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Shameless leftist lies pushed by The Nation

Brian Carnell
web posted June 11, 2001

A longstanding claim by the left is that media are biased because they are owned by, and hence must serve the interests of, capitalists. Whatever you think of that claim one thing is clear -- if the mainstream media does have biases, they pale in comparison to the sort of nonsense stories that make it into even relatively respectable Left wing newspapers and magazines.

At the moment, for example, an outrageous lie about George W. Bush is spreading quickly across the Internet thanks to Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer and Leftist rag The Nation. On May 22, the Times web site published a column by Scheer claiming that the Bush administration was dramatically changing U.S. policy toward Afghanistan's governing extremist Islamic movement, the Taliban. In dramatic fashion Scheer wrote,

Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.

That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.

Almost every sentence in these two paragraphs is a lie, as anyone who is willing to spend five minutes doing a little research will easily discover.

The United States is indeed sending aid to Afghanistan, but the $43 million in aid is not going to the Taliban. It is instead being donated to the United Nations. The aid is not being used to help the Taliban fight drugs or as a reward for the ban on opium. Instead the aid will be used to help the World Food Program avert a potential famine in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of starvation in that country, and many of them are flooding into refugee camps in Pakistan where disease and other problems threaten to overwhelm Pakistan' ability to deal with them.

In fact the majority of the aid package, $23 million worth, is in the form of surplus wheat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It would be interesting to see Scheer explain how surplus wheat is going to help the Taliban crack down on drugs.

Nor is this a change in American foreign policy. Scheer conveniently forgets to mention that last year the Clinton White House also donated tens of millions of dollars in aid to help avert famine in Afghanistan.

It was bad enough that the Los Angeles Times allowed Scheer's column to be published with apparently no fact checking. All of the major news wires and other news organizations covered the announcement of the aid package including what it was for and how it would be administered (it took this writer all of 2 minutes searching at the CNN web site to find a CNN account of Colin Powell's announcement of the aid package, which completely contradicted Scheer's version). But the situation got even worse after The Nation decided to reprint Scheer's column and feature the article on its web site. Scheer, of course, is listed as a contributing editor to The Nation.

Thanks to The Nation the story about Bush's alliance with the Taliban is now spreading rapidly across the Internet. Of course rather than question why a major U.S. foreign policy shift would be noticed only by a small leftist rag, many of the liberals and leftists falling for Scheer's hoax instead see it as proof that the mainstream media are merely propaganda tools for capitalism who conveniently don't mention such inconvenient facts.

The real lesson in this fiasco, of course, is about The Nation's credibility -- or lack thereof. Exactly what does it say about a magazine that retains as a contributing editor someone who could completely fabricate such a story? Scheer's article speaks volumes about what counts as truth on the Left.

Brian Carnell is the publisher of LeftWatch.Com.

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