Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Obama sin Laden – The Magic of the Media

Posted: May 5, 2011 by fonnaguschakra in Environment, Media, Politics

Julian Assange, founder and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, makes an interesting point about the state and role of media today:

“One of the hopeful things that I’ve discovered is that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could’ve stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn’t reprinted government propaganda they could’ve stopped it. But what does that mean? Well, that means that basically populations don’t like wars, and populations have to be fooled into wars. Populations don’t willingly, with open eyes, go into a war. So if we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment.”

With that in mind it is interesting to look at the “bin Laden is Dead” story and how government officials have used it to create an environment of confusion, anger, patriotism, and ultimately division. This piece looks at how this environment was created.


John Brennan - Obama's counterterrorism chief

A lot of the inconsistencies, discrepancies, and confusion in the narrative has come from the mouth of one man in particular; John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser. It would be reasonable to assume this man would be debriefed thoroughly following an event in which his whole job is based around seeing as he was one of the main figures who brought this historic piece of news to the world’s attention.

A man in his situation would surely want to make sure he had all the facts checked and re-checked so that he could present the news to the world and answer any inevitable questions comprehensively. On Monday Brennan claimed that the al-Qaida leader was carrying a weapon and fired at troops before he was shot dead.

Obama and his team watch events unfold, but soon forgot all they had watched

On Tuesday we were told by US officials that bin Laden did not have a weapon at all. Instead we are told; “The bottom line is the team that entered the room was met with resistance and took appropriate action”. “I’m not aware of him having a weapon”.

Unfortunately it is impossible for me, or you, or anyone else to get the original information from the source because this info was disclosed during a background, off-camera briefing for specific reporters, most notably Politico which is run by Frederick J. Ryan Jr., former assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

(Politico is also owned by Allbritton Communications who have several media partners with who they co-report and distribute their content, including ABC, CBS and Yahoo! News).

This off-camera briefing was so because the officials had to speak on condition of anonymity since aspects of the operation remained classified.

Later on Tuesday the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney held a press conference to clear things up and publicly revise the administration’s account of the raid.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

They reiterated what they had said on Monday evening about bin Laden being unarmed but directed questions about the manner in which the Al-Qaeda leader “resisted” to the Pentagon. At the Pentagon early on Monday, however, a senior defense official announced that bin Laden used a woman as a human shield so he could fire shots. “He was firing behind her”, he said.

Carney also cleared up discrepancies about two women who were allegedly killed at the compound. He noted that one was killed on the first floor of the building in “the crossfire” while on the second floor he explained that when a U.S. “assaulter” approached bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader’s “wife” rushed the assaulter. She was shot but not killed. When asked was she armed he replied “no”.

What is interesting about this whole confusion surrounding the exact details of what happened is how we are led to believe it was a highly successful mission executed to a very high degree of precision involving constant communication back to President Obama in The White House.

Yet it seems, although troops on the ground in the middle of a “firefight” could relate information through headsets, satellites, and audio to give a wealth of information to commanding officers, The White House’s Press Secretaries cannot seem to put the narrative together in a cohesive, consistent manner which they can present to the world after the events have happened.

In such a situation surely the priority would be to create an unquestionable account of a series of very serious events to avoid anxiety and doubt amongst the masses.

Implying Pakistani Involvement

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani

Almost immediately after the news broke of the death of bin Laden, American rhetoric implied that Pakistani authorities must have been aware of the Al-Qaeda leaders presence not far from their military base and even that he received assistance from Pakistani officials.

On Tuesday Brennan told NBC’s TODAY that “clearly there was some kind of support network” for bin Laden inside Pakistan.

However he did decline to blame the Pakistani government directly for helping bin Laden but said “We’re not accusing anybody at this point, but we want to make sure we get to the bottom of this”.

While this still implicates Pakistani government involvement heavily, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Marine, a Senate Armed Services Committee member announced “I think this tells us once again that, unfortunately, Pakistan is playing a double game”. She also called for Congress to put limits on funds for Pakistan if they were found to be aiding the terrorist leader.

This is surely only increasing distrust between the two countries and could be seen as unnecessary for an American lawmaker to make publicly, at such a difficult time, comments regarding the sincerity of Pakistan’s operations.

Another U.S. senator Lindsey Graham simply said; “You cannot trust them and you cannot abandon them”. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin told reporters “it’s hard to imagine that the military or police did not have any ideas what was going on inside”.

All this seems to be redirecting focus and avoiding unanswered questions. While everyone is questioning the trustworthiness of Pakistan’s involvement most are forgetting other inconsistencies in the narrative and nobody is asking whether U.S. special forces violated international law when they carried out their operation.

In fact the Pakistan government is in much more of a position to be questioning the U.S. as effectively American soldiers entered their country without permission, which some may define as invasion.

The Pakistani government said in a statement that the raid “of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule”.

“The government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the U.S.,” said the statement, calling such actions a “threat to international peace and security.”

What is not repeated on news stations is the fact that U.S. aircraft would have required permission from the Pakistani government to enter their airspace but instead the American forces entered illegally, making use of “blind spots” in the radar coverage caused by the hilly terrain surrounding Abbottabad.

The former chief of the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence) Hamid Gul noted “they sneaked in and carried out a raid, which is an act of war actually”.

But the rest of the world turns a blind eye to this and focuses its attention on the easy target – Pakistan.

However it is interesting to keep in mind, when reading the following excerpt from, that the ISI had been sharing information regarding the compound in Abbottabad with the CIA and other friendly intelligence services since 2009 and up to mid-April.

“Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Robert Fisk, a journalist with the Independent, a UK newspaper, who has previously interviewed bin Laden, said that people should stop talking about the ISI as if it was a single entity.

He said: “They’re [the ISI] not all one unique institution, they are differing in their views, some of them are pro-American, some of them are very anti-American, some of them are clearly sympathetic towards Islamists, extremists, whatever you like to call them.

“I called up one of the men I know last night and put it to him, ‘look, you know, this house was very big, come on, you must have had some idea.’

“What he said to me was ‘sometimes it’s better to survey people than to attack them.’

“And I think what he meant was that as long as they knew where he [bin Laden] was, it was much better to just watch rather than stage a military operation that may bring about more outrages, terrorism, whatever you like to call it.””

Although this piece of information is not too credibly sourced it does help us think about the situation in a different light, assisting us in using reasonable deductions to come to a conclusion that we have made with our own minds, not with what was fed to us through images and repetition.

Unprecedented Burial

The fake photo of bin Laden's face superimposed on some other corpse

The hasty burial of bin Laden has raised many more questions than it has laid to rest. For an operation which, we are told, was so meticulously planned and executed to such a high degree of precision the U.S. forces that killed the terrorist leader obviously hadn’t such a comprehensive plan for what to do with his body.

After shooting the unarmed bin Laden in the chest twice and head once (at such close range that his forehead smashed open revealing his brain, an image so “gruesome” that the rest of the world is deemed unfit to view it), U.S. officials decided the most reasonable way to dispose of his body would be to travel over 1,500km to the Arabian Sea and, “in accordance with Islamic tradition which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours”, lower him into the ocean.

We were told by U.S. officials that burying him on land could have led to his grave becoming a shrine or a centre of contention even though the Wahhabi/Salafi tradition reject such things. “Even Saudi kings are buried in unmarked graves”, the Guardian tells us.

The Guardian also points out that the 24 hour rule has not always been applied by the U.S. in the past. It notes the bodies of Sadam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay were held for 11 days before being released for burial. And let’s not forget they were Muslim as well.

Many Muslim websites have noted that burial at sea is permitted but only in extraordinary circumstances and being buried in the earth is much more preferred.

Some have viewed the sea burial as offensive; “It is not acceptable and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim man into the sea. The body of Bin Laden should have been handed over to his family to look for a country to bury him.”

There is much more room for debate regarding the burial or non burial of an Islamic extremist terrorist but if the Al Jazeera journalist’s source is to be believed a constant close surveillance of the former Al-Qaeda leader would have created a lot less problems that the invasion of a country, the killing of an unarmed man (amongst others), and the rattling of already fraught relations between two nuclear-armed countries.

Instead, a country celebrates the death of a human being (however ‘human’ he may have been) because it’s “who we are” (in the words of Obama). I suppose that means Americans are a vengeful, hatred-filled country, hell-bent on “completely wiping out” a group of people who oppose their beliefs .

Effectively that is how they have represented themselves and so it raises another question; in what way are they really any different from Islamic extremists?


BP have received torrents of criticism lately, and while the Gulf of Mexico disaster is the most high-profile ecological case right now, it is certainly not the only one

The recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reignited the debate as to the impact human processes are having on the future of our planet, both in the long and short term. In Morgan City, Louisiana, their annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival – based on the two main industries in the area – took on a whole new meaning as tens of thousands of barrels worth of oil seep into the water on the southeastern seaboard every day. This is certainly the most high-profile ecological disaster in a long time, but there are so many other man-made calamities that have gone unnoticed to the public in other parts of the world, here are a few…

Jharia Coalfields, India

This Unreported World documentary really illustrates the plight of the local people in the Jharia region of India. India’s coal mines are a vital part of the economy, providing the fuel for iron smelting to continue their thriving steel industry. The type of coal found in Jharia can catch fire when it oxidises in the air, causing blazes both underground and on the surface, and which often last for years.

Naturally enough, this has had a huge impact on the lives of those living close by, with cancers and respiratory ailments at twice the normal rates. Sadly, the villagers cannot simply up and leave, because they are trapped in a vicious circle wherein the mines provide them with a meagre existence, as they illegally scavenge coal to sell for food. At one stage the reporter describes it as “a vision of Hell”. Watch 9:58, where an eight-year old lad tries to bring a lump of coal (half the size of himself) home from the mine. It’s both poignant and surreal.

GASLAND film – Hydraulic Fracturing

New laws were passed in the US in 2005, which loosened the environmental regulations for oil and gas companies, allowing them to use hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas from underground. The effects of this process have been quite alarming in some areas, and this film looks at the effects on locals that this gas escaping into the air has done for the health of the people. Another interesting film, and one which proves that it is not always the third world who are left with these problems. Since then, a 2009 law regarding the protection of the drinking water supplies (which had been greatly affected by hydraulic fracturing) was put in place, but many believe it does not go far enough.

Niger Delta

The oil-rich deposits in this region have been the source of great hardship and suffering for locals. All logic suggests that when one finds oil in their country, that this oil will benefit their people and their economy. The truth is, that it only benefits a small minority, and the resulting battle between militia for a share of the oil has caused thousands to flee their homes. According to Greenpeace, 80% of their oil revenue only goes to 1% of the population.

MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta), a militia group which started out as a riposte to the corrupt Nigerian government, has now become just as corrupt as those they were trying to oust. They are an armed group and, of course, have many rival groups as well – all of this inevitably leads to blood being spilled, and none of the oil profits going towards ordinary Nigerian families. Much like in Jharia, locals often try to siphon some of the oil for themselves, but of course, opening up highly-pressured pipes causes serious accidents, fires and further damage to the environment. Ross Kemp’s excellent “In Search of…” series explores the conflict as well…