Category Archives: GWOT

Headline of the day: When spooks go very wrong


From the Intercept:

The Raid

  • In Bungled Spying Operation, NSA Targeted Pro-Democracy Campaigner
  • Tony Fullman is a middle-aged former tax man and a pro-democracy activist. But four years ago, a botched operation launched by New Zealand spies meant he suddenly found himself deemed a potential terrorist — his passport was revoked, his home was raided, and he was placed on a top-secret National Security Agency surveillance list.

Headline of the day: Call it a case of flailing upwards


From the Independent:

Donald Trump’s spokeswoman claims Barack Obama ‘invaded Afghanistan’

  • Spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on Saturday that Afghanistan was “Obama’s war”. In truth, the US and UK led the invasion of the country in October 2001 at the direction of President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • Ms Pierson, who is Mr Trump’s national spokeswoman, was talking on CNN about Mr Trump’s shifting views on whether or not Mr Obama was the “founder” of Isis – a claim he made earlier this week.

While Obama certainly aided the rise of ISIS by his Hillary Clinton-enable military adventures in Syria and Libya, the caliphate has longer roots, dating back to Dubya’s days.

Headline of the day: An FBI agent provocateur


A Very disturbing report from the Intercept:

FBI Agent Goaded Garland Shooter to “Tear Up Texas,” Raising New Alarms About Bureau’s Methods

An undercover FBI agent egged on a would-be terrorist shortly before he opened fire on a Texas cartoon contest last year, raising new doubts about the bureau’s approach to cozying up to its targets.

Media Muslim depictions foster intolerance


Back during our first year of posting here at esnl, we took an in-depth look at the demonization of Muslims in America’s films and television shows, the subject of the insightful documentary Reel Bad Arabs.

Back when esnl was a kid in the days just after World War II, screens large and small were dominated by villains who either spoke with German accents [“Vas ist das, dumbkopf?!“], pseudo-Japanese accents [You know very rittle, Amelican!”] or in Hollywood’s version of how Native Americans spoke [“How,” being the greeting, often followed by “Me big chief.”]

But these days, thanks to the massive blowback from the armed petro politics of Bush I-Clinton-Bush II-Obama/Clinton era, screens large and small are dominated by villains who pray toward Mecca and say things like “Time for you to die, infidel!

If you suspect that all those negative portrayals of Muslims might be having an adverse impact, you’d be correct.

From Texas A&M University:

What if most or all you know about Muslims is from what you see in the media — terrorists depicted in movies and TV shows, news reports on suicide bombings and mass shootings. What would your perception of Muslims be? Would you have stereotypical beliefs and negative emotions about them, and would you support policies that are harmful to them? Very likely, according to research co-authored by a Texas A&M University professor.

In “Reliance on Direct and Mediated Contact and Public Policies Supporting Outgroup Harm” [$6 read-only for 48 hours, $38 to read and print out], published in the Journal of Communication, Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of communication at Texas A&M, and her co-authors, used multiple studies, surveying non-Muslims on how much they relied on direct contact with Muslims versus media-based contact. Then they measured participants’ negative emotions toward Muslims, perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, support for civil restrictions against Muslims, and support for military action against Muslim countries.

“We observed that almost on a daily basis, media depictions of Muslims are extremely negative,” Ramasubramanian says. “Almost without exception, they are portrayed in stereotypical ways as violent, criminal and extreme. Islamophobia is on the rise and even some American political leaders have expressed hateful sentiments towards Muslims.”

The researchers found a correlation between people who rely on media depictions of Muslims and having negative attitudes, versus those with direct interactions who were less likely to view Muslims negatively.

“Our findings show that individuals who rely on the media for information on Muslims have greater negative emotions toward Muslims and increased perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, which in turn leads to support for civil restrictions against Muslims and military actions against Muslim countries,” says Ramasubramanian, who studies media psychology and cultural diversity, especially the effects of media stereotypes on users’ attitudes, emotions, and policy support towards marginalized groups.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Both Clinton and Trump will give us more war


From The Real News Network, an interview with Larry Wilkerson, a retired army officer who served as chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and now teaches national security courses at the College of William & Mary and George Washington University.

It’s yet more confirmation that both major party presidential candidates are likely to bring us yet more, which in turn will produce the rise of still more terrorism, which in turn will lead to more wars. . .ad infinitum.

From The Real News Network:

Wilkerson: The Danger of a Clinton or Trump Presidency

From the transcript:

PAUL JAY: And when I said Robert Kagan and others of his ilk are supporting Hillary, the thing they find most supportive in her, the thing they want to support, is her bellicose language about Russia, and that she’s not afraid to–she made a point of this in her own speech to the DNC, to take on, confront Russia. This kind of aggressive rhetoric about Russia, how serious are the neocons about this?

LARRY WILKERSON: She was present at the creation, as it were. She was there when her husband Bill Clinton decided to abrogate, completely abrogate, the promises of H.W. Bush to [inaud.], the Soviet foreign minister, and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet premier at the time, that if they acceded to the reunification of Germany and its retention at NATO, a monumental diplomatic achievement, perhaps the greatest at the end of the 20th century, that they would not move NATO one inch further east. That’s Jim Baker’s actual words: not one inch further east.

But what Bill Clinton did was not just move it an inch further east, he began to incorporate the former Soviet satellite states in NATO, and even hinted at Georgia, Ukraine. And George W. Bush came along and actually gave a speech in Georgia, indicating Georgia would later be a member of NATO. This is what has caused Putin, a great power leader, to do what he’s done. Not any great desire to fight the United States. Certainly no desire to fight NATO. But a desire to keep his [near abroad], as they call it, think about these northern states of Mexico, the southern provinces of Canada, indeed, vis-a-vis us, intact and not a threat to him. That’s the way he looks at it.

So this is the first lady of those eight years. I’m not confident she’s going to handle the U.S.-Russia relationship as well as it should be.

>snip<

JAY: So just quickly, finally, given two terrible choices here, what scares you more?

WILKERSON: That also frightens me about, as you pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s position on Iran. Because I see it as being almost the opposite of President Obama’s. As you pointed out, he thinks it was a diplomatic achievement of the first order, as do I. And I think historians will, too. She thinks it came about because of massive U.S. power, at the top of which is military power. And so when it starts to unravel, which the Congress is working hard to make it do, she’s going to go to the military power.

JAY: So too horrible choices on foreign policy. Who scares you more?

WILKERSON: You won’t get me to answer that question. I have to say, I don’t know where Donald Trump stands. Some of the things he said, a re-examination of NATO, more equitable burden sharing, a re-examination, indeed, of all our security alliances, has been necessary since 1991. And we haven’t done it.

So those are cogent, reasonable, well-thought-out positions, though the playbook doesn’t agree with them. But I don’t know if he really believes in them. I don’t know if he just concocted them for the moment, or whether he really thought about them and he believes them. Other things he said make sense, too. But I don’t know, as I said, if he really believes in them or he’s just opportunistically throwing them out there as bait for what he considers to be those who might vote for him.

Chart of the day II: Obama/Clinton war legacy


From the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Asylum

Farewell to one of American journalism’s greatest


Sydney Schanberg was the greatest boss I never got to work for.

Back in 2001, I talked extensively with Schanberg about a new weekly newspaper he was preparing to launch in New York. He agreed to hire me, though the pay wouldn’t be much at first.

No problem, I said, eager to work in the most powerful city on earth for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for whom I had deep respect.

We had a lot in common, two stubborn men who had each been driven out of prestigious journalism jobs, his at the New York Times and mine as the lead investigative reporter for the Sacramento Bee, because we had dared to ask important questions about very important people.

But then came 9/11/ and with it, funds for the new venture evaporated.

Schanberg went on to write columns for the Village Voice and I would soon be hired as managing editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

And today, Sydney Schanberg is gone.

From today’s New York Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden:

Sydney H. Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and inspired the film “The Killing Fields” with the story of his Cambodian colleague’s survival during the genocide of millions, died on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82.

His death was confirmed by Charles Kaiser, a friend and former Times reporter, who said Mr. Schanberg had a heart attack on Tuesday.

A restive, intense, Harvard-educated newspaperman with bulldog tenacity, Mr. Schanberg was a nearly ideal foreign correspondent: a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants and of the suffering and death of their victims with the passion of an eyewitness to history.

Indeed, if folks today remember Shcanberg it’s probably because of the hit film based on his book about the Cambodian genocide.

Here’s the trailer for the critically acclaimed 1984 feature film:

The Killing Fields

Program notes:

OSCAR WINNER: Best Supporting Actor – Haing S. Ngor, Best  Cinematography, and Best Editing.

A New York Times reporter and his Cambodian aide are harrowingly trapped in Cambodia’s 1975 Khmer Rouge revolution. After the war, the adviser is imprisoned in Pol Pot’s work camps in Cambodia, and the journalist lobbies for his release. Sam Waterston, John Malkovich and Oscar winner Haing S. Ngor star in this shattering true story.

Schanberg won a Pulitzer for International Reporting for his coverage of the Cambodian killing fields, and his return to the Big Apple should have marked the beginning and a rise to the top.

But Schanberg had a problem as one of his Times colleagues explained to me: “He covers the city like a damned foreign correspondent.”

Indeed.

Consider this excerpt from journalist Edwin Diamond’s 1993 book From Behind the Times: Inside the New New York Times:

In the fall of 1977. . .Sidney Schanberg, his distinguished overseas service behind him, was back in New York, on a senior editing track, and being talked about as the “next Abe Rosenthal.” Like Rosenthal a decade before, Schanberg was running the Times Metro desk and seeing New York with the fresh eye of a a foreign correspondent. In a memo to Rosenthal, Schanberg proposed major new treatment of the homosexual community of New York, which he described as “ large and increasingly middle class. According to Schanberg, “many people still think of homosexual life in terms of interior decorators, Fire Island, and leather bars, but increasingly it’s also very much a world of lawyers, physicians, teachers, politicians, clergymen and other middle-class professional men and women who, aside from their sexual experience, live like their ‘straight’ counterparts,”

Rosenthal replied that while he would always give attention to Schanberg’s ideas, he didn’t “want a whole bunch of stories or a series. A great amount of coverage at this time would simply seem naive and deja vu. It was “a question of perspective” for the Times. “Yes, there are many homosexuals, just as there are many of almost everything in New York, I have a gut feeling that if we embark upon a series for now or a bunch of pieces, it would be overkill. And here he set down his principle of inclusion-exclusion, old hand instructing the new man: There is also a question of what we want to do with our space. Space is gold, The proper use of space is the essence of our existence, because it reflects our taste and judgment. . .It is the areas of taste and judgment that, in the long run, are our most important areas of responsibility.” Schanberg’s ambitious series never appeared.

Chris Hedges, a former New York Times colleague and fellow Pulitzer winner, described Schanberg’s experiences in a 17 July 2013 interview with The Real News Network:

Sydney Schanberg, who worked for many years for The Times, was eventually pushed out of the paper as the metro editor for taking on the developers, who were friends with the publisher and who were driving the working and the middle class out of Manhattan (so now Manhattan’s become the playground of hedge fund managers primarily), says correctly that your freedom as a reporter is constricted in direct proportion to your distance from the centers of power. So if you’re reporting from Latin America or Gaza or the Middle East as I was, or the Balkans, you have a kind of range that is denied to you once you come back into New York and into Washington.

Hedges had more to say in a 27 June 2011 essay for Truthdig:

Many editors viewed Schanberg’s concerns as relics of a dead era. He was removed as city editor and assigned to write a column about New York. He used the column, however, to again decry the abuse of the powerful, especially developers. The then-editor of the paper, Abe Rosenthal, began to acidly refer to Schanberg as the resident “Commie” and address him as “St. Francis.” Rosenthal, who met William F. Buckley almost weekly for lunch along with the paper’s publisher, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, grew increasingly impatient with Schanberg, who was challenging the activities of their powerful friends. Schanberg became a pariah. He was not invited to the paper’s table at two consecutive Inner Circle dinners held for New York reporters. The senior editors and the publisher did not attend the previews for the film “The Killing Fields,” based on Schanberg’s experience in Cambodia. His days at the newspaper were numbered.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading