The Financial Times editorial page carries a logo that proclaims: “Without fear and without favour”. Indeed the editors have shown no fear when it comes to… fabricating lies, promoting imperial wars decimating countries and impoverishing millions, whether in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and now Venezuela. The fearless “Lies of Our Times” have been at the forefront forging pretexts for inciting imperial armies to crush independent governments.
Despite its pretentious scribblers and prestigious claims, the FT is seen by the Anglo-American financial class as a belligerent purveyor of militarist policies designed for the most retrograde sectors of the ruling elite.
What is most striking about the FT fearless fabrications on behalf of imperial militarism is how often their political and economic prognostications have been incompetent and flat out wrong.
For the past ten years, the FT editorial pages have described China in economic crisis and heading for a fall, while in reality, the Chinese economy has grown at between eight and six percent a year.
For over a decade and a half, the FT editors claimed Russia under President Vladimir Putin presented an international existential threat to ‘the West’. In fact, it was the ‘Western’ armies of NATO, which expanded military operations to the borders of Russia, the US, which financed a neo-fascist coup in Kiev and the US-EU which promoted an Islamist uprising in Syria designed to totally undermine Russia’s influence and relations in the Middle East.
The FT’s economic gurus and its leading columnists prescribed the very catastrophic deregulatory formulas which precipitated the financial crash of 2008-09, after which they played the clownish role of “Mickey the Dunce” – blaming others for the failed policies.
The fearless FT scribes are currently leading a virulent propaganda campaign to promote the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro.
This essay will identify the FT’s latest pack of fearless lies and fabrications and then conclude by analyzing the political consequences for Venezuela and other independent regimes.
The Financial Times and Venezuela: From War in the Suites to Terror in the Streets
In covering the crisis in Venezuela, the FT has systematically ignored the ongoing campaign of assaults and assassinations against elected officials, security officers, military and police who have been murdered by the FT’s favored ‘opposition’.
The FT did not cover the horrific murders of an elected Chavista congresswoman and her two young children, who were executed (shot in the head) in broad daylight by opposition-paid hitmen.
These ongoing opposition terror campaigns against the elected government and the general public are systematically ignored in the FTs ‘reports’ and on its editorial pages, which focus more on the shortages of consumer items.
The FT cover-up of right-wing terror extended to inventing a ‘possible’ army or National Guard plan to open fire on opposition demonstrators. In this case, the FT anticipated right-wing violence by laying the blame on the government in advance.
The FT covers-up the opposition business elite’s campaign of hoarding essential goods to create artificial shortages and panic buying. They deny the ongoing price gouging and pin the blame for shortages and long consumer lines exclusively on ‘regime mismanagement’.
The FT conveniently omits to mention that the decline in world oil prices has affected not only the economy of Venezuela but all countries dependent on commodity exports, including the Financial Times favorite neo-liberal regimes in Brazil and Argentina.
The Financial Times cites bogus ‘opinion’ polls, which wildly exaggerate the government’s declining popularity: In the recent elections Maduro’s supporters secured 40% of the popular vote while the FT claims his support to be 7%!
US client regimes (Mexico, Peru, and Colombia) are the largest producers of illegal drugs and US banks are the largest launderers for narco-money. Yet the FT reports on “Venezuela’s role as a conduit for illegal drugs smuggled north to the US and east into Brazil, Africa and thence to Europe”. Drug enforcement experts all agree that Colombia, home to seven US military bases and with a regime closely linked to paramilitary-narco gangs, is the source of drugs smuggled through Venezuela. That Venezuela has become a victim of the violent Colombian narco-trade is never acknowledged by the elegant City of London pen-prostitutes.
The FT blames the re-emergence of ‘malaria and other possible diseases’ on the leftist Maduro government. In fact the recent ‘malaria outbreak’ (also cited by the New York Times propagandists) is based on a single illegal gold miner.
The FT ignores how the US- backed neo-liberal regimes in Argentina and Brazil, which rule by presidential decree, have slashed public health programs setting the stage for much greater public health crises.
The Financial Times: Big Lies for Mass Murder
The Financial Times is waging an all-out propaganda war with one goal: To incite the violent seizure of power in Venezuela by US political clients.
In line with the Obama-Clinton ‘regime-change by any means’ policies, the FT paints a deceptive picture of Venezuela facing ‘multiple crises’, representing a ‘destabilizing’ threat to the hemisphere, and on the brink of a global ‘humanitarian crisis’.
Armed with these deadly clichés, the FT editorial pages demand “a new government soon and certainly before the 2018 elections”.
Recently, the FT proposed a phony legal gimmick — a recall referendum. However, since the opposition cannot initiate the vote in time to oust the elected President Maduro, the FT calls for “events which precipitate changes sooner” – a violent coup!
FT’s scenarios aim to precipitate a violent right-wing “march”, eventually provoking civil bloodshed in early September of this year.
The FT expects that “blood in Caracas will require an active Latin America response”(sic). In other words, the FT hopes that a US-backed military invasion from neighboring Colombia would help eliminate the Chavistas and install a rightist regime.
The Financial Times, which actively promoted the NATO-led destruction of the government in Libya, now calls for a US-led invasion of Venezuela. Never ones to re-assess their promotion of ‘regime change’, the FT now calls for a violent coup in Venezuela, which will exceed that of Libya in terms of the loss of thousands of Venezuelan lives and the brutal reversal of a decade of significant socio-economic progress.
“Without fear and without favor”, the FT speaks for imperial wars everywhere.
The US presidential elections take place just as the Obama-Clinton regime prepares to intervene in Venezuela. Using bogus ‘humanitarian’ reports of widespread hunger, disease, violence and instability, the Obama regime will still need Venezuelan thugs to provoke enough violent street violence to trigger an’ invitation’ for Washington’s Latin American military partners to ‘intervene’ under the auspices of the UN or OAS.
If ‘successful’, a rapid overthrow of the elected government in Caracas could be presented as a victory for Hilary Clinton’s campaign, and an example of her policy of ‘humanitarian-military interventions’ around the world.
However, if Obama’s allied invasion does not produce a quick and easy victory, if the Venezuelan people and armed forces mount a prolonged and courageous defense of their government and if US lives are lost in what could turn into a popular war of resistance, then Washington’s intervention could ultimately discredit the Clinton campaign and her ‘muscular’ foreign policy. The American electorate might finally decide against four more years of losing wars and losing lives. No thanks to the ‘fearless’ Financial Times.
In a column mocking the political ignorance of the “dumbed-down” American people and lamenting the death of “objective fact,” New York Times columnist Timothy Egan shows why so many Americans have lost faith in the supposedly just-the-facts-ma’am mainstream media.
Egan states as flat fact, “If more than 16 percent of Americans could locate Ukraine on a map, it would have been a Really Big Deal when Trump said that Russia was not going to invade it — two years after they had, in fact, invaded it.”
But it is not a “fact” that Russia “invaded” Ukraine – and it’s especially not the case if you also don’t state as flat fact that the United States has invaded Syria, Libya and many other countries where the U.S. government has launched bombing raids or dispatched “special forces.” Yet, the Times doesn’t describe those military operations as “invasions.”
Nor does the newspaper of record condemn the U.S. government for violating international law, although in every instance in which U.S. forces cross into another country’s sovereign territory without permission from that government or the United Nations Security Council, that is technically an act of illegal aggression.
In other words, the Times applies a conscious double standard when reporting on the actions of the United States or one of its allies (note how Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria was just an “intervention”) as compared to how the Times deals with actions by U.S. adversaries, such as Russia.
Biased on Ukraine
The Times’ reporting on Ukraine has been particularly dishonest and hypocritical. The Times ignores the substantial evidence that the U.S. government encouraged and supported a violent coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014, including a pre-coup intercepted phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should lead the new government and how to “midwife this thing.”
The Times also played down the key role of neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists in killing police before the coup, seizing government building during the coup, and then spearheading the slaughter of ethnic Russian Ukrainians after the coup. If you wanted to detect the role of these SS-wannabes from the Times’ coverage, you’d have to scour the last few paragraphs of a few stories that dealt with other aspects of the Ukraine crisis.
While leaving out the context, the Times has repeatedly claimed that Russia “invaded” Crimea, although curiously without showing any photographs of an amphibious landing on Crimea’s coast or Russian tanks crashing across Ukraine’s border en route to Crimea or troops parachuting from the sky to seize strategic Crimean targets.
The reason such evidence of an “invasion” was lacking is that Russian troops were already stationed in Crimea as part of a basing agreement for the port of Sevastopol. So, it was a very curious “invasion” indeed, since the Russian troops were on scene before the “invasion” and their involvement after the coup was peaceful in protecting the Crimean population from the depredations of the new regime’s neo-Nazis. The presence of a small number of Russian troops also allowed the Crimeans to vote on whether to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, which they did with a 96 percent majority.
In the eastern provinces, which represented Yanukovych’s political base and where many Ukrainians opposed the coup, you can fault, if you wish, the Russian decision to provide some military equipment and possibly some special forces so ethnic Russian and other anti-coup Ukrainians could defend themselves from the assaults by the neo-Nazi Azov brigade and from the tanks and artillery of the coup-controlled Ukrainian army.
But an honest newspaper and honest columnists would insist on including this context. They also would resist pejorative phrases such as “invasion” and “aggression” – unless, of course, they applied the same terminology objectively to actions by the U.S. government and its “allies.”
That sort of nuance and balance is not what you get from The New York Times and its “group thinking” writers, people like Timothy Egan. When it comes to reporting on Russia, it’s Cold War-style propaganda, day in and day out.
And this has not been a one-off problem. The unrelenting bias of the Times and, indeed, the rest of the mainstream U.S. news media on the Ukraine crisis represents a lack of professionalism that was also apparent in the pro-war coverage of the Iraq crisis in 2002-03 and other catastrophic U.S. foreign policy decisions.
A growing public recognition of that mainstream bias explains why so much of the American population has tuned out supposedly “objective” news (because it is anything but objective).
Indeed, those Americans who are more sophisticated about Russia and Ukraine than Timothy Egan know that they’re not getting the straight story from the Times and other MSM outlets. Those not-dumbed-down Americans can spot U.S. government propaganda when they see it.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine”; “NYT Is Lost in its Ukraine Propaganda”; “NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts”; and “NYT Enforces Ukraine ‘Group Think’”]
It was about two years ago to the day I was blacklisted at CNN.
I don’t want to remind them they were sadly wrong, but they were. So write this off however you prefer, but understand that we were lied to again to drag us again into an open-ended war in Iraq-Syria. Last time it was Bush and those missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. This time it was Obama and saving the Yazidi people from genocide.
Wait, what? Who are the Yazidis? How did they get us back into Iraq?
Ah, how fast time flies.
Two years ago a group of Yazidis, a minority spread across Iran, Iraq and Turkey, were being threatened by a group called ISIS few American were focused on. Obama declared a genocide was about to happen, and the U.S. had to act. U.S. officials said they believed that some type of ground force would be necessary to secure the safety of the stranded members of the Yazidi group. The military drew up plans for limited airstrikes and the deployment of 150 ground troops.
No Congressional authorization was sought, no attempt was made to secure UN sanction, no effort was made to seek Iraqi military help to save their own people inside their own country. However, promises were made by the White House of having no American “boots on the ground” and that the airstrikes to kill people were for a humanitarian purpose.
Two years later the U.S. has some 6,000 troops on the ground, including artillery units and aircraft based inside Iraq and Syria. The limited airstrikes have expanded to a 24 month broad-based bombing campaign, which has spread into Syria, with the sideshows of complete collapse of democracy in Turkey, a Russian military presence in Syria, and an Iranian military presence in Iraq. For the record, the Yazidis are pretty much fine, as are ISIS and Syrian president Assad. The Yazadis do occasionally show up in fear-mongering, unsourced stories about ISIS sex slaves, usually spoon-fed to American media, and only American media, by pro-Yazidi ethnic groups safely in the west.
In fact, other than a massive regional death toll and no progress toward whatever the actual goal for the United States is (um, whatever, “destroy” ISIS), things are pretty much the same after two years, +chaos. And whomever is elected this November will be the fifth U.S. president to make war in Iraq.
Back to CNN.
As the Yazidi situation was unfolding, I was invited to tape a discussion there alongside the usual retired U.S. military colonel. I was asked a single question, explained in my answer that the U.S. was in fact using the Yazidi “humanitarian crisis/faux genocide” as an excuse to re-enter the Iraq quagmire, and equated it to George W. Bush’s flim-flam about weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
The host literally said I was wrong. I was not asked another question, though the colonel was given several minutes to explain the urgency of the situation, demand America act where no one else would, and assure the public that Obama planned only limited, surgical strikes and that was it, one and done.
My question was edited out, the colonel’s lengthy answer was played on air, and my very brief moment in the glow of CNN was ended even though I wore a nice suit and a tie. Oh well, we still have each other here, and hey, CNN, my number’s still the same if you wanna call.
In the past 15 years, the U.S. military machine has attacked 17 countries. The many peace and justice organizations and individuals attacked in Terry Burke’s In These Times article [article date August 15, 2016] have a long history of opposition to ALL U.S. wars, interventions, invasions, drone attacks, military coups, blockades, and sanctions on numerous countries around the world.
The military aggression of the United States, the expansion of NATO, the efforts at encirclement of Russia and China with weapons shields, CIA destabilizations in Latin America and the massively destructive U.S. wars in Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East and North Africa, along with the massive arms deals with U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, have created terrible destruction and millions of deaths and refugees. UNAC, a peace and justice coalition with organizations and individuals from different perspectives, seeks to counter the corporate media propaganda and politicians’ justifications for each of these wars and for expanding U.S. militarism.
These wars collectively, and each of them individually, are for U.S. economic and geopolitical domination. None of these wars have resulted in increased security or stability for the countries targeted or for the people of the U.S.
It is from this perspective that we oppose the U.S. war in Syria. We oppose the U.S. bombing that has ruined so much of the vital infrastructure, and we oppose the U.S.-coordinated arming and financing of numerous armed groups and the devastating sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on the people of Syria.
Terry Burke cites her past work in the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee as the basis of her position on Syria. However, this distorted reasoning would have led Terry and the antiwar movement to support the U.S. backed Contra forces in Nicaragua as “democratic and progressive forces”. The U.S. role in Central America was to covertly arm contra forces to impose regime change in Nicaragua while funding and arming Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squads. This destructive policy created millions of refugees from Central America in the 1980s, just as U.S. policies of regime change in the past 12 years of war in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere has created even more refugees.
The U.S. is coordinating Saudi, Israeli, Qatar, Turkish and EU efforts of bombing and of arming opposition groups. The stated goal from the beginning has been regime change in Syria. Regime change, as in Iraq and Libya, means the complete destruction of every secular state institution, including the very structures that provided full access to free education, free health care, electrification, potable water, modern infrastructure, irrigation and communication.
Years of U.S. sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya did not succeed in carrying out regime change, although they created great hardships and dislocations in each economy. Up to 1.5 million people died due to U.S. sanctions in Iraq alone.
Today, as we watch two candidates running for president who threaten increased and terrible interventions in Syria, we are seeing a big increase in U.S. propaganda. Take, for example, the August 11, 2016 article by Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on the breakdown of the [February 2016] ceasefire. FAIR, a media watchdog group, exposed the fact that it was groups supported by the U.S. fighting alongside the al Nusra Front – the al Qaida group in Syria – that actually broke the ceasefire, yet the media blamed the Syrian government and the Russians for the breakdown. Much of what we see in the U.S. media related to the situation in Syria is the same kind of propaganda with the goal of building greater support for war.
Terry Burke claims we are “U.S.-centric” for opposing our government’s attacks on Syria and attempts at regime change in that country. She claims that we have “ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices.” But who has ignored what? Where in the U.S. corporate media are the voices of Syrians (both pro and anti-Assad) who want an end to the ISIS/Al-Qaida/U.S./NATO intervention in their country and have rallied to the side of their government to end it? The U.S. corporate media and some so-called progressives in the U.S. have focused on vilifying Assad rather than the U.S.-led war on Syria, which only leads to strengthening the forces who seek regime change and war. Should we add our voices to that chorus? Is that the best way to end U.S. intervention in Syria, which the overwhelming majority of Syrians oppose? We think not.
The March 13, 2016 UNAC protest, ‘A Day of Peace and Solidarity’ [Facebook], is the basis of Burke’s claims that “a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement.” Why? Because the “anti-war protest in New York City included people carrying the flag of the brutal Assad regime…”
It is true that Syrians came to that demonstration and carried the flag of their country. Do Syrians not have the right to carry their flag? Is it the place of the U.S. anti-war movement to tell people from any country that is under attack by the U.S. that they do not have the right to carry their country’s flag? That is not the role of our movement; we oppose our government’s illegal and immoral aggression against all countries and do not lecture the people of that country on whom they should support or not support.
If antiwar activists and organizations in the U.S. condemn U.S. bombings and aggression in Syria as our primary concern, rather than denouncing “Assad’s crimes”, we are branded “pro-Assad”. Burke attacks us for having signs like “U.S. Hands Off Syria” and “No U.S. War on Syria.” These she says are “U.S.-centric.” Were similar slogans used during the Vietnam War, Afghan War, and Iraq War also U.S.-centric? The U.S. is the most militarily aggressive country in the world. It has around 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries in the world combined. We in the U.S. have an obligation to humanity to demand that our government stop the aggression and bring the troops home from Syria and all of the more than 130 countries where there are U.S. troops.
Burke accuses the antiwar movement of ignoring progressive Syrian voices but she is highly selective in identifying the “Syrian perspective” as those who are anti-Assad. We must ask her why she ignores the Syrian voices that seek to end the U.S./NATO/ISIS/Al-Qaida attacks on their country.
Burke believes that the primary feature of the Syrian conflict is fighting between two camps of Syrians. However, this is not the case. Syria has been invaded by extremists such as ISIS and al Nusra. Tens of thousands of mercenaries have poured into this small country to overthrow the government, a goal which the U.S. and NATO share. They have been supported by bombings, logistics and harsh sanctions against Syria from the U.S. and NATO. Though the U.S. has claimed it is there to attack the extremists, there had not been much damage to them until Russia entered the fighting– and then, in a matter of weeks, the tide turned. The oil that ISIS takes from Syria and uses to help fund their operations has been left untouched by the U.S and its allies until Russia started bombing their oil operations.
The antiwar movement can agree on non-intervention and self-determination. Aligning with those anti-Assad Syrians who support U.S. intervention in Syria can only divide and weaken our movement, which needs to be united today, perhaps more than ever.
We urge the antiwar movement to reject the ideas that Terry Burke presents in her article and demand that the U.S. and NATO stop the bombing, stop the sanctions, stop the flow of weapons and stop the funding. This will stop the extremist groups. Then the people of Syria can alone decide their fate.
 Organizations and people attacked by Terry Burke in her article in In These Times include United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), U.S. Peace Council, Syrian American Forum, Veterans for Peace, Manhattan Green Party, WarIsACrime.org, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Syrian American Will Association, ANSWER Coalition, Anti-War Committee Chicago, Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Mint Press News, AntiWar.com, Consortium News, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity including members William Binney, Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern; dedicated activists like David Swanson and Kathy Kelly, as well as journalists Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gareth Porter and Robert Parry.
The Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC):
Marilyn Levin – UNAC co-coordinator
Joe Lombardo – UNAC co-coordinator
Margaret Kimberley – Senior columnist, Black Agenda Report
Joe Iosbaker – Chicago Anti-war Committee
Sara Flounders – Co-director, International Action Center
Bernadette Ellorin – Chairperson, BAYAN, U.S.A
Judy Bello – Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Abayomi Azikiwe – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice
Phil Wilayto – Editor, The Virginia Defender
Jeff Mackler – Northern California UNAC
If you want to add your name to this statement, please email UNACpeace@gmail.com with your name and the name of your organization. If it is an organizational endorsement of the statement, please note that in your email or simply click here:
ABC Television’s 20/20 will air a program on Friday called “The Girl Left Behind,” the main thrust of which is already apparent on ABC’s website.
The horribly tragic story is that of Kayla Mueller, an American held hostage and reportedly raped and tortured by ISIS before dying — it’s unclear how, possibly at the hands of ISIS, possibly killed by bombs dropped by U.S. ally Jordan.
Another hostage who was freed reported that ISIS blamed Kayla Mueller for U.S. actions in the Middle East. Among those actions, we learned this week, was imprisoning future ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at Abu Ghraib, not just at Camp Bucca as previously reported.
Mueller, like fellow ISIS victim James Foley, meant well and was in Syria to try to help people nonviolently. But U.S. policy has made it unsafe for Americans to travel to many places.
ABC will seek to pin blame for what happened to Mueller on Doctors Without Borders. She was kidnapped out of a Doctors Without Borders car, and that organization negotiated the freedom of its employees while refusing to help Mueller or even to trust her family enough to share with them information intended for them from ISIS.
But Doctors Without Borders was in Syria to help people and appears to have meant well. Blaming the doctors is easy to overdo here, and not just because the United States has been bombing its hospitals — acts that may not involve rape or torture, but do involve murder and maiming. The U.S. government could have helped Mueller by never having destroyed Iraq in the first place, never having sought to overthrow Syria, never having overthrown Libya, or never having flooded the region with weapons. Or the U.S. government could have negotiated with ISIS or allowed victims’ families to do so — something it now allows, too late for Kayla Mueller. Or the U.S. government could have announced new policies that ISIS would likely have accepted as ransom.
ISIS asked, in exchange for Mueller’s freedom, for the freedom of Aafia Siddiqui or $5 million Euros. If the U.S. government had, instead, offered an apology to the victims of its wars and prison camps, and massive reparations to the region, ISIS might very well have responded in kind. Instead, the U.S. government proceeded to bomb people, including many civilians, for a cost many times greater than $5 million Euros.
The telling of Mueller’s story is, in itself, worthwhile. But the focus on an American victim of a war that is victimizing all kinds of people fuels dangerous attitudes. Focusing on the crimes of ISIS, but not of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or, for that matter, the United States, looks like propaganda for more war. When a New Yorker like Jeffrey Epstein rapes, nobody proposes to bomb New York, but when Baghdadi allegedly rapes, the appropriate response is widely understood to be bombing people.
I don’t think the suffering of Kayla Mueller or James Foley should be used to justify the infliction of more suffering. As 9/11 victims have been used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims’ relatives have pushed back. James Foley is pushing back from the grave. Posted online is a video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley’s killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.
The video shows Foley in Chicago helping the late Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago — a film about a protest of NATO. I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO. And I met Wexler who tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie.
In the video you can watch Foley discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage — watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.
When Foley’s mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley’s mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we’re going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.
Iran’s foreign minister has categorically denied the US claims that Tehran ships arms to Yemen, saying Washington itself knows better which international parties spread terrorism throughout the world.
Mohammad Javad Zarif was reacting to comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry who accused Tehran on Thursday of transferring “missiles and other sophisticated weapons” to “rebels” in Yemen.
“By such statements, the US administration has implicated itself in the Saudi regime’s war crimes and inhumane and infanticidal atrocities against the innocent and oppressed Yemeni people. It should undoubtedly accept responsibility and be answerable for all the inhuman crimes,” Zarif said.
Kerry made the accusations during a visit to Saudi Arabia, which has been waging a brutal military campaign against Yemen for more than year.
The top US diplomat was in Jeddah where UN special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as well as representatives from Britain and Saudi Arabia’s Persian Gulf allies in the war had gathered to discuss the conflict.
“Mr. Kerry knows well better than anyone that the Saudi government has, over the past year and a half, been invariably and sternly frustrating all the efforts taken to bring about ceasefire in Yemen,” Zarif said.
In his remarks, Kerry said “the threat potentially posed by the shipment of missiles and other sophisticated weapons into Yemen from Iran extends well beyond Yemen and is not a threat just to Saudi Arabia and… the region.”
“It is a threat to the United States and it cannot continue,” he added.
Zarif also dismissed Kerry’s claims of Iranian threat to the region and the US, saying the Islamic Republic’s “military might poses no threat to any country and simply serves defensive purposes.”
“What threatens the region and the world today is the ideological, financial and political bases of Takfiri terrorism in the world, whose source and causes Mr. Kerry should know well.”
The Saudi military has been pounding Yemen since March 2015 to undermine Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
Nearly 10,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Riyadh’s military aggression which lacks any international mandate.
The US maintains strong military ties with Riyadh, which had Washington approve a USD-1.29-billion rearming program for the kingdom last November.
“Without a doubt, the US administration would further discredit its policies in the region through its support and ignorance and inattention to the facts on the ground,” said Zarif.
“It is high time the US administration learned from its glaring past mistakes in Syria and Iraq and open its eyes to realities,” he added.
On Thursday, the UN human rights office said the Saudi military is using cluster bombs against residential areas in Yemen in violation of international law, blaming the Riyadh regime for most of the civilian casualties in its impoverished southern neighbor.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the United States in May for selling cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom had used various types of US-made cluster munitions in its war against Yemen despite evidence of mounting civilian casualties.
“We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” – Former US President Jimmy Carter, presidential campaign, 1976 [Source]
No clearer demonstration of the mass psychosis afflicting much of humanity can be seen than in the ongoing outrage and horror evoked by the photographs of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body. While it goes without saying that any empathetic being would react with utter revulsion and helpless fury at the fate of this poor little boy, one cannot ignore the vast indifference evident toward the thousands of other needless child deaths that occur daily around the world. For this silent slaughter, we hear: ‘Shit happens’ or ‘What am I supposed to do about it?’
Aylan’s death even touched the stony hearts of corporate media editors:
From Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal :
His name was Aylan. He was 3 years old, from war-torn Syria.
His final journey was supposed to end in sanctuary in Europe; instead it claimed his life and highlighted the plight of desperate people caught in the gravest refugee crisis since World War II.
Readers can be forgiven for missing similarly recounted tragedies concerning other young children. From an earlier 99.99998271% article [Note: see original for sources]:
Ask yourself if you have heard the name of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered by US marines after her family (34-year-old mother Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 45-year-old father Qasim Hamza Raheem, and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza) were killed.
How about Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year old girl who amazingly survived the Haditha Massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed including seven children, a 1-year-old girl staying with the family and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair?
How did she survive?
“I pretended that I was dead when my brother’s body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet.”
A six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the eight Marines sentenced to jail, despite one of the men – Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz – testifying (in return for immunity) that he had urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. This outcome outraged the Iraqi people (as the attack on Malala [Yousafzai] outraged the West) but the name of Safa Younis Salim remains practically unknown.
Informing the world about these children would run counter to the crucial narrative that the US and its NATO allies are an altruistic force for good in the world – bringers of peace, freedom and democracy. Aylan Kurdi, on the other hand, may prove very useful in furthering the true aims of the Western-aligned powers, and so – like Malala – he will be making the front pages for as long as is necessary.
Mainstream press outlets have overwhelmingly called for decisive action, with tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail plumbing new depths of hypocrisy. The UK’s ‘liberal-left’ Guardian newspaper joined the ‘humanitarian intervention’ ranks in a recent editorial:
To begin restoring that hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind. The establishment of credible safe havens and the implementation of a no-fly zone must be on the table for serious consideration.
Where were the editorials calling for the establishment of no-fly zones in order to overthrow the Israeli regime when last summer, in an orgy of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction, the inhabitants of Gaza (average age 17), described accurately by David Cameron as a prison camp, were subjected to a barrage of modern, US-supplied weaponry:
The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict has gathered substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.
The 2014 hostilities saw a huge increase in firepower used in Gaza, with more than 6,000 airstrikes by Israel and approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired. In the 51 day operation, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, a third of them children. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August 2014, killing 6 civilians and injuring at least 1,600.
Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, especially women and children. Survivors gave graphic testimony describing air strikes that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble in seconds. “I woke up… in the hospital, and I later learned that my sister, mother and my children had all died,” said a member of the Al Najjar family after an attack in Khan Younis on 26 July that killed 19 of his relatives, “We all died that day even those who survived”.
The commission is concerned about Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius; though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately. There appears also to be a pattern whereby the IDF issued warnings to people to leave a neighbourhood and then automatically considered anyone remaining to be a fighter. This practice makes attacks on civilians highly likely. During the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza that began in mid-July 2014, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged.
Where is the global anguish and soul searching about the CIA drone campaign, which is now responsible, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for the deaths of thousands of people, of whom many are civilians and hundreds children, including babies? Where is the mass public/media outrage against Obama’s strikes on weddings and funerals?
A population of billions that reacts so dramatically to one outrage yet indifference to another of equal horror can only be described as emotionally and empathically dysfunctional to a profound degree.
These oddities require no psychological explanation with regard to the media. Indeed, if there were any lingering doubts about the agenda of the corporate press, they can be safely dispensed with for all time. Despite this fact, confronting mainstream journalists about this agenda on social media invariably leads to ‘conspiracy’ smears, derision (often with peers piling into the fray), and sometimes blocking.
It is not even necessary (although it is highly recommended) to read Herman/Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent to see the systemic bias towards corporate/state-power-friendly narratives; common sense is adequate, and the current push to war on Syria is an apt example of the standard methods employed.
How do we know there is an agenda?
The Syria story is being universally framed as ‘We have to go in there and do something’ but a crucial element is missing, namely that US-aligned forces have long been covertly operating in Syria. An internal email dated 7th December 2011 of the Stratfor ‘global intelligence’ company published by WikiLeaks makes this very clear. It is a remarkable email, in that it clearly demonstrates the intent of the US to intervene in the affairs of Syria, and strongly implies that – among many other things – agents from the US, France, Jordan, Turkey, and the UK were already on the ground carrying out reconnaissance and the training of opposition forces.
While the content of the email is unambiguously damning – a clear smoking gun of a plan for regime change in Syria – equally striking is the casual tone of the writer. It is that of an employee who is extremely comfortable, not only in the knowledge that the US will eventually force regime change, but also that a way will be found to make it look good in the media, presumably understanding that another department in the Pentagon or the CIA will handle that side of things. The employee assumes the humdrum tone of a person simply doing what they are expected to do – passing on useful information to his superiors – without any consideration or fear that such actions may be illegal.
This casual approach speaks volumes about the attitude from the very top down of US officials and their employees in the public and private sectors toward the nation’s obligations to international law; namely that any ‘problems’ with such obligations can be worked around to everyone’s satisfaction (at least far enough to get the job done), as demonstrated with the invasion ten years ago of Iraq by the US and its ‘Coalition of the Willing’ without a UN resolution.
Some highlights from the email [Original typos uncorrected. Emphasis mine in bold]:
I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.
They emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake.
There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn’t clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can’t just create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn’t reach that very public stage.
The French representative was of hte opinion that Syria won’t be a libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent ( i dont really think a syria campaign is the way to do that.) UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.
Absent from corporate media reporting is the Pentagon report demonstrating ‘that the growth and expansion of ISIS was a direct result of arms being sent by the US to anti-Assad Islamists, with the strategic [US] intention of toppling the Assad regime in Syria’. [Note: original reporting by Nafeez Ahmed here]
3: Moral relativism
Media reporting on ‘murderous dictators’ and ‘strongmen’ is selective. By a staggering coincidence, dictators that accede to US/NATO strategic demands are spared condemnation while leaders (often democratically elected) who do not are vilified relentlessly, as noted by Glenn Greenwald when Hillary Clinton warned of the dangers of Iran’s ’emerging dictatorship’ in 2010:
“.. Half a century of American foreign policy flatly contradicts this sentiment (which is why Clinton heard soft chuckles and a few muffled guffaws as she spoke). The US has adored military dictatorships in the Arab world, and has long supported states dominated by the shadowy world of intelligence services. This became even more obvious after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Washington intensified cooperation with Arab intelligence services in the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East are military and police states where men with guns rule, and where citizens are confined to shopping, buying cellular telephones, and watching soap operas on satellite television. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, as well as the entire Gulf region and other states are devoted first and foremost to maintaining domestic order and regime incumbency through efficient, multiple security agencies, for which they earn American friendship and cooperation. When citizens in these and other countries agitate for more democratic and human rights, the US is peculiarly inactive and quiet…”
Rule of thumb: if a head of state is subjected to a concerted smear campaign throughout the world’s media, that leader has either been targeted for removal, is proving stubborn in allowing the US and its allies to achieve their goals, or is generally aligned against Western interests.
4: Historical Precedent
The intervention rhetoric from public officials published uncritically by the media is nothing new:
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney,
August 26, 2002
Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons. George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world. Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002
The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it. Ari Fleischer, December 6, 2002
We know for a fact that there are weapons there. Ari Fleischer, January 9, 2003
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. George W. Bush January 28, 2003
We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.Colin Powell, February 5, 2003
The Pulizer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity found in a study that ‘following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq’ with ‘at least 935 false statements [from top government officials] in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses’.
There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” George W Bush<
5: The source
Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers have been particularly vociferous in demanding bombs in Syria. For him at least, we have means, opportunity and motive. Murdoch’s ownership of a large chunk of mainstream outlets gives him enormous reach (means) while opportunity knocks courtesy of poor little Aylan.
A US oil company is preparing to drill for oil in the Golan Heights. Granted the license in February 2013 by Israel, Afek Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd, whose equity-holding board members include former US Vice President Dick Cheney, controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch and financier Lord Jacob Rothschild.
[Note: article dated January 28th 2015. Murdoch remains on the board]
Aside from personal financial interest for Murdoch, a post-Assad, US-friendly Syrian government would mean one less major Russia-Iran-axis power in the Middle East to worry about, a turn of events also greatly desired by Israel, while economically Syria would be opened up to all manner of ‘opportunities’ for Western corporations.
6:The refugee crisis
This user-friendly graph (also available in table form for older data) provided by the World Bank shows large increases in numbers of refugees at key moments after US/allied interventions. [Note: you can add your own parameters] For instance, with the explosion of sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 brought about by the Iraq War, the number of refugees increased from 262,299 in 2005 to 1,450,905 in 2006 and 2,309,245 in 2007.
7:War for profit
Investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank. President Barack Obama approved open-ended airstrikes this month while ruling out ground combat.
As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.
There’s no doubt the world is getting to be a more and more dangerous place, and there are countries around the world that could look to buy aircraft and artillery,” Jeff Babione, deputy manager of Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II program, said in an interview in Oslo. “There’s a sense that there’s less stability in the world than there was before.
Clearly the world has become increasingly unstable. The question of whether that has a major impact on the defense budget is uncertain,” Finnegan said. “There may be an investor psychology that suggests that there’s going to be a large benefit to these companies. But the jury is still out.
The arms industry is big business.
To conclude, the corporate media has concealed covert activities within Syria going back several years; has blacked out a Pentagon report demonstrating US prediction, supply and use of ISIS as a strategic asset; is again reporting selectively regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dictators; and has engaged in this precise kind of rhetoric in the past before every intervention. Rupert Murdoch is a board member of a company that is drilling for oil in the Golan Heights while his newspapers sound the clarion call that may open the way for a (hoped for) post-Assad Western puppet government. Meanwhile stocks in arms companies are at record levels and the refugee crisis is now a major humanitarian disaster at World War 2 levels, with refugee populations particularly high from nations where the US and its allies have acted (covertly or overtly).
It’s another set-up. Don’t get fooled again.
In civil war situations, such as the conflict in Syria, sides routinely make conflicting claims. It is hard to see who is telling the truth unless you have access to actual intelligence and a front row seat. But it becomes easier to see what is really happening by watching the mainstream news and comparing it to reality.
Let us take the recent Democracy Now interview with Dr. Zaher Sahloul, the former President of the Syrian American Medical Society. This accompanied the global media coverage of the bombed, bloodied and beaten little boy from Aleppo, apparently rescued from what was left of a makeshift refugee camp. At one time Democracy Now was a respected alternative media site. Unfortunately, this article and the circumstances of its writing suggest that it has bought into the system it once stood up to.
Gut ruling head
The article includes this quote, designed to be as emotive as possible:
“I’ve just had to watch a woman lose three of her children, who were killed—OK?—and crying over their dead bodies. Thirty people just got killed not far from here in place called Shaar [inaudible]. We were just there yesterday. In a marketplace, 30 people just got killed. So, we’ve had so many dead bodies. You can hear what’s going on here. So, my dear brothers and sisters … We need to get the message out right now: Hospitals are being targeted; People are being killed. OK? And war crimes are being committed. We need a no-fly zone in Syria. We need everybody to start voting for a no-fly zone. This is a massacre going on. This is genocide.”
These sort of reports are emerging daily from Syria. But the wave of recent killings of children by Saudi forces is overlooked. Why? For the same reason that all these reports don’t mention how the war in Syria started and how the hodgepodge of anti-government fighters and terrorist groups which have escalated are funded.
The article fails to mention why the Syrian government is fighting terrorists in the first place. The questions the doctor is asked are also revealing, as is the use of key terms such as barrel bombs, WMD, no fly zone, UN, etc, which never used to be a hallmark of Democracy Now coverage. Like others, the article is designed to get us so upset that we don’t want to look any further. It uses dead children as a means of stifling any debate about why they are dying: we are expected to get angry at those we are told to get angry at, to prevent us getting angry about anyone else.
This interview raises many flags, firstly in its timing, during the countdown to the US presidential elections, and then in the context of Iran and Russia now closely collaborating in the war on terror. An agreement has recently been reached for Russia to make bombing raids against US-backed terrorists in Syria from Iranian territory. This is what the West says it wants, fight terrorism, but in reality does everything to prevent. Getting us angry about “foreign bombers” killing children is merely another way of trying to prevent the War on Terror, which the US started, ever actually taking place.
Not shooting the messenger
Dr. Zaher Sahloul was a classmate of Bashar al-Assad in medical school but is now a critical care specialist in Chicago. He has visited Aleppo five times since the war began, but is observing the situation from a US vantage point.
This smooth-talking humanitarian seems happy to recount horrific stories of maiming and killing in graphic detail, as long as he can blame Assad and the Russians. Last week he addressed the UN Security Council on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, making the same points. In the US doctors are often scared of making public statements, much less prescribing medicines, for fear of malpractice suits. So if a US doctor makes a public statement someone is watching his back.
Dr. Sahloul works in the US, which has a vested interest in the Syrian conflict. Is it conceivable that he would be called to address the UN Security Council if he wasn’t spouting an agreed line?
Sahloul’s Democracy Now interview was conducted CNN-fashion, meaning that he did not respond to questions posed on the spot but released a carefully scripted text which the questions were adjusted to fit. The details about babies being tossed from incubators in Kuwait, and those not killed by barrel bombs surviving on cat food and grass, are revealed in such a way that they are unlikely to be spontaneous recollections. Nor do these “memories” remind Dr. Sahloul of the beheading of innocent children by the IS, which they might be presumed to do if child welfare was his concern.
If Dr. Sahloul wanted to stop the killings he would question who stands behind this terrorism – the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – but he does not do so. It can be assumed that he is interested in ending all the killings as he has addressed the UN Security Council, which claims a peace promotion remit. But there is no mention anywhere of stopping the terrorists, only of stopping Assad, thus allowing terrorist atrocities against children to continue unabated.
Mouths we are fed
CNN has responded to the Democracy Now interview by claiming that the killing of children in Aleppo was done by a pro-regime militia force made up mostly of Palestinians. It is also CNN which is parading that poor little boy all over the media, apparently in confirmation of Dr. Sahloul’s claims.
We are used to seeing CNN reports exposed as manipulation. Unfortunately for this little boy, these reports appear to be part of this tradition. There is ample evidence that much of the reporting on Syria by “legitimate sources” is carefully manipulated.
For instance, CNN is quoting the Syrian-American Medical Society as claiming that US-trained doctors are being harassed when they return to Syria. This is denied by even the US Embassy, which says there have been no reports of this, and by a Wikileaks cable.
In fact the US medical establishment has continued to support the maintenance of bilateral relations with the Syrian medical community, in spite of the war and this alleged harassment. Dr. Sahloul’s comments, which are entirely consistent with the US political position in that conflict and obscure the humanitarian concerns which emerge from the behaviour of both sides, give us a clue as to why. The US is using this open access attitude of the Assad government as a means of getting MDs into the country to conduct intelligence and PR work. This is borne out by the use of Syrian doctors to obtain evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons, as reported by the Guardian.
SAMS claims to be an apolitical, non-profit organisation founded by American medical professionals of Syrian descent. Its alleged objective is to share best medical practices with local hospitals and medical schools and donate medical care to needy Syrians. This work necessarily involves going into secure facilities in conflict zones.
As the work of other US aid agencies has long demonstrated, such aid is ultimately designed to secure allegiance to the US. Providing such aid buys the US a green light for whatever it wants to do, rather than serving its ostensible humanitarian purpose.
According to its own website SAMS is provided with full support by the US State Department, millions of dollars’ worth of it. The website even includes a video by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers, hailing SAMS as one of her “personal heroes.”
Furthermore, Dr. Sahloul is said by those who know him in Chicago to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood himself. His alleged medical work would be the perfect cover for providing support to terrorist organisations which seek to divide and destroy Syria. All he has done with his Democracy Now interview is confirm that repeating the State Department’s unfounded narratives regarding “barrel bombs” and the use of “chlorine gas” by the Syrian government is a tactic used by the US to further this end.
Assad knows very well that these medics are working for US intelligence. He also knows the headlines that would follow him if he refused them entry. He calculates that whatever the doctors can do will harm him less than denying them access would. This is very embarrassing for the US, as it demonstrates Assad doesn’t have as much to hide as the US wants to think, and so he is happy to continue allowing these “revelations” to take place, while real doctors actually treat the war victims on a daily basis.
What’s in a name?
At least on the surface, Dr. Zaher Sahloul believes in what he is doing. However there is further reason to doubt that his actions are prompted by either medical considerations or support for his native or adopted country.
In 2009, before this war began, Syria embarked on a process of “economic liberalisation,” as favoured by the US, and “previously disallowed businesses” were suddenly permitted and encouraged by the Syrian Government. According to an article published in The National on February 9, 2009 one such business had just been founded by a certain Zhouheir Yassar Sahloul, described as “the most powerful rogue trader in Syria.”
As the head of the country’s largest money changing enterprise, Sahloul was the link between Syria’s struggling, isolated economy and its huge diaspora, which still remits billions of dollars a year to families back home. In a country saddled with strict foreign exchange laws, it was Mr Sahloul’s agents who ensured Syrian merchants were supplied with enough hard currency to do business with partners overseas.
At the same time Yassar Sahloul and Sons were licensed as foreign exchange traders, Dr. Sahloul and his SAMS were building hospitals in Syria, on the basis of the same “regulatory relaxation.” This might explain why Yassar Sahloul also established a more formal mechanism for handling capital inflows, an Islamic bank with a capital base of US$100 million (Dh367m). It also chimes in with his reported ambition to make Yassar Sahloul and Sons the holding company for a diversified concern including “shipping and property investment assets as well as banking and finance,” as hospitals are valuable properties whose worth only increases the more customers they serve.
These two Sahouls may or may not be immediately related. What we know about the one who stayed behind is his present business address, which is in Aleppo, and that in 2006 he was an Informal Financial Intermediary who participated in a “Feasibility Study to develop new options for private sector investment financing in the Syrian Arab Republic”
A Zuher Sahloul Construction Company was active during the lead up to the war in Syria. According to a Wikileaks cable:
“As Washington policy makers consider ways to pressure the regime, one possibility would be to go after President Assad’s money-men. Four individuals Assad uses to make and move money are Zuhair Sahloul, Nabil Kuzbari, Assad’s uncle Mohammad Makhlouf, and his father-in-law, Fawas Akhras. Each is important to Assad and each plays a somewhat different role in facilitating regime graft.”
In short, “(S) Sahloul (AKA Abu Shafic) is the most important black-market money changer in Syria. When the Syrian Pound (SYP) devalued precipitously in the fall of 2005, the SARG gave Sahloul an office in the Central Bank and access to its hard currency reserves so he could intervene in the black market to stabilize the currency. NB: Sahloul was surprisingly effective, and within weeks the SYP appreciated 20 percent, allowing Sahloul in the process a handsome profit for both himself and a handful of regime-insiders. End note.) Sahloul moves Assad’s money using his own network and his access to Hawalis worldwide. A Sahloul intimate bragged to us recently that Sahloul could move ten million dollars anywhere in the world in 24 hours.”
If Washington insiders are dealing with someone called Sahloul, from Syria, who is involved with the regime they have targeted they are not going to let someone else called Sahloul address the UN Security Council, or build hospitals in Syria, without conducting background checks. It is not an unusual surname, but not a very common one either. Whatever the US knows about the good doctor it knows he is not going to compromise its dealings with the other Sahloul, the one in Aleppo. He is, at the very least, a safe person to send to face the press.
End of the line
There is a lot more to the story of the little boy from Aleppo than meets the eye. But we are being encouraged not to look further, and rely on our emotional response. We are led to look for someone to blame, and then, by coincidence, told exactly who without any complications entering the picture.
The victims of Aleppo deserve better than to suffer for the sake of a set up. So does everyone who sees this story. But given that Yassar Sahloul was one of those promoting the protests in Damascus which led to the civil war, is it any wonder things are turning out how they are?
The major American news network claims that the FBI is looking toward Russia for hacking into the New York Times and other news organizations. Where CNN got this information is unknown.
Citing only anonymous sources, CNN released a report on Tuesday claiming that the FBI and other US security agencies are investigating a series of cyber breaches at various US media outlets, including the New York Times.
“Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations,” the report reads, citing, “US officials briefed on the matter.”
The identity of these officials remains unknown, as CNN notes that none of the principals involved have commented. While the FBI declined to comment, the New York Times released a vaguely-worded statement.
“Like most news organizations we are vigilant about guarding against attempts to hack into our systems,” said New York Times Co. spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.
“There are a variety of approaches we take, up to and including working with outside investigators and law enforcement. We won’t comment on any specific attempt to gain unauthorized access to The Times.”
The Russian government has become the scapegoat for a series of cyberattacks in recent months, including hacks into the computer networks of both major US political parties. Most recently, Moscow has been blamed for hacking into the US National Security Agency and stealing cyberweapons.
The accusations are never backed by evidence, and are often contradicted by shreds of inference. In the recent NSA hack, US government hacking tools acquired through the breach were put up for auction, suggesting that the perpetrators were not sponsored by a foreign government.
“A more logical explanation could also be insider theft,” James Bamford writes for Reuters, adding that it appeared the culprits were “more like hacktivists than Russian high command.”
“Rather than the NSA hacking tools being snatched as a result of a sophisticated cyber operation by Russia or some other nation, it seems more likely that an employee stole them.”
There is little evidence that Russia is responsible for the DNC hack that led to the release of internal emails by Wikileaks.
“Intelligence agencies have again pointed the finger at Russia for hacking into these emails,” Bamford says.
“Yet there has been no explanation as to how [Wikileaks founder Julian] Assange obtained them. He told NBC News, ‘There is no proof whatsoever’ that he obtained the emails from Russian intelligence. Moscow has also denied involvement.”
Russian, Chinese, Iranian or other foreign hackers are constantly blamed for online breaches of major US government or private corporation servers. However, despite making bold headlines, these accusations are rarely confirmed by facts and often are later quietly dismissed by intelligence officials and cyberexperts. Which doesn’t stop mainstream media from running with stories attributed to anonymous sources again and again.
The network has a history of jumping to conclusions on hacking stories. In the wake of the hack into Sony Pictures, CNN was quick to pin the blame on the North Korean government, but subsequent investigations have cast doubt on Pyongyang’s role. Similarly, CNN was one of the first to blame Russia for the breach of systems at the White House without any evidence.
When writer Michael Chabon visited the West Bank city of Hebron earlier this year, the brutal reality of the Israeli occupation hit him with force. During an interview with the Forward, he appeared “visibly jarred,” and he pulled no punches in describing his reaction.
“Once you see for yourself,” he said, “it is pretty obvious, I think, to any human being with a heart and a mind, it is pretty clear what to feel about it. It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.”
His reaction echoes in the words of another author, Ben Ehrenreich, who recently published a book about the occupation, “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.” In his introduction Ehrenreich refers to “the awful clarity of the injustice,” and his book portrays Palestinian resistance under Israel’s state-sponsored system of oppression.
Both these American writers are saying that the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli rule is clear to see, an obvious truth to anyone who witnesses the situation firsthand.
Now, as Peter Baker, the latest New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, takes up his post, we can ask whether the newspaper will begin to convey this reality to its readers. Will Baker, a fresh new witness with full access to the sites under occupation, give voice to the oppression seen with such clarity by Ehrenreich and Chabon?
Baker’s predecessor, Jodi Rudoren, who left Jerusalem late last year, filed hundreds of stories over nearly four years at the post and managed not to clarify but to obscure the reality of occupation and dispossession. Her stories promoted a narrative of Israeli victimhood and Palestinian violence and deflected Israeli culpability. (See TimesWarp 12-22-15.)
Many voices vied for attention during her stint, but Rudoren turned a deaf ear to some of the most respected sources of information, not only the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch but also Israeli monitoring groups and courageous Israeli journalists. These groups and individuals were constantly documenting and reporting abuses by the Israeli forces, but the news they bore rarely found even brief mention in the Times.
When a series of stabbing and vehicular attacks on Israelis began last fall, several monitoring groups issued alerts, charging that Israeli forces were using the situation to conduct “street executions” of Palestinians who actually posed no threat.
These accusations were bolstered by video and eyewitness evidence and came from groups such as the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Amnesty International and Euro-Med Monitor. To give even more weight to their claims, a group of nine Israeli organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights and the Public Committee Against Torture, issued a joint statement saying Israeli officials were responsible for the climate that fostered these executions.
The Times took little notice. The newspaper’s headlines remained focused on Palestinian attacks, and any quotes about extrajudicial executions were attributed to Palestinian officials, as if these charges were nothing more than the opinions of partisans taking one side in a bitter exchange.
Anticipating Baker’s arrival in Jerusalem, the Times produced a video featuring him in conversation with Rudoren and another former Jerusalem bureau chief, James Bennet. The trio made many references to “the conflict” (with only a single mention of the occupation), and they insisted that Times reporting strives to be balanced and neutral.
If reporters were sincerely looking for balance, however, it would seem that truly neutral parties, such as the United Nations and human rights organizations, would provide an essential antidote to the partisan claims of two adversaries. Yet the Times turns a deaf ear to these sources, no matter how fully documented their findings are, and relies heavily on Israeli officials.
Thus, Times readers are left in ignorance, hearing almost nothing about urgent and repeated appeals from these non-partisan groups. Beyond the latest accusations of extrajudicial killings, for instance, rights organizations have consistently highlighted the mistreatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli custody and the demolition of Palestinian structures, including everything from homes and workshops to cisterns and animal shelters.
Organizations such as UNICEF, Defence for Children International, Save the Children, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Committee Against Torture in Israel have tried over several years to publicize the abuse of Palestinian children (See TW 1-13-14.), but the Times has rarely mentioned these reports and then only in stories aimed to spin the information in favor of Israel.
Throughout 2015 some of these groups continued to issue frequent reports and news releases with headlines such as “Rising physical violence against Palestinian child detainees,” “UNICEF report confirms ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees remains systematic,” and “New U.S. government report highlights violations against Palestinian kids,” but the Times showed no interest in exploring the problem.
Likewise, Israel’s rampage of demolitions in the West Bank is never brought to the attention of Times readers although the United Nations, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and other groups have issued frequent statements and demands, urging Israel to end its policy of destruction.
While the Times has remained silent, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, columnists for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have often written about the terrible toll demolitions have exacted from some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities.
Rudoren wrote occasionally about punitive demolitions, the Israeli policy of destroying the family homes of attackers, but her stories omitted any mention of the much more common demolition of structures because they lack building permits, which are rarely issued.
The policy is a constant threat to Palestinians in a large part of the West Bank, and over the decades of occupation, the state has demolished more than 48,000 Palestinian homes and other structures.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has destroyed 726 Palestinian structures so far this year, displacing 1,020 people. In a recent report, OCHA noted that during one week this month, 42 structures were demolished or confiscated. The report stated, “Twelve of the targeted structures had been previously provided as humanitarian assistance, including emergency shelters, animal sheds, latrines, a community centre, and a water connection; the confiscation of the latter means that nearly 1,000 Palestinians in five herding communities in the Jordan Valley will continue to suffer water scarcity.”
The OCHA report continued, “This brings the number of assistance items destroyed or confiscated since the start of 2016 to 200, almost double the figure for the entire 2015 (108).” In other words, donors such as the European Union and International Committee of the Red Cross have stepped in to provide tents and other items when Israel has destroyed Palestinian homes, schools, playgrounds, water wells and other structures, but the Israeli authorities have demolished even this humanitarian aid.
In this brief report from OCHA “the awful clarity of the injustice” is evident, as it has been evident in hundreds of other reports issued over the years. The rising tide of demolitions, with all its human-interest value, is most certainly newsworthy, but will the Jerusalem bureau of The New York Times report it?
So far the Times seems determined to muddy the waters, avoiding a clear exposition of Israeli brutality, but with a new bureau chief now on board, some readers may hold out a faint hope for change, for an honest and full accounting at last.
Unfortunately, here at TimesWarp, the expectation is for more of the same. It seems unlikely that the Times would allow any straightforward reporting on Israeli oppression to appear in its pages. This would destroy its carefully fostered narrative of Israeli victimhood, “ancient hatreds” and the need to place Israeli security needs above all.
Reading through a recent interview with former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, it becomes clear that his world is one in which US foreign policy has only ever made us all safer and the biggest risk we now face is diminished US power.
The entire premise of his argument throughout the interview is that if the US steps back from playing global policeman, the “bad guys” will win. Simple as that.
The interview, which focuses on Donald Trump, opens with a question about Trump’s views regarding the NATO alliance and how the candidate sees the US’s role in the world. Rasmussen immediately declares he is “not taking sides” in the US election, but his attempt at neutrality goes swiftly out the window moments later when he complains that Trump is undermining “the credibility of the United States” and putting at stake America’s “role as the global superpower”. If Trump were to be elected, he laments, that could usher in “the end of the American-led world order”.
This would be very bad, he says, because if NATO is undermined by a Trump victory, then Vladimir Putin would “open a bottle of champagne” and be “tempted to test” the alliance. This assumes that Putin has simply been waiting in the wings for the 16 years that he has held positions of power for Donald Trump to come along so that he can invade Estonia for no reason. Because Rasmussen doesn’t give us a reason and we’re not supposed to ask. We’re just supposed to assume invading the Baltics is on Putin’s to-do list.
So, keeping with his policy of “not taking sides” Rasmussen then argues that Hillary Clinton would be “more determined to defend” the country’s NATO allies than Trump would. When asked whether eastern European nations are worried about Trump’s take-it-or-leave-it approach to NATO’s Article 5 (principle of collective defense) Rasmussen says they are indeed very concerned, particularly following “Russian aggression” against Ukraine. So concerned in fact, that only five of the 28 alliance members have reached the 2 percent of GDP benchmark that NATO requires. Now, this is either because they aren’t really as terrified of Russia as they claim, or that they’re simply taking the US for a ride — in which case, Trump might actually have a point about getting them to cough up before putting American lives in harm’s way to defend them.
It’s hybrid warfare, stupid!
Next up, Rasmussen is asked whether the threat environment for NATO has changed and how the alliance is dealing with the changes. Rasmussen here employs one of my favorite terms: “hybrid warfare”. It’s not just conventional warfare (tanks rolling across borders etc.) that eastern European nations need to be aware of, he says. It’s a whole load of other stuff, too. Like what? Well, sophisticated “disinformation campaigns” for one thing.
But the great thing about “hybrid warfare” is that when you use the term, you don’t really need to explain what you mean. Even NATO itself published an article about the fact that it can mean everything and nothing at the same time. Pretty nifty, right?
Moving on to Crimea, another victim of hybrid warfare. Trump isn’t too bothered by the fact that Crimea was annexed by/invaded by/reunited with Russia in 2014. That’s Europe’s business, he has said — and it shouldn’t prevent Washington and Moscow from getting along and working together on common threats like international terrorism. You don’t have to be a Trump fan to see the common sense in this, but it’s another no-no for Rasmussen.
Trump also hasn’t been so gung-ho about sending weapons to Ukraine. This is very scary and “disturbing” Rasmussen says, because if the US doesn’t support the government in Kiev, the West “risks losing a democratic Ukraine”.
Democracy and world peace
So, how is “democratic Ukraine” doing, then? Well, a few months ago The Guardian published an op-ed arguing that Ukraine was at risk of becoming not a democracy, but a “failed state”. Since the country’s democratic “revolution” in 2013, living standards have plummeted, as has the value of the country’s currency — and the government, ideologically driven to sever all ties with Russia, has pursued economic policies that “can only be termed suicidal”. But the solution is obviously to send them some new weapons. Regardless of whether you believe Russia has acted aggressively in Ukraine or not, this kind of thinking is simply delusional.
Next Rasmussen is asked about Trump’s “America first” campaign slogan, which he also doesn’t happen to like (surprise!). Using the term “America first” for an American presidential election is “out of touch” he says. How so? Well, of course it comes back to America’s role in the world again. You can’t use the term “America first” when you’re supposed to be “the world’s leader”. I swear, I’m not making this up.
After World War 2, Rasmussen tells us, the US established a “rules-based world order” and it has “served us very well” because “freedom has flourished” and we’ve seen “world peace”. All of this freedom and world peace (really?!) is now at stake… because of Donald Trump (are you sensing the “not taking sides” thing?). Anyway, I could list all of the occasions on which the US decided to flout its own “rules-based” order, but that would take too long.
If the US “retreats and retrenches” now, it will create a power vacuum that will be filled by “the bad guy,” Rasmussen warns. He doesn’t tell us who the bad guy is this time; he’s just there, malevolently waiting for Trump’s election. Trump needs to understand that the US has “special obligations” to “maintain world order” and “promote peace”. Not only this, but it’s the “only power on earth” with such a “destiny”.
Barack Obama has also been a disappointment to Rasmussen. He has been “too reluctant” to use American force around the world. Obama and Trump are proponents of a “less interventionist” movement in the world and this simply won’t do.
By the end, Rasmussen had lavished so much praise on the United States and its role and “destiny” in the world that I had forgotten he was not an American himself, but a Dane. The real kicker was when he dramatically pleaded with the next president: “We need a global policeman, and that policeman should be the United States. We don’t have any other.”
Could he really be so profoundly in awe of Washington and its power, or is this waxing lyrical about American destiny simply, as one writer put it, “the practiced gambit of a con man, who knows flattery is the surest means to success” ?
Decide for yourself.
Donald Trump has appointed at least two neocons to his foreign policy group.
First, let’s consider Joseph E. Schmitz. He is a former Inspector General of the Department of Defense and a former executive with Blackwater Worldwide. He fled the Pentagon after he was accused of protecting top Bush officials accused of wrongdoing.
Blackwater, now Academi, the military contractor founded by Eric Prince, played a substantial role during the Iraq War. It is infamous for killing seventeen Iraqi citizens in 2007, the same year the corporation was accused of illegally smuggling weapons into the country. Blackwater did not like being investigated for its misdeeds. In 2007, Blackwater Manager Daniel Carroll threatened to kill Jean Richter, a State Department Investigator.
Schmitz is connected to the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a think tank formed by Frank Gaffney, a neocon so radical he was rejected by the Pentagon when he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy in the Reagan Administration. He is associated with other neocons, including Richard Perle, who rose to prominence as aides of the late Democrat Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson.
The Center for Security Policy, described by William Arkin as the “Domino’s Pizza of the policy business,” claims there is a “stealth jihad” underway in America and Muslims plan to install sharia law. Former CIA director and staunch neocon James Woolsey coauthored a report for the center claiming sharia law is a major threat to the United States.
After CSP sent a letter to the State Department Inspector General accusing Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of working undercover for the Muslim Brotherhood, a number of Republicans, including John McCain, John Boehner, and Marco Rubio, denounced the group.
Trump and former Republican member of the House, Michele Bachmann, often cited CSP propaganda.
Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” was in part inspired by the results of a CSP poll. The poll said 25% of Muslims queried supported violent jihad and more than half favored sharia law. The methodology and accuracy of the poll is suspect. Philip Bump of The Washington Post said the poll’s structure encouraged Muslims to select the options endorsing violence.
On Friday The Canary reported Schmitz worked with a Saudi prince to illegally provide arms to the jihadists in Syria. “Schmitz was in direct contact with then Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Gen. Salim Idris. Schmitz hoped his deal with Gen. Idris would be a first step toward potential future assistance from Blackwater founder Erik Prince himself,” writes Brad Hoff.
Idris, a former Syrian Army commander, was appointed to lead a Salafist dominated military command in 2012. “The unified command includes many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Salafists, who follow a puritanical interpretation of Islam. It excludes the most senior officers who had defected from Assad’s military,” Reuters reported.
Its composition, estimated to be two-thirds from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, reflects the growing strength of Islamist fighters on the ground and resembles that of the civilian opposition leadership coalition created under Western and Arab auspices in Qatar…
“Idris and [Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Okaidi] were the very men that Joseph Schmitz stood ready to arm through a mysterious Saudi middle man before the whole private venture was reportedly shut down by a CIA official who intervened in Amman, Jordan,” writes Hoff.
Trump has a second fringe neocon in his circle of confidants—Walid Phares.
Phares is associated with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neocon organization that teamed up with the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute to propagandize (and lie) America into invading Iraq.
In 2011, Phares became one of several neocon advisors to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. Other advisers included Eliot Cohen, Robert Kagan, Michael Chertoff, Eric Edelman, John Lehman, Dan Senor, Vin Weber, and Paula Dobriansky.
Phares, a Christian Maronite of Lebanese origin, was associated with the Lebanese Forces in the 1980s.
In the 1970s the Lebanese Forces were part the Kataeb Party, also known as the Lebanese Phalanges Party. Its militia killed 3,500 Palestinians at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Elie Hobeika, a prominent figure in the Phalanges, served as the Lebanese Forces intelligence chief and liaison officer with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
Many of Donald Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements are contradictory. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has demonstrated her willingness to do the bidding of the neocons in Libya and Syria. She has not vacillated in her commitment to total war. More than a few neocons, most notably Max Boot, have said they will vote her.
The danger for America “is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton,” writes John Pilger. “She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted ‘exceptionalism’ is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.”
Trump may indeed rollback the aggressive military posture of the United States, as promised, then again, considering his coterie of foreign policy advisers and his penchant for flip-flopping, he may continue to engage in foreign interventionism, albeit with his signature flair.