Jan 212011

By Paul Mitchell
4 January 2011

This film is 1 hour 35 mins.

JOHN PILGER has reported on six wars, beginning in Vietnam in 1967, and produced more than 55 documentaries. His new film, The War You Don’t See, examines the media’s role in war and asks whether it has become part of the propaganda machine of the state. The documentary focuses in particular on the practice of “embedding” journalists in military units, which has helped virtually destroy independent war reporting.

The War You Don’t See opens with the sickening video clip released by WikiLeaks earlier this year, in which US troops in an Apache gunship revel in their indiscriminate slaughter of innocent bystanders in Iraq. Pilger asks, “Why do so many journalists beat the drums of war, regardless of the lies of government, and how are crimes of war justified?”

Pilger traces the growing integration of the state and media back to World War One. In the US, the secretive Committee on Public Information was set up in 1917 by US President Woodrow Wilson to “sell the war to the masses”. One of its most influential members was public relations-propaganda pioneer Edward Bernays. “The intelligent manipulation of the masses is an invisible government which is the true ruling power in this country”, Bernays wrote. The “hide the facts and manipulate emotions to scare the hell out of people” philosophy lay behind First World War posters such as “Destroy this Mad Brute” (1917).

Pilger fast-forwards to 2003 and the Iraq war. The creation of illusions, he says, has come a long way since Bernays’s time. Today, the Pentagon spends $1 billion a year on such activities. US Assistant Secretary of Defence Bryan Whitman describes how the Iraq war introduced the practice of embedding and saw some 700 journalists attached to army units. He says it was necessary because the US was up against an enemy, Saddam Hussein, who was “masterful at misinformation…disinformation”.

A former CIA analyst implies it is the US that is the master of manipulation, saying that 80-90 percent of news is officially inspired and anyone who crosses the Pentagon is likely to have his or her access and sources removed.

Pilger is best when he probes top journalists, news schedulers and government officials. They hesitate and squirm as they seek to justify their capitulation to and collaboration with the lies about the Iraq war. Some show remorse. Others say, more or less, “Let’s learn the lessons and make sure it never happens again.”

Dan Rather—for more than two decades an anchorman with CBS News—admits that journalists act more often than not as mere “stenographers”, repeating uncritically what government officials say.

Rather, who once confronted Nixon in 1974 over Watergate and the elder George Bush over the Iran-Contra scandal, turned in a despicable performance on the late-night David Letterman show following 9/11. Pilger reminds him of his words, “George Bush is the president. He makes the decisions. And as an American wherever he wants me to line up, tell me where and he’ll make the call”. Rather explains this episode on camera by arguing that there is “fear in every newsroom in the country…fear of losing one’s job, being labeled unpatriotic”.

An interview with BBC World Affairs Correspondent Rageh Omaar proceeds along similar lines. Pilger questions Omaar about his role as an embedded journalist in the British advance on Basra during the invasion of Iraq. How, wonders Pilger, was it possible for BBC news reports to declare that Basra had “fallen” 17 times to the British armed forces?

Omaar replies that there is enormous pressure with 24-hour news coverage to present a story as though it is new. He makes similar remarks about the false picture given of the “liberation” of Baghdad and the phony toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue. Omaar confesses, “I didn’t really do my job properly. I think I’d hold my hands up. One didn’t press the most uncomfortable buttons hard enough”.

Omaar speaks as well about the US attacks on the offices of Al-Jazeera in Kabul in 2001 and Baghdad in 2003. The Qatar-based media outlet was viewed by the Pentagon as broadcasting reports somewhat independent of the US-UK version of events. Omaar says the attacks were “without doubt and categorically a direct targeting to shut them [Al-Jazeera] up and possibly kill them”.

The War You Don’t See contains footage of several top British journalists—Andrew Marr, Nicholas Witchell and Mark Mardell—applauding the capture of Baghdad in virtually the same euphoric language. Reading like an official press release from the ministry of defence, Bush and Blair’s strategy, the journalists claimed, had been “vindicated”. Just as the two leaders had predicted, they continued, there had been no bloodbath and everywhere Iraqis were celebrating.

Pilger counterposes such statements to the fact that, as a result of the war, 740,000 women have been made widows and 4.5 million people forced from their homes. Hardly any of this is reported on.

Pilger criticises erstwhile liberal newspapers such as the New York Times and the Observer for their uncritical acceptance of the “proof” that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), presented by US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s during his notorious appearance at the United Nations in February 2003. The Observer’s David Rose said he was “nauseated, angry and ashamed” about his articles, but blamed them on the “pack of lies fed to me by a fairly sophisticated disinformation campaign”.

Pilger questions BBC Head of Newsgathering Fran Unsworth and Editor-in-Chief of ITV News David Mannion about their acceptance of the WMD claims and suggests that by their actions they helped contribute to the war drive. Unsworth tries to say she “didn’t realise until later”, but Pilger points that United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter was saying as early as 1998 that all chemical, biological and nuclear facilities in Iraq had been sealed up and the only UN-sanctioned research was on missiles of less than 150 kilometres range.

Both Unsworth and Mannion are probed about their biased reporting towards Israel. Why, Pilger asks, do news reports rarely call the military occupation in Palestine by its proper name and give chief propagandist Mark Regev full vent to put forward Israel’s version of events? Why did the BBC and ITV broadcast the blatantly doctored Israeli video of the storming of the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, which sought to blame the aid workers for the violence that ensued? Why did they virtually ignore the UN report six months later that noted the “unnecessary and incredible violence” inflicted by Israeli troops and the shooting of six on the ship at point-blank range?

In a feeble reply, Unsworth argues it is not the BBC’s fault that Israel has a sophisticated public relations machine and the Palestinians have no one to match Regev. Mannion replies it is not “the job of journalism to change the world”.

Former senior British foreign office official Carne Ross tells Pilger that journalists “more or less accepted our version of events,” surrounding the Iraq war, and that those who backed the official line were treated with “favouritism”, while those who didn’t were “punished”. Ross describes to Pilger his “guilt and shame” at being involved in the “major deception” used to justify the Iraq war. There were “great falsehoods, but the perpetrators are still running around”.

Pilger also presents the story of journalists who have attempted to remain independent. There is Dahr Jamail, for example, who reported on the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, where thousands were killed, over 70 percent of houses destroyed and white phosphorus bombs used against civilians (a fact denied for months by US officials). None of Jamail’s reports appeared in the mainstream American media.

And Pilger recalls Australian-born left journalist Wilfred Burchett, who refused to attend the stage-managed Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri at the end of World War Two and set off for the bombed city of Hiroshima. There he exposed the full horror of its destruction by nuclear bombing, along with official claims that nuclear radiation was harmless.

In his excellent film, Pilger also interviews Phil Shiner, a lawyer representing victims of abuse by British soldiers, and the co-founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who blames the “vast sprawling industrial estate” that is becoming more secretive and uncontrolled.
PAUL MITCHELL writes frequently for the World Socialist Web Site. 


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Jan 212011

HYPOCRISY CENTRAL: Once more the pot calling the kettle black

by Stephen Lendman


During Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit, a US – China Joint Statement said:

“The United States stressed that the promotion of human rights and democracy is an important part of its foreign policy. China stressed that there should be no interference in any country’s internal affairs.”

Washington often chides other nations about their abuses and injustices at home and abroad. In fact, no other nation matches America’s disdain for human and civil rights, yet as Washington Post writers John Pomfret and Scott Wilson said in their January 20 article headlined, “Obama hosts Hu Jintao on state visit, presses China on human rights:”

“President Obama used his summit Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao to place human rights front and center in the US relationship with the world’s preeminent ascending power.”

New York Times writers Helene Cooper and Mark Landler stressed the same theme in their January 19 article headlined, “Obama Pushes Hu on Rights but Stresses Ties to China,” stating:

Obama “prodded China to make progress on human rights,’ quoting him saying they’re a:

“source of tension between our two governments. (Americans) have some core views….about the universality of certain rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly….(T)he world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being,” ones Washington flaunts globally while pointing fingers at others.

A previous article addressed China’s documentation of US human rights abuses, accessed through the following link:


Below are some of its revelations, and while China is no human rights model, America is far more guilty of crimes against humanity and the supreme international crime against peace – waging unjustifiable wars of aggression.

Last November, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) cited others “carried out on the pretext of combating terrorism.” Specific human rights violations were covered, notably torture and other abuses at Guantanamo, ones America won’t address or correct as well as similar practices overseas and in homeland gulag prisons. America notoriously commits the most egregious human rights crimes repeatedly. Pointing fingers at others exposes its gross hypocrisy.

Yet on March 11, 2010, mostly with no source documentation, the US State Department issued its “2009 Human Rights Report: China (including Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau),” calling the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitutionally is the paramount source of power,” practicing:

– “cultural and religious repression;”

– harassment of human rights activists;

– persecution and disbarment of lawyers who defend them;

– control of free expression, the Internet, and free access;

– extrajudicial killings;

– torture and coerced prisoner confessions;

– using forced labor, including in prison;

– monitoring, harassing, detaining, arresting, and imprisoning “journalists, writers, dissidents, activists, petitioners, and defense lawyers and their families;”

– denial of due process;

– political control of courts and judges;

– administrative detentions and prolonged illegal ones;

– “tight restriction (on) freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel;”

– failure “to protect refugees and asylum-seekers adequately;”

– forced repatriations of North Koreans;

– pressure on other countries to repatriate Chinese citizens;

– monitoring and restricting local and international NGOs;

– “endemic corruption;

– trafficking in persons;

– discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities;

– forced abortion(s and) sterilization(s);”

– no legal right to strike or have independent union representation;

– “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life;”

– harsh and degrading treatment in prisons;

– arbitrary arrests and detentions;

– “arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence;” and more.

On March 13, China’s Information Office of the State Council responded with its own comprehensive report, titled: “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009,” correctly saying America:

“released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009….posing as ‘the world judge of human rights’ again. As in previous years, the reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China, but turn a blind eye to, or dodge and even cover up rampant human rights abuses on its own territory (and those of other nations). China’s report is prepared to help people around the world understand the real situation of human rights in the United States.”

Countering US misinformation, it presented an accurate account of what US propaganda suppresses, revealing important, substantiated facts about:

– the world’s most lawless state;

– a society in social crisis;

– a domestic armed camp under police state laws that suppress human rights and civil liberties, criminalize dissent, allow illegal spying, control information, persecute political prisoners for political advantage, and deny them due process and judicial fairness;

– torture as official US policy at home and abroad;

– the operator of the world’s largest global gulag;

– systematic targeted killings;

– permanent wars for unchallengeable world dominance:

– targeting peaceful nations;

– committing ruthless state terror;

– endangering world stability and peace;

– illegally transferring public wealth to elitist private hands;

– stealing elections; 

running a one-party state with two wings, each as criminally ruthless and corrupted as the other, and;

– as a result, is hated and feared globally and to a growing degree at home.

Overall, America is a lawless, violent terror state, intolerant of human and civil rights, democratic values, and basic notions of freedom and equal justice.

Hardly a record to extol. Indeed one to suppress, what America’s major media cooperate in doing, assuring more people abroad understand than shamefully few at home.

China’s analysis covered six major topics, using corroborating data from the US Justice Department (DOJ), FBI, other US agencies, state ones, think tanks, and international and US media reports, revealing a far different America than portrayed in the mainstream and by misleading government reports.

It revealed millions of violent and property crimes; systemic civil, human and political rights violations; denial of economic, social and cultural rights; racial discrimination against Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Immigrants of color, and Native Americans; flaunting the rights of women and children; and committing human rights violations globally. It’s a record of shame, not pride, including prison abuse in the world’s largest gulag.

It’s real, accurate and disturbing, not the fiction popularly believed or portrayed daily in films, television, and published reports. It’s an ugly America, not what Obama  proclaimed on Human Rights day, December 10, 2010, saying:

“Today, we continue the fight to make universal human rights a reality for every person, regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or circumstance….The United States will always speak for those who are voiceless, defend those who are oppressed, and bear witness to those who want nothing more than to exercise their universal human rights.”

Not a word about how many millions America murdered globally since 9/11/01 alone, how many others are persecuted at home, and how many hundreds of political prisoners remain incarcerated – in fact, many thousands including undocumented Latino and other immigrants. 

No mention either of the millions of homeless, hungry, deprived and forgotten. Ignored was decades of public wealth transferred to people already with too much, mass poverty and deprivation, targeting the middle class for destruction, America now corporate-occupied territory, planned neoserfdom for working people, the American dream disappearing like smoke, and democratic freedoms more illusion than reality.

Ignored was the real America on a fast track toward tyranny and ruin, its people trashed like yesterday’s garbage. Working men and women experience it daily, more than ever after the maliciously manufactured hard times, ushering in an era of want and need while those with super-wealth get richer under a system benefitting them, no others. The real America must be exposed, denounced and replaced before conditions are so bad it’s too late._______________________________

Senior TGP editor Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Full Text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009
Editor’s Note: The Human Rights Record of the United States (informally referred to as the “China Human Rights Report”) is a publication on the annual human rights record in the United States of America, published by the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The report was first issued in 1998 as a response to the United States‘ practice of criticizing China in its own annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which each of the Chinese reports cites in the first paragraph. It has since been published annually since 2000.  The 2003/4 Report contained a piercingly truthful summary of US posturings on human rights, declaring that the United States should “reflect on its erroneous position and behavior on human rights, and stop its unpopular interference with other countries’ internal affairs under the pretext of promoting human rights”. 



BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) — China’s Information Office of the State Council published a report titled “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009″ here Friday. Following is the full text:

The State Department of the United States released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 on March 11, 2010, posing as “the world judge of human rights” again. As in previous years, the reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China, but turn a blind eye to, or dodge and even cover up rampant human rights abuses on its own territory. The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009 is prepared to help people around the world understand the real situation of human rights in the United States.

I. On Life, Property and Personal Security

Widespread violent crimes in the United States posed threats to the lives, properties and personal security of its people.

In 2008, U.S. residents experienced 4.9 million violent crimes, 16.3 million property crimes and 137,000 personal thefts, and the violent crime rate was 19.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or over, according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2009 (Criminal Victimization 2008, U.S. Department of Justice, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov). In 2008, over 14 million arrests occurred for all offenses (except traffic violations) in the country, and the arrest rate for violent crime was 198.2 per 100,000 inhabitants (Crime in the United States, 2008, http://www.fbi.gov). In 2009, a total of 35 domestic homicides occurred in Philadelphia, a 67 percent increase from 2008 (The New York Times, December 30, 2009). In New York City, 461 murders were reported in 2009, and the crime rate was 1,151 cases per 100,000 people. San Antonio in Texas was deemed as the most dangerous among 25 U.S. large cities with 2,538 crimes recorded per 100,000 people (The China Press, December 30, 2009). The murder rate rose 5.5 percent in towns with a population of 10,000 or fewer in 2008 (http://www.usatoday.com, June 1, 2009). Most of the United States’ 15,000 annual murders occur in cities where they are concentrated in poorer neighborhoods (http://www.reuters.com, October 7, 2009).

The United States ranks first in the world in terms of the number of privately-owned guns. According to the data from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), American gun owners, out of 309 million in total population, have more than 250 million guns, while a substantial proportion of U.S. gun owners had more than one weapon. Americans usually buy 7 billion rounds of ammunition a year, but in 2008 the figure jumped to about 9 billion (The China Press, September 25, 2009). In the United States, airline passengers are allowed to take unloaded weapons after declaration.

In the United States, about 30,000 people die from gun-related incidents each year (The China Press, April 6, 2009). According to a FBI report, there had been 14,180 murder victims in 2008 (USA Today, September 15, 2009). Firearms were used in 66.9 percent of murders, 43.5 percent of robberies and 21.4 percent of aggravated assaults (http://www.thefreelibrary.com). USA Today reported that a man named Michael McLendon killed 10 people in two rural towns of Alabama before turning a gun on himself on March 11, 2009. On March 29, a man named Robert Stewart shot and killed eight people and injured three others in a nursing home in North Carolina (USA Today, March 11, 2009). On April 3, an immigrant called Jiverly Wong shot 13 people dead and wounded four others in an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, New York (The New York Times, April 4, 2009). In the year 2009, a string of attacks on police shocked the country. On March 21, a 26-year-old jobless man shot and killed four police officers in Oakland, California, before he was killed by police gunfire (http://cbs5.com). On April 4, a man called Richard Poplawski shot three police officers to death in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On November 29, an ex-convict named Maurice Clemmons shot four police officers to death inside a coffee shop in Parkland, Washington (The New York Times, December 1, 2 and 3, 2009).

Campuses became an area worst hit by violent crimes as shootings spread there and kept escalating. The U.S. Heritage Foundation reported that 11.3 percent of high school students in Washington D.C. reported being “threatened or injured” with a weapon while on school property during the 2007-2008 school year. In the same period, police responded to more than 900 calls to 911 reporting violent incidents at the addresses of Washington D.C. public schools (A Report of The Heritage Center for Data Analysis, School Safety in Washington, D.C.: New Data for the 2007-2008 School Year, http://www.heritage.org). In New Jersey public schools, a total of 17,666 violent incidents were reported in 2007-2008 (Annual Report on Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools by New Jersey Department of Education, October 2009, http://www.state.nj.us). In the City University of New York, a total of 107 major crimes occurred in five of its campuses during 2006 and 2007(The New York Post, September 22, 2009).



For further info on this topic, see:

Human Rights Record of the United States


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