“The Gray Lady” has her pantyhose in a knot. The “lady” in question? The New York Times, “regarded by many in the world…as the world’s greatest newspaper…generally hail[ed] as …gray by way of acknowledging its traditional special marks: starch conservatism and circumspection.” This encomium appeared in Life magazine in 1951, celebrating the Times’ 100th birthday. The effusive praise keeps coming including from most of the liberal community (i.e. those who think Obama is the second coming and voted for Hillary), some employees (Thomas Friedman comes to mind) and left-leaning oligarchs (George Soros at your service). The rest of us –not so much. In addition to being the greatest newspaper in the world, quoting again from the 1951 article, [it is an] “indispensable source of knowledge…because it is so fastidiously complete and earnestly correct.” “Complete” and “correct?” To point out the NYT’s many missteps over the last six decades would require a boxed set of encyclopedias. Encyclopedias having gone the way of the brontosaurus, we’ll make do with a few of their most glaring miscues. Although the 44th president set the bar low on past misdeeds (he was the forward-thinking president who made sure that not one of the bankers who tanked the economy in 2008 saw the inside of a federal pen in 2009), we are not singing in that choir. Let’s begin by considering the credit worthiness of the NYT (unforgettable although the NYT wishes everyone could) when it comes to beating the drums for Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMD’s culminating in the biggest foreign policy blunder in US history: “A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq’s chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.” (NYT, April 21, 2003)
The New York Times on the Hot Seat
Past and present, The Times never fails to disappoint. A Times editorial, “Blaming America First” (2/7/14), is a case in point. From the first paragraph, their royal disapproval practically jumps off the page: “The bromance between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin…has gotten even more disturbing…Trump dismissed a question about why he respected “a killer” like Putin by drawing a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia.” Reprising that gloriously funny scene in Casablanca with the Claude Raines character claiming he is “shocked, shocked” to discover there is gambling going on in Rick’s café while collecting his winnings, the Times is shocked, shocked to discover that any sane, rational being could equate America’s moral posture with that of Russia’s. The editorial’s tone gets increasingly sour at this next disclosure: “This weekend, Trump dismissed a question about why he respected a “killer” like Putin by drawing a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia. You got a lot of killers,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly…What, you think our country’s so innocent?
As the metaphorical steam emanating from the editorial boardroom thickened, the editorial devolved into a combo of pure vitriol and laughable nonsense: “Asserting the moral and political superiority of the United States over Russia has not traditionally been a difficult maneuver for American presidents. Rather than endorsing American exceptionalism, Trump seemed to appreciate Putin’s brutality.” Endorsing American exceptionalism is an establishment meme. Here’s vintage Obama on the glories of exceptional America, a rendition of which he repeated in almost every important speech including this commencement address at West Point in 2014 — “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”
American Exceptionalism on the Rebound
For those of you who thought that much-debunked theory had gone out with whalebone corsets and 23-skidoo, not so fast. The self-described paper of record is not ready to give up the ghost on that tired bit of Xenophobia. After all, according to the geniuses at the Times “at least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy sometimes with extraordinary results.” Providing cover for some of America’s less defensible actions, the Times hastens to assure its readers that we are indeed living in a morally challenged world and sometimes—not often— “the United States has made terrible mistakes…”
How’s this for “extraordinary results” —1963-1974, the toll from the US “secret” war in Laos- two million tons of bombs dropped (more than the US dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II) on a country slightly smaller than Michigan, killing 10% of the population (200,000). After all that bombing and killing (aka terrible mistakes), how did that “freedom” and “democracy” promotion thing work out? In 1975, Laos abandoned its 600-year-old monarchy and the Laotian communists established the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (talk about unintended consequences).
This is What Freedom and Democracy Look Like
As with most of our military incursions since 1945, results have not lived up to expectations. American motivations seldom pass the “clean hands” test. Rather than the promotion of “freedom and democracy,” for the sake of the huddled masses of the planet, US motivations usually turn out to be some variation on protecting the geopolitical and economic interests of US elites doing business around the world. Countries being invaded do not feel the same protective urges toward US interests and fight back with the only troops willing to do battle with America’s military might – reactionary armed militia groups. Witness what happened when US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq began ¾ Muslims by the hundreds flocked to ISIS. Even Drone Impresario Obama admitted as much on his way out the door¾”ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences…” Glad you mentioned it. Before the US-led invasion in Afghanistan, no Taliban existed in Pakistan. The Pakistan branch of the Taliban formed in 2007 in response to the presence of NATO in the region. Similarly, Al Shabaab formed in protest to the invasion of Somalia by the Western (US) supported African Union and the US trained and supported Kenyan army (led by a US fav, dictator Uhuru Kenyatta). US-led military interventions in the Muslim world (think Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq redux, Afghanistan) produced the same results on a bigger playing field.
Extraordinary results like these should be the business of every investigative journalist not living in the cosy corporate media world where laissez faire qualifies as business as usual. The same miasma surrounds those we laughingly call our leaders in congress. The ‘ve learned their lesson. Politicians who don’t want to join the ranks of the unemployed look the other way when the US experiences one of its frequent “shit shows” (term used in private by President Obama to describe Libya after US intervention according the Independent UK) when the inevitable blowback occurs. Far better to natter on about “degrading” and “destroying” the hydra headed monster the US and its NATO allies created. Bringing democracy and freedom to benighted peasants on the business end of an exploding drone has its limitations. Today US Special Forces launch their murderous killing sprees from 70% of the world’s countries.
How It All Began
Once upon a time… Landing on the shores of the New Word (new to them), colonists went into attack mode when they discovered someone was already occupying the land they coveted. To make matters worse, these interlopers believed the land was theirs. Not a view the settlers either shared or sympathized with. After many a long deliberation, a final solution was agreed upon: extermination. The diseases the settlers brought with them — influenza, diphtheria, bubonic plague, cholera and scarlet fever —helped thin the herd considerably. According to some estimates, 90% of the indigenous population was obliterated by settler-borne diseases. None of that “this land is your land, this land is my land” fairy tale. A British traveler noted in 1784: “White Americans have most rancorous antipathy to the whole race of Indians and nothing is more common than to hear them talk of extirpating them totally from the face of the earth, men, women, and children.” The desire to rid their land of these unwelcome inhabitants became a government mandate. Here’s California governor Peter H. Burnett in 1851: “A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race is extinct.” Colonists were often paid for every Native American head they turned in. To complete the devastation of the original inhabitants, setters were urged to distribute blankets used by small pox victims to neighboring tribes. Even the Supreme Court got in the act ruling in 1902 in Cherokee Nation v Hitchcock that the Cherokee nation’s laws and traditions could be overturned by the US government. From 1492 when the first settlers reached the New World, it is estimated that more than nine million Native Americans died from violent conflict and disease. “Terrible mistake” or planned genocide?
The US Foreign Policy Playbook Since 1945
To be fair, the Times limited its defense of the machinations of the US to “more recent decades.” Narrowing the scope of the investigation to a few, recent “terrible mistakes” required s great deal of judicious pruning. To be sure, no catalog of “terrible mistakes” would be complete without a mention of the toll in both lives and land that the US war machine wreaked on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. That “terrible mistake” turned out to be a “twofer.” killing on a massive scale (58,000 US soldiers, more than 2 million civilians) done in the name of “promot[ing] freedom and democracy.” History, that infallible and oftentimes bothersome elixir of truth, pulls away the curtain of deception. The well-known aversion of the US to the nationalist desires of people all over the globe and a corresponding responsiveness to the demands of the democracy-disdaining corporate elites and rogues’ list of murderous dictators come right out of the US foreign policy playbooka feature well known to the rest of the world except apparently The Times.
The attempts of almost every US president since 1960 to do away with Fidel Castro did not ascend to the level of “terrible mistake” for one reason. Mission unaccomplished. In 1959, Castro, riding a wave of public support, managed to send US-supported dictator Batista running for his life, nationalize the holdings of several large US corporations, and close down the Mafia-run empire of casinos and boot them out of the country. In 1975, the Church Committee (Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) substantiated eight CIA led attempts to assassinate Castro from 1960-1965. The retired chief of Cuban counterintelligence took the long view. He put the number of attempted assassination at 638 spanning the administrations of eight presidents -Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George HW Bush, Clinton. Call it democracy at work – the world’s sole superpower trying and failing to kill the leader of a small, impoverished country 90 miles from its shore.
Moving right along, no history of US depredations across the world would be complete without a mention of the Phoenix Program, a massive campaign of torture and assassination designed to identify and “neutralize” the Viet Cong (North Vietnam fighting force operating in South Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War). And neutralize they did. The statistics are mind-boggling. Over 26,000 Vietnamese were murdered, an untold number of them innocent peasants. Over 81,000 were neutralized¾ tortured and left to languish in squalid prison camps.
America had some decency left. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed Executive Order 11905 – No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire in political assassinations.” Too bad no US government employee took him seriously. The “terrible mistakes” continued. The invasion of Afghanistan 2001, more than 26,000 civilians killed in war-related violence. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of civilian deaths range from 113,000 to 123,000 in the decade 2003-2013. Number of children who starved to death as a result of US-ordered UN sanctions on Iraq during the Clinton administration, 500,000 (leading Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appearing on 60 Minutes to utter that famous “defense” of this unmitigated horror: “We think the price [half million dead children]is worth it.”) Democracy-promoters or killers?
US Murderous Inclinations Come Home
Closer to home the trail of dead bodies never fails to astonish. December 14, 1969 -Fred Hampton, 21, charismatic leader and deputy chairman of the Illinois branch of the Black Panther party whose major activity was providing free breakfast to poor children, murdered while asleep in his Chicago apartment lying next to his pregnant fiancée. Evidence later emerged that the FBI, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and the Chicago police conspired to kill him. September 30, 2011-Anwar al- Awlaki, American citizen, Yemeni Imam, and alleged recruiter for Al Qaeda (beyond fiery, anti-American speeches no other evidence of participation in Al-Qaeda activities has ever been released) was the first American citizen killed in a drone strike ordered by President Barack Obama. Two weeks later on October 14, 2011, his son, Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, a 16-year old American citizen with no known ties to Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization, was murdered in a drone strike ordered by President Obama. Why a sixteen-year-old boy? According to Obama’s then-press secretary Robert Gibbs: “he should have [had] a far more responsible father…” To complete the trifecta, on Donald Trump’s watch, on January 29, 2017, Anwar al-Awlaki’s 8-year-old daughter was killed in a US commando raid in Yemen gone horribly wrong. These three victims were American citizens subject to constitutional protections, like the right to be charged with a crime and tried before a judge and jury. In the case of the Anwar al-Awlaki killing, the judge hearing a motion brought by Awlaki’s father before the assassination, ruled the case raised “serious questions…Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organisation?” Despite those noble words, he failed to stop the killing.
Still in the “homeland,” (the national security word of the day as in protecting the…) federal agents wreaked havoc on a couple of white nationalist fringe groups – at Ruby Ridge in 1992 where two civilians (a child and a woman) and a US Marshal died and the following year, the massacre of the Branch Davidians at Waco where federal law enforcement set fire to a building they knew was occupied. The body count: four ATF agents and eighty-four men, women and children. Their crimes: in both cases unconfirmed and unproven allegations of illegal gun sales, stockpiling weapons and failure to appear at a court hearing. Nary a capital crime among them. That was small potatoes in light of the carnage in 1985 directed against MOVE, a Philadelphia-based black liberation community. US law enforcement acting in response once again to unconfirmed allegations of parole violations, illegal possession of firearms and making terrorist threats (they were environmental activists) bombed U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, which, on top of causing 11deaths (5 of them children), left dozens of neighboring homes destroyed in the resulting inferno left untended by order of the fire commissioner. Blowback was swift and deadly. Motivated by his hatred of the government and its complicity in the murders at Ruby Ridge and Waco, in 1995, a disturbed army veteran, Timothy McVeigh, bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people, 19 of them children. A congressional investigation revealed a “series of terribly flawed operations with tragic consequences” (Louis Freeh, FBI Director 1993-2001, testifying before congress about the Ruby Ridge action). Conclusions from a Senate Committee also investigating Ruby Ridge mirror those of Director Freeh and fly in the face of the wiggle room the Times and every other corporate mainstream media outlet accorded blatantly illegal, extra-judicial acts of US-sponsored murder and assassination. As the Senate committee rightly observed, “Federal law enforcement officials are held to a higher standard than ordinary American citizens…[W]e cannot accept serious errors made by federal law enforcement agencies that needlessly result in human tragedy.”
A History of Double Dealing
There you have it. In the Times view, the US is not a killer nation just error prone. And it’s certainly not looking to unseat sovereign rulers and savage native populations as YOU KNOW WNO (make that Putin) is. The US, on the other hand, is acting to promote freedom and democracy. That isn’t how it looked to Prime Minister Mossadegh, democratically elected by the Iranian people and unseated in a US-sponsored coup in 1953 in favor of the Shah – unleashing over twenty years of totalitarian rule, or to the democratically elected leader of Guatemala (President Arbenz), elected in 1950, a social reformer whose policies angered the US corporation United Fruit. He bit the dust in 1954 thanks to the combined efforts of the State Department and the CIA ushering in the era of several US-supported dictators and all they stood for ¾human rights abuses, persecution of opponents, political repression and state terrorism. The US penchant for harboring despots is unquenchable. In 1991, with Republican H.W. Bush on the warpath, the reform agenda of President Jean Batiste Aristide was overturned. He was deposed in a coup by a bunch of thugs and right wing death squad members, their leaders on the CIA payroll. In 2001 Aristide was once elected by the people of Haiti. This time the task of unseating him fell to George the Second and his merry band of CIA abettors. Mission accomplished.
If you think the Times is operating in a delusionary bubble, think again. The pablum they dish out to their readers is directed from on high¾from the democracy promoters themselves. Consider two pronouncements from American presidents, both democrats in two different eras almost a half century apart:
The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression. (President John F. Kennedy June, 1963)
America has never fought a war against democracy and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens…America is a friend of each nation…[that] seeks a future of peace and dignity…We do not seek to occupy other countries…America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation–the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny… (Barack Obama, 2009)
Same old wine in new bottles.
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