- By Colum LynchColum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. He previously wrote FP’s Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He was also the silver medal recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize for a three-part series documenting the U.N.’s systemic failure to protect civilians in Darfur, Sudan. Colum’s investigations have uncovered an American spy operation in Iraq, Russia’s monopoly of the $1 billion-a-year U.N. aircraft leasing market, and a Chinese diplomatic campaign to silence U.N. investigators scrutinizing Chinese arms deals in Africa. His deep digs into the U.N. bureaucracy have exposed sexual misconduct by U.N. blue helmets from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and documented monumental dysfunction in the U.N. office charged with rooting out misconduct and corruption. He now devotes his reporting chops to documenting President Donald Trump’s efforts to reorder the international system. Born in Los Angeles, Colum received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. Before moving to FP, Colum reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. He has appeared frequently on national news programs, including the Lehrer NewsHour, as well as on MSNBC, NPR, and the BBC.
Richard Falk, the U.N. rights researcher who provoked fury from the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon for saying the U.S. government and media had apparently covered up evidence challenging the official U.S. claim that the terrorist group Al Qaeda carried out the 911 terror attacks, says he was misunderstood.
"I wish to be absolutely clear," Falk said in a statement. "I do not endorse the theory that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. What I did do, in my personal blog, in which I was discussing the differing perceptions that develop after political assassinations and deeply tragic events, including the murder of Olaf Palme, the 9/11 attacks and the recent killing in Arizona, was argue that investigations must be seen to be, transparent, exhaustive and honest.
The dispute arose over Falk’s blog post on 911 on government’s propensity for secrecy in the face of awkward truths. Here’s the passage that got Falk into hot water:
The arguments swirling around the 9/11 attacks are emblematic of these issues. What fuels suspicions of conspiracy is the reluctance to address the sort of awkward gaps and contradictions in the official explanations that David Ray Griffin(and other devoted scholars of high integrity) have been documenting in book after book ever since his authoritative The New Pearl Harbor in 2004 (updated in 2008). What may be more distressing than the apparent cover up is the eerie silence of the mainstream media, unwilling to acknowledge the well-evidenced doubts about the official version of the events: an al Qaeda operation with no foreknowledge by government officials. Is this silence a manifestation of fear or cooption, or part of an equally disturbing filter of self-censorship? Whatever it is, the result is the withering away of a participatory citizenry and the erosion of legitimate constitutional government. The forms persist, but the content is missing.
After the post, Hillel C. Neuer, the executive director of U.N. Wacth, sent a letter to Ban Ki moon condemning the remarks, and calling for Falk’s removal. "As he did again this month, Mr. Falk has repeatedly called into question the fact that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were indeed terrorist attacks," Neuer said in prepared testimony before the House Foreign Relations Committee Monday. "Instead he calls for exploring the possibility that 9/11 was an "inside job"carried out by the U.S. government."
Ban quickly condemned Falk’s blog posting. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Monday, Ban said: " I condemn this sort of inflammatory rhetoric. It is preposterous — an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in that tragic attack."
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called for Falk’s removal. "Mr. Falk endorses the slurs of conspiracy theorists who allege that the September, 2001, terrorists attack were perpetrated and then covered up by the U.S. government and media," she said."In my view, Mr. Falk’s latest commentary is so noxious that it should finally be plain to all that he should no longer continue in his position on behalf of the UN."
Falk, who serves as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestininian Territories Occupied Since 1967, claimed "the pro-Israel group, UN Watch..deliberately distorted comment I made my personal capacity, on my blog," to have him fired from his unpaid job. In a blog post Thursday, he accused Neuer of "publicly attacking me in consistently irresponsible and untruthful ways, presumably with the intention of diverting attention from my criticisms of Israel’s occupation policies in the Palestinian territories."
In response, U.N. Watch issued a statement saying "Mr. Falk’s ad hominem attacks on UN Watch are a pathetic attempt to divert attention from his own action…By attempting to justify his despicable denial of Al Qaeda’s carrying-out of the 9/11 attacks as a mere call for “investigations,” Mr. Falk resorts to the same transparent tactics used by Iran’s Ahmadinejad and other hate-mongers who seek to deny other great atrocities of history, each with their own hateful political agenda."
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