Tribute to Robert Parry, Founder of Consortium News, May 19, Berkeley, CA.

REMINDER: This Saturday afternoon, May 19, at 2pm, a Tribute to Robert Parry, Founder and Editor of Consortium News will be held at Berkeley Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St. in Berkeley, CA. Open to the public. Tickets at Brownpapertickets.comor at the door ($10, $15, $20 – sliding scale).

It is no exaggeration to say that Bob Parry who died last January at the age of 68 was an exemplar of journalistic independence and integrity. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting(FAIR) had this to say of him:

Journalism lost one of its most valuable investigators when Robert Parry died from pancreatic cancer on January 27, at the age of 68. He was the first reporter to reveal Oliver North’s operation in the White House basement (AP, 6/10/1985), and the co-author of the first report on Contra drug-smuggling (AP, 12/21/1985). He did some of the most important work investigating the 1980 Reagan campaign’s efforts to delay the return of US hostages held in Iran, a scandal known as the October Surprise.

After breaking his first big stories with the Associated Press, Bob moved on to Newsweek and then later PBS‘s Frontline. Frustrated with the limits and compromises of corporate media—he was once told that a story on Contra financial skullduggery had to be watered down because Newsweek owner Katharine Graham was having Henry Kissinger as a weekend guest (Media Beat, 4/23/98)—Bob launched his own online outlet, Consortium News.

“’He was a pioneer in bringing maverick journalism to the Internet,” FAIR founder Jeff Cohen wrote after Bob’s death. “Bob was a refugee from mainstream media who, like Izzy Stone, went on to build an uncensored and uncensorable outlet.’”

Robert Parry himself wrote this about present day media which led him to found Consortium News:

We looked at the underlying problems of modern democracy, particularly the insidious manipulation of citizens by government propaganda and the accomplice role played by mainstream media. Rather than encouraging diversity in analyses especially on topics of war and peace, today’s mainstream media takes a perverse pride in excluding responsible, alternative views.

It’s as if The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and the others have learned nothing from the disaster of the Iraq War when they pushed the groupthink about WMD and betrayed their responsibilities to the American people and the people of the world. Despite all the death, destruction and destabilization caused by the Iraq invasion, there was almost no accountability in the U.S. press corps, with many of the worst offenders still holding down prominent jobs and still engaging in the same terrible journalism.

When I was a young reporter, I was taught that there were almost always two sides to a story and often more. I was expected to seek out those alternative views, not dismiss them or pretend they didn’t exist. I also realized that finding the truth often required digging beneath the surface and not just picking up the convenient explanation sitting out in the open.

But the major Western news outlets began to see journalism differently. It became their strange duty to shut down questioning of the Official Story, even when the Official Story had major holes and made little sense, even when the evidence went in a different direction and serious analysts were disputing the groupthink.

Looking back over the past two decades, I wish I could say that the media trend that we detected in the mid-1990s had been reversed. But, if anything, it’s grown worse. The major Western news outlets now conflate the discrete difficulties from made-up ‘fake news’ and baseless ‘conspiracy theories’ with responsible dissenting analyses. All get thrown into the same pot and subjected to disdain and ridicule.”

A detailed account of Parry’s contributions over the decades is given by his son Nat Parry here. It is well worth reading not only as a summary of Bob Parry’s work but as a chronicle of the debasement of journalism over the decades. In it Nat Parry includes the following anecdote which gives one an idea of the sort of man Bob was:

With my dad, professional work has always been deeply personal, and his career as a journalist was thoroughly intertwined with his family life. I can recall kitchen table conversations in my early childhood that focused on the U.S.-backed wars in Central America and complaints about how his editors at The Associated Press were too timid to run articles of his that – no matter how well-documented – cast the Reagan administration in a bad light.

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, ‘Kids like me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, kids just like you.’”

The tribute to Bob Parry on Saturday, May 19, will include talks by Norman Solomon, Joe Lauria (the new editor of Consortium News), Ann Wright, Natylie Baldwin, Sam Parry and Dennis Bernstein plus comments by Eric Garris, Bruce Dixon and Alicia Jrapko. It promises to be not only a tribute to Parry the man but a stunning commentary on the state of journalism today.

 

 




The Existential Question of Whom to Trust

With the fallout from the White House Correspondent’s dinner still swirling, and as we continue to celebrate Bob Parry’s life, we republish an extraordinary piece he wrote about last year’s dinner and the careerism undermining American professional life.

By Robert Parry

The looming threat of World War III, a potential extermination event for the human species, is made more likely because the world’s public can’t count on supposedly objective experts to ascertain and evaluate facts. Instead, careerism is the order of the day among journalists, intelligence analysts and international monitors – meaning that almost no one who might normally be relied on to tell the truth can be trusted.

The dangerous reality is that this careerism, which often is expressed by a smug certainty about whatever the prevailing groupthink is, pervades not just the political world, where lies seem to be the common currency, but also the worlds of journalism, intelligence and international oversight, including United Nations agencies that are often granted greater credibility because they are perceived as less beholden to specific governments but in reality have become deeply corrupted, too.

In other words, many professionals who are counted on for digging out the facts and speaking truth to power have sold themselves to those same powerful interests in order to keep high-paying jobs and to not get tossed out onto the street. Many of these self-aggrandizing professionals – caught up in the many accouterments of success – don’t even seem to recognize how far they’ve drifted from principled professionalism.

A good example was Saturday night’s spectacle of national journalists preening in their tuxedos and gowns at the White House Correspondents Dinner, sporting First Amendment pins as if they were some brave victims of persecution. They seemed oblivious to how removed they are from Middle America and how unlikely any of them would risk their careers by challenging one of the Establishment’s favored groupthinks. Instead, these national journalists take easy shots at President Trump’s buffoonish behavior and his serial falsehoods — and count themselves as endangered heroes for the effort.

Foils for Trump

Ironically, though, these pompous journalists gave Trump what was arguably his best moment in his first 100 days by serving as foils for the President as he traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday and basked in the adulation of blue-collar Americans who view the mainstream media as just one more appendage of a corrupt ruling elite.

Breaking with tradition by snubbing the annual press gala, Trump delighted the Harrisburg crowd by saying: “A large group of Hollywood celebrities and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom” and adding: “I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from [the] Washington swamp … with much, much better people.” The crowd booed references to the elites and cheered Trump’s choice to be with the common folk.

Trump’s rejection of the dinner and his frequent criticism of the mainstream media brought a defensive response from Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, who complained: “We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people.” That brought the black-tie-and-gown gathering to its feet in a standing ovation.

Perhaps the assembled media elite had forgotten that it was the mainstream U.S. media – particularly The Washington Post and The New York Times – that popularized the phrase “fake news” and directed it blunderbuss-style not only at the few Web sites that intentionally invent stories to increase their clicks but at independent-minded journalism outlets that have dared question the elite’s groupthinks on issues of war, peace and globalization.

The Black List

Professional journalistic skepticism toward official claims by the U.S. government — what you should expect from reporters — became conflated with “fake news.” The Post even gave front-page attention to an anonymous group called PropOrNot that published a black list of 200 Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other independent-minded journalism sites, to be shunned.

But the mainstream media stars didn’t like it when Trump began throwing the “fake news” slur back at them. Thus, the First Amendment lapel pins and the standing ovation for Jeff Mason’s repudiation of the “fake news” label.

Yet, as the glitzy White House Correspondents Dinner demonstrated, mainstream journalists get the goodies of prestige and money while the real truth-tellers are almost always outspent, outgunned and cast out of the mainstream. Indeed, this dwindling band of honest people who are both knowledgeable and in position to expose unpleasant truths is often under mainstream attack, sometimes for unrelated personal failings and other times just for rubbing the powers-that-be the wrong way.

Perhaps, the clearest case study of this up-is-down rewards-and-punishments reality was the Iraq War’s WMD rationale. Nearly across the board, the American political/media system – from U.S. intelligence analysts to the deliberative body of the U.S. Senate to the major U.S. news organizations – failed to ascertain the truth and indeed actively helped disseminate the falsehoods about Iraq hiding WMDs and even suggested nuclear weapons development. (Arguably, the “most trusted” U.S. government official at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, played a key role in selling the false allegations as “truth.”)

Not only did the supposed American “gold standard” for assessing information – the U.S. political, media and intelligence structure – fail miserably in the face of fraudulent claims often from self-interested Iraqi opposition figures and their neoconservative American backers, but there was minimal accountability afterwards for the “professionals” who failed to protect the public from lies and deceptions.

Profiting from Failure

Indeed, many of the main culprits remain “respected” members of the journalistic establishment. For instance, The New York Times’ Pentagon correspondent Michael R. Gordon, who was the lead writer on the infamous “aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges” story which got the ball rolling for the Bush administration’s rollout of its invade-Iraq advertising campaign in September 2002, still covers national security for the Times – and still serves as a conveyor belt for U.S. government propaganda.

The Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly informed the Post’s readers that Iraq’s secret possession of WMD was a “flat-fact,” is still the Post’s editorial page editor, one of the most influential positions in American journalism.

Hiatt’s editorial page led a years-long assault on the character of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson for the offense of debunking one of President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger. Wilson had alerted the CIA to the bogus claim before the invasion of Iraq and went public with the news afterwards, but the Post treated Wilson as the real culprit, dismissing him as “a blowhard” and trivializing the Bush administration’s destruction of his wife’s CIA career by outing her (Valerie Plame) in order to discredit Wilson’s Niger investigation.

At the end of the Post’s savaging of Wilson’s reputation and in the wake of the newspaper’s accessory role in destroying Plame’s career, Wilson and Plame decamped from Washington to New Mexico. Meanwhile, Hiatt never suffered a whit – and remains a “respected” Washington media figure to this day.

Careerist Lesson

The lesson that any careerist would draw from the Iraq case is that there is almost no downside risk in running with the pack on a national security issue. Even if you’re horrifically wrong — even if you contribute to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — your paycheck is almost surely safe.

The same holds true if you work for an international agency that is responsible for monitoring issues like chemical weapons. Again, the Iraq example offers a good case study. In April 2002, as President Bush was clearing away the few obstacles to his Iraq invasion plans, Jose Mauricio Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW], sought to persuade Iraq to join the Chemical Weapons Convention so inspectors could verify Iraq’s claims that it had destroyed its stockpiles.

The Bush administration called that idea an “ill-considered initiative” – after

all, it could have stripped away the preferred propaganda rationale for the invasion if the OPCW verified that Iraq had destroyed its chemical weapons. So, Bush’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, a neocon advocate for the invasion of Iraq, pushed to have Bustani deposed. The Bush administration threatened to withhold dues to the OPCW if Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, remained.

It now appears obvious that Bush and Bolton viewed Bustani’s real offense as interfering with their invasion scheme, but Bustani was ultimately taken down over accusations of mismanagement, although he was only a year into a new five-year term after having been reelected unanimously. The OPCW member states chose to sacrifice Bustani to save the organization from the loss of U.S. funds, but – in so doing – they compromised its integrity, making it just another agency that would bend to big-power pressure.

By dismissing me,” Bustani said, “an international precedent will have been established whereby any duly elected head of any international organization would at any point during his or her tenure remain vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors.” He added that if the United States succeeded in removing him, “genuine multilateralism” would succumb to “unilateralism in a multilateral disguise.”

The Iran Nuclear Scam

Something similar happened regarding the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2009 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the neocons were lusting for another confrontation with Iran over its alleged plans to build a nuclear bomb.

According to U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering the prospect that Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano would advance U.S. interests in ways that outgoing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wouldn’t; Amano credited his election to U.S. government support; Amano signaled he would side with the United States in its confrontation with Iran; and he stuck out his hand for more U.S. money.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargé Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. “Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive,” the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director-general, he would take a different “approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei” and he “saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council] Board resolutions,” i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also discussed how to restructure the senior ranks of the IAEA, including elimination of one top official and the retention of another. “We wholly agree with Amano’s assessment of these two advisors and see these decisions as positive first signs,” Pyatt commented.

In return, Pyatt made clear that Amano could expect strong U.S. financial assistance, stating that “the United States would do everything possible to support his successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming. Amano offered that a ‘reasonable increase’ in the regular budget would be helpful.”

What Pyatt made clear in his cable was that one IAEA official who was not onboard with U.S. demands had been fired while another who was onboard kept his job.

Pandering to Israel

Pyatt learned, too, that Amano had consulted with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli “immediately after his appointment” and that Michaeli “was fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues.” Michaeli added that he discounted some of Amano’s public remarks about there being “no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability” as just words that Amano felt he had to say “to persuade those who did not support him about his ‘impartiality.’”

In private, Amano agreed to “consultations” with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. (It is ironic indeed that Amano would have secret contacts with Israeli officials about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, which never yielded a single bomb, when Israel possesses a large and undeclared nuclear arsenal.)

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain ‘constructive ambiguity’ about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December” 2009.

In other words, Amano was a bureaucrat eager to bend in directions favored by the United States and Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Amano’s behavior surely contrasted with how the more independent-minded ElBaradei resisted some of Bush’s key claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapons program, correctly denouncing some documents as forgeries.

The world’s public got its insight into the Amano scam only because the U.S. embassy cables were among those given to WikiLeaks by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, for which Manning received a 35-year prison sentence (which was finally commuted by President Obama before leaving office, with Manning now scheduled to be released in May – having served nearly seven years in prison).

It also is significant that Geoffrey Pyatt was rewarded for his work lining up the IAEA behind the anti-Iranian propaganda campaign by being made U.S. ambassador to Ukraine where he helped engineer the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Pyatt was on the infamous “fuck the E.U.” call with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland weeks before the coup as Nuland handpicked Ukraine’s new leaders and Pyatt pondered how “to midwife this thing.”

Rewards and Punishments

The existing rewards-and-punishments system, which punishes truth-tellers and rewards those who deceive the public, has left behind a thoroughly corrupted information structure in the United States and in the West, in general.

Across the mainstream of politics and media, there are no longer the checks and balances that have protected democracy for generations. Those safeguards have been washed away by the flood of careerism.

The situation is made even more dangerous because there also exists a rapidly expanding cadre of skilled propagandists and psychological operations practitioners, sometimes operating under the umbrella of “strategic communications.” Under trendy theories of “smart power,” information has become simply another weapon in the geopolitical arsenal, with “strategic communications” sometimes praised as the preferable option to “hard power,” i.e. military force.

The thinking goes that if the United States can overthrow a troublesome government by exploiting media/propaganda assets, deploying trained activists and spreading selective stories about “corruption” or other misconduct, isn’t that better than sending in the Marines?

While that argument has the superficial appeal of humanitarianism – i.e., the avoidance of armed conflict – it ignores the corrosiveness of lies and smears, hollowing out the foundations of democracy, a structure that rests ultimately on an informed electorate. Plus, the clever use of propaganda to oust disfavored governments often leads to violence and war, as we have seen in targeted countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

Wider War

Regional conflicts also carry the risk of wider war, a danger compounded by the fact that the American public is fed a steady diet of dubious narratives designed to rile up the population and to give politicians an incentive to “do something.” Since these American narratives often deviate far from a reality that is well known to the people in the targeted countries, the contrasting storylines make the finding of common ground almost impossible.

If, for instance, you buy into the Western narrative that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gleefully gases “beautiful babies,” you would tend to support the “regime change” plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists. If, however, you reject that mainstream narrative – and believe that Al Qaeda and its friendly regional powers may be staging chemical attacks to bring the U.S. military in on their “regime change” project – you might favor a political settlement that leaves Assad’s fate to the later judgment of the Syrian people.

Similarly, if you accept the West’s storyline about Russia invading Ukraine and subjugating the people of Crimea by force – while also shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 for no particular reason – you might support aggressive countermoves against “Russian aggression,” even if that means risking nuclear war.

If, on the other hand, you know about the Nuland-Pyatt scheme for ousting Ukraine’s elected president in 2014 and realize that much of the other anti-Russian narrative is propaganda or disinformation – and that MH-17 might well have been shot down by some element of Ukrainian government forces and then blamed on the Russians [see here and here] – you might look for ways to avoid a new and dangerous Cold War.

Who to Trust?

But the question is: whom to trust? And this is no longer some rhetorical or philosophical point about whether one can ever know the complete truth. It is now a very practical question of life or death, not just for us as individuals but as a species and as a planet.

The existential issue before us is whether – blinded by propaganda and disinformation – we will stumble into a nuclear conflict between superpowers that could exterminate all life on earth or perhaps leave behind a radiated hulk of a planet suitable only for cockroaches and other hardy life forms.

You might think that with the stakes so high, the people in positions to head off such a catastrophe would behave more responsibly and professionally. But then there are events like Saturday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner with self-important media stars puffing about with their First Amendment pins. And there’s President Trump’s realization that by launching missiles and talking tough he can buy himself some political space from the Establishment (even as he sells out average Americans and kills some innocent foreigners). Those realities show that seriousness is the farthest thing from the minds of Washington’s insiders.

It’s just too much fun – and too profitable in the short-term – to keep playing the game and hauling in the goodies. If and when the mushroom clouds appear, these careerists can turn to the cameras and blame someone else.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

 

 




May Day ‘71: When Bob Parry Went to Jail in the Biggest Mass Arrest in U.S. History

In 1971, Bob Parry, the late founder and editor of Consortium News, traveled to Washington to take part in an anti-Vietnam War protest. Here published for the first time in 47 years is Bob’s account of that day.

A note from Nat Parry: In the spring of 1971, with war raging in Vietnam, the U.S. peace movement hoped to shut down the federal government in an audacious mass civil disobedience action. Under the slogan “If the government won’t stop the war, then the people will stop the government,” tens of thousands of protesters set out to block major intersections and bridges to bring Washington, DC, to a halt.

A young Robert Parry, then a student at Colby College, drove down from Maine to participate in the demonstrations and ended up arrested along with thousands of other protesters who were swept up in the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. He later wrote about the protests and their significance in the Colby Echo, where he was Editor-in-Chief.

Marking the anniversary of these events, we republish Parry’s article for the first time in 47 years, with an introduction from his classmate Stephen Orlov, who attended the demonstration with him.

By Stephen Orlov

It was with a heavy heart that I read Nat Parry’s moving tribute to his father, Robert, on his sudden passing.

Bob was my closest friend at Maine’s Colby College during the turbulent Vietnam War years, when Bob was Editor-in-Chief of our student newspaper, the Colby Echo. He rarely talked with family and friends about his time at Colby, given the enormity of the important issues of the day he addressed tirelessly during his distinguished career. So Nat asked me to share a few anecdotes about Bob during his student days, when he began honing his muckraking journalistic skills and demonstrating to our campus community his inspiring strength of character in speaking truth to power.

I worked with Bob at the Echo, writing anti-war articles as an Associate Editor and Student Government President. We helped lead with a handful of activists the Colby strike against the Vietnam War in May of 1970, following Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the National Guard’s killing of protesting students at Kent State. Bob played a key role in our successful lobbying campaign that convinced the Colby Faculty to pass a resolution supporting our student strike. 

We replaced classes with a counter-cultural-curriculum of daily workshops led by students and professors on the mass movements that were engulfing America in a tidal wave of social protest—anti-war and nuclear disarmament, civil rights and black power, feminism and gay rights, the American Indian Movement and United Farm Workers Boycott, anti-poverty and pro-environment. 

Bob and I drafted a telegram on behalf of student government heads of 16 college and university campuses in Maine to Senators Edmund Muskie and Margaret Chase Smith, which forced them to fly to Colby within days for an all-state anti-war rally that would “give the students of Maine the opportunity to confront you.”

We devoured the non-violent civil disobedience writings of King, Thoreau and Gandhi, discussing for hours how to best apply their theory and practice to our plans for being arrested together at anti-war demonstrations in Washington DC that spring. And a year later at the May Day demonstrations in 1971, the friendly elderly stranger arrested next to us turned out to be Dr. Benjamin Spock, who had penned the classic baby-care “bible,” we both would later rely on as parents.

At a speech to Alumni donors during the strike, Colby President Robert

Strider attacked Bob’s editorial stewardship of the Echo, decrying “the uncontrollable barbarism, with its obscenities, libel and innuendo, of the college press.” The following semester, Strider moved to end the College’s near century-old sponsorship of the Echo because of Bob’s editorial choices.

Strider wrote to Bob officially demanding the removal of the Colby name from the Echo and he convinced the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees to propose at a Board meeting we attended a resolution to disassociate the College from its student newspaper. Strider had highlighted swear words and an Echo photo of students frolicking “au natural” as just cause, but we countered that the heart of the matter was Bob’s anti-war editorial position. Bob refused to remove the Colby name from the Echo and he delivered an unflinching defense of freedom of the press, convincing the Trustees to reject the censorship resolution of their Board Chair and College President.

On a personal note, Bob lamented a painful rift with his father, William, who was the publisher of the Framingham News, nearby Boston. He told me how his dad had always preached to him the need to consider multiple points of view for every story, a principle Bob embraced throughout his career, and yet William dogmatically dismissed off-hand Bob’s anti-war position as being anti-American, and he ardently supported the war effort in his paper. Perhaps that personal experience later helped Bob emotionally confront the surreptitious maneuvers by government and media power brokers to blacklist him within the Washington press corps for his courageous reporting.

Bob and I remained in close touch during our first few years after graduation. We traveled together to Miami in 1972 for anti-war demonstrations at the Republican National Convention, sleeping in a pop-up tent in the protester’s camp at Flamingo Park, where we bathed in the Park swimming pool. We drove there from Mass. to Florida in a car Bob had recently bought. He was rather proud of the fact that he had tuned it up himself after studying an auto-maintenance manual.

After I moved to Montreal and he to Virginia, regrettably we rarely saw each other, occasionally catching up on work and family life from a distance. I can still remember decades ago, Bob describing passionately his visionary plans to begin publishing an online investigative journal in the tradition of his hero, I.F. Stone. I was thrilled to learn that Bob was honored in 2015 with Harvard’s Nieman Foundation I.F. Stone Prize for Journalism, and later with the Martha Gellhorn Award. Ironically, when the Colby Trustees refused forty-five years earlier to back the Board resolution disassociating the College from the Echo, they appointed Trustee Dwight Sargent, the curator of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation of Journalism at the time, to head a study committee, which never censored Bob or the Echo.

Throughout his life’s journey, Robert Parry cast the shadow of a giant, and on his path he left a signature footprint marked by strength and integrity. Bob’s passing is a personal loss of a friend I’ve admired my entire adult life, a loss of far greater magnitude for his loving family. His legacy shall endure, inspiring investigative journalists the world over.

Stephen Orlov is an award-winning playwright, who recently co-edited with Melbourne-based Palestinian playwright and poet, Samah Sabawi, Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas, the first English-language anthology worldwide in any genre of drama, prose, or poetry by Jewish and Palestinian writers.

 

May Day”

By Bob Parry

(Originally published in the Colby Echo student newspaper in May 1971)

There was the air of a mighty athletic contest about it. A super bowl played out in the streets of the nation’s capital. And the news media always alert for any incident that will appeal to America’s sports-minded viewing public played the athletics of the situation to the hilt. To the media, it was the kids coming off several big seasons of demonstrations against the seasoned veterans of the Washington police force. The demonstrators with their potent offense trying to throw the city into chaos; the cops, led by their elite Civil Disturbance Unit and backed up by thousands of Marines, Army, and National Guard, putting up a great defense to maintain social order.

It was to be the biggest story of the week, perhaps of 1971, and the participants’ temerarious victory predictions and scoffs at the strength of the opposition reminded some viewers of Joe Namath psyching the Baltimore Colts out of the ’69 Super Bowl. The demonstrators had stated, “If the government won’t stop the war, then the people will stop the government.” And President Nixon had countered with assurances that he would not be intimidated. Chief of the D.C. police, Jerry Wilson, who would guide his team on the field, went on saying that the demonstration would be only a minor “nuisance.”

So the lines were drawn and the kids readied themselves for game time Monday morning. But the police started things early with a foray into the demonstrators’ home base at dawn Sunday. At that time, 41,000 people were camping at West Potomac Park. The police dispersed them hoping that many would go home, but most remained in Washington and others, like the nine members of the Colby contingent, had been staying elsewhere.

But with the thrust into the park, the police had taken the play away from the offense-minded demonstrators. The kids charged foul, but their cries went unheeded. Rules for the week’s struggle were fuzzy at best, and with their early move, the police gave warning that many of the fair-play guidelines were out the window for as long as threats of disruption continued. The lack of rules reflected an even greater confusion which would plague observers and commenters throughout the week – how could anyone tell who won.

Nine of us from Colby – Steve Orlov, Dick Kaynor, Bob Knight, Lyndon Summers, Ken Eisen, Joel Simon, Andy Koss, Peter Vose and me – had come to Washington to commit civil disobedience. Most of us expected to be arrested; some were prepared to be clubbed. We had come because we opposed the war and wanted to demonstrate through the power of non-violent civil disobedience that our commitment to the war’s end went beyond placards and petitions to congressmen.

We had come expecting to engage in Gandhian civil disobedience (passive non-violence); we learned, however, on meeting up with our regional group Sunday afternoon that the tactic now being favored was “mobile non-violence.” Apparently because of fears that the numbers of demonstrators had been significantly reduced by the park clearing and because of a greater concern for the ends (who would win the “Stop the City” Bowl Game) rather than the means, regional leaders favoring “mobile” tactics had prevailed over others wanting more passive disobedience. Gandhi was to be mixed with Abbie Hoffman and the result would be a kind of touch football in the streets.

The kids were up early Monday but, as the slogan goes, the police department never sleeps. The cops and the troops were out in force and they had already had the four bridges from Virginia to D.C. neatly in their pockets. Ken and I drove our cars into the city before six. Our job was to use the cars for blocking and slowing down traffic. Steve and Peter stayed with us in case of trouble and the others disembarked on the D.C. side of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. From the beginning it was clear that things were not going our way.

Steve and I drove around participating in and occasionally starting traffic jams. Scenes from Godard films met us at nearly every corner. Police charging and swinging into clumps of demonstrators, police cars chasing kids across parks, the grey smoke of tear gas rising everywhere, troops in their full, khaki battle gear lining the city’s bridges. The government had responded to the threats of a shut-down with force and throughout the morning they had the kids running from their attacks and reeling from the tear gas. Traffic was snarled (some places for hours) but as the government pointed out, the workers got through.

When the Colby contingent returned to Ken’s house in Arlington, we evaluated what had happened and discovered that Jody and Lyndon had been arrested. Everyone at the Eisen’s was disappointed with how the demonstration had developed. We had come to be arrested and instead spent the whole day avoiding arrest. All of us agreed, no more of the same.

That evening, however, Bob, Steve and I talked with Hosea Williams, a leader of the SCLC, and he told us that his organization would lead a march to the Justice Department Tuesday afternoon which would end in a mass sit-down and, almost certainly, arrests. Six of us decided to go; four of us (Ken, Steve, Dick and I) got arrested. (Bob and Peter had taken a lunch break during the speeches and when they returned from their “Justice Department” sandwiches, they found four rows of police blocking off access to the several thousand demonstrators.)

The demonstrations at Justice were what we had been hoping for. When the police arrived, the two or three thousand protesters sat down and pulled out handkerchiefs to use in case of tear gas. The police moved toward us in rows, a tear gas canister was set off accidentally. The people didn’t panic, they didn’t run, they stayed together. The police began the arrests. At first, there were some incidents of violence, police clubbing and macing demonstrators, but when the cops realized that there would be no resistance, the arrests came orderly and peaceful.

The arrested demonstrators were taken in buses to areas of detention. The four of us from Colby and about 800 other people were placed in the U.S. District Court cell block. We were held in a cell (50’x20’) with 100 other protesters and later in a cell (15’x15’) containing 66 people.

The over-crowding, the oppressive heat, and the bologna sandwiches served with rancid mayonnaise made life in the cells difficult. But it also served as a crucible test for the principles of communal living. When food was provided for us, we asked to be allowed to pass the food back to the back of the cell in an orderly way. The people sitting against the back wall ate first. We overcame the difficulties of too many people by communicating with each other and arranging shifts for sleeping (while some slept, others stood or sat uncomfortably). In short, we survived by learning to live with and care for each other.

At 10:30 Wednesday morning, I was taken in a bus to court. Ken, Steve, and Dick had to remain in an even smaller cell (8’x12’) with 33 people until five that evening. Dick, Ken, and I were fortunate to be arraigned before Judge Halleck, the judge most sympathetic to our cause in the city. Halleck was accepting pleas of nolo contendere (no contest) and giving sentences of two days or $20 (the two days considered already served). Steve and Jody were released on bond and the charges against Lyndon were dropped.

People have asked us since we’ve returned to Colby what was accomplished in Washington. The media, knowing that nobody likes a tie game, had ruled that the police had won. And indeed there are strong arguments to support that conclusion: the city was kept open, the government did function, and the war still continues. The police statistics were also impressive: virtually all government employees made it to work and almost 14,000 demonstrators had been arrested. And the people who watched on their sets at home saw the police always on the offensive and the demonstrators on the run.

But one thing that the media seemed to forget was that the shutting down of Washington was only one of May Day’s aims. The demonstrators were designed to project an image of Washington, D.C., to the world as the scene of social chaos brought on by the country’s involvement in Indochina and the problems of racism and poverty at home. By forcing the government to line its streets with thousands of soldiers the demonstrations created an image not easily washed away.

But more importantly, May Day was the first large-scale application of non-violent civil disobedience by white Americans. The arrest tallies which are pointed to with such pride by Chief Wilson stand perhaps as a greater monument to the determination and will to sacrifice of the protesters. As we were being taken away from the Justice Department in a bus, the cry of the people with us was not of defeat but of victory. As we passed people on the streets kids leaned out the windows shouting “We won, we won.”

But the greater measure of victory of defeat had to lie in the effect the actions had on those not participating. The initial reaction from television commentators and politicians indicated that the demonstrations were not well received, but other adults who were more immediately involved with the May Day occurrences felt differently. For instance, a reporter for the Washington Star who was arrested at Justice and served time in our cell block wrote on Thursday, “I … was radicalized, but not just in the political sense. When I was separated from the group in the cell block, I told them I didn’t know whether to flash a V sign for peace or a fist for power. ‘Give them both,’ said a friend. I did.”

The spirit, he wrote, comparable to that of the “Britons in their bomb shelter during World War II or civil rights workers in the south” – was the feeling of men and women with a vision of a new society that is coming. Everyone I’ve talked to who experienced that feeling left Washington knowing that they had found 14,000 brothers and sisters by being in jail. The whole question of victory or defeat became submerged under all of us win or all of us lose.




Month in Review: Syria, Gaza, Russia and Tributes to Bob Parry

A look back at the stories in April that made the headlines on Consortium News.

By Joe Lauria

The worsening crises in Syria and Gaza dominated Consortium News’ coverage in April. 

Last month also saw publication of numerous tributes to the late founder and editor of Consortium News, Bob Parry. A memorial for Bob was held in Arlington, Virginia on April 14. Several tributes (from John Pilger, Brian Barger, Joe Lauria and Don North) were posted on the site and a video of the entire event was made available on April 27.

Syria

Donald Trump’s April 14 air strike on Damascus was the focal point of the Syria coverage. In the lead-up to the strike Consortium News zeroed in on two aspects downplayed or totally ignored by corporate media: the legality of the strike and the question of evidence. In the aftermath of the strike, we focused on the continuing lack of proof of a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb—Trump’s supposed casus belli, or as Ray McGovern quipped, a casus belly laugh.

After a supposed chemical attack on April 7 allegedly killed dozens of people in the Damascus suburb, and talk of a U.S. military retaliation stirred in Washington, Consortium News published an appeal by a group of international lawyers on April 11, arguing that the U.S. could only act in self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. charter or with U.N. Security Council authorization. The Trump administration sought neither.

Instead Trump toyed with the idea of conflict with nuclear-armed Russia in a series of tweets, the most alarming of which was on that very day, April 11: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

On the same day, as Trump contemplated his “nice” strike, we also ran an article from University of Illinois Professor Francis Boyle about America’s “Unlimited Imperialism,” based on the teachings of Prof. Boyle’s mentor Hans Morgenthau. The day before, on April 10, Consortium published a piece on the dangers of nuclear confrontation with Russia, as well as an excerpt from Daniel Ellsberg’s new book, “The Doomsday Machine.”

We took a look at America’s Long History of Trying to Determine Who Rules Syria in a column on April 12 by Caitlin Johnstone. The following day a memo to President Trump from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity was published, urging Trump to obtain evidence of Syrian culpability and follow U.S. and international law before deciding to commit an act of war.

On the next night Trump attacked. We published a quick reaction to the strike, pointing out that chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were due a few hours later to arrive in Syria to begin their work to determine whether chemicals were even used in Duma. By contrast, corporate media wheeled out ex-generals, many with undisclosed military industry contracts, to tout the hardware the U.S. had employed in an advertisement masquerading as news analysis. The issue of evidence and legality was hardly raised in mainstream reports.

In the days following the attack, Consortium News ran pieces from Norman Solomon calling the strike a salute to the “Russia-gate faithful;” first-time writer Barry Kissin wrote on Defense Secretary James Mattis’ 24-hour about-face from opposition to support for the strike; two pieces were published on reports that victims in Duma had suffered from smoke inhalation rather than chemical weapons; and another on the possible role of the White Helmets in the chemical weapons story.

Lawrence Davidson penned a commentary on April 19 exploring the psychological state of leaders who resort to force in the wake of the Syria strike.

A report, special to Consortium News, from Damascus on April 27 described life in the Syrian capital after the defeat of jihadists in nearby Ghouta. The rebels had been firing rockets into Damascus for the past seven years. The same day we ran an interview by Dennis J. Bernstein of weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who refuted U.S. government claims of a chemical attack.

On April 29 we published the first part of an in-depth analysis by As’ad AbuKhalil, his first piece for Consortium, on the U.S. role in Syria from before the crisis, and how mainstream media suppresses American responsibility for the bloodshed there.

Gaza

While the crisis sharpened in Syria, a series of Friday protests inside the border fence separating Gaza from Israel resulted in the Israeli Defense Forces murdering dozens of Palestinian protestors and injuring more than a thousand. Consortium News ran seven pieces on Gaza, including interviews by Dennis J. Bernstein of Diana Buttu, Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, Gaza-based journalist Wafa al-Udaini and Max Blumenthal.

Marjorie Cohn wrote a commentary on April 8 in which she argued that Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court for its actions in Gaza. And David William Pear, examining the plight of Gazans, wrote on April 20 about the difference between “’Worthy’ and ‘Unworthy’ Victims.”

Russia

The site published several pieces on the ongoing deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations and the dangers that entails. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould wrote an in-depth, two-part series on how neoconservatives grabbed power behind the scenes and targeted Russia.

Ray McGovern covered a story that was completely ignored by corporate media: a criminal referral of Hillary Clinton, James Comey and others in the Russia-gate affair.

Will Porter also wrote on April 18 about increased tension between the U.S. and Russia that would result if a new move by Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was realized. And Gareth Porter delved into the mystery of the poisoning of a former Russian double agent that the British government has used to ramp up already tense relations with Russia, without offering any solid evidence.

Martin Luther King Jr.

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, Margaret Kimberley, of Black Agenda Report, in her first piece for Consortium News, explored how King’s legacy has been betrayed. Don North, a former correspondent for NBC News, recalled how he left the violence of Saigon to arrive in Washington a day later as the riots in reaction to King’s death started to spread. And William F. Pepper, lawyer for the King family, and Andrew Kreig, marveled at a story in The Washington Post that actually reopened the question of who killed King.

 Joe Lauria is the Editor-in-Chief of Consortium News. 




A Celebration of the Life of Robert Parry

 

VIDEO: A memorial service for Robert Parry, the founder and editor of Consortium News, was held in Arlington, Virginia on April 14.

Bob’s wife, Diane Duston, introduced friends and colleagues to recount their memories of Bob, whose work impacted the nation.

The speakers were Lynn Neary, the NPR broadcaster; Spencer Oliver, a former Congressional staffer and one of Bob’s then unnamed sources; Jill Abramson, the former New York Times executive editor and a long-time neighbor of Bob and Diane’s; Brian Barger, Bob’s partner at the AP on many Iran-Contra exclusives; Joe Lauria, the Consortium News editor-in-chief who also read a tribute to Bob from legendary journalist John Pilger, who was unable to attend; a video tribute from Oliver Stone, the filmmaker, and Bob’s two sons, Sam and Nat.

We present here a video of the entire memorial for the many admirers of Bob who were likewise unable to attend. It runs one hour and seven minutes. Broadcasters can request an abridged version or individual speakers by writing to info@consortiumnews.com .

 

A Celebration of the Life of Bob Parry

 




In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories in March discussed recent changes in the Trump administration and examined the lasting impact of the U.S. invasion of Iraq as that event reached its 15th anniversary.

Italy’s Choice: Shock or Stagnation” by Andrew Spannaus, Mar. 2, 2018

Katharine Gun’s Risky Truth-telling” by Sam Husseini, Mar. 2, 2018

Why Putin’s Latest Weapons Claims Should Scare Us” by Jonathan Marshall, Mar. 3, 2018

How ‘Operation Merlin’ Poisoned U.S. Intelligence on Iran” by Gareth Porter, Mar. 3, 2018

The Rise of the New McCarthyism” by Robert Parry, Mar. 9, 2018

The Illusion of War Without Casualties” by Nicolas J.S. Davies, Mar. 9, 2018

Who’s Afraid of Talking With Kim Jong Un?” by Jonathan Marshall, Mar. 10, 2018

Gang of Four: Senators Call for Tillerson to Enter into Arms Control Talks with the Kremlin” by Ray McGovern, Mar. 10, 2018

Torture-Tainted Nominations Recall Failure to Prosecute Bush-Era Abuses” by Nat Parry, Mar. 14, 2018

Acceptable Bigotry and Scapegoating of Russia” by Natylie Baldwin, Mar. 15, 2018

‘Hostiles’ and Hollywood’s Untold Story” by Jada Thacker, Mar. 16, 2018

Behind Colin Powell’s Legend – My Lai” by Robert Parry and Norman Solomon, Mar. 17, 2018

McCabe: A War on (or in) the FBI?” by Coleen Rowley, Mar. 18, 2018

Iraq +15: Accumulated Evil of the Whole” by Nat Parry, Mar. 19, 2018

Senate Votes to Continue Yemen Devastation” by Dennis J. Bernstein, Mar. 22, 2018

The Iraq War and the Crisis of a Disintegrating Global Order” by Inder Comar, Mar. 22, 2018

How Many Millions of People Have Been Killed in America’s Post-9/11 Wars? – Part One: Iraq” by Nicolas J.S. Davies, Mar. 22, 2018

6,700 More U.S. Missiles for Saudi Arabia to Shoot at Yemeni Kids” by Ann Wright, Mar. 24, 2018

Trump Should Withdraw Haspel Nomination, Intel Vets Say” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Mar. 25, 2018

Same Old Media Parade: Why Are Liberals Cheering?” by Jeff Cohen, Mar. 26, 2018

The Rush to a New Cold War” by Robert Parry, Mar. 30, 2018

The Bolton Appointment: How Scared Should We Be?” by Daniel Lazare, Mar. 30, 2018

America’s Complicated Relationship with International Human Rights Norms” by Nat Parry, Mar. 30, 2018

To produce and publish these stories – and many more – costs money. And except for some book sales, we depend on the generous support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check.




On ‘Openness’ and Deceit

Retrospective: On this day three years ago Robert Parry, late founder and editor of this site, examined transparency in government and found that the Obama administration was among the most secretive and manipulative in modern times, tailoring what the public heard about foreign crises to what served his agenda. 

By Robert Parry

In disclosing the deaths of two Western hostages in a U.S. drone strike on an Al-Qaeda compound, President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he had ordered the declassification of the secret operation because “the United States is a democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad.”

But the reality of the past six years has been that his administration has enforced wildly excessive secrecy, selectively declassified material to mislead the American people, and failed to correct erroneous information on sensitive international issues.

This failure to trust the people with accurate information has arguably done great harm to U.S. democracy by promoting false narratives on a range of foreign conflicts. With all its talk about “public diplomacy” and “information warfare,” the Obama administration seems intent on using half-truths and falsehoods to herd the people into a misguided consensus rather than treating them like the true sovereigns of the Republic, as the Framers of the Constitution intended with the explicit phrase “We the People of the United States.”

For instance, the Obama administration rushed to judgments on pivotal international events such as the Syrian-sarin case in 2013 and the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over Ukraine in 2014 and then refused to update those assessments as new evidence emerged changing how U.S. intelligence analysts understood what happened.

Instead of correcting or refining the record and pursuing meaningful accountability against the perpetrators of these crimes the Obama administration has left outdated, misleading accusations in the public domain, all the better to fit with some geopolitical goals, such as delegitimizing the Syrian and Russian governments. In other words, providing the American people with substantive updates on these atrocities and advancing the cause of justice take a back seat to keeping some geopolitical foe on the defensive.

In both the Syrian-sarin case and the MH-17 shoot-down, I’ve been told that U.S. intelligence analysts have not only refined their understanding of the events but to a significant degree reversed them. But the original assessments, which were released nine and five days after the events, respectively, were still being handed out to the press many months later. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]

What is perhaps most troubling in both cases, however, is that the killings involved serious crimes against humanity and the perpetrators have not been identified and brought to justice. Whatever new evidence U.S. intelligence has collected could help track down who was responsible but that doesn’t appear to be a priority for President Obama.

In the MH-17 case, the timetable for the next scheduled release of information is on the first anniversary of the shoot-down, which occurred on July 17, 2014. Given that the shoot-down, which killed 298 people, should be an active criminal investigation, it makes little sense to delay disclosures for something as artificial as an anniversary, giving whoever was responsible more time to slip away and cover their tracks.

In the meantime, the U.S. government continues to re-release its initial claims putting blame on foreign adversaries the governments of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin so the assumption may be drawn that the updated analyses go in different directions, possibly implicating U.S. allies, such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia regarding the sarin attack and elements of the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in the MH-17 case. Whatever the truth, however, it is hard to justify why the U.S. government has withheld evidence in these criminal cases, whoever is implicated.

Double Standards

Of course, double standards sometimes appear to be the only standards when the U.S. government is involved these days. When ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine resist a coup that overthrew their elected president in 2014 and get some help from Russians next door the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media decry “Russian aggression.”

On Wednesday, the Obama administration declassified its own claims that Russia had deployed air defense systems in eastern Ukraine and had built up its forces along the border with Ukraine, assertions that Russian officials denied, though those denials were not included in the article on Thursday by New York Times’ national security reporter Michael R. Gordon, who treated the allegations essentially as flat fact.

After citing some analysts musing about different explanations for Russian President Putin’s supposed actions, Gordon wrote, “Either way, the new military activity is a major concern because it has significantly reduced the amount of warning that Ukraine and its Western supporters would have if Russian forces and separatists mounted a joint offensive.”

Gordon then quoted State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf saying: “This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August. Combined Russian-separatist forces continue to violate the terms of the ‘Minsk-2’ agreement signed in mid-February.”

Though Gordon included no Russian response to these charges, he did mention that Russia had complained about what Gordon called “a modest program” of 300 American troops in Ukraine training national guard units, a program that Russian officials said could “destabilize the situation.” Gordon wrote that the Obama administration, in response to this Russian complaint. “declassified intelligence describing a range of Russian military activities in and near Ukraine.”

But the intelligence appeared to be just U.S. accusations. In Kiev, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted about “the highest concentration of Russia air defense systems in eastern Ukraine since August” and illustrated his claim by showing a photo of a BUK anti-aircraft missile system. But the photo appeared to be an Associated Press photograph taken of a BUK system on display at an air show near Moscow two years ago, as the Russian network RT noted.

Gordon, who co-authored with Judith Miller the famously bogus Times’ exposé in 2002 about Iraq procuring aluminum tubes for building nuclear bombs, has been an eager conduit for U.S. government propaganda over the years, including his role last year in a page-one Times scoop that cited State Department and Ukrainian government claims about photographs that proved Russian troops were in Ukraine but turned out to be false. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]

Yet, while Russia is not supposed to mind the forced ouster of a friendly government on its borders or the presence of U.S. and NATO forces supporting the successor regime, a more sympathetic view is taken when Saudi Arabia intervenes in Yemen’s civil war by bombing the country indiscriminately, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians and devastating ancient cities with priceless historical sites that date back thousands of years.

They’re worried about their own security and of course we’ve supported them,” stated White House communications director Jen Psaki. “But, again, we’re trying to redirect this to a political discussion here.” (The New York Times article about this “Saudi resolve” with a similarly understanding tone toward the Saudis was co-authored by Gordon.)

This pattern of perverting U.S. intelligence information to bolster some U.S. foreign policy agenda has become a trademark of the Obama administration along with an unprecedented number of prosecutions of U.S. government whistleblowers who release real information that exposes government wrongdoing or waste. This double standard belies President Obama’s assertion that he values openness in a democracy.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.




Instead of a Pulitzer, He was Fired

Don North, veteran TV reporter, looks back on his days with the late Consortium News founder and editor Bob Parry, beginning in Central America during Reagan’s wars.

By Don North

I first met Bob back in the early 80’s in El Salvador. We bonded immediately over our mutual revulsion for US President Ronald Reagan and his dirty wars in Central America.

I was trying to film and produce documentaries and spent three months in the mountains with FMLN guerrillas trying to tell their story. Bob was with the Associated Press and later Newsweek and The Nation. But we both had the same problem — few mainstream media organizations wanted to go up against what Reagan was promoting. On a meagre budget I produced a half-hour program “Guazapa: The Face of War in El Salvador.”

It got a few showings in church basements and colleges but no network would run it and even PBS, supposedly a haven for independent journalism said, “Show us something supporting the Salvador government and we might consider it.”

Bob uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal, but instead of a Pulitzer he was fired by the AP and later Newsweek and Bloomberg. So Bob took the advice of renowned media critic A.J. Liebling: ”Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

With the help of sons Sam and Nat, Bob started a magazine called I.F. Stone Magazine and a newsletter called The Consortium, which soon morphed into ConsortiumNews.com on the Internet, blazing the way for a generation of news bloggers.

I continued making documentaries nobody wanted to buy, mostly about wars that nobody gave a damn about, but it turned out that along the way I would often stumble onto stories that interested Bob for Consortium News.

Alas, I wasn’t a natural fit…A Canadian immigrant who spelled in

strange Canadian Franco-English and coming from a broadcast background I didn’t care how I spelled things as long as I could pronounce them. But Bob, as you know, was a patient editor and diligent fact and spell checker and often from his encyclopaedic brain offered a sentence here or a paragraph there that somehow made my story make sense and flow.

There was only one time in 23 years that I can remember Bob and I not being able to agree on a story. I was in northern Iraq, in the city of Irbil teaching a journalism class, but the Kurds were holding an election and I jumped in to cover convoluted Kurdish politics. I’d spent some time on it and tried to figure out what it all meant and would lead to. Bob didn’t like it and gave me probably the worst appraisal he used.

….”Don, it just reads like something I already read in the New York Times”… in other words he thought it was lousy journalism. A few weeks ago I happened to find that article in old files…and you know…Bob was right.

Over 23 years Bob published an amazing variety of stories that others shied away from … a long row of candles that shone light in dark places. As Winston Churchill once said, “The longer you look back, the farther you can look forward.” And they are still all there in the Consortium archives and make very good reading today. I skimmed over it the other day to recall some of my favorite contributions.

As you would suspect Bob and I were drawn to a lot of stories about embattled journalists. And when after 9/11 the mainstream media were beating the drums for George Bush’s Iraq invasion Consortium News published tough questions.

Liebling, one of Bob’ favorite journalists, had it right. He wrote “I take a grave view of the Press. It is the weak slat under the bed of democracy.”

After the disastrous war it turned out Bob’s posts were right….Liebling was right. Veteran journalist Bill Moyers picked up on Liebling’s words in one of my favourite quotes: “After the invasion of Iraq, the slat broke and some strange bedfellows fell to the floor; establishment journalists, neo-conservative polemicists, beltway pundits, right wing warmongers flying the skull and bones of the ‘balanced and fair brigade,’and administration flacks whose classified leaks were manufactured lies—all romping on the same mattress in the foreplay to disaster. Thousands of casualties and billions of dollars later, most of the media co-conspirators caught in flagrante delicto are still prominent, still celebrated, and still holding forth with no more contrition than a weather-caster who made the wrong prediction as to the next day’s temperature.”

In 2015 Bob won the coveted I.F. Stone Medal from the Nieman Foundation…I suspect largely because he was such a devoted disciple of Izzy Stone whose advice…”Never believe anything until its been officially denied”…became a golden rule for Bob.

Another journalist/philosopher Bob followed was of course George Orwell. A few months ago I followed Orwell’s trail around Barcelona, Spain to write “Homage to Barcelona” for Consortium. Orwell wrote a rule for journalists which is especially true for these times now as we hurtle toward a new cold war. “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Sadly, Bob is gone and the world weighs less. But WOW, what an impression he left…as well as the inspiration, and I hope the courage for all of us to carry on in his tradition.

Don North, a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world, is the author of Inappropriate Conduct, the story of a WW II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered.




It Started Over Lunch and Led to the Exposure of One of the Greatest Scandals in U.S. History

The following are remarks at the memorial for Bob Parry delivered on Saturday by Brian Barger, who shared many bylines with Bob (and a drink or two) at the Associated Press, uncovering the Iran-Contra scandal, and provoking the ire of AP editors, nervous about what the two friends were finding out.

By Brian Barger

I remember it was a pleasure to meet Bob in 1984. The CIA was ramping up its covert war in Nicaragua. News reports from the region documented atrocities committed by President Reagan’s “freedom fighters” and their CIA handlers. Congress was starting to take notice, and was threatening to cut off US aid.

I got a call from Betsy Cohn, a Latin America scholar from Georgetown University, saying I should meet this guy from the AP. Over lunch we shared notes. I’d done much of my reporting from Central America and Miami, and Bob from Washington. We agreed there was a lot of low-hanging fruit on this story, and we talked about why there was such reluctance to cover it, particularly among the Washington press corps. We agreed that this could be a good reporting partnership.

And it was in these early days that I learned some important lessons about journalism from Bob.

It started over that lunch, when Bob politely reminded me that I’d buried the lede in a recent story that should have received wide attention – but didn’t. This was Bob Parry journalism lesson number one: Don’t bury the lede.

The story was about a blue, cloth-covered manual produced by the CIA and distributed to contra commanders in Honduras. Bob wanted a copy. So, Bob Parry journalism lesson Number Two: Be persistent. I gave it to him, and Bob produced a deeply reported piece on what thereafter was known as the CIA assassination manual. Lesson number three: Make those ten extra phone calls before calling it a day.

This was the beginning of an enduring friendship that lasted 35 years. It was also the beginning of an enduring work relationship. Over the next two years, we peeled back the story about White House aide Oliver North and the White House role orchestrating a secret war in Nicaragua.

As we dove deeper, the story got nuttier. North and the CIA had recruited Cuban Americans who moved on from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to more lucrative endeavors such as drug trafficking. Soon, contra airstrips in Central America were being used for cocaine shipments. The North network recruited mercenaries from Alabama. They recruited pilots who flew guns down and drugs back. They recruited a DEA official in Costa Rica to fend off probing FBI agents. And they recruited a US Attorney in Miami to prevent a federal drugs-and-guns prosecution from moving forward.

And lots of people began to talk, inside and outside the North network.

So, Bob continually wondered, why wasn’t the mainstream press jumping on this? That question would frame most of Bob’s subsequent career. I think this story stripped away whatever naïveté Bob may have had left about U.S. journalism, and inspired him to see the government – and the press in a new light.

The Illusion of Winning

Bob followed the bread crumbs. He discovered the hand of a senior CIA official, the longtime head of psychological operations, a guy named Walt Raymond. He was moved to the National Security Council to institutionalize what they called black propaganda against the American people. Formerly benign public affairs offices were transformed into “offices of public diplomacy.” One of Raymond’s urgent tasks, Bob reported, was to “paint white hats on the contras and black hats on the Sandinistas.” Another was to systematically discredit journalists who failed to adhere to Washington’s talking points on Central America.

If they couldn’t win on the battlefield, they would at least create the illusion of winning. They called it perception management.

At the National Security Council, Bob was labelled an avowed liberal with close contacts inside the Democratic Party. It was the new red-baiting. I remember one afternoon Bob got off the phone with a State Department public diplomacy officer who had warned him that I might be a Bulgarian intelligence agent who was sleeping with Sandinista operatives. Two days after Bob insisted on evidence to back up such a wild accusation, a thick package arrived containing copies of stories I’d written over the past few years.

But as it turned out, this sort of tactic was enough to dissuade many career-minded journalists from touching the story.

The Story Was Sent Back

During the time Bob and I worked together at the Associated Press in the mid-1980s, we met a wall of resistance to our stories that didn’t make much sense. We turned in one story about the Oliver North network, citing more than two dozen sources, among them aides to North, contra leaders, and U.S. law enforcement officials. The story was sent back. “Can’t you get North to just confess?” the AP bureau chief asked.

We turned in another story, nine months in the works, about contras involved in drug smuggling. The editing was excruciating, and even after our bureau chief edited out any references to CIA involvement, the story was killed. It was only published by accident on the Spanish-language wire before AP executives decided they couldn’t hold it any longer.

It was about this time that we learned that our bureau chief was meeting regularly with North; they each were point-persons in efforts to free AP reporter Terry Anderson, being held hostage in Lebanon.

As sympathetic as Bob was to Terry Anderson’s plight, he thought there might be a conflict of interest, since our bureau chief had insisted on personally editing out stories about North.

After Bob and I left the AP, we continued informally working together for many years.

A Plane Goes Down

In early October 1986, I remember coming out of an interview with a drug pilot at Miami Correctional Center and called Bob to go over what I’d learned. Bob interrupted and asked whether I’d heard the news: A U.S. plane ferrying weapons to the contras had been shot down, and there was a survivor.

That afternoon Bob and I were on a flight to Managua, where we spent the night pouring over boxes of documents, IDs and flight logs that mapped out an elaborate air resupply operation flown out of El Salvador’s Ilopango air base. The operation was run by two CIA operatives: Felix Rodriguez, a close friend of CIA veteran Donald Gregg, then the chief of staff to Vice President George Bush, and Luis Posada Carriles, another CIA operative and veteran bomb-maker who had just escaped, with the help of the CIA and Rodriguez, from a Venezuelan prison where he was serving time for bombing a commercial airliner.

Fast forward to 2018, in one of our last conversations, Bob told me what he’d found in another of his visits to the Reagan library: More documents about Walt Raymond and his efforts to use disinformation as a standard-issue weapon in taming the press.

Bob was not an ideologue. His zeal was in pursuing the truth. There was a lot he didn’t like about the political right, and he didn’t have much patience for the left.

Uncensored Reporting

Since the late 1980s, Bob saw the interventionist neoconservative movement as the biggest threat to US democracy and to stability in the world. And he saw Consortium News as a vehicle for uncensored reporting and an avenue to pursue the kind of historical narrative rare in American journalism today.

Of course, there was also the humorous side of Bob, who kept me laughing many long hours, often at Larry’s, Bob’s favorite gay bar around the corner from my house.

And that reminds me of at least one project Bob and I hadn’t gotten to before he died. We’d come up with this brilliant idea of cashing in on everything we’d learned. We would launch a PR firm. We’d call it Psy-Ops Inc. And to prove our worth, we would select the most unlikely characters we could find, and turn them into winning candidates, using Walt Raymond’s playbook. It sounded like a great idea, but then we had the Tea Party. And then, well, the rest is history.




Bob Parry: Holding Government and Media to Account

A memorial was held on Saturday for Robert Parry, the late founder and editor of this web site.  Among the speakers paying tribute to Bob was Joe Lauria, the new editor of Consortium News.

By Joe Lauria

If you watch Bob’s various talks available on YouTube you’ll see that he was often asked why he started Consortium News. Bob says, essentially, that he got fed up with the resistance he faced from editors who put obstacles in the way of his stories, often of great national significance. One editor at Newsweek told him they were suppressing a story for “the good for the country.” The facts he’d unearthed went too far in exposing the dark side of American power. His editor was speaking, of course, about what was for the good of the rulers of the country, not the rest of us. As we just heard from John Pilger, Bob created a consortium for journalists who ran up against similar obstruction from their editors: a place for them to publish what they could not get published in the mainstream.

Sixteen years after Bob launched Consortium News with Sam and Nat I became one of those journalists. I’d had similar experiences. When I covered the diplomacy at the U.N. leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq for a Canadian chain that published the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, and other papers, I gave equal weight in my stories to the German, French and Russian opposition on the Security Council to the invasion.  So the chain’s foreign editor called me up one day from Ottawa to berate me for not supporting the war effort in my reporting.
He told me his son was a marine. I told him I was certain he was proud of him, but my job was not to support the war but to report objectively on what was happening at the Security Council.  The Bush administration never got their resolution. But they invaded anyway. It was illegal under international law as Kofi Annan finally said after being pressured by a BBC interviewer. Annan was then hounded to the point of a near nervous breakdown by the likes of then UN Ambassador John Bolton, who, unfortunately. has since gotten a promotion. I, on the other hand, on the day of the invasion was fired.

Later, while covering the U.N. for The Wall Street Journal, I found that several of my stories were suppressed or inconvenient facts were getting edited out. One was a story I twice had rejected on a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document that predicted the rise of ISIS back in 2012 but was ignored in Washington. It said the U.S. and its allies in Europe, Turkey and the Gulf were supporting a Salafist principality in eastern Syria that could turn into an Islamic State. Such a story would undermine the government’s war on terrorism.

In another instance, my editors repeatedly removed from my stories, on the UN vote on Palestine’s observer status, a line indicating that 130 nations had already recognized Palestine. At that point I realized the Journal had an agenda—not to neutrally report complex international events from multiple sides, but to promote US interests abroad. So I turned to Bob and he accepted a piece from me on that Palestine issue in late 2011, the first of many of my articles that he eventually published.

Bob was without doubt the best editor I’ve ever had. He was the only one who really understood—or accepted–what I was writing about.

Bob was a supreme skeptic, but he never descended to cynicism. His legacy, which I am committed to carry on, was of a principled, non-partisan approach to journalism. He took a neutral stance reporting on international issues, which some wrongly saw as anti-American. Bob knew never to take a government official’s word for it, especially an intelligence official. He knew people in all governments lie. But there are two other parties involved: the press and the public. He understood that the press had to act as a filter, to verify and challenge government assertions, before they are passed on to the public. Bob became distraught, and in his last piece poignantly said so, about the state of American journalism, where careerism and vanity had aligned the profession with those in power, a power through which too many reporters seem to live vicariously.

The press’ power is distinct from the government’s, it is the power to hold government accountable on behalf of the public. Bob understood that the mainstream media’s greatest sin was the sin of omission: leaving out of a story, or marginalizing, points of view at odds with a U.S. agenda, but vital for the reader to comprehend a frighteningly complex world.

The viewpoints of Iranians, Palestinians, Russians, North Koreans, Syrians and others are never fully reported in the Western media, though the supposed mission of journalism is to tell all sides of a story. It’s impossible to understand an international crisis without those voices being heard. Routinely or systematically shutting them out also dehumanizes people in those countries, making it easier to gain popular support in the U.S. to go to war against them.

The omission of such news day after day in newspapers and on television adds up over the decades to what Bob called the Lost History of post-war America. It is a dark side of American history—coups overthrowing democratically-elected leaders, electoral interference, assassinations and invasions. Omitting that history, as it continues to unfold nearly everyday, gives the American people a distorted view of their country, an almost cartoonish sense of America’s supposed morality in international affairs, rather than it just pursuing its interests, too often violently, as all great powers do.

These things aren’t normally mentioned in polite society. But Bob Parry built his extraordinary career telling those truths. And I’m going to do my damnedest to continue, and honor, his legacy.

Thank you.