A newly posted video showing a glimpse of a Buk missile battery rolling down a highway in eastern Ukraine has sparked a flurry of renewed accusations blaming Russia for the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 people. But the “dash-cam video” actually adds little to the MH-17 whodunit mystery because it could also support a narrative blaming the Ukrainian military for the disaster.
The fleeting image of the missile battery and its accompanying vehicles, presumably containing an armed escort, seems to have been taken by a car heading west on H-21 highway in the town of Makiivka, as the convoy passed by heading east, according to the private intelligence firm Stratfor and the “citizen journalism” Web site, Bellingcat.
However, even assuming that this Buk battery was the one that fired the missile that destroyed MH-17, its location in the video is to the west of both the site where Almaz-Antey, the Russian Buk manufacturer, calculated the missile was fired, around the village of Zaroshchenskoye (then under Ukrainian government control), and the 320-square-kilometer zone where the Dutch Safety Board speculated the fateful rocket originated (covering an area of mixed government and rebel control).
In other words, the question would be where the battery stopped before firing one of its missiles, assuming that this Buk system was the one that fired the missile. (The map below shows the location of Makiivka in red, Almaz-Antey’s suspected launch site in yellow, and the general vicinity of the Dutch Safety Board’s 320-square-kilometer launch zone in green.)
Another curious aspect of this and the other eight or so Internet images of Buk missiles collected by Bellingcat and supposedly showing a Buk battery rumbling around Ukraine on or about July 17, 2014, is that they are all headed east toward Russia, yet there have been no images of Buks heading west from Russia into Ukraine, a logical necessity if the Russians gave a Buk system to ethnic Russian rebels or dispatched one of their own Buk military units directly into Ukraine, suspicions that Russia and the rebels have denied.
The absence of a westward-traveling Buk battery fits with the assessment from Western intelligence agencies that the several operational Buk systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military, a disclosure contained in a Dutch intelligence report released last October and implicitly confirmed by an earlier U.S. “Government Assessment” that listed weapons systems that Russia had given the rebels but didn’t mention a Buk battery.
The Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet on July 17 belonged to the Ukrainian government. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014.
MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” capable of downing a plane at that altitude and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country,” whereas the MIVD said the ethnic Russian rebels had only MANPADS that could not reach the higher altitudes.
On July 17, the Ukrainian military also was mounting a strong offensive against rebel positions to the north and thus the front lines were shifting rapidly, making it hard to know exactly where the borders of government and rebel control were. To the south, where the Buk missile was believed fired, the battle lines were lightly manned and hazy – because of the concentration of forces to the north – meaning that an armed Buk convoy could probably move somewhat freely.
Also, because of the offensive, the Ukrainian government feared a full-scale Russian invasion to prevent the annihilation of the rebels, explaining why Kiev was dispatching its Buk systems toward the Russian border, to defend against potential Russian air strikes.
Just a day earlier, a Ukrainian fighter flying along the border was shot down by an air-to-air missile (presumably fired by a Russian warplane), according to last October’s Dutch Safety Board report. So, tensions were high on July 17, 2014, when MH-17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, broke apart over eastern Ukraine, believed downed by a surface-to-air missile although there have been other suggestions that the plane might have been hit by an air-to-air missile.
At the time, Ukraine also was the epicenter of an “information war” that had followed a U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22, 2014, which ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced the Russian-friendly leader with a fiercely nationalistic and anti-Russian regime in Kiev. The violent coup, in turn, prompted Crimea to vote 96 percent in a hasty referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Eastern Ukraine and its large ethnic Russian population also revolted against the new authorities.
The U.S. government and much of the Western media, however, denied there had been a coup in Kiev, hailed the new regime as “legitimate,” and deemed Crimea’s secession a “Russian invasion.” The West also denounced the eastern Ukrainian resistance as “Russian aggression.” So, the propaganda war was almost as hot as the military fighting, a factor that has further distorted the pursuit of truth about the MH-17 tragedy.
Immediately after the MH-17 crash, the U.S. government sought to pin the blame on Russia as part of a propaganda drive to convince the European Union to join in imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its “annexation” of Crimea and its support of eastern Ukrainians resisting the Kiev regime.
However, a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the analysts could find no evidence that the Russians had supplied the rebels with a sophisticated Buk system or that the Russians had introduced a Buk battery under their own command. The source said the initial intelligence suggested that an undisciplined Ukrainian military team was responsible.
Yet, on July 20, 2014, just three days after the tragedy, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all Sunday morning talk shows and blamed the Russian-backed rebels and implicitly Moscow. He cited some “social media” comments and – on NBC’s “Meet the Press” – added: “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”
Two days later, on July 22, the Obama administration released a “Government Assessment” that tried to bolster Kerry’s accusations, in part, by listing the various weapons systems that U.S. intelligence believed Russia had provided the rebels, but a Buk battery was not among them. At background briefings for selected mainstream media reporters, U.S. intelligence analysts struggled to back up the administration’s case against Russia.
For instance, the analysts suggested to a Los Angeles Times reporter that Ukrainian government soldiers manning the suspected Buk battery may have switched to the rebel side before firing the missile. The Times wrote: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [Buk anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”
However, after that July 22 briefing — as U.S. intelligence analysts continued to pore over satellite imagery, telephonic intercepts and other data to refine their understanding of the tragedy — the U.S. government went curiously silent, refusing to make any updates or adjustments to its initial rush to judgment, a silence that has continued ever since.
Meanwhile, the source who continued receiving briefings from the U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the reason for going quiet was that the more detailed evidence pointed toward a rogue element of the Ukrainian military connected to a hardline Ukrainian oligarch, with the possible motive the shooting down of President Vladimir Putin’s plane returning from a state visit to South America.
In that scenario, a Ukrainian fighter jet in the vicinity (as reported by several eyewitnesses on the ground) was there primarily as a spotter, seeking to identify the target. But Putin’s plane, with similar markings to MH-17, took a more northerly route and landed safely in Moscow.
Though I was unable to determine whether the source’s analysts represented a dissenting or consensus opinion inside the U.S. intelligence community, some of the now public evidence could fit with that narrative, including why the suspected Buk system was pushing eastward as close to or even into “rebel” territory on July 17.
If Putin was the target, the attackers would need to spread immediate confusion about who was responsible to avoid massive retaliation by Moscow. A perfect cover story would be that Putin’s plane was shot down accidentally by his ethnic Russian allies or even his own troops, the ultimate case of being hoisted on his own petard.
Such a risky operation also would prepare disinformation for release after the attack to create more of a smokescreen and to gain control of the narrative, including planting material on the Internet to be disseminated by friendly or credulous media outlets.
The Ukrainian government has denied having a fighter jet in the air at the time of the MH-17 shoot-down and has denied that any of its Buk or other anti-aircraft systems were involved.
Yet, whatever the truth, U.S. intelligence clearly knows a great deal more than it has been willing to share with the public or even with the Dutch-led investigations. Last October, more than a year after the shoot-down, the Dutch Safety Board was unable to say who was responsible and could only approximate the location of the missile firing inside a 320-square-kilometer area, whereas Kerry had claimed three days after the crash that the U.S. government knew the launch point.
Earlier this year, Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team [JIT], provided a partial update to the Dutch family members of MH-17 victims, explaining that he hoped to have a more precise fix on the firing site by the second half of 2016, i.e., possibly more than two years after the tragedy.
Westerbeke’s letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17. That apparently was because Ukrainian authorities had shut down their primary radar facilities supposedly for maintenance, leaving only secondary radar which would show commercial aircraft but not military planes or rockets.
Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.
“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke wrote. “The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.” Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.
Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.
“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote. “There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.”
Though Westerbeke provided no details, the Russian military released a number of satellite images purporting to show Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18.
Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems and why Kiev’s Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.
Part of the reason that the MH-17 mystery has remained unsolved is that the U.S. government insists that its satellite surveillance, which includes infrared detection of heat sources as well as highly precise photographic imagery, remains a “state secret” that cannot be made public.
However, in similar past incidents, the U.S. government has declassified sensitive information. For instance, after a Soviet pilot accidentally shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 over Russian territory in 1983, the Reagan administration revealed the U.S. capability to intercept Soviet ground-to-air military communications in order to make the Soviets look even worse by selectively editing the intercepts to present the destruction of the civilian aircraft as willful.
In that case, too, the U.S. government let its propaganda needs overwhelm any commitment to the truth, as Alvin A. Snyder, who in 1983 was director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, wrote in his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation.
After KAL-007 was shot down, “the Reagan administration’s spin machine began cranking up,” Snyder wrote. “The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible. … The American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation.”
On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.
Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had excised — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were lies.
Snyder concluded, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.” [For more details on the KAL-007 deception and the history of U.S. trickery, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War.”]
In the MH-17 case, the Obama administration let Kerry present the rush to judgment fingering the Russians and the rebels but then kept all the evidence secret even though the U.S. government’s satellite capabilities are well-known. By refusing to declassify any information for the MH-17 investigation, Washington has succeeded in maintaining the widespread impression that Moscow was responsible for the tragedy without having to prove it.
The source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the Obama administration considered “coming clean” about the MH-17 case in March, when Thomas Schansman, the Dutch father of the only American victim, was pleading for the U.S. government’s cooperation, but administration officials ultimately decided to keep quiet because to do otherwise would have “reversed the narrative.”
In the meantime, outfits such as Bellingcat have been free to reinforce the impression of Russian guilt, even as some of those claims have proved false. For instance, Bellingcat directed a news crew from Australia’s “60 Minutes” to a location outside Luhansk (near the Russian border) that the group had identified as the site for the “getaway video” showing a Buk battery with one missile missing.
The “60 Minutes” crew went to the spot and pretended to be at the place shown in the video, but none of the landmarks matched up, which became obvious when screen grabs of the video were placed next to the scene of the Australian crew’s stand-upper. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17.”]
Yet, reflecting the deep-seated mainstream media bias on the MH-17 case, the Australian program reacted angrily to my pointing out the obvious discrepancies. In a follow-up, the show denounced me but could only cite a utility pole in its footage that looked similar to a utility pole in the video.
While it’s true that utility poles tend to look alike, in this case none of the surroundings did, including the placement of the foliage and a house shown in the video that isn’t present in the Australian program’s shot. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]
But the impact of the nearly two years of one-sided coverage of the MH-17 case in the mainstream Western media has been considerable. In the last few days, a lawyer for the families of Australian victims announced the filing of a lawsuit against Russia and Putin in the European court for human rights seeking compensation of $10 million per passenger. Many of the West’s news articles on the lawsuit assume Russia’s guilt.
In other words, whatever the truth about the MH-17 shoot-down, the tragedy has proven to be worth its weight in propaganda gold against Russia and Putin, even as the U.S. government hides the actual proof that might show exactly who was responsible.
(Research by Assistant Editor Chelsea Gilmour.)
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
US President Barack Obama tried to show Russia in a bad light when he said that Moscow is not doing enough to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons, but Russia has many reasons for not accepting Washington’s initiative, Svobodnaya Pressa asserted.
“The US president mentioned Russia, but preferred not to name other members of the official nuclear club, including China, the United Kingdom and France,” the media outlet noted, pointing out that several other nations are believed to have nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
Another major reason for Russia to keep its nukes intact involves Washington. The US has not ratified the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear weapons in all environments. Moscow ratified the deal in 2000, but CTBT will only enter force when all signatories ratify it.
In addition, Moscow, according to the Svobodnaya Pressa, has to consider the funds that the US allocates for defense purposes – nearly $600 billion a year. Washington’s “gargantuan” military budget, as analyst Finian Cunningham described it, exceeds those of other big spenders, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, Germany, Japan and India.
But this is not the whole picture – alliances and affiliations also matter.”Three of these countries [France, the UK and Germany] are NATO members, while Japan has been a longtime US ally. This means that the gap [in military spending] between the US and Russia is even wider,” the media outlet explained.
Last week, Obama told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK that “we can go further” in reducing the stockpiles of Russian and US nuclear weapons “but so far Russia has not shown its self interest in doing more.”
Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Tetekin pointed out that the US foreign policy is “disingenuous.”
“Any disarmament initiatives launched by US hawks, who are pretending to be ‘doves of peace,’ serve merely as an instrument designed to weaken their opponents. The Pentagon is making every effort to deploy its missile defense system, upgrading its nuclear weapons. Meanwhile they are offering Moscow to stop,” he said.
Earlier this month, the US-made Aegis Ashore base became operational in Romania. The site is part of a larger initiative aimed at creating a missile shield to cover the US and Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles. Russian officials have called the system a threat to the country, as well as global security.In this context, Moscow has no other option than to keep its nukes. Defense analyst Mikhail Alexandrov noted that Russia’s “nuclear weapons guarantee the country’s national security.”
Gaza made the front page of The New York Times recently, with an article highlighting the fears of residents who suspect Hamas of building tunnels under and near their homes. The topic was ready-made for the newspaper, fitting perfectly into the Israeli (and Times) spin on the besieged enclave.
According to the accepted narrative, the problems in Gaza are due to Hamas, and Israel is free from blame. Thus we find the tunnel story played prominently on the front page under the headline “As Hamas Tunnels Back Into Israel, Palestinians Are Afraid, Too.”
There is much cause for despair in Gaza—fishermen and farmers come under attack, drinking water is ever more scarce, patients are desperate for adequate medical care—but the Times has failed to highlight any of these issues, which are so clearly due to Israeli actions and policies.
The official Israeli line is that Hamas oppresses the residents under its control, and Israeli political leaders use this charge to help justify their airstrikes on Hamas sites and other actions, such as restrictions on the delivery of building materials to Gaza. The Times has been a willing partner in this effort.
So it is no surprise when the newspaper informs us that Hamas has rebuilt many of the tunnels it used during the assaults on Gaza in the summer of 2014, and this is causing anxiety for some Gaza residents who live near signs of underground construction work. They fear that Israel will bomb their neighborhoods to destroy the tunnels.
The story is just what the Israeli army press office ordered, and the Times willingly promotes this propaganda effort even as it shows little interest in even more urgent concerns that plague the residents of the strip. It had nothing to say, for instance, when Israel arrested 20 Gaza fishermen over less than a week this month and confiscated seven of their boats (here and here) even though they were fishing within the approved limit set by Israel.
Israeli harassment of the beleaguered fishermen has been a constant over the years: According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Israeli forces detained 71 fishermen and confiscated 22 fishing boats in 2015, firing on fishing boats at least 139 times, wounding 24 fishermen and damaging 16 boats. The attacks have continued without letup this year.
The Times, however, has almost totally ignored the subject. The paper took notice briefly last month, when Israel announced new rules allowing Gaza boats to sail farther out to sea, and the story most certainly made the grade because it was a chance to show Israel in a benevolent light. The Times has been silent on the issue ever since.
Farmers with land near the border fence also face frequent attacks by Israeli soldiers who fire live ammunition at workers tending their fields, and Israel has destroyed crops and farm buildings, spraying fields of spinach and peas with herbicides and leveling land with bulldozers.
The Times has failed to report these incursions as well, although the United Nations documents them in weekly reports, and other news sources routinely tell of the assaults.
According to the UN, as of May 16, the Israeli military had made 30 incursions into Gaza this year. Its forces entered the enclave at least 56 times during 2015. These mini invasions—which include tanks, bulldozers and live fire—are breaches of the truce agreement made to end hostilities in 2014, but the Times has not seen fit to report them.
Instead, the newspaper prefers to raise the alarm about possible attacks from Gaza via the tunnels, ignoring the relevant context: the frequent shootings and other assaults by Israeli forces and the nine-year blockade, which finds not a single mention in the tunnel article.
Israel blocks the entry of needed medical supplies into Gaza, denies doctors the right to upgrade their skills in foreign countries and prevents many patients from leaving the enclave to receive the treatment they need. It has destroyed electrical equipment, wells and water treatment plants, and the lack of potable water has reached such a critical stage that only some 5 percent of the water in Gaza is safe to drink.
The Times, however, has shown no interest in exploring these crucial issues. It follows a prescribed narrative in deflecting blame from Israel and demonizing Hamas. The tunnel story fit this bill and thus merited a prime placement on page 1 above the fold.
Consider this a friendly reminder to President Obama on his way to Hiroshima.
No matter how many years one writes books, does interviews, publishes columns, and speaks at events, it remains virtually impossible to make it out the door of an event in the United States at which you’ve advocated abolishing war without somebody hitting you with the what-about-the-good-war question.
Of course this belief that there was a good war 75 years ago is what moves the U.S. public to tolerate dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing in case there’s a good war next year, even in the face of so many dozens of wars during the past 70 years on which there’s general consensus that they were not good. Without rich, well-established myths about World War II, current propaganda about Russia or Syria or Iraq would sound as crazy to most people as it sounds to me.
And of course the funding generated by the Good War legend leads to more bad wars, rather than preventing them.
I’ve written on this topic at great length in many articles and books, especially this one. But perhaps it would be helpful to provide a column-length list of the top reasons that the good war was not good.
1. World War II could not have happened without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on the spot, without Wall Street’s funding of Nazi Germany for decades (as preferable to commies), and without the arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be repeated in the future.
2. The U.S. government was not hit with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had committed to Churchill to provoking Japan and worked hard to provoke Japan, and knew the attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl Harbor — before which time, FDR had built up bases in the U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese American person in the country, provided planes, trainers, and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning.
3. The war was not humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations would not allow Jewish refugees in, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that Hitler might very well agree to that but it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the camps. Ann Frank was denied a U.S. visa.
4. The war was not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate religion, that U.S. ships actually assisting British war planes were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was in fact a threat to the United States. A case can be made that the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and created more damage than might have been, had it done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and not borne out by any earlier or later examples of other wars.
5. We now know much more widely and with much more data that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is more likely to succeed, and that success more likely to last, than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on beyond their initial successes.
6. The good war was not for supporting the troops. In fact, lacking intense modern conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at the enemies. That those soldiers were treated better after the war than soldiers in other wars had been, or have been since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free college was not due to the merits of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the war, everyone could have been given free college for many years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it would take way more than World War II stories to get people into military recruiting stations.
7. Several times the number of people killed in German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made this war the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of time. That it was somehow “opposed” to the far lesser killing in the camps — although, again, it actually wasn’t — can’t justify the cure that was worse than the disease.
8. Escalating the war to include the all-out destruction of civilian cities, culminating in the completely indefensible nuking of cities took this war out of the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended its initiation — and rightly so. Demanding unconditional surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did immense damage and left a legacy that has continued.
9. Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly defensible for the “good” side in a war, but not the “bad.” The distinction between the two is never as stark as fantasized. The United States had an apartheid state for African Americans, camps for Japanese Americans, a tradition of genocide against Native Americans that inspired Nazis, programs of eugenics and human experimentation before, during, and after the war (including giving syphilis to people in Guatemala during the Nuremberg trials). The U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war. They fit right in. The U.S. aimed for a wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever since.
10. The “good” side of the “good war,” the party that did most of the killing and dying for the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That doesn’t make the war a triumph for communism, but it does tarnish the tales of triumph for “democracy.”
11. World War II still hasn’t ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn’t have their incomes taxed until World War II and that’s never stopped. It was supposed to be temporary. The bases have never closed. The troops have never left Germany or Japan. There are over 100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in Germany, still killing.
12. Going back 75 years to a nuclear-free, colonial, world of completely different structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the greatest expense of the United States in each of the years since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn’t attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise. Assume I’ve got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and you’ve still got to explain how the world of the early 1940s justifies dumping into 2017 wars funding that could have fed, clothed, cured, and environmentally protected the earth.
The neocon infested Center for a New American Security (CNAS) promotes endless wars on the phony pretext of protecting US security at a time America’s only enemies are ones it invents.
Its aim is solidifying US global dominance by eliminating all sovereign independent states. Several CNAS members hold or previously held key Obama administration posts.
The organization and like minded ones threaten world peace. They publish reports on militarism, terrorism, irregular warfare and national security challenges.
Its conferences feature top US military and government officials as speakers, promoting the gospel of America the indispensable nation with a divine right to rule the world.
Extremist policies groups like CNAS endorse risk influencing policymakers to launch WW III. Unchallenged power alone matters, they believe, no matter the human and material cost.
People everywhere have cause for concern. The fate of humanity and planet earth hang in the balance.
A new CNAS report co-produced by the neocon Project for the New American Century co-founder Robert Kagan (Victoria Nuland’s husband, responsible for replacing Ukrainian democrats with Nazi-infested putschists) is titled “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand US Engagement in a Competitive World Order.”
Kagan and former Clinton state department official James Rubin co-headed “a group of current and former government officials, strategists and scholars…with the goal of… shap(ing) the national conversation on America’s role in the world during the run-up” to the November presidential election.
They produced a thinly veiled scheme for unchallenged US world dominance – claiming American leadership “is critical to preserving and strengthening the bedrock of today’s international order,” jeopardized they believe by rival world powers Russia and China, along with radical Islamic terrorists groups – ones America created and supports, they left unexplained.
They believe it’s vital to brainwash Americans to believe US world leadership is essential to preserve and extend its new world order dominance globally.
They urge adoption of stealth corporate coup d’etat, anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-fundamental freedom TPP and TTIP trade bills.
They urge America usurp sovereignty over parts of the world not its own, international law ignored. They call “the transatlantic community… both the foundation and the core of the liberal (sic) world order” – now threatened by nonexistent Russian aggression.
They support greater NATO commitment to militarism, including deploying larger numbers of combat troops near Russia’s borders.
They argue for using Ukraine as a dagger targeting its heartland, claiming it’s a way for it to “achieve political and economic stability,” controlled by Washington.
They urge supporting ISIS and like minded terrorist groups while pretending to oppose them. Assad must go, they demand, wanting him forcibly ousted, Syria partitioned on the phony pretext of creating “safe space” for its people to “relocate without fear of being killed by (his) forces.”
They endorse using Syrian territory to “arm, train, and organize” terrorist groups masquerading as moderates. They claim nonexistent Iranian aims for regional dominance must be prevented.
Neocon infested groups like CNAS and extremist policymakers they influence are the greatest threat to world peace – especially if war goddess Hillary Clinton succeeds Obama.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
The latest thematic report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concerning Colombia makes for shocking though quite important reading. In short, it details human rights abuses on a massive scale, and lays the blame for these abuses chiefly upon the right-wing paramilitaries aligned with the Colombian State. Citing Colombia’s Center for Historical Memory, the IACHR concludes that Colombia, with its over 6 million internally displaced persons, is indeed “a displaced nation.”
Exhibit at Center for Historical Memory, Showing Personal Effects of “False Positive” Victim
As the IACHR explains, the paramilitaries were responsible for 72% of the attacks recorded in the first half of 2015. Incredibly, the Colombian State, along with its U.S. sponsor, insist that the paramilitaries (also known as Autodefensas) no longer exist as a result of a demobilization (largely faked) back in 2003-2006. And, it is this very denial, the IACHR points out, which allows the paramilitaries to carry out their reign of terror with near complete impunity. After all, the State will not dismantle or prosecute what it claims does not even exist.
As explained in the report, “during 2015 the IACHR has continued receiving information about actions of the illegal armed groups that emerged after the demobilization and which are identified as being related or having among their members, persons that belonged to paramilitary groups who, in many cases allegedly continue acting under the protection of State agents.”
The misdeeds the paramilitaries are carrying out under State protection include disappearances, of which there were an incredible 3,400 during the first 7 months of 2015 alone. In all, the IACHR reports that there have been a total of between 45,000 and 61,918 forced disappearances in Colombia in the past 30 years. Thus, there have potentially been more than three times the disappearances in Colombia than in Argentina during all of the Dirty War years. And, of course, with such disappearances come mass graves, of which Colombia has many – 4,519 of them to be exact, with 5,817 bodies exhumed from them so far.
Meanwhile, the IACHR reported on the fact that at least 5,736 individuals were the victims of extrajudicial executions by the Colombian State forces between 2000 and 2010 – that, is during the period of the U.S.’s major military support for Colombia known as Plan Colombia. Nearly all of these executions were “false positive” killings in which the Colombian military murdered innocent civilians – many of them young, unemployed men – and then dressed them up as guerillas to justify to the U.S. the military assistance the Colombian military was receiving for counter-insurgency purposes. And, while the rate of such killings has decreased since 2010, they nonetheless continue, with 230 reported cases since then.
To the extent Colombia is covered at all in the mainstream press these days, one rarely gets a glimpse into the horror show which is taking place in that country. And, casual visitors to places such as Bogota or Medellin would rarely get a glimpse of this either. This is so because the lion’s share of the violence described above is taking place in the more remote areas where Colombia’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities live, and it is these communities which are suffering the brunt of this violence.
As the IACHR explains, these communities are largely “invisible” in Colombian society, “are victims of racial discrimination and disproportionately affected by violence, forced displacement, poverty and social exclusion.” In addition, “the majority of victims of sexual violence in armed conflict are Afro-descendant and indigenous women.” And, impunity for sexual violence in Colombia is near total “given that sexual violence against women would be perpetrated mainly by paramilitary, but also by agents of the government . . . .”
As for the issue of poverty, these communities are suffering from some of the most extreme versions of it, and live in conditions of misery which residents in the major cities are often shielded from. For example, in Choco – a town nestled in between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and populated by mostly Afro-Colombian and indigenous – the infant mortality rate is 42.69 per 1000. This figure is higher than that of post-invasion Iraq, and nearly as high as that in such countries as Burma, Bangladesh, Namibia and Haiti. Meanwhile, in Bogota, the figure is 12.88 per 1000. These figures underscore the incredible inequities and disparity in wealth which make Colombia one of the most unequal societies on earth, with a very stark divide along racial and ethnic lines.
However, the violence against Afro-Colombians and indigenous is not just the product of racism, but is also the product of the unfettered capital penetration of their rich, ancestral land. As the IACHR points out, large scale megaprojects – many of them mining projects – “have led to the appropriation of Afro-Colombian’s collective territories, and have resulted in “brutal forced displacements, massive violence and selective assassinations.”
And, of course, many of these megaprojects are owned, in whole or in part, by North American companies to which the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has opened Colombia wide open.
An example of such a deadly megaproject detailed in the IACHR report is the port expansion of Buenaventura, a town which is 90% Afro-Colombian. This port expansion was carried out to facilitate the trade and tourism created by the FTA. And, the struggle of the paramilitaries to control the wealth generated by the port expansion has led to the forced disappearances of hundreds of Buenaventura residents “and the operation of ‘chop houses’ (casa de pique)” where people are chopped up alive.
Like the Colombian and U.S. governments denials of the existence of the paramilitary death squads, the very failure of our mainstream media to acknowledge or discuss the existence of the above-described crimes allows them to continue. Thus, the U.S. government is able to continue supporting the Colombian military, and by extension its paramilitary allies, and North American multi-nationals are able to keep violently exploiting the Colombian people and their land by virtue of the fact that we are kept in the dark about this reality by a press corps which is failing in its duty to report on such matters of public concern. It is only by breaking this silence around these crimes that we have any chance of stopping them.
Daniel Kovalik lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
In this UK Column News special, Mike Robinson speaks to Vanessa Beeley about Syria’s “first responder” group, the White Helmets who are being pushed forward for nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. Do they deserve it?
For more background on this, please see our previous interview from November last year: http://youtu.be/mLa9ztvAGWw
Also see Vanessa’s articles on 21st Century Wire:
The chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court has said that Barack Obama’s statements about American exceptionalism were very similar to propaganda used by Nazi Germany and equally dangerous to world peace.
“The idea of specialness, exceptionality and unique rights of the American state and American people has been used in US internal political rhetoric for quite a while, but in the recent years it is being actively and persistently offered in US foreign policy documents and public speeches on international politics delivered by US officials,” Judge Valery Zorkin said at the St Petersburg international legal forum on Thursday.
“Any unbiased and educated person would see that this statement by Obama is an almost exact copy of leading politicians and propaganda specialists of the Third Reich, including Adolph Hitler… In essence, Obama is using the exact same thing that Nazi bosses said about the German exceptionalism when they started the world war,” he added.
The judge also said that in his view the exceptionalism concept had direct influence on the modern US concepts of military planning and these concepts see the main objective of all activities as reaching such degree of military might that the United States remains out of reach of other nations, on land, sea, in air and in space.
According to Zorkin, the same applies to the US doctrines on development of mass media and electronic communications – the US authorities see their goal as establishing absolute global domination of their country in the global information space. This idea also constantly appears in Obama’s public speeches.
“Obama says that Americans and the USA are an exceptional people and an exceptional state and thus they can pretend for much more than any other people or state. In other words, he follows the plot of James Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ dystopia and, while formally not rejecting the principle of equality of sovereign states and peoples, fixed by the UN Charter, he still declares that Americans and America are ‘more equal’ than any other country and the rest of the planet’s population,” RIA Novosti quoted the judge as saying.
Zorkin also told his colleague at the forum that he considered such approach to be a blatant violation of international legal norms.
Russian politicians and officials have repeatedly addressed the topic of American exceptionalism when talking on bilateral relations with the US and of international politics in general. In particular, in mid-2015 President Vladimir Putin said in his speech before the UN General Assembly that attempts to influence internal politics of sovereign nations should not be tolerated regardless of where they are taking place and who are making such attempts.
“It seems that some nations are not learning from others’ mistakes, but keep repeating them. The export of so-called ‘democratic’ revolutions continues.” Putin said.
“I cannot help asking those who have caused this situation, ‘Do you realize now what you have done?’” he said. “But I am afraid the question will hang in the air, because policies based on self-confidence and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.”
Nothing disturbs me more about the modern mainstream U.S. news media than its failure to test what the U.S. government says against what can be determined through serious and impartial investigation to be true. And this is not just some question of my professional vanity; it can be a matter of life or death.
For instance, did Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cross President Barack Obama’s supposed “red line” against using chemical weapons, specifically in the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, or not?
Upon this question rests the possibility that a future President Hillary Clinton will invade Syria under the guise of establishing a “safe zone,” a project that would surely expand into another bloody “regime change,” as occurred in Iraq and Libya amid similar U.S. claims about protecting “human rights.”
Yet, there is substantial evidence that Assad was not responsible for the sarin attack – that it was perpetrated by jihadist rebels as a provocation to draw the U.S. military directly into the war on their side. But it remains conventional wisdom that Assad ignored Obama’s “red line” and that Obama then flinched from enforcing it.
The New York Times and other major U.S. publications cite this “group think” about the “red line” as flat fact, much as many of them reported without doubt that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was hiding WMD, reinforcing the pretext for the U.S. invasion of that country in 2003.
On Wednesday, Times correspondent David E. Sanger wrote an article about the need for a coercive “Plan B” to force Assad from power and added that “president [Obama] has repeatedly defended his decision not to authorize a military strike against Mr. Assad after he crossed what Mr. Obama had described as a ‘red line’ against using chemical weapons.”
Note that there is no attribution to that claim about Assad crossing the “red line,” no “allegedly” or “widely believed” or any modifier. Assad is simply judged guilty by The New York Times, which — in doing so — asserts this dubious narrative as flat fact.
Yet, the Times hasn’t conducted a serious investigation into whether Assad is, in fact, guilty. Their last stab at proving Assad’s guilt in late 2013 collapsed when it turned out that the one missile found to have carried sarin had a range of only two kilometers, less than a quarter of the distance from which the Times had alleged that Assad’s military had fired the rocket.
Faced with that evidence, the Times essentially retracted its findings in a little-noticed article buried deep inside the paper during the Christmas-New Year holidays. So, even as the case collapsed, the Times maintained its phony narrative, which it reprises regularly as happened in Sanger’s article on Wednesday.
But what does that do to the Times’ readers? They are essentially being propagandized by the “paper of record,” with a questionable assertion slipped past them as an incontrovertible “fact.” How are they supposed to evaluate whether the U.S. government should launch another war in the Middle East when they have been told that a dubious claim is now enshrined as a basic truth in the Times’ narrative?
We saw something similar earlier this year when Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic wrote a lengthy article on Obama’s foreign policy focusing on his 2013 decision not to launch punitive airstrikes against the Syrian military for the sarin attack.
The opus contained the remarkable disclosure that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had told Obama that U.S. intelligence lacked “slam dunk” evidence that Assad was guilty. In other words, Obama pulled back in part because he was informed that Assad might well be innocent.
Later in the same article, however, Goldberg reverted to Official Washington’s “group think” that held as a matter of faith that Assad had crossed Obama’s “red line.” That false certainty has proved so powerful that it defies any contrary evidence and keeps popping up as it did in Sanger’s article.
Which gets me to one of my pet peeves about modern America: we almost never get to the bottom of anything, whether significant or trivial. Often there’s “a conventional wisdom” about some issue but almost never is there a careful assessment of the facts and an unbiased judgment of what happened.
On the trivial side, we have the NFL accusing New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady of participating in some scheme to deflate footballs, even though the scientific and testimonial evidence doesn’t support the claim. But lots of people, including The New York Times, assume the allegations to be true even though they come from one of the most disreputable and dishonest corporations in America, the National Football League, which has recently been exposed for covering up the dangers of concussions.
On more substantive matters, we never see serious investigations into U.S. government claims especially when they’re aimed at “enemies.” The failure to test President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq’s WMD cost hundreds of thousands of lives, including those of nearly 4,500 American soldiers, and has spread chaos through much of the region and now into Europe.
A Pattern of Neglect
We’ve seen similar neglect regarding Syria’s sarin case and events in Ukraine, from the mysterious sniper attacks that touched off the coup in February 2014 to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Arguably, the fate of humankind rests on the events in Ukraine where U.S. propagandists are stirring up the West to engage in a military conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.
So, shouldn’t The New York Times and other major publications take special care not to feed a war fever that could exterminate life on the planet? Can’t they find the time to undertake serious examinations of these issues and present the evidence without fear or favor?
But that apparently isn’t how the editors of the Times or The Washington Post or any number of other major U.S. news outlets view matters. Instead of questioning the stories coming from the U.S. government’s propaganda shops, the mainstream media simply amplifies them, all the better to look “patriotic.”
If instead these outlets joined some independent journalists and concerned citizens in demanding that the U.S. government provide verifiable evidence to support its claims, that might force many of these “artificial secrets” out into the open.
For instance, we don’t know what the current U.S. intelligence assessments are about the Syria-sarin attack or the MH-17 shoot-down. Regarding the MH-17 case, the U.S. government has refused to divulge its overhead surveillance, radar and other technical evidence about this tragedy in which 298 people were killed.
If there was some journalistic unity – refusing to simply blame the Russians and instead highlighting the lack of U.S. cooperation in the investigation – the U.S. government might feel enough heat to declassify its information and help bring whoever shot down the plane to justice.
As it stands now on these issues, why should the U.S. government reveal what it actually knows when all the major news outlets are accepting its dubious propaganda themes as flat fact?
The Times and other big media outlets could contribute to the cause of truth by simply refusing to serve as conduits for unsubstantiated claims just because they come from senior U.S. government officials. If the mainstream media did, the American people and the world public might be much better informed — and a lot safer.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here.
The FBI says it caught a terrorist trying to blow up a synagogue on the outskirts of Miami.
But the FBI supplied the bomb.
The device was fake, part of an undercover FBI sting operation that, like hundreds of controversial investigations before it, used an undercover informant to target an alleged terrorist.
In the Miami case, federal authorities accuse 40-year-old James Medina of planning to bomb the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center north of the city.
The FBI started their investigation of Medina in March 2015 “based on his suspected desire to attack” the Jewish center, according to an affidavit filed in federal court and a statement released by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
Medina, who said he converted to Islam four years ago and referred to his alias “James Muhammad” in court, has been charged with “attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.” He pleaded not guilty on Monday morning.
Apart from the fact that the FBI supplied Medina with the weapon that he intended to use against the Jewish center, rights activists and legal experts are troubled by the facts presented by the FBI and Justice Department. Their concern includes instances where the informant, or “confidential human source” in bureau parlance, offered to assist Medina in attacking the center, and even suggested that he link the attack to the Islamic State.
The FBI’s affidavit — which reveals only enough information to justify the criminal complaint against Medina, and does not include all of the evidence against him — says that an informant met with Medina in March and secretly recorded conversations with him after he expressed a desire to attack the Jewish center.
But the affidavit does not say how the FBI learned of Medina’s “suspected desire” to attack the Jewish center, or what initial remarks or actions led agents to believe that Medina was willing to use violence before he devised his plans with the informant.
David Shapiro, a former New Jersey prosecutor and FBI special agent who is now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the affidavit makes it appear that the FBI did more than a little pushing to get Medina to develop the synagogue bombing plan.
“It seems this desire was developed,” he said. “It was watered with very potent fertilizer.”
The affidavit lays out how the FBI informant took an active part in helping Medina cook up the bombing plot. It recounts how the informant drove Medina to the Jewish center and suggested that he launch the attack on a Jewish holiday.
When the two later discussed a claim of responsibility, the affidavit says that the informant “indicated that they should leave a ‘clue’ as to who was responsible and Medina concurred.” It’s the informant, rather than Medina, who suggests linking the bombing to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, or the East African al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
“You can, you can do all that,” the affidavit quotes Medina as saying. “Yeah, we can print up or something and make it look like it’s ISIS here in America. Just like that.”
The informant later suggested that Medina could use “untraceable” firearms instead of AK-47s that an acquaintance of Medina’s said he could provide. At another meeting, the informant “addressed the concerns of entering the synagogue with firearms and then getting shot and instead proposed leaving an unspecified object behind and leaving the scene.” The informant suggested that Medina could use a bomb with a timer, and then introduced Medina to a man described as having “explosives expertise and access.” The bomb expert was really an undercover FBI agent.
Medina didn’t do himself any favors by repeatedly telling both the FBI informant and undercover agent that he was willing to leave the bomb at the synagogue, then escape with the informant and watch as they remotely detonated it. He also repeatedly assured the undercover agent that he was willing to go forward with the plot, according to the affidavit.
When asked why, Medina answers, “Because I realize that I have a lot of love for Allah. And I know that all these, all these wars that are going on, it hurts me, too. You know? It’s my call of duty. I gotta get back, when I’m doing this, I feel that I’m doing it for a good cause for Allah.”
In a subsequent conversation, the agent asked Medina if he was okay with killing women and children. Medina appeared to say yes, but he also seemed hesitant.
Medina: I think so. I think I’m fine, Urn hmm.
Agent: You need to be sure brother.
Medina: I am pretty sure. I think so. I believe so. I’m ready bro!
Agent: Ok. Cause you know you don’t have to do any of this.
Medina: What do you mean doing it?
Agent: No, you don’t have to do it if you’re not comfortable with it.
Medina: What? I’m ready.
Agent: It’s Allah’s will but you know…
Medina: I’m up for it. I really am. This is no joke. This is serious dog. If I have the equipment, believe me, in the time is, is that day and we doin’ it, I’m up for it bro. Just like I said.
The FBI says Medina and the undercover agent decided to bomb the synagogue on Friday, April 29. Medina made three videos on the informant’s phone: One as a goodbye to his family in case he was killed, and the other two to explain why he conducted the attack.
“I am a Muslim and I don’t like what is going on in this world. I’m going to handle business here in America. Aventura, watch your back. ISIS is in the house,” he said in one video. In another, he said, “Today is gonna be a day where Muslims attack America. I’m going to set a bomb in Aventura.”
On the appointed day, the agent met with Medina, gave him the fake bomb, instructed him how to use it, and then drove him to the synagogue. Medina exited the vehicle and began to walk toward the synagogue, at which point the authorities arrested him.
The US government has convicted more than 200 people on terrorism-related charges using similar methods, according to Trevor Aaronson, executive director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and author of The FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. He said that the FBI “isn’t finding people with a bomb in their garage. They’re finding people who are loudmouths and they say, “Oh, we can help you in the name of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.”
“These are sting operations where the FBI provides the means and opportunities for people to commit crimes,” Aaronson said. “And the most disturbing part is that most of these people seem to be mentally ill and do not have connections to overseas terrorists on their own.”
Medina fits this profile. The 40-year-old is divorced, single, and unemployed. He was arrested previously for behavior consistent with mental illness, including sending more than 50 text messages, some threatening violence, to his estranged family and then telling a cop about it.
Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, said the quoted conversations in the affidavit that are supposed to damn Medina instead make it look like he can “barely seem to string a sentence together.”
And while it appears to be clear that Medina is a bigot who harbors anti-Jewish feelings, neither of those two things is illegal. Of course, plotting to blow up a synagogue is illegal. Retired FBI counterterrorism executive David Gomez says the FBI’s investigative techniques were legitimate, even if Medina does have mental or cognitive issues.
“Just because you’re dumb doesn’t mean you’re not dangerous,” he said. “Just because you have some mental incapacitation doesn’t mean you’re not capable of murder.”
Gomez said he’s seen other cases where lonely, fringe suspects join gangs or right-wing extremist groups to gain approval, and then peer pressure or other factors leads them to commit violent acts. In cases such as Medina’s, he argued, the FBI is just getting to these suspects before other malicious actors.
“Let’s say we didn’t get a source on this person, and somebody else talks to them and says, ‘Wanna blow up some Jews?’ It doesn’t matter if you blow them up for the KKK or ISIS. Some guy says, ‘I’ll drive you there,’ and there are plenty of people out there who would do that,” Gomez said. “The FBI and others are worried about a guy who gets in with the wrong crowd.”
Greenberg questioned where the rationale for this type of investigation ends.
“If you want to look for individuals who are susceptible to some kind of inducement to violence, and who have to be told whose name the violence is in, there are countless people and countless extremist groups you could identify them with,” she said.
Gomez said that the FBI’s informants and undercover agents set up the suspect for the “next proactive move,” but don’t make them take it.
“At some point he has to have an overt act,” he said — such as taking what he thinks is a bomb onto the grounds of a synagogue with the intent to detonate it.
Under the law, this act essentially closes the door to an entrapment defense.
“Those are hard to assert in this situation,” said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “That’s the situation that the FBI and DOJ are taking advantage of.”
According to Greenberg, the FBI has been using these types of investigations to send a message: “If someone approaches you and asks you if want help with a terrorist attack, you’re supposed to say no.”
Gomez notes that since 9/11, the bureau has been tasked with preventing another terrorist attack on US soil.
“The attitude is, do what you have to legally do to prevent a Paris-style attack in the US,” he said, “and I think there are a lot of prosecutors out there who would say, ‘I would rather prosecute a case and take the chance on losing on technicality or jury nullification than take a chance to not prosecute on terrorism charges.”
But most terrorism cases do not go to trial, meaning prosecutors rarely lose. Most defense lawyers encourage their clients to enter into a plea agreement in order to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
“The threat of long-term incarceration compels people to cut their losses,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who worked on undercover domestic terrorism investigations. “Part of reason they’re encouraged to cut losses is that when these cases go to trial, despite the judges expressing concerns about FBI methodology, the political and social climate is such that fear actually compels them to not acquit people based on entrapment or other government misconduct.”
The FBI declined to comment on the Medina case or other counterterrorism investigations like it, but said in a statement that there are “strict guidelines governing the use of undercover operations which involve extensive legal reviews and senior-level approvals.”
The bureau’s director, James B. Comey, told Congress in February that “preventing terrorist attacks remains the FBI’s top priority” as he requested more than $9 billion to fund the bureau’s operations in 2017.
Nearly half of the FBI’s 2016 budget was committed to “counterterrorism and counterintelligence” operations, along with more than 13,000 members of the bureau’s 35,000 employees.
According to German, the funding means the FBI is under pressure to show Congress that it’s using its resources to stop terror attacks.
“Is there actually a threat being resolved, or is the FBI manufacturing these terrorism cases to make its counterterrorism efforts look worthwhile?” he asked. “Knowing that there are real threats out there, are they wasting resources when the people they’re targeting don’t present an immediate threat?”
Handeyside said counterterrorism cases like Medina’s are not only a waste of resources, they might actually be making America less safe.
“It’s not only that they’re manufacturing terror plots, but also sowing fear and distrust within minority communities in ways that I think are damaging to counterterrorism efforts,” he said. “So there are not only constitutional issues, but also effectiveness issues.”
Follow Benjamin Gilbert on Twitter: @
Does any intelligent person look at a New York Times article about Russia or Vladimir Putin these days and expect to read an objective, balanced account? Or will it be laced with a predictable blend of contempt and ridicule? And is it any different at The Washington Post, NPR, MSNBC, CNN or almost any mainstream U.S. news outlet?
And it’s not just Russia. The same trend holds true for Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other countries and movements that have fallen onto the U.S. government’s “enemies list.” We saw the same pattern with Saddam Hussein and Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion; with Muammar Gaddafi and Libya before the U.S.-orchestrated bombing campaign in 2011; and with President Viktor Yanukovych and Ukraine before the U.S.-backed coup in 2014.
That is not to say that these countries and leaders don’t deserve criticism; they do. But the proper role of the press corps – at least as I was taught during my early years at The Associated Press – was to treat all evidence objectively and all sides fairly. Just because you might not like someone doesn’t mean your feelings should show through or the facts should be forced through a prism of bias.
In those “old days,” that sort of behavior was deemed unprofessional and you would expect a senior editor to come down hard on you. Now, however, it seems that you’d only get punished if you quoted some dissident or allowed such a person onto an op-ed page or a talk show, someone who didn’t share Official Washington’s “group think” about the “enemy.” Deviation from “group think” has become the real disqualifier.
Yet, this conformity should be shocking and unacceptable in a country that prides itself on freedom of thought and speech. Indeed, much of the criticism of “enemy” states is that they supposedly practice various forms of censorship and permit only regime-friendly propaganda to reach the public.
But when was the last time you heard anyone in the U.S. mainstream say anything positive or even nuanced about Russian President Putin. He can only be portrayed as some shirtless buffoon or the devil incarnate. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got widespread praise in 2014 when she likened him to Hitler.
Or when has anyone in the U.S. media been allowed to suggest that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters might actually have reason to fear what the U.S. press lovingly calls the “moderate” rebels – though they often operate under the military command of Sunni extremist groups, such as Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception.”]
For the first three years of the Syrian civil war, the only permissible U.S. narrative was how the brutal Assad was slaughtering peaceful “moderates,” even though Defense Intelligence Agency analysts and other insiders had long been warning about the involvement of violent jihadists in the movement from the uprising’s beginning in 2011.
But that story was kept from the American people until the Islamic State started chopping off the heads of Western hostages in 2014 – and since then, the mainstream U.S. media has only reported the fuller story in a half-hearted and garbled way. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]
Reason for Conformity
The reason for this conformity among journalists is simple: If you repeat the conventional wisdom, you might find yourself with a lucrative gig as a big-shot foreign correspondent, a regular TV talking head, or a “visiting scholar” at a major think tank. However, if you don’t say what’s expected, your career prospects aren’t very bright.
If you somehow were to find yourself in a mainstream setting and even mildly challenged the “group think,” you should expect to be denounced as a fill-in-the-blank “apologist” or “stooge.” A well-paid avatar of the conventional wisdom might even accuse you of being on the payroll of the despised leader. And, you wouldn’t likely get invited back.
But the West’s demonization of foreign “enemies” is not only an affront to free speech and meaningful democracy, it is also dangerous because it empowers unscrupulous American and European leaders to undertake violent and ill-considered actions that get lots of people killed and that spread hatred against the West.
The most obvious recent example was the Iraq War, which was justified by a barrage of false and misleading claims about Iraq which were mostly swallowed whole by a passive and complicit Western press corps.
Key to that disaster was the demonization of Saddam Hussein, who was subjected to such unrelenting propaganda that almost no one dared question the baseless charges hurled at him about hiding WMD and collaborating with Al Qaeda. To do so would have made you a “Saddam apologist” or worse.
The few who did dare raise their voices faced accusations of treason or were subjected to character assassination. Yet, even after their skepticism was vindicated as the pre-invasion accusations collapsed, there was very little reappraisal. Most of the skeptics remained marginalized and virtually everyone who got the WMD story wrong escaped accountability.
For instance, Washington Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly reported Iraq’s WMD as “flat fact,” suffered not a whit and remains in the same prestigious job, still enforcing one-sided “group thinks” about “enemies.”
An example of how Hiatt and the Post continue to play the same role as neocon propagandists was on display last year in an editorial condemning Putin’s government for shutting down Russian activities of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and requiring foreign-funded groups seeking to influence Russian politics to register as foreign agents.
In the Post’s editorial and a companion op-ed by NED President Carl Gershman, you were led to believe that Putin was delusional, paranoid and “power mad” in his concern that outside money funneled into non-governmental organizations was a threat to Russian sovereignty.
However, the Post and Gershman left out a few salient facts, such as the fact that NED is funded by the U.S. government and was the brainchild of Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey in 1983 to partially replace the CIA’s historic role in creating propaganda and political fronts inside targeted nations.
Also missing was the fact that Gershman himself announced in another Post op-ed that he saw Ukraine, prior to the 2014 coup, as “the biggest prize” and a steppingstone toward achieving Putin’s ouster in Russia. The Post also forgot to mention that the Russian law about “foreign agents” was modeled after a U.S. statute entitled the Foreign Agent Registration Act. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Why Russia Shut Down NED Fronts.”]
All those points would have given the Post’s readers a fuller and fairer understanding of why Putin and Russia acted as they did, but that would have messed up the desired propaganda narrative seeking to demonize Putin. The goal was not to inform the American people but to manipulate them into a new Cold War hostility toward Russia.
We’ve seen a similar pattern with the U.S. government’s “information warfare” around high-profile incidents. In the “old days’ – at least when I arrived in Washington in the late 1970s – there was much more skepticism among journalists about the official line from the White House or State Department. Indeed, it was a point of pride among journalists not to simply accept whatever the spokesmen or officials were saying, but to check it out.
There was plenty of enough evidence – from the Tonkin Gulf lies to the Watergate cover-up – to justify a critical examination of government claims. But that tradition has been lost, too. Despite the costly deceptions before the Iraq War, the Times, the Post and other mainstream outlets simply accept whatever accusations the U.S. government hurls against “enemies.” Beyond the gullibility, there is even hostility toward those of us who insist on seeing real evidence.
Examples of this continuing pattern include the acceptance of the U.S. government line on the sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, on Aug. 21, 2013, and the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. The first was blamed on Syria’s Assad and the second on Russia’s Putin – quite convenient even though U.S. officials refused to present any solid evidence to support their claims.
Reasons for Doubt
In both cases, there were obvious reasons to doubt the Official Story. Assad had just invited United Nations inspectors in to examine what he claimed were rebel chemical attacks, so why would he pick that time to launch a sarin attack just miles from where the inspectors were staying? Putin was trying to maintain a low profile for Russian support to Ukrainians resisting the U.S.-backed coup, but provision of a large, sophisticated and powerful anti-aircraft battery lumbering around eastern Ukraine would just have invited detection.
Further, in both cases, there was dissent among U.S. intelligence analysts, some of whom objected at least to the rushes to judgment and offered different explanations for the incidents, pointing the blame in other possible directions. The dissent caused the Obama administration to resort to a new concoction called a “Government Assessment” – essentially a propaganda document – rather than a classic “Intelligence Assessment,” which would express the consensus views of the 16 intelligence agencies and include areas of disagreement.
So, there were plenty of reasons for Washington journalists to smell a rat or at least insist upon hard evidence to make the case against Assad and Putin. Instead, given the demonized views of Assad and Putin, mainstream journalists unanimously fell in line behind the Official Story. They even ignored or buried evidence that undermined the government’s tales.
Regarding the Syrian case, there was little interest in the scientific discovery that the one sarin-laden rocket (recovered by the U.N.) had a range of only about two kilometers (destroying Washington’s claims about the Syrian government firing many rockets from eight or nine kilometers away). [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Was Turkey Behind Syria-Sarin Attack?”]
Regarding the MH-17 case, a blind eye was turned to a Dutch intelligence report that concluded that there were several operational Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine but they were all under the control of the Ukrainian military and that the rebels had no weapon that could reach the 33,000-foot altitude where MH-17 was flying. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Ever-Curiouser MH-17 Case.”]
Though both those cases remain open and one cannot rule out new evidence emerging that bolsters the U.S. government’s version of events, the fact that there are substantive reasons to doubt the Official Story should be reflected in how the mainstream Western media deals with these two sensitive issues, but the inconvenient facts are instead brushed aside or ignored (much as happened with Iraq’s WMD).
In short, there has been a system-wide collapse of the Western news media as a professional entity in dealing with foreign crises. So, as the world plunges deeper into crises inside Syria and on Russia’s border, the West’s citizens are going in almost blind without the eyes and ears of independent journalists on the ground and with major news outlets delivering incessant propaganda from Washington and other capitals.
Instead of facts, the West’s mainstream media traffics in demonization.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The Russian Defense Ministry has denied allegations reported by the AP that Russia is constructing an army base in the ancient city of Palmyra, which has recently been freed from Islamic State.
“There are no ‘new army bases’ on the territory of the Syrian town of Palmyra and there will never be,” Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in an official statement on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the AP news agency came out with a report stating that the Russian military is building an army base in Palmyra within the zone listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and without permission from authorities. The agency cited an “American heritage organization” and a “top Syrian archaeologist” as its sources, as well as satellite images that appear to show some construction on the edge of the ancient site.
Yet, as General Konashenkov states, the pictures show something else entirely.
“The satellite pictures of this area posted by UNESCO, which were mentioned by AP, show the temporary camp of the International Demining Center of Russia’s Defense Forces, which were demining the archaeological monument of Palmyra, and now the broader area of Tadmor city.”
The installation of this temporary camp until the area is cleared of explosives has been approved at the Ministry of Culture and other official departments of the Syrian State,” Konashenkov pointed out.
Furthermore, Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, who the AP cited as its source, told the agency himself “that IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] is close to the town and the presence of Russian and Syrian troops is important to ensure that the site remains in government hands.”
Palmyra was captured by jihadist in May of 2015. The Syrian Army backed by Russian forces managed to recapture the city on March 27th of this year, an event largely viewed as a victory and turning point in the war against the terrorists in Syria.
During 10 months of brigandry, executions, and other types of savagery, many ancient monuments were damaged to a worse extent than during all of the centuries they had stood there. A number of remarkable monuments, including the Arch of Triumph, the Temple of Baalshamin, and the iconic 2,000-year-old Bel Temple, are now in ruins.
Moreover, the city and adjacent territories were left ridden with explosive devices, which have now been largely demined by Russian sappers. A Russian-drafted resolution on the role of UNESCO in restoring the devastated ancient city of Palmyra back to its former glory was unanimously approved by the organization in April, with restoration work set to begin when the area is fully cleared of mines.