NYT’s Exposé on the Lies about Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda
10 Mar 2019 – Every major U.S. war of the last several decades has begun the same way: the U.S. government fabricates an inflammatory, emotionally provocative lie which large U.S. media outlets uncritically treat as truth while refusing at air questioning or dissent, thus inflaming primal anger against the country the U.S. wants to attack. That’s how we got the Vietnam War (North Vietnam attacks U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin); the Gulf War (Saddam ripped babies from incubators); and, of course, the war in Iraq (Saddam had WMDs and formed an alliance with Al Qaeda).
This was exactly the tactic used on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces.
Each of the trucks burned by Maduro carried 20 tons of food & medicine. This is a crime & if international law means anything he must pay a high price for this. #23FAyudaHumanitaria https://t.co/IrGzrOUX09
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 23, 2019
Masked thugs, civilians killed by live rounds, and the burning of trucks carrying badly-needed food and medicine. This has been Maduro’s response to peaceful efforts to help Venezuelans. Countries that still recognize Maduro should take note of what they are endorsing. pic.twitter.com/KlSebd2M5a
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 23, 2019
.@SecPompeo: We denounce Maduro’s refusal to let humanitarian assistance reach #Venezuela. What kind of a sick tyrant stops food from getting to hungry people? The images of burning trucks filled with aid are sickening. https://t.co/zzFNYVly2c
— USConsulateFrankfurt (@usconsfrankfurt) February 24, 2019
#Maduro ordering the firing on and burning of trucks filled with
humanitarian aid & attacking volunteers is unconscionable. I condemn the killings & human rights abuses committed by Maduro. Violent attacks against life-saving aid for #Venezuela is despicable. #EstamosUnidosVE https://t.co/BOSuVP1mTL
— Mark Green (@USAIDMarkGreen) February 23, 2019
As it always does – as it always has done from its inception when Wolf Blitzer embedded with U.S. troops – CNN led the way in not just spreading these government lies but independently purporting to vouch for their truth. On February 24, CNN told the world what we all now know is an absolute lie: that “a CNN team saw incendiary devices from police on the Venezuelan side of the border ignite the trucks,” though it generously added that “the network’s journalists are unsure if the trucks were burned on purpose.”
Other media outlets endorsed the lie while at least avoiding what CNN did by personally vouching for it. “Humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela was set on fire, seemingly by troops loyal to Mr Maduro,” The Telegraph claimed. The BBC uncritically printed: “There have also been reports of several aid trucks being burned – something Mr Guaidó said was a violation of the Geneva Convention.”
That lie – supported by incredibly powerful video images – changed everything. Ever since, that Maduro burned trucks filled with humanitarian aid was repeated over and over as proven fact on U.S. news outlets. Immediately after it was claimed, politicians who had been silent on the issue of Venezuela or even reluctant to support regime change began issuing statements now supportive of it. U.S. news stars and think tank luminaries who lack even a single critical brain cell when it comes to war-provoking claims from U.S. officials took a leading role in beating the war drums without spending even a single second to ask whether what they were being told were true:
This is just evil https://t.co/kDOJBZ48td
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) February 23, 2019
But on Saturday night, the New York Times published a detailed video and accompanying article proving that this entire story was a lie. The humanitarian trucks were not set on fire by Maduro’s forces. They were set on fire by anti-Maduro protesters who threw a molotov cocktail that hit one of the trucks. And the NYT’s video traces how the lie spread: from U.S. officials who baselessly announced that Maduro burned them to media outlets that mindlessly repeated the lie.
While the NYT’s article and video are perfectly good and necessary journalism, the credit they are implicitly claiming for themselves for exposing this lie is totally undeserved. That’s because independent journalists – the kind who question rather than mindlessly repeat government claims and are therefore mocked and marginalized and kept off mainstream television – used exactly this same evidence on the day of the incident to debunk the lies being told by Rubio, Pompeo, Bolton and CNN.
On February 24, the day the lie spread, Max Blumenthal wrote from Venezuela, on the independent reporting Grayzone site, that “the claim was absurd on its face,” noting that he “personally witnessed tear gas canisters hit every kind of vehicle imaginable in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and I have never seen a fire like the one that erupted on the Santander bridge.” He compiled substantial evidence strongly suggesting that the trucks were set ablaze by anti-Maduro protesters, including Bloomberg video showing them using Molotov cocktails, to express serious doubts about the mainstream narrative. On Twitter, in response to Marco Rubio’s lie, he wrote:
I did not see any Venezuelan government forces set fire to US aid trucks on the Colombian side of the border. And neither did you. Actually, the evidence so far is pointing in the other direction. https://t.co/AVBPYtFMiR
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) February 24, 2019
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) February 24, 2019
Meanwhile, others – who use their brains to critically evaluate what the U.S. Government says when it’s trying to start a new war, rather than mindlessly recite those claims as Truth, as U.S. media stars do – used the exact same evidence cited by the NYT last night to show that it was anti-Maduro protesters, not Maduro troops, who set the trucks on fire. But they were able to do it in the hours immediately following the incident, not three weeks later – but, needless to say, they were ignored by U.S. media outlets:
Here’s the moment when the trucks caught fire from a molotov coming from the Colombian side. https://t.co/vlZKzJpbRu
— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) February 24, 2019
The reports that say the Venezuelan Army (GNB) set humanitarian aid trucks on fire by shooting tear gas canisters at them from afar are a falsemedia stunt. Tear gas will not light anything on fire.
Also- look at where the trucks were vs where the GNB line was. pic.twitter.com/y7tyugOXXj
— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) February 24, 2019
You have no evidence of who set the aid truck on fire and these photos indicate your guarimberos had a hand in it. pic.twitter.com/VsvMDo2XaS
— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) February 24, 2019
.@marcorubio’s lie debunked: This video shows an opposition protester throwing a Molotov cocktail at the aid truck on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia. pic.twitter.com/4IgTt2u4pJ
— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) February 24, 2019
Those last two tweets – using video footage to debunk the lies spread by Marco Rubio, CNN and the U.S. Government – happen to be from a correspondent with RT America. Please tell me: who was acting here as lying propagandists and agents of State TV, and who was acting like a journalist trying to understand and report the truth?
So everything the New York Times so proudly reported last night has been known for weeks, and was already reported in great detail, using extensive evidence, by a large number of people. But because those people are generally skeptical of the U.S. Government’s claims and critical of its foreign policy, they were ignored and mocked and are generally barred from appearing on television, while the liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent, just like the manual for how to maintain State TV intructs.
Indeed, none of the people questioning the original claim about the burning trucks, or citing this evidence to argue that the U.S. Government and its Venezuelan ally Guaidó were lying, ever made it onto national television to present their dissent. They weren’t allowed on. To the extent they were acknowledged at all, it was to defame them as Maduro apologists – for telling the truth – just as those who tried to combat the propaganda of 2002 and 2003 were smeared as being pro-Saddam. Only Rubio, Bolton, Pompeo, and various other U.S. officials were permitted to spread their lies without any challenge.
That’s particularly notable since the Russian Government, a long-time ally of the Maduro government, themselves published the evidence showing this was a lie. Claims from the Russian or Venezuelan governments deserves as much skepticism as the claims of any other government, but they at least deserve to be heard. But the corporate U.S. media – precisely because it is State TV even as it is loves to accuse others of being that – never airs the views of governments adverse to the U.S. Government except in the most cursory and mocking way:
#HandsOffVenezuela Footage from the Venezuela-Colombia border incident has emerged showing US-backed opposition throwing Molotov cocktails at the @USAID trucks + “opposition activists” openly preparing incendiary devices – https://t.co/UIMYNEjAnV. Do you believe:
— Russia in RSA ?? (@EmbassyofRussia) February 25, 2019
It should be noted that this is not the first time outrights lies were spread by the U.S. Government and the U.S. media to inflame regime change against Venezuela. A photograph of a bridge between Colombia and Venezuela was broadcast all over the world as proof that Maduro was blocking humanitarian aid.
But the CBC – to their great credit – published a long apology noting that they, too, had fallen for this propaganda by publishing the photo of the bridge to support this narrative when, in fact, that bridge had been closed years earlier due to tensions between the two countries. Few, if any, of the U.S. media outlets that spread that lie offered a similar correction or apology.
Equally false is the widespread, popular media claim that Maduro has refused to allow any humanitarian aid to enter Venezuela. That, too, is an outright lie. The Venezuelan government has allowed substantial amounts of aid into their country from countries that have not threatened to overthrow the President with an external coup; Maduro has only blocked trucks and planes from entering that come from those countries (the U.S, Brazil, Colombia) that have been threatening Venezuela. something any country would do.
Indeed, both the Red Cross and the United Nations expressed concerns about “humanitarian aid” from the U.S. on the ground that it was a pretext for regime change and would politicize humanitarian aid). Even NPR recognized that “the U.S. effort to distribute tons of food and medicine to needy Venezuelans is more than just a humanitarian mission. The operation is also designed to foment regime change in Venezuela — which is why much of the international aid community wants nothing to do with it.”
That concern is obviously valid given the history of Elliott Abrams, the envoy leading U.S. policy in Venezuela, of exploiting “humanitarian aid” as a scam to smuggle weapons and other tools to overthrow Latin American governments he dislikes – another fact rarely if ever mentioned in U.S. media reports.
If you want to watch vintage “State TV,” watch this clip: a reporter embedded with US military, uncritically spouting every line from the US Government’s regime change effort, omitting key facts (like Elliott Abrams previously used humanitarian aid pretexts to smuggle weapons): https://t.co/T6NOiqMWRr
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 17, 2019
What we have here is classic Fake News – spread on Twitter, by U.S. officials and U.S. media stars – with the clear and malicious intent to start a war. But no western proponents of social media censorship will call for their accounts to be cancelled nor call for their posts to be deleted. That’s because “Fake News” and the war against it is strictly a means of combating propaganda by U.S. adversaries; the U.S. and its allies maintain extensive programs to spread Fake News online and none of those anti-Fake News crusaders call for those to be shut down.
And the next time claims are made about Venezuela designed to fuel regime change and wars, the independent journalists and analysts who were absolutely right in this instance – who recognized and documented the lies of the U.S. Government weeks before the New York Times did – will again be ignored or, at best, mocked. Meanwhile, those in the media and Foreign Policy Community who uncritically amplified and spread this dangerous lie will be treated as the Serious People whose pronouncements are the only ones worth hearing. With rare exception, dissent on Venezuela will continue to be barred.
That’s because the U.S. media, by design, does not permit dissent on U.S. foreign policy, particularly when it comes to false claims about U.S. adversaries. That’s why skeptics of U.S. regime change in Venezuela, or dissenters on the prevailing orthodoxies about Russia, have largely been disappeared from mainstream media outlets, just as they were in 2002 and 2003.
That’s not because U.S. media stars are ordered to do this. They don’t need to be ordered. They know propaganda is their job. More to the point, they are über-patriotic jingoists who revere U.S. officials and thus do not possess a single cell of critical thinking in their brain. That’s why they have TV programs in the first place. If they weren’t this way, they wouldn’t be on TV, as Noam Chomsky put it to the BBC’s Andrew Marr so perfectly in this short clip from many years ago (the whole three-minute context, well worth watching, is here). This tells the whole story of this sordid affair in Venezuela:
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