest to our hearts here in Palestine. What Israel terms a delegitimisation campaign is really the opening up — slightly — of the media landscape to allow a little light where until recently darkness reigned.
This is an opportunity and one that we must nurture. We must demand of the corporate media more honesty; we must shame them by being better-informed than the hacks who recycle official press releases and clamour for access; and we must desert them, as is already happening, for better sources of information.
We have a window. And we must force it open before the elites of empire try to slam it shut.
This is the text of a talk entitled “Media as a Tool of Empire” delivered to Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, at its eighth international conference in Bethlehem on Friday February 25.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.
U.S. continues Bush policy of opposing ICC prosecutions
(updated below w/correction)
It has been that many of the worst atrocities on behalf of Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi have been committed by foreign mercenaries from countries such as Algeria, Ethiopia and Tunisia. Despite that, the aimed at Libya, which was just enacted last week, includes a strange clause that specifically forbids international war crimes prosecutions against mercenaries from nations which are not signatories to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which protects many of the mercenaries Gadaffi is using. Section 6 of the Resolution states that the Security Council:
Decides that nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the State;
Why would a clause be inserted to expressly protect war crimes-committing mercenaries on Gadaffi's payroll from international prosecutions? Because, , the Obama administration insisted on its inclusion -- as an absolutely non-negotiable demand -- due to a fear that its exclusion might render Bush officials (or, ultimately, even Obama officials) subject to war crimes prosecutions at the ICC on the same theory that would be used to hold Libya's mercenaries accountable:
[T]he US insisted that the UN resolution was worded so that no one from an outside country that is not a member of the ICC could be prosecuted for their actions in Libya.
This means that mercenaries from countries such as Algeria, Ethiopia and Tunisia -- which have all been named by rebel Libyan diplomats to the UN as being among the countries involved -- would escape prosecution even if they were captured, because their nations are not members of the court.
The move was seen as an attempt to prevent a precedent that could see Americans prosecuted by the ICC for alleged crimes in other conflicts. While the US was once among the signatories to the court, George W. Bush withdrew from it in 2002 and declared that it did not have power over Washington. . . . It was inserted despite Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, saying that all those "who slaughter civilians" would "be held personally accountable".
Speaking to reporters outside the council chamber, Gerard Araud, the French UN ambassador, described the paragraph as "a red line for the United States", meaning American diplomats had been ordered by their bosses in Washington to secure it. "It was a deal-breaker, and that's the reason we accepted this text to have the unanimity of the council," said Mr Araud.
notes that Araud blamed the Obama administration's demand on "parliamentary constraints" -- implying that Obama officials believed inclusion of this provision was the only way to induce Congress to approve and implement it. There's no evidence that this is the case, but whatever the motives, here we have yet another episode where the U.S. exempts itself from standards it purports to impose on the rest of the world: in this case going so far as to allow murderous mercenaries to go unpunished all in service of this administration's overarching, compulsive goal of ensuring that America's own accused war criminals are never held accountable or . This is the sort of gross, credibility-destroying hypocrisy that escapes notice by America's media but not by anyone else's.
* * * * *
Two related points:
(2) I've before about the case of Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman abducted in late 2001, encaged at Guantanamo for six years without ever being charged, and tortured, all while being questioned almost exclusively about Al Jazeera's operations, not about Al Qaeda. As I've noted, his case was an enormous story in the Muslim world -- entailing, as it did, the U.S.'s due-process-free imprisonment and abuse of a journalist -- but received almost no attention in the U.S. media (Nicholas Kristof was a noble exception, and demanding his release).
A the hero's welcome and massive media storm triggered in the Muslim world by al-Haj's eventual release from Guantanamo in 2007. By contrast, very, very few Americans have any idea who al-Haj is or even know generally that the U.S. imprisoned numerous journalists -- including him -- for years without due process (). The vast disparities in perception between non-U.S. Muslim and Americans are often noted, though it's usually attributed in the American media to the way in which . Often times, the cause is exactly the opposite: it's propaganda, to be sure, but not Them who are being subjected to it.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Looking over the language of the U.N. Resolution again, I think it's quite possible that The Telegraph -- and therefore me -- got a big part of this story wrong. There's language in Paragraph 6 defining the scope of the immunity that is easy to overlook because of the strange way it's drafted -- "arising out of or related tooperations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council" -- that seems to limit the immunity only to those participating in "operations authorized by" the U.N. Security Council: meaning anyone involved in a U.N. peacekeeping mission (or U.N.-authorized military action) in Libya. That would seem to exclude Libya's mercenaries from the immunity clause (in an update, ).
This is clearly a case where the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration's insistence that the U.S. (as a non-signatory to the Rome Statute) should be exempt from all ICC prosecutions, but it does not seem -- as The Telegraph and then I indicated -- that the cost of this position here is immunity for Libya's mercenaries. [The headline and sub-header have been changed to reflect this error; they originally read: "U.S. shields foreign mercenaries in Libya to protect Bush officials - A U.N. resolution bars war crimes prosecutions for Libya's foreign fighters because Obama officials demanded it"]. More:
If he gets BSkyB, it will be a victory for monopoly capitalism
Rupert Murdoch has always had an eye for a great deal. When he bid £7.2bn for the balance of BSkyB he did not own, he got in before other shareholders tumbled to how valuable the company was becoming. Full control would open up rich opportunities for "tax efficiencies" and cross-selling so crucial in the future digital world. His was a roll of the dice, leading, as he knows better than anyone, to a degree of press and television concentration unmatched anywhere. He had squared away David Cameron, as he had so many British and Australian prime ministers before. On Friday, a report in the Financial Times suggested that he is finally close to his goal – an announcement could be made as soon as this week.
Britain, a country run by investment bankers for investment bankers, is organized on the principle that ownership does not matter. It is as easy as pie to buy quoted companies and then simple to act with only the faintest of constraints. Our cross-ownership rules in the media are the lamest of any in an industrialized country. Anybody who objects to this is jumped on as "anti-enterprise".
There was one obstacle to Murdoch's ambitions – a clause Lord David Puttnam wrote into the 2003 Communications Act that media concentration must not inhibit the plurality of news provision. This concerns the BSkyB deal in two ways: that once Murdoch owns the entire company he can integrate his print and television news operations into one. And second, the sheer market power of News Corp wholly owning BSkyB will make it impossible for most other news organizations to compete in five to 10 years' time. There is another concern – the impact on Britain's important cultural and creative industries will be devastating. I know of at least one major US television group which decided not to invest in the UK. It is a "post-mature" market that in its view is now de facto controlled by the Murdoch family. The market is being given to him gift wrapped.
OfCom recommended that the issues raised were so profound the bid should be referred to the Competition Commission, which at the very least implied months of delay and Murdoch having to pay a very much higher price even if he did get the go-ahead. But Mr Murdoch is a past master at running rings around our timorous politicians and hamstrung regulators. He bought the News of the World in 1969 exploiting every loophole in the take-over code. His agreement to co-run the paper with the ex-owner Sir William Carr lasted all of three months. He bought theTimes and Sunday Times in 1981, avoided referral to the Monopolies Commission courtesy of Margaret Thatcher because the papers were loss-making, and agreed to run the titles with independent directors as custodians of impartial journalism, who soon were ignored. BSkyB was a tougher challenge, but as his mother once said, Rupert loves a challenge.
Secretary of state for business Vince Cable unwittingly created the opening. He did not refer Richard Desmond's bid for Channel 5 for any plurality review in August (Desmond also owns Express newspapers). Then he was secretly recorded by Daily Telegraph journalists saying he was "at war" with Murdoch. Suddenly, this most litigious of businessman had a potential case for judicial review on grounds of bias if his bid was referred to the Competition Commission, as Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, never fails to remind us. Murdoch was allowed to talk to the Office of Fair Trading to come up with a deal that would avoid being referred, thus reducing the risk of legal challenge. What a happy result for the Conservative party anxious to keep on the right side of him.
Unsurprisingly, a deal is now near. The OFT is apparently insisting on a structural rather than a behavioural concession from Mr Murdoch – our regulators have learned something over the years. One option is the sale of Sky News, losing £40m, thus sustaining its independence, but to whom? In any case, Murdoch wants to continue owning it. The word on the street is that the OFT will accept a Times-plus solution; Sky News run by an independent trust, separate from the newspapers, but funded by News Corp. Plurality is preserved.
So Murdoch will be both satisfied and irritated. He has given more ground than he did with the News of the World and the Times, but crucially he has retained ownership. Ownership means control and you do what you must to get it. Time goes by; commercial realities change; regulation is weak and sooner or later the owner can claim what is his or hers.
Opinion on this is split. Media analyst Claire Enders, once a vociferous and influential critic, believes it is the best that could be hoped for within the current framework. That is a mighty condemnation of our rules. By 2015, BSkyB will account for half of UK TV revenues, spending little on UK content while controlling swaths of sports, film and archive rights. The US company deciding not to invest here will be the first of many. Capitalism delivers best when it is open, competitive and the powerful companies have to confront hungry challengers (Rupert Murdoch was himself a hungry young man 50 years ago). It becomes sclerotic and sleazy when it is run by insiders, monopolies and political fixes.
And plurality? Who is to say that the next Communications Act will not remove the provision Rupert so detests? In which case, the OFT deal will be seen as just one more feeble and transient obstacle in the onward march of News Corp. British politicians of all persuasions identify being pro-business as agreeing to anything today's powerful businessmen want, without really understanding that the genius of capitalism is the opportunity it gives to the challenger and the outsider rather than protecting the interests of powerful incumbents. It is a weakness Murdoch has exploited to the full.
For example, when bankers were negotiating Project Merlin, the deal in which they would agree to lend more if the government called off its attacks on bonuses and threats of more regulation, they also wanted an agreement to limit the Independent Commission on Banking's work and recommendations. Powerful incumbents were trying to protect their interests and the government, anxious to be "pro-business", was willing to oblige. I understand only the threatened resignation of chair Sir John Vickers and all his commissioners headed off the threat.
We need to show some similar steel over the evolution of our creative industries and over questions of ownership and media cross-ownership more generally. In particular, Messrs Clegg, Huhne, Alexander and Cable must look each other in the eye. Mr Murdoch poses a profound question not just over our media, but more widely. Is monopoly capitalism what we want?
Wikileaks Goes After The Saudi Royal Family - businessinsider.com
When Saudi King Abdullah arrived home last week, he came bearing gifts: handouts worth $37 billion, apparently intended to placate Saudis of modest means and insulate the world's biggest oil exporter from the wave of protest sweeping the Arab world.
But some of the biggest handouts over the past two decades have gone to his own extended family, according to unpublished American diplomatic cables dating back to 1996.
The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters, provide remarkable insight into how much the vast royal welfare program has cost the country -- not just financially but in terms of undermining social cohesion.
Besides the huge monthly stipends that every Saudi royal receives, the cables detail various money-making schemes some royals have used to finance their lavish lifestyles over the years. Among them: siphoning off money from "off-budget" programs controlled by senior princes, sponsoring expatriate workers who then pay a small monthly fee to their royal patron and, simply, "borrowing from the banks, and not paying them back."
As long ago as 1996, U.S. officials noted that such unrestrained behavior could fuel a backlash against the Saudi elite. In the assessment of the U.S. embassy in Riyadh in a cable from that year, "of the priority issues the country faces, getting a grip on royal family excesses is at the top."
A 2007 cable showed that King Abdullah has made changes since taking the throne six years ago, but recent turmoil in the Middle East underlines the deep-seated resentment about economic disparities and corruption in the region.
A Saudi government spokesman contacted by Reuters declined to comment.
The November 1996 cable -- entitled "Saudi Royal Wealth: Where do they get all that money?" -- provides an extraordinarily detailed picture of how the royal patronage system works. It's the sort of overview that would have been useful required reading for years in the U.S. State department.
It begins with a line that could come from a fairytale: "Saudi princes and princesses, of whom there are thousands, are known for the stories of their fabulous wealth -- and tendency to squander it."
The most common mechanism for distributing Saudi Arabia's wealth to the royal family is the formal, budgeted system of monthly stipends that members of the Al Saud family receive, according to the cable. Managed by the Ministry of Finance's "Office of Decisions and Rules," which acts like a kind of welfare office for Saudi royalty, the royal stipends in the mid-1990s ran from about $800 a month for "the lowliest member of the most remote branch of the family" to $200,000-$270,000 a month for one of the surviving sons of Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia.
Grandchildren received around $27,000 a month, "according to one contact familiar with the stipends" system, the cable says. Great-grandchildren received about $13,000 and great-great- grandchildren $8,000 a month.
"Bonus payments are available for marriage and palace building," according to the cable, which estimates that the system cost the country, which had an annual budget of $40 billion at the time, some $2 billion a year.
"The stipends also provide a substantial incentive for royals to procreate since the stipends begin at birth."
After a visit to the Office of Decisions and Rules, which was in an old building in Riyadh's banking district, the U.S. embassy's economics officer described a place "bustling with servants picking up cash for their masters." The office distributed the monthly stipends -- not just to royals but to "other families and individuals granted monthly stipends in perpetuity." It also fulfilled "financial promises made by senior princes."
The head of the office at the time, Abdul-Aziz al-Shubayli, told the economics officer that an important part of his job "at least in today's more fiscally disciplined environment, is to play the role of bad cop." He "rudely grilled a nearly blind old man about why an eye operation promised by a prince and confirmed by royal Diwan note had to be conducted overseas and not for free in one of the first-class eye hospitals in the kingdom." After finally signing off on a trip, Shubayli noted that he himself had been in the United States twice for medical treatment, once for a chronic ulcer and once for carpal tunnel syndrome. "He chuckled, suggesting that both were probably job-induced."
FOLLOWING THE MONEY
But the stipend system was clearly not enough for many royals, who used a range of other ways to make money, "not counting business activities."
"By far the largest is likely royal skimming from the approximately $10 billion in annual off-budget spending controlled by a few key princes," the 1996 cable states. Two of those projects -- the Two Holy Mosques Project and the Ministry of Defense's Strategic Storage Project -- are "highly secretive, subject to no Ministry of Finance oversight or controls, transacted through the National Commercial Bank, and widely believed to be a source of substantial revenues" for the then-King and a few of his full brothers, according to the authors of the cable.
In a meeting with the U.S. ambassador at the time, one Saudi prince, alluding to the off-budget programs, "lamented the travesty that revenues from 'one million barrels of oil per day' go entirely to 'five or six princes,'" according to the cable, which quoted the prince.
Then there was the apparently common practice for royals to borrow money from commercial banks and simply not repay their loans. As a result, the 12 commercial banks in the country were "generally leary of lending to royals."
The managing director of another bank in the kingdom told the ambassador that he divided royals into four tiers, according to the cable. The top tier was the most senior princes who, perhaps because they were so wealthy, never asked for loans. The second tier included senior princes who regularly asked for loans. "The bank insists that such loans be 100 percent collateralized by deposits in other accounts at the bank," the cable reports. The third tier included thousands of princes the bank refused to lend to. The fourth tier, "not really royals, are what this banker calls the 'hangers on'."
Another popular money-making scheme saw some "greedy princes" expropriate land from commoners. "Generally, the intent is to resell quickly at huge markup to the government for an upcoming project." By the mid-1990s, a government program to grant land to commoners had dwindled. "Against this backdrop, royal land scams increasingly have become a point of public contention."
The cable cites a banker who claimed to have a copy of "written instructions" from one powerful royal that ordered local authorities in the Mecca area to transfer to his name a "Waqf" -- religious endowment -- of a small parcel of land that had been in the hands of one family for centuries. "The banker noted that it was the brazenness of the letter ... that was particularly egregious."
Another senior royal was famous for "throwing fences up around vast stretches of government land."
The confiscation of land extends to businesses as well, the cable notes. A prominent and wealthy Saudi businessman told the embassy that one reason rich Saudis keep so much money outside the country was to lessen the risk of 'royal expropriation.'"
Finally, royals kept the money flowing by sponsoring the residence permits of foreign workers and then requiring them to pay a monthly "fee" of between $30 and $150. "It is common for a prince to sponsor a hundred or more foreigners," the 1996 cable says.
The U.S. diplomats behind the cable note wryly that despite all the money that has been given to Saudi royals over the years there is not "a significant number of super-rich princes ... In the end," the cable states, Saudi's "royals still seem more adept at squandering than accumulating wealth."
But the authors of the cable also warned that all that money and excess was undermining the legitimacy of the ruling family. By 1996, there was "broad sentiment that royal greed has gone beyond the bounds of reason". Still, as long as the "royal family views this country as 'Al Saud Inc.' ever increasing numbers of princes and princesses will see it as their birthright to receive lavish dividend payments, and dip into the till from time to time, by sheer virtue of company ownership."
In the years that followed that remarkable assessment of Saudi royalty, there were some official efforts toward reform -- driven in the late 1990s and early 2000s in particular by an oil price between $10-20 a barrel. But the real push for reform began in 2005, when King Abdullah succeeded to the throne, and even then change came slowly.
By February 2007, according to a second cable entitled "Crown Prince Sultan backs the King in family disputes", the reforms were beginning to bite. "By far the most widespread source of discontent in the ruling family is the King's curtailment of their privileges," the cable says. "King Abdullah has reportedly told his brothers that he is over 80 years old and does not wish to approach his judgment day with the 'burden of corruption on my shoulder.'"
The King, the cable states, had disconnected the cellphone service for "thousands of princes and princesses." Year-round government-paid hotel suites in Jeddah had been canceled, as was the right of royals to request unlimited free tickets from the state airline. "We have a first-hand account that a wife of Interior minister Prince Naif attempted to board a Saudia flight with 12 companions, all expecting to travel for free," the authors of the cables write, only to be told "to her outrage" that the new rules meant she could only take two free guests.
Others were also angered by the rules. Prince Mishal bin Majid bin Abdulaziz had taken to driving between Jeddah and Riyadh "to show his annoyance" at the reforms, according to the cable.
Abdullah had also reigned in the practice of issuing "block visas" to foreign workers "and thus cut the income of many junior princes" as well as dramatically reducing "the practice of transferring public lands to favored individuals."
The U.S. cable reports that all those reforms had fueled tensions within the ruling family to the point where Interior Minister Prince Naif and Riyadh Governor Prince Salman had "sought to openly confront the King over reducing royal entitlements."
But according to "well established sources with first hand access to this information," Crown Prince Sultan stood by Abdullah and told his brothers "that challenging the King was a 'red line' that he would not cross." Sultan, the cable says, has also followed the King's lead and turned down requests for land transfers.
The cable comments that Sultan, longtime defense minister and now also Crown Prince, seemed to value family unity and stability above all.
WikiLeaks at the Forefront of 21st-Century Journalism
If there were ever doubts about whether the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is a journalist, recent events erase those doubts and put him at the forefront of a movement to democratize journalism and empower people.
The U.S. Department of Justice is still trying to find a way to prosecute Assange and others associated with WikiLeaks. A key to their prosecution is claiming he is not a journalist, but that weak premise has been made laughable by recent events.
The list of WikiLeaks revelations has become astounding. During the North African and Middle East revolts, WikiLeaks published documents that provided people with critical information. The traditional media has relied on WikiLeaks publications and is now also emulating WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has been credited by many with helping to spark the Tunisian Revolutionbecause they provided information about the widespread corruption of the 23-year rule of the Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali regime. PBS pointed to 10 cables dating from 2006 to 2009 published by WikiLeaks in November that were translated and shared widely in Tunisia detailing the corruption and authoritarian rule of Ben Ali, who lived in opulent luxury while Tunisians struggled. Foreign Policy reported that “the candor of the cables released by WikiLeaks did more for Arab democracy than decades of backstage U.S. diplomacy.”
In Egypt, WikiLeaks publications gave democracy activists the information needed to spark protests: they provided background that explained the Egyptian uprising; described the suppression of opinions critical of the regime by arrests and harassment of journalists, bloggers, and a poet; showed the common use of police brutality and torture; detailed the abuse of the 1967 emergency law to arrest and indefinitely detain journalists, activists, labor leaders, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood; and demonstrated how rivals were removed to ensure Gamal Mubarak succeeded his father. Traditional media publications like the New York Times relied on WikiLeaks to analyze the causes of the uprising.
Another set of documents described how Israel and the U.S. wanted Omar Suleiman to replace Mubarak. Suleiman, a military intelligence officer for three decades, was described by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the preferred successor. A WikiLeaks article explained Suleiman’s close relationship with the United States. Suleiman described Egypt as “a partner” with the U.S., and the U.S. described Suleiman as “the most successful element of the relationship” with Egypt. The long history of Suleiman working with Israel to suppress democracy in Gaza, keeping the people of Gaza hungry, and being in constant contact with Israel through a hotline was revealed. WikiLeaks also showed that Suleiman shared U.S. and Israeli concern over Iran and was disdainful of Muslims in politics, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. All of this made Suleiman very popular with Israel and the U.S., but unacceptable to Egyptian democracy advocates.
The United States used some WikiLeaks publications to show that it had been critical of Egypt, exerted private pressure, and supported democracy activists like Mohammad ElBaradei. Despite what has been said in the traditional media, WikiLeaks published materials with an agenda for transparency and an informed public, not an intent to harm the U.S.
WikiLeaks informed the Bahrain public about their government’s cozy relationshipwith the U.S. It described a $5 billion joint venture with Occidental Petroleum and $300 million in U.S. military sales. ABC reported on WikiLeaks documents that described the close relationship between U.S. and Bahrain intelligence agencies and how the U.S. Navy is the foundation of Bahrain’s national security. This wasemphasized to Gen. David Petraeus along with their common opposition to Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq and their desire for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq.
WikiLeaks has been criticized by U.S. enemies. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described WikiLeaks as U.S. “intelligence warfare,” saying: “These documents are prepared and released by the U.S. government in a planned manner and in pursuance of a goal.” WikiLeaks was criticized by Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, who shut down Facebook in Tripoli and sporadically shut off the Internet to prevent Libyans from knowing the truth. No doubt WikiLeaks publications embarrassed Gadhafi, adding fuel to internal opposition to his regime.
WikiLeaks is filling a void in traditional media, as the level of distrust of the mass media is now at record highs. A recent Gallup Poll found 57 percent of Americans do not trust the media, and a Pew Poll found a record low 29 percent trust the media. There is good reason for distrust. The New York Times helped start the Iraq War by publishing the false weapons of mass destruction story. It recently misled the public about a Blackwater employee arrested in Pakistan by hiding the fact that he worked for the CIA, while reporting that Obama said he was a diplomat. Even the way theTimes and the Washington Post reported on WikiLeaks documents showed reason for distrust. WikiLeaks described Iranian long-range missiles that could hit European cities but also reported that Russian intelligence refuted the claim. The Times and thePost evidently made a decision to exaggerate Iranian capability and mislead readers by excluding the Russian intelligence report.
The Times admits it provides WikiLeaks documents to the government in advance and excludes material at the request of the government.
There has been a steady decline in readers and viewers of newspapers and television news since 1980. The decline began before the existence of the Internet. The decline in younger readers has been particularly noticeable—30 years ago 60 percent of people under 36 read a newspaper daily, but now it is 30 percent. The Internet has seen a steady rise in viewers and news outlets.
Even though some in the traditional media are threatened by WikiLeaks, more and more outlets are acknowledging WikiLeaks as journalism. Reporters Without Borders hosts a mirror site of WikiLeaks as “a gesture of support for WikiLeaks’ right to publish information without being obstructed.” Similarly, a mainstream French newspaper,Liberation, announced a “mirror-WikiLeaks” site on its website.
Jeff Jarvis of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism writes: “We in journalism must recognize that WikiLeaks is an element of a new ecosystem of news. It is a new form of the press. So we must defend its rights as media. If we do not, we could find our own rights curtailed. Asking whether WikiLeaks should be stopped is exactly like asking whether this newspaper should be stopped when it reveals what government does not want the public to know. We have been there before; let us never return.”
The Guardian, a WikiLeaks partner, wrote in an editorial: “There is a need as never before for an internet that remains a free and universal form of communication. WikiLeaks’ chief crime has been to speak truth to power. What is at stake is nothing less than the freedom of the Internet.”
Jay Rosen of New York University’s journalism school describes WikiLeaks as the first “stateless news agency.” The actions of WikiLeaks, he noted, show our news organizations how “statist they really are,” and leakers going to WikiLeaks rather than the traditional media shows how distrustful people are of the corporate media. This all shows that the “watchdog press has died” and WikiLeaks is filling the void.
The void will exist—and be filled—whether or not the Department of Justice prosecutes Julian Assange. The Economist writes: “With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personnel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.”
The traditional media is emulating WikiLeaks. Al Jazeera has created a “transparency unit” that launched in January 2011 and has published the Palestine Papers, which describe the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, based on leaked documents. The New York Times is now talking about creating its own version of WikiLeaks. Students atCUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism designed LocaLeaks, allowing anonymous encrypted leaks to over 1,400 U.S. newspapers. Government employees and business insiders can now report illegal or unethical practices without being identified.
The journalism democracy door has been opened, power to report is being redistributed, government employees and corporate whistleblowers are being empowered, and greater transparency is becoming a reality. The United States would be better off accepting these realities than prosecuting the news organization that showed the way. Prosecution will highlight the utter hypocrisy of the U.S. government, showing the world it does not mean what it says when it claims that freedom of the speech and press are cornerstones of democratic government.
Fox Repeatedly Scrubs Backgrounds Of Guests Who Attack Wisconsin Protests
Fox News has failed to fully inform its viewers about the identities of guests it has hosted to criticize labor unions and the protests in Wisconsin. Fox has not disclosed guests' Republican Party activism in two instances and also hosted the CEO of a multinational company to criticize protesters for attacking "small businesses."
Fox Bills GOP Senate Candidate, Local GOP Officeholder As Concerned Parents
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) named Dodd chairman and CEO on Tuesday. He will start his new job on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.