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Double Standards at Mother Jones By: Jean Pearce
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 03, 2003


In a lengthy December 2001, article called “The Betrayal of Basra” in the left-wing magazine Mother Jones, the author dedicated only one line to the brutal torture and repression of the Iraqi people at the hands of Saddam Hussein and his regime, but quoted at length a man who described the U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iraq, which were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait, as “genocide” against the Iraqi people.

That’s pretty much par for the course for the magazine’s staff, who for more than a quarter of a century have self-righteously railed against violence, oppression and human rights violations around the world – when they can pin them on the United States – but brushed aside or glossed over violence and repression by dictatorial regimes as if they were of no consequence.

According to Mother Jones and the Iraqis quoted in the 2001 article, the U.S. bears responsibility for the lives of half a million Iraqis who died of malnutrition, preventable disease and lack of medicine in the decade after the sanctions. The author and the editors at MJ apparently had no qualms about the legitimacy of quotes from bitter Iraqis it used to illustrate America’s alleged culpability, despite the fact that those quotes were given to MJ during interviews in which Iraqis were “supervised” by ever-present government censors.

“Iraq before the sanctions was glorious,” one Iraqi told MJ as his monitor nodded in agreement. Later in the article, after a little boy dies for lack of proper medical equipment, the author marvels at how the child’s mother, who knew the author was from the United States, must have known that Americans were responsible, but sat stone-faced and silent.

In a leap of logic that is as inaccurate as it is baffling, the author then explains in vague terms that the most devastating aspect of the sanctions was not that they restricted what Iraq can import, but kept the country from accessing its cash.

That’s why, the author explains, “Iraq cannot use the money it earns from oil to pay wages, to finance public-works contracts, to run hospitals or to revitalize the welfare state,” as if the government of Saddam Hussein actually intended to do all of these things.

As we now know, Hussein and his co-conspirators at the U.N. and in France, Russia, Syria and China were too busy pilfering tens of billions of dollars generated by the Oil for Food program to actually bother with the nutritional or medical needs of dying Iraqi peasants. And that doesn’t even count the untold billions Saddam generated through bootleg sales of oil in violation of the sanctions, which didn’t exactly make it into the hands of the repressed Iraqi people, either.

Despite all of this, by April 2003, MJ was still describing the U.S. invasion of Iraq as “a reckless and globally divisive invasion, which has killed and mutilated thousands, and now threatens to destabilize an entire region.”

The twisting of facts, handy omissions and downplaying of the “faults” of repressive dictators is nothing new for MJ. The magazine has been schilling for violent dictators for decades while decrying U.S. efforts to tame them, even when the actions of those dictators clearly violate the principles MJ staff claim to hold most dear.

Most of the time, they manage to keep their peace-loving veneer in place. But every once in a while, a telling line or two slips through the cracks.

Take homosexuality, for instance. MJ regularly has harsh words for those who don’t embrace homosexuals or the homosexual agenda in all its forms – unless, of course, they happen to be Communist dictators. In a 1989 Mother Jones article praising Fidel Castro’s Marxist achievements, the author casually mentioned that under Castro, “homosexuals and others deemed socially ‘unacceptable’ were placed in labor camps without trials” in the same paragraph in which he described Castro as “the redeemer” of Cuba.

Also in the same paragraph, the author noted, with an equal lack of concern or condemnation, that Castro used his political police to crush internal dissent, that thousands of political prisoners spent years in Cuban jails, that Castro twice purged the Communist Party of factions he considered disloyal to him and that CIA-funded Cuban exiles were shot when caught. The author then casually referred to these practices as simply “blotting out disagreements.”

Incredibly, further down in the article, the author describes Castro as a “great man,” praises the dictator for his “love of debate and the very radiance of his character,” then claims that Castro rules Cuba “with the apparent consent of the majority of Cubans.” In the article, most of the country’s struggles are of course blamed on the brutal U.S. attacks on the Cuban “revolution.”

MJ spent years railing against the U.S. for providing military aid to the right-wing Contra rebels who battled the Marxist Sandinista guerillas for control of the Nicaragua. When mines planted by the Contras maimed children they weren’t intended for, MJ flew into a rage. But when mines planted by Marxist guerillas in neighboring El Salvador – which was also in the midst of a Communist revolution – maimed and killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including children, MJ glossed over the fact with a brief mention buried deep in an article on the struggle of the Marxist guerillas.

For many years, MJ insisted that the U.S. was wrong to interfere with the will of the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador to govern themselves by funding the right-wing opposition of the Communist forces fighting to control these countries, despite the fact that Soviet funding helped keep these supposedly “popular” Communist revolutionaries afloat.

But when the Marxist Sandinistas took over the Nicaraguan government and refused to share power with the peasants they claimed to represent and began forbidding meetings without government approval, censoring the press and jailing political dissenters (or worse) in 1986, MJ asked its readers “what choice” the Sandinistas had other than “to crack the whip” on the Nicaraguan people.

“The same exercises of democratic liberty by oppositionists that struck the Sandinistas as tolerable a few years back, when the government was riding high, now can’t help striking them, in an era of declining popularity, as dangerous outbreaks of subversion,” MJ whined. “There’s no question that in time of war and CIA subversion, the government must defend itself, and doubtless one measure or another may be justified . . . Very likely the worst of it occurs in the mass Sandinista organizations, whose purpose has gradually shifted, in the style of mass organizations in the communist world, to getting the members to obey the state.”

Clearly, MJ only favors democratic self-determination for people that choose Communism. Everyone else is fair game violence and repression.

Before the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua fell, MJ repeatedly insisted that it had the popular support of the people, castigating the U.S. backed Contras for their treatment of civilians and other countrymen who didn’t support the Contra’s battle against the Sandinistas.

But in a weepy 1990 piece on why the people ultimately rejected Communism and the Sandinistas, MJ printed the following quote from a Sandinista soldier in a section that bemoaned the Sandinistas' loss of discipline: “When I joined the Frente, traitors were shot. Shot on the ****ing spot. That is the kind of discipline we were schooled in and that we schooled society in.”

Apparently, the editors at MJ only have issues with this kind of “discipline” when it is practices by those who oppose tyrannical dictators. The objective of the supposedly peace-loving intellectuals who publish this magazine has always been the same: to prove to the reader that violent, predatory U.S. policy has always been responsible for the majority of the oppression, starvation and bloodshed in the world.

Yet when it comes to “necessary” bloodshed committed by Marxist guerillas or socialist dictators, the editors and writers at Mother Jones seem to have stomachs of steel.



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