A hot topic of discussion as of late has been the systematic extermination of anyone that isn't a Republican from the cable news networks. Complaints from the right are that liberals aren't capable of speaking from a neutral position -- but conservatives are -- and that they threaten the institution of journalism itself by their mere existence in the public square. In what would be a massive scandal, were we actually to have an institution of journalism in this country, it has been revealed that Fox News has been complicit in the cover-up of the slaughter of civilians in the Afghan village of Azizabad by the United States military -- including women and children -- by such pillars of independence and neutrality in Brit Hume, and convicted felon Oliver North.
On the one hand you have Keith Olbermann apologizing to MSNBC viewers for airing graphic footage of the World Trade Center attacks without warning, given that every network had stopped airing such footage for years out of respect for the victims and because frankly, it's just a horrible thing for anyone to see. Senator John McCain used this footage to celebrate his nomination at the Republican National Convention.
Brit Hume and Colonel North repeatedly lied about the savage attack on Azizabad where it is now believed that no Taliban were killed at all, and rather than the 5-7 civilians the government said were killed -- and Fox News "confirmed" with "exclusive video" and the presence of an unimpeachable "independent embedded journalist", the all-civilian casualties are quickly reaching 100 and the U.S. military has been forced to reinvestigate its own terribly wrong conclusions.
In any sane world devoid of rank hypocrisy, the right ought to despise Colonel North.
North came into the public spotlight due to his participation in the Iran-Contra Affair, in which he was the chief coordinator of the sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua.
Fox New Channel's idea of an independent embedded journalist capable of reporting on the military from a neutral perspective is a former military Colonel that was personally involved in selling weapons to Iran -- illegally with accusations of drug running -- the country every neo-con and FNC commentator is just "dying" to go to war with. When the New York Times revealed the Bush administration's also illegal domestic spying program, conservatives opined that NYT reporters should be tried for treason and executed as traitors. It seems that so long as you've got an R next to your name, you can conspire against your own government and laws passed specifically to outlaw what you're trying to do, selling weapons to Bush's "axis of evil" sworn enemy Iran, and suddenly you're not just an ok guy, you're an "independent" journalist.
While I don't generally use my column to pump somebody else's work, in this case I believe it's probably worth the bits to point to and repeat strongly what has been reported and revealed by Fox News Channel's role in spreading government propaganda in service of a cover-up that ought to be strongly considered a war crime. Sadly, it's not the first.
On the night of August 22, the U.S. committed what Chris Floyd, in a richly detailed and amply documented piece, calls an "atrocity" in the Afghan village of Azizabad, near the western city of Herat. The U.S. conducted a massive midnight airstrike on the village, killing scores of unarmed civilians, including large numbers of women and children. That was preceded just weeks earlier by another U.S. airstrike in Eastern Afghanistan which "killed 27 people in a wedding party -- most of them women and children, including the bride."
What makes the Azizabad attack particularly notable is the blatant and now clearly demonstrated lying engaged in by the U.S. Government regarding this incident, with the eager propagandistic assistance of what we are constantly told is the "legitimate news arm" of Fox News -- namely, Brit Hume's show and his stable of "legitimate news reporters." Working in unison, Fox and the Pentagon continuously denied claims that large numbers of civilians had been killed in the airstrike, accusing the villagers of lying and U.N. investigators of having been "duped." But a mountain of documentary evidence and independent investigations have now conclusively confirmed that it was the U.S. Government that was lying and the villagers' claims which were true all along, forcing the military to "reinvestigate" its own conclusions.
While the government stubbornly insisted for two weeks that only "5-7 civilians and 30-35 militants" were killed, this is what Fox News was trumpeting not on pundit Bill O'Reilly's show, but on "serious journalist" Brit Hume's "News Hour":
When the U.S. military originally was denying the villagers' claim, the Pentagon claimed it had had conducted an investigation and that an unnamed "independent journalist" who happened to be with them confirmed their account that large numbers of Taliban were among the dead and only very few unarmed civilians were.
That "independent journalist" was Oliver North, who actually has his own pundit-class show on Fox News and has never served as a journalist either professionally or as an amateur at any time during his life.
That behavior -- which led to multiple felony convictions that were ultimately overturned because he had received immunity in connection with his testimony -- hasn't prevented North from being employed as a "reporter" by the serious, legitimate news arm of Fox News, nor from appearing regularly on Brit Hume's Serious News Show as a journalist, nor being cited as an "independent journalist" by the U.S. military to confirm its claims and accuse Afghan villagers of lying about the number of their dead.
That it was Oliver North who turned out to be the U.S. military's vaunted "independent journalist" verifying its claims about the Azizabad raids was revealed by Fox on the September 8 edition of "Special Report with Brit Hume," which was guest-anchored by "journalist" Jim Angle. At the top of the show, this is what Angle "reported":
Fox's news show -- not Bill O'Reilly, but Brit Hume's "legitimate news program" -- continued to insist, based upon the "reporting" of "journalist" Oliver North and his cameraman, that the U.S. military's original claims were true, and the villagers and the U.N. were lying, even as the U.S. military itself was, in light of the ample evidence, severely backtracking on its story.
There is plenty more to read at Glenn's column, but for the time being it should be plainly obvious the ridiculous double-standard created by the right where no liberals can serve as news anchors and that no conservative -- even ones convicted of lying to Congress, selling weapons to Iran, and allegedly running drugs to financially support a group that was forbidden by law to receive such support -- is too dishonest or untrustworthy to be considered a pundit on a pundit's show, and then a neutral and independent journalist when he has a cameraman in tow.
Keith Olbermann expressed sorrow and regret at the RNC for airing graphic footage of a terrorist attack during prime time and is lambasted for daring introduce humility and common sense to a newscast.
Fox News uses a man who lied to Congress, ran drugs, and sold weapons to our supposed sworn enemy, as an "independent journalist" to repeat government propaganda now proven conclusively false about atrocities committed by the U.S. military in Afghanistan just a couple of weeks ago.
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