Tag Archives: washington post

A Graceful Star is Lost, Anthony Shadid, 1968-2012

By Rick Gladstone
Anthony Shadid, a gifted foreign correspondent whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, on Thursday while on a reporting assignment in Syria. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Mr. Shadid, carried his body across the border to Turkey.

Some impressions from the Washington Post days.
I was sometimes at the other end of the phone when he was filing from
Baghdad. The first thing you can say is that he had a mission and was
consumed by what he could do, and his work was larger than his place
of employment. He had incrementally created himself to become the
foreign correspondent he was. At AP in Egypt, he learned Arabic, which
his family did not much speak, second or third generation, back in
Oklahoma City. He saw his job as interpreting purely without a filter
the arcane world for an audience of Americans who needed to know and
were ignorant at their peril. He gave himself the tools to do his work
and few of his generation approached his level after that.

He looked to interpret a story by boring into the essential humanity,
listening to the barbers on the main drag talking about the war, or
sitting with a mother who had watched her son board a bus and go north
to war and death, or overhearing the booksellers who at all cost
needed to affirm and preserve their culture as it crumbled around
them. He gave his stories a universality — what country was this?—in
a sense it was the human story.

He lived close to death and that was implicit in his work. His family might not have
been able to stand it, weeks apart with the daily weight of his
possible death for having gone many steps too far. He was compelled to
work, nevertheless, family or not, and he returned to the field.

His writing was inspired, didn’t need much editing, was too long and
he got away with it. He was proud, smiled gently back in the office
and was diffident listening to praise. He was forgiving of editors who
weren’t with the program, top to bottom, argued for good sense and to
my view, only was happy when he was out the door and back in the
field.

In short, he was a a classic case of the stereotype of the foreign
correspondent, who then shot through that stereotype and created
a new standard, better than most.

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Filed under 1, Egypt, Journalism, Middle East

Fear without Facts: “Iranian sleeper agents” in the Caribbean

A former U.S. official is pushing the idea that Venezuela and Iran have created a base for terrorists and sleeper agents on the island of Margarita in the Caribbean.

True or not, Roger Noriega’s dire warning about Hugo Chavez and his terrorism connection sounds like fodder for a Johnny Depp movie. (Ayatollah Tourists in the Caribbean?)

Noriega, former assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush, writes in the Washington Post that President Obama is missing the real story on his tour of Latin America. Never fear, Noriega is ready to tell us  “the real” story, which by the way can’t be proved or disproved. It can only be doubted.

Noriega’s ideas and warnings about Venezuela have been featured on the Washington Post opinion pages before. The method is based on agitprop, the underlying principle of the very successful campaign that brought us war on Iraq, a war much less successful than the propaganda campaign. Here’s how you play–first understand agitprop.

“agitprop, abbreviated from Russian agitatsiya propaganda (agitation propaganda), political strategy in which the techniques of agitation and propaganda are used to influence and mobilize public opinion. Although the strategy is common, both the label and an obsession with it were specific to the Marxism practiced by communists in the Soviet Union.

The twin strategies of agitation and propaganda were originally elaborated by the Marxist theorist Georgy Plekhanov, who defined propaganda as the promulgation of a number of ideas to an individual or small group and agitation as the promulgation of a single idea to a large mass of people. ” Encyclopedia Britannica online

Next blend some truths with  information that no one can prove to be categorically true or false. The unnamed sources cited by Noriega are  “from within the Venezuelan regime,” and tell him that a terrorist conclave took place in Venezuela.  “Among those present were Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, who is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists; Hamas’s “supreme leader,” Khaled Meshal; and Hezbollah’s “chief of operations.”

Cting his conversation with  “a Venezuelan government source,”  Noriega further tells us that “two Iranian terrorist trainers are on Venezuela’s Margarita Island…” The trainers are

“instructing operatives who have assembled from around the region. In addition, radical Muslims from Venezuela and Colombia are brought to a cultural center in Caracas named for the Ayatollah Khomeini and Simon Bolivar for spiritual training, and some are dispatched to Qom, Iran, for Islamic studies. Knowledgeable sources confirm that the most fervent recruits in Qom are given weapons and explosives training and are returned home as ‘sleeper’ agents.”

Noriega, when he was in office, once told me in matter-of-fact terms that Cuban operatives had taken over Venezuela’s intelligence service, which was thereby at the bidding of Fidel Castro. That apparently didn’t fly very well. Now that Iran is the enemy du jour, why not point to Iran-trained sleeper agents, a couple of hundred miles off U.S. shores?

I asked a knowledgeable source about Noriega’s story, but on the record: Vincent Cannistraro, who is former Director of Intelligence Programs for the  National Security Council and former Chief of Operations and Analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency‘s Counterterrorist Center.

“It’s not based on confirmed intelligence,” nor is there a plot or an imminent threat, Cannistraro said. “Noriega has a one-track mind on Chavez and ties to Iran. This is poorly sourced, as usual. We know Chavez and his predilections, but he is not in the Iranian terrorist nest.”

It isn’t easy to prove a negative, as they say, but let’s ask Noriega and the Washington Post opinion pages for evidence. Otherwise, skepticism reigns.

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Filed under Bush, Intelligence, Journalism, Latin America, Middle East, Obama

Condoleezza Rice–The Egypt Story Writ Wrong

The Washington Post Opinion page, in its latest attempt to rehabilitate and give ink to the Bush 43 presidency, gave empty space to Condoleezza Rice to opine on Egypt. Rice goes so far as to suggest that in 2005, she presaged democratic rule in Egypt in a Cairo speech.

She writes: “Following in the vein of President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, I said that the United States would stand with people who seek freedom. This was an admission that the United States had, in the Middle East more than any other region, sought stability at the expense of democracy, and had achieved neither. It was an affirmation of our belief that the desire for liberty is universal – not Western, but human – and that only fulfillment of that desire leads to true stability.”

She is wrong, of course, about the United States–it sought neither stability nor democracy in Iraq, rather a chimeric vision of imposed American order, and failed.

Rice’s opinion piece comes several weeks after a similar foray by Elliott Abrams, a former Middle East point man at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. These are part of an effort to recast the Bush administration and its disastrous Middle East policy as a prescient system that only now is bearing fruit.

In fact, Rice and Abrams and their team perverted U.S. values in the Middle East when they invaded Iraq– creating the concept of and precedent for preemptive war–war that can be waged whenever the United States so pleases. My colleague Knut Royce and I wrote a book, The Italian Letter, which debunks a central claim of the former members of the Bush administration on the U.S. invasion of Iraq — that they were acting “on the best intelligence available at the time.” The book shows that statement to be a lie, even though a majority of Americans probably think the statement is right. Propaganda, in the hands of skilled apparatchiks, such as Karl Rove and Michael Gerson — the latter another denizen of the Wash Post opinion pages — is hard to beat back.

Empty words are empty however they are coated; Rice’s article is a poorly threaded garment draped over the truth.

Rice, under orders from the White House PR squad in 2002 that created the image of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, warned the world with tremulous voice that we should fear mushroom clouds on the horizon. So doing, along with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and the rest, she helped wreck the image of the United States in the world. Not to mention the war itself, which cost countless lives and billions upon billions of dollars.

At least, in the present Washington Post article, Rice comes close to reality in one disjointed phrasing–“The fall of communism unleashed patriots who had long regarded the United States as a “beacon of freedom.” Our history with the peoples of the Middle East is very different.”

Other than that, Rice’s splattering of words on the page adds up to a tone-deaf rendering of Chopsticks, a two-fingered song on the piano, little better than empty space and silence.

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Filed under Bush, Condi Rice, Egypt, Politics