Saturday, March 15, 2008

Appalling and inflammatory. And true.

“Across a broad spectrum of articulate opinion, the fact that the voice of the people is heard in democratic societies is considered a problem to be overcome by ensuring that the public voice speaks the right words.” -- Noam Chomsky

“The broad spectrum of articulate opinion,” which in the United States means, of course, the corporate media and the arbiters of received US history, has unanimously determined that the very public voice of Barack Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., is not speaking the right words -- but that’s not to say that he is not speaking the truth.

So Sen. Obama has been forced into denounce-reject-distance-renounce mode. Future political candidates may see the wisdom in adopting coy agnosticism or shrug-it atheism, but for now presidential-aspirant Obama has had to call some of Wright‘s statements “inflammatory and appalling.” But are the statements wrong?

I haven’t seen or read the entire catalog of Rev. Wright’s “wrong words,” but the statements itemized in this NYT article hardly seem lunatic fringe-worthy. Some of the statements are established facts; some can be reasonably asserted and debated. All have been presented and analyzed in the NYT and elsewhere, including Congress.

For example, Wright is quoted as saying that the United States imports drugs, exports guns, and trains murderers. Only the truly naïve, the willfully uninformed, or the virulently ideological would dispute this.

That the United States is the world’s leading arms dealer
has been verified and confirmed by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, an office of the Library of Congress. In 2006, the United States exported nearly $11 billion in weapons to developing countries.

Score one for Rev. Wright.

Since the NYT failed to give any context to Wright’s statements, I’m going to assume that his comment about the United States importing drugs refers to charges that the Reagan-era CIA “facilitated” the US cocaine trade of Nicaraguan Contras as a particularly easy and profitable form of fund-raising. As Chalmers Johnson points out in Blowback, a reliable “pattern has developed in the revelation of American-sponsored atrocities and their ensuing blowback.” [pp 28-29]
An American regional newspaper -- the Baltimore Sun in the case of Honduran death squads, the San Jose Mercury News in the case of the cocaine trade of our Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries, the “Contras” -- publishes a report based on the research of its staff reporters. The report offers evidence that an agency of the United States condoned war crimes against civilians in Central America and lied to Congress when asked about it or turned a deaf ear to evidence that “assets” under our control were engaged in activities such as drug smuggling that were extremely deleterious to the welfare of Americans. The establishment press -- the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times -- then accuses the regional paper of sloppy journalism; the publisher of the regional newspaper apologizes and fires the reporters who filed the story.
Time passes. Then something turns up in a file.
[T]he CIA orders its inspector general to investigate the charges. He duly releases a report saying that not a shred of evidence can be found in the official files to support the story…. [Later] a research organization, such as the National Security Archive at George Washington University, discovers that there was a second internal report by the inspector general. The second internal report still disputes the newspaper account but also acknowledges that the substance of its charges was accurate. [emph added]
Right on schedule -- October 10, 1998 to be exact -- the NYT publishes a report by James Risen, “CIA Said to Ignore Charges of Contra Drug Dealing in ’80s.” (See also Snow Job: The Establishment’s Papers Do Damage Control for the CIA.) It seems that the CIA “did not inform Congress of all allegations or information it received indicating that Contra-related organizations or individuals were involved in drug trafficking.” Oops.

Score two for Rev. Wright.

That the United States trains murderers is also an open taxpayer-funded secret. Who hasn’t heard of the School of the Americans (now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and located at Fort Benning, Georgia)? Since its inception, the School of the Americas has trained more than 50,000 Latin American military and police officers, an extraordinary number of whom have been implicated in torture, rape, massacres, and assassinations.

A quick Google search for "School of the Americas" yields more than 725,000 hits for articles, editorials, op/ed pieces, book reviews, letters to the editor, etc appearing in the domain alone, including this 1993 LTE, “Let’s Shut Our School for Salvadoran Killers,” which notes:
The United Nations Truth Commission report on El Salvador released last March named 62 Salvadoran military officers responsible for the most serious acts of violence in El Salvador's long civil war [including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero]. Lists of graduates of the United States Army School of the Americas, now at Fort Benning, Ga., obtained from the National Security Archives in Washington, show 47 of the 62 were trained at the school. [emph added]

Score 3 for Rev. Wright.

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