A bird's eye view of the vineyard
Pictures of a Ukrainian Dream Tue May 11, 2021 18:19 | amarynth
Pepe Escobar for The Saker Blog Picture yourself about to meet a girl with kaleidoscope eyes? No. Sorry. Actually picture merry lines of code in the R programming language ?
Amidst Troops withdrawal, a disastrous School-Blast in Afghanistan Tue May 11, 2021 13:09 | amarynth
By Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog The death toll in a bomb attack that targeted schoolgirls in Kabul on 8 May 2021 (Saturday) has risen to 85, around 147
Moveable Feast Cafe 2021/05/11 ? Open Thread Tue May 11, 2021 06:30 | Herb Swanson
2021/05/11 05:30:01Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
Sputnik V: The geopolitical veto from the North Mon May 10, 2021 23:37 | amarynth
By Fabio Reis Vianna for the Saker Blog The scandalous smokescreen represented by the refusal of the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) to recommend the use of the Russian Sputnik
?For a return of the honor of our rulers?: 20 generals call on Macron to defend patriotism Mon May 10, 2021 18:17 | amarynth
Translated by Gary Littlejohn for the Saker Blog Translation of First Letter April 21 2021. At the initiative of Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, career officer and manager of the site Place d?Armes
The Saker >>
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005
Declining standards in Irish journalism
Mainstream media: Failing to speak truth to power Anthony
David Quinn’s selective tolerance Anthony
A Woulfe in judges clothing Anthony
Sarah McInerney and political impartiality Anthony
Public Inquiry >>
A Blog About Human Rights
Poor Living Conditions for Migrants in Southern Italy Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:14 | Human Rights
Right to Water Mon Aug 03, 2020 19:13 | Human Rights
Human Rights Fri Mar 20, 2020 16:33 | Human Rights
Turkish President Calls On Greece To Comply With Human Rights on Syrian Refugee Issues Wed Mar 04, 2020 17:58 | Human Rights
US Holds China To Account For Human Rights Violations Sun Oct 13, 2019 19:12 | Human Rights
Human Rights in Ireland >>
Stay Sceptical. Control the Hysteria. Save Lives.
What Second Wave? Total Deaths in UK and Sweden Now Average for 2021 Wed May 12, 2021 00:59 | Will Jones
Despite a winter Covid surge in the UK and Sweden, and even a spring one in Sweden, both countries now look set for a low mortality 2021. Did the "second wave" just bring deaths forward a few months?
The post What Second Wave? Total Deaths in UK and Sweden Now Average for 2021 appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.
French Parliament Votes Against Vaccine Passports ? but it?s Not Over Yet for the Scheme Wed May 12, 2021 00:18 | Michael Curzon
The French Parliament has voted against the introduction of domestic Covid vaccine passports, but officials seem determined to pass them into law. Another vote is expected to take place soon.
The post French Parliament Votes Against Vaccine Passports ? but it’s Not Over Yet for the Scheme appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.
Advice to Manchester United Fans Travelling to Poland: Don?t Bother Wed May 12, 2021 00:10 | Toby Young
Man Utd fans who've applied to be in the ballot for tickets to the Europa League final in Gdansk on May 26th were sent an email by the club this evening that will put off all but the most avid fans from travelling.
The post Advice to Manchester United Fans Travelling to Poland: Don’t Bother appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.
In Defence of the Handshake Tue May 11, 2021 18:44 | Toby Young
Read this original piece for Lockdown Sceptics in defence of the handshake by Dr David McGrogan, Associate Professor at Northumbria Law School. As he says, we cannot hope to return to normal without shaking hands again.
The post In Defence of the Handshake appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.
Boris Promises a Full Public Inquiry Into the Government?s Handling of Covid Before the End of This ... Tue May 11, 2021 18:25 | Michael Curzon
Boris Johnson has been pushed into promising a full public inquiry into the Government's handling of Covid and says that one will begin before the end of this parliamentary session.
The post Boris Promises a Full Public Inquiry Into the Government’s Handling of Covid Before the End of This Parliamentary Session appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.
Lockdown Skeptics >>
Colombia's death squads terrorise opposition to President Uribe
Right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia killed four more civilians this month. If the western media had done its job during the recent border confrontation between the government of Alvaro Uribe and its neighbours, the death squads might have thought twice before adding to their bloody hit-list
The right-wing paramilitaries that have terrorized Colombia for the past twenty years moved quickly when social organizations organized national demonstrations against them on the 6th of March - http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41489. The sight of people willing to defy their threats and take a public stand must have enraged the cowardly thugs. Within a fortnight, they had killed four of the organizers – two before the protests, two after - http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/content/view/145/45/.
As the death squads congratulate themselves on snuffing out another four lives, they should pause to thank their de facto allies in the western media, who have helped create the best possible climate for Colombia’s paramilitaries to operate by faithfully swallowing the propaganda line of their sponsors in Bogota and Washington.
That may sound like a very harsh judgement, and the journalists in question would no doubt deny it with great passion. But if they had done their job during the recent border crisis provoked by Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe, reporting the facts instead of the black propaganda pumped out by Uribe’s regime, the paramilitaries might not have felt so confident that they could murder four more people and get away with it. In a very real sense, the western media outlets that have performed so dismally have blood on their hands.
THE BACKGROUND - OR LACK OF
Not so long ago, an RTE journalist told his listeners with a straight face that Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez was a ‘Holocaust denier’. You almost had to admire the man’s shamelessness – even the most fanatical critics of Chavez have never thought to level that charge in his direction. In fact, the journalist probably didn’t even realize that he was lying – he just got his cue cards mixed up, telling people what was wrong with Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad instead. After all, they are both dark-skinned men from oil-producing states whose relationship with the US government is anything but friendly. How can you expect someone who takes their world-view from State Department press releases to remember the difference?
A similar confusion may explain the disastrous mis-reporting of recent events in Latin America. If people had been following the reports of the corporate media, they would have got a clear impression of the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela. On the one hand, we have a popular, democratically-elected leader whose domestic policies have won him high approval ratings; on the other, an autocratic thug who enjoys a close relationship with drug-dealing terrorists and denounces opponents of his regime as traitors to the nation. This is all very true – the trouble starts when the media has to tell its readers which ruler is which.
Presidential elections were held in both countries in 2006, offering a useful comparison. In Colombia, 55% of the electorate stayed at home. The main opposition alliance, the Alternative Democratic Pole, was unable to campaign in many parts of the country because of threats from right-wing paramilitaries. Some of its activists were murdered while the election was in full swing. The death squads issued a statement on the eve of the vote affirming their support for Uribe and threatening a blood-bath if his opponent won.
That statement was by no means the first evidence of friendly ties between the government of President Uribe and the paramilitaries who have killed thousands of people and boast of their role in the cocaine trade. After his first electoral victory in 2002, Uribe granted an amnesty to the right-wing death squads, and senior figures in his administration have been charged with aiding them. Jorge Noguera, the man Uribe appointed to head Colombia’s intelligence services, is awaiting trial for passing on the personal details of trade union members to the paramilitaries so that they could be targeted and killed.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Venezuela, the opposition candidate (who had himself endorsed an authoritarian coup against Venezuela’s president in 2002) was free to campaign anywhere he liked. There were no threats or intimidation directed at his supporters. When polling day came, 75% of the electorate exercised their right to vote, and 60% voted for Hugo Chavez. There are no pro-Chavez death squads terrorizing opponents of his government – in fact, the main threat to democracy in Venezuela over the past decade has come from the right-wing opposition, who have already attempted one military coup against the elected government.
You might expect these facts to inform the frame-work brought to bear by journalists when they discuss the actions of the two presidents. But in practice, Uribe is given a free pass most of the time – few articles about the Colombian president miss the opportunity to tell readers that he enjoys approval ratings of 70-80% (where were all those happy Colombians on polling day in 2006?) and you’ll have to look very hard for any mention of his relationship with the death squads.
The same reporters are very keen to find something bad to say about the situation in Venezuela – and if they can’t find anything, they’ll happily make it up. The words of Phil Mailer, describing western media coverage of Portugal during the revolutionary period of 1974-5, could just as easily be applied to Venezuela today: ‘In their selection of newsworthy items they stressed the climate of fear without mentioning the joy. They constantly emphasised what the professional politicians said, rather than what people were doing. They trivialized instead of seeking to understand.’
Lately western reporters have devoted their attention to food shortages (which undoubtedly exist to some extent) without ever mentioning the vast improvements in social services since the Chavez government was first elected – the reductions in poverty and unemployment, the provision of health care and education for people who had neither, don’t interest them one bit. It’s not hard to guess what they’d be writing in their reports if Hugo Chavez had as many skeletons in his closet as Alvaro Uribe.
Let’s imagine for a moment that there was a left-wing paramilitary group in Venezuela that had killed thousands of people it considered ‘enemies of socialism’. Let’s imagine that Hugo Chavez had granted an amnesty to the members of that group, and been rewarded by its endorsement in the subsequent presidential election. Let’s imagine that opponents of Chavez had been unable to campaign against him because of fear and intimidation, and that some opposition activists had been murdered before the election took place.
We can say without the slightest shadow of a doubt that every time the name ‘Chavez’ was printed, we would be reminded of all these facts, in meticulous detail. It would be taken as proof that Hugo Chavez was a brutal tyrant whose every word should be disbelieved as a matter of course. But you’ll be waiting a long time before you see the same logic applied to Colombia’s president.
The propaganda campaign against the Chavez government has been ratcheted up several notches since the beginning of 2008. Ambitious and extravagant new lies have been added to the mix – we’ve been assured that Hugo Chavez is a terrorist and a drug dealer who has been providing his allies with nuclear weapons. And the obedient foot-soldiers of the western media have played their expected role, endorsing the latest propaganda campaign while ignoring the real scandals right in front of their noses.
CHURNALISM AND THE BORDER CLASHES
Nick Davies, one of the finest reporters in Britain, recently published a book called Flat Earth News which hit a very raw nerve among his erstwhile colleagues - http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n05/lanc01_.html. Davies showed with careful research that most stories in the British press aren’t based on original journalism – the majority of ‘reports’ come directly from spoon-fed press releases and briefings by establishment sources. An ugly and very apt term was coined by Davies for this approach to the trade – ‘churnalism’.
In the English-speaking press, the latest bout of ‘churning’ started in early February, before Alvaro Uribe sent his troops across the border into Ecuador to kill a senior FARC commander. The Observer printed a laughable story based on anonymous briefings from intelligence and diplomatic sources, claiming that the Chavez government was working with the FARC to smuggle hundreds of tons of cocaine into Europe every year - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/03/venezuela.c...ombia. There wasn’t a shred of hard evidence to back up the claims in the story, but that didn’t stop the Observer from giving those claims bogus legitimacy.
In Flat Earth News, Nick Davies showed how the same paper had allowed itself to be used as a mouth-piece for the US and UK governments during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, printing story after story about Iraqi ‘WMDs’ or links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, based on the same anonymous briefings to its staff. Every single one of those stories was shown to be false, after they had served their purpose by paving the way for the war. Not content with that disgraceful role, the Observer has apparently decided to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion by playing its part in the latest war drive.
There was one solid piece of information that could be gathered from the Observer’s latest exercise in fiction – right-wing forces in Bogota, Washington and elsewhere had clearly decided to up the ante when it came to the Venezuelan government, by spreading black propaganda that could justify intensified efforts to overthrow Hugo Chavez and de-stabilise his regional allies in Bolivia and Ecuador. Within a few weeks, Alvaro Uribe had taken the next step and ordered his troops to kill FARC commander Raul Reyes on Ecuadorian territory.
The background to that raid was seldom mentioned in the generous coverage of the confrontation which followed - http://www.counterpunch.org/hylton03062008.html. Late last year, Alvaro Uribe had invited Hugo Chavez to play the role of mediator in negotiations to secure the release of hostages being held by the FARC. Uribe quickly appeared to regret the invitation and did his best to sabotage any work Chavez and his government might do.
Despite Uribe’s interference, Chavez helped broker the release of six hostages -http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/28/venezuela.c...ombia. Raul Reyes was the chief FARC representative in the negotiations. When Uribe ordered the raid which killed Reyes, a deal to release more hostages appeared close. The French government of Nicolas Sarkozy had taken a close interest in the matter, because one of the most prominent FARC hostages, the centre-left politician Ingrid Betancourt, has dual French-Colombian citizenship.
From the point of view of the Colombian president, these developments were nothing short of disastrous. If Chavez helped secure the release of Betancourt, he would probably earn himself a little good-will from a right-wing European president who might otherwise be expected to come down hard against the leftist government of Venezuela. Uribe would gain no credit for the success, and it would undermine one of his chief policy planks – the claim that it is impossible to achieve anything by negotiating with the FARC, who must be crushed militarily at all costs.
The hysterical post-9/11 rhetoric surrounding ‘terrorism’ has already started to lose its sheen. Establishment figures in Europe, Israel and the US are calling for the Israeli government to start negotiating with Hamas – Colombia’s president must be wondering if the ‘Israel of Latin America’ will come under similar pressure in the near future. He moved quickly to snuff out this alarming possibility.
ALVARO IN WONDERLAND
Soon after the lethal raid took place, Uribe phoned the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and claimed that his troops had been forced to cross the Colombia – Ecuador frontier in hot pursuit after they were attacked by FARC guerrillas. Correa quickly established that his counterpart in Bogota was lying – there had been no attack by FARC troops, the Colombian army had simply launched an air-borne offensive against the camp without any provocation and killed everyone who survived the initial assault in cold blood.
Even without his previous track record as a friend and ally of drug-dealing paramilitaries, that should have torpedoed Uribe’s credibility for the duration of the crisis. He had lied shamelessly about the circumstances of the raid to a fellow head of state – journalists were thus obliged to assume that any other claim he made was equally false, unless they could find corroborating evidence. That simple exercise in logic was too much for most western media outlets to handle, though.
They preferred to take up the ever-more ludicrous claims emanating from the Colombian government as it desperately sought to shift attention away from the facts. Uribe’s administration should have found itself in a tight spot. It had sent its army onto the sovereign territory of another state, in order to sabotage the prospect of hostage releases. Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez immediately formed a tight diplomatic alliance, winning the support of regional powers like Argentina, Brazil and Chile for their stand against Uribe. They also sent troops to the Colombian border in a show of force.
Not surprisingly, Uribe responded by flinging mud in the direction of Chavez and Correa. He claimed that a lap-top had been found in the FARC camp, proving that the Venezuelan government had provided $300m of funding for the Colombian guerrillas and was helping them to build a nuclear ‘dirty bomb’. Similar charges were leveled at Rafael Correa’s administration.
It was immediately obvious to anyone prepared to join the dots that the Colombian president was lying again. The FARC is one of the most closely scrutinized organizations in the world – law enforcement agencies on three continents keep a very careful eye on its activities. The idea that Hugo Chavez would be able to transfer such a vast sum into its accounts without anyone noticing was pure fantasy. Even more ridiculous was the suggestion that the FARC, having pulled off such an unlikely stunt, would then be so kind as to leave proof on a lap-top that just happened to fall into the hands of the Colombian army at such a convenient moment.
The words of the Venezuelan vice-president Ramón Carrizales should have been taken as common sense: ‘We are accustomed to the lies of the Colombian government. Whatever they say has no importance. They can invent anything now to try to get out of that violation of Ecuadorian territory that they committed.’ Rafael Correa was equally dismissive: ‘They said we had a pact with terrorists, and that is completely false. We are dealing with an extremely cynical government.’
Instead, the fabrications were taken up and repeated as if they were credible allegations that might well turn out to be accurate. One report in the Guardian is worth quoting, not least because that paper prides itself on its liberal, non-conformist reputation - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/04/venezuela.c...ombia. Beneath the head-line ‘Colombia accuses Chavez of funding Marxist rebels’, we were told that ‘the leftist affinity between them [Chavez and FARC] is no secret, but if proved the allegation potentially makes him a sponsor of terrorism.’
The only proof that’s been offered of the supposed ‘affinity’ between the two parties is the fact that Chavez wants the FARC to be recognised as an insurgent army, not a terrorist gang. That was the position of the conservative Colombian president Andres Pastrana in the 1990s when he entered into talks with the FARC leadership. Few people then suggested that Pastrana had an ‘affinity’ with the rebels.
Chavez has far more in common politically with Colombia’s Alternative Democratic Pole than with the FARC. Its candidate in the 2006 presidential election, Carlos Gaviria Diaz, won the biggest vote for a left-wing candidate in decades (despite the paramilitary intimidation referred to above). His electoral platform was very close to the thinking which informs the governments of Chavez, Correa and Bolivia’s leader Evo Morales. The Pole is strongly critical of human rights abuses by FARC units, while correctly noting that the main responsibility for terrorism against civilians in Colombia lies with the army and its paramilitary allies - http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/content/view/139/1/.
Meanwhile, references to the proven affinity between Uribe and the right-wing death squads were few and far between. A small mountain of evidence, from reports by human rights agencies to the work of Colombian magistrates, apparently can’t compete with unverified claims made by proven liars whose motive for smearing Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa is so obvious a child could figure it out. If you take the self-image of the western media at face value, the double standards at work must seem like a baffling mystery.
But there’s no mystery if you begin with the analysis of Nick Davies (who follows in the foot-steps of many radical critics of the media industry). A large part of the supposedly independent media is happy to take its line from the power elites of western societies. It’s much easier that way – nobody with any clout will take you to task for writing sloppy, badly-researched and inaccurate stories as long as those stories are based on establishment sources and fit in with the prevailing consensus. If you stray beyond that consensus, you may find yourself clobbered by those in positions of power, even when your story proves to be largely accurate (as the BBC found to its cost when Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell decided to punish its transgressions over the Iraq war).
Alvaro Uribe is a friend of the western power bloc and the corporations of Europe and North America, while the governments of Veneuzela and Ecuador pose a threat to the freedom of those corporations to make money at the expense of the peoples of Latin America. And that’s why the rules change from one paragraph to the next.
PROTECTING THE KILLERS
After being treated so kindly during the border row, the Colombian government must have felt confident that it could smear the organizers of the March 6th demonstrations against paramilitary terror with impunity. On the eve of the protests, Uribe’s advisor Jose Obdulio Gaviria declared that neither he nor the president would be taking part in a demonstration ‘convened by the FARC’. The march organizers demanded that Gaviria retract this dangerous slander – he refused to do so, and his boss was happy to let it stand.
Three days after the protests took place, Carlos Burbano, a trade unionist from San Vincente del Caguan, was kidnapped by the right-wing paramilitaries. Burabano had been one of the main organizers of the local march. His body was found dumped on a rubbish tip with his face disfigured by acid. He joined three of his comrades in the Colombian labour movement who had been murdered by the supposedly ‘demobilised’ paramilitaries in the space of a week, who themselves joined the list of four hundred trade union members murdered since Alvaro Uribe took office with the enthusiastic support of their killers.
Alvaro Uribe protects the death squads, his western backers protect him, and the media spares those backers the embarrassment of seeing the trail of blood traced back to their offices. Everyone has their part to play …