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With Elephants in the Room, Where’s the “Liberal Media?”

Tom Hall: BP had a hand in the Exxon Valdez. BP also operates a pipeline across Alaska’s wilderness areas that ruptured. The investigators found that BP had refused to do routine inspections and maintenance.
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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Or elephants in our rooms. The BP oil catastrophe and the Israeli pirate raid loom large in activist-land these days. But in each instance, there are issues about which no one wants to talk.


BP has a long history of oil business carnage and willful misconduct. People think that the captain of the Exxon Valdez was at fault for that boat’s grounding. But after the event, the State of Alaska appointed a commission to investigate the spill. That commission reported that the real cause of the Exxon Valdez accident was a culture of laxity about boat operations by the company that operated the boat for Exxon.

That company, Alyeska, is what? Owned and controlled by BP. That culture of laxity and failure to follow basic safety rules was the culture of BP.

BP also operates a pipeline that crosses Alaska’s pristine wilderness areas. Remember all the “guarantees” we were given by the oil industry when they sought to drill all over Alaska? Safety first! Multi-layer protection for the environment! No damage, no mistakes!

But the BP pipeline ruptured. The subsequent investigation found that BP had simply refused to do routine inspections and maintenance. BP decided that it would be more profitable to let a few thousand barrels of oil spill onto the wilderness tundra than to spend money on routine maintenance. Fixing the pipe after a rupture was cheaper than maintaining the pipe to prevent a spill. Cheaper because no one made BP pay for the environmental damage. And, in 2005, BP’s refusal to comply with mandatory, and industry standard, safety measures led to the death of 15 workers in a Texas refinery fire and explosion.

BP claims that it will “completely” cover all the damages cause by the gulf oil disaster.

Have you seen any news story in the “liberal” media detailing how “completely” BP took care of the families of the 15 workers killed at the Texas City refinery? Might that information help us understand how BP can be expected to take care of the damage from its gulf disaster?

BP is British Petroleum. The question no one has asked so far is why anyone, in any government agency, would have ever given a permit to do anything technically complex or dangerous to people who brought us Triumph cars, Land Rovers, Whitworth tools, and Lucas Electrical.

These are people who, by all credible reports, haven’t even been able to develop an edible cuisine since the Vikings stopped raiding their shores. Marmite with your Spotted Dick, anyone?

Now we’re told that the people who drove MG, Jaguar, and Austin Motors into the ground with extraordinary contempt for quality control and a culture of no attention to detail during assembly were somehow qualified to operate hugely complex machinery, in hostile environments, playing with dangerous materials.

British Petroleum has done some interesting engineering in the past. It was BP engineers who developed some of the measurement techniques that scientist now use to figure out the real rate of flow from the broken well. But that was years ago. This spring, BP’s Tony Haywood denied that those same techniques have any current validity. He originally said that his personal measurements, made in his executive office, showed that only 1,000 barrels a day was leaking. Then he “corrected” a detail and decided on 5,000 barrels a day.

Real scientists, using techniques developed by BP, were saying 70,000 barrels or more per day. But BP clung to the low, imaginary number. This is like British engineers clinging to whitworth tools and pushrod engines when Mercedes, Honda, and even GM had moved to metric measures and efficient overhead cams.

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No one claims that MG or Jaguar cars were badly designed. They were as adequate as the designs of the blowout preventers on BP’s oil wells. But those cars had no quality control in manufacture. And the culture that turned up its nose at quality control is the same culture that said it was alright to ignore ship handling safety on the Valdez, that refused to do pipeline maintenance on the North Slope and that disconnected essential controls on the blowout preventer.

Just as an exercise, try to identify how many British banks and financial institutions share this culture and were participants in the financial crisis that brought on the current recession.

The other elephant in the room for today is the unpleasant truth about press coverage of military misconduct. The rightwing blogosphere is condemning Rolling Stone for its expose of Stanley McChrystal’s contemptuous and contemptible attitude toward his Commander in Chief. Their complaint is that a reporter who isn’t a Pentagon sycophant had the temerity to report on this “sensitive” military topic.

This is the same approach that the Pentagon is using about the release of helicopter gunship video of the shooting of civilians in Afghanistan. And it is the same approach the Israeli government is using after the world expressed revulsion at the Israeli waffen-SS assault on a civilian mercy-craft on the high seas.

The traditional “liberal” media (all owned by “liberal” Wall Street corporations), give great deference to military press pronouncements. “We don’t kill civilians.” “The crew on the boat started the fight.” But they do this only by consciously ignoring what we all know about military hardware.

It was Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf who made us all aware of the video-game hardware that is part of every modern military toy. Every bomb has a nose camera. Every plane and ever assault helicopter records high-definition, night vision video of every operation. Officially, this is so the military can study and learn from operations. And so investigators can verify the truth between competing claims about operational mistakes.

But what if we don’t want to learn the truth? The Israeli government has high-definition, night vision records of what their storm troopers did, and how their civilian victims reacted, on the night the government launched a military raid on an unarmed, civilian aid convoy. The Israeli government refuses to release this video. It refuses to release the video showing how so many civilians ended up being shot in the back of their heads, at close range.

Similarly, the U.S. government now wants to prosecute the soldier who released helicopter video showing U.S. pilots targeting and then killing civilians in Afghanistan. The Pentagon had originally said that the operation was against Taliban militants. But when released, the video and its audio track made clear that the Pentagon leaders were simply lying in their descriptions. Just as the Netanyahu government in Israel lied as it tried to cover up the truth of what was done to the civilian mercy ship.

On July 6, the soldier who leaked the truth that revealed Pentagon lying was charged with a crime. Where is the "liberal media” on the story of the persecution of the one soldier who tried to be honest about the slaughter of civilians by U.S. gunships in Afghanistan? The story here is the attempt by the Israeli government and the U.S. government, in different incidents, trying to cover up what really happens in our chosen war zones.

Stanley McChrystal, the recently deposed general who spoke against President Obama, was the general who orchestrated the cover-up of the “friendly fire” killing of Pat Tillman. Now, his replacement David Petraeus, continues the pattern with the persecution of a soldier who wanted to uncover a cover-up. The Israeli government has clamped the cover-up seal on the gunship videos from the convoy raid.

This all follows historical patterns. The Pentagon covered up the intentional slaughter of civilians at No Gun Ri, during the Korean War, and at My Lai, in Vietnam. It covered up the abuses at Abu Graib and the destruction of Falluja. Just as Israel has long denied responsibility for the well-documented slaughter of women and children at Deir Yassin and at Sabra and Shatila. This is normal practice for today’s modern military. By failing to acknowledge it; by permitting politicians and generals to escape any responsibility for these horrors, we are as culpable as we are when we reward corporate criminals like BP with huge tax breaks and corporate welfare.

Tom Hall

Tom Hall