A controversial public relations program run by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon was cleared of any wrong-doing by the agency’s inspector general in a report published last month. The program used dozens of retired military officers working as analysts on television and radio networks as “surrogates” armed by the Pentagon with “the facts” in order to educate the public about the Department of Defense’s operations and agenda.
At the same time, the report quoted participating analysts who believed that bullet points provided by Rumsfeld’s staff advanced a “political agenda,” that the program’s intent “was to move everyone’s mouth on TV as a sock puppet” and that the program was “a white-level psyop [psychological operations] program to the American people.” It also found a “preponderance of evidence” that one analyst was dismissed from the program for being critical of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, while another analysts said a CNN official told him he was being dropped at the request of the White House.
Nevertheless, the inspector general exonerated the Pentagon, stating that it complied with Department of Defense (DoD) policies and regulations, including not using propaganda on the US public, while also claiming that retired military analysts, many of whom were affiliated with defense contractors, gained nothing financially or personally for the businesses they were affiliated with.
The investigation was requested by Congress after the New York Times published a story revealing the Pentagon’s public relations program, “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” (04/20/2008), which was subsequently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. The article showed how these analysts, many of whom had ties to military contractors, were used to help sell the war in Iraq, to push other Bush Administration foreign policy “themes and messages” and to act as a rapid response team to counter criticisms in the media. One official Department of Defense talking points document released while the Bush Administration was still trying to sell the need for a war with Iraq to the public states, “We know that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.”
One of Britain’s leading social epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson, looks at what it means to live in a new age of inequality. Wilkinson is the co-author of the groundbreaking, international bestseller The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone.
Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines return with an investigation into the use of unmanned military technologies.
Over the past decade, the US military has shifted the way it fights its wars, deploying more unmanned systems in the battlefield than ever before. Today there are more than 7,000 drones and 12,000 ground robots in use by all branches of the military.
These systems mean less American deaths. They also mean less political risk for the US when it takes acts of lethal force — often outside of official war zones.
But US lethal drone strikes in countries like Pakistan have brought up serious questions about the legal and political implications of using these systems.
Fault Lines looks at how these new weapons of choice are allowing the US to stretch the international laws of war and what it could mean when more and more autonomy is developed for these lethal machines.
By the River Jhelum, my window opens into the city of Srinagar at noon. It is a trellis window. Its wooden motifs are rhomboidal, our patient improvisations of what they were, many centuries ago, in Samarkand. Over the soldiers’ sand-bagged bunker and the tangles of wire, over the roof shingles of houseboats moored in the muddy water, it overlooks a road, dusty and strewn with stones, busy with life, the leisurely passage of buses.
The window fills with the clamor of the city centre, Lal Chowk, from the rear: honking of cars, shouts of bus conductors, of vendors selling lotus stems and water nuts, the jingleof bangles on the arms of women, hobnobbing of old men, whistles of the policemen on prowl. It listens in the songs of Habeh Khuton, sad and reminiscent of the color of saffron from Pamper from the corner where you find late poems of Azad, fresh copies of Curfewed Night, fake pieces of Bombay music.
“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant (Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck). Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised…” — Jeremiah Wright, September 16, 2001.
Prophets fare poorly in their own country, yet countries would do well to hearken to their prophets. Scorn, ridicule, and innuendo attend their pronouncements as the righteous defend their actions as logical, existential and necessary. Jeremiah Wright suffered such scorn and mockery because he understood the consequences of revenge on the innocent and the defenceless, justified by whatever inane discourse. Wright spoke truth to power that Sunday after 9/11 and the righteous cried to heaven condemning him to perdition for defaming America, for even suggesting that revenge for the sake of revenge is the motivation of the arch fiend against the Almighty, the foulest, most ignorant, most amoral rational for action.
Today demonstrators marched against the Syrian regime in Majdal Shams on the occupied Golan Heights. (For believers in the sectarian narrative, most of the people here happen to be Druze, not Sunnis). One of their slogans was ash-sha‘ab yureed tahreer al-jowlan – The People Want the Liberation of the Golan. The Syrian regime, which has slaughtered over 6,000 civilians since the revolution started, hasn’t fired a bullet over the Golan since 1973. In the clip below Asad loyalists confront the protestors, but are outnumbered. The demonstrators shout almowt wala almuzuleh – Death Rather Than Humiliation – and illi yiqtil sha‘abu kha’in – He Who Kills his People is a Traitor.
It’s interesting to note that the Golan was occupied by Zionists in 1967, before most of the demonstrators were born, and illegally annexed in 1982. The very Syrian drama unfolding on these ‘Israeli’ streets proves – if proof were needed – the absurdity of Zionist hopes that Arab national identity on occupied territory will gradually evaporate.
Many Syrians have been awaiting this moment with dread. A further step down into bloody chaos and incipient civil war, a further step into the dark. This morning two car bombs exploded at security installations in Kafar Souseh, Damascus. At least thirty people were killed and over 100 injured.
Who’s to blame? There is no evidence of anyone’s guilt, and there won’t be any credible evidence while the criminal Asad regime remains in power and continues to lie and to block journalists’ access. This means that pro-regime people will follow the regime line and blame al-Qa’ida, and anti-regime people will blame the regime. I make no bones about it: I’m firmly in the anti-regime camp. Those who followed my writing before this year will know that I was once willing to give the regime the benefit of the doubt. Not any longer. This year I’ve been forced to admit that the regime is a lot less intelligent, a lot less sophisticated, than I thought. Back in February it had enough popularity to lead a genuine reform process. It’s entirely possible that Bashaar al-Asad, had he played this revolutionary year right, could have won a real election. But he didn’t play it right. From the start his regime slaughtered peaceful protestors and subjected thousands to torture, including children, even to death. Worst of all, the regime instrumentalised sectarianism in an attempt to divide and rule. After months of attacks by armed Alawi gangs on predominantly Sunni lives and property there are now instances of ‘revenge’ attacks on innocent Alawis, and tit for tat sectarian killings particularly in Homs and its surrounding countryside. All of this could have been predicted months ago. Of course, the mechanics of these killings is as obscure as that behind the bomb attacks in Damascus today. Some revolutionaries believe the regime is behind the killings of Alawis too, because it aims to spark a sectarian war which it thinks it can win. And we must not forget that sectarian war is still – to the credit of the Syrian people – not the dominant strain in the conflict. There are thousands of defected soldiers, many of whom have seen their comrades gunned down. If they had chosen to they could have attacked the minorities in a coordinated fashion. They haven’t. And the Alawi actress Fadwa Sulaiman is still leading demonstrations in the Sunni heart of Homs.
As Bradley Manning faces charges of espionage over the Wikileaks cables Inside Story Americas asks if the US government is overreacting.
Bradley Manning, a private in the US army, has been accused of perpetrating the biggest intelligence leak in US history.
Now a military judge is trying to determine whether Manning should face a court martial. He could face as many as 22 specific allegations in the charges that include aiding the enemy and espionage. Continue reading “Punishing the whistleblower?”
Harry Kreisler talks to Glenn Greenwald in the latest episode of Conversations with History.
Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes writer Glenn Greenwald for a discussion of his new book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some.” Greenwald traces his intellectual odyssey; analyzes the relationship between principle, power, and law; and describes the erosion of the rule of law in the United States. Highlighting the degree to which the legal system frees the powerful from accountability while harshly treating the powerless, Greenwald describes the origins of the current system, its repudiation of American ideals, and the mechanisms which sustain it. He then analyzes the media’s abdication of its role as watchdog role. He concludes with a survey of the the record of the Obama administration in fulfilling its mandate, argues for an alternative politics, and offers advice for students as they prepare for the future. Series: “Conversations with History”