Washington’s quest for perpetual world power is underwritten by systematic and perpetual propaganda wars. Every major and minor war has been preceded, accompanied and followed by unremitting government propaganda designed to secure public approval, exploit victims, slander critics, dehumanize targeted adversaries and justify its allies’ collaboration.
In this paper we will discuss the most common recent techniques used to support ongoing imperial wars.
Propaganda Techniques of Empire
A common technique, practiced by the imperial publicists, is to accuse the victims of the same crimes, which had been committed against them. The well documented, deliberate and sustained US-EU aerial bombardment of Syrian government soldiers, engaged in operations against ISIS-terrorist, resulted in the deaths and maiming of almost 200 Syrian troops and allowed ISIS-mercenaries to overrun their camp. In an attempt to deflect the Pentagon’s role in providing air cover for the very terrorists it claims to oppose, the propaganda organs cranked out lurid, but unsubstantiated, stories of an aerial attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy, first blamed on the Syrian government and then on the Russians. The evidence that the attack was most likely a ground-based rocket attack by ISIS terrorists did not deter the propaganda mills. This technique would turn US and European attention away from the documented criminal attack by the imperial bombers and present the victimized Syrian troops and pilots as international human rights criminals.
Faced with world opprobrium for its wanton violation of an international ceasefire agreement in Syria, the imperial public spokespeople frequently resort to irrational outbursts at international meetings in order to intimidate wavering allies into silence and shut down any chance for reasonable debate resolving concrete issues among adversaries.
The current ‘US Ranter-in-Chief’ in the United Nations, is Ambassador Samantha Power, who launched a vitriolic diatribe against the Russians in order to sabotage a proposed General Assembly debate on the US deliberate violation (its criminal attack on Syrian troops) of the recent Syrian ceasefire. Instead of a reasonable debate among serious diplomats, the rant served to derail the proceedings.
Identity Politics to Neutralize Anti-Imperialist Movements
Empire is commonly identified with the race, gender, religion and ethnicity of its practitioners. Imperial propagandists have frequently resorted to disarming and weakening anti-imperialist movements by co-opting and corrupting black, ethnic minority and women leaders and spokespeople. The use of such ‘symbolic’ tokens is based on the assumption that these are ‘representatives’ reflecting the true interests of so-called ‘marginalized minorities’ and can therefore presume to ‘speak for the oppressed peoples of the world’. The promotion of such compliant and respectable ‘minority members’ to the elite is then propagandized as a ‘revolutionary’, world liberating historical event – witness the ‘election’ of US President Barack Obama.
The rise of Obama to the presidency in 2008 illustrates how the imperial propagandists have used identity politics to undermine class and anti-imperialist struggles.
Under Obama’s historical black presidency, the US pursued seven wars against ‘people of color’ in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Over a million men and women of sub-Saharan black origin, whether Libyan citizens or contract workers for neighboring countries, were killed, dispossessed and driven into exile by US allies after the US-EU destroyed the Libyan state — in the name of humanitarian intervention. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs have been bombed in Yemen, Syria and Iraq under President Obama, the so-called ‘historic black’ president. Obama’s ‘predator drones’ have killed hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani villagers. Such is the power of ‘identity politics’ that ignominious Obama was awarded the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’.
Meanwhile, in the United States under Obama, racial inequalities between black and white workers (wages, unemployment, access to housing, health and educational services) have widened. Police violence against blacks intensified with total impunity for ‘killer cops’. Over two million immigrant Latino workers have been expelled – breaking up hundreds of thousands of families — and accompanied by a marked increase of repression compared to earlier administrations. Millions of black and white workers’ home mortgages were foreclosed while all of the corrupt banks were bailed out – at a greater rate than had occurred under white presidents.
This blatant, cynical manipulation of identity politics facilitated the continuation and deepening of imperial wars, class exploitation and racial exclusion. Symbolic representation undermined class struggles for genuine changes.
Past Suffering to Justify Contemporary Exploitation
Imperial propagandists repeatedly evoke the victims and abuses of the past in order to justify their own aggressive imperial interventions and support for the ‘land grabs’ and ethnic cleansing committed by their colonial allies – like Israel, among others. The victims and crimes of the past are presented as a perpetual presence to justify ongoing brutalities against contemporary subject people.
The case of US-Israeli colonization of Palestine clearly illustrates how rabid criminality, pillage, ethnic cleansing and self-enrichment can be justified and glorified through the language of past victimization. Propagandists in the US and Israel have created ‘the cult of the Holocaust’, worshiping a near century-old Nazi crime against Jews (as well as captive Slavs, Roma and other minorities) in Europe, to justify the bloody conquest and theft of Arab lands and sovereignty and engage in systematic military assaults against Lebanon and Syria. Millions of Muslim and Christian Palestinians have been driven into perpetual exile. Elite, wealthy, well-organized and influential Zionist Jews, with primary fealty to Israel, have successfully sabotaged every contemporary struggle for peace in the Middle East and have created real barriers for social democracy in the US through their promotion of militarism and empire building. Those claiming to represent victims of the past have become among the most oppressive of contemporary elites. Using the language of ‘defense’, they promote aggressive forms of expansion and pillage. They claim their monopoly on historic ‘suffering’ has given them a ‘special dispensation’ from the rules of civilized conduct: their cult of the Holocaust allows them to inflict immense pain on others while silencing any criticism with the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ and relentlessly punishing critics. Their key role in imperial propaganda warfare is based on their claims of an exclusive franchise on suffering and immunity from the norms of justice.
Entertainment Spectacles on Military Platforms
Entertainment spectacles glorify militarism. Imperial propagandists link the public to unpopular wars promoted by otherwise discredited leaders. Sports events present soldiers dressed up as war heroes with deafening, emotional displays of ‘flag worship’ to celebrate the ongoing overseas wars of aggression. These mind-numbing extravaganzas with crude elements of religiosity demand choreographed expressions of national allegiance from the spectators as a cover for continued war crimes abroad and the destruction of citizens’ economic rights at home.
Much admired, multi-millionaire musicians and entertainers of all races and orientations, present war to the masses with a humanitarian facade. The entertainers smiling faces serve genocide just as powerfully as the President’s benign and friendly face accompanies his embrace of militarism. The propagandist message for the spectator is that ‘your favorite team or singer is there just for you… because our noble wars and valiant warriors have made you free and now they want you to be entertained.’
The old style of blatant bellicose appeals to the public is obsolete: the new propaganda conflates entertainment with militarism, allowing the ruling elite to secure tacit support for its wars without disturbing the spectators’ experience.
Do the Imperial Techniques of Propaganda Work?
How effective are the modern imperial propaganda techniques? The results seem to be mixed. In recent months, elite black athletes have begun protesting white racism by challenging the requirement for choreographed displays of flag worship… opening public controversy into the larger issues of police brutality and sustained marginalization. Identity politics, which led to the election of Obama, may be giving way to issues of class struggle, racial justice, anti-militarism and the impact of continued imperial wars. Hysterical rants may still secure international attention, but repeated performances begin to lose their impact and subject the ‘ranter’ to ridicule.
The cult of victimology has become less a rationale for the multi-billion dollar US-tribute to Israel, than the overwhelming political and economic influence and thuggery of billionaire Zionist fundraisers who demand US politicians’ support for the state of Israel.
Brandishing identify politics may have worked the first few times, but inevitably black, Latino, immigrant and all exploited workers, all underpaid and overworked women and mothers reject the empty symbolic gestures and demand substantive socio-economic changes – and here they find common links with the majority of exploited white workers.
In other words, the existing propaganda techniques are losing their edge – the corporate media news is seen as a sham. Who follows the actor-soldiers and flag-worshipers once the game has begun?
The propagandists of empire are desperate for a new line to grab public attention and obedience. Could the recent domestic terror bombings in New York and New Jersey provoke mass hysteria and more militarization? Could they serve as cover for more wars abroad …?
A recent survey, published in Military Times, reported that the vast majority of active US soldiers oppose more imperial wars. They are calling for defense at home and social justice. Soldiers and veterans have even formed groups to support the protesting black athletes who have refused to participate in flag worship while unarmed black men are being killed by police in the streets. Despite the multi-billion dollar electoral propaganda, over sixty percent of the electorate reject both major party candidates. The reality principle has finally started to undermine State propaganda!
There is one thing that defines everyone over the course of these early years of this new century. That thing is the 9/11 attack. Everyone in government and every field of endeavor the world over is defined by their position on this event. It is not necessary to know the truth. It is only necessary to know the extent of the lies in order to define any leader in any position anywhere in the world. By what they have said and by what they have not said, one can accurately judge who is an enemy of the people’s of the world. One can accurately determine who is a tool of the psychopaths or one of them.
Heretic Productions present; Les Visible’s, 9/11 Is the LitmusTest
US and EU sanctions against Syria are punishing the population and make aid work in the war-torn country almost impossible, a leaked UN report and internal letters have revealed.
The restrictive measures contributed to the destabilization of every sector of the economy in Syria that used to be self-sufficient before the war began in 2011.
The country now heavily depends on aid, which is hard to deliver as sanctions make medicine, food, fuel, spare parts and other essentials unreachable, a 40-page UN report, cited by The Intercept, stressed.
The paper entitled ‘Humanitarian Impact of Syria-Related Unilateral Restrictive Measures’ was published in mid-May, but The Intercept got hold of it now, adding other materials on the issue.
The report blasted US and EU restrictions as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.”
According to the UN, the sanctions introduced by Washington are extremely harsh regarding provision of humanitarian aid. The American restrictions made money transfers into Syria almost impossible, preventing aid groups from paying salaries and purchasing supplies “in both government and besieged areas,” the report said. It stimulated the creation of a shady, unofficial network of money exchange, which is actively being used by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists.
The trade restrictions ban the export to Syria of all goods, containing at least 10 percent of US-made content. This puts the aid groups in a difficult situation as, in order to transfer specific items, they are forced to apply for a special license, which is very hard to obtain due to bureaucratic barriers, according to the report.
An internal UN email, also obtained by The Intercept, blamed the US and EU restrictions for food shortages in the country.
Wheat production has dropped 40 percent in the country since 2010, raising the price of wheat flour by 300 percent and rice – by 650 percent. An August letter from “a key UN official” also said that the restrictions were a “principal factor” in the crippling of the Syrian health care.
The medication factories, which weren’t destroyed during the hostilities, still had to close due to absence of raw materials and foreign currency caused by the sanction, the official wrote.
The Intercept contacted the US State Department on the issue, which refused to acknowledge any of the claims or that the sanctions are hurting civilians in Syria.
“US sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people,” the State Department said in emailed response.
“The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers. He has the ability to relieve this suffering at any time, should he meet his commitment to provide full, sustained access for delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas that the U.N. has determined need it,” the email added.
Sanctions have been gradually introduced against Syria since 1979 when Washington labeled the country sponsor of terrorism. But the harshest restrictions came in 2011 when the uprising and military conflict in the country started.
US ‘spare Nusra for plan B’ to change regime in Syria – Lavrov
UPDATE (9/30/2016): As a result of this article, the Kansas City Public Library has issued a statement regarding the incident. Read that statement below.
“For someone to be assaulted and then arrested for asking a question, in a public library of all places, is abhorrent. The library should be a place where people of all points of view can feel safe and welcome,” Steve Woolfolk, director of public programing at the Kansas City Public Library told the Dissent NewsWire.
But that is exactly what happened during a question and answer session with former Bush Administration official and current Washington Institute for Near East Policy distinguished fellow Dennis Ross, when a local activist was arrested after asking Ross a question.
“I have spent the last 10 years of my life trying to cultivate that atmosphere through public programming at the library. Library staff should be the final arbiters of what constitutes reasonable discourse at a public event held inside a public library,” Woolfolk explained to the Dissent NewsWire. Yet, when he tried to intervene on the questioner’s behalf, Woolfolk found himself arrested at an event he helped plan.
The Kansas City Public Library is no stranger to hosting events, sometimes with controversial speakers. According to Woolfolk, the library hosts about 12 to 20 events a month and in the past has featured such speakers as Sandra Day O’Connor, Stephen Breyer, Dan Rather, Hal Holbrook, Robert Reich, and David Boaz. While Woolfolk does not like bringing armed security into the library, he notes that the library will make exceptions for talks that are particularly controversial. However, in spite of hosting several controversial speakers in the past or having audience members asking highly incendiary questions, the library has never had a problem. Woolfolk explains that when someone goes on for too long at the microphone, he merely politely reminds them that there are many others waiting for a chance to ask a question, a tactic he says has worked successfully in the past.
On May 9, 2016, the Kansas City Public Library hosted an event entitled “Truman and Israel,” featuring Ross, and sponsored by the library, the Truman Library Foundation, and the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) of Greater Kansas City. Given that there had been a shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City several years back, the library agreed to allow off-duty police to be on the scene. However, the library set two conditions. First, nobody could be forcibly removed for asking an unpopular question. Second, nobody could be removed at all without consulting with the library staff, who would only allow an individual to be removed if staff concluded they were an imminent threat. In addition to the off-duty police officers, private security guards associated with the JCF were also present. In spite of these precautions, a local peace activist, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, was removed. When Woolfolk tried to sort things out he was arrested.
According to Rothe-Kushe, he believes he was singled out due to his outspoken activism as soon as he had arrived at the event. Rothe-Kushel, who had RSVP’ed in advance, alleges that security subjected him and an associate to more rigorous security protocols, including a search of his bag, that the other hundreds of attendees were not made to endure.
After Ross’s presentation, the floor was opened to the audience for questions. Woolfolk stood just off-stage, in case there was any question about removing someone. Rothe-Kushel was first in line and managed to ask Ross a question. After Ross answered, Rothe-Kushel, who was still standing at the microphone at this time, attempted to offer his own response to Ross. A private security guard grabbed Rothe-Kushel, who asked the guard not to touch him, before being grabbed more aggressively. At this point, one of the off-duty police officers came over, and according to Woolfolk three different individuals were grabbing Rothe-Kushel. Woolfolk walked over, and with his hands at his sides, stood between the security detail and Rothe-Kushel. He told the security detail that he was director of programming for the library and that Rothe-Kushel had indicated that the would leave voluntarily if asked to. The security detail let go of Rothe-Kushel and he left.
Woolfolk, from past experiences with off duty police, knew that the only thing they could arrest Rothe-Kushel for was trespassing. Woolfolk wanted to make clear that this was a public event at a public library and thus Rothe-Kushel was not trespassing. He went to find his supervisor, but before he could do so Woolfolk says an off-duty and out of uniform police officer grabbed him from behind and threw him against a pillar. Per Woolfolk, the officer never announced who he was or told Woolfolk he was under arrest, but just kept telling him to “stop resisting.” As Woolfolk told the Dissent NewsWire, he informed the officer, “I’d be happy to do whatever he wanted, and that all I was resisting was the urge to fall face first onto the floor.” According to Woolfolk, a second police officer, this one in uniform, delivered several blows to Woolfolk’s knee, causing him to be diagnosed with grade 1 torn MCL. Eventually he was thrown over a chair and handcuffed. When he asked what he was being arrested for, the officer told him he didn’t know.
Woolfolk stands charged with interfering with the arrest of Rothe-Kushel. Rothe-Kushel, like Woolfolk feared, was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. “Nobody, be it an individual or an agent of the state, should be able to take it upon themselves to silence a point of view simply because they disagree,” Woolfolk informed the Dissent NewsWire. Yet, it would appear that not only is that exactly what happened, but a librarian who tried to make sure that a public library remained a public forum was arrested, as well.
Official Statement from the Kansas City Public Library (9/30/2016)
The Kansas City Public Library continues to work through the aftermath of an incident near the end of its May 9, 2016, event featuring longtime Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, which resulted in the arrest of two people including a Library manager by off-duty police.
The episode at the Library’s Plaza Branch arose from a question to Ross, posed by a local activist during the evening’s question-and-answer session. The reaction by members of an outside security detail, who immediately accosted the questioner, was improper and an infringement on free speech, Library Director Crosby Kemper maintains. And he says the ensuing arrests were unwarranted.
“The Library strives to be a place where people of all points of view can feel safe, welcome, and free to express themselves in an appropriate way,” Kemper says. “And so this incident deeply troubles us.”
The off-duty officers were part of a small, private security squad arranged by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, one of the Library’s partners in the event. That was to supplement standard Library security. The activist, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, was first to the microphone when Ross’ presentation turned to Q&A, and his question inferred that the U.S. and Israel have engaged in state-sponsored terrorism. Ross responded and, when Rothe-Kushel attempted to follow up, he was grabbed by one of the private security guards and then by others in the private security detail. Steven Woolfolk, the Library’s director of programming and marketing, attempted to intervene, noting that public discourse is accepted and encouraged at a public event held in a public library.
Rothe-Kushel was subsequently arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest. Woolfolk was charged with interfering with his arrest. Their cases are pending.
Kemper termed the response of private security and police “an egregious violation of First Amendment rights.
“The First Amendment’s protection of the rights of free speech and assembly is cherished by all Americans but particularly by libraries and their patrons,” he says. “An overzealous off-duty police officer violated the rights of one of our patrons at Ambassador Ross’ talk in the Library and doubled down by arresting Steve Woolfolk, who was trying to explain the Library’s rules to the officer.
“In defense of the freedom of speech, the Library stands fully in support of Steve.”
Library Patron and Librarian Facing Charges Following Arrests by Homeland Security Liaison During Public Q&A with former Ambassador Dennis Ross
See also interview with Jeremy 9/30
Below is a transcript of the clip with a few additional comments based on another video:
Hi, thank you. I’m very interested in the issue of tribalism and terror. Just today, I ran into an article referencing Truman’s daughter’s, Margaret’s book, disclosing that the Stern Gang sent mail bombs to Truman in ‘47, and we know that when I think – I can’t remember which group blew up the King David Hotel, but Jews were amongst the dead involved in that ‘necessary statecraft’, what ultimately became that. So you see this long history of not only the United States, but Israel utilizing terrorism that includes potentially the death of its own tribe to advance its own geopolitical cause all the way up into the 21st century, including September 11th and that whole mess that I would tell people to look at Alan Sabrosky, the Jewish, courageous Marine who’s exposed the Zionist role in that. So I would ask you, at what point does the Jewish diaspora – do we have to have the ethical courage – I’m a Jewish American – to point out that especially in America, both the countries that operate in our name have used terrorism way too long, including against its own citizens, to project power at home and abroad. When are we going to stand up and be ethical Jews and Americans?
Well, look, I don’t think that as a matter of policy, that the United States or Israel engage in acts of terror. Terror is you target deliberately civilians for an expressed political purpose. The idea that Israel had something to do with 9/11 is just outrageous – they had nothing to do with it. [Applause]
Tell that to the Marine. Tell that to the Marine, Alan Sabrosky.
Look him up, Jewish American Marine.
You know what? You can make up whatever you want to.
I didn’t make that up.
Well, I’m a big believer – as Patrick– Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, everybody’s entitled to their own opinions; they’re just not entitled to their own facts. [Applause]
Take your own advice Dennis.
True—–, Go look at September —- [–mic being cut in and out] …. [off mic] free fall speed
[At this time, while at the microphone beginning to respond to Dennis Ross, Rothe-Kushel’s upper left arm was grabbed with force, with no apparent warning, from behind by the head of the Jewish Community Foundation’s private security detail, and pushed away from the microphone and towards another, currently unidentified, member of security.]
Jeremy Rothe-Kushel: Do not touch me!
Get your hands off me right now!
[Multiple people are grabbing Rothe-Kushel at this point]
You can ask me to leave.
I will leave if asked.
Get your hands off me!
Hey! He has a right to talk without being–
Patron sitting next to Greg:
No he had a right to ask the question and he asked the question.
They don’t have to be putting their hands on him like that!
Get your hands off me.
I will leave if asked.
Get your hands off of me.
I will ask if leaved–
[At this time, Dennis Ross begins to move on to the next question, by stating the following:]
Okay, you know what? I will accept the question and we can ignore that.
I will leave.
Get your hands off of me!
I didn’t threaten anybody.
Right now you’re disturbing-
It’s all on video.
Unknown: You get out.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that Iran has carried out its commitments to the historic nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
“I can certify that Tehran respects its commitments to the letter. The Iranians are doing what they promised the international community,” said IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano during an interview with the French daily Le Monde on Saturday.
The July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), struck between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, envisaged Tehran scaling back its nuclear program in return for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
“The deal is being implemented since January without any particular problem,” he noted. “There was a small incident in February: the stock of heavy water very slightly exceeded the limit set — 130 tones. But we immediately signaled that to Iran which took all the necessary measures.”
In September, the IAEA once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to the landmark nuclear agreement, with Amano at the time noting that the agency would continue evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
In a quarterly report on Iran on September 8, Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement was confirmed by the IAEA which is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA.
Since January, the IAEA has released regular reports confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and Tehran’s commitment to the agreement.
The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq in a secret propaganda campaign exposed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
PR firm Bell Pottinger, known for its array of controversial clients including the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation, worked with the US military to create the propaganda in a secretive operation.
The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon on the project with a mandate to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.
Both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.
The Bell Pottinger operation started soon after the US invasion of Iraq and was tasked with promoting the “democratic elections” for the administration before moving on to more lucrative psychological and information operations.
Former employee Martin Wells told the Bureau how he found himself working in Iraq after being hired as a video editor by Bell Pottinger. Within 48 hours, he was landing in Baghdad to edit content for secret “psychological operations” at Camp Victory.
The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light as well as creating content to look as though it had come from “Arabic TV”. Crews were sent out to film bombings with low quality video. The firm would then edit it to make it look like news footage.
They would craft scripts for Arabic soap operas where characters would reject terrorism with happy consequences. The firm also created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, which were then planted by the military in homes they raided.
Employees were given specific instructions to create the videos. “We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use Al-Qaeda’s footage,” Wells was told. “We need it to be 10 minutes long, and it needs to be in this file format, and we need to encode it in this manner.”
The videos were created to play on Real Player which needs an internet connection to run. The CDs were embedded with a code linking to Google Analytics which allowed the military to track IP addresses that the videos were played on.
According to Wells, the videos were picked up in Iran, Syria and the US.
“If one, 48 hours or a week later shows up in another part of the world, then that’s the more interesting one,” Wells explained. “And that’s what they’re looking for more, because that gives you a trail.”
The Pentagon confirmed the PR firm did work for them under the Information Operations Task Force (IOTF) creating content they say was “truthful”. The firm also worked under the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF). The Pentagon said it could not comment on JPOTF operations.
US law prohibits the government from using propaganda on its population, hence the use of an outside firm to create the content.
Documents show the Pentagon paid $540 million to Bell Pottinger in contracts between 2007 and 2011, with another contract for $120 million in 2006. The firm ended its work with the Pentagon in 2011.
In 2009, it was reported that the Pentagon had hired controversial PR firm, The Rendon Group, to monitor the reporting of journalists embedded with the U.S. military, to assess whether they were giving “positive” coverage to its missions.
It was also revealed in 2005 that Washington based PR company the Lincoln Group had been placing articles in newspapers in Iraq which were secretly written by the US military. A Pentagon investigation cleared the group of any wrongdoing.
Two Palestinian UN and international NGO workers in Gaza, Mohammed al-Halabi and Waheed Bursh, have been targeted by the Israeli occupation for arrest and military prosecution in high-profile cases that seemingly aim to imprison not only these individual Palestinians, but also to pressure international agencies into a further separation and deeper division from the Palestinian people under occupation with whom they work, and towards control and authorization by Israeli occupation forces.
Mohammed al-Halabi, the operations manager for World Vision in Gaza, was arrested by Israeli occupation forces on 15 June as he crossed at the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing (to which he had already been given a permit by the Israeli occupation.) After being held incommunicado and under interrogation, facing torture and abuse for over a month and a half, Al-Halabi was accused in a showy statement of allegedly “diverting” up to $50 million USD to the Palestinian resistance organization and political party Hamas – based on a “confession.” Despite the allegations, World Vision noted that its “cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past 10 years was approximately $22.5 million,” making the alleged amounts of money involved materially impossible. World Vision also noted that “Mohammad El Halabi was the manager of our Gaza operations only since October 2014; before that time he managed only portions of the Gaza budget. World Vision’s accountability processes cap the amount individuals in management positions at his level to a signing authority of US$15,000.”
Nevertheless, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video message alleging that the Israeli occupation project “cared more” about Palestinians than Palestinian leadership organizations, particularly Hamas in Gaza. While the Israeli occupation state controls access to Gaza and entirely occupies its sea and skies, it claims to not have control or occupying power over Gaza. Nevertheless, the Israeli occupation state is imprisoning Al-Halabi for matters that – even taking their tortured “confessions” at face value – is seemingly entirely internal to Palestinians in Gaza and international organizations working with them.
It should be noted that the allegations against Halabi appear to be based entirely upon confessions obtained through torture and potentially the word of a collaborator or a “disgruntled employee” who disappeared from Gaza to Egypt after his firing from World Vision by Halabi; this is reflected in the clearly inaccurate financial amounts reported in coverage of this case. Perhaps because of the very weakness of the allegations themselves, Halabi will allegedly be tried in a “secret court,” reported his lawyer, Lea Tsemel. Despite the origins of the allegations (confessions obtained through torture) and their seeming physical impossibility, both the Australian and German governments suspended aid to World Vision. While World Vision has announced its trust in its staff, the cut in funds – and an Israeli freeze on its bank account in Jerusalem for the international Christian charity – has meant that over 120 local Palestinian staff have been laid off in Gaza and operations are suspended, where unemployment already ranges near 40% and poverty forces Palestinians to rely on international aid.
This is not the first run-in between the Israeli state and World Vision. Israel and its supporters in NGO Monitor attacked the Christian charity in 2004 for supporting Palestinian rights, thus “support for terror.” World Vision’s programs came under attack previously by Mossad-linked law firm “Shurat Ha-Din,” known for its pursuit of dubious yet fiscally draining lawsuits against opponents and critics of Israel around the world, Shurat Ha-Din attacked World Vision and other charities for their support for the work of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a land and water defense organization operating in the West Bank and Gaza that has been honored with the UN’s Equator Prize and is a member of the global peasant movement, Via Campesina. Shurat Ha-Din demanded an end to Australian support of World Vision, claiming that UAWC was a “front” for Palestinian leftist political party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Shurat Ha-Din’s efforts were rejected in Australia and refuted both by the Australian government and World Vision itself. Still, the continuing focus on World Vision and its engagement with local Palestinian organiztions in Gaza appears to be a continuing thread in Israeli surveillance and repression.
While Halabi was arrested on 15 June, Waheed Bursh, a Palestinian engineer contracted by the UN Development Program (UNDP) was arrested one month later, also as he crossed the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing, for which he had previously received a permit. The case of Bursh is particularly striking: over two weeks after his arrest, and several days after the public announcement of the allegations against Halabi, he was accused by the Israeli occupation of allegedly “diverting” rubble in Gaza created by the massive Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2014 for Palestinian use to shore up a port and jetty on Gaza’s north shore. The Israeli occupation accuses the rubble of being “diverted to Hamas,” but it is distinctly unclear if that simply means to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, which is run by Hamas officials – and in any case, the UNDP itself reaffirmed that the rubble in question was directed as agreed to a civilian area and there “was no diversion.”
This case is, essentially, about whether Palestinians have the right to decide in any small way what to do with the massive rubble created when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians’ homes in Gaza were destroyed by Israeli bombs and warplanes – and that any individual Palestinian following Palestinian direction in such a case is subject to torture and imprisonment. Not only does Israel declare the right to bomb and destroy Gaza at will; it also declares the right and ongoing authority to determine the usage of the rubble created by its bombing and destruction.
The Bursh case highlights the insufficiency and the injustice of the UN “reconstruction program” for Gaza, which has seen both an extremely high level of inefficiency as only a small portion of the buildings destroyed in Gaza have been rebuilt, but also an extremely high level of utter disregard for Palestinian sovereignty and internationally-recognized rights, instead creating a program in which all access to funds and building materials is dependent on the approval of the Israeli occupation that destroyed those places to begin with.
The UN has argued that Bursh is immune from prosecution given his UN role, and that he acted according to the request of the Palestinian Authority. This case is not only about the imprisonment of one Palestinian engineer, but about who has the right to build with the rubble created by Israel’s bombs, and who decides: Palestinians, including their political forces? Or international organizations with the consent and oversight of the Israeli occupation? Or, perhaps more precisely, the Israeli occupation, with the work carried out by international organizations and highly subjugated Palestinian staff?
Both the Gaza reconstruction mechanism and the Halabi and Borsh cases highlight the severity of the ongoing Israeli occupation of Gaza as well as an apparent political priority of disempowering Palestinian non-governmental organizations and even staff of international organizations in any context in which they operate outside of complete Israeli control. While the Israeli occupation has generally supported the “NGOization” of Palestinian society as an alternative to Palestinian resistance organizations, these recent cases appear to indicate an intention for Israel to outsource not only the costs but also the repressive mechanisms of its occupation of Gaza to international organizations, thus requiring the dismissal and complete control of any local Palestinian staff empowered to make independent decisions.
Conditional aid that requires all staff at an organization not to be members of any organization on the US list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” such as that distributed by USAID, has commonly been discussed as a long-running problem in Palestinian civil society. The US FTO list includes major Palestinian political forces such as Hamas, the PFLP, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even Fateh’s armed wing; similar lists are to be found in the European Union, Canada, Australia, the UK and elsewhere – although Hamas is currently fighting a legal case for removal from the EU’s list. Further, the overall impact of international donor funds in directing the priorities of Palestinian organizations away from Palestinian national liberation and towards “projects” and state-building amid ongoing occupation and oppression, and demobilizing the Palestinian national movement into “civil society” or “interest groups” has been the subject of intense discussion among Palestinian organizations and activists.
In Gaza in particular, the filing and heavy publicity surrounding the Halabi and Bursh cases seems to indicate that the Israeli state is pursuing an even heavier hand on all forms of Palestinian organization and even Palestinian roles in directing the work of international organizations. Palestinian organizations in 1948 Palestine have come under attack through new laws designed to block “foreign funding,” while the Balad/National Democratic Assembly political party, represented in the Knesset by Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basil Ghattas, has been subject to a series of raids and arrests accusing them of undisclosed “foreign funds.” Of course, Palestinian organizations like Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies and other organizations in the West Bank continue to be subject to arrests, raids and other attacks by occupation forces, while Israel continues to threaten escalation against Palestinian civil society organizations supporting the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Ben White in Al-Jazeera noted that “Israeli minister Gilad Erdan has claimed that the accusations against Halabi prove the government’s claim that ‘there are extensive ideological and monetary ties between terrorist organisations and delegitimisation organisations that work against Israel.’”
Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada wrote, “But by spreading sensational allegations that a group as well-known as World Vision is ‘funding terrorism,’ Israel may seek to put other organizations and the Israel-friendly Western governments that fund them on notice that all their operations, especially in Gaza, are at its mercy. It may also be an effort to break growing solidarity for Palestinians in churches, where there has been a strong push to hold Israel accountable through boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
These allegations perhaps bear the closest resemblance to early-to-mid-2000s calls from the Israeli occupation and Western states regarding “corruption” in the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. Viewing the PA’s role in outsourcing the costs of occupation and suppressing Palestinian resistance as apparently insufficient, Israeli and Western charges of corruption and demands for higher levels of international and Israeli control led in part to the imposition of Mahmoud Abbas as a prime minister and the “Daytonization” of PA security forces under US command, removing Fateh loyalists and turning them into even more of a direct mechanism for security cooperation with the Israeli occupation.
Circumstances differ in that corruption in the PA was – and remains – a legitimate concern of Palestinians (although higher levels of Israeli and international control in fact exacerbated the problem and were opposite to the solutions demanded by Palestinians), while in these cases the arrests reflect entirely Israeli interests at the expense of Palestinians. However, the projected outcomes are similar in the re-orienting of international organizations as opponents and monitors of Palestinians and the escalation of international and Israeli control at the expense of even the most individual and basic levels of Palestinian control or self-determination.
The roots of the prosecution of Halabi and Bursh, the shuttering of World Vision’s programs and the threat of further raids and prosecutions against Palestinian staff of international organizations can also be found in the use of “foreign terrorist lists” by international states and bodies to criminalize Palestinian political life and resistance. While the United States, European Union, Canada, UK, Australia and other states are clearly not opponents of either state-sponsored or non-state violence when carried out by allies and agents, and while Palestinians are internationally recognized as an occupied people with rights to sovereignty and self-determination, Palestinian resistance organizations are routinely labeled as “terrorist.” In the post-Oslo era, the drive to redefine the Palestinian struggle from an anti-colonial national liberation movement into a “state-building project” and a “mediated conflict” with the Palestinian Authority as its reference has been used to criminalize and prosecute Palestinian organizing not only inside but also outside Palestine, while obscuring the nature of Palestinian reality today.
That governments such as those of Australia and Germany chose to cut funding to World Vision in response to these allegations rather than defend an occupied people under colonization and denounce the actions of a belligerent occupier abducting and accusing people under occupation of using funds and, indeed, the rubble created by the occupier’s bombing, in their own interest, indicates the enmeshment of these states with the Israeli state in a common support for settler colonialism, Zionism and racism in Palestine and internationally.
From the siege on Gaza – against which the Women’s Boat to Gaza today sails with the support of people’s movements and against the will of Western states and the Israeli occupation – to the imprisonment of over 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, it is nearly impossible to support fundamental Palestinian rights while labeling Palestinian resistance as “terrorist.” Attempts to do so are then only more vulnerable to attacks of this type – while local Palestinian staff attempting to serve their people within the context of international organizations are targeted for secret trials and persecution on the basis of torture-borne “confessions,” even if the charges themselves are materially incoherent or manifestly absurd. Thus, the international reconstruction mechanism in Gaza has only allowed a greater level of Israeli occupation and control of the Strip, while years after Israel’s bombing, Palestinians in Gaza are still living in shelters while their homes remain rubble.
International mobilization in defense of Halabi and Bursh is necessary. It is not enough to demand a “fair trial” when the charges and structure of prosecution exist only as a mechanism of colonialism. It is urgent to stand not only against the persecution of these Palestinian staff but against the entire framework that seeks to undermine Palestinian sovereignty, redefine resistance as “terror” and legitimize ongoing colonization and occupation.
Charlotte Kates is the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. She coordinates the National Lawyers Guild’s International Committee and works with a number of organizations advocating for Palestinian rights.
Not long ago I came across an image—don’t remember where or why—in which celebrated writer and feminist Lena Dunham was clad in a red, white and blue shirt emblazoned all over with the name “Hillary.” It struck me as curious that someone held up publicly as an example of enlightened 21st century thought (I’m not aware of whether Dunham considers herself as such; perhaps she doesn’t) would feel comfortable broadcasting so unabashedly her affinity for Mrs. Clinton, so I looked into it further.
“Nothing gets me angrier,” Dunham said in January to a crowd in Iowa prior to that state’s caucus, “than when someone implies I’m voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she’s female.”
Fair enough; it must be insulting to have strangers imply, or otherwise assert, that her endorsement of Clinton can be reduced to a sort of blind gender loyalty. And to Dunham’s credit, she has attempted to spell out exactly what is it about Clinton she finds so enchanting. The least we can do is consider her own words on the matter.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Clinton’s “commitment to fighting for women” is at the top of the list. After all, it’s an important issue, one about which Dunham is ostensibly serious and which Clinton allegedly “comes at … from every direction.” For example: She “fights for equal pay”; she says she will “fight for more funding” of Planned Parenthood; she “stays current on prenatal-nutrition research”; and she “flies to countries where women are routinely denied basic freedoms … and puts their leaders on blast.”
Summing it up: “In a million ways, for women and girls in every walk of life, Hillary does the damn thing.”
Dunham is also fetched by Clinton’s alleged opposition to racism. “I’ve been moved,” she writes, “by the stories of people across the country who attest to Hillary’s decades of working for social justice in their communities.”
Gun control, “a feminist issue,” factors into the equation as well: “Hillary has a plan specifically to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.”
And lest her audience mistakenly perceive that she finds no fault in her favored candidate, Dunham would like us to know that she recognizes that Hillary has “made mistakes.” One such mistake, as Dunham sees it, is Hillary’s vote in favor of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But while this was a “huge miscalculation,” Dunham is encouraged by her belief that Hillary “worked her heart out as secretary of state to make up for it.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool,” Dunham inquires rhetorically, “if everyone else who voted for that war did as much to promote peace and human rights around the world?”
One charitably assumes that Dunham either doesn’t know what she’s saying or doesn’t mean it. Otherwise she can and should be disregarded as yet another vulgar propagandist whose supposed empathy doesn’t extend beyond the margins of her own very narrow perspective.
Before continuing, I’ll make a distinction that shouldn’t have to be made because it’s self-evident: we are dealing with someone of a degree of cultural significance who has been enthusiastically campaigning for Clinton from the beginning; we are not dealing with someone prepared to cast a vote for Clinton because they are persuaded by the lesser-evil argument. These are two very different casts of mind and are not equally assailable.
There’s no question that Clinton professes to care about women, just as Barack Obama professes to oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or Mrs. Clinton’s husband professed to believe that the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant he blew up was used by terrorists to produce chemical weapons. The question, of course, is whether we’re justified in taking them at their word. The historical record, as well as common sense, suggest that we’re not.
Dunham’s remark about Hillary flying around “to countries where women are routinely denied basic freedoms” to put “their leaders on blast” is interesting. There are two possibilities: either she fails to recognize the inanity of her own comment, or else she’s trusting that her audience will fail to recognize it. In the former case, she’s ignorant and irresponsible; in the latter she’s dishonest and hypocritical, and should be exposed as such.
Saudi Arabia, as all but the most uninformed of people fully understand, is world’s leading exporter of Wahhabism, the radical Islamic ideology that reduces women to chattel. According to this ideology—which, thanks to US foreign policy, can now be observed all over the Middle East and elsewhere—women are fit to be kept as sex slaves, fit to be genitally mutilated, fit to be punished for exposing their skin in public, fit to be punished (or killed) for resisting an arranged marriage, fit to be punished for being gang raped. With that said, the misogynistic thugs governing Saudi Arabia produce oil [and more importantly transfer global revenues from the sale of petroleum to Wall st.] and are hostile to Iran; ergo they are a crucial US ally.
As such, while serving as secretary of state, Clinton facilitated billions of dollars in munitions sales to Saudi Arabia; in fact, US arms exports to Saudi Arabia increased by 97 percent during this time. (Recall that, according to Dunham, Clinton is very concerned about keeping weapons out of the hands of those who are liable to use them against women.) These weapons are now being used to massacre civilians—including, of course, women and children—in Yemen and to bolster Saudi Arabia’s regional (and thus global) influence. When said influence increases, so too does Wahhabi-style persecution of women, a circumstance any feminist—indeed, any decent human—finds utterly despicable and ought to resist.
This, presumably, is one way in which Hillary “worked her heart out as secretary of state to make up for” her Iraq war vote.
Another way is perhaps her support for the 2009 military coup in Honduras, whereby, according to Greg Grandin of The Nation, “Clinton allied with the worst sectors of Honduran society.” Grandin’s article, a eulogy for a female activist in Honduras who was gunned down by political opponents, is of particular relevance considering Dunham’s assertion that Hillary is dedicated “to women’s reproductive health and rights” and moreover has a “holistic approach to protecting the vulnerable.”
Consider the following details regarding the rights of women following the military coup Mrs. Clinton helped to consolidate:
Despite the fact that he was a rural patriarch, [toppled president Manuel Zelaya] was remarkably supportive of “intersectionality” (that is, a left politics not reducible to class or political economy): He tried to make the morning-after pill legal. (After Zelaya’s ouster, Honduras’s coup congress—the one legitimated by Hillary Clinton—passed an absolute ban on emergency contraception, criminalizing “the sale, distribution, and use of the ‘morning-after pill’—imposing punishment for offenders equal to that of obtaining or performing an abortion, which in Honduras is completely restricted.”)
Elsewhere, Honduran feminists have spoken plainly about the devastating effects of the US-sponsored coup in their country. Believe it or not, many of them reject the idea that Clinton empathizes with their plight. Take for instance the words of Neesa Medina, of the Honduran Women’s Rights Center:
The 2009 coup had repercussions for sexual and reproductive rights for Honduran women…. As a member of a feminist organization severely affected by the support of the U.S. for militaristic policies of recent governments, I must say that it is important that voters take the time to do a critical structural analysis of all of the information in the campaign proposals and previous actions of those running for president. United States support for militarily invasive policies in other countries has a negative impact on the women in these countries.
The current dictatorship under [President Juan Orlando] Hernandez is part of [Hillary Clinton’s] creation. The misery doesn’t just affect women with more brutality, but also our bodies are exposed to the militarist ideology with which they uphold poverty and kill us; to the conservative fundamentalism with which they deny the exercise of our sexual autonomy; and to the possibility of being creative people and not just workers for their factories and way of life.
Clinton, to my knowledge, has yet to put the Hernandez regime, for which she and President Obama bear major responsibility, “on blast” for its abominable treatment of women.
There is also, of course, NATO’s military bombardment of Libya, a horrific and illegal policy decision—spearheaded by Clinton’s State Department—which effectively invited an assortment of misogynistic Islamic gangs to reap the benefits of the chaos sown by the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power.
According to a March report by Human Rights Watch, Libyan women living in Sirte (now ISIS-controlled territory) endure extraordinary repression. The rule of the land is a hardline interpretation of Sharia Law, imposing unprecedented restrictions on Libyan women’s freedom. For instance, “all women and girls as young as 10 or 11” are required by law “to cover themselves from head to toe in a loose black abaya outside their homes, and to never leave without … a male relative such as a husband, brother or father.” If a woman is caught violating the dress code, her husband is either fined or flogged. Furthermore, “shop owners are whipped and fined and their shops are closed if they receive an unaccompanied woman.” And it perhaps goes without saying that men residing in Sirte are coerced into surrendering their daughters over to ISIS militants, who then force marriage and God knows what else upon the girl.
No doubt the women of Libya can appreciate Clinton’s image, in the eyes of the West, as a model feminist. Remember: she “does the damn thing” for “women and girls in every walk of life.”
In Gaza, where the Israeli government (with unilateral US support) has imposed an illegal siege for nearly a decade, 36 percent of pregnant women suffer from anemia, a direct result of the fact that a staggering 80 percent of Gaza’s Palestinian population is dependent on food-aid. Moreover, owing to regular IDF aggression against the besieged territory, as well as the Israeli government’s practice of administrative detention, women in Gaza are often left to support their families by themselves, all while being unable to find work.
“The siege affects us all, but it especially affects women,” said Tagreed Jummah, director of Gaza City’s Union of Palestinian Women Committees. “In recent years, more women have been forced to become heads of the family because their husbands have been killed, are in Israeli prisons, or are unemployed as a result of the siege. But the majority of these women have no means of earning money.”
In the summer of 2014, while Israeli missiles rained down on the people of Gaza (killing well over 1,000 civilians), Clinton gave an interview in which she dismissed international condemnation of Israel’s military aggression as “uncalled for and unfair”—just one of countless examples of her apologetics for Israeli terror. On that note, Hillary has promised that, should she win the election, she will invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (described by Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein as a “certifiable maniac”) to the White House in her first month in office. Such is her empathetic concern for the men, women and children writhing under the heel of Zionist brutality.
All of this is readily available to anyone mildly curious about Clinton’s humanitarian credentials. One wonders, then, how someone like Lena Dunham, whose primary concern (ostensibly) is the oppression of women, can laud Mrs. Clinton as a person genuinely troubled by and committed to eradicating that very oppression wherever it exists. How, for instance, could she seriously characterize Clinton as a politician who fights to “promote peace and human rights around the world”? Could Dunham be that confused? Or is she merely ignoring facts inconsistent with her argument? Does she understand that her comments could easily (and not illogically) be construed as evidence of a racist disdain for people who happen to have been born outside of the United States?
Dunham ought to clarify whether she believes Palestinians, Hondurans, Libyans, Yemenis, etc. to be somehow unworthy of the human rights she speaks and writes so passionately about. If this is indeed the case, then her arguments in favor of Hillary Clinton, while morally and intellectually bankrupt, make perfect sense.
If, however, she is appalled to learn of her chosen candidate’s (at best) callous indifference to the fate of women in other parts of the world, Dunham should revise her position accordingly. After all, she communicates not only to a broad audience, but a broad audience of young people who by and large represent the future of Western liberalism. By simply ignoring the reality of Hillary Clinton’s worldview (and all of this could just as easily have been said of Barack Obama), Dunham is assisting the corporate media in breeding a generation of “liberals” whose compassion is terribly shortsighted, and who are thus liable to stand back and observe their leaders’ crimes with equanimity—so long as progress is being made on other fronts. When this sort of truncated empathy reigns, as history has repeatedly shown, there’s virtually nothing a wayward government can’t do. And as Orwell demonstrated, there is perhaps nothing more terrifying than an omnipotent state.
I’ll say it again, since reading comprehension varies: this was not written as a rejoinder to the argument that Clinton is preferable to Donald Trump or any other opponent; it was written in response to a relatively influential celebrity who has repeatedly attempted to cast Hillary Clinton as a champion of human rights, which is manifestly preposterous and, in my view, ultimately dangerous. Any number of individuals (celebrities, journalists and pundits alike) could have been substituted for Dunham in this context. One can vote for Hillary Clinton without telling half-truths about her sordid record.
In a surreal and stunning example of 21st century propaganda and censorship, Google has cobbled together a coalition it is calling “First Draft” to tackle what it calls “misinformation online.”
First Draft’s “founding partners” include News Corporation’s (parent company of Fox News) Storyful and NATO think tank Atlantic Council’s Bellingcat blog, headed by formally unemployed social worker Eliot Higgins who now fashions himself as a weapons expert and geopolitical analyst despite no formal training, practical real-world experience or track record of honest, unbiased reporting. In fact, between News Corporation and Bellingcat alone, Google’s First Draft appears to be itself a paragon of, and nexus for “misinformation online.”
Google’s Glaring Conflicts of Interest
Google too, having for years now worked closely with the US State Department, faces its own conflicts of interest in “social newsgathering and verification.” In fact, Google has admittedly been involved in engineering intentional deceptions aimed specifically to skew public perception, including doctoring its maps and Google Earth in real-time amid conflicts in favor of US-backed militant groups and through the development of applications designed to psychologically target the Syrian government into capitulating before US-backed militant groups.
The UK Independent in its article, “Google planned to help Syrian rebels bring down Assad regime, leaked Hillary Clinton emails claim,” would report that:
An interactive tool created by Google was designed to encourage Syrian rebels and help bring down the Assad regime, Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails have reportedly revealed.
By tracking and mapping defections within the Syrian leadership, it was reportedly designed to encourage more people to defect and ‘give confidence’ to the rebel opposition.
The article would continue:
The email detailing Google’s defection tracker purportedly came from Jared Cohen, a Clinton advisor until 2010 and now-President of Jigsaw, formerly known as Google Ideas, the company’s New York-based policy think tank.
In a July 2012 email to members of Clinton’s team, which the WikiLeaks release alleges was later forwarded to the Secretary of State herself, Cohen reportedly said: “My team is planning to launch a tool on Sunday that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from.”
Cohen would conclude:
“Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition.”
Can Google then be relied upon to sort out “misinformation online” if it itself is directly involved in manipulating public perception to achieve US foreign policy objectives? To impartial observers, the answer is clearly “no.”
First Draft would publish on its website a post titled, “Social networks unite with global newsrooms to take action against misinformation online,” adding further details behind the alleged rationale of the coalition. It would state:
Today, news breaks online. Today, the first images to emerge from a breaking news event have been captured by an eyewitness. Today, injustices that may never have been reported become global news stories because a bystander reached for their smartphone. Today, malicious hoaxes and fake news reports are published in increasingly convincing and sophisticated ways.
We live in a time when trust and truth are issues that all newsrooms, and increasingly the social platforms themselves, are facing. In July, the Guardian’s Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner wrote about the ways technology is disrupting the truth, explaining “in the news feed on your phone, all stories look the same – whether they come from a credible source or not.” Filtering out false information can be hard. Even if news organisations only share fact-checked and verified stories, everyone is a publisher and a potential source.
The members that constitute the First Draft coalition, however, have enjoyed an uncontested monopoly for decades in determining just what the “truth” actually is, as well as a monopoly over propagating things the global public now know for a fact were “untruths.” Again, we see another case of the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.
The Liars Who Lied About WMDs in Iraq Will Protect Us from Liars Online?
Indeed, many of the organizations that constitute First Draft’s coalition played a pivotal role in perhaps the most destructive and costly lie of the 21st century (to date), that involving alleged “weapons of mass destruction” or “WMDs” in Iraq, serving as the pretext for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
According to some estimates, up to a million perished in the initial invasion and subsequent occupation. More conservative estimates are still in the hundreds of thousands.
Undoubtedly, the invasion, justified by lies propagated across the entirety of US and European media, helped trigger a predictable chain of catastrophes that have left the Middle East to this day in conflict and ruination. These same US and European media organizations, the same ones now signing their names to First Draft, also helped justify the continued presence of US troops in Iraq for years after the invasion, up to and including today.
And the same names signed on to First Draft are also the same names who helped sell the disastrous intervention in Libya and who are now attempting to sell yet another direct Western military intervention in Syria.
And it is perhaps the lack of success these same names are having in selling this most recent potential intervention in Syria that has precipitated First Draft’s creation in the first place.
There is a burgeoning alternative media composed of individual independent journalists, analysts and commentators both biased and impartial, both professional and amateur, competing directly with and overcoming the West’s longstanding monopoly over international public perception. There is also the emergence of professional and competitive national media organizations across the developing world who are taking increasingly large shares of both the West’s media monopoly and its monopoly over the public’s trust.
It is clear that First Draft has no intention of protecting the truth as none among its membership have done so until now individually, but rather in collectively protecting what the special interests behind these organizations want the global public to believe is the truth. First Draft is a desperate measure taken by Western special interests to reassert the West’s dominance over global public perception by leveraging the widely used social media platforms it controls, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as IT giant Google and its large range of services and applications.
In the end, all that First Draft is likely to accomplish is convincing the developing world of the necessity of creating domestic alternatives to Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as to continue expanding their own domestic media organizations to better represent their respective national interests upon the global stage and to dilute the dangerous and destructive media monopoly the West has enjoyed and abused for decades.
Until the members of First Draft can cite a lie told by their competitors that is as destructive and as costly as their own lies preceding and underpinning the invasion and occupation of Iraq or the more recent destruction of Libya, their efforts appear more as a means of further deflecting away from the truth, not defending it.
The United States administration appears to be in panic mode. A number of emotional statements were made by US officials on September 28 to reflect the growing unease with the way the events unfold in Syria and the stance taken by Russia. State Secretary John Kerry threatened to pull out of Russia-US talks on Syria over the situation on Aleppo.
In a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the State Secretary said the US was preparing to suspend its engagement with Moscow on Syria if Russia didn’t take «immediate steps» to halt the Aleppo offensive.
Citing US officials, The Wall Street Journal reported the administration has renewed an internal debate over giving rebels more firepower to fend off a stepped-up Russian and Syrian assault on their Aleppo stronghold.
The renewed debate centers on what is known as Plan B, authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency and its partners in the region to supply US-supported rebels in Syria with weapons systems to strike Syrian and Russian forces from longer distances, including anti-aircraft missiles.
The package has been on the table for months, but was temporarily shelved after the cessation of hostilities agreement was concluded in February.
John Kirby, the State Department spokesperson, said in his press briefing that, «that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft».
This is an unusually hostile and emotional statement that has nothing to do with diplomacy. It sounds more like an invitation for terrorists to attack Russia.
Meanwhile lawmakers are considering legislation to beef up US sanctions against the Syrian government and its «backers».
The bill submitted for consideration by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the panel’s top Democrat, is designed to increase pressure on the military supply chain in Syria by sanctioning the country’s energy industry and penalizing anyone doing business with its telecommunication or transportation sectors. The legislation also would require the White House to submit reports to Congress on risks of establishing and maintaining a no-fly zone or a safe zone in Syria. The calls to establish a «no-fly zone» in Syria are tantamount to advocating an open military confrontation with Russia.
John Kerry has been reported to hold talks with European foreign ministers about stepping up punitive measures.
The US verbal attacks against Russia are made at the very same time extremist forces launch an offensive near the central city of Hama in an attempt to relieve pressure on rebels fighting in Aleppo.
And wasn’t it a coincidence that exactly on September 28 – the date all the «emotional statements» were made – Reuters reported that foreign states had given Syrian rebels surface-to-surface Grad rockets of a type not previously supplied to them?
The Grad rockets with a range of 22 km and 40 km will be used on battlefronts in Aleppo, Hama and the coastal region.
Rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner have received military aid from states opposed to President Bashar al-Assad via a US-backed coordination center in Turkey. It means the United States is well aware of the shipments and responsible for implications.
To prevent the fall of Aleppo the US is preparing to allow its Gulf allies – Qatar and Saudi Arabia – to flood the city with shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles. Rebels are being told only to target Syrian aircraft, not Russian – but it’s not clear they will abide by this. One needs training to distinguish the types and national identity of air targets – something the rebels definitely lack. «The US won’t let Aleppo fall. We can expect to see Syrian helicopters falling from the sky within weeks», a source said.
Actually, this is nothing else but an open declaration of war by the United States on the Russia-supported Syrian government. The weapons fired in Aleppo will be used to support the Jabhat al Nusra (recently renamed into Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) group, an al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and the main fighting force on the ground in Aleppo province. Russia and the United States have agreed to fight it together.
Thus, the US is responsible for providing aid to terrorists while blaming Russia for each and everything that goes awry in Syria. Somehow, these activities were omitted in the texts of the statements made by US officials. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a phone conversation that Fateh al-Sham Front had been receiving foreign support and American weapons.
In an interview with German-language daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger earlier this week, a Jabhat Fateh al-Sham commander identified only as Abu al-Ezz confirmed that the US is supporting the terror group, saying, «The Americans are on our side».
A very indicative statement to corroborate what Mr. Lavrov said!
The use of military force is also on the table. The options under consideration include a US air strike on a Syrian air base at the distance from the fighting between Syrian government troops and rebel forces in the north.
Actually, having failed to separate the «moderate» rebels from the al Nusra group, America is taking the side of those it vowed to resolutely fight after 9/11. In Syria, it will benefit the Islamic State group as it won’t have to face a united front of forces opposing it.
Other options include sending more Special Operations Forces ((SOF) to «train and advise» Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups and deploying additional American and allied naval and airpower to the eastern Mediterranean, where the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is already en route.
A military intervention to rescue the «rebels», which amounts to a war to save, the al Nusra Front, could quickly get the US and its allies into the quagmire of prolonged conflict. An incident could spark a real war with Russia. Is it worth it?
The US is in a blind alley in Syria. The administration is evidently at a loss and on the brink of emotional break down. A negotiated settlement the US is trying to back away from is the only viable pathway out of the Syrian crisis, but the United States appears to be more prone to take sides and support terrorist groups. It could admit its failure to live up to the commitments stipulated by the agreement with Russia and separate other groups from al Nusra. It could enhance the coordination of military activities and be more frank and transparent at the talks with Russia.
It could but it didn’t. But there is no escape from reality: Aleppo is doomed to fall. The Syrian government will establish its control over it soon. It will change the military situation into its favor. It’ll strengthen its and Russia’s position for a negotiated settlement of the crisis. And talks will start again as there is no alternative to them.
Despite all the failures of Obama’s policy on Syria, there is a big chance Russia and the United States will join together in the fight against terror. Republican nominee Donald Trump has stated that if elected US president he would weigh an alliance with Russia against Islamic State militants. «When you think about it, wouldn’t it be nice if we got along with Russia?» Trump said.
«Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS (Islamic State)?» he asked.
It gives the world a hope. A hope that the United States will have a president with clear vision of national interests and goals to achieve. A hope that the US will no longer openly side with terrorists putting the blame on others for its own mistakes and failures. And a hope that America will have a leader able to convert his words into deeds, even if he won’t be a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.