[News] Whatever Happened to "Democracy Now?"

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 11 12:01:11 EDT 2008

June 11, 2008

When AIPAC Went Missing

Whatever Happened to "Democracy Now?"


It is with some alarm and dismay that I watched Amy Goodman's 
"Democracy Now" provide platform to right-wing Paksitani journalist 
Ahmad Rashid, long an apologist for Bush's war-on-terror, to recycle 
propaganda from British tabloid press and other discredited sources. 
His tale about al-Qa'ida recruiting white converts for terrorist acts 
in Europe originated with the British security services as part of 
their fearmongering campaign to build support for the 42-day 
detention without charge plan. No shred of evidence was ever offered.

Equally bogus are his claims of organized al-Qa'ida 'training camps', 
where recruits are offered foreign language training etc. Once again, 
these claims are the products of the vivid imaginations of the 
terrorologists proliferating in the war on terror fear factory. I 
suggest Goodman ask Rashid to substantiate claims, or issue a 
retraction. (When he claims 'Iraq is an Arab problem' and that it 
would be resolved when its neighbours 'stop interfering', I would 
have liked Goodman  to at least ask if he was aware the country is 
under U.S. occupation.)

He suggests the truce negotiated by the Pakistani government is 
tantamount to 'supporting the Taliban'. Quoting U.S. military 
officials in Kabul he alleges that Pakistan is 'funding' the 
'resurgence' of the Taliban. He faults Pakistan for not cooperating 
more enthusiastically in Bush's war on terror. Rashid appears to be 
living in a timeless world where the realities of 10 years past 
substitute for the present. Pakistani military's intervention in the 
FATA region has been brutal, now extending to the frontier heartland 
of Swat. Tactics have included Israeli-style collective punishment; 
wholesale demolition of recalcitrant villages; disappearing of 
opponents (mostly of the tribal homines sacri, not wealthy media 
figures of Rashid's stripe); bombing raids; extrajudicial killings. 
The response of the tribesmen -- all swept under the handy label of 
'the Taliban' by the government and hacks like Rashid -- is as brutal 
as it is predictable. Only a few months back three rockets landed in 
the very safe neighborhood where my sister resides in the frontier 
city of Peshawar.

Kidnapping for ransom has become a common phenomenon. Suicide attacks 
on the military have been frequent. The Pakistani military death toll 
now numbers in the hundreds. So when a guest on Goodman's show starts 
claiming that the Pakistani government is funding and encouraging the 
slaughter of its own soldiers I am forced to demur despite my disdain 
for the regime. When I hear Goodman's guest fault Pakistan for not 
allowing US forces on its territory, and refusing CIA a base in the 
tribal regions, its your judgment I must question Goodman for letting 
this pass without challenge.

The government for some time has shown a preference for a negotiated 
political settlement, only to be thwarted every time by unauthorized 
US assaults renewing the conflict. Other times the government has 
caved under pressure and resumed the assaults itself to fend off 
accusations that it is 'not doing enough' in the fight against the 
Taliban. This is the same twaddle Goodman has allowed Rashid to 
recycle on her show.

There is no reason why Pakistan should be cooperating with the US 
"war on terror". Under this rubric, the Musharraf regime has already 
devastated much of the tribal belt and created enemies where there 
were none. Contrary to Rashid's claim that the new government is 
'willing to follow the US agenda', it has promised to open dialogue 
with the tribals in order to end hostilities. This is a positive 
development that makes the US apprehensive, as it does Uncle Toms 
like Rashid who have wedded their careers to the 'war on terror' as 
its sanctioned cheer leaders.

I hope Goodman shows more care in the future in vetting her guests. 
She certainly could not have been unaware of the political leanings 
of this guest as on her very show he had declared his preferred 
outcome for the region's conflicts: a NATO 'victory' in Afghanistan.

This is the second time in a week where Goodman's editorial judgment 
has left me deeply disappointed. First was the refusal to cover -- 
yet again -- the AIPAC conference, with all its implications for US 
politics and the Middle East. In a year when even the mainstream 
media was finally forced to take notice (with Jon Stewart of the 
Daily Show going so far as to refer to the lobby group as the 'Elders 
of Zion', Democracy Now appeared alone in missing the irony of three 
presidential candidates pledging to fight the domination of lobbyists 
in Washington genuflect to the most powerful of them all.

Amy, what happened to Democracy Now's promise to speak truth to 
power? Did you not say once that your aim was to go where the silence 
is? How is it that the Washington Post was able to break the silence 
even as Democracy Now remained AWOL? Why did Democracy Now join MSM 
in denying Mearsheimer and Walt a voice, instead allowing their views 
to be misrepresented by critics without a chance of rebuttal? How 
well placed are you to criticize the mainstream for refusing to stand 
up to power when you can yourself be considered guilty of the same?

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is at the Department of Geography and 
Sociology, University of Strathclyde. He can be reached at 
<mailto:m.idrees at gmail.com>m.idrees at gmail.com

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