The farcical end of the American dream
The US press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war
By Robert Fisk
"The Independent" -- -- It is a bright winter morning and I am sipping
my first coffee of the day in Los Angeles. My eye moves like a radar
beam over the front page of the Los Angeles Times for the word that
dominates the minds of all Middle East correspondents: Iraq. In
post-invasion, post-Judith Miller mode, the American press is
supposed to be challenging the lies of this war. So the story
beneath the headline "In a Battle of Wits, Iraq's Insurgency
Mastermind Stays a Step Ahead of US" deserves to be read. Or does
Datelined Washington - an odd city in which to learn about Iraq, you
might think - its opening paragraph reads: "Despite the recent
arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top
aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded
capture, US authorities say, because his network has a much better
intelligence-gathering operation than they do."
Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis - along, I have to
admit, with myself - have grave doubts about whether Zarqawi exists,
and that al-Qai'da's Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the
title of "insurgency mastermind", the words that caught my eye were
"US authorities say". And as I read through the report, I note how
the Los Angeles Times sources this extraordinary tale. I thought
American reporters no longer trusted the US administration, not
after the mythical weapons of mass destruction and the equally
mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes
against humanity of 11 September 2001. Of course, I was wrong.
Here are the sources - on pages one and 10 for the yarn spun by
reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: "US officials said", "said
one US Justice Department counter-terrorism official", "Officials
... said", "those officials said", "the officials confirmed",
"American officials complained", "the US officials stressed", "US
authorities believe", "said one senior US intelligence official",
"US officials said", "Jordanian officials ... said" - here, at least
is some light relief - "several US officials said", "the US
officials said", "American officials said", "officials say", "say US
officials", "US officials said", "one US counter-terrorism official
I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los
Angeles Times - along with the big east coast dailies - should all
be called US OFFICIALS SAY. But it's not just this fawning on
political power that makes me despair. Let's move to a more recent
example of what I can only call institutionalised racism in American
reporting of Iraq. I have to thank reader Andrew Gorman for this
gem, a January Associated Press report about the killing of an Iraqi
prisoner under interrogation by US Chief Warrant Officer Lewis
Mr Welshofer, it transpired in court, had stuffed the Iraqi General
Abed Hamed Mowhoush head-first into a sleeping bag and sat on his
chest, an action which - not surprisingly - caused the general to
expire. The military jury ordered - reader, hold your breath - a
reprimand for Mr Welshofer, the forfeiting of $6,000 of his salary
and confinement to barracks for 60 days. But what caught my eye was
the sympathetic detail. Welshofer's wife's Barbara, the AP told us,
"testified that she was worried about providing for their three
children if her husband was sentenced to prison. 'I love him more
for fighting this,' she said, tears welling up in her eyes. 'He's
always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the
right thing is the hardest thing to do'".
Yes, I guess torture is tough on the torturer. But try this from the
same report: "Earlier in the day ... Mr Welshofer fought back tears.
'I deeply apologise if my actions tarnish the soldiers serving in
Iraq,' he said."
Note how the American killer's remorse is directed not towards his
helpless and dead victim but to the honour of his fellow soldiers,
even though an earlier hearing had revealed that some of his
colleagues watched Welshofer stuffing the general into the sleeping
bag and did nothing to stop him. An earlier AP report stated that
"officials" - here we go again - "believed Mowhoush had information
that would 'break the back of the insurgency'." Wow. The general
knew all about 40,000 Iraqi insurgents. So what a good idea to stuff
him upside down inside a sleeping bag and sit on his chest.
But the real scandal about these reports is we're not told anything
about the general's family. Didn't he have a wife? I imagine the
tears were "welling up in her eyes" when she was told her husband
had been done to death. Didn't the general have children? Or
parents? Or any loved ones who "fought back tears" when told of this
vile deed? Not in the AP report he didn't. General Mowhoush comes
across as an object, a dehumanised creature who wouldn't let the
Americans "break the back" of the insurgency after being stuffed
headfirst into a sleeping bag.
Now let's praise the AP. On an equally bright summer's morning in
Australia a few days ago I open the Sydney Morning Herald. It tells
me, on page six, that the news agency, using the Freedom of
Information Act, has forced US authorities to turn over 5,000 pages
of transcripts of hearings at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. One of
them records the trial of since-released British prisoner Feroz
Abbasi, in which Mr Abbasi vainly pleads with his judge, a US air
force colonel, to reveal the evidence against him, something he says
he has a right to hear under international law.
And here is what the American colonel replied: "Mr Abbasi, your
conduct is unacceptable and this is your absolute final warning. I
do not care about international law. I do not want to hear the words
international law. We are not concerned about international law."
Alas, these words - which symbolise the very end of the American
dream - are buried down the story. The colonel, clearly a disgrace
to the uniform he wears, does not appear in the bland headline ("US
papers tell Guantanamo inmates' stories") of the Sydney paper, more
interested in telling us that the released documents identify by
name the "farmers, shopkeepers or goatherds" held in Guantanamo.
I am now in Wellington, New Zealand, watching on CNN Saddam
Hussein's attack on the Baghdad court trying him. And suddenly, the
ghastly Saddam disappears from my screen. The hearing will now
proceed in secret, turning this drumhead court into even more of a
farce. It is a disgrace. And what does CNN respectfully tell us?
That the judge has "suspended media coverage"!
If only, I say to myself, CNN - along with the American press -
would do the same.
Click below to read or post comment's on this article
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)