I have discussed in the past (see here and here) that all governments know the value right after a major event of controlling the message and getting their version of the story out first, especially if it is false.
The least effective way to do this is to actually own the media or practice overt censorship because then everyone sees propaganda for what it is. The most effective, as in the US, is have the aid of sycophantic major media that will self-censor and bias their reporting towards the point of view that puts their own country and government in the best light.
In other countries, where there is at least one major media outlet that may be willing to take a critical look, the government has to take quick steps after events that make the government look bad, like the murder this week by Israeli troops of peace activists on the aid flotilla. What Israel did was to immediately confine the people it captured on the boats, at last for a day or two, so that their version of events is suppressed while pro-Israel sources get to set the storyline. They did a similar clampdown during their assault on Gaza in 2008.
But as Glenn Greenwald points out, such a policy directly contradicts the ludicrous Israeli claim that they are the true victims in this incident:
Isn’t it strange how Plucky, Democratic Israel goes to such extreme lengths to prevent any media coverage of what they do, any journalistic interference with their propaganda machine, in light of the fact that — as always — They Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong? Is physically blocking the media from covering what happens the act of a government that is in the right? Thomas Jefferson answered that question quite some time ago:
Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.
Israel is now not only detaining the victims of its aggression, but also threatening to prosecute and imprison them. Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said yesterday: “All those who lifted a hand against a soldier will be punished to the full extent of the law.” So when Israel seizes ships in international waters and kills anyone who resists (and others standing near them), that is an act of noble, plucky self-defense. But those who fail to submit completely to this lawless and barbarous act of aggression are the Real Criminals who will be prosecuted and imprisoned “to the fullest extent of the law.” In other words, not only is Israel — which seized ships in international waters and killed civilians — the Real Victim, but the Real Criminals are those on the ship.
Former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern adds some interesting background about the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that I wrote about yesterday. He says that Israel had actually planned to kill off every single one of the US servicemen on the vessel and was only prevented from doing so because one sailor managed to get a distress message off to the US Sixth Fleet.
The Israelis later insisted that the strafing and torpedo attacks were accidents in the fog of war. However, U.S. intelligence intercepted Israeli conversations at the time showing the attacks were deliberate, and their nature and persistence showed clear intent to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.
Israeli commandos clad in black were about to land from helicopters and finish off what remained of the Liberty crew when Seaman Terry Halbardier (later awarded the Silver Star) slid over the Liberty’s napalm-greased deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet.
Israeli forces intercepted the SOS and quickly broke off the attack. But 34 of the Liberty crew were killed and over 170 wounded.
To avoid exacerbating relations with Israel, the U.S. Navy was ordered to cover up the deliberate nature of the attack, and the surviving crew was threatened with imprisonment, if they so much as told their wives. When some of the crew later called for an independent investigation, they were hit with charges of anti-Semitism. (my emphasis)
There is a poignant link of that 1967 attack with this week’s attack on the aid flotilla:
One of the surviving crew of the USS Liberty, decorated Navy veteran Joe Meadors, was with the “Freedom Flotilla” when it was attacked on Sunday night. Meadors is past president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. The State Department tells us that Joe Meadors survived this latest Israeli attack. At last word, he sits in an Israeli jail.
McGovern points out that Obama’s cowardliness and timidity towards Israel is only going to make things worse and increase that country’s reckless behavior as it accelerates its aggressive campaign of building settlements in the occupied territories and fomenting war fever against Iran.
As President, he has backed down at every significant moment when Netanyahu thumbed his nose at Obama or at Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama knew about the “Freedom Flotilla” and its plan to bring supplies to Gaza. And he had to be aware of Israel’s threats to attack the relief ships. But, like Uncle Remus’s B’rer Fox, Obama “don’t say nothin.’”
More and more people around the globe are seeing Obama as subservient to the Likud Lobby, perhaps not as enthusiastically as Bush was, but still unwilling to put action behind his occasional words of dissatisfaction. Important players in the Middle East, as well as increasingly assertive countries like Turkey and Brazil, conclude that the policies and behavior of Tel Aviv and Washington are virtually identical.
Right on cue, Washington is dutifully playing its assigned role in the cover-up that has already begun, which is to block any concerted international action against Israel:
The United States has blocked demands at the UN security council for an international inquiry into Israel’s assault on the Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza that left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.
A compromise statement instead calls for an impartial investigation which Washington indicated could be carried out by Israel.
The Americans also blocked criticism of Israel for violating international law by assaulting a ship in international waters in the security council statement proposed by Turkey, the Palestinians and Arab nations. (my emphasis)
Of course Obama thinks that Israel can conduct an impartial inquiry of its actions, just as I am sure he thinks that BP should conduct the impartial inquiry into the gulf oil disaster.
Ken Silverstein of Harper’s magazine outlines the predictable way that media coverage in the US will play out and the kinds of things that Israel’s reflexive apologists in the US will say, and concludes “Give it up, guys. When you starve and imprison the West Bank and Gaza, deny equal rights to your growing Arab population, repeatedly flout international law in launching military attacks that kill civilians, etc etc etc the word democracy either doesn’t apply or has no meaning.”
Whether it is the case that the US is Israel’s puppet or the other way around is becoming irrelevant. The US and Israel are seen by the rest of the world as conjoined twins engaged in lawlessness, and the inevitable consequence will be more attacks on the US by those harmed by Israeli actions and see the US as its patron and enabler. While this collusion may please those who want create the impression that the interests of the US and Israel are identical, it can only be of concern to those who care about peace and justice.
POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert nails the Sunday morning talk shows
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