Nov 1 2009

Letters to the Editor

Murdoch and the Weekly Standard

I was disappointed in Michael Corcoran’s article about Rupert Murdoch and the Weekly Standard (Extra!, 9/09). Corcoran’s conclusion is that despite selling the Weekly Standard, “Murdoch still has a powerful soapbox to push his policy preferences.” This gets Murdoch exactly backwards.

Murdoch doesn’t have a political agenda. He has a business agenda, and currying favor with people in power is crucial to that business agenda. Murdoch’s broadcast, cable and satellite properties are heavily dependent on favorable government regulation. (The history of Murdoch’s political pandering around the world to gain business advantages is best described in a British book, Murdoch Archipelago by Bruce Page.)

Corcoran is right that the Weekly Standard’s cheerleading over the Iraq is despicable; but he ignores Murdoch’s support for both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, his obsequious dealings with Chinese leaders, or the New York Post’s change of heart about Hillary Clinton.

The most compelling evidence for the Murdoch method is right in the first paragraph of Corcoran’s own article. After sustaining eight years of multi-million dollar losses to publish Dick Cheney’s favorite magazine, why else would Murdoch sell the Standard six months after Obama was sworn in?

Bart Preecs

Seattle, Wash.

Michael Corcoran’s article (9/09) on the Weekly Standard and its influence on George W. Bush’s administration also reveals at the same time the failure of the mainstream media. A preposterous statement that Saddam Hussein had a working partnership with Osama bin Laden should have been immediately refuted by the media.

It seems nobody bothered to study about the Baath Party, which was the brain child of a Christian Arab. It was based on pan-Arabic sentiment and secular in nature. Religion had no role in it.

It is hard to imagine that Osama bin Laden would ever collude with Saddam, considered an “apostate” by Osama’s hard-core Wahhabi Islam. The only thing faintly common among the two was their dislike for Shiite Islam—Osama for religious reasons and Saddam for his civil administration’s problem. Even the New York Times with all her resources failed to see these glaring, bold-faced historical lies. The shame of it all is that they hired William Kristol instead. The Weekly Standard duped Americans because they could.

G.M. Chandu

Flushing, N.Y.

Honduras and School of the Americas

Re: “Rerun in Honduras,” by Mark Cook (9/09):

Just for fairness and accuracy, I’d like to point to a couple of minor points in this article that are deceptive and misleading when not completely false.

Gen. Gustavo Alvarez spent a total of less than four weeks in a Joint Operations Course in 1976 or 1978, when he was a lieutenant colonel. Do you have any evidence that that brief experience had anything to do with his later acts? If so, you would be the first.

As to the “role of School of the Americas graduates in the current coup,” the Army general involved, Vasquez, attended two courses at the school in Panama 33 and 25 years ago. Can you make a case that his attendance for a few weeks a quarter-century and more in the past has any relevance to the present events? It is ludicrous on its face.

“It was thanks to the School of the Americas Watch and the National Catholic Reporter (6/29/09), not the corporate media, that the public learned of ongoing U.S. training of the Honduran military, despite the Obama administration’s claim to have cut military ties.” This is true enough, but rather meaning-less, because those individuals who were already in courses here and elsewhere have been allowed to complete that course, while no more are being accepted. That’s a pretty weak accusation, especially when you consider it was the Zelaya government that sent them.

I would invite your organization and any of its correspondents to come see what the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is and does. The School of the Americas was closed by President Clinton almost nine years ago. Isn’t it time to judge the Institute on its own merits, and not on false associations with a past organization?

Lee A. Rials

Public Affairs Officer

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

Ft. Benning, Ga.

Mark Cook replies:

Is Mr. Rials suggesting that U.S. authorities ceased working with General Alvarez when he set up the Battalion 3-16 torture and death squad shortly after he returned to Honduras in the late 1970s after his stint at the School of the Americas? Or is he saying that ongoing work with Alvarez was done by another department of the U.S. government?

As Human Rights Watch reported (World Report 1996), Battalion 3-16 was a secret Honduran military unit whose members were instructed by and worked with CIA officials. The battalion detained scores of leftist activists, including students, teachers, unionists and suspected guerrillas who then disappeared. Members of the unit employed torture techniques including electric shock and suffocation to interrogate their victims, later killing and burying them in unmarked graves.

Many of the other Honduran officers involved in Battalion 3-16 were also trained at the School of the Americas (www.derechos. org/soa/hond-not.html).

In 1996, documents confirmed what critics had been saying for years, that the School of the Americas curriculum included torture and murder (National Catholic Reporter, 10/4/96). The response of the U.S. government, which had pooh-poohed such assertions for years, was not to agree to a public, independent inquiry, but simply to change the school’s name (National Catholic Reporter, 6/2/00).

Honduras did conduct a public inquiry in the mid-1990s, despite explicit threats from the Honduran military. The recent coup has ignited fears of a return to the past. Predictably, the coup was launched by what has been called the SOA old-boy network (e.g., New York Times, 9/24/84), which maintains the closest possible connections with the Pentagon. Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velésquez, the head of the Honduran Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a repeat alumnus, as Mr. Rials notes, and Gen. Luís Suazo, the head of the Honduran Air Force, graduated from the School in 1996.