Just How Bad is American Journalism?


Many moderate and even liberal journalists are calling for a free pass to all former government officials, especially top-ranking White Housers (aka, Dick, W. and Donald). The problem, I believe, is that if we have an honest investigation into the enhanced interrogation program we are bound to learn the disgusting truth behind torture and about the “Wag the Dog” activism key members of the establishment press played in promoting disinformation in furtherance of the government’s illegal activities.

One thing that has bothered me over recent weeks has been the extent to which the mainstream press has promoted or even allowed to be promoted two notions: first, that torture could be a vital and necessary means for protecting our national security; and second, that White House and government officials may at times be above the law. The sum of these two, as attempts to rationalize or even exculpate torture, equate to an outright admission that the government did in fact engage in torture.

On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, for example, moderator David Gregory kept asking his guests the same questions over and over again: whether torture saved lives, as if that were even a serious variable to be taken into consideration. Earlier in the week, Michael Scheuer wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that torture was a necessary tool in the government’s anti-terrorism arsenal, citing the hypothetical example, of having Bin Laden in custody, the country on the verge of imminent mass destruction, and torture alone as the sole savior to our terrible predicament.

The absurdity of this, what I call the Abrahamic argument, is Biblical. It sounds like the Old Testament where God calls from the heavens to test man’s faith by asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. Come on! You can’t be serious, Mr. Scheuer. If we had Bin Laden in captivity, and he promised to only spill the beans were we to rape our own grandmothers, should the government acquiesce? These guys really think we’re stupid.

Just-trust-me Cheney wants us to believe that torture saved lives. And many conservative pundits, as well, now accept that we did in fact torture, but they want the government to turn over the evidence (aka, the fruit of the torturous tree) that proves that torture saved lives, that torture should be legalized. But wouldn’t that justify, say, torturing every high school student and other potential domestic suicide assassin to avoid another Columbine?

Furthermore, the Bush Administration cannot possibly reconcile the images of Abu Ghraib or the torture — not of the worst of the worst but of everyone else we held in custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the secret prisons around the world — with an underlying intelligence gathering purpose. How does humiliating prisoners in Iraq stop an imminent attack in the U.S.? As a matter of fact, the government knew that this argument would not fly, and therefore, put all of the blame on a few “bad seeds”. And guess what the press did? They bought and resold it. Ironically, the same press that bought that argument then is now calling for the big cheeses to be given a free pass, while the “bad seed” scapegoats rot in jail.

On the same day that Scheuer published his article, Mark Danner wrote “If everyone knew, then who is to blame?” (also in the Washington Post). The truth of the matter is that everyone knew. Not only did everyone know, but the White House also knew that everyone knew. Why else would the government have leaked the disinformation that waterboarding was some miracle truth serum that had already achieved almost immediate results with zero long-term affects?

Guess who gave the White House its free pass on what we now know was a total lie? The mainstream press. As originally reported by Brian Stetler in the New York Times and discussed by Glen Greenwald earlier this week in Salon.com, ABC News’ Brian Ross played an active role in perpetuating the falsehoods about the Khalid Sheik Mohammed interrogation – namely that he spilled the beans in a matter of seconds. Greenwald writes,

We now know that this claim, too, was patently false, as Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month alone.  Yet two years before the Zubaydah falsehood examined this morning by Stelter, this false “fact” — that waterboarding works almost immediately in saving Americans lives as demonstrated by how quickly it broke Mohammed — was repeated over and over to argue that waterboarding is both highly effective and, given how quickly it works, cannot possibly constitute torture.

So how should we understand Cheney’s argument that those 183 instances of waterboarding produced essential information that saved lives? Especially knowing as we do now that the interrogation technique approved by the DOJ attorneys were based on a Chinese field guide for inducing false testimony. Yes, that’s right. These techniques were not designed to produce quality intelligence – the kind that saves lives — but to manufacture confessions — the kind that produces propoganda. How did the interrogators know on the 183th dunk to stop waterboarding? At what point did they get the testimony they were waiting for?

If we already know that the press, and consequently the American public, was willing to be wagged and believe anything the government told it – the fabricated WMD evidence, the yellow cake in Niger, the waterboarding miracle, etc – all as propaganda in favor of invading Iraq, then my guess is that if we further investigate the enhanced interrogation program – now universally recognized as torture by Republicans and Democrats alike– we’ll learn that one of the program’s central goals was to find, at any cost, testimony, true or false, connecting the War in Iraq to 9/11 and the War on Terror. For expediency’s sake and to avoid a full-out partisan war (as if there wasn’t one already), many in the press, in the White House and on the Hill are saying that an investigation is dangerous. What they aren’t saying is why it is really dangerous: Americans don’t want to learn just how embedded its press is with the government, just how permissive everyone on both sides of the aisle were in the War on Terror, and just how passive the American people are when it comes to what the government and press tell them.



Filed under Essays

8 responses to “Just How Bad is American Journalism?

  1. These guys really think we’re stupid.


    They know, with proven marketing strategies, that the greater majority of the American populace, is, provably, abjectly stupid.

    FT, (out of London), had an editorial from a recent Harvard study. American high school students don’t even rank in with the rest of the G20 countries high school equivalent students.

    25th in maths, 24th in science.

    Torture is effective. War is atrocity. All victory comes with a large cost in human suffering.

    The only law of war that matters: Vae Victus.

  2. eric

    Allow me to amend: the government proves we’re stupid.

    Is torture effective? I guess that turns on what it is effective for. Obviously the repeated +100 waterboarding sessions prove that the torture was not effective in providing the desired testimony, otherwise they wouldn’t have needed to repeat it over and over again. What were they asking? Confess again? Now again? And now to something else? Will you confess to anything?

  3. If not for our stupidity, would a “government” be necessary at all?

    I really can’t say anything about the torture cugino; I’ve never been on either end of it, so it is all speculation as to its necessity and efficiency …

    I have no idea … other than it has always been used, so there must be something to it.

  4. Steve

    Seems to me that if they do approve of torture it doesn’t make sense to be half-hearted about it (ie use waterboarding instead of more extreme measures).

    Either “torture save lives” ie “the end justifies the means” in which case extreme torture is justified or it isn’t acceptable and so we should use none.

  5. Percy Rodriguez

    Kitapsiz says he is unsure about tortures efficiency and necessity??

    maybe this will help clear his doubts. From The Washington Post Feb of this year.

    From Captive To Suicide Bomber
    Accused of Being Little More Than a Low-Level Taliban Fighter, Abdallah al-Ajmi Was Held by the U.S. for Nearly Four Years. After His Release, He Blew Up an Iraqi Army Outpost. Did Guantanamo Propel Him to Do It?

    By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, February 22, 2009; A01

    A little more than two years after his release from the Guantanamo Bay military prison, Abdallah Saleh al-Ajmi knelt in front of a white wall, clutched the upturned barrel of an AK-47 rifle and delivered a message before a video camera.

    The scraggly beard that his young son once loved to play with had been shaved off, leaving only an exiguous moustache. His curly, shoulder-length locks had been clipped down to a crew cut. Gone, too, were the crisp, white headdress he often wore and any semblance of the good humor once familiar to his family. He was sullen and angry — still bitter about being locked up for almost four years at the high-security U.S. detention center on the southeastern coast of Cuba.

    “Praise be unto God, who evacuated me from Guantanamo prison and joined me with the Islamic State of Iraq,” he intoned. As the camera’s light cast an outsize shadow behind his head, he wagged his finger and issued a vow: “We are going, with permission from God, to God — glory be unto him. We will enter the nests of apostasy.”

    At 6:15 a.m. on March 23, 2008, not long after making the video, Ajmi drove a pickup truck filled with 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of explosives, hidden in what appeared to be white flour sacks, onto an Iraqi army base outside Mosul. He barreled though the entrance checkpoint and past a fusillade of gunfire from the sentries, shielded by bulletproof glass and makeshift armor welded to the cab.

    The Easter Sunday blast killed 13 Iraqi soldiers, wounded 42 others and left a 30-foot-wide crater in the ground. It remains the single most heinous act of violence committed by a former Guantanamo detainee.

    As President Obama takes the first tentative steps toward fulfilling his campaign promise to close Guantanamo, the case of Abdallah Ajmi has become a symbol of the vexing challenge his administration faces in adjudicating the fates of terrorism suspects held by the United States, a process that almost certainly will result in the release of additional detainees among the approximately 245 now in custody there.

    What makes Ajmi’s journey from inmate to bomber so disturbing to top government officials is the fact that he never was deemed to be among the worst of the worst. He was not one of the former top al-Qaeda operatives considered “high value” detainees; nor was he regarded as someone who posed a significant, long-term threat to the United States.

    Compared with what other Guantanamo detainees were believed to have done, the principal accusation leveled against him — that he fought for the Taliban — was unremarkable. At his Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he was not accused of perpetrating any specific violent acts other than “engaging in two or three fire fights with the Northern Alliance,” according to a summary of evidence presented by the military.

    As one former U.S. government official involved in detainee issues put it, Ajmi was “never on anyone’s top 10 list of people we expected to return to the fight.”

    Since his death, U.S. intelligence agencies have sought to determine when Ajmi became a hard-core jihadist. Was it in the late 1990s, when he came under the sway of a radical preacher while serving in the Kuwaiti army? Was it in 2001, when he allegedly joined the Taliban? Was it upon his release in 2005, when extremists back home celebrated him as the “Lion of Guantanamo”?

    Or is the answer potentially more alarming: Was his descent into unrepentant radicalism an unintended consequence of his incarceration?

    This account of Ajmi’s religious and political journey is based on interviews with his attorneys in Washington and Kuwait, his family, and U.S. government officials familiar with his case, as well as U.S. military documents, court filings in the United States and Kuwait, and other records provided by sources close to the case.

    Washington lawyer Thomas Wilner, who represented Ajmi while he was in U.S. custody and visited him more than half a dozen times during his detention, is convinced he knows the answer to his former client’s fate.

    “What happened to him?” Wilner asked rhetorically. “It was Guantanamo.”

    Wilner points to the first letter he received from Ajmi:

    To the learned attorney Tom

    Dear Sir:

    How are you and how is your nice team doing? I hope you are doing well. Tell me how you are doing, Mr. Tom, and what is going on in the outside world. . . .

    Mr. Tom, I would like to tell you that I am fine, and so are all my brothers. . . .

    I thank you, Mr. Tom, and send you my closing greetings.

    The happy detainee Juhayman Al Ajmi.

    And then there is the last letter he received:

    To the vile, depraved Thomas, descendant of rotten apes and swine,

    I greet you with a kick, a spit, and a slap on your lying, rotten, ugly, and sullen face. I hope that this letter finds you burning in hell and receiving a sound beating from men who are to be counted. . . .

    Thomas, I shall meet you tomorrow

    And hit you with a sharp, two-edged Indian sword

    That will tear you to pieces, and you will be thrown to the hyena

    To feed on, maul and bite you, and to every wild beast.

    Fiercely and harshly, Juhayman Al Ajmi.

    Ominous Signs

    Arrested in Pakistan in December 2001, Ajmi was among the first wave of terrorism suspects to be transported to Guantanamo. He was “inprocessed” on Jan. 17, 2002, clad in an orange jumpsuit, shackled at the wrists and ankles, and placed in an open-air chain-link cell. He was 23 years old.

    At Guantanamo, names are not used. There are too many Ahmeds and Abdallahs. And transliterating from Arabic to English can often lead to inconsistencies. To the guards patrolling outside the razor wire, Ajmi was known by his Internment Serial Number, 220. They called him ISN 220. Or Detainee 220. Or just 220.

    Ajmi’s days mainly consisted of sitting in his cell. For his first few years there, detainees had no access to reading material — save for copies of the Koran. Interrogations, which occurred randomly and could last days, were the only breaks from the monotony.

    In early 2002, Ajmi’s family and 11 other Kuwaiti families sought to hire a prominent U.S. law firm to look into the fate of their relatives who had gone missing in Afghanistan. Back then, nobody knew whether they were at Guantanamo — the U.S. military deemed the prisoner manifest confidential. But the Kuwaitis were turned down by the first several firms they approached. Sticking up for terrorism suspects in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, they were told, was too politically radioactive. Finally, a headhunter working for the Kuwaitis called Wilner, then a partner in the Washington office of Shearman & Sterling.

    Wilner is an international trade specialist, not an expert on human rights law, and his résumé was even more Establishment than some of those who rebuffed the Kuwaitis: St. Albans, Yale, the Supreme Court bar. He has practiced law in Washington for more than 30 years. He wasn’t sure whether any of the dozen Kuwaitis were innocent, but that didn’t matter to him. What did were two basic legal principles: that the United States shouldn’t be holding people incommunicado and that even terrorism suspects should have the right to defend themselves. He gave the headhunter the answer that others wouldn’t.

    Other partners at Shearman were not happy about Wilner’s decision to represent the Kuwaitis, and a few made their displeasure known to him. Wilner told his critics that Shearman would not be profiting from the case — the firm would donate all the fees, which eventually reached $1.5 million, to charity.

    Within a few weeks, he was on a plane to Kuwait to meet with relatives of the detainees. He saw two of Ajmi’s brothers and his father, an elderly man with a gray beard, a pointy nose and piercing eyes. He still cannot forget the father’s plaintive request to help free his son.

    It was during that trip that Wilner learned where the 12 men were. The State Department informed the Kuwaiti government that eight of them were at Guantanamo. Within days, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that the four others were there, as well.

    But when Wilner sought to see his clients, the military refused. The Bush administration contended that Guantanamo detainees didn’t have the right to be represented by civilian attorneys.

    So Wilner filed a lawsuit, arguing that Ajmi and the 11 other Kuwaitis deserved to have a federal judge review their detention. The case was consolidated with another habeas corpus petition, Rasul v. Bush, and eventually wound its way up to the Supreme Court, which, in June 2004, ruled that Guantanamo detainees had the right to challenge their incarceration in federal courts.

    Although it would take four more years for habeas hearings to commence, because of additional legal challenges by the Bush administration and attempts by Congress to legislate a compromise, the most significant practical impact of the Rasul decision was that it cleared the way for lawyers such as Wilner to visit their clients.

    And so the last week of December 2004, after months of squabbling with the Pentagon over rules and logistics — the Defense Department initially insisted that it be allowed to monitor some of the attorney-client conversations — the Shearman team arrived at Guantanamo.

    Ajmi was placed in a small metal-walled hut for the visit. His legs were shackled to an eyelet in the floor. One hand was chained to a belt around his waist.

    The lawyer who talked with him, Kristine Huskey, brought him a box of baklava from a bakery in Detroit and explained that she was part of a team of lawyers in Washington working on his behalf. She told him that his family had met with Wilner. She even showed him a DVD of his relatives.

    Wilner and Huskey were worried about winning the trust of the detainees, who had no way of knowing whether they were really lawyers or just another set of interrogators. “We had to convince them we were there to represent them,” Huskey said. “We hardly gave them a chance to talk, so they wouldn’t say, ‘Who the hell are you? Go away.’ ”

    Their fears were not entirely unfounded. In subsequent meetings, said Wilner, who is Jewish, one of the Kuwaiti detainees, Fouad Mahmoud al-Rabiah, told him that one of his interrogators urged him to be wary of his attorneys because of their faith. “How could you trust Jews? Throughout history, Jews have betrayed Muslims. Don’t you think your lawyers, who are Jews, will betray you?” the interrogator said, according to Rabiah.

    At that first meeting, Huskey remembers Ajmi as “polite and reserved.” He said he was grateful for legal representation and for the time she was spending on his case. He asked about his family, and he expressed a sense of resignation about his detention. “Despite all the mistreatment, we are happy being here. It is the will of God,” he told Huskey.

    But there were also ominous signs. The sergeant who led them into the hut warned that Ajmi was a “behavior issue.” Unlike most inmates, Ajmi was dressed in orange shorts. Huskey saw scabs on his knees. It seemed to her that he had been dragged by guards. She inquired but he didn’t want to discuss it, other than to say that his captors “had defamed Islam” and that he had had “a problem” with his guards.

    One of the other Kuwaiti detainees told her that Ajmi’s Koran and his blanket had been removed because of misbehavior. But he didn’t know what offense Ajmi had committed.

    Huskey did not press Ajmi to explain what he was doing before he was apprehended, and he did not proffer anything beyond one statement: “I am here as an enemy combatant, and I will leave here as an enemy combatant. Tell my family that.”

    ‘A Kid Who Was Lost’

    Two weeks later, Wilner met with Ajmi. Their three-hour conversation began with a lengthy description of how Ajmi and his fellow detainees had been treated. Ajmi claimed torture. Halfway through, though, he told his attorney that he had a problem.

    “My whole story is made up,” he said, according to Wilner’s notes and his recollection of the conversation. “I didn’t carry weapons. I didn’t fight. I was not a member of the Taliban or al-Qaeda.”

    Ajmi said he had told U.S. interrogators at a detention center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he had been held prior to Guantanamo, that he fought with the Taliban because the guards “were beating the hell out of me.”

    “I wanted it to stop,” he said. “I told them what they wanted to hear.”

    Ajmi sought Wilner’s advice. “What do I do?” he asked. “Do I change my story?”

    Wilner told him to tell the truth, even if it meant contradicting earlier statements. Ajmi struck Wilner “as one of the least dangerous people at Gitmo. He just seemed like a kid who was lost.”

    While Ajmi’s story sounded believable to Wilner, he couldn’t know for sure whether it was true. All he could be certain of was that in early 2001, Ajmi left a comfortable life in Kuwait, and that in December of that year, he was apprehended in the Bannu district of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, not far from the Afghan border.

    What happened in between? Was he only in Pakistan, as he claimed, studying and performing volunteer work? Or did he go to Afghanistan, as the U.S. military contended, to fight with the Taliban? There may never be a conclusive answer to those questions, but even some of his relatives are convinced that his departure from Kuwait was not entirely for peaceful purposes.

    Ajmi had 11 brothers and eight sisters. His father, who has two wives, used to be a machine technician with the Kuwaiti national oil company. The family lived in a two-story stucco house on a quiet side street in Almadi, a company town south of Kuwait City that was designed for British engineers and their families. Save for the occasional mosque and the Arabic script on the street signs, it could be mistaken for a lower-middle-class subdivision in West Texas: The streets are wide and tree-lined; there is a small zoo, a movie theater and a community center; the acrid odor of petroleum hangs in the humid air.

    When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Ajmi’s family members, like many other Kuwaitis, fled to neighboring Saudi Arabia. When they returned two years later, Ajmi dropped out of school. He was 14 and had made it only through eighth grade.

    He began working as a security guard at a technical school but quit after a few months. He preferred a life of indolence. “He was a quiet, peaceful and fun-loving kid,” his elder brother Ahmed recalled.

    By the time Ajmi was 19, however, he decided he needed a job. Lacking the education for professional employment, he joined the Kuwaiti army. He learned how to use an M-16 rifle and an M-60 machine gun. He eventually was assigned to a unit called the Prince’s Guard, which was stationed in the town of Subhan, near Kuwait International Airport.

    Ajmi soon began attending Subhan’s main mosque, an imposing two-story structure surrounded by a large courtyard and a series of outbuildings. Although it receives government money — a sign proclaims that a new addition to the complex is funded by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments — the mosque is known among Kuwaitis as a hotbed of radicalism. Sermons dwell on the oppression of Muslims and include exhortations to participate in jihad.

    According to a two-page investigative summary prepared by the U.S. government, Ajmi took a leave of absence from the army to travel to Pakistan in January 2001. He was motivated to go by a fatwa, issued over the Internet by a Saudi sheik and posted at the Subhan mosque, that called for jihad against the Russians in Chechnya.

    When he got to Pakistan, he discovered that there was no way to travel from there to Chechnya. After two weeks, he returned to Kuwait.

    Two months later, a friend in the Kuwaiti military distributed another fatwa in the Subhan mosque. This one called for Muslims to fight against Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, which was battling the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    On March 26, Ajmi left Kuwait for Pakistan. Before leaving, he called his mother. “I’m going for jihad,” he said, according to his brother Ahmed. “Count me as a martyr for God.”

    Ahmed said their mother yelled at him. He hung up on her.

    After his brother left, Ahmed said, he went to the Subhan mosque to inquire about his whereabouts. “They told me, ‘We taught your brother the right things. We set him on the right path.’ ”

    When Ajmi arrived at the Islamabad airport, the investigative summary says, he was approached by a man named Mawla Rifqat, who asked him whether he had come to Pakistan for prayer or jihad. Ajmi said he was there for jihad. Rifqat then took him on a bus to Peshawar. During the trip, Rifqat told Ajmi that he had fought with the Afghan mujaheddin against the Soviets in the 1980s.

    From Peshawar, the two men took

  6. where is the madrid/barca whoop ass blog entry?

  7. eric

    Gran Huja,

    Sorry been “out of the office”. yes, Barca rocked Realm Madrid’s world.

  8. Percy,

    You are quoting unreferenced material from a media outlet; first order error of logic ~ the media doesn’t deal in facts, they deal in selling perception.

    “Swine Flu”; synopsis after factual readings ~ the whole pandemic scenario is utter BS.

    Media falsely reported that an American had died from the virus; it was a 22 month old toddler brought across the border into to Texas from MEXICO.

    Follow the money; find the BS.

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