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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A bit of hypocrisy by Glenn Greenwald

I don't normally read pundits who mostly deal with US politics, but I just stumbled across a gem by Glenn Greenwald.

He writes, in Salon:
For much of the day yesterday, the featured headline on The New York Times online front page strongly suggested that Muslims were responsible for the attacks on Oslo; that led to definitive statements on the BBC and elsewhere that Muslims were the culprits.  The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin wrote a whole column based on the assertion that Muslims were responsible, one that, as James Fallows notes, remains at the Post with no corrections or updates.
...This article expertly traces and sets forth exactly how the "Muslims-did-it" myth was manufactured and then disseminated yesterday to the worldwide media, which predictably repeated it with little skepticism.  What makes the article so valuable is that it names names: it points to the incestuous, self-regarding network of self-proclaimed U.S. Terrorism and foreign policy "experts" -- what the article accurately describes as "almost always white men and very often with military or government backgrounds," in this instance driven by "a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs" -- who so often shape these media stories and are uncritically presented as experts, even though they're drowning in bias, nationalism, ignorance, and shallow credentialism.
How dare people make assumptions that Islamic fundamentalists were responsible for a massive car bomb and shooting attack, killing scores? You'd never catch someone like Glenn Greenwald doing something like that!

Except, in his previous post before the identity of the terrorist was revealed, he does exactly that:

The perpetrators of these attacks are unknown, as is their motives, though one self-described "jihadi" group claimed responsibility.
It is, however, worth commenting on both the prevailing descriptions of Norway as well as the reaction to these attacks, as they reveal some important points.  Most media accounts express bafflement that Norway would be the target of such an attack given how peaceful it is; The New York Times, for instance, said "the attacks appeared to be part of a coordinated assault on the ordinarily peaceful Scandinavian nation."  This is simply inaccurate.  Norway is a nation at war -- in more than just one country.  

The NATO force of which Norway is a part has explicitly declared Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi to be a "legitimate target" and has repeatedly attempted to kill him; one attempt on Gadaffi's life -- a bombing attack on his son's residence -- resulted in the death of the dictator's son and three grandchildren.  In response, Gadaffi "vowed to attack 'homes, offices and families' in Europe in revenge for NATO airstrikes," adding that "your homes, your offices and your families, which will become military targets just as you have transformed our offices, headquarters, houses and children into what you regards as legitimate military targets."  

[He then shows a screenshot of an article about Norwegian involvement in Afghanistan - EoZ.]

Regardless of the justifications of these wars -- and Norway is in both countries as part of a U.N. action -- it is simply a fact that Norway has sent its military to two foreign countries where it is attacking people, dropping bombs, and killing civilians.  Historically, one reason not to invade and attack other countries is because doing so often prompts one's own country to be attacked.  Western nations typically only attack countries that are incapable of responding in kind, but those nations and their sympathizers are capable of perpetrating asymmetrical attacks of the sort that Oslo just suffered. 
Greenwald's natural assumption - strongly implicit, but obvious - was that these attacks were a response to Norway's involvement in wars against two predominantly Muslim countries, and he even goes as far as saying that Norway's position on targeting Libya's leader is just as "terrorist" as an attack on the Norwegian Prime Minister's office in an office building that houses many non-governmental offices as well. He quotes the bogus Jihadist responsibility claim just as seriously as anyone else did. Certainly no one would read his earlier column and think that Greenwald believed that a right-wing Christian was behind the bombings.

So his self-righteousness about how other media made the assumption that Muslims were behind the attacks is more than a bit hypocritical.