Friday, February 18, 2005

Democracy Now: Examing Negroponte, Ward Churchill; BuzzFlash's hypocrite of the week; Matthew Rothschild; Media Matters

Democracy Now! does another excellent show today. And unlike the Times, they don't treat Negroponte's known past as something to be tipped around or mentioned as an aside.

Editorial comment (mine): Negroponte's actions are not a sidebar or an aside. They never should be treated as such. But when we have torture going on, Negroponte is the last person that should be put in the cat bird's seat over the intell agencies.

Headlines for February 18, 2005
- Large Blast at Shiite Mosque Kills 30 in Baghdad
- Bush Nominates Negroponte As Intel Czar
- Iraqi Prisoner Died in Handcuffs During CIA Torture
- ACLU Releases New Torture Docs on Afghanistan
- Crisis in Brazil Worsens After Killing of U.S. Nun
- U.S. Soldiers to Be Given Ecstasy

Promoting the 'Ambassador of Torture': Bush Nominates Negroponte for Intel Czar
As President Bush nominates Ambassador John Negroponte, current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as the first Director of National Intelligence, we look back at Negroponte's bloody history in Central America in the 1980s. [includes rush transcript]

The Justice of Roosting Chickens: Ward Churchill Speaks
The Governor of Colorado has called for his "termination." Fox's Bill O'Reilly has attacked him consistently for weeks. He says he won't apologize and he won't back down. We speak with Ward Churchill, the professor at the center of the controversy over free speech and academic freedom on college campuses. [includes rush transcript]

If you haven't checked BuzzFlash yet, please note: "Saturday Preview: The BuzzFlash GOP Hypocrite of the Week is Wolf Blitzer. He's the GOP Howlin' Wolf."

We're spotlighting two items from Matthew Rothschild (editor of The Progressive). First, from his "This Just In:"

If you wink at torture, if you don't mind mass slaughter, if lying is of no concern to you, you can go far in this world.
Just ask John Negroponte.
He served as a political officer in Saigon from 1964 to 1968, and then he headed up the Vietnam desk at the National Security Council from 1971 to 1973. During that decade of time, the Johnson-Nixon war was killing two to three million Vietnamese, along with 58,000 U.S. soldiers.
But Negroponte did not want the war to end. In fact, as an aide to Henry Kissinger at the Paris Peace Talks, he urged Kissinger not to come to terms so readily.
A decade later in Central America, Negroponte essentially ran the illegal Contra War against Nicaragua from his post as U.S. ambassador to Honduras.
This war cost the lives of some 30,000 people.
. . .
"I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras," Negroponte testified before Congress in 2001.
Oscar Reyes begs to differ. He was living in Honduras at the time. "On July 8, 1982, some military people went to our home, ransacked it, detained us, and brought us to the torture house," he told me last year. "There were a lot of people being tortured that night. You could hear the screaming. They used electrical shock on my body and my genitals, and they hanged me by my hands and were hitting me almost all night long. Then they put me in front of a tree and gave me a fake execution. . . . On my wife, they used electrical shock in her vagina. It was so bad that she had permanent damage to her ovaries, and she had to have a hysterectomy." (See “America’s Amnesia,” The Progressive, July 2004.)

Now from Rothschild's latest "McCarthyism Watch:"

Ward Churchill is under attack.
But it’s not about him.
It's about free speech and academic freedom.
And it's about the ability to criticize U.S. foreign policy in the context of 9/11.
As you've probably heard, Ward Churchill is a professor at the University of Colorado who wrote some regrettable words in an essay after 9/11, comparing what he called "the technicians" in the World Trade Center to "Little Eichmanns." That unfortunate comparison was outrageous and insensitive, and I wish he hadn't made it.
But that doesn't mean he didn’t have the right to make it.
He has the right that all Americans have: the right of free speech.
And he has the right that all tenured faculty have: the right to express themselves and their ideas freely so that in the free exchange of ideas, truth will eventually win out.
Now, more than three years after his essay, the snarlers and growlers of the right have come after Churchill, led by Bill O’Reilly and the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
Churchill has received many death threats, his car has been vandalized with swastikas, a Denver talk show host said he should be executed for treason, and now Churchill's job is on the line.
The Board of Regents is undertaking a 30-day review of all of Churchill’s writings and statements.
The governor of Colorado has called for his dismissal.
. . .
I have read Churchill’s offending essay, " 'Some People Push Back': On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." (To read it and Ward Churchill's response to the controversy, go to
And there is much in there that offends me: his indelicate and imprudent and historically inaccurate comparisons to Nazi Germany, his callousness to those who lost their lives on 9/11, his romanticized treatment of the terrorists and their motives on 9/11, his lack of appreciation for the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, and his disdain for pacifists.
But my strong disagreements with Churchill are beside the point. As are Bill O'Reilly's or the editors' of the Wall Street Journal or the regents' of the University of Colorado or Governor Owens's.
Ward Churchill has the right to express himself freely.
. . .
We've been down this ugly road before.
We need to defend Ward Churchill.
We need to defend free speech.
We need to defend academic freedom.
And we need to defend the right to criticize the U.S. empire.
For the attack on Churchill is an attack also on anyone who dares to question the myth of American imperial innocence.

From Media Matters we offer this item (that Donnie, Kara, Jim, Woody and Brad all e-mailed into this site) -- "CJR Daily's critique doesn't register:"

As CJR Daily noted, "All Iraqi citizens over the age of 18 were eligible to vote and those holding a valid ration card for the UN 'Oil for Food' program were considered registered." In order to conclude, as CJR Daily does, that "the set of registered voters and the set of eligible voters ... were virtually identical," one must assume that virtually every Iraqi citizen over the age of 18 holds a valid ration card for the oil-for-food program.
Given the fact that the oil-for-food program
ended in November 2003; that the program's efficiency and efficacy have been widely questioned; that only those residents of a war-torn nation who still hold ration cards for a long-defunct program and whose ration card information is correct were considered "registered"; and that nobody even knows how many eligible voters there are in Iraq since the country does not conduct a census, we have no idea why CJR Daily would assume that the universe of eligible voters and that of registered voters were "virtually identical."
CJR Daily even noted that "the list of registered voters was just as unreliable as the estimate of eligible voters." If both lists were "unreliable," how can CJR Daily possibly conclude that the numbers are "virtually identical"?

. . .
It seems that the real issue here is that too many are making a curious assumption that every eligible voter in Iraq was registered to vote. And that includes CJR Daily.

All five who e-mailed the item voiced their concern that Media Matters was (Brad's words) "getting the shaft" and wanted this highlighted. Three were concerned that we wouldn't highlight it here because of CJR Daily being involved. CJR Daily is supposed to be a mainstream source (not a partisan one). Of course Media Matters deserves highlighting, they are partisan and working towards the same goals (or many, let me not try to speak for Media Matters) that we're working towards. We've cited Media Matters before but if there's a tendency not to highlight their items that's largely because fair use makes me skittish about highlighting their entries in full and since they are short entries, it's hard to pull quote and do justice to their writing.

[With Matthew Rothschild's latest "McCarthyism Watch" we may be pushing fair use. But I wanted to be clear about what Rothschild was saying and what he wasn't.]

Kara: I'm just really concerned that there will be this 'Oh, CJR Daily . . . well, I won't question them" attitude and Media Matters will be left to stand alone.

My opinion is Media Matters more than made their case. And with regard to CJR Daily . . . CJR the magazine? I think it's wonderful. CJR Daily? The Third Estate Sunday Review has weighed in on problems with them (and are working on a story -- yes, I'm providing input -- for Sunday's edition). I agree with the problems The Third Estate Sunday Review has cited. As someone who looks forward to each issue of CJR, I agree that CJR Daily needs far more oversight.

A number of members had requested a "Mag Report" and the reason we're doing that is because they feel (and I agree) that CJR Daily does not cover the magazine beat well in their own "Magazine Report." We are a left site so we cover the left magazines and stories in general magazines that apply to issues we care about. CJR Daily is not supposed to be partisan and why they have felt the need to do general interest mags with The Weekly Standard tossed in (that's a right wing magazine) is beyond me. This issue will be addressed in this Sunday's Third Estate Sunday Review.

Our sympathies and support go to Media Matters. They were not wrong and they got slapped down by CJR Daily in an item that shouldn't have been posted at CJR Daily as written (and researched).

There is no fear here that if CJR Daily is offended they won't link to us. (A fear Woody voiced.) That's more than fine with me, no one ever needs to link to us. We're a growing community that's really much bigger than I would have ever expected us to become. And we don't curry favor here. We don't do trades for acknowledgement or silence ourselves to avoid being noted by someone.

We did link to a CJR Daily piece on Elisabeth Bumiller that was making a point similar to what we were making at that time. Someone e-mailed that in (I'm sorry I don't remember who and I'm too tired to look it up). I'm sure we'll link to something of their's again before the year's over. But we're not concerned with losing a link. If we were print and took advertisements, we wouldn't worry about losing ads. To me, it's the same thing. Blah, blah, blah.

Let's note that Rush Limbaugh is now attacking a voice we've identified as one that speaks to us (Katrina vanden Heuvel) and you can read about it at Media Matters: 'Limbaugh called Nation editor, husband "well-known communist[s]" .'