Tag Archives: Obama

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Long Before Trump, News Media Wallowed in “Alternative Facts”

Image result for tonkin gulf incident

Most of the news media is at war with Donald Trump, and rightly so. First, journalists should always be at war with the governments they cover. Nonadversarial journalism isn’t journalism — it’s stenography. Second, Trump Administration officials’ refusal to even pretend to be interested in the truth, immortalized by Kellyanne Conway’s notorious praise of “alternative facts,” demands highly caffeinated contempt.

But let’s not forget an inconvenient truth. Pre-Trump, the watchdogs of democracy were mostly lapdogs, gently licking the blood-soaked hands of those who fed them: America’s political and corporate elites.

Media malpractice has been so sustained and widespread that it’s hard to know where to start. Opinion pages and cable news panel shows where no one to the left of Hillary Clinton is allowed? The abandonment of local news coverage? Massive social and economic upheavals ignored because they only afflict the poor and the middle-class-en-route-to-poor: the rusting of the Rust Belt, the meth and opioid epidemics, the replacement of good jobs by bad ones, the faking of low unemployment and inflation rates?

Editors and producers are guilty of many sins. For my money, however, the biggest and lying-est are the big lies of omission that leave important facts unknown to the public for years and even decades, result in many deaths, and let the perpetrators off the hook both legally and historically.

August publications like The New York Times have finally begun reporting that the president lied when he, you know, lied ­— as opposed to some weasel word like “misspoke” or counterquoting from an opposing politician. They’re even using “torture” to describe torture (instead of “enhanced interrogation techniques”). But that’s new, and it’s only because they’re corporate liberal and Trump is blogosphere crazy right-wing. Give them another Obama and it’ll be back to giving the people the business as usual.

The high body counts of war spotlight the staggering moral failures of a press that, day after day, fail to remind readers of fundamental truths that usually get suppressed from the outset.

For the better part of a decade, American citizens paid good money for newspapers that purported to bring them the news from Vietnam. What those papers never told them was that the reason LBJ gave for entering the war, a 1964 attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, never happened. This isn’t controversial; liberal and conservative historians alike agree the war was sold on fake news.

Imagine if the media had begun every story about Vietnam with a Trump-era-ish reference to Johnson’s big lie? “Continuing Unprovoked Attack on North Vietnam, U.S. B-52s Rain Death on Hanoi Without Reason.” Significantly less than 58,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese might have died.

After the U.S. lost — which they reported as a withdrawal rather than what really happened — lazy and easily cowed journalists and editors let stand the canard that returning Vietnam War vets were spat upon, insulted as “baby killers” and generally mistreated by dirty leftie hippies waiting for them at the airport. It never happened. To the contrary, the antiwar movement was supportive of vets, running clinics and other facilities to help them out. The myth of the spat-upon hippie, it turns out, began with the 1982 movie “Rambo,” when Sylvester Stallone’s character says it — probably as a metaphor.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government had nothing to do with 9/11, but few Americans know that. Even the soldiers sent to fight, kill and die there thought they were avenging the attack on the World Trade Center — and why not? Thanks to the Bush-era fake news purveyors, few of even the best read and most informed Americans know that Osama bin Laden was already in Pakistan on 9/11, that the Taliban offered to arrest him and turn him over if the U.S. showed some evidence of his guilt, that Al Qaeda had fewer than 100 members in Afghanistan (the vast majority were in Pakistan, as were the infamous training camps), and that there wasn’t a single Afghan among the 19 hijackers.

Would Afghanistan have become America’s longest war if news headlines had read something like “Bush Promises To Hunt Down Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Country Where They Aren’t, Sends Weapons and Cash to Country Where They Are”? Doubtful.

That the media fell down on the job during the build-up to the Iraq War is well-documented. Yet, even after the WMDs failed to turn up in that country after we destroyed it, the media never applied the standard they now stick on Trump, e.g. “Continuing Unjustified Assault on Innocent Iraq, Marines Prepare For Battle in Fallujah.” Talk about fake news — even if Saddam Hussein had had WMDs, Iraq’s lack of long-range ballistic missiles meant it never could have posed a threat to the United States.

Alternative facts abounded under Obama.

Obama launched hundreds of drone attacks against Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere that killed thousands of people. Studies showed that 49 out of 50 people killed were innocent bystanders, and that the other 1 were local guerilla fighters who hated their own local governments, not anti-American jihadis coming to kill us here. Yet story after story about drone assassinations referred to victims as “militants” or even “terrorists,” without a shred of evidence. If you’re going to let your president kill people just for fun, the least the media as a watchdog could do is call it what it is: “President Murders 14 More Muslims Cuz Fun.” Did you know the military calls them “squirters” — because their heads, you know…?

The president called out as a liar? Better 240 years late than never.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Working for the U.S. Government Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

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Harry Truman famously kept a sign on his desk that read: “The buck stops here.” (“Buck” is a disused term for “accountability,” not money.) What Truman’s phrase meant — it says a lot about the state of things that it needs to be explained — was that he, like the captain of a ship, accepted responsibility for everything that happened under his watch.

With Barack Obama, there’s nary a buck to be found. To paraphrase the 1970 movie “Love Story,” working for the United States government means never having to say you’re sorry.

Days before Obama took office in 2009, Obama signaled that federal workers who break the law would have nothing to worry about. During his campaign he’d promised to prosecute the CIA and military personnel who tortured Afghans, Iraqis and other Muslims under orders from Bush and Cheney. People who voted for him expected him to follow through. The CIA torturers were worried sick. Their victims looked forward to seeing justice served.

Breaking his pledge, Obama issued the monsters a “get out of jail free” card. There wouldn’t even be an investigation, much less indictments. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he said. The new president traveled to Langley to reassure the torturers everything would be cool. (“I will be as vigorous in protecting you as you are vigorous in protecting the American people.”) He even cooperated with the Republicans who approved of torture to pressure other countries not to file charges against U.S. torturers.

After 9/11, Americans asked themselves: why do they (Muslims in general, foreigners in particular) hate us?

No need to ask that one anymore.

One telltale sign that the government is engaged in a cover-up is timing: when it releases a report just before the weekend news blackout, you know something nasty is afoot. Obama’s latest whitewash, dumped online Friday, is the Administration’s attempt to drown its responsibility for one of the most heinous acts of mass murder in years in 3000 pages of spin, dissembling and circular logic.

On October 3rd, an AC-130 fixed-wing gunship — a fearsome array of high-caliber weaponry best described as a hovering battleship — unleashed an hour of hellfire on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, killing 42 doctors, staffers and patients, and wounding many others. The facility was completely destroyed. MSF (the French acronym for the group) pulled out. There is no longer any high-quality trauma care available in a major city in an active conflict zone.

It is now universally acknowledged that the attack was a mistake.

At the time, however, the Pentagon lied and denied. “Collateral damage,” they first said — they were aiming at something else. For an hour. Over and over. Then they said the Taliban were firing at U.S. forces from inside the hospital. (Never happened.) Next they blamed Afghan forces for calling in the airstrike. (They couldn’t have, and didn’t.) Finally, they admitted it was U.S. Special Forces.

Ultimately the new commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan issued an actual apology on March 22nd. “They hit us six months ago and are apologizing now?” spat Zabiullah Niazi, an OR nurse who lost his eye, one finger and the ability to use his hand, in the attack — and, like the other victims, has yet to receive compensation.

The heavily-redacted 3000-page report issued Friday by the Pentagon “describes a mission that went wrong from start to finish,” according to The New York Times. What stands out is the Americans’ obsession with protecting themselves at all cost, all others be damned — an attitude that has characterized the post-9/11 War of Terror.

“Even after Doctors Without Borders informed American commanders that a gunship was attacking a hospital, the airstrike was not immediately called off because, it appears, the Americans could not confirm themselves that the hospital was actually free of Taliban,” reports the Times. “‘Immediately calling for a cease-fire for a situation we have no SA’ — situational awareness, that is — ‘could put the ground force at risk,’ an American commander [said].” If you’re trying not to hurt innocent people, prudence dictates that you hold fire until your target is positively identified. Here, as usual in U.S. war zones, the default mode was to keep firing no matter what.

This is reckless disregard for human life writ large. So who will be held accountable?

“The punishments for the attack will be ‘administrative actions’ only, and none of those being disciplined will face criminal charges because the attack was determined to be unintentional… The punishments include suspension, removal from command and letters of reprimand, which can seriously damage or end a career.”

Reckless disregard for human life is a war crime. For example, former Rwandan official Clément Kayishema was convicted by an international tribunal for several counts of war crimes related to murder of Hutus in 1994, one of which was his reckless disregard for the possibility that his actions would lead to people’s deaths.

Forty-two people were murdered in Kunduz. So what if it’s just manslaughter or second-degree murder, rather than premeditated first-degree murder? Justice demands prison sentences, not letters added to personnel files.

I’d start with the guy who sits behind Harry Truman’s old desk.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

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Comedy Time

Even after the Assocation of American Editorial Cartoonists issued a formal statement calling for an investigation of the LA Times’ firing of me as a favor to the LAPD because I criticized police brutality, I found it difficult to get support from, well, everybody. Because one of the defining aspects of satire is that, eventually, you end up making fun of everyone. Who end up hating you.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Healthcare Insurance Pigs Soaking Americans With Secret 20%-40% Rate Increases on Obamacare

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This is what happens when you trust free markets.

You probably heard that the Supreme Court rejected the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, a.k.a. The Great Transfer of Taxpayer Dollars to Scumbag Health Insurance Companies. That news broke during a major news day.

What you likely missed, because it came out on July 3rd when everyone was driving to the beach or flying somewhere fun for their Independence Day weekend getaways instead of paying attention to the news, was that the ACA is tanking. That’s why you have me: to read depressing tidbits about America’s decline, and to annoy Obamabots with another I-told-you-so.

When Obama resurrected 1993’s benighted Hillarycare scheme, I warned that there were two major problems with this convoluted hybrid of government-managed healthcare and for-profit healthcare.

First, the Affordable Care Act kept the insurance companies in business. Aetna, United Healthcare and the other big insurers are a huge drain on the system, sucking out billions in profits and driving up costs. Profitmaking has no place in healthcare, which is a basic human right, like air and water. Air and water are free; healthcare should be free too. But that’s the opposite of what drives health insurers: they want to give you as little care as possible while charging you as much as possible.

Second, the ACA diminished Americans’ zeal for socialized medicine, the standard in the developed world. “In legislation no bread is often better than half a loaf,” Robert La Follette, the Wisconsin Progressive of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pointed out. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” I wrote last year: “In 2007, before Obama and his ACA came along, 54% of Americans favored single-payer. Now, thanks to a system that’s better than nothing but not nearly good enough, it’s down to 37%. Hillary Clinton is endorsing Obamacare, and has officially come out against single-payer.”

Now that the public has had a chance to use and pay for Obamacare, support for single-payer is back up to 50%.

Back to that story that broke on the deadest news day of the year. From The New York Times: “Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20% to 40% or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected…Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.”

Did your paycheck go up 20%, much less 40%, in the last year? I didn’t think so.

The proper reaction to this disgusting move — remember, we’re talking about a for-profit corporate sector that rakes in billions of dollars a month and pays its CEOs millions of dollars a year — is to line up the executives responsible against a wall and shoot them full of holes, then deny the healthcare claims of any who survive just because, as the rest of us routinely experience.

Since that would be illegal, however, the second-best approach should be to shame the bastards relentlessly on social media, until they’re forced to go join ISIS because people would subject them to Two Minute Hates wherever they go. (Not to say that ISIS, which provides free healthcare, would want these human turds either.)

This is where one naturally turns to political leadership. Surely the President of the United States, a.k.a. He For Whom Obamacare Is Named, will crack down on these insurance pirates?

Not so much. Obama “said that consumers should put pressure on state insurance regulators to scrutinize the proposed rate increases. If commissioners do their job and actively review rates, he said, ‘my expectation is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.'”

No doubt the healthcare industry itself, which rakes in billions each year from their new involuntary customers, hears our anger.

Not so much. Marinan Williams, CEO of the Scott & White Health Plan in Texas, which applied for a 32% rate hike, says: “Over the next three years, I hope, rates will start to stabilize.” How about we “stabilize” her salary at 32% less than she gets now?

How’s your interest in the “full loaf” — single-payer socialized medicine — now?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the first biography of NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden. It is in graphic novel form, and will publish August 18th. You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Trainer Troops in Iraq? Doomed to Failure

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

President Obama is deploying 450 troops, trainers of Iraqi soldiers, back to Iraq. To fight ISIS this time. The media says this sort of half-measure, neither big enough to make a difference but not nothing, either, reflects the wisdom of compromise. Because “both sides” will criticize.

Both sides are right. It’s a stupid move doomed to failure.

Dumb Two Ways iraq trainer troops

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: If Rachel Dolezal is a Liar, What is Barack Obama?

Rachel Dolezal, the former Spokane leader of the NAACP who was born white but pretends to be (or “identifies as”) black, is widely assumed to be a lying con artist, suffering from psychological problems, or both. Many Americans, especially blacks who suffer at the hands of systemic racial discrimination, were furious at what they saw as Dolezal’s lack of — forgive me — skin in the game.

Unlike dark-skinned African-Americans pulled over by racist policemen for a broken taillight, she could opt out any time. Indeed, she did exactly that when she sued her alma mater, the historically black Howard University, for race discrimination — because she was white.

Dolezel has stepped down from her unpaid post where, by all accounts, she did a magnificent job. But what about another case of racial slumming that is not dissimilar from Dolezal’s, but far more prominent?

I speak here ­— though few others dare — of President Obama.

Obama, as everyone knows, had a black Kenyan father and a white American mother. Growing up in Hawaii, where so many people have multiple racial identities that they call themselves “chop suey” or “poi dog,” meaning “mixed” or “mutt,” Obama chose to sublimate his white ancestry and identify as fully black because he didn’t want to be, as friends remember, a “tragic mulatto” who had to suck up to whites.

Choosing which half of your family you prefer to identify with isn’t unusual. My mother is French and my father is American of German ancestry. I feel very French — I speak and read the language, listen to French music, follow French news, have dual French-American citizenship. I always assumed that was because my father wasn’t around while I was growing up, so he lost his chance to influence me. (But I’ve never denied his paternity, or the parts of my personality I believe came from him.)

Anyway, Obama’s situation was the reverse of mine. Like me, he was raised by his mom. The time he spent with his father could be measured in hours. If he’d followed the path of least resistance in terms of cultural influence, he would have identified as white. Instead, he took on the race of the father who left him.

Granted: race is a largely a cultural and political construction. Still, within the racial construct in which Obama and I (we’re almost the same age, and went to Columbia at the same time) grew up, he was and is biracial.

            Why’d he ditch the biracial moniker?

The Census Bureau began identifying multiracial Americans in 2000. (You check off two or more boxes for race, as applicable.) In 2000, 6.8 million Americans declared themselves as having mixed-race ancestry. Not Obama — in 2010, as President, he declared himself solely African-American.

Sorry, mom.

How is this different than Rachel Dolezal? Both of them identify themselves as blacker than they are genetically: Dolezel 100% more, Obama, 50% more. Why is Dolezal, an obscure woman who worked hard to fight for blacks, catching more shit than Obama, arguably the world’s most powerful man, who has been roundly criticized for sitting on his hands when black Americans come under attack, as they did in a Charleston church this week?

If Dolezeal is “transracial,” as she told an interview, so is Obama.

“I think his choice [to declare himself African-American and not biracial] will have political, social and cultural ramifications,” Michele Hughes, president of the Chicago Biracial Families Network, said after stories about Obama’s census declaration appeared. Certainly, it sent a message to biracial children: the president of the United States is ashamed of his biracial heritage, and maybe you should be too.

“Aren’t people supposed to fill out their census forms accurately? Why else are we doing it? If everyone put down on the form how they “identified,” I don’t know what kind of count we’d wind up with, but clearly it would not reflect the racial makeup of the United States. As many have argued, race is an almost useless construct, so that might not matter, except in one very important area: If every biracial person chose one race, as Obama did, or as people had to do before the forms were changed in 2000, the census would portray a society more divided than it actually is,” Elizabeth Chang, who identifies as biracial (and actually is biracial) wrote in The Washington Post in 2010. “If the most powerful person in this country says that because society thinks he looks black, he is black, it sends a message that biracial children have to identify with the side they most resemble.”

It also endorses the hoary “single drop of blood” rule, which dates to slavery and dictates that if you’re 0.1% black, the law, and American culture, considers you 100% black.

As I said, I’m not personally vested in this discussion. But I dislike hypocrisy, particularly in the context of media pile-ons against average citizens while objectively much bigger targets stand around watching, untouched by the flinging mud. If Dolezal is scum for lying about her race, so is Obama.

Half-scum, anyway.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the upcoming book “Snowden,” the first biography of NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden. It is in graphic novel form. You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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The Killing of Osama Bin Laden: Seven Questions Americans Should Ask Now

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has unleashed a ferocious debunking of the official Obama Administration narrative, dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” of the 2011 assassination by Navy SEALS of Osama bin Laden. Everything you think you know about the killing of the Al Qaeda leader accused of ordering the 9/11 attacks, Hersh asserts, is total bullshit.

For its part, the White House is kind of sort of denying Hersh’s alternative history.

“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” Hersh writes in the London Review of Books.

Here are the seven things Hersh’s piece makes one wonder about:

Osama Bin Laden Seymour Hersh allegationsOne: According to Hersh, the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency kept bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad between 2006 and 2011, kind of the way the Burmese junta did to hot dissident lady Aung San Suu Kyi. So when the SEALs came to kill him, it was less like bad-ass, well, SEALs, than shooting fish in a barrel. Anyway, they hid America’s most wanted man ever from us. Why are we paying the Pakistanis $1.6 billion a year? If we paid them $2.6 billion, would they be nicer to us?

Two: According to Hersh, careful intelligence gathering, torture, tracking that courier guy, none of that stuff led to bin Laden.

It was greed: ISI agent Amir Aziz walked into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad with evidence bin Laden was in ISI custody. “Aziz had been rewarded with a share of the $25 million reward the US had put up,” Hersh says. He adds: “The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.” If you came into what we must assume is a significant share of $25 million — even if it’s just $5 million — wouldn’t you retire? Are all Pakistanis workaholics?

the killing of osama bin ladenThree: Hersh says there was no firefight, that bin Laden never resisted, much less got off a shot. “The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme,” he says.

What about when the assassinations are executed with drones? Does the Obama Administration pretend drone victims first have to point a gun at the drone before the Hellfire missiles are loosed?

Four: After the raid, the SEALs were ordered to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) so the public wouldn’t learn that the rubout was a cowardly act of, one might say terrorism. “On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private,” Hersh wrote.

But two SEALs did talk, including Matt Bissonnette, who wrote the book “No Easy Day” (which was actually a walk in the park for all involved, excepting UBL and his family). Is it a violation of your NDA if you squawk, but it’s a lie, and it’s the same lie as the government’s?

Five: “Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers.” Hersh says there was never a “trove of terrorist information” because bin Laden was a prisoner, no longer the tactical head of Al Qaeda.

If the tapes weren’t terror stuff, what were they? Where are the videos now? Note to Langley: if there’s a VHS version of the 1988 cult movie “Tapeheads” in the bin Laden trove, do get in touch — I’ve been looking for that one.

Six: Remember the Pakistani doctor, still in prison, accused of using his vaccination program as a ruse to collect UBL’s DNA? Hersh says he did nothing of the kind — that the CIA threw him under the bus to cover for Aziz. “A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’” What did Afridi do to get picked as a scapegoat? Is this what happens when you refuse to contribute to the Abbottabad Fraternal Order of Police fundraiser?

Seven: Hersh says “the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place… there had been ‘no burial at sea.’ added that ‘the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials.’” There was also what Hersh terms “a complication”: “some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed.”

Do terrorist body parts often rain from the sky in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Were any goatherds, or goats, bonked on the head by bin Laden bits?

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Most Transparent Administration Ever

U.S. Senators who want to read the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asian countries can’t get a copy to read. Instead, they have view the long, confusing document in a secret locked room where they can take notes, but not keep them. The only way they could credibly consider the agreement would be if they had a photographic memory.

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