The Metropolitan Opera’s censorship of The Death of Klinghoffer

David Walsh

Mavi Marmara Massacre Whitewash Redux
UN Report on Mavi Marmara Massacre

The decision by New York City’s Metropolitan Opera to cancel its plans for worldwide high-definition video transmission and radio broadcast of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer is a scandalous and cowardly capitulation to right-wing forces, with far-reaching implications.

Adams’ opera, with a libretto by Alice Goodman, recounts the October 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by four members of the Palestine Liberation Front, during which the terrorists killed 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer, confined to a wheelchair, and threw his body overboard.

The claim that the work is “anti-Jewish” (per the cover of Rupert Murdoch’s gutter New York Post on June 18) is libelous and absurd. It can only be credited by those who have neither seen the opera nor read the text of its libretto—or who have an ideological axe to grind. The musical piece, which opens with choruses of “Exiled Palestinians” and “Exiled Jews,” respectively, is a poetic, somber effort to come to terms with the historical tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The only anti-Semitic lines (often cited by opponents of the opera) are given to a character nicknamed “Rambo,” an obvious sadist and thug.

The opera’s real crime is to give a voice to the Palestinian people and identify their oppression. The “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians” begins, “My father’s house was razed/In nineteen forty-eight/When the Israelis passed/Over our street.” Any reference to the historical reality of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is intolerable to the pro-Zionist elements. Munich, the 2005 film written by Tony Kushner and directed by Steven Spielberg, was subject to a similar smear campaign.

In letter to Obama, Bradley Manning defends exposure of war crimes

David Walsh

US Army Private Bradley Manning, who helped bring to light innumerable crimes of the American government and armed forces, was sentenced to 35 years in military prison Wednesday, a sentence without precedent for the “crime” of whistle-blowing.

At a press conference the same day, Manning’s attorney, David Coombes, read aloud an open letter from the 25-year-old army private to President Barack Obama. The statement will be included in a request to the Secretary of the Army asking Obama to pardon Manning or commute his sentence to time already served.

The letter is an honest, powerful document, which outlines Manning’s motives for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents. It is unlike the stage-managed “confession” that Manning was obliged to give before his military tribunal in Ft. Meade, Maryland on August 14, during which he apologized for his actions.

In his letter to Obama, Manning first explains that the decision to release the incriminating material was “made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in.” He adds that he agreed at first with the methods adopted by US authorities following 9/11. Not until Manning was deployed to Iraq and began “reading secret military reports on a daily basis” did he start “to question the morality of what we were doing.”

US Senate approves John Brennan, tied to torture and drone assassination, as CIA director

David Walsh

John Brennan, the mastermind of the Obama administration’s drone assassination program, was confirmed by the US Senate as CIA director on Thursday by a vote of 63 to 34. The confirmation, which comes as no surprise, is another step in the direction of extra-constitutional, dictatorial rule in the United States.

Four years ago, Brennan was considered by Barack Obama for the CIA position, but his association with torture under George W. Bush made his nomination “politically difficult,” as the New York Times euphemistically puts it. The Obama administration today, along with the US Congress, has no such qualms.

The vast majority of Democrats in the Senate voted for Brennan’s nomination, along with a handful of Republicans. Obama immediately praised the vote, saying, “The Senate has recognized in John the qualities I value so much.”

The vote followed a quarrel within the political establishment over the claim by the Obama administration that it has the authority to assassinate American citizens on US soil without trial or charges being laid. The tremors the debate set off are indicative of the depth of the political crisis in the US and the great concern of the ruling elite to conceal its preparations for police-state dictatorship from the American population.

Photos of US troops defiling corpses expose Afghan war’s savagery

David Walsh

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times published horrific photographs of American troops in Afghanistan posing with dead and dismembered insurgents.

US soldiers and Afghan policemen posing with the mangled
remains of a suspected suicide bomber in Afghanistan. The
Los Angeles Times building is seen in the background.

The grisly images expose Washington’s claim that the occupation of the country is aimed at liberating the Afghan people. They reflect the savage reality of the US-led operation, intended to crush popular opposition to foreign rule and establish Afghanistan as a base from which the US ruling elite can pursue its efforts to dominate the geo-strategically critical region.

The Los Angeles Times photos, recently supplied to the newspaper by an unnamed US soldier, were apparently taken on two separate occasions in 2010. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were first dispatched to a police station in Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan in February 2010 to examine the remains of a suicide bomber for identification purposes. As the newspaper describes it: “The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held—and others squatted beside—the corpse’s severed legs.”

A few months later, in April 2010, the same platoon was sent to a morgue in Qalat, Zabul’s capital, to investigate the remains of three insurgents who had blown themselves up. The soldiers again posed with the body parts, “grinning and mugging for photographs.”

Describing this set of photos, the Times wrote: “Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading ‘Zombie Hunter’ next to other remains and took a picture.”

The images are an indictment of the American political and military establishment, which has unleashed untold humiliation, death and destruction on the Afghan people for more than a decade. The soldiers involved deserve to be prosecuted, but the principal criminals are to be found in the White House, the Pentagon and the US Congress.

The American “left” and the Strauss-Kahn affair

David Walsh

The arrest May 14 in New York City of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a leading French and global political figure, on sexual assault charges has triggered a significant chain of events. Strauss-Kahn, at first denied bail, was pressured into resigning as head of the IMF May 18, and any hope he had of becoming president of France in the 2012 election is presumably dead.

No one knows what went on in the Sofitel Hotel a week ago Saturday. The sexual assault charges against Strauss-Kahn are extremely serious ones, and if proven guilty, he deserves to be held accountable.

However, as is the case in all such affairs, little of the media uproar has anything to do with objectively setting out the facts of the case, delineating the personalities and issues involved or generally encouraging the emergence of the truth.

The American media has set about poisoning the atmosphere against Strauss-Kahn. The New York Times, the liberal newspaper of record, has been at the front of the pack, treating the French politician’s guilt as an accomplished fact.

Public opinion is formed quickly in such matters, and Times executive editor Bill Keller knows perfectly well what he is doing, helping to contaminate the pool from which Strauss-Kahn’s jury will eventually be selected. One of the Times’ most recent contributions was the May 20 piece, “At I.M.F., Men on Prowl and Women on Guard,” which described the institution as “a sharp-elbowed place ruled by alpha male economists.”

From the point of view of the American media, the affair has become the latest opportunity to divert attention from the social calamity at home and neocolonial wars abroad. Characterizations of the IMF “big shot” as a bestial, serial “rapist,” with their anti-French and anti-Semitic subtext, are aimed at whipping up the basest sentiments in the population.

The serious questions raised by the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair

David North & David Walsh

The arrest of French financier and politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York City on sexual assault charges and his continued imprisonment is a disturbing event with far-reaching implications.

Strauss-Kahn is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), perhaps the most powerful global capitalist financial institution, and a prominent figure in the French Socialist Party, one of that country’s leading big business parties. He was expected to announce soon his candidacy for the presidency in 2012, and polls in France had him leading his rivals, President Nicolas Sarkozy and extreme right-winger Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

In his class position, privilege and social outlook, Strauss-Kahn stands for everything the World Socialist Web Site opposes. But he is also a human being who is entitled to democratic rights, which include legal due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Judging from the treatment of Strauss-Kahn since his arrest and the coverage of this event in the American media, this presumption does not exist.

Neither we nor anyone else—outside the accused and the accuser (and, perhaps, other interested and unnamed parties)—know exactly what went on in Strauss-Kahn’s suite at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan on Sunday. Whatever information the public possesses has emerged courtesy of the New York City Police Department, the alleged victim’s lawyer, and the mass media. None of these can be considered reliable sources.

As of yet, no one has heard Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s side of the story. Rather, he has been subjected to a calculated process of humiliation and dehumanization—such as the disgusting “perp walk”—whose obvious purpose is to convict the accused in the public’s mind even before an indictment has been handed down.

The New York Times’ Bill Keller on WikiLeaks: a collapse of democratic sensibility

David Walsh

The New York Times posted a lengthy piece January 26 by Bill Keller, its executive editor, on the subject of the newspaper’s relations with WikiLeaks and its co-founder, Julian Assange. The Times is one of the media outlets that has published excerpts from WikiLeaks’ material on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and its mass of secret US diplomatic cables.

Keller attempts to cover all the bases in his essay, defending himself against accusations that the Times has endangered US “national security”—defaming Assange in the process—and making the case for a “responsible” (that is to say, compliant) media, while at the same time hypocritically opposing government prosecution of WikiLeaks.

Whatever he thinks he has done, Mr. Keller has in fact produced a devastating self-exposure. He has offered us a portrait of the journalist as a quasi-state official and propagandist.

Along these lines, Keller boasts about his efforts to vet the WikiLeaks material with the US government, and acknowledges that the Times collaborated on a daily basis with the State Department after it came into possession of the hundreds of thousands of secret American embassy cables in November 2010.

Above all else, Keller’s essay reveals the collapse of democratic consciousness within the American media and political establishment. The most extraordinary feature of his 8,000 word article is the shamelessness with which he spells out that the Times’ central concern is not enlightening the public, but concealing anything that might damage the US government, its foreign policy and its war aims.

Here is a spokesman for the leading newspaper in the United States who makes clear that he has no commitment to and no understanding of freedom of the press. For Keller and his Times colleagues, the freedom to publish means the freedom not to publish.

The emergence of WikiLeaks has proven an unpleasant turn of events for the Times and the American media as a whole. This small organization, with limited resources, has done what the major news outlets should have been doing for years and deliberately refused to do: shed light on the massive criminality of American diplomatic, intelligence and military activity around the globe.

How to respond to the WikiLeaks phenomenon has obviously been a vexing issue for Keller and the Times’ hierarchy. If they have reacted in part by serving as a conduit for some of the leaked material, it has been in the interests of controlling the exposures as much as possible, limiting their impact and preventing—in Keller’s phrase—“a state of information anarchy” (i.e., widespread access to news outside the official channels) from arising.

Keller intends to strike a pose of balance and moderation, but crass class interest in the form of hostility toward the WikiLeaks project makes its way into paragraph after paragraph of his essay.

The Nation joins the campaign against Julian Assange

David Walsh

The Nation magazine in the US, with its publication of “The Case of Julian Assange” by columnist Katha Pollitt (posted December 22, 2010), has joined the right-wing campaign against WikiLeaks co-founder Assange, a campaign directed by the highest levels of the American state.

The sexual assault charges against Assange in Sweden are part of an orchestrated effort to divert public attention from the content of the WikiLeaks exposures—the duplicity, hypocrisy and criminality of American and world imperialism—and bury the important revelations in a pile of scandalous garbage. Pollitt has eagerly lent a hand to that effort.

Such a development was predictable, given the history of the journalist and the publication, but that does not make it any less reprehensible… or educational. The arguments employed by Pollitt shed further light on the politically rotten character of contemporary feminism and identity politics generally.

Pollitt has written for the Nation, one of the principal voices of American left liberalism, since 1980 and has had a column in the publication since 1995.

In her recent piece on Assange, Pollitt’s modus operandi is to remove the sex charges from their political context—the determined effort to destroy WikiLeaks and its founder—and assert that defenders of Assange are insensitive to rape and sexual violence against women. This is hardly a new, or persuasive, ploy.

New WikiLeaks documents expose US foreign policy conspiracies

David Walsh

WikiLeaks not only has the legal right, it has the moral obligation to do anything in its power to disrupt these bloody operations. It is to the everlasting shame of the mainstream media that it has not exerted any of its efforts along the same lines.

The batch of 250,000 US classified documents released by WikiLeaks to several news outlets, some of whose content was made public Sunday, sheds new light on the sordid nature of American imperialist intrigue and conspiracy around the globe.

The WSWS will analyze the documents more thoroughly in a subsequent article, but “highlights” published by the Guardian and the New York Times are revealing.

The leaked material consists of classified cables from US embassies, some dispatched as recently as early 2010. The cables, most of which date from 2007-2010, contain US officials’ comments on foreign governments and leaders and speculation about the activities and maneuvers of the latter, as well as details about American foreign policy operations.

In a revelation that should surprise no one, the US State Department and American diplomacy in general turn out to be a vast nest of spies.

Sweden issues international arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Assange

David Walsh

Swedish authorities, stepping up their persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, have issued an international arrest warrant for his detention in relation to trumped-up “rape” charges.

Sweden’s Director of Prosecution, Marianne Ny, claims that Assange needs to be questioned. “So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogations,” she said. The court ruling will allow prosecutors to seek assistance from other nations to have him arrested.

The case against Assange is aimed at discrediting or weakening WikiLeaks, which has made public hundreds of thousands of secret US documents exposing the criminal character of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. (See “The WikiLeaks documents and the rape of Iraq”) The Swedish prosecutor’s campaign has all the hallmarks of a “dirty tricks” operation organized or encouraged by either the Pentagon or the CIA, or both.

The charges have nothing to do with sexual assault, despite screaming media headlines. They relate to Assange’s encounters this past summer with two Swedish women. Rebutting prosecutor Ny’s comments in a strongly worded statement Tuesday, Mark Stephens, one of Assange’s British lawyers, explained that the allegations

“do not constitute what any advanced legal system considers to be rape; as various media outlets have reported ‘the basis for the rape charge’ purely seems to constitute a post facto dispute over consensual, but unprotected sex days after the event.”

The charges against Assange were, in fact, properly dropped last August within 24 hours by chief prosecutor Eva Finne, who found there was no “reason to suspect that he [Assange] had committed rape.” However, Assange’s identity had already been unlawfully disclosed to the right-wing media by the Swedish authorities. Stephens asserts, “The so called ‘rape’ story was carried around the world and has caused Mr. Assange and his organization irreparable harm.”

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