Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Scheme Worked; the Reports Failed

The volunteer public relations arm of the military-industrial complex simply cannot control its compulsion to "justify" this country's crimes.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden turned the compulsion into a frenzy.  Once, when real journalists worked in the mainstream media, they guarded rigorously against jumping to conclusions on major stories like this one.

Not so today.  Our use of drones for illegal acts of war in Pakistan has turned countless numbers of Arabs against us and drawn fierce criticism here and abroad. And so, when word first trickled out that Bin Laden was dead, Fox Fiction immediately asserted that he had been killed "a week ago" in a drone attack that killed 28 civilians in Pakistan.  John King of CNN and others rushed to the assumption that a drone attack had killed the al Qaeda leader. "Proof" that drones are good despite the criticism.

Worse still was the media's ex post facto sanctioning of Bush era torture of detainees. The critical piece of information that led to finding bin Laden came out in "harsh interrogation" (the United States media's official euphemism for torture) of detainees in Gitmo and black holes abroad -- or so said Fox's O'Reilly, David Martin of CBS, Jonathen Karl of ABC, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and NBC.

In fact, said the White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan, bits and pieces of information acquired over nine years was meticulously assembled into a plausible narrative by analysts, and pursued on the ground by CIA agents using traditional gumshoe techniques.  In fact, the two prisoners who underwent the worst and most extensive torture never "broke:" it was their continuing denials about the bin Laden courier that made his captors suspicious that they were lying.

The media rushed to repeat government disclosures about the raid without bothering to inquire about the obvious red flags.  The quick burial at sea was a buried factoid in the early accounts.  Nobody asked why until the following day, when CNN put out a brief based on its query to the Pentagon.  The media reported as cold fact that Osama "resisted" capture.  But in those reports he was also said to be unarmed.  If he was unarmed, how, then, did he "resist?"  Nobody asked.  Brennan at one point amplified on bin Laden's "resistence" by saying he didn't know if the al Qaeda leader "got off any rounds."  The media unquestioningly armed him in their ensuing accounts.  By yesterday, they had disarmed him again.  Did nobody ever hear of follow-up questions?

There's the matter of the helicopters.  Mechanical failure of 'copters doomed Jimmy Carter's ill-fated attempt to rescue hostages in Iran years ago.  Curiously, one of the choppers in this raid also failed.  Fortunately, the helicopter malfunction on the Bin Laden mission cost no U.S. lives and did not sabotage the mission.

But nobody asked what kind of helicopter this was.  There were vague explanations that the machine "wouldn't start" when the commandos prepared to leave.  Who made the machine?  Are failures -- to start, or to function properly in high temperatures, or when widgets shake loose -- endemic to this machine?  If so, why was it trusted on so critical a mission?  Who makes the things?  Is the maker being held to account for whatever might be wrong with the things? 

These and other questions should have been raised instantly by reporters and editors. But the propagandists who are represented by their media employers as "journalists" didn't ask them

The very legality of such an operation under international law is another obvious question.  In the UK, the Guardian bothered to raise it, and investigate it.  The body of evidence suggests that it was not legal.  Having painted ourselves into a policy corner where  we had no allies we could trust in Pakistan,  we had to risk acting illegally to preserve the required secrecy of the mission.

The end justifies the means.  Just one of the many ethical fallacies that make a mockery of our professed dedication to "the rule of law."

Even in success, we are morally bankrupt.  But our sources of "news" will never tell us that.

USA! USA!  (Do I hear an echo?  It sounds something like "Deutschland uber alles.")

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