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Monday, Apr 10, 2017

Crisis: Greenwald on Syria, On Michael Hayden, On Bill Maher, Jeremy Scahill


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan
     Praise For Bombing Syria

2.
Stop treating former CIA chief Michael Hayden as an arbiter of
     truth

3. Bill Maher’s Muddled Attacks on Islam
4.
Jeremy Scahill Tears Apart Corporate Media's "Atrocious"
     Syria Coverage
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, April 10, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four links: Item 1 is about a - long - article by Glenn Greenwald on Syria and war reporting: I selected 10 points and give brief comments; item 2 is about Michael Hayden who in fact is the leading state terrorist in the USA, but who is dealt with in the mainstream media as if he is
a source of truth, which is a fraud considering what is known about him; item 3 is about
an attack on Bill Maher from a fairly conventional "leftist" point of view: I disagree with both, though I keep liking Bill Maher, for he makes one of the few programs on American TV that are worth seeing; and item 4 is about an article by Jeremy Scahill, who tears apart the "atrocious" coverage of Syria.
April 10: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and now is stuck - again - on Saturday, April 8. These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria

The first article today is
by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.
(..)
The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.

In fact, that "nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war" is a consequence of the fact that people are intensely social animals that live in - face - groups, while the kinds of ideologies most groups anywhere have
are mostly softly or harshly totalitarian: "Our Group" - whoever's it is; whatever it stands or strives for - is better than any other group, and especially those groups that
dare to oppose Our Group.

So I agree with that bit, and I mostly but not wholly agree with the rest, although I should add that I simply don't believe Syria and Russia's denials "that the Syrian military used chemical weapons", and not because they might not be correct in this
case (I don't know) but because all parties involved in the conflict lie and deceive a very great lot.

There is thus about "U.S. war fever":

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

As I started saying in this review, I think this is - in the end - mostly due to the fact
that most social groups are inherently totalitarian, as can be seen from their groupthinking (although indeed there also are shades of totalitarianism), but another reason is - I think - the fact that the mainstream media in the U.S. are meanwhile more involved in propagandizing and deceiving their readers or viewers, than in more or less adequately providing them with mostly true information.

This is also a long article that I cannot review adequately in the context of a Nederlog (that is not often longer than 50 Kb) and indeed I will not even try to do so.

Instead, I will give the ten points Greenwald lists, but suppress nearly all of the explanatory texts, and briefly comment on them from my own point of view (which is rather like Greenwald's, but which also does not coincide with it).

Here are the first two points (and remember that each point comes with a fair amount of text that you may read by clicking the above dotted link):

1. New wars will always strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.

2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.

I gave my explanation for 1.: Groups are nearly always totalitarian to some extent and the same applies (with some buts that I leave out) to nations (with a national language, national papers and national propaganda).

As to 2.: I take it that, for now at least, this is mostly due to the combination of point 1. and the very great lacks in the Democratic Party (as led by Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton).

3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.

Point 3. is - alas - true, and shows that the forces of totalitarianism are strong and pronounced in the USA (where the same who are totalitarian pour out scorn over those who dare say they are). This is a very sad development, and was not yet the case with the Vietnam war, though it was the case (it seems to me) starting with the Gulf War of 1991/2, that was mostly pure propaganda on TV and on the radio.

Point 4. is also - alas - true, although presidents are (as yet, so far) not completely omnipotent. And indeed both their omnipotence and Trump's bombing are illegal, but the - relative - omnipotence of the latest American presidents did not start with Trump but with Bush Jr.'s war against Iraq.

5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?

I don't see Trump as "an Inept Fascist" (although I do think he is both a neofascist and - like many psychiatrists and psychologists - as not sane), but clearly a president may be inept or insane in various ways and still front the troops as Commander in Chief. (Also, wars are less waged by presidents than by the military.)

6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.

Hm. I think the fact that I have been reading now since November 10 or so that the Russians helped Trump to win the elections (5 months now!) while there still has not appeared any evidence that - very probably - should have been there if it were true, does not so much point to "good conspiracy theories" as to the fact that the mainstream media these days mostly print propaganda.

Then there is this, which I print with some of the comments it has in the original text:

7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.

In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens. During the campaign, he vowed to murder the family members of alleged terrorists. He shut America’s doors to Syrian refugees, and is deporting people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood despite committing no crimes.

Given all that, could American elites possibly believe him when he says that he is motivated by humanitarianism – deep-seated anger over seeing Syrian children harmed – in bombing Syria? Yes, they could, and they are. That’s because American elites always want to believe – or at least want others to believe – that the U.S. bombs countries over and over not out of aggression or dominance but out of love, freedom, democracy and humanitarian concern.

Yes, I think that is mostly correct - "Our American Heroes Are Bombing The Evil Syrians Out Of Love, Freedom, Democracy And Humanitarian Concerns", as a headline might go - but I gave my explanation under 1.: This is "The Happy Side" of the totalitarian decision to make those bombed Evil People: If They are very evil, then We must be very good in resisting their evil.

And here are the last three points:

8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits: “Do Something” and “Look Strong”

9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.

10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

I think these points are mostly correct, but less important. There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

2. Stop treating former CIA chief Michael Hayden as an arbiter of truth

The second article is by Trevor Timm on the Columbia Journalism Review:

This starts as follows:

On the subject of Donald Trump and his relationship with intelligence agencies, there’s one commentator you are bound to see quoted more than anyone else: Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief and CIA director under George W. Bush.

It doesn’t matter what cable channel you prefer (CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News), what talk show you watch (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher), or website you read (The New York Times, Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal), Hayden is everywhere, commenting on the day’s news, while inevitably being portrayed as Mr. Reasonable: a post-partisan straight shooter who will tell you How It Really Works

But members of the media who play along with this fantasyland portrayal of Hayden should be embarrassed. Hayden has a long history of making misleading and outright false statements, and by the estimation of many lawyers, likely committed countless felonies during the Bush administration. It is something of a wonder that someone responsible for so many reprehensible acts is now considered a totally above-the-fray, honest commentator on all issues intelligence.

Yes indeed. And in fact Michael Hayden is one of the leading American state terrorists: What he does is grossly and patently illegal, and is extremely dangerous, for a state where the secret services know everything about anyone is almost certain to evolve into an extremely totalitarian state, but I agree he is dealt with kid gloves and as if he is a honest person, while he clearly is a very big liar, and he has been leading
the American state terrorists for a long time (and now is pensioned).

Here is more on Hayden:

Is the media attention span really so short that they forget that New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won a Pulitzer prize in 2006 for exposing Bush’s illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping program that was headed up by none other than Michael Hayden, the agency’s director at the time?

And this is about how the secret personal surveillance of each and every American, together with the secret personal surveillance of everyone who has a computer or a cellphone, came about:

In October 2001, President Bush called up Michael Hayden at the NSA and asked him what more the NSA could do to conduct surveillance in the US, despite the NSA operating for years exclusively as a foreign intelligence collection agency. In fact, the administration literally called it  the “President’s Surveillance Program.” (In other words, the president was directly “authorizing electronic surveillance.”)

Hayden proceeded to set up a program where the NSA collected all the phone records of everyone in the United States, and targeted untold number of US persons for wiretapping the content of their international phone calls and emails (“surveillance” by anyone’s definition).

And this is how Michael Hayden - first head of the NSA, then of the CIA - acted to defend the CIA's tortures:

In the Senate’s blistering 2014 CIA torture report, the name “Michael Hayden” is singled out more than 200 times. He was named CIA director in 2006, after the worst of the CIA’s crimes went down, but it was his job to be chief defender of the agency in Bush’s second term when many of the stories of torture first came to light.

Finally, this is from the Senate's report on torture: There is a special appendix of three dozen pages - 36 pages - of lies, evasions and misleading statements that Hayden made, just in defense of the CIA's tortures:

The Senate’s report ends with a special appendix that is over three dozen pages long that is almost exclusively dedicated to Hayden. It is filled with his testimony to Congress, next to the actual facts showing statement after statement he made was inaccurate, misleading, false, or outright lies. Three dozen pages!

In brief, he is an extremely despicable individual who has been very busy to lay down the foundations of American neofascism: The surveillance of each and every American as
if he or she is a terrorist. And in fact I never believe a word he says or writes.

This is a fine and recommended article.

3. Bill Maher’s Muddled Attacks on Islam

The third article is by J.P. Sotille on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

Bill Maher thinks he knows exactly why they hate us. In the world according to Bill, all those agitated Muslims on the receiving end of multiple interventions, numerous “double-tap” drone strikes, countless tons of falling bombs, the systematic imprisonment of “rendered” individuals and the widespread use of lawless torture are, simply put, the outgrowth of a backwards belief system. And those beliefs also inspire a type of religious violence that’s become a destructive force unparalleled in today’s world.

I say. Well... I don't think Bill Maher is right about Islam, but then again I don't think J.P. Sotille's criticism of Maher is right either - and I have no idea about who J.P. Sotille is, whereas I have more or less adequate ideas about Bill Maher.

Here is more by Sotille:

Maher and his confrontational cohorts — like famed geneticist Richard Dawkins and anti-Muslim gadfly Sam Harris — have targeted Islam as something far more pernicious than just another fantasy-based religion with the usual roster of fundamentalists, self-appointed prophets and violent opportunists.

For them, Islam is sui generis. Islam is, according to their unique atheist orthodoxy, both violent and repressive in ways that make it wholly unique. Islam is not just an intellectual error, but a dangerous cultural cancer.

Essentially, these New Atheists have simplified a question almost as old as the “War on Terror” it so inadequately tries to explain. For them, the answer is clear. They hate us because Islam is the enemy of the “liberal” values and, by extension, of the entire civilized world.

Again this is rather strongly colored. Also, I must say that I distrust attacks on Maher that styles him a "New Atheist": I am a lifelong atheist, as were my parents and their parents, and I dislike all religion, simply because it is non-scientific, irrational and
unreasonable thinking. Perhaps Sotille is an Old Religionist, but if so - I don't know -
he is not rational.

Then there is this to clarify Maher's position:

To be fair, Maher doesn’t employ the same type of paranoid histrionics that both buoys and enriches those right-wing poseurs and the other troubling Islamophobes who’ve found a home in Trump’s White House. Rather, Maher makes a “liberal” argument about the need to stand up for “progressive” values like equality for women, free speech and freedom of religious conscience. He rightly points to countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as places where a basic level of human rights is not available to women, to religious minorities, to homosexuals or to anyone not willing to conform to fundamentalist orthodoxy.

This is more or less correct, but Sotille is simply mistaken in putting quotes around the terms "liberal" and "progressive": What Maher gives are mostly liberal arguments (that I do not quite agree with, but that are liberal, in the American sense), and the values he defends are mostly progressive, and I agree with them and hold they are important.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this (rather long) attack on Maher:

Instead he and his fellow finger-pointers rail against the Quran as the “motherlode of bad ideas.” Maher says Islam is “the only religion that acts like the Mafia” and even assured Muslim-American Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, that the Quran is a hate-filled holy book.”

Maher’s presentation is a “schlock and awe” shtick that burnishes his credentials as a self-appointed bullshit detector. It preserves his long-standing brand as an anti-PC crusader and, like so many great comedians before him, as someone willing to “go there” even if it makes people uncomfortable.

I think Maher is mistaken in holding that "Islam is “the only religion that acts like the Mafia", if only because most Islamists are neither terrorists nor Mafiosi, but he is right
that the Quran does hold quite a few unsympathetic norms and codes (as does the Bible), and I agree with him on his atheism. (Sotille apparently doesn't.)

But I also think that J.P. Sotille did little else than criticize Maher from a conventional
"leftist" point of view, and the conventional "leftist" point of view is not very leftist in my leftist eyes (educated by leftist parents), and besides, it is also mistaken, and not
only about Islam, but about what real leftism is supposed to be.

4. Jeremy Scahill Tears Apart Corporate Media's "Atrocious" Syria Coverage

The fourth and last article today is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill on Sunday offered scathing criticism of corporate media's coverage of the cruise missile strike President Donald Trump ordered last week on Syria.

Speaking on CNN's "Reliable Sources" to host Brian Stelter, The Intercept co-founder and Dirty Wars author took particular aim at that network's Fareed Zakaria and MSNBC's Brian Williams.

"The media coverage has been atrocious, particularly—and this is across the board on every network—particularly when the strike is happening. It's like they're in awe of the cruise missiles," Scahill said.

Indeed, media critics pounced on the comments by Zakaria—who called it Trump's "big moment"—and Williams—who called the strikes "beautiful" —as examples of the "classic pundit attitude toward presidential violence."

Referring to Zakaria, Scahill said "if that guy could have sex with this cruise missile attack, I think he would do it." And Brian Williams, he said, "seemed to be in true love with the cruise missile strike, in a despicable way invoking Leonard Cohen's name." Pressed by Stelter if Zakaria's comments were taken out of context, Scahill said, "Fareed Zakaria was also a major cheerleader for the Iraq War."

I mostly agree with Scahill, although I also think it fair to point out (as I did above) that the kinds of ideologies that most groups (of any political or religious kind)  anywhere have, are mostly softly or harshly totalitarian: "Our Group" - whoever's it is; whatever it stands or strives for - is better than any other group, and especially those groups that dare to oppose Our Group.

Here is another good point Scahill made:

Scahill also criticized corporate media for elevating the voices of retired military who may now be personally profiting from continued U.S. warfare.

"CNN needs to needs to immediate withdraw all retired generals and colonels from its airways," Scahill said.

"I think that the American people deserve to know what was the private sector record of these individuals when it came to the weapons industry or profiting in the private sector off of the proliferation of U.S. wars that happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. There is not the kind of transparency that is required of a truly democratic press when you're not revealing the extent to which these people have benefited in the private sector from these wars," he said.

Yes indeed - but decent factual reporting on the wars that the Americans conduct has grown a lot more difficult since the American army started "embedding" journalists, so as to be fairly certain that what they wrote conformed to what the army wanted them to write.

And this has been going on now since the Gulf War (<- Wikipedia) of 1990/91, that is for something like 27 years now.

This article ends with a quote from Dan Rather, who was a prominent journalist in the days that American journalism, if not good, at least was more honest, less ideological and less propagandistic than it is now:

"The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as 'presidential' is concerning. War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative. It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike," he wrote.

Yes indeed. 

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