Corruption is Legal in America ”VIDEO”

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Learn more at http://Represent.Us/TheProblem

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Talk Emerges of a Diplomatic Boycott of the Trump Administration

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There is increasing chatter among mostly European diplomats that their nations’ displeasure about President Donald Trump would best be shown by staging a diplomatic boycott, namely, recalling ambassadors in Washington and leaving only chargés d’affaires in charge. This type of measure has been used in the past to show opposition to the domestic and foreign policies of foreign governments. Recently, Saudi Arabia led such a boycott, albeit for spurious reasons, against Qatar. Many nations have recalled their ambassadors to Israel following moves by that country against Palestinians.

The disgust and frustration by Europeans over Trump’s defense of neo-Nazism and Ku Klux Klan protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, is evident on the front cover of The Economist, a magazine that has wide readership among the diplomatic and business communities in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. A Trump caricature is shown with a bullhorn in the shape of a KKK hood.

Currently, there are 23 chargés in Washington, but very few of these have been left running their missions because of political problems. Venezuela, Bolivia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Belarus withdrew their ambassadors some time ago amid diplomatic rifts with the United States. Other nations, including Uganda, the Philippines, Gambia, St. Lucia, Zambia, Hungary, and Argentina just have not gotten around to naming new ambassadors, which has nothing to do with Trump. However, the absence of a European Union ambassador in Washington may have something to do with Trump’s repeated criticism of the organization.

Ambassadors do not carry the clout that they once wielded in Washington under previous presidents. If nations decide to withdraw their ambassadors for “consultations,” diplomatic-speak for a subtle downgrading of relations, the functions of the embassies—issuing visas, conducting intelligence gathering, attending receptions, and lobbying Congress—would carry on with little overall impact on operations.

When Trump signaled his willingness to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, some Arab leaders called for the closure of all Arab embassies in Washington. Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament and president of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, called for such a boycott if Trump carried out his promise. However, the Trump administration put off its plan and the boycott never materialized.

The aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War saw several Arab nations sever diplomatic relations with the United States.

If a diplomatic boycott of the Trump emerges, expect it to start with the Nordic and Benelux blocs in Europe, perhaps followed by Germany, France, Ireland, and Greece. Trump’s support for the KKK activists in Charlottesville could also see a negative reaction from Africa, with South Africa being the most likely to join in a diplomatic boycott of Trump.

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The CIA Torture Case: On Eve of the Trial, Psychologists Agree to Settlement in ACLU Case on Behalf of Three Torture Victims

Featured image: Drs. James Mitchell (left) and John Bruce Jessen (right)

NEW YORK — In a first for a case involving CIA torture, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement today in the lawsuit against the two psychologists who designed and implemented the agency’s brutal program. A jury trial was scheduled to begin on September 5, after the plaintiffs successfully overcame every attempt by the psychologists to have the case dismissed.

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah SalimMohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison. The three men were tortured and experimented on using methods developed by the CIA-contracted psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen.

“This is a historic victory for our clients and the rule of law,” said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin. “This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable. It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity.”

The full terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.

“We brought this case seeking accountability and to help ensure that no one else has to endure torture and abuse, and we feel that we have achieved our goals,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement praising the settlement. “We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyers’ questions. It has been a long, difficult road, but we are very pleased with the results.”

Mohamed Ben Soud

Until now, every lawsuit trying to hold people accountable for the CIA torture program has been dismissed at initial stages because the government successfully argued that letting the cases proceed would reveal state secrets. But unlike previous cases, this time the Justice Department did not try to derail the lawsuit. The defendants attempted to dismiss the case multiple times, but the court consistently ruled that the plaintiffs had valid claims.

“Government officials and contractors are on notice that they cannot hide from accountability for torture,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “Our clients’ groundbreaking case has changed the legal landscape. It showed that the courts are fully capable of handling lawsuits involving abuses committed in the name of national security.”

The case was filed in October 2015, basing its legal claims on the declassified facts in the executive summary of the Senate report on CIA torture. During the lawsuit’s discovery process, dozens of new documents detailing the torture program were unearthed, and the case forced former senior CIA officials Jose Rodriguez and John Rizzo — in addition to Mitchell and Jessen themselves — to testify about torture during depositions.

“Thanks to our clients’ commitment and bravery their stories are public, as are new details about the design and implementation of the CIA torture program,” said ACLU attorney Steven Watt. “This settlement is a testament to their perseverance and will help them heal.”

In the court’s ruling earlier this month sending the case to trial, the judge wrote,

“The evidence would support a finding Defendants designed the [enhanced interrogation techniques] to be used on detainees, and thus they clearly had knowledge they would be so used.”

In addition to torturing prisoners themselves, Mitchell and Jessen trained other CIA personnel in their methods. In 2005, they founded a company that the CIA contracted with to run its entire torture program, including supplying interrogators for the agency’s secret “black site” prisons. The government paid the company $81 million over several years.

“I am so glad to help our clients make a difference through this case,” said Lawrence Lustberg of the law firm Gibbons PC. “We have long partnered with the ACLU in torture transparency and accountability litigation, and it is deeply satisfying to have come this far.”

Suleiman-Abdullah

The plaintiffs sued Mitchell and Jessen under the Alien Tort Statute — which allows federal lawsuits for gross human rights violations — for their commission of torture; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; nonconsensual human experimentation; and war crimes.

As part of the settlement, the plaintiffs and defendants agreed to the following joint statement:

“Drs. Mitchell and Jessen acknowledge that they worked with the CIA to develop a program for the CIA that contemplated the use of specific coercive methods to interrogate certain detainees.

“Plaintiff Gul Rahman was subjected to abuses in the CIA program that resulted in his death and in pain and suffering for his family, including his personal representative Obaidullah. Plaintiffs Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud were also subjected to coercive methods in the CIA program, which resulted in pain and suffering for them and their families.

“Plaintiffs assert that they were subjected to some of the methods proposed by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen to the CIA, and stand by their allegations regarding the responsibility of Drs. Mitchell and Jessen.

“Drs. Mitchell and Jessen assert that the abuses of Mr. Salim and Mr. Ben Soud occurred without their knowledge or consent and that they were not responsible for those actions. Drs. Mitchell and Jessen also assert that they were unaware of the specific abuses that ultimately caused Mr. Rahman’s death and are also not responsible for those actions.

“Drs. Mitchell and Jessen state that it is regrettable that Mr. Rahman, Mr. Salim, and Mr. Ben Soud suffered these abuses.”

The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Shamsi and Ladin of the ACLU National Security Project and Watt of the ACLU Human Rights Program; Emily Chiang of the ACLU of Washington; Lustberg, Kate Janukowicz, Daniel McGrady, and Avram Frey of the law firm Gibbons PC; Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman LLP, Los Angeles; Anthony DiCaprio of the Law Office of Anthony DiCaprio; and Jeffry Finer of the Center for Justice, Spokane, Washington.

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US Policy Paradox: How to Lose Friends and Influence Nothing

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When Paul Robeson belted out the lyric “I’m tired of living, and scared of dying,” he stumbled on to a paradox of emotional dissonance that could easily define the geo-strategic cognitive dissonance that the US exhibits when dealing with its fellow superpowers Russia and China.

Time and again the United States has shown that it does not want war with either of those countries, and these feelings are of course mutual. However, the US has a strange penchant for conducting provocative measures that inexorably harm relations with both Russia and China in mind-blowingly close proximity in time to moves suggesting rapprochement or, at minimum, de-escalation of tensions.

The most recent example is the Pentagon signing an agreement to open lines of direct communication with the commanders of the People’s Liberation Army to avoid “miscalculations” in areas ranging from the Korean Peninsula to the South and East China Seas.

In a rational environment, this would be seen as a US climb-down over actions China finds unacceptable in Korea and in its maritime waters. But in the current environment, while the US has signed an agreement that would ideally reduce tensions between the Chinese and US armed forces, the US president has also authorized his government to open an investigation into Chinese trade practices. While the proximate issue is US intellectual-property rights in China, the phrase “anti-Chinese sanctions” is on the tip of everyone’s lips.

Far from being out of character, the dichotomy of cooperating with China and engaging in a would-be pre-emptive trade war that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has warned could be deeply dangerous is actually par for the course under the Trump administration.

On July 7, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met for the first time. The most meaningful outcome of the meeting was the agreement jointly to police a ceasefire and accompanying de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria, along with Jordan.

Less than a month later, Trump signed a sanctions bill against Russia that Moscow remains furious about. Détente 2.0 officially lasted from July 7 to August 3, 2017.

In respect of Iran, the Trump administration has quietly but officially stated that Tehran has not violated a single clause of the 2015 nuclear deal, but US officials continue to sanction Iran and continue to speak of Iran as though it has violated every agreement ever signed in history.

This has the aggregate effect of making the United States appear tired of warring but scared of cooperating.

In reality, neither Russia, China nor Iran wants war with the United States. One could also add North Korea, Mexico, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe or just about every other country on the planet to that list.

Therefore, while moves to de-escalate military tensions are positive developments no matter where they happen, the mixed signals the US is sending will only serve as a demonstration that the US is not serious about proper de-escalation and cooperation and therefore it is only natural for the wider world to assume the worst about the United States, which far too often translates into “the tense status quo hasn’t changed”.

What’s more is that while pundits argue over whether this is part of a larger American geo-strategic plan to sow confusion or is simply an inexperienced Trump administration that cannot decide if it is coming or going, the wider world is more concerned with the effect than the cause.

In this sense, the US is less like the longing voice of “Old Man River” than it is like the author of a future worst-seller, “How to Lose Friends and Influence Nothing”.

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‘Economic War with China Is Everything,’ North Korea a ‘Sideshow’: White House Chief Strategist

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Calling tensions with North Korea a “sideshow,” the White House Chief Strategist said that China and the U.S. are in an “economic war,” and that China is winning.

 

The United States is currently engaged in an “economic war” with China to maintain its position as the world’s top hegemon, and appears to be losing it, White House Strategist and former editor of the right-wing publication Breitbart News, Steve Bannon said in an unexpected interview published Wednesday.

“We’re at economic war with China. It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and its gonna be them if we go down this path,” Bannon said to author and professor Robert Kuttner.

“The economic war with China is everything. And we have have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover,” he continued.

Bannon indicated that the current tensions and threats surrounding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea, are just a “sideshow” for the battle for global hegemony with China. He said he is pressuring within the Trump administration to use the tensions in Korea as a way to impose economic pressure on China.

“We’re going to run the tables on these guys [China]. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us,” he said.

Although Trump has repeatedly engaged in beligerant rhetoric toward the DPRK, saying that the U.S.’s arsenal is “locked and loaded” and that the North Korean people will face “fire and fury,” Bannon directly rejected the potential for a military confrontation on the peninsula.

“There’s no military solution [to the DPRK’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us,” Bannon said.

The DPRK has continued its program to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in spite of pressure and threats demanding that they halt the efforts. They claim that the weapons act as a deterrent to a potential U.S. invasion or regime change attempt.

Bannon went on to explain how he was acting withing the Trump administration to push anti-China economic policies, such as the recently announced Section 301 complaint from the 1974 Trade Act targeting China’s alleged “unfair” trade practices. His struggle is within the administration also, where he said he fights “every day” against the “apparatus” to pressure those within the administration to follow his line and sideline those who don’t.

China has been pushing for a “double freeze” plan, which would involve the U.S. halting its military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, which is a key demand of the DPRK, in exchange for Pyongyang stopping its missile tests. On Tuesday, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauertscoffed at the idea that such a deal would take place. Bannon however, indicated he might consider such a deal, but that such prospects were remote.

Trump is currently embroiled in criticism domestically and internationally for placing the blame for violence on “both sides” of the recent neo-Nazi and white-nationalist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in a death and numerous injuries when a white-nationalist drove a car into a group of counter-protesters.

Bannon however, dismissed white nationalists as “a collection of clowns.”

“Ethno-nationalism – it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much,” he said.

While he rejected “ethno-nationalism” in the interview, he made clear that he was embracing economic nationalism, as embodied in his anti-China crusades. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,” he said. “I want them to talk about racism every day.”

As a former editor of the far-right wing publication Breitbart News, Bannon is considered to be a major figure within the U.S. far-right, and a major ideological force within the Trump administration as the White House Chief Strategist.

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Venezuela: Chavistas Gain Upper Hand, Big Challenges Remain

US President Donald Trump told the media on August 10 that he would not “rule out “military options” for dealing with what he has described as the “Maduro dictatorship” in Venezuela.

His comments represent the latest ratcheting up of threats on the government of democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro that have come in the wake of the country’s July 30 vote for a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) and its subsequent inauguration on August 4.

Proposed by Maduro as a way to find a peaceful and democratic solution to months of political turmoil in the country, the ANC will have plenipotentiary powers to deal with the current economic and political crisis. It will also discuss proposals to reform the constitution, though any official amendments will have to be put to a referendum.

The ANC has been opposed by the opposition who boycotted the elections and attempted to stop the July 30 vote going ahead.

In response to Trump’s latest threats, a mass demonstration was held in Caracas on August 14.

To get a better sense of the situation on the ground in Venezuela, Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes interviewed Steve Ellner a well-known analyst of Venezuelan and Latin American politics and a retired professor at Venezuela’s Universidad de Oriente.

***

In our previous interview you referred to the situation in Venezuela as a stand-off. What were Maduro’s objectives in calling for elections for the ANC on July 30? Can you describe the situation leading up to the elections?  

Yes indeed, Maduro’s decision to call elections for the ANC was designed to break a deadlock.

For exactly four months prior to the elections, the opposition had engaged in illegal and sometimes violent protests (known in Venezuela as guarimbas), disrupting traffic and clashing with security forces. There were over 100 fatal casualties, more than double the number of those produced by the protests during nearly the same lapse of time in 2014.

But this time the situation was not exactly the same. In the first place, the protesters gathered in smaller units to completely paralyse larger areas, sometimes entire cities. Roadblocks very often consisted of just a handful of protesters, from 3 to 10.

The violent protesters were bolder and more aggressive than in 2014 and they even attacked military bases. They evidently had some degree of training and their weapons, although apparently home-made, were in some cases fairly sophisticated.

In addition, the protesters counted on more international support. Almost all of South America has gone from left to right and even though those governments are discredited – with the popularity of presidents at 20% or less, and in the case of Brazil less than 5% – that hasn’t held them back from playing an active role in condemning the Maduro government for supposed violation of human rights.

Finally, the protests in 2014 were concentrated almost exclusively in wealthy municipalities whose mayors belonged to the opposition. Now in addition to that, there were roadblocks in the middle class areas of Chavista municipalities.

But the deadlock was due to the fact that just like in 2014, the protests did not resonate in the barrios, nor did they trigger a positive response in the military.

The attack on the military base in Valencia on August 6 was hardly a military uprising as some of the corporate media claimed. The perpetrators were non-military mercenaries, except the guy who led it who had been discharged from the military some time ago.

In short, the ANC elections were basically an initiative designed to introduce a new element in order to change the scenario and avoid a prolonged armed confrontation with no end in sight.

What about the opposition? It seems that street protests have diminished, at least compared to before the ANC vote, and there is talk of participation in the regional elections. What do you see happening?

For the first time in two years, it can be said that the Chavista movement has gained the upper hand vis-a-vis the opposition. But it’s a very fragile upper hand.

The calling of the ANC was a calculated risk. There was the possibility that the opposition could successfully rally behind rejection of the ANC. They attempted to achieve that objective by putting forward the argument that Maduro should have called a referendum to obtain popular approval for his ANC proposal.

I personally believe that that argument was weak. What is important is that Maduro is committed to submitting the ANC’s final document to a referendum.

Furthermore, how many times throughout history has the convening of a constituent assembly been approved by popular vote? That was the case in 1999, but it certainly wasn’t the case with the previous constitution of 1961, nor in 1946 when delegates were elected to a constitutional assembly but there was no referendum. And in what other countries has such a referendum been called?

The guarimba protests more or less terminated following the July 30 vote, in spite of the opposition’s empty threat of a zero hour.” This occurred because the guarimbas were not sustainable over time, just as was the case in 2014. And in both cases – as well as in the case of the general strike of 2002-2003 – the opposition lacked a fall-back plan, a “plan B,” in order to save face.

The protests were also discontinued because opposition parties now want to participate in the gubernatorial elections to be held in December. Opposition leaders are thus in the embarrassing position – “embarrassing” to say the least – of claiming that electoral fraud was committed on July 30, while participating in new elections.

The parties that participate in those elections cannot easily question the legitimacy of the electoral council, the CNE, because if they do their people will not go out and vote. People will say, and they do say, if you don’t believe that the referee is impartial, you have no reason to participate in the game. That’s true with sports and its true with politics. You can’t have it both ways.

For these reasons, I say that the Chavistas have the upper hand for the time being. The opposition is evidently divided over participation in the electoral process. Some people are loath to vote in the elections because doing so is a tacit recognition that the guarimbas was a mistake. Participation delegitimises the decision to have engaged in the guarimba. That’s a very emotional point because of the number of deaths and injuries resulting from the protests.

Finally, the calling of the ANC is an initiative that allows the Chavistas to rein in numerous sceptics within their movement who now say, “let’s give this a chance”. It sure beats the uncertainty and violence of the last four months.

Were the parties of the opposition grouped in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition calling the shots during the guarimbas? 

It is true that the protesters, who were overwhelmingly young people who called themselves “the Resistance”, were characterised by an anti-party attitude. But the parties of the opposition obviously encouraged their actions and were thus partly responsible for the violence.

Day after day, MUD leaders such as Henrique Capriles issued calls for protest marches to reach downtown Caracas, even though they knew full well that the government would not allow it. The government feared a repetition of April 11, 2002 (when violence erupted after an opposition march headed to downtown Caracas, leading to the coup). But beginning on April 1, opposition leaders called the marches anyway, resulting in violent clashes with security forces on a daily basis.

The fact that the guarimbas ceased practically overnight shows that there was a political decision that was made, obviously by the leaders of the MUD. This shows that the guarimbas was hardly leaderless and spontaneous. And it shows that there was an articulation between the MUD leaders and the protesters, both the peaceful and the violent ones.

You say the decision to convoke the ANC was a calculated risk. Does this mean you’re not sure of the outcome? Some view the ANC vote which, with its 8 million votes, as a reinvigoration of Chavismo and its popular class base?

As I said, the Chavista advantage over the opposition at this moment is tenuous.

It is true that in the months leading up to the ANC, the Chavistas demonstrated a mobilisation capacity. Their mobilisation capacity is impressive not only because of the numbers but because the mobilisations have been ongoing over such a considerable period of time, actually 20 years since it dates back to the 1998 presidential campaign.

This has been one of Maduro’s strong points. Unlike Lula and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil in 2016, Maduro mobilised the Chavista rank and file as a response to the challenge posed by the guarimbas. The very calling of the ANC elections is an example of the mobilisation.

But Maduro’s hard core backing stands at about 20% of the voting population. There is an even greater number of people who supported [late president Hugo] Chavez but have become disillusioned under Maduro and many of them (about two million) decided not to vote in the National Assembly elections of December 2015, and as a result the opposition won by a large margin.

These people (the “light Chavistas”) participated on July 30 for three reasons: rejection of the guarimbas; rejection of foreign interference in Venezuelan politics, which under Trump has been more blatant or “indiscrete” than Obama; and because they want to see if something will come of the ANC.

If the ANC fails to deliver, these people will be alienated even more so than before and it’s hard to predict how their disappointment may get expressed. It will be especially intense because Maduro and the other Chavista leaders have been touting the ANC practically as a panacea for the nation’s urgent problems.

How do you explain the disillusionment?

I asked Jorge Arreaza, the current Foreign Minister, about a month ago what the key factor is that explains the contraction of the size of the Chavista movement. He claimed with a great amount of certainty that the fundamental problem has to do with the pressing economic problems such as scarcity of basic commodities and triple-digit inflation. The economic situation in Venezuela is quite difficult, particularly for the non-privileged sectors but also the middle class.

Thinking about Arreaza’s statement, I have drawn the conclusion that while economic problems are the primary concern of the broad base of the Chavista movement, the issue of corruption and bureaucracy is what most undermines the commitment and zeal of the movement’s activists. At least that’s been my impression. The activists are key players for any political or social movement

Will the ANC deal with the problem of corruption and bureaucracy?

I’m not at all sure. Up to now the ANC delegates seem more inclined to clamp down on those who engaged in and were responsible for the illegal protests as well as the “economic war” consisting of hoarding and speculation.

Corruption is a thorny issue. I am surprised at how little discussion there was about it during the campaign for the ANC. The opposition’s discourse places the blame exclusively on Chavistas and their allies in the private sector.

But the fact of the matter is that much of the blame for the notorious sale of preferential dollars for bogus imports falls on the shoulders of businesspeople who belong to the traditional bourgeoisie, which for the most part opposes the Chavista government, as well as the multinationals. But needless to say government officials are also involved.

You wrote an important article in response to those on the left who have taken a “plague on both your houses” approach to the Venezuelan opposition and Maduro government, pointing to areas of convergence and disagreement. Why do you feel it is so important that the left take a side in this dispute?

I believe that failure to recognise the positive aspects of the Maduro presidency undermines efforts at international solidarity, which is very much needed at this moment of such intense hostility and threats on the part of European, North American and South American governments.

Leftists who support the “plague on both your houses” position deny this assertion and claim that they fully support the defence of Venezuelan sovereignty. However the facts as well as common sense demonstrate that harsh criticism of a government interferes with solidarity in defence of that nation’s sovereignty.

It’s hard to imagine someone working with enthusiasm and zeal in defence of a regime that they despise. Consider the difference between the Vietnam War movement in the US and elsewhere and opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Ho Chi Minh was a hero for the New Left that spearheaded the anti-war movement in the 60s. Is there a comparable movement in opposition to US intervention in Afghanistan? Certainly the Taliban does not inspire people to go out and protest, notwithstanding the absurdity of US involvement in that nation and the fact that it is by far the longest war in US history.

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US and UK Supplied Chemical Weapons to Terrorists in Syria

NOVANEWS

Numerous accusations by Washington and its rogue allies about Syria using chemical weapons were fabricated.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia was caught red-handed supplying terrorists in Syria with Chemical Weapons (CWs). So was Turkey, discovered shipping toxic sarin gas cross-border. Perhaps Jordan and Israel supplied CWs. Both countries support ISIS and other terrorist groups.

Syrian forces never used them at any time throughout years of war. No credible evidence suggests it. Claims made were phony.

On August 6, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said US and UK-made CWs were found in liberated Syrian areas, noting:

“The consequences of the war that has been raging in Syria for many years are now being analyzed and material evidence has started to emerge. It has been mentioned many times at various levels.”

“The fact is that the western states and regional countries have directly or indirectly supplied banned poisonous substances to militants, terrorists and extremists active in Syria” – along with Western weapons and other material support.

Clear evidence shows ISIS, al-Nusra and other terrorist groups were aided by nations:

“claim(ing) their commitment to democratic principles and international law, but in fact, they supply militants with things necessary to continue military activities on the territory of an independent state.”

Information was “handed over to the United Nations and even made public during bilateral talks, particularly between Russia and the United States,” Zakharova explained.

Separately on Facebook, she said

“(h)ere you can see all their commitment to international law and the triumph of democracy. Supplying chemical agents to terrorists and using photos of killed children as a pretext is beyond one’s comprehension.”

On Wednesday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad accused Washington and Britain of supplying terrorists in Syria with CWs, explaining evidence was found in liberated areas by government forces.

Munitions filled with toxic agents were discovered – produced by the US Federal Laboratories and NonLethal Technologies, as well as Britain’s Cherming Defence.

Russian lower house State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutskyresponded to the evidence, saying:

“Syria now has all the reasons and the right to address the United Nations over western-produced chemical weapons found on the territories liberated from terrorists.”

“The information released by the Syrian Foreign Ministry once more demonstrates in full the hypocrisy of the members of the western US-led coalition, and proves that the entire goal of the entire operation is to remove the regime of President Bashar Assad.”

They support the terrorist scourge they claim to oppose, what’s been well known all along, something I stress repeatedly in my articles on Syria.

Washington, NATO, Israel and their rogue allies want endless war and regime change, not peace and stability, notions anathema to their diabolical agenda.

Posted in USA, Syria, UK0 Comments

Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies

NOVANEWS

The New York Times, 1917–2017

 

It has been amusing to watch the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” These publications take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward, unbiased, fact-based reporting. They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of fake news, often by disseminating false or misleading information supplied to them by the national security state, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power.

An important form of mainstream media fake news is that which is presented while suppressing information that calls the preferred news into question. This was the case with “The Lie That Wasn’t Shot Down,” the title of a January 18, 1988, Times editorial referring to a propaganda claim of five years earlier that the editors had swallowed and never looked into any further. The lie—that the Soviets knew that Korean airliner 007, which they shot down on August 31, 1983, was a civilian plane—was eventually uncovered by congressman Lee Hamilton, not by the Times.

Mainstream media fake news is especially likely where a party line is quickly formed on a topic, with any deviations therefore immediately dismissed as naïve, unpatriotic, or simply wrong. In a dramatic illustration, for a book chapter entitled “Worthy and Unworthy Victims,” Noam Chomsky and I showed that coverage by TimeNewsweek, CBS News, and the New York Times of the 1984 murder of the priest Jerzy Popieluzko in Communist Poland, a dramatic and politically useful event for the politicized Western mainstream media, exceeded all their coverage of the murders of a hundred religious figures killed in Latin America by U.S. client states in the post-Second World War years taken together.1 It was cheap and safe to focus heavily on the “worthy” victim, whereas looking closely at the deaths of those hundred would have required an expensive and sometimes dangerous research effort that would have upset the State Department. But it was in effect a form of fake news to so selectively devote coverage (and indignation) to a politically useful victim, while ignoring large numbers whose murder the political establishment sought to downplay or completely suppress.

Fake news on Russia is a Times tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the 1917 revolution. In a classic study of the paper’s coverage of Russia from February 1917 to March 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz found that

“From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all…. They can fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.”2

Lippmann and Merz found that strong editorial bias clearly fed into news reporting. The editors’ zealous opposition to the communists led the paper to report atrocities that never happened, and to predict the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime no fewer than ninety-one times in three years. Journalists uncritically accepted official statements and relied on reports from unidentified “high authority.” This was standard Times practice.

The Soviet delegation arrives at Brest-Litovsk. Lev Trotsky is in the center surrounded by German officers. David King Collection. (The Bolsheviks in Power, p. 152)

This fake news performance of 1917–20 was repeated often in the years that followed. The Soviet Union was an enemy target up to the Second World War, and through it all, Times coverage was consistently hostile. With the end of the war and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a military rival, and soon a competing nuclear power, the Cold War was on. In the United States, anti-communism became a national religion, and the Soviet Union was portrayed in official discourse and the news media as a global menace in urgent need of containment. With this ideology in place and with U.S. plans for its own global expansion of power established, the Communist threat would help sustain the steady growth of the military-industrial complex and repeated interventions to counter purported Soviet aggressions.3

An Early Great Crime: Guatemala

One of the most flagrant cases in which the Soviet threat was exploited to justify U.S.-sponsored violence was the overthrow of the social democratic government of Guatemala in 1954 by a small proxy army invading from U.S. ally Somoza’s Nicaragua. This action was provoked by government reforms that upset U.S. officials, including a 1947 law permitting the formation of labor unions, and plans to buy back (at tax-rate valuations) and distribute to landless peasants some of the unused property owned by United Fruit Company and other large landowners. The United States, which had been perfectly content with the earlier fourteen-year-long dictatorship of Jose Ubico, could not tolerate this democratic challenge, and the elected government, led by Jacobo Arbenz, was soon charged with assorted villainies, based on an alleged Red capture of the Guatemalan government.4

In the pre-invasion propaganda campaign, the mainstream media fell into line behind false charges of extreme government repression, threats to its neighbors, and the Communist takeover. The Times repeatedly reported these alleged abuses and threats from 1950 onward (my favorite: Sidney Gruson’s “How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,” March 1, 1953). Arbenz and his predecessor, Juan Jose Arevalo, had carefully avoided establishing any embassies with Soviet bloc countries, fearing U.S. reprisals—to no avail. Following the removal of Arbenz and the installation of a right-wing dictatorship, court historian Ronald Schneider, after studying 50,000 documents seized from Communist sources in Guatemala, found that not only did Communists never control the country, but that the Soviet Union “made no significant or even material investment in the Arbenz regime,” and was at the time too preoccupied with internal problems to concern itself with Central America.5

Árbenz, Toriello and Arana

Árbenz, Jorge Toriello (center), and Francisco Arana (right) in 1944. The three men formed the junta that ruled Guatemala from the October Revolution until the election of Arévalo. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The coup government quickly attacked and decimated the new social groups that had formed in the democratic era, mainly peasant, worker, and teacher organizations. Arbenz had won 65 percent of the votes in a free election, but the “liberator” Castillo Armas quickly won a “plebiscite” with 99.6 percent of the vote. Although this is a result familiar in totalitarian regimes, the mainstream media had by then lost interest in Guatemala, barely mentioning this electoral outcome. The Times had claimed in 1950 that U.S. Guatemala policy “is not trying to block social and economic progress but is interested in seeing that Guatemala becomes a liberal democracy.”6 But in the aftermath, the editors failed to note that the result of U.S. policy was precisely to “block social and economic progress,” through the installation of a regime of reactionary terror.

In 2011, more than half a century after 1954, the Times reported that Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom had apologized for that “Great Crime,” the violent overthrow of the Arbenz government, “an act of aggression to a government starting its democratic spring.”7 The article mentions that, according to president Colom, the Arbenz family is “seeking an apology from the United States for its role” in the Great Crime. The Times has never made any apology or even acknowledgement of its own role in the Great Crime.

Another Great Crime: Vietnam

Fake news abounded in the Times and other mainstream publications during the Vietnam War. The common perception that the paper’s editors opposed the war is misleading and essentially false. In Without Fear or Favor, former Times reporter Harrison Salisbury acknowledged that in 1962, when U.S. intervention escalated, the Times was “deeply and consistently” supportive of the war policy.8 He contends that the paper grew steadily more oppositional from 1965, culminating in the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. But Salisbury fails to recognize that from 1954 to the present, the Times never abandoned the Cold War framework and vocabulary, according to which the United States was resisting another nation’s “aggression” and protecting “South Vietnam.” The paper never applied the word aggression to this country, but used it freely in referring to North Vietnamese actions and those of the National Liberation Front in the southern half of Vietnam.

The various pauses in the U.S. bombing war in 1965 and after, in the alleged interest of “giving peace a chance,” were also the basis of fake news as the Johnson administration used these temporary halts to quiet antiwar protests, while making it clear to the Vietnamese that U.S. officials demanded full surrender. The Times and its colleagues swallowed this bait without a murmur of dissent.9

A US tank convoy during the Vietnam War (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Furthermore, although from 1965 onward the Times was willing to publish more reports that put the war in a less favorable light, it never broke from its heavy dependence on official sources, or from its reluctance to confront the damage wrought on Vietnam and its civilian population by the U.S. war machine. In contrast with its eager pursuit of Cambodian refugees from the Khmer Rouge after April 1975, the paper rarely sought testimony from the millions of Vietnamese refugees fleeing U.S. bombing and chemical warfare. In its opinion columns as well, the new openness was limited to commentators who accepted the premises of the war and would confine their criticisms to its tactical problems and domestic costs. From beginning to end, those who criticized the war as an immoral campaign of sheer aggression were excluded from the debate.10

The 1981 Papal Assassination Attempt

The mainstream media gave a further boost to Cold War propaganda in reporting on the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981. At a time when the Reagan administration was seeking to demonize the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” the shooting of the pope by Turkish fascist Ali Agca was quickly tied to Moscow, helped by Agca’s confession—after seventeen months of imprisonment, interrogations, threats, inducements, and access to the media—that the Bulgarians and Soviet KGB were behind it all. No credible evidence supported this connection, the claims were implausible, and the corruption in the process was remarkable. (Agca also periodically claimed to be Jesus Christ.) The case against the Bulgarians (and implicitly the KGB) was lost even in Italy’s extremely biased and politicized judicial framework. But the Times bought it, and gave it prolonged, intense, and completely unquestioning attention, as did most of the U.S. media.

Image result for assassination of pope john paul ii

Source: Fatima Crusader

During the 1991 Senate hearings on the nomination of Robert Gates to head the CIA, former agency officer Melvin Goodman testified that the CIA knew from the start that Agca’s confessions were false, because they had “very good penetration” of the Bulgarian secret services. The Times omitted this statement in its reporting on Goodman’s testimony. During the same year, with Bulgaria now a member of the “free world,” conservative analyst Allen Weinstein obtained permission to examine Bulgarian secret service files on the assassination attempt. His mission was widely reported, including in the Times, but when he returned without having found anything implicating Bulgaria or the KGB, several papers, including the Times, found his investigations no longer newsworthy.

Missile Gap

From roughly 1975 to 1986, much of the reporting on the purported “missile gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union was little more than fake news, with Times reporters passing along a steady stream of inflammatory official statements and baseless claims. An important case occurred in the mid-1970s, as right-wing hawks in the Ford administration were trying to escalate the Cold War and arms race. A 1975 CIA report had found that the Soviets were aiming only for nuclear parity. This was unsatisfactory, so CIA head George H. W. Bush appointed a new team of hardliners, who soon found that the Soviets were achieving nuclear superiority and preparing to fight a nuclear war. This so-called Team B report was taken at face value in a Times front page article of December 26, 1976, by David Binder, who failed to mention its political bias or purpose, and made no attempt to consult experts with differing views. The CIA finally admitted in 1983 that the Team B estimates were fabrications. But throughout this period, the Times supported the case for militarization by disseminating false information, much of it convincingly refuted by Tom Gervasi in his classic The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy, a book never reviewed in the Times.

Yugoslavia and “Humanitarian Intervention”

The 1990s wars of dismantlement in Yugoslavia succeeded in removing an independent government from power and replacing it with a broken Serbian remnant and poor and unstable failed states in Bosnia and Kosovo. It also provided unwarranted support for the concept of “humanitarian intervention,” which rested on a mass of misrepresentations and selective reporting. The demonized Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević was not an ultra-nationalist seeking a “Greater Serbia,” but rather a non-aligned leader on the Western hit list who tried to help Serb minorities in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo remain in Yugoslavia as the United States and the European Union supported a legally questionable exodus by several constituent Yugoslav Republics. He supported each of the proposed settlements of these conflicts, which were sabotaged by Bosnian and U.S. officials who wanted better terms or the outright military defeat of Serbia, ultimately achieving the latter. Milošević had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serbs took revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the mainstream media, while the numbers of Srebrenica’s executed victims were correspondingly inflated.11

The Putin Era

The U.S. political establishment was shocked and delighted by the 1989–91 fall of the Soviet Union, and its members were similarly pleased with the policies of President Boris Yeltsin, a virtual U.S. client, under whose rule ordinary Russians suffered a calamitous fall in living standards, while a small set of oligarchs were able to loot the broken state. Yeltsin’s election victory in 1996, greatly assisted by U.S. consultants, advice, and money, was, for the editors of the Times, “A Victory for Russian Democracy.”12 They were not bothered by either the electoral corruption, the creation of a grand-larceny-based economic oligarchy, or, shortly thereafter, the new rules centralizing power in the office of president.13

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Source: Strategic Culture Foundation)

Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, gradually abandoned the former’s subservience to Western interests, and was thereby perceived as a menace. His reelection in 2012, although surely less corrupt than Yeltsin’s in 1996, was castigated in the U.S. media. The lead Times article on May 5, 2012, featured “a slap in the face” from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe observers, claims of no real competition, and “thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Moscow square to chant ‘Russia without Putin.’”14 There had been no “challenges to legitimacy” reported in the Times after Yeltsin’s tainted victory in 1996.

The demonization of Putin escalated with the Ukraine crisis of 2014 and subsequent Kiev warfare in Eastern Ukraine, Russian support of the East Ukraine resistance, and the Crimean referendum and absorption of Crimea by Russia. This was all declared “aggression” by the United States and its allies and clients, and sanctions were imposed on Russia, and a major U.S.-NATO military buildup was initiated on Russia’s borders. Tensions mounted further with the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over southeastern Ukraine—promptly, but almost surely falsely, blamed on the “pro-Russian” rebels and Russia itself.15

Anti-Russian hostilities were further inflamed by the country’s escalated intervention in Syria from 2015 on, in support of Bashar al-Assad and against rebel forces that had come to be dominated by ISIS and al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. The United States and its NATO and Middle East allies had been committing aggression against Syria, in de facto alliance with al-Nusra and other extremist Islamic factions, for several years. Russian intervention turned the tide, frustrating the U.S. and Saudi goal of regime change against Assad, and weakening tacit U.S. allies.

The Times has covered these developments with unstinting apologetics—for the February 2014 coup in Kiev—which it has never labeled as such, for the U.S. role in the overthrow of the elected government of Victor Yanukovych, and with anger and horror at the Crimea referendum and Russian absorption, which it never allows might be a defensive response to the Kiev coup. Its calls for punishment for the casualty-free Russian “aggression” in Crimea is in marked contrast to its apologetics for the million-plus casualties caused by U.S. aggression “of choice” (not defensive) in Iraq from March 2003 on. The paper’s editors and columnists condemn Putin’s disregard for international law, while exempting their own country from criticism for its repeated violations of that same law.16

In the Times‘s reporting and opinion columns Russia is regularly assailed as expansionist and threatening its neighbors, but virtually no mention is made of NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders and first-strike-threat placement of anti-missile weapons in Eastern Europe—the latter earlier claimed to be in response to a missile threat from Iran! Analyses by political scientist John Mearsheimer and Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen that noted this NATO advance were excluded from the opinion pages of the Times.17 In contrast, a member of the Russian band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, was given op-ed space to denounce Putin and Russia, and the punk rock group was granted a meeting with the Times editorial board.18Between January 1 and March 31, 2014, the paper ran twenty-three articles featuring Pussy Riot and its alleged significance as a symbol of Russian limits on free speech. Pussy Riot had disrupted a church service in Moscow and only stopped after police intervened, at the request of church authorities. A two-year prison sentence followed. Meanwhile, in February 2014, eighty-four-year-old nun Sister Megan Rice was sentenced to four years in prison for having entered a U.S. nuclear weapons site in July 2012 and carried out a symbolic protest. The Timesgave this news a tiny mention in its National Briefing section, under the title “Tennessee Nun is Sentenced for Peace Protest.” No op-ed columns or meeting with the Times board for Rice. There are worthy and unworthy protesters, just as there are victims.

In Syria, with Russian help, Assad’s army and allied militias were able to dislodge the rebels from Aleppo, to the dismay of Washington and the mainstream media. It has been enlightening to see the alarm expressed over civilian casualties in Aleppo, with accompanying photographs of forsaken children and stories of civilian suffering and deprivation. The Times‘s focus on those civilians and children and its indignation at Putin-Assad inhumanity stands in sharp contrast with their virtual silence on massive civilian casualties in Fallujah in 2004 and beyond, and more recently in rebel-held areas of Syria, and in the Iraqi city of Mosul, under U.S. and allied attack.19 The differential treatment of worthy and unworthy victims has been in full force in coverage of Syria.

A further phase of intensifying Russophobia may be dated from the October 2016 presidential debates, in which Hillary Clinton declared that Donald Trump would be a Putin “puppet” as president, a theme her campaign began to stress. This emphasis only increased after the election, with the help of the media and intelligence services, as the Clinton camp sought to explain their electoral loss, maintain party control, and possibly even have the election results overturned in the courts or electoral college by attributing Trump’s victory to Russian interference.

A major impetus for the Putin connection came with the January 2017 release of a report by the Office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Background of Assessing Russian Activities and Intention in Recent US Elections. More than half of this short document is devoted to the Russian-sponsored RT news network, which the report treats as an illegitimate propaganda source. The organization is allegedly part of Russia’s “influence campaign…[that] aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.” No semblance of proof is offered that there was any planned “campaign,” rather than an ongoing expression of opinion and news judgments. The same standards used to identify a Russian “influence campaign” could be applied with equal force to U.S. media and Radio Free Europe’s treatment of any Russian election—and of course, the U.S. intervention in the 1996 Russian election was overt, direct, and went far beyond any covert “influence campaign.”

Regarding more direct Russian intervention in the U.S. election, the DNI authors concede the absence of “full supporting evidence,” but in fact provide no supporting evidence at all—only speculative assertions, assumptions, and guesses. “We assess that…Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2015,” they write, designed to defeat Mrs. Clinton, and “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” but provide no proof of any such order. The report also contains no evidence that Russia hacked the communications of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or the emails of Clinton and former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, or that it gave hacked information to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange and former British diplomat Craig Murray have repeatedly claimed that these sources were leaked by local insiders, not hacked from outside. Veteran intelligence experts William Binneyand Ray McGovern likewise contend that the WikiLeaks evidence was leaked, not hacked.20 It is also notable that of the three intelligence agencies who signed the DNI document, the National Security Agency—the agency most likely to have proof of Russian hacking and its transmission to WikiLeaks, as well as of any “orders” from Putin—only expressed “moderate confidence” in its findings.

But as with the Reds ruling Guatemala, the Soviets outpacing U.S. missile capabilities, or the KGB plotting to assassinate the pope, the Times has taken the Russian hacking story as established fact, despite the absence of hard evidence. Times reporter David Sanger refers to the report’s “damning and surprisingly detailed account of Russia’s efforts to undermine the American electoral system,” only to then acknowledge that the published report “contains no information about how the agencies had …come to their conclusions.”21 The report itself includes the astonishing statement that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” Furthermore, if the report was based on “intercepts of conversations” as well as on hacked computer data, as Sanger and the DNI claim, why has the DNI failed to quote a single conversation showing Putin’s alleged orders and plans?

The Times has never cited or given op-ed space to William Binney, Ray McGovern, or Craig Murray, leading dissident authorities on hacking technology, methodology, and the specifics of the DNC hacks. But room was found for Louise Mensch’s op-ed “What to Ask about Russian Hacking.” Mensch is a notorious conspiracy theorist with no relevant technical background, described by writers Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols as best-known for “spending most of her time on Twitter issuing frenzied denunciations of imagined armies of online ‘Putinbots,’” making her “one of the least credible people on the internet.”22 But she is published in the Times because, in contrast with the informed and credible Binney and Murray, she follows the party line, taking Russian hacking of the DNC as a premise.

The CIA’s brazen intervention in the electoral process in 2016 and 2017 broke new ground in the agency’s politicization. Former CIA head Michael Morell announced in an August 2016 op-ed in the Times: “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton,” and former CIA boss Michael Haydenpublished an op-ed in the Washington Post just days before the election, entitled “Former CIA Chief: Trump is Russia’s Useful Fool.” Morell had yet another op-ed in the Times on January 6, now openly assailing the new president. These attacks were unrelievedly insulting to Trump and laudatory to Clinton, even portraying Trump as a traitor; they also made clear that Clinton’s more pugnacious stance toward Syria and Russia was preferable by far to Trump’s leanings toward negotiation and cooperation with Russia.

This was also true of the scandal surrounding former Trump Defense Intelligence nominee Michael Flynn’s telephone call with the Russian ambassador, which may have included a discussion of the incoming administration’s policy actions. The political possibilities of this interaction were quickly grasped by outgoing Obama officials, security personnel, and the mainstream media, with the FBI interrogating Flynn and with widespread expressions of horror at Flynn’s action, which could have allegedly exposed him to Russian blackmail. But such pre-inauguration meetings with Russian diplomats have been a “common practice” according to Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Reagan and Bush, and Matlock had personally arranged such a meeting for Jimmy Carter.23 Obama’s own ambassador to the country, Michael McFaul, admitted visiting Moscow for talks with officials in 2008, even before the election. Daniel Lazare has made a good case not only that the illegality and blackmail threat are implausible, but that the FBI’s interrogation of Flynn reeks of entrapment. “Yet anti-Trump liberals are trying to convince the public that it’s all ‘worse than Watergate.’”24

The political point of the DNI report thus seems to have been, at minimum, to tie the Trump administration’s hands in its dealings with Russia. Some analysts outside the mainstream have argued that we may have been witnessing an incipient spy or palace coup that fell short, but still had the desired effect of weakening the new administration.25 The Times has not offered a word of criticism of this politicization and intervention in the election process by intelligence agencies, and in fact the editors have been working with them and the Democratic Party as a loose-knit team in a distinctly un- and anti-democratic program designed to undermine or reverse the results of the 2016 election, on the pretext of alleged foreign electoral interference.

The Times and the mainstream media in general have also barely mentioned the awkward fact that the allegedly hacked disclosures of the DNC and Clinton and Podesta emails disclosed uncontested facts about real electoral manipulations on behalf of the Clinton campaign, facts that the public had a right to know and that might well have affected the election results. The focus on the evidence-free claims of a Russian hacking intrusion have helped divert attention from the real electoral abuses disclosed by the WikiLeaks material. Here again, official and mainstream media fake news helped bury real news.

Another arrow in the Russophobia quiver was a private intelligence “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working for Orbis Business Intelligence, a private firm hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump. Steele’s first report, delivered in June 2016, made numerous serious accusations against Trump, most notably that Trump had been caught in a sexual escapade in Moscow, that his political advance had been supported by the Kremlin for at least five years, under Putin’s direction, in order to sow discord within the U.S. political establishment and disrupt the Western alliance. This document was based on alleged conversations by Steele with distant (Russian) officials: that is, strictly on hearsay evidence, whose assertions, where verifiable, are sometimes erroneous.26 But it said just what the Democrats, the mainstream media, and the CIA wanted to hear, and intelligence officials accordingly declared the author “credible,” and the media lapped it up. The Times hedged somewhat on its own cooperation in this tawdry campaign by calling the report “unverified,” but nevertheless reported its claims.27

The Steele dossier also became a central part of the investigation and hearings on “Russia-gate” held by the House Intelligence Committee starting in March 2017, led by Democratic Representative Adam Schiff. While basing his opening statement on the hearsay-laden dossier, Schiff expressed no interest in establishing who funded the Steele effort, the identity and exact status of the Russian officials quoted, or how much they were paid. Apparently talking to Russians with a design of influencing an American presidential election is perfectly acceptable if the candidate supported by this intrusion is anti-Russian!

The Times has played a major role in this latest wave of Russophobia, reminiscent of its 1917–20 performance in which, as Lippmann and Merz noted in 1920, “boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled” characterized the news-making process. While quoting the CIA’s admission that it had no hard evidence, relying instead on “circumstantial evidence” and “capabilities,” the Times was happy to describe these capabilities at great length and to imply that they proved something.28 Editorials and news articles have worked uniformly on the false supposition that Russian hacking was proved, and that the Russians had given these data to WikiLeaks, also unproven and strenuously denied by Assange and Murray.

The Times has run neck-and-neck with the Washington Post in stirring up fears of the Russian information war and illicit involvement with Trump. The Times now easily conflates fake news with any criticism of established institutions, as in Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy’s “Europe Combats a New Foe of Political Stability: Fake News,” February 20, 2017.29 But what is more extraordinary is the uniformity with which the paper’s regular columnists accept as a given the CIA’s assessment of the Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks, the possibility or likelihood that Trump is a Putin puppet, and the urgent need of a congressional and “non-partisan” investigation of these claims. This swallowing of a new war-party line has extended widely in the liberal media. Both the Times and Washington Post have lent tacit support to the idea that this “fake news” threat needs to be curbed, possibly by some form of voluntary media-organized censorship or government intervention that would at least expose the fakery.

The most remarkable media episode in this anti-influence-campaign was the Post‘s piece by Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” which featured a report by a group of anonymous “experts” entity called PropOrNot that claimed to have identified two hundred websites that, wittingly or not, were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” While smearing these websites, many of them independent news outlets whose only shared trait was their critical stance toward U.S. foreign policy, the “experts” refused to identify themselves, allegedly out of fear of being “targeted by legions of skilled hackers.” As journalist Matt Taibbi wrote, “You want to blacklist hundreds of people, but you won’t put your name to your claims? Take a hike.”30 But the Post welcomed and promoted this McCarthyite effort, which might well be a product of Pentagon or CIA information warfare. (And these entities are themselves well-funded and heavily into the propaganda business.)

On December 23, 2016, President Obama signed the Portman-Murphy Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, which will supposedly allow the United States to more effectively combat foreign (namely Russian and Chinese) propaganda and disinformation. It will encourage more government counter-propaganda efforts, and provide funding to non-government entities to help in this enterprise. It is clearly a follow-on to the claims of Russian hacking and propaganda, and shares the spirit of the listing of two hundred tools of Moscow featured in the Washington Post. (Perhaps PropOrNot will qualify for a subsidy and be able to enlarge its list.) Liberals have been quiet on this new threat to freedom of speech, undoubtedly influenced by their fears of Russian-based fake news and propaganda. But they may yet take notice, even if belatedly, when Trump or one of his successors puts it to work on their own notions of fake news and propaganda.

The success of the war party’s campaign to contain or reverse any tendency to ease tensions with Russia was made dramatically clear in the Trump administration’s speedy bombing response to the April 4, 2017, Syrian chemical weapons deaths. The Times and other mainstream media editors and journalists greeted this aggressive move with almost uniform enthusiasm, and once again did not require evidence of Assad’s guilt beyond their government’s claims.31 The action was damaging to Assad and Russia, but served the rebels well.

But the mainstream media never ask cui bono? in cases like this. In 2013, a similar charge against Assad, which brought the United States to the brink of a full-scale bombing war in Syria, turned out to be a false flag operation, and some authorities believe the current case is equally problematic.32 Nevertheless, Trump moved quickly (and illegally), dealing a blow to any further rapprochement between the United States and Russia. The CIA, the Pentagon, leading Democrats, and the rest of the war party had won an important skirmish in the struggle over permanent war.

Notes

1. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman,Manufacturing Consent (New York: Pantheon, 2008), chapter 2.

2.Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz,A Test of the News (New York: New Republic, 1920).

3. On the Grand Area framework, see Noam Chomsky, “The New Framework of Order,” inOn Power and Ideology (Boston: South End, 1987).

4. Edward S. Herman, “Returning Guatemala to the Fold,” in Gary Rawnsley, ed.,Cold War Propaganda in the 1950s (London: Macmillan, 1999).

5. Ronald Schneider, Communism in Guatemala, 1944–1954 (New York: Praeger, 1959), 41, 196–97, 294.

6. Editorial Board, “The Guatemala Incident,”New York Times, April 8, 1950.

7. Elisabeth Malkin, “An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later,”New York Times, October 11, 2011.

8. Harrison Salisbury, Without Fear or Favor (New York: Times Books, 1980), 486.

9. Richard Du Boff and Edward Herman,America’s Vietnam Policy: The Strategy of Deception (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs, 1966).

10. See Chomsky and Herman,Manufacturing Consent, chapter 6.

11. Editorial Board, “A Victory for Russian Democracy,”New York Times, July 4, 1996.

12. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,”Monthly Review 59, no. 5 (October 2007); Herman and Peterson, “Poor Marlise: Her Old Allies Are Now Attacking the Tribunal and Even Portraying the Serbs as Victims,” ZNet, October 30, 2008, http://zcomm.org.

13. Stephen F. Cohen, Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (New York: Norton, 2000).

14. Ellen Barry and Michael Schwartz, “After Election, Putin Faces Challenges to Legitimacy,”New York Times, March 5, 2012.

15. Robert Parry, “Troubling Gaps in the New MH-17 Report,” Consortium News, September 28, 2016, http://consortiumnews.com.

16. Paul Krugman says, “Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law” (“The Siberian Candidate,”New York Times, July 22, 2016)—implying, falsely, that U.S. leaders do “worry about” such things.

17. A version of Mearsheimer’s article appeared as “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,”Foreign Affairs, September 10, 2014. The paper likewise rejected Stephen Cohen’s 2012 article “The Demonization of Putin.”

18. “Sochi Under Siege,”New York Times, February 21, 2014.

19. Michael Kimmelman, “Aleppo’s Faces Beckon to Us, To Little Avail,”New York Times, December 15, 2016. Above this front-page article were four photographs of dead or injured children, the most prominent one in Syria. The accompanying editorial, “Aleppo’s Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran,” omits some key actors and killers. See also Rick Sterling, “How US Propaganda Plays in Syrian War,” Consortium News, September 23, 2016.

20. William Binney and Ray McGovern, “The Dubious Case on Russian ‘Hacking,’” Consortium News, January 6, 2017.

21. David Sanger, “Putin Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ Aimed at U.S. Election, Report Says,”New York Times, January 6, 2017.

22. Nathan J. Robinson and Alex Nichols, “What Constitutes Reasonable Mainstream Opinion,”Current Affairs, March 22, 2017.

23. Jack Matlock, “Contacts with Russian Embassy,” Jack Matlock blog, March 4, 2017, http://jackmatlock.com.

24. Daniel Lazare, “Democrats, Liberals, Catch McCarthyistic Fever,” Consortium News, February 17, 2017.

25. Robert Parry, “A Spy Coup in America?” Consortium News, December 18, 2016; Andre Damon, “Democratic Party Floats Proposal for a Palace Coup,” Information Clearing House,” March 23, 2017, http://informationclearinghouse.info.

26. Robert Parry, “The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate,” Consortium News, March 29, 2017.

27. Scott Shane et al., “How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump,”New York Times, January 11, 2017.

28. Matt Fegenheimer and Scott Shane, “Bipartisan Voices Back U.S. Agencies On Russia Hacking,”New York Times, January 6, 2017; Michael Shear and David Sanger, “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds,”New York Times,January 7, 2017; Andrew Kramer, “How Russia Recruited Elite Hackers for Its Cyberwar,”New York Times, December 30, 2016.

29. Robert Parry, “NYT’s Fake News about Fake News,” Consortium News, February 22, 2017.

30. Matt Taibbi, “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting,”Rolling Stone, November 28, 2016.

31. Adam Johnson, “Out of 47 Media Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, April 11, 2017, http://fair.org.

32. Scott Ritter, “Wag the Dog—How Al Qaeda Played Donald Trump and The American Media,” Huffington Post, April 9, 2017; James Carden, “The Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism?Nation, April 11, 2017.

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Washington Pushes the World Towards the New Cuban Missile Crisis

NOVANEWS
The US officials point at Russia while the Pentagon has been violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty since the early 2000s.
 

General Paul Selva, the vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Russia of deploying a land-based cruise missile that violated the “spirit and intent” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) and posed a threat to the US European allies. “The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” he said during a House armed services committee hearing March 8, 2017.

Gen. Selva did not say if the missile carried a nuclear weapon.

General Paul Selva

It was the first public accusation of the prohibited weapons deployment after The New York Times said earlier this year that Russia had secretly deployed the ground-launched SSC-8 cruise missile. SSC-8 is believed to be a land version of the SS-N-30 3M14 missile complex “Caliber-NK” for the first time used by Russian navy against targets in Syria in 2015.

In 2014, the United States made a similar accusation. The State Department concluded in the control report that Russia was in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty. Russia accused Washington of conducting “megaphone diplomacy” after the accusation was repeated by the State Department in 2015.

That time Moscow denied it had violated the treaty, which helped end the Cold War. So the Russians did this time. Russia is committed to its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said March 9, 2017.

Hera missile

The accusations from Washington high-ranking officials take place while the Pentagon used Hera missiles with operational range of 684 miles (1,100 kilometers) as targets during missile defense tests since 2002. This fact constitutes blatant violation of the INF Treaty because all these vehicles were to be destructed by 1991 and manufacturing of new ones was prohibited under the terms of the Treaty.

War hawks add fuel to the fire. The Congress is moving to make the Pentagon begin developing medium-range missiles banned by the 1987 nuclear arms agreement, Politico.com announces August 2.

These steps of American legislators along with ongoing North Korean nuclear standoff do not make the world safer. Confrontation between nuclear powers which the INF Treaty abolition will potentially lead to is even the worst scenario.

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ACLU settles torture case with CIA-contracted psychologists

NOVANEWS

The ACLU has declared a “historic victory” following the settlement of its lawsuit against two CIA-contracted psychologists involved in torturing suspects and developing the agency’s ‘enhanced interrogation program.’ The terms are confidential.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou told RT that while the settlement is historic, he is disappointed on three fronts.

American Civil Liberties Union attorneys, acting on behalf of three plaintiffs who claimed they were tortured, said it’s the first time the CIA, or its private contractors, had been held accountable for torturing suspects.

“This outcome show that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable,” Dror Ladin, an ACLU attorney said, according to AP.

“It is a clear warning for anything who thinks they can torture with impunity.”

Kiriakou, a former CIA counter-terrorism officer who blew the whistle on the torture program in 2007, noted the historic victory “because nothing like this has ever happened before,” but added, “I am disappointed with a settlement.”

He said the American people will never know the details of what would have been released had the case gone to trial.

“Documents would have certainly been de-classified, there would have been a number of people testifying in open court, and so we I think we will probably never know the real details of the CIA torture program. That’s a disappointment,” he told RT.

Another disappointment is over the the sealed terms of agreement.

“I am happy for the victims and the families of the victims of CIA torture, but I wish that we were able to say definitively that the final terms were enough of a deterrent to stop the CIA from possibly doing this again,” Kiriakou said.

Kiriakou said his third disappointment was over the two psychologists –James Mitchell and John Jessen – being indemnified at the time they signed their contract with the CIA.

“So not one cent from this entire ordeal comes out of Mitchell and Jessen’s pockets, leaving taxpayers footing this bill for this lawsuit, and that is very sad,” Kiriakou added. “Especially as they made $81 million and they pay none of it to their own victims.”

Kiriakou said he wished the case had gone to trial but was nevertheless surprised it had gone as far it did. A trial date was set for September 5 in federal court in Spokane, Washington. He said the CIA had ample opportunity to invoke ‘national security’ and ask for a dismissal but they elected not to do that.

“That order would have to have come from the White House, the Obama White House. When Donald Trump became president, he did not invoke ‘national security’ either, so it seems the CIA made an internal decision to just to get this thing behind them and be done with it,” said Kiriakou.

“And I think they were able to convince the Obama administration and the Trump administration that it was the right thing to do.”

The ACLU filed the suit in 2015 on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and the family of Gul Rahman under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows for federal lawsuits for gross human rights violations. Rahman froze to death in a secret CIA prison.

The two men and Rahman’s family claimed the trio were tortured and experimented on using methods developed by the CIA-contracted psychologists, Mitchell and Jessen, following the terror attacks of 9/11.

During the interrogations, the plaintiffs claimed they were subject to waterboarding, slammed into walls, stuffed inside coffin-like boxes, exposed to extreme temperatures, starved, and kept awake for days, the ACLU argued.

James Smith, the lead attorney for the psychologists said his clients were public servants whose interrogation of suspected terrorists was authorized by the government.

“The facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen,” Smith stated, according to AP.

AP reported that as the two psychologists worked as government contractors, their legal bills will be covered by US taxpayer money.

The Justice Department got involved in the case to represent the government’s interest in keeping classified information secret but did not try to block the lawsuit.

As part of the settlement agreement, both sides agreed to release a joint statement in which Doctors Mitchell and Jessen acknowledged they worked with the CIA “to develop a program for the CIA that contemplated the use of specific coercive methods to interrogate certain detainees.”

The parties acknowledged that Rahman “was subjected to abuses in the CIA program that resulted in his death” and plaintiffs Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud were “also subjected to coercive methods in the CIA program, which resulted in pain and suffering.”

The ACLU said it had based its legal claims on the declassified facts in the executive summary of the Senate report on CIA torture. The ACLU claimed that in addition to torturing prisoners themselves, Mitchell and Jessen trained other CIA personnel in their methods. The pair founded a company in 2005 that the CIA contracted to run its entire torture program, including supplying interrogators for the agency’s secret “black site” prisons. The government paid the company $81 million over several years.

A US Senate investigation in 2014 found that the techniques developed by the two psychologists produced no useful intelligence. President Obama terminated the contract in 2009.

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