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Missing the Real Noriega Story

Vice President George H.W. Bush meeting with Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega in the mid-1980s when Noriega was considered a key ally in helping the Nicaraguan Contras wage a brutal guerrilla war to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | June 1, 2017

The death of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega on May 29 elicited few if any tears. But it should have sparked more reflection in the United States on his ugly history of service to the CIA, the hypocrisy of Washington’s sudden discovery of his abuses once Noriega became an unreliable ally against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and the George H.W. Bush administration’s bloody and illegal invasion of Panama in December 1989.

In fairness, many progressives and mainstream journalists have called attention to this troublesome history over the years. But few have dared to question the nearly universal condemnation of Noriega as a protector of international drug traffickers. That incendiary claim — first broadcast loudly by the unlikely trio of right-wing Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina; liberal Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts; and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh — galvanized the American public to support his ouster.

After the U.S. invasion, which killed hundreds of Panamanians and 23 U.S. soldiers, Noriega was arrested on Jan. 3, 1990 by armed U.S. drug agents.

President George H. W. Bush declared that Noriega’s “apprehension and return to the United States should send a clear signal that the United States is serious in its determination that those charged with promoting the distribution of drugs cannot escape the scrutiny of justice.” U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton called the invasion “the biggest drug bust in history.”

Convicted in 1992 on eight felony counts following what officials called the “trial of the century,” Noriega was sentenced to 40 years in jail. Although released early from U.S. incarceration, he spent the rest of his life in French and Panamanian prisons.

The resulting publicity created lasting myths about Noriega and drugs. Journalists who should know better have described Noriega as “one of the world’s biggest drug kingpins,” to quote Time magazine. In fact, Louis Kellner, the U.S. attorney who oversaw his Miami indictment and trial admitted, “Noriega was never a major player in the drug war.”

Indeed, at worst, he was a small fry compared to the military rulers of Honduras, whose epic protection of the cocaine trade was tolerated by Washington in return for using that country as a staging base for Contra operations against the Sandinista-led government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Deeply Flawed Trial

A few close observers of the long, expensive, and controversial trial believe it failed to prove Noriega’s guilt at all.

David Adams, who covered it extensively for the London Independent, said the government’s case was “marred by incompetent witnesses, false testimony, and poor presentation.”

Newsday’s Peter Eisner quoted Judge William Hoeveler, who presided over the trial, as saying “the outcome could have been different” if Noriega had been better represented.

Although the government put more than two dozen people on the stand, their testimony was not always relevant or credible.

Paul Rothstein, Georgetown University law professor and former chairman of the American Bar Association’s criminal evidence committee, said of the government’s witnesses, “What promised to be the trumpeting of elephants turned out to be the whimperings of mice.”

Big-time drug bosses enjoyed great rewards for telling the jury what the government wanted. Observed reporter Glenn Garvin, “To convict Noriega, the strike force had to make a flurry of deals with other accused narcotraffickers, bargaining a collective 1,435 years in prison down to 81.”

The fierce Noriega critic R. M. Kostner declared, “The prosecution was shameless in its bribery of witnesses. What co-defendants got for flipping made me sometimes wish that I had been indicted. The proceedings were almost totally politicized. It was clear long before they opened that, regardless of evidence, Noriega could not possibly be acquitted – a very sad thing for the United States.”

Other witnesses who never took the stand contradicted the government’s case years later. Retired Medellin cocaine lord Juan David Ochoa claimed in an interview with Frontline that “at no moment did [Noriega] protect us. . . . As far as I know he had nothing to do with the drug trade.”

Greg Passic, former head of financial operations for the DEA, said, “The Colombians I talked to in the drug transportation business said they didn’t deal with Noriega at all. To deal with him you would just have to pay him more money. They didn’t need it. It would be expensive.”

In fact, DEA officials repeatedly lauded Noriega’s cooperation with their anti-drug investigations, both in public letters of support and in private. Recalled Duane Clarridge, former head of Latin America operations for the CIA, “The DEA had told us that they were getting great support in Panama, and from Noriega in particular, in interdicting drugs.”

More than a year after the U.S. invasion, when it was absolutely impolitic to voice such sentiments, one “federal drug enforcement source” told a reporter, “Noriega was helping us, not ten percent, not twenty percent of the time, but in every instance we asked him to do so, one-hundred percent of the time. . . . These were key operations . . . that struck at both the Cali and Medellin cartels.”

Even the U.S. ambassador to Panama in the final years of Noriega’s rule, Arthur H. Davis Jr., said in an oral history interview, “all I know is that, all the time I was there, Noriega . . . cooperated one hundred percent with our people. Anytime we had a ship that we wanted to be interdicted on the high seas and we asked permission, they gave permission. . . . Anytime there was some prominent drug man coming up and we knew about it, Noriega would help us with it. And when we found out about things, the [Panamanian Defense Forces] would go over there and round them up and turn them over to us.”

Turning Against Noriega

One of the high points of Noriega’s cooperation was Operation Pisces, a three-year undercover probe that culminated in 1987. Attorney General Edwin Meese called it “nothing less than the largest and most successful undercover investigation in federal drug law enforcement history.”

Among those indicted were Medellin Cartel kingpins Pablo Escobar and Fabio Ochoa. Panama made 40 arrests and seized $12 million from accounts in 18 local banks. Said one U.S. prosecutor who helped direct the case, “The Panamanian officials we were dealing with were sincerely cooperative. . . . They could have breached security, and they didn’t.”

The operation may have pleased the DEA, but it angered the country’s financial elite, who directly profited from money laundering. One local banker warned, “this could end the Panamanian banking system, because people will no longer believe they can count on bank secrecy.”

Within two months, spooked investors withdrew up to $4 billion of the country’s $39 billion in bank deposits, triggering the most serious banking crisis in Panama’s history.

A Western diplomat said of Noriega, “The bankers can bring him down. They are complaining in Washington and they’ve got a lot of clout.” The demonstrations organized that summer by Panama’s business elite — and Noriega’s heavy-handed response to them — triggered his eventual slide from power

The bankers were joined by angry cartel leaders, who viewed Noriega as an “obstacle to the functioning” of their money laundering operations in Panama, in the words of drug policy expert Rensellaer Lee.

A lawyer for the bosses of the Cali Cartel complained that his clients were “frustrated by the problems” Noriega created for them in Panama.

Cali leaders later got their revenge when they paid $1.25 million to bribe a drug trafficker to become a key witness against Noriega in his Miami trial. In exchange for the testimony, eager U.S. prosecutors agreed to cut nine years off the sentence of an unrelated Cali trafficker — brother of one of that cartel’s senior leaders.

When Noriega’s defense team cried foul, a federal appeals court declined to order a new trial, but criticized the government for appearing “to have treaded close to the line of willful blindness” in its eagerness to win a conviction.

Medellin leaders were just as unhappy with Noriega as those in Cali. A pilot for one of the biggest Medellin smugglers described Pablo Escobar’s reaction after Noriega approved a raid on one of his cocaine labs in May 1984: “He was just really out of whack with Noriega. He was like, ‘This guy is dead. No matter what, he is dead.”’

It would be foolish to assert that Noriega, alone among all leaders in Central America, kept his hands clean of drugs. But much of his personal fortune is easily accounted for from other sources, such as the sale of Panamanian passports on the black market.

Whatever Noriega’s involvement with drug traffickers, as I have shown elsewhere, the Bush administration displayed unbelievable cynicism when, even before his capture, it swore in a new president of Panama who had sat on the board of one of the most notorious drug-money-laundering banks in the country. His attorney general, who unfroze the bank accounts of Cali traffickers, later became legal counsel for the Cali Cartel’s top smuggler in Panama.

Following Noriega’s ouster, not surprisingly, cocaine trafficking began surging in the country. A year and a half after his arrest, unnamed “U.S. experts” told Time magazine that “the unexpected result . . . is that the rival Cali cartel established a base in Panama and has since inundated the country, along with Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, with vast quantities of cocaine destined for the U.S. and Europe.”

Today, though, all that is forgotten, along with the questionable course of justice during Noriega’s trial. Noriega, even in death, deserves no eulogies, but he does deserve a more balanced judgment of history.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Secretive Bilderberg Group to talk Russia, Trump & ‘war on information’

RT | May 31, 2017

Many of the world’s most powerful people are gathering for the annual meeting of the mysterious Bilderberg Group this week. Russia, the Trump administration and ‘The war on information’ are among key topics up for discussion.

This year’s gathering takes place in Chantilly, Virginia, less than 30 miles from the White House, and goings on in the Oval Office are top of the agenda for the 131 people who’ve confirmed they’re attending.

Many top White House figures will be at the four-day event, including the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor HR McMaster and Assistant to the President Christopher Liddell.

Other topics up for discussion include ‘Russia in the international order,’ China, ‘The Trans-Atlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks,’ ‘The war on information,’ ‘Direction of the EU’ and ‘Why is populism growing?’

This year’s event marks the 65th meeting of the infamously-secretive group which has met every year since 1954. Denis Healey, Joseph Retinger, David Rockefeller and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands were the group’s founders.

The group says the conference is “designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.” Each year it’s attended by people from the fields of politics, industry, finance, media and academia. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America.

As well of some of Trump’s top brass, other attendees this year include Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Republican senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham, and Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai.

Editors, and chief commentators, from several world famous publications including Bloomberg, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal,  Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and the London Evening Standard will also be in attendance.

Notorious for the lack of information about what happens during the discussions, meetings are closed to the public and to reporting journalists. All of the the meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which means that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speakers can be revealed. Also, no minutes are taken and no report is written.

Nobody can buy their way into the meetings, rather they have to be invited. The invited guests are not allowed to bring their partners and the group reportedly never visits the same hotel twice.

Among the most famous past attendees are Henry Kissinger (who is going again this year), Bill Gates, numerous members of European royal families, Bill Clinton, and Margaret Thatcher, who both attended before they rose to power.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | | 2 Comments

VIDEO: The Naylor Report – Tories Plan to Sell the NHS

OffGuardian | June 1, 2017

YouTuber Chris Holden’s video on the Naylor Report and Theresa May’s plans for the NHS has gone viral in the last week. Deservedly so, he’s done the hard yards – reading an interminably dull report – so we don’t have to. His summary is concise, revealing, and very worrying.

“In an interview with Andrew Neil, Theresa May slipped out a single line about the NHS; she’s made the 2017 election all about her, strength and stability and Brexit. In half an hour, this was all she had to say about her plans on the NHS – “we support the Naylor Report”. It sounded so tediously dull, it couldn’t possibly be of any interest.”

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Video | , , | 1 Comment

Calls on Britain to stop arms exports to UAE

MEMO | June 1, 2017

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Britain (AOHR) has called on the UK government to stop exporting arms to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of its role in fuelling armed conflicts in the Middle East.

The organisation said the British government granted 509 arms licenses to the UAE worth £182 million ($233.3 million) in 2016 including defensive and offensive weapons with most of these weapons being transported to conflict zones in Yemen and Libya.

The organisation warned that the UAE government does not abide by the last user condition stipulated in the arms licenses which is documented in UN and international reports and therefore it is imperative that the UK government stop the export of arms to Abu Dhabi and investigate the fate of arms deals which were concluded previously.

The UAE not only provided the parties to the conflict with weapons, AOHR explained, but carried out military operations in the field like the continued bombing against the Darna region in Libya in cooperation with Egypt which resulted in civilian deaths and the destruction of many civilian facilities.

Using the pretext of fighting terrorism, the UAE and its allies are committing gross violations of the rules of international humanitarian law, AOHR added.

It went on to express deep concern that the UAE is expanding its military activity in Africa, where it has built military bases in Eritrea and Somalia.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump-Saudi orb-gazing summit not helping Sunni alliance

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | June 1, 2017

The glowing orb stunt should have been a sign that all was not what it seems. Theatrics, in the world of politics, usually suggest an illusion needs to be spun for audiences somewhere.

A week after US President Donald Trump’s eyesore of a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the pressing question now is “why?” What was the purpose of convening leaders and representatives of 55 Arab and Muslim nations to greet a US head of state amidst so much pomp, ceremony and an excruciating amount of flashing cameras?

The Riyadh summit had several goals, most of which specifically served Saudi and American political interests.

The American leader’s potential gains were clear: he would score points at this impressive international showing of Muslim leaders who would help counter his anti-Muslim reputation at home. Trump would also be well-compensated in the form of the largest US arms deal in history, a booty he could claim would boost his home economy. The negotiations would take place in the Middle East, at the heart of his fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump would also leave with a blank check for Palestinian-Israel “peace,” bestowed by a Saudi king who has no authority to negotiate anything on behalf of Palestinians. And finally, the US president would piggyback the legitimacy of 55 Arab and Muslim states to craft a Middle East policy that targeted Iran, its allies and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – even though no consensus whatsoever was reached at the summit.

In their eyes, the Saudis scored even bigger. The cash-and-credibility-hemorrhaging Saudis are losing ground in their list of international fights – in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and against Iran. Here was an opportunity to convene leaders and representatives from 55 Arab and Muslim nations (only 33 heads of state showed up) to underscore Saudi Arabia’s position as the custodian of Sunni Islam. For the power-mad Saudis, nothing would showcase their primacy better than the presence of a US president on his first official foreign trip. They forgot, however, that legitimacy is derived from one’s own populations, not from a Western head of state sword-dancing next to one’s king. After the summit, Riyadh would go on to unilaterally craft a declaration, unseen and unapproved by the VIP guests, that claimed to outline the gathering’s foreign policy priorities.

But most importantly, this summit would allow the Saudis – who are terrified at the potential repercussions coming their way from decades of funding global terrorism – to very publicly take cover under the Trump presidency. And the US president, who knows very well that the Saudis are the epicenter of global terror, offered up America’s protection and complicity to secure his doggy bag of treasures.

This generous give-and-take between the Saudis and Americans took place on the day of the summit, amidst much back-slapping. Then, a few days later, the fallout began.

First, Saudi vs. Qatar

This past week, a flurry of media headlines alerted us to the first fissure between summit participants. News reports began emerging that Qatari leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had deviated from the Saudi talking points by supporting engagement with Iran and defending resistance groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE retaliated swiftly to this slight by blocking Qatari media outlets, recalling their ambassadors and launching a war of words against Doha.
Why the swift and punishing response toward a fellow member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)?

Qatar has long struggled to get out from under the shadow of its much larger Persian Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia and has spent the past dozen years building up media networks, like Al Jazeera, and investing in major Western corporate, think tank, educational and sports brands to project power well beyond its regional stature. The tiny sheikhdom’s biggest coup, however, was to secure the establishment of the US military’s largest regional base on its territory, which allowed Doha to continue provoking its Saudi competitor with little risk of consequence.

Then in 2011, the Qataris put their full weight behind “Arab Spring” efforts to overthrow a slew of Arab governments. Most of the Qatari-backed incoming regimes and opposition activists, however, were Islamists, mainly of the MB variety, which is reviled by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Saudis were initially caught off-guard by the swift events sweeping the region, but quickly rallied to mount a region-wide counterrevolution to reverse the political gains of the Qatari- and Turkish-backed MB groups. Saudi operatives funneled manpower, money, and weapons to reestablish Riyadh’s influence. They revived their famed jihadi networks to flood Syria and other places with extremist militants that could tip the balance of power back in its direction.

It wasn’t just Qatar and the MB in Saudi sights – the regional uprisings, particularly in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, threatened to shift the region in a direction that benefited Iran, Saudi Arabia’s biggest regional adversary.

In Riyadh ten days ago, the Saudis thought they had struck gold. After eight years of dealing with a somewhat unsympathetic Obama administration, here was Trump acquiescing to their every whim. The Saudi declaration issued at the end of the summit – as well as speeches delivered during the event – struck out at Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas, and promised American cooperation in isolating them. The Saudis were on a high, but they were also mostly alone.

A broad divergence of interests

Aside from the Saudi-Qatari spat, there are countless other differences among summit participants that will scuttle Riyadh’s ambitions.

The anti-MB UAE has stood firmly by Riyadh’s side in condemning Doha but diverges – even within its own borders – on assuming an aggressive position against Iran. Call it Dubai-versus-Abu Dhabi if you will. Dubai, with its large Iranian expat population and significant trade with the Islamic Republic, is less worried about its Persian neighbor. As a 2009 Wikileaks cable from the US embassy in Abu Dhabi puts it: “While MbZ (Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi Mohammad bin Zayed) is a hardliner on Iran, there are accommodationists within his own system, especially in Dubai, where the ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (Prime Minister of the UAE) takes a position that is much closer to Qatar’s.”

Other GCC states are even more loathe to confront Iran. Oman has repeatedly ignored Saudi demands to toughen its stance against Iran and remains a key Iranian diplomatic partner in the region. The two states participated in joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman as recently as April, and it was Muscat that hosted the initial secret US-Iran meetings which kick-started the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

GCC member-state Kuwait also remains relatively neutral on Iranian matters. Up to 40 percent of Kuwaitis are Shiites, and the country has avoided much of the sectarian strife that afflicts Saudi Arabia and now Bahrain. It is to Kuwait that Qatar’s emir has now turned to negotiate peace with the Saudis and UAE in the aftermath of last week’s fallout. The Qataris, who have dealt opportunistically and not ideologically in their regional relations, share the world’s largest gas reserve with Iran, a further incentive to maintain a neutral stance on Tehran.

In fact, most of the Sunni states that attended the Riyadh summit are flat-out furious about the violent sectarianism and extremism that has emerged in the past few years. And many of them blame the Saudis for it.

Last August, an unprecedented conference of 200 leading Sunni clerics from around the world was held in Grozny to determine “who is a Sunni.”Excluded from the gathering were representatives of both the Wahhabi sect (Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s official religion) and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic world is looking to tackle the deviance and sectarianism that has borne groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda – not indulge it, as would be the case if they embraced the Saudi ‘vision’ in Riyadh.

But in an effort to bulldoze through a “Sunni consensus” under the umbrella of “Saudi-American power,” the Saudis ignored every gorilla in that summit room. Not only do many of the meeting’s participants blame the Saudis for unleashing the jihadi genie, but most of them also wouldn’t for a minute look to Saudi ‘leadership’ if it weren’t for Saudi cash. Case in point, Sunni regional giants Turkey and Egypt. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t even show up to Riyadh, citing other engagements. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did attend – he was one of three invited to press his palms upon the ‘glowing orb’ to inaugurate the Saudi counterterrorism-something-or-other.

But more than anything, Sisi was invited to Riyadh as an important set extra – to visually demonstrate that the great Arab state of Egypt was passing the mantle of leadership to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Where the Saudis viewed former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a stalwart ally, they see Sisi as nothing of the sort. Sisi may agree with Riyadh on the evils of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he has absolutely no tolerance for Saudi Arabia’s support of terrorist groups throughout the region and has been a right royal pain on the issue of Syria.

Egypt may hanker after the Saudi billions – which it has received in spades for its anti-MB efforts – but Egyptians have little affection for the Saudis and have sparred publicly and privately in recent years and months. Whereas Riyadh could once count on Egyptian troops to support its military incursions, today Cairo has rejected participation in the Saudi-led war against Yemen – alongside another staunch Saudi ally, Pakistan.

The Saudis recently hired Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif to head up their 39-nation “Muslim NATO” construct to fight terrorism, but now rumors are rife that he will resign amidst a national uproar over his decision. Pakistanis, like other straight-thinking Muslims, are uncomfortable about the prospect of a military alliance that appears to have been conceived primarily to fight Iran – and Shiites.

Dead On Arrival

On the surface, the purpose of the Riyadh summit was to amass a coalition of like-minded Arab and Muslim partner-states, under a Saudi-American banner, to wage war against terror. In fact, this is a Saudi and American-led initiative created not to tackle terror, but to ‘reframe’ it to encompass political adversaries.

Look out for pundits and politicians spinning these new narratives that Iran, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood are equally as dangerous as ISIS and Al-Qaeda – never mind that the former have been around for decades without triggering the global security meltdown spawned by the latter.

In Riyadh, the Americans and Saudis made a great show of jointly announcing two additions to their “terrorism” list – one was a senior Hezbollah official, the other a senior member of ISIS.

This is not the war against terror that the heads of states gathered in Riyadh anticipated. This is a sectarian war, conceived by a sectarian state that has funded, armed and organized the very global terrorism it purports to fight. And every single US administration since the events of 9/11 has acknowledged this direct Saudi role in terror.

In Riyadh, the show went on anyway. But there’s not a person in that room who didn’t understand the game. Forget the ‘Sunni consensus’ after Riyadh. Of the 55 nations represented at the summit, the Saudis will be lucky to retain five.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

European ‘Left’ Caves in to Censorship and Media Lies

By Tortilla Con Sal | teleSUR | May 31, 2017

In 2011, the former European colonial powers, backed by the United States, with the complicity of the United Nations, worked with minority opposition forces to overthrow legitimate governments in Libya, Syria and the Ivory Coast. They trashed the very international law and basic human rights they cynically proclaimed to defend. In 1961, the Belgian and U.S. governments colluded directly in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s elected Prime Minister.

No one should be surprised at how easily the majority of progressive opinion in the West is intimidated by bullying from the mainstream. The overwhelming majority of progressive Western media outlets and intellectuals either accepted or openly supported Western aggression and intervention in 2011, as if they had learned nothing in the 50 years following the martyrdom of Patrice Lumumba. The 2011 events faithfully re-enacted the catastrophe of the Congo 50 years earlier.

Subsequently, that country has suffered over five million deaths from civil war and foreign intervention, a holocaust shamefully ignored internationally. Similarly, the destruction of Libya and Syria have provoked catastrophic human suffering with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Now, the U.S. elites and their allies are applying the age old formula of 1961 and 2011 to Venezuela. What still passes for the Western Left should be ferociously defending Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

Instead, less blatantly than in 2011, majority progressive opinion has crumbled and folded against the same old imperialist psychological warfare offensive used against every imperialist target since the end of WWII. Most progressive comments on Venezuela implicitly validate corporate media spin that, as in Syria, Venezuela’s opposition can be neatly segmented into moderates and extremists when in fact the main opposition leaders refuse dialogue.

With great restraint, President Nicolas Maduro has banned the use of lethal force and persisted in efforts at negotiation. Extensive Western media coverage falsely promotes an image of government repression in Venezuela in sharp contrast to their failure in 2009 to cover murderous government repression in Honduras of massive peaceful protests against the country’s coup regime. Those protests lasted over four months, much longer than the Venezuelan opposition’s latest prolonged coup attempt. But events in Honduras received nothing like the coverage of the current crisis in Venezuela. Western media soft-pedalled events in Honduras because the U.S. authorities supported the coup, one they hope to see repeated in Venezuela.

Despite that self-evident fact, Western progressive opinion has effectively caved in to the false mainstream corporate media narrative that the Venezuelan opposition offensive is a legitimate one against a dictatorial government. That moral and political collapse makes itself evident in many ways.

The latest example in Europe is the illegal summary dismissal by a leading Swedish progressive media outlet of its most experienced journalist writing on Latin America, Dick Emanuelsson. Dick has covered Latin American news for over 35 years for the Flamman weekly. Based for many years in Bogota before moving to Tegucigalpa in 2006 where he works with his partner Mirian, Dick’s reports cover all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Very clearly, Flamman’s decision is blatantly political and should certainly be seen in the context of the Swedish authorities’ support for U.S. attempts to censor Wikileaks in the case of Julian Assange. In Emanuelsson’s case, the decision will surprise no one with any experience with the phony progressive non-governmental and media sector in Western Europe and North America.

Just as Western governments trample human rights while claiming to defend them, so Western non-governmental sector managers abuse basic rights when it suits them. Obviously, Flamman’s editors can no longer accommodate Emanuelsson’s uncompromising support for radical political and social movements in Latin America because it conflicts with received wisdom in Sweden.

Emanuelsson is among the very few European reporters with a lifetime’s experience of reporting on Latin America and one of only a handful writing as revolutionaries. Over the years, his work on Colombia relentlessly exposed the paramilitary and narcotics links of Colombia’s ruling elite. He was practically the only European reporter writing first hand about the FARC-EP’s guerrilla struggle against successive corrupt genocidal Colombian governments and the persistent efforts of the Colombian guerrilla to work for peace.

Similarly, following the 2009 coup in Honduras, Dick and Mirian fearlessly reported the events of the coup itself, the murderous repression of the peaceful protest movement and the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Subsequently, along with a few North American activists, they have worked in constant solidarity with Honduran activists and reporters documenting the corrupt regimes of Porfirio Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernandez.

But now, the supposedly progressive editors of one of Sweden’s leading labor media outlets ignominiously dismissed Emanuelsson two years before retirement, despite his unique record of commitment and achievement.

In order to fire Emanuelsson, Flamman’s editor blew out of proportion minor errors made in relation to a task that only takes up about 10 percent of his overall agreed workload, totally disregarding the Swedish Law of Employment’s Protection – an odd thing to do for a media outlet that regards itself as a defender of worker’s rights. No criticisms about his regular feature reports on Latin America nor about his overall coverage were issued. In fact, no such criticisms against his work have ever been made in almost 35 years!

The paper’s readership has always regarded Emanuelsson’s work as exemplary reporting unavailable elsewhere. On the basis of their flimsy pretext and ignoring his impressive track record, Flamman tried to dismiss him with no compensation. The flagrant illegality of the dismissal notice under Swedish labor law is beyond dispute. When his union intervened, Flamman upped their offer to a measly four month’s salary, a recompense adding insult to the injury of chronic insecurity.

Flamman is an ostensibly left-wing weekly associated with the former VPK Left Communist political party which years ago aligned with acceptable pro-imperialist opinion in Sweden. That realignment is part of the general drift to the right in Europe which has seen the neo-fascist Sverigedemokraterna party become the second most popular in the country. Rather than fight that drift, many former communists and other progressives in Sweden have accommodated to it. That reality is clear from the support of most progressive opinion in Sweden for NATO’s role in the destruction of Libya and Syria and the decline in solidarity with Cuba.

Domestically, Flamman’s treatment of Emanuelsson reflects the accommodation of Swedish former communists with the neoliberal agenda of Sweden’s business sector. Like so many phony progressives across Western Europe, Flamman’s editors talk excitedly about Podemos in Spain, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party in the U.K. or even Syriza in Greece.

But their real commitments reveal themselves in the practice they apply to cases like that of Emanuelsson. People may or may not agree with the politics of his reporting any more than they have to agree with the politics of Julian Assange, but basic justice demands we should defend their fundamental human rights.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment