Journal Entry #50
All that we cannot read.
NORFOLK, CONN., SEPT. 5—Something remarkable began to be published last Sunday. Cú Chulainn urges readers not to miss it. It is a multi-part exposé of singular distinction for its astonishing revelations and its exceptional documentation. The subject is the means by which the Pentagon has been—and so far as one can make out continues—arming the jihadist militias of the Islamic State and al–Nusra Front, al–Qaeda’s Syrian operation, which likes to change its name to dodge identification. It seems now to go by Fath al–Sham Front.
If you thought you knew the facts about the disorder and violence plaguing the Middle East, you will think again on reading the pieces now being published by Arms Watch.com, an organization dedicated to “tracking weapons in war zones and documenting war crimes.” Given the mission statement, they must be busy.
CÚ CHULAINN IS OCCASIONALLY surprised by what he reads in the corporate media, The New York Times their flagship, their signal ensign: If it appears in The Times it is permissible for others to run it. As mentioned in a column now pending, for instance, the one-time-and-no-longer newspaper of record ran an editorial in July indicating that Washington is having a rethink about Russia now that China is designated the proper object of America’s customary paranoia. This counts as a surprise.
“China, not Russia, represents by far the greater challenge to American objectives over the long term, The Times editorial board observed. “That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China.” A second surprise: “President Trump is correct” is not a phrase one finds often in The Times, now that is has abandoned all pretense of objectivity. The editorial is here.
But our media’s surprises lie more consistently in what they leave out. It is the sin of omission, the lie borne upon silence. Those familiar with Cú Chulainn’s thinking will know the Irish warrior’s name for this: He calls it POLO, the power of leaving out.
American media have been playing POLO for a very long time. But the game has grown more intense in recent years. The coup Washington cultivated in Ukraine five years ago was an inflection point. The U.S. role in those events having been thoroughly exposed for anyone who cared to look, the American press simply edited out those early chapters: They still pretend the story began when Moscow, abruptly and for no reason anyone could identify, decided to conduct a referendum in Crimea and thereafter brought it back under Russian sovereignty.
Syria has proven an even more brazen case of omission. The true identities of our “moderate rebels,” the pernicious role played by supposedly neutral NGOs, the false-flag chemical weapons incidents, Israel’s service as the jihadists’ paymasters: On and on it goes, none of this reported in The Times or, naturally enough, any other American newspaper of corporate ownership.
A few months ago I conducted one of my lengthy Q & A exchanges with Sharmine Narwani, a correspondent based in Beirut who covered the Syrian conflict with assiduous attention to on-the-ground detail and who works beholden to no corporate power. Sharmine lifted the rock on Syria. Under it we find a universe of truths diametrically the opposite of the narrative conveyed in the American press: POLO at its diabolic best. This exceptional interview is found here and here.
Narwani came to mind as I read the two parts of the Arms Watch series. Its author is Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, a Bulgarian investigative journalist and the founder of Arms Watch. Gaytandzhieva has been publishing reports on the supply of weapons to jihadists in Syria and Iraq for a couple of years now. Her new series, “Serbia Files,” is remarkable even by her high standards of diligence. It reports and documents the supply line the Pentagon has long used to convey weapons to vicious jihadists in the Middle East. It begins with Serbia’s state-owned arms manufacturer, runs through a Pentagon weapons depot in Croatia, jumps to a U.S. base in Croatia, and from there to its “end users,” to put the matter too antiseptically.
“Recently I anonymously received explosive documents from the Serbian state-owned arms companies Krusik and Jugoimport SDPR, including e-mails, internal memos, contracts, photos, delivery schedules, and packing lists with lot numbers of weapons and their buyers,” Gaytandzhieva begins. “Among the leaked documents I also received scanned passports of arms dealers and government officials from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and UAE. They have been involved in the trafficking of at least 3 million pieces of Serbian weapons (mortar shells and rockets) to Yemen and Syria in the last three years.”
What follows are two pieces—so far, Gaytandzhieva does not indicate if more are coming—that alter one’s idea of what it means to be American amid the desperation of our late-imperial phase. It is impossible to read them without drawing breath at the magnitude of our military-industrial complex’s out-of-control extravagances. These pieces can be found here and here.
Reading through, Cú Chulainn was struck again and again by Gaytandzhieva’s unhesitant determination to go all the way to the wall with what she has. She names names. She pieces together a Pentagon supply chain from origin to destination. She reproduces letters, leaked emails, packing lists, contracts, flight numbers, photographic evidence. And she cites amounts, which I especially appreciate. The deals involved come to hundreds of millions of dollars. Part 2 indicates an apparent case of embezzlement on the Pentagon side. Believe it, taxpayers: This is why our roads are potholed, our bridges are collapsing, our schools are crumbling.
Here is what I liked best about Dilyana Gaytandzhieva’s pieces: This work is an in-our-faces reminder of what authentic journalism still looks like. It is simply that one cannot find it where one used to. Count this Journal entry Cú Chulainn’s very admiring tip of the cap.
AT THIS POINT it is hard to surprise Cú Chulainn with the doings and not-doings of the American press. The game is more or less up: Corporate media’s quite disgraceful conduct over the past eighteen years—taking my date from the September 11 incidents—amounts to self-inflicted damage to their credibility that, short of some kind of public confessional and commitment to reform, they are unlikely ever to recover from. The Committee to Protect Journalists is fine enough. Where is our Committee to Protect Journalism?
To bring this down to a simply stated thesis, the corrosion of ethics and professional standards in the American media reflects our great country’s imperial decline, in the Celtic warrior’s view. In history, institutional decay is a prominent feature during the late-imperial phase. In our case, the press post–2001 has accepted recruitment as a servant of political power in said power’s urgent hour of need.
This is why one finishes reading the foreign section of The Times or the Washington Post—usually in a very few minutes—only to conclude one has not read worthwhile reports and one must go elsewhere to find them. This is why work of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva’s high caliber is left out.
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