The Tweet & Revolution
by Alexander Cockburn, February 24, 2011
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton rushed to contrast the repressive brutality of the Iranian authorities with what they now seek to present as the bloodless, US-managed triumph of pro-democracy forces in Egypt.
By any measure this was brazen impudence, starting with the fact that across the past few weeks the 300 dead, slaughtered by security forces and government-hired thugs fell in Tahrir Square and the streets of Cairo, not in Teheran, with more dead piling up in Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet.
Good or bad, everything has to be made in America. The 9/11 conspiracists decry the notion that “men in caves” —could plan the destruction of the Twin Towers. They say it had to be non-cavemen Bush and Cheney, plus the commanders of NORAD and several thousand red-blooded American accomplices.
Today, there’s a flourishing little internet industry claiming that the overthrow of Mubarak came courtesy of US Twitter-Facebook Command, overseen by Head of the Joint Chiefs of Twitter, in the unappetizing, self-promoting form of Jared Cohen, with flanking support by the National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House.
I’ve no doubt that Cohen, NED and Freedom House are all happy to nod bashful agreement that their efforts were weighty, even crucial, in prompting the Egyptian people to rise up, but the claim is ludicrous.
The New York Times runs endless articles about the role of Twitter and Facebook but now either ignores or reviles Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
In any discussion of the role or the internet in fuelling the upsurges across the Middle East, Wikileaks should be central. Tunisians were able to read the unsparing assessment of the kleptocratic regime oppressing them, courtesy of US Ambassador Gordon Gray’s cables, secured by Wikileaks. Egyptians were able to read hitherto secret details of the role of Omar Suleiman in renditions, of Egypt’s abject services for the US and Israel.
The New York Times, to whom Assange made available some of his Wikileaks, repaid him (as did The Guardian) with a vulgar onslaught by the Times’ editor, Bill Keller, essentially endorsing patently factitious accusations concerning the supposed nature of Assange’s sexual relations with two Swedish women, and also trumpeting the high minded concern of the New York Times with protecting the lives of US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Don’t you think it might have crossed Keller’s mind to mute that trumpet, given the role played by the New York Times in the attack on Iraq in 2003, with fake story after fake story by its reporter, Judith Miller, about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? The Times’ hands have plenty of blood on them. According to Michael Monk’s site, in the Iraq theater for US combat casualties the week ending Feb 15, the total rose to 77,735. That includes 35,540 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as “hostile” causes and 42,195 dead and medically evacuated (as of Feb. 7) from “non-hostile” causes.
As Secretary of State Clinton launched her rodomontade about the US role in “peaceful” democratic transition in Egypt and about internet “freedom,” at her speech at George Washington University on Feb. 16 condemning governments that arrest protestors and do not allow free expression, her security goons openly assaulted 71-year-old Ray McGovern, who put in 27 years as a CIA analyst and is now a peace activist (and CounterPunch contributor). A cop and an unidentified official in plain clothes, pounced on him, dragged him off, bruised and bleeding.
What had McGovern done to merit this assault? Did he shout? No. Did he try to throw a shoe at her? No. Rightfully affronted by Clinton’s repulsive blather about internet freedom —even as the US Department of Justice hands out wiki-leak-related subpoenas — he stood as she began, and turned his back on her. For this, and no doubt for his Veterans for Peace T-shirt, he got attacked and dragged away to jail.
McGovern’s treatment didn’t get much ink or footage — though CNN did run a clip. Lara Logan’s horrible ordeal — sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square — did get huge coverage of course.
It seems to be de rigueur to rule out of bounds any suggestion that Logan might have been imprudent. I suspect that every experienced war correspondent, if they were being frank, would say apropos Logan that responsible reporting — which includes preservation of self and colleagues — includes objective assessment of personal presentation, including demeanor and, in countries where it matters, clothing and headwear and where exactly it might be foolish or lethal to go, absent heavy security.
Logan, a broadcaster for 60 Minutes, made her name starring with semi-buttoned Abercrombie and Fitch tropic shirts, shilling for Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Iraq. (She later denounced Michael Hasting’s story that finished McChrystal off as a cheap shot.) Logan seems to have overlooked basic rules of survival and reporting in turbulent situations, particularly in that region. This is strange because there had been other attacks on western journalists such as on the ghastly Anderson Cooper in Tahrir Square.
Was there no seasoned CBS producer present to counsel caution? Maybe not, because bottom line, what got Logan into Tahrir Square that day were the demands of the US entertainment industry which require its “news” stars where possible to be hot women in exciting situations. We’d be better off, and Logan and Anderson Cooper unmolested if all US foreign footage was shot on the back lot at Universal Studios, in the town where these news roles are conceived.
Footnote: One of Assange’s Swedish accusers is Anna Ardin, whose possible ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups was noted by on this site last September. Here’s a story in the Havana Times by Fernando Ravsberg, published on February 10, translated by the BBC.
Wikileaks & the Anna Ardin Connection
“Now exploding is the case of Wikileaks and several secret cables making reference to Cuba. However, that’s not the sole link to Havana. Anna Ardin, the Swede who is accusing Julian Assange of rape, appears to have worked for some Cuban dissident faction.
“The first news of this strange relationship was confused because the articles about it were plagued with errors. However, dissident sources confirmed to me that Ardin supported the opposition in Cuba for years.
“‘She headed a group of intelligent young social-democrats that served as the contact between us and the Swedish party,’ admitted Manuel Cuesta, a leader of the Arco Progresista. He added that this political connection lasted from 2004 to 2006.
“The activities of the Swede in Cuba had little to do with those of a normal tourist. The opposition leader assured that she ‘advised us on how to form a political party, we exchanged bibliographies and her group gave us a minimal amount of economic assistance.’
“During those years, Anna’s group ‘maintained economic communication with the magazine Consenso’ and overseas they created ‘the Cuba-Europe Association in Progress to support, circulate and explain our positions,’ Cuesta explained.
“It seems everything was running along fine until she tried to ‘make us pay the cost’ for her services. According to the opponent, ‘she tried to influence us too forcefully on how we should lead Arco Progresista. Our reluctance generated certain uneasiness on her part.’
“Manuel Cuesta described her as a very beautiful woman, ‘Self-centered, having a strong personality, committed, intelligent and very Eurocentric. Her principal virtue is her determination and her worst defect is her Eurocentric arrogance.’
“He explained to us that in 2006 Anna made a surprising political shift: ‘She dropped out of the Swedish Social Democratic Party and adopted the Social Christian position. This is how she probably established some tie with Carlos Alberto Montaner.’
“Arco Progresista has few certainties but many suspicions. Manuel told us that all of this ‘enters into an intriguing realm of political jockeying, and it amazes me a little. We’re thinking back so we can piece things together, because it’s evident that there’s something strange in all this.’
“Strange or not what is certain is that currently Julian Assange is being charged by Swedish authorities so that he can be tried for Anna’s rape, a process that takes place at the time of the revelations in the secret US cables provided by Wikileaks.
“In fact there are many coincidences, so many that even members of the Cuban opposition who worked with her are filled with doubts. It will be necessary to wait and see if Wikileaks or someone else someday reveals everything behind the scenes.”
How the Empire Screwed Up
Fresh off the presses and off into the ether or the US mail goes our latest newsletter. It’s another crackerjack issue, Subscribers get a piercing investigation by Stan Cox.
Here’s how it begins:
“Late on the night of December 22, 2001, a mammoth merchant vessel, the Christopher, was caught in a North Atlantic storm. Captain Deepak Gulati radioed to shore that his ship was “taking a beating” from 15-meter waves but otherwise was in good shape. On that or a later call, he said the hatch cover closest to the ship’s bow had become dislodged. Soon after, contact was lost; no mayday call was ever received.
“It is hard to believe that a ship the length of three football fields could have gone from fully afloat to completely submerged in as little as five minutes, but that could well have been what happened. Once the storm had moved out of the area, a helicopter search was ordered. But there remained no trace of the accident beyond an oil slick, an empty lifeboat, a raft, and one lifejacket. The search was called off on Christmas Day. The Christopher’s twenty-seven crew members — citizens of Ukraine, the Philippines, and India — were all presumed dead.
“Deepak Gulati was my brother-in-law. A resident of Mumbai, India, he had been guiding the Greek-owned, Cyprus-flagged, coal-laden bulk carrier from Puerto Bolívar, Colombia, to a steelworks in the north of England when, west of the Azores, he and his crew ran into the storm that ended their lives…
“As I learned more about the world in which Deepak had lived and worked, I came to realize just how wrong I had been, not only about the fate of the Christopher but also about the fragility of merchant shipping in an age of uninhibited globalization. Meanwhile, bulk carriers keep sinking and seafarers keep dying.”
Cox takes us into the deadly world of international shipping, where speed-up, slack regulation and “flags of convenience” are turning bulk carriers into death traps that can and have doomed crews to drowning in as little as five minutes.
Alexander Cockburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .