The Foggy Bottom Cuckoo: editions worldwide

Wednesday 30 July 2008 by CEPRID

Toni Solo CEPRID

The US State Department’s little known but widely read propaganda sheet, the Foggy Bottom Cuckoo, has editions in the liberal press of most Western Bloc countries. In the US, it usually pokes its beak out of the Washington Post or the New York Times. In Spain, it mostly fools readers into thinking it is El País. In the UK it often gulls unsuspecting readers by mugging itself up as the Guardian or The Observer.

The Cuckoo regurgitates pre-digested US State Department tit-bits and spews them all over its surrogate media’s unsuspecting readers. Surprisingly, they seldom seem to notice and seem happy to pay for the propaganda bath as a matter of routine. Recent examples abound, with the Cuckoo regularly throwing up yucky gobbets of pap on Iran, Venezuela and, lately, Nicaragua.

Marcela Sanchez’ recent Foggy Bottom Cuckoo piece on Nicaragua originally appeared in the Washington Post, being re-published in Nicaragua media empresario Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s web-based news magazine Confidencial" on June 22nd. The very first line of Sanchez’ piece repeated the US State Department claim that freedom and democracy are at risk in Nicaragua.

Sanchez cites three examples. First, she notes the cancellation of legal status for the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista and Conservative parties. Secondly, she refers to the postponement of local elections in municipalities of the northern Atlantic Coast region badly affected by Hurricane Felix towards the end of 2007. Finally, she cites the recognition of Eliseo Nuñez (Senior) rather than Eduardo Montealgre as the president of the Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense.

Only people with a special interest in Nicaragua will have a clue about the detail involved in these events and this lack of information is something Sanchez exploits so as to avoid alternative explanations that discredit her argument. In the first case she ignores the failure of the MRS to satisfy simple administrative requirements which the electoral autorities gave them nearly 15 months to satisfy.

One might plausibly argue that the MRS leadership did this because they were unwilling to invest resources in complying with electoral law in municipalities where they had no chance of winning. For a party with only 7% national support and whose base is overwhelmingly in the country’s capital Managua, the area not worth organizing would cover about 70% of the country’s 153 municipalities. Instead, the MRS preferred to provoke a bogus political crisis so as to garner mostly foreign support and bolster the minority right wing and centre right opposition of which they are a part.

In the case of the postponement of the municipal elections in three municipalities of the RAAN one can quote the leader of the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista, the largest opposition party in Nicaragua, Arnoldo Alemán. Alemán noted that the issue of the postponement was linked to other matters like the upcoming election of new magistrates to the constitutionally independent electoral body, the Supreme Electoral Council. He noted, "The Constitution indicates 56 votes and even if we were unanimous, the PLC, the Let’s Go With Eduardo group and the MRS, we don’t make 52 and that means that one has to negotiate with the FSLN to make up the 56 votes."

All that National Assembly horse trading, so typical of electoral democracies, makes Sanchez’ claim that democracy is at risk in Nicaragua look completely stupid. Likewise Sanchez insists that the FSLN fears losing support in the three municipalities where the elections are postponed. But the elections have only been postponed for five months, from November until January. Sanchez thinks people’s voting intentions are so volatile that five months will make a difference.

For their part, the government and the electoral authorities argue it will take that period of time to allow people in those municipalities to recover completely from the effects of Hurricane Felix so as to be able to hold the municipal elections under more normal conditions, which are unlikely to prevail by November this year.  80% of people in those muncipalities were displaced by the hurricane, almost all the electoral records were destroyed and many people eligible to vote lost their vital ID cards. Sanchez seems oblivious to all of that.

The final example cited by Sanchez is perhaps even more absurd. After failing to get even 30% of the vote as a candidate in the 2006 presidential elections Eduardo Montealegre’s standing has diminished substantially. A CID Gallup poll published in June found that 40% of people see disgraced former president Arnoldo Aleman as the main opposition leader. Just 10% of people thought Montealegre was.

In February this year, responding to a complaint from embittered former allies of Eduardo Montealegre, not from the FSLN coalition government, the independent Supreme Electoral Council resolved that Eduardo  Montealegre had not been duly elected leader of the Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense. Presidency of the ALN passed to veteran right winger Eliseo Nuñez. The whole episode was yet another example of the Nicaraguan right’s chronic failure to form a united front following Montealegre’s abortive attempt to displace Arnoldo Alemán as the Nicaraguan right’s natural leader. But Sanchez in her article skims over this aspect of the affair and squeezes Montealegre’s discomfiture into her "democracy in crisis!" narrative.

Having made three disingenuous points, Sanchez then quotes discredited MRS leader Edmundo Jarquin, whom the CID Gallup poll found was regarded as an important opposition leader by just 2% of people in Nicaragua. Jarquin’s remarks are as poisonous as they are absurd. Sanchez reports he believes Ortega is "turning into the same kind of dictator that they overthrew in 1979". In fact "Ortega and Somoza - it’s the same thing"  is a prominent slogan in the marches being organized by the minority right wing parties and the plethora of NGOs that have so little national support they look to funding from US destabilization specialists like the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and USAID among various others.

The viciousness of such moronic demagoguery is a carbon copy of the same hate-filled scurril and rant that characterise NATO country efforts to destabilise Venezuela and Bolivia and to attack Cuba. Jarquin refers constantly to an undemocratic pact between the FSLN and the PLC. Unfortunately for him, those two parties won 65% of the vote in the 2006 presidential elections. The last time anyone looked 65% was a pretty decisive majority in any electoral democracy. Another thing Sanchez fails to note is that Jarquin himself is a political ally of Eduardo Montealegre who is currently preparing to run as candidate for mayor of Managua  on the basis of a pact with....Arnoldo Aleman, leader of the PLC.

The wilful stupidity and absurdity of people like Marcela Sanchez is matched by Rory Carroll, Foggy Bottom Cuckoo Latin America correspondent of the UK Guardian. Carroll is smarter than Sanchez in that he is better at mixing fact with sly inaccuracies and obtuse personal insults. He starts his June 24th article "Intellectuals condemn authoritarian Ortega" by reporting the inaccurate and ill-informed public letter in support of MRS leader Dora Maria Tellez signed by writers like Eduardo Galeano and Noam Chomsky.

In among the legitimate reporting one finds "One of the most serious rows flared over the electoral agency barring two opposition parties from November municipal elections, claiming they missed a deadline for naming party representatives in all electoral districts." But the independent electoral authority did not "claim they missed a deadline". In the case of the MRS, that party was given nearly 15 months to complete the necessary administrative procedures to comply with the relevant electoral law and also with its own party statutes.

So not only did the MRS indeed, really and in fact miss a deadline, about which there is no argument, but they did so after repeated encouragement to put the relevant documentation in order by the CSE for well over a year. In the case of the Conservative Party, they too did indeed really miss a deadline failing to meet a fundamental requirement of Nicaragua’s electoral law, in place since 1995. Carroll’s use of the word "claim" suggests institutional uncertainty. But, unless you are writing for the Foggy Bottom Cuckoo, there was no uncertainty.

Later one finds "Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, has pledged subsidised oil to his socialist ally but Ortega’s ratings have slumped to 21%, according to a recent poll, on the back of high inflation and enduring poverty." Well, it all depends on which poll you choose. Carroll has used the same gambit in the past referring to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and picking the least favourable poll available. This is standard Foggy Bottom Cuckoo procedure.

If Carroll had researched a bit more he could have found other polls showing, for example, that the FSLN’s candidate for mayor is currently running well ahead of the opposition in voter intentions. In the country generally, the FSLN and its electoral alliance is even likely to make gains in the municipal elections forthcoming in November unless the opposition pull themselves together. While it’s true that the majority of people in Nicaragua are despondent about their economic future, polls generally show most people do not consider the opposition a viable alternative to the FSLN.

Carroll also refers to the acrimonious decision by musical legend Carlos Mejía Godoy to insist the FSLN coalition government stop using his songs in its public activities. But he fails to note the equally bitter response from ordinary people all over Nicaragua at Mejía Godoy’s gesture. Carroll styles Mejía Godoy as an "opponent" of Daniel Ortega’s government. He does not point out that Mejía Godoy ran as MRS vice-presidential candidate in the 2006 presidential elections. Thus Carroll allows uninformed readers think the gesture is that of disinterested artist. Such omission is a typical Foggy Bottom Cuckoo ploy.

Elsewhere in the article Carroll notes, "International donors, including Britain, have threatened to cut funding over what they say is an authoritarian and reckless style of government which is compounding economic woes." But he does not quote anyone saying this. The reason he does not is that almost all the development cooperation donors view the FSLN governments programme very favourably. He has used an off the record source whom he could not identify because what they say is in fact not true.

Humberto Arbulú, permanent representative of the IMF, finished a recent round of meetings saying on June 24th this year, "the situation of international reserves continues buoyant, the fiscal deficit is under control, the financial system continues healthy growth and the amount of deposits continues to grow above nominal product.....from that point of view, things seem fine, but evidently there are risks coming fundamentally from the international situation." The IMF representative does not use the word "reckless" - or anything like it. Perhaps Rory Carroll knows something the IMF does not.

Individual country representatives give a completely different picture to the anonymous sources referred to by Rory Carroll. In May this year, Helena Reultersward, the Swedish representative of the 20 foreign development cooperation donor countries supporting Nicaragua’s Health Ministry, confirmed that the Ministry had completed the implementation of its budget to a level of 93% and complied with the terms of its agreement with the donor countries. One could cite example after example of such ratifications of the Nicaraguan government’s efficiency and responsible use of funds. But that does not fit in with the Foggy Bottom Cuckoo "democracy in crisis!" screenplay.

Carroll’s article on Nicaragua follows up an even more intellectually dishonest piece that he wrote not long after the Interpol FARC laptop fiasco. This piece by Carroll and Matthew Bristow, published on June 15th was entitled, perhaps by mischievous sub-editors, "Colombia: Pinned down in their jungle lairs, wounded Farc face long war’s end". But in fact, the first five paragraphs describe a Venezuelan army mission to destroy a Colombian paramilitary narcotics encampment on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia.

Those five paragraphs give discredit two of the Foggy Bottom Cuckoo’s favourite myths. Firstly, that Venezuela promotes narcotics trafficking. The opposite is true. It is the Colombian government that has been bankrolled by narcotics dealing paramilitaries for over a decade. Secondly, that Venezuela supports the FARC to destabilise Colombia. The opposite is true. The US government and Colombia encourage paramilitaries to destabilise Venezuela. This was demonstrated by the arrest outside Caracas of over 100 Colombian paramilitaries training for sabotage operations in 2004.

But even despite the implicit debunking of those two myths in the article’s first five paragraphs, the writers follow up by trying to reinforce yet another one. First they quote the latest of numerous calls by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for a negotiated peace and the release of FARC hostages. "Enough of all this war. The time has come to sit down and talk peace." But they go on to comment, "It was an astonishing u-turn made all the more dramatic for being broadcast live on TV and radio and addressed directly to the rebels, who are known to avidly follow Chávez’s speeches on transistor radios."

Various commentators have noted that the Venezuelan government and Hugo Chavez have repeatedly called for a negotiated peace to Colombia’s civil war in recent years and for the release of prisoners in the hands of the FARC. President Chavez himself has noted in a recent speech to officers of Venezuela’s armed forces that Venezuelan forces have in the past found themselves in combat with FARC units and have suffered fatalities as a result. If there is a u-turn, it has been that the US State Department has finally had to acknowledge its longstanding deceit on the matter. But instead of doing so it sends out the Foggy Bottom Cuckoo to declare falsely that it is Hugo Chavez who has made a u-turn.

The only interesting thing about Foggy Bottom Cuckoo writers like Sanchez, Carroll, Bristow, Simon Romero and all the others is how they play on the ignorance of the general public. Their stories hardly ever stand up to scrutiny by anyone familiar with the events in question and their context. These writers depend on the selective use of facts, more or less subtle insinuation into their reports of partisan editorial comment and the elimination of inconvenient alternative views or events. When reliable quotes are thin on the ground, they cite anonymous sources for opinions the individuals concerned would be unable to justify out in the open.

The cynical, lazy practice of writers like these made possible the criminal war of aggression against Iraq. As a result over a million people in Iraq have died. Now the Foggy Bottom Cuckoo is preparing the ground for future NATO country aggression in Latin America. That systematic disinformation campaign is an integral part of the low intensity destabilisation war that has targeted Cuba for decades. It facilitated the coup d’état against Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, as well as the continuing  campaign against the governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Now the US State Department and its NATO allies are increasing the tempo of their intervention in Nicaragua.

toni writes for tortillaconsal.com

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