Reprieve | February 5, 2017
UK authorities trained Bahrain’s police how to gather intelligence on protestors, and then tried to cover up the scheme, international human rights group Reprieve has found. The project took place after protestors in the Gulf kingdom were rounded up and sentenced to death.
Britain’s Foreign Office paid for half a dozen Bahraini police officers to visit Belfast in August 2015, where the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) shared its expertise on gathering intelligence ahead of demonstrations.
Protestors in Bahrain, such as Mohammed Ramadan, have been targeted by police and tortured into falsely confessing to capital crimes. Mr Ramadan, a father of three young children, is now on death row and could be executed at any time.
The training, which also included sessions on water cannons, dog handling and public order tactics, was kept secret. The UK government has repeatedly denied providing public order training to Bahrain.
The Cabinet Office claimed that “The UK does not fund any programmes in Bahrain focused on public order”. However, documents obtained by Reprieve show that Bahrain’s police received an “Introduction to Combined Operational Training with a focus on Public Order.”
The training was prepared by Northern Irish police officers during a week-long “scoping visit” to Bahrain over April-May 2015, where they assessed Bahrain’s public order systems. The Stormont-owned company NI-CO played a key role in organising all the training.
It has also emerged that Bahrain’s Chief of Police and his deputies visited Belfast in June 2014. The itinerary included another session with the PSNI on “Community Intelligence”. The police chief attended a “demonstration of PSNI Public Order systems” and received a “Tour of North and West Belfast ‘Flashpoints’ with 2 or 3 PSNI Armoured Vehicles”.
Bahrain’s Chief of Police had to postpone a visit to Belfast earlier in 2014 because there was a “security emergency in Bahrain at the moment and it is felt that the Chief of Police and other senior officers cannot leave the country at this critical time.” This was a month after death-row prisoner Mohammed Ramadan was tortured. “The situation on the ground is becoming increasingly tense”, an email explained.
Bahrain’s Chief of Police has command level responsibility for violations carried out by lower ranking officers. Months after the police chief visited Belfast for training, teenager Ali al-Singace was arrested and tortured by Bahrain’s police with electric shocks, until he made a false confession to a capital crime. He was executed by firing squad in January 2017.
Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said:
“It is outrageous that the government has covered up this project, which risks supporting the execution of protesters in Bahrain.
“Bahrain is notorious for arresting, torturing and sentencing to death people involved in protests – such as Mohammed Ramadan, a father of three who is held on death row and faces execution at any moment.
“By training Bahrain’s police how to gather intelligence on protesters, there is a serious risk that Britain is helping them arrest and execute people who are guilty of nothing more than calling for reform. It is scandalous that the Government has sought to sweep this under the carpet.”
Representative Maxine Waters has argued that US President Donald Trump will inevitably be impeached because of his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who she claimed is “advancing in Korea.”
Waters, a 13-term Democrat from Los Angeles, has called for Trump’s impeachment several times now, however she has yet to explicitly accuse the president of breaking the law.
Speaking to reporters with other House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Waters sought to explain why she is pushing for Trump’s impeachment less than a month into his term in the White House.
“I am not calling for the impeachment yet. He’s doing it himself,” Waters claimed.
“How can a president, who is acting in the manner that he’s acting, whether he’s talking about the travel ban, the way that he’s talking to Muslims, or whether he’s talking about his relationship to Putin, and the Kremlin, and knowing that they have hacked our D-triple-C, DNC, and knowing that he is responsible for supplying the bombs that killed innocent children and families in, um… um… Aleppo.”
“And the fact that he is wrapping his arms around Putin while Putin is continuing to advance into Korea. I think that he is leading himself into that kind of position where folks will begin to ask, what are we going to do?”
“And the answer is going to be, eventually, we’ve got to do something about him. We cannot continue to have a president who’s acting in this manner. It’s dangerous to the United States of America.
“Aleppo” was suggested to Waters by members of the press corps when she couldn’t remember where she alleged that the Russian president supplied bombs.
Waters may argue that it was merely a slip of the tongue, and that she meant Crimea as opposed to Korea.
Pelosi quickly distanced herself from her colleague’s comments. “Many things the congresswoman said are grounds for displeasure and unease in the public about the performance of this president,” she said.
She explained that Trump has acted in a way that is “strategically incoherent, incompetent and that is reckless… that is not grounds for impeachment,” she stated.
The massacre of Muslims in Canada at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday, January 29, raises a number of questions about what happened but also raises deep questions of morality and justice since the massacre of Muslims in Canada is rightly condemned but another massacre of Muslims, in Yemen, is shamefully and criminally condoned. In one situation, a suspect faces trial for murder and is condemned by public opinion, while in the other the guilty are treated as heroes and will receive medals. Let’s deal with the Canadian situation first.
Instead of facts we have confusion since first reports are of two figures, wearing ski masks, blasting away with Ak-47’s. Now the two are declared to be one. We have a conversation on a bridge between a “suspect” and the police, after the “suspect” is alleged to have called them “because he feels bad,” to tell them he “was involved.” What that means is not stated but is played in the press as a confession, but there is no confession. At his bail hearing on Monday, the sole accused Alexandre Bissonnette, entered no plea and said not a word.
He is portrayed in the press as a right wing oddball, a loner type. Friends and family never saw it coming. Much is made of his mundane “likes” on his Facebook site as if these indicate his guilt or innocence any more than my “likes” indicate mine. Was he a hidden ideological time bomb and killed with an objective in mind, to make a cruel statement, to create terror for political objectives? If so, and after so brazen a massacre, where were the shouts of defiance, of bragging, from this terrorist madman? Instead, a man shuffled and hung his head and dared not look anyone in the eye, tried to keep a low profile when all eyes were focused on him. Why? Is he one of the shooters? Were there two or just one?
The Toronto Star reported on the Sunday, January 30, that,
“Two attackers carried out a shooting at a Quebec City Mosque…”
Quoting Radio-Canada, the Star stated that,
“One man who was at the mosque told Radio-Canada that there were two attackers wearing ski masks who burst into the building and opened fire. The man, who didn’t want to be identified by name, said they had strong Quebecois accents, but added that he believed them shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’… The man said he narrowly escaped when a bullet whizzed over his head. He said the gunmen took aim at those who were still praying.”
There we have it, a recent direct witness statement that there were two shooters, not one, as the police now claim. The witness talks in the plural all through his statement. There can be no doubt this event is seared in his mind. He was there. There can be no doubt there were two men involved. But now one has disappeared from the official narrative. I am not surprised he feared to give his name because if killers can disappear witnesses can too.
Even the CBC, on Tuesday January 31, in reference to a witness who was arrested as a suspect by mistake, quoted that witness as stating, “I found a victim near the door. I didn’t know if he was alive or dead… when I gave him my jacket to keep warm, I saw the image of someone with a firearm. I didn’t know it was the police. I thought it was a shooter who’d returned.”
He refers to “a” shooter not “the” shooter implying there were more than one. He even thought the police officers were the shooters. But clearly he misunderstood why they were there. And the CBC article also cited the witness who saw two attackers and repeated the Radio-Canada story.
The police now state there was only one shooter. Yet the police statement from the Surete de Quebec on January 30 said, “The Surete de Quebec confirms that only one of the individuals arrested yesterday evening is connected with the attack in Quebec and is considered a suspect.” That does not exclude other attackers and does not say that Bissonnette is the only attacker. Now the press are quoting witnesses saying there was one attacker but the police state they have two long guns used in the crime. Witnesses described them as AK 47’s. They also say that a shooter also used a 9 mm pistol after his rifle jammed. The 9mm could hold 15 rounds and since more than 20 people were shot the question of two shooters does not go away.
What is the motive? Not a word on that from anyone though the media is heavy with speculation it is because of alleged right wing views. But many people in Quebec and Canada share these opinions. This is not evidence. If it was Bissonnette, was this a hate attack against Muslims and if so how did this come about? If it wasn’t, is he insane so that now he is arrested we no longer need worry? Very different scenarios cause different reactions and consequences. But we are left with the word “terrorism” as if saying it explains things. Where and how did he or they get the automatic weapons they used? Was CSIS, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service aware of any of this developing? If not, why not?
Who benefits from this crime? We know that President Trump issued an executive order banning entry of Muslims from certain countries on Friday. The Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, in reaction to the Trump travel ban, stated on Saturday,
“To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of faith. Diversity is our strength.”
One day later, on Sunday, came the message in the form of the attack that Muslims better forget Canada as a safe place to be. So, was there a political objective? If so, was it to damage Trump through the murder of innocents? Was it to slap down Trudeau and damage Canada’s reputation? Will it be another in a long string of such incidents the past few years which have been used to excuse even more draconian security laws and loss of civil rights and freedoms?
The anti-Trump media, political opponents and commentators are using it to link Trump to right wing murderers, while Trump has tried to use it to call for more security and offered Canada the help of American security services.
The Canadian media are in a frenzy putting out stories about Canada as a welcoming country that is horrified by this crime and condemning violence against Muslims. The only thing the public knows is that we do not know the whole story.
But the massacre in Quebec City was not the only massacre that took place on that Sunday. That same day American special forces invaded Yemen and carried out a series of “raids,” in reality a series of invasions of a sovereign country to kill its citizens. One of these raids was against a man they claim was a “suspected Al-Qaeda leader” their code phrase for anyone they want out of the way in the Middle East, since Al-Qaeda does not exist; it is just a label attached to any group in the middle east that resists US hegemony, or in Yemen, is part of the resistance to the US-UK sponsored war conducted by Saudi Arabia against Yemen.
This invasion of Yemen, an act of aggression against a member of the United Nations, was planned by President Obama and approved by President Trump, showing the seamless continuity of American imperialism. It was supposedly to “gather intelligence,” in the form of a computer hard drive. To obtain that hard drive, the Americans slaughtered dozens.
In one version in the US media, the American soldiers descended from their helicopters, surrounded a house, and then killed everyone in it. They then began to meet resistance and more violence ensued as the Yemenis tried to resist the American invaders. A US helicopter was shot down, and as is often the case with them, the Americans fired and bombed indiscriminately and killed, according to local media, 30 people including civilians, 8 women and children among them, and bombed a school, a medical facility and a mosque. It was reported that the Americans killed more people in Yemen in other raids that day.
This is a war crime under international law, a crime against humanity, to invade a country and kill its citizens who have every right to resist the attack. Yet where is the condemnation of President Obama for planning this operation and for President Trump for carrying it out? Where are the arrests of these two men and the soldiers who carried out this atrocity? Are they not as guilty as Alexandre Bissonnette, if indeed he is one of the attackers in Quebec? Why is it insignificant that Muslims are murdered in their homes and mosques in Yemen by a powerful state but a world tragedy when Muslims are murdered in a mosque in Canada?
Yet, as the Surete de Quebec and the other Canadian police forces and intelligence agencies carry out their activities to determine what happened in Quebec City and as the Canadian and world media put out wall to wall coverage of the massacre in Canada, the same media do nothing more than regret the death and wounding of the American murderers who carried out the massacre in Yemen and excuse this mass slaughter while the prosecutor of the ICC sits at her desk and wonders why she and the court she represents have become totally irrelevant to what seems to be a hopeless quest to prevent war crimes and the wars from which they arise and which have led directly to the crimes in Canada and Yemen.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events.
The scope of various cyber operations carried out by different state players has recently become the cause of increasing tension amid international relations. For instance, at the end of 2016, the United States accused Russia of hacking the servers of the US Democratic National Committee, which resulted in the introduction of sanctions against a number of Russian intelligence services that were described as offenders in this recent incident. However, Washington to date, hasn’t presented any evidence to back up its claims.
At the same time, a considerable number of Western media sources, including Foreign Policy, have openly admitted Moscow was not accused of anything in America’s last election that Washington itself has not done elsewhere in the world.
Curiously enough, distinguished historian Marc Trachtenberg, professor emeritus at UCLA, has already stressed that this alleged interference is a type of behavior that the United States helped establish; since meddling in other countries’ politics has been an American specialty for decades. The Washington Times seems to be convinced too that America’s record of meddling in other countries and of leaders who have lied to Washington puts it in the position where it must tread carefully to avoid hypocrisy.
Those who complain about alleged Russian offenses must certainly know that the US government eavesdrops, as a matter of course, on the private communications of many people around the world. The National Security Agency, whose job it is to do this kind of eavesdropping, has a budget of about 10 billion dollars, and, according to an article that came out in the Washington Post a few years ago, intercepts and stores “1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications” everyday.
In terms of the development of so-called cyber armies – highly specialized units that can use cyberspace for both military or intelligence purposes – Russia may indeed be found in the top 5 states in the world in this domain, however, it’s lagging behind the US, China, Britain and South Korea. In general, such armies exist officially in a several dozen countries, as for the unofficial numbers, there’s hundreds of those, since the scope of information warfare operations has been increasing rapidly over the years.
It goes without saying that US cyber forces has been the most powerful in the world, with over 9,000 trained professionals in its ranks. As for the UK, the so-called Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been providing employment to over 6,000 servicemen. Out of this number, according to individual media reports, more than 2,000 servicemen are engaged in cyber warfare.
Additionally, it should be noted that cyber squads can be found in a number of armies around the world, but those are not “military hackers”, those are security specialist that are tasked with protecting digital assets and IT infrastructure, at least officially. Off of the top of one’s head one can name such units in South Korea, Israel, Iran and Estonia.
The question of whether or not these hackers are capable of influencing political processes and, in particular, one’s presidential campaign, has been broadly discussed at the latest 9th International Forum on Cybersecurity (FIC), which was held last January in the French city of Lille. For the first time the forum was held in 2007, following an initiative of the National Gendarmerie, and every year it has collected public authorities, private sector representatives, experts and civil society figures. In 2017, the forum aimed at discussing the issue of providing “reasonable security for IT assets.”
France’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Bruno Le Roux has stressed in his opening speech at the forum that IT systems are regularly becoming the target of attacks originating from criminal organizations and even from foreign states, which are showing great ingenuity.
But we must not forget that more often than not, it’s not foreign hackers that play the role of a destabilizing factor in the political life of any given society, but the hackers hired by opposition political parties of these very states. And the United State exemplifies this statement better that any, with Donald Trump announcing his concern over the leakage of the details of his telephone conversations with foreign political figures.
According to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, the Trump administration will have to exercise damage control after the leakage of the details of the discussions that Trump had over the phone with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. “This is a very disturbing fact,” – said Spicer in his recent statement. AP has allegedly acquired these tapes, so it now reports that Trump allegedly said in a conversation that the Mexican government is incapable of dealing with the “bad guys”. For sure, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has claimed that those reports are false, but what other choice did it have?
In addition, Trump has also been denying the claims distributed by the Washington Post that he had a very “bad talk” with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about ” – Trump wrote in his Twitter.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East.
A Georgetown Law professor named David Koplow has drafted what he calls a Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact. In an article proposing it, Koplow does something all too rare, he recognizes some of the merits of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. But he misses others of those merits, as I described them in my 2011 book When The World Outlawed War.
Koplow acknowledges the cultural shift that the pact was central to, that shifted common understanding of war from something that just happens like the weather to something that can be controlled, should be abolished, and would henceforth be illegal. He acknowledges the role of the pact in motivating trials (albeit one-sided trials) for the crime of war following World War II.
But Koplow also does something that I imagine any U.S. law professor must be expected to do. I have yet to find one who doesn’t. He declares that the pact “silently” includes language that it does not actually include, language opening up a loophole for defensive war. While Britain and France added reservations to the treaty, other nations ratified it as it is written. The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee produced a statement interpreting the treaty, but not actually modifying the treaty. Japan did the same. That committee statement interprets the existence of a loophole for defensive war. The pact itself does not contain it and would not have been created, signed, or ratified had it done so.
The actual text of the treaty is superior to the United Nations Charter in not containing two loopholes, one for defensive wars and the other for UN-authorized wars. And contrary to what Koplow claims, but consistent with the facts of the matter that he relates, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is still law. That this makes numerous recent wars illegal is not so significant, as most — if not all — of those wars fail to fit into the UN Charter’s loopholes. But the existence of those loopholes allows endless claims to legality that muddy what would be clear waters if we looked to the peace pact instead of to the UN Charter.
Of course intent is often taken to override actual text. If the people who created the pact intended it to silently allow defensive war, then it allows defensive war, according to this theory. But did they? That all depends on who counts as being those people. Koplow only mentions one of them, Senator William Borah. In fact, Koplow drastically understates Borah’s role. Following the lead of the Outlawry movement and intense lobbying by its leaders, Borah had publicly promoted outlawing war for years before the pact came up for a vote, and he had been instrumental in making sure that it did. On November 26, 1927, Borah had written this in the New York Times :
“I do not think peace plans which turn upon the question of an ‘aggressor nation’ are workable. An aggressor nation is a delusive and wholly impracticable proposition as a factor in any peace plan.” Borah, agreeing with the widespread understanding of the Outlawrists, believed that in any war each side would label the other the aggressor, and that through ultimatums and provocations any side could make another into the aggressor. “I would not support a peace plan,” Borah wrote, “which recognized war as legitimate at any time or under any circumstances.” Having learned from the creators of outlawry, Borah tutored Kellogg and Coolidge, even overcoming the hurdle created by the latter’s belief that outlawing war would be unconstitutional.
But in what exactly did Borah tutor them? Surely not in what appears to every living U.S. law professor in 2017 utter nonsense or a suicide pact? Yes, in fact, in just that. And I’m not sure either Kellogg or Coolidge ever understood it to any greater extent than this: the public demand for it was a hurricane. But here’s what it was, and why those who come around to praising the Kellogg Briand Pact seem more intent on burying it. Outlawry was opposed to the entire institution of war on the model of opposition to dueling — which, outlawrists pointed out, had not been replaced by defensive dueling, but by abolition of the whole barbaric institution. Once you sanction some wars, you motivate preparation for wars, and that moves you toward wars of all kinds. The Outlawrists had grasped this even before Dwight Eisenhower had been part of a chemical weapons attack on World War I veterans in the streets of D.C., much less made any farewell addresses.
But if you ban all war, the Outlawrists grasped, you end up eliminating the need for any war. You organize nonviolent systems of conflict resolution. You create the rule of law. You mobilize a reverse arms race. Peace Studies Departments have largely grasped this just in recent years. Peace activists had it down in the 1920s. And they insisted on their vision in the treaty that they wrote, that they negotiated, that they lobbied for, and that they passed — against the very will of many of the Senators ratifying it. Si vis pacem, para pacem. Koplow quotes this inscription from the pen used to sign the treaty. If you want peace, prepare for peace. That people actually meant that in 1928 is beyond common understanding in 2017. Yet it is down in writing in both the text of the treaty and the many texts of the movement that created it. Banning all war was the intention and is the law.
So why should we, as Koplow proposes, create a brand new treaty, modeled on Kellogg-Briand, but banning only nuclear war? Well, first of all, doing so would not legally or otherwise cancel the existing Kellogg-Briand Pact, which is universally ignored by that tiny number of people who’ve ever heard of it. On the contrary, creating a nuclear KBP would bring attention to the existence of the total KBP. Ending all nuclear war would be a powerful step in the direction of ending all war, would quite possibly keep our species in existence long enough to do so, and would point our thinking in just the right direction.
The treaty as Koplow has drafted it would not be in any conflict with a treaty banning nuclear weapons, but might be a treaty that nuclear nations would sign and ratify, and it would be stronger than simply a commitment not to be the first to use nukes. As drafted, the Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact goes beyond mirroring the language of the KBP to finesse the defensive question and many others. It’s well thought out, and I recommend reading it. Buried toward the end of the draft treaty is a requirement to accelerate efforts toward total nuclear disarmament. I think passing such a ban on only nuclear war would actually accelerate the abolition of all war, and might just do so via creating awareness that all war has been illegal for 88 years.
Following a year-long inquiry, German intelligence agencies have found no reliable evidence of a Russian “disinformation campaign” against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, according to media citing cabinet and security sources.
The German intelligence service (BND) and the counterintelligence agency (BfV) had been searching for evidence of Russian interference in the country’s domestic affairs for nearly a year, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.
“We have not found any smoking gun,” a cabinet source told the paper.
The inquiry was similar to the US intelligence community’s efforts to attribute the notorious 2016 Democratic National Convention email leak to Russian ‘hacking groups.’
Initially, the secret services planned to release excerpts of their classified inquiry, but given the lack of evidence, the move would make Russian-German relations even more strained, according to the newspaper.
Chancellor Merkel’s office has, however, now directed the intelligence agencies to conduct a new inquiry. Notably, a ‘psychological operations group’ jointly run by the BND and BfV will specifically look at Russian news agencies’ coverage in Germany.
Despite the findings, the German intelligence services maintain that Russia has pursued a “more confrontational course” towards Germany since 2014, and call the coverage of Russian media, including RT Deutsch and Sputnik, “hostile.”
Germany’s intelligence community admits a difference between “excessive or false reporting” and “targeted disinformation,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
The revelations do not sit well with previous statements by Bruno Kahl, the head of the BND, who claimed in November last year that his agency had obtained evidence that Russia may have manipulated the vote during the 2016 US election.
He alleged that “Europe, and Germany in particular, is in the focus of these experiments,” adding that German-language internet sites had also been increasingly targeted by so-called ‘troll factories’ distributing targeted misinformation.
“The perpetrators are interested in delegitimizing the democratic process as such, no matter who that subsequently helps,” he said in a rare interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung in November. He also acknowledged that “[finding] an attribution to a state actor is technically difficult.”
Difficulties faced news organisations attempting to cover events in the war in Syria, particularly in the eastern part of Aleppo when under siege. Western journalists had stopped even trying to enter that area for fear of being kidnapped, or worse, at the hands of one or other of the armed factions holding the area. International relief agencies and NGO’s were not to be found on the ground either, for the same reasons.
This is one of the two main problems for media coverage of Syria that Eva Bartlett highlighted at a UN press conference in November 2016 when talking about her first hand experience of conditions in Aleppo. Asked by a journalist from a mainstream publication why she seemed to be challenging ‘all these absolutely documentable facts that we’ve seen from the ground’, she pointed out that he was referring to a hearsay narrative, not facts, because ‘sources on the ground? You don’t have them.’
Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear had earlier in 2016 grappled with this problem, of “safe access denied to objective independent journalists from outside”, and had devised a strategy for circumventing it. He commissioned coverage from a Syrian woman called Wa’ad Alkateab who could move safely in the opposition-held area. She went on to make a series of films – Inside Aleppo – that, thanks to the prominence Channel 4 gave them, became influential in forming public opinion about the circumstances in Aleppo.
This neat side-stepping of the first problem, however, put Channel 4’s coverage at risk of succumbing to the second problem highlighted by Eva Bartlett: any testimony coming out of opposition-held areas has to be considered compromised. For we have to assume that whatever is reported from the opposition-held area is only what those with the guns will permit. So the presumption must be that information coming out is unlikely to be the whole truth and may contain untruths.
For some reason, this presumption – which follows from the most basic principles of credible journalism – seems at times to have been suspended by Channel 4 News in its coverage of Syria. It entered no caveats about the reports and tended to treat their content – without corroboration or independent evidence – as if it had come from verified sources. Channel 4 was thus knowingly complicit in promoting a narrative that was necessarily one-sided.
To take just one obvious example of partiality: Alkateab’s films prominently feature the medical facility where her husband Hamza Al-Khatib played a central role, and we hear repeatedly how the Syrian government and its Russian allies are bombing areas with civilians including the children they treat. What we would never know from these films is that there are many more hospitals in the larger part of Aleppo treating children and other civilians who are victims of rockets and mortars launched into residential areas by fighters from the opposition enclave in the eastern part. These, moreover, can be corroborated.
It should go without saying that a single individual will always have their own limited perspective; an individual with a strong ideological commitment who is deeply embedded with oppositional militants must be assumed to be partial. (The commitment may be sincere and held with good intention but this does not diminish the questions about its partiality.)
This may be why people at Channel 4 responded in a particularly defensive manner to the simple moral force of Eva Bartlett’s cautionary words. They engaged in a rather disingenuous attempt to discredit her. An article published on their website, that merely took issue with one incidental in Bartlett’s account, was promoted by Channel 4 people – from John Snow and Ben de Pear down – as if it had disposed of her critique of mainstream coverage in Syria. The article in fact made no comment on her main points.
Two major claims Bartlett had made – that there were no independent news sources on the ground in Aleppo and that any sources used there should be regarded as compromised – were incontrovertibly true. The factual truth of the first was clearly acknowledged by Channel 4 itself, as we noted. The truth of the second is of a normative kind that would be accepted by any decent journalist under the circumstances prevailing in Aleppo.
What is really at issue, therefore, if we assume agreement about the basic standards of reputable journalism, is whether anyone has an effective reply to her main substantive argument about coverage of the war in Syria, namely, that it involves the promotion of a narrative that lacks a basis in verifiable fact. Bartlett claims that the mainstream media have systematically occluded an entire side of the Syrian story, and they have done so in a way that supports the interests of the NATO and Gulf states that were pressing for ‘regime change’ in Syria; in doing this, they have supported the visitation of a devastating war upon the Syrian people that has been unnecessary and unjustified. The mainstream media are thereby complicit in an egregious contravention of the laws of war and human morality.
Channel 4’s defensiveness on the subject indicates that they saw the charge applied to them as a part of the mainstream consensus. But if they were going to answer it, why did they not play what should have been their strongest card? If Bartlett’s claim is that people on the ground contest the mainstream narrative, why not appeal to contrary testimony from the ground that supports it? They have the Alkateab videos, after all, and these repeatedly show people injured or bereaved by bombings. The thing is, what those videos show is something that is not in dispute: people are being killed by war, and it is difficult to run medical facilities in conditions of war. By contriving to suggest that Bartlett is denying this, which she is obviously not, they evade the real challenge.
In fact, a major evasiveness is at the heart of the series Inside Aleppo. If we bear in mind that the films are shot in an area of the town that is being besieged by the Syrian army and the Russian air force, then we realise this is because there is considerable military resistance being put up. Yet in the Alkateab films there is an eerie silence about the military forces on the ground around them. Although in the film of the couple and their baby entering Aleppo we catch sight of one of their companions carrying an AK47, the rest of the time we see nobody onscreen bearing any arms. Nor do we hear anything about any of the score or so of armed brigades, dominated by the militias of Al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) that are controlling the town and holding at bay the combined military might of Syria and Russia. We do not even hear anything explicit about the so-called ‘moderate opposition’ that the mainstream media refer to.
As it happens, though, Channel 4 did make one film showing the ‘moderate opposition’ at work. It was billed as giving ‘a glimpse into why Syrian and Russian forces have so far been unable to re-take the whole of Aleppo.’ Up Close with the Rebels (released in October 2016) features an example of so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in action. In his voiceover, Krishnan Guru-Murthy introduces the action as “one small but famous victory, as rebels fought back against the forces of Bashar Al-Assad”. With this vicarious sharing of their glory, the Channel 4 man is in no doubt about who they are: they are “Islamist fighters”, he tells us, noting also that “many civilians in West Aleppo are frightened of these rebel fighters”, which would not be surprising given that they are “launching rockets into the western side of the city”. “This group is well equipped”, he adds, “paid for and supplied by Gulf States, mainly Qatar.”
I think we need to pause here. It appears that the film thereby illustrates, point by point, exactly what Bartlett has said about the anti-government forces being foreign-funded terrorists that the ordinary citizens of Syria want to be protected from. Guru-Murthy appears to be corroborating Bartlett’s account as against that promoted by Channel 4.
The manner of the reporting, though, is truly strange. It involves glorifying in the victory of jihadi terrorists while admitting that ordinary civilians in the greater part of Aleppo are in fear of these fighters. I literally cannot imagine what was going through the head of Guru-Murthy as he was saying all this out loud. Nor can I imagine how exactly he thinks the ordinary civilians trapped in the eastern part of Aleppo felt towards these and all the other fighters ruling their lives. After all, he and his colleagues dared not even set foot there.
Still, worse is to come. It relates to a story that shocked the world, in July 2016, when from Aleppo came news – and footage – of a group of Islamists severing the head off a twelve-year old boy with a small knife. That group was Nour Al-Din Al-Zinki, and several of the men directly involved are clearly recognizable in photos that circulated the globe.
One of the men involved in decapitating the twelve-year-old features centre stage in Channel 4’s film.
That, then, is what you find if you actually get up close with the rebels. Channel 4, on being apprised that ordinary observant members of the public apparently knew, or cared, more about the people they were working with than its own news team did, hastily withdrew the video from its website. (I say hastily, as to my knowledge Channel 4 has issued neither apology nor explanation for sending out a news report and then retracting it after people may have relied on it.) The film remains readily accessible elsewhere on the internet – as does the harrowing footage of the decapitation.
The films by Alkateab remain on Channel 4’s catalogue, and it is to be noted that she was not responsible for the Nour Al-Din Al-Zinki footage. But a friend of hers was. Abdul Kader Habak was driving the car that brought Waad and her family into Aleppo. He, like her husband, is interviewed in her film. They presumably all enjoy the same protection.
I make no claim to know which individuals belong to which groups, armed or otherwise, in the ‘rebel-held’ area, but anyone curious enough to look at their public facebook and twitter feeds will see that Wa’ad and Hamza are passionately committed to the anti-government cause. They even use their own baby as a symbol of their struggle. None of this necessarily means their testimony is untrue. But Channel 4 was surprisingly uncritical in its showcasing of the material.
The truth or otherwise of stories from Channel 4’s sources in eastern Aleppo was to be put to the test in the final days of the siege. These saw intense tweeting from the rebels, and retweeting of it by the Channel 4 news team. ‘Massacre was imminent’, and eastern Aleppo was about to ‘fall’ to the merciless forces of the Syrian ‘regime’. These would probably be the ‘last messages’ before government forces ‘annihilated’ them in #holocaustaleppo. Channel 4 bought into this fully, even featuring a filmed ‘letter’ by Wa’ad which starts “Maybe this will be my last letter to you and the world…”.
In the event, those same people would soon be tweeting again from Turkey or other rebel-held parts of Syria. Meanwhile, according to the kinds of observer that regard Eva Bartlett with respect – and according also to the copious footage showing it – the majority of the population of eastern Aleppo, reunited with the western part, celebrated their liberation, welcoming the Syrian army, and the Russians that followed with their sappers to clear buildings of mines and booby-traps left behind by the ‘moderate rebels’.
As the liberated city has started to rebuild and function again, the Western media have gone silent. Channel 4 no longer talks much about Aleppo. But if the news bandwagon may have moved on, real lives have been lost or changed forever as a result of a war that was unjustified and unnecessary. The rest of us must try and learn from such awful chains of events as led to the unspeakable carnage and displacement in Syria.
Most of us know nothing about Syria except what we can glean from the media – either mainstream news outlets or independent investigators on social media. We are not in a position to check facts as such. Yet we can assess the credibility of testimony, even if only by ascertaining whether it is internally consistent rather than self-contradictory. A fully self-consistent story is not guaranteed to correspond to the true facts, of course, but one that is internally inconsistent cannot be the whole or unalloyed truth.
An account of the circumstances in Aleppo, that was internally consistent during the siege, and vindicated by subsequent events, was provided by those few witnesses from the West who were on the ground. The testimony of Eva Bartlett is consistent with that of a number of other independent observers with first hand experience in Syria at this historic moment who show sides to the story closed off by the mainstream media. They include US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, filmmaker Carla Ortiz, journalist Vanessa Beeley, peace campaigner Jan Oberg, and Virginia State Senator Richard Black.
These individuals, have in varying degrees and ways been vilified, patronised or ignored by mainstream outlets – deploying the low tactics of those who cannot win an argument by means of reason or evidence. But why should news agencies even be in the business of making an argument? What exactly is the social role and purpose of the press?
I have chosen to focus on Channel 4, of all the news outlets that promoted the orthodox narrative, for several reasons. Channel 4 has a better reputation among much of the public than some other news outlets: it is thought to have high journalistic standards, and since it also has a public service remit, people tend to expect its coverage to exhibit investigative integrity and objectivity. Yet with regard to its coverage of Syria, not merely did Channel 4 disappoint those expectations, it went the extra mile to reinforce a misleading narrative by commissioning a partisan filmmaker to produce its flagship series of programmes on the war in Syria.
In my opinion, the Channel 4 News team owe a collective apology to Eva Bartlett for suggesting she was discredited when the truth was quite otherwise. I also think that Channel 4 owe us, the public, a commitment to do better than this in future. As for what Channel 4 owes to the people of Syria? The harms of this war can never be made good. Harms of future wars may yet be mitigated or even avoided, and I believe the one thing Channel 4 can and should do is join the side of truth with those who are seeking ways to break up the monolithic deceptions that our communications are increasingly being submerged in.
 “During the summer we made a conscious decision to try and report what was happening in Syria, and particularly in Aleppo, on a daily basis. One person, Wa’ad al Kateab, has made this possible.” Ben de Pear, Channel 4 News, October 2016 http://insidealeppo.com/ It was never made especially clear in Channel 4 news reports on Aleppo how much they relied on this one source, and references to reports on the ground – while unattributed – were also often in the plural. Something to note, however, is that there was not necessarily a plurality of viewpoints coming out of the Aleppo Media Centre, which was the one functioning agency on the ground in eastern Aleppo. Other journalists used and referred to by channel four include Abdul Kader Habak (the cameraman on Up Close With The Rebels) and ‘a photographer for Reuters’ who I presume would be Abdalrhman Ismail, both of whom appear to move freely among militants. So while Wa’ad was possibly not the only source, there was still no meaningful corroboration since all sources accessed by Channel 4 should most safely be assumed to have been compromised in similar ways. Quite generally, Chanel 4 have tended to treat anti-government claims as true whereas they always voice scepticism in relation to claims on the other side, even on those rare occasions where they air them (as in Thomson example below) or the occasional interview, as with Jon Snow’s shameful haranguing of the Aleppo parliamentarian Fares Shehabi on 30 November 2016 https://www.channel4.com/news/aleppo-syrian-mp-fares-shehabi.
 For background and useful sources on this see Vanessa Beeley. ‘Channel 4 Joins CNN in Normalising Terrorism, Then Removes Their Own Video’, 21st Century Wire, 9 October 2016.
 Corroboration includes that of the Aleppo Medical Association. For background on the real situation of medical facilities across the whole of Aleppo, which is entirely occluded in the Channel 4 films, see for instance: Tim Anderson, ‘The Aleppo Hospital’ Smokescreen: Covering up Al Qaeda Massacres in Syria, Once Again’, Global Research, 9 May 2016; Eva Bartlett, ‘Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors’ SOTT 14 August 2016; Vanessa Beeley, ‘Journey To Aleppo Part II: The Syria Civil Defense & Aleppo Medical Association Are Real Syrians Helping Real Syrians’, Mint Press News, 27 September 2016.
 All Channel 4 in reality even attempted to debunk was an aside by Bartlett about how the White Helmets, in staging some of their videos, sometimes used the same actor more than once. Their article goes to great lengths to show there is reasonable doubt about that matter.
Channel 4 were not dishonest about the limited nature of their piece in its title: ‘Eva Bartlett’s Claims About Syrian Children’. The promotion of it by all the colleagues on the news team, however, presented it as a definitive ‘fact check’ or ‘debunking’ of Bartlett. And that is how it went out into the wider world. Representative – and influential – was the tweet of famous Channel 4 anchor Jon Snow on 21 December 2016 linking to an altered title ‘FactCheck: Eva Bartlett’s Syria Claims’, which transforms the narrowly appropriate original one into one that implies a more comprehensive ‘debunking’. He tweets: ‘Even Syria’s children are caught up in lies and propaganda: A remarkable fact check puts the record straight’. All the piece actually does is show there to be reasonable doubt about Bartlett’s claim that the White Helmets publicity featured some children on more than one occasion. Doubt on this score does not even affect her claim that some of the videos were staged (since staging can be done with different actors each time, obviously). On this more substantial claim, the Channel 4 piece does not say much, but it does seek to show that at least one of the White Helmets filmed rescues was genuine. While not disputing that some of their rescues will have been genuine, I would just note that the reasons Channel 4 give would not establish the case for the example they look at. They say this: ‘The long sequence in which rescuers [are shown] painstakingly clearing rubble away from around the girl suggests that it would have been difficult to fake this footage. Someone would have had to have buried a screaming child up to their chest in rubble and carefully assembled a large amount of heavy wreckage around and on top of her – an extraordinary logistical challenge and an extraordinary collective act of child abuse.’
Certainly, it would be an extraordinary collective act of child abuse. As for the logistical challenge, however, it is no more difficult to place some rubble around and above the child than it is to then pick it off. Of course, we ordinary people will recoil at the very thought of seeing this as simply a logistical challenge, because it is such an ‘extraordinary collective act of child abuse’. But we are not terrorists or obliged to work with them. It cannot be a rebuttal of Bartlett’s claims that the White Helmets are embedded with terrorists to show that for her claims to be credible they would have to act in ways that are consistent with terrorist acts. The problem of how children are used, abused and even weaponised by armed groups in the pay of NATO AND Gulf states is a very real one. That the White Helmets are paid from those sources is a matter of public record; that some of them bear arms is illustrated by various videos, including Channel 4’s own documentary Up Close With The Rebels, where, at 2:27, one of the jihadis is clearly seen sporting a jersey with white helmets logo.
Among the various dishonest tactics carefully used in connection with the attempt to discredit and isolate Bartlett is the use of this kind of statement: ‘Supporters of the Assad regime have variously accused the White Helmets of being puppets of western powers, peddlers of faked footage or even terrorist fighters posing as humanitarian workers, all of which the organisation vigorously denies.’ The fact is, anyone who studies the evidence now widely available in the public domain can reasonably infer that the White Helmets are indeed a tool of the western powers, that they have indeed issued faked footage, and that some of them do have demonstrable terrorist affiliations. One can infer these things without have any view at all about Assad. The Channel 4 piece flirts with dishonesty by implying that scepticism about the White Helmets is the preserve of dupes of Assad.
 ‘Published on 4 Oct 2016, 20:08 ‘This report, filmed by Syrian cameraman Abdul Kader Habak, gives a glimpse into why Syrian and Russian forces have so far been unable to re-take the whole of Aleppo.’ http://newsvideo.su/video/5313805
 I am not the first to criticize Channel 4’s coverage of Aleppo. As well as Vanessa Beeley’s piece cited in n3, see also Daniel Margrain, ‘Syria: the Western media’s unending propaganda war’, Scisco Media 5 December 2016.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4H9xia3Mis&t=292s. Channel 4 cites ‘multiple reports of summary executions of civilians’ 13 Dec 2016 (https://www.channel4.com/news/inside-aleppo-latest-from-source-in-the-city), which presumably come from the same ‘activists on the ground’ that Jon Snow uncritically relays statements from in this item – https://www.channel4.com/news/aleppo-have-we-reached-the-endgame. In the same item, Alex Thomson includes an interview run by Russian TV where civilians leaving the east call the militias in charge there “animals from hell” who had prevented them having food and tried to stop them leaving (https://www.channel4.com/news/aleppo-have-we-reached-the-endgame). In response to this, Thomson comments from his studio, ‘blaming the rebels may well be genuine, but it could also save your life.’ What? This gratuitous comment he permits himself is given no substantiation. So an identifiable individual manifestly suffering on the screen in front of him is treated as an object of scepticism and insinuation while unidentified activist sources can come out with any tales they choose and these are treated as tantamount to fact.
There is a certain amount of misdirection in the editing too. While referring to unattributed ‘reports’, Channel 4 would run stock footage (unlabelled as such) showing for instance the White Helmets on the ground – as in this one: https://www.channel4.com/news/east-aleppo-bombardment-continues-with-dozens-reported-dead – but they were in reality keeping a very low profile in those days. Misleading interviews, too, as in this one – https://www.channel4.com/news/the-latest-from-aleppo – with a ‘teacher’ who also featured as one of the ‘last days’ webcam publicists, and who later (in February 2017) is writing on Facebook that ‘it is not easy to leave five years of fighting for freedom … The Evil has won a battle but I hope we will get the Freedom in the final stage.’
A particularly egregious practice at Channel 4 is to permit themselves to claim to know Syrian government plans and strategies. Channel 4 is prepared to report on the basis of unspecified sources about ‘what appears to be a deliberate strategy by the Russians to block the evacuation of medical staff from what remains of eastern Aleppo’ (https://www.channel4.com/news/inside-aleppo-latest-from-source-in-the-city) This echoes earlier claims, as in the report that asserted the Syrian government had a plan to make life too unbearable for civilians to stay in Aleppo (https://youtu.be/U7Y_46OE35QS). Such claims are not only preposterous but also implicitly reinforce a disputed claim that it is not the armed militias who are keeping the ordinary population trapped in the area they still hold. This poor journalistic practice seems to be somewhat engrained. We find as recently as 20th January 2017 in the Press Gazette : ‘Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear told Press Gazette : “Waad and her family really were on the last bus to get out of Aleppo and we know that they and the other doctors and activists and journalists in the city were the number one target of the Assad Regime.”’ http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/channel-4-news-filmmaker-waad-al-kateab-safe-in-turkey-after-escaping-aleppo-siege-on-last-bus-out/ The claim is preposterous in more ways than are worth analysing, but the only question I’d trouble to ask is how de Pear thinks he knows this.
Russian jets have not carried out any airstrikes on the Syrian city of Idlib, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman has said, accusing the Western media of spreading false stories.
“The warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces have not conducted a single airstrike against the city of Idlib yesterday, or last week, or even since the beginning of 2017,” the ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, told journalists, adding that “all reports about such airstrikes are glaring falsehood.”
He also said that “the same media regularly create such fake news according to the same pattern and always cite some unnamed activists of the ‘civil defense.’”
Reuters had reported earlier that at least 30 people were killed in eight Russian airstrikes on Idlib.
In late December of 2016, a nationwide ceasefire came into force in Syria that was brokered by Moscow and Ankara, and endorsed by the UN Security Council. It is expected to be the first step towards reaching a settlement in the crisis that first engulfed the Middle Eastern country some six years ago and is currently largely being observed.
Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front, which now calls itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, were not included in the ceasefire agreement.
On January 23-24, negotiations took place between official representatives from Damascus, Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as a delegation from the Syrian opposition. At the end of those talks, Russia, Iran, and Turkey issued a joint statement announcing the establishment of a trilateral mechanism to support the ceasefire in Syria.
Military experts from the three countries later started working on separating armed opposition groups from terrorist organizations.
Several British advertisers “panicked” and pulled airtime on RT UK after the Sunday Times called them to ask for comment for an upcoming article about RT, according to a sales house used by advertisers on the channel.
“The Agencies on behalf of their clients pulled their airtime for the reason that they had been contacted by the Sunday Times. The Sunday Times asked them to make comment on their advertising on RT for the Sunday 5th February edition. These advertisers have panicked about the content of the article and pulled their airtime,” the sales house said in comments on Tuesday.
“The sales house the advertisers use to order airtime on RT UK has informed us that several companies at once decided to break up with RT after phone calls from the Sunday Times,” RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said.
“Meanwhile, the Sunday Times article alleges that the advertisers refused to cooperate with us because of ‘Kremlin propaganda,’ and it also cites a British MP urging to boycott RT, though in fact he didn’t say that,” she emphasized.
The RT Press Office said that “the calls from the sales house with requests to pull advertisements from several companies came shortly after the Sunday Times requested comment from RT for their story.”
In the article published on February 5, an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times, Josh Boswell, claimed that “top British brands are pulling their advertisements from the television channel RT UK amid accusations that it is spreading ‘propaganda and fake news’ for Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin,” naming the manufacturers of Gaviscon, Strepsils and Vanish and the make-up brand Max Factor among those advertisers.
Boswell goes on to claim that last weekend Damian Collins, chairman of the UK Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, “called for all British companies to boycott the ‘disinformation and propaganda’ channel.”
The MP is also quoted as saying that “British companies should not be advertising on channels that disseminate fake news designed to spread fear and confusion… I would call on any such company that has not already done so to withdraw their advertising.”
As the newspaper inserted the definite article ‘the’ into the explanatory sentence – “the ‘disinformation and propaganda’ channel” – the reader can’t help but draw the conclusion that the MP’s statement was made about RT.
However, when asked by RT to clarify the comment he made for the Sunday Times, Collins confirmed the statement contained no specific attribution, and was intended as a broader remark.
“Yes, I am happy for you to use the quotation from the Times. My comments were aimed broadly at any channel or website which produces and broadcasts fake news. I did not name any individual organization in my remarks,” Collins explained.
Before the article was published, Boswell contacted RT “to give you an opportunity to comment” on the story. The RT Press Office responded to the request with a comprehensive email, including an explanation of how the channel is publicly funded, much like the BBC and France 24, and how the channel’s mission is clearly stated as exploring underreported stories and providing more balance in the international news arena.
Boswell skipped most of this, however, and reduced RT’s response to a brief quote: “RT, formerly Russia Today, said it was an ‘editorially independent, autonomous non-profit global news organization.”
After RT asked the Sunday Times for comment, the newspaper’s public relations team answered: “Thank you for your enquiry. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, we will only be able to respond if we are in a position to help with your request.”
The Russian embassy in the UK has dismissed the Sunday Times article, writing in a statement: “We understand that not everyone in the UK is happy about the popularity of the Russian channel and the alternative worldview it represents. But this shouldn’t be a reason for a blatant crusade against the channel in such a foul fashion.”
Foreign policy analyst Michael Hughes told RT that the whole approach of the Sunday Times towards RT “is horrible, one-sided and biased.”
“They don’t treat any other stations this way except [RT]. It has nothing to do with the actual programming, they don’t like Russian policy, so they are doing whatever they can to target Russian stations right now.
“It is an obvious violation of the basic standards of journalism. You couldn’t be more obvious in violating journalistic integrity,” he added.
In the past there have been similar instances of Western mainstream media discussing the prospect of RT coverage being restricted, subjected to greater scrutiny or given less equal treatment.
In January, the Wall Street Journal speculated on what would happen if US pay TV operators were to consider dropping RT from their networks. The story followed the US intelligence community’s findings on alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, with seven of the report’s 13 pages devoted to RT.
The prospect of dropping RT appeared unrealistic, however, with Frederick Thomas, chief executive of MHz Networks, saying: “The reality is we live in an age where every nth degree of opinion is available 24/7 and 98 percent of people know that you either just turn the channel off if it’s TV, or if it’s a website, you go to another one.”
In a separate article in January, the Atlantic noted that “RT stories regularly appear toward the top of Google search results,” and that there are more than 4 million ‘likes’ on RT’s Facebook page. The magazine asked Google for information on whether the company had any policies “for how to rank and display news stories and videos from state-sponsored outlets like RT,” but a spokesperson for the search engine declined to comment.
The Atlantic also contacted a spokesperson for Facebook to clarify “if articles or videos from state-sponsored outlets are treated the same way as content from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.”
Facebook responded by mentioning “changes the company has already announced, which suppress the circulation of links to news stories that users report as false.” However, RT stories “are more likely to be biased than to be ‘purposefully fake or deceitful,’” alleged the article’s author, Kaveh Waddell.
Mainstream journalists have betrayed their calling
The Editorial page of The Washington Post newspaper generally holds to its current progressive-dominated program consisting of anti-racism, pro-diversity plus multiculturalism, “choice,” LGBTQ “rights,” and, ironically, constant war. It is not noted for its sense of humor except on Saturday morning when it runs a number of cartoons ridiculing Donald Trump.
All of which contributed to my surprise when I read a piece on January 29th penned by no less than Fred Hiatt, the Editorial and opinion pages editor. Fred, a Harvard graduate, of course, has been around at The Post since 2000. His foreign policy is pure John McCain and his domestic policy is Elizabeth Warren. Apparently kicking around people overseas is okay while in the United States white male Christian heterosexuals in particular can be targeted with impunity, but no one else.
Hiatt’s piece entitled “Trump considers the media his enemy. We shouldn’t treat him as ours” is the type of faux high-minded nonsense that one expects from the new breed of journalist that considers that reporting a story is not enough. For them, it is far more important to actually be the story through selective use of available information and the random insertion of opinion disguised as fact.
But back to Hiatt’s clearly robust sense of humor. He cited presidential adviser Stephen Bannon’s labeling the media the “opposition party,” noting that press-phobia is not exactly unusual for any White House, but warning “it is vital that we not become that party.” Rather than take on the Administration aggressively by exposing its lies, shutting it out or “be[ing] the voice of the other side,” the media should not “answer dishonest or partisan journalism” with “more partisan journalism, which would only harm our credibility.”
Hiatt’s answer to the “dishonest or partisan” journalism problem is “professionalism: to do your jobs according to the highest standards, as always.” He then adds “So far, I believe The Post has been setting the standard in this difficult job. It is not boasting for me to say so…” Regarding his own particularly bailiwick the “opinion side of the house… it is important to maintain a thoughtful perspective.”
Fred Hiatt cites a number of examples of Trump’s failings, including how, regarding immigration, “favoring one religion over another… defaces our democracy.” Surely Hiatt is aware that in practice immigration into the U.S. has frequently favored one religion or nationality or culture over others. During the past 50 years it has worked favorably for Cubans, Irishmen and Vietnamese Christians. Russian Jews benefited particularly as they were admitted as refugees under the 1975 Jackson-Vanik Amendment even though they were not notably persecuted and only had to prove that they were Jewish.
Jackson-Vanik was one of the first public assertions of neoconism, having reportedly been drafted in the office of Senator Henry Jackson by no less than Richard Perle and Ben Wattenberg. Its provision favoring Jews was expanded by the 1990 Lautenberg Amendment which widened the field to include Iranian Jews. As refugees instead of immigrants they received welfare, health insurance, job placement, English language classes, and the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after only five years.
Hiatt’s apparent ignorance about how his Russian-Jewish neocon buddies like Max Boot arrived here is particularly noted as he is also Jewish. And Boot is far from alone. Steve Sailer reports that journalist Julia Ioffe, who complains regularly about American racism, Vladimir Putin and also Donald Trump, entered the U.S. under the Russian-Jewish waiver in 1990, bringing 60 of her family members along with her. One suspects that selective immigration policies are okay for Fred when it is one’s own tribe but immoral when it somehow involves Donald Trump.
Hiatt’s editorial page has also roundly condemned Donald Trump for his decision to restrict immigration from seven Muslim majority countries, conveniently ignoring the fact that President Barack Obama first came up with the exact same list of Muslim countries for special vetting in the December 2015 Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
Now consider Hiatt’s more general allegations regarding partisan and dishonest journalism for a minute. Anyone who regularly read either The Washington Post or New York Times during the recently concluded electoral campaign would have noted that the mainstream media was extremely hostile to Donald Trump and everything that he represented. It was and still is the “opposition,” as Bannon put it. The Post‘s journalists have been daily running multiple pieces, both in the news and opinion sections, criticizing everything relating to Trump for months including his wife’s clothing choices and there is no sign that it will stop anytime soon. And they have not been shy about it, criticizing not only his policies but also his appearance and character. The lampooning and sharp critique continue now that Trump is president. It is not that Trump is or should be immune from criticism – to be sure he has many legitimate detractors all across the political spectrum – but it is a question of how the critique is packaged and whether he is being treated fairly.
In fact, The Washington Post might well be the current leader when it comes to partisanship, fake news and heavily editorialized alleged “news reporting,” particularly when it comes to Russia, Iran or Donald Trump. It featured a completely fabricated story describing how a utility in Vermont had been hacked by the Russians without checking with the utility first. It also ran a front page piece on how hundreds of U.S. based media outlets and alternative websites were Russian “useful idiots” spreading Kremlin produced fake news and propaganda, basing its assessment on a questionable anonymously produced website called PropOrNot. Both stories were replayed widely in the national media before it was determined that they were completely wrong.
In support of its domestic agenda, The Post also ran a story describing how Planned Parenthood provides a broad range of women’s health services, including mammograms, which turned out to be untrue while failing to mention that it also performs 300,000 abortions each year. However one feels about Planned Parenthood, is that balanced and fact based reporting?
Apart from completely fake news, The Post is a master at editorializing what it describes as its news coverage. In a front page story on February 2nd, “Trump badgered, bragged and abruptly ended phone call with Australian leader,” paragraph four reads “Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.” Does that pass the smell test for news reporting? Does “badgered, bragged”? And it later turned out that the call was not ended abruptly.
People like Fred Hiatt are precisely the reason why Donald Trump was elected by a public tired of arrogance, lies and media condescension. Fred’s hypocrisy is so blatant that anyone who dips into his newspaper to find enlightenment instead comes away reeking of propaganda, and particularly low propaganda at that. No Fred, The Washington Post is not the “highest standard” of journalism. It is hardly journalism at all. And the same goes for the crew at The New York Times as well as Charley Rose at CBS News, Wolf Blitzer at CNN and Rachel Maddow at MSNBC. Liars and knaves, every one of them.
The mainstream media talking heads want wars with Russia and Iran as well as heavy-handed intervention in Syria, hate Trump and everything he stands for, and love the whole world and its wonderful multicultural promise. Of course, their children go to private schools and will never be unemployed or have to put on a uniform or struggle to pay a mortgage while those pesky immigrants they love from a distance will never be able to afford to move in next door. Their understanding of flyover America and its problems is nil and their love of country is negotiable as they pursue higher ratings and more pats on the head from Hollywood celebrities, preening politicians and the country’s oligarchs. Steve Bannon was absolutely right when he said “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”
or why the “oops we accidentally let ISIS get our guns” excuse does not work…
We get a few people here saying some variant on “ISIS, al Qaeda etc are all the unlooked-for by-product of the criminal western policy in the Middle East.” It’s one of the would-be middle-of-the-road positions occupied as much through fear of what lies beyond it than for any inherent value it contains. It’s still possible to be considered relatively mainstream and hold this position. Sensible people like Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky promote it. There’s only one problem with it really, namely that it is not true. Recent leaks/releases of government documents have put it beyond question that the US, its Gulf allies and NATO at very least willingly got behind the creation of extreme jihadist groups and have been funding such groups in their attempts to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government.
So we thought we’d address that claim very quickly with the help of this graphic originally made by professor Tim Anderson. It makes the point more clearly than many paragraphs of text.
That’s all you need.
Stop making that bogus and unhelpful claim here or anywhere else.
TOKYO – The interdepartmental council on joint economic activities with Russia on the South Kuril Islands was formed in Japan and its first session will take place on the evening of February 7, Japanese media reported Tuesday.
“The government will work as a team to reach substantial results quickly,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, as quoted by Kyodo news agency.
According to the outlet, Kishida said he would head the council, which will consider possibilities of the cooperation with Russia on fishery and tourism.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko will also reportedly be part of the council, as well as the representatives of the Finance Ministry, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, Health, Labour, and Welfare Ministry.
On February 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the two countries agreed to hold consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands in Tokyo in March.
On December 15-16, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Japan to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The sides agreed to start developing economic cooperation in the disputed area.
The Kuril Islands are the subject of the long-standing territorial dispute between Russia and Japan. Japan lays claim to Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islets. The territorial dispute has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty after World War II.