Archive | December 15th, 2016

CIA Cover-Up on Chile 1973 Coup against Salvador Allende. Release of Classified CIA Documents


Forty-three years after the U.S.-supported military coup in Chile, the Central Intelligence Agency continues to withhold information on what it knew about planning for the putsch, and what intelligence it shared with President Richard Nixon, according to redacted documents posted today by the National Security Archive. The documents, among the hundreds of President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) the CIA declassified last month, excise material that almost certainly has already been released to the public years ago. The section on Chile of the PDB dated September 11, 1973, for example, was completely censored, as was an entire page on Chile provided to Nixon on September 8, 1973, even though thousands of once-sensitive intelligence records from the coup period have already been declassified since at least 1999.

“The CIA is trying – but failing – to hold history hostage,” stated Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project. By continuing to censor the historical record, he suggested, “the CIA is attempting to cover up what Nixon knew about coup plotting in Chile and when he knew it, as well as hiding the CIA’s own contacts and connections to the coup plotters.”

The National Security Archive today called on the Obama administration, which has prided itself on historical transparency, to revisit the CIA’s determination to withhold the records.  Kornbluh said the Archive would also use mandatory declassification procedures to press for the full release of the censored documents.

The CIA’s continuing censorship of history, Kornbluh noted, makes no sense because the agency has already officially acknowledged its ties to coup plotters within the Chilean military and already declassified substantial intelligence reporting on the countdown to the coup and CIA contacts with a key member of the military effort to overthrow Allende. In a special report on its operations in Chile to the House Intelligence Committee in September 2000, the CIA acknowledged that at the time of the coup it “was aware of coup-plotting by the military, had ongoing intelligence collection relationships with some plotters, and—because CIA did not discourage the takeover and had sought to instigate a coup in 1970—probably appeared to condone it.”

A full-page briefing to the president about Chile on September 8, 1973, remains entirely censored.

Indeed, according to Kornbluh’s book, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, on the eve of the coup, one of the plotters identified by the CIA as a “key officer of Chilean military group planning to overthrow President Allende” confirmed to the CIA that the military would move against Allende the next morning and “asked if the U.S. government would come to the aid of the Chilean military if the situation became difficult.” According to a declassified secret CIA memorandum sent to the White House on the day of the coup, the official was promised that his request “would promptly be made known to Washington.”

According to declassified records posted today by the Archive, the intelligence community began generating substantial information about preparations for the coup on September 8, 1973. Initial reports stated that the coup was planned for September 10; the CIA subsequently reported in a special “critical information” cable that the coup would take place the next day, on September 11. Among the already declassified intelligence reports are:

**A Defense Intelligence Agency summary, dated September 8 and classified “Top Secret Umbra,” that provided detailed information on an agreement among the Chilean Army, Navy and Air Force to move against Allende on September 10.

**A CIA Intelligence cable, dated September 8 and classified “Secret,” stating that the Chilean Navy would “initiate a move to overthrow the government of President Salvador Allende in Valparaiso at 8:30am on 10 September,” and provided detailed information on which branches of the military and police would seize control of which strategic locations. The cable identified key Chilean officers and officials who had signed on to support the coup.

** A CIA intelligence cable, dated September 10 and classified “Secret,” which stated that the September 10th date had been postponed “in order to improve tactical coordination” but that “a coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September. All three branches of the Armed Forces and the Carabineros are involved in this action.”

The September 10 cable was written by Jack Devine, a young CIA operative in Santiago, based on intelligence provided to him by a source close to the military. In his memoir, Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story, cleared by the CIA for publication in 2014, Devine wrote that “I sent CIA headquarters in Langley a special type of top-secret cable known as a CRITIC [critical information], which takes priority over all other cables and goes directly to the highest levels of government. President Richard Nixon and other top U.S. policymakers received it immediately. ‘A coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September,’ the cable read.”

In 1999, the Clinton administration declassified Devine’s cable along with 23,000 other formerly secret records as part of a special declassification project on Chile; the National Security Archive has posted it for the first time today.

Under the Obama administration, in October 2015 the CIA began declassifying the President’s Daily Briefs, a set of intelligence records provided to presidents that former CIA Director George Tenet claimed could never be released publicly “no matter how old or historically significant it may be.” The CIA’s decision to process the records came eight years after the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in response to a FOIA lawsuit brought by the Archive and Professor Larry Berman, refused to create a “per se status exemption for PDB’s,” leaving them subject to future Freedom of Information Act requests.

“The CIA deserves credit for finally acknowledging that the PDB’s can, in fact, be declassified without any harm to national security”, Kornbluh noted.  “The documents provided to Richard Nixon on Chile,” he said, “can and should be released for the sanctity of the historical record. The public has a right to know what the President knew, and when he knew it.”


Document 01

CIA, “The President’s Daily Brief,” Top Secret, Briefing Paper, September 11, 1973

On the day of the military coup in Chile, the CIA presents intelligence information on the progress of efforts to overthrow Salvador Allende to President Nixon. The information remains entirely redacted in this document.

Document 02

CIA, “The President’s Daily Brief,” Top Secret, Briefing Paper, September 8, 1973

Three days before the coup, the CIA provides President Nixon with a full page of intelligence on preparations in Chile to overthrow Allende. The information given to the President is likely to be drawn from intelligence reports sent by the CIA and the DIA from Santiago that day. The information provided to Nixon, however, remains entirely censored by the CIA.

Document 03

DIA, “Chile: The Military May Attempt a Coup Against The Allende Government on 10 September…,” Top Secret UMBRA, Intelligence Summary, September 8, 1973

This highly classified intelligence report provides detailed information on an agreement among the Chilean Army, Navy and Air Force to move against Allende. Sources in Chile told U.S. military officials there that the target date for the coup was September 10.

Document 04

CIA, [Intelligence Report on Planned Coup], Secret, Intelligence Cable, September 8, 1973

In this report from the CIA station in Santiago, the CIA’s sources among the coup plotters provide information that the Chilean Navy will lead a coup from Valparaiso in the early morning of September 10, and then the other branches of the military will join in. Sources tell the CIA that General Augusto Pinochet is in communication with Air Force General Gustavo Leigh about the planned coup effort.

Document 05

CIA, [Updated Intelligence Report on Planned Coup], Secret, Intelligence Cable, September 10, 1973

This cable was written by a CIA operative in Santiago, Jack Devine, based on information from a source close to the Chilean military. Devine identifies the new date of the planned coup, September 11, and confirms that all three branches of the Chilean armed forces, along with the police, “are involved in this action.” In his memoir, Good Hunting, Devine writes that the cable was labeled CRITIC [Critical Information] for urgency and distributed to top officials in Washington, including President Nixon.

Document 06

CIA, “Possible Request for U.S. Government Aid from Key Officer of Chilean Military Group Planning to Overthrow President Allende,” Secret, Memoranda, September 11, 1973

The CIA transmits to the White House confirmation of the forthcoming coup from a “key officer” as well as his request for U.S. assistance if the military encounters resistance. The request arrives at the White House on the actual day of the coup. No direct U.S. support proved to be necessary; the request was never acted upon.

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Remaining Militants Withdraw from Aleppo After Failed Night Attack ”Video”

aleppo militant

Last night, Jaish al-Fatah militants launched a major offensive against government forces in Hikmah from the direction of Rashiddeen 4 in the southwestern Aleppo countryside.

After a series of firefights, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah forced Jaish al-Fatah units to retreat.

As a result,  a group of militants, sabotaged the evacuation from Aleppo on December 14, which had been agreed under conditions of the Syrian government.

Militants remaining inside Aleppo will have an opportunity to withdraw to Idlib on December 15. If they refuse, the Syrian army will continue the counter-terrorism operation to clear the building blocks controlled by gunmen opposing the evacuation.

10:38 CET 15.12.2016 – The withdrawal of militants from Aleppo is now ongoing.

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act”


“(W)hen it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk,” she said. “When it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove.”

She opposed condemning Bashar al-Assad, saying targeting him was “a thinly veiled attempt to use the rationale of ‘humanitarianism’ as a justification to escalate our illegal, counterproductive war” – its aim to topple him and his government.

If Trump is serious about wanting more diplomacy and less war, his choice for secretary of state should be someone with likeminded views. A refreshing new face would be welcome, a woman polar opposite war goddess Hillary.

On December 8, a press release from her office said the following:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard…introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act today. The legislation would prohibit the US government from using American taxpayer dollars to provide funding, weapons, training, and intelligence support to groups like the Levant Front, Fursan al Ha and other allies of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda and ISIS, or to countries who are providing direct or indirect support to those same groups.

The legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT-AL), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-48), and Thomas Massie (R-KT-04), and supported by the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and the US Peace Council.

On the House floor, Gabbard said “(u)nder US law it is illegal for any American to provide money or assistance to al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups.”

If you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaeda or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail. Yet the US government has been violating this law for years, quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaeda, ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al Sham and other terrorist groups with money, weapons, and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government.

The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

This support has allowed al-Qaeda and their fellow terrorist organizations to establish strongholds throughout Syria, including in Aleppo.

That is why I’ve introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists bill – legislation based on congressional action during the Iran-Contra affair to stop the CIA’s illegal arming of rebels in Nicaragua.

Gabbard’s legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence to identify nations, groups and individuals involved in terrorist activities or supporting them.

She endorses ending US interventionist practices against nations like Syria threatening no one. Her measure is a courageous act going nowhere in neocon infested Congress.

It’s also a shot across the bow to the incoming Trump administration to stop US wars of aggression on humanity.

Will it work, even partially? The fullness of time will tell. Likely a long shot at best.


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Word of the Year 2016 is… “Post-Truth”


After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

Why was this chosen?

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

Post-truth in 2016

Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary, now often being used by major publications without the need for clarification or definition in their headlines.

A brief history of post-truth

The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’. This nuance seems to have originated in the mid-20th century, in formations such as post-national (1945) and post-racial (1971).

Post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world’. There is evidence of the phrase ‘post-truth’ being used before Tesich’s article, but apparently with the transparent meaning ‘after the truth was known’, and not with the new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant.

A book, The Post-truth Era, by Ralph Keyes appeared in 2004, and in 2005 American comedian Stephen Colbert popularized an informal word relating to the same concept: truthiness, defined by Oxford Dictionaries as ‘the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true’. Post-truth extends that notion from an isolated quality of particular assertions to a general characteristic of our age.

The shortlist

Here are the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist choices, and definitions:

adulting, n. [mass noun] informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

alt-right, n. (in the US) an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content. Find out more about the word’s rise.

Brexiteer, n. British informal a person who is in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.

chatbot, n. a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

coulrophobia, n. [mass noun] rare extreme or irrational fear of clowns.

glass cliff,  n. used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high. Explore the word’s history from one of the inventors of the term, Alex Haslam.

hygge, n. [mass noun] a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture):

Latinx, n. (plural Latinxs or same) and adj. a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina); relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).

woke, adj. (woker, wokest) US informal alert to injustice in society, especially racism. Read more about the evolution of woke throughout 2016.

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The Iran-Contra Affair Thirty Years Later: A Milestone in Post-Truth Politics


Exactly thirty years ago, President Ronald Reagan announced to the nation – after weeks of denials – that members of his White House staff had engaged in a web of covert intrigue linking illicit U.S. support for a guerrilla war in Central America with an illegal and politically explosive arms-for-hostages bargain with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The revelation quickly led to a new phrase – “Iran-Contra” – which became synonymous with political hubris, government incompetence, and dishonesty in the public sphere.

President Reagan turns over the podium in the White House press room to Attorney General Edwin Meese after revealing Iran-Contra affair, November 25, 1986 (Source: Reagan Library and Museum, C38118-29)

Over the years, the National Security Archive has published major document collections, books, and web postings about Iran-Contra that expand on all of these areas of inquiry (see links in left column). Today, the Archive posts a selection of materials that spotlight the last of the elements above – deceitfulness – whose relevance has sadly become more pronounced after a bruising political season marked by examples and allegations of widespread public contempt for facts, evidence and the truth.

Today’s focus also follows Oxford Dictionaries’ selection earlier this month of the term “post-truth” as its Word of the Year, a choice it traced indirectly to the Reagan-era scandal: “Post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.’” (See The Nation, January 6/13, 1992)

The historical record, including thousands of documents and hundreds of hours of testimony that are not possible to reproduce here, bears out the connection between the attitudes evident during the mid-1980s and what Americans have been witnessing in 2016.

The Iran-Contra affair inundated national news coverage starting a few weeks before the November 1986 press conference (as stories about the Contra and Iran operations leaked out) and lasting through Summer 1987. A galvanized media that had faced criticisms for its lax treatment of Reagan seemed eager to make up for it now that it finally had a story of Watergate proportions. Picking up on aspects of secret administration policy that only a few intrepid reporters had noticed before, TV and print outlets uncovered sometimes shocking new information about the lengths to which the Reagan administration had gone to press the Contra war in and around Nicaragua without authorization from Congress.

Similar disclosures came out about National Security Council staff-supervised contacts with Iranian intermediaries and Israeli counterparts, along with covert missile shipments from U.S. military stocks to Iran. Various committees in Congress hastily held hearings that produced more discoveries along the same lines.

President Reagan hosts Saudi King Fahd in  Oval Office, February 11, 1985. During the visit, Fahd pledged to double secret Saudi funding for the Nicaraguan Contras to a level of $2 million per month. Reagan’s national security adviser, Robert C. McFarlane, had quietly solicited the Saudis for aid several months earlier in an attempt to get around congressional restrictions on U.S. funding for the rebels. (Source: Reagan Library and Museum, C27253-9)

Eventually, a joint congressional select committee was convened and an independent counsel appointed by the courts, both of which uncovered volumes of invaluable documentary evidence of what had transpired, including:

  • After being explicitly prohibited from aiding the Contras with military or intelligence support, the president and his top advisers had agreed to solicit financial and other material backing from a slew of foreign governments (Document 01), from Saudi Arabia, to China, to the Sultanate of Brunei, to apartheid South Africa. No effort was ever intended to notify Congress, which had constitutional authority over funding for those activities
  • When the approaches to foreign governments seemed not to be enough, National Security Council staffer Oliver North, the main foot soldier of the affair, with authorization from at least one of his superiors, National Security Adviser John Poindexter, diverted revenues from the illicit Iran missile sales to the Contras – the activity that garnered the most attention in the scandal
  • Reagan had authorized direct talks with Iran to bargain for American hostages being held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, in direct contradiction of his own black-letter policy, and disregarding statutory requirements to justify his decision in writing and notify Congress (Document 02)
  • When Reagan’s senior aides told him the Iran deals were illegal, he told them flatly that he was willing to face “charges of illegality” (Document 03)
  • After the covert Contra support operation was exposed with the shooting down of a U.S.-backed supply plane (in October 1986), State Department and CIA officials testified falsely to Congress about U.S. ignorance of the program. Their testimony eventually produced guilty pleas to criminal charges of misleading Congress.
  • After the Iran deals were leaked to a Lebanese news magazine, the White House recognized it would be much harder to hide their role in this instance. The president, vice president and other top aides rallied around to protect the president and the covert policy by explicitly promoting a cover story that departed in significant ways from the truth (Document 08)
  • Vice President George H. W. Bush was substantially aware of, and even participated in aspects of, the illicit operations even though he denied it vociferously at the time. Confirmation eventually came in the form of dictated notes which he had refused for years to turn over to the independent counsel (Document 06), as well as in the form of other documents about proscribed quid pro quo deals with the Honduran government.
  • Secretary of State George P. Shultz, while standing out as one of the few officials (along with Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger) to directly speak against the Iran deals to the president, also knew more than he admitted to Congress and the independent counsel – as did Weinberger. Some of the notes of his debriefings to State Department aides, handwritten by Charles Hill, are among the most explicit records available about the atmosphere of deceit – and self-deception – within the White House and the administration (Document 07)

Former National Security Council staffer Oliver L. North takes the oath before testifying before the joint congressional select committees, July 7, 1987. (Source:

Much of this evidence did not surface for years because key participants withheld their personal papers, diaries and notes from prosecutors. The picture that finally emerged was of high-risk policies carried out in secret, not because they were legitimate national security concerns but because they ran directly counter to declared U.S. policy, presidential public statements and formal assurances to Congress. The truth needed to be withheld not because foreign powers might benefit (dozens of other governments were already in the loop about the various goings-on, often through direct contacts with U.S. officials), but because congressional funding for key presidential priorities would be jeopardized and the political repercussions of disclosure would be devastating.

President Reagan himself spoke passionately about his actions in connection with the Iran deals, but his insistence that he had not traded arms for hostages and other obvious untruths only undermined his credibility with the public. It took months before Nancy Reagan and other advisers could persuade him to acknowledge the facts (Document 09).

Each of these dubious activities, both the original policies and the subsequent cover-up, in its way laid bare assumptions by key officials about the scope of presidential power. Their views would later astonish members of Congress and members of the judicial branch by their breadth. Although Reagan rarely chose to raise the constitutional question of executive branch authority directly, there were in fact attempts by, among others, Attorney General Edwin Meese and his colleagues in the Justice Department, to press their argument, which went well beyond generally accepted interpretations (Document 05). Similar notions of presidential power were apparent in the congressional select committees’ Minority Report, which was overseen by then-committee member and future Vice President Dick Cheney, and in the Justice Department’s intervention – “unprecedented” according to presiding Judge Gerhard Gesell – against the independent counsel in support of dropping key charges in the Oliver North trial. (See the discussion in Byrne, Iran-Contra, pp. 303-304, 313.) These presumptions clearly survived in the thinking of subsequent presidential administrations, particularly that of George W. Bush.

House Iran-Contra committee chairman Lee H. Hamilton swears in former National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter, July 15, 1987. To Hamilton’s right is ranking member Dick Cheney (R-WY); to Hamilton’s left is Senate Iran-Contra committee chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI). (Source: Byrne, Iran-Contra, Wally McNamee/CORBIS)

While much of Iran-Contra’s obfuscation and maneuvering took place behind closed doors, the full force of the deceptions (and self-deceptions) perpetrated by Reagan administration officials would eventually come out in the congressional hearings of Summer 1987. Televised to the nation, the proceedings started out with broad expectations of a Watergate-style exposure of wrongdoing and Congress’ dressing down of White House overreach. Instead, witness after witness took the offensive, defending their actions – even their acknowledged lies and potentially criminal acts – as morally justified, as acts of patriotism, or as selfless deeds in support of the president. For many viewers, the legal and ethical implications of the offenses Congress did expose were obliterated by the emotional appeals of the witnesses.

No-one outperformed Oliver North in the role of true-believing scapegoat. The Marine lieutenant colonel, bedecked in full uniform, unabashedly defended his record of serial lying to Congress, to his own professional colleagues, and to government investigators. He claimed not to be proud of what he had done then emotionally took credit for selfless service to the nation and the president. His testimony rocked the committees on their heels and drew stunned reactions from around the country even as it helped build a vocal band of supporters who called themselves “Ollie’s Army.”

The congressional hearings were an important moment in the development of the “post-truth” society. And its ramifications were significant. The build-up of loud and aggressive support for North helped bolster the administration, which had been on the defensive for months. Members of the select committees later admitted they consciously curtailed their investigation because of the overwhelming public outcry for North and the president – an irony since the former staffer and the president’s close aides were squarely at odds over who was to blame for the scandal.

Former Judge Lawrence Walsh after his appointment as independent counsel for Iran-Contra matters, December 19, 1986. (Source: Byrne, Iran-Contra, Wally McNamee/CORBIS)

The fact that much of the public accepted these self-righteous justifications by North and others reached as far as the criminal process as well. Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh came under steady attack by the White House, supporters in Congress, and segments of the media who criticized him for hyper-partisanship and massive overspending. The wall of noise this created served to drown out many of the arguments Walsh and his supporters tried to make about the unusual nature of the investigation into potential high-level malfeasance involving sensitive intelligence operations.

Members of Walsh’s staff complained about White House unresponsiveness and obstacles to their inquiry. While many thousands of pages were turned over, the charges that critical material had been left out turned out to be true when it emerged that Vice President Bush, Defense Secretary Weinberger, White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, aides to George Shultz and others had failed to turn over their personal notes to the prosecution. This obstructionism clearly contributed to other sources of delay, which in turn fed charges of unreasonableness by Walsh’s critics. Again, the legal implications of the criminal charges being filed and contemplated apparently counted for less in the eyes of many Americans than how they felt about the accused.

The final act of post-truthism came with then-President George H.W. Bush’s decision to pardon several key participants in Iran-Contra. Among them were defendants who had not even had their day in court, thus taking Bush further than other presidents have been willing to go with the pardon power. The not-so-subtle implication of the act was to make it impossible to pursue already-developed plans to investigate Bush himself in greater detail. Walsh, already disillusioned by years of overcoming political hurdles, could no longer contain his outrage, telling Newsweek: “It’s hard to find an adjective strong enough to characterize a president who has such contempt for honesty.” (Newsweek, January 4, 1993)

READ THE DOCUMENTS  (click to access National Security Archive)

Unless otherwise noted, the documents below were released at different times in the course of official investigations into the Iran-Contra affair and therefor often do not have formal archival citations.  Copies are available through the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA), in various National Security Archive web postings, or by visiting the offices of the National Security Archive.

Document 01

NSC, National Security Planning Group Minutes, “Subject: Central America,” June 25, 1984

At a pivotal meeting of the highest officials in the Reagan Administration, the President and Vice President and their top aides discuss how to sustain the Contra war in the face of mounting Congressional opposition. The discussion focuses on asking third countries to fund and maintain the effort, circumventing Congressional power to curtail the CIA’s paramilitary operations. Secretary of State George P. Shultz warns the president that White House adviser James Baker has said that “if we go out and try to get money from third countries, it is an impeachable offense.” But Vice President George Bush argues the contrary: “How can anyone object to the US encouraging third parties to provide help to the anti-Sandinistas…? The only problem that might come up is if the United States were to promise to give these third parties something in return so that some people could interpret this as some kind of exchange.” Later, Bush participated in arranging a quid pro quo deal with Honduras in which the U.S. did provide substantial overt and covert aid to the Honduran military in return for Honduran support of the Contra war effort. Reagan ends the meeting with a tongue-in-cheek warning to all not to talk about the issue, but it is one that nevertheless reflects the administration’s determination to block information about the scandal after it broke in November 1986: “If such a story gets out, we’ll all be hanging by our thumbs in front of the White House until we find out who did it.”

Document 02

CIA, Draft Presidential Finding, “Scope: Hostage Rescue – Middle East,” (with cover note from William J. Casey), November 26, 1985

Of the six covert transactions with Iran in 1985-1986, the most controversial was a shipment of 18 HAWK (Homing-All-the-Way-Killer) anti-aircraft missiles in November 1985. Not only did the delivery run afoul but it took place without the required written presidential authorization. The CIA drafted this document only after Deputy Director John McMahon discovered that one had not been prepared prior to the shipment. It was considered so sensitive that once Reagan signed off retroactively on December 5, John Poindexter kept it in his office safe until the scandal erupted a year later — then tore it up, as he acknowledged, in order to spare the president “political embarrassment.” The version presented here is a draft of the one Poindexter destroyed.

Document 03

Caspar Weinberger, handwritten notes of meeting in White House Family Quarters, December 7, 1985

After three separate U.S.-approved shipments of missiles via Israel to Iran in 1985, the president convened a high-level meeting in the Family Quarters of the White House to discuss continuation of the covert program. Of his top advisers, only Vice President George Bush and CIA Director William Casey were not in the room. During the discussion, Secretary of State Shultz and Secretary of Defense Weinberger objected openly to the operation, as they had in the past, arguing that it was not only bad policy but illegal since it involved sending arms to Iran, which the U.S. had declared a sponsor of international terrorism. In his notes, Weinberger captures the president’s determination to move ahead regardless of the law: “President sd. he could answer charges of illegality but he couldn’t answer charge that ‘big strong President Reagan passed up chance to free hostages.’”

Document 04

NSC, Memorandum from Oliver L. North to Robert C. McFarlane, “Fallback Plan for the Nicaraguan Resistance,” March 16, 1985 (original and altered versions)

After the scandal broke, Oliver North methodically went through his files and destroyed documentation that exposed illicit and otherwise sensitive administration activities. Records in the NSC’s System IV Channel were governed by strict access rules requiring a unique numbered identification for each document and a sign-out procedure for anyone wishing to view materials. This meant North could not just shred those documents. Instead he rewrote a handful of them and returned the forgeries. This document is an example, with both the original and altered versions attached. North’s ruse was discovered by an attentive investigator who noticed that the letterhead in the altered version, which North wrote in late 1986, was not in use in early 1985 when the original document had been created.

Document 05

Justice Department, Stephen J. Markman, memorandum to Edwin Meese III, “Separation of Powers,” April 30, 1986

Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 60, General Records of the Department of Justice, Box 86, Component Correspondent Files of Attorney General Edwin Meese III, Folder: OLP (April-May 1986)

This extraordinary document was the product of the Justice Department’s Domestic Policy Committee. Attorney General Edwin Meese directed it to be prepared. The memo provides a detailed justification for a novel and controversial interpretation of the constitutional separation of powers, locating virtually all authority over the executive branch with the president, at the expense of Congress and the courts. One focus of interest in this regard was the independent counsel statute, which had been enacted as part of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, after Watergate. Its aim was to curb executive abuse of power, but Meese and others asserted that the Constitution gave no such authority to the other branches. The administration backed the filing of a judicial test case which reached the Supreme Court but was defeated by a 7-1 vote that held the independent counsel law was constitutional. Still, the memo is an example of the administration’s designs on expanding presidential powers well beyond accepted norms, an idea that certainly persisted in subsequent administrations.

Document 06

George H. W. Bush, Transcription of dictated notes, November 4-5, 1986

Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush became entangled in controversy over his knowledge of Iran-Contra. Although he asserted publicly that he was “out of the loop — no operational role,” he was well informed of events, particularly the Iran deals, as evidenced in part by this diary excerpt just after the Iran operation was exposed: “I’m one of the few people that know fully the details …” The problem for Bush was greatly magnified because he was preparing to run for president just as the scandal burst. He managed to escape significant blame – ultimately winning the 1988 election – but he came under fire later for repeatedly failing to disclose the existence of his diary to investigators and then for pardoning several Iran-Contra figures, including former Defense Secretary Weinberger just days before his trial was set to begin. As a result of the pardons, the independent counsel’s final report pointedly noted: “The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete.”

Document 07

Charles Hill notes (excerpt), November 9, 1986

In the frantic days following the revelation of the arms-for-hostages deals on November 3, 1986, members of the administration rushed to obscure their ties to the deeply controversial and politically damaging operation. Secretary of State Shultz – along with Defense Secretary Weinberger, one of the only senior advisers to oppose the president’s wishes on the deals – seemed particularly concerned in the aftermath not to have his name associated with them. His colleagues picked up on this and pressured him intensely to join the team effort to protect Reagan – to “build[] a wall around him,” as National Security Adviser John Poindexter put it later. In these scrupulous notes by Shultz’s aide, Charles Hill (which total several thousand pages, the great bulk of which has never been declassified), the two State Department officials gather to discuss the secretary’s talking points for an upcoming meeting at which Shultz plans to confront the president with the truth about his actions and their consequences. The notes are filled with grim assessments: “We have assaulted our own MidEast policy …. We appear to have violated our own laws …. There is a Watergate-like atmosphere around here …. “

Document 08

Donald Regan, Handwritten Notes of Meeting with the President and Top Aides, November 10, 1986

On November 10, the president and his close advisers met to sort out damage control after it became clear the Iran arms deal revelations were not going to go away. White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan took detailed notes of the session. According to this record, the president insisted that “We have not dealt directly w/ terrorists, no bargaining, no ransom.” John Poindexter picked up the theme with a description of the Iran program. Its objectives were to establish contacts with “more moderate elements” in Iran, “stop Iran[‘s] export of terrorism,” and “hostage release.” He asserted that U.S. officials had “stumbled on” Israel’s involvement while “tracking down its shipments to Iran.” He laid most of the responsibility for the operation on Israel and insisted that the U.S. had only found out about the first shipment of weapons in summer 1985 “after the fact.” The problem with both the president’s and Poindexter’s accounts was that they were patently false. But as the independent counsel pointed out, no-one in the room disagreed, even though several were in a position to know the facts.

Document 09

Reagan speeches, November 13, 1986 & March 4, 1987


Source: and

One of the outcomes of the scandal was that it cast President Reagan in a surprising light – despite the overwhelming evidence, even early in the crisis, that his administration had been dealing with terrorists in hopes of getting American hostages released – he insisted that he had done nothing of the kind. This assertion appears repeatedly in the record of private meetings (see Document 08), but also in numerous public statements, such as his important address to the nation on November 13, 1986, ten days after the Iran revelations. It took almost four months for his closest aides, and his wife Nancy, to persuade him to acknowledge what had long been obvious to the world. His refusal to do so earlier cost him dearly – if largely temporarily – in terms of personal approval ratings.

Document 10

North congressional testimony, July 1987

Source: “Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” Brown University

This compilation of transcription excerpts from North’s game-changing Iran-Contra testimony conveys the highlights of his week-long, nationally televised performance. The committees had struggled to come up with an agreement with North and his attorneys about the duration, content and other terms of his appearance. North’s recognition of his unusually strong bargaining position, based on his huge popularity among a vocal segment of the public and the committees’ belief that they needed his presence to make their case, led him to receive uncommon consideration, which set the stage for a memorable chapter in the Iran-Contra saga.

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The Social Impacts of India’s Demonetization: Banks Threaten Impoverished Farmers…

‘Gandhigiri’, Cashless Hara-Kiri in Marathwada

The bank has “decided to use Gandhigiri to try and recover the loans [from you].  For this the bank has decided to do one of the following: 1) Put up a tent opposite your house to protest, 2) Make use of a band, 3) ring bells.

“Due to these actions, your standing and image in society are likely to be in danger.”

That is the Osmanabad District Central Cooperative Bank (ODCC) promising 20,000 of its clients public humiliation and ridicule.

Those clients, mostly farmers, have seen many years of distress. Sometimes from crop failure, sometimes from a glut or price crash. A crippling drought and water crisis have further hit their loan repayments.  On top of that, the government’s recent scrapping of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes has left them unable to pay their labourers’ daily wages. “Farm workers have not been paid a single paisa in cash since November 9,” says S.M. Gavale, a small farmer from Khed village. “All are hungry.”

The bank’s letter (see translated excerpts at the end of this story) tells farmers they are to blame for its depositors being unable to withdraw cash.  And warns them: “You should be aware that if any depositors commit suicide for such reasons, you will be held responsible…”

In this situation, village visits by bank ‘recovery teams’ that threaten farmers and their families spur mounting tension and despair. Oddly, the 20,000 farmers together owe the ODCC some Rs. 180 crores.  Just two sugar factories, Terna and Thuljabhavani, together owe the same bank Rs. 352 crores.  But the tactics the bank plans to use on small peasants vanish when it comes to companies controlled by the powerful. “The factories are shut,” says the ODCC’s executive director Vijay Ghonse Patil.  So no ‘Gandhigiri’ there. Nor has the valuable land these outfits own been seized or auctioned by the bank.

“This ‘Gandhigiri’ plan was inspired by Shri Arun Jaitley’s speech.”  So says Ghonse Patil, author of the letter that has sparked outrage in the villages. Speaking to us at the bank’s headquarters in Osmanabad town, he defends his action: “It draws on the union finance minister’s warning of action against  defaulters during Parliament’s budget session.”

“I drafted the letter,” says Ghonse Patil. “And I am serious about it. We need to bring non-performing assets (NPAs) below 15 per cent (of total advances) by March 2017.  I have  to pursue this strongly. I have no other way.” He admits it was drafted without legal advice and “submitted to the Bank’s Board of Directors, which okayed it.”

Several of the letters bear an October date but the farmers scoff at this.  “They were delivered at our homes after November 15.”   In other words, these letters came out after the demonetisation. Ironically, one of those ‘receiving’ the letter  on December 2 was Manohar Yelore. He was a small farmer in Lohara village who committed suicide in 2014, unable to repay the Rs. 68,000 he had borrowed from the bank.

In Nagur village of Lohara block in Osmanabad, farmers gathered from many villages tell us they are shaken: “We will have no option but to take our lives if subjected to such humiliation.” In the state government’s own count, Osmanabad and Yavatmal rank as the worst districts for farmer suicides in Maharashtra. And the state itself has suffered more farm suicides than any other in the country – at least 63,000 between 1995 and 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Video: Farmers from Nagur, Khed, Kasti and other villages display the letter from the ODCC
threatening to humiliate them with ‘Gandhigiri’ tactics; November 29, 2016

Here, demonetisation has hit both the bank and its clients alike. The cash crunch has squeezed both. Cooperative banks were allowed to accept the banned notes and exchange them for new ones for only three days. All other banks could do this till November 29.  The Osmanabad District Central Cooperative Bank was already in big trouble with its giant defaulters repaying not a paisa of the Rs. 352 crore they owe. “And they’re taking it out on us,” say farmers here. “We are people who’ve tried to repay something.”

With no cash at all, the farmers, labourers and shopkeepers here have worked out a fragile survival strategy after November 9.  S.M. Gavale of Khed explains it: “If the labourers don’t have cash, they cannot eat. But we stand guarantee for them with the shopkeepers. They pick up provisions on credit.”

The local shop owners themselves are bringing in their stocks on credit from wholesalers based elsewhere. So the labourer, the farmer and the shopkeeper could all be locked into a disaster waiting to happen.

There’s another huge problem. A few years ago, the bank started collapsing ‘crop loans’ and ‘term  loans’ and rewriting the figure of what was owed by the farmer. The ODCC seems to have done this repeatedly over several years. The result is an explosion in the size of  the amounts owed by farmers . It is these inflated loan figures the letter asks the farmers to repay. Indeed, the Rs.180 crore sum the 20,000 farmers together owe is a post-‘re-phasement’ figure. The original amount borrowed by them was Rs. 80 crores.

A crop loan is a short-term borrowing by farmers in the form of cash credit.  This is directly tied to their immediate agricultural activity or season. They might buy their seeds, fertiliser, pesticide and other inputs, and pay labourers, from of this sum. They  withdraw cash against this loan as and when required, within the limit of the sanctioned sum.  Interest rates on crop loans normally don’t exceed seven per cent (of which four per cent is to be borne by the state government). These loans have  to be renewed each year.

Term loans are those taken for capital investment – for purchase of machinery, irrigation, and other such expenses.  These loans can be repaid over a period of 3-7 years.  They are given at (compounded) rates of interest that could be double of what crop loans attract.

Dhananjay Kulkarni, general secretary of the Bank of Maharashtra Employees Union, Aurangabad, is with us and has studied the ODCC’s letters and notices.  “What the ODCC (and other banks) have done,” he says, “is to collapse or club together the crop and term loans of these villagers and convert them into ‘new’  term loans.  Under the title of ‘re-phasement’. The  ODCC, like other banks, struck an interest rate of 14 per cent on these.  However, an additional 2-4 per cent interest was added on at the level of the coop societies through whom the loans were delivered. Finally, the borrower pays 18 per cent (compounded)  interest.”

Shivajiraosaheb Patil from Khed village had borrowed Rs. 1.78  lakh in 2004 to pay for an electric motor and installation of a pipeline. He paid back Rs. 60,000 in the early years. But this was then clubbed with his crop loan and ‘re-phased’  in the jargon of the bank,  more than once. And “now they tell me I owe over Rs. 13 lakhs,” he says angrily.  Suddenly, dozens of farmers are on their feet, speaking at the same time. They’ve all brought along the notices the ODCC has sent them.

“We accept we owe the bank money,”  says Babasaheb Vithalrao Jadhav, a farmer of many decades in Nagur. “And indeed we must pay. But we are unable to right now. Because of good rains this year [after many bad seasons], farmers here have had a decent kharif crop and expect a good rabi crop too. So we could pay in instalments from next year. Paying this year would kill us. ‘Re-phasement’ was a fraud that violates even bank rules. It has doubled, even quadrupled our loans. The government is giving waivers to corporates (NPAs) and the super-rich. But cracking down on distressed farmers.”

Many of these loans and their ‘re-phasing’ were also badly timed. They seem to chart the course of the agrarian crisis in Maharashtra. Starting around 1998, making a huge leap in 2003-04 and exploding after 2011. “For four  years,” says Shivajirao, “I had 300-400 tons of excess sugarcane crop I was unable to sell. The factories were flooded with cane and declined to lift it. I went bankrupt. Now I’m  faced with this demand.  I have sold 15 acres of our family’s (un-irrigated) land. But I still can’t handle the burden.”

Most of the rabi crop was sown in these villages before November 8. But transactions thereafter have taken a hit. Kharif crop prices have tumbled with traders “offering us the right amount only if we accept old notes,” farmers say.

Back at the bank, the atmosphere is now much more sober, even sombre, as we discuss the possible consequences of the ODCC acting on its letter.

Executive director Ghonse Patil himself faces a notice for un-refunded advances from a cooperative bank in another district.  He and some of his senior officers only now  seem to grasp that things can go very wrong from here.  What if there was a spurt in farm suicides?  What if those are blamed on the bank and its letter? But, says Ghonse Patil, as we part,  “We have no other way out but to go for this recovery abhiyan.”

Translated excerpts from the ODCC’s letter in Marathi to nearly 20,000 farmers in Osmanabad district


You must be aware of the economic situation of the Osmanabad District Bank. Since the bank is in financial difficulties, the bank depositors have their full focus on the bank. Due to the increase in overdue unpaid loans there is the fear of loss of liquidity for the bank which is now caught in this quagmire. At least at this time, the only option the bank has to improve its situation is to recover the overdue loans. Naturally, due to the pending loans with you, the bank is unable to pay its depositors the amounts they want to withdraw whenever they want to withdraw. As a result, the depositors are very disappointed with the bank operations.

Similarly, many depositors, when they are faced with the prospect of being unable to withdraw their own money from their accounts are sending us statements that if they cannot withdraw their money, they will be forced to commit suicide and you should be aware that if any depositors commit suicide for such reasons, you will he held responsible and you should understand this.

…Because of your overdue loan, the bank is facing a cash crunch and the bank cannot conduct its operations effectively. The bank’s management committee, senior officers and employee association have decided to use Gandhigiri to try and recover the loans. For this, the bank has decided to do one of the following: 1) Put up a tent opposite your house to protest 2) Make use of a band  3) Ring bells

Due to these actions, your standing and image in society is likely to be in danger. Therefore, to avoid such a situation, you should immediately repay your overdue loans with interest in the concerned bank within 30 days and take a receipt for such payment else, the recovery team will take action as explained above.

We are deliberately writing this to you so that you are aware of the situation.

We are in no doubt that you will repay your loan and avoid any unpleasant events from happening.

Expecting your cooperation,

Details of Overdue Loans:

Type of loan,  Principal: 136300  Interest: 348930 . Total : 485230

[loan details for each farmer follow in the original letter]

Yours faithfully,


Vijay S. Ghonse

Executive Director

Photos: P. Sainath.

Posted in IndiaComments Off on The Social Impacts of India’s Demonetization: Banks Threaten Impoverished Farmers…

The ISIS Offensive against Palmyra: A US-NATO Sponsored Operation?

Fakhreddin's Castle (top), is pictured in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria (Reuters / Nour Fourat)

On December 10, the world media reported that IS terrorists started an offensive on Palmyra liberated by the SAA in spring. According to Syrian MoD, the total number of fighters exceeded 4,000, they used tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and improvised cars with heavy guns.

On December 11, the terrorists pushed the government troops and took control over central Palmyra. At the same time Homs governor Talal al-Barazi said that unfortunately only some 80% of Palmyra residents had been evacuated.

Within one day, Palmyra saw the continuing intensified clashes between the SAA and ISIS; Damascus and its allies killed more than 300 militants and destroyed dozens of vehicles. However, eventually the troops had to leave the town.

Obviously, the Syrian army command was unprepared for such a large-scale attack. Another thing is also clear: the Islamic State wouldn’t been able to deploy such a number of troops and vehicles without any aid. The largest group might have arrived from Raqqa which is about 220 km to the north of Palmyra.


Yesterday, various Middle East media reported the terrorists’ success became possible due to the US-led international coalition which had suspended its operations in Raqqa during the offensive on Palmyra. Using such a pause, ISIS regrouped and moved its forces for the upcoming attack on the ancient town. Besides, terrorists seem to have arrived from Deir Ezzor and Iraq’s Mosul through the corridor set up by the coalition.

It could be supposed that the movement had been planned and coordinated with the US-led coalition. That means the West once again showed how it is using the Islamic State as a tool for reaching its goals in Syria.

Captured Palmyra is just a symbol of success for ISIS. The things that matter are the oil and gas fields Jazal and al-Shaer controlled by the SAA. Depriving Damascus of a possibility to maintain control over the fields, distracting the government forces from liberating Aleppo and lowering their morale are the main targets of the coalition up to now.

Another proof of these is that on December 8 Barack Obama waived any arms export control restrictions on providing ‘military assistance’ to any and all ‘foreign forces’ in Syria.

The Syrian army keeps advancing in Aleppo, and the West-backed terror groups are surrendering and fleeing the battlefield which forces the US to use all means to prevent the victory of Damascus.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on The ISIS Offensive against Palmyra: A US-NATO Sponsored Operation?

Tourism in the West Bank, Israel’s ‘Charity’ Comes at a Price


At first glance, it looked like a generous promotional stunt by Israel to aid the Palestinians’ struggling tourism industry. Israeli military authorities published this month a video on social media publicising Palestinian attractions in the West Bank.

Most are Christian, including Jesus’s birthplace in Bethlehem – now the Church of the Nativity – and more obscure locations such as the monasteries of Mar Saba and Wadi Qelt, in mountainous desert terrain few pilgrim coaches ever reach.

The video was produced by COGAT, the Israeli military body that rules over Palestinians. It appears to be the latest initiative in defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s so-called “carrot and stick” policy – a programme that rewards and punishes Palestinians according to their behaviour.

Mr Lieberman has vowed to bypass the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and deal with Palestinians directly. The head of COGAT, Yoav Mordechai, has become a familiar face to ordinary Palestinians.

Last month, in his first live chat in Arabic on COGAT’s Facebook page, he answered questions from Palestinians on how they could receive Israeli work permits or resolve other bureaucratic headaches his officials created for them. Even Palestinians in Gaza defied Hamas to contact him.

The tourism video is similarly designed to reverse the Oslo accords, which held out a false promise two decades ago that the Palestinians would one day enjoy statehood and self-determination. Israel’s micromanagement of the territories is now such that it is even taking responsibility for attracting visitors to Palestine.

Except that is precisely not where COGAT’s video invites them. Instead it beckons tourists to visit “Judea and Samaria”, the Biblical names Israel uses to justify the illegal Jewish settlements that dominate much of the West Bank.

What is going on?

The deception at the campaign’s heart operates on several levels – and reveals much about Israel’s long-term policy towards the Palestinians.

Mr Lieberman wants Palestinians to view Mr Mordechai’s military administration as a benevolent father figure, the address for their problems, rather than Mr Abbas. Who has the power to bring tourists to the territories and boost the Palestinian economy? COGAT, not the Palestinian Authority.

But Israel’s charity comes at a high price: Palestinians must jettison their national ambitions. The tourists can visit but Palestinians must first concede that these are Israeli sites.

A similar message is directed at the tourists. Christian pilgrims with little understanding of the Palestinians’ long history of dispossession are being encouraged to explore Greater Israel oblivious to which side of the Green Line they are on. The distinction between Nazareth and Bethlehem, in Israel and the occupied West Bank, respectively, is increasingly blurred.

Palestinians themselves are all but invisible. The video at no point mentions that they even live in “Judea and Samaria”. It shows buildings, not people.

This rebranding process is already well under way in Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in violation of international law decades ago. Tourism maps are littered with Jewish settler sites, marked as prominently as important holy places such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Al Aqsa mosque. The latter is identified only by Temple Mount.

But in truth the tourism video is even less generous than it appears. Israel controls all entry into the West Bank, meaning that it is impossible for pilgrims to visit without contributing to the Israeli economy.

Israel announced in September a record budget for promoting tourism, a mainstay of its economy. The vast majority of visitors stay in Israeli hotels, are transported in Israeli coaches, eat in Israeli restaurants, visit Israeli gift shops to buy Israeli souvenirs using Israeli money.

In fact, most of the sites visited in the West Bank are controlled by Israel – from the Dead Sea and Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque to Herod’s acropolis near Bethlehem and the Baptism site on the River Jordan.

Tourists absorb the Palestinian presence only as a distant menace, highlighted by the bright red traffic signs warning that it is “dangerous to your lives” to stray from major roads. Pilgrims dart into Bethlehem for a brief tour of the Church of the Nativity, passing through a checkpoint in the oppressive, prison-like wall, hinting that Israel has good reason to treat Palestinians like felons.

If COGAT really wanted to change that impression, and help the Palestinian economy, it would encourage tourists to stay in Palestinian cities such as Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and Jericho. And meet actual Palestinians.

Last week the Israeli parliament passed the first reading of a so-called legalisation bill, which will retroactively authorise the settlers’ theft of land and property privately owned by Palestinians in the West Bank. The legislation extends to the settlers’ criminal acts the same legal protection as the state’s theft of Palestinian land.

The privatisation of the looting of Palestinian territory is intimately connected to the authorities’ latest moves to plunder Palestine’s tourism economy. The overarching goal in both is the “creeping annexation” of the Palestinians’ homeland. Israel is ready to use any and every means at its disposal.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Tourism in the West Bank, Israel’s ‘Charity’ Comes at a Price

The Fake Campaign to Blame ‘the Russians’

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to the media after a live broadcast nationwide phone-in in Moscow

The New York Times and Washington Post, the nation’s two top national newspapers, have been breathlessly reporting of late, with little sign of any appropriate journalistic skepticism, on a purported massive and successful Russian conspiracy to throw the US election to their “favored” candidate, Donald Trump. But the Chicago Tribune has weighed in with a more measured piece, suggesting that while the CIA, a particularly secretive and politically driven organization, may be making that claim, the FBI is not convinced.

While even the Tribune sometimes ignores inserting the requisite “alleged” that should precede any reference to unproven claims that Russia is behind the hacking of the Democratic Party’s (and the Republican Party’s) email server, the paper does also note that Democrats in particular are “frustrated” by the “murky nature” of the FBI’s analysis, with outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), calling on FBI Director James Comey to resign.

The reason for the Democrats’ frustration is also made clear. As the Tribune reports:

With so much of the evidence about Russia’s alleged role in the election shrouded in secrecy because of strict classification rules, Democrats and Republicans in Washington who have access to the underlying intelligence say they have struggled to make their respective cases, leaving an already deeply divided public convinced that both sides are shading their conclusions to help the candidate they backed on Election Day.

The reality is that the CIA has presented no hard evidence that Russia is behind the hacking of the DNC’s or or Clinton’s private home server. The excuse is given that the Agency doesn’t want to disclose any of its sources, so the reader is left with the pathetic plea, from both the Agency and the White House: “Trust us.”

But why would anyone trust the CIA or the White House on anything? We’re talking about an agency and a Executive Branch that between them are known to have lied (during the GW Bush years) about anthrax labs in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, lied about what were aluminum tubes imported to make irrigation equipment being evidence of missile-building, lied about Ira’s links to Al Qaeda, and (during the Obama years) lied about Syria’s government using Sarin gas on its own people in Damascus, lied about the details of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, lied about the role of a murderous CIA agent captured by Pakistani police while posing as a US consular employee, lied about the extent of National Security Agency Spying both at home and abroad, and lied about Russia invading Ukraine and shooting down a civilian Malaysian jumbo jet.

If one were to take a moment and think about what is being alleged here by Democrats — that a national presidential election was successfully subverted by the releasing of hacked emails showing major corruption and malfeasance by the Democratic Party leadership in undermining the fairness of the party’s presidential primary to benefit one candidate — Hillary Clinton — and to destroy the candidacy of her opponent Bernie Sanders — it should lead to one of two alternative conclusions.

Either the Russians did Americans a favor, by exposing the epic corruption of one of their two major parties and one of the candidates seeking to become president — something that a more independent and aggressive domestic media would have and should have done on their own, if not by hacking then by paying attention to, instead of ignoring and blacking out, what frustrated insiders like DNC Vice Chair Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii who quit in disgust saying the DNC was undermining the primaries on behalf of Clinton’s campaign. Or alternatively, we’re being told that our 240-year-old democracy is so shriveled and weak that an outside government can easily undermine it and manipulate the outcome as if we were some corrupt and fragile banana republic.

Either conclusion is rather pathetic and depressing to contemplate.

Meanwhile, the media feeding frenzy over unsubstantiated claims over Russian subversion of our last election ignores the reality that this kind of thing is something the US has been doing abroad at least since the end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Not content to just undermine elections through dirty tricks, fake news and secret payments in Europe, Latin America, later in Eastern Europe and Russia, and in Asia, the US has also fomented countless coups to overthrow or attempt to overthrow existing elected governments, most recently in Honduras, Ukraine, Venezuela and Brazil, and so has no grounds to complain by claiming that the Russians were allegedly doing the same thing here.

On the other hand, if the Democratic Party leadership had kept its hand off the scale during the primaries, and had not made such heavy-handed efforts to get major news organizations like the Times, MSNBC, the Daily NewsPost and others to help it undermine Bernie Sanders, Sanders would have won both the party’s nomination and the presidency, and probably the Congress also into the bargain, and we wouldn’t be looking at a looming Trump presidency and Republican Congress.

Not only that, but with a genuinely popular candidate running for president in both parties (like it or not Trump was wildly popular among a significant segment of the population), no Russian propaganda campaign would have had a prayer of impacting voter opinion or the results of the voting.

If indeed there really was a Russian effort to swing this recent election, it could only have succeeded in a situation where the electorate was disgusted by its choices and was voting negatively for a lesser evil. And that situation only could arise where the two major parties were so corrupted that they were trying desperately to keep genuinely popular candidates from winning the nomination.

In fact that is what happened. The Republican leadership tried mightily to keep Donald Trump, a loose cannon who has disavowed many basic and long-held Republican principles, such as backing US empire and Israel, supporting any and all trade agreements, and viewing Russia as an existential enemy, from winning their party’s nomination. They failed, but not for lack of trying. The Democratic leadership tried everything, too, to prevent insurgent self-described “socialist” candidate Sanders from winning the nomination, and thanks to underhanded manipulation of the primaries, corrupt meddling in media coverage of Sanders, an anti-democratic voting block of locked-in “super delegates,” committed to backing Clinton whatever the result of the primaries, and some crooked efforts to depress voting in key primary states including New York and California, they succeeded in throwing the nomination to Clinton. She of course was doomed, by their very ham-handed interference in the primaries, to go on to lose the general election.

That corrupt fiasco has left Democratic Party leadership hacks and their backers in the corporate media with nothing to do but find a scapegoat for their disastrous performance, hence the fake “Russia-did-it” claims.

It’s a sad commentary on the pathetic decline of democracy in the United States, but is also a clarion call for a rebirth of grassroots democratic resurgence.

If there’s a bright spot in the new situation, it’s that progressives, socialists, radicals and disaffected citizens of all kinds now should have a clear understanding of how corrupt the Democratic Party really is.

One of two things must happen. That party must be completely swept clean of the hacks, frauds, crooks, compromisers and charlatans who populate its leadership and who hold most of the elected posts remaining in Democratic hands in Congress. Alternatively, the Democratic Party must be abandoned as unsalvageable, with progressive forces, from labor organizations, advocates of the poor and elderly, environmental activists, human rights and peace groups, women’s rights and minority rights organizations, civil libertarians and others rallying both to create something new to replace it, and organizing in the street to resist the new Trump government.

Any new left party needs to abandon the fraudulent tactics of so-called “identity politics,” in which a basically pro-corporate Democratic Party has sought to appease and cajole support for its corporatist candidates and agenda by catering to individual issues of various groups leaning its way by default. Instead, the really big issues need to be tackled head on: expanding Social Security, making Medicare universal for everyone of all ages, restoring genuine progressive taxation on the wealthy, ending foreign wars, closing overseas bases and slashing the military, obeying international law (including treaties with sovereign Native American nations), making public college free to all, nationalizing support for primary and secondary education so that all communities have well-funded, quality public schools, declaring a national mobilization to quickly end reliance upon fossil fuels to combat climate change, and creating jobs for everyone through a massive public spending program on job training and infrastructure repair and modernization.

These and other ideas are things that most Americans can and would get behind, not simply efforts to pander to various specific interest groups.

Do this and the Russians — assuming they even have been trying to manipulate our elections — wouldn’t have a chance of influencing anyone.

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Unverified Aleppo “On the Spot” Executions. Western Media Disinformation


After a day of claiming up to 82 civilians were “shot on the spot” by Syrian forces battling to retake the northern city of Aleppo from armed terrorists who have occupied it since invading the city in 2012, no evidence or even the source of the claim has surfaced.

According to the BBC, the UN Human Rights office in Geneva received reports of the incident.

Despite Western journalists having been on the ground in Aleppo, along with UN staff, the reports were actually received in Geneva from unnamed sources alleged to be in Aleppo, not acquired – or verified – on the ground by either the Western media or UN staff.

The BBC, in its article, Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” would admit (emphasis added):

“Yesterday evening, we received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies were lying on the streets,” Mr Colville added, while admitting it was hard to verify the reports.

It should be noted that the BBC left the accusation on their website for hours before eventually adding that the reports were both unverified, and acquired by “sources,” not by UN staff firsthand in Aleppo.

The purpose of this was to maximize the initial impact of the shocking, easily “re-tweeted” headline without being burdened with providing evidence. Once the headline went “viral,” the BBC eventually filled in the details – which had they been included in the initial report – would have significantly blunted the impact of the headline.

With talk of “fake news” reaching hysterical levels, the BBC in collaboration with the UN itself prove that organizations and institutions of the West have long held a monopoly on generating “fake news” and leveraging it not just to manipulate politics and public perception, but to perpetuate war and the destruction of human life.

Other Lies Exposed 

A day after the Western media’s coverage of Aleppo reached a fevered pitch, and with the fighting effectively over, other lies repeated ad nauseam just a day ago are now surfacing as obvious, malicious fabrications.

CNN in a report titled, “Estimated 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo,” admits that the supposed “rebels” only hold, “a few streets, a few blocks, maybe a neighborhood,” admits that it is “very difficult to verify any of these reports,” and repeatedly uses the term “might be” in reference to the supposed 100,000 civilians the Western media and the UN claim are still in “eastern Aleppo.”

Of course, with evacuations underway now, it is clear there were nowhere near 100,000 civilians left in the remaining territory occupied by armed militants, revealing yesterday’s news coverage of just the latest in a long line of politically motivated performances carried out by an otherwise unjournalistic Western media.

Patrick Cockburn in a UK Independent article titled, This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong,” attempts to offer a conciliatory explanation as to why the Western media’s coverage has been so divergent from reality.

He claims:

It is too dangerous for journalists to operate in rebel-held areas of Aleppo and Mosul. But there is a tremendous hunger for news from the Middle East, so the temptation is for the media give credence to information they get second hand.

He also states:

Unsurprisingly, foreign journalists covering developments in east Aleppo and rebel-held areas of Syria overwhelmingly do so from Lebanon or Turkey. A number of intrepid correspondents who tried to do eyewitness reporting from rebel-held areas swiftly found themselves tipped into the boots of cars or otherwise incarcerated.

Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups.

Cockburn also notes that much of the overt bias and poor reporting coming from across the Western media is politically motivated. When the light of reality began showing through in reports from journalists, experts, and diplomats, leadership in Western capitals intentionally ignored it, fixated only on regime change.

A lady making claims in a Skype call is not evidence. But CNN and others have no qualms reporting their claims as if it were real news. And while CNN defends this practice of repeating unverified claims by “activists” in Syria, they have intentionally ignored pro-government bloggers for years, proving it is an agenda that has skewed their reporting, not a lack of access to the conflict and its participants.

And while the Western media itself has attempted to use its inability to report from on the ground as an excuse for repeating verified lies told to them by their “sources” in Syria, it should be noted that an equal or greater number of pro-government bloggers have been covering the conflict since 2011 as well, only to be intentionally ignored, even attacked by the Western media.

This goes far in explaining why the Western media finds itself eagerly defending militants who by all accounts are dominated by Jabhat Al Nusra, a US State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization and repeating their propaganda no matter how absurd.

Those across the West listening to this coverage would be led to believe that the hospital to population ratio in eastern Aleppo was nearly 1:1, that every inhabitant of eastern Aleppo was either a doctor, a woman, or a child, and that the remaining neighborhood amid the battle for the city housed a population larger than the entire city of Idlib, the defacto terrorist capital of Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria.

It is important to expose these lies, because while the city of Aleppo has been fully liberated, Idlib, Al Raqqa, and now once again Palmyra remain battles yet to be fought.

The capacity of the West and its proxies to destroy peace and security for the people of Syria rests in their capacity to continue lying about the nature of Western involvement in Syria in the first place. Undermine this capacity, and undermine their ability to disrupt and destroy the future of Syrians any further.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Unverified Aleppo “On the Spot” Executions. Western Media Disinformation

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