Peter Hartcher: The fifth columnist

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Peter Hartcher (Image via

Fairfax columnist Peter Hartcher is no impartial journalist, says Associate Professor Evan Jones — he is a partisan propagandist for the West against the Rest.

PETER HARTCHER is a polymath and very successful at it, albeit he does stretch himself a bit thin.

Fresh from playing a sterling role for his employer Fairfax in bringing down the previous Labor Government, he has reverted to his favourite role — a consummate functionary for the West against the Rest, good against evil, white versus black.

Here is Hartcher lauding George W Bush (‘Gunpoint democracy for whoever wants it’) in February 2005:

Until now, US presidents have been content to live with this stronghold of tyranny in the Middle East in the service of stability. This has been one of the manifestations of the school of realism in US foreign policy. George Bush reminded us again yesterday in his State of the Union address that he is no realist. He is an idealist and that means he is a revolutionary.

Last month, in his inaugural address, Bush made a case against tyranny that was so powerful and seemed so brimful with purpose that dictators around the world grew concerned: "We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.”

Puleez! But this is not an aberration.

Thus, on 22 October, Hartcher writes a piece on Iran (Closer eye needs to be kept on Iran), dominating the Sydney Morning Herald’s Opinion page.

But why Iran at this moment?

Hartcher wants the U.S. and its minions to squeeze Iran mercilessly until it’s begging for mercy. Hartcher drags in the other remaining prong of Dubya’s ‘axis of evil’, North Korea. If only we hadn’t let North Korea off the hook by not persisting with ruthless financial sanctions the Kim Dynasty would be now a cooked goose. 

The North Korean regime is an easy target. But a little too easy.

Shrieks Hartcher in May 2010:

North Korea has presented the world with a serious strategic dilemma that is quickly becoming a first-class crisis. With the unprovoked torpedoing of a South Korean navy corvette, the Cheonan, and the deaths of 46 crew, the North has committed an act of war. … It is the deadliest attack by North Korea since two of its spies put a bomb on board KAL 858 in 1987, killing the 115 civilians aboard.

Well the serious money was on a false flag operation.

The Yanks were petrified at the prospect that the Japanese were on the brink of chucking them out of Okinawa. The Yanks just happened to be engaging in military manoeuvres off North Korea at the time and, lo and behold, after the sinking of the Cheonan (the torpedo was apparently German-made) the Yanks remain on Okinawa. The downing of KAL 858 also has its false flag proponents, including in South Korea.

But then again, Hartcher’s line of work finds the concept of a false flag inconceivable, ludicrous. And Hartcher hasn’t confronted that it’s in the U.S.’s interests to keep the Korean peninsula on a permanent war footing — not least for the maintenance of a massive military presence in South Korea and as the U.S. ramps up its encircling of China.

Hartcher continues:

The international community is now moving to respond. The US Secretary of State, Hillary …

By ‘international community’ Hartcher means the Yanks (and its minions).

But what irks Hartcher about Iran? Iran’s leadership is the scourge of its own population, but of those outside its borders?

For some assistance with comprehending the unfathomable, witness a report by the Brookings Institution in June 2009, Which Path to Persia? The report is authored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, funded by Zionist Haim Saban, which aims to find reflected glory from the Brookings brand.

On the matter of organising an air strike on Iran and selling it to a recalcitrant public, we read, under Requirements, Diplomatic (p.84):

… absent a clear Iranian act of aggression, American airstrikes against Iran would be unpopular in the region and throughout the world. This negative reaction could undermine any or all of America’s policy initiatives in the region regardless of how the Iranians respond. …

Thus Washington cannot allow airstrikes against Iran to become a self-defeating course of action that undermines the other U.S. policies that this option is ultimately meant to enable. Especially in the absence of a clear Iranian provocation, averting this paradoxical danger would be a major task for U.S. diplomats in the run-up to such an air campaign. …

They would have to argue that the American actions were ultimately designed to enhance the stability of the region and that it would be a mistake for everyone if countries allowed their pique at Washington to impede other initiatives that are ultimately in the best interests of the entire region and the entire world.

The truth is that these all would be challenging cases to make. For that reason, it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be.

The Saban report notes that there is a tension between having to wait for Iran to come up with the necessary provocation and the need for timely action. Ah, conveniently Iran has been caught red-handed plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in a Washington DC restaurant in October 2011, reliably reports Hartcher (Beware the ticking Iran time bomb’).

This was the one with the Iranian-American Texan used-car salesman, hopefully subcontracting to a Mexican drug cartel for the job in DC, which the cartel knows intimately. Right. Caught red-handed. The salesman gets 25 years, Iran gets more sanctions, but what’s happened to the senior Iranian operative that supposedly ordered the hit?

Then there is Hartcher on Syria.

We can agree that the Assad regime is tyrannous, but we discover that Syria is also the linchpin of Middle Eastern barbarism (August 2011):

So even though Syria under Assad's Baath Party is a secular regime, it is nonetheless a linchpin of Shiite Islamist power and aggression throughout the Middle East. To remove Assad would be to weaken Iran and to crimp its ambitions. It would also undermine its political and terrorist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

What Shiite Islamist power and aggression? Hartcher consistently ignores Saudi Arabia (and its Qatari sidekick) as the linchpin of Sunni Islamist power and aggression (read jihadism) globally. Not to mention the United States’ nurturing and use of jihadists as needed — the Taliban as Exhibit A.

Hartcher has acknowledged (March 2011) a certain inconsistency in the West’s ongoing support for various dictators while deposing the ‘loathsome’ Gaddafi (‘West's outrage is tempered by alliances’), but this detachment is a rarity. This is the only occasion on which Hartcher has mentioned the bloody repression in Bahrain. Hartcher has also acknowledged the Saudi and Qatari funding of anti-Assad forces in Syria, but this involvement is explained as a fallback response by principled backers to the lack of Western action against Assad’s tyranny.

In general, the white/black dichotomy rules.

The shocking massacre in the Houla region in May 2012 was readily attributed by Hartcher to Assad’s barbarism (‘Brutality of Assad not enough to bring action). But the evidence, including from Christian Syrian sources, deems otherwise. The killings at Taldau (Tal Dow) were not random but involved specific targets, families who were not opposed to the regime. The propaganda war accompanies the real war and Hartcher is a combatant in the former. Caution in attributing blame is appropriate in the horrendous Syrian carnage, as befits the journalist’s craft.

Hartcher infers that Assad was also behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005. A trumped-up procedure (under the German intelligence agent Detlev Mehlis, also implicated in the false accusation of Libya’s responsibility for the 1986 Berlin disco attack) immediately implicated Syria and four senior Lebanese officials. The case soon fell apart given unreliable witnesses and the four Lebanese Generals, wrongly imprisoned for four years, released. The caravan has moved on to blaming Hezbollah. Qui bono? Israel took advantage of the post-Hariri turmoil to again invade Lebanon in July 2006.

Hezbollah repelled Israel in 2006 and it is currently the dominant force inhibiting Israeli/US/Saudi attempts at disintegration of Lebanon. It is in Israel’s interests that Arab states be accommodating (Jordan, Eqypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States) or fragmented and preferably disintegrating.

The pundits are already proposing the partition of Syria. The Golan, of course, is already taken by Israel. The destruction of Iraq was Israel’s great success story, Lebanon’s continuing resilience an ongoing failure.

Hence, the false flag operation in Bulgaria against a bus carrying Israeli tourists in July 2012 — to be blamed on Hezbollah and to incur Europe’s wrath.

After the brutal Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010, we have Hartcher attempting to divert attention to Iran! Says Hartcher (June 2010):

The real danger to Israel is not from a flotsam of protesters on a publicity-seeking trip to deliver symbolic aid to the Palestinians under blockade in Gaza. It is from a rising Iran, energised by the helplessness of its traditional enemy, Iraq. The ayatollahs in Tehran seek to dominate the Middle East and neutralise Israel's nuclear advantage by developing a nuclear bomb of their own. They are almost there.

Hezbollah is about Iran; Syria is about Iran, Hamas is about Iran. Israel’s crimes are about Iran. Iran’s major crime, we are consistently informed, is that it presents an existential threat to Israel – an existential threat, whatever that means, and with apologies to the philosophers of Existentialism. What we all know, but won’t learn from Hartcher, is that Iran presents a threat to Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East, and thus a threat to Israel’s continued lawlessness.

Hartcher appears to be more Catholic than the Pope, with his enthusiastic devotion to the hysteria of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a madness that is even putting allies and domestic military and intelligence elites on edge. Thus (‘Iran clock ticking …’, October 2012):

Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been beating a war drum to a quickening tempo in recent months. He has been intensifying pressure on the US to support an attack on Iran. … Israel and the US also agree that a nuclear-armed Iran is an intolerable danger. But they differ on timing and tactics. … So the key question for Israel is not whether it will eventually confront a nuclear-armed Iran, but whether it will have the US by its side when that day comes.

Hartcher elsewhere highlights, without disapproval (February 2012):

Israel, which fears an Iranian nuclear bomb more than any other nation, has taken more direct action - the Stuxnet computer virus that sabotaged Iranian centrifuges, the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, the mysterious explosions at two nuclear-related facilities in Iran, all seem to bear Israeli fingerprints.

Go team! All is permissible against the Great Satan. Of course, Israel is not going to attack Iran, but we can count upon Hartcher to keep beating the drum of its desirability and its inevitability.

Hartcher had an execrably partisan piece on the formally balanced Goldstone Report in November 2009 on the Gaza incursion (‘Israel feels tarnished as critics apply apartheid tag’), reproducing the official Israeli line.

Hartcher appended the fact that

‘He travelled to Israel as a guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.’

In response to critical comments online and a withering article in Crikey by Antony Loewenstein, Hartcher was unrepentant. Journalists take paid trips all the time; as long as they report the sponsorship it’s all right.

Said Hartcher to Loewenstein:

You, by contrast, are a declared partisan in the conflict. You are not in any position to act as a neutral analyst or objective commentator. If you critique my piece, you should disclose your interest, as I have mine.

The marked contrast between Hartcher’s status and Loewenstein’s has escaped the former. Occasionally, journalists go on a junket, say to a trade fair in China, and report on happenings. Israel (and its cheer squad) is different; Israel buys journalists (and politicians) on a block basis, because Israel has an understandable image problem.  

Thus, from Fairfax alone, Hartcher, Paul Sheehan, Lenore Taylor and even the long respected Hamish McDonald (who have I missed?) have all succumbed to the siren song. All have written disgracefully partisan articles following their junket/s — I see no Occupation.

Israel and its lobby have obtained value for money. And Fairfax management is oblivious.

Early on, Hartcher gave a free plug to the rabid Zionist William Kristol, when Hartcher was the Australian Financial Review’s Washington DC correspondent (‘Ears bend to hear Bush's `troublemaker'’, AFR, 7 June 2002).

For Hartcher, Kristol’s mentality (more hardline than even Rupert Murdoch!) embodied appropriate mainstream sensibility for a post-9/11 world. Hartcher neglected to ask Kristol what he thought the five Israelis were doing whooping it up in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park when the planes hit the towers.

Peter Hartcher has been a long time journalist and correspondent, with two stints in Japan and one in the United States.

The Japan years produced interesting commentary and the admirable The Ministry, on the Finance Ministry’s disastrous handling of the aftermath of the 1985 Plaza Accord.

The US sojourn appears (as for others — Paul Sheehan, Greg Hywood, Michael Stutchbury) to have produced an inability to analyse the U.S. and its imperial project dispassionately. What is in the US drinking water?

The pace appears to have quickened when Hartcher was invited to become an associate of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, which Australian businessman Phil Scanlan formed in 1992.

It’s hard to see evidence of a two-way traffic of ideas and influence.

Then, briefly in 2003-04, Hartcher became a fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. It was a smart buy for the Lowy Institute. Hartcher’s columns are now a perennial conduit for the Institute’s ultra-pedestrian offerings.

Hartcher is occasionally critical of both the US and Israel.

A decade after the event, he condemned the invasion of Iraq (‘Blind allies of mass destruction’). He supported Foreign Minister Bob Carr staring down Prime Minister Gillard over Australia’s vote on UN recognition of Palestinian Statehood (‘Right call sees Israel on the outer).

I know their best interests better than they do, he implies.

Over time, Hartcher displays inconsistencies of stance, perhaps understandable given the prodigious production of commentary. But the long term centre of gravity is weighted towards partisanry, a lack of critical detachment as a reliable purveyor of conventional establishment ‘truths’.

One doesn’t read the New York Times or the Washington Post for a dispassionate reporting of U.S. foreign policy and global politics — they are themselves de facto arms of US foreign policy. Sadly, one can’t look to the Fairfax or the Murdoch press for a dispassionate reporting of Australian foreign policy and global politics (what happened to Paul McGeogh?) And the filling of the International news pages with reprints from the Anglo-American establishment press is a dead weight. Fortunately, there are now alternatives, sources of detailed information and intelligence.

We recognise pap and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Newspaper management and editors don’t get it. They want to enhance readership, thus attract advertisers and sustain financial viability. But they also want to run editorial lines through the journalists’ columns. It’s the same problem with Fairfax’s current approach to business reporting.

It’s a losing proposition.

Intelligent potential readers want intelligent and principled commentary.

Peter Hartcher, for one, appears unwilling to provide it.

Peter Hartcher

Peter Hartcher, Yair Miller, Alan and Carolyn Dershowitz (Image: Giselle Haber via

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