The Wall Street What?

November 10, 2009

One of the downsides of my job is that I have to keep tabs regularly on ‘respectable publications’ like the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch’s pamphlet hasn’t ceased to add insult to injury with its recent articles.

Last week, there was an opinion piece arguing that Turkey should be kind of pushed out of Western political and military structures because its Prime Minister wants to trade with Iran and what’s more, Islamists are encroaching on power and cracking down on human rights and freedom of expression. Hellooo!? I thought it was the secular military establishment in Turkey that was doing the crackdown for decades (extra-judicial execution, torture and arrest of Kurds, leftists and anyone under suspicion of undermining the great Ataturk state). And what’s with the human rights and the West argument? Weren’t Franco and Salazar’s fascist regimes part of NATO? Weren’t Western generals and intelligence officials behind the Piazza Fontana bombing and many other atrocities during the Anni di Piombo?!?

But our respectable publication is just a paragon of virtue. Witness the righteous indignation against Prosecutor Armando Spataro’s successful legal case against 23 Americans involved in the kidnapping from Milan, and subsequent move to Egypt for torture, of Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr in 2003. For the patient, and those who would give it the benefit of the doubt, please read the article and holler if you don’t see anything wrong with it. For the less-impervious, here are the major (and there’s more, I’m sure, it’s like a ‘find all the errors’ visual game in a magazine) contradictions:

– Ideology oozes out of the very first sentence. WSJ mentions that Spataro ‘cut his teeth as a prosecutor hunting down Red Brigade terrorists in Italy.’ The second sentence opens with the contrasting conjunction ‘But’ signalling that the author (unsigned) thinks that it is wrong to convict ’23 Americans’ who have been found guilty of a crime by an independent court. In short, it’s good to ‘hunt down’ the Red Brigades who are unequivocally, it seems, ‘terrorists’ but it’s wrong to hunt down the CIA operatives who are, well, ‘Americans.’

– What’s wrong with the following sentence? ‘It is long-standing principle of international law that officials of foreign governments operating in a country with the consent of its government should be immune from prosecution.’ What international law? Seems like a leaf taken from George W. Bush and Richard (Dick) Cheney International Law in the War on Terror. Well, sure enough, the US has set plenty of precedents on this, in Latin America and elsewhere (and continues to do so). So maybe it’s customary law WSJ is talking about. fait accompli!

– In an article on, ultimately, justice, the argument revolves around the presumption of Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr’s guilt. After all, he has been ‘under surveillance’ by the Italian authorities since 2005 (like, I guess, most of us, by our respective authorities these days).  Nowhere does the article mention that Nasr never got a Court hearing and never faced any formal charges. He was just hijacked into Egypt where he was simply held in prison and tortured. So, WSJ says it is fine to abduct and torture an individual, keep him/her incommunicado without any formal charge, only on suspicion of a plot against the US Embassy in Rome which might have killed ‘Americans and Italians.’

This is Agamben’s homo sacer at its purest and when arguments like this are in the public arena, we are all reduced to less-than-citizens, to ‘bare life’. Zizek already warned that even the possibility to have a debate on torture legitimises it and is a horrible reduction of human dignity. Yet, we see it more and more now, after we should have seen ‘change’ – the platforms of liberalism are reducing us to disposable objects in the name of that obscure goal of security

‘Bravo’ to Armando Spataro and the Italian Court this time! Judicial independence in Italy is one of the few things that keep the country from turning into a complete fascist state.

For more on Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr’s case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan_Mustafa_Osama_Nasr

And here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imam_rapito_affair


  1. hehe, good piece. i think we need to change the description of the site. not only venting frustrations of journalists, but also those of media monitors and waitresses?! who cannot possibly tell what they really think at work. or do u put this in your reports? 🙂

  2. hahaha great point about the frustrations, that’s precisely it! No, I keep these precious media analysis insights for the blog…

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