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West ignores results of int’l missions that found no troop build-up near Ukraine borders – Moscow

RT | March 28, 2014

Russia has denied any troop build-up on the Ukraine border, a claim voiced by President Barack Obama and Kiev officials. Moscow slammed the West for ignoring the results of recent fact-finding missions for the sake of political expediency.

On Friday Obama urged Russia to pull back “a range of troops,” which he said, “we have seen […] massing along that border under the guise of military exercises.”

“But these are not what Russia would normally be doing,” Obama said, speaking with CBS on his trip to Rome.

He then suggested that the troop build-up could be “just an effort to intimidate Ukraine.”

“It may be that they’ve got additional plans,” Obama said.

The US president’s comments came the day after a Ukrainian security official told Executive Vice President of the US-Atlantic Council Damon Wilson that “almost 100,000 soldiers are stationed on the borders of Ukraine and in the direction … of Kharkov, Donetsk.”

“Russian troops are not only in Crimea, they are along all Ukrainian borders. They’re in the south, they’re in the east and in the north,” Andrey Parubiy, one of the so-called Maidan “commandants” who has been appointed chairman of Ukraine’s Security Council, told the Atlantic Council during a web conference Thursday.

Parubiy expressed his worry that continental Ukraine might “see a huge attack” on its territory.

“We are getting ready for it,” he said.

In the past few days, Western media has extensively reported that Russia is positioning its troops in Crimea and along the Ukrainian border. Some of the major news outlets speculated that Russian troops “appeared to be concealing their positions, trying to cloak their equipment, and establishing supply lines.”

Responding to those accusations, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, in which it recalled four probes in March by foreign missions in Russia of regions bordering Ukraine.

The ministry said that “even Ukrainian inspectors” agreed that “there were no major military activities being carried out.”

The four international missions included representatives of Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, France and Ukraine. None of the missions “found ‘aggressive preparations’ and have not recorded any military activities, aside from the previously declared,” the statement said.

“Opportunities to conduct such activities were provided to all those who wished to get acquainted with the real situation in the border with Ukraine regions,” the ministry said.

The statement emphasized that “even Ukrainian inspectors” agreed that “there were no major military activities being carried out.”

“The result of this was the official reports submitted to all OSCE member states. The objective information contained in those reports, in our view, should have become a subject of an impartial analysis and basis for further conclusions,” the statement said.

This, however, is not the case here, the ministry said.

As another proof that there are no additional Russian troops and active military preparations, the Foreign Ministry referred to recent observation flights by American and German inspectors.

“The official results of those flights will be known later, after the processing of photographic materials. However, one can assume that if signs of large concentration of the armed forces were spotted from the air, our partners would not wait to present the ‘evidence’. Hence, it simply does not exist,” the ministry said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also questioned the objectivity of Western politicians.

“Is objective information collected by military inspectors not provided to the political leadership [of Western countries]? Or are these leaders, yielding to their emotions, inclined to ignore the facts in order to satisfy their own political tastes and preferences?” the ministry said.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Comments Off on West ignores results of int’l missions that found no troop build-up near Ukraine borders – Moscow

Lies About Rwanda Mean More Wars If Not Corrected

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | March 28, 2014

Urge the ending of war these days and you’ll very quickly hear two words: “Hitler” and “Rwanda.”  While World War II killed some 70 million people, it’s the killing of some 6 to 10 million (depending on who’s included) that carries the name Holocaust. Never mind that the United States and its allies refused to help those people before the war or to halt the war to save them or to prioritize helping them when the war ended — or even to refrain from letting the Pentagon hire some of their killers. Never mind that saving the Jews didn’t become a purpose for WWII until long after the war was over.  Propose eliminating war from the world and your ears will ring with the name that Hillary Clinton calls Vladimir Putin and that John Kerry calls Bashar al Assad.

Get past Hitler, and shouts of “We must prevent another Rwanda!” will stop you in your tracks, unless your education has overcome a nearly universal myth that runs as follows.  In 1994, a bunch of irrational Africans in Rwanda developed a plan to eliminate a tribal minority and carried out their plan to the extent of slaughtering over a million people from that tribe — for purely irrational motivations of tribal hatred.  The U.S. government had been busy doing good deeds elsewhere and not paying enough attention until it was too late.  The United Nations knew what was happening but refused to act, due to its being a large bureaucracy inhabited by weak-willed non-Americans.  But, thanks to U.S. efforts, the criminals were prosecuted, refugees were allowed to return, and democracy and European enlightenment were brought belatedly to the dark valleys of Rwanda.

Something like this myth is in the minds of those who shout for attacks on Libya or Syria or the Ukraine under the banner of “Not another Rwanda!”  The thinking would be hopelessly sloppy even if based on facts.  The idea that SOMETHING was needed in Rwanda morphs into the idea that heavy bombing was needed in Rwanda which slides effortlessly into the idea that heavy bombing is needed in Libya.  The result is the destruction of Libya.  But the argument is not for those who pay attention to what was happening in and around Rwanda before or since 1994.  It’s a momentary argument meant to apply only to a moment.  Never mind why Gadaffi was transformed from a Western ally into a Western enemy, and never mind what the war left behind.  Pay no attention to how World War I was ended and how many wise observers predicted World War II at that time.  The point is that a Rwanda was going to happen in Libya (unless you look at the facts too closely) and it did not happen.  Case closed.  Next victim.

Edward Herman highly recommends a book by Robin Philpot called Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction, and so do I.  Philpot opens with U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s comment that “the genocide in Rwanda was one hundred percent the responsibility of the Americans!”  How could that be?  Americans are not to blame for how things are in backward parts of the world prior to their “interventions.”  Surely Mr. double Boutros has got his chronology wrong.  Too much time spent in those U.N. offices with foreign bureaucrats no doubt.  And yet, the facts — not disputed claims but universally agreed upon facts that are simply deemphasized by many — say otherwise.

The United States backed an invasion of Rwanda on October 1, 1990, by a Ugandan army led by U.S.-trained killers, and supported their attack on Rwanda for three-and-a-half years.  The Rwandan government, in response, did not follow the model of the U.S. internment of Japanese during World War II, or of U.S. treatment of Muslims for the past 12 years.  Nor did it fabricate the idea of traitors in its midst, as the invading army in fact had 36 active cells of collaborators in Rwanda.  But the Rwandan government did arrest 8,000 people and hold them for a few days to six-months.  Africa Watch (later Human Rights Watch/Africa) declared this a serious violation of human rights, but had nothing to say about the invasion and war.  Alison Des Forges of Africa Watch explained that good human rights groups “do not examine the issue of who makes war.  We see war as an evil and we try to prevent the existence of war from being an excuse for massive human rights violations.”

The war killed many people, whether or not those killings qualified as human rights violations.  People fled the invaders, creating a huge refugee crisis, ruined agriculture, wrecked economy, and shattered society.  The United States and the West armed the warmakers and applied additional pressure through the World Bank, IMF, and USAID.  And among the results of the war was increased hostility between Hutus and Tutsis.  Eventually the government would topple.  First would come the mass slaughter known as the Rwandan Genocide.  And before that would come the murder of two presidents.  At that point, in April 1994, Rwanda was in chaos almost on the level of post-liberation Iraq or Libya.

One way to have prevented the slaughter would have been to not support the war.  Another way to have prevented the slaughter would have been to not support the assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on April 6, 1994.  The evidence points strongly to the U.S.-backed and U.S.-trained war-maker Paul Kagame — now president of Rwanda — as the guilty party.  While there is no dispute that the presidents’ plane was shot down, human rights groups and international bodies have simply referred in passing to a “plane crash” and refused to investigate.

A third way to have prevented the slaughter, which began immediately upon news of the presidents’ assassinations, might have been to send in U.N. peacekeepers (not the same thing as Hellfire missiles, be it noted), but that was not what Washington wanted, and the U.S. government worked against it.  What the Clinton administration was after was putting Kagame in power.  Thus the resistance to calling the slaughter a “genocide” (and sending in the U.N.) until blaming that crime on the Hutu-dominated government became seen as useful.  The evidence assembled by Philpot suggests that the “genocide” was not so much planned as erupted following the shooting down of the plane, was politically motivated rather than simply ethnic, and was not nearly as one-sided as generally assumed.

Moreover, the killing of civilians in Rwanda has continued ever since, although the killing has been much more heavy in neighboring Congo, where Kagame’s government took the war — with U.S. aid and weapons and troops —  and bombed refugee camps killing some million people.  The excuse for going into the Congo has been the hunt for Rwandan war criminals.  The real motivation has been Western control and profits.  War in the Congo has continued to this day, leaving some 6 million dead — the worst killing since the 70 million of WWII.  And yet nobody ever says “We must prevent another Congo!”

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | Comments Off on Lies About Rwanda Mean More Wars If Not Corrected

Latin American Revolution: Chile’s New Government Wants To Open Up TPP

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | March 28, 2014

Last year, the US government was adamant that TPP would be finished by the end of 2013. And yet here we are, well into 2014, with no sign that things are anywhere near completion. That slippage is more than just embarrassing: it could have major implications for the treaty. TPP has dragged on for so long there’s a new President in Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and she’s more doubtful than her predecessor about the value of TPP to her country and its people.

Those doubts are starting to make themselves felt. In a recent speech (original in Spanish), Bachelet said that she wanted Chile to regain its role as a promoter of Latin American integration. That would represent a turning away from TPP, which is based on the Pacific Rim, and only includes two three other countries from Latin America — Mexico, Colombia and Peru. In an interview with El Mercurio, Bachelet’s new Minister for External Relations, Heraldo Muñoz, echoed this policy shift by emphasizing the importance of improving his country’s relations with Brazil and Argentina. He also revealed some of Chile’s new thinking on TPP (original in Spanish):

“In my meeting with [USTR] Michael Froman, I expressed Chile’s position, which is to examine the content of the [TPP] negotiations with care, and to act transparently. We are going to consult with businesses, with civil society, so that these aren’t closed negotiations. In addition, I said to Froman that Chile has sensitive areas where we are not prepared to go beyond the FTA [free trade agreement] with the US. There are areas such as intellectual property, the regulation of state-owned companies, or the Central Bank, which are red lines for us.”

The theme of transparency was picked up in another interview, this time with the new director of Chile’s Department of International Economic Relations, Andrés Rebolledo, which appeared in La Segunda (original in Spanish):

“We received some criticism (for how the [TPP] negotiations were conducted previously) and it appeared to us that there’s an important opening for creating greater transparency with the various stakeholders who are involved and who are interested in the negotiations.”

Rebolledo aims to do this by creating a new advisory group, which will include not just business interests, but also NGOs and other civil society groups:

We will establish a dialog with them and we are going to hand over elements of the negotiations — those which are on the table, and of interest.

For us, as the government, it’s beneficial from the perspective that we will obtain inputs that will help us better conduct the negotiations.

For TPP, whose negotiations have been some of the most secretive ever, with almost no real transparency, the plans of Chile’s new President are not just a breath of fresh air, they are little short of revolutionary.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Comments Off on Latin American Revolution: Chile’s New Government Wants To Open Up TPP

Brazil looks to ban Monsanto’s Roundup, other toxicity risks

RT | March 27, 2014

Brazil’s public prosecutor wants to suspend use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s pervasive herbicide Roundup. A recent study suggested glyphosate may be linked to a fatal kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions worldwide.

The Prosecutor General’s office is also pursuing bans on the herbicide 2,4-D and seven other active herbicide ingredients in addition to glyphosate: methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram, and paraquat, GMWatch reported.

The Prosecutor General of Brazil “seeks to compel the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) to reevaluate the toxicity of eight active ingredients suspected of causing damage to human health and the environment,” according to the prosecutor’s website. “On another front, the agency questions the registration of pesticides containing 2,4-D herbicide, applied to combat broadleaf weeds.”

The two actions have already been filed with Brazil’s justice department.

The prosecutor is also seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply to suspend further registration of the eight ingredients until ANVISA can come to a conclusion.

The country’s National Biosafety Technical Commission has been asked to prohibit large-scale sale of genetically modified seeds resistant to the 2,4-D as ANVISA deliberates.

Last week, Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court ruled to cancel use of Bayer’s Liberty Link genetically-modified maize. Earlier this month, France banned the sale, use, and cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically-modified maize MON 810. New research found insects in the United States are developing a resistance to the genetically-engineered maize.

As for glyphosate, new research suggests it becomes highly toxic to the human kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka banned glyphosate given the links to an inexplicable kidney disease, Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology, known as CKDu, according to the Center for Public Integrity. CKDu has killed thousands of agricultural workers, many in Sri Lanka and El Salvador.

El Salvador’s legislature approved in September a ban on glyphosate and many other agrochemicals, yet the measure is not yet law.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brazil looks to ban Monsanto’s Roundup, other toxicity risks

AAUP Backs Iymen Chehade, Supports Academic Freedom at Columbia College Chicago

Iymen Chehade, a professor at Chicago's Columbia College.
Iymen Chehade, a professor at Chicago’s Columbia College
By Eva Bartlett | Palestine Chronicle | March 28, 2014

American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Illinois statement of support for Iymen Chehade, a professor at Chicago’s Columbia College, marks the latest, and most significant, step forward in the fight against pervasive attempts to control discourse on Occupied Palestine, via stifling academic freedom on college and university campuses.

Chehade, employed by Columbia since 2007, has taught three different courses on the Middle East, but by far most popular has been his Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, a course he designed in 2010.

“The class is popular on campus. Students hear about it from other students and try consistently enroll in it,” says Chehade. “Its one of those history classes that is not history, it’s actually present, its also future. As we are speaking, history is being made.”

Considerable student demand for the course led to Chehade’s teaching three sections of it at one point. As of fall 2013, Columbia offered Chehade two sections to his Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

As part of his course content in fall 2013, Chehade showed his students the award-winning documentary 5 Broken Cameras.

“The film itself is about the occupation of the village of Bil’in, the occupation of Palestine. My objective in showing the film was to humanize the issue,” says Chehade. “Student reaction was very positive.”

In spite of student demand for the course and student interest in the documentary, not long after showing it in his class, one of Chehade’s two spring 2014 sections was canceled.

“I received an email from the Chair’s office saying that they wanted to speak to me about an issue. Before going his office, I checked my mailbox and saw I’d been assigned two sections of the course for spring 2014.”

At Chair Steven Corey’s office, Chehade was told a student had complained of “bias” in his class. The student’s identity was not revealed, nor was Chehade able to discuss the allegation with the student. Corey instructed Chehade to be “more balanced” in his class, and asked him to produce his teaching qualifications, a request Chehade says is not in itself unusual. “But in the context of the situation, that makes it alarming.”

The week following the meeting with Corey, Chehade’s two sections were posted for Columbia’s spring 2014 offerings. Yet, within a couple of hours, one section of the course was eliminated, in violation of his contract with Columbia.

Chehade took the matter to the union, who brought the cancellation up with administration. “So they gave me another class,” says Chehade. “The class was The Middle East Up To Mohammad, which is 1400 years ago, 1300 hundred years removed from when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began.”

According to Academic Vice President and Provost Louise Love, the college supported Chehade’s showing of the film, which she lauded as “widely acclaimed” and noted provided “an important perspective.” However, in her statement, she went on to note that the elimination of sections “reflect a multitude of factors such as overall student enrollment, targets for average class size.”

“If their objective was to reduce classes, and increase class sizes, why did they give me a different class?” asks Chehade. “Whether they like the film or not is not the issue. Eliminating the opportunity for a professor to teach his perspective is the issue here. That’s exactly what they did.”

Since the sudden cancellation of his section, support has grown rapidly for the professor and for the larger issue of academic freedom. Chehade and the AAUP Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure maintain that the cancellation was an act of academic stifling.

“We have over 6000 signatures on our petition for academic freedom,” says Chehade. Signatories include supporters from around the world, as well as Columbia faculty, current and former students, and academics nation-wide. “Many people have volunteered their time on this campaign. Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace at Columbia College have been very active in bringing this issue to light.”

Regarding the cancellation, one former student, Alex Quiroz, notes: “I took this class knowing absolutely nothing about the conflict. Professor Chehade explained everything in a balanced and honest way. It would not be fair to other students who want to take this class.”

Noting the impact of pro-Israeli lobby efforts on college and university campuses nation-wide, Jewish-American Peter Cohen, signs “I find it unacceptable that a small, extremist and highly moneyed lobby that claims to represent my interests be allowed stifle legitimate voices and opinions in academia.”

Love, herself, has been at the heart of prior incidents repressing academics. Notably, in 2006, as the associate provost at Roosevelt university, Love supported Susan Weininger (then Chair of the Department of History, Art History, and Philosophy) in her firing of World Religions professor Douglas Giles.

“Weininger was upset with him over for allowing his students to have this open forum,” says Chedhade, noting that  it has been publicly documented that Weininger said to Giles, “What disturbs me is that you act like Palestinians have a side in this. They don’t have a side…they are animals…they are not civilized.”

Love in turn defended Weininger as “passionately defending” her position, Chehade notes.

“Imagine if she said that about an African-American or if she said that about a Jew? She would be fired. She should not be let within 1000 feet of an academic institution. Racism is racism. What type of message us Columbia College sending when you have this supporter of racism as one of the main heads of this institution?”

For Chehade, a Palestinian-American, Weininger’s comment and Love’s defense of her position is extremely insulting.

“I was sitting in front of this woman who I was grieving my issue to, knowing that she supported someone who said this about Palestinians. Columbia College should not have hired her. ”

In its letter to Louise Love, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Illinois first cites the Columbia College Collective Bargaining Agreement, which includes prohibiting “explicit or implicit threat of termination or discipline for the purpose of constraining a faculty member in the exercise of his or her rights under such principles of Academic Freedom. [CBA art. V (1), (2).”

Highlighting the standard norm of dealing with student complaints, the AAUP statement notes that the alleged complaint against Chehade “trespassed on the academic freedom of a professor and should have been referred back to the instructor for resolution.” Critically, the statement notes that “neither Dr. Steven Corey, the chairperson of the Department of Humanities, History and  Social Science nor School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Deborah Holdstein directed the student to take the complaint to the instructor,” calling their actions “a violation of widely accepted norms of academic due process.”

According to the AAUP, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is “not easy pedagogy because of the passions it arouses among disparate groups in the United States….It is beyond dispute that the film 5 Broken Cameras was directly related to the course topic.”

In response to Chair Corey’s admonition to Chehade that he be “balanced,” and Provost Love’s questioning Chehade whether he presented his material in a “balanced” manner, the AAUP notes that the issue of “balance is “frequently used to reign in a professor from critical thinking…towards a consensus approach that is more acceptable to elite or mainstream opinion.”

Similarly, for Chehade, the term “balance” is a loaded term. “When it is applied to the academic context, and specifically to the context of teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is extremely problematic. This is an issue that lacks balance. It’s an asymmetrical issue: there are a people that are occupied,millions who have no civil rights.  As a professor in a college, how do you present that as “balanced”? It would be like presenting the African-American struggle for liberation from the Jim Crow laws in the South as a“balanced” issue, where you have African Americans who are trying to gain rights, and you have white, southern oppressors who have institutionalized and systemized laws that violate their rights. How do you present that as “balanced”?  If somebody asked that from an African American professor, who presents the African-American struggle for liberation, it would be ludicrous.”

In the detailed account of the cancellation of one of Chehade’s sections, the AAUP Illinois finishes its statement by noting that the six days between Chehade’s meeting with Corey, and the subsequent removal of the second section are “linked events.”  Notably, the AAUP reiterates “we conclude that Professor Chehade’s academic freedom was violated as a result.”

In line with Chehade’s own expectations, the AAUP asks that Columbia College reinstate both sections of Chehade’s popular Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in fall 2014. They also emphasize the need for a “strategic reassessment” of Columbia’s policy of handling student complaints, noting that at present the system for doing so is “clearly broken and conducive to academic freedom violations.”

Chehade, who wants to ensure that other professors who speak about Palestine in a fact-based manner are not stifled, applauds the AAUP statement.

“I would like to thank the AAUP for their conclusion. Discussing the Occupation of Palestine is not an exception to the rule of Academic Freedom at Columbia College or any college campus in the United States.”

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on AAUP Backs Iymen Chehade, Supports Academic Freedom at Columbia College Chicago

PLO: Israel reneges on final prisoner release

Ma’an | March 28, 2014

RAMALLAH (AFP) — Israel has told the PLO it will not free the final group of prisoners they had been expecting alongside US-brokered peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said on Friday.

Under the deal which relaunched the talks in July, Israel said it would release 104 Palestinians held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims at the United Nations.

Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners in three batches but cabinet members had warned they would block the final release, anticipated for the end of March, if the Palestinians refused to extend the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

“The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29,” Jibril Rajub told AFP.

“Israel has refused to commit to the names that were agreed upon of prisoners held by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo agreements,” Rajub said.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

But Israeli ministers have said previously that the prisoner releases were always conditional on progress in the talks, which had failed to materialize.

Many also baulked at the inclusion of Palestinian citizens of Israel among the prisoners slated for release.

Rajub called the Israeli move a “slap in the face of the US administration and its efforts,” and said the Palestinians would resume their international diplomatic offensive.

“Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation,” he said.

The talks have been teetering on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework for continued negotiations until the end of the year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday in a bid to salvage the talks, with US special envoy Martin Indyk meeting the Palestinian leader in Ramallah on Thursday.

Israel’s government has announced the construction of thousands of settler housing units and its army has killed 60 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since the talks began.

The Israeli government has also insisted that it maintain a military and civilian presence in the occupied Jordan Valley, which forms around a third of the West Bank, and has insisted that the PLO recognize it as a “Jewish state,” despite having already officially recognized Israel decades earlier.

Ma’an staff contributed to this report

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on PLO: Israel reneges on final prisoner release

The Danger of False Narrative

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 27, 2014

The American people got a nasty taste of the danger that can come with false narrative when they were suckered into the Iraq War based on bogus claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction that he planned to share with al-Qaeda.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds thousands of Iraqis. The war’s total financial cost probably exceeded $1 trillion, a vast sum that siphoned off America’s economic vitality and forced cutbacks in everything from education to road repair. Plus, the war ended up creating an Iraqi base for al-Qaeda terrorists that had not existed before.

But perhaps an even more dangerous problem coming out of the Iraq War was that almost no one in Official Washington who pushed the false narrative – whether in politics or in the press – was held accountable in any meaningful way. Many of the same pols and pundits remain in place today, pushing similar false narratives on new crises, from Ukraine to Syria to Iran.

Those false narratives – and their cumulative effect on policy-making – now represent a clear and present danger to the Republic and, indeed, to the world. The United States, after all, is the preeminent superpower with unprecedented means for delivering death and destruction. But almost nothing is being done to address this enduring American crisis of deception.

Today, Official Washington is marching in lockstep just as it did in 2002-03 when it enforced the misguided consensus on Iraq’s WMD. The latest case is Ukraine where Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of committing “aggression” to expand Russian territory at the expense of noble ”democratic” reformers in Kiev.

Not only is this the dominant storyline in the U.S. media; it is virtually the only narrative permitted in the mainstream press. But the real narrative is that the United States and the European Union provoked this crisis by trying to take Ukraine out of its traditional sphere of influence, Russia, and put it in to a new association with the EU.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Ukraine joining with the EU or staying with Russia (or a combination of the two) – depending on the will of the people and their elected representatives – this latest U.S./EU plan was motivated, at least in part, by hostility toward Russia.

That attitude was expressed in a Sept. 26, 2013, op-ed in the Washington Post by Carl Gershman, the neoconservative president of the National Endowment for Democracy, which doles out more than $100 million in U.S. funds a year to help organize “activists,” support “journalists” and finance programs that can be used to destabilize targeted governments.

Gershman, whose job amounts to being a neocon paymaster, expressed antagonism toward Russia in the op-ed and identified Ukraine as “the biggest prize,” the capture of which could ultimately lead to the ouster of Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

The NED, which was founded in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, listed 65 projects that it was financing in Ukraine, using U.S. taxpayers’ money. In other words, Gershman’s op-ed reflected U.S. policy – at least inside the State Department’s still-neocon-dominated bureaucracy – which viewed the EU’s snatching of Ukraine from Russia’s embrace as a way to weaken Russia and hurt Putin.

‘European Aspirations’

Later, as the Ukrainian crisis unfolded, another neocon, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, reminded Ukrainian businessmen that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” implying that the U.S. expected something for all this money.

You might wonder why the American taxpayers should spend $5 billion on the “European aspirations” of Ukraine when there are so many needs at home, but a more relevant question may be: Why is the United States spending that much money to stir up trouble on Russia’s border? The Cold War is over but the hostility continues.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described this thinking in his memoir, Duty, explaining the view of President George H.W. Bush’s Defense Secretary Dick Cheney: “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”

As Vice President, Cheney and the neocons around him pursued a similar strategy during George W. Bush’s presidency, expanding NATO aggressively to the east and backing anti-Russian regimes in the region including the hardline Georgian government, which provoked a military confrontation with Moscow in 2008.

Since President Barack Obama never took full control of his foreign policy apparatus – leaving the Bush Family apparatchik Gates at Defense and naming neocon-leaning Democrat Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – the bureaucratic momentum toward confronting Russia continued. Indeed, the elevation of operatives like Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, gave new impetus to the anti-Russian strategy.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who got his “dream job” last year with the considerable help of his neocon chum Sen. John McCain, has acted as a kind of sock puppet for this neocon-dominated State Department bureaucracy.

Either because he is overly focused on his legacy-building initiative of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal or because he has long since sold out his anti-war philosophy from the Vietnam War era, Kerry has repeatedly taken the side of the hawks: on Syria, Iran and now Ukraine.

On Syria and Iran, it was largely the behind-the-scenes cooperation between Obama and Putin that tamped down those crises last year and opened a pathway for diplomacy – much to the chagrin of the neocons who favored heightened confrontations, U.S. military strikes and “regime change.” Thus, it became a neocon priority to divide Obama from Putin. Ukraine became the wedge.

The Crisis

The Ukrainian crisis took a decisive turn on Nov. 21, 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovych rebuffed a deal offered by the EU and the International Monetary Fund because it would have imposed harsh austerity on the already suffering Ukrainian people. Yanukovych opted instead for a more generous aid package of $15 billion from Russia, with few strings attached.

But Yanukovych’s turning away from the EU infuriated the U.S. State Department as well as pro-European demonstrators who filled the Maidan square in Kiev. The protests reflected the more anti-Russian attitudes of western Ukraine, where Kiev is located, but not the more pro-Russian feelings of eastern and southern Ukraine, Yanukovych’s strongholds that accounted for his electoral victory in 2010.

Though the Maidan protests involved hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians simply eager for a better life and a less corrupt government, some of the most militant factions came from far-right parties, like Svoboda, and even neo-Nazi militias from the Right Sektor. When protesters seized City Hall, Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag were put on display.

As the protests grew angrier, U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain, openly sided with the demonstrators despite banners honoring Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era fascist whose paramilitary forces collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Poles and Jews. Nuland passed out cookies and McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. [For more on the role of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, watch this report from the BBC.]

On Feb. 20, the violence intensified as mysterious snipers fired on both protesters and police. As police fought back, neo-Nazi militias hurled Molotov cocktails. More than 80 people were killed including more than a dozen police officers, but the U.S. press blamed the Yanukovych government for the violence, portraying the demonstrators as innocent victims.

Official Washington’s narrative was set. Yanukovych, who had been something of a hero when he was moving toward the EU agreement in the early fall, became a villain after he decided that the IMF’s demands were too severe and especially after he accepted the deal from Putin. The Russian president was undergoing his own demonization in the U.S. news media, including an extraordinary denunciation by NBC at the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In the U.S. media’s black-and-white scenario, the “pro-democracy” demonstrators in the Maidan were the good guys who were fired upon by the bad-guy police. The New York Times even stopped reporting that some of those killed were police, instead presenting the more pleasing but phony narrative that “more than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.”

To this day, the identity of the snipers who touched off the conflagration remains in serious doubt. I was told at the time that some U.S. intelligence analysts believed the shooters were associated with the far-right opposition groups, not with the Yanukovych government.

That analysis gained support when a phone call surfaced between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Paet reported on a conversation that he had with a doctor in Kiev who said the sniper fire that killed protesters was the same that killed police officers.

As reported by the UK Guardian, “During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.”

Paet said, “What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides.

“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. … So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”

Ashton replied: “I think we do want to investigate. I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh.”

Though this exchange does not prove that the opposition used snipers to provoke the violence, it is relevant information that could have altered how Americans viewed the worsening crisis in Ukraine. However, except for an on-the-scene report from CNN with the same doctor, the Paet-Ashton phone call disappeared into the U.S. media’s black hole reserved for information that doesn’t fit with a preferred narrative.

Black Hats/White Hats

So, with giant black hats glued onto Yanukovych and Putin and white hats on the protesters, the inspiring but false U.S. narrative played out in heroic fashion, with only passing reference to the efforts by Yanukovych to make concessions and satisfy the protesters’ demands.

On Feb. 21, Yanukovych tried to defuse the violence by signing an agreement with three European countries in which he accepted reduced powers, moved up elections so he could be voted out of office, and pulled back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to seize government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.

Then, on Feb. 22, under the watchful eye of these modern-day storm troopers, a rump parliament – in violation of constitutional procedures – voted to impeach Yanukovych, who reemerged in Russia to denounce the actions as a coup.

Despite this highly irregular process, the U.S. government – following the lead of the State Department bureaucracy – immediately recognized the new leadership as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government. Putin later appealed to Obama in support of the Feb. 21 agreement but was told the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of the U.S.-backed government were a fait accompli.

The rump parliament in Kiev also accused Yanukovych of mass murder in connection with the shootings in the Maidan — an accusation that got widespread play in the U.S. media – although curiously the new regime also decided not to pursue an investigation into the identity of the mysterious snipers, a point that drew no U.S. media interest.

And, a new law was passed in line with the desires of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists to eliminate Russian as one of the country’s official languages. New government leaders also were dispatched to the Russian-ethnic regions to take charge, moves that, in turn, prompted resistance from Russian-ethnic citizens in the east and south.

It was in this context – and with appeals from Yanukovych and ethnic Russians for help – that Putin got permission from the Duma to intervene militarily if necessary. Russian troops, already stationed in bases in Crimea, moved to block the Kiev regime from asserting its authority in that strategic Black Sea peninsula.

Amidst this political chaos, the Crimean parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, putting the question to a popular vote on March 16. Not surprisingly, given the failed Ukrainian state, its inability to pay for basic services, and Crimea’s historic ties to Russia, Crimean voters approved the switch overwhelmingly. Exit polls showed about a 93 percent majority, just three points less than the official results.

Russia then moved to formally reclaim Crimea, which had been part of Russia dating back to the 1700s, while also massing troops along the borders of eastern Ukraine, presumably as a warning to the Kiev regime not to crush popular resistance to the anti-Yanukovych coup.

A Divergent Narrative

So, the factual narrative suggests that the Ukrainian crisis was stoked by elements of the U.S. government, both in the State Department and in Congress, encouraging and exploiting popular resentments in western Ukraine. The goal was to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and put it into the EU’s gravitational pull.

When Yanukovych balked at IMF’s demands, a process of “regime change” was put in motion with the U.S. and EU even turning their backs on the Feb. 21 agreement in which Yanukovych made a series of concessions negotiated by European countries. The deal was cast aside in a matter of hours with no attempt by the West to uphold its terms.

Meanwhile, Putin, who was tied up with the Sochi Olympics and obsessed over fears that it would be targeted by Islamist terrorists, appears to have been caught off-guard by the events in Ukraine. He then reacted to the alarming developments on Russia’s border, including the emergence of neo-Nazis as prominent figures in the coup regime in Kiev.

In other words, a logical – and indeed realistic – way to see the Ukraine-Crimea crisis is that Putin was largely responding to events that were outside his control. And that is important to understand, because that would mean that Putin was not the aggressor spoiling for a fight.

If there was premeditation, it was coming from the West and particularly from the neocons who remain highly influential in Official Washington. The neocons also had motive to go after Putin, since he helped Obama use diplomacy to quiet down dangerous crises with Syria and Iran while the neocons were pushing for more confrontation and U.S. military strikes.

But how did the U.S. news media present the Ukraine story to the American people?

First, there was the simplistic and misleading depiction of the pro-EU demonstrations as “democratic” when they mostly reflected the discontent of the pro-European population of western Ukraine, not the views of the more pro-Russian Ukrainians in the east and south who had pushed Yanukovych to victory in the 2010 election. Last time I checked, “democracy” referred to rule by the majority, not mob rule.

Then, despite the newsworthiness of the neo-Nazi role in the protests, the U.S. news media blacked-out these brown shirts because that ugly reality undercut the pleasing good-guys-vs.-bad-guys storyline. Then, when the snipers opened fire on protesters and policemen, the U.S. news media jumped to the conclusion that the killers were working for Yanukovych because that, too, fit with the desired narrative.

The violent overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych was hailed as an expression of “democracy,” again with the crucial role of the neo-Nazi militias largely airbrushed from the picture. The unanimous and near unanimous parliamentary votes that followed – as storm troopers patrolled the halls of government buildings – were further cited as evidence of “democracy” and “reform.”

The anger and fear of Ukrainians in the east and south were dismissed as Russian “propaganda” and Crimea’s move to extract itself from this political chaos was denounced as Russian “aggression.” U.S. news outlets casually denounced Putin as a “thug.” Washington Post columnist George F. Will called Putin “Stalin’s spawn.”

Former Secretary of State Clinton cited the Crimea situation to compare Putin to Hitler and to suggest that Putin was intent on recreating the old Soviet empire, though Crimea is only 10,000 square miles, about one-tenth of one percent the size of the old Soviet Union.

And, it wasn’t just that some or nearly all mainstream U.S. news organizations adopted this one-sided and misguided narrative. It was a consensus throughout all major U.S. news outlets. With a uniformity that one would normally associate with a totalitarian state, no competing narrative was permitted in the Big Media, regardless of the actual facts.

Whenever any of the more complex reality was included in a story, it was presented as Russian claims that were then followed by argumentative challenges. Yet, when U.S. officials made preposterous remarks about how uncivilized it was to violate another country’s sovereignty, the hypocrisy of their points went uncontested.

For instance, Secretary of State Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” But you had to look on the Internet to find any writer who dared note Kerry’s breathtaking double standard, since he voted in 2002 to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in pursuit of hidden WMD stockpiles that didn’t exist.

This cognitive dissonance pervaded the U.S. press and the political debate over Ukraine and Crimea. The long history of U.S. interventions in foreign countries – almost always in violation of international law – was forgotten, except for the rare occasion when some Russian “claim” about American hypocrisy was cited and then swatted down. [See Consortiumnews.com’sAmerica’s Staggering Hypocrisy.”]

Careerism Prevails

Having worked many years in the mainstream U.S. news media, I fully understand how this process works and why it happens. Amid the patriotic chest-thumping that usually accompanies a U.S. military operation or American righteous outrage over some other nation’s actions, it is dangerous for your career to go against the flag-waving.

But it’s always been my view that such self-censorship is faux patriotism, as much as the happy story-lines are false narratives. Even if many Americans don’t want the truth, it is still the job of journalists to give them the truth. Otherwise, the U.S. democratic process is distorted and made dangerous.

Propaganda leads to bad policies as politicians – even when they know better – start parroting the errant conventional wisdom. We’ve seen this now with President Obama who – more than anyone – realizes the value of Putin’s cooperation on Syria and Iran but now must join in denouncing the Russian president and demanding sanctions.

Obama also surely knows that Yanukovych’s ouster violated both Ukraine’s constitution and principles of democracy, but he pretends otherwise. And, he knows that Crimea’s secession reflected the will of the people, but he must insist that their vote was illegitimate.

At a March 25 news conference in the Netherlands, Obama toed the line of the hypocritical false narrative. He declared, “we have said consistently throughout this process is that it is up to the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about how they organize themselves and who they interact with.” He then added that the Crimean referendum was “sloppily organized over the course of two weeks” and thus a sham.

If Obama were telling the truth, he would have noted that Yanukovych – for all his faults – was democratically elected in a process that was deemed fair by international observers. Obama would have acknowledged that Yanukovych agreed on Feb. 21 to a process that would have allowed for an orderly and legal process for his replacement.

Obama would have admitted, too, that the violent coup and the actions of the rump parliament in Kiev were both illegal and, indeed, “sloppily organized” – and that the U.S. government acted hastily in recognizing this coup regime. But double standards seem to be the only standards these days in Official Washington.

What is perhaps tragic about Obama is that he does know better. He is not a stupid man. But he doesn’t dare go against the grain for fear of being denounced as “naïve” about Putin or “weak” in not facing down “Russian aggression.” So, he reads the lines that have been, in effect, dictated by neocons within his own administration.

I’m told that Obama, like Putin, was caught off-guard by the Ukraine crisis. But Obama’s unwillingness or inability to recast the false narrative left him with no political choice but to join in the Putin-bashing. That, in turn, means that Putin won’t be there to help Obama navigate around future U.S. war plans that the neocons have in mind for Syria and Iran.

Indeed, neutralizing the Obama-Putin relationship may have been the chief reason why the neocons were so eager to stoke the Ukrainian fires — and it shows how false narratives can get people killed.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Danger of False Narrative

Ukraine parliament passes austerity bill required by IMF

RT | March 28, 2014

The Ukrainian parliament has adopted an anti-crisis bill proposed by the IMF to secure an international financial aid package. Ordinary Ukrainians will have to tighten their belts to help the coup-installed government keep the collapsing economy afloat.

It took two readings of the bill for 246 MPs out of 321 registered to approve the austerity measures outlined in the legislation dubbed “On prevention of financial catastrophe and creation of prerequisites for economic growth.”

Ahead of the vote, Ukrainian self-imposed Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk told the Parliament that it had “no other choice but to accept the IMF offer,” as country fiscal gap in 2014 is projected to reach $26 billion. Ukraine’s Finance Ministry says it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default.

“The country is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy,” Yatsenyuk said. “This package of laws is very unpopular, very difficult, very tough. Reforms that should have been done in the past 20 years.”

It is ordinary Ukrainians who will suffer the most under the new austerity measures as the floating national currency is likely to push up inflation, while spike in domestic gas prices will impact every household. Under the IMF conditions Kiev has to cut the budget deficit, increase retail energy tariffs, and shift to a flexible exchange rate.

The state-owned energy company Naftogaz already said that it will increase household gas prices by 50 percent starting May 1, while utility companies will see a 40 percent rise as of July. According to estimates, this year Ukraine’s economy will contract by 3 percent while inflation will rise to 14 percent. The government is not planning to raise minimum wages in response to inflation.

The law adopted on Thursday, in particular, introduces a permanent application of the basic rate of corporate income tax at 18 percent and VAT at 20 percent, according to RBC-Ukraine. The government will also cancel the VAT refund for grain exporters.

The bill also introduces a 15 percent tax rate on pension payments if they exceed 10 thousand hryvnas (about $900). This tax, however, won’t really hurt an ordinary Ukrainian pensioner since an average pension in Ukraine is $160 – which may be further cut by 50% for those still working.

A progressive personal income taxation scale has also been installed to charge individuals 15, 17, 20 and 25 percent depending on their earnings. Those persons who make over 1 million hryvnas will be charged 25 percent income tax.

Car enthusiasts will also suffer as taxes on new cars and motorcycles with engine capacity exceeding 0.5 liters will also be doubled. Those who shop online and use overseas retailers will now see lowering of the limit on tax-free imports from 300 to 150 euros.

Excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco will also go up. In 2014 spirits price will see a 39 percent increase, while tobacco products will see a rise of 31.5 percent. Beer lovers will suffer the most with a 42.5 percent rise.

The legislation also reduces the total number of personnel in law enforcement agencies. Almost 80,000 people will be dismissed in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service, the Office of the State Guard, and the prosecutor’s office.

The International Monetary Fund has agreed to throw Ukraine’s sinking economy a lifeline provided the country adopts severe austerity measures. According to a preliminary agreement announced by the IMF, it would provide Kiev between $14 and $18 billion in loans over the next two years. Pending final approval by the IMF’s board, Ukraine could get their hands on the first installment as early as April.

“The mission has reached a staff-level agreement with the authorities of Ukraine on an economic reform program that can be supported by a two-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF,” the Fund said in a press release.

A successful deal with the IMF is expected to unleash further $10 billion in loans from other international partners, including the EU and the US. The World Bank is also considering the possibility of providing Ukraine with $1 to $3 billion. Canada, Japan and Poland are also contemplating financial aid.

“The financial support from the broader international community that the program will unlock amounts to US$27 billion over the next two years. Of this, assistance from the IMF will range between US$14-18 billion, with the precise amount to be determined once reforms are in place,” the IMF said.

In Washington, both the Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to provide a $1 billion loan guarantee aid to Ukraine. In addition the Senate bill includes $50 million for democracy building and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation.

“This significant support will help stabilise the economy and meet the needs of Ukrainian people over the long term because it provides the prospect for true growth,” US President Barack Obama said in Rome.

Despite the promised injection of cash into Ukraine, Nikolay Gueorguiev, IMF Mission Chief for Ukraine said that “Nonetheless, the economic outlook remains difficult, with the economy falling back into recession,” he said cited by Kyivpost. “With no current market access, large foreign debt repayments loom in 2014-2015.”

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Ukraine parliament passes austerity bill required by IMF