Lying for the State Department

Is skill in the art of lying a prerequisite for the job of State Department spokesman, or is it just an ability acquired through on-the-job training?

James Rubin, State spokesman for the Clinton administration, demonstrated that he retains his fluency in an interview he did this afternoon alongside Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald and John Burns from the New York Times who were all guests on KCRW’s On The Point.

Glenn Greenwald:

I’ve written about this before, but what’s most remarkable is how — as always — leading media figures and government officials are completely indistinguishable in what they think, say and do with regard to these controversies; that’s why Burns and Rubin clung together so closely throughout the segment, because there is no real distinction between most of these establishment reporters and the government; the former serve the latter. Below is the clip itself; I’m posting the specific evidence showing that Rubin’s general claim (that these cables contain no deceit or wrongdoing) as well as his specific claims about Yemen were absolutely false:

Regarding Rubin’s claims about Yemen: here is the cable reflecting a meeting between Gen. David Petraeus and the Yemeni President in January, 2010, proving that it was the U.S., not Yemen, which perpetrated the December, 2009 air strike. Moreover, it records this:

President Obama has approved providing U.S. intelligence in support of ROYG [Republic of Yemen government] ground operations against AQAP targets, General Petraeus informed Saleh. . . . Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

As Salon‘s Justin Elliott noted, this cable “confirms that the Obama Administration has secretly launched missile attacks on suspected terrorists in Yemen, strikes that have reportedly killed dozens of civilians.” Despite that, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley had the following exchange on December, 15, 2009, with reporters:

QUESTION: On the conflict in Yemen, Houthis say that U.S. warplanes have launched airstrikes in northern Yemen. Is the U.S. involved in any military operations in Yemen?



MR. CROWLEY: But we — those kinds of reports keep cropping up. We do not have a military role in this conflict.

In response to having been caught spouting these falsehoods in the wake of the WikiLeaks release, Crowley claimed that he confined his denial to only one attack in which the U.S. was not involved (the one on the Yemeni Houthis), but the clear words from the Press Conference prove that his denial applied to “any military operations in Yemen” (Q: “Is the U.S. involved in any military operations in Yemen? MR. CROWLEY: No”). The WikiLeaks cable reveal that is false; the airstrike launched by the U.S. occurred a mere two days later, on December 17.

Among Rubin’s many dubious claims, none is more disingenuous than his assertion that the Yemeni government’s choice to lie to its own people is one over which the US has no control, and thus he implies, no interest. On the contrary, the Obama administration has just as deep an investment as does the Yemeni government in concealing from the Yemeni people the depth of America’s military involvement in their country.

Having opted for a policy which runs the risk of turning Yemen into another Somalia, the administration is holding on to the dubious idea that so long as this emerging war can avoid being officially stamped “made in America,” Yemen’s feeble government might be able to retain its grip on power.

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  1. “leading media figures and government officials are completely indistinguishable in what they think, say and do with regard to these controversies.”Glenn Greenwald

    A rather unique example of this was viewed on the Jon Stewart Daily Show of December 7th.His show routinely concludes with an interview of people of current interest and his guest on that night was retired General Hugh Shelton with his new book -Without Hesitation –the Odyssey of an American Warrior. .hmm- just a coincidence?
    The interview was a fairly run of the mill Jon Stewart one until at the end he asked if Shelton could stay on a little bit longer to give his views on two important issues : – “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the WikiLeaks issue and especially regarding Julian Assange. Regarding the Wikileaks and Julian Assange the General was certainly on page with the government, White House and media.With the DADT issue the General looked Jon in the eye and with heartfelt sincerity expressed his unity with the military position Jon-“the cohesiveness of our ‘fighting troops’ would be broken”.
    Both views were hardly unique or a real surprise –the surprise, in my view, was the special guest himself and the timing of his appearance on the Daily Show. A bit of ‘teaching moment guidance’ from Big Brother?

  2. BillVZ
    Jogn Stewart lost me when in one of his shows he stated that Iran wasn’t a signatory of the NPT which is totaly false. Iran, unlike Israel, doe not have a military nuclear program. Unlike Israel, is has signed the NPT. Unlike Israel, it does not have a nuclear bomb. Unlike Israel it has complied with its obligations.
    I’l neve watch Jon Stewart again.

  3. Vince,

    There have been several occasions this year where I also have been so put off by his interviews that I say never again. After interviews with such ‘luminaries’ like Mark Thiessen, Eric Cantor , Betsy McCaughley and General Shelton I have been very disillusioned with his response or lack off regarding the spin those folks presented. I see Jon as an extremely bright and creative person who needs no defence for himself or his show. I do feel that the interview segment is not totally of his doing and the guest list of who appears on the segment are from on top. His comments or lack of – often lack spontaneity and come off as being on a short leash.
    However the main part of his show continues to entertain me and score political jibes that I appreciate and I think others do also.
    I always come back for more.