17 February 2016 **** Front Page

Journalism in the spirit of I.F. Stone

By Tapani Lausti

Robert Parry, America's Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison, to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes, to Barack Obama. The Medium Consortium 2012.

Robert Parry received recently the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence from Harvard's Nieman Foundation. Stone was an independent journalist who published I.F. Stone's Weekly during the McCarthy era and the Vietnam War, setting a standard for independence that Parry has tried to follow.

Stone launched his own paper in 1953 to gain absolute journalistic freedom. I. F. Stone's Weekly had only four pages. Stone showed how to identify essential facts from a huge amount of information. He didn't have many friends in high places in Washington, D.C. but he knew how to study official documents. He could put questionable politics in historical context and reveal the true motivations behind the fog of self-serving propaganda.

In many ways Parry's career echoes Stone's example. In the mid-nineties Parry realised that the space for serious investigative journalism was closing down. At the same time internet had just appeared as an alternative channel of information. In 1995, with his son Sam, Parry launched the first investigative publication on the internet, Consortiumnews.com.

In this his latest book, Parry shows his skill and patience in going through official material to show how the United States is in many aspects ruled by a ruthless elite who don't hesitate to hide the true state of things and even tell outright lies to further their careers. Too many journalists have followed their example.

Indeed, one worrying aspect of the United States is that through American media, US citizens get a very hazy idea what their country is up to in the wider world. Together with the neocons' ideology of US “exceptionalism” Americans are made to believe that the rest of the world looks up to their country. Little do they know that according to international polls the majority of the world population sees the US as the greatest threat to world peace.

In this book Parry concentrates on events that he has personally analysed in depth. They are the 1968 and 1980 elections, the Iran-Contra affair and related scandals. Colin Powell and Robert Gates are greatly admired by many Americans but Parry reveals the dark side of their careers. The false narratives of their conduct hide the fact that in the course of their professional lives innocent people got killed. Many other leaders come out of Parry's analyses looking like truly horrible human beings.

During the 1968 election campaign Richard Nixon sabotaged Lyndon Johnson's peace plan to end the Vietnam War. Nixon wanted to stop a deal that might have helped Johnson to win the election. As a consequence, at least a million more lives were lost in Indochina. In 1980 Ronald Reagan's campaign tactics stopped President Jimmy Carter's negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran. Later, under Reagan and George H.W. Bush's watch, an illegal arms-for-hostage swap was secretly put into operation. These dishonest operations have rarely been properly investigated and revealed by the mainstream media.

Scandals, lies and moral corruption feature in the careers of so many US leaders. And through all the years of governments' false narratives the US mainstream media has sung to the tune of corrupt elites instead of investigating what has gone horribly wrong in American social, political and economic life.

The inability or unwillingness of the media to look into the premises of US foreign policy is well analysed by Parry. He writes about “the three-way intersection of moneyed interests, the media and politics.” Parry continues: “… strings were pulled on decisions that pushed the United States in directions favorable to the Washington/ New York elites outside the view of average Americans -- and often at the cost of many thousands of lives. The dead were usually the people of some unfortunate country that attracted Washington 's displeasure or the US soldiers put in harm's way enforcing Washington 's wishes.”

Since the 1970s an ideologically extreme crowd of intellectuals has made their way into the corridors of power. The neo-conservatives, according to Parry, “appreciated how information could be manipulated to achieve political ends.” Parry comments: “As battle-hardened intellectuals adept at ideological warfare, the neocons came to view themselves as a vanguard with special gifts of intelligence and leadership that made them superior to the average American.”

An illuminating case study is the career of Robert Gates. A protégé of George H.W. Bush, he got the job as head of the CIA in 1991. Gates immediately frustrated the congressional investigation into Bush's treasonous behaviour during the 1980 scandal. There was nothing Gates wouldn't do to toe the neocon-line and further his own lies-ridden career. During a Senate committee hearing on his nomination, Gates had to defend himself against accusations that he had deliberately distorted intelligence information about the Soviet Union he'd presented to the Reagan Administration.

This is how Parry describes Gates's behaviour during his years in the CIA: “Most notably, Gates ingratiated himself with the administrative's Cold War hardliners, including the emerging neoconservatives, by distorting CIA analyses to exaggerate the Soviet menace — and thus justify higher military spending and more aggresive strategies.”

Not being able to predict the fall of the Soviet Union should have destroyed Gates's credibility. But no, the people who lost their jobs were the real experts on the Soviet Union . Practically all senior analysts on Soviet foreign policy left.

Gates also torpedoed any possibility of a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan after the Russians left. Gates went out of his way to emphasise the need of aggressive US military interventions everywhere in the world.

Later Gates served as George W. Bush's Defense Secretary. Some commentators were alarmed to realise that Barack Obama was going to retain Gates in this job. Parry wrote at the time: “However, if Obama does keep Gates on, the new President will be employing someone who embodies many of the worst elements of U.S. national security policy over the past three decades, including the responsibility for what Obama himself has fingered as a chief concern, ‘politicized intelligence'.”

Robert Parry's career speaks mountains of the reality of Washington 's political and media life. Revealing the lies of high-ranking politicians pushed him outside mainstream media. He is still there with his Consortiumnews.com, but in the past he experienced painful moments when he realised that the truths he had dug up were not welcome in many editors' eyes. Parry experienced first-hand how far the intimidation of independent journalism can go in the US.

Interestingly, some old CIA dissidents write for Consortiumnews.com. Their expertise is now further fortified by an ability to write with a strong historical perspective. In their time, they had a unique opportunity to see how the American narrative was stolen. Parry's book is an important source for understanding what really happened.

 

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Visit the Website of I.F. Stone

The archive: Robert Parry, United States, Media, Middle East, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Edward S. Herman, Diana Johnstone, John Pilger

 

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