Archive | March 12th, 2015

Zio-Wahhabi ”ISIS” Retreating from Iraqi Stronghold

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A member of militias known as Hashid Shaabi stands next to a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State group militants.
  • A member of militias known as Hashid Shaabi stands next to a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State group militants

The city of Tikrit is largely under government control, according to Iraqi officials.

Iraqi government forces said Wednesday they had retaken a number of key sites in the city of Tikrit and forced the Islamic State group to retreat.

The military and its Iraqi militia allies now occupy the city’s military hospital, while at the time of writing there were reports of heavy fighting around Tikrit’s palace complex. Built by Saddam Hussein, the palace complex has been used by Zio-Wahhabi  group as a local headquarters after it captured Tikrit over nine months ago.

Tikrit has been the Islamic State group’s second most important stronghold in Iraq, next to the city of Mosul.

Around 20,000 Iraqi troops now occupy much of the north and south of the city, along with local Sunni tribal groups and the Shiite militias called the Hashid Shaabi, which is backed by Iran.

Provincial spokesperson Marwan Jabara has claimed pro-government forces have fought their way into the city center, after days of creeping toward the city.

“Dozens of ISIS militants were killed,” he told Saudi Arabian broadcaster Al Arabiya. ISIS is an abbreviation of the former name used by the Islamic State group.

Iranian media has reported the west of the city remains in the hands of Zio-Wahhabi group, though the militants are retreating.

Iraq Provincial Affairs Minister Ahmed Abdulla Jubouri has claimed the noose is tightening around the remaining militants in the west.

“Tikrit is all but empty of civilians. The city has been surrounded by the Iraqi army and Shiite forces, forcing ISIS fighters to escape from the city,” he stated, according to Kurdish news agency Rudaw.

If government forces can hold Tikrit, it would be one of the Baghdad’s few major victories against Zio-Wahhabi group, and it could pave the way for retaking much of the north from the militants, including the larger city of Mosul.

Earlier attempts to retake Tikrit have been quickly repelled by Zio-Wahhabi group. The Iraqi government’s first major counteroffensive against the Islamic State group ended in an embarrassing failure in June 2014 when thousands of government troops barely made it into the city’s outer suburbs.

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20,000 Protesters Hold Demonstrations Across Brazil

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  • Protesters stage roadblocks in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
  • Protesters stage roadblocks in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais

Brazilian social movements are staging massive protests across Brazil demanding agrarian reform.

Thousands of activists, including memebers from the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST) staged demonstrations in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre on Wednesday demanding the implementation of land reform, food sovereignty and the creation of public policies for small-scale agricultural producers.

“Within this national round of mobilizations, with the small farmers’ movements throughout the state, our goal is to once again put agrarian reform on the national agenda and to demand the construction of a program for the production of healthy food for the nourishment of the Brazilian people,” explained the national coordinator of Via Campesina, Cedenir de Oliveira.

The protests, which began Monday to mark the National Day of Women Farmers, have taken place across 21 states in Brazil, with over 20,000 demonstrators nationwide, according to the MST website. Via Campesina, an international network of peasants, landless, women farmers and rural youth, jointly called for the demonstrations with the MST.

See Also: What Lies Ahead for Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party?

Throughout the month of March, representatives from various social movements will hold protests to denounce the current model of industrial agricultural farming being carried out throughout the country.

“This year we will have the support of urban social movements and trade unions that will mobilize for workers’ rights and political reforms,” MST national coordinator Debora Nunes stated.

According to government data, small farmers make up 33 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of Brazilian agriculture and occupy 74 percent of the rural workforce. Yet, small-scale farms only receive 25 percent of total public spending in comparison to large-scale agriculture, which receives 75 percent.

Brazilian law defines a small farmer as someone who owns land between 5-110 acres of land, depending on the location – using predominantly labor of his or her own family, and whose main source of income is linked to agricultural activities.

Protests will likely continue into April due to the observance of ‘Red April,’ marking the anniversary of the April 1996 massacre in which 19 MST activists were killed in the Brazilian state of Para.

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Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to Be Beatified May 23

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  • A photo of Oscar Romero exhibited in San Salvador

    A photo of Oscar Romero exhibited in San Salvador’s Historic Museum

The chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood is scheduled to officially make the announcement Wednesday.

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in El Salvador’s capital city San Salvador on May 23, Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, reported Wednesday.

Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood cause, is scheduled to officially make the announcement March 11 during his visit to San Salvador, Avvenire added.

“Wait for very good news today from El Salvador,” he published on his Twitter account March 11.

On Feb. 3, Pope Francis officially recognized that Romero was killed “in hatred of the faith” — and not for purely political reasons, the newspaper said.

Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing Archbishop Romero as a martyr last month, which meant there was no need to prove a miracle for his beatification, although a miracle is normally required for canonization as saint.

ALSO SEE: Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero Headed for Beatification

READ MORE: Archbishop Oscar Romero: ‘If They Kill Me, I Will Be Reborn’

The slain Salvadoran archbishop, who was an outspoken advocate for the poor, was murdered March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital in San Salvador amid the country’s civil war.

Romero’s sainthood cause began in 1993, but the process was stalled decades as a result of misunderstandings and preconceptions, due to his political advocacy and apparent links to Liberation Theology.

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This movement was heavily criticized by the Vatican because of its focus on systemic sin, apparently excluding individual offenders and offenses, and for identifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class that had been oppressing indigenous populations.

However, Romero’s cause advanced quickly with the arrival in 2013 of Pope Francis as the first Latin American in history to head the Vatican.

 

 

 

 

 

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Official Washington’s Delusions on Delusions

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Exclusive: Official Washington operates in its own bubble of self-delusion in which the stars of U.S. politics, policy and media don’t realize how the rest of the world sees their sociopathic behavior. This craziness is now reaching a crisis point on Iran and Russia, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The chasm between reality and the U.S. political/media elite continues to widen with Official Washington’s actions toward Iran and Russia making “the world’s sole remaining superpower” look either like a Banana Republic (on Iran) or an Orwellian Dystopia (regarding Russia).

On Iran and the international negotiations to rein in its nuclear program, the American people witnessed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu striding into the U.S. Congress – like some imperial proconsul – to deliver a faux State of the Union address that undermined the sitting U.S. president. Then, 47 Republican senators furthered Netanyahu’s intent to denigrate President Barack Obama by sending an open letter to Iranian leaders designed to prevent a deal.

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell's novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell’s novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

Yes, I know many Republicans and their overwhelmingly white “base” don’t consider the African-American Obama the legitimate President despite his two election victories. But never in American history has a major political party as brazenly challenged the constitutional authority of a sitting president to conduct foreign policy.

The letter to the Iranian leaders warned that once Obama is out of office in 2017, “the next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” In other words, the Republicans were telling Iran’s leaders that whatever they plan to sign with Obama and five other world leaders isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on.

This stunning congressional intervention into U.S. diplomacy was signed not just by a few backbenchers but by the Senate’s Republican leadership and several prospective GOP presidential candidates, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who had been viewed by some on the Left as well as the Right as a person who would not toe the Israeli line on Middle East issues.

This double whammy of Netanyahu’s extreme rhetoric on Iran and the Republicans’ extraordinary subversion of the Iranian nuclear talks left people around the world wondering whether the U.S. government had completely lost its bearings. Meanwhile, the U.S. news media continued veering off into its own Bermuda Triangle.

What is particularly striking about this current moment is how the madness that permeates the U.S. government equally pervades the mainstream U.S. media, which is now incapable of covering major international events except through the lens of State Department propaganda, a situation that has reached extreme levels in the reporting on the Ukraine crisis.

The only filter that the MSM can place on the events in Ukraine is one endlessly vilifying Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though this technique of personalizing foreign policy disputes has become standard operating procedure for the U.S. press corps – think of Daniel Ortega, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Viktor Yanukovych, etc. – the U.S. media’s “group think” on Russia may even surpass those earlier examples.

Plus, nothing from the Ukraine crisis can ever be blamed on the U.S. government, even though Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland helped orchestrate the violent coup that overthrew Ukraine’s elected government in February 2014 and threw the nation of 45 million people into a bloody civil war.

Everything must be blamed on Putin and any alternative analysis, recognizing another side to the story, must be dismissed as “Russian propaganda.” [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.“]

‘Russian Propaganda’

On Monday, the Washington Post delivered what could become a textbook case of journalistic self-delusion – noting that the Russian people have developed an intensely negative view of the United States but only because the Russian media portrays the U.S. government in a hostile way.

The Post article by Michael Birnbaum blamed the collapse of U.S. popularity on “furious rhetoric [that] has been pumped across Russian airwaves … a passionate, conspiracy-laden fascination with the methods that Washington is supposedly using to foment unrest in Ukraine and Russia.”

Citing recent polling, the article noted that more than 80 percent of the Russian people hold negative views of the United States. But that couldn’t be because of American behavior! No, it’s impossible that anyone looking at the U.S. today could possibly find anything to criticize! It had to be Putin’s fault, spreading spurious criticism of the U.S. via Russian media. Or as the Post put it:

“Fed by the powerful antagonism on Russian federal television channels, the main source of news for more than 90 percent of Russians, ordinary people started to feel more and more disillusioned [about the U.S.]. The anger seems different from the fast-receding jolts of the past, observers say, having spread faster and wider.”

The article quoted Lev Gudkov, director of the polling firm Levada Center, explaining: “This anti-Western propaganda radically changed the atmosphere in the society. … It has become militarist.”

Another voice cited by the Post was Maria Lipman, described as “an independent Moscow-based political analyst,” saying: “What the government knew was that it was very easy to cultivate anti-Western sentiments, and it was easy to consolidate Russian society around this propaganda.”

In other words, it wasn’t what the U.S. government has done around the world that has provoked this antipathy – from the endless boasting about America’s “indispensable” and “exceptional” qualities to its destructive behavior, including spreading bloody havoc via “regime change” schemes in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.

And, it’s not that the U.S. government looks clownish when the majority party in Congress expresses doubts about global warming and other scientific judgments. Nor is it the continued examples of racism and the police shootings of unarmed blacks. Nor the global spying by the National Security Agency. Nor the national self-degradation when members of Congress behave like trained seals jumping up and down to applaud Israel’s Netanyahu.

No, the only reason that the Russian people look askance at the United States is that they are being deceived by the lying “propaganda” dictated by the evil Vladimir Putin. By contrast, the American people always get the straight story from their mainstream U.S. news media, the gold standard for the world!

Official Washington and the mainstream U.S. media have taken on the characteristics of a male stalker who can’t understand why his female target finds him repulsive. It must be because someone is poisoning her mind with negative comments about his sterling personality. We now live in a system of delusions built upon delusions.

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The CIA’s Double Standard

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David Petraeus and the Hypocrisies of National Security


by MELVIN A. GOODMAN

The  new poster child for the CIA’s double standard is none other than former CIA director General David Howell Petraeus, who escaped a jail sentence despite providing eight notebooks of highly classified information, including names of covert operatives, to his biographer-mistress Paula Broadwell.  The fact that he lied to the FBI about providing classified information to his mistress should have meant an automatic prison sentence.  In 1991, I was questioned by the FBI regarding Robert Gates‘ role in Iran-Contra, and it was made clear at the outset that the “truth and the whole truth” carried a special meaning for the FBI.

General Petraeus presumably understood this as well, but in a miscarriage of justice that my good friend Ray McGovern termed “too big to jail,” the general was given a misdemeanor wrist-slap and a $40,000 fine, which the general can more than cover with one of his public speaking fees.  McGovern, a CIA veteran and well-known dissident, was jailed for merely trying to get into a speaking event featuring General Petraeus at the 92nd Street YMHA in New York City on the eve of Halloween in 2014.  McGovern was denied entrance to the YMHA  despite having a ticket to the event, but New York’s finest were summoned and McGovern was dragged away and spent the night in jail.  It is reasonable to assume that the government’s monitoring of McGovern’s Internet activity, which included the purchase of the ticket to the event, led to the encounter at the Y.

There is nothing new here, however.  Former CIA director John Deutch placed the most sensitive operational materials of the CIA on his home computer, which was also used to access pornographic sites among other things.  Like Petraeus, Deutch agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge and was assessed a modest $5,000 fine.  Before the prosecutors could file the papers to federal court, President Bill Clinton pardoned Deutch on his last day in office, which contributed to his presidential sobriquet of “Slick Willie.”  Clinton’s national security adviser Samuel Berger similarly pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and received a $10,000 fine for stuffing into his pants classified documents from the National Archives in 2005.

Several years later, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was not even charged–merely admonished–for keeping sensitive information

about the NSA’s surveillance program at home.  Meanwhile, NSA official Tom Drake was charged with violations under the Espionage Act for dealing with unclassified information.  Other NSA officials were also harassed by the government for the handling of unclassified information and one of them, Edward Loomis, faced a one-year government review of his book on NSA transgressions.

Conversely, John Kiriakou, a CIA operative, who revealed the decision making involved in CIA’s torture and abuse, was given a 30-month jail sentence, for providing the name of one CIA operative to two journalists who never used the name in any of their stories.  No one was quicker to praise the sentencing of Kiriakou than CIA director Petraeus.

Meanwhile, the CIA cleared for publication the memoirs of two senior officers with more than 70 years of professional experience at the CIA who claim there was no such thing as torture and abuse.  John Rizzo, a senior career lawyer at the CIA who took part in the decision making for torture and abuse, defended CIA interrogation at its “black sites.”  Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA operative who destroyed the 92 torture tapes, denied that CIA conducted torture and abuse, hiding behind the so-called “torture memoranda” of the Department of Justice that provided legal cover for some–but not all–of the CIA practices.  Meanwhile, the major author of the torture memoranda, John Yoo, who is on the faculty of the University of California’s law school in Berkeley, has conceded that CIA officers went beyond the letter of the authorization and should be held accountable.

A colleague of mine from the 1970s, Frank Snepp, wrote an important book with no classified information that was not submitted for Agency clearance.  As a result, he had to forfeit his considerable royalties, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for violating his obligation to submit such a manuscript.  Nevertheless, former director Leon Panetta submitted his memoir to his publisher in 2013 long before he passed the manuscript to the CIA for security review; he received no punishment whatsoever, not even an admonishment.  Snepp’s book was severely critical of the CIA and the U.S. government for leaving behind loyal Vietnamese in our withdrawal in 1975.  Conversely, Panetta had great, albeit misguided, praise for the CIA.

The fines for the crimes of Petraeus, Berger, and Deutch must be compared to the jail sentences given to low-ranking government officials and contractors who have mishandled classified information.  Stephen J. Kim, a contractor, received a one-year prison sentence for disclosing information to a reporter for Fox News, who was also charged for merely doing his job of investigative journalism.  A former FBI technician received a four-year sentence for discussing classified information with a reporter from the Associated Press.  Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, is facing a lengthy prison sentence for discussing classified information with James Risen of the New York Times.  Risen also faced serious charges but in a sudden twist, Attorney General Eric Holder realized that his controversial legacy at the Department of Justice shouldn’t include the harassment of journalists and journalism.

Although President Obama campaigned on openness in government, no president has been so zealous in defending official secrecy or in using the Espionage Act from 1917.  More U.S. officials have been charged with leaking secret information by the Obama administration than any other, and no president has done more harm to the institution of the Inspector General.  Whistleblowers simply have no place to go other than the media because of the weakness of the Offices of the Inspector General  in the intelligence community, and the fact that the congressional intelligence committees are in the hands of Republican apologists for the intelligence community.

The charges against General Petraeus were the most ironic of all.  The general’s mistress was the target of the leak investigation, which led to the discovery of the classified documents.  At that point, the FBI actually believed the CIA director was the target of hacking; no one suspected a felony offense.  Next time, the good general should give any classified information to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward because he has been publishing state secrets from high-level officials for several decades with no accusations or investigations.

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NATO Lies and Provocations

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Splitting the Atlantic Alliance

by MIKE WHITNEY

“The war has been provoked to destroy the Russian World, to draw Europe into it, and to surround Russia with hostile countries. Unleashing this world war, America is trying to deal with its own internal problems.”

– Sergei Glazyev, Advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin

The fabrications of NATO’s top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, have driven a wedge between Germany and the United States that could lead to a collapse of the Atlantic Alliance. According to the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, Breedlove has repeatedly sabotaged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine by spreading “dangerous propaganda” that is misleading the public about Russian “troop advances on the border, (and) the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks.” But while the unusually critical article singles out Breedlove for his hyperbolic exaggerations of so-called Russian aggression, the real purpose of the Spiegel piece is to warn Washington that EU leaders will not support a policy of military confrontation with Moscow.

Before we explain what’s going on, we need to look at an excerpt from the article. According to Spiegel:

“…for months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove’s leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements … it is the tone of Breedlove’s announcements that makes Berlin uneasy. False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.

There are plenty of examples….At the beginning of the crisis, General Breedlove announced that the Russians had assembled 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and warned that an invasion could take place at any moment. The situation, he said, was “incredibly concerning.” But intelligence officials from NATO member states had already excluded the possibility of a Russian invasion. They believed that neither the composition nor the equipment of the troops was consistent with an imminent invasion.

The experts contradicted Breedlove’s view in almost every respect. There weren’t 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.
Breedlove, though, repeatedly made inexact, contradictory or even flat-out inaccurate statements.”…

On Nov. 12, during a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria, Breedlove reported that “we have seen columns of Russian equipment — primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops — entering into Ukraine.” It was, he noted, “the same thing that OSCE is reporting.” But the OSCE had only observed military convoys within eastern Ukraine. OSCE observers had said nothing about troops marching in from Russia.

Breedlove sees no reason to revise his approach. “I stand by all the public statements I have made during the Ukraine crisis,” he wrote to SPIEGEL in response to a request for a statement accompanied by a list of his controversial claims.”
(Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine, Der Spiegel)

While it’s easy to get swept up in the Spiegel’s narrative of a rabid militarist dragging Europe closer to World War 3, the storyline is intentionally misleading. As anyone who’s been following the Ukraine fiasco for the last year knows, there’s nothing particularly unusual about Breedlove’s distortions. Secretary of State John Kerry has made similar claims numerous times as have many others in the major media. The lies about “Russian aggression” are the rule, not the exception. So why has the Spiegel decided to selectively target Breedlove who is no more deceitful than anyone else? What’s really going on here?

Clearly, the Spiegel is doing Merkel’s work, that is, undermining the credibility of Washington’s chief commander in Europe in order to discourage further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. But while Merkel wants to humiliate Breedlove to show that Germany will not sit on its hands while Washington plunges the region into the abyss; she has also shown considerable restraint in limiting her attack to the General while sparing Kerry and Obama any embarrassment. This is quite an accomplishment given that –as we said earlier–virtually everyone in the political establishment and the media have been lying nonstop about every aspect of the conflict. Merkel doesn’t want to discredit these others just yet, although the Spiegel piece infers that she has the power to do so if the “bad behavior” persists.

The Spiegel article is part of a one-two punch designed to force Washington to change its confrontational approach. The second jab appeared late Sunday afternoon when EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that Europe needed to field its own army. Here’s the story from Reuters:

“The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats as well as restore the bloc’s foreign policy standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper on Sunday…

“With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighboring state.

“One wouldn’t have a European army to deploy it immediately. But a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values.” (Juncker calls for EU army, says would deter Russia, Reuters)

Can you see what’s going on? On the one hand, the Spiegel delivers a hammer-blow to the credibility of NATO’s top officer and on the other, the President of the EU Commission blindsides US powerbrokers by announcing a plan to create an independent EU fighting force that will render NATO redundant. These are big developments that have undoubtedly left the Obama troupe reeling. This is a full-blown assault on NATO’s role as the primary guarantor of EU regional security. Maybe the European people are gullible enough to accept Junker’s absurd claim that an EU army will “send an important message to the world”, but you can be damn sure that no one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue believes that nonsense. The move is clearly designed to send a message to Washington that Europe is fed up with NATO and wants a change. That means it’s “shape up or ship out time” for Breedlove and his ilk.

Ironically, these developments align Merkel with Putin’s view of things as stated in his famous Munich speech in 2007 when he said:

“I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue … The United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way … And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this — no one feels safe.” (Russian President Vladimir Putin, 43rd Munich Security Conference, 2007)

How can the US possibly cast itself as “steward of the global security system”, when its interventions have left a trail of decimated failed states from the southernmost border of Somalia to the northern tip of Ukraine, a chaotic swathe of smoldering ruin and agonizing human suffering that rivals the depredations of the Third Reich.

Europe’s security requirements cannot be met by a belligerent, warmongering US-controlled entity that acts solely in Washington’s interests. At present, NATO gets 75% of its funding from the US, which is why the alliance is less interested in peacemaking and security than it is in internationalizing its imperial war of aggression across the planet. Prior to the crisis in Ukraine, European leaders didn’t see the danger of this idiotic arrangement (even though interventions in Serbia, Libya and Afghanistan should have brought them to their senses) But now that NATO’s recklessness could vaporize Europe in a nuclear firestorm, leaders like Merkel and Hollande are starting to change their tune. Keep in mind, the ideal scenario for the US would be a limited war that levels large parts of the European and Asian continents, thus restoring the US to its post WW2 heyday when the “rubblized” world was Washington’s oyster. That would be just fine for genocidal maniacs and armchair warriors who rule the globe from the safety of their well-stocked DC bunkers. But for Europe, this is definitely not a winning strategy. Europe doesn’t want a war, and it certainly doesn’t want to be used as cannon fodder for the greater glory of the dystopian NWO.

Putin advisor, Sergei Glazyev, figured out what Washington was up to long before Kiev launched its wretched “anti terrorism” campaign against federalist rebels in the East. Here’s how he summed it up:

“The main task the American puppet masters have set for the (Kiev) junta is to draw Russia into a full-scale war with Ukraine. It is for this purpose that all of these heinous crimes are committed – to force Russia to send troops to Ukraine to protect the civilian population…

The bankruptcy of the US financial system, which is unable to service its foreign debt, the lack of investments to finance a breakthrough to a new technological order and to maintain America’s competitiveness, and the potential defeat in the geopolitical competition with China. To resolve these problems, Americans need a new world war.” (Sergei Glazyev)

Bingo. The steadily-declining empire, whose share of global GDP continues to shrivel with every passing year, has wanted a war from the get go. That’s the only way that the US can reverse its precipitous economic slide and preserve its lofty spot as the world’s only superpower. Fortunately, EU leaders are beginning to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to grasp what’s going on and change their behavior accordingly.

It’s worth noting, that no one in the Merkel administration or anyone else for that matter, has publicly challenged the allegations in the Spiegel article. Why is that, do you think?

Doesn’t their silence suggest that they knew all along that all the anti-Putin propaganda hullabaloo was pure bunkum; that “evil” Putin didn’t send tanks and soldiers across the border into Ukraine, that Putin didn’t shoot down Malaysian Airline 17, that Putin didn’t have a political opponent gunned down gangland style just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin? Isn’t that what their silence really says?

Of course, it does. The reason no one in power has spoken out is because –as the Spiegel cynically admits–“A mixture of political argumentation and military propaganda is necessary.”

“Propaganda is necessary”?

Whoa. Now there’s an admission you’re not going to see in the media too often. But it’s the truth, isn’t it? The Euro-leaders have been going along with the lies to keep the public in line. In other words, it’s a healthy dose of perception management for the sheeple, but the unvarnished truth for our revered overlords. Sounds about right. Only now these ame elites have decided to share the facts with the lumpen masses. But, why? Why this sudden willingness to share the truth?

It’s because they no longer support Washington’s policy, that’s why. No one in Europe wants the US to arm and train the Ukrainian army. No one wants them to deploy 600 paratroopers to Kiev and increase US logistical support. No one wants further escalation, because no one wants a war with Russia. It’s that simple.

For the first time, EU leaders, particularly Merkel, understand that the United States’ strategic objectives (the pivot to Asia) do not align with those of the EU, in fact, Washington’s geopolitical ambitions pose a serious threat to Europe’s security. Regrettably, it’s not enough for Merkel to simply understand what is going on. She needs to huddle with her EU colleagues and take positive steps to derail Washington’s plan now, otherwise the US will continue its incitements and false flags until Putin is forced to respond. Once that happens, a broader and, perhaps, catastrophic conflagration will be unavoidable.

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The Militarization of U.S. Police Departments

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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Jr

Parallels to US International “Low Intensity Conflict” Policies

by HEATHER GRAY

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to just everywhere.” We should all be cognizant of King’s quote. In the 20th and 21rst centuries, U.S. policies around the world, both economically and militarily, have been questionable at best. They started with the Philippines in the beginning of the 20th century up to the Middle East today. These policies, more often incredibly violent, are coming back to haunt us. An example of this includes the U.S. international policy of “Low-Intensity Conflict” (LIC).

The U.S. launched LIC at the beginning of the century in its Philippine colony in 1901 with the creation of the Philippine Constabulary. The Philippine Constabulary is, even today, a national police organization created principally to protect American and Filipino elite interests. The legacy of this policy is that it now serves as a model for a militarized policing system in our 21rst century domestic American life.

The U.S. government and its elite tend to try out policies internationally before introducing them into the U.S. I generally define the “elite” as neoconservative and neoliberal economic proponents along with their corporate capitalist supporters and colleagues. As in the Philippines, these U.S. elite want to control Americans. They don’t want opposition to their policies, pure and simple.

Often the U.S. elite are constrained in implementing the policies domestically, due to laws that prevent this. They then will try to circumvent the restricting laws or attempt to overturn them.  There has been a similar pattern with economic policies as with structural adjustment economic initiatives internationally by the IMF and World Bank and now neoliberal privatization in the U.S. itself. This is mostly thanks to Congress overturning, for example, the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 (Crawford) and politicians and government agencies allowing for the privatization of many of our formerly “public” institutions (Gray).

Constraints on Militarization in the United States

Not long after the end of the Civil War, in 1865, the United States government sent federal troops to the South to enforce the policies of the reconstruction period:

Reconstruction addressed how the eleven seceding states would regain what the Constitution calls a “republican form of government” and be reseated in Congress, the civil status of the former leaders of the Confederacy, and the Constitutional and legal status of freedmen, especially their civil rights and whether they should be given the right to vote. Intense controversy erupted throughout the South over these issues….Congress removed civilian governments in the South in 1867 and put the former Confederacy under the rule of the U.S. Army. The army conducted new elections in which the freed slaves could vote, while whites who had held leading positions under the Confederacy were temporarily denied the vote and were not permitted to run for office (Reconstruction – Wikipedia.).

When, in 1877, there was a highly contested presidential election between Democractic candidate Samuel Tilden from New York and Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a compromise was generated between the southern “Democractic” delegation and the northern “Republicans”. This became known as the “Compromise of 1877“, in which the south agreed to support the Hayes presidency in return for the removal of the federal troops from the South  (Compromise of 1877 – Wikipedia)

The compromise, then, led to Congress passing the  Posse Comitatus Act in 1878. “The purpose of the act… (was) to limit the powers of the Federal government in using its military personnel to enforce the state laws (Posse Comitatus Act– Wikipedia).

There are exceptions, however, to the Posse Comitatus Act. If a state chooses to violate its citizens’ rights under the constitution, federal military troops can then be sent in. This was the case when President Eisenhower sent troops to Arkansas in 1957 to enforce the Supreme Court’s “Brown v Board of Education” decision to integrate American schools. Eisenhower responded to the obstructive opposition by the arch segregationist, Arkansas Governor, Orval Faubus.

Since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, therefore, the U.S. government has been constrained overall in the use of military force domestically in any of the U.S. states.

This constraint, though, has never been the case in U.S. international policies and, therefore, the U.S. has engaged in militarizing the domestic arenas of other countries that fall under the auspices of the U.S. empire or areas of interest (such as the Philippines, South American countries, the Middle East, etc.).

Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) is a “Policing/Militarization of the U.S. Empire”

What is “Low-Intensity Conflict”? There are seemingly many definitions of the term. Regarding the impact of the U.S., however, I refer to it as “low-intensity” only for the U.S. military. In other words, the U.S. military does not get its hands dirty nor is it violently impacted but instead trains others for this insidious work. This is in contrast to those who are the recipients of it.

“Low Intensity Conflict” is simultaneously “high intensity” for those outside the U.S. who are victims of these U.S. international LIC policies. These victims are often under intimidating surveillance, sometimes suffer or are killed by summary execution, torture, displacement etc. by military or police in their own country who are trained philosophically and militarily by the U.S. In other words, it is a method employed to “police/militarize” the U.S. empire for U.S. political and economic interests. This could also be referred to as “war capitalism” (Beckert).

After the Philippine-American War (1899 to 1902), the Philippines became a colony of the United States. This was the first imperial venture by the United States outside its hemisphere and it set the tone for the 20th century policies in other countries including those in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. These countries were not colonies but are countries the U.S. has had an interest in and/or has wanted to make sure the governments complied to U.S. trade policies or other economic interests.

In 1901 the  U.S. created of the Philippine Constabulary(PC). It is still in existence today.

It  was created under the Commission Act No. 175 by Captain Henry T. Allen, an American, who was later dubbed as the “Father of the Philippine Constabulary”. It was first named as the Insular Constabulary and later renamed to Philippine Constabulary on December 1902. Its establishment then was meant to assist the United States military forces in fighting the remaining Filipino revolutionaries (Philippine Constabulary – Wikipilipinas)

This, in fact, was the launching of LIC strategies by the United States.

The Philippine Constabulary…was the first of the four service commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It was a gendarmerie-type police force (armed police force or a militarized police force) of the Philippines established in 1901 by the United States-appointed administrative authority to replace the Spanish Guardia Civil (Spanish Civil Guard – Wkikipedia). It was later integrated with the municipal police force, (to become the) Integrated National Police  (and then) into the current Philippine National Police on January 29, 1991.

The constabulary assisted the United States military in combating the remaining irreconcilable revolutionaries (during the Philippine-American War) following the March 23 capture of General Israel L. Adalla III, and Adalla’s 1 April pledge of allegiance to the United States. The second phase of the Philippine-American War ended in Luzon by 1906, with the surrender and execution of one of its last remaining generals, Macario Sakay (Philippine Constabulary – Wikipedia).

In layman’s terms, the militarized Philippine Constabulary has served in the interest of the U.S. and Filipino elite against the revolutionary movements in the Philippines that would, for example, choose to rid the country of its exploitive corporate and military ventures. At the very least, the revolutionary movements throughout Philippine history have attempted to end a government that relies so heavily on and adherence to the United States dictates. (Read the history of the Hukbalahap (Huk) in mid 20th century and/or the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front in the Philippines in the excellent book The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance by Schirmer and Shalom).

Michael McClintock describes an example of the Constabulary military actions in the 1950s and their work has been on-going up to the present:

The combined army and Philippines Constabulary (PC) force level rose dramatically from 32,000 at the beginning of 1950 to 40,000 in 1951 and 56,000 in late 1952. Air power, too, became increasingly important as U.S. assistance stepped up, with some 2,600 bombing and strafing runs reported between I August 1950 and 30 June 1952 alone (some sorties allegedly with support from U. S. planes out of Clark Air Force Base). Requests for napalm were initially turned down on State Department advice, but from late 1951 American napalm was supplied and used both for crop destruction and antipersonnel purposes. A record system devised for Philippine military intelligence, which traced all known supporters of the wartime Huk resistance movement, was operational by the end of 1950; according to one source, it was used in screening operations that resulted in some 15,000 arrests in the first six months of 1951 (McClintock).

In other words, regarding the Philippine Constabulary, there is a fine distinction, if any, between what is policing and military operations.

On-Going U.S. International “Low-Intensity Conflict” Policies

When militarizing the domestic arena of its areas of influence in the world, the United States, as mentioned, pays no attention to its own domestic laws that do not easily allow for this militarization in its own domestic sphere.

International LIC policies have been implemented by the United States throughout much of the 20th century. The Philippines is just one example. Regarding LIC in South America, we need to consider the School of the Americas (SOA) or what is now referred to as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in Fort Benning, Georgia. In this school, the United States trains the military of South American countries to serve a somewhat similar role as the Philippine Constabulary and/or even more violent and extreme if that’s possible. Filipino army officers have also been trained at the SOA.

So instead of the United States military going into El Salvador, Nicaragua, Columbia, Argentina, etc. the U.S. trains troops from these countries to serve the interests of the United States and the friendly elite of the South American countries. Again, it is a “policing” or “militarization” of countries in what the United States considers its empire of interest.

The “School of the Americas Watch” has a sizable listing of human rights violations committed by graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC. (“The School of the Americas Watch” under the leadership of Father Roy Bourgeois has for years wisely tried to close down this school.)

One example below of these human rights violations is by that of graduate General Juan Orlando Zeped from El Salvador who took a course at the SOA in 1975 on Urban Counterinsurgency Ops.; and in 1969, Unnamed Course:

Jesuit massacre, 1989: (Zeped) Planned the assassination of 6 Jesuit priests and covered-up the massacre, which also took the lives of the priests’ housekeeper and her teen-age daughter. (United Nations Truth Commission Report on El Salvador, 1993) Other war crimes, 1980’s: The Non-Governmental Human Rights Commission in El Salvador also cites Zepeda for involvement in 210 summary executions, 64 tortures, and 110 illegal detentions. (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) Member of the “La Tandona” and held the rank of colonel and served as the Vice Minister of Defense at the time of the massacre. Prior to the massacre he publicly accused the UCA of being the center of operations for the FMLN and was present for the meetings where orders were given for the massacre. He was later promoted to the rank of general (Notorious Grads – School of the Americas).

The Domestic Military: Contemporary Police Departments and Militarization

As with the international structural adjustment policies that are now being implemented in the United States, as mentioned above, I have always assumed that the U.S. would also want to implement the LIC strategies or increased domestic militarization in the U.S. as well. The Posse-Comitatus Act has invariably prevented this from happening to any significant degree. One way around this, as in by not being able to send in the federal troops to cities and states, is to militarize the local police forces and this is happening to a significant degree in the United States.

As the ACLU has reported:

All across the country, heavily armed SWAT teams are raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. It should enrage us that people have needlessly died during these raids, that pets have been shot, and that homes have been ravaged.

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies. Any yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color.

As our new report makes clear, it’s time for American police to remember that they are supposed to protect and serve our communities, not wage war on the people who live in them (The War Comes Home).

We also need to look at the role Israel has played in training our local police forces since 9/11. As Robert Salladay reported September 2014:

The clouds of tear gas, flurries of projectiles and images of police officers outfitted in military-grade hardware in Ferguson, Missouri, have reignited concerns about the militarization of domestic law enforcement in the United States.

But there has been another, little-discussed change in the training of American police since the 9/11 attacks: At least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from agencies large and small – from New York and Maine to Orange County and Oakland, California – have traveled to Israel for privately funded seminars in what is described as counter-terrorism techniques….

Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, said the seminars reflect a militarized mindset diametrically opposed to traditional police-community relations in the United States….

If American police and sheriffs consider they’re in occupation of neighborhoods like Ferguson and East Harlem, this training is extremely appropriate – they’re learning how to suppress a people, deny their rights and use force to hold down a subject population,” said Khalidi, a longtime critic of the Israeli occupation (Salladay).

In a 2014 article on Alternet, Art Kane refers to 11 Shocking Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces: The militarization of police is harming civil liberties, impacting children, and transforming neighborhoods into war zones“. He states:

The “war on terror” has come home–and it’s wreaking havoc on innocent American lives. The culprit is the militarization of the police….

A recent New York Times article by Matt Apuzzo reported that in the Obama era, “police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”  The result is that police agencies around the nation possess military-grade equipment, turning officers who are supposed to fight crime and protect communities into what look like invading forces from an army. And military-style police raids have increased in recent years, with one count putting the number at 80,000 such raids last year (Kane).

Alex Kane’s “11 shocking facts about the militarization of the U.S. police” are:

1. It harms, and sometimes kills, innocent people.

2. Children are impacted.

3. The use of SWAT teams is unnecessary.

4. The “war on terror” is fueling militarization.

5. It’s a boon to contractor profits.

6. Border militarization and police militarization go hand in hand.

7. Police are cracking down on dissent.

8. Asset forfeitures are funding police militarization.

9. Dubious informants are used for raids.

10. There’s been little debate and oversight.

11. Communities of color bear the brunt.

Kane provides an excellent narrative for each of the above facts.  I witnessed virtually all of these “11 shocking facts”  in the Philippines in 1989. They are now, unfortunately, to be witnessed in the United States as well.

The unfair and disastrous “Low-Intensity Conflict” policies forced on many other parts of the world have come home to roost.

Summary

As those in the United States have explored ways to implement “Low-Intensity Conflict” policies domestically, they are now doing this through militarizing our police forces. To say “we are all Palestinians” certainly has relevance.

It is encouraging that there is now significant organizing in the country against this trend. It needs to also be extended as well to the countries throughout the world that are continuing to be victims of these U.S. “Low-Intensity Conflict” policies. Closing down the School of the Americas would be a good first start and implementing policies that do not allow for a militarization of our police departments would be another, and should be addressed with all deliberate speed. No more training in Israel, for example, should be demanded immediately. After all, most of this domestic and international violence is being conducted thanks to our tax dollars and/or by our own corporate elite. King was certainly correct: Injustices will come home!

HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.

References

Beckert, Sven, The Empire of Cotton: A Global History,  Knopf (2014)

Compromise of 1877,  History.com

Crawford, Corinne, The Repeal Of The Glass- Steagall Act And The Current Financial  

Crisis, Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER) (2011)

Gray, Heather, A Draconian Structural Adjustment for the US, Counterpunch (2011)

Johnson, Chalmers,  Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire,  Holt Paperbacks (2004) (first published March 14th 2000)

Kane, Alex, 11 Shocking Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces, AlterNet (2014)

McClintock, Michael Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, Pantheon Books (1992)

Molloy, Ivan, Rolling Back the Revolution: The Experience of Low Intensity Conflict, Pluto Books, Sterling VA (2001)

Notorious Grads, School of the Americas Watch

Philippine Constabulary – Wikipedia

Philippine Constabulary – Wikipilipinas

Posse Comitatus Act – Wikipedia 

Reconstruction – Wikipedia

Salladay, Robert, US Police Get “Anti-Terror Training” in Israel on Privately Funded Trips, Global Research News, September 23, 2014

Schirmer,  Daniel B., Stephen R. Shalom,  The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance, Boston, South End Press (1987)Spanish Civil Guard – Wkikipedia

War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing – ACLU (2014)

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Naziyahu, the Other I$raHell and Bobby Burns

NOVANEWS
Brutish Conditions Breed Brutish Behavior

by RALPH NADER

Apart from inadvertently making the case for equal time by his Israeli pre-election opposition, the spectacle of Benjamin Netanyahu’s wild diatribe at the joint session of Congress amidst the feral cheers of his congressional yahoos will be remembered as a textbook case of propaganda unhinged from reality.

Starting from his preposterous premise that Iran, a poor country of 77 million people with an economy nearly the size of Massachusetts’, is planning a caliphate to conquer the world, Mr. Netanyahu builds his case on belligerent words by Iranian leaders, who believe they are responding to Israeli belligerence backed by its ultra-modern, U.S. equipped military machine and its repeated threats of preemptive attacks against Tehran.

Unwilling, unlike his Israeli opponents, to subject himself to questions before congressional committees, this three-time soliloquist at joint congressional sessions (1996, 2011 and 2015) was received with hoopla quite different from his reception in a much more critical Knesset. The Prime Minister’s 42 minute speech was punctuated by 23 standing ovations and sitting applauses that took up 10 minutes.

The U.S. Israeli lobby has made Congress a rubber stamp for lopsided policies in the Middle East.

Only about fifty Democrats boycotted his address.

It is as if Israel doesn’t frighten Iran with its 200 nuclear weapons and its rejection of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty whose international inspections are required for all other signatory nations on Earth, including Iran.

It is as if Israel has not threatened Iran with annihilation, sent spies to sabotage and slay Iranian scientists and worked with its Arab allies to undermine the Iranian regime;

It is as if Iranians do not remember that the United State overthrew their popularly elected Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 to reinstate the Shah’s dictatorship for 26 years;

It is as if the Iranians do not mourn the loss of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians killed by Saddam Hussein’s brutal invasion of their country from 1980 to 1988 with the military, intelligence and diplomatic support of the United States;

It is as if Iranians are not frightened into thinking they’re next when George W. Bush named Iran as part of the “axis of evil” (along with Iraq and North Korea), and proceeded to destroy Iraq and surround Iran with U.S. armed forces that are still in place to this day;

It is as if the Iranian people are not suffering from economic boycotts which, by impacting disproportionately civilian health and safety there, (See Public Citizen’s Health Letter) violate international law;

It is as if Iran should accept a wide sphere of influence by the U.S. and not try to expand its sphere of influence for its own defense;

It is as if Iran had not proposed a serious plan to George W. Bush over ten years ago to settle disputes and establish a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East, which Mr. Bush completely ignored;

It is as if Iran is not, in the words of former Obama adviser, Vali R. Nasr, carrying “most of the weight” in the “battles on the ground” against ISIS in Iraq, thereby saving the U.S. from committing again U.S. soldiers to avert a complete rout of those left behind after our deadly debacle in Iraq since 2003;

It is as if Iran is not claiming it is building nuclear power plants for electricity (a foolishly dangerous move for its own people) and not building an atomic bomb, has not been in full compliance with the Geneva interim accord (November 2013) with the P5+1 countries, as these parties, led by the United States, strive to conclude a complete agreement this year;

It is as if Israel has not illegally occupied, colonized and stolen Palestinian land and water over the decades (including regularly invading a blockaded Gaza, invading Lebanon five times and attacking other nearby countries pre-emptively) and caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties;

It is as if Israel, while complaining about Iranian behavior, does not continue their Palestinian policies that violate several United Nations’ resolutions, while goading the U.S. toward war against Iran;

It is as if the Arab League, with 22 member nations, has not offered repeatedly since 2002 a comprehensive peace treaty in return to Israel returning to its 1967 borders that was also rejected by Israel;

It is as if Iran has forgotten the shooting down of a scheduled Iranian civilian Airbus by the U.S. Navy in 1988 with a loss of 290 innocent lives, including 66 children;

It is as if Iran, a country that hasn’t invaded any country for over 250 years, should remain cool in the face of such attacks, threats, infiltrations, boycotts, U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, and not engage in any military alliances; and

It is as if Iran’s authoritarian leaders are not preoccupied enough with pressures inside their country that are both internally and externally driven without also planning to conquer the world.

The pop-up lawmakers in Congress on Tuesday have not shown any interest in their own government’s causal responsibility for Iranian animosities. The priority for many in Congress is marching to the drumbeat of whatever the U.S. Israeli lobby wants from the Pentagon, the State Department and the American taxpayers. (Some members of Congress have spoken up in the past, notably Republican Congressmen Ron Paul and Paul Findley and Senators Chuck Percy and James Abourezk.)

Why does a large majority of Congress block the viewpoints and policies that could lead to peace as advocated by many former chiefs of Israel’s security, intelligence, military and political institutions? They have spoken up repeatedly in Israel but are never allowed to testify before congressional committees. This entrenched anti-Semitism on Capitol Hill against the “other Israeli” Jews needs to be challenged by peace and justice-loving Americans who want to avoid future blowbacks and war quagmires for our soldiers.

A way to clarify jingoistic biases in foreign policy is to ask the questions: who was the initial aggressor? Who is the invader, the occupier, the ever hovering armed drone operator? Who has backed and armed dictators to repress their people who want no more such nation-building by the U.S.?

For a century, is it we, with the British and French, who have been over there or is it they who have been over here? Brutish conditions breed brutish behavior in all directions.

The poetic wisdom of the great Scottish poet Bobby Burns teaches the crucial empathy: “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Naziyahu, the Other I$raHell and Bobby Burns

Hillary Clinton Has ‘Absolutely Zero Respect’ for FOIA

NOVANEWS

Zionist Rat

by KEN KLIPPENSTEIN

Matt Topic is an American attorney who specializes in Freedom of Information and governmental transparency. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows citizens to access records generated by public institutions; for this reason, FOIA is of particular importance to journalists. Last week, The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton “exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state”, despite the law requiring her to use a government email for government business. Her exclusive reliance on a private email account made it impossible for journalists or anyone else to access any contents of her emails eligible for public acquisition under FOIA.

Ken Klippenstein: What’s the relevance of the Hillary Clinton email scandal to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)? What does that say about how seriously she takes it?

Matt Topic: I think she has absolutely zero respect for the Information Act or for transparency generally; at least, that’s the way it would appear. I haven’t seen her put out any explanation other than a one or two sentence tweet. It seems very cavalier that she believed that she can conduct government business through her own personal email server.

There’s questions whether that’s legal or whether that complies with rules and laws; but even setting all that apart, what’s the possible rationale for doing that? You’re putting emails that may be classified, may be at least sensitive–we don’t really know what any of these are–but if this is where all of her emails took place, I’ve got to believe there’s probably at least sensitive material in there. It’s been put on a server that wouldn’t seem to have any of the controls and securities that a government email server would have.

It was wrong when Sarah Palin did it, it was wrong when George W. Bush did it, and it’s wrong when she does it. It’s wrong when anyone else in the government does it–or knew about it.

If she’s sending emails to other officials, they would seem to be able to have seen that she was doing this, too; but it’s only coming out now.

Even if she’s been doing emails on a private server, I think they still need to be treated as public record. If there were FOIA requests that have been made for which those emails were never searched or produced, the State Department needs to go back and redo their responses to all those FOIAs because those should’ve been included.

Ken Klippenstein: What would some motives be for an official to use a private account?

Matt Topic: One thing is, it gives that public official control over those emails, and the ability to delete emails that they choose to delete–which they may not be able to accomplish on a government email server.

A motivation seems to be the ability to control access to these emails in a way that you couldn’t control if you followed the proper protocols. There could’ve been an attempt also to have those emails excluded from any FOIA searches: if somebody made a request for emails related to a subject matter, and those emails were only between Hilly Clinton and somebody outside of the State Department, then those never would’ve gotten
caught in a search for records responsive to that FOIA request. Or at least it would seem that way.

I don’t think there’s any good justification for this. There can really only be bad motivations.

Ken Klippenstein: How serious has the Obama administration taken FOIA?

Matt Topic: I think it’s just continuing on a path where there’s a lot of talk about transparency but not a lot of action. This is an administration that’s been sued countless times in order to produce records that it apparently thinks are too sensitive or too embarrassing to be released to the public. This is most certainly not the most transparency administration in history. It does do a great job of affirmatively putting out the information that it wants to put it, but does not do a good job of releasing the records that it ought to be releasing.

There definitely have been great strides made on making more data available to the public and to researches. That’s a good thing. But when it comes to records that might be embarrassing to the administration, I think they fight just as hard or even harder than their predecessors.

There continues to be an unacceptable backlog of FOIA requests. The deadlines in the statute are routinely violated by all kinds of government agencies, and the courts are not doing a very effective job of policing that. So I think we have an overall lack of commitment to meeting the statutory obligations to produce records in response to requests.

If you couple that also with the administration’s track record of very aggressively prosecuting journalists and whistleblowers–if you couple that with a lack of transparency, I think there’s a real problem. This doesn’t seem to be an administration that wants to allow transparency into potentially embarrassing issues; and it will go to great lengths to try to avoid the public being able to have ample transparency and know how the administration is operating.

Ken Klippenstein: What are some of the tactics the government employs in order to circumvent FOIA?

Matt Topic: An inadequate level of funding to have enough FOIA officers and technology in place to properly respond to the requests. You’re creating an incentive for the government to devote inadequate resources when the courts don’t hold an administration accountable for not meeting deadlines.

Why on earth would an agency want to hire more FOIA officers or attempt to clear out the backlog? They would just as soon have a really long backlog, knowing that they can get away with it; and then things that are important issues of the day, we won’t have transparency on until 2 years later. That’s not a terrible exaggeration in many instances.

It’s almost comical: there’s been a practice where really old FOIA requests that the government still hasn’t managed to satisfy, they’re going back the requesters and saying, “Do you still want this information now after this long delay?” That’s pretty telling about how diligently they seem to have been going about this.

Inadequately funding FOIA compliance is one way to make it more difficult for people to get information. We’re at the mercy of public officials to comply with these requests. The courts and the statute afford the government a lot of leeway and allow the government to put in affidavits explaining what they did to search for records, and those are generally treated more or less as conclusive–the courts give an awful lot of deference. I don’t know why that deference would be considered justified.

I think there’s enough of a history of misconduct and dishonesty by public officials in all kinds of administration and all kinds of agencies, that the idea that government affidavits should be presumptively accepted as true, I think is not consistent with a properly functioning democracy.

There are things that can be done [to circumvent FOIA]. The scope of a search could be inadequate in a way that’d be difficult for the requester to know; there could be deliberate efforts to not search in areas that are likely to have more sensitive information. There are also issues with how requests get interpreted: are they deemed broadly interpreted or is the government looking for gaps or loopholes in order to defeat the intent of the requests.

Ken Klippenstein: What could have been FOIA’d had Clinton not used a private account?

Matt Topic: There’s certainly been a lot of talk and scrutiny over Benghazi. I would imagine that there have been FOIA requests made by lots of news agencies for things related to Benghazi. It’s now come to light that, I think, there were 55,000 emails that her office concluded needed to be turned over to Congress as part of the Benghazi investigation. Many of those might be records that are exempt under FOIA, but I would be shocked if there no records anywhere in there in which there was no information that was not exempt.

I think it’s going to come to light that there are records in whatever is being produced to congress that were probably responsive to FOIA requests that people made but weren’t produced. I haven’t heard anything said yet about what they’re going to do about that. What they ought to do is go back to every request within that time period.

I think it’s also troubling that we’re seemingly leaving it up to her office to determine which emails on her server qualify as public records or not. I don’t think that’s appropriate at all. I think an independent third party should be appointed and should have the entire server–not just the records that are public records subject to FOIA. Somebody needs to do their own work in the entirety of that server.

If she’s co-mingling personal emails, political emails, government emails on the same server and same account, then that’s sort of the price you pay if you choose to do business that way. I just don’t think it’s acceptable that it should be left to her discretion or her office’s discretion to decide which records are going to be turned over to the government. They should all be turned over to the government and it should be to some independent party.

Ken Klippenstein: Why did it take so long for this to be exposed? One would think that, as the Secretary of State, there would’ve been all these journalists FOIA’ing her emails.

Matt Topic: That’s a great question. I don’t know what happened here.

I think we need to have a statue passed that forbids public officials from conducting public business on any email account other than a government email account.

If you look back at the Sarah Palin issue, while it’s clearly illegal to hack into someone’s email account, the fact that Ms. Palin put her in that position isn’t an excuse for someone to go in and hack her emails. But the reality is, when you put your emails onto your own server or a commercial server or something other than a secure government server, you’re asking for trouble.

Given the fact that someone was able to hack into Sony’s emails, what’s to say that no could hack into these emails? Or still could?

We have these protocols for a reason. I think it’s unacceptable that somebody in that position would not follow the proper protocols.

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Ben Bradlee’s Not Such ‘A Good Life’

NOVANEWS

Special Report: Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee, whose memoir was entitled “A Good Life,” is remembered by many as a tough-talking, street-smart journalist. But that reputation was more image than truth as the real Bradlee was an Establishment insider who knew which secrets to keep, writes James DiEugenio.

By James DiEugenio

When Ben Bradlee died last Oct. 21 at age 93, his widow Sally Quinn and his protégé Bob Woodward dutifully made the media rounds. They both lavishly praised his long tenure as executive editor of the Washington Post, which was predictable, since it was Bradlee who first hired Quinn at the Post (before marrying her) and Bradlee was influential in hiring Woodward, who then received much support from Bradlee.

The Post treated Bradlee’s death something like the passing of a former president, putting the story on the front page, above the fold, accompanied by a huge close-up picture of the man – despite the fact that Bradlee had stepped down from the editor’s position more than two decades prior and although the Post had passed from the Graham family, which had hired Bradlee as editor and made him rich, to Internet entrepreneur Jeff Bezos who bought the paper in 2013.

Longtime Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee.

Longtime Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee.

Predictably, all of the above – and more – was quite flattering about Bradlee and his career in the newspaper business. The Post, which has fallen on hard times of late, wanted to remind its readers of a bygone age when the paper had much more cachet and influence than it does today (as did the rest of the mainstream media).

Yet, outside the MSM, Bradlee’s passing did not meet with such romantic nostalgia for a Lost Eden, a longing for the good old days of an ink-stained press or for American journalism in general. There are two reasons for this:

First, the model of media that Bradlee represented – the top-down decision-making on what would run in the paper, in what form and where – has been exposed as very flawed. Secondly, it can be shown with plentiful evidence that Bradlee and the Post did some, at best incomplete, at worst spurious, reporting on at least three mammoth issues from its heyday: John Kennedy’s assassination, the global policies of JFK’s presidency and even Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. There were several other major lapses, e.g., the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968 and the CIA’s Contra-drug-running in the 1980s.

But Bradlee made his reputation writing about John Kennedy and editing Woodward and Carl Bernstein on Watergate. In historical terms, his work on those three topics has not held up, a characterization that is actually being kind. As I will show in this two-part series, Ben Bradlee epitomized what was wrong with the MSM and why it has fallen so far in both reputation and influence.

Born to Rule

His full name was Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, though he preferred the more regular-guy Ben Bradlee. But it was his middle name that tells you much about who Bradlee was and why his path upward to the top ranks of American journalism was so easy. The Crowninshields emigrated to America from Germany in the late 1600s. Once in America, they intermarried with so many partners from Britain that they were later considered of English stock and accepted among the Boston Brahmins.

For instance, Fanny Cadwalader Crowninshield married John Quincy Adams II, the great grandson of John Adams. Through such relationships, the clan quickly rose up the ladder and became a force on the American scene.

Benjamin Crowninshield was Secretary of War under both James Madison and James Monroe. William Crowninshield was Secretary of War under Grover Cleveland. Charles Francis Adams IV, the great-great-grandson of Benjamin Crowninshield, was the first president and later chairman of Raytheon Company. Francis B. Crowninshield married into the Du Pont family.

There is an island that bears the family name, as did a World War I destroyer. There are several streets named after the family — in New York City; Providence, Rhode Island; and their home base of Massachusetts. Finally, Frank Crowninshield, Bradlee’s great uncle, along with his friend Conde Nast, helped create Vanity Fair magazine. He then edited Vanity Fair for 21 years.

Ben Bradlee was the son of Frederick Josiah Bradlee, an investment banker. His mother was Josephine deGersdorff , the daughter of a wealthy New York City corporate lawyer who had once been a full partner in Cravath, Swaine and Moore, John McCloy’s firm. (Jeff Himmelman, Yours in Truth, pgs. 60-61)

Bradlee grew up on Beacon Street in Beverly, an exclusive town on the North Shore about 26 miles from Boston, where his father bought a summer home from Harvey Bundy, McGeorge Bundy’s father (ibid, p. 106) and where Bradlee began his newspaper career after his father arranged a summer job for him as a copy boy for the Beverly Evening Times. (Himmelman, p. 59)

Beverly was home to the likes of the Lodges, the Saltonstalls, the Taylors, (who owned the Boston Globe) and Gates White McGarrah who, in the 1930s, ran the Bank for International Settlements. His grandson was Richard McGarrah Helms, future CIA Director during Watergate.

Dick Helms was Ben Bradlee’s friend from early childhood, Bradlee’s first but hardly only close association with someone who would be central to the Central Intelligence Agency. (Deborah Davis,Katharine the Great, p. 141)

Bradlee first attended the private Dexter School in Brookline. He then went to another private institution, St. Marks in Southborough, Massachusetts, for prep school. Most of their graduates opt for the Ivy League. So it was quite natural that Bradlee completed the upper elite cycle by attending Harvard. In fact, he was the 51st member of his clan to attend Harvard.  (Himmelman, p. 37)

And complementing the Crowninshield heritage with the U.S. military, while he was there he entered the Naval ROTC program. But before he left for the service, he married into another Boston Brahmin family from Beverly, the Saltonstalls. His marriage to Jean Saltonstall produced one son, Ben Bradlee Jr., who also went into publishing.

Immediately after graduation in 1942, Bradlee attained his naval commission. He then joined the Office of Naval Intelligence. He served largely on a destroyer, the USS Philip in the Pacific as a communications officer handling classified and encoded messages from fleet headquarters and Washington.

When he returned from his naval service he helped found a publication called the New Hampshire Sunday News. Along with major investors Elias and Bernard McQuaid, he invested $10,000 in the enterprise and worked as a reporter there also. That weekly paper was then bought out by the notorious rightwing publisher William Loeb. (Davis, ibid, p.141) With this purchase, Loeb became the major newspaper publisher in the state.

That was in 1948. Bradlee took his money and rode a train down the East Coast. He was looking for a reporter’s job in either Baltimore or Washington. Bradlee always tried to insinuate that it was just an accident he chose the Post – since it was raining hard in Baltimore and he didn’t want to get off the train.

But Katharine Graham’s biographer, Deborah Davis, writes that there was actually more to it than that. A confluence of Crowninshield banking connections who were familiar with the Post’s owner, fellow investment banker Eugene Meyer, “seem to have helped him get into the Post.” (ibid)

Bradlee worked the police beat there for three years, until 1951, but Bradlee wanted more excitement than the position held. He made his frustration known to publisher Phil Graham, who was married to Eugene Meyer’s daughter, Katharine.

There are two versions of what happened next, Bradlee’s and Davis’s. Bradlee says that through a friend from his New Hamsphire Sunday News days, he heard of an opening as a press attaché to the American embassy in Paris. Phil Graham, then editor at the Post, granted him a leave of absence. (Himmelman, p. 67)

According to Davis, when Bradlee threatened to leave, Graham talked to a few of his friends about him. And this is how he was hired as a press attaché at the American Embassy in Paris in 1951. (Davis, p. 141)

The Grahams

At this point in the story, it is necessary to shift the focus to the ownership of the Washington Postbecause, upon Bradlee’s return to the U.S., he quickly ascended the ladder of power within journalism to a position of fame and influence that few newspaper editors have ever achieved. This could not have been done without the help of the Graham family, the owners of the Post.

Eugene Meyer, Katharine Graham’s father, was part of the Lazard Freres investment banking clan. (Davis, p. 19) After graduating from Yale, he worked for that famous bank for four years before going independent. Early in life, he proved to be a financial adviser of the highest ability. He was under 30 when he purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. (ibid, p. 26)

At age 28, Meyer opened his own investment house. By 1930, he had accumulated a fortune estimated at $40 million to $60 million. (ibid, p. 40) He then went into public service. He held various high positions under Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt. This included being Chair of the Federal Reserve from 1930-33. President Harry Truman appointed him the first president of the World Bank in 1946. (ibid, p. 27)

Although he was Jewish, Eugene Meyer avoided public identification with that religion as he was coming up in the world, according to his daughter Katharine. (Katharine Graham, Personal History, pgs. 6, 51) But behind the scenes, Meyer was very much involved with the American Zionist movement.

Cooperating with a hidden network of famous Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter and Cyrus Sulzberger of the New York Times, Meyer worked Wall Street for huge sums of money from wealthy Jewish families like the Schiffs and Guggenheims. These large sums helped form a group called the Anglo-Palestine Company, an entity that funded Jewish settlements in Palestine. (See Davis, p. 43. Also Alison Weir, Against our Better Judgment, pgs. 25 ff for the secret roles of Brandeis and Frankfurter)

Eugene Meyer also attended meetings investigating ways to supply arms to the young paramilitary group the Haganah. Meyer would remain a major contributor to Israel well after its establishment in 1948. But when he married his wife Agnes, in keeping with his low profile in this regard, it was a Lutheran church wedding, since that was her religion. (ibid, Davis, p. 45)

Kate Graham was born Katharine Meyer in 1917 on Fifth Avenue in New York City. She attended Vassar and then the University of Chicago. Her mother had been a reporter for the New York Sunand Agnes Meyer arranged for many weekend salons at the Meyer’s colossal Mount Kisco estate with the likes of Thomas Mann and Alfred Stieglitz. (ibid, p. 34, 51) From this experience, Katharine took an interest in journalism and publishing.

There was also the fact that Eugene Meyer had purchased the Post at auction in 1933, giving him a platform to project his personal ideas about national and international politics in Washington.

When Katharine Meyer graduated, her father got her a reporter’s job at the San Francisco Daily News. While there, she lived with her father’s sister who had married into the Levi Strauss family. In 1938, Katharine Meyer started working for the Post. Eugene Meyer had originally planned on grooming his daughter to eventually take over that paper, but she then met and married Philip Graham in 1940.

Phil Graham graduated from Harvard Law School and then clerked for Justice Frankfurter. (Davis, p. 78) In 1939, while Graham was his clerk, Frankfurter wrote the notorious majority decision in the Minersville v. Gobitis case, known as the flag salute case, which said that children of Jehovah’s Witnesses had to salute the flag against their religious principles.

Frankfurter wrote that “national unity is the basis of national security.” This valuation of security over the exercise of symbolic civil liberties deeply influenced Phil Graham during his stewardship of the Post. (ibid, p. 86)

Links to Intelligence

At the start of World War II, Phil Graham enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Like Bradlee, he went into intelligence. He was trained at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (ibid, p. 93) While there his instructor was James Russell Wiggins, whom he would later bring into the Post. Phil Graham worked for Gen. Douglas MacArthur and rose to the rank of major, returning home in 1945 from Japan.

At this juncture, Eugene Meyer gave his son-in-law a managerial position at the Post where Phil Graham initially assisted his father-in-law. However, after Eugene Meyer took over the World Bank, Phil Graham quickly rose to be publisher and editor-in-chief of the Post.

After the war, Phil Graham was even more national security conscious than before. So, although he remained fairly liberal on domestic issues, he was not so on foreign policy. He was really a Henry “Scoop” Jackson type of Democrat, what we might now call a neoconservative. (One exception to this was his criticism of Richard Nixon’s tactics in his headlong pursuit of Alger Hiss. ibid. p. 130)

Phil Graham spent a lot of his off-time drinking and talking at private clubs with the likes of the CIA’s Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, Desmond Fitzgerald and Richard Helms. His view of international issues was rather similar to their ideas about the importance of stopping the mythical Red Hordes of Russia and China. Along with people like Bill Paley of CBS, Graham was invited to Dulles’s annual meeting of media figures at the Alibi Club, an exclusive private gentlemen’s club in Washington.

Because of this significant influence and close association, it is not really accurate to argue – as former Post employee Jefferson Morley does – that Phil Graham simply discussed the spin on important events about foreign affairs and incorporated the CIA’s view into those stories in his paper. It was much more systematic than that for Graham found men who shared a similar intelligence background with him and his new professional colleagues.

He also installed men from the intelligence world in his newspaper. For instance, managing editor Alfred Friendly was from Army Intelligence, as was Graham’s service buddy Russ Wiggins, who became executive editor. Chief editorial writer Alan Barth was from the Office of War Information.

Another editorial writer, Joe Alsop, worked for Gen. Claire Chennault’s famous Flying Tigers in World War II and later admitted he worked for the CIA as a journalist. Chalmers Roberts, national affairs editor, had worked in signals intelligence. John Hayes was from the Armed Forces Network of the OSS, the CIA’s forerunner. Hayes worked on the broadcast side of Graham’s expanding media empire and became executive vice-president of the parent company. (ibid, p. 132)

Exaggerating only slightly, the Washington Post could easily be looked back upon as a civilian intelligence center.

Out of these secret relationships came Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s project to control the media – not just abroad but inside America. This media project was partly exposed during the explorations of the Church Committee in 1974-75. But the Agency reportedly drew the line at Sen. Frank Church including an exposé of it in the actual report. Therefore, Church only referred to it in the most general terms.

But disclosure went further in Rep. Otis Pike’s report as published in the Village Voice in 1976. (SeePike Report, 1977, Spokesman Books, pgs. 222-24, 232-34). So much so that even the New York Times published a front-page story about the overseas aspects of the operation. Finally, Rolling Stone in 1977 and Deborah Davis in her 1979 book Katharine the Great largely exposed Mockingbird – and Phil Graham’s role in its formation.

Ben Bradlee early in his career. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

Ben Bradlee early in his career. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

Life in Paris

When Bradlee arrived in Paris in 1951, he worked as an assistant press attaché from the American Embassy for about one year. By 1952, he was on the staff of something called the USIE, or United States Information and Educational Exchange. (Davis, p. 141) This agency later became known as the United States Information Agency, which controlled the Voice of America, a pet project of the CIA’s Allen Dulles for many years.

Working out of USIE’s Regional Publication Center, Bradlee helped create and distribute all sorts of propaganda to frame a positive image of the United States in the shadow of the Cold War. There is very little doubt that Bradlee had interactions with the CIA at this time since the Paris Regional Center produced CIA products when needed and Bradlee worked on them. (ibid, p. 142)

Davis said the group that Bradlee worked for planted newspaper stories and had many reporters on the payroll; Bradlee’s group often produced stories in-house and handed them to these reporters for distribution throughout Europe.

As Davis explained, the USIE was really the propaganda arm of the American Embassy, and its products were channeled by the CIA all over Europe. Bradlee also worked with a CIA-associated agency called the ECA, the Economic Cooperation Administration, which spread anti-communist propaganda. (Davis, pgs. 179-80)

In the first edition of Katharine the Great, the above is about the sum of what Davis wrote concerning Bradlee’s work for USIE. In a later interview with Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press, Davis said Bradlee “went totally crazy after the book came out. . . . He was going all up and down the East Coast having lunch with every editor he could think of saying that it was not true.”

In fact, under the influence of Kate Graham and Bradlee, Davis’s publisher withdrew and then shredded the valuable first edition of Davis’s book. She successfully sued the publisher and a new publisher turned out a second edition.

By the time the second edition emerged, Davis had discovered more data on what Bradlee was actually doing in Paris and how close he was with the CIA. Bradlee appears to have been a major operator in the campaign to convince Europe that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who had already been convicted of atomic espionage, deserved to die in the electric chair. Some of the declassified documents Davis got through FOIA had Bradlee writing letters to attorneys from the case in America, telling them he was working with the CIA station chief in Paris and had the Agency’s permission to go through its files to search for incriminating material.

Davis wrote that Bradlee’s Rosenberg campaign covered 40 countries on four continents. What Bradlee was doing in Paris had more than a faint echo of what Phil Graham was doing in Washington at the time.

When the office closed down in 1953, Bradlee’s boss informed him that he could probably get a job with the Paris office of Newsweek, where he did secure a position by talking to and then replacing the conservative Arnaud de Borchgave as Newsweek’s bureau chief. (Himmelman, p. 70)

The Pinchot Sisters

Around this time, Bradlee met Antoinette “Tony” Pinchot, who, like himself, was married. She was traveling in Europe with her sister Mary Pinchot Meyer, wife of CIA officer Cord Meyer, on what the two women reportedly described as a “husband-dumping trip.” Bradlee and Tony Pinchot struck up a romance, and he began divorce proceedings against his first wife. Pinchot filed for divorce from her husband, lawyer Steuart Pittman, who would later serve as President John Kennedy’s assistant defense secretary.

Like the blueblood he was, Bradlee lived in the style of the old French aristocracy while he was Paris bureau chief for Newsweek. He vacationed with the likes of novelist Irwin Shaw in Biarritz. He rented a chateau – really a castle – built in 1829 and covering around 100 acres, including a swimming pool and a pond. It had 65 rooms and two ballrooms. He and Tony hosted many an upper-class party there. (Himmelman, pgs. 71-72)

In 1957, upon returning to America, Bradlee and Tony married. Assigned to Newsweek’s Washington bureau, Bradlee settled his new family into the fashionable Georgetown area of Washington.

Two things then occurred that had great impact on Bradlee’s future. First, Tony met Jackie Kennedy, who lived just a few doors down in Georgetown. The two became fast friends, and through that relationship, Ben Bradlee met Sen. John Kennedy, an up-and-coming politician from Massachusetts. This relationship had quite a fortuitous impact on his career because once Kennedy became President, Bradlee had extraordinary access to him as Tony and Jackie remained close friends.

Second, in 1961, Bradlee’s old friend (and rising CIA official) Dick Helms told Bradlee about Helms’s grandfather’s wish to sell Newsweek. (Davis, p. 229) Helms did this since he knew Bradlee would tell Phil Graham, and Helms wanted Graham to buy the magazine to ensure it would become part of Mockingbird.

As Bradlee once said, “If we could persuade somebody to buy it who shared our goals in journalism, it would be a wonderfully worthwhile thing to do.” (Himmelman, p. 75.  Interestingly, in Himmelman’s account, which was done with Bradlee’s cooperation, Helms is left out of the exchange.)

These two episodes had a strong effect on Bradlee’s career trajectory. Because he was now based in Washington, his relationship with Kennedy was pure gold in the journalistic field. As JFK’s star rose and he became a presidential possibility, Bradlee “became the go-to guy for quotes from the candidate.”

Bradlee’s reporter days were soon over. He became Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief. (Himmelman, pgs. 74, 82) President Kennedy would tip him off occasionally about an upcoming story, like the spy swap of Rudolf Abel for Gary Powers. (ibid, p. 86)

Unknown to Kennedy, at least at first, Bradlee kept a journal of their meetings. He later turned this journal into a book – a point we shall discuss later.

Bradlee’s Rise

If the relationship with Kennedy brought Bradlee prestige and status in the world of journalism, the deal he helped broker for Newsweek made him filthy rich for life. Phil Graham rewarded him with a finder’s fee: not in cash, but in Post stock options. The stock of the Post company would soon skyrocket, especially after it went public in 1971.

As Bradlee once said, Graham’s generosity made him a millionaire many times over. He ended up buying a house that occupied almost an entire city block, while he owned another in the Hamptons. (Himmelman, p. 457) Bradlee’s boyhood friendship with Dick Helms had paid off in spades.

In 1963, both John Kennedy and Phil Graham died. There is a mountain of controversy about the former’s assassination. There is a hillock about Phil Graham’s, which was categorized as a suicide but has remained a point of some controversy in Washington social circles.

At the time of his death, Graham had taken up with a young woman named Robin Webb, and Phil Graham, who received the bulk of the private stock in the Post from his father-in-law Eugene Meyer – much more than Katharine Graham received – was in position to shut her out of control of the newspaper. (Davis, p. 119)

If Phil Graham divorced Kate Graham and married Robin Webb before his death, Webb could eventually have controlled the paper. Phil Graham had changed his will three times in the last year of his life, each time giving his wife less and less of his estate. (ibid, p. 168) After his death, Kate Graham’s lawyer challenged the last will and she took control of the paper after a probate hearing, with the last will not on the public record. (ibid, p. 169)

Phil Graham’s death opened the door for Bradlee’s ascension to the pinnacle of power at the Post. Katharine Graham was more conservative than her husband, as commentators have noted, she really did not like the sensational Sixties.

For instance, Katharine Graham once said about the Freedom Riders, “The students will be used by extremists who want very much to see the state occupied by federal troops.” About anti-war demonstrators and civil rights activists, her opinion was that communists were working in America to create chaos. (Davis, p. 237-38)

She also supported the Vietnam War – and when President Lyndon Johnson decided not to run in 1968 because of growing anti-war sentiment across the United States, she wept.

The Post and the War

Kate Graham’s relationship with Johnson appears to go back to 1964 when LBJ invited her to his ranch after the ‘64 Democratic convention. Johnson told her that although he did not like Bradlee at first, he did now. She returned the confidence by telling Johnson that although Phil Graham had gotten along well with JFK, she did not and that she very much admired what Johnson had done so far. She was in his corner, and so was her mother who wanted to contribute money to his campaign. (Davis, p. 207)

After this encounter, Kate Graham stood by LBJ through every escalation of the Vietnam War – and at his invitation in early 1965, she toured South Vietnam, a completely stage-managed affair. At the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, she was given a whole spiel about how the Strategic Hamlet program was working. National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, a supporter of the war at that time, was also on hand to brief her.

Katharine Graham met with the leaders of the Saigon government, too, with the whole affair culminating in a dinner with Stewart Alsop and Rowland Evans, two media stalwarts of the Establishment who backed Johnson’s militarization program at the time. (ibid, p. 222)

LBJ’s manipulation worked. Upon her return, an unsigned editorial endorsed Johnson’s escalation policy as part of a long war to drive communism out of Asia. Without noting that this was a reversal of Kennedy’s policy as expressed in National Security Action Memorandum 263, which JFK signed in October 1963. (See Destiny Betrayed by James DiEugenio, pgs. 366-67)

Johnson was so appreciative of Katharine Graham’s support that he allowed her editors privileged access to Pentagon officials and secret cables about the conduct of the war. (Davis, pgs. 222-23)

But, more important to the arc of Bradlee’s career, Kate Graham returned with an eye toward ridding herself of the old mainstays of Phil Graham’s reign at the Post. She wanted someone younger whose loyalty to her was unquestioned. She decided to replace Al Friendly as managing editor, while Ben Bradlee did all he could to flatter and charm the new publisher. He made clear that his ultimate objective was to replace Phil Graham as executive editor of the Washington Post.

When Katharine Graham talked to Bradlee about the job, he reportedly said he really did not have any political viewpoint, but he added he would not hire any “sonofabitch reporter” who was not a patriot. (ibid, p. 224)

Bradlee soon replaced Friendly and began to spend many nights at Kate Graham’s home cementing an overall plan. Bradlee’s paeans to her knew no bounds. He once said that she could become as powerful in Washington as the president. (ibid, p. 230) Bradlee also would get rid of other members of the Post’s old guard, such as John Hayes, and he confined Russell Wiggins to the editorial pages.

Bradlee was in sync with his boss’ support for a robust role of the United States around the world. The Post’s original Vietnam correspondent was Ward Just, who was good at relaying vignettes about combat action in the field while never seriously questioning the underlying assumptions or origins of American involvement.

But that was not hawkish enough for Bradlee/Graham. In 1967, Ward Just was replaced by Pete Braestrup who adhered more to the LBJ/Kate Graham line.

As many commentators have noted, what was astonishing about the Bradlee/Graham loyalty to Lyndon Johnson was not that it was a clear reversal of Kennedy, but that it continued even after the Tet offensive. This is why, in 1968, Kate Graham would have preferred Republican Richard Nixon over antiwar Democrat Eugene McCarthy. (ibid, p. 246) In the general election between Nixon and Johnson’s Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the Post did not make an endorsement. (James Brian McPherson’s The Conservative Resurgence and The Press, p. 234)

The Pentagon Papers

Much of the Post’s hawkishness during the 1960s has been forgotten because of the newspaper’s later role in publishing some of the Pentagon Papers in defiance of Nixon’s court actions to block their release to the public. Many have heralded Bradlee and Graham for this act, but the praise ignores two important points about the whole affair.

It was not the Post that published the Pentagon Papers first, but the New York Times, which was then enjoined from further publication due to the Nixon administration’s lawsuit. It was only at this point that the Post began to publish the classified papers. But that is not the whole story – because the Post had the opportunity to publish them first.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who had pilfered a copy, took them to thePost’s editorial chief Phil Geyelin. But at the time, the Post was still on even terms with the Nixon administration – and Nixon’s chief foreign policy adviser Henry Kissinger was escorting Kate Graham to dinner and movies.

Ellsberg had met with Kissinger in September 1970 and January 1971 and expressed his concerns about the war. Kissinger passed onto Graham that Ellsberg was unreliable and unbalanced. So, when Geyelin introduced Ellsberg to Graham and Bradlee, they snubbed him. It was only then that Ellsberg went to Neil Sheehan and the Times. (Davis, pgs. 256-57)

In June 1971, the Times published about three days of stories before the White House sued and the Supreme Court ordered them to temporarily stop. But those three days created a nationwide sensation and solidified the Times’ reputation as the nation’s premier newspaper. So Bradlee sent aPost employee to find Ellsberg, who was in hiding in Boston. Ellsberg sent a smaller set of the papers to the Post.

Bradlee, aware that the court might soon enjoin him also, decided to take the documents to his own home. He then brought in several editors and reporters to scour them and get out a story immediately. (Himmelman, pgs. 46-47) The Post published for a couple of days before they were joined in the suit.

In those few days of stories by both the Times and Post, there was not one mention of the attempt by President Kennedy to withdraw from the conflict, which was mentioned in the Pentagon Papers. In the Gravel Edition-Volume 2, Chapter 3 is entitled “Phased withdrawal of US Forces, 1962-64.” There is a discussion about Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s plan to withdraw American troops from Vietnam by 1965. It’s a long chapter, about 60 pages, and it notes that the withdrawal did not happen. But that is because the phased withdrawal was stopped in 1964 by LBJ who chose to escalate instead.

Can one imagine the furor that would have been created if Bradlee had printed this story and then supplemented it with some real reporting by those involved, like McNamara himself? But how could such a thing happen with Bradlee’s obeisance to Kate Graham and her infatuation with Lyndon Johnson, who was still alive at the time? On the other hand, it would have served the memory of Bradlee’s deceased friend John Kennedy well. And it would have served the cause of truth.

Bradlee also never wrote about the genesis of the Pentagon Papers, which were ordered up by McNamara as he — like several Kennedy holdovers (e.g. McGeorge Bundy, George Ball, Ken O’Donnell) — grew increasingly frustrated with Johnson’s escalation policy. In 1967, McNamara decided to quit, but before he did, he ordered a complete review of just how the U.S. had gotten involved in this epic debacle.

If Bradlee would have learned this, he would have seen how this echoed just what JFK was going to do back in 1963. Kennedy told aide Mike Forrestal that when he got back from Dallas, there was going to be a long review of how America got involved in the war. (DiEugenio, ibid, p. 368) Under LBJ, that did not happen.

After Johnson had reversed Kennedy’s policy – and after four years of Johnson’s disastrous escalation – McNamara was finally carrying out Kennedy’s wishes. Again, that would have been a wonderful story about Bradlee’s old friend and would have served the cause of truth. But it never happened. In fact, there is no trace of Bradlee ever even alluding to it anywhere.

Ben Bradlee’s journalistic reputation is defined in the public’s mind by his role as the Washington Post’s gutsy executive editor during the Watergate scandal and especially by Jason Robards’s dramatic portrayal of him in the movie, “All the President’s Men.” Bradlee’s role in Richard Nixon’s political demise and his famous friendship with John F. Kennedy created an image of Bradlee as an icon of the “liberal media,” but those chapters of his life are misleading and miss the point of who Ben Bradlee really was and what his legacy truly is.

As we saw in Part One, Bradlee came from the American ruling elite and operated within a social framework that involved close personal relationships with leading figures in the U.S. government and its intelligence community, including CIA rising star Richard Helms who had been Bradlee’s friend since childhood.

The Washington Post's Ben Bradlee in his later years. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

The Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee in his later years. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

In the 1950s, Bradlee not only worked as a U.S. government propagandist in France with close ties to Operation Mockingbird, the spy agency’s project for penetrating and influencing the U.S. news media, but he developed close personal ties to the CIA’s Cord Meyer, a senior clandestine services propagandist considered a leader of Operation Mockingbird.

Meyer and Bradlee each married sisters from the same well-to-do family, Mary and Tony Pinchot, respectively. Tony Pinchot took up with Bradlee after she met him in Paris where he was working asNewsweek’s bureau chief. She and Bradlee then divorced their spouses and married in 1956.

After the couple moved to the pricy Georgetown section of Washington, they socialized with the great and powerful, including two other glamorous neighbors John and Jackie Kennedy. Bradlee was a Newsweek political correspondent and then the magazine’s Washington bureau chief. So these relationships, which sometimes bordered on the incestuous, served him well as he rose through the ranks of the Washington news media.

Cord Meyer, then Bradlee’s relation through marriage, was himself a close friend of James Angleton, the legendary and sinister CIA chief of counterintelligence. The two men’s wives, Mary Pinchot Meyer and Cicely d’Autremont Angleton, were very close and remained so even after Mary Meyer divorced Cord Meyer in 1958. Later, Mary Meyer was widely rumored to have had an affair with John Kennedy, a relationship that supposedly continued until Kennedy’s death on Nov. 22, 1963.

When Mary Meyer herself was murdered on Oct. 12, 1964, along the Georgetown towpath, it was Ben Bradlee who was called by police to identify the body of his sister-in-law. Afterwards, Bradlee encountered Angleton entering the slain woman’s Georgetown house and then joined the CIA counterintelligence chief in a search for her personal diary, not to reveal its contents but to hide whatever secrets were in there.

According to an FBI document, James Angleton, Bradlee’s fellow searcher, and Richard Helms, Bradlee’s boyhood chum, canceled a meeting on Oct. 14, 1964, because they were deeply involved in matters surrounding Mary Meyer’s death.

As for Mary Meyer’s mysterious diary, the Washington Post’s 2011 obituary of Tony Bradlee, Mary Meyer’s sister and Ben Bradlee’s second wife, noted that “Mrs. Bradlee subsequently found the diary, which appeared to disclose her sister’s affair with late President John F. Kennedy. Mrs. Bradlee and her husband, who was serving as head of Newsweek’s Washington bureau, turned the diary over to Angleton with the promise that the CIA would destroy it.

“More than a decade later, Mrs. Bradlee was upset when she heard Angleton had not kept his word. Through an intermediary, she got the diary back and set it on fire.”

A half century after her death, Mary Pinchot Meyer’s murder is still listed as unsolved and the contents of her diary remain an enduring Washington mystery, prompting speculation regarding what it might have revealed about powerful people in both the political and intelligence worlds. [These lingering mysteries have been the subject of two books, Nina Burleigh’s A Very Private Woman (1998) and Peter Janney’s Mary’s Mosaic (2013)]

Mr. Insider

So, the image of Bradlee as a hard-bitten, tough-talking newsman who put the inner workings of the U.S. capital under a microscope and then shared those details with the American people, without fear or favor, was never the reality. Bradlee was an insider who may have exposed some wrongdoing as he wielded the Post as a weapon against certain political enemies but not as a sword fighting for the unbiased and unvarnished truth.

In Bradlee’s elite world, it was best to keep some of Washington’s secrets locked away from those who might not understand what was “good for the country.” Or as his boss and benefactor Katharine Graham once noted in a speech at CIA headquarters, “We live in a dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate step to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” (Counterpunch, July 25, 2001)

The reality about Ben Bradlee’s elitist attitude toward journalism – that it is more about guiding the people than informing them – is underscored by his first major hire after he became the Post’smanaging editor in 1965. That hire was David Broder, then a political reporter in the New York Times’ Washington bureau whom Bradlee had heard was frustrated with his editors at the Times. (Himmelman, p. 109)

Bradlee made it a prime objective to hire Broder away from the Post’s perceived rival as a top national news publication and he was proud of succeeding. Broder and his political columns would remain a fixture at the Post almost until the end of his life in 2011.

Yet, Broder came to typify all that was wrong with mainstream journalism as he would regularly recite the capital’s conventional wisdom and rarely rock the boat. Broder’s style of journalism said a lot about who Ben Bradlee really was and where he wanted to take the Post.

As the Internet began to grow in the 1990s and then explode in the new millennium, many bloggers expressed their annoyance and anger at the MSM by singling out Broder and his tedious insider reporting. In fact, a new term was coined – “High Broderism” – which meant a long and dilatory paragraph that, once analyzed, said either very little or nothing, a gaseous obfuscation that had one objective: to defend the status quo.

In fact, toward the end of Broder’s career, even some liberal members of the MSM had had enough of his pompous punditry. Hendrick Hertzberg of the New Yorker called him “relentlessly centrist.” (April 14, 2006) Frank Rich called him the nation’s “bloviator in chief.”  (Politico, Dec. 19, 2007)

Broder was so much of an insider that he began collecting hefty lecture fees from industry groups and then lobbied Congress on behalf of at least one of those groups, even though this was a clear violation of the Post’s editorial policy. He then appears to have lied about it by saying it was cleared in advance. (Harper’s, June 12, 2008)

By hiring Broder and then maintaining the columnist as a fixture at the Post for over four decades, Bradlee not only showed what kind of protect-the-Establishment journalism he valued but that he was blind to the media future that was just over the horizon.

Another early and revealing Bradlee hire was Walter Pincus, who was actually hired twice, once in 1966, and again after he left The New Republic in 1975. As a national security reporter, Pincus was another consummate insider, as much a trusted part of the U.S. intelligence community as a reporter covering it.

To say that Pincus has had a controversial career does not begin to describe the man. He started on CIA subsidy by spying on students abroad. (Gary Webb, Dark Alliance, pgs.  464-66) Covering the Watergate hearings for The New Republic, Pincus appears to have gotten private access to Richard Helms. (See a story Pincus wrote for the Post at the time entitled “The Watergate Decoy” on July 22, 1974)

In 1975, Pincus was fired as executive editor of The New Republic, which was then a fairly liberal publication, and went back to the Post, where he said of the newly formed House Select Committee on Assassinations, that it was “perhaps the worst example of congressional inquiry run amok.”

During the Iran-Contra inquiry of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Pincus reported that Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was going to indict Ronald Reagan, which turned out to be false. Walsh later wrote in his book Firewall that this phony story hurt his investigation more than anything else. Finally, and predictably, it was Walter Pincus who began the attack in 1996 against Gary Webb’s sensational exposé of the CIA and drug running.

Shifting to the Right

As executive editor beginning in 1968, Bradlee brought onboard other writers who would help define Official Washington’s conventional wisdom in a way that protected the powers-that-be and punished anyone who challenged the Establishment’s version of events.

It was under Bradlee that editorial writers such as Richard Cohen (who began as a reporter in 1968), George Will and Charles Krauthammer first gained national notoriety. The latter two showed how the Post would seek out and then offer conservative writers at smaller publications –The National Review and The New Republic – a bigger platform to reach the broad American public and thus help set the national agenda. In the case of Krauthammer, both he and The New Republic had clearly turned hard to the right by the time the Post began carrying his column in 1985.

Bradlee also was hostile toward journalists whom he perceived as being more iconoclastic and less inclined to revere the powers-that-be. For instance, before the Watergate scandal, Bradlee wanted to fire Carl Bernstein. (Davis, p. 250)

Looking back at Bradlee’s long career as an editor and then an executive at the Post, it is hard to find any liberal opinion maker or reporter that Bradlee discovered or fostered. (Joseph Kraft was first hired by publisher Phil Graham, while Ben Bagdikian left the Post partly because he did not understand where Bradlee’s editorial policies were headed.)

Despite Bradlee’s JFK-Watergate connections, there is substantial evidence that what Bradlee encouraged and indeed accomplished was to move the Post systematically to the right, making it what it is today, the nation’s neoconservative flagship promoting a militaristic global agenda for the United States.

As stated at the end of Part One, one of the odd things about Bradlee’s career since 1963 is that he never tried to defend his friend John Kennedy against some of the false accusations made against his administration.  A common one being that President Johnson was just continuing Kennedy’s policies in Vietnam.

Did Bradlee read the Pentagon Papers that the Post joined in publishing in 1971? If not, he might have at least read about the revelations regarding Kennedy’s intent to wind down the Vietnam War before he wrote his 1975 book, Conversations with Kennedy.

Before discussing Conversations with Kennedy, it should be noted that Ben Bradlee had been friends with President Kennedy for at least five years before Kennedy was killed. They also dined together at the White House on many occasions as well as visiting each other’s homes and sharing drinks and conversations at least twice a week. There is no other journalist whom Kennedy was as close to as Bradlee – and Bradlee and his wife continued a relationship with Jackie Kennedy after her husband died.

Ben Bradlee (left) and his then-wife Tony Bradlee (second from right) with President John and Jackie Kennedy after a White House function. (Photo credit: JFK Library)

Ben Bradlee (left) and his then-wife Tony Bradlee (second from right) with President John and Jackie Kennedy after a White House function. (Photo credit: JFK Library)

But Bradlee did not write his book until 1975, a dozen years after Kennedy’s death. So in addition to his own source material, there were many books that Bradlee could have consulted about both Kennedy’s career and his assassination.

In reading Conversations with Kennedy today, it’s obvious that Bradlee did none of this. In fact, he spent about as much time and effort on the book as a college sophomore would spend on a research paper: three weeks. (Himmelman, p. 299)

Not only is the book breezy and shallow, it is simply wrong in many places. For instance, Bradlee writes that Kennedy was not really interested in foreign affairs when he was running for president and that Kennedy’s presidency was more flash and dash than it was substantive – which by the mid-1970s was the conventional wisdom emerging to denigrate Kennedy’s presidency. (Conversations with Kennedy, pgs. 12, 41).

Worthless Book

Reading those two comments shows how worthless Bradlee’s book is today because as many writers have revealed, Kennedy was not just interested in foreign policy, he was remolding the very structure of American foreign policy in a rather revolutionary way. He was reversing the militant Cold War trends created by Harry Truman and reinforced by the Dulles brothers under Dwight Eisenhower.

Kennedy was doing this in many places, but especially in the Third World. For example, during the 1960 campaign, Kennedy mentioned Africa 479 times. (Philip Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans, p. 38) As chairman of a subcommittee on Africa, Kennedy was eager to see the continent become independent and free from both colonialism and imperialism.

This was a stark break from what the Eisenhower/Nixon administration had done. For instance, at an NSC meeting, Nixon said some of the people of Africa “had been out of the trees for only about fifty years.” Thus, it was only natural that Nixon would back political strong men in Africa and oppose the development of any viable left through labor unions and other social movements. (ibid, pgs. 6-7)

Yet, within weeks of his Inauguration, Kennedy reversed the prior Eisenhower-Dulles policy in Congo where U.S. and neo-colonial forces had opposed a leftist anti-colonial movement, although it was too late to save revolutionary leader Patrice Lumumba who was shot to death on Jan. 17, 1961, three days before Kennedy took office. [See Consortiumnews.com’s JFK’s Embrace of Third-World Nationalists.”]

Therefore, for Bradlee to write that in 1960 Kennedy was some kind of neophyte in foreign policy and deferred to Nixon in that field makes one wonder how well the author knew Kennedy – or question the integrity and honesty of the book.

For instance, Bradlee informs us that he was appalled that Kennedy had discussed with the CIA the possibility of staging a student demonstration in the Dominican Republic. Bradlee adds that he vocally objected to this and was surprised that Kennedy would countenance such interference in a sovereign state’s internal affairs. (Conversations with Kennedy, p. 235)

Recall that Bradlee was the man who worked hand in glove with the CIA for three years in France and played a key role in preparing the European public for the electrocution of the Rosenbergs. Bradlee also leaves out some rather crucial background facts about this dialogue with Kennedy.

First, the Dominican Republic was coming out of decades of brutal repression under the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. In February 1963, the country had elected the liberal socialist Juan Bosch as president.  Kennedy had backed Bosch and wanted to extend him loans for development through the Alliance for Progress.

But Bosch was overthrown by the military in September 1963, prompting Kennedy to begin a hemisphere-wide campaign to restore Bosch to power. Kennedy broke diplomatic relations with the military junta and suspended economic aid. He then ordered all U.S. military and economic assistance agents to return home. Other countries in the area joined Kennedy in condemning the overthrow, e. g., Mexico, Bolivia, Costa Rica. The junta complained about Kenney’s harshness and – like Ben Bradlee – said the U.S. president was interfering with the country’s affairs. (Donald Gibson,Battling Wall Street, p. 78)

But this context of how Bradlee favored a dictatorship over a democratically elected president is not the worst of what he leaves out. The Kennedy/Bradlee conversation took place in early November 1963 when – because of Kennedy’s support – Bosch had increased his chances of returning democracy to his country, a process that continued even after Kennedy’s death.

In early 1965, it looked like Bosch was about to succeed. However, President Lyndon Johnson decided to intervene with the Navy and Marines and portrayed Bosch and his followers as communists to justify the unilateral American intervention. (ibid, p. 79)

The Marines stayed in the Dominican Republic for a year and supervised new elections in which Joaquin Balaguer, a former friend and political ally of Trujillo, took power. This reactionary intervention was one of several that Lyndon Johnson, Katharine Graham’s friend, implemented in reversing Kennedy’s policies around the world. But Bradlee does not inform the reader of this background. After all, Katharine Graham was his boss at the time.

Ignoring Vietnam

For the most part, Bradlee ignores the issue of Vietnam, but he brings it up in a jarring way near the end of the book. Bradlee tells us that Kennedy, while reading the Washington Post one day, noticed a photo of American soldiers in Saigon dancing with local prostitutes. The President complained that it looked like a put-up job by the Associated Press and called the State Department to do something about it. Bradlee, who was still at Newsweek, overheard JFK saying: “If I were running things in Saigon, I’d have those GIs in the front line the next morning.” (Conversations with Kennedy, pgs. 234-35)

Again, Bradlee wrote the book in 1975 as the Johnson/Nixon escalation debacle was finally concluding. There had already been some writing about Kennedy’s intent to withdraw from Vietnam by this time. In addition to the Pentagon Papers, there was an essay by Peter Scott in Ramparts in 1971 and the book by Kenny O’Donnell and Dave Powers, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, which was quite specific in pointing out that Johnson had reversed Kennedy’s intent to withdraw. We know this had been made explicit with Kennedy’s National Security Action Memorandum 263 in October 1963. Again, the Bradlee/Kennedy dialogue took place in November 1963, after NSAM 263.

Therefore, Kennedy must have forgotten that it was he who was controlling things in Saigon. He had just steamrolled his advisers into going along with him on this withdrawal order. (See John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, pgs. 404-07) Kennedy’s policy was reversed by Johnson shortly after Kennedy’s assassination with NSAM 288 which drew up formal battle plans for committing combat troops to Vietnam in March 1964.

Though Bradlee is often described as an overly close friend of JFK – some conservatives have demeaned Bradlee as JFK’s “coat holder” – he appears to have had a surprisingly cold and disinterested attitude toward his “friend’s” murder.

In Conversations with Kennedy, Bradlee described meeting the bereaved Jackie Kennedy when she returned to Washington from Dallas. Bradlee noted that the widow was glad to see him and his wife and then recounted her fresh recollections of the shooting to him, possibly the first time she had discussed it with someone outside government.

“I can remember now only the strangely graceful arc she described with her right arm as she told us that part of the president’s head had been blown away by one bullet,” Bradlee wrote. (p. 242)

Yet, Bradlee seemed to miss the significance of this as he wrote it in 1975 because by then the autopsy materials had been made available to scholars and the damage from the fatal head shot – with parts of the skull blown backwards – had contributed to growing doubts about the Warren Commission’s conclusion of only one shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, from behind.

What Jackie was describing was either the Harper fragment — a large part of the rear of the skull recovered in Dealey Plaza a day later — or a smaller fragment which we see her reaching for out the back of the limousine in the Zapruder film. Both of these were indicative of a shot from the front.

Ben Bradlee, Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief at the time, heard this from the person closest to Kennedy in the car and sat on it for more than a decade. Which brings up an issue that, oddly, no one has ever pointed out about Bradlee and his relationship with Kennedy. Many, especially on the Right, have tried to insinuate that somehow Bradlee was biased in favor of JFK. Yet, as one can see from reading Conversations with Kennedy, such was really not the case.

Wasting an Opportunity

Secondly, there was probably not a journalist in America who was in a better position to investigate the strange circumstances of Kennedy’s death than Bradlee. He had been lifelong friends with Dick Helms, who was coordinating the CIA inquiry into the assassination for the Warren Commission.

Helms was a friend and colleague of former CIA Director Allen Dulles, who was appointed to the Commission by Lyndon Johnson and was its most active member. Dulles attended the most meetings, interviewed the most witnesses, and asked the most questions.  (Walt Brown, The Warren Omission, pgs. 87-89)

Through his mother, Bradlee had connections to the law firm of John McCloy, another very active member of the Commission. Bradlee also was the neighbor of Mary Pinchot Meyer, Cord Meyer’s ex-wife who was very close to Kennedy and was rumored to have been his mistress. Through the Meyer family, Bradlee had access to James Angleton, the chief of CIA counterintelligence with whom Bradlee searched for Mary Meyer’s diary after her death less than a year later.

If that weren’t enough, Bradlee still had good relations with Robert Kennedy as well as Jackie Kennedy. As David Talbot discussed in his book Brothers, and as Bobby Kennedy Jr. later revealed to Charlie Rose, Robert Kennedy never bought the official story about JFK’s murder.

In fact, as first revealed by Tim Naftali and  Aleksandr Fursenko in their book One Hell of a Gamble,Bobby and Jackie sent a post-assassination message to the Soviet hierarchy via Georgi Bolshakov, a KGB agent who had formerly been stationed under cover in Washington.

William Walton, a close JFK friend, told Bolshakov that the Kennedys believed the President had been victimized by a large political conspiracy, and although Lee Oswald was billed as a communist who had defected to the Soviet Union, they did not think the plot was a foreign one. At the time, Robert Kennedy was already planning to quit as Attorney General and run for political office with an eye on the White House and toward resuming JFK’s pursuit of détente with Moscow. (Talbot, p. 32)

In other words, if Bradlee needed any backing to begin his own investigation of the assassination, the Kennedys would have given it to him. Bobby could have helped provide him entrée to the Warren Commission via Nicolas Katzenbach, his deputy, who was the Justice Department liaison to that body. They also would have let an expert of his choice privately view the autopsy materials.

RFK would have granted Bradlee access to men like Ken O’Donnell and Dave Powers, who, while riding in the motorcade, heard shots come from in front of Kennedy. (ibid, pgs. 293-94)  What journalist was in that kind of position in 1964? Even if Bradlee was inclined to accept the official verdict that Oswald acted alone, wouldn’t a true friend of JFK want to make sure the investigation was done properly?

Talbot finally posed the question to Bradlee in 2004. Bradlee was 83 and had been kicked way upstairs at the Post but still had a small office. The answer Bradlee gave Talbot for not lifting a finger to inquire into his friend’s assassination was this: He was worried that if he devoted resources to the case, it would harm him and the Post by allowing people to revive allegations about his overly close personal relationship with Kennedy. (ibid, p. 393)

Talbot left it at that but shouldn’t have. In 1964, when the Warren Commission was ostensibly investigating the murder of President Kennedy, Bradlee was already financially comfortable, having been given sizeable stock options in the Washington Post Company that he knew would make him millions of dollars.

But let us grant Bradlee his (weak) argument. If I were Talbot, after listening to it, I would have immediately replied, “Okay, Ben. That was in 1964. But in 1976, you were at the pinnacle of your career. You had attained the title of executive editor of the Post. Why didn’t you do anything while the House Select Committee on Assassinations was reopening your friend’s murder case?”

Undercutting an Inquiry

Actually, Bradlee did do some things, but they weren’t in support of a thorough reexamination. Author Anthony Summers had called Bradlee and given him a tip about what investigator Gaeton Fonzi had discovered – that Cuban exile leader Antonio Veciana had seen Oswald meeting with CIA officer David Phillips at the Southland building in Dallas in late summer 1963. Summers recommended that Bradlee inquire into that incident.

Bradlee put a British intern, David Leigh, on the case; with the proviso that he try and discredit it. Leigh investigated and told Bradlee that he couldn’t discredit it, since it appeared to be true. What Summers and Leigh did not know about Bradlee’s motivation was this: Phillips had also called Bradlee about the Veciana lead and the CIA friendly executive editor wanted to spike the story. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 363-64)

One of the Post’s writers assigned to report on the House Select Committee was the CIA’s good friend Walter Pincus, who disparaged the committee as “perhaps the worst example of Congressional inquiry run amok.”

But there was one other incident that crystallized Bradlee’s disturbing lack of concern about the mystery surrounding JFK’s murder. In the mid-1970s, the interest in the Kennedy case ratcheted up to an almost fever pitch because of the revelations of the Church Committee about the crimes of the CIA and the FBI – and the first televised screening of the Zapruder film showing Kennedy’s head being knocked backwards by the fatal shot, suggesting a shooter in front. Those two events stirred public suspicions and led to the formation of the HSCA.

Many young people were attracted to the case. Two of them, Carl Oglesby and Harvey Yazijian, set up the Assassination Information Bureau to inform the public about new developments in the congressional inquiry. In Boston — where Yazijian lived and where Bradlee was born — the two men faced off in a debate about the case being reopened.

I interviewed Yazijian about this debate for this article. He said, “Jim, to label my encounter with Bradlee a debate is to mischaracterize it.” Yazijian had come prepared to review the evidence in the case and explain why knowledgeable people held the Warren Commission in such low esteem. Instantly, he realized that Bradlee had a different agenda.

“He was vitriolic. He went ballistic right out of the gate. He dismissed all the critics as being irresponsible nutcases. It was nonstop pure vitriol.”

Yazijian tried to present himself as cool and composed, but he was taken aback at how hostile Bradlee was. Yazijian said Bradlee was trying to dismiss all the critics as being an “irresponsible ilk who should not be listened to. He was right; we were wrong.”

It was clear to Yazijian that Bradlee and the Post were invested in the official story and Bradlee did not want to hear any rational argument showing that he might be wrong. He wanted to dismiss all the contrary evidence out of hand via character assassination, thereby eliminating any argument attached to it. Looking back, Yazijian wishes he had been more prepared for this line of attack and had called Bradlee out on it.

In other words, Bradlee ended up constructing a rather perverse legacy around his friendship with his neighbor, the senator-who-became-president. From the above record, one can say that Bradlee was one of the first journalists to combine disdain for JFK’s accomplishments with disinterest in the legitimate questions surrounding his death, even when there was broad public interest in a thorough inquiry into Kennedy’s murder.

Reflecting Bradlee’s curious coolness toward JFK’s death, he concludes his book, Conversations with Kennedy, with a recollection about an invitation from Jackie Kennedy to JFK’s Irish wake at the White House:

“There is much to be said for the wake. Led by Dave Powers, this one was more often than not surprisingly cheerful, and always warm and tender.”

Recall the devastating impact that the murderous weekend in Dallas had just inflicted on the American people and the world. Yet, Bradlee’s takeaway from those horrific events was that he enjoyed a good wake.

The Watergate Reprieve

But Bradlee’s defenders respond to any criticism of the Post’s legendary editor by pointing to Watergate. You can’t deny that was a journalistic triumph of the first order, they say. And it is true that The Washington Post, more than any other media outlet, was responsible for driving Richard Nixon from office because of his abuses of power.

But the problem is that the Post’s version of Watergate has not held up well through history with major elements of the scandal, including how and why it started, having been missed or messed up by Bradlee’s investigative team. Some of that revisionism has originated at Consortiumnews.com due to the work of journalist Robert Parry.

For instance, the Post’s version of Watergate attributes the creation of the Plumbers units to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, but that was not entirely accurate. Based on newly released tapes and documents, it now appears that the creation of the Plumbers and Nixon’s desire to firebomb the Brookings Institution were due to his obsession with Lyndon Johnson’s file on what’s known as the Anna Chennault affair, Nixon’s attempt as a candidate in 1968 to sabotage Johnson’s efforts to negotiate peace in Vietnam. [See Consortiumnews.com’s The Heinous Crime Behind Watergate.”]

Nixon’s sabotage of those peace talks was successful and helped Nixon prevent a fast-closing Hubert Humphrey from edging ahead to again deny Nixon the White House. In other words, Nixon illegally and treacherously undercut Johnson’s diplomacy to win the presidency. There is not one sentence about this disgraceful episode in the 336 pages of All the President’s Men.

Another astonishing lacunae in that best-selling book is this: there is not any mention of the name Spencer Oliver. Yet, Oliver’s was one of the two phones that burglar James McCord wired for sound during the first Watergate break-in in late May 1972. (The other one was Democratic National Committee chair Larry O’Brien’s, but that bug didn’t work, meaning that Oliver’s phone was the only one that Nixon’s team spied on.)

For decades, no one could come up with a plausible explanation of why this was done or what the burglars heard on the wiretap. But Parry interviewed Oliver at length and learned that Oliver, who was the chair of the Democratic state committees, was running a last-minute effort to derail Sen. George McGovern’s campaign because of doubts that McGovern could win.

In other words, Nixon’s team was hearing the Democratic Party’s most precise delegate count and learning of the last-ditch strategy by Democratic regulars to stop McGovern in favor of someone with a better chance to beat Nixon in November.

That meant the Republicans could turn to conservative Democrats in Texas, where ex-Gov. John Connolly, a Democrat-for-Nixon, still held great sway, to ensure that McGovern got enough delegates at Texas’ June convention to put him in position to win the nomination and then go down to a landslide defeat to Nixon. [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Because the Post’s coverage, led by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, more or less ignored Oliver and the first break-in – focusing instead on the second foiled break-in of June 17, 1972, and the subsequent cover-up – these two earlier elements of the story (why was Nixon so frightened about what the Democrats might have on him and what did Nixon get from the bug on Oliver’s phone) were bypassed.

Another interesting fact, relevant to how important Spencer Oliver and his information were to the Watergate scheme, was that the burglars seemed to have gone to great lengths to secure a key to Oliver’s desk. Burglar Eugenio Martinez was trying to hide this key when one of the arresting officers took it from him on June 17. (Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda, pgs. 178-79)

Between the two break-ins – when Nixon’s team was only getting information off Oliver’s phone – James McCord, one of the team’s leaders, sent his hand-picked assistant, Alfred Baldwin, on an undercover mission to approach Oliver’s secretary Ida Wells, though the precise purpose of the visit has never been made clear. (ibid, p. 202)

But the Post, in its two years of Watergate coverage, never appeared to have made any attempt to tie down these fascinating and important loose ends which raised grave questions about the integrity of the U.S. electoral process in 1968 as well as 1972.

Deep Throat’s Mystery

As for the rest of the mainstream media, its later obsession with Watergate focused only on the identity of the Post’s key source, Deep Throat, who finally revealed himself in 2005 as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt.

Throughout All the President’s Men, there is a rather obvious subtext criticizing the FBI’s investigation of Watergate. Woodward and Bernstein could get away with this in 1974 because the identity of Deep Throat was kept hidden until Felt stepped out of the shadows some three decades later.

During the early months of the Watergate investigation, Felt was the number two man at the FBI, leaving a paradox in the book: If the FBI was conducting a poor investigation, how was Felt able to give Bob Woodward all this interesting information? Today, that question holds two answers:

First, the FBI inquiry was not substandard at all. Neither was the inquiry compromised at the top, which is another accusation the two reporters make. The Bureau’s Watergate investigation, in sharp contrast to its JFK inquiry, was solid, intelligent and thorough.

But because the Post had disguised who Deep Throat was, this allowed Felt to indulge his own private agenda by using Woodward, which is what Bradlee said he feared most. In a private lunch with Woodward, Bradlee asked to know Deep Throat’s position, since he wanted to be sure he had no axe to grind, using the Post to advance a personal vendetta. According to Woodward, he assured Bradlee that this was not the case. (All the President’s Men, p. 146)

However, after Felt revealed himself as Deep Throat and the identity was confirmed by Woodward, Watergate aficionados noted that Felt indeed did have an agenda, fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming FBI Director. In that sense, Felt’s axe had a two-edged blade.

For one, by leaking this information, Felt was sabotaging Nixon’s acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray. But Felt could accomplish this only by giving Woodward some good information so he would continue to meet with him. This is why, today, the picture of Deep Throat as drawn by Woodward and Bernstein is slightly humorous. They depict him as a hero who did what he did because he abhorred the “switchblade mentality” of the Nixon White House when he was busy stabbing his boss in the back. (ibid, p. 130)

The risk Woodward ran in this regard was epitomized in the pages of All the President’s Men,allowing Felt to completely fabricate a scene. Felt said President Nixon met with Gray in February 1973 about his appointment as permanent FBI director, with Gray telling Nixon that he had done his job by containing the FBI’s investigation and implicitly threatening Nixon if the appointment were not forthcoming.

Upon hearing this story from Deep Throat, Woodward concludes that Gray had blackmailed Nixon. “I never said that,” Deep Throat laughed.  (ibid, p. 270)

This fiction has now been smashed by the declassified tapes and memoranda of the Nixon-Gray meeting. Gray did not lead the meeting at all and did not know what the meeting was about beforehand. In fact, he thought he was going to be replaced. Further, Nixon did almost all the talking. (In Nixon’s Web by L. Patrick and Ed Gray, pgs. 154-81)

Apparently, Woodward never asked Felt how he knew what was discussed since the only people in the room were Gray, Nixon and his domestic adviser John Ehrlichman. But Felt is also the man who twice told Gray that he was not leaking information to any reporters about Watergate. So this kind of duplicity was more or less standard for Woodward’s source.

Secondly, as Ed Gray describes in his memoir, Woodward appears to have attributed other source information to Deep Throat that could not have come from Felt. (Gray, pgs. 294-300)

Though there are always shortcomings in reporting on a complex and developing story like Watergate, the Post’s legendary coverage in retrospect suggests that the reporting was largely superficial and misguided.

The focus was kept on Nixon and his “men,” rather than on the broader corruption of the Washington political system. Once the corrupt group was cleaned out, the wound could heal without any deeper examination of what was wrong. To this day, the Post has showed no interest in exploring the documents about Nixon sabotaging Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks or how those revelations rewrite the history of the Watergate scandal.

Behind the Curve

In Bradlee’s later years as executive editor, the Post trailed miserably on the biggest scandal of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the Iran-Contra Affair. When Robert Parry, who broke some of the early Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press, was hired by Newsweek in early 1987, he found an institutional resistance within the Post-Newsweek company against pushing too hard on the scandal.

Parry said he heard concerns from Newsweek executives that taking the story too far might not be “good for the country” and that “we don’t want another Watergate,” i.e., a scandal forcing a second Republican president from office.

Parry recalled that there was particular opposition to digging into evidence that the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contra rebels were involved in cocaine trafficking, a story that Parry and his AP colleague Brian Barger had pioneered in 1985. After battling his Newsweek editors for three years, Parry left the magazine in 1990.

But the unwillingness to turn over Washington’s many slimy rocks permeated Bradlee’s Washington Post as well. As Jeff Himmelman relates in his biography of Bradlee, the executive editor was planning to step down in 1991 and favored two people to succeed him: Shelby Coffey, a formerPost editor who had moved to the Los Angeles Times, and Post managing editor Len Downie. (Himmelman, p. 440)

Bradlee’s job went to Downie with Bradlee becoming the Post’s vice president, a position he held until his death. Coffey became the top editor and vice president of the Los Angeles Times. In 1996-1997, Downie and Coffey, from their editorial perches, oversaw the destruction of San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series, which revived the Contra-cocaine story by showing how the Contra drug smuggling contributed to the crack epidemic and the resulting violence that ravaged U.S. cities and especially African-American communities. The mainstream media attacks on Webb were so savage that he was driven from his profession, into personal despair, and, ultimately, in 2004, to suicide. [See Consortiumnews.com’s The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.]

Last fall, when Webb’s story was revived by the movie, “Kill the Messenger,” the New York Times belatedly admitted that the Contras indeed had been involved in cocaine trafficking and that their CIA handlers had looked the other way. But the Post continued bashing Webb and protecting the CIA. [See Consortiumnews.com’s WPost’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb.”]

Downie, who had moved on from the Post’s top job to a teaching position at Arizona State University, couldn’t restrain himself from one more pile-on against Webb, circulating by email thePost’s new attack on Webb with the preface: “Gary Webb was no hero, say[s] WP investigations editor Jeff Leen … I was at The Washington Post at the time that it investigated Gary Webb’s stories, and Jeff Leen is exactly right. However, he is too kind to a movie that presents a lie as fact.”

In those years, from the 1980s to the present, the Post shifted decisively into a neoconservative ideology, strongly supporting U.S. military interventions and U.S.-backed coups around the world.

For instance, in 2002-03, the Post’s editorial page wrote as flat fact that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and endorsed the U.S. invasion. Despite the absence of the promised WMD and the ensuing disaster of the war, no senior Post editor was held accountable. The editorial-page editor then, Fred Hiatt, remains the editorial-page editor.

The Shrinking MSM

We all know what happened to the Post and Newsweek in later years. Like many of his MSM colleagues, Bradlee never saw the future coming. As a Post executive and board member, he missed the combination of two factors that directly impacted both of these enterprises: the rise of the Internet and the growing cynicism about the mainstream media.

The combination of those two influences steadily eroded both the magazine and the newspaper. Eventually, they were both sold, Newsweek for one dollar and the Post for $250 million (to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who paid more than many analysts felt the Post was worth, although the purchase price also included real estate and various other holdings).

In many ways Bradlee exemplified what had gone wrong with the mainstream media, treating the American people as creatures to be herded in some direction desired by the powers-that-be rather than citizens in a democracy who required serious journalism in order to fulfill their responsibilities as voters.

Parry recalled that during his time at Newsweek, he clashed with editors who thought he didn’t understand the proper role of journalism; Parry thought the goal was to inform the public whileNewsweek saw its job as guiding the public.

That was surely true of Bradlee, who was never really interested in giving the people the full truth about the U.S. government and its national security state. As Himmelman pointed out, Bradlee was really more interested in staying on the good side of Katharine Graham, who valued her personal relationships with her peers among the great and powerful.

While Bradlee and Graham might have been willing to oust the scheming climber Richard Nixon, they felt differently about the members of their own elite class – such as the well-connected men of the post-World War II CIA – and others who ingratiated themselves with skill and grace, whether that was foreign policy guru Henry Kissinger or Hollywood royalty Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

But it was exactly that unspoken snobbishness toward the common American that has generated today’s chasm of distrust between modern news consumers – and the mainstream media and the organs of government.

Far from delivering all the important news to his readers, Bradlee sought to restrict the information and control the message. Or as Katharine Graham put it: “There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Ben Bradlee’s Not Such ‘A Good Life’

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