Archive | January 28th, 2018

‘US hacks and meddling quite unlike China & Russia’s hacks and meddling’ – ex-Pentagon chief

NOVANEWS

Image result for CIA LOGO

 

One could almost see the proverbial pots and kettles on Friday, when ex-Pentagon chief Ashton Carter informed us that America’s cyber operations and election meddling are entirely dissimilar to the activities of China and Russia.

The panel, held as part of the World Economic Forum in Davos, was dedicated to state cyberwarfare, the risks of cyber operations spiralling out of control, and ways to rein in the emerging threat – from making better software and incentivizing people to update it, to establishing international rules for states to voluntarily observe.

The ghost of Russia’s alleged interference with 2016 election in the US haunted the event, with supporting roles as cyber menaces given to China, alleged thief of US top secret military technologies, and North Korea, alleged perpetrator of the 2014 Sony hack and last year’s WannaCry ransomware epidemic. The panel were debating how the US and the West in general can respond to such attacks, but barely mentioned the role played by the US in bringing the cyberwarfare situation to its current state.

One noticeable exception came from Carter, Defense Secretary during the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, who tried to explain how American actions differed from those of China and Russia.

“We conduct espionage on the Internet. And when we are spied on, I don’t complain. I am unhappy with it because I wish we had not had our secrets stolen. But I put it into a different category. Covert action… is not espionage. It has the effect of harming,” he said.

So… when China steals F-35 blueprints, it harms America; when the US spies on German or Brazilian companies and gets competitive advantage in the market, that’s – no biggie? Sounds plausible. But there is more, because US meddling in foreign elections is not the same thing as somebody meddling in US elections, according to Carter.

He said China and Russia tell the US: “You stick up for democracy. You oppose leaders who are oppressing their people… That’s true, but that’s overt.”

First, being a democratically elected official does not mean the US will not have you overthrown, or worse. Just ask Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, or Chilean President Salvador Allende or, if you want someone who is still alive – Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich.

Second, by implication if hypothetically President Vladimir Putin were to come out tomorrow and say: “OK, we hacked the DNC to help our buddy Donald,” that would somehow make all fine? Carter repeated the phrase “attack is an attack” explaining his attitude to clandestine state-sponsored cyber operations some half a dozen times during the hour-long discussion, and it didn’t sound like a nation claiming credit for one would make it less of an attack in his opinion.

The former Pentagon chief argued during the panel that the US has to “get doctrinally settled” in its response to harmful actions of other states that cannot be clearly attributed to those states. His examples were Russia’s deployment of troops with no insignia from its naval base in Crimea during the 2014 crisis in Ukraine and what he termed “stirring up minorities” in the Baltic states by Russia. “We need a war plan… We need to make it painful to do that kind of thing to us,” he said.

Frankly, the secret supply of US arms to Syrian anti-government groups, attempts to create a Cuban version of Twitter to foster dissent in the island nation or the reported hacking of the Iranian uranium enrichment facility to blow up centrifuges – arguably the best-known case of a state conducting an act of cyberwarfare on another state, by the way – all fall into the same category. But somehow no war plan for those nations was suggested during the panel.

There were some other things that the panel missed. Like the US intelligence practice of hoarding exploits. The WannaCry attack was based on leaked tools developed by the NSA, not some super-secret North Korean cyber warfare unit. Or the fact that the US public often has to trust its government when it points the finger at another nation and says ‘they did it’. Which is disconcerting, if you take into account the historic record of false claims and the fact that the US cyber warfare experts know how to fake “digital fingerprints” to make an attack look like it came from Russia or China. Or that report that the Obama administration ordered “digital bombs” planted, ready to take out critical Russian infrastructure should Washington chose to do so.

Read more:

US unleashed Stuxnet cyber war on Iran to appease Israel – report

#Vault7: How CIA steals hacking fingerprints from Russia & others to cover its tracks

Posted in USA, C.I.A, RussiaComments Off on ‘US hacks and meddling quite unlike China & Russia’s hacks and meddling’ – ex-Pentagon chief

Selected Articles: America’s National “Defense” Is Really “Offense”

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Shifting Geopolitical Realities in Afghanistan. Threat to US Hegemony?

By Fraidoon Amel, January 28, 2018

Violent geopolitical rivalries between imperialist and hegemonist powers over Afghanistan’s natural resources, trade and transit routes, and geostrategic location have dramatically intensified. Despite sixteen years of heavy-handed US presence to establish its hegemony in Afghanistan and beyond, influence of regional powers like Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and India is growing.

UK Defence Secretary Accuses Russia of Planning to Kill “Thousands and Thousands and Thousands” of Britons

By Robert Stevens, January 28, 2018

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, published as its main front-page story Friday, Williamson said that Russia was spying on Britain’s critical national infrastructure and claimed, “The plan for the Russians won’t be for landing craft to appear in the South Bay in Scarborough, and off Brighton Beach.

Hassan Diab Is Back in Canada!

By Hassan Diab Support Committee, January 28, 2018

As you might have heard, this is not the end of Hassan’s ordeal. There will be an appeal of the release decision. So, the outcome remains uncertain, and we’re not completely out of the woods yet. But for now, we can say that justice prevailed and Hassan is back in Canada and that is worth celebrating.

Iran: New Unjust Accusations by Washington

By Peter Koenig and Press TV, January 28, 2018

Washington will try to find any reason to either increase the completely illegal sanctions on Iran or cancel the deal altogether. There is no doubt in my mind about it. They will not shy back from inventing and fabricating “evidence” that the missile remnants Haley wants to show to UN Security Council member are from Iran.

America’s National Defense Is Really Offense

By Philip Giraldi, January 28, 2018

Pentagon planners clearly anticipate another year of playing at defense by keeping the offense on the field. An impetuous and poorly informed president is a danger to all of us, particularly as he is surrounded by general-advisers who see a military solution to every problem. Hopefully wiser counsel will prevail.

‘Without UNRWA We Have Nothing’: Palestinian Refugees Speak Out Against US Aid Cuts

By Jaclynn Ashly, January 28, 2018

Palestinians in Aida refugee camp disagree, telling Mondoweiss that the cuts are a continuation of US policies aimed at strangling the lifeline of Palestinian refugees.

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The Genocide Conspiracy Against North Korea: An Open Letter to the International Criminal Court

The American threats against North Korea continue to mount and with them the threat of the genocide of the people of North Korea by the United States of America and its allies. The meeting of the USA, Canada and other nations that attacked North Korea in 1950 held in Vancouver, Canada, on January 16, which some hoped would lead to a political solution, instead took on the character of a meeting of criminals who by their presence, agreement and actions made them parties to a conspiracy to commit genocide, a crime under the statute of the International Criminal Court and the Genocide Convention of 1948.

The threats made against North Korea are due to one single fact: the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea refuses to accept the world hegemony of the American Empire. It has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. It has become a ritual now to state that all the permanent members of the Security Council are armed with nuclear weapons, that the United States has used them on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that they have continuously threatened to use them to intimidate other nations since 1945, that Pakistan, India, and Israel have them, that NATO members in Europe have them at their disposal under US direction, that North Korea is in violation of no international law in developing them to defend themselves, to ensure their security just as all those other nations have done, that North Korea threatens no one and seeks only to have a full and final peace with the United States.

The nuclear weapon issue is a simply the pretext that the United States is using to try to solidify its tyranny over Korea, over the world.

The threat to the world peace comes not from North Korea. It comes from the United States and its allies: the nations who have degraded themselves into subjugated vassal states ready to obey any criminal order of their masters of war in Washington.

In response to what in our considered opinion are criminal actions, Dr. Graeme MacQueen, Founder and former Director of the Centre For Peace Studies, at McMaster University, and I, felt it necessary to send the following Open Letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on January 23.


Open Letter

Dear Madame Prosecutor:

Re: Threats of Genocide Made Against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

We, the undersigned, share the desire of the Canadian people to establish and preserve peace in the world. It is therefore necessary for us to ask you to open an investigative file on the action of governments allied to the United States, including Canada, its government ministers and officials active in the on-going crisis with the DPRK.

Embarrassment and shock at President Trump’s threats against North Korea have been widespread and have led to a serious discussion in the US as to whether Mr. Trump is mentally fit to govern. However, the threats of Mr. Trump and his secretary of defense go well beyond the US domestic sphere and have direct implications for other countries, including Canada.

Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states that genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole of in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

(a) killing members of the group,

(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,

(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction, in whole or in part, of the group.

Conspiracy to commit genocide is understood in international law as a concerted agreement to commit genocide which may be inferred from the conduct of the conspirators. The evidence to support the charge of genocide can be based on circumstantial evidence as well as direct evidence. Further, the concerted or coordinated action of a group of individuals can constitute evidence of an agreement.

On August 8, 2017 Mr. Trump said that North Korean threats “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” His secretary of defense, James Mattis, followed up on August 9 with the statement that,

The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

Mr. Mattis added a further comment on September 3:

We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.

During his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly on September 19, Mr. Trump said:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Finally, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during an interview on January 17, 2018 at Stanford University with Condoleeza Rice, stated approvingly in reference to deaths aboard Korean fishing boats going out to sea in winter without necessary fuel:

“they [the North Koreans] are feeling the effect of our sanctions.”

This is direct evidence that the United States is intentionally creating conditions that will cause the death of Korean civilians on a large scale in order to achieve US objectives.

Rhetorical excess (“fire and fury”) is one thing, but this connected series of statements, including a threat of total destruction, constitutes a threat of genocide. Threatening genocide is, arguably, not a crime, but “public incitement to genocide” is explicitly included as a crime in the Genocide Convention to which the US is party. Already, therefore, by publicly and passionately promoting genocide as a policy option, Mr. Trump and Mr. Mattis have entered dangerous territory legally. Since the US is party to the Genocide Convention the provisions of the Convention have the status of US law.  

To successfully convict someone of genocide, proof of intention is required. The prosecution needs to show “intent to destroy”.  This is usually a challenge for the prosecution since perpetrators seldom telegraph their destructive intentions to the world in advance. But, as two genocide scholars have already argued in the Washington Post, the US leadership has done precisely this: it has telegraphed its intentions. If, they point out, Mr. Trump does what he has threatened, prosecuting him for genocide would take a straightforward path.

The country of the undersigned, Canada, is a member of the ICC and under its jurisdiction, and Canadian leaders and officials have individual responsibility for any crimes committed under the Statute. Since there is clear evidence that the crime of genocide is being discussed openly and that plans are being made to carry it out against the people of the DPRK by US leaders and since, in these circumstances and with full knowledge of these threats and plans, US allies, including Canada, are cooperating with the US government and meeting to discuss actions to be taken against North Korea, and since these allies of the US appear to be ignoring international law, the Charter of the United Nations and the Rome Statute, it is necessary that an investigation be conducted by your office to consider the evidence and to prosecute if there is evidence of a crime.

The United States of America is no longer a member of the ICC. However, it is bound by the Charter of the United Nations to keep the world peace, is party to the Genocide Convention, and was a sponsor of the International Criminal Court.  Moreover, the ICC has not only an investigative and prosecutorial role, but also the role of informing the world what criminal conduct is when it is happening; and it has a duty to make a public statement condemning it when it happens. It chose to do so with regard to Kenya for example. It should do so in the current crisis.

We ask that the Office of the Prosecutor open an investigative file in this matter and, in addition, use your voice as Prosecutor and the moral imperative your office claims to represent to avoid genocide and to condemn as grave violations of international criminal law the announced intentions and actions of the nations mentioned above.”

We urge others to do the same.

Christopher Black

Graeme MacQueen

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on The Genocide Conspiracy Against North Korea: An Open Letter to the International Criminal Court

Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews

By Nat Parry | Consortium News | January 28, 2018

Robert Parry, 1949-2018

It is with a heavy heart that we inform Consortiumnews readers that Editor Robert Parry has passed away. As regular readers know, Robert (or Bob, as he was known to friends and family) suffered a stroke in December, which – despite his own speculation that it may have been brought on by the stress of covering Washington politics – was the result of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer that he had been unknowingly living with for the past 4-5 years.

He unfortunately suffered two more debilitating strokes in recent weeks and after the last one, was moved to hospice care on Tuesday. He passed away peacefully Saturday evening. He was 68.

Those of us close to him wish to sincerely thank readers for the kind comments and words of support posted on recent articles regarding Bob’s health issues. We read aloud many of these comments to him during his final days to let him know how much his work has meant to so many people and how much concern there was for his well-being.

I am sure that these kindnesses meant a lot to him. They also mean a lot to us as family members, as we all know how devoted he was to the mission of independent journalism and this website which has been publishing articles since the earliest days of the internet, launching all the way back in 1995.

With my dad, professional work has always been deeply personal, and his career as a journalist was thoroughly intertwined with his family life. I can recall kitchen table conversations in my early childhood that focused on the U.S.-backed wars in Central America and complaints about how his editors at The Associated Press were too timid to run articles of his that – no matter how well-documented – cast the Reagan administration in a bad light.

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, “Kids like me?” He replied, “Yes, kids just like you.”

Bob was deeply impacted by the dirty wars of Central America in the 1980s and in many ways these conflicts – and the U.S. involvement in them – came to define the rest of his life and career. With grisly stories emerging from Nicaragua (thanks partly to journalists like him), Congress passed the Boland Amendments from 1982 to 1984, which placed limits on U.S. military assistance to the contras who were attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government through a variety of terrorist tactics.

The Reagan administration immediately began exploring ways to circumvent those legal restrictions, which led to a scheme to send secret arms shipments to the revolutionary and vehemently anti-American government of Iran and divert the profits to the contras. In 1985, Bob wrote the first stories describing this operation, which later became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Contra-Cocaine and October Surprise

Poster by street artist and friend, Robbie Conal

Parallel to the illegal arms shipments to Iran during those days was a cocaine trafficking operation by the Nicaraguan contras and a willingness by the Reagan administration and the CIA to turn a blind eye to these activities. This, despite the fact that cocaine was flooding into the United States while Ronald Reagan was proclaiming a “war on drugs,” and a crack cocaine epidemic was devastating communities across the country.

Bob and his colleague Brian Barger were the first journalists to report on this story in late 1985, which became known as the contra-cocaine scandal and became the subject of a congressional investigation led by then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 1986.

Continuing to pursue leads relating to Iran-Contra during a period in the late 80s when most of Washington was moving on from the scandal, Bob discovered that there was more to the story than commonly understood. He learned that the roots of the illegal arm shipments to Iran stretched back further than previously known – all the way back to the 1980 presidential campaign.

That electoral contest between incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan had come to be largely dominated by the hostage crisis in Iran, with 52 Americans being held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Iranian hostage crisis, along with the ailing economy, came to define a perception of an America in decline, with former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan promising a new start for the country, a restoration of its status as a “shining city on a hill.”

The hostages were released in Tehran moments after Reagan was sworn in as president in Washington on January 20, 1981. Despite suspicions for years that there had been some sort of quid pro quo between the Reagan campaign and the Iranians, it wasn’t until Bob uncovered a trove of documents in a House office building basement in 1994 that the evidence became overwhelming that the Reagan campaign had interfered with the Carter administration’s efforts to free the hostages prior to the 1980 election. Their release sooner – what Carter hoped would be his “October Surprise” – could have given him the boost needed to win.

Examining these documents and being already well-versed on this story – having previously travelled three continents pursuing the investigation for a PBS Frontline documentary – Bob became increasingly convinced that the Reagan campaign had in fact sabotaged Carter’s hostage negotiations, possibly committing an act of treason in an effort to make sure that 52 American citizens continued to be held in a harrowing hostage situation until after Reagan secured the election.

Needless to say, this was an inconvenient story at a time – in the mid-1990s – when the national media had long since moved on from the Reagan scandals and were obsessing over new scandals, mostly related to President Bill Clinton’s sex life and failed real estate deals. Washington also wasn’t particularly interested in challenging the Reagan legacy, which at that time was beginning to solidify into a kind of mythology, with campaigns underway to name buildings and airports after the former president.

At times, Bob had doubts about his career decisions and the stories he was pursuing. As he wrote in Trick or Treason, a book outlining his investigation into the October Surprise Mystery, this search for historical truth can be painful and seemingly thankless.

“Many times,” he wrote, “I had regretted accepting Frontline’s assignment in 1990. I faulted myself for risking my future in mainstream journalism. After all, that is where the decent-paying jobs are. I had jeopardized my ability to support my four children out of an old-fashioned sense of duty, a regard for an unwritten code that expects reporters to take almost any assignment.”

Nevertheless, Bob continued his efforts to tell the full story behind both the Iran-Contra scandal and the origins of the Reagan-Bush era, ultimately leading to two things: him being pushed out of the mainstream media, and the launching of Consortiumnews.com.

I remember when he started the website, together with my older brother Sam, back in 1995. At the time, in spite of talk we were all hearing about something called “the information superhighway” and “electronic mail,” I had never visited a website and didn’t even know how to get “on line.” My dad called me in Richmond, where I was a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, and told me I should check out this new “Internet site” he and Sam had just launched.

He explained over the phone how to open a browser and instructed me how to type in the URL, starting, he said, with “http,” then a colon and two forward slashes, then “www,” then “dot,” then this long address with one or two more forward slashes if I recall. (It wasn’t until years later that the website got its own domain and a simpler address.)

I went to the computer lab at the university and asked for some assistance on how to get online, dutifully typed in the URL, and opened this website – the first one I had ever visited. It was interesting, but a bit hard to read on the computer screen, so I printed out some articles to read back in my dorm room.

I quickly became a fan of “The Consortium,” as it was called back then, and continued reading articles on the October Surprise Mystery as Bob and Sam posted them on this new and exciting tool called “the Internet.” Sam had to learn HTML coding from scratch to launch this online news service, billed as “the Internet’s First Investigative ‘Zine.” For his efforts, Sam was honored with the Consortium for Independent Journalism’s first Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award in 2015.

X-Files and Contra-Crack

At some point along the way, Bob decided that in addition to the website, where he was not only posting original articles but also providing the source documents that he had uncovered in the House office building basement, he would also take a stab at traditional publishing. He compiled the “October Surprise X-Files” into a booklet and self-published it in January 1996.

Original 1996 Consortium merchandise

He was also publishing a newsletter to complement the website, knowing that at that time, there were still plenty of people who didn’t know how to turn a computer on, much less navigate the World Wide Web. I transferred from Virginia Commonwealth University to George Mason University in the DC suburbs and started working part-time with my dad and Sam on the newsletter and website.

We worked together on the content, editing and laying it out with graphics often culled from books at our local library. We built a subscriber base through networking and purchasing mailing lists from progressive magazines. Every two weeks we would get a thousand copies printed from Sir Speedy and would spend Friday evening collating these newsletters and sending them out to our subscribers.

The launching of the website and newsletter, and later an even-more ambitious project called I.F. Magazine, happened to coincide with the publication in 1996 of Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series at the San Jose Mercury-News. Webb’s series reopened the contra-cocaine controversy with a detailed examination of the drug trafficking networks in Nicaragua and Los Angeles that had helped to spread highly addictive crack cocaine across the United States.

The African-American community, in particular, was rightly outraged over this story, which offered confirmation of many long-standing suspicions that the government was complicit in the drug trade devastating their communities. African Americans had been deeply and disproportionately affected by the crack epidemic, both in terms of the direct impact of the drug and the draconian drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences that came to define the government’s approach to “the war on drugs.”

For a moment in the summer of 1996, it appeared that the renewed interest in the contra-cocaine story might offer an opportunity to revisit the crimes and misdeeds of the Reagan-Bush era, but those hopes were dashed when the “the Big Media” decided to double down on its earlier failures to cover this story properly.

Big Papers Pile On

The Los Angeles Times launched the attack on Gary Webb and his reporting at the San Jose Mercury-News, followed by equally dismissive stories at the Washington Post and New York Times. The piling on from these newspapers eventually led Mercury-News editor Jerry Ceppos to denounce Webb’s reporting and offer a mea culpa for publishing the articles.

The onslaught of hostile reporting from the big papers failed to address the basic premises of Webb’s series and did not debunk the underlying allegations of contra-cocaine smuggling or the fact that much of this cocaine ended up on American streets in the form of crack. Instead, it raised doubts by poking holes in certain details and casting the story as a “conspiracy theory.” Some of the reporting attempted to debunk claims that Webb never actually made – such as the idea that the contra-cocaine trafficking was part of a government plot to intentionally decimate the African-American community.

Gary Webb with his front-page Contra story

Gary Webb and Bob were in close contact during those days. Bob offered him professional and personal support, having spent his time also on the receiving end of attacks by journalistic colleagues and editors who rejected certain stories – no matter how factual – as fanciful conspiracy theories. Articles at The Consortium website and newsletter, as well as I.F. Magazine, offered details on the historical context for the “Dark Alliance” series and pushed back against the mainstream media’s onslaught of hostile and disingenuous reporting.

Bob also published the book Lost History which provided extensive details on the background for the “Dark Alliance” series, explaining that far from a baseless “conspiracy theory,” the facts and evidence strongly supported the conclusion that the Reagan-Bush administrations had colluded with drug traffickers to fund their illegal war against Nicaragua.

But sadly, the damage to Gary Webb was done.  With his professional and personal life in tatters because of his courageous reporting on the contra-cocaine story, he committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 49. Speaking about this suicide later on Democracy Now, Bob noted how painful it is to be ridiculed and unfairly criticized by colleagues, as his friend had experienced.

“There’s a special pain when your colleagues in your profession turn on you, especially when you’ve done something that they should admire and should understand,” he said. “To do all that work and then have the New York Times and the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times attack you and try to destroy your life, there’s a special pain in that.”

In consultation with his family, Bob and the Board of Directors for the Consortium for Independent Journalism launched the Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award in 2015.

The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush

The presidency of George W. Bush was surreal for many of us, and no one more so than my dad.

In covering Washington politics for decades, Bob had traced many stories to “Dubya’s” father, George H.W. Bush, who had been implicated in a variety of questionable activities, including the October Surprise Mystery and Iran-Contra. He had also launched a war against Iraq in 1991 that seemed to be motivated, at least in part, to help kick “the Vietnam Syndrome,” i.e. the reluctance that the American people had felt since the Vietnam War to support military action abroad.

As Bob noted in his 1992 book Fooling America, after U.S. forces routed the Iraqi military in 1991, President Bush’s first public comment about the victory expressed his delight that it would finally put to rest the American reflex against committing troops to far-off conflicts. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” he exulted.

The fact that Bush-41’s son could run for president largely on name recognition confirmed to Bob the failure of the mainstream media to cover important stories properly and the need to continue building an independent media infrastructure. This conviction solidified through Campaign 2000 and the election’s ultimate outcome, when Bush assumed the White House as the first popular-vote loser in more than a century.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had halted the counting of votes in Florida, thus preventing an accurate determination of the rightful winner, most of the national media moved on from the story after Bush was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001. Consortiumnews.com continued to examine the documentary record, however, and ultimately concluded that Al Gore would have been declared the winner of that election if all the legally cast ballots were counted.

At Consortiumnews, there was an unwritten editorial policy that the title “President” should never precede George W. Bush’s name, based on our view that he was not legitimately elected. But beyond those editorial decisions, we also understood the gravity of the fact that had Election 2000 been allowed to play out with all votes counted, many of the disasters of the Bush years – notably the 9/11 tragedy and the Iraq War, as well as decisions to withdraw from international agreements on arms control and climate change – might have been averted.

As all of us who lived through the post-9/11 era will recall, it was a challenging time all around, especially if you were someone critical of George W. Bush. The atmosphere in that period did not allow for much dissent. Those who stood up against the juggernaut for war – such as Phil Donahue at MSNBC, Chris Hedges at the New York Times, or even the Dixie Chicks – had their careers damaged and found themselves on the receiving end of death threats and hate mail.

While Bob’s magazine and newsletter projects had been discontinued, the website was still publishing articles, providing a home for dissenting voices that questioned the case for invading Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003. Around this time, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and some of his colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a long-running relationship with Consortiumnews was established. Several former intelligence veterans began contributing to the website, motivated by the same independent spirit of truth-telling that compelled Bob to invest so much in this project.

At a time when almost the entire mainstream media was going along with the Bush administration’s dubious case for war, this and a few other like-minded websites pushed back with well-researched articles calling into question the rationale. Although at times it might have felt as though we were just voices in the wilderness, a major groundswell of opposition to war emerged in the country, with historic marches of hundreds of thousands taking place to reject Bush’s push for war.

Neck Deep, published by Media Consortium in 2007

Of course, these antiwar voices were ultimately vindicated by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the fact that the war and occupation proved to be a far costlier and deadlier enterprise than we had been told that it would be. Earlier assurances that it would be a “cakewalk” proved as false as the WMD claims, but as had been so often the case in Washington, there was little to no accountability from the mainstream media, the think tanks or government officials for being so spectacularly wrong.

In an effort to document the true history of that era, Bob, Sam and I co-wrote the book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, which was published in late 2007. The book traced the work of Consortiumnews, juxtaposing it against the backdrop of mainstream media coverage during the Bush era, in an effort to not only correct the record, but also demonstrate that not all of us got things so wrong.

We felt it was important to remind readers – as well as future historians – that some of us knew and reported in real time the mistakes that were being made on everything from withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol to invading Iraq to implementing a policy of torture to bungling the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Obama Era

By the time Barack Obama was elected the 44th president, Consortiumnews.com had become a home to a growing number of writers who brought new perspectives to the website’s content. While for years, the writing staff had been limited primarily to Bob, Sam and me, suddenly, Consortiumnews was receiving contributions from journalists, activists and former intelligence analysts who offered a wide range of expertise – on international law, economics, human rights, foreign policy, national security, and even religion and philosophy.

One recurring theme of articles at the website during the Obama era was the enduring effect of unchallenged narratives, how they shaped national politics and dictated government policy. Bob observed that even a supposedly left-of-center president like Obama seemed beholden to the false narratives and national mythologies dating back to the Reagan era. He pointed out that this could be at least partially attributed to the failure to establish a strong foundation for independent journalism.

In a 2010 piece called “Obama’s Fear of the Reagan Narrative,” Bob noted that Obama had defended his deal with Republicans on tax cuts for the rich because there was such a strong lingering effect of Reagan’s messaging from 30 years earlier. “He felt handcuffed by the Right’s ability to rally Americans on behalf of Reagan’s ‘government-is-the-problem’ message,” Bob wrote.

He traced Obama’s complaints about his powerlessness in the face of this dynamic to the reluctance of American progressives to invest sufficiently in media and think tanks, as conservatives had been doing for decades in waging their “the war of ideas.” As he had been arguing since the early 1990s, Robert insisted that the limits that had been placed on Obama – whether real or perceived – continued to demonstrate the power of propaganda and the need for greater investment in alternative media.

He also observed that much of the nuttiness surrounding the so-called Tea Party movement resulted from fundamental misunderstandings of American history and constitutional principles. “Democrats and progressives should be under no illusion about the new flood of know-nothingism that is about to inundate the United States in the guise of a return to ‘first principles’ and a deep respect for the U.S. Constitution,” Bob warned.

He pointed out that despite the Tea Partiers’ claimed reverence for the Constitution, they actually had very little understanding of the document, as revealed by their ahistorical claims that federal taxes are unconstitutional. In fact, as Bob observed, the Constitution represented “a major power grab by the federal government, when compared to the loosely drawn Articles of Confederation, which lacked federal taxing authority and other national powers.”

Motivated by a desire to correct falsified historical narratives spanning more than two centuries, Bob published his sixth and final book, America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama, in 2012.

Along with revenues from book sales, growing donations from readers enabled Bob to not only pay writers but also to hire an assistant, Chelsea Gilmour, who began working for Consortiumnews in 2014. In addition to providing invaluable administrative support, Chelsea also performed duties including research, writing and fact-checking.

Political Realignment and the New McCarthyism

Although at the beginning of the Obama era – and indeed since the 1980s – the name Robert Parry had been closely associated with exposing wrongdoing by Republicans, and hence had a strong following among Democratic Party loyalists, by the end of Obama’s presidency there seemed to be a realignment taking place among some of Consortiumnews.com’s readership, which reflected more generally the shifting politics of the country.

In particular, the U.S. media’s approach to Russia and related issues, such as the violent ouster in 2014 of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, became “virtually 100 percent propaganda,” Bob said.

He noted that the full story was never told when it came to issues such as the Sergei Magnitsky case, which led to the first round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, nor the inconvenient facts related to the Euromaidan protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster – including the reality of strong neo-Nazi influence in those protests – nor the subsequent conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Bob’s stories on Ukraine were widely cited and disseminated, and he became an important voice in presenting a fuller picture of the conflict than was possible by reading and watching only mainstream news outlets. Bob was featured prominently in Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire,” where he explained how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have worked with the CIA and foreign policy establishment since the 1980s to promote the U.S. geopolitical agenda.

Bob regretted that, increasingly, “the American people and the West in general are carefully shielded from hearing the ‘other side of the story.’” Indeed, he said that to even suggest that there might be another side to the story is enough to get someone branded as an apologist for Vladimir Putin or a “Kremlin stooge.”

The PropOrNot logo

This culminated in late 2016 in the blacklisting of Consortiumnews.com on a dubious website called “PropOrNot,” which was claiming to serve as a watchdog against undue “Russian influence” in the United States. The PropOrNot blacklist, including Consortiumnews and about 200 other websites deemed “Russian propaganda,” was elevated by the Washington Post as a credible source, despite the fact that the neo-McCarthyites who published the list hid behind a cloak of anonymity.

“The Post’s article by Craig Timberg,” Bob wrote on Nov. 27, 2016, “described PropOrNot simply as ‘a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds [who] planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.’”

As Bob explained in an article called “Washington Post’s Fake News Guilt,” the paper granted PropOrNot anonymity “to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth.”

The Post even provided an unattributed quote from the head of the shadowy website. “The way that this propaganda apparatus supported [Donald] Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” the anonymous smear merchant said. The Post claimed that the PropOrNot “executive director” had spoken on the condition of anonymity “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

To be clear, neither Consortiumnews nor Robert Parry ever “supported Trump,” as the above anonymous quote claims. Something interesting, however, did seem to be happening in terms of Consortiumnews’ readership in the early days of the Trump presidency, as could be gleaned from some of the comments left on articles and social media activity.

It did appear for some time at least that a good number of Trump supporters were reading Consortiumnews, which could probably be attributed to the fact that the website was one of the few outlets pushing back against both the “New Cold War” with Russia and the related story of “Russiagate,” which Bob didn’t even like referring to as a “scandal.” (As an editor, he preferred to use the word “controversy” on the website, because as far as he was concerned, the allegations against Trump and his supposed “collusion” with Russia did not rise to the level of actual scandals such as Watergate or Iran-Contra.)

In his view, the perhaps understandable hatred of Trump felt by many Americans – both inside and outside the Beltway – had led to an abandonment of old-fashioned rules of journalism and standards of fairness, which should be applied even to someone like Donald Trump.

“On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump ‘Resistance,’” Bob wrote in his final article for Consortiumnews.

“The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster,” he said. “Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.”

He marveled that even senior editors in the mainstream media treated the unproven Russiagate allegations as flat fact.

“No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the U.S. government’s institutions,” Bob wrote. “Anti-Trump ‘progressives’ were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

An Untimely End and the Future of Consortiumnews

My dad’s untimely passing has come as a shock to us all, especially since up until a month ago, there was no indication whatsoever that he was sick in any way. He took good care of himself, never smoked, got regular check-ups, exercised, and ate well. The unexpected health issues starting with a mild stroke Christmas Eve and culminating with his admission into hospice care several days ago offer a stark reminder that nothing should be taken for granted.

And as many Consortiumnews readers have eloquently pointed out in comments left on recent articles regarding Bob’s health, it also reminds us that his brand of journalism is needed today more than ever.

“We need free will thinkers like you who value the truth based on the evidence and look past the group think in Washington to report on the real reasons for our government’s and our media’s actions which attempt to deceive us all,” wrote, for example, “FreeThinker.”

“Common sense and integrity are the hallmarks of Robert Parry’s journalism. May you get better soon for you are needed more now then ever before,” wrote “T.J.”

“We need a new generation of reporters, journalists, writers, and someone always being tenacious to follow up on the story,” added “Tina.”

As someone who has been involved with this website since its inception – as a writer, an editor and a reader – I concur with these sentiments. Readers should rest assured that despite my dad’s death, every effort will be made to ensure that the website will continue going strong.

Indeed, I think that everyone involved with this project wants to uphold the same commitment to truth telling without fear or favor that inspired Bob and his heroes like George Seldes, I.F. Stone, and Thomas Paine.

That commitment can be seen in my dad’s pursuit of stories such as those mentioned above, but also so many others – including his investigations into the financial relationship of the influential Washington Times with the Unification Church cult of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the truth behind the Nixon campaign’s alleged efforts to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson’s Paris peace talks with Vietnamese leaders in 1968, the reality of the chemical attack in Syria in 2013, and even detailed examinations of the evidence behind the so-called “Deflategate” controversy that he felt unfairly branded his favorite football team, the New England Patriots, as cheaters.

Reviewing these journalistic achievements, it becomes clear that there are few stories that have slipped under Consortiumnews.com’s radar, and that the historical record is far more complete thanks to this website and Bob’s old-fashioned approach to journalism.

Nuclear weapons

But besides this deeply held commitment to independent journalism, it should also be recalled that, ultimately, Bob was motivated by a concern over the future of life on Earth. As someone who grew up at the height of the Cold War, he understood the dangers of allowing tensions and hysteria to spiral out of control, especially in a world such as ours with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on the planet many times over.

As the United States continues down the path of a New Cold War, my dad would be pleased to know that he has such committed contributors who will enable the site to remain the indispensable home for independent journalism that it has become, and continue to push back on false narratives that threaten our very survival.

Thank you all for your support.

In lieu of flowers, Bob’s family asks you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Consortium for Independent Journalism.

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North Korea War Plan: Chrystia Freeland is more dangerous than Tony Blair

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By Cameron Pike | OffGuardian 

The day before the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Security and Stability in Vancouver on January 16, 2018, a forum was held at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research entitled “Getting North Korea Right:  Canadian Options and Roles”. This was a publicly held event with the “expert” “talking heads” of think-tanks. The moderator was an Asian International Relations expert, Dr. Paul Evans, who is now the head of the Institute of Asian Research.

The five speakers were Eric Walsh: Canadian Ambassador to the Republic of South Korea, Scott Snyder: Senior Fellow and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, and New York Council of Foreign Relations, Kyung-Ae Park: Korea Foundation Chair, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs Director, and Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program, Brian Job: Professor of Political Science, UBC, Brian Gold: Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta. All panel participants were to attend the following days’ Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on North Korea.

The events’ speakers discussed Canada’s role in mediating the “International Community’s” response to North Korea through sanctions, non-proliferation and diplomacy. The stated goal of the pre-meeting was to have public discourse on the crisis in North Korea, a day in advance of the major international diplomatic event being held in Vancouver. The actual purpose of the pre-meeting was to soft sell the major military role that Canada plans to play in open sea interdiction to a Canadian audience on tightening sanctions on North Korea. This soft sell was necessary to back the hard sell for military action being made by Chrystia Freeland to 20 foreign ministers the following day.

Canadians mostly consider themselves non-militaristic, but as intelligence and military officials know around the world, the Canadian Navy are experts at interdictions at sea and are more preferred in interdiction than the U.S. Navy. Canada has had much experience perfecting these capabilities in interdictions off the coast of Africa, as well and in the Persian Gulf during the two Gulf Wars.

Further, what most Canadians and perhaps the general population in the West do not know, is that Canada is an important partner in the NATO/NORAD and UN command and intelligence structures and does most of the top military coordination in exercises and operations between the nations of NATO currently exercising on the border with Russia, and especially in the Ukraine. Most officers in the Canadian military are trained in a comprehensive way that allows them to operate in an integrated manner with US, UK, NATO, and U.N. forces around the globe. Throughout all U.S. global military actions, whether in the Gulf and Afghan wars, or currently all over the world, Canada’s military and military intelligence, considered the best in the world, has worked hand in hand with the U.S. military in special operations and counter intelligence.

Of the five speakers, the presentation by Scott A. Snyder of the NY Council on Foreign Relations was the most revealing of the actual intentions of the following days’ conference organizers. Snyder used the concept of a rheostat to describe the situation. He said, China was holding the rheostat over North Korea, that the U.S. was holding the rheostat over China, and that the “International Community” was holding the rheostat over the U.S. The significance of this is the acknowledgement that pressure on the U.S. is coming from the “collective” global community of extra-governmental, international, and non-national institutions and structures, including NGO’s, civil society, and the international financial community. Canada, as the host nation for this Foreign Minister’s meeting, is leading the “International Community”, which means that Canada is one of the leading countries holding the rheostat over the U.S.

It should be noted that the New York Council on Foreign Relations, where Snyder is a senior fellow, is an outgrowth of the British Liberal Imperialist Fabian Society. Its core thinkers over the last century, especially since WWII, created the unipolar doctrine of the “International Community” which Snyder references. This “International Community” does not include, at its core, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Russia, now Turkey, and possibly France, and India; that is most of the world. In other words, the “International Community” that Scott Snyder references is not international; nor are the Colour Revolutions, the illegal invasions, and the sanctions that are being carried out in the name of the “International Community” International.

These actions are hybrid warfare designed to pressure or break apart countries from within, who may have the potential of working within the new “multipolar” world framework being promoted by Russia and China. This “multipolar” framework is based on the New Paradigm, which is being introduced to the world economically by China via the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI.)

Snyder, in his presentation, said he expected pressure to be placed on North Korea and suggested it be done as a “nut cracker” with the intention to split North Korea internally, especially its elite, in order to open the door for civil society groups (NGO’s, churches etc.) to come in under the guise of humanitarian assistance, and foment internal dissent, hand in hand with the brutal blockade and interdiction being organized by Chrystia Freeland at the Korean Security Conference the following day. Snyder also further elaborated on the need for “maximizing the thresholds of pressure” to bring North Korea to diplomacy, as a “calibrated scalpel, not a blunt instrument like a hammer.”

At the pre-conference meeting, Brian Gold responded to a question about China and Russia not being invited to the Vancouver Summit. He stated that “China and Russia are irrelevant” to the situation, at which Dr. Paul Evans suggested that he should get a job with the Canadian government. [Editor’s Note: The claim that China and Russia had not been invited is itself an obfuscation: both countries condemned the conference as harmful and officially refused the invitation to attend a post-conference meeting on the evening of January 16, as reported by RT here.]

Brian Job said this is a “convening opportunity” for Canada, and that it involves “delicate interdiction.” That is, Canada will proceed “delicately” as a perceived neutral power backed up by the “International Community” to interdict and board ships with cargo for North Korea. Would Canada do so to Chinese or Russian vessels? Would Canada’s involvement in interdiction be perceived as “neutral” interdiction? Canada’s Privy Council and shadowy neo-cons like Chrystia Freeland certainly hope so. But that is not the reality from China and Russia’s perspective, nor was this accepted by the audience attending the pre-meeting.

UBC Professor, Kyung-Ae Park, from South Korea, said that the U.S./North Korea relationship is none of China’s business. Park is head of a South/North Korean educational exchange program operating out of Canada. She had been scheduled to be part of a “civil society” activation meeting with Chrystia Freeland in downtown Vancouver after the pre-conference meeting.  How do “civil society” activists penetrate a country like North Korea? Precisely through the well-practiced method of Colour Revolutions, enacted already several times over by the “International Community”. Snyder referenced Egypt, Syria, Georgia, Ukraine, former Yugoslavia as just a few examples.

Many other Colour Revolutions, all of which have been funded by George Soros’ Open Society and Tides Foundations, have been tried and failed. A recent example of this is in Iran. George Soros, a very close friend of Chrystia Freeland, is a Hungarian Jew who worked for the Nazi’s during WWII helping to confiscate his own people’s property. In an interview on 60 Minutes in 1998, Soros openly admits that this was the best time of his life. Chrystia Freeland was commissioned to write George Soros’ biography before running for public office under the Liberal Party. Freeland is also known in Canadian government circles as being the Minister of Everything.

It should be noted that many on the panel spoke of creating the “coalition of the willing” to deal with North Korea. This is the exact same operational language that was used to manipulate the people of the Western world under Bush to agree to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Are we really supposed to fall for this again?

Following the speakers’ presentations, questions were allowed from the audience. The first three questions were technical questions with no substance and were under the general spell of professional decorum.  A Director for the Society for the New Humanist Paradigm (SNHP), which represents the New Paradigm in Canada, asked the fourth question.

In that question, the Moon-Putin plan was described for the audience. This plan is the exact opposite of what the panel discussion described was being planned for the next days’ talks at the Foreign Minister’s meeting.  The Moon-Putin plan was announced last September at the Vladivostok Eastern Economic Forum.  This is a plan agreed to by Russia and South Korea.  It is a plan to bring South and North Korea together through physical infrastructure and trade mechanisms, involving the neighbouring countries of Russia and China.

Bridges of cooperation linking South Korea to Russia via North Korea: gas, railroads, ports, electricity, a northern sea route, shipbuilding, jobs, agriculture, and fisheries. Siberian oil and gas pipelines would be extended to Korea, both North and South, as well as to Japan. Both Koreas would be linked up with the vast rail networks of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, including high-speed rail, and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes the Trans-Siberian Railway. According to Gavan McCormack, “North Korea would accept the security guarantee of the five (Japan included), refrain from any further nuclear or missile testing, shelve (‘freeze’) its existing programs and gain its longed for ‘normalization’ in the form of incorporation in regional groupings, the lifting of sanctions and normalized relations with its neighbour states, without surrender.”

The panel of speakers were also reminded that North Korea has been sanctioned since 1948 and has been suffering ever since at the behest of an illegal UN resolution, 195, and that the Belt and Road and the Moon-Putin plan were for building up their physical economy. As the SNHP director pointed out, in this context, sanctions were the exact opposite. He also pointed out that the January 16 meeting in Vancouver, along with Canada’s new Hard Power Foreign Policy initiatives (announced last year with record military spending for Canada) under Chrystia Freeland, was unprecedented in the history of Canada’s traditional peacekeeping role, and there is no confidence that Canada will play a positive role in this situation, or that Canada is a neutral Middle Power any longer given this shift.

Further, that Canadians deserve to have a national dialogue considering the consequences of such actions. He then went on to address Brian Gold directly, stating that Russia and China, considering the positive resolutions (Sunshine Policy, Olympics, etc.) made with South and North Korea over the last few weeks, were relevant and their absence from these meetings is a mistake. Finally, the SNHP representative asked, “When will Canada wake up to the fact that Freeland is a neo-con war-mongerer?” and “… if the Moon-Putin plan has already been discussed and such positive results are on the horizon, why the Foreign Ministers meeting in Vancouver was taking place at all?”

While the audience clapped, the panel was stunned. Four speakers responded to the intervention with a feeble attempt to change the subject. Most of the questions from the audience that followed the intervention were not questions but denunciations of the war policy that Canada was supporting. After each denunciation there was applause. In response to this, the panel started to back pedal and went limp. Even Brian Gold had to back pedal on Russia and China being irrelevant, and, as he was commenting, had to admit that he was making a case for why Russia and China should have been invited to the Foreign Minister’s meeting even as he was trying to defend his original statement. Subsequently, Brian Gold wrote an article printed in The Hill Times on January 22, 2018.

This article, highlighting Canada’s role as a ‘Middle Power’, serves to deflect attention from the neo-conservative and far-right views of the government of Canada under Chrystia Freeland, especially towards both Russia and China. Contrary to Gold’s article, it is in fact Chrystia Freeland, a frequent contributor to the NY CFR’s policy publication Foreign Affairs, the promoters of the ‘unipolar’ world doctrine, that did not want China and Russia present at the Foreign Minister’s meeting. President Trump has been at war with the likes of the CFR and the neo-liberal/neo-conservative mainstream media outlets that promote their unipolar worldview since before he took office and has consistently promised the American people better relations with Russia and a closer working relationship with China. In recent bold statements, however, Secretary Mattis outlines clearly that Russia and China are the main economic threat to the unipolar world in the National Defense Strategy 2018 policy paper.

Another SNHP Director who attended raised the issue of the THAAD missiles, and asked the panelists how they would not have been seen by North and South Korea as a threat? Snyder responded that the THAAD missiles were for defense and a non-issue, but he did acknowledge that South Korea was against the installation from the beginning. What Snyder should have acknowledged was that massive opposition by South Koreans of the THAAD missile deployment had forced the ouster of President Park Geun-hye in 2017.

What is important to note was the dearth of support from the audience for what the panelists were trying to soft peddal. The reaction by the audience, both in private to the SNHP Directors and following open denunciations to the panel, clearly shows that Canadians are not accepting the pablum they are being fed any more.

Cameron Pike studied Communications and Philosophy at the University of Winnipeg, and has worked in a variety of corporate fields in management before becoming Director at the Society for the New Humanist Paradigm, a Not-For-Profit, in Vancouver, Canada.

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Who is using chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria?

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By Charles Shoebridge 

Former Scotland Yard detective Charles Shoebridge explains why claims of chlorine attacks in Syria should be treated with caution.

The alleged use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria is back in the news in the US and UK, with fresh incidents reported and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson taking the opportunity within the last few days to condemn Syrian President Bashar Assad over the issue. Unusually, he also later appeared to concede there may be some doubt – but asserted anyway that “whoever conducted the attacks Russia bears responsibility.”

So how does the alleged evidence that the Syrian government is carrying out chlorine attacks stack up?

Some years ago I pointed out the still rarely commented upon apparent correlation between the timing of chlorine incidents and the holding of important international gatherings on Syria, such as UN Security Council meetings. If the chlorine claims were true, it seemed that Assad for some reason was deliberately timing his attacks to best hand his opponents a propaganda advantage and to mobilize the world against him. Another explanation, perhaps more likely yet never mentioned in the Western media, was that to achieve this aim these incidents were actually false flags his opponents were fabricating.

The recent allegations seem similar in this respect, coinciding exactly with many world leaders including Tillerson meeting in Paris to discuss chemical weapons, and just as a Syrian government operation to clear eastern Ghouta of US- and UK-backed rebel forces allied with groups associated with al Qaeda is underway.

Regardless of factual basis, claims of chlorine use, along with those of barrel bombs and attacks on hospitals, have been one of the most enduring propaganda memes of the Syria war.

Yet while headlines of chemical weapons are undoubtedly dramatic, the relatively low lethality of chlorine makes it an ineffective – and therefore arguably also unlikely – choice of weapon. Tillerson’s own comments bear this out. He spoke of twenty people being injured in an incident the day before, yet if ‘ordinary’ explosive bombs of the sort used not only by Russia and Syria but also by the US for example in Raqqa and Mosul had been used instead of chlorine, the effect on civilians in terms of both fear and fatalities would certainly have been very much worse.

Indeed, given the low toxicity of the allegedly small amounts used and the unpleasant bleach smell that always betrays chlorine’s presence, in most instances people could avoid being killed by simply walking away – another indication of its near uselessness as a weapon. Perhaps the only way it could be tactically effective is if used to drive people from trenches or bunkers to allow them to then be killed with bombs and bullets – but again, the amounts of chlorine needed would be far more than is alleged, and the accuracy needed to target in this way is unlikely to be achieved using unguided rockets as alleged this week in east Ghouta, or by dropping a ‘barrel bomb’ from a helicopter. Also, there has been little if any evidence offered or claims made of this tactic being used.

Given the above, it’s hardly surprising that First World War commanders who tried using chlorine as a weapon even in very high concentrations soon learned there were much more effective ways to kill. Indeed, this was one of the reasons why, when being pressured by US and UK politicians, media and NGOs to take action against Assad, even President Obama expressed skepticism, acknowledging that “chlorine isn’t historically a chemical weapon.”

Nonetheless, Western governments and media regularly cite a joint report by the UN and the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), that suggested Syria government forces were responsible for three chlorine attacks that took place in 2014 and 2015.

Perhaps as a PR tactic, the OPCW report prior to its public release was leaked to the media and other organizations sympathetic to the US and UK’s Syria narrative. The media then published selected excerpts alongside headlines suggesting that the OPCW investigation had proved Assad was using chlorine as a chemical weapon – and hence was in breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Syria since 2013 has been a signatory.

When the report was publicly released, a story of far less certainty emerged – a story that didn’t appear in US or UK media not only because it wasn’t helpful to US or UK policy, but also because with the selective leaks having dominated previous headlines, the release of the actual report was no longer considered newsworthy.

As one might expect from professional investigators, the OPCW report contains numerous caveats and reservations that cast doubts on its conclusions. For example, the report acknowledges that while evidence was “sufficient” in three of nine cases to allow a conclusion to be drawn that Syrian government forces had used chlorine, it also confirms that in none of these cases was this evidence “overwhelming” or even “strong.”

Such evidence included testimony from doctors who had witnessed chlorine symptoms but couldn’t know for sure how the chlorine had been delivered, even less by whom. Residents described hearing a helicopter at the time of the incidents, consistent with a helicopter dropping chlorine. Yet unmentioned by the report, this would also be consistent with chlorine being deliberately released by another party upon hearing a helicopter overhead, thereby encouraging a link to Syria government forces to be presumed.

In respect of this linkage, given that over many years a large number of “chlorine barrel bombs” have allegedly been dropped, it’s perhaps surprising in the course of a war in which almost everything is captured on video that no direct video proof of a helicopter dropping chlorine seems to have been recorded. Indeed, when on Twitter I asked for such helicopter linkage evidence, the only ‘proof’ I received was this animated video.

Crucially, and again wholly ignored by most US and UK media, the OPCW report itself highlights its own weaknesses, stating for example that the investigations were affected by the lack of a chain of custody for evidential material, the use of second or even third hand sources, the supplying by some parties of misleading information, and the difficulty of finding independent witnesses (page 8 of the report)

The report also found that some alleged impact locations had been altered, in some cases it appearing that munition remnants had been taken from elsewhere and placed at the alleged impact location (page 12)

Such a weak evidential basis and the possibility of fabrication have been apparent for years, yet overlooked by Western media and NGOs in their enthusiasm to promote an anti-Assad narrative. In what may be an example of this, what appears here to be bright green flare or signal smoke is claimed by rebels to be chlorine – a claim then repeated by western journalists and human rights groups despite the fact that some rudimentary research would have told them that heavier-than-air chlorine is unlikely to rise as the video shows.

Fabrication even involving real chlorine would be relatively straightforward because chlorine is in such wide use, for example for water purification, that as the OPCW report notes it is readily available to all parties in Syria. Furthermore, as the OPCW also note, al Nusra rebels seized and for a long period occupied a major Syrian chemical plant, from which much of the stored chlorine has disappeared and never been accounted for.

Along with the testimony of doctors and residents, the OPCW report also relies heavily on the witness statements of what are called “first responders,” but who are better known as the White Helmets – funded by, among others, the UK government’s secret security fund, and responsible not only for a continuous stream of anti-Assad propaganda, but also in many cases being the main ‘witnesses’ to atrocities ranging from chemical attacks to air strikes on aid convoys alleged by them to have been carried out by Assad. For any professional investigator who has followed the development of the White Helmets since their founding by a former UK army officer in 2013, such ‘witnesses’ could never be considered impartial, objective or credible.

Not only did the White Helmets provide much of the direct witness evidence of the alleged chlorine attacks but also, because the OPCW investigators weren’t able to visit any of the attack sites, it seems these ‘first responders’ also played a major part in producing the testimony of other witnesses, as well as producing and securing purported physical evidence. From the perspective of the integrity of an investigation, it’s hard to imagine anything more damaging than its effective outsourcing to an organization that, with their close working relationship with rebels including some linked with al Qaeda, has every interest in not only blaming incidents on Assad, but also a clear incentive to perhaps fabricate those incidents. Indeed, on many occasions the White Helmets have been accused of such fabrication, including in relation to chlorine.

It’s of course possible that the Syrian military is using chlorine as a chemical weapon. But if so, and notwithstanding years of allegations, no strong proof of this has yet emerged – even less a military or political motive as to why they would do so, or in any case of a direct link to Assad.

For the rebels and their powerful Western and Gulf Arab government supporters however, there exists a clear incentive to fabricate chemical weapons incidents for propaganda purposes – not only to push for western military intervention or a no fly zone that would seriously hinder the advance of government troops, but also to reinforce demands that Assad shouldn’t be a future leader of Syria, irrespective of the decisions of the Syrian people in any potential future elections.

Alleged chlorine attacks are also, as Tillerson showed, a useful tool to disparage and condemn Russia as being responsible for war crimes, regardless of the fact that Russia has proposed a new, comprehensive chemical weapons investigation – which the US has rejected, perhaps fearing what a far reaching, truly objective investigation might find.

In any event, claims of Syria government use of chlorine and other war crimes are likely to continue – not least perhaps because, despite the lack of a motive or any solid proof, a generally compliant, unsceptical and uncritical Western media will likely continue to report such claims as if they are unquestionably true.

Charles Shoebridge is an international politics graduate, lawyer, broadcaster and writer. He has formerly served as an army officer, Scotland Yard detective and counter terrorism intelligence officer.

Read more:

US mounts its moral high horse to spin yet another ‘convenient’ chemical attack

Moscow slams US ‘propaganda attack’ over Syria chemical weapons ahead of Sochi peace talks

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O Palestine! Modi is coming

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By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

Frankly, it was hard to believe when some newspapers mentioned a few months ago that PM Modi was planning to travel to Palestine in a near future. No Indian prime minister ever visited Israel or Palestine. A de-hyphenation of India’s Israel relationship and its ties with Palestine has been the stated Indian policy all along, ever since 1991 when India established relations with Israel, hardly three years after recognizing Palestine – one of the first countries to do so – in 1988. But it is mere sophistry.

The fact remains that India carefully calibrated the dynamics of the two tracks. Paradoxically, Modi will be flagging openly for the first time that hyphenation firmly continues to be the Indian policy. Every time Delhi adds a new dimension to relations with Israel, it feels a compulsion to burnish the ties with Palestine. After Modi’s visit to Israel, he is left with no option but to travel to Palestine.

Modi can be very excessive in the diplomatic arena – such as introducing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Gandhi recently in Ahmedabad (“Ghandi”, as Netanyahu spells the famous name.) Perhaps, Modi’s intention was good, because Netanyahu is the very antithesis of Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violence and he hoped that something of the principles of ‘ahimsa’ might rub on the militant Israeli leader. (Gandhi would never have condoned the assassination of foreign adversaries as state policy, no matter the pretext.)

There was no rational explanation to hype up the relationship with Israel, a country with which India has a trade volume of $4 billion (including arms purchases). But Modi went overboard, and a Palestine visit became unavoidable. Would Netanyahu get upset with Modi for visiting Palestine? Why should he? The world leaders routinely visit Palestine – Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe, Vladimir Putin and so on. Even Donald Trump dropped by Bethlehem while visiting Israel.

But the real significance of Modi’s visit to Palestine on February 9, which was announced by South Block on Saturday, lies elsewhere. The visit is being scheduled within a few weeks of the Trump administration’s announcement to withhold $65 million out of the $125 million in annual support it gives to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and to freeze an additional $45 million it had authorized in December for food relief to refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. The stony heart of Netanyahu applauded Trump’s decision. Netanyahu seeks “a new model” for aid disbursement that would entail greater Israeli control over Palestinian funds as a means to arm-twist the Palestine Authority, and he and Trump would seem to be working in tandem.

To the extent that Modi’s visit is a gesture of solidarity at a juncture when Trump brutally threatens to pass a death sentence on Palestine by cutting all aid, Delhi’s move is invested with a lot of political symbolism. Certainly, it will be interesting to see what Modi says while on Palestinian soil. His joint statement with Netanyahu was almost ditto a narrative of the Israeli position on Palestine. It even omitted any reference to a two-state solution. Will Modi make amends?

More importantly, it remains to be seen what Modi has to offer to the Palestinian people to alleviate their suffering. When he could offer $1 billion to the beleaguered Mongolians who are sandwiched between Russia and China, a similar gesture to the Palestinian people will be noted regionally and internationally as a noble gesture.

Of course it will be a far more fitting tribute to Gandhi’s legacy on Modi’s part than escorting Netanyahu to Sabarmati Ashram.

Read a dispatch in the weekend Guardian newspaper on what awaits Modi in Palestine.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, IndiaComments Off on O Palestine! Modi is coming

US expands sanctions on Russian firms, individuals

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Image result for US expands sanctions CARTOON

The United States has expanded its sanctions against Russia by adding more individuals and companies to its blacklist because of what Washington calls Moscow’s continued interference in Ukraine.

The US Treasury Department announced on Friday it had added 21 people and nine companies to the sanctions list, including some that had been involved in the delivery of Siemens gas turbines to Crimea. According to the statement, Russian Deputy Energy Minister Andrey Cherezov was in the black list.

“Today’s action is part of Treasury’s continued commitment to maintain sanctions pressure on Russia,” the department said in a statement.

“This action underscores the US government’s opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and firm refusal to recognize its attempted annexation of the peninsula,” it added.

The latest sanctions have also affected some power and energy companies, including Techno-prom-export engineering company and multiple subsidiaries of oil producer Surgut-nefte-gaz.

On Thursday, the US called on the EU to follow in the footsteps of the US by blacklisting more Russian oligarchs in line with a US sanctions review.

The US has also blacklisted dozens of Russian individuals and companies over what Washington calls Russia’s interference in Ukraine and its meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The US and its allies had already levied broad economic sanctions against Russia over its alleged support for pro-Russia separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia after a referendum in 2014.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on US expands sanctions on Russian firms, individuals

Palestinian youth activists under attack

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Haitham Siyaj
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network 

Israeli repression targeting Palestinian youth activists has continued to rise. On Friday, 26 January, occupation forces seize Haitham Siyaj, only a month after he was released from nearly two years’ imprisonment without charge or trial under administrative detention. Siyaj is one of the comrades of Basil al-Araj who was seized by occupation forces shortly after being released from months in Palestinian Authority prison.

There, his administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial – was renewed repeatedly. Siyaj was once again seized at a flying checkpoint erected by occupation forces in the Jaba area.

Tareq Mattar

At the same time, Palestinian youth activist Tareq Mattar’s administrative detention was also extended for another six months. Mattar, 28, is a Palestinian youth leader who is active in a variety of projects, initiatives and forums to organize Palestinian youth and promote study and discussion of the Palestinian cause. He was previously jailed for his Palestinian political activities. He has been jailed without charge or trial since August 2017.

Samer Abu Aisha

Meanwhile, Palestinian journalist Samer Abu Aisha, 30, from Jerusalem, was summoned for interrogation by occupation police on 24 January; he was released from Israeli prison six months ago after 20 months in prison.  He was seized by occupation forces in January 2016 after they stormed the headquarters of the ICRC in Sheikh Jarrah where he and a fellow Jerusalemite activist, Hijazi Abu Sbeih, were staying in defiance of an order to expel them from their city for six months. He was jailed for 20 months on charges of illegal protest, incitement and “disturbing public security.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Palestinian youth activists under attack

Nazi regime endgame in Gaza: Resistance is futile

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Israel’s endgame in Gaza: Resistance is futile

Map of Gaza Strip

Israel’s deliberate targeting of Gaza’s health sector and denying those in need of humanitarian care from obtaining it constitute a crime against humanity

By CJ Werleman | Middle East Eye 

Some describe Gaza as either the world’s largest “concentration camp” or “open air prison”, while others liken it to the modern-day equivalent of the Warsaw ghetto.

Whatever appropriate analogy you apply to the enclave, that traps two million Palestinians on a slender piece of coastal land along the Egyptian-Israeli border, it’s impossible to overstate the level of human misery and suffering that is taking place there today.

A catastrophic situation

When I spoke with Dr Basem Naim, the former Palestinian minister for health and resident of Gaza, I referred him to a UN report that forewarned that Israel’s medieval-like blockade promises to make the territory “uninhabitable” by 2020.

“What do they [UN] mean? It’s uninhabitable here now,” Naim told me. “The situation today is catastrophic.”

Dr Naim explained how Israel’s intentional cutting of Gaza’s power supply, meant to exert pressure on Hamas but, instead, punishing ordinary Palestinians, is having dire affects on the health sector in Gaza.

“The typical Palestinian gets only three to five hours of electricity each day,” he said. “You can’t pump water to apartments that are above ground level. You can’t pump sewage, which is why more than 95 percent of Gaza’s drinking water is undrinkable.”

He explained that hospitals, which depend on 24-hour electricity, are unable to perform life-saving surgeries, and that some, including Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, have ceased doing operations altogether.

This is happening while newborn babies and the elderly freeze to death in the winter, and die from heat exhaustion in the summer. This is happening because Israel is allowing only 120 watts of power to be provided to Gaza, knowing that 400 watts are needed to meet the basic minimum survival needs of two million Palestinian people.

“The scarcity of energy and the severe shortage of fuel in Gaza have damaged all aspects of life in the Strip,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross in a statement issued last year.

Closed borders

But the biggest problem facing the imprisoned citizens of Gaza is the “closed borders”, according to Dr Naim. He explained:

“For example, the last time Rafah border crossing was opened, which was one week ago, came after more than 100 days of closure, and out of the 35,000 people waiting to leave Gaza through Rafah, only 2,000 were able to leave, and the others must wait again for another 100 days. When I talk about 35,000 people, I’m talking about urgent humanitarian cases; patients, and people who need to meet their families for urgent situations. It’s nearly impossible for Palestinians in Gaza to get urgent medical care in Israel, Egypt, or Jordan.

“If a Palestinian wants to leave Gaza for urgent medical care or treatment, he or she must wait 70 days to get [an] Israeli reply saying he or she is allowed or not. And after 70 days, and even if the request is approved, he or she must come to Erez crossing for an interrogation, and he or she might be arrested. I know many cases where the families of patients were blackmailed by Israeli security forces, like Shin Bet, under these very circumstances.”

It’s worth noting that it’s not only from Gaza that Palestinians are denied freedom of movement. Earlier this month, Omar Barghouti, who lives in Israel and is one of the founders of the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation, was denied the right to visit his cancer-stricken mother in Jordan.

Israel’s refusal to allow a prominent Palestinian figure, who has a demonstrable lifetime track record of non-violent activism, undercuts Israeli claims that travel bans have little to do with security and everything to do with meting out collective and inhumane punishment to the Palestinian people, writ large.

A new report published by the human rights group Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement shows that 2017 was the worst year for the movement of Palestinians in and out of Gaza since Israel’s attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014, reducing the number of exit permits by 51 percent from 2016 to 2017.

The report shows that Israel allowed fewer than 6,000 monthly exits in 2017 compared with the more than 14,000 allowed the previous year.

The authors of the report also identified a list of policies that were carried out by Israeli authorities to prevent or restrict freedom of Palestinian movement through the Erez crossing.

These new restrictive measures were “introduced with little or no justification provided as to their purpose and, it appears, no consideration of the impact they would have on the lives of Gaza’s residents”.

Targeting the health sector

These measures include “significant extension of the processing times of permit applications, leaving thousands of permit applications pending with no response; a new directive prohibiting Palestinians from exiting Gaza with electronic devices, toiletries and food; freezing travel to the American Consulate; mandatory shuttle services to Allenby Bridge Crossing; “security blocks” blocking travel for medical patients, traders, and humanitarian workers; increase in the frequency and severity of “security interviews” at Erez; trader permits cancelled as new approvals declined; travel for Friday prayers in Jerusalem remaining blocked, and; recipients of permits for travel abroad increasingly made to sign a commitment not to return for a year.”

It’s not only inexcusable for Israel to impose any kind of restriction of movement, but to deliberately target Gaza’s health sector by cutting power to the Strip, and then to deny those in need of humanitarian care from obtaining it – constitutes a crime against humanity by any definition.

“The magnitude, the deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law, the impact on the health, lives, and survival, and the overall conditions warrant the characterisation of a crime against humanity,” says Richard Falk, a former UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Palestinian children in Gaza suffer from acute anaemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Children need thousands of hearing aids.

“Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Palestinians in Gaza. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people … Over 50 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live,” wrote Falk in 2008.

When I referred to Falk’s findings from a decade ago, Dr Naim said things have become “much worse”, pointing to the fact that much of Gaza’s critical infrastructure was destroyed during Israel’s 2014 assault, noting that 20,000 tons of explosive ordinance was dropped on the Strip by Israeli jets and artillery, and that unemployment and poverty have skyrocketed since.

Breaking the Palestinians’ will

Israel’s restriction on Palestinian movement is also preventing Gaza from building a functioning civil society as human rights workers, social workers, health workers, educators, engineers, etc are denied opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills in other countries.

It also runs afoul of Israel’s “obligations to respect the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including their right to freedom of movement, which includes, with some limitations, a right to enter and leave one’s country and to choose one’s place of residence within it,” according to Human Rights Watch.

In fact, Palestinians in Gaza may visit their families in the occupied West Bank only if he or she can prove their relative is “dead, dying, or getting married“, which constitutes another violation of not only international law but also the Oslo Accords that stipulate the Palestinian territories – East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank – constitute one unified territorial entity. Israel has made movement between the territories all but impossible for Palestinians.

Given that nearly a third of Palestinians in Gaza have relatives in either the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Israel, one can see how needlessly cruel Israel’s brutal policies of occupation truly are.

Of course, Israel tries to justify its near total freeze of Palestinian movement in and out of Gaza with concerns for its security, but this has always been a rhetorical fig leaf for Israel’s sustained effort to break the will of the Palestinian people.

Israel’s intent has always been to strangle Palestinian political, social, and civil life in the hope that those it occupies will come to the realisation that resistance is futile.

– CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America (2013), Koran Curious (2011), and he is the host of Foreign Object. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman 

READ MORE:

Yes, Palestinians under siege are ‘dehumanised’ – by Israel

Remembering Cast Lead: How corporate media continue to justify Israel’s criminal excesses

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Nazi regime endgame in Gaza: Resistance is futile

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