The neocon-dominated U.S. foreign policy establishment won an important victory in forcing the resignation of President Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn over a flimsy complaint that he had talked to the Russian ambassador during the transition.
The Washington Post, the neoconservatives’ media flagship, led the assault on Flynn, an unorthodox thinker who shared the neocons’ hostility toward Iran but broke with them in seeing no strategic reason to transform Russia into an implacable enemy.
After Flynn’s resignation on Monday evening, the Post gloated over its success in achieving the first major crack in Trump’s resistance to Official Washington’s establishment. The Post cited Flynn’s “potentially illegal contacts” with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a reference to the Logan Act, a 1799 never-enforced law that forbids private citizens from negotiating with a country in dispute with the U.S. government.
Though no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, it has been cited in recent decades as an excuse to attack American citizens who disagree with U.S. government policies while traveling abroad and having contacts with foreign leaders.
Often those accusations are aimed at Americans seeking to peacefully resolve disputes when a U.S. president is eager to escalate a conflict, such as President Ronald Reagan’s denunciations of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson for visiting Cuba and House Speaker Jim Wright for exploring ways to end the Contra war in Nicaragua.
In other words, the Logan Act is usually exploited in a McCarthyistic fashion to bait or discredit peace advocates, similarly to how it has now been used to destroy Flynn for daring to look for ways to reduce the dangerous tensions between Washington and Moscow.
But the media-driven attacks on Flynn are particularly curious since he was the National Security Advisor-designate of an incoming administration at the time of the calls and – as such – he would be expected to make contacts with important foreign officials to begin laying the groundwork for relations with the new president.
Whether U.S. sanctions against Russia were mentioned or not, the notion that an elected president or his designees – during a transition – can have no meaningful contact with diplomats whom they may need to deal with in a matter of weeks represents a particularly contentious interpretation of a law that has never been tested in a court of law and may well represent an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and dissent.
An Expanding Hysteria
Indeed, referencing the Logan Act appears to be an excuse to continue – and expand – Official Washington’s hysteria over Russia, which has become the useful villain to blame for every U.S. foreign policy debacle and even Hillary Clinton’s disastrous presidential run.
Flynn’s more egregious offense in this case may have been to mislead Vice President Mike Pence on exactly what was discussed, but Trump’s White House has not seemed previously overly concerned with the precise accuracy of its statements.
Indeed, Trump and his team have tangled themselves up for weeks by promoting “alternative facts” — that Donald Trump’s inaugural crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s and that Trump would have won the popular vote if not for three million to five million illegal votes. Though these absurd claims pertain more to Trump’s ego than to anything important, he and his representatives have continued fighting these fights on Twitter and TV appearances and show no signs of stopping.
So, the ouster of Flynn for failing to provide a complete readout on some telephone conversations in December stands out as even more significant in the context of the deluge of falsehoods that have poured forth from Trump’s White House.
Flynn’s real “offense” appears to be that he favors détente with Russia rather than escalation of a new and dangerous Cold War. Trump’s idea of a rapprochement with Moscow – and a search for areas of cooperation and compromise – has been driving Official Washington’s foreign policy establishment crazy for months and the neocons, in particular, have been determined to block it.
Though Flynn has pandered to elements of the neocon movement with his own hysterical denunciations of Iran and Islam in general, he emerged as a key architect for Trump’s plans to seek a constructive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Meanwhile, the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks have invested heavily in making Putin the all-purpose bête noire to justify a major investment in new military hardware and in pricy propaganda operations.
The neocons and liberal hawks also hated Flynn because – as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – he oversaw a prescient 2012 analysis that foresaw that their support for the Syrian insurgency would give rise to “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.”
The DIA report, which was partially declassified in a lawsuit over the 2012 killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, embarrassed the advocates for an escalation of the war in Syria and the ouster of secular President Bashar al-Assad.
Flynn even went further in a 2015 interview when he said the intelligence was “very clear” that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to back these jihadists in league with Middle East allies, a choice that looked particularly stupid when Islamic State militants started beheading American hostages and capturing cities in Iraq.
A Beloved ‘Regime Change’
But “regime change” in Syria was dear to the neocons’ hearts. After all, Israeli leaders had declared Assad’s removal central to smashing the so-called “Shiite crescent” reaching from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut.
The neocons and liberal hawks had come very close to getting the direct U.S. military intervention that they so wanted to destroy Assad’s army after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. The Obama administration quickly pinned the atrocity on Assad even though a number of U.S. intelligence analysts suspected a “false flag” attack carried out by jihadists.
Still, despite those doubts, it appeared a bombing campaign against Assad was in the offing, except that Obama delayed its implementation and Putin then proposed an alternative in which Assad would surrender all his chemical weapons.
Putin’s interference in the neocon/liberal-hawk war plans made him the new prime target – and Ukraine became ground zero for the effort to explode the cooperative relationship between Obama and Putin.
On Sept. 26, 2013, only weeks after the aborted U.S. bombing campaign against Syria, Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the Post’s op-ed page to declare “Ukraine the biggest prize” and suggest that winning it could ultimately lead to toppling Putin inside Russia.
Key U.S. government neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain, then began pushing for the violent right-wing coup that – in February 2014 – ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touched off the new Cold War with Russia.
Amid these heightened tensions, the mainstream media in the United States and Europe joined in the full-scale Russia/Putin-bashing. All rational perspective on the underlying reality was lost, except for a handful of independent Internet journalists and foreign-policy outsiders who rejected the over-the-top propaganda.
A Few Dissenters Too Many
But even a few dissenters was a few dissenters too many. So, to enforce the new groupthink – holding Russia at fault for pretty much everything – a new McCarthyism emerged, deeming anyone who dared disagree a “Moscow stooge” or a “Russian propagandist.”
The ugliness penetrated into the U.S. presidential campaign because Democrat Hillary Clinton took a belligerent line toward Russia while Trump broke with the Republican establishment and called for improved ties between Washington and Moscow. Clinton called Trump Putin’s “puppet” and – after Clinton’s stunning loss – the Obama administration floated unproven allegations that Putin had intervened in the election to put Trump in the White House.
This hysteria over Russia gained added strength because Democrats were so angry over Trump’s election that liberal and progressive operatives saw a chance to build a movement and raise lots of money by pushing the Trump-Putin accusations.
This opportunism has turned much of the liberal/progressive community into a pro-New Cold War constituency willing to engage in a new breed of McCarthyism by demanding intensive investigations into alleged connections between Americans and Russians.
From the neocon side, The Washington Post has gone so far as to promote baseless accusations from an anonymous group called PropOrNot that 200 Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other important independent news sources, are guilty of spreading Russian propaganda. Congress approved a new $160 million bureaucracy to combat such “propaganda.”
However, since Trump’s inauguration, the focus has shifted to Flynn, as the personification of the effort to cool off the New Cold War, because he had phone conversations with the Russian ambassador that presumably were intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
Because Flynn supposedly misrepresented some details of the calls to Vice President Mike Pence, senior Justice Department holdovers from the Obama administration concocted an argument that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
The argument is dubious because the Russians would know that the U.S. government knew exactly what the conversations entailed, so how would the blackmail work? But this “blackmail” argument is another throwback to the earlier McCarthy days when gays were barred from sensitive government jobs because of their alleged susceptibility to blackmail.
But the gambit to get Flynn worked. Amid frenzied coverage on CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media, Flynn and the Russia détente that he stood for were not expected to be long for this world of Official Washington.
Flynn’s resignation and its acceptance by Trump also prove that these tactics work and that “tough-guy” Trump is not immune to them. While the President may battle to the end over pointless questions about the size of his inaugural crowd and his belief that he should have won the popular vote, he will cave when the pressure builds on a matter of genuine substance and real importance to the future of the world.
The so-called permanent government of Washington and its complicit mainstream media – what some call the Deep State – have taught Trump a lesson and have learned a lesson, too. They now can be expected to redouble their march toward war and more war, ironically with progressives and leftists in tow.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Hearts and Minds is a 1974 American documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis.
The film’s title is based on a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson: “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there”.
The movie was chosen as Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 47th Academy Awards presented in 1975.
More than 5,000 rounds of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition were used in two attacks on Islamic State oil tankers in eastern Syria, the US military has confirmed. The US-led coalition previously pledged it would not use the controversial ordnance.
A spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) told Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing DU rounds were used in November 2015, during two air raids against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil tanker convoys in the Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces in eastern Syria.
A-10 ground attack aircraft fired the projectiles from their 30mm rotating cannons, destroying about 500 tanker trucks, according to CENTCOM spokesman Major Josh Jacques.
In March 2015, spokesman for the US-led coalition John Moore had explicitly ruled out the use of the controversial ammunition, saying that “US and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.” The Pentagon explained that armor-piercing DU rounds were not necessary because IS did not have the tanks it was designed to penetrate.
Investigative reporter Samuel Oakford first brought up the use of DU ammunition by the coalition in October 2016, when a US Air Force congressional liaison told Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) that A-10s flying missions over Syria had fired 6,479 rounds of “combat mix” on two occasions. The officer explained that a fifth of the “combat mix” consisted of high-explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds, while the rest were DU armor-piercers.
The first attack took place on November 16, near Al-Bukamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with US planes destroying 116 tanker trucks. The strike took place entirely in Syrian territory. According to CENTCOM, 1,790 rounds of “combat mix” were used during the strike, including 1,490 rounds of DU.November 16
The second attack, on November 22, destroyed 283 oil tankers in the desert between Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah. On this occasion, the A-10s fired 4,530 rounds – of which 3,775 were DU armor-piercers.
Depleted uranium is prized by the US military for exceptional toughness, which enables it to pierce heavy tank armor. However, airborne DU particles can contaminate nearby ground and water and pose a significant risk of toxicity, birth defects and cancer when inhaled or ingested by humans or animals.
The coalition’s promise not to use DU munitions in Iraq was made after an estimated one million rounds were used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Between Iraq and the Balkans, where they were also used in the 1990s, DU rounds have been blamed on a massive increase in cancer and birth defects.
DU is also the prime suspect in the medical condition dubbed the “Gulf War Syndrome” afflicting US veterans of the 1991 conflict and some peacekeepers deployed in the Balkans.
News media organizations in NATO member countries have no qualms about repeating unfounded, reckless claims of an imminent invasion of Europe by the Russian military, even threatening to ignite World War Three.
Yet when it comes to Russian media presenting valid alternative perspectives on a range of international issues, the Western alliance chokes up with accusations of Russian “fake news.”
“NATO says it sees a sharp rise in fake Russian news since the seizure of Crimea,” reported Reuters recently, ignorant of the fact that its own headline was itself purveying fake news.
Such ignorance is rampant among Western media and symptomatic of massive group-think demonizing Russia.
For a start, Russia did not seize Crimea, as is routinely stated in Western media as if fact. The people of the Crimean Peninsula voted in a legally constituted referendum in March 2014 to join Russia’s jurisdiction. But Reuters in the above headline uses the words “seizure of Crimea” without any qualification as if the historic referendum to join Russia was airbrushed out of history.
This is just one example of the daily distortion about Russian relations that is perpetrated in the Western media. If any side is guilty of peddling fake news, it is the Western news media of the NATO military alliance. And on an industrial scale.
For instance, earlier this month, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour conducted an interview with Marine Le Pen, the French leader of the Front National. Amanpour was aghast when Le Pen expressed the view that Russia did not annex Crimea and that the Maidan protests in Kiev in February 2014 were a coup d’état against an elected government. Amanpour’s shocked demeanor was understandable because she has on countless occasions asserted the opposite, as well as claiming Russia has “invaded Ukraine.” In each case, it can be argued the CNN celebrity journalist is wrong in her assertions about Russia-Ukraine relations, which means that she and her cable news employer are guilty of habitually churning out fake news.
Another instance of casual fake news presented as professional journalism was the BBC program GMT presented by Stephen Sackur on 3 February. Sackur, like Amanpour, is another celebrity journalist with preening self-importance. His program was reporting on the surge in violence in eastern Ukraine. Specifically, the report aired by the BBC implicated pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk region for shelling the town of Avdeevka. The insinuation was that Russia was stoking the violence. But only days before, the BBC broadcast video footage showing tanks belonging to the Kiev regime’s military taking up positions near homes in Avdeevka – in violation of the Minsk ceasefire.
Furthermore, the BBC’s Sackur then ran an interview with Kiev’s former prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in which he was permitted to spout claims purporting as facts without ever being challenged. Those claims included: “Russian aggression in Ukraine” and “Russia shot down the Malaysian MH17 civilian airliner in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine.”
Again, the point here is just how casually, and routinely Western mainstream media commit acts of fake news, which are presented as if fact by their “star journalists.”
Whatever Russian news media are accused of regarding fake news it is incomparable to the massive, systematic scale of fabrications and distortions churned out by the news media in NATO member countries.
NATO claims that it has listed over 30 “myths” the Russian news media have published. Unhelpfully, the NATO list does not provide links to original Russian news articles where the alleged myths are said to have been published. But a cursory reading of the list quickly shows that the so-called myths are nothing more “offensive” than Russian counter-arguments or what may be deemed as counter-perspective. Is NATO saying that to have a different point of view is somehow illegitimate?
For example, NATO counts Russian “fake news” to include claims that:
NATO tried to “drag” Ukraine into its membership;
NATO provoked the Maidan protests;
NATO is trying to encircle Russia;
NATO’s operation in Afghanistan was a failure;
NATO’s operation in Libya was illegitimate;
These points and more besides are not falsifications or baseless propaganda. They are serious contentions that can be substantiated with documented facts and legal argument as well as maps of proliferating NATO military bases on Russia’s borders.
Indeed, such perspectives completely confound the stereotype views that are promulgated on a daily basis by the Western media. But that in no way qualifies the contrarian Russian view as “fake.” Moreover, one can say that such views presented by Russian media are vital to proper public interest and understanding.
It is an astounding reflection of Western hubris and indoctrination that NATO members’ news media have published the following news stories which are patently false or turn reality on its head.
For instance, Russian and Syrian forces were allegedly committing wholesale slaughter of civilians in the city of Aleppo. For weeks the Western news media were screaming about the alleged massacre, only for the Syrian city to be eventually liberated from Western-backed illegally armed militants, including proscribed terrorist groups. No such civilian massacre occurred, and Western media have not bothered since to visit Aleppo to report on the return to normal civilian life thanks to the liberation by Russian and Syrian forces.
Another instance of rampant fake news carried in Western media is that Russian hackers subverted the US presidential election to get Donald Trump into the White House. No proof of these tendentious claims has ever been presented.
Yet the same claims are now being aired over alleged Russian interference in European elections – even though German state intelligence recently reported there was no evidence of interference.
Let’s put the issue into perspective. Over the past year, British news media have published story after story claiming Russia was about to invade Europe and start World War III.
The Daily Express ran three such stories in June, July, and September.
It wasn’t just throw away tabloids that indulged in such reckless scaremongering. The supposedly more serious Independent ran at least two stories in May and September citing top military officials claiming that nuclear war could break out in 48 hours with Russia because of the latter’s “secret” invasion plans.
In November, the Guardian and other British news outlets, including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, BBC, and Sky, echoed the view of MI5 chief Sir Ian Parker that “Russia is a growing threat to the UK.”
If British media reports were to be believed, then Europe and the whole northern hemisphere should have gone up in nuclear smoke several months ago.
Dealing in false news by NATO members’ media, as exemplified above, is not just wildly erroneous and unethical. It is illustrative of an orchestrated propaganda campaign to demonize Russia and recklessly create an atmosphere for global war.
In this context, to accuse Russian news media of “fake news” is a flagrant inversion of reality.
That NATO chiefs, Western governments, and the dutiful news media can get away with making such accusations is a disturbing sign of collective indoctrination. The irony of Western self-declared “free and independent” politicians and media behaving like an army of robots marching to war while accusing Russia of fake news is too much for words.
The chairman of Japanese multinational Toshiba, Shigenori Shiga resigned on Tuesday, taking responsibility for the company’s multi-billion dollar losses in the troubled US nuclear power business.
He will step down from the board but will remain a Toshiba executive.
According to Associated Press, Toshiba announced it is on track to report a net loss of $3.4 billion (390 billion yen) in the current fiscal year that ends in March 2017. It also warned the estimated loss may change “by a wide margin,” projecting a $6.3 billion (712.5 billion yen) loss for its nuclear business. That was related to the acquisition of a nuclear construction firm by its Westinghouse unit.
Toshiba stock tumbled eight percent in Tokyo trading after the announcement.
In December, Toshiba said it might write down billions of dollars in losses following Westinghouse’s announcement that costs had significantly surpassed estimates.
According to the Japanese company’s president Satoshi Tsunakawa, Toshiba won’t take on new projects to construct nuclear plants. He said the company was looking for potential partners to acquire a stake in Westinghouse.
Toshiba said it hopes to fix the situation by selling its flash memory business and other assets.
The Japanese conglomerate has been grappling with an accounting scandal in which it admitted doctoring financial results to meet unrealistic profit targets.
“It is so unfortunate that this has happened,” a company director Ryoji Sato told reporters about the company’s promises to come clean. “We must keep trying to do better.”
Founded in 1875, Toshiba employs almost 200,000 people. Its business includes household appliances, railways, hydrogen energy and elevator systems.
The unexpected missile launch this weekend by North Korea hit a bulls-eye. Its perfect aim, however, owed more to Pyongyang’s mastery of international theatrics than to rocket technology.
Traveling just 310 miles, the intermediate-range Pukguksong-2 missile struck nothing but water in the Sea of Japan. But it fully succeeded, as planned, in grabbing the attention of two of North Korea’s biggest enemies: Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Shinzo Abe of Japan.
Instead of relaxing over dinner at Trump’s $200,000-per-membership Mar-a-Lago club, the two heads of state had to surround themselves with advisers and translators Saturday evening, scrambling to draft a joint statement by the light of their cell phones.
They came up with the usual bluster: Abe denounced the launch as “absolutely intolerable,” and Trump vowed to stand behind Japan, America’s “great ally, 100 percent.”
North Korean Premier Kim Jon Un certainly didn’t win any friends with the launch. China criticized it as a provocation, and Russia declared that the test was in “defiant disregard” of United Nations resolutions. But it gave Kim something to brag about at home and, more important, kept his demands front and center on the world’s stage.
No Good Options?
A Reuters news report summed up the conventional wisdom among U.S. analysts: “Few good options in Trump arsenal to counter defiant North Korea.” In a nutshell, President Obama’s eight-year policy of “strategic patience” — ratcheting up economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure — was a spectacular failure. Leaning on China to make it dictate terms to Pyongyang hasn’t worked either—in part because Beijing doesn’t want to risk triggering a collapse of North Korea’s regime. Tough U.N. resolutions condemning North Korea are worth less than a bowl of steaming kimche.
Then there is the military option. Its many advocates in Washington — including former Secretary of State John Kerry — argue the United States may need to wipe out North Korea’s nuclear and missile launch facilities, or even decapitate its regime, to prevent it from acquiring long-range missiles capable of reaching U.S. soil.
But North Korea’s nuclear facilities are designed to withstand anything short of a nuclear attack, and its conventional forces could quickly leave Seoul a smoldering ruin. How China would react to a preemptive U.S. attack is anyone’s guess. No less an authority than former Secretary of Defense William Perry says that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic, possibly destroying the societies of both Koreas as well as causing large casualties in the U.S. military.”
A Voice of Reason
Perry is one of the few voices of reason who contests the militant groupthink prevalent in Washington. He counsels instead an attempt to engage Pyongyang in diplomacy. That strategy should appeal to the dealmaker who now inhabits the White House.
As Trump said during his campaign, responding to Hillary Clinton’s disparagement of trying to engage with Kim, “What the hell is wrong with speaking? . . . It’s called opening a dialogue.”
Perry participated in the Clinton administration’s successful negotiation of a 1994 deal with North Korea that suspended its plutonium enrichment program. George W. Bush, in his wisdom, scrapped the agreement and made North Korea a charter member of his “axis of evil.”
Watching Presidents Bush and Obama in action, Pyongyang understandably redoubled its nuclear program. “North Korea has decided, based on lessons from Iran, Iraq, and Libya, that its only sure means of survival is to be ‘too nuclear’ to fail,” remarked Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, during a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Or as committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, put it, “What they learned is, you get rid of your WMDs, we take you out.”
That exchange was a rare recognition by Washington insiders that Kim, however, brutish and blustering, is pushing his country’s weapons program for the same reason that other nuclear powers acquired the Bomb: not to commit suicide, but to deter enemies. His regime states unequivocally that “we will not use our weapons on anyone unless they have attacked us.”
As Perry commented in January, “During my discussions and negotiations with members of the North Korean government, I have found that they are not irrational, nor do they have the objective of achieving martyrdom. Their goals, in order of priority, are: preserving the Kim dynasty, gaining international respect and improving their economy.”
Risk to Peace
Those words offer only a small measure of comfort, however. A nuclear-armed North Korea, with its inherently unstable political system, remains a huge risk to peace — all the more so if it prompts revived militarism in South Korea and Japan and unleashes a regional arms race.
The logical response is to try diplomacy, not more military threats, to reduce North Korea’s sense of isolation and paranoia. As China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly pointed out, “the root cause (of) the North Korea nuclear missile issue is the conflicts between North Korea and the United States, as well as between North and South Korea.”
The place to start resolving those conflicts, according to many Korea experts, is with negotiations to end the state of war between North Korea and its adversaries. The Korean War ended in 1953 with a temporary armistice, not a peace treaty. Washington’s failure to negotiate such a treaty tells a deeply insecure Pyongyang that the United States views its regime as illegitimate and ripe for forcible change.
By refusing to consider unconditional normalization of relations with North Korea, President Obama forfeited real opportunities to rein in its nuclear program. Instead, he continued holding huge annual military exercises with South Korea, complete with mock amphibious landings, which sent Pyongyang into “a frenzy of bloodthirsty threats and sabre rattling.”
North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations told a reporter in November that diplomacy remains a viable option: “If (Trump) really gives up the hostile policy towards DPRK, withdrawing all the military equipment from South Korea, including the U.S. troops and coming to conclude the peace treaty, then I think it might be an opportunity to discuss the relations as we did in the 1990s.”
That was a rhetorical opening position, not a final demand, but it pointed to a peaceful way forward. Diplomacy offers no panacea. In particular, nothing will likely put North Korea’s nuclear genie back in its lamp anytime soon.
As Perry observed, “We lost the opportunity to negotiate with a non-nuclear North Korea when we cut off negotiations in 2001, before it had a nuclear arsenal. The most we can reasonably expect today is an agreement that lowers the dangers of that arsenal. The goals would be an agreement with Pyongyang to not export nuclear technology, to conduct no further nuclear testing and to conduct no further ICBM testing. These goals are worth achieving and, if we succeed, could be the basis for a later discussion of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.”
Joe Cirincione, a leading arms control expert, reminds us that “It was the negotiations, not the sanctions, that ultimately stopped Iran’s (nuclear) program.”
President Trump, a harsh critic of the nuclear treaty with Iran, now stands at a critical crossroads with North Korea. Will he heed the increasingly loud demands of interventionists for greater shows of force on the Korean peninsula, or channel candidate Trump and seek talks with Premier Kim? It’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of world peace may rest in part on his decision.
Western media accuses RT of ‘spreading fake news’ citing an Emmanuel Macron story RT never published.
The accusations against RT were leveled by Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! party, in an interview with the France 2 TV channel.
RT responded to the allegations that it had targeted French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron with “fake news” in a statement:
“RT adamantly rejects any and all claims that it has any part in spreading fake news in general and in relation to Mr. Macron and the upcoming French election in particular. Furthermore, we are appalled that such baseless accusations are taking place on a quotidian basis. Indeed, it seems that it has become acceptable to level such serious charges at RT without presenting any evidence to substantiate them, as well as to apply this ‘fake news’ label to any reporting that one might simply find unfavorable. It is both ironic and deeply disappointing that, in the noble fight against fake news, journalistic standards are so casually sacrificed when the conversation concerns RT.”
International news media outlets picked up the Ferrand interview, apparently without checking the facts.
Many outlets relied on Monday’s Reuters report, which claimed that RT ran comments by French National Assembly member Nicolas Dhuicq about Macron being an agent of ‘the big American banking system.’
The Reuters claim was entirely false as RT has never published such a report.
Reuters did not provide any other examples of RT’s supposed role in the “fake news” attack on Macron in its lengthy article on the subject.
Furthermore, the agency did not contact RT’s press office for comment to give the network the right of reply. Neither did almost all the outlets who reprinted the false claims.
Reuters amended their report and removed mention of RT from the discussion of Dhuicq’s comments only after RT representatives reached out to the news service. The Reuters website eventually added the RT statement to their report.
However, Reuters has not provided any indication that the original report was amended in any way, that it included uncorroborated statements about RT and, that the network was denied the right to reply to these allegations prior to the article’s publication.
Government sometimes seems the employer of last resort
We live in a political environment where nothing is any longer real. Allegedly apolitical Amnesty International issues a 48 page report stating that 13,000 political prisoners have been hanged in Syrian government prisons “a crime against humanity” and then it is revealed that the document was fabricated in London based on unconfirmed rebel sources and that its graphics were computer generated simulations. The mainstream media is uncritically promoting the allegations and the author of the report has been marketing the claims as if they are factual while beating the drum for military intervention and regime change in Syria.
The American government similarly should be regarded as a terra incognita if one is in search of the truth. If there is one thing I learned from more than twenty years of moving in and around the vast federal bureaucracy it is that one should never believe anything appearing in the media regarding elected officials or senior managers. If one were to accept uncritically everything being said about people at or aspiring to be at the top of the government one would have to believe that our country is led either by geniuses or idiots depending on your political point of view. Washington is either completely bad or completely good depending on one’s perspective and you should always triple check the sources.
In reality, even Vice Presidents and Secretaries of Defense brush their teeth every morning just like everyone else and they are commonly no more or less ethical or intelligent than most people in the general run of the population. To be sure, we have had our share of completely incompetent and politically corrupted senior staff under President Barack Obama, to include Eric Holder, Ash Carter, Loretta Lynch, Samantha Power, Arne Duncan and Susan Rice while the list of President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton appointees is so dreadful that it is best not to even try to recall who did what and to whom, though I do feel compelled to drop two names – Sandy Berger, best known for stuffing national archive documents down his trousers and Madeleine Albright who thought killing 500,000 Iraqi children through sanctions was “worth it.”
And if any readers out there are concerned lest the high-minded patriots that make up successive cabinets have been in some way held accountable for the damage they did to the country I am pleased to report that not one of them has suffered in any way. Those who are still alive all occupy well remunerated sinecures and pop up occasionally at presidential libraries where they can share their days of glory with the slick willies who hired them in the first place.
That all means that Donald Trump is not exactly unique in his attempt to satisfy all the GOP and national constituencies who are seeking to be validated by having “one of theirs” in a prominent position. We are now entering into the final stages of the transition process to name the last few political appointees who will take senior positions in the new Administration. A number of layabouts and scallywags have surfaced during the process and some have even made it to the top levels. That those like John Bolton did not make the final cut, apparently due to his moustache and the principled opposition to his candidacy mounted by Senator Rand Paul, has the entire world breathing a sigh of relief. Others, to include Michael Flynn the National Security Advisor and Nikki Haley as U.N. Ambassador unfortunately did manage to squeak through and will presumably be well placed to wreak havoc over the next four years.
But truly the most ghastly candidate who almost made it through the screening process , in this case to become number two at the Department of State, had to be Elliot Abrams. Abrams had the support of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Principal Adviser Jared Kushner. Abrams was reportedly nixed by Trump himself due to his sharp criticism of the GOP candidate during the campaign against Hillary Clinton.
The American people and the rest of the world really dodged a bullet when Abrams was denied as he was the neoconservative candidate par excellence and might be regarded as the potential enabler of a neocon reentry into government. Predictably his buddies rallied around to praise him in defeat, with CNN quoting an unnamed “Republican source” who mourned “This is a loss for the State Department and the country and, for that matter, for the President.” Another said Abrams did not get the position because of “Donald Trump’s thin skin and nothing else,” which is manifestly a ridiculous comment as Rand Paul was clearly sending a signal that he would also work hard to block the appointment. Tillerson, however, reportedly pushed for Abrams “because he felt he needed his foreign policy experience…” Excuse me?
Abrams’ “foreign policy experience” is largely negative and some would even suggest criminal. He was an odd choice in any event, only explicable due to his still powerful neocon network pushing him forward. He had written an opinion piece in May in The Weekly Standard entitled “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate” after Trump had obtained enough support to become the Republican nominee. The first line of the Abrams article reads “The party has nominated someone who cannot win and should not be president of the United States” in part because of his “complete ignorance of foreign policy” and it goes on to question Trump’s “character and fitness to be commander in chief.” He advocated purging the GOP of Trump supporters after the expected victory of Hillary Clinton. And this man actually expected to be appointed to high office by Donald Trump?
Abrams is a close associate of leading neocons Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. He was a founding co-signer of their Project for a New American Century, led the charge to invade Iraq after calling for “regime change,” and has endorsed military interventions in Libya and Syria as well as Iran. He withheld information from Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal, was convicted, and later pardoned by George H. W. Bush.
Elliot Abrams has received considerable media coverage since his name surfaced as possible Deputy Secretary of State but none of it has focused on his close attachment to the state of Israel and his belief that Jews should not marry non-Jews. He is a regular speaker on the so-called “synagogue speaker circuit” and is cited frequently in the Jewish media both in the U.S. and in Israel. He called Chuck Hagel an “anti-Semite” when Hagel was up for confirmation as defense secretary because Hagel had been mildly critical of Israel and the Israeli Lobby while a Senator.
Abrams was and presumably still is opposed to U.S. pressuring the Netanyahu government to bring about a peace settlement with the Palestinians, telling Bill Kristol in an interview that “… tension… is growing between the U.S. and Israel over this. Because we are constantly asking in my view for Israeli concessions, to kind of oil this mechanism of peace. And the Israelis are getting tired of it. And they think, you know, this is not the way an ally should act.” His sagacious view is a clear misrepresentation of the actual facts to ignore real American interests and favor the Israeli point of view. It should have been a disqualifier for a senior post at State but for the established fact that only Israel Firsters need apply for any positions at Foggy Bottom that deal with the Middle East.
The other uninspiring appointee that unfortunately made it through the vetting process is Gina Haspel, who was named as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on February 2nd. She was reportedly involved in the rendition and torture programs ca. 2003-4 and actually was senior officer in charge of one of the overseas prisons located in Thailand, which was the epicenter of the “enhanced interrogation” program and the site where al-Qaeda prisoner Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, “tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead.” In 2005 she also ordered the destruction of the video tapes made of the interrogations to avoid providing evidence to any congressional inquiry into what had gone on.
The appointment of Haspel is a sign that torturing people can be career enhancing if one works for the United States government. Her promotion was endorsed by the usual suspects including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who has recently advocated assassinating Iranians and Russians to send a message that the United States is “serious.”
If one needs more evidence that many in the United States government at senior levels should be locked away somewhere to protect the rest of the world I would point both to Haspel and also to last week’s reaction to what was an eminently sensible comment by Donald Trump. Trump was asked by interviewer Bill O’Reilly why he respected a “killer” like Vladimir Putin and responded “You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?” He added that Putin “is a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not.”
For drawing what was described as a “moral equivalency” between Russia and the U.S., Trump was blasted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, a gaggle of Republican senators led by the lugubrious Mitch McConnell, sundry Democrats and late night television hosts. Yet Trump was, if anything, too nice. The United States has unleashed far more havoc on the world than Putin and yet it persists in describing itself as the “Leader of the Free World” and the planet’s greatest democracy. Abrams is intent on regime changing most of the Arab world to benefit Israel while Haspel does torture. Both are described as respected members of the foreign policy establishment and are lauded by the media and political chattering class for their service to their country.
Go figure. That people as morally repugnant as Haspel and Abrams should be considered for high level office in Washington is a travesty. All of the flag waving and boasting of American exceptionalism is a joke as the civilian death toll from drone and shadow warriors continues to mount in places like Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. Yes, it is indisputably far “better to get along with Putin” and with everyone else, but that appears to be something that many people in Washington find hard to accept.
Iran still the victim of unshakable Israeli influence over the UK’s political establishment
Here in the UK the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has initiated a judicial review in a bid to halt UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia on suspicion that they are being used against civilians in Yemen. The indiscriminate nature of Saudi air-strikes makes it highly likely that British weaponry is being deployed in breach of international humanitarian law.
The slaughter has been going on for nearly 2 years leading to a humanitarian crisis of appalling magnitude and great cruelty. Since the Yemen campaign began the British government has granted export licences for more than £3.3 billions worth of war equipment when there was a “clear risk” that some of it would be used in violation of all norms of human conduct.
It is claimed that the Government has ignored warnings by senior civil servants and its own arms control experts, and some records of expressed concern have gone missing. This is no great surprise when we discover that export licensing is overseen by none other than the Secretary of State for international trade, Liam Fox. For Fox has ‘form’ as a crazed stooge of Israel and a sworn enemy of Iran.
Fox, while Secretary of State for Defence, was quoted on the Conservative Friends of Israel website as saying: “… We must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.”
And in June 2015 Fox declared: “It is logical to assume that Iran’s intentions are to develop a nuclear weapons capability and any claims that its intentions are exclusively peaceful should not be regarded as credible… Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be seen outside the context of its support for terror proxies, arguably the defining feature of its foreign policy. The risks are clear.”
Fox was forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011 following scandalous goings-on between him, his ‘close friend’ Adam Werritty, the UK ambassador to Israel (Matthew Gould) and Israeli intelligence figures allegedly involved in plotting sanctions against Iran.
Just lately prime minister Theresa May has accused Iran of working with Hezbollah, interfering in Iraq, sending fighters to Syria to help Assad, and supporting the Houthis in the conflict in Yemen. The British Government, of course, can meddle where it pleases and recently concluded another huge arms deal with the Saudis which, says Mrs May, is for the sake of long-term security in the Gulf. She argues that the same extremists who plot terror in the Gulf states are also targeting the streets of Europe: “Gulf security is our security.”
However, public pressure to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia is now so great that the Government has adopted a new export licensing scheme that hides the value and scale of weaponry being supplied.
The reason for the British Government’s current hostility towards Iran was plain from what David Cameron told the Knesset in 2014: “A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world not just Israel. And with Israel and all our allies, Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen.” That position carries forward into the present day and beyond, and serves as an excuse for the rednecks who rule our political swamp to carry on being unpleasant to the Muslim world.
Oh, How he loves these Photo Ops!
Theresa May lost no time in welcoming Mr Netanyahu to London. The two leaders this week agreed to establish a new UK-Israel Trade Working Group to strengthen their existing trade and investment relationship and “to prepare the ground for a post-Brexit trade agreement”. What good that will do in the face of rising popularity among the public of boycotting everything Israeli remains to be seen.
Regional issues including Syria and Iran are to be on the agenda for discussion. And regarding Palestine May repeated the mantra that “We remain committed to a two-state solution as the best way of building stability and peace for the future”…. though she doesn’t say what that will look like.
Netanyahu also met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and they sat alongside the desk on which the Balfour Declaration was composed in 1917. As for the forthcoming Balfour Declaration centenary celebrations, a statement said that May invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend events taking place in the UK “as a Guest of Government” and that Prime Minister Netanyahu “also invited her to visit him in Israel”.
Netanyahu didn’t miss the opportunity to warn that Iran “seeks to annihilate Israel” and called on nations to back renewed sanctions against the Iranian regime.
I looked up one of my old reports about how Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, argued five years ago that British policy was being driven in an underhand fashion by the Israel lobby. He linked Matthew Gould, the then British ambassador to Israel, with the Fox-Werritty scandal and raised questions about meetings between Gould, Liam Fox and Fox’s strange friend Adam Werritty. Werritty was referred to as Fox’s adviser but according to reports he was backed financially by Israel lobbyists and had no security clearance and therefore no authorised role.
Murray, with many useful contacts from his days as an ambassador, claimed to have serious evidence connecting Gould with a secret plan to attack Iran, but the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Secretary blocked questions. Murray published his story ‘Matthew Gould and the plot to attack Iran’ here.
In it he pointed out that “Matthew Gould does not see his race or religion as irrelevant. He has chosen to give numerous interviews to both British and Israeli media on the subject of being a jewish ambassador, and has been at pains to be photographed by the Israeli media participating in jewish religious festivals. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him as ‘not just an ambassador who is jewish, but a jewish ambassador’. That rather peculiar phrase appears directly to indicate that the potential conflict of interest for a British ambassador in Israel has indeed arisen.”
He went on to say that Gould stood suspected of participating with Fox and Werritty “in a scheme to forward war with Iran, in co-operation with Israel”. The stonewalling by the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office led Murray to conclude that “something very important is being hidden right at the heart of government”.
Labour MP Paul Flynn remarked that no previous ambassadors to Israel had been Jewish so that a conflict of interest and accusations of going native would be avoided. He was immediately rebuked. Flynn also asked about meetings between Werritty and Gould, as some reports suggested that Gould, Werritty and Fox discussed a potential military strike on Iran with Mossad. “I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories,” said Flynn, “but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran.”
Fox had earlier made the idiotic claim: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies”, and the Jewish Chronicle hailed him as “a champion of Israel within the government”. Furthermore Fox continually rattled the sabre against Iran which, of course, is no threat to Britain but regarded by Israel as a bitter enemy. Iraq too was Israel’s enemy, not ours. Yet Fox, according to the theyworkforyou.com, voted “very strongly” for the Iraq war. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Afghanistan.
Given that Fox so eagerly waved the flag of a foreign military power and was a man with dangerous beliefs and demonstrably weak judgement, how could those who appointed him not see that he was unfit to serve as a Minister of the British Crown – unless they were similarly tainted?
When the Werritty relationship came to light Fox jumped before being flung from the battlements. But instead of melting into obscurity he has now been rehabilitated into the senior ranks of Government and is once again a Minister of the Crown. And after watching the trail blazed by our former Jewish ambassador to the Jewish State, we now gawp with fascination at the inevitably messy conflicts of interest arising from Trump’s pick for US ambassador to Israel – David Friedman, a Jewish lawyer with scant respect for international law or Middle East sensitivities.
Despite the strong whiff of misconduct David Cameron rewarded Gould with head of The Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance (OCSIA), which includes e-crime, working with private sector partners on exchanging information, and engaging with international partners in improving the security of cyberspace and information security. Did it seem right for such a person to be in charge of crucial security matters at the heart of our Government? What was in fellow Zionist David Cameron’s mind when he appointed him?
Could it have had anything to do with the UK-Israel academic collaboration ventures with cyber research funding, which involve partnerships between British and Israeli universities and cover research areas such identity management, regulating cyber security, privacy assurance, mobile and cloud security, human aspects of security, and cryptography?
Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on digital co-operation in March 2014. And Gould’s new appointment came at a time when the Cameron government was lecturing us on threats to national security and announcing plans to trawl through our personal emails and web browsers in order to “keep us safe”. Question was, who would trawl Gould’s private emails?
The vipers in our bosom
CAAT expect a decision on the judicial review on arms to Saudi Arabia in 4 to 6 weeks. In the meantime an undercover Al Jazeera report has revealed that a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, Shai Masot, was plotting with stooges among British MPs and other vipers in the political snake-pit to “take down” senior government figures including Boris Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan, a noted sympathiser of the Palestinian’s struggle. This should have resulted in the expulsion of the ambassador himself, the Israeli propaganda maestro and Netanyahu’s pet, Mark Regev, who took up the post last year. Regev is the sort of person no sensible government would let into their country. But he was let off the hook and the affair hurriedly smoothed over with an announcement from the Foreign Office that the matter was closed.
Craig Murray, however, has been digging again. The Foreign Office deflected his many questions and dismissed the idea that Masot was anything more than a member of the technical and administrative staff at the embassy. “This is plainly a nonsense,” says Murray. “Masot, as an ex-Major in the Israeli Navy and senior officer in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is plainly senior to many who are on the Diplomatic List.” He concludes that the Foreign Office is complicit in “a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, was so astonishingly muted.”
All this and the recent UN resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s continuing squats on Palestinian land as illegal and an obstacle to peace, has done nothing to disturb the cosy relationship between Her Majesty’s Government and the obnoxious Israelis
On the contrary, after May’s meeting with Netanyahu a Downing Street spokesperson said they focused on, yes, cyber security: “In their discussions, the Prime Ministers committed to working together to build on our longstanding relationship and the strong ties that already exist between our two countries in a wide range of areas, from trade and investment, to innovation and technology, and defence and security. They talked about the important work we do together on intelligence-sharing and cyber-security, and committed to talk further about how we can deepen this cooperation, to help keep our people safe”.