On Gaza: Huffington Post Takes Cues From Fox News

That "emergency public relations" campaign Israel announced – just prior to Saturday’s attack on Gaza, which has killed over 200 so far – has been quite effective. Take, for example, the Huffington Post, which begins its "coverage" with this lede:

"Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years."

It was all about "retaliation" – no mention of the Israeli blockade, which keeps vital medical and other supplies out of Gaza. The Palestinians, according to Huffpo, are getting their just desserts. And Fox News – the mouthpiece of the Bush administration and their neocon enablers, has an identical take on the situation:

"Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing more than 200 people and wounding nearly 400 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years."

So do a lot of other media outlets, some of which "credit" this narrative to the Associated Press.

It’s not like there was no alternative to the AP story: after all, having just raised $25 million from rich Obama backers, you would think the HuffPuff would have the resources to re-write this particular narrative along more objective lines, but you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for implying that perhaps this would impact their fundraising negatively.

They also don’t want to get ahead of their Dear Leader, Obama, who shows no signs of making so much as a comment many hours after the killing started – and isn’t expected to be any more even-handed than the Bush administration, in any event.

A ‘Potent’ Weapon of War

Among the world’s intelligence agencies, there’s a long tradition of using sex as a motivator. Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer and author of several books on intelligence, noted that the Soviet spy service was notorious for using attractive women as bait when seeking to turn foreign diplomats into informants.

“The KGB has always used ‘honey traps,’ and it works,” Baer said. For American officers, a more common practice was to offer medical care for potential informants and their loved ones, he said. “I remember one guy we offered an option on a heart bypass,” Baer said.

Friday’s Washington Post reports that the CIA is offering Afghanis a new form of payola for helping the US military: viagra.

Read the rest…

NORAD Tracks Mr. Santa’s Wild Ride

In its 50 years in operation, NORAD never saw a mission it didn’t like. Perhaps its most bizarre (and since the Cold War, most high profile) annual ritual of the air defense command is the “tracking” of Santa Claus across the planet. The process has come a long way from when I was a child and you’d see a brief clip of where Santa was on the 6-o-clock news, providing real-time tracking of the pop-culture icon.

And while NORAD assures us that “almost no taxpayer dollars” are spent on this mission, the question of how on earth this became their job remains. They try to explain it on the site, saying Sears once screwed up a phone number in a local advert and the guy on duty played along. But over half a century later, a joke became a formal mission in its own right… complete with corporate sponsors.

Bizarre however is to look at where Santa is declared to have stopped and where he has omitted from his global trek. Santa skipped Taiwan altogether, but found time to visit the sparsely populated Japanese island of Chichi-Jima (best known for reports it hosted US nuclear weapons during the Cold War). Kashmir missed out, as did Southern Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas (perhaps NORAD felt there was enough air traffic looming over South Waziristan for Santa to stop off in Wana?). Somehow, he felt the need to stop in Diego Garcia however, the depopulated island used by the United States for extralegal War on Terror interrogations. Santa also stopped off at Guantanamo Bay, perhaps he is a human rights investigator now?

Qom, Iran was briefly listed this afternoon, but was hastily changed to read “International Space Station.” No other Iran cities were listed. Santa stopped in Gori, Georgia as well, but conspicuously ignored Israel (no doubt the Office of Antiboycott Compliance is salivating at the legal ramifications of this omission).

Santa has just arrived in the continental United States… which will no doubt be well represented in his visits. But for children around the world (particularly in nations with heavily Christian populations like Serbia) the question must be asked: how does NORAD decide which nations Santa is to visit in a given year, and which he omits.

What’s the Deal With Antiwar Radio?

Well, see, I’m packing up the truck and moving to LA with an eye toward a new radio project. I should be back posting interviews within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, there are 5 from last week which have just been posted, Chris Emery (posted as a post-script to Roger Charles), Thomas Woods, Glenn Greenwald, Philip Giraldi, Patrick Cockburn, and there are hundreds of past interviews by me and Charles Goyette here. (All of my interviews since 2003 are available at ScottHortonShow.com.)

Ms. Bianca Oblivion will also be playing reruns on KAOS Radio at the regular time (11-1 PM Texas time) at least for a little while…

Merry Christmas.

First Amendment Takes Another Hit

Fellow Brooklynite Javed Iqbal, 45, today plead guilty to broadcasting Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV programming to US customers. The charge is “providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.”

Eric brought this news item to my attention and asked if I wanted to blog about it.

“Not really. What should I add?”

“Add your outrage.”

I paused and thought about it. “But I’m not outraged right now.”

And that got me to thinking — why AREN’T I outraged? Is it that I am so used to this Administration jailing people for absurd and frivolous reasons? Am I now merely bored by the thought of the government spying on American citizens on the basis of nebulous and unlikely threats of terror? Has it become so “whatever” to hear of someone denied an explicit constitutional right because it might help the propaganda arm of an organization our government has declared a terrorist organization but which is not by all legitimate and objective standards a terrorist organization?

The last time I checked, the only time Hezbollah lifted a finger to physically harm Americans was when the latter were occupying Lebanon — and even then, it’s not proven. Israel might consider Hezbollah to be terrorists for daring to challenge the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, but as I live in the United States, I don’t care much to live by the warped standards of Israeli justice.

This was not shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Al-Manar may broadcast distasteful programs, but it doesn’t incite its viewers to commit violence. This case IS an outrage and should outrage anyone who prefers liberty over security — not that anyone is more secure by Iqbal’s certain conviction.

Broadcasting Al-Manar should not be considered a crime in the United States, where the law of the land explicitly declares that it is the exact opposite: the protected activity of expression.

Paul Weyrich and Wars

Paul Weyrich, who died last Thursday, was one of the half dozen leaders who brought forth the conservative victory in Washington. With the Iraq war, as most Republicans were overcome by the siren songs of big government and world empire, Weyrich remained an extraordinary defender of freedom and limited government.

He opposed starting confrontations with Russia, the egregious violations of the Patriot Act and unending wars. An old cold war warrior, he immediately changed when communism fell and went dozens of times to various Russians cities with delegations to teach and train political activists. I went with him on one of the trips. Rare among most conservatives, he learned about how other nations view America and, later, tried to assuage Russian nervousness about the expansion of NATO to its borders by urging that Russia be invited to join NATO too. Last August he warned of the reason for opposition in Washington, “Because cold war warriors, who have made careers of fighting the Russians and justified ever increasing defense budgets accordingly, put an end to it.”

I first met Paul 30 years ago and, since 2002 have regularly attended his famous Wednesday luncheon meetings of conservative organizations in Washington. After 9-11 it was difficult for any Republican to oppose the war on Iraq and post-war occupation policies. All the big conservative media and think tanks wanted war on Iraq. Individuals opposed feared that any open opposition would cut access, careers and funding. Neoconservatives controlled the big money foundations — Bradley, Olin, Smith-Richardson and Scaife which funded many of them. The Washington Times, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, National Review, Human Events, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh — all wanted war and precluded any debate or questioning of the Bush Cheney lies and policies. Weyrich let me speak up and distribute anti-war material (much of it from Antiwar.com) at every meeting. After one argument I got a hand written note from him explaining how a dozen of the organizations had petitioned him to disinvite me from the meetings and to please not make it too difficult for him. Over the years I got other notes from Paul encouraging me to go on fighting. I treasure them greatly. In March, ’05, he wrote me, “I know it is tough representing the minority view, but sooner or later our views will look much better as the war drags on and on.”

My nemesis at the meetings was smooth talking Frank Gaffney, consistently terrifying the social conservatives, most of whom knew very little about the outside world, with visions of fanatical foreigners, while urging support for ever more military aggressiveness and for the Likud West Bank settlements in Israel. Gaffney was influential and Weyrich did put him in later years in charge of the Stanton Group, which met monthly on foreign policy and from which I was excluded. I understood the trade offs as Paul could not be too up front in opposing the war when it first started.

The founding of the American Conservative magazine in late 2002 by Scott McConnell, Pat Buchanan and Taki finally gave me “real” ammunition and I began distributing copies of the magazine at every meeting. It was of tremendous importance in finally providing a place to publish for conservatives and libertarians opposed to the war and excluded from traditional conservative media.

Another of Paul’s great activities was to support and house William Lind, one of the most original military thinkers in Washington. Lind is an expert on Fourth Generation Warfare and constantly opposed the Rumsfeld Cheney neocon war measures. Lind never attended the luncheons because his ideas were so alien to the weekly war promotions of White House spokesman. Lind’s essays are published on Antiwar.com. Weyrich also funded for several years an e-mail letter on protecting constitutional freedoms and often invited former Congressman Bob Barr to speak on the Patriot Act and such issues.

Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation never got the big money from War Party foundations and lobbying interests and funding was always a struggle, although he had been a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation in the 1970’s. Weyrich’s writings on war and freedom remain prophetic as he warned that “empire abroad almost certainly means eventual extinction of liberty here at home.” His essay, “A Conservative Foreign Policy” is a wonderful distillation of arguments for preserving Americans’ freedom and prosperity by limiting military actions abroad. It also takes much from former Senator Robert A. Taft.

Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative. He was a correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers in South America during the 1970’s and a commentator for the Voice of America during the Reagan years. Utley was a co-founder in 1990 of the Committee to Avert a Mideast Holocaust against the first Iraq war and an activist against the second one. He is director of Americans Against World Empire and a writer for Antiwar.com.