Three articles appearing on page one of today’s NY Times overlap with each other in terms of what they say about the deepening erosion of democratic and human rights in the United States since the “war on terror” began after 9/11. It is difficult to decide which one is more outrageous. You can judge for yourself.
From the article titled “In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims”, we learn that a viciously Islamophobic film titled “The Third Jihad” was shown to 1489 N.Y. cops as part of their official training. When Tom Robbins, described as a former Village Voice columnist, was tipped off by a cop that the film was being shown, the police brass lied about it, saying that it had been mistakenly shown only a “couple of times” for a few officers. It should be stated that Robbins left the Voice under conditions very much related to the political morass the country finds itself in. When the newsweekly fired Wayne Barrett, a ferocious critic of metropolitan political abuses just like the one taking place in the police department today, Robbins resigned in protest. Nowadays the only full-time columnist for the paper is one Michael Musto, whose “La Dolce Musto” covers the gossip beat. His most recent column was titled “Keira Knightley Reveals the Secret Behind Her Spanking Scene!” There’s a place for that sort of thing, of course, but not at the expense of hard-hitting investigative journalism.
A half-hour version of “The Third Jihad” can be seen on Youtube:
The film is narrated by Zuhdi Jasser, a “devout Muslim” as he describes himself, who is a fixture on rightwing television and radio shows. Media Matters reported:
Jasser is also conspicuous in his willingness to appear on Fox News to mitigate the effects of their pundits’ anti-Islamic rhetoric. After Fox host Bill O’Reilly went on The View and declared that “Muslims killed us on 9-11,” triggering a walk-off of the show’s hosts, he turned to Jasser, who declared that he was “absolutely not” offended by O’Reilly’s comments and actually thanked the Fox host for making them. Likewise, after NPR fired Juan Williams for his own controversial comments about Muslims, Fox hosted Jasser, who was again “absolutely not” offended.
The Times reports that the film was produced by the Clarion Fund, a group bankrolled by Sheldon Adelson, a gambling casino magnate and ultra-Likudnik who is described in one of the other three NY Times articles as a major funder of the super-PAC that helped Newt Gingrich defeat Romney in the South Carolina primary. Zuhdi Jasser appeared in another ultraright film titled “America at Risk: The War with No Name”, a joint product of the Koch brothers’ Citizens United and Gingrich Productions.
The police department is stonewalling efforts by Faiza Patel, the director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU Law School, to get to the bottom of its sordid ties to the Clarion Fund’s political agenda. The Times states: “None of the documents turned over to the Brennan Center make clear which police officials approved the showing of this film during training. Department lawyers blacked out large swaths of these internal memorandums.”
For its part, the Clarion Fund has resisted efforts to come clean:
Repeated calls over the past several days to the Clarion Fund, which is based in New York, were not answered. The nonprofit group shares officials with Aish HaTorah, an Israeli organization that opposes any territorial concessions on the West Bank. The producer of “The Third Jihad,” Raphael Shore, also works with Aish HaTorah.
Sheldon Adelson is the perfect symbol of American support for Israel today. Against a backdrop of declining support by secular Jews, particularly the younger and college-educated, it naturally rests on the shoulders of a man who became a billionaire in the gambling casino business. He is the 8th richest person in the U.S. and 16th in the world, sitting atop a fortune of $21 billion. As the owner of the non-union Venetian hotel and other properties in Las Vegas, Adelson has staked out a viciously anti-labor position vis-à-vis the city’s militant trade union movement. In a profile on Adelson, Connie Bruck told New Yorker Magazine’s readers:
Like all major Las Vegas hotel casinos, the Sands was a union hotel when Adelson bought it, but the Venetian was non-union. This sparked a singularly bitter war with the Culinary Union, which had for many years maintained good relations with most hotels on the Strip. (Adelson has said that the benefits he gives his employees are superior to union benefits.) After a rally in which a thousand union supporters picketed in front of the Venetian, Adelson tried to have them removed by the police, and when that failed he went to court, arguing that the sidewalks outside the Venetian were private property, and not subject to the First Amendment. The Venetian lost in the district court and the appellate court, and in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Using his ill-gained fortune, Adelson has become a major player in Israeli politics as one of Netanyahu’s staunchest supporters. Bruck reports:
Adelson is also funding, with a $4.5-million grant, a think tank, the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, at the right-leaning Shalem Center, in Jerusalem. Netanyahu allies are on its staff. Natan Sharansky, the chairman of One Jerusalem, also chairs the Adelson Institute. Sharansky helped organize a “Democracy and Security” conference last June, in Prague, which was attended by President Bush. Iran was a major topic of discussion. A month after the Prague conference, Adelson attended a fund-raising event at the C.A.A. talent agency, in Los Angeles, for Steven Emerson, an investigative journalist specializing in Islamic extremism and terrorism, who was showing a ten-minute trailer for a film he wanted to make. Emerson introduced Sheldon and Miriam to the overflow crowd in C.A.A.’s two-hundred-seat theatre, saying that they were his generous supporters. After Emerson’s presentation, Pooya Dayanim, a Jewish-Iranian democracy activist based in Los Angeles, chatted with Adelson. Recalling their conversation, Dayanim observed that Adelson was dismissive of Reza Pahlevi, the son of the former Shah, who had participated in the Prague conference, because, Adelson said, “he doesn’t want to attack Iran.” According to Dayanim, Adelson referred to another Iranian dissident at the conference, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, whom he said he would like to support, saying, “I like Fakhravar because he says that, if we attack, the Iranian people will be ecstatic.” Dayanim said that when he disputed that assumption Adelson responded, “I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.”
Given his predilections, it is no surprise that Adelson would rally around the candidacy of Newt Gingrich who announced recently that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. While some might be tempted to describe Mr. and Mrs. Adelson’s donation of 10 million dollars to a pro-Gingrich super-PAC as a kind of bribe, the reality is that Gingrich needed no bribing. His Islamophobic views would be dispensed for free, although he could always use an extra 10 million dollars or so given his expensive tastes, including shopping sprees at Tiffany’s.
In the article titled “‘Super PAC’ for Gingrich to Get $5 Million Infusion”, N.Y. Times reporter Nicholas Confessore informed his readers:
A wealthy backer of Newt Gingrich will inject $5 million into a “super PAC” supporting his presidential bid, two people with knowledge of the contribution said on Monday, providing a major boost to Mr. Gingrich as he seeks to fend off aggressive attacks from Mitt Romney, his main Republican rival.
The supporter, Dr. Miriam Adelson, is the wife of Sheldon Adelson, a longtime Gingrich friend and a patron who this month contributed $5 million to the super PAC, Winning Our Future. Dr. Adelson’s check will bring the couple’s total contributions to Winning Our Future to $10 million, a figure that could substantially neutralize the millions of dollars already being spent in Florida by Mr. Romney and Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting him.
Confessore connected this sordid business to the Supreme Court decision on behalf of the Koch-funded Citizen’s United, a co-producer of the Gingrich Islamophobic documentary “”America at Risk: The War with No Name”:
The contribution also underscored how the advantages built by Mr. Romney’s campaign, including a potent get-out-the-vote operation in Florida and tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions raised in chunks of no more than $2,500, are being challenged by new forces, including the high-profile debates that have elevated Mr. Gingrich and the emergence of new campaign finance rules in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling.
That decision paved the way for super PACs, including the kind that have spent more than $30 million in the Republican primary so far: political committees run by each candidate’s former aides and financed by a few wealthy supporters. Because they are technically independent of the candidate, the groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, rendering less relevant the limits that Congress imposed in the 1970s on contributions to candidates.
As might be obvious at this point, even a lobotomized goose could connect the dotted lines between Adelson, the Likud, the NY Police Department, and Gingrich.
Now, lest anybody mistake me for the hysterical liberals at MSNBC who are rehearsing to get out the vote for Obama in 2012 as America’s last best hope for forestalling the Republican Party’s fascist bid, the last article on the front page of the N.Y. Times should dispel such illusions.
We learn from Charlie Savage’s article titled “Ex-C.I.A. Officer Charged in Information Leak” that one John Kuriakou has been arrested:
The Justice Department on Monday charged a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah — adding another chapter to the Obama administration’s crackdown on leaks.
In a criminal complaint filed on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation accused John Kiriakou, the former C.I.A. officer, of disclosing the identity of a C.I.A. analyst who worked on a 2002 operation that located and interrogated Abu Zubaydah. The journalists included a New York Times reporter, it alleged.
“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of C.I.A. officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a statement.
While not exactly a Julian Assange, Kuriakou is being made an example in order to intimidate anybody in the intelligence corps who might be tempted to reveal one or another of America’s torture state infelicities. Ironically, despite being depicted by Holder as a threat to national security, Kuriakou was an advocate of water-boarding and not some latter-day Philip Agee.
However, the real eye-opener in the article is something buried within it and mentioned almost casually:
At the same time, the department on Monday cleared of wrongdoing a legal defense team for inmates at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for its efforts to identify officials involved in the coercive interrogations of “high value” suspects. The effort was a project by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to bolster the representation of detainees facing death sentences in military commissions.
I did a double-take after reading this. Why in the world would a legal defense team for inmates at Guantánamo Bay be under any kind of legal threat for trying to identify torturers? A legal defense team, I should add, that was made up of military men trained as lawyers. Given the legal reasoning underpinning the prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg, the real wrongdoing would be torture itself and Holder’s stubborn defense of the right of the torturers to remain free of the consequences of their actions. What kind of society are we living in when the President of the United States, a constitutional lawyer trained at Harvard University, ends up threatening lawyers in the same way that they are in countries like China, Zimbabwe or Iran for defending “enemies” of the state?
The ACLU was threatened back in 2009 as a result of showing some photographs to prisoners at Guantanamo as the Times reported:
The Justice Department is investigating whether three military defense lawyers for detainees at the Guantánamo prison illegally showed their clients photographs of C.I.A. interrogators, two leaders of civilian legal groups that are working with the defense lawyers said Thursday.
Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation approached the three lawyers with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps nearly two weeks ago, said Anthony D. Romero, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping the military lawyers defend the detainees in military commissions.
The agents informed the uniformed lawyers of their right to remain silent, and then questioned them about whether they showed their clients pictures of Central Intelligence Agency officials — possibly including covert agents — that came from an “independent investigation” by the A.C.L.U. and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mr. Romero said.
The lawyers were trying to identify the torturers not so much as an effort to have them arrested, as just as this might be, but to prevent their clients from being executed. If the torturers could be forced to testify to their deeds in court, then the court might have decided that their confessions were extracted illegally. What an amazing statement on life today in the U.S.A. when an African-American president and his African-American attorney general behave like a couple of goons from Pinochet’s Chile or some other rotten torture state.
If you want to get some insight into how Obama manages to sink to such depths, I recommend an article by Ryan Lizza in the latest New Yorker magazine. Lizza is a conventional liberal and supporter of the President but he is also a very good reporter. He has made a very convincing case in all of his articles on Obama that the man is about as progressive as Joe Lieberman, a politician he stumped for in his last election in Connecticut before voters decided they had enough of the creep.
Titled “The Obama Memos“, Lizza’s article describes the President as a right-leaning politician motivated both by ideology and a desire to win elections based on cynical calculations. Lizza writes:
Obama’s homily about conciliation reflected an essential component of his temperament and his view of politics. In his mid-twenties, he won the presidency of the Harvard Law Review because he was the only candidate who was trusted by both the conservative and the liberal blocs on the editorial staff. As a state senator in Springfield, when Obama represented Hyde Park-Kenwood, one of the most liberal districts in Illinois, he kept his distance from the most left-wing senators from Chicago and socialized over games of poker and golf with moderate downstate Democrats and Republicans. In 1998, after helping to pass a campaign-finance bill in the Illinois Senate, he boasted in his community paper, the Hyde Park Herald, that “the process was truly bipartisan from the start.”
Given the stupendously reactionary character of the contemporary Republican Party, this really tells us all that we want to know about Obama. His fence-straddling approach explains the bipartisan assault taking place today on democracy and human rights. The Republicans steam ahead to the right and Obama chases after them like a dog after a car, trying to catch up.
If the existing left can’t figure out a way to break with this filthy system, then some other left must come along and do a job we are incapable of carrying out. The future of humanity rests on it.