Crimes of the Times: Vilifying Dr. King, Dan Ellsberg, Ed Snowden & The Rolling Stone
April 10, 2015 Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept & Noam Chomsky / teleSUR
John Oliver's Monday night interview of Edward Snowden -- which in 24 hours has been viewed by 3 million people on YouTube alone -- renewed all the standard attacks in Democratic circles accusing Snowden of being a traitor in cahoots with the Kremlin. The NYT responded with an attack on Snowden that mirrored previous attacks on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dan Ellsberg, Edward Snowden and, most recently, Rolling Stone Magazine.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Edward Snowden on Passwords (April 9, 2015)
Political Smears in US Never Change:
The NYT's 1967 Attack on MLK's Anti-war Speech Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept
(April 7, 2015) -- John Oliver's Monday night interview of Edward Snowden -- which in 24 hours has been viewed by 3 million people on YouTube alone -- renewed all the standard attacks in Democratic circles accusing Snowden of being a traitor in cahoots with the Kremlin.
What's most striking about this -- aside from the utter lack of evidence for any of it -- is how identical it is to what Nixon officials said to smear the last generation's greatest whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg (who is widely regarded by Democrats as a hero because his leak occurred with a Republican in the White House). As The New York Times reported in August 1973:
Ehlichman Scored on Ellsberg Charge
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 (UPI) An attorney for Dr. Daniel Ellsberg has chided the Senate Watergate committee for failing to challenge what he called "totally false and slanderous" testimony by the former White House aide, John D. Ehrlichman, suggesting that Dr. Ellsberg delivered copies of the Pentagon papers to the Soviet Embassy.
During his testimony before your committee, Mr. Ehrlichman repeatedly asserted that the Pentagon papers had been given in 1971 to the Soviet Embassy and implied that this might have been done by my client, Dr. Daniel Ellsber, or with his knowledge," the attorney, Leonard B. Boudin, wrote the committee. "These allegations are made of whole cloth; they are totally false and slanderous of Dr. Ellsberg."
As the Freedom of the Press Foundation recently noted: in December 1973, The NYT described the origins of Nixon's "Plumbers Unit" and detailed how much of it was motivated by the innuendo spread by Henry Kissinger that Ellsberg was a covert Soviet operative:
One was a fear -- nourished in part, some sources said, by Henry A. Kissinger, then the President's national security advisor -- that Daniel Ellsberg, who said he turned over the Pentagon papers to the press, might pass on to the Soviet Union secrets far more important than any information contained in the Pentagon study of the Vietnam war.
Specifically…, the White House feared that Dr. Ellsberg, a former Rand Corporation and Defense Department official, may have been a Soviet intelligence informer….
I defy anyone to listen to any Democratic apparatchik insinuate that Snowden is a Russian agent and identify any differences with how Nixon apparatchiks smeared Ellsberg (or, for that matter, how today's warnings from Obama officials about the grave harm coming from leaks differ from the warnings issued by Bush and Nixon officials). The script for smearing never changes -- it stays constant over five decades and through the establishments of both parties -- and it's one of the reasons Ellsberg so closely identifies with Snowden and has become one of his most vocal defenders.
A reader this morning pointed me to one of the most illustrative examples of this dynamic: an April 1967 New York Times editorial harshly chastising Martin Luther King for his anti-war activism. That editorial was published three days after King's speech on the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in New York City, which, as I have written about many times, was one of the most powerful (and radical) indictments of American militarism delivered in the 20th century.
Among other things, King denounced the US government as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," as well as the leading exponent of "the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long." He said "the war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit." And he argued that no significant American problem can be cured as long as the country remains an aggressive and violent actor in the world: "if America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."
The attack of the NYT editors on King for that speech is strikingly familiar, because it's completely identical to how anti-war advocates in the US are maligned today. It begins by lecturing King that his condemnation of US militarism is far too simplistic: "the moral issues in Vietnam are less clear cut than he suggests." It accuses him of "slandering" the US by comparing it to evil regimes. And it warns him that anti-war activism could destroy the civil rights movement, because he is guilty of overstating American culpability and downplaying those of its enemies:
Furthermore, Dr. King can only antagonize opinion in this country instead of winning recruts to the peace movement by recklessly comparing American military methors to those of the Nazis testing "new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe." The facts are harsh, but they do not justify such slander. Futhermore, it is possible to disagree with many aspects of United States politcy in Vietnam without whitewashing Hanoi….
There are no simple or easy answers to the war in Vietnam or to racial injustive in this country. Linking these hard, complex problems will lead not to solutions but to deeper confusion.
That has every element of the standard Washington attack on contemporary anti-war advocates: condemnation of US militarism is "overly-simplistic," ignores complexities and nuances, "slanders" our government leaders and military officials, and downplays or "whitewashes" the crimes of America's enemies.
It's worth remembering that Washington smear merchants never change their script: they haul the same ones out regardless of the issue or who is doing the dissenting.
(April 7, 2015) -- The media reflects, uncritically, the approved doctrine: that the US owns the world, and it does so by right. A front-page article is devoted to a flawed story about a campus rape in the journal Rolling Stone, exposed in the leading academic journal of media critique.
So severe is this departure from journalistic integrity that it is also the subject of the lead story in the business section, with a full inside page devoted to the continuation of the two reports.
The shocked reports refer to several past crimes of the press: a few cases of fabrication, quickly exposed, and cases of plagiarism ("too numerous to list"). The specific crime of Rolling Stone is "lack of skepticism," which is "in many ways the most insidious" of the three categories. It is refreshing to see the commitment of the Times to the integrity of journalism.
On page 7 of the same issue, there is an important story by Thomas Fuller headlined "One Woman's Mission to Free Laos from Unexploded Bombs." It reports the "single-minded effort" of a Lao-American woman, Channapha Khamvongsa, "to rid her native land of millions of bombs still buried there, the legacy of a nine-year American air campaign that made Laos one of the most heavily bombed places on earth" -- soon to be outstripped by rural Cambodia, following the orders of Henry Kissinger to the US air force: "A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves."
A comparable call for virtual genocide would be very hard to find in the archival record. It was mentioned in the Times in an article on released tapes of President Nixon, and elicited little notice. The Fuller story on Laos reports that as a result of Ms. Khamvongsa's lobbying, the US increased its annual spending on removal of unexploded bombs by a munificent US$12 million.
The most lethal are cluster bombs, which are designed to "cause maximum casualties to troops" by spraying "hundreds of bomblets onto the ground." About 30 percent remain unexploded, so that they kill and maim children who pick up the pieces, farmers who strike them while working, and other unfortunates.
An accompanying map features Xieng Khouang province in northern Laos, better known as the Plain of Jars, the primary target of the intensive bombing, which reached its peak of fury in 1969. Fuller reports that Ms. Khamvongsa "was spurred into action when she came across a collection of drawings of the bombings made by refugees and collected by Fred Branfman, an antiwar activist who helped expose the Secret War."
The drawings appear in the late Fred Branfman's remarkable book Voices from the Plain of Jars, published in 1972, republished by the U. of Wisconsin press in 2013 with a new introduction. The drawings vividly display the torment of the victims, poor peasants in a remote area that had virtually nothing to do with the Vietnam war, as officially conceded.
One typical report by a 26-year-old nurse captures the nature of the air war: "There wasn't a night when we thought we'd live until morning, never a morning we thought we'd survive until night. Did our children cry? Oh, yes, and we did also. I just stayed in my cave. I didn't see the sunlight for two years. What did I think about? Oh, I used to repeat, 'please don't let the planes come, please don't let the planes come, please don't let the planes come.'"
Branfman's valiant efforts did indeed bring some awareness of this hideous atrocity. His assiduous research also unearthed the reasons for the savage destruction of a helpless peasant society. He exposes the reasons once again in the introduction to the new edition of Voices.
In his words: "One of the most shattering revelations about the bombing was discovering why it had so vastly increased in 1969, as described by the refugees. I learned that after President Lyndon Johnson had declared a bombing halt over North Vietnam in November 1968, he had simply diverted the planes into northern Laos.
"There was no military reason for doing so. It was simply because, as US Deputy Chief of Mission Monteagle Stearns testified to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in October 1969, 'Well, we had all those planes sitting around and couldn't just let them stay there with nothing to do'."
Therefore the unused planes were unleashed on poor peasants, devastating the peaceful Plain of Jars, far from the ravages of Washington's murderous wars of aggression in Indochina. Let us now see how these revelations are transmuted into New York Times Newspeak: "The targets were North Vietnamese troops -- especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a large part of which passed through Laos -- as well as North Vietnam's Laotian Communist allies."
Compare the words of the US Deputy Chief of Mission, and the heart-rending drawings and testimony in Fred Branfman's cited collection.
True, the reporter has a source: US propaganda. That surely suffices to overwhelm mere fact about one of the major crimes of the post-World War II era, as detailed in the very source he cites: Fred Branfman's crucial revelations. We can be confident that this colossal lie in the service of the state will not merit lengthy exposure and denunciation of disgraceful misdeeds of the Free Press, such as plagiarism and lack of skepticism.
The same issue of the New York Times treats us to a report by the inimitable Thomas Friedman, earnestly relaying the words of President Obama presenting what Friedman labels "the Obama Doctrine" -- every President has to have a Doctrine. The profound Doctrine is "'engagement', combined with meeting core strategic needs."
The President illustrated with a crucial case: "You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren't that many risks for us. It's a tiny little country. It's not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there's no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn't lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies."
Here the Nobel Peace laureate expands on his reasons for undertaking what the leading US left-liberal intellectual journal, the New York Review, hails as the "brave" and "truly historic step" of reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. It is a move undertaken in order to "more effectively empower the Cuban people," the hero explained, our earlier efforts to bring them freedom and democracy having failed to achieve our noble goals.
The earlier efforts included a crushing embargo condemned by the entire world (Israel excepted) and a brutal terrorist war. The latter is as usual wiped out of history, apart from failed attempts to assassinate Castro, a very minor feature, acceptable because it can be dismissed with scorn as ridiculous CIA shenanigans.
Turning to the declassified internal record, we learn that these crimes were undertaken because of Cuba's "successful defiance" of US policy going back to the Monroe Doctrine, which declared Washington's intent to rule the hemisphere. All unmentionable, along with too much else to recount here.
Searching further we find other gems, for example, the front-page think piece on the Iran deal by Peter Baker a few days earlier, warning about the Iranian crimes regularly listed by Washington's propaganda system. All prove to be quite revealing on analysis, though none more so than the ultimate Iranian crime: "destabilizing" the region by supporting "Shiite militias that killed American soldiers in Iraq."
Here again is the standard picture. When the US invades Iraq, virtually destroying it and inciting sectarian conflicts that are tearing the country and now the whole region apart, that counts as "stabilization" in official and hence media rhetoric. When Iran supports militias resisting the aggression, that is "destabilization." And there could hardly be a more heinous crime than killing American soldiers attacking one's homes.
All of this, and far, far more, makes perfect sense if we show due obedience and uncritically accept approved doctrine: The US owns the world, and it does so by right, for reasons also explained lucidly in the New York Review, in a March 2015 article by Jessica Matthews, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: "American contributions to international security, global economic growth, freedom, and human well-being have been so self-evidently unique and have been so clearly directed to others' benefit that Americans have long believed that the US amounts to a different kind of country. Where others push their national interests, the US tries to advance universal principles."
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