Pepe Eliaschev–A Proud Memory

The death of my friend and colleague, the Argentine journalist Jose “Pepe” Eliaschev, brings to mind a story that deserves to be told. Pepe died of pancreatic cancer in Buenos Aires on November 18, 2014. He was 69. He had for decades been a popular commentator and host on Argentine radio.

As young newsmen at The Associated Press in New York in the 1970s, Pepe and I were proud conspirators when some supervisors on the Latin America desk tried to censor or limit news about the right-wing Argentine military dictatorship.

I was on the World Desk at AP headquarters in New York. My job was to edit, transmit and sometimes report world news in English for our worldwide service in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Pepe sat several yards away at La Prensa Asociada — the Latin America desk, translating and transmitting news into Spanish for Mexico, Central and South America. As in the case of Pepe, some were from countries whose repressive regimes made journalism difficult and dangerous.

Others were right-wingers and even made sneering remarks in Spanish, assuming no one could understand. They didn’t know I spoke Spanish. In particular, some of the Latin editors supported the Argentine dictatorship, which at the time was deep into on a Dirty War and would end up killing or “disappearing” more than 20,000 people.

Pepe told me that some of the bosses were intercepting—“disappearing”—news stories that might be “embarrassing to Argentina.”

We knew, though, they couldn’t block stories if the English-speaking side of the desk originated or selected stories to publish – for example, the Carter administration’s human rights concerns, or questions about the role of the Catholic Church.

So Pepe would let me know when someone tried to weed out a story that might reflect badly on the Argentine dictatorship. All I had to do was resurrect the story on the international line in English.  They were then forced to translate and transmit the report to the South American news lines.

This was significant, because many newspapers in Latin America self-censored their own reporting at home for reasons of safety; stories originating from AP in the United States could more easily be published.

One story in particular came in 1978 – the height of the Dirty War.  Pepe told me that one of the members of the organization Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was in New York and ready to be interviewed. I was able to write a national and international story about the group’s efforts to find children stolen from their imprisoned and murdered parents.

Pepe and I kept our heads down – that story and others appeared on the Latin wire as was only fair and fitting to our role as journalists. The goal was to make sure that all the news was available regardless of politics. It’s a proud memory of my old friend.

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Presidential Fingerprints In Missouri

 

The President Speaks at Martha’s Vineyard. (White House Photo)

Faced with the tense situation that had developed in suburban St. Louis. President Obama performed decisively, even historically, on Thursday. His actions were so subtle that few people acknowledged or credited his role. The chain of events:

  • He scheduled a 12:15 p.m. statement about Iraq and the St. Louis story, and we then learned he was delayed.
  • In the interim, historical perspective was evident. Congressman John Lewis, the conscience of the Civil Rights era, appeared on MSNBC where he told Andrea Mitchell that he heard echoes of the 1960s.
  • President Obama finally came on the air from Martha’s Vineyard, announced and reaffirmed no boots on the ground needed in Iraq and then turned to Ferguson, Missouri, saying he had just spoken with Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri.

 I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened, and to find a way to come together going forward.  He is going to be traveling to Ferguson.  He is a good man and a fine governor, and I’m confident that, working together, he is going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done….

Despite calls for federalizing the National Guard, no boots were needed on the ground here either.

Within hours, the governor, described as taciturn and avoiding the situation (he had been en route to the Missouri State Fair), diverted to St. Louis and appointed an African-American State Police Captain, Ronald Johnson, to take over policing.

Everything changed. Reporters, including Wesley Lowery, the Washington Post writer who had been arrested by police a day earlier, tweeted they had seen an immediate turnaround. This from the Washington Post:

As a result, the heavy riot armor, the SWAT trucks with sniper posts and the gas masks were gone from the streets of Ferguson Thursday night, and Johnson marched with the crowd, eliciting cheers from the protesters. Johnson vowed to not blockade the streets, to set up a media staging center, and to ensure that residents’ rights to assemble and protest were not infringed upon.

“I’m not afraid to be in this crowd,” Johnson declared to reporters.

Here’s what the New York Times reported:

Captain Johnson, who is African-American and grew up in the area, said: “We’re just starting today anew. We’re starting a new partnership today. We’re going to move forward today, to put yesterday and the day before behind us.”

A New York Times Editorial acknowledged the change, but only said “higher authorities” had wisely prevailed.

Higher authorities wisely stepped into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday after a night that startled the nation with images of police overkill: flash grenades, rubber bullets and huge clouds of tear gas fired at demonstrators protesting the police shooting Saturday of an unarmed black teenager.

Gov. Jay Nixon — after keeping a low profile for too long — made an urgent tour of the town and replaced local police officers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He gave the Highway Patrol an order that should have been given over the weekend: Let protesters who are angry about the shooting protest peacefully, without aggressive demands to disperse, as is their constitutional right.

The change in temperature? Organized quietly, plain, simple and with surgical precision, by the President of the United States. Did anyone happen to notice?

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The Hoax That Started The Iraq War

Knut Royce, my co-writer and compadre,  marks the revised publication of our book, The Italian Letter–The Forgery That Started the Iraq War

Remembering the Hoax That Helped Launch the U.S. Invasion, and Later Disintegration, of Iraq

BUSH

More than a decade after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, veteran journalists Peter Eisner and Knut Royce are releasing a new edition of their groundbreaking book, The Italian Letter. More relevant than ever, The Italian Letter provides explosive, historic insights for a greater understanding of the Iraq War and how the United States got there. Here is a report by Royce on the hoax that helped launch the U.S. invasion and led to today’s disintegration of the country.

The never-ending war in Iraq and the birth of the newly declared Islamic State — the first caliphate since the fall of the Ottoman Empire — are the unintended consequences of a set of crudely forged intelligence documents we collectively call The Italian Letter.

Introduced to the CIA in bits and pieces beginning shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 al Qaeda attack on America, the bogus reports were key to generating critical public support for the invasion of Iraq. That war, in turn, has led to that country’s disintegration and helped usher in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), run by a well-funded, growing terrorist organization described by experts as more threatening to the U.S. than al Qaeda. It rules the Islamic State and dreams of expansion.

Read the full article

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Before Bombing Syria, Read “The Italian Letter”

Posted on September 4, 2013 by Laurie Garrettcover1 copy

          As Congress debates whether President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of sarin gas to kill some 1,400 fellow-Syrians merits retaliatory American military action, many are recalling the “weapons of mass destruction” rationale used to justify U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
         Though Secretary of State John Kerry has been at pains in recent days to underscore the caliber of intelligence supporting the Obama administration’s claims of Assad genocidal use of nerve gas, there is public doubt.
      We’ve been here before, and Americans are weary not only of war, but also of con artists in positions of power.      Much of the language used to describe the Syrian situation is reminiscent of phrases and claims utilized by the George W. Bush administration to garner intervention backing from the United Nations Security Council, a long list of allies, and the United States Congress.

         So it is inevitable that nine years later, amid chatter of U.S. cruise missile launches to take out Syrian government military stockpiles I should revisit the sorry history of Bush’s drumbeats of war. 

          The Italian Letter is my choice for a brilliantly researched, jaw-dropping book that ought to be on every politician’s reading list this week.  READ ENTIRE POST

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President Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

President Obama speaks about the killing of Trayvon Martin at a surprise appearance before the White House press corps.

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Eugene Robinson: Black Boys Denied the Right to be Young

Gene Robinson in the Washington Post–his starkly clear view of the Zimmerman trial.  It is worth reading.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.

Read the column

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Snowden: Whistleblower or Spy?

The Guardian, home paper of Edward Snowden’s leaks on data mining, publishes an editorial defending him as a whistleblower who should be tried in that context:

Edward Snowden: a whistleblower, not a spy

He has published US government information. And it is for this – not espionage – that he will have to answer to the law

read the full Guardian editorial

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