Archive | August 9th, 2017

The Unsung Summit of Putin and Trump

NOVANEWS

From Hiroshima To Hamburg

 

By John V. Walsh 

This week marks the 72nd anniversary of the criminal US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And as is the case each year, there is much discussion and lamenting over this atrocity, as there well should be. For the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary for victory; Japan had already sued for peace. It was the opening salvo, a brutal one, in the first Cold War in which the world was nearly incinerated during the Cuban missile crisis.

This week is also the one month anniversary of the first in-person meeting of Presidents Trump and Putin at Hamburg on July 7 in the shadow of the G20 meetings. This comes at a time when we find ourselves years into a New Cold War. Given the tensions between Russia and the US, the leading nuclear powers, one would think that there would be rejoicing over the prospect of relieving the tensions between the nuclear superpowers. For that was the agenda of the Trump-Putin summit, as such meetings were called during the first Cold War. Unfortunately, such rejoicing was not to be heard, quite the opposite – with a few rare exceptions

This is lamentable, to say the least, because as tensions grow between the superpowers, the chance for nuclear war increases.  During his lengthy interviews with Vladimir Putin, Oliver Stone showed him the movie “Dr. Strangelove” which Putin had never before seen. Putin commented that the movie captured, among other things, a technical truth with its depiction of the Doomsday Machine. That is, said Putin, nuclear weapons grow increasingly harder to control with every passing day. Given this, the failure to applaud the Trump-Putin on the part of those who were full of praise for the UN vote on denuclearization made me wonder whether there was any thought behind their chatter. Hatred of Trump and Putin seemed to blot out a rational concern for human survival. Are we living in a mad house? Did we not learn our lesson when we narrowly escaped Armageddon in Cold War 1?

In the face of such madness, let us take the time to offer full-throated, unmistakable praise for the Trump-Putin summit meeting. The parley was a long time coming because of the relentless attack on Trump over Russiagate, a Big Lie blared out relentlessly these many months and only now collapsing for want of so much as a smidgen of evidence. Although Trump had promised to hold this summit with Putin even before he was inaugurated, he could not do so because of the intense Russia-gate related pressure against it – from the Elite of both Parties but with the Democrats far in the lead. But Trump pushed ahead with the meeting anyway; as we learned during the 2016 campaign, this is not a guy who gives up despite the odds.

To begin, the summit was undeniably a success with solid achievements and follow-ups. Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, and one of the few to offer praise for the meeting, summed up the meeting’s four main accomplishments thus:

… formalizing and symbolizing the new détente partnership* between the American and Russian presidents; agreement to cooperate in Syria against terrorist forces there, not only in the limited ways announced, but in more expansive ways, which meant agreeing with Moscow that Syrian President Assad must remain at least until ISIS is fully defeated; creating a bilateral US-Russian channel for negotiating a settlement of the Ukrainian civil and proxy war, thereby bypassing, or reducing, the role played thus far by Germany and France, which has largely failed; and agreeing to discuss ways to limit the dangers of cyber technology in international affairs. Though Trump was forced to talk back this agenda item, no doubt it remains on the US-Russian agenda, a subject of negotiation, as it should be, considering the ways in which cyber attacks could undermine nuclear security on both sides.

To these I would add the cease-fire in southwest Syria which was arranged in the run-up to the meeting and announced there. This cease-fire is still holding, and Russian FM Lavrov has announced that more ceasefire zones are in the works in Syria. Any time that the guns fall silent, the killing stops and people can return to their homes, there should be jubilation – especially in the outlets devoted to peace. Sadly that has been far from the case in the progressive press or the MSM.

The cooperation on Syria continued with a thunderbolt in the form of a Trumpian tweet on Monday night, July 24:

“The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad…..”

A superb assessment of this tweet marking Trump’s order to end the CIA’s regime change op and its de facto support for jihadis in Syria comes from David Stockman here:

Occasionally one of Trump’s tweets slices through Imperial Washington’s sanctimonious cant. Indeed, Monday evening’s 140 characters cut right to the bone. Needless to say, we are referencing not the dig at the empire of Bezos, but the characterization of Washington’s anti-Assad policy as “massive, dangerous and wasteful”.

No stouter blow to the neocon/Deep State “regime change” folly has ever been issued by an elected public official. Yet there it is – the self-composed words of the man in the Oval Office.

Stockman follows with a brief history of the U.S.’s covert war on Syria and Syria’s historical mistreatment at the hands of earlier Western Empires. (It is to the credit of Antiwar.com for publishing Stockman’s piece – in contrast to the far more widely published feverish denunciation by John McCain: “If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.” Thus, is any initiative for peace greeted from the two wings of the War Party.)

On top of this there is Secretary Tillerson’s statement that cooperation on Syria is continuing and developing, mirroring the statement of FM Lavrov.

I fully expect that this evaluation will bring a storm of condemnation. Some will accuse the author of parroting the “Kremlin line,” or being a Putin puppet, dead giveaways for the old Cold War mindset. But I would offer one word of advice to such naysayers. Support the good in what Trump does and oppose the bad. Very simple. And certainly, the good includes New Détente with Russia since it may well mean the survival of humanity. We might not get another shot at it. No other major national political figure, other than Rand Paul, is calling for it, which means we are in very deep trouble, perhaps mortal trouble.

* The symbolism of the two Presidents meeting, shaking hands and “getting along,” to use a phrase often invoked by Trump in the 2016 campaign, should not be underestimated. It can have a great effect on public opinion and show people that to feel friendly toward Russia and Putin is legit. After all the President feels that way. jw

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on The Unsung Summit of Putin and Trump

US sanctions President Nicolas Maduro as Washington meddles further in Venezuela’s democracy

NOVANEWS
By Adam Garrie 

The United States continues to meddle in Venezuela’s democracy after yesterday’s nation wide vote for a Constitutional Assembly that will proceed with constitutional reforms aimed at ending the political deadlock between President Maduro and the country’s National Assembly which since 2015 has been controlled by the US backed right-wing opposition.

Before the results of the vote were even counted (they have yet to be fully tallied), the United States made it clear that Washington did not accept the vote. Washington’s Ambassador to the UN, the overzealous Nikki Haley Tweeted the following on the day of the vote. “Maduro’s sham election is another step toward dictatorship. We won’t accept an illegit govt. The Venezuelan ppl & democracy will prevail.”

Today, the US Treasury released the following statement, confirming that President Maduro is being personally sanctioned by the US government.

“The following individual has been added to OFAC’s SDN List: MADURO MOROS, Nicolas… President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”.

Far from the beginning of US meddling in Venezuela, the United States for decades has funded right-wing opposition groups in Venezuela, most notoriously, that led by Henrique Capriles Radonski. For most of these years, the US has sought to undermine the Bolivarian socialist government of Hugo Chavez who died in what some call mysterious circumstances in 2013.

Since then, Chavez’s socialist successor has been Nicolas Maduro who has barely had a day in office free of US meddling of one sort or another.

Supporters of Maduro argue that the Bolivarian government has helped to redistribute the wealth of Venezuela’s considerable resources including its vast oil reserves which for years were run by foreign hands prior to nationalisation under President Savage. Maduro’s opponents attest that socialist rule has caused stagnation.

Whatever one’s views of Venezuela’s internal situation, it is a sovereign state that no nation, not least the United States has a right to interfere in.

It is ironic, verging on the surreal that while the United States political elites tear themselves to pieces over alleged meddling by Russia in the 2016 US Presidential election, meddling that is not backed up by a single shred of evidence, that same United States is openly and brazenly trying to interfere in the political process of Venezuela by pumping money into the right-wing opposition while unilaterally sanctioning the President.

While the United States attempts to isolate Venezuela, the country continues to maintain good relations with many other countries including Russia and China. In October of 2016, President Maduro awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin the Hugo Chavez Peace Prize which President Putin graciously accepted.

President Maduro insists he is ready for dialogue, but the US continues to act in ways which suggests it is ready for something far more dangerous: illegal regime change, possibly through the use of force.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on US sanctions President Nicolas Maduro as Washington meddles further in Venezuela’s democracy

Philippine President Wants North Korea to Become ASEAN Dialogue Partner

NOVANEWS
Sputnik 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed on Tuesday his desire to invite North Korea to become a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“You know, I always wanted to invite you here,” Duterte, who is a also chairperson of ASEAN in 2017, told North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, as quoted by the SunStar media outlet.

The Philippine president added that North Korea “would be a good dialogue partner.”

Ri reportedly thanked Duterte for the initiative.

The statement was made less than a week after Duterte criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

ASEAN has 10 dialogue partners, which are India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia, the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and China.

Posted in North Korea, PhilippineComments Off on Philippine President Wants North Korea to Become ASEAN Dialogue Partner

Brazil’s Slave-Descended Quilombos Shaken by String of Murders

NOVANEWS
teleSUR 

Brazilian authorities have revealed that six rural workers were mysteriously murdered in their homes in the lush rural state of Bahia in Brazil Sunday.

The crime, which was only announced Tuesday, is the latest in a wave of killings targeting residents in the disputed Iuna Quilombola Territory that lies in the city of Lencois. The murders bring to eight the number of those killed in disputed lands in Bahia within less than a month.

According to authorities, the victims lived in two neighboring homes — four in one house and two in the other — and were killed by men in an unidentified black vehicle. Each victim was shot four to six times. All were quilombolas — the descendants of Afro-Indigenous Brazilians who escaped from slavery to hinterland settlements known as Quilombos.

The victims have been identified as Adeilton Brito de Souza, Gildasio Bispo das Neves, Amauri Pereira Silva, Valdir Pereira Silva, Marcos Pereira Silva and Cosme Rosario da Conceicao

While state security forces are investigating possible links between the victims and drug traffickers, the crimes have shed light on an ongoing dispute between quilombolas and farmers who want the quilombolas expelled from the region.

In 2010, the Quilombola Territory of Iuna began the process of gaining legal recognition and titles to the land. The roughly 3,500-acre territory is home to 1,400 residents and is in the city of Lencois, a major eco-tourist destination and the starting point for treks into Chapada Diamantina National Park. The park spans a highland region of canyons and waterfalls known for its hiking trails, which were opened by miners searching for diamonds, gold and other precious minerals.

While in theory, Brazil’s 1988 Constitution assures quilombos titles to lands they historically are located on, very few quilombos actually enjoy legal recognition. According to recent data, 303 quilombo territories in Bahia state alone are seeking regularization, but only 34 are in an advanced state of regularization. The state still has no legally-recognized quilombola territories, while 19 territories have been identified as disputed land claimed by third parties.

On July 16, quilombola Lindomar Fernandes Martins was fatally shot six times on a road leading into Iuna. No one was arrested for the crime. The next day — also in Bahia — Jose Raimundo Mota de Souza, Jr., the president of the Association of Rural Workers in the Jiboia Quilombola Community, was shot dead while working in the fields with his brothers and family members.

The Association of Rural Workers’ Advocates and Catholic Church-linked Pastoral Land Commission, as well as the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform — the government agency charged with processing quilombo land claims — have issued messages of solidarity with the victims’ families and urged authorities to investigate and prosecute those involved in Sunday’s killings.

Posted in BrazilComments Off on Brazil’s Slave-Descended Quilombos Shaken by String of Murders

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo: Maldonado Victim of ‘State Violence’

NOVANEWS
teleSUR 

The Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have blamed the Argentine government for the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, an activist who disappeared after a military police raid on a Mapuche community Aug. 1.

The award-winning human rights group say Maldonado was a victim of “institutional state violence” and demand President Mauricio Macri recovers the activist alive.

“The Argentine community knows we have a disappearance in the democracy of Mr. Macri.” Estela de Carlotto, president of the Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, said at a press conference.

The organization said it will occupy the Plaza de Mayo on Friday to pressure the government to deliver Maldonado.

Argentina’s Center for Legal and Social Studies and the Permanent Human Rights Assembly have joined the call to recover Maldonado, claiming the state deliberately disappeared the activist to threaten the Mapuche community.

“This Friday at 5 p.m. we will occupy the Plaza de Mayo with one message: Santiago Maldonado must be found alive.”

“This attack against the community is no coincidence. It is a message from the government to say, ‘guys, don’t mess with us,’” said Norma Rios, president of the Permanent Human Rights Assembly.

Maldonado was last seen during a military police eviction operation against the Pu Lof Mapuche community in the Chubut department of Cushamen. Witnesses say they saw officers shove the 28-year-old into a van and drive away.

Maldonado’s family blame the military police for the young man’s disappearance but the government denies its involvement.

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US accountable for fatal raid on Hashd al-Sha’abi forces: Senior commander

NOVANEWS

Press TV 

A commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has held the US-led coalition accountable for a recent deadly attack on its forces near the Syrian border, saying Daesh terrorists could not have been behind the assault as they are not in possession of smart weapons.

On August 7, the PMU’s Sayyad al-Shuhada Brigades said its military base in the al-Tanf region had come under a smart bomb and artillery attack by the US-led coalition, which purports to be fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

More than 30 Iraqi volunteer forces, known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, were killed in the assault.

Daesh has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Meanwhile, US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the US-led forces, rejected the reports as “inaccurate” and denied having conducted air attacks in that area at the time.

However, Karim al-Nouri, a PMU spokesman, told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television channel that the attack could not have been conducted by Daesh terrorists since they are not in possession of any smart bombs as the ones that hit the Iraqi base.

He described the attack as intentional, saying it was impossible for the US military to have mistakenly targeted the Iraqi troops.

The US had, prior to the incident, threatened Hashd al-Sha’abi forces in the area and warned them against approaching the Iraq-Syria border, the commander said.

Speaking to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency on Tuesday, Abu Ala al-Wella’ei, who commands the Brigades, said the attack had been followed by a Daesh strike against the Hashd al-Sha’abi forces in the area.

The nature of the assault, he said, indicates a team-up between the US-led coalition and Daesh.

He rejected claims that the US attack could have been carried out by mistake, saying drones perform ceaseless surveillance operations over the area giving the US forces perfect command over the situation.

Al-Wella’ei called Operation Inherent Resolve, the codename for the US-led offensives, a sham, saying the mission was rather providing air cover for Takfiris on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that an initial investigation indicates Daesh had been behind the attack.

“It seems that Daesh carried out a breach using artillery and car bombs,” Abadi said in a televised press conference in Baghdad.

“The international coalition has no authority to carry out bombardment without the knowledge of Iraq,” the premier said.

Hashd al-Sha’abi is a group of Shia and Sunni volunteer fighters that was formed after the emergence of Daesh in Iraq in 2014. Back then, it helped strengthen the government forces, which had suffered heavy setbacks in the face of sweeping Daesh advances.

Hashd al-Sha’abi also played a significant part in the months-long operations, that culminated in the liberation of Mosul, the terror group’s last urban stronghold in Iraq, earlier this year.

Last November, the Iraqi parliament recognized Hashd al-Sha’abi as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army.

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Nine Years After Georgia-Russia War, ‘NATO Hustle in Caucasus Looks Suspicious’

NOVANEWS
Sputnik 

Exactly nine years ago Tbilisi launched the US-backed Operation “Clear Field” against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. While the operation led to the resounding defeat of the Georgian armed forces, it appears that the lesson remained unlearned, Sputnikcontributor Alexander Khrolenko notes.

If Georgia, the US, and their allies don’t take into account the interests of Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the Caucasus, that’s not going to be good for anyone, Sputnik contributor Alexander Khrolenko points out, recalling that exactly nine years ago Georgia kicked off its Operation “Clear Field” aimed at depriving South Ossetia of its independence and sovereignty and invading Abkhazia.

“On the night of August 8, [2008] Georgian troops attacked the capital of South Ossetia Tskhinval and the positions of Russian peacekeepers with massive artillery shelling (including cluster munitions), followed by the invasion of the South Ossetian territories by Georgian Special forces and tanks,” Khrolenko wrote.

However, Georgia had not launched the invasion on its own — Tbilisi was backed by the US and its allies.

“The invasion was carefully planned and exercised in the course of joint Georgian-American military drills,” the journalist elaborated, “Kiev delivered ‘Buk’ and ‘Tor’ missile defense systems to Tbilisi along with Ukrainian combat crews. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) experts also provided their assistance [to Georgia].”

“In August 2008, the US urgently organized an ‘air bridge’ to transfer arms and ammunition from Jordan to Georgia,” he added.

Furthermore, Washington and NATO spent $2 billion from 2004 to 2008 to train the 20,000-strong Georgian national military contingent, which boosted its skills in Iraq. The alliance worked out a concept of conducting combat operations in mountainous conditions and developed a plan aimed at what they called “restoring the constitutional order” in South Ossetia.

Although the US and Georgia spent a lot of effort in preparing for the invasion of South Ossetia, their plan to create a NATO foothold in the South Caucasus failed.

“Their calculations proved wrong and Georgian troops fled in panic from Tskhinvali to Tbilisi, throwing down their weapons and equipment, from an adversary which was equal in number to [Georgian forces],” the journalist emphasized.

It transpires that the $2 billion was spent in vain, Khrolenko writes, citing the fact that neither the strategic nor the geopolitical goals of the US-Georgian partnership were achieved.

The journalist quoted Svante E. Cornell, a Swedish scholar specializing on politics and security issues in Eurasia, who underscored in his article for The American Interest that “the war in Georgia and the financial crisis were a double whammy that fundamentally altered the balance of power in the Caucasus to the detriment of the West.”

However, it seems that the lesson remained unlearned for Tbilisi, Khrolenko remarked.

“Georgia continues to accuse Russia of ‘infringement’ of sovereignty, persistently strives for NATO membership, and proceeds with its claims for the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, renouncing the principle of non-use of force,” the journalist noted.

On the other hand, Georgian military forces continue to take part in NATO drills on a regular basis.

On July 31, a US Army Europe-led exercise Noble Partner started at the Vaziani military base in Georgia.

“The exercise serves as home station training for the Georgian light infantry company designated for the NATO Response Force and includes eight participating nations: Armenia, Georgia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States,” the US Department of Defense official website reads.

Citing US Ambassador Ian Kelly the Pentagon reported that “this year’s exercise seeks to enhance interoperability and readiness by improving the participating nations’ ability to conduct multinational mission command and control and measure the ability to support a multinational operational scenario.”

In addition, the US Congress signaled its willingness in mid-July to mull over Georgia’s membership in the Atlantic military bloc.

It looks rather suspicious, Khrolenko emphasized, adding that by boosting its ties with NATO Tbilisi is seemingly making steps which may shatter the fragile balance of power in the region.

Interestingly enough, almost simultaneously, Europe is considering the issue of creating a refugee center in Georgia. Needless to say, that is likely to further aggravate tensions in the Southern Caucasus.

Alas, “after many years of devotional service to foreign interests, Georgia has not won the respect of its ‘senior partners’,” the journalist wrote, “One way or another, Tbilisi will have to pay for a visa-free regime and its pro-Western policy.”

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A New Twist in Seth Rich Murder Case

NOVANEWS
By Joe Lauria

With U.S.-Russia tensions as dangerously high as they’ve been since the worst days of the Cold War, there is potential new evidence that Russia was not behind a hack of the Democratic National Committee, although Congress and the U.S. mainstream media accept the unproven allegation of Russia’s guilt as indisputable fact.

Slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich

The possible new evidence comes in the form of a leaked audiotape of veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in which Hersh is heard to say that not Russia, but a DNC insider, was the source of the Democratic emails published by WikiLeaks just before the start of the Democratic National Convention in late July 2016.

Hersh said on the tape that the source of the leak was former DNC employee Seth Rich, who was murdered on a darkened street in a rough neighborhood of Northwest Washington D.C. two weeks before the Convention, on July 10, 2016. But Hersh threw cold water on a theory that the murder was an assassination in retaliation for the leak. Instead, Hersh concurs with the D.C. police who say the murder was a botched robbery.

Mainstream news outlets have mocked any linkage between Rich’s murder and the disclosure of the DNC emails as a “conspiracy theory,” but Hersh’s comments suggest another possibility – that the murder and the leak were unrelated while Rich may still have been the leaker.

In dismissing the possibility that Rich was the leaker, mainstream media outlets often ignore one of the key reasons why some people believe that he was: Shortly after his murder, WikiLeaks, which has denied receiving the emails from the Russian government, posted a Tweet offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the solution of the mystery of who killed Rich.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and publisher, brought up Rich’s murder out of context in an interview with Dutch TV last August. “Whistle-blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks,” Assange said. “As a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.”

Pressed by the interviewer to say whether Rich was the source of the DNC emails, Assange said WikiLeaks never reveals its sources. Yet, it appeared to be an indirect way of naming Rich, while formally maintaining WikiLeak’s policy. An alternative view would be to believe that Assange is cynically using Rich’s death to divert the trail from the real source.

But Assange is likely one of the few people who actually knows who the source is, so his professed interest in Rich’s murder presents a clue regarding the source of the leak that any responsible news organization would at least acknowledge although that has not been the case in many recent mainstream articles about the supposed Seth Rich “conspiracy theory.”

Hersh’s Unwitting Tapes

Hersh’s taped comments add another element to the mystery, given his long record of shedding light into the dark corners of the U.S. government’s crimes, lies and cover-ups. He exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War; revealed illegal CIA spying in the 1970s spurring wide-ranging Congressional investigations and reform; and uncovered U.S. torture in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In the audiotape – which Hersh told me was made without his permission – he quoted an unnamed government source who told him that Rich offered the DNC emails to WikiLeaks in exchange for money.

“What I know comes off an FBI report. Don’t ask me how. You can figure it out, I’ve been around a long time,” Hersh says on the tape. “I have somebody on the inside who will go and read a file for me. This person is unbelievably accurate and careful, he’s a very high-level guy and he’ll do a favor. You’re just going to have to trust me.”

The FBI cyber unit got involved after the D.C. police were unable to access protected files on Rich’s computer, Hersh said. So the FBI “found what he’d done. He had submitted a series of documents, of emails. Some juicy emails from the DNC,” to Wikileaks, Hersh said.

“He offered a sample, an extensive sample, you know I’m sure dozens of emails and said ‘I want money.’ Then later Wikileaks did get the password, he had a Dropbox, a protected Dropbox,” Hersh said.

“Wikileaks got access, and before he was killed … he also, and this is also in the FBI report, he also let people know, with whom he was dealing. … I don’t know how he dealt with the Wikileaks and the mechanism but … the word was passed according to the NSA report, ‘I’ve also shared this box with a couple of friends so if anything happens to me it’s not going to solve your problem.’” Hersh said he didn’t know what this “problem” was.

Either Hersh misspoke when he mentioned an “NSA report,” instead meaning the FBI report, or the National Security Agency may have provided a record of Rich’s communication to the FBI. Both the FBI and the D.C. police have denied that the FBI got involved in the case.

The Tape Is Leaked

The Hersh audiotape was posted on a website called Big League Politics, which displays links to Project Veritas, a right-wing group run by James O’Keefe, though there is no evidence that Veritas was involved in the Hersh tape. Veritas does undercover audio and video recordings of unsuspecting subjects and has been accused of doctoring its video and audiotapes. But a recent O’Keefe undercover video of a CNN medical producer saying the network’s coverage of the Russia-gate story was “bullshit” was confirmedby CNN, which took no action against the producer.

People who believe that Hersh’s apparent revelation could reduce Russia-U.S. tensions are clamoring for him to confirm what he said. Popular blogger Caitlin Johnstone wrote: “If Hersh has any information at all indicating that the WikiLeaks releases last year came not from Russian hackers but from a leaker on the inside, he is morally obligated to volunteer all the information that he has. Even the slightest possibility that his information could help halt America’s collision course with Russia by killing public support for new cold war escalations makes his remaining silent absolutely inexcusable.”

Only Hersh’s voice is heard on the taped interview, which was conducted by Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Republican donor and Trump supporter. Until now, Hersh’s only public comment about the tape was to National Public Radio. “I hear gossip,” Hersh said. “[Butowsky] took two and two and made 45 out of it.”

I contacted Hersh on Friday via email. He confirmed to me that it was his voice on the tape by angrily condemning those who he said secretly recorded him, without identifying them. He did not respond when I asked him whether he thought the tape may have been altered. Hersh refused to comment further.

On June 2, in an exchange of emails between Hersh and Butowsky, Hersh denied any knowledge of the FBI report. That was two months before Hersh discovered that he had been secretly recorded when the tape was made public on Aug. 1 by Big League Politics. A screenshot of the Hersh-Butowsky email exchange was published by Big League Politics last week.

“I am curious why you haven’t approached the house committee telling them what you were read by your FBI friend related to Seth Rich that you in turn read to me,” Butowsky wrote.

Hersh replied:  “ed –you have a lousy memory…i was not read anything by my fbi friend..i have no firsthand information and i really wish you would stop telling others information that you think i have…please stop relaying information that you do not have right…and that i  have no reason to believe is accurate…”

Without informing him that he had been recorded, Butowsky replies: “I know it isn’t first hand knowledge but you clearly said, my memory is perfect, that you had a friend at the FBI who read / told you what was in the file on Seth Rich and I wonder why you aren’t helping your country and sharing that information on who it was?”

Further suggesting that Rich may have been the source of the DNC emails, WikiLeaks posted a link to the audiotape on Twitter.

Hersh has given no indication he’s planning to write a piece based on his source who he said has seen the FBI report. Hersh has found it difficult to be published in recent years in the United States. He has been writing for the London Review of Books until that publication earlier this year rejected a piece challenging the purported U.S. evidence blaming a chemical weapons attack in Syria, which led to Trump’s bombing of a Syrian air field. Hersh’s story was published instead in a major German weekly, Die Welt.

MSM Contempt

Corporate media’s uniform reaction has been to treat the idea of Seth Rich being WikiLeak’s source as a “conspiracy theory” – while mostly ignoring Assange’s hints and now the Hersh tape. Major U.S. media outlets cover Russia-gate as if Russian interference in last November’s U.S. election is proven, rather than based on a shaky “assessment” by “hand-picked” analysts from three – not all 17 – U.S. intelligence agencies.

If Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller is serious about getting to the bottom of who WikiLeak’s source is there are several avenues he could pursue. He could check Rich’s bank accounts to see if there was a transfer of money from a representative of WikiLeaks. He could try to find Rich’s friends who may have been given his DropBox password. He could seek to interview Hersh.

“Someone ought to ask Mueller, if he had an ounce of integrity (which he doesn’t), why he’s not showing these FBI and/or NSA reports to his Grand Jury which could blow the lid off of ‘Russiagate’ that Mueller was appointed to investigate,” former FBI official and whistleblower Coleen Rowley told me in an email. “It’s sad the FBI could be keeping this secret. But I think the [Rich] family could sue to get the FBI Report that Hersh mentioned or now that FOX is sued, its attorneys could try to subpoena the FBI documents in discovery.” She added that the FBI would likely fight such a subpoena, however.

The lawsuit that Rowley mentioned was filed by Rod Wheeler, a D.C. private detective, against Butowsky and Fox News. Wheeler was hired by Butowsky on behalf of the Rich family to find the killer. In a Fox News item on May 16, Wheeler was quoted referring to a Fox source in the federal government who said that Rich was WikiLeak’s source.

Fox News retracted the story a week later citing unspecific breaches of its editorial policies. At the time Fox had suffered ad boycotts when its chairman, Roger Ailes, and then its top presenter, Bill O’Reilly, faced sexual harassment allegations. Both later resigned. Sean Hannity, another top presenter, continued to pursue the Rich story until he was threatened with an ad boycott, at which point Fox retracted the story.

Wheeler’s suit now alleges that he was misquoted and that the purpose of the Fox story was to distract attention from Russia’s connection with the DNC emails. Big League Politics has posted audio of Wheeler saying that Aaron Rich, the victim’s brother, blocked him from pursuing leads on Seth Rich’s computer.

It is not clear if Hersh’s source is the same as Fox’s (or if Fox was using Hersh in a second-hand way). Butowsky has a connection with Fox as an on-air commentator. The date of the Hersh audio recording has not been made known although it presumably predated his email exchange with Butowsky on June 2

If an FBI report exists indicating that Rich was the source of the DNC emails and the report is made public, it could reduce tensions with Russia that Congress ratcheted up further last week by escalating sanctions – a form of economic warfare – against Russia as punishment for its alleged role in exposing the DNC emails and others belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

The DNC emails revealed DNC officials improperly interfering in the Democratic primaries to undercut Clinton’s chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Podesta emails included the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street and other special interests as well as pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

On Jan. 6 – before leaving office – President Obama’s intelligence chiefs oversaw “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and NSA creating an “assessment” blaming Russia for the hacked emails albeit without presenting any hard evidence. Russian officials have denied supplying the emails to WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks has denied receiving them from Russia.

Nevertheless, the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the election have raised tensions between the two nuclear powers to levels not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War and possibly worse. Stephen Cohen, a leading U.S. expert on Russia, said the current showdown may be even more hazardous than the Cuban missile crisis.

“I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis. And arguably, it’s more dangerous, because it’s more complex,” he told Democracy Now! in April. “Therefore, we … have in Washington these – and, in my judgment, fact-less – accusations that Trump has somehow been compromised by the Kremlin.”

In the missile crisis “there was no doubt what the Soviets had done, putting missile silos in Cuba,” Cohen said. “No evidence has been presented today of anything. Imagine if Kennedy had been accused of being a secret Soviet Kremlin agent. He would have been crippled. And the only way he could have proved he wasn’t was to have launched a war against the Soviet Union. And at that time, the option was nuclear war.”

As it still is today.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on A New Twist in Seth Rich Murder Case

‘Doing Nothing is Not an Option:’ Congress Demands Anti-Russian Propaganda Plan

NOVANEWS
Sputnik 

Posing an ultimatum to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US lawmakers are hinting that Congress will create a specific strategy to combat “Russian propaganda campaigns” if the State Department fails to do so.

“I urge you to come up with a strategy and work with Congress to implement it at once,” New York Representative Eliot Engel, ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Tillerson. “Otherwise, the House and Senate will look for legislative alternatives to direct the administration to treat the threats of Russia and [Daesh] with the seriousness they deserve.”

​Sent on Friday but revealed to the public Monday, Engel’s letter was prompted by reports that Tillerson was uneasy about using the nearly $80 million Congress has allocated to fight alleged misinformation from Moscow, instead opting to make amends.

Currently, $60 million earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center is at the Pentagon and another $19.8 million has been left untouched at the State Department, Politico reports. The Global Engagement Center is a unit that replaced the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication in 2016, and is “charged with coordinating US counterterrorism messaging to foreign audiences,” according to its site. Though Tillerson’s team has indicated they want to avoid spending money wastefully, the $60 million will be reabsorbed on September 30 if it isn’t transferred, officials told Politico.

“It seems again that this Administration just isn’t getting the message about Russia, so let me put it plainly: Russia is not America’s friend,” Engel stressed. “President Putin attacked American democracy.”

“Doing nothing is not an option,” the congressman warned.

If Tillerson fails to respond, lawmakers may once again take it upon themselves to tie US President Donald Trump’s hands on foreign policy, according to reports, as they did with the most recent sanctions bill, which put restrictions on the president’s ability to modify sanctions against Russia.

“While we, too, would ultimately like to see better relations with Russia, the Kremlin’s actions simply do not permit such improvement,” Engel noted.

Posted in USA, Media, RussiaComments Off on ‘Doing Nothing is Not an Option:’ Congress Demands Anti-Russian Propaganda Plan

Pentagon Enjoys Impunity in Spite of the Rapidly Mounting Civilian Death Toll

NOVANEWS
By Grete Mautner 

Somehow most of us grew accustomed to various media sources reporting horrific crimes against civilians committed by US servicemen in various regions of the world on the daily basis.

For instance, yet another air raid launched by US Air Force on July 25 in Afghanistan claimed a number of civilian lives. Eight people fell dead, including women and children. For local residents the fact that the area where the attack occurred is being contested by pro-government forces and various militant groups is yesterday’s news. However, as eyewitnesses argue, this time the strikes were aimed against civilians. There’s been reports that those who were trying to provide first aid to the victims of the air strike were outraged by the number of wounded minors. It’s curious that the contested Nangarhar province is located on the very border with Pakistan, so there are no large cities where hitting one’s designated target may be tricky. Americans have been bombing the area for a long time.

Under the conditions of self-declared military intervention, local authorities are forced to bear with the fact that the death of a single terrorist killed by US and NATO soldiers would be accompanied by a number of civilian lives lost in the process. However, the best the Pentagon has ever done for the relatives of its victims was the offering of pathetic condolences accompanied by a promise to “investigate the incident”. Just a few days ago US aircraft would “mistakenly” bomb an Afghan military base in the province of Helmand, claiming the lives of 17 Afghan policemen.

American air raids usually result in destroyed Afghanistan schools, as it was on July 15, when yet another school was attacked from the sky in the town of Kunduz, and destroyed hospitals, like the one run by Doctors Without Borders that was destroyed by a coalition air strike last October. Back then a total 24 people was murdered, including 12 medical practitioners and three children. Even wedding ceremonies that can be pretty massive in Afghanistan are not immune to such US and NATO attacks, as it happened in November in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, when a single US air strike would claim a total of 95 civilians lives, while leaving another 50 people injured.

In the first half of 2017 alone a total of 5243 civilians suffered injuries during various skirmishes, with 1,662 of them suffering lethal injuries and 3,581 suffering non-lethal injured, says a report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Women and children are still suffering the most from the conflict. According to the above mentioned report, in the first 6 months of 2017, 174 women were killed and 462 injured. UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto has recently noted that Afghans continue to die, get injured, and be forced to abandon their homes to escape violence.

In Syria and Iraq, the death toll is even higher. The UN and human rights organizations are outraged, since they have long been accusing Washington of neglecting international law and the basic safety of the people they claim to be protecting. But nobody seems to listen.

For instance, the campaign that the West launched to pursue the liberation of Iraq turned out to be no less brutal than the war that was raging in the country. In spite of all sorts of statements that Washington would make about the so-called high precision strikes it would allegedly carry out in Mosul, a number of American media sources would publish satellite images of the city virtually reduced to ruins. According to the Independent, more than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from ISIS – a death toll far higher than was previously estimated.

It is necessary to conduct an independent investigation of the crimes committed against civilians of Iraqi Mosul. This statement was made by the international human rights organization known as Amnesty International. According to the human rights defenders, the US-led coalition conducted a “series of merciless and illegal attacks” in Mosul. In particular, it is asserted that the coalition has been using highly explosive and inaccurate ordinance. As it’s been stressed by the Amnesty International, the battle for Mosul led to a true humanitarian disaster.

But the strikes carry on, as it’s been reported the recent strike carried out by the US-led coalition last week against a prison in Syria’s Rakka, where ISIS would hold its hostages, resulted in a total of 30 people killed.

Syria’s civilian population is dying in hundreds at the hands of US servicemen that have no legal justification to even be present in Syria. The mounting death toll has been carefully tracked by the Airwars portal.

To mislead the international community and hide the true extent of the crimes that are being committed by US servicemen in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, thus preventing an international investigation from giving a careful evaluation of the bloody role that Washington played in the destruction of the Middle East, Washington has been routinely accusing Damascus of chemical weapons usage.

Just last June, the White House would announce that US intelligence sources were in possession of reports about the alleged preparations carried out by Syrian authorities to launch a chemical attack. These reports were followed by unfounded accusations against Damascus voiced by the opposition forces.

However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford has been forced to publicly acknowledge that the Pentagon has no grounds to suspect the Syrian government of any instances of chemical weapons use.

However, the international community has every ground to accuse the United States of committing war crimes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, where hundreds of civilians continue to perish due to indiscriminate American air raids, yet, no one has been brought to justice so far.

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on Pentagon Enjoys Impunity in Spite of the Rapidly Mounting Civilian Death Toll


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