Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Annan, Swift Boats and the DoD.
Defense Department launches new Swift Boats?
'Do not pander to the unappeasable.' The UN this week showed that it has not learnt this elementary lesson from the swift-boating of John Kerry Kerry, let alone from the swift-boating of Kofi Annan himself over the alleged UN Oil For Food Scandal, when it apologized for displaying a map that did not show Israel - which dated from before Israel existed!
As I went into the UN today, the Fox outside broadcast truck was there, and I groaned as I suspected what had brought it on a slow real news day.
I had read the Jerusalem Post, the New York Sun, and the more rabidly frothy edges of the Blogosphere and knew that well, they were at it again.
On the General Assembly-mandated day of solidarity for the Palestinian people, six weeks ago, Kofi Annan had made his mandatory appearance, and an enterprising photographer took a picture of the UN Secretary General in front of a map of mandatory Palestine in 1948.
Sometime around the Biblical forty days and forty nights later, the usual care in the community cases noticed the picture and raised a storm that because the map did not show Israel.
The UN apologized, but was wrong to do so, both in principle and tactics. Of course the map did not show Israel. The country did not exist in 1948, which is the year the map was drawn. What existed was the UN trusteeship of Palestine, which did exist.
Let's hope the Greeks or Italians do not have an exhibition on Mediterranean civilization with maps of Alexander's or Hadrian's empire. Just imagine how many countries they would have to apologize to, from Afghanistan to Britain that would not appear on the map.
John Bolton lent the dwindling diplomatic faith and credit of the US to the furor and sent a letter to Annan complaining that 'It was entirely inappropriate for this map to be used. It can be misconstrued to suggest that the United Nations tacitly supports the abolition of Israel.'
Excuse me; this is malicious distortion, not misconstruction. The crowd that started baying about this is not 'misconstruing.' They think that the UN is an anti-American and anti-Israeli plot, and have never been shy of saying so. Indeed Mr. Bolton's own words would suggest that he is in this camp.
It is possible that the Likudniks of the New York Sun and Jerusalem Post may want to deny history with all that guff about eternal capitals, but there is no reason whatsoever for the UN Secretariat to pander either to their anti-UN venom or their ahistorical hysteria.
They are looking for any excuse, no matter how feeble, to whip up a storm against the organization and its Secretary General, whoever that should be.
Of course, there is an understandable diffidence to combating their slanders, since one of the best pieces of advice is still 'Never argue with an idiot, by-standers can't tell you apart.' But times may be a-changing and in any case, apologizing to idiots only encourages their stupidity - and in this case overlooks their malice. The appropriate response is to sink the swift boats preemptively on the first signs of launch,
In the real world, Kofi Annan has done more to accommodate Israel in the organization than any of his predecessors for decades. In fact, there are a lot of Third World, Muslim and Arab diplomats who will tell you that he has gone too far in that respect.
It is also a matter of record that with the exception of Israel, and the US recently, and a few 'independent' Pacific coral reefs totally dependent on US funding, the nations of the world think that the Palestinians have had a raw deal, and that Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank, Gaza, and indeed the Golan heights. The Secretary General of the UN cannot and should not ignore the views of the world simply because a band of right wingers want to blog him to death on the subject.
The UN Secretariat should be handing out a press kit, showing the map again, and listing the resolutions by which the United Nations created Israel and partitioned the mandate and those since, supported by the US, that declared the West Bank and Gaza occupied territories. Ironically, by questioning the legitimacy of the organization, Annan's persecutors are implicitly undermining the State of Israel's own legal standing.
Of course. it is bad enough when the Murdoch echo chamber amplifies fact-checker-free world of the conservative fringe, but now there is another player.
In the wonderfully wacky world of the blogosphere, most postings should come with a government health warning cautioning that the contents have almost certainly not been edited, fact checked, or lawyered.
However, government health warnings are different in the modern world: they are usually warnings about the government rather than from it.
So it should not really be any surprise that the US Department of Defense has contracted a Detroit subsidiary of, and please have a wry grin, the giant French PR company Publicis, to get a favorable view of the department's work launched into the blogosphere. The company normally publishes web logs for clients like Ford and General Motors and is now tasked with recruiting bloggers prepared to present the war in Iraq through a rose colored screen. (Source: Intelligence Online No. 515, January 13th, 2006).
British political communications specialist, Tim Pendry of TPPR says of the swift-boating process that 'the use of the internet for these political purposes is as logical as the adaptation of the pornography industry to new technologies. Indeed, wealthy foundations and individuals supported by government technical advice, as well as disinformation units, move with the times.'
He cautions, 'The next development is so-called "citizen journalism" or what my network calls "real news." This should be about ordinary people transmitting material direct into the web at crisis points (like showing the police beating up a demonstrator live) but, again, you can expect events now to be constructed at which "citizen journalists" will magically appear to deliver coverage by feed to gullible broadcasters.'
Here, I have to respectfully disagree with Tim Pendry, who is not exposed to Fox or MSNBC. Those broadcasters are by no means gullible. They are cynical and malicious. I can already see a horde of 'citizen journalists' financed by conservative foundations, out there launching swift boats.