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À partir d’avant-hierAmerican Herald Tribune

Every Time Is Lillian Hellman’s ‘Scoundrel Time’

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In 1972 the writer Lillian Hellman published Scoundrel Time, her account of being called before the US House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 and being blacklisted for refusing to answer questions.  Others with the same courage shared the same fate. 

The careers of those who cooperated flourished. They included Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screenwriters’ Guild, who referred to the “disruptive influence” of a “small group” of its members who followed the tactics of the Communist Party and he heard had been “tagged” as communists.

The phrase ‘scoundrel time’ neatly sums up the feverish anti-communist atmosphere of mid-1950s America. The cold war, nuclear weapons, well-stocked underground shelters in the back garden, espionage,  the execution of the Rosenberg and fear all around, continually created, stimulated and fed by the government and the media,  making it possible for the most vicious accusations to be believed and for people to be imprisoned or run out of their jobs.

Times do change but the time we live in always is a scoundrel time.  You can look back as far as you want and what you will see, dominating our lives in politics, corporate life and the media, are scoundrels.  The key scoundrel time after 1918 was, or used to be until the 1950s and then the 1990s came along, was the 1930s, the ‘devil’s decade,’ as described by the British journalist Claud Cockburn.

It was not just the fascists running amok, in Spain and China and Ethiopia, but the liberal democracies that supported them even if not saying so out loud.

For the British establishment, Hitler was addressed respectfully as Herr Hitler,  the man who they relied on to run the Bolsheviks out of town until he turned west instead of east. The same British establishment had in the 19th century run the opium wars against China, its corporations making enormous profits by drugging the Chinese population.  The father of George Orwell (Eric Blair) was part of the trade.  Resisted by the government, Britain went to war and compelled China to sign the treaty which gave it Hong Kong, from which it could run the opium trade as before.

Jardine Matheson,  at the center of this trafficking, still has its headquarters in Hong Kong where it describes itself as having an “Asian-based and diverse portfolio of market-leading businesses.”  Now the attempt is again being made, in protests instigated by individuals with close ties to the US government (Joshua Wong and others), to run Hong Kong against the authority and interests of the Chinese government.

Britain also supported Nazi Germany and Japan economically.  In 1942 Victor Gollancz, who owned the leftist publishing firm of the same name, wrote a book entitled Shall Our Children Die? A Reply to Lord Vansittart on the German Problem.  In the 1930s Vansittart was opposed to the appeasement of Nazi Germany (mildly compared to others) but not of Japan or fascist Italy: in 1935 he was an architect of the secret French-British Hoare-Laval plan which proposed giving most of Ethiopia to Italy without it having to go to war until it was exposed and disowned by the British government.

Gollancz’s book appeared after the publication of Vansittart’s tract Black Record, which sold close to half a million copies and further stirred up a people already primed to believe the Germans capable of committing any crime.  The tract paints the Germans as the most aggressive people in history, and Vansittart was determined to see them punished as a people when the war was over.  

Gollancz was opposed to this central idea.  ‘Our children’ could be German, British or anyone’s children: his implicit question was why should they be punished for the crimes of politicians.  More than that, though,  Gollancz shows that without the support of the British establishment,  there could hardly have been a Nazi Germany or a Fascist Italy able to go to war in the first place.   

Stamping out Bolshevism –  as represented by any government or political movement – was a priority for the British and US governments after the 1914-18 war.  Anthony Cave Brown and Charles B. MacDonald have written compellingly on this period of history in On a Field of Red: The Communist International and the Coming of World War II (1981). Hitler, blackshirts and brownshirts notwithstanding,  was a brutal tool that could stem the Bolshevik tide. 

Britain did nothing to stop his early predatory moves and in Spain actively encouraged his appetite for more by declaring an arms embargo  “on both sides” while knowing that Germany and Italy were arming the Spanish fascists and giving them logistical and air support.

It refused to be any part of a collective security pact against Nazi Germany, the only real hope of preventing war, because the Soviet Union would have to be part of it and in no circumstances was it going to be part of the same alliance as the USSR.   It continued with its policies of appeasement and economic support of both Germany and Japan even after they had embarked on their wars of aggression. 

Gollancz draws this out by showing the level of economic support given to both countries.  These are some of his figures for imports from the so-called ‘West’ into Japan: for 1938/39, 50 percent of all war material came from outside (56.85 percent from the US and 22.12 percent from the ‘British Empire’, not differentiated).   

Of Japan's imports of lead in 1939, 66.2 percent came from the British empire and 33.83 percent from the US; of nickel, 94.8 per cent from the British empire; of petroleum 66.16 per cent from the US; of tin 89.8 per cent from the British empire; of aluminium 70.9 per cent from the British empire; of copper 92.19 per cent from the US; of zinc 48.2 per cent from the British empire;  of mica 100 per cent from the same source. Of all metal-working machinery 70.19 percent was imported from the US.

There are many more figures, of car spare parts, car and aircraft engines and so on, accounting overall in 1939 for more than 98 percent of Japan's war materials, even though the Japanese army had recently invaded China and committed the most shocking atrocities. 

As for Germany, the very day after its army occupied Prague (March 16, 1939) the Federation of British Industry signed the 'Dusseldorf agreement' with its German opposite number, the Reichsgruppe Industrie.  The agreement provided for collaboration in the export market partly by fixing prices and quotas, with both sides agreeing to cooperate against competition.

Already in 1934 Sir Herbert Lawrence, the chairman of Vickers, the arms manufacturer, asked about disarmament, had said that while could not give an assurance “nothing is done without the sanction and approval of our own government.' Vickers was connected with the Japanese Corporation Matsui.  It had subsidiaries across Europe and its directors were linked with companies and banks around the world, all following the basic principle of maximizing profit irrespective of moral considerations.

In 1936 100,000 Britons signed up for the Peace Pledge Union. It was clear what they and many others who did not sign but supported its aims wanted, disarmament, and what they did not want, war. The politicians hummed and hashed endlessly, fudging the issue, because behind the League of Nations disarmament conferences and the commitments made to everlasting peace, their governments supported the arms manufacturers and their very lucrative export market.

Now turn the arms of the clock forward to the 1980s and the war between Iraq and Iran. As a British government or a US administration,  you did not have to like Saddam Hussein to see how useful he could be. He was the bludgeon that could be used to break a slightly more detestable state, revolutionary Islamic Iran, as long as he was helped with the necessary war material and as long as a blind eye was turned to his use of chemical weapons to destroy the Iranian army.  In fact, far from turning a blind eye, the US provided Iraq with the intelligence coordinates to launch such attacks when Iran was on the point of overwhelming Iraqi defenses early in the war.  Only when he used chemical weapons against the Kurds (at Halabja in 1988) was there outrage in the ‘west.’    

Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s Iraq was provided with tens of billions of dollars worth of weaponry, including jet fighters, tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, missiles, missile launchers and artillery by arms manufacturers in the US, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Italy, the Soviet Union, China, Chile, Brazil and many other countries, all with export licences provided by their governments. 

Between 1981 and 1988 France alone sold Iraq $12 billion worth of weaponry, including Mirage jet fighters, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles and self-propelled artillery. A weapons dossier submitted to the UN Security Council in December 2002,  reportedly included the names of 150 US, British,  French, and German companies that alone had sold conventional and non-conventional weaponry to Iraq.  As all five permanent members of the UNSC were involved in this trade it was not surprising that the 11,800-page dossier was reportedly stripped of some 8000 pages when it was ‘edited,’ before being handed to non-permanent members of the council.

Even when embargoes were declared the corporations were still able to sell ‘dual-use’ trucks and helicopters as well as computers, machine tools, lasers, industrial machinery, high-quality steel and aluminum, communications systems, components for the possible manufacture of nuclear weapons, including detonators and fissionable material for uranium enrichment.  The exports included basic ingredients that could be used to make chemical weapons and precursors needed for the production of biological weapons.  Iraq’s anthrax culture, originally taken from a dead cow in Britain in the 1930s, came from a US laboratory. Massive corruption of the banking system was involved in the granting of loans for food that were used for military purposes.  

The final outcome on the battlefield was most satisfactory to these governments and corporations.  After eight years the Iraqi and Iranian governments fought themselves to an exhausted standstill.  Millions of people, soldiers and civilians, had been killed, wounded or driven out of their homes but for outside ‘western’ governments,  the arms manufacturers, Israel and the ‘west’s’ Shia-hating and Baathist-hating regional allies the political and economic outcome was ….well …. most satisfactory.

Wind the clock ahead again to  Iraq 1990-2002, Iraq 2003 to the present, Syria 2011 to the present, Libya 2011 and the Yemen war 2015 to the present and we see the same ugly pattern being repeated, the same ugly constellation of political and corporate forces profiting from war.   Millions of people, dead or displaced; hundreds of thousands of children, our children,  their children, in fact, the children of us all,  killed; and countries destroyed, necessarily, so governments, arms manufacturers and the breed of mercenaries now known as contractors can all profit.  

After 2000 years of drawing up laws, treaties and covenants designed to make the world a safer place and establishing parliaments to truly express the voice of the people, how is it possible that this is the best ‘the west’ and its civilization can come up with?  Truly, scoundrel time is every time.

A Troubled Family: NATO Turns 70

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Summit anniversaries are not usually this abysmally interesting.  While those paying visits to Watford, England on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are supposedly signatories to the same agreement, a casual glance would have suggested otherwise.  This was a show of some bickering.

France, never the most comfortable member, suggested that NATO was “experiencing… brain death”.  While this observation by French President Emmanuel Macron last month would have carried little weight in another age, it struck a chord, not least because it signaled a role reversal of sorts.  The US, he warned, was retreating in its international role.  A vacuum had been created, and it was desperately in need of filling.  Such language, and affront, is usually the preserve of the current US president, Donald Trump.  In 2018, he suggested that the organization was nothing less than “obsolete”, a relic.  Now it was left to France to assume the role of chief heckler.

NATO has been a body in search of a role for some time.  In the triumphant aftermath of the Cold War, it became the most visible reminder of US power and overstretch, a blunt instrument of deployment in such theatres as Afghanistan.  But the traditional sense that it remains a grouping marshaled against Russia and now, an emerging China, was not something Macron was having much truck with.  Beijing should not “be the object of our collective defense… in strictly military terms”. 

In company with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron told assembled members of the press that identifying enemies was not within the purview of the alliance. “Is our enemy today Russia?  Or China?  Is it the goal of NATO to designate them enemies?  I don’t believe so.”  The more standard, if stale problem, was that of “terrorism, which has hit each of our countries.”

This has been seen as a form of ratting.  Trump, during the course of a 52-minute meeting on Tuesday morning with Stoltenberg, found the remarks “very insulting” and a “very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries.”  He instead pushed for drumming up the China threat.  Be careful, warned the US president, about the technology giant Huawei. “I spoke to Italy and they look like they are not going to go forward with [Huawei].” But just to make matters interesting, Britain has refused to play along, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson not wanting Britain “to be unnecessarily hostile to investment from overseas”.

Another NATO member was also proving problematic, having not played by the rules of the club.  Turkey is only a half-hearted subscriber to the Russian demonology, preferring to ink agreements for the purchase of such Moscow sponsored hardware as the antiaircraft missile system, the S-400.  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was keen to leave his mark at this anniversary meeting, threatening a veto of NATO’s efforts to boost defenses within the Baltic States and Poland should members not designate Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists.

For Macron, Turkey’s stance was a sore in the relationship, a point assisted by Trump’s withdrawal of troops from northern Syria.  The gesture was sufficient to encourage the movement of Turkish units into territory once won by Kurdish-led forces in their fight against the zealots of Islamic State.  “When I look at Turkey, they are fighting against those who fight with us,” lamented Macron. “Who is the enemy today?”  Regarding the issue of designating Kurdish fighters terrorists, there could be no “possible consensus”.

Trump was less troubled. “The border and the safe zone is working out very well… and I gave a lot of credit to Turkey for that.  The ceasefire is holding very much so, and I think people are surprised, and maybe someday they’ll give me credit, but probably not.”

The US president kept to his usual 2 percent formula, namely, that member states needed to spend the equivalent of two percent of gross domestic product on defense to pass muster.  Germany remains stubbornly low in expenditure, though Canada has promised a spike.  But sandpit politics was just around the corner, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau proved the target of Trump’s barbs at a news conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  “I find him to be a very nice guy but you know the truth is that I called him out over the fact that he’s not paying 2 percent and I can see he’s not very happy about it.” 

The comments were sparked by a recorded conversation between Trudeau, Johnson, Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Anne.  Not that there was much to go by.  Some of the dignitaries had been running late.  Johnson duly inquired. “It was like a 40-minute press conference,” answered the Canadian leader.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah!  Forty minutes.”  Inaudible chatter followed.  “I just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” come Trudeau’s words.  And so did the prime minister earned the ire of Freedom’s Land’s commander-in-chief.  “He’s two-faced,” stated Trump, almost pouting in indignation.

Stoltenberg was left to do the secretarial work and hammer out a position of sorts.  He suggested that China offered “both opportunities but also challenges.”  Being vague was the order of the day, and when asked about the squabbles, assumed the role of stern diplomat.   The Economist was troubled enough to suggest that there were reasons to celebrate.  In Trump’s company, Stoltenberg called NATO “the most successful alliance in history because we have been able to change when the world is changing.”  This was Macron’s point, though not necessarily one that has found a soft landing.  In Beijing and Moscow, it has probably caused pause for amusement.

*(Top image: Family portrait of NATO Heads of State and/or Government with ceremony for the 70th anniversary. Credit: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization/ Flickr)

Why the UK Establishment Hates Jeremy Corbyn

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He’s been termed a ‘national security risk’ and an ‘enemy of the state’ by the mainstream media. On Sky News recently former Conservative and Times columnist Matthew Parris referred to his ‘mad’ conspiracy theories as he discussed with other journalists the danger of him being elected to power. One might think they were discussing a terrorist or criminal, but instead it was none other than Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, whose only crime has been to speak out against the harmful aspects of Britain’s foreign policy in recent years. Against regime change wars, against arms sales to Saudi Arabia and a supporter of Palestine - Corbyn has openly contradicted the establishment position for decades. Why? Because, like most conscious individuals, he deemed it to be immoral.

You see the problem with Jeremy Corbyn is that he tells the truth. Lord Finkelstein, writing in The Times on Wednesday, wrote a piece designed to send shivers down the spine of Britain’s most ardent capitalists. ‘How Lenin inspired Corbyn’s world view’ it was entitled, as he tried to persuade the public that the Labour leader threatens everything the UK establishment stands for. He quotes from a 2011 foreword written by Corbyn to the book Imperialism, in which he wrote,

“Since World War Two, the big imperial force has been the United States on behalf of global capitalism and the biggest, mostly US-based corporations. The propaganda for this has presented itself as a voice for ‘freedom’ and carefully and consciously conflated it with market economics.” He goes further to suggest that Soviet expansionism was different from that of the US:

“The influence of the Soviet Union around the world was huge, but tempered by an inadequate industrial base in comparison to the United States and the ruinously expensive arms race that hastened its decline, and eventual collapse in 1990. But the Soviet influence was always different, and its allies often acted quite independently.”

These ‘dangerous’ opinions are of course opposed by the establishment, whose very existence depends on a flourishing capitalist order.

The reason this subject has resurfaced of late is, of course, because of the 70th anniversary of NATO. This military alliance, consistently portrayed in the West as a force only for good in the world, has been criticized by Corbyn in the past for its ‘obsession with Cold War politics’ and for provoking Russia through its expansion into Eastern Europe.  Describing it as a ‘US tool’ for shaping policy in Europe, in his 2014 Corbyn article entitled ‘NATO belligerence endangers us all’ has dared to venture into territory that no other UK politician would dare go into. Suggesting that there were ‘huge questions surrounding the West’s intentions in Ukraine’, that NATO has been wrongly allowed ‘to act outside its own area since the Afghan war’ and that ‘it’s time we talked with Russia’ are statements strong enough to raise more than a few eyebrows in Westminster. Dismissed as crackpot conspiracy theories, there are very few mainstream journalists and commentators willing to tolerate such views for a second, let alone work out what they might mean.

Thankfully there are some who have been able to see past the propaganda that Corbyn is some kind of ‘Soviet sleeper’ and terrorist sympathizer intent on undermining national security and destroying Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US, and as such he has got to the position he is in.  For the reality is that Corbyn’s mantra is essentially based on one basic principle: promote peace not war. And that is something which unfortunately is a huge threat to weapons manufacturers, from which the UK made £14bn last year, making it the world’s second largest arms exporter.

Therefore the ‘deep state’, will do everything it can to persuade the British public that Jeremy Corbyn is our enemy. Former MI6 head, Sir Richard Dearlove, writing in the Mail on Sunday last month warned ‘do not even think about taking the risk of handing this politician the keys of No.10’ as he boasted that neither Corbyn nor many of his close allies would have passed security vetting in order to join the agency. He asserted that Corbyn and his strategist, Seamus Milne, were ‘compromised by their past’ as they had ‘embraced the interests’ of Britain’s enemies. Dearlove, whose resilience has survived the criticism he faced over his role in the Iraq war, is still be listened to it seems. Indeed, his anti-Corbyn articles have featured regular in the mainstream press in recent years, along with several television interviews. And he is not the only former intelligence officer to have spoken out against Corbyn, despite the fact that the security services are supposed to remain neutral.

A recent article by Mark Kennard illustrates the extent to which this principle is being flouted. He writes “The stories — which quote former or current members of the army, navy and special forces, as well as MI5, MI6 and an ex-senior civil servant — have averaged one every six weeks since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in September 2015. There have, however, been significant spikes in frequency during the 2017 and 2019 general election campaigns.” Kennard goes on suggest that intelligence officers have in fact provided journalists in the mainstream media with secret documents as part of what he terms a ‘campaign’. It’s not hard to agree that this is a strong possibility. In 2018 the government’s Integrity Initiative scheme - an intelligence operation involving journalists and academics, designed to counter ‘Russian propaganda’ - was exposed, and it was found to be openly tweeting against Corbyn. This was one of the first indications that the media campaign against Corbyn could be orchestrated. In a previous interview with Professor David Miller at the University of Bristol, he also told me of the ‘unconstitutional animus’ towards the Labour leader which he said was operating in the same way as the Zinoviev case in 1924.

So the threat Corbyn poses is, in fact, nothing new - we’ve been here before with previous potential socialist governments. With baited breath one awaits the result of next week’s election; for if indeed Jeremy Corbyn does gain the keys to No.10 Downing Street we can only imagine what turmoil the establishment will be in...

*(Top image: Jeremy Corbyn in Nottingham with Robin Hood statue. Credit: Diego Sideburns/ Flickr)

Source: InfoBrics

Wyatt Reed: Even the Imperialist Media Is Willing to Concede that Evo Morales' Presidency Was a Great Success in Bolivia

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Wyatt Reed is a journalist who has been published in The Roanoke Times, MintPress News and The Grayzone.

Slava Zilber: Wyatt, in what region of Bolivia are you and what is the situation now?

Wyatt Reed: I am in La Paz, Bolivia, which is the capital. The situation right now is extremely fluid and extremely difficult to grasp even for people who are from here. There is a lot of variables in play. So we are really just now seeing the coup this new, self-appointed president Jeanine Áñez as this powerful figure who is unifying the country.

Unfortunately, within the Movement to Socialism Party, the Mas Party, they are not in a great position to negotiate. So their proposal for immunity and to have the charges against President Evo Morales and his Vice President (Álvaro García Linera) - their proposal to prevent further criminalization of Mas members and attempts to incarcerate them was just rejected out of hand by this new coup government. On the other hand, they more or less were forced to accept these upcoming elections with, unfortunately, Jeanine Áñez continuing to stay in power as president. Now, it is impossible to say for me personally exactly why they did it. My understanding would be that they don't necessarily view themselves as having a real chance at maintaining control of the presidency. But they are quite powerful in the National Assembly. They control most seats. And so I have come down to sense that their intention is probably to try to hold on to the National Assembly and mitigate whatever legal and legislative effects are going to come from this new right-wing government. Presumably, it is going to be a lot of privatization attempts. It is going to be a lot of neoliberalism. They are going to go back to the Chicago School of Augusto Pinochet. So they - the Movement to Socialism Party - are not in a particularly powerful position and they are essentially negotiating with a gun to their head. So at this point, real hopes for having this new president overthrown really lay with the social movements and the rank-and-file union members, those who have seen their comrades and community members gunned down in the streets and who are not willing to negotiate after this.

You have been covering the protests. Could you please tell my readers who is protesting and what the demands are.

This is also complicated because the left in Bolivia is not really coherent right now. Under Evo Morales, there was a certain order. The rank of things was kind of understood. And now, that's all gone. And nobody there has these pre-established hierarchies or ways to carry out significant actions as one, unified organization.

So we have a number of organizations, for example, the COB (Central Obrera Boliviana) which is a massive labor union, where even within the leadership, there appear to be serious differences of opinion on how to handle this. And it is very possible that members of not just that organization, but many others are facing attempts to compromise them by the government. And I would say beyond possible. It's quite likely. And unfortunately for many people, especially those with families, it is a very difficult situation right now when you are being threatened and the lives of your loved ones are being threatened as well.

Compromised like threatened or bribed.

Yes, both. It's a carrot and a stick situation. That's another way that the army has been ensuring there are no defections or very few: with a combination of bribes and threats. So it's very mafioso style: we can make your life extremely difficult and potentially end it, or you can have sort of a nice existence being on our side.

What is the role of economic interests, race and religion in this very tense situation?

Almost everything is covered by those three things.

It's impossible to overstate the role of religion because when (Luis Fernando) Camacho and Áñez come to power, they are doing so quite literally with a bible in hand. Áñez, in particular, has written a number of since-deleted tweets in which she describes indigenous culture as 'satanic' and their celebrations as 'demonic.' The response from indigenous communities to feeling that kind of threat which they are no stranger to - they have been dealing with it for 500 years - is very powerful. They feel extremely threatened by that and with good reason.

The issue of race, I should say, ties very, very directly into the issue of economics.

We are talking about the new coup government/military junta, which has taken power. Their original appointments to cabinet included not one single indigenous person. In a country that's 60 percent indigenous, you have to almost go out of your way not to do that. So it's very clear to mass segments of the indigenous population here that this new president is not on their side and does not want to continue to allow this process that was going on under Evo Morales: creating a new middle class of indigenous people and allowing them for the first time in 500 years to have access to these kinds of luxuries that in many other parts of the world we take for granted. So that's impossible to overstate the sheer transformation in 14 years of socialist governance in Bolivia. Even the Washington Post was forced to concede that socialist governance in Bolivia despite all odds had actually succeeded. Obviously, they were using it as a counterbalance and run Venezuela through the mud and explain how Venezuela was the wrong kind of socialism. But you can see that even the imperialist media in the Global North is willing to concede that Evo Morales' presidency was a great success for a great many people in Bolivia.

In regards to the economics of this situation, there is a lot of talk about the natural resources, the lithium. And obviously, it's hard to overstate the role of that. It can be overstated because it's not just about all the lithium. It's also about wanting to dismantle any potential economic model that serves as an alternative to the neoliberal status quo in the rest of the world. So the West, these imperialist governments and the ruling class in Bolivia are very threatened by the possibility of other countries looking to Bolivia's model and deciding: 'Wait a minute! Maybe we should go with that. We want actually to achieve this consistent, almost five percent annual growth. We want to start making real progress, closing the gap in inequality and income and wealth. Then, maybe we should take a second look at Bolivia.' Well, now anybody looking at Bolivia sees essentially a military dictatorship. And for me, that's why 'socialism doesn't work.' Right! It's not because of the merits of the actual economic system. It's that it represents such a threat to the wealthy and powerful that they will do whatever it takes to destroy it, including kill upwards of thirty people at this point (November 24th), injure close to a thousand and disappear hundreds, perhaps more. It's impossible to say.

Have you interviewed those supporting Jeanine Áñez' rule?

I have not done official interviews with any Áñez supporters, just interactions. To be completely honest, I am kind of terrified of what this government would do or could do. Hopefully, they wouldn't want to do anything too awful to me because I think it would lead to a lot of pushback and would be more trouble than it is worth for them. But, I mean, I have Bolivian journalist friends. I was supposed to meet a friend yesterday to interview him. He is a Mas supporter and a writer. And I saw him the night before and by the time we were set to interview I didn't hear from him. And then two hours later I get a message saying 'I can't talk. I am in jail.' And obviously, this was not something that took us by surprise because they have been hunting him for a while. And that is the word they are using when they describe trying to catch the now opposition, members or supporters of the Mas Party. They are using the word 'hunted.' The day before the coup actually occurred, he says his house was ransacked by police who came through searching for whatever incriminating evidence, I suppose, they could find. And at this point, we are looking at a situation where really documenting anything that is happening, under this broad language that the Áñez presidency is using, is punishable by law now and is now considered practically sedition. They locked up two women two days ago for supposedly filming an armored vehicle as it was passing through their city. And for that terrible crime, filming a vehicle, they now face year and years in prison. So it is a particularly frightening moment.

With People in the Streets Worldwide, Media Focus Uniquely on Hong Kong

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2019 may be remembered as the year of the protest, as demonstrations are engulfing the world. From the Yellow Vests in France to demonstrations in Lebanon, Gaza, Chile, Ecuador and Haiti, sustained movements all over the planet have taken to the street demanding change. Yet US corporate media have been disproportionately interested in only one: the Hong Kong protests.

As FAIR argued previously (FAIR.org10/26/19), this disparity in coverage can largely be explained by understanding who is protesting and what they are protesting against. The unrest in Hong Kong flared up in March in response to a proposed extradition treaty between the island city, the Chinese central government and Taiwan, which many residents feared would be used by Beijing authorities to arrest and persecute opponents of the Chinese state. Thus, the target of Hong Kong’s protesting is an official enemy of the US, hence the extent and favorability of the coverage.

FAIR conducted a study of New York Times and CNN coverage of four important protest movements around the world: Hong Kong, Ecuador, Haiti and Chile. Those outlets were chosen for their influence and their reputation as the most important, agenda-setting outlets in the print and television media. Full documentation, including links to all articles in the sample, can be found here. All relevant results to “country+protests” on those outlets’ websites were counted, except purely rehosted content, since each protest began. This was March 15 for Hong Kong, October 3 for Ecuador, October 14 for Chile and July 7, 2018, for Haiti. The end date for the study was November 22, 2019.

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*(Protest stories in the New York Times and CNN through November 22, 2019.)

In total, there have been 737 stories on the Hong Kong protests, 12 on Ecuador, 28 on Haiti and 36 on Chile. As the graph illustrates, both the Times and CNN had similar ratios of coverage.

This enormous disparity cannot be explained by the other protests’ size or significance, nor the severity of the repression meted out by security services. After barely a week’s worth of turmoil, the death toll in Ecuador was eight, according to that government’s own Human Rights Defender, while the UN confirms that 42 Haitians have been killed in the last two months alone. And in Chile, where right-wing President Sebastian Piñera literally declared war on the population, sending tanks through the streets, 26 have died and over 26,000 have been arrested. In contrast, no one has died at the hands of the Hong Kong security forces, although one protester died after falling from a building, and a 70-year-old man was killed by a brick thrown by protesters, both deaths occurring in November after months of demonstrations.

Of course, the protests in Chile and Ecuador started well after Hong Kong, so it would be unwise to compare the totals directly. But even taking that into account, the disparity is still enormous; during the hottest moments of the Ecuador crisis (October 3–14), the New York Times ran six stories covering it, CNN three. This is in contrast to 33 and 38 articles on Hong Kong over the same time period. And since the beginning of the Chilean protests (October 14), while the Times has covered the event 14 times and CNN 22, the two news organizations ran 59 and 92 articles on Hong Kong, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Haitian protests have been raging for twice as long as Hong Kong, yet the coverage of the far more deadly repression on the Caribbean island has been minute in comparison, with Hong Kong receiving more than 50 times the total attention Haiti has.

However, the quantitative difference, while great, actually undersells the disparity of the coverage in a number of important ways. Firstly, many Ecuador and Chile stories were not focused on events in those countries, but were merely “protests around the world” roundup articles, with barely a sentence or two about events (e.g., New York Times10/23/19CNN11/3/19). In fact, CNN has run a total of only two stories (10/8/1910/13/19) focused mainly on the events in Ecuador. In contrast, the great majority of the Hong Kong stories were dedicated to events on the island city-state, and articles that merely mentioned the protests, such as CNN’s report (11/13/19) about the decline in the Asian stock market, were not included in the count towards the Hong Kong total. Meanwhile, almost half of CNN’s Haiti coverage (e.g., 2/16/192/18/19) centered on US citizens affected in some way by the upheaval.

Demonstrators in Hong Kong are almost universally referred to as “pro-democracy protesters” (e.g. CNN8/30/1910/15/19New York Times10/15/1911/21/19), whereas the protests rocking Chile were commonly denigrated as “riots” (e.g., CNN10/19/19) or “looting and arson” (New York Times10/19/19). Likewise, the violence of the Ecuadorian protestors was constantly emphasized (e.g., New York Times10/9/19CNN10/8/19). The “wrath of labor and transport unions,” CNN (10/9/19) told us, was “unleashed” as “violent protests have raged” in Quito, and protestors held military members hostage.

This sort of language is rarely used with regards to the Hong Kong protesters, even when it is arguably more applicable. In addition to widespread property damage and the aforementioned bricking of a retiree, protestors recently doused another elderly man in flammable liquid and set fire to him on camera. He spent more than ten days in a coma.

The New York Times (11/17/19) used passive voice to describe protesters shooting an arrow through an officer’s leg: “A police officer was hit in his leg with an arrow” as “activists resisted” the police onslaught to “suppress them,” it told its readers. Times reporters also describe seeing the rebels producing “hundreds or thousands of bombs” they were going to use. Despite this, the paper continued to describe the militants as “pro-democracy activists.”

Perhaps most worryingly, CNN (11/17/19) shared an image of a homemade gas canister-sized bomb, not unlike the one used by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the Boston Marathon, except much larger. CNN also noted it received confirmation that protesters had already used these bombs against police. If, for instance, Black Lives Matter or Antifa had killed passers-by, shot police or created Tsarnaev-style bombs, would they be called “pro-democracy demonstrators,” as both CNN (11/22/19) and the New York Times (11/22/19) have continued to do for those in Hong Kong?

Corporate media has glossed over many of the more unseemly details of the Hong Kong protests to continue the simple narrative of lauding the “democracy-minded people of Hong Kong,” fighting for freedom against the repressive “Communist authority” of Beijing, as the New York Times editorial board (6/10/19) puts it.

The quantity of Hong Kong articles is inversely proportional to the diversity of opinion. The reality of the situation is much more nuanced, but this nuance is entirely lacking in the hundreds of articles sampled. Corporate media sing the same song on Hong Kong, presenting the situation in a lockstep single-mindedness that would impress any totalitarian propaganda system.

*(Top image Credit: Studio Incendo/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on fair.

The US Is Working to Turn Lebanon’s Anti-Corruption Protests against Hezbollah

Jeffrey Feltman 23ac5

(The Gray Zone) - This is part one of a two-part report.

Lebanon erupted in massive protests this October. The demonstrations transcended sect and class, and quickly spread across the country. The movement was spurred by the levying of regressive taxes and the persistence of a corrupt neoliberal order that has mismanaged the economy and hollowed out the public sector while enriching a handful of elites amid a looming economic collapse

Though the protests remain focused on class issues and corruption, the US is increasingly determined to co-opt the movement for its own goals. At the forefront of Washington’s agenda is ousting Hezbollah from the Lebanese governing coalition and marginalizing the Shia political-military movement as a means of weakening Iran. In its place, the US and its proxies inside Lebanon are demanding a “technocratic” government with no interest in resisting Israel.

Former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman explicitly spelled out US interests during recent congressional testimony, proclaiming that the protests “fortunately coincide with U.S. interests” against Hezbollah. He urged stepped-up American intervention, emphasizing “the value of domestic initiative combined with external [Western] support.” 

Leftist groups responded angrily to Feltman’s rhetoric, staging a protest outside the US embassy and posting a massive billboard in downtown Beirut depicting the former diplomat above a slogan calling on Washington to leave Lebanon alone. 

American meddling in the protests is not yet a full-scale operation, however it has been seen through the presence of US-backed political parties and activists backed by the most familiar outfits of the US regime-change machine: the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Institute for Peace (USIP), and USAID.

Together, these elements are seeking to popularize the call for a technocratic, Hezbollah-free government in provocative actions across the country.

A leaderless resistance pressures the government

Based in downtown Beirut, the protests initially included Hezbollah’s working-class base and civil society activists, symbolizing a rejection of the sectarian power-sharing system that was installed under French colonial rule and re-enforced under the post-civil war Taif agreement. 

Within days, however, the protests began to morph into a strange leaderless mix of middle and lower middle class students, along with liberals, civil society and NGO activists, US-backed political parties, small leftist groups, hipster types, and anti-Hezbollah activists. 

While the vast majority of protesters simply sought a functioning government that could provide for their basic needs, the current make-up of their movement and lack of ideology among most demonstrators created a wide opening for meddling by outside actors. This was especially true for the US, which has honed methods to co-opt anti-government protest movements and manipulate them into carrying out regime-change goals.

In Lebanon, the US has been openly determined to overturn Hezbollah’s win in the 2018 elections that gave it a majority alongside its coalition allies the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Christian party, and Amal, a Shia party. This governing coalition enabled Hezbollah to protect its traditional interests, among which deterring Israel is paramount, without serving as the face of the government. 

Hezbollah grew out of Israel’s occupation in Lebanon, and managed to liberate the south from Israeli occupation in 2000 and again when the Israelis invaded in 2006. Hezbollah was also crucial to the defeat of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the collection of US-backed extremist groups in both Syria and Lebanon in the proxy war that began in 2011.

Today, the pro-Hezbollah March 8 coalition represents one of the two major political blocs that divide the Lebanese polity. The other is the American- and Saudi-backed March 14 alliance. 

The March 14 bloc includes the Future Party, headed by Sunni leader and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has been hobbled since the Saudis withdrew their financial support and briefly kidnapped and tortured him. Then there is Druze leader Walid Joumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), which is neither progressive nor socialist; and the Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea, a Maronite Christian leader and formerly imprisoned war lord. 

According to cables published by Wikileaks, Geagea was the main US embassy contact during the 2008 clashes between the two blocs. In meetings at the embassy, Geagea repeatedly asked Washington to supply his militia with weapons against Hezbollah. 

On the other side is the March 8 bloc comprised of the Shia parties: Hezbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic and well-known spiritual leader, and Amal, which is headed by the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Nabih Berri. The final component of the coalition is the Christian FPM, led by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Since the civil war, these parties have defined Lebanon’s political make-up and substantially influenced regional dynamics.   

The protests that have swept Lebanon over the past month have placed enormous pressure on the governing coalition, while offering perceived political openings for its most opportunistic opponents – especially those with historic ties to the US.

Due to the irresponsible decisions of the ruling politicians seeking to pit their streets against each other, the situation has escalated in recent days. To understand how the potentially explosive situation has developed, it is important to examine the genesis of the protests.

Rising up against a failed oligarchy

On October 17, protests erupted spontaneously in downtown Beirut in reaction to a raft of regressive taxes. These included a tax on Whatsapp, one of the only free methods of communication in an otherwise expensive telecommunications market. 

But the levies were themselves preceded by a series of events that led to the inevitable explosion. In early October, Lebanon’s forests were devastated by wildfires due in large part to government negligence and ineptitude. The state had for instance failed to even pay for the most basic maintenance of the helicopters needed to put out the fires.

At the same time, a shortage of US dollars, which Lebanon’s economy depends on, led to panic about a looming collapse — something economists have been predicting for years.  

The public rage was compounded by the fact that 30 years after the civil war, the weak Lebanese state was still not able to provide basic services like 24-hour electricity, potable water, or waste management. This was a result of the neoliberal order that was imposed on Lebanon after the civil war by international financial institutions in coordination with the country’s ruling elites.

Lebanon’s main political parties are run by civil war-era warlords who have exploited a dysfunctional system to make themselves billionaires. They and their children flaunt their wealth in the streets and on social media.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri presents perhaps the most visible and cartoonish example: the ultra-wealthy fail-son was revealed in October to have sent $16 million to his South African mistress. 

Another factor driving the protests was frustration with the country’s sectarian system, which generates corruption and gridlock. Under Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement, the president must be a Christian Maronite; the prime minister must be Sunni Muslim; and the speaker of parliament is mandated as a Shia Muslim.

This dynamic forces Lebanese citizens into a state of dependence on their communal sect leaders for services rather than the state, leading to a weak central government. The different sect leaders are extremely corrupt and have enriched themselves through nepotism, theft, and a Ponzi scheme economy. 

The powerful banking sector is also politicized; it has been turned into an enemy of Hezbollah through its partnership and cooperation with American sanctions. Moreover, the head of the Central Bank, Riad Salamah, has aspired to remove the FPM-affiliated foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, and replace the current president, Michel Aoun. He also wants to weaken Hezbollah, which he and the banking sector view as a magnet for US sanctions and, therefore, a liability to their bottom line.

Recently imposed US sanctions have already led to the liquidation of a Shia-owned Lebanese bank, Jammal Trust, on the highly dubious grounds that it was financing Hezbollah activity. (Jammal Trust was, in fact, a close ally of the US embassy and partnered with USAID to fund literacy programs in the country).  

There was little doubt that an economic crisis was on the way in Lebanon, but US sanctions have accelerated the process. Sanctions against Hezbollah and anything deemed remotely affiliated with the Shia political movement are a part of the US’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran. They aim to bleed Hezbollah’s social welfare programs, which ultimately hurts the poor in their constituency, and threatens the businesses of wealthy Shias as well.

In such a precarious economy, a few US sanctions were all that was needed to immiserate a large sector of the Lebanese public. 

This was the backdrop to the display of mass outrage that erupted in downtown Beirut this October. At first, a small group of demonstrators occupied the area. They included middle class activists from a 2015 protest against a lack of sanitation as well as poor Shias. In the course of their demonstration, they ran up against a convoy belonging to the minister of education, Akram Chehayeb. His bodyguards reacted with fear and then hyper-aggression, firing their rifles into the air. 

Videos of the violent spectacle spread on social media, provoking more citizens to join the protest. The next wave of demonstrators aimed their anger at the downtown property that belongs to Solidere, the real estate privatization and redevelopment company of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, which profited tremendously after the civil war while transforming the ruins of downtown into a bubble of inaccessible luxury.  

The next two days saw groups of young masked men on motorbikes efficiently coordinating roadblocks across the city, lighting garbage bins and tires on fire. Many of them were Hezbollah supporters. 

“We started destroying and blocking what we believed is sucking the last cent out of our pockets: Solidere,” one of them told me.

Meanwhile, the protests ballooned, filling the streets downtown and spreading to other parts of the country, bringing in people from all classes and sects. But the momentum was short lived. 

Hezbollah’s base played an important role in the protests in the early stages, hoping the street actions would provide opportunity to pressure Amal, the rival Shia party headed by Nabih Berri, the speaker of the parliament. Berri is viewed as one of the most corrupt politicians in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s attempted reforms to help the poor had been obstructed by Amal, hence the attempt to put pressure on Berri. Amal was up to its eyeballs in corruption, feasting on the Shia share of the public budget, and constantly provoking Hezbollah’s constituency. 

Days into the protests, Hezbollah supporters from the student unions made a strong showing in protests outside the Central bank. But then, they were sideswiped by the right-wing.

US-aligned parties join the protests

On day three, Samir Geagea, the leader of the US-backed Lebanese Forces (LF), removed his four ministers from government, supposedly in solidarity with the protests. LF is a right-wing pro-American party that had been one of the most brutal militias in Lebanon’s civil war. And Geagea’s decision changed the course of the movement. 

Pompeo with Walid Joumblat 99f90

*(US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Walid Joumblat during a visit to Lebanon this March. Pompeo also met with Geagea the same day.)

Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) threatened to remove his own ministers, placing his party in the opposition. Meanwhile, LF and PSP supporters joined the protests by obstructing major roads outside of Beirut: LF blocked the main highway at Jal el Dib and other areas in the north while PSP blocked the roads in the south.

Next, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, placing his Saudi- and US-backed Future party on the side of the protesters as well. Future was now in the protest ranks, reinforcing the blockading of roads in the south alongside members of PSP. 

As these forces stepped up their involvement, working-class Hezbollah supporters began to withdraw from the movement, especially as certain elements began chanting against Hezbollah and its weapons. Suddenly, the protests had assumed a familiar and ominous March 8 versus March 14 feel. 

Throughout this period, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah delivered several speeches criticizing the protests as vehicles for outside funding and hostile political parties. His rhetoric only inflamed the protesters and deepened the well-entrenched resentment of Hezbollah. 

The billionaire Prime Minister Hariri had been a staunch ally of America and Saudi Arabia who even holds Saudi citizenship. Before his resignation, Hariri was part of Hezbollah’s governing coalition. Coalition leaders feared that the Americans would target the whole government and place the country under crushing sanctions without a Western-aligned figure like him. Determined to delegitimize the coalition, Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign at gunpoint in 2017, but he ultimately returned to the government.  

This time around, Hariri leveraged the protests to try to pressure Michel Aoun to drop his son-in-law Gibran Bassil as foreign minister, whom anti-government elements blamed for giving Hezbollah legitimacy on the international stage. But Aoun wouldn’t budge. So Hariri resigned. 

Hariri’s resignation not only obstructed the government from dealing with the economic crisis, it exposed the role of Hezbollah in the government and thereby risked a new round of sanctions. Hezbollah leadership believed that the prime minister’s departure was influenced by the US and the Saudis, and with good reason given the history.

As the political divide widened, the protests became increasingly dominated by members of the middle class and the Western-backed civil society and NGO sector. This element diverted the initial working class demands for justice into an all-out attack on Hezbollah, its weapons, and its leadership. 

The popular chant “killun yaani killun,” or “all of them means all of them,” which was initially directed at Lebanon’s entire cast of leaders, soon turned into an anti-Hezbollah slogan, with protesters adding, “and Nasrallah is one of them.” Clashes between supporters of Amal and Hezbollah and the middle class demonstrators soon followed.

The White House was initially cautious and quiet about the protests, uncertain where they might lead. But a day after Hariri’s October 29 resignation, Pompeo issued a statement supporting the protests and the formation of a new government. 

Suddenly, a series of panelists and think pieces materialized explaining how the US should exploit the situation against Hezbollah — and, by extension, Iran. Washington views everything in Lebanon through an anti-Iran lens, and sees Hezbollah purely as a proxy of the government in Tehran. 

The Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank funded by weapons companies and Western governments as well as Bahaa Hariri, the brother of Saad Hariri, published a plea for Trump to exploit the Lebanon protests as a pretext for forcibly disarming Hezbollah. The author was Frederic Hof, the former US special envoy to Syria and a senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center, which is named after the father of Saad Hariri. 

Those who had worked to turn the so-called Arab Spring in Washington’s direction were out in force again.

Enter the NGO industrial complex

Unfortunately for Washington, the core of the protest movement remained primarily focused on the economic crisis. Though Hezbollah had bolted the protest ranks, leftist groups like the Lebanese Communist Party, Citizens in a State, the Shaab (People) Movement, and other socialist-oriented elements remained involved.

In the past weeks, these groups had been holding discussion groups and working to influence as many protest participants in a left-wing direction. However, they represent a small slice of Lebanese society and lack the resources of US-backed parties and civil society groups.

By contrast, the Sabaa party is flush with funding. It was founded by Jad Dagher, a notoriously shady Lebanese businessman who used to belong to the Phalange, another right-wing Christian party close to the US which carried out infamous massacres during the civil war.

Dagher and his company DK Group were added to the US sanctions list in 2014 for allegedly aiding the Syrian government, but were removed from the list in 2016. On average, the removal of a company from the US Treasury Department’s sanctions list takes around eight to 10 years, leading some to wonder what kind of deals Dagher cut to get him off the list in just two.  

Sabaa, which claims to have a disdain for political parties, is considered by the left to be a right-wing party operating under the guise of non-sectarianism and liberalism. The group has kept up a significant presence in downtown Beirut’s Martyr’s Square, setting up a PA system that blasted music so loud it was difficult to have any sort of meaningful discussion. Notably, the group kept its name and logo absent from all protest materials. Some left-wing activists I spoke to suspected that Sabaa was using the blaring music to drown out their ability to organize effectively. 

The other large group present at the downtown protests was Beirut Madinati, a liberal group founded by civil society activists and professors from the American University of Beirut. This group emerged from the 2015 “You Stink!” protests, which mobilized against the lack of trash pickup and other middle class civic concerns.

One of Beirut Madinati’s most high-profile founders is Jad Chaaban, an AUB economics professor who has worked at the World Bank and founded the Lebanese Economic Association, a business roundtable that receives support from USAID, Booz Allen, the World Bank Group, and the Ford Foundation. It goes without saying that he is considered an ally in Washington.

Then there are the groups of artists who use slogans from Syria’s protests, but updated for the Lebanese context. For instance, the famous chant “erhal erhal ya Bashar” (leave leave oh Bashar [al-Assad]), which was heard in Syrian cities back in 2011, was remixed to “erhal erhal ya Aoun,” referring to the Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Many of the NGOs that are present express solidarity with the economic demands at the core of the protest movement. However, these groups are funded by outside forces and inculcated in the discourse of American and European liberalism.

A perfect example is Legal Agenda, a Lebanese NGO financed by the European Union, the Swiss embassy, the German government-funded think tank Heinrich Böll Stiftung, and the Open Society Foundation of anti-communist billionaire George Soros. The organization offers legal advice to marginalized groups, a noble cause to be sure. Some members appeared to be assuming an anti-Hezbollah line, however, commenting to me that they were convinced the militia had plans to use its weapons on protesters.

Another notable NGO is Megaphone News, a social media oriented outlet that bills itself as independent, but which is funded by the European Endowment for Democracy, the European government-backed sister organization of the US regime-change outfit the National Endowment for Democracy. Founded in 2017, Megaphone has played a critical role in the production of memes, videos, and music since the start of the uprising. 

These various groups do not necessarily share a unified agenda and do not always get along. Perhaps the only thing that brings them together is their resentment of Hezbollah. 

The leftists are upset with Hezbollah for its domestic policies. They argue that Hezbollah is complicit in the neoliberal policies that have ruined the economy – or at the very least, that Hezbollah has not done enough to confront the notoriously corrupt players in their coalition. 

They are also angry that Hassan Nasrallah criticized the protests as a vehicle for foreign influence. After scuffles broke out between Nasrallah’s supporters and protesters, he instructed his constituents to leave the demonstrations to avoid further clashes. This upset the leftists even more, as they wanted Hezbollah to continue contributing manpower and resources to the movement.  

However, Hezbollah supporters argue that their party has not been in power long enough to change anything. They insist on a strategic alignment with parties like FPM and Amal in order to protect their capacity to resist Israeli aggression. And they are convinced it is necessary to be wary of foreign influence over protests in a country like Lebanon that outside powers are constantly meddling in. 

Given the participation of their pro-American political rivals and the anti-Hezbollah sentiment among some segments of protesters, Hezbollah members understandably view the protests with deep suspicion. 

At a demonstration of students from Lebanese American University (LAU) and American University of Beirut (AUB) on October 26, for example, there were chants in favor of disarming Hezbollah. Others chanted against Nasrallah. To Hezbollah ears, this rhetoric amounts to a call for the wholesale destruction of their movement. 

At that same event, AUB president Fadlo Khuri joined student protesters, encouraging them to continue expressing themselves in the streets. Khuri’s sudden support for free expression came as a surprise to some who have worked under his administration. They describe him as right-wing and in line with US foreign policy.

Since Khuri took over AUB, pro-Palestine and pro-Hezbollah faculty have complained about his relentless hostility. It was Khuri, for example, who blocked Palestinian-American professor Steven Salaita from securing a permanent position at the school. But now he has suddenly become a champion of free speech.

Hijacking the protests 

The leaderless, ideologically diffuse nature of Lebanon’s protest movement leaves it vulnerable to hijacking by powerful outside actors. Almost anyone can show up and inject their agenda into the movement, but under another name.

Most participants in downtown Beirut say they hate politics, had no interest in the country’s affairs before the protests, and appear easily moved by anyone with a slick message. They are the perfect audience for groups like Beirut Madinati and other civil society groups that spout empty platitudes and always seem to skirt the issue of Israel. 

A telling moment arrived a week into the protests when an American AUB lecturer, Robert Gallagher, grabbed the microphone at a political discussion in downtown Beirut to call for the creation of a parallel government. Rather than shout Gallagher down, his audience erupted in applause.

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Regardless of the intentions of the leftists involved, Hezbollah views the calls for the downfall of the government as an attempt by its adversaries to reverse the party’s democratic victory in the 2018 elections. 

The dividing line between protesters and those critical of the demonstrations has become so extreme that friendships have ended. Some Lebanese are no longer invited to gatherings with friends for merely criticizing the Western-backed elements of the protests. And families supportive of Hezbollah have blocked relatives online for attending the demonstrations.  

Despite the in-fighting, the leftist parties are still supportive of Hezbollah’s role as an armed resistance organization. This differentiates them from the liberals and right-wing elements in downtown Beirut who are centering their resentment on Hezbollah to an almost obsessive degree. 

Rania Masri, an official with the leftist party Citizens in a State, has insisted that pro-resistance groups remain in the protest square rather than cede the ground to reactionary conservative groups.

“Do we let others who are involved decide the discourse? Or do we try to influence the discourse? We consider ourselves to be responsible therefore we will not be bystanders,” Masri remarked to me. “Foreign intervention is a given. The question becomes how to deal with them and protect the country. We have to be wise. And not leave the political discourse to them.”

While leftists attempt to hold the line, pro-US parties and activists affiliated with NGOs and civil society groups have been most successful in crafting the protest demands and occupying the media limelight. These elements have been especially adept at popularizing the call for a technocratic government that would boot Hezbollah out of any future administration. 

Demanding a technocratic government, looking to Hong Kong for inspiration

The protest demand which has garnered the most media attention has been the call for the installment of a “technocratic government.” 

Activists from civil society groups have been pumping out printed fliers and posters clamoring for a technocratic government. Some of the major local media outlets owned by oligarchs with competing political agendas suddenly began reporting, with an unusually unified message, that the main protest demand was for technocracy.

This call quickly spread among non-ideological protesters across the country who have proven themselves to be susceptible to catchy slogans.

But what does a “technocratic government” mean in practice in Lebanon? 

It would not necessarily comprise a non-political government, but one that would negate the key political issues that are confronting the country, especially Israel, Palestinian refugees, and the plight of the country’s poor.

Most importantly, a technocracy would mean a government without Hezbollah that cannot resist Israel or the extremist Gulf proxies that threatened Lebanon during the war on Syria. This is why Hezbollah and its allies have been so staunchly opposed to replacing the current government. 

Unsurprisingly, this demand, which was initiated by pro-American political parties and US government-funded outfits, is music to the ears of Washington.

In his November testimony to congress, former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman highlighted the advantage in the demand: “With the demonstrators calling for a technocratic rather than political government, our public messaging can emphasize our expectation that a new Lebanese government, if it seeks international support, should effectively and immediately address the reform aspirations of the Lebanese people,” he said. 

By clamoring for a technocracy, the veteran US operative argued, protesters can “seize the next electoral opportunity to strip Hezbollah of the parliamentary partners it uses as force multipliers to assert its will politically.”

The US Institute for Peace, a State Department cut-out that was founded under Reagan alongside the NED, echoed Feltman’s call.

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Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Feltman’s longtime informant, was the first to publicly call for a technocratic government, and has continued to do so. With his eyes on the presidency, Geagea has blamed Hezbollah for obstructing the formation of this technocratic government while lashing out at his Christian rivals, the FPM, for their alliance with the Shia party.  

The social media influencer Gino Raidy also amplified the call for the appointment of a technocratic government. Raidy is a popular blogger who sits on the board of March Lebanon, an NGO that receives funding from NED in addition to the British and Canadian embassies

Through his Western-backed organization, Raidy has argued against the Lebanese government imposing boycotts on Israel. He has also expressed disdain for activists in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on his personal blog. 

Raidy recently bragged on Instagram about meeting with a Hong Kong protester in Lebanon on November 11 –  the same day Nasrallah gave a speech emphasizing need for Lebanon to defy the United States and open up to China.

 

This was not the first time Raidy has expressed interest in Hong Kong. Three days into the Lebanon protests, he wrote on Instagram, “If we need to, we will resist like our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.” 

The Hong Kong protests have rapidly transformed into a separatist movement that has overseen terrifying acts of violence against supporters of China, including the recent lighting of a man on fire for disagreeing with anti-Beijing activists. An elderly man was killed with a brick for the same reason.

Many Hong Kong opposition figures receive funding from the same US sources as Raidy, and are openly coordinating with American political leadership.

Raidy admitted on his widely read blog that his initial excitement about getting involved in the protests had everything to do with exploiting anti-Hezbollah sentiment. “The moment that made me get in my car and drive down to protest, was seeing men and women in Dahieh and Nabatieh coming out and showing clear dissent towards the Shia duo of Hezbollah and Amal,” he wrote.

Antoun Issa, a non-resident scholar at the UAE-funded Middle East Institute, also called for a technocratic government, tweeting, “Protestors demands are clear – from north to south, to Beirut and the Bekaa. An independent, technocratic government.” Soon after, Issa agitated for Washington to use the protests in Lebanon and Iraq against Iran. 

After his recent resignation, the longtime US ally Hariri conditioned his participation in a future government on it being technocratic and politically neutral. Hezbollah, meanwhile, was pushing for a mixed government with space for both politicians and technocrats. 

With Hariri refusing to budge on his insistence on a technocratic government, negotiations over the formation of a new cabinet have collapsed, plunging the government into a gridlock as economic catastrophe looms. 

Bringing Ukraine to Beirut

Hong Kong is not the only US-backed color revolution upheaval being marketed to protesters in Lebanon.

On November 8, a group called ARD.NEWS screened the controversial Netflix documentary “Winter On Fire.” The film presents a one-sided view of the Euromaidan protests, completely erasing the neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist elements that formed the front lines of the demonstrations to topple the government and replace it with a hopelessly corrupt, EU-friendly technocracy. 

This conflict has turned Ukraine into Europe’s poorest country, rendering its citizens dependent on a remittance economy and desperate to leave. A civil war has broken out in the country’s east, where the US has supplied arms to the Ukrainian military and ancillary groups like the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion to fight Russian-backed separatists. 

“Winter on Fire” has also been screened at anti-government US-backed protests in Hong Kong and Venezuela. The film is essentially a how-to guide for effectively shutting down a city and toppling a government through violent, sustained street protests. (ARD.NEWS has also featured the NED-funded activist Gino Raidy at their events.) 

ARD founder Michel Saman is a 28-year-old French-Lebanese entrepreneur who left his travel startup in France to participate in the protests in Lebanon. He and his ARD colleagues live mostly outside of Lebanon. They hope that by screening films like the one about Ukraine, they can help inspire the protesters in the country, though it is unclear what they hope to achieve. 

“And if it turns bloody, we live outside, we’ll come back in five years and revolution, revolution, revolution. But there is a chance right now,” Saman told me. 

He added that the uprising in Lebanon has presented a market opportunity. 

Asked how ARD was financing its project, Saman stated, “So far we didn’t need any funding. Yes a lot of organizations here are funded, but we’re not serving food. We’re really educating the mind for free. It costs us $50 for a speaker. Instead of having a beer I just pay $50, you know it’s nothing.”

When ARD’s event host Maya Acra asked the audience what similarities they saw between the protests in Lebanon and Ukraine, she was met with blank stares. No one raised their hand to speak during a question-and-answer period. Weeks later, when the documentary was screened in Tripoli, its impact remained unclear. 

It remains to be seen whether the protests can be co-opted and redirected towards US-centric regime-change goals. For now, they remain focused on the economy, but the atmosphere is growing more tense by the day.

*(Top image: Poster in downtown Beirut demanding former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman leave the country alone. November 26, 2019. Credit: Rania Khalek)


In part two of this report, we will see how US-backed political parties are employing provocative tactics to turn up the heat on Hezbollah and its allies, while hardliners in Washington refine their plans to exploit the deepening economic desperation of average Lebanese citizens.

*This article was originally published on the Gray Zone Project.

Pro Tip: Mentally Replace All Uses of “Conspiracy Theorist” with “Iraq Rememberer”

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I watched the film Official Secrets the other day, which I highly recommend doing if you want to rekindle your rage about the unforgivable evil that was the Iraq invasion.

Which is a good thing to do, in my opinion. Absolutely nothing was ever done to address the fact that a million people were murdered with the assistance of government lies just a few short years ago; no new laws were passed mandating more government transparency or accountability with its military operations, no war crimes tribunals took place, no new policies were put into place. No one even got fired. In fact we’ve seen the exact opposite: the people responsible for unleashing that horror upon our species have been given prestigious jobs in government and media and the US government is currently collaborating with the UK to set the legal precedent for charging under the Espionage Act any journalist in the world who exposes US war crimes.

The corrupt mechanisms which gave rise to the Iraq invasion still exist currently, stronger than ever, and its consequences continue to ravage the region to this very day. The Iraq war isn’t some event that happened in the past; everything about it is still here with us, right now. So we should still be enraged. You don’t forgive and forget something that hasn’t even stopped, let alone been rectified.

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Apart from the howling rage surging through my veins during the film, the other thing I experienced was the recurring thought, “This was a conspiracy. This is the thing that a conspiracy is.”

And, I mean, of course it is. How weird is it that we don’t use that word to describe what the architects of that war did? Conspiracy is defined as “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.” From the secret plan between the NSA and GCHQ to spy on and blackmail UN members into supporting the illegal invasion which is the subject of Official Secrets, to the mountain of other schemes and manipulations used by other government bodies to deceive the world about Iraq, it’s absolutely insane that that word is never used to describe the conspiracy within the Bush and Blair governments to manufacture the case for war.

The engineering of the Iraq war was a conspiracy, per any conceivable definition. So why isn’t that word reflexively used by everyone who talks about it?

Easy. Because we haven’t been trained to.

The use of the word “conspiracy” is studiously avoided by the narrative managers of the political/media class who are tasked with the assignment of teaching us how to think about our world, except when it is to be employed for its intended and authorised use: smearing skeptics of establishment narratives. The pejorative “conspiracy theory” has been such a useful weapon in inoculating the herd from dissident wrongthink that the propagandists do everything they can to avoid tainting their brand, even if it means refraining from using words for the things that they refer to.

This is why the word “collusion” was continuously and uniformly used throughout the entire Russiagate saga, for example. It was a narrative about a secret conspiracy between the highest levels of the US government and the Russian government to subvert the interests of the American people, yet the word “conspiracy” was meticulously replaced with “collusion” by everyone peddling that story.

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Syria narrative managers on Twitter have been in meltdown for a week ever since the Rolling Stone podcast Useful Idiots featured oppositional journalist Max Blumenthal talking about the US-centralized empire’s involvement in the Syrian war and its pervasive propaganda campaign against that nation. The entire site has been swarming with high-visibility blue-checkmarked thought police demanding the heads of the show’s hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper for giving this evil “conspiracy theorist” a platform to say we’re being deceived about yet another US-led regime change intervention in yet another Middle Eastern nation.

Narrative managers use the “conspiracy theorist” pejorative to shove skepticism of establishment narratives into the margins of political discourse, far away where it can’t contaminate the mainstream herd. Whenever you see a dissenting interpretation of events getting too close to mainstream circles, as with Blumenthal appearing on a Rolling Stone podcast, Tulsi Gabbard saying on national television that the US government has armed terrorists, or Tucker Carlson interviewing Jonathan Steele about the OPCW leaks, you see an intense campaign of shrieking outrage and public shaming geared at shoving those dissident narratives as far into the fringe as possible by branding them “conspiracy theories”.

My suggestion then is this: whenever you see the label “conspiracy theorist” being applied to anyone who questions an establishment narrative about Syria, Russia, Iran or wherever, just mentally swap it out for the term “Iraq rememberer”. When you see anyone shouting about “conspiracy theories”, mentally replace it with “Iraq remembering”. It makes it much easier to see what’s really going on: “Oh those damn Iraq rememberers! Why can’t they just trust their media and government about what’s happening in Syria instead of indulging in Iraq remembering?”

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Powerful people and institutions secretly coordinating with each other to do evil things is the absolute worst-case scenario for the rest of the population; it is precisely the thing we fear when we allow people and institutions to have power over us. We need to be able to talk about that worst-case scenario occurring, especially since we know for a fact that it does indeed happen. Powerful people do conspire to inflict evil things upon the rest of us, and we do need to use thoughts and ideas to discuss how that might be happening. We are not meant to think about this, which is why we’re meant to forget about Iraq.

The Iraq invasion was like if a family were sitting around the dinner table one night, then the father stood up, decapitated his daughter with a steak knife, then sat back down and continued eating and everyone just went back to their meals and never talked about what happened. That’s how absolutely creepy and weird it is that the news churn just moved on after a conspiracy within the most powerful government in the world led to the murder of a million human beings, and now we’re all somehow only supposed to care about Trump’s rude tweets.

Never forget the Iraq war conspiracy, no matter how hard they try to make you. They did it before, they’ve done it again in Libya and Syria, and they’ll continue to attempt it in the future. When you sound the alarm about this they will call you a conspiracy theorist. All they’re really saying is that you’re one of those annoying pests who just won’t shut up and forget about Iraq.

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Barack Obama: More War than Peace

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I am on the emailing lists of both the Republican and Democratic Parties because I like to know what the enemies of the American people are up to. Recently there has been a lot of squeaking from the GOP in an attempt to put lipstick on the Trump pig, but the truly remarkable emailing has been coming out of the Democratic Party, which is desperately seeking to convince the public that it actually represents something.

Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea have been particularly active promoting their allegedly co-authored The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience. They apparently see themselves as “gutsy” as opposed to parasitical, entitled and corrupt while also leaving out the book’s chapter telling one what to do when a husband is receiving oral sex from an intern in the Oval Office or raping a campaign worker in Arkansas.

But Hillary is ancient history even though there is talk of her making another “run.” And she certainly has done her best to repay the donors of the hundreds of millions of dollars given to the Clinton Family Foundation by attempting to destroy the candidacy of Tulsi Gabbard, the only Democrat who appears to be genuinely opposed to perpetual war and globalism.

Of more recent vintage among “traditional” Democrats is ex-president Barack Obama, who has been beatified by the media, and who has now dedicated himself to the task of removing Trump. It is an admirable goal surely, but for the fact that the Democrats have difficulty in finding a candidate and stitching together a platform that actually resonates with American voters.

Obama has always had a lot going for him. Being half-black meant that he got top marks from the Democratic Party Social Justice Warrior wing just because of what he was genetically when he was born. He is always presentable and well-spoken and does not seem interested in having sex with women other than his wife. He plays basketball, which demonstrated to ghetto voters that he had not lost his roots, even though he was raised by his mother in a largely white middle class environment.

But Obama’s actual achievements after eight years in office can be counted on the fingers of one hand. From a foreign policy perspective, one would include only the easing of restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba and the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, both of which have been rescinded by Trump. On the domestic side, his hallmark Affordable Care Act has ironically made insurance unaffordable for many. The president basically turned over medical care to a predatory and inefficient health care industry that raised premiums while also diminishing coverage for those Americans who actually had jobs to pay for their insurance. In the foundation I worked at when Obamacare came in group plan premiums doubled in the first year, doubled again in the following year and were about to go up another 25% when we decided that we could no longer afford health insurance. Sure, some Americans got free or subsidized health insurance but the rest of us paid for it and the heartless and soulless health care industry reaped the benefits.

So what else did Saint Obama do? For starters, Obama was the first president in US history to be at war for every single day of his eight year presidency. As president, Obama approved military action in seven countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen as well as special operations on a smaller scale all over the globe.

Obama presided over an offshore prison (which he had promised to close) at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Individuals suspected of being terrorists, however that is defined, were confined there and not a single one was tried. It is believed that many of them have been tortured. The United States Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantees a public and “speedy” trial to all those accused of crimes and Obama, by the way, is supposed to be an expert on constitutional law.

Obama exceeded the number of killings by drone carried out by his predecessor George W. Bush. His administration also institutionalized the “profile” killing of individuals on the ground. That meant in the case of Afghanistan any male walking around carrying a gun, as is common in rural areas. Or in some cases, it was guilt even without a gun if it was a male aged over 18. All males over age 18 in Afghanistan were considered to be possible terrorists.

Obama was the first and only president to spend his Tuesday mornings in meetings with his security staff drawing up “kill lists” that included American citizens who were somewhere overseas and considered dangerous. Acting off that list, he was the first and only president to actually execute American citizens without any due process using lethal drones. Anwar al-Awlaki and his son Abdulrahman were targeted and killed in Yemen together with another American citizen, and four other citizens were also executed under Obama in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The al-Awlaki son had not been accused or any crimes or membership in any terrorist groups. Many other foreigners, plus families, friends and neighbors were also killed off the lists based purely on the fact that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of the killing overseas has been carried out in countries with which the United States is not at war, so they are unconstitutional as well as illegal.

Obama ran for president promising to do his best to rid the world of nuclear weapons. He then authorized the spending of $1 trillion to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal.

Under Obama, National Security Agency spying on American citizens accelerated using the authorities granted by the two Patriot Acts. The public would not know about the spying but for the actions of several whistleblowers, to include Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Obama declared “war on whistleblowers,” punishing more of them more severely than any other president.

Obama and his team of women warmongers destroyed the nation of Libya without there being any US national security interest in so doing. They turned it into a failed state and a haven for terrorists, with its looted weapons arsenals supplying radical groups in Africa and the Middle East. Prior to Obama, Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya had been the richest and most developed nation in Africa.

Obama’s desire to bring about regime change in Syria led to the US covert arming of factions of “freedom fighters” with weapons from Libya that produced something like a civil war which killed hundreds of thousands and created a wave of millions of refugees. Most of the fighters trained and equipped by the US joined ISIS or al-Qaeda affiliates. Syria, like Libya, was no threat to the United States when it was attacked by Washington.

Obama directed his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his hostile Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul to explore a reset with Russia with predictable results, initiating the steadily worsening relationship that has continued to this day. He subsequently presided over the attempts to spin the narrative and blame Moscow for Hillary’s loss while also encouraging accusations that Trump and his team were Russian agents. His national security team prepared a dossier that included numerous lies about both Trump and some of his key appointees.

Obama allowed neocon extraordinaire Victoria Nuland to lead the charge against Ukraine, with the intention of bringing about regime change of a government that he considered to be too pro-Russian. He succeeded but spent $5 billion doing so and Ukraine wound up with a puppet government presiding over a country that is both the poorest and most corrupt in Europe.

Obama made a famous “New Beginning” speech in Cairo in June 2009 that led directly to his being awarded a Nobel Peace prize later that year. He promised to reach out to the Muslim world and improve relations with Washington but promptly ignored what he had said for the following seven years, preferring to take the easy path by deferring to Israel’s expressed interests.

Obama always looked the other way when the Saudi Arabians bombed civilians in Yemen. Likewise, when the Israelis bombed Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. And he allowed the monstrous Benjamin Netanyahu to collude with Congress to manage US foreign policy in the Middle East with hardly any pushback from his foreign policy and national security team.

The Guardian prepared a bit of a retrospective on Obama during the week when he handed over the reins of power to Donald Trump in January 2017. It could not have described the man and his failings better: “Obama is, in terms of influence, nothing more than a used-car salesman. His job is not to create policy, but to sell neocon ideas to the general public, but his lack of agency cannot excuse his lack of vision or morals. Under Obama’s notional leadership the world has moved to the very brink of self-immolation in the name of protecting American hegemony. Domestically America still crumbles. He had a nice smile, and a good turn of phrase. He was witty, and cool, and looked good in a suit…but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t just more of the same. He could say the right things, and sound like he meant them, but he was still a monster.”

*(Top image: Portrait of Barack Obama, courtesy of the national portrait gallery & Scott Richard. Credit: torbakhopper/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on strategic-culture.

NATO Is “Brain Dead”. Institutionalized Killing as the “New Normal”

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The two-day London NATO conference just ended – and calling it a NATO “crisis” is an understatement. The crisis is such that President Trump canceled the Press Conference at the end of the summit, officially saying that there was enough press briefing during the conference, but rather more honestly hinting at the all-pervading conflict-loaded ambiance between and among the NATO partners, that their disagreements should not be further exposed through a media event.

To start with, French President Emmanuel Macron at the onset of the Conference declared NATO unequivocally as “brain dead”. For once he is absolutely right. Trump chastised Macron as ‘unrespectful’. These remarks were not only inappropriate but they were outright insolent, he said. Trump was more critique at Macron and all those who expressed any kind of doubt about NATOs justification for further existence. Trump left the summit before the end. Some say that his early leaving had to do with ‘his’ audacious, agenda, to ask European NATO members to increase their military budget to at least 2% of GDP – for which he didn’t get much applause. It would be additional wasted defense money that most countries could rather use for much needed social programs.

The clear loser of this event was Trump, and NATO – and of course, Trump’s NATO-puppet, Jens Stoltenberg, the longest serving NATO chief in recent history (since 2014 – and ongoing). One wonders, Stoltenberg, a Norwegian career politician, must have some brains on his own – why does he fight for a lost cause? He, Stoltenberg, knows that Russia and China are not enemies of the west, that they are Washington-invented enemies, because the empire always needs an enemy to continue instigating and fighting wars and conflicts – for the service of its billion-profit-making Armament-Military Industrial complex.

Yes, friends, in our neoliberal, bending towards neo-fascist world, killing is good for business – in fact killing is the biggest single business in the western world.

Can you imagine? NATO has institutionalized killing as the new normal. Have you ever thought about it? – And in order to maintain this ‘eternal war on terror’ that sustains the US economy, we need ever-so-often a ‘fake’ terror attack – to keep the fear alive, to keep the arms flowing, the arms production running, to keep police and military abuse, brutality and repression increasing until we are under total military control, so much so that no ‘state of siege’ needs to be declared. It happens automatically. In fact, people, for fear of continuous false flags, ask for it. The condemned asks for the hangman to watch over them. That’s where we have ended up.

Take the latest London Bridge knife killer — well, like most other “random” terrorist killers around the globe, he was apparently known to the police, was released early for good behavior – and , despite the fact that he was subdued by passers-by on the bridge, made motionless on the pavement, hence no danger anymore to anyone, as photos show, he was killed, shot death by the police. Why? So, he won’t be able to talk?

That happens with almost all ‘random’ terrorist killers. They are silenced. Seems like nobody ever wonders why? – Why are they not taken into custody and questioned – and tried as they should be in a ‘state of law’, what we pretend to be in the west.

A knife-terrorist hitting The Hague simultaneously, escaped, for good order – the contrary would have been too suspicious. Problem is, people still buy these lies and overarching explanations by such liars as Boris Johnson. What is alive and well and may possibly be used when vulnerable detainees are released ‘early’, is MKUltra, CIA’s mind control program. It emerged from WWII intelligence and was further developed in the 1960s, but is still very much alive today – just more sophisticated today than yesterday. Surprisingly – Big Wonder – so far, to my knowledge, none of these “random knife or gun-swinging” terrorists have been traced to Russia.

Question: Are those who keep propagating and defending NATO “brainless”, leading to a “brain dead” NATO?

Not necessarily, because the NATO propagators and defenders have a clear agenda – or several agendas. The Washington based and directed, but Europe financed NATO serves none of the purposes it makes believe and lies about, being a defense force against the dangers of Russia invading Europe – and newly, because this argument has gradually served out its purpose and been discarded by most of the European NATO members, NATO is also a defense engine against the rapidly advancing belligerent China. – Now its China, that helps justify the nonsensical NATO. China is the most peaceful nation, seeking cooperation with the west, not war, nor conflict.

Maybe even European leaders start now thinking – yes, let them revive their sleeping brains. Let them wake up. The reality is that both China and Russia are offering Europe friendly, un-coerced trading and business relations – and the New Silk Road, alias, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is ultimately attractive – though still openly criticized to please the despots of Washington – Europe realized that participating in BRI is a long-term win-win proposition. As the Chinese with good reason say, “We are attempting to build a community with a common future for mankind.” By contrast, there is almost nothing that comes out of Washington that is not imposed or coerced on countries, under threat of sanctions. Relations with Russia and China are 180 degrees different; they are pacific, not bellicose.

Of course, intimidating Europe with the “Eastern Threat” is so weak and un-cool, that it looks like the last desperate move of the empire’s leaders, or rather those who pull the strings behind their designated leaders – of whom Trump is a master example. You may guess, who the “string-pullers” are, also often called the ‘deep state’. They are not as far away from your everyday life as you may think. They are omni-present among us.

A second item of the not-so brainless NATO commanders’ agenda is the reason behind the topping up to 2% (of GDP) of the European members’ defense budget. It is of course understood that all the armament related to the 2% must be bought from the US of A – not Russia, not China, beware! Otherwise you may have other NATO countries being in violation of the US-rules, like Turkey, buying Russian S-400 air-defense systems, rather the much inferior US Patriot systems.

The additional money spent on defense is supposedly spent in the US – further increasing the military complex’s profit – and at the same time weakening Europe, already oscillating at the margin of recession. A weak Europe is of lesser competition to the US, is better controllable, as we know – and can better be manipulated. European leaders should know so much by now. Every major FED-Wall Street banking-induced recession has hit Europe the most. Just look at the most recent one 2008/9 and ongoing. It’s not an accident.

Another full swing recession is in the making. Extra unnecessary military spending would make it worse. Maybe Europeans will think of spending this ‘extra’ money on opening new relations, new avenues, with the east, Russia, China, Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – an association of countries which will most certainly help prevent Europe from falling into yet another recessionary abyss. China’s Belt and Road may build bridges that will prevent a European recession.

And third, once Europe would be armed to the teeth on behalf of NATO, any talk about a proposed European defense system – Macron’s idea, supported openly or covertly by most EU members – would bite the dust. At least in the foreseeable future. And – having so many weapons and defense mechanisms – means Europe needs an enemy to justify her armament. In this case, Washington thinks, more pressure on Moscow and Beijing would be more palatable by Europe, bringing her again closer into Washington’s orbit.

On the other hand, if democracy would be democracy, and the people of Europe would be asked about their allegiance to NATO, the overwhelming majority, an  average close to 70% would say they want OUT of NATO.

In some countries, like Italy, this percentage is possibly in excess of 80%. It is clear, NATO is doomed, there is no need, no justification for NATO, as there are no real enemies for Europe, all enemies are invented to justify war – killing – production of weapons – for destruction. Washington is the only clear and present danger, not only for Europe, but for the entire globe. Washington’s creation of enemies leads to economic output based on destruction and killing. What a world we are living! – Isn’t it time we wake up and kill NATO?

*(Top image: Xavier Bettel (Prime Minister, Luxembourg), US President Donald J. Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Credit: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization/ Flickr)

First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

France Shut Down by Nationwide Strike Action for Social Justice

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On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of French workers, youths and others protested over former Rothschild banker/French President Macron’s pension reform scheme that’s all about further eroding social justice by slashing vital benefits.

Most rail, other public transportation, and many flights shut down on day one of the largest French mass action against neoliberal harshness in the last generation — what’s going on to continue for days, perhaps much longer over anti-Macron public anger.

Scores of demonstrations nationwide by students, teachers, firefighters, industrial, transportation, healthcare, energy, public sector, and other workers largely ground France to a halt.

Schools shut down. Police unions warned of symbolically closing certain stations in support of the strike action.

Macron wants a socially unjust/one size fits all uniform pension system, replacing individual ones that provide equitable benefits for retired workers.

He wants the legal retirement age raised from 62 to 64. He wants social justice in France more greatly eroded than already, part of a longterm plan in the country and West to eliminate it altogether.

His scheme is the most extremist change to France’s cherished pension system since its post-WW II creation. It’s all about greatly cutting benefits, leaving retirees far worse off than today.

France’s official single-digit poverty rate is the lowest in the West, far below other Western countries. Retirement reform is Macron’s latest scheme to erode social justice.

Earlier he slashed unemployment benefits and made it easier for companies to lay off or fire workers, while largely keeping wages for public workers stagnant and eroding universal healthcare benefits.

Nationwide strike action began before Macron released details of his scheme — to be debated in parliament and voted on next year.

A November Viavoice for Liberation poll found 89% of respondents believe France is experiencing a “social crisis.”

According to sociologist Steward Chau, “we’re in a climate of real social tension today, which goes beyond pensions…(S)ocial crisis…hang(s) over this strike action.”

Mass protests begun Wednesday escalated anti-austerity Yellow Vest demonstrations begun over a year ago.

Actions yesterday blocked major thoroughfares, along with shutting down most public transportation and fuel depots.

At least one opinion poll showed around 70% support for the mass action, its strongest backing among individuals aged 18 – 34.

In 1995, large-scale nationwide protests shut down public transport for three weeks, forcing a government neoliberal policy reversal at the time.

What began Thursday goes beyond opposition to Macron’s pension reform scheme. It’s against years of forced-fed austerity, wealth and power interests benefitting by eroding social justice — the same thing going on throughout the West and elsewhere.

Public anger over repression, social inequality, and related issues a fueled other mass protests in Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Algeria, Albania, Gaza, and elsewhere.

So far, they’re absent in the US where people power is badly needed.

Daily events should scare everyone. Peace in our time no longer exists, social justice in the country heading for the dustbin of history if things aren’t reversed by mass actions.

Ordinary people have power when they use it. Change requires longterm struggle.

Abolitionists ended slavery. Civil and labor rights were won. They’re lost because energy waned.

Former Supreme Court Justice William Douglas (1898 – 1980) once said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Academic Frances Fox Piven earlier stressed that “(o)rdinary people have power when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules…disrupt (state) institutions (and) propel new issues to the center of political debate.”

When governments fail their people, the way things are today in the West and elsewhere globally, they forfeit their right to rule.

Civil disobedience becomes an essential tool for change, popular revolution the only solution.

Martin Luther King said “non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” He championed “creative protest,” believing passivity is no option in the face of injustice.

Henry David Thoreau argued that no one is obligated to surrender their conscience to injustice. What’s fundamentally wrong should be challenged for change.

It’s the only thing that works. Entrenched power yields nothing unless pushed.

Long ago labor organizing in the US, taking to the streets, sustaining strikes, boycotts, and other work stoppages, battling monied interests, putting rank-and-file lives on the line for equitable treatment won important worker rights.

When energy waned and union bosses sold out to management, virtually everything gained was lost, organized labor today a shadow of its long ago peak strength.

Sustaining mass actions against social injustice in France is the only way for positive change.

If things wane in the coming days or weeks, all will be lost, the way things turned out in the West many times before.

*(Top image: Mass strikes and protests in France over pension reform, December 5, 2019. Credit: Jeanne Menjoulet/ Flickr)

Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War

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On Thursday afternoon, the Washington Post sent out a news alert headlined “John Kerry Endorses Biden in 2020 Race, Saying He Has the Character and Experience to Beat Trump, Confront the Nation’s Challenges.” Meanwhile, in Iowa, Joe Biden was also touting his experience. “Look,” Biden said as he angrily lectured an 83-year-old farmer at a campaign stop, “the reason I’m running is because I’ve been around a long time and I know more than most people know, and I can get things done.”

But Kerry and Biden don’t want to acknowledge a historic tie that binds them: Both men were important supporters of the Iraq war, voting for the invasion on the Senate floor and continuing to back the war after it began. Over the years, political winds have shifted -- and Biden, like Kerry, has methodically lied about his support for that horrendous war.

The spectacle of Kerry praising Biden as a seasoned leader amounts to one supporter of the Iraq catastrophe attesting to the character and experience of another supporter of the same catastrophe.

The FactCheck.org project at the Annenberg Public Policy Center has pointed out: “Kerry agreed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and should be overthrown, and defended his war authorization vote more than once -- including saying in a May 2003 debate that Bush made the ‘right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein.’ . . . Kerry also told reporters in August 2004 that he would have voted for the resolution even if he had known that the U.S. couldn’t find any weapons of mass destruction.”

As for Biden, he can’t stop lying about his major role in pushing the war authorization through the Senate five months before the March 2003 invasion. During his current presidential campaign, more than 16 years after the invasion, Biden has continued efforts to conceal his pro-war role while refusing to admit that he was instrumental in making possible the massive carnage and devastation in Iraq.

Three months ago, during a debate on ABC, Biden claimed that he voted for the war resolution so it would be possible to get U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq -- saying that he wanted “to allow inspectors to go in to determine whether or not anything was being done with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons.” But that’s totally backwards.

It was big news when the Iraqi government announced on September 16, 2002 -- with a letter hand-delivered to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan -- that it would allow the U.N. weapons inspectors back in “without conditions.” The announcement was a full 25 days before Biden joined with virtually every Republican and most Democratic senators voting to approve the Iraq war resolution.

That resolution on October 11 couldn’t rationally be viewed as a tool for leverage so that the Iraqi government would (in Biden’s words) "allow inspectors to go in.” Several weeks earlier, the Iraqi government had already agreed to allow inspectors to go in.

Biden keeps trying to wriggle out of culpability for the Iraq war. But he won’t be able to elude scrutiny so easily. In a mid-October debate, when Biden boasted that he has a record of getting things done, Bernie Sanders (who I actively support) made this response: "Joe, you talked about working with Republicans and getting things done. But you know what you also got done? And I say this as a good friend. You got the disastrous war in Iraq done.”

Indeed, Biden -- as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- presided over one-sided hearings that greased the war-machine wheels to carry the war resolution forward. He was the single most pivotal Senate Democrat for getting the Iraq invasion done. While sometimes grumbling about President George W. Bush’s diplomatic performance along the way, Biden backed the invasion with enthusiasm.

Now, dazzled by Kerry’s endorsement of Biden, mainstream news outlets are calling it a major boost. Media hype is predictable as Kerry teams up with Biden on the campaign trail.

“The Kerry endorsement is among Mr. Biden’s most significant to date,” the New York Times reports. “His support provides Mr. Biden the backing of the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nominee and a past winner of the Iowa caucuses.” Kerry praised Biden to the skies, declaring that “I believe Joe Biden is the president our country desperately needs right now, not because I’ve known Joe so long, but because I know Joe so well.”

This year, many progressives have become accustomed to rolling their eyes at the mention of Biden’s name. A facile assumption is that his campaign will self-destruct. But that may be wishful thinking.

The former vice president has powerful backers in corporate media, wealthy circles and the Democratic Party establishment. Deceitful and hidebound as he is, Joe Biden stands a good chance of becoming the party’s nominee -- unless his actual record, including support for the Iraq war, catches up with him.

*(Top image: Joe Biden and John Kerry. Credit: Exchanges Photos/ Flickr)

The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military - A Book Review

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West Point Professor Tim Bakken’s new book The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military traces a path of corruption, barbarism, violence, and unaccountability that makes its way from the United States’ military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs) to the top ranks of the U.S. military and U.S. governmental policy, and from there into a broader U.S. culture that, in turn, supports the subculture of the military and its leaders.

The U.S. Congress and presidents have ceded tremendous power to generals. The State Department and even the U.S. Institute of Peace are subservient to the military. The corporate media and the public help maintain this arrangement with their eagerness to denounce anyone who opposes the generals. Even opposing giving free weapons to Ukraine is now quasi-treasonous.

Within the military, virtually everyone has ceded power to those of higher rank. Disagreeing with them is likely to end your career, a fact that helps explain why so many military officials say what they really think about the current wars just after retiring.

But why does the public go along with out of control militarism? Why are so few speaking out and raising hell against wars that only 16% of the public tell pollsters they support? Well, the Pentagon spent $4.7 billion in 2009, and likely more in each year since, on propaganda and public relations. Sports leagues are paid with public dollars to stage “rituals that are akin to worship,” as Bakken appropriately describes the fly-overs, weapons shows, troop honorings, and war hymn screechings that precede professional athletics events. The peace movement has far superior materials but comes up a little short of $4.7 billion each year for advertising.

Speaking out against war can get you attacked as unpatriotic or “a Russian asset,” which helps explain why environmentalists don’t mention one of the worst polluters, refugee aid groups don’t mention the primary cause of the problem, activists trying to end mass-shootings never mention that the shooters are disproportionately veterans, anti-racist groups avoid noticing the way militarism spreads racism, plans for green new deals or free college or healthcare usually manage not to mention the place where most of the money is now, etc. Overcoming this hurdle is the work being taken on by World BEYOND War.

Bakken describes a culture and a system of rules at West Point that encourage lying, that turn lying into a requirement of loyalty, and make loyalty the highest value. Major General Samuel Koster, to take just one of many examples in this book, lied about his troops slaughtering 500 innocent civilians, and was then rewarded with being made superintendent at West Point. Lying moves a career upward, something Colin Powell, for example, knew and practiced for many years prior to his Destroy-Iraq Farce at the United Nations.

Bakken profiles numerous high-profile military liars — enough to establish them as the norm. Chelsea Manning did not have unique access to information. Thousands of other people simply kept obediently quiet. Keeping quiet, lying when necessary, cronyism, and lawlessness seem to be the principles of U.S. militarism. By lawlessness I mean both that you lose your rights when you join the military (the 1974 Supreme Court case Parker v. Levy effectively placed the military outside the Constitution) and that no institution outside the military can hold the military accountable to any law.

The military is separate from and understands itself to be superior to the civilian world and its laws. High-ranking officials are not just immune from prosecution, they’re immune from criticism. Generals who are never questioned by anyone make speeches at West Point telling young men and women that just by being there as students they are superior and infallible.

Yet, they are quite fallible in reality. West Point pretends to be an exclusive school with high academic standards, but in fact works hard to find students, guarantees spots for and pays for another year of high school for potential athletes, accepts students nominated by Congress Members because their parents “donated” to the Congress Members’ campaigns, and offers a community college-level education only with more hazing, violence, and tamping down of curiosity. West Point takes soldiers and declares them to be professors, which works roughly as well as declaring them to be relief workers or nation builders or peace keepers. The school parks ambulances nearby in preparation for violent rituals. Boxing is a required subject. Women are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted at the three military academies than at other U.S. universities.

“Imagine,” writes Bakken, “any small college in any small town in America where sexual assault is pervasive and the students are running virtual drug cartels while law enforcement agencies are employing methods used to curb the Mafia to try to catch them. There isn’t any such college or large university, but there are three military academies that fit the bill.”

West Point students, who have no Constitutional rights, can have their rooms searched by armed troops and guards at any time, no warrant required. Faculty, staff, and cadets are told to spot missteps by others and “correct” them. The Uniform Code of Military Justice bans speaking “disrespectfully” to superior officers, which creates an appearance of respect that one would anticipate fueling just what Bakken shows it fueling: narcissism, thin skin, and general prima donna or police-like behavior in those relying on it.

Of West Point graduates, 74 percent report being politically “conservative” as compared to 45 percent of all college graduates; and 95 percent say “America is the best country in the world” compared to 77 percent over all. Bakken highlights West Point Professor Pete Kilner as an example of someone who shares and promotes such views. I’ve done public debates with Kilner and found him far from sincere, much less persuasive. He gives the impression of not having spent much time outside of the military bubble, and of expecting praise for that fact.

“One of the reasons for the common dishonesty in the military,” Bakken writes, “is an institutionalized disdain for the public, including civilian command.” Sexual assault is rising, not receding, in the U.S. military. “When Air Force cadets chant,” writes Bakken, “while marching, that they will use a ‘chain saw’ to cut a woman ‘in two’ and keep ‘the bottom half and give the top to you,’ they are expressing their world view.”

“A survey of the top echelon of military leadership indicates widespread criminality,” Bakken writes, before running through such a survey. The military’s approach to sexual crimes by top officers is, as recounted by Bakken, quite fittingly compared by him to the behavior of the Catholic Church.

The sense of immunity and entitlement is not limited to a few individuals, but is institutionalized. A gentleman now in San Diego and known as Fat Leonard hosted dozens of sex parties in Asia for U.S. Navy officers in exchange for supposedly valuable secret information on the Navy’s plans.

If what happens in the military stayed in the military, the problem would be far smaller than it is. In truth, West Point alumni have wreaked havoc on the world. They dominate the top ranks of the U.S. military and have for many, many years. Douglas MacArthur, according to a historian Bakken quotes, “surrounded himself ” with men who “would not disturb the dreamworld of self-worship in which he chose to live.” MacArthur, of course, brought China into the Korean war, tried to turn the war nuclear, was in great part responsible for millions of deaths, and was — in a very rare event — fired.

William Westmoreland, according to a biographer quoted by Bakken, had a “perspective so widely off the mark that it raises fundamental questions of [his] awareness of the context in which the war was being fought.” Westmoreland, of course, committed genocidal slaughter in Vietnam and, like MacArthur, attempted to make the war nuclear.

“Recognizing the staggering depth of MacArthur’s and Westmoreland’s obtuseness,” writes Bakken, “leads to a clearer understanding of the deficiencies in the military and how America can lose wars.”

Bakken describes retired admiral Dennis Blair as bringing a military ethos of speech restriction and retaliation into civilian government in 2009 and generating the new approach of prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, prosecuting publishers like Julian Assange, and asking judges to imprison reporters until they reveal their sources. Blair himself has described this as applying the military’s ways to government.

Recruiters lie. Military spokespeople lie. The case made to the public for each war (often made as much by civilian politicians as by the military) is so routinely dishonest that someone wrote a book called War Is A Lie. As Bakken tells it, Watergate and Iran-Contra are examples of corruption driven by military culture. And, of course, in the lists of serious and trivial lies and outrages to be found in military corruption there’s this: those assigned to guard nuclear weapons lie, cheat, get drunk, and fall down — and do so for decades unchecked, thereby risking all life on earth.

Earlier this year, the Secretary of the Navy lied to Congress that over 1,100 U.S. schools were barring military recruiters. A friend and I offered a reward if anyone could identify just one of those schools. Of course, nobody could. So, a Pentagon spokesperson told some new lies to cover up the old one. Not that anybody cared — least of all Congress. None of the Congress Members directly lied to could be brought to the point of saying one word about it; rather, they made sure to keep people who cared about the issue out of hearings at which the Secretary of the Navy was testifying. The Secretary was fired months later, just a couple of weeks ago, for allegedly making a deal with President Trump behind the back of the Secretary of Defense, as the three of them had varying ideas on how to acknowledge or excuse or glorify some particular war crimes.

One way in which violence spreads from the military to U.S. society is through the violence of veterans, who disproportionately make up the list of mass shooters. Just this week, there have been two shootings on U.S. Navy bases in the U.S., both of them by men trained by the U.S. military, one of them a Saudi man training in Florida to fly airplanes (as well as training to prop up the most brutal dictatorship on earth) — all of which seems to highlight the zombie-like repetitive and counterproductive nature of militarism. Bakken cites a study that in 2018 found that Dallas police officers who were veterans were much more likely to fire their guns while on duty, and that nearly a third of all officers involved in a shooting were veterans. In 2017 a West Point student apparently prepared for a mass shooting at West Point that was prevented.

Many have urged us to recognize the evidence and not accept the media presentations of atrocities like My Lai or Abu Ghraib as isolated incidents. Bakken asks us to recognize not just the pervasive pattern but its origins in a culture that models and encourages senseless violence.

Despite working for the U.S. military as a professor at West Point, Bakken outlines the general failure of that military, including the past 75 years of lost wars. Bakken is unusually honest and accurate about casualty counts and about the destructive and counterproductive nature of the senseless one-sided slaughters the U.S. military perpetrates on the world.

Pre-U.S. colonists viewed militaries much as people living near U.S. military bases in foreign countries often view them today: as “nurseries of vice.” By any sensible measure, the same view ought to be common in the United States right now. The U.S. military is probably the least successful institution on its own terms (as well as others’ terms) in U.S. society, certainly the least democratic, one of the most criminal and corrupt, yet consistently and dramatically the most respected in opinion polls. Bakken recounts how this unquestioning adulation creates hubris in the military. It also maintains cowardice in the public when it comes to opposing militarism.

Military “leaders” today are treated as princes. “Four-star generals and admirals today,” Bakken writes, “are flown on jets not just for work but also to ski, vacation, and golf resorts (234 military golf courses) operated by the U.S. military around the world, accompanied by a dozen aides, drivers, security guards, gourmet chefs, and valets to carry their bags.” Bakken wants this ended and believes it works against the ability of the U.S. military to properly do whatever it is he thinks it should do. And Bakken courageously writes these things as a civilian professor at West Point who has won a court case against the military over its retaliation for his whistleblowing.

But Bakken, like most whistleblowers, maintains one foot inside that which he is exposing. Like virtually every U.S. citizen, he suffers from World War II mythologizing, which creates the vague and unargued assumption that war can be done right and properly and victoriously.

Happy Pearl Harbor Day, everybody!

Like a huge number of MSNBC and CNN viewers, Bakken suffers from Russiagatism. Check out this remarkable statement from his book: “A few Russian cyber agents did more to destabilize the 2016 presidential election and American democracy than all the weapons of the Cold War put together, and the U.S. military was helpless to stop them. It was stuck in a different mode of thinking, one that worked seventy-five years ago.”

Of course, the wild claims of Russiagate about Trump supposedly collaborating with Russia to try to influence the 2016 election do not even include the claim that such activity actually influenced or “destabilized” the election. But, of course, every Russiagate utterance does push that ridiculous idea implicitly or — as here — explicitly. Meanwhile Cold War militarism determined the outcome of numerous U.S. elections. Then there’s the problem of proposing that the U.S. military come up with schemes to counter Facebook ads. Really? Whom should they bomb? How much? In what way? Bakken is constantly lamenting the lack of intelligence in the officer corps, but what sort of intelligence would concoct the proper forms of mass murder to stop Facebook ads?

Bakken regrets the U.S. military’s failures to take over the world, and the successes of its supposed rivals. But he never gives us an argument for the desirability of global domination. He claims to believe that the intention of U.S. wars is to spread democracy, and then denounces those wars as failures on those terms. He pushes the war propaganda that holds North Korea and Iran to be threats to the United States, and points to their having become such threats as evidence of the U.S. military’s failure. I would have said that getting even its critics to think that way is evidence of the U.S. military’s success — at least in the realm of propaganda.

According to Bakken, wars are badly managed, wars are lost, and incompetent generals devise “no-win” strategies. But never in the course of his book (apart from his World War II problem) does Bakken offer a single example of a war well-managed or won by the United States or anyone else. That the problem is ignorant and unintelligent generals is an easy argument to make, and Bakken offers ample evidence. But he never hints at what it is that intelligent generals would do — unless it is this: quit the war business.

“The officers leading the military today appear not to have the ability to win modern wars,” Bakken writes. But he never describes or defines what a win would look like, what it would consist of. Everybody dead? A colony established? An independent peaceful state left behind to open criminal prosecutions against the United States? A deferential proxy state with democratic pretensions left behind except for the requisite handful of U.S. bases now under construction there?

At one point, Bakken criticizes the choice to wage large military operations in Vietnam “rather than counterinsurgency.” But he does not add even a single sentence explaining what benefits “counterinsurgency” could have brought to Vietnam.

The failures that Bakken recounts as driven by officers’ hubris, dishonesty, and corruption are all wars or escalations of wars. They are all failures in the same direction: too much senseless slaughtering of human beings. Nowhere does he cite even a single catastrophe as having been created by restraint or deference to diplomacy or by excessive use of the rule of law or cooperation or generosity. Nowhere does he point out that a war was too small. Nowhere does he even pull a Rwanda, claiming that a war that didn’t happen should have.

Bakken wants a radical alternative to the past several decades of military conduct but never explains why that alternative should have to include mass murder. What rules out nonviolent alternatives? What rules out scaling back the military until it’s gone? What other institution can fail utterly for generations and have its toughest critics propose reforming it, rather than abolishing it?

Bakken laments the separation and isolation of the military from everyone else, and the supposedly small size of the military. He’s right about the separation problem, and even partly right — I think — about the solution, in that he wants to make the military more like the civilian world, not just make the civilian world more like the military. But he certainly leaves the impression of wanting the latter too: women in the draft, a military that makes up more than just 1 percent of the population. These disastrous ideas are not argued for, and cannot be effectively argued for.

At one point, Bakken seems to understand just how archaic war is, writing, “In ancient times and in agrarian America, where communities were isolated, any outside threat posed a significant danger to an entire group. But today, given its nuclear weapons and vast armaments, as well as an extensive internal policing apparatus, America faces no threat of invasion. Under all indices, war should be far less likely than in the past; in fact, it has become less likely for countries throughout the world, with one exception: the United States.”

I recently spoke to a class of eighth-graders, and I told them that one country possessed the vast majority of foreign military bases on earth. I asked them to name that country. And of course they named the list of countries still lacking a U.S. military base: Iran, North Korea, etc. It took quite a while and some prodding before anyone guessed “the United States.” The United States tells itself it isn’t an empire, even while assuming its imperial stature to be beyond question. Bakken has proposals for what to do, but they do not include shrinking military spending or closing foreign bases or halting weapons sales.

He proposes, first, that wars be fought “only in self-defense.” This, he informs us, would have prevented a number of wars but allowed the war on Afghanistan for “a year or two.” He doesn’t explain that. He doesn’t mention the problem of that war’s illegality. He provides no guide to let us know which attacks on impoverished nations halfway around the globe should count as “self-defense” in the future, nor for how many years they should bear that label, nor of course what the “win” was in Afghanistan after “a year or two.”

The Cost of Loyalty 86ad4Bakken proposes giving much less authority for generals outside of actual combat. Why that exception?

He proposes subjecting the military to the same civilian legal system as everyone else, and abolishing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Good idea. A crime committed in Pennsylvania would be prosecuted by Pennsylvania. But for crimes committed outside the United States, Bakken has a different attitude. Those places should not prosecute crimes committed in them. The United States should establish courts to handle that. The International Criminal Court is also missing from Bakken’s proposals, despite his account of U.S. sabotage of that court earlier in the book.

Bakken proposes to turn the U.S. military academies into civilian universities. I’d agree if they were focused on peace studies and not controlled by the militarized government of the United States.

Finally, Bakken proposes criminalizing retaliating against free speech in military. For as long as the military exists, I think that’s a good idea — and one that might shorten that length of time (that the military exists) were it not for the probability that it will reduce the risk of nuclear apocalypse (allowing everything in existence to last a bit longer).

But what about civilian control? What about requiring that the Congress or the public vote before wars? What about ending secret agencies and secret wars? What about halting the arming of future enemies for profit? What about imposing the rule of law on the U.S. government, not just on cadets? What about converting from military to peaceful industries?

Well, Bakken’s analysis of what’s wrong with the U.S. military is helpful in getting us toward various proposals whether or not he supports them.

*(Top image: 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey talks with the graduating class of cadets during his visit to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., April 22, 2015. Credit: Daniel Hinton/ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ Flickr)

How the US Tortures. Report

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Torture is longstanding US policy, notably by the CIA and its henchmen.

The policy continues at secret global black sites under its new director Gina Haspel — earlier involved in running an offshore black site, notorious for torture during interrogations.

CIA human experiments began in the early 1950s, including sensory-deprivation ones – developing unlawful interrogation methods amounting to torture.

In his book titled “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror,” Alfred McCoy discussed a half-century of Langley efforts to develop torture techniques – no matter how heinous, immoral, illegal, or ineffective.

It’s well known that victims in severe pain say whatever interrogators want to hear to stop it.

The UN Convention against Torture is clear and unequivocal — banning the practice at all times, under all conditions, with no allowed exceptions.

The US Constitution’s 8th Amendment bans “cruel and unusual punishments” — clearly what torture is all about.

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research’s report on “How America Tortures” documents the lawless practice by the US — prepared under the direction of Law Professor Mark Denbeaux.

He’s “one of Seton Hall’s most senior faculty members…the Director of the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research…best known for its dissemination of the internationally recognized series of reports on (US torture and abuse at) the Guantanamo Bay” torture prison, still operating with no intention of closing it.

Information was provided by US victims, including Abu Zubaydah, a falsely accused al-Qaeda member, an individual with no involvement in or pre-knowledge of 9/11 events — the mother of all US false flags, wrongfully blamed on bin Laden and “crazed Arabs.”

Abducted in March 2002, unlawfully held at Guantanamo to this day uncharged and untried, Zubaydah and others endured sleep deprivation, waterboarding, painful stress positions, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation and/or overload, severe beatings, electric shocks, induced hypothermia, and other measures that can cause irreversible physical and psychological harm, including psychoses.

He was confined in a box “so small (that) he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position” and stay that way, according to the ICRC.

He was also shackled naked by his wrists over his head so his toes barely touched the floor. Hooded and painfully handcuffed, his head was smashed against a wall — torture methods used against him depicted in drawings.

According to Seton Hall’s report, “virtually no attention has been paid to the specific details of the techniques that were used in America’s name and too little investigation has gone into the specific uses that the CIA made of these techniques,” adding:

“This report presents the specific details of what the torture memos permitted and most importantly, how the techniques were implemented and applied.”

In an accompanying press release, Denbaugh said the following:

“In many ways…illustrations of Abu Zubaydah are a testament to the triumph of the human will.”

“He was subjected to treatment so egregious that the CIA sought and received official governmental assurances that their prisoner would ‘remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.’ ”

“The CIA even arranged for his cremation in the event he died, assuring what they hoped would be his silence even beyond the grave. But with this report, he is silent no more.”

According to Seton Hall Law Center for Policy & Research Fellow Niki Waters, one of the report’s co-authors:

“What was officially approved was bad enough, but what we found was worse,” adding:

“The lack of clarity and seemingly purposeful ambiguity in defining what was allowed and what was not allowed during interrogations led to gross abuse.”

“The government failed to account for persistent and unapproved techniques alongside those that were approved. But willful blindness isn’t really much of a defense, is it?”

A Final Comment

Most Americans no longer believe the 9/11 whitewash commission’s official account of what happened.

A week after 9/11, congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) declared open-ended war on invented enemies – on the phony pretext of combating forces “responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States” — legitimizing illegal naked aggression, smashing one nonbelligerent nation after another.

Bush/Cheney’s Military Order Number 1 let the regime usurp authority to capture, kidnap or otherwise arrest and indefinitely hold non-citizens (later citizens as well) at home or abroad, uncharged and untried, if accused of involvement in international terrorism – denying them due process and judicial fairness.

Obama further institutionalized indefinite detentions and military commission injustice, violating America’s Fifth Amendment protections.

Trump continues what his predecessors began, waging endless wars of aggression and by other means, along with other hostile actions at home and abroad.

State-sponsored 9/11 and its aftermath made the US and other Western societies unsafe and unfit to live in. Full-blown tyranny may be another major false flag away.

US rage for unchallenged dominance makes nuclear war against manufactured enemies by accident of design an ominous possibility.

Both right wings of the US war party threaten everyone everywhere.

*(Top image: Gina Haspel, painted portrait. Credit: thierry ehrmann/ Flickr)

Are We Already Dead? - America's Death-Denying Culture

Kenneth Jarecke 1991 photo of a dead Iraqi 058bb

Americans tend to fear death.  It makes us uncomfortable.  Yet death is inevitable.  Its inevitability should teach us to revel in the richness of the here and now.  It should also teach us the foolishness of undue pride.

All is vanity, the Bible teaches.  Death reminds us of this — that human vanity, as unavoidable as it may be, is ultimately shallow.  There are riches out there that we should seek away from the glaring and garish light of vanity.  Riches that give deeper meaning to life.

Of all cultures in the world, I wonder if there’s another that ignores or denies death as much as American culture.  We’re the culture of new beginnings, fresh starts, reinvention, and also of the perpetual now, of youth, of defying or denying death through facelifts, cosmetics, adrenaline-driven adventures, and so on.  Technology and consumerism also provide distractions.  After all, how can I be nearing the end if I have the latest iPhone or iPad or if I’m wearing the latest hip fashions?

Our funeral homes seek to deny death with open casket rituals in which the dead person is made up to look alive.  Paul Fussell skewered this cultural tendency in his book, Class.  We use euphemisms like “passed away” or “passed on” for “died”; the descriptive term of “undertaker” has morphed into “funeral home director.”  Our religions stress life after death, not death itself.

We even deny that our wars produce death.  Think of the Bush/Cheney Administration, which refused to show photographs of flag-draped coffins of American troops, ostensibly for “privacy” reasons but mainly to minimize the deadly costs of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  (Indeed, we don’t talk of troops dying in combat; we talk instead of troops “paying the ultimate price” or “making the ultimate sacrifice.”)

In minimizing the cost of war to its troops, the U.S. government and media also seek to deny the reality of death to the enemy.  War coverage in the media is often stock footage showing drones or aircraft firing missiles, enhanced by graphics and music.  You might see an enemy building or truck blowing up, but you’ll never see dead bodies.  Too disturbing, even though violent gunplay and bleeding corpses are routinely shown in American crime shows and movies as entertainment.

In the first Iraq war (Desert Storm) in 1991, the photographer Kenneth Jarecke caught a powerful image of a dead Iraqi soldier burnt alive in his truck on the infamous “highway of death.”  Jarecke believed his photo would change America’s vision of the war, which in the U.S. media had been staged like a Hollywood production, neat and sanitary and clean.  But no U.S. media outlet would publish the image.  It was relegated to overseas publications.

What price do we pay as a people by ignoring death?  We lack a certain depth and maturity; put differently, we are callous and shallow.  Death has little meaning to us, especially the deaths of those in other lands.  For in seeking to deny the inevitability of our own deaths, how can we possibly recognize and process the death of others?

A death-denying culture that rains death on others using drones named “Predator” and “Reaper”; a culture that finds images of war dead too disturbing even as its TVs and movies and videos are saturated by bloody murders.  What are we to make of this?

The most powerful speech I’ve seen in any movie is that of Chief Dan George in “Little Big Man.”  In trying to make sense of the White Man’s war on Native Americans, Chief Dan George’s character, Old Lodge Skins, suggests that the White Man kills because he believes everything is dead already.  Lacking a moral center, the White Man has no sense of, or appreciation for, the sanctity of life.

http://youtu.be/LJRs2TnP9H8

Do we deny death because in some sense we are already dead?  Dead to the richness and sanctity of life?

*(Top image: Kenneth Jarecke’s 1991 photo of a dead Iraqi was considered too disturbing to publish in America.)

Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?

Kashmir at the Indian High Commission ecde3

In August of this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India suspended Article 370 of the constitution, the provision that granted some level of autonomy to Kashmir. Already heavily policed by Indian soldiers, nearly 40,000 additional troops were deployed to ‘calm’ (read: further oppress) the population following Modi’s repressive and illegal decision. Travel in and out of the country was banned, with even news reporters forbidden from entering, and all communication was disrupted, leaving people around the world with no word on the status of their friends and family members in Kashmir.

With India’s increased oppression of the people of Kashmir, one cannot help but see similarities to Israel’s decades-long, brutal oppression of the Palestinians. And that comparison was not lost on the government of India. On November 16, Sandeep Chakravorty, who is India’s consul-general to New York City, was in New York attending a private event. He told Kashmiri Hindus and Indian nationals that India will build settlements modeled after Israel for the return of the Hindu population to Kashmir. He did not mince words; said he: “I believe the security situation will improve, it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back … and you will be able to find security, because we already have a model in the world. I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.”

Although Modi’s increased repression of the Kashmiri people has been condemned by much of the international community, most nations only objected with a whimper, and news of this unspeakable, ongoing oppression quickly took a back seat to other events. But for the Kashmiri people, the suffering continues.

Chakravorty was right in one thing: Israel has successfully, to date, divided Palestine and oppressed its people, using illegal settlements, land confiscation, racism, terrorism in all imaginable forms, kidnapping, murder and an endless array of cruel and savage methods to destroy the nation and its people. These violations of international law and crimes against humanity have been financed and fully supported by the United States, with most other countries of the world simply looking the other way, occasionally issuing a few words of criticism, but seldom, if ever, doing anything constructive for the Palestinian people. As long as Israel has gotten away with murder, why not India?

In Canada, a Zionist organization has arranged a presentation with two speakers, a Hindu priest and a conservative commentator, to prove to Canadians that George Orwell’s ‘black is white’ and ‘up is down’ forecasts have certainly come to fruition. The presentation purports to present Israel as on the front lines against extremism! This is more than laughable when one considers that Zionism, on which Israel is built, is an extremist, racist philosophy, and Israel this year officially declared itself the nation-state of the Jewish people and only the Jewish people, marginalizing the 25% of the population that is not Israeli. Some of those marginalized people have lived on that land since before Israel even existed.

But now Zionists in Canada are going to enlighten us all with tales of how land that belongs to one group of people should really belong to another, and how it is completely acceptable to steal it and kill those who currently live on it. Is there not something in all this that violates the most basic tenets of common decency?

It is beyond mind-boggling to think that anyone would have the nerve to even suggest this, let alone present it as a reasonable idea. Yet Zionists, and now, apparently, those who would model their actions on Zionism, seem to find it all perfectly acceptable.

During Israel’s brutal and deadly bombing of the Gaza Strip in 2014, one Israel publication editorialized that genocide, in some circumstances, can be acceptable, remarking that where Israelis and Palestinians are concerned, genocide of the Palestinians is one such case. Although quickly removed due to backlash, the fact that an Israeli editor could think that publishing support for the genocide of the Palestinians would be acceptable shows a common mindset among Zionists.

And now this disease seems to be spreading to India, at least among government officials, and one wonders in horror if the general populace might agree. Israelis in general all seem to be on the same, genocidal page; is India now so afflicted?

The president of the United States, whoever he might be at any given time, is often referred to as the leader of the free world. This image is often accepted around the globe, to the severe detriment of much of the world’s population. While every president since the bloody founding of Israel has supported it, Donald Trump has taken that support to the extreme, defunding United Nations organizations that support Palestine, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (in violation of international law), and providing the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with all the weaponry and international support he could possibly dream of. Trump likes dictators; will he now throw his support behind Modi’s oppression of Kashmir?

The words of German Pastor Martin Niemoller, spoken in 1934, hauntingly come to mind:

“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Today, one might say that the infamous ‘they’ came for the Palestinians, and no one spoke for them; they came for the Muslims, and no one spoke for them; they are coming now for the Kashmiris, and no one is speaking for them. Who will be next? Journalists? Authors? University professors?

This writer is not Muslim; he is not of Palestinian or Kashmiri descent. But he has spoken for years for the Palestinians; additionally, he opposes all anti-Muslim attitudes and legislation. And now, perhaps coming a little late to the table, he is speaking for the people of Kashmir. It is his duty, as it is the duty of everyone who believes in the freedom and dignity of all people, and who supports international law. human rights and basic, common decency.

*(Top image: National demonstration for Kashmir at the Indian High Commission, London 10th August 2019. Credit: Steve Eason/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on CounterPunch.

A Beautiful but Deceptive Documentary: “For Sama”

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The documentary movie "For Sama" has won a host of awards in Europe and North America. Its producers and protagonists, Syrians Waad Kateab and her husband Dr. Hamza Kateab plus English film-maker Edward Watts,  have received gushing praise. And the awards will probably keep coming.

Unfortunately, behind a human interest story, the movie "For Sama" is propaganda: biased, misleading, and politically partisan.  

Hiding Basic Facts about Aleppo

"For Sama" is a full-length documentary with a moving personal story. It combines a story of young love and the birth of a child - Sama -  in the midst of war. That makes it compelling and personal. But the movie fundamentally distorts the reality of east Aleppo in the years 2012 - 2016.  While the personal narrative may be true, the context and environment are distorted and hidden. The viewer will have no idea of the reality:

* Most residents of east Aleppo did not want the militants to take over their neighborhoods.  The short video, Nine Days from my Window,  shows the takeover in one neighborhood. Many civilians fled the east side of Aleppo after the "rebels" took over. Those who stayed on were mostly militants (and families) plus those who had nowhere else to go or thought they could wait it out.

* The militants who took over east Aleppo became increasingly unpopular. As American journalist James Foley wrote, Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups." Foley's honest reporting may have contributed to his ultimate death.  

* The opposition group which came to dominate east Aleppo was the Syrian version of Al Qaeda, Jabhat al Nusra. "For Sama" ignores their domination, extremism and sectarian policies. There is only one fleeting reference and no video showing who exactly was ruling east Aleppo.

* In fact, the militants (also known as "rebels") were incredibly violent and vicious. A few examples are when they threw postal workers off the building roof, when they sent suicide truck bomb into Al Kindi Hospital, when they slaughtered Syrian soldiers defending the hospital and when they video-recorded themselves beheading a boy. 

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*(Postal workers thrown from building)

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*(Suicide truck bombing of Al Kindi Hospital, Aleppo.)

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*(Nusra militants killing Syrian soldiers who tried to defend Al Kindi Hospital.)

* 85% of the civilians in Aleppo were living in government-controlled west Aleppo. Thousands were killed by "rebel" snipers, mortars and hell cannon missiles launched from east Aleppo.  This short video describes the situation in west Aleppo, completely ignored by For Sama.

Al Quds Hospital was NOT destroyed

"Al Quds Hospital" is featured in the documentary "For Sama". This is where Hamza worked and Sama was born. According to the movie, the hospital was destroyed in February 2016. At the time there was enormous publicity about the hospital and allegations the Russians purposely bombed the hospital. Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres) tweeted "We are outraged at the destruction of Al Quds hospital in #Aleppo". These claims are repeated in the documentary. At the time, there were questions and challenges about the authenticity of the account. It turned out "Al Quds Hospital" did not exist before the conflict and was one or two floors of an apartment building. It turned out Doctors Without Borders did not have any staff on site and simply accepted the account told to them. After east Aleppo was liberated, a prominent medical doctor from west Aleppo,  Dr. Nabil Antaki, visited the location to find out the truth. He was a long-time doctor but had never heard of Al Quds Hospital. He reported,

"I went Sunday February 12, 2017 visiting the Ansari-Sukari neighborhood in order to see Zarzour and Al Quds Hospitals. My guide was a young man who lived there and knows very well the area.

My first stop was Zarzour hospital (mentioned in MSF report) and I found out that it was burned. My guide told me that the rebels burned it the day before the evacuation (information confirmed by a high position responsible in the Syrian Red Crescent). On the side walk, I found hundreds of burned new blood bags (for collection of blood donation). A man met there invited me to visit his building just next to the hospital. His building was also burned and on the floors, I found hundreds of IV solution bags.

Then, we moved to Ain Jalout school. In fact, there are 3 contiguous schools. Two are completely destroyed; one is partially. Behind the schools, there is a mosque called Abbas mosque with its minaret. Answering my surprise to see schools destroyed by air strikes, my guide told me that the mosque was a headquarters of the rebels and one school was an ammunition depot and the other one was a food depot. I noticed the flag of Al Nosra painted on the external wall of the school, and dozens of buildings in the surrounding partially destroyed.

Then, we moved to see Al Quds Hospital. Obviously, it is the most preserved building of the street. Obviously, it was not hit directly by bombs and probably received some fragments from bombs fallen on other building. I asked my guide if any restoration or repair were done. He said no.

My feeling is the following: Ain Jalout school was the target of the strikes, the surrounding destroyed buildings were collateral damages and Al Quds hospital was not directly hit by strikes."

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*(Ain Jalout School (Nusra ammunition and supply depot) that was bombed. Credit Dr. Nabil Antaki)

So we have an eye witness account, plus photographs and video, which show that it is untrue "Al Quds Hospital" was destroyed. This means that claims in the movie about the death of a doctor at Al Quds Hospital, supposedly captured by closed caption camera, are also untrue.

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*("Al Quds Hospital" (ground floor of apartment building on the corner. Credit Dr. Nabil Antaki)

The armed opposition and their western supporters have been faking events to demonize the Syrian government from the start. One example which became public was the Richard Engels Kidnapping Hoax where the militants staged the kidnapping and "rescue" of Engels and team.

Paid and Promoted by the West

Waad had an expensive video camera and endless hard drives. She even had a drone to take video from the air. As confirmed by Hillary Clinton in her book "Hard Choices", the US provided "satellite-linked computers, telephones, cameras, and training for more than a thousand activists, students, and independent journalists." Waad claims she is a citizen journalist but she has been paid and supplied by governments which have long sought the overthrow of the Syrian government. Even in 2005, CNN host Christiane Amanpour warned Bashar al Assad that "the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader ... They're talking about isolating you diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d'etat or your regime crumbling."  

Since 2011, the West, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf monarchies have spent many BILLIONS of dollars trying to overthrow the Syrian government. Just the CIA budget for Syria was near a billion per year. The "soft power" component includes video equipment and training to people like Waad to support the armed insurrection, demonize the Syrian government and persuade the public to continue the war.

"We all suffered... The difference is that some wanted the war."

The medical doctor from west Aleppo. Dr Antaki, does not deny there was suffering in east Aleppo. But he points out the discrepancy in media coverage where all the attention goes to the "rebels". He also points out that all suffered, but not all were responsible. Some, especially the "revolution" supporters, initiated and continued the conflict. He said,

"There were a lot of stories like 'For Sama' in West Aleppo. Unfortunately, nobody had the idea to document them because we were busy trying to protect ourselves from the rockets, to find water to drink, to find bread and essential products which were not available because of the blockade of Aleppo by the armed groups. They cut off electrical power, heating etc.. Yes, people who were in the East neighborhoods suffered from the war as well as those who lived in the West neighborhoods. We, all, suffered. The difference is that some people wanted the war, initiated or supported it and they suffer. The others didn't support it and suffered."

Aftermath

Waad Al Kateab and her husband Hamza are now living in the UK. He is working for a money transfer company and involved with "Al Quds Hospital" in  Idlib. As indicated in the movie, Waad was never proud to be Syrian and she wanted to emigrate to the West. From afar, she claims to be proud of the "revolution" that has led to this destruction and human tragedy.

Meanwhile people are returning to Aleppo and rebuilding the city. There are even a few tourists. Although there are pockets of snipers in Aleppo, Al  Qaeda extremism is mostly confined to Idlib province.

Save Idlib?

The 2019 documentary movie "Of Fathers and Sons" is based on a film-maker who lived with militants in Idlib. Some of what is hidden in "For Sama" is revealed in this documentary. It shows life in Idlib province dominated by Nusra. Women are restricted to the house and must be veiled. Boys as young as ten are sent to sharia school and military training, preparing to join Nusra. They believe in the Taliban, glorify 9-11 and expel or punish any people who do not subscribe to their fundamentalist religion. Youth are indoctrinated with extremist ideology and belief in violence. This is the regime that those who want to "Save Idlib" are protecting.

For decades the West has supported fanatic extremist organizations to overthrow or undermine independent secular socialist states. Most people in the West are unaware of this though it is well documented in "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam" and the new book "The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump".

The Future

Unknown in the West, the majority of Syrians support their government, admire their president, and feel the Syrian Army is protecting them. Even those who are critical of the government prefer it to chaos or Salafi fundamentalism. Waad and Hamza Al Kateab represent a tiny minority of Syrians. Their voices, and the perspective of Edward Watts, the filmmaker who has never been to Syria, are being widely projected and disseminated through "For Sama" while others are being ignored.

When Waad and Hamza departed Aleppo with Nusra militants,  the vast majority of Aleppans celebrated. On the surface, "For Sama" is about romance and childbirth. Underneath it is very political, as interviews with the producers confirm. I suspect it is being widely promoted precisely because it gives a distorted picture.  To continue the dirty war on Syria, public misunderstanding is required.

If Bill Gates Is So Committed to Giving His Money Away, Why Does He Keep Getting Richer?

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Last month Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates surpassed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to once again become the world’s richest individual, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Buoyed by an enormous 48 percent increase in Microsoft’s share price this year, Gates has retaken the title he last held in 2017.

That outcome is partially owed to the whims of Donald J. Trump. Microsoft recently surprisingly defeated Amazon’s bid for an extremely lucrative $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract that sees the company instantly become one of the world’s most important military and security contractors. This decision, Amazon alleges, was due to interference from the president who holds a personal grudge against Bezos, whose Washington Post has maintained a campaign of “resistance” against him.

Gates was also recently in the news attacking the wealth tax that Democratic presidential nomination candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed. “I’m all for super-progressive tax systems but when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over,” the Seattle native said. (For the record, he would still have over $6 billion).

In response, Warren was apologetic, asking for an opportunity to meet with Gates to explain how much he would pay under the plan. “I promise it’s not $100 billion,” she said. But Sanders has been far more forthright in his opposition to the super-wealthy, categorically stating, “billionaires should not exist.”

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Across the media, Gates is presented as one of the “good billionaires”: a warm-hearted philanthropist dedicated to giving away his entire fortune to needy causes. His charitable organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the largest of its sort in the world, holding over $50 billion in assets. His insight and generosity are constantly emphasized in headlines, as the following examples demonstrate.

“Bill Gates: Philanthropist,” BBC, (2/1/10).

“Why Bill Gates Thinks Ending Polio Is Worth It,” NPR, (5/8/13).

“How Bill Gates aims to Clean Up the Planet,” The Guardian, (2/4/18).

“What Einstein and Bill Gates Teach Us About Time Travel,” NBC News, (5/10/17).

“Bill Gates And Other Billionaires Pledge To Take On Climate Change,” NPR, (11/30/15).

“Bill Gates on ending disease, saving lives: ‘Time is on our side,’” Al-Jazeera, (4/27/19).

“Bill Gates gives $4.6bn to charity in biggest donation since 2000,” The Guardian, (8/15/17).

There are a few problems with that narrative. Firstly, if Gates is so committed to giving his money away, why does he keep getting richer? This is not a trivial question: his net worth has increased from $75 billion in March 2016 to a staggering $106 billion today, according to Forbes Magazine, an over 40 percent increase in three years alone.

Lee Camp, a political comedian who covers topics like rampant inequality on his show, Redacted Tonighttold MintPress News:

It is a sickness of our system that billionaires even exist. The UN estimates it would take 30 billion dollars to end world hunger per year. Gates or Bezos could end world hunger for multiple years. We can’t even comprehend that level of wealth. It’s sociopathic. So I’m not saying Gates doesn’t do good things sometimes, but he should not be viewed as a hero. All billionaires should be viewed as sick in the head. They need mental health professionals to work on them before it’s too late for humankind.”

Linsey McGoey, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, UK, and author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropyis profoundly skeptical of philanthropy as a whole, claiming it can actually sometimes harm democracy in the long run: “Philanthropy can and is being used deliberately to divert attention away from different forms of economic exploitation that underpin global inequality today” she told MintPress News

The new ‘philanthrocapitalism’ threatens democracy by increasing the power of the corporate sector at the expense of the public sector organizations, which increasingly face budget squeezes, in part by excessively remunerating for-profit organizations to deliver public services that could be delivered more cheaply without private sector involvement.”

Thus, huge donations give Gates enormous power over the education, health and social policies of entire countries.

Where do Bill’s billions go?

As Foreign Affairs noted, “few policy initiatives or normative standards set by the World Health Organization are announced before they have been casually, unofficially vetted by Gates Foundation staff.” In this sense, his wealth is extraordinarily anti-democratic, giving him veto power over the decisions and directions of organizations that should be collectively made by the highest representatives of the world’s population, not by one very rich man. And Gates is far from omnipotent, holding many of the patronizing assumptions about developing countries and how best to organize the world that one would expect a rich American tech geek to hold. 

McGoey spells out the problem with this corporate attitude to development:

The Gates Foundation has spent twenty years relentlessly championing ‘business solutions’ to inequality and poverty. Through this corporate approach, Mr. Gates personally and the Gates Foundation more generally have enhanced the power and clout of corporations at every level of decision-making, at the regional, national and international level. The Gates Foundation has helped make philanthropy a handmaiden to corporate power rather than helped to empower the non-profit sector to act as a check on corporate profiteering and abuses of power.”  

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One example of the Foundation enhancing corporate power is its close relationship with highly controversial pharmaceutical and chemical giant Monsanto Corporation, whom it helped gain a stronger foothold in Africa. It also oversaw a flawed clinical trial of the HPV vaccine in India in 2009, where 23,000 impoverished girls aged 9-15 were exposed to potentially lethal drugs without even their parents’ consent, leading to seven deaths. He is also preoccupied with controlling Africa’s population through family planning, fearing a population boom. As such, he appears almost more interested in eliminating the people who are suffering than the source of the suffering itself.

Gates is also one of the most important individuals leading the assault on the American public education network in the form of charter schools. Charter schools effectively privatize the public school system, where the public continues to foot the bill for the school, but has no influence or say in how it is run. They have not been found to increase test scores, but are very popular with both the private sector and the religious right, whereas the vast majority of unionized public school teachers oppose them. But, as the Associated Press stated, there is “no bigger champion [of charter schools] than Bill Gates,” who has plowed enormous amounts of money into the movement, even funding the pro-charter school documentary Waiting For Superman.

Buying power and influence

If Gates represents a net negative force in world politics, why does he receive such good press? One reason may be his sizeable donations to a host of mainstream corporate media outlets. For example, the Gates Foundation underwrites the entire Global Development section of the Guardian, and has given the British newspaper over $9 million. Studying its donation database, it transpires it has also contributed over $3 million to NBC Universal, over $4 million to the influential French newspaper, Le Monde, over $4.5 million to NPR, $1 million to Al-Jazeera, and an astonishing $49 million to the BBC’s Media Action program, to name only a few. He who pays the piper, it is said, calls the tune. McGoey claims that the motive of billionaires giving to media organizations is primarily “to help legitimate the spurious idea that large corporate actors can rectify the economic harms and economic inequality that their practices have often compounded.”

Gates himself is the head of a gigantic media empire. We already rely on Microsoft for social media (LinkedIn), entertainment (Xbox), hardware and software like the Windows Phone and Windows OS. The company also owns stakes in media giants like Comcast and AT&T. And the “MS” in “MSNBC” stands for “Microsoft.”

It is a similar story for Jeff Bezos, who, in addition to Amazon’s myriad media ventures, owns the Washington Post, which media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has constantly shown often descends into little more than a propaganda outlet for its boss’s interests. It appears that once billionaires have purchased every worldly material good possible, the only things left to buy are power and influence.

While the media may be full of stories singing Gates’ praises, presenting him as a good billionaire (as opposed to the current president), the reality is that one man with that amount of power, be it political (like Trump) or economic (like Gates and Bezos) has a highly corrosive effect on democracy and society more generally. 

While they are portrayed as visionaries, multi-billionaires are often blinkered in other, very important ways. Just as reports about Amazon workers’ poor pay and shocking working conditions were surfacing, Bezos declared that the only way he could see to spend the financial resources he accrued was to explore the solar system and beyond. Sharing the profit with his beleaguered workforce appears to genuinely not have occurred to him.

If we are to move towards a better society, the philanthropy of the super-wealthy must be scrutinized, as all too often, what appears to be a generous gift is actually a calculated action intended to increase their power, image or influence. As former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee said, “Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.” Bill Gates is not just some rich guy who is unsure about paying more tax: he’s a menace to society.

*(Top image: William (Bill) H. Gates, founder, technology advisor of Microsoft Corporation visits The Department of Energy on October 8, 2013. Credit: Ken Shipp/ U.S. Department of Energy)

*This article was originally published on MintPressNews.

The Agents of Chaos Have Failed - The “Axis of the Resistance” Has the Upper Hand in Lebanon

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For several weeks now, much of the Lebanese population has turned on the country’s traditional political leaders and wrought havoc on the corrupt domestic political system. Those who have ruled the country for decades have offered little in the way of reforms, have paid little attention to the infrastructure, and done little or nothing to provide job opportunities outside the circle of their clients. The protestors were also driven into the street by the US measures strangling the Lebanese economy and preventing most of the 7-8 million expatriates from transferring financial support (around $8 billion per year) to their relatives back home. This is how the US administration has conducted its policy in the Middle East in its failed attempt to bring Iran and its allies to their knees. The US seems to believe that a state of chaos in the countries where the “Axis of the Resistance” operates may help curb Iran and push it into the US administration’s arms. The US seeks to break Iran’s back and that of its allies and impose its own conditions and hegemony on the Middle East. What has the US achieved so far?

In Lebanon, since the beginning of protests, the price of merchandise has gone sky-high. Medicines and goods are lacking from the market and the Lebanese Lira has lost more than 40% of its value to the US dollar. Many Lebanese have either lost their jobs or found themselves with a salary reduced to half. Lebanon came close to civil war when pro-US political parties closed the main roads and tried mainly to block the Shia link from the south of Lebanon to the capital, around the suburb of Beirut and from Beirut to the Bekaa Valley.

War was avoided when Hezbollah issued a directive instructing all its members and supporters to leave the streets, asking its members to stop and persuade any ally members to come off the streets and to avoid using motorcycles to harass protestors. The instructions were clear: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheekturn to him the other also.”

Hezbollah understood what the corners of Beirut are hiding: an invitation to start a war, particularly when for over a month the Lebanese army refused to open the main roads, allowing not only legitimate protestors but also thugs to rule.

The situation today has changed: the Lebanese President is using the constitution to his advantage, equally to the practice of the Prime Minister who has no deadline in forming a government. President Michel Aoun gave the Christians what they have lost after the Taif Agreement: he refused to ask a Prime Minister candidate to form a new government unless he offers a successful and harmonious cabinet membership that pleases all political parties and has strong chances of success.

Aoun was about to offer the mandate to a new candidate, Samir al-Khatib, had the caretaker the Sunni Saad Hariri – who nominated al-Khatib initially – avoided to boycott him at the last moment or did not ask the ex-prime Ministers, the religious Sunni authority and political parties who support him to nominate Hariri in person. The nomination of the Prime Minister is most likely postponed to an unknown date.

However, the protestors have not achieved much because the traditional political parties will hold onto their influence. The new government, once and if formed, will not be able to lift US sanctions to relieve the domestic economy. On the contrary, the US administration is willing to resume its sanctions on Lebanon and impose further sanctions on other personalities, as Secretary Mike Pompeo sated a couple of months ago.

Today, no Lebanese citizen is able to dispose of his own saving or company assets in banks due to restrictions on withdrawals, effective “capital controls”. Only small amounts are allowed to be delivered to account holders–around $150-300 per week in a country where cash payments prevail. No one is allowed to transfer any amount abroad unless for university fees or special demands of goods import of first necessities.

However, Hezbollah, the US-Israel main target, was not affected directly by the US sanctions and by the new financial restrictions. Militants were paid, as is the case monthly, in US dollars with an increase of 40% (due to the local currency devaluation) with the compliments of “Uncle Sam”.

Hezbollah not only has avoided civil war but also has managed to boost the position of its allies. President Aoun and the leader of the “Free Patriotic Movement” (FPM) the foreign Minister Gebran Bassil were in a confused state in the first weeks of the protests. Hezbollah's leadership played a role in holding on to his allies and supporting them. Today, the situation is back under control and the President and the FPM leader are holding the initiative over their political opponents.

Hezbollah will be part of the new government with new personalities and perhaps one traditional minister. The “Axis of the Resistance” believes if “Hezbollah’s presence in the new government disturbs the US administration, then why it should comply and leave? Quite the opposite. It should stay or appoint Ministers on its behalf”.

The “Axis of the Resistance” is convinced that the exit of Hezbollah from the cabinet would trigger further US demands. It is Hezbollah’s legitimate right to be represented in the government since it holds a large coalition in the Parliament. Besides, who will stop any attempt by the US to allow Israel to annex the disputed Lebanese water borders? Who will campaign for the return of Syrian refugees back home? What about the US request to deploy UN forces on the borders with Syria?

Hezbollah enjoys a large amount of popular support and this from a society that is behind it and that suffers as much as everybody else from the country of the corrupted Lebanese system. Notwithstanding its poverty, the society of Hezbollah stands with the “Axis of the Resistance” against the US sanctions and attempts to corner it.

The US administration failed to achieve its objectives, even when riding the wave of protestors’ legitimate demands. It has also failed to drag Hezbollah to street fighting. It is about to fail to exclude Hezbollah and its allies, determine to be part of the new government regardless of the names of individual ministers. The US failed to corner Hezbollah – as was possible with Hamas – because Lebanon is open to Syria and from it to Iraq and Iran. Lebanon has also the seafront on the Mediterranean open to the outside world to import much-needed goods. However, the “Axis of the Resistance” has asked its friends and supporters to cultivate the land in order to soften the increase of prices of food.

The “Axis of the Resistance’ also has lines open to Russia and China. Hezbollah continues trying to convince political parties to diversify the resources and cease depending on the US and Europe only. Russia is proving itself on the political international arena – even if still not enjoying influence in Lebanon – and is able to stand firm against US hegemony. Europe is also happy to see Hezbollah and its allies in power, afraid of seeing millions of Syrian and Lebanese refugees flocking to the old continent. China is willing to open a bank in Lebanon, collect and recycle the bins, offer drinkable water and construct electricity generators. The total of what China is ready to invest in Lebanon is close to $12.5 billion, much more than the $11 billion offered by CEDRE that is linked to the privatization of Lebanese infrastructure.

Doors in Lebanon are open for an alternative to the US. Therefore, the more Washington is willing to corner the Lebanese government and its inhabitants, the more certainly they move towards Russia and China.

The Lebanese have lost much since the protests began. The US has gained a society ready to keep at a distance which is further from its hegemony and its allies have failed to trap Hezbollah. However, protestors did manage to sound an alarm and warn politicians that their corruption can’t continue forever and that they may someday be brought to justice. Once again, the agents of chaos have failed and the “Axis of the Resistance” has the upper hand in Lebanon.

*(Top image credit: khafayalb.com)

Saudi Arabia - A Family Holding Company, Not A Friend

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I speak fluent Arabic.  I was the first professor of the Arabic Language and Middle East Studies at West Point where I was twice judged best classroom teacher and was offered permanent tenure which I declined not wishing to become a permanent school teacher rather than a soldier.

I have spent 40+ years working on or in the Middle East as an active duty US Army officer, diplomat, senior civilian DoD official responsible for intelligence on the Middle East, and South Asia and a business executive directly involved with places like Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was created by the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula after 1900 by tribes loyal to an extreme form of Wahhabi fanatic Islam based on the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam as reinforced by the extremist medieval scholar Ibn Taimmiya.  For him, the only good non-Muslims were either slaves or corpses whose women had been taken as booty and distributed among the true Muslims.

The Saudi pseudo-state remains largely motivated by the same ideas.  There is no constitution but Sunni Hanbali religious law.  There is no toleration of other than the official cult.  There are Shia Muslims in the Eastern Province but they are in constant danger from the regime.

The Al-Saud family (thousands great and small) run the place as their private holding.  Any talk of Saudi citizenship is a bad joke.  In SA there are; The Family, their toadies and flunkies, the Wahhabi Ulema, foreign guest workers and tribal, rural Arabs some of them migratory and others small-town people.  This melange is held together by an effective police state that is restricted in power only by the royal prerogative.

Modernization? Hah! MBS has confessed to the brutal murder of Khashoggi.  The native masses, to the extent that they exist, have been intensively and exclusively conditioned with Ibn Taimmiya's views on the inherent enmity between the Faithful Wahhabi Sunni and the Kuffar (infidels, i.e. us).  The number of Saudi subjects of the king who are not horrified and disgusted by the West is trivially small.

The US has maintained a relationship with this conglomeration since 1944 when FDR met aboard a US cruiser in the Gulf with the creator of The Kingdom.  This symbiosis used to be justifiable on the basis of containment of the USSR and the oil of Arabia.  Neither of those necessities exists any longer.

Donald Trump is driven by a desire to sweeten the balance sheet of the US as well as a deluded belief in whatever it is that he thinks Israel stands for.   Israel seeks to manipulate the medieval barbarism of Saudi Arabia to further its fantasy of regional hegemony.  They should "wise up."

The Saudi who killed three people at Pensacola is representative of the breed.

It is time for a basic re-appraisal of our relationships in the Middle East.

*(Top image: U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2019. Credit: Ron Przysucha/ U.S. Department of State/ Flickr)

Banning Russian Athletes? Politicized International Sports Competition Rears Its Ugly Head Again

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Olympism and other major international sports events are all about profiteering, exploiting athletes, scandalous wheeling, dealing, collusion, and bribery, marginalizing the poor, other disenfranchised groups, and affected communities, sticking taxpayers with the bill, and providing nothing in return but hype and the illusion of amateur athletics at their best.

International sports competition is also highly politicized.

In December 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), complicit with US hostility toward Moscow, banned Russian athletes from participating under their nation’s flag — despite no evidence of state-sponsored doping.

The practice occurs in amateur and professional sports, athletes on their own using performance enhancing drugs.

Banning clean athletes from countries for actions of rules violators breaches the letter and spirit of international sports competition.

On Monday, Tass reported the following:

“The Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has approved recommendations of the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) to strip Russia of the right to participate in major international sports tournaments, including the Olympics and World Championships, for the period of four years” — citing a WADA press statement, adding:

“WADA has also banned Russian state officials, ROC and RPC officials, from attending global sports tournaments.”

They include the Olympics, Paralympics, and FIFA World Cup. RT reported that Russian athletes not accused of doping will be allowed to compete as “neutrals.”

Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) championships games scheduled for St. Petersburg and the 2021 EUFA Champions League final in the city aren’t affected by the ban.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry slammed WADA for “squeez(ing) Russia out of international sports,” a politicized action.

Last month, WADA’s Compliance Review Committee called for punitive actions against Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), along with banning the country from hosting major international sporting events for four years.

Individual athletes should be held accountable for their actions, along with personal trainers or others if found to be complicit – not entire teams or nations without what’s known as evidentiary standards and burdens of proof required in credible legal proceedings.

These standards require “clear and convincing evidence,” beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest evidentiary standard.

Arbitrarily banning Russia from participating in major international sports competition is a politicized move, unrelated to legal standards — part of unacceptable US-sponsored Russia bashing.

In 2016, WADA claimed over 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in state-sponsored doping – credible evidence proving the allegation not provided.

WADA’s latest politicized action is further evidence of international sports competition’s dark side, polar opposite the spirit of amateur athletics at their best.

*(Top image credit: valeriy osipov/ Flickr)

Who Spied on Julian Assange? - The Sheldon Adelson Connection

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The Julian Assange drama drags on. Though he continues to sit in a top security British prison awaiting developments in his expected extradition to the United States, the Spanish High Court has been given permission to interview him. Assange is claiming that the Spanish company contracted with by the Ecuadorean government to do embassy security in London spied on him using both audio and video devices. The recordings apparently included conversations with Assange’s lawyers outlining his defense strategies, which is an illegal activity under Spanish law. The prosecution has also indicted the company director, former military officer David Morales, on associated criminal charges of bribing a government official and money laundering. Morales has said that he is innocent.

Aware that he might be monitored by the British government as well as by other interested parties, Assange would often meet his legal team using a white noise machine or in women’s bathrooms with the water running, but the firm, UC Global, anticipated that and planted devices capable of defeating the countermeasures. It planted microphones in the embassy fire extinguishing system as well as in numerous other places in the building. The recordings were reportedly streamed, undoubtedly encrypted, to another nearby location, referred to in the trade as a listening post. The streamed material was also reportedly transcribed and copied at the UC Global offices in Andalusia, but hard copies of the material were made as well on CDs and DVDs to be turned over directly to the client.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais, which has seen much of the evidence in the case, also mentioned how UC Global fixed the windows in the rooms actually being used by Assange so they would not vibrate, making it possible to use laser microphones from a nearby line of sight building to record what was being said. Presumably the listening post also served as the line-of-sight surveillance point.

The British government willingness to let the interview take place is apparently due in part to the Spanish judiciary’s claims that it has obtained an overwhelming amount of documentary and other evidence that demonstrates that Assange is basically telling the truth.

And there is inevitably more to the story. David Morales, who managed the project, reportedly returned from a trip to the United States and told colleagues that the UC Global would henceforth be doing some work “for the dark side” at “another league” level. According to the New York Times, which has examined the documents obtained by El Pais and accepted that they are authentic, “In the court filing, the prosecution asserts that Mr. Morales returned from a security fair in Las Vegas in 2015… He signed a contract with Las Vegas Sands, the casino and resort company of Sheldon Adelson, and the prosecution contends that Mr. Morales passed information about Mr. Assange to security officials at the company, saying it acted as a go-between with the C.I.A.”

Sheldon Adelson is, of course, the single largest source of funding for the Republican Party and is also widely regarded to be a confidant of the Israeli government and of Benjamin Netanyahu personally. UC Global subsequently worked for Adelson, including managing the security of his yacht whenever it was in the Mediterranean.

According to employees of UC Global, details of the Ecuadorean Embassy operation were tightly held inside the company. Morales would make secret trips to the United States once or twice every month and it was assumed that he was carrying material relating to the recordings, but UC Global staff were advised never to mention his travels to the Ecuadorean staff in the embassy.

The obvious candidate for spying on Assange would be, as both the Spanish government and the New York Times speculate, the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), as Washington intends to try Assange prior to locking him away for the rest of his life. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while director of C.I.A., once referred to Assange and WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service,” so one should have no illusions about what will be done to him if he ever arrives in the U.S.

In one instance cited by El Pais, the U.S. Embassy in London clearly knew what was discussed at a private meeting that had taken place in the Ecuadorean Embassy the day before. And if Washington truly wanted inside information it would have made sense from an espionage point of view to employ the very firm doing security for the embassy as one’s mechanism for doing the spying.

But the rest of the story as elaborated on by the New York Times doesn’t make sense. It is equally or possibly even more likely that the Ecuadorean government would want to know what Assange was up to since it was taking considerable heat from Washington and London to terminate his asylum so he could be arrested and extradited. The fact that Morales did not want the Ecuadoreans to know about his travels suggests that they already knew about the surveillance.What they did not know was that Morales was sharing the take with someone else.

And then there are the British themselves as possible initiators of the surveillance through some kind of arrangement with Morales. They would most definitely would like to know what was being planned in Assange’s defense and going through UC Global would be the easiest way to obtain the needed information.

One might point out that there is another obstacle to the C.I.A. “dunnit” speculation, which is that as a general rule Washington does not spy on London and London does not spy on Washington. As the two countries have been for decades major intelligence partners, it is a guideline that is, believe it or not, generally observed. The British would have noticed any attempt to set up an American listening post within line-of-sight of the Ecuadorean Embassy and it would have created a major rift between C.I.A. and MI6, which suggests that the British, Americans and Ecuadoreans might all have been spying on Assange and possibly even sharing the information.

And then there is the Adelson angle, which brings the Israelis into the mix. It appears to be true that Adelson’s casinos in China were venues used for targeting corrupt Chinese officials by the C.I.A. as far back as 2010, but it is not imaginable that today’s Agency would use the Las Vegas billionaire as a conduit for passing information and arranging payments to Morales. As one former Agency field officer commented, “This is not the way the C.I.A. constructs an operation, too many moving parts.”

If he were indeed a C.I.A. asset, Morales could have used a dead drop or passed his material directly to an Agency officer under cover in Spain before being paid directly for his services. The C.I.A. officer would also be able to monitor and direct the operation through the meetings as is usually the case, which would not be possible if the connection were through Las Vegas Sands security.

One might also add that using a trip to Las Vegas as a cut out to conceal espionage activity makes no sense at all, particularly as Morales would have to be crossing international borders carrying on him highly sensitive information that could come to the attention of security concerned about the frequency of his trips. Morales might indeed have believed that he was working for C.I.A. because that is what he was told by Adelson, but that could easily have been a lie.

It is also unimaginable that C.I.A. would use Adelson as he is recognized by the U.S. intelligence services as an Israeli government asset. His loyalty to the U.S. is questionable. He is famous for having said that he regretted serving in the U.S. Army in World War 2 and wishes he had served in the Israeli army instead. He wants his son to grow up to “be a sniper for the Israel Defense Force (IDF).”

That means that anything going through Adelson will wind up in Israel, which suggests that if Adelson is actually involved the whole exercise just might be an Israeli false flag operation pretending to be the C.I.A. Israel does not hate Assange with the fervor of the U.S. government but it certainly would consider him an enemy as he has had a tendency to expose sensitive material that governments would not like to make public. Israel would be particularly vulnerable to having its war crimes exposed, as was the case when WikiLeaks published the material revealing American crimes in Iraq provided by Chelsea Manning.

So, there is a choice when it comes to considering who might have commissioned the spying on Julian Assange, or it might even have been a combination of players. The sad part of the story is that even if David Morales is convicted in a Spanish court, sources in Britain believe the violation of Assange’s rights will have no impact on the move to extradite him to the United States. That will be decided narrowly based on the charge against him, which is exposing classified information, a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. As the Espionage Act is infinitely elastic and as the preferred U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has a very high conviction rate, there is little doubt that Julian Assange will soon be on his way to the United States where he will undoubtedly be sentenced to life in prison.

*(Top image: Then foreign minister of Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño in meeting with Julian Assange on August 17, 2014. Credit: Cancillería del Ecuador/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on UNZ Review.

Zahraa Qehbaysi: The Situation in Lebanon Is Not a Crisis, It's a Challenge

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Starting your business is like planting a sapling, which requires in the first place not to be easily swayed by fear of failure.  You have to believe in yourself and to work harder at it than you've ever worked at any time, for any project in your life, and if you keep doing that, great things do happen. This is what Zahraa Qehbaysi, a Lebanese entrepreneur, who has launched a zero-waste disability-friendly bakery in the southern city of Nabatîyé, believes.

In her humble Saj-bakery, Zahraa doesn't only offer Manaeesh (Savory Lebanese flatbread topped with either a blend of herbs and spices, cheese or other homemade toppings), but also provides you with doses of motivation, perseverance and love. You can even get or donate books.

This initiative has been taken by Zahraa as Lebanon's financial status is critically deteriorating; choked by one of the world’s largest debt burdens, after years of nepotism, inefficiency and corruption, amid rising political tension.

As the country sinks deeper into a financial crisis, the worsening economy has put a lot of pressure on the people, and many have lost their jobs or received only a portion of their monthly salaries.

The World Bank says the economy will shrink 0.2 percent this year while the UN Development Programme says 27 percent of Lebanese people live on less than $270 a month.

In an interview given to Al-Maydeen TV, Zahraa says that she was a Music teacher and fired from her schools as a result of the deteriorating economy months before she has opened her business.

Zahraa has decided to embark on the journey of challenge and speak up on behalf of thousands of Lebanese youth and particularly women who are capable of empowering themselves and investing their creativity, in face of the US hostile sanctions against Lebanon.

Zahraa's bakery is literally eco-friendly as she is greatly conscious about the impact of human activities and the price the environment pays so that our businesses work. Zahraa shows a commitment to the environment and she is not only interested in making money but also takes responsibility for her project's environmental, social, psychological and cultural impacts. Thus, she adopts measures to promote more sustainable consumption that is in harmony with nature, using biodegradable materials and bringing back traditional techniques.

Outstanding youths like Zahraa restore faith in one's own strengths as starting fresh can pay off in the long run and taking the first step makes the conditions perfect, which also despite it takes a lot of courage, but can be reinvigorating. Having clear-cut and meaningful goals can only hamper your mission, Zahraa says, adding if intrapreneurs aim at creating the solution, they have to engage the problems as there is no royal flower-strewn path to success.

Meanwhile, the Zioimperialists have shifted their focus into starving every nation that resists their colonial conspiracies and hostile sanctions. Concurrently, they are introducing various tactics of their soft war against our youths, which first and foremost aim at inhibiting them and reframing their morale.

Zahraa's anti-imperialist ambitious esprit de corps calls upon those youths to push through these current hard times and resist economically, culturally and psychologically.

Zahraa belongs to a community that upholds lofty concepts such as patience, through which victory is only achieved. This community can never be defeated by whatever war, sanctions, blockade or alienation.

Zahraa, with her black cloak and an ornament-free face, politely and humbly introduces herself as "the daughter of dust and pine," in a simple language that reflects her high culture and valuable durability. She suggests that one can turn the crisis into an achievement, a "stone" that contributes to building a sturdy society. Zahraa expresses an optimistic viewpoint amidst the extremely complex circumstances, which have caused some to surrender or suicide.

Further, Zahraa has refuted the Western stream media, which has been persistently employed in marketing devastating concepts that portray the resistance community as ignorant and secluded. This environment has however fortified itself with patience, insight and shrewdness, has transformed despair into energy and has made crises into challenges and triumphs.

Like Zahraa, Lebanon's youths fear none of Trump's administration threats and would never adhere to its annexationist collective punishment. Besides, they are today, from different ideologies, ever more defensive towards the resistance, which consists a wide community and has parliamentary faction, and which has recently proven itself as capable of standing up to ant Zionist aggressions.

Indeed, Washington knows little about the steadfastness of youths like Zahraa, who firmly reject to contain their resistance and homeland economically, politically and militarily. Zahraa's initiative, among others, is nothing but a message to Washington that its preposterous conspiracies and economic sanctions would whatsoever strengthen in the longer run the resistance and Lebanon in general.

*(Top image: Zahraa Qehbaysi)

Deaths Caused by British Empire Should Be Condemned Just Like Deaths under Stalin

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Western historians who condemn the USSR for the deaths under Stalin​’s dictatorship should shed a spotlight on ​the millions who died under British rule​, including those in engineered famines across the Indian subcontinent.

The UK general election is a week away and a significant chunk of the country’s media, three-quarters of which is reportedly owned by a few billionaires, is hard at work digging up dirt on Jeremy Corbyn to prevent a Labour Party victory at all costs. However, this uphill task is becoming harder as recent polls show the frequently cited Conservative lead over Labour is rapidly decreasing. The possibility that Mr. Corbyn will be Britain’s next prime minister, perhaps at the head of a minority government, is now grudgingly acknowledged.

When Corbyn launched Labour’s manifesto at the end of November, he pledged to conduct a formal enquiry into the legacy of the British Empire “to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule” and set up an organization “to ensure historical injustice, colonialism, and role of the British Empire is taught in the national curriculum.”

The idea of teaching a population about the unsavory aspects of its history, and in Britain’s case revealing how several of today’s geopolitical crises are rooted in the past folly and avarice-fuelled actions of its ruling class, is commendable.

It would be prudent to inform UK citizens about the British Empire’s divide and conquer tactics across the Indian subcontinent and Africa, the stirring up of Hindu-Muslim antagonism in the former, or the impact of the Sykes-Picot agreement that precipitated instability across the Middle East which continues to the present day. Doing so might enable the public to gain a better understanding of how past actions affect present realities, in turn making them more eager to hold contemporary politicians to account so past mistakes are not repeated. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Some right-wingers may be quick to dismiss Corbyn’s manifesto promise as self-indulgent politically-correct onanism. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage commented: “I don’t think I should apologise for what people did 300 years ago. It was a different world, a different time.” Yet, some of the violence perpetuated in the name of protecting the empire’s interests is not exactly ancient history, having occurred within living memory for some. The Malayan EmergencyKenya’s Mau Mau uprising, the Suez Crisis, or the deployment of British troops to Northern Ireland are a few examples.

Segments of the intelligentsia may also feel unease at Corbyn’s manifesto promise, namely those academics who still view the British Empire as the UK’s legacy and ‘gift’ to the world. This includes those who, by extension, consider modern Britain (and the West in general) as bestowed with a cultural superiority that makes it the unchallenged arbiter of global affairs and the indisputable defender of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’, regardless of what these laudable terms have been corrupted into justifying. The invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and the civil wars in Syria and Ukraine are a few manifestations of Western intervention.

Some Western historians fall over themselves condemning the USSR for the millions who died under the dictatorship of Stalin, with a significant proportion of these victims perishing during famines. The people of the former Soviet Union need to come to terms with their history, just like any other country. In the meantime, Western historians should shine a spotlight closer to home. Engineered famines across the Indian subcontinent reportedly killed up to 29 million in the late 19th century and a further 3 million in 1943.

The Indian subcontinent was only one of the regions under British rule and the deaths mentioned above do not include those violently killed by occupying forces. Unlike the USSR, which kept oppression confined within its borders and those of neighboring countries under its sphere of influence, Britain together with the American Empire (to which it handed over the baton of imperialism after WWII) has interfered on pretty much every continent except Antarctica. In modern times we see the UK, now a vassal of the US-led NATO empire, condemn nations that refuse to submit to Western hegemony.

Apologists for Empire claim it brought ‘progress’ such as railways, infrastructure, education, cricket, as well as free trade and order (i.e. Pax Britannica). Irrespective of whether such ‘gifts’ were appreciated by occupied nations, this line of reasoning opens up a dangerous precedent. For example, supporters of Stalin overlook his despotism by crediting him with rapidly industrializing an underdeveloped nation that later played a major role in defeating Nazism, bestowing upon him an honor that instead belongs to millions of rank and file soldiers, officers, and commanders of the Red Army. 

During the time of the British Empire, as was the case with other European empires and many dictatorships, the majority of working people were not personally enriched by the plunder of imperialism and their descendants are not to blame for the actions of the former ruling class. Nevertheless, learning one’s history is the first step to understanding the present, ensuring today’s leaders are held to account, and preventing the same mistakes from being repeated.

*(Top image: Victims of the Great Famine of 1876–78 in India during British rule, pictured in 1877. Credit: Willoughby Wallace Hooper/ Wikimedia)

*This article was originally published on RT.

Uyghur Genocide: The “Muslim Holocaust” in China

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What’s happening in China?

As the media turns to accuse China of the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, research suggests otherwise.

The Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949 resulted in the integration of Xinjiang province with the mainland. Xinjiang – or the Uyghur Autonomous Province – is the most ethnically diverse province in China, populated by 23 million, which is a drop in the ocean compared to China’s crushing population of 1.43 billion. Although China deems the Uyghur Muslims no more native than the Hans, who are a majority ethnicity (92%) in China, the Uyghur’s ambition to form an independent ‘East Turkestan’ is not only rejected by China, but also neighboring Muslim states.

Washington and NATO have expressed strong condemnation of the way China has treated Uyghur Muslims. Of the most prominent organizations which have been rigorously vocal since its establishment in 1996 is the World Uyghur Congress (WUC). The WUC is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is a soft power tool for U.S. foreign policy. While the WUC accuses China of “cultural and religious repression” of Uyghurs, the Turkic-speaking minority have executed thousands of terror attacks in the last 30 years alone. From shanking, to bus bombings, to suicide bombings, to vehicle-ramming, to plane hijacking, as well as killing Muslim religious figures.

But, let’s not generalize. We cannot repeat the same mistakes of the past and stereotype an entire community of some 10 million Uyghur Muslims into terrorism. However, what could be said are two things – one, there is a fertile ground in Xinjiang for extremism and terrorist activity, and two – those engaging in extremism and terrorist activity have a name: The Turkistan 'Islamic' Party (TIP).

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*(Abdul-Haq Al-Turkestani, the former leader of TIP)

An offshoot of Al Qaeda, the 'Turkistan' Islamic Party is a Xinxiang-based terrorist group founded by Uyghur Muslims within the region. Furthermore, the TIP is closely affiliated with the World Uyghur Congress. Reports in 2019 disclose that the United States has been funding militants while performing acts of generosity: $960,000 in donations to the WUC. The TIP is run by Uyghur natives, who take advantage of the vast remote geography to run training camps. Abdul-Haq Al-Turkestani, the former leader of TIP killed by a drone strike, ran training camps in both pre-invasion Afghanistan and Taliban-stronghold areas in Pakistan. Abdul-Haq has not only declared TIP responsible for the twin bomb blasts in 2009 in the city of Kashgar, but he has also threatened to kidnap staff members by sending a letter to the embassy of China to Pakistan. Al Haq, a member of Al-Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, was responsible for recruitment, propaganda, devising and implementing terror attacks.

Is it only enmity with the Hans?

Although Al-Haq has called on Muslims to charge into an attack against the Chinese people for “massacres against Muslims,” multiple videos and reports have shown that Uyghur terrorists are indiscriminate of their aggressive assaults. Hushur, an imprisoned contributor to the Tian’anmen Square attack, told authorities “We had to do it where people were concentrated. We would warn none beforehand. It didn’t matter whether you were a Muslim or an Uyghur, there was no distinction.” In another instance, an Uyghur terrorist detonates a bomb in a market place, severely injures his own uncle, and then is slashed by his own nephew on the scene.

How has China dealt with it?

When it comes to their judiciary compass, China points out “three evils:” terrorism, separatism and extremism – all of which are of serious concern to its social stability and national security, all of which punished severely. On a regional level, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, functions to ensure mutual security and social stability. Members of SCO are obliged to hand over individuals accused of terrorism to China. In parallel, the United Nations has repeatedly granted caught suspects “refugee status,” and US-funded human rights organizations such as Freedom House and Amnesty International expressed concerns over human rights violations against the terrorists upon returning to their homeland. Through UN jurisdiction, the Uyghur terrorists are granted protection by international law until further notice. However, this does not block SCO advancements. For example, after the July bomb blasts in Kashgar which resulted in 18 deaths, investigations revealed that the terrorists who were involved in the act were trained in Pakistan. With this knowledge, Beijing sent out an official request to Islamabad to attain military presence in tribal areas of Pakistan and shut down the camps.

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*(Bazaar in Hotan, Xinjiang. Credit: Evgeni Zotov/ Flickr)

On a local level, China since the 1949 revolution, has been known to limit the religious practice, but not forbid it, unlike what the World Uyghur Congress claims. The Xinjiang province alone enjoys some 25,000 mosques, some of which are being demolished for spreading religious extremism. Because the Uyghur Autonomous Province has been a hot zone for deadly conflict, massive internment camps have been designed and launched in 2017, which host over one million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities. The camps, engineered by a Communist Party official Zhu Hailun, are not the “Muslim Holocaust,” but more like a detention center where individuals are selected according to national databases and artificial intelligence probing for connections to violent separatist activity. Such individuals are forced to undergo ideological change and deradicalization in order to be integrated into Chinese society. In a leaked document by the Chinese government, through the China Cables, tactics and procedures are intricately articulated. The document shows how to ensure the safety of inmates in case of fires, diseases, and disasters, as well as the privacy of the programme. Furthermore, the program has been described as “vocational skills education,” where inmates learn Mandarin, emotional regulation, manners, civility, hygiene, and anti-extremist ideology. The inmates, or “students,” are evaluated by the teachers based on a customized point system, and are granted assistance for employment after at least one year of release.

Counter-terrorism camp could be what it is, and not a Muslim concentration camp which indiscriminately drags Uyghur Muslims from their homes into torture and assault after 70 years of the revolution. However, the high secrecy and restricted media coverage policy of the camps could potentially leave room for setbacks and discrepancies.

How did the US respond?

While the US and other NATO members have signed a letter condemning China’s initiative to counter-terrorism, the majority of UN members have signed a letter of support for the initiative, reinstating China’s legitimacy in the international community. Furthermore, it is fair to say that for countries like Australia, the US, and France to come forward and defend Muslims whilst having a notorious history killing them abroad, it only serves logic that the legitimacy of their accusations plummets. However, upon finding any evidence of assault and violations, perhaps Muslim countries who’ve had open solidarity stances towards Yemen, Palestine, Bahrain and Iraq would have better credibility.

Nonetheless, China declares that upon the implementation of the camps in 2017, there hasn’t been a terrorist attack in Xinjiang since.

*(Top image: Anti-China protest outside White House. Credit: Malcolm Brown/ Flickr)

The Fraud of Anti-Semitism Exposed

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“Newspeak” was the expression coined in George Orwell’s novel 1984 to describe the ambiguous or deliberately misleading use of language to make political propaganda and narrow the “thought options” of those who are on the receiving end. In the context of today’s political discourse, or what passes for the same, it would be interesting to know what George would think of the saturation use of “anti-Semitism” as something like a tactical discussion stopper, employed to end all dispute while also condemning those accused of the crime as somehow outside the pale, monsters who are consigned forever to derision and obscurity.

The Israelis and, to be sure, many diaspora Jews know exactly how the expression has been weaponized. Former Israeli Minister Shulamit Aloni explained how it is done: “Anti-Semitic . . . It’s a trick; we always use it.”

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Indeed, a claim of anti-Semitism even crept into the current impeachment inquiry in Washington, where Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) questioned National Security Council member Fiona Hill about suggestions from “conspiracy theorists” that Hill herself as well as former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch have been linked to George Soros, and that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukrainian Jew, might not be completely loyal to the United States.

Krishnamoorthi asked, “Would you say that these different theories, these conspiracy theories targeting you, spun in part by people like [Roger] Stone, as well as fueled by Rudy Giuliani and others, basically have a tinge of anti-Semitism to them, at least?”

Hill answered, “Well, certainly when they involve George Soros, they do.”

Krishnamoorthi, who is seeking a career in politics, understands that pandering to Jewish power in America is essential, so his question was more an expression of where his own loyalty lies than serious. And his query is rooted in what appears in the U.S. mainstream media, reflective as it nearly always is of a certain institutional Jewish viewpoint. One would think from the New York Times and Washington Post that there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism worldwide, but that claim is largely a fabrication that is being exploited to support making any criticism of Israel and Jewish group behavior a hate crime.

What has been taking place is not hatred of Jews but rather a rejection of how Israel and major Jewish organizations behave. Foremost is the undeniable fact that Israel has been acting particularly badly, even by its admittedly low standards. Its weekly slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza has been unusually observable in spite of media attempts to avoid mentioning it, plus its frequent attacks on Syria and demands for war against Iran have also raised questions about the intentions of whatever kleptocratic regime emerges in Tel Aviv in the near future.

That all means that the perception of Israel, which boasts that it is the exclusively Jewish state composed of people chosen by God, inevitably raises questions about the international Jewish community that provides much of its support. But it is important to understand that the hostility towards Zionism as a political movement is mostly driven by Israeli behavior, not by Jews as an ethnicity or as a religion.

The alleged increase in anti-Semitic incidents is largely fueled by how those incidents are defined. Israel and its friends have worked hard to broaden the parameters of the discussion, making any criticism of Israel or its activities ipso facto an anti-Semitic incident. The State Department’s working definition of anti-Semitism includes “the targeting of the state of Israel” and it warns that anti-Semitism is a criminal offense. Recent legislation in Washington and also in Europe has criminalized hitherto legal and non-violent efforts to pressure Israel regarding its inhumanity vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Legitimate criticism of Israel thereby becomes both anti-Semitism and criminal, increasing the count of so-called anti-Semitic incidents. That means that the numbers inevitably go up, providing fodder to validate a repressive response.

One might add that Hollywood, the mainstream media, and academia have contributed to the allegations regarding surging anti-Semitism, relentlessly unleashing a torrent of material rooting out alleged anti-Semites, while simultaneously heaping praise on Israel and its achievements.

Professor of Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt has written a book Anti-Semitism: Here and Now about what she regards as the new anti-Semitism, supporting her belief that it is getting markedly worse in both Europe and the U.S. There is also a movie about her confrontation with holocaust critic David Irving called Denial.

All of the media exposure of so-called anti-Semitism has a political objective, whether intended or not, which is to insulate Israel itself from any criticism and to create for all Jews the status of perpetual victimhood which permits many in the diaspora to unflinchingly support a foreign country against the interests of the nations where they were born, raised, and made their fortunes. That is called dual loyalty and, in spite of frequent denials from Israel-apologists, it clearly exists for many American Jews, who are passionate about the Jewish state, including members of the Trump Administration Avi Berkowitz, David Friedman, and Jared Kushner.

Much of the recent activity to silence critics of Israel has, ironically, taken place on university campuses, where free speech has been revoked because some Jewish students have claimed to be threatened by criticism of the Jewish state. The growing non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement (BDS) on campus is rightly perceived as a major threat by both the Israeli government and the Israel lobby in the United States. Twenty-seven states and Congress have either passed or intend to vote on legislation penalizing its supporters.

To combat the BDS movement, a recent document entitled A Hotbed for Hate: A Comprehensive Dossier of Antisemitism at Columbia University and Barnard College Since the 2016-2017 Academic Year has been published by a Jewish group in New York City that calls itself “Alums for Campus Fairness.” It claims to be a meticulous documentation of anti-Semitism in action at the two colleges, but when one goes through the entire 33 pages, nearly all the citations relate to protests, speeches, or writing concerning Israel and its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians.

The campaign to eliminate any criticism of Israel or the standard narratives that support the creation of the Jewish state is indeed unrelenting, and where the claim of anti-Semitism is not enough, allegations of Holocaust denial become the ultimate weapons. Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Education Trust said in January, “One person questioning the truth of the Holocaust is one too many.” That is nonsense. Any, and all, historical events should be questioned regularly, a principle that is particularly true regarding developments that carry a lot of emotional baggage. The Israel Lobby would have all Americans believe that any criticism of Israel is motivated by historic hatred of Jews and is therefore anti-Semitism. Don’t believe it. When the AIPAC crowd screams that linking Jews and money is a classic anti-Semitic trope respond by pointing out that Jews and money are very much in play in the corruption of Congress and the media over Israel.

Terrible things are being done in the Middle East in the name of Jews and of Israel, who make the war criminals appear to be victims every time they raise the issue of anti-Semitism. Just recall what the Israeli minister admitted: “It’s a trick; we always use it.”

*(Top image: Raja Krishnamoorthi (L) Fiona Hill (R). Credit: PBS NewsHour/ YouTube)

*This article was originally published on American free press.

Power Network Map Conclusively Shows the U.S. Was Behind Bolivia’s Coup

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The process of intervention and asymmetric warfare by the United States and other countries of the Global North against the government of Evo Morales Ayma in Bolivia has been systematic and multifactorial, however some dimensions can be distinguished that help identify how Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) played preponderant roles to rearrange and dismantle the notion and structuring of the nation-state. Washington seeks to overthrow democratically elected presidents through media campaigns of lies and half-truths, inciting social unrest, delegitimizing the government, causing street violence, economic upheavals and strikes. The standard format implies the role of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Fund for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to help fund NGOs to do dirty work. These have become the “humanitarian” face of imperialist intervention.

Behind the rhetoric of the “promotion of democracy,” Washington aspires to impose neoliberal regimes that open their markets to the U.S. without conditions and align with their foreign policy. In the case of the recent coup d'etat in Bolivia, the work of NGOs is a demonstration of how the processes of deconfiguration of the social fabric are accelerated through continuous financing and the systematic work of U.S. diplomacy in cooperation with local actors.

An international team of researchers have constructed a map that reflects how a network of US government agencies, private corporations, foundations, non-governmental organizations and the media were ‘essential’ in ousting Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. The researchers created a damning map that links the U.S. deep state, including NGO’s, as well as the U.S. government, the private sector and the media that were pivotal to the coup against Morales. The map featured in a report titled “The US and the coup architecture in Bolivia” was published by the Latin American Strategic Centre for Geopolitics (Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica (CELAG)).

A creator of the map, Silvina Romano, claimed that “There is always talk about imperialism and world domination, but people do not believe it because they say there is no proof of it,” which of course is objectively untrue, however there is little doubt that the map has conclusively linked the connection between the U.S. government and transnational corporations – dubbed as the Power Network.

“This Power Network, woven for a coup in Bolivia, shows the link between local, regional, transnational institutions and personal trajectories,” which helps us “understand the minimum percentage, a small part of how these institutions associated with the right-wing parties operate at the local and transnational level when they disagree with the political and economic course of government.”

In 2008 Evo Morales accused the American ambassador Philip Goldberg of conspiracy, with Washington responding by expelling the Bolivian ambassador Gustavo Guzmán. Morales also expelled the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2008 under the same accusation of conspiracy. The U.S. embassy in Bolivia indicated in 2013, when Morales expelled USAID from the country, that in 50 years the agency spent $2 billion on health, education, agriculture, food security, alternative development, economic development and environment. After accusing the agency of conspiring against his government, the president announced that “USAID is leaving Bolivia!”

For its part, the United States decided at the beginning of 2014 to withdraw economic cooperation for social projects that it had in Bolivia. Media published in 2014 an investigation in which it is revealed that, between 2005 and 2006, USAID redirected more than 75% of its financing to separatist groups, which aimed to undermine the government of the first indigenous president of Bolivia. One of the most funded programs, since 2004 when USAID established a Transition Initiatives Office in Bolivia, was the Democracy Program that prioritized decentralized democratic governments: departmental and municipal governments. American-Venezuelan lawyer and journalist Eva Golinger described the role that the Office play in the USAID as one for destabilizing a system.

They function as rapid response teams to political crises in countries strategically important to the interests of the United States and supposedly only handle political issues, even though USAID is supposedly dedicated to humanitarian aid and development assistance. They generally have access to large amounts of liquid funds in order to achieve their objectives quickly and efficiently and function as intelligence agencies because of their relative secrecy and filtering mechanism that involve large contracts granted to U.S. companies to operate temporary offices in countries to channel money to political parties and NGOs that work for Washington’s interests.

After 2007, the Office was absorbed by USAID/Bolivia Democracy Program and attempted to impose an American political and ideological model. All this financing and logistical support encouraged destabilization activities during those years, including extreme violence and racism against indigenous communities, terrorist acts and attempts to murder Morales.

In 2015, the Bolivian government accused NGO’s and foundations linked to both the Republican and Democratic parties, of acting in Bolivia through third parties with “facade companies” that promote forms of subversion. Hugo Moldiz, former Bolivian Minister of Government (Interior), accused the United States of maintaining “a policy of permanent interference in Latin American affairs” and of acting in Bolivia “with the open development of forms of subversion.”

The map outlines the funding schemes from USAID, which is funded by the NED and “linked with the financing of counterinsurgency forces since its establishment in the 1980s,” according to Romano. They are the main agencies in promoting the coup against Morales, according to the study. “The NED has contributed not so much with money as it has approved certain trends and an international view of the situation," she added.

Although there were always the hints that the U.S. were behind the coup against Morales, and there were also plenty of motives for it, this map of the Power Network conclusively demonstrates the huge network that Washington utilized to orchestrate the removal of the indigenous president. This will certainly put other Latin American states on alert and seriously rethink their security arrangements to protect themselves for U.S. coup attempts.

Two Algeria ex-Premiers Get Heavy Prison Terms in Landmark Graft Trial

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Two days before Algeria's decisive December 12th presidential election for the replacement of the long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced to step down, this April, following mass protests, erupted in February, Algiers’ court has sentenced two former prime ministers to 12 and 15 years in prison, respectively, for groundbreaking corruption. Both were close allies of former President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika.

Several other top former government ministers and prominent tycoons were also given heavy sentences in the high profile case. 

The prison sentences handed down against former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdel Malek Sellal were unprecedented, given that no former Algerian prime minister has ever been put on trial since the North African country’s independence from France in 1962.

In all, 19 defendants were tried on charges ranging from “corruption to abuse of power, granting undue privileges in the nascent vehicle assembly industry, embezzlement, squandering of money, the misappropriation of public funds.”

Former PM Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years in prison and handed $16,000 in fines. Former PM Sellal was sentenced to 12 years in prison and given $8,000 in fines.

The Sidi M'hamed court also ordered Ouyahia to be deprived of his civil and political rights and the seizure of all income and property illegally acquired, according to the APS.

The Algerian automotive sector got its start in 2014, based on partnerships between foreign groups and large Algerian corporations, many of which are owned by prominent tycoons linked to Bouteflika' old guard.

One former industry minister, Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run abroad, was given, in absentia, 20 years. Two other former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi, were handed 10-year terms.

Oligarchs like Ali Haddad, founder and CEO of private construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria's main employers' organization, was sentenced to seven years.

And three businessmen who own vehicle assembly plants -- Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi -- were given seven years, six years and three years respectively.

The prosecutor, for his part, denounced a sector dominated by nepotism and favoritism, stressing that the prominent businessmen who owned front companies in Algeria benefited from undue privileges, advantages, tax, customs and land benefits.

During ninety minutes of a tremendous indictment, the prosecutor of the Republic of the criminal court of Sidi M'hamed, revealed heavy losses for the Public Treasury caused by the irresponsible decisions taken by the defendants while exercising their functions. According to him, the automotive scandal cost the treasury more than 128 billion dinars (975 million euros).

He recalled the advantages granted by Ouyahia, Sellal and the former ministers of industry to economic operators, incriminated in this case. Regarding Abbdessalem Bouchouareb, currently on the run,  has squandered 772 billion centimes.

Ahmed Ouyahia, accused of granting undue and excessive privileges, abuse of power, conflict of interests, and money laundering, squandered 7,700 billion centimes,

 Abdelmalek Sellal, for his part, was also "stripped naked" by the prosecutor who stated that the latter has squandered some 2400 billion centimes, recalling that he intervened for the grant of a parcel of agricultural land to Baïri and that he has granted to his son 23% of shares of his group.

Regarding the three operators, Baïri, Larbaoui and Mazouz, the prosecutor asserted that these three businessmen benefited from undue advantages causing losses of no less than 5100 billion centimes.

Talking about the nine companies of  Baïri, the prosecutor evoked, also, 34 companies of Larbaoui and the 27 companies owned by Mazouz. The prosecutor referred to all other defendants, without exception, namely; the former Governor of the province of Boumerdes, the former director of the CPA, executives of the industry and the associates of Mazouz, accused of complicity in money laundering. The indictment of the prosecutor was followed by the pleadings of the lawyers.

Before the court retired to deliberate, the defendants pleaded innocent. Former prime minister Sellal broke down in tears and begged for leniency, swearing he had "not betrayed the country", "I don't have much time left to live."

In closing remarks Sunday, the prosecutor said the trial sent the message that Algeria had changed this year and that "we are here to apply the will of the people".

Following the delivery of the verdict, cheers rose from the crowd of people who gathered outside the courthouse. Some of them shouted “Gang of gangsters!” and many waved or wore Algerian flags, expressing joy.

Parlez-vous Anti-Semitism? - Or Is It All Gibberish?

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It’s polling day in the UK. Right up to the last gasp so-called anti-Semitism has been used as a lethal weapon in this general election campaign. Ignorant and gullible people, supported by a mischievous mainstream media, have deployed it indiscriminately to trash Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party and remove a number of candidates from the lists. I have watched pushy TV reporters demanding to know if their quarry “has a problem with Jews”.

So how would you deal with an onslaught of media and even party slurs, assuming you aren’t guilty as charged?

Do you have a problem with Jews?

Which Jews are you talking about?

Er, Jews in general…

No.

Any particular Jews?

Yes.

Oh. Which ones then?

Israeli Jews.

Why?

Don’t you know what’s going on over there?

Umm…

Go do your homework. I’m busy.

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You are accused by your party of making anti-Semitic remarks. What do you say to that?

What anti-Semitic remarks?

They say you criticized the state of Israel…

Wouldn’t you, if you knew what’s going on over there?

What do you mean?

Do your homework. I’m too busy to give you a history lesson.

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Your leader has said repeatedly that anti-Semitism isn’t tolerated. Yet you made anti-Semitic remarks about another party member.

Is he/she a Semite?

Er, Jewish anyway. That makes him a Semite.

Not necessarily. Very few Jews are Semites according to DNA research. On the other hand most Palestinians are. Are you saying my remarks were directed at someone I thought was a Palestinian? Now that would make a great story.

  ----------

The IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition is what we must go on…. blah, blah blah...

The IHRA definition doesn’t stand up.

Why do you say that?

Read Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the UK’s own Human Rights Act 1998. I can express my views – so can you - even if we upset someone, as long as we’re not stirring up hatred or inciting violence.

But if you criticize Israel you stir up Jew-hatred.

No, Israel’s criminal behavior towards our Palestinian friends – Christian and Muslim – is what stirs up Jew-hatred. The more savvy Israelis admit it.

But the IHRA definition is universally accepted…

No, it isn’t. It’s widely criticized. I’d suggest you read what top legal opinions such as Hugh Tomlinson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and Geoffrey Robertson QC have to say.

So where does anti-Semitism come in?

It doesn’t really. And here’s the irony. DNA research - for instance that done by Johns Hopkins University and published by Oxford University Press - found that only a tiny proportion of Jews are Semitic. Very few have ancestral links to the Holy Land, whereas most indigenous Arabs, especially Palestinians, are proper Semites. Have those findings been refuted? If not, the real anti-Semites would seem to be the non-Semitic Israeli Jews with their hatred and oppression of the Palestinians – including the Christian communities. If you’re so hot on anti-Semitism why not go after them?

  ----------

What about the Jewish community in the UK? We are told they are fearful and thinking of leaving.

The Jews I know have integrated and prospered here. They love it and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Are you saying they are not fearful?

There’s a noisy Zionist hardcore that supports the Israeli regime and claims to speak for British Jews. They make the Jewish community nervous about a backlash. Fortunately, an increasing number of Jews oppose Israel and its brutal policies and actively campaign for Palestinian freedom from Israel’s military occupation. This is admirable but means the hardcore Israel flag-wavers are getting more and more hysterical. 

  ----------

The Labour Party is under investigation for anti-Jewish racism. Isn’t it shocking? What do you say to that?

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission is investigating to see if the party has committed any unlawful acts or failed to deal with complaints in a proper and effective manner. It says it may have regard to the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and associated examples “while recognizing it is a non-legally binding definition”.

So it looks bad for the Labour Party.

The party certainly has some explaining to do, especially the excessive time it takes to investigate and set up hearings and its policy of suspending the accused before checking the truth of the allegations. It must do better. But I suspect the general public are getting bored with the whole subject. And so am I.

*(Top image: Campaign Against Anti-Semitism rally at Parliament Square, London 8th December 2019. Credit: Steve Eason/ Flickr)

America’s Unreliable Friends: Today’s Allies Are Tomorrow’s Enemies

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One might postulate that the United States is regularly supporting so-called allies whose very nature will eventually generate blowback that will do terrible damage to actual American interests. The recent example of the mass shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida by Saudi Second Lieutenant Mohammed Alshamrani is illustrative. Alshamrani killed three American sailors while three other Saudi students filmed what was taking place, presumably for posting on social media.

Though the U.S. and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have no actual alliance, the American and Saudi militaries have a relationship that began during the Second World War. Currently, Washington supports Riyadh as a force multiplier and extension of U.S. power in the Persian Gulf region to serve as a check on what if perceives to be as hostile Iran. Saudi Arabia, nurturing its own regional ambitions, clearly sees Iran as its principal enemy. As the White House also appears keen to do whatever is necessary to bring about regime change in Tehran, the tendency in Washington to serve as an apologist for whatever Riyadh does will continue for the foreseeable future. And, as an added bonus, the Saudis buy billions of dollars’ worth of American made weapons annually.

Someone has to train the people who fly the expensive warplanes, so Saudi Air Force “students” are sent to American bases like Pensacola where they undergo language and flight training that is normally conducted by civilian contractors. The student pilots, surely carefully screened by Saudi security, would be unlikely candidates for staging a terrorist attack in the United States, but the Alshamrani incident suggests that there is more dissidence bubbling beneath the surface than is apparent from the rosy assurances about The Kingdom coming out of the White House and the Royal Palace in Riyadh.

The investigation of Alshamrani continues, but it seems clear that  he was unhappy with aspects of America’s pro-Israel and interventionist foreign policy. He also connected with radical websites on social media and his colleagues report that he would periodically return to the U.S. from home leave in Saudi Arabia “more religious.” On the night before the incident, he showed a film that included a mass shooting.

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Alshamrani is just one element in the considerable potential downside inherent in the undeclared bilateral relationship. Apart from the regional instability created by the fact that Washington has to look the other way while the Saudis use American weapons to carry out genocide in neighboring Yemen, many observers believe that Saudi Arabia is basically unstable. Its prevailing fundamentalist Islamic sect referred to as Wahhabism is backward looking and hostile to the United States and the West. Some have even suggested that a large majority of ordinary Saudis, i.e. not those who benefit from the bilateral relationship, hate the U.S. One recalls that fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

All of which means that the United States is training and arming people who just might turn their training and weapons against Washington if the al-Saud royal family cannot stay in power. The situation is somewhat comparable to that in Afghanistan, where so-called “green-on-blue” incidents in which Afghan army recruits kill their foreign trainers occur on a regular basis. The chief difference is that should the Saudi dissidents gain power, they would have a huge and much more lethally sophisticated arsenal to play around with.

Other regional powers are watching how the situation involving the American presence in Saudi Arabia develops. Recently Iran’s leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei commented on media reports that the Saudis would be constructing U.S. provided nuclear reactors. He said "I do not know of any regime in the region and perhaps the world as bad as the Saudi government. It is not only despotic, dictatorial, corrupt and tyrannical but also sycophantic.  [The Americans] want to supply [the Saudis] with nuclear equipment. They have announced to build missile manufacturing centers for it [and] they see no problem because Saudi Arabia depends on them and belongs to them. Of course, if they build them, I personally will not be upset because I know that God willing [all the weapons] will fall into the hands of Muslim Mujahedin [for use against the Americans] in the not too distant future.”

The current situation with the House of Saud is not good. It is a regime that is under considerable pressure because of its corruption. Internationally, it has few friends due to its widely condemned war in Yemen as well as from the consequences arising over the killing and dismembering in Istanbul of Jamal Khashoggi. The situation also invites comparison with other current and past U.S. relationships in the region. Washington props up an unpopular and unstable regime headed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt while also funding and training the country’s military. In the past, the U.S. was the main arms supplier for the Shah’s Iran, ignoring abuses committed by the regime because Iran was perceived to be a major regional power, reliably stable and apparently western looking.

The United States is also in trouble with its other major regional partner in the Middle East, Israel. As is the case with Saudi Arabia, the United States has no actual alliance or pact with the Jewish state, though such an arrangement is currently being considered. As in the case of Saudi Arabia, the United States has no say in the military actions being undertaken by its client Israel. The Jewish state regularly bombs targets in Gaza, Syria and in Lebanon, just as the Saudis do in Yemen. As the United States is the arms supplier to both nations and is more-or-less the de facto guarantor of a one-sided stability in the region, it has self-assumed responsibilities without having any input into the decisions making process. Trump’s obsession with destroying Iran, which has promised to do in his next term, makes him blind to the deficiencies in the allies he seeks to use to that end.

The situation with Israel is particularly dangerous as the Jewish state possesses a nuclear arsenal and it is widely believed that many in its military command structure are prepared to use those devices against Iran. In 2015, Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon explained how Israel might have to strike Iran hard to prevent a long war. He cited the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then describing the process for making such a decision as “at the end, we might take certain steps.”

Either way, the United States of America is burdened with a number of false allies that use the relationship with Washington to enable their own schemes. If and when the whole house of cards begins to collapse, the U.S. will plausibly find itself with no friends and confronted by enemies that it empowered and also helped to train and equip.

*(Top image: President Donald Trump poses for photos with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, as the guest of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Credit: Shealah Craighead/ Official White House Photo)

Algerians Set to Elect New President Replacing Long-time Bouteflika

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Algeria will be voting for the first time in the post-Bouteflika period on Thursday for a new president amid existence of protagonists and antagonists for the elections.

Algerians vote, Thursday, in the first elections since the outbreak of the pro-democracy popular protests that pushed out the long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power.

Five presidential candidates are competing to replace the ousted President Bouteflika, namely;  interim General Secretary of the National Democratic Rally party (RND), Azzedine Mihoubi, president of El-Bina Movement party Abdelkader Bengrina, former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune, president of Talaie El Houriyet party Ali Benflis, and president of Al-Moustakbel Front party Abdelaziz Belaid.

According to Algeria’s National Independent Authority of the Elections (ANIE), up to 24 million voters are called for the polls to cast their votes in this presidential election, dubbed as crucial and decisive in ending the country’s political crisis.

Polls open at 0700 GMT and close at 1800 GMT. The result will be announced until the following day. The Authority’s Head Mohamed Charfi assured that capital and unprecedented changes to guarantee fair and free polls have been introduced to monitor the electoral process through specialized computer system to prevent all kinds of fraud.

The voting process for nomads and military members in the desert and border territories got its start on Monday, while the members of the national community residing abroad started Saturday to vote for the 12 December Presidential Election.

Algeria’s Head of the State Abdelkader Bensalah said that this political rendez-vous is a historic opportunity to further consolidating democracy and social justice, and building the Rule of Law in Algeria.

Army Chief Gaid Salah, for his part, stressed that presidential elections will trace the contours of the new Algerian state, warning that anyone trying to trouble the voting would face “the force of the law.”

"The presidential polls of Dec. 12 are crucial steps for building the rule of law, and a passage that will lead our country to a new bright and promising era, where the Algerian people would finally be able to achieve their legitimate aspirations for a decent life, in a country whose glory will be made by its loyal sons."

He further warned "to face with the force of law anyone trying to hinder or disturb this important electoral juncture," recalling that "strict instructions have been given to army and security services to act with the utmost vigilance in a bid to secure the elections and enable citizens all over the country to fulfill their electoral act within calm and serenity."

Algerians hope that this vote will chart a new era for the country where the highest office has stood vacant for eight months. The Speaker of the Council of the Nation, Abdelkader Bensalah was named an interim leader to replace former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned under pressure from a pro-democracy protest movement that won the army's backing. The polls were originally planned for July 4. However, they were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates.

The upcoming elections are considered as a safe way-out to the political crisis the nation has been going through for almost 10 months, amid weekly popular protests demanding radical change.

*(Top image credit: The Real News Network/ YouTube)

Someone Interfered In The UK Election, And It Wasn’t Russia

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Ladies and gentlemen I have here at my fingertips indisputable proof that egregious election meddling took place in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

Before you get all excited, no, it wasn’t the Russians. It wasn’t the Chinese, the Iranians, Cobra Command or the Legion of Doom. I’m not going to get any Rachel Maddow-sized paychecks for revealing this evidence to you, nor am I going to draw in millions of credulous viewers waiting with bated breath for a bombshell revelation of an international conspiracy that will invalidate the results of the election.

In fact, hardly anyone will even care.

Hardly anyone will care because this election interference has been happening right out in the open, and was perfectly legal. And nobody will suffer any consequences for it.

Nobody will suffer any consequences for interfering in the UK election because the ones doing the interfering were extremely powerful, and that’s who the system is built to serve.

As of this writing British exit polls are indicating a landslide victory for the Tories. Numerous other factors went into this result, including most notably a Labour Party ambivalently straddling an irreconcilable divide on the issue of Brexit, but it is also undeniable that the election was affected by a political smear campaign that was entirely unprecedented in scale and vitriol in the history of western democracy. This smear campaign was driven by billionaire-controlled media outlets, along with intelligence and military agencies, as well as state media like the BBC.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been described as the most smeared politician in history, and this is a fair description. Journalist Matt Kennard recently compiled documentation of dozens of incidents in which former and current spooks and military officials collaborated with plutocratic media institutions to portray Corbyn as a threat to national security. Journalistic accountability advocates like Media Lens and Jonathan Cook have been working for years to compile evidence of the mass media’s attempts to paint Corbyn as everything from a terrorist sympathizer to a Communist to a Russian asset to an IRA supporter to a closet antisemite. Just the other day The Grayzone documented how establishment narrative manager Ben Nimmo was enlisted to unilaterally target Corbyn with a fact-free Russiagate-style conspiracy theory in the lead-up to the election, a psyop that was uncritically circulated by both right-wing outlets like The Telegraph as well as ostensibly “left”-wing outlets like The Guardian.

Just as Corbyn’s advocacy for the many over the plutocratic few saw him targeted by billionaire media outlets, his view of Palestinians as human beings saw him targeted by the imperialist Israel lobby as exposed in the Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby. For a mountain of links refuting the bogus antisemitism smear directed at Corbyn, a lifelong opponent of antisemitism, check out the deluge of responses to this query I made on Twitter the other day.

This interference continued right up into the day before the election, with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg flagrantly violating election rules by reporting that early postal votes had been illegally tallied and results were “looking very grim for Labour”.

The historically unprecedented smear campaign that was directed at Corbyn from the right, the far-right, and from within his own party had an effect. Of course it did. If you say this today on social media you’ll get a ton of comments telling you you’re wrong, telling you every vote against Labour was exclusively due to the British people not wanting to live in a Marxist dystopia, telling you it was exclusively because of Brexit, totally denying any possibility that the years of deceitful mass media narrative management that British consciousness was pummelled with day in and day out prior to the election had any impact whatsoever upon its results.

Right. Sure guys. Persistent campaigns to deliberately manipulate people’s minds using mass media have no effect on their decisions at all. I guess that’s why that whole “advertising” fad never made any money.

I am not claiming here that the billions of dollars worth of free mass media reporting that was devoted to smearing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party had a greater effect on the election results than Brexit and other strategic stumbles in the party. I’m just saying that it definitely had a much greater effect than the few thousand dollars Russian nationals spent on social media memes in the US, which the American political/media class has been relentlessly shrieking about for three years. To deny that a media smear campaign the size and scope of that directed at Corbyn had an effect is the same as denying that advertising, a trillion-dollar industry, has an effect.

Which means that plutocrats and government agencies indisputably interfered in the British election, to an exponentially greater extent than anything the Russians are even alleged to have done. Yet according to British law it was perfectly legal, and according to British society it was perfectly acceptable. It’s perfectly legal and acceptable for powerful individuals to have a vastly greater influence on a purportedly democratic election than any of the ordinary individuals voting in it.

A free and healthy society would not work this way. A free and healthy society would view all forms of manipulation as taboo and unacceptable. A free and healthy society would not allow the will of members of one small elite class to carry more weight than the will of anyone else. A free and healthy society would give everyone an equal voice at the table, and look after everyone’s concerns. It certainly wouldn’t tolerate a few individuals who already have far too much abusing their power and wealth to obtain even more.

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Internet censorship is getting pretty bad, so the best way to keep seeing the stuff I publish is to get on the mailing list for my website, so you’ll get an email notification for everything I publish. My articles and podcasts are entirely reader and listener-funded, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal, or buying my book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers

Does Israel Believe a War with the Axis of the Resistance Will Be Just a Walkover?

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“There is no alternative to war. One day it will be war on a large scale”. This is what one of the decision-makers within the “Axis of the Resistance” has said with confidence. However, the timing may not be as close as repeatedly advertised by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, despite signs to the contrary. Such a war is most unlikely to happen any time soon. Examining the reasons may be quite revealing.

For the first time in the history of Israel, the election of a Prime Minister is stumbling. Netanyahu needs to remain in power to avoid prison. A war against Gaza is not a realistic option. A battle against Hezbollah in Lebanon would be very costly and is therefore unlikely to take place. The Israeli attacks against Syria may trigger a reaction but not an all-out war on multiple fronts. A war against Iraq is not possible because the US has thousands of forces in the country, offering a perfect target for Iran’s allies when needed. 

On the other hand, attacking Iran – as Netanyahu is advertising – doesn’t mean limiting the war to two belligerents (Iran and Israel) but a widespread war on all Middle Eastern fronts. A well-informed source within the “Axis of the Resistance” considers “there is no valid reason for Israel to be engaged with the US in a destructive war, whose outcome will be doubtful, any time soon”. 

“The US doesn’t wage war on any country if victory is not certain. Fighting Iran leads to uncertain results and huge destruction on many levels. The US and its allies will doubtless avoid this scenario”, said the source.

The US imposed sanctions on Iraqi personalities this month, similar to its procedure against Lebanese figures at the beginning of this year, contributing to curbing the domestic economy with the hope that heavy sanctions may lead to civil unrest. However, the US needs the Iraqi oil to stop its flow and sales to diminish its financial income, mainly when Iraq produces almost 3.5 million barrels per day and its budget heavily depends on oil exports. So far, no indications are leading to the intention of the US to block the Iraqi oil sales, even though Iran is selling some of its oil in Mesopotamia to counter the US sanctions.

It is good to note that the US has no plan to control Lebanon, neither to lay its hands on Iraq. Washington is benefitting from the chaos or at least the instability hitting both countries, essential components from the “Axis of the Resistance, is to its advantage”.

In Syria, the reconstruction plan will take off only when the US is confident it will lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. The US and its allies failed to achieve this in 9 years of war. Now they are trying to overthrow the government using economic leverage- to no avail. The US is imposing sanctions on Syria to prevent any commerce with and from the Levant. Iran, Russia and China are contributing to supporting the government of Damascus to recover, slowly, from the long destructive war notwithstanding the US-EU sanctions. However, the Syrian devaluation of the local currency – similar to Lebanon – significantly damaged the local economies of Lebanon and Syria. However, the two countries are still far from falling victim to US hegemony. With Lebanon, Iraq and Syria slipping away from the US’s control, the only possible option would be a direct attack on Iran.

In Lisbon, during his meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month, Prime Minister Netanyahu said his conversation focused “first of all on Iran”. The Israeli-US fear emanates from reports that Iran’s influence is growing in support of “Hezbollah, the Assad regime and factions in Iraq”. Alastair Crooke, the former British diplomat and analyst, writes about a “prospectus for war with Iran this time, in six months, because Netanyahu needs it to survive”. Considering the date in the next six months, this means the end of the spring and the beginning of the summer. A perfect and usually most favorable time for war by Israel that relies mainly on its Air Force in the first waves of attacks. Notwithstanding all these verbalized indications, are Israel and the US ready for a war on Iran?

Iran is not a country willing to stand by without reacting. It can respond on many fronts, particularly as US forces are spread widely all over the Middle East. Targets are certainly not lacking.

The source believes “Netanyahu is putting pressure on President Trump to keep him in Syria even if the US President has expressed on many occasions his wish to pull out completely”. Netanyahu is telling the US that it has no reason to leave when Iran is preparing for war and that the US forces’ presence in the Levant and Mesopotamia are much needed in this case.

It is within Netanyahu’s plan – said the source – to ask the US forces to disturb or close down the Syrian-Iraqi borders at Albu Kamal – Al Qaem crossing in case of war, making the continuous presence of the US forces in Syria mandatory for the benefit of Israel, under the excuse of stealing the Syrian oil, which is also a valid pretext that suits Trump with his greed for money.

Indubitably, Israel is provoking Iran in Syria by frequently bombing its large forces whose brigade name is  Zulfukar. It is this same Iranian IRGC brigade that uses anti-air missiles to intercept most of the Israeli missiles hitting Syrian and Iranian targets. Iran, in most Israeli attacks, receives at least 12-hours prior warning from Russia about the objectives to be targeted by Israel. This may be irrelevant because the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Forces increased their presence and effectiveness in the Levant over the last five years, ready to be part of any possible war with Israel starting from Syria or Lebanon. Sayyed Nasrallah has said in previous speeches that the “Axis of the Resistance” is ready to support Lebanon in case of war.

In Lebanon, following the failed Israeli drone attacks on the Hezbollah warehouse in the suburb of Beirut, the group considered the attack as a violation of the undeclared cessation of hostilities and a severe break of the 1701 UN resolution agreed following the 2006 Israeli war. Hezbollah promised to retaliate. In response, for the first time in the history of Israel, Tel Aviv decided to lock the entire Israeli military in their bunkers for over one week. No visible trace of the Israeli army was visible for at least 3 km wide and 100 km long away from the borders with Lebanon. Not only that, Israel was providing dummy targets for Hezbollah to bomb, to end the Israeli army’s embarrassment, an army that used to brag about itself, classifying its military power as the strongest in the Middle East. Hezbollah terrorized Israel with only one televised speech pronounced by its General Secretary Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah that was more effective than a weapon of mass destruction. The deterrence policy of Israel and its military preventive ideology against its enemy were smashed. Half an hour after the attack, Israeli patrols returned along the border, humiliated. The Israeli politicians and military officers led by their Prime Minister took their tails between their legs and walked away as no attack had happened.

In Iraq, intelligence sources claimed Iran is building an underground tunnel to store missiles. Also, Iran is accused of “secretly moving missiles into Iraq”, in a way to justify the Israeli strikes on Mesopotamia, as Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi confirmed. Moreover, there are ‘rocket messages’ sent to the US in the green zone, at Ayn al-Assad military base, Baghdad airport and Balad airbase. These rockets launched against the US army deployed in Iraq serve to intimidate the US and carry the following message from Iran: “Your forces are within our reach, and our allies are ready whenever you are”.

Sources within the Axis of the Resistance believe Iran is indeed preparing a significant hit on Israel, without necessarily giving more details or indication as to where and when the strike could take place. This option is still a possibility that could change depending on the development of events in the Middle East but will most likely be hot, on the table, when the US elections come nearer. These elections will probably prevent any US intervention in a broader war in the Middle East, even if the aim were to protect Israel.

Our source in the Axis of the Resistance wonders: can Israel afford to see its seven military airports around Tel Aviv hit by long-range cruise missiles fired from Iran or precision missiles fired from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq? Israeli civilian airports and infrastructure are within Iran and its allies’ reach. Is Israel ready to face a level of destruction never observed before, notwithstanding Israel’s own immense fire-power? Does Israel believe a war with the Axis of the Resistance will be a walk in the park?  

The Pentagon warned that Iran is “increasingly producing capable ballistic and cruise missile with better accuracy, lethality and range”. These Iranian missiles have been delivered to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The source within the “Axis of the Resistance” asks: “Can Israel and its military bases outside Israel and the US military bases spread across the Middle East be ready to confront these accurate cruise missiles?”

The US was incapable of overpowering Iran in the last forty years of the revolution, despite forty years of escalating sanctions. The US won’t engage in a war anywhere in the world where the results are uncertain. The US – and the world – saw the results of provoking Iran during the last tanker war where Iran downed the most expensive US drone which violated its sovereignty and almost shot down a spy plane with 38 US officers onboard.

In Israel, not only is the internal front far from being ready (Hezbollah has precision missiles capable of reaching any objective in its geography), but the politico-economic situation is pitiful. Non-Governmental-Organizations believe 2.3 million in Israel are defined as poor (about 530,000 families, among them 1,007,000 children, in Israel live in poverty). 59% of elderly citizens who are supported by aid organizations cannot afford to make their homes suitable for their medical needs, due to a lack of income. About 64.5% of the elderly who receive aid don’t have properly fitting clothes, and about 49% cannot heat their homes during winter. 69% cannot afford school textbooks and materials. Data shows that 79% of those given aid struggle with a chronic medical condition, about 67% were forced to give up on medication or treatment due to cost, and about 58% had to give up treatment or medication for their children. 

A war would thus seem logically to be out of the question, although the potential for madness and desperation of Prime Minister Netanyahu should never be underestimated.

ABC’s Epstein Story Didn’t Kill Itself

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Multimillionaire predator Jeffrey Epstein died in suspicious circumstances at a Manhattan correctional facility on August 10. The wealthy and powerful New York financier, a convicted sex offender, stands accused by dozens of women and girls of trafficking, rape and sexual abuse. He was an enormously influential and well-connected man who counted as friends billionaire business ownersHollywood starsBritish royals, and even top media figures like Katie Couric and Charlie Rose—with some of his associates falling under suspicion of condoning or even participating in a pedophile ring.

“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” said fellow tycoon Donald Trump (New York10/28/02), adding: “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Former President Bill Clinton was also close with Epstein.

Epstein’s crimes shocked the public, and his arrest, trial and mysterious death were major stories for much of 2019. But last month, leaked footage emerged showing that corporate media knew much about these crimes years previously. Discussing one of his accusers, ABC News anchor Amy Robach was caught on camera lambasting executives at her network for killing her investigations into the sex offender because of Epstein’s connections. The clip was originally leaked to infamous right-wing troll James O’Keefe, who has a long history of producing bogus stories (FAIR.org4/1/103/14/1112/12/1510/21/16), but ABC employees, including Robach herself, have confirmed its authenticity. In the video, Robach complains:

I’ve had the story for three years. I’ve had this interview with [Epstein complainant] Virginia Roberts. We would not put it on the air. First of all I was told, “Who is Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story.” Then the palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew, and threatened us in a million different ways. We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will that it also quashed the story. And then Alan Dershowitz was also implicated in it because of the planes.

“The planes” is a reference to the celebrity attorney’s frequent trips on Epstein’s infamous private jet, which he used for trafficking. A visibly exasperated Robach continued, revealing the level of detail of her investigation:

She told me everything, she had pictures, everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had; Clinton, we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail, and now it’s all coming out and it’s like these new revelations, and I freaking had all of it!… What we had was unreal.

Robach’s comments about being pressured into killing the story by powerful people ABC relied upon are a perfect example of the perils of access journalism. In their influential book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky identified “sourcing” and “flak” as two of the five key filters that dictate what makes the news and what does not.

By sourcing, Herman and Chomsky are referring to corporate media’s reliance on powerful official sources (like politicians, celebrities and corporations) to essentially subsidize them by providing them with free content, such as interviews, soundbites, statistics and pictures. Journalists are therefore caught up in a symbiotic relationship with the powerful, where elite sources grant “scoops” in exchange for preferential treatment. The royal family, Robach claims, successfully used the influence it had, quashing the story by threatening to cut off access.

It is also particularly easy for the powerful to generate flak—negative responses to media content. Flak can take the form of boycotts, angry phone calls, lawsuits, smear campaigns and more. One particularly alarming form of “flak” was the 2018 US mail bombing attempt, where a Trump supporter sent a bomb to CNN headquarters in response to its negative coverage of the president.

Robach brought up Dershowitz, a famously litigious lawyer, as a reason for her silencing. But ABC could reasonably expect great resistance from many of those connected to Epstein, one more example of how stories scrutinizing the powerful are discouraged in the modern media landscape.

ABC News would later claim that they never nixed the story, stating that at the time of Robach’s comments,

not all of our reporting met our standards to air, but we have never stopped investigating the story.  Ever since we’ve had a team on this investigation and substantial resources dedicated to it. That work has led to a two-hour documentary and six-part podcast that will air in the new year.

After the video went viral, CBS News fired its producer Ashley Bianco after ABC contacted them, asserting (possibly incorrectly) that she had leaked the tape during her time working on Robach’s show. Top executives at ABC are reportedly “freaking out” over the anonymous employee’s identity, spending far more energy and resources trying to find the leaker than in investigating why it enabled a serial sexual predator to continue offending.

Perhaps even more worryingly, corporate media rivals have largely not touched the story. Neither Robach’s revelation nor Bianco’s termination have been reported on by MSNBCCNNCBS or the New York Times, nearly a month after the video first leaked. Thus the story of a major media outlet covering up the crimes of a monster, with the only person to face any sanction being the alleged whistleblower,  whom two outlets combined to punish, appears not to qualify as a newsworthy event to much of the press.

Indeed, Epstein’s team managed to convince many supposedly reputable outlets, including the Huffington Post (11/17/17), Forbes (10/2/13) and the National Review (7/10/13) to publish puff pieces about him (New York Times7/21/19). (Epstein pled guilty to charges connected to sexual abuse of minors in 2008.) Forbes described him as “one of the largest backers of cutting-edge science around the world,” making no mention of his criminal past. The stated writer was paid $600 by a PR firm to attach his name to the pre-fab article and run it on the site, perhaps the most blatantly unethical sponsorship practice there could be.

ABC’s decision to spike the Epstein exposé in order not to embarrass or implicate his powerful associates, thereby effectively enabling his crimes, is a perfect example of the danger of access journalism. Robach predicted, “There will come a day where we will realize Jeffrey Epstein was the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known.” Thanks to our corporate media system, that day was delayed by at least three years.

*This article was originally published on fair.

Canada’s Latest UN Stance Fails to Affirm Commitment to Palestinians’ Political Rights

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UN resolutions on Palestine are given more prominence than the Palestinian people themselves. What happens within the UN premises sets an agenda that is difficult to challenge, mainly because international consensus rarely makes it beyond resolution texts to implementation. As a result, an unexpected shift from the predictable votes, particularly if perceived as an affront by Israel, ends up becoming the focus of both scrutiny and illusions.

Canada’s vote in favor of Palestinian self-determination last November was the subject of much pondering over whether President Justin Trudeau was promoting a change in his country’s foreign policy. However, this week Trudeau set the record straight – there is no shift in Canada’s support for Israel.

“The government felt that it was important to reiterate its commitment to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution at a time when its prospects appear increasingly under threat,” Trudeau stated. “We will continue to stand out strongly against the singling out of Israel at the UN. Canada remains a steadfast supporter of Israel and Canada will always defend Israel’s right to live in security.”

In explaining its vote, Canada departed from the two-state paradigm. It was careful to assert that Israel is “unfairly singled out for criticism” at the UN. Palestinian self-determination and the two-state compromise are merely catchphrases at the UN, which means that Canada’s vote in favor was a mere embellishment lacking commitment to Palestinian political rights.

Undoubtedly, it signified opposition to the US unilaterally trampling over Palestinians’ rights, in particular with its latest statement declaring settlements are not illegal.

But the vote in itself changes nothing except a departure from the usual formalities. Canada could have abstained, yet its choice to vote against has not signaled any change for Palestinians, other than temporary jubilation at the news. The point of contention is not whether Canada voted for or against. The country’s anti-BDS stance and its upholding of Israeli security narratives even when war crimes were being committed against Palestinians in Gaza are indicative of allegiance to Israel – much more than a single departure from its usual voting patterns regarding UN resolutions on Palestine.

In addition, Trudeau has clearly reaffirmed his government’s support for the Zionist colonial project, in much the same way as the rest of the international community voting in favor of UN resolutions have done countless times. The difference is minimal and the outcome is the same. As long as the two-state framework is promoted and, within the current developments, not only as the only purported option but also in opposition to the US deal of the century, the fact remains that international action against Palestine has overshadowed any resonance that resolutions might have had for Palestinians.

Hence, the ineffectiveness of UN resolutions has far greater impact, in particular since the US has clearly shifted itself out of international consensus. For decades, UN resolutions have not contributed to a change in Palestine’s quest for its political rights. On the other hand, political passivity about Palestine has enabled Israel to extend an interim period to an interminable presence and this is what Canada is committed to supporting, regardless of a one-time change in its voting preferences.

*(Top image credit: Moodycamera Photography/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on Middleeastmonitor.

Are the Trudeau Liberals “Two-Faced” on Israel/Palestine?

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At the recent NATO summit, US President Trump called Canadian prime minister Trudeau “two-faced” for gossiping about him behind his back. That was certainly mean and rude. But it might be an accurate description of the Trudeau Liberal policy towards Israel/Palestine.

Last month, in a move which caught many by surprise, Canada voted “for” a UN resolution affirming the Palestinian right to self-determination. But then on December 3, Canada voted “against” the UN committee tasked with promoting that very right.

The resolution that Canada and 163 other nations supported (only Israel, the US, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Nauru opposed) read: “Affirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, 1. Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine.”

In explaining its vote, Canada’s UN representative said the resolution “addresses the core issue of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict. It is essential that both sides of the conflict have a prosperous future.” A Global Affairs Canada official said the vote “sends a message that Canada does not agree with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion” on the legality of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Israel lobby in Canada enraged

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) called the vote a “betrayal.” Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said the resolution “unfairly implies that Israel is responsible for the Palestinians’ self-determination.” Both CIJA and UN Watch launched online petitions.

The titles of articles in the National Post and Montreal community newspaper The Suburban (“Trudeau’s Faustian bargain” and “Trudeau joins the jackals…”) both channeled quotes from UN Watch CEO Hillel NeuerConservative leader Andrew Scheer called Canada’s vote “appalling,” while Liberal MP Michael Levitt expressed “concern and disappointment.”

But there was also support. NDP MP Charlie Angus congratulated Trudeau “on ensuring that Canada’s vote at the UN recognized the rights of Palestinians.” In a letter to Trudeau, 14 Canadian-Palestinian organizations thanked the government for its “principled vote.” Independent Jewish Voices Canada and CJPME also extended their congratulations. All expressed the hope that the vote signaled the beginning of a more balanced approach to the conflict and stronger support for human rights.

In the face of all this, newly-appointed Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne hastened to issue reassurances to the Jewish community. “Canada has been in touch with members of the Jewish community about its decision to support the UN resolution. I think people in the Jewish community in Canada and across the world see Canada as an ally but there are times when we must express our opinion and our position as we did yesterday at the UN” he declared.

Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-Andre Blanchard, appeared to strengthen that resolve by tweeting: “Le Canada retrouve sa voix à l’ONU” [“Canada finds its voice at the UN”], linking to an editorial in Quebec’s influential media outlet, La Presse, which had praised Canada’s vote.

So that means the Trudeau Liberals really are “returning Canada to an ‘honest broker’ role in the Middle East,” as then Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion promised four years ago? Right?

Hmmm…Maybe not.

On December 3, Canada voted in quick succession against five resolutions concerning Israel/Palestine, including one enabling the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” This is the very committee tasked with promoting the Palestinian right to self-determination, the right which Canada claims to support because it “addresses the core issue of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.”

So what’s going on? In the coming weeks, the UN General Assembly will debate and vote on several more resolutions related to Israel/Palestine. Where will Canada stand? Are the Trudeau Liberals signaling the change promised by Dion, or will they continue to ally themselves with the US and a quartet of South Pacific dependencies in wall-to-wall opposition to all resolutions critical of Israel’s actions?

The pressure is on. On December 5, the National Post quoted former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accusing Canada of “striking a deal with the devil” by supporting the resolution. The following day, Conservatives attacked Trudeau in Question Period – Peter Kent characterizing Canada’s vote as “faithlessness of Liberal Canadian foreign policy.”

And remember, the Canadian vote that has so upset Israel and its advocates? That was actually just a committee vote on a draft resolution which must now be voted on again in the UN General Assembly. The committee’s report, including this draft resolution, will be presented to the General Assembly on December 18 – and there is nothing preventing Canada from changing its vote if it chooses.

Will the Trudeau Liberals maintain their support for Palestinian self-determination? Or are they really “two-faced,” as Trump claims?

*(Top image: President Donald J. Trump meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London, England, on December 3, 2019. Credit: Ron Przysucha/ U.S. Department of State/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

UK Election - Victory for English Nationalism under the Banner of Brexit

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Overnight the electoral map of the UK has changed significantly. Scotland is once again bathed in a sea of yellow, as England has been shrouded in blue. With the Scottish National Party obtaining 45% of the vote north of the border, and the Conservatives only 25% it is clear not only is there no mandate for Brexit in Scotland, but as leader Nicola Sturgeon has said, there is now very much a mandate for holding a second referendum on Scottish Independence.

England, on the other hand has put its support resoundingly behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his mantra of ‘Get Brexit Done’. With a remarkable 364 seats, as opposed to Labour’s 203 - its worst performance since 1935 - he proclaimed that a ‘political earthquake’ had occurred and that he would end all the squabbling of the last few years he would take the country out of the EU ‘no ifs and no buts’. This was a message that appealed to the majority, clearly sickened by the deadlock of Brexit. Despite the radical spending programme proposed by the Labour party, this election ended up being, as it was promoted, all about Brexit.

And this takes us to the broader context of what is in fact happening in the UK. Indeed, it’s important to see this election in the wider European political landscape. This was not just a Conservative party win, but a victory for nationalism. Not just Scottish Nationalism, but English Nationalism under the banner of Brexit, and Welsh and Irish Nationalism. For the first time ever, Northern Ireland elected more Nationalist MPs than Unionist, in what was also, like Scotland, an anti-Brexit vote, which will spur on more talk of Irish reunification. Welsh Nationalist party Plaid Cymru also held on to its four seats in Wales.

So while it may be portrayed as a landslide victory for the Conservatives, this election more than ever has shown up the cracks forming in the Union. Scottish Nationalism appears to be on an irreversible path to independence, with the question now being not if there will be a referendum on independence, but when. The strong Remain vote up north has only boosted the case for leaving the UK, as Scotland places more importance on being part of Europe, than being part of Britain. England, for its part, has clearly put more emphasis on being out of Europe, than it has on retaining the Union.

Indeed, looking at the western world in general, the popularity of nationalist and right-wing parties is undisputedly on the rise. The AfD in Germany, the National Front in France or Vox in Spain - these parties are all gaining popularity, just as Trump has in the US. And together with Johnson’s Conservatism, they all have something in common, that ‘populist’ appeal that really gets its message across. For regardless of their party leaders’ sins (Boris Johnson has been repeatedly been lambasted as a liar, racist, and misogynist), they have not been enough to deter voters, for whom clearly the nation state is what matters most.

There’s no doubt that Brexit has been a shock for the EU. Arguably Britain had always been a hesitant member, refusing to join the Euro, or join the Schengen zone (which allows borderless travel between states); it never quite developed that European mindset. But the Brexit vote took EU politicians by surprise, sending shockwaves across a Union already under pressure from Eurosceptic parties. They will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief in Brussels that the Brexit stalemate will now be broken with Boris Johnson’s parliamentary majority - finally a deal can be passed - but the reality that one of their major players finally leaving must be making them nervous.

Boris Johnson put faith in the people, and the gamble paid off. But whether he appreciates the real seismic consequences of this ‘political earthquake’ is another question. For cracks are not only emerging between Britain and Europe, but across the United Kingdom itself. It’s the price to be paid for Brexit.

*(Top image: Boris Johnson's Statement to the House of Commons 25/09/2019. Credit: Jessica Taylor/ UK Parliament/ Flickr)

Source: InfoBrics

Algeria: Former PM Tebboune Declared Winner of Presidential Election

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Former Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune has won Algeria’s decisive presidential election without the need for a second-round runoff, replacing the long-serving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, pushed out by the fierce pro-democracy popular protests, erupted in February.

Tebboune, 74, snatched 58.15% of the vote, trouncing his four fellow contenders, namely; interim Secretary-General of the National Democratic Rally party (RND), Azzedine Mihoubi, president of El-Bina Movement party Abdelkader Bengrina, president of Talaie El Houriyet party Ali Benflis, and president of Al-Moustakbel Front party Abdelaziz Belaid, according to the preliminary results announced by the Chairman of the National Independent Electoral Authority, Mohamed Charfi, on Friday.

The number of voters, the electoral body's head said in a televised news conference in Algiers, reached 9,692,077 out of more than 24 million electors, including 914,308 registered at the diplomatic and consular centers abroad.

Opponents of the election had gathered especially in Kabylie, storming the polling stations to prevent elections’ supporters from casting their votes. They demanded the total dismantling of the system before the organization of any ballot.

Tebboune served as Minister of Housing from 2001 to 2002 and again from 2012 to 2017. He, also, held the position of Prime Minister for less than three months in 2017. He was then dismissed by the then-President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika and replaced by Ahmed Ouyahia, currently in prison.

According to the Electoral Authority, the Constitutional Council will announce the final results of the presidential election during the period between 16 and 25 December.

Algerians hope this decisive vote will be a crucial steps for building the rule of law, and a passage that will lead the North African country to a new bright and promising era, where the Algerian people would finally be able to achieve their legitimate aspirations for a decent life, in a country whose glory will be made by its loyal sons.

*(Top image: Abdelmadjid Tebboune. Credit: Wikipedia)

Election Result Signals a Possible End of the United Kingdom

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On the face of it, Thursday’s election result could hardly have been better for Boris Johnson and his ruling Conservative Party. Campaigning on a simple slogan of “get Brexit done,” the Tories romped to victory, winning 365 of a total of 650 seats, easily enough for a comfortable majority government. In his victory speech, the Prime Minister claimed that he was humbled that the British public had put their trust in him, and promised to make it is mission to work night and day, flat out, to get Brexit done by January 31st, “no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”

Even better, his rivals suffered huge defeats; after what he called a “very disappointing night for the Labour Party,” Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing down after four years in charge. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson suffered the embarrassment of losing her East Dunbartonshire seat.

The results will be interpreted as a very clear mandate for Johnson to push forward in his plans for a quick departure from the European Union. And yet the irony is that it is precisely this insistence from many in the Conservative and Unionist Party, to give it its full name, that could lead to the breakup of the union, ending the United Kingdom forever. An October poll found that the majority of English Conservative voters would accept the fragmentation of the UK as a price for leaving the EU. Those voters may get their wish– and sooner than expected.

Scotland, who overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, gave the Scottish National Party (SNP) an enormous majority as the party won 47 of the country’s 59 seats on 45% of the total vote share, 12 more seats than it got in 2017. This is added to the 69 out of a possible 129 representatives in occupies in the local Scottish government, a remarkable achievement in a multi-party, proportional representation system.

The result is an undeniable mandate for a second independence referendum, the last on coming in 2014, where 45% of Scots voted to leave the union. Polls suggest that the majority will vote for independence this time. A key talking point from the anti-independence side was that the country could not be certain of staying in the EU if it left the UK, a trump card that has now turned to dust. Johnson has talked of blocking a second referendum, but SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has suggested they might organize one anyway, without the backing of London, and as imminently as in a few months.

In England, the two unionist, pro-EU parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats felt the ire of voters, leaving the political center rather vacant. Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the strongly right-wing Protestant Democratic Unionist Party leader Nigel Dodds spectacularly lost his seat to Sinn Fein’s John Finucane. Finucane’s father was the victim of an infamous murder by loyalist paramilitaries. But Sinn Fein, a leftist party that stands for a united Ireland, has its own deep connections to the IRA. Since September, surveys have shown that a majority of Northern Irish also favor leaving the UK and unifying with the Republic of Ireland, which wrested its own independence from the UK in 1922 after a bitter armed struggle. The fact that Johnson is charging ahead with Brexit, which has much more profound consequences for Northern Ireland due to its land border with and deep connections to the EU member state to its south, will do nothing to reverse this trend.

For the first time in history, the north has elected a majority of Irish nationalist and republican politicians to the Westminster parliament, with Sinn Fein receiving 47% of the vote itself. Its leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed that the calls for a referendum on Irish unification were now “impossible to ignore.”

The underlying reason for the growing nationalist and separatist sentiment is the decades of neoliberal policies that have brought with it economic dislocation, austerity and a generalized discontent. Both real wages and living standards have been on a long, slow decline since the 1970s. This has been most apparent in the post-industrial north of England, not coincidentally the area with the strongest pro-Brexit sentiment. On the other hand, the populations of the ravaged cities of Glasgow and Belfast have had their energies channeled into a more progressive vision of independence.

It is precisely the Conservative Party who are most responsible for implementing the economic changes that have led to this situation. Ironic then, that they have been granted the dubious honor of pushing through a Brexit that will likely only make the problem worse. In his victory speech outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson described himself as a “one nation Conservative.” He may be ruling over a much smaller one very soon.

*(Top image: Rallying in Middlesbrough. Credit: Jeremy Corbyn/ Flickr)

The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control

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In the 1920s, the influential American intellectual Walter Lippman argued that the average person was incapable of seeing or understanding the world clearly and needed to be guided by experts behind the social curtain.  In a number of books he laid out the theoretical foundations for the practical work of Edward Bernays, who developed “public relations” (aka propaganda) to carry out this task for the ruling elites.  Bernays had honed his skills while working as a propagandist for the United States during World War I, and after the war he set himself up as a public relations counselor in New York City.

There is a fascinating exchange at the beginning of Adam Curtis’s documentary, The Century of Self, where Bernays, then nearly 100 years old but still very sharp, reveals his manipulative mindset and that of so many of those who have followed in his wake.  He says the reason he couldn’t call his new business “propaganda” was because the Germans had given propaganda a “bad name,” and so he came up with the euphemism “public relations.”  He then adds that “if you could use it [i.e. propaganda] for war, you certainly could use it for peace.”  Of course, he never used PR for peace but just to manipulate public opinion (he helped engineer the CIA coup against the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 with fake news broadcasts).  He says “the Germans gave propaganda a bad name,” not Bernays and the United States with their vast campaign of lies, mainly aimed at the American people to get their support for going to a war they opposed (think weapons of mass destruction).  He sounds proud of his war propaganda work that resounded to his credit since it led to support for the “war to end all wars” and subsequently to a hit movie about WWI, Yankee Doodle Dandy, made in 1942 to promote another war, since the first one somehow didn’t achieve its lofty goal.

As Bernays has said in his book Propaganda,

The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today.

He was a propagandist to the end.  I suspect most viewers of the film are taken in by these softly spoken words of an old man sipping a glass of wine at a dinner table with a woman who is asking him questions. I have shown this film to hundreds of students and none has noticed his legerdemain.  It is an example of the sort of hocus-pocus I will be getting to shortly, the sly insertion into seemingly liberal or matter-of-fact commentary of statements that imply a different story.  The placement of convincing or confusing disingenuous ingredients into a truth sandwich – for Bernays knew that the bread of truth is essential to conceal untruth.

In the following years, Bernays, Lippman, and their ilk were joined by social “scientists,” psychologists, and sundry others intent on making a sham out of the idea of democracy by developing strategies and techniques for the engineering of social consensus consonant with the wishes of the ruling classes.  Their techniques of propaganda developed exponentially with the development of technology, the creation of the CIA, its infiltration of all the major media, and that agency’s courting of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called in the 1950s “the compatible left,” having already had the right in its pocket. Today most people are, as is said, “wired,” and they get their information from the electronic media that is mostly controlled by giant corporations in cahoots with government propagandists.  Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks increased or decreased over your lifetime. The answer is obvious: the average people that Lippman and Bernays trashed are losing and the ruling elites are winning.

This is not just because powerful propagandists are good at controlling so-called “average” people’s thinking, but, perhaps more importantly, because they are also adept – probably more so – at confusing or directing the thinking of those who consider themselves above average, those who still might read a book or two or have the concentration to read multiple articles that offer different perspectives on a topic.  This is what some call the professional and intellectual classes, perhaps 15-20 % of the population, most of whom are not the ruling elites but their employees and sometimes their mouthpieces.  It is this segment of the population that considers itself “informed,” but the information they imbibe is often sprinkled with bits of misdirection, both intentional and not, that beclouds their understanding of important public matters but leaves them with the false impression that they are in the know.

Recently I have noticed a group of interconnected examples of how this group of the population that exerts influence incommensurate with their numbers has contributed to the blurring of lines between fact and fiction. Within this group there are opinion makers who are often journalists, writers, and cultural producers of some sort or other, and then the larger number of the intellectual or schooled class who follow their opinions.  This second group then passes on their received opinions to those who look up to them.

There is a notorious propaganda outfit called Bellingcat, started by an unemployed Englishman named Eliot Higgins, that has been funded by The Atlantic Council, a think-tank with deep ties to the U.S. government, NATO, war manufacturers, and their allies, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), another infamous U.S. front organization heavily involved in so-called color revolution regime change operations all around the world, that has just won the International Emmy Award for best documentary. The film with the Orwellian title, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, received its Emmy at a recent ceremony in New York City.  Bellingcat is an alleged group of amateur on-line researchers who have spent years shilling for the U.S. instigated war against the Syrian government, blaming the Douma chemical attack and others on the Assad government, and for the anti-Russian propaganda connected to, among other things, the Skripal poisoning case in England, and the downing of flight MH17 plane in Ukraine. It has been lauded by the corporate mainstream media in the west.  Its support for the equally fraudulent White Helmets (also funded by the US and the UK) in Syria has also been praised by the western corporate media while being dissected as propaganda by many excellent independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Catte Black, among others.  It’s had its work skewered by the likes of Seymour Hersh and MIT professor Theodore Postol, and its US government connections pointed out by many others, including Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal at The Gray Zone. And now we have the mainstream media’s wall of silence on the leaks from the Organization for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concerning the Douma chemical attack and the doctoring of their report that led to the illegal U.S. bombing of Syria in the spring of 2018.  Bellingcat was at the forefront of providing justification for such bombing, and now the journalists Peter Hitchens, Tareq Harrad (who recently resigned from Newsweek after accusing the publication of suppressing his revelations about the OPCW scandal) and others are fighting an uphill battle to get the truth out.

Yet Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World won the Emmy, fulfilling Bernays’ point about films being the greatest unconscious carriers of propaganda in the world today.

Who presented the Emmy Award to the filmmakers, but none other than the rebel journalist Chris Hedges.  Why he did so, I don’t know.  But that he did so clearly sends a message to those who follow his work and trust him that it’s okay to give a major cultural award to a propaganda outfit.  But then, perhaps he doesn’t consider Bellingcat to be that.

Nor, one presumes, does The Intercept, the billionaire Pierre Omidyar owned publication associated with Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, and also read by many progressive-minded people. The Intercept that earlier this year disbanded the small team that was tasked with reviewing and releasing more of the massive trove of documents they received from Edward Snowden six years ago, a minute number of which have ever been released or probably ever will be. As Whitney Webb pointed out, last year The Intercept  hosted a workshop for Bellingcat.  She wrote:

The Intercept, along with its parent company First Look Media, recently hosted a workshop for pro-war, Google-funded organization Bellingcat in New York. The workshop, which cost $2,500 per person to attend and lasted five days, aimed to instruct participants in how to perform investigations using “open source” tools — with Bellingcat’s past, controversial investigations for use as case studies…Thus, while The Intercept has long publicly promoted itself as an anti-interventionist and progressive media outlet, it is becoming clearer that – largely thanks to its ties to Omidyar – it is increasingly an organization that has more in common with Bellingcat, a group that launders NATO and U.S. propaganda and disguises it as “independent” and “investigative journalism.”

Then we have Jefferson Morley, the editor of The Deep State, former Washington Post journalist, and JFK assassination researcher, who has written a praiseworthy review of the Bellingcat film and who supports Bellingcat.  “In my experience, Bellingcat is credible,” he writes in an Alternet article, “Bellingcat documentary has the pace and plot of a thriller.”

Morley has also just written an article for Counterpunch – “Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’” – in which he disputes the claim that the April 7, 2018 attack in the Damascus suburb was a false flag operation carried out by Assad’s opponents. “I do not see any evidence proving that Douma was a false flag incident,” he writes in this article that is written in a style that leaves one guessing as to what exactly he is saying.  It sounds convincing unless one concentrates, and then his double messages emerge.  Yet it is the kind of article that certain “sophisticated” left-wing readers might read and feel is insightful.  But then Morley, who has written considerably about the CIA, edits a website that advertises itself as “the thinking person’s portal to the world of secret government,” and recently had an exchange with former CIA Director John Brennan where “Brennan put a friendly finger on my chest,” said in February 2017, less than a month after Trump was sworn in as president, that:

With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most—perhaps the only—credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s “wrecking ball presidency.”  

Is it any wonder that some people might be a bit confused?

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum; “but it isn’t so, nohow.”

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.  That’s logic.”

As a final case in point, there is a recent book by Stephen KinzerPoisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb And The CIA Search For Mind Control, the story of the chemist known as Dr. Death who ran the CIA’s MK-ULTRA mind control project, using LSD, torture, electric shock therapy, hypnosis, etc.; developed sadistic methods of torture still used in black sites around the world; and invented various ingenious techniques for assassination, many of which were aimed at Fidel Castro.  Gottlieb was responsible for brutal prison and hospital experiments and untold death and suffering inflicted on all sorts of innocent people.  His work was depraved in the deepest sense; he worked with Nazis who experimented on Jews despite being Jewish himself.

Kinzer writes in depth about this man who considered himself a patriot and a spiritual person – a humane torturer and killer.  It is an eye-opening book for anyone who does not know about Gottlieb, who gave the CIA the essential tools they use in their “organized crime” activities around the world – in the words of Douglass Valentine, the author of The CIA as Organized Crime and The Phoenix Program. Kinzer’s book is good history on Gottlieb; however, he doesn’t venture into the present activities of the CIA and Gottlieb’s patriotic followers, who no doubt exist and go about their business in secret.

After recounting in detail the sordid history of Gottlieb’s secret work that is nauseating to read about, Kinzer leaves the reader with these strange words:

Gottlieb was not a sadist, but he might well have been…. Above all he was an instrument of history.  Understanding him is a deeply disturbing way of understanding ourselves.

What possibly could this mean?  Not a sadist?  An instrument of history?  Understanding ourselves?  These few sentences, dropped out of nowhere, pull the rug out from under what is generally an illuminating history and what seems like a moral indictment. This language is pure mystification.

Kinzer also concludes that because Gottlieb said so, the CIA failed in their efforts to develop methods of mind control and ended MK-ULTRA’s experiments long ago. Why would he believe the word of a man who personified the agency he worked for: a secret liar? He writes,

When Sydney Gottlieb brough MK-ULTRA to its end in the early 1960s, he told his CIA superiors that he had found no reliable way to wipe away memory, make people abandon their consciences, or commit crimes and then forget them.

As for those who might think otherwise, Kinzer suggests they have vivid imaginations and are caught up in conspiracy thinking: “This [convincing others that the CIA had developed methods of mind control when they hadn’t] is Sydney Gottlieb’s most unexpected legacy,” he asserts. He says this although Richard Helms, the CIA Director, destroyed all MK-Ultra records. He says that Allen Dulles, Gottlieb, and Helms themselves were caught up in a complete fantasy about mind control because they had seen too many movies and read too many books; mind control was impossible, a failure, a myth, he maintains. It is the stuff of popular culture, entertainment. In an interview with Chris Hedges, interestingly posted by Jefferson Morley at his website, The Deep State, Hedges agrees with Kinzer.  Gottlieb, Dulles, et al. were all deluded.  Mind control was impossible.  You couldn’t create a Manchurian Candidate; by implication, someone like Sirhan Sirhan could not have been programmed to be a fake Manchurian Candidate and to have no memory of what he did, as he claims.  He could not have been mind-controlled by the CIA to perform his part as the seeming assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy while the real killer shot RFK from behind. People who think like this should get real.

Furthermore, as is so common in books such as Kinzer’s, he repeats the canard that JFK and RFK knew about and pressured the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. This is demonstrably false, as shown by the Church Committee and the Assassinations Record Review Board, among many others. That Kinzer takes the word of notorious liars like Richard Helms and the top-level CIA operative Samuel Halpern is simple incredible, something that is hard to consider a mistake.  Slipped into a truth sandwich, it is devoured and passed on. But it is false. Bullshit meant to deceive.

But this is how these games are played. If you look carefully, you will see them widely.  Inform, enlighten, while throwing in doubletalk and untruths.  The small number of people who read such books and articles will come away knowing some history that has no current relevance and being misinformed on other history that does. They will then be in the know, ready to pass their “wisdom” on to those who care to listen. They will not think they are average.

But they will be mind controlled, and the killer cat will roam freely without a bell, ready to devour the unsuspecting mice.

*(Top image: Eliot Higgins founder of Bellingcat (L), and Alina Polyakova Associate Director of the Atlantic Council (R). Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/ Flickr)

Corbyn’s Defeat Has Slain the Left’s Last Illusion

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This was an election of two illusions.

The first helped persuade much of the British public to vote for the very epitome of an Eton toff, a man who not only has shown utter contempt for most of those who voted for him but has spent a lifetime barely bothering to conceal that contempt. For him, politics is an ego-trip, a game in which others always pay the price and suffer, a job he is entitled to through birth and superior breeding.

The extent to which such illusions now dominate our political life was highlighted two days ago with a jaw-dropping comment from a Grimsby fish market worker. He said he would vote Tory for the first time because “Boris seems like a normal working class guy.”

Johnson is precisely as working class, and “normal”, as the billionaire-owned Sun and the billionaire-owned Mail. The Sun isn’t produced by a bunch of working-class lads down the pub having a laugh, nor is the Mail produced by conscientious middle managers keen to uphold “British values” and a sense of fair play and decency. Like the rest of the British media, these outlets are machines, owned by globe-spanning corporations that sell us the illusions – carefully packaged and marketed to our sectoral interest – needed to make sure nothing impedes the corporate world’s ability to make enormous profits at our, and the planet’s, expense.

The Sun, Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and BBC have all worked hard to create for themselves “personalities”. They brand themselves as different – as friends we the public might, or might not, choose to invite into our homes – to win the largest share possible of the UK audience, to capture every section of the public as news consumers, while feeding us a distorted, fairytale version of reality that is optimal for business. They are no different to other corporations in that regard.

Media wot won it

Supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury, Lidl and Waitrose similarly brand themselves to appeal to different sections of the public. But all these supermarkets are driven by the same pathological need to make profits at all costs. If Sainsbury’s sells fair trade tea as well as traditionally produced tea, it is not because it cares more than Lidl about the treatment of workers and damage to the environment but because it knows its section of consumers care more about such issues. And as long as it makes the same profits on good and bad tea, why should it not cater to its share of the market in the name of choice and freedom?

The media are different from supermarkets in one way, however. They are not driven simply by profit. In fact, many media outlets struggle to make money. They are better seen as the loss-leader promotion in a supermarket, or as a business write-off against tax.

The media’s job is to serve as the propaganda arm of big business. Even if the Sun makes an economic loss, it has succeeded if it gets the business candidate elected, the candidate who will keep corporation tax, capital gains tax and all the other taxes that affect corporate profits as low as possible without stoking a popular insurrection.

The media are there to support the candidate or candidates who agree to sell off more and more public services for short-term profit, allowing the corporate vultures to pick hungrily at their carcasses. The media’s job is to back the candidate who will prioritise the corporations’ interests over the public’s, quick profits over the future of the NHS, the self-destructive logic of capitalism over the idea – socialist or not – of a public realm, of the common good. The corporations behind the Sun or the Guardian can afford to make a loss as long as their other business interests are prospering.

It’s not the Sun wot won it, it’s the entire corporate media industry.

BBC’s role exposed

The real revelation of this election, however, has been the BBC, the most well concealed of all those illusion-generating machines. The BBC is a state broadcaster that has long used its entertainment division – from costume dramas to wildlife documentaries – to charm us and ensure the vast majority of the public are only too happy to invite it into their homes. The BBC’s lack of adverts, the apparent absence of a grubby, commercial imperative, has been important in persuading us of the myth that the British Broadcasting Corporation is driven by a higher purpose, that it is a national treasure, that it is on our side.

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But the BBC always was the propaganda arm of the state, of the British establishment. Once, briefly, in the more politically divided times of my youth, the state’s interests were contested. There were intermittent Labour governments trying to represent workers’ interests and powerful trade unions that the British establishment dared not alienate too strongly. Then, countervailing popular interests could not be discounted entirely. The BBC did its best to look as if it was being even-handed, even if it wasn’t really. It played by the rules for fear of the backlash if it did not.

All that has changed, as this election exposed more starkly than ever before.

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The reality is that the corporate class – the 0.001% – has been in control of our political life uninterrupted for 40 years. As in the United States, the corporations captured our political and economic systems so successfully that for most of that time we ended up with a choice between two parties of capital: the Conservative party and New Labour.

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Hollowed-out society

The corporations used that unbroken rule to shore up their power. Public utilities were sold off, the building societies became corporate banks, the financial industries were deregulated to make profit the only measure of value, and the NHS was slowly cannibalised. The BBC too was affected. Successive governments more openly threatened its income from the licence fee. Union representation, as elsewhere, was eroded and layoffs became much easier as new technology was introduced. The BBC’s managers were drawn ever more narrowly from the world of big business. And its news editors were increasingly interchangeable with the news editors of the billionaire-owned print media.

To take one of many current examples, Sarah Sands, editor of the key Radio 4 Today programme, spent her earlier career at the Boris Johnson-cheerleading Mail and Telegraph newspapers.

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In this election, the BBC cast off its public-service skin to reveal the corporate Terminator-style automaton below. It was shocking to behold even for a veteran media critic like myself. This restyled BBC, carefully constructed over the past four decades, shows how the patrician British establishment of my youth – bad as it was – has gone.

Now the BBC is a mirror of what our hollowed-out society looks like. It is no longer there to hold together British society, to forge shared values, to find common ground between the business community and the trade unions, to create a sense – even if falsely – of mutual interest between the rich and the workers. No, it is there to ringfence turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism, it is there to cannibalise what’s left of British society, and ultimately, as we may soon find out, it is there to generate civil war.

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Shrunken moral horizons

The second illusion was held by the left. We clung to a dream, like a life-raft, that we still had a public space; that, however awful our electoral system was, however biased the red-tops were, we lived in a democracy where real, meaningful change was still possible; that the system wasn’t rigged to stop someone like Jeremy Corbyn from ever reaching power.

That illusion rested on a lot of false assumptions. That the BBC was still the institution of our youth, that it would play reasonably fair when it came to election time, giving Corbyn a level playing field with Johnson for the final few weeks of the campaign. That social media – despite the relentless efforts of these new media corporations to skew their algorithms to trap us in our own little echo chambers – would act as a counterweight to the traditional media.

But most importantly, we turned a blind eye to the social changes that 40 years of an unchallenged corporate-sponsored Thatcherism had wreaked on our imaginations, on our ideological lives, on our capacity for compassion.

As public institutions were broken apart and sold off, the public realm shrank dramatically, as did our moral horizons. We stopped caring about a society that Margaret Thatcher had told us didn’t exist anyway.

Large sections of the older generations profited from the sell-off of the public realm, and policies that flagrantly disregarded the planet’s future. They were persuaded that this model of short-term profit, of slash-and-burn economics from which they had personally benefited, was not only sustainable but that it was the only possible, the only good model.

The younger generations have never known any other reality. The profit motive, instant gratification, consumer indulgence are the only yardsticks they have ever been offered to measure value. A growing number have started to understand this is a sick ideology, that we live in an insane, deeply corrupted society, but they struggle to imagine another world, one they have no experience of.

How can they contemplate what the working class achieved decades ago – how a much poorer society created medical care for all, an NHS that our current one is a pale shadow of – when that history, that story of struggle is rarely told, and when it is it is told only through the distorting prism of the billionaire-owned media?

A rigged political system

We on the left didn’t lose this election. We lost our last illusions. The system is rigged – as it always has been – to benefit those in power. It will never willingly allow a real socialist, or any politician deeply committed to the health of society and the planet, to take power away from the corporate class. That, after all, is the very definition of power. That is what the corporate media is there to uphold.

This is not about being a bad loser, or a case of sour grapes.

In the extraordinary circumstances that Corbyn had overcome all these institutional obstacles, all the smears, and won last night, I was planning to write a different post today – and it would not have been celebratory. It would not have gloated, as Johnson’s supporters and Corbyn’s opponents in the Conservative party, large sections of the Labour parliamentary party, and the rightwing and liberal media are doing now.

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No, I’d have been warning that the real battle for power was only just beginning. That however bad the past four years had been, we had seen nothing yet. That those generals who threatened a mutiny as soon as Corbyn was elected Labour leader were still there in the shadows. That the media would not give up on their disinformation, they would intensify it. That the security services that have been trying to portray Corbyn as a Russian spy would move from insinuation into more explicit action.

Future on our side

Nonetheless, we have the future on our side, dark as it may be. The planet isn’t going to heal itself with Johnson, Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro in charge. It’s going to get a lot sicker, a lot quicker. Our economy isn’t going to become more productive, or more stable, after Brexit. Britain’s economic fate is going to be tied even more tightly to the United States’, as resources run out and environmental and climate catastrophes (storms, rising seas levels, flooding, droughts, crop failures, energy shortages) mount. The contradictions between endless growth and a planet with finite resources will become even starker, the crashes of 2008 more familiar.

The corporate party Johnson’s victory has unleashed is going to lead, sooner or later, to a truly terrifying hangover.

The likelihood is that the Blairites will exploit this defeat to drag Labour back to being a party of neoliberal capital. We will once again be offered a “choice” between the blue and the red Tory parties. If they succeed, Labour’s mass membership will desert the party, and it will become once again an irrelevance, a hollow shell of a workers’ party, as empty ideologically and spiritually as it was until Corbyn sought to reinvent it.

It may be a good thing if this coup happens quickly rather than being dragged out over years, keeping us trapped longer in the illusion that we can fix the system using the tools the corporate class offers us.

We must head to the streets – as we have done before with Occupy, with Extinction Rebellion, with the schools strikes – to reclaim the public space, to reinvent and rediscover it. Society didn’t cease to exist. It wasn’t snuffed out by Thatcher. We just forgot what it looked like, that we are human, not machines. We forgot that we are all part of society, that we are precisely what it is.

Now is the time to put away childish things, and take the future back into our hands.

*(Top image: Jeremy Corbyn in Birmingham Rally. Credit: Jeremy Corbyn/ Flickr)

Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires

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This week, the venerable Washington Post newspaper revealed a bombshell, 2,000 page, secret Pentagon report detailing the astounding failure of US war strategy in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

Americans have been fed a steady stream of lies about the Afghan War, concluded the Post. So asserted this writer in ‘American Conservative’ magazine in 2003 when the US invaded Afghanistan.

`We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking,’ admitted three-star General Douglas Lute who commanded US forces in Afghanistan under Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

Arrogance and ignorance, backed by mammoth brute force, led US policy in the remote Asian nation. Attacking Afghanistan was revenge for the 9/11 attacks against the US. As this writer saw first hand in Afghanistan, all the claims about Osama bin Laden’s ‘terrorist training camps’ in Afghanistan were lies. 9/11 was not planned in Afghanistan.

Taliban were not ‘terrorists.’ They were lightly armed tribal warriors fighting bandits and the US-backed Afghan intelligence services run by the Communist Party. Taliban’s fathers, the mujahidin, were hailed as ‘freedom fighters’ by Ronald Reagan. In 2003, the US did a total volte-face to support the Afghan Communists who promised to allow US-owned pipeline routes south from Central Asia’s oil-rich Caspian Basin to Pakistan’s coast. After Taliban refused the chintzy US pipelines offer, this nationalist, anti-drug movement that battled the rape of Afghanistan was branded ‘terrorists’.

The US-installed Kabul regime was a bunch of off-the-shelf CIA assets: warlords, major drug dealers, and communists. Billions upon billions of US dollars were flown in to hire mercenaries and pay off warlords and criminals. The biggest war criminals in Afghanistan became key US allies.

When Taliban was in power, it eliminated 90% of Afghanistan’s extensive trade of high-grade morphine and heroin. Once the US seized Kabul and installed its own puppet regime, drug production surged to all-time highs. US forces and their allies became deeply involved in the drug trade that sustained the nation’s economy. Today, US-run Afghanistan is the world’s biggest drug dealer.

Those journalists like this one who insisted on telling the truth about Afghanistan were fired or ignored. I was booted off CNN for denying their false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And that the US was ‘winning’ the Afghan War. I was banned from certain radio and public TV networks for asserting that ISIS was a western invention, backed by Turkey, the US, France, Britain and Israel. I was branded a ‘radical’ for trying to tell the truth.

I mention these examples to affirm charges, made by the Washington Post, that the entire Afghan conflict was a farrago of lies and half-truths cooked up by the US government to justify a brutal war of aggression against a weak, medieval nation that dared to block our demands for strategic pipeline routes.

The Washington Post played a key role in promoting the lies that opened the way to the US invasion of Iraq. Today, it is doing penance by revealing all the lies that facilitated the Afghan War – and the thousands of US soldiers killed or wounded there, the vast destruction wrought on Afghanistan by US warplanes, wide-scale torture, starvation, mass killing of civilians and all the other horrors of war.

According to the Pentagon report, the US has wasted at least one trillion dollars ($1 trillion) on its Afghanistan War to no discernible effect other than great numbers of dead and wounded, destroyed villages, machine-gunned farm animals, and vast chemical pollution. If it moves, bomb it is the American credo.

That’s why we see the shameful spectacle of US B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers carpet bombing Afghan villages, and swarms of helicopter and AC-130 gunships blasting apart medieval Afghan tribesmen and wedding parties. The Soviets were just as ruthless; but we are more efficient.

America’s media, with a few small exceptions, has promoted the Pentagon’s war against the Afghan people and totally covered up its atrocities and egregious lies. This war has become a giant, money devouring killing machine that boosts politicians and military contractors. The past presidents who cheered on this disgraceful war against one of the world’s poorest, most backward nations deserve to be disgraced.

Meanwhile, we must stop and think about the Pashtun tribal fighters who held off the world’s mightiest military machine for the past 18 years with little more than old AK-47 rifles and indomitable courage. We owe them our sincerest apologies and a rebuilt country. As a former US soldier I salute them, these bravest of the brave.

*(Top image credit: Chief Hospital Corpsman Josh Ives/ U.S. Navy/ Flickr)

Impeachment Is Peak “OK Boomer” Moment for American Liberals

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It has been three years since Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States. Yet even with the 2020 presidential election fast approaching, American liberals have refused to back down on their three year plus impeachment crusade against the billionaire real estate mogul. The crusade began with the Russiagate saga. Former FBI Director and anointed Special Council leader Robert Mueller's "nothing burger" report on Trump's collusion with Russia sent the American liberal class into a panic. But Trump, being Trump, would end up throwing the Democratic Party a bone. His phone call to Ukrainian presidency Volodymyr Zelensky gave House Democrats the excuse they needed to continue the impeachment crusade in a different form.

Articles of impeachment have been drawn up by Congress in the middle of a Democratic Party primary. The articles principally focus on Trump's "abuse of power" and "obstruction" of Congress in the investigation of his call with the Ukrainian president. Trump's biggest crime is using his presidential powers to threaten to withhold military aid from Ukraine if Zelensky refused to investigate Joe Biden's corporate dealings in Ukraine. Like Russiagate, Ukrainegate relies upon the assumption that relying on the military industrial complex to attack Donald Trump is a wise political decision. Instead of criticizing and opposing the Trump administration for policies that hurt the masses of people, Democrats have made impeachment the peak “OK boomer” moment for American liberals.

"OK Boomer" has become a popular internet meme for left-leaning young Americans who are sick and tired of business as usual politics in the United States. Business as usual politics have been divided along generational lines, and for good reason. Millennials own only three percent of the total wealth accumulated in the United States. Baby boomers, on the other hand, owned 21 percent of all U.S. wealth when they were the same age as millennials in 1989. It should come as no surprise then that millennials favor socialism in the majority while baby boomers have shown more interest in the politics of neoliberal war hawks such as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.

The politically active baby boomer population tends to be overwhelmingly white and conservative. Politically active baby boomers, defined as those born in the U.S. between the years of 1945 and 1964, have not only absorbed the ideology of neoliberalism but have also maintained a relatively privileged economic position in society. Affluent white liberals in the baby boomer cohort have felt little need to challenge the evisceration of the social safety net, the proliferation of endless war, and the increasingly draconian surveillance and incarceration state. Instead, this section of society has taken part in the incessant blaming of poor and oppressed people for their own deteriorating conditions. Special aim has been taken at the millennial generation, which has been routinely condemned for buying too many iPhones and slices of avocado toast.

American liberals of the "OK boomer" variety have found themselves completely sucked into the McCarthy-esque melodrama of the impeachment inquiry. Impeachment comforts an American liberal class which is wholly invested in ridding of Donald Trump based on the pretense that he and his administration is not sufficiently pro-war. It is not enough for the Trump administration to push through ever-growing military budgets or target Latin American nations such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia for regime change. Trump must completely bow down to the strategic imperatives of the Empire, including the extremely dangerous cause of arming neo-nazi and nationalist forces currently at the helm in Ukraine. Furthermore, impeachment validates the premise that Trump is “unfit” for the Oval Office since his principle target in the conversation with the Ukrainian president was none other than former vice president, Joe Biden.

Impeachment is a peak “OK boomer” moment precisely because it avoids any substantive resistance to the Trump administration in favor of a struggle to stabilize the imperial and neoliberal ruling order. Not only is impeachment completely detached from the lives of ordinary people, but the entire process also stands in opposition to their very interests. Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a living wage are the most important issues of the 2020 election, especially for millennials. Impeachment is a stark message to over half of the electorate that these issues are of little concern to the Democratic Party. Even worse, the crusade to rid of Trump as a foreign adversary has only fanned the flames of war abroad and organized American liberals to defend rather than challenge the agenda of the state.

The general divide on impeachment is more of a class divide than anything else. Generation is another term for a group of people bound by a historical period. Class in a capitalist society determines the conditions of a generation of people. In this historical epoch, a larger and larger portion of the poor and working-class were born into the millennial generation. Faced with a capitalist system that is no longer capable of producing an upwardly mobile standard of living, millennials have come to despise the American Dream mythology and the New Cold War politics of the electorally inclined baby boomer population. And it isn’t as if there aren’t plenty of impoverished baby boomers in a nation where nearly 80 percent of people live paycheck to paycheck. It’s that affluent white American liberal boomers have used their influence to steer the political debate in the U.S. so far to the right that they have empowered Donald Trump and brought the planet to the brink of catastrophe on the economic, ecological, and military fronts.

Impeachment is a feel-good moment for a class of Americans which finds itself increasingly worried about the anger and frustration of those suffering from the maladies of life on the bottom of the capitalist pyramid. But impeachment can’t solve the destitution of the masses. It won’t stop the bipartisan consensus on spending more and more trillions on war; it will strengthen it. Impeachment poses no solutions to the racist machinations of Donald Trump and for damn sure doesn’t address the fact that police and immigration forces in the U.S. kill and imprison non-whites daily as a means of social control. By impeaching Trump in the middle of a primary, the Democratic Party has effectively communicated that it cannot defeat the billionaire celebrity real estate mogul through electoral means alone. This would require adopting a policy agenda which includes healthcare for all, living wages, and a plan to reduce military and environmental degradation. Impeachment is meant to suffocate all efforts to popularize such an agenda, making it a peak “OK boomer” moment for the American liberal class’ journey into the abyss of political irrelevance.

*(Top image credit: Lauren Walker/ Truthout/ Flickr)

Lies, Newsweek and Control of the Media Narrative: Tareq Haddad's First-Hand Account

Newsweek OPCW 82ecf

A mafia runs editors. Freedom of the press is dead. Journalists and ordinary people must stand up.

  • Introduction
  • Syria
  • Newsweek Suppression: A Timeline of Events
  • Editors at Fault
  • Is Rep. Ilhan Omar a Spy?
  • External Control of the Media Narrative

INTRODUCTION

Until several days ago, I was a journalist at Newsweek. I decided to hand my resignation in because, in essence, I was given a simple choice. On one hand, I could continue to be employed by the company, stay in their chic London offices and earn a steady salary—only if I adhered to what could or could not be reported and suppressed vital facts. Alternatively, I could leave the company and tell the truth.

In the end, that decision was rather simple, all be it I understand the cost to me will be undesirable. I will be unemployed, struggle to finance myself and will likely not find another position in the industry I care about so passionately. If I am a little lucky, I will be smeared as a conspiracy theorist, maybe an Assad apologist or even a Russian asset—the latest farcical slur of the day.

Although I am a British citizen, the irony is that I’m half Arabic and half Russian. (Bellingcat: I’m happy to answer any requests.)

It is a terribly sad state of affairs when perfectly loyal people who want nothing but the best for their countries are labelled with such preposterous accusations. Take Iraq war veteran and Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for example, who was the target of such mud slinging for opposing U.S. involvement in Syria and for simply standing up to the Democratic Party’s most corrupt politician, Hillary Clinton. These smears are immature for a democracy—but I, in fact, welcome such attacks.

When the facts presented are utterly ignored and the messengers themselves are crucified in this way, it signals to right-minded people who the true perpetrators of lies are and where the truth in fact lies.

That truth is what matters most to me. It is what first drove me to journalism while I was working in Jersey’s offshore finance industry after completing my degree from Binghamton University’s School of Management in upstate New York. I was so outraged when I grew to realize that this small idyllic island I love and had grown up on since the age of nine, a British Crown dependency fifteen miles off the coast of France, was in fact a hub for global tax evasion. This realization came to me while the British people were being told that austerity had to continue—public funding for schools, hospitals, policing and all matter of things were to be slashed—all while the government “recovered” after bailing out the banks following the 2008 crash. That austerity lie was one I could no longer stomach as soon as I came to understand that my fairly uninspiring administrative role was in fact a part of this global network of firms to help multinational companies, businessmen, politicians and members of various royal families in avoiding paying trillions in tax—all under a perfectly legal infrastructure that the government was fully aware of, but kept quiet about.

In my naivety, as I left that industry and began my journalism training, I wrote a piece that detailed some of this corruption in hopes of changing the public awareness around these issues and in hopes that they no longer continued—albeit I did so in a manner of writing and sophistication I would be embarrassed of presently—but to my disappointment at the time, the piece was hardly noticed and the system remains little changed to now. Nonetheless, since that moment, I have not once regretted speaking truthfully, most especially for my own mental wellbeing: I would not have been able to regard myself with a grain of self-respect had I continued to engage in something I knew was a lie. It is the very same force that compels me to write now.

There is also another, deeper force that compels me to write. In my years since that moment when I decided to become a journalist and a writer, although I suspect I have known it intrinsically long before, I have come to learn that truth is also the most fundamental pillar of this modern society we so often take for granted—a realisation that did not come to us easily and one that we should be extremely careful to neglect. That is why when journalistic institutions fail to remember this central pillar, we should all be outraged because our mutual destruction follows. It may sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it’s not. When our record of where we come from is flawed, or our truth to put it more simply, the new lies stack on top of the old until our connection to reality becomes so disjointed that our understanding of the world ultimately implodes. The failure of current journalism, among other factors, is undoubtedly linked to the current regression of the Western world. In consequence, we have become the biggest perpetrators of the crimes our democracies were created to prevent.

Of course, for those who pay attention, this failure of mainstream journalism I speak of is nothing new. It has been ongoing for decades and was all too obvious following the Iraq war fiasco. The U.S. and U.K. governments, headed by people who cared for little other than their own personal gain, told the people of their respective countries a slew of fabrications and the media establishment, other than a handful of exceptions, simply went along for the ride.

This was something that consumed my interest when I was training to be a journalist. How could hundreds of reputable, well-meaning journalists get it so wrong? I read numerous books on the issue—from Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and Philip Knightley’s The First Casualty to work by Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times who was booted out for opposing that war (who I disagree with on some things, for the record)—but still, I believed that honest journalism could be done. Nothing I read however, came close to the dishonesty and deception I experienced while at Newsweek. Previously, I believed that not enough journalists questioned the government narrative sufficiently. I believed they failed to examine the facts with close enough attention and had not connected the dots as a handful of others had done.

No. The problem is far worse than that.

SYRIA

In the aftermath of the Iraq war and during my time studying this failure of the media since, I was of course extremely aware of the high likelihood that the U.S. government narrative on Syria was a deception. For starters, there were the statements made by the retired four-star general, General Wesley Clark, to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman in 2007, four years prior to the beginning of the Syria conflict. The following is worth watching to in full.

http://youtu.be/FNt7s_Wed_4

Nonetheless, once I joined IBTimes UK in 2016, after training with the Press Association and working at the Hull Daily Mail (both of whom I am eternally indebted to for giving me an excellent foundation for starting my career) I solidly understood that journalism was not the profession of making unverifiable claims. I, or any journalist for that matter, could not out-right say that the nature of the Syrian conflict was based on a lie, no matter how strongly we suspected it. To do so, we would need unshakeable evidence that pointed to this.

Through the years, good journalists did document evidence. Roula Khalaf, who will soon take over from Lionel Barber as the editor of the Financial Times, wrote one such piece alongside Abigail Fielding-Smith in 2013. It documented how Qatar provided arms and funded the opposition of Bashar al-Assad’s legitimate government to the tune of somewhere between $1 and $3 billion from the outset of the conflict, rubbishing claims that it was a “people’s revolution” that turned violent. Footage captured by Syrian photographer Issa Touma—made into a short film titled 9 Days From My Window in Aleppo—similarly showed how Qatar-funded jihadists from the Al-Tawhid Brigade were present in the streets of Syria’s capital from the very outset of the war.

http://youtu.be/THdMj0-LmRw

“Fighters re-enter my street,” Touma says as he films covertly out of his window. “They look different. They are heavily armed men with beards. I had only heard about them before. This is Liwa al-Tawhid. National television calls them terrorists. The international press calls them freedom fighters. I don’t care what they call it—I refuse to chose a side. But it’s a lie that the revolution started peacefully everywhere. At least in my street, Al Said Ali Street, it started with guns. It didn’t start peacefully at all.”

Veterans of the trade Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk also poked holes in the U.S. government narrative, but their treatment by other journalists has been one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the press.

Hersh—who exposed the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, the clandestine bombing of Cambodia, the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, in addition to telling the world the real story of how Osama Bin Laden died—was shunned from the industry for reporting a simple fact: Bashar al-Assad’s government is not the only actor with access to chemical weapons in Syria. After a sarin attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, he was further smeared for reporting that Barack Obama withheld important military intelligence: samples examined in Britain’s Porton Down did not match the chemical signatures of sarin held in the Syrian government’s arsenals.

Fisk, writing days before the Syrian conflict escalated, in a piece that asked Americans to consider what they were really doing in the Middle East as the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approached, also raised important questions, but he too was largely ignored.

I also did my best to document evidence that poked holes in the narrative as best I could. In 2016, I wrote how Egyptian authorities arrested five people for allegedly filming staged propaganda that purported to be from Syria. Though I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that the two are connected and I make no such claims, these arrests came to light after The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Sunday Times revealed that a British PR firm, Bell Pottinger, was working with the CIA, the Pentagon and the National Security Council and received $540 million to create false propaganda in Iraq a month prior.

The following year, after the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, I documented the intriguing story of Shajul Islam, the British doctor who purported to have treated the alleged victims and appeared on several television networks including NBC to sell the case for retaliation. He gushed with heroism, but it was not reported he was previously charged with terror offences in the U.K. and was in fact considered a “committed jihadist” by MI6. He was imprisoned in 2013 in connection with the kidnapping of two Western photo-journalists in northern Syria and was struck off Britain’s General Medical Council in 2016. Why he was released without sentencing and was allowed to travel back to Syria remains a mystery to me.

I also refused to recycle the same sloppy language used, inadvertently or not, by a number of other publications. Al Qaeda and their affiliates had always been referred to as terrorists as far as I was aware—why the sudden change to “rebels” or “moderate rebels” for the purposes of Syria? Thankfully, the news editor I worked with most frequently at the time, Fiona Keating, trusted my reporting and had no problems with me using the more appropriate terms “anti-Assad fighters” or “insurgents”—though one could arguably say even that was not accurate enough.

When buses carrying civilian refugees hoping to escape the fighting in Idlib province were attacked with car bombs in April of 2017, killing over 100, most of them women and children, I was disappointed with the Guardian and the BBC for continuing with their use of this infantile word, but this was not the language I felt to be appropriate in my report.

At roughly the same time, in light of the Khan Sheikhoun attack, confronted with an ever-growing list of irregularities and obvious falsifications—such as increasing evidence that the White Helmets were not what they purported of being, or the ridiculousness that the Western world’s de facto authority on Syria had become 7-year-old Bana al-Abed—I wrote an opinion piece that came short of calling the narrative around the Syrian conflict a lie, but simply pleaded that independent investigations of the alleged chemical weapons attack were allowed to take place before we rushed head first into war. I still believed honesty would prevail.

That piece was ultimately declined by IBTimes—though I covertly published it in CounterPunch later—but the rejection email I received from the editor-in-chief at the time makes for interesting reading.

I was sad to hear that asking for an independent investigation into a chemical weapons attack was an “incendiary theory,” but I was forced to move on.

By that summer, I was let go alongside a number of other journalists from the publication after the Buzzfeed-style model of click-bait-aggregation journalism was heavily punished by a new Google algorithm and had largely failed: page views plummeted and editors couldn’t seem to understand it was because we weren’t doing any real journalism. Having felt frustrated with the industry, I decided to not pursue another position in reporting and decided to move to mainland Europe in hopes of pursuing my other passion—literature—with aspirations of being able to write more freely.

Fast forward to 2019, I decided to return to journalism as I was feeling the pressure to have “a grown-up job” and could not count on my ability to be a novelist as a means of long-term career stability. So when I joined Newsweek in September, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity and had no intention of being controversial—the number of jobs in the industry appeared to be shrinking and, besides, the Syrian conflict appeared to be dying down. As soon as I arrived, Newsweek editor-in-chief Nancy Cooper emphasised original reporting and I was even even more pleased. I wanted to come in, get my head down and start building my reputation as a journalist again.

Then on October 6, President Donald Trump and the military machine behind him threw my quiet hopes of staying well clear of Syria into disarray. He announced the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country and green-lit the Turkish invasion that followed in a matter of days. Given my understanding of the situation, I was asked by Newsweek editors to report on this.

Within days of the Turkish invasion into Syria beginning, Turkey was accused of using the incendiary chemical white phosphorus in an attack on Ras al-Ayn and, again, having pitched the story, I was asked to report on the allegations. This spurred a follow-up investigation on why the use of the substance—a self-igniting chemical that burns at upwards of 4,800 degrees Fahrenheit, causing devastating damage to its victims—was rarely considered a war crime under the relevant weapons conventions and I was commended by Nancy for doing excellent journalism.

It was while investigating this story that I started to come across growing evidence that the U.N.-backed body for investigating chemical weapons use, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued a doctored report about an alleged chemical attack in Douma in April of 2018, much to the anger of OPCW investigators who visited the scene. Once Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday published his story containing a leaked letter that was circulated internally from one of the disgruntled OPCW scientists, I believed there was more than enough evidence to publish the story in Newsweek. That case was made even stronger when the letter was confirmed by Reuters and had been corroborated by former OPCW director-general Dr. Jose Bustani.

Although I am no stranger to having story ideas rejected, or having to censor my language to not rock the ship, this was a truth that had to be told. I was not prepared to back down on this.

Let me be clear: there is evidence that a United Nations body—whose jurisdiction was established after the world agreed to never repeat the horrors of World War I and World War II, such as German forces firing more than 150 tons of chlorine gas at French colonial troops in Ypres—is being weaponized to sell the case for war.

After OPCW experts found trace levels of chlorine when they visited Douma—i.e. no different than the levels of chlorine normally present in the atmosphere—or raised concerns that the canisters may have been tampered with or placed, both of which were reflected in their original reports, they made protestations because this information was withheld from the final report that was released to the world’s media. Instead, the final wording said chlorine was “likely” used and the war machine continued.

This is not a “conspiracy theory” as Newsweek sadly said in a statement to Fox News—interestingly the only mainstream publication to cover my resignation. Real OPCW scientists have met with real journalists and explained the timeline of events. They provided internal documents that proved these allegations—documents that were then confirmed by Reuters. This is all I wanted to report.

Meanwhile, OPCW scientists were prevented from investigating Turkey’s alleged use of white phosphorus. This flagrant politicization of a neutral body is opening the world up to repeating the same horrors we experienced in those two devastating wars.

This is unacceptable and I resigned when I was forbidden from reporting on this.

NEWSWEEK SUPPRESSION: A TIMELINE OF EVENTS

I first became aware of the Mail on Sunday report on Monday, November 25, and this is when I raised it with Alfred Joyner, Newsweek’s global executive producer, who had been my main point of contact for pitching stories.

Following a conversation with Alfred, he asked me to write the pitch in a note to him and Newsweek’s foreign affairs editor, Dimi Reider, on the company’s internal messaging system. The following is a copy and paste of that pitch, alongside the conversation that followed in the next few days.

Once I returned to the office on Thursday, November 28, I proceeded to have a conversation with Dimi, but to my disappointment, he did not address any of my protestations against why the article could not be published. He made the famous joke about former Soviet politician Leonid Brezhnev irrelevantly, one he had already made to me a couple of weeks before, and after listening to my reasoning for wanting to have the story published for several minutes, all he had to say was: “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it’s a no.”

The following morning, feeling incredibly frustrated, I wrote an email to Nancy and Newsweek’s digital director and London bureau chief, Laura Davis, to express my concerns.

Several stressful days passed where I did not hear from either Laura or Nancy, but in the meantime, as I tried to continue as best as I could with my every day reporting role, I noticed how an entertainment editor by the name of Tufayel Ahmed began to pick up most of the following stories I wrote.

In my experience of working with editors in the past, if an issue ever arose with a story, we would have a perfectly civil conversation, I would make the relevant adjustments where necessary and the article would be published without further problems. That was not my experience with Tufayel.

At first, when he sent me long, overly critical and often hostile criticisms on articles I wrote, I considered asking him to step into a meeting room in order to ask him whether I had inadvertently done something to offend him. Having come from a newspaper background where mistakes in articles required embarrassing apologies printed in the paper the next day, and having held the belief that editors were your best friend and should always be kept on side, I always prided myself in filing copy that was free of any errors and throughout my career, I was frequently commended for doing exactly this.

In my time at the Hull Daily Mail for example, regarded as one of the U.K.’s best regional newspapers, I do not recall a single correction being printed on any of the articles I wrote. That was the case despite covering murder trials, rape cases and numerous other sensitive stories.

On the eve of the Brexit referendum, despite still being a trainee reporter, I had built such a reputation for my accurate journalism and my attention-to-detail skills that I was even entrusted to single-handedly edit and publish copy from two politics reporters to the publication’s website, while managing the live blog, all social media channels and filing my own stories on national developments as the results came in. The following morning, following a short nap, the editor was so impressed with my efforts that I was asked to conduct the interviews with the local leaders of each political party, despite being one of the most junior reporters on the team.

Brexit.pdf

Furthermore, in close to 1,000 published articles for IBTimes UK, I can only recall one incident where an article required a correction. An Israel lobby group—forgive me for being unable to recall which one—objected to my use of the word “settlements” and requested that it be replaced with “settlement units” instead. This was a reasonable request and the article was updated to reflect this without further incident.

I do not say these things to be self-congratulatory. I say these things because I was deeply saddened and disturbed. Because when I finally received a response from Laura about the OPCW story on December 5, six days after my initial email and after repeated attempts to speak to her in person, only one paragraph was devoted to the leaked letter and the rest of the email attacked my capability as a journalist.

It listed all the instances that Tufayel had criticised me on, unfairly mischaracterising my actions, in addition to listing one genuine mistake I made in the course of everyday reporting—something not to be unexpected when every day I was expected to write four stories, often about complicated topics, sometimes with no prior experience in them. Nonetheless, even for this story, I had taken immediate action needed to resolve and had apologised to editors at the time, the characterisation of what took place in Laura’s email was deeply maligned.

That was the moment I knew beyond doubt what my gut had been telling me before: there was no valid reason for this OPCW story not to be published. It was simply being suppressed. I was being attacked for pushing back against this.

As I have nothing to hide, I will publish Laura’s response in full.

You will see my full response in due course, but first, some further comments about Laura’s criticisms must be addressed.

EDITORS AT FAULT

My first “indiscretion” is rather simple to address. I believe—however I must admit I am not certain, as the information was never published—that the article Laura is referring to this. Regardless of which piece it was, the following events took place.

In 2018, confirming the earlier reporting by Hersh, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the Pentagon has no evidence to support the allegations that the Syrian government used sarin in Ghouta, as reported here by the Associated Press. As Newsweek did not report this fact (more evidence of suppression?) I linked to an opinion piece on our website that addressed that report. The first line of that piece links back to the AP story. When questioned by Tufayel why I did this, I explained that I was simply trying to link to references on our website, explaining to him the source was AP—ironically, I was trying to help Newsweek gather more clicks. The information which was ultimately removed from my article was not badly sourced.

The second point listed by Laura—the only occasion out of 156 stories written during my two-month stint at Newsweek where an article required a correction—raises another serious problem at the publication: editors tell journalists what to report.

This article was assigned to me by Alfred on Newsweek’s internal messaging system, as is commonplace for editors to do, and I felt obliged to report the story, although I had concerns and it is not one I personally would have chosen to do. I raised these concerns with Alfred—whose background is in video editing, not journalism—but instead of ditching the story, a new angle was suggested and a new headline was provided too. Feeling that I couldn’t challenge his authority any further without being rude, I proceeded as best as I could, but in the course of doing so, I made two mistakes: One, I neglected to reach out for comment on two of the five parties involved (thinking Facebook, who I contacted, would comment on behalf of the remaining). Two, I wrongly reported that some funds were donated by Mark Zuckerburg as opposed to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

When the Facebook spokesperson returned my request, she simply pointed me in the direction of tweets made by the remaining individuals and asked if I could update accordingly. The tweets did not criticize our reporting, but of the original reporting done by Popular Information, the source assigned to me by Alfred to base my reporting on.

Once their statements came to my knowledge (which reflected the concerns I had about the article in the first place), I alerted Alfred immediately and did my best to redress. Laura’s criticism also neglected to mention that Newsweek’s chief sub-editor—whom I will not name as he has been among a handful of editors to treat me fairly—was the one to look over the article and he had no problems in publishing my piece.

This practice of editors telling journalists what to write, with what angle and with headlines already assigned is completely backwards and is the cause of numerous problems. How can journalists find genuine newsworthy developments if what to write has already been scripted for them?

I spoke to several Newsweek journalists about this very problem prior to my departure and they shared the same concerns. This was the very same problem that led to Jessica Kwong’s firing a week before my resignation.

Kwong, who I do not know, wrote a story titled “How is Trump Spending Thanksgiving? Tweeting, Golfing and More,” a day before the day in question—only for it to emerge that Trump made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. No proper journalist would have written that piece by their own volition—it was only done because editors were on their tireless crusade for clicks.

In the end, she was fired because she did not approach the White House for comment, although all the information came from the president’s public diary.

“Dear press office,” her email should have read supposedly. “I am writing a piece that is of no useful public information, but will be criticising the president for what he choses to do in his leisure time on Thanksgiving. Can you please provide a statement at your earliest convenience.”

For goodness sake, whatever your opinions are of President Trump, what were most of you doing on Thanksgiving Day?

Most appallingly, in a team meeting between the New York and London offices following the firing, where “lessons to be learned” were discussed at length, the editor in question tried to make a joke along the lines of: “Don’t worry guys! I’ve learned my lesson! I’ll happily edit the story ‘What’s Trump doing on Christmas Day?” Silence followed. You should have seen the faces of the journalists in the room.

A final note on the contents of Laura’s email, for the rest is addressed in my response.

Yes. I did make adjustments in the content management system and republished some articles. Journalists are permitted to do this if they spot small mistakes—such as in spelling or grammar, for example—but I did not editorialise as the email claims. And yes. On the white phosphorus story, I did question an editor’s judgement. It was Nancy’s in fact.

After the article had been published, she amended the headline so that it was more attention grabbing, but the grammar she used made it non-sensical and she also didn’t abide by Newsweek’s own house style in doing so. (She wrote “US” not “U.S.”) I didn’t want an article I spent three weeks working on to be ruined because of sloppiness. Is there something so wrong with that? For the record: I am still unhappy with the headline on the piece as it stands.

Now, before I return to my response and to my ultimate resignation, there were several other important things to note.

IS REP. ILHAN OMAR A QATARI SPY?

On Saturday, November 30, a day after I sent my initial email to Laura and Nancy, I was working a weekend shift and there had been a change in the rota: Tufayel was to be the news editor for the day. There was nothing demonstrably unusual about this, but what did strike me as odd is how I was immediately assigned a story about some relatively unknown congressional candidate who had been kicked off Twitter for tweeting something in relation to the Democratic Congresswoman of Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, and allegations that she was a spy.

The nature of the story was not odd in itself, but only seemed strange because of Dimi’s earlier refutation of my OPCW piece.

“It’s not just about Syria,” he wrote. “This was part of my reluctance to put take up this weird story going around since yesterday about Ilhan Omar being a Qatari spy. Not a single serious U.S. site picked it up, which confirms my hunch it’s BS.”

At the time, not knowing about the story, I thought that was fair enough—it seemed like a ridiculous claim. In fact, when I had seen that line written in Dimi’s refutation, it further enraged me: why was my provable story about the existence of this leaked letter (verified by Reuters!!!) being smeared by being placed next to this?

Regardless, when I was assigned the story by Tufayel, I did my best to be professional and I did what I always did: I pulled up as many resources as I could find on the matter at hand and began to research and fact-check. That was when I was shocked to discover this report in Al Arabiya about Ilhan.

The publication acquired a 233-page legal deposition, made to a U.S. district court, by a Kuwaiti-born Canadian businessman by the name of Alan Bender. He gave evidence against the Qatari emir’s brother, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani, after al-Thani was accused of ordering his American bodyguard to murder two people and after holding his hired American paramedic prisoner. In that deposition, Bender claimed to have high connections among Qatari officials—presumably why he was asked to testify—and it was there that he made the Ilhan spy allegations.

Now, I have no further evidence to support Alan Bender’s claims—I will be the first to admit I know very little about Qatari politics—but surely a well-connected businessman’s deposition in a U.S. court of law did not justify Dimi’s “hunch it’s BS” without providing further evidence. If Alan Bender’s claims are untrue and he is lying under oath, he has to answer for them. I suddenly realised that this was a test.

Would I get the hint and do my reporting in line with management orders? Or would I continue to report perfectly publishable details that are in the public interest?

Of course, there is the possibility I was assigned the article by mere happenstance, but what took place after I submitted my draft copy to Tufayel for editing was revealing. The draft I submitted was as follows.

All reasonable journalists, I hope, will not find anything wrong with my reporting here. Despite this, following the submission of my draft, all references to Alan Bender were scrubbed from my piece, and so too was the link to the Al Arabiya’s story. All that was left of the newsworthy information I provided on the matter were the words “baseless claims”.

How was Tufayel so certain that the claims were baseless? Did he have information to the contrary of what Alan Bender said? Or was there any other journalistic justification for removing information that was provided in a court of law, although I clearly stated there was no other evidence to currently support the claims? Was there any good reason at all? I suspect not, other than the fact that it could be deeply damaging if the allegations emerged to be true, and that management orders had been to suppress anything Alan Bender said, as was the same across most media organizations across the U.S.

Curiously, Nancy later amended the article again, this time changing the word “baseless” to “unverified”—softening the language, I imagine, in order to not draw unnecessary attention to it.

This is shown by the content management system (CMS) logs that capture all changes made.

EXTERNAL CONTROL OF THE MEDIA NARRATIVE

While all this was going on, and while I waited for a response from Laura, I started to have strong suspicions that something wasn’t quite right with Dimi, the so-called foreign affairs editor. For starters, he rarely did any foreign affairs editing. He rarely did any editing at all.

Newsweek has a system where reporters paste the relevant CMS link of draft articles ready to be edited into a “publishme” channel of the internal messaging system and editors make their way down the list, picking up stories that reporters had filed. Once they are looked over and published, editors dropped them in another channel called “published_stories” for all to see.

I made a habit of watching this list closely—it was useful to know what other reporters had filed in order to be able to link to their stories and also for ensuring articles were not repeated accidentally. In the two months I spent at Newsweek, I saw Dimi post in the “published_stories” channel only a handful of times. This is odd as most editors publish several stories a day. Instead, his most active contributions to the messaging system were with funny tweets or articles in the “general” thread. Sadly, I do not have physical evidence to support this, but the journalists I worked with will know this to be true.

The only times Dimi appeared to be involved is when a story had the potential to be controversial. He worked on my white phosphorus investigation, made the decision to not publish anything about the original Ilhan spy claims and rejected my attempts at publishing the OPCW leaks.

While working on that white phosphorus story, before I was fully aware of his background, he spoke to me of how he co-founded +972 Magazine—a liberal Israeli publication that started out by covering the 2008-2009 Gaza War. I glanced at his resume and was honored to be working with such an accomplished foreign affairs journalist. I had genuinely hoped to build a closer relationship to him.

That was why I was so bewildered when he flatly refused to publish the OPCW revelations. Surely any editor worth their salt would see this as big? Of course, I understood that the implications of such a piece would be substantial and not easy to report—it was the strongest evidence of lies about Syria to date—but surely most educated people could see this coming? Other evidence was growing by the day.

But no. As the earlier messages showed, there was no desire to report these revelations, regardless of how strong the evidence appeared to be. Dimi was simply happy to defer to Bellingcat—a clearly dubious organization as others have taken the time to address, such as here and here—instead of allowing journalists who are more than capable of doing their own research to do their job.

It was this realization that made me start to question Dimi. When I looked a little deeper, he was the missing piece.

Dimi worked at the European Council on Foreign Relations from 2013 and 2016—the sister organization to the more prevalent think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Some may be asking why this matters, but the lobbying group—the largest and most powerful in the United States—is nicknamed “Wall Street’s think-tank” for a reason, as the book by Laurence H. Shoup with the same title explains.

To understand just how influential the body is, it is worth noting that 10 of George H. W. Bush’s top 11 foreign policymakers were members, as was the former president himself. Bill Clinton, also a member, hired 15 foreign policymakers with CFR membership from a total of 17. George W. Bush hired 14 CFR members as top foreign policymakers and Barack Obama had 12, with a further five working in domestic policy positions.

Its European sister act is also highly influential, as this graphic from its website about current members demonstrates.


It is also worth noting that the CFR’s current chairman is David Rubenstein, co-founder and executive chairman of the Carlyle Group—the same Carlyle Group which previously described itself as the “leading private equity investor in the aerospace and the defense industries,” until it probably decided it was not a good look to boast about its war profiteering, though its investments in those industries remain.

It is the same Carlyle Group that hosted Osama bin Laden’s brother as the guest of honor for the group’s annual investor meeting in Washington D.C. the same day the Twin Towers fell. George H. W. Bush, an informal advisor to Carlyle, was also present.

Furthermore, one of the CFR’s most notorious exports was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger—a man famously described by Christopher Hitchens as America’s greatest ever war criminal. His long list of crimes against humanity cannot be summarized quickly.

http://youtu.be/DnN4f5EdbcU

Jeffrey Epstein was also a member from 1995 to 2009 and in a PR push, the CFR recently announced its decision to donate $350,000 to help fight sexual trafficking victims, equivalent in amount to the donations received from him. It may be obvious to state, but the Epstein story is another that’s not being investigated adequately by the media.

For those wanting to learn more about the influence of the CFR over the years, there is more in this paper published in the political science journal Reviews in American History.

But what about the think tank’s influence on journalism?

I’m unaware if what I will report here is common knowledge to the rest of the industry, but what I discovered when researching this topic is unacceptable to me.

I learned that aside from a large number of prominent journalists holding membership, I discovered that the CFR offers fellowships for journalists to come work alongside its many State Department and Department of Defensive representatives. A list of historical fellows includes top reporters and editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and CNN, among others—not forgetting journalists from Newsweek.

The most prominent CFR member to join Newsweek’s ranks was Fareed Zakaria. After stints at Yale and Harvard, at the age of 28, Zakaria became the managing editor of Foreign Affairs—the CFR’s own in-house publication. From there, he became the editor of Newsweek International in 2000, before moving on to edit Time Magazine in 2010.


 

When CIA intelligence analyst Kenneth Pollack wrote a book titled The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, Zakaria lauded the work and described Pollack as “One of the world’s leading experts on Iraq.”

Zakaria’s Newsweek columns prior to the war also make for interesting reading. “Let’s get real with Iraq,” one headline reads as early as 2001. “Time to take on America’s haters,” another one goes on. Others include “It’s time to do as daddy did,” and “Invade Iraq, but bring friends.” I could go on.

Interestingly, once the war had started in 2003, Foreign Affairs—where Zakaria writes to this day—was ranked first by research firm Erdos and Morgan as the most successful in influencing in public opinion. It achieved the accolade in 2005 and again in 2006. Results for other years are not known.

Scrolling through LinkedIn and Twitter, numerous individuals listed as journalists have taken the same path Zakaria has taken. They complete State Department-funded “diplomacy” degrees from prestigious universities—such as Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, or at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London—before gritting their teeth at publications or think tanks funded by the CFR or Open Society Foundations. Once their unquestioning obedience is demonstrated, they slowly filter into mainstream organizations or Foreign Affairs.

It also emerged that this is the same path that Dimi has taken. +972 Magazine’s biggest funder is the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund, whose president and CEO, Stephen Heintz, is a CFR member. In addition to his work with the ECFR, Dimi is also listed as a research associate at SOAS.

This conflict of interests may be known to other journalists in the trade, but I will repeat: this is unacceptable to me.

The U.S. government, in an ugly alliance with those the profit the most from war, has its tentacles in every part of the media—imposters, with ties to the U.S. State Department, sit in newsrooms all over the world. Editors, with no apparent connections to the member’s club, have done nothing to resist. Together, they filter out what can or cannot be reported. Inconvenient stories are completely blocked. As a result, journalism is quickly dying. America is regressing because it lacks the truth.

The Afghanistan Papers, released this week by the Washington Post, showed further evidence of this. Misinformation, a trillion dollars wasted and two thousand Americans killed—and who knows how many more Afghanis. The newspapers ran countless stories on this utter failure, however, none will not tell you how they are to blame. The same mistakes are being repeated. The situation is becoming more grave. Real journalists and ordinary people need to take back journalism.

This was the letter I sent to Newsweek when I resigned.

Sources: Ankara Factions Stole the Antique Lion of “Ain Dara” from Afrin in Aleppo Northern Countryside

Lion of Ain Dara 1f187

Sources from Afrin region in the northern countryside of Aleppo confirmed that the Turkish-backed armed factions have stolen the famous Basalt lion from Ain Dara archaeological site in Afrin region, north of Aleppo.

To confirm the theft operation, the sources relied on aerial photos recently taken by an archaeologist, who by comparing recent images with previous ones confirmed that the lion was no longer in place, which means that it was stolen earlier. He confirmed that no one can steal this important historical monument except the Turkish-backed militants who are in control of the region, along with its huge size that can only be moved from the site through special machines.

Local sources from Afrin region confirmed the archaeologist speech by explaining that the Turkish-backed factions had transformed the archaeological site, that contained the stolen lion, into a military site for its militants.

The history of discovering the "Basalt lion" dates back to /1956 / when a sheep shepherd discovered it at "Ain Dara" site by coincidence, which prompted dozens of archaeologists and excavation scientists to head towards Afrin region from all over the world in order to discover the rest of the many historical monuments found in the thousands-years-old region.

US-Backed Parties Have Infiltrated Lebanon’s Protests, Pushing the Country toward War Amid Economic Collapse

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(The Gray Zone) - This is the second installment of a two-part report. Read part one here.

The US is desperate to ride the revolutionary wave in Lebanon, hoping it can fracture a governing coalition that includes Hezbollah, a top target of the Trump administration and its friends from Tel Aviv to Riyadh. To this end, political figures Washington has cultivated and parties the US backs have penetrated the protest movement that has swept the country and are now on the frontlines of blockades obstructing roads around the country. 

In the first part of this report, I surveyed the role of the US in weaponizing NGO’s and civil society activists to co-opt the nationwide anti-corruption protests. In this installment, we will see how the influence of the US and its Gulf allies also extends to feudal lords and warlords from Samir Geagea to Walid Joumblatt to Saad Hariri, and how it is being used to destabilize the country.

When this seemingly conflicting cast of actors began lending its support to the anti-corruption protests, many common Lebanese citizens began to look upon the demonstrations with a jaundiced eye, precisely because these political figures are living embodiments of the corruption that spurred the protests in the first place.

By joining the roadblocks around Beirut, the protesters have inadvertently allowed themselves to be used by these US-allied parties. Whether they know it or not, the media-friendly artists and students at the ring road in downtown Beirut have given cover to the Lebanese Forces roadblocks in the north and the PSP and Future Party roadblocks in the south.

Lebanese citizens in the majority Shia south have expressed outrage at the roadblocks. They have been especially frustrated with those in the town of Khaldeh, south of Beirut, because they made it difficult for residents of the south to drive up to Beirut.

The blockades only deepened the divide between the protest movement and Hezbollah’s working class base. Lebanon lacks the infrastructure for public transportation, so road closures infringe on everyone’s freedom of movement and leave no alternatives for getting to work. No one despises the road closures more than taxi drivers.  

On more than one occasion angry youths associated with Amal, who are typically working class and poor, have physically attacked the middle class ring road protesters due to the inconvenience caused by the closure and out of anger over insults to their revered symbols.

They may have also been dispatched by Amal’s leadership to send a message to protesters, as they have repeatedly attacked and burned down their tents. Although Hezbollah was not associated with these acts of violence, youths nevertheless waved Hezbollah flags as a show of muscle and defiance. Some of the ring road protesters are Lebanese Forces supporters, so the two sides have at times further provoked each other with intentionally provocative chants. 

Each time clashes like these have broken out, Western media has wrongly identified the Amal attackers as Hezbollah supporters or have erased Amal’s involvement when both party’s supporters participate in intimidation tactics. Hezbollah supporters now worry that their reputation will suffer if Amal makes good on its threats to attack the protesters. 

There is also a clear class antagonism that many protesters are reluctant to admit. The protesters in downtown Beirut are mostly middle class while Hezbollah and Amal’s base are poor and working class.

There does not appear to have been any attempts on the part of the downtown Beirut elements to reach out to Hezbollah or Amal’s base of support. Instead, when these youths have attacked the protest encampment, the demonstrators have often condescendingly called them animals and thugs who fail to appreciate their sacrifice. Naturally, this middle class savior complex has only compounded the sense of alienation between the two sides. 

Car accidents and several scuffles have also taken place at the roadblocks, including one that turned deadly. A man called Alaa Abou Fakher, a Choueifat Municipality official and member of the PSP, was shot and killed under suspicious circumstances by a member of the army following a verbal altercation over the roadblock in Khaldeh. He is believed to have helped organize the roadblock.

The man who shot him was the driver of a relative and member of Mount Lebanon army intelligence. They “knew each other well,” according to local media reports. In conspiracy-riven Lebanon, many privately speculated that Joumblatt had him killed. 

As tensions escalate, suspicion and conspiratorial speculation have become prevalent. No one believes the official story about anything. A week after his death, massive billboards of Abou Fakher were erected in downtown Beirut calling him “the martyr of Lebanon and the revolution against the oppressors.” There is speculation that Joumblatt himself paid for these billboards. 

At Nahr El Kalb, Lebanese Forces supporters began erecting a cement wall inside a tunnel to block the highway as they did during the civil war. This sparked panic that a new civil conflict was about to erupt. 

The roadblocks are organized and coordinated through WhatsApp groups. They ebb and flow depending on the latest outrage of the day. As of this writing, the roadblocks have ceased, but that could and will likely change tomorrow or perhaps next week. When these roadblocks receive coverage, those behind them are always referred to as “protesters” but their political affiliations are almost invariably omitted, as are their acts of flagrant intimidation.

What earns one the title of protester in the media is all about political affiliation. FPM, Hezbollah and Amal supporters are routinely castigated by their opponents as thugs and hooligans while the protests in their support are dismissed as marginal. For example, when some 20,000 FPM supporters drove to Baabda with several convoys that took up some five to ten kilometers of the highway to show their support for the President who is the leader of their party, local media mocked and dismissed them. 

When an FPM supporter shot in the air at protesters comprised of Lebanese Forces supporters who had been blocking the highway in Jal el Dib, his political affiliation was reported and he was branded a thug. Yet the political affiliation of those blocking the highway has scarcely ever been disclosed in media accounts. They are simply referred to simply as protesters. 

In private quarters, it is well known which parties are blocking which roads, but scarcely anyone dares to speak the truth publicly because of the fear of delegitimizing the movement as a whole. By refusing to name the bad actors, members of the movement are essentially opening up the protests as cover for the dangerous game carried out by the political parties doing the blocking. 

None of these parties want a war, yet they are using the threat of a war to pressure their adversaries – especially Hezbollah and FPM – into making concessions. It is brinksmanship at its most cynical.

And it is likely being encouraged by the US, which makes no secret of its ambition to reverse the political gains made by Hezbollah and its partners in the 2018 elections. Perhaps all the street pressure will translate into concessions. But there is also the chance it could lead to an all-out war. 

And then there is the role of the army and army intelligence. In Lebanon, everyone is vying for power.  

Joseph Aoun, the head of the Lebanese army, has ambitions for the presidency. It is widely rumored that he has not spoken to President Michel Aoun in weeks. The tension between the two highlights another friction point that the US has sought to exploit. 

The Lebanese army is trained and equipped by the US and dependent on Washington and the EU for its survival. Over 32,000 members of the Lebanese army have received training from the US and 80 percent of the army’s equipment comes from the US. The belief in the US – as argued recently by the former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman – is that by empowering the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah will become obsolete.

When Trump’s national security council announced a hold on $105 million in aid to the Lebanese army, hawkish pro-Israel Democratic lawmakers Eliot Engel and Ted Deutch urged the administration to reconsider. “As Hezbollah grows in sophistication and capability, it is critical the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] continues to grow and serve as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanese sovereignty and security,” they argued in a letter to the White House that clearly signaled their desire to isolate Hezbollah. 

On December 2, the Trump administration ceded to the pressure and released the military aid package.

In the South, Hezbollah and Amal clash 

Western and Gulf media have attempted to portray the protests as an uprising against Hezbollah, losing themselves in an anti-Iran fantasy. There may be some elements of the protests that have chanted against Hezbollah and their weapons, but they reflect a small minority. Despite all outside attempts to co-opt the movement, the protests remain solidly focused on opposing corruption and the government as a whole. 

Meanwhile, the international media has continued to erase the Hezbollah supporters who were crucial to the first two days of protests. The Western press has also ignored the ever-present chants against Israel and burning of American and Israeli flags.  

When Amal supporters from a nearby Shia neighborhood beat up protesters in downtown Beirut for blocking the main road, Western media falsely identified them as Hezbollah.

And when clashes broke out in Nabatiyeh, a town in southern Lebanon that is dominated by Hezbollah and Amal, Western and local media zeroed in on the violence. Local protesters, with communists among them, had been violently cleared out by local municipal police, including supporters of Hezbollah and Amal.

Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) have a notoriously antagonistic history. Some in the LCP blame Hezbollah for being complicit in the government’s corruption and they were outraged when Hezbollah supporters in the municipal police attacked their comrades in the Nabatiyeh protests. Hezbollah supporters maintain that LCP holds a grudge against them for fighting the communists and absorbing much of their Shia base during the 1980s.

With this background of conflict, it is no surprise that the LCP has been harshly critical of Hezbollah throughout the protests, as have many leftist groups. 

This bickering has been exploited by the Western press and Gulf-funded outlets, which also celebrated the resignations at Al Akhbar, one of the most widely read newspapers in Lebanon and a rare outlet that is explicitly pro-resistance and anti-imperialist. 

The disproportionate focus on these rifts obscured the reality of southern Lebanon, where tensions have been brewing between Amal and Hezbollah. Amal and Hezbollah were rivals in the civil war. These two forces have already engaged in a conflict referred to as “the war of the brothers”  – its name inspired by Shia families in the South turning against one another according to their members’ allegiance to Amal and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has been compelled to maintain a peaceful alliance with Amal in spite of the rampant corruption of its rival’s leadership. It is determined to avoid another Shia civil war and maintain a powerful coalition in the government. Meanwhile, Amal leader Nabih Berri, a civil war-era warlord who has been speaker of the parliament since the end of the civil war, has enriched himself on the back of his community. Many Shias are angry about Berri’s corruption and during the protests openly chanted against him and his wife Randa.  

Berri has also demonstrated his willingness to side with the US and Israel against Hezbollah, at least behind the scenes and for purely opportunistic reasons. According to Wikileaks cables, during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, Berri told the US ambassador at the time that the war’s potential to weaken Hezbollah was a positive development and he decried how few Hezbollah fighters Israel had managed to kill. 

Fear of Amal, hatred of corrupt leadership, and lack of ideology

In Tyre, protesters tore down Berri’s posters and torched the Tyre Rest House Resort, which they believe is owned by Randa Berri, though Nabih Berri denied it. When I visited Tyre two weeks later, hundreds of new posters of Berri had been erected that read, “the guarantor of Lebanon” and “we are all with you [Berri].” 

The posters surrounded the small protest encampment located in a roundabout on the beach road. The protest was part art fair, part concert for families, with liberals and a few leftists filling the ranks. Demonstrators were careful not to name leaders like Berri in their chants and when interviewed, they often spoke in vague terms out of fear of Amal. Later in the night, Amal members provoked the protesters in a familiar attempt at intimidation.  

Scenes like this are playing out in smaller towns too. 

Residents of the southern town of Machghara say Amal is taking names of protesters, deterring many from participating. As in Tyre, Amal emblazoned posters of Berri and new Amal flags around the streets to intimidate. 

At the protest in Tyre, blaring music made it difficult to have a meaningful conversation with any activists. But I managed to interview a few organizers, none of whom liked one another.

One woman rushed to me after I interviewed a protest organizer to insist to me, “He’s not a legitimate protester. He left when the Sayyad [Hassan Nasrallah] told people to leave. So he has no right to speak for the movement.” Everyone I spoke to at the Tyre protest was supportive of Hezbollah as a resistance organization to Israel. All they wanted, they said, was a secular government that could provide basic services – hardly a rebellion against Hezbollah. 

If there is anti-Hezbollah sentiment to be found, it would be in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and the site of ongoing sectarian violence. It is also one of the poorest areas of Lebanon. Yet in Tripoli’s Al-Nour Square, no one seemed to be protesting Hezbollah. Like virtually everyone else around the country, they were railing against economic inequality. 

The overwhelming majority of people at this protest were unemployed. And they had erected an odd mix of banners: one outlining the values of the protest (nonviolent, nonsectarian, etc), another listing important sites in the city, and then one by families of Islamist prisoners demanding the release of their loved ones. 

Of the dozens of people I spoke to, only one mentioned Hezbollah. “Part of the problem is we [Sunnis] don’t have anyone but Hariri, and he doesn’t have guns like Hezbollah and Amal. We have nothing,” said an unemployed 28-year-old father of three. There was also a great deal of praise for Turkey’s President Erdogan, but this is nothing out of the ordinary for conservative Tripoli.  

It seemed that everyone in this protest had a complaint about the high cost of living and inability to provide for their families or pay for necessary medical procedures. Unlike the protesters in downtown Beirut who insisted on having a leaderless movement, people in Tripoli were desperate for a charismatic leader. And while they yearned a fresh face to vote for, they had no one in mind.

When asked if they would vote for any of the alternative groups involved in the protests, they responded in the negative. One of the demands of the protests has been early elections. But it is unlikely that early elections would produce results much different than those in the 2018 elections, in which the civil society alliance of alternative parties won only one seat in parliament, which ultimately went to a woman in Sabaa.  

There was little political organizing to be found in these protest camps, except perhaps for the LCP holding a discussion in a nearby garden about the importance of opening up public spaces. Otherwise, people just sat around chatting about the revolution, waiting to be organized.

As the festivities filled up, vendors whipped out cotton candy, the music started pumping, and a protest instantly transformed into a nighttime carnival. The almost instant depoliticization of the event made me wonder who exactly was behind the music. 

Scenes like these help explain why protesters tend to be so short on political education. They are desperate for a better life but there are few organizations with the capacity and resources to organize them on a massive scale, especially in a leftist direction that highlights the root causes of their plight: neoliberalism and imperialism. A man in the protest ranks highlighted the problem when he exclaimed to me, “Please someone save us, even if it’s America. I don’t care.” 

Cooperation and integration versus the West’s recipe for fragmentation

The Lebanese economy is facing imminent collapse. Unemployment is spreading, prices are spiking and the street price of the Lebanese lira continues to devalue. There is little that can be done to avoid the collapse, which has been thirty years in the making.

The implosion of the Lebanese economy is spilling over into Syria, which was already teetering on the edge of economic collapse due to eight years of war, government mismanagement and US sanctions designed to collapse the country. Syria was relying on Lebanon as its access point to purchase goods for imports. Now that too is gone. Lebanon’s economic crisis is also affecting Syrian elites who placed their money in Lebanese banks during the war and cannot access it now due to the collapse of the banking sector.

One solution being floated for Lebanon’s economic woes is greater cooperation and economic integration with Syria. Syria, unlike Lebanon, has the capacity to produce with thousands of factories and a labor force. Lebanon produces nothing but has the ability to market and distribute without being hindered by international sanctions. Unfortunately none of this is on the reform agenda of the protests.

Iraq, too, could be a market for Lebanese dairy and agricultural products, which would transit through Syria if the Americans ever unblocked the Tanf crossing between Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has mentioned this in his speeches. The solution for Lebanon and its neighbors is cooperation and integration, not further fragmentation as is promoted by the West. 

One figure involved in the protest who is pushing the idea of regional economic integration with Syria is Charbel Nahas, secretary general of the political party Citizens In A State (CIAS). While CIAS refrains from identifying itself as left or right, it is clear from its platform that the party has a leftist progressive bent. CIAS has influenced some of the protest discourse but not when it comes to Syria, which is viewed negatively by the dominant forces on the ground in the protests.

The Lebanese Communist Party, for its part, is advocating nationalization of the banks and the cancelation of the public debt as well as other debts, though this too is not a part of the mainstream discourse. 

Meanwhile, the US has been scheming to exploit Lebanon’s economic desperation against Hezbollah.

After Hariri’s resignation, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Israel think tank, hosted a panel discussion on the protests sweeping Lebanon. The event was moderated by WINEP fellow Hanin Ghaddar, a native of Lebanon who has devoted her career to lobbying against Hezbollah. She was elated by Hariri’s resignation. 

Among the panelists was Makram Rabah, a lecturer at the American University of Beirut and consultant with Quantum Communications, a marketing firm that played a crucial role in the so-called Cedar Revolution in 2005 that ousted the Syrian army from Lebanon and birthed the pro-American anti-Hezbollah March 14 coalition. 

Rabah was joined by Lokman Slim, who runs Hayya Bina, a Western-backed NGO that has partnered with an array of US government-funded entities, including the National Democratic Institute, a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy and partner of the US Institute for Peace, which were both founded under Reagan to push regime change in adversary countries under the cover of “democracy promotion.”  

“The USG has been working quietly with Slim for some time” according to Wikileaks cables, which also showcased Hayya Bina’s close coordination with the US embassy.

Through Hayya Bina, Slim runs the website Shiawatch.org, which supposedly monitors the malign activities of Shia groups the US doesn’t like. It’s difficult to imagine Western support for a website called JewWatch, but anti-Shia bigotry has been normalized by Western governments as a tool against Iran.

The WINEP panelists emphasized the need for the US to harness the protests against Hezbollah. 

Mike Pompeo expressed his support for the protests, claiming that protesters “want Hezbollah and Iran out of their country.” Hezbollah is Lebanese, so Pompeo’s declaration was essentially a call for expelling Lebanese people the US does not like from their native country. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also threw his support behind the protests, framing them as a movement against Hezbollah. 

Statements like these encapsulated the danger the protests pose against an imminent economic collapse. So far, American involvement has been minimal and the protests have remained focused on the organic concerns of ordinary Lebanese citizens. But if the US chooses to escalate its involvement, the situation could take a nasty turn.

*(Top image: The women’s march in Beirut on December 7, 2019. Credit: Timour Azhari/ Twitter)

*This article was originally published on the Gray Zone Project.

The Yemen War: A Non-Issue at Election Time

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In the run-up to last Thursday’s General Election in the United Kingdom, one in which Boris Johnson’s Conservatives recorded an overwhelming victory over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, several high-profile topics were the subject of much debate within the British political sphere.

First and foremost was both parties’ position on Brexit, with Labour’s favoring of a second referendum being seen as a key factor in its defeat at the polls; allegations of anti-Semitism within Corbyn’s party were also abound, whereas an increase in privatization under a Conservative government was also extensively highlighted.

One subject that barely garnered a mention in the run-up to the election however, or indeed at any other time within British political discourse, is Britain’s key role in the now four-year-long Saudi Arabia-led war on Yemen.

In March 2015, following the takeover of its capital Sana’a by the Houthi movement, Riyadh immediately began an air campaign on the impoverished Arab nation in a bid to restore the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Mainly targeting Yemen’s agricultural sector, this has led to famine and widespread starvation in what is already the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula; the subsequent collapse of Yemen’s health, water and sanitation infrastructure has also led to the worst Cholera outbreak in recorded history; a situation exacerbated even further by a Saudi blockade preventing food and medical supplies from entering the country.

Despite this being a Saudi-led campaign in coalition with several other Arab and African states, the support of Britain plays a vital role in the ongoing conflict.

The world’s second-largest exporter of arms after the United States, Britain has sold billions of pounds worth of weaponry to Riyadh since the conflict began – with the Gulf Kingdom and its coalition partner, the United Arab Emirates, purchasing more than £14bn worth of British armaments in 2018 alone.

The role of Britain in the Yemen conflict goes far beyond mere arms sales however, with British military advisors playing a key role in the Saudi command room in the choosing of targets for airstrikes – more than 100 Saudi pilots have also been trained at RAF airbases in Britain in the past decade alone.

This military and financial support of Riyadh by Britain helps to fulfill a geopolitical ambition that London shares with the United States – the containment of Iran in the region, a long-time Western foe since the 1979 Islamic Revolution replaced the US-Anglo backed Shah of Iran with the anti-Western Ayatollah Khomeini, and an issue pertinent to the Yemeni conflict as the Houthi movement has long been accused of being backed by Tehran.

However, despite a brief comment by Jeremy Corbyn that he would halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia had he been victorious in the polls, the devastating conflict in Yemen and Britain’s key role in the ongoing suffering barely registered with commentators in the run-up to the election – to the British mainstream media, it would appear that arms sales and the containment of Iran are far more important than the lives of Yemeni children.

*(Top image: Human rights campaigners protest against arms sales to Saudi Arabia outside the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), the Government department responsible for arms export promotions. London, UK. 11th July, 2016. Credit: Campaign Against Arms Trade Follow/ Flickr)

‘Afghan Papers’ Wouldn’t Be Needed If We Had a Real Independent Newsmedia

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In 1966, during the early years of the America’s war against Vietnam, Congress passed and President Johnson signed into law a Freedom of Information Act.  The FOIA wasn’t all that great at the time, though. Indeed, it took the courageous act of two men, Daniel Ellsberg and his co-conspirator, Anthony Russo, to to risk years in jail to steal and then copy thousands of pages of a secret US government study of the history of that war, known as the Pentagon Papers, in 1969, and to then, at great personal risk, to get them, in 1971, printed in the New York Times.

Three years later, in the midst of the Watergate scandal and Nixon impeachment, FOIA was improved and expanded. Suddenly ordinary Americans were for the first time able to file a FOIA request with a government agency like the FBI and other federal agencies and receive documents (censored of course, but still useful)  like a dossier of spying on themselves (as I did), or a copy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s latest plan for implementing martial law in the event of a “national emergency” (as I also did).

FOIA still exists, though over the course of the last three secrecy-obsessed presidencies of GW Bush, Obama and Trump, it has been severely weakened again and been violated in practice by successive administrations.

Nonetheless, it was through that Freedom of Information Act, not a couple of heroic whistleblowers this time, that the Washington Post, its lawyers and reporter Craig Whitlock obtained what are being dubbed the Afghanistan Papers. These 3000 pages of documents provide a disturbingly similar inside account to the Pentagon Papers in their documenting of how and why the US invaded one of the world’s poorest countries, and has now fought a war there against its impoverished and long-suffering people for 18 years and running.

Like the Pentagon Papers of over half a century ago, the Afghanistan Papers present a tale of epic deception:  self-deception on the part of presidents and their top advisors and cabinet officers, deception of government leaders and members of Congress by generals and government bureaucrats seeking to inflate their reputations, resumes and rank,  and deception of the American people by virtually everyone government.

The basic takeaway from the Afghanistan Papers is that for the past two decades, virtually everyone involved in this longest war in US history, with the exception of some brave, honest soldiers like those in Iraq Veterans Against the War (!VAW), has been simply making stuff up to make it appear to the public as if the US were somehow always, if not winning, then “making gains.” This logical impossibility (how can a military keep “making gains” while always losing ground, or at least not failing to gain ground?) was obviously quite a challenge. After all, the truth has been that, despite over $1 trillion in  military spending and 18 years of epic bombing and killing by advanced US military forces equipped with smart bombs, night-vision equipment, a massive airforce and limitless use of surveillance and attack drones,  the primitive fighters of the Taliban and their allies, armed with nothing but AK-47s and even older rifles, home-made mines and a gritty willingness to die for their cause, have been battling the mighty US to a standoff, and are even winning.  Eighteen years on, the Taliban control more Afghan territory and even more towns and cities than at any time since the US invaded and pushed them out of Kabul in 2001. Today, the US is nowhere closer to defeating its purported enemy in Afghanistan than it was when it charged into Afghanistan with Special Forces and an aerial blitz on October 7, 1991. Today, if the US were to pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban would likely take over the whole country, including the capital of Kabul, within a matter of months.

When the Pentagon Papers became publicly available back in June, 1971, their impact on public support for the war was enormous. This was not so much because of the revelations included in the documents. Much of the information revealed was already known thanks to an aggressive media, gritty on-the-scene reporters, and especially because of a dedicated alternative media keeping the major media honest. Perhaps more important was the environment they arrived in. The Pentagon Papers were published at a time that the war was turning sour. The bodies of American soldiers being flown home in bodybags was soaring, Everybody in the US knew someone or had some relative who had lost a son, husband or father. US troops in Vietnam, and even onboard US Navy ships in the Pacific were in open revolt, with the fraggings of over-zealous junior officers by enlisted men, and the refusal of units to obey orders to deploy, becoming epidemic.  Angry draftees were returning from tours of duty telling of war crimes they’d seen or even been forced to commit, and of a war that was being lost and fought for nothing against people just trying to defend their country and free it from colonial subjugation. The US at home was being torn apart by urban rebellion, massive protests and student strikes and the fatal shooting of protesters by the National Guardsmen and police. Also important,  much of the US media had begun to turn against the war.

The situation today is totally different. The Afghanistan Papers obtained by the Washington Post and reporter Craig Whitlock, while in many ways as revealing and infuriating as were the Pentagon Papers, are arriving in a different America — an America where there is virtually no organized peace movement (and certainly not one willing and large enough to face down police and shut down cities), an America whose news media are complicit in the country’s wars, even shamelessly hiring retired generals (often who sit on and receive fat paychecks from the boards of companies that sell arms to the Pentagon!) to serve as “commentators,” an America that has an all-“volunteer” military of men and women who signed up to fight and who, even if they don’t agree with what they’re doing, feel like they signed up for it, an America where the citizenry rarely even thinks about the wars, which are carefully kept at a distance by the government, are fought largely from the air, are talked about little, and are funded with borrowed money instead of taxation.

America’s wars are largely an afterthought in the media and in the minds of the American public.

I hope I’m wrong, but I am afraid that the like many good investigative pieces about America’s imperial war machine (my own on the Pentagon’s $21-trillion accounting fraud included), Whitlock’s exposé of the massive deception that is the Afghanistan War will sink into oblivion with little impact on the course of that terrible conflict.

Absent a committed peace movement, a disgruntled and recalcitrant military rank-and-file, and equally important, an adversarial media willing to call out the shills and crooks, corporate lobbyists and demagogues who promote this and other endless wars, there will be no end to them.

Indeed, as some have already pointed out, there would be no need for the Washington Post’s belated Afghanistan Papers exposé had the Post and other mainstream media not been for years shamelessly promoting the scare stories of a global terrorist threat, an Iraqi threat, a Russian threat, a Chinese threat, a Syrian threat, a Libyan threat and other pulse-pumping nonsense. If the Post and other major news media outlets had been pursuing the truth over the years about these all the wars, and the so-called “War” on Terror, instead of leaving the hard work of exposing all the lies to the likes of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and journalist/whistleblower publisher Julian Assange, we’d already know all about the venality and culpability of our government.

In fact, no sooner did the Post publish its “exposé” than the House yesterday, with no sense of irony at all,  passed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act measure.  The vote was 377-48, with 188 Democrats joining virtually all Republicans in voting for it.  The NDAA bill, which will surely also pass the Senate and become law, provides a record $738-billion for the Pentagon through the current 2019-20 fiscal year, including funding for the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen and the creation of President Trump’s new US Space Force. The latter measure is guaranteed to  spark a hugely costly and dangerous new arms race in space with both Russia and China, while Yemen is simply the latest murderous outrage by the US military against an impoverished population.  All the lies that were illustrated in the Post article about the sorry history of the US Afghan War, and many new ones are being trotted out again in support of these new war-mongering measures and of the an extraordinary and appalling waste of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Kudos to Whitlock for his good work in laying out all the records exposing two decades of lying about Afghanistan, but no kudos to the Post, which  has much penance yet to do for its decades, including under its current ownership by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos,, of promoting endless war (as does its competitor and publisher of the Pentagon Papers, the New York Times).

*(Top image: Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Law, the Jump Platoon commander and battalion gunner for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, walks across a bridge in Nawa, Helmand province, Afghanistan, while providing security during a media escort Oct. 22, 2010. Credit: Marines/ Flickr)

The Washington Post Ignores the US Invaded Afghanistan to Control Oil, Heroin, China and Iran

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The Washington Post has recently published a series of articles detailing its long battle to obtain United States government documents relating to the decision to invade Afghanistan in 2001. The Washington Post story has been picked up by a number of news organizations around the world. Insofar as these revelations confirm what has long been known or suspected, that the United States invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was based on faulty or non-existent intelligence, that confirmation is welcome.

The publicity given to the Washington Post revelations while welcome, continues to ignore several major points about that conflict. It is hardly a shattering revelation that the United States government lies. Nor is it a revelation that their various schemes to invade or attack foreign governments are often ill-conceived, badly executed, and lack a “what comes next” strategy.

Putting a stop to these endless invasions, occupations and destructive policies will not come about by ignoring their essential character, which is the furtherance of the economic and geopolitical interests, not only of the United States government, but the powerful forces and individuals that are the true determiners of United States foreign policy.

The Washington Post’s quazi revelations perfectly illustrates the point, not least by ignoring the fundamental facts that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan and the present day provide insights into the real reasons, plural, for the invasion, and why the United States will not voluntarily leave the country, Trump’s alleged wishes or policies notwithstanding.

The first basic fact to grasp, and one that all the commentary on the Washington Post revelations studiously ignore, is that the decision to invade Afghanistan was made in mid 2001, long before the alleged excuse of the events of 11 September 2001 (“9/11”).

A major factor influencing the American decision to invade Afghanistan was the decision by the then Taliban government to award the contract for the transport of oil and gas from the Caspian Basin nations via Afghanistan to the Argentinian company, Bridas Corporation.

One of the first acts of the US after the Afghanistan invasion was to cancel the Bridas contract. That company later successfully sued the United States government for the breach of its contract, a fact that for obvious reasons went almost completely unreported in the western mainstream media.

A second factor, again ignored by the Washington Post, is geography. Look at a map and the motives for the American action immediately become apparent. Afghanistan shares a border with multiple countries, including the United States’ long-term adversaries such as Iran and China. Some of the “Stans” that formed part of the former Soviet Union are now central to major non-United States projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. United States (and Australian) antipathy to these projects is well documented. Even India’s North South Transportation Corridor, extending to Russia and Europe via Iran and Azerbaijan and involving other regional countries in the foreseeable future (including Afghanistan) is another motive for United States involvement in the region. It would be a gross misunderstanding to assume that involvement is benign, and the Washington Post does its readers no favors by ignoring the geopolitical realities.

It is for example long-standing United States policy to prevent the rise of any serious challenge to its previous status as the world’s number one hegemon. The initial challenge to that status came from the Soviet Union, which abated during the disastrous Yeltsin years. As Russia has been transformed under the Putin years, and most significantly in this context developed a weapons system that outclasses by a significant margin anything in the American arsenal, American attention focused more on the rapidly rising power of China.

This is not to suggest that the United States anti-Russian hysteria has abated. In fact, it has measurably increased, reaching manifestly absurd levels.

Not the least of the United States motives for remaining in Afghanistan is to maintain a military threat, literally on the Chinese border. This has been accompanied by a whole range of related American maneuvers, including but not limited to, sponsoring unrest in Hong Kong, increasing its military and other provocations in the South China Sea, and actions proximate to the Taiwanese border, and in other ways progressively undermining official United States policy towards the status of Taiwan that has been in place for several decades.

The other factor that the Washington Post articles studiously ignores is the role of Afghanistan as the supplier of more than 90% of the world’s heroin. That industry was devastated in the period of Taliban rule, but was immediately resurrected following the United States invasion of Afghanistan. United States planes are used to fly in the chemicals needed to refine opium into heroin, and United States planes are used to fly out the refined product for worldwide distribution.

Again, the facts are well documented, but the Washington Post, along with most of the western media, while noting Afghanistan’s central role in the world heroin supplies, studiously ignored inconvenient facts such as the above distribution network, or the active role of United States troops, and those of their allies in protecting opium production.

None of this should be a surprise as the basic facts have been well documented in official United Nations reports for many years. When such an obvious fact is ignored, it immediately calls into question the validity and the motives of the original article. On the pretext of criticizing official government secrecy, which is a legitimate criticism, the Washington Post effectively provides cover for deeper US government motives.

For these various reasons it would be naïve to anticipate an early negotiated United States withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their motives for remaining as long as possible vastly outweigh any political or economic cost of remaining. It is a point the Washington Post studiously ignores. While a critique of cultural insensitivity and poorly motivated troops is justified, it is essentially a minor element in the wider
geopolitical objectives of the United States government.

While the Washington Post is to be commended for providing some much-needed documentary evidence as to the United States’ Afghanistan decision making process, it would be naïve to assume that this is remotely near the whole story. As is so often the case, it is what one is not told that is frequently more important than the limited information that is provided.

For the same reasons the 19th century British made multiple invasions of Afghanistan, the combined lure of geography providing proximity to countries with whom the United States is either actively opposing or is seeking to influence their internal processes, and the enormously lucrative drug industry, ensures that the United States will not voluntarily depart from Afghanistan in the near future.

*(Top image: Royal Marine from 42 Commando Crouches in a Poppy Field as Chinook Launches. Credit: Dave Hillhouse/ Defence Images/ Flickr)

*This article was originally published on the Journal-Neo.

Nancy Pelosi: Pull a Mitch McConnell, and President Trump Is Toast

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Speaker Pelosi: when the Impeachment Resolution is passed, do not send it immediately to the Senate. Withhold it instead until the court cases are settled, until Don McGahn and others are forced to respond to their subpoenas, until the President is forced to submit his tax returns, until all the evidence has come to the surface and makes an airtight case to remove him from office.

Take a page from Mitch McConnell’s playbook and game the system.  Remember what he did to Merrick Garland?  The hundreds of passed House bills he refuses to bring to the Senate floor? Use your power the way he does.

Sending the Resolution to the Senate right away hands the initiative to McConnell, and he will game the system, beyond doubt.  He’s already disclosed how he’ll do it, boasting he’ll align Senate procedure with the wishes of the White House. If he could, he’d refuse to act on the Resolution at all, but by law he can’t do that. So he’ll orchestrate a short trial with no witnesses and call for a quick up-or-down vote and he’ll win as he always does—with foul means or fouler. If you let McConnell proceed the President will not be removed from office in January, when the Senate is scheduled to undertake the trial.

So finesse the Majority Leader. Withhold the Resolution. The court cases should all be resolved by June, say (not incidentally when Bill Weld’s primary challenge will be blazing full tilt).

Then hold some more hearings. Answer the Republicans’ demand for “fact witnesses” by calling McGahn, Pompeo, Bolton, Pence, Giuliani, and Mulvaney to testify. Make the Trump tax returns public. The lurid truth of his misconduct will dominate the nightly news for weeks.

When all the bombshells have exploded, then hand off the Impeachment Resolution to Mitch McConnell. Now you have set the stage, not the Majority Leader—and what could be more politically damaging to Trump than standing trial during the heat of his reelection campaign?

The case against Trump is not at the moment open-and-shut. Committee chairs Schiff and Nadler may claim the evidence is “overwhelming,” but Republican Senators hotly deny that, and so do half of the American people. When the damning evidence now blocked by lawsuits is a matter of record, the case will be unassailable: it will be impossible for Republican Senators to deny, and McConnell’s capacity to game the system will vanish. The Senate will have no choice but to vote removal.

Speaker Pelosi, wait until you have an airtight case and then spring.

*(Top image: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr)

The US Is Working to Smuggle Zionist Agent Amer Fakhoury Out of Lebanon

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A recent report by the pan-Arab Beirut based newspaper, Al-Akhbar, has uncovered recent attempts by the US embassy to smuggle Amer Fakhoury--a former member of the ‘Israeli’-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) and warden at the former Khiam prison, where he oversaw torture of Lebanese citizens--out of Lebanon. According to the report, the embassy is using the pretext of extreme illness to facilitate an exit out of Lebanon and evade prosecution.

Fakhoury’s original trial for November 18th at the Palace of Justice in Nabatiyeh had been postponed to Thursday, November 21st due to an excuse of “illness,” with Fakhoury failing to show up for court. That day, the investigative judge postponed his trial to the following Thursday.

On November 21st, Fakhoury’s trial had been postponed again to December 5th under the same pretext of disease, also due to his transfer to the hospital for medical examinations. Al-Akhbar wrote that the pretext given was cancer while the New York Times said that Fakhoury’s family and doctors claimed he had a “life-threatening” cases of lymphoma, bleeding, and an infection.

Originally, following the judiciary’s verdict, Fakhoury was to undergo medical examinations in a military court. Yet a delay in the duration of testing had aroused suspicions among Lebanese, demanding for adequate prosecution of the agent for his participation in treason and war crimes, that foreign interference was at play.

Assets within the US Embassy, assisted by US allies within the Lebanese judiciary and military, had successfully moved Fakhoury from the military hospital to Hotel Dieu de France Hospital in Beirut as a first step towards moving him abroad. Some US officials, members of Fakhoury’s family, and Fakhoury’s American lawyer of Lebanese origin, Celine Atallah, insisted that he must be transferred abroad for care.

Atallah said that the agent “must get out of Lebanon as quickly as possible” in a phone interview with the Associated Press on December 5th.

Yet Al-Akhbar also claimed that Fakhoury’s medical records denied that he had cancer, in tune with accusations that the hospitalization was for political, not medical, purposes.

Suspicions that American assets had been planning to move Fakhoury out of the country had increased in the following weeks, especially in light of the delays in prosecution. Aided by the current political unrest in Lebanon, the Al-Akhbar report claimed the smuggling of Fakhoury out of Lebanon is being planned to take place “very soon.”

On Wednesday, December 4th, a US Embassy team met with Fakhoury in Beirut. US Diplomat Joey Hood expressed “grave concerns” over the handling of Fakhoury, adding that his case is a “high priority” for the US Embassy.

The Al-Akhbar report also mentioned that one of the objectives by the visit of US Undersecretary of State David Hale to Lebanon this week will be to add pressure onto Lebanon regarding this case.

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also joined called for sanctions on Lebanon should Fakhoury die there, referring to his detainment as illegal.

The increased American interest and pressure in Fakhoury’s case comes weeks after the United States quietly released funds from a $105 million military aid package to Lebanon after putting it on hold for months. It is believed that the US will attempt to use aid money and the threat of sanctions as a means to leverage in coercing the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) into releasing Fakhoury.

A congressional bill, titled “Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act of 2019”  was introduced this summer by Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Shaheen, aiming to target the funding and operations of the LAF should it not comply with US political demands, and remove any personnel associated with or influential to the LAF that the US perceives to be “influenced by” Hezbollah. Shaheen also cosponsored the “Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act” with Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2014 and 2015.

Military investigative judge Najat Abu Shakra had originally issued the arrest warrant in September on the charges placed upon him in the military court.

Fakhoury’s defense had previously argued that the charges had expired over time, invalid as of 2018. However, Abu Shakra had rejected these claims for dismissal on the grounds that the crime of high treason is not subject to the statute of limitations. A prosecution committee in the Lebanese Military Tribune approved Abu Shakra’s rejections on Wednesday, December 11.

*(Top image: Protestors in front of the Palace of Justice in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon on November 18. Credit: Mohammad Zaatari)

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