Another Death By Drone Near Wana, Another Haqqani Passes

Top commander of fearful Haqqani network killed in US drone strike

A Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (AFP Photo/DOD)

A Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (AFP Photo/DOD)

A US drone strike in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan on Thursday killed at least seven militants, including Abdullah Haqqani, a top commander for the Haqqani Network, an Islamist insurgent group allied with the Afghan Taliban.

The strike occurred early Thursday about 18 miles (30 km) west of Wana, near the Afghan border, according to AFP.

Both Pakistan officials and a militant source confirmed that four foreign fighters and a top commander believed to be Abdullah Haqqani perished in the attack.

“At least seven militants were killed in the drone strike,” including a top Haqqani leader and four foreigners, an intelligence official in Wana told AFP.

Haqqani is known to have coordinated and sent suicide bombers to Afghanistan, the official added.

Another official in the nearby town of Bannu confirmed the number of fatalities and the commander’s death.

A militant source told AFP a vehicle full of arms and ammunition was also destroyed by the drone missile.

The Haqqani Network has been a consistent thorn in the side of NATO forces during the Afghan War, sending fighters over the border from their base in the Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan. The group has also allied with Al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and other militant groups against NATO.

Former Taliban fighters stand with their weapons during a reconciliation process in Herat province (AFP Photo)

Former Taliban fighters stand with their weapons during a reconciliation process in Herat province (AFP Photo)

Top members of the Haqqani Network, a subgroup of the Afghan Taliban, have been targeted for death by the United States’ unmanned drone regime. The group’s former third-in-command Badruddin Haqqani – son of Haqqani Network founder and former mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, and brother of the Network’s operational leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani – was confirmed by the Taliban one year ago to have perished in a US drone strike in the summer of 2012.

The US has also successfully targeted top members of the Pakistani Taliban, including Hakimullah Mehsud.

Like Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network was borne out of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Both groups, among others, can credit US investment in militant fighters opposed to Soviet forces as a springboard for their rise ever since. The group has consistently targeted Western forces in the region during the US occupation of Afghanistan following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Haqqani Network was responsible for capturing American Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2009. Bergdahl was released earlier this year in exchange for 18 US-held Taliban fighters.

The United States has operated clandestine, CIA-run unmanned drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. The US justifies this violation of Pakistani sovereignty with the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a law the US Congress signed days after the 9/11 strikes that granted the US President the right to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those behind the attacks on America. In May 2013, nearly 12 years after the law’s signing, US President Obama – in promising reforms to the drone program that are difficult to verify based on the government’s secrecy – clarified who falls into that category as “Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and its associated forces.”

Soviet soldiers stand in front of their tanks as they take one final look at local scenery, according to Soviet news agency Tass who released this picture October 15, 1986. Six Soviet regiments are said to be returning from Afghanistan to their permanent bases in the Soviet Union. (Reuters/TASS)

Soviet soldiers stand in front of their tanks as they take one final look at local scenery, according to Soviet news agency Tass who released this picture October 15, 1986. Six Soviet regiments are said to be returning from Afghanistan to their permanent bases in the Soviet Union. (Reuters/TASS)

Pakistan has denounced US drone activity, claiming it is illegal and counterproductive. Yet many believe the two nations collude in their mutual desire to eradicate Islamist militants from the semi-autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border.

In June, Islamabad launched its own offensive in North Waziristan, site of many US drone strikes. The Pakistani military claims to have killed more than 1,100 extremist fighters since its assault began, with 100 of their own soldiers dying along the way, according to AFP. The offensive began after peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban fell through.

This still image provided on December 7, 2010 by IntelCenter shows the Taliban associated video production group Manba al-Jihad December 7, 2010 release of someone that appears to be US soldier Bowe Bergdahl (L), who has been held hostage by the Taliban since his disappearance from his unit on June 30, 2009. (AFP/IntelCenter)

This still image provided on December 7, 2010 by IntelCenter shows the Taliban associated video production group Manba al-Jihad December 7, 2010 release of someone that appears to be US soldier Bowe Bergdahl (L), who has been held hostage by the Taliban since his disappearance from his unit on June 30, 2009. (AFP/IntelCenter)

Observers cite a pause in US drone strikes during those government-Taliban negotiations as proof of the collaboration between Washington and Islamabad, though Pakistan government and military officials deny these allegations.

US drone strikes have killed as many as 3,858 people, including as many as 957 civilians, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which conducts the most comprehensive accounting of drone activity in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

US officials avoid acknowledging CIA drone strikes, instead preferring to assure that any strikes are used against top Islamist militants when capture is not available. The New York Times reported in May 2012 that those targeted for strikes – Obama’s “kill list” – are cleared through the White House during weekly meetings dubbed “Terror Tuesdays.”

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo)

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo)

At the time, all military-age males were considered ‘militants’ to the US, thus eligible for a drone missile. The strikes have been divided into those in which intelligence guides who is killed by drone and those in which the eventual target is only suspected of wrongdoing based on his movements, associations, and the like. The latter brand of targeting is known as a ‘signature strike.’

Despite US claims that it just hits “confirmed terrorist targets” with drone missiles, only 84 of the at least 2,300-plus victims have been named Al-Qaeda members, a recent Bureau report revealed.

Russia, Ukraine and EU Sign Gas Supply Contract–Nobody Freezes In Europe

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak shakes hands with Ukraine's Energy Minister Yuri Prodan (R) after gas talks between the European Union, Russia and Ukraine at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels October 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak shakes hands with Ukraine’s Energy Minister Yuri Prodan (R) after gas talks between the European Union, Russia and Ukraine at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels October 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Ukraine, Russia, EU agree to natural gas supply deal



(Reuters) – Ukraine, Russia and the European Union signed a deal on Thursday on the resumption of Russian natural gas supplies to Ukraine for winter after several months of delay during the conflict in Ukraine.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who witnessed the three-way signing ceremony in Brussels as he prepares to leave office on Friday, said: “There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter.”

Talks had been broken off in the early hours as Moscow sought more guarantees from the EU that it would help Ukraine pay for its natural gas. They resumed on Thursday evening.

EU officials said both Russia and Ukraine had bargained hard for commitments from the Western bloc, with Moscow looking for EU cash to help Ukraine pay off debts to Gazprom and the Kiev authorities anxious to get a deal that they could present to domestic voters as not overpaying for vital Russian supplies.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in Kiev that the EU had agreed to serve as guarantor for Kiev in holding Russia to an agreement, notably on the price Ukraine would pay.

Yatseniuk, in figures later confirmed by Moscow, said Ukraine would pay $378 per 1,000 cubic meters to the end of 2014 and $365 in the first quarter of 2015. He said Kiev was ready to pay off debts for gas immediately after any deal was signed.

A total of $1.45 billion would be paid immediately and a further $1.65 billion paid by the end of the year, he said.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak insisted that Ukraine would still have to pay up front for new deliveries to see its 45 million people through winter. Moscow expects some $1.6 billion for gas to be supplied.

Some critics of Russia question whether its motivation is financial or whether prolonging the wrangling with ex-Soviet Ukraine and its Western allies suits Moscow’s diplomatic agenda.

Ukraine is in discussions with existing creditors the EU and the IMF.

The gas cut-off has had little impact for months. But pressure is mounting for a deal as temperatures start to drop below freezing.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who has been mediating, also leaves office on Friday, making way for a new European Commission.

“We can say to the citizens of Europe that we can guarantee security of supply over the winter,” he said of what he called the $4.6-billion deal to supply Russian natural gas to Ukraine.

EU member states west of Ukraine would also, he said, have stable supplies, passing through Ukrainian pipelines, while Russia would gain the benefit of payment for its energy.

The two sides came close to an agreement in September, but last week differences were wide.

Weekend elections returned a pro-Western parliament in Kiev, potentially stoking tensions with Moscow, although Russia’s EU envoy, Vladimir Chizhov, said on Thursday the mood could be more relaxed now the vote had taken place.

Ukraine’s Naftogaz company has set aside $3.1 billion in a special escrow account to pay the debt.

Kiev says it is working to raise more money from all possible sources of financing, including the EU. The Commission is considering Ukraine’s request, made last week, for a further loan of 2 billion euros.

Russia provides around a third of the European Union’s natural gas, roughly half of which is pumped via Ukraine.

Ukraine in turn relies on Russia for around 50 percent of its own natural gas and despite storage has a winter shortfall of around 3 billion to 4 billion cubic meters, depending on the weather.

For Russia, the natural gas sector contributes approximately a fifth of the national budget.

Sanctions on Russia, which EU officials decided to leave unchanged on Tuesday while the conflict in Ukraine continues, are sapping an already weak economy.

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova, Lidia Kelly and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Tom Koerkemeier, Phil Blenkinsop, and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels)



Russia, Ukraine, and the European Commission have signed an agreement on gas supply and transit conditions until March 2015 during talks in Brussels.

The agreement was signed by Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yury Prodan, and vice president of the EC in charge of energy, Guenther Oettinger. The signing was witnessed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EC’s new vice president in charge of energy, Marosh Shefchovich.

Ukraine will be able to receive the needed volumes of Russian gas until the end of March based on a pre-payment plan at a price of $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, Oettinger said during the press conference.

Speaking at a briefing after the signing of the deal, Oettinger assured that Ukraine said it is ready to pay $1.451 billion of its gas debt to Russia “immediately.”

According to Oettinger, Kiev will be able to pay back $3.1 billion of its gas debts before the end of the year. However, he added that the final figure will depend on the decision of the international Stockholm court of arbitration on the gas debt dispute.

Ukraine will get the money it is lacking with the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union, the EC official announced. Oettinger expects that the promised financial assistance from the IMF and the EU will be used by Kiev to pay for Russian gas.

“The advantage for Ukraine is that it confirms the role of a reliable partner in the center of Europe and IMF and EU’s programs of assistance would be used correctly to pay its gas debts,” Oettinger stressed.

Russian Energy Ministry confirmed the agreement on necessary documents for the winter package of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Energy Minister Yury Prodan also stated that the gas agreement on supplies of gas to Ukraine between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission has been reached.

Thursday’s meeting in Brussels was another attempt to settle the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. The parties have been struggling to agree on the final gas price and the payment schedule.

While Novak said on Thursday that key parameters of the gas deal, including a $385 price, had been agreed, it remained unclear where Ukraine was going to get money.

READ MORE: Basic parameters of gas deal agreed – Energy Minister

On Thursday, Gazprom left Brussels insisting Ukraine and the EU must first agree on the financial points between themselves.

Earlier, Russia rejected all payment schemes proposed by the EU, saying all of them were a hidden form of another gas loan to Ukraine.

Having smooth gas supplies from Russia is crucial for both Ukraine and the EU.

Kiev needs around 4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to survive the coming winter, and over 15 percent of Russian gas to Europe travels via Ukraine.

Before Ukraine can begin receiving Russian gas again, it must first pay off its $1.45 billion debt in the coming days, and another $1.65 billion in an advance payment by the end of the year, making it a total of $3.1 billion.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj wins right to sue British government in open court


Claim No. HQ12X02603



Profile: Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj

Libyan torture victim wins right to sue British government in open court


Libya's Islamist military chief Abdel Hakim Belhadj. (Reuters/Youssef Boudlal) Libya’s Islamist military chief Abdel Hakim Belhadj. (Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)


A Libyan exile, who was allegedly tortured with the complicity of the British intelligence services, has won the right to have his case heard in open court, despite government attempts to prevent the case being heard in public.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, and his wife Fatima Bouchar, accuse the British government of allowing the regime of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi to torture them in 2004, with MI6 and former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw complicit in US-led rendition programs.

According to anti-torture charity Reprieve, who are assisting Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar in their legal challenge, Belhaj was tortured both in Libya and a CIA ‘blacksite’ in Bangkok. Al-Saadi was forced to board a plane in Hong Kong with his wife and four children before facing torture in Libya.

The allegations came to light during the 2011 uprising, in which both men fought with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, when documents relating to their transfer were uncovered.

The judgment, made by the Court of Appeal on Thursday, said the case was too “grave” to be heard in secret.

“The stark reality is that unless the English courts are able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, these very grave allegations against the executive will never be subjected to judicial investigation,” the statement said.

The judgment represents a major blow to the British government, which has previously denied or downplayed their involvement in joint rendition programs with the US.

The Foreign Office has told the BBC it was “considering” whether to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, but is yet to take any formal action.

Belhaj, who is currently the leader of the Conservative Islamist al-Watan party in Libya, said he and his wife were “gratified” by the judges’ decision. Their torture was “as fresh and as painful for us as if it happened yesterday,” they added.

READ MORE: Tortured Libyans allege UK spied on legal talks

The statement follows demands from Belhaj’s legal representatives calling on the government to publish secret policies detailing when the communications of lawyers and journalists may have been intercepted.

Responding to the judgment, director of Reprieve Cori Crider said the UK had avoided hearing Belhaj’s case for too long, for fear of angering the US.

“The court [judgment] was right: embarrassment is no reason to throw torture victims out of court. The government’s dubious and wasteful delay tactics in this case need to end. Enough is enough,” she said.

UK ministers have been under significant pressure to unveil the true extent of government involvement in rendition and torture programs, particularly the use of Diego Garcia, a UK ‘black site’ with no formal jurisdiction, that campaigners say was used to transfer victims to be tortured overseas.

Repeating our Middle East mistakes, Hoping That Next Time They Will Work

Repeating our Middle East mistakes

baltimore sun


President Barack Obama’s latest foray into the Middle East is unfortunately reactive and uninformed and shows how very little he seems to take into account our bloody history in the region.

It’s as if the past quarter century never happened.

Where do we begin? After practically pushing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in 1990 (by having Kuwait demand quick payment on Billions of dollars of previous loans to Iraq and having our Ambassador in Baghdad tell Hussein that the U.S. has no treaty obligations to defend Kuwait), American air strikes killed tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the first Persian Gulf War. This was followed by nearly 10 years of crippling economic sanctions against Iraq, resulting in the death of a half million Iraqi children for lack of medicine, sanitation and malnutrition.

All of this culminated a dozen years and two presidents later when, despite no connection to 9/11 or al-Qaida, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, resulting in as many as 148,000 civilian deaths according to Iraq Body Count, economic collapse, a mass migration of doctors and scientists out of the country, massive pollution and a rollback of basic human rights. For years, Washington supported prime minister Nouri al Maliki, who is now blamed for setting the country on the path of sectarian violence, bolstering extremism and supporting the brutal crackdown by Bashar Assad on his own opposition in Syria.

Later in 2011, as the Muslim world reached a fever pitch of turmoil, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and quickly spread to Egypt. Uprisings occurred in Syria and Libya, all against corrupt dictators and monarchs whom the U.S. had been propping up for years. Attempts to demonstrate for freedom in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — all “allies” of America — were systematically snuffed out with brutal force. The West, under the leadership of the U.S., did nothing.

Meanwhile, when Europeans and the U.S. saw western oil interests in peril, they decided madman Muammar Gadhafi must go. Together they bombed Libya, hastened a civil war, and helped corner and kill Gadhafi in 2011. The oil may be secured for now, but the rest of the country is a no man’s land, virtually lawless and a breeding ground for extremists.

This takes us back to the beginning: Extremists born out of U.S. wars, interventions and support for tyranny in the region have created al-Qaida copycats, specifically the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). As a result, after overlooking the Syrian plight for two years, Mr. Obama has initiated bombing campaigns in both Iraq and Syria, ostensibly to snuff out ISIL (also known as Islamic State or ISIS). It is a barbaric, inhumane organization. But we should ask the question: Why do so many Arabs, Muslims and foreign-born volunteers take so much risk to join such a nihilistic organization? Because many in the Middle East and around the world think ISIL is preferable to the corrupt regimes we support and are tired of interventions that have only protected authoritarians at the expense of the powerless.

And so it goes, a cyclical call to arms to which Mr. Obama seems alarmingly inured. The pro-war machinery here in the U.S. uses demagoguery, falsehoods and repulsive videos to terrify the U.S. population into supporting war in Middle East and likely soon, “boots on the ground” in Iraq. All of the same red meat — think WMD’s and “mushroom clouds” — used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The worst of it is, this current policy — if one could call it that — flies in the face of Mr. Obama’s early pronouncements of democracy building and tolerance, including his speech to the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009. Aside from attempting to free Iraqis and Kurds from the murderous hand of ISIL fighters, Mr. Obama seems to have abandoned the people of Middle East. Now they distrust American intentions more than ever, not because of some conspiratorial hypothesis but because of past deeds.

Mr. Obama is stumbling down a dead-end road littered with signs of history he seems hell-bent on ignoring. And it is to all of our peril, because this trajectory will increase hatred for us with a zealot’s passion.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, and the author of “Equal Worth — When Humanity Will Have Peace.” His website is

Dutch Government Requests MH-17 Satellite Data from Russia and US

Netherlands calls on US and Russian data from their radars on MH17

el pais

Hague calls about 10 minutes before and after the fall of the flight

Several people at the scene of the MH17 in Ukraine in July. / D. faget (afp)

The Dutch government has officially assumed the tragedy of flight MH17 from Malaysian Airlines was not an accident, but a terrorist attack , and has requested assistance from the United States and Russia to try. Washington claims data collected by its satellites. Specifically, ten minutes before and after the downing of the plane on Ukraine, which killed 298 people, 196 of Dutch nationality . The Attorney General’s Office plans to do the same with Moscow, but with the information captured by their radars. The first installment could prove whether the aircraft was shot down by surface to air missile fired by pro-Russian rebels. Is the American thesis. The other would clarify whether, as Russia maintains, could have her guilt of Ukrainian fighter aircraft. The problem is that the Netherlands has not yet received a response from their partners, and the wait can be long.

This is just the government itself admitted in a letter sent to Parliament where he states that “from a legal point of view,” it is very complex to reveal US intelligence information. “ “However, prosecutors are seeking to find the relevant material necessary.” The Hague depends more than ever on the US and Russian cooperation because eastern Ukraine, in particular the province of Donetsk, which fell MH17, remains the scene of fighting between pro-Russian and Ukrainian troops.

So far, the only official report on the incident is provisional and signed by the Dutch Safety Board. According to experts, “there was no technical failure and the ship exploded in the air, probably due to the impact of various external objects with high energy that passed through the fuselage.” Given the magnitude of what happened and the national trauma suffered by Holland , families kept a respectful silence to not hinder the work of forensic (already identified 284 bodies). In early October, however, a sentence of the previous Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans (now vice president of the European Commission) , caused a scandal. He said one of the passengers was wearing an oxygen mask on when they took his body . Since the initial report claimed that “had no time to do anything” before he died, relatives were horrified. Since then, the national government demanding faster and results in research. An attitude reinforced by the statements of the German intelligence services have concluded that “the attack was perpetrated by rebel allies of Russia.” In the same parliamentary note, the Government of The Hague that its preference “draw their own conclusions.”

UK-Qatar Partnership To Revive Links with Muslim Brotherhood?

[SEE: Must we dance to Saudi tune over Muslim Brotherhood?  ; Qatar retreat from the expulsion of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood]

Qatar, UK sign partnership pact

gulf times

Qatar, UK sign partnership pact

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth meets HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani at Buckingham Palace in London yesterday. RIGHT: British Prime Minister David Cameron receiving HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at 10 Downing  Street yesterday.



Qatar and UK signed a memorandum of understanding for establishing a new political framework following HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s meetings with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the country’s Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and HE the Foreign Minister Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah signed the new political framework – the UK-Qatar Sharaka (partnership in Arabic) – aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.

Hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron, the meeting was part of the Guest of Government visit of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to the UK.

In a press statement, the British embassy in Doha said the UK-Qatar Sharaka creates a new forum to discuss important issues and will help strengthen the ties between the two countries across defence and security; culture and sport; education and research; foreign policy; trade and investment; health and energy.

“The UK values its close relationship with Qatar and is keen to further improve the existing strong links between both countries,” said British ambassador Nicholas Hopton.

He noted that the Sharaka will create a formal commitment to strengthen UK-Qatar relations across the board through a bilateral dialogue between the two governments.

The group will meet every six months under the leadership of Tobias Ellwood, Minister for the Middle East and South Asia, and Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In his talks with the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Emir discussed ways to strengthen bilateral relations at all levels.

The official talks, which were held at the Prime Minister’s Office ‘No. 10 Downing  Street’ in London, also dealt with several current international and regional issues, especially the situation in the Middle East region.

The talks were attended by the members of the official delegation accompanying the Emir and several British ministers.

Also on the occasion, Qatar’s ambassador to the United Kingdom Yousuf bin Ali al-Khater handed over a letter to Nick Perry, Adviser to British Prime Minister, concerning a grant from Qatar to support the Margaret Thatcher Scholarship Trust.

In his talks with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, the Emir discussed relations of friendship and co-operation between Qatar and the UK and means of enhancing them besides a number of topics of mutual concern.

Later the Emir attended a luncheon banquet hosted by Prime Minister Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

Members of the British cabinet also attended the banquet.


The Myth Of The Free Press–the Danger of Reporting the Truth About the Powerful

The Myth Of The Free Press

zero hedge

Authored by Chris Hedges, originally posted at TruthDig blog,

There is more truth about American journalism in the film “Kill the Messenger,” which chronicles the mainstream media’s discrediting of the work of the investigative journalist Gary Webb, than there is in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which celebrates the exploits of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.

The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy – even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes. They slavishly venerate the military and law enforcement in the name of patriotism. They select the specialists and experts, almost always drawn from the centers of power, to interpret reality and explain policy. They usually rely on press releases, written by corporations, for their news. And they fill most of their news holes with celebrity gossip, lifestyle stories, sports and trivia. The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses. The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities. These journalistic courtiers, who can earn millions of dollars, are invited into the inner circles of power. They are, as John Ralston Saul writes, hedonists of power.

When Webb, writing in a 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury News, exposed the Central Intelligence Agency’s complicity in smuggling tons of cocaine for sale into the United States to fund the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, the press turned him into a journalistic leper. And over the generations there is a long list of journalistic lepers, from Ida B. Wells to I.F. Stone to Julian Assange.

The attacks against Webb have been renewed in publications such as The Washington Post since the release of the film earlier this month. These attacks are an act of self-justification. They are an attempt by the mass media to mask the collaboration between themselves and the power elite. The mass media, like the rest of the liberal establishment, seek to wrap themselves in the moral veneer of the fearless pursuit of truth and justice. But to maintain this myth they have to destroy the credibility of journalists such as Webb and Assange who shine a light on the sinister and murderous inner workings of empire, who care more about truth than news.

The country’s major news outlets—including my old employer The New York Times, which wrote that there was “scant proof” of Webb’s contention—functioned as guard dogs for the CIA. Soon after the 1996 exposé appeared, The Washington Post devoted nearly two full pages to attacking Webb’s assertions. The Los Angeles Times ran three separate articles that slammed Webb and his story. It was a seedy, disgusting and shameful chapter in American journalism. But it was hardly unique. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in the 2004 article “How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb’s Career,” detailed the dynamics of the nationwide smear campaign.

Webb’s newspaper, after printing a mea culpa about the series, cast him out. He was unable to work again as an investigative journalist and, fearful of losing his house, he committed suicide in 2004. We know, in part because of a Senate investigation led by then-Sen. John Kerry, that Webb was right. But truth was never the issue for those who opposed the journalist. Webb exposed the CIA as a bunch of gunrunning, drug-smuggling thugs. He exposed the mass media, which depend on official sources for most of their news and are therefore hostage to those sources, as craven handmaidens of power. He had crossed the line. And he paid for it.

If the CIA was funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs into inner-city neighborhoods to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua, what did that say about the legitimacy of the vast covert organization? What did it tell us about the so-called war on drugs? What did it tell us about the government’s callousness and indifference to the poor, especially poor people of color at the height of the crack epidemic? What did it say about rogue military operations carried out beyond public scrutiny?

These were questions the power elites, and their courtiers in the press, were determined to silence.

The mass media are plagued by the same mediocrity, corporatism and careerism as the academy, labor unions, the arts, the Democratic Party and religious institutions. They cling to the self-serving mantra of impartiality and objectivity to justify their subservience to power. The press writes and speaks—unlike academics that chatter among themselves in arcane jargon like medieval theologians—to be heard and understood by the public. And for this reason the press is more powerful and more closely controlled by the state. It plays an essential role in the dissemination of official propaganda. But to effectively disseminate state propaganda the press must maintain the fiction of independence and integrity. It must hide its true intentions.

The mass media, as C. Wright Mills pointed out, are essential tools for conformity. They impart to readers and viewers their sense of themselves. They tell them who they are. They tell them what their aspirations should be. They promise to help them achieve these aspirations. They offer a variety of techniques, advice and schemes that promise personal and professional success. The mass media, as Wright wrote, exist primarily to help citizens feel they are successful and that they have met their aspirations even if they have not. They use language and images to manipulate and form opinions, not to foster genuine democratic debate and conversation or to open up public space for free political action and public deliberation. We are transformed into passive spectators of power by the mass media, which decide for us what is true and what is untrue, what is legitimate and what is not. Truth is not something we discover. It is decreed by the organs of mass communication.

“The divorce of truth from discourse and action—the instrumentalization of communication—has not merely increased the incidence of propaganda; it has disrupted the very notion of truth, and therefore the sense by which we take our bearings in the world is destroyed,” James W. Carey wrote in “Communication as Culture.”

Bridging the vast gap between the idealized identities—ones that in a commodity culture revolve around the acquisition of status, money, fame and power, or at least the illusion of it—and actual identities is the primary function of the mass media. And catering to these idealized identities, largely implanted by advertisers and the corporate culture, can be very profitable. We are given not what we need but what we want. The mass media allow us to escape into the enticing world of entertainment and spectacle. News is filtered into the mix, but it is not the primary concern of the mass media. No more than 15 percent of the space in any newspaper is devoted to news; the rest is devoted to a futile quest for self-actualization. The ratio is even more lopsided on the airwaves.

“This,” Mills wrote, “is probably the basic psychological formula of the mass media today. But, as a formula, it is not attuned to the development of the human being. It is a formula of a pseudo-world which the media invent and sustain.”

At the core of this pseudo-world is the myth that our national institutions, including those of government, the military and finance, are efficient and virtuous, that we can trust them and that their intentions are good. These institutions can be criticized for excesses and abuses, but they cannot be assailed as being hostile to democracy and the common good. They cannot be exposed as criminal enterprises, at least if one hopes to retain a voice in the mass media.

Those who work in the mass media, as I did for two decades, are acutely aware of the collaboration with power and the cynical manipulation of the public by the power elites. It does not mean there is never good journalism and that the subservience to corporate power within the academy always precludes good scholarship, but the internal pressures, hidden from public view, make great journalism and great scholarship very, very difficult. Such work, especially if it is sustained, is usually a career killer. Scholars like Norman Finkelstein and journalists like Webb and Assange who step outside the acceptable parameters of debate and challenge the mythic narrative of power, who question the motives and virtues of established institutions and who name the crimes of empire are always cast out.

The press will attack groups within the power elite only when one faction within the circle of power goes to war with another. When Richard Nixon, who had used illegal and clandestine methods to harass and shut down the underground press as well as persecute anti-war activists and radical black dissidents, went after the Democratic Party he became fair game for the press. His sin was not the abuse of power. He had abused power for a long time against people and groups that did not matter in the eyes of the Establishment. Nixon’s sin was to abuse power against a faction within the power elite itself.

The Watergate scandal, mythologized as evidence of a fearless and independent press, is illustrative of how circumscribed the mass media is when it comes to investigating centers of power.

“History has been kind enough to contrive for us a ‘controlled experiment’ to determine just what was at stake during the Watergate period, when the confrontational stance of the media reached its peak. The answer is clear and precise: powerful groups are capable of defending themselves, not surprisingly; and by media standards, it is a scandal when their position and rights are threatened,” Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote in “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.” “By contrast, as long as illegalities and violations of democratic substance are confined to marginal groups or dissident victims of U.S. military attack, or result in a diffused cost imposed on the general population, media opposition is muted and absent altogether. This is why Nixon could go so far, lulled into a false sense of security precisely because the watchdog only barked when he began to threaten the privileged.”

The righteous thunder of the abolitionists and civil rights preachers, the investigative journalists who enraged Standard Oil and the owners of the Chicago stockyards, the radical theater productions, such as “The Cradle Will Rock,” that imploded the myths peddled by the ruling class and gave a voice to ordinary people, the labor unions that permitted African-Americans, immigrants and working men and women to find dignity and hope, the great public universities that offered the children of immigrants a chance for a first-class education, the New Deal Democrats who understood that a democracy is not safe if it does not give its citizens an acceptable standard of living and protect the state from being hijacked by private power, are no longer part of the American landscape. It was Webb’s misfortune to work in an era when the freedom of the press was as empty a cliché as democracy itself.