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Uygur leads assault on Iran war– U.S. policy is being ‘dictated’ by Netanyahu

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I used to dismiss Cenk Uygur as a timid right-winger back in Air America Radio days. Whew, was I wrong. Last year, Uygur was the only MSNBC host to pipe up about Palestinians’ rights after Benjamin Netanyahu lectured Congress that Israel would never return to the 1967 borders.

Uygur consistently led the best discussions with the most knowledgeable guests about how the U.S. should celebrate, not fear, the Arab Uprisings against U.S.-supported dictators. His reward for excellence: he disappeared suddenly last summer. Only later did Uygur announce that, rather than accept a demotion to a weekend slot, and a pay raise, in exchange for muting his criticism of the Obama Administration, he resigned.

In this video last summer, Uygur recounts how, when MSNBC pressed him to be an “insider” not an “outsider,” he reacted by “doing the opposite”: “challenging the government.” The result: his “ratings went up,” but MSNBC ousted him anyway, like Phil Donahue, for being too liberal. Uygur refused to be bought by “all that money thrown at you,” or–more seductive—“the perks”: “car rides to the airport,” “fancy hotels,” and “business class” privilege with “warm chocolate chip cookies.”

Uygur turned down the loot because of something far more valuable: “I had to tell you this story!” Uygur exclaims.  

And the story’s a winner–one he was “holding” back while at MSNBC. It’s the saga of endless censorship: “the problem with the mainstream media is that they’re desperate to get access” and therefore “don’t challenge power.”

Since December, The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur has joined Current TV, where it does what’s rare for TV news: report facts, especially about power. Uygur even exposes the “war-mongering on Iran” and the fact that “American politics” decree that the US will back Israel up “right” or “wrong” (in the Feb. 20 show above).

Throughout the week of February 17 to 24– the links are here— Uygur devoted ten-minute exposes of the “drive to start a war against Iran unfortunately in the American media” (2.22.12). Each night, Uygur would quote a range of U.S. and/or Israeli defense officials, who urge, as Uygur paraphrases, “Don’t attack Iran!,” including:

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence
General Ron Burgess, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Tamir Pardo, Mossad Chief
Efraim Halevy, Former Mossad Chief
Dan Halutz, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff,
Michael Hayden, Former CIA Director,
David Deptula, Air Forces General
Meir Dagan, Former Director of Mossad
Janet Napolitano, Head of Homeland Security
Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary.

After each—varying–list, Uygur asks, contrasts the gulf between sober military advice and media frenzy, taking a different, brave tack on each succeeding night:

1. Uygur inquires, “Why are all the intelligence officials in Israel and the U.S. saying… ‘It’s a bad idea,’” yet there’s “this tremendous propaganda on television to go to war with Iran? (2.20.12).

The answer is the lobby: “Because the right-wing government of Israel and its allies here in the United States have made a decision: ‘Israel can’t do it alone: we’ve got to push the U.S. into war, so they can do our dirty work. And we don’t care that it’s a bad idea’;… they have their neo-con philosophy,…obliterate all the Middle Eastern governments that are opposed to them (2.20.12).”

Uygur continues, “If Israel does the original bombing, …. Iran is going to counter-attack. Once Iran counter-attacks….the US is going to get sucked into war and finish the job.”

Uygur adds this heresy about the U.S. subservience to Israel:

“If you know anything about American politics” “it doesn’t matter who started the war, who was right and who was wrong, if Israel gets counter-attacked… the U.S. will join Israel in whatever battle it has. Israel could attack [even] Norway–for no reason …[but] we would go to war on Israel’s side. So, … that’s why you see all this propaganda. That’s why the right-wing government of Netanyahu thinks, ‘Aaw, who cares what Mossad thinks, what my generals think, what the American generals think? All we have to do is press the button and…the U.S. is screwed, we can dictate their foreign policy for them; they’ve got to come join us.’ ….Let’s hope to God it doesn’t happen.”

2. Uygur re-frames Israeli “dictation” as a question: “whether we’ve handed off our foreign policy to Israel (2.21.12).”

Uygur often invites guests who challenge him, here, David Pakman, radio host, who claims that the U.S., while pretending otherwise, “actually has the same position as Israel.” Uygur counters that President Obama doesn’t want to bomb Iran. Comedian Jimmy Dore jokes crassly that Israel’s coastline is worth a nuclear war. Uygur grimaces. Dore retorts, “It’s not up to us….it’s their [Israel’s] decision, not ours.”

Dore has said in essence that the U.S. has relinquished its power to Israel. Dore, though, blames George W. Bush: “Iran was going to give us everything….[but] Bush didn’t even respond to the [Iranian government] letter.” Uygur adds, “Even Bush didn’t attack Iran,” in spite of Dick Cheney’s pressure. Dore points out American fallacies about Iran’s attitude toward Jewish people: 25,000 Jews live in Iran, with a “protected” status and guaranteed parliamentary representation.

Uygur, however, concludes the discussion, “We’re screwed: we’re going to war if Netanyahu presses the button.”

3. Uygur brings up the scaremongering images of Iranian scientists and President Ahmadinejad in a laboratory (2.22.12). Uygur ridicules the fear tactics, noting that we’re meant to be scared by nothing but white lab coats. Uygur points out that, “These are centrifuges that cannot make weapons,” but nuclear energy. Uygur lists the groups who nevertheless clamor for war:

* Neo-Conservatives, “the guys who are ideologically in favor of attacking different Middle Eastern countries–in fact they wrote a whole report on it.” Uygur leaves out the possible religious component of this “ideology,” but highlights such fervor in the next group.
* Christian Evangelicals, “Dominionists,” who want to “protect Israel at all costs…and have to start a giant war in the Middle East because that’s the only way Jesus arrives and we get the Second Coming.” Uygur cuts to John Hagee preaching on the End Times.
Uygur pivots from religion to money: the “prophets of war,” with “guys making a ton of money from wars in the Middle East”:
* Oil Speculators, with a graph tracing the spiking price of oil during these wars–which violates the law of supply and demand, for supply has risen, not fallen.
* Defense contractors, for the defense budget had more than doubled from 2001 to 2011, along with the cost of $3 trillion for the Iraq war alone, remarking that, “Somebody made that $3 trillion from Iraq.” Uygur reminds us that we “never hear about” how that money morphs into campaign contributions that spur politicians like Senators Lieberman and McCain to push for bombing Iran, or turns retired generals into “lobbyists getting stinking rich off these wars.”

4. Uygur climaxes his look at how war profiteers corrupt debate about Iran (02.24.2012) by focusing on Syria.  Uygur is often passionate, mingling anger with mockery. But this night he gives us solemnity instead, mourning the “casualties, 7600 since March,” as well as the “several major journalists [who] have also been killed…in massacres in Syria,” including journalist Marie Colvin.

Turning to U.S. politics, Uygur shows President Obama asserting that the Assad “regime” should “move on,” then highlights the Republican candidates’ evasion of John King’s question about Syria–at the Feb. 22 Republican debate–in their eagerness to bomb Iran.

Uygur points out their indifference to Syrian deaths, “but when it comes to Iran, where no one is dying,” they’re anxious for the U.S. to attack. Uygur plays Santorum’s rant: Syria is a “puppet state of Iran…Syria and Iran are an axis…[Iran is the] most prolific proliferator of terror in the world.”

Uygur interjects: “I’m not sure the rest of the media grasps how stunning that answer is. [John King] asks about Syria and” Santorum says, “‘We hate Iran. Let’s go bomb Iran….Yeah, yeah, Syria, but the only relevant fear is of Iran.’”

Uygur then shows Romney agreeing with Santorum: “It’s unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, and Rick is absolutely right, Syria is their key ally…Lebanon…Hezbollah…threatens Israel, our friend and ally.” Romney promises modestly to “change the course of world history.”

Uygur parodies the Republicans’ priorities: “[When asked] ‘What do you think of Syria?’ – [They respond] ‘We should take military action against Iran.’’

Uygur pauses, then bursts out, “You soulless jerks.— They ask you about the Syrian people and…you just…[want to] bomb a different country,” because it “might develop a nuclear weapon many years in the future….” Uygur concludes, “These people are sick, man. They’re motivated by Neo-Cons, Evangelicals, Oil speculators, Defense Contractors: ‘There’s no money in Syria: who cares about the people? There’s no oil in Syria….We’re going to Iran where the oil is, where can make more money off a more disastrous war that would last a lot longer and cost a lot more money.’–As you can tell it disgusts me.”

Uygur explains that he doesn’t know how the U.S. can best help Syria, “I’m not saying we should go to war, but every time you turn on the television, everyone’s talking about [how]the one place you should take action is a totally separate country, Iran. It’s like when we got attacked on 9/11, [by] guys [who] came from Saudi Arabia, [with] their base in Afghanistan…, the Neo-Cons and Republicans [argued that] we should attack Iraq, a totally different country. I’ve seen this movie before and I hate this movie.”

The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur used to waste time with gimmicky sound effects and pointless headlines from each panelist. Now, though still stuck in a set unfortunately reminiscent of Ali G’s interview warehouse, the show offers much news discussed nowhere but the web. (The Young Turks has a web show on M-F 3-5 PM, which seems good, but because my online streaming cuts off often, I haven’t heard many shows).

Soon, Cenk Uygur may advocate freeing Palestine, as he did last spring, in a “Daily Rant” for The Dylan Rattigan Show, “Losing our minds over Israel.” Uygur protested Congress’s standing ovations for Netanyahu as the latter reneged on all previous agreements with the Palestinians about the 1967 borders, vilifying generations of U.S.-government policy.

To the Prime Minister’s contention that “the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers,” Uygur announced, “Except, of course, that there are millions of Palestinians who are currently occupied by the state of Israel. Can we please get some sanity on this? Just because the Israeli Prime Minister says it, doesn’t mean we have to agree with it. Let’s use our minds. I’m originally from Turkey. I can use my mind to say the Turkish government is wrong sometimes, oftentimes, and I’m not going to agree with a right-wing Turkish government. Why do we all agree with a right-wing Israeli government ? It makes no sense.” 

Cenk’s got guts, but I’m not going to valorize his courage. I think emphasizing it only intimidates other newspeople and galvanizes the censors. And, I like to believe that Uygur enjoys truth-telling. His fascination with learning even makes him a better interviewer than other hosts, for–while articulate himself–he shuts up so guests can speak. Now that’s power, not the bogus influence of repeating the corporate line.

Susie Kneedler

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9 Responses

  1. chet on March 16, 2012, 12:37 pm

    I’d like to hear more about the censoring at MSNBC – are there meetings, explicit memos, indirect hints?

    How is it done?

    • Proton Soup on March 16, 2012, 9:53 pm

      it’s not just MSNBC. but here’s an example of how they treated Ashleigh Banfield. i am sure that sent an unambiguous message to the rest of the crew.

      In April 2003, in a speech at Kansas State University, Banfield raised concerns regarding media coverage of the conflict in Iraq. She also spoke against “cable news operators who wrap themselves in the American flag and go after a certain target demographic”, and specifically named Fox News Channel as an example.[3] The New York Times reported that her speech angered NBC management, who rebuked her and lowered her profile.[2]

      I was office-less for ten months … No phone, no computer. For ten months I had to report to work every day and ask where I could sit. If somebody was away I could use their desk. Eventually, after ten months of this, I was given an office that was a tape closet. They cleared the tapes out and put a desk and a TV in there, and a computer and phone. It was pretty blatant. The message was crystal clear. Yet they wouldn’t let me leave. I begged for seventeen months to be let out of my contract. If they had no use for me, let’s just part ways amicably—no need for payouts, just a clean break. And [NBC News President Neal Shapiro] wouldn’t allow it. I don’t know what his rationale was—perhaps he thought I would take what I felt was a very strong brand, and others felt was a very strong brand, to another network and make a success of it. Maybe that’s why he chose to keep me in a warehouse. I will never forgive him for his cruelty and the manner in which he decided to dispose of me.
      —in New Canaan-Darien Magazine, January 2009[4]

      here’s how they put pressure on Jessica Yellin (and Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura):
      CNN transcript for Yellin:

      COOPER: Jessica, McClellan took press to task for not upholding their reputation. He writes: “The National Press Corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The ‘liberal media’ — in quotes — didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

      Dan Bartlett, former Bush adviser, called the allegation “total crap.”

      What is your take? Did the press corps drop the ball?


      I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings.

      And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives — and I was not at this network at the time — but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.

      I think, over time…

      COOPER: You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?

      YELLIN: Not in that exact — they wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes. That was my experience.

      and now, who is sucking up to whom? Comcast/MSNBC is so powerful that presidents come to them.

      MSNBC is a war network, and its influence spans presidencies and parties.

  2. Bill in Maryland on March 16, 2012, 12:47 pm

    Thanks Susie and bravo to Cenk Uygur. Makes me wonder if Chris Hayes will experience similar pressure to conform, play patty-cake with the media establishment, “tone it down”, and be “part of the club”.

  3. Kathleen on March 16, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Met Uygar at a Netroots gathering in Pittsburgh. Talked with him about lack of coverage on the I/P issue. Great conversation. Had been following him on Young Turks (called in a few times) Was great to see him on MSNBC. The only one challenging OBama not just rolling over. Was sad to see him ousted. Thanks for reminding us about him. Dylan Ratigan has stepped out of the box by having Glenn Greenwald on. Rachel Maddow who usually has just rolled over on the I/P issue and Iran in fact awhile back just repeated the unsubstantiated claims about Iran herself. She has changed a tiny bit. On the I/P issue she did have Former President Jimmy Carter on which was a more subtle way of having the facts repeated instead of taking a human rights stand herself.

    Hope Cenk has the Leveretts on from Race for Iran, former weapons inspector Robert Kelly, Dr. Brzinzinski, Prof Cole, Stephen Walt. Thanks for reminding us about Cenk

  4. Kathleen on March 16, 2012, 1:05 pm

    NPR continues soft and hard pedaling an attack on Iran. With Robert Siegels go get Iran war banging with Micheal Oren
    Middle East
    Israeli Ambassador Weighs In On Netanyahu Visit

    link to
    Scott Simon allowing the piece
    Experts: A Strike On Iran Poses Many Challenge
    link to
    this past Saturday assumption that Iran has a nuclear weapons program…. On Wednesday evening Wolfowitz and Anne Marie Slaughter were both pushing for an intervention in Syria. link to

    In some countries they prosecute war criminals like Wolfowitz. In the US our MSM just recycles them. As if they are unable to get far more accurate experts on the subject on their programs. When was the last time you heard Hillary or Flynt Mann Leverett on any of these NPR programs (there has to be a block up from their owners) Today on NPR’s Talk of the Nation Dennis Ross will be on focused on the I/P conflict. But you can place your bets that he will take this opportunity to drum up support for an attack on Iran.

    Anyone else noticing how often we are hearing how many Syrians Assad is allegedly responsible for killing. Keep repeating 8000. But here we are 9 years after the invasion of Iraq, 10 and a half years after the invasion of Afghanistan and we still do not know how many people have been killed in those countries as a direct consequence of our invasions

  5. DICKERSON3870 on March 16, 2012, 1:38 pm

    RE: “Uygur protested Congress’s standing ovations for
    Netanyahu as the latter reneged on all previous agreements with the Palestinians about the 1967 borders, vilifying generations of U.S.-government policy.” ~ Kneedler

    ALSO SEE: “Bibi and the Yo-Yos”, by Uri Avnery,, 05/26/11:

    (excerpt) It was all rather disgusting.
    There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.
    It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad, where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.
    What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?
    The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.
    The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler’s anthem. Is there no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT – Israel Occupied Territory – as the anti-Semites assert? …


  6. pabelmont on March 16, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Are all USA’s TV-news-readers on the payroll. Well, someone’s, for sure:

    The 2007 return showed 15 people at NPR with the title of vice president or senior vice president. Most made between about $190,000and $260,000. A page on NPR’s Web site shows 14 current vice presidents.

    NPR reported its five highest paid employees were:
    1. Managing Editor Barbara Rehm, $383,139
    2. All Things Considered host Robert Siegel, $350,288
    3. Morning Edition host Renee Montagne, $332,160
    4. Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, $331,242
    5. NPR afternoon programming director Richard L. Harris, $190,267.

    The most eye-catching salary ever reported on an NPR tax form is probably the $505,132 paid to broadcaster Bob Edwards in FY2004, the year he was ousted as host of Morning Edition, quit, and went to XM Radio. He hosted his last NPR show in April, five months before the end of the fiscal year, so the half-million dollar salary (presumably including some kind of severance) seems to have been for just seven months work.

    • on March 16, 2012, 11:39 pm

      isnt npr taxpayer supported….

  7. Theo on March 17, 2012, 2:33 pm

    Listening to Uygur in above video is painful, he talks, and talks, and talks, and doesn´t say anything!! That is the reason I stopped to visit the Young Turks site.
    Someone should tell him to cut the BS, intelligent people do not have the patience to wait until he says something relevant and I doubt dummies bother to visit his site.
    The way you present it is just as important as the subject of your presentation, Cer.
    You bore people to death and you are not even a woman with a very lose mouth.

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