UN Watch Better Watch Itself: The Demonization of Richard Falk

Jeremy R Hammond writes in a guest column, originally published in CounterPunc   

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Richard Falk

The Zionist organization UN Watch has cited a commentary by Professor Richard Falk on the Boston bombings in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon demanding that that Prof. Falk be reprimanded for it. Prof. Falk, who serves as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, originally posted the commentary on his blog and I republished it, as I often do his writings, with his kind permission, in Foreign Policy Journal, which version UN Watch links to in its letter. As one should expect, the letter from UN Watch is characterized by its dishonesty and vain attacks on Prof. Falk’s character that deflect attention away from and fail to address the substance of what he wrote.

The UN Watch letter begins with the lie that Prof. Falk in his article “justifies the Boston terrorist attacks”. The UN Watch letter also falsely claims that Prof. Falk blamed the Boston terrorist attacks on Israel and characterized the attacks as “due ‘retribution’ for American sins”. Where Mr. Falk discusses Israel in the article, it is in the larger context of blowback for U.S. foreign policies, including the 9/11 attacks, which, as the 9/11 Commission noted in its report, were motivated in no small part by U.S. support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Nowhere in his commentary does Mr. Falk blame Israel for or otherwise connect Israel to the bombings in Boston. As for the word “retribution”, where it appears in Mr. Falk’s article, it is in the context of a quote from someone else. What Falk actually wrote was:

Listening to a PBS program hours after the Boston event, I was struck by the critical attitudes of several callers to the radio station: …. Another caller asked “is this not a kind of retribution for torture inflicted by American security forces acting under the authority of the government, and verified for the world by pictures of the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib?”

Nowhere did Falk say the attack was “due” or “justified”. The letter goes on this way with its fabricated charges against Falk’s character. At the UN Watch blog, the letter is prefaced with the remark that Falk “was recently expelled by the Human Rights Watch [HRW] organization”. The link directs readers to a video embedded in another UN Watch blog post claiming that Falk was “Removed For Anti-Semitism”, the source for that claim being none other than Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of UN Watch and author of the letter to the Secretary-General. In fact, the reason Mr. Falk left HRW’s local support committee in Santa Barbara, California, was because of HRW’s “longstanding policy, applied many times, that no official from any government or UN agency can serve on any Human Rights Watch committee or its Board. It was an oversight on our part that we did not apply that policy in Richard Falk’s case several years ago when he assumed his UN position.” But the truth just doesn’t serve Neuer’s or his organization’s agenda, so he prefers to make up lies to demonize an honorable man.

The UN Watch’s lies have been parroted elsewhere by unscrupulous so-called “journalists” who don’t let little things like honesty or integrity get in the way of an opportunity to manufacture a sensational headline.

Ann Beyefsky, for example, at Breitbartunashamedly lies that “Richard Falk has published a statement saying Bostonians got what they deserved in last week’s terror attack” before accusing him of “antisemitism” for his criticisms of Israeli policies in his role as Special Rapporteur for the U.N. The fact that Mr. Falk is himself Jewish shouldn’t cause anyone to be surprised that he would face such a charge; indeed, this kind of intellectually and morally bankrupt accusation is standard fare for apologists of Israel’s constant violations of international law. It certainly comes as no surprise that Beyefsky is unable to produce any quotes from Mr. Falk to back up any of her disgraceful lies about him.

The JTA (Jewish Telegraph Agency) repeated in a headline the lie that Falk “pins blame for Boston Marathon bombing on ‘Tel Aviv’” and repeats the falsehood that Falk “called the Boston attack ‘retribution’ for the actions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan”, which leads one to wonder whether the author of the JTA story even bothered to read Falk’s article or relied entirely on UN Watch’s distortions of it for its own reporting.

The Times of Israel also picked up the story, stating that Falk “has a history of provocative and outrages [sic, i.e., “outrageous”] statements, both supporting Islamic terror and bashing Israel.” The Times of Israel would have a very hard time indeed finding any substantiation for its lie that Falk has made statements “supporting Islamic terror”; and “bashing” Israel is the usual euphemism for legitimately criticizing Israel’s constant violations of international law. Just as instructively, the “outrageous” statement referred to in this case is Falk’s remark that “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance… the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks”. The Times of Israel spins this observation into the dishonest headline, “UN official says US had Boston attack coming”; the idiom “to have something coming” meaning, of course, that the outcome is deserved. This headline is just another lie. Yet Mr. Falk neither said nor implied that the U.S. deserved the attacks in Boston.

To offer several more examples of the disingenuous responses to Mr. Falk’s article, Mark Leon Goldberg at UN Dispatch calls Falk’s commentary a “dumb” “diatribe” and feigns not to understand Mr. Falk’s rather elementary point that the U.S. government’s policies create hatred towards the country and result in blowback such as the 9/11 attacks. John Hinderaker at the Power Line blog repeats the lie that Mr. Falk said “Boston had it coming”. Hinderaker reveals his remarkable ignorance by saying that Falk’s statement that “the neocon presidency of George W. Bush, was in 2001 prior to the attacks openly seeking a pretext to launch a regime-changing war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq”, among others, is “false” (the truth of that and other of Mr. Falk’s statements is hardly a secret and not in the least bit controversial). Hinderaker goes on to dismiss Falk as “a lousy writer”, “insane”, “a psychopath” who has a “demented frame of reference, that we associate with mental illness”, “a nut; a crank”, “a mental case”, someone who “should seek treatment for his mental illness.” Bryan Preston at PJ Media similarly repeats the lies that Falk “Justifies” the bombing in his article and said that the U.S. “had this coming”. The Global Dispatch likewise parrots the lie that “Richard Falk said in a statement that Bostonians got what they deserved”.

One is just not supposed to tell the public that U.S. foreign policy results in what intelligence analysts call “blowback”. This is a forbidden truth, reminiscent of the 2007 presidential debate when Rudy Giuliani condemned Ron Paul for making the completely uncontroversial statement that the 9/11 attacks were “blowback” for U.S. foreign policy, to which Dr. Paul replied by standing firm and repeating the uncomfortable truth before the audience. It is a point that Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, Alec Station, has also made in a commentary on the Boston bombings published atForeign Policy Journalin which he remarks that “it is blatantly obvious from the evidence the authorities have presented to date that the attackers were motivated by what the U.S. government does in the Muslim world”.

It is clear from the hysterical reactions to Mr. Falk’s commentary on the Boston bombings that his own sin is in speaking uncomfortable truths many Americans don’t want to hear about their government’s policies, as well as for his courageous stand against Israel’s lawlessness in the face of such demonization by its Zionist apologists.

An updated and extended version of the article appears at the Foreign Policy Journal website.

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and recipient of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. He is the author of The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict  and Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis. He is the founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal and can also be found on the web at JeremyRHammond.com.

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Questions

Palestine Chronicle, September 13, 2012

The finger points everywhere.

At he who starts the fire,
He who pours oil.
Who stands quietly by,
Who screams violently.

Who condemns,
Who applauds.
The slanderer,
The glorifier.

O’ where is He?
To put out the flames.

––Deepak Tripathi

Afghanistan: The Beginning of the Endgame?

Deepak Tripathi

CounterPunch – Palestine Chronicle 

The British government’s decision to withdraw troops from Sangin in Helmand province marks a watershed in the relentless conflict in Afghanistan. The military mission has been very costly for the United Kingdom, with a third of the total casualties sustained in one district alone. More than a hundred lives of soldiers lost and many more wounded coming home is a sign of how difficult the mission has been. In a classic display of guerrilla tactics of asymmetrical warfare, the armed opposition has refused to fight a modern army equipped with high-tech weaponry on its enemy’s terms. Instead, the insurgents have fought on their terms, using rudimentary explosive devices and small weapons with devastating effect. Reaction of Afghans in Sangin will shock many in Britain.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph (July 7, 2010), Ben Farmer reported local residents saying little that is complimentary about the British. One resident openly complained that, in their four-year deployment in Sangin, the British brought only fighting and too little development. The previous Anglo-Afghan wars have left a particularly bitter legacy, although there is also a tendency that things look far better on the other side. Afghanistan remains a fragmented country like it has been for centuries. Rubbing salt in British wounds, an Afghan from a small neighboring settlement said that areas under American control had done better. Ask people in US-controlled areas and their reaction would likely be the opposite. Afghans regularly protest against civilian deaths at the hands of US-led occupation forces all over the country, although many die in suicide attacks directed against people supposed to be cooperating with NATO and the US-installed government in Kabul. Among the latest this month were anti-US and anti-government demonstrations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Residents came out to protest against civilians killings in the south and the east. News travels fast in that devastated country.

‘Afghanistan: Now It’s America’s War,’ said the Independent newspaper’s front-page story loudly in black. For eight years, the British people’s growing unease had been ignored. The United Kingdom, with a population of 62 million and fewer than 200000 regulars (and 42000 volunteers) in the armed forces, had been punching way above its weight. Former prime minister Tony Blair’s personal kinship with George W Bush in his ‘war on terror’ cost the United Kingdom dearly, in economic, political, moral terms. With Blair’s New Labour losing the May 2010 general election, it was relatively easier for the emerging Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to face up to the reality of the Afghan conflict. The inevitable was bound to happen.

There has been a distinct cooling in the relationship between London and Washington since President Obama’s inauguration. Partly it is because President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are no longer in power. But equally significant, Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, and Obama have not made a good start. The Conservative Party is generally pro-military and, in opposition in parliament, voted for war against Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The Liberal Democratic Party, with a much more democratic structure, has significant sections in its membership opposed to, or circumspect about, war. The overall effect of a coalition between the two parties now runs counter to Britain’s continuing involvement in the Afghan conflict that has taken a heavy toll. The rhetoric about continued military involvement in Afghanistan is gloomy. Official statements emphasize the need for British troops to come home as soon as Afghanistan is ‘stable’. What it means remains undefined. The timescale often mentioned is 3-4 years, meaning before the next election.

Initial encounters have a determining effect on relations between leaders. From this perspective, Obama and Cameron did not appear to connect well. Of course, diplomatic niceties were maintained. The British are particularly adept at that. But the difference of emphasis in Washington and London over Afghanistan cannot be hidden. And the megaphone diplomacy over the BP oil spill laid bare the reality that the days of ‘special relationship’ – an exaggerated claim – were decidedly over. President Obama did not hesitate to resort to raw nationalism undermining that ‘special relationship’ to deflect domestic criticism of his handling of the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In doing so, Obama stepped back a decade into the past before British Petroleum and Amoco merged to form an international oil giant that was regarded as much American as it was British until the accident. He resorted to new rhetoric, way below his previous standards, to speak of an assault on US shores (not true because the rig that broke down was extracting oil within US continental waters). The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP was owned by Transocean, a company that traces its origins to Alabama in the 1950s. With its headquarters now based in Switzerland and offices in the United States and other countries, Transocean quenches the business ethos of ‘drill baby drill’ very well. And Obama’s ‘kicking ass’ remark was not the sort of political language heard in Europe. Senior figures, including ex-diplomats and politicians, began to react publicly, calling for the need to ‘send a message’ to the Americans. A telephone call from the British prime minister David Cameron followed. The conversation was courteous, the message clear. The oil disaster was saddening and frustrating. But it would be in no one’s interest to crush BP and to let the temperature rise any further. Obama responded that he had no interest in undermining the value of BP, but that was precisely the result. Obama was accused of holding ‘his boot on the throat’ of pensioners whose incomes depended on investments in the company.

Expediency, always a strong motive, propels political leaders to do the unexpected. They are not averse to injecting political venom into the body of an ally when they want to deflect domestic criticism. Eight years on, the ‘coalition of the willing’ President George W Bush assembled following his infamous threat ‘you’re either with us, or against us’ to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq, that alliance is unraveling. And we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of yet another phase of great power adventurism in Afghanistan.

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