The United States is attempting to bankrupt Russia’s economy by encircling it through military buildup, an American writer and political commentator says.
James Petras, a professor emeritus of sociology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, and adjunct professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada, made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Monday.
According to a report, US commandos maintain a “persistent” presence in the Baltic states to bolster the training and resolve of troops of the NATO allies anxious about “a looming threat from Russia.”
Dozens of US Special Operations forces have “quietly” been deployed to boost the tiny militaries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and help the US detect any “shadowy efforts” by Moscow to destabilize the former Soviet republics, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
“I think this is part of a global campaign against Russia,” Professor Petras said. “I think it’s an offensive campaign led by Washington which is directed to encircling and undermining Russia through military buildup that they hope would bankrupt Russia’s spending if they try to keep up with it.”
In addition, the analyst said the Obama administration is “trying to put in place a military forward shield against Russia to undermine any reconciliation between incoming President Trump and President [Vladimir] Putin.”
“So I think this has nothing to do with defense, it has everything to do with building American presence around Russia,” the commentator sated.
“The equivalent of this would be if Russia decides to build bases in Mexico, and Canada and the Caribbean, which of course Russia does not do,” he added.
“But this is clearly an offensive, not a defensive means. It has all the earmarks of an attempt to foster a belligerent relationship with Russia. And I don’t think anyone takes seriously the defensive rhetoric that accompanies it,” Professor Petras concluded.
According to US media, the Baltic nations are concerned that incoming Republican President Donald Trump’s warmer tone toward Russia might encourage Putin to want to assert control across the whole region.
Trump, who has repeatedly signaled willingness to mend ties with Putin, suggested during the election campaign that the US would only protect NATO allies that paid their fair share to the military alliance.
Introduction: There are deep flaws in the blogs, media reports, and official statements, which purport to describe world historic events and changes.
These so-called ‘up-to-date’ reports of major world events undergo repeated revisions in hours, days or weeks as the story is being ‘played out’. What might start out as a ’scoop’ for the upwardly mobile journalist is transformed into a by-word for a ‘critical blogger’ rewriting mainstream reports by simply substituting negatives for pluses (or vice versa).
‘Immediacy’ trumps historical context and structural understanding. Protagonist or antagonists of the moment are demonized, slandered and scandalized, or lauded, praised and iconized.
The practice of deep falsification involves magnifying transient trivia and glossing over world-historic change. The false prophets substitute superficiality for deep understanding.
Soon after proclaiming a ‘major systemic transformation’, which fails to occur, a series of modifications or reversals take over, and the initial ‘great prophesy’ is forgotten – as if the readers of news were afflicted with an epidemic of dementia.
Most political parties, left, right and center, have their own unchanging warped world view to frame everyday minutiae.
For example, on the Left, it is the ‘imminent collapse of capitalism’ or the ‘perpetual stagnation of the capitalist state’, ‘the collapse of democracy’ or ‘the emergence of fascism’. In the absence of any real empirical or historical findings to support their hypotheses, they add escape clauses about ‘tendencies’.
The Center has its own historic narrative, which includes ‘threats from the Left and Right’, and the ‘dangers posed by populists to democratic values’. They cite the overwhelming responsibility to ‘defend Western values’ everywhere, from threats, past, present and future… and especially from independent nations, like Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and other ‘emerging’ powers, as a pretext to escalate militarism and to bolster support for vassal states.
The Center repeatedly point to the ‘resilience of Western liberal democratic institutions’ even as police state edicts are dictated to counter dissenting voices, while false prophets predict that China’s robust economy is on the verge of collapse; that democratic Russia is an unstable autocracy; and that the Ukraine is an emerging democracy – while its ‘Right Sector’ and ‘Azov Battalions’ runs amok amidst a kleptocratic, neo-fascist regime.
The Right frames its world-historic ideology by stressing the need to (1) revive the Cold War to counter the US global decline; (2) confront the world-wide wave of ‘populism’ threatening ‘liberal’ democracies; (3) portray Brexit as a sign of the European Union’s collapse; (4) equate Trump’s victory with the rise of fascism in the US; (5) emphasize the ascent of bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism, based on the result of a single election ; (6) denounce Leftist ‘conspiracy’ writers who ‘falsely’ blame rising class inequalities to free-market monopolies; and (7) explain that cuts in social expenditures, tax cuts to big capital, increased work hours and decreased pensions are ultimately rewarding the masses.
These mega- narratives lead ‘prophetic academics’ to insist on their infallible insight into the future direction of the world economy, global politics and class relations.
False prophets maintain a veneer of authenticity, by presenting the future in unspecified, ambiguous, general and distant terms, to allow for any or all outcomes – like professional fortune tellers.
Academic and media prophets are enveloped in a mystique of expertise, which allows them to rehash yesterday’s news as deep strategic insights.
False Prophets: Trump
Contrary to the wailings of the Right, Center and Left, Donald Trump is not a fascist, or a nationalist or a populist. An objective assessment of his most recent policies and cabinet appointments show that he is a free-market politician with a propensity to appoint militarists to security positions.
Trump’s populist demagogy most closely resembles President Obama – although the appeal is to a different audience. Trump speaks to impoverished, displaced, skilled workers in the rust belt with campaign promises of a renaissance in manufacturing, upscale suburbanites, and downwardly mobile working women, while appointing billionaire bankers and global business executives to run the economy and set policy. Obama appealed to poor minorities, middle class urbanites and the same business elite.
Like Obama, Trump is an imperialist committed to protecting and projecting US global power. He differs from Obama in emphasis. Obama and his predecessors pursued a primarily military-driven imperialism while Trump will shift the emphasis to economic imperialism.
Trump’s ‘double discourse’, of talking to the masses during the campaign while working for the elite once in office, reflects a long-standing American Presidential tradition.
Editorial writers’ descriptions of Donald Trump lack historical and empirical depth.
Powerful systemic constraints define the rate and scope of any long-term, large-scale changes that Trump might propose. Trump can only introduce minor incremental changes in the behavior of the biggest banks and five hundred most powerful global multi-nationals. Trump might re-negotiate around the edges of some bilateral trade agreements, but he cannot convert the US into a closed self-sufficient economy.
Contrary to the ‘end of the world’ hysteria, promoted by the mass media, Trump has never made any pact with white racists and anti-Semites. There are no major Jewish organizations currently engaged in a struggle against Trump’s ‘fascist hordes’. The KKK is not preparing to burn Goldman Sachs. Since Trump’s election the stock market has jump over a thousand points. Like all of his predecessors from both parties, Trump appointed prominent Jews to key economic and policy positions, including Treasury Secretary. Many editorialists, who rely on selected excerpts of campaign rhetoric and gossip, have presented an unrealistic picture of the trajectory of the US state and economy.
False Prophets: China
The US prophets and self-described ‘experts’ describe China in inflated terms of either its impending doom or its relentless drive toward world supremacy. They rely on the minutiae of the moment or distorted extrapolations, uncertainties and contingent systemic changes. Rigorous analytical accounts are in short supply.
China, according to the free-market financial prophets of doom, suffers from a declining growth rate, shrinking work force, massive capital flight, deep-seated corruption and an impending intra-elite war. According to the prophets of doom, this sets the stage for an economic collapse and a military confrontation with the US empire.
Many of these pronouncements are easily dismissed. For the last 30 years, China’s economy has exceeded 6% and it is steadily developing its high technological work force and scientific innovations. China’s emphasis is on diversifying its production and consumption to domestic and overseas markets. The challenge of its aging work force is met by the increasing development of robotics and computerized productive systems.
China has applied capital controls and limits on capital flight. The national campaign against corruption and speculation in real estate has led to the arrest of over 200,000 officials and executives for fraud, bribery and money laundering via overseas banks.
In other words, the false prophets, parading about as ‘China experts’, have consistently made nonsensical predictions of doom and collapse. Faced with factual refutations, they merely repeat and recycle their prophecies by projecting longer time frames, up to infinity, for the coming of the inevitable catastrophe.
On the other hand, some progressive writers peddle prophesies of China’s endless progress predicting its inevitable emergence as a supreme global power. They convert China’s 30-year pattern of economic growth into a formula guaranteeing ‘harmonious development’, which they claim is based on China’s correct handling of emerging challenges and contradictions. Their predictions of stable future growth assume ever-expanding markets while ignoring the threat of military confrontations with rival imperial powers.
China’s prophets of global power ignore contingencies: Skilled and innovative workers, who are necessary for economic growth, have their own vision of the social structure in which they play a leading role in advancing society.
While robots can substitute for human labor power, it is worker knowledge and initiative that design, produce and adjust the robotic manufacturing system.
Harmony, free markets and mutually beneficial trade alliances are relations that are always changing; only interests remain constant. As China moves from investing in commodities to manufacturing and technology, customers can turn into competitors.
As China emerges as a global power, the outflow of capital and arms and technology increases, and the risks of global rivalry and domestic instability, challenging the Chinese ruling class likewise increase.
Prophecies or predictions depend on (1) the stability of incremental changes in the structure of power; (2) the uncertainty of elite outcomes in world markets and (3) the volatility of domestic class relations.
False Prophets: Latin America
Latin America is almost universally regarded as unstable – a region, where revolutions and counter-revolutions alternate, and electoral regimes rise and fall among neo-liberal, populist and nationalist leaders.
The long-term reality is actually quite different. Latin America has been one of global capitalism’s most stable regions. With few exceptions, property-ownership has remained stable for decades, with entrenched oligarchical elite families enjoying wealth, multiple-luxury properties throughout the world and their own perpetuation.
Electoral regimes may frequently change but the underlying state structures endure for decades. Bureaucratic, military and financial institutions set the margins of change. Neo-liberal, post-neo-liberal and anti-neo-liberal policies come and go, but large-scale mining, export agricultural and banking structures ultimately set the conditions for the growth of economies and demise of governments.
There is a tendency for some academic prophets and writers to use metaphors from astronomy and geology to divide the world. They describe a ‘world-system’ composed of ‘a core, a semi-periphery and a periphery’. Adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing quantities of productive resources, the false prophets solemnly predict how the entire world system will function ‘ad infinitum’.
While data, derived from observations in space, provide scientists with insights into the movements of distant galaxies and the fate of planets, extrapolation to socio-economic and political ‘bodies’ is risky.
On the real planet Earth, the so-called ‘periphery’ of the ‘world system’ subsumes countries, economies, social structures, states and inter-state relations with entirely distinct composition, behavior and histories. Cuba, a ‘peripheral state’, differs in every respect from Haiti, Guatemala and scores of other likewise categorized nations. And among the ‘core’ countries, the US invades, occupies and plunders dozens of countries every decade, while China engages in ‘trade’. Iran, among the ’semi-peripherals’, has not invaded any neighbor for two centuries, while Israel, a fellow ‘semi-peripheral’, has ravaged a dozen countries in the past 50 years.
False Prophets: Russia
Western prophets on the right and left predicted that the break-up of the USSR would augur a period of harmony, democracy and widespread prosperity. The true believers claimed ‘anything was better than Stalinism’ while ignoring the fact that Stalin was dead for a half-century.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev oversaw the transformation of the USSR’s allied nations into pillaged satellites of the Western imperial powers. He blindly accepted US Presidents Bush and Ronald Reagan’s promises that the US would not expand NATO and would not transform the newly emerging post-Soviet nations into military bases. What emerged was a crippled and encircled Russia, which had been converted into a Beggar-State of oligarchs and swindlers who seized over a trillion dollars of public property, wealth, land and resources in less than ten years. Gangsters murdered their way into public office through US-manipulated sham elections, celebrated by the Western press. Living standards for millions of post-Soviet citizens collapsed, resulting in the greatest decline of life expectancy, health, culture, science and education in peacetime history.
Contrary to the predictions of Western prophets Russia rebuilt its state and economy. The new political leadership, headed by Vladimir Putin, replaced the dipsomaniac puppet President and mobsters favored by Washington. Living and health standards have vastly improved; production, agriculture, exports, national security, science and culture have recovered.
The angry false prophets, then promoted a new pseudo-scientific assertion that the re-emergence of the Russian state and its recovering economy led inexorably to autocratic rule by a former KGB official, who violated ‘Western values’ by…. jailing swindler billionaires and self-made oil mobsters and re-appropriating vital national assets.
Western editorialists ceaselessly denounce the popularly elected President Putin for his crime… of refuting the bankruptcy of their prophecies.
Despite reams of reports by the ‘experts’, despite their wide circulation in the mass media and their citations by top Western officials, the Russian state and economy, just like the Chinese, are not on the verge of collapse nor are they declining or facing popular revolts.
False Prophets: The Left
The shallow, self-serving Left prophets of progressive governments in Latin America, as well as admirers of Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China, fail to recognize the structural, historical and class constraints that determine and limit policies.
First and foremost, they fail to recognize the socio-economic continuities within these states. In all three regions, elites and oligarchs continue to control the commanding heights of the economies, despite occasional expropriations and sporadic reforms.
Secondly, even the most ‘progressive’ regimes rely on Western markets and investors limiting their long-term growth.
Thirdly, the long-term dependence on extractive exports, global demand and fragile mono-culture economies weakens the long-term stability of Russia and Latin America.
The absence of a socialist democratic alternative to the brutal capitalist restoration in China undermines the optimistic perspective of progressive prophets.
The debate among experts, regarding the rise or decline of the Imperial West or the progressive forces in China, Russia and Latin America, fails to consider their ‘hidden resources and liabilities’. These include the untapped scientific discoveries, the failure to develop alternative resources and innovations, as well as the ongoing repression of skilled workers. The Western prophets underestimate how the reliance on the paper economy has squandered immense social and productive value.
The ongoing cultural deformations, perversions and falsifications of information and analysis at the behest of established power centers, has clouded any real understanding of everyday life and greatly reduced our chances for a future without barbaric wars and social exploitation.
Culture is an everyday phenomenon determining how economies and states, rulers and ruled see the world, exercise power or are forced to submit.
We have witnessed the spread of cultural squalor into language and life, with only an occasional respite, when people overcome their everyday stupor and create a momentary burst of creative political, economic, social and cultural energy, which can lead to transformations.
Humdrum incremental changes, left and right, and the reality of continuities, limit and ultimately reverse social reforms and corrupt language to serve the ruling powers. We must move forward against the flatulence of everyday life by rejecting the false prophets and by writing, speaking and acting against crackpot sages. Our progress toward a new order must be firmly rooted in our everyday struggles writ large.
A few weeks ago, The Duran’s Peter Lavelle wrote a very revealing piece on the draconian phenomena of ‘ghost banning’ and ways Facebook and other media are censoring what ordinary people see on their news feeds.
The method that Facebook is now using to censor news articles is very unsuspecting and will go unnoticed to the daily Facebook user. Below is an explanation of how exactly they are censoring your news feed and the news feeds’ of your friends.
Facebook has created a privacy setting smugly called a “smart list.” Here are some screenshots from my Facebook to show exactly what you can do to make sure Facebook doesn’t censor your or your friends’ news feeds.
When you share an article or post, the “smart list” is selected by default. If the default “smart list” is selected, no one from your friends’ list or beyond will see your post…
You need to manually select ‘Public’ to change it from Facebook’s default ‘smart list’…
This “smart list” essentially controls who sees your posts or more accurately, who doesn’t see your posts. This is disturbing because this “smart list” and who is on this ‘list’ is not controlled by you – but by Facebook.
This method will shorten a posts’ or articles’ reach dramatically, because the only ones who will see the article are those who have selected to see that pages’ posts first.
The briefcase icon is shown when a ‘smart list’ is selected – while a globe is shown to represent that your post is public. Notice that the ‘smart list’ post has no activity on it – no likes, shares, or comments. Meanwhile, the public post has dozens of likes and comments…
No doubt an information war is waging – and the elites controlling the mainstream narrative are losing battle after battle. We are seeing the results of what happens when people have the ability to think for themselves and are offered an alternative viewpoint. Now the establishment is resorting to censorship and controlling what was once an open community.
It was well established in 2016 that most things that go wrong in the world are Russia’s fault — but last week the Washington Post decided to really close the year out with a bang.
The Post, which openly aspires to become the “new paper of record,” published a story claiming that Russian hackers penetrated the US power grid through a utility in Vermont.
There was no ambiguity whatsoever in the headline. Russian hackers penetrated a US electricity grid, according to officials. Scary stuff, right? The only problem was, the central claim of the story was entirely made up.
In a deconstruction of the Post’s piece for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald clarified the most basic facts, which the Post’s journalists and editors somehow failed to do: There was no Russian penetration of the US power grid. In fact, there was no penetration of the US power grid at all.
Burlington Electric public utility received a standard notice (sent to all utility companies) about a malware code which had also been found in the Democratic National Committee system (also reportedly hacked by the Russians).
Burlington Electric then searched its computers and found the code in one laptop which was not connected to the power grid. And that’s pretty much it.
According to Greenwald, the Post journalists didn’t even perform their most basic duty to contact the company before publishing their alarmist article, forcing the company to later issue its own statement clarifying what had happened— or, technically, what had not happened.
“Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false,” the company said on its website.
But by then the fake story was already out there. Other outlets had picked the news up and enthusiastically repeated the latest claims of evil Russian meddling. Politicians made dramatic statements about how there must be a response to such grievous Russian interference.
Vermont’s governor for example, issued a restrained and careful statement telling “Vermonters and all Americans” they should be “alarmed and outraged” to have one of the world’s “leading thugs” Vladimir Putin hacking into their electricity grid.
Eventually the Post attached a correction to the top of their story, which reads: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.”
That at least clears up the fact that their central piece of ‘news’ was a lie, but the headline on the Post’s piece still dramatically claims that a “Russian operation” was responsible for the hacking.
In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that a “Russian operation” was responsible for infecting the laptop. Yes, the malware was “Russian-made” but that doesn’t mean “the Russians” used it.
Malware can be bought and sold by anyone — and as Greenwald points out, assuming the users in this instance were Russian would be like finding a Kalashnikov at a murder scene and assuming the killer was Russian. That would be a pretty irresponsible claim to make — and so were the Post’s claims, but we’re apparently living in a media environment that permits the publishing of any absurdity so long as “the Russians” come out looking evil.
How does this happen? How is it taken so lightly in a media environment that is apparently obsessed with the perils of “fake news” distorting reality? Publishing outrageous claims about Russia — which later turn out to be false or evidence-less — is becoming something of a habit for Western journalists. To compound the problem, there is practically no comeuppance when they get something wrong, either by negligence or intention.
Once the story is out there it grows legs and thousands of people —hundreds of thousands even — believe it before the offending publication ever slaps a by-then useless correction onto it. This is exactly how fake news spreads regardless of who is spreading it.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a pro-Trump fake news operation run by Moldovan teenagers or if it’s the Washington Post. It happens the same way. The difference is that journalists at the Washington Post are supposed to be held to some basic journalistic standards. In this case, a simple call to Burlington Electric would have saved them considerable time and embarrassment.
Maybe even as bad as the story itself was some of the reaction. In a piece covering the controversy, instead of criticizing the Post’s fear-mongering article, one Newsweek journalist called those who questioned the false claims “Russia apologists”.
Worse still, the author suggested the skepticism surrounding the story could have been Donald Trump’s fault because he has refused to blame Russia for the hacks/leaks at the DNC. But the skepticism surrounding the story existed because it was untrue and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the author’s desire to insert a bit of superfluous Trump bashing into his piece.
The piece went on to admit the Washington Post “went too far in its reporting,” which is an odd way of saying the Post made stuff up and published it. The author also admitted that Greenwald raised “fair and important criticisms” about the Post, but questioned his motivations by pointing out that he has been skeptical of other Russia hacking stories too, as if that somehow invalidates his current skepticism.
In other words, the Newsweek piece was one step away from calling Greenwald himself a Kremlin agent.
The author ends on a pessimistic note, worrying that in the current media and political climate, “snide Russia apologists” are unlikely to “retreat” any time soon, continuing to lay the greater portion of his criticisms on those who were right (the Russia “apologists”) rather than those who were wrong (the Post’s journalists).
The Post’s story did have one good use, however. It was perhaps the best and clearest indication yet of just how little time and effort goes into much mainstream US media reporting when Russia is the subject.
Journalists who care more about facts than propelling and compounding easy narratives should take heed and treat the Post’s latest mistake as a cautionary tale.
In early 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell took the stage at the UN “to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Powell justified the impending US invasion of Iraq on the claim that Saddam Hussein’s regime continued to produce and stockpile chemical and biological weapons in violation of UN resolutions. He dazzled his audience with audio recordings and surveillance photographs that he claimed constituted evidence of Iraq’s perfidy.
Two years later Powell called the presentation a “blot” on his record, admitting that he had deceived the UN. The “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t exist. All the Saddam-era chemical weapons recovered in Iraq since 2003 are of pre-1991 manufacture with no evidence linking them to the regime since the 1991 war.
How long can we expect to wait for the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center to admit that its report, GRIZZLY STEPPE — Russian Malicious Cyber Activity — pre- hyped as providing “evidence” of Russian government interference in the 2016 US presidential election — is a reprise of Powell’s UN speech?
Marcello Truzzi, a skeptic of paranormal claims, once said “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.”
The claim of Russian interference in the election is certainly extraordinary (“beyond what is ordinary or usual; highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable”). So is US president Barack Obama’s response, including the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and closure of two diplomatic compounds in the US.
The “evidence” in the report, however, is not extraordinary. It’s not even ordinary. It’s non-existent. The report is just a list of cyber warfare methods accompanied by some pretty diagrams. No IP or MAC addresses. No chain of verifiable records showing suspect packets coming from, or going to, Russian machines. The report’s “evidence” for Russian government involvement is the same “evidence” we’ve been offered before: “It’s so because we say it’s so. Trust us.”
Did the Russians conduct cyber attacks for the purpose of influencing the election’s outcome? It wouldn’t surprise me, but I don’t know. You probably don’t know either. The US government continues to state it as fact while declining to prove it.
It seems silly to go to these lengths for no higher purpose than to shift blame away from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton for their poor nomination decision-making and her mediocre campaign. And dangerous to do so at the risk of further queering already tense US relations with a nuclear power.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. Twitter: @thomaslknapp
As the US mainstream media obsessed last week about Russia’s supposed “hacking” of the US elections and President Obama’s final round of Russia sanctions in response, something very important was taking place under the media radar. As a result of a meeting between foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey last month, a ceasefire in Syria has been worked out and is being implemented. So far it appears to be holding, and after nearly six years of horrible warfare the people of Syria are finally facing the possibility of rebuilding their lives.
What is so important about this particular ceasefire? It was planned, agreed to, and implemented without the participation of the United States Government.
In fact it was frustration with Washington’s refusal to separate its “moderates” from terrorist groups and its continued insistence on regime change for the Syrian government that led the three countries to pursue a solution on their own for Syria. They also included the Syrian government and much of the opposition in the agreement, which the US government has been unwilling to do.
We have been told all along by the neocons and “humanitarian interventionists” that the United States must take a central role in every world crisis or nothing will ever be solved. We are the “indispensable nation,” they say, and without our involvement the world will collapse. Our credibility is on the line, they claim, and if we don’t step up no one will. All this is untrue, as we have seen last week.
The fact is, it is often US involvement in “solving” these crises that actually perpetuates them. Consider the 60-plus year state of war between North and South Korea. Has US intervention done anything to solve the problem? How about our decades of meddling in the Israel-Palestine dispute? Are we any closer to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians despite the billions we have spent bribing and interfering?
Non-intervention in the affairs of others does not damage US credibility overseas. It is US meddling, bombing, droning, and regime-changing that damages our credibility overseas. US obstruction in Syria kept the war going. As the Syrians and Russians were liberating east Aleppo from its four year siege by al-Qaeda, the Obama Administration was demanding a ceasefire. As Syrians began to move back into their homes in east Aleppo, the State Department continued to tell us that the Russians and Syrian government were slaughtering civilians for the fun of it.
So why all the media attention on unproven accusations of Russian hacking and President Obama’s predictable, yet meaningless response? The mainstream media does the bidding of Washington’s interventionists and they are desperate to divert attention from what may prove to be the beginning of the end of Syria’s long nightmare. They don’t want Americans to know that the rest of the world can solve its own problems without the US global policemen in the center of the action. When it is finally understood that we don’t need to be involved for crises to be solved overseas, the neocons will lose. Let’s hope that happens soon!
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s claims that Russia hacked the 2016 US election are based on flimsy evidence, says security expert Mark Maunder.
On December 29, the DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) put together by the DHS and the FBI that blames Russia for hacking the US presidential election in an operation which they nicknamed GRIZZLY STEPPE. Among other things, the report cites the presence of PHP malware as one of the clues pointing to Russian involvement.
RT talked to Mark Maunder, CEO of internet security company Wordfence, to get his perspective.
“Our field is PHP malware and WordPress security,” Maunder explained. “We protect about two million WordPress websites.”
“The Wordfence team analyzed the PHP malware the DHS and FBI included in their report, and we analyzed the IP addresses. Looking at the PHP malware, they provided a sample, so we used the sample to find the original PHP malware which is actually in some of the attacks we’ve seen on our customer’s websites and that we’ve blocked. And that malware is encrypted, so we had to find some way to decrypt it.
“Once we decrypted it, it showed us the name of the malware and some other information, like the version of the malware. We used that to do a few searches, and we actually found what looks like the source of the malware which is a hacking group that claimed they were based in Ukraine, and they’re distributing versions of that malware which are slightly newer,” he said.
Maunder said the malware isn’t so much a tool for breaking into systems, as one used to control those already compromised.
“The malware is something the attacker would use if they’ve just hacked into a website and they want to have the ability to control that website. In other words, view files, or maybe copy files back and forth and install additional tools – they would use this malware to do that. So, it’s not malware that’s used to infect workstations. It’s sort of used as a step in the process a hacker would use to put something on a website that would then infect workstations,” the security expert explained.
However, the fact that this software was used in no way indicates that Russia interfered, officially or otherwise, in the American presidential elections.
“It’s unfortunate that the report was released on the same day that the White House took action and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. That, and some of the language in the report, seems to suggest that it is proof that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election.
“What’s actually in the report doesn’t actually include enough data, in our opinion, to show that there’s a clear link that Russia interfered in the US election. What’s actually in the report is indicators of compromise that any systems administrator could use to figure out they’ve been hacked. There’s some stuff in there that’s associated with some previous Russian activity, but it’s not evidence of a Russian link, and I think a lot of people are interpreting it as that. There are tools in the report that are sort of general tools that are used by any hacker, so if you find some of the malware that’s in the report on your network, it doesn’t mean that you were hacked by Russia, and the report doesn’t conclusively prove that Russia interfered in the election. And so, I think it’s being misinterpreted and I think that’s unfortunate,” he said.
Maunder said it is even possible that the whole attack was a false-flag operation of some kind, but he admitted there was no evidence to back this idea so far, either. He conceded, however, that the authorities could have some other information that they have not yet made public.
“A lot of indicators of compromise in this report can be used by anyone, because some of those hacking tools are publicly available. However, if the DHS and FBI have other indicators of compromise that conclusively provide a Russian link, then perhaps that’s what they used to identify the attack and link it to Russia,” he said.
Both the Obama administration and leading members of both the Democratic and Republican parties have accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and releasing sensitive documents to WikiLeaks in order to compromise presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has referred to the alleged hack as “an act of war.”
More recently, the Washington Post accused Russian hackers of breaking into the national power grid in Vermont, but the newspaper was soon forced to admit that its allegations were groundless.
The sitting British officials remain ignorant of the fact what kind of disservice the Obama administration has made them by demanding London to repeat the twisted lies the former has been spreading. Both David Cameron and Theresa May have always been obedient disciples of the White House, therefore they chose to spread tedious lies and disinformation in a bid to justify the failure of their social and economic policies, while hiding from the public the fact that Britain is responsible for a number of armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.
As a result, a considerable number of media sources and non-governmental organizations have been tasked with creating the image of a dangerous enemy looming somewhere on the borders, to cover corruption and looting of the UK treasury, that are now being labeled as “necessary measures taken for the protection from external threats.”
The British Independent would become pretty apologetic by claiming:
The foreign media has allowed – through naivety or self-interest – people who could only operate with the permission of al-Qaeda-type groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham to dominate the news agenda.
So it’s now the fault of pro-Western radical militants that the corporate media were publishing one lie after another about the situation in Aleppo, and Western governments had nothing to do with the fact that those who reported facts about the situation on the ground would soon be kidnapped and executed. Thus, the Independent openly admits, that radical jihadists were allowed to shape the media coverage of Western media sources completely. But then the Independent takes a step further in admitting what has been happening all along in Syria:
It would be simple-minded to believe that this very appealing and professional PR for the Syrian armed opposition is all their own work. Foreign governments play a fairly open role in funding and training opposition media specialists. One journalist of partly Syrian extraction in Beirut told me how he had been offered $17,000 a month to work for just such an opposition media PR project backed by the British government.
So, both the UK and US media sources are accomplices of the war crimes that the West has been carrying out in Syria, or maybe the editors of those corporate media sources were held hostage of radical militants too, while being unable to tell the truth?
The more time passes since the liberation of Aleppo, the more facts we learn about the attempts that the West made to prevent citizens of this city from getting rid from the barbaric oppression of radical militants. There’s been reports that the fake stories about “Russia’s war crimes in Syria” were fabricated by British intelligence services. There’s every reason to believe that even though the notorious “White Helmets” organization is being sponsored by George Soros, it’s directly controlled by Western intelligence services. In total, London has allocated 32 million pounds to sponsor this organization, with 12,5 sent last year alone. According to the reports released by Syrian journalists, the White Helmets are getting 50 million dollars a year from various sources, while George Soros remains one of their main sponsors.
The founder of the White Helmets is James Le Mesurier, a British “security” specialist and ‘ex’ British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO interventions. Additionally, one of the leaders of the White Helmets, Mosab Obeidat, has already been identified to have contributed a major role in the financing of the terrorist groups. According to some reports, Obeidat has played the role of a mediator in providing the Syrian militants with around 2.2 million dollars to pay for weapons and ammunition supplies.
The White Helmets have been actively cooperating with the Jabhat al-Nusra movement, the local branch of Al-Qaeda. In fact, it was with the support of these terrorist organizations that allowed the White Helmets to operate in the areas controlled by terrorists, where other non-governmental organizations are virtually banned. It’s curious that last year this organization was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which, according to its backers in London, would make its activities more visible.
In this regard, it’s curious that in the official report UK NON-HUMANITARIAN AID IN RESPONSE TO THE SYRIA CONFLICT, it’s been explicitly stated that the White Helmets received 15 million pounds from the British government, while another 5.3 million pounds were allocated to “certain media sources”.
It should also be added that just recently at the UN conference entitled “Against propaganda and regime change, for peace and national sovereignty” Eva Bartlett, a prominent journalist from Canada, stressed the fact that there are no offices of international human rights organizations in Syria. Therefore, the West is free to draw any conclusions about the humanitarian situation on the basis of the observations of “Syrian Observatory For Human Rights”, that has a single employee that is living in the UK. Bartlett has also complained that reports are often drafted on the basis of the information provided by dubious groups, such as the White Helmets.
It’s imperative for everyone to understand that when policymakers act according to false narratives, especially ones they create themselves, the result is grave dangers, as we are now experiencing with the new Cold War. To escape these dangers, London must first get the history right, particularly its own role in spreading conflicts in the Middle East.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East.