Jun 1 2014

SoundBites June 2014

The Reagan Playbook’s Bloody Pages

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (4/8/14) wrote that Russia’s Vladimir Putin

may in fact be taking a page out of the United States’ playbook during the Ronald Reagan presidency, when the Soviet empire began to unravel thanks to a relentless US covert-action campaign. Rather than confront Moscow head-on, Reagan nibbled at the edges, by supporting movements that destabilized Russian power in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and, finally, Poland and Eastern Europe.

Ignatius credits this idea to a former CIA paramilitary covert-action officer, who argues that what Putin is doing in Ukraine is similar to what he and his colleagues did in Nicaragua. Really?

Though the history has largely gone down the memory hole (FAIR Media Advisory, 6/9/04), the CIA-backed Contras were not just “hit-and-run guerrillas in Nicaragua,” as Ignatius describes them. They were an organized terrorist force that targeted schools, health clinics and other civilian facilities. They routinely killed unarmed men, women, children and the elderly, and engaged in acts of brutality including rape, beatings, mutilation and torture. Their violence left an estimated 30,000 people dead.

The use of large-scale violence against civilians to achieve political goals was a hallmark of the Reagan “playbook,” employed not just in Nicaragua but in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Angola. If Russia has been doing anything remotely resembling this in Ukraine, the Washington Post has been falling down on the job.

Tortured Euphemisms

What’s another word for “torture”? That appears to be what Washington Post reporters asked themselves as they wrote up their scoop (3/31/14) on the massive Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s Bush-era torture program. They made references to a “brutal interrogation program,” “harsh techniques,” “excruciating interrogation methods,” “brutal measures,” “harsh interrogation techniques,” “coercive techniques,” “previously undisclosed cases of abuse,” “harsh treatment” and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Of one prisoner, readers learned, “CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall.”

Yet the only time the Post used the T-word was in a reference to “methods that Obama and others later labeled torture.” They’re also methods the Post wouldn’t hesitate to “label torture”—if they were happening in another country.

Tough on Victims of State Power

Time magazine (4/3/14) suggests that Securities & Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White will be tough on crooked bankers. Why? Well, for one thing, she has no
problem with abusing Guantánamo inmates.

Reporter Massimo Calabresi described White’s visit to “a room at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay where hunger-striking Al-Qaeda suspects are strapped to chairs and force-fed through tubes in their noses.” She went there at Barack Obama’s behest in 2009, and came away declaring the force-feeding to be humane—which puts her at odds with the UN and human rights groups that call it “torture.” “It was enormously satisfying to see how well run the facility was,” White said.

Somehow, for Time, this is proof that White will make a good regulator, though what it seems more to suggest is that she’s willing to adopt the official line—which is certainly not that big banks should be held accountable when they commit crimes (Extra!, 1/14).

Speculation: When Reality Is Too Boring

USA Today (3/27/14) ran a headline, “Buzz Builds as Rice Pitches for GOP; Some Ask: Will She Run for President?” Reporter Martha Moore wrote the former secretary of State “gives a great speech, has a well-known smile and is a hot political property,” and she recently keynoted a GOP fundraiser. So, naturally, “Cue the 2016 speculation: Is Condoleezza Rice acting like a future candidate?”

What justifies such speculation? Well, we learn Rice “mentioned she likes the idea of the nation electing a female president” and, well, “others have sparked more speculation based on less.” Then, near the end of the piece, readers learn that we already know the answer to the headline’s question: “Unlike Hillary Clinton, another highly visible ex-secretary of State, Rice has said she has no plans to run for any office. ‘You’re not going to get that chance’ to vote for her for president, she told Parade.”

Some ask, will she run for president? And she told them “no.” Never mind!

O’Reilly Supposes Erroneously

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly (O’Reilly Factor, 4/4/14) argued that the United States’ “founders based the justice system in the New World on Judeo-Christian tenets”:

That’s why a sculpture of Moses holding the Ten Commandments adorns the Supreme Court building in Washington. But today you could never put old Moses and the Commandments up on a government wall anywhere. The Secular Progres-sives would scream, “You are imposing religion if you do that because Islam and other theologies do not believe in the Ten Commandments.”

It’s true that Moses is on the wall of the Supreme Court, as O’Reilly demonstrated with a carefully cropped photo. Left out of Fox’s graphic, though, are the sculptures standing next to Moses depicting the Chinese philosopher Confucius and the Greek lawmaker Solon—none of whom are being thereby acknowledged as the basis of the US legal system. Inside the court, there’s another image of Moses—but unfortunately for O’Reilly, there he appears with the prophet Muhammad and France’s King Louis IX and Napoleon. Apparently the Secular Progressives have even gotten to the Supreme Court.

Pregnancy Punditry

Nobody assumes this was done for political reasons, of course. But if it had been done for political reasons, it could not have been at a better time. Hillary Clinton will have this bouncing toddler in her arms to campaign with in 2016.
Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank (NBC Nightly News, 4/17/14) on Chelsea Clinton’s announcement that she was expecting a baby