any historical measure, whether it involves international law, human
rights conventions, United Nations protocols, or standard socio-economic
indicators, the policies and practices of the United States and European
Union regimes can be characterized as extremist. By that we mean
that their policies and practices result in the large-scale, long-term
systematic destruction of human lives, habitat and livelihood affecting
millions of people through the direct application of force and violence.
The extremist regimes abhor moderation, which implies rejection of total
war in favor of peaceful negotiations. Moderation pursues conflict
resolution through diplomacy and compromise and the rejection of state
and paramilitary terror, mass dispossession and displacement of civilian
populations and the systematic assault on popular sectors of civil society.
first decade of the 21st century we have witnessed the West’s embrace
of the full spectrum of extremism in both domestic and foreign policy.
Extremism is a common practice by self-styled conservatives, liberals
and social-democrats. In the past, conservative implied preserving
the status quo and, at most, tinkering with change at the margins.
Today’s ‘conservatives’ demand the wholesale dismantling of entire social
welfare systems and the elimination of traditional legal protection
of workers and the environment. Liberals and social democrats,
who in the past, occasionally, questioned colonial systems, are now
in the forefront of prolonged multi-front colonial wars ,which have
killed and displaced millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
in terms of its methods, means and goals, has obliterated the distinctions
between center left, center and rightwing politicians. Moderates
opposed to the current policies of subsidizing the major banks while
impoverishing tens of millions of workers, are now labeled the ‘hard
left’, ‘extremists’ or ‘radicals’.
the wake of the government’s extremist policies, the respectable, prestigious
print media have engaged in their own versions of extremism<#_ftn1>.
Colonial wars, devastating civil society and stable cultures while impoverishing
millions in the colonized country, are justified, embellished and presented
as lawful and humane advances in secular democratic values. Domestic
wars on behalf of oligarchies and against wage and salaried workers,
which concentrate wealth and deepen despair of the dispossessed, are
described as rational, virtuous and necessary. The distinctions
between the prudent, balanced, prestigious and serious media and the
sensationalist, yellow press have disappeared. The fabrication
of facts, blatant omissions and distortions of context are found in
one just as well as the other.
illustrate the reign of extremism in officialdom and among the prestigious
press, we will examine two case studies. These involve US
policies toward Colombia and Honduras and the Financial Times and New
York Times coverage of the two nations.
Colombia: The ‘Oldest Democracy in Latin America’ versus ‘The
Death squad Capital of the World’
the giddy eulogies of Colombia’s emergence as Latin America’s poster
boy for democracy in an April issue of Time Magazine,
as well as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post,
the Financial Times ran a series of articles including a special insert
on Colombia’s political and economic ‘miracle’ entitled, “Investing
in Colombia”<#_ftn2>. According to the FTs leading Latin
American journalist, John Paul Rathbone, Colombia is the ‘oldest democracy
in the hemisphere’<#_ftn3>. Rathbone’s rapturous praise
for Colombia’s President Santos extends from his role as an ‘emerging
power broker’ for the South American continent, to making Colombia safe
for foreign investors and ‘exciting the envy’ of other less successful
regimes in the region. Rathbone gives prominence to one Colombia
business leader who claims that Colombia’s second biggest city, Medellín,
‘is living through its best of times’<#_ftn4>. In line
with the opinion of the foreign and business elite, the respectable
print media describe Colombia as prosperous, peaceful, business friendly,
charging the lowest mining royalty payments in the hemisphere, and a
model of a stable democracy to be emulated by all forward-looking leaders.
Under President Santos, Colombia has signed a free trade agreement with
President Obama, his closest ally in the hemisphere<#_ftn5>.
During the term of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, trade unions,
human rights and church groups, as well as the majority of Congressional
Democrats, were successful in blocking any similar agreement because
of Colombia’s sustained human rights violations. Any such opposition
from the AFL-CIO and Democratic legislators evaporated, when President
Obama embraced free trade, claiming a vast improvement in human rights
and President Santos commitment to ending the murder of trade union
leaders and activists<#_ftn6>.
peace, security and prosperity, praised by the oil, mining, banking,
and agro-business elite, are based on the worst human rights record
in Latin America. With regard to the murder of trade unionists,
Colombia exceeds the entire world. From 1986-2011 over 60% of
the all killings of trade unionists in the world took place in Colombia
by combined military-police-paramilitary death squads, largely at the
behest of foreign and domestic corporate leaders<#_ftn7>.
The ‘peace’, so enthusiastically praised by Rathbone and his colleagues
at the Financial Times, comes with a heavy price tag: Over 12,000 arrests,
attacks, assassinations and disappearances of trade unionists occurred
between January 1, 1986 and October 1, 2010<#_ftn8>.
In that time span nearly 3,000 trade union leaders and activists were
murdered, hundreds more disappeared and are assumed dead. The
current Colombian President Santos was the Defense Minister under the
previous President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). In those years, over
762 trade union officials and activists were murdered by state or allied
both Presidents Uribe and Santos (2002 2012), over 4 million peasants
and rural dwellers were driven into internal exile and their homes and
lands were taken over by big landlords, speculators and narco- traffickers<#_ftn10>.
The Colombian government’s counter-insurgency strategy serves a dual
function of repressing dissent and accumulating wealth for its supporters.
The Financial Times journalists gloss over this aspect of Colombia’s
‘resurgent growth’ as they applaud the results of death-squad ‘security’,
including the over $6 billion dollars of large-scale foreign investment
which flowed into mining and oil regions in 2012 in areas ‘formerly
troubled by unrest’<#_ftn11>.
leading drug lords, clearly linked to the Uribe-Santos regime, were
jailed and extradited to the US. They have testified how they
financed and elected one-third of the Congress members affiliated with
Uribe-Santos party - in what the Financial Times describes as Latin
America’s ‘oldest democracy’. Salvatore Mancuso, ex-chief of the
30,000-member United Self-Defense of Colombia (AUC), described how he
met with then-President Uribe in different regions of the country to
give him money and logistical support for his re-election campaign of
2006. Mancuso, who led the largest paramilitary death squad army in
Colombia (now fragmented but still active), also affirmed that national
and multi-national corporations (MNC) financed the growth and expansion
of the death squads.
What Rathbone and his fellow journalists at the FT celebrate as
Colombia’s emergence as an investor’s paradise is writ large with
the blood and torture of thousands of Colombian peasants, trade unionists
and human rights activists. The brutal history of the Uribe/Santos
reign of terror has been completely erased from the current account
of Colombia’s ‘success story’. Detailed records of the brutality
of the killings and torture by Uribe/Santos sponsored death squads,
describing the use of chain saws to mutilate peasants suspected of leftist
sympathies are available to any journalist willing to consult Colombia’s
leading human rights organizations<#_ftn12>.
death squads and military act in concert. The Colombian military
is trained by over one thousand US Special Forces advisers. They
wage counter-insurgency style war on the Colombian countryside, arriving
in villages in waves of US-supplied helicopters, cordoning off targeted
areas from the guerillas and then sending in the AUC and other death
squads to destroy the villages, torturing and murdering peasant men,
women and children suspected of being guerilla sympathizers and committing
widespread rape. This state-sponsored terror campaign has driven
millions of peasants out of the countryside allowing the generals and
drug lords to seize their land.
rights advocates (HRA) are frequently targeted by the military and death
squads. Presidents Uribe and Santos usually first accuse human
rights workers of being active collaborators of the guerillas because
of their work in exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity.
Once labeled, the HRA became ‘legitimate targets’ for death squads and
the military operating with complete impunity. From 2002-2011
there were 1,470 attacks against HRA, with a record number of 239 in
2011, including 49 killings under President Santos.<#_ftn13>
Over half of the murdered human rights workers are Indian and Afro-Colombians.
terrorism was and continues to be the main instrument of rule under
Presidents Uribe and Santos. The Colombian ‘killing fields’, according
to the Fiscalia General, include tens of thousands of homicides,
1,597 massacres and thousands of forced disappearances from 2005 2010<#_ftn14>.
members of the Colombian press revealed a practice, known as ‘false
positives’, numerous instances in which the military secretly kidnapped
young peasants and poor urban males forcing them to dress as guerrillas,
murdered them in cold blood and then displayed their bodies to the respectable
Colombian and international press as ‘proof’ of Santos/Uribe’s combat
successes against the guerrillas. There are 2,472 documented cases
of military ‘false positive’ murders<#_ftn15>.
Honduras: New York Times and State Terrorism
New York Times featured an article on Honduras, emphasizing the regime’s
‘co-operation’ with the US war on drugs.<#_ftn16> The
Times writer, Thom Shanker, describes a ‘partnership’ based on the expansion
of three new US military bases and the stationing of US Special Forces
in the country.<#_ftn17>
reported on the successful operation of the Honduras Special Operations
forces under the direction of US Special Forces trainers. In Shanker’s
coverage, a US Congressional delegation praised the Honduran Special
Operations forces ‘respect for human rights’, quoting the US ambassador
description of the Honduran regime as ‘eager and capable partners in
this joint effort’.<#_ftn18>
are blatant parallels between the NY Times white-wash of the criminal
extremist regime in Honduras and the Financial Times’ crude promotion
of Colombia’s death squad democracy.
current extremist Honduran regime, headed by ‘President’ Lobos, which
invited the Pentagon to expand its military control over huge swathes
of Honduran territory, is a product of the US-backed military coup that
overthrew a democratically-elected liberal President on June 28, 2009,
a recent historical point Shanker avoids in his coverage. Lobos,
the predator president, retains control by killing, jailing and torturing
his critics, including journalists, human rights advocates and lawyers,
as well as now-landless peasants demanding a return of their properties
after they were violently seized by Lobos’ big-landlord allies.
the military coup, thousands of Honduran pro-democracy demonstrators
were killed, beaten and arrested. According to conservative estimates
by Human Rights Watch, 20 pro-democracy dissidents were openly murdered
by the military and police.<#_ftn19> From January 2010
to November 2011 at least 12 journalists, critical of the Lobos regime,
the countryside, where NY Times reporter Shanker describes a love fest
between the US Special Forces and their Honduran counterparts, 30 farm
workers in northern Honduras Bajo Aguan valley were killed by death
squads hired by Lobos powerful allies.<#_ftn20> Not
one military, police or death squad assassin has been brought to justice.
The original coup leader, Roberto Micheletti and his successor, President
Lobos, repeatedly attacked pro-democracy demonstrations, particularly
those led by school teachers, students and trade unionists. Hundreds
of jailed political dissidents have been tortured. During the
period of NY Times most euphoric articles on the cozy relations between
the US and Honduras, the death toll among pro-democracy advocates rose
precipitously: Eight journalists and a TV commentator were killed
during the first 4 months of 2012.<#_ftn21> In late
March and early April of 2012 nine farm workers and employees were murdered
by pro-Lobos landlords.<#_ftn22> With impunity reigning
in the Central American land of US military bases, no one has been arrest
for these murders. The NY Times coverage of Honduras follows the
Mafia rule of omega - silence and complicity.
Syria: How the Financial Times Absolves Al Qaeda Terrorists
Islamist terrorists savage the secular regime in Syria, the Western
press, especially the Financial Times, continue to absolve the terrorists
use of huge car bombs, which have killed and mutilated hundreds of Syrian
citizens. With crude cynicism Western reporters shrug their shoulders
and parrot the claims of the London-based anti-regime propagandists,
that the Assad regime was destroying its own cities and killing its
own citizens and security forces.<#_ftn23>
the Obama regime and its European allies publically embrace extremism,
including state terror, targeted assassinations and the car bombings
in crowded urban neighborhoods, the respectable press has joined in.
Extremism takes many forms from the refusal to report honestly about
the use of mercenary force and violence to overthrow
another anti-colonial regime to the blatant cover-up of the slaughter
of tens of thousands of civilians and the dispossession of millions
of peasants and farmers. The ‘educated classes’, the respectable affluent
reading public are being continuously indoctrinated by the respectable
Western media to believe that the smiling and pragmatic President Santos
in Colombia and elected President Lobos in Honduras have succeeded in
establishing peace, market-based prosperity, mutually beneficial free
trade agreements and military base concessions with the US---even as
these two regimes currently lead the world in the murder of trade unionists
and journalists. On May 15, 2012 the US Hispanic Congressional
caucus awarded Lobos a leadership in democracy award the same day
the Honduran press reported the murder of the news director of radio
station, HMT, Alfredo Villatoro, the 25th critical journalist killed
between January 27, 2010 and May 15, 2012.<#_ftn24>
respectable press’ embrace of extremism and its use of demonological
and vitriolic language to describe critical regimes opposed to imperialism
are matched by its euphoric and effusive praise of state and pro-western
mercenary brutality. The systematic cover-up of crimes by extremist
journalism goes far beyond the cases of Colombia and Honduras.
Financial Times reporter Michael Peel ‘covered’ the assault on
the Libyan government of Gaddaffi without mentioning the NATO-led bombing
campaign that destroyed Africa’s most advanced welfare state. Peel presented
the rise of armed gangs of fanatical tribal and Islamic terrorists as
a victory for democracy over a “brutal dictatorship”<#_ftn25>.
Peel’s mendacity and cant is evident in his outrageous claims that the
destruction of the Libyan economy and the mass torture and racially
motivated murders, which followed NATO’s war, was a victory for the
The totalitarian twist in the respectable press is a direct consequence
of its long-term toadying to the extremist policies pursued by the western
regimes. Since extremist measures, like the use of force, violence,
assassination and torture, have become routine by the incumbent presidents
and prime ministers, the reporters have no choice but to fabricate lies
to render ‘respectable’ such crimes, to spit out a constant flow of
highly charged adjectives in order to convert victims into executioners
and executioners into victims. Extremism in defense of pro-US
regimes has led to the most grotesque accounts imaginable: Colombia
and Mexico’s Presidents are the leaders of the most thoroughly narcotized
economies in the hemisphere yet they are praised for their war on drugs,
while Venezuela, the most marginal producer of any drug, is stigmatized
as a major narco- pipeline.<#_ftn26>
with no factual basis, which are worthless as sources of objective information, direct
us to seek an underlying rationale: Colombia has signed a free
trade agreement, which will benefit US exports over Colombian by over
a two to one ratio<#_ftn27>. Mexico’s free trade policy
has benefited US agro-business and giant retailers by a similar ratio.
forms of extremism permeate Western regimes and find justification and
rationalization through the respectable media whose job is to indoctrinate
civil society and turn citizens into uncritical accomplices to extremism.
By endlessly prefacing ‘reports’ on Russia’s President Putin as an authoritarian
Soviet era tyrant, the respectable media avoid any discussion of the
doubling of the Russian standard of living and Putin’s over 60% electoral
triumph. By magnifying an authoritarian past, the murdered Libyan
President Gadhafi’s vast public works, social welfare programs and generous
immigration and foreign aid programs to sub-Sahara Africa can be relegated
to the oblivion. The respectable press’s praise of death squad
Presidents Santos and Lobos is part of a large-scale, long-term systematic
shift from the hypocritical pretence of pursuing the virtues of a democratic
republic to the open embrace of a virulent, murderous empire.
The new journalists’ code reads ‘extremism in defense of empire is no