Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Dandelion Salad

by Jim Miles
Global Research, May 29, 2008

Review of Marda Dunsky’s book

In an era when American foreign policy has reached the pinnacle of unilateralism by invading other countries pre-emptively, threatening others with nuclear annihilation, and abrogating in doing so many decades if not more than a century of international law development, Marda Dunsky’s book Pens and Swords presents a very strong, well-referenced argument illuminating the bias within American media reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That bias develops under two main themes – a lack of historical context, and a lack of recognition of the effects of U.S. foreign policy. Along with those two major themes, are the related ideas of weaknesses in analysing and criticizing sources, and in not providing references for what discussion there is as the arguments already fit the generally accepted ‘Washington’ consensus. Other ideas that accompany the discussion are the use of language that biases an argument, and the desire for the “amorphous if not impossible standard of objectivity.”


The book is well organized and well developed. It begins with an introduction that presents a brief summary of some current communication theory. This is followed by a discussion of the “policy mirror” between the Washington consensus and the media. Next is a limited presentation of historical context – the nakba, international law and the right of return – in order that the reader does have some background knowledge, leading into Dunsky’s first discussion on reporting on the Palestinian refugee story. From there the main presentation works through discussions of media reporting on Israeli settlements, the violence of the second intifada, the ‘war at home’ or how the local media is perceived by various sectors. The two final sections “In the Field” and “Toward a New way of Reporting…” carry significant and well-reasoned perspectives on what is happening and what could or should be happening.

There are several points along the way that deserve emphasis for their clarity and validity.

Communication theory

First is the communication theory, which defines mainstream media as “outlets that are in harmony with the prevailing direction of influence in culture at large.” In essence, “to a significant extent American mainstream journalism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toes the line of U.S. Mideast policy.” She discusses three theoretical constructs – hegemony, indexing, and cascading – that emphasize these points respectively: “the American mainstream media…operate in the same social and economic framework as government;” “The range of discourse is exceedingly narrow…because [it] emanates from an equally narrow range of sources;” and “the mainstream media determines the level of understanding that is possible for the public and the policy makers alike.” If that does not give the mainstream media thoughts for concern, then ironically, these definitions become all that more powerful.


The refugee problem is defined as “a root cause of the Israeli-Palestine conflict” and to omit it from context “is to omit an important part of the story.” Dunsky briefly outlines the nakba as recently viewed by ‘revisionist’ historians who deny the official Israeli narrative while using information in a large part garnered from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) archives themselves. While these ideas “depart markedly from the familiar narrative” there are other gaps in the narrative, one of the more important being “the body of international law and consensus on refugee rights in general, and Palestinian refugee rights in particular.”[1] Accompanying this is the right of return which the Israelis claim for the Jewish people of the world, but that is denied to the Palestinians in contravention of international law.

Context as a theme is obviously a major issue for any discussion of the refugee problem. American media “routinely denies its audience the contextual tools with which to assess important historical and political aspects of the issue,” and it “largely mirrors U.S. Mideast policy,” remaining “explicitly tilted in favor of Israel in the pursuit of what is officially defined as the U.S. national interest in the region.” News reports “relate what can be seen and heard, to the exclusion or relevant contextual background.” [italics in original] The message that does come across is that of the “refugees’ own transigence and the machinations of their leaders, the Arab states, and the United Nations.” While it seems almost too obvious to state, Dunsky sums up her arguments on the refugee reporting saying “if Americans had a fuller contextual understanding of the key issues…via the mainstream media, they would be better equipped to challenge U.S. Mideast policy.”

Obvious yes, but it also signifies that American culture, American society perhaps does not want to disturb its own beliefs in its exceptionalism and perfectionism that is their gift (even if by the barrel of a gun) to the world. To admit these failings of context, to examine the context in light of foreign policy would be greatly disturbing to a society educated (or inculcated) about its own greatness, exceptionalism, perfectionism, and love of democracy and freedom. And so it should be.

Israeli settlements

Similar arguments are brought forth concerning the Israeli settlements. A brief background set of information ties in the U.S. $3 billion in aid each year that supports the ability to continue the settlements. Dunsky argues, and supports, the idea that “reporting on the settlement issue bears a striking similarity to reporting on the …refugee question,” with “more weight usually given to Israeli claims and little or no reference to international law and consensus.” Also, “dramatic description is substituted for thoroughgoing analytical reporting.” And more in the same category of context: “Contextually and substantively…the stories made little or no reference to international law and consensus or to U.S. aid to Israel.”

The media references to the Israeli side generally emphasize the perspective “that Palestinian violence must be halted before negotiations can resume,” without the context of history and the idea that the very act of settlement and “its attendant military defense have been a root cause of that violence.” Frequent comments run through the text, emphasizing and referencing the lack of context and of international law and consensus in the media reports that are studied.

The intifada

The height of the intifada violence coincided with American rhetoric and anguish after 9/11 and provided a neat tie in for the Israeli government and the IDF to try and capture the argument as one of terrorism, leaving aside completely the historical context and using the American perspective of “us against them,” of democracy versus demagoguery, of “they hate us for what we are.” For the media “political discourse focused entirely on themes that were emotional, moral, and patriotic,” providing a “period of congruence for the United States and Israel.” The IDF incursions into the West Bank relied on the concept that “the campaign was to root out the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.”

Palestine was no match for the well-organized Israeli “propaganda battlefield” and as events continued, “Arafat and the PA were linked to terror” as “repeatedly impressed on U.S. government officials and the American public through the media.” Another feature of these reports is what “amounted to transparent Israeli advocacy for a U.S. war in Iraq” as well as connections through to Iran. In sum, Dunsky says

“American journalists were operating within the sphere of cultural congruence – a comfort zone where journalistic scepticism and balance were often overshadowed or displaced by the political discourse of the Bush administration, in which a “war on terror” could be prosecuted by the United States, and, by extension, its closest ally.”

Ego and Access

The chapter “In the Field” provides an intriguing perspective on the reporters/journalists (I put those two descriptors together, not really sure where the lines between a reporter and a journalist meet or overlap or coincide) themselves. The section could be subtitled “Ego and Access” as those are the two main themes in the first set of self-reports.

Dunsky allows the reporters to speak for themselves and some of what they say is self-incriminating as to why there is a bias and lack of context. It would seem that the correspondents are well aware of media competition in the sense that they need a daily story. They worry about how the editors will deal with their report and they need a story with a different view to gain publication and so that their peers will take notice: “to attempt unfiltered reporting…not only is often discouraged by newsroom culture but can also result in swift and unstinting audience censure.” That is the ego part. The access part is the consistent iteration that access to Israeli sources was very easy and well organized and that communication with the Palestinians required more effort. That could be – although denied by the correspondents – because “most…choose to live among Israelis in West Jerusalem because of its higher standard of living rather than among Palestinians.” It is a hard denial to make, that their place of living has “had little or no effect on their actual work product.” If they have no sense of context, perhaps also their sense of place is…hmm…misplaced.

Before getting into these self-examinations, examinations that reveal all too much about ego and access, Dunsky reiterates her own two “key underlying contexts: the impact of U.S. policy on the trajectory of the conflict; and the importance of international law and consensus regarding the key issues of Israeli settlement and annexation policies and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.” As a result the journalistic product “frames media discourse on the conflict in a way that reinforces and supports rather than scrutinizes and challenges U.S. policy that in many ways undergirds it.”

Context and media failure.

The final two writers provide a much clearer analysis of the world they lived in. Gillian Findlay, ABC correspondent from September 1997 to June 2002 says “when we did try to provide context, it became such a controversial thing, not only among viewers but also within the news organization.” She was surprised by “how little our audience understood about the roots of the conflict,” and says it is a “cop out in reporting” to say there is nothing the U.S. administration can do. Speaking more globally she hits upon another truth about American media, that “the lack of context applies to so much reporting these days. It’s not just this issue.”

Chris Hedges worked for the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News off and on from January 1988 to 2003. He says “Arab culture is incomprehensible to us because we’ve never taken the time to understand it. It’s a great failing of the press that when something is incomprehensible to us, we certify it as incomprehensible to everyone.” He continues this idea when discussing the suicide bombers, “we don’t understand the slow drip of oppression” that created them and further “We’ve never taken the time to understand them….[a] fundamental failure of the coverage of Palestinians.” As for the press as an institution he says, “bureaucracies…are driven by ambition and have very little moral sense. That’s true of every institution….It’s not conducive of their own advancement.”

All of which leaves me wondering, as a critical reader, what exactly are the credentials of the writers/reporters/journalists who are in the field. Certainly being there provides them with first hand observation of current events, but do they have the academic background to understand the socio-political history of the region? Are they able and willing to look at what for me is the prime contradiction in the vast majority of American and Israeli foreign affairs and those who report on it – that what you do speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying? That democracy does not arrive at the barrel of gun, peace does not come from pre-emptive invasions and occupations, the victim cannot be blamed for the ongoing violence against the intruders, and international law deems it all illegal? More simply put, people, nations, do not like being occupied and suppressed, and no rhetoric of any kind will make it acceptable except to an elite few cronies of the occupiers. Are the reporters able and willing to step outside of the Washington consensus, willing to take the time to provide more background information for themselves as well as their readers, or will the corporate agenda over-rule any attempts at providing context, a context that more often than not goes against the grain of the Washington consensus?

The final argument is on objectivity, seen in the introduction as an “amorphous if not impossible standard,” another argument that comes back to all media tasks being “superfluous as long as one remains within the presuppositional framework of the doctrinal consensus,” with writers well aware of “rewards that accrue to conformity and the costs of honest dissidence.”

I would hope that all journalists/writers would take the time to read Pens and Swords. The books arguments are well presented and well referenced, and the work as a whole should be placed on every journalists’/reporters’ shelf alongside similar works by other well referenced and questioning media critics [2] For any journalist who is actually wishing to pursue truth rather than ego and access, consideration and action on the ideas presented in Dunsky’s work would be a great place to start. Pens and Swords is also a great read for all mass media audiences to better inform themselves and to be able to criticize and analyze the writers/producers and their products more intelligently as well as to analyze their own place and views within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[1] for an easily read comprehensive understanding of international law, see Michael Byers’ War Law, Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict, Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto, 2005.

[2] ]Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (2002), and Falk and Friel Israel-Palestine on Record (2007). contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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© Copyright Jim Miles, Global Research, 2008
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Israeli settlers and army started to expand illegal settlement on Bil’in land

The Continuing Catastrophe (videos)

Ron Paul Confronts The Liar – Condoleezza Rice (video no longer available)

Dandelion Salad

Video got pulled.  Sorry.


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h/t: Bastian ~ Vote Ron Paul


Spinning the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program (video)

Bush “Plans Iran Air Strike by August”

Will Cheney get his war? (video; Porter)

The War Camp in Death Throes is Intent on Striking Iran

US and Iran: Is an Iraq grand bargain possible? (vid; Porter)

Ray McGovern: Admiral Fallon Should Speak Out + Can Fallon Prevent WWIII? (videos)

Report: U.S. Will Attack Iran

Secret Bush “Finding” Widens War on Iran-Democrats OK Funds for Covert Ops

Taking a Stand Against War By Scott Ritter

Bogus Claim, al-Maliki Stall U.S. Plan on Iran Arms by Gareth Porter


Countdown: McClellan Interview

Dandelion Salad


May 29, 2008

McClellan Interview

John Dean Interview

John Dean gives his perspective on the Scott McClellan interview.


McClellan Book: Nothing New

Scott McClellan’s first interview! (vids)

Bush’s new book: It’s all McClellan’s fault (satire)

White House Puzzled Over McClellan Book: We Taught Him To Lie, Now He’s Forgotten How

Countdown: Excerpts from McClellan’s Book + Candy-Gramm for McCain

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

McClellan Book: Nothing New

Dandelion Salad


“Scathing memoir”…

“Explosive revelations”…


We’ve heard and seen it all before. It’s all been extensively documented and pretty much completely ignored by the complicit mainstream media.

We’re well aware of the crimes of the Bush administration. We don’t need another book from a former administration insider to rehash the old news. We need some NEW news. We need a former administration insider with the cojones to stand up the the Bushco fascists and testify under oath about EVERYTHING he or she knows.

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more about “McClellan Book: Nothing New“, posted with vodpod


Scott McClellan’s first interview! (vids)

Bush’s new book: It’s all McClellan’s fault (satire)

White House Puzzled Over McClellan Book: We Taught Him To Lie, Now He’s Forgotten How

Countdown: Excerpts from McClellan’s Book + Candy-Gramm for McCain

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

Scott McClellan’s first interview! (vids)

Dandelion Salad


May 29, 2008 NBC Today Show

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Bush’s new book: It’s all McClellan’s fault (satire)

White House Puzzled Over McClellan Book: We Taught Him To Lie, Now He’s Forgotten How

Countdown: Excerpts from McClellan’s Book + Candy-Gramm for McCain

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

Bush’s new book: It’s all McClellan’s fault (satire)


by R J Shulman
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Robert’s blog post
May 29, 2008

WASHINGTON – President Bush announced today that he will be releasing a book called, Wha Hoppen?: Goings on in my White House and why you can’t blamicate me. The book, authored by the President as told to his pet goat, essentially blames all of his administration’s problems on Scott McClellan, his former Press Secretary.

“Scottie was the one who outed Valerie Plame,” the President writes, “and when he told me about her, I told him how shocking it was because she didn’t look like a lesbian. And all that bad intelligence about Iraq,” Bush continued, “as everybody knows you have to be bad at being intelligent to understand bad intelligence and that is the kind of intelligence that Scott fed to me knowing that I’m bad at being intelligent, so of course I sent our troops to war on Scott’s advice.” The President addresses the problems with his response to Hurricane Katrina. “Who could have known that Scottie would break bad news to me about the Croissant City and how much New Orleans means to its home state of Alabama, and then break this bad news to me right when I had to be playing guitar with that country guy in San Diego? The reason Scottie is trying to make me the pet scapegoat,” Bush concludes, “is that he is not only a disgruntled employee, but an overgruntled one.”

The President’s groundbreaking book,” said current Presidential Press Secretary Dana Perino, “clearly shows that McClellan was part of the great left-wing conspiracy funded by George Soros and the liberal media. No matter how much pressure they might put on me,” Perino continued, “I would never tell the truth about the President.” “McClellan saying bad things about the President is clearly treason,” said Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, “and he should be extraordinarily renditioned to some secret dark cell in some dubious country so our brave operatives can convince him to spill the names of his co-conspirators so we can protect American values like freedom of speech.”

The book which will be released in time for Christmas also blames Scott McClellan for the poor economy, the foreclosure crises, high gas prices, the Watergate scandal and for the crucifixion of Jesus.


White House Puzzled Over McClellan Book: We Taught Him To Lie, Now He’s Forgotten How

Countdown: Excerpts from McClellan’s Book + Candy-Gramm for McCain

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

Bush Claims More Powers than King George III

Dandelion Salad

by Jeff Demers and Sherwood Ross
Global Research, May 29, 2008

The Bush administration has arrogated powers to itself that the British people even refused to grant King George III at the time of the Revolutionary War, an eminent political scientist says.

“No executive in the history of the Anglo-American world since the Civil War in England in the 17th century has laid claim to such broad power,” said David Adler, a prolific author of articles on the U.S. Constitution. “George Bush has exceeded the claims of Oliver Cromwell who anointed himself Lord Protector of England.”

Adler, a professor of political science at Idaho State University at Pocatello, is the author of “The Constitution and the Termination of Treaties”(Taylor & Francis), among other books, and some 100 scholarly articles in his field. Adler made his comments comparing the powers of President Bush and King George III at a conference on “Presidential Power in America” at the Massachusetts School of Law, Andover, April 26th.

Adler said, Bush has “claimed the authority to suspend the Geneva Convention, to terminate treaties, to seize American citizens from the streets to detain them indefinitely without benefit of legal counseling, without benefit of judicial review. He has ordered a domestic surveillance program which violates the statutory law of the United States as well as the Fourth Amendment.”

Adler said the authors of the U.S. Constitution wrote that the president “shall take care to faithfully execute the laws of the land” because “the king of England possessed a suspending power” to set aside laws with which he disagreed, “the very same kind of power that the Bush Administration has claimed.”

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Adler said, repeatedly referred to the President’s “override” authority, “which effectively meant that the Bush Administration was claiming on behalf of President Bush a power that the English people themselves had rejected by the time of the framing of the Constitution.”

Adler said the Framers sought an “Administrator in Chief” that would execute the will of Congress and the Framers understood that the President, as Commander-in-Chief “was subordinate to Congress.” The very C-in-C concept, the historian said, derived from the British, who conferred it on one of their battlefield commanders in a war on Scotland in 1639 and it “did not carry with it the power over war and peace” or “authority to conduct foreign policy or to formulate foreign policy.”

That the C-in-C was subordinate to the will of Congress was demonstrated in the Revolutionary War when George Washington, granted that title by Congress, “was ordered punctually to respond to instructions and directions by Congress and the dutiful Washington did that,” Adler said.

Adler said that John Yoo, formerly of the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in 2003 that the President as C-in-C could authorize the CIA or other intelligence agencies to resort to torture to extract information from suspects based on his authority. However, Adler said, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1804 in Little vs. Barreme affirmed the President is duty-bound to obey statutory instructions and reaffirmed opinion two years later in United States vs. Smith.

“In these last eight years,” Adler said, “we have seen presidential powers soar beyond the confines of the Constitution. We have understood that his presidency bears no resemblance to the Office created by the Framers… This is the time for us to demand a return to the constitutional presidency. If we don’t, we will have only ourselves to blame as we go marching into the next war as we witness even greater claims of presidential power.”

The Massachusetts School of Law is a non-profit educational institution purposefully dedicated to providing an affordable, quality legal education to minorities, immigrants, and students from economic backgrounds that would not otherwise be able to afford to attend law school and enter the legal profession.

(Further Information or to order a set of conference proceedings: Jeff Demers, Massachusetts School of Law,,. Media consultant to MSL is Sherwood Ross,

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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What the U.S. wants in Afghanistan

Dandelion Salad
May 28, 2008

The U.S. has held up a country’s terrible history of poverty, repression and inequality as the pretext for a war that only aggravates poverty, repression and inequality.

A U.S. Marine Corps general has decided not to bring criminal charges against two officers who led their unit on a March 2007 killing spree that left 19 Afghan civilians dead and 50 more wounded.

The decision infuriated Afghanis. “This is too much,” said Kubra Aman, an Afghan senator from Nangarhar. “First, they say it’s a mistake, and after that, they let them go without charges.”

A United Nations spokesperson, Aleem Siddique, made the same point in more diplomatic language. “It is disappointing that no one has been held accountable for these deaths,” said Siddique. The UN “has always made clear that there must be increased transparency and accountability of all parties to this conflict if we are to retain the trust and confidence of the Afghan people.”

By contrast, the U.S. media barely noticed. For its part, the New York Times featured an article on Afghanistan a few days later celebrating a “fierce battle” by a Marine unit that drove Taliban fighters outside of the southern town of Garmser. The article referenced last March’s massacre–but not the Marines’ decision not to press charges.

Instead, the Times quoted a NATO officer talking about the “huge optimism” of the town’s residents for the operation–while downplaying the death of a 14-year-old boy and eight civilians injured during the battle, and the fact that the Marines will be moving on in a couple weeks, thus allowing the Taliban to return.

Why the media indifference? Because the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is still seen as the “good war.”

If there is one point of agreement between Republicans and Democrats, and even sections of the antiwar movement, it is that the U.S. war on Afghanistan is a legitimate response to the September 11 attacks, mainly aimed at bringing the perpetrators to justice–unlike the occupation of Iraq, which is viewed, even by sections of the Washington establishment, as “unnecessary,” “illegal” and “based on lies.”

George Bush and the Pentagon are currently weighing a “surge” of two additional brigades–about 7,000 troops–to Afghanistan. The Democrats’ likely presidential nominee Barack Obama has repeatedly spoken in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan–he calls the occupation of Iraq a “distraction” from the war the U.S. should be fighting.

Two additional brigades would bring total American troop strength in Afghanistan to more than 40,000 and boost the proportion of U.S. soldiers from about half to two-thirds of NATO forces.

In 2007, because of an expansion of bombing campaigns on villages, deaths of Afghans topped 6,500, the largest number since the war began more than six years ago. Deaths of U.S. soldiers last year, at 110, were also up, while other nations contributing troops to NATO forces lost a combined 111.

The level of death and destruction in Afghanistan, combined with the horrible toll that the war has exacted on U.S. soldiers, including those who return alive but forever scarred by the stress of combat, should be reason enough to oppose the war in Afghanistan.

But this is only a starting point. If you look more closely at what the U.S. has done in Afghanistan and plans to do in the future, it’s clear that the rhetoric about upholding democracy and making the world safer is–as in Iraq–a smokescreen to justify pursuing imperial ambitions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FROM THE start, the U.S. cloaked its motivations for going to war in Afghanistan with talk about saving ordinary people in Afghanistan–in particular, women suffering abject oppression–from the rule of the Taliban.

But a few years before, the U.S. had quietly backed the ascendance of the Taliban, in the hope that the hard-line regime would impose order–and facilitate the oil corporation Unocal’s plan to build a pipeline through the country.

No doubt, some Afghans hoped the U.S. invasion would get rid of the Taliban. But those hopes turned to bitterness and resentment as the brutality of the occupation–and the savagery of the warlords that Washington has depended on to maintain its grip–became all the more evident.

As the veteran anti-imperialist and author Tariq Ali wrote:

There have been numerous incidents of rape and rough treatment of women by [NATO] soldiers, as well as indiscriminate bombing of villages and house-to-house search-and-arrest missions. The behavior of the foreign mercenaries backing up the NATO forces is just as bad. Even sympathetic observers admit that “their alcohol consumption and patronage of a growing number of brothels in Kabul…is arousing public anger and resentment.”

To this could be added the deaths by torture at the U.S.-run Bagram prison and the resuscitation of a Soviet-era security law under which detainees are being sentenced to 20-year jail terms on the basis of summary allegations by U.S. military authorities. All this creates a thirst for dignity that can only be assuaged by genuine independence.

Journalist and filmmaker John Pilger reports that members of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), bitter opponents of the Taliban, make the same point.

“We, the women of Afghanistan, only became a cause in the West following September 11, 2001, when the Taliban suddenly became the official enemy of America,” Marina, a member of RAWA, explained to Pilger when he visited Afghanistan. “Yes, they persecuted women, but they were not unique, and we have resented the silence in the West over the atrocious nature of the Western-backed warlords, who are no different. They rape and kidnap and terrorize, yet they hold seats in [U.S.-backed Hamid] Karzai’s government.

“In some ways, we were more secure under the Taliban. You could cross Afghanistan by road and feel secure. Now, you take your life into your hands.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IN TIME-honored fashion, the U.S. has held up a country’s terrible history of poverty, repression and inequality as the pretext for imperial aggression that only aggravates poverty, repression and inequality.

The problem is not a lack of money or troops, as George Bush and Barack Obama suggest, but the goal of the war itself. The U.S. has never sought to “liberate” Afghanistan, but to dominate it and turn it into a stable, U.S.-friendly outpost in Central Asia.

What the U.S. really wants, says Tariq Ali, is “to construct an army able to suppress its own population but incapable of defending the nation from outside powers; a civil administration with no control over planning or social infrastructure, which is in the hands of Western NGOs; and a government whose foreign policy marches in step with Washington’s.”

This explains why the U.S. government pressured Hamid Karzai into signing an agreement in May 2005 granting the U.S. the right to install a huge military presence in the country forever–over and against protests that erupted against the agreement before the ink was even dry.

U.S. policymakers understand that Afghanistan, like Iraq, is a strategic beachhead that can be used to spread Washington’s geopolitical influence throughout Central Asia.

Sometimes, they even spell this out explicitly. An essay in the NATO Review, for example, sounds more like a threat than a call for security and peace: “In the 21st century, NATO must become an alliance founded on the Euro-Atlantic area, designed to project systemic stability beyond its borders…There can be no systemic security without Asian security, and there will be no Asian security without a strong role for the West therein.”

The “humanitarian-security” case made by the U.S. establishment needs to be rejected–just as the case for the occupation of Iraq has been rejected as a pack of lies to justify Washington’s drive to control oil resources and project its power throughout the Middle East.

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Mosaic News – 5/28/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad



This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.


For more:
“The Iraqi Accordance Front Withdraws List of Parliament Nominees,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“US Might Establish Military Base in Iraq,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Olmert Suffers Serious Setbacks,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Should Olmert Resign?” IBA TV, Israel
“Fateh Calls for New Government,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
“Lebanese SLA Living in Israel Want to Return Home,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Reaction to Lebanese-Israeli Prisoners Swap Deal,” New TV, Lebanon
“A New Incentive for Iran,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
“Larijani Elected Interim Parliament Speaker,” IRIB2 TV, Iran
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

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Enforcement on Steroids: Homeland Security’s Emerging Immigration Police State

Dandelion Salad

by Joshua Holland
Global Research, May 28, 2008

Part I

The idea that the government isn’t trying to enforce its immigration laws is hogwash — the problem is that it’s all it’s doing.

Forced drugging. Abuse. Death. That’s what workplace-based immigration enforcement without deeper reform looks like.

Last week, hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, flanked by helicopters, a trail of SUVs and a convoy of buses, descended on the tiny town of Postville, Iowa. They set up a perimeter around the 60-acre kosher meat-processing plant operated by the global giant Agriprocessors, Inc. and conducted the largest workplace raid in U.S. history. Around 400 people were arrested — most from Mexico, Eastern Europe and Guatemala — representing 40 percent of the plant’s workers and 17 percent of the town’s population. Warrants for another 300 were issued.

Some would call it a victory for law and order. But a closer look at the showy example of “getting tough on illegals” offers some insight into what immigration restrictionists are really asking for when they call for more immigration enforcement.

During a similar sweep last year, ICE generated some bad publicity when reporters found that a number of young children had been left unattended when their parents were arrested. So 56 of those arrested last week — mostly mothers of small kids — were released on “humanitarian grounds.” Nonetheless, a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of dozens of the Postville detainees “noted that a number of immigrant workers’ children have been stranded with baby sitters and other caretakers as a result of the raid.”

The suit charges that some of the detained workers are victims of crimes by Agriprocessors, Inc., which may entitle them to a visa, and accuses the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of arbitrary and indefinite detention and violating the workers’ constitutional rights.

According to the Associated Press, an attorney who interviewed some of those swept up in the raid said that the company itself “obtained false identification for immigrant workers.” But in the overwhelming majority of these raids — 98 percent, according to the Washington Post — the only people to pay any penalty are poor people trying to earn a substandard wage working in America’s growing unregulated economy.

Meanwhile, ICE charged many of the detained with “identity theft” for those faked papers, effectively giving immigration hard-liners what Congress hasn’t granted them through the legislative process: serious criminal charges for what have always been misdemeanor immigration violations at most.

In this case, as in many others like it, many of the workers appear to have been seriously exploited. The AP reported that the plant’s management “improperly withheld money from employees’ paychecks for ‘immigration fees,’ didn’t allow workers to use the restroom during 10-hour shifts, physically abused workers and didn’t compensate them for overtime work.”

According to MSNBC, workers at the plant were routinely started at $5 per hour for their first three or four months on the job and then raised to $6, still well below Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25.

Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil confirmed to the Des Moines Register that Agriprocessors was being investigated by the state on suspicion of wage violations, paying people off the books and hiring underage workers. A copy of the federal warrant obtained by the Register described an incident in which “a supervisor covered the eyes of an employee with duct tape and struck him with a meat hook.”

It’s unclear what the raids’ impact will be on the ongoing investigations into the company’s workplace violations. With hundreds of workers — and potential witnesses — carted away, Jill Cashen, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), asked: “how can justice ever be served on these exploitation issues?”

Agriprocessor’s management must have been pleased with the timing of the raid. Not only did it put at least a crimp in the ongoing investigations of serious allegations of abuse by the company, it also derailed an effort by UFCW to organize the plants’ workers and give them a shot at bargaining with management for better working conditions.

There have been widespread reports of ICE raids coming during sensitive phases of union organizing drives. After rumors of an imminent raid emerged last month, UFCW’s Mark Lauritsen wrote ICE officials urging them to follow their own guidelines by suspending “any potentially existing enforcement efforts and refus[ing] to be involved in this labor dispute.” Lauritsen told the Des Moines Register that employers at other firms where UFCW had been organizing called in ICE raids themselves to intimidate employees before a union vote, and more generally, to associate union organizing with actions by La Migra in the minds of immigrant workers at other plants.

According to The Washington Post, Agirprocessors, Inc. argued in April that it could ignore a vote by workers at its Brooklyn distribution center to unionize because there were illegal immigrants at the facility who were not entitled to federal labor protections.

Sholom Rubashkin, whose family owns the company and who is described as a “top official” at the Postville plant, is a major Republican political donor, supporting the kind of politicos who champion these kinds of immigration crackdowns.

But Rubashkin is unlikely to be troubled by the action. After the raid gave his firm at least temporary relief from U.S. labor laws and pesky union organizers, the plant opened up the next morning ready for business — it lost less than a single day’s revenues. If recent history is any guide, Agriprocessors, Inc. won’t even be fined. Despite the fact that 80 percent of its workforce was undocumented, the company is claiming that it had no knowledge of the violations. Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, released a statement noting that in 2007, DHS “fined only 17 employers for hiring undocumented workers.” He added: “At least 7 million immigrants in the U.S. are employed illegally by a total of 6 million U.S. businesses, and DHS can find only 17 companies to fine?”

Enthusiasts of these kinds of crackdowns argue that they’ll shrink the labor pool and help American workers. But the hundreds who continue working in the Postville plant today remain unprotected and are much further away from the kind of union representation that might have led to some decent pay, some dignity. And it’s hard to imagine an experience that could give Agriprocessors more incentive to keep hiring “illegals.”

That’s what makes the approach so fruitless. Cesar Jochol, a native of Guatemala who runs a small market in Postville, told the Post, “You take away a hundred people. A couple hundred more will come tomorrow.”

That’s what workplace-based immigration enforcement without deeper reform looks like.

Postsville and the Politics of Distraction

The Postville raid came at an opportune time not only for the plant’s owners, but also for the Bush administration. The same week, a series of high-profile media reports by 60 Minutes and the Washington Post — as well as the New York Times — began focusing public attention on America’s nightmarish system of immigration “detention centers.”

Two weeks earlier, as the New York Times‘ Nina Bernstein reported, a group of former detainees had sued Michael Chertoff for putting “hundreds of thousands of people a year in substandard and inconsistent conditions while the government decides whether to deport them, leaving them subject to inadequate medical care and abuse.”

Activists charged that the Bush administration staged the raid to draw attention from those stories, a strategy it is well known to employ when critical attention threatens its policies.

It’s impossible to know whether that was the case, but clearly DHS and the administration would prefer to have eyes trained on images of ICE agents “enforcing the law” than on the investigation into America’s detention practices conducted by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes.

The investigation uncovered “life, death and often shabby medical care within an unseen network of special prisons for foreign detainees across the country,” as health care was routinely denied to immigrants being held by ICE. “The medical neglect they endure,” wrote Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein in The Post, “is part of the hidden human cost of increasingly strict policies in the post-Sept. 11 United States and a lack of preparation for the impact of those policies.”

The reporters — the same team that uncovered the shabby care that veterans face at Walter Reed Medical Center — unearthed internal documents showing that ICE officials have “a tendency to conceal the truth by withholding complete medical records or by offering misleading public explanations.” The documents they found revealed a pattern of what can only be called grievous human rights violations. (The U.N. has condemned the United States’ immigrant detention system, saying that it “denies migrants basic due process and human rights, and violates international law.”)

Among the cases intentionally covered up by ICE officials was that of Francisco Castaneda, who arrived in the United States as a refugee from El Salvador when he was 10 years old. Before his mother could get legal papers for her son, she died of cancer. Castaneda had lived in the United States for 24 years when he was detained by ICE.

When he was taken into custody, Castaneda had a bleeding lesion on his penis, which medical personnel suspected to be cancer. They requested a biopsy, “but the Division of Immigration Health Services headquarters in Washington denied the procedure for 10 months.” During that time, Castaneda was given ibuprofen to deal with the growing lesion. “I am in a considerable amount of pain and I am in desperate need of medical attention,” he wrote in June of 2006. After pressure from the ACLU, the agency finally scheduled a biopsy for February of 2007, but Castaneda was suddenly released just “days before the surgery, sparing the agency the cost.” Shortly thereafter, Castaneda’s penis was amputated. Despite undergoing chemotherapy, he died a year later.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a federal judge ruled that Castaneda’s treatment was “beyond cruel and unusual” punishment. Timothy T. Shack, head of health care for ICE, said, “In my opinion, the care provided to this detainee was … timely and appropriate.”

The Post also told the story of Joseph Dantica, a Baptist minister from Haiti who fled the country after receiving death threats from a local gang. Dantica, 81 years old, entered the United States with a valid visa and applied for asylum. ICE detained him along with his son, pending the resolution of their cases. Sickly and speaking through a voice box, Dantica complained of ill health, but ICE officials said he was “faking his symptoms.” The minister was denied visits by family members, who begged ICE officials to give him the medicine he required. He died five days after landing in Miami, in an infamous immigration prison in Florida.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post featured stories in recent weeks about dozens of deaths in ICE custody. The Times’ Nina Bernstein told the story of Boubacar Bah, “a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who had overstayed a tourist visa” and subsequently died in ICE custody. His relatives “never saw the internal records labeled ‘proprietary information — not for distribution’ by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the New Jersey detention center for the federal government,” Bernstein wrote. “The documents detail how he was treated by guards and government employees: shackled and pinned to the floor of the medical unit as he moaned and vomited, then left in a disciplinary cell for more than 13 hours, despite repeated notations that he was unresponsive and intermittently foaming at the mouth.”

The Post’s investigative team also found that the “U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country.” Involuntary drugging of “detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes,” the Post noted.

Taken together, these and other reports paint a picture of a system that treats immigrants to the United States — and not just “illegal” immigrants — as subhuman. That’s what enforcement absent real reform looks like.

This is part one of a two-part series. contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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Disturbing 2008 Global Peace Index Report by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, May 29, 2008

The Global Peace Index (GPI) was launched in May 2007 and claims to be the first study of its kind ranking nations according to their peacefulness. Last year’s report covered 121 countries. The latest increased it to 140. Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea conceived the idea and won some dubious endorsements. Among them, the Dalai Lama.

He served as a CIA asset from the late 1950s until 1974 and may again be in tow if the Bush administration’s awarding him a Congressional Gold Medal last year and closeness to him now is an indication. Other endorsers include Jordan’s Queen Noor; another member of her royal family; four members of the British House of Lords; Ted Turner; Virgin Group’s Richard Branson; other business and community leaders; Australia’s former Prime Minister JM Fraser; other former high-ranking government officials; academics; a former BBC war correspondent and MP; plus six Nobel Laureates, including Jimmy Carter. In fairness, a few distinguished names join them, including Helen Caldicott and economics professor James Galbraith.

These organizations prepare GPI’s report – The Economist Intelligence Unit, an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks, and the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Their stated purpose is to “highlight the relationship between Global Peace and Sustainability (stressing that) unless we can achieve” a peaceful world, humanity’s major challenges won’t be solved. No argument there, but does GPI’s statement belie its real interest?

GPI uses 24 indicators to rank nations according to their relative internal and external peacefulness. They include their:

— military expenditures as a percent of GDP and number of armed service personnel per 100,000 population;

— relations with other countries;

— respect for human rights;

— potential for terrorist acts;

— number of homicides per 100,000 population, including infanticide;

— level of violent crime;

— aggregate number of heavy weapons per 100,000 population and ease of access to small arms and light weapons;

— number of jailed population per 100,000 population; and

— number of internal security officers and police per 100,000 population.

Conspicuously absent is a measure of outside influence causing internal violence, instability and/or disruption. Venezuela ranked an implausible 123rd behind America at 97th. Something is amiss, and the above rating raises suspicions that angered Venezuelan National Assemblyman Jose Albornos. He stated:

“Sometimes things tip over into irrationality just like they’re doing just now….(it’s) part of a plan….there are sectors who decide that they want to get rid of Chavez, who have seen that they cannot (do it by) coup d’etat and are trying to penalize the whole country in a campaign of attrition.”

He then added that the 2008 GPI “doesn’t correspond with the truth,” and plenty of evidence backs him. It’s examined below.

By GPI’s criteria, scoring Venezuela high and America lowest should be no-brainers. The US hands down is the world’s most violent nation and primary reason for Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel’s bottom rankings. The same holds for Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the Philippines and a host of other nations.

By comparison, Venezuela is placid and tranquil but GPI’s criteria don’t show it. It certainly ranks above Rwanda, Albania, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, China, Jordan, and other countries outscoring it. Why not is the question? Think politics for an answer in spite of America’s low ranking and Israel near the bottom. It’s not low enough. It should be last hands down.

The US alone endangers global stability, world peace and the planet’s survival. It alone wages permanent war, targets peaceful nations, and claims a unilateral right to use first strike nuclear weapons preemptively. It also has over 800 military bases (perhaps 1000 or more with secret ones) in 130 or more countries, hundreds more at home, and still more troops deployed in other countries throughout the world. It further spends more on its military than all other nations combined. It uses it aggressively, supports Israeli repression against Palestinians, assassinates foreign leaders, installs more “friendly” ones, and backs despots like Colombia’s Uribe, Egypt’s Mubarak, the Saudi royal family, Mexico’s Calderon, and various installed stooges like Afghanistan’s Karzai and Iraq’s al-Maliki.

America ranks lowest on peace. It keeps sinking lower. It alone threatens planetary survival. Failure to register that in a “peace index” is unimaginable. It makes the entire project suspect.

Under Chavez in contrast, Venezuela’s record is envious. It embraces its neighbors, offers no-strings aid, and engages in mutually beneficial trade, political relations, and other alliances; it also:

— assassinates no other leaders;

— doesn’t seek regime changes abroad;

— has no nuclear weapons and seeks none; and

— spends less than one-half of one percent of the Pentagon’s (grossly understated) military budget (around $1 to $2 billion) and less half of that, in fact, of America’s total defense spending – in FY 2008: a conservatively estimated $1.1 trillion with all military, homeland security, veterans, NASA, debt service and miscellaneous related allocations included; according to Chalmers Johnson, it’s not only “morally obscene,” it’s “fiscally unsustainable” and is heading the nation for probable “insolvency and (the world for) a long depression,” or potentially worse.

— In addition, Venezuela doesn’t export weapons to neighbors or incite conflict; in contrast, America is the world’s leading arms and munitions supplier by far – and to many belligerent states with disturbing records of using them internally and/or against neighbors; Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Israel to cite five;

— Chavez is socially responsible at home;

— doesn’t practice torture;

— has no secret prisons;

— threatens no other nation;

— wages no wars;

— is a model democracy;

— governs peacefully;

— supports human rights and social justice;

— affirms free speech;

— bans discrimination; and

— uses his resources responsibly – for his people, yet is friendly to business as well. He’s earned world class stature and immense popularity at home as a result. Under George Bush in contrast, America is feared and hated worldwide. Growing numbers don’t trust him at home either, and it shows in his poll ratings – some of the lowest ever for a US president with vice-president Cheney and Congress scraping rock bottom.

A stunning (but long known) fact came out as well. It’s in a US Justice Department Inspector General’s 370 page report. It revealed that the FBI opened a “War Crimes” file documenting witnessed systemic Guantanamo Bay torture. It’s so inflammatory that the administration suppressed it. It asserts that orders came from the top, including the White House, Pentagon, DOJ and NSC. It implies but doesn’t state that this practice goes on in all US military prisons plus ones outsourced to in rogue states for some of the most barbaric treatment anywhere – and mostly to innocent victims.

Some GPI-Reported Comparisons – America v. Venezuela

Prisons everywhere are harsh, and Venezuela’s are no exception. But consider America. It has the largest prison population in the world by far at 2.3 million, greater than in China with four times the population. It also adds over a 1000 new prisoners a week. It’s justifiably called a gulag, so imagine what goes on offshore. No remediating efforts are planned. Reforms are off the table. America’s prison-industrial complex is burgeoning. Prisons are being privatized. Profiting on human beings is big business, and consider who they are. Most are black, hispanic, poor, unempowered, nonviolent, and imprisoned for offenses like drugs possession.

In contrast, Venezuela is humanizing its prisons. It’s no simple task, and no miracle cures are expected. Nonetheless, positive steps are being taken for a prison population numbering 20,000 that’s down from its 1992 31,400 high. The National Assembly is “committed to giv(ing) priority to (revising) the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.” It’s to make it more just and improve prison conditions in health care, food, access to education and more. Reducing incarceration lengths is also planned as well as tackling root causes of crime such as poverty and lack of opportunity. Doing this in America is impossible. Things keep worsening. The nation is uncaring. It shows across the board. That highlights the problem, but GPI didn’t notice.

Number of homicides per 100,000 population is another category. GPI ranks America low (in number) and Venezuela high. It’s unjustified. From it’s beginning, America has been violent at home and abroad. It’s been at war with one or more adversaries every year in its history without exception. It’s called a “gun” and “rape culture” and has the highest homicide rate among all western nations. Violence is endemic, pacifism sinful, legal and illegal drug use out of control, young children introduced to violence through films, television and video games that should be outlawed. They’re exported everywhere to make all societies like America. Venezuela is no exception but nowhere near to matching the US.

Implausibly, America also scores well on the following:

— its number of internal security officers and police; it refers to “civil police” only; omitted are National Guard forces, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, FBI, CIA,16 spy agencies, drug enforcement, and since October 2002 the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) that preempts Posse Comitatus limitations that no longer apply; no nation on earth has more internal (or external) security, spends more for it, and no country uses it more aggressively;

— ease of access to “weapons of minor destruction;” Venezuela ranks below America; impossible as guns in the US are as accessible as chewing gum even in cities where they’re banned; the Second Amendment (on right to bear arms) practically equates it with religion even though the law’s original intent bears no relation to its current interpretation that’s promoted by the gun lobby;

— “likelihood of violent demonstrations;” Venezuela scores high; unconsidered is why any take place and who’s behind them – America, not Venezuelans except for those recruited and well-paid to cause trouble to destabilize an otherwise peaceful country;

— violent crime; Venezuela scores high again and America low; wrong as violence in the US is endemic; GPI understates it;

— political instability; Venezuela scores moderately high; again no mention why there’s any or who instigates it;

— human rights; America and Venezuela get equal scores; preposterous again and insulting to Venezuelans; America’s disdain for human rights is unmatched; Venezuela’s is excellent by comparison; the Constitution mandates it; GPI ignores it;

— political democracy; America outranking Venezuela is impossible; the US’s democracy is illusory; in Venezuela it’s real and should be highest rated relative to other countries;

— the electoral process; America besting Venezuela is false and insulting; Venezuela has a model participatory democracy; all Venezuelans are enfranchised; the Constitution’s Article 56 mandates it; it affirms that “All persons have the right to be registered free of charge….after birth, and to obtain public documents” so stating;

— US elections, in contrast, are deeply corrupted; big money runs them; candidates are pre-selected; machines do our voting; no recounts are possible; losers are declared winners; independent candidates are shut out; the media ignore them; they keep people uninformed; issues aren’t addressed; just “horserace” theater ad nauseam; voter disenfranchisement is rife; election theft common; mountains of evidence document it; none reported in the mainstream; it’s why half or more of the electorate opts out; it mocks democracy in a nation having little; it’s exemplary in Venezuela; not according to GPI;

— “functioning of government” defined to mean freely electing representatives and effective checks and balances; the US wins again completely belying the facts; America’s democratic governance is a sham; Venezuela’s is real; GPI has things backwards;

— civil liberties; America on top here, too; it’s outrageous in a growing police state climate; post-9/11 repressive laws, executive and military orders, directives and other measures are in force that would make any despot proud; presidential authority is unchallenged; Congress is mere rubber-stamp; Homeland Security is a national Gestapo; FBI and CIA also; internal spying is pervasive; dissent stifled; human rights disdained; and the rule of law is now consigned to the dustbin of history; Venezuelan society is mirror opposite; GPI failed to notice;

— “corruption perceptions;” America scores high and Venezuela low, and indeed there is a problem; yet it’s minor compared to the US’s all-pervasive kind – in government, business and throughout high levels in society; it involves trillions of dollars; again it didn’t register;

— Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is the source for GPI’s comparative “freedom of the press” assessment; RWB no longer publishes an index with assigned country rankings; instead it rates them: No. 1 good, No. 2 satisfactory, No. 3 noticeable problems, No. 4 difficult situation, and No. 5 very noticeable problems;

— RSW’s reputation is tainted; it lacks credibility; it disgraced itself last year by baselessly criticizing Chavez’s justifiable decision not to renew RCTV’s VHF license and accusing him of violating free speech and press standards; not surprisingly, it showed in its 2007 survey with rankings still used; it rated America somewhat low at 48th but Venezuela far lower at 114th – below Chad, Morocco, Uganda, Indonesia, Albania, Congo, Liberia, Kuwait, the Central African Republic and numerous other questionable higher-ranked choices; in 2008, Venezuela jumped considerably; GPI scored it 36.9 (an apparent 37th in the world); the US fared much better at 14.5; tops were Iceland and Norway at 0.8;

— GPI and RSW should be embarrassed; consider the facts; no country outranks Venezuela in press freedom; outlandish dissent is tolerated; censorship banned, and the law affirms it; RCTV lost its VHF license for backing insurrection against the government; its officials avoided prison for their lawlessness; they were merely slapped on the wrist instead;

— America is mirror opposite; RCTV type broadcasting would be illegal, an act of sedition or treason; those responsible would be prosecuted; but it’s not how major media operate in the US; they “filter” news; one-sidedly support a state and corporate agenda; shut out opposition to it; keep the electorate uninformed by operating no differently than a state-controlled ministry of information and propaganda; RSW approves; so does GPI;

Its data is suspect throughout. Adult literacy (unrelated to violence) is another example. It scores America at 99%. It’s laughable. Even the US Department of Education estimates it at 80% tops, and their number way overstates it. It’s far lower based on inner-city math and English test scores plus painfully low computer literacy levels.

Other Questionable Rankings

GPI isn’t alone in targeting Venezuela. Transparency International (TI) does as well. It calls itself “politically non-partisan” and a “global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption (with a) mission….to create change toward a world free of corruption.” Consider its 2007 “Corruption Perceptions Index.” To achieve its aim, it better tighten its standards that fall far short of “transparency.”

America easily outscores other nations in corruption. It’s broad, deep and extends throughout government, business, and high levels of society in the trillions of dollars. But it’s not how TI sees it. It ranks the US No. 20, just behind France and ahead of Chile. In contrast, Venezuela scrapes bottom at 162nd – behind Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Congo, Pakistan and dozens of other dubious choices. Venezuela (like all countries) has corruption problems. But nowhere to the degree TI suggests. Its April 2008 report is rife with errors and why not. According to Calvin Tucker in a May 22 article, it was prepared by “an anti-Chavez activist who backed the 2002 military coup against democracy.” His full account can be accessed by the following link:

The Fraser Institute is a right wing, business-backed, Canadian-based think tank. It prepares an annual Economic Freedom of the World Index that has nothing to do with freedom. It’s not kind to Venezuela and sidesteps facts in its assessment. Following the country’s 2002-03 oil management lockout, growth has been impressive and remains so. Business has profited hugely. All economic measures are strong and improving except for inflation. It remains stubbornly high, but efforts are being made to curb it.

Nonetheless, Fraser reports with blinders. It ranked Venezuela practically at the bottom – 126th out of 130 nations, only besting Congo, Zimbabwe and two other countries. It’s the sixth consecutive bottom-scraping rating and mirror opposite those for pre-Chavez years. Since then, Venezuela prospered. Chavez is friendly to business. Fraser turns a blind eye. It’s part of a corporate-led conspiracy to crush democracy and reempower capital. It raises questions on whether GPI, RWB, TI, Fraser and others are part of a larger scheme.

Iran is America’s top target. Venezuela is next. Both countries are nominated for regime change. Continued efforts work toward it. It’s no secret why. Each is oil rich, their leaders independent, and they refuse to be US clients. For Washington, that’s sinful and unforgivable. The media are on board. They relentlessly bash both countries and report fiction as fact. Destabilization efforts continue. Anything may erupt anytime. GPI and the others may be helping.

Their low Venezuelan rankings are suspect. Washington may be behind them. Corporate backers as well. They get what they pay for. In this case, vilifying Chavez. GPI’s facts are bogus. So are RWB’s, TI’s and Fraser’s. It discredits their Venezuela v. America’s rankings. Their entire reports as well. View them with caution. Understand what’s likely going on. Part of a greater scheme to destabilize Venezuela and end its model democracy. Exposing them is the best way to prevent it.

Global Research Associate Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour Mondays on Republic from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries:
© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008
The url address of this article is:

Where Is the Outrage? By Robert Scheer

Dandelion Salad

By Robert Scheer
05/28/08 “TruthDig

Are we Americans truly savages or merely tone-deaf in matters of morality, and therefore more guilty of terminal indifference than venality? It’s a question demanding an answer in response to the publication of the detailed 370-page report [pdf] on U.S. complicity in torture, issued last week by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

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Gore Vidal on the Kennedys and His 1960s Battle with the New York Times

Dandelion Salad

Democracy Now!

May 29, 2008

Gore Vidal on the Kennedys and His 1960s Battle with the New York Times

With a career spanning more than six decades, Gore Vidal is one of America’s most respected writers and thinkers. He’s authored more than twenty novels and five plays. His latest book is Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir.

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Part I: Gore Vidal on Bush, History & the “United States of Amnesia”


The Capitalist Ground Shaken by the Earthquake in China

Dandelion Salad

Global Research, May 27, 2008
Author’s website

A huge earthquake, registering 8.0 on the Richter scale, struck Sichuan Province in southwest China. The violent shaking lasted more than a minute, leaving towns and small cities flattened. On Sunday, May 25, a powerful aftershock struck, causing thousands more buildings to collapse.

The death toll now stands at over 62,000 people. 160,000 have been injured. Five million left homeless. More than 200,000 homes completely collapsed and four million were damaged.

The quake hit in the middle of the day when schools were in session—children were napping, sitting at their desks, and playing in schoolyards. Some reports say 30-40 percent of the dead were schoolchildren. In the town of Mianzhu alone, seven schools, including two nursery schools, collapsed—burying more than 1,700 students.

What happens when such a natural disaster occurs is profoundly affected by how a society is organized. And many things about the nature of China have been revealed by this catastrophe. Most people around the world watching this heartbreaking tragedy think China is a socialist country, run by a communist government. But in fact, since the reactionary coup led by Deng Xiaoping after Mao Tsetung’s death in 1976, China has been a capitalist country, dependent on and subordinate to global imperialism. And some stark things about the exploitative and oppressive nature of capitalist China have been revealed in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake.

“Tofu” Schools Became Death Traps

Close to 7,000 schools, a disproportionately high number of buildings, were destroyed. In some towns, an entire generation has virtually been wiped out.

Town after town, grief has turned to anger as parents accuse the government of shoddy construction to save money. Pu Changxue, whose son died, crushed in a classroom, said: “This was a tofu dregs project and the government should assume responsibility. We all know that earthquakes are natural disasters. But what happened to our children also has human causes, and they’re even more frightening.”

In Juyuan, a middle school collapsed. As many as 900 children were buried in the rubble, while nearby buildings remained standing. One resident said: “Look at the building materials they used. The cement wasn’t mixed with water in the right proportion. There are not enough steel beams. The sand isn’t clean.”

There are supposed to be seismic regulations and requirements for different types of buildings. But lack of money for education has meant old buildings have not been replaced. And many times, even when new schools are built, shoddy material is used and building codes are ignored in order to save money.

The bodies of kids pulled from the rubble have revealed an ugly truth about class society in China: That schools for kids from the bottom layers of society are very different than schools for students from well-off families. Children from the upper strata get a better education. They also get safer schools. And when the earthquake hit, this became a question of life or death.

According to a New York Times article, in Dujiangyan, the Xinjian Primary School had been poorly built and “never got its share of government funds for reconstruction because of its low ranking in the local education bureaucracy and the low social status of its students.” The parents who sent their children to Xinjian are poor. Many had lost their jobs when a local cement plant shut down—some collect small welfare payments and hold down odd jobs to support their families, others had left their children behind to look for work somewhere else. Hundreds of children died at Xinjian when the earthquake hit. Meanwhile, another local primary school, Beijie, suffered hardly any damage and students survived. Beijie was set up for the elite with the best facilities and finest teachers. (NY Times, “Chinese Are Left to Ask Why Schools Crumbled,” May 25, 2008)

Western media, as well as news reports in China, have suggested that developers tried to maximize profits by using inferior materials, cutting back on necessary work and paying off corrupt officials. The Chinese government has announced there will be investigations into whether sloppy work linked to corruption is to blame. And there will, no doubt, now be official accusations of bribery, scapegoats, and a campaign to “clean up corruption.”

But the fundamental problem here is NOT corruption, inept administrators, or bribery in the building of schools. Yes, that is truly horrible and resulted in the deaths of thousands of children. But targeting this doesn’t get to the root of the problem. The real problem here is the dynamics of capitalism—how the drive for profit trumps everything else, how economic growth is driven by intensifying exploitation, short-term gain, and cost minimization. And how these capitalist economic relations get reflected in and played out in the social and political relations in society and the thinking of people. Corruption is very real, but it is an outgrowth of capitalist development.

Some people say the problem is that there is not enough transparency in China. They pose the problem as: China being open or shut; listening or not; censoring the Internet or leaving it alone, etc., etc. But all this begs the fundamental question: What kind of society is China? What is its relationship to global capitalism? What does it mean that China has become a vast sweatshop for the world; that the gap between rich and poor in China is growing; that peasants in the countryside are desperate and impoverished—and that the lives of millions who were already desperately poor because China is subordinate to imperialism have been suddenly thrown into an even greater hell by this earthquake?

Widening Inequality Gap

Sichuan is one of China’s poorest areas and does not have a lot of manufacturing. But this province is an important grain and pork producer and has China’s largest reserves of natural gas.

Over the last decade there has been a burst of construction in rural, inland areas like Sichuan. But the huge inequality gap between urban and rural areas remains. And this gap has been further imprinted in the whole way that these smaller towns and cities are being developed.

Many in the areas most affected by the earthquake are poor peasants. In Wenchuan, at the epicenter of the quake, the average annual income was around 1,600 yuan in 2002 (latest available statistics), which is less than a fifth of the average income in the province’s capital city of Chengdu. The death, damage and suffering from the earthquake reflect this income gap. Living in more impoverished conditions to begin with resulted in greater devastation and now more ongoing hardship. And inequality between the city and countryside also impacts things. For example, people in rural areas have access to much less health care than those who live in the cities. This means they are less healthy to begin with and now have less access to desperately needed medical attention.

When China was truly a socialist country, a conscious goal of the government and society was to continually narrow (and eventually get rid of) inequalities in society—between different classes, between men and women, between different nationalities, and between the cities and countryside. But now, through the workings of capitalism, such differences are being widened.

Time magazine has written about how “economic reforms” have chipped away at the medical treatment available when China was socialist—health care that was often rudimentary but widely available to all citizens: “China’s famed ‘barefoot doctors,’ usually middle school graduates trained in first aid, hiked through hamlets offering prenatal examinations and setting broken limbs. The service, essentially free, helped to almost eradicate sexually transmitted diseases in China and nearly doubled the country’s life expectancy from 35 to 65 between 1949 to the mid-1970s. But in the early 1980s, the mainland began shifting from communism to capitalism, and peasants had to dig into their own tattered pockets to pay for health care. At the same time, cash-strapped local governments cut subsidies to rural hospitals and clinics, essentially privatizing them… City dwellers remain better-off, mostly because six in 10 of them have some form of health insurance. Only 10% of rural residents do, and most of them are government employees or live in wealthy coastal areas, where many work in factories.” (China’s Failing Health System, Time, May 12, 2003)

This kind of deepening economic and social inequality now exists in many different aspects of Chinese society—which can mean the difference between life and death when an earthquake hits.

Get-Rich-Quick Development

Over the last several decades China has become more integrated into and subordinate to the world capitalist system. Foreign investments have poured into China. Fortune 500 companies with investments in Sichuan include Pepsico, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, United Technologies, McDonalds, Lufthansa, Sony, Intel, Cisco Systems, and Archer Daniels Midland.

There has been all kinds of fast-paced “get rich quick” economic development. This has mainly been concentrated in the country’s eastern coastal areas where there are concentrated pools of cheap labor and access to shipping. But in recent years, this kind of rapid economic growth has branched out into interior areas, including into the cities and towns hit by the May 12 earthquake.

In many cases, such expansion has meant people being forcibly relocated. This push for rapid growth forces builders to move fast. And this has led companies and the government to trample on the rights of residents and ignoring building safety requirements. Policemen have been sent in to enforce evictions. And there have been several reports of people protesting demolitions and evictions by setting themselves on fire and committing suicide.

Five years ago, these massive renovations were mainly happening in large cities. Now they are going on in more medium and smaller cities—like Sichuan’s capital of Chengdu, about 145 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. City officials there had announced plans to spend 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) to build a new town in its northern suburbs.

Thousands of smaller cities are sprouting up on formerly uninhabited pastureland. This rapid urbanization has transformed Sichuan into one of China’s biggest provinces with a population of 82 million. It is this kind of demolition and quick construction that has created conditions for rampant corruption, leading to the kind of slipshod building that people are now pointing to in the wake of the earthquake. It is these rural areas and smaller towns that suffered the greatest destruction from the earthquake.

This kind of economic development—driven by short-term gains, rapid growth, and cost minimization—has also factored into the building of dams in China. And now, in the wake of the earthquake, there is an extremely dangerous situation where shoddily-built dams are damaged, putting millions in harm’s way of potential flood waters—especially given continuing aftershocks.

There have been reports that hundreds of dams have been damaged by the earthquake. For example, the Zipingpu Dam, completed in 2006, was built over the objections of seismologists who were concerned about its proximity to major geological faults. After the earthquake, soldiers rushed to the dam after reports that it was developing cracks.

Crocodile Tears Covering Up a Criminal System

Some news commentators have said this earthquake is a “godsend” for the Chinese government—pointing to the fact that world political opinion has not been going well for China. Its brutal repression in Tibet captured headlines for weeks, just as China was getting ready for its mega-PR campaign around the Olympics. There were numerous protests as the Olympic torch made its way around the world.

Now the earthquake has given China an opportunity to turn public opinion more favorable to China’s reactionary regime. Top government officials quickly flew to the devastated areas, crying crocodile tears and putting on a show of concern for TV cameras—knowing this would be beamed not only throughout China but around the world. The Chinese government is highly aware that, especially in the wake of the cyclone in Myanmar, its handling of this disaster is being closely watched, throughout the country and internationally. The storyline has been how competent, compassionate, and in control the rescue and relief efforts have been.

The rulers of China face a lot of necessity here—both domestically and internationally. They need to keep social control in the face of growing disparity and discontent. And they face a complex and changing economic and political polarization in the world as they try to press forward with their international ambitions. From the very beginning, the Chinese government has seen the Olympics as a way to create more favorable political conditions, both domestically and internationally.

The crocodile tears being shed by government officials after the earthquake only serve to cover up the real truth: The Chinese economy is deeply integrated into and subordinated to the global capitalist system. The development of capitalism in China has been and continues to be a living nightmare for hundreds of millions of people. And what China really needs is another revolution aimed at overthrowing the new capitalist ruling class, re-achieving national independence, and creating a genuine and truly liberating socialist society.

Li Onesto is a writer for Revolution ( and author of the book, Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal, (Pluto Press and Insight Press, 2004)

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