Libya, Yemen And The Mainstream Press Agenda
“There is no way this is going to end up well for the United States. Every tribe in Yemen has received missiles from American drones. The US aided and financed Saleh all these years. They covered for him up to just two weeks ago. The Yemenis won’t forget this. The crack troops we saw Friday fighting the tribes are the anti terrorist forces equipped and trained by the United States.”
This is what I said on a France 24 debate Friday night to which Steven Erlanger of the New York Times responded “that was never the intention. They were armed and trained to fight al Qaeda.”
Funny how it is never “the intention” American trained troops loyal to tyrants and kleptocratic dictators shoot at their own people but they always end up doing so. This is typical of the kind of public opinion the New York Times is trying to create behind America’s (pro-Israeli) policies.
Another more dangerous example of this came out last Tuesday when the New York Times wrote that the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report in which it said “it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.”
Now, in my book “evidence” means “proof”. Yet Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on Friday “the word ‘evidence’ was not in what the IAEA said.” He went on to say “They’ve been saying repeatedly that they have concerns about certain information they have. They don’t describe it as evidence.”
Is this not the same thing as the WMDs and the aluminum tubes that became the smoking guns to get public opinion behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq?
Hersh in an article in the New Yorker says his sources inform him that despite spies on the ground and top notch technology US officials have been unable to find decisive evidence that Iran is moving enriched uranium to an underground weapon-making center.
What we have in The New York Times is a clear agenda to create public opinion in favor of an act (war with Iran) which would have incalculable consequences. I cannot believe that using the word ‘evidence’ is a mistake. If it were a mistake, given their record for getting it wrong and helping to get us into war, then the paper should run a front page erratum.
But listening to Erlanger Friday, I could see they are in damage control mode in a Middle East which is completely outside Washington’s control.
It is no accident how they insist on the Islamic fundamentalist nature of tribal leaders in Yemen and ignore that the area in which the Libyan rebellion began has sent the most fighters to al Qaeda in Iraq. While they are quick to point out Qaddafi’s killing of opponents, they pass under complete silence the mass murders of sub-Saharan immigrant workers at the hands of the rebels.
In an April 11 article in the New Yorker called After the Uprising, Dexter Filkins (who also writes for the New York Times), points out what a corrupt and thuggish regime the US has been backing in Yemen; a crony and Kleptocratic tribal regime where government members, two dozen of whom are from Saleh’s family, line their pockets and buy off tribal leaders while doing nothing for their people: nothing!
This means the New York Times knows and it seems to me this is what American public opinion needs to know; that the US is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to jerks whose behavior can only push their people to radicalism and make them justifiably hate the US. Hundreds of Yemenis have been killed by US drone missiles and tribal leaders say most of them are civilians, not al Qaeda. What right does the US have to bomb Yemen anyway?
Another interesting omission in the mainstream press is how much money Qaddafi put back into his country and his people: water works, subsidized electricity, free universal health care, housing, free education including paying those who want to study abroad, roads … . Or how about the fact that in 2009 Qaddafi began threatening he would nationalize Libyan oil? If these things were made a topic, public opinion might be able to draw the conclusion that NATO’s “crusade” against Qaddafi is in fact about oil.
Filkins writes “Yemen is not Egypt: it has virtually no middle class, a weak civil society, a marginal intelligentsia and no public institutions that operate independently of Saleh.” Half the population is illiterate.
Compare that to Libya which had prior to the war Africa’s highest standard of living and nearly universal literacy. The regime even gave married couples $50 000 as a wedding gift to get started.
It is with these kinds of comparisons that people can make intelligent decisions. But what people are being fed by the New York Times and al is incomplete and biased; it can only be meant to support war and aggression.
It is these double standards that has now led the Arab street to ignore Washington or in the words of The Independent’s Robert Fisk “who cares what Obama says?” Well, I guess the Israelis still do.
Fisk writes “Obama’s failure to support the Arab revolts until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region.” But the US press chooses to highlight the forty billion dollars the G-8 decided to award Egypt and Tunisia at the summit in Deauville, as if they can buy back what they lost in the Arab Spring.
The French press is no better. At the end of April, nearly two months into the war, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told the daily Libération that thus far the bombing had cost France 50 million euros. There was no follow up question asking him to justify that figure. It is obviously a lie. The first night the US shot 120 cruise missiles at a million dollars a pop! France has flown thousands of sorties and has used extremely expensive ordinance not to mention an air-craft carrier and battle group off the coast. Fifty million euros? Please.
Longuet also said he had no proof of an Islamist presence in the rebellion. That’s strange. Nicolas Pelham had no trouble sitting down to tea with them as he attests in his articles in the New York Review of Books. The Libération reporter should have come back with an aggressive question here too but preferred to play the role of loyal stenographer rather than journalist.
Should the press not point out that the rebel Libyan National Transition Council is made up of the same “thugs” who worked with Qaddafi for decades? What about the tribal nature of this rebellion led by the Cyrenaican tribes of King Idris who was ousted by Qaddafi in 1969? The rebel flag is the flag of the monarchy! Would public opinion be in favor of war to restore an Islamic monarchy? Even if it is in the name of oil?
The press is not failing the people. It is operating in the interests of the banks and oil companies whose interests, I believe, are not those of the people in the Middle East, nor ours. There are good reporters out there who want to inform the public (Fisk, Filkins, Hersh, Pelham) but are prevented from getting it into the mainstream media by Editors at the top who have a different agenda.
By George Kazolias
George Kazolias is an American Journalist based in Paris and a Professor of Global Communications at the American University in Paris. He runs the blog kazodaily.