AN EMPIRE OF LIES

Why Our Media Betray Us

By JONATHAN COOK

February 28, 2011

Counterpunch

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.

http://www.jkcook.net/Articles3/0549.htm

An elaborate con on the common man
Propelled by your massive media plan.
And I can see your hostile takeover, greed and your lies.
Turning what I love into what I despise.

It’s a tale of mass deception, destruction, corruption
And I’m under the assumption the government will function
By a clear and present danger, I’m fearing a stranger
Corporation of fear and mind control
They gotta go

You’re telling lies to cover all those tracks
But it’s misinformation, any honesty it lacks
Your faces now testify how it all went wrong
A nation taken for a ride and strung along

Suffering the wrath, or the immanent collapse
The result for the ignorance of assorted past
Will I watch it all crash? Your departure at long last?
Only the yearn for some honesty here.

So you got the dictator but why go lie
About the poision, the atomic fry
Went on PR tour with honchos in tow
Told the world a big lie about all that you know

Tale of mass deception, tale of mass deception

OSCAR AND THE IDOLS OF THE PEOPLE

The glitz and glamour in seeing the pantheon of stars turn out for the Academy Awards is always impressive. Watching it from CanaDa tonight was no exception.

Since I unexpectedly and powerfully came alive to God on February 1, 1975, I have experienced many unexpected surprises and wonders. One of them was during the 1976 Academy Awards.

Nine months after that awakening at the age of 29 going on 30, I sold all my possessions in Montreal and put on a back pack, entering the Unites States to discover the Spirit of ’76. That Spirit led me to so many places I never could have imagined prior to February 1, 1975.

I spent some time in Venice Beach, California. It was an awesome time for me, especially because it was my 1st winter in a warm, sunny climate. I had a free place to stay half a block from the ocean. I was invited to party more than I could accept.

I held two jobs. At 7am, I set up the tables and chairs on the patio of the Sea & Shore Restaurant on the Boardwalk. For doing just that, I received a full breakfast, and I could sit on the patio whenever, and drink free coffee until closing. It was a wonderful place to meet and greet, discussing the issues of the day.

My other job was washing dishes for $1/hr at Suzanne’s Kitchen Friday to Monday, also on the Boardwalk.  I toured to other places in between. Suzanne was a part time actress and an excellent cook. Her most famous movie part I am aware of was in ‘The Parallax View.”

Graceful words dripped from her lips like milk and honey. Then there were times when it seemed she just suddenly snapped and her words were like icy daggers, making everyone within hearing distance feel like they were guilty for whatever it was.

For the 1976 Academy Awards, she brought a portable television to the Restaurant so we could watch the spectacle. I marveled I was so close to where it was happening for the 1st time in my life. History was made that night. For the 1st time ever, a live trans Atlantic TV broadcast with Diana Ross in Amsterdam was part of the show.

During the presentations, a stranger I had never seen before came into the Restaurant and handed me a brown paper wrapped package and disappeared into the night before I opened it and could ask questions.

To my great wonder and surprise, it was a black leather bound book with the gold embossed title, ‘The Words of Jesus.’ It contained only the words of Jesus from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

To me, it was much more valuable and uplifting than getting a golden statue/false god/idol. I view those things, like Grammy’s, Nobel Prizes, etc. as they’re described in Daniel 3 of the Bible.

The king of Babylon gave a command to ‘all People, Nations and tongues,’ that whenever they heard the sound of any musical instrument wherever they are, they bow down toward the Golden Statue erected in the Capital of Babylon, like Muslims bow toward Mecca. The penalty if anyone was caught not bowing down was to be burned alive in a fired up furnace.

It was most probably rare for the average person to hear a musical instrument in those Times, and actually be caught not prostrating according to the king’s command. If that commandment was still enforced Today, not much work would get done.

This theme is carried over to the last temptations of Jesus recorded in Matthew 4 when the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
and said to him, all these things will I give you, if you WILL FALL DOWN and worship me.
 Jesus said to him, Get outta here, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

My back pack with the Book in it was stolen at The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City months later. I resigned myself to the probability this was meant to be. I could relate with Job – The Lord gave. The Lord has taken away. Blessed Be the name of The Lord.

On the inside front and back covers of the Book there were words written: to be given to – and there were many names written in the Book between the covers. There was one name written I did know, my Sales Manager in Montreal in 1967, nine years earlier. Chances are it was the same name, but not the same person. The next recipient was probably living in Kansas City.

June 1, 2014 – The marvel of the Internet. I had no contact with Suzanne since I moved on in 1976 and she just contacted me Today with pictures from her Kitchen. See her comment below.

Suzanne at Suzanne's KitchenChef Suzanne

SEEDS OF DEMOCRACY

                                      Citizen photo

In this letter to the Ottawa Citizen, the writer uses a Bible verse from the great Prophet Isaiah in chapter 42:2 to say my Public speaking is contrary to the Word of God. He objected to the header ‘Christ Didn’t Whisper’ in a letter to the editor by an earlier writer defending my Public speaking. That letter can be seen below.

Looking up that scripture to see it in context, in the very same chapter, at Isaiah 42:13 it reads,

The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.

Citizen photo

The header to this story would have attracted readers so it is good.  I also like the ad placed underneath it about being a winner with the Christ of Christmas. I also like the thought of “I” ARKS as in Noah’s ARK in the Business sign in the background. As Mother Teresa realized, You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

The story records I did say,”I’m a nut,” but like lazy news media tends to do, it was taken out of context:

“some of you may think ‘I’m a nut.’ Have you never read these words in the Bible? I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

Song of Soloman

The turtle has no voice like most people when it comes to the weightier matters affecting us all. This was a parable/prophecy saying the world is going nuts. Most people would agree the Vision has Generally been proven True after all these years.

This is the same Police Officer assigned to stopping me from exercising my Democratic right to Freedom of Speech in the image above it. After these incidents, I saw this Officer several times on the Beat and always acknowledged him with a cheerful, respectful greeting, but never stopped to talk with him.

Two years passed by and finally the Time arrived when our paths crossed by chance and I stopped to engage him in conversation. I was surprised when he told me he is indebted and grateful to me. He said he was only doing his job as he had to do. He said he realized the people were with me and I could have made him the scapegoat focusing everything on him and I didn’t do that. That was never my style with him or anybody anyway.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 6:12

There is an old Bible story about the Kings of Israel and Judah holding a Summit meeting to discuss about going to war against an enemy. All the prophets in the land of Israel were summoned to tell the Kings the word of the Lord, if God was with them or not?

All four hundred prophets were of one voice. ´God is with you. Go to war.´

The visiting King asked the King of Israel if these were all the prophets of God in Israel? The King said, ´there is one more, but I don´t like him. He always prophesies against me.´

Guards were sent to get Micaiah to appear before the Kings. He was told the other prophets advised the Kings ´God will be with them in battle. Don´t rock the boat, and just go along with the others.´ At first, Micaiah went along with the other prophets, saying ´go up to war.´

The King then said, how many times have I adjured you to tell me only the Truth?

That solitary man then said, ´I saw the Lord asking his Heavenly Host, who will entice the King of Israel to come up to battle so he may die? And one said this, and another said that, and another said, ´I will put a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets of Israel.´ The Lord God of Israel said, ¨Do it!¨

Naturally, one of the other prophets struck Micaiah across the face. The Kings ignored him, and went to war on the advice of the four hundred.

The King of Israel died in the battle that night even though he divested of his royal robes and chariot and was dressed as an ordinary soldier.

Before the Battle, the king ordered “Place this one in prison, and feed him a scant amount of bread and a scant amount of water until I come back in peace.’ ”                                  Micaiah said: “If you will return in peace, the Lord did not speak to me.” And he said, “All the nations listen.”

1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18

In my view, God is not with Israel in their plan to start WWIII/Armageddon with a 1st strike on Iran.

There is a graphic video of the possible Global unintended consequence once Israel starts that war here.

There is a moral and premonition for Today to this ancient story. The seeds of Democracy were planted in that episode in Israel´s history. A fundamental principle of Democracy is, if the whole country disagrees with any one individual, that individual has the protected right to speak.

I attempted to do just that in Canada´s Capital, Ottawa, in 1977. Having no money to organize, advertise or rent a hall, I stood up as a free man on the Sparks Street Mall, the first street after Parliament Hill, and began to speak about God and the Global system of Babylon. People of their own free will started to gather, and eventually were backing up to the next block.

The Police came and stopped my speech. Arresting me for ¨shouting, causing a disturbance,¨ I was locked up in maximum security, solitary confinement for 5 days before appearing in front of a Judge, when I was remanded for trial.

At trial, I had 8 charges because I stood up on the Sparks Street Mall again and again, as was my right, and every time the people stopped to listen. The Police stopped my speech every time.

I was convicted, given a one day suspended sentence, and placed on a probation for one year with only one condition that was so unusual, there was no standard box to check off. Typed in at the bottom of the form were these explicit words:

¨Not to attend on the Sparks Street Mall, or any other street in Ottawa for the purpose of SPEAKING or shouting.¨

I made three more attempts to express my views of God and this world, and was sent to jail for 30 days.

The Ottawa Citizen and other newspapers who chronicled every incident, marking it in time, projected a positive image and reporting the crowds demanded the Police allow me to speak.

I was mindful and grateful in the knowledge other regimes in this world could have just made me disappear if I did the same thing over there.

That could change in our Democratic Future now that President Obama signed into Law a measure that takes legal effect this month

THE INAUGURATION OF POLICE STATE USA 2012. Obama Signs the “National Defense Authorization Act”

On getting out of jail I called the Ottawa Citizen saying, You projected a positive image. Now would you like to talk about the substance? They said, You´re not news any more. That´s the Free Press for ya! What can a solitary person do?

That was long before the Patriot Act.

There is a line in the Bible that says, ¨As it is with the prophet, so it shall be with the people.¨